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Title: By-ways in Book-land - Short Essays on Literary Subjects
Author: Adams, William Davenport, 1828-1891
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "By-ways in Book-land - Short Essays on Literary Subjects" ***



  Short Essays on Literary Subjects


    '_Excursusque breves tentat._'
    'GEORGICS,' iv. 194.


  Is Affectionately Inscribed.

_In the following pages, the writer for the most part deals with small
subjects in an unelaborate manner. He leaves the highways of literature,
and strays into the fields and lanes, picking here a flower and there a
leaf, and not going far at any time. There is no endeavour to explore
with system, or to extend any excursion beyond a modest ramble. The
author wanders at haphazard into paths which have attracted him, and
along which, he hopes, the reader may be willing to bear him company._




  RUSKIN AS POET                   10


  FAMILIAR VERSE                   28


  HEREDITY IN SONG                 44

  STINGS FOR THE STINGY            51

  DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD            59

  SERMONS IN FLOWERS               66


  BEDSIDE BOOKS                    83

  THEIR MUCH SPEAKING              91

  PEERS AND POETRY                 99

  THE PRAISE OF THAMES            107

  ENGLISH EPIGRAPHS               114

  THE 'SEASON' IN SONG            123

  THE 'RECESS' IN RHYME           131

  JAQUES IN LOVE                  139

  MOCKING AT MATRIMONY            148

  PARSON POETS                    156

  THE OUTSIDES OF BOOKS           164


  NONSENSE VERSES                 180



  PUNS AND PATRONYMICS            203

  'YOURS TRULY'                   209

  POSTSCRIPTS                     217



One is for ever hearing enough and to spare about old books and those
who love them. There is a whole literature of the subject. The men
themselves, from Charles Lamb downwards, have over and over again
described their ecstasies--with what joy they have pounced upon some
rare edition, and with what reverence they have ever afterwards regarded
it. It is some time since Mr. Buchanan drew his quasi-pathetic picture
of the book-hunter, bargaining for his prize,

  'With the odd sixpence in his hand,
    And greed in his gray eyes;'

having, moreover, in his mind's eye as he walked

  'Vistas of dusty libraries
    Prolonged eternally.'

Mr. Andrew Lang, too, has sung to us of the man who 'book-hunts while
the loungers fly,' who 'book-hunts though December freeze,' for whom

  'Each tract that flutters in the breeze
    Is charged with hopes and fears,'


  'In mouldy novels fancy sees
    Aldines, Bodonis, Elzevirs.'

There are periodicals which cater solely for old-book adorers; and while
on the one hand your enthusiast will publish his 'Pleasures' and
'Diversions,' on the other a contemporary will devote a volume to the
subjects which attract and interest 'the Book Fancier.'

Meanwhile, is there nothing to be said of, or by, the admirer of new
books--the man or woman who rejoices in the pleasant act of turning over
new leaves? At a time when volumes are issuing by the dozen from the
publishers' counters, shall not something be chronicled of the happiness
which lies in the contemplation, the perusal, of the literary product
which comes hot from the press? For, to begin with, the new books have
at least this great advantage over the old--that they are clean. It is
not everybody who can wax dithyrambic over the 'dusty' and the 'mouldy.'
It is possible for a volume to be too 'second-hand.' Your devotee, to be
sure, thinks fondly of the many hands, dead and gone, through which his
'find' has passed; he loves to imagine that it may have been held
between the fingers of some person or persons of distinction; he is in
the seventh heaven of exaltation if he can be quite certain it has had
that honour. But suppose this factitious charm is really wanting?
Suppose a volume is dirty, and ignobly so? Must one necessarily delight
in dogs' ears, bask in the shadow of beer-stains, and 'chortle' at the
sign of cheese-marks? Surely it is one of the merits of new leaves that
they come direct from the printer and the binder, though they, alas!
may have left occasional impressions of an inky thumb.

It might possibly be argued that a new volume is, if anything, 'too
bright and good'--too beautiful and too resplendent--for 'base uses.'
There is undoubtedly an _amari aliquid_ about them. They certainly do
seem to say that we 'may look but must not touch.' Talk about the awe
with which your book-hunter gazes upon an ancient or infrequent tome;
what is it when compared with the respect which another class of
book-lover feels for a volume which reaches them 'clothed upon with'
virtual spotlessness? Who can have the heart to impair that innocent
freshness? Do but handle the book, and the harm is done--unless, indeed,
the handling be achieved with hands delicately gloved. The touch of the
finger is, in too many cases, fatal. On the smooth cloth or the vellum
or the parchment, some mark, alas! must needs be made. The lover of new
books will hasten, oftentimes, to enshrine them in paper covers; but a
book in such a guise is, for many, scarcely a book at all; it has lost
a great deal of its charm. Better, almost, the inevitable tarnishing.
All that's bright must fade; the new book cannot long maintain its
lustre. But it has had it, to begin with. And that is much. We feel at
least the first fine careless rapture. Whatever happens, no one can
deprive us of that--of the first fond glimpse of the immaculate.

But the matter is not, of course, one of exterior only. Some interest,
at least, attaches to the contents, however dull the subject, however
obscure the author. A new book is a new birth, not only to the æsthetic
but to the literary sense. It contains within it boundless
possibilities. There are printed volumes which are books only in
form--which are mere collections of facts or figures, or what not, and
which do not count. But if a volume be a genuine specimen of the _belles
lettres_, the imagination loves to play upon it. What will it be like?
What treasures lie concealed in it? What delights has it in store for
us? In our curiosity we are like the boy in Mr. Pinero's farcical
comedy: 'It is the 'orrible uncertainty wot we craves after.' No one can
tell what may nestle in the recesses of new leaves. Not even in
reference to well-known writers can we be positively sure. They may
belie their reputation. The illustrious Smith may make a failure; the
obscurer Brown may score a hit. For once in a way Robinson may have
produced something we can read; to everybody's surprise, the great Jones
has dropped into the direst twaddle. And if this uncertainty exists in
respect to those we know, how much more auspicious is it in the case of
those who are quite new to us? What gems of purest ray serene may repose
within the pages of the unopened book before us!

And, talking of unopened books, how much of the pleasure we derive from
newly-published volumes lies in the process by which we first make their
acquaintance. There are those who would have all books issued with the
edges of the pages cut. The reasons why are obvious. To begin with, some
labour is thereby saved to the purchaser; a certain measure of time,
too, is saved. The reviewer, who has no moments to spare, may
anathematize the leaves he has to separate with the paper-knife; the
traveller by rail may condemn to Hades the producers of the work which
he cannot cut open--because he has not the wherewithal about him.
Everywhere there are eager and hasty readers who chafe at the delay
which an uncut book imposes upon their impatient spirit. On the other
hand, your genuine book-adorer, your enthusiast, who loves to extract
from a volume all which it is capable of yielding, cannot but approve a
habit which enables him to linger delightedly over his new possession.
What special sweets may not be hidden within just those very pages which
are at present closed to him! _Omne ignotum_ is, for him, _pro
magnifico_--here may be the very cream of the cream. And so the adorer
dallies with his prize. First he peeps within the leaves, and gleans a
sentence here and there. And then he begins to use the cutter--slowly,
slowly--dwelling with enraptured tardiness upon each page which he

Who shall say that new leaves have no drawbacks? Verily, they have them.
It cannot be supposed, for instance, that they are always wholly
acceptable to the aforesaid professional censor. The reviewer, sitting
surrounded by them, tier on tier, may rail at the productiveness of the
age, and wish that there might not be more than one new book each week.
And the omnivorous reader, anxious to keep up with the literature of the
day, might fairly re-echo the aspiration. Who, indeed, can hope to turn
over a tithe of the new leaves which are issued daily? Nor can an
unlimited consumption of them be recommended. Mr. Lowell is to a certain
extent justified when he says that

  'Reading new books is like eating new bread;
  One can bear it at first, but by gradual steps he
  Is brought to death's door of a mental dyspepsy.'

Assuredly new books are so far like new bread, that we should not
consume them in too rapid succession. At the same time, let us be
thankful for them, inasmuch as they have the unquestionable gift of
novelty. Lord Beaconsfield's Lady Montfort said she preferred a new
book, even if bad, to a classic. That was a strong saying, but there are
points of view from which it is perfectly defensible.


It was lately rumoured that Mr. Ruskin was about to issue a volume of
poems, consisting mainly of pieces already published. The statement was
probably the first intimation received by many that the author of
'Modern Painters' had ever written anything in the shape of verse. That
he has always been, like Sidney, a 'warbler of poetic prose,' has lately
been emphasized by a magazine-writer; but it is not at all universally
known that between the years 1835 and 1845 Mr. Ruskin figured somewhat
largely as a poet, in the popular sense of that much abused word. During
that time he produced a good deal of verse, in addition to the prize
poem which has always been readily accessible by his admirers.

Even if one had not known, it would not have been difficult to have
assumed, from the rhythmic character of Mr. Ruskin's prose, that he had
at one time 'dropped into poetry.' Such a master of rhetoric could
hardly have gone through life without wooing the Muse of Song, however
temporarily or unsuccessfully. It would not have been natural for him to
have done so. And, indeed, it is probable that no great prose
rhetorician has failed to pay the same homage to the charm of verbal
melody and cadence. In all the most sonorous prose turned out by English
authors there will be found a lilt and a swing which would without
difficulty translate themselves into verse. 'Most wretched men,' says
Shelley, 'are cradled into poetry by wrong.' Most literary men have been
cradled into it by their irresistible feeling and aptitude for rhythm,
together with that general poetic sensibility which is rarely absent
from the nature of the literary artist. Certain it is that practice in
verse has always been recognised as the best of all preparation for work
in prose, and no doubt much of Mr. Ruskin's success as prose-producer
has been owing to his early devotion to the Muse.

He himself tells us, in the course of his tribute to his 'first editor'
(W. H. Harrison), that

     'A certain capacity for rhythmic cadence (visible enough in all my
     later writings), and the cheerfulness of a much-protected but not
     foolishly-indulged childhood, made me early a rhymester.'

And he adds--the tribute was paid in 1878--

     'A shelf of the little cabinet by which I am now writing is loaded
     with poetical effusions which were the delight of my father and
     mother, and which I have not got the heart to burn.'

A much fuller account of the poetic stages through which he passed in
childhood is given by Mr. Ruskin in his 'Præterita,' where he tells us
of the six 'poems' he brought forth in his seventh year (1826), one of
them being on the subject of the steam-engine, and rejoicing in such
couplets as:

  'When furious up from mines the water pours,
  And clears from rusty moisture all the ores.'

Another, on the rainbow, was in blank verse and impressively didactic in
its tone. Then, when he was nine years old, he broke out with yet
another effusion, called 'Eudosia;' and when only eleven he began the
composition of an elaborate 'poetical' description of his various
journeyings, under the title of 'Iteriad.'

It is easy to understand how this fondness for the rhythmical was
fostered by the aforesaid parental admiration, and how it was still
further increased by the boy's admiration, successively, for Scott and
Byron. Certain early friendships held out to the young versifier the
prospect of publication, and thus it is that we find him, in his
sixteenth year, figuring as a contributor to 'Friendship's Offering and
Winter's Wreath: a Christmas and New Year's Present' for 1835. This was
the era of the old-fashioned 'annuals,' and 'Friendship's Offering' was
one of the most notable of its kind. In the issue for the year named we
note Barry Cornwall, John Clare, William Howitt, and H. F. Chorley among
the writers of whom the youthful Ruskin was one. Here, by the side of
really excellent steel-engravings, portraying languishing ladies in
corkscrew curls, and illustrating literary matter not always unworthy of
the embellishment given to it, we discover Mr. Ruskin's first published
verses--'Salzburg' and some 'Fragments' of a poetical journal, kept on
tour. In the former we seem to detect the influence of Rogers, rather
than that of Scott or Byron. It opens thus:

  'On Salza's quiet tide the westering sun
  Gleams mildly; and the lengthening shadows dun,
  Chequered with ruddy streaks from spire and roof,
  Begin to weave fair twilight's mystic woof;
  Till the dim tissue, like a gorgeous veil,
  Wraps the proud city, in her beauty pale.'

A little further on we read:

  'Sweet is the twilight hour by Salza's strand,
  Though no Arcadian visions grace the land;
  Wakes not a sound that floats not sweetly by,
  While day's last beams upon the landscape die;
  Low chants the fisher where the waters pour,
  And murmuring voices melt along the shore;
  The plash of waves comes softly from the side
  Of passing barge slow gliding o'er the tide;
  And there are sounds from city, field, and hill,
  Shore, forest, flood; yet mellow all, and still.'

Herein, it will be seen, is something of the power of description which
the writer was afterwards to exhibit so much more effectively in prose.

Four years later Mr. Ruskin's initials were to be seen appended to a
couple of pieces in verse contributed to 'The Amaranth,' an annual of
much more imposing presence than the 'Offering'--edited by T. K. Hervey,
admirably illustrated, and happy in the practical support of such
literary lights as Horace Smith, Douglas Jerrold, Sheridan Knowles,
Thomas Hood, Praed, and Mrs. Browning. One of the two pieces in question
is 'The Wreck,' in which Mr. Ruskin's poetic capability, such as it is,
is visible in one of its most attractive moods. The last verse runs:

  'The voices of the night are mute
    Beneath the moon's eclipse;
  The silence of the fitful flute
    Is in the dying lips!
  The silence of my lonely heart
    Is kept for ever more
            In the lull
            Of the waves
    Of a low lee shore.'

To the same year belong contributions to the _London Monthly Miscellany_
and the prize poem ('Salsette and Elephanta') before-mentioned. In the
_Miscellany_ appeared some lines which, in certain respects, are a
species of anticipation of the Swinburnian manner; as, for example:

  'We care not what skies are the clearest,
    What scenes are the fairest of all;
  The skies and the scenes that are dearest
    For ever, are those that recall
  To the thoughts of the hopelessly-hearted
    The light of the dreams that deride,
  With the form of the dear and departed,
    Their loneliness, weary and wide.'

It may be assumed that 'Salsette and Elephanta' has been read by all who
care about the undertaking. It was recited in the theatre at Oxford,
printed in the same year (1839), and reprinted exactly forty years
afterwards. It is a by no means unattractive piece of rhetoric.

Another of the annuals to which Mr. Ruskin contributed in those days was
the _Keepsake_, in which he figured in 1845, under the editorship of
the Countess of Blessington, with Landor, Monckton Milnes, Lord John
Manners, and the future Lord Beaconsfield as fellow-contributors. He was
also welcomed to the pages of _Heath's Book of Beauty_. Five years later
he collected his fugitive pieces, and, adding a few new ones, included
the whole in a volume privately circulated in 1850. Copies of this book
are said to have been bought at sales, at different times, for £31 and
41 guineas. Six years ago, a selection from the 'Annual' verses was
published, together with the prize poem and other matter, in America.

Glancing through Mr. Ruskin's verse, one is forced to admit that it has
no special individuality or charm. It deals with conventional subjects
in a more or less conventional manner. There is a classical element, and
a flavour of foreign scenery, and an occasional excursion in the
direction of such topics as 'Spring,' 'The Months,' 'The Old Water
Wheel,' 'The Old Seaman,' 'Remembrance,' 'The Last Smile,' and the like.
The rhythm is always regular and flowing, and the descriptive passages
have light and colour; but the 'lyric cry' has no particular tone that
could attract the public. The longest piece ever written by Mr. Ruskin
was, not the prize poem, but that entitled 'The Broken Chain,' with an
extract from which I may conclude this brief survey of a great
prose-writer's verse-production:--

  'Where the flower hath fairest hue,
    Where the breeze hath balmiest breath,
  Where the dawn hath softest dew,
  Where the heaven hath deepest blue,
          There is death.

  'Where the gentle streams of thinking,
    Through our hearts that flow so free,
  Have the deepest, softest sinking,
    And the fullest melody,
  Where the crown of hope is nearest,
  Where the voice of joy is clearest,
  Where the heart of youth is lightest,
  Where the light of love is brightest,
          There is death.'


It is not surprising that Parliamentary contests should have figured
largely in the English plays, stories, and poems of the past. That they
will hold so prominent a place in them in future is, of course, by no
means certain. If elections have been made purer than they were, they
have been made less picturesque. They have now but little romance about
them. Nearly everything in them is precise and practical. The literary
artist, therefore, is likely to find in them few things to attract him,
and will be, to that extent, at a disadvantage as compared with those
who have preceded him. There were days when the preliminary canvassing,
the nomination and the polling days, had features which invited
treatment on the stage or in print. The whole atmosphere of
electioneering was different to that which now exists. Those involved in
it went about their work with a reckless jollity productive of results
eminently interesting to students of character and manners. A battle at
the polls brought out all which was most characteristic in the
Englishmen of the times, and to describe such a conflict was naturally
the aim of many a man of letters.

Several theatrical pieces have been based almost wholly upon the varied
incidents of such a contest. There was, for example, that 'musical
interlude,' 'The Election,' written by Miles Peter Andrews, and produced
at Drury Lane in 1774. In this, Trusty and Sir Courtly are candidates
for a seat, and, while one John, a baker, would fain vote for the
former, his wife is desirous that he should support the latter. As she
wheedlingly remarks,

  'Sir Courtly says, if you'll but vote for him,
  He'll fill your pockets to the very brim.'

But John is not to be corrupted:

  'Honest John no bribe can charm;
  His heart is like his oven, warm;
        Though poor as Job,
        He will not rob,
  Nor sell his truth to fill his fob.'

Nay, not though by so doing he may secure a husband for his daughter
Sally. He votes for Trusty, and Sally's sweetheart respects him all the
more for it. As the lover says to the lady:

  'Your father's merit sets him up to view,
  And more enhances my esteem for you.'

And, in truth, everybody is delighted, for, as they sing in chorus:

  'What to a Briton so grateful can be,
  As the triumph of Freedom and Virtue to see?'

Then there is that forgotten play of Joanna Baillie, also called 'The
Election,' printed in 1802, and turned into an opera in 1817. Here,
again, we have two candidates--one Baltimore, of ancient but decayed
family, and one Freeman, a _nouveau riche_ of equally familiar
type--neighbours, but not friends, and rivals for the representation of
the borough of Westown. Of Tom Taylor's 'Contested Election,' produced
in 1859, most people have heard, if they have not had an opportunity of
seeing it performed. It gives a fairly faithful picture of the
unreformed method of carrying on electoral warfare. There is an
attorney, originally played by Charles Mathews, who undertakes to secure
the success of Honeybun, and is quite prepared to pay for the votes
which may be promised to him. There is also one Peekover, President of
the Blue Lambs, who is equally prepared to accept the proffered payment
for himself and friends. Honeybun does not get in, but that is hardly
the fault of his attorney, or due to any general unwillingness to sell
votes to the highest bidder. Bribery, it will be remembered, is an
important element in Robertson's 'M.P.,' which dates no further back
than 1870, though the action of the comedy, if I remember rightly,
belongs also to pre-reforming times. Cecilia is willing to buy votes for
Talbot, and three typical electors are willing to dispose of her money
to the best advantage. The last scene is tolerably exciting. Talbot
addresses the crowd from his window, and there is much exhilaration
when the result of the contest is announced. To more recent
representations of elections on the stage, it is scarcely necessary to

Turning from drama to song, one thinks at once of the poem 'in seven
books' which its author, Carlyle's John Sterling, dubbed 'The Election'
and published in 1841. Sterling had been anticipated, a few years
previously--in 1835--by the author of a satire called 'Election Day,'
which supplied quite an elaborate description of such a day under the
respective heads of 'The Inn,' 'The Hustings,' 'The Chairing,' and 'The
Dinner.' 'Although,' said the writer, in his preface, 'there are some
great improvements in the manner in which elections are now conducted,
still the immoral and degrading principles that accompany them appear to
remain nearly the same.' According to this earnest and depressed

  'Mud and stones and waving hats,
  And broken heads and putrid cats,
  Are offerings made to aid the cause
  Of order, government, and laws.'

But especially is he struck by the amount of eating and drinking that
appears inseparable from an election in his time:

  ''Tis strange how much a splendid larder
  Lights up electioneering ardour;
  You soon awake to _patriæ amor_
  When stirred about with ale and clamour.'

Sterling, though singing of

  'Those high days when Aleborough proudly sent
  Her man to sit in England's Parliament,'

makes the plot of his poem turn upon a love affair in which one of the
candidates embarks, and for the sake of which, indeed, he pretends to
solicit the votes of the electors. There are, however, a few passages
descriptive of electioneering phenomena. We are told, for instance, how
one of the candidates went out to canvass:

  'With smiling look and word, and promise bold,
  And dainty flatteries meet for young and old,
  The tender kiss on squalling mouths impressed,
  The glistening ribbon for the maiden's breast,
  Grave talk with men how this poor Empire thrives,
  The high-priced purchase for their prudent wives,
  The sympathizing glance, the attentive ear,
  The shake of hands laboriously sincere.'

We have, too, a graphic picture of the nomination day, telling how

  'Ten public-houses opening for the Blues
  Their floods of moral influence diffuse,
  And each of seven its blameless nectar sheds
  To nerve the spirits of the valiant Reds.'

By-and-by we read:

  'And now the poll begins. The assessors sit
  Sublimely sure that what is writ is writ.
  The lawyers watch the votes. The skies look down
  Unpardonably calm, nor heed the town.'

In how many novels elections figure, I need not say. The name of
political tales is legion, and merely to enumerate them would occupy a
fair amount of space. Who, for example, does not remember the contest
pictured by George Eliot in 'Felix Holt'--that which leads to the riot
in which Felix becomes unintentionally and unfortunately embroiled? 'The
nomination day,' says the novelist, 'was a great epoch of successful
trickery, or, to speak in a more parliamentary manner, of war-stratagem,
on the part of skilful agents.' And she goes on to describe

     'the show of hands, and the cheering, the bustling and the pelting,
     the roaring and the hissing, the hard hits with small missiles and
     the soft hits with small jokes.'

Of the polling day, she writes:

     'Every public-house in Treby was lively with changing and numerous
     company. Not, of course, that there was any treating; treating
     necessarily had stopped, from moral scruples, when once "the writs
     were out;" but there was drinking, which did equally well under any

This was in 1832. In 1840 there was published at Dublin a tale, entitled
'The Election,' in which the author bluntly declared that 'bribery and
perjury are the returning officers.' He was, in truth, a very
'high-toned' writer, for we find him declaiming vigorously against that
which Sterling mentions as one of the canvassing weapons of a
candidate--'the practice of shaking hands with all and every person
whose vote is solicited, whether they be old friends or the acquaintance
of the moment.' There are, we are told, 'cases when such buxom
familiarity is out of place--when it assumes too much the appearance of
vulgar cajolery to be received as a compliment.' Elsewhere we come
across an instructive bit of talk between an Irish maiden lady of a
certain age, and one of the gentlemen who desires her 'vote and
interest.' The lady protests that she does not know the difference
between the Whigs, the Tories, and the Radicals:

     'I know two of them are in the history of England, where they gave
     trouble enough, whatever they were. But as for the Radicals, it is
     a newspaper word that I can't say I'm well acquainted with.'

