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Title: A History of Nineteenth Century Literature (1780-1895)
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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A HISTORY

OF

NINETEENTH CENTURY

LITERATURE

(1780-1895)

BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF
EDINBURGH

_New York_

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.

1906

_All rights reserved_


COPYRIGHT, 1896,
BY MACMILLAN AND CO.

Set up and electrotyped, January, 1896. Reprinted October,
1896; August, 1898; September, 1899; April, 1902; March, 1904;
November, 1906.

_Norwood Press_
J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



PREFACE


In the execution of the present task (which I took over about two years
ago from hands worthier than mine, but then more occupied) some
difficulties of necessity occurred which did not present themselves to
myself when I undertook the volume of Elizabethan Literature, or to my
immediate predecessor in grappling with the period between 1660 and
1780.

The most obvious and serious of these was the question, "What should be
done with living authors?" Independently of certain perils of selection
and exclusion, of proportion and of freedom of speech, I believe it will
be recognised by every one who has ever attempted it, that to mix
estimates of work which is done and of work which is unfinished is to
the last degree unsatisfactory. I therefore resolved to include no
living writer, except Mr. Ruskin, in this volume for the purpose of
detailed criticism, though some may be now and then mentioned in
passing.

Even with this limitation the task remained a rather formidable one.
Those who are least disposed to overvalue literary work in proportion as
it approaches their own time will still acknowledge that the last
hundred and fifteen years are fuller furnished than either of the
periods of not very dissimilar length which have been already dealt
with. The proportion of names of the first, or of a very high second
class, is distinctly larger than in the eighteenth century; the bulk of
literary production is infinitely greater than in the Elizabethan time.
Further, save in regard to the earliest subsections of this period, Time
has not performed his office, beneficent to the reader but more
beneficent to the historian, of sifting and riddling out writers whom it
is no longer necessary to consider, save in a spirit of adventurous or
affectionate antiquarianism. I must ask the reader to believe me when I
say that many who do not appear here at all, or who are dismissed in a
few lines, have yet been the subjects of careful reading on my part. If
some exclusions (not due to mere oversight) appear arbitrary or unjust,
I would urge that this is not a Dictionary of Authors, nor a Catalogue
of Books, but a History of Literature; and that to mention everybody is
as impossible as to say everything. As I have revised the sheets the old
query has recurred to myself only too often, and sometimes in reference
to very favourite books and authors of my own. Where, it may be asked,
is Kenelm Digby and the _Broad Stone of Honour_? Where Sir Richard
Burton (as great a contrast to Digby as can well be imagined)? Where
Laurence Oliphant, who, but the other day, seemed to many clever men the
cleverest man they knew? Where John Foster, who provided food for the
thoughtful public two generations ago? Where Greville of the caustic
diaries, and his editor (latest deceased) Mr. Reeve, and Crabb Robinson,
and many others? Some of these and others are really _neiges d'antan_;
some baffle the historian in miniature by being rebels to brief and
exact characterisation; some, nay many, are simply crowded out.

I must also ask pardon for having exercised apparently arbitrary
discretion in alternately separating the work of the same writer under
different chapter-headings, and grouping it with a certain disregard of
the strict limits of the chapter-heading itself. I think I shall obtain
this pardon from those who remember the advantage obtainable from a
connected view of the progress of distinct literary kinds, and that,
sometimes not to be foregone, of considering the whole work of certain
writers together.

To provide room for the greater press of material, it was necessary to
make some slight changes of omission in the scheme of the earlier
volumes. The opportunity of considerable gain was suggested in the
department of extract--which obviously became less necessary in the case
of authors many of whom are familiar, and hardly any accessible with
real difficulty. Nor did it seem necessary to take up room with the
bibliographical index, the utility of which in my Elizabethan volume I
was glad to find almost universally recognised. This would have had to
be greatly more voluminous here; and it was much less necessary. With a
very few exceptions, all the writers here included are either kept in
print, or can be obtained without much trouble at the second-hand
bookshops.

To what has thus been said as to the principles of arrangement it cannot
be necessary to add very much as to the principles of criticism. They
are the same as those which I have always endeavoured to maintain--that
is to say, I have attempted to preserve a perfectly independent, and, as
far as possible, a rationally uniform judgment, taking account of none
but literary characteristics, but taking account of all characteristics
that are literary. It may be, and it probably is, more and more
difficult to take achromatic views of literature as it becomes more and
more modern; it is certainly more difficult to get this achromatic
character, even where it exists, acknowledged by contemporaries. But it
has at least been my constant effort to attain it.

In the circumstances, and with a view to avoid not merely repetition but
confusion and dislocation in the body of the book, I have thought it
better to make the concluding chapter one of considerably greater length
than the corresponding part of the Elizabethan volume, and to reserve
for it the greater part of what may be called connecting and
comprehensive criticism. In this will be found what may be not
improperly described from one point of view as the opening of the case,
and from another as its summing up--the evidence which justifies both
being contained in the earlier chapters.

It is perhaps not improper to add that the completion of this book has
been made a little difficult by the incidence of new duties, not in
themselves unconnected with its subject. But I have done my best to
prevent or supply oversight.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

PAGE

     The Starting-point--Cowper--Crabbe--Blake--Burns--Minor
     Poets--The Political Satirists--Gifford--Mathias--Dr. Moore,
     etc.--Paine--Godwin--Holcroft--Beckford, etc.--Mrs.
     Radcliffe and "Monk" Lewis--Hannah More--Gilpin               1


CHAPTER II

THE NEW POETRY

     Wordsworth--Coleridge--Southey--Scott--Byron--Shelley--Keats--
     Rogers--Campbell--Moore--Leigh Hunt--Hogg--Landor--Minor
     Poets born before Tennyson--Beddoes--Sir Henry Taylor--Mrs.
     Hemans and L, E. L.--Hood and Praed                          49



CHAPTER III

THE NEW FICTION

     Interval--Maturin--Miss Edgeworth--Miss Austen--The _Waverley
     Novels_--Hook--Bulwer--Dickens--Thackeray--Marryat--Lever--Minor
     Naval Novelists--Disraeli--Peacock--Borrow--Miss
     Martineau--Miss Mitford                                     125


CHAPTER IV

THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERIODICALS.

     New Periodicals at the beginning of the
     Century--Cobbett--The _Edinburgh Review_--Jeffrey--Sydney
     Smith--The _Quarterly_--_Blackwood's_ and the _London
     Magazines_--Lamb--Hazlitt--Wilson--Lockhart--De
     Quincey--Leigh Hunt--Hartley Coleridge--Maginn and
     _Fraser_--Sterling and the Sterling Club--Edward
     FitzGerald--Barham                                          166


CHAPTER V

THE HISTORIANS OF THE CENTURY

     Occasional
     Historians--Hallam--Roscoe--Mitford--Lingard--Turner--
     Palgrave--The Tytlers--Alison--Milman--Grote and
     Thirlwall--Arnold--Macaulay--Carlyle--Minor
     Figures--Buckle--Kinglake--Freeman and Green--Froude        211


CHAPTER VI

THE SECOND POETICAL PERIOD

     Tennyson--Mr. and Mrs. Browning--Matthew Arnold--The
     Præ-Raphaelite Movement--Rossetti--Miss
     Rossetti--O'Shaughnessy--Thomson--Minor Poets--Lord
     Houghton--Aytoun--The Spasmodics--Minor
     Poets--Clough--Locker--The Earl of Lytton--Humorous
     Verse-Writers--Poetesses                                    253


CHAPTER VII

THE NOVEL SINCE 1850

     Changes in the Novel--Miss Brontë--George Eliot--Charles
     Kingsley--The Trollopes--Reade--Minor Novelists--Stevenson  317


CHAPTER VIII

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY

     Limits of this and following Chapters--Bentham--
     Mackintosh--The Mills--Hamilton and the Hamiltonians--
     Mansel--Other Philosophers--Jurisprudents:
     Austin, Maine, Stephen--Political Economists and
     Malthus--The Oxford Movement--Pusey--Keble--Newman--The
     Scottish Disruption--Chalmers--Irving--Other
     Divines--Maurice--Robertson                                 342


CHAPTER IX

LATER JOURNALISM AND CRITICISM IN ART AND LETTERS

     Changes in Periodicals--The _Saturday Review_--Critics of
     the middle of the Century--Helps--Matthew Arnold in
     Prose--Mr. Ruskin--Jefferies--Pater--Symonds--Minto         378


CHAPTER X

SCHOLARSHIP AND SCIENCE

     Increasing Difficulty of
     Selection--Porson--Conington--Munro--Sellar--Robertson
     Smith--Davy--Mrs. Somerville--Other Scientific Writers--
     Darwin--_Vestiges of Creation_--Hugh Miller--Huxley         404


CHAPTER XI

DRAMA

     Weakness of this department throughout--O'Keefe--Joanna
     Baillie--Knowles--Bulwer--Planché                           417


CHAPTER XII

CONCLUSION

     Survey and Analysis of the Period in the several
     divisions--Revolutions in Style--The present state of
     Literature                                                  425


INDEX                                                            471



CHAPTER I

THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


The period of English literary history which is dealt with in the
opening part of the present volume includes, of necessity, among its
most illustrious names, not a few whose work will not be the subject of
formal discussion here, because the major part of it was done within the
scope of the volume which preceded. Thus, to mention only one of these
names, the most splendid displays of Burke's power--the efforts in which
he at last gave to mankind what had previously been too often devoted to
party--date from this time, and even from the later part of it; while
Gibbon did not die till 1794, and Horace Walpole not till 1797. Even
Johnson, the type and dictator at once of the eighteenth century in
literary England, survived the date of 1780 by four years.

Nevertheless the beginning of the ninth decade of the century did
actually correspond with a real change, a real line of demarcation. Not
only did the old writers drop off one by one, not only did no new
writers of utterly distinct idiosyncrasy (Burns and Blake excepted) make
their appearance till quite the end of it, but it was also marked by the
appearance of men of letters and of literary styles which announced, if
not very distinctly, the coming of changes of the most sweeping kind.
Hard as it may be to exhibit the exact contrast between, say, Goldsmith
and men like Cowper on the one side and Crabbe on the other, that
contrast cannot but be felt by every reader who has used himself in the
very least to the consideration of literary differences. And as with
individuals, so with kinds. No special production of these twenty years
may be of the highest value; but there is a certain idiosyncrasy, if
only an idiosyncrasy of transition--an unlikeness to anything that comes
before, and to anything, unless directly imitated, that comes
after--which is equally distinguishable in the curious succession of
poetical satires from Peter Pindar to the _Anti-Jacobin_, in the
terror-and-mystery novels of the school of Mrs. Radcliffe and Monk
Lewis, in the large, if not from the literary point of view extremely
noteworthy, department of politics and economics which in various ways
employed the pens of writers so different as Moore, Young, Godwin,
Priestley, Horne, Tooke, Cobbett, and Paine.

Giving poetry, as usual, the precedence even in the most unpoetical
periods, we shall find in the four names already cited--those of Crabbe,
Cowper, Blake, and Burns--examples of which even the most poetical
period need not be ashamed. In what may be called the absolute spirit of
poetry, the _nescio quid_ which makes the greatest poets, no one has
ever surpassed Burns and Blake at their best; though the perfection of
Burns is limited in kind, and the perfection of Blake still more limited
in duration and sustained force. Cowper would have been a great poet of
the second class at any time, and in some times might have attained the
first. As for Crabbe, he very seldom has the absolute spirit of poetry
just mentioned; but the vigour and the distinction of his verse, as well
as his wonderful faculty of observation in rendering scene and
character, are undeniable. And it is not perhaps childish to point out
that there is something odd and out of the way about the poetical career
of all these poets of the transition. Cowper's terrible malady postpones
his first efforts in song to an age when most poets are losing their
voices; Crabbe, beginning brilliantly and popularly, relapses into a
silence of nearly a quarter of a century before breaking out with
greater power and skill than ever; Burns runs one of the shortest, if
one of the most brilliant, Blake one of the longest, the strangest, the
most intermittent, of poetical careers. Nor is it superfluous to draw
attention further to the fact that when we leave this little company--at
the best august, at the worst more than respectable--we drop suddenly to
the flattest and most hopeless bog of poesiless verse that lies anywhere
on the map of England's literature. Passing from the ethereal music of
the Scottish ploughman and the English painter, from Cowper's noble or
gentle thought and his accomplished versification, from Crabbe's manly
vigour and his Rembrandt touch, we find nothing, unless it be the
ingenious but not strictly poetical burlesque of the Wolcots and the
Lawrences, till we come to the drivel of Hayley and the drought of
Darwin.

Of the quartette, William Cowper was by far the oldest; the other three
being contemporaries within a few years. He was born on 26th November
1731 at Great Berkhampstead. His father was a clergyman and a royal
chaplain, his mother one of the Norfolk Donnes. Her early death, and
that school discomfort which afterwards found vent in _Tirocinium_,
appear to have aggravated a natural melancholia; though after leaving
Westminster, and during his normal studies at both branches of the law,
he seems to have been cheerful enough. How what should have been the
making of his fortune,--his appointment as Clerk of the Journals to the
House of Lords,--not unassisted by religious mania, drove him through
sheer nervousness to attempt suicide, is one of the best known things in
English literary biography, as indeed are most of the few events of his
sad life,--owing partly to his own charming letters, partly to the
biographies of Southey and others. His latest days were his unhappiest,
and after years of more or less complete loss of reason he died on 27th
April 1800.

It has been said that Cowper did not take to writing till late in life.
He had had literary friends--Churchill, Lloyd, and others--in youth, and
must always have had literary sympathies; but it was not till he was
nearly fifty, nor till the greater part of twenty years after his first
mental seizure, that he attempted composition at the instance of his
friend Newton and the Unwins. Beginning with hymns and trifles, he
before long undertook, at this or that person's suggestion, longer
poems, such as _Truth_, _The Progress of Error_, and _Expostulation_,
which were finished by 1781 and published next year, to be followed by
the still better and more famous _Task_, suggested to him by Lady
Austen. This appeared in 1785, and was very popular. He had already
begun to translate Homer, which occupied him for the greater part of
seven years. Nothing perhaps settled him more in the public affections
than "John Gilpin," the subject of which he also owed to Lady Austen;
and he continued to write occasional pieces of exquisite accomplishment.
Almost the last, if not actually the last, of these, written just before
the final obscuration of his faculties, was the beautiful and terrible
"Castaway," an avowed allegory of his own condition.

Cowper, even more than most writers, deserves and requites consideration
under the double aspect of matter and form. In both he did much to alter
the generally accepted conditions of English poetry; and if his formal
services have perhaps received less attention than they merit, his
material achievements have never been denied. His disposition--in which,
by a common enough contrast, the blackest and most hopeless melancholy
was accompanied by the merriest and most playful humour--reflected
itself unequally in his verse, the lighter side chiefly being exhibited.
Except in "The Castaway," and a few--not many--of the hymns, Cowper is
the very reverse of a gloomy poet. His amiability, however, could also
pass into very strong moral indignation, and he endeavoured to give
voice to this in a somewhat novel kind of satire, more serious and
earnest than that of Pope, much less political and personal than that of
Dryden, lighter and more restrained than that of the Elizabethans. His
own unworldly disposition, together with the excessively retired life
which he had led since early manhood, rather damaged the chances of
Cowper as a satirist. We always feel that his censure wants actuality,
that it is an exercise rather than an experience. His efforts in it,
however, no doubt assisted, and were assisted by, that alteration of
the fashionable Popian couplet which, after the example partly of
Churchill and with a considerable return to Dryden, he attempted, made
popular, and handed on to the next generation to dis-Pope yet further.
This couplet, paralleled by a not wholly dissimilar refashioning of
blank verse, in which, though not deserting Milton, he beat out for
himself a scheme quite different from Thomson's, perhaps show at their
best in the descriptive matter of _The Task_ and similar poems. It was
in these that Cowper chiefly displayed that faculty of "bringing back
the eye to the object" and the object to the eye, in which he has been
commonly and justly thought to be the great English restorer. Long
before the end of the Elizabethan period, poetical observation of nature
had ceased to be just; and, after substituting for justness the wildest
eccentricities of conceit, it went for a long time into another
extreme--that of copying and recopying certain academic
conventionalities, instead of even attempting the natural model. It is
not true, as Wordsworth and others have said, that Dryden himself could
not draw from the life. He could and did; but his genius was not
specially attracted to such drawing, his subjects did not usually call
for it, and his readers did not want it. It is not true that Thomson
could not "see"; nor is it true of all his contemporaries and immediate
followers that they were blind. But the eighteenth century had slipped
into a fault which was at least as fatal as that of the
Idealist-Impressionists of the seventeenth, or as that of the
Realist-Impressionists of our own time. The former neglected
universality in their hunt after personal conceits; the latter neglect
it in the endeavour to add nothing to rigidly elaborated personal
sensation. The one kind outstrips nature; the other comes short of art.
From Dryden to Cowper the fault was different from both of these. It
neglected the personal impression and the attention to nature too much.
It dared not present either without stewing them in a sauce of stock
ideas, stock conventions, stock words and phrases, which equally missed
the universal and the particular. Cowper and the other great men who
were his contemporaries by publication if not by birth, set to work to
cure this fault. Even the weakest of them could never have been guilty
of such a passage as that famous one which Congreve (as clever a man as
any) wrote, and which Johnson (as clever a man as any) admired. The
sentiment which actuated them was, if we may trust Coleridge's account
of Boyer or Bowyer, the famous tyrant of Christ's Hospital, well
diffused. "'Nymph,' boy? You mean your nurse's daughter," puts in a
somewhat brutal and narrow form the correction which the time needed,
and which these four in their different ways applied.

We have already glanced at the way in which Cowper applied it in his
larger poems: he did it equally well, and perhaps more tellingly, in his
smaller. The day on which a poet of no mean pretensions, one belonging
altogether to the upper classes of English society, and one whose lack
of university education mattered the less because the universities were
just then at their nadir, dared to write of the snake he killed

    "And taught him never to come there no more"

was an epoch-making day. Swift would have done it; but Swift was in many
ways a voice crying in the wilderness, and Swift was not, strictly
speaking, a poet at all. Byrom would have done it; but Byrom was
emphatically a minor poet. Cowper could--at least in and for his
day--boast the major afflatus, and Cowper did not disdain vernacular
truth. He never could have been vulgar; there is not in the whole range
of English literature quite such a gentleman in his own way as Cowper.
But he has escaped almost entirely from the genteel style--from the
notion of things as below the dignity of literature.

His prose in this respect is at least equal to his verse, though, as it
was known much later, it has greater tendency than influence. All good
critics have agreed that his letters are not surpassed, perhaps not
surpassable. He has more freedom than Gray; he has none of the coxcombry
of Walpole and Byron; and there is no fifth name that can be put even
into competition with him. Ease, correctness, facility of expression,
freedom from convention within his range, harmony, truth to nature,
truth to art:--these things meet in the hapless recluse of Olney as they
had not met for a century--perhaps as they had never met--in English
epistles. The one thing that he wanted was strength: as his madness was
melancholy, not raving, so was his sanity mild but not triumphant.

George Crabbe was three and twenty years younger than Cowper, having
been born on Christmas Eve 1754. But his first publication, _The
Library_, the success of which was due to the generous and quick-sighted
patronage of Burke after the poet had wrestled with a hard youth,
coincided almost exactly with the first appearance of Cowper, and indeed
a little anticipated it. _The Village_ appeared in 1783, and _The
Newspaper_ in 1785, and then Crabbe (who had taken orders, had been
instituted to livings in the East of England, and had married, after a
long engagement, his first love) was silent for two and twenty years. He
began again in 1807 with _The Parish Register_. _The Borough_, his
greatest work, appeared in 1810. Shifting from the East of England to
the West in 1813, he spent the last twenty years of his long life at
Trowbridge in Wiltshire, and died in 1832 at the age of seventy-eight.

The external (and, as will be presently remarked, something more than
the external) uniformity of his work is great, and its external
conformity to the traditions and expectations of the time at which it
first appeared is almost greater. A hasty judgment, and even one which,
though not hasty, is not very keen-sighted, might see little difference
between Crabbe and any poet from Pope to Goldsmith except the
innovators. He is all but constant to the heroic couplet--the Spenserian
introduction to _The Birth of Flattery_, the variously-grouped
octosyllabic quatrains of _Reflections_, _Sir Eustace Grey_, _The Hall
of Justice_, and _Woman_, with a few other deviations, being merely
islets among a wide sea of rhymed decasyllabics constituting at least
nineteen-twentieths of the poet's outpouring. Moreover, he was as a rule
constant, not merely to the couplet, but to what has been called the
"shut" couplet--the couplet more or less rigidly confined to itself,
and not overlapping. But he did sometimes overlap, and either in fealty
to Dryden, or from a secret feeling of the craving for freedom which his
more lawless contemporaries expressed in other ways, he reverted to the
Drydenian triplet and Alexandrine on which Pope had frowned. In Crabbe's
couplet, too, there is something which distinguishes it from almost all
others. This something varies very much in appeal. It is sometimes, nay,
too often, a rather ludicrous something, possessing a sort of awkward
prosaic "flop," which is excellently caricatured in _Rejected
Addresses_. But it always shows signs of a desire to throw the emphasis
with more variation than the icy uniformity of the Popian cadence
admitted; and it is sometimes curiously effective.

Crabbe's position, independently of the strange gap in his publication
(which has been variously accounted for), is not a little singular. The
greater and the better part of his work was composed when the Romantic
revival was in full swing, but it shows little or no trace of the
influence of that revival in versification or diction. His earliest
attempts do indeed show the same reaction from Pope to Dryden (of whom
we know that he was an eager student) which is visible in Cowper and
Churchill; and throughout his work, both earlier and later, there is a
ruthless discarding of conventional imagery and a stern attention to the
realities of scenery and character. But Crabbe has none of the Grace of
the new dispensation, if he has some glimpses of its Law. He sails so
close to the wind of poetry that he is sometimes merely prosaic and
often nearly so. His conception of life is anti-idealist almost to
pessimism, and he has no fancy. The "jewels five words long" are not
his: indeed there clung to him a certain obscurity of expression which
Johnson is said to have good-naturedly smoothed out in his first work to
some extent, but from which he never got quite free. The extravagances
as well as the graces of the new poetry were quite alien from him; its
exotic tastes touched him not; its love for antiquity (though he knew
old English poetry by no means ill) seems to have left him wholly cold.
The anxieties and sufferings of lower and middle-class life, the
"natural death of love" (which, there seems some reason to fear, he had
experienced), the common English country scenery and society of his
time--these were his subjects, and he dealt with them in a fashion the
mastery of which is to this day a joy to all competent readers. No
writer of his time had an influence which so made for truth pure and
simple, yet not untouched by the necessary "disprosing" processes of
art. For Crabbe is not a mere realist; and whoso considers him as such
has not apprehended him. But he was a realist to this extent, that he
always went to the model and never to the pattern-drawing on the Academy
walls. And that was what his time needed. His general characteristics
are extremely uniform: even the external shape and internal
subject-matter of his poems are almost confined to the shape and matter
of the verse-tale. He need not, and indeed cannot, in a book like this,
be dealt with at much length. But he is a very great writer, and a most
important figure at this turning-point of English literature.

Yet, however one may sympathise with Cowper, however much one may admire
Crabbe, it is difficult for any true lover of poetry not to feel the
sense of a "Pisgah sight," and something more, of the promised land of
poetry, in passing from these writers to William Blake and Robert Burns.
Here there is no more allowance necessary, except in the first case for
imperfection of accomplishment, in the second for shortness of life and
comparative narrowness of range. The quality and opportuneness of poetry
are in each case undeniable. Since the deaths of Herrick and Vaughan,
England had not seen any one who had the finer lyrical gifts of the poet
as Blake had them. Since the death of Dunbar, Scotland had not seen such
strength and intensity of poetic genius (joined in this case to a gift
of melody which Dunbar never had) as were shown by Burns. There was
scarcely more than a twelvemonth between their births; for Blake was
born in 1757 (the day appears not to be known), and Burns in January
1759. But Blake long outlived Burns, and did not die till 1828, while
Burns was no more in July 1796. Neither the long life nor the short one
provided any events which demand chronicling here. Both poets were
rather fortunate in their wives, though Blake clave to Catherine Boucher
more constantly than Burns to his Jean. Neither was well provided with
this world's goods; Burns wearing out his short life in difficulties as
farmer and as excise-man, while all the piety of biographers has left it
something of a mystery how Blake got through his long life with no
better resources than a few very poorly paid private commissions for his
works of design, the sale of his hand-made books of poetry and prophecy,
and such occasional employment in engraving as his unconventional style
and his still more unconventional habits and temper allowed him to
accept or to keep. In some respects the two were different enough
according to commonplace standards, less so perhaps according to others.
The forty years of Burns, and the more than seventy of Blake, were
equally passed in a rapture; but morality has less quarrel with Blake,
who was essentially a "God-intoxicated man" and spent his life in one
long dream of art and prophecy, than with Burns, who was generally in
love, and not unfrequently in liquor. But we need no more either of
antithesis or of comparison: the purely literary matter calls us.

It was in 1783--a date which, in its close approximation to the first
appearances of Crabbe and Cowper, makes the literary student think of
another group of first appearances in the early "eighties" of the
sixteenth century foreshadowing the outburst of Elizabethan
literature--that Blake's first book appeared. His _Poetical Sketches_,
now one of the rarest volumes of English poetry, was printed by
subscription among a literary coterie who met at the house of Mr. and
Mrs. Mathew; but the whole edition was given to the author. He had
avowedly taken little or no trouble to correct it, and the text is
nearly as corrupt as that of the _Supplices_; nor does it seem that he
took any trouble to make it "go off," nor that it did go off in any
appreciable manner. Yet if many ears had then been open to true poetical
music, some of them could not have mistaken sounds the like of which
had not, as has been said, been heard since the deaths of Herrick and
Vaughan. The merit of the contents is unequal to a degree not to be
accounted for by the mere neglect to prepare carefully for press, and
the influence of _Ossian_ is, as throughout Blake's work, much more
prominent for evil than for good. But the chaotic play of _Edward the
Third_ is not mere Elizabethan imitation; and at least half a dozen of
the songs and lyrical pieces are of the most exquisite quality--snatches
of Shakespeare or Fletcher as Shakespeare or Fletcher might have written
them in Blake's time. The finest of all no doubt is the magnificent "Mad
Song." But others--"How sweet I roamed from Field to Field" (the most
eighteenth century in manner, but showing how even that manner could be
strengthened and sweetened); "My Silks and Fine Array," beautiful, but
more like an Elizabethan imitation than most; "Memory Hither Come," a
piece of ineffable melody--these are things which at once showed Blake
to be free of the very first company of poets, to be a poet who for real
essence of poetry excelled everything the century had yet seen, and
everything, with the solitary exception of the _Lyrical Ballads_ at its
extreme end, that it was to see.

Unfortunately it was not by any means as a poet that Blake regarded
himself. He knew that he was an artist, and he thought that he was a
prophet; and for the rest of his life, deviating only now and then into
engraving as a mere breadwinner, he devoted himself to the joint
cultivation of these two gifts, inventing for the purpose a method or
vehicle of publication excellently suited to his genius, but in other
respects hardly convenient. This method was to execute text and
illustrations at once on copper-plates, which were then treated in
slightly different fashions. Impressions worked off from these by
hand-press were coloured by hand, Blake and his wife executing the
entire process. In this fashion were produced the lovely little gems of
literature and design called _Songs of Innocence_ (1789) and _Songs of
Experience_ (1794); in this way for the most part, but with some
modifications, the vast and formidable mass of the so-called
"Prophetic" Books. With the artistic qualities of Blake we are not here
concerned, but it is permissible to remark that they resemble his
literary qualities with a closeness which at once explains and is
explained by their strangely combined method of production. That Blake
was not entirely sane has never been doubted except by a few fanatics of
mysticism, who seem to think that the denial of complete sanity implies
a complete denial of genius. And though he was never, in the common
phrase, "incapable of managing" such very modest affairs as were his,
the defect appears most in the obstinate fashion in which he refused to
perfect and co-ordinate his work. He could, when he chose and would give
himself the trouble, draw quite exquisitely; and he always drew with
marvellous vigour and imagination. But he would often permit himself
faults of drawing quite inexplicable and not very tolerable. So, too,
though he had the finest gift of literary expression, he chose often to
babble and still oftener to rant at large. Even the _Songs of Innocence
and Experience_--despite their double charm to the eye and the ear, and
the presence of such things as the famous "Tiger," as the two
"Introductions" (two of Blake's best things), and as "The Little Girl
Lost"--show a certain poetical declension from the highest heights of
the _Poetical Sketches_. The poet is no longer a poet pure and simple;
he has got purposes and messages, and these partly strangle and partly
render turbid the clear and spontaneous jets of poetry which refresh us
in the "Mad Song" and the "Memory." And after the _Songs_ Blake did not
care to put forth anything bearing the ordinary form of poetry. We
possess indeed other poetical work of his, recovered in scraps and
fragments from MSS., and some of it is beautiful. But it is as a rule
more chaotic than the _Sketches_ themselves; it is sometimes defaced
(being indeed mere private jottings never intended for print) by
personality and coarseness; and it is constantly puddled with the jargon
of Blake's mystical philosophy, which, borrowing some of its method from
Swedenborg and much of its imagery and nomenclature from _Ossian_,
spreads itself unhampered by any form whatever over the Prophetic
Books. The literary merit of these in parts is often very high, and
their theosophy (for that is the best single word for it) is not seldom
majestic. But despite the attempts of some disciples to evolve a regular
system from them, students of philosophy as well as of literature are
never likely to be at much odds as to their real character. "Ravings"
they are not, and they are very often the reverse of "nonsense." But
they are the work of a man who in the first place was very slightly
acquainted with the literature and antecedents of his subject, who in
the second was distinctly _non compos_ on the critical, though admirably
gifted on the creative side of his brain, and who in the third had the
ill luck to fall under the fullest sway of the Ossianic influence. To
any one who loves and admires Blake--and the present writer deliberately
ranks him as the greatest and most delectable poet of the eighteenth
century proper in England, reserving Burns as specially Scotch--it must
always be tempting to say more of him than can be allowed on such a
scale as the present; but the scale must be observed.

There is all the more reason for the observance that Blake exercised on
the literary _history_ of his time no influence, and occupied in it no
position. He always had a few faithful friends and patrons who kept him
from starvation by their commissions, admired him, believed in him, and
did him such good turns as his intensely independent and rather
irritable disposition would allow. But the public had little opportunity
of seeing his pictures, and less of reading his books; and though the
admiration of Lamb led to some appreciation from Southey and others, he
was practically an unread man. This cannot be said of Robert Burns, who,
born as was said a year or two after Blake, made his first literary
venture three years after him, in 1786. Most people know that the
publication, now famous and costly, called "the Kilmarnock Edition," was
originally issued in the main hope of paying the poet's passage to
Jamaica after an unfortunate youth of struggle, and latterly of
dissipation. Nay, even after the appearance of the _Poems_ and their
welcome he still proposed to go abroad. He was summoned back to
Edinburgh to reprint them, to make a considerable profit by them, and to
be lionised without stint by the society of the Scottish capital. He
then settled down, marrying Jean Armour, at Ellisland in Dumfriesshire,
on a small farm and a post in the Excise, which, when his farming failed
and he moved to Dumfries itself, became his only regular means of
support. He might have increased this considerably by literature; but as
it was he actually gave away, or disposed of for trifling equivalents,
most of the exquisite songs which he wrote in his later years. These
years were unhappy. He hailed the French Revolution with a perfectly
innocent, because obviously ignorant, Jacobinism which, putting all
other considerations aside, was clearly improper in a salaried official
of the Crown, and thereby got into disgrace with the authorities, and
also with society in and about Dumfries. His habits of living, though
their recklessness has been vastly exaggerated, were not careful, and
helped to injure both his reputation and his health. Before long he
broke down completely, and died on the first of July 1796, his poetical
powers being to the very last in fullest perfection.

Burns' work, which even in bulk--its least remarkable characteristic--is
very considerable when his short life and his unfavourable education and
circumstances are reckoned, falls at once into three sharply contrasted
sections. There are his poems in Scots; there are the verses that, in
obedience partly to the incompetent criticism of his time, partly to a
very natural mistake of ambition and ignorance, he tried to write in
conventional literary English; and there is his prose, taking the form
of more or less studied letters. The second class of the poems is almost
worthless, and fortunately it is not bulky. The letters are of unequal
value, and have been variously estimated. They show indeed that, like
almost all poets, he might, if choice and fate had united, have become a
very considerable prose-writer, and they have immense autobiographic
value. But they are sometimes, and perhaps often, written as much in
falsetto as the division of verse just ruled out; their artificiality
does not take very good models; and their literary attraction is
altogether second-rate. How far different the value of the Scots poems
is, four generations have on the whole securely agreed. The moral
discomfort of Principal Shairp, the academic distaste of Mr. Matthew
Arnold for a world of "Scotch wit, Scotch religion, and Scotch drink,"
and the purely indolent and ignorant reluctance of others to grapple
with Scottish dialect, need not trouble the catholic critic much. The
two first may be of some use as cautions and drags; the third may be
thrown aside at once. Scots, though a dialect, is not a patois; it has a
great and continuous literature; it combines in an extraordinary degree
the consonant virtues of English and the vowel range of the Latin
tongues. It is true that Burns' range of subject, as distinct from that
of sound, was not extremely wide. He could give a voice to
passion--passion of war, passion of conviviality, passion above all of
love--as none but the very greatest poets ever have given or will give
it; he had also an extraordinary command of _genre_-painting of all
kinds, ranging from the merely descriptive and observant to the most
intensely satirical. Perhaps he could only do these two things--could
not be (as he certainly has not been) philosophical, deeply meditative,
elaborately in command of the great possibilities of nature, political,
moral, argumentative. But what an "only" have we here! It amounts to
this, that Burns could "only" seize, could "only" convey the charms of
poetical expression to, the more primitive thought and feeling of the
natural man, and that he could do this supremely. His ideas are--to use
the rough old Lockian division--ideas of sensation, not of reflection;
and when he goes beyond them he is sensible, healthy, respectable, but
not deep or high. In his own range there are few depths or heights to
which he has not soared or plunged.

That he owed a good deal to his own Scottish predecessors, especially to
Ferguson, is not now denied; and his methods of composing his songs are
very different from those which a lesser man, using more academic forms,
could venture upon without the certainty of the charge of plagiarism. We
shall never understand Burns aright if we do not grasp the fact that he
was a "folk-poet," into whom the soul of a poet of all time and all
space had entered. In all times and countries where folk-poetry has a
genuine existence, its forms and expressions are much less the property
of the individual than of the race. The business of collecting ballads
is one of the most difficult and doubtful, not to say dangerous, open to
the amateur. But it is certain that any collector who was not a mere
simpleton would at once reject as spurious a version which he heard in
identically the same terms from two different subjects. He would know
that they must have got it from a printed or at least written source.
Now Burns is, if not our only example, our only example of the very
first quality, of the poet who takes existing work and hands it on
shaped to his own fashion. Not that he was not perfectly competent to do
without any existing canvas; while, when he had it, he treated it
without the very slightest punctilio. Of some of the songs which he
reshaped into masterpieces for Johnson and Thomson he took no more than
the air and measure; of others only the refrain or the first few lines;
of others again stanzas or parts of stanzas. But everywhere he has
stamped the version with something of his own--something thenceforward
inseparable from it, and yet characteristic of him. In the expression of
the triumph and despair of love, not sicklied over with any thought as
in most modern poets, only Catullus and Sappho can touch Burns. "Green
grow the Rashes O," "Yestreen I had a Pint of Wine," the farewell to
Clarinda, and the famous death-bed verses to Jessie Lewars, make any
advance on them impossible in point of spontaneous and unreflecting
emotion; while a thousand others (the number is hardly rhetorical) come
but little behind. "Willie brew'd a Peck o' Maut" in the same way rides
sovereign at the head of a troop of Bacchanalian verses; and the touches
of rhetoric and convention in "Scots wha hae" cannot spoil, can hardly
even injure it. To some it really seems that the much praised lines "To
Mary in Heaven" and others where the mood is less boisterous, show Burns
at less advantage, not because the kind is inferior, but because he was
less at home in it; but it is almost impossible to praise too highly the
equally famous "Mouse," and some other things. It was in this tremendous
force of natural passion and affection, and in his simple observation of
common things, that Burns' great lesson for his age and country lay.
None even of the reformers had dared to be passionate as yet. In Cowper
indeed there was no passion except of religious despair, in Crabbe none
except that of a grim contemplation of the miseries and disappointments
of life, while although there was plenty of passion in Blake it had all
conveyed itself into the channel of mystical dreaming. It is a little
pathetic, and more than a little curious, to compare "The Star that
shines on Anna's Breast," the one approach to passionate expression of
Cowper's one decided love, with any one of a hundred outbursts of Burns,
sometimes to the very same name.

The other division of the Poems, at the head of which stand _The Jolly
Beggars_, _Tam o' Shanter_, and _The Holy Fair_, exhibit an equal power
of vivid feeling and expression with a greater creative and observant
faculty, and were almost equally important as a corrective and
alterative to their generation. The age was not ill either at drama, at
manners-painting, or at satire; but the special kind of dramatic,
pictorial, and satiric presentation which Burns manifested was quite
unfamiliar to it and in direct contradiction to its habits and
crotchets. It had had a tendency to look only at upper and middle-class
life, to be conventional in its very indecorum, to be ironic, indirect,
parabolical. It admired the Dutch painters, it had dabbled in the
occult, it was Voltairian enough; but it had never dared to outvie
Teniers and Steen as in _The Jolly Beggars_, to blend naturalism and
_diablerie_ with the overwhelming _verve_ of _Tam o' Shanter_, to change
the jejune freethinking of two generations into an outspoken and
particular attack on personal hypocrisy in religion as in _Holy Willie's
Prayer_ and _The Holy Fair_. Even to Scotsmen, we may suspect (or rather
we pretty well know, from the way in which Robertson and Blair, Hume and
Mackenzie, write), this burst of genial racy humour from the _terræ
filius_ of Kilmarnock must have been somewhat startling; and it speaks
volumes for the amiable author of the _Man of Feeling_ that, in the very
periodical where he was wont to air his mild Addisonian hobbies, he
should have warmly commended the Ayrshire ploughman.

In a period where we have so many great or almost great names to notice,
it cannot be necessary to give the weakest writers of its weakest part
more than that summary mention which is at once necessary and sufficient
to complete the picture of the literary movement of the time. And this
is more especially the case with reference to the minor verse of the end
of the eighteenth century. The earliest work of the really great men who
re-created English poetry, though in some cases chronologically _in_, is
not in the least _of_ it. For the rest, it would be almost enough to say
that William Hayley, the preface to whose _Triumphs of Temper_ is dated
January 1781, and therefore synchronised very closely with the literary
appearance of Cowper, Crabbe, and Blake, was one of the most
conspicuous, and remains one of the most characteristic of them.
Hayley's personal relations with the first and last of these
poets--relations which have kept and will keep his name in some measure
alive long after the natural death of his verse--were in both cases
conditioned by circumstances in a rather trying way, but were not
otherwise than creditable to him. His verse itself is impossible and
intolerable to any but the student of literary history, who knows that
all things are possible, and finds the realisation of all in its measure
interesting. The heights, or at least the average levels, of Hayley may
be fairly taken from the following quotation:--

    Her lips involuntary catch the chime
    And half articulate the soothing rhyme;
    Till weary thought no longer watch can keep,
    But sinks reluctant in the folds of sleep--

of which it can only be said that any schoolboy could write it; his not
infrequent depths from the couplet:--

    Her airy guard prepares the softest down
    From Peace's wing to line the nuptial crown.

where the image of a guardian angel holding Peace with the firmness of
an Irish housewife, and plucking her steadily in order to line a nuptial
crown (which must have been a sort of sun-bonnet) with the down thereof,
will probably be admitted to be not easily surpassable. Of Hayley's
companions in song, I have been dispensed by my predecessor from
troubling myself with Erasmus Darwin, who was perhaps intellectually the
ablest of them, though the extreme absurdity of the scheme of his
_Botanic Garden_ brought him, as the representative of the whole school,
under the lash of the _Anti-Jacobin_ in never-dying lines. Darwin's
friend and townswoman, Anna Seward; Mrs. Barbauld, the author of the
noble lines, "Life, we've been long together"--the nobility of which is
rather in its sentiment than in its expression--and of much tame and
unimportant stuff; Merry, who called himself Della Crusca and gathered
round him the school of gosling imitators that drew on itself the lash
of Gifford; the Laureate Pye; and others who, less fortunate than the
victims of Canning and Frere, have suffered a second death in the
forgetting of the very satires in which they met their deserts, can be
barely named now. Two, however, may claim, if no great performance, a
remarkable influence on great performers. Dr. Sayers, a member of the
interesting Norwich school, directly affected Southey, and not Southey
only, by his unrhymed verse; while the sonnets of William Lisle Bowles,
now only to be read with a mild esteem by the friendliest critic most
conscious of the historic allowance, roused Coleridge to the wildest
enthusiasm and did much to form his poetic taste. To Bowles, and perhaps
to one or two others, we may find occasion to return hereafter.

The satires, however, which have been more than once referred to in the
preceding paragraph, form a most important feature, and a perhaps almost
more important symptom, of the literary state of the time. They show,
indeed, that its weakness did not escape the notice of contemporaries;
but they also show that the very contemporaries who noticed it had
nothing better to give in the way of poetry proper than that which they
satirised. In fact, one of the chief of these satirists, Wolcot, has
left a considerable mass of not definitely satirical work which is
little if at all better than the productions of the authors he
lampooned.

This very remarkable body of satirical verse, which extends from the
_Rolliad_ and the early satires of Peter Pindar at the extreme beginning
of our present time to the _Pursuits of Literature_ and the
_Anti-Jacobin_ towards its close, was partly literary and partly
political, diverging indeed into other subjects, but keeping chiefly to
these two and intermixing them rather inextricably. The _Pursuits of
Literature_, though mainly devoted to the subject of its title, is also
to a great extent political; the _Rolliad_ and the _Probationary Odes_,
intensely political, were also to no small extent literary. The chief
examples were among the most popular literary productions of the time;
and though few of them except the selected _Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin_
are now read, almost all the major productions deserve reading. The
great defect of contemporary satire--that it becomes by mere lapse of
time unintelligible--is obviated to no small extent here by the crotchet
(rather fortunate, though sometimes a little tedious) which these
writers, almost without exception, had for elaborate annotation. Of the
chief of them, already indicated more than once by reference or
allusion, some account may be given.

