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Title: Ephemera Critica - or plain truths about current literature
Author: Collins, John Churton, 1848-1908
Language: English
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                          EPHEMERA CRITICA

                         CURRENT LITERATURE

                           BY JOHN CHURTON

  Non verebor nominare singulos, quo facilius, propositis exemplis,
  appareat, quibus gradibus fracta sit et deminuta eloquentia.
  _--Dial. de Orat._

           αινεων αινητα, μομφαν δι’ επισπειρων αλιτροις.

                          FOURTH EDITION

                             NEW YORK
                      E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY


                          BUTLER & TANNER,
                    THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS,
                         FROME, AND LONDON.


It is time for some one to speak out. When we compare the condition and
prospects of Science in all its branches, its organization, its
standards, its aims, its representatives with those of Literature, how
deplorable and how humiliating is the contrast! In the one we see an
ordered realm, in the other mere chaos. The one, serious, strenuous,
progressive, is displaying an energy as wonderful in what it has
accomplished as in what it promises to accomplish; the other, without
soul, without conscience, without nerve, aimless, listless and decadent,
appears to be stagnating, almost entirely, into the monopoly of those
who are bent on futilizing and degrading it.

Science stands where it does, not simply by virtue of the genius, the
industry, the example of its most distinguished representatives, but
because by those representatives the whole sphere of its activity is
being directed and controlled. The care of the Universities, the care of
learned societies, the care of devoted enthusiasts, its interests and
honour are watchfully and jealously guarded. The qualifications of its
teachers are guaranteed by tests prescribed by the highest authorities
on the subjects professed. To standards fixed and maintained by those
authorities is referred every serious contribution to its literature.
Even a popular lecturer, or a popular writer, who undertook to be its
exponent would be exploded at once if he displayed ignorance and
incompetence. Such, indeed, is the solidarity of its energies that it is
rather in the degrees and phases of their manifestation than in their
essence and characteristics that they vary. There is not a scientific
institution in England the regulations and aims of which do not bear the
impress of such masters as Huxley and Tyndall and their disciples; not a
work issuing from the scientific Press which is not a proof of the
influence which such men have exercised and are exercising, and of the
high standard exacted and attained wherever Science is taught and

It is far otherwise with Literature. Those who represent it, in a sense
analogous to that in which the men who have been referred to represent
Science, have neither voice nor influence in its organization, as a
subject of instruction, at the centres of education. They neither give
it the ply, nor in any way affect its standards and its character in
practice and production. As examples few follow them, as counsellors no
one heeds them. They constitute what is little more than an esoteric
body, moving in a sphere of its own.

And yet there is no reason at all why there should not be the same
solidarity in the activity of Literature as there is in the activity of
Science, and why the standard of aim and attainment in the one should
not be as high as in the other. But this can never be accomplished until
certain radical reforms are instituted, and the first step towards
reform is to demonstrate the necessity for it. I have done so here. I
have drawn attention to the state of things in our Universities,--in
other words, to what I must take leave to call the scandalous and
incredible indifference of the Councils of those Universities to the
appeals which have, during the last fifteen years, been made to them to
place the study of Literature, in the proper sense of the term, upon the
footing on which they have placed other studies. I have pointed out what
have been, and what must continue to be, the effects of that
indifference. I have given specimens of the books to which the
Universities are not ashamed to affix their _imprimatur_, and I have
shown that, so far from them considering even their reputation involved
in such a matter, they do not scruple to circulate works teeming with
blunders and absurdities of the grossest kind, blunders and absurdities
to which their attention has been publicly called over and over again. I
have given specimens of the kind of works which the occupants of
distinguished Chairs of Literature can, with perfect impunity, address
to students; and I would ask any scientific man what would be thought of
a Professor, say, of the Royal Naval College, or of the City and Guilds
of London Institute, who should put his name to analogous
publications--to publications, that is to say, as unsound in their
theories, as inaccurate in their facts, as slovenly and perfunctory in
general execution, as those to which I have here directed attention? If
such things are done in the green tree, what is likely to be done in the
dry? or, as Chaucer puts it, “if gold ruste, what schal yren doo?” That
is one of the questions on which these essays may, perhaps, throw some

To be misrepresented and misunderstood is the certain fate of a book
like this, and I am well aware of the responsibilities incurred in
undertaking it. It is very distasteful to me to give pain or cause
annoyance to any one, and, whether I am believed or not, I can say, with
strict truth, that I have not the smallest personal bias against any of
those whom I have censured most severely. I believe, for the reasons
already explained, that Belles Lettres are sinking deeper and deeper
into degradation, that they are gradually passing out of the hands of
their true representatives, and becoming almost the monopoly of their
false representatives, and that the consequence of this cannot but be
most disastrous to us as a nation, to our reputation in the World of
Letters, to taste, to tone, to morals. It is surely a shame and a crime
in any one, and more especially in men occupying positions of influence
and authority, to assist in the work of corruption, either by
deliberately writing bad books or by conniving, as critics, at the
production of bad books; and I am very sure it has become a duty, and an
imperative duty, to expose and denounce them.

These essays are partly a protest and partly an experiment. As a protest
they explain, and, I hope, justify themselves; as an experiment they are
an attempt to illustrate what we should be fortunate if we could see
more frequently illustrated by abler hands. They are a series of studies
in serious, patient, and absolutely impartial criticism, having for its
object a comprehensive survey of the vices and defects, as well as of
the merits, characteristic of current Belles Lettres. I do not suppose
that anything I have said will have the smallest effect on the present
generation, but on the rising generation I believe that much which has
been said will not be thrown away. In any case, what I was constrained
to write I have written. And it is my last word in a long controversy.

It remains to add that most of these essays appeared originally in the
_Saturday Review_, and I desire to express my thanks to the late and
present Editors, not merely for permission to reproduce the essays, but
for much kindness besides. Three appeared in the _Pall Mall Gazette_,
and one, the first essay on “English Literature at the Universities,” in
the _Nineteenth Century_; and my thanks are due to the Editor of the
_Pall Mall Gazette_ and to Mr. Knowles. But all of them have been
carefully revised and greatly enlarged, in some cases to more than
double their original form. The introductory essay is, with the
exception of the opening pages, in which I have drawn on an old article
of mine in the _Quarterly Review_, quite new; and, indeed, that may be
said of a great part of the volume.


I regret to find that I have done M. Jusserand grave injustice in
censuring him for being ignorant of the existence of the _Speculum
Meditantis_, the MS. of which was identified after the publication of
his work.


  CHAPTER                                   PAGE

       I. THE PRESENT FUNCTIONS OF CRITICISM                    13




       V. OUR LITERARY GUIDES. PART I.                          93

      VI. OUR LITERARY GUIDES. PART II.                        110

     VII. LOG-ROLLING AND EDUCATION                            133

    VIII. OUR LITERARY GUIDES. PART III.                       145

      IX. THE NEW CRITICISM                                    151

       X. THE GENTLE ART OF SELF-ADVERTISEMENT                 158

      XI. R. L. STEVENSON’S LETTERS                            165

     XII. LITERARY ICONOCLASM                                  172

    XIII. WILLIAM DUNBAR                                       183


      XV. DE QUINCEY AND HIS FRIENDS                           203

     XVI. LEE’S LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE                            211

    XVII. SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS                                219

   XVIII. LANDSCAPE IN POETRY                                  236


      XX. ANCIENT GREEK AND MODERN LIFE                        255

     XXI. THE PRINCIPLES OF CRITICISM                          270

    XXII. WOMEN IN GREEK POETRY                                283

   XXIII. MR. STEPHEN PHILLIPS’ POEMS                          294

    XXIV. THE ILLUSTRIOUS OBSCURE                              301

     XXV. VIRGIL IN ENGLISH HEXAMETERS                         308

    XXVI. THE LATEST EDITION OF THOMSON                        318

   XXVII. CATULLUS AND LESBIA                                  335

  XXVIII. THE RELIGION OF SHAKESPEARE                          351


It may sound paradoxical to say that the more widely education spreads,
the more generally intelligent a nation becomes, the greater is the
danger to which Art and Letters are exposed. And yet how obviously is
this the case, and how easily is this explained. The quality of skilled
work depends mainly on the standard required of the workman. If his
judges and patrons belong to the discerning few who, knowing what is
excellent, are intolerant of everything which falls short of excellence,
the standard required will necessarily be a high one, and the standard
required will be the standard attained. In past times, for example, the
only men of letters who were respected formed a portion of that highly
cultivated class who will always be in the minority; and to that class,
and to that class only, they appealed. A community within a community,
they regarded the general public with as much indifference as the
general public regarded them, and wrote only for themselves, and for
those who stood on the same intellectual level as themselves. It was so
in the Athens of Pericles; it was so in the Rome of Augustus; it was so
in the Florence of the Medici; and a striking example of the same thing
is to be found in our own Elizabethan Dramatists. Though their bread
depended on the brutal and illiterate savages for whose amusement they
catered, they still talked the language of scholars and poets, and
forced their rude hearers to sit out works which could have been
intelligible only to scholars and poets. Each felt with pride that he
belonged to a great guild, which neither had, nor affected to have,
anything in common with the multitude. Each strove only for the applause
of those whose praise is not lightly given. Each spurred the other on.
When Marlowe worked, he worked with the fear of Greene before his eyes,
as Shakespeare was put on his mettle by Jonson, and Jonson by
Shakespeare. We owe _Hamlet_ and _Sejanus_, _Much Ado about Nothing_ and
the _Alchemist_, not to men who bid only for the suffrage of the mob,
but to men who stood in awe of the verdict which would be passed on them
by the company assembled at the Mermaid and the Devil.

As long as men of letters continue to form an intellectual aristocracy,
and, stimulated by mutual rivalry, strain every nerve to excel, and as
long also as they have no temptation to pander to the crowd, so long
will Literature maintain its dignity, and so long will the standard
attained in Literature be a high one. In the days of Dryden and Pope, in
the days even of Johnson and Gibbon, the greater part of the general
public either read nothing, or read nothing but politics and sermons.
The few who were interested in Poetry, in Criticism, in History, were,
as a rule, those who had received a learned education, men of highly
cultivated tastes and of considerable attainments. A writer, therefore,
who aspired to contribute to polite literature, had to choose between
finding no readers at all, and finding such readers as he was bound to
respect--between instant oblivion, and satisfying a class which,
composed of scholars, would have turned with contempt from writings
unworthy of scholars. A classical style, a refined tone, and an adequate
acquaintance with the chief authors of Ancient Rome and of Modern
France, were requisites, without which even a periodical essayist would
have had small hope of obtaining a hearing. Whoever will turn, we do not
say to the papers of Addison and his circle in the early part of the
last century, or to those of Chesterfield and his circle later on, but
to the average critical work of Cave’s and Dodsley’s hack writers,
cannot fail to be struck with its remarkable merit in point of literary

But as education spreads, a very different class of readers call into
being a very different class of writers. Men and women begin to seek in
books the amusement or excitement which they sought formerly in social
dissipation. To the old public of scholars succeeds a public, in which
every section of society has its representatives, and to provide this
vast body with the sort of reading which is acceptable to it, becomes a
thriving and lucrative calling. An immense literature springs up, which
has no other object than to catch the popular ear, and no higher aim
than to please for the moment. That perpetual craving for novelty, which
has in all ages been characteristic of the multitude, necessitates in
authors of this class a corresponding rapidity of production. The writer
of a single good book is soon forgotten by his contemporaries; but the
writer of a series of bad books is sure of reputation and emolument.
Indeed, a good book and a bad book stand, so far as the general public
is concerned, on precisely the same level, as they meet with precisely
the same fate. Each presents the attraction of a new title-page. Each is
glanced through, and tossed aside. Each is estimated not by its
intrinsic worth, but according to the skill with which it has been
puffed. Till within comparatively recent times this literature was, for
the most part, represented by novels and poems, and by those light and
desultory essays, sketches and _ana_, which are the staple commodity of
our magazines. And so long as it confined itself within these bounds it
did no mischief, and even some good. Flimsy and superficial though it
was, it had at least the merit of interesting thousands in Art and
Letters, who would otherwise have been indifferent to them. It afforded
nutriment to minds which would have rejected more solid fare. To men of
business and pleasure who, though no longer students, still retained the
tincture of early culture, it offered the most agreeable of all methods
of killing time, while scholars found in it welcome relaxation from
severer studies. It thus supplied a want. Presenting attractions not to
one class only, but to all classes, it grew on the world. Its patrons,
who half a century ago numbered thousands, now number millions.

And as it has grown in favour, it has grown in ambition. It is no longer
satisfied with the humble province which it once held, but is extending
its dominion in all directions. It has its representatives in every
department of Art and Letters. It has its poets, its critics, its
philosophers, its historians. It crowds not our club-tables and
news-stalls only, but our libraries. Thus what was originally a mere
excrescence on literature, in the proper sense of the term, has now
assumed proportions so gigantic, that it has not merely overshadowed
that literature, but threatens to supersede it.

No thoughtful man can contemplate the present condition of current
literature without disgust and alarm. We have still, indeed, lingering
among us a few masters whose works would have been an honour to any age;
and here and there among writers may be discerned men who are honourably
distinguished by a conscientious desire to excel, men who respect
themselves, and respect their calling. But to say that these are in the
minority, would be to give a very imperfect idea of the proportion which
their numbers bear to those who figure most prominently before the
public. They are, in truth, as tens are to myriads. Their comparative
insignificance is such, that they are powerless even to leaven the mass.
The position which they would have occupied half a century ago, and
which they may possibly occupy half a century hence, is now usurped by a
herd of scribblers who have succeeded, partly by sheer force of numbers,
and partly by judicious co-operation, in all but dominating literature.
Scarcely a day passes in which some book is not hurried into the world,
which owes its existence not to any desire on the part of its author to
add to the stores of useful literature, or even to a hope of obtaining
money, but simply to that paltry vanity which thrives on the sort of
homage of which society of a certain kind is not grudging, and which
knows no distinction between notoriety and fame. A few years ago a man
who contributed articles to a current periodical, or who delivered a
course of lectures, had, as a rule, the good sense to know that when
they had fulfilled the purpose for which they were originally intended,
the world had no more concern with them, and he would as soon have
thought of inflicting them in the shape of a volume on the public, as he
would have thought of issuing an edition of his private letters to his
friends. Now all is changed. The first article in the creed of a person
who has figured in either of these capacities, appears to be, that he is
bound to force himself into notice in the character of an author. And
this, happily for himself, but unhappily for the interests of
literature, he is able to do with perfect facility and with perfect
impunity. Books are speedily manufactured and as speedily reduced to
pulp. A worthless book may be as easily invested with those superficial
attractions which catch the eye of the crowd as a meritorious one. As
the general public are the willing dupes of puffers, it is no more
difficult to palm off on them the spurious wares of literary charlatans,
than it is to beguile them into purchasing the wares of any other kind
of charlatan. No one is interested in telling them the truth. Many, on
the contrary, are interested in deceiving them. As a rule, the men who
write bad books are the men who criticise bad books; and as they know
that what they mete out in their capacity of judges to-day is what will
in turn be meted out to them in their capacity of authors to-morrow, it
is not surprising that the relations between them should be similar to
those which Tacitus tells us existed between Vinius and
Tigellinus--“nulla innocentiæ cura, sed vices impunitatis.”

Meanwhile all those vile arts which were formerly confined to the
circulators of bad novels and bad poems are practised without shame. It
is shocking, it is disgusting to contemplate the devices to which many
men of letters will stoop for the sake of exalting themselves into a
factitious reputation. They will form cliques for the purpose of mutual
puffery. They will descend to the basest methods of self-advertisement.
And the evil is fast-spreading. Indeed, things have come to such a pass,
that persons of real merit, if they have the misfortune to depend on
their pens for a livelihood, must either submit to be elbowed and
jostled out of the field, or take part in the same ignoble scramble for
notoriety, and the same detestable system of mutual puffery. Thus
everything which formerly tended to raise the standard of literary
ambition and literary attainment has given place to everything which
tends to degrade it. The multitude now stand where the scholar once
stood. From the multitude emanate, to the multitude are addressed
two-thirds of the publications which pour forth, every year, from our

              Viviamo scorti
  Da mediocrità: sceso il sapiente,
  E salita è la turba a un sol confine
  Che il mondo agguaglia.

Matthew Arnold very truly observed, that one of the most unfortunate
tendencies of our time was the tendency to over-estimate the
performances of “the average man.” The over-estimation of these
performances is no longer a tendency, but an established custom.
Literature, in all its branches, is rapidly becoming his monopoly. As
judged and judge, as author and critic, there is every indication that
he will proceed from triumph to triumph, and establish his cult wherever
books are read. Now the only sphere in which “the average man” is
entitled to homage is a moral one, and he is most venerable when he is
passive and unambitious. But if ambition and the love of fame are
awakened in him, he is capable of becoming exceedingly corrupt and of
forfeiting every title to veneration. He is capable of resorting to all
the devices to which men are forced to resort in manufacturing
factitious reputations, to imposture, to fraud, to circulating false
currencies of his own, and to assisting others in the circulation of
theirs. Even when he is free from these vices, so far as their
deliberate practice is concerned, he is scarcely less mischievous, if he
be uncontrolled. To say that his standard is never likely to be a high
one, either with reference to his own achievements or with reference to
what he exacts from others, and to say that the systematic substitution
of inferior standards for high ones must affect literature and all that
is involved in its influence, most disastrously, is to say what will be
generally acknowledged. And he has everything, unhappily, in his
favour--numbers, influence, the spirit of the age. For one who sees
through him and takes his measure, there are thousands who do not: for
one who could discern the justice of an exposure of his shortcomings,
there are thousands who would attribute that exposure to personal enmity
and to dishonest motives. His power, indeed, is becoming almost
irresistible. The one thing which he and his fellows thoroughly
understand is the formidable advantage of co-operation. The consequence
is that there are probably not half a dozen reviews and newspapers now
left which they are not able practically to coerce. An editor is obliged
to assume honesty in those who contribute to his columns, and also to
avail himself of the services of men who can write good articles, if
they write bad books. In the first case, it is not open to him to
question the justice of the verdict pronounced; in the second case, the
courtesy of the gentleman very naturally and properly predominates,
under such circumstances, over public considerations--and how can truth
be told? Nor is this all. Assuming that an editor is free from such
ties, he has to consult the interests of his paper, to study
popularity, and not to estrange those who are, from a commercial point
of view, the mainstays of all our literary journals, those who advertise
in them,--the publishers. “If,” said an editor to me once, “I were to
tell the truth, as forcibly as I could wish to do, about the books sent
to me for review, in six months my proprietors would be in the
bankruptcy court.” It is in the power of the publishers to ruin any
literary journal. There is probably not a single Review in London which
would survive the withdrawal of the publishers’ advertisements.

A more honourable class of men than those who form the majority of the
London publishers does not exist, nor have the interests of Literature,
as distinguished from commercial interests, ever found heartier and more
ungrudging support, than they have long found in three or four of the
leading firms, and as they are now finding in two or three of the firms
which have been more recently established. But, unhappily, this is not
everywhere the case. While the firms, to which I have referred, have
never, in any way, attempted to interfere with the independence of
reviewers, others have made no secret of their intention to make their
patronage in advertisement dependent on favourable notices of their
publications. The strain of temptation and peril to which editors are
thus exposed may be estimated by the fact that, a flattering review may,
if supplemented by similar ones, put some three hundred a year into the
pockets of their proprietors, while severity and justice would involve a
corresponding loss. It need hardly be said that no editor of a
respectable review would allow any definite understanding of this kind
to exist, or that any publisher would ever dare to suggest it, but there
can be no doubt that such considerations have to be taken into account
almost universally, and place serious restraint on freedom of judgment.

There is, it is true, another aspect of this question. Publishers must
protect themselves. Though reviews offend much more frequently on the
side of dishonest and interested puffery, they are very often made the
vehicles of equally unscrupulous rancour and spite. If they do their
readers injustice, by attempting to foist bad books on them, they do
every one concerned injustice, by damning good ones. No one could blame
a publisher for declining to support a paper which was continually
making his books the subjects of unmerited attacks. But a publisher who
attempts to prevent the truth from being told, and so secures, or seeks
to secure, currency for his spurious wares, is guilty of an act which
borders closely on fraud.

Another circumstance very favourable to the encouragement of
inferiority, and not of inferiority only, but of charlatanism and
imposture, is the increasing tendency to regard nothing of importance
compared with the spirit of tolerance and charity. An all-embracing
philanthropy exempts nothing from its protection. Every one must be
good-natured. Severity, we are told, is quite out of fashion. Such
censors as the old reviewers are now mere anachronisms. It is vain to
plead that tolerance and charity must discriminate; that, like other
virtues, they may be abused, and that in their abuse they may become
immoral; that there are higher considerations than the feelings of
individuals; and that, if to give pain or annoyance admits of no
justification but necessity, necessity may exact their infliction as an
exigent duty.

But this spirit of tolerance and charity has also become attenuated into
the spirit of mere _laissez-faire_. We have no lack of real scholars and
of real critics, who see through the whole thing, and probably deplore
it; but they make no sign, look on with a sort of amused perplexity, and
do their own work, thankful, no doubt, sometimes, when it is oppressive,
that they need not be over-scrupulous about its quality. If,
occasionally, they get a little impatient and indulge their genius,
protest goes no further than sarcasm and irony, so fine that it is
intelligible only among themselves; while the objects of their satire,
as well as the general public, missing the one and misinterpreting the
other, take it all for applause. Resistance, it is said, is useless.
Literature is a trade. What has come was inevitable: _vive la
bagatelle_, and drift with the stream.

And now let us consider what are the results of all this. The first and
most important is the degradation of criticism. Criticism is to
Literature what legislation and government are to States. If they are in
able and honest hands all goes well; if they are in weak and dishonest
hands all is anarchy and mischief. And as government in a Republic, the
true analogy to the sphere of which we are speaking, is represented not
by those who form the minority in its councils, but by those who form
the majority, so in criticism, it is not on the few but on the many
among those who represent it, that its authority and influence depend.
And what are its characteristics in the hands of its prevailing
majority--in the hands of those who are its legislators in a realm
co-extensive with the reading world? It is not criticism at all. To
criticism, in the true sense of the term, it has no claim even to
approximation. It seems to have resolved itself into something which
wants a name,--something which is partly dithyramb and partly rhetoric.
Without standards, without touchstones, without principles, without
knowledge, it appears to be regarded as the one calling for which no
equipment and no training are needed. What a master of the art has
called the final fruit of careful discipline and of much experience is
assumed to come spontaneously. A man of literary tastes is born
cultured. A critic, like a poet, is the pure product of nature. Such
canons as these “critics” have are the mysterious and somewhat
perplexing evolutions of their own inner consciousness, or derived, not
from the study of classical writers in English or in any other language,
of all of whom they are probably profoundly ignorant, but from a current
acquaintance with the writings of contemporaries, who are, in
intelligence and performance, a little in advance of themselves. But
what they lack in attainments they make up in impudence. The effrontery
of some of these “critics,” whose verdicts, ludicrous to relate, are
daily recorded as “opinions of the Press,” literally exceeds belief.
They will sit in judgment on books written in languages of whose very
alphabets they are ignorant. They will pose as authorities and pronounce
_ex cathedrâ_ on subjects literary, historical, and scientific of which
they know nothing more than what they have contrived to pick up from the
works which they are “reviewing.” Their estimates of the books, on the
merits and demerits of which they undertake to enlighten the public,
correspond with their qualifications for forming them. Books displaying
in their writers the grossest ignorance of the very rudiments of the
subjects treated, and literally swarming with blunders and absurdities,
all of which pass undetected and unnoticed, are made the subjects of
elaborate panegyrics, which would need some qualification if applied to
the very classics in the subjects under discussion. Books, on the other
hand, of unusual and distinguished merit are despatched summarily in a
few lines of equally undeserved depreciation; books written in the worst
taste and in the vilest style are pronounced to be models of both.
Sobriety, measure, and discrimination have no place either in the creed
or in the practice of these writers. They think in superlatives; they
express themselves in superlatives. It never seems to occur to them that
if criticism has to reckon with Mr. Le Gallienne it has also to reckon
with Shakespeare; that if it has to take the measure of Mr. Hall Caine,
it has likewise to take the measure of Cervantes and Fielding, and that
of some dozen prose writers and poets, it cannot be pronounced, at the
same time of each, that he is “the greatest living master of English
prose,” or “without parallel for his superlative command of all the
resources of rhythmical expression.” There is one accomplishment in
which these critics are particularly adroit, and that is in keeping out
of controversy, and so avoiding all chance of being called to account.
For this reason they deal more in eulogy than in censure, for the public
is less likely to complain of a bad book being foisted on them for a
good one, than its irate author to sit silent under reproof.

If we go a little higher, things are almost as bad, if not quite so
ridiculous. In everything but in criticism it is necessary to
specialize. A man who posed as an authority on all the literatures of
the world, and on the history of every nation in the world, would be
very justly set down as an impostor. And yet pretentions which men would
be the first to ridicule, as private individuals, they do not scruple to
claim, as critics. An historical student enriches History with a volume
throwing new and important light on some obscure episode or period; a
classical student deserves the gratitude of scholars for an invaluable
monograph; English Literature or one of the Continental Literatures is
illustrated by a series of dissertations as instructive as they are
original; or a truly memorable contribution has been made to political
philosophy, to æsthetics, or to ethics. What is their fate? It is by no
means improbable that they will be ‘reviewed,’ in the course of a few
days, by the same man for three or four, or it may be for five or six,
daily and weekly journals, and their fortune in the market made or
marred by a censor who has probably done no more than glance at their
half-cut pages, and who, if he had studied them from end to end, would
have been no more competent to take their measure than he would have
been to write them. This leads, it is needless to say, to every kind of
abuse: to works which deserve to be authorities on the subjects of which
they treat dropping at once into oblivion, to works which every scholar
knows to be below contempt usurping their places; to the deprivation of
all stimulus to honourable exertion on the part of authors of ability
and industry; to the encouragement of charlatans and fribbles; to gross
impositions on the public. A very amusing and edifying record might be
compiled partly out of a selection of the various verdicts passed
contemporaneously by reviews on particular works, and partly out of
comparisons of the subsequent fortunes of works with their fortunes
while submitted to this censorship.

But it is not these causes only which contribute to the degradation of
criticism. A very important factor is the prevalence, or rather the
predominance, of mere prejudice, the prejudice of cliques in favour of
cliques, the prejudice of cliques against cliques, the prejudice of the
veteran against or in favour of the novice, the subsequent compensation,
in corresponding prejudice on the part of the novice, when his novitiate
is over. The two things which never seem to be considered are the
interests of Literature and the interests of the public. The appearance
of a work by the member of a particular coterie is the signal, on the
one hand, for a series of preposterously intemperate eulogies, and for a
series, on the other hand, of equally intemperate depreciations, in such
organs as are accessible to both parties. If a work, with any pretension
to originality, by a previously unknown author makes its appearance, it
is pretty sure to fare in one of three ways: it will scarcely be noticed
at all; it will be made the theme of a philippic against innovating
eccentricities and newfangled notions; or it will fall into the hands of
a critic who is on the look-out for a “discovery.” Its fortune, so far
as notoriety is concerned, will, in that case, be made. The critic, thus
on his mettle and with his character for discernment at stake, will not
only become proportionately vociferous but will rally his equally
vociferous partisans. Hyperbole will be heaped on hyperbole, rodomontade
on rodomontade, till real merit will be made ridiculous, and the unhappy
author awake at last, to assume his true proportions, in a Fool’s

And to this pass has criticism come, and Literature generally, in almost
all its branches, is necessarily following suit. It would be no
exaggeration to say, that the sole encouragement now left to authors to
produce good books is the satisfaction of their own conscience, and the
approbation of a few discerning judges; and this attained, they must
starve if their bread depends upon their pen. It is not that a good book
will not be praised, but that bad books are praised still more; it is
not that it will fail to find fair and competent reviewers, but that for
one fair and competent reviewer it will find fifty who are unfair and
incompetent. It is on its acceptance, not with the few who can estimate
its merits, but with the many who take that estimate on trust from
judges, whose competence or incompetence they are equally unable to
gauge, that the possibility of a book yielding any return to its author
depends. The public neither can nor will distinguish. A book which has
two or three favourable press notices which are merited cannot stand
against a book having twenty or thirty which are unmerited. Nor is this
all. Measured and discriminating eulogy, which means precisely what it
expresses, and which is always the note of sound and just criticism, is
to the uninitiated poor recommendation compared with that which has no
limitation but extremes. How can the still small voice of truth expect
to get a hearing amid a bellowing Babel of its undistinguishable mimic?
What inducement has an author to aim at excellence, to spend three or
four years on a monograph or a history that it may be sold for waste
paper, when some miserable compilation, vamped up in as many weeks,
will, with a little management, give him notoriety and fill his purse?
There is not a scholar, not a discerning reader in England who will not
bear me witness when I say that, as a rule, the best books produced in
Belles Lettres are those of which the general public knows nothing, and
that he has been guided to them sometimes by pure accident, and
sometimes, it may be, by a depreciatory notice or curt paragraph in
“our library table” limbo. And what does this mean? It means that a
writer has discovered that it is impossible for him to have a
conscience, or aim at an honourable reputation, unless he can afford to
lose money. It means more; it means that publishers are obliged to
discourage the production of solid and scholarly works. It is notorious
that the Delegates of the Clarendon Press at Oxford, and one or two
firms in London, having regard to the honourable traditions of their
predecessors, have wished to maintain those traditions by encouraging
the production of such works, and have, at a great pecuniary loss,
persevered in this ambition. But no publisher can continue to multiply
books which do not pay their expenses, and whose sale begins and ends in
the remainder market.

This state of things is the more deplorable when we consider its effect,
not merely in degrading and corrupting Literature on its productive
side, but in detracting so seriously from its efficacy on its
influential side. During the last few years the rapid spread of higher
education, the popularization of liberal culture through such agencies
as the University Extension Lectures, the National Home Reading Union
and similar institutions have called into being an immense and
constantly multiplying class of serious readers and students. These
already number tens of thousands, they will before long number hundreds
of thousands. Now it is of the utmost importance that these readers, who
are quite prepared to appreciate what is excellent, should be guided to
what is excellent, and discouraged in every way from conversing with
what is bad and inferior in Literature. But how is this to be done when
those who are striving, in every way, to raise the standard of popular
taste and of popular culture, as teachers, find all their efforts
counteracted by the intense activity of those who are doing their utmost
to degrade both, as writers. It is only those engaged in education, and
more particularly in popular education, who can understand the extent of
the mischief which bookmakers and the puffers of bookmakers are doing,
who can understand the tone, the taste, the temper induced by the
habitual and exclusive perusal of the writings characteristic of these
pests,--the inaccuracies and errors, the misrepresentations and
absurdities, to which these writings give currency.

In the days of our forefathers, a reader of literary tastes, if he
wished to acquaint himself with an English classic, went to the fountain
head and read Spenser or Milton, Pope or Addison for himself. If he
desired to know what criticism had said about them, he had criticism of
authority at hand, and he consulted it. In our day it is about an even
chance whether the ordinary reader would trouble himself to turn to the
originals or not: he would probably content himself with the notices of
them in some current manual of English Literature, or with some essay or
monograph. Now, in the myriads of such publications, in vogue or out of
vogue, knocked under by their successors or scuffling with their
contemporaries, he might have the luck to light on a good guide; he
might have the luck to light on Dean Church, or Mark Pattison, or Mr.
Leslie Stephen, or Professor Courthope, or Mr. Frederic Harrison; but he
is much more likely to make his way to a luminary in the last
well-puffed “series.” The first article in the creed of the modern
book-maker seems to be that the appearance or existence of a good book
is a sufficient justification for the production of a bad one to take
its place. An excellent monograph is published, and is popular. This is
the signal for the manufacture of half a dozen inferior ones, which are
mutually destructive, and serve no end except to substitute bad books
for a good one, and to make the good one forgotten. Again, a work which
has long been classical in criticism is assumed not to be “up to date,”
and is either edited on this hypothesis, or we have another substituted
for it. This in turn yields its vogue--for fashions change quickly in
modern taste--to a similar experiment, till a third is announced. Of the
relation of criticism to principles, or indeed to anything else but to
their own whims or impressions, these iconoclasts appear to be
profoundly unaware.

It requires, needless to say, the utmost wariness and care on the part
of those who regulate, and on the part of those who are engaged in,
education, to keep this inferior literature in its place. If it were
allowed to make its way authoritatively into our schools and
Universities, or indeed into any of our educational institutions, the
consequences would be most disastrous. It is not so much that it would
disseminate error as that it would become influential in more serious
ways, æsthetically in its influence on taste, morally in its influence
on tone and character, intellectually in lowering the whole standard of
aim and attainment in studies.

That the evils which have been described admit of no remedy at present,
or perhaps in the present generation, may be fully conceded. But they
may be palliated if they cannot be cured, and they must be palliated by
the agents to whom we may ultimately look for their cure, education and
fearless criticism. As their origin may be mainly ascribed to the
failure of the Universities to adapt themselves to new conditions, so on
the willingness of the Universities to repair their error must depend
all possibility of rectifying the results of it. From its organization
at the Universities everything comprehended in the system of liberal
study takes its ply; its standards are there determined, its methods
formulated, its aims defined. As a subject of teaching, and as the
result of teaching, in its relation to theory and in its relation to
practice, it there receives an impression which is permanent. It has
been so with classical scholarship, and with Philology; it has been so
with Philosophy and Theology, with Jurisprudence and History. What has
been imparted in the lecture-rooms of Oxford and Cambridge has orally,
and by the pen, become influential wherever these subjects are
represented. There is not an educational institute in Great Britain or
in the colonies, there is not a serious magazine or review on which it
has not set its seal. We have a striking illustration of this in the
case of Modern History. Some thirty years ago it was practically
unrepresented, either at Oxford or Cambridge. Since then its study has
been organized. What has been the result? It has become one of the most
flourishing branches of learning. It has reduced chaos to order; it has
raised its teaching, and by implication its literature, to a very high
standard; it has put the _canaille_ of sciolists and fribbles into their
proper place; while disciplining energy it has directed it to fruitful
objects; it has revolutionized the study of the whole subject.

Thus the condition and fortune of everything which is affected by
education depend on the Universities. All that they do, or neglect to
do, passes into precedent. There is nothing susceptible of educational
impression which does not take its colour and its characteristics from
them. They have made the subjects which are represented in their schools
what they are, and every intelligent English citizen proud and grateful.

But, owing to a disastrous confusion between two branches of study which
are radically and essentially distinct,--Philology and Belles
Lettres,--both Oxford and Cambridge have not only left unorganized, but
assisted in the degradation of studies, which are of as much concern,
and vital concern, to national life as any which are represented in
their Schools. To leave an important department of education
unrecognised in their system, is sufficient cause for surprise and
regret; but that they should be doing all in their power to prevent any
possibility of such a defect being supplied is deplorable. And yet this
is what is being done. That Chairs, Schools and Degrees may be
established in the interests of Philology, Philology is, by a palpable
fiction, identified with Literature. As the result of what the late
Professor Huxley denounced as “a fraud upon letters,” a Chair founded in
the interests of Literature was at Oxford appropriated by the
philologists. This has been followed by the establishment of a School,
in which all that can provide for the honour of Philology is blended
with all that contributes to the degradation of Literature; while, to
give further currency and authority to this absurd complication, the
approval of a thesis, on some subject pertaining purely to Philology,
entitles the writer to the diploma, not of a Doctor in Philology, but of
a Doctor in Literature!

Meanwhile, to make confusion worse confounded, the Universities, or, to
speak more correctly, a party in the Universities, are undertaking to
provide the country with teachers for the dissemination of literary
culture,--for the interpretation of Literature in the proper sense of
the term. Whether this is done competently or incompetently depends, of
course, and must depend purely on accident, on the willingness and
ability, that is to say, of individual teachers to educate themselves.
Common standards and common aims they have none. Each does what is right
in his own eyes. As some have graduated in the classical schools, some
in the Mediæval and Modern Languages Tripos, some in Modern History,
some in Moral Science or Theology, and some in nothing, there is
naturally much variety in their methods and aims.

But it is when we turn to the works in modern Belles Lettres, and more
particularly to those dealing with English Literature, which the
University Presses publish, that we realize the full significance of
this anarchy. It would not be going too far to say, that all which is
worst in current literature, when at its worst finds in some of these
works comprehensive illustration. It is indeed almost an even chance
whether a work issuing from those Presses is excellent, whether it is
indifferent, or whether it is executed with shameful incompetence.[1]

All, therefore, so far as Belles Lettres are concerned is chaos at the
Universities, and all consequently is chaos everywhere else.

The next appeal--for all appeals to the Universities have been
vain--must be made to those who regulate the curriculums where
Literature is made a subject of teaching. Let them rigorously exclude
all but the best books. Let them discourage the study of such Epitomes,
Manuals, and Histories as are the work of mere irresponsible book
makers, and prescribe in its place the study of literary masterpieces.
Without excluding the best modern poetry and prose, let most
attention--for obvious reasons--be paid to the writings of the older
masters. Let them lay special stress on the study of criticism,--of
works treating of its principles, of works illustrating the application
of its principles to particular writers; and let no work be recognised
which is not of classical authority. Translations should, of course, as
a rule, be avoided; but in such a subject as the principles of
criticism, there is not the smallest reason why those works which are
most excellent in other languages, such as the _Treatise on the
Sublime_, and some portions of Aristotle’s _Poetic_, such as Lessing’s
_Laocoon_, Schiller’s _Letters on Æsthetics_, the best Essays of
Sainte-Beuve should not be included.[2] Nor can it be emphasized too
strongly that the theory on which all literary teaching should proceed
is that its object is not so much to plant as to cultivate, not so much
to convey information, which, after all, is but its medium, as to
inspire, to refine, to elevate. I cannot but think, too, that the
foundations of all this might be laid much earlier than they are,
especially in our classical schools, by encouraging, as, according to
Coleridge, Dr. Boyer used to do, the study of some of our greater
writers, such as Shakespeare and Milton, side by side with that of Homer
and Sophocles.

But it is in criticism, in criticism competently, honestly, and
fearlessly applied, that the chief salvation lies. There is probably no
review or newspaper in London which does not number among its
contributors men of the first order of ability and intelligence, men who
are real scholars and real critics, men who see through all that I have
been describing and are sick of it. Let them not remain an impotent
minority, but combine, and become influential. If popular Literature
aspires to be ambitious, and trespasses on the domains of scholarship
and criticism, let them submit it to the tests which it invites, let
them try it by the standards which it exacts. There is no more reason
for the co-existence of two standards, as is now practically the case,
in the production of writings treating of our own Literature than there
is in the production of writings dealing with Classical Literature. The
work of any one who meddles with the last, even in the way of
popularizing it, is instantly called by scholars to a strict account,
and sciolism and charlatanry are exploded at once. But in the case of
our own Literature there is no such solidarity. It seems to be assumed
that a scholar is one thing and a man of letters another, that the
difference between work which appeals to connoisseurs and work which
appeals to the public is not simply a difference in degree, but a
difference in kind, and that the criteria of the multitude need be the
only criteria of what is addressed to the multitude. The manuscript of a
History of Greek or Roman Literature, or a monograph on an ancient
classic, if it were not at least solid and trustworthy, would have no
chance of ever getting beyond a publisher’s reader. But a History of
English Literature, or a monograph on an English classic, teeming with
errors in fact and with absurdities in theory and opinion, will not
improbably be regarded as an authority, and pass, unrevised, into more
than one edition.

The progressive degradation of Literature and of what is involved in its
influence is, and must be, inevitable, unless criticism is prepared
watchfully and faithfully to do its duty. Let it guard jealously the
standards and touchstones of excellence as distinguished from
mediocrity, even though it may be prudent to make great allowances in
applying them; let it institute a rigorous censorship over books
designed for the use of students at the Universities and in other
educational establishments; let it permit no writer to pose in a false
position, and deliberately trade on the ignorance and inexperience of
his readers; let it discourage in every way the production of worthless
and superfluous books, whether in poetry or in prose; and lastly, while
fully recognising how much must be conceded to professional authors
writing against time, having to court popularity or being fettered by
conditions imposed on them by their employers, let it take care that
their productions shall at least not be mischievous, either by
disseminating error or by corrupting taste.


[Footnote 1: One illustration of the indifference of the authorities of
our University Presses to the interest of Literature is so scandalous
that it must be specified. Fourteen years ago a series of lectures was
delivered by the then Clarke Lecturer in the Hall of Trinity College,
Cambridge. They were afterwards published under the title of _From
Shakespeare to Pope_, and reviewed in the _Quarterly Review_ for
October, 1886. The lectures, as the Review showed, absolutely swarmed
with blunders, many of them so gross as to be almost incredible. Ever
since then the volume has been circulated by the Press, absolutely
unrevised, indeed without a single correction, and is now in

[Footnote 2: Cf. what Milton says in prescribing the study of
masterpieces in criticism: “This would make them (students) soon
perceive what despicable creatures our common rimers and play-writers
be, and show them what religious, what glorious and magnificent use
might be made of poetry, both in Divine and human things. From hence,
and not till now, will be the right season of forming them to be able
writers and composers in every excellent matter, when they shall be thus
fraught with an universal insight into things.”--_Tractate on



To say that the anarchy which has resulted from confusing the
distinction between the study and interpretation of Literature as the
expression of art and genius, and its study and interpretation as a mere
monument of language, has had a most disastrous effect on education
generally, would be to state very imperfectly the truth of the case. It
has led to inadequate and even false conceptions of what constitutes
Literature. It has led to all that is of essential importance in
literary study being ignored, and all that is of secondary or accidental
interest being preposterously magnified; to the substitution of
grammatical and verbal commentary for the relation of a literary
masterpiece to history, to philosophy, to æsthetics; to the mechanical
inculcation of all that can be imparted, as it has been acquired, by
cramming, for the intelligent application of principles to expression.
It has led to the severance of our Literature from all that constitutes
its vitality and virtue as an active power, and from all that renders
its development and peculiarities intelligible as a subject of
historical study. In a word, it has led to a total misconception of the
ends at which literary instruction should aim, as well as of its most
appropriate instruments and methods. All this is illustrated nowhere
more strikingly than in the publications of the two great University
Presses. It would be easy to point to editions of English classics, and
to works on English Literature, bearing the _imprimatur_ of Oxford and
Cambridge, in which all that is worst in the opposite extremes of
pedantry and dilettantism finds ludicrous expression.

And in thus speaking we are saying nothing more than is notorious,
nothing more than is admitted, and admitted unreservedly, in the
Universities themselves, or at least at Oxford. But different sections
of Academic society regard the matter in different lights. The majority
of the classical professors and teachers, deprecating any attempt on the
part of the University to meddle with “Literature,” treat the whole
thing as a joke, and, so far from supposing that the reputation of the
University is concerned, find infinite amusement in the constant
exposures which are being made in the reviews and newspapers of the
absurdities of the “English Literature party.” They regard the “study
of Literature” precisely as they regard the University Extension
Movement--the one as a contemptible excrescence on our Academic system,
the other as a contemptible excrescence on Academic curricula. Another
section takes a very different view. Recognising the reasonableness of
the appeals which have, during the last twelve years, been made to
Oxford to place the study of Literature on the same sound footing as she
has placed that of other subjects included in her courses, and
discerning clearly that what is required cannot be obtained as long as
the interests of Philology and those of Literature continue to collide,
this party, unhappily a small minority, has pleaded for the
establishment of a School of Literature. They have very properly laid
stress on four points: First, that, as the chief justification for the
establishment of such a School is the fact that the University is
undertaking by innumerable agencies, its Press, its oral teachers both
at home and abroad, to disseminate liberal instruction through the
medium of English Literature, the principal object of the School should
be the education of these agencies. Secondly, they have insisted that,
if the interpretation of Literature is to effect what it is of power to
effect, if, as an instrument of political instruction, it is to warn, to
admonish, to guide, if, as an instrument of moral and æsthetic
instruction, it is to exercise that influence on taste, on tone, on
sentiment, on opinion, on character--on all, in short, which is
susceptible of educational impression--it must both be properly defined
and liberally studied; and they contend that, if it is to be so defined
and so studied outside the Universities, it must first be so defined and
so studied within. Thirdly, they insist that the study of our own
Literature should be associated with that of ancient classical
literature, for two indisputable reasons: first, because the basis of
all liberal literary culture, of a high standard, must necessarily rest
on competent classical attainments, and because, historically speaking,
the development and characteristics of the greater part of what is most
valuable in our Literature would be as unintelligible, without reference
to the Greek and Roman classics, as the Literature of Rome would be
without reference to that of Greece. Fourthly, they point out that, as
our Literature is, in various intimate ways, associated with the
Literatures of Italy, France, and Germany, and that, as an acquaintance
with the classics of those countries must form an essential element in a
literary education, the comparative study of those Literatures and our
own ought, by all means, to be encouraged and provided for. And,
fifthly, they show that what is demanded is perfectly feasible. There
already exists in the University, they contend, every facility for
organizing such a course of Literature as is required. All that is
needed is co-ordination. In the Classical Moderations and in the
_Literæ Humaniores_ Honour Schools a liberal literary education on the
classical side is already provided; two-thirds in fact of the
discipline, culture, and attainments desiderated in a literary teacher
it is the aim of those Schools to impart. The Taylorian Institute
provides instruction in the languages and literatures of the Continent;
and, if its professors could be roused into a little more activity, a
youth might, in two years, if he pleased,--and that side by side with
his severer studies--acquire something more than a superficial
acquaintance with the language and writings of Dante and Machiavelli, of
Montaigne and Molière, of Lessing and Goethe. What he could not obtain
would be instruction and guidance in the study of our own Literature. In
a word, all that is required to secure what this party plead for is
simply the establishment of a School of English Literature, in the
proper acceptation of the term, and the co-ordination of studies which
are at present pursued independently. It was proposed that it should
take the form of a Post-graduate Honour School, standing in the same
relation to the other schools in the University as the old Law and
History School used to stand to the old _Literæ Humaniores_ School, and
as the examination for the Bachelorship in Civil Law now stands to the
ordinary Law School. Thus a youth who had graduated in honours in
Moderations and in the Final Classical School, who had studied modern
literatures at the Taylorian and our own Literature under its
professor, or even by himself, would have an opportunity of displaying
his qualifications for an honour diploma in Literature. But the appeals
and arguments of this party have been of no avail.

Next come the philologists. They are in possession of the field. All the
revenues supporting the Chairs of Language and Literature are their
monopoly. They have steadily resisted all attempts on the part of what
may be denominated the Liberal party to encroach on their dominions. In
their eyes the Universities are simply nurseries for esoteric
specialists, and to talk of bringing them into touch with national life
is, in their estimation, mere cant. Their attitude towards Literature,
generally, is precisely that of the classical party towards our own
Literature; they regard it simply as the concern of men of letters,
journalists, dilettants, and Extension lecturers. They defeated sixteen
years ago an attempt to establish a Chair of English Literature by
transforming it into a Chair of Language and securing it for themselves.
They attempted, subsequently, to supplement what they had done by the
establishment of a School of Language on the model of the Mediæval and
Modern Languages Tripos at Cambridge. They were defeated by a coalition
of the classical party, the Liberals, of whom we have just spoken, and a
third party which insisted on a compromise between Philology and
Literature. Reviving the scheme, they have, by accepting the
modifications of the compromisers, just succeeded in getting it
accepted. The new School of English Language and Literature is the
result of that compromise.

Now it will not be disputed that if the Universities ought, in the
interests of liberal culture, to provide adequately for instruction in
Literature, they ought also, in the interests of science, to provide
adequately for instruction in Philology. It is a branch of learning of
immense importance. It is, and ought to be, the peculiar care of
Universities, and nothing could be more derogatory to a University than
deficiency in such a study. But it is a study in itself. As a science it
has no connection with Literature. Indeed the instincts and faculties
which separate the temperament of the mathematician from the temperament
of the poet are not more radical and essential than the instincts and
faculties which separate the sympathetic student of Philology from the
sympathetic student of Literature. But no science resolves itself more
easily into a pseudo-science, and it is in this degenerate form that it
has become linked with Literature and been, in all ages, the butt of
wits and men of letters. Nothing but anarchy can result till this
mutually degrading alliance be dissolved. It has been forced on the
philologists by the compromise to which reference has been made. Let
them be free to rescind it. Let the “pia vota” of Professor Max Müller
be fulfilled and Oxford have her School of Philology. That such a School
should be established is desirable for three reasons. In the first
place, it would define what is at present vague and indeterminate, the
scope and functions of Philology. Secondly, it would place that study on
its proper footing, and, by placing it on its proper footing, it would
not only demonstrate its relation to other studies, but it would enable
it to effect fully what it is competent to effect. Thirdly, it might,
and probably would, do something to relieve Oxford of the opprobrium of
being behind the rest of the learned world in this branch of science.
The School would probably not attract many students, for Philology,
unlike Literature, can never appeal to more than a small minority. If,
therefore, the choice lay between the institution of a School of
Philology and that of a School of Literature, there can be no doubt
which should have precedence. But no such choice is offered. If the
philologists were not strong enough to refuse to compromise, they are
strong enough to crush any attempt to forestall them.

Let us now turn to the constitution of the School which has been the
result of this arrangement, and which will authorize the University to
confer, not, be it remembered, an ordinary, but an honour, degree in
English Language and Literature. The following are the Regulations. The
subjects for examination are four. 1. Portions of English authors. 2.
The History of the English Language. 3. The History of English
Literature. 4. In the case of those candidates who aim at a place in the
first or second class, a Special Subject of language or literature. The
portions of the authors specified are these. _Beowulf_, the texts
printed in Sweet’s _Anglo-Saxon Reader_, _King Horn_, _Havelok_;
Laurence Minot, _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_. Of Chaucer’s
_Canterbury Tales_, the _Prologue_, _The Knight’s Tale_, _The Man of
Law’s_, _The Prioress’s_, _Sir Thopas_, _The Monk’s_, _The Nun
Priest’s_, _The Pardoner’s_, _The Clerk’s_, _The Squire’s_, _The Second
Nun’s_, _The Canon Yeoman’s_. Next come the _Prologue_ and the first
seven _passus_ (text B) of _Piers Ploughman_. Then come select plays of
Shakespeare, chosen apparently at haphazard, _Love’s Labour’s Lost_,
_Romeo and Juliet_, _Richard the Second_, _Twelfth Night_, _Julius
Cæsar_, _Winter’s Tale_, _King Lear_. Then we have the following
extraordinary farrago:--

Bacon’s _Essays_.

Milton, with a special study of _Paradise Lost_ and the _Areopagitica_.

Dryden’s _Essay on Epic_ (sic).

Pope’s _Satires and Epistles_.

Johnson’s _Lives of the Poets_--the Lives of Eighteenth-Century Poets.

Goldsmith’s _Citizen of the World_.

Burke’s _Thoughts on the Present Discontents_.

Lyrical Ballads (Wordsworth and Coleridge), Shelley’s _Adonais_.[3]

The second part of the examination will be on the History of the English
Language. “Candidates will be examined in Gothic (the Gospel of St.
Mark), and in translation from Old English and Middle English authors
not specially offered.”

This is to be followed by the History of English Literature, to which
portion of the Regulations the following odd clause is appended: “the
examination will include the History of Criticism and of style in prose
and verse.” Last come the special subjects designed for “those who aim
at a place in the First or Second Class.” Six of these consist of
certain prescribed periods of English Literature. The other subjects are
as follows:--

(1) Old English Language and Literature down to 1150 A.D.

(2) Middle English Language and Literature, 1150-1400 A.D.

(3) Old French Philology with special reference to Anglo-Norman French,
together with a special study of the following texts:--_Computus of
Phillippe de Thaun_, _Voyage of St. Brandan_, _The Song of Dermot and
the Earl_, _Les Contes moralisés de Nicole Bozon_.

(4) Scandinavian Philology, with special reference to Icelandic,
together with a special study of the following texts:--_Gylfaginning_,
_Laxdæla Saga_, _Gunnlaugssaga Ormstungu_.

(5) French Literature down to 1400 A.D. in its bearing on English

(6) Italian Literature as influencing English down to the death of

(7) German Literature from 1500 A.D. to the death of Goethe in its
bearing on English Literature.

(8) History of Scottish Poetry.

Such is the scheme which will, in conjunction with the similar scheme at
Cambridge, supply England and the colonies with their literary
professors. Let us examine it in detail. The first thing which strikes
us is the contrast between the competence and judgment displayed in the
organization of the philological part of the course and the confusion,
inadequacy, and flimsiness so conspicuous in the literary part. Nothing
could be more satisfactory than the provisions made for the study of
Language. They are obviously the work of legislators who knew what they
were about, and who, but for the thwarting requirements of the
provisions for Literature, would have proceeded to a superstructure
worthy of the foundation. A student who, in addition to having mastered
the prescribed works in Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and Middle English, is
competent to translate and comment on unprepared passages from those
dialects, has certainly laid the foundation of sound scholarship in an
important department of Philology. In the fact that what properly
belongs to his study has been relegated to the subjects out of which he
has only the option of choosing one, we have a lamentable illustration
of the effects of the compromise forced on the philologists. If, for the
literary portion of the curriculum, a candidate could substitute the
first four of the special subjects, he would have completed a thoroughly
satisfactory course of Philology, so far at least as relates to the
Teutonic and Romance languages.