Whereupon the candidate replies that all he can say for the Whigs is

     'they are very fair spoken, when it suits their convenience. But
     the Radicals are a foul-mouthed race, on all and every occasion,
     and are the bitter enemies to Church and State.'

Nevertheless, the contest (of course an Irish one) which forms the main
feature of the tale, ends in the return of Sir Andrew Shrivel, the
Radical, together with Thaddeus O'Sullivan Gaffrey, Esq., representing
the Nationalists.


There is a species of verse, hitherto not classified distinctively, for
which it seems desirable to find a name. In the first place, it may be
necessary, perhaps, to emphasize once more the simple distinction
between verse and poetry. There are, indeed, excellent and happy people
for whom there is no difference between the two--for whom all that is
not prose is poetry, and who recognise no other varieties in literature.
Fortunate are they, and great is their reward. They are not disturbed by
the necessity of distinguishing between this and that--of pronouncing
upon what is poetry, and what is not. And, no doubt, if the critic were
careful only for his individual comfort, he would adopt this
rough-and-ready classification, and say no more about it. Unluckily,
the distinction must be made. Rhythmical poetry must needs be in verse
of some sort, but verse need not be poetry. What rhythmical poetry is in
essence, the critics have not yet agreed to say; but, roughly speaking,
it may be described as the language of imagination and of passion, as
opposed to verse which is the vehicle, merely, of fancy and of feeling.
Many can attain to the latter; the former is open only to the few. The
one is the natural expression of poetic genius; the other is that of the
natures which can lay claim only to poetic sentiment. The one is
exceptional; the other, luckily, is tolerably widespread. The writers of
verse which is not poetry have been many and able, and much enjoyment is
derivable from their work.

They must not, however, all be grouped together under one embracing
appellation. If there is poetry and verse, there is also verse and
verse. Poetry may be said to be a fixed quality; but that is not so with
the inferior article. There are many different sorts of verse. There is
that which is strongly sentimental, there is that which is broadly
comic, and there is that which is something between the two--neither
over-sentimental nor over-comic, but altogether light in tone, and
marked in the main by wit and humour. Now, to this last class of verse
has been given, in general, the name of _vers de société_ or _vers
d'occasion_--verse of society or for the moment. Mr. Frederick Locker,
nearly twenty years ago, thus labelled his volume of 'Lyra
Elegantiarum'--still, even at this distance of time, the best available
collection of our lighter verse. But the label is not sufficiently
distinguishing; it is too haphazard and too narrow. The term _vers de
société_ will not include all that is commonly ranged under it. For
what, in reality, is _vers de société_? It is what it professes to
be--it is the verse of society, the verse which deals with the various
phenomena of the fashionable world. The writers of genuine _vers de
société_ have themselves been men and women of society, who had caught
its tone and could reproduce it in their rhythmic exercises. Mr.
Locker's 'St. James's Street,' Mr. Dobson's 'Rotten Row,' Prior's lines
'To a Child of Quality,' and Sir Charles Hanbury Williams's 'Ode to Miss
Harriet Bunbury'--these are the true _vers de société_, the true
'poetry' of the ball-room and the _salon_.

What, then, is to become of the large amount of verse which remains
unaccounted for--which is neither distinctively sentimental nor
distinctively comic, and yet has no right to the designation of
society-verse? Well, this is the class of verse which, as we have said,
has hitherto not been christened, and for which it is desirable to find
a name. It is a very delightful species of rhythmic work, and deserves a
denomination of its own. It has the tone, less of society and of the
Court, than of the familiar intercourse of every day--of the
intercourse, that is, which goes on between people of ordinary breeding
and education. It does not dabble in the phrase of drawing-rooms, nor
does it rise to the height of sentiment or sink to the depths of low
comedy. It is 'familiar, but by no means vulgar.' Its first quality is
ease--absence of effort, spontaneity, freedom, a _dégagé_ air. It is in
rhythm what the perfect prose letter should be and is--flowing and
unpremeditated without slovenliness--having the characteristics of the
best conversation, as differentiated from mere argument or harangue. Its
second quality is playfulness--a refusal to be too much in earnest in
any direction, and a determination not to go to any unwelcome extreme.
It has touches of sentiment and traces of wit and humour; but its
dominant note is one of tempered geniality. Sometimes it may lean to the
sentimental, sometimes to the witty, sometimes to the humorous; but
always the style and atmosphere are those of familiar life, of everyday
reunions; and hence the suggestion that it should be recognised as
'Familiar Verse.'

I have said how numerous are its producers. Often it has been written by
those who were poets as well as verse-writers; often by those who are
well-known as wits and humourists. It has flourished, naturally, in,
periods of tolerance rather than in strenuous times, and has been at its
best, therefore, in the Caroline, Augustan, and Victorian ages of our
literature. There was not much of it in the Elizabethan days, though
some bears the signature of rare Ben Jonson. It came in, in full force,
with the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease--with Suckling, whose
'Prithee, why so pale, fond lover?' is in exactly the right tone; and
with Dorset, whose 'To all you ladies now on land' is another typical
specimen. By-and-by Dryden showed how well he could write in the
familiar style, when he composed the song about fair Iris:

  'She's fickle and false, and there we agree,
  For I am as false and as fickle as she;
  We neither believe what either can say,
  And neither believing, we neither betray.'

Then came the reign of Pope, and Swift, and Prior, and
Peterborough--Pope, with his truly playful 'What is Prudery?' Swift,
with his charming lines to Stella; Prior, with his 'Dear Chloe, how
blubber'd is that pretty face!' and Peterborough, with that masterpiece
of the familiar _genre_:

  'I said to my heart, between sleeping and waking,
  Thou wild thing, that always art leaping and aching,
  What black, brown, or fair, in what clime, in what nation,
  By turns has not taught thee this pit-a-pat-ation?'

Then there were the Lady Wortley Montagu, with her lines to Congreve;
and Chesterfield, with his 'Advice to a Lady in Autumn'; Fielding, with
his inimitable epistles to Walpole; and Goldsmith, with his incomparable
'Retaliation.' Later, again, came Cowper, with his 'Nose and Eyes' and
'Names of Little Note'; Byron, with his verses 'To Tom Moore'; Moore
himself, with his 'Time I've Lost in Wooing'; Barham, with his 'Lines
left at Hook's'; Peacock, Canning, James Smith, Praed, and Mahony; and,
still later, Hood, with his 'Clapham Academy'; Brough, with his
'Neighbour Nelly'; Mortimer Collins, with his tribute to his 'Old Coat';
and a hundred others, all of whom could play delightfully on the
familiar string.

And, happily, the manufacture of familiar verse still goes on
swimmingly. The Laureate has engaged in it, and even Mr. Browning has
condescended to it. It has never, in the whole course of its career,
been written better than by Mr. Holmes and Mr. Lowell, and, among
ourselves, by Mr. Frederick Locker and Mr. Austin Dobson. No age,
indeed, was ever more favourable than our own for the composition of
verse which should, above all things, never be betrayed into
exaggeration--which may have, if it please, a _soupçon_ of wit and
humour, and even of sentiment, but which should, in particular, be
tolerant and urbane.


It was with true instinct that one of our most vigorous orators,
desiring the other day to emphasize by quotation an appeal to the
patriotic sentiments of his audience, went to a play of Shakespeare's
for the passage. For the bard of Avon is _par excellence_ the poet of
England. Keen as, in later years, has been the love of country displayed
by such men as Thomson, Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson, and Mr. Swinburne, it
is in the pages of Shakespeare that we find the most magnificent
outbursts of national feeling. Let it be granted that the poet has not
hesitated to throw a few satiric pebbles at his countrymen. Everybody
will recall the amusing colloquy in 'Hamlet,' in which the Gravedigger
humorously reflects upon the sanity of the English people, declaring
that, if Hamlet be mad, it will not be noted in England, for there the
men are as mad as he is. And then there is that other diverting colloquy
in 'Othello,' wherein Iago stigmatizes Englishmen as 'most potent in
potting,' asserting that they 'drink with facility your Dane dead
drunk,' so expert is your Englishman in his drinking.

But these be the gibes of Danes and Italians--not of the man Shakespeare
or of Englishmen speaking with his voice. True it is that if Shakespeare
was strongly patriotic, he was so only in common with the Englishmen of
his day. He lived in an age when the English people were consumed with a
spirit of burning affection for the isle which they inhabited--when the
great religious upheaval which we call the Reformation had set the blood
coursing through their veins, and infused new life into their heart and
brain--and when the fear of Spanish domination had joined all classes in
an indissoluble bond of love and loyalty. Probably the English nation
never was more thoroughly united, more profoundedly in earnest, more
closely attached to its traditions and its soil, than in those spacious
times of great Elizabeth. And if Shakespeare produced play after play
dealing with the history of his country, and presenting on the boards
many of the most famous Englishmen of the past, he was led to do so, no
doubt, not only because the topic had attractions for him, but because
the Englishmen of his day revelled in such reminders of the stirring
years gone by--of the great soldiers, statesmen, clerics, and the like,
who had shed lustre on the national name. There must have been a decided
and continuous demand for these elaborate chronicle-dramas, and it may
be argued that the poet, in supplying them, did but comply with the call
made upon him by his public patrons.

The fact, however, that Shakespeare found historical plays a paying
product will not wholly account for the powerfully patriotic strain in
which they were composed. It is not only that the long series stretching
from 'King John' to 'Henry VIII.' pulses from beginning to end with
love of, and pride in, country; it is not only that the poet makes great
Englishmen speak greatly--that, placing them in positions in which
declarations of patriotism are natural and necessary, he makes those
declarations eloquent and thrilling;--it is that he charges all his
passages about England and the English with a passion of enthusiasm
which can be explained only on the hypothesis that he was throwing his
whole heart into the work, and sympathized deeply with the utterances of
his creations. There is, for instance, something more than mere
appropriateness to the character and the occasion in that marvellous
piece of eulogy of which, in 'Richard II.,' John of Gaunt is made the
spokesman. The poet seems unable to hold his admiration within bounds:

  'This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
  This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
  This other Eden--demi-paradise--....
  This happy breed of men, this little world,
  This precious stone set in a silver sea,....
  This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
  This nurse, this teeming womb of Royal Kings...
  This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
  Dear for her reputation through the world'--

on what other country has such magnificent praise been poured out by her
poets? One can see, too, how sincere Shakespeare was in his feelings as
an Englishman by the phrases and the epithets he everywhere bestows upon
his fatherland. There is Chorus's famous description of it in 'Henry V.'
as 'Little body with a mighty heart;' there is the Queen's allusion, in
'Henry VI.,' to its 'blessed shore.' Now it is called 'fair,' now
'fertile,' and now 'happy.' 'Dear mother England,' cries the Bastard in
'King John.' Bolingbroke rejoices that, though banished, he yet can
boast that he is 'a true-born Englishman;' and elsewhere we read of 'our
lusty English,' our 'noble English,' our 'hearts of England's
breed'--Rambures, the Frenchman, admitting that 'that island of England
breeds very valiant creatures.'

And mark how Shakespeare causes one and all of his patriots to
congratulate themselves that Britain is an island. Tennyson has called
upon his countrymen to

  'Thank Him who isled us here, and roughly set
  His Briton in blown seas and storming showers;'

and elsewhere has made a 'Tory member's elder son' say--

  'God bless the narrow sea...
  Which keeps our Britain whole within herself.'

Thomson, too, tells how 'the rushing flood' turned 'this favoured isle'
'flashing from the continent aside,' 'its guardian she.' But Shakespeare
had been before both in these expressions of gratitude for our
insularity. The Archduke of Austria, in 'King John,' speaks of England

              'That pale, that white-faced shore,
  Whose foot spurns back the ocean's roaring tides,
  And coops from other lands her islanders...
              That England, hedged in with the main,
  That water-wallèd bulwark, still secure
  And confident from foreign purposes.'

So, in 'Richard II.,' John of Gaunt describes England as

  'This fortress built by Nature for herself
  Against infection and the hand of war.

'The silver sea,' he says, serves it

          'In the office of a wall,
  Or, as a moat, defensive to a house,
  Against the envy of less happier lands;

while once again he refers to England as

        'Bound in with the triumphant sea,
  Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
  Of watery Neptune.'

There is one thing, however, without which, in Shakespeare's view, even
our lucky isolation cannot avail to save us, as a nation, from
destruction. 'If they (the English) were true within themselves they
need not to fear, although all nations were set against them.' So wrote
Andrew Borde, when Henry VIII. was King; and in the old play of 'John,
King of England' the author made one of his _personæ_ say:

  'Let England live but true within itself,
  And all the world can never wrong her state.'

So Shakespeare, when he came to treat of the same subject, made the
Bastard declare that

  'This England never did, nor never shall
  Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
  But when it first did help to wound itself...
        Nought shall make us rue,
  If England to itself do rest but true.'

There is much virtue in an 'if,' and the poet repeats the warning in
another play. In '3 Henry VI.' Hastings says:

  'Why, knows not Montague that of itself
  England is safe, if true within itself?'

That, again, which most troubles John of Gaunt, in the passage already
quoted, is the fact that England, which was wont to conquer others,
'Hath made a shameful conquest of itself;' while Chorus, in 'Henry V.,'
laments that France has found in England 'a nest of hollow bosoms, which
he fills with treacherous crowns,' adding,

  'What might'st thou do, that honour would thee do,
  Were all thy children kind and natural?'

Here, then, is a lesson for our times. What Shakespeare felt to be true
in his own day is equally, nay more, true now--that England, 'set in a
silver sea,' is safe from all assaults, save those which she may suffer
at the hands of her own 'degenerate and ingrate' sons.


It is said that the verses in a recent number of _Macmillan's Magazine_,
entitled 'In Capri,' and signed 'W. Wordsworth,' are from the pen of a
grandson of the famous author of 'The Excursion.' They are gracefully
written, in an agreeable rhythm, and with much command of felicitous
expression. If, therefore, the writer has indeed the relationship to the
great Wordsworth which rumour assigns him, the fact is interesting, and
suggests some considerations as to the transmission of the poetic
faculty from one generation to another.

One might have thought that this transmission would have been tolerably
common; that the sons at least, if not the grandsons, of a genuine poet
could scarcely fail to inherit something of their progenitor's peculiar
powers. One might even have supposed that poetry would run--as other
things have run--in families, making the 'bards' almost a _gens_, or
class, by themselves. Poetry, after all, is an affair mainly of the
temperament--of fancy and imagination, of feeling and passion; and these
are qualities which one might have imagined would be handed down, not
greatly impaired, from father to son, and so on, for at least a fairly
prolonged period.

There have, indeed, been instances in which literary capacity has been a
special characteristic of persons in close relationship to each other:
one thinks at once of the Sheridans, the Coleridges, the Wordsworths,
and others who have been notable for their productiveness in prose and
verse. But the cases in which the purely poetic gift--the vision and the
faculty divine--has been inherited and exercised are few indeed. A
certain intellectual power will mark the members of a family, and
exhibit itself in various attractive ways, but less in the domain of
poetry than any other. It would seem that sheer mental force can be
communicated, but that the higher qualities of the human spirit are not
so readily transmitted; are, in fact, hardly transmissible, at any rate
in quite the same degree. Not only are the examples of poetic heredity
rare, but there are still fewer, certainly in the history of English
literature, in which the son or the daughter has equalled the parent in
poetic capacity.

The case of the Colmans and the Dibdins is one of literary rather than
poetic faculty. In each instance the father and son wrote verse, much of
it excellent in its way, but assuredly not of the first order. The one
name will always be associated with admirably humorous performances,
while the other will continue to shine resplendent on the roll of
writers of sea-songs. But work of that sort is a matter of knack rather
than of inspiration, and 'poetry' is a word hardly to be mentioned in
remote connection with it. Very different are the circumstances when we
come to the children of Samuel Taylor Coleridge--to Hartley and to
Sara, and to Hartley in particular. Sara had less than a half share of
the poetic patrimony. She penned very pleasant rhymes for children, and
some still linger in the collections; but they are not of singular
merit. Much better than these are the lyrics which are to be found
scattered through her prose romance, 'Phantasmion'--lyrics which
undoubtedly have imaginative value. They are much less known than they
deserve to be, though a few of them have recently been reprinted. They
are not, however, to be compared with the best that Hartley furnished.
Sara had ideas, but her mode of expression inclined to the turgid.
Hartley was clearer and smoother in his style, and now and then, as in
some of his sonnets, and especially in the lines beginning,

  'She is not fair to outward view,
        As many maidens be,'

he actually attained perfection. The last-named gem is likely to last as
long as anything written by the elder Coleridge.

Mrs. Norton and Lady Dufferin are instances of ability descending from
grandfather to granddaughters, and of ability, moreover, which, as
regards poetical writing, grew and improved in the process of descent.
The author of 'The Duenna' produced a number of neat and lively rhymes,
but, great as Sheridan was as a dramatist, he was certainly not a poet.
Now, his granddaughters were really poets, though by no means of the
front rank. Scarcely any of Mrs. Norton's verse is now habitually read,
but some of it is well worth reading. On the other hand, Lady Dufferin,
who published much less than her sister did, is much better remembered,
if only because she was the author of 'Katie's Letter' and 'The Irish
Emigrant's Lament.' These pieces are distinguished by true human
feeling, and hence their continued popularity. Of Adelaide Anne Procter,
daughter of 'Barry Cornwall,' it is not necessary to say much, for
certain of her lyrics are familiar (in feminine mouths, at any rate) as
household words. Everyone, alas! knows 'The Lost Chord;' many of us
wish that we did not. That the 'Legends and Lyrics' of Adelaide are
considerably more widely known than anything produced by her father is,
it is to be feared, only too true; and yet, full as they are of
tenderness and grace, they have not the claims to attention possessed by
the songs and dramatic fragments of 'Barry Cornwall.' The latter are
unduly neglected; while the songs are among the most virile and vigorous
in the language. The father's was altogether the stronger nature; the
daughter set an example of gentle lachrymoseness, which has been
followed, unfortunately, by too many female rhymers.

Of more recent years, several examples of heredity in song have been
vouchsafed to us. The younger Hood had his father's fluency, but,
apparently, very little of his imaginative power. Philip Bourke Marston
was, in the lyric vein, as successful, perhaps, as Dr. Westland Marston
had been in the dramatic, and it is probable that he will always be more
largely read, 'sicklied o'er' though his poetic outcome be 'with the
pale cast of thought.' The works of the present Lord Lytton and of Mr.
Aubrey de Vere are too well appreciated to need much characterization.
These writers would no doubt deprecate any comparison of their products
with those of the first Lord Lytton and Sir Aubrey de Vere, but it is
one from which, on the score of absolute merit, they would have no
occasion to shrink. Mr. Oscar Wilde and Mr. Eric Mackay have written
verse, no doubt, because Lady Wilde and Dr. Charles Mackay wrote verse
before them; and the Hon. Hallam Tennyson has shown, in a rhythmical
version of a nursery tale, that some measure of poetic faculty has been
meted out to him.


Few frailties of mankind have been more bitterly scouted than that of
meanness in money matters. Of the two, prodigality has been thought the
better. The man who is poor has not been censured for being careful;
rather has he been praised for not being ashamed to own his poverty. But
the spectacle of the rich man hoarding his wealth and not living
according to his means has always excited the displeasure of
mankind--not only, perhaps, because money kept in store seems for the
time useless, but because if expended it would be very acceptable to its
recipients. The world has commended the man who gives out of his
superfluity, but it has condemned him who keeps too much to himself. All
literature, from the earliest times, is full of denunciation of such a
character. The miserly and the stingy have been impaled over and over
again on the sword of the satirist.

Meanness has not been confined to the obscure; it has had some
distinguished votaries--as, for example, his Gracious Majesty King James
I., whose economical propensities were notorious. Of him it was
admirably written that

  'At Christ Church "Marriage," done before the King,
  Lest those learn'd mates should want an offering,
  The King himself did offer--What, I pray?
  He offer'd, twice or thrice, to go away.'

Take, again, the great Duke of Marlborough, whose two chief qualities of
mind were very happily hit off in the couplet 'On a High Bridge over a
Small Stream at Blenheim':

  'The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
  The stream an emblem of his bounty flows.'

Garrick was accused of money-grubbing, and his weakness in that respect
was the subject of more than one smart jest by Foote. When somebody,
_àpropos_ of a remark made by Garrick on the parsimony of others,
asked, 'Why on earth doesn't Garrick take the beam out of his own eye
before attacking the mote in other people's?'--Foote replied, 'He is not
sure of selling the timber.' And again, when Garrick, after dropping a
guinea and failing to find it, said it had 'gone to the devil, he
thought,' Foote remarked, 'Well, David, let you alone for making a
guinea go farther than anybody else'--a repartee which was perhaps in
the mind of Shirley Brooks when, referring to the excellence of Scotch
shooting at long distances, he wrote:

          'But this we all knew
          That a Scotchman can do--
  Make a small piece of metal go awfully far.'

Then there was Lord Eldon, whose nearness was proverbial, and whose
unwillingness to spend displayed itself markedly in his commissariat
department. An anonymous epigram professed to record an 'Inquest

  'Found dead, a rat--no case could sure be harder:
  Verdict--Confined a week in Eldon's larder.'

We are also told that, when Eldon and Sir Arthur Pigott quarrelled over
the proper pronunciation of the legal term 'lien'--the former calling it
'lion,' and the latter 'lean'--Jekyll produced the following:

  'Sir Arthur, Sir Arthur, why what do you mean
  By saying the Chancellor's _lion_ is _lean_?
  D'ye think that his kitchen's so bad as all that,
  That nothing within it can ever get fat?'

Of Lord Kenyon, another judge of like inhospitable tendencies, someone
said that in his house it was always Lent in the kitchen and Passion
Week in the parlour. On another occasion it was remarked that 'in his
lordship's kitchen the fire is dull, but the spits are always bright;'
to which Jekyll, pretending to be angry, replied, 'Spits! in the name of
common-sense, don't talk about his spits--for nothing turns on them!'
When his lordship died, the words 'Mors Janua _Vita_' were by an error
of the undertaker painted on the coffin; but, someone commenting on the
substitution of 'Vita' for 'Vitæ,' Lord Ellenborough protested that
there was no mistake. Kenyon, he declared, had directed that it should
be 'Vita,' so that his estate might be saved the expense of a diphthong.

Most people know the story of Foote and Lord Stormont, the latter of
whom had asked the former to dinner, and had placed before him wine
served in the smallest of decanters and dispensed in the smallest of
glasses. The peer enlarged upon the growth and age of the liquor;
whereupon the player, holding up one of the glasses, demurely said, 'It
is very little of its age!' This recalls an experience of Theodore Hook,
when invited to dine with an unnamed nobleman, at the Star and Garter,
Richmond. There were four of the party, and when covers were removed it
was found that the fare consisted of four loin chops, four mealy
potatoes, and a pint of sherry. These things despatched, the peer asked
Hook for a song, and the wit responded with, of all things in the world,
the National Anthem, which he gave correctly until, arriving at the line
'Happy and glorious,' he added--as if under the influence of drink--'A
pint between four of us--God save the King!' A different form of
stinginess, it would seem, was shown by Brigham Young, when (if we may
believe the tale) he gave as a reason for marrying a certain male-garbed
lady-doctor, that he would be able to have her clothes 'made down' for
his boys.