_The Rolliad_ is the name generally given for shortness to a collection
of political satires originating in the great Westminster election of
1784, when Fox was the Whig candidate. It derived its name from a
Devonshire squire, Mr. Rolle, who was a great supporter of Pitt; and,
with the _Political Eclogues_, the mock _Probationary Odes_ for the
laureateship (vacant by Whitehead's death), and the _Political
Miscellanies_, which closed the series, was directed against the young
Prime Minister and his adherents by a knot of members of Brooks' Club,
who are identified rather by tradition and assertion than by positive
evidence. Sheridan, Tierney, Burgoyne, Lord John Townshend, Burke's
brother Richard, and other public men probably or certainly contributed,
as did Ellis--afterwards to figure so conspicuously in the same way on
the other side. But the chief writers were a certain Dr. Lawrence, a
great friend of Burke, who was in a way the editor; Tickel, a descendant
of Addison's friend and a connection of the Sheridans; and another
Irishman named Fitzpatrick. The various "skits" of which the book or
series is composed show considerable literary skill, and there is a
non-political and extraneous interest in the fact that it contains some
_rondeaux_ believed to be the only, or almost the only, examples of that
form written in England between Cotton in the seventeenth century and
the revival of it not very many years ago. The fun is often very good
fun, and there is a lightness and brightness about the verse and
phrasing which had been little seen in English since Prior. But the tone
is purely personal; there are no principles at stake, and the book,
besides being pretty coarse in tone, is a sort of object lesson in the
merely intriguing style of politics which had become characteristic of
England under the great seventy years' reign of the Whigs.

Coarseness and personality, however, are in the _Rolliad_ refined and
high-minded in comparison with the work of "Peter Pindar," which has the
redeeming merit of being even funnier, with the defect of being much
more voluminous and unequal. John Wolcot was a Devonshire man, born in
May 1738 at Kingsbridge, or rather its suburb Dodbrooke, in Devonshire.
He was educated as a physician, and after practising some time at home
was taken by Sir William Trelawney to Jamaica. Here he took orders and
received a benefice; but when he returned to England after Trelawney's
death he practically unfrocked himself and resumed the cure of bodies.
Although he had dabbled both in letters and in art, it was not till 1782
that he made any name; and he did it then by the rather unexpected way
of writing poetical satires in the form of letters to the members of the
infant Royal Academy. From this he glided into satire of the political
kind, which, however, though he was a strong Whig and something more,
did not so much devote itself to the attack or support of either of the
great parties as to personal lampoons on the king, his family, and his
friends. Neither Charles the Second at the hands of Marvell, nor George
the Fourth at the hands of Moore, received anything like the steady fire
of lampoon which Wolcot for years poured upon the most harmless and
respectable of English monarchs. George the Third had indeed no
vices,--unless a certain parsimony may be dignified by that name,--but
he had many foibles of the kind that is more useful to the satirist than
even vice. Wolcot's extreme coarseness, his triviality of subject, and a
vulgarity of thought which is quite a different thing from either, are
undeniable. But _The Lousiad_ (a perfect triumph of cleverness expended
on what the Greeks called rhyparography), the famous pieces on George
and the Apple Dumplings and on the King's visit to Whitbread's Brewery,
with scores of other things of the same kind (the best of all, perhaps,
being the record of the Devonshire Progress), exhibit incredible
felicity and fertility in the lower kinds of satire. This satire Wolcot
could apply with remarkable width of range. His artistic satires (and it
must be admitted that he had not bad taste here) have been noticed. He
riddled the new devotion to physical science in the unlucky person of
Sir Joseph Banks; the chief of his literary lampoons, a thing which is
quite a masterpiece in its way, is his "Bozzy and Piozzi," wherein
Boswell and Mrs. Thrale are made to string in amoebean fashion the
most absurd or the most laughable of their respective reminiscences of
Johnson into verses which, for lightness and liveliness of burlesque
representation, have hardly a superior. Until the severe legislation
which followed the Jacobin terror in France cowed him, and to some
extent even subsequently, Wolcot maintained a sort of Ishmaelite
attitude, by turns attacking and defending himself against men of
eminence in literature and politics, after a fashion the savagery
whereof was excused sometimes by its courage and nearly always by an
exuberant good-humour which both here and elsewhere accompanies very
distinct ill-nature. His literary life in London covered about a quarter
of a century, after which, losing his sight, he retired once more to the
West, though he is said to have died at Somers Town in 1819. The best
edition of his works is in five good-sized volumes, but it is known not
to be complete.

Both the _Rolliad_ men and Wolcot had been on the Whig, Wolcot almost on
the Republican side; and for some years they had met with no sufficient
adversaries, though Gifford soon engaged "Peter" on fairly equal terms.
The great revulsion of feeling, however, which the acts of the French
Revolution induced among Englishmen generally drew on a signal rally on
the Tory part. The _Anti-Jacobin_ newspaper, with Gifford as its editor,
and Canning, Ellis (now a convert), and Frere as its chief contributors,
not merely had at its back the national sentiment and the official
power, but far outstripped in literary vigour and brilliancy the
achievements of the other side. The famous collection above referred to,
_The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin_, which has been again and again
reprinted, shows no signs of losing its attraction,--a thing almost
unparalleled in the case of satirical work nearly a century old. Its
very familiarity makes it unnecessary to dwell much on it, but it is
safe to say that nothing of the kind more brilliant has ever been
written, or is very likely ever to be written, than the parodies of
Southey's Sapphics and "Henry Martin" sonnet, the litany of the
Jacobins, French and English, the "skits" on Payne Knight and Darwin,
_The Rovers_,--mocking the new German sentimentalism and
mediævalism,--and the stately satire of "The New Morality,"--where,
almost alone, the writers become serious, and reach a height not
attained since Dryden.

Gifford and Mathias differ from the others just mentioned in being less
directly political in writing and inspiration, though Gifford at least
was a strong politician. He was, like Wolcot, a Devonshire man, born at
Ashburton in 1757, and, as his numerous enemies and victims took care
often to remind him, of extremely humble birth and early breeding,
having been a shoemaker's apprentice. Attracting attention as a clever
boy, he was sent to Exeter College and soon attained to influential
patronage. To do him justice, however, he made his reputation by the
work of his own hand,--his satires of _The Baviad_, 1794, and _The
Mæviad_ next year, attacking and pretty nearly extinguishing Merry and
his Della Cruscans, a set of minor bards and mutual admirers who had
infested the magazines and the libraries for some years.[1] The
_Anti-Jacobin_ and the editing of divers English classics put Gifford
still higher; and when the _Quarterly Review_ was established in
opposition to the _Edinburgh_, his appointment (1809) to the editorship,
which he held almost till his death (he gave it up in 1824 and died in
1826), completed his literary position. Gifford is little read nowadays,
and a name which was not a very popular one even on his own side during
his lifetime has, since the triumph of the politics and of some of the
literary styles which he opposed, become almost a byword for savage and
unfair criticism. The penalty of unfairness is usually and rightly paid
in kind, and Gifford has paid it very amply. The struggles of his youth
and lifelong ill-health no doubt aggravated a disposition at no time
very sweet; and the feuds of the day, both literary and political, were
apt to be waged, even by men far superior to Gifford in early and
natural advantages, with the extremest asperity and without too much
scruple. But Gifford is perhaps our capital example in English of a cast
of mind which is popularly identified with that of the critic, though in
truth nothing is more fatal to the attainment of the highest critical
competence. It was apparently impossible for him (as it has been, and,
it would seem, is for others,) to regard the author whom he was
criticising, the editor who had preceded him in his labours, or the
adversary with whom he was carrying on a polemic, as anything but a
being partly idiotic and partly villainous, who must be soundly scolded,
first for having done what he did, and secondly to prevent him from
doing it again. So ingrained was this habit in Gifford that he could
refrain from indulging it, neither in editing the essays of his most
distinguished contributors, nor in commenting on the work of these
contributors, outside the periodicals which he directed. Yet he was a
really useful influence in more ways than one. The service that he did
in forcibly suppressing the Della Cruscan nuisance is even yet admitted,
and there has been plentiful occasion, not always taken, for similar
literary _dragonnades_ since. And his work as an editor of English
classics was, blemishes of manner and temper excepted, in the main very
good work.

Thomas James Mathias, the author of _The Pursuits of Literature_, was a
much nearer approach to the pedant pure and simple. For he did not, like
Gifford, redeem his rather indiscriminate attacks on contemporaries by a
sincere and intelligent devotion to older work; and he was, much more
than Gifford, ostentatious of such learning as he possessed. Accordingly
the immense popularity of his only book of moment is a most remarkable
sign of the times. De Quincey, who had seen its rise and its fall,
declares that for a certain time, and not a very short one, at the end
of the last century and the beginning of this, _The Pursuits of
Literature_ was the most popular book of its own day, and as popular as
any which had appeared since; and that there is not very much hyperbole
in this is proved by its numerous editions, and by the constant
references to it in the books of the time. Colman, who was one of
Mathias' victims, declared that the verse was a "peg to hang the notes
on"; and the habit above referred to certainly justified the gibe to no
small extent. If the book is rather hard reading nowadays (and it is
certainly rather difficult to recognise in it even the "demon of
originality" which De Quincey himself grants rather grudgingly as an
offset to its defects of taste and scholarship), it is perhaps chiefly
obscured by the extreme desultoriness of the author's attacks and the
absence of any consistent and persistent target. Much that Mathias
reprehends in Godwin and Priestley, in Colman and Wolcot, and a whole
crowd of lesser men, is justifiably censured; much that he lays down is
sound and good enough. But the whole--which, after the wont of the time,
consists of several pieces jointed on to each other and all flooded with
notes--suffers from the twin vices of negation and divagation. Indeed,
its chief value is that, both by its composition and its reception, it
shows the general sense that literature was not in a healthy state, and
that some renaissance, some reaction, was necessary.

The prominence of the French Revolution, which has already appeared more
than once in the above account of late eighteenth century poetry, is
still more strongly reflected in the prose writing of the period.
Indeed, many of its principal writers devoted their chief attention
either to describing, to attacking, or to defending the events and
principles of this portentous phenomenon. The chief of them were John
Moore, Arthur Young, Helen Maria Williams, Thomas Paine, William Godwin,
Richard Price, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Holcroft. Of these Price,
a veteran who had nearly reached his sixtieth year when our period
commences, chiefly belongs to literature as an antagonist of Burke, as
does Priestley, whose writing was very extensive, but who was as much
more a "natural philosopher" than a man of letters as Price was much
less a man of letters than a moralist and a statistician. Both,
moreover, have been mentioned in the preceding volume, and it is not
necessary to say much about them, or about John Horne Tooke (1736-1812),
philologist and firebrand.

Of the others something may, and in some cases not a little must,
appear. Dr. John Moore, sometimes called "Zeluco" Moore (from his most
popular book), and father of the general who fell at Corunna, was born
at Stirling in the winter of 1729-30. Studying medicine at Glasgow, he
was apprenticed (as Smollett had been earlier) to Dr. John Gordon, and
entered the army as surgeon's mate for the Laufeldt campaign. He then
lived two years in Paris, perfecting himself in medicine, after which he
established himself in Glasgow. After many years' practice there, he
accompanied the young Duke of Hamilton on various travels through
Europe, and in 1778 settled in London. This was his headquarters for the
rest of his life, till his death at Richmond on 21st January 1803. The
chief interruption to his residence there was his memorable journey with
Lord Lauderdale to Paris in the latter half of 1792, which resulted in
one of the most vivid and trustworthy accounts by an eyewitness of the
opening scenes of the Terror. This _Journal during a Residence in
France_ was published during the next two years. But Moore had earlier
than this, though not very early in his own life, become an author. His
_View of Society and Manners in France, Switzerland, and Germany_, the
result of his journeyings with the Duke, appeared in 1779, with a
continuation relating to Italy two years later; and in 1786 he published
his one famous novel _Zeluco_. After the _Journal_ he returned to novel
writing in _Edward_ (1796) and _Mordaunt_ (1800)--books by no means
contemptible, but suffering from the want of a central interest and of a
more universal grasp of character and manners. He contributed a Life of
Smollett and an Essay on Romance to an edition of his friend's works in
1797. One or two medical books also stand to his credit, while he had
rather unadvisedly added to his admirable _Journal_ a _View of the
Causes of the French Revolution_ which is not worthy of it. His complete
works fill seven volumes.

Of these, the earlier travels are readable enough, and sometimes very
noteworthy in matter. It is almost enough to say that they contain some
of the latest accounts by an Englishman of France while it was still
merry, and of Venice while it was still independent; an early picture of
Alpine travel; very interesting personal sketches of Voltaire and
Frederick the Great; and one memorable passage (remembered and borrowed
by Scott in _Redgauntlet_) telling how at Florence the shadow of Prince
Charlie, passing the Duke of Hamilton in the public walks, fixed his
eyes earnestly on the Duke, as though saying, "Our ancestors were better
acquainted." _Zeluco_ and the _Journal_ alone deserve much attention
from any one but a professed student of literature. The value of the
latter has been admitted by all competent authorities, and it is
enhanced by the fact that Moore was a strong Whig, and was even accused
by some zealots of favouring Jacobinism. His picture, therefore, of the
way in which political revolution glides into ethical anarchy is
certainly unbiassed the other way. Of _Zeluco_ everybody, without
perhaps a very clear knowledge of its authorship, knows one passage--the
extremely humorous letter containing the John Bull contempt of the
sailor Dawson for the foolish nation which clothes its troops in "white,
which is absurd, and blue, which is only fit for the artillery and the
blue horse." But few know much more, though there is close by a much
more elaborate and equally good piece of Smollettian fun in the quarrel
of Buchanan and Targe, the Scotch Whig and Jacobite, over the reputation
of Queen Mary. The book, however, besides the unlucky drawback that
almost all its interest lies in the latter part, has for hero a sort of
lifeless monster of wickedness, who is quite as uninteresting as a
faultless one, and shows little veracity of character except in the
minor personages and episodes. In these, and indeed throughout Moore's
work, there is a curious mixture of convention with extreme shrewdness,
of somewhat commonplace expression with a remarkably pregnant and
humorous conception. But he lacks concentration and finish, and is
therefore never likely to be much read again as a whole.

There may appear to be some slight inconsistency in giving a paragraph,
if only a short one, to Arthur Young where distinct mention has been
refused to Price and Priestley. But Olivier de Serres has secured a
place in all histories of French literature as a representative of
agricultural writing, and Young is our English Serres. Moreover, his
_Survey of France_ has permanent attraction for its picture of the state
of that country just before, and in the earliest days of, the
Revolution. And though his writing is extremely incorrect and unequal,
though its literary effect is much injured by the insertion of
statistical details which sometimes turn it for pages together into a
mere set of tables, he has constant racy phrases, some of which have
passed into the most honourable state of all--that of unidentified
quotation--while more deserve it. He was born in 1741, the son of a
Suffolk clergyman, was connected by marriage with the Burneys, and very
early developed the passion for agricultural theory and practice which
marked his whole life, even when in his later years (he lived till 1820)
he fell under the influence of religious crotchets. His French travels
were published in 1792-94, and form by far his most attractive book,
though his surveys of England and Ireland contain much that is good.
Young was a keen, though not a very consistent or clear-sighted
politician, especially on the side of political economy. But, like other
men of his time, he soon fell away from his first love for the French
Revolution. In the literary, historical, and antiquarian associations of
the places he visited, he seems to have felt no interest whatever.

Helen Maria Williams, with Young and Moore, is our chief English witness
for the state of France and Paris just before and during the early years
of the Revolution. She was one of Johnson's girl pets in his latest
years, but Boswell is certainly justified in suggesting that if the sage
had lived a little longer he would certainly not have repeated his
elegant compliment: "If I am so ill when you are near, what should I be
when you are away?" She outlived this phase also of her life, and did
not die till 1828, being then sixty-five. Even in the early days she had
been a Girondist, not a Jacobin; but she happened to live in Paris
during the outbreak of the Revolution, wrote _Letters from France_,
which had a great popularity, and was hand in glove with most of the
English and Irish revolutionary leaders. Wolfe Tone in his diary speaks
of her as "Miss Jane Bull completely," but neither prudery nor
patriotism would have struck persons less prejudiced than the leader of
the United Irishmen as the leading points of Helen Maria. Her poems,
published in 1786, during her pre-revolutionary days, are dedicated to
Queen Charlotte, and nearly half the first of the two pretty little
volumes (which have a horrific frontispiece of the Princes in the Tower,
by Maria Cosway) is occupied by a stately list of subscribers, with the
Prince of Wales at their head. They have little merit, but are not
uninteresting for their "signs of the times": sonnets, a tale called
_Edwin and Eltruda_, an address to Sensibility, and so forth. But the
longest, _Peru_, is in the full eighteenth century couplet with no sign
of innovation. The _Letters from France_, which extend to eight volumes,
possess, besides the interest of their subject, the advantage of a more
than fair proficiency on the author's part in the formal but not
ungraceful prose of her time, neither unduly Johnsonian nor in any way
slipshod. But it may perhaps be conceded that, but for the interest of
the subject, they would not be of much importance.

The most distinguished members of the Jacobin school, from the literary
point of view, were Thomas Paine and William Godwin. Paine was only a
literary man by accident. He was born at Thetford on 29th January 1737,
in the rank of small tradesman, and subsequently became a custom-house
officer. But he lost his place for debt and dubious conduct in 1774, and
found a more congenial home in America, where he defended the rebellion
of the Colonies in a pamphlet entitled _Common Sense_. His new
compatriots rewarded him pretty handsomely, and after about a dozen
years he returned to Europe, visiting England, which, however, he left
again very shortly (it is said owing to the persuasion of Blake), just
in time to escape arrest. He had already made friends in France, and his
publication of _The Rights of Man_ (1791-92), in answer to Burke's
attack on the Revolution, made him enormously popular in that country.
He was made a French citizen, and elected by the Pas de Calais to the
Convention. His part here was not discreditable. He opposed the King's
execution, and, being expelled the Convention and imprisoned by the
Jacobins, wrote his other notorious work, _The Age of Reason_ (1794-95),
in which he maintained the Deist position against both Atheism and
Christianity. He recovered his liberty and his seat, and was rather a
favourite with Napoleon. In 1802 he went back to America, and died there
(a confirmed drunkard it is said and denied) seven years later. A few
years later still, Cobbett, in one of his sillier moods, brought
Paine's bones back to England, which did not in the least want them.

The coarse and violent expression, as well as the unpopular matter, of
Paine's works may have led to his being rather unfairly treated in the
hot fights of the Revolutionary period; but the attempts which have
recently been made to whitewash him are a mere mistake of reaction, or
paradox, or pure stupidity. The charges which used to be brought against
his moral character matter little; for neither side in these days had,
or in any days has, a monopoly of loose or of holy living. But two facts
will always remain: first, that Paine attacked subjects which all
require calm, and some of them reverent, treatment, in a tone of the
coarsest violence; and, secondly, that he engaged in questions of the
widest reach, and requiring endless thought and reading, with the scanty
equipments and the superabundant confidence of a self-educated man. No
better instance of this latter characteristic could be produced or
required than a sentence in the preface to the second part of the _Age
of Reason_. Here Paine (who admitted that he had written the first part
hastily, in expectation of imprisonment, without a library, and without
so much as a copy of the Scriptures he was attacking at hand, and who
further confessed that he knew neither Hebrew nor Greek nor even Latin)
observes: "I have produced a work that no Bible-believer, though writing
at his ease and with a library of Church books about him, can refute."
In this charming self-satisfaction, which only natural temper assisted
by sufficient ignorance can attain in perfection, Paine strongly
resembles his disciple Cobbett. But the two were also alike in the
effect which this undoubting dogmatism, joined to a very clear, simple,
and forcible style, less correct in Paine's case than in Cobbett's,
produced upon readers even more ignorant than themselves, and greatly
their inferiors in mental strength and literary skill. Paine, indeed,
was as much superior to Cobbett in logical faculty as he was his
inferior in range of attainments and charm of style; while his ignorance
and his arbitrary assumption and exclusion of premises passed unnoticed
by the classes whom he more particularly addressed. He was thus among
the lower and lower middle classes by far the most formidable propagator
of anarchist ideas in religion and politics that England produced; and
his influence lasted till far into the present century, being, it is
said, only superseded by new forms of a similar spirit. But he never
could have had much on persons of education, unless they were prepared
to sympathise with him, or were of singularly weak mind.

William Godwin, on the other hand, affected the "educated persons," and
those of more or less intellectual power, even more forcibly than Paine
affected the vulgar. This influence of his, indeed, is a thing almost
unique, and it has perhaps never yet been succinctly examined and
appraised. Born at Wisbech in 1756, the son of a dissenting minister, he
himself was thoroughly educated for the Presbyterian ministry, and for
some five years discharged its functions. Then in 1783 (again the
critical period) he became unorthodox in theology, and took to
literature, addicting himself to Whig politics. He also did a certain
amount of tutoring. It was not, however, till nearly ten years after he
had first taken to writing that he made his mark, and attained the
influence above referred to by a series of works rather remarkably
different in character. 1793 saw the famous _Inquiry concerning
Political Justice_, which for a time carried away many of the best and
brightest of the youth of England. Next year came the equally famous and
more long-lived novel of _Caleb Williams_, and an extensive criticism
(now much forgotten, but at the time of almost equal importance with
these), published in the _Morning Chronicle_, of the charge of Lord
Chief-Justice Eyre in the trial of Horne Tooke, Holcroft, and others for
high treason. Godwin himself ran some risk of prosecution; and that he
was left unmolested shows that the Pitt government did not strain its
powers, as is sometimes alleged. In 1797 he published _The Enquirer_, a
collection of essays on many different subjects; and in 1799 his second
remarkable novel (it should be said that in his early years of struggle
he had written others which are quite forgotten) _St. Leon_. The
closing years of the period also saw first his connection and then his
marriage with Mary Wollstonecraft, who will be noticed immediately after
him.

It is rather curious that Godwin, who was but forty-four at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, and continued to be a diligent
writer as well as a publisher and bookseller till his death in 1836, his
last years being made comfortable by a place under the Reform Ministry,
never did anything really good after the eighteenth century had closed.
His tragedy _Antonio_ only deserves remembrance because of Lamb's
exquisite account of its damnation. His _Life of Chaucer_ (1801) was one
of the earliest examples of that style of padding and guesswork in
literary biography with which literature has been flooded since. His
later novels--_Fleetwood_, _Mandeville_, _Cloudesley_, etc.--are far
inferior to _Caleb Williams_ (1794) and _St. Leon_ (1799). His _Treatise
of Population_ (1820), in answer to Malthus, was belated and
ineffective; and his _History of the Commonwealth_, in four volumes,
though a very respectable compilation, is nothing more. Godwin's
character was peculiar, and cannot be said to be pleasing. Though
regarded (or at least described) by his enemies as an apostle of
license, he seems to have been a rather cold-blooded person, whose one
passion for Mary Wollstonecraft was at least as much an affair of the
head as of the heart. He was decidedly vain, and as decidedly priggish;
but the worst thing about him was his tendency to "sponge"--a tendency
which he indulged not merely on his generous son-in-law Shelley, but on
almost everybody with whom he came in contact. It is, however, fair to
admit that this tendency (which was probably a legacy of the patronage
system) was very wide-spread at the time; that the mighty genius of
Coleridge succumbed to it to a worse extent even than Godwin did; and
that Southey himself, who for general uprightness and independence has
no superior in literary history, was content for years to live upon the
liberality not merely of an uncle, but of a school comrade, in a way
which in our own days would probably make men of not half his moral
worth seriously uncomfortable.

Estimates of the strictly formal excellence of Godwin's writing have
differed rather remarkably. To take two only, his most recent
biographer, Mr. Kegan Paul, is never weary of praising the "beauty" of
Godwin's style; while Scott, a very competent and certainly not a very
savage critic, speaks of the style of the Chaucer as "uncommonly
depraved, exhibiting the opposite defects of meanness and of bombast."
This last is too severe; but I am unable often to see the great beauty,
the charm, and so forth, which Godwin's admirers have found in his
writings. He shows perhaps at his best in this respect in _St. Leon_,
where there are some passages of a rather artificial, but solemn and
grandiose beauty; and he can seldom be refused the praise of a capable
and easily wielded fashion of writing, equally adapted to exposition,
description, and argument. But that Godwin's taste and style were by no
means impeccable is proved by his elaborate essay on the subject in the
_Enquirer_, where he endeavours to show that the progress of English
prose-writing had been one of unbroken improvement since the time of
Queen Elizabeth, and pours contempt on passages of Shakespeare and
others where more catholic appreciation could not fail to see the
beauty. In practice his special characteristic, which Scott (or Jeffrey,
for the criticism appeared in the _Edinburgh_) selected for special
reprobation in the context of the passage quoted above, was the
accumulation of short sentences, very much in the manner of which, in
the two generations since his death, Macaulay and the late Mr. J. R.
Green, have been the chief exponents. Hazlitt probably learnt this from
Godwin; and I think there is no doubt that Macaulay learnt it from
Hazlitt.

It may, however, be freely admitted that whatever Godwin had to say was
at least likely not to be prejudicially affected by the manner in which
he said it. And he had, as we have seen, a great deal to say in a great
many kinds. The "New Philosophy," as it was called, of the _Political
Justice_ was to a great extent softened, if not positively retracted, in
subsequent editions and publications; but its quality as first set forth
accounts both for the conquest which it, temporarily at least, obtained
over such minds as those of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and for the horror
with which it was regarded elsewhere. Godwin's system was not too
consistent, and many of its parts were borrowed more or less directly
from others: from Locke, from Hume, from the French materialists, from
Jonathan Edwards, and, by way of reaction as well as imitation, from
Rousseau. But Godwin's distinctive claim, if not exactly glory, is that
he was the first systematic Anarchist. His cardinal principle was that
government in itself, and with all its consequences of law, restriction,
punishment, etc., is bad, and to be got rid of. He combined this
(logically enough) with perfectibilism--supposing the individual to be
infinitely susceptible of "melioration" by the right use of reason--and
(rather illogically) with necessarianism. In carrying out his views he
not only did not hesitate at condemning religion, marriage, and all
other restrictions of the kind, but indulged in many curious crotchets
as to the uselessness, if not mischievousness, of gratitude and other
sentiments generally considered virtuous. The indefinite development of
the individual by reason and liberty, and the general welfare of the
community at large, were the only standards that he admitted. And it
should be said, to his credit, that he condemned the use of violence and
physical force _against_ government quite as strongly as their use _by_
government. The establishment of absolute liberty, in the confidence
that it will lead to absolute happiness, was, at first at any rate, the
main idea of the _Political Justice_, and it is easy to understand what
wild work it must have made with heads already heated by the
thunder-weather of change that was pervading Europe.

Godwin has been frequently charged with alarm at the anarchist phantom
he had raised. It is certain not merely that he altered and softened the
_Political Justice_ not a little, but that in his next work of the same
kind, _The Enquirer_, he took both a very different line of
investigation and a different tone of handling. In the preface he
represents it as a sort of inductive complement to the high _a priori_
scheme of his former work; but this is not a sufficient account of the
matter. It is true that his paradoxical rebellion against conventions
appears here and there; and his literary criticism, which was never
strong, may be typified by his contrast of the "hide-bound sportiveness"
of Fielding with the "flowing and graceful hilarity" of Sterne. Indeed,
this sentence takes Godwin's measure pretty finally, and shows that he
was of his age, not for all time. But, on the other hand, it is fair to
say that the essays on "The Study of the Classics" and the "Choice of
Reading," dealing with subjects on which, both then and since, oceans of
cant and nonsense have been poured forth, are nearly as sound as they
can be.

In his purely imaginative work he presents a contrast not much less
strange. We may confine attention here to the two capital examples of
it. _Caleb Williams_ alone has survived as a book of popular reading,
and it is no small tribute to its power that, a full century after its
publication, it is still kept on sale in sixpenny editions. Yet on no
novel perhaps is it so difficult to adjust critical judgment, either by
the historical or the personal methods. Both its general theme--the
discovery of a crime committed by a man of high reputation and unusual
moral worth, and the persecution of the discoverer by the criminal--and
its details, are thoroughly leavened and coloured by Godwin's political
and social views at the time; and either this or some other defect has
made it readable with great difficulty at all times by some persons,
among whom I am bound to enrol myself. Yet the ingenuity of its
construction, in spite of the most glaring impossibilities, the striking
situations it contains, and no doubt other merits, have always secured
readers for it. _St. Leon_, a romance of the _elixir vitæ_, has no
corresponding central interest, and, save in the amiable but very
conventional figure of the heroine Marguerite, who is said to have been
studied from Mary Wollstonecraft, no interest of character; while its
defects of local colour and historical truth are glaring. But Godwin,
who was in so many ways a mirror of the new thought of the time, had
caught by anticipation something of its nascent spirit of romance. He is
altogether a rather puzzling person; and perhaps the truest explanation
of the puzzle, as well as certainly the most comfortable to the critic,
is that his genius and literary temperament were emphatically crude and
undeveloped, that he was a prophet rather than anything else, and that
he had the incoherencies and the inconsistencies almost inseparable from
prophecy.

Even if fate and metaphysical aid had not conjoined Godwin and Mary
Wollstonecraft in the closest bond possible between man and woman, it
would have been proper to mention their names together as authors. For
as Godwin's "New Philosophy" was the boldest attempt made by any man of
the time in print to overthrow received conventions of the relations of
man to man, and incidentally of man to woman, so was his wife's
_Vindication of the Rights of Woman_ a complement of it in relation to
the status of the other sex as such. She was rather hardly treated in
her own time; Horace Walpole calling her, it is said (I have not
verified the quotation), a "hyena in petticoats": it would be at least
as just to call Lord Orford a baboon in breeches. And though of late
years she has been made something of a heroine, it is to be feared that
admiration has been directed rather to her crotchets than to her
character. This last appears to have been as lovable as her hap was ill.
The daughter of an Irishman of means, who squandered them and became a
burden on his children; the sister of an attorney who was selfishly
indifferent to his sisters--she had to fend for herself almost entirely.
At one time she and her sisters kept school; then she was, thanks to the
recommendation of Mr. Prior, a master at Eton, introduced as governess
to the family of Lord Kingsborough; then, after doing hack-work for
Johnson, the chief Liberal publisher of the period, she went to Paris,
and unluckily fell in with a handsome scoundrel, Gilbert Imlay, an
American soldier. She lived with him, he deserted her, and she nearly
committed the suicide which was actually the fate of her unfortunate
daughter by him, Fanny Imlay or Godwin. Only at the last had she a
glimpse of happiness. Godwin, who had some weaknesses, but who was not a
scoundrel, met her, and fell in love with her, and as both had
independently demonstrated that marriage was a failure, they naturally
married; but she died a week after giving birth to a daughter--the
future Mrs. Shelley. The _Vindication of the Rights of Woman_, on which
Mary Wollstonecraft's fame as an author almost wholly rests, is in some
ways a book nearly as faulty as it can be. It is not well written; it is
full of prejudices quite as wrong-headed as those it combats; it shows
very little knowledge either of human nature or of good society; and its
"niceness," to use the word in what was then its proper sense, often
goes near to the nasty. But its protest on the one hand against the
"proper" sentimentality of such English guides of female youth as Drs.
Fordyce and Gregory, on the other against the "improper" sentimentality
of Rousseau, is genuine and generous. Many of its positions and
contentions may be accepted unhesitatingly to-day by those who are by no
means enamoured of advanced womanhood; and Mary, as contrasted with most
of her rights-of-women followers, is curiously free from bumptiousness
and the general qualities of the virago. She had but ill luck in life,
and perhaps showed no very good judgment in letters, but she had neither
bad brains nor bad blood; and the references to her, long after her
death, by such men as Southey, show the charm which she exercised.

With Godwin also is very commonly connected Thomas Holcroft (or, as Lamb
always preferred to spell the name, "_Ould_craft"), a curiosity of
literature and a rather typical figure of the time. Holcroft was born in
London in December 1745, quite in the lowest ranks, and himself rose
from being stable-boy at Newmarket, through the generally democratic
trade of shoemaking, to quasi-literary positions as schoolmaster and
clerk, and then to the dignity of actor. He was about thirty-five when
he first began regular authorship; and during the rest of his life he
wrote four novels, some score and a half of plays, and divers other
works, none of which is so good as his Autobiography, published after
his death by Hazlitt, and said to be in part that writer's work. It
would have been fortunate for Holcroft if he had confined himself to
literature; for some of his plays, notably _The Road to Ruin_, brought
him in positively large sums of money, and his novels were fairly
popular. But he was a violent democrat,--some indeed attributed to him
the origination of most of the startling things in Godwin's _Political
Justice_,--and in 1794 he was tried, though with no result, for high
treason, with Horne Tooke and others. This brought him into the society
of the young Jacobin school,--Coleridge, and the rest,--but was
disastrous to the success of his plays; and when he went abroad in 1799
he entered on an extraordinary business of buying old masters (which
were rubbish) and sending them to England, where they generally sold for
nothing. He returned, however, and died on 23rd March 1809.

Holcroft's theatre will best receive such notice as it requires in
connection with the other drama of the century. Of his novels, _Alwyn_,
the first, had to do with his experiences as an actor, and _Hugh Trevor_
is also supposed to have been more or less autobiographical. Holcroft's
chief novel, however, is _Anna St. Ives_, a book in no less than seven
volumes, though not very large ones, which was published in 1792, and
which exhibits no small affinities to Godwin's _Caleb Williams_, and
indeed to the _Political Justice_ itself. And Godwin, who was not above
acknowledging mental obligations, if he was rather ill at discharging
pecuniary ones, admits the influence which Holcroft had upon him. _Anna
St. Ives_, which, like so many of the other novels of its day, is in
letters, is worth reading by those who can spare the time. But it cannot
compare, for mere amusement, with the very remarkable _Memoir_ above
referred to. Only about a fourth of this is said to be in Holcroft's own
words; but Hazlitt has made excellent matter of the rest, and it
includes a good deal of diary and other authentic work. In his own part
Holcroft shows himself a master of the vernacular, as well as (what he
undoubtedly was) a man of singular shrewdness and strength of mental
temper.

The Novel school of the period (to which Holcroft introduces us) is full
and decidedly interesting, though it contains at the best one
masterpiece, _Vathek_, and a large number of more or less meritorious
attempts in false styles. The kind was very largely written--much more
so than is generally thought. Thus Godwin, in his early struggling days,
and long before the complete success of _Caleb Williams_, wrote, as has
been mentioned, for trifling sums of money (five and ten guineas), two
or three novels which even the zeal of his enthusiastic biographer does
not seem to have been able to recover. Nor did the circulating library,
even then a flourishing institution, lack hands more or less eminent to
work for it, or customers to take off its products. The Minerva Press,
much cited but little read, had its origin in this our time; and this
time is entitled to the sole and single credit of starting and carrying
far a bastard growth of fiction, the "tale of terror," which continued
to be cultivated in its simplest form for at least half a century, and
which can hardly be said to be quite obsolete yet. But as usual we must
proceed by special names, and there is certainly no lack of them.
"Zeluco" Moore has been dealt with already; Day, the eccentric author of
_Sanford and Merton_, belongs mainly to an earlier period, and died,
still a young man, in the year of the French Revolution; but, besides,
Holcroft, Beckford, Bage, Cumberland, Mrs. Radcliffe, and Monk Lewis,
with Mrs. Inchbald, are distinctly "illustrations" of the time, and must
have more or less separate mention.

William Beckford is one of the problems of English literature. He was
one of the richest men in England, and his long life--1760 to 1844--was
occupied for the most part not merely with the collection, but with the
reading of books. That he could write as well as read he showed as a
mere boy by his satirical _Memoirs of Painters_, and by the
great-in-little novel of _Vathek_ (1783), respecting the composition of
which in French or English divers fables are told. Then he published
nothing for forty years, till in 1834 and 1835 he issued his _Travels in
Italy, Spain, and Portugal_, recollections of his earliest youth. These
travels have extraordinary merits of their kind; but _Vathek_ is a kind
almost to itself. The history of the Caliph, in so far as it is a satire
on unlimited power, is an eighteenth century commonplace; while many
traits in it are obviously imitated from Voltaire. But the figure of
Nouronihar, which Byron perhaps would have equalled if he could, stands
alone in literature as a fantastic projection of the potentiality of
evil magnificence in feminine character; and the closing scenes in the
domain of Eblis have the grandeur of Blake combined with that finish
which Blake's temperament, joined to his ignorance of literature and his
lack of scholarship, made it impossible for him to give. The book is
quite unique. It could hardly, in some of its weaker parts especially,
have been written at any other time; and yet its greater characteristics
have nothing to do with that time. In the florid kind of supernatural
story it has no equal. Only Dante, Beckford, and Scott in _Wandering
Willie's Tale_ have given us Hells that are worthy of the idea of Hell.

Except that both were very much of their time, it would be impossible to
imagine a more complete contrast than that which exists between Beckford
and Bage. The former was, as has been said, one of the richest men in
England, the creator of two "Paradises" at Fonthill and Cintra, the
absolute arbiter of his time and his pleasures, a Member of Parliament
while he chose to be so, a student, fierce and recluse, the husband of a
daughter of the Gordons, and the father of a mother of the Hamiltons,
the collector, disperser, bequeather of libraries almost unequalled in
magnificence and choice. Robert Bage, who was born in 1728 and died in
1801, was in some ways a typical middle-class Englishman. He was a
papermaker, and the son of a papermaker; he was never exactly affluent
nor exactly needy; he was apparently a Quaker by education and a
freethinker by choice; and between 1781 and 1796, obliged by this reason
or that to stain the paper which he made, he produced six novels: _Mount
Henneth_, _Barham Downs_, _The Fair Syrian_, _James Wallace_, _Man as he
is_, and _Hermsprong_. The first, second, and fourth of these were
admitted by Scott to the "Ballantyne Novels," the others, though
_Hermsprong_ is admittedly Bage's best work, were not. It is impossible
to say that there is genius in Bage; yet he is a very remarkable writer,
and there is noticeable in him that singular _fin de siècle_ tendency
which has reasserted itself a century later. An imitator of Fielding and
Smollett in general plan,--of the latter specially in the dangerous
scheme of narrative by letter,--Bage added to their methods the purpose
of advocating a looser scheme of morals and a more anarchical system of
government. In other words, Bage, though a man well advanced in years at
the date of the Revolution, exhibits for us distinctly the spirit which
brought the Revolution about. He is a companion of Godwin and of Mary
Wollstonecraft; and though it must be admitted that, as in other cases,
the presence of "impropriety" in him by no means implies the absence of
dulness, he is full of a queer sort of undeveloped and irregular
cleverness.

The most famous, though not the only novel of Richard Cumberland;
_Henry_, shows the same tendency to break loose from British decorum,
even such decorum as had really been in the main observed by the
much-abused pens of Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne himself; but it has
little purpose and indeed little vigour of any kind. Cumberland clung as
close as he could to the method of Fielding, including the preliminary
dissertation or meditation, but he would be a very strange reader who
should mistake the two.

The school of Bage and Cumberland, the former of whom bears some little
resemblance to his countrywoman George Eliot, was, with or without
Bage's purpose, continued more or less steadily; indeed, it may be said
to be little more than a variant, with local colour, of the ordinary
school of novel-writing. But it was not this school which was to give
tone to the period. The "tale of terror" had been started by Horace
Walpole in the _Castle of Otranto_, and had, as we have seen, received a
new and brilliant illustration in the hands of Beckford. But the genius
of the author of _Vathek_ could not be followed; the talent of the
author of the _Castle of Otranto_ was more easily imitated. How far the
practice of the Germans (who had themselves imitated Walpole, and whose
work began in the two last decades of the century to have a great reflex
influence upon England) was responsible for the style of story which,
after Mrs. Radcliffe and Monk Lewis had set the fashion, dominated the
circulating libraries for years, is a question not easy and perhaps not
necessary to answer positively. I believe myself that no foreign
influence ever causes a change in national taste; it merely coincides
therewith. But the fact of the set in the tide is unmistakable and
undeniable. For some years the two authors just mentioned rode paramount
in the affections of English novel readers; before long Miss Austen
devoted her early and delightful effort, _Northanger Abbey_, to
satirising the taste for them, and quoted or invented a well-known list
of blood-curdling titles;[2] the morbid talent of Maturin gave a fresh
impulse to it, even after the healthier genius of Scott had already
revolutionised the general scheme of novel-writing; and yet later still
an industrious literary hack, Leitch Ritchie, was able to issue, and it
may be presumed to find readers for, a variety of romance the titles of
which might strike a hasty practitioner of the kind of censure usual in
biblical criticism as a designed parody of Miss Austen's own catalogue.
The style, indeed, in the wide sense has never lost favour. But in the
special Radcliffian form it reigned for some thirty years, and was
widely popular for nearly fifty.