But to pass from what concerns Philology to what concerns Literature.
Now in considering this point it is necessary to remember that we are
not dealing with the regulations of any subordinate institution or
curriculum, with provincial Universities and seminaries, or with schemes
of study in which Literature is only one out of many subjects. We are
dealing with a Final Honour School at Oxford, with regulations which
will inevitably form a precedent and model wherever the study of English
literature shall be organized in Great Britain. We are dealing with a
school which is to educate those who are to educate the country.
Nothing, therefore, could be more disastrous than unsoundness and
deficiency in the provisions of such an institution, nothing more
deplorable than its giving countenance and authority to error and
inadequacy. It is not too much to say that, if this scheme had been
designed with the express object of degrading the standard of literary
teaching, and of perpetuating all that is worst in present systems, it
could hardly have been better adapted for its purpose. Not to dwell upon
subordinate defects, it completely severs the study of our own
literature from that of the ancient classical literatures. It
necessitates no knowledge of any of the Continental literatures. It
ignores absolutely the higher criticism. Contracting Literature within
the narrowest bounds, its selection of books for special study is worthy
of an Army Examination. In the wretched jumble in which Goldsmith’s
_Citizen of the World_ jostles Shelley’s _Adonais_ and Burke’s _Thoughts
on the Present Discontents_ Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s _Lyrical
Ballads_, no attempt is made to discriminate between compositions which
are representative, either critically of the work of particular authors,
or historically of particular epochs, and works which have no such
significance, while many of the most important departments of our prose
Literature are unrepresented. Nor is this all. It affords every facility
for cramming. It is adapted to test nothing but what may be
mechanically acquired and mechanically imparted, what may be poured out
from lectures into notebooks, and from notebooks into examination
papers. Proceeding on the assumption that a literary education is merely
the acquisition of positive knowledge, it neither requires nor
encourages, as the prescription of an essay or thesis, or even
“taste-paper,” might have done, any of the finer qualities of literary
culture, such, for example, as a sense of style, sound judgment, good
taste, the touch of the scholar. We can assure these legislators, and we
speak from knowledge, that, setting aside the philological portion of
this curriculum, which is, so far as it goes, solid enough, an
experienced crammer, would, in about three months furnish an astute
youth with all that is requisite for graduating in this school.

But to proceed to details. Conceive the qualifications of an interpreter
and critic of English Literature, a graduate in Honours in his subject,
whose education has proceeded on the hypothesis that he need have no
acquaintance with the classics of Greece and Rome. Would any competent
scholar deny that the history of English Literature, in its mature
expression, is little less than the history of the modifications of
native genius and characteristics by classical influence, that the
development and peculiarities of our epic, dramatic, elegiac, didactic,
pastoral, much of our lyric, of our satire and of other species of our
poetry is, historically speaking, unintelligible without reference to
ancient classical literature? That what is true of our poetry is true of
our criticism, of our oratory, sacred and secular, of our dialectic and
epistolary Literature, of our historical composition, of the greater
part, in short, of our national masterpieces in prose? What, indeed, the
Literature of Greece was to that of Rome, the Literatures of Greece and
Rome have been to ours.[4]

It was the influence of Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Menander,
Diphilus, which transformed the _Ludi Scenici_ and the Atellan farces
into the tragedies of Ennius and Pacuvius and the comedies of Plautus
and Terence. It was the influence of the Roman drama and of a drama
modelled on the Roman which transformed, so far at least as structure
and style are concerned, our similarly rude native experiments into the
tragedies and comedies of Shakespeare. On the epics of Greece were
modelled the epics of Rome, and on the epics of Greece and Rome are
modelled our own great epics. Of our elegiac poetry, to employ the term
in its conventional sense, one portion is largely indebted to
Theocritus, Moschus, and Virgil, and another to Catullus and Ovid.
Almost all our didactic poetry is modelled on the didactic poetry of
Rome. Theocritus and Virgil have furnished the archetypes for our
eclogues and pastorals. One important branch of our lyric poetry springs
directly from Pindar, another important branch directly from Horace,
another directly from the choral odes of the Attic dramatists and of
Seneca. Our heroic satire, from Hall to Lord Lytton, is simply the
counterpart--often, indeed, a mere imitation--of Roman satire. And if
this is true of our satire, it is equally true of our best ethical
poetry. The Epistles, which fill so large a space in the poetical
literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, derive their
origin from those of Horace. To the _Heroides_ of Ovid we owe a whole
series of important poems from Drayton to Cawthorn. The Greek anthology
and Martial have furnished the archetypes of our epigrams and of our
epitaphs. It is the same with our prose. The history of English
eloquence begins from the moment when the Roman classics moulded and
coloured our style, when periodic prose was modelled on Cicero and Livy,
when analytic prose was modelled on Sallust, Seneca, and Tacitus. With
the exception of fiction, there is no important branch of our prose
composition, the development and characteristics of which are
historically intelligible without reference to the ancients. How
radically inadequate must any study of the principles of criticism be,
which has no reference to the critical works of the Greek and Roman
writers, is obvious. But it is not merely in tracing the development and
explaining the peculiarities generally of our prose and of our poetry
that competent classical scholarship is indispensable. Is it not
notorious that in each generation, from Spenser to Tennyson, from More
to Froude, our leading poets and prose writers have been, with very few
exceptions, men nourished on classical literature and saturated with its
influence? Many entire masterpieces, much, and in some cases the greater
portion, of other masterpieces, particularly in our poetry, are simply
unintelligible--we are speaking, of course, of serious critical
students--except to classical scholars. Take, for example, the _Faerie
Queen_, and the _Hymns_ of Spenser, Milton’s _Paradise Lost_, _Comus_,
_Lycidas_, and _Samson Agonistes_, Pope’s satires, the two great odes
of Gray, Collins’s odes to _Fear_ and the _Passions_, Wordsworth’s great
_Ode_ and his _Laodamia_, Shelley’s _Adonais_ and _Prometheus Unbound_,
Landor’s _Hellenics_, much of the poetry of Tennyson, Browning, and
Matthew Arnold. Indeed it would be as preposterous to attempt any
critical study of our Literature, without reference to the ancients, as
it would be for a man to set up as an interpreter in Roman Literature
without reference to the Greek.

And the effect of this severance of the study of the ancient classics
from the study of our own is written large throughout the whole domain
of education, in the instruction given in schools and institutes, in the
monographs, manuals, and “editions” which pour from scholastic presses.
In one of the most popular manuals now in circulation, the writer
gravely tells us that “the pastoral name of _Lycidas_ was chosen by
Milton to signify purity of character,” adding “in Theocritus a goat was
so called λευκιτας for its whiteness,” that Comus “the drinker
of human blood” revelled in the palace of Agamemnon.[5] Another writer
confounds the “choruses” in Shakespeare with the choruses of the Greek
plays. Another, commenting on the symbolism of ivy in the wreath of a
poet, tells us that it indicates “constancy.”[6] Nothing is more common
than to find elaborate critical comments on the _Faerie Queen_ without
the smallest reference to its connection with Aristotle’s _Ethics_, and
on Wordsworth’s great _Ode_ without any reference to Plato. But such is
the confidence reposed in Professor Earle and his theory, and so
determined are the legislators for the new School to exclude all
connection with classical literature, that it is not admitted even as a
special subject. A candidate has, as we have seen, the option of
studying the influence exercised on old English literature by French,
and on later literature by Italian and German; but the one thing which
he has not the option of studying is the influence exercised on it by
the literatures of Greece and Rome. Some of our readers may remember
that a few years ago a public appeal was made for an expression of
opinion on the question of associating the study of our own classics and
that of the ancients. Opinions were elicited from many of the most
distinguished men in England. They were all but unanimous, not merely in
supporting the association, but in deprecating the severance. So wrote
Mr. Gladstone, Cardinal Manning, Professor Jowett, Matthew Arnold, Lord
Lytton, Mr. John Morley, Walter Pater, Addington Symonds; so wrote the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the Rector of
Lincoln, the President of Magdalen, the Warden of All Souls, and many
others. We may add, also--for we are now at liberty to state it
publicly--that this was emphatically the opinion of Robert Browning. We
cannot, of course, quote these opinions _in extenso_,[7] and that of the
late Professor Jowett and a portion of that of Mr. John Morley must

     I am as strongly of opinion that in an Honour School of English
     Literature or Modern Literature the subject should not be
     separated from classical literature, as I am of opinion that
     English literature should have a place in our curriculum.

So writes Professor Jowett.

     It seems to me to be as impossible effectively to study English
     literature, except in close association with the classics, as
     it would be to grasp the significance of mediæval or modern
     institutions without reference to the political creations of
     Greece and Rome. I should be very sorry to see the study of
     Greek and Latin writers displaced, or cut off from the study of
     our own.

So writes Mr. John Morley.

But the Professor of Anglo-Saxon and his friends, as we have seen, think
otherwise, and have, unhappily for the interests of letters and
education, persuaded Oxford to think otherwise too. We say advisedly the
interests of letters and education. For the precedent of excluding from
a School of “Literature,” and that at the chief centre and nursery of
liberal culture, the Literatures of Greece and Rome cannot but be
detrimental to the vitality and influence of the ancient classics; and,
as Froude truly observed, both the national taste and the tone of the
national intellect would suffer serious decline, if they lost their
authority. The reaction against philological study which has set in
during the last ten years has given them a new lease of life. But the
spirit of the age is against them; they have rivals in languages far
easier to acquire; they are not, and never can be, in touch with the
many. Let them become disassociated from our curriculums of Literature,
and they will cease to be influential, They will cease to be studied
seriously, to be studied even in the original, except by mere scholars.

Another absurdity, not less monstrous, in these regulations, is the
absence of all provision for instruction in the principles of criticism.
There is indeed an unmeaning clause about the history of criticism, and
of style in verse and prose, being included in the examination; but as
nothing is specified, and as no work on criticism, with the exception of
Dryden’s _Discourse on Epic Poetry_, and Johnson’s _Lives_ (of
eighteenth-century poets),[8] is included in the books prescribed for
special study, it is plain that this important subject has no place. Why
it should not have occurred to these legislators to substitute, say, for
Goldsmith’s _Citizen of the World_ and Burke’s _Thoughts on the Present
Discontents_, some work which would at least have opened the eyes of the
literary professors of the future to the existence of philosophical
criticism, is certainly odd. Had they prescribed select essays from
Hume; and Shaftesbury’s _Advice to an Author_, or Campbell’s _Philosophy
of Rhetoric_, or Burke’s _Treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful_, or
even the critical portions of Coleridge’s _Biographia Literaria_, with
the two essays of Wordsworth, it would have been something. But the
truth is that, as they have excluded, except from the optional subjects,
all literatures but the English, one absurdity has involved them in
another. The course for the literary education of our future professors,
proceeding on the principle that they need know no language but Gothic
and Anglo-Saxon, has necessitated the elimination of all the great
masterpieces of critical literature. As they are assumed to know no
Greek, they can have no serious instruction in such works as Aristotle’s
_Poetic_ and _Rhetoric_, and in the _Treatise on the Sublime_. As they
are assumed to know no Latin, they can have no instruction in Roman
criticism. On the same principle such works as Lessing’s _Laocoon_ and
_Hamburgische Dramaturgie_, Schiller’s Æsthetical Letters and Essays,
Villemain’s Lectures, and Sainte-Beuve’s Essays, can find no place in
their curriculum of study. And so it comes to pass that Dryden’s
_Discourse on Epic Poetry_ and Johnson’s _Lives_ of the
eighteenth-century poets, represent--_proh pudor!_--the course in

Now it is not too much to say that, for a University like Oxford to
confer an honour degree in English Literature on a student who need
never have read a line of the works to which we have referred, is to
authorize not simply superficiality, but sheer imposture. How can a
teacher deal adequately even with the subject which these regulations
profess to include--the history of criticism--who need have no
acquaintance with the _Poetic_ and _Rhetoric_, the _Treatise on the
Sublime_, and the _Institutes of Oratory_? How could a teacher possibly
be a competent exponent and critic of the masterpieces of our
literature, who had not received a proper critical training, and how
could he have any pretension to such a training when all that is best
in criticism had been expressly excluded from his education?

It may be urged that he would himself supply these deficiencies, that
the study of our own Literature would naturally lead him to the study of
other Literatures, that intelligent curiosity, ambition, or a sense of
shame would induce him to supplement voluntarily, and by his own
efforts, what he needed in his profession. In some instances this would
undoubtedly be the case. In the great majority of instances such a
supposition would be against all analogy. As a general rule, a high
honour degree in any subject represented at the Universities is final.
It winds a man up for life. It determines, fixes, and colours his
methods, his views, his tone, in all that relates to the subject in
which he has graduated. If he chooses teaching as a profession, he has
no inducement to correct, to modify, or even materially add to what has
been imparted to him, for his scholastic reputation has been made, and a
comfortable independence is assured. To very many men, indeed, who go up
to the Universities with the intention of following teaching as a
profession, a high degree is a mere investment, the one instinct in them
which is not quite banausic being the conscientious thoroughness with
which they impart what they have been taught. Nothing, therefore, is of
more importance to education than the sound constitution of the Honour
Schools of Oxford and Cambridge, and nothing could be more disastrous
than the toleration in those Schools of inadequate standards, and of
palpably erroneous theories of study.

But to return to the Regulations. The ridiculous disproportion between
the ground covered and the work involved in the different “special
subjects” open to the option of candidates, would seem to indicate,
either that the regulators are very inadequately informed on those
subjects, or that divided counsels have resulted in the settlement of
very different standards of requirement. Compare, for instance, what is
involved respectively in such subjects as “English Literature between
1700 and 1745,” and “The History of Scottish Poetry.” Why, a competent
knowledge of the history of Scotch poetry in the fifteenth century alone
would be more than an equivalent to the first subject. Not less absurd
is the prescription of “English Literature between 1745 and 1797” as an
alternative for “English Literature between 1558 and 1637.” The
prescription of such “special subjects” as the influence exercised on
our Literature by the Literatures of Italy, Germany, and France, is one
of the few steps in a wise direction discernible in these regulations;
but, as no student is free to take more than one of them, or required to
take any of them at all, their inclusion in no way affects the
constitution of the School. A competent literary education is not very
much furthered by a student being invited to study how our Literature
has been affected by one out of the five Literatures which have
influenced it. As, moreover, the integrity of a chain depends on its
weakest link, so the efficiency of examinational tests, in their
application to purely optional subjects, depends on that subject in the
list which involves least labour. A candidate who can “get a first” out
of “English Literature between 1700 and 1745,” or between 1745 and 1797,
will be much too wise to attempt to “get a first” out of subjects which
will require treble the time and labour to master. Is it likely that
candidates, anxious, naturally, from less lofty motives than the love of
Literature for its own sake, to obtain an honour degree, will, after
laboriously acquiring Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, which are
compulsory, voluntarily specialize in a subject requiring a knowledge of
Italian and German, when it is open to them to choose, as their special
subject, “Old English Language and Literature down to 1150”?

The statute authorizing the foundation of this School recites that in
its curriculum and examinations “equal weight” is, “as far as possible,
to be given to Language and Literature, provided always that candidates
who offer special subjects shall be at liberty to choose subjects
connected either with Language or Literature, or with both.” It would
be interesting to know what this means. If by “equal weight” be meant
equality in the proportions of what is prescribed for the study of
Literature, and what is prescribed for the study of Language, the
provision is stultified by the very constitution of the course. To
suppose that the history of English Literature, and the special study of
a few particular works like Shelley’s _Adonais_, Burke’s _Present
Discontents_, and the _Lyrical Ballads_, is equivalent to the History of
the English language, the Gospel of St. Mark in Gothic, the _Beowulf_,
and a volume of extracts in Anglo-Saxon, _King Horn_, _Havelok_, _Sir
Gawain_, and the prologue and seven _passus_ of _Piers Ploughman_ in
Middle English, is palpably absurd. If by “equal weight” be meant that
an examiner is to assign equal marks to candidates who distinguish
themselves in Literature, and to candidates who distinguish themselves
in Language, it involves gross injustice. For while the latter have
every opportunity for displaying knowledge and competence, the former
have not. If a student has literary tastes and sympathies, if he is
conversant with the Classics, if, attracted by what is best not merely
in our own but in other modern Literatures, he has indulged himself in
their study, if he has made himself a good critic and acquired a good
style, what chance has he of doing his attainments and accomplishments
justice? But if it be meant that “equal weight” will be given, not to
literary merit regarded as Sainte-Beuve and Matthew Arnold would regard
it, but regarded in relation to the standard indicated by the
regulations of the School, then the philologists would have just reason
to complain.

As the constitution of this School is still open to amendment, it is
devoutly to be hoped that Oxford will see its way to reconsidering a
matter so seriously affecting the interests of education and culture. It
is neither too late to remedy what has been done, nor to devise a
remedy. Let it be remembered that there is an essential distinction
between what should constitute an Honour School and what should
constitute a Pass School, between what is to educate those who are to
educate others, and what guarantees nothing more than a smattering. The
present institution could be reformed in two ways. By reducing the
philological part of its provisions to the level of the literary part,
it could, with a little further simplification, be made into an
excellent Pass School, which would supply a real want. By eliminating
the literary part, and adding proportionately to the philological, it
could be transformed into a perfectly satisfactory Honour School of
Modern Languages. But no modification could make it into an Honour
School of English Literature correspondingly adequate, for the simple
reason that the study of English Literature cannot be isolated from the
study of those literatures with which it is inseparably linked. The
absurdity of assuming that the student of Philology could separate a
single language or dialect from the group to which it belongs, that he
could isolate Anglo-Saxon from Gothic, or Middle English from
Anglo-Saxon, the Celtic of the Cymbry from the Celtic of the Gaels, is
not greater than to assume that the study of our Literature can be
severed from the study of those literatures which stand in precisely the
same relation to it as one of those dialects stands to the others in the
same group.

If the legislators of this School decline to reform it, then it is the
duty of Oxford--a duty which she owes alike to education and to her own
honour--to counteract the mischief which this institution must, by
degrading throughout England and the colonies the whole level of liberal
instruction and study on its most important side, inevitably do. To the
herd of imperfectly and erroneously disciplined teachers which this
institution will turn loose on education, let her oppose, at least, a
minority which shall worthily represent her. Let her establish a proper
degree or diploma in Literature. There exist, as we have already said,
scattered throughout the various institutions of the University, nearly
all the facilities for a complete course in this subject, and nothing
more is needed than to encourage and render possible their
co-ordination. Let it be open to a man who has obtained a high class in
Moderations and in the Final Classical Schools, who has availed himself
of the opportunities offered for the study of Modern Languages and
Literatures in the Taylorian Institute, and who has studied what he
would at present have to study for himself, our own Literature--let it
be open to him to present himself for examination in these subjects, and
to obtain, as the result of such an examination, a degree analogous to
the Bachelorship of Civil Law. It would no doubt not be possible for
these studies to be pursued, systematically, side by side with the work
required for a high class in Moderations and _Literæ Humaniores_. Nor is
it necessary. There need be no limit assigned to the time at which a
candidate would be free to qualify himself for obtaining this diploma.
As a general rule it would probably be about six months, possibly a
year, after the attainment of the present degree in Arts. And,
considering the high prizes open to teachers in Literature, it would be
well worth a student’s while to spend this additional time in preparing
himself for the examination. If a post-graduate scholarship, analogous
to the Craven or the Derby scholarships, could be founded for the
encouragement of a comparative study of Classical and Modern Literature,
an important step would, at any rate, be taken in a right direction;
something would be done for the competent equipment of future Professors
of Literature.

Thus would a precedent, disastrous beyond expression to the interests of
liberal instruction and culture, as well as to the reputation of the
University--we mean the severance of the study of Classical Literature
from that of our own--be at least deprived of its authority. Thus would
the mass at any rate be leavened, and such institutions in the provinces
and elsewhere as have, unlike Oxford and Cambridge, had the wisdom to
separate their Chairs of Language and Literature, know where to go for
those who should fill them; and thus, finally, would there be some
chance of the literary curriculum in Oxford ceasing to be a by-word in
the Universities of the Continent and America.

     Since the first edition of these essays appeared the liberality
     of Mr. John Passmore Edwards has supplied the scholarship here
     desiderated, and Oxford has instituted a University
     scholarship, bearing the donor’s name, “for the encouragement
     and promotion of the study of English Literature in connection
     with the Classical Literatures of Greece and Rome.”


[Footnote 3: For the sort of textbook from which the student who is a
candidate for “honours in English” will be required to get his knowledge
of this poem, see _infra_, the review of the Clarendon Press Edition of
Shelley’s _Adonais_.]

[Footnote 4: The Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, one of the chief
legislators for the new School, thinks otherwise, and we should like to
place the following passage on record. In his extraordinary _History of
English Prose_ (p. 485) he writes thus: “The idea that English
literature rests upon a classical basis has been formulated and
industriously circulated as the watchword of a pedantic faction, and
hardly any organ of current literature has proved itself strong enough,
or vigilant enough, to secure itself against the insidious entrance of
the above indoctrination.” And so it comes to pass that we read in the
account of the debate in Congregation, on the occasion of the former
attempt to establish this School:--

“The proposal to add the Professors of Greek and Latin to the Board of
Studies was rejected by thirty-eight votes to twenty-four, Professor
Earle maintaining that the fallacious notion that English literature was
derived from the classics was so strong that it was unwise to place even
the Professor of Latin on the Board.”--_Times_, May 26, 1887.]

[Footnote 5:

  και μην πεπωκως γ’, ὡς θρασυνεσθαι πλεον,
  βροτειον αιμα, κωμος εν δομοις μενει
  δυσπεμπτος εξω ξυγγονων Ερινυων.

  --_Agamem._, 1159-61.

[Footnote 6: For ample illustration of this, see _infra_ the review of
the Clarendon Press edition of Shelley’s _Adonais_.]

[Footnote 7: They may all be found in full in a _Pall Mall “Extra”_
(January, 1887), and in the present writer’s _Study of English

[Footnote 8: It is amusing to notice how carefully the greater part of
what is most precious and instructive in Johnson’s work, the lives
namely of Cowley and Dryden, and the noble critique of _Paradise Lost_,
is expressly excluded, and the greater part of what is most trivial, and
regarded by himself as trivial, the lives of the minor poets of the
eighteenth century, selected instead. Macaulay ranks the lives of Cowley
and Dryden, with that of Pope, as the masterpieces of the work; and
Johnson himself considered the life of Cowley to be the best.]



[Footnote 9: Shelley’s _Adonais_, edited with introduction and notes by
William Michael Rossetti. (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press.)]

If any proof were needed of what has been insisted on over and over
again, that, until the Universities provide adequately for the proper
study of English Literature--for the study of it side by side with
Classical Literature--there will be small hope of its finding competent
critics and interpreters, it would be afforded by the volume before us.
For this volume the delegates of the Oxford University Press are
responsible; and in allowing it their _imprimatur_ they have been guilty
of a very grave error. No such standard of editing would have been
tolerated in any other subject in which they undertake to provide books.
A work pertaining to Classics, to History, to Philosophy, to Science,
marked by corresponding deficiencies, would have been suppressed at
once, until those deficiencies had been supplied. To Mr. Rossetti
himself we attach no blame. What he was competent to do he has, for the
most part, done well and conscientiously,--conscientiously, as may be
judged from the fact that, while the poem itself occupies twenty pages
in large type, Mr. Rossetti’s dissertations and notes occupy one hundred
and twenty-eight in small type. It was, indeed, his misfortune, rather
than his fault, to be entrusted with a work which required a peculiar
qualification, an intimate acquaintance, that is to say, with Classical
Literature. That he has no pretension to this is abundantly plain from
his Introduction and from every page of his notes.

When one of the Universities undertakes to provide our colleges and
schools with comments and notes on a poem so saturated with classicism
as _Adonais_, the least that could be expected from bodies who are, as
it were, the guardians of classical literature, is the provision that
the classical part of the work should be done at least competently; it
would be hardly too much, perhaps, to expect that it should be done
excellently. Of this part of Mr. Rossetti’s work we scarcely know which
are the worse--his sins of commission or his sins of omission. His
classical qualifications for commenting on a poem as unintelligible,
critically speaking, without constant reference to the Platonic
dialogues, particularly to the _Symposium_ and the _Timæus_, and to the
Greek poets, as the _Æneid_ would be without reference to the Homeric
poems and the _Argonautica_ of Apollonius, appear to begin and end with
some acquaintance with Mr. Lang’s version of Bion and Moschus. We will
give a few specimens. Mr. Rossetti is greatly puzzled with Shelley’s
allusion to Urania in stanzas 2 to 4.

        “Where was lone Urania
  When Adonais died?”

  “Most musical of mourners, weep again.
  Lament, anew, Urania!”

“Why out of the nine sisters,” he asks, “should the Muse of Astronomy be
selected? Keats never wrote about astronomy.” Perhaps, he suggests,
Shelley was not thinking of the Muse Urania, “but of Aphrodite Urania.”
Yet, if so, why should she be called “musical”?--a question to be asked,
no doubt, as our old friend Falstaff would say. However, after balancing
the respective claims of both, he finally comes to the conclusion that
the Urania of _Adonais_ is Aphrodite. If Mr. Rossetti had been
acquainted with a work to which he never even refers, but which
exercised immense influence over Shelley’s poem--the _Symposium_ of
Plato--it would have saved him two pages of speculation. His ignorance
of this is the more surprising as Shelley has himself translated the
dialogue. But Mr. Rossetti need not, in this case, have gone so far
afield. Has he never read the prologue to the seventh book of Milton’s
_Paradise Lost_? In his note on the lines--

  “The one remains, the many change and pass,”

it is really pitiable to find him supposing that this is an allusion to
“the universal mind,” and “the individuated minds which we call human
beings,” when any schoolboy could have told him that the allusion is, of
course, a technical one to the Platonic “forms” or archetypes; while
“the power” in stanza 42, the “sustaining love” in stanza 54, and the
“one spirit” in stanza 43, are allusions respectively to the Aphrodite
Urania in the discourse of Eryximachus in the _Symposium_, and to the
Divine Artificer in the _Timæus_. And these dialogues form the proper
commentary on Shelley’s metaphysics in this poem.

Still more extraordinary is Mr. Rossetti’s note on “wisdom the mirrored

          “What was then
  Wisdom, the mirrored shield?”

(st. 27), which is as follows: “Shelley was, I apprehend, thinking of
the _Orlando Furioso_ of Ariosto (!). In that poem we read of a magic
shield which casts a supernatural and intolerable splendour ... a sea
monster, not a dragon, so far as I recollect, becomes one of the victims
of the mirrored shield.” This slovenly and perfunctory mode of reference
is, we may remark in passing, hardly the sort of thing to be expected
in works issued from University Presses. We wonder what the Universities
would say to an editor of Virgil who, in commenting on some Homeric
allusion in his author, contented himself with observing that Virgil “is
here thinking of the _Iliad_,” and, “so far as I can recollect,” etc.
The reference is, we need hardly remark, not to any magic shield in the
_Orlando_, but to the _scutum crystallinum_ of Pallas Athene, as any
well-informed fourth-form schoolboy would know. If Mr. Rossetti will
turn to Bacon’s _Wisdom of the Ancients_, chap. vii., he will find some
information on this subject, which may be of use to him, should this
work run into a second edition. Take, again, the note on the symbolism
of the flowers and cypress cone in stanza 33:--

  “His head was bound with pansies overblown,
    And faded violets, white and pied and blue;
  And a light spear topped with a cypress cone,
    Round whose rude shaft dark ivy tresses grew.”

Here the editor’s ignorance of ancient Classical Literature has led him
into a whole labyrinth of blunders and misconceptions. “The ivy,” he
says, “indicates constancy in friendship”! Is it credible that a
Clarendon Press editor should be ignorant that ivy--_doctarum hederæ
præmia frontium_--is the emblem of the poet? The violet, he remarks,
indicates modesty. It neither indicates, nor can possibly indicate,
anything of the kind. Its traditional signification, deduced perhaps
from Pliny’s remark (_Nat. Hist._, xxi. c. 38), that it is one of the
longest-lived of flowers, is fidelity. But the passage of which Shelley
was thinking when he wrote this stanza--a passage to which Mr. Rossetti
makes no reference at all, was _Hamlet_, act iv. sc. 1: “There is
pansies that’s for thoughts.... I would give you some violets, but they
withered all when my father died.” So that it is quite possible that the
“faded violets,” associated as these flowers are with the Muses and the
Graces, merely symbolize the fading and drooping towards what may be
further symbolized in the cypress cone,--death. We are by no means sure,
however, that the cypress cone does, as Mr. Rossetti remarks, “explain
itself.” Shelley, assuming he gave the image another application, was
doubtless thinking of Silvanus--“teneram ab radice ferens, Silvane,
cupressum,” _Georg._ i. 20 (see, too, Spenser’s _Faerie Queene_, I. vi.
st. 14), and may possibly have been symbolizing his sympathy with the
genius of the woods--have been referring to that “gazing on Nature’s
naked loveliness,” which he describes in stanza 31. In any case, Mr.
Rossetti has entirely misinterpreted the meaning of the whole passage.

Wherever classical knowledge is required--as it is in almost every
stanza--he either gives no note at all, or he blunders. Thus in stanza
24 he gives no note on the use of the word “secret.” In stanza 28 he has
evidently not the smallest notion of the meaning of the word “obscene”
as applied to ravens. The fine adaptations from _Lucretius_ (II.
578-580) in stanza 21, and again from II. 990-1010 in stanzas 20 and 42;
the adaptation from the _Agamemnon_ (49-51) in stanza 17; from the
fragments of the _Polyidus_ of Euripides in stanza 39; from the _Iliad_
(vi. 484) in stanza 34; from Theocritus, _Idyll._, i. 66, and Virg.,
_Ecl._, x. 9-10 in stanza 2; and again from Theocritus, _Idyll._, i. 77
seqq., from which the procession of the mourners is adapted, and on
which the whole architecture of the poem is modelled--all these are
alike unnoticed. Nor is Mr. Rossetti more fortunate in explaining
allusions to passages in other literatures. The adaptation of the
sublime passage in Isaiah (xiv. 9, 10), by which one of the finest parts
of the poem was suggested, stanzas 45 and 46; the singular reminiscence
in stanza 28:--

              “The vultures
  ... Whose wings rain contagion;”

of Marlowe’s _Jew of Malta_, act ii. sc. 1, where he speaks of the raven

  “Doth shake contagion from her sable wings;”

the obvious reminiscence of Dante, _Inf._, 44 seqq. in stanza 44; of
Shakespeare’s _Romeo and Juliet_, v. 3, which forms the proper
commentary on lines 7 and 8 of stanza 3; of none of these is any notice
taken. On many important points of interpretation we differ _toto
cœlo_ from Mr. Rossetti. The “fading splendour,” for example, in
stanza 22, cannot possibly mean “fading as being overcast by sorrow and
dismay” (cf. stanza 25), it simply means vanishing, receding from
sight--a magnificently graphic epithet. Is Mr. Rossetti acquainted with
the proleptic use of adjectives and participles? We may add that Mr.
Rossetti has not even taken the trouble to ascertain who was the writer
of the famous article, of which so much is said both in the preface of
the poem and in the poem itself, but “presumes,” etc. _Et sic omnia._
And _sic omnia_ it will inevitably continue to be, until the
Universities are prepared to do their duty to education by placing the
study of our national Literature on a proper footing.

It is, we repeat, no reproach to Mr. Rossetti, who has distinguished
himself in more important studies than the production of scholastic
text-books, that he should have failed in an undertaking which happened
to require peculiar qualifications. Indeed, our respect for Mr. Rossetti
and our sense of his useful services to Belles Lettres would have
induced us to spare him the annoyance of an exposure of the deficiencies
of this work, had it not illustrated, so comprehensively and so
strikingly, the disastrous effects of the severance of the study of
English Literature from that of Ancient Classical Literature at our



[Footnote 10: _Shakespeare--Select Plays. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark_
(Oxford: at the Clarendon Press. MDCCCXC.)]

More than a century and a half has passed since Pope thus expressed
himself about philologists,--

  “‘Tis true on words is still our whole debate,
  Dispute of _Me_ or _Te_, of _aut_ or _at_,
  To sound or sink in _Cano_ O or A,
  To give up Cicero or C or K;
  The critic eye, that microscope of wit,
  Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit;
  How parts relate to parts or they to whole,
  The body’s harmony, the beaming soul,
  Are things which Kuster, Burmann, Wasse shall see,
  When man’s whole frame is obvious to a _Flea_.”

We need scarcely say that we have far too much respect for Dr. Aldis
Wright and for his distinguished coadjutor to apply such a description
as this to them as individuals, for no one can appreciate more heartily
than we do their monumental contribution to the textual criticism of
Shakespeare, but we can make no such reserve in speaking of this edition
of _Hamlet_. A more deplorable illustration, we do not say of the
subjection of Literature to Philology, for that would very imperfectly
represent the fact, but of the absolute substitution of Philology, and
of Philology in the lowest sense of the term, for Literature it would be
impossible to imagine. Had it been expressly designed to prove that its
editors were wholly unconscious of the artistic, literary, and
philosophical significance of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, it could
scarcely have taken a more appropriate form.

The volume contains 117 pages of Shakespeare’s text, printed in large
type; the text is preceded by a preface of twelve pages, and followed by
notes occupying no less than 121 pages in very small type; so that the
work of the poet stands in pretty much the same relation to that of his
commentators as Falstaff’s bread stood to his sack. In the case of a
play like _Hamlet_, so subtle, so suggestive, so pregnant with critical
and philosophical problems of all kinds, commentary on a scale like this
might have been quite appropriate. But in this stupendous mass of
exegesis and illustration there is, with the exception of one short
passage, literally not a line about the play as a work of art, not a
line about its structure and architecture, about its style, about its
relations to æsthetic, about its metaphysic, its ethic, about the
character of Hamlet, or about the character of any other person who
figures in the drama. The only indication that it is regarded in any
other light than as affording material for philological and antiquarian
discussion is a short quotation, huddled in at the conclusion of the
preface, from Goethe’s _Wilhelm Meister_, and an intimation that
“Hamlet’s madness has formed the subject of special investigation by
several writers, among others by Dr. Conolly and Sir Edward Strachey.”

A more comprehensive illustration of the truth of the indictment brought
against philologists by Voltaire, Pope, Lessing, and Sainte-Beuve than
is supplied by the notes in this volume it would be difficult to find.
Dulness, of course, may be assumed, and of mere dulness we do not
complain; but a combination of prolixity, irrelevance, and absolute
incapacity to distinguish between what to ninety-nine persons in every
hundred must be purely useless and what to ninety-nine persons in every
hundred is the information which they expect from a commentator, is
intolerable. We will give a few illustrations. A plain man or a student
for examination comes to these lines:--

    “‘Tis the sport to have the enginer
  Hoist with his own petar;”

and, though he knows what the general sense is wishes to know exactly
what Shakespeare means. He turns to the note for enlightenment, and the
enlightenment he gets is this:--

     “_Enginer._ Changed in the quarto of 1676 to the more modern
     form of engineer. Compare _Troilus and Cressida_ ii. 3. 8,
     “Then there’s Achilles a rare enginer.” For a cognate form
     mutiner see note on iii. 4. 83. So we have pioner for pioneer
     _Othello_ iii. 3. 346. _Hoist_ may be the participle either of
     the verb ‘hoise’ or ‘hoist.’ In the latter case it would be the
     common abbreviated form for the participles of verbs ending in
     a dental. _Petar._ So spelt in the quartos, and by all editors
     to Johnson, who writes ‘petards.’ In Cotgrave we have ‘Petart:
     a Petard or Petarre; an Engine (made like a bell or morter)
     wherewith strong gates,’  etc.”--

And so the hungry sheep looks up and is not fed. Again, he finds--

  “He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice,”

turns to the note, and reads:--

     “_Polacks._ The quartos have ‘pollax,’ the two earliest folios
     read ‘Pollax,’ the third ‘Polax,’ the fourth ‘Poleaxe.’ Pope
     read ‘Polack’ and Malone ‘Polacks.’ The word occurs four times
     in _Hamlet_. For ‘the sledded Polacks’ Molke reads ‘his leaded
     pole-axe.’ But this would be an anticlimax, and the poet,
     having mentioned ‘Norway’ in the first clause, would certainly
     have told us with whom the ‘parle’ was held.”

The poet Young noted how

  “Commentators each dark passage shun,
  And hold their farthing candles to the sun.”

The Clarendon Press editors are certainly adepts in these
accomplishments. Take one out of a myriad illustrations. The line in Act
i. sc. 2, “The dead vast and middle of the night,” is the signal for a
note extending to twelve closely printed lines. “’Tis bitter cold, and I
am sick at heart,” says Francisco. If any note were needed here, it
might have been devoted to pointing out to tiros the fine subjective
touch. The note is this:--

     “_Bitter cold._ Here bitter is used adverbially to qualify the
     adjective ‘cold.’ So we have ‘daring hardy’ in _Richard II._ i.
     3. 43. When the combination is likely to be misunderstood,
     modern editors generally put a hyphen between the two words.
     _Sick at heart._ So _Macbeth_ v. 3. 19, ‘I am sick at heart.’
     We have also in _Love’s Labour’s Lost_ ii. 1. 185, ‘sick at the
     heart,’ and _Romeo and Juliet_ iii. 3. 72, ‘heart-sick

Now let us see how the poor student fares when real difficulties occur.
Every reader of Shakespeare is familiar with the corrupt passage, Act
iv. sc. 1:--

                       “The dram of eale
  Doth all the noble substance of worth out
  To his own scandal--

a passage which, as all Shakespearian scholars know, has been
satisfactorily emended and explained. We turn to the notes for guidance,
and find ourselves treated as poor Mrs. Quickly was treated by Falstaff,
“fubbed off”--thus:--

     “We leave this hopelessly corrupt passage as it stands in the
     two earliest quartos. The others read ‘ease’ for ‘eale,’ and
     modern writers have conjectured for the same word base, ill,
     bale, ale, evil, ail, vile, lead. For ‘of a doubt’ it has been
     proposed to substitute ‘of worth out,’ ‘soul with doubt,’ ‘oft
     adopt,’ ‘oft work out,’ ‘of good out,’ ‘of worth dout,’ ‘often
     dout,’ ‘often doubt,’ ‘oft adoubt,’ ‘oft delase,’ ‘over-cloud,’
     ‘of a pound,’ and others.”

This, it may be added, is the sort of stuff--_incredibile dictu_--that
our children have to get by heart; for this Press, be it remembered,
practically controls half the English Literature examinations in
England. As students know quite well that nine examiners out of ten will
set their questions from “the Clarendon Press notes,” it is with “the
Clarendon Press notes” that they are obliged to cram themselves. But to
continue. Even a well-read man might be excused for not knowing the
exact meaning of the following expression:--

  “They clepe us drunkards, and with _swinish phrase
  Soil our addition_.”

He turns to the notes, and having been briefly informed that _clepe_
means “call,” and _addition_ “title,” is left to flounder with what he
can get out of--“Could Shakespeare have had in his mind any pun upon
‘Sweyn,’ which was a common name of the kings of Denmark?”

Another leading characteristic of the _genus_ philologist, we mean the
preposterous importance attached by them to the smallest trifles, finds
ludicrous illustration in the following note:--

  “My father, in his habit, as he lived!”

exclaims Hamlet to his mother. This is the signal for:--

     “There is supposed to be a difficulty in these words, because
     in the earlier scenes the Ghost is in his armour, to which the
     word ‘habit’ is regarded as inappropriate. In the earlier form
     of the play, as it appears in the quarto of 1603, the Ghost
     enters ‘in his nightgowne,’ and as the words ‘in the habit as
     he lived’ occur in the corresponding passage of that edition,
     it is probable that on this occasion the Ghost appeared in the
     ordinary dress of the king, although this is not indicated in
     the stage directions of the other quartos or of the folios.”

As a possible solution of this grave difficulty, we would suggest that,
as the Ghost was undoubtedly in a very hot place, he might have found
his nightgown less oppressive than his armour, and though it would
certainly have been more decorous to have exchanged his nightgown for
his uniform on revisiting the earth, yet, as the visit was to his wife,
he thought perhaps less seriously about his apparel than our editors
have done. We have nothing to warrant us in assuming that he was in his
“ordinary dress.” The choice must lie between the nightgown and the
armour. But a truce to jesting.

If any one would understand the opacity and callousness which
philological study induces, we would refer them to the note on Hamlet’s
last sublime words, “The rest is silence”:--

     “The quartos have ‘Which have solicited, the rest is silence.’
     The folios, ‘Which have solicited. The rest is silence.’ ‘O, O,
     O, O. _Dyes._’ If Hamlet’s speech is interrupted by his death
     it would be more natural that the words ‘The rest is silence’
     should be spoken by Horatio.”

We said at the beginning of this article that there was not a word of
commentary on the poetical merits of the play. We beg the editors’
pardon. They have in one note, and in one note only, ventured on an
expression of critical opinion. We all know the lines--

  “There is a willow grows aslant a brook
  That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream,”

etc., etc. We transcribe the note on this passage that it may be a sign
to all men of what Philology is able to effect, an omen and testimony of
what must inevitably be the fate of Literature if the direction and
regulation of its study be entrusted to philologists:--

     “This speech of the Queen is certainly unworthy of its author
     and of the occasion. The enumeration of plants is quite as
     unsuitable to so tragical a scene as the description of Dover
     cliff in _King Lear_ iv. 6. 11-24. Besides there was no one by
     to witness the death of Ophelia, else she would have been

As this beggars commentary, transcription shall suffice.

Now we would ask any sensible person who has followed us, we do not say
in our own remarks--for they may be supposed to be the expression of
biassed opinion--but in the specimens we have given of such an edition
as this of _Hamlet_, and of such an edition as we have just reviewed of
_Adonais_, what is likely to be the fate of English Literature, as a
subject of teaching, so long as our Universities ignore their
responsibilities as the centres of culture by not only countenancing,
but assisting in the production and dissemination of such publications
as these? How can we expect anything but anarchy wherever the subject
is treated?--there an extreme of flaccid dilettantism, here an extreme
of philological pedantry. Conceive the tone and temper which, especially
at the impressionable age of the students for whom the book is intended,
the study of Shakespeare, under such guides as the editors of this
_Hamlet_, would be likely to induce. Is it not monstrous that young
students between the ages of about fifteen and eighteen should have such
text books as these inflicted on them?

The radical fault of those who regulate education in our Universities
and elsewhere, and prescribe our schoolbooks, is their deplorable want
of judgment. They seem to be utterly incapable of distinguishing between
what is proper for pure specialists and what is proper for ordinary
students. There is not a page in this edition which does not proclaim
aloud, that it could never have been intended for the purposes to which
it has been applied, that it is the work of technical scholars,
concerned only in textual and philological criticism and exegesis, and
appealing only to those who approach the study of Shakespeare in the
same spirit and from the same point of view. Anything more sickening and
depressing, anything more calculated to make the name of Shakespeare an
abomination to the youth of England it would be impossible for man to
devise. It is shameful to prescribe such books for study in our Schools
and Educational Institutes.



[Footnote 11: _A Short History of English Literature._ By George
Saintsbury, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the
University of Edinburgh.]

This Short History is evidently designed for the use of serious readers,
for the ordinary reader who will naturally look to it for general
instruction and guidance in the study of English Literature, and to whom
it will serve as a book of reference; for students in schools and
colleges, to many of whom it will, in all likelihood, be prescribed as a
textbook; for teachers engaged in lecturing and in preparing pupils for
examination. Of all these readers there will not be one in a hundred who
will not be obliged to take its statements on trust, to assume that its
facts are correct, that its generalizations are sound, that its
criticisms and critical theories are at any rate not absurd. It need
hardly be said that, under these circumstances, a writer who had any
pretension to conscientiousness would do his utmost to avoid all such
errors as ordinary diligence could easily prevent, that he would guard
scrupulously against random assertions and reckless misstatements, that
he would, in other words, spare no pains to deserve the confidence
placed in him by those who are not qualified to check his statements or
question his dogmas, and who naturally suppose that the post which he
occupies is a sufficient guarantee of the soundness and accuracy of his
work. But so far from Professor Saintsbury having any sense of what is
due to his position and to his readers, he has imported into his work
the worst characteristics of irresponsible journalism: generalizations,
the sole supports of which are audacious assertions, and an indifference
to exactness and accuracy, as well with respect to important matters as
in trifles, so scandalous as to be almost incredible.

Sir Thomas More said of Tyndale’s version of the New Testament that to
seek for errors in it was to look for drops of water in the sea. What
was said very unfairly of Tyndale’s work may be said with literal truth
of Professor Saintsbury’s. The utmost extent of the space at our
disposal will only suffice for a few illustrations. We will select those
which appear to us most typical. In the chapter on Anglo-Saxon
literature the Professor favours us with the astounding statement, that
in Anglo-Saxon poetry “there is practically no lyric.”[12] It is
scarcely necessary to say that not only does Anglo-Saxon poetry abound
in lyrics, but that it is in its lyrical note that its chief power and
charm consists. In the threnody of the _Ruin_, and the _Grave_, in the
sentimental pathos of the _Seafarer_, of _Deor’s Complaint_, and of the
remarkable fragment describing the husband’s pining for his wife, in the
fiery passion of the three great war-songs, in the glowing subjective
intensity of the _Judith_, in the religious ecstasy of the _Holy Rood_
and of innumerable passages in the other poems attributed to Cynewulf,
and of the poem attributed to Cædmon, deeper and more piercing lyric
notes have never been struck. Take such a passage as the following from
the _Satan_, typical, it may be added, of scores of others:--

  “O thou glory of the Lord! Guardian of Heaven’s hosts,
  O thou might of the Creator! O thou mid-circle!
  O thou bright day of splendour! O thou jubilee of God!
  O ye hosts of angels! O thou highest heaven!
  O that I am shut from the everlasting jubilee,
  That I cannot reach my hands again to Heaven,
  ... Nor hear with my ears ever again
  The clear-ringing harmony of the heavenly trumpets.”[13]

And this is a poetry which has “practically no lyric”! On page 2 the
Professor tells us that there is no rhyme in Anglo-Saxon poetry; on page
18 we find him giving an account of the rhyming poem in the _Exeter
Book_. Of Mr. Saintsbury’s method of dealing with particular works and
particular authors, one or two examples must suffice. He tells us on
page 125 that the heroines in Chaucer’s _Legend of Good Women_ are “the
most hapless and blameless of Ovid’s Heroides.” It would be interesting
to know what connexion Cleopatra, whose story comes first, has with
Ovid’s Heroides, or if the term “Heroides” be, as it appears to be, (for
it is printed in italics) the title of Ovid’s Heroic Epistles, what
connexion four out of the ten have with Ovid’s work. In any case the
statement is partly erroneous and wholly misleading. In the account
given of the Scotch poets, the Professor, speaking of Douglas’
translation of the _Æneid_, says, he “does not embroider on his text.”
This is an excellent illustration of the confidence which may be placed
in Mr. Saintsbury’s assertions about works on which most of his readers
must take what he says on trust. Douglas is continually “embroidering on
his text,” indeed, he habitually does so. We open his translation purely
at random; we find him turning _Æneid_ II. 496-499:--

  “Non sic, aggeribus ruptis cum spumeus amnis
  Exiit, oppositasque evicit gurgite moles,
  Fertur in arva furens cumulo, camposque per omnes
  Cum stabulis armenta trahit.”

  “Not sa fersly the fomy river or flude
  Brekkis over the bankis on spait quhen it is wode.
  And with his brusch and fard of water brown
  The dykys and the schorys betis down,
  Ourspreddand croftis and flattis wyth hys spate
  Our all the feyldis that they may row ane bate
  Quhill houssis and the flokkis flittis away,
  The corne grangis and standard stakkys of hay.”

We open _Æneid_ IX. 2:--

  “Irim de cœlo misit Saturnia Juno
  Audacem ad Turnum. Luco tum forte parentis
  Pilumni Turnus sacratâ valle sedebat.
  Ad quem sic roseo Thaumantias ore locuta est.”

We find it turned:--

        “Juno that lyst not blyn
  Of hir auld malyce and iniquyte,
  Hir madyn Iris from hevin sendys sche
  To the bald Turnus malapart and stout;
  Quhilk for the tyme was wyth al his rout
  Amyd ane vale wonnder lovn and law,
  Syttand at eys within the hallowit schaw
  Of God Pilumnus his progenitor.
  Thamantis dochter knelys him before,
  I meyn Iris thys ilk fornamyt maide,
  And with hir rosy lippis thus him said.”

We turn to the end of the tenth _Æneid_ and we find him introducing six
lines which have nothing to correspond with them in the original. And
this is a translator who “does not embroider on his text”! It is
perfectly plain that Professor Saintsbury has criticised and commented
on a work which he could never have inspected. The same ignorance is
displayed in the account of Lydgate. He is pronounced to be a versifier
rather than a poet, his verse is described as “sprawling and
staggering.” The truth is that Lydgate’s style and verse are often of
exquisite beauty, that he was a poet of fine genius, that his
descriptions of nature almost rival Chaucer’s, that his powers of pathos
are of a high order, that, at his best, he is one of the most musical of
poets. We have not space to illustrate what must be obvious to any one
who has not gone to encyclopædias and handbooks for his knowledge of
this poet’s writings, but who is acquainted with the original. It will
not be disputed that Gray and Warton were competent judges of these
matters, and their verdict must be substituted for what we have not
space to prove and illustrate. “I do not pretend,” Gray says, “to set
Lydgate on a level with his master Chaucer, but he certainly comes the
nearest to him of any contemporary writer that I am acquainted with. His
choice of expression and the smoothness of his verse far surpass both
Gower and Occleve.” Of one passage in Lydgate, Gray has observed that
“it has touched the very heart strings of compassion with so masterly a
hand as to merit a place among the greatest poets.”[14] Warton also
notices his “perspicuous and musical numbers,” and “the harmony,
strength, and dignity” of his verses.[15]

Turn where we will we are confronted with blunders. Take the account
given of Shakespeare. He began his metre, we are told, with the
lumbering “fourteeners.” He did, so far as is known, nothing of the
kind. Again: “It is only by guesses that anything is dated before the
_Comedy of Errors_ at the extreme end of 1594.” In answer to this it may
be sufficient to say that _Venus and Adonis_ was published in 1593, that
the first part of _Henry VI._ was acted on 3rd March, 1592, that _Titus
Andronicus_ was acted on 25th January, 1594, and that _Lucrece_ was
entered on the Stationers’ books 9th May, 1594. This is on a par with
the assertion, on page 315, that Shakespeare was traditionally born on
24th April! On page 320 we are told that _Measure for Measure_ belongs
to the first group of Shakespeare’s plays, to the series beginning with
_Love’s Labour’s Lost_ and culminating with the _Midsummer Night’s
Dream_. It is only fair to say that the Professor places a note of
interrogation after it in a bracket, but that it should have been placed
there, even tentatively, shows an ignorance of the very rudiments of
Shakespearian criticism which is nothing short of astounding. Take,
again, the account given of Burke. Our readers will probably think us
jesting when we tell them that Professor Saintsbury gravely informs us
that Burke supported the American Revolution. Is the Professor
unacquainted with the two finest speeches which have ever been delivered
in any language since Cicero? Can he possibly be ignorant that Burke, so
far from supporting that revolution, did all in his power to prevent it?
The whole account of Burke, it may be added, teems with inaccuracies.
The American Revolution was not brought about under a Tory
administration. What brought that revolution about was Charles
Townshend’s tax, and that tax was imposed under a Whig administration,
as every well-informed Board-school lad would know. Burke did not lose
his seat at Bristol owing to his support of Roman Catholic claims. If
Professor Saintsbury had turned to one of the finest of Burke’s minor
speeches--the speech addressed to the electors of Bristol--he would have
seen that Burke’s support of the Roman Catholic claims was only one, and
that not the most important, of the causes which cost him his seat.
Similar ignorance is displayed in the remark (p. 629) that “Burke
joined, and indeed headed, the crusade against Warren Hastings, in
1788.” The prosecution of Warren Hastings was undertaken on Burke’s sole
initiative, not in 1788, but in 1785. A few lines onwards we are told
that the series of Burke’s writings on the French Revolution “began with
the _Reflections_ in 1790, and was continued in the _Letter to a Noble
Lord_, 1790.” _A Letter to a Noble Lord_ had nothing to do with the
French Revolution, except collaterally as it affected Burke’s public
conduct, and appeared, not in 1790, but in 1795.