The mean host has always been a special target for the scorn of his
fellows. It was a Greek satirist who related how

  'A miser in his chamber saw a mouse,
  And cry'd, dismay'd, "What dost thou in my house?"
  She, with a laugh, "Good landlord, have no fear,
  'Tis not for board, but lodging, I came here."'

And since then the flood of banter has rolled on. Herrick complains of
an unknown person that he invited him home to eat, and showed him there
much plate but little meat. Garrick (who had evidently again forgotten
the mote and the beam) wrote of a certain nobleman who had built a big

  'A little house would best accord
  With you, my very little lord!
  And then exactly matched would be
  Your house and hospitality!'

Much in the same way, Richard Graves wrote of the master of a house
which was well kept but not open to company:

  'If one may judge by rooms so neat,
  It costs you more in mops than meat!'

Note, again, Egerton Warburton's versification of a remark attributed to
Lord Alvanley. A gentleman had drawn attention to the fact that his
house was furnished _à la_ Louis Quatorze:

  '"Then I wish," said a guest, "when you ask us to eat,
  You would furnish your board _à la_ Louis Dixhuit.
  The eye, can it feast when the stomach is starving?
  Pray less of your gilding and more of your carving."'

John Headley, describing dinner at one Lady Anne's, tells us that

  'A silver service loads the board,
  Of eatables a slender hoard;'

and the sarcasm reminds one of the address with which Theodore Hook once
bore himself under somewhat similar circumstances. Invited to dine with
an old lady, he was horrified when the servant, lifting the cover,
displayed a couple of chops. 'Mr. Hook,' said the hostess, 'you see your
dinner.' 'Thank you, ma'am,' observed Hook; 'but where's yours?'

The niggardliness which displays itself in smaller subscriptions to
public or private objects than the donor's means will justify has
naturally met with keen reproach. Herrick has a quatrain directed
against the failing; and everyone remembers the lines about the man who
declared that at the sound of woe his hand was always open:

  'Your hand is open, to be sure,
    But there is nothing in it.'

Perhaps the happiest satire on meanness of this sort is contained in the
anonymous couplet 'On Close-fist's Subscription':

  'The charity of Close-fist, give to fame:
  He has at last subscribed--how much?--his name.'


A leading Review lately contained a contribution entitled 'The Old
School of Classics and the New.' It was, as regards its literary form, a
'Dialogue of the Dead'--a discussion supposed to take place between the
famous scholars Bentley and Madvig, with a brief intervention on the
part of Euripides and Shakespeare. It was written with much smartness,
and one could wish that such lucubrations were more common nowadays than
they are. Not that they are by any means rare. It was only the other day
that Mr. Marion Crawford published a work which had the conventional
shape of fiction, but which was really little more than a series of
colloquies in which some famous men of the past took part, talking
throughout with a characteristic flavour which did the author
considerable credit. Dialogues of the dead, pure and simple, have also
been written of recent years by Mr. H. D. Traill, some of the best of
whose efforts were republished in a volume called 'The New Lucian.'

In the less immediate past, dialogue-writing after the fashion of the
witty and audacious Syrian was not very frequently adventured. Just
twenty years ago some writer or writers supplied to a weekly miscellany
a few imaginative conversations between deceased worthies; but these
were not particularly brilliant. They were in verse--in the heroic
couplet, to which a good deal of point might have been imparted; but
advantage was not taken of the opportunity. There was one 'dialogue' in
which Shakespeare, Thackeray, and a critic were supposed to be engaged,
and in the course of which Thackeray was made to say to the critic:

  'Don't crack your jokes, but flit.'

To which the critic:

  'Your pardon, sir; I took you for a wit.'

To which Thackeray again:

  'Did you, indeed? Then, compliments to pass,
  I took you just for what you are--an ass.'

But this, which one hesitates to pronounce Thackerayan, was surely even
trite. However, these dialogues at least remind us of what English
society was saying and doing in the year of grace 1868. Thus, Thackeray
tells Shakespeare that his dramas are played but scarcely acted:

                    'For I won't deny
  That people now are tickled through the eye.
  No one to thought a deep attention lends,
  And if a play's successful it depends
  Far less upon the language than the scene.'

Again, in another colloquy, Meyerbeer informs Mozart that

  'The "Traviata" and the "Trovatore"
  Of "Il Barbiere" have eclipsed the glory.
  As Margarita Patti fills the stage,
  And Marta sung by Nilsson is the rage.'

He who dips into _Colburn's New Monthly_ for the year 1822 or
thereabouts will be rewarded (or otherwise) by coming across a
'Dialogue of the Dead' in prose, and there may be other such fugitive
lucubrations. But so far as the English literature of the past is
concerned, 'dialogues of the dead' were written by only two persons
worthy of celebration--Walter Savage Landor and George, Lord Lyttelton,
the author of 'Letters from a Persian in England to his friend in
Ispahan.' Landor's 'Imaginary Conversations' are among those numerous
works which everybody is supposed to have read, and, having read them,
to admire. And unfortunate indeed would be he who could not recognise
and appreciate the varied beauty and charm of these prose masterpieces.
Here Menelaus and Helen, Æsop and Rhodope, Tiberius and Vipsania,
Leofric and Godiva, Roger Ascham and Jane Grey, and a hundred other
heroes and heroines of the past, converse not only with dramatic
appropriateness, but with rhetorical force--with amplitude of thought
and spontaneity of image. By the side of such a wonderful flower-show
(as one of our poets said of a selection from a brother poet's lyrics),
Lyttelton's trim parterre shows, no doubt, but dimly; nevertheless, to
that accomplished nobleman there is due something more than the small
credit of having been Landor's predecessor in this form of English
composition. Of that form Lyttelton says, in the preface to his
'Dialogues,' that

     'It sets before us the history of all times and all nations,
     presents to the choice of a writer all characters of remarkable
     persons which may be best opposed to, or compared with, each other;
     and is, perhaps, one of the most agreeable methods that can be
     employed of conveying to the mind any critical, moral, or political

Lyttelton brings together in his work such people as Plato and Fénelon,
Lucian and Rabelais, Addison and Swift, Boileau and Pope; and, if he
scarcely has the power to make these masters talk as we know they wrote,
still he puts into their mouths much which it might be worth the while
of the modern reader to assimilate.

Early in the eighteenth century there appeared a little _brochure_
called 'English Lucian,' but it proved to be nothing more edifying than
a few 'modern dialogues' between a vintner and his wife, between 'a
reformer of manners,' his wife and a captain of the guards, and between
a Master of Arts and 'a lady's woman.' Of the humorous satire of Lucian
himself there was no jot or tittle.

The works of Lucian have, in various ways, found many translators in
England--notably Dr. Thomas Francklin, who prefaced his version with a
dialogue (in prose) in which Lucian and Lyttelton, after an exchange of
compliments, proceed to discuss the writings of the former at some
length and with much dulness. Dulness is certainly not the
characteristic of the rhyming paraphrases of certain dialogues of Lucian
which Charles Cotton wrote and published late in the seventeenth century
under the title of 'Burlesque upon Burlesque, or the Scoffer Scoft.' 'We
bring you here,' said Cotton, 'a fustian-piece, Writ by a merry Wag of
Greece'--'a piece of raillery writ,' as he went on to say, 'when
Paganism was in fashion':

  'Wherein his meaning further is
  To take away th' authorities
  Of lies and fables, which did pigeon
  The rabble into false religion.'

Herein the mission and the achievement of Lucian--first and greatest of
the writers of 'Dialogues of the Dead'--are not inaptly stated.
Fontenelle and Fénelon both derived inspiration for their 'Dialogues'
from the brilliant pages of the Syrian, and within recent years his
abounding merits have been sung in eloquent prose by Mr. Froude. There
is yet room, however, for someone who shall prove himself the 'new
Lucian' indeed, by writing dialogues in which the illustrious dead shall
be made to express themselves (as they have not yet been made to do in
English colloquy) with superlative sarcasm and inimitable scorn.


Every year a 'flower-sermon' is preached in London, in accordance with
an admirable custom; and the orator, we may be sure, has no difficulty
in 'improving the occasion.' The materials lie rich and ready to his
hand. The Laureate, indeed, has asked to what uses we shall put the
wildweed flower which simply blows, and has inquired further if there be
any moral shut within the bosom of the rose. He was answered long ago by
Horace Smith:

  'Your voiceless lips, O Flowers! are living preachers,
      Each cup a pulpit, every leaf a book;'

and a living poetess has assured us, likewise, that flowers will preach
to us if we will hear, the rose telling us that all her loveliness is
born upon a thorn, and the poppy urging that, though her scarlet head
is held in scorn,

  'Yet juice of subtle virtues lies
  Within my cup of curious dyes.'

There is one lesson which the flowers have been made to teach with
rather wearisome iteration. The poets have never been tired of dwelling
upon their brief existence and seeing in it a reflection of our own.
This rather trite melody has been sounded from the earliest to the
latest times. Drummond of Hawthornden draws attention to the flower
'which lingeringly doth fade,' and sees in it a type of his own life,
which 'scarce shows now what it hath been.' Herrick, apostrophizing
blossoms, deduces from them the fact that all things have their end,
though ne'er so brave. 'Fade, flowers, fade!' cries Waller; ''Tis but
what we must in our autumn do.' And so Dryden:

  'The rose is fragrant, but it fades in time...
  Such is your blooming youth, and withering so.'

'Youth's withered flowers' made John Clare sigh to think that in him
they would never bloom again.

But this, which may be said to be the orthodox teaching of the flowers,
has found many influential questioners, who have dwelt upon the brighter
side of the contention. And it is pleasant to listen to their more
cheerful voices. 'Not an opening blossom breathes in vain,' wrote
Thomson; and the sentiment is heartily corroborated by Mr. Lowell:

  'There never yet was flower fair in vain;
  Let classic poets rhyme it as they will.'

If the flowers have a short career, they make no complaint of it, says

  'Fast fall the leaves; this never says
  To that, "Alas! how brief our days!"
  All have alike enjoyed the sun,
  And each repeats, "So much is won."'

They enjoy life, and they help to make it enjoyable for others.

  'Gay without toil and lovely without art,
  They spring to clear the sense and glad the heart.'

So Mrs. Barbauld; while Mrs. Howitt similarly proclaims it to be their
business as well as pleasure to minister delight to man, to beautify the

The present Lord Lytton has remarked of flowers that their scent
outlives their bloom, and has expressed the aspiration that, in like
manner, his mortal hours may 'grow sweeter towards the tomb.' But the
main point made by the more optimistic observers of Nature is that,
though blossoms fade, they revive again, in equal beauty, by-and-by. 'Ye
are to me,' wrote Horace Smith, 'a type of resurrection and second
birth.' To W. C. Bryant the delicate flower, arising from the shapeless
mould, seemed

  'An emanation of the indwelling Life,
  A visible token of the upholding Love,
  That are the soul of this wide universe.'

Mrs. Hemans--a little unnecessarily, perhaps--dwells upon the fact that
though the flowers sleep in dust through the wintry hours, they break
forth in glory in the spring. For Longfellow, as for Horace Smith, they
are 'emblems of our own great resurrection.' George Morine, in verses
little known, reminds us that while cities fall away, and arts flourish
and decay, these 'frailer things' will continue to adorn the world
'unchangingly the same.' Though covered for a time by 'the wee white
fairies of the snow,' they come back, says Gerald Massey, 'with their
fragrant news,' and tell in a thousand hues their dream of beauty. For
their annual disappearance from our midst, Thomas Westwood gives a
poetical explanation:

  'Wearied out with shine and shade,
  It rejoiced them, one and all,
  To escape from daylight's ken
  To their chambers subterrain,
  There to rest awhile, and then
  Weave them fresh, and weave them fair,
  And their fragrant spells prepare.'

Alas! there are those who must needs draw a melancholy moral from the
most consolatory phenomena. And so Charlotte Smith, while admitting that

  'Another May new buds and flowers shall bring,'

must needs exclaim,

  'Ah! why has happiness no second Spring?'

And the dismal reflection finds an echo in the heart of D. M. Moir:

  'Green Spring again shall bid
    Your boughs with bloom be crown'd;
        But alas! to Man,
        In earth's brief span,
    No second Spring comes round!'

The truth is, the imagination derives from Nature precisely what the
former's capacity and quality admit of. As the Laureate said, years ago,
any man may find in bud, or blade, or bloom, a meaning suited to his
mind. Spenser, pondering on the rose and its thorns, and other such
floral combinations, was led to remark that

  'Every sweet with sour is tempered still.'

Equally impressed was he by the bounteous ease with which Nature
scatters flowers all over the world. In Barry Cornwall's view, this
facile profusion is Earth's expression of gratitude for the effulgence
of the Sun:

  'When on earth he smileth, she bursts forth
  In beauty like a bride, and gives him back,
  In sweet repayment for his warm bright love,
  A world of flowers.'

Beddoes had a quaint and curious fancy that 'when the dead awake or talk
in sleep' the flowers 'hear their thoughts, and write them on their
leaves, for heaven to look on.' Campbell seems to have loved flowers
most for the associations they called up. 'I dote upon you,' he wrote,
in an address to them, 'for ye waft me to summers of old;'

  'I love you for lulling me back into dreams
  Of the blue Highland mountains and echoing streams.'

And we find another Scotchman, William Anderson, giving utterance to a
similar expression of feeling.

There is a lesson which the flowers have taught to at least two of our
poets, which, though it may have sympathizers, will scarcely find many
practical adherents. It is embodied in a little lyric by Mrs. Webster,
in which that lady, celebrating the beauty of a solitary blossom,
describes how it is seen and gathered, and adds, ironically:

  'Why should a flower be fair for its own?
    Choose it, pluck it to die.'

But the moral has been pointed even more effectively by the Rev. Gerard
Lewis in some excellent verses. 'A gathered flower,' he says, 'is but a
fading thing':

  'Let woman's beauty wear the sterling gold,
    The imperishable gem.
  They give to her a brightness manifold,
    She adds a charm to them.

  'But flowers that strew the earth with fragrant grace,
    As stars the welkin fill,
  Look loveliest, live the longest, in their place;
    To pluck them is to kill.'

That is true, and yet the gathering of flowers will go on. And, after
all, what more can a blossom desire than to 'exist beautifully' and
exhale its sweetness, whether it lies hidden by the wayside hedge, or
decks the bosom of a woman as sweet and beautiful as itself?


The announcement that Mr. W. G. Wills had completed his dramatic version
of 'Don Quixote' naturally excited much interest, and no doubt set many
minds at play upon the general subject of the history of 'Don Quixote'
in this country. That the renowned romance has appeared in many prose
translations, from that of Shelton in 1620 to that of Mr. Ormsby only
two or three years ago, is known to most people. It will be remembered
that an early English version was prepared by the nephew of Milton; the
once-famous Peter Motteux made himself responsible for one 'by several
hands'; that by Jarvis, which dates from the middle of last century, has
lately been reproduced by Professor Morley; and then there are those by
Smollett, the novelist, and Mr. A. J. Duffield. There is no lack of
them, any more than there has been of pictorial illustrations. Shelton's
translation, revised by Stevens, was republished with 'cuts' by Coypel.
When Lockhart prefixed his well-known essay to Motteux's version, the
work was accompanied by etchings by De Los Rios. Jarvis's rendering
exercised successively the skill of Westall, Cruickshank, Johannot,
Doré, and Mr. A. B. Houghton; another was illuminated by R. Smirke,
R.A.; and in later years there have been the drawings contributed by Sir
John Gilbert and by Kenny Meadows.

So much for the story as it has been read in English and adorned by
English (and other) artists. But how about Mr. Wills's predecessors? How
about 'Don Quixote's' previous connection with the English stage? Well,
it was scarcely to be expected that so popular a tale would never excite
the attention of the playwright or the musician. Sooner or later,
everything which has vogue finds its way, somehow, to the boards, and
it is a little surprising that seventy-four years should have elapsed,
after the publication of the first English translation, before 'Don
Quixote' received the distinction of dramatization. Was it, indeed, a
distinction? There's the rub. The dramatist was Thomas d'Urfey; and what
could be looked for from that free-speaking worthy? The original is not
without a certain breadth in certain passages, and what Cervantes made
broad D'Urfey might be trusted to make broader. That, again, was only
according to the practice of the day; and if the virtuous Collier
fulminated against the trilogy which D'Urfey wrought out of the epical
extravaganza--if some ladies of the time were found to object to the
coarser humours of Mary the Buxom (a creation on which D'Urfey prided
himself)--there can be no doubt of the success of the venture. The third
of the three plays had not, it seems, quite the acceptability of the
other two, but the author's explanation of its virtual failure--that the
piece was not adequately presented--was possibly, for once, well
founded, and the fact that the third play was produced at all speaks
volumes for the triumphs of its precursors.

A 'Don Quixote'--probably D'Urfey's 'second part'--held the stage, more
or less firmly, till the eighteenth century was well upon its way; and
then there suddenly appeared a rival, in the shape of a farce or
vaudeville by Fielding, entitled 'Don Quixote in England,' and bringing
both the Don and Sancho upon English soil. The author was well aware of
his temerity, and, indeed, apologized for it. The piece, he pleaded, was

     'originally writ for his private amusement, as it would, indeed,
     have been little less than Quixotism itself to hope any other
     fruits from attempting characters wherein the inimitable Cervantes
     so far excelled.'

He found it, he says, infinitely more difficult than he imagined to give
his knight an opportunity of displaying himself in a different manner
from that wherein he appears in the romance. However, he was induced to
allow his work to be performed, and then it was seen that he had
brought the Don and Sancho to an English inn, where the landlord,
Guzzle, tries in vain to get the former to pay his bill, and whither
comes one Dorothea Loveland to meet her sweetheart, Fairlove, spending
the interval between her coming and his arrival in persuading the Don
that she is a persecuted princess and that her maid Jezebel is Dulcinea.
Dorothea is promised by her father to one Squire Badger, but the squire
proves to be a sot, and at the Don's especial request the lady and her
lover are united. The piece is by no means without humour, and it would
deserve to live in remembrance if only because it was for 'Don Quixote
in England' that Fielding wrote the song of 'The Roast Beef of Old
England,' which consisted of two verses only until Richard Leveridge
added five more and wrote the music for the whole.

'Don Quixote' has made other appearances on the English boards, but none
of any very great importance. There was an entertainment written in
verse, and 'sung at Marybone Gardens,' for which Dr. Arnold wrote the
music, and in which the Don, Sancho, Nicholas, Teresa, and Maritornes
figure. There was a pantomime at Covent Garden, 'Harlequin and Quixote;
or, The Magic Arm,' for which Reeve composed the melodies, and in which
Harlequin, the son of Inca, carries off Columbine, the daughter of a
Spanish grandee, to whom Don Quixote is affianced. There was, too, a
'ballad-farce' called 'Don Quixote in Barcelona; or, The Beautiful
Moor,' which, however, was never represented; and there were at least
two other efforts of the kind, an 'opera-comedy' and a 'farce-comedy,'
which had the illustrious Sancho for their hero, portraying him in the
character of 'the mock Governor' of Barataria.

It was, no doubt, inevitable that 'Don Quixote,' having been translated
into English prose, should make its appearance also in English verse.
And so it did--early in the eighteenth century--in the form of 'The
Life and Notable Adventures of that Renown'd Knight, Don Quixote de la
Mancha, Merrily translated into Hudibrastick Verse.' Mr. Edward Ward was
the perpetrator of this work, in which various episodes of the original
were reproduced with a vulgarity, not to say a coarseness, not unworthy
of the great D'Urfey himself. The bard was tolerable enough in such
passages as this, descriptive of the knight's appearance:

  'The Don himself that rul'd the Roast
  (Whose Fame we are about to Boast),
  Did by his solid Looks appear
  Not much behind his Fiftieth year.
  In Stature he was Lean and Tall,
  Big Bon'd, and very Strong withall;
  Sound Wind and Limb, of healthful Body,
  Fresh of Complection, somewhat Ruddy;
  Built for a Champion ev'ry way,
  But turn'd with Age a little Grey.'

But, as a whole, 'Don Quixote,' as rendered into rhyme by Mr. Ward,
cannot be recommended for general perusal.

There is, however, a 'Quixote' literature apart from 'Don Quixote'
itself. The great romance suggested more than one English counterpart,
such as 'The Spiritual Quixote,' by Richard Graves, and 'The Female
Quixote,' by Mrs. Lennox. The latter, published in the middle of last
century, was devoted to the adventures of one Arabella. Of her we read
that, supposing the fictions of the Scudéri school to be 'real pictures
of life,' 'from them she drew all her notions and expectations.' She
became, in fact, quite a monomaniac upon the subject, and, as a sample,
is for ever expecting that her lover, Glanville, will speak and act like
the heroes of her favourite tales. In the end she throws herself into a
river, gets brain-fever, and is brought back to sanity by a benevolent
divine. Then there is 'The Amiable Quixote; or, The Enthusiasm of
Friendship,' a novel issued later in the century, and having for central
figure a young gentleman named Bruce, who

     'found in the slightest acquaintance some virtue or some
     recommendation. As soon as the enthusiasm of friendship was
     excited, it overwhelmed his discretion and clouded his

But this work owed very little to 'Don Quixote'--not more than did
'Tarrataria; or, Don Quixote the Second,' a romantic poetical medley in
two cantos, which appeared in the interval between the two stories just
noticed. Early in this century there was issued, for a short space, a
literary miscellany, called _The Knight Errant_, edited by 'Sir Hercules
Quixote, K.E.,' who, said the prospectus,

     'following the example of his illustrious namesake and ancestor of
     La Mancha, has, with the assistance of his friends, commenced an
     era of Civil Knight Errantry, and zealously devoted himself to the
     comforting of distressed Damsels and disconsolate Widows, the
     fathering of wronged and destitute Orphans, the promotion of Virtue
     and chivalrous feeling generally'--

and so on, and so on. To 'Don Quixote,' in some form or other, there
will, of course, be literary allusions to the end of time.


To begin with, ought there to be any such things? Ought we to accustom
ourselves to having books by our bedside? Ought not 'early to bed and
early to rise' to be the motto of every well-conducted person, and is
not reading in bed calculated to render the carrying out of that axiom
virtually impossible? This is the problem we have first to solve, and it
may be said at once that this discourse does not apply _virginibus
puerisque_. Girls and boys, young men and young women, are hereby
solemnly exhorted to abjure all nocturnal or matutinal reading of the
kind suggested. To them all the lines in the copybooks apply
unreservedly. Nay, even for those of mature years it may be allowed that
bed is not the proper place for intellectual study. Let the hours for
reading and for repose be kept rigidly apart, if the reading is to be
systematic and prolonged. So far, everybody is agreed. To make a habit
of perusing books in bed is to encourage laziness, and to encourage
laziness is (we all know) to sap the foundations of the moral nature.
That way destruction lies.