Anne Radcliffe, whose maiden name was Ward, was born on 9th July 1764
and died on 7th February 1822. One of her novels, _Gaston de
Blondeville_, was published posthumously; but otherwise her whole
literary production took place between the years 1789 and 1797. The
first of these years saw _The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne_, a very
immature work; the last _The Italian_, which is perhaps the best.
Between them appeared _A Sicilian Romance_ (1790), _The Romance of the
Forest_ (1791), and the far-famed _Mysteries of Udolpho_ in 1795.
Matthew Gregory Lewis, who, like Beckford, was a West-Indian landowner
and member for Hindon, and was well-to-do if not extremely wealthy, was
nine years younger than Mrs. Radcliffe, and did not produce his famous
_Monk_ till the same year which saw _Udolpho_. He published a good deal
of other work in prose, verse, and drama; the most noteworthy of the
second class being _Tales of Terror_, to which Scott contributed, and
the most noteworthy of the third _The Castle Spectre_. Lewis, who,
despite some foibles, was decidedly popular in the literary and
fashionable society of his time, died in 1818 at the age of forty-five
on his way home from the West Indies. Although he would have us
understand that _The Monk_ was written some time before its actual
publication, Lewis' position as a direct imitator of Mrs. Radcliffe is
unmistakable; and although he added to the characteristics of her novels
a certain appeal to "Lubricity" from which she was completely free, the
general scheme of the two writers, as well as that of all their school,
varies hardly at all. The supernatural in Mrs. Radcliffe's case is
mainly, if not wholly, what has been called "the explained
supernatural,"--that is to say, the apparently ghostly, and certainly
ghastly, effects are usually if not always traced to natural causes,
while in most if not all of her followers the demand for more highly
spiced fare in the reader, and perhaps a defect of ingenuity in the
writer, leaves the devils and witches as they were. In all, without
exception, castles with secret passages, trap-doors, forests, banditti,
abductions, sliding panels, and other apparatus and paraphernalia of the
kind play the main part. The actual literary value is, on the whole,
low; though Mrs. Radcliffe is not without glimmerings, and it is
exceedingly curious to note that, just before the historical novel was
once for all started by Scott, there is in all these writers an absolute
and utter want of comprehension of historical propriety, of local and
temporal colour, and of all the marks which were so soon to distinguish
fiction. Yet at the very same time the yearning after the historical is
shown in the most unmistakable fashion from Godwin down to the Misses
Lee, Harriet and Sophia (the latter of whom in 1783 produced, in _The
Recess_, a preposterous Elizabethan story, which would have liked to be
a historical novel), and other known and unknown writers.

Another lady deserves somewhat longer notice. Hannah More, once a
substantially famous person in literature, is now chiefly remembered by
her association with great men of letters, such as Johnson in her youth,
Macaulay and De Quincey in her old age. She was born as early as 1745
near Bristol, and all her life was a Somerset worthy. She began--a
curious beginning for so serious a lady, but with reforming
intentions--to write for the stage, published _The Search after
Happiness_ when she was seventeen, and had two rather dreary tragedies,
_Percy_ and the _Fatal Secret_, acted, Garrick being a family friend of
hers. Becoming, as her day said, "pious," she wrote "Sacred Dramas," and
at Cowslip Green, Barley Wood, and Clifton produced "Moral Essays," the
once famous novel of _Coelebs in Search of a Wife_, and many tracts,
the best known of which is _The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain_. She died
at a great age on 7th September 1833. Hannah More is not to be spoken of
with contempt, except by ignorance or incompetence. She had real
abilities, and was a woman of the world. But she was very unfortunately
parted in respect of time, coming just before the days when it became
possible for a lady to be decent in literature without being dull.

If a book and not a chapter were allowed about this curious, and on the
whole rather neglected and undervalued, Fifth Act of the eighteenth
century, many of its minor literary phenomena would have to be noticed:
such as the last state of periodicals before the uprising of the
_Edinburgh Review_, and the local literary coteries, the most notable of
which was that of Norwich, with the Aldersons, Sayers the poet, who
taught Southey and others to try blank verse in other measures than the
decasyllabic, William Taylor, the apostle of German literature in
England, and others. But, as it is, we must concentrate our attention on
its main lines.

In these lines the poetical pioneers, the political and other satirists,
the revolutionary propagandists, and the novelists of terror, are the
four classes of writers that distinguish the period 1780 to 1800; and
perhaps they distinguish it sufficiently, at least for those with whom
historical genesis and connection atone to some extent for want of the
first order of intrinsic interest. In less characteristic classes and in
isolated literary personalities the time was not extremely rich, though
it was not quite barren. We can here only notice cursorily the
theological controversialists who, like Paley, Horsley, and Watson,
waged war against the fresh outburst of aggressive Deism coinciding with
the French Revolution: the scholars, such as, in their different ways,
Dr. Parr, the Whig "moon" of Dr. Johnson; Porson, the famous Cambridge
Grecian, drinker, and democrat; Taylor the Platonist, a strange person
who translated most of the works of Plato and was said to have carried
his discipleship to the extent of a positive Paganism; Gilbert
Wakefield, a miscellaneous writer who wrote rapidly and with little
judgment, but with some scholarship and even some touches of genius, on
a great variety of subjects; Jacob Bryant, mythologist, theologian, and
historical critic, a man of vast learning but rather weak critical
power; and many others. Of some of these we may indeed have more to say
later, as also of the much-abused Malthus, whose famous book, in part
one of the consequences of Godwin, appeared in 1798; while as for drama,
we shall return to that too. Sheridan survived through the whole of the
time and a good deal beyond it; but his best work was done, and the
chief dramatists of the actual day were Colman, Holcroft, Cumberland,
and the farce-writer O'Keefe, a man of humour and a lively fancy.

One, however, of these minor writers has too much of what has been
called "the interest of origins" not to have a paragraph to himself.
William Gilpin, who prided himself on his connection with Bernard
Gilpin, the so-called "Apostle of the North" in the sixteenth century,
was born at Carlisle. But he is best known in connection with the New
Forest, where, after taking his degree at Oxford, receiving orders, and
keeping a school for some time, he was appointed to the living of
Boldre. This he held till his death in 1814. Gilpin was not a
secularly-minded parson by any means; but his literary fame is derived
from the series of Picturesque Tours (_The Highlands_, 1778; _The Wye
and South Wales_, 1782; _The Lakes_, 1789; _Forest Scenery_, 1791; and
_The West of England and the Isle of Wight_, 1798) which he published in
the last quarter of the century. They were extremely popular, they set a
fashion which may be said never to have died out since, and they
attained the seal of parody in the famous _Dr. Syntax_ of William Combe
(1741-1823), an Eton and Oxford man who spent a fortune and then wrote
an enormous amount of the most widely various work in verse and prose,
of which little but _Syntax_ itself (1812 _sqq._) is remembered. Gilpin
himself is interesting as an important member of "the naturals," as they
have been oddly and equivocally called. His style is much more florid
and less just than Gilbert White's, and his observation correspondingly
less true. But he had a keen sense of natural beauty and did much to
instill it into others.

In all the work of the time, however, great and small, from
the half-unconscious inspiration of Burns and Blake to the
common journey-work of book-making, we shall find the same
character--incessantly recurring, and unmistakable afterwards if not
always recognisable at the time--of transition, of decay and seed-time
mingled with and crossing each other. There are no distinct spontaneous
literary schools: the forms which literature takes are either occasional
and dependent upon outward events, such as the wide and varied attack
and defence consequent upon the French Revolution, or else fantastic,
trivial, reflex. Sometimes the absence of any distinct and creative
impulse reveals itself in work really good and useful, such as the
editing of old writers, of which the labours of Malone are the chief
example and the forgeries of Ireland the corresponding corruption; or
the return to their study æsthetically, in which Headley, a now
forgotten critic, did good work. Sometimes it resulted in such things
as the literary reputation (which was an actual thing after a kind) of
persons like Sir James Bland Burges, Under-Secretary of State,
poetaster, connoisseur, and general fribble. Yet all the while, in
schools and universities, in London garrets and country villages, there
was growing up, and sometimes showing itself pretty unmistakably, the
generation which was to substitute for this trying and trifling the
greatest work in verse, and not the least in prose, that had been done
for two hundred years. The _Lyrical Ballads_ of 1798, the clarion-call
of the new poetry, so clearly sounded, so inattentively heard, might
have told all, and did tell some, what this generation was about to do.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Although _The Baviad_ and _The Mæviad_ are well worth reading, it
may be questioned whether they are as amusing as their chief quarry,
_The British Album_, "containing the poems of Della Crusca, Anna
Matilda, Benedict, Cesario, The Bard, etc.," the two little volumes of
which attained their third edition in 1790. "Della Crusca," or Robert
Merry (1755-98), was a gentleman by birth, and of means, with a Harrow
and Oxford training, and some service in the army. Strange to say, there
is testimony of good wits that he was by no means a fool; yet such
drivelling rubbish as he and his coadjutors wrote even the present day
has hardly seen.

[2] I used to think these titles sprouts of the author's brain; but a
correspondent assured me that one or two at least are certainly genuine.
Possibly, therefore all are.



CHAPTER II

THE NEW POETRY


The opening years of the eighth decade of the eighteenth century saw, in
unusually close conjunction, the births of the men who were to be the
chief exponents, and in their turn the chief determining forces, of the
new movement. The three greatest were born, Wordsworth in 1770, Scott in
1771, and Coleridge in 1772; Southey, who partly through accident was to
form a trinity with Wordsworth and Coleridge, and who was perhaps the
most typical instance of a certain new kind of man of letters, followed
in 1774; while Lamb and Hazlitt, the chief romantic pioneers in
criticism, Jeffrey and Sydney Smith, the chief classical reactionaries
therein, were all born within the decade. But the influence of Scott was
for various reasons delayed a little; and critics naturally come after
creators. So that the time-honoured eminence of the "Lake
Poets"--Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey--need not be disturbed.

The day of the birth of William Wordsworth was the 7th of April, the
place Cockermouth. His father was an attorney, and, as Lord Lonsdale's
agent, a man of some means and position; but on his death in 1783 the
eccentric and unamiable character of the then Lord Lonsdale, by delaying
the settlement of accounts, put the family in considerable difficulties.
Wordsworth, however, was thoroughly educated at Hawkshead Grammar School
and St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in
1791. He travelled in France, and for a time, like many young men, was
a fervent Republican; but, like all the nobler of those who had "hailed
the dawn of the French Revolution," he lived to curse its noon. He
published early, his first volume of poems bearing the date 1793; but,
though that attention to nature which was always his chief note appeared
here, the work is not by any means of an epoch-making character. He was
averse from every profession; but the fates were kind to him, and a
legacy of £900 from his friend Raisley Calvert made a man of such simple
tastes as his independent, for a time at least. On the strength of it he
settled first at Racedown in Dorset, and then at Alfoxden in Somerset,
in the companionship of his sister Dorothy; and at the second of the two
places in the neighbourhood of Coleridge. Massive and original as
Wordsworth's own genius was, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the
effect, both in stimulus and guidance, of the influence of these two;
for Dorothy Wordsworth was a woman of a million, and Coleridge,
marvellous as were his own powers, was almost more marvellous in the
unique Socratic character of his effect on those who possessed anything
to work upon. The two poets produced in 1798 the _Lyrical Ballads_,
among the contents of which it is sufficient to mention _Tintern Abbey_
and _The Ancient Mariner;_ and they subsequently travelled together in
Germany. Then Wordsworth returned to his native lakes and never left
them for long, abiding first at or near Grasmere, and from 1813 at his
well-known home of Rydal Mount. When Lord Lonsdale died in 1802, his
successor promptly and liberally settled the Wordsworth claims. The poet
soon married his cousin Mary Hutchinson; and Lord Lonsdale, not
satisfied with atoning for his predecessor's injustice, procured him, in
the year of his migration to Rydal, the office of Distributor of Stamps
for Westmoreland--an office which was almost a sinecure, and was, for a
man of Wordsworth's tastes, more than amply paid. It is curious, and a
capital instance to prove that the malignity of fortune has itself been
maligned, that the one English poet who was constitutionally incapable
of writing for bread never was under any necessity to do so. For full
sixty years Wordsworth wandered much, read little, meditated without
stint, and wrote, though never hurriedly, yet almost incessantly. The
dates of his chief publications may be best given in a note.[3] For some
years his poems were greeted by the general public and by a few of its
critical guides with storms of obloquy and ridicule; but Wordsworth,
though never indifferent to criticism, was severely disdainful of it,
and held on his way. From the first the brightest spirits of England had
been his passionate though by no means always undiscriminating admirers;
and about the end of the first quarter of the century the public began
to come round. Oxford, always first to recognise, if not always first to
produce, the greatest achievements of English literature, gave him its
D.C.L. in 1839. He received a pension of £300 a year in 1842 from Sir
Robert Peel, who, unlike most English Prime Ministers, cared for men of
letters; the laureateship fell to him in right of right on Southey's
death in 1843, and he died on the 23rd of April 1850, having come to
fourscore years almost without labour, and without many heavy sorrows.

Of his character not much need be said. Like that of Milton, whom he in
many ways resembled (they had even both, as Hartley Coleridge has
pointed out, brothers named Christopher), it was not wholly amiable, and
the defects in it were no doubt aggravated by his early condition (for
it must be remembered that till he was two and thirty his prospects were
of the most disquieting character), by the unjust opposition which the
rise of his reputation met with, and by his solitary life in contact
only with worshipping friends and connections. One of these very
worshippers confesses that he was "inhumanly arrogant"; and he was also,
what all arrogant men are not, rude. He was entirely self-centred, and
his own circle of interests and tastes was not wide. It is said that he
would cut books with a buttery knife, and after that it is probably
unnecessary to say any more, for the fact "surprises by itself" an
indictment of almost infinite counts.

But his genius is not so easily despatched. I have said that it is now
as a whole universally recognised, and I cannot but think that Mr.
Matthew Arnold was wrong when he gave a contrary opinion some fifteen
years ago. He must have been biassed by his own remembrance of earlier
years, when Wordsworth was still a bone of contention. I should say that
never since I myself was an undergraduate, that is to say, for the last
thirty years, has there been any dispute among Englishmen whose opinion
was worth taking, and who cared for poetry at all, on the general merits
of Wordsworth. But this agreement is compatible with a vast amount of
disagreement in detail; and Mr. Arnold's own estimate, as where he
compares Wordsworth with Molière (who was not a poet at all, though he
sometimes wrote very tolerable verse), weighs him with poets of the
second class like Gray and Manzoni, and finally admits him for his
dealings with "life," introduces fresh puzzlements into the valuation.
There is only one principle on which that valuation can properly
proceed, and this is the question, "Is the poet rich in essentially
poetical moments of the highest power and kind?" And by poetical moments
I mean those instances of expression which, no matter what their
subject, their intention, or their context may be, cause instantaneously
in the fit reader a poetical impression of the intensest and most moving
quality.

Let us consider the matter from this point of view.[4]

The chief poetical influences under which Wordsworth began to write
appear to have been those of Burns and Milton; both were upon him to the
last, and both did him harm as well as good. It was probably in direct
imitation of Burns, as well as in direct opposition to the prevailing
habits of the eighteenth century, that he conceived the theory of poetic
diction which he defended in prose and exemplified in verse. The chief
point of this theory was the use of the simplest and most familiar
language, and the double fallacy is sufficiently obvious. Wordsworth
forgot that the reason why the poetic diction of the three preceding
generations had become loathsome was precisely this, that it had become
familiar; while the familiar Scots of Burns was in itself unfamiliar to
the English ear. On the other hand, he borrowed from Milton, and used
more and more as he grew older, a distinctly stiff and unvernacular form
of poetic diction itself. Few except extreme and hopeless Wordsworthians
now deny that the result of his attempts at simple language was and is
far more ludicrous than touching. The wonderful _Affliction of Margaret_
does not draw its power from the neglect of poetic diction, but from the
intensity of emotion which would carry off almost any diction, simple or
affected; while on the other hand such pieces as "We are Seven," as the
"Anecdote for Fathers," and as "Alice Fell," not to mention "Betty Foy"
and others, which specially infuriated Wordsworth's own contemporaries,
certainly gain nothing from their namby-pamby dialect, and sometimes go
near to losing the beauty that really is in them by dint of it.
Moreover, the Miltonic blank verse and sonnets--at their best of a
stately magnificence surpassed by no poet--have a tendency to become
heavy and even dull when the poetic fire fails to fuse and shine through
them. In fact it may be said of Wordsworth, as of most poets with
theories, that his theories helped him very little, and sometimes
hindered him a great deal.

His real poetical merits are threefold, and lie first in the
inexplicable, the ultimate, felicity of phrase which all great poets
must have, and which only great poets have; secondly, in his matchless
power of delineating natural objects; and lastly, more properly, and
with most special rarity of all, in the half-pantheistic mysticism which
always lies behind this observation, and which every now and then breaks
through it, puts it, as mere observation, aside, and blazes in unmasked
fire of rapture. The summits of Wordsworth's poetry, the "Lines Written
at Tintern Abbey" and the "Ode on Intimations of Immortality,"--poems of
such astonishing magnificence that it is only more astonishing that any
one should have read them and failed to see what a poet had come before
the world,--are the greatest of many of these revelations or
inspirations. It is indeed necessary to read Wordsworth straight
through--a proceeding which requires that the reader shall be in good
literary training, but is then feasible, profitable, and even pleasant
enough--to discern the enormous height at which the great Ode stands
above its author's other work. The _Tintern Abbey_ lines certainly
approach it nearest: many smaller things--"The Affliction of Margaret,"
"The Daffodils," and others--group well under its shadow, and
innumerable passages and even single lines, such as that which all good
critics have noted as lightening the darkness of the _Prelude_--

    Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone--

must of course be added to the poet's credit. But the Ode remains not
merely the greatest, but the one really, dazzlingly, supremely great
thing he ever did. Its theory has been scorned or impugned by some;
parts of it have even been called nonsense by critics of weight. But,
sound or unsound, sense or nonsense, it is poetry, and magnificent
poetry, from the first line to the last--poetry than which there is none
better in any language, poetry such as there is not perhaps more than a
small volume-full in all languages. The second class of merit, that of
vivid observation, abounds whereever the poems are opened. But the
examples of the first are chiefly found in the lyrics "My Heart Leaps
up," "The Sparrow's Nest"; the famous daffodil poem which Jeffrey
thought "stuff," which some say Dorothy wrote chiefly, and which is
almost perfect of its kind; the splendid opening of the "Lines to
Hartley Coleridge," which connect themselves with the "Immortality
Ode"; the exquisite group of the "Cuckoo," the best patches of the Burns
poems, and the three "Yarrows"; the "Peel Castle" stanzas; and, to cut a
tedious catalogue short, the hideously named but in parts perfectly
beautiful "Effusion on the Death of James Hogg," the last really
masterly thing that the poet did. In some of these we may care little
for the poem as a whole, nothing for the moral the poet wishes to draw.
But the poetic moments seize us, the poetic flash dazzles our eyes, and
the whole divine despair or not more divine rapture which poetry causes
comes upon us.

One division of Wordsworth's work is so remarkable that it must have
such special and separate mention as it is here possible to give it; and
that is his exercises in the sonnet, wherein to some tastes he stands
only below Shakespeare and on a level with Milton. The sonnet, after
being long out of favour, paying for its popularity between Wyatt and
Milton by neglect, had, principally it would seem on the very inadequate
example of Bowles (see _infra_), become a very favourite form with the
new Romantics. But none of them wrote it with the steady persistence,
and none except Keats with the occasional felicity, of Wordsworth. Its
thoughtfulness suited his bent, and its limits frustrated his prolixity,
though, it must be owned, he somewhat evaded this benign influence by
writing in series. And the sonnets on "The Venetian Republic," on the
"Subjugation of Switzerland," that beginning "The world is too much with
us," that in November 1806, the first "Personal Talk," the magnificent
"Westminster Bridge," and the opening at least of that on Scott's
departure from Abbotsford, are not merely among the glories of
Wordsworth, they are among the glories of English poetry.

Unfortunately these moments of perfection are, in the poet's whole work,
and especially in that part of it which was composed in the later half
of his long life, by no means very frequent. Wordsworth was absolutely
destitute of humour, from which it necessarily followed that his
self-criticism was either non-existent or constantly at fault. His
verse was so little facile, it paid so little regard to any of the
common allurements of narrative-interest or varied subject, it was so
necessary for it to reach the full white heat, the absolute instant of
poetic projection, that when it was not very good it was apt to be
scarcely tolerable. It is nearly impossible to be duller than Wordsworth
at his dullest, and unluckily it is as impossible to find a poet of
anything like his powers who has given himself the license to be dull so
often and at such length. The famous "Would he had blotted a thousand"
applies to him with as much justice as it was unjust in its original
application; and it is sometimes for pages together a positive struggle
to remember that one is reading one of the greatest of English poets,
and a poet whose influence in making other poets has been second hardly
to that of Spenser, of Keats, or of the friend who follows him in our
survey.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonshire, at Ottery St. Mary, of
which place his father was vicar, on the 21st October 1772. The family
was merely respectable before his day, but since it has been of very
unusual distinction, intellectual and other. He went to Christ's
Hospital when he was not quite ten years old, and in 1791 was admitted
to an exhibition at Jesus College, Cambridge, with his thoughts already
directed to poetry by the sonnets of Bowles above mentioned, and with a
reputation, exaggerated perhaps, but certainly not invented, in Lamb's
famous "Elia" paper on his old school. Indeed, high as is Coleridge's
literary position on the strength of his writing alone, his talk and its
influence on hearers have been unanimously set higher still. He did very
well at first, gaining the Browne Medal for Greek Verse and
distinguishing himself for the Craven Scholarship; but he speedily fell
in love, in debt, it is suspected in drink, and it is known into various
political and theological heresies. He left Cambridge and enlisted at
Reading in the 15th Light Dragoons. He obtained his discharge, however,
in three or four months, and no notice except a formal admonition
appears to have been taken of his resuming his position at Cambridge.
Indeed he was shortly after elected to a Foundation Scholarship. But in
the summer of 1794 he visited Oxford, and after he had fallen in with
Southey, whose views were already Jacobinical, the pair engaged
themselves to Pantisocracy[5] and the Miss Frickers. This curious and
often told story cannot be even summarised here. Its immediate result
was that Coleridge left the University without taking a degree, and,
though not at once, married Sarah Fricker on October 1795. Thenceforward
he lived on literature and his friends, especially the latter. He tried
Unitarian preaching and newspaper work, of which at one time or another
he did a good deal. The curious ins and outs of Coleridge's strange
though hardly eventful life have, after being long most imperfectly
known, been set forth in fullest measure by Mr. Dykes Campbell. It must
suffice here to say that, after much wandering, being unable or
unwilling to keep house with his own family, he found asylums, first
with some kind folk named Morgan, and then in the house of Mr. Gillman
at Hampstead, where for years he held forth to rising men of letters,
and where he died on the 25th June 1834. His too notorious craving for
opium had never been conquered, though it had latterly been kept in some
check.

Despite this unfortunate failing and his general inability to carry out
any schemes of work on the great scale, Coleridge's literary production
was very considerable, and, except the verse, it has never been
completely collected or systematically edited. He began verse-writing
very early, and early found a vent for it in the _Morning Chronicle_,
then a Radical organ. He wrote _The Fall of Robespierre_ in conjunction
with Southey in 1794, and published it. Some prose pamphlets followed,
and then Cottle, the Bristol providence of this group of men of letters,
offered thirty guineas for a volume of poems, which duly appeared in
1796. Meanwhile Coleridge had started a singular newspaper called _The
Watchman_, which saw ten numbers, appearing every eighth day. The
_Lyrical Ballads_ followed in 1798, and meanwhile Coleridge had written
the play of _Osorio_ (to appear long afterwards as _Remorse_), had begun
_Christabel_, and had contributed some of his best poems to the _Morning
Post_. His German visit (see _ante_) produced among other things the
translation of _Wallenstein_, a translation far above the original. Some
poetry and much newspaper work filled the next ten years, with endless
schemes; but in 1807 Coleridge began to lecture at the Royal
Institution--a course somewhat irregularly delivered, and almost
entirely unreported. 1809 saw his second independent periodical venture,
_The Friend_, the subsequent reprint of which as a book is completely
rewritten. In 1811-12 he delivered his second course of lectures, this
time on his own account. It was followed by two others, and in 1813
_Remorse_ was produced at Drury Lane, had a fair success, and brought
the author some money. _Christabel_, with _Kubla Khan_, appeared in
1816, and the _Biographia Literaria_ next year; _Zapolya_ and the
rewritten _Friend_ the year after, when also Coleridge gave a new course
of lectures, and yet another, the last. _Aids to Reflection_, in 1825,
was the latest important work he issued himself, though in 1828 he
superintended a collection of his poems. Such of the rest of his work as
is in existence in a collected form has been printed or reprinted since.

A more full account of the appearance of Coleridge's work than is
desirable or indeed possible in most cases here has been given, because
it is important to convey some idea of the astonishingly piecemeal
fashion in which it reached the world. To those who have studied the
author's life of opium-eating; of constant wandering from place to
place; of impecuniousness so utter that, after all the painstaking of
the modern biographer, and after full allowance for the ravens who seem
always to have been ready to feed him, it is a mystery how he escaped
the workhouse; of endless schemes and endless non-performance--it is
only a wonder that anything of Coleridge's ever reached the public
except in newspaper columns. As it was, while his most ambitiously
planned books were never written at all, most of those which did reach
the press were years in getting through it; and Southey, on one
occasion, after waiting fifteen months for the conclusion of a
contribution of Coleridge's to _Omniana_, had to cancel the sheet in
despair. The collection, after many years, by Mr. Ernest Coleridge of
his grandfather's letters has by no means completely removed the mystery
which hangs over Coleridge's life and character. We see a little more,
but we do not see the whole; and we are still unable to understand what
strange impediments there were to the junction of the two ends of power
and performance. A rigid judge might almost say, that if friends had not
been so kind, fate had been kinder, and that instead of helping they
hindered, just as a child who is never allowed to tumble will never
learn to walk.

The enormous tolerance of friends, however, which alone enabled him to
produce anything, was justified by the astonishing genius to which its
possessor gave so unfair a chance. As a thinker, although the evidence
is too imperfect to justify very dogmatic conclusions, the opinion of
the best authorities, from which there is little reason for differing,
is that Coleridge was much more stimulating than intrinsically valuable.
His _Aids to Reflection_, his most systematic work, is disappointing;
and, with _The Friend_ and the rest, is principally valuable as
exhibiting and inculcating an attitude of mind in which the use of logic
is not, as in most eighteenth century philosophers, destructive, but is
made to consist with a wide license for the employment of imagination
and faith. He borrowed a great deal from the Germans, and he at least
sometimes forgot that he had borrowed a great deal from our own older
writers.

So, too, precise examination of his numerous but fragmentary remains as
a literary critic makes it necessary to take a great deal for granted.
Here, also, he Germanised much; and it is not certain, even with the aid
of his fragments, that he was the equal either of Lamb or of Hazlitt in
insight. Perhaps his highest claim is that, in the criticism of
philosophy, of religion, and of literature alike he expressed, and was
even a little ahead of, the nobler bent and sympathy of his
contemporaries. We are still content to assign to Coleridge, perhaps
without any very certain title-deeds, the invention of that more
catholic way of looking at English literature which can relish the
Middle Ages without doing injustice to contemporaries, and can be
enthusiastic for the seventeenth century without contemning the
eighteenth.[6] To him more than to any single man is also assigned (and
perhaps rightly, though some of his remarks on the Church, even after
his rally to orthodoxy, are odd) the great ecclesiastical revival of the
Oxford movement; and it is certain that he had not a little to do with
the abrupt discarding of the whole tradition of Locke, Berkeley and
Hartley only excepted. Difficult as it may be to give distinct chapter
and verse for these assignments from the formless welter of his prose
works, no good judge has ever doubted their validity, with the above and
other exceptions and guards. It may be very difficult to present
Coleridge's assets in prose in a liquid form; but few doubt their value.

It is very different with his poetry. Here, too, the disastrous, the
almost ruinous results of his weaknesses appear. When one begins to sift
and riddle the not small mass of his verse, it shrinks almost
appallingly in bulk. _Wallenstein_, though better than the original, is
after all only a translation. _Remorse_ (either under that name or as
_Osorio_) and _Zapolya_ are not very much better than the contemporary
or slightly later work of Talfourd and Milman. _The Fall of Robespierre_
is as absurd and not so amusing as Southey's unassisted _Wat Tyler_. Of
the miscellaneous verse with which, after these huge deductions, we are
left, much is verse-impromptu, often learned and often witty, for
Coleridge was (in early days at any rate) abundantly provided with both
wit and humour, but quite occasional. Much more consists of mere
Juvenilia. Even of the productions of his best times (the last lustrum
of the eighteenth century and a lucid interval about 1816) much is not
very good. _Religious Musings_, though it has had its admirers, is
terribly poor stuff. _The Monody on the Death of Chatterton_ might have
been written by fifty people during the century before it. _The Destiny
of Nations_ is a feeble rant; but the _Ode on the Departing Year_,
though still unequal, still conventional, strikes a very different note.
_The Three Graves_, though injured by the namby-pambiness which was
still thought incumbent in ballads, again shows no vulgar touch. And
then, omitting for the moment _Kubla Khan_, which Coleridge said he
wrote in 1797, but of which no mortal ever heard till 1816, we come to
_The Rime of the Ancient Mariner_ and the birth of the new poetry in
England. Here the stutters and flashes of Blake became coherent speech
and steady blaze; here poetry, which for a century and a half had been
curbing her voice to a genteel whisper or raising it only to a forensic
declamation, which had at best allowed a few wood-notes to escape here
and there as if by mistake, spoke out loud and clear.

If this statement seems exaggerated (and it is certain that at the time
of the appearance of the _Ancient Mariner_ not even Wordsworth, not even
Southey quite relished it, while there has always been a sect of
dissidents against it), two others will perhaps seem more extravagant
still. The second is that, with the exception of this poem, of _Kubla
Khan_, of _Christabel_, and of _Love_, all of them according to
Coleridge written within a few months of each other in 1797-98, he never
did anything of the first class in poetry. The third is that these
four--though _Christabel_ itself does not exceed some fifteen hundred
lines and is decidedly unequal, though the _Ancient Mariner_ is just
over six hundred and the other two are quite short--are sufficient
between them to rank their author among the very greatest of English
poets. It is not possible to make any compromise on this point; for upon
it turns an entire theory and system of poetical criticism. Those who
demand from poetry a "criticism of life," those who will have it that
"all depends on the subject," those who want "moral" or "construction"
or a dozen other things,--all good in their way, most of them
compatible with poetry and even helpful to it, but none of them
essential thereto,--can of course never accept this estimate. Mrs.
Barbauld said that _The Ancient Mariner_ was "improbable"; and to this
charge it must plead guilty at once. _Kubla Khan_, which I should rank
as almost the best of the four, is very brief, and is nothing but a
dream, and a fragment of a dream. _Love_ is very short too, and is
flawed by some of the aforesaid namby-pambiness, from which none of the
Lake school escaped when they tried passion. _Christabel_, the most
ambitious if also the most unequal, does really underlie the criticism
that, professing itself to be a narrative and holding out the promise of
something like a connected story, it tells none, and does not even offer
very distinct hints or suggestions or what its story, if it had ever
been told, might have been. A thousand faults are in it; a good part of
the thousand in all four.

But there is also there something which would atone for faults ten
thousand times ten thousand; there is what one hears at most three or
four times in English, at most ten or twelve times in all
literature--the first note, with its endless echo-promise, of a new
poetry. The wonderful cadence-changes of _Kubla Khan_, its phrases,
culminating in the famous distich so well descriptive of Coleridge
himself--

    For he on honey dew hath fed,
      And drunk the milk of Paradise,

the splendid crash of the

    Ancestral voices prophesying war,

are all part of this note and cry. You will find them nowhere from
Chaucer to Cowper--not even in the poets where you will find greater
things as you may please to call them. Then in the _Mariner_ comes the
gorgeous metre,--freed at once and for the first time from the
"butter-woman's rank to market" which had distinguished all imitations
of the ballad hitherto,--the more gorgeous imagery and pageantry here,
the simple directness there, the tameless range of imagination and
fancy, the fierce rush of rhythm:--

    The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
      The furrow followed free:
    We were the first that ever burst
      Into that silent sea.

And thereafter the spectre of Life-in-Death, the water-snakes, the
rising of the dead men, the snapping of the spell. There had been
nothing like all this before; and in all the hundred years, for all the
great poetry we have seen, we have seen nothing so _new_ as it. _Love_
gave the magnificent opening stanza, the motto and defence at once of
the largest, the most genuine, the most delightful part of poetry. And
_Christabel_, independently of its purple patches, such as the famous
descant on the quarrels of friends, and the portents that mark the
passage of Geraldine, gave what was far more important--a new metre,
destined to have no less great and much more copious influence than the
Spenserian stanza itself. It might of course be easy to pick out
anticipations in part of this combination of iambic dimeter, trochaic,
and anapæstic; but it never had taken thorough form before. And how it
seized on the imagination of those who heard it is best shown by the
well-known anecdote of Scott, who, merely hearing a little of it
recited, at once developed it and established it in _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_. In verse at least, if not in prose, there is no greater
_master_ than Coleridge.

Robert Southey, the third of this curiously dissimilar trio whom partly
chance and partly choice have bound together for all time, was born at
Bristol on 12th August 1774. His father was only a linen-draper, and a
very unprosperous one; but the Southeys were a respectable family,
entitled to arms, and possessed of considerable landed property in
Somerset, some of which was left away from the poet by unfriendly uncles
to strangers, while more escaped him by a flaw in the entail. His
mother's family, the Hills, were in much better circumstances than his
father, and like the other two Lake Poets he was singularly lucky in
finding helpers. First his mother's brother the Rev. Herbert Hill,
chaplain to the English factory at Lisbon, sent him to Westminster,
where he did very well and made invaluable friends, but lost the regular
advancement to Christ Church owing to the wrath of the head-master Dr.
Vincent at an article which Southey had contributed to a school
magazine, the _Flagellant_. He was in fact expelled; but the gravest
consequences of expulsion from a public school of the first rank did not
fall upon him, and he matriculated without objection at Balliol in 1793.
His college, however, which was then distinguished for loose living and
intellectual dulness, was not congenial to him; and developing extreme
opinions in politics and religion, he decided that he could not take
orders, and left without even taking a degree. His disgrace with his own
friends was completed by his engaging in the Pantisocratic scheme, and
by his attachment to Edith Fricker, a penniless girl (though not at all
a "milliner at Bath") whose sisters became Mrs. Coleridge and Mrs.
Lovell. And when the ever-charitable Hill invited him to Portugal he
married Miss Fricker the very day before he started. After a residence
at Lisbon, in which he laid the foundation of his unrivalled
acquaintance with Peninsular history and literature, he returned and
lived with his wife at various places, nominally studying for the law,
which he liked not better but worse than the Church. After divers
vicissitudes, including a fresh visit (this time not as a bachelor) to
Portugal, and an experience of official work as secretary to Corry the
Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, he at last, at the age of thirty,
established himself at Greta Hall, close to Keswick, where Coleridge had
already taken up his abode. This, as well as much else in his career,
was made possible by the rare generosity of his friend of school-days
and all days, Charles Wynn, brother of the then Sir Watkin, and later a
pretty well known politician, who on coming of age gave him an annuity
of £160 a year. This in 1807 he relinquished on receiving a government
pension of practically the same amount. The Laureateship in 1813 brought
him less than another hundred; but many years afterwards Sir Robert
Peel, in 1835, after offering a baronetcy, put his declining years out
of anxiety by conferring a further pension of £300 a year on him. These
declining years were in part unhappy. As early as 1816 his eldest son
Herbert, a boy of great promise, died; the shock was repeated some years
later by the death of his youngest and prettiest daughter Isabel; while
in the same year as that in which his pension was increased his wife
became insane, and died two years later. A second marriage in 1839 to
the poetess Caroline Bowles brought him some comfort; but his own brain
became more and more affected, and for a considerable time before his
death on 21st March 1843 he had been mentally incapable.

Many morals have been drawn from this melancholy end as to the wisdom of
too prolonged literary labour, which in Southey's case had certainly
been prodigious, and had been carried so far that he actually read while
he was taking constitutional walks. It is fair to say, however, that,
just as in the case of Scott the terrible shock of the downfall of his
fortunes has to be considered, so in that of Southey the successive
trials to which he, a man of exceptionally strong domestic affections,
was exposed, must be taken into account. At the same time it must be
admitted that Southey's production was enormous. His complete works
never have been, and are never likely to be collected; and, from the
scattered and irregular form in which they appeared, it is difficult if
not impossible to make even a guess at the total. The list of books and
articles (the latter for the most part written for the _Quarterly
Review_, and of very great length) at the end of his son's _Life_ fills
nearly six closely printed pages. Two of these entries--_the Histories
of Brazil_ and of the _Peninsular War_--alone represent six large
volumes. The Poems by themselves occupy a royal octavo in double columns
of small print running to eight hundred pages; the correspondence, very
closely printed in the six volumes of the _Life_, and the four more of
_Letters_ edited by the Rev. J. W. Warter, some five thousand pages in
all; while a good deal of his early periodical work has never been
identified, and there are large stores of additional letters--some
printed, more in MS. Nor was Southey by any means a careless or an easy
writer. He always founded his work on immense reading, some of the
results of which, showing the laborious fashion in which he performed
it, were published after his death in his _Commonplace Book_. He did not
write very rapidly; and he corrected, both in MS. and in proof, with the
utmost sedulity. Of the nearly 14,000 books which he possessed at his
death, it is safe to say that all had been methodically read, and most
read many times; while his almost mediæval diligence did not hesitate at
working through a set of folios to obtain the information or the
corrections necessary for a single article.

It is here impossible to mention more than the chief items of this
portentous list. They are in verse--_Poems_, by R. Southey and R.
Lovell, 1794; _Joan of Arc_, 1795; _Minor Poems_, 1797-99; _Thalaba_,
1801; _Metrical Tales_ and _Madoc_, 1805; _The Curse of Kehama_, 1810;
_Roderick_, 1814; with a few later volumes, the chief being the unlucky
_Vision of Judgment_, 1821, in hexameters. A complete edition of the
Poems, except one or two posthumously printed, was published by himself
in ten volumes in 1837, and collected into one ten years later with the
additions. This also includes _Wat Tyler_, a rhapsody of the poet's
youth, which was (piratically and to his infinite annoyance) published
in 1817.

In prose Southey's most important works are the _History of Brazil_,
1810-19 (this, large as it is, is only a kind of off-shoot of the
projected _History of Portugal_, which in a way occupied his whole life,
and never got published at all); the _History of the Peninsular War_,
1822-32; the _Letters from England by Don Manuel Espriella_, 1812; the
_Life of Nelson_ (usually thought his masterpiece), 1813; the _Life of
Wesley_, 1820; _The Book of the Church_, 1824; _Colloquies on Society_
(well known, if not in itself, for Macaulay's review of it), 1829;
_Naval History_, 1833-40; and the great humorous miscellany of _The
Doctor_ (seven volumes), 1834-47; to which must be added editions, often
containing some of his best work, of Chatterton, Amadis of Gaul,
Palmerin of England, Kirke White, Bunyan, and Cowper, with divers
_Specimens_ of the British Poets, the charming prose and verse
_Chronicle of the Cid_, the miscellany of _Omniana_, half-way between
table- and commonplace-book, the _Commonplace Book_ itself, and not a
little else, besides letters and articles innumerable.

Certain things about Southey are uncontested and uncontestable. The
uprightness and beauty of his character, his wonderful helpfulness to
others, and the uncomplaining way in which he bore what was almost
poverty,--for, high as was his reputation, his receipts were never a
tithe of the rewards not merely of Scott or Byron or Tom Moore, but of
much lesser men--are not more generally acknowledged than the singular
and pervading excellence of his English prose style, the robustness of
his literary genius, and his unique devotion to literature. But when we
leave these accepted things he becomes more difficult if not less
interesting. He himself had not the slightest doubt that he was a great
poet, and would be recognised as such by posterity, though with a proud
humility he reconciled himself to temporary lack of vogue. This might be
set down to an egotistic delusion. But such an easy explanation is
negatived by even a slight comparison of the opinions of his greatest
contemporaries. It is somewhat staggering to find that Scott, the
greatest Tory man of letters who had strong political sympathies, and
Fox, the greatest Whig politician who had keen literary tastes, enjoyed
his long poems enthusiastically. But it may be said that the eighteenth
century leaven which was so strong in each, and which is also noticeable
in Southey, conciliated them. What then are we to say of Macaulay, a
much younger man, a violent political opponent of Southey, and a by no
means indiscriminate lover of verse, who, admitting that he doubted
whether Southey's long poems would be read after half a century, had no
doubt that if read they would be admired? And what are we to say of the
avowals of admiration wrung as it were from Byron, who succeeded in
working himself up, from personal, political, and literary motives
combined, into a frantic hatred of Southey, lampooned him in print, sent
him a challenge (which luckily was not delivered) in private, and was
what the late Mr. Mark Pattison would have called "his Satan"?

The half century of Macaulay's prophecy has come, and that prophecy has
been fulfilled as to the rarity of Southey's readers as a poet. Has the
other part come true too? I should hesitate to say that it has. Esteem
not merely for the man but for the writer can never fail Southey
whenever he is read by competent persons: admiration may be less prompt
to come at call. Two among his smaller pieces--the beautiful "Holly
Tree," and the much later but exquisite stanzas "My days among the dead
are past"--can never be in any danger; the grasp of the
grotesque-terrific, which the poet shows in the "Old Woman of Berkley"
and a great many other places, anticipates the _Ingoldsby Legends_ with
equal ease but with a finer literary gift; some other things are really
admirable and not a little pleasing. But the longer poems, if they are
ever to live, are still dry bones. _Thalaba_, one of the best, is spoilt
by the dogged craze against rhyme, which is more, not less, needed in
irregular than in regular verse. _Joan of Arc_, _Madoc_, _Roderick_,
have not escaped that curse of blank verse which only Milton, and he not
always, has conquered in really long poems. _Kehama_, the only great
poem in which the poet no longer disdains the almost indispensable aid
to poetry in our modern and loosely quantified tongue, is much better
than any of the others. The Curse itself is about as good as it can be,
and many other passages are not far below it; but to the general taste
the piece suffers from the remote character of the subject, which is not
generally and humanly interesting, and from the mass of tedious detail.