It seems impossible to open this book anywhere without alighting on some
blunder, or on some inaccuracy. Speaking (p. 277) of Willoughby’s
well-known _Avisa_, the Professor observes that nothing is known of
Willoughby or of _Avisa_. If the Professor had known anything about the
work, he would have known that _Avisa_ is simply an anagram made up of
the initial letters of _Amans_, _vxor_, _inviolata semper amanda_, and
that nothing is known of Avisa for the simple reason that nothing is
known of the site of More’s Utopia. On page 360 we are told that Phineas
Fletcher’s _Piscatory Eclogues_, which are, of course, confounded with
his _Sicelides_, are a masque; on page 624, but this is perhaps a
printer’s error, that Robertson wrote a history of Charles I. On page
482, John Pomfret, the author of one of the most popular poems of the
eighteenth century, is called Thomas. On page 550, Pope’s _Moral
Essays_ are described as _An Epistle to Lord Burlington_, presumably
because the last of them, the fourth, is addressed to that nobleman. On
page 587 we are told that Mickle died in London: he died at Forest Hill,
near Oxford. On page 556 we are informed that Prior was part author of a
parody of the “Hind and Panther,” and that he was “imprisoned for some
years.” The work referred to is wrongly described, as it only contained
parodies of certain passages in Dryden’s poem, and he was in confinement
less than two years. On page 358, Brutus, the legendary founder of
Britain, is actually described as the son of Æneas. If Professor
Saintsbury were as familiar as he affects to be with Geoffrey of
Monmouth, with Layamon and with the early metrical romances, he would
have known that Brutus is fabled to have been the son of Sylvius, the
son of Ascanius, and, consequently, the great-grandson of Æneas. Many of
the Professor’s critical remarks can only be explained on the
supposition that he assumes that his readers will not take the trouble
to verify his references or question his dogmas. We will give one or two
instances. On page 468, speaking of seventeenth-century prose, he says,
with reference to Milton: “The close of the _Apology_ itself is a very
little, though only a very little, inferior to the _Hydriotaphia_.” By
the _Apology_ he can only mean the _Apology for Smectymnuus_, for the
defence of the English people is in Latin. Now, will our readers credit
that one of the flattest, clumsiest and most commonplace passages in
Milton’s prose writings, as any one may see who turns to it, is
pronounced “only a little inferior” to one of the most majestically
eloquent passages in our prose literature. That our readers may know
what Professor Saintsbury’s notions of eloquence are, we will transcribe
the passage:

     “Thus ye have heard, readers, how many shifts and wiles the
     prelates have invented to save their ill-got booty. And if it
     be true, as in Scripture it is foretold, that pride and
     covetousness are the sure marks of those false prophets which
     are to come, then boldly conclude these to be as great seducers
     as any of the latter times. For between this and the judgment
     day do not look for any arch deceivers who, in spite of
     reformation, will use more craft or less shame to defend their
     love of the world and their ambition than these prelates have
     done. And if ye think that soundness of reason or what force of
     argument so ever shall bring them to an ingenuous silence, ye
     think that which shall never be. But if ye take that course
     which Erasmus was wont to say Luther took against the pope and
     monks: if ye denounce war against their riches and their
     bellies, ye shall soon discern that turban of pride which they
     wear upon their heads to be no helmet of salvation, but the
     mere metal and hornwork of papal jurisdiction; and that they
     have also this gift, like a certain kind of some that are
     possessed, to have their voice in their bellies, which, being
     well drained and taken down, their great oracle, which is only
     there, will soon be dumb, and the divine right of episcopacy
     forthwith expiring will put us no more to trouble with tedious
     antiquities and disputes.”

And this is “a very little, only a very little, inferior,” to the

On page 652, Swift’s style, that perfection of simple, unadorned _sermo
pedestris_--is described as marked by “volcanic magnificence.” On page
300 Hooker is described as “having an unnecessary fear of vivid and
vernacular expression.” Vivid and vernacular expression is, next to its
stateliness, the distinguishing characteristic of Hooker’s style. It
would be interesting to know what is meant by the remark on page 445
that Barrow’s style is “less severe than South’s.” Another example of
the same thing is the assertion on page 517 that Joseph Glanville is one
of “the chief exponents of the gorgeous style in the seventeenth
century.” Very ‘gorgeous’ the style of the _Vanity of Dogmatizing_, of
its later edition the _Scepsis Scientifica_, of the _Sadducismus
Triumphatus_, of the _Lux Orientalis_, and of the Essays!

Indeed, the Professor’s critical dicta are as amazing as his facts. We
have only space for one or two samples. Cowley’s _Anacreontics_ are “not
very far below Milton”(!) Dr. Donne was “the most gifted man of letters
next to Shakespeare.” Where Bacon, where Ben Jonson, where Milton are to
stand is not indicated. Akenside’s stilted and frigid _Odes_ “fall not
so far short of Collins.” We wonder what Mr. Saintsbury’s criterion of
poetry can be. But we forget, with that criterion he has furnished us.
On page 732, speaking of “a story about a hearer who knew no English,
but knew Tennyson to be a poet by the hearing,” he adds that “the story
is probable and valuable, or rather invaluable, for it points to the
best if not the only criterion of poetry.” And this is a critic! We
would exhort the Professor to ponder well Pope’s lines:

  “But most by numbers judge a poet’s song,

         *       *       *       *       *

  In the bright muse, tho’ thousand charms conspire,
  Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire,
  Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear.”

On page 734 we are told Browning’s _James Lee_--the Professor probably
means _James Lee’s Wife_--is amongst “the greatest poems of the
century.” On Wordsworth’s line, judged not in relation to its context,
but as a single verse--“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”--we
have the following as commentary: “Even Shakespeare, even Shelley have
little more of the echoing detonation, the auroral light of true
poetry”; very “echoing,” very “detonating”--the rhythm of “Our birth is
but a sleep and a forgetting.” Mr. Saintsbury’s notions of what
constitutes detonation and auroral light in poetry appear to resemble
his notions of what constitutes eloquence in prose. Nothing, we may add
in passing, is more amusing in this volume than Mr. Saintsbury’s cool
assumption of equality as a critical authority with such a critic as
Matthew Arnold, whom he sometimes patronises, sometimes corrects, and
sometimes assails. The Professor does not show to advantage on these
occasions, and he leaves us with the impression that if “Mr. Arnold’s
criticism is piecemeal, arbitrary, fantastic, and insane,” the criticism
which appears, where it is not mere nonsense, to take its touchstones,
its standards, and its canons from those of the average Philistine is,
after all, a very poor substitute. But enough of Mr. Saintsbury’s
“criticism,” which is, almost uniformly, as absurd in what it praises as
in what it censures.

The style, or, to borrow an expression from Swift, what the poverty of
our language compels us to call the style, in which this book is
written, is on a par with its criticism. We will give a few examples.
“It is a proof of the greatness of Dryden that he knew Milton for a
poet; it is a proof of the smallness (and mighty as he was on some
sides, on others he was very small) of Milton that (if he really did so)
he denied poetry to Dryden.”[16] “What the _Voyage and Travaile_ really
is, is this--it is, so far as we know, and even beyond our knowledge in
all probability and likelihood, the first considerable example of prose
in English dealing neither with the beaten track of theology and
philosophy, nor with the, even in the Middle Ages, restricted field of
history and home topography, but expatiating freely on unguarded plains
and on untrodden hills, sometimes dropping into actual prose romance and
always treating its subject as the poets had treated theirs in _Brut_
and _Mort d’Arthur_, in _Troy-book_ and _Alexandreid_, as a mere canvas
on which to embroider flowers of fancy.”[17] Again, “With Anglo-Saxon
history he deals slightly, and despite his ardent English
patriotism--his book opens with a vigorous panegyric of England, the
first of a series extending to the present day (from which an anthology
_De Laudibus Angliæ_ might be made)--he deals very harshly with Harold
Godwinson.”[18] “He had a fit of stiff Odes in the Gray and Collins
manner.” “_The Hind and Panther_ (the greatest poem ever written in the
teeth of its subject)”. “His voluminous Latin works have been _tackled_
by a special Wyclif Society.” These are a few of the gems in which every
chapter abounds.

Of Professor Saintsbury’s indifference to exactness and accuracy in
details and facts we need go no further for illustrations than to his
dates. Such things cannot be regarded as trifles in a book designed to
be a book of reference. We will give a few instances. We are informed on
page 238 that Ascham’s _Schoolmaster_ was published in 1568; it was
published, as its title-page shows, in 1570. Hume’s _Dissertations_
were first published, not in 1762, but in 1757. Bale’s flight to
Germany was not in 1547, when such a step would have been unnecessary,
but in 1540. Pecock was, we are told, translated to Chichester in 1550,
exactly ninety years after his death! As if to perplex the readers of
this book, two series of dates are given; we have the dates in the
narrative and the dates in the index, and no attempt is made to
reconcile the discrepancies. Accordingly we find in the narrative that
Caxton was probably born in 1415--in the index that he was born in 1422;
in the narrative that Latimer, Fisher, Gascoign and Atterbury were born
respectively in 1489, in 1465, about 1537 and in 1672--in the index that
they were born respectively in 1485, 1459, 1525 and 1662; in the
narrative Gay was born in 1688--in the index he was born in 1685. In the
narrative Collins dies in 1756, and Mrs. Browning is born in 1806--in
the index Collins dies in 1759, and Mrs. Browning is born in 1809. The
narrative tells us that Aubrey was born in 1626, and John Dyer _circa_
1688--in the index that Aubrey was born in 1624 and Dyer _circa_ 1700.
In the index Mark Pattison dies in 1884--in the narrative he dies in
1889. In Professor Saintsbury’s eyes such indifference to accuracy may
be venial: in our opinion it is nothing less than scandalous. It is
assuredly most unfair to those who will naturally expect to find in a
book of reference trustworthy information.

We must now conclude, though we have very far from exhausted the list of
errors and misstatements, of absurdities in criticism and absurdities in
theory, which we have noted. Bacon has observed that the best part of
beauty is that which a picture cannot express. It may be said, with
equal truth, of a bad book, that what is worst in it is precisely that
which it is most difficult to submit to tangible tests. In other words,
it lies not so much in its errors and inaccuracies, which, after all,
may be mere trifles and excrescences, but it lies in its tone and
colour, its flavour, its accent. Professor Saintsbury appears to be
constitutionally incapable of distinguishing vulgarity and coarseness
from liveliness and vigour. So far from having any pretension to the
finer qualities of the critic, he seems to take a boisterous pride in
exhibiting his grossness.

If our review of this book shall seem unduly harsh, we are sorry, but a
more exasperating writer than Professor Saintsbury, with his
indifference to all that should be dear to a scholar, the mingled
coarseness, triviality and dogmatism of his tone, the audacious nonsense
of his generalisations, and the offensive vulgarity of his diction and
style--a very well of English defiled--we have never had the misfortune
to meet with. Turn where we will in this work, to the opinions expressed
in it, to the sentiments, to the verdicts, to the style, the note is the
same,--the note of the _Das Gemeine_.


[Footnote 12: Page 37.]

[Footnote 13:

  Eá lâ drihtenes þrym! eá lâ duguða helm!
  eá lâ meotodes miht! eá lâ middaneard!
  eá lâ däg leóhta! eá lâ dreám godes!
  eá lâ engla þreát! eá lâ upheofon!
  eá lâ þät ic eam ealles leás êcan dreámes,
  þät ic mid handum ne mäg heofon geræcan
  ne mid eágum ne môt up lôcian
  ne hûru mid eárum ne sceal æfre gehêran
  þære byrhtestan bêman stefne.

  --_Satan._ edit. Grein, 164-172.

[Footnote 14: _Some Remarks on Lydgate._ Gray, Aldine Ed. v. 292-321.]

[Footnote 15: That Lydgate’s verse should occasionally be rough and
halting is partly to be attributed to the wretched state in which his
text has come down to us from the copyists, and partly to the arbitrary
way in which he varies the accent. His heroic couplets in the _Storie of
Thebes_ are certainly very unmusical. For the whole question of his
versification see Dr. Schick, Introduction to his edition of _The Temple
of Glas_, pp. liv.-lxiii., and Schipper, _Altenglische Metrik_, 492-500.
But neither of these scholars does justice to the exquisite music of his
verse at its best.]

[Footnote 16: Page 474.]

[Footnote 17: Page 150.]

[Footnote 18: Page 63.]



[Footnote 19: _A Short History of Modern English Literature._ By Edmund
Gosse. London, 1898.]

The author of this work has plainly not pondered the advice of Horace,
“Sumite materiam vestris, qui scribitis, æquam viribus.” His ambitious
purpose is “to give the reader, whether familiar with books or not, a
feeling of the evolution of English Literature in the primary sense of
the term,” and he adds that “to do this without relation to particular
authors and particular works seems to me impossible.” This may be
conceded; for, a feeling of the evolution of English or of any other
literature, without reference to particular authors and particular
books, would be analogous to the capacity for feeling without anything
to feel. But, unfortunately, those of Mr. Gosse’s readers who wish to
have the feeling to which he refers will merely find the conditions
without which, as he so justly observes, the said feeling is
impossible. In other words, references, in the form of loose and
desultory gossip, to particular authors and particular works
chronologically arranged, are all that represent the “evolution” of
which he is so anxious “to give a feeling.”

Described simply, the work is an ordinary manual of English Literature
in which, with Mr. Humphry Ward’s _English Poets_, Sir Henry Craik’s
_English Prose Writers_, Chambers’ _Cyclopædia of English Literature_,
the _Dictionary of National Biography_, and the like before him, the
writer tells again the not unfamiliar story of the course of our
Literature from Chaucer to the present time. But Mr. Gosse is no mere
compiler, and brings to his task certain qualifications of his own, a
vague and inaccurate but extensive knowledge of our seventeenth,
eighteenth and nineteenth century Belles Lettres; and here, as a rule,
he can acquit himself creditably. Though far from a sound, he is a
sympathetic critic; he has an agreeable but somewhat affected style, and
can gossip pleasantly and plausibly about subjects which are within the
range indicated. But at this point, as is painfully apparent, his
qualifications for being an historian and critic of English Literature
end. The moment he steps out of this area he is at the mercy of his
handbooks; so completely at their mercy that he does not even know how
to use them. And it is here that Mr. Gosse becomes so irritating, partly
because of the sheer audacity with which mere inferences are
substituted for facts and simple assumptions for deduced
generalizations, and partly because of the habitual employment of
phraseology so vague and indeterminate that it is difficult to submit
what it conveys to positive test. These are serious charges to bring
against any writer; and if they cannot be abundantly substantiated, a
still more serious charge may justly be urged against the accuser.

To turn to the work. On page 85 Mr. Gosse favours us with the following
account of the _Faerie Queene_: “A certain grandeur which sustains the
three great Cantos of Truth, Temperance, and Chastity fades away as we
proceed.... The structure of it is loose and incoherent when we compare
it with the epic grandeur of the masterpieces of Ariosto and Tasso.” It
would be difficult to match this; every word which is not a blunder is
an absurdity. Where are “the three great Cantos”? Can Mr. Gosse possibly
be ignorant that the poem is divided into books, each book containing
twelve Cantos? Assuming, however, that he has confounded books with
Cantos, where is the great book dealing with ‘Truth’? As he places it
before ‘Temperance,’ we presume that he means the first book and that he
has confounded ‘Truth’ with ‘Holiness.’ This is pretty well, to begin
with. Where, we next ask in amazement, is the ‘grandeur’ which sustains
the prolix farrago of the third book, and which ‘fades away’ as we
proceed to the only book which almost rivals the first and second, the
fifth, and the sublimest portion of the whole work, the superb Cantos
which represent all that remains of the seventh? What, we gasp, is the
meaning of the ‘epic grandeur’ of Ariosto? and “the loose and incoherent
structure” of the _Faerie Queene_ when compared with that of the
_Orlando Furioso_? Could any poem be more loose and incoherent in
structure than the _Orlando_, or any term be less appropriate to its
tone and style than ‘grandeur’? On page 80 he actually tells us that
Fox’s well-known _Book of Martyrs_ was written in Latin and translated
by John Day, and that it is John Day’s translation of the Latin original
which represents that work, confounding Fox’s _Commentarii Rerum in
Ecclesiâ gestarum_, etc., printed at Basil with the _Acts and Monuments
of the Church_, and making John Day, the publisher of it, the translator
of it into English! And this is his account of one of the most
celebrated works in our language. Of Swift’s _Sentiments of a Church of
England Man_, we have the following account: “That such a tract as the
_Sentiments of a Church of England Man_, with its gusts of irony, its
white heat of preposterous moderation, led on towards Junius is
obvious.” This is an excellent example of the confidence which may be
placed in Mr. Gosse’s assertions. Of this pamphlet, it may be sufficient
to say that there is not a single touch of irony or satire in it; that
it stands almost alone among Swift’s tracts for its perfectly temperate
and logical tone; it is a calm appeal to pure reason. There is the same
audacity of assertion in classing Feltham’s _Resolves_ with Hall’s and
Overbury’s Character Sketches, and Earle’s _Microcosmogonie_ as “a
typical example” of “a curious school of comic or ironic portraiture,
partly ethical and partly dramatic.” In 1625, we are told that Bacon
completed the _Sylva Sylvarum_. If Mr. Gosse knew anything of Bacon’s
philosophical writings, he would have known that the _Sylva Sylvarum_
never was and never could have been completed, for it was in itself a
fragment--a mere collection of materials to be incorporated in the
_Phœnomena Universi_, a work which was to have been six times larger
than Pliny’s _Natural History_. In giving an account of Tillotson, he
speaks of “the serene and insinuating periods” of the elegant
latitudinarian who “was assiduous in saying what he had to say in the
most graceful and intelligible manner possible.” A more perfect
description of the very opposite of Tillotson’s style could hardly be
given. Those who are acquainted with Fuller’s writings will be equally
surprised to find him classed with Jeremy Taylor and Henry More, and to
learn that his style is ‘florid and involved,’ distinguished by its
‘long-windedness’ and ‘exuberance.’ Has Mr. Gosse no apprehension of his
readers turning to the originals and testing his statements? We have
another of these bold assertions in the account of Lydgate, derived, we
suspect, from a hasty generalization from a remark made about him in Mr.
Ward’s _British Poets_. “Lydgate,” says Mr. Gosse, “had a most defective
ear; his verses are not to be scanned. His ear was bad and tuneless.”
Any one who has read Lydgate knows that, if we except his heroic
couplets, a more musical poet is not to be found in the fifteenth
century, or, indeed, in our language; the softness and smoothness of his
verse, wherever he writes in stanzas, as he generally does, is indeed
his chief characteristic. These remarks are minor illustrations of an
accomplishment in which Mr. Gosse has no rival.

The Euphuists of the sixteenth century drew, for purposes of simile and
illustration, on a fabulous natural history which assumed the existence
of certain animals, herbs, and minerals, and of certain properties and
qualities possessed by them. This gave great point and picturesqueness
to their style, and though it was certainly misleading and occasionally
perplexing to those who went to them for natural history, it had a most
charming and imposing effect. Mr. Gosse seems to have imported a similar
fiction into criticism. Of this we have a most amusing illustration on
page 155. Speaking of Herrick Mr. Gosse remarks, “In the midst of these
extravagances, like Meleager winding his _pure white violets_”--the
Italics are ours--“into the _gaudy garland of late Greek Euphuism_, we
find Robert Herrick.” Meleager’s Anthology is not extant, but the
dedication is, and from that dedication we know exactly from what poets
it was compiled. It ranged from about B.C. 700 till towards the close of
the Alexandrian Age, for, with the exception of Antipater of Sidon, it
is very doubtful whether he inserted any epigrams by his contemporaries,
but he admitted a hundred and thirty-one of his own. In other words his
collection comprised epigrams composed by the masters preceding the
Alexandrian Age from Archilochus downwards, and by those who, during
that age and afterwards, cultivated with scrupulous care the simplicity
and purity of the early models. Indeed, the poets represented in his
Anthology are, with one exception, the artists of Greek epigram in its
purest, simplest, and chastest form. That one exception is himself. In
him are first apparent the _dulcia vitia_ of the Decadence; he is full
of dainty subtleties, he is almost more Oriental than Greek, his style
is luscious, elaborate and florid. Such, then, was the composition of
“the gaudy garland of late Greek Euphuism,” and such the nature of the
“pure white violets” wound into it by Meleager. It is amusing to trace
Mr. Gosse’s rodomontade to its source. In the well-known dedication to
which we have referred, Meleager prettily compares the various poets,
from whose works he selects, to flowers, speaking modestly of his own
contributions as “early white violets.” To critics like Mr. Gosse the
rest is easy. Meleager, he no doubt argued, was an excellent poet; he
belonged to a late age: ‘Euphuism’--a delightfully vague term, is likely
to characterise a late age; a poet who compares his verses to white
violets had evidently a taste for simplicity, and presumably, therefore,
was no Euphuist; a gaudy garland is an excellent set off for pure white
violets. And so, to the great perplexity of scholars, but to the great
satisfaction of those who enjoy a pretty sentence, Meleager will
continue “to wind his pure white violets into the gaudy garland of late
Greek Euphuism.”

We have a similar illustration of the same thing in Mr. Gosse’s account
of Shaftesbury. We are told that he “was perhaps the greatest literary
force between Dryden and Swift”; that “he deserves remembrance as the
first who really broke down the barrier which excluded England from
taking her proper place in the civilization of literary Europe”; that
“he set an example for the kind of prose which was to mark the central
years of the century”; that “his style glitters and rings, and ... yet
so curious that one marvels that it should have fallen completely into
neglect”; that “he was the first Englishman who developed theories of
formal virtue, who attempted to harmonize the beautiful with the true
and the good”; that the modern attitude of mind seems to meet us first
in the graceful cosmopolitan writings of Shaftesbury; that “without a
Shaftesbury there would hardly have been a Ruskin or a Pater.” Such
amazing nonsense almost confounds refutation by its sheer absurdity.

With regard to the first statement, it may be sufficient to say that
between the period of Dryden’s literary activity and the publication of
Swift’s _Battle of the Books_ and _Tale of a Tub_ were flourishing
Hobbes, Izaak Walton, Bunyan, Temple, and Locke; that between the
publication of the _Tale of a Tub_ and of Shaftesbury’s collected
writings were flourishing Addison, Steele, De Foe, Arbuthnot, Berkeley.
With regard to the second statement, it would be interesting to know how
a writer who had been preceded by Bacon, Hobbes and Locke, could be
described as a writer who had been the first “to break down the barrier
which excluded England from taking her proper place in the civilization
of literary Europe.” The truth is, that Shaftesbury exercised no
influence at all on Continental Literature until long after our
Literature had generally become influential in France. Equally absurd
and baseless is the remark that he “set an example of the kind of prose
that was to mark the central years of the century.” Whose prose was
affected by him? Bolingbroke’s? or Fielding’s? or Richardson’s? or
Middleton’s? or Johnson’s? or Goldsmith’s? or Hume’s? or Hawkesworth’s?
or Sterne’s? or Smollett’s? or Chesterfield’s? that of the writers in
the _Monthly Review_? or in the _Adventurer_? or in the _World_? or in
the _Connoisseur_? To say of Shaftesbury’s style that “it glitters and
rings,” is to say what betrays utter ignorance of its characteristics.
As a rule, it is diffuse, involved, and cumbrous, affected, but with an
affectation which sedulously aims at the very opposite effects of
“glittering and ringing.” When he is eloquent, as in the _Moralists_, he
imitates the style of Plato; his vice is florid verbosity; it may be
doubted whether a single sentence could be found to which Mr. Gosse’s
description would be applicable. If, it may be added, his style had
“fallen completely into neglect,” it is somewhat surprising that “he
should set an example for the kind of prose which was to mark the
central years of the century.” When we are told that he was “the first
Englishman who attempted to harmonize the beautiful with the true and
the good,” we ask in amazement whether Mr. Gosse has ever inspected the
_Hymns_ of Spenser and the writings of the Cambridge Platonists; and
when he tells us that without a Shaftesbury there would hardly have been
a Ruskin or a Pater, we would suggest to him that both Ruskin and Pater
were perhaps not ignorant of the Platonic Dialogues. In the account
given of Spenser, a poem is attributed to him which he never wrote. “In
one of his early pieces, _The Oak and The Briar_, went far,” etc., the
oak and the briar is simply an episode in the second eclogue of the
_Shepherd’s Calendar_. Mr. Gosse, probably finding it quoted in some
book of selections, has jumped to the conclusion that it is a separate
poem. Of Mr. Gosse’s qualifications for dealing with Spenser, we have,
by the way, an excellent example in the following remark: “Spenser,
although he boasted of his classical acquirements, was singularly little
affected by Greek or even Latin ideas.” Spenser’s _Hymns_ in honour of
Love and in Honour of Beauty are simply saturated with Platonism, being
indeed directly derived from the _Phædrus_ and the _Symposium_,
numberless passages from which are interwoven with the poems. The whole
scheme of the _Faerie Queene_ was suggested by, and based on,
Aristotle’s _Ethics_ with elaborate particularity, Arthur, in his
relation to the several knights, corresponding to the virtue
μεγαλοψυχια in its relation to the other virtues. The conclusion of
the tenth canto of the first book is simply an allegorical presentation
of the relation of the βιος θεωρητικος to practical life. The
“Castle of Medina” in the second book is a minutely technical exposition
of the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean, modified by the Platonic
theory of morals: the three mothers being the λογιστικη, the
επιθυμητικη, and θυμητικη, the three daughters,
Elissa, Perissa, and Medina, being respectively the Aristotelian
ελλειψις, the ὑπερβολη and the μεσοτης. In fact,
the whole passage is simply an allegory of the Aristotelian doctrine of
the mean. The whole of the ninth canto of the second book is founded on
the famous passage in the _Timæus_ describing the anatomy of man. In
truth the poem teems with references to Plato and Aristotle, and with
passages imitated from the Greek poets, as every scholar knows. And this
is a poet “singularly little affected by Greek ideas!”

The same astonishing ignorance is displayed in a remark about Milton. We
are told that in his youth he was “slightly subjected to influence from
Spenser.” If Mr. Gosse had any adequate acquaintance with Milton and
Spenser, he would have known that Spenser was to Milton almost what
Homer was to Virgil, that Spenser’s influence simply pervades his poems,
not his youthful poems only, but _Paradise Lost_ and even _Paradise
Regained_. On page 194 we find this sentence: “From 1660 onwards ...
what France originally, and then England, chose was the _imitatio
veterum_, the Literature in prose and verse which seemed most closely
to copy the models of Latin style. Aristotle and Horace were taken, not
merely as patterns, but as arbiters.” It would be very interesting to
know what English author took Aristotle as a pattern for style. Is Mr.
Gosse acquainted with the characteristics of Aristotle’s style? Should
he ever become so, he will probably have some sense of the immeasurable
absurdity of asserting that our prose writers from 1660 onwards took
that style for their model. On a par with this is the assertion that up
to 1605 Bacon had mainly issued his works in “Ciceronian Latin.” Is Mr.
Gosse aware of the meaning of “Ciceronian Latin”? Very “Ciceronian”
indeed is Bacon’s Latinity, and particularly that of the _Meditationes
Sacræ_, the only work published in Latin by Bacon up to 1605! It is
scarcely necessary to say, in passing, that such works as Bacon had
published up to 1605 were, with the one exception referred to, all in
English. Nothing, it may be added, is so annoying in this book as its
slushy dilettantism. Mr. Gosse appears to be incapable of accuracy and
precision. Thus he tells us that Chaucer’s expedition to Italy in 1372
was “the first of several Italian expeditions.” Chaucer, so far as is
known, visited Italy, after this, exactly once. Again, he tells us that
the _Complaint of Mars_ and the _Parliament of Fowls_ are interesting as
showing that Chaucer had completely abandoned his imitation of French
models. Chaucer wrote several poems in the pure French style, and based
on French models, after the date of these poems. Such would be the
Rondel _Merciless Beauty_ suggested by Williamme d’Amiens, the
_Compleynt of Venus_, partly adapted and partly translated from three
Ballades by Sir Otes de Graunson, and the _Compleynt to his Empty
Purse_, modelled on a Ballade by Eustache Deschamps, while French
influence continued to modify his work throughout. On page 238 we are
told that Thomson revived the Spenserian stanza; it had been revived by
Pope, Prior, Shenstone, and Akenside. On page 151 we are informed that
the first instalment of Clarendon’s History remained unprinted till
1752, and the rest of it till 1759. If Mr. Gosse knew anything about one
of the most remarkable controversies of the eighteenth century, he would
have known that the greater part of it was printed and published between
1702 and 1704, and frequently reprinted between 1704 and 1731.

There is not a chapter in the book which does not teem with errors.
Trissino’s _Sofonisba_ was not the only work in which blank verse had
attained any prominence in Italy about 1515; it had been employed in
works equally prominent, by Rucellai in his _Rosmunda_, and in his
_Oreste_, as well as in his didactic poem _L’Api_, and by Alamanni in
his _Antigone_, all of which were composed within a few years of that
date. On page 120 we are told that Davies was the first to employ, on a
long flight, the heroic quatrain; it had been employed by Spenser in a
poem extending to nearly a thousand lines. Nor was Surrey’s essay in
_terza rima_ “the earliest in the language.” Chaucer made the same
experiment, though a little irregularly, in the _Compleynt to his Lady_.
We are told on page 79 that Gascoigne was “the first translator of Greek
tragedy.” Gascoigne never translated a line from the Greek. His
_Jocasta_, to which presumably the reference is made, is simply an
adaptation of Ludovico Dolce’s _Giocasta_. On page 25 we are informed
that “Gower’s French verse has mainly disappeared.” Gower is not known
to have written anything in French except the _Ballades_ and the
_Speculum Meditantis_, both of which are extant, as it is inexcusable in
any historian of English Literature not to know. The account given on
page 25 of the _Confessio Amantis_ shows that Mr. Gosse is very
imperfectly acquainted with what he so fluently criticises, or he would
have been aware that the seventh book is purely episodical and has
nothing whatever to do with “The lover’s symptoms and experience.” In
the account of Pope we are informed that “Boileau discouraged love
poetry and Pope did not seriously attempt it.” Pope is the author of
the most famous love poem in the eighteenth century, _Eloisa to
Abelard_, to say nothing of the _Elegy to an Unfortunate Lady_, of the
beautiful hymn to Love in the second chorus in the tragedy of _Brutus_,
and the exquisite fragment supposed to have been addressed to Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu. “The satires of Pope,” he continues, “would not have
been written but for those of his French predecessor.” Can Mr. Gosse
possibly be ignorant that the satires of Pope are modelled on the
Satires and Epistles of Horace, that they owe absolutely nothing to
Boileau, not even the hint for applying Roman satire to modern times, as
he had precedents in his own countrymen Dryden and Rochester?

Mr. Gosse’s criticism is often very amusing, as here, speaking of
Gibbon: “Perhaps he leaned on the strength of his style too much, and
_sacrificed the abstract to the concrete_.” Of all historians who have
ever lived, Gibbon is the most “abstract” and has most sacrificed the
“concrete” to the “abstract,” as every student of history knows. On a
par with this is the prodigious statement (p. 291) that there is “an
absence of emotional imagination” in Burke! That excellent man, Mr.
Pecksniff, was, we are told, in the habit of using any word that
occurred to him as having a fine sound and rounding a sentence well,
without much care for its meaning; “and this,” says his biographer “he
did so boldly and in such an imposing manner that he would sometimes
stagger the wisest people and make them gasp again.” This is precisely
Mr. Gosse’s method. About the propriety of his epithets and statements,
so long as they sound well, he never troubles himself; sometimes they
are so vague as to mean anything, as often they have no meaning at all,
as here: “His [that is Shelley’s] style, carefully considered, is seen
to rest on a basis built about 1760, from which it is every moment
springing and sparkling, like a fountain, in columns of ebullient
lyricism.” Could pure nonsense go further? We have another illustration
of the same audacity of absurd assertion on page 260. We are there
informed--Mr. Gosse is speaking of our prose literature about the centre
of the eighteenth century--that “Philosophy by this time had become
detached from _belles lettres_; it was now quite indifferent to those
who practised it, whether their sentences were harmonious or no....
Philosophy in fact quitted literature.” If there was any period in our
prose literature when philosophy was in the closest alliance with belles
lettres, and was most studious of the graces of style, it was between
about 1750 and 1771. In those years appeared Hutcheson’s _System of
Moral Philosophy_, Adam Smith’s _Theory of Moral Sentiments_, one of the
most eloquent philosophical treatises ever written, Burke’s _Treatise on
the Sublime and Beautiful_, Reid’s _Inquiry into the Human Mind_,
Tucker’s _Light of Nature Pursued_, Beattie’s _Essay on Truth_, to say
nothing of Hume’s _Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals_, his
_Political Discourses_, and his _Natural History of Religion_, all of
them works pre-eminently distinguished by the graces of style, while so
far from philosophy quitting belles lettres, it was during these years
that the foundations of philosophical criticism were laid by Burke,
Harris, Hurd, Kames, and others. Mr. Gosse appears to have forgotten
that he had himself told us (p. 205) that Shaftesbury’s style set the
example of the prose which was to mark the central years of the century!
Thus again Burton’s _Anatomy of Melancholy_ is “an entertaining neurotic
compendium”; Bacon’s _Essays_ are “often mere notations ... enlarged in
many cases merely to receive the impressions of a Machiavellian
ingenuity.” Shelley’s _Triumph of Life_ is “a noble but vague gnomic
poem, in which Petrarch’s Trionfi are summed up and sometimes excelled.”
Keats’ “great odes are Titanic and Titianic.” On page 284 we are
informed that for fifteen years after the close of 1800 “poetry may be
said to have been stationary in England.” When we remember that within
these years appeared the best of Wordsworth’s poems, the best of
Coleridge’s, the best of Scott’s, the best of Crabbe’s, the first two
cantos of _Childe Harold_, the best of Campbell’s, the best of Moore’s,
and of Southey’s--we wonder what can be meant, till we read on to find
that it was “on the contrary extremely active.” But “its activity took
the form of the gradual acceptance of the new romantic ideas, the slow
expulsion of the old classic taste, and the multiplication of examples
of what had once for all been supremely accomplished in the hollows of
the Quantocks.” In other words, its activity took the form of its
activity, and its activity led to its becoming stationary. Mr. Gosse is
sometimes solemnly oracular, as here: “It is a sentimental error to
suppose that the winds of God blow only through the green tree; it is
sometimes the dry tree which is peculiarly favourable to their passage.”
It is not sometimes, we submit, but always that the dry tree will be
most propitious to their passage. But we like Mr. Gosse best when he is
eloquent, as here: “In the chapel of Milton’s brain, entirely devoted
though it was to a Biblical form of worship, there were flutes and
trumpets to accompany one vast commanding organ.” No wonder poor Milton
suffered, as we know he did suffer, from insomnia!

The statement that “so miserable is the poverty of the first half of the
seventeenth century, when we have mentioned Pecock and Capgrave, there
is no other prose writer to be named,” is bad enough. But to sum up
Pecock’s work with the remark, “the matter is paradoxical and
casuistical reasoning on controversial points, in which he secures the
sympathy neither of the new thought nor the old,” is to demonstrate that
Mr. Gosse knows nothing whatever about it. The _Repressor_ is in many
important respects one of the most remarkable works in our early prose
Literature. It would be interesting to know what is the meaning of the
following: “The masterpiece of Chillingworth stands almost alone in a
sort of underwood of Theophrastian character sketches.” Does Mr. Gosse
suppose that English prose Literature in and about 1637 is represented
by Hall’s _Characters of Vices and Virtues_, by Sir Thomas Overbury’s
_Characters_, and by Earle’s _Microcosmographie_, which appeared
respectively, not in and about 1637, but in 1608, in 1614, and in 1628?
If this was the underwood in which Chillingworth’s work stood, it stood
also in a dense forest represented by some of the most celebrated prose
writings of the seventeenth century, such as the greater part of the
writings of Bacon and of Raleigh, the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, Selden’s
_Titles of Honour_ and _Mare Clausum_, Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s _De
Veritate_, Feltham’s _Resolves_, the best of Hall’s writings, Purchas’
_Pilgrims_, Barclay’s _Argenis_, the Histories of Speed, Stowe, Hayward,
and Raleigh, Heylin’s _Microcosmus_, Prynne’s _Histrio-Mastix_, and the
famous sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, all of which appeared between 1608
and 1637. These are the sort of remarks in which Mr. Gosse habitually
indulges. We have another example in the following: “Shelley’s attitude
to style is in the main retrograde,” a generalization based on the fact
that he was no admirer of “the arabesque of the cockney school.” But
were Shelley’s chief contemporaries admirers of the arabesque of the
cockney school, or were they affected by it? Was Wordsworth, was
Coleridge, or Southey, or Byron, or Crabbe, or Campbell, or Landor?--a
question which Mr. Gosse probably never stopped to ask himself. On a par
with this is the absurd assertion that “English poetry was born again
during the autumn months of 1797.” The appearance of the _Lyrical
Ballads_ did not make, but mark, an era in our poetry. The revolution of
which they were the expression had been maturing, as surely but
distinctly as the social and political revolution marked by the assembly
of the States-General ten years before. There was hardly a note struck
in the _Lyrical Ballads_ which had not been struck in our poetry between
1740 and the date of their appearance.

To call this compilation a _History of Modern English Literature_ is
ludicrous. Mr. Gosse has no conception even of the eras into which our
Literature naturally falls, or of the movements which in each of those
eras defined themselves. Nothing could be more misleading and inadequate
than the accounts given of the historians, theologians, philosophers,
and critics, many of whom--nay, whole schools of whom--are not noticed
at all. Sidney’s epoch-marking little treatise is dismissed in four
unmeaning lines as “an urbane and eloquent essay, which labours under
but one disadvantage, namely, that when it was composed in 1581 there
was scarcely any poesy in England to be defended. This was posthumously
printed in 1595.” Ben Jonson’s not less remarkable _Discoveries_ are not
even mentioned. How writers like Bacon, Hooker, Hobbes, Locke, and
Berkeley fare we have not space to illustrate. Mr. Gosse, indeed,
judging by his excursions into the realms of theology and philosophy,
has certainly been wise to assign more space to _The Flower and the
Leaf_ than is assigned to Hobbes, Barrow, Butler, and Paley put
together. We have by no means exhausted the list of blunders and
absurdities to be found in this book; but we have, we fear, exhausted
the patience of our readers, and we must bring our examination of it to
a close.

The melancholy thing about all this is the perfect impunity with which
such works as these can be given to the public. We have not the smallest
doubt that this book has been extolled to the skies in reviews which
have not detected a single error in it, and which have accepted its
generalizations and its criticisms with unquestioning credulity; and we
have as little doubt that those scholars who have discerned its defects
and absurdities have chosen, from motives possibly of kindness, possibly
of prudence, and possibly in mere contempt, to maintain silence about
them. Had it appeared twenty years ago, it would instantly have been
exposed and exploded, indeed no writer would have dared to insult
serious readers by such a publication. What every reader has a right to
demand from those who take upon themselves to instruct him are
sincerity, industry, and competence; and what no critic has a right to
condone is ostentatious indifference on the part of an author to the
responsibilities incurred by him in undertaking to teach the public.

The sooner Mr. Gosse, and writers like Mr. Gosse, come to understand
that, however ingeniously expressed, reckless generalizations, random
assertions and the specious semblance of knowledge, erudition, and
authority may pass current for a time, but are certain at last to be
detected and exposed, the better for themselves and the better for their
readers. If, too, they wish justice to be done to the accomplishments
which they really possess, they will do well to remember what is implied
in the proverb _Ne sutor ultra crepidam_, and what the Germans mean by


We see no objection to Mutual Admiration Societies; they are
institutions which afford much pleasure, and can, as a rule, do little
harm. If vanity be a foible, it is a foible well worth cherishing, and
will be treated tenderly even by a philosopher. For, of all the
illusions which give a zest to life, the illusions created by this
flattering passion are the most delightful and inspiring. They are so
easily evoked; they respond with such impartial obsequiousness to the
call of the humblest magician. He has but to speak the word--and they
are made; to command--and they are created. A becomes what B and C
pronounce him to be, and what A and C have done for B, that will B and A
do in turn for C. It is a delicious occupation, no doubt, a feast for
each, in which no crude surfeit reigns, where, in Bacon’s phrase,
satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; it is like
the herbage in the Paradise of the Spanish poet, “quanto mas se goza
mas renace,”--the more we enjoy it the more it grows. It is an old
game--“Vetus fabula per novos histriones”:--

  “’Twas, ‘Sir, your law,’ and ‘Sir, your eloquence,’
  ‘Yours Cowper’s manner and yours Talbot’s sense’;
  Thus we dispose of all poetic merit:
  Yours Milton’s genius and mine Homer’s spirit.
  Walk with respect behind, while we at ease
  Weave laurel crowns and take what name we please.
  ‘My dear Tibullus!’ if that will not do,
  Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you.”

And there is this advantage. If a sufficient number of magicians can, or
will, combine, these illusions may not only serve each magician for
life, but become, for a time, simply indistinguishable from realities.
Now, as we said before, we see no great harm in this. It is, to say the
least, a very amiable and brotherly employment; and were it quite
disinterested and honest, it would be closely allied with that virtue
which St. Paul exalts above all virtues. But everything has or ought to
have its limits. When Boswell attempted to defend certain Methodists who
had been expelled from the University of Oxford, Johnson retorted that
the University was perfectly right--“They were examined, and found to be
mighty ignorant fellows.” “But,” said Boswell, “was it not hard to expel
them? for I am told they were good beings.” “I believe,” replied the
sage, “that they might be good beings, but they were not fit to be in
the University of Oxford. A cow is a very good animal in the field, but
we turn her out of a garden.”

To our certain knowledge many of those who owe their reputation to the
art to which we are referring are good beings, and we have little doubt
that most of those who are least scrupulous in practising it are good
beings also. Indeed it may be conceded at once that there is always a
strong presumption that members of Mutual Admiration Societies belong to
this class. On the reciprocity of essentially Christian virtues their
very existence depends. Whatever may be thought of their heads, their
hearts are pretty sure to be in the right place. They may, it is true,
act more in the spirit of the precept that we should do unto others as
we would they should do unto us than in that of the precept which
pronounces that it is more blessed to give than to receive. This,
however, is a trifle--one of those distinctions without differences
which are so common in Christian ethics. But for ourselves we must, as
we have said before, discriminate. To the cow in the field we have no
objection; it is of the cow in the garden that we complain.

To drop metaphor: there are certain spheres of literary activity in
which the circulation of mutual puffery by this clique or by that
clique can do comparatively little harm to any one or to anything.
There are some subjects on which every reader is not only perfectly
competent to form his own judgment, but is pretty certain to do so. He
may amuse himself by seeing what the critics have to say, and he may be
induced by them in the first instance to turn to the book which is in
question, but he is practically unaffected by any opinions unless they
happen to coincide with his own. Such is the case with books of travel,
with novels, and, as a rule, with poetry. Here the arts of the
log-roller are as harmless as the frolics of whales with tubs. No one
takes what he sees seriously except those who are engaged in the
pastime. If Mr. A cannot give the general public what it appreciates,
nothing that Mr. B can say will cajole that public into believing that
it has what it has not. Mr. C and Mr. D may vociferate, till they are
hoarse, that “Mr. E is the subtlest and most discriminating critic that
the English-speaking world has ever known”; but if Mr. E’s eulogies of
Mr. C’s verses and of Mr. D’s novels are not corroborated by the general
reader’s independent judgment, the fame of Messrs. C and D will not
extend beyond their clique. If in poetry or prose fiction trash
succeeds, as it undoubtedly does, it succeeds not because of the skill
with which it has been puffed, though this may be a factor in its
success, but because it hits the popular taste. The public is seldom
deceived except when it wishes to be deceived. Log-rolling has much to
answer for: it loads our bookstalls with nonsense and rubbish, it
impedes the production of sound literature, it degrades the standard of
taste, it degrades the standard of aim and attainment, and indirectly it
is in every way mischievous to literature. But we very much question
whether in the case of publications which appeal directly to general
readers, and are within the scope of their judgments, the fortune of a
book is in any way affected by the arts of the log-roller. Amusement
mingled with impatience is probably the prevailing sentiment when Mr. C
and Mr. D are loud in each other’s praises. We remember the amœbæan
strains of Hayley and Miss Seward in Porson’s epigram:--

  _Miss Seward_: Tuneful poet, Britain’s glory;
                 Mr. Hayley, that is you.

  _Mr. Hayley_:  Ma’am, you carry all before you;
                 Trust me, Lichfield Swan, you do.

         *       *       *       *       *

  _Miss Seward_: Ode, didactic, epic, sonnet;
                 Mr. Hayley, you’re divine.

  _Mr. Hayley_:  Ma’am, I’ll take my oath upon it,
                 You yourself are all the nine.

Or, in a less good-natured mood, we may perhaps recall with a certain
satisfaction Pope’s cruel but pathetic picture of the minor log-rollers
of his day:--

  Next plunged a feeble but a desperate pack,
  With each a sickly brother at his back.
  Sons of a day! just buoyant on the flood,
  Then numbered with the puppies in the mud.

But there are certain subjects and certain spheres in which the arts of
the log-roller, if equally contemptible, are not quite so harmless.

During the last fifteen years the Press has been teeming with books
designed to circulate among readers who are seriously interested in
_belles lettres_ and criticism. Some of them have appeared as volumes in
a series, some as independent monographs and manuals, and some in the
humbler forms of editorial introductions and notes. Among them may be
found works of really distinguished scholars, and works in every way
worthy of such scholars; and it is no doubt works like these which have
given credit and authority generally to publications of this kind. The
popularity of these productions has been extraordinary, and their
manufacture has become one of the most lucrative of hackney employments.
Nor is this all. Their professed purpose is the dissemination of serious
instruction, is to become text-books in literary history and in literary
criticism; and, as text-books on those subjects, they have made their
way, or are making their way, not merely into our public libraries, but
also into the libraries of nearly every educational institute in
England. Indeed it would not be too much to say that if, among general
readers, about eighty in every hundred derive almost all they know about
English literature, both historically and critically, from these
volumes, in our schools and colleges, the average number of those whose
studies are and ought to be independent of them is yearly diminishing.
It is of these text-books and of the responsibilities incurred by those
who produce and circulate them that we wish to speak.

We have already commented on the distinction which must be drawn between
what is best and what is inferior in the publications to which we have
been referring; and, in truth, the difference is one not of degree but
in kind. As our desire is, in Swift’s phrase, to lash the vice but spare
the name, we shall not specify the works which we have selected as
typical of log-rolling in relation to education. Till we saw them we had
no conception of the lengths to which this sort of thing has run.
Ostensibly the works before us are critical and biographical monographs
designed to become text-books for students of English literature; they
may be more correctly described as complete epitomes of the art of
puffery. The writers begin by assuming that the objects of their
ludicrous adulation--who are, like themselves, contributors of the
average order to current periodicals, and the authors of monographs
similar to their own--are by general consent critics of classical
authority. The most deferential references are made to them in almost
every page. Now it is “Goethe and Mr. So-and-so have observed,” or
“Coleridge has remarked, but Mr. So-and-so is inclined to think,” etc.
Sometimes it assumes the form of a sort of awful reverence, as “Mr.
So-and-so is a little uncertain, but surely he more than hints,” or “Mr.
So-and-so, as we all know, was once of opinion, though he has recently
found reason to alter,” etc. We saw not long ago in the notes to a
certain edition of a classical author: “Socrates and Mr. X---- _of
Trinity_ have observed,” etc. Occasionally this homage expresses
itself--and this is more serious--in the form of long extracts from Mr.
So-and-so’s writings. Nothing is more common in works like these than to
find critics and writers of classical authority either completely
ignored, or, if cited at all, cited only in the connection which we have
indicated. That the gentlemen who are the subjects of this grotesque
flattery either have paid or will pay their friends in kind may, of
course, be taken for granted. Thus one factitious reputation builds up
another, and one bad book ushers in twenty which are worse.

Macaulay has an amusing passage in which he has collected the names of
those who, according to Horace Walpole, were “the first writers” in
England in 1753. It might have been expected that Hume, Fielding, Dr.
Johnson, Richardson, Smollett, Collins, and Gray would at least have had
a place among them. Not at all. They were Lord Bath, Mr. W. Whithed, Sir
Charles Williams, Mr. Soame Jenyngs, Mr. Cambridge, and Mr. Coventry; in
other words, a clique of politicians and men of fashion of the very
titles of whose writings even a reader tolerably well read in the
literature of those times might excusably be ignorant. We are not
exaggerating when we say that this system of strenuous and well-directed
mutual puffery is, in our own time, leading to similarly perverted
conceptions about the relative position of those who owe their celebrity
to these ignoble arts and those on whose fame Time’s test has set its
seal, not merely on the part of the general public, but on the part of
those who are responsible for the books introduced into schools and
educational institutes. We will give an illustration.

At a meeting held not long ago, for the purpose of prescribing books for
a Reading Society, the choice lay between some of Johnson’s Lives,
Select Essays by Sainte Beuve, and Select Essays by Matthew Arnold on
the one hand, and on the other certain books typical of the literature
of which we have been speaking. The debate which ensued was very
amusing. A member of the committee, a gentleman of conservative temper,
strongly urged the claims of Johnson, Sainte Beuve, and Arnold, on the
ground that it was the duty of the Society to encourage the study of
what was excellent and of classical quality, especially in criticism;
that it was not merely the information contained in a book which had to
be considered, but the style, the tone, the touch; that the monographs
proposed as an alternative could scarcely be regarded as of the first
order, either in expression or in matter, for he had observed, though he
had only glanced at them, several solecisms in grammar and several
inaccuracies of statement; and he concluded by adding that other
writings of these particular authors with which he happened to be more
familiar had not prejudiced him in their favour. Upon that, another
member of the council, who had been busily conning the Press notices
inserted in the monographs in question, pleaded their claim to
preference. “Dr. Johnson,” he remarked, “was no doubt a great man in his
day, but his day had long been over; no one read him now. Sainte Beuve
and Matthew Arnold might be classical and all that, but they were not up
to date.” He could not talk as an expert on literary matters, and
therefore he would not contradict what the former speaker had said,
“but there could be no doubt that Messrs. So-and-so,” the authors of the
monographs in question, “were very big men--bigger men, I should think
(glancing at the Press notices in his hand), than Sainte Beuve and
Matthew Arnold. At any rate, everybody has heard of them; and,” he
continued, “listen to this.” He then proceeded to read out some of the
notices, adding that it was difficult, if he might say so without
offence, to reconcile what his friend, the preceding speaker, had said
with what was said in these notices. He was a little staggered--for,
though a simple, he was a shrewd man--when the very remarkable
similarity between Mr. A’s eulogies of Mr. B and Mr. B’s eulogies of Mr.
A was pointed out to him, and when, in reference to anonymous testimony,
he was reminded that one voice may have many echoes. It was generally
felt, more especially as Mr. A or Mr. B had, we believe, more than one
acquaintance among the committee, that the debate was taking rather an
embarrassing turn. The question was then put to the vote, and the
monographs were carried by a majority of three to one.

What occurred at this meeting is occurring every day, variously
modified, wherever the choice of books is in question, whether in public
libraries or in educational institutions. A literature, the sole
credentials of which are derived from those who produce and circulate
it, is gradually superseding that of our classics. We seem in truth to
be losing all sense of the essential distinction between the writings of
the average man of letters and those of the masters.



[Footnote 20: _Books Worth Reading._ A Plea for the Best and an Essay
towards Selection, with Short Introductions. By Frank W. Raffety,

Were it not for its melancholy significance, this would be one of the
most amusing books which it has ever been our fortune to meet with. Of
Mr. Frank W. Raffety we have not the honour to know anything, except
what we have gathered from this little volume and from its title-page.
But he must be a singularly interesting gentleman. His enthusiasm for
books, his portentous ignorance of them; his strenuous desire to improve
the popular taste by pleading for the best, his instinctive tendency to
make in all cases for the worst; his sublime intolerance of everything
in literature which falls short of excellence, his more than sublime
indifference to the commonest rules of grammar and syntax in expressing
that intolerance; the _naïveté_, the frankness, the recklessness with
which he displays his incompetence for the task which he has
undertaken--in these qualifications and accomplishments Mr. Raffety is
not perhaps alone, but he has certainly no superior.

Mr. Raffety aspires to guide his readers through the chief literatures
of the world. Now the task of a reviewer, who has a conscience, is not
always a cheerful one, and we confess that, when we had generally
surveyed Mr. Raffety’s work, we resolved to amuse ourselves by trying to
discover of which of the literatures, to which Mr. Raffety constitutes
himself a guide, Mr. Raffety is probably most ignorant. It is a nice
point. Let our readers judge. We will begin with Mr. Raffety and the
Classics. Of Theognis, the most voluminous of the Greek Gnomic poets, it
is said that “only a few sentences”--Mr. Raffety is presumably under the
impression that Theognis wrote in prose--“quoted in the works of Plato
and others survive.” “The Greek Anthology,” we are astounded to learn,
“is by Lord Neaves” and “is one of the best volumes in the A.C.E.R.
series.” What Mr. Raffety no doubt means is, that Lord Neaves is the
author of a monograph on the Greek anthology, as he certainly was. With
regard to Herodotus, Mr. Raffety has evidently got some information not
generally accessible. His _History_, we are told, “is a great prose
epic.... The second book is of the most interest. In other works are the
histories of Crœsus, Cyrus,” etc. It would be interesting to know
what other works besides his _History_ Herodotus has left. Of the
_Prometheus Bound_ of Æschylus Mr. Raffety gives the following
interesting account. It contains, he says, “the story of Prometheus and
his defiance of Jupiter, who condemned him to be bound to a rock, where
he died rather than yield.” We exhort Mr. Raffety, before his work
passes into a second edition, to consult his Classical Dictionary.

Of the translations recommended by Mr. Raffety we should very much like
to get a sight of the translation of Pindar by Calverley, of the joint
translation of the same classic by Messrs. E. Myers and A. Lang, and of
the joint translation of Thucydides “by Jowett and Rev. H. Dale, 2
vols.” Of Herodotus, of Æschylus, of Sophocles, of Pindar, of Polybius,
of Demosthenes, what are, by general consent, esteemed the best
translations are not so much as mentioned. Latin literature fares even
worse in the hands of our guide. Mr. Raffety appears to know no more
about Catullus than that he was a writer of epigrams. Such trifles as
the _Attis_, the _Peleus and Thetis_, the Julia and Manlius marriage
song, the _Coma Berenices_, the love lyrics and threnodies he does not
condescend to notice. In “guiding” his readers to translations of
Lucretius and Juvenal, Munro’s version of the first in prose and
Gifford’s version of the second in verse--which Conington pronounced to
be the best version of any Roman classic in our language--are not so
much as referred to. Nor, again, in the case of Plautus and Terence,
are the excellent versions of Thornton and Coleman noticed. Tacitus, who
is oddly described as “the foremost man of the day,” an estimate which
might have pleased but which would certainly have surprised him,
chronicled, we are told, “the foundation of the Christian religion.” Mr.
Raffety’s assurance on this point will probably disappoint inquisitive
readers. Equally surprising are the portions of the work dealing with
the modern literatures. In the course of these we learn that “the
_Nibelungen Lied_ is the oldest drama in Europe”; that the
_Areopagitica_ and the _Defence of the People of England_ are Milton’s
best prose writings--Mr. Raffety apparently not being aware that the
second work is in Latin, and that if he means the first _Defence_, it is
anything but one of the best of Milton’s writings. We are also informed
that Dryden was most valuable as a translator from the Greek and Latin;
Dryden’s versions from the Greek begin and end with paraphrases of four
Idylls of Theocritus, the first book of the _Iliad_ and the parting of
Hector and Andromache from the sixth, and are notoriously the very worst
things he ever did.