And I am bound to say that habitual, sustained reading in bed is quite
as uncomfortable for the human frame as it is dangerous to the human
character. It cannot be undertaken with entire success. It looks easy to
do, but it is not. If you are sceptical, try it. You begin swimmingly
enough. You lie down, say, on your back, settle your head cosily on to
the pillow, and perhaps, to start with, hold the book before you in both
hands: For a time all goes well, but not for long. The position of the
arms becomes fatiguing. You withdraw one from the book and commence
again. But the utilized arm speedily grows weary, and the chances are
that you drop the volume and go off to sleep, leaving gas, lamp, or
candle alight--which is not very safe and not very healthy--nay, is
positively unhealthy and unsafe. Perchance you try the effect of
reclining on one side, leaning on one arm, and holding the book by means
of the other. That, also, is charming for the moment, but has a similar
tendency to tire very readily. Your elbow--the one on which your weight
is thrown--soon gives signs of boredom. 'I don't like this at all,' it
says virtually; and perhaps you turn round and try the other for a
spell. But in these matters one elbow is very like its brother, and
before long you are on the look-out for another attitude.

What may be called the last infirmity of the determined reader in bed is
his final decision to sit up and read in that fashion. Nothing could be
better--for a certain more or less brief period. At the expiration of a
few minutes, you realize that you are getting a sort of cramp in the
knees; moreover, there is a disagreeable strain on your head; you are
stooping too much, and bending your spine, and altogether making a toil
of pleasure. The situation, it need hardly be said, is still less
attractive when the weather is cold, and the effort to keep warm is
added to the endeavour to read. You have wrapped yourself up, but
apparently not to much purpose. You are conscious of growing chillier
and chillier every moment. And, indeed, a very low temperature is
usually fatal to the cultivation of bedside books. Even if you lie down,
and almost smother yourself in the clothes, you are bound to obtrude one
hand out of shelter, or how is the book to be held up? And how quickly
that hand gets cold--and how often one's two hands have to be alternated
for the purpose in view--and what a nuisance it is to have to make the
continual change! One begins to think that, under the circumstances,
reading is not so pleasant as one fancied, and that sleep (as the poet
says) is the only certain knot of peace.

One thing is incontrovertible, and that is, that bedside books, if they
are to be acceptable, must be, in the first place, small in size and,
therefore, not very weighty. The hand must be asked to hold as little as
possible. Bed is not the place for heavy tomes; it is the appropriate
_locale_ of the duodecimo. And yet the type must not be too small, or
the eyesight will suffer, unless the reader can command plenty of
illumination--which is not always the case. And the book must be not
only fairly diminutive, but bound and stitched in such a way as to allow
the hand to clutch it and hold it with ease. There must be no
unnecessary extension of the palm and fingers, for it adds so much to
the fatigue. Unhappily, every volume does not fulfil this requirement,
and the requisite selection must be made with care. Moreover, the ideal
bedside book should be not only small, and light, and agreeable to the
touch, but distinguished by special internal characteristics. Not only
must the print be legible; the matter it furnishes must be in brief
instalments. What is wanted is a series of short somethings which the
mind can readily grasp and as easily retain. Sustained reading is for
the library or the study; the last thing at night and the first thing in
the morning, what you desire is simply a number of brevities, at any one
of which you can glance with the certainty of being interested.

Wherefore, such works as novels must be discouraged in the bedside
library. There is nothing to be gained by perusing a romance, by bits,
in such fragments of time as the intending sleeper is inclined or able
to accord to it. Keep a novel beside you, if you like, to turn to if the
night should prove an obstinately sleepless one, and to that end let the
tale be by 'Miss Braddon or Gaboriau'--one which shall really fix your
imagination fast, and finish, perhaps, by sending you to rest. But for
ordinary uses let the book which you take up be one of 'Jewels, five
words long,' or thereabouts! Let it be a volume of short essays--let it
be, for instance, Bacon's, or the 'Roundabout Papers,' now accessible in
a handy form. Let it be a volume of brief verse, such as Mr. Gilbert's
'Bab Ballads,' or Mr. Lang's 'Ballades in Blue China,' or Calverley's
immortal 'Fly Leaves;' or let it be a collection of more serious
lyrics--say, Mr. Palgrave's 'Golden Treasury,' or the selections from
Lord Tennyson and Mr. Matthew Arnold. Or, if you like, let it be a
treasury of maxims, such as those by Vauvenargues or Chamfort; or a
series of select passages, such as those from the works of Lord
Beaconsfield or Heine: or let it be a casquet of choice anecdotes, of
which happily the supply is large--that incomparable volume of Dean
Ramsay's, for example, or even the triter production by Mark Lemon.
There is a whole world from which to choose.

Only, take care that, whatever the literature is, it is not disturbing.
The mission of the bedside book is to soothe the mind, not irritate it.
When one lies down after a hard day's work, one's desire is not that the
brain should be stimulated, but that it should be refreshed. It needs,
not exercise, but diversion. It wants to be prepared for sleep. And if a
book will effect that object, while at the same time adding to the stock
of one's ideas--humorous or sentimental, it does not matter which--that
volume is to be thanked and cherished. The difficulty of putting down
one's book and extinguishing the light before the exposition of sleep
comes upon one, must be left to be dealt with by the individual man. I
have heard of a popular vocalist who was wont, when he had read
sufficiently, to extinguish the candle by plumping down upon it whatever
book he happened to have in his hand. But this is a rough and ready mode
which cannot be generally recommended--at any rate, not in those cases
where the book is one's own! Some other means must be discovered. And
let them be efficacious, for when any element of danger or unhealthiness
is allowed to attend the use of bedside books, the sooner that use is
discontinued the better.


The 'dreary drip of dilatory declamation' to which Lord Salisbury, in
one of his happiest phrases, once drew attention, shows no sign of
exhaustion, or even of diminution; and the Conservative chief has
followed up his admirable epigram by picturing the time when, all
rational discussion and all beneficial legislation being out of the
question, the House of Commons may become a mere mechanical puppet-show,
and may present the spectacle of 'a steam Irish Party, an electric
Ministry, and a clockwork Speaker.' It is certain that there never was
so much talk in the Lower House as at the present moment; but it is also
certain that the complaint of 'much speaking' has before now been
frequently preferred against both Chambers. Politicians have always been
a wordy race, and many a sharp shaft has been aimed at their besetting
weakness. A last-century satirist once wrote:

  '"Do this," cries one side of St. Stephen's great hall;
  "Do just the reverse," the minority bawl....
  And what is the end of this mighty tongue-war?
  --Nothing's done for the State till the State is done for!'

And, unfortunately, the quality of the talk has often been as poor as
the quantity was considerable. It was, we believe, a pre-Victorian pen
which perpetrated this couplet on the House of Commons:

  'To wonder now at Balaam's ass were weak:
  Is there a night that asses do not speak?'

Fun has constantly been made of the typical drawbacks of political
oratory--of the dull men, of the heavy, of the shallow, of the
unintelligible, and what not. We have been told how 'a lord of
senatorial fame' was known at once by his portrait, because the painter
had so 'play'd his game' that it 'made one even yawn at sight.' It has
been said of an M.P., that his speeches 'possessed such remarkable
weight' that it was 'really a trouble to bear them.' Of a third it was
written that his discourses had some resemblance to an hour-glass,
because, the longer time they ran, the shallower they grew. Of yet
another orator we read that his reasoning was really deep, his argument
profound, 'for deuce a bit could anybody see the ground.' Nor have
certain historical personages been able to escape the lash. When Admiral
Vernon was appointed to take charge of the herring fishery, Horace
Walpole wrote:

  'Long in the Senate had brave Vernon rail'd,
  And all mankind with bitter tongue assail'd;
  Sick of his noise, we wearied Heav'n with pray'r
  In his own element to place the tar.
  The gods at length have yielded to our wish,
  And bade him rule o'er Billingsgate and fish.'

From which it will be gathered anew that a somewhat bitter style of
debate is no novelty in this country--that strong language has been
heard in the House of Commons _ante Agamemnona_.

Within living memory a member has dared to suggest that certain of his
opponents had come into the House not wholly sober. Who does not
remember the epigrams which were based on Pitt's addiction, real or
supposed, to intoxicating liquors? Porson is said to have composed one
hundred such 'paper pellets' in one night, as, for example:

  '"Who's up?" inquired Burke of a friend at the door;
  "Oh, no one," said Paddy, "tho' Pitt's on the floor."'

After this, most other insinuations become almost harmless; and the
accusation of mere twaddling, such as that which was brought against Mr.
Urquhart in the following lines, seems, by comparison, trivial:

  'When Palmerston begins to speak,
    He moves the House--as facts can prove.
  Let Urquhart rise, with accents weak,
    The House itself begins to move.'

By the side of twaddling, again, mere rambling grows venial. One of H.
J. Byron's burlesque heroes says of Cerberus:

  'My dog, who picks up everything one teaches,
  Has got "three heads," like Mr. Gladstone's speeches.
  But, as might naturally be expected,
  His are considerably more connected.'

But it is against Parliamentary long-windedness, in particular, that
most sarcasm, whether in verse or in prose, has been directed. Everybody
remembers Moore's comparison of the Lord Castlereagh of his time to a
pump, which up and down its awkward arm doth sway,

  'And coolly spout, and spout, and spout away,
  In one weak, washy, everlasting flood.'

This has always been a stock quotation to use against oratory of the
'dreary' and 'dilatory' order. Then, Brougham had the good sense to
recognise his own sins in respect to 'much speaking.' _Punch_ made
someone ask himself 'if Brougham thinks as much as he talks;' but the
Lord Chancellor removed the pungency from gibes of that sort by writing
his own epitaph, in which he declares that

    'My fate a moral teaches,
  The ark in which my body lies
    Would not contain one-half my speeches.'

It was asserted of Lord George Bentinck that true sportsmen 'loved his
prate,' because his speech recalled the 'four-mile course,' his
arguments the 'feather-weight.' One is reminded, in this connection, of
the preacher of whom it was observed that he 'so lengthily his subject
did pursue,' that it was feared 'he had, indeed, eternity in view.' And,
perhaps, a long discourse is none the more acceptable when it is
palpable to the hearers that the discourser has committed it to memory,
and is bound to go on to the bitter end. Possibly this adds to the
feeling of exasperation. Nevertheless, there are those who must learn
their speeches by heart, or else not speak at all. As Luttrell contended
that Lord Dudley had said of himself:

  'In vain my affections the ladies are seeking;
  If I give up my heart, there's an end to my speaking.'

However, it is, perhaps, scarcely fair of laymen to dwell too sternly on
the joy which so many legislators seem to feel in hearing their own
voices. Man is a talking animal, and can 'hold forth' outside the Houses
of Parliament as well as in. And though in the term 'man' we may include
woman, let us give no countenance to the old calumny, that the fairer
and weaker is also the more talkative sex. There are some old lines to
the effect that Nature wisely forbade a beard to grow on woman's chin,

  'For how could she be shaved, whate'er the skill,
  Whose tongue would never let her chin be still?'

There is also a certain epitaph on an old maid,

  'Who from her cradle talk'd till death,
  And ne'er before was out of breath,'

and of whom it was opined that in heaven she'd be unblest, because she
loathed a place of rest. But these flouts and sneers are as cheap as
they are venerable. Let the ladies take heart. Men have been censured
for their 'much speaking' at least as frequently as women. Prior
declared of one Lysander that he ought to possess the art of talk, if he
did not, for he practised 'full fourteen hours in four-and-twenty.' And
we owe to a more recent writer this paraphrase of an epigram by

  'Black locks hath Gabriel, beard that's white--
    The reason, sir, is plain:
  Gabriel works hard from morn till night,
    More with his jaw than brain.'

It is well that satire should go that way for a change. All the talking
is not done by women or by Parliament. There is, at times, as much
chatter in the smoking-room as in the boudoir and the Senate. Tongues,
as well as beards, 'wag all,' when we are 'merry in hall.'


The succession of the Hon. J. Leicester Warren to the barony of De
Tabley was something more than a change in the _personnel_ of the House
of Lords; it amounted to a conspicuous addition to the Chamber's
intellectual power, and especially to the number of its poetic votaries.
The author of 'Philoctetes' and 'Orestes,' of 'Rehearsals' and
'Searching the Net,' is no mere versifier. He has felt the influence of
the old Greek dramatists, and apparently also that of Mr. Swinburne;
but, for all that, his work has undoubted individuality, as well as
solid interest.

It must be admitted that the House of Lords does not at this moment
contain many hereditary peers who are also poets. Lord Tennyson, of
course, is an ennobled commoner, and the Bishop of Derry (Dr.
Alexander), who has written so much excellent verse, both in the
thoughtful and in the imaginative vein, is no longer one of the
spiritual lords. But there is Lord Lytton, there is Lord Southesk, and
there is Lord Rosslyn; and by all of these Lord de Tabley will be
welcomed as a brother in the literary art. What Lord Lytton has done in
poetry, need scarcely be recapitulated. He would be remembered as 'Owen
Meredith' if, since his accession to the peerage, he had not made a new
reputation as the author of 'Fables in Song,' 'Glenaveril,' and other
performances. As 'Owen Meredith' he was, no doubt, more fresh and
spontaneous than he has ever been as Lord Lytton; but his poetic work,
as a whole, is of good quality, and some of it will find its way down
the stream of time. Equally certain may we be that the 'Jonas Fisher' of
Lord Southesk, with its unquestionable vigour, both of satire and of
sentiment, will remain alive, whatever may be the fate of the author's
'Greenwood's Farewell' and 'Meda Maiden.' Lord Rosslyn, it will be
remembered, was one of the most successful of the Jubilee Laureates;
but, even before that, he had made himself esteemed by many trustworthy
judges as the producer of numerous good sonnets.

''Tis ridiculous,' says Selden, 'for a lord to print verses; 'tis well
enough to make them to please himself, but to make them public is
foolish.' He goes on to add that

     'If a man in his private chamber twists his band-strings, or plays
     with a rush to please himself, 'tis well enough; but if he should
     go into Fleet Street, and sit upon a stall, and twist a
     band-string, or play with a rush, then all the boys in the street
     would laugh at him.'

No doubt they would have done so in Selden's time; and much more readily
would they do so now. But that is scarcely to the point. _Pace_ Master
Selden, there is nothing ridiculous in a lord printing his verses--if
they be but good enough for the process. A peer is not necessarily a
poet, but a poet is none the worse for being a peer. Nay, there are even
certain kinds of verse in which a peer may, other things being equal,
be actually expected to excel. There is nothing to prevent his being--as
Byron was--a poet of passion; there is every reason why, if he have the
requisite literary capacity, he should shine in the poetry of the
library, the _salon_, and the boudoir. He has usually the education for
the first, and the leisure for the other two. He generally has culture,
he always has breeding, he often has gallantry; and, with these
endowments, the poetry _par excellence_ of the peerage is well within
his reach.

Considerable, indeed, would be the loss to English literature if by any
chance the productions of our noble poets should disappear. Apart from
Byron, who, of course, stands a head and shoulders above all his
brethren, there is that Henry, Earl of Surrey, who ranks highest of all
poets between Chaucer and Spenser, and who did so much to popularize in
England both blank verse and the sonnet. But for Surrey both those
accomplishments, since so popular among us, might have been long in
establishing themselves in English poetry. The other poet-peers of the
sixteenth century were admittedly not of the first class. Yet
Buckhurst's share in 'The Mirror for Magistrates' and in the tragedy of
'Gorboduc' was of undoubted value, both intrinsic and relative; and the
world of letters would not willingly let die the work, slight as it was,
of Lord Vaux, the Earls of Essex and Oxford, the Earls of Ancrum and
Stirling, Lord Brooke, and Francis Bacon, although the great Chancellor
wrote but one lyric of any moment--the well-known lines upon 'The
World.' Lord Vaux's 'Of a Contented Mind,' Lord Essex's 'There is None,
O None but You,' Lord Oxford's 'If Woman could be Fair and yet not
Fond,' are among the treasures of our verse; while the tragedies of Lord
Stirling and Lord Brooke, and the sonnets of Lord Ancrum, are at least
curious and interesting, if they are not substantively great.

And when we come to the noble poets of the Stuart and the early Georgian
period, we find that the national indebtedness is not less marked. Who
would be prepared to surrender the spirited effusions of Montrose? And
is there not much to be said for the outcome, flimsy and over-free as it
often was, of that mob of noblemen who wrote with ease--including the
Earls of Roscommon, Dorset, and Rochester, and the Duke of
Buckinghamshire? Had these writers not at least the virtues of lightness
and of brightness? Did not Dorset pen the lines, 'To all you ladies now
on land?' Did not Buckinghamshire produce 'The Election of the
Laureat'--the prototype of Leigh Hunt's 'Feast of the Poets,' and of a
still more recent _jeu d'esprit_ by Mr. Robert Buchanan? The great Lord
Peterborough is even now less remembered for his military triumphs than
for his 'Song by a Person of Quality;' while Chesterfield, if thought of
most frequently in connection with his letters and his essays, still
lives in poetry as the author of some admirable society verses. Horace
Walpole claims mention in the list as Earl of Orford, and room must
fairly be made, too, for Lords Lansdowne, Halifax, Nugent, Lyttelton,
Egremont, and De la Warre, most of whom left behind them a few fugitive
pieces which deserve to be embalmed in poetical collections.

The annals of nineteenth-century song will commemorate, besides Byron,
those agreeable versifiers--Lord Holland, Lord Melbourne, and Lord
Winchilsea, and those cultured translators--Lord Strangford, Lord
Ellesmere, and Lord Derby. It would scarcely be fair to include among
noble poets Lord Macaulay, Lord Houghton, or the first Lord Lytton, for
they, like Lord Tennyson, were created peers, and won their
laurel-wreaths in the character of commoners. In the same way, I have
taken no account of the poetical peeresses, or I should have had to
dwell upon the achievements of such ladies as Sidney's sister, Lady
Pembroke; the Duchess of Newcastle, the Countess of Winchilsea, the
Baroness Nairne, and so on. Enough, indeed, has been said to show how
prominent a part the peerage has played in the history of English
poetry--not, indeed, in the front rank, in which (omitting Lord
Tennyson) it is represented only by Byron, but in the second, where
Montrose (for example) is eminent, and wherever, in short, the
rhetorical, the amatory, and the witty elements are in the ascendant.


Afluent versifier of to-day has complained that, though many a poet has
'dearer made the names' of Tweed and Nith and Doon, and what not, no one
has 'sung our Thames;' and he goes on especially to rate 'green Kent and
Oxfordshire and Middlesex,' because those counties have offered, he
says, no rhythmical tribute to our premier stream. Now, the Thames has
not, perhaps, found many laureates of late. The glories of Henley may be
celebrated annually in the comic or 'society' press, but in these times
we hear more, no doubt, of sewage and steam-launches than of any other
phenomena of the Thames. We are a practical generation, with a keen eye
to business, and disposed to take not only as read, but as written, the
praises which might well be bestowed upon the river even as it is.

If, however, the Thames does not often or greatly inspire the rhymers of
to-day, it cannot, certainly, be described as songless. On the contrary,
it has received from the poets more magnificent and more frequent
eulogium than any of its compeers. If one goes back even so far as
Spenser, one finds that writer picturing it in one poem as 'noble
Thamis'--a 'lovely bridegroom,' 'full, fresh and jolly,' 'all decked in
a robe of watchet hew,' and adorned by a coronet 'in which were many
towres and castels set;' while, in another work from the same hand, it
figures as a 'gentle river,' is characterized as 'christall Thamis,' and
is lauded for its 'pure streames' and 'sweete waters.' Chapman, in his
'Ovid's Banquet of Sense,' discourses eloquently of the 'wanton Thamysis
that hastes to greet The brackish coast of old Oceanus':

  'And as by London's bosom she doth fleet,
    Casts herself proudly through the bridge's twists,
  Where, as she takes again her crystal feet,
    She curls her silver hair like amourists,
  Smooths her bright cheeks, adorns her brow with ships,
  And, empress-like, along the coast she trips'--

a description almost as impressive as the thing described. Among the
lovers of the Thames must be ranked, too, Herrick, who, in one of his
pieces, sends to his 'silver-footed Thamasis' his 'supremest kiss.' 'No
more,' he regrets, will he 'reiterate' its strand, whereon so many
stately structures stand; no more, in the summer's sweeter evenings,
will he go to bathe in it, as thousand others do:

  'No more shall I along thy christall glide,
  The barge with boughes and rushes beautifi'd....
  To Richmond, Kingstone, and to Hampton Court.
  Never againe shall I with finnie ore
  Cut from or draw unto the faithfull shore,
  And landing here, or safely landing there,
  Make way to my beloved Westminster.'

Milton, in his 'Vacation Exercise,' bestows upon the Thames the epithet
of 'Royal-towered.' How Denham celebrated it is well known to most. In
his view it was 'the most loved of all the Ocean's sons,' and he
commended it especially for its freedom from sudden and impetuous wave,
from the unexpected inundations which spoil the mower's hopes and mock
the ploughman's toil.

  'Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
  Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full'--

such was the famous panegyric he passed upon it. From Denham, too, came
an early poetical recognition of the growth of London's commerce. The
Thames, he says, brings home to us, and makes the Indies ours; his fair
bosom is the world's exchange. To Pope, in his 'Windsor Forest,' the
Thames appears as the 'great father of the British floods,' on whose
shores figure future navies.

  'No seas so rich, so gay no banks appear,
  No lakes so gentle, and no spring so clear.'

And the poet ends by prophesying the time when 'unbounded Thames shall
flow for all mankind,' whole nations entering with each swelling tide.
Elsewhere he assures us that 'blest Thames's shores the brightest
beauties yield.' Thomson, again, dwells on the extent of the trade
fostered by the river. Commerce, he says, has chosen for his grand
resort 'Thy stream, O Thames, large, gentle, deep, majestic, King of
floods!' And he describes how, on either hand,

  'Like a long wintry forest, groves of masts
  Shot up their spires.'

Then, as now, 'the sooty hulk steered sluggish on,' while

                  'The splendid barge
  Row'd, regular, to harmony; around,
  The boat, light-skimming, stretched its oary wings.'

Up to this time, the river had been called 'clear' and 'crystal,' in
spite of 'sooty hulks;' but, with the advent of Cowper, another note is
struck. With him the Thames is

        'The finest stream
  That wavers to the noon-day beam,'

but it is not, alas! absolutely pure:

  'Nor yet, my Delia, to the main
  Runs the sweet tide without a stain,
    Unsullied as it seems;
  The nymphs of many a sable flood
  Deform with streaks of oozy mud
    The bosom of the Thames.'

Happily, this is about the only word of depreciation which the poets
have permitted themselves. Wordsworth, standing on Westminster Bridge in
1803, notes that 'the river glideth at its own sweet will,' and if his
olfactory nerves were at all distressed he has not said so in verse. Of
later singers, none has been more enthusiastic about the Thames than
Eliza Cook, who has told us that, though it bears no azure wave and
rejoices in no leaping cascades, yet she ever loved to dwell where she
heard its gushing swell--in which expression, we may be sure, there is
no allusion to the British 'dude.' Another lady--Mrs. Isa Craig
Knox--has supplied a very pretty description of the Thames in its more
idyllic phases, pointing out how

                        'It glimmers
    Through the stems of the beeches;
  Through the screen of the willows it shimmers
    In long-winding reaches;
  Flowing so softly that scarcely
    It seems to be flowing;
  But the reeds of the low little island
    Are bent to its going;
  And soft as the breath of a sleeper
    Its heaving and sighing,
  In the coves where the fleets of the lilies
    At anchor are lying.'