To get out of the difficulty thus presented by indulging in contemptuous
ignoring of Southey's merits has been attempted many times since Emerson
foolishly asked "Who is Southey?" in his jottings of his conversation
with Landor, Southey's most dissimilar but constant friend and
panegyrist. It is extremely easy to say who Southey is. He is the
possessor of perhaps the purest and most perfect English prose style, of
a kind at once simple and scholarly, to be found in the language. He has
written (in the _Life of Nelson_) perhaps the best short biography in
that language, and other things not far behind this. No Englishman has
ever excelled him in range of reading or in intelligent comprehension
and memory of what he read. Unlike many book-worms, he had an
exceedingly lively and active humour. He has scarcely an equal, and
certainly no superior, in the rare and difficult art of discerning and
ranging the material parts of an historical account: the pedant may
glean, but the true historian will rarely reap after him. And in poetry
his gifts, if they are never of the very highest, are so various and
often so high that it is absolutely absurd to pooh-pooh him as a poet.
The man who could write the verses "In my Library" and the best parts of
_Thalaba_ and _Kehama_ certainly had it in his power to write other
things as good, probably to write other things better. Had it been in
his nature to take no thought not merely for the morrow but even for the
day, like Coleridge, or in his fate to be provided for without any
trouble on his own part, and to take the provision with self-centred
indifference, like Wordsworth, his actual production might have been
different and better. But his strenuous and generous nature could not be
idle; and idleness of some sort is, it may be very seriously laid down,
absolutely necessary to the poet who is to be supreme.

The poet who, though, according to the canons of poetical criticism most
in favour during this century, he ranks lower than either Wordsworth or
Coleridge, did far more to popularise the general theory of Romantic
poetry than either, was a slightly older man than two of the trio just
noticed; but he did not begin his poetical career (save by one volume of
translation) till some years after all of them had published. Walter
Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th of August 1771. His father, of
the same name as himself, was a Writer to the Signet; his mother was
Anne Rutherford, and the future poet and novelist had much excellent
Border blood in him, besides that of his direct ancestors the Scotts of
Harden. He was a very sickly child; and though he grew out of this he
was permanently lame. His early childhood was principally spent on the
Border itself, with a considerable interval at Bath; and he was duly
sent to the High School and University of Edinburgh, where, like a good
many other future men of letters, he was not extremely remarkable for
what is called scholarship. He was early imprisoned in his father's
office, where the state of relations between father and son is supposed
to be pretty accurately represented by the story of those between Alan
Fairford and his father in _Redgauntlet_; and, like Alan, he was called
to the bar. But even in the inferior branch of the profession he enjoyed
tolerable liberty of wandering about and sporting, besides sometimes
making expeditions on business into the Highlands and other
out-of-the-way parts of the country.

He thus acquired great knowledge of his fatherland; while (for he was,
if not exactly a scholar, the most omnivorous of readers) he was also
acquiring great knowledge of books. And it ought not to be omitted that
Edinburgh, in addition to the literary and professional society which
made it then and afterwards so famous, was still to no small extent the
headquarters of the Scotch nobility, and that Scott, long before his
books made him famous, was familiar with society of every rank. His
first love affair did not run smooth, and he seems never to have
entirely forgotten the object of it, who is identified (on somewhat more
solid grounds than in the case of other novelists) with more than one of
his heroines. But he consoled himself to a certain extent with a young
lady half French, half English, Miss Charlotte Carpenter or Charpentier,
whom he met at Gilsland and married at Carlisle on Christmas Eve 1797.
Scott was an active member of the yeomanry as well as a barrister, an
enthusiastic student of German as well as a sportsman; and the book of
translations (from Bürger) above referred to appeared in 1796. But he
did nothing important till after the beginning of the present century,
when the starting of the _Edinburgh Review_ and some other things
brought him forward; though he showed what he could do by contributing
two ballads, "Glenfinlas" and "The Eve of St. John," to a collection of
terror-pieces started by Monk Lewis, and added Goethe's _Götz von
Berlichingen_ to his translations. He had become in 1799 independent,
though not rich, by being appointed Sheriff of Selkirkshire.

His beginnings as an author proper were connected, as was all his
subsequent career, partly for good but more for ill, with a school
friendship he had early formed for two brothers named Ballantyne at
Kelso. He induced James, the elder, to start a printing business at
Edinburgh, and unfortunately he entered into a secret partnership with
this firm, which never did him much good, which caused him infinite
trouble, and which finally ruined him. But into this complicated and
still much debated business it is impossible to enter here. James
Ballantyne printed the _Border Minstrelsy_, which appeared in 1802,--a
book ranking with Percy's _Reliques_ in its influence on the form and
matter of subsequent poetry,--and then Scott at last undertook original
work of magnitude. His task was _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_,
published in 1805. It may almost be said that from that day to his death
he was the foremost--he was certainly, with the exception of Byron, the
most popular--man of letters in Great Britain. His next poems--_Marmion_
(1808) and _The Lady of the Lake_ (1810)--brought him fame and money
such as no English poet had gained before; and though Byron's
following--for following it was--for the time eclipsed his master, the
latter's _Rokeby, The Lord of the Isles_, and others, would have been
triumphs for any one else.

How, when the taste for his verse seemed to cool, he struck out a new
line in prose and achieved yet more fame and yet more money than the
verse had ever given him, will concern us in the next chapter. But as it
would be cumbrous to make yet a third division of his work, the part of
his prose which is not fiction may be included here, as well as the rest
of his life. He had written much criticism for the _Edinburgh_, until he
was partly disgusted by an uncivil review of _Marmion_, partly (and
more) by the tone of increasing Whiggery and non-intervention which
Jeffrey was imposing on the paper; and when the _Quarterly_ was founded
in opposition he transferred his services to that. He edited a splendid
and admirably done issue of Dryden (1808) and another not quite so
thoroughly executed of Swift (1814), and his secret connection with the
Ballantynes induced him to do much other editing and miscellaneous work.
In the sad last years of his life he laboured with desperation at a
great _Life of Napoleon_, which was a success pecuniarily but not in
many other ways, produced the exquisite _Tales of a Grandfather_ on
Scottish history, and did much else. He even wrote plays, which have
very little merit, and, except abstract philosophy, there is hardly a
division of literature that he did not touch; for he composed a sermon
or two of merit, and his political pamphlets, the _Letters of Malachi
Malagrowther_, opposing what he thought an interference with Scottish
privileges in currency matters, are among the best of their kind.

His life was for many years a very happy one; for his marriage, if not
passionately, was fairly successful, he was extremely fond of his
children, and while his poems and novels began before he had fully
reached middle life to make him a rich man, his Sheriffship, and a
Clerkship of Session which was afterwards added (though he had to wait
some time for its emoluments), had already made him secure of bread and
expectant of affluence. From a modest cottage at Lasswade he expanded
himself to a rented country house at Ashestiel on the Tweed, having
besides a comfortable town mansion in Edinburgh; and when he was turned
out of Ashestiel he bought land and began to build at Abbotsford on the
same river. The estate was an ill-chosen and unprofitable one. The house
grew with the owner's fortunes, which, founded in part as they were on
the hardest and most honest work that author ever gave, were in part
also founded on the quicksand of his treacherous connection with men,
reckless, ill-judging, and, though perhaps not in intention dishonest,
perpetually trading on their secret partner's industry and fame. In the
great commercial crash of 1825, Constable, the publisher of most of the
novels, was involved; he dragged the Ballantynes down with him; and the
whole of Scott's fortune, except his appointments and the little
settled on his wife and children, was liable for the Ballantynes' debts.
But he was not satisfied with ruin. He must needs set to work at the
hopeless task of paying debts which he had never, except technically,
incurred, and he actually in the remaining years of his life cleared off
the greater part of them. It was at the cost of his life itself. His
wife died, his children were scattered; but he worked on till the
thankless, hopeless toil broke down his strength, and after a fruitless
visit to Italy, he returned, to die at Abbotsford on 21st September
1832.

Scott's poetry has gone through various stages of estimate, and it can
hardly be said even now, a hundred years after the publication of his
first verses, to have attained the position, practically accepted by all
but paradoxers, which in that time a poet usually gains, unless, as the
poets of the seventeenth century did in the eighteenth, he falls, owing
to some freak of popular taste, out of really critical consideration
altogether. The immense popularity which it at first obtained has been
noted, as well as the fact that it was only ousted from that popularity
by, so to speak, a variety of itself. But the rise of Byron in the long
run did it far less harm than the long-delayed vogue of Wordsworth and
Coleridge and the success even of the later schools, of which Tennyson
was at once the pioneer and the commander-in-chief. At an uncertain time
in the century, but comparatively early, it became fashionable to take
Scott's verse as clever and spirited improvisation, to dwell on its
over-fluency and facility, its lack of passages in the grand style
(whatever the grand style may be), to indicate its frequent blemishes in
strictly correct form and phrase. And it can hardly be said that there
has been much reaction from this tone among professed and competent
critics.

To a certain extent, indeed, this undervaluation is justified, and Scott
himself, who was more free from literary vanity than any man of letters
of whom we have record, pleaded guilty again and again. Dropping as he
did almost by accident on a style which had absolutely no forerunners in
elaborate formal literature, a style almost absolutely destitute of any
restrictions or limits, in which the length of lines and stanzas, the
position of rhymes, the change from narrative to dialogue, and so forth,
depended wholly and solely on the caprice of the author, it would have
been extremely strange if a man whose education had been a little
lacking in scholastic strictness, and who began to write at a time when
the first object of almost every writer was to burst old bonds, had not
been somewhat lawless, even somewhat slipshod. _Christabel_ itself, the
first in time, and, though not published till long afterwards, the model
of his _Lay_, has but a few score verses that can pretend to the grand
style (whatever that may be). Nor yet again can it be denied that, acute
as was the sense which bade Scott stop, he wrote as it was a little too
much in this style, while he tried others for which he had far less
aptitude.

Yet it seems to me impossible, on any just theory of poetry or of
literature, to rank him low as a poet. He can afford to take his trial
under more than one statute. To those who say that all depends on the
subject, or that the handling and arrangement of the subject are, if not
everything, yet something to be ranked far above mere detached beauties,
he can produce not merely the first long narrative poems in English,
which for more than a century had honestly enthralled and fixed popular
taste, but some of the very few long narrative poems which deserve to do
so. Wordsworth, in a characteristic note on the _White Doe of Rylstone_,
contrasts, with oblique depreciation of Scott, that poem and its famous
predecessors in the style across the border; but he omits to notice one
point of difference--that in Scott the _story_ interests, and in himself
it does not. For the belated "classical" criticism of the _Edinburgh
Review_, which thought the story of the _Last Minstrel_ childish, and
that of _Marmion_ not much better, it may have been at least consistent
to undervalue these poems. But the assumptions of that criticism no
longer pass muster. On the other hand, to those who pin their poetical
faith on "patches," the great mass of Scott's poetical work presents
examples of certainly no common beauty. The set pieces of the larger
poems, the Melrose description in _The Lay_, the battle in _Marmion_,
the Fiery Cross in the _Lady of the Lake_, are indeed inferior in this
respect to the mere snatches which the author scattered about his
novels, some of which, especially the famous "Proud Maisie," have a
beauty not inferior to that of the best things of his greatest
contemporaries. And in swinging and dashing lyric, again, Scott can hold
his own with the best, if indeed "the best" can hold _their_ own in this
particular division with "Lochinvar" and "Bonnie Dundee," with Elspeth's
ballad in the _Antiquary_, and the White Lady's comfortable words to
poor Father Philip.

The most really damaging things to be said against Scott as a poet are
two. First, that his genius did not incline him either to the expression
of the highest passion or to that of the deepest meditation, in which
directions the utterances of the very greatest poetry are wont to lie.
In the second place, that the extreme fertility and fluency which cannot
be said to have improved even his prose work are, from the nature of the
case, far more evident, and far more damagingly evident, in his verse.
He is a poet of description, of action, of narration, rather than of
intense feeling or thought. Yet in his own special divisions of the
simpler lyric and of lyrical narrative he sometimes attains the
exquisite, and rarely sinks below a quality which is fitted to give the
poetical delight to a very large number of by no means contemptible
persons. It appears to me at least, that on no sound theory of poetical
criticism can Scott be ranked as a poet below Byron, who was his
imitator in narrative and his inferior in lyric. But it may be admitted
that this was not the opinion of most contemporaries of the two, and
that, much as the poetry of Byron has sunk in critical estimation during
the last half century, and slight as are the signs of its recovery,
those who do not think very highly of the poetry of the pupil do not, as
a rule, show much greater enthusiasm for that of the master.

Byron, it is true, was only half a pupil of Scott's, and (oddly enough
for the poet, who, with Scott, was recognised as leader by the Romantic
schools of all Europe) had more than a hankering after the classical
ideals in literature. Yet how much of this was due to wilful "pose" and
a desire not to follow the prevailing school of the day is a question
difficult to answer--as indeed are many connected with Byron, whose
utterances, even in private letters, are very seldom to be taken with
absolute confidence in their sincerity. The poet's character did no
discredit to the doctrines of heredity. His family was one of
considerable distinction and great age; but his father, Captain John
Byron, who never came to the title, was a _roué_ of the worst character,
and the cousin whom the poet succeeded had earned the name of the Wicked
Lord. His mother, Catherine Gordon of Gight, was of an excellent Scotch
stock, and an heiress; though her rascally husband made away with her
money. But she had a most violent temper, and seems to have had
absolutely no claims except those of birth to the title of lady. Byron
was born in Holles Street, Cavendish Square, on 22nd January 1788; and
his early youth, which was spent with his mother at Aberdeen, was one of
not much indulgence or happiness. But he came to the title, and to an
extremely impoverished succession, at ten years old, and three years
later was sent to Harrow. Here he made many friends, distinguishing
himself by obtruding mentions and memories of his rank in a way not
common with the English aristocracy, and hence, in 1805, he proceeded to
Trinity College, Cambridge. He spent about the usual time there, but
took no degree, and while he was still an undergraduate printed his
_Hours of Idleness_, first called _Juvenilia_. It appeared publicly in
March 1807, and a year later was the subject of a criticism, rather
excessive than unjust, in the _Edinburgh Review_. Byron, who had plenty
of pluck, and who all his life long inclined in his heart to the Popian
school, spent a considerable time upon a verse-answer, _English Bards
and Scotch Reviewers_, in which he ran amuck generally, but displayed
ability which it was hopeless to seek in his first production. Then he
went abroad, and the excitement of his sojourn in the countries round
the Mediterranean for the next two years not only aroused, but finally
determined and almost fully developed, his genius.

On his return home he took his seat and went into society with the
success likely to attend an extremely handsome young man of
twenty-three, with a vague reputation both for ability and naughtiness,
a fairly old title, and something of an estate. But his position as a
"lion" was not thoroughly asserted till the publication, in February
1812, of _Childe Harold_, which with some difficulty he had been induced
by his friend Dallas, his publisher Murray, and the critic Gifford to
put before some frigid and trivial _Hints from Horace_. Over _Childe
Harold_ the English public went simply mad, buying seven editions in
five weeks; and during the next three years Byron produced, in rapid
succession, _The Giaour_, _The Bride of Abydos_, _The Corsair_, _Lara_,
_The Siege of Corinth_, and _Hebrew Melodies_. He could hardly write
fast enough for the public to buy. Then the day after New Year's Day
1814, he married Miss Milbanke, a great heiress, a future baroness in
her own right, and handsome after a fashion, but of a cold, prim, and
reserved disposition, as well as of a very unforgiving temper. It
probably did not surprise any one who knew the pair when, a year later,
they separated for ever.

The scandals and discussions connected with this event are fortunately
foreign to our subject here. The only important result of the matter for
literature is that Byron (upon whom public opinion in one of its sudden
fits of virtuous versatility threw even more of the blame than was
probably just) left the country and journeyed leisurely, in the company
of Mr. and Mrs. Shelley for the most part, to Venice. He never returned
alive to England; and Venice, Ravenna, Pisa, and Genoa were successively
his headquarters till 1823. Then the Greek Insurrection attracted him,
he raised what money he could, set out for Greece, showed in the
distracted counsels of the insurgents much more practical and
untheatrical heroism than he had hitherto been credited with, and died
of fever at Missolonghi on the 19th of April 1824. His body was brought
home to England and buried in the parish church of Hucknall Torkard,
near Newstead Abbey, his Nottinghamshire seat, which, however, he had
sold some time before. The best of Byron's poems by far date from this
latter period of his life: the later cantos of _Childe Harold_, the
beautiful short poems of _The Dream_ and _Darkness_, many pieces in
dramatic form (the chief of which are _Manfred_, _Cain_, _Marino
Faliero_, and _Sardanapalus_), _Mazeppa_, a piece more in his earlier
style but greatly superior to his earlier work, a short burlesque poem
_Beppo_, and an immense and at his death unfinished narrative satire
entitled _Don Juan_.

Although opinions about Byron differ very much, there is one point about
him which does not admit of difference of opinion. No English poet,
perhaps no English writer except Scott (or rather "The Author of
Waverley"), has ever equalled him in popularity at home; and no English
writer, with Richardson and Scott again as seconds, and those not very
close ones, has equalled him in contemporary popularity abroad. The
vogue of Byron in England, though overpowering for the moment, was even
at its height resisted by some good judges and more strait-laced
moralists; and it ebbed, if not as rapidly as it flowed, with a much
more enduring movement. But abroad he simply took possession of the
Continent of Europe and kept it. He was one of the dominant influences
and determining causes of the French Romantic movement; in Germany,
though the failure of literary talent and activity of the first order in
that country early in this century made his school less important, he
had great power over Heine, its one towering genius; and he was almost
the sole master of young Russia, young Italy, young Spain, in poetry.
Nor, though his active and direct influence has of course been exhausted
by time, can his reputation on the Continent be said to have ever waned.

These various facts, besides being certain in themselves, are also very
valuable as guiding the inquirer in regions which are more of opinion.
The rapidity of Byron's success everywhere, the extent of it abroad
(where few English writers before him had had any at all), and the
decline at home, are all easily connected with certain peculiarities of
his work. That work is almost as fluent and facile as Scott's, to which,
as has been said, it owes immense debts of scheme and manner; and it is
quite as faulty. Indeed Scott, with all his indifference to a strictly
academic correctness, never permitted himself the bad rhymes, the bad
grammar, the slipshod phrase in which Byron unblushingly indulges. But
Byron is much more monotonous than Scott, and it was this very monotony,
assisted by an appearance of intensity, which for the time gave him
power. The appeal of Byron consists very mainly, though no doubt not
wholly, in two things: the lavish use of the foreign and then unfamiliar
scenery, vocabulary, and manners of the Levant, and the installation, as
principal character, of a personage who was speedily recognised as a
sort of fancy portrait, a sketch in cap and yataghan, of Byron himself
as he would like to be thought. This Byronic hero has an ostentatious
indifference to moral laws, for the most part a mysterious past which
inspires him with deep melancholy, great personal beauty, strength, and
bravery, and he is an all-conquering lover. He is not quite so original
as he seemed, for he is in effect very little more than the older
Romantic villain-hero of Mrs. Radcliffe, the Germans, and Monk Lewis,
costumed much more effectively, placed in scheme and companionship more
picturesquely, and managed with infinitely greater genius. But it is a
common experience in literary history that a type more or less familiar
already, and presented with striking additions, is likely to be more
popular than something absolutely new. And accordingly Byron's bastard
and second-hand Romanticism, though it owed a great deal to the
terrorists and a great deal more to Scott, for the moment altogether
eclipsed the pure and original Romanticism of his elders Coleridge and
Wordsworth, of his juniors Shelley and Keats.

But although the more extreme admirers of Byron would no doubt dissent
strongly from even this judgment, it would probably be subscribed, with
some reservations and guards, by not a few good critics from whom I am
compelled to part company as to other parts of Byron's poetical claim.
It is on the question how much of true poetry lies behind and
independent of the scenery and properties of Byronism, that the great
debate arises. Was the author of the poems from _Childe Harold_ to _Don
Juan_ really gifted with the poetical "sincerity and strength" which
have been awarded him by a critic of leanings so little Byronic in the
ordinary sense of Matthew Arnold? Is he a poetic star of the first
magnitude, a poetic force of the first power, at all? There may seem to
be rashness, there may even seem to be puerile insolence and absurdity,
in denying or even doubting this in the face of such a European concert
as has been described and admitted above. Yet the critical conscience
admits of no transaction; and after all, as it was doubted by a great
thinker whether nations might not go mad like individuals, I do not know
why it should be regarded as impossible that continents should go mad
like nations.

At any rate the qualities of Byron are very much of a piece, and, even
by the contention of his warmest reasonable admirers, not much varied or
very subtle, not necessitating much analysis or disquisition. They can
be fairly pronounced upon in a judgment of few words. Byron, then, seems
to me a poet distinctly of the second class, and not even of the best
kind of second, inasmuch as his greatness is chiefly derived from a sort
of parody, a sort of imitation, of the qualities of the first. His verse
is to the greatest poetry what melodrama is to tragedy, what plaster is
to marble, what pinchbeck is to gold. He is not indeed an impostor; for
his sense of the beauty of nature and of the unsatisfactoriness of life
is real, and his power of conveying this sense to others is real also.
He has great, though uncertain, and never very _fine_, command of poetic
sound, and a considerable though less command of poetic vision. But in
all this there is a singular touch of illusion, of what his
contemporaries had learnt from Scott to call gramarye. The often cited
parallel of the false and true Florimels in Spenser applies here also.
The really great poets do not injure each other in the very least by
comparison, different as they are. Milton does not "kill" Wordsworth;
Spenser does not injure Shelley; there is no danger in reading Keats
immediately after Coleridge. But read Byron in close juxtaposition with
any of these, or with not a few others, and the effect, to any good
poetic taste, must surely be disastrous; to my own, whether good or bad,
it is perfectly fatal. The light is not that which never was on land or
sea; it is that which is habitually just in front of the stage: the
roses are rouged, the cries of passion even sometimes (not always) ring
false. I have read Byron again and again; I have sometimes, by reading
Byron only and putting a strong constraint upon myself, got nearly into
the mood to enjoy him. But let eye or ear once catch sight or sound of
real poetry, and the enchantment vanishes.

Attention has already been called to the fact that Byron, though
generally ranking with the poets who have been placed before him in this
chapter as a leader in the nineteenth century renaissance of poetry, was
a direct scholar of Scott, and in point of age represented, if not a new
generation, a second division of the old. This was still more the case
in point of age, and almost infinitely more so in point of quality, as
regards Shelley and Keats. There was nothing really new in Byron; there
was only a great personal force directing itself, half involuntarily and
more than half because of personal lack of initiative, into contemporary
ways. The other two poets just mentioned were really new powers. They
took some colour from their elders; but they added more than they took,
and they would unquestionably have been great figures at any time of
English literature and history. Scott had little or no influence on
them, and Wordsworth not much; but they were rather close to Coleridge,
and they owed something to a poet of much less genius than his or than
their own--Leigh Hunt.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, the elder of the two, was Byron's junior by four
years, and was born at Field Place in Sussex in August 1792. He was the
heir of a very respectable and ancient though not very distinguished
family of the squirearchy; and he had every advantage of education,
being sent to Eton in 1804, and to University College, Oxford, six years
later. The unconquerable unconventionality of his character and his
literary tastes had shown themselves while he was still a schoolboy, and
in the last year of his Etonian and the first of his Oxonian residence
he published two of the most absurd novels of the most absurd novel kind
that ever appeared, _Zastrozzi_ and _St. Irvyne_, imitations of Monk
Lewis. He also in the same year collaborated in two volumes of verse,
_The Wandering Jew_ (partly represented by _Queen Mab_), and "_Poems_ by
Victor and Cazire" (which has vindicated the existence of reviewers by
surviving only in its reviews, all copies having mysteriously perished).
His stay at Oxford was not long; for having, in conjunction with a
clever but rather worthless friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg (afterwards
his biographer), issued a pamphlet on "The Necessity of Atheism" and
sent it to the heads of colleges, he was, by a much greater necessity,
expelled from University on 25th March 1811. Later in the same year he
married Harriet Westbrook, a pretty and lively girl of sixteen, who had
been a school-fellow of his sister's, but came from the lower middle
class. His apologists have said that Harriet threw herself at his head,
and that Shelley explained to her that she or he might depart when
either pleased. The responsibility and the validity of this defence may
be left to these advocates.

For nearly three years Shelley and his wife led an exceedingly wandering
life in Ireland, Wales, Devonshire, Berkshire, the Lake District, and
elsewhere, Shelley attempting all sorts of eccentric propagandism in
politics and religion, and completing the crude but absolutely original
_Queen Mab_. Before the third anniversary of his wedding-day came round
he had parted with Harriet, against whose character his apologists, as
above, have attempted to bring charges. The fact is that he had fallen
in love with Mary Godwin, daughter of the author of _Political Justice_
(whose writings had always had a great influence on Shelley, and who
spunged on him pitilessly) and of Mary Wollstonecraft. The pair fled to
the Continent together in July 1814; and two years later, when the
unhappy wife, a girl of twenty-one, had drowned herself in the
Serpentine, they were married. Meanwhile Shelley had wandered back to
England, had, owing to the death of his grandfather, received a
considerable independent income by arrangement, and in 1815 had written
_Alastor_, which, though not so clearly indicative of a new departure
when compared with _Queen Mab_ as some critics have tried to make out,
no other living poet, perhaps no other poet, could have written. He was
refused the guardianship, though he was allowed to appoint guardians, of
his children by the luckless Harriet, and was (for him naturally, though
for most men unreasonably) indignant. But his poetical vocation and
course were both clear henceforward, though he never during his life had
much command of the public, and had frequent difficulties with
publishers, while the then attitude of the law made piracy very easy.
For a time he lived at Marlow, where he wrote or began _Prince
Athanase_, _Rosalind and Helen_, and above all _Laon and Cythna_, called
later and permanently _The Revolt of Islam_. In April 1818 he left
England for Italy, and never returned.

The short remains of his life were spent chiefly at Lucca, Florence, and
Pisa, with visits to most of the other chief Italian cities; Byron being
often, and Leigh Hunt at the last, his companion. All his greatest poems
were now written. At last, in July 1821, when the Shelleys were staying
at a lonely house named Casa Magni, on the Bay of Spezia, he and his
friend Lieutenant Williams set out in a boat from Leghorn. The boat
either foundered in a squall or was run down. At any rate Shelley's body
was washed ashore on the 19th, and burnt on a pyre in the presence of
Byron, Hunt, and Trelawny.

Little need be said of Shelley's character. If it had not been for the
disgusting efforts of his maladroit adorers to blacken that not merely
of his hapless young wife, but of every one with whom he came in
contact, it might be treated with the extremest indulgence. Almost a boy
in years at the time of his death, he was, with some late flashes of
sobering, wholly a boy in inability to understand the responsibilities
and the burdens of life. An enthusiast for humanity generally, and
towards individuals a man of infinite generosity and kindliness, he yet
did some of the cruellest and some of not the least disgraceful things
from mere childish want of realising the _pacta conventa_ of the world.
He, wholly ignorant, would, if he could, have turned the wheel of
society the other way, reckless of the horrible confusion and suffering
that he must occasion.

But in pure literary estimation we need take no note of this. In
literature, Shelley, if not of the first three or four, is certainly of
the first ten or twelve. He has, as no poet in England except Blake and
Coleridge in a few flashes had had before him for some century and a
half, the ineffable, the divine intoxication which only the _di majores_
of poetry can communicate to their worshippers. Once again, after all
these generations, it became unnecessary to agree or disagree with the
substance, to take interest or not to take interest in it, to admit or
to contest the presence of faults and blemishes--to do anything except
recognise and submit to the strong pleasure of poetry, the charm of the
highest poetical inspiration.

I think myself, though the opinion is not common among critics, that
this touch is unmistakable even so early as _Queen Mab_. That poem is no
doubt to a certain extent modelled upon Southey, especially upon
_Kehama_, which, as has been observed above, is a far greater poem than
is usually allowed. But the motive was different: the sails might be the
same, but the wind that impelled them was another. By the time of
_Alastor_ it is generally admitted that there could or should have been
little mistake. Nothing, indeed, but the deafening blare of Byron's
brazen trumpet could have silenced this music of the spheres. The
meaning is not very much, though it is passable; but the music is
exquisite. There is just a foundation of Wordsworthian scheme in the
blank verse; but the structure built on it is not Wordsworth's at all,
and there are merely a few borrowed strokes of _technique_, such as the
placing of a long adjective before a monosyllabic noun at the end of
the line, and a strong cæsura about two-thirds through that line. All
the rest is Shelley, and wonderful.

It may be questioned whether, fine as _The Revolt of Islam_ is, the
Spenserian stanza was quite so well suited as the "Pindaric" or as blank
verse, or as lyrical measures, to Shelley's genius. It is certainly far
excelled both in the lyrics and in the blank verse of _Prometheus
Unbound_, the first poem which distinctly showed that one of the
greatest lyric poets of the world had been born to England. _The Cenci_
relies more on subject, and, abandoning the lyric appeal, abandons what
Shelley is strongest in; but _Hellas_ restores this. Of his comic
efforts, the chief of which are _Swellfoot the Tyrant_ and _Peter Bell
the Third_, it is perhaps enough to say that his humour, though it
existed, was fitful, and that he was too much of a partisan to keep
sufficiently above his theme. The poems midway between, large and
small--_Prince Athanase_, _The Witch of Atlas_ (an exquisite
and glorious fantasy piece), _Rosalind and Helen_, _Adonais_,
_Epipsychidion_, and the _Triumph of Life_--would alone have made his
fame. But it is in Shelley's smallest poems that his greatest virtue
lies. Not even in the seventeenth century had any writer given so much
that was so purely exquisite. "To Constantia Singing," the "Ozymandias"
sonnet, the "Lines written among the Euganean Hills," the "Stanzas
written in Dejection," the "Ode to the West Wind," the hackneyed
"Cloud," and "Skylark," "Arethusa," the "World's Wanderers," "Music,
when soft voices die," "The flower that smiles to-day," "Rarely, rarely,
comest thou," the "Lament," "One word is too often profaned," the
"Indian Air," the second "Lament," "O world! O life! O time!" (the most
perfect thing of its kind perhaps, in the strict sense of
perfection, that all poetry contains), the "Invitation," and the
"Recollection,"--this long list, which might have been made longer,
contains things absolutely consummate, absolutely unsurpassed, only
rivalled by a few other things as perfect as themselves.

Shelley has been foolishly praised, and it is very likely that the
praise given here may seem to some foolish. It is as hard for praise to
keep the law of the head as for blame to keep the law of the heart. He
has been mischievously and tastelessly excused for errors both in and
out of his writings which need only a kindly silence. In irritation at
the "chatter" over him some have even tried to make out that his
prose--very fine prose indeed, and preserved to us in some welcome
letters and miscellaneous treatises, but capable of being dispensed
with--is more worthy of attention than his verse, which has no parallel
and few peers. But that one thing will remain true in the general
estimate of competent posterity I have no doubt. There are two English
poets, and two only, in whom the purely poetical attraction, exclusive
of and sufficient without all others, is supreme, and these two are
Spenser and Shelley.

The life of John Keats was even shorter and even less marked by striking
events than that of Shelley, and he belonged in point of extraction and
education to a somewhat lower class of society than any of the poets
hitherto mentioned in this chapter. He was the son of a livery stable
keeper who was fairly well off, and he went to no school but a private
one, where, however, he received tolerable instruction and had good
comrades. Born in 1795, he was apprenticed to a surgeon at the age of
fifteen, and even did some work in his profession, till in 1817 his
overmastering passion for literature had its way. He became intimate
with the so-called "Cockney school," or rather with its leaders Leigh
Hunt and Hazlitt--an intimacy, as far as the former was concerned, not
likely to chasten his own taste, but chiefly unfortunate because it led,
in the rancorous state of criticism then existing, to his own efforts
being branded with the same epithet. His first book was published in the
year above mentioned: it did not contain all the verse he had written up
to that time, or the best of it, but it confirmed him in his vocation.
He broke away from surgery, and, having some little means, travelled to
the Isle of Wight, Devonshire, and other parts of England, besides
becoming more and more familiar with men of letters. It was in the Isle
of Wight chiefly that he wrote _Endymion_, which appeared in 1818. This
was savagely and stupidly attacked in _Blackwood_ and the _Quarterly_;
the former article being by some attributed, without a tittle of
evidence, to Lockhart. But the supposed effect of these attacks on
Keats' health was widely exaggerated by some contemporaries, especially
by Byron. The fact was that he had almost from his childhood shown
symptoms of lung disease, which developed itself very rapidly. The sense
of his almost certain fate combined with the ordinary effects of passion
to throw a somewhat hectic air over his correspondence with Miss Fanny
Brawne. His letters to her contain nothing discreditable to him, but
ought never to have been published. He was, however, to bring out his
third and greatest book of verse in 1820; and then he sailed for Italy,
to die on the 23rd of February 1821. He spoke of his name as "writ in
water." Posterity has agreed with him that it is--but in the Water of
Life.

Nothing is more interesting, even in the endless and delightful task of
literary comparison, than to contrast the work of Shelley and Keats, so
alike and yet so different. A little longer space of work, much greater
advantages of means and education, and a happier though less blameless
experience of passion, enabled Shelley to produce a much larger body of
work than Keats has to his name, even when this is swollen by what Mr.
Palgrave has justly stigmatised as "the incomplete and inferior work"
withheld by Keats himself, but made public by the cruel kindness of
admirers. And this difference in bulk probably coincides with a
difference in the volume of genius of the two writers. Further, while it
is not at all improbable that if Shelley had lived he would have gone on
writing better and better, the same probability is, I think, to be more
sparingly predicated of Keats.

On the other hand, by a not uncommon connection or consequence, Keats
has proved much more of a "germinal" poet than Shelley. Although the
latter was, I think, by far the greater, his poetry had little that was
national and very little that was imitable about it. He has had a vast
influence; but it has been in the main the influence, the inspiration of
his unsurpassed exciting power. No one has borrowed or carried further
any specially Shelleian turns of phrase, rhythm, or thought. Those who
have attempted to copy and urge further the Shelleian attitude towards
politics, philosophy, ethics, and the like, have made it generally
ludicrous and sometimes disgusting. He is, in his own famous words,
"something remote and afar." His poetry is almost poetry in its
elements, uncoloured by race, language, time, circumstance, or creed. He
is not even so much a poet as Poetry accidentally impersonated and
incarnate.

With Keats it is very different. He had scarcely reached maturity of any
kind when he died, and he laboured under the very serious disadvantages,
first of an insufficient acquaintance with the great masters, and
secondly of coming early under the influence of a rather small master,
yet a master, Leigh Hunt, who taught him the fluent, gushing, slipshod
style that brought not merely upon him, but upon his mighty successor
Tennyson, the harsh but not in this respect wholly unjust lash of
conservative and academic criticism. But he, as no one of his own
contemporaries did, felt, expressed, and handed on the exact change
wrought in English poetry by the great Romantic movement. Coleridge,
Wordsworth, Scott, and even Southey to some extent, were the authors of
this; but, being the authors, they were necessarily not the results of
it. Byron was fundamentally out of sympathy with it, though by accidents
of time and chance he had to enlist; Shelley, an angel, and an effectual
angel, of poetry, was hardly a man, and still less an Englishman. But
Keats felt it all, expressed what of it he had time and strength to
express, and left the rest to his successors, helped, guided, furthered
by his own example. Keats, in short, is the father, directly or at short
stages of descent, of every English poet born within the present
century who has not been a mere "sport" or exception. He begat Tennyson,
and Tennyson begat all the rest.

The evidences of this are to be seen in almost his earliest poems--not
necessarily in those contained in his earliest volume. Of course they
are not everywhere. There were sure to be, and there were, mere echoes
of eighteenth century verse and mere imitations of earlier writers. But
these may be simply neglected. It is in such pieces as "Calidore" that
the new note is heard; and though something in this note may be due to
Hunt (who had caught the original of it from Wither and Browne), Keats
changed, enriched, and refashioned the thing to such an extent that it
became his own. It is less apparent (though perhaps not less really
present) in his sonnets, despite the magnificence of the famous one on
Chapman's _Homer_, than in the couplet poems, which are written in an
extremely fluent and peculiar verse, very much "enjambed" or overlapped,
and with a frequent indulgence in double rhymes. Hunt had to a certain
extent started this, but he had not succeeded in giving it anything like
the distinct character which it took in Keats' hands.

_Endymion_ was written in this measure, with rare breaks; and there is
little doubt that the lusciousness of the rhythm, combined as it was
with a certain lusciousness both of subject and (again in unlucky
imitation of Hunt) of handling, had a bad effect on some readers, as
also that the attacks on it were to a certain extent, though not a very
large one, prompted by genuine disgust at the mawkishness, as its author
called it, of the tone. Keats, who was always an admirable critic of his
own work, judged it correctly enough later, except that he was too harsh
to it. But it is a delightful poem to this day, and I do not think that
it is quite just to call it, as it has been called, "not Greek, but
Elizabethan-Romantic." It seems to me quite different from Marlowe or
the author of _Britain's Ida_, and really Greek, but Greek mediæval,
Greek of the late romance type, refreshed with a wonderful new blood of
English romanticism. And this once more was to be the note of all the
best poetry of the century, the pouring of this new English blood
through the veins of old subjects--classical, mediæval, foreign, modern.
We were to conquer the whole world of poetical matter with our English
armies, and Keats was the first leader who started the adventure.

The exquisite poetry of his later work showed this general tendency in
all its latest pieces,--clearly in the larger poems, the fine but
perhaps somewhat overpraised _Hyperion_, the admirable _Lamia_, the
exquisite _Eve of St. Agnes_, but still more in the smaller, and most of
all in those twin peaks of all his poetry, the "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
and "La Belle Dame sans Merci." He need indeed have written nothing but
these two to show himself not merely an exquisite poet but a captain and
leader of English poetry for many a year, almost for many a generation
to come. Wordsworth may have given him a little, a very quiet hint for
the first, the more Classical masterpiece; Coleridge something a little
louder for the second, the Romantic. But in neither case did the summons
amount to anything like a cue or a call-bell; it was at best seed that,
if it had not fallen on fresh and fruitful soil, could have come to
nothing.

As it is, and if we wish to see what it came to, we must simply look at
the whole later poetry of the nineteenth century in England. The
operations of the spirit are not to be limited, and it is of course
quite possible that if Keats had not been, something or somebody would
have done his work instead of him. But as it is, it is to Keats that we
must trace Tennyson, Rossetti, Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Morris; to Keats that
even not a little of Browning has to be affiliated; to Keats, directly
or indirectly, that the greater part of the poetry of nearly three
generations owes royalty and allegiance.

Of him, as of Shelley, some foolish and hurtful things have been said.
In life he was no effeminate "æsthetic" or "decadent," divided between
sensual gratification and unmanly _Katzenjammer_, between paganism and
puerility, but an honest, manly Englishman, whose strength only yielded
to unconquerable disease, whose impulses were always healthy and
generous. Despite his origin,--and, it must be added, some of his
friendships,--there was not a touch of vulgarity about him; and if his
comic vein was not very full-pulsed, he had a merry laugh in him. There
is no "poisonous honey stolen" from anywhere or extracted by himself
from anything in Keats; his sensuousness is nothing more than is, in the
circumstances, "necessary and voluptuous and right." But these moral
excellences, while they may add to the satisfaction with which one
contemplates him, hardly enhance--though his morbid admirers seem to
think that the absence of them would enhance--the greatness and the
value of his poetical position, both in the elaboration of a new poetic
style and language, and still more in the indication of a new road
whereby the great poetic exploration could be carried on.

Round or under these great Seven--for that Byron was great in a way need
not be denied; Southey, the weakest of all as a poet, had a very strong
influence, and was one of the very greatest of English men of
letters--must be mentioned a not inconsiderable number of men who in any
other age would have been reckoned great. The eldest of these, both in
years and in reputation, holds his position, and perhaps always held it,
rather by courtesy than by strict right. Samuel Rogers[7] was born in
London on 30th July 1763, and was the son of a dissenting banker, from
whom he derived Whig principles and a comfortable fortune. It is said
that he once, as a very young man, went to call on Dr. Johnson, but was
afraid to knock; but though shyness accompanied him through life, the
amiability which it is sometimes supposed to betoken did not. He
published a volume of poems in 1786, and his famous _Pleasures of
Memory_, the piece that made his reputation, in 1792. Twenty years
afterwards _Columbus_ followed, and yet two years later, in 1814,
_Jacqueline_; while in 1822 _Italy_, on which, with the _Pleasures of
Memory_, such fame as he has rests, was published, to be reissued some
years afterwards in a magnificent illustrated edition, and to have a
chance (in a classical French jest) _se sauver de planche en planche_.
He did not die till 1855, in his ninety-third year: the last, as he had
been the first, of his group.

Rogers had the good luck to publish his best piece at a time when the
general and popular level of English poetry was at the lowest point it
has reached since the sixteenth century, and to be for many years
afterwards a rich and rather hospitable man, the acquaintance if not
exactly the friend of most men of letters, of considerable influence in
political and general society, and master of an excessively sharp
tongue. A useful friend and a dangerous enemy, it was simpler to court
or to let him alone than to attack him, and his fame was derived from
pieces too different from any work of the actual generation to give them
much umbrage. It may be questioned whether Rogers ever wrote a single
line of poetry. But he wrote some polished and pleasant verse, which was
vigorous by the side of Hayley and "correct" by the side of Keats. In
literature he has very little interest; in literary history he has some.

_Felix opportunitate_ in the same way, but a far greater poet, was
Thomas Campbell, who, like Rogers, was a Whig, like him belonged rather
to the classical than to the romantic school in style if not in choice
of subject, and like him had the good luck to obtain, by a poem with a
title very similar to that of Rogers' masterpiece, a high reputation at
a time when there was very little poetry put before the public. Campbell
was not nearly so old a man as Rogers, and was even the junior of the
Lake poets and Scott, having been born at Glasgow on the 27th July 1777.
His father was a real Campbell, and as a merchant had at one time been
of some fortune; but the American War had impoverished him, and the poet
was born to comparative indigence. He did, however, well at the college
of his native city, and on leaving it took a tutorship in Mull. His
_Pleasures of Hope_ was published in 1799 and was extremely popular, nor
after it had its author much difficulty in following literature. He was
never exactly rich, but pensions, legacies, editorships, high prices for
his not extensive poetical work, and higher for certain exercises in
prose book-making which are now almost forgotten, maintained him very
comfortably. Indeed, of the many recorded ingratitudes of authors to
publishers, Campbell's celebrated health to Napoleon because "he shot a
bookseller" is one of the most ungrateful. In the last year of the
eighteenth century he went to Germany, and was present at (or in the
close neighbourhood of) the battle of Hohenlinden. This he afterwards
celebrated in really immortal verse, which, with "Ye Mariners of
England" and the "Battle of the Baltic," represents his greatest
achievement. In 1809 he published _Gertrude of Wyoming_, a short-long
poem of respectable _technique_ and graceful sentiment. In 1824 appeared
a volume of poems, of which the chief, _Theodric_ (not as it is
constantly misspelled _Theodoric_), is bad; and in 1842 another, of
which the chief, _The Pilgrim of Glencoe_, is worse. He died in 1844 at
Boulogne, after a life which, if not entirely happy (for he had
ill-health, not improved by incautious habits, some domestic
misfortunes, and a rather sour disposition), had been full of honours of
all kinds, both in his own country, of where he was Lord Rector of
Glasgow University, and out of it.