Sometimes Mr. Raffety fairly takes our breath away, as when he informs
us that Gray’s tomb can be seen in the little churchyard of Stoke Pogis
“with the _Elegy_ written upon it.” Can Mr. Raffety be acquainted with
the length of the _Elegy_ and with the proportions of a tombstone?
Chaucer, we are informed, wrote some poems in Italian. We should very
much like to see them, and so probably would Professor Skeat, for they
appear to have escaped the notice of all Chaucer’s editors. Swift’s
_Tale of a Tub_ was written, we are told, “against the teaching of

It is indeed impossible to open this book anywhere without alighting on
some most discreditable blunder or absurdity. Thus we are informed that
Macaulay’s essay on Burleigh treats of the time of James I.--Burleigh,
as we need hardly say, dying nearly five years before James came to the
throne, and Macaulay’s essay having no reference at all to James I.’s
time. “There is,” says Mr. Raffety, “no more stirring lyric than _The
Cotter’s Saturday Night_,” a remark which shows that Mr. Raffety does
not know what a lyric poem is. But to look for blunders in Mr. Raffety’s
pages would be to look for leaves in a summer forest. His critical
remarks and biographical notes are truly delightful. We wish we had
space to quote some of them. Of their general quality the following
profound remark is a fair specimen:--“Dante requires study, and an
endeavour after appreciation.” Mr. Raffety is always anxious to conduct
his readers by short cuts and to save them trouble. Macaulay’s _Essays_,
for example, should be read before his _History_; “they will be more
easily tackled,” he says, “than the _History_ in the first instance.”
But on the subject of Gibbon Mr. Raffety is adamant, being fully of the
late Professor Freeman’s opinion--“Whatever else is read, Gibbon must be
read.” How Gibbon is to be read, or why Gibbon is to be read, or in what
edition he should be read, Mr. Raffety does not explain.

Now, what possible end can be served by books like these, except to
misguide and misinform? Here is a writer, who certainly leaves us with
the impression that he cannot read the Greek and Latin classics in the
original, setting up as a director of classical study, and pronouncing
_ex cathedrâ_ on the merits of translations of these classics. His
knowledge of the modern literature is, as is abundantly manifest, though
we have neither space nor patience to illustrate, equally insufficient
and unsubstantial, and yet he undertakes to initiate and guide the
inexperienced in these studies. This book is presented to the public in
a most attractive form, being excellently printed on excellent paper,
and will naturally be taken seriously by those to whom it appeals. It is
for this reason that we also have felt it our duty to take it seriously.
And, as we believe that every bad book stands in the way of a good one,
we can promise Mr. Raffety, and writers like Mr. Raffety, that we shall
continue to take them seriously.


[Footnote 21: _Retrospective Reviews._ A Literary Log. By Richard Le
Gallienne. 2 vols.]

Nearly two thousand years ago Horace observed that, though every calling
presupposed some qualification in those who followed it, and a man who
knew nothing of marine affairs would not undertake to manage a ship, or
a man who knew nothing of drugs to compound prescriptions, yet everybody
fancied himself competent to commence poet. Qualified or unqualified, at
it we all go, he complains, and scribble verses. But times have changed,
and those who in Horace’s day were the pests of poetry, with which they
could amuse themselves without mischief, have now become the pests of
another kind of literature in which their diversions are not quite so
harmless. Where the poetaster once stood the criticaster now stands. The
transformation of the one pest into the other, where they do not, as
they often do, become both, is easily accounted for, and as Dr. Johnson
has so excellently explained it, we cannot do better than transcribe
his words. “Criticism,” says the Doctor, “is a study by which men grow
important and formidable at a very small expense. The power of invention
has been conferred by nature upon few, and the labour of learning those
sciences which may by mere labour be attained is too great to be
willingly endured; but every man can exert such judgment as he has upon
the works of others, and he whom nature has made weak and idleness keeps
ignorant may yet support his vanity by the name of critic.” But
criticasters and their patrons have improved on this--for “he whom
nature has made weak and idleness keeps ignorant” may, in our time, not
merely support his vanity, but support himself.

Till we inspected the volumes before us, we had really no conception of
the pass to which things have now come in so-called criticism. The
writer sits in judgment on most of the authors who have, during recent
years, been before the public. He passes sentence not merely on current
novelists, poets, and essayists, but on some of our classics, and on
books like the late Mr. Pater’s _Lectures on Plato and Platonism_ and
Dr. Wharton’s edition of _Sappho_. To any acquaintance with the
principles of criticism, to any conception of criticism in relation to
principles, to any learning, to any scholarship, to any knowledge of the
history of literature and of the masterpieces of literature, either in
our own language or in other languages, he has not the smallest
pretension. Nor does he allow this to be gathered simply from the work
itself, where it is, needless to say, abundantly apparent, but with a
_naïveté_ and impudence which are at once ludicrous and exasperating he
glories in his ignorance. Literature and its interpretation are to him
what the Bible and its interpretation were to the ranting sectaries of
Dryden’s satire. In its explanation knowledge and learning were folly,
nothing was needed but “grace.”

  “No measure ta’en from knowledge, all from grace,
  Study and pains were now no more their care,
  Texts were explained by fasting and by prayer.”

So to our critic knowledge and learning are of equal unimportance--nay,
equally contemptible--and all that is needed to take the measure of
Plato and Wordsworth is, in his own words, “the capacity for
appreciation.” With this very slender outfit he sits down to the work of
criticism, to enlighten the world _de omni scibili_ in literature, from
the lyrics of _Sappho_, “the singer, a single petal of whose rose is
more than the whole rose-garden of later women singers,” to “the
statesmanlike reach and grasp” of Mr. E. Gosse’s essays.

To discuss seriously the opinions or impressions of a writer of this
kind would be as absurd as to attempt to fight gnats with a sword, and
we shall merely content ourselves with transcribing, without comment, a
few of the aphorisms with which these volumes are studded. “Criticism is
the art of praise.” “Shakespeare is the greatest English poet, not
because he created Hamlet and Lear, but because he could write that
speech about Perdita’s flowers and Claudio’s speech on death in _Measure
for Measure_.” “The perfection of prose is the essay, of poetry the
lyric, and the most beautiful book is that which contains the most
beautiful words.” These specimens will probably suffice. Mr. Le
Gallienne is also of opinion that “culture is mainly a matter of
temperament”--that “a man is born cultured,” that mere education and
study are to such a one not simply superfluities, but impertinences.
“What matters it,” he eloquently asks, “that one does not remember or
even has never read great writers? Our one concern is to possess an
organization open to great and refined impressions.” A paltry scholar,
for example, may be able to construe Sappho, but it is only “an
organization open to great and refined impressions” which can discern
(in a crib) “the pathos of eternity in some twenty words” of “this
passionate singer of Lesbos.” Plato may be studied by poor pedants, but
to an organization of this kind the binding of a volume is sufficient
enlightenment; “to merely hold in the hand and turn over its pages is a
counsel in style,” for do not “the temperate beauty, the dry beauty
beloved of Plato, find expression in the sweet and stately volume
itself” [he is “reviewing” the late Mr. Pater’s lectures on Plato],
“with its smooth night-blue binding, its rose-leaf yellow pages, its
soft and yet grave type”? The value of Mr. Le Gallienne’s judgments, of
his praise, and of his censure, which, ludicrous to relate, are quoted
by some publishers as recommendations, or “opinions of the press,” may
be estimated by these dicta, and by this theory of a critical education.

Macaulay somewhere speaks of a certain nondescript broth which, in some
Continental inns, was kept constantly boiling, and copiously poured,
without distinction, on every dish as it came up to table. The writer of
these essays appears, metaphorically speaking, to be provided with a
similar abomination. Whatever be his theme, poem, essay, novel, picture,
he contrives to serve it up with the same condiment, a sickly and
nauseous compound of preciosity and sentimentalism.

The melancholy thing about all this is the profound unconsciousness on
the part of the author of these volumes that he is exciting ridicule;
that he is, in Shakespeare’s phrase, making himself a motley to the
view. But there are considerations more melancholy still. We should not
have noticed these volumes had they not been representative and typical
of a school of so-called critics which is becoming more and more
prominent. Incredible as it may seem, there are certain sections of
literary society and of the general public which take Mr. Le Gallienne
and his dicta quite seriously, and to which the prodigious nonsense in
these volumes does not present itself as absurdity, but as the articles
of a creed. These essays have, moreover, appeared in publications the
names of some of which carry authority. It is, therefore, high time that
some stand should be made, some protest entered against writings which
cannot fail to corrupt popular taste and to degrade the standard of
popular literature. Of one thing we are very certain, that no
self-respecting literary journal which undertook to review these volumes
could allow them to pass without denunciation.

Of Mr. Le Gallienne we know nothing personally. He is, if we are rightly
informed, still a young man, and we would in all kindness exhort him to
turn the abilities which he undoubtedly possesses to better account.
There is much in these essays which shows that he was intended for
something better than to further the decadence. If, instead of sneering
at scholars, affecting to despise learning and study, indulging in silly
paradoxes, tinsel epigrams, and absurd generalisations, he would read
and think, and endeavour to do justice to himself and to his
opportunities, he might, we make no doubt, obtain an honourable
reputation. There is much which is attractive in his work, and in the
personality reflected in it. He is not a charlatan, for though he is
ignorant, he is honest. Genial and sympathetic, he has much real
critical insight, and, in going through his volumes, we have noted many
remarks which were both sound and fine. At its best his style is
excellent,--clear, lively, and engaging. Let him cease to play the
buffoon, which can only end in his gaining the applause of mere fools
and the contempt of every one else.


The illustrious Barnum once observed that, if a man’s capital consisted
of a shilling, one penny of that shilling should be spent in purchasing
something, and the remaining eleven-pence should be invested in
advertising what was purchased. There was, perhaps, a touch of
exaggeration in that great man’s remark, but it was founded on a
profound knowledge both of human nature and of the world. Intrinsically
nothing is valuable; things are what we make or imagine them. Even the
diamond, as a costly commodity, exists on suffrage. If a man cannot
persuade his fellow-creatures that he has genius, talent, learning,
“’twere all alike as if he had them not.” What Persius asks with a
sneer, “Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter?”--is your
knowledge nothing, unless some one else know that you are knowing?--a
wiser man would ask in all seriousness. Shakespeare was never nearer the
truth than when he wrote--

        “No man is the lord of anything,
  Though in and of him there be much consisting,
  Till he communicates his parts to others;
  Nor doth he of himself know them for aught,
  Till he behold them formed in the applause
  Where they are extended.”

And never was a man more mistaken than the old preacher who said to his
congregation, “If you have a talent in your napkin, you should take care
not to hide it; but if you have no talent, but only a napkin, you should
not so flourish your napkin as to create the impression that it is full
of talents.” Why, this is just what nine men in ten who court fame have
to do. Nature is kind, but seldom profuse. If she really endows a man
with what, if trumpeted, would make him famous, the odds are she couples
with her gifts pride, modesty, or self-respect, which, to say the least,
heavily handicap him in the race for reputation. When she does not endow
with the reality, she compensates by bestowing the power of acquiring
the credit for it. She is, as a rule, much too thrifty to heap on the
same man the keen pleasures of genuine enthusiasm and the sweets of
popular applause. An impartial mother, she loves all her children, and
divides her favours equally between shams and true men. This Churchill
marks in his brutal way; speaking of a certain contemporary, he
describes him as endowed with

  “That low cunning which in fools supplies,
  And amply too, the place of being wise,
  Which Nature, kind, indulgent parent, gave
  To qualify the blockhead for a knave.”

But our business is not with knaves and blockheads, but with “gentler
cattle,” and the quotation demands an apology.

The importance of the art of self-advertisement, as must be abundantly
clear from the preceding remarks, can scarcely be overestimated. Though
it is perhaps still in its infancy, its progress during the last few
years has been most encouraging. The old coarse methods so familiar to
us in the past, and still successfully practised in the present--we mean
mutual admiration cliques, log-rolling, and what is vulgarly known as
“pulling the strings”--have been greatly improved upon and refined.
Bentley’s famous remark when, explaining how it was that he took to
commentating, he said, that as he despaired of standing on his own legs
in the Temple of Fame, he got on to the shoulders of the Ancients,
appears to have suggested one of the most ingenious of modern
expedients. This consists of “getting up” a memorial to some
distinguished man--a statue, it may be, or modest bust. Some labour,
some ability, and some learning are involved in the more cumbrous device
of Bentley. But here all is simple and very easy. You are on the
shoulders of your great man at a bound, and stand side by side with him
in a trice. There is nothing which redounds to his credit which does
not redound to your own. As the Red Indian is under the impression that
in possessing himself of a scalp he possesses himself of the virtues
belonging to the former owner of the scalp, so this tribute of
enthusiastic admiration quietly assumes, without trouble, all that
enthusiastic admiration naturally implies. Is the object of your homage
a poet, a critic, a scholar, the very fact that you pay him homage is,
in itself, testimony of your own right to one or other of these
honourable titles. If, moreover it should happen that you know very
little about the writings of the author whom you have elected to honour,
this is of no consequence; for of all the disguises which ignorance can
assume, “enthusiasm” is the most effective. Nor are these the only
advantages of this particular method of getting reputation. The
collection of subscriptions and the formation of a committee bring you
into contact, or may, if judiciously managed, bring you into contact
with all your distinguished contemporaries; and we know what the proverb
says--“Noscitur a sociis”--a man is what his companions are.

But nothing is more effectual, for purposes of self-advertisement, than
a device which has lately been practised with signal success. This
consists of scraping up an acquaintance with some person, whose name is
not unknown to the public,--even a second-rate novelist will do--and
waiting till he dies. As there is a tide in the affairs of men, so, as
we all know, there is a moment at the demise of literary men when the
voracity of public curiosity knows neither distinction nor satiety. This
is the moment for the self-advertiser to nick; this is the time for him
to float, with his defunct friend, on the lips of men. He will find
readers for anything he may choose to print--that letter with its
exquisite compliments, that conversation in which his poor attainments
were so generously over-estimated, or the importance of his slight
literary services so much exaggerated. Of course, the value of such
advertisements will be in proportion to the eminence of the subject of
the reminiscences--and happy, thrice happy, those who were able to turn
men like Darwin, Tennyson, and Browning to this account; their
reputation may be regarded as made. But it is not always necessary to
wait till great men die, though it is an experiment too bold and
perilous for most aspirants to make this sort of capital out of them
while they are still alive. Still _audentes fortuna juvat_, and it has
been done. A certain minor poet published in an American magazine, not
many years ago, an article entitled “A Day with Lord Tennyson,” in which
he represented the Laureate as turning the conversation on his (the
minor bard’s) poetry. We are told how the great man, after fervently
reiterating a stanza of that minor bard which pleased him, requested his
son to take it down in writing; how that son, though the day was cold
and blowy, took it down; how Tennyson grasped, at parting, his brother
poet’s hand, and begged in transport that he would “come again and come
often.” He came, we believe, no more. But what of that? He had
accomplished a feat so simple and yet so original that it may fairly be
questioned whether what Mr. Burnum used to call his masterpiece was in
any way comparable to it. To interview a great man, even on an
assumption of equality, is, as we all know, a comparatively easy matter,
but to turn the conversation of the great man into a seasonable puff of
yourself requires a combination of qualities not often united in a
single person. The worst of feats like these is that they must have a
tendency to make great men a little shy of encouraging the acquaintance
of those to whom they can be so useful. But simplicity, as Thucydides
remarks, is one of the chief ingredients of greatness, and it is a
quality very difficult to wear out.

If Tennyson’s interviewer has ever had a rival in the important art
which has been discussed--for the benefit of youthful ambition--in this
article, we are inclined to think that that rival was the Rev. Aris
Willmott. This now almost forgotten writer was a very voluminous author
both in verse and prose; but his merits were not appreciated by an
ungrateful public so much as they ought to have been. He resorted,
therefore, to the following exquisitely ingenious device. He published
a handsome volume, which is now before us, entitled _Gems from English
Literature_, thus arranged: Bacon, Rev. Aris Willmott, Jeremy Taylor,
Rev. Aris Willmott, Barrow, Rev. Aris Willmott, sandwiching himself
regularly through the prose classics, and in the same way through the
poets--Shakespeare, Rev. Aris Willmott, Milton, Rev. Aris, etc. As
birthday books, press notices, interviews at home, portraits of
distinguished authors in their studies, and the like are getting a
little stale, we cordially recommend this rev. gentleman’s expedient--it
may be judiciously modified--to the notice of all who are unable to
distinguish fame from notoriety.


[Footnote 22: _The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson to his Family and
Friends._ Selected and Edited with Notes and Introduction by Sidney
Colvin. 2 vols.]

The late Robert Louis Stevenson is a writer who has every title to
commiseration, and the appearance of the volumes before us may be said
to mark the climax of his misfortunes. Diseased and sickly from his
birth, with his life frequently hanging on a thread, he probably never
knew the sensation of perfect health. During the impressionable years of
early youth his surroundings appear to have been most uncongenial; he
was forced into a profession for which he had no taste and no aptitude.
In constant straits for money, at times he was miserably poor; his
apprenticeship to letters was long and arduous, for he was not one of
Nature’s favourites, and attained what he did attain by unsparing and
severe labour. His wandering and restless life, bringing him as it did
into contact with all phases of humanity and with all parts of the
world, was of course in many respects favourable to his work, but it
had at the same time serious disadvantages. It gave him little time for
reflection; it imported a certain feverishness into his energy, and
rendered that concentration and steadiness, without which no really
great work can be accomplished, impossible. That in these circumstances
Stevenson should have produced so much, and so much which is of a high
order of merit, is most creditable to him, and not a little surprising.
“He stands,” says his friend Professor Colvin, “as the writer who in the
last quarter of the nineteenth century has handled with the most of
freshness and inspiriting power the widest range of established literary
forms--the moral, critical and personal essay, travels sentimental and
other, parables and tales of mystery, boys’ stories of adventure,
memoirs; nor let lyrical and meditative verse both English and Scottish,
and especially nursery verse, a new vein for genius to work in, be
forgotten.” With some reservation this may be conceded, and this is as
far as eulogy can legitimately be stretched.

But, unhappily, some of Stevenson’s admirers have made themselves and
their idol ridiculous, by raising him to a position his claims to which
are preposterous. If he be measured with his contemporaries the
comparison will generally be in his favour--he certainly did best what
hundreds can do well. His essays have distinction and excellence; his
novels, travels, and short tales, though scarcely entitled to the praise
of originality, as they strike no new notes and are mere variants of the
work of Scott, Kingston, Ballantyne, De Quincey and Poe, bear the
impress of genius as distinguished from mere talent, and reflect a very
charming personality; his verse, too, is pleasing and skilful. But when
we are told that he will stand the third in a trio with Burns and Scott,
and when we have to listen to serious appeals to Edinburgh to raise a
statue to him beside the author of _Marmion_ and the Waverley Novels,
all who truly appreciate his work may well tremble for the reaction
which is certain to succeed such extravagant overestimation. The truth
is that poor Stevenson, himself one of the simplest, sincerest and most
modest of men, got involved with a clique who may be described as
manufacturers of factitious reputations,--the circulators of a false
currency in criticism. In these days of appeals to the masses it is as
easy to write up the sort of works which are addressed to them--popular
essays, tales and novels--as it is to write up the commodities of quack
doctors and the shares of bogus companies. The production of popular
literature is now a trade, and in some cases this kind of puffery is the
work of deliberate fraud, originating from various motives. In many
cases it simply springs from ignorance and critical incompetence,
current criticism being, to a considerable extent, in the hands of very
young men who, having neither the requisite knowledge nor the proper
training, are unable to judge a writer comparatively. In other cases it
is to be attributed to good nature and the tendency in the genial
appreciation of real merit to indulge in extravagant expression. But the
result is the same. A reputation, so grotesquely out of proportion to
what is really merited that sober people are inclined to suspect that
all is imposture, is gradually inflated. Eulogy kindles eulogy;
hyperbole is heaped on hyperbole; a ludicrous importance is attached to
every trifle which falls, or which ever has fallen, from this
Press-created Fetish. While he is alive he is encouraged, or rather
importuned, to force his power of production to keep pace with the
demand for everything bearing his signature; when he is dead the very
refuse of his study finds eager publishers.

This kind of thing has obviously many advantages, which are by no means
confined to the object of the idolatry itself. In the first place it
means business; it is the creation of a goose which can lay golden eggs,
and it is, in the second place, a creation which reflects no little
glory on the creators. Is it nothing to be the satellites of so radiant
a luminary? When the familiar correspondence of the great man is
printed, will not what he was pleased to say, with all the friendly
license of private intercourse, in the way of compliment and eulogy, be
proclaimed from the house-tops?

All this is exactly what has happened in the case of poor Stevenson. No
man ever took more justly his own measure, or would have been more
annoyed at the preposterous eulogies of which he has been made the
subject, on the part of interested or ill-judging friends. We wonder
what he would himself have said, could he have seen the letters before
us described, as they were described in one of the current Reviews, as
“the most exhaustive and distinguished literary correspondence which
England has ever seen.” We entirely absolve Professor Colvin from any
suspicion of being actuated by unworthy motives in publishing them. It
is abundantly clear that he has not published them to puff himself, that
his labour has been a labour of love, and that he believed himself to be
piously fulfilling a duty to his friend. But they ought never to have
been given to the world. More than two-thirds have nothing whatever to
justify their appearance in print, and merely show, what will surprise
those who knew Stevenson by his literary writings, how vapid, vulgar and
commonplace he could be. In their slangy familiarity and careless
spontaneity they remind us of Byron’s, but what a contrast do these
trivial and too often insipid tattlings present to Byron’s brilliance
and point, his wit, his piquancy, his insight into life and men! Only
here and there, in a touch of description, or in a casual reflection, do
we find anything to distinguish them from the myriads of letters which
are interchanged between young men every day in the year. Their one
attraction lies in the glimpses they reveal of Stevenson’s own charming
personality, his kindliness, his sympathy, his great modesty, his
manliness, his transparent truthfulness and honesty. It is amusing to
watch him with one of his correspondents who was evidently endeavouring
to establish a mutual exchange of flattery. The urbane skill with which
this gentleman’s persistently fulsome compliments are either fenced or
waived aside, the ironical delicacy with which, when a return is
extorted, they are repaid, in a measure strictly adjusted to desert and
yet certain not to disappoint expectant vanity, are quite exquisite.
“The suns go swiftly out,” he writes to him, referring to the death of
Tennyson and Browning and others, “and I see no suns to follow, nothing
but a universal twilight of the demi-divinities, with parties like you
and me beating on toy drums, and playing on penny whistles about
glow-worms.” The indignant letter to the _New York Tribune_, in defence
of James Payn, who had been accused of plagiarising from one of
Stevenson’s fictions, well deserves placing on permanent record, as an
illustration of his chivalrous loyalty to his friends.

We are sorry, we repeat, that these letters have been given to the
world. So far as Stevenson’s reputation is concerned they can only
detract from it. When they illustrate him on his best side they merely
emphasise what his works illustrate so abundantly that further
illustration is a mere work of supererogation. When they present him, as
for the most part they do, in dishabille, they exhibit him very greatly
to his disadvantage. If Professor Colvin had printed about one-third of
them, and retained his excellent elucidatory introductions, which form
practically a biography of Stevenson, he would have produced a work for
which all admirers of that most pleasing writer would have thanked him.
As it is, he has been guilty, in our opinion, of a grave error of


[Footnote 23: _The Authorship of the Kingis Quair._ A New Criticism by
J. T. T. Brown.]

Among the worthies of the fifteenth century there is no more interesting
and picturesque figure than the Poet-King of Scotland, James I. Long
before the poem on which his fame rests was given to the world,
tradition had assigned him a high place among native makers, and his
countrymen had been proud to add to the names of Dunbar and Douglas, of
Henryson and Lyndsay, the name of the best of their kings. Great was
their joy, therefore, when, in 1783, William Tytler gave public proof
that the good King’s title to the laurel was no mere title by courtesy,
but that he had been the author of a poem which could fairly be regarded
as one of the gems of Scottish literature. There cannot, in truth, be
two opinions about the _Kingis Quair_. It is a poem of singular charm
and beauty, and, though it is modelled closely on certain of Chaucer’s
minor poems, and is in other respects largely indebted to them, it is
no servile imitation; it bears the impress of original genius, not so
much in details and incident as in tone, colour, and touch; it is a
brilliant and most memorable achievement, and Rossetti hardly
exaggerates when he describes it as

  “More sweet than ever a poet’s heart
  Gave yet to the English tongue.”

For more than a hundred years it has been the delight of all who care
for the poetry of the past, and the story it tells, and tells so
pathetically, is now among the “consecrated legends” which every one
cherishes. “The best poet among kings, and the best king among poets,”
the name of the author of the _Kingis Quair_ heads the list of royal
authors. The stanza which he employed, though invented or adopted by
Chaucer, takes its title from the King, and “the rime royal” will be in
perpetual evidence of his services to poetry, as the University of St.
Andrews will be of his services to learning and education. No generation
has passed, from Sir Walter Scott to Mrs. Browning, and from Mrs.
Browning to Gabriel Rossetti, which has not been lavish of honour and
homage to him.

But, it seems, we have all been under a delusion. Our simple ancestors
believed that James was the author of _Peebles to the Play_ and
_Christ’s Kirk on the Green_; but _Peebles to the Play_ and _Christ’s
Kirk on the Green_ “are now”--Mr. J. T. T. Brown is
speaking--“relegated to the anonymous poetry of the sixteenth century,
inexorably deposed by the internal evidence”; and Mr. Brown aspires to
send the _Kingis Quair_ the same way. His fell purpose is “to deprive
James of his singing garment, and reduce him to the humbler rank of a
King of Scots.” There is something almost terrible in the exultation
with which Mr. Brown assumes that--the King’s claim to every other poem
attributed to him having been completely demolished--it only remains to
deprive him of the _Kingis Quair_, to make his poetical bankruptcy
complete. And to the demolition of the King’s claim to the “Quair” Mr.
Brown ruthlessly proceeds. Now we have no intention of entering into the
question of the authenticity of the minor poems to which Mr. Brown
refers; but we shall certainly break a lance with this destructive
critic in defence of James’s claim to the _Kingis Quair_.

Mr. Brown contends, first, that there is no satisfactory external
evidence in favour of the King’s authorship of the poem; and, secondly,
that the internal evidence is almost conclusive against him. What are
the facts? In the Bodleian Library is a MS. the date of which is
uncertain, but it cannot be assigned to an earlier period than 1488.
This MS. contains certain poems of Chaucer, Hoccleve, Lydgate, and
others, together with the _Kingis Quair_. Of the _Kingis Quair_ it is,
so far as is known, the only MS., and to it alone we owe the
preservation of the poem. Both title and colophon assign the work to
James I., the words being: “Heireefter followis the quair Maid be King
James of Scotland ye first, callit ye Kingis quair, and Maid quhen his
Ma. wes in Ingland,” the colophon running, “Explicit, &c., &c., quod
Jacobus primus scotorum rex Illustrissimus.” This is surely precise
enough; but Mr. Brown insists that the statement carries very little
weight, being no more than the _ipse dixit_ of not merely an
irresponsible, but of an unusually reckless copyist. The recklessness of
this copyist Mr. Brown deduces from the fact that, of ten poems
attributed to Chaucer in the same MS., five undoubtedly do not belong to
him. On this we shall only remark that it would be interesting to know
whether these poems have been attributed to Chaucer in other MSS. In any
case, Mr. Brown must surely know that it is a very different thing for a
copyist to miss-assign a few short poems and to make a statement so
explicit as the statement here made with regard to the _Kingis Quair_.
He must either have been guilty of deliberate fraud--and what right have
we to assume this?--or he must have been misled, an hypothesis which is
equally unwarrantable, unless it be adequately supported. And how does
Mr. Brown proceed to support it? He contends that we have no
satisfactory evidence from other sources that James was the author of
the poem. Walter Bower, the one contemporary historian, though he gives
in his _Scotichronicon_ an elaborate account of the King’s
accomplishments, is silent, Mr. Brown triumphantly observes, about his
poetry. This may be conceded. But Weldon is equally silent about the
poetry of James VI., and Buchanan about the poetry of Mary. And what
says the next historian, John Major? “In the vernacular”--we give the
passage in Mr. Brown’s own version--“he was a most skilful composer....
He wrote a clever little book about the Queen before he took her to wife
and while he was a prisoner,” a plain reference to the _Kingis Quair_.
Testimony to his poetical ability is also given by Hector Boyes in his
_History of Scotland_, “In linguâ vernaculâ tam ornata faciebat carmina,
ut poetam natum credidisses.” So say John Bellenden, John Leslie, and
George Buchanan. Of these witnesses Mr. Brown coolly observes that they
carry little or no weight, because they only echo each other and Major.
Major, Mr. Brown insists, is “the sole authority for the ascription to
James of the vernacular poems.” Certainly fame in the face of such
critics as Mr. Brown is held on a very precarious tenure. Dunbar, in his
_Lament of the Makaris_, enumerates, continues our critic, twenty-one
Scottish poets, but passes James over in silence, therefore James’s
title to being a poet was unknown to him. Possibly; but that Dunbar’s
list was not meant to be exhaustive is proved by the fact that he makes
no mention of a poet, and of a considerable poet, who must have been
well known to him, Thomas of Ercildoune. Nothing can be more misleading
than deductions like these. Ovid has given us an elaborate catalogue of
the poets of his time, but makes no mention of Manilius. Heywood and
Taylor have given elaborate catalogues of the contemporary Elizabethan
dramatists and make no mention of Cyril Tourneur. Addison has given us
an account of the principal English poets, and makes no mention of
Shakespeare. If Dante’s and Chaucer’s acquaintance with their
distinguished brethren is to be estimated by those whom they noticed, it
must have been far more limited than we know it, by other evidence, to
have been. Lyndsay, again, is cited as testimony of ignorance of James’s
title to rank among poets; but in the list, in which he is silent about
James, he is silent about poets so famous as Barbour, Blind Harry,
Wyntown, Kennedy, and Douglas.

Mr. Brown next proceeds to the question of internal evidence. He cannot
understand how it could come to pass, that a Scotchman, who left his
native country when he was under twelve years of age, and who was
educated by English tutors in England, should, after eighteen years of
exile, employ “the Lowland Scottish dialect.” This is surely not very
difficult to explain. Nothing so much endears his country to a man as
exile, and nothing is more cherished by a patriot than his native
language. Ten years’ exile among the Getæ did not corrupt the Latinity
of Ovid, and more than twenty years’ exile did not impair the purity of
Thucydides’ Attic. The King may have had English tutors, but Wyntown
distinctly tells us that he was allowed to retain, as his companions,
four of his countrymen. When he served in France he had a Scottish
bodyguard. The document in the King’s own handwriting, printed by
Chalmers, proves that in 1412 he was conversant with the Lowland
dialect. In all probability, therefore, he carefully cherished his
native language. The consensus of tradition places it beyond all doubt
that he composed poetry in the vernacular, and as he wrote the _Kingis
Quair_ when he knew that he was about to return to Scotland as its king,
it was surely the most natural thing in the world that he should compose
a poem which told the story of himself and his young bride, whom he was
introducing to his subjects as their queen, in the language of the
country. But, says Mr. Brown, it is the Lowland dialect, with inflexions
peculiar to Midland English, with many Chaucerian inflections engrafted
on it. And what more natural? The Midland dialect was the dialect of his
English teachers. The poems of Chaucer he probably had by heart.

Mr. Brown’s object in all this is to relegate the _Kingis Quair_ to
that group of poems which are represented by the _Romaunt of the Rose_,
_The Court of Love_, and _Lancelot of the Lak_, which appeared late in
the fifteenth century, and in which all these peculiarities are very
pronounced. Into philological details we have not space to enter, but
this we will say. We will admit that _ane_ before a consonant, the past
participle in _yt_ or _it_, the pronouns _thaire_ and _thame_, the
plural form _quhilkis_, the employment of the verb _to do_ in the
emphatic conjugation and the like, are peculiarities which belong to a
period not earlier than about 1440, and that all these peculiarities are
to be found in the poem. But, we contend that these are just as likely
to be due to the transcriber as they are to the author. Nothing was so
common with copyists as to import into their texts the peculiarities of
their own dialects, indeed it was habitual with them. Thus Hampole’s
_Pricke of Conscience_ was greatly altered by southern scribes. Thus, in
the Bannatyne MS., Chaucer’s minor poems were similarly altered by
northern scribes. It is, in truth, the very height of rashness to
dispute the genuineness of an original, in consequence of the presence
of peculiarities which might quite well have been imported into it by a
copyist. The resemblances between this poem and the _Court of Love_ are,
we admit, not likely to have been mere coincidences, and we are quite
ready to admit that the _Court of Love_ in the form in which we have it
now, must be assigned to a much later date, more than a century later,
than the date (1423) assigned to the _Kingis Quair_. But this is
certain--that many, and very many, of the resemblances between the two
poems are to be attributed to the fact that the writers were saturated
with the influence of Chaucer, and delighted in imitating and recalling
his poetry. If, again, it be assumed that one poem was the exemplar of
the other, this is indisputable, that the _Court of Love_ was modelled
on the _Kingis Quair_, and not the _Kingis Quair_ on the _Court of
Love_. For, setting aside peculiarities which may be assigned to
transcribers, there can be little doubt that the _Court of Love_ belongs
to the sixteenth century at the very earliest, while Mr. Brown himself
admits that the MS. of the _Kingis Quair_ may be approximately fixed at

Nothing can be more unsatisfactory than Mr. Brown’s attempt to show that
the poem breaks down in autobiographical details, and that it derives
these details from Wyntown’s _Chronicle_. James does not mention the
exact year in which he was taken prisoner. He tells us that he commenced
his voyage when the sun had begun to drive his course upward in the sign
of Aries, that is, on or about the 12th of March--and that he had not
far passed the state of innocence, “bot nere about the nowmer of zeris
thre”--in other words, that he was about ten years of age. Hereupon Mr.
Brown, assuming that Wyntown gives the date of the King’s birth
correctly, proceeds to point out that the King was not at this time
“about ten,” but that he was about eleven and a half; and then asks
triumphantly whether James would have been likely to forget his own age.
Again, he contends that the King’s capture could not have taken place in
March, because it is highly probable that at the end of February, or at
the beginning of March, the King was in the Tower. For the fact that he
was in the Tower at that date there is not an iota of proof, or even of
tolerably satisfactory presumptive evidence. How the author of the
_Kingis Quair_ could have been indebted to Wyntown’s _Chronicle_ for the
autobiographical details it is, indeed, difficult to see. The poem gives
March as the date of the capture; the _Chronicle_ gives April. According
to the poem, the King’s age at the time of his capture was about ten;
according to the _Chronicle_, about eleven and a half. The _Chronicle_
gives the year of the capture; the poem does not. The _Chronicle_ gives
details not to be found in the poem; the poem details not to be found in
the _Chronicle_. Mr. Brown has no authority whatever for asserting that
Book IX. chap. xxv. of the _Chronicle_ was certainly written years
before James returned to Scotland. All we know about the _Chronicle_ is
that it was finished between the 3rd of September, 1420, and the return
of James in April, 1424.

Mr. Brown must forgive us for expressing regret that he should have
wasted so much time and learning, in attempting to support a paradox
which can only serve to perplex and mislead. Scholars, especially in
these days, would do well to remember, that nothing can justify
destructive criticism but a conscientious desire, on the part of those
who apply it, to correct error and to discover truth. And they would
also do well to ponder over Bacon’s weighty words: “Like as many
substances in Nature which are solid do putrify and corrupt into worms,
so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrify and
dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and, as I may term
them, vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness and
life of spirit, but no soundness of matter nor goodness of substance.”


[Footnote 24: _William Dunbar._ By Oliphant Smeaton. Edinburgh:

Boswell tells us that he once offered to teach Dr. Johnson the Scotch
dialect, that the sage might enjoy the beauties of a certain Scotch
pastoral poem, and received for his reply, “No, sir; I will not learn
it. You shall retain your superiority by my not knowing it.” It would
not be true to say that Dr. Johnson’s indifference to the Scotch
language and to Scotch poetry has been shared by all cultivated
Englishmen, but it has certainly been shared by a very large majority in
every generation. The superb merit of many of the Scotch ballads, the
lyrics of Burns and the novels of Scott have practically done little to
diminish this majority and to induce English readers to acquire the
knowledge which Dr. Johnson disdained. Nine Englishmen out of ten read
Burns, either with an eye uneasily fishing the glossary at the bottom of
the page, or _ad sensum_, that is, in contented ignorance of about three
words in every nine. And this is, perhaps, all that can reasonably be
expected of the Southerner. Life is short; the world of Scotch drink,
Scotch religion and Scotch manners is not, as Matthew Arnold observed, a
lovely one, and the time which such an accomplishment would require
would be far more profitably spent in acquiring, say, the language of
Dante and Ariosto, or even the language of the _Romancero General_ and
of Cervantes. A modern reader may stumble, with more or less
intelligence, through a poem of Burns, catching the general sense,
enjoying the lilt, and even appreciating the niceties of rhythm. But
this is not the case with the Scotch of the fifteenth century--the
golden age of the vernacular poetry, the age when poets were writing

  “Catyvis, wrechis, and ockeraris,
  Hud-pykis, hurdaris, and gadderaris,
    All with that warlo went;
  Out of thair throttis thay schot on udder
  Hett moltin gold, me thocht, a fudder
    As fyre-flawcht, maist fervent,
  Ay as thay tumit them of schot,
  Feyndis fild thame new up to the thrott
    With gold of allkin prent.”

The usual consequences have been the result of this ignorance. The
Scotch have had it all their own way in estimating the merits of their
vernacular classics, and the few outsiders, whether English or German,
who have made the Scotch language and literature a special subject of
study, have very naturally not been willing to underestimate the value
of what it has cost them labour to acquire, and so have supported the
exaggerated estimates of the Scotch themselves. What Voltaire so
absurdly said of Dante, that his reputation was safe because no
intelligent people read him, is literally true of such poets as
Henryson, Douglas, and Dunbar. We simply take them on trust, and, as
with most other things which are taken on trust, we seldom trouble
ourselves about the titles and guarantees. It may be accepted as an
uncontrolled truth that the world is always right, and very exactly
right, in the long run. That mysterious tribunal which, resolved into
the individuals which compose it, seems resolved into every conceivable
source of ignorance, error, and folly, is ultimately infallible. There
are no mismeasurements in the reputation of authors with whom readers of
every class have been familiar for a hundred years. But, in the case of
minor writers who appeal only to a minority, critical literature is the
record of the most preposterous estimates. The history of the building
up of these pseudo-reputations is generally the same in all cases. First
we have the _obiter dictum_ of some famous man whose opinion naturally
carries authority, uttered, it may be, carelessly in conversation, or
committed, without deliberation, to paper, in a letter or occasional
trifle. Then comes some little man, who takes up in deadly seriousness
what the great man has said, and out comes, it may be, an essay or
article. This wakes up some dreary pedant, who follows with an “edition”
or “Study,” which naturally elicits from some kindred spirit a
sympathetic review. Thus the ball is set rolling, or, to change the
figure, bray swells bray, echo answers to echo, and the thing is done.
Meanwhile, all that is of real interest and importance in the author
thus resuscitated is lost sight of; in advocating his factitious claims
to attention his real claims are ignored. For the true point of view is
substituted a false, and the whole focus of criticism, so to speak, is
deranged. The first requisite in estimating the work and relative
position of a particular author is the last thing which these
enthusiasts seem to consider, that is, the application of standards and
touchstones derived not simply from the study of the author himself, but
from acquaintance with the principles of criticism, and with what is
excellent in universal literature.

All this has been illustrated in the case of the poet who is the subject
of the volume before us. As Mr. Ruskin has pronounced _Aurora Leigh_ to
be the greatest poem of this century, so Sir Walter Scott, who has, by
the way, been singularly unjust to Lydgate and Hawes, pronounced Dunbar
to be “a poet unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced.” a
reckless judgment which he could never have expressed deliberately.
Ellis followed suit, and in Ellis’ notice Dunbar is “the greatest poet
Scotland has produced.” These judgments have, in effect, been
reverberated by successive writers and editors. In due time, some
fourteen years ago, appeared the inevitable German monograph, “William
Dunbar: sein Leben und seine Gedichte,” by Dr. J. Schipper, to whom Mr.
Oliphant Smeaton appropriately and reverently inscribes the present

In Mr. Oliphant Smeaton’s work Dunbar assumes the proportions which
might be expected--he is a “mighty genius.” “The peer, if not in a few
qualities, the superior of Chaucer and Spenser. By the indefeasible
passport of the supreme genius he has an indisputable title to the
apostolic succession of British poetry to that place between Chaucer and
Spenser, that place which can only be claimed by one whose genius was
co-ordinate with theirs.” As probably eight out of every ten of Mr.
Smeaton’s readers will know nothing more of Dunbar than what Mr. Smeaton
chooses to tell them, and as we, considering the space at our disposal,
cannot refute him by a detailed examination of Dunbar’s works, it is
fortunate that he has given us a succinct illustration of the value of
his critical judgment. The following are four typical stanzas of a poem
which Mr. Smeaton ranks with Milton’s _Lycidas_ and Shelley’s
_Adonais_; we give them as Mr. Smeaton gives them, modernised:--

  “I that in health was and gladness
  Am troubled now with great sickness.
  Enfeebled with infirmity,
               _Timor mortis conturbat me._

  “Our pleasure here is all vain glory,
  This false world is but transitory,
  The flesh is brittle, the fiend is slee,
               _Timor mortis conturbat me._

  “The state of man doth change and vary,
  Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary
  Now dancing merry, now like to dee,
               _Timor mortis conturbat me._

  “No state on earth here stands sicker,
  As with the wind waves the wicker,
  So waves this world’s vanity,
               _Timor mortis conturbat me._”

As the following is pronounced to be one of the finest stanzas Dunbar
ever penned, it is interesting as illustrating what is, in Mr. Smeaton’s
opinion, the best work of this rival of Chaucer and Spenser:--

  “Have mercy, love, have mercy, lady bright;
  What have I wrought against your womankeid,
  That you should murder me a sackless wight,
  Trespassing on you nor in word nor deed?
  That ye consent thereto, O God forbid;
  Leave cruelty and save your man for shame,
  Or through the world quite losëd is your name.”

It may be added that what are by far the finest passages in Dunbar’s
poems are passed unnoticed and unquoted by Mr. Smeaton. Indeed, his
acquaintance with Dunbar, or, at all events, his taste in selection, is
exactly on a par with that of Ned Softley’s with Waller. “As that
admirable writer has the best and worst verses among our English poets,
Ned,” says Addison, “has got all the bad ones by heart, which he repeats
upon occasion to show his reading.” Should Mr. Smeaton ever meet his
idol in Hades, we would in all kindness advise him to avoid an
encounter; let him remember that the fulsome eulogy is his own, but that
the verses quoted are the poet’s. Attempted murder--so the irate shade
might argue--is less serious than compulsory suicide.

Dunbar was undoubtedly a man of genius, but a reference to the poets who
immediately preceded him will make large deductions from the praises
lavished on him by his eulogists. He struck no new notes. _The Thistle
and the Rose_ and _The Golden Terge_ are mere echoes of Chaucer and
Lydgate, and, in some degree, of the author of _The King’s Quair_, and
are indeed full of plagiarisms from them. _The Dance of the Seven Deadly
Sins_ is probably little more than a faithful description of a popular
mummery. His moral and religious poems had their prototypes, even in
Scotland, in such poets as Johnston and Henryson. His most remarkable
characteristic is his versatility, which ranges from the composition of
such poems as _The Merle and the Nightingale_ to the _Twa Maryit Wemen
and the Wedo_, from such lyrics as the _Meditation in Winter_ to such
lyrics as the _Plea for Pity_. Mr. Smeaton calls him “a giant in an age
of pigmies.” The author or authoress of _The Flower and the Leaf_ was
infinitely superior to him in point of style, Henryson was infinitely
superior to him in originality, and Gavin Douglas at least his equal in
power of expression and in description.

Let us do Dunbar the justice which Mr. Smeaton has not done him, and
take him at his very best. Here is part of a picture of a May morning,--

  “For mirth of May, wyth skippis and wyth hoppis
  The birdis sang upon the tender croppis,
    With curiouse notis, as Venus Chapell clerkis.
  The rosis yong, new spreding of their knoppis,
  War powderit brycht with hevinly beriall droppis;
    Throu bemes rede, birnyng as ruby sperkis,
    The skyes rang for schoutyng of the larkis.”

This is brilliant and picturesque rhetoric touched into poetry by the
“Venus Chapell clerkis,” and the magical note in the last line; so too
the touch in _The Golden Terge_, likening the faery ship to “blossom
upon the spray.” But in his allegorical poem he is too fond of the
“quainte enamalit termes,” and his verse has a certain metallic ring. It
will be admitted, we suppose, that the best of his moral poems would be
_The Merle and the Nightingale_ and “Be Merrie Man”; but the utmost
which can be said for them is, that the philosophy is excellent and its
expression adequate; that is, that they have little to distinguish them
from hundreds of other poems of the same class.

In speaking of Dunbar’s satires, Mr. Smeaton indulges himself in the
following nonsense, “From the genial, jesting, and ironical
incongruities of Horace and Persius we are introduced at once into the
bitter, vitriolic scourgings of Juvenal,” and in the following
rhodomontade, telling us that they unite “the natural directness of
Hall, the subtle depth of Donne, the delicate humour of Breton, the
sturdy vigour of Dryden, the scalding, vitriolic bitterness of Swift,
the pungency of Churchill, the rural smack of Gay, united to an approach
at least to the artistic perfection of Pope.” Stuff like this and
indiscriminate eulogy are, no doubt, much easier to produce than an
estimate of a writer’s historical position and importance. Of the
relation of Dunbar to his predecessors and contemporaries in England and
Scotland, of his prototypes and models in French and Provençal
literature, of the influence which he undoubtedly exercised on
subsequent poetry, and especially on Spenser, Mr. Smeaton has nothing to
say. It never seems to occur to him that his hero, like every one else,
must have had his limitations, that “the many-sidedness of that genius
which has a ring”--the metaphors are not ours, but Mr.
Smeaton’s--“almost Shakespearian, about it,” could hardly have been
distinguished by uniformity of excellence; that “that painter of
contemporary manners, who had all the vividness of a Callot, united to
the broad humour of a Teniers and the minute touch of a Meissonier,” who
“reflected in his verse the most delicate _nuances_, as well as the most
startling colours of the age wherein he lived,” must have had degrees in

We have singled out this volume for special notice, not because of any
intrinsic title it possesses to serious attention, but because it is
typical of a species of literature which is rapidly becoming one of the
pests of our time. While every encouragement should be given to sober,
judicious, and competent reviews of our older writers, every
discouragement should be given, out of respect to the dead, as well as
in the interests of the living, to such books as the present. For they
are as mischievous as they are ridiculous. They misinform; they mislead;
they corrupt, or tend to corrupt, taste. After laying down a volume like
this we feel, and we expect Dunbar would have felt, that there is
something much more formidable than the old horror, “the candid friend,”
even that indicated by Tacitus--_pessimum inimicorum genus--laudantes_.


[Footnote 25: _A Literary History of the English People from the Origins
to the Renaissance._ By J. J. Jusserand.]

There is a breeziness and hilarity, a gay irresponsibility and abandon,
about M. Jusserand which is perfectly delightful. He is the very
Autolycus of History and Criticism. What more sober students, who have
some conscience to trouble them, are “toiling all their lives to find”
appears to be his as a sort of natural right. The fertility of his
genius is such, that it seems to blossom spontaneously into erudition.
Like the lilies he toils not, but unlike the lilies he spins, and very
pretty gossamer too. It is impossible to take him seriously.

The truth is that M. Jusserand belongs to a class of writers which,
thanks to indulgent publishers, a more indulgent public, and most
indulgent reviewers, is just now greatly in the ascendant.
“Encyclopædical heads,” who took all knowledge for their province,
probably died with Bacon, but encyclopædical heads who take all
Literature or all History for their province appear to be as common as
the “excellence” which, in opposition to Matthew Arnold’s opinion, the
American lady maintained was so abundant on both sides of the Atlantic.
These are the gentlemen who complacently sit down “to edit the
Literatures of the world,” or “to trace the development of the human
race, from its picturesque cradle in the valleys of Central Asia, to its
infinite ramifications in our own day”--within “the moderate compass of
an octavo volume.”

M. Jusserand’s first feat is to dispose of some six centuries in
ninety-three pages, in a narrative which simply tells over again, though
certainly after a more jaunty fashion, what Ten Brink, Henry Morley, and
others have told much more seriously, and, we may add, much more
effectively. The Norman Conquest and an account of the Anglo-Norman
literature occupy about a hundred and ten pages, while some eighty pages
more, dealing with the fusion of the races and the gradual evolution of
the English people and language, bring us to Chaucer. It might have been
expected that M. Jusserand would have justified his survey of a period
so often reviewed before, either by tracing, with more fulness and
precision than his predecessors, the successive stages in the
development of our nationality and its expression in literature, or by
adding to our knowledge of the characteristics and peculiarities of the
literature itself. He has done neither. He has, on the contrary,
obscured the first by the constant introduction of irrelevant matter,
and he has apparently no notion of the relative importance of the
authors on whose works he dilates or touches. Thus Richard Rolle of
Hampole fills more space than Layamon, whose work is despatched in a
page! Thus two lines in a note suffice for the _Ormulum_, two lines for
Mannyng’s _Handlyng of Synne_, a singularly interesting and significant
work, ten lines for Robert of Gloucester, who is rather perplexingly
described as “a distant ancestor of Gibbon and Macaulay,” while four
pages are accorded to _Tristan_ and five to the _Roman du Renart_. How
the Latin Chroniclers fare may be judged from the fact that a little
more than a page serves for Geoffrey of Monmouth, a line for Ordericus
Vitalis, and two for Giraldus Cambrensis. In the chapter on Chaucer M.
Jusserand does more justice to his subject, and it is to be regretted
for his own sake that he has not confined himself to such essays. He is
never safe except when he is on the beaten path. Nothing could be more
inadequate than the section on Gower. It certainly indicates that M.
Jusserand is not very familiar with the _Confessio Amantis_. Not one
word is said about the remarkable prologue, and to dismiss such a work
in less than three pages, observing that “it contains a hundred and
twelve short stories, two or three of which are very well told, one, the
adventure of Florent, being, perhaps, related even better than in
Chaucer,” is not quite what we should expect in a work purporting to
narrate the “literary history of the English people.” M. Jusserand has
not even taken the trouble to keep pace with modern investigation in his
subject, but actually tells us that Gower’s _Speculum Meditantis_ is
lost! If Gower’s writings are not of much intrinsic value, they are of
immense importance from an historical point of view. John de Trevisa, a
most important name in the history of English prose, is despatched in
eight lines of mere bibliographical information, without a word being
said about his great services to our literature, and without any
reference being made either to the remarkable preface to his great work,
or to his version of the Dialogue attributed to Occam.

The only satisfactory chapter in the book is the chapter dealing with
Langland and his works; but it is certainly surprising that no account
should be given of the very remarkable anonymous poem entitled _Piers
Ploughman’s Crede_. Again, whole departments of literature, such as the
Metrical Romances, the Laies, Fabliaux, early lyrics and ballads, are
most inadequately treated, some of the most memorable and typical being
not even specified. Surely Minot was not a man to be dismissed, with a
flippant joke, in half a page, or _King Horn_ and _Havelok_ poems to be
relegated to passing reference in a note.

But it is in dealing with the literature of the fifteenth century that
M. Jusserand’s superficiality and, to put it plainly, incompetence for
his ambitious task become most deplorably apparent. In treating the
earlier periods he had trustworthy guides even in common manuals, and he
could not go far wrong in accepting their generalizations and
statements. Books easily attainable, and indeed in everybody’s hands,
could enable him to dance airily through the Anglo-Saxon literature and
through the period between Layamon and Chaucer. No one can now very well
go wrong in Chaucer and his contemporaries, who has at his side some
half-dozen works which any library can supply. But it is otherwise with
the literature of the fifteenth century. Here, as every one who happens
to have paid particular attention to it knows, popular manuals and
histories are most misleading guides. Deterred, no doubt, by the
prolixity of the poetry and by the comparatively uninteresting nature of
the prose literature, modern historians and critics have contented
themselves with accepting the verdicts of Warton and his followers, who
probably had as little patience as themselves; and so a kind of
conventional estimate has been formed, which appears and reappears in
every manual and handbook. We turned, therefore, with much curiosity to
this portion of M. Jusserand’s work. We had, we own, our suspicions
about his first-hand knowledge of the literature through which he glided
so easily in the earlier portions of his book, and here, we thought,
would be the crucial test of his pretension to original scholarship.
Would he do voluminous Lydgate the justice which, as the specialist
knows, has so long been withheld from him? Would he point out the strong
human interest of Hoccleve; the great historical interest of Hardyng;
the power and beauty of the ballads; or, if he included Hawes within the
century, would he show what a singularly interesting poem, intrinsically
and historically, the _Pastime of Pleasure_ really is? If, again, he
included the Scotch poets, how would he deal with the problems presented
by Huchown? Would he accord the proper tribute to the genius of Dunbar;
would he estimate what poetry owes respectively to James I., Henry the
Minstrel, Robert Henryson, and Gavin Douglas? In our prose literature,
would he comment on the great importance of Pecock’s memorable work, of
Fortescue’s two treatises, of the _Paston Letters_, of Caxton’s various
publications? How would he deal with the one “classical” work of the
century, Malory’s _Morte d’Arthur_?