Finally, there is that austere teacher, Mr. Aubrey de Vere, who,
addressing the Thames, exhorts it to go on soothing,

  'With murmur low and ceaseless cheer,
  The Imperial City's agitated ear,'

but beseeches it also to add a warning voice, telling her, to whom the
pomp of gold is dear, of 'Tyre that fell, of Fortune's perfidy.'

Other poetic celebrations--such as those of Mr. Ernest Myers, Mr.
Ashby-Sterry, and 'C. C. R.'--might be recorded; but the above will
suffice to show how prominent a place the Thames has always held in the
heart and mind of those poets who have come within the sphere of its
influence. Even if it were never made the subject of a future song, it
would still figure largely and conspicuously in the British _corpus


The student of English poetry must often have been struck by its
richness in that form of verse which may best be called the
Epigraph--the brief sententious effort, answering somewhat to the
epigram as understood and practised by the Greeks, but unlike the Latin,
French, and English epigram in being sentimental instead of witty, and
aiming rather at all-round neatness than at pungency or point. Our
language abounds, of course, in examples of short lyrical compositions,
such (to name familiar instances) as Beaumont and Fletcher's 'Lay a
garland on my hearse,' Congreve's 'False though she be to me and love,'
Goldsmith's 'When lovely woman stoops to folly,' Shelley's 'Music, when
soft voices die,' and MacDonald's 'Alas, how easily things go
wrong!'--all of these being only eight lines long. There are, indeed,
plenty of lyrical performances even more brief than this; such as Mr.
Marzials' 'tragedy' in quatrain:

  'She reach'd a rosebud from the tree,
    And bit the tip and threw it by;
  My little rose, for you and me
    The worst is over when we die!'

But, then, the epigraph is never lyrical. It belongs to the order of
reflective poetry, and consists of a single thought, expressed with as
much brevity and grace as possible. A common form of it is the epitaph;
another is the inscription; while at other times the poets have used it
for the purpose of enshrining some occasional or isolated utterance.

The thoroughly successful epitaphs--at once short, and wholly poetical
in expression--are among the most famous and popular things in
literature. Who does not remember the admirable tribute to 'Sidney's
sister, Pembroke's mother'--usually ascribed to Ben Jonson, but
sometimes attributed to Browne? Jonson penned an epitaph on 'Elizabeth
L. H.,' which would have been exquisite had it consisted only of the

  'Underneath this stone doth lie
  As much beauty as could die;
  Which, in life, did harbour give
  To more virtue than doth live.'

Even as they stand, the lines, as a whole, may fairly compare with those
on Lady Pembroke. How happy Pope was in his epitaphs is familiarly
known. The art was just that in which he might naturally be expected to
excel. The time-honoured couplet on Newton need not be quoted: the
'octave' on Sir Godfrey Kneller is most notable for the final bit of

  'Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
  Her works, and, dying, fears herself may die.'

And, talking of epitaphs, one is reminded of the quaint comment by Sir
Henry Wotton 'On the Death of Sir A. Morton's Wife':

  'He first deceased; she, for a little, tried
  To live without him, liked it not, and died'--

surely a piece of work as nearly as possible perfect in its way. In the
matter of inscriptions, we have, of course, that by Ben Jonson on
Shakespeare's portrait, and that by Dryden under Milton's picture--the
last-named being by no means deserving of its reputation. We have also
the well-known lines by Pope, 'written on glass with Lord Chesterfield's
diamond pencil;' the equally well-known sentence on Rogers by Lord
Holland; and the less-hackneyed and even more flattering couplet
composed by Lord Lyttelton for Lady Suffolk's bust (erected in a wood at

  'Her wit and beauty for a Court were made,
  But truth and goodness fit her for a shade.'

The writers of verse have naturally shone in such concentrated
testimonies to the merits of those whom they delighted to honour. Our
literature is full of eloquent and graceful summaries of individual
gifts and acquirements, apart altogether from the ordinary inscription
or epitaph. Pope celebrated Lady Wortley Montagu's beauty in a couple of
lines too frequently cited to need reproduction. Less often quoted is
David Graham's concise but sufficient criticism on Richardson's

  'This work is Nature's; every tittle in't
  She wrote, and gave it Richardson to print.'

James Montgomery, in a well-turned quatrain, said of Burns that he
'pass'd through life ... a brilliant trembling northern light,' but that
'thro' years to come' he would shine from far 'a fix'd unsetting polar
star.' It will be remembered that, in another quatrain, Lord Erskine
besought his contemporaries to 'mourn not for Anacreon dead,' for they
rejoiced in the possession of 'an Anacreon Moore.' James Smith wrote of
Miss Edgeworth that her work could never be anonymous--'Thy writings ...
must bring forth the name of their author to light.' And so on, and so
on: the poetry of compliment presents many such conceits.

A treatise, indeed, might be written on the epigraphs in which poets
have praised their lady-loves or their friends--from Herrick's Julia to,
say, Tennyson's General Gordon. Rather, however, let us turn to what the
bards have been at pains to say about themselves, recalling, for
example, Herrick's 'Jocund his Muse was, but his Life was chaste,' and
Matthew Prior's triplet 'On Himself.' Colman the Younger wrote:

  'My muse and I, ere youth and spirits fled,
    Sat up together many a night, no doubt;
  But now I've sent the poor old lass to bed,
    Simply because my fire is going out.'

But how inferior is this, both in feeling and in expression, to the
dignified epigraph in which Landor celebrated the seventy-fifth
anniversary of his birthday:

  'I strove with none, for none was worth my strife;
    Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art;
  I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
    It sinks, and I am ready to depart.'

In the couplet and quatrain of pure sentiment and reflection, some of
the most delightful of our poetry is embodied. Herrick was conspicuously
fond of this species of verse, and his works abound in gems of style and
fancy, the difficulty being, not to find them, but to select from them.
The beauty of one is apt to be rivalled by that of its neighbour. Thus
we find on one page:

  'When words we want, Love teaches to indite;
  And what we blush to speak, she bids us write.'

And on another:

  'Love's of itself too sweet; the best of all
  Is when love's honey has a dash of gall.'

Then there is Lord Lyttelton's distich about 'Love can hope when reason
would despair;' there are Aaron Hill's famous lines on 'modest ease in
beauty,' which, though it 'means no mischief, does it all.' There are
Sir William Jones's 'To an Infant Newly Born;' Wolcot's 'To Sleep;'
Luttrell's 'On Death;' and many, many others.

Of nineteenth-century writers, the most admirable composer of the
epigraph has been Landor, who in this, as in some other respects, may be
placed in the same category with Herrick. What, for instance, could be
prettier than this?

  'Your pleasures spring like daisies in the grass,
    Cut down, and up again as blithe as ever;
  From you, Ianthe, little troubles pass
    Like little ripples in a sunny river.'

How well-phrased, again, is this:

  'Various the roads of life; in one
    All terminate, one lonely way.
  We go; and "Is he gone?"
    Is all our best friends say.'

Among living authors, Mr. Aubrey de Vere can lay claim to a quatrain
which is entirely faultless:

  'For me no roseate garlands twine,
    But wear them, dearest, in my stead;
  Time has a whiter hand than thine,
    And lays it on my head.'

To this, Sir Henry Taylor wrote a pendant scarcely less fortunate in
idea and wording. Lord Tennyson has in his day written several epitaphs,
inscriptions, and other trifles; but none of them have quite the
perfection which might have been looked for from so great a master of
poetic form. Mr. Matthew Arnold produced, with others, this excellent

  'Though the Muse be gone away,
  Though she move not earth to-day,
  Souls erewhile who caught her word,
  Ah! still harp on what they heard.'

Finally, the reader may be recommended to glance at Mr. William
Allingham's little book of 'Blackberries,' in which they will find a
large number of such 'snatches of song,' many of them fresh in
conception and finished in execution.


'To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die,' and the Season, when
'dead,' yet speaks to many through the mouths of the men who have given
it perennial life in verse. Its first laureate, one may say, was
Mackworth Praed, whose 'Good-night' to it still remains the most
brilliant epitome of its characteristics ever written. Nothing was
omitted from that remarkable series of coruscating epigrams. From

  'The breaches and battles and blunders
    Performed by the Commons and Peers,'

we are taken to 'the pleasures which fashion makes duties'--'the dances,
the fillings of hot little rooms,' 'the female diplomatists, planners of
matches for Laura and Jane,' 'the rages, led off by the chiefs of the
throng,' the ballet, the bazaar, the horticultural fête, and what not.
Of later years the Season, as a whole, has been celebrated only by Mr.
Alfred Austin, who published, more than a quarter of a century ago, a
satire which was indeed formidable in its tone. Mr. Austin was severe
about everybody--about the

    'Unmarketable maidens of the mart,
  Who, plumpness gone, fine delicacy feint,
  And hide their sins in piety and paint;'

about the Gardens, where

                      'The leafy glade
  Prompts the proposal dalliance delayed;'

about the ballrooms, where

  'Panting damsels, dancing for their lives,
  Are only maidens waltzing into wives;'

about the theatre, where

  'Toole or Compton, perfect in his part,
  Touches each sense, except the head and heart;'

and about a number of other things too censurable to be mentioned here.

And, in truth, when one thinks of the Season in song, one thinks less of
the satire than of the sarcasm, less of the cynicism than of the
sympathy, with which it has been treated by its poets. Take, for
example, that most conspicuous feature of the Season--the walking,
riding, driving in the Row. It was Tickell who made a woman of fashion
of his day tell how she

  'Mounted her palfrey as gay as a lark,
  And, followed by John, took the dust in Hyde Park,'

and how

  'On the way she was met by some smart Macaroni,
  Who rode by her side on a little bay pony.'

In our own time the glories and the humours of the Row have been
described with geniality by Mr. Frederick Locker and Mr. Ashby-Sterry,
with point by Mr. Austin Dobson, and with smartness by H. S. Leigh. Says
Mr. Locker:

  'Forsooth, and on a livelier spot
    The sunbeam never shines;
  Fair ladies here can talk and trot
    With statesmen and divines.

  'What grooms! what gallant gentlemen!
    What well-appointed hacks!
  What glory in their pace, and then,
    What beauty on their backs!'

Mr. Dobson, in a different mood, assures his Roman prototype that the
world to-day is very much what it was in the time of 'Q. H. F.':

  'Walk in the Park--you'll seldom fail
  To find a Sybaris on the rail
      By Lydia's ponies;
  Or hap on Barrus, wigged and stayed,
  Ogling some unsuspecting maid.

  'Fair Neobule, too! Is not
  One Hebrus here--from Aldershot?
      Aha, you colour!
  Be wise. There old Canidia sits;
  No doubt she's tearing you to bits.'

The Eton and Harrow match, like lawn-tennis, _caret vate sacro_; but the
delights of Henley and Hurlingham have been sung in verse, and the
Inter-University Boat-race was the subject of some admirable lines by
Mortimer Collins and G. J. Cayley:

  'Sweet amid lime-trees' blossom, astir with the whispers of springtide,
  Maiden speech to hear, eloquent murmur and sigh
  Ah! but the joy of the Thames when, Cam with Isis contending,
  Up the Imperial stream flash the impetuous Eights!
  Sweeping and strong is the stroke, as they race from Putney to Mortlake,
  Shying the Crab Tree bight, shooting through Hammersmith Bridge;
  Onward elastic they strain to the deep low moan of the rowlock;
  Louder the cheer from the bank, swifter the flash of the oar!'

Pretty again, in its way, is the better-known 'Boat-race Sketch,' by Mr.
Ashby-Sterry, whose heroine

  'Twines her fair hair with the colours of Isis,
  Whilst those of the Cam glitter bright in her eyes.'

The joys of Epsom and of Goodwood have not, I believe, been versified by
any prominent rhymer, and, concerning those of Ascot, I know of but one
elaborate celebration--that which describes, among other things,

  'Tall bottles passing to and fro,
  And clear-cut crystal's creamy flow,
  Where vied with velvet Veuve Clicquot,
          Moët and Chandon;'

as well as

  'The homeward drive that came too soon
  By parks and lodges bright with June,
  And how we mocked the afternoon
          With lazy laughter.'

Nothing, of course, is more peculiar to the Season than the devotion
displayed by Society at the shrine of Art. The Academy and the Grosvenor
are institutions without which the Season would not be itself. The
latter has not figured very conspicuously in song, but at least it has
managed to creep into one of the Gilbert-Sullivan operas, in the shape
of a rhyme to 'greenery-yallery.' Mr. Andrew Lang, too, has told us of
the critic who had

  'Totter'd, since the dawn was red,
    Through miles of Grosvenor Gallery;'

and, in another of his 'verses vain,' has practically limned the Gallery
itself under the guise of 'Camelot':

  'In Camelot, how gray and green
  The damsels dwell, how sad their teen;
  In Camelot, how green and gray
  The melancholy poplars sway.
  I wis I wot not what they mean,
  Or wherefore, passionate and lean,
  The maidens mope their loves between.'

The character of Burne-Jonesian art is here very happily hit off. Happy,
too, is Mr. Lang's sketch of the Philistian features of the Academy:

  'Philistia! Maids in muslin white
  With flannelled oarsmen oft delight
  To drift upon thy streams, and float
  In Salter's most luxurious boat;
  In buff and boots the cheery knight
  Returns (quite safe) from Naseby fight.'

But did not Praed long ago address 'The Portrait of a Lady at the
Exhibition of the Royal Academy'? Has not Mr. Ashby-Sterry addressed
'Number One' in the said exhibition--also 'the portrait of a lady'? And,
moreover, has not Mr. Austin Dobson made the Academy the scene of one of
his brightly-written dialogues?--that in which the lady says:

  'From now until we go in June
  I shall hear nothing but this tune:
  Whether I like Long's "Vashti," or
  Like Leslie's "Naughty Kitty" more;
  With all that critics, right or wrong,
  Have said of Leslie or of Long.'

Among the events of every season are the fashionable marriages, one of
which is described for us by Mr. Frederick Locker in his 'St. George's,
Hanover Square.' On the subject of the belles of the season I need not
dwell. Praed's 'Belle of the Ballroom' was a provincial beauty; but not
so, assuredly, was Pope's and Lord Peterborough's Mrs. Howard,
Congreve's Miss Temple, Lord Chesterfield's Duchess of Richmond, Fox's
Mrs. Crewe, Lord Lytton's La Marquise, Mr. Aïdè's Beauty Clare, or Mr.
Austin Dobson's Avice. Of London balls and routs the poets have been
many, including Edward Fitzgerald, C. S. Calverley, and Mr. Dobson
again. The opera, so far as I know, has had very few celebrants in
rhyme. The 'Monday Pops' figure in 'Patience' with the Grosvenor
Gallery, but have not otherwise, I fancy, been distinguished in song. On
the whole, however, the Season has received poetic tributes at once
numerous and interesting.


If the Season has had its laureates, so has the Recess. Why not? Of the
two, the latter has the more numerous elements of poetry. Town has its
charms for the versifier; there is much to say about its streets, its
parks, its belles, its balls, its many diversions. But there is even
more, surely, to say about the country, with its ancestral halls, its
watering-places, and its shootings, as well as about the seaside and the
various attractions _outre-mer_. Surely, of the two, life out of town
has even more delights, for the poet, at any rate, than life in town.
Sylvester is reported to have said that people, after tiring in town, go
to re-tire in the country. But the saying, if epigrammatic, is not
strictly true. No doubt some of us feel bored, wherever we may go, or
whatever we may do. But to most people, I imagine, the Recess, if spent
out of London, is a time of genuine enjoyment, and certainly it is a
time which deserves to be distinguished in song.

The Recess, as spent in London, has been drawn by the rhymers in
depressing tints. The picture painted by Haynes Bayly remains--for the
fashionable world, at least--almost as true as it ever was. As he said:

  'In town, in the month of September,
    We find neither riches nor rank;
  In vain we look out for a member
    To give us a nod or a frank.
  Each knocker in silence reposes,
    In every mansion you find
  One dirty old woman who dozes,
    Or peeps through the dining-room blind.'

This may be compared with the soliloquy put by H. S. Leigh in the mouth
of 'the last man' left in London:

  'The Row is dull, as dull can be;
    Deserted is the Drive;
  The glass that stood at eighty-three,
    Now stands at sixty-five.
  The summer days are over,
    The town, ah me! has flown,
  Through Dover, or to clover--
    And I am all alone.'

It has long been held, among a certain class, that to be seen in town
during the Recess is to forfeit all pretensions to _haut ton_. And so
'the last man' of the Season is naturally represented by Bayly as
somewhat ashamed of himself. 'He'll blush,' we are told, 'if you ask him
the reason Why he with the rest is not gone':

  'He'll seek you with shame and with sorrow,
    He'll smile with affected delight;
  He'll swear he leaves London to-morrow,
    And only came to it last night!'

He will tell you that he is in general request--that the difficulty is
to know where not to go:

  'So odd you should happen to meet him;
    So strange, as he's just passing through.'

The Season may be said to go to its grave with parting volleys from the
sportsmen on the moors. One is fired on 'the Twelfth,' the other on 'the
First.' The one is associated with grouse, the other with partridges.
And Haynes Bayly makes his fashionable matron only too conscious of
these facts. 'Don't talk of September,' she says; 'a lady

    'Must think it of all months the worst;
  The men are preparing already
    To take themselves off on the First.'

  'Last month, their attention to quicken,
    A supper I knew was the thing;
  But now, from my turkey and chicken,
    They're tempted by birds on the wing!
  They shoulder their terrible rifles
    ('Tis really too much for my nerves!)
  And, slighting my sweets and my trifles,
    Prefer my Lord Harry's preserves!'

And she goes on to say:

  'Oh, marriage is hard of digestion,
    The men are all sparing of words;
  And now 'stead of popping the question,
    They set off to pop at the birds.'

Life at English country houses has been depicted by more than one poet.
Pope, for instance, tells us what happened when Miss Blount left

  'She went, to plain-work, and to purling brooks,
  Old-fashion'd halls, dull aunts, and croaking rooks...
  (To) divert her eyes with pictures in the fire,
  Hum half a tune, tell stories to the squire.'

Lord Lyttelton's 'beauty in the country' complains that

  'Now with mamma at tedious whist I play,
  Now without scandal drink insipid tea;'

while Lady Mary Montagu's 'bride in the country' deplores the fact that
she is

              'Left in the lurch,
    Forgot and secluded from view,
  Unless when some bumpkin at church
    Stares wistfully over the pew.'

Agreeably descriptive of rural pleasures is Lord Chesterfield's 'Advice
to a Lady in Autumn.' Of recent years the subject has been treated by a
versifier who has at least a measure of the neatness of Praed, and who
enumerates among the typical guests at a country house

  'A sporting parson, good at whist,
    A preaching sportsman, good at gateways;'

and, again:

  'A lady who once wrote a book,
    And one of whom a book's been written...
  One blonde whose fortune is her face,
    And one whose face caught her a fortune.'

As for the daily round:

  'We dance, we flirt, we shoot, we ride,
    Our host's a veritable Nimrod:
  We fish the river's silver tide,'

and so on. There are, of course, the county balls, and the fancy balls,
and the private theatricals, and what not, all of them celebrated by the
inevitable Praed. It was at the county ball that he saw 'the belle of
the ballroom':

  'There, when the sounds of flute and fiddle
    Gave signal sweet in that old hall
  Of hands across and down the middle.'

It was to the county ball, as well as to the theatricals at Fustian
Hall, that Praed's 'Clarence' was so prettily invited. As for fancy

  'Oh, a fancy ball's a strange affair!
    Made up of silks and leathers,
  Light heads, light heels, false hearts, false hair,
    Pins, paint, and ostrich feathers.'

Of inland watering-places, Bath and Cheltenham have been perhaps most
often poetized. Bath found its _vates sacer_ in the author of the 'New
Bath Guide'; it has rarely found one since; its glories have virtually
departed. It was at Cheltenham--

          'Where one drinks one's fill
  Of folly and cold water'--

that Praed met his 'Partner.' And C. S. Calverley has told us how

  'Year by year do Beauty's daughters
    In the sweetest gloves and shawls
  Troop to taste the Chattenham waters,
    And adorn the Chattenham balls.

  '_Nulla non donanda lauru_
    Is that city: you could not,
  Placing England's map before you,
    Light on a more favoured spot.'

Praed has a poem called 'Arrivals at a Watering-Place,' but it is not
one of the most successful of his efforts. Nor have seaside places in
general been made the subject of very excellent verse. Brighton is the
one exception. Of that 'favoured spot,' James Smith, of 'Rejected
Addresses' fame, was, perhaps, the first to write flatteringly. 'Long,'
he declared--

  'Long shalt thou laugh thy enemies to scorn,
    Proud as Phoenicia, queen of watering-places!
  Boys yet unbreech'd, and virgins yet unborn,
    On thy bleak downs shall tan their blooming faces.'

The prophecy, one need not say, has been amply fulfilled. And the poets
still conspire to sing the praises of 'Old Ocean's bauble, glittering
Brighton.' Everybody remembers the stirring exhortation of Mortimer

  'If you approve of flirtations, good dinners,
    Seascapes divine, which the merry winds whiten;
  Nice little saints, and still nicer young sinners,
                                Winter at Brighton!'

Nor has Mr. Ashby-Sterry proved himself at all less enthusiastic.
Brighton in November, he says, 'is what one should remember':

              'If spirits you would lighten,
              Consult good Doctor Brighton,
  And swallow his prescriptions and abide by his decree;
              If nerves be weak or shaken,
              Just try a week with Bacon;
  His physic soon is taken at our London-by-the-Sea.'

Something might be said of the delights of foreign sojourn in the
Recess; but space fails me. Reference may, however, be made to Mr.
Locker's graceful 'Invitation to Rome' and 'The Reply' to it, from which
I take this typical tribute to the Italian capital:

  'Some girls, who love to ride and race,
    And live for dancing, like the Bruens,
  Confess that Rome's a charming place--
    In spite of all the stupid ruins!'


What Jaques is in Shakespeare's pages most people know. In the very
first reference made to him he is described as 'melancholy,' and as
'weeping and commenting' upon a stricken deer. He has 'sullen fits,' we
read. He himself tells us he 'can suck melancholy out of a song.' He
protests that the banished Duke is 'too disputable' for him--that he
(Jaques) thinks of as many matters, but makes no boast of them. The
Duke, on his side, speaks of Jaques as 'compact of jars' (made up of
discords), and when Jaques offers to 'cleanse the foul body of the
infected world,' retorts on him that it would be a case of 'most
mischievous foul sin chiding sin,' Jaques having been himself a
notorious evil liver. To Orlando Jaques suggests that they should rail
at the world and their misery, while to Rosalind he confesses that he
loves melancholy better than laughing. ''Tis good to be sad and say
nothing.' He has, he says, a melancholy of his own, the result of his
experience and reflection, which wraps him in a most humorous sadness.
Jaques, in fact, is a rake turned cynical philosopher. He regards man
and nature as only so much material for observation and for moralizing.