If Campbell had written nothing but his longer poems, the comparison
above made with Rogers would be wholly, instead of partly, justified.
Although both still retain a sort of conventional respect, it is
impossible to call either the _Pleasures of Hope_ or _Gertrude of
Wyoming_ very good poetry, while enough has been said of their
successors. Nor can very high praise be given to most of the minor
pieces. But the three splendid war-songs above named--the equals, if not
the superiors, of anything of the kind in English, and therefore in any
language--set him in a position from which he is never likely to be
ousted. In a handful of others--"Lochiel," the exquisite lines on "A
Deserted Garden in Argyleshire," with, for some flashes at least, the
rather over-famed "Exile of Erin," "Lord Ullin's Daughter," and a few
more--he also displays very high, though rather unequal and by no means
unalloyed, poetical faculty; and "The Last Man," which, by the way, is
the latest of his good things, is not the least. But his best work will
go into a very small compass: a single octavo sheet would very nearly
hold it, and it was almost all written before he was thirty. He is thus
an instance of a kind of poet, not by any means rare in literature, but
also not very common, who appears to have a faculty distinct in class
but not great in volume, who can do certain things better than almost
anybody else, but cannot do them very often, and is not quite to be
trusted to do them with complete sureness of touch. For it is to be
noted that even in Campbell's greatest things there are distinct
blemishes, and that these blemishes are greatest in that which in its
best parts reaches the highest level--"The Battle of the Baltic." Many
third and some tenth rate poets would never have left in their work such
things as "The might of England flushed _To anticipate the scene_,"
which is half fustian and half nonsense: no very great poet could
possibly have been guilty of it. Yet for all this Campbell holds, as has
been said, the place of best singer of war in a race and language which
are those of the best singers and not the worst fighters in the history
of the world--in the race of Nelson and the language of Shakespeare. Not
easily shall a man win higher praise than this.

In politics, as well as in a certain general kind of literary attitude
and school, another Thomas, Moore, classes himself both historically and
naturally with Rogers and Campbell; but he was a very much better poet
than Rogers, and, though he never reached quite the same height as
Campbell at his narrow and exceptional best, a far more voluminous verse
writer and a much freer writer of good verse of many different kinds. He
was born in Dublin on 28th May 1779; his father being a grocer, his
mother somewhat higher in social rank. He was well educated, and was
sent to Trinity College, Dublin, where he had but surmounted political
difficulties; for his time as an undergraduate coincided with
"Ninety-eight," and though it does not seem that he had meddled with
anything distinctly treasonable, he had "Nationalist" friends and
leanings. Partly to sever inconvenient associations, partly in quest of
fortune, he was sent to London in that year, and entered at the Temple.
In a manner not very clearly explained, but connected no doubt with his
leaning to the Whig party, which was then much in need of literary help,
he became a protégé of Lord Moira's, by whom he was introduced to the
Prince of Wales. The Prince accepted the dedication of some translations
of Anacreon, etc., which Moore had brought over with him, and which were
published in 1800; while two years later the _Poems of Thomas Little_, a
punning pseudonym, appeared, and at once charmed the public by their
sugared versification and shocked it by their looseness of tone--a
looseness which is not to be judged from the comparatively decorous
appearance they make in modern editions. But there was never much harm
in them. Next year, in 1803, Moore received a valuable appointment at
Bermuda, which, though he actually went out to take possession of it and
travelled some time in North America, he was allowed to transfer to a
deputy. He came back to England, published another volume of poems, and
fought a rather famously futile duel with Jeffrey about a criticism on
it in the _Edinburgh Review_. He began the _Irish Melodies_ in 1807,
married four years later, and from that time fixed his headquarters
mostly in the country: first near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, then near
Devizes in Wiltshire, to be near his patrons Lord Moira and Lord
Lansdowne. But he was constantly in London on visits, and much in the
society of men of letters, not merely of his own party. In particular he
became, on the whole, Byron's most intimate friend, and preserved
towards that very difficult person an attitude (tinged neither with the
servility nor with the exaggerated independence of the _parvenu_) which
did him a great deal of credit. He was rather a strong partisan, and,
having a brilliant vein of poetical satire, he wrote in 1813 _The
Twopenny Post Bag_--the best satiric verse of the poetical kind since
the _Anti-Jacobin_, and the best on the Whig side since the _Rolliad_.

Nor did he fail to take advantage of the popular appetite for long poems
which Scott and Byron had created; his _Lalla Rookh_, published in 1817,
being very popular and very profitable. It was succeeded by another and
his best satirical work, _The Fudge Family_, a charming thing.

Up to this time he had been an exceedingly fortunate man; and his good
luck, aided it must be said by his good conduct,--for Moore, with all
his apparent weaknesses, was thoroughly sound at the core,--enabled him
to surmount a very serious reverse of fortune. His Bermuda deputy was
guilty of malversation so considerable that Moore could not meet the
debt, and he had to go abroad. But Lord Lansdowne discharged his
obligations; and Moore paid Lord Lansdowne. He returned to England in
1823, and was a busy writer for all but the last years of the thirty
that remained to him; but the best of his work was done, with one
exception. Byron left him his _Memoirs_, which would of course have been
enormously profitable. But Lady Byron and others of the poet's
connections were so horrified at the idea of the book appearing that, by
an arrangement which has been variously judged, but which can hardly be
regarded as other than disinterested on Moore's part, the MS. was
destroyed, and instead of it Moore brought out in 1830 his well-known
_Life of Byron_. This, some not incompetent judges have regarded as
ranking next to Lockhart's _Scott_ and Boswell's _Johnson_, and though
its main attraction may be derived from Byron's very remarkable letters,
still shows on the part of the biographer very unusual dexterity, good
feeling, and taste. The lives of _Sheridan_ and _Lord Edward Fitzgerald_
had, and deserved to have, less success; while a _History of Ireland_
was, and was bound to be, an almost complete failure. For, though a very
good prose writer, Moore had little of the erudition required, no grasp
or faculty of political argument, and was at this time of his life, if
not earlier, something of a trimmer, certain to satisfy neither the
"ascendency" nor the "nationalist" parties. His prose romance of _The
Epicurean_ is much better, and a really remarkable, piece of work; and
though the _Loves of the Angels_, his last long poem, is not very good,
he did not lose his command either of sentimental or of facetious lyric
till quite his last days. These were clouded; for, like his
contemporaries Scott and Southey, he suffered from brain disease for
some time before his death, on 25th February 1852.

During his lifetime, especially during the first half or two-thirds of
his literary career, Moore had a great popularity, and won no small
esteem even among critics; such discredit as attached to him being
chiefly of the moral kind, and that entertained only by very
strait-laced persons. But as the more high-flown and impassioned muses
of Wordsworth, of Shelley, and of Keats gained the public ear in the
third and later decades of the century, a fashion set in of regarding
him as a mere melodious trifler; and this has accentuated itself during
the last twenty years or so, though quite recently some efforts have
been made in protest. This estimate is demonstrably unjust. It is true
that of the strange and high notes of poetry he has very few, of the
very strangest and highest none at all. But his long poems, _Lalla
Rookh_ especially, though somewhat over-burdened with the then
fashionable deck cargo of erudite or would-be erudite notes, possess
merit which none but a very prejudiced critic can, or at least ought to,
overlook. And in other respects he is very nearly, if not quite, at the
top of at least two trees, which, if not quite cedars of Lebanon, are
not mere grass of Parnassus. Moore was a born as well as a trained
musician. But whereas most musicians have since the seventeenth century
been exceedingly ill at verbal numbers, he had a quite extraordinary
knack of composing what are rather disrespectfully called "words." Among
his innumerable songs there are not one or two dozens or scores, but
almost hundreds of quite charmingly melodious things, admirably adjusted
to their music, and delightful by themselves without any kind of
instrument, and as said not sung. And, what is more, among these there
is a very respectable number to which it would be absolutely absurd to
give the name of trifle. "I saw from the beach" is not a trifle, nor
"When in death I shall calm recline," nor "Oft in the stilly night," nor
"Tell me, kind sage, I pray thee," nor many others. They have become so
hackneyed to us in various ways, and some of them happen to be pitched
in a key of diction which, though not better or worse than others, is so
out of fashion, that it seems as if some very respectable judges could
not "focus" Moore at all. To those who can he will seem, not of course
the equal, or anything like the equal, of Burns or Shelley, of Blake or
Keats, but in his own way,--and that a way legitimate and not low,--one
of the first lyrical writers in English. And they will admit a
considerable addition to his claims in his delightful satirical verse,
mainly but not in the least offensively political, in which kind he is
as easily first as in the sentimental song to music.

Something not dissimilar to the position which Moore occupies on the
more classical wing of the poets of the period is occupied on the other
by Leigh Hunt. Hunt (Henry James Leigh, who called himself and is
generally known by the third only of his Christian names) was born in
London on the 19th October 1784, was educated at Christ's Hospital,
began writing very early, held for a short time a clerkship in a public
office, and then joined his brother in conducting the _Examiner_
newspaper. Fined and imprisoned for a personal libel on the Prince
Regent (1812), Hunt became the fashion with the Opposition; and the
_Story of Rimini_, which he published when he came out of gaol, and
which was written in it, had a good deal of influence. He spent some
years in Italy, to which place he had gone with his family in 1822 to
edit _The Liberal_ and to keep house with Byron--a very disastrous
experiment, the results of which he recorded in an offensive book on his
return. Hunt lived to 18th August 1859, and was rescued from the chronic
state of impecuniosity in which, despite constant literary work, he had
long lived, by a Crown pension and some other assistance in his latest
days. Personally, Leigh Hunt was an agreeable and amiable being enough,
with certain foibles which were rather unfairly magnified in the famous
caricature of him as Harold Skimpole by his friend Dickens, but which
were accompanied by some faults of taste of which Mr. Skimpole is not
accused.

In letters he was a very considerable person; though the best and far
the largest part of his work is in prose, and will be noticed hereafter.
His verse is not great in bulk, and is perhaps more original and
stimulating than positively good. His wide and ardent study of the older
English poets and of those of Italy had enabled him to hit on a novel
style of phrase and rhythm, which has been partly referred to above in
the notice of Keats; his narrative faculty was strong, and some of his
smaller pieces, from his sonnets downwards, are delightful things. "Abou
ben Adhem" unites (a rare thing for its author) amiability with dignity,
stateliness with ease; the "Nile" sonnet is splendid; "Jenny kissed me,"
charming, if not faultless; "The Man and the Fish," far above vulgarity.
The lack of delicate taste which characterised his manners also marred
his verse, which is not unfrequently slipshod, or gushing, or trivially
fluent, and perhaps never relatively so good as the best of his prose.
But he owed little to any but the old masters, and many contemporaries
owed not a little to him.

A quaint and interesting if not supremely important figure among the
poets of this period, and, if his poetry and prose be taken together, a
very considerable man of letters,--perhaps the most considerable man of
letters in English who was almost totally uneducated,--was James Hogg,
who was born in Ettrick Forest in the year 1772. He was taken from
school to mind sheep so early that much later he had to teach himself
even reading and writing afresh; and, though he must have had the
song-gift early, it was not till he was nearly thirty that he published
anything. He was discovered by Scott, to whom he and his mother supplied
a good deal of matter for the _Border Minstrelsy_, and he published
again in 1803. The rest of his life was divided between writing--with
fair success, though with some ill-luck from bankrupt publishers--and
sheep-farming, on which he constantly lost, though latterly he sat rent
free under the Duke of Buccleuch. He died on 21st November 1835.

Even during his life Hogg underwent a curious process of mythopoeia at
the hands of Wilson and the other wits of _Blackwood's Magazine_, who
made him--partly with his own consent, partly not--into the famous
"Ettrick Shepherd" of the _Noctes Ambrosianæ_. "The Shepherd" has Hogg's
exterior features and a good many of his foibles, but is endowed with
considerably more than his genius. Even in his published and
acknowledged works, which are numerous, it is not always quite easy to
be sure of his authorship; for he constantly solicited, frequently
received, and sometimes took without asking, assistance from Lockhart
and others. But enough remains that is different from the work of any of
his known or possible coadjutors to enable us to distinguish his
idiosyncrasy pretty well. In verse he was a very fluent and an
exceedingly unequal writer, who in his long poems chiefly, and not too
happily, followed Scott, but who in the fairy poem of "Kilmeny"
displayed an extraordinary command of a rare form of poetry, and who has
written some dozens of the best songs in the language. The best, but
only a few of the best, of these are "Donald Macdonald," "Donald
M'Gillavry," "The Village of Balmanhapple," and the "Boy's Song." In
prose he chiefly attempted novels, which have no construction at all,
and few merits of dialogue or style, but contain some powerful passages;
while one of them, _The Confessions of a Justified Sinner_, if it is
entirely his, which is very doubtful, is by far the greatest thing he
wrote, being a story of _diablerie_ very well designed, wonderfully
fresh and enthralling in detail, and kept up with hardly a slip to the
end. His other chief prose works are entitled _The Brownie of Bodsbeck_,
_The Three Perils of Man_, _The Three Perils of Woman_, and _Altrive
Tales_, while he also wrote some important, and in parts very offensive,
but also in parts amusing, _Recollections of Sir Walter Scott_. His
verse volumes, no one of which is good throughout, though hardly one is
without good things, were _The Mountain Bard_, _The Queen's Wake_,
_Mador of the Moor_, _The Pilgrims of the Sun_, _Jacobite Relics_ (some
of the best forged by himself), _Queen Hynde_, and _The Border Garland_.

A greater writer, if his work be taken as a whole, than any who has been
mentioned since Keats, was Walter Savage Landor, much of whose
composition was in prose, but who was so alike in prose and verse that
the whole had better be noticed together here. Landor (who was of a
family of some standing in Warwickshire, and was heir to considerable
property, much of which he wasted later by selling his inheritance and
buying a large but unprofitable estate in Wales) was born at Ipsley
Court, in 1775. He went to school at Rugby, and thence to Trinity
College, Oxford, at both of which places he gained considerable
scholarship but was frequently in trouble owing to the intractable and
headstrong temper which distinguished him through life. He was indeed
rusticated from his college, and subsequently, owing to his extravagant
political views, was refused a commission in the Warwickshire Militia.
He began to write early, but the poem of _Gebir_, which contains in germ
or miniature nearly all his characteristics of style, passed almost
unnoticed by the public, though it was appreciated by good wits like
Southey and De Quincey. After various private adventures he came into
his property and volunteered in the service of Spain, where he failed,
as usual, from impracticableness. In 1811, recklessly as always, he
married a very young girl of whom he knew next to nothing, and the
marriage proved anything but a happy one. The rest of his long life was
divided into three residences: first with his family at Florence; then,
when he had quarrelled with his wife, at Bath; and lastly (when he had
been obliged to quit Bath and England owing to an outrageous lampoon on
one lady, which he had written, as he conceived, in chivalrous defence
of another) at Florence again. Here he died in September 1864, aged very
nearly ninety.

Landor's poetical productions, which are numerous, are spread over the
greater part of his life; his prose, by which he is chiefly known, dates
in the main from the last forty years of it, the best being written
between 1820 and 1840. The greater part of this prose takes the form of
"Imaginary Conversations"--sometimes published under separate general
headings, sometimes under the common title--between characters of all
ages, from the classical times to Landor's. Their bulk is very great;
their perfection of style at the best extraordinary, and on the whole
remarkably uniform; their value, when considerations of matter are added
to that of form, exceedingly unequal. For in them Landor not only
allowed the fullest play to the ungovernable temper and the childish
crotchets already mentioned, but availed himself of his opportunities
(for, though he endeavoured to maintain a pretence of dramatic
treatment, his work is nearly as personal as that of Byron) to deliver
his sentiments on a vast number of subjects, sometimes without too much
knowledge, and constantly with a plentiful lack of judgment. In
politics, in satiric treatment, and especially in satiric treatment of
politics, he is very nearly valueless. But his intense familiarity with
and appreciation of classical subjects gave to almost all his dealings
with them a value which, for parallel reasons, is also possessed by
those touching Italy. And throughout this enormous collection of work
(which in the compactest edition fills five large octavo volumes in
small print), whensoever the author forgets his crotchets and his rages,
when he touches on the great and human things, his utterance reaches the
very highest water-mark of English literature that is not absolutely the
work of supreme genius.

For supreme genius Landor had not. His brain was not a great brain, and
he did not possess the exquisite alertness to his own weaknesses, or the
stubborn knack of confinement to things suitable to him, which some
natures much smaller than the great ones have enjoyed. But he had the
faculty of elaborate style--of style elaborated by a careful education
after the best models and vivified by a certain natural gift--as no one
since the seventeenth century had had it, and as no one except Mr.
Ruskin and the late Mr. Pater has had since. Also, he was as much wider
in his range and more fertile in his production than Mr. Pater as he was
more solidly grounded on the best models than Mr. Ruskin. Where Landor
is quite unique is in the apparent indifference with which he was able
to direct this gift of his into the channels of prose and poetry--a
point on which he parts company from both the writers to whom he has
been compared, and in which his only analogue, so far as I am able to
judge, is Victor Hugo. The style of no Englishman is so alike in the two
harmonies as is that of Landor. And it is perhaps not surprising that,
this being the case, he shows at his best in prose when he tries long
pieces, in verse when he tries short ones. Some of Landor's prose
performances in _Pericles and Aspasia_, in the _Pentameron_ (where
Boccaccio and Petrarch are the chief interlocutors), and in not a few of
the separate conversations, are altogether unparalleled in any other
language, and not easy to parallel in English. They are never entirely
or perfectly natural; there is always a slight "smell of the lamp," but
of a lamp perfumed and undying. The charm is so powerful, the grace so
stately, that it is impossible for any one to miss it who has the
faculty of recognising charm and grace at all. In particular, Landor is
remarkable--and, excellent as are many of the prose writers whom we have
had since, he is perhaps the most remarkable--for the weight, the
beauty, and the absolute finish of his phrase. Sometimes these splendid
phrases do not mean very much; occasionally they mean nothing or
nonsense. But their value as phrase survives, and the judge in such
things is often inclined and entitled to say that there is none like
them.

This will prepare the reader who has some familiarity with literature
for what is to be said about Landor's verse. It always has a certain
quality of exquisiteness, but this quality is and could not but be
unequally displayed in the short poems and the long. The latter can
hardly attain, with entirely competent and impartial judges, more than a
success of esteem. _Gebir_ is couched in a Miltonic form of verse (very
slightly shot and varied by Romantic admixture) which, as is natural to
a young adventurer, caricatures the harder and more ossified style of
the master. Sometimes it is great; more usually it intends greatness.
The "Dialogues in Verse" (very honestly named, for they are in fact
rather dialogues in verse than poems), though executed by the hand of a
master both of verse and dialogue, differ in form rather than in fact
from the Conversations in prose. The _Hellenics_ are mainly dialogues in
verse with a Greek subject. All have a quality of nobility which may be
sought in vain in almost any other poet; but all have a certain
stiffness and frigidity, some a certain emptiness. They are never
plaster, as some modern antiques have been; but they never make the
marble of which they are composed wholly flesh. Landor was but a
half-Pygmalion.

The vast collection of his miscellaneous poems contains many more
fortunate attempts, some of which have, by common consent of the
fittest, attained a repute which they are never likely to lose. "Rose
Aylmer" and "Dirce," trifles in length as both of them are, are very
jewels of poetic quality. And among the hundreds and almost thousands of
pieces which Landor produced there are some which come not far short of
these, and very many which attain a height magnificent as compared with
the ordinary work of others. But the hackneyed comparison of amber does
something gall this remarkable poet and writer. Everything, great and
small, is enshrined in an imperishable coating of beautiful style; but
the small things are somewhat out of proportion to the great, and, what
is more, the amber itself always has a certain air of being deliberately
and elaborately produced--not of growing naturally. Landor--much more
than Dryden, of whom he used the phrase, but in the same class as
Dryden--is one of those who "wrestle with and conquer time." He has
conquered, but it is rather as a giant of celestial nurture than as an
unquestioned god.

Even after enumerating these two sets of names--the first all of the
greatest, and the greatest of the second, Landor, equalling the least of
the first--we have not exhausted the poetical riches of this remarkable
period. It is indeed almost dangerous to embark on the third class of
poets; yet its members here would in some cases have been highly
respectable earlier, and even at this time deserve notice either for
influence, or for intensity of poetic vein, or sometimes for the mere
fact of having been once famous and having secured a "place in the
story." The story of literature has no popular ingratitude; and, except
in the case of distinct impostors, it turns out with reluctance those
who have once been admitted to it. Sometimes even impostors deserve a
renewal of the brand, if not a freshening up of the honourable
inscription.

The first of this third class in date, and perhaps the first in
influence, though far indeed from being the first in merit, was William
Lisle Bowles, already once or twice referred to. He was born on 24th
September 1762; so that, but for the character and influence of his
verse, he belongs to the last chapter rather than to this. Educated at
Winchester, and at Trinity College, Oxford, he took orders, and spent
nearly the last half century of his very long life (he did not die till
1850) in Wiltshire, as Prebendary of Salisbury and Rector of Bremhill.
It was in the year of the French Revolution that he published his
_Fourteen Sonnets_ [afterwards enlarged in number], _written chiefly on
Picturesque Spots during a Journey_. These fell early into Coleridge's
hands; he copied and recopied them for his friends when he was a
blue-coat boy, and in so far as poetical rivers have any single source,
the first tricklings of the stream which welled into fulness with the
Lyrical Ballads, and some few years later swept all before it, may be
assigned to this very feeble fount. For in truth it is exceedingly
feeble. In the fifth edition (1796), which lies before me exquisitely
printed, with a pretty aquatint frontispiece by Alken, and a dedication
of the previous year to Dean Ogle of Winchester, the Sonnets have
increased to twenty-seven, and are supplemented by fifteen
"miscellaneous pieces." One of these latter is itself a sonnet "written
at Southampton," and in all respects similar to the rest. The
others--"On Leaving Winchester," "On the Death of Mr. Headley" the
critic, a man of worth,[8] "To Mr. Burke on his Reflections," and so
forth--are of little note. The same may be said of Bowles' later
poetical productions, which were numerous; but his edition of Pope,
finished in 1807, brought about a hot controversy not yet forgotten
(nor, to tell the truth, quite settled) on the question Whether Pope was
a poet? That Bowles can have had scant sympathy with Pope is evident
from the very first glance at the famous sonnets themselves. Besides
their form, which, as has been said, was of itself something of a
reactionary challenge, they bear strong traces of Gray, and still
stronger traces of the picturesque mania which was at the same time
working so strongly in the books of Gilpin and others. But their real
note is the note which, ringing in Coleridge's ear, echoed in all the
poetry of the generation, the note of unison between the aspect of
nature and the thought and emotion of man. In the sonnets "At
Tynemouth," "At Bamborough Castle," and indeed in all, more or less,
there is first the attempt to paint directly what the eye sees, not the
generalised and academic view of the type-scene by a type-poet which had
been the fashion for so long; and secondly, the attempt to connect this
vision with personal experience, passion, or meditation. Bowles does not
do this very well, but he tries to do it; and the others, seeing him
try, went and did it.

His extreme importance as an at least admitted "origin" has procured
him notice somewhat beyond his real deserts; over others we must pass
more rapidly. Robert Bloomfield, born in 1760, was one of those
unfortunate "prodigy" poets whom mistaken kindness encourages. He was
the son of a tailor, went early to agricultural labour, and then became
a shoemaker. His _Farmer's Boy_, an estimable but much overpraised
piece, was published in 1800, and he did other things later. He died
mad, or nearly so, in 1823--a melancholy history repeated pretty closely
a generation later by John Clare. Clare, however, was a better poet than
Bloomfield, and some of the "Poems written in an Asylum" have more than
merely touching merit. James Montgomery,[9] born at Irvine on 4th
November 1771, was the son of a Moravian minister, and intended for his
father's calling. He, however, preferred literature and journalism,
establishing himself chiefly at Sheffield, where he died as late as 1854
(30th April). He had, as editor of the _Sheffield Iris_, some troubles
with the law, and in 1835 was rewarded with a pension. Montgomery was a
rather copious and fairly pleasing minor bard, no bad hand at hymns and
short occasional pieces, and the author of longer things called _The
Wanderer of Switzerland_, _The West Indies_, _The World before the
Flood_, and _The Pelican Island_. Bernard Barton, an amiable Quaker
poet, will probably always be remembered as the friend and correspondent
of Charles Lamb; perhaps also as the father-in-law of Edward FitzGerald.
His verse commended itself both to Southey (who had a kindly but rather
disastrous weakness for minor bards) and to Byron, but has little value.
Barton died in 1849.

The same pair of enemies joined in praising Henry Kirke White, who was
born in 1785 and died when barely twenty-one. Here indeed Southey's
unsurpassed biographical skill enforced the poetaster's merit in a
charming _Memoir_, which assisted White's rather pathetic story. He was
the son of a butcher, a diligent but reluctant lawyer's clerk, an
enthusiastic student, a creditable undergraduate at St. John's,
Cambridge, and a victim of consumption. All this made his verse for a
time popular. But he really deserved the name just affixed to him: he
was a poetaster, and nothing more. The "genius" attributed to him in
Byron's well-known and noble though rather rhetorical lines may be
discovered on an average in about half a dozen poets during any two or
three years of any tolerable poetic period. His best things are
imitations of Cowper in his sacred mood, such as the familiar "Star of
Bethlehem," and even these are generally spoilt by some feebleness or
false note. At his worst he is not far from Della Crusca.[10]

In the same year with Kirke White was born a much better poet, and a
much robuster person in all ways, mental and physical. Allan Cunningham
was a Dumfriesshire man born in the lowest rank, and apprenticed to a
stone-mason, whence in after years he rose to be Chantrey's foreman.
Cunningham began--following a taste very rife at the time--with
imitated, or to speak plainly, forged ballads; but the merit of them
deserved on true grounds the recognition it obtained on false, and he
became a not inconsiderable man of letters of all work. His best known
prose work is the "Lives of the Painters." In verse he is ranked, as a
song writer in Scots, by some next to Burns, and by few lower than Hogg.
Some of his pieces, such as "Fair shines the sun in France," have the
real, the inexplicable, the irresistible song-gift. Cunningham, who was
the friend of many good men and was liked by all of them, died on 29th
October 1842. His elder by eleven years, Robert Tannahill, who was born
in 1774 and died (probably by suicide) in 1810, deserves a few lines in
this tale of Scots singers. Tannahill, like Cunningham in humble
circumstances originally, never became more than a weaver. His verse has
not the _gusto_ of Allan or of Hogg, but is sweet and tender enough.
William Motherwell too, as much younger than Allan as Tannahill was
older (he was born in 1797 and died young in 1835), deserves mention,
and may best receive it here. He was a Conservative journalist, an
antiquary of some mark, and a useful editor of Minstrelsy. Of his
original work, "Jeanie Morrison" is the best known; and those who have
read, especially if they have read it in youth, "The Sword Chant of
Thorstein Raudi," will not dismiss it as Wardour Street; while he did
some other delightful things. Earlier (1812) the heroicomic _Anster
Fair_ of William Tennant (1784-1848) received very high and deserved no
low praise; while William Thom, a weaver like Tannahill, who was a year
younger than Motherwell and lived till 1848, wrote many simple ballads
in the vernacular, of which the most touching are perhaps "The Song of
the Forsaken" and "The Mitherless Bairn."

To return to England, Bryan Waller Procter, who claimed kindred with the
poet from whom he took his second name, was born in 1790, went to
Harrow, and, becoming a lawyer, was made a Commissioner of Lunacy. He
did not die till 1874; and he, and still more his wife, were the last
sources of direct information about the great race of the first third of
the century. He was, under the pseudonym of "Barry Cornwall," a fluent
verse writer of the so-called cockney school, and had not a little
reputation, especially for songs about the sea and things in general.
They still, occasionally from critics who are not generally under the
bondage of traditional opinion, receive high praise, which the present
writer is totally unable to echo. A loyal junior friend to Lamb, a wise
and kindly senior to Beddoes, liked and respected by many or by all,
Procter, as a man, must always deserve respect. If

    The sea, the sea, the open sea,
    The blue, the fresh, the ever free,

and things like it are poetry, I admit myself, with a sad humility, to
be wholly destitute of poetical appreciation.

The Church of England contributed two admirable verse writers of this
period in Henry Cary and Reginald Heber. Cary, who was born in 1772 and
was a Christ Church man, was long an assistant librarian in the British
Museum. His famous translation of the _Divina Commedia_, published in
1814, is not only one of the best verse translations in English, but,
after the lapse of eighty years, during which the study of Dante has
been constantly increasing in England, in which poetic ideas have
changed not a little, and in which numerous other translations have
appeared, still attracts admiration from all competent scholars for its
combination of fidelity and vigour. Heber, born in 1783 and educated at
Brasenose, gained the Newdigate with _Palestine_, a piece which ranks
with _Timbuctoo_ and a few others among unforgotten prize poems. He took
orders, succeeding to the family living of Hodnet, and for some years
bid fair to be one of the most shining lights of the English Church,
combining admirable parochial work with good literature, and with much
distinction as a preacher. Unfortunately he thought it his duty to take
the Bishopric of Calcutta when it was offered him; and, arriving there
in 1824, worked incessantly for nearly two years and then died. His
_Journal in India_ is very pleasant reading, and some of his hymns rank
with the best in English.

Ebenezer Elliott, the "Corn-Law Rhymer," was born in Yorkshire on 7th
March 1781. His father was a clerk in an iron-foundry. He himself was
early sent to foundry work, and he afterwards became a master-founder at
Sheffield. From different points of view it may be thought a
palliation--and the reverse--of the extreme virulence with which Elliott
took the side of workmen against landowners and men of property, that he
attained to affluence himself as an employer, and was never in the least
incommoded by the "condition-of-England" question. He early displayed a
considerable affection for literature, and was one, and about the last,
of the prodigies whom Southey, in his inexhaustible kindness for
struggling men of letters, accepted. Many years later the Laureate wrote
good-naturedly to Wynn: "I mean to read the Corn-Law Rhymer a lecture,
not without some hope, that as I taught him the art of poetry I may
teach him something better." The "something better" was not in Elliott's
way; for he is a violent and crude thinker, with more smoke than fire in
his violence, though not without generosity of feeling now and then, and
with a keen admiration of the scenery--still beautiful in parts, and
then exquisite--which surrounded the smoky Hades of Sheffield. He
himself acknowledges the influence of Crabbe and disclaims that of
Wordsworth, from which the cunning may anticipate the fact that he is
deeply indebted to both. His earliest publication or at least
composition, "The Vernal Walk," is said to date from the very year of
the _Lyrical Ballads_, and of course owes no royalty to Wordsworth, but
is in blank verse, a sort of compound of Thomson and Crabbe. "Love" (in
Crabbian couplets slightly tinged with overlapping) and "The Village
Patriarch" (still smacking of Crabbe in form, though irregularly
arranged in rhymed decasyllables) are his chief other long poems. He
tried dramas, but he is best known by his "Corn-Law Rhymes" and
"Corn-Law Hymns," and deserves to be best known by a few lyrics of real
beauty, and many descriptions. How a man who could write "The Wonders of
the Lane" and "The Dying Boy to the Sloe Blossom" could stoop to
malignant drivel about "palaced worms," "this syllabub-throated
logician," and so forth, is strange enough to understand, especially as
he had no excuse of personal suffering. Even in longer poems the mystery
is renewed in "They Met Again" and "Withered Wild Flowers" compared with
such things as "The Ranter," though the last exhibits the author at both
his best and worst. However, Elliott is entitled to the charity he did
not show; and the author of such clumsy Billingsgate as "Arthur
Bread-Tax Winner," "Faminton," and so forth, may be forgiven for the
flashes of poetry which he exhibits. Even in his political poems they do
not always desert him, and his somewhat famous Chartist (or
ante-Chartist) "Battle-Song" is as right-noted as it is wrong-headed.

Sir Aubrey de Vere (1788-1846), a poet and the father of a poet still
alive, was a friend and follower of Wordsworth, and the author of
sonnets good in the Wordsworthian kind. But he cannot be spared much
room here; nor can much even be given to the mild shade of a poetess far
more famous in her day than he. "Time that breaks all things," according
to the dictum of a great poet still living, does not happily break all
in literature; but it is to be feared that he has reduced to fragments
the once not inconsiderable fame of Felicia Hemans. She was born (her
maiden name was Felicia Dorothea Browne) at Liverpool on 25th September
1794, and when she was only eighteen she married a Captain Hemans. It
was not a fortunate union, and by far the greater part of Mrs. Hemans'
married life was spent, owing to no known fault of hers, apart from her
husband. She did not live to old age, dying on 26th April 1835. But she
wrote a good deal of verse meanwhile--plays, poems, "songs of the
affections," and what not. Her blameless character (she wrote chiefly to
support her children) and a certain ingenuous tenderness in her verse,
saved its extreme feebleness from severe condemnation in an age which
was still avid of verse rather than discriminating in it; and children
still learn "The boy stood on the burning deck," and other things. It is
impossible, on any really critical scheme, to allow her genius; but she
need not be spoken of with any elaborate disrespect, while it must be
admitted that her latest work is her best--always a notable sign.
"Despondency and Aspiration," dating from her death-year, soars close to
real sublimity; and of her smaller pieces "England's Dead" is no vulgar
thing.

Between the death of Byron and the distinct appearance of Tennyson and
the Brownings there was a kind of interregnum or twilight of poetry, of
which one of its strangest if not least illuminative stars or meteors,
Beddoes, has given a graphic but uncomplimentary picture in a letter:
"owls' light" he calls it, with adjuncts. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and
Southey; Scott, Campbell, and Moore, were all living, but the poetic
production of all had on the whole ceased. Shelley and Keats would have
been in time the natural, and in genius the more than sufficient sun
and moon of the time; but they had died before Byron. So the firmament
was occupied by rather wandering stars: some of them elders already
noticed, others born in the ten or twelve years between Keats (1795) and
the eldest of the Tennysons (1807). The chief of these were the pair of
half-serious, half-humorous singers, Hood and Praed. Next in public
estimation come Talfourd, Hartley Coleridge, Macaulay, Sir Henry Taylor,
the Irish poet Mangan, R. H. Horne, and the first Lord Lytton; while a
third class--of critics' rather than readers' favourites--varying in
merit, but, at the best of the best of them, ranking higher than any of
the above, may be made up of George Darley, C. J. Wells, the Dorsetshire
poet Barnes, Beddoes, Charles Whitehead, R. S. Hawker, and Thomas Wade.
To the second class must be added "L. E. L.," the poetess who filled the
interval between Mrs. Hemans and Mrs. Browning.

Wells, Whitehead, and Wade may be dismissed without disrespect as, if
not critical mares'-nests, at any rate critical hobbies. Persons of more
or less distinction (and of less or more crotchet) have at different
times paid very high compliments to the _Joseph and his Brethren_ (1823,
revised later) of Charles Jeremiah Wells (1800-1879), a friend of Keats,
and a person who seems to have lived much as he pleased; to the
_Solitary_ of Charles Whitehead (1804-1862), a Bohemian ne'er-do-weel,
who also showed talent as a novelist and miscellanist; and to the _Mundi
et Cordis Carmina_ (1835) of Thomas Wade (1805-1875), a playwright and
journalist. Of the three, Wade appears to me to have had the greatest
poetical talent. But I do not think that any one who on the one hand
uses epithets in poetical criticism with caution, and on the other has
read a great deal of minor poetry as it appears, could put any one of
them very high. All were born late enough to breathe the atmosphere of
the new poetry young; all had poetical velleities, and a certain amount,
if not of originality, of capacity to write poetry. But they were not
poets; they were only poetical curiosities.

Darley, Beddoes, and Horne belong in the main to the same class, but
rise high, in one case immeasurably, above them. George Darley
(1795-1846) is perhaps our chief English example of "the poet who dies
in youth while the man survives," and who becomes a critic. In him,
however, the generation of the critic did not wait for the corruption of
the poet. An Irishman, and of Trinity College, Dublin, he was one of the
staff of the _London Magazine_, and wrote much verse bad and good,
including the once famous "I've been Roaming," of which it is safe to
say that not one in ten of those who have sung it could tell the author.
His best work is contained in the charming pastoral drama of _Sylvia_
(1827) and the poem entitled _Nepenthe_ (1839). He was a good but rather
a savage critic, and edited Beaumont and Fletcher. His work has never
been collected, nor, it is believed, ever fully published; and it has
the marks of a talent that never did what was in it to do, and came at
an unfortunate time. Some not bad judges in the forties ranked Darley
with Tennyson in poetic possibilities, and thought the former the more
promising of the two.

Except Donne, there is perhaps no English poet more difficult to write
about, so as to preserve the due pitch of enthusiasm on the one hand and
criticism on the other, than Thomas Lovell Beddoes, born at Clifton on
20th July 1803. He was the son of a very famous physician, and of Anna
Edgeworth, the youngest sister of the whole blood to the novelist.
Beddoes, left fatherless at six years old, was educated at the
Charterhouse and at Pembroke College, Oxford, and when he was barely of
age went to Germany to study medicine, living thenceforth almost
entirely on the Continent. Before this he had published two volumes,
_The Improvisatore_ and _The Bride's Tragedy_; but his principal work is
a wild Elizabethan play called _Death's Jest-Book_ or _The Fool's
Tragedy_, which he never absolutely finished. He died in 1848 at Basle
by a complicated and ghastly kind of suicide. Three years later his
Poems appeared, and they have been recently republished, with additions
and a curious collection of letters.

Beddoes has sometimes been treated as a mainly bookish poet deriving
from the Elizabethans and Shelley. I cannot agree with this. His very
earliest work, written when he could not know much either of Shelley or
Keats, shows as they do technique perhaps caught from Leigh Hunt. But
this is quite dropped later; and his Elizabethanism is not imitation but
inspiration. In this inspiration he does not follow, but shares with,
his greater contemporaries. He is a younger and tragic counterpart to
Charles Lamb in the intensity with which he has imbibed the Elizabethan
spirit, rather from the nightshade of Webster and Tourneur than from the
vine of Shakespeare. As wholes, his works are naught, or naught but
nightmares; though _Death's Jest-Book_, despite its infinite
disadvantages from constant rewriting and uncertainty of final form, has
a strong grasp. But they contain passages, especially lyrics, of the
most exquisite fancy and music, such as since the seventeenth century
none but Blake and Coleridge had given. Beddoes does not seem to have
been at all a pleasant person, and in his later days at any rate he
would appear to have been a good deal less than sane. But the author of
such things as the "Dirge for Wolfram" ("If thou wilt ease thine heart")
in _Death's Jest-Book_, and the stanza beginning "Dream-Pedlary," "If
there were dreams to sell," with not a few others of the same kind,
attains to that small and disputed--but not to those who have thought
out the nature of poetry disputable--class of poets who, including
Sappho, Catullus, some mediæval hymn-writers, and a few moderns,
especially Coleridge, have, by virtue of fragments only, attained a
higher position than many authors of large, substantive, and important
poems. They may be shockingly lacking in bulk, in organisation, in
proper choice of subject, in intelligent criticism of life; but they are
like the summer lightning or the northern aurora, which, though they
shine only now and then, and only it may be for a few moments, shine,
when they do shine, with a beauty unapproachable by gas or candle,
hardly approached by sun or moon, and illuminate the whole of their
world.

Although quotation is in the main impossible in this book, Beddoes,
despite the efforts of his friend Kelsall, of Mr. Swinburne, of Mr.
Gosse (thanks to whom a quasi-complete edition has at last appeared),
and others, is still so little known, that a short one may be allowed in
his case. I have known a critic who said deliberately of the
above-mentioned stanza in "Dream-Pedlary"--

    If there were dreams to sell,
      What would you buy?
    Some cost a passing bell,
      Some a light sigh
    That shakes from Life's fresh crown
    Only a roseleaf down.
    If there were dreams to sell--
    Merry and sad to tell--
    And the crier rung the bell,
      What would you buy?

that these ten lines contain more pure poetry than the entire works of
Byron. And the same touch will be found not merely in the "Wolfram
Dirge" mentioned--

    If thou wilt ease thine heart
    Of Love and all its smart,
    Then sleep, dear, sleep.

    ...

    But wilt thou _cure_ thine heart
    Of Love and all its smart,
    Then die, dear, die--

but in several other dirges (for the dirge is the form natural to
Beddoes), in the "Song from Torrismond," in "Love in Idleness," in the
"Song on the Water" (which is pure early Tennyson), in the exquisite
"Threnody," and in many other things. They have been called artificial:
the epithet can be allowed in no other sense than in that in which it
applies to all the best poetry. And they have the note, which only a few
true but imperfect poets have, of anticipation. Shadows before, both of
Tennyson and Browning, especially of the latter, appear in Beddoes. But
after all his main note is his own: not theirs, not the Elizabethan, not
Shelley's, not another's. And this is what makes a poet.

As Beddoes' forte lay in short and rather uncanny snatches, so that of
Richard Hengist Horne lay in sustained and dignified composition. He was
not christened Hengist at all, but Henry. He had a curious life. In
youth he knew Keats and Wells, having been, like them, at the private
school of Mr. Clarke at Edmonton. He went to Sandhurst and was expelled
for insubordination; joined the Mexican navy in the war of liberation;
travelled widely; but seemed at about five and twenty to be settling
down to literature and journalism in England. After writing various
things, he produced in 1837 the fine but not quite "live" plays of
_Cosmo de Medici_ and _The Death of Marlowe_, and in 1843 the famous
farthing epic, _Orion_, which was literally published at a farthing.
This was the smallest part of a great literary baggage of very unequal
value. In 1852 Horne, resuming the life of adventure, went to Australia,
served in the gold police, and stayed at the Antipodes till 1869. Then
he came home again and lived for fifteen years longer, still writing
almost to his very death on 13th March 1884.