Now, of Lydgate, “to enumerate whose pieces,” says Warton, “would be to
write the catalogue of a little library,” it is not too much to say
that he was one of the most richly gifted of our old poets, that as a
descriptive poet he stands almost on the level of Chaucer, that his
pictures of Nature are among the gems of their kind, that his pathos is
often exquisite, “touching,” as Gray said of him, “the very heartstrings
of compassion with so masterly a hand as to merit a place among the
greatest of poets.” His humour is often delightful, and his pictures of
contemporary life, such as his _London Lickpenny_ and his _Prologue to
the Storie of Thebes_, are as vivid as Chaucer’s. In versatility he has
no rival among his predecessors and contemporaries. Gray notices that,
at times, he approaches sublimity. His style often is
beautiful,--fluent, copious, and at its best eminently musical. The
influence which he exercised on subsequent English and Scotch literature
would alone entitle him to a prominent position in any history of
English poetry. But the handbooks think otherwise, and he occupies just
three pages in M. Jusserand’s work, the only estimate of his work being
confined to the assertion that “he was a worthy man if ever there was
one, industrious and prolific,” etc., and the only criticism is the
remark that his “prosody was rather lax.” And this is how poor Lydgate
fares at our historian’s hands. To Hoccleve are assigned just one page
and a few lines. Hardyng figures only in the bibliography at the bottom
of a page. The ballads are despatched in fifteen lines. Hawes’ _Pastime
of Pleasure_, memorable alike both for the preciseness with which it
marks the transition from the poetry of mediævalism to that of the
Renaissance, for its probable influence on Spenser, and for its
intrinsic charm, its pathos, its picturesqueness, and its sweet and
plaintive music, is curtly dismissed, as the handbooks dismiss it, as
“an allegory of unendurable dulness.” If M. Jusserand would throw aside
the manuals and turn to the original, he would probably see reason to
modify his verdict. Our author’s breathless gallop through the Scotch
poets, to whom he allots nine pages, can only be regarded with silent
astonishment by readers who happen to known anything about those most
remarkable men. Huchown is not so much as mentioned. The amazing
nonsense which he writes in summing up Dunbar, we will transcribe, _ut
ex uno discas omnia_:

     “Dunbar, with never-flagging spirit, attempts every style....
     His flowers are too flowery, his odours too fragrant; by
     moments it is no longer a delight, but almost a pain. It is not
     sufficient that his birds should sing; they must sing among
     perfumes, and these perfumes are coloured.”

Has M. Jusserand ever read _The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins_, _The
Twa Maryit Wemen and the Wedo_, and the minor poems of Dunbar? If he
has, would he pronounce that these “flowers” are “too flowery”--these
“odours” “too fragrant,” or would he feel the absurdity of generalizing
on ludicrously insufficient knowledge? His verdicts on the other Scotch
poets are marked by the same superficiality, and we regret to add
flippancy. To class Henryson among poets whose style is “florid” and
whose roses are “splendid but too full-blown” is to show that M.
Jusserand knows as little about him as he seems to know about Dunbar. In
all Henryson’s poems there are only three short passages which could by
any possibility be described as florid. The prose of the fifteenth
century fares even worse at his hands. Capgrave is mentioned only in the
bibliography! Of the interest and importance of Pecock, historically and
intrinsically, he appears to have no conception; on the real
significance of the _Repressor_ he never even touches, and how indeed
could he in the less than one page which is assigned to one of the most
remarkable writers in the fifteenth century? A page suffices for the
_Paston Letters_, and four lines for Malory’s _Morte d’Arthur_!

Now we would ask M. Jusserand, in all seriousness, what possible end can
be served by a book of this kind, except the encouragement of everything
that is detestable to the real scholar: superficiality, want of
thoroughness, and false assumption, and what is more, the public
dissemination of error, and of crude and misleading judgments. Such a
work as the present, the soundness and trustworthiness of which
ninety-nine readers in every hundred must necessarily take for granted,
can only be justified when it proceeds from one who is a master of his
immense subject, from one whose generalizations are based on amply
sufficient knowledge, whose suppressions and omissions spring neither
from carelessness nor from ignorance, but from discrimination, and in
whose statements and judgments implicit reliance can be placed. To none
of these qualifications has M. Jusserand the smallest pretension.

We have no wish to seem discourteous to M. Jusserand or to say anything
which can cause him annoyance, but it is no more than simple duty in any
critic with a becoming sense of responsibility to discountenance in
every way the production of such books as these. They are not only
mischievous in themselves, but they form precedents for books which are
more mischievous still. We like M. Jusserand’s enthusiasm, but we would
exhort him to reduce the flatulent dimensions, which his ambition has
here so unhappily assumed, to that more tempered ambition which gave us
the monographs on Piers Ploughman and on the Tudor novelists.


[Footnote 26: _Personal Recollections, Souvenirs, and Anecdotes of
Thomas De Quincey and his Friends and Associates._ Written and collected
by James Hogg.]

To a thoughtful reader there is, perhaps, no sadder spectacle than those
sixteen volumes which represent all that remains to us of Thomas De
Quincey. What superb powers, what noble and manifold gifts, what
capacity for invaluable and imperishable achievements had Nature
lavished on this extraordinary man! Metaphysics might for all time have
been a debtor to that vigorous, acute, and subtle intellect, at once so
speculative and logical, so inquisitive and discriminating. Æsthetic
criticism might have found in him a second Lessing, and literary
criticism a superior Sainte-Beuve. For, in addition to all that would
have enabled him to excel in abstract thought, he had--and in ample
measure--the qualities which make men consummate critics: rare power of
analysis, the nicest perception, sensibility, sympathy, good taste,
good sense, immense erudition. He might have contributed masterpieces to
Theology, to History, to Economic Science. But they know not his name.
He has set his seal on nothing but on English style. About a hundred and
fifty articles contributed to magazines and encyclopædias, some of them
of a high order of literary merit, many of them simply worthless, the
majority of them containing what is inferior so disproportionately in
excess of what is valuable that they may be likened to dustbins, with
jewels here and there glittering among the rubbish;--this is what
represents him. It is as a master of style, by virtue of what he
accomplished as a rhetorician and prose poet only, that he will live.
But this, comparatively scanty as it is, is of pre-eminent, of unique
value, and will suffice to secure him a place for ever among the
classics of English prose. He has also another claim, if not to our
reverence, at least to our curious attention and interest,--and that
attention and interest he can scarcely fail to excite in every
generation,--his autobiographical writings give us a picture, and that
with fascinating power, of one of the most extraordinary personalities
on record.

Indiscriminating admiration is among the most pleasing traits of youth,
but in men of mature years it loses its attractiveness. When it is no
longer the effervescence of juvenile enthusiasm for which all make
allowance, it becomes, like the levities of boyhood affected in middle
life, merely vapid folly. In relation to its object it not only defeats
its own ends, but is apt to make recipient and donor alike ridiculous.
Nor is this all. By some curious law of association which we cannot
pretend to explain, its almost inevitable ally is dulness, and dulness
of a peculiarly wearisome and exasperating kind. During the last few
years these peculiarities have become so alarmingly epidemic that it
really seems high time to form, on the principle of Mr. Morris’s Society
for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments, a Society for the
Preservation of Literary Reputations. When those “of whom to be
dispraised were no small praise” take to eulogy and editing, an unhappy
Classic may well look to his true friends. It is nothing less than
appalling to behold the mountains of rubbish now gradually accumulating
over the work--the real work--of such poets as Wordsworth, Shelley, and
Keats; rubbish of their own, rescued with cruel industry from the
oblivion to which they would themselves have consigned it, rubbish of
their commentators and editors, dulness and inanity unutterable. “What,
sir,” asked an Eton boy of Foote, “was the best thing you ever said?”
“Well,” was the reply, “I once saw a chimney-sweep on a high prancing,
high-mettled horse. ‘There,’ said I, ‘goes Warburton on Shakespeare.’”
But it is not in the Warburtons, not in the chimney-sweepers, that the
mischief lies; it is in those who may be called the scavengers and
sextons of literature, in those who, utterly unable to discern between
what is precious and what is worthless in a man’s work, thrust all,
without distinction, into prominence, and thus not only enable an author
to “write himself down,” but, by their indiscriminating eulogies, assist
him in his suicide. The subtlest form, indeed, which detraction can
assume is over-praise, for a man is thus forced to give the lie to his
own reputation.

No one, perhaps, has suffered so much from ill-judging admirers as De
Quincey. If ever an author needed a judicious adviser, when preparing
his works for publication in a permanent form, and a judicious editor,
when the time had come for that final edition on which his title to
future fame should rest, it was the English opium-eater. But, unhappily,
he had no such adviser in his lifetime, and he has had no such editor
since. He consequently reprinted much which ought never to have been
reprinted at all, and he omitted to reprint some things which would have
done honour to him. His besetting faults, even in his vigour, were
loquacity and silliness, a habit of “drawing out the thread of his
verbosity finer than the staple of his argument”--a tendency to peddle
and dawdle, as well as to indulge in a sort of pleasantry, so attenuated
as to border closely on inanity. As he grew older these habits became
more confirmed. His puerility and garrulousness in his later writings
are often intolerable. But this was not the worst. In revising some of
his earlier papers, and particularly the _Confessions_, he not only
imported into them tiresome irrelevancies and superfluities, but, in
emending, ruined the glorious passages on which his fame as a
rhetorician and prose poet rests; such has been the fate, among others,
of the exquisite description of the powers of opium,--the superb passage
beginning, “The town of L.. represented the earth with its sorrows and
its graves,”[27] and of the dreams in the second part of the
_Confessions_, particularly of the sublime one beginning, “The dream
commenced with a music.”[28]

Mr. James Hogg tells us that his design in publishing the present volume
was that he might “place a stone upon the cairn of the man” who had
treated him “with an almost paternal tenderness.” We sincerely
sympathize with Mr. Hogg’s pious intention, but we submit that the
truest kindness which he, or any other admirer of De Quincey could do
him, would be not to augment but to lighten the cairn which indiscreet
admirers are so industriously piling over him. To change the figure, the
best service which could be rendered to De Quincey would be to relieve
him of his superfluous baggage, not to add to it. His fame would stand
much higher, if his sixteen volumes were vigorously weeded; if the
sweepings and refuse of his study, so injudiciously given to the world
by Dr. Japp and Mr. Hogg, were given instead to the flames; and if
reminiscents and biographers would only leave him to tell, in his own
fashion, his own story, especially as it is one of those stories the
interest of which depends purely on the telling. We have already
expressed our sympathy with Mr. Hogg’s pious intention. It only remains
for us to express our regret that Mr. Hogg’s piety should have taken the
form of the most barefaced piece of book-making which we ever remember
to have met with. Addison, if we are not mistaken, somewhere describes a
man to whom a single volume afforded all the amusement and variety of a
whole library, for, by the time he had arrived at the middle, he had
completely forgotten the beginning, and when he arrived at the end, he
had completely forgotten the whole. Mr. Hogg appears to proceed on the
assumption that it is pretty much the same with the public and its
memory, that its capacity for amusement is permanent, but that its
recollection of what has amused it is so treacherous, that repetition
will be sure to have all the attraction of novelty. This is, no doubt,
unhappily true. But it is a truth which no critic has a right to

All that is of interest in this volume is little more than the literal
reproduction, in another shape, of material embodied in a Life of De
Quincey, published by Dr. Alexander Japp, under the pseudonym of H. A.
Page, in 1877. Its exact composition is as follows. Eliminating the
preface and the index, the book consists of 359 pages. Of these, seventy
consist of a dreary _réchauffé_ by Dr. Japp himself of his own Life of
De Quincey, and of the additional information contained in his edition
of the Posthumous Works. Next comes a series of reminiscences, extracted
from Dr. Japp’s Life, from Dr. Garnett’s edition of the _Confessions_,
from the _Quarterly Review_, and from other sources all equally
accessible. Then Mr. Hogg himself opens fire with _Days and Nights with
De Quincey_. An essay--“On the supposed Scriptural Expression for
Eternity”--excellently illustrating De Quincey in his senility, is
reprinted, with awe-struck admiration, from the American edition of his

For the purpose, presumably, of adding to the bulk of the book, Moir’s
ballad, _De Quincey’s Revenge_, is included, though its sole connection
with De Quincey is, that it deals with a legend concerning the possible
ancestors of a possible branch of his possible family. Then we have one
of Mr. Shadworth Hodgson LL.D.’s _Outcast Essays_, “On the genius of De
Quincey,” the reason for the hospitable entertainment of the outcast
being by no means apparent. Among other dreary trifles is a reprint of
a Latin theme, one of De Quincey’s college exercises. As Mr. Hogg has
chosen to reprint and translate this, it would have been as well to
print and translate it correctly. “Quæ ansibus obstant” should, of
course, have been “ausibus,” and “oculi perstringuntur” cannot possibly
mean “are spellbound,” but “are dazzled.”

The republication of these pieces was, we repeat, a great mistake,
another lamentable illustration of the cruel wrong which officious and
ill-judging admirers may inflict on a writer’s reputation. Talleyrand
once observed that, a wise man would be safer with a foolish than with a
clever wife, for a foolish wife could only compromise herself, but a
clever wife might compromise her husband. Substituting ‘unambitious’ for
‘foolish’ and ‘ambitious’ for ‘clever,’ we are very much inclined to
apply the same remark to a great writer and his friends. It requires a
Johnson to support a Boswell, and a Goethe to support an Eckermann.


[Footnote 27: See Works. Black’s Edit., Vol. I. p. 212, compared with
original Edit., pp. 113-114.]

[Footnote 28: _Id._, p. 272 and original Edit., pp. 177-178.]


[Footnote 29: _A Life of Shakespeare._ By Sidney Lee.]

It is a pleasure to turn from the slovenly and perfunctory work, from
the plausible charlatanry and pretentious incompetence which it has so
often been our unwelcome duty to expose in these columns, to such a
volume as the volume before us. It is books like these which retrieve
the honour of English scholarship. A wide range of general knowledge,
immense special knowledge, scrupulous accuracy, both in the
investigation and presentation of facts, the sound judgment, the tact,
the insight which in labyrinths of chaotic traditions and conflicting
testimony can discern the clue to probability and truth--these are the
qualifications indispensable to a successful biographer of Shakespeare.
And these are the qualifications which Mr. Lee possesses, in larger
measure than have been possessed by any one who has essayed the task
which he has here undertaken. A ranker and more tangled jungle than that
presented by the traditions, the apocrypha, the theories, the
conjectures which have gradually accumulated round the memory of
Shakespeare since the time of Rowe, could scarcely be conceived. In this
jungle some, like Charles Knight, have altogether lost themselves;
others, like Joseph Hunter, have struck out vigorously into wrong
tracks, and floundered into quagmires. Halliwell Phillipps, sure-footed
and wary though he was, certainly had not the clue to it. But Mr. Lee,
who can plainly say with Comus,--

  “I know each lane, and every alley green,
  Dingle or bushy dell of this wild wood,
  And every bosky bourne from side to side,
  My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood,”

has thridded it, and taught others to thrid it, as no one else has done.
And he will have his reward. He has produced what deserves to be, and
what will probably become, the standard life of our great national poet.

Mr. Lee’s book is substantially a reproduction of his article on
Shakespeare, contributed to the _Dictionary of National Biography_, the
high merits of which have long been recognised by scholars; and he has
certainly done well to make that article popularly accessible by
reprinting it in a separate form. But the present volume is not a mere
reproduction of his contribution to the Dictionary; it is much more. He
has here filled out what he could there sketch only in outline; what he
could there state only as results and conclusions, he here illustrates
and justifies by corroboration and proof. He has, moreover, both in the
text and in the appendices, brought together a great mass of interesting
and pertinent collateral matter which the scope of the Dictionary
necessarily precluded.

More than a century ago George Steevens wrote: “All that can be known
with any degree of certainty about Shakespeare is that he was born at
Stratford-on-Avon, married and had children there, went to London, where
he commenced actor, wrote poems and plays, returned to Stratford, made
his will, died, and was buried there.” And, if we set aside probable
inferences, this is all we do know of any importance about his life. His
pedigree cannot certainly be traced beyond his father. Nothing is known
of the place of his education--that he was educated at the Stratford
Grammar School is pure assumption. His life between his birth and the
publication of _Venus and Adonis_ in 1593, is an absolute blank. It is
at least doubtful whether the supposed allusion to him in Greene’s
_Groat’s Worth of Wit_, and in Chettle’s _Kind Heart’s Dream_ have any
reference to him at all; it is still more doubtful whether the William
Shakespeare of Adrian Quiney’s letter, or of the Rogers and Addenbroke
summonses, or the William Shakespeare who was assessed for property in
St. Helens, Bishopsgate, was the poet. We know practically nothing of
his life in London, or of the date of his arrival in London; we are
ignorant of the date of his return to Stratford, of his happiness or
unhappiness in married life, of his habits, of his last days, of the
cause of his death. Not a sentence that fell from his lips has been
authentically recorded. At least one-half of the alleged facts of his
biography is as purely apocryphal as the life of Homer attributed to

But probability, as Bishop Butler says, is the guide of life, and on the
basis of probability may be raised, it must be owned, a fairly
satisfactory biography. Mr. Lee has not been able to contribute any new
facts to Shakespeare’s life, which is certainly not his fault; but he
has given us a recapitulation, as lucid as it is exhaustive, of all that
the industry of successive generations of memorialists from Ben Jonson
to Halliwell Phillipps has succeeded in accumulating, and he has been as
judicious in what he has rejected as in what he has adopted. From the
curse of the typical Shakespearian biographer--we mean the statement of
mere inference and hypothesis as fact--he is absolutely free. He has
done excellent service in giving, if not finishing, at least swashing
blows to the monstrous fictions of the theorists on the sonnets,
particularly to the Fitton-Pembroke mare’s nest, fictions which have
been gradually generating a Shakespeare, as purely apocryphal as the
Roland of the song or the Apollonius of Philostratus.

Mr. Lee’s most remarkable contribution to speculative Shakespearian
criticism, in which, we are glad to say, he does not often indulge, is
his contention that the W. H. of the dedication to the sonnets was
William Hall, a small piratical stationer. It is never wise to speak
positively on what must necessarily be, till certain evidence is
obtainable, a matter of speculation. But we are very much inclined to
think that Mr. Lee’s contention has at least something in its favour.
Our readers will remember that one of the chief points in the enigma of
the sonnets is the dedication, and it runs thus: “To the onlie begetter
of these ensuing Sonnets, Mr. W. H., all happiness and that eternitie
promised by our ever-living poet wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in
setting forth. T. T.” It has generally been assumed that the “W. H.” is
the youth who is the hero of the first group of sonnets, and the poet’s
friend, and he has commonly been identified either with William Herbert,
third Earl of Pembroke, or with Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of
Southampton. The difficulties in the way of either hypothesis--and on
each hypothesis not Babels merely, but cities of Babels have been
raised--are to an unprejudiced mind insurmountable. Mr. Lee maintains
with plausible ingenuity, but not, we think, conclusively, that there is
no proof that the youth of the sonnets was named “Will” at all. His
analysis of the “Will” sonnets is a masterpiece of subtle ingenuity, and
well deserves careful attention. He then proceeds to adopt the theory
that the word “begetter” is not to be taken in the sense of “inspirer,”
but simply as “procurer” or “obtainer” of the sonnets for T. T., _i.e._,
the publisher, Thomas Thorpe. In other words, that Thorpe dedicated the
sonnets to W. H., in return for W. H. having piratically obtained them
for him. This is at least doubtful. In the first place it may reasonably
be questioned whether “begetter” could have the meaning which is here
assigned to it; the passages quoted from _Hamlet_ (“acquire and beget a
temperance”) and from Dekker’s _Satiro-mastix_, “I have some cousins
german at Court shall beget you the reversion of the Master of the
King’s Revels,” are anything but conclusive. Still, Thorpe, who is by no
means remarkable for the purity of his English, may have used it in the
sense which Mr. Lee’s theory requires.

Shakespeare’s sonnets, as is well known, were circulating among his
friends in manuscript, and Mr. Lee has discovered that one William Hall
was well known as an Autolycus among publishers, and had already edited,
under the initials W. H., a collection of poems left by the Jesuit poet,
Southwell--in other words had already done for the publisher, George
Eld, what it is assumed that he now did for Thomas Thorpe. Mr. Lee’s
theory is, it must be admitted, plausible, and few would hesitate to
pronounce it far more probable than the theory which would identify the
enigmatical initials with the names of Pembroke or Southampton.

The chapters dealing with the sonnets are, in our opinion the most
valuable contribution which has ever been made to this important
province of Shakespearian study, and it may be said of Mr. Lee, as
Porson said of Bentley, that we may learn more from him when he is wrong
than from many others when they are right. His contention is, and it is
supported with exhaustive erudition, that these poems are, in the main,
a concession to the fashion, then so much in vogue, of sonnet writing;
that their themes are the conventional themes treated in those
compositions; that some of them were dedicated to Southampton, that some
may be autobiographical, but that they are wholly miscellaneous, and
tell no consecutive story, as so many critics have erroneously assumed.
We cannot accept all Mr. Lee’s theories and conclusions, but one thing
is certain, that they are supported with infinitely more skill and
learning than any other theories which have been broached on this
hopelessly baffling problem.

We will conclude by noticing what seem to us slight blemishes in this
admirable work. There is nothing to warrant the assertion on p. 158 that
most of Shakespeare’s sonnets were produced in 1594, which is to cut the
knot of a most difficult question. Indeed, with respect to the whole
question of the sonnets, Mr. Lee is, we venture to submit, a little too
dogmatic. It is a question which no one can settle as positively as Mr.
Lee seems to settle it. There is surely no good, or even plausible
reason for doubting the authenticity of _Titus Andronicus_, whatever
innumerable Shakespearian critics may say, external and internal
evidence alike being almost conclusive for its genuineness. There is
nothing to warrant the supposition that Shakespeare was on bad terms
with his wife. The famous bequest in his Will was probably a delicate
compliment, and we are surprised that Mr. Lee should not have noticed
this. Among the testimonies to Shakespeare in the seventeenth century,
Mr. Lee should have recorded that of Archbishop Sharp, who, according to
Speaker Onslow, used to say “that the Bible and Shakespeare had made him
Archbishop of York.”

Mr. Lee must also forgive us for adding that, in this work at least,
æsthetic criticism is not his strong point, and he would have done well
to keep it within even narrower bounds than he has done. Many of those
who would be the first to admire his erudition and the other scholarly
qualities which are so conspicuous in every chapter of his book, will,
we fear, take exception to much of his criticism, especially in relation
to the sonnets. It is too positive; it is unsympathetic; it is too
mechanical. But our debt to Mr. Lee is so great, that we feel almost
ashamed to make any deductions in our tribute of gratitude.


[Footnote 30: _The Mystery of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: an attempted
Elucidation._ By Cuming Walters. _Testimony of the Sonnets as to the
Authorship of the Shakespearian Plays and Poems._ By Jesse Johnson.
_Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered and in part Re-arranged, with
Introductory Chapters, Notes and a Reprint of the Original 1609
Edition._ By Samuel Butler.]

There goes a story that an ingenuous youth, who had the privilege of an
introduction to Lord Beaconsfield, resolved to make the best of the
occasion, by extracting, if possible, from that astute political sage
the secret of success in life. It might take the form, he thought, of a
little practical advice. For that advice, explaining the object with
which it was asked, he accordingly applied. “Yes,” said Lord
Beaconsfield, “I think I can give you some advice which may possibly be
of use to you. Never trouble yourself about The Man in the Iron Mask,
and never get into a discussion about the authorship of the Letters of
Junius.” In all seriousness we think it is high time that the “closure”
should be applied to a debate on another “mystery” of which every one
must be tired to death, except perhaps those who contribute to it. If
some progress could be made towards the solution of the Mystery of
Shakespeare’s Sonnets, if there was the faintest indication of any dawn
on the darkness, even the wearied reviewer would be patient. But the
thing remains exactly where it was, before this appalling literary
epidemic set in. During the last three or four years scarcely a month
has passed without its “monograph,” many of these treatises, mere
replicas of their predecessors, differing only in degrees of stupidity
and uselessness. Mr. Cuming Walters’ volume, sensible enough and
intelligent, we quite concede, simply thrashes the straw. It professes
to be an original contribution to the question. There is not a view or
theory in it, which is not now a platitude to every one who has had the
patience to follow this controversy. It analyses the Sonnets; they have
been analysed hundreds of times. It asks who was W. H.; it answers the
question as it has been answered _usque ad nauseam_. It discusses the
dark lady, and lands us in the same shifting quagmire of opinion in
which Mr. Tyler and his coadjutors and opponents have been floundering
for the last four years. It assumes, it rejects, it questions, it
suggests, what has been assumed, rejected, questioned, and suggested
over and over again. Indeed, it may now be said with literal truth that,
unless some fresh discovery is made, nothing new, whether in the way of
absurdity or sense, can be advanced on this subject. But books are
multiplied with such rapidity and in such prodigious numbers in these
days, that they thrive, like cannibals, on one another. The last comer
is simply its forgotten predecessor in disguise.

But platitude is the very last charge that can be brought against Mr.
Jesse Johnson’s contribution to the curiosities of Shakespearian
criticism. The theory advanced here is, that Shakespeare never wrote the
Sonnets at all, that he was quite unequal to their composition, that the
author of them “was probably fifty, perhaps sixty, and that he was
besides a man of genius, which Shakespeare certainly was not. I would
not,” says Mr. Jesse Johnson, “deny to Shakespeare great talent. His
success in and with theatres certainly forbids us to do so. That he had
a bent or a talent for rhyming or for poetry, an early and persistent
tradition and the inscription over his grave indicate. And otherwise
there could hardly have been attributed to him so many plays, besides
those written by the author of the Sonnets.” Shakespeare may have been
equal to trifles like _Hamlet_ or _Lear_--for Mr. Jesse Johnson would be
the last to dispute the claim made for Shakespeare as a hard-working
playwright clearing his twenty-five thousand dollars a year (Mr. Jesse
Johnson is calculating his income according to the present time)--but
“to Shakespeare working as an actor, adapter or perhaps author came a
very great poet, one who outclassed all the writers of that day, and it
is the poetry of that great unknown which, flowing into Shakespeare’s
work, comprises all or nearly all of it which the world treasures or
cares to remember.” If we told Mr. Jesse Johnson, and all who resemble
Mr. Jesse Johnson, the truth about their productions, we are quite
certain of one thing--but the one thing of which we are certain it
would, perhaps, be good taste in us to leave unsaid.

Of a very different order is Mr. Samuel Butler’s _Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Reconsidered_. This is the work of a scholar, but of a scholar mounted
on a hobby-horse of unusually vigorous mettle. Mr. Butler begins with a
tremendous onslaught on the theories of the Southamptonites, the
Herbertists and the anti-autobiographical party; and in this part of his
work he has certainly much to say which is both pertinent and plausible,
nay, in our opinion, convincing. But he is less successful in
construction than in demolition. His own contention is, that the Sonnets
are undoubtedly autobiographical, and very derogatory to Shakespeare’s
moral character. He is satisfied that “Mr. W. H.” was the youth who
inspired them, not the youth who simply collected, or procured them, and
gave them to Thorpe, but that this youth was neither the Earl of
Southampton nor the Earl of Pembroke, nor, indeed, any one of superior
social rank to the poet, though this has always been assumed. Adopting
the theory of Tyrwhitt and Malone that the key to the youth’s name is to
be found in the seventh line of the twentieth sonnet,--

  “A man in hew all _Hewes_ in his controlling.”

and deducing, with them, from Sonnets cxxxv., cxxxvi. and cxliii. that
the youth’s Christian name was William, Mr. Butler believes, as they
did, that the youth’s name was William Hughes, or Hewes; and Mr. Butler
is inclined to identify him, though he speaks, of course, by no means
confidently, with a William Hughes, who served as steward in the
_Vanguard_, _Swiftsure_ and _Dreadnought_, and who died in March,
1636-7. Mr. Butler supports his theories with hypotheses which an
impartial judge of evidence will find it difficult to concede. In the
face of Sonnets xxxvi., xxxvii. and cxxiv. the contention that the youth
was not in a superior social station to the poet cannot be maintained
with any confidence. There are still graver difficulties in the way of
supposing that the Sonnets were written between January, 1585-6 and
December, 1588. That they could be the work of a young man between his
twenty-first and his twenty-fourth year, and have preceded by some four
years the composition of _Venus and Adonis_ and the _Rape of Lucrece_,
is simply incredible; but it is a question which cannot be argued, for
we have nothing but mere hypothesis to go upon. Mr. Butler’s
arrangement and interpretation of the Sonnets are, moreover, purely
fanciful. When Mr. Butler would have us believe that some of the Sonnets
in the second group, from cxxvii. to clii., are addressed to and concern
not the woman, but the youth, he asks us to accept a theory which is not
only revolting, but which sets all probability at defiance. Similarly
absurd, he must forgive us for saying, is his grotesquely repulsive
interpretation of Sonnet xxxiv. Nor is there anything to justify the
interpretation placed on Sonnets xxxiii. and xxxiv. or the collocation
of cxxi. All that can be said for Mr. Butler’s exceedingly ingenious and
admirably argued theory is, that it supports a view of the question
which, if it admits of no positive confutation, produces no conviction.
No theory, based on an arbitrary arrangement of these poems and on
positive deductions drawn, or rather strained, from most ambiguous
evidence and from pure hypotheses, can possibly be satisfactory.

The problem presented in these Sonnets is undoubtedly the most
fascinating problem in all literature, and it is as exasperating as it
is fascinating. It appears to be so simple, it seems constantly to be on
the verge of its solution, and yet the moment we get beyond a certain
point in inquiry, the more complex its apparent simplicity is discovered
to be, the more hopeless all prospect of explaining the enigma. Take
the difficulty of assuming, what seems to be obvious, that they are
autobiographical. Here we have the poet, and that poet Shakespeare,
admitting the world into the innermost secrets of his life, taking his
contemporaries, without the least reserve, into his confidence, inviting
and assisting them to the study of his own morbid anatomy, and, in a
word, stripping himself bare with all the shameless abandon of Jean
Jacques and of Casanova. Everything that we know of Shakespeare seems to
discountenance the probability of his having any such intention. No
anecdote, with the smallest pretence to authenticity, couples his name
with scandal. The theory which identifies him with the W. S. of
Willobie’s _Avisa_ has no real basis to rest on, and without
corroboration is absolutely inadmissible as evidence. Whatever
Shakespeare’s private life may have been, it is quite clear that he
carefully regarded the decencies, and would have been the last man in
the world to pose publicly in the character presented to us in the
Sonnets. If the poems are autobiographical, we can only conclude that
they were published without his consent, and even to his great
annoyance. This may certainly have been the case, and is indeed often
assumed to have been so. But even then it is, to say the least, curious,
that there should have been no tradition about the extraordinary story
which they tell, especially considering the distinction of the _dramatis
personæ_. Assuming that the youth, who is their hero, was a real person,
he must, judging from Sonnets xxxvi., xxxvii. and cxxiv., have been
conspicuous in the society of that time; assuming the rival poet to be a
real person, he must have been equally conspicuous in another sphere,
while Shakespeare himself, at the time the Sonnets were published, was
the most distinguished poet and playwright in London. It is, therefore,
extraordinary that all traces of an affair in which persons of so much
eminence were involved, and which would have furnished scandal-mongers
with the topics in which such gossips most delight, should have entirely
disappeared. We must either conclude that posterity has been very
unfortunate in the loss of records which would have thrown light on the
matter, or that Shakespeare’s contemporaries knew nothing of the facts,
and contented themselves with the poetry; or, lastly, that what we may
call the fable of the Sonnets, the drama in which W. H., “the dark
lady,” and the rival poet play their parts, is as fictitious as the plot
of _The Midsummer Night’s Dream_ or _The Tempest_.

It is not our intention to support any of the numerous theories which
pretend to give us the key to these Sonnets, still less to propose any
new one, but simply to show that the enigma presented by them is as
insoluble as ever, and that all attempts to throw light on it have
served to effect nothing more than to make darkness visible and
confusion worse confounded. Let us briefly review the facts. In 1609,
Thomas Thorpe, a well-known Elizabethan bookseller, published a small
quarto volume, entitled _Shakespeare’s Sonnets_, having apparently not
obtained them from the poet himself, and to this volume was prefixed the
following dedication:--“To the onlie begetter of these ensuing Sonnets,
Mr. W. H., all happiness and that eternitie promised by our ever-living
poet wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth. T. T.” Here
begins and ends all that is certainly known about W. H. and his relation
to these poems. No one knows who he was; no one knows what is exactly
meant by the word “begetter,” whether it is to be taken in the sense of
inspirer, whether that is to say W. H. is the youth celebrated in the
Sonnets--“the master-mistress” of the poet’s passion, or whether it
simply means the person who got or procured the poems for Thorpe,--in
which case the identification of the initials is of no consequence,
unless we are to suppose that the youth who inspired them presented them
to Thorpe. Mr. Sidney Lee, in his very able paper in the _Fortnightly
Review_ for February, 1898, and in his Life of Shakespeare, argues that
there is no proof that the youth of the Sonnets was named “Will,” though
this has always been assumed to be the case. The evidence on which the
point must be argued will be found in the puns on “Will” in Sonnets
cxxxiv.-vi. and cxliii. It seems to us, we must own, that the balance of
probability, though not certainly in favour of the affirmative,
decidedly inclines towards it. Granting then,--for it is, after all,
only an hypothesis,--that the initials W. H. are those of the youth
celebrated in the Sonnets, to whom are they to be assigned? The youth,
whoever he was, is represented as being in a social position superior to
that of the poet; he has apparently rank and title; he has wealth; he is
young and eminently handsome, his beauty being of a delicate, effeminate
cast; he is highly cultivated and accomplished; he is on terms of the
closest intimacy with the poet, by whom he is passionately beloved; he
lives a free, loose life, and he intrigues with his friend’s mistress.

Passing by all preposterous theories about William Harte, William
Hughes, William Himself and the like, we come to the two names which
seem worth serious consideration, William Herbert, third Earl of
Pembroke, and Henry Wriothesly, third Earl of Southampton. The Pembroke
theory, with Mr. Thomas Tyler’s corollary identifying the “dark lady”
with Mary Fitton, has been adopted by Dr. Brandes in his work on
Shakespeare just published. But the difficulties in the way of accepting
it are insuperable. They have been admirably discussed by Mr. Sidney
Lee in the article to which we have referred. In the first place, while
Shakespeare must have been on terms of more than brotherly intimacy with
the youth of the Sonnets, there is no evidence at all that he had ever
been in any other relation with the Earl than in the ordinary one of
servant and patron. The words of Heminge and Condell, in the dedication
of the first folio to Pembroke and his brother, merely state that they
had both of them “prosequted” him with favour; in other words, been to
him what they had been to many other dramatists and men of letters; and
that is the only evidence of any connection between Shakespeare and
Pembroke. Tradition was certainly silent about any relations between
them, for Aubrey, as Mr. Lee has pointed out, though he has collected
much information about both, says nothing about their acquaintanceship,
though he mentions Pembroke’s connection with Massinger, and
Southampton’s with Shakespeare. But Thorpe’s dedication is conclusive
against Pembroke. In 1609, Pembroke, who had succeeded to the title on
the death of his father in January, 1601, was Lord Chamberlain, a Knight
of the Garter, and one of the most distinguished noblemen in England. Is
it credible that Thorpe would address him as Mr. W. H., more especially
as in the other works which he inscribed to him,--and he inscribed
several,--he is careful to give him all his titles, and to address him
with the most fulsome servility? Again, Pembroke, as Mr. Lee points out,
was never a “Mister” at all. As the eldest son of an earl, he was
designated by courtesy Lord Herbert, and as Lord Herbert he is always
spoken of in contemporary records. The appellation “Mr.” was not, as Mr.
Lee observes, used loosely, as it is now, and could never have been
applied to any nobleman, whether holding his title by right or by
courtesy. Whatever allowance may be made for a poet’s passion and fancy,
some weight must be attached to the insistence made in the Sonnets on
the youth’s delicate and effeminate beauty. It is true that we have no
portraits of Pembroke before he arrived at middle age, but those
portraits justify us in concluding that he could never, at any time,
have been distinguished by beauty of the type indicated in the poems.

Against all this the advocates of the Pembroke theory have nothing to
place but conjectures, a series of insignificant coincidences and the
assumption that the woman in the Sonnets is to be identified with the
woman who bore Herbert a child, Mary Fitton. The publication of Sonnet
xliv. by Jaggard, in 1599, shows that the intrigue between the youth and
the dark lady, which is the central event of the Sonnets, was already,
and had probably been for some time, in full career, while there is no
evidence that Pembroke was involved with Mary Fitton before the summer
of 1600. But what finally disposes of this theory is the testimony
afforded by Lady Newdigate-Newdegate’s recently published _Gossip from a
Muniment Room_. Indispensable requisites in the lady of the Sonnets are,
that she should be dark, a “black beauty” with “eyes raven black,” with
hair which resembles “black wires,” and that she should be a married
woman; but the portraits--and there are two of them--of Mary Fitton,
show that she had a fair complexion, with brown hair and grey eyes; and
she remained unmarried, until long after her connection with Pembroke
had ceased.

The theory which identifies W. H. with the Earl of Southampton is
slightly more plausible, but the difficulties in the way of accepting it
are, in truth, equally insuperable. This theory has at least one great
point in its favour. Shakespeare was acquainted, and it may be inferred
intimately acquainted, with Southampton, as the dedications of _Venus
and Adonis_ and the _Rape of Lucrece_ indicate. Of his affection and
respect for this nobleman he has left an expression almost as remarkable
as the language of the sonnets. “The love I dedicate to your lordship is
without end.... What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours:
being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty
would show greater.” This bears a singularly close resemblance to Sonnet

  “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
  Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
  To thee I send this written embassage
  To witness duty, not to show my wit,
  Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
  May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it.”

And there is much in the Sonnets which can be made to coincide with what
we know of Southampton. But, as we push inquiry, difficulties of all
kinds begin to swarm in on us. The first is, as in the case of Pembroke,
with the dedication. To say nothing of the fact that “W. H.” is not “H.
W.”--the possibility of the appellation of “Mr.” being applied to one
who had been an Earl since 1581, and who had twice been addressed in
dedications by his full titles, and that by Shakespeare himself, is a
wholly inadmissible hypothesis. To argue that this was merely “a blind,”
is simply to beg the question. If the Sonnets were addressed to
Southampton, they must have been written between 1593 and 1598. In 1593
Southampton was in his twenty-first year, in 1598 in his twenty-sixth;
Shakespeare, respectively, in his thirty-first and thirty-fifth year.
Now, what is especially emphasized in the sonnets is the youthfulness of
the young man to whom they are dedicated, and the advanced age of the
poet. In Sonnet cviii. the youth is addressed as “a sweet boy,” in
cxxvi. as “a lovely boy,” in liv. as “a beauteous and lovely youth”; in
xcv. his “budding name” is referred to, while the poet speaks of
himself as “old,” as “beaten and chopped with tanned antiquity,” as
being “with Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn.” And so, as has
been more than once pointed out, we have this anomaly--a man of
thirty-four describing himself as a thing of “tanned antiquity” in
writing to “a sweet and lovely boy” of twenty-five. No one could have
been less like the effeminate youth of the Sonnets than Southampton. All
we know about him, including his portraits, indicates that he was
eminently masculine and manly. Again, it is matter of history that he
greatly distinguished himself on the Azores expedition in 1597,
acquitting himself with so much gallantry that, during the voyage, he
was knighted by Essex. To this expedition, which must have involved one
of those absences of which we hear so much in the Sonnets, to this
exploit and this honour, which afforded so much opportunity for
peculiarly acceptable compliment, Shakespeare makes no reference at all.
There is nothing to indicate that the youth of the Sonnets had gained
any military or political distinction, had taken any part in public
life, or had ever been absent from England. To assume with Mr. Lee that
the Sonnets were written in or before 1594, and therefore before
Southampton had become distinguished, is to involve ourselves in
inextricable difficulties. Even Mr. Lee admits that Sonnet cvii. must
have reference to the death of Elizabeth in 1603. With regard to the
supposed references to Southampton’s relations with Elizabeth Vernon, no
certain, or, to speak more accurately, no even plausible inferences can
be drawn in any particular: all that they can be reduced to are degrees
of improbability.

If, again, we accept the theory of Tyrwhitt and Malone, supported by Mr.
Butler, and suppose that W. H. was some obscure person, we are
proceeding on mere hypothesis, and a hypothesis seriously shaken by the
plain meaning expressed in Sonnets xxxvi., xxxvii., and cxxiv.

The enigma of these Sonnets is, we repeat, as insoluble now as it was
when inquiry was first directed to them. Whether they are to be regarded
as autobiographical, as dramatic studies, as a mixture of both, as a
collection of miscellaneous poems, as written to order for others, as
mere exercises in the sonnet-cycle, or as all of these things, is alike
uncertain. Our knowledge of the time of their composition begins and
ends with the facts, that some of them were, presumably, in circulation
in or before 1598, that two of them had certainly been composed in or
before 1599, and that all of them had been written by 1609. The rest is
mere conjecture; and on mere conjecture and mere hypothesis is based
every attempt to solve their mystery. If certainty about them can ever
be arrived at, it can only be attained by evidence of which, as yet, we
have not even an inkling. The probability is, that it was Shakespeare’s
intention, or rather Thorpe’s intention, to baffle curiosity, and,
except in the judgment of fanatics, he has certainly succeeded in doing

For our own part we are very much inclined to suspect, that they owed
their origin to the fashion of composing sonnet-cycles, that those
cycles suggested their themes and gave them the ply; that the beautiful
youth, the rival poet, and the dark lady are pure fictions of the
imagination; and that these poems are autobiographical only in the sense
in which _Venus and Adonis_, the _Rape of Lucrece_, _Romeo and Juliet_
and _Othello_ are autobiographical.


[Footnote 31: _Landscape in Poetry from Homer to Tennyson._ By Francis
T. Palgrave.]

It would be scarcely possible for a critic of Mr. Palgrave’s taste and
learning to produce a treatise on any aspect of poetry, which would not
be full of interest and instruction, and the present volume is a
contribution, and in some respects a memorable contribution, to a
particularly attractive subject of critical inquiry. Its purpose is to
trace the history of descriptive poetry in its relation, that is to say,
to natural objects and more particularly to landscape, by illustrating
its characteristics at different periods, and among different nations.
Beginning with the Homeric poems, Mr. Palgrave reviews successively the
“landscape” of the Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews, the mediæval
Italians, the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons, and of our own poets, from the
predecessors of Chaucer to Lord Tennyson. That a work, covering an area
so immense, should be far less satisfactory in some portions than in
others is no more than what might be expected, and Mr. Palgrave would
probably be himself the first to admit that, except when he is dealing
with the classical poetry of Hellas, of ancient and mediæval Italy, and
of our own country, his treatise has no pretension to adequacy. Even
within these bounds there is much which is irrelevant, and much which is
surprisingly defective. Where, as in a subject like this, the material
at the author’s disposal is necessarily so superabundant, surely the
utmost care should have been taken both to keep within the limits of the
theme proposed, and to select the most pertinent and typical
illustrations. But when Mr. Palgrave illustrates “Homeric landscape” by
the simile describing the heifers frisking about the drove of cows in
the fold-yard, and the “Sophoclean landscape” by the simile of the
blast-impelled wave rolling up the shingle, he lays himself open to the
imputation of drawing at random on his commonplace book. Indeed, the
pleasure with which lovers of classical poetry will read this book
cannot fail to be mingled with the liveliest surprise and
disappointment. Take the Homeric poems. If a reader, tolerably well
versed in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, were asked for illustrations of the
power with which natural phenomena are described, to what would he turn?
Certainly not to Mr. Palgrave’s meagre and trivial examples, three of
which alone have any title to pertinence. He would turn to the winter
landscape in _Iliad_, xii. 278-286, to the lifting of the cloud from
the landscape in _Iliad_, xvi. 296:--

  ὡς δ’ ὁτ’ αφ’ ὑψηλης κορυφης ορεος μεγαλοιο
  κινηση πυκινην νεφελην στεροπηγερετα Ζευς,
  εκ τ’ εφανεν πασαι σκοπιαι και πρωονες ακροι
  και ναπαι, ουρανοθεν δ’ αρ’ ὑπερῥαγη ασπετος αιθηρ.

     “As when Zeus, the gatherer of the lightning, moves a thick
     cloud from the high head of some mighty mountain, and all the
     cliffs and the jutting crags and the dells start into light,
     and the immeasurable heaven breaks open to its highest”;

to the descent of the wind on the sea, _Ib._ xi. 305-308:--

      ὡς ὁποτε Ζεφυρος νεφεα στυφελιξη
  αργεσταο Νοτοιο, βαθειη λαιλαπι τυπτων;
  πολλον δε τροφι κυμα κυλινδεται, ὑψοσε δ’ αχνη
  σκιδναται εξ ανεμοιο πολυπλαγκτοιο ιωης.

     “As when the west wind buffets the cloudlets of the brightening
     south wind, lashing them with furious squall, and the big wave
     swells up and rolls along, and the spray is scattered on high
     by the blast of the careering gale”;

or to the pictures of the billow-buffeted headland, and the wave
bursting on the ship in _Iliad_, xv. 618-628; or to the storm-cloud
coming over the sea in _Iliad_, iv. 277; or to the descent of the wind
on the standing corn, _Iliad_, ii. 147. He would point, above all, to
the description of Calypso’s grotto, in _Odyssey_, v. 63-74; to that of
the harbour of Phorcys, in _Odyssey_, xiii. 97-112; to the fountain in
the grove, xvii. 205-211. Mr. Palgrave comments justly on Homer’s minute
observation of nature; but he only gives one illustration, where it is
noticed in _Odyssey_, vi. 94, that the sea, in beating on the coast,
“washed the pebbles clean.” He might have added with propriety many
others: as the “earth blackening behind the plough,” in _Iliad_, xviii.
548; the bats in the cave, _Odyssey_, xxiv. 5-8; the birds escaping from
the vultures, _Iliad_, xxii. 304, 305; the wasps “wriggling as far as
the middle,” σφηκες μεσον αιολοι, _Iliad_, xii. 167; the dogs
and the lions, _Iliad_, xviii. 585, 586.

Mr. Palgrave observes that Homer “was not only familiar with the sea,
but loved it with a love somewhat unusual in poets.” We venture to
submit that there is not a line in Homer indicating that he “loved” the
sea, except for poetical purposes; like most of the Greeks he probably
dreaded it; his real feeling towards it is no doubt indicated in his own

     ου γαρ εγω γε τι φημι κακωτερον αλλο θαλασσης ανδρα
     γε συγχευαι.

--nothing crushes a man’s spirit more than the sea. Mr. Palgrave justly
points out that Hesiod’s rude prosaic style and matter are not congenial
to the poetic landscape, yet it is only fair to Hesiod to say, that his
poetry is not without vivid touches of natural description, as the
winter scene in _Works and Days_, 504 sqq., and his description of the
beginning of spring, 565-569, show. Professor Palgrave next glances at
the treatment of nature in the lyric poets, and very properly cites the
lovely fragment of Alcman:

                        βαλε δη βαλε κηρυλος ειην
  ὁς τ’ επι κυματος ανθος ἁμ’ αλκυονεσσι ποτηται,
  νηλεγες ητορ εχων, ἁλιπορφυρος ειαρος ορνις,--

but in translating it makes a truly extraordinary blunder.

     “Would I were the kingfisher, as he flies, with his mates _in
     his feeble age_, between wind and water.”

νηλεγες ητορ meaning, as we need hardly say, “reckless heart”;
it is exactly Byron’s, “With all her _reckless_ birds upon the wing.” In
the quotations from Sappho, Ibycus, and Pindar, Mr. Palgrave has been
judicious and happy, but surely he ought to have found place for the
lovely flower cradle of Iamus in the sixth Olympic Ode, and for the
moonlight evening in the third Olympian,--only seven words, but what a
picture!--while, in the popular poetry, the omission of the Swallow Song
is inexplicable.[32] Nor can we forgive him the omission of the
magnificent simile of the spring wind clearing away the clouds, in the
thirteenth of the fragments attributed to Solon.

But it is in dealing with the Greek dramatists that Mr. Palgrave is most
defective in illustration. It is not to the opening of the _Prometheus_,
or to the conclusion, or, indeed, to any of the passages from this poet
which Mr. Palgrave cites, that we must turn for Æschylean landscape, or
for illustration of this poet’s power of natural description. It is to
his brief picture--his pictures of scenery, though singularly vivid, are
always brief--of the airy seat “against which the watery clouds drift
into snow,”

  λισσας αιγιλιψ απροσδεικτος οιοφρων κρεμας
  γυπιας πετρα (_Supplices_, 772-3),

where almost every word is a perfect picture, literally beggaring mere
translation; it is to his description, so magical in its rhythm, of the
mid-day sea slumbering in summer calm (_Agamemnon_, 548-50),

  η θαλπος, ευτε ποντος εν μεσημβριναις
  κοιταις ακυμων νηνεμοις ευδοι πεσων,

to his picture of the keen brisk wind, clearing the clouds away, to
bring into relief against the sky the dark masses of waves tossing on
the horizon (_Agamemnon_, 1152-54), to his world-famous

            ποντιων κυματων
  ανηριθμον γελασμα.

  “The multitudinous laughter of the ocean waves.”

  --_Prometheus_, 89-90.

Mr. Palgrave has, of course, cited with reference to Sophocles the great
chorus in the _Œdipus Coloneus_, but he has omitted to notice that,
if Sophocles has not elsewhere given us so elaborate a piece of natural
description, innumerable touches in the dramas, and more particularly
in the fragments, show that he observed nature almost as minutely as
Shakespeare. Nothing could be more vivid than the touches of description
in the _Philoctetes_. From Euripides Mr. Palgrave cites nothing,
observing that he rarely goes beyond somewhat conventional phrases.
Surely Mr. Palgrave must have forgotten the magnificent description of
Parnassus, as seen from the plain, in the _Phœnissæ_, the glorious
description of a moonlight night, as represented on the tapestry, in the
_Ion_, the vivid touches of natural description in the _Bacchæ_, that of
the meadow in the _Hippolytus_, and the chorus about Athens in the
_Medea_, to say nothing of the charming rural picture in the fragments
of the _Phaeton_.[33] To say of Aristophanes that, in his treatment of
nature, he rarely goes beyond somewhat common phrases, is to say what is
refuted, not merely in the chorus referred to by Mr. Palgrave, but in
the _Frogs_ and in the _Birds_. He stands next to Homer in his keen
sensibility to the charm of nature. Shelley himself might have written
the choruses referred to. In dealing with the Alexandrian poets Mr.
Palgrave passes over Apollonius Rhodius and Callimachus entirely, and
yet the fine picture of Delos given by Callimachus in the Hymn to Delos
is one of the gems of ancient description, and Apollonius Rhodius
abounds with the most graphic and charming delineations of scenery and
natural objects. What a beautiful description of early morning is

  ημος δ’ ουρανοθεν χαροπη ὑπολαμπεται ηως
  εκ περατης ανιουσα, διαγλαυσσουσι δ’ αταρποι,
  και πεδια δροσοεντα φαεινη λαμπεται αιγλη.

  _Argon._ i. 1280-1283.

     “What time from heaven the bright glad morn coming up from the
     East begins to shine, and path and road are all agleam, and the
     dew-bespangled plains are flashing with the radiant light.”

How vivid too, and with the vividness of modern poetry, are his
descriptions of the cave of Hades and its neighbourhood (ii. 729-750),
and the Great Syrtis (iv. 1230-1245)! In his selections from the Greek
Anthology Mr. Palgrave is much happier; but here again he has many
omissions, and among them the most remarkable illustration of Greek
nature-painting to be found in that collection--namely, Meleager’s idyll
giving an elaborate description of a spring day, which might have been
written by Thomson (_Pal. Anthology_, ix. 363). It may be observed in
passing that ουρεσιφοιτα κρινα (_Pal. Anth._, v. 144) can
hardly mean “lilies that wander over the hills,” but lilies “that haunt
the hills,” and that ξουθαι μελισσαι in Theocritus, vii. 142,
probably means “buzzing” bees, not “tawny.”

In dealing with the Roman poets Mr. Palgrave is, with one exception,
most unsatisfactory. From the poets preceding Lucretius, amply as the
fragments would serve his purpose, he gives only one illustration. We
should have expected the vivid picture given by Accius in his
_Œnomaus_ of the early morning:

  “Forte ante Auroram, radiorum ardentum indicem,
  Cum e somno in segetem agrestis cornutos cient,
  Ut rorulentas terras ferro rufidas
  Proscindant, glebasque arvo ex molli exsuscitent.”

     “Perchance before the dawn that heralds the burning rays, what
     time rustics bring forth the oxen from their sleep into the
     cornfields, to break up the red dew-spangled soil with the
     ploughshare, and turn up the clods from the soft soil”;

or the wonderfully graphic description of a sudden storm at sea, in the
fragments of the _Dulorestes_ of Pacuvius:

    “Profectione læti piscium lasciviam
  Intuentur, nec tuendi capere satietas potest.
  Interea prope jam occidente sole inhorrescit mare,
  Tenebræ conduplicantur, noctisque et nimbum occæcat nigror,
  Flamma inter nubes coruscat, cælum tonitru contremit,
  Grando mixta imbri largifico subita præcipitans cadit,
  Undique omnes venti erumpunt, sævi existunt turbines,
  Fervit æstu pelagus.”