Such is the Jaques of 'As You Like It'--a purely original creation,
embodying a familiar type of humanity, but nevertheless not good enough
for certain of Shakespeare's successors in the dramatic art. Jaques has
more than once been revised and edited, in common with other characters
in the sylvan comedy. He did not quite satisfy the fastidious taste of
Mr. Charles Johnson, the ingenious author of 'The Country Lasses' and
other pieces, who, as was said with more point than truth, was 'famous
for writing a play every year and being at Button's coffee-house every
day.' Still less did Shakespeare's Jaques commend himself to the 'J.
C.' who was so kind as not merely to adapt 'As You Like It,' but to
elaborate and paraphrase it. Nor did the 'melancholy' one prove
acceptable even to the judgment of Georges Sand, when that intellectual
lady set to work to 'arrange' the play for the French stage.
Shakespeare, it appeared to all these writers, had perpetrated an
unaccountable mistake. He had failed to make Jaques pair off with Celia.
That charming maiden is handed over to the converted Oliver, while
Jaques goes off to study the humours of the repentant Duke. Happy
thought! Transform Jaques and Celia into a species of minor Benedick and
Beatrice, and marry them in the end!

Mr. Charles Johnson adopted this idea almost literally. His 'Love in a
Forest'--brought out at Drury Lane in 1723--is 'As You Like it' cut down
and altered, with scraps from 'Much Ado About Nothing,' 'Love's Labour's
Lost,' and other Shakespearean pieces, introduced at various points, the
whole welded together by means of wondrous emanations from the
compiler's fancy. To Jaques are assigned a number of lines spoken
elsewhere by Benedick or by Biron. We have the well-known gibing scene
between Jaques and Orlando up to a certain stage, when, commenting on
Jaques' questions about Rosalind, Orlando says: 'But why are you so
curious?--you who are an obstinate heretic in the despight of beauty and
the whole female world?' Then Jaques replies to this speech, which
belongs to Don Pedro in 'Much Ado,' in the familiar words of Benedick in
that play, asserting that he will 'live a bachelor,' and that if ever he
breaks that vow his friends may put round his neck the legend, 'Here you
may see Jaques, the married man.' At this juncture Rosalind and Celia
appear, and, while Rosalind as Ganymede has her first colloquy with
Orlando, 'Jaques talks with Celia--they walk in another glade of the
forest.' When they return it is at once evident that Jaques' celibate
intentions have already been shaken. He calls the lady 'destructively
handsome,' and says his heart 'gallops away in her praise most
dangerously.' She avers he will be in love if he does not take heed, and
he says, 'I doubt so--yet I hope not.' A moment or two after, encouraged
and fired by her words, he asks her plump to marry him, and she promises
so to do, 'two years hence, if my brother Ganymede consents.' Then he
admits, in soliloquy, that he is 'in love, horribly in love,' his
spirits 'caught at last by a pair of bugle eyeballs and a cheek of
cream.' And then come more quotations from Benedick, as well as an
annexation of Touchstone's remark about the honourableness of the
forehead of a married man. Celia by-and-by confesses to Rosalind that
'her heart doth incline a little to the philosopher,' whose love, she
allows, 'does not sit easy upon him,' but whose words are 'full of
sincerity.' Still later Jaques comes to Rosalind for her approval of the
match, speaking this time in language used by Biron. She, however,
refuses, declaring that he cannot be polished into a modern husband; and
he retires disconsolate. But with Orlando he is more successful. He is
promised that Ganymede shall give way, and that his wedding shall take
place to-morrow. And so all ends happily.

The 'J. C.' who, in 1739, published 'The Modern Receipt, or a Cure for
Love,' as 'altered from Shakespeare,' went much farther than Johnson in
the way of embellishing the unhappy poet. He used his lines
occasionally, but in general either turned them into prose or expanded
them beyond all recognition. Virtually he supplies a comedy based, only,
on 'As You Like It.' Even the names of the characters are changed.
Jaques now figures as Marcellus, 'a sullen, morose lord, a great
woman-hater, but at length in love with Julia'--the Julia being, of
course, Celia. He is described by a shepherd as 'a melancholy sort of
fellow,' who 'reads much, thinks more, eats little, sleeps little, and
speaks least of all. And if he sees a woman he runs away, shuts himself
up in his cave, and prays for an hour or two after.' Julia, hearing
this, cries: 'Oh, the brute! I'm resolved to take a revenge upon him in
behalf of the whole sex.' Jaques, on his part, is struck by Julia's
charms as soon as he beholds them--'What can this mean? I'm wondrous ill
o' the sudden'--and is fain to sit down, lest he should fall. In the
scene which follows there is a great war of words. The lady talks,
purposely, at an agonizing speed, and the gentleman roundly tells her
that he would rather have her room than her company. At last the wrangle
is interrupted, and Julia, as a parting shot, calls Marcellus 'a bear in
breeches.' He himself is inclined, after all, to think her 'something
more than the rest of her detested sex--some being, perhaps, of a
superior order.' He praises her gay innocence and noble simplicity.
Julia, on her side, 'prays Heaven that she is not in love with the
brute,' but is afraid she must be. Then there is a scene in which, by
way of drawing him on, she pretends to love him, but afterwards says
that she was mocking him, and so covers him with confusion.
Nevertheless, he is not cured. He is still her slave, and, as he says,
what is love 'but an epidemic disease, and what all the world has, at
one time or other, been troubled with as well as myself? Why should I
endeavour to curb a passion the greatest heroes have with pride
indulged? No.... He alone is wise who nobly loves.' So he returns to the
charge, makes the lady admit the soft impeachment, and obtains the
Duke's consent to their union. He says, in the end, that he is afraid he
makes but an odd sort of figure--that he has acted a little out of
character, and a great deal below the dignity of a philosopher. But,
having the aforesaid disease, he has sought the remedy, and has found
it; for, in his view, 'Marriage is the surest cure of love.'

Georges Sand, in her 'Comme il Vous Plaira'--a comedy in three acts,
'tirée de Shakespeare, et arrangée'--diverges still further from the
original text. Her work is, even more markedly than 'The Modern
Receipt,' founded, only, on 'As You Like It.' 'In dealing with this
uncurbed genius, which owned no restraint,' she thought herself
justified in 'condensing, abstracting, and modifying' his work. But, as
a matter of fact, her play is indebted to Shakespeare only in idea.
Jaques is introduced early in the piece as sent by the banished Duke
with a message to Rosalind. Of course, he meets Celia, and at first is
_brusquerie_ itself. But in the second act he comes to think there is
something in her name 'qui résonne autrement que dans tout nature.
Est-ce une douceur qui charme l'oreille?' Celia for a long time plays
with him, but in the end they arrive at a mutual declaration of
affection. 'I have always tenderly loved Jaques,' says Georges Sand in
her preface, and 'I have taken the great liberty of bringing him back to
love. Here is my own romance inserted in that of Shakespeare, and,
although romantic, it is not more improbable than the sudden conversion
of Oliver.' That may be; and yet one might have thought that Georges
Sand, of all people, would not have set herself the interesting but
somewhat futile task of improving upon 'As You Like It.'


The world has reason to be grateful to the writer who lately
demonstrated the possibility of being happy 'though married.' Some
exposition of the sort was sadly needed. Hitherto the estate of
matrimony has met with a long succession of jibes and sneers. It has had
its apologists, even its prophets and eulogists; but it has had many
more detractors. There is, indeed, no subject on which the satirists of
the world, both great and small, have so largely and so persistently
made merry. It has been a stock subject with them. It is as if they had
said to themselves, 'When at a loss, revile the connubial condition.'
Married life has been the sport of every wit, and, sorrowful to relate,
society has been well content to join in the pastime. There is nothing
so common as sarcasm on matrimony, and nothing, apparently, so welcome,
even to the married.

The banter in question has been of all sorts--sometimes vague, sometimes
particular, in its import. A few censors have confined themselves to
simple condemnation. 'A fellow that's married's a _felo-de-se_,' wrote
the late Shirley Brooks; and he had been anticipated in the stricture.
An anonymous satirist had written:

  '"Wedlock's the end of life," one cried;
  "Too true, alas!" said Jack, and sigh'd--
      "'Twill be the end of mine."'

And if matrimony was not suicide, it was ruin. Old Sir Thomas More had
said of a student who had married that 'in knitting of himself so fast,
himself he had undone.' And a later rhymer, contrasting wedding with
hanging, had come to the conclusion that

  'Hanging is better of the twain--
  Sooner done and shorter pain.'

To the suggestion that a youth should not marry till he has more wisdom,
the Italian epigrammatist replies that if he waits till he has sense he
will not wed at all. Marriage, said the famous Marshal Saxe, in effect,
is a state of penance; Rome declares there are seven sacraments, but
there are really only six, because penance and matrimony are one.

Hymen, says Chamfort, comes after love, like smoke after flame. It is
the high sea, observes Heine, for which no compass has yet been
invented. Its melancholy uncertainty is illustrated by the remark of
Samuel Rogers, that it does not matter whom you marry--she will be quite
another woman the next day. It was Rogers, too, who, when he heard of a
certain person's nuptials, declared that if his friends were pleased his
enemies were delighted. Selden's complaint against marriage was that it
is 'a desperate thing,' out of which it is impossible to extract one's
self; but then he lived before the era of Sir Cresswell Cresswell. And
the utmost that the conventional detractor will admit is, that the
institution gives to man two happy hours. 'Cursed be the hour I first
became your wife,' cries the lady in the well-known quotation; to which
her spouse replies that--'That's too bad; you've cursed the only happy
hour we've had.' But Palladas, the Greek, as translated by Mr. J. H.
Merivale, goes a little farther than this, declaring that

  'All wives are bad; yet two blest hours they give:
  When first they wed, and when they cease to live.'

A favourite notion with the satirists is that marriage is a state of
mutual recrimination. John Heywood has the couplet:

  '"Wife, I perceive thy tongue was made at Edgware."
  "Yes, sir, and your's made at Rayly, hard by there."'

And this is typical of many another utterance; for example, this:

  'Know ye not all, the Scripture saith,
  That man and wife are _one_ till death?
  But Peter and his scolding wife
  Wage such an endless war of strife,
  You'd swear, on passing Peter's door,
  That man and wife at least were _four_.'

Doctor Johnson, too, draws attention to the fact--if it be one--that all
the reasons which a man and a woman have for remaining in the estate of
matrimony, and the restraints which civilized society imposes to prevent
separation, are hardly sufficient to keep them together. Or, as Mr.
William Allingham has, of recent years, more pithily put it:

  'If any two can live together well,
  'Tis (and yet such things are) a miracle!'

If we are to believe the aforesaid satirists, this is all the fault of
the wives. Now and again one comes across a jest in which the lady has
the better of the gentleman, as in the following:

  '"Wife, from all evil, when shalt thou delivered be?"
  "Sir, when I" (said she) "shall be delivered from thee."'

But such things are rare. Usually the laugh is on the other side. As the
Frenchman wrote:

  'While Adam slept, Eve from his side arose:
  Strange! his first sleep should be his last repose!'

Everybody knows the epitaph which Dryden intended for his wife; and side
by side with it may be placed the lines by an anonymous author:

  'God has to me sufficiently been kind,
  To take my wife, and leave me here behind.'

So again:

  'Brutus unmoved heard how his Portia fell;
  Should Jack's wife die, he would behave as well.'

The story of the man who, at his spouse's funeral, deprecated hurry, on
the ground that one should not make a toil of a pleasure, need only be
alluded to.

The chief charge against the wives is that they will insist upon being
the heads of the households. That is the refrain of many a flout hurled
against them. To marry--such is the moral of some lines by Samuel
Bishop--is to lose your liberty. The lady will have everything her way:

  'For ne'er heard I of woman, good or ill,
  But always lovèd best her own sweet will.'

So says a seventeenth-century writer; and the complaint is general.

  'Men, dying, make their wills--why cannot wives?
  Because wives have their wills during their lives.'

'Here,' wrote Burns--'here lies a man a woman ruled; the Devil ruled
the woman.' And Landor makes someone say to a scholar about to marry:

  'So wise thou art that I foresee
  A wife will make a fool of thee.'

That wives are talkative is a venerable commonplace. The historic
husband thought that the fact of his spouse's likeness not being a
'speaking' one was its principal merit. And Lessing makes a man excuse
himself for marrying a deaf woman on the ground that she was also dumb.
We all remember Hood's particular trouble:

  'A wife who preaches in her gown,
    And lectures in her night-dress.'

And so with those who are more than merely talkative--who are positively
scolds; while sometimes the conventional helpmeet is as active with her
fists as with her tongue--as in the case of the lady whose picture, her
husband thought, would soon 'strike' him, it was so exceedingly like

It is, however, unnecessary to carry the tale further. This mocking at
matrimony has always been a feature of life and literature, and probably
will always remain so--partly because it is so easy of achievement;
partly because it is not less easy of comprehension; and also, perhaps,
because humanity has ever been inclined to chasten that which it loves.
It rails against marriage, but it marries all the same. Or is it that it
recognises the wedded life as a necessity, which cannot be put away, but
which it is a pleasure to ridicule? Perhaps that is the best explanation
one can offer. All this satire may be mankind's way of revenging itself
upon one of the laws of nature.


The publication of a memoir of Archbishop Trench has sufficed to recall
prominently to the public mind the virtues, endowments, and achievements
of one of the most notable of latter-day divines. Richard Chenevix
Trench was one of the most versatile of writers. He discoursed with
equal knowledge and effect on Biblical and philological topics, and his
prose work will always be respectfully regarded by the students alike of
divinity and of language. But though, on these subjects, his
pronouncements may in time grow stale or require correction, he will
ever hold an honourable place in English literature as one of the most
thoughtful and vigorous of those parson poets of whom this country has
always had so large and valuable a supply.

There is, indeed, a natural connection between parsons and poetry. It is
precisely in the ranks of the clerical body in all civilized countries
that one would look for successful cultivators of the art of verse. For
what is, above all things, necessary for such cultivation? In the first
place, polite learning; in the second, sufficient leisure. It is in the
atmosphere of culture that good verse, as apart from high poetry, takes
its rise. There are probably few educated men who have not at one time
or another essayed to pen a stanza. The busy city clergyman may nowadays
have no time for such elegant diversions, but at all periods the
lettered country parson has been inclined to occupy some of his spare
moments in wooing the Muse of Song. There are other things than learning
and leisure which impel him to the task. There is the nature of his
profession, with the experience it brings him and the reflections it
induces. The most unliterary pastor cannot but be a meditative man. The
literary pastor cannot but be disposed to turn his meditations into
verse, often finding in that 'mechanic exercise' the means of 'numbing

Other things being equal, the modern cleric would take serious subjects
for his verse, and it is characteristic of the whole race of parson
poets that the first poetic effort in English literature should be the
Scriptural paraphrases supplied by Caedmon, monk of Whitby. But it was
not in the sphere of Bible history that the immediate successors of
Caedmon, monks (or friars) like himself, sought to disport themselves
most largely. Our early clerical versifiers set themselves rather to
give rhythmical renderings to the romances and chronicles of their time.
They were the secular as well as sacred teachers of the day; and so we
find the names of Wace, Layamon, Robert of Gloucester, Robert of Brunne,
Archdeacon Barbour, Andrew of Wyntoun, and John Lydgate, all associated
with the recital of the deeds of ancient or modern heroes. Not that the
claims of religion or morality were forgotten: they were remembered by
Richard Rolle in his 'Prick of Conscience,' and indirectly recognised by
Barclay in his 'Ship of Fools.' The interests of the poor were served by
Langland in his 'Piers the Plowman,' and poetry, pure and simple, had
its devotees in the persons of the Bishop of Dunkeld and the Franciscan
friar who produced respectively 'The Palace of Honour' and 'The Golden

When we come down to more recent times, we find even greater variety
than this in the writings of the parson poets. But the serious element
prevails. There have been clerical wits and humorists, but they have
been, of necessity, in the minority. A large proportion of the verse
composed by clergymen has been, as one would naturally expect, of a
distinctly didactic, not to say depressing, tendency. One thinks at once
of the 'Temple' of George Herbert, the 'Epigrammata Sacra' of Richard
Crashaw, the 'Night Thoughts' of Young, the 'Grave' of Blair, the
'Sabbath' of Grahame, the 'Course of Time' of Pollok, the 'Christian
Year' of Keble; the hymns of Wesley, Alford, and Stanley; the 'Dream of
Gerontius' of Newman, and a dozen others, differing very much indeed in
all the qualities of poetry, but alike in the earnestness of their
intention. Even Herrick, 'jocund' though his muse was, left behind him
some 'Noble Numbers.' And though clerical satire, as furnished by men
like John Bramston, Charles Churchill, Samuel Bishop, John Wolcot, and
Francis Mahoney, has frequently been flippant both in form and phrase,
it has at other times--and especially in the works of Bishop Hall, of
Norwich--been very vivid and uncompromising. Hall, indeed, was the
Juvenal of his century, filled with the spirit of righteous indignation.

From Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, downwards, the clerical singers who have
not been markedly professional in their outcome have exhibited an
agreeable freedom from monotony. In Donne himself we see the sad
perfection of the metaphysic method, mitigated, however, by a few lapses
into the lucid and the simple. Pomfret gave us in 'The Choice' the
typical poem of the country parson, sounding the praises of rural scenes
and lettered ease. In Parnell we have a sample of the pleasing
versifier, touching nothing which he does not adorn, but making no very
particular impression. Bishop Percy is less celebrated for the ballads
which he wrote than for those which he collected. Logan is remembered
only by his verses on 'The Cuckoo.' To the reverend brothers Warton we
owe respectively 'The Pleasure of Melancholy' and some lines 'To Fancy';
while of Thomas Blacklock, alas! the most remarkable feature was his
blindness. One would like to have forgotten Robert Montgomery, of
Satanic fame, but Macaulay will not let us do so. Blanco White lives on
the strength of one good sonnet, Lisle Bowles on that of many good ones;
and there is no need nowadays to distinguish the work of Crabbe, of
Moultrie, of John Sterling, and of Charles Kingsley, much as they
differed from each other. One of the latest additions to this choir of
voices is Mr. Stopford Brooke, and there are other living lyrists,
belonging to one or other of the Churches, who might be named if there
were no fear of making invidious selection.

There is a certain department of verse-writing in which a cultivated
class like the clergy would of necessity make its mark--that of
rhythmical translation. In a body whose members are all more or less
scholarly, there will always be some, of special scholarship, who will
endeavour to put works of classic or foreign literature into an English
mould. Thus we have had Francis Fawkes, with his versions from the
Greek; Christopher Pitt, with his translation of the 'Æneid'; H. F.
Carey, with his Dante in blank verse; and more others than need be
specified. These clergymen followed the excellent instincts of their
cloth. But what are we to say of those otherwise estimable parsons who
have from time to time attempted, and occasionally with success, to win
fame as the authors of poetical drama? The connection between the
cassock and the buskin has, to this extent, always been fairly
intimate--from the time when Bishop Bale wrote mystery plays, to the
recent years in which Sheridan Knowles, after having been a dramatist
and an actor, closed his days as a preacher. Shirley, Mason, Home,
Milman, Croly, Maturin, White--these are names well known in the history
of the theatre, and they are all names of clerical association. Such has
been the fascination of the 'boards' even for those whose home has been
the pulpit and the cloister.


This may fairly be claimed as a popular subject. It is one in which
nearly everybody--perhaps everybody--is interested. There can surely be
few, if any, who do not care about the outside of a book. Even if a man
never opens a volume, he likes its exterior to be pleasing. Nay, there
are books which may be said to be produced and utilized only for their
outward garb. How often does one find a volume described as a charming
one 'for the table'! It is for the table that certain publications are
destined. Enter a drawing-room, and you will find a few books scattered
here and there 'with artful care.' I do not say they are intended never
to be opened, but their primary function is to look nice--to 'set off'
the table-cloth, and, generally, to give a bright appearance to the
room. And their adaptability for this purpose is so widely recognised
that you can scarcely go anywhere without coming across books of this
complexion. You find them exposed to view in your doctor's or your
dentist's ante-chamber; you find them placed before you, usually very
much the worse for wear, in hotel waiting-rooms. And the instinct which
prompts all this display is genuine enough. It is perfectly true--there
is no furniture so agreeable to the eye as books. Nothing makes a room
look at once so picturesque and home-like, if the volumes be but
sufficiently varied in size and hue.

And that brings us in presence of a point of controversy. Ought there to
be so much variety in the exteriors of books? Ought they to be 'got up'
in so many different styles? Some people would answer these questions
with a decided negative. These are the persons who like uniformity in
their libraries, who would have one shelf look for all the world like
the facsimile of the other. These are the persons who, almost as soon as
they buy a book, are desirous to have it rebound after some fantastic
notion of their own. There is a class of purchaser which revels in long
lines of volumes in 'full calf gilt.' You see that sort of thing in most
old-fashioned collections. And the effect is not bad in some respects.
The rows look handsome enough. They have solidity and richness. Nor do I
say that for a certain species of publication 'full calf gilt' is not a
very judicious form of binding. One likes to see the quarterlies and
higher-class monthlies done up in that style. It befits the seriousness
of their contents. But do not let everything be put into 'full calf
gilt,' solid and rich though it appears. Let us give full play to the
element of variety. Let every book have an individuality, a character,
of its own. Let us be able to identify it easily. Let it retain its
original garb, so that we may always be able to distinguish it. Surely
it is one of the greatest charms of a row of volumes that each has its
special features, and can readily be found when wanted.

It may be laid down as a general rule that the binding of a book should
have a distinct reference to the nature of its contents. It should be
appropriate to the author and to the subject. One sympathizes with
Posthumus in the play, when, apostrophizing the volume in his prison, he

                       'O rare one!
  Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment
  Nobler than that it covers: let thy effects
  So follow, to be most unlike our courtiers,
  As good as promise.'

Juliet, when she hears that Romeo has slain Tybalt, asks:

  'Was ever book containing such vile matter
  So fairly bound?'

And in a like spirit Charles Lamb, in his well-known essay, complains of
the 'things in books' clothing' which, by reason of their inappropriate
exteriors, afford so much disappointment to the reader. 'To reach down a
well-bound semblance of a volume, and hope it is some kind-hearted
play-book, then, opening what "seem its leaves," to come bolt upon a
withering population essay'--'to expect a Steele or a Farquhar, and
find--Adam Smith'--those, indeed, are doleful and dispiriting
experiences, to which the unsuspecting student ought not in enlightened
times to be subjected. If Mr. Gilbert's Mikado be right in the view that
the punishment ought to 'fit the crime,' so assuredly ought a book's
binding to fit the matter that is contained within it. It should be the
outward sign of the inward grace.