It is not true that _Orion_ is Horne's only work of value; but it is so
much better than anything else of his, and so characteristic of him,
that by all but students the rest may be neglected. And it is an example
of the melancholy but frequently exemplified truth, that few things are
so dangerous, nay, so fatal to enduring literary fame, as the production
of some very good work among a mass of, if not exactly rubbish, yet
inferior stuff. I do not think it extravagant to say that if Horne had
written nothing but _Orion_ and had died comparatively young after
writing it, he would have enjoyed very high rank among English poets.
For, though doubtless a little weighted with "purpose," it is a very
fine poem indeed, couched in a strain of stately and not second-hand
blank verse, abounding in finished and effective passages, by no means
destitute of force and meaning as a whole, and mixing some passion with
more than some real satire. But the rather childish freak of its first
publication probably did it no good, and it is quite certain that the
author's long life and unflagging production did it much harm.

Of the other persons in the list above, Macaulay, Hartley Coleridge, and
Lord Lytton are mainly something else than poets, and Talfourd, as a
dramatist, will also be noticed elsewhere. Barnes and Hawker were both
clergymen of the West of England: the former very highly ranked by some
for his studies in Dorset dialect; the latter the author of the famous
"Song of the Western Men" (long thought a genuine antique), of the
exquisite "Queen Gwennyvar's Round," of the fine "Silent Tower of
Bottreaux," of some beautiful sonnets, and of the stately "Quest of the
Sangreal." Whether James Clarence Mangan, whose most famous poem is
"Dark Rosaleen," a musical and mystic celebration of the charms and
wrongs of Erin, is a great poet to whom Saxon jealousy has refused
greatness for political reasons, or a not ungifted but not consummately
distinguished singer who added some study to the common Irish gift of
fluent, melodious verse-making, is a question best solved by reading his
work and judging for the reader's self. It is not by any sane account so
important that to dismiss it thus is a serious _rifiuto_, and it is
probably impossible for Irish enthusiasm and English judgment ever to
agree on the subject. Of "L. E. L." Sir Henry Taylor, Hood, and Praed,
some more substantive account must be given.

Although it is not easy, after two generations, to decide such a point
accurately, it is probable that "L. E. L." was the most popular of all
the writers of verse who made any mark between the death of Byron in
1824 and the time when Tennyson definitely asserted himself in 1842. She
paid for this popularity (which was earned not merely by her verse, but
by a pretty face, an odd social position, and a sad and apparently,
though it seems not really, mysterious end) by a good deal of slightly
unchivalrous satire at the time and a rather swift and complete oblivion
afterwards. She was born (her full name being Letitia Elizabeth Landon)
in London on 14th August 1802, and was fairly well connected and
educated. William Jerdan, the editor of the _Literary Gazette_ (a man
whose name constantly occurs in the literary history of this time,
though he has left no special work except an _Autobiography_), was a
friend of her family, and she began to write very early, producing
novels and criticisms as well as verse in newspapers, in the albums and
_Souvenirs_ which were such a feature of the twenties and thirties, and
in independent volumes. She was particularly active as a poet about
1824-35, when appeared the works whose titles--_The Improvisatore_, _The
Troubadour_, _The Golden Violet_--suggested parodies to Thackeray. Her
best novel is held to be _Ethel Churchill_, published in 1837. Next year
she married Mr. Maclean, the Governor of Cape Coast Castle; and, going
out with him to that not very salubrious clime, died suddenly in about
two months. All sorts of ill-natured suggestions were of course made;
but the late Colonel Ellis, the historian of the colony, seems to have
established beyond the possibility of doubt that she accidentally
poisoned herself with prussic acid, which she used to take for spasms of
the heart.

It is tolerably exact, and it is not harsh, to say that "L. E. L." is a
Mrs. Hemans with the influence of Byron added, not to the extent of any
"impropriety," but to the heightening of the Romantic tone and of a
native sentimentality. Her verse is generally musical and sweet: it is
only sometimes silly. But it is too often characterised by what can but
be called the "gush" which seems to have affected all the poetesses of
this period except Sara Coleridge (1802-50) (who has some verses worthy
of even her name in _Phantasmion_, her only independent book), and which
appears in very large measure in the work of Mrs. Browning.

Sir Henry Taylor's poetical repute illustrates the converse of the
proposition which is illustrated by that of Horne. It is probable that,
if each is measured by his best things, _Orion_ and _Philip Van
Artevelde_, Horne must be allowed to be a good deal the better poet. But
a placid official life enabled Taylor both to gain powerful friends and
to devote himself to literature merely when and how he pleased. And so
he has burdened his baggage with no mere hack-work. He was indeed a
singularly lucky person. The son of a man of fair family but reduced
fortune who had taken to farming, Henry Taylor began in the navy. But he
disliked the service very much, and either obtained or received his
discharge after only nine months' sea life as a mid-shipman during the
year 1814. Then he entered the public store-keeper's department, but was
ousted by rearrangements after four years' service. These beginnings
were not very promising; but his father allowed him to stay quietly at
home till by pure luck he obtained a third post under Government in the
Colonial Office. This he held for nearly fifty years, during which it
gave him affluence and by degrees a very high position, and left him
abundance of time for society and letters. He resigned it in 1872, and
died on 27th March 1886. He wrote some prose of various kinds, and just
before his death published a pleasant autobiography. But his literary
fame rests on a handful of plays and poems, all of them, except _St.
Clement's Eve_, which did not appear till 1862, produced at leisurely
intervals between 1827 (_Isaac Comnenus_) and 1847 (_The Eve of the
Conquest_ and other poems). The intervening works were _Philip Van
Artevelde_ (his masterpiece, 1834), _Edwin the Fair_ (1842), some minor
poems, and the romantic comedy of _A Sicilian Summer_ (first called _The
Virgin Widow_), which was published with _St. Clement's Eve_. He had
(as, it may be noted curiously, had so many of the men of the transition
decade in which he was born) a singular though scanty vein of original
lyric snatch, the best example of which is perhaps the song "Quoth
tongue of neither maid nor wife" in _Van Artevelde_; but his chief
appeal lay in a very careful study of character and the presentation of
it in verse less icy than Talfourd's and less rhetorical than Milman's.
Yet he had, unlike either of these, very little direct eye to the stage,
and therefore is classed here as a poet rather than as a dramatist.
There is always a public for what is called "thoughtful" poetry, and
Taylor's is more than merely thoughtful. But it may be suspected by
observers that when Robert Browning came into fashion Henry Taylor went
out. Citations of _Van Artevelde_, if not of the other pieces (none of
which are contemptible, while the two last, inferior in weight to their
predecessors, show advance in ease and grace), are very frequent between
1835 and 1865: rare I think between 1865 and 1895.

And so we come at last to the twin poets, in the proper sense
humorous,--that is to say, jesting with serious thoughts behind,--of the
first division of this class. They were very close in many ways--indeed
it is yet a moot point which of the two borrowed certain rhythms and
turns of word and verse from the other, or whether both hit upon these
independently. But their careers were curiously different; and, except
in comparative length of life (if that be an advantage), Praed was
luckier than his comrade. Thomas Hood, who was slightly the elder, was
born in 1798 or 1799 (for both dates are given) in the Poultry; his
father being a bookseller and publisher. This father died, not in good
circumstances, when the son was a boy, and Thomas, after receiving some
though not much education, became first a merchant's clerk and then an
engraver, but was lucky enough to enjoy between these uncongenial
pursuits a long holiday, owing to ill-health, of some three years in
Scotland. It was in 1820 or thereabouts that he fell into his proper
vocation, and, as sub-editor of the _London Magazine_, found vent for
his own talents and made acquaintance with most of its famous staff. He
married, wrote some of his best serious poems and some good comic work,
and found that while the former were neglected the latter was eagerly
welcomed. It was settled that, in his own pathetic pun, he was to be "a
lively Hood for a livelihood" thenceforward. It is difficult to say
whether English literature lost or gained, except from one very
practical point of view; for Hood did manage to live after a fashion by
his fun as he certainly could not have lived by his poetry. He had,
however, a bare pittance, much bad health, and some extremely bad luck,
which for a time made him, through no fault of his own, an exile. His
last five years were again spent in England, and in comparative, though
very comparative, prosperity; for he was editor first of the _New
Monthly Magazine_, then of a magazine of his own, _Hood's Monthly_, and
not long before his death he received from Sir Robert Peel a civil list
pension of £100 a year. The death was due to consumption, inherited and
long valiantly struggled with.

The still shorter life of Winthrop Mackworth Praed, on the other hand,
was passed under sufficiently favourable stars. He was born in 1802, and
his father, Serjeant Praed, possessed property, practice at the bar, and
official position. Praed was sent to Eton, where he became a pillar of
the famous school magazine _The Etonian_, and thence to Trinity College,
Cambridge, where he did extremely well, made the acquaintance of
Macaulay, and wrote in _Knight's Quarterly_. After a short interval of
tutoring and reading for the bar he entered Parliament in 1830, and
remained in it for the rest of his life, which closed on 15th July 1839.
He had latterly been secretary to the Board of Control, and it was
thought that, had he lived, he might have made a considerable political
reputation both as speaker and administrator.

The almost unchequered sunshine of one of these careers and the little
sun and much shadow of the other have left traces--natural though less
than might be supposed--of difference between the produce of the two
men; but perhaps the difference is less striking than the resemblance.
That Hood--obliged to write for bread, and outliving Praed by something
like a decade at the two ends--wrote a great deal more than Praed did is
of little consequence, for the more leisurely writer is as unequal as
the duty labourer. Hood had the deeper and stronger genius: of this
there is no doubt, and the advantage more than made up for Praed's
advantages in scholarship and in social standing and accomplishment. In
this serious work of Hood's--_Lycus the Centaur_, _The Plea of the
Midsummer Fairies_, _The Elm Tree_, _The Haunted House_--there is
observable--to a degree never surpassed by any of the poets of this
group except Beddoes, and more sustained and human, though less weird
and sweet, than his--a strain of the true, the real, the ineffable tone
of poetry proper. At this Praed never arrives: there are at most in him
touches which may seem to a very charitable judgment to show that in
other circumstances sorrow, passion, or the like might have roused him
to display the hidden fire. On the other hand, neither Hood's breeding,
nor, I think, his nature, allowed him to display the exquisite airiness,
the delicate artificial bloom and perfection, of Praed's best _vers de
société_--the _Season_, the _Letter of Advice_, and the rest. This last
bloom has never been quite equalled--even Prior's touch is coarse to it,
even that of the late Mr. Locker is laboured and deliberate. So too as
there is nothing in Praed of the popular indignation--generous and fine
but a little theatrical--which endears Hood to the general in _The
Bridge of Sighs_ and _The Song of the Shirt_, so there is nothing in
Hood of the sound political sense, underlying apparent banter, of
Praed's _Speaker Asleep_ and other things.

But where the two poets come together, on a ground which they have
almost to themselves, is in a certain kind of humorous poetry ranging
from the terrific-grotesque, as in Hood's _Miss Kilmansegg_ and Praed's
_Red Fisherman_, to the simple, humorously tender study of characters,
as in a hundred things of Hood's and in not a few of Praed's with _The
Vicar_ at their head. The resemblance here is less in special points
than in a certain general view of life, conditioned in each case by the
poet's breeding, temperament, and circumstance, but alike in essence and
quality: in a certain variety of the essentially English fashion of
taking life with a mixture of jest and earnest, of humour and sentiment.
Hood, partly influenced by the need of caring for the public, partly by
his pupilship to Lamb, perhaps went to further extremes both in mere fun
and in mere sentiment than Praed did, but the central substance is the
same in both.

Yet one gift which Hood has and Praed has not remains to be noticed--the
gift of exquisite song writing. Compared with the admired inanities of
Barry Cornwall, his praised contemporary, Hood's "Fair Ines," his "Time
of Roses," his exquisite "Last Stanzas," and not a few other things, are
as gold to gilt copper. Praed has nothing to show against these; but he,
like Hood, was no inconsiderable prose writer, while the latter, thanks
to his apprenticeship to the burin, had an extraordinary faculty of
illustrating his own work with cuts, contrary to all the canons, but
inimitably grotesque.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is probable that even in this long survey of the great poetical
production of the first third of this century some gaps may be detected
by specialists. But it seemed to me impossible to give more than the
barest mention here to the "single speech" accident of Charles Wolfe,
the author of the "Burial of Sir John Moore," which everybody knows, and
of absolutely nothing else that is worth a single person's knowing; to
the gigantic and impossible labours of Edwin Atherstone; to the
industrious translation of Rose and Sotheby; to the decent worth of
Caroline Bowles, and the Hood-and-water of Laman Blanchard. And there
are others perhaps who cannot be even mentioned; for there must be an
end.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] _Lyrical Ballads_, 1798, and with additions 1800; _Poems_, 1807 (in
these four volumes even adorers have allowed all his greatest work to be
included); _The Excursion_, 1814; _The White Doe of Rylston_, 1815;
_Sonnets on the River Duddon_, and others, 1819-20. In 1836 he brought
out a collected edition of his poems in six volumes. _The Prelude_ was
posthumous.

[4] It must be remembered that Wordsworth was a prose writer of
considerable excellence and of no small volume. Many people no doubt
were surprised when Dr. Grosart, by collecting his pamphlets, his
essays, his notes, and his letters, managed to fill three large octavo
volumes. But his poetry so far outweighs his prose (though, like most
poets, he could write admirably in his pedestrian style when he chose)
that his utterances in "the other harmony" need not be specially
considered. The two most considerable examples of this prose are the
pamphlet on _The Convention of Cintra_ and the five and twenty years
later _Guide to the Lakes_. But minor essays, letters of a more or less
formal character, and prefaces and notes to the poems, make up a goodly
total; and always display a genius germane to that of the poems.

[5] This word, as well as "Aspheterism," which has had a less general
currency, was a characteristic coinage of Coleridge's to designate a
kind of Communism, partly based on the speculations of Godwin, and
intended to be carried into practice in America.

[6] Yet this praise can only be assigned to Coleridge with large
allowance. He was always unjust to his own _immediate_ predecessors,
Johnson, Gibbon, etc.; and he was not too sensible of the real merits of
Pope or even of Dryden. In this respect Leigh Hunt, an immeasurably
weaker thinker, had a much more catholic taste. And it is not certain
that, as a mere prose writer, Coleridge was a very good prose writer.

[7] Curiously enough, there was another and slightly older Samuel
Rogers, a clergyman, who published verse in 1782, just before his
namesake, and who dealt with Hope--

    Hope springs eternal in the _aspiring_ breast.

His verse, of which specimens are given in Southey's _Modern English
Poets_, is purely eighteenth century. He died in 1790.

[8] Henry Headley, who, like Bowles and Landor, was a member of Trinity
College, Oxford, and who died young, after publishing a few original
poems of no great value, deserves more credit for his _Select Beauties
of Ancient English Poetry_, published in two volumes, with an exquisite
title-page vignette, by Cadell in 1787, than has sometimes been allowed
him by the not numerous critics who have noticed him recently, or by
those who immediately followed him. His knowledge was soon outgrown, and
therefore looked down upon; and his taste was a very little
indiscriminate. But it was something to put before an age which was just
awakening to the appetite for such things two volumes full of selections
from the too little read poets of the seventeenth, with a few of the
sixteenth century. Moreover, Headley's biographical information shows
very praiseworthy industry, and his critical remarks a great deal of
taste at once nice and fairly catholic. A man who in his day could,
while selecting and putting forth Drayton and Carew, Daniel and King,
speak enthusiastically of Dryden and even of Goldsmith, must have had
the root of the matter in him as few critics have had.

[9] Not to be confounded with _Robert_, or "Satan" Montgomery, his
junior by many years, and a much worse poet, the victim of Macaulay's
famous classical example of what is called in English "slating," and in
French _éreintement_. There is really nothing to be said about this
person that Macaulay has not said; though perhaps one or two of the
things he has said are a little strained.

[10] Some fifteen years ago, in a little book on Dryden, I called Kirke
White a "miserable poetaster," and was rebuked for it by those who
perhaps knew Byron's lines and nothing more. Quite recently Mr. Gosse
was rebuked more loudly for a less severe denunciation. I determined
that I would read Kirke White again; and the above judgment is the
mildest I can possibly pronounce after the reading. A good young man
with a pathetic career; but a poetaster merely.



CHAPTER III

THE NEW FICTION


Although, as was shown in the first chapter, the amount of novel writing
in the last decades of the eighteenth century was very considerable, and
the talent displayed by at least some of the practitioners of the form
distinctly great, it can hardly have been possible for any careful
observer of it, either during the last ten years of the old age or the
first fifteen of the new, to be satisfied with it on the whole, or to
think that it had reached a settled or even a promising condition. Miss
Burney (now Madame d'Arblay), whose brilliant début with _Evelina_ was
made just before the date at which this book begins, had just after that
date produced _Cecilia_, in which partial and contemporary judges
professed to see no falling off. But though she was still living and
writing,--though she lived and wrote till the present century was nearly
half over,--_Camilla_ (1796) was acknowledged as a doubtful success, and
_The Wanderer_ (1814) as a disastrous failure; nor after this did she
attempt the style again.

The unpopularity of Jacobinism and the growing distaste for the
philosophy of the eighteenth century prevented much attempt being made
to follow up the half political, half philosophical novel of Godwin,
Holcroft, and Bage. No such causes, however, were in operation as
concerning the "Tale of Terror," the second founder of which, Monk
Lewis, was indeed no inconsiderable figure during the earlier part of
the great age of 1810-30, while Charles Robert Maturin improved
considerably upon Lewis himself. Maturin was born in Ireland (where he
principally lived) in 1782, and died there in 1824. He took orders, but
was too eccentric for success in his profession, and his whole heart was
set on literature and the drama. Befriended by Scott and Byron, though
very severely criticised by Coleridge, he succeeded in getting his
tragedy of _Bertram_ acted at Drury Lane with success; but his later
theatrical ventures (_Manuel_, _Fredolpho_) were less fortunate. He also
published sermons; but he lives in literature only by his novels, and
not very securely by these. He produced three of them--_The Fatal
Vengeance: or, The Family of Montorio_, _The Wild Irish Boy_, and the
_Milesian Chief_--under a pseudonym before he was thirty; while after
the success of _Bertram_ he avowed _Women_ (1818), _Melmoth the
Wanderer_ (1820), and _The Albigenses_ (1824), the last in a sort of
cross style between his earlier patterns and Scott. But his fame had
best be allowed to rest wholly on _Melmoth_, a remarkable book dealing
with the supposed selling of a soul to the devil in return for prolonged
life; the bargain, however, being terminable if the seller can induce
some one else to take it off his hands. Although far too long,
marvellously involved with tales within tales, and disfigured in parts
by the rant and the gush of its class, _Melmoth_ is really a powerful
book, which gave something more than a passing shudder to its own
generation (it specially influenced Balzac), and which has not lost its
force even now. But the usual novel of this kind, which was written in
vast numbers, was simply beneath contempt.

The exquisite artist who, as mentioned formerly, had taken these tales
of terror as part subject of her youthful satire, had begun to write
some years before the close of the eighteenth century. But Miss Austen's
books were long withheld from the press, and she was considerably
preceded in publication by Maria Edgeworth. These last are the only
novels of the first decade of the nineteenth century which have held any
ground, though they were but few among the crowds not merely of tales of
terror but of fashionable novels, "Minerva Press" inanities, attempts
in the bastard and unsuccessful kind of historical romance which
preceded Scott's, and others. Miss Edgeworth, who was born in 1767, the
daughter of an eccentric busybody of good family and property in
Ireland, and who lived till 1848, had a great fame in her own day,
deserved it, never entirely lost it, and has lately had it revived;
while Scott declared (but in such matters Scott was a little apt to let
his good-nature and his freedom from personal vanity get the better of
strict critical truth) that her Irish novels had supplied the suggestion
of his Scotch ones. Her chief works in this kind were _Castle Rackrent_
(1801), a book with little interest of the strictly "novel" kind, but a
wonderful picture of the varieties of recklessness and misconduct which
in the course of a generation or two ruined or crippled most of the
landlords of Ireland; _Belinda_ (1803), her most ambitious and elaborate
if not her most successful effort, which includes a very vivid and
pregnant sketch of the feminine dissipation of the end of the last
century; _Tales of Fashionable Life_, including the admirable
_Absentee_; and _Ormond_, the most vivid of her Irish stories next to
_Castle Rackrent_. She continued to write novels as late as 1834
(_Helen_), while some very charming letters of hers, though privately
printed a good many years ago, were not published till 1894. Miss
Edgeworth's father, Richard, was himself something of a man of letters,
and belonged to the class of Englishmen who, without imbibing French
freethinking, had eagerly embraced the "utility" doctrines, the
political economy, and some of the educational and social crazes of the
French _philosophes_; and he did his daughter no good by thrusting into
her earlier work a strain of his own crotchet and purpose. Indirectly,
however, this brought about in _The Parent's Assistant_, in other books
for children, and in the _Moral Tales_, some of her most delightful
work. In the novels (which besides these mentioned include _Leonora_,
_Harrington_, _Ennui_, and _Patronage_, the longest of all) Miss
Edgeworth occupies a kind of middle position between the eighteenth
century novelists, of whom Miss Burney is the last, and those of the
nineteenth, of whom Miss Austen is the first. This is not merely,
though no doubt it is partly, due to the fact that the society which she
saw (and she mixed in a great deal, from the highest downwards) was
itself in a kind of transition state: it was at least as much owing to a
certain want of distinct modernness and distinct universality in her own
character, thought, and style. Miss Edgeworth, though possessed of
delightful talents falling little short of genius, and of much humour
(which last is shown in the charming _Essay on Irish Bulls_, as well as
in her novels and her letters), missed, as a rule, the last and greatest
touches; and, except some of her Irish characters, who are rather types
than individuals, she has not created many live persons, while sometimes
she wanders very far from life. Her touch, in short, though extremely
pleasant, was rather uncertain. She can tell a story to perfection, but
does not often invent it perfectly; and by herself she can hardly be
said to have originated anything, though of course, if we could accept
the above quoted statement of Scott's, she indirectly originated a very
great deal.

Very different is the position occupied by Jane Austen, who was born at
Steventon in Hampshire on 16th December 1775, being the daughter of the
rector of that place, lived a quiet life chiefly at various places in
her native county, frequented good society in the rank of not the
richest country squires, to which her own family belonged, and died at
Winchester unmarried on 24th July 1817. Of her six completed novels,
_Sense and Sensibility_, _Pride and Prejudice_, _Mansfield Park_, and
_Emma_ were published during the last seven years of her life, while
_Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_ appeared, for the first time with an
author's name, the year after her death. They had no enormous or sudden
popularity, but the best judges, from Scott downwards, at once
recognised their extraordinary merit; and it is not too much to say that
by the best judges, with rare exceptions, that merit has been
acknowledged with ever increasing fulness at once of enthusiasm and
discrimination to the present day. With Scott, Miss Austen is the parent
of nineteenth century fiction; or, to speak with greater exactness, she
is the mother of the nineteenth century novel, just as he is the father
of the nineteenth century romance.

One indeed of the most wonderful things about her is her earliness. Even
the dates of publication of her first books precede those of any
novelist of the same rank and the same modernity; but these dates are
misleading. _Northanger Abbey_ was written more than twenty years before
it appeared, and the bulk of _Pride and Prejudice_ (which some hold to
be the best and most characteristic of all) is known to have been as old
at least as _Northanger Abbey_. That is to say, almost at the very time
of the appearance of _Camilla_ (to which, by the way, Miss Austen was an
original subscriber), a book not strikingly more nineteenth century in
tone than the novels of Richardson, though a little more so in manners,
a girl even younger than Miss Burney herself had been when she wrote
_Evelina_ was drawing other girls, who, putting aside the most trivial
details of dress, speech, and so forth, might be living girls to-day.

The charm and the genius of Miss Austen are not universally admitted;
the touch of old fashion in external detail apparently discontenting
some readers, the delicate and ever-present irony either escaping or
being distasteful to others, while the extreme quietness of the action
and the entire absence of excitement probably revolt a third class. But
the decriers do not usually attempt formal criticism. However, they
sometimes do, and such an attempt once came under the notice of the
present historian. It was urged that to extol Miss Austen's method is a
masculine delusion, that method being nothing but the throwing into
literature of the habit of minute and semi-satiric observation natural
to womankind. It did not apparently occur to this critic that he (or
she) was in the first place paying Miss Austen an extraordinarily high
compliment--a compliment almost greater than the most enthusiastic
"Janites" have ventured--inasmuch as no higher literary triumph can be
even conceived than thus to focus, formulate, and crystallise the
special talent and gift of an entire sex into a literary method. Nor did
it probably occur to him that he was laying himself open to the
damaging, or rather ruinous retort, "Then how is it that, of all the
women who have preceded and followed Miss Austen as novelists, no other
has displayed this specially and universally feminine gift?"

It is no doubt true that there is something feminine about the method,
which, with the addition of a certain _nescio quid_, giving it its
modern difference, may be said to combine the peculiarities of Fielding
and of Richardson, though it works on a much smaller scale than either.
It has the intense and pervading, though not the exuberant and
full-blooded, _livingness_ of Fielding, and it also has something not
unlike a feminine counterpart and complement of his pervading irony;
while it is not unlike Richardson in building up the characters and the
stories partly by an infinity of tiny strokes of detail, often
communicated in conversation, partly by the use of an exceedingly nice
and delicate analysis of motive and temperament. It is in the former
respect that Miss Austen stands apart from most, if not from all, women
who have written novels. Irony is by no means a frequent feminine gift;
and as women do not often possess it in any great degree, so they do not
as a rule enjoy it. Miss Austen is only inferior among English writers
to Swift, to Fielding, and to Thackeray--even if it be not improper to
use the term inferiority at all for what is after all not much more than
difference--in the use of this potent but most double-edged weapon. Her
irony indeed is so subtle that it requires a certain dose of subtlety to
appreciate it, and it is not uncommon to find those who consider such
personages as Mr. Collins in _Pride and Prejudice_ to be merely
farcical, instead of, as they are in fact, preachers of the highest and
most Shakespearian comedy. But there would be no room here to examine
Miss Austen's perfections in detail; the important thing for the
purposes of this history is to observe again that she "set the clock,"
so to speak, of pure novel writing to the time which was to be
nineteenth century time to this present hour. She discarded violent and
romantic adventure. She did not rely in the very least degree on
describing popular or passing fashions, amusements, politics; but
confined herself to the most strictly ordinary life. Yet she managed in
some fashion so to extract the characteristics of that life which are
perennial and human, that there never can be any doubt to fit readers in
any age finding themselves at home with her, just as they find
themselves at home with all the greatest writers of bygone ages. And
lastly, by some analogous process she hit upon a style which, though
again true to the ordinary speech of her own day, and therefore now
reviled as "stilted" and formal by those who have not the gift of
literary detachment, again possesses the universal quality, and, save in
the merest externals, is neither ancient nor modern.

For the moment, however, Miss Austen's example had not so much little
influence as none at all. A more powerful and popular force, coming
immediately afterwards and coinciding with the bent of general taste,
threw for the time the whole current of English novel writing into quite
a different channel; and it was not till the first rush of this current
had expended itself, after an interval of thirty or forty years, that
the novel, as distinguished from the romance and from nondescript styles
partaking now of the romance itself, now of something like the
eighteenth century story, engaged the popular ear. This new development
was the historical novel proper; and the hand that started it at last
was that of Scott. At last--for both men and women had been trying to
write historical novels for about two thousand years, and for some
twenty or thirty the attempts had come tolerably thick and fast. But
before Scott no one, ancient or modern, Englishman or foreigner, had
really succeeded. In the first place, until the eighteenth century was
pretty far advanced, the conception and the knowledge of history as
distinguished from the mere writing and reading of chronicles had been
in a very rudimentary condition. Exceedingly few historians and no
readers of history, as a class and as a rule, had practised or acquired
the art of looking at bygone ages with any attempt to realise and revive
the ideas of those ages themselves, or even, while looking at them with
the eyes of the present, to keep in mind that these were quite different
eyes from those of contemporaries. In the same way no attempt at getting
"local colour," at appropriateness of dialect, and so forth, had been
made. These negligences in the hands of genius had been as unimportant
as the negligences of genius always are. If Shakespeare's "godlike
Romans" are not entirely free from anachronism, nobody of sense would
exchange them for anything else than themselves; and though Dante
practically repeated in the _Commedia_ the curious confusion which in
less gifted _trouvères_ and romances mixed up Alexander with Charlemagne
and blended Greek and Gothic notions in one inextricable tangle, this
also was supremely unimportant, if not even in a manner interesting. But
when, at the end of the eighteenth century, writers, of secondary powers
at best, engaging in a new and unengineered way, endeavoured to write
historical novels, they all, from Godwin and Mrs. Radcliffe to Miss
Reeves and the Misses Lee, made the merest gallimaufries of inaccurate
history, questionable fiction, manners heedlessly jumbled, and above all
dialogue destitute of the slightest semblance of verisimilitude, and
drawn chiefly from that of the decadent tragic and comic drama of the
time.

It is not possible--it never is in such cases--to give a very exact
account of the causes which led Walter Scott, when the public seemed to
be a little tiring of the verse-romances which have been discussed in
the last chapter, to take to romances in prose. The example of Miss
Edgeworth, if a true cause at all, could affect only his selection of
Scotch manners to illustrate his histories, not his adoption of the
historical style itself. But he did adopt it; and, fishing out from an
old desk the beginnings of a story which he had left unfinished, or
rather had scarce commenced, years earlier, he fashioned it into
_Waverley_. This appearing in the year 1814 at a serious crisis in his
own affairs, opened at once a new career of fame and fortune to him,
and a previously unknown field of exploit and popularity to the English
novel.

The extraordinary greatness of Scott--who in everything but pure style,
and the expression of the highest raptures of love, thought, and nature,
ranks with the greatest writers of the world--is not better indicated by
any single fact than by the fact that it is impossible to describe his
novels in any simple formula. He practically created the historical
novel; and, what is more, he elaborated it to such an extent that no
really important additions to his scheme have been made since. But not
all his novels are historical. The two which immediately succeeded
_Waverley_, and which perhaps the best judges consider his best,--_Guy
Mannering_ and _The Antiquary_,--have only the faintest touch of history
about them, and might have none at all without affecting their
excellence; while one of the most powerful of his later books, _St.
Ronan's Well_, is almost absolutely virgin of fact. So also, though his
incomparable delineation of national manners, speech, and character, of
the _cosas de Escócia_ generally, is one of the principal sources of his
interest, _Ivanhoe_, which has perhaps been the most popular of all his
books, _Kenilworth_, which is not far below it in popularity or in
merit, and one or two others, have nothing at all of Scotland in them;
and the altogether admirable romance of _Quentin Durward_, one of his
four or five masterpieces, so little that what there is plays the
smallest part in the success. So yet again, historical novelist as Scott
is, and admirably as he has utilised and revivified history, he is by no
means an extremely accurate historical scholar, and is wont not merely
to play tricks with history to suit his story,--that is probably always
allowable,--but to commit anachronisms which are quite unnecessary and
even a little teasing.

There is no doubt that the single gift underlying all these and other
things--the gift which enabled Scott not merely, as has been said, to
create the historical novel, but to give the novel generally an entirely
new start and direction, to establish its popularity, to clear its
reputation from the smirch of frivolity on the one side and immorality
on the other, to put it in the position occupied at other times or in
other countries by the drama and the sermon, and to make it a rival of
the very newspaper which was being refashioned at the same moment, while
providing opportunities for the production of literature proper not
inferior to those of any literary kind except poetry--that this was a
gift of higher scope, if of vaguer definition, than any of those
referred to. It was that gift which no one except Shakespeare has ever
possessed in larger measure, though others have possessed it in greater
partial intensity and perfection--the gift of communicating life to the
persons, the story, the dialogue. To some extent Scott had this treasure
in an earthen vessel. He could not, like Thackeray, like Fielding, like
Miss Austen even, make everybody that he touched alive: his heroes very
generally are examples to the contrary. And as a rule, when he did
perform this function of the wizard,--a name given to him by a more than
popular appropriateness,--he usually did it, not by the accumulation of
a vast number of small strokes, but by throwing on the canvas, or rather
panel, large outlines, free sweeps of line, and breadths of colour,
instinct with vivacity and movement. Yet he managed wholly to avoid that
fault of some creative imaginations which consists in personifying and
individualising their figures by some easily recognisable label of
mannerism. Even his most mannered characters, his humourists in the
seventeenth century sense, of whom Dugald Dalgetty is the prince
and chief--the true commander of the whole _stift_ of this
_Dunkelspiel_--stand poles asunder from those inventions of Dickens and
of some others who are ticketed for us by a gesture or a phrase repeated
_ad nauseam_. And this gift probably is most closely connected with
another: the extraordinary variety of Scott's scene, character, and--so
far as the term is applicable to his very effective but rather loose
fashion of story-telling--plot. It is a common and a just complaint of
novelists, especially when they are fertile rather than barren, that
with them scene, plot, and character all run into a kind of mould, that
their stories with a little trouble can be thrown into a sort of common
form, that their persons simply "change from the blue bed to the brown,"
and that the blue and brown beds themselves are seen, under their
diverse colours, to have a singular and not very welcome uniformity of
pattern and furniture. Even Scott does not escape this almost invariable
law of the brain-artist: it is one of the sole Shakespearian
characteristics that Shakespeare does escape it entirely and altogether.
A certain form of huddled and not altogether probable catastrophe, a
knack of introducing in the earlier part of the story, as if big with
fate, personages who afterwards play but a subordinate part, and one or
two other things, might be urged against Sir Walter. But, on the whole,
no artist is less chargeable with stereotype than he. His characters are
hardly ever doubles; their relationships (certain general connections
excepted, which are practically the scaffolding of the romance in
itself) do not repeat themselves; the backgrounds, however much or
however little strict local colour they may have, are always
sufficiently differentiated. They have the variety, as they have the
truth, of nature.

No detailed account can here be attempted of the marvellous rapidity and
popularity of the series of novels from the appearance of _Waverley_
till just before the author's death eighteen years later. The anecdotage
of the matter is enormous. The books were from the first anonymous, and
for some time the secret of their authorship was carefully and on the
whole successfully preserved. Even several years after the beginning, so
acute a judge as Hazlitt, though he did not entertain, thought it
necessary seriously to discuss, the suggestion that Godwin wrote
them,--a suggestion which, absurd as, with our illegitimate advantage of
distance and perspective, we see it to be, was less nonsensical than it
seems to those who forget that at the date of the appearance of
_Waverley_ there was no novelist who could have been selected with more
plausibility. After a time this and that were put together, and a critic
of the name of Adolphus constructed an argument of much ingenuity and
shrewdness to show that the author of _Marmion_ and the _Lady of the
Lake_ must be the author of _Waverley_. But the secret was never
regularly divulged till Sir Walter's misfortunes, referred to in the
section on his poetry, made further concealment not so much useless as
impossible in the first place, and positively detrimental in the second.
The series was dauntlessly continued, despite the drag of the
_Napoleon_, the necessity of attempting other work that would bring in
money, and above all the strain on the faculties both of imagination and
labour which domestic as well as pecuniary misfortunes imposed. Nor did
Scott, it may be fearlessly, asserted, though it is not perhaps the
general opinion, ever publish any "dotages," with the possible exception
of _Castle Dangerous_, which was not only finished but begun when the
fatal disease of the brain which killed him had got the upper hand. The
introduction to the _Chronicles of the Canongate_, written in 1827, is
one of the most exquisite and masterly things that he ever did, though,
from its not actually forming part of one of the novels, it is
comparatively little known. The _Fair Maid of Perth_, a year later, has
been one of the most popular of all abroad, and not the least so at
home; and there are critics who rank _Anne of Geierstein_, in 1829, very
high indeed. Few defenders are found for _Count Robert of Paris_, which
was in fact written in the valley of the shadow; and it may be admitted
that in his earlier days Scott would certainly have been able to give it
a fuller development and a livelier turn. Yet the opening scene, though
a little too long, the escape from the vaults of the Blachernal, and not
a few other things, would be recognised as marvellous if they could be
put before a competent but unbiassed taste, which knew nothing of Sir
Walter's other work, but was able to compare it not merely with the work
of his predecessors but with that of his imitators, numerous and
enterprising as they were, at the time that _Count Robert_ appeared.

In such a comparison Scott at his worst excels all others at their best.
It is not merely that in this detail and in that he has the mastery, but
that he has succeeded in making novel writing in general turn over a
completely new leaf, enter upon a distinctly different competition.
With the masterpieces of the eighteenth century novel he does not enter
into comparison at all: he is working on a different scene, addressing a
different audience, using different tools, colours, methods. Every
successful novelist up to his time had, whatever his ostensible "_temp._
of tale," quietly assumed the thoughts, the speech, the manners, even to
a great extent the dress and details of his own day. And in this
assumption all but the greatest had inevitably estranged from them the
ears and eyes of days that were not their own, which days, no doubt,
were in turn themselves rapidly hastening to change, but never to revert
to the original surroundings. Scott had done in prose fiction what the
poets and the dramatists had sometimes done, what very rare philosophers
had sometimes done likewise. Ostensibly going to the past, and to some
extent really borrowing its circumstances, he had in reality gone
straight to man as man; he had varied the particular trapping only to
exhibit the universal substance. The Baron of Bradwardine, Dandie
Dinmont, Edie Ochiltree, Mause Headrigg, Bailie Jarvie, and the long
list of originals down to Oliver Proudfute and even later, their less
eccentric companions from Fergus MacIvor to Queen Margaret, may derive
part of their appeal from dialect and colouring, from picturesque
"business" and properties. But the chief of that appeal lies in the fact
that they are all men and women of the world, of life, of time in
general; that even when their garments, even when their words are a
little out of fashion, there is real flesh and blood beneath the
garments, real thought and feeling behind the words. It may be urged by
the Devil's Advocate, and is not wholly susceptible of denial by his
opponent, that, after the first four or five books, the enormous gains
open to Scott first tempted, and the heroic efforts afterwards demanded
of him later compelled, the author to put not quite enough of himself
and his knowledge into his work, to "pad" if not exactly to "scamp" a
little. Yet it is the fact that some of his very best work was not only
very rapidly written, but written under such circumstances of bodily
suffering and mental worry as would have made any work at all
impossible to most men. And, on the whole, it is perhaps as idle to
speculate whether this work might have been better, as it is ungenerous
to grumble that it ought to have been. For after all it is such a body
of literature as, for complete liberation from any debts to models,
fertility and abundance of invention, nobility of sentiment, variety and
keenness of delight, nowhere else exists as the work of a single author
in prose.

It was certain that an example so fascinating in itself, and of such
extraordinary profit in fame and fortune to the author, would be
followed. It was said with sufficient accuracy that Scott's novels, at
the best of his career, brought him in about £15,000 a year, a sum
previously undreamt of by authors; while their reputation overshadowed
not only all others in England, but all others throughout Europe. And it
is rather surprising, and shows how entirely Scott had the priority in
this field, that it was not for six or seven years at least that any
noteworthy attempts in his manner appeared, while it can scarcely be
said that in England anything of very great value was published in it
before his death. In the last ten years of his life, however,
imitations, chiefly of his historical style, did appear in great
numbers; and he has left in his diary an extremely interesting, a very
good-natured, but a very shrewd and just criticism upon them in general,
and upon two in particular--the _Brambletye House_ of Horace Smith, one
of the authors of the delightful parodies called _Rejected Addresses_,
and the first book, _Sir John Chiverton_, of an author who was to
continue writing for some half century, and at times to attain very
great popularity. This was Harrison Ainsworth, and G. P. R. James also
began to publish pretty early in the third decade of the century. James'
_Richelieu_, his first work of mark, appeared in 1825, the same year as
_Sir John Chiverton_; but he was rather the older man of the two, having
been born in 1801, while Ainsworth's birth year was 1805. The latter,
too, long outlived James, who died in 1860, while holding the post of
English Consul in Venice, while Ainsworth survived till 1882. Both were
exceedingly prolific, James writing history and other work as well as
the novels--_Darnley_, _Mary of Burgundy_, _Henry Masterton_, _John
Marston Hall_, and dozens of others--which made his fame; while
Ainsworth (_Jack Sheppard_, _The Tower of London_, _Crichton_,
_Rookwood_, _Old St. Paul's_, etc.) was a novelist only. Both,
especially between 1830 and 1850, achieved considerable popularity with
the general public; and they kept it much longer (if indeed they have
yet lost it) with schoolboys. But while the attempt of both to imitate
Scott was palpable always, the success of neither could be ranked very
high by severe criticism. James wrote better than Ainsworth: his
historical knowledge was of a much wider and more accurate kind, and he
was not unimbued with the spirit of romance. But the sameness of his
situations (it became a stock joke to speak of the "two horsemen" who so
often appeared in his opening scenes), the exceedingly conventional
character of his handling, and the theatrical feebleness of his
dialogue, were always reprehended and open to reprehension. Harrison
Ainsworth, on the other hand, had a real knack of arresting and keeping
the interest of those readers who read for mere excitement: he was
decidedly skilful at gleaning from memoirs and other documents scraps of
decoration suitable for his purpose, he could in his better days string
incidents together with a very decided knack, and, till latterly, his
books rarely languished. But his writing was very poor in strictly
literary merit, his style was at best bustling prose melodrama, and his
characters were scarcely ever alive.

The chief follower of Sir Walter Scott in "Scotch" novels--for Miss
Ferrier, the Scottish counterpart of Miss Edgeworth and Miss Austen,
was, though his friend, hardly his follower, and _Marriage_ was mainly
written before _Waverley_--was John Galt, who also has some claim to
priority. He was born (2nd May 1779) at Irvine in Ayrshire, the scene of
his best work, but passed most of his youth at Greenock. His father was
a retired West India captain; and Galt's biographers do not make it very
clear whence he obtained the capital for the various travels and
enterprises which occupied his not exactly eventful, but busy and
varied life. He had entered the Custom-house; but went to London in
1804, and tried literature in many forms, and for the most part with
very little success. While travelling in the Levant he met Byron, of
whom long afterwards he published a rather absurd life; and after his
return home his _Ayrshire Legatees_ found welcome and popularity in
_Blackwood_. This was in 1821, and after five years' busy writing Galt
went to Canada in charge of a great scheme of colonisation and commerce
called the Canada Company. This, after fair prospects, broke down
completely. He came back again, wrote hard, and schemed incessantly. But
fortune was not kind to him; and he died, in a way a broken man, at
Greenock on 11th April 1839.