     “Glad at heart when they set out they gaze at the sporting
     fish, and are never weary of looking at them. Meanwhile, hard
     upon sunset, the sea ruffles, darkness gathers thick, the
     blackness of the storm-clouded night hides everything, flame
     flashes between the clouds, heaven shakes with thunder, hail,
     mingled with streaming rain, dashes suddenly down, from every
     quarter all the winds tear forth, wild whirlwinds rise, the sea
     boils with the seething waters.”

With Lucretius, indeed, he deals fully, and this portion of his work
leaves little to be desired. But a reference to the lines to Sirmio and
one illustration from the _Peleus and Thetis_ exhaust his examples from
Catullus. We should have expected the picture of the stream leaping from
the mossy rock into the valley beneath, in the Epistle to Manlius, of
the morning chasing away the shadows in the _Attis_, and the lovely
flower pictures in the Epithalamia. In dealing with Virgil most of Mr.
Palgrave’s citations are practically irrelevant; scarcely any of the
passages which best illustrate Virgil’s power of landscape painting
being even referred to. “The _Æneid_,” says Mr. Palgrave, “may be
briefly dismissed. Natural description can have but little place in an
epic.” And yet what are the passages to which any one, who wishes to
illustrate the charm and power of Virgil’s pictures of scenery, would
naturally turn? Surely to these: the description of the rocky recess
which sheltered Æneas’s ships (_Æneid_, i. 159-168), a picture worthy of
Salvator; the picture of Ætna (iii. 570-582), which rivals the picture
of it given by Pindar, a picture praised so justly by Mr. Palgrave
himself; the description of a calm night (iv. 522-527); the
wave-buffeted, gull-haunted rock (v. 124-128); and, above all, the
scenery at the mouth of the Tiber, bathed in the rays of the morning
sun, a picture unexcelled even by Tennyson. Nor even in the _Georgics_
is any reference made to the superb description of a storm in harvest
time (i. 216-334), or to the magnificent winter piece (iii. 349-370).

The remarks about the indifference of Propertius to natural scenery are
most unjust. What a charming picture is this!--

    “Grata domus Nymphis humida Thyniasin,
  Quam supra nullæ pendebant debita curæ
    Roscida desertis poma sub arboribus;
  Et circum irriguo surgebant lilia prato
    Candida purpureis mixta papaveribus.”

      _El._, I. xx. 35-39.

It may be conceded that Ovid is conventional and commonplace in his
treatment of nature; but why is Valerius Flaccus, with his bold, vivid
touches, left unnoticed? Why does one citation suffice for the many
exquisite cameos which ought to have been given from Statius? Another
inexplicable omission in Mr. Palgrave’s work is the poem entitled
_Rosæ_, attributed to Ausonius--a lovely poem, infinitely more beautiful
than the epigram quoted by Mr. Palgrave from the Latin Anthology, and
rivalling the fragment given by him from Tiberianus. Most readers would
agree with him in his estimate of Claudian, but he might have added the
fine description of Olympus in the _De Consulatu Theodori_, 200-210:

                  “Ut altus Olympi
  Vertex, qui spatio ventos hiemesque relinquit,
  Perpetuum nullâ temeratus nube serenum
  Celsior exsurgit pluviis, auditque ruentes
  Sub pedibus nimbos, et rauca tonitrua calcat;”

which Goldsmith, by the way, has borrowed and paraphrased in the
_Deserted Village_, together with its sublime application:

  As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form
  Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm,
  Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
  Eternal sunshine settles round its head.

Space does not serve to follow Mr. Palgrave through his chapters on
Italian, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon poetry, in all of which his omissions
are as remarkable as his citations; so we must content ourselves with
making a few remarks on his treatment of the English poets. It is
pleasing to see that, guided by Gray, he has done justice to Lydgate,
but he has not noticed the distinguishing peculiarity of this poet in
his description, his extraordinary sensitive appreciation of colour.

Among the Scotch poets of the fifteenth century a prominent place should
have been given to Henryson who is not even mentioned. Mr. Palgrave
hurries over the Elizabethan poets with too much expedition, and the
poets of the eighteenth century fare even worse. Great injustice is done
to Thomson. Why did not Mr. Palgrave, instead of citing what he calls
Thomson’s “cold” tropical landscape, for the purpose of contrasting it
unfavourably with Tennyson’s picture in _Enoch Arden_, give us instead
the Summer morning--

  “At first faint gleaming in the dappled East
  ... Young day pours in apace,
  And opens all the lawny prospect wide,
  The dripping rock, the mountain’s misty tops
  Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn,
  Blue through the dusk the smoking currents shine,”


          “The clouds that pass,
  For ever flushing round a summer sky”;

or the rainbow in the _Lines to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton_? Dyer
may be somewhat prosaic, but he is not a poet to be despatched in a
treatise on descriptive poetry, without citation, in a few contemptuous
lines: how vivid is his picture of a calm in the tropics!--

  “The dewy feather, on the cordage hung,
  Moves not; the flat sea shines, like yellow gold
  Fused in the fire”;

or his

        “Rocks in ever-wild
  Posture of falling”;

or the charming landscape in _Grongar Hill_ with such touches as these:

  “The windy summit wild and high
  Roughly rushing on the sky”;


  “Rushing from the woods the spires
  Seem from hence ascending fires.”

As Wordsworth said, “Dyer’s beauties are innumerable and of a high
order.” It is very surprising that nothing should have been said about
Shenstone and the Wartons, about Scott of Amwell, Jago, Crowe and
Bowles, all of whom are, in various ways, remarkable as descriptive
poets. And certainly Mr. Palgrave does scant justice to Cowper; his
touch may be prosaic, but he always had his eye on the object, and his
landscape lives. Surely, by the way, Mr. Palgrave is mistaken in
supposing that Shelley apparently understood Alastor to mean a
“wanderer”; he understood it, as the preface shows, to mean, what it
means so often in Greek, “one under the spell of an avenging deity.”

Here we must break off. Mr. Palgrave’s is an important work, and it is
the duty, therefore, of a critic to review it seriously, in the hope
that, should it reach a second edition, which may be confidently
anticipated, Mr. Palgrave may be disposed to do a little more justice to
his most interesting subject.

     Since this article was written Mr. Palgrave’s lamented death
     has unhappily rendered all hope of what was anticipated in the
     last paragraph, vain. But the review has been reprinted, and
     with some additions, in the hope that it may not be
     unacceptable as a contribution, however slight and imperfect,
     to a subject of great interest to lovers of poetry.


[Footnote 32: See Bergk, Poet. Lyr. _Carm._ Pop. xxix.]

[Footnote 33: Nauck, _Trag. Græc. Frag._, p. 473.]


A familiar figure in literary circles, a fine critic, a graceful and
scholarly minor poet, and one whose name will long be held in
affectionate remembrance by lovers of English poetry, has passed away in
the person of Francis Turner Palgrave. It would be absurd to place him
beside Matthew Arnold--to whose genius, to whose characteristic
accomplishments, to whose authority and influence, he had no pretension.
And yet it may be questioned whether, after Arnold, any other critic of
our time contributed so much to educate public taste where, in this
country, it most needs such education. If, as a nurse of poets and in
poetic achievement, England stands second to no nation in Europe, in no
nation in the world has the standard of popular taste been so low, has
the insensibility to what is excellent, and the perverse preference of
what is mediocre to what is of the first order, been so signally, so
deplorably, conspicuous. The generation which produced Wordsworth
preferred Moore, and no less a person than the author of _Vanity Fair_
wrote:--“Old daddy Wordsworth may bless his stars if he ever gets high
enough in Heaven to black Tommy Moore’s boots.” While the readers of
Keats might have been numbered on his fingers, Robert Montgomery’s
_Satan_ and _Omnipresence of the Deity_ were going through their twelfth
editions. During many years, for ten readers of Browning’s poems there
were a hundred thousand for Martin Tupper’s _Proverbial Philosophy_,
while the popularity of Mrs. Browning was as a wan shadow to the
meridian splendour of Eliza Cook. Whoever will turn to the criticism of
current reviews and magazines forty years ago will have no difficulty in
understanding the diathesis described by Matthew Arnold as “on the side
of beauty and taste, vulgarity; on the side of morality and feeling,
coarseness; on the side of mind and spirit, unintelligence.” Whoever
will turn to nine out of the ten Anthologies, most in vogue before 1861,
will understand, that the same instinct which in the Dark Ages led man
to prefer Sedulius and Avitus to Catullus and Horace, Statius to Virgil,
and Hroswitha to Terence, led these editors to analogous selections.

Making every allowance for the co-operation of other causes, it would
hardly be an exaggeration to say that the appearance of the _Golden
Treasury of Songs and Lyrics_ in 1861 initiated an era in popular taste.
It remains now incomparably the best selection of its kind in
existence. Its distinctive feature is the characteristic which
differentiates it from all the anthologies which preceded or have
followed it. It was to include nothing which was not first-rate; there
was to be no compromise with the second-rate; if its gems varied, as
gems do in value, each was to be of the first water. With patient and
scrupulous diligence, the whole body of English poetry, from Surrey to
Wordsworth, was explored and sifted. After due rejections, each piece in
the residue was considered, weighed, tested. And here Mr. Palgrave had
assistance, more invaluable than any other anthologist in the world has
had--that of the illustrious poet to whom the volume was dedicated. It
may be safely said of Tennyson that nature and culture had qualified him
for being as great a critic as he was a poet. His taste was probably
infallible; his touchstones and standards were derived not merely from
the masters who had taught him his own art, but from a wonderfully
catholic and sympathetic communion with all that was best in every
sphere of influential artistic activity. The consequence is, that a book
like the _Golden Treasury_, especially when taken in conjunction with
the notes, which form an admirable commentary on the text, may be said
to lay something more than the foundation of a sound critical education.
What the _Golden Treasury_ is to readers of a maturer age the
_Children’s Treasury_ is to younger readers. It is a great pity that
such inferior works as many which we could name are allowed, in our
schools, to supplant such a work as Palgrave’s. The same exquisite taste
and nice discernment mark his other anthologies, his selections from
Herrick, and Tennyson, and, though perhaps in a less degree, his
_Treasury of English Sacred Poetry_, and his recently published
supplement to the _Golden Treasury_. It is probably impossible to
over-estimate the salutary influence which these works have exercised.

There is no arguing on matters of taste, and exception might easily be
taken, sometimes, to his dicta as a critic. But this at least must be
conceded by everybody, that in the best and most comprehensive sense of
the term he was a man of classical temper, taste, and culture, and that
he had all the insight and discernment, all the instincts and
sympathies, which are the result of such qualifications. He had no taint
of vulgarity, of charlatanism, of insincerity. He never talked or wrote
the cant of the cliques or of the multitude. He understood and clung to
what was excellent; he had no toleration for what was common and second
rate; he was not of the crowd. He belonged to the same type of men as
Matthew Arnold and William Cory, a type peculiar to our old Universities
before things took the turn which they are taking now. It will be long
before we shall have such critics again, and their loss is

As a scholar Palgrave was rather elegant than profound or exact, and, to
judge from a series of lectures delivered by him as Professor of Poetry
at Oxford, on _Landscape in Classical Poetry_, and afterwards published
in a work which is here reviewed, his acquaintance with the Greek and
Roman poets was, if scholarly and sympathetic, somewhat superficial. But
he was getting old, and perhaps he had lost his memory or his notes. As
a poet he was the author of four volumes, the earliest, published in
1864, entitled _Idylls and Songs_, and the latest, published in 1892,
_Amenophis; and other Poems_. But his most ambitious effort appeared in
1882, _Visions of England_, written with the laudable purpose of
stirring up in the young the spirit of patriotism. His poetry may be
described, not inaptly, in the sentence in which Dr. Johnson sums up the
characteristics of Addison’s verses:--“Polished and pure, the production
of a mind too judicious to commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous
to attain excellence.” Perhaps they served their end in procuring for
him the honourable appointment which he filled competently for ten
years--that of the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford. It may be said of
him as was said of Southey, he was a good man and not a bad poet, or of
Agricola, _decentior quam sublimior fuit_. But as a critic of Belles
Lettres he was excellent.


[Footnote 34: _Some Aspects of the Greek Genius._ By S. H. Butcher,
Litt. D., LL.D. London.]

That a second edition of Professor Butcher’s essays on _Some Aspects of
the Greek Genius_ should have been called for so soon is assuredly a
very significant fact. And it is significant in more ways than one. It
not only goes far to refute Lord Coleridge’s theory that Greek has lost
its hold on modern life, but it furnishes one of the many proofs, which
we have recently had, that people are beginning to understand what is
now to be expected from classical scholars, if classical scholars are to
hold their own in the world of to-day, and that scholars are, in their
turn, aware that they no longer constitute an esoteric guild for
esoteric studies. The task of the purely philological labourer has been
accomplished. During more than four centuries, succeeding schools of
literal critics have been toiling to furnish mankind with the means of
unlocking the treasures of classical Greece. Till within comparatively
recent times, the power of reading the Greek classics with accuracy and
ease was an accomplishment beyond the reach of any but specialists.
Unless a student was prepared to grapple with the difficulties of
unsettled and often unintelligible texts, to make his own grammar--nay,
his own dictionary--to choose between conflicting and contradictory
interpretations, and, in a word, to possess all that now would be
required in a classical editor, it would be impossible for him to read,
with any comfort, a chorus of Æschylus or Sophocles, an ode of Pindar,
or a speech in Thucydides. But now all these difficulties have vanished.
Excellent lexicons, grammars, commentaries, and translations, with
settled texts, and editions of the principal Greek classics so
satisfactory that practically they leave nothing to be desired, have
rendered what was once the monopoly of mere scholars common property.
The power of reading Greek with accuracy and comfort is now, indeed,
within the reach of any person of average intelligence and industry.

But prescription and tradition are tenacious of their privileges. Greek
has so long been regarded as the inheritance of philologists, that they
are not prepared to resign what was once their exclusive possession,
without a struggle. It is useless to point out to them that, if Greek is
to maintain its place in modern education, it can only maintain it by
virtue of its connection with the humanities, by virtue of its
intrinsic value as the expression of genius and art, and of its
historical value as the key to the development and characteristics of
the classics of the modern world; by virtue, in fine, of its relation to
life, and its relation to History and Criticism. The revival, indeed, of
the _trivium_ and _quadrivium_ of the Middle Ages would not be an
absurder anachronism than it is to draw no distinction between the
functions and aims of classical scholarship, when it was, necessarily,
confined to philologists and specialists, and its functions and aims at
the present day. It has been the obstinate determination on the part of
academic bodies not to recognise this distinction, but to preserve Greek
as the monopoly of those who approach it only on the side of
philological specialism, which has led to its complete dissociation in
our scholastic system from what constitutes its chief, almost its sole
title to preservation. At Cambridge, for example, it has been expressly
excluded from the only School in which the study of Literature has been
organized, and an attempt to substitute Modern Languages in its
place--for a degree in arts--was only defeated by the intervention of
non-resident members of the University. At Oxford a scheme for a “School
of Literature,” in which Greek was to have no place, might, not long ago
have been carried, and the casting vote of the proctor alone saved the
University from this disgrace, and Greek from a crushing blow.[35] But,
fortunately for the cause of Greek, there is every indication that a
reaction, too strong for academic bodies to resist, is setting in.
Scholars are beginning to see that what Socrates did for Philosophy must
now be done for Greek, if Greek is to hold its own. Thus, it has
preserved, and no doubt may preserve, its esoteric side; but that which
constitutes its chief, its real importance--which justifies its
retention in modern education--is not what appeals, and can only appeal,
in each generation, to a small circle of “specialists”--its philological
interest, but what appeals to liberal intelligence, to men as men, to
the poet, to the philosopher, to the orator, to the critic. To this end,
to what may be described as the vitalization of Greek, all the labours
of the late Professor Jowett were directed; and by his means Plato,
Thucydides, and Aristotle are brought into influential relation with
modern life. What he effected for them Professor Jebb has effected for
Sophocles, and not only has this unrivalled Greek scholar placed within
the reach of any person of average intelligence all that is necessary
for the elucidation of the language, art, and philosophy of the
Shakespeare of the Athenian stage, but he has not disdained to furnish a
popular manual of Homeric study, and a popular elementary guide-book to
Greek literature. Professor Lewis Campbell has laboured in the same
field and in the same cause. Great also have been the services rendered
to the popularization of Greek by Mr. Andrew Lang, Mr. Ernest Myers, Mr.
Walter Leaf, and many other distinguished scholars, all of whom have
shown, both by their published works and as lecturers, that the
masterpieces of ancient Greece may become as intelligible and
influential in the world of to-day as they were more than two thousand
years ago.

We welcome with joy the advent of Professor Butcher among these
prophets. Few names stand higher than his in the roll of modern
scholars, and assuredly few modern scholars possess, in so large a
measure, the power of applying scholarship to the purposes of liberal
criticism and exegesis. He has written a delightful book, in a pleasant
style, full of learning, suggestive, stimulating, a book which no
student of Greek literature can lay down without a hearty feeling of
gratitude to the author. Porson said of Bentley that more might be
learned from his work when he was in error than from the work of a rival
scholar when he was in the right. We shall not presume to accuse
Professor Butcher of error, but we are bound to say that there is much
in his book which appears to us very questionable, and much also from
which we entirely dissent.

Professor Butcher discusses, for example, at great length, the leading
characteristics of the Greek temper, but, in drawing his conclusions, he
has not sufficiently distinguished between what was more or less
accidental and what was essentially peculiar. The fact is that nothing
is so easy as generalisations of this kind, if the deduction of half
truth be our aim; and nothing so difficult if whole truth, or truth
which may be accepted without reserve, is to be the result. The most
mobile, plastic, Protean people who have ever lived, their activity,
within the strict limits of classical literature, extended over about
six centuries, and, if we protract it to the point included in Professor
Butcher’s illustrations, to more than nine centuries. Of their
literature, though we appear to have the best of it, not a third part
has survived. By an adroit use of illustration, it is, therefore, easy
to predicate anything of them. Go to serious epic, to serious as
distinguished from passionate lyric, to tragedy, to threnody, and they
were, if you please, the gravest people on earth’s face; go to
Aristophanes and to the poets of the Old Comedy, and they were the
merriest; go to the Ionic Elegists and to the fragments of the New
Comedy, and they were the saddest and most cynical; go to Thucydides,
Plato, and Aristotle, and they were, like Dante’s sages, _ni tristi ni
lieti_. We do not quarrel with Professor Butcher’s general position in
his Essay on the melancholy of the Greeks, or question that there
existed in certain moods a profound melancholy and dissatisfaction with
life in the Greek temper. But of what intelligent and reflective people
or individual who have ever existed is this not equally true? Where we
do quarrel with Professor Butcher is on the following point, the point
on which he chiefly rests in proving that the Greeks were pre-eminently
distinguished by pessimistic melancholy--an assertion that we deny _in
toto_. He tells us that, with one notable exception, to which he
subsequently adds three others, the Greeks regarded hope not as a solace
and support in life, but as a snare and a delusion, not as a power to
cling to, but as an influence fraught with mischief. Nothing surely can
be more erroneous. The wisest people who have ever lived are not likely
to have confounded baseless and flighty desires or aspirations with what
is implied in hope, though Professor Butcher has done so in the
illustrations advanced by him in support of his theory. All through
Greek literature, from Hesiod to Theocritus--not to go further--the
importance and wisdom of cherishing hope, as one of the chief supports
of life, are emphatically dwelt on. Professor Butcher has surely
misrepresented--certainly Æschylus and the Greeks generally did not
interpret it in the sense in which he has done--the fable of Pandora’s
chest. It was not “as part of the deadly gift of the goddess” that hope
was there; it was as the one blessing amid the crowd of ills. “As long
as a man lives,” says Theognis, “let him wait on hope.... Let him pray
to the gods; and to Hope let him sacrifice first and last” (1143-1146).
Pindar, if he warns man against baseless, wild, or extravagant
expectation, is emphatic on the wisdom of cherishing hope. It is “the
sweet nurse of the heart in old age,” “the chief helmsman of man’s
versatile will.” (_Fragment_, 233.) “A man should cherish good hope.”
(_Isth._, vii. 15.) “It is the wing on which soaring manhood is
supported.” (Pythian, viii. 93.) “The wise,” says Euripides, “must
cherish hope.” (_Frag. of Ino._) Again: “Prudent hope must be your stay
in misfortune.” (_Id._) Life, he says in the _Troades_ (628), is
preferable to death, in that it has hopes. A sentiment repeated by
Euripides again in the _Hercules Furens_ (105-6): “That man is the
bravest who trusts to hope under all circumstances; to be without hope
is the part of a coward.” So Menander: “Hold before yourself the shield
of good hope.” (_Incert. Frag._ xlvii.) The passages quoted by Professor
Butcher from Thucydides are not to the point. It would have been much
more to the point had he quoted the passage in which Pericles eulogizes
those who “committed to hope the uncertainty of success” (II. 42), or
the passage (I. 70) in which the superiority of the Athenians to the
Lacedæmonians in civil and military efficiency is largely attributed to
their reliance on hope. Again, what, according to Cephalus, in the
_Republic_, is the chief solace of old age?--“The abiding presence of
sweet hope.” But it would be easy to multiply indefinitely from the
Greek classics what Professor Butcher calls “rare examples of hope in
the happier aspect.”

The most important chapters in Professor Butcher’s work--indeed they
occupy nearly one half of it--are those dealing with Aristotle’s theory
of fine art and poetry. On no subject in criticism have there been so
many misconceptions current and influential even among scholars,
originating for the most part from mistranslations and misunderstandings
of the treatise in which they find their chief embodiment--the
_Poetics_. This has unfortunately come down to us in a very imperfect
and corrupt state, and, what is more unfortunate still, it became a
classic in criticism long before it was properly understood. Thus, in
the clause in the famous definition of tragedy, where Aristotle
describes it as δι’ ελεου και φοβου περαινουσα την των τοιουτων
παθηματων καθαρσιν, “through pity and fear effecting the purgation of
these emotions,” the French and English critics of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, ignoring the words των τοιουτων, have
totally misinterpreted the passage, and given it a meaning which was not
only not intended by Aristotle, but which has falsified his whole theory
of the scope and functions of tragedy. An unsound text, the insertion
of αλλα before the clause, sent Lessing on a wrong track. From
the misinterpretation of another passage in the treatise (V. 4) has been
deduced the famous doctrine of the Unities. The mistranslation of
σπουδαιος in the definition of Tragedy, and of the same word in
the comparison between Poetry and History, has led to misconceptions on
other points. The scholars who did most in England to place the study of
this treatise on a sound footing were Twining and Tyrwhitt. In the
present century it has received exhaustive illustration from
Saint-Hilaire, Stahr, Susemihl, Vahlen, Teichmüller, Ueberweg, Reinkens,
Jacob Bernays, and others; while such works as E. Müller’s _Geschichte
der Theorie der Kunst bei den Alten_ have thrown general light on the
question of Greek æsthetics. That Professor Butcher has not been able to
advance anything new in these essays is very creditable to him, for the
simple reason that, as all that is worth saying has been said, his sole
resource, had he attempted to be original, would have been paradox and
sophistry. With regard to the question of the _Katharsis_, it will
probably be, for all time, a case of “quot homines tot sententiæ”; and
we have certainly no intention of accompanying Professor Butcher into
this labyrinth. We entirely agree with him and Bernays that the passage
in the _Politics_ (V. viii. 7) settles conclusively at least one part of
the meaning, but we differ from Bernays, in contending that the
“lustratio” is included, and from Professor Butcher, in contending that
the “lustratio” is not effected merely by the relief. Professor Butcher
seems here indeed to be a little confused, or at all events confusing.
He first explains “katharsis” as “a purging away of the emotions of pity
and fear,” and then explains it as “a purifying of them”; but it is
neither easy to understand how “purging away” is “purifying,” nor why we
should “purify” what we “purge away.” Surely it is better--but we speak
with all submission--to take the word in two different meanings, the one
signifying the immediate effect of tragedy in its direct appeal to the
passions referred to, the other not to its immediate, but to its
ulterior and total effect in educating the passions thus excited.

Professor Butcher, who appears to belong to the Pater School, dwells
with great complacency on the fact that Aristotle “attempted to separate
the function of æsthetics from that of morals,” that “he made the end of
art reside in a pleasurable emotion,” that he says “nothing of any moral
aim in poetry,” and that though he often takes exception to Euripides as
an artist, “he attaches no blame to him for the immoral tendency in some
of his dramas,” so severely censured by Aristophanes. If Professor
Butcher implies, as he seems to imply by this, that Aristotle would lend
any countenance to the modern art-for-art’s-sake doctrine, and
proceeded on the assumption that there was no necessary connection
between æsthetics and morals, he does Aristotle very great injustice,
and is refuted by the _Poetics_ themselves. In the fifth chapter
Aristotle lays stress on the fact that tragedy is, like epic, a
representation of “superior or morally good characters” (μιμησις
σπουδαιων)--that the characters are to be good (χρηστα). In
the twenty-fifth chapter he says that nothing can excuse the exhibition
of moral depravity (μοχθηρια), unless it be one of the things
implicit in the plot; and that among the most serious objections which
can be brought against a drama is that it is likely to do moral harm
(βλαβερα). In the thirteenth chapter he shows,--and on moral
grounds,--why the protagonist in a tragedy should not be a perfectly
good man or a perfectly bad man. Indeed, the very definition of tragedy
refutes Professor Butcher’s statement. It may be said, no doubt, that
Aristotle maintains that the end of poetry is pleasure, but it must be
“the proper pleasure,” and in the proper pleasure moral satisfaction is
implied.[36] It is only by a quibble that Professor Butcher’s theory can
be supported, and it is a pity to quibble on subjects which may be so
mischievously misunderstood. Aristotle was, we suspect, very much nearer
to Ben Jonson and Milton than to Mr. Pater in his conception of the
functions and scope of poetry.

In the interesting essay on Sophocles there are two statements which
appear to us very questionable. It is surely not true to say that
Sophocles was “the first of the Greeks who has clearly realized that
suffering is not always penal.” Who could have expressed this truth more
forcibly than Æschylus? To say nothing of the well-known passage in the
_Agamemnon_, 167-171:--

  Ζηνα ...
  τον φρονειν βροτους ὁδωσαντα, τον παθει μαθος
  θεντα κυριως εχειν.
  σταζει δ’ εν θ’ ὑπνω προ καρδιας
  μνησιπημων πονος, και παρ’ ακοντας ηλθε σωφρονειν,--

the doctrine of which is repeated in 241-2 of the same play, and in
other passages in his dramas, notably in _Choephoroe_, 950-955, and in
_Eumenides_, 495, συμφερει σωφρονειν ὑπο στενει. The fact
that suffering and calamity have resulted in blessing is emphasized as
strongly in the concluding drama of the Orestean Trilogy, the
_Eumenides_, as it is in the _Œdipus Coloneus_. Again, when Professor
Butcher says that “in Sophocles the divine righteousness asserts itself
not in the award of happiness or misery to the individual, but in the
providential wisdom which assigns to each individual his place and
function in a universal moral order,” he says what it is very difficult
to understand. Surely in the case of each one of the protagonists in
Sophocles, to employ the word in its non-technical sense, their deserts
are very exactly meted out. Antigone deliberately courts her fate by
setting the law at defiance, though she knew what the penalty was, and
falls, but has her compensation in the applause of her own conscience
and “in the faith that looks through death.” Ajax paid the penalty, as
the poet emphasizes, for brutality and impious insolence; Œdipus
suffers for his impetuosity and intemperance, but, his punishment
exceeding the offence, the balance is adjusted for him in final triumph
over the sons who had wronged him, in procuring blessings for his
protector, in the peace of the soul, and in a glorious death.
Clytemnestra and Ægisthus well deserve their fate, as, in addition to
committing their crime, they continue ostentatiously to glory in it. In
the _Trachiniæ_ Hercules is punished for a base and cowardly murder,
followed by an act of cruel and indiscriminate vengeance, retribution
coming on him through the sister of the man thus murdered, and the
daughter of the prince on whom this iniquitous vengeance had been
wreaked, as Deianeira, but for Iole, would not have sent the poisoned
tunic. Sophocles has even altered the legend to emphasize the guilt of
Hercules. The _Philoctetes_, indeed, is the only play which lends any
support to Professor Butcher’s statement. Here the gods undoubtedly
condemn a man to a life of torture that their designs, irrespective of
the individual, may be fulfilled, and that Troy may not fall before the
appointed time; but how fully, how nobly is he compensated! It seems to
us that the award of happiness and misery to the individual, in
accordance with desert, is as conspicuous in the ethics of Sophocles as
it is in the ethics of Shakespeare. And it is the more conspicuous, when
we remember the hampering conditions under which Sophocles had to work,
the limitations conventionally imposed on the treatment of the legends.

We wish we had space to comment on Professor Butcher’s admirable, though
somewhat defective, chapter on the dawn of Romanticism in Greek poetry,
but we must forbear, and repeat our thanks to him for a book full of
interest and instruction, not the least of its charms being the lively
and graceful style in which it is written.


[Footnote 35: This blow has, since these words were written, been
inflicted. See _supra_ pp. 45-75.]

[Footnote 36: So he says, _Poet._, xxvi., of epic and tragedy, that each
ought not to produce any chance pleasure, but the pleasure proper to it
(δει γαρ ου την τυχουσαν ἡδονην ποιειν αυτας αλλα την
ειρημενην, _i.e._ οικειαν).]


[Footnote 37: _The Principles of Criticism. An Introduction to the Study
of Literature._ By W. Basil Worsfold. London: Allen.]

Bishop Warburton said that there were two things which every man thought
himself competent to do, to manage a small farm and to drive a whisky.
Had Warburton lived in our time, he would probably have added a
third--to set up for a critic. What the author of the best critical
treatise in the Greek language pronounced to be the final fruit of long
experience, culture, and study, directed and illumined by certain
natural qualifications, has now come to be represented by the idle and
irresponsible gossip of any one who can gossip agreeably. Agreeable
gossip and good criticism are, as Sainte-Beuve and others have shown,
far from being incompatible, the misfortune is that they should be
confounded; but confounded they are, and the confusion is the curse of
current literature. We have recently observed, with concern, that the
rubbish which used formerly to be shot into novels and poems is now
being shot into criticism, and that there appears to be a growing
impression that the accomplishments which qualify young men for spinning
cobwebs in fiction and manufacturing versicles can, with a little
management, serve to set them up as critics. There is not much more
difficulty in forming an opinion about a book than there is in reading
it, and as criticism in the hands of these fribbles becomes little more
than the dithyrambic expression of that opinion, the profession of
criticism is one in which it is delightfully easy to graduate. It
requires neither learning nor knowledge, neither culture nor discipline.
It is neither science nor art; it is the gift of nature, a sort of
“lyric inspiration.” With principles, with touchstones, with standards,
it has nothing whatever to do. Its business is to declaim, to coin
phrases, to juggle with fancies and to say “good things.”

A writer, therefore, who tries to recall criticism to a sense of its
responsibilities and true functions deserves all sympathy and
encouragement. It is refreshing to turn from the sort of thing to which
we have referred to such a work as Mr. Worsfold has given us. His design
is “to present an account of the main principles of literary criticism,”
which he professes to trace from Plato to Matthew Arnold. Mr. Worsfold’s
thesis simply stated is that criticism--and he deals with criticism
chiefly in its application to poetry--has passed successively through
five stages. With the Greeks it concerned itself principally with form.
“The first question it asked with them was not, as with us, What is the
thought? but What is the form?” By Addison--for here Mr. Worsfold makes
a prodigious leap over some twenty centuries--it was furnished with a
new test, and it asked, How does a given poem affect the imagination? By
Lessing a return was made to the formal criticism of the ancients, but
he adopted also Addison’s criterion, and added definiteness to it.
Victor Cousin followed in 1818 with his lectures, entitled, _Du Vrai, du
Beau, et du Bien_, and enlarged the boundaries of the science by a
complete theory of beauty and art, developed mainly out of Plato. Lastly
came Matthew Arnold, who extended the realm still further, by the
addition of certain other important touchstones of poetic excellence. At
the present time a gradual limitation of the scope of its rules, and a
gradual extension of the scope of its principles, are the tendencies
most discernible in criticism. “An enlightened criticism no longer aims
at directing the artist by formulating rules which, if they were valid,
would only tend to obliterate the distinction between the fine and the
technical arts. It allows him to work by whatever methods he may choose,
and it is content to estimate his merit not by reference to his method
but by reference to his achievement, as measured by principles of
universal validity.”

All this is exceedingly ingenious, and has in it a measure of truth,
but, like most generalisations on vast and complicated subjects, it is
more plausible than sound. The stages in the progress of criticism are
not so sharply defined as Mr. Worsfold would have us believe. If Greek
criticism were represented only by Plato and the extant works of
Aristotle, English by Addison and Matthew Arnold, German by Lessing, and
French by Victor Cousin, what Mr. Worsfold postulates might, after a
manner, pass muster. But by far the greater portion of Greek criticism
has perished; it exists only in fragments, and to the most important and
remarkable work on this subject which has come down to us from
antiquity, the _Treatise on the Sublime_, Mr. Worsfold does not even
refer. If he had done so, and had he considered what is scattered
fragmentarily through the Greek writers, or may be gathered from the
titles of treatises which are lost, he would have seen that much which
he supposes to mark development in criticism has long been old.
Innumerable passages in the minor Greek critics, in Plutarch and in the
Scholia, especially if we add what is to be found in Roman writers,
derived no doubt from Greek sources, amply warrant doubt whether, after
all, it is not with criticism as it is, to use Goethe’s expression, with
wit, “Alles Gescheidte ist schon gedacht worden, man muss nur
versuchen, es noch einmal zu denken.” At all events, it is a great
mistake to suppose that Greek criticism, in its application to poetry,
is represented by Plato and Aristotle. It would be almost as absurd to
go to Plato for typical Greek criticism on poetry as it would be to go
to Henry More or the Puritan Divines for typical English criticism. He
approached it only as such a philosopher would be likely to approach it.
He regarded art and letters generally simply as means of educational
discipline and culture, or as mere playthings, of which the best to be
expected was harmless pleasure. He despised poetry not only as an
appeal, and a perturbing appeal, to the senses and the passions, but as
representing the shadows of shadows. It may be pronounced with
confidence that, had he seriously applied himself to literary and
artistic criticism, he would have been one of the subtlest and
profoundest critics who ever lived, and would probably have anticipated,
so far as principles are concerned, all that Mr. Worsfold attributes to
Addison, to Lessing, and to Victor Cousin; but, like our own Ruskin, he
was wilful and fanatical.

Still less is Greek criticism represented by Aristotle. It is in the
highest degree misleading to generalize from such a work as the
_Poetics_. It is not merely a fragment, but a fragment deformed by
desperate corruption, hopeless interstices and contemptible
interpolations. If it confines itself, or in the main confines itself,
to formal criticism, it is simply because it was designed to deal with
that particular department of criticism, not because its author supposed
that the chief question which concerned criticism was form. Again, if by
form Mr. Worsfold understands, as he appears to do, expression and
structure, he very much misrepresents the Treatise. Aristotle’s
criterion of poetry is not its formal expression, for he distinctly
declares that it is not metre which makes a poem, and even seems to
maintain that a poem may be composed without metre. In Aristotle’s
definition and conception of poetry as the concrete expression of the
universal, in his definition of the scope and functions of tragedy, and
in innumerable occasional remarks we have the germs of much, and of very
much, which Mr. Worsfold would attribute to the later developments of

Aristotle, it is true, derived his canons from an analysis of the
masterpieces of Greek poetry, but it is doing him great injustice to
say, that he would make all epics Homeric, and all plays Sophoclean, and
most erroneous to assume that modern criticism commenced at this point.
Aristotle distinctly questions whether tragedy had as yet perfected its
proper types or not (_Poet._, IV. 11), and in discussing the proper
length of tragedy he makes a remark which shows that such a plot as the
plot of _Hamlet_ or the plot of _Lear_ would have been quite compatible
with his canons.[38] The truth is that Mr. Worsfold has gone too far; he
has confounded the various aspects of criticism with stages in its
development. Aristotle dealt mainly with form, because it was his
business to deal with form. Plato approached poetry from a particular
point of view, because it was from that particular point of view that it
concerned him.

Had Mr. Worsfold taken his stand in his review of ancient criticism on
the treatise attributed to Longinus, he would have seen that what he so
strangely attributes to Addison and later writers had long been
anticipated. This remarkable work which, since its translation into
French by Boileau in 1674, has had more influence on criticism both in
England and on the Continent than any other work that could be named,
would alone show how much we owe to the Greeks. It has analyzed and
defined, for all time, the essential virtues and the essential vices of
diction and style, and has traced them to their sources. It has
furnished us with infallible criteria in judging rhetoric and poetry.
Take its analysis of the “grand style,” which is described
comprehensively as μεγαλοφροσυνης απηχημα, “the echo of a
great soul”; it has, the Treatise tells us, five
characteristics--richness and grandeur of conception (το περι
τας νοησεις ἁδρεπηβολον); vehement and inspired passion (το
σφοδρον και ενθουσιαστικον παθος), the due formation of figures,
which are twofold--first those of thought, and secondly those of
expression (ἡ ποια των σχηματων πλασις δισσα δε που ταυτα, τα
μεν νοησεως, θατερα δε λεξεως); noble diction (ἡ γενναια,
φρασις); dignified and elevated composition (ἡ εν αξιωματι
και διαρσει συνθεσις). Nothing could be more masterly than its
detailed analysis of each of these qualities, and of the pseudo forms
which they assume, as the result of stimulated enthusiasm. How
admirable, too, is its test of the sublime in the seventh chapter; its
criticism of Sappho, generalizing what constitutes the charm and power
of lyric, in the tenth chapter; its analysis of the eloquence of
Demosthenes, again generalizing the characteristics of oratory in
perfection (chap. xvii.); its demonstration of the inferiority of
correct mediocrity to the faulty irregularities of inspired genius; its
admirable remarks about the relation of Art to Nature. Like the
_Poetics_, it has come down to us in a very mutilated form, and has
evidently been interpolated by some inferior hand, which no doubt
accounts for the exasperating triviality of some of the sections. Here,
as elsewhere, we have references to the many losses which Greek
criticism has sustained, the author referring to treatises written by
him on Xenophon, on Composition, and on the Passions.

It is impossible to give an adequate account of the evolution of
criticism without a very careful survey of the chief contributors to
criticism in each generation, and such a survey Mr. Worsfold has not
attempted. To Latin criticism he never even refers. And yet it has had
great influence on critical literature. The Romans, it is true,
contributed scarcely anything new to criticism, except that which
pertains to oratory. We know enough of Varro, with whom Roman criticism
may be said to begin, to feel confident that he could have had no
pretension to the finer qualities of the critic. Of the five treatises
composed by him, only one, the περι χαρακτηρων, appears to
have been purely critical, and it almost certainly drew largely on Greek
sources. Horace derived the material of the _Ars Poetica_ from a Greek
writer, Neoptolemus of Parium. Much of Quinctilian’s criticism is
demonstrably a compilation from Greek writers. The best critic of poetry
among the Romans is undoubtedly to be found in Petronius, occasional and
scanty though his remarks are. But of prose literature Rome produced two
really great critics--the one was Cicero, the other was Tacitus. The
_Brutus_ and the _Dialogus de Oratoribus_ are masterpieces, equal to
anything which has come down to us from the Greeks. One of the most
important critical principles ever enunciated we owe to Cicero. He was
the first to demonstrate that the test of excellence in oratory lay, in
its appealing equally to the multitude and to the most fastidious of
connoisseurs. The most consummate rhetorician which the world has ever
seen, he was at the same time a consummate critic of his art. This
department of criticism has, indeed, for nearly two thousand years, been
practically his monopoly; it may be questioned whether anything can be
added, so far as the technique of rhetoric is concerned, to what may be
traced to his writings. The interest of the _Dialogus de Oratoribus_ is
largely historical, but never have the causes which inspire and nourish,
or depress and starve, eloquence been more eloquently and brilliantly
explained. Nor must it be forgotten that it was through the medium of
the Latin critics that Greek criticism became influential on modern

Mr. Worsfold has very properly drawn attention to the fine passage about
poetry in the second book of Bacon’s _Advancement of Learning_, but he
says not a word about Sidney’s remarkable treatise, one of the most
charming contributions to the criticism of poetry which has ever been
made, or about the admirable remarks in Ben Jonson’s _Discoveries_. The
interest of Elizabethan criticism, as represented by these works--and
they are the only works on this subject of any value produced during the
Elizabethan period--lies partly in its return to Aristotelian canons,
and partly in the importance which, in accordance with the ancients, it
attaches to the didactic element in poetry. This is expressed very
eloquently in Ben Jonson’s dedication of the _Fox_:--

     “If men will impartially and not asquint look toward the
     offices and function of a poet, they will easily conclude to
     themselves the impossibility of a man’s being the good poet
     without being first the good man,--he that is able to inform
     young men to all good discipline, inflame young men to all good
     virtues, keep old men in their best and supreme state, or, as
     they decline to childhood, recover them to their first state,
     that comes forth the interpreter and arbiter of nature, a
     teacher of things divine no less than human.”

This was precisely Spenser’s conception of one of the chief functions of
poetry. Thus the Elizabethan critics, who were followed afterwards by
Milton, if they did not formally discuss the relation of æsthetic to
ethic, insisted on their essential connection in the higher forms of
poetry. Even in the succeeding age, when poetry lost all its high
seriousness and much of its moral dignity, criticism, if it did not
always insist on the application of this test, still retained it. Dryden
could write, “I am satisfied if verse cause delight, for delight is the
chief, if not the only end, of poesy”; but in adding “instruction can be
admitted but in the second place, for poesy only instructs as it
delights,” he half corrected his former statement, and, indeed, simply
reverted to what Aristophanes, Ben Jonson, and Milton would have been
the first to admit.

But to return to Mr. Worsfold. A very serious defect in his work is his
omission of all notice of Boileau and Dryden, and of the critics
contemporary with them in France and England. The consequence is, that
much is attributed to Addison which belongs to them, and Addison’s
importance as a critic is much overrated. Again, of the many memorable
contributions to this branch of literature in England, in France, in
Italy, and in Germany, which were made between the appearance of the
Abbé Dubos’s _Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et la peinture_ in
1719, and the lectures of Coleridge and Schlegel about 1812, all that is
said is represented by what is said of Lessing. Though a long chapter is
given to Matthew Arnold, Matthew Arnold’s master, Sainte-Beuve, is, if
we remember rightly, not so much as named.

Dr. Johnson divided critics into three classes--those who know the rules
and judge by them, those who know no rules but judge entirely by natural
taste, those who know the rules but are above them. This has been true
in all ages, and sufficiently disposes of Mr. Worsfold’s hypothesis
about the stages through which criticism has passed. All that can be
said is, that at certain times there has been a tendency, determined of
course by the character of the particular age, towards the predominance
of a particular critical method and of particular points of view.
Further than this it would be perilous to go. It has been the task of
the present age to develop each of these methods to the full, and the
most authoritative critics of the last twenty years might easily be
ranged under one of those classes.

The soundest and most valuable part of Mr. Worsfold’s book is the part
dealing with the criticism of the last few years. His chapter on Matthew
Arnold, in particular, is admirable, and his remarks on the functions of
criticism at the present time, deduced as they have been from
Wordsworth, Arnold and Ruskin, are in a high degree instructive and
interesting. In pointing out that criticism should not confine itself
merely to the investigation of technical excellence, and to all that is
implied in the doctrine of Art for Art’s sake, but should recognise that
there are limits beyond which the artist should not exercise his
technical skill, he recalls us to principles which it is well that
criticism should not forget. We quite agree with him that there is now
an increasing tendency to recognise these limits, and to lay most stress
on the interpretation of the ideal element in literature and art. That
is certainly the modern note. We have expressed our reasons for
dissenting from Mr. Worsfold’s historical view of the evolution of
criticism, but his book is full of interest, and will amply repay the
attention of serious readers. It is a book which does not deserve to be
lost in the crowd.


[Footnote 38: ὁ δε κατ’ αυτην την φυσιν του πραγματος ὁρος,
αει μεν ὁ μειζων μεχρι του συνδηλος ειναι καλλιων εστι κατα το
μεγεθος. ὡς δε ἁπλως διορισαντας ειπειν, εν ὁσω μεγεθει κατα το
εικος η το αναγκαιον εφεξης γιγνομενων συμβαινει εις ευτυχιαν εκ
δυστυχιας, η εξ ευτυχιας εις δυστυχιαν μεταβαλλειν, ἱκανος ὁρος
εστιν του μεγεθους. (_Poet._, vii. 7.)]


[Footnote 39: _Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Women in Greek
Poetry._ By E. F. M. Benecke.]

The editor of this book cannot be congratulated either on his competence
or on his discretion. To hurry into the world a work which is not merely
a fragment, but which cries for revision, suppression, and correction in
almost every page, is a literary crime of the first magnitude, and
deserves the severest castigation. Of the author of the work, who
appears to have been a young man of some attainments and of much
promise, we desire to speak with all gentleness; we wholly absolve him
from blame, for we have no right to assume that he would himself have
given to the world what his editor admits was _intra penetralia Vestæ_,
and what we hope and believe he would himself have committed
_emendaturis ignibus_, had he arrived at years of discretion. But the
dissemination of error is no light thing, especially in relation to
subjects which are of great interest, and, from an historical and
literary point of view, of great importance. When we think of the many
amiable and industrious tutors at Oxford and Cambridge who, unless they
are put on their guard, will unsuspiciously fill their note-books with
the nonsense of this volume, and impart it, by degrees, to the listening
credulity of youth, we feel we have no alternative but to perform a
plain, if painful, duty. We repeat, we absolve the author from all
blame; the sole culprit is the editor.

That Solomon was the author of the _Iliad_, Poggio the author of the
_Annals_ of Tacitus, and Bacon the author of Shakespeare’s plays, are
hypotheses scarcely less monstrously absurd than the thesis propounded
in this volume. Mr. Benecke’s main contentions are “that a pure love
between man and woman seemed to the early Greeks” (that is, to those who
lived before the latter end of the Peloponnesian War) a sheer
impossibility; that “in extant Greek poetry there is no trace of
romantic love poetry addressed to women prior to the time of Asclepiades
and Philetas”; that “in the works of these writers this element suddenly
appears not in the nature of an experiment but as a leading motive”;
that the appearance of this element was due to the influence of
Antimachus, “who was the first man who had the courage to say that a
woman was worth loving, and who may thus be regarded as the originator
of the romantic element in literature.” As we have not space to refute
this nonsense in detail, we will give some examples of the way in which
it is supported. First come misrepresentations and blunders. To
emphasize the degradation of women, passages in translation are twisted
and perverted almost beyond recognition.

Thus the couplet of Catullus--

  “Tunc te dilexi, non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
  Sed pater ut natos diligit et generos”--

is actually paraphrased “I loved you, not as a man loves a woman, but as
a man loves a youth.” The couplet in which Antigone says, “If my husband
died, I could get another, and were I deprived of him too, I could be a
mother by another man”--

  ποσις μεν αν μοι, κατθανοντος, αλλος ην
  και παις απ’ αλλου φωτος, ει τουδ’ ημπλακον--

is translated “If my husband had died, I could have married another, if
he had failed to get me children, I could have committed adultery.” The
“main motive of the Iliad,” we are informed, (p. 76), “is the love of
Achilles for Patroclus.” The interest of the _Ajax_ “is meant to centre
on Teucer, the _amasius_ of the dead Ajax.” That the _Alcestis_ may not
be pressed into the service of those who would maintain that the Greeks
knew how to respect women, the key to it is to be found “in the relation
existing between Admetus and Apollo”(!) The revolting coarseness and
flippant vulgarity which mark the book, and, which do very little credit
to Oxford training, are illustrated by the remarks employed to disparage
these types of womanhood which the writer well knows would refute his
theory. Thus of Nausicaa, “she is always regarded as a charming type of
woman; but, after all, how one naturally thinks of her is (_sic_) as a
charming type of washerwoman”; of Penelope, “she longs for the return of
her husband, no doubt; but what really grieves her about the suitors is
not their suggestions as to his death, but the quantity of pork they
eat.” On a par with this sort of thing is the remark about a play of
Sophocles, which, by the way, is not extant, that “it merely drew the
usual picture of the gods playing shove-halfpenny with human souls” (p.
47); or flippant vulgarity like the following--Admetus expresses “his
deep regret that he cannot accompany Alcestis, as Charon does not issue
return tickets.” If this is the humour of young Oxford, the progress of
which we hear so much has been purchased at a heavy price.

But to continue. On page 27 we are confronted with the astounding
statement that “it is in Anacreon that we find for the first time
love-poetry addressed to a woman.” Why, Hermesianax (15, 16) distinctly
states that Musæus wrote love-poetry to his wife or mistress, Antiope,
and that Hesiod wrote many poems in honour of his love, Eoia (_Id._
22-24). Alcæus notoriously wrote love-poems to Sappho, as we need go no
further than the first book of Aristotle’s _Rhetoric_ to know; both
Alcman, the lover of Egido and Megalostrate, and, probably Ibycus also
wrote love-poetry to women. It is mere special pleading to contend that
Mimnermus did not write poetry to the mistress of his affections, to
whom, according to Strabo, his erotic poetry was addressed. Hermesianax
distinctly states that Mimnermus was passionately in love with Nanno,
and certainly implies that his love-poetry was addressed to her (35-38).
It is true that two of the fragments of Archilochus are ambiguous, but
one is not; and, if we may judge by a single line (Fr. 71), his love for
Neobule expressed itself in a manner indistinguishable from Petrarch’s
vein--“Would that I might touch Neobule’s hand”: ει γαρ ὡς εμοι
γενοιτο χειρα Νεοβουλης θιγειν. It is clear that women had a
prominent place in the poetry of Stesichorus, and in his poem entitled
_Calyce_ we seem to have had an anticipation of the modern love romance.
And yet, in spite of all this, we are informed that the Greeks had no
love-poetry addressed to, or concerning women, before Anacreon.

The methods adopted for minimizing or disguising the importance of women
in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ are very amusing. “The Trojan war was the
work of a woman; but how very little that woman appears in the _Iliad_.”
She appears quite as frequently and imposingly as the action admits,
and she and Andromache are painted as elaborately as any of the
_dramatis personæ_ in the poem. Indeed, it would not be too much to say
that, with the exception of Achilles and Agamemnon, they leave the
deepest impression on us. “A woman has been managing the affairs of
Odysseus for twenty years in an exemplary fashion; but the hero of the
_Odyssey_ on his return prefers to associate with the swineherd.”
Comment is superfluous. Nothing could be more striking than the
prominence which is given to women both in the _Iliad_ and in the
_Odyssey_. To cite such writers as Simonides of Amorgus, Phocylides and
Theognis, as authorities on the position of women, is as absurd, in
Sancho Panza’s phrase, as to look for pears on an elm.

The Greek Tragedies are treated after the same fashion as the _Iliad_
and the _Odyssey_. We are told that the remarkable prominence given in
Sophocles’s plays to the affection between brother and sister affords
conclusive proof that the nature of modern love between man and woman
was unknown to him; and we are also informed, that the relations between
Electra and Orestes, and Antigone and Polynices “are absolutely those of
modern lovers.” It would be difficult to say which is more absurd, the
deduction or the statement. What love could be more loyal and more
passionate than Hæmon’s love for Antigone? The prominence given by
Sophocles to the love between brother and sister has its origin from the
same cause as the very small part played by lovers in the Greek
tragedies generally. In the first place, a poet who took his plot from
the fortunes of the houses of Pelops or Laius could only work within the
limits of tradition; in the second place, love romances, unless
involving deep tragical issues as in the _Trachiniæ_, the _Medea_, and
the _Hippolytus_, were totally incompatible with the Greek idea of
tragedy. But we must hurry to the grand discovery made by the author of
this volume.

Somewhere about 405 B.C. flourished Antimachus, of Colophon, the author
of a voluminous epic, and of several other poems. He had the misfortune
to lose his wife Lyde, and, to beguile his sorrow, he composed a long
elegy in her honour. Of the far-reaching consequences of this act let
our author speak. “When Antimachus first sat down in his empty house at
Colophon to write an elegy to his dead wife, consciously or
unconsciously he was initiating the greatest artistic revolution that
the world has ever seen.” Asclepiades and Philetas followed him as
imitators, and the thing was done. Woman was at last “connected with
‘romance.’” Our author admits the difficulty of supposing that “any one
man could invent and popularize an entirely new emotion”; but suggests
that if we regard it as “simply due to the readjustment of an already
existing emotion,” that is παιδεραστια, such a supposition is
“no longer absurd.” It is not only absurd but monstrous.