I am ready to admit that, as a rule, this is so. In general, it is quite
easy to tell the nature of a volume from its cover. And for this the
publishers are greatly to be thanked. An amateur, publishing for
himself, may every now and then insist upon dressing up the product of
his brains incongruously; but, for the most part, the booksellers of
to-day have a very excellent sense of what is fitting. The result is
that those who care about books can differentiate them at a glance. They
know what is the approved style and line for biography and history, for
poetry and fiction, for sermons, for gift-books, and so _ad infinitum_.
The 'Life' of So-and-so, and the 'Annals' of Such-and-such, are
unmistakeable; they have respectability written on every corner and
angle of them. The dull brown or the dull green is sufficiently obvious
to everyone. And so with poetry. You know minor verse directly you see
it. It has a _cachet_ concerning which there can be no possible error.
Happily, a Tennyson, a Browning, or a Swinburne is equally recognisable.
A novel, of course, bears its character on its face. The three-volume
form is notorious. But it scarcely matters what shape fiction may take.
It can be identified by instinct, whether it be in yellow boards or in
some more quiet habit. Sermons cannot be misapprehended; there is no
fear of their being taken on a railway journey instead of the latest
book of memoirs. As for gift-books, whether for boy or girl, adult or
juvenile, they have their destination marked upon them in all the
colours of the rainbow. Some complain of this, and call it vulgar. No
doubt it often is so. But a gift-book is produced for a definite
purpose, and the public would be surprised, and probably annoyed, if it
were not as gorgeous in gold and colours as it was expected to be. Gold
and colours are what are wanted, and the publishers do well to supply

One thing, perhaps, is too little considered--that a book is, in most
cases, intended to be read and to be preserved. Certain books are not
issued for that purpose, but are deliberately manufactured to be thrown
away when read. The shilling novel, one may presume, is not designed for
a permanent existence. If it is, why is it so frequently brought out in
a paper cover, which either comes off altogether, or else curls up at
the edges in the most irritating fashion? It must be confessed that a
paper cover is an infliction, demanding the eventual destruction of the
book or its prompt rebinding in more durable style. But it is not
sufficient only that a volume should be bound. It should be bound so
that it can be opened and perused with comfort. It should not be in too
stiff a cover, or it will be awkward to hold. And the cover should not
be in white or in too delicate a colour, or one will not care to handle
it. Nor should a book be bound too limply, for the cover will soon begin
to look shapeless. A parchment binding is charming to gaze at for a
time, but how quickly its glory fades! I should say to the ordinary
bookbuyer, in metaphoric language, Avoid the kickshaws and stick to the
solids! In other words, leave the delicacies to the connoisseur, and
give your attention to the books so clothed that you can read and keep
them as you will.


I make no allusion here to the heroine of Mr. Haggard's well-known
romance. What I am thinking of at the moment is not the impossible 'She'
of recent fiction, but the 'not impossible She' of Master Richard
Crashaw--the 'perfect monster,' in female form, who was to 'command his
heart and him,' and whom he was good enough to sketch for us in advance
within the limits of some forty verses--the damsel whose beauty was to

         'Owe not all its duty
  To gaudy tire or glistering shoe-tye;'

whose face was to be

          'Made up
  Out of no other shop
  Than what Nature's white hand sets ope;'

who was to have 'a well-tamed heart,'

  'Sidneian showers
  Of sweet discourse,'

and so on, and of whom the poet was so kind as to say that, if Time knew
of anyone who answered the description,

  'Her that dares be
  What these lines wish to see--
  I seek no further--it is She.'

Master Crashaw is not the only man by many who in the past has been
seduced into putting into words and verse the aspirations, on this
subject, which filled his soul. It would probably be found, if anyone
had the requisite patience to go through with it, that there has been
scarcely a poet who has not thus given expression to his conception of
an ideal woman and to his desire for her companionship. Much more
numerous, to be sure, are the rapturous tributes which have been paid to
actual persons of the other sex: the poetry of praise, as written by men
of women, has not yet been exhausted, and probably never will be. But
the ideal description has generally come first, and very notable it has
usually been. Sir Thomas Wyatt declared that

  'A face that should content me wondrous well
    Should not be fair, but lovely to behold;
  Of lively look, all grief for to repel;
    With right good grace,'

et cætera. He further asserted that 'her tress also should be of crispèd
gold,' and intimated graciously that

  'With wit, and these, perchance I might be tied,
  And knit again with knot that should not slide.'

His contemporary, Lord Surrey, included among 'the means to attain happy
life,' 'the faithful wife, without debate'--that is, I suppose, a lady
without forty-parson-power of talk--a not impossible, nay, fairly
common, She.

In a lyric by Beaumont and Fletcher, we find the supposed speaker giving
utterance to a series of such wishes. 'May I,' he says, 'find a woman
fair, And her mind as clear as air!'

  'May I find a woman rich,
  And of not too high a pitch!...
  May I find a woman wise,
  And her falsehood not disguise!...
  May I find a woman kind,
  And not wavering like the wind!...'

And, in truth, he talks throughout as if he did not expect to discover
any such rarity. Everyone knows the little poem in which Ben Jonson
details his preferences in women's dress, declaring that 'a sweet
disorder' does more bewitch him 'than when art Is too precise in every
part.' But elsewhere he paints for us, not a perfect feminine attire,
but the faultless maid herself, as he would have her:

  'I would have her fair and witty,
  Favouring more of Court than City,
  A little proud, but full of pity,
  Light and humorous in her toying,
  Oft building hopes and soon destroying...
  Neither too easy nor too hard,
  All extremes I would have barr'd.'

That, it would seem, was rare Ben's ideal.

Carew, it is notorious, professed to despise 'lovely cheeks or lips or
eyes,' if they were not combined with 'A smooth and steadfast mind,
Gentle thoughts, and calm desires.' A rosy cheek, a coral lip, and even
star-like eyes, as he sagely said, would waste away. And in this
somewhat priggish, and perhaps not wholly sincere, vein, he finds a
rival in the anonymous bard who declared that he did not demand

  'A crystal brow, the moon's despair,
    Nor the snow's daughter, a white hand,
  Nor mermaid's yellow pride of hair,'

and so on, but instead,

  'A tender heart, a loyal mind,
    Which with temptation I would trust,
  Yet never link'd with error find--

  'One in whose gentle bosom I
    Could pour my secret heart of woes,
  Like the care-burthen'd honey-fly
    That hides his murmurs in the rose.'

So Bedingfield, conceding to friend Damon 'the nymph that sparkles in
her dress,' avows his own fondness for the maid 'whose cheeks the hand
of Nature paints.' Of this young person he says:

  'No art she knows or seeks to know;
  No charm to wealthy pride will owe;
  No gems, no gold she needs to wear;
  She shines intrinsically fair.'

Cowley, it will be remembered, in sketching his notion of true
happiness, included in it the picture of

  'A mistress moderately fair,
  And good as guardian angels are,
  Only beloved and loving me!'

With that 'one dear She'--and a few other things--he thought he could
get on pretty comfortably. But probably at once the most obliging and
most exigent of modern lovers was the sentimental gentleman to whose
feelings Mrs. Bowen-Graves ('Stella') gave appropriate voice in the
over-familiar 'My Queen.'

  'I will not dream of her tall and stately--
    She that I love may be fairy light;'

nay, more:

  'I will not say she should walk sedately--
    Whatever she does, it will sure be right.

  'And she may be humble or proud, my lady,
    Or that sweet calm which is just between'

(as if anyone could be a 'sweet calm'!); moreover:

  'Whether her birth be noble or lowly,
    I care no more than the spirit above;'

but there is at least one point upon which this gentleman insists:

  'She must be courteous, she must be holy,
    Pure in her spirit, that maiden I love'--

and, being that, she may depend upon the stars falling, and the angels
weeping, ere he ceases to love her, his Queen, his Queen!

Ah! the poets have much to answer for. Here is Mr. Longfellow assuring
his readers that

  'No one is so utterly desolate,
  But some heart, though unknown,
  Responds unto his own;'

and here is Sir Edwin Arnold declaring, with equal confidence, that

  'Somewhere there waiteth in this world of ours
    For one lone soul another lonely soul'--

et cætera, et cætera. Is it any wonder that, in the face of such
encouragement, young men go on dreaming, each of the _dimidium suæ
animæ_ whom he is to meet by-and-by, and framing to that end all sorts
of beautiful ideals? It may be that the Shes thus dreamed of are 'not
impossible'--they may 'arrive;' but it is as well not to be too
sanguine. And, above all, it is as well not to draw too extravagant a
picture, if only because you may not be worthy of the original when you
see it. Corydon is too disposed to expect in Phyllis charms and virtues
for which he might find it difficult to show counterparts in himself. If
the lady is to be the pattern of beauty and of goodness, ought not the
gentleman to bring an equal amount of capital into the matrimonial firm?


When Bunthorne has recited his 'wild, weird, fleshly thing,' called 'Oh,
Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!' the Duke of Dunstable remarks that it seems to
him to be nonsense. 'Nonsense, perhaps,' replies the Lady Saphir, 'but
oh, what precious nonsense!' And there really is a sense in which
nonsense--genuine, diverting nonsense--is precious indeed. There is so
little of it. The late Edward Lear bubbled over with true whimsicality.
His 'Book of Nonsense' is what it professes to be--the most delightful
non-sense possible. But of how much of that sort of thing does English
literature boast? There is plenty of unconscious nonsense, of course,
but it is not of the right quality. Dryden said of Shadwell that he
reigned, 'without dispute, throughout the realms of nonsense
absolute'--he 'never deviated into sense'--and yet he was the dullest of
dull dogs. The fact is, that nothing is more difficult than to write
amusing nonsense, and it is worth noting how few people, comparatively
speaking, have ever attempted to produce it.

One of the earliest efforts of the kind in the language is a certain
passage in Udall's 'Ralph Roister Doister,' where Dame Christian
receives from the hero a letter which seems, on the face of it,

  'Sweete mistresse, where as I love you nothing at all,
  Regarding your substance and richesse chief of all,
  To your personage, beauty, demeanour, and wit,
  I commend me unto you never a whit,'

and so on--the joke lying, of course, in the incorrectness of the
punctuation adopted. In general, the Elizabethans were too much in
earnest to write absolute nonsense. Nonsense is to be found in
Shakespeare, but usually in parody of the euphemists of his time. Some
of the _personæ_ are made to talk sad stuff, but it has not the merit of
being 'precious' in the Lady Saphir's sense. It is very tedious indeed,
and one likes to think that Shakespeare, perhaps, did not write it,
after all. Drummond, in his 'Polemo-Middinia,' gave an early example of
a kind of _jeu d'esprit_ which has since been frequently imitated--a
species of dog-Latin _in extremis_:

  'Hic aderunt Geordy Akinhedius and little Johnus,
  Et Jamy Richæus, et stout Michel Hendersonus,
  Qui jolly tryppas ante alios dansare solebat,
  Et bobbare bene, et lassas kissare boneas.'

But though this is not wholly unamusing, it is hardly, as nonsense, up
to the standard instituted for us by Mr. Lear.

The real thing is more nearly visible in Swift's macaronic lines about
Molly--'Mollis abuti, Hasan acuti,' etc.--another vein of fun which has
been exceedingly well worked out by successive writers. But such
inspirations as these have too much method in them to be quite
admissible. Much better was Swift's 'Love Song in the Modern Taste,'

  'Fluttering spread thy purple pinions,
    Gentle Cupid, o'er my heart.'

Even this, however, has too much sense for it to pass muster. Nor can
one receive Johnson's

  'If a man who turnips cries,
  Cry not when his father dies,'

and so on, as sufficiently nonsensical. It is simply a _jeu de mots_,
and no more, though funny enough as it stands. One is better satisfied
when one comes to the 'Tom Thumb' of Henry Fielding and the
'Chrononhotonthologos' of Henry Carey, though even in those diverting
squibs it is rarely that the versifier surrenders himself wholly to
'Divine Nonsensia.' That charming goddess was saluted to more purpose in
'The Anti-Jacobin,' where she was invoked to make charming fun of 'The
Loves of the Plants.' In 'The Progress of Man' (in the same delectable
collection) occurs the inspired passage:

  'Ah, who has seen the mailèd lobster rise,
  Clap her broad wings, and, soaring, claim the skies
  When did the owl, descending from her bower,
  Crop, 'mid the fleecy flocks, the tender flower?
  Or the young heifer plunge, with pliant limb,
  In the salt wave and, fish-like, strive to swim?'

But even this is too consistent in its grotesqueness to be perfect

One becomes acquainted with better nonsense the nearer one gets to one's
own times. How clever, for instance, was that well-known 'dream' of
Planché's, in which he fancied that he

            'Was walking with Homer, and talking
    The very best Greek I was able--was able--
  When Guy, Earl of Warwick, with Johnson and Garrick,
    Would dance a Scotch-reel on the table--the table;
  When Hannibal, rising, declared 'twas surprising
    That gentlemen made such a riot--a riot--
  And sent in a bustle to beg Lord John Russell
    Would hasten and make them all quiet--all quiet.'

It may be that Mr. W. S. Gilbert had this in his mind when, in
'Patience,' he pictured the processes by which to manufacture a heavy
dragoon; but here, again, the design is too obvious, the incongruity a
little too apparent. The late Shirley Brooks extracted much fun out of a
mosaic of quotations from the poets, beginning:

  'Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
  That to be hated needs but to be seen,
  Invites my lay; be present, sylvan maids,
  And graceful deer reposing in the shades.'

Very good nonsense is this, if not of the best; and it leads us up
naturally to the more consummate performances of Mr. Calverley, whose
exquisite mimicry of Mr. Browning and Miss Ingelow, in their most
incomprehensible or most affected moods, is too well known to need
description. Favourable mention may also be made of a certain ballad
composed by the late Professor Palmer, in illustration of his inability
to master nautical terms, which he furbishes up in mirth-provoking

But, putting aside Mr. Lear, the most successful, the most precious
nonsense ever written has been supplied by writers still, happily, in
our midst. And of these, of course, Mr. Lewis Carroll is obviously
_facile princeps_--not only by reason of the immortal 'Jabberwocky,' but
by reason, also, of 'The Hunting of the Snark,' in which there are some
very felicitous passages.

  'They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care,
    They pursued it with forks and hope;
  They threatened its life with a railway share;
    They charmed it with smiles and soap.'

It requires genius, of a kind, to conceive and execute such lines as
these, easy as (no doubt) it seems to write them. Not that Mr. Carroll
is unapproachable. There are probably many who think that his
'Jabberwocky' is at least equalled by Mr. Gilbert's 'Sing for the Garish
Eye,' in which the invented words are truly 'Carrollian':

  'Sing for the garish eye,
    When moonless brandlings cling;
  Let the froddering crooner cry,
    And the braddled sapster sing!'--

though, to be sure, Mr. Gilbert could hardly be expected to do anything
better than that lovely quatrain of Bunthorne's about 'The dust of an
earthy to-day' and 'The earth of a dusty to-morrow.'

The example set by Mr. Lear has been followed by many versifiers, who
have sought to create their effects after a manner now sufficiently
familiar. Thus, we have had multitudinous efforts like the following:

  'There was an old priest in Peru
  Who dreamt he'd converted a Jew:
    He woke in the night
    In a deuce of a fright,
  And found it was perfectly true.'

Performances of that sort are, however, easy; and more merit attaches to
such studies in unintelligibility as Bret Harte's 'Songs without Sense,'
of which the 'Swiss Air' is a good example:

  'I'm a gay tra, la, la,
  With my fal, lal, la, la,
  And my bright--
  And my light--
      Tra, la, le. [_Repeat._]
  Then laugh, ha, ha, ha,
  And ring, ting, ling, ling,
  And sing fal, la, la,
      La, la, le.' [_Repeat._]

Probably, however, the poetry of pure nonsense has never been better
represented than in these contemporary verses on the suitable topic of
'Blue Moonshine':

  'Ay! for ever and for ever
    Whilst the love-lorn censers sweep,
  Whilst the jasper winds dissever,
    Amber-like, the crystal deep;
  Shall the soul's delirious slumber,
    Sea-green vengeance of a kiss,
  Teach despairing crags to number
    Blue infinities of bliss.'


Most people have heard of that Mr. Gerard Hamilton who, suddenly and
unexpectedly making in the House of Commons an oration which 'threw into
the shade every other orator except Pitt,' was henceforth known by the
nickname of 'Single-Speech'--not because he never addressed the House
again, but because those who so nicknamed him chose to regard this
performance as the distinguishing feature of his career. He continued to
be known by that one discourse, and it is by virtue of it that he has a
place in history. The fact is notable, and yet by no means uncommon. The
world is, and always has been, full of Single-Speech Hamiltons--male and
female--who have gained and maintained their notoriety by one special
effort. Human nature is so constituted that the man or woman who is
unable to produce a series of successes may yet have the capacity to
compass one--may possess the energy and the ability to make at least one
strong impression before retiring wholly into the background.

The truth of this is observable, for example, in the sphere of poetry.
How many are the excellent versifiers whose reputation is based wholly
upon a solitary effusion! They have been inspired once, and the outcome
is literary immortality. They cannot always be regarded strictly as
poets, and yet they have a vogue which any poet might envy. They reign
and shine by virtue of what may be called a happy accident. Thus, Lady
Ann Barnard is known, in the world of verse, only by her 'Auld Robin
Gray,' just as Miss Elliott and Mrs. Cockburn are known only by their
respective 'Flowers of the Forest.' We remember Oldys merely by his
'Busy, curious, thirsty fly,' Sir William Jones by his 'What constitutes
a State?' Blanco White by his one Sonnet upon Night, Charles Wolfe by
his 'Burial of Sir John Moore,' John Collins by his 'In the Downhill of
Life,' and Herbert Knowles by his 'Lines in a Churchyard.' As Artemus
Ward said of the oil-painting achieved by the Old Masters: 'They did
this, and then they expired.' Some of them wrote other things, but the
world received them not. It took count only of the single occasion on
which they had been influenced by the divine _afflatus_--of the one
thing which they had done 'supremely' well.

Authors themselves are, no doubt, surprised at the caprices of the
public, and somewhat piqued by the preferences of their patrons. Some
are Single-Speech Hamiltons only because their readers have taken a
special fancy to particular performances--not always because the
achievements were obviously the best, but simply because circumstances
brought them to the fore. It is, one may assume, to the charm of Haydn's
musical setting that Mrs. Hunter owes the fame and popularity of 'My
mother bids me bind my hair': it is to the composer, in that case, that
the acceptance of the words are owing. Obvious causes, again, have given
precedence to Heber's 'From Greenland's icy mountains' over all his
other work in verse; just as the fact of having got into the extract
books has accorded to Blake's 'Tiger, tiger, burning bright' a
pre-eminence in the public mind over all his other efforts. In these
matters the world will have its own way. It still extends recognition to
Young's 'Night Thoughts,' but is apparently indifferent to his
'Universal Passion.' It thinks of Bloomfield only in connection with
'The Farmer's Boy,' and ignores the rest; just as it faintly recollects
'The Sabbath' of James Grahame, but has forgotten even the titles of
'Biblical Pictures' and 'The British Georgics.'

This dependence of literary fame upon special public favourites is,
perhaps, most strikingly represented in the field of fiction and the
drama. Nothing is more common than that a novelist or a dramatist
should remain in the popular memory by virtue of a single production.
Beckford is for most people only the author of 'Vathek'; it is only the
bibliophile who troubles himself about 'Azemia' or 'The Elegant
Enthusiast.' Miss Porter is remembered by her 'Scottish
Chiefs'--scarcely at all, perhaps, by her 'Thaddeus of Warsaw.'
Everybody knows how strongly 'The Monk' took the fancy of the reading
world--so strongly that the writer was 'Monk' Lewis, and 'Monk' Lewis
only, ever after. Mackenzie's 'Man of Feeling' survives, but the 'Man of
the World' and 'Julia Roubigné' are as if they had never existed. And
look at the playwrights! 'She Stoops to Conquer' is a classic, but 'The
Good-Natured Man' is not even good-naturedly tolerated. 'The Road to
Ruin' has eclipsed 'Duplicity' and 'The Deserted Daughter.' We all know
'The Honeymoon,' but who has seen, how many have read, 'The Curfew' and
'The School for Authors'? We flock to 'Wild Oats,' but alas for 'The
Agreeable Surprise'! 'The Man of the World' keeps Macklin's name before
us, but we have said good-bye to 'Love à la Mode.'

In truth, it is not a bad thing thus to be associated with one definite,
unmistakable success. Gerard Hamilton did more for himself by that
single brilliant speech than if he had delivered a whole multitude of
less striking orations. There is nothing more fatal to a man than
middlingness--a sort of dead level of mediocre performance. The world
loses count of merely respectable outcome. To obtain its regard you must
take its imagination captive at least once. You may be a very excellent
person, and do very useful work; but, if you desire to be kept in mind,
you must achieve something to which your name can be popularly attached.
It is thus that Beattie and 'The Minstrel,' Green and 'The Spleen,'
Somerville and 'The Chase,' Blair and 'The Grave,' Falconer and 'The
Shipwreck,' Pollok and 'The Course of Time'--to name no others--are
inseparably associated the one with the other. The works in question,
probably, are rarely opened, but their titles at any rate have stuck in
the general memory. Even in our own time, for the great majority of
people, Miss Braddon will always be the author of 'Lady Audley's
Secret,' Mrs. Oliphant always the author of 'The Chronicles of
Carlingford,' Mrs. Henry Wood always the author of 'East Lynne'--and so
on. That is the way in which they are remembered.

Generally speaking, versatility is undesirable when reputation is the
object aimed at. The world has not a very good memory, or, rather, it
has so much to think about that it desires not to be more encumbered
than it can help. Such men as the late Lord Lytton, for example, are, in
one respect, a nuisance to it. Bulwer was about equally distinguished as
a novelist, as a dramatist, and as an essayist; and, ever since, the
average man has been puzzled whether to think of him as the author of
'Pelham,' the author of 'The Lady of Lyons,' or the author of
'Caxtoniana.' Bulwer tried hard to establish a position as a poet, but,
happily, there is no need to trouble one's self greatly about 'King
Arthur.' As it is, the fame of Bulwer's dramas appears likely,
by-and-by, to eclipse altogether the fame of his novels. And this, if it
ever happens, will prove once more that a man can be the worst enemy of
himself. Single-Speech Hamilton was not satisfied with his big success,
but spoke again. Nothing could have been more unwise. He should have
rested on his laurels--unless indeed, he could have been quite sure that
he would surpass his former triumph. Unless one can be perfectly certain
of that, it is, best, in general, to let well alone.


The production on the London stage of a piece called 'The
Schoolmistress' no doubt caused many lovers and students of the drama to
consider for a moment whether--and, if so, to what extent--the general
subject of school-life had been dealt with by preceding playwrights.