Galt, though with some of the national characteristics which have not
always made Scotchmen popular, appears to have been a person of worth
and amiability. He got on well with Byron, a very uncommon thing; and
from Carlyle, whom he met when they were both on the staff of _Fraser_,
he receives unwontedly amiable notice. His literary production was vast
and totally uncritical; his poems, dramas, etc., being admittedly
worthless, his miscellaneous writing mostly book-making, while his
historical novels are given up by all but devotees. He had, however, a
special walk--the delineation of the small humours and ways of his
native town and county--in which, if not exactly supreme, he has seldom
been equalled. The _Ayrshire Legatees_ is in main scheme a pretty direct
and not very brilliant following of _Humphrey Clinker_; but the letters
of the worthy family who visit London are read in a home circle which
shows Galt's peculiar talent. It is shown better still in his next
published work, _The Annals of the Parish_, which is said to have been
written long before, and in the pre-Waverley days to have been rejected
by the publishers because "_Scotch_ novels could not pay." It is not
exactly a novel, being literally what its title holds out--the annals of
a Western Parish by its minister, the Rev. Mr. Balwhidder, a
Presbyterian Parson Adams of a less robust type, whose description of
himself and parishioners is always good, and at times charming. _Sir
Andrew Wylie_ (a fantastic book of much good fun and much good feeling),
_The Entail_, and _The Provost_ (the last two sometimes ranked next to
the _Annals_), followed rapidly, and are all good in a way which has
been oddly revived of late years by some of our most popular novelists.
A better writer than Galt, though a less fertile, was Dr. Moir
("Delta"), another _Blackwood_ man, whose chief single performance is
_Mansie Wauch_, but who wrote both prose and verse, both tales and
essays, with considerable accomplishment of style, and with a very
agreeable mixture of serious and comic power.

Meanwhile, the historical novel did not by any means absorb the
attention of the crowds of aspirants who hurried to try their fortune in
the wake of Scott. Lady Morgan (or rather Miss Sydney Owenson) did, in
_The Wild Irish Girl_ (1806) and other things, some "rattling Hibernian
stories" quite early; John Banim (1798-1842) coincided with the two
Englishmen and exceeded them in _goût du terroir_; and the _Fairy
Legends_ (1826) of Crofton Croker (1798-1854) are at their best simply
exquisite. But the older styles continued after a fashion, or underwent
slight changes, before the novel of purely ordinary life, on a plan
midway between Scott and Miss Austen, triumphed in the middle of the
century. One of the most popular of novelists in the reigns of George
IV. and William IV. was Theodore Hook (1788-1841), a man of respectable
connections and excellent education, who, having made himself a
favourite with the Regent and many persons of quality as a diner-out and
improvisatore, received a valuable appointment at the Mauritius, laid
himself open by carelessness to a prosecution for malversation, and,
returning to England, never entirely escaped from the effects of this,
though he was extremely successful both as a novelist, and as a
newspaper writer and editor, in the _John Bull_ chiefly. Some of Hook's
political squibs and light verses still retain attraction; and the
tradition of his extraordinary faculties in improvising both words,
music, and dramatic arrangement remains. But his novels (_Sayings and
Doings_, _Gilbert Gurney_, _Gurney Married_, _Maxwell_, etc.) have
become very dead-alive. They have little plot; a sort of rattling
adventure in a modernised following of Smollett, which is their chief
source of interest; manners true enough to their own day to be
out-of-date now, but not handled with sufficient art ever to regain the
attraction of revived antiquity; and a very careless and undistinguished
style.

The first series of Hook's _Sayings and Doings_ appeared in 1824, the
year before that of the novels of James and Ainsworth above noticed.
Three years later, and five before Scott's death, appeared _Falkland_,
the first (anonymous) novel of a writer far surpassing any of the hour
in talent, and credited by some with positive genius. Edward George
Earle Lytton Bulwer, afterwards Sir Edward Lytton-Bulwer, and later
still Lord Lytton (born in 1800), was the youngest son of General Bulwer
of Wood Dalling and Haydon in Norfolk, while he on his mother's side
represented an ancient Hertfordshire family seated at Knebworth. He was
a Cambridge man: he obtained the Chancellor's prize for English verse in
1825, and his first books were in poetical form. He became a Member of
Parliament, being returned in the Whig interest for St. Ives before the
Reform Bill passed, and in the first Reform Parliament for Lincoln, and
he held this seat for a decade, receiving his baronetcy in 1835. For
another decade he was out of the House of Commons, though he succeeded
to the Knebworth estate in 1844. He was returned for Hertfordshire in
1852, and, joining Lord Derby's reconstituted party, ranked for the rest
of his life as a Conservative of a somewhat Liberal kind. In the second
Derby administration he was Colonial Secretary, but took no part in that
of 1867, and died just before the return of the Tories to power in 1873.

This sufficiently brilliant political career was complicated by literary
production and success in a manner not equalled by any Englishman of his
time, and only approached by Macaulay and by Mr. Disraeli. _Falkland_
was succeeded by _Pelham_, which was published with his name, and which
was the first, perhaps the most successful, and by far the most
brilliant, of the novels in which authors have endeavoured to secure
the rank of man of the world even more than that of man of letters,
taking the method chiefly of fashionable, and therefore somewhat
ephemeral, epigram. Nor did Bulwer (as he was known in the heyday of his
popularity) ever cease novel writing for the forty-five years which were
left to him, while the styles of his production varied with fashion in a
manner impossible to a man of less consummate versatility and talent,
though perhaps equally impossible to one of a very decided turn of
genius. The fashionable novel, the crime novel, the romance of mystery,
the romance of classical times, the historical novel, by turns occupied
him; and it is more easy to discover faults in _Paul Clifford_, _Eugene
Aram_, _The Pilgrims of the Rhine_, _The Last Days of Pompeii_, _Ernest
Maltravers_, _Zanoni_, _Rienzi_, _The Last of the Barons_, and _Harold_,
than to refuse admiration to their extraordinary qualities. Then their
author, recognising the public taste, as he always did, or perhaps
exemplifying it with an almost unexampled quickness, turned to the
domestic kind, which was at last, more than thirty years after Miss
Austen's death, forcing its way, and wrote _The Caxtons_, _My Novel_,
and _What will he do with it?_--books which to some have seemed his
greatest triumphs. The veering of that taste back again to tales of
terror was acknowledged by _A Strange Story_, which, in 1861, created an
excitement rarely, if ever, caused by the work of a man who had been
writing for more than a generation; while _The Haunted and the
Haunters_, a brief ghost-story contributed to _Blackwood's Magazine_,
has always seemed to the present writer the most perfect thing that he
ever did, and one of the most perfect things of its kind ever done. In
the very last years of his life, the wonderful _girouette_ of his
imagination felt other popular gales, and produced--partly as novels of
actual society, partly as Janus-faced satires of what was and what might
be--_The Coming Race_, _Kenelm Chillingly_, and the posthumous
_Parisians_.

But this list of novels, which does not include by name much more than
two-thirds of his actual production, by no means exhausts Lord Lytton's
literary work. For some years, chiefly before he had passed middle
life, he was an active dramatist, and at least three of his plays--_The
Lady of Lyons_, _Richelieu_, and _Money_--had a success (not merely
passing, and in the first case at least permanent) which few if any
other plays of the century have had. He was always returning to verse,
though never with real poetical success; the exceptions which may be
urged most forcibly being his translations from Schiller, a congenial
original. He was at one time editor of the _New Monthly Magazine_. He
translated freely, he wrote much criticism,--which is often in isolated
passages, if not so often in general drift and grasp, extremely
good,--and he was a constant essayist in very various kinds. It is
probable that if his entire works were ever collected, which is not
likely, few, if any, authors of the nineteenth century, though it be one
of unbridled writing and printing, could equal him in volume; while it
is certain that very few indeed could produce more numerous testimonials
of the kind given by the immediate, and not merely immediate, success of
separate works.

Yet it has been sometimes complained, sometimes boasted, that "with the
critics Bulwer is dead"; and it is not very certain that with the
faithful herd of uncritical readers the first Lord Lytton keeps any
great place. Even many years ago he had ceased to be, if he ever was, a
general favourite with those who specially loved literature; and it is
rather doubtful whether he will ever regain even a considerable vogue of
esteem. Perhaps this may be unjust, for he certainly possessed ability
in bulk, and perhaps here and there in detail, far surpassing that of
all but the very greatest of his contemporaries. Even the things which
were most urged against him by contemporary satirists, and which it is
to be feared are remembered at second-hand when the first-hand knowledge
of his work has declined, need not be fatal. A man may write such things
as "There is an eloquence in Memory because it is the nurse of Hope"
without its being necessary to cast up his capital letters against him
in perpetuity, or to inquire without ceasing whether eloquence is an
inseparable property of nurses. But he had two great faults--want of
concentration and want of reality; and the very keenness, the very
delicacy of his appreciation of the shiftings of popular taste may seem
without unfairness to argue a certain shallowness of individual soil, a
literary compost wherein things spring up rapidly because they have no
depth of earth, but also because they have no depth of earth, rapidly
vanish and wither away. The novel and the magazine have beyond all doubt
given us much admirable work which without them we should not have had;
they have almost as certainly, and in no case much more certainly than
in Bulwer's, over-forced and over-coaxed into hasty and ephemeral
production talents which, with a little more hardening and under less
exacting circumstances, might have become undoubted genius. Sentimental
grandiloquence is not by itself fatal: the fashion which tempts to it,
which turns on it, may return to it again; and it is never impossible to
make allowance for its excesses, especially when, as in the case under
discussion, it is accompanied by a rare and true satiric grasp of life.
In these early externals of his, Bulwer was only the most illustrious of
the innumerable victims of Byron. But his failure to make his figures
thoroughly alive is more serious; and this must be put down partly to
incapacity to take pains.

It was nearly ten years after the first success of Bulwer, and more than
half as much after the death of Scott, that a novelist greater than any
the century had seen, except Scott himself and Miss Austen, appeared.
Charles Dickens and Lord Lytton became rather intimate friends; but
their origins and early experiences were curiously different. Dickens'
father had been in a government office; but after the Peace he took to
the press, and his son (born in 1812), after some uncomfortable early
experiences which have left their mark on _David Copperfield_, fled to
the same refuge of the destitute in our times. He was a precocious, but
not an extraordinary precocious writer; for he was four and twenty when
the _Sketches by Boz_ were printed in a volume after appearing in the
_Morning Chronicle_. But the _Sketches_ _by Boz_, though containing
some very sprightly things, are but as farthing candles to sunlight when
compared with the wonderful and wholly novel humour of _The Pickwick
Papers_, which (Dickens having been first (1836) employed to write them
as mere letter-press to the sporting sketches of the caricaturist
Seymour) appeared as a book in 1838. From that time their author had a
success which in money came second to that of Scott, and which both
pecuniarily and otherwise enabled him to write pretty much as he
pleased. So to the last the style of his novels never bore much
reference to any public taste or demand; and he developed himself more
strictly according to his own bent than almost any writer of English who
was not born to fortune. During the last twenty years of his life, which
ended suddenly on 9th June 1870, he was a newspaper editor--first of
_Household Words_, then of _All the Year Round_; but these very
periodicals were of his own making and design. He made two journeys to
America: one very early in 1842, with a literary result (_American
Notes_) of very sharp criticism of its people; the other late in 1867,
when he made large sums by reading from his works--a style of
entertainment which, again, was almost of his own invention, and which
gave employment to a very strong dramatic and histrionic faculty that
found little other vent. But his life was extremely uneventful, being
for its last two and thirty years simply one long spell of hard though
lavishly rewarded literary labour.

The brilliancy and the originality of the product of this can never be
denied. True to his general character of independence, Dickens owes
hardly anything to any predecessor except Smollett, to whom his debts
are rather large, and perhaps to Theodore Hook, to whom, although the
fact has not been generally recognised, they exist. He had had no
regular education, had read as a boy little but the old novelists, and
never became as a man one of either wide learning or much strictly
literary taste. His temperament indeed was of that insubordinate
middle-class variety which rather resents the supremacy of any classics;
and he carried the same feeling into art, into politics, and into the
discussion of the vague problems of social existence which have so much
occupied the last three-quarters of the century. Had this iconoclastic
but ignorant zeal of his (which showed itself in his second novel,
_Nicholas Nickleby_, and was apparent in his last completed one, _Our
Mutual Friend_) been united with less original genius, the result must
have been infinitely tedious, and could not have been in any way
profitable. For Dickens' knowledge, as has been said, was very limited;
his logical faculties were not strong; and while constantly attempting
to satirise the upper classes, he knew extremely little about them, and
has never drawn a single "aristocrat," high government official, or
"big-wig" generally, who presents the remotest resemblance to a living
being. But he knew the lower and lower middle classes of his own day
with wonderful accuracy; he could inform this knowledge of his with that
indefinable comprehension of man as man which has been so often noted;
and over and above this he possessed an imagination, now humorous, now
terrible, now simply grotesque, of a range and volume rarely equalled,
and of a quality which stands entirely by itself, or is approached at a
distance, and with a difference, only by that of his great French
contemporary Balzac. This imagination, essentially plastic, so far
outran the strictly critical knowledge of mankind as mankind just
mentioned that it has invested Dickens' books and characters with a
peculiarity found nowhere else, or only in the instance just excepted.
They are never quite real: we never experience or meet anything or
anybody quite like them in the actual world. And yet in their own world
they hold their position and play their parts quite perfectly and
completely: they obey their own laws, they are consistent with their own
surroundings. Occasionally the work is marred by too many and too
glaring tricks of mannerism: this was especially the case with the
productions of the period between 1855 and 1865. The pathos of Dickens
was always regarded as slightly conventional and unreal by critical
judges. But his humour, though never again attaining the same marvellous
flow of unforced merriment which the _Pickwick Papers_ had shown, was
almost unfailing; and, thanks to the gift of projecting imaginative
character, above noticed, it was never exactly the same.

These and other gifts were shown in a long line of novels covering just
thirty years, from _Boz to Our Mutual Friend_; for the last few years of
his life, disturbed by his American tour, by increasing ill-health, and
other things, produced nothing but the beginnings of an unfinished
novel, _Edwin Drood_. He attempted little besides novels, and what he
did attempt outside of them was not very fortunate, except the
delightful _Uncommercial Traveller_, wherein in his later days he
achieved a sort of mellowed version of the _Boz_ sketches, subdued more
to the actual, but not in the least tamed or weakened. Although a keen
lover of the theatre and an amateur actor of remarkable merit, he had
the sense and self-denial never to attempt plays except in an indirect
fashion and in one or two instances, nor ever in his own name solely.
His _Child's History of England_ (1854) is probably the worst book ever
written by a man of genius, except Shelley's novels, and has not, like
them, the excuse of extreme youth. His _Pictures from Italy_ (1845),
despite vivid passages, are quite unworthy of him; and even the
_American Notes_ could be dispensed with without a sigh, seeing that we
have _Martin Chuzzlewit_. But his novels, despite their many faults,
could not be dispensed with,--no one who understands literary value
would give up even the worst of them,--while his earlier "Christmas
Books" (during the fancy for these things in the forties) and his later
contributions to the Christmas numbers of his periodicals contain some
of his best fantastic and pathetic work. _Pickwick_ was immediately
followed by _Oliver Twist_,--a very popular book, and in parts a very
powerful one, but containing in germ most of the faults which afterwards
developed themselves, and, with the exception of the "Artful Dodger,"
not bringing out any of his great character-creations. _Nicholas
Nickleby_ (1838) is a story designed to fix a stigma on cheap private
schools, and marred by some satire as cheap as the schools themselves on
the fashionable and aristocratic society of which to his dying day
Dickens never knew anything; but it is of great interest as a story, and
full of admirable humoristic sketches, which almost if not quite excused
not merely the defect of knowledge just referred to, but the author's
unfortunate proneness to attempt irony, of which he had no command, and
argument, of which he had if possible less. His next two stories, _The
Old Curiosity Shop_ and _Barnaby Rudge_, were enshrined (1840-41) in an
odd framework of fantastic presentation, under the general title of
_Master Humphrey's Clock_,--a form afterwards discarded with some
advantage, but also with some loss. _The Old Curiosity Shop_, strongly
commended to its own public and seriously hampered since by some rather
maudlin pathos, improved even upon _Nicholas Nickleby_ in the humoristic
vein; and while Dick Swiveller, Codlin and Short, Mr. Chuckster, and
others remain as some of the best of Dickens' peculiar characters of the
lighter sort, the dwarf Quilp is perhaps his only thoroughly successful
excursion into the grimmer and more horrible kind of humour. _Barnaby
Rudge_ is in part a historical novel, and the description of the riots
of Eighty is of extraordinary power; but the real appeal of the book
lies in the characters of the Varden family, with the handmaid Miss
Miggs and the ferocious apprentice Tappertit. Sir John Chester, a sort
of study from Chesterfield, is one of the most disastrous of this
author's failures; but Dennis the Hangman may have a place by Quilp.
Then (1843) came _Martin Chuzzlewit_, which, as observed, embodied his
American experiences in a manner which may or may not have been fair,
but which was exquisitely funny. It also added the immortal figure of
Mrs. Gamp (not unattended by any means) to the glorious list of his
comic creations. It was in _Dombey and Son_ (1846-48) that the Dickens
of the decadence first appeared; the maudlin strain of _The Old
Curiosity Shop_ being repeated in Paul Dombey, while a new and very
inauspicious element appeared in certain mechanical tricks of phrase,
and in a totally unreal style of character exemplified in the Bagstocks,
the Carkers, and so forth. Yet Captain Cuttle, his friend Bunsby, Miss
Nipper, and the inestimable Toots put in ample bail for this also. And
it was followed (1849-50) by _David Copperfield_, one of the capital
books of English fiction. This was to some extent obviously
autobiographic; but, setting some questions of taste aside, not unduly
so. Even the hero is too real to be frigid; and of the two heroines,
Dora, if an idiot, is saved by pathos different from that of Paul and
Nell, while the insipidity of Agnes does not greatly spoil the story,
and the commonplace theatricality of the Steerforth and Little Em'ly
episode can be neglected. On the other hand, Miss Trotwood, David
Copperfield's schools and schoolfellows, Uriah Heap (not wholly good as
he is), and above all the priceless Mr. Micawber, would suffice to keep
twenty books alive.

But this book, though by no means Dickens' Corunna or even his
Malplaquet, was certainly the climax of his career, and no impartial and
competent critic could ever give him the same praise again. In two long
stories, _Bleak House_ and _Little Dorrit_, and in a shorter one, _Hard
Times_, which appeared between 1852 and 1857, the mania of "purpose" and
the blemish of mechanical mannerism appeared to a far worse degree than
previously, though in the first named at any rate there were numerous
consolations of the old kind. The _Tale of Two Cities_ (1859) has been
more differently judged than any other of his works; some extolling it
as a great romance, if not quite a great historical novel, while others
see in it little more than mixed mannerism and melodrama. Something of
the same difference prevails about _Great Expectations_ (1860-61), the
parties as a rule changing sides, and those who dislike the _Tale of Two
Cities_ rejoicing in _Great Expectations_, Dickens' closest attempt at
real modern life (with a fantastic admixture of course), and in its
heroine, Estella, his almost sole creation of a live girl. _Our Mutual
Friend_ (1864-65), though not a return to the great days, brought these
parties somewhat together again, thanks to the Doll's Dressmaker and
Rogue Riderhood. And then, for it is impossible to found any sound
critical judgment on the fragment of _Edwin Drood_, the building of the
most extraordinary monument of the fantastic in literature ceased
abruptly.

That exactly the same fate befell the great successor, rival, and foil
of Dickens in novel writing during the middle of the century was due to
no metaphysical aid but to the simple and prosaic fact that at the time
publication in parts, independently or in periodicals, was the usual
method. Although the life of William Makepeace Thackeray was as little
eventful as Dickens' own, their origin and circumstances were as
different as their work. Dickens, as has been said, was born in
distinctly the lower section of the middle class, and had, if any
education, a very irregular one. Thackeray, who was born at Calcutta in
1811, belonged to a good family, regularly connected with English public
schools and universities, inherited a small but comfortable fortune, and
was himself educated at the Charterhouse and at Trinity College,
Cambridge, though he took no degree. Unsuccessful as an artist (it is
one of the chief pieces of literary anecdote of our times that he
offered himself fruitlessly to Dickens as an illustrator), and having by
imprudence or accident lost his private means, he began to write,
especially in the then new and audacious _Fraser's Magazine_. For this,
for other periodicals, and for _Punch_ later, he performed a vast amount
of miscellaneous work, part only of which, even with the considerable
addition made some ten years ago, has ever been enshrined in his
collected works. It is all very remarkable, and can easily be seen now
to be quite different from any other work of the time (the later
thirties); but it is very unequal and distinctly uncertain in touch.
These qualities or defects also appear in his first publications in
volume--the _Paris_ (1840) and _Irish_ (1843) _Sketch Books_, and the
novels of _Catherine_ and _Barry Lyndon_. The _Punch_ work (which
included the famous _Book of Snobs_ and the admirable attempts in
misspelling on the model of Swift and Smollett known as the _Memoirs of
Mr. Yellowplush_, with much else) marked a distinct advance in firmness
of handling and raciness of humour; while the author, who, though now a
very poor man, had access to the best society, was constantly adding to
his stock of observation as well as to his literary practice. It was
not, however, till 1846, when he began _Vanity Fair_, that any very
large number of persons began to understand what a star had risen in
English letters; nor can even _Vanity Fair_ be said to have had any
enormous popularity, though its author's powers were shown in a
different way during its publication in parts by the appearance of a
third sketch book, the _Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo_, more
perfect than either of its forerunners, and by divers extremely
brilliant Christmas books. _Vanity Fair_ was succeeded in 1849 (for
Thackeray, a man fond of society and a little indolent, was fortunately
never a very rapid writer) by _Pendennis_, which holds as autobiography,
though not perhaps in creative excellence, the same place among his
works as _Copperfield_ does among those of Dickens. Several slighter
things accompanied or followed this, Thackeray showing himself at once
an admirable lecturer, and an admirable though not always quite judicial
critic, in a series of discourses afterwards published as a volume on
_The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century_. But it was not till
1852 that the marvellous historical novel of _Esmond_--the greatest book
in its own special kind ever written--appeared, and showed at once the
fashion in which the author had assimilated the Queen Anne period and
his grasp of character and story. He returned to modern times in _The
Newcomes_ (1853-55), which some put at the head of his work as a
contemporary painter of manners. After this he had seven years of life
which were well filled. He followed up _Esmond_ with The _Virginians_
(1857-58), a novel of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, which
has not been generally rated high, but which contains some of his very
best things; he went to America and lectured on _The Four Georges_
(lectures again brilliant in their kind); he became (1860) editor of the
_Cornhill Magazine_ and wrote in it two stories, _Lovel the Widower_ and
_Philip_; while he struck out a new line in a certain series of
contributions called _The Roundabout Papers_, some of which were among
his very last, and nearly all of them among his most characteristic and
perfect work. He had begun yet another novel, _Denis Duval_, which was
to deal with the last quarter of the century he knew so well; but he
died suddenly two days before Christmas 1863, leaving it a mere
fragment. He had unsuccessfully attempted play writing in _The Wolves
and the Lamb_, an earlier and dramatic version of _Lovel the Widower_.
And during almost his whole literary career he had been a sparing but an
exquisite writer of a peculiar kind of verse, half serious half comic,
which is scarcely inferior in excellence to his best prose. "The Ballad
of Bouillabaisse" and "The Age of Wisdom," to take only two examples,
are unmatched in their presentation of pathos that always keeps clear of
the maudlin, and is wide-eyed if not dry-eyed in view of all sides of
life; while such things as "Lyra Hibernica" and "The Ballads of
Policeman X" have never been surpassed as verse examples of pure, broad,
roaring farce that still retains a certain reserve and well-bred
scholarship of tone.

But his verse, however charming and unique, could never have given him
the exalted and massive pedestal which his prose writings, and
especially his novels, provide. Even without the novels, as without the
verse, he would still occupy a high place among English writers for the
sake of his singular and delightful style, and for the attitude both to
life and to letters, corresponding with that style, which his essays and
miscellanies exhibit. This style is not by any means free from minor
blemishes, though it discarded many of these as time went on. But it has
an extraordinary vivacity; a manner entirely its own, which yet seldom
or never approaches mannerism; a quality of humour for which no word
would be so fit as the old-fashioned "archness," if that had not been so
hopelessly degraded before even the present century opened; at need, an
unsurpassed pathos which never by any chance or exception succumbs to
the demon of the gushing or maudlin; a flexibility and facility of
adaptation to almost all (not quite all) subjects which is hard to
parallel.

And this style reflects with more than common exactness, even in these
minor works, the attitude above spoken of, which is not less unique and
not less inestimable than the style itself. Towards some of the "great
subjects" Thackeray indeed adopts not quite a Shakespearian silence, but
a slightly uneasy respect. Never irreligious as he was, there was
something in him of his own beloved eighteenth century's dislike and
discomfort in face of religious dogma and religious enthusiasm; he had
no metaphysical head; his politics (he once stood for Parliament) were a
little childish. It was his, in short, not so much to argue as to
observe, to feel, to laugh with no unkindness but with infinite
comprehension, to enjoy, to suffer. Of all the innumerable cants that
ever were canted, the cant about Thackeray's "cynicism" was the silliest
and the most erroneous. He knew the weakness of man, and laughed at it
as the wise knows and laughs, "knowing also," as the poet says, "that he
himself must die." But he did not even despise this weakness, much less
is he harsh to it. On the contrary, he is milder not only than Swift,
but even than Addison or Miss Austen, and he is never wroth with human
nature save when it is not only weak but base.

All these good gifts and others, such as incomparable power of
presenting scene and personage to the necessary extent and with telling
detail, appear in his novels, with the addition of a greater gift than
any of them--the gift most indispensable of all others to the
novelist--the gift of creating and immortalising character. Of mere
story, of mere plot, Thackeray was not a great master; and he has made
himself appear a less great master than he was by his fancy for
interlarding his narratives with long addresses to the reader, and by
his other fancy for extending them over very great spaces of time. The
unities are no doubt in fiction, if not in drama, something of a
caricature; but it is seldom possible to neglect them to the extent of
years and decades without paying the penalty; and Thackeray is not of
those who have evaded payment. But in the creation of living character
he stands simply alone among novelists: above even Fielding, though his
characters may have something less of massiveness; much above Scott,
whose consummate successes are accompanied by not a few failures; and
out of sight of almost every one else except Miss Austen, whose world is
different, and, as a world, somewhat less of flesh and blood. In _Vanity
Fair_ he is still in this respect not quite at his acme; and the
magnificent character of Becky Sharp (the attempt to rival whom by her
almost exact contemporary, Valerie Marneffe, is a singular critical
error), supported as it is by the lesser successes of Jos and Rawdon, of
George Osborne and Lord Steyne, does not find itself, save now and then,
especially in the crowning scene of the scandal in Curzon Street,
completely parted or completely put in scene. And so at the other end of
the list, from _The Virginians_, fine as much of that is, onwards, it is
permissible, without unreason or want of generosity, to discern a
slight, a very slight, flagging, not in the quality or kind of the
power, but in the vigour and freshness with which it is applied. But in
_Pendennis_, in _Esmond_, and in _The Newcomes_, it appears as it does
nowhere else in English, or in any literature. It is not so much the
holding up of the mirror to life as the presentation of life itself.
Although the figures, the scheme of thought and sentiment and sense,
differ from what we find in Shakespeare by the whole difference between
poetry and prose, there is, on the lower level, a positive gain in
vividness by the absence of the restraints and conventions of the drama
and the measured line. Every act, every scene, every person in these
three books is real with a reality which has been idealised just up to
and not beyond the necessities of literature. It does not matter what
the acts, the scenes, the personages may be. Whether we are at the
height of romantic passion with Esmond's devotion to Beatrix, and his
transactions with the duke and the prince over diamonds and title deeds;
whether the note is that of the simplest human pathos, as in Colonel
Newcome's death-bed; whether we are indulged with society at Baymouth
and Oxbridge; whether we take part in Marlborough's campaigns or assist
at the Back Kitchen--we are in the House of Life, a mansion not too
frequently opened to us by the writers of prose fiction. It was
impossible that Thackeray should live long or write very many novels
when he had once found his way. The lesson of the greatest imagination
of his great contemporary and master settles that. Not the "Peau de
Chagrin" itself could have enabled any man to produce a long succession
of novels such as _Vanity Fair_ and _Esmond_.

During the time before the century reached its middle, in which Bulwer
and Dickens were the most popular of novelists, while Thackeray was
slowly making his way to the place that was properly his, the demand for
novels, thoroughly implanted in the public by the success of Scott, was
constantly met by work of all sorts, very little of which survives
except in country circulating libraries and on the shelves of houses the
ownership of which has not changed hands for some considerable time.
Very little of it, indeed, much deserved to survive. Lockhart, an
exceedingly judicious critic, thought it necessary not long after the
appearance of _Vanity Fair_ to apologise for the apparent extravagance
of the praise which he had given to his friend Theodore Hook by
observing that, except Dickens, there was no novelist of the first class
between the death of Scott and the rise of Thackeray himself. But about
the time of that rise, and for a good many years after it, what may be
called the third generation of the novelists of the century began to
make its appearance, and, as has been partly observed above, to devote
itself to a somewhat different description of work, which will be
noticed in a future chapter.

The historical novel, though some of its very best representatives were
still to make their appearance, ceased to occupy the first place in
popular esteem; and the later varieties of the novel of more or less
humorous adventure, whether in the rather commonplace form of Hook or in
the highly individual and eccentric form of Dickens, also ceased to be
much cultivated, save by Dickens himself and his direct imitators. The
vogue set in for a novel of more or less ordinary life of the upper
middle class, and this vogue lasted during the whole of the third
quarter, if not of the second half, of the century, though about 1870
the historical novel revived, and, after some years of uncertain popular
taste, seems in the last decade to have acquired almost as great
popularity (with its companion study of purely fantastic adventure) as
ever. Yet we must, before passing to other departments, and interrupting
the account of fiction, notice not a few other writers of the time
previous to 1850.

The descent, in purely literary merit, from Dickens and Thackeray, and
perhaps from Bulwer, to some of those who must now be mentioned, is
great. Yet the chief naval and the chief military novelist of England
need surely not appear by allowance; and if affection and frequent
reading count for anything, it is not certain that some technically much
greater names might not shine with lesser lustre than those of Marryat
and Lever. Frederick Marryat, the elder of the pair, was born in 1792,
early enough to see a good deal of service in the later years of the
Great War, partly under the brilliant if eccentric leadership of Lord
Cochrane. His promotion was fairly rapid: he became a commander in 1815,
and afterwards distinguished himself as a post captain in the Burmese
War, being made a C.B. in 1825. But the increasing dearth of active
service was not suitable to a character like that of Marryat, who,
moreover, was not likely to be popular with "My Lords"; and his
discovery of a faculty for writing opened up to him, both as novelist
and magazine editor, a very busy and profitable literary career, which
lasted from 1830 to 1848, when he died. Marryat's works, which are very
numerous (the best being perhaps _Peter Simple_, _Mr. Midshipman Easy_,
and _Jacob Faithful_, though there is hardly one that has not special
adherents), resemble Smollett's more than those of any other writer, not
merely in their sea-scenes, but in general scheme and character. Some of
Smollett's faults, too, which are not necessarily connected with the
sea--a certain ferocity, an over-fondness for practical jokes, and the
like--appear in Marryat, who is, moreover, a rather careless and
incorrect writer, and liable to fits both of extravagance and of
dulness. But the spirit and humour of the best of his books throughout,
and the best parts of the others, are unmistakable and unsurpassed. Nor
should it be forgotten that he had a rough but racy gift of verse, the
best, though by no means the only good example of which is the piece
beginning, "The Captain stood on the carronade."

The range of Charles Lever, who was born in 1806, was as much wider than
Marryat's as his life was longer and his experience (though in a purely
literary view oddly similar) more varied. He was educated at Trinity
College, Dublin, and after some sojourn both on the Continent and in
America became (1837) physician to the British Embassy at Brussels. At
this time the Continent was crowded with veterans, English and other, of
the Great War; while Lever's Irish youth had filled him with stories of
the last generation of madcap Irish squires and squireens. He combined
the two in a series of novels of wonderful _verve_ and spirit, first of
a military character, the chief of which were _Harry Lorrequer_,
_Charles O'Malley_ (his masterpiece), and _Tom Burke of Ours_. He had,
after no long tenure of the Brussels appointment, become (1842) editor
of the _Dublin University Magazine_, where for many years his books
appeared. After a time, when his stores of military anecdote were
falling low and the public taste had changed, he substituted novels
partly of Irish partly of Continental bearing (_Roland Cashel_, _The
Knight of Gwynne_, and many others); while in the early days of Dickens'
_All the Year Round_ he adventured a singular piece entitled _A Day's
Ride, a Life's Romance_, which the public did not relish, but which was
much to the taste of some good judges. He had by this time gone to
Florence, became Vice-Consul at Spezzia in 1852, whence, in 1867, he was
transferred as British Consul to Trieste, and died there in 1872.

For some years before his death he had been industrious in a third and
again different kind of novel, not merely more thoughtful and less
"rollicking," but adjusted much more closely to actual life and
character. Indeed Lever at different times of his life manifested almost
all the gifts which the novelist requires, though unfortunately he never
quite managed to exhibit them all together. His earlier works, amusing
as they are and full of dash and a certain kind of life, sin not only by
superficiality but by a reckless disregard of the simplest requirements
of story-telling, of the most rudimentary attention to chronology,
probability, and general keeping. His later, vastly amended in this
respect, and exhibiting, moreover, a deeper comprehension of human
character as distinguished from mere outward "humours," almost
necessarily present the blunted and blurred strokes which come from the
loss of youth and the frequent repetition of literary production. Indeed
Lever, with Bulwer, was the first to exemplify the evil effects of the
great demand for novels, and the facilities for producing them given by
the spread of periodicals.

To descend to the third, or even the lower second class in fiction is
almost more dangerous here than a similar laxity in any other
department; and we can no more admit Lord John Russell because he wrote
a story called _The Nun of Arrouca_, than we can exhume any equally
forgotten production of writers less known in non-literary respects. It
can hardly, however, be improper to mention in connection with Marryat,
the greatest of them all, some other members of the interesting school
of naval writers who not unnaturally arose after the peace had turned
large numbers of officers adrift, and the rise of the demand for essays,
novels, and miscellaneous articles had offered temptation to writing.
The chief of these were, in order of rising excellence, Captains
Glascock, Chamier, and Basil Hall, and Michael Scott, a civilian, but by
far the greatest writer of the four. Glascock, an officer of
distinction, was the author of the _Naval Sketch Book_, a curious
olla-podrida of "galley" stories, criticisms on naval books, and
miscellanies, which appeared in 1826. It is not very well written, and
in parts very dull, but provides some genuine things. Chamier, who was
born in 1796 and did not die till 1870, was a post captain and a direct
imitator of Marryat, as also was Captain Howard, Marryat's sub-editor
for a time on the _Metropolitan_, and the part author with him of some
books which have caused trouble to bibliographers. Chamier's books--_Ben
Brace_, _The Arethusa_, _Tom Bowling_, etc.--are better than Howard's
_Rattlin the Reefer_ (commonly ascribed to Marryat), _Jack Ashton_, and
others, but neither can be called a master.

Captain Basil Hall, who was born of a good Scotch family at Edinburgh in
1788 and died at Haslar Hospital in 1844, was a better writer than
either of these three; but he dealt in travels, not novels, and appears
here as a sort of honorary member of the class. His _Travels in America_
was one of the books which, in the second quarter of the century,
rightly or wrongly, excited American wrath against Englishmen; but his
last book, _Fragments of Voyages and Travels_, was his most popular and
perhaps his best. Captain Basil Hall was a very amiable person, and
though perhaps a little flimsy as a writer, is yet certainly not to be
spoken of with harshness.

A very much stronger talent than any of these was Michael Scott, who was
born in Glasgow in 1789 and died in 1835, having passed the end of his
boyhood and the beginning of his manhood in Jamaica. He employed his
experiences in composing for _Blackwood's Magazine_, and afterwards
reducing to book shape, the admirable miscellanies in fiction entitled
_Tom Cringle's Log_ and _The Cruise of the Midge_, which contain some of
the best fighting, fun, tropical scenery, and description generally, to
be found outside the greatest masters. Very little is known of Scott,
and he wrote nothing else.

One unique figure remains to be noticed among novelists of the first
half of the century, though as a matter of fact his last novel was not
published till within twenty years of its close. Benjamin Disraeli, Earl
of Beaconsfield, belongs, as a special person, to another story than
this. But this would be very incomplete without him and his novels. They
were naturally written for the most part before, in 1852, he was called
to the leadership of the House of Commons, but in two vacations of
office later he added to them _Lothair_ (1870) and _Endymion_ (1881). It
is, however, in his earlier work that his chief virtue is to be found.
It is especially in its first division,--the stories of _Vivian Grey_,
_The Young Duke_, _Contarini Fleming_, _Alroy_, _Venetia_, and
_Henrietta Temple_,--published between 1827 and 1837. They are more like
Bulwer's than like anybody else's work, but _Vivian Grey_ appeared
in the same year with _Falkland_ and before _Pelham_. Later
novels--_Coningsby_ (1844), _Sybil_ (1845), and _Tancred_ (1847)--are
more directly political; while certain smaller and chiefly early
tales--_Ixion_, _The Infernal Marriage_, _Popanilla_, etc.--are pure
fantasy pieces with a satirical intent, and the first of them is, with
perhaps Bedford's _Vathek_ as a companion, the most brilliant thing of
its kind in English. In these more particularly, but in all more or
less, a strong Voltairian influence is perceptible; but on the whole the
set of books may be said to be like nothing else. They have grave
faults, being sometimes tawdry in phrase and imagery, sometimes too
personal, frequently a little unreal, and scarcely ever finally and
completely adjusted to the language in which and the people of whom they
are written. Yet the attraction of them is singular; and good judges,
differing very widely in political and literary tastes, have found
themselves at one as to the strange way in which the reader comes back
to them as he advances in life, and as to the marvellous cleverness
which they display. Let it be added that _Henrietta Temple_, a mere and
sheer love story written in a dangerous style of sentimentalism, is one
of the most effective things of its kind in English, and holds its
ground despite all drawbacks of fashion in speech and manners, which
never tell more heavily than in the case of a book of the kind; while in
_Venetia_ the story of Byron is handled with remarkable closeness, and
yet in good taste.

Two other novelists belonging to the first half of the century, and
standing even further out of the general current than did Disraeli, both
of them also possessing greater purely literary genius than his, must
also be mentioned here. Thomas Love Peacock, the elder of them, born a
long way within the eighteenth century (in 1785), passed a studious
though irregularly educated youth and an idle early manhood, but at a
little more than thirty (1817) produced, after some verse, the curious
little satirical romance of _Headlong Hall_. This he followed up with
others--_Melincourt_, _Nightmare Abbey_, _Maid Marian_, _The Misfortunes
of Elphin_, and _Crotchet Castle_--at no great intervals until 1830,
after which, having in the meantime been appointed to a valuable and
important office under the East India Company, he published no other
book for thirty years. Then in 1860 he put forth _Gryll Grange_, and
some five years later died, a very old man, in 1866. Peacock at all
times was a writer of verse, and the songs which diversify his novels
are among their most delightful features; but his more ambitious
poetical efforts, which date from his earlier years, _The Genius of the
Thames_ and _Rhododaphne_, are not of much mark. The novels themselves,
however, have a singular relish, and are written in a style always
piquant and attractive and latterly quite admirable. They may all be
described as belonging to the fantastic-satirical order of which the
French tale-tellers (instigated, however, by an Englishman, Anthony
Hamilton) had set the example during the previous century. Social,
political, economic, and other fads and crazes are all touched in them;
but this satire is combined with a strictly realistic presentation of
character, and, except in the romances of _Maid Marian_ and _Elphin_,
with actual modern manners. Peacock's satire is always very sharp, and
in his earlier books a little rough as well; but as he went on he
acquired urbanity without losing point, and became one of the most
consummate practitioners of Lucianic humour adjusted to the English
scheme and taste. More than thirty years after date _Gryll Grange_ is
not obsolete even as a picture of manners; while _Crotchet Castle_,
obsolete in a few externals, is as fresh as ever in substance, owing to
its close grasp of essential humanity. In verse Peacock was the last,
and one of the best, of the masters of the English drinking-song; and
some of his examples are unmatched for their mixture of joviality,
taste, sense, and wit.

George Borrow, who was eighteen years Peacock's junior, and outlived him
by fifteen, was a curious counterpart-analogue to him. Like Peacock, he
was irregularly educated, and yet a wide and deep student; but, unlike
Peacock, he devoted himself not so much to the ancient as to the more
out-of-the-way modern tongues, and became a proficient not merely in
Welsh, the Scandinavian tongues, Russian, Spanish, and other literary
languages, but in Romany or Gipsy, having associated much with the "folk
of Egypt" during his youth. After some very imperfectly known youthful
experiences, which formed at least the basis of his later novels,
_Lavengro_ (1851) and _The Romany Rye_ (1857), he received an
appointment as colporteur to the Bible Society, first in Russia, then in
Spain; and his adventures in the latter country formed the basis of a
study called _The Gipsies of Spain_ (1840), which has much, and a volume
of travel and autobiography, _The Bible in Spain_ (1843), which has
unique interest. Returning home, he married a wife with some money, and
spent the remainder of a long life in his native county of Norfolk,
producing, besides the books just named, _Wild Wales_ (1862), and dying
in 1881. There is, in fact, not very much difference between Borrow's
novels and his travel-books. The former had at least some autobiographic
foundation, and the latter invest actual occurrences with the most
singular flavour of romance. For his mere style Borrow was a little
indebted to Cobbett, though he coloured Cobbett's somewhat drab canvas
with the most brilliant fantastic hues. But his attitude, his main
literary quality, is quite unique. It might be called, without too much
affectation, an adjustment of the picaresque novel to dreamland,
retaining frequent touches of solid and everyday fact. Peacock's style
has found a good many, though no very successful, imitators; Borrow's is
quite inimitable.