The truth almost certainly is, that the love between man and woman in
ancient Greece differed very little from the love between man and woman
as it exists now. Marriage was, it is true, purely a matter of business;
most wives aspired to nothing more than the management of the nursery
and the household, and most women being without education, and living in
seclusion, could scarcely associate, intellectually at least, on equal
terms with their husbands or lovers. But this proves nothing more than
_mariages de convenance_, and love based on the fascination exercised by
sensuous attraction prove now. Then, as in our own time, there were
marriages and marriages, liaisons and liaisons. The story which Plutarch
tells of Callias (_Cimon._ iv.) shows that marriage was often based on
love. The pictures given of Hector and Andromache in the _Iliad_, of
Alcinous and Arete, of Ulysses and Penelope, of Menelaus and Helen in
the _Odyssey_, the charming account of Ischomachus and his young wife in
the _Œconomics_ of Xenophon, the noble and pathetic story of Pantheia
and Abradatas in the _Cyropædeia_, the story which, in his life of
Agis,[40] Plutarch tells of Chilonis, and, in the _Morals_, of
Camma,[41] and innumerable other legends, traditions, and anecdotes,
prove that women could inspire and return as pure and as chivalrous a
love as any of the heroines of chivalry. The poet who could write about
marriage as Homer does in the Sixth Odyssey would have had little to
learn from modern refinement.[42] The love which Critobulus describes
himself as having for Amandra, in the _Symposium_ of Xenophon, and the
remarks made by Socrates in that dialogue embody the most exalted
conceptions of the passion of love between the sexes. The sentiments of
Plutarch on this subject are indistinguishable from the most refined
notions of the modern world, as is abundantly illustrated in the
_Amatorius_, the _Conjugalia Præcepta_, and in the remarks on marriage
in the eighth chapter of the Essay on Moral Virtue. If Ajax and Hercules
became brutes, Tecmessa and Deianeira were not the only women who have
discovered that men are, too often, May when they woo, and December when
they wed. It is ridiculous to suppose that a people whose popular poetry
could present such types of womanhood as Arete, Antigone, Alcestis,
Deianeira, Electra, Macaria, Iphigenia, Evadne, and Polyxena, who could
boast such poetesses as Sappho, Erinna, Corinna, Myrtis, and Damophila,
and whose society was graced by such women as Aspasia, Diotima,
Gnathæna, Herpyllis, Metaneira, and Leontium, should have given
expression to passion, sentiment, and romance only in παιδικοι

What the author of this book, and what others who are fond of
generalizing about the Greeks, forget, is, that of a once vast and
voluminous literature we have only fragments. That portion of their
poetry which would have thrown light on the subject here discussed has
perished. It is certain, for example, that of their lyric poetry a very
large portion was erotic, of that portion exactly one poem has survived
in its entirety, while a few hundred scattered lines, torn from their
context, represent the rest that has come down to us. We know, again,
that in some hundreds of their dramas, in the Middle and New Comedy that
is to say, the plots turned on love--of these dramas not a single one is
preserved. But the reflection of some twenty of them in Terence and
Plautus, and several scattered fragments, clearly indicate, that the
passion between the sexes involved as much sentiment and romance as it
does in our Elizabethan dramatists. In what respect do Charinus and
Pamphilus in the _Andria_ and Antipho in the _Phormio_--mere replicas,
of course, of Greek originals--differ from modern lovers? What could be
more romantic than the love story which formed the plot of the _Phasma_
of Menander? It is fair to our author to say that he fully admits this,
in the only tolerably satisfactory part of his book, the chapter on
Women in Greek Comedy. The great blot on Greek life, to which Mr.
Benecke gives so much prominence, has probably had far too much
importance attached to it, partly, perhaps, owing to its accentuation in
the writings of Plato, and partly owing to that rage for scandalous
tittle-tattle, so unhappily characteristic of ancient anecdote-mongers
from Ion to Athenæus.


[Footnote 40: Agis, xvii., xviii.]

[Footnote 41: De Mulierum Virtutibus.]

[Footnote 42: See particularly lines 180-185.]


[Footnote 43: _Poems._ By Stephen Phillips. London and New York John

The accent here is unmistakable, it is the accent of a new and a true
poet. Mr. Phillips gives us no mere variations on familiar melodies, no
clever copies of classical archetypes, and what is more, he has not
employed any illegitimate means of attracting attention and giving
distinction to his work. An audacious choice of subjects, the adoption
of the stones which the builders have rejected, and, it may be added,
disdained, has, when coupled with elaborate affectations and
eccentricities of treatment and style, often enabled mediocrity to pass,
temporarily at least, for genius, and the specious counterfeit of
originality for the thing itself. But these poems are marked by
simplicity, sincerity, spontaneity. If a discordant note is sometimes
struck, here in an over-strained conceit, and there in an incongruous
touch of preciosity or false sentiment, this is but an accident; in
essentials all is genuine. Nature and passion affect to be speaking, and
nature and passion really speak. A poet, of whom this may be said with
truth, has passed the line which divides talent from genius, the true
singer from the accomplished artist or imitator. He has taken his place,
wherever that place may be, among authentic poets. To that high honour
the present volume undoubtedly entitles Mr. Phillips. It would now,
perhaps, be premature to say more than “Ingens omen habet magni clarique
triumphi,” but we may predict with confidence that, if fate is kind and
his muse is true to him, he has a distinguished future before him. It
may be safely said that no poet has made his _début_ with a volume which
is at once of such extraordinary merit and so rich in promise.

Mr. Phillips is not a poet who has “one plain passage of few notes.” He
strikes many chords, and strikes them often with thrilling power. The
awful story narrated in _The Wife_ is conceived and embodied with really
Dantesque intensity and vividness; it has the master’s suggestive
reservation, smiting phrase, and clairvoyant picture wording, as “in the
red shawl _sacredly_ she burned,” “smiled at him with her lips, not with
her eyes”; while “Mother and child that food together ate” is, in
pregnancy of tragic suggestiveness, almost worthy to stand with the
“poscia, più che il dolor, poté il digiuno.” Equally distinguished,
though on another plane of interest, is _The woman with the dead Soul_,
the soul which could once “wonder, laugh, and weep,” but over which the
days began to fall “dismally, as rain on ocean blear,” till--

      “Existence lean, in sky dead grey
  Withholding steadily, starved it away.”

If the pathos in these poems is almost “too deep for tears,” it is
gentler in the second and third of the lyrics, which are as exquisite as
they are affecting. The idea in the lines _To Milton Blind_, is worthy
of Milton’s own sublime conceit, that the darkness which had fallen on
his eyes was but the shadow of God’s protecting wings. The whole poem,
indeed, is a beautiful paraphrase of the noble passage in the _Second
Defence of the People of England_: “For the Divine law”--we give it in
the English translation--“not only shields me from injury, but almost
renders me too sacred to attack, not indeed so much from the privation
of my sight as from the overshadowing of those heavenly wings which seem
to have occasioned this obscurity; and which, when occasioned, he is
wont to illuminate with an interior light more precious and more pure.”

In _The Lily_, which is a little obscure--a fault against which Mr.
Phillips would do well to guard, for he frequently offends in this
respect--we have the note of Petrarch, but Petrarch would not have ended
the poem so flatly. Tennyson is recalled, too nearly perhaps, in “By the
Sea,” but it is a poem of great charm and beauty. _The New De Profundis_
is, unhappily, the key to Mr. Phillips’ characteristic mood; it reminds
us of the curse imposed on the worldling in Browning’s _Easter Day_,
before he has learned the use of life and doubt.

Mr. Phillips’ two most ambitious poems are _Christ in Hades_ and
_Marpessa_. In _Christ in Hades_ he fails, as Mrs. Browning failed in
_The Drama of Exile_. He attempts a theme--a stupendous theme--to which
his genius is not equal, and which could only have been adequately
treated by such poets as Dante and Milton, in the maturity of their
powers. It has neither basis nor superstructure. It is what the Greeks
would call “meteoric” as distinguished from “sublime.” It is a weird,
wild, and chaotic dream; and yet for all this its appeal to the heart
and the imagination is piercing and direct. Like Tennyson, Mr. Phillips
has the art of unfolding the full significance of a few suggestive words
in a great classic; and nothing could be more effective than the use to
which he has applied the famous lines which Homer places in the mouth of
Achilles. Poetry has few things more pathetic than Homer’s picture of
Hades and the dead, and that pathos Mr. Phillips has given us in
quintessence, as few would question after reading the lines which
describe Persephone yearning for her return to the spring-illumined
world, the speech of the Athenian ghost, and the woman’s address to
Christ. If the world depicted has something of Horace’s artistic
monster, or, to change the image, something of the anarchy of dreams in
its composition, the vividness and picturesqueness with which particular
figures and scenes are flashed into light and definition is
extraordinarily impressive. It is so with the central figure, Christ;
it is so with Prometheus; and the contrast between these martyrs for man
has both pathos and grandeur.

There is more originality, more power in _Christ in Hades_ than in
_Marpessa_, but _Marpessa_ has more balance, more sanity, more of the
stuff out of which good and abiding poetry is made, than its
predecessor. The one savours of the spasmodic school, the productions of
which have rarely been found to have the principle of life, however rich
they may have been in promise; the other is a return to a school in
which most of those who have gained permanent fame have studied. And we
are glad to find a young poet there.

But it would be doing Mr. Phillips great injustice not to note that,
though he has had many predecessors in the semi-classical, semi-romantic
re-treatment of the Greek myths, notably Keats in _Hyperion_, Wordsworth
in _Dion_ and _Laodamia_, Landor in his _Hellenics_, and Tennyson in
_Ænone_ and _Tithonus_, he has treated his theme with a distinction
which is all his own, and has impressed on it an intense individuality.
In comparison with these masters he may be _pauper_, but he is _pauper
in suo ære_.

It would be easy to point to faults in Mr. Phillips’ work. His sense of
rhythm, even allowing for what are plainly deliberate experiments in
discord, seems often curiously defective. How stiff and limping, for
example, is the following:--

                            “O pity us,
  For I would ask of thee only to look
  Upon the wonderful sunlight and to smell
  Earth in the rain. Is not the labourer
  Returning heavy through the August sheaves
  Against the setting sun, who gladly smells
  His supper from the opening door--is he
  Not happier than these melancholy kings?
  How good it is to live, even at the worst!
  God was so lavish to us once, but here
  He hath repented, jealous of His beams.”

Lines, again, like “Pierced her, and odour full of arrows was,”
“Realizes all the uncoloured dawn,” “Yet followed a riddled memorable
flag,” are, no doubt, extreme instances, but they are typical of many
bad lines. Occasionally he falls flat on some harsh prosaic phrase, like
“beautiful indolence _was on our brains_.” Nor is he always happy in his
attempts at novelty in phraseology, as in his employment of the words
“liable,” “inaccurate,” “pungent”; and these faults in rhythm and
diction are the more remarkable, as the really subtle mastery over
rhythmic expression which he exhibits at times, and his singularly
felicitous epithets, turns, and phrases are among his most striking
gifts. Take a few out of very many: “A bleak magnificence of endless
hope,” “That common trivial face, of endless needs,” “The mystic river,
floating wan,” “And the moist evening fallow, richly dark,” “That palest
rose sweet on the night of life.” How noble is the rhythm and imagery of
the following:--

                          “All the dead
  The melancholy attraction of Jesus felt:
  And millions, like a sea, wave upon wave,
  Heaved dreaming to that moonlight face, or ran
  In wonderful long ripples, sorrow-charmed.
  Toward him, in faded purple, pacing came
  Dead emperors, and sad, unflattered kings;
  Unlucky captains, listless armies led:
  Poets with music frozen on their lips
  Toward the pale brilliance sighed.”

And it would be easy to multiply illustrations from _Marpessa_ and _By
the Sea_. Occasionally there is a certain incongruity between the form
and the matter. A poem so essentially, so intensely realistic as _The
Wife_ should not have such quaintnesses as “palèd in her thought.” Nor
should we have

  “The constable, with lifted hand,
  Conducting the orchestral Strand”;

nor should a railway station be described as a “moonèd terminus.”
Nothing is so disenchanting as affectation.

One cannot but add that these poems, welcome as they are, would have
been more welcome still, had they been less profoundly melancholy. Their
monotonous sadness, the persistency with which they dwell on all those
grim and melancholy realities which poetry should help us to forget, or
cheer us in enduring, is not merely their leading, but their pervading
characteristic. This note will, we hope, change. Leopardi is immortal,
and could not be spared; but one Leopardi is enough for a single


[Footnote 44: _West Country Poets: Their Lives and Works, etc._
Illustrated with Portraits. By W. H. Kearley Wright, F.R.H.S. London:
Elliot Stock. 1896.]

Some nineteen hundred years ago Horace observed that there was one thing
which neither gods, nor men, nor bookstalls would tolerate in a
poet--and that was mediocrity. The verdict of gods, men, and the
bookstalls is probably still what it was then; but to such tribunals the
rhymesters of our time can afford to be quite indifferent. Paper and
printing are cheap; small poets and small critics are now so numerous
that they form a world, and a populous world, in themselves; and, well
understanding the truth of the old proverb, “Concordiâ, parvæ res
crescunt,” they mutually manufacture the wreaths with which they crown
each other’s modest vanity. There are hundreds of “poets” and “critics”
of whom the great world knows nothing, who are thus enabled, in their
little day, to taste all the sweets of fame, and “walk with inward glory
crown’d.” To wage serious war against such a tribe as this would be as
absurd as to break butterflies upon a wheel; but we really think it high
time that some protest should be made against the indefinite
multiplication of the rubbish for which these people and their patrons
are responsible, and still more against its importation into what
purports to be a contribution to serious literature. As long as these
geniuses confine themselves to their proper sphere, the poets’ corners
of provincial newspapers, we have nothing to say. But it becomes quite
another matter when the skill of an ingenious projector enables--we are
really sorry to have to speak so harshly--a rabble of poetasters to
figure side by side with poets of classical fame, and to appear in all
the dignity of contributors to a national anthology. Yet such is the
design of this volume, which was, it seems, published by subscription,
the subscribers being for the most part the various candidates for
poetical fame, who have obligingly sent their portraits and their
biographies for insertion in Mr. Kearley Wright’s “monumental work.” As
Mr. Kearley Wright’s collection begins with the fifteenth century, and
includes the really eminent poets who happen to have been born in the
West of England, many of his worthies are naturally _apud plures_, but
the majority, in whose honour the anthology appears to have been
compiled, adorn the living. And very gratifying it must be for these
gentlemen, and for Mr. Kearley Wright himself--for he also has a
niche--to find themselves side by side with Sir Walter Raleigh, Herrick,
Gay, and Coleridge.

Mr. Kearley Wright’s “company of makers” is certainly a motley one.
First comes among his living bards an inspired porter at the Teignmouth
railway station, who asks in rapture,--

  “Along the glitt’ring streets of gold,
    Amid the brilliant glare,
  Shall we God’s banner there unfold,
    His righteous helmet wear?”

At no great distance follows, with a portrait looking intensely
intellectual, “the manager of the Bristol and South Wales Railway Waggon
Company, Limited,” whose poems are described as “lacking here and there
logical sequence and literary method,” but “evincing undoubtedly a great
poetical disposition and philosophical drift.” The two poems which
illustrate this poet’s genius afford very little proof either of “a
great poetical disposition” or of “a philosophical drift,” but painfully
conclusive proof that much more is lacking than “logical sequence and
literary method,” the lack of which may certainly be conceded as well.
Next comes Mr. Jonas Coaker, “the landlord of the Warren House Inn,”
whose verses “disclose a poetic spirit, and, had he possessed the
advantages of education, would doubtless have attracted some attention.”
Mr. Coaker is in the main autobiographical.

  “I drew my breath first on the moor,
    There my forefathers dwelled;
  Its hills and dales I’ve traversed o’er,
    Its desert parts beheld.

         *       *       *       *       *

  It’s oft envelop’d in a fog,
    Because it’s up so high.”

And Mr. Coaker continues in the same strain further than we care to
transcribe. Then we have Mr. John Goodwin, “formerly a coach-guard, who
sung of the days when there was such a thing, if we may so phrase it, as
the poetry of locomotion.” In his poetry, we are told, “there is a
genuine ring,” as here, for example:--

  “I mind the time, when I was guard,
    The lord, the duke, or squire
  Would travel by the old stage-coach,
    Or post-chaise they would hire.”

Mr. Charles Chorley, who is, we are informed, submanager of the Truro
Savings Bank, in verses which are presumably a parody of Sir William
Jones’ _Imitation of Alcæus_, inquires, not without a certain propriety,
“What constitutes a mine?” On a par with all these are the verses of the
bard who “in summer hawked gooseberries and in winter shoelaces,” and
those of the “uneducated journeyman woolcomber.”

Now, we need hardly say that the humble vocations of these poets are
neither derogatory to them nor in any way detrimental to merit where
merit exists; but there is no merit whatever in the poems assigned to
them in this volume; they are simply such poems as hawkers, woolcombers,
railway porters, and submanagers of provincial banks--“who pen a stanza
when they should engross”--might be expected to write. The same may be
said of almost every copy of verses, produced by amateurs, to be found
in this collection. We have scarcely noticed a single poem which rises
above mediocrity; a very large proportion are below even a mediocre
standard--they are simply rubbish. In one poet only, among those whose
names were not before known to us, do we discern genius, and that is in
Mr. John Dryden Hosken, whose poem, entitled _My Masters_, is really

The editor of this anthology is plainly incompetent, both in point of
taste and critical discernment, and in point of knowledge, for the task
which he has undertaken. The first is proved by the extracts which he
has selected from the works of well-known poets. Coleridge, for example,
is represented by two comparatively inferior poems, _The Devil’s
Thoughts_ and _Fancy in Nubibus_; Thomas Carew, by two short poems, one
of which is probably the worst he ever wrote; Herrick, by two of his
very worst; Praed, by two of the feeblest and least characteristic of
his poems; Walcot, by mere trash. It is quite possible that their less
illustrious brethren may have suffered from the deplorable inability of
this editor to discern between what is good and what is bad. Certainly
Capern, who was a poet with a touch of genius, suffers, for the lyric
given is very far indeed from representing or illustrating his best or
even his characteristic work. In giving an account of Alexander Barclay,
who, by the way, is called Andrew in the Preface, Mr. Wright says
nothing about his most important poems--his Eclogues. If Eustace Budgell
is included among the poets, why are not his poems specified and
represented? Of Aaron Hill it is observed that “neither his reputation
as a poet nor his connexion with the county of Devon is sufficient to
warrant more than a mere notice of his name.” Aaron Hill was the author
of more than one poem of conspicuous merit. The verses attributed on
page 488 to Sir William Yonge were written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
But these are trifles. What we wish to protest against is the foisting
of such volumes as these on our libraries; and it is appalling to learn
that it is the intention of Mr. Kearley Wright, if he is sufficiently
encouraged by subscribers, to follow this with another similar
collection. If poets like these wish to gratify their vanity, let them
not gratify it to the detriment of serious literature; for, if the few
can discriminate, the many cannot, and the multiplication of works like
these must infallibly tend to lower the standard of current literature,
by furthering the disastrous “cult of the average man.” In our opinion
criticism can have no more imperative duty than to discountenance and
discourage in every way such projectors as Mr. Kearley Wright and such
poets as those for whose merits he and critics like him stand sponsors.


[Footnote 45: _The Eclogues of Virgil._ Translated into English
Hexameter Verse by the Right Hon. Sir George Osborne Morgan, Bart.,
Q.C., M.P. London.]

Sir George Osborne Morgan has served his generation in much more
important capacities than those of a scholar and a translator of Virgil,
and had this little work, therefore, been less meritorious than it is,
no critic with a sense of the becoming would deal harshly with it. But
it challenges and deserves serious consideration, not only as an attempt
to solve a problem of singular interest to students of classical poetry,
but as a somewhat ambitious contribution to the literature of
translation. Sir Osborne Morgan is, however, mistaken in supposing that
in translating Virgil into his own metre he “has undertaken a task which
has never been attempted before.” In 1583 Richard Stanihurst published a
translation of the first four books of the _Æneid_ in English
hexameters; and, if Sir Osborne will turn to Webbe’s _Discourse of
English Poetrie_, published as early as 1586, he will find versions in
English hexameters of the First and Second Eclogues, while Abraham
Fraunce, in a curious volume, entitled _The Countess of Pembroke’s Ivy
Church_, which appeared in 1591, has, among the other hexameters in the
collection, given a version of the Second Eclogue in this measure. But
Sir Osborne Morgan has been more immediately anticipated in his
experiment. In 1838 Dr. James Blundell published anonymously, under the
title of _Hexametrical Experiments_, versions in hexameters of the
First, Fourth, Sixth, and Tenth Eclogues, and to this translation he
prefixed an elaborate preface, vindicating the employment of the
hexameter in English, and explaining its mechanism to the unlearned.
Indeed, Blundell arrived at the same conclusion as Sir Osborne Morgan,
that the proper medium for an English translation of hexametrical poems
in Greek and Latin is the English hexameter. We may, however, hasten to
add that Sir Osborne has little to fear from a comparison with his
predecessors, who have, indeed, done their best to refute by example
their own theory. It may be observed, in passing, that the translations
of Virgil into rhymed decasyllabic verse are far more numerous than Sir
Osborne Morgan seems to suppose. He is, he says, acquainted only with
two--the version by Dryden and Joseph Warton--not seeming to be aware
that Warton translated only the _Georgics_ and _Eclogues_, printing
Pitt’s version of the _Æneid_. The whole of Virgil was translated into
this measure by John Ogilvie between 1649-50, and by the Earl of
Lauderdale about 1716, while versions of the _Æneid_, the _Georgics_,
and the _Eclogues_, in the same metre, have abounded in every era of our
literature, from Gawain Douglas’s translation of the _Æneid_ printed in
1553, to Archdeacon Wrangham’s version of the _Eclogues_ in 1830.

It is no reproach to Sir Osborne Morgan that, in the occupations of a
busy political life, his scholarship should have become a little rusty,
but it is a pity that he should so often have allowed himself to be
caught tripping, when a little timely counsel in the correction of his
proof sheets might have prevented this. In the First Eclogue the line

  “Non insueta graves temptabunt pabula fetas”

is translated

  “Here no unwonted herb shall tempt the travailing cattle.”

What it really means is, no change of fodder, no fodder which is strange
to them, shall “infect” or “try” the pregnant cattle, “insueta” being
used in exactly the same sense as in Eclogue V. 56, “_insuetum_ miratur
limen Olympi,” and “temptare” as it is used in Georg. III. 441, and
commonly in classical Latin. It is, to say the least, questionable
whether in the couplet--

  “Pauperis et tuguri congestum cæspite culmen,
  Post aliquot, mea regna videns, mirabor aristas?”--

the last line can mean

  “Gaze on the straggling corn, the remains of what once was my kingdom.”

“Aristas” is much more likely to be a metonymy for “messes,” _i.e._
“annos,” like αροτου in Sophocles’ _Trachiniæ_, 69, τον
μεν παρελθοντ’ αροτον, a confirmative illustration which seems to have
escaped the commentators; but it is difficult to say, and Sir Osborne
has, it must be owned, excellent authority for his interpretation. In
Eclogue III. the somewhat difficult passage

                        “pocula ponam
  Lenta quibus torno facili superaddita vitis
  Diffusos hedera vestit pallente corymbos”--

_i.e._ “where the limber vine wreathed round them by the deft graving
tool is twined with pale ivy’s spreading clusters,”--is translated:

  “Over whose side the vine by a touch of the graving tool added
  Mantles its clustering grapes in the paler leaves of the ivy.”

This is quite wrong. “Corymbos” cannot possibly mean clusters of grapes,
but clusters of ivy berries, “hederâ pallente” being substituted, after
Virgil’s manner, for “hederæ pallentis.” In Eclogue IV. 24 there is no
reason for supposing that the “fallax herba veneni” is hemlock; it is
much more likely to be aconite. In line 45 “sandyx” should be translated
not “purple” but “crimson,” vague as the colour indicated by “purple”
is. In Eclogue V.

            “Si quos aut Phyllidis ignes,
  Aut Alconis habes laudes, aut jurgia Codri”

is not

  “Phyllis’s fiery loves you would sing or the quarrels of Codrus,”

but “your passion for Phyllis, your invectives against Codrus,” “ignes”
being used far more becomingly for a man’s love than for a woman’s. So,
again, “pro purpureo narcisso” cannot mean what nature never saw,
“purple daffodil,” but the white narcissus. In Eclogue VIII. “Sophocleo
tua carmina digna cothurno” is turned by what is obviously a _lapsus
calami_, “worthy of Sophocles’ sock.” A scholar like Sir Osborne Morgan
does not need reminding that the “sock” is a metonymy for Comedy, as
Milton anglicizes it in _L’Allegro_, “if Jonson’s learned sock be on.”
In the exquisite passage in Eclogue VIII. 41--

  “Jam fragiles poteram ab terrâ contingere ramos”--

to translate “fragiles” as “frail” is to miss the whole point of the
epithet. What Virgil means is, “I could just reach the branches from the
ground and _break them off_”; if it is to be translated by one epithet,
it must be “brittle.” Again in the Ninth Eclogue the words

                    “quâ se subducere colles
  _Incipiunt_, mollique jugum demittere clivo,”

do not mean “where the hills with gentle depression steal away into the
plain,” but the very opposite: _i.e._ “Where the hills begin to draw
themselves up from the plain,” the ascent being contemplated from below.
In Eclogue IX., in turning the couplet

  “Nam neque adhuc Vario videor, nec dicere Cinnâ
  Digna, sed argutos inter strepere anser olores,”

the translator has no authority for turning the last verse into “a
cackling goose in a chorus of cygnets,” for there is no tradition that
cygnets sang, and goose should have been printed with a capital letter
to preserve the pun, the allusion being to a poetaster named Anser.
Unfortunately for the English translator, our literature can boast no
counterpart to “Anser” _totidem literis_, but Goose printed with a
capital is near enough to preserve, or suggest the sarcasm. There is
another slip in Eclogue X.: “Ferulas” is not “wands of willow” but

Occasionally a touch is introduced which is neither authorized by the
original, nor true to nature. There is nothing, for instance to warrant,
in Eclogue I. 56, the epithet “odorous” as applied to the willow, nor
does “salictum” mean a “willow” but a “willow-bed or plantation.” To
translate “ubi tempus erit” by “when the hour shall have struck” reminds
us of Shakespeare’s famous anachronism in _Julius Cæsar_ and is as
surprising in the work of a scholar as the lengthening of the
penultimate in arbutus, “Sweet is the shower to the blade, To the newly
weaned kid the arbutus.” As a rule, the translator turns difficult
passages very skilfully, but this is not the case with the couplet which
concludes the “Pollio”:--

  “Incipe, parve puer: cui non risere parentes
  Nec deus hunc mensâ, dea nec dignata cubili est”;

that is, the “babe on whom the parent never smiled, no god ever deemed
worthy of his board, no goddess of her bed”--in other words, he can
never enjoy the rewards of a hero like Hercules; but there is neither
sense nor skill, and something very like a serious grammatical error, in

            “Who knows not the smile of a parent,
  Neither the board of a god nor the bed of a goddess is worthy.”

But to turn from comparative trifles. No one who reads this version of
the _Eclogues_ can doubt that Sir Osborne Morgan has proved his point,
that the English hexameter, when skilfully used, is the measure best
adapted for reproducing Virgil’s music in English. The following passage
(_Ec._ VII. 45-48) is happily turned; let us place the original beside
the translation:--

  “Muscosi fontes et somno mollior herba,
  Et quæ vos rarâ viridis tegit arbutus umbrâ,
  Solstitium pecori defendite: jam venit æstas
  Torrida, jam læto turgent in palmite gemmæ.”

  “Moss-grown fountains and sward more soft than the softest of slumbers,
  Arbutus tree that flings over both its flickering shadows,
  Shelter my flock from the sun. Already the summer is on us,
  Summer that scorches up all! See the bud on the glad vine is swelling.”

Again (_Ec._ X. 41-48):--

  “Serta mihi Phyllis legeret, cantaret Amyntas:
  Hic gelidi fontes, hic mollia prata, Lycori,
  Hic nemus: hic ipso tecum consumerer ævo.
  Nunc insanus amor duri me Martis in armis
  Tela inter media atque adversos detinet hostes:
  Tu procul a patriâ--nec sit mihi credere tantum!--
  Alpinas, ah dura, nives et frigora Rheni
  Me sine sola vides.”

  “Phyllis would gather me flowers and Amyntas a melody chant me;
  Cool is the fountain’s wave and soft is the meadow, Lycoris;
  Shady the grove! Here with thee I would die of old age in the greenwood.
  Mad is the lust of war, that now in the heart of the battle
  Chains me where darts fall fast, and the charge of the foemen is fiercest,
  Far, far away from your home--Oh, would that I might not believe it--
  Lost amid Alpine snows or the frozen desolate Rhineland,
  Lonely without me you wander.”

Many other felicitous passages might be quoted; indeed, there is no
Eclogue without them; but the translator is not sure-footed, and, if he
occasionally illustrates the hexameter in its excellence, he
illustrates, unhappily too often, some of its worst defects. Two
qualities are indispensable to the success of this measure in English.
Our language, unlike the classical languages, being accentual and not
quantitative, if the long syllable is not represented where the stress
naturally falls, and the short syllables where it does not fall, the
effect is sometimes grotesque, sometimes distressing, and always
unsatisfactory. Nothing, for example, could be worse in their various
ways than the following:--

  “Wept when you saw they were given the lad, and had you not managed.”
  “Let not the frozen air harm you.”
  “Scatter the sand with his hind hoofs.”
  “The pliant growth of the osier.”
  “Worthy of Sophocles’ sock, trumpet-tongued through the Universe echo.”
  “Own’d it himself, and yet he would not deliver it to me.”

A very nice ear, too, is required to adjust the collocation of words in
which either vowels or consonants predominate, and the relative position
of monosyllabic and polysyllabic words, the predominance of the former
in our language increasing enormously the difficulty. No measure,
moreover, so easily runs into intolerable monotony--a monotony which
Clough sought to avoid by overweighting his verses with spondees, and
which Longfellow illustrates by the cloying predominance of the dactylic
movement. Sir Osborne Morgan tells us that he took Kingsley as his
model. Kingsley’s hexameters are respectable, but they have no
distinction, and he had certainly not a good ear. Longfellow’s are far
better, and are sometimes exquisitely felicitous, as in a couplet like
the following, which, with the exception of one word, is flawless:--

  “Men whose lives glided on like the rivers that water the woodlands,
  Darken’d by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of Heaven.”

Probably the best hexameters which have been composed in English are
those in William Watson’s _Hymn to the Sea_ and those in which Hawtry
translated Iliad III. 234-244, and the parting of Hector and Andromache
in the Sixth Iliad, models--these versions--not merely of translation,
but of hexametrical structure. There are, however, certain magical
effects, particularly in the Virgilian hexameter, produced by an
exquisite but audacious tact in the employment of licences, which can
never be reproduced in English.

Such would be--

  “Nam neque Parnassi vobis juga, nam neque Pindi
  Ulla moram fecere, neque Aonie Aganippe.
  Illum etiam lauri, etiam flevere myricæ;
  Pinifer illum etiam solâ sub rupe jacentem
  Mænalus et gelidi fleverunt saxa Lycæi.”

Milton, and Milton alone among Englishmen, had the secret of this music,
but he elicited it from another instrument.


[Footnote 46: _The Poetical Works of James Thomson._ A New Edition, with
Memoir and Critical Appendices, by the Rev. D. C. Tovey. 2 vols.

“Jacob Thomson, ein vergessener Dichter des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts”--a
forgotten poet of the eighteenth century--such is the title of a recent
monograph on the author of _The Seasons_ by Dr. G. Schmeding. Dr. G.
Schmeding is, however, so obliging as to pronounce that, in his opinion,
this ought not to be Thomson’s fate; that there remains in his work,
especially in _The Seasons_ merit enough to entitle him to be “enrolled
among poets,” and to find appreciation, at all events in schools and
reading societies. Dr. Schmeding may rest assured that Thomson’s fame is
quite safe. It has no doubt suffered, as that of all the poets of the
eighteenth century has suffered, by the great revolution which has, in
the course of the last ninety years, passed over literary tastes and
fashions. But during the present century there have been no less than
twenty editions of his poems, to say nothing of separate editions of
_The Seasons_; while his works, or portions of them, have been
translated into German, Italian, modern Greek, and Russian. Only two
years ago M. Léon Morel, in his _J. Thomson, sa vie et ses œuvres_,
published an elaborate and admirable monograph on this “forgotten poet.”
And now Mr. Tovey, who, we are glad to see, has been appointed Clarke
Lecturer at Cambridge, has given us a new biography of him and a new
edition of his works, making, if we are not mistaken, the thirty-second
memoir of him and the twenty-first edition of his works which have
appeared since the beginning of the century. This is pretty well for a
forgotten poet!

Mr. Tovey’s name is a sufficient guarantee for accurate and scholarly
work. But it might naturally be asked, what is there to justify another
edition of this poet, when so many editions are already in the field and
so easily accessible? We have little difficulty in answering this
question. The special features of Mr. Tovey’s edition are as important
as they are interesting. In the first place, he has given us a much
fuller biography than has hitherto appeared in English; in the second
place, he has thrown much interesting light on the political bearing of
Thomson’s dramas; and, in the third place, he has given, what no other
editor of Thomson has given, a full collation of Thomson’s own MS.
corrections, preserved in Mitford’s copy, now deposited in the British
Museum. The critical notes have cost him, he says, and we can quite
believe it, much time and labour, and in his preface he half apologizes
for what may seem “a ridiculous travesty of more important labours.”
There was no necessity for such an apology: he observes justly that he
has “not spent more pains on Thomson’s text than so many of our scholars
bestow upon some Greek and Latin poets whose intrinsic merit is no
greater than Thomson’s.”

To serious readers these critical notes will constitute the most
valuable part of Mr. Tovey’s labours; they are, in truth, the speciality
of this particular edition, and will make it indispensable to all
students of this most interesting poet. And now Mr. Tovey will, we
trust, forgive us if, with due deference, we point out what seem to us
to be defects in his work. The first thing that might have been expected
from so learned and careful an editor of Thomson was an adequate
discussion of the great problem of the authorship of _Rule Britannia_,
and the second an exposure of one of the most extraordinary
“mare’s-nests” to be found in English literature. But nothing, we regret
to say, can be more perfunctory and inadequate than the two notes in
which the first question is hurried over with references to _Notes and
Queries_, and nothing more irritating than the confusion worse
confounded in which Mr. Tovey leaves the second. We shall therefore
make no apology for entering somewhat at length into both these

And first for the authorship of _Rule Britannia_. The facts are these.
In 1740 Thomson and Mallet wrote, in conjunction, a masque entitled
_Alfred_, which, on 1st August in that year, was represented before the
Prince and Princess of Wales at Clifden. It was in two acts, and it
contained six lyrics, the last being _Rule Britannia_, which is entitled
an “Ode,” the music being by Dr. Arne. In 1745 Arne turned the piece
into an opera, and also into “a musical drama.” By this time the lyric
had become very popular, but there is no evidence to show that it had
been definitely attributed to either of the coadjutors. In 1748 Thomson
died. In 1751 Mallet re-issued _Alfred_, but in another form. It was
entirely remodelled, and almost entirely re-written, and, in an
advertisement prefixed to the work, he says: “According to the present
arrangement of the fable I was obliged to reject a great deal of what I
had written in the other: neither could I retain, of my friend’s part,
more than three or four speeches, and a part of one song.” Now, of the
parts retained from the former work, there were the first three stanzas
of _Rule Britannia_, the three others being excised, and their place
supplied by three stanzas written by Lord Bolingbroke. If Mallet is to
be believed, then, “part of one song” must refer, either to a song in
the third scene of the second act, beginning “From those eternal
regions bright,” or to _Rule Britannia_, for these are the only lyrics
in which portions of the lyrics in the former edition are retained.
_Rule Britannia_ is, it is true, entitled “An Ode” in the former
edition, and the other lyric “A Song,” so that Mallet would certainly
seem to imply that what he had retained of his friend’s work was the
portion of the song referred to, and not _Rule Britannia_. But, as
Mallet was notoriously a man who could not be believed on oath, and was
an adept in all those bad arts by which little men filch honours which
do not belong to them, if he is to be allowed to have any title to the
honour of composing this lyric, it ought to rest on something better
than the ambiguity between the word “Ode” and the word “Song.”

There is no evidence that, while both were alive, either Thomson or
Mallet claimed the authorship; but this is certain, it was printed at
Edinburgh, during Mallet’s lifetime, in the second edition of a
well-known song book, entitled _The Charmer_, with Thomson’s initials
appended to it. It is certain that Mallet had friends in Edinburgh, and
it is equally certain that neither he nor any of his friends raised any
objection to its ascription to Thomson. In 1743, in 1759, and in 1762
Mallet published collections of poems, but in none of these collections
does he lay claim to _Rule Britannia_, and, though it was printed in
song-books in 1749, 1750, and 1761, it is in no case assigned to
Mallet. None of his contemporaries, so far as we know, attributed it to
him, and it is remarkable that, in a brief obituary notice of him which
appeared in the _Scots Magazine_ in 1765, he is spoken of as the author
of the famous ballad _William and Margaret_, but not a word is said
about _Rule Britannia_. A further presumption in Thomson’s favour is
this: in all probability Dr. Arne, who set it to music, knew the
authorship, and he survived both Thomson and Mallet, dying in 1778. The
song had become very popular and celebrated, so that if Mallet had
desired to have the credit of its composition, it is strange that he
should not have laid claim to it, had his claim been a good one. But if
his claim was not good, he could hardly have ventured to claim the
authorship, as Dr. Arne would have been in his way. It is quite possible
that the ambiguity in the advertisement to the recension of 1751 was
designed; it certainly left the question open, and we cannot but think
there is something very suspicious in what follows the sentence in
Mallet’s advertisement, where he speaks of his having used so little of
his friend’s work. “I mention this expressly,” he adds, “that, whatever
faults are found in the present performance, they may be charged, as
they ought to be, entirely to my account.” A vainer and more
unscrupulous man than Mallet never existed; and, while it is simply
incredible that he should not have claimed what would have constituted
his chief title to popularity as a poet, had he been able to do so, it
is in exact accordance with his established character that he should, as
he did in the advertisement of 1751, have left himself an opportunity of
asserting that claim, should those who were privy to the secret have
predeceased him, and thus enabled him to do so with impunity.

The internal evidence--and on this alone the question must now be
argued--seems to us conclusive in Thomson’s favour. The Ode is simply a
translation into lyrics of what finds embodiment in Thomson’s
_Britannia_, in the fourth and fifth parts of _Liberty_, and in his
Verses to the Prince of Wales. Coming to details, there can be no doubt
that the third stanza--

  “Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
    More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
  As the loud blast that tears the skies
    Serves but to root thy native oak”--

was suggested by Horace’s

  “Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus
  Nigræ feraci frondis in Algido,
    Per damna, per cædes, ab ipso
      Ducit opes animumque ferro.”

Now, not only was Horace, as innumerable imitations and reminiscences
prove, one of Thomson’s favourite poets, but Thomson has, in the third
part of _Liberty_ translated this very passage:--

                             “Like an oak,
  Nurs’d on feracious Algidum, whose boughs
  Still stronger shoot beneath the rigid axe
  By loss, by slaughter, from the steel itself
  E’en force and spirit drew.”

He has, elsewhere, two other reminiscences of the same passage, once in
the third part of _Liberty_--

                    “Every tempest sung
  Innoxious by, or bade it firmer stand”--

and once in _Sophonisba_ (Act V. sc. ii.):--

                                 “Thy rooted worth
  Has stood these wintry blasts, grown stronger by them.”

The epithet “azure” employed in the first stanza is, with “cerulean” and
“aerial,” one of the three commonest epithets in Thomson, the three
occurring at least twenty times in his poetry. A somewhat cursory
examination of his works has enabled us to find that “azure” or “azured”
alone occurs ten times. “Generous,” too, in the Latin sense of the term,
is another of his favourite words, it being used no less than sixteen
times in _Britannia_ and _Liberty_ alone. Another of his favourite
allusions is to England’s “native oaks.” Thus in _Britannia_ he speaks

          “Your oaks, peculiar harden’d, shoot
  Strong into sturdy growth;”

in the last part of _Liberty_ we find “Let her own naval oak be basely
torn,” and in the same part of the poem he speaks of the “venerable
oaks” and “kindred floods.” The epithet “manly” and the phrase “the
fair”--“manly hearts to guard the fair”--are also peculiarly Thomsonian,
being repeatedly employed by him, the phrase “the fair” occurring in his
poetry at least six times, if not oftener. “Flame,” too, is another of
his favourite words.

  “All their attempts to bend thee down
  Will but arouse,” etc.,

is exactly the sentiment in _Britannia_.

                              “Your hearts
  Swell with a sudden courage, growing still
  As danger grows.”

The stanza beginning “To thee belongs,” etc., is simply a lyrical
paraphrase of the passage in _Britannia_ commencing “Oh first of human
blessings,” and of a couplet in the last part of _Liberty_:--

  “The winds and seas are Britain’s wide domain;
  And not a sail but by permission spreads.”

The couplet

  “All thine shall be the subject main,
  And every shore it circles thine”

is simply the echo of a couplet in the fifth part of _Liberty_--

  “All ocean is her own, and every land
  To whom her ruling thunder ocean bears.”

The phrase “blessed isle,” as applied to England, he employs three
times in _Liberty_. Again, the stanza in which _Rule Britannia_ is
written is the stanza in which the majority of Thomson’s minor lyrics
are written, and the rhythm and cadence, not less than the tone, colour
and sentiment, are exactly his.

Mallet was undoubtedly an accomplished man and a respectable poet, as
his ballad _William and Margaret_, his _Edwin and Emma_, and his _Birks
of Invermay_ sufficiently prove, but he has written nothing tolerable in
the vein of _Rule Britannia_. Neatness, and tenderness bordering on
effeminacy, mark his characteristic lyrics, and, if we except a few
lines in his _Tyburn_ and the eight concluding lines in a poem entitled
_A Fragment_, there is no virility in his poetry at all. Of the
patriotism and ardent love of liberty which pervade Thomson’s poems, and
which glow so intensely in _Rule Britannia_, he has absolutely nothing.
Nor are there any analogues or parallels in his poems to this lyric
either in form--for if we are not mistaken, he has never employed the
stanza in which it is written--or in imagery, or phraseology. Like
Thomson, whom, in his narrative blank-verse poems, he servilely
imitates, he is fond of the words “azure” and “aerial”; and the word
“azure” is the only verbal coincidence linking the phraseology of his
acknowledged poems with the lyric in question. It may be added, too,
that a man who was capable of the jingling rubbish of such a masque as
_Britannia_, and who had the execrable taste to substitute Bolingbroke’s
stanzas for the stanzas which they supersede, could hardly have been
equal to the production of this lyric. We believe, then, that there can
be no reasonable doubt that the honour of composing _Rule Britannia_
belongs to Thomson the bard, and not to Mallet the fribble.

But to return to Mr. Tovey and the “mare’s-nest” to which we have
referred. This mare’s-nest is the assumption that Pope assisted Thomson
in revising _The Seasons_. Since Robert Bell’s edition this has come to
be received as an established fact, but we propose to show that it rests
on a hypothesis demonstrably baseless.

There is, in the British Museum, an interleaved copy of the first volume
of the London edition of Thomson’s works, dated 1738, and the part of
the volume which contains _The Seasons_ is full of manuscript deletions,
corrections, and additions. These are in two handwritings, the one being
unmistakably the handwriting of Thomson, the other beyond all question
the handwriting of some one else. Almost all these corrections were
inserted in the edition prepared for the press in 1744, and now,
consequently, form part of the present text. The corrections in the hand
which is not the hand of Thomson are, in many cases, of extraordinary
merit, showing a fineness of ear and delicacy of touch quite above the
reach of Thomson himself. We will give two or three samples. Thomson
had written in _Autumn_ 290 seqq.:--

  “With harvest shining all these fields are thine,
  And if my rustics may presume so far,
  Their master, too, who then indeed were blest
  To make the daughter of Acasto so.”

The unknown corrector substitutes the present reading:--

  “The fields, the master, all, my fair, are thine;
  If to the various blessings which thy house
  Has lavished on me thou wilt add that bliss,
  That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!”

The other is famous. Thomson had written:--

  “Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty’s self,
  Recluse among the woods, if City-dames
  Will deign their faith. And thus she went compell’d
  By strong necessity, with as serene
  And pleased a look as patience can put on,
  To glean Palemon’s fields.”

For these vapid and dissonant verses is substituted by the corrector,
who very properly retains the first verse, what is now the text:--

  “Recluse amid the close embow’ring woods,
  As in the hollow breast of Apennine,
  Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
  A myrtle rises, far from human eyes,
  And breathes its balmy fragrance o’er the wild.
  So flourished blooming, and unseen by all,
  The sweet Lavinia,” etc.

The transformation of a single line is often most felicitous: thus in
_Winter_ the flat line

  “Through the lone night that bids the waves arise”

is grandly altered into

  “Through the black night that sits immense around.”

Thus, in _Spring_, Thomson had merely written

  “Whose aged oaks and venerable gloom
  Invite the noisy rooks;”

but his corrector alters and extends the passage into

  “Whose aged elms and venerable oaks
  Invite the rooks, who high amid the boughs
  In early spring their airy city build,
  And caw with ceaseless clamour.”

Indeed, throughout _The Seasons_ Thomson’s indebtedness to his corrector
is incalculable; many of the most felicitous touches are due to him.
Now, who was this corrector? Let Mr. Tovey answer. “It has long been
accepted as a fact among scholars that Pope assisted Thomson in the
composition of _The Seasons_. Our original authority is, we suppose,
Warton.” The truth is that our original authority for this statement is
neither Warton nor any other writer of the eighteenth century, but
simply the conjecture of Mitford--in other words, Mitford’s mere
assumption that the handwriting of the corrector is the handwriting of
Pope; and, if we are not mistaken,--for Mitford may have given earlier
currency to it in some other place--the conjecture appeared for the
first time in Mitford’s edition of Gray, published in 1814. In his copy
of the volume, containing the MS. notes, he bolsters up his statement
by two assertions and references: “That Pope saw some pieces of
Thomson’s in manuscript is clear from a letter in Bowles’s _Supplement_,
page 194” (an obvious misprint for 294). But on turning to the
references all that we find is--it is in a letter dated February
1738/9--“I have yet seen but three acts of Mr. Thomson’s, but I am told,
and believe by what I have seen that it excels in the pathetic”; the
reference is plainly to Thomson’s tragedy, _Edward and Eleonora_. Again,
Mitford writes: “On Thomson’s submitting his poems to Pope” (see
Warton’s edition, vol. viii., page 340), and again we get no proof. All
that Pope says is, “I am just taken up”--he is writing to Aaron Hill
under date November 1732--“by Mr. Thomson in the perusal of a new poem
he has brought me;” this new poem being almost certainly _Liberty_, in
the composition of which Thomson was then engaged. So far from the
tradition having any countenance from Warton, it is as certain as
anything can be, that Warton knew nothing about it. In his _Essay on
Pope_ he gives an elaborate account of _The Seasons_, and he has more
than once referred to Pope and Thomson together; but he says not a word,
either in this Essay or in his edition of Pope’s Works, about Pope
having corrected Thomson’s poetry. If Pope assisted Thomson, to the
extent indicated in these corrections, such an incident, considering
the fame of Thomson and the fame of Pope, must have been known to some
at least of the innumerable editors, biographers, and anecdotists
between 1742 and 1814. It could hardly have escaped being recorded by
Murdoch, Mallet, or Warburton, by Ruffhead, by Savage or Spence, by
Theophilus Cibber or Johnson. It is incredible that such an interesting
secret should have been kept either by Thomson himself or by Pope.
Again, whoever the corrector was, he had a fine ear for blank verse, and
must indeed have been a master of it. There is no proof that Pope ever
wrote in blank verse; indeed, we have the express testimony of Lady
Wortley Montagu that he never attempted it, and his Shakespeare
conclusively proves that he had anything but a nice ear for its rhythm.
With all this collateral evidence against the probability of the
corrector being Pope, we come to the evidence which should settle the
question, the evidence of handwriting. There is no lack of material for
forming an opinion on this point. Pope’s autograph MSS. are abundant,
illustrating his hand at every period in his life. It is amazing to find
Mitford asserting that his friends Ellis and Combe, at the British
Museum, had no doubt about the hand of the corrector being the hand of
Pope. Mr. Tovey candidly admits that, “if the best authorities at the
Museum many years ago were positive that the handwriting was Pope’s,
their successors at the present time are equally positive that it is
not.” Such is the very decided opinion of Mr. Warner; such, also, as Mr.
Tovey acknowledges, is the opinion of Professor Courthope, and such, we
venture to think, will be the opinion of every one who will take the
trouble to compare the hands. Mr. Tovey himself is plainly very uneasy,
and indeed goes so far as to say that “it has all along been perplexing
to me how the opinion that this was Pope’s handwriting could ever have
been _confidently_” (the italics are his) “entertained”; and yet in his
notes he follows Bell, and inserts these corrections with Pope’s

We search in vain among those who are known to have been on friendly
terms with Thomson for a probable claimant. It could not, as his other
stupid revisions of Thomson’s verses sufficiently show, have been
Lyttleton. Mallet’s blank verse is conclusive against his having had any
hand in the corrections. Collins and Hammond are out of the question. It
is just possible, though hardly likely, that the corrector was
Armstrong. He was on very intimate terms with Thomson. His own poem
proves that he could sometimes write excellent blank verse, but the
touch and rhythm of the corrections are, it must be admitted, not the
touch and rhythm of Armstrong.

What has long, therefore, been represented and circulated as an
undisputed fact--namely, that Pope assisted Thomson in the revision of
_The Seasons_--rests not, as all Thomson’s modern editors have supposed,
on the traditions of the eighteenth century, and on the testimony of
authenticated handwriting, but on a mere assumption of Mitford. That the
volume in question really belonged to Thomson, and that the corrections
are originals, hardly admits of doubt, though Mitford gives neither the
pedigree nor the history of this most interesting literary relic. It is,
of course, possible that the corrections are Thomson’s own, and that the
differences in the handwriting are attributable to the fact that in some
cases he was his own scribe, that in others he employed an amanuensis;
but the intrinsic unlikeness of the corrections, made in the strange
hand, to his characteristic style renders this improbable. In any case
there is nothing to warrant the assumption that the corrector was Pope.


[Footnote 47: _The Lesbia of Catullus._ Arranged and translated by J. H.
A. Tremenheere. London.]

Perhaps the best thing in this world is youth, and the poetry of
Catullus is its very incarnation. The “young Catullus” he was to his
contemporaries, and the young Catullus he will be to the end of time. To
turn over his pages is to recall the days when all within and all
without conspire to make existence a perpetual feast, when life’s lord
is pleasure, its end enjoyment, its law impulse, before experience and
satiety have disillusioned and disgusted, and we are still in Dante’s
phrase, “trattando l’ombre come cosa salda.” And the poet of youth had
the good fortune not to survive youth; of the dregs and lees of the life
he chose he had no taste. While the cup which “but sparkles near the
brim” was still sparkling for him, death dashed it from his lips. At
thirty his tale was told,--and a radiant figure, a sunny memory and a
golden volume were immortal.

Revelling alike in the world of nature, and in the world of man, at once
simple and intense, at once playful and pathetic, his poetry has a
freshness as of the morning, an abandon as of a child at play. He has
not, indeed, escaped the taint of Alexandrinism any more than Burns
escaped the taint of the pseudo-classicism of the conventional school of
his day, but this is the only note of falsetto discernible in what he
has left us. It is when we compare him with Horace, Propertius, and
Martial that his incomparable charm is most felt. As a lyric poet,
except when patriotic, and when dealing with moral ideas, Horace is as
commonplace as he is insincere; he had no passion; he had little pathos;
he had not much sentiment; he had no real feeling for nature, he was
little more than a consummate craftsman, to adopt an expression from
Scaliger “ex alienis ingeniis poeta, ex suo tantum versificator.” In his
Greek models he found not merely his form, but his inspiration. Most of
his love odes have all the appearance of being mere studies in fancy.
When he attempts threnody he is as frigid as Cowley. Whose heart was
ever touched by the verses to Virgil on the death of Quintilian, or by
the verses to Valgius on the death of his son? The real Horace is the
Horace of the Satires and Epistles, and the real Horace had as little of
the temperament of a poet as La Fontaine and Prior. Propertius had
passion, and he had certainly some feeling for nature, but he was an
incurable pedant both in temper and in habit. Martial applied the
epigram, in elegiacs and in hendecasyllabics, to the same purposes to
which it was applied by Catullus, with more brilliance and finish, but
he had not the power of informing trifles with emotion and soul. What
became with Catullus the spontaneous expression of the dominant mood,
became in the hands of Martial the mere _tour de force_ of the ingenious
wit. Catullus is the most Greek of all the Roman poets; Greek in the
simplicity, chastity and propriety of his style, in his exquisite
responsiveness to all that appeals to the senses and the emotions, in
his ardent and abounding vitality. But, in his enthusiasm for nature, in
the intensity of his domestic affections, and in his occasional touches
of moral earnestness--and we have seldom to go far for them--he was
Roman. His sketches from nature are delightful. What could be more
perfect than the following? Has even Tennyson equalled it?--

  Hic, qualis flatu placidum mare matutino
  Horrificans Zephyrus proclivas incitat undas,
  Aurorâ exoriente, vagi sub lumina solis;
  Quæ tarde primum clementi flamine pulsæ
  Procedunt, leviterque sonant plangore cachinni:
  Post, vento crescente, magis magis increbescunt,
  Purpureâque procul nantes a luce refulgent.

     “As in early morning when Zephyr’s breath, ruffling the stilly
     sea, stirs it into slanting waves up against the glow of the
     travelling sun; and at first, while the impelling breeze is
     gentle, they move in slow procession, and the plash of their
     ripples is not loud; but then, as the breeze freshens, they
     crowd faster and faster on, and far out at sea, as they float,
     flash back the splendour of the crimsoning day in their front.”

Or, again, in the epistle to Manlius--

  Qualis in aerii _pellucens_ vertice montis
    Rivus _muscoso prosilit e lapide_.

How vivid is the picture of the rising sun and of early morning in the
Attis, 39-41.

      Ubi oris aurei sol radiantibus oculis
  Lustravit æthera album, sola dura, mare ferum,
  Pepulitque noctis umbras vegetis sonipedibus.