Mr. Pinero was fortunate, to begin with, in the fact that he had hit
upon a title for his piece hitherto unused--so far as I am aware--by any
dramatist of whom history bears record. And this piece of originality is
in itself remarkable, seeing that novelty in title is nowadays
sufficiently rare. There is no official registry of such things, and,
where so many active pens have been at work, a playwright must be
self-confident indeed who can be sure that he has alighted upon a name
which has never been used by any other native dramatist. To give only a
few instances out of dozens:--Mr. Albery's play of 'The Spendthrift' had
been anticipated, so far as title was concerned, by 'The Spendthrift' of
Matthew Draper, acted in 1731, and by 'The Spendthrift' of Dr. Kenrick,
performed in 1758, to say nothing of two anonymous plays, each called
'The Spendthrift,' dating from 1680 and 1762 respectively. And to come
down to quite recent days, the 'Loyal Lovers' played lately at the
London Vaudeville had had a predecessor, in the matter of name, in the
'Loyal Lovers,' by Major Manuche, which saw the light so long ago as
1652. Similarly, the 'Woman of the World,' performed at the Haymarket in
1886, had had its prototype, so far as the title was concerned, in the
'Woman of the World' of Nelson Lee and Stirling Coyne.

Exceptionally lucky, indeed, is the dramatic writer who can now discover
a wholly new name for his production. A wholly fresh subject is, of
course, even more difficult to achieve. Take what phase of life you
will--make what use of it you please--you cannot secure absolute
novelty. You cannot find a piece of ground which has not been trodden,
however slightly, however differently, by a predecessor. The author of
'The Schoolmistress' introduces his audiences to a very charming lady
pupil-teacher, and to three scarcely less charming lady pupils. But one
thinks at once of the still more delightful bevy of tutors and scholars
presented to us just nineteen years ago, by T. W. Robertson, who,
inspired by a German original, gave us not only Bella and Naomi Tighe,
but a 'rosebud garden of girls,' of which the attraction has by no means
yet departed. Mr. Ruskin has sneered at Bella as 'an amiable governess
who, for the general encouragement of virtue in governesses, is rewarded
by marrying a lord.' But for all that, she is a pleasant figure, and
Naomi is a piquant one, and the English stage has witnessed few more
agreeable scenes than those in which Dr. and Mrs. Sutcliffe's young
ladies take part in the course of 'School.'

As everybody knows, there is an 'angry schoolboy' in 'The Alchemist,'
who is likely to survive not only in literature, but in history, by
reason of the effective use which Sheridan once made of him when
retorting upon Pitt in the House of Commons. Is there not, too, a comedy
of Brome's--'The Antipodes'--in which the fathers go to school instead
of their sons, and are made to ape the habits of the youthful scholar?
Richard Lovelace, we read, wrote a comedy called 'The Scholar,' but it
was never printed, and probably had reference to the adult rather than
the juvenile student. In the early years of last century, 'The
Schoolboy' was the title given to a farce played at Drury Lane, a piece
of which one Johnny was the hero--a Johnny who had the honour of being
impersonated by the great Roscius himself, and by actors, too, of the
calibre of Woodward, Shuter, and J. W. Dodd. Early, again, in the
present century, 'The Scholar' was the name of a play adapted from the
French by Buckstone; but in this case, as, no doubt, there was in
Lovelace's, there is more of the scholastic than of the school. The
subject and title of 'Schoolfellows' was taken by Douglas Jerrold, the
schoolfellows in it being, however, no longer under the tutelage of
their old master. A 'Schoolboy's Masque' was printed in 1742; a 'School
Moderator' was included in Garrick's collection; a 'School Play,' it is
recorded, was performed at a private grammar school in Middlesex, in
1663; and of recent years an extravaganza has been endowed with the
suggestive title of 'School Bored.'

There is, of course, a sense in which the word 'school' can be used for
the larger opportunities of education given by contact with the world.
And in this sense the word has been used by English dramatists with
remarkable and characteristic frequency. In the second quarter of the
seventeenth century Shirley printed, as 'the firstfruits of his Muses,'
his comedy called 'The School of Compliment,' which had been played at
Drury Lane; and in the list of comedies of the nineteenth century will
be found 'The School of Reform,' by Thomas Morton, and the 'School of
Intrigue,' by Mr. Mortimer; the former devoted to instructing ladies
'how to rule a husband,' and the latter to a fresh treatment of the
world-famous story of the Count and Countess Almaviva. But the dramatic
pieces whose titles begin with 'The School of' are few indeed in
comparison with those whose names begin with 'The School for.' Of the
latter the most famous is, of course, 'The School for Scandal,' now just
111 years old. But Sheridan's work had been preceded, in the following
order, by 'The School for Lovers,' 'The School for Guardians,' 'The
School for Rakes,' 'The School for Fathers,' and 'The School for Wives.'
Nor is it surprising that, the fashion having once been set, Sheridan's
comedy should be followed successively by 'The School for Eloquence,'
'The School for Ladies,' 'The School for Vanity,' 'The School for
Greybeards,' 'The School for Widows,' 'The School for Arrogance,' 'The
School for Prejudice,' 'The School for Friends,' 'The School for
Authors,' 'The School for Grown Children,' 'The School for Grown
Gentlemen,' and 'The School for Scheming'--this last being one of the
numerous performances of Mr. Boucicault.

Nor is this all. History relates that Steele began a comedy named 'The
School for Action,' and there are records of pieces called 'The School
for Husbands,' 'The School for Women,' 'The School for Coquettes,' 'The
School for Daughters,' and 'The School for Tigers.' Probably no word has
been so often utilized by the dramatists as 'School,' and probably, too,
no modern playwright would be disposed to add lightly to the number of
those who have 'annexed' it.


Probably there are few things more common, and at the same time more
opposed to good taste, than punning upon people's names. Possibly the
impertinence of it has some attraction; for, of course, all such
'witticisms' are impertinent--unless, indeed, a man puns on his own
name, or, if he puns upon another's, takes care to make the observation
complimentary. No doubt, neither Mrs. Cuffe nor Mrs. Tighe was very
offended when Sydney Smith described one as 'the cuff that every one
would wear,' and the other as 'the tie that no one would loose.' These
are word-plays of the innocuous sort. Would that all such jests were
equally inoffensive!

However, it is of little use to complain of a 'stream of tendency' which
cannot be diverted from its course. The most distinguished people have
had to tolerate the liberties taken with their names. Even the first of
men has had to suffer, Hood having long ago said what a pity it was
that, when Eve offered him the apple, poor Adam was not adam-ant. And
when one turns to the celebrities of one's own country, one finds that
many of them have had to endure attentions of the kind. There was, for
example, that distinguished Marquis of whom it was said on one occasion
that 'The nation's asleep, and the minister Rockingham.' There was also
that Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley, of whom Byron declared that he
would return to the Whigs if they would re-Ward him. How hard, again,
was _Punch_ upon Sir Francis Head, for his well-known apologia for Louis

        'He wrote to the _Times_
        In defence of the crimes
  Disgraceful to the heart and to the Head, Head, Head.'

Hood pretended that, when he heard 'Those Evening Bells,' they did but
remind him of the statesman who had invented and established the

  'Recalling only how a Peel
    Has taxed the comings-in of Time!'

That Mr. Disraeli's popular diminutive should suggest punning was
inevitable, and so we find Shirley Brooks proposing, in 1865, that,

  'Having finished his Iliad and ceased to be busy,
  Lord Derby should try and translate his Odd-Dizzy.'

The annals of the Church are no more free from jingles on names than
those of any other institution. Familiar to many is the laconic epitaph
on Archbishop Potter:

  'Alack and well-a-day:
  Potter himself is turned to clay!'

Horace Walpole wrote bitterly of Thomas Secker, Archbishop of
Canterbury, that 'His grace signed his own proper name--Thomas _Cant._,'
which would certainly have read better as 'Thomas Cantuar.' But the
bishops' signatures have always been regarded as fair game. What puns
have been made on the unhappy, because so obvious, 'Oxon!' In 1848,
when Bishop Hampden was accused of heresy by the party headed by the
Bishop of Oxford, the would-be satirist wrote that

  'As once the Pope with fury full,
    When Luther laid his heavy knocks on,
  At the Reformer loosed a Bull--
    So these at Hampden set an Ox-on.'

Again, when Archdeacon Hale figured prominently in the old churchyard
controversy, _Punch_ observed:

  'The intramural churchyard's reeking pale
    Breathes health around it, says a reverend party;
  But though the spot may keep a parson Hale,
    Can people who in-hale its fumes be hearty?'

Turning to the records of the other professions, one finds a good deal
of the same sort of thing. Literature affords such examples as those
which are supplied in the well-known lines by John Henley on William
Broome and by Lord Byron on Tom Moore ('Now 'tis Moore that's Little').
There were journal writers before Greville and Carlyle, and, when Lady
Bury published her 'Diary of the Times of George IV.,' Hood, no doubt,
was justified in crying, as he did:

  'Oh, may I die without a Diary,
    And be interred without a Bury-ing!'

In a very different spirit were James Smith's lines on Miss Edgeworth's

  'Good and bad join in telling the source of their birth;
  The bad own their _edge_, and the good own their _worth_.'

The vocal and histrionic arts have often had their victims. Who can
possibly have forgotten Luttrell's famous compliment to Miss Tree:

  'On this Tree when a nightingale settles and sings,
  The Tree will return her as good as she brings.'

Here, if ever, was a pun on a name defensible. Less well known is this
quatrain on the famous actor, William Farren, who died in 1861:

  'If Farren, cleverest of men,
    Should go to right-about,
  What part of town will he be then?
    Why, "Farren-done-Without"!'

Those ladies of beauty and fashion whose names were susceptible at once
of pun and compliment have naturally inspired the wits of their
respective days. Thus, it was said of the charming sisters Gunning,
that Cupid, perceiving that the beaux of the time were proof against his
darts, had now laid down his bow and conquered by 'gunning.' But perhaps
the best thing of the sort ever composed was Lord Lyttelton's tribute to
Lady Brown:

  'When I was young and debonair,
  The brownest nymph to me was fair;
  But now I'm old and wiser grown,
  The fairest nymph to me is Brown.'

Other celebrities could be named who came off badly in their encounter
with the punsters. But, indeed, the list of such jests might be
indefinitely extended, for the habit of making puns on patronymics has
always been very widely spread, and has found many a sympathetic


Nobody ever yet found very great difficulty in starting a letter. Young
lovers may have hesitated from time to time between such modes of
address as 'Dear,' 'Dearest,' 'Sweetest,' 'Darling,' and the like; but
only for a moment. Usually, the overburdened heart hits at once upon the
exact word or phrase which best expresses its ecstatic feeling. And so
with less impassioned matters. There is a well-recognised gradation in
the methods of epistolary salutation. The stranger is addressed as
'Sir,' the person of whom something is known as 'Dear Sir.' 'My Dear
Sir' accompanies a rather better acquaintance; 'Dear Mr. Brown' marks an
approach to intimacy; while 'Dear Brown' signifies the acme of
friendship and of _camaraderie_. Here, again, there may be a temporary
pause before passing from 'Sir' to 'Dear Sir,' and so forth, but in
general the transitions are sufficiently well emphasized to be obvious
to the average intelligence.

Very different is it with the other end of the letter. There we find
opportunity for the widest divergence. Royal or official, pompous or
irate, people have been known to finish an epistle, abruptly, with the
simple appendix of their name; but these are the exceptions which prove
the rule. And the rule is certainly to preface the name by some
expression of feeling, however brief and perfunctory. The least you can
do is to describe yourself as 'yours.' We find Sterne thus describing
himself to Garrick; while, by way of slight variety, Cowper, writing to
Joseph Hill, ends with a 'Yours, dear Joe.' Still further variety is
secured when, as in the case of Lord Eglinton addressing his countess in
1619, the hackneyed 'I remain, yours' takes the form of 'I rest,
yours'--a phrase which is not, however, likely to be often used. And let
it not be supposed that plenty of meaning cannot be thrown into the
'yours' alone. Take, for instance, the reply made by 'The' Macdonald,
when Glengarry claimed the chieftainship of the clan. 'As soon,' said
the former, 'as you can prove yourself my chief I shall be ready to
acknowledge you as such, but in the meantime I am yours, Macdonald.'
There, for once in a way, the 'yours' meant something.

When we go farther than the mere 'yours,' the possible variations are,
of course, endless. There is 'yours truly'--perhaps the most widely used
of all such combinations; but there are persons who rebel against its
tyranny, and who with daring originality substitute the heartier and
less conventional 'very truly,' 'most truly,' or 'right truly.' Second
only to 'yours truly' come 'yours faithfully' and 'yours sincerely,'
with their comparative 'very faithfully' and superlative 'most
sincerely;' and many people are well content to keep within the safe
borders of these wholly innocent and uncompromising forms. On the other
hand, less indifferent minds will go farther afield for their
qualifying adverbs, and say, with Sterne, 'very cordially yours,' or,
with Father Matthew, 'yours devotedly,' and so on. Whewell, asked once
for his autograph, signed himself 'yours autographically,' and of such
deviations there are abundant examples, mostly with a tendency to the
flippant. 'Yours ever' Byron declared himself to John Murray; 'yours
ever and evermore,' wrote Cowper to a friend; while Steele, in a letter
to his wife, protested that he was, with his whole heart, hers for
ever--which may be pronounced the best of the three.

But there is no reason in the world, to be sure, why we should cling to
the 'yours' in any shape or modification. There are multitudinous other
ways of being valedictory with effect. There is the simple word 'Adieu.'
'And so, my dear madam, adieu,' writes Pepys to a lady. 'With all my
love, and those sort of pretty things, adieu!' wrote the future Mrs.
Scott to her sweetheart, the Great Magician. And then there is the
English equivalent of the word--surely not less available. 'I wish you
were at the devil,' wrote Sir Philip Francis to Burke, 'for giving me
all this trouble, and so farewell!' In the old days, as we read in the
'Paston Letters,' they had a sufficiently formal fashion of concluding
epistles. 'By your cousin, Dame Elizabeth Brews'--'By your man, Thomas
Kela;' such are two examples of the custom. 'Written at Norwich, on St.
Thomas's even, in great haste, by your mother, Agnes Paston'--there is
another. 'From your Russell,' is the end of a letter from the famous
Lady Russell to her husband; and it does not read or sound untenderly.
Junius signed himself to Woodfall, 'your friend.' Less cold was Mrs.
Maclehose to Burns: 'I may sign, for I am already sealed, your friend,

The elaborate style of description has always largely obtained, as being
obviously suitable for so many occasions. Thus one is not surprised to
find the future Charles II. professing to be his father's 'most humble
and most obedient son and servant,' or to note how that very complete
letter-writer, James Howell, claimed to be the Countess of Sunderland's
'most dutiful servant.' Dr. Johnson did well to announce himself
haughtily as Chesterfield's 'most humble, most obedient servant;' while
what could Sir Walter Scott be to his Duke of Buccleuch other than 'your
Grace's truly obliged and grateful'? A similar sense of propriety
induced Hood, in a certain memorable epistle, to tell Sir Robert Peel
that he had the honour to be, Sir, his most grateful and obedient
servant. One cannot object, either, to the 'Your most obliged and
faithful friend' of Evelyn when addressed to Pepys, or to the 'Your very
faithful, humble servant' of Bishop Percy, when penned to Boswell. It
is, however, a little diverting to observe that Sir Simonds d'Ewes,
after addressing his ladylove as 'Fairest,' concludes with 'Your humble
servant,' and that the _Tatler_ of his time, rounding off a dedicatory
letter to his 'Prue,' says: 'I am, Madam, your most obliged husband, and
most obedient, humble servant, Richard Steele.'

Over and over again have letter-writers made their final description of
themselves so wholly a part of their last sentence that the former
cannot be dissociated from the latter. 'I have not room to tell you any
more,' wrote Stephen Duck to Joseph Spence in 1751, 'than that I am,
Dear Sir, your most affectionate.' 'These,' said her royal mistress to
Mrs. Delany in 1785, 'are the true sentiments of my dear Mrs. Delany's
very affectionate Queen, Charlotte.' Hood once finished a charming
epistle to a child in this way: 'Give my love to everybody, from
yourself down to Willy, with which and a kiss, I remain, up hill and
down dale, your affectionate lover, Thomas Hood.' Most people remember
the pithy correspondence between Foote and his mother: 'Dear Sam,--I am
in prison for debt; come and assist your loving mother, E.
Foote.'--'Dear Mother,--So am I; which prevents his duty being paid to
his loving mother by her affectionate son, Sam Foote.' Not everybody,
however, can wind up a letter so neatly as that. A certain commercial
house abroad was, perhaps, over-ingenious in its turn of phrase when,
writing to an English correspondent, and desiring to be very civil to
him, it said: 'Sugars are falling more and more every day; not so the
respect and esteem with which we are,' etc., etc.


There is, and long has been, a prevalent impression that the penning of
postscripts is peculiarly characteristic of the feminine letter-writer.
Cynics have even gone so far as to assert that no woman can indite an
epistle without the addition of a 'P.S.,' and, in support of this
grievous aspersion, have been wont to trot out the venerable 'chestnut'
about the lady who accepted from her husband a bet that she would not
send him a letter without the inevitable addendum--the result being
that, after having composed the epistle and signed her name, she
artlessly appended the observation, 'You see I _have_ written you a
letter without a postscript,' capping it with 'Who has won the wager,
you or I?'

It might be argued, even if it could not be proved, that, putting aside
mere business communications, and confining one's self to ordinary
social correspondence, men are guilty of as many postscripts as women
are. But even if the stereotyped charge against the ladies be really
well-founded, what of it? Does it convey any tangible reproach? What
harm is there in a 'P.S.,' or a 'P.P.S.'? It may be not only a
defensible, but positively a praiseworthy, thing. Often it proceeds from
nothing more condemnable than a genuine overflow of feeling--a stream of
sentiment which, checked by the signature of the writer, bursts its
bonds and reasserts its power in a final sentence or two. What could be
more charming, for example, than the instances of this afforded in so
many of the heroic Lady Russell's letters to her husband--as in that
particularly pleasing one in which, after assuring him that all the
household are well, and that as he is 'the most enduring husband in the
world,' so she is 'the most grateful wife,' she adds her signature, and
then recurs to the subject of her children--'Boy is asleep, girls
singing abed'--telling of the proposed kindness of a neighbour towards

Note, again, the superabundant playfulness of Cowper in one of his
epistles to Lady Hesketh, where, after a few lines of personal
description, he appears to conclude, but returns to the topic with a

     'P.S.--That the view I give you of myself may be complete I add the
     following items: That I am in debt to nobody, and that I grow fat.'

Sometimes there will be pathos in a postscript, as in the case of
Beethoven's touching communication to his brothers Carl and Johann in
the matter of his deafness. In the body of the letter he has been
begging them not to think him hostile, morose, or misanthropical, and
making clear to them how little they know of the secret cause of his
apparent indifference. Then, on the outside of the packet, comes this
last melancholy outpouring:

     'Thus, then, I take leave of you, and with sadness too. The fond
     hope I brought with me here [to Heiligenstadt] of being to a
     certain degree cured, now utterly forsakes me. As autumn leaves
     fall and wither, so are my hopes blighted.'

Of this spontaneous running-over from text into postscript, literature
has many specimens--none, perhaps, more effective in its way than the
kindly stanza with which Mr. Bret Harte makes Truthful James bring to a
close 'His Answer to Her Letter':

  'P.S.--Which this same interfering
    Into other folks' ways I despise,
  Yet if it so be I was hearing
    That it's just empty pockets as lies
  Betwixt you and Joseph, it follers
    That, having no family claims,
  Here's my pile; which it's six hundred dollars,
    As is yours, with respect, Truthful James.'

One might, indeed, say more for postscripts than that they are often
pardonable; they are often actually useful. They can be bent to the
service of the writer; and over and over again, I dare say, have been
appended with careful deliberation. They are invaluable as modes of
emphasizing matter contained within the limits of the letter proper.
They form 'last words' which can be charged with any measure of
significance. Many people remember the case of the sailor who, after
mentioning thrice in the course of one short epistle the desired
purchase of some pigtail, felt constrained to add yet another reminder
in the shape of a 'P.S.--Don't forget the pigtail.' Not less impressive,
probably, was Sir Hew Dalrymple when, writing in 1775 to a friend to
exhort him to give preferment to a worthy young cleric, he observed, in
a postscript:

     'Think what an unspeakable pleasure it will be to look down from
     heaven and see Rigby, Masterton, all the Campbells and Nabobs,
     swimming in fire and brimstone, while you are sitting with
     Whitefield and his old women, looking beautiful, frisking and
     singing; all which you may have by settling this man!'

There can be no question that a well-planted 'P.S.' is of great utility
in clinching an argument raised in the main portion of a communication.
Thus, when Artemus Ward wrote 'to the editor of ----,' asking for a line
concerning the state of the show business in his locality, he knew what
he was about. 'I shall hav my hanbills dun at your offiss,' he observed.
'Depend upon it. I want you should git my hanbills up in flamin' stile.
Also git up a tremenjus excitement in yr. paper 'bout my onparaleld
Show. We must fetch the public sumhow.' Then, at the end, came the
summing-up of the whole transaction: 'P.S.--You scratch my back and Ile
scratch your back.' There is at least one instance on record in which a
postscript was made to convey a smart reproof. Talleyrand, having one
day entrusted a valet with a letter to deliver, happened to look out of
the window, and saw the man reading the message _en route_. Next day he
despatched another letter to the same address by the same servant,
taking care to append to it the following: 'P.S.--You may send a verbal
answer by the bearer. He is perfectly acquainted with the whole affair,
having taken the precaution to read this previous to delivery.'

On the whole, whether postscripts are defensible or not, it is clear
that their history is eminently interesting. Some valuable matter has
from time to time been put into them. There is at least one letter of
Thomas Gray's, written in 1764 to the Rev. Norton Nicholls, the 'P.S.'
of which is worth the whole of the remainder of the communication, so
charming a bit of descriptive writing is embodied in it. Then, how full
of good stuff are the epistolary addenda of Charles Lamb, with whom 'the
cream of the correspondence' (as Tony Lumpkin has it) was very often
rather in the postscript than in 'the inside of the letter,' in the
sense of its larger portion. It is in one of these addenda that one
finds the first record of a well-known sentence: 'Summer, as my friend
Coleridge waggishly observes, has set in with its usual severity.'
Elsewhere one comes across such tributes as: 'My friend Hood, a prime
genius and hearty fellow, brings this.' Always characteristic in thought
and in expression, Lamb was never more so than in the finales to his
letters. 'I do not think your handwriting at all like ----'s,' he says
to Southey; 'I do not think many things I did think.' He winds up a
dog-Latin epistle to Bernard Barton, in 1831, with: 'P.S.--Perdita in
toto est Billa Reformatura.' And to Coleridge he says, with delightful

     'Write your German as plain as sunshine, for that must correct
     itself. You know I am _homo unius linguæ_: in English--illiterate,
     a dunce, a ninny.'

Sometimes a postscript is unconsciously full of humour, as in the case
of a note written by a certain Mr. O. to a recent Bishop of Norwich:

     'Mr. O----'s private affairs turn out so sadly that he cannot have
     the pleasure of waiting upon his lordship at his agreeable house on
     Monday next.--N.B. His wife is dead.'


_Elliot Stock, Paternoster Row, London._

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

Additional spacing after some of the quotes is intentional to indicate
both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as
presented in the original text.

The following misprint has been corrected:
  "writting" corrected to "writing" (page 221)

Printer's inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation usage have been

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