In his “Asian Myrtle, in all the beauty of its blossom-laden branches,
which the Wood-Nymphs feed with honey dew to be their toy:”--

  Floridis velut enitens
  Myrtus Asia ramulis,
  Quos Hamadryades Deæ
  Ludicrum sibi roscido
  Nutriunt humore.--

--who does not recognise Matthew Arnold’s “natural magic”?

Flowers he loved, as Shakespeare loved them. What tenderness there is in
the image of the love that perished--

  Ultimi flos, prætereunte postquam
                      Tactus aratro est,

  (xi. 19-21.)

--in the beautiful simile, so often imitated in every language in
Europe, where the unmarried maiden is compared to the uncropped flower,
lxii., 39-45; or where in the

  Alba parthenice,
  Luteumve papaver,

  (lxi. 194-5.)

he sees the symbol of maidenhood; or where Ariadne is compared to the
myrtles on the banks of the Eurotas, and to the “flowers of diverse hues
which the spring breezes evoke”; and, again, the exquisite simile
picturing the husband’s love binding fast the bride’s thoughts, as a
tree is entwined in the clinging clasp of the gadding ivy--

  Mentem amore revinciens,
  Ut tenax hedera huc et huc
          Arborem implicat errans.

Then we have the garland of Priapus with its felicitous epithets (xix.,

It may be said of Catullus as Shelley said of his Alastor--

                              Every sight
  And sound from the vast earth and ambient air
  Sent to his heart their choicest impulses.

What rapture inspires and informs the lines to his yacht, and to Sirmio,
as well as the _Jam ver egelidos refert tepores_!

As the author of the _Attis_ Catullus stands alone among poets. There
was, so far as we know, nothing like it before, and there has been
nothing like it since. If it be a study from the Greek, as it is
generally supposed to be, it is very difficult to conjecture at what
period its original could have been produced. There is nothing at all
resembling it which has come down from the lyric period; its theme is
not one which would have been likely to attract the Attic poets. If its
model was the work of some Alexandrian, we can only say that such a poem
must have been an even greater anomaly in that literature than Smart’s
_Song to David_ is to our own literature, in the eighteenth century. It
may, of course, be urged that it is equally anomalous in Latin poetry,
and that, if resolved into its elements, it has much more affinity with
what may be traced to Greek than to Roman sources. In its compound
epithets, and more particularly in the singular use of “foro,” so
plainly substituted for the Greek αγορα and its associations,
it certainly reads like a translation from the Greek; and yet, in the
total impression made by it, the poem has not the air of a translation,
but of an original, and of an original struck out, in inspiration, at
white heat.

Only by an extraordinary effort of imaginative sympathy are we now able
to realize to ourselves the tragedy of the _Attis_, while its rushing
galliambics whirl us through the panorama of its swift-succeeding
pictures. But home to every heart must come the poems which Catullus
dedicates to the memory of his brother, and the poem in which he tries
to soothe Calvus for the death of Quintilia.

  Multas per gentes, et multa per aequora vectus
    Advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
  Ut te postremo donarem munere mortis,
    Et mutum nequidquam alloquerer cinerem:
  Quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum:
    Heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi!
  Nunc tamen interea prisco quæ more parentum
    Tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
  Accipe, fraterno multum manantia fletu:
    Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

     “Many are the peoples, many the seas I have passed through to
     be here, dear brother, at this, thine untimely grave, that I
     might pay thee death’s last tribute, and greet,--how
     vainly,--the dust that has no response. For well I know Fortune
     hath bereft me of thy living self--Ah! hapless brother, cruelly
     torn from me! Yet here, see, be the offerings which, from of
     old, the custom of our fathers hath handed down as a sad
     oblation to the grave--take them--they are streaming with a
     brother’s tears. And now--for evermore--brother, hail and

Could pathos go further? How exquisite, too, is the following:--

  Si quidquam mutis gratum acceptumque sepulcris
    Accidere a nostro, Calve, dolore potest,
  Quum desiderio veteres renovamus amores,
    Atque olim amissas flemus amicitias:
  Certe non tanto mors immatura dolori est
    Quintiliæ, quantum gaudet amore tuo.[48]

Shakespeare merely unfolded what was included here, when he wrote those
haunting lines:--

  When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
  I summon up remembrance of things past,
  I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
  And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste
  Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
  For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
  And weep afresh love’s long-since cancell’d woe,
  And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight.

Never, too, has any poet given such pathetic expression to a sorrow,
which to the young is even harder to bear than the loss inflicted by
death, the perfidy and treachery of friends. The verses to Alphenus
(xxx.), to the anonymous friend in lxviii., and the epigram to Rufus
(lxxvii.), are indescribably touching. What infinite sadness there is

  Si tu oblitus es, at Dii meminerunt, meminit Fides,
  Quæ te ut pæniteat postmodo facti faciet tui.

What passion of grief in:--

        Heu, heu, nostræ crudele venenum
  Vitæ, heu, heu, nostræ pestis amicitiæ!

But nothing that Catullus has left us equals in fascinating interest, or
exceeds in charm, the poems inspired by the woman who was at once the
bliss and the curse of his life--

  Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
  Illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
  Plusquam se, atque suos amavit omnes.

Whether she is to be identified with the sister of P. Clodius Pulcher,
and the wife of Metellus Celer, seems to us, in spite of the arguments
of Schwaber, Munro, Ellis, and Sellar, extremely doubtful. It is a point
which need not be discussed here, and is, indeed, of little importance.
That she was a woman of superb and commanding beauty, a false wife, a
false mistress, and of immeasurable profligacy, Catullus has himself
told us. There could only be one end to a passion of which such a siren
was the object; and, exquisite as the poems are which precede the
breaking of the spell, it is in the poems recording the gradual process
of disenchantment, and the struggle between the old love and the new
loathing, that Catullus touches us most. How piercing is the pathos of
such a poem as the _Si qua recordanti_ (lxxvi.), or the epigram in which
he says that he loves and loathes, but knows not why, only knows that it
is so, and that he is on the rack:--

  Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
    Nescio: sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Or where he says that, pest as she is, he cannot curse a love who is
dearer to him than both his eyes:--

  Credis me potuisse meæ maledicere vitæ,
    Ambobus mihi quæ carior est oculis?
  Non potui, nec, si possem, tam perdite amarem.

And he suffered the more, as he had lavished on her the purest
affections of his heart. His love for her--such was his own
expression--was not simply that which men ordinarily feel for their
mistresses, but such as the father feels for his sons and his

  Dilexi tum te, non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
    Sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.

But shameless as she is, and it is an impossibility for her to be
otherwise, he cannot abandon her. Do what she will he is her slave. His
mind, he says, was so straitened by her frailty, so beggared by its own
devotion, that, even if she became virtuous, he could not love her with
absolute goodwill, and if she stuck at nothing--drained vice to its very
dregs--he could not give her up:--

  Huc est mens deducta tuâ, mea Lesbia, culpâ
    Atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,
  Ut jam nec bene velle queam tibi, si optima fias,
    Nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.

He compares himself to a man labouring under a cruel and incurable
disease, a disease which is paralysing his energy, and draining life of
its joy:--

  Me miserum adspicite, et si vitam puriter egi,
    Eripite hanc pestem perniciemque mihi,
  Quæ mihi subrepens imos, ut torpor, in artus
    Expulit ex omni pectore lætitias.

Nearly sixteen hundred years had to pass before the world was to have
any parallel to these poems. And the parallel is certainly a remarkable
one. In the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Lesbia lives again; in
the lover of the dark lady, Lesbia’s victim. Once more a false wife and
a false mistress, not indeed beautiful, but with powers of fascination
so irresistible that deformity itself becomes a charm, makes havoc of a
poet’s peace. Once more a passion, as degraded as it is degrading, sows
feuds among friends, and “infects with jealousy the sweetness of
affiance.” Once more rises the bitter cry of a soul, conscious of the
unspeakable degradation of a thraldom which it is agony to endure, and
from which it would be agony to be emancipated. Compare for instance:--

  My love is as a fever, longing still
  For that which longer nurseth the disease,
  Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
  The uncertain sickly appetite to please.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
  And frantic mad with evermore unrest,
  My thoughts and my discourse as madman’s are,

  (Sonnet cxlvii.)

with Catullus, lxxvi.


  Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
  That in the very refuse of thy deeds
  There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
  That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds.
  Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
  The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

  (Sonnet cl.)

with Catullus, lxxii., lxxiii., lxxv.; while Sonnet cxxxvii. presents a
ghastly parallel with Catullus, lviii. Again, how exactly analogous is
the adjuration to Quintius in Epigram lxxxii., with what finds
expression in Sonnets xl.-xlii., and Sonnet cxx. But it would be tedious
as well as superfluous to cite particular parallels where the whole
position--which may be summed up in the two words of Catullus, “Odi et
amo,”--is identical.

Not the least remarkable thing about Catullus is his range and his
versatility. It is truly extraordinary that the same pen should have
given us such finished social portraits as “Suffenus iste” (xxii.), “Ad
Furium” (xxiii.), “In Egnatium” (xxxix.); the perfection of such serious
fooling as we find in the “Lugete, O Veneres” (iii.), and, if we may
apply such an expression to the most delicious love poem ever written,
the “Acme and Septimius” (xlv.); of such humorous fooling as we find in
the “Varus me meus ad suos amores” (x.), the “O Colonia quæ cupis”
(xvii.), the “Adeste, hendecasyllabi,” the “Oramus, si forte non
molestum” (lv.); such epic as we have in the “Peleus and Thetis”; such
triumphs of richness, splendour, and grace as we have in the three
marriage poems; such a superb expression of the highest imaginative
power, penetrated with passion and enthusiasm, as we have in the
_Attis_; such concentrated invective and satire as mark some of the
lampoons; such mock heroic as we have in the _Coma Berenices_; such
piercing pathos as penetrates the autobiographical poems, and the poems
dedicated to Lesbia.

Catullus has been compared to Keats, but the comparison is not a happy
one. His nearest analogy among modern poets is Burns. Both were, in
Tennyson’s phrase, “dowered with the love of love, the scorn of scorn,”
and, in the poems of both, those passions find the intensest expression.
Both had an exquisite sympathy with all that appeals, either in nature
or in humanity, to the senses and the affections. Both were sensualists
and libertines without being effeminate, or without being either
depraved or hardened. In both, indeed, an infinite tenderness is perhaps
the predominating feature. Both had humour, that of Catullus being the
more caustic, that of Burns the more genial. Both were distinguished by
sincerity and simplicity; both waged war with charlatanry and baseness.
Burns had the richer nature and was the greater as a man; Catullus was
the more accomplished artist.

But it is time to turn to the book which has recalled Catullus and
Lesbia. Mr. Tremenheere has, with great ingenuity, succeeded in
concocting by a process of elaborate dovetailing a very pretty romance
which he divides into nine chapters, the first being “The Birth of
Love,” the second, third and fourth, “Possession,” “Quarrels” and
“Reconciliation,” the fifth, sixth, and seventh, “Doubt,” “A Brother’s
Death” and “Unfaithfulness,” the last two, “Avoidance” and “The Death of
Love.” The chief objection to this is that it is for the most part
fanciful, and is absolutely without warrant, either from tradition or
from probability. Many of the poems pressed into the service of his
narrative by Mr. Tremenheere have nothing whatever to do with Lesbia.
Such would be xiii., “The invitation to Fabullus,” xiv., “The Acme and

The translations are very unequal. Of many of them it may be said in
Dogberry’s phrase that they “are tolerable and not to be endured,” or to
borrow an expression from Byron “so middling bad were better.” Thus the
powerful poem to Gellius (xci.) is attenuated into:--

  ’Twas not that I esteem’d you were
  As constant or incapable
  Of vulgar baseness, but that she
  For whom great love was wasting me,
  The spice of incest lacked for you;
  And though we were old friends, ’tis true,
  That seem’d poor cause to my poor mind,
  Not so to yours.

Sometimes the versions are detestable. Nothing could be worse than to

  Nulli illum pueri nullæ optavere puellæ

  No more is she glad to the eyes of a lad,
      To the lasses a pride,--


  Dulcis pueri ebrios ocellos


  Her minion’s passion-sodden eyes,--

which might do very well for a coarse phrase like “In Venerem putres,”
but not for “Ebrios.” But sometimes the renderings are very felicitous.
As here:--

  Quid vis? quâlubet esse notus optas
  Eris: quandoquidem meos amores
  Cum longâ voluisti amare pœnâ.

  Cost what it may, you’ll win renown!
  You shall, such longing you exhibit
  Both for my mistress--and a gibbet!

And the following is happy:--

  Nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
                          Ilia rumpens.
  Nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem
  Qui illius culpâ cecidit; velut prati
  Ultimi flos, prætereunte postquam
                      Tactus aratro est.

  Ah, shameless, loveless lust, sweet, seek no more
  To win love back, by thine own fault it fell,
  In the far corner of the field though hid,
  Touch’d by the plough at last,--the flower is dead.

The following also is neat and skilful, but how inferior to the almost
terrible impressiveness of the original:--

  O Di si vostrûm est misereri, aut si quibus unquam
    Extremâ jam ipsâ in morte tulistis opem.
  Me miserum adspicite, et si vitam puriter egi,
    Eripite hanc pestem perniciemque mihi,
  Quæ mihi subrepens imos, ut torpor, in artus
    Expulit ex omni pectore lætitias.

  Oh God! if Thine be pity, and if Thou
  E’en in the jaws of death ere now,
  Hast wrought salvation--look on me;
  And if my life seem fair to Thee
  O tear this plague, this curse away,
  Which gaining on me day by day,
  A creeping slow paralysis,
  Hath driven away all happiness.

Six love stories stand out conspicuous in the records of poetry--those
which find expression in the _Elegies_ of Propertius, in the _Sonnets
and Canzoni_ of Dante and Petrarch, in the _Sonnets_ of Camoens, in the
_Astrophel and Stella_ of Sidney, in the _Sonnets_ of Shakespeare. But
never has passion, never has pathos, thrilled in intenser or more
piercing utterance than in the poems which that fatal “Clytemnestra
quadrantaria”--to employ the phrase which may actually have been applied
to her--inspired, and in which the rapture and loathing and despair of
Catullus found a voice.


[Footnote 48: “If the silent dead can feel any pleasure, or solace from
our sorrow, Calvus, when, in wistful regret, we recall past loves, and
weep for the friendships severed long ago, then be sure that Quintilia’s
grief for her early death is not so great as the joy she feels in
knowing your love for her.”]


[Footnote 49: _The Religion of Shakespeare._ Chiefly from the writings
of the late Mr. Richard Simpson. By Henry Sebastian Bowden. London.]

This book, which is partly a compilation from the uncollected writings
of the late Richard Simpson and partly the composition of Father Bowden
himself, is an attempt to show that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic. It
contains much interesting information; it is well written, and we have
read it with pleasure. With much which we find in it we entirely concur
and are in full sympathy. We take Shakespeare quite as seriously as
Father Bowden does. We believe that the greatest of dramatic poets is
also one of the greatest of moral teachers, that his theology and ethics
deserve the most careful study, and that they have, too frequently, been
either neglected or misinterpreted. We agree with Father Bowden that
nothing could be sounder and more persistently emphasised than the
ethical element in this poet’s dramas; that his ethics are, in the
main, the ethics of Christianity, and that so far from Shakespeare being
simply an agnostic and having no religion at all, as Birch and others
have contended, he is, if not formally, at least in essence, as
religious as Æschylus and Sophocles.

And now Father Bowden must forgive us if we are unable to go further
with him. We have no prejudice against Roman Catholicism, or against any
of the creeds in which religious faith and reverence have found
expression,--“Tros Rutulusve fuat nullo discrimine agetur.” Our sole
wish is, if possible, to get at the truth. It is of comparatively little
consequence now to what form of religion Shakespeare belonged, but it
would be at least interesting, if it could be shown that any particular
sect could legitimately claim him.

In discussing this question we must bear in mind that in Shakespeare’s
time, as in the time of the ancients, religion had two aspects, its
private and its public. In its public aspect it was a part of the
machinery of the state, an essential portion of the political fabric.
Till the Reformation there had been practically no schism and no
difficulty. After the Reformation a most perplexing problem presented
itself. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, in a long and terrible
conflict, struggled for the mastery. At the accession of Elizabeth the
victory had been won, so far as England was concerned, by Protestantism,
and Protestantism was the accepted religion of the nation. As such, it
was the duty of every loyal citizen to uphold it; it became with the
throne one of the two pillars on which the fabric of the state rested.
Roman Catholicism became identified with the political rivals and
enemies of England. Protestantism became identified with her lovers and
upholders. Thus the Church and the Throne became indissoluble, at once
the symbols, centres, and securities of political harmony and union.
This accounts for the attitude of Hooker, Spenser, Shakespeare and Bacon
towards Episcopalian Protestantism on the one hand, and towards
Puritanism on the other. About Shakespeare’s political opinions there
can be no doubt at all, for, if we except the Comedies, he preaches them
emphatically in almost every drama which he has left us. They were those
of an uncompromising and intolerant Royalist, in whose eyes the only
security for all that is dear to the patriot lay in implicit obedience
to the will of the sovereign, and in upholding a system to which that
will was law. That he should, therefore, have had any sympathy with the
Roman Catholics is, on _a priori_ grounds, exceedingly improbable. We
turn to his Dramas, and what do we find? It would be no exaggeration to
say, that there is not a line in them which indicates that he regarded
the Roman Catholics with favour. On the contrary, they abound in points
directed against them. Thus he twice goes out of his way, once in
_Henry V._[50] and once in _All’s Well that Ends Well_, to observe that
“miracles have ceased.” There is a bitter sneer at them in the reference
to the sanctimonious pirate and the commandments, in _Measure for
Measure_.[51] There can be little doubt that the words in the porter’s
speech in _Macbeth_, “here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the
scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s
sake, yet could not equivocate to Heaven,” have sarcastic reference to
the doctrine of equivocation avowed by Garnett and popularly associated
with the Jesuits; while the remark about the fitness of “the nun’s lip
to the friar’s mouth”[52] in _All’s Well that Ends Well_ is another
concession to Protestant prejudice.

In _King John_ such a speech as the following may be dramatic, but who
can doubt that it expressed the poet’s own sentiments?--

  Tell him this tale; and from the mouth of England
  Add thus much more,--that no Italian priest
  Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
  But, as we under Heaven are supreme head,
  So, under Him, that great supremacy,

  Where we do reign, we will alone uphold,
  Without the assistance of a mortal hand:
  So tell the Pope; all reverence set apart
  To him, and his usurp’d authority.

_King John_ is, indeed, simply the manifesto of Protestantism against
papal aggression. What could be more contemptible than the character of
Pandulph and the part which he plays? Is it credible that Shakespeare
could have had any sympathy with a religion whose minister is one whom
he represents as saying:

  Meritorious shall that hand be called,
  Canonized, and worshipped as a saint,
  That takes away by any secret course
  Thy hateful life.

In _Henry VIII._, again, we have an elaborate eulogy of the Reformation,
Cranmer being presented in the most favourable light, Gardiner in the
most unfavourable, while Wolsey is almost as detestable as Pandulph.

It is really pitiable to see the shifts to which the authors of this
book are reduced to make out their theory. They have even pressed into
its service Jordan’s palpable and long-exploded forgery of John
Shakespeare’s Will, and the fact that John Shakespeare’s name is found
on a list of Recusants, when it is, in that very list, expressly stated
that he had absented himself from church, simply from fear of process
for debt. Passages in the dramas are similarly perverted. Shakespeare’s
hostility to the Protestants induced him, we are told, to pour contempt
on Oldcastle by depicting him as Falstaff. His delineation of Malvolio,
and his frequent sneers at the Puritans, are attributed to the same
motive. The famous lines in _Hamlet_, placed in the mouth of the Ghost,
are cited to prove his belief in purgatory; the comical penances imposed
on Biron and his friends in _Love’s Labour Lost_ to prove his belief in
penance. When in _Lear_ it is said of Cordelia that:--

                          She shook
  The holy water from her heavenly eyes.

we are to see another indication of Shakespeare’s religion as “they have
a Catholic ring about them.” Sentiments which are common to all sects of
Christians are regarded as peculiar to Roman Catholicism; mere dramatic
utterances are forced into illustrations of supposed personal
convictions. What is habitually and systematically ignored is, that
Shakespeare, being a dramatic poet, must necessarily make his characters
express themselves dramatically, and that, as he was depicting times
preceding the Reformation, his sentiments and expressions very naturally
took the colour of the world in which his characters moved. The wonder
is not that this should have occurred, but that Shakespeare should, in
spite of the gross anachronism of such a process, have so
_Protestantized_ pre-Reformation times. We are quite willing to concede
to Father Bowden that there is enough to warrant us in assuming that
Shakespeare did not regard the Puritans with favour. But his dislike to
them arose not from the fact that they were Protestants, but that they
were not orthodox Protestants. He was opposed to them for the same
reasons that Elizabeth and James, Hooker and Bacon were opposed to them.
Their hostility to his profession, their sanctimonious cant, and the
surly asceticism of their lives, no doubt contributed to his prejudice
against them.

Nor are we in any way justified in concluding that Shakespeare accepted
the teaching of the Church of Rome in spiritual matters. Nothing could
be more unwarranted than what is assumed by Father Bowden in the
following passage. He is speaking of Shakespeare’s attitude in relation
to death. “‘Ripeness is all’; and he shows us in all his penitents how
that ripeness is secured, sin forgiven, and heaven won on the lines of
Catholic dogma and by the Sacraments of the Church.”

What are the facts? Shakespeare’s reticence about a future state, and
what may await man, in the form of reward and punishment hereafter, is
one of his most striking characteristics. Neither Cordelia nor
Desdemona, neither Constance nor Imogen in their darkest hours expresses
any confidence in the final mercy and justice of Heaven. Othello,
falling by a fate as terrible as it was undeserved, dies without a
syllable of hope. “The rest is silence” are the ominous words with which
Hamlet takes leave of life. When Gloucester believes himself to be
standing on the brink of death, in the farewell which he takes of the
world he has no anticipation of any other; all he contemplates is “to
shake patiently his great affliction off.” So die Lear, Hotspur, Romeo,
Antony, Eros, Enobarbus, Macbeth, Beaufort, Mercutio, Laertes. So die
Brutus, Coriolanus, King John. In the Duke’s speech in _Measure for
Measure_, where he is preparing Claudio to meet death, death is merely
contemplated as an escape from the pains and discomforts of life.
Macbeth would ‘jump’ the world to come if he could escape punishment in
this. Prospero suggests no hope of any waking from the “rounding sleep.”
Even Isabella, dedicated as she was to religion, in fortifying Claudio
against his fate draws no weapon from the armoury of faith. It is just
the same in the dirge in Cymbeline, in the soliloquy of Posthumus, in
the consolations addressed by the gaoler to Posthumus.[53]

The last passage is perhaps more remarkable than any, because it shows
the utter ambiguity of the directest expression which the poet has left
on the subject.

     _Gaol._--Look you, sir, you know not which way you go.

     _Post._--Yes, indeed do I, fellow.

     _Gaol._--Your death has eyes in ’s head then; I have not seen
     him so pictured: you must either be directed by some that take
     upon them to know, or take upon yourself, that which I am sure
     you do not know; or jump the after inquiry on your own peril;
     and how you shall speed in your journey’s end, I think you’ll
     never return to tell one.

     _Post._--I tell thee, fellow, _there are none want eyes to
     direct them the way I am going, but such as wink, and will not
     use them_.

           _Cymbeline_, V. 4.

Shakespeare, in truth, never attempts to lift the veil which for living
man can be raised only by Revelation. The silence of his
philosophy,--for we must not confound occasional sentiments and mere
dramatic utterances with what justifies us in deducing that
philosophy,--in relation to a life after this, is unbroken. It is,
indeed, remarkable that he represents such speculations,--the dwelling
on such problems,--as more likely to disturb, perplex, and hamper us,
than to give us any comfort. As Hamlet puts it in the well-known

        The native hue of resolution
  Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
  And enterprises of great pith and moment,
  With this regard, their currents turn awry,
  And lose the name of action.

Did he believe in the immortality of the soul and in a future state? Who
can say? What we can say is, that if we require affirmative evidence of
such a faith, we shall seek for it in vain. In the Sonnets, where he
seems to speak from himself, the only immortality to which he refers is
the permanence of the impression which his genius as a poet will
leave--immortality in the sense in which Cicero and Tacitus have so
eloquently interpreted the term. But on the other hand, if there is
nothing to warrant a conclusion in the affirmative, there is nothing to
warrant one in the negative. His attitude is precisely that of Aristotle
in the _Ethics_; a life beyond this is neither affirmed nor denied, but
the scale of probability inclines towards the negative, and his moral
philosophy proceeds on the assumption that life is the end of life.[54]

Goethe has said that man was not born to solve the problems of the
universe, but to attempt to solve them, that he might keep within the
limits of the knowable. And it is within the limits of the knowable that
Shakespeare’s theology confines itself. Starting simply, as Gervinus
says, from the point, that man is born with powers and faculties which
he is to use, and with powers of self-regulation and self-determination
which are to direct aright the powers of action, the “Whence we are,”
and the “Whither we are going,” are problems for which he has no

                                Men must endure
  Their going hence e’en as their coming hither:
  Ripeness is all.

And for ripeness or unripeness, man’s will is responsible. He would
probably have agreed with the saying of Heraclitus, ηθος
ανθρωπω δαιμων. Throughout his Dramas all is explicable, with the
single exception of Macbeth, without reference to supernaturalism.
Perfectly intelligible effects follow perfectly intelligible causes; the
moral law solves all. But especially conspicuous is the absence of the
theological element where we should especially have looked for it. “Men
and women,” says Brewer, “are made to drain the cup of misery to the
dregs; but, as from the depths into which they have fallen, by their own
weakness, or by the weakness of others, the poet never raises them, in
violation of the inexorable laws of nature, so neither does he put a new
song in their mouths, or any expression of confidence in God’s righteous
dealing. With as hard and precise a hand as Bacon does he sunder the
celestial from the terrestrial kingdom, the things of earth from the
things of heaven.”[56]

His theology, indeed, in its application to life, seems to resolve
itself into the recognition of universal law, divinely appointed,
immutable, inexorable, ubiquitous, controlling the physical world,
controlling the moral world, vindicating itself in the smallest facts of
life, and in the most stupendous convulsions of nature and society. In
morals it is maintained by the observance of the mean on the one hand,
and the due fulfilment of duty and obligation on the other. In politics
it is maintained by the subordination of the individual to the state,
and of the state to the higher law. Hooker says of Law, that as her
voice is the harmony of the world, so her seat is the bosom of God. The
Law Shakespeare recognises; of the Law-giver he is silent. As he is dumb
before the mystery of death, so is he equally reticent in the face of
that other mystery. He has nothing of the anthropomorphism of the Old
Testament, of the Homeric poems, and of Milton. Nor has he ever
expressed himself as Goethe has done in the famous passage in _Faust_,
beginning: “Wer darf ihn nennen.” In two important respects he seems to
differ from the Christian conception. He represents no miraculous
interpositions of Providence, no suspension of natural laws in favour of
the righteous, and to the detriment of the wicked. He is too reverend to
say with Goethe, that man, so far as direction in action goes, is
practically his own divinity. But he does say and represent--and that
repeatedly--what is expressed in such passages as these:--

  Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie
  Which we ascribe to Heaven: the fated sky
  Gives us full scope.

      _All’s Well that Ends Well._

  Men at some time are masters of their fate.

      _Julius Cæsar._

  Omission to do what is necessary
  Seals a commission to a blank of danger.

      _Troilus and Cressida._

And we have no right to expect that Providence will cancel it. If deeds
do not go with prayer, prayer is not likely to be of much avail. So the
Bishop of Carlisle in _Richard II._:--

  The means that Heaven yields must be embrac’d
  And not neglected; else if Heaven would
  And we will not, Heav’n’s offer we refuse:--

while the words which he puts into the mouth of Leonine in _Pericles_
are, we feel, significant:--

        Pray: but be not tedious,
  For the Gods are quick of ear, and I am sworn
  To do my work with haste.

He has no sympathy with pious recluses. He has depicted no saint or
religious enthusiast, or written a line to indicate that he had any
respect for their ideals. With him,--

  Spirits are not finely touched
  But to fine issues.

  They say best men are moulded out of faults,
  And, for the most, become much more the better
  For being a little bad.

  Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds

are typical axioms in his philosophy of life. And the nearest approaches
he has given us to the saintly type of character are the sentimental
pietists, Henry VI. and Richard II., both of whom are failures, and
border closely on moral imbecility. On the spiritual and moral efficacy
of faith, he has nowhere laid stress. In his innumerable reflections on
life and man, in his maxims and precepts, there is, as a rule, scarcely
any flavour of Christian theology. They are just such as might be
expected from a pure rationalist. Such is the philosophy of Hamlet, of
Jacques, of the Duke in _Measure for Measure_, and of Prospero. Even
Friar Laurence, though an ecclesiastic, reasons and advises just as a
Stoic philosopher might have done. The friars in _Much Ado about
Nothing_, and in _Measure for Measure_, the Bishop of Carlisle in
_Richard II._, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in _Henry IV._
and _Henry V._, and Cardinal Beaufort in _Henry VI._, act and speak like
mere men of the world. A bulky volume would scarcely sum up the ethical
and political reflections scattered up and down his plays; a few pages
would comprise all that could be put down as exclusively theological.
This complete subordination of the theological element to the ethical is
the more conspicuous when we compare his dramas with the Homeric Epics,
and with the tragedies of Æschylus and Sophocles.

And yet if a thoughtful person, after going attentively through the
thirty-six plays, were asked what the prevailing impression made on him
was, he would probably reply the profound reverence which Shakespeare
shows universally for religion--his deep sense of the mysterious
relation which exists between God and man. We feel that his silence on
transcendental subjects springs not from indifference, but from awe. The
remarkable words which he places in the mouth of Lafeu, in _All’s Well
that Ends Well_ (Act II. 3), merely sum up what we hear _sotto voce_ in
various forms of expression throughout his dramas; “we have our
philosophical persons, to make modern and familiar, things supernatural
and causeless. Hence it is that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing
ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an
unknown fear.” And the same reverence and humility find a voice in the
verses in which, in all probability, he took leave of the world of
active life.

  Now my charms are all overthrown,
  And what strength I have’s mine own,
  Which is most faint.
  ... Now I want
  Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
  And my ending is despair
  Unless I be relieved by prayer,
  Which pierces so that it assaults
  Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

No poet has dwelt more on the duty and moral efficacy of prayer, on the
omnipresence of God, and on the fact that in conscience we have a
Divine monitor.

Of the respect which Shakespeare entertained for Christianity as a
creed, of his conviction of its competency to fulfil and satisfy all the
ends of religion in men of the highest type of intelligence and ability,
we require no further proof than his Henry V. Henry V. is undoubtedly
his ideal man, as Theseus in the _Œdipus Coloneus_ is the ideal man
of Sophocles. And Henry V. is pre-eminently a Christian. Wherever
Shakespeare refers to the person and to the teachings of Christ, it is
always with peculiar tenderness and solemnity. His ethics are in one
respect essentially Christian, and that is in their emphatic insistence
on the virtues of mercy and forgiveness of injuries. In _Measure for
Measure_, he stretched the first as far as the Master Himself stretched
it, at the eleventh hour, to the penitent thief. And in the _Tempest_,
that play which seems to embody in allegory Shakespeare’s mature and
final philosophy of life, who does not recognise the symbol of Him who
rules, not merely in justice and righteousness, but in benevolence and
mercy, when Prospero, with sinners and traitors and foes in his power,

                      The rarer action is
  In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
  The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
  Not a frown further.

He struck this note in one of the earliest of his plays:--

  Who by repentance is not satisfied,
  Is nor of heaven, nor earth: for these are pleas’d.
  By penitence th’ Eternal’s wrath’s appeas’d.[57]

and the note vibrates through his works. It is the crowning moral of
_Measure for Measure_; it is one of the dominant notes in _Cymbeline_.
He also reflects Christianity in the beautiful optimism which discerns
in evil the agent of good, and in calamity and sorrow the benevolence
and mercy of God. This is the philosophy which penetrates what were
probably his last three dramas, _The Winter’s Tale_, _Cymbeline_, and
_The Tempest_.

In these respects, then, it may fairly be maintained that Shakespeare is
Christian. For the rest his dramas might, so far as their philosophy is
concerned, have come down to us from classical antiquity. Nothing can be
more Greek than the main basis on which his ethics rest--the observance
of the mean, and the recognition of the relation of virtue to the
becoming. When Claudio says:--

  As surfeit is the father of much fast,
  So every scope by the immoderate use
  Turns to restraint;

when Norfolk says:--

  The fire that mounts the liquor till ’t o’erflow
  In seeming to augment it wastes it;

when Friar Laurence tells us that:--

  Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
  And vice sometime ’s by action dignified;

and Portia that

  There is no good without respect,

we have not only the keys to his ethics but the texts for sermons which
find living illustrations in the fall of Angelo, of Coriolanus, of
Timon, and of many others of his protagonists. Thus do his ethics temper
and readjust for the sphere of working life, those of the Divine
Enthusiast who legislated, in some respects, too exclusively perhaps,
for a kingdom which is not of this world.

And so, his ‘religion’ being, to borrow an expression of his own, “as
broad and general as the casing air,” it has come to pass, that
Shakespeare has been claimed as an orthodox Protestant by Knight, Bishop
Wordsworth, and Trench; as an orthodox Roman Catholic by M. Rio, Mr.
Simpson, and Father Bowden; and as a simple agnostic by Gervinus,
Kreysig, and Professor Caird.

“He hath,” says Sir Thomas Browne speaking of himself, “one common and
authentic philosophy which he learnt in the schools, whereby he reasons
and satisfies the reason of other men: another more reserved and drawn
from experience whereby he satisfies his own.” It may be, it may quite
well be, for he has left nothing to justify conclusion to the contrary,
that the words of Shakespeare’s Will--mere formula though they be--are
the expression of what he “reserved” to satisfy himself, and that he
accepted the Christian Revelation. It may be, that what we are
_certainly_ warranted in concluding about him, represents all that can
be concluded, namely, that:--

  He at least believed in soul, was very sure of God.


[Footnote 50: Act I. Sc. i. This is a very pointed reference, but in the
second instance, in _All’s Well that Ends Well_, Act II. Sc. i., “They
say miracles are past,” he gives a turn to the expression which converts
it into a rebuke of Rationalism.]

[Footnote 51: Act I. Sc. ii.]

[Footnote 52: Act II. Sc. ii.]

[Footnote 53: In opposition to these may, it is true, be cited Othello’s
words to Desdemona--_Othello_, V. 2: the Duke’s remark about putting the
unrepentant Barnardine to death--_Measure for Measure_, IV. 3: the dying
speeches of Buckingham and Catharine in _Henry VIII._, II. 1; IV. 2:
Laertes on Ophelia,--_Hamlet_, V. 1. But these passages, and others like
them, cannot be cited as evidence to the contrary; they are merely
dramatic utterances.]

[Footnote 54: Cf. _Ethics_, I. x. 11, and III. vi. 6.]

[Footnote 55: _Shakespeare Commentaries_, Vol. II. 620-1.]

[Footnote 56: Article on Shakespeare, _Quarterly Review_ for July, 1871,
p. 46.]

[Footnote 57: _Two Gentlemen of Verona_: V. 4.]


  ACCIUS quoted, 244

  ADDISON, 15: 272: 281

    quoted, 62;
    his descriptions of Nature, 241;
    his theology, 267: 261: 364

  ALCÆUS, 287

  ALCMAN quoted, 240



  ANTHOLOGY, Greek, 116: 117: 243

  ANTIMACHUS of Colophon, his Poems, 289

  ANTIPATER of Sidon, 116

    beauty of his descriptions, 242-3

  ARCHILOCHUS quoted, 287

  ARIOSTO quoted, 79;
    his _Orlando_, 113

  ARISTOPHANES, 242: 260: 280;
    his censure of Euripides, 265

  ARISTOTLE, 63: 67;
    influence on Spenser, 120-1;
    style, 122;
    his doctrine of the καθαρσις, 264-5;
    his Æsthetics, 265-6;
    Poetics, 274-6;
    his _Rhetoric_, 287

  ARMSTRONG, Dr. John, his connection with Thomson, 333

  ARNOLD, Matthew, 63;
    quoted, 21: 105: 106: 194: 272-3


  AUSONIUS, his _Rosæ_, 246

  AVITUS, 251

  BACON, Lord, his _Sylva Sylvarum_, 114;
    his Latin style, 122;
    quoted, 182;
    on poetry, 279

  BARCLAY, his _Argenis_, 129

  BARNUM, the late Mr., on Advertisement, 158

  BEACONSFIELD, Lord, quoted, 219

  BENECKE, Mr. E. F. M., his _Antimachus of Colophon_ and
      _Position of Women in Greek Poetry_ reviewed, 255-93

  BENTLEY, Richard, 156

  BERNAYS, Prof., on the καθαρσις of Aristotle, 265

  BOILEAU, 125

  BOLINGBROKE, Lord, 119: 321

  BOSWELL, James, 134

  BOWDEN, Rev. H. Sebastian, his _Religion of Shakespeare_ reviewed, 351-69

  BREWER, Rev. Prof., quoted, 361

  BROWN, Mr. J. T. T., his _Authorship of
      the Kingis Quair_ reviewed, 172-82

  BROWNE, Sir Thomas, his _Hydriotaphia_, 102;
    quoted, 368

  BROWNING, Robert, on the Comparative Study of Ancient and
      Modern Classical Literature, 64

  BROWNING, Mrs., 297

  BURKE, Edmund, 71: 100-1: 125: 126

  BURNS, Robert, 145;
    Comparison with Catullus, 347

  BUTCHER, Prof. S. H., his _Some Aspects of
      the Greek Genius_ reviewed, 255-69

  BUTLER, Bishop, quoted, 214

  BUTLER, Mr. Samuel, on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 222-4

  CÆDMON quoted, 95

  CAINE, Mr. Hall, 28


  CAMOENS, 350

  CAMPBELL, Prof. Lewis, 259

  CAREW, Thomas, 305

  CATULLUS, his descriptions of Nature, 245: 336-9;
    quoted, 285;
    characteristics of his genius, 335;
    his _Attis_, 339-40;
    his pathos, 337-8;
    his connection with Lesbia, 342-5;
    parallel between Poems to Lesbia and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 345-6;
    his versatility, 346;
    comparison with Burns, 347;
    Mr. Tremenheere’s version of the Love Poems, 347-9

  CAWTHORN, John, 60

  CHAUCER, 53: 8: 122-3

  CHURCHILL, Charles, quoted, 159

  CICERO, influence on English prose, 61;
    as a critic of rhetoric, 278-9;
    on immortality, 360


  CLASSICS, influence of the Greek and
      Roman Classics on English Literature, 58-63;
    exclusion of from Schools of Literature
      by the English Universities, 45-64;
    effects of this illustrated, 76-83

  CLAUDIAN quoted, 246

  COLVIN, Mr. Sidney, his edition of Stevenson’s Letters reviewed, 165-71

  COLERIDGE, S. T., 127: 130: 281

  COLERIDGE, the late Lord, on Greek, 255

  CORY, William, 253

  COUSIN, Victor, his theory of beauty and art, 272

  CRITICISM, reasons of present degraded state of, 13-26;
    characteristics of current criticism described, 26-30: 270-1;
    effects on literature generally, 31-4;
    refusal of the Universities to train critics and men of letters, 38-44;
    lethargy and indifference of scholars,
      progressive degradation of literature the certain result, 43-44

  CRITICS, characteristics of popular, 27-31: 93-109: 110-32: 151-7

  CROWE, William, 249


  DANTE, 49;
    quoted, 335;
    his _Sonnets and Canzoni_, 350

  DE QUINCEY, Thomas, characteristics of, 203-4;
    his comparative failure, 305;
    Mr. Hogg’s recollections of, 203-10

  DOUGLAS, Gavin, his translation of Virgil, 96-7

  DRAYTON, Michael, 60

  DRYDEN, his _Discourse on Epic Poetry_, 65;
    quoted, 153;
    on the functions of poetry, 280;
    his translations, 148

  DUBOS, the Abbé, 281

  DUNBAR, William, 176;
    Mr. Smeaton’s _Life of_, reviewed, 183-92;
    characteristics of his poetry, 190-1

  DYER, John, his descriptive poetry, 248

  EARLE, Prof., on relation of Classics to English Literature, 59 (note)

  EARLE, John, his _Microcosmographie_, 129

  EDITORS, their relation to current literature, 22;
    in no way responsible for the present condition
      of current literature, 23-24

  ENNIUS, 59

    his fine pictures of Nature, 242;
    quoted, 262;
    his _Alcestis_ quoted, 286

  FELTHAM, Owen, his _Resolves_, 129

  FLACCUS, Valerius, 246

  FLETCHER, Phineas, 101

  FOOTE, Samuel, quoted, 205

  FOX, John, his _Book of Martyrs_, 113

  FRAUNCE, Abraham, his _Countess of Pembroke’s Ivy Church_, 309

  FROUDE, James Anthony, on the effect of discouraging
      the study of the Classics, 65

  GARNETT, Father, 354

  GEOFFREY of Monmouth, 102

  GERVINUS, Prof., quoted, 360

  GLANVILLE, Joseph, 104

  GIBBON, Edward, 125: 150: 198

  GOETHE, 49: 86;
    quoted, 273: 360: 362

  GOLDSMITH quoted, 247

  GOSSE, Edmund, his _Short History of Modern
      English Literature_ reviewed 110-32

  GOSSING, analysis of the accomplishment, 115;
    compared with Euphuism, id.

  GOWER, John, 124;
    _Confessio Amantis_, 196

  GRAY, Thomas, on Lydgate, 98

  GREENE, Robert, 14

  HALL, William, Mr. Sidney Lee on, 216

  HAMPOLE, Richard of, his _Pricke of Conscience_, 179

  HARRISON, Mr. Frederic, 35

  HAWES, Stephen, his _Pastime of Pleasure_, 200

  HERACLITUS quoted, 361

  HERMESIANAX quoted, 287

  HILL, Aaron, 331

  HOCCLEVE, Thomas, 198

  HOGG, Mr. James, his _Recollections of De Quincey_ reviewed, 203-10

  HOMER quoted, his fine descriptions of Nature, 237-9;
    his women, 286: 288;
    his description of Hades, 297

  HOOKER quoted, 362

  HORACE, influence of his Epistles and Satires on English poetry, 60;
    quoted, 151: 297: 301;
    deficient in poetic sensibility, 336


  HUXLEY, Prof., on Merton Chair at Oxford, 38

  IBYCUS, 240

  JAGO, Richard, 249

  JAMES I. of Scotland, his _Kingis Quair_, 172;
    its genuineness vindicated, 174-82

  JAPP, Dr. Alexander, _Life of De Quincey_, 209

  JEBB, Prof., his services to Greek Literature, 258

  JOHNSON, Dr., quoted, 152

  JONSON, Ben, on Poetry, 280

  JOWETT, Prof., quoted, 64

  JUSSERAND, M., his _Literary History of
      the English People_ reviewed, 193-202

  KEATS, John, 127: 298: 347

  LANDOR, W. S., 298

  LANG, Mr. Andrew, 259


  LEAF, Mr. Walter, 259

  LEE, Mr. Sidney, his _Life of Shakespeare_ reviewed, 211-8;
    on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 229-30

  LE GALLIENNE, Mr. Richard, his _Retrospective Reviews_ reviewed, 151-7

  LEOPARDI quoted, 20: 300

  LESBIA and CATULLUS, 335-50

  LESSING, on Philologists, 86;
    his _Laocoon_, 41;
    his _Hamburgishe Dramaturgie_, 67

  LOG-ROLLING, its pernicious effects, 133-44

  LONGINUS, the Treatise attributed to, discussed, 276-8;
    quoted, 270

  LYDGATE, his style and versification, 98;
    id., 115;
    characteristics of his poetry, 198-9

  MACAULAY, Lord, 145: 151

  MALLET, David, claim to authorship of _Rule Britannia_ discussed, 321-4

  MALORY, Thomas, 201

  MANNYNG, his _Handlying of Synne_, 195

  MARLOWE, Christopher, 14

  MARTIAL, his epigrams, 337

  MAX MÜLLER, Prof., 52

  MELEAGER, his Anthology, 116-7;
    quoted, 243

  MENANDER quoted, 262

  MIMNERMUS, his love poetry to Nanno, 287

  MILTON quoted, 41 (note): 62;
    his apology for _Smectymnuus_, quoted, 103;
    on poetry, 267;
    quoted, 212;
    music of his verse, 317

  MITFORD, Rev. J., on the corrections in Thomson’s _Seasons_, 330-4

  MONTAGUE, Lady Mary Wortley, 125: 306

  MOREL, M. Léon, his Monograph on Thomson, 319

  MORE, Sir Thomas, his Utopia, 101

  MORE, Henry, 274

  MORGAN, Sir George Osborne, his _Translation
      of Virgil’s Eclogues_ reviewed, 308-17

  MORLEY, Mr. John, 63;
    quoted, 64

  MYERS, Mr. Ernest, 259

  MÜLLER, Prof. E., his _Geschichte der Theorie
      der Kunst bei den Alten_, 264

  OGILVIE, John, 310

  OVID, 60: 177: 178: 246

  PACUVIUS, his _Dulorestes_ quoted, 244

  PALGRAVE, Francis Turner, his _Landscape in Poetry_ reviewed, 236-49;
    an appreciation of, 250-4

  PATER, Walter, 62: 152: 265: 267

  PECOCK, Reginald, his _Repressor_, 128-9

  PETRARCH, 287: 296

  PERSIUS quoted, 15

  PHILLIPS, Mr. Stephen, his poems reviewed, 294-300

  PINDAR quoted, 262;
    his word pictures, 240

  PLATO, his Symposium, 78-9;
    quoted, 263;
    his theory of poetry, 274: 276

  PLUTARCH, his pictures of women, 290

  POMFRET, John, his _Choice_, 101

  POPE quoted, 84;
    on Philologists, 86;
    quoted, 139;
    his _Satires_ and _Epistles_, 125;
    his alleged revision of Thomson’s _Seasons_ discussed, 328-32

  PROPERTIUS quoted, 246

  PUBLISHERS, honourable character of the leading, 23

  QUARTERLY REVIEW, article on _From Shakespeare to Pope_, 40

  QUINTILIAN as a critic, 278

  RAFFETY, Mr. Frank W., his _Books worth Reading_ reviewed, 145-50

  ROSSETTI, Dante Gabriel, quoted, 173

  ROSSETTI, William Michael, his edition of Shelley’s _Adonais_, 76-83

  RUCELLAI, his dramas and his _L’Api_, 124

  SAINTE-BEUVE, his essays, 41;
    on Philologists, 86;
    his criticism, 270;
    the master of Matthew Arnold, 281

  SAINTSBURY, Prof., his _Short History
      of English Literature_ reviewed, 93-109



  SCHICK, Dr., on Lydgate’s versification, 99

  SCHIPPER, Dr. J., on Dunbar, 183

  SCHMEDING, Dr. G., his Monograph on Thomson, 318

    its deplorable organization, 45-72;
    how this may be remedied, 73-5


  SCOTT, Sir Walter, on Dunbar, 186

  SELF-ADVERTISEMENT, its organization and effects, 158-64

  SENECA, influence on English prose, 61


  SHAFTESBURY, third Earl of, his style, 117-9

  SHAKESPEARE, 62: 81-2;
    Clarendon Press edition of his _Hamlet_, 84-92;
    quoted, 154: 158;
    Mr. Lee’s _Life of_, 211-8;
    scantiness of traditions of, 213;
    his sonnets, various theories, 219-20;
    about difficulties of supposing them autobiographical, 225-6;
    his relations with Southampton and Pembroke, 228-34;
    story in the Sonnets probably fictitious, 235;
    religion of Shakespeare, 351-69;
    his politics, 352-3;
    not a Roman Catholic, 352-6;
    on death, 357-8;
    silence about a future life, 359,
    and about metaphysical questions, 360;
    comparison in this respect with Aristotle, 360;
    his theology, 362-4;
    on prayer, 365;
    on conscience, 366;
    his attitude to Christianity, 366;
    when his ethics are Christian, 368;
    his religious ideas summed up, 368-9

  SHARP, Archbishop, quoted, 218

  SHELLEY, his _Adonais_, 76-83;
    absurd criticism of his style, 126

  SHENSTONE, William, 249

  SIDNEY, Sir Philip, 131

  SIMPSON, Richard, 351: 368

  SMART, Christopher, his _Song to David_, 340

  SMEATON, Mr. Oliphant, his life of Dunbar reviewed, 183-92

    his ethics, 267-9;
    quoted, 285;
    his ideal man, 366

  SPENSER, Edmund, 112: 113;
    influence of Greek and Latin Classics on, 120-1;
    influence of, on Milton, 121;
    on the functions of poetry, 280

  STANIHURST, Richard, 308

  STEPHEN, Mr. Leslie, 35

  STESICHORUS, his _Calyce_, 287

  STEVENSON, R. L., _Letters_ reviewed, 165-71

  STRABO quoted, 287

  SWIFT, Jonathan, his _Sentiments of a Church of England Man_, 113;
    _Tale of a Tub_, 144

  TACITUS quoted, 20: 192: 254;
    as a critic, 278-9;
    on immortality, 360

  TALLEYRAND quoted, 210

  TENNYSON, Lord, 62: 162-3: 245: 247: 298: 337;
    as a critic, 252

  TERENCE, women of, 292

  TEXT-BOOKS on English Literature, specimens of, 76-150

  THACKERAY on Wordsworth and Moore, 250


  THEOGNIS quoted, 262

  THOMSON, James, 243;
    quoted, 248;
    claim to the authorship of _Rule Britannia_ vindicated, 321-8;
    corrections in the _Seasons_ discussed, 328-34

  THORPE, Thomas, 216: 227: 235

  TOVEY, Rev. D. C., his edition of Thomson’s poems reviewed, 318-34

  TREMENHEERE, Mr. J. H. A., his version of Catullus’ Love Poems, 335-50

  TRISSINO, his _Sofonisba_, 123

  THUCYDIDES, 258: 260;
    on hope, 262

  TUPPER, Martin, 251

  TYLER, Mr. Thomas, on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 228

  TYRWHITT, Thomas, 223: 234

  UNIVERSITIES, their indifference to
      the interests of literature, 38-40: 45-50;
    effects of the exclusion of the Greek and Roman Classics from
      the so-called Schools of Literature at Oxford and Cambridge, 55-71

  VARRO, as a critic, 278

  VIRGIL, his beautiful descriptions of Nature, 245-6;
    his Eclogues, 308-17

  VOLTAIRE on Philologists, 86

  WALTERS, Cuming, on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 220-1

  WARBURTON, Bishop, 205;
    quoted, 270

  WARTON, Dr. Joseph, on Thomson’s poetry, 330

  WARTON, Thomas, on Lydgate, 98

  WATSON, Mr. William, great beauty of his English hexameters, 317

  WHARTON, Dr., his _Sappho_, 148

  WILLMOTT, Rev. Aris, his _Gems from English Literature_, 163-4

  WILLOUGHBY, his _Avisa_, 101: 225

  WORDSWORTH, William, 153;
    on Dyer’s poetry, 248;
    his poems on classical legends, 298

  WORSFOLD, Mr. Basil, his _Principles of Criticism_ reviewed, 270-82

  WRANGHAM, Archdeacon, 310

  WRIGHT, Dr. Aldis, his edition of Shakespeare’s _Hamlet_, 84-92

  WRIGHT, Mr. W. H. Kearley, his _West Country Poets_ reviewed, 301-7

  WYNTOWN, his _Chronicle_, 180-1

  XENOPHON on women, 290

  YOUNG, Edward, quoted, 87

Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.


  Page 81 “Hamlet, act iv. sc .1” should be sc. 5 (There is pansies)

The following errors have been corrected in the text.

  Page 8     changed ‘Jasserand’ to ‘Jusserand’ (done M. Jusserand
             grave injustice)

  Page 63    added space (Addington Symonds)

  Page 90    added single quotes (The rest is silence.’ ‘O, O,)

  Page 90    changed ‘than’ to ‘that’ (it would be more natural that)

  Page 96-7  moved double quotes from (evicit gurgite moles,”)
             to end of last line (armenta trahit.”)

  Page 97    added opening double quotes (“Not sa fersly)

  Page 101   added double quotes (Lord_, 1790.” _A Letter to)

  Page 107   changed ‘”)’ to ‘)”’ (teeth of its subject)”. “His voluminous)

  Page 184   added comma (and the few outsiders, whether)

  Page 205   added single quote (Warburton on Shakespeare.’”)

  Page 212   added comma (every alley green,)

  Page 252   changed ‘charactistic’ to ‘characteristic’ (distinctive
             feature is the characteristic)

  Page 321   changed comma to period (both these questions.)

  Page 326   changed period to semicolon (Britain’s wide domain;)

The following inconsistencies have been left as printed.

  ‘bookmaker’ vs. ‘book-maker’ vs. ‘book maker’

  ‘notebooks’ vs. ‘note-books’

  ‘overestimated’ vs. ‘over-estimated’

  ‘overestimation’ vs. ‘over-estimation’

  ‘rodomontade’ vs. ‘rhodomontade’

  ‘Wriothesley’ vs. ‘Wriothesly’

  ‘analysed’ vs. ‘analyzed’

  ‘Mort d’Arthur’ vs. ‘Morte d’Arthur’

  ‘Quinctilian’ vs. ‘Quintilian’
      (‘Quintilia’ (Latin ‘Quintiliæ’) is a different person)

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