Harriet Martineau, one of the numerous writers, of both sexes, whom the
polygraphic habits of this century make it hard to "class," was born at
Norwich in 1802, and belonged to one of the families that made up the
remarkable literary society which distinguished that city at the end of
the last century and the beginning of this. She began as a religious
writer according to the Unitarian persuasion; she ended as a tolerably
active opponent of religion. But she found her chief vocation (before,
as she did in her middle and later days, becoming a regular journalist)
in writing stories on political economy, a proceeding doubtless
determined by the previous exercises in didactic story-telling of Miss
Edgeworth and Mrs. Marcet. These _Illustrations of Political Economy_
(1832) exactly hit the taste of their time and were very popular. Her
less adulterated children's books (of which the best perhaps is _Feats
on the Fiord_) and her novel _Deerbrook_ (1839), owing much to Miss
Edgeworth in conception, display a good faculty of narrative, and she
did a great deal of miscellaneous work. As she became less religious she
became more superstitious, and indulged in curious crazes. She lived
latterly at the Lakes, and died on 27th June 1876. Harriet Martineau was
the object of rather absurd obloquy from Conservative critics as an
advanced woman in her day, and of still more absurd eulogy by Liberal
sympathisers both in that day and since. Personally she seems to have
been amiable and estimable enough. Intellectually she had no genius; but
she had a good deal of the versatile talent and craftsmanship for which
the literary conditions of this century have produced unusual stimulus
and a fair reward.

There was something (though not so much as has been represented) of the
masculine element about Miss Martineau; a contemporary Miss M. was
delightfully feminine. Mary Russell Mitford, born at Alresford, the town
of Wither, on 16th December 1786, was the daughter of a doctor and a
rascal, who, when she was a child, had the incredible meanness to
squander twenty thousand pounds which she won in a lottery, and later
the constant courage to live on her earnings. She published poems as
early as 1810; then wrote plays which were acted with some success; and
later, gravitating to the _London Magazine_, wrote for it essays only
second to those of Elia--the delightful papers collectively called _Our
Village_, and not completed till long after the death of the _London_ in
1832. The scenery of these is derived from the banks of the Loddon, for
the neighbourhood of Reading was in various places her home, and she
died at Swallowfield on 10th January 1855. Latterly she had a civil-list
pension; but, on the whole, she supported herself and her parents by
writing. Not much, if anything, of her work is likely to survive except
_Our_ _Village_; but this is charming, and seems, from the published
_Life_ of her and the numerous references in contemporary biography, to
express very happily the character and genius of its author--curiously
sunny, healthy, and cheerful, not in the least namby-pamby, and
coinciding with a faculty of artistic presentation of observed results,
not very imaginative but wonderfully pleasing.

To these authors and books, others of more or less "single-speech" fame
might be added: the vivid and accurate Persian tale of _Hajji Baba_ by
James Morier, the _Anastatius_ of Thomas Hope, excellently written and
once very much admired, the fashionable _Granby_ and _Tremaine_ of
Lister, the famous _Frankenstein_ of Mrs. Shelley, are examples. But
even these, and much more other things not so good as they, compose in
regard to the scheme of such a book as this the _numerus_, the crowd,
which, out of no disrespect, but for obvious and imperative reasons,
must be not so much neglected as omitted. All classes of literature
contribute to this, but, with the exception of mere compilations and
books in science or art which are outgrown, none so much as prose
fiction. The safest of life (except poetry) of all literary kinds when
it is first rate, it is the most certain of death when it is not; and it
pays for the popularity which it often receives to-day by the oblivion
of an unending morrow.



CHAPTER IV

THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERIODICALS


Perhaps there is no single feature of the English literary history of
the nineteenth century, not even the enormous popularisation and
multiplication of the novel, which is so distinctive and characteristic
as the development in it of periodical literature. For this did not, as
the extension of novel writing did, concern a single department only.
The periodical--it may almost for shortness' sake be said the
newspaper--not only became infinitely multiplied, but it gradually
absorbed almost every department, or a share of almost every department,
into itself. Very large numbers of the best as well as of the worst
novels themselves have originally appeared in periodicals; not a very
small proportion of the most noteworthy nineteenth century poetry has
had the same origin; it may almost be said that all the best work in
essay, whether critical, meditative, or miscellaneous, has thus been
ushered into the world. Even the severer and more academic divisions of
history, philosophy, theology, and their sisters, have condescended to
avail themselves of this means of obtaining a public audience; and
though there is still a certain conventional decency in apologising for
reprints from periodicals, it is quite certain that, had such reprints
not taken place, more than half the most valuable books of the age in
some departments, and a considerable minority of the most valuable in
others, would never have appeared as books at all.

The first division of our time, the last twenty years of the eighteenth
century, though it witnessed a very great development of the mere
newspaper, with which we have little to do, did not see very much of
this actual "development of periodical literature" which concerns us.
These twenty years saw the last attempts in the line of the Addisonian
essay; they saw the beginnings of some modern newspapers which exist at
the present day; they beheld in the _Anti-Jacobin_ perhaps the most
brilliant specimen of political persiflage in newspaper form that had or
has ever been seen. But they did not see--though they saw some fumbling
attempts at it--anything like those strangely different but mutually
complementary examples of periodical criticism which were given just
after the opening of the new age by _The Edinburgh Review_ (1802) and
Cobbett's _Weekly Register_; and they saw nothing at all like the
magazine, or combination of critical and creative matter, in which
_Blackwood_ was, some years later, to lead the way. At the close of the
eighteenth century such magazines were in an exceedingly rudimentary
state, and criticism was mainly still in the hands of the old _Monthly_
and _Critical Reviews_, the respective methods of which had drawn from
Johnson the odd remark that the _Critical_ men, being clever, said
little about their books, which the _Monthly_ men, being "duller
fellows," were glad to read and analyse. These Reviews and their various
contemporaries had indeed from time to time enjoyed the services of men
of the greatest talent, such as Smollett earlier and Southey just at the
last. But, as a rule, they were in the hands of mere hacks; they paid so
wretchedly that no one, unless forced by want or bitten by an amateurish
desire to see himself in print, would contribute to them; they were by
no means beyond suspicion of political and commercial favouritism; and
their critiques were very commonly either mere summaries or scrappy
"puffs" and "slatings," seldom possessing much grace of style, and
scarcely ever adjusted to any scheme of artistic criticism.

This is a history of literature, not of the newspaper press, and it is
necessary to proceed rather by giving account of the authors who were
introduced to the public by--or who, being otherwise known, availed
themselves of--this new development of periodicals. It may be sufficient
to say here that the landmarks of the period, in point of the birth of
papers, are, besides the two above mentioned, the starting of the
_Quarterly Review_ as a Tory opponent to the more and more Whiggish
_Edinburgh_ in 1809, of the _Examiner_ as a Radical weekly in 1808, of
_Blackwood's Magazine_ as a Tory monthly in 1817, of the _London
Magazine_ about the same time, and of _Fraser_ in 1830.

It was a matter of course that in the direction or on the staff of these
new periodicals some of the veterans of the older system, or of the men
who had at any rate already some experience in journalism, should be
enlisted. Gifford, the first editor of the _Quarterly_, was in all
respects a writer of the old rather than of the new age. Southey had at
one time wholly, and for years partly, supported himself by writing for
periodicals; Coleridge was at different times not merely a contributor
to these, but an actual daily journalist; and so with others. But, as
always happens when a really new development of literature takes place,
new regiments raised themselves to carry out the new tactics, as it
were, spontaneously. Many of the great names and the small mentioned in
the last three chapters--perhaps indeed most of them--took the
periodical shilling at one time or other in their lives. But those whom
I shall now proceed to mention--William Cobbett, Francis Jeffrey, Sydney
Smith, John Wilson, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt as a prose writer, William
Hazlitt, Thomas De Quincey, John Gibson Lockhart, and some others--were,
if not exactly journalists (an incorrect, but the only single
designation), at any rate such frequent contributors to periodical
literature of one kind or another that in some cases nothing, in most
comparatively little, would be left of their work if contributions to
newspapers, reviews, and magazines were to be excluded from it.

William Cobbett, not the greatest, but the most singular and original of
the group, with the exception of Lamb, and as superior to Lamb in
fertility and massive vigour as he was inferior to him in exquisite
delicacy and finish, was the son of a very small farmer little above the
labouring rank, and was born near Farnham in 1762. He was first a
ploughboy, next an attorney's clerk, and then he enlisted in the 24th
regiment. He served very creditably for seven or eight years, became
serjeant-major, improved himself very much in education, and obtained
his discharge. But, by one of the extraordinary freaks which mark his
whole career, he first took it into his head to charge the officers of
his regiment with malversation, and then ran away from his own charge
with his newly married wife, first to France and then to America. Here
he stayed till the end of the century, and here he began his newspaper
experiments, keeping up in _Peter Porcupine's Journal_ a violent crusade
against French Jacobins and American Democrats. He returned to England
in June 1800, and was encouraged by the Government to set up what soon
became his famous _Weekly Register_--a paper which, after being (as
Cobbett's politics had been up to this time) strongly Tory, lapsed by
rapid degrees into a strange kind of fantastic Radicalism shot with Tory
gleams. This remained Cobbett's creed till his death. The paper was very
profitable, and for some time Cobbett was able to lead something like a
country gentleman's life at Botley in Hampshire. But he met with two
years' imprisonment for a violent article on flogging in the army, he
subsequently got into money difficulties, and in 1817 he made a second
voyage to America, which was in fact a flight both from his creditors
and from the risk of another Government prosecution under the Six Acts.
Through all his troubles the _Register_, except for a month or two, had
continued to appear; and so it did to the last. Its proprietor, editor,
and in the main author, stood for Parliament several times, and, after a
trial for sedition in 1831, was at last returned for Oldham in 1832. He
was not much of a success there, and died on 18th June 1835 near
Guildford; for he always clung to the marches of Surrey and Hampshire.

Some such details of Cobbett's life are necessary even in the most
confined space, because they are intimately connected with his singular
character and his remarkable works. These latter are enormous in bulk
and of the most widely diversified character. _Peter Porcupine_ fills
twelve not small volumes; the mere selections from the _Register_, which
are all that has been republished of it, six very bulky ones; with a
wilderness of separate works besides--_Rural Rides_, a _History of the
Reformation_, books on husbandry, gardening, and rural economy
generally, some on the currency, an _English Grammar_, and dozens of
others. Of these the _Rural Rides_ is the most interesting in matter and
the most picturesque in style, while it affords a fair panorama of its
author's rugged but wonderfully varied and picturesque mind and
character; the _History of the Reformation_ is the most wrong-headed and
unfair; the currency writings the most singular example of the delusion
that strong prejudices and a good deal of mother-wit will enable a man
to write, without any knowledge, about the most abstruse and complicated
subjects; the agricultural books and the _English Grammar_ the best
instances of genial humours, shrewdness, and (when crotchets do not come
in too much) sound sense. But hardly anything that Cobbett writes is
contemptible in form, however weak he may often be in argument,
knowledge, and taste. He was the last, and he was not far below the
greatest, of the line of vernacular English writers of whom Latimer in
the sixteenth, Bunyan in the seventeenth, and Defoe in the eighteenth,
are the other emerging personalities. To a great extent Cobbett's style
was based on Swift; but the character of his education, which was not in
the very least degree academic, and still more the idiosyncrasy of his
genius, imposed on it almost from the first, but with ever-increasing
clearness, a manner quite different from Swift's, and, though often
imitated since, never reproduced. The "Letter to Jack Harrow," the
"Letter to the People of Botley," the "Letters to Old George Rose," and
that to "Alexander Baring, Loan Monger," to take examples almost at
random from the _Register_, are quite unlike anything before them or
anything after them. The best-known parody of Cobbett, that in _Rejected
Addresses_, gives rather a poor idea of his style; exhibiting no doubt
his intense egotism, his habit of half trivial divagation, and his use
of strong language, but quite failing to give the immense force, the
vivid clearness, and the sterling though not precisely scholarly English
which characterise his good work. The best imitation to be found is in
some of the anonymous pamphlets in which, in his later days, government
writers replied to his powerful and mischievous political diatribes, and
which in some cases, if internal evidence may be trusted, must have been
by no mean hands.

Irrational as Cobbett's views were,--he would have adjusted the entire
concerns of the nation with a view to the sole benefit of the
agricultural interest, would have done away with the standing army,
wiped out the national debt, and effected a few other trifling changes
with a perfectly light heart, while in minor matters his crotchets were
not only wild but simply irreconcilable with each other,--his intense if
narrow earnestness, his undoubting belief in himself, and a certain
geniality which could co-exist with very rough language towards his
opponents, would give his books a certain attraction even if their mere
style were less remarkable than it is. But it is in itself, if the most
plebeian, not the least virile, nor even the least finished on its own
scheme of the great styles in English. For the irony of Swift, of which,
except in its very roughest and most rudimentary forms, Cobbett had no
command or indeed conception, it substitutes a slogging directness
nowhere else to be found equalled for combination of strength and, in
the pugilistic sense, "science"; while its powers of description, within
certain limits, are amazing. Although Cobbett's newspaper was itself as
much of an Ishmaelite and an outsider as its director, it is almost
impossible to exaggerate the effect which it had in developing
newspapers generally, by the popularity which it acquired, and the
example of hammer-and-tongs treatment of political and economic subjects
which it set. The faint academic far-off-ness of the eighteenth century
handling, which is visible even in the much-praised _Letters of Junius_,
which is visible in the very ferocity of Smollett's _Adventures of an
Atom_, which put up with "Debates of the Senate of Lilliput" and so
forth, has been blown away to limbo, and the newspaper (at first at some
risk) takes men and measures, politics and policies, directly and in
their own names, to be its province and its prey.

It is a far cry from Cobbett to the founders of the _Edinburgh Review_,
who, very nearly at the same time as that at which he launched his
_Register_, did for the higher and more literary kind of periodical what
he was doing for the lower and vernacular kind. I say the founders,
because there is a still not quite settled dispute whether Francis
Jeffrey or Sydney Smith was the actual founder of the famous "Blue and
Yellow." This dispute is not uninteresting; because the one was as
typically Scotch, with some remarkable differences from other Scotchmen,
as the other was essentially English, with some points not commonly
found in men of English blood. Jeffrey, the younger of the two by a
couple of years, was still a member of the remarkable band who, as has
been noticed so often already, were all born in the early seventies of
the eighteenth century; and his own birthday was 23rd October 1773. He
was an Edinburgh man; and his father, who was of a respectable though
not distinguished family, held office in the Court of Session and was a
strong Tory. Jeffrey does not seem to have objected to his father's
profession, though he early revolted from his politics; and, after due
study at the High School of his birthplace, and the Universities of
Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Oxford (at which latter, however, he only
remained a year, deriving very little benefit or pleasure from his
sojourn at Queen's College), he was called to the Scottish bar. He
practised at first with very little success, and in 1798 had serious
thoughts of taking up literary life in London. But he could obtain no
footing, and, returning to Edinburgh and marrying a cousin, he fell into
the company of Sydney Smith, who was there with a pupil. It seems to be
admitted that the idea of a new _Review_--to be entirely free from the
control or influence of publishers, to adopt an independent line of
criticism (independent, but somewhat mistaken; for the motto _Judex
damnatur cum nocens absolvitur_ gives a very one-sided view of the
critic's office), and to be written for fair remuneration by persons of
more or less distinct position, and at any rate of education--originated
with Sydney Smith. He is also sometimes spoken of as the first "editor,"
which would appear to be a mistake. At first (the original issue was in
October 1802) the review appears to have been a kind of republic; the
contributors being, besides Jeffrey and Sydney, a certain Francis Horner
(who died too soon to demonstrate the complete falsity of the golden
opinions entertained of him by his friends), Brougham, and some
Professors of Edinburgh University. But no such plan has ever succeeded,
though it has been more than once tried, and very soon accident or
design showed that Jeffrey was the right man to take the command of the
ship. The _Review_ was not ostensibly a political one at first, and for
some years Tories, the greatest of whom was Scott, wrote in it. But the
majority of the contributors were Whigs, and the whole cast of the
periodical became more and more of that complexion, till at last,
private matters helping public, a formidable secession took place, and
the _Quarterly_ was founded.

From time to time students of literature turn to the early numbers of
these famous periodicals, of the _Edinburgh_ especially, with the
result, usually of a certain, sometimes of a considerable,
disappointment. With the exception of a few things already known from
their inclusion in their authors' collected works, the material as a
whole is apt to seem anything but extraordinarily good; and some wonder
is often expressed at the effect which it originally had. This arises
from insufficient attention to a few obvious, but for that very reason
easily neglected, truths. The inquirers as a rule have in their minds
much more what has followed than what has gone before; and they contrast
the early numbers of the _Edinburgh_, not with its jejune forerunners,
but with such matured instances as Macaulay's later essays; the early
numbers of the _Quarterly_, not with the early numbers of the
_Edinburgh_, but with their own successors. Again it is apt to be
forgotten that the characteristics of joint-stock periodical-writing
make as much for general inequality as for occasional goodness. That
which is written by many hands will seldom be as bad, but can never be
as good, as that which is written by one; that which takes its texts and
starting-points from suggested matters of the moment will generally
escape the occasional dulness, but can rarely attain the occasional
excellence, of the meditated and original sprout of an individual brain.

The _Edinburgh_ in its early years was undoubtedly surpassed by itself
later and by its rivals; but it was a far greater advance upon anything
that had gone before it. It had the refreshing audacity, the fly-at-all
character of youth and of intellectual opposition to established ideas;
it was, if even from the first not free from partisanship, at any rate
not chargeable with the dull venal unfairness of the mere bookseller's
hack who attacks Mr. Bungay's books because he is employed by Mr. Bacon,
or _vice versa_. And it had a very remarkable staff, comprising the
learning and trained intelligence of men like Leslie and Playfair, the
unrivalled wit of Sydney Smith, the restless energy and occasional
genius of Brougham, the solid profundity of Horner, the wide reading and
always generous temper of Scott, and other good qualities of others,
besides the talents of its editor Jeffrey himself.

Of these talents there is no doubt, though they were initially somewhat
limited and not seldom misdirected afterwards. Jeffrey's entire energies
were absorbed by the _Review_ between its foundation and his resignation
of the editorship after nearly thirty years' tenure, soon after which,
his party at last coming into power, he was rewarded first by the Lord
Advocateship and then by a seat on the Bench. He made a very fair judge,
and held the post almost till his death in 1850. But his life, for the
purposes of literature, is practically comprised between 1802 and 1829,
during which he was far more than titularly the guiding spirit of the
_Review_. Recently, or at any rate until quite recently (for there has
been some reaction in the very latest days), the conception of an editor
has been of one who writes not very much, and, though choosing his
contributors with the best care he can give, does not interfere very
much with them when they are chosen. This was very far from being the
Jeffreyan ideal. He wrote a great deal,--often in the earlier years as
many as half a dozen articles in a number,--and he "doctored" his
contributors' articles (except in the case of persons like Sydney Smith,
who were of too unconquerable idiosyncrasy and too valuable) with the
utmost freedom. At the present day, however, his management of the
_Review_ is less interesting than his own work, which he himself in his
later years collected and selected in an ample definitive edition. It is
exceedingly interesting, and for a good many years past it has been
distinctly undervalued; the common, though very uncritical, mistake
having been made of asking, not whether Jeffrey made a good fight for
his own conclusions from his own premises, but whether he approved or
disapproved authors whom we now consider great. From this latter point
of view he has no doubt small chance. He began by snubbing Byron, and
did not change his tone till politics and circumstances combined made
the change obligatory; he pooh-poohed and belittled his own contributor
and personal friend Scott; he pursued Wordsworth with equal
relentlessness and ill-success. And these three great examples might be
reinforced with whole regiments of smaller ones. A more serious fault
perhaps was the tone which he, more than any one else, impressed on the
_Review_, and which its very motto expressed, as though an author
necessarily came before the critic with a rope about his neck, and was
only entitled to be exempted from being strung up _speciali gratia_.
This notion, as presumptuous as it is foolish, is not extinct yet, and
has done a great deal of harm to criticism, both by prejudicing those
who are not critical against critics, and by perverting and twisting the
critic's own notion of his province and duty.

Nevertheless, Jeffrey had great merits. His literary standpoint was a
little unfortunate. Up to a certain extent he had thoroughly sympathised
with the Romantic movement, and he never was an advocate for the
Augustan period in English. But either some curiosity of idiosyncrasy,
or the fact that Scott and the Lake Poets were all in different ways
pillars of Toryism, set him against his own Romantic contemporaries in a
very strange fashion. Still, in some ways he was a very great critic.
His faculty of summarising a period of literature has rarely been
equalled, and perhaps never surpassed; he had, when prejudice of some
sort did not blind him, an extraordinary faculty of picking out the best
passages in a book; and, above all, he arranged his critical judgments
on something like a regular and co-ordinated system. Even his prejudices
and injustices were systematic: they were linked to each other by
arguments which might sometimes be questionable, but which were always
arguments. And though, even when, as in the cases of Keats and Shelley,
his extra-literary bias was not present to induce him wrong, he showed a
deplorable insensibility to the finer strokes of poetry, he was in
general, and taking literature all round, as considerable a critic as we
have had in English.

Sydney Smith was a curious contrast to Jeffrey in almost every respect
except in politics, and even there the resemblance was rather fortuitous
than essential. The second son of a man of eccentric character and some
means, he was born in 1771, was sent to Winchester, and proceeded thence
to New College, Oxford, where he became Fellow and resided for a
considerable time; but unusually little is recorded either of his school
or of his college days. He took orders and was appointed to a curacy on
Salisbury Plain, where the squire of the parish took a fancy to him and
made him tutor to his eldest son. Tutor and pupil went to Edinburgh,
just then in great vogue as an educational centre, in 1798; and there
Sydney, besides doing clerical duty, stumbled upon his vocation as
reviewer. He abode in the Scottish capital for about five years, during
which he married, and then removed to London, where he again did duty of
various kinds, lectured on Moral Philosophy, and, when the Grenville
administration came in, received a fairly valuable Yorkshire living,
that of Foston. Here, after a time, he had, owing to new legislation
about clerical absentees, to take up his residence, which involved
building a parsonage. He had repaid his Whig patrons by writing the
exceedingly brilliant and passably scurrilous _Letters of Peter Plymley
on Catholic Emancipation_, and he reviewed steadily for the _Edinburgh_,
as indeed he did during almost the whole editorship of Jeffrey. At last
Lord Lyndhurst, a Tory, gave him a stall at Bristol, and he was able to
exchange Foston for Combe-Florey, in the more genial latitude of
Somerset. The rest of his life was fortunate in worldly ways; for the
Reform Ministry, though they would not give him a bishopric, gave him a
canonry at St. Paul's, and divers legacies and successions made him
relatively a rich man. He died five years before Jeffrey, in February
1845.

Besides the differences of their Scotch and English nationality and
education, the contrast between the two friends and founders of the
"Blue and Yellow" was curiously pervading. Jeffrey, for all his supposed
critical savagery, was a sentimentalist, and had the keenest love of
literature as literature; Sydney cared very little for books as books,
and had not a grain of sentiment in his composition. Jeffrey had little
wit and no humour; Smith abounded in both, and was one of the very
wittiest of Englishmen. Even in his _Review_ articles he constantly
shocked his more solemn and pedagogic editor by the stream of banter
which he poured not merely upon Tories and High Churchmen, but on
Methodists and Non-conformists; his letters are full of the most
untiring and to this day the most sparkling pleasantry; and his two
chief works outside his reviews, the earlier _Peter Plymley's Letters_
and the later _Letters to Archdeacon Singleton_ (written when the
author's early Whiggism had crystallised into something different, and
when he was stoutly resisting the attempts of the reformed government to
meddle with cathedral establishments), rank among the capital light
pamphlets of the world, in company with those of Pascal and Swift and
Courier. The too few remnants of his abundant conversation preserve
faint sparks of the blaze of impromptu fun for which in his day he was
almost more famous than as a writer. Sydney Smith had below the surface
of wit a very solid substratum of good sense and good feeling; but his
literary appeal consisted almost wholly in his shrewd pleasantry,
which, as it has been observed, might with even more appropriateness
than Coleridge said it of Fuller, have been said to be "the stuff and
substance of his intellectual nature." This wit was scarcely ever in
writing--it seems to have been sometimes in conversation--forced or
trivial; it was most ingeniously adjusted to the purpose of the moment,
whether that purpose was a political argument, a light summary of a book
of travels, or a mere gossiping letter to a friend; and it had a quality
of its own which could only be displayed by extensive and elaborate
citation. But if it be possible to put the finger on a single note, it
is one distinguishing Sydney Smith widely from Fuller himself, bringing
him a little nearer to Voltaire, and, save for the want of certain
earnestness, nearer still to Swift--the perfect facility of his jokes,
and the casual, easy man-of-the-worldliness with which he sets them
before the reader and passes on. Amid the vigorous but slightly
ponderous manners of the other early contributors to the _Review_, this
must have been of inestimable value; but it is a higher credit to Sydney
Smith that it does not lose its charm when collected together and set by
itself, as the more extravagant and rollicking kinds of periodical
humour are wont to do. It was probably his want of serious
preoccupations of any kind (for his politics were merely an accident; he
was, though a sincere Christian, no enthusiast in religion; and he had
few special interests, though he had an honest general enjoyment of
life) which enabled Sydney Smith so to perfect a quality, or set of
qualities, which, as a rule, is more valuable as an occasional set-off
than as the staple and solid of a man's literary fare and ware. If so,
he points much the same general moral as Cobbett, though in a way as
different as possible. But in any case he was a very delightful person,
an ornament of English literature, such as few other literatures
possess, in his invariable abstinence from unworthy means of raising a
laugh, and, among the group of founders of the new periodical, the
representative of one of its most important constituents--polished
_persiflage_.

The other contributors of the first generation to the _Edinburgh Review_
do not require much notice here; for Brougham was not really a man of
letters, and belongs to political and social, not to literary history,
while Mackintosh, though no one would contest his claims, will be better
noticed under the head of philosophy. Nor do many of the first staff of
the _Edinburgh's_ great rival, the _Quarterly_, require notice; for
Gifford, Canning, Ellis, Scott, Southey have all been noticed under
other heads.

Two, however, not of the absolutely first rank, may be mentioned here
more conveniently than anywhere else--Sir John Barrow and Isaac
Disraeli. The former had a rather remarkable career; for he was born, in
1764, quite of the lower rank, and was successively a clerk in a
workshop, a sailor, a teacher of mathematics, and secretary to Macartney
on his famous embassy to China. After following the same patron to South
Africa, Barrow, at the age of forty, became Secretary of the Admiralty,
which post he held with one short break for more than forty years
longer. He was made a baronet in 1835, and died in 1848. Barrow was a
considerable writer on geography and naval history; and one of the
pillars of the _Quarterly_. Isaac Disraeli, son of one Benjamin of that
name and father of another, seems to have been as unlike his famous
offspring as any father could be to any son. Born at Enfield in 1766, he
showed absolutely no taste for business of any kind, and after some
opposition was allowed to cultivate letters. His original work was worth
little; indeed, one of the amiable sayings attributed to his friend
Rogers was that Isaac Disraeli had "only half an intellect." He fell,
however, pretty early (1791) into an odd but pleasant and profitable
course of writing which amused himself during the remainder of a long
life (he died blind in the same year with Barrow), and has amused a vast
number of readers for more than a century. The _Curiosities of
Literature_, the first part of which appeared at the date above
mentioned, to be supplemented by others for more than forty years, were
followed by the _Calamities of Authors_ and the _Quarrels of Authors_
(1812-14), a book on _Charles I._, and the _Amenities of Literature_
(1840). Of these the _Curiosities_ is the type, and it is also the best
of them. Isaac Disraeli was not a good writer; and his original
reflections may sometimes make the reader doubt for a moment whether
Rogers was not more wrong in granting him half an intellect than in
denying him a whole one. But his anecdotage, though, as perhaps such
anecdotage is bound to be, not extremely accurate, is almost
inexhaustibly amusing, and indicates a real love as well as a wide
knowledge of letters.

The next periodicals, the founding of which enlisted or brought out
journalists or essay-writers of the true kind, were _Blackwood's
Magazine_, founded at Edinburgh in 1817, and the _London Magazine_, of
about the same date, the first with one of the longest as well as the
most brilliant careers to run that any periodical can boast of, the
latter as short-lived as it was brilliant. Indeed, the two had an odd
and--in the Shakespearian sense--metaphysical opposition. Scotland and
England, the country and the Cockney schools, Toryism and Liberalism
(though the _London_ was by no means so thoroughgoing on the Liberal
side as _Blackwood_ was on the Tory, and some of its most distinguished
contributors were either Tory, as De Quincey, or neutral, as Lamb)
fought out their differences under the two flags. And by a climax of
coincidence, the fate of the _London_ was practically decided by the
duel which killed John Scott, its editor, this duel being the direct
result of an editorial or contributorial quarrel between the two
periodicals.

Both these magazines, besides being more frequent in appearance than the
_Edinburgh_ and the _Quarterly_, attempted, as their very title of
"magazine" expressed, a much wider and more miscellaneous collection of
subjects than the strict "review" theory permitted. From the very first
_Blackwood_ gave a welcome to fiction, to poetry, and to the widest
possible construction of the essay, while, in almost every respect, the
_London_ was equally hospitable. Both had staffs of unusual strength,
and of still more unusual personality; and while the _London_ could
boast of Charles Lamb, of Hazlitt, of De Quincey, of Hood, of Miss
Mitford, besides many lesser names, _Blackwood_ was practically
launched by the triumvirate of Wilson, Lockhart, and the Ettrick
Shepherd, with the speedy collaboration of Maginn.

The eldest of these, and if not the most vigorous, if very nearly the
least prolific, yet the most exquisite and singular in literary genius,
was Charles Lamb. He also was of the "Seventy Club," as we may call it,
which founded the literature of the nineteenth century, and he was born
in London on 18th February 1775. He was of rather lower birth than most
of its other members (if membership can be predicated of a purely
imaginary body), being the son of a lawyer's clerk and confidential
servant; but he was educated at Christ's Hospital, and, through the
interest of his father's employer, obtained, at the age of seventeen, a
berth in the East India House, which assured his modest fortunes through
life. But there was the curse of madness in his family, and though he
himself escaped with but one slight and passing attack of actual lunacy,
and at the cost of an eccentricity which only imparted a rarer touch to
his genius, his elder sister Mary was subject to constant seizures, in
one of which she stabbed her mother to the heart. She was more gently
dealt with than perhaps would have been the case at present, and Lamb
undertook the entire charge of her. She repaid him by unfailing care and
affection during her lucid intervals (which were long and frequent), and
by a sympathy with his own literary tastes, which not seldom made her a
valuable collaborator as well as sympathiser. But the shadow was on his
whole life: it made it impossible for him to marry, as he evidently
would have done if it had not existed; and it perhaps had something to
do with a venial but actual tendency on his part to take, rather fully,
the convivial license of the time. But Lamb had no other weakness, and
had not this in any ruinous degree. The quality of his genius was
unique. He had from the first been a diligent and affectionate student
of sixteenth and seventeenth century writers, and some of his first
literary efforts, after some early sonnets (written with Coleridge and
their friend Lloyd, and much fallen foul of by the Tory wits of the
_Anti-Jacobin_), were connected with these studies. He and his sister
wrote _Tales from Shakespeare_, which, almost alone of such things, are
not unworthy of the original. He executed an Elizabethan tragedy, _John
Woodvil_, which is rather better than it has been generally said to be;
and he arranged a series (or rather two) of scenes from the Elizabethan
drama itself, the short, interspersed, critical remarks of which, though
occasionally a very little fanciful, contain the most exquisitely
sympathetic criticism to be found anywhere in English literature.

It was not, however, till he had well reached middle age that the
establishment of the _London_, the later publishers of which, Taylor and
Hessey, were his friends, gave him that half accidental, and yet it
would seem necessary, opening which has so often made the fame of men of
genius, and which apparently they are by no means often able to make for
themselves. Lamb's poems have occasionally an exquisite pathos and more
frequently a pleasant humour, but they would not by themselves justify a
very high estimate of him; and it is at least possible that, if we had
nothing but the brief critical remarks on the dramatists above noticed,
they would, independently of their extreme brevity, have failed to
obtain for him the just reputation which they now hold, thanks partly to
the fact that we have, as comments on them, the _Essays of Elia_ and the
delightful correspondence. This latter, after being first published soon
after Lamb's death in 1834 (nine years after he had been pensioned off
from the India House), by Mr., afterwards Serjeant and Sir Thomas
Talfourd, has been gradually augmented, till it has at last found an
excellent and probably final editor in Canon Ainger.

It is in these two collections that Lamb presents himself in the
character which alone can confer on any man the first rank in
literature, the character of unicity--of being some one and giving
something which no one before him has given or has been. The _Essays of
Elia_ (a _nom de guerre_ said to have been taken from an Italian comrade
of the writer's elder brother John in the South Sea House, and directed
by Lamb himself to be pronounced "Ell-ia") elude definition not merely
as almost all works of genius do, but by virtue of something essentially
elvish and tricksy in their own nature. It is easy to detect in them--or
rather the things there are so obvious that there is no need of
detection--an extraordinary familiarity with the great "quaint" writers
of the seventeenth century--Burton, Fuller, Browne--which has supplied a
diction of unsurpassed brilliancy and charm; a familiarity with the
eighteenth century essayists which has enabled the writer to construct a
form very different from theirs in appearance but closely connected with
it in reality; an unequalled command over that kind of humour which
unites the most fantastic merriment to the most exquisite pathos; a
perfect humanity; a cast of thought which, though completely conscious
of itself, and not in any grovelling sense humble (Lamb, forgiving and
gentle as he was, could turn sharply even upon Coleridge, even upon
Southey, when he thought liberties had been taken with him), was a
thousand miles removed from arrogance or bumptiousness; an endlessly
various and attractive set of crotchets and whimsies, never divorced
from the power of seeing the ludicrous side of themselves; a fervent
love for literature and a wonderful gift of expounding it; imagination
in a high, and fancy almost in the highest degree. But when all this has
been duly set down, how much remains both in the essays and in the
letters, which in fact are chiefly distinguished from one another by the
fact that the essays are letters somewhat less discursive and somewhat
in fuller dress, the letters essays in the rough. For the style of Lamb
is as indefinable as it is inimitable, and his matter and method defy
selection and specification as much as the flutterings of a butterfly.
One thing he has always, and that is charm; as for the rest he is an
epitome of the lighter side of _belles lettres_, and not always of the
lighter side only.

No one who studies Lamb can fail to see the enormous advantage which was
given him by his possession of an official employment which brought him
a small but sufficient income without very hard labour. Such literary
work as his could never be done (at any rate for a length of time) as
"collar-work," and even if the best of it had by chance been so
performed, it must necessarily have been mixed, as that of Leigh Hunt
is, with a far larger quantity of mere work to order. No such advantage
was possessed by the third of the great trio of Cockney critics, or at
least critics of the so-called Cockney school; for William Hazlitt, as
much the greatest of English critics in a certain way as Lamb is in
another and Jeffrey in a third (though a lower than either), was a
Cockney neither by extraction nor by birth, nor by early sojourn, nor
even by continuous residence in later life. His family was Irish, his
father a Unitarian minister; he was born at Maidstone in 1778. When his
father was officiating at Wem in Shropshire, in Hazlitt's twentieth
year, Coleridge, who at times affected the same denomination, visited
the place, and Hazlitt was most powerfully impressed by him. He was,
however, divided between art and literature as professions, and his
first essays were in the former, which he practised for some time,
visiting the Louvre during the peace, or rather armistice, of Amiens, to
copy pictures for some English collectors, and to study them on his own
account. Returning to London, he met Lamb and others of the literary set
in the capital, and, after some newspaper work, married Miss Stoddart, a
friend of Mary Lamb's, and a lady of some property. He and his wife
lived for some years at her estate of Winterslow on Salisbury Plain
(long afterwards still a favourite resort of Hazlitt's), and then he
went in 1812 once more to London, where abundant work on periodicals of
all kinds, on the Liberal side, from daily newspapers to the _Edinburgh
Review_, soon fell into his hands. But after a time he gave up most
kinds of writing except literary, theatrical, and art criticism, the
delivery of lectures on literature, and the composition of essays of a
character less fanciful and less purely original than Lamb's, but almost
as miscellaneous.

He lived till September 1830, the first of those early thirties of the
nineteenth century which were to be as generally fatal to his
generation of great English men of letters as the seventies of the
eighteenth had been prolific of them; and his dying words, "Well, I have
had a happy life," are noteworthy. For certainly that life would hardly
have seemed happy to many. He quarrelled with his first wife, was
divorced from her in Scotland, discreditably enough; published to the
world with astounding lack of reticence the details of a frantic passion
for Sarah Walker, a lodginghouse-keeper's daughter, who jilted him; and
after marrying a second time, was left by his second wife. He had never
been rich, and during the last years of his life was in positive
difficulties, while for almost the whole period of his second sojourn in
London he was the object of the most virulent abuse from the Tory
organs, especially the _Quarterly_ and _Blackwood_--abuse which, it must
be confessed, he was both ready and able to repay in kind with handsome
interest. He appears to have played the part of firebrand and makebate
in the John Scott duel already referred to. Even with his friends he
could not keep upon good terms, and the sincere gentleness of Lamb broke
down at least once, as the easy good-nature of Leigh Hunt did many
times, under the strain of his perverse and savage wrong-headedness.

But whether the critical and the unamiable temper are, as some would
have it, essentially one, or whether their combination in the same
person be mere coincidence, Hazlitt was beyond all question a great, a
very great, critic--in not a few respects our very greatest. All his
work, or almost all that has much merit, is small in individual bulk,
though the total is very respectable. His longest book, his _Life of
Napoleon_, which was written late and as a counterblast to Scott's, from
the singular standpoint of a Republican who was an admirer of Bonaparte,
has next to no value; and his earliest, a philosophical work in
eighteenth century style on _The Principles of Human Action_, has not
much. But his essays and lectures, which, though probably not as yet by
any means exhaustively collected or capable of being identified, fill
nine or ten volumes, are of extraordinary goodness. They may be divided
roughly into three classes. The first, dealing with art and the drama,
must take the lowest room, for theatrical criticism is of necessity,
except in so far as it touches on literature rather than acting, of very
ephemeral interest; and Hazlitt's education in art and knowledge of it
were not quite extensive enough, nor the examples which in the first
quarter of this century he had before him in England important enough,
to make his work of this kind of the first importance. The best of it is
the _Conversations with Northcote_, a painter of no very great merit,
but a survivor of the Reynolds studio; and these conversations very
frequently and very widely diverge from painting into literary and
miscellaneous matters. The second class contains the miscellaneous
essays proper, and these have by some been put at the head of Hazlitt's
work. But although some of them, indeed, nearly all, display a spirit, a
command of the subject, and a faculty of literary treatment which had
never been given to the same subjects in the same way before, although
such things as the famous "Going to a Fight," "Going a Journey," "The
Indian Jugglers," "Merry England," "Sundials," "On Taste," and not a few
more would, put together and freed from good but less good companions,
make a most memorable collection, still his real strength is not here.

Great as Hazlitt was as a miscellaneous and Montaignesque essayist, he
was greater as a literary critic. Literature was, though he coquetted
with art, his first and most constant love; it was the subject on which,
as far as English literature is concerned (and he knew little and is
still less worth consulting about any other), he had acquired the
largest and soundest knowledge; and it is that for which he had the most
original and essential genius. His intense prejudices and his occasional
inadequacy make themselves felt here as they do everywhere, and even
here it is necessary to give the caution that Hazlitt is never to be
trusted when he shows the least evidence of dislike for which he gives
no reason. But to any one who has made a little progress in criticism
himself, to any one who has either read for himself or is capable of
reading for himself, of being guided by what is helpful and of
neglecting what is not, there is no greater critic than Hazlitt in any
language. He will sometimes miss--he is never perhaps so certain as his
friends Lamb and Hunt were to find--exquisite individual points.
Prejudice, accidental ignorance, or other causes may sometimes
invalidate his account of authors or of subjects in general. But still
the four great collections of his criticism, _The Characters of
Shakespeare_, _The Elizabethan Dramatists_, _The English Poets_, and
_The English Comic Writers_, with not a few scattered things in his
other writings, make what is on the whole the best corpus of criticism
by a single writer in English on English. He is the critics' critic as
Spenser is the poets' poet; that is to say, he has, errors excepted and
deficiencies allowed, the greatest proportion of the strictly critical
excellencies--of the qualities which make a critic--that any English
writer of his craft has ever possessed.

_Blackwood's Magazine_, the headquarters, the citadel, the _place
d'armes_ of the opposition to the Cockney school and of criticism and
journalism that were Tory first of all, enlisted a younger set of
recruits than those hitherto mentioned, and the special style of writing
which it introduced, though exceedingly clever and stimulating, lent
itself rather less to dispassionate literary appreciation than even the
avowedly partisan methods of the _Edinburgh_. In its successful form
(for it had a short and inglorious existence before it found out the
way) it was launched by an audacious "skit" on the literati of Edinburgh
written by John Wilson, John Gibson Lockhart, and James Hogg, while very
soon after its establishment it was joined by a wild and witty Bohemian
scholar from the south of Ireland, William Maginn, who, though before
long he drifted away to other resorts, and ere many years established in
_Fraser_ a new abode of guerilla journalism, impressed on _Blackwood_
itself, before he left it, several of its best-known features, and in
particular is said to have practically started the famous _Noctes
Ambrosianæ_. Of Hogg, enough has been said in a former chapter. For the
critical purpose of "Maga," as _Blackwood's Magazine_ loved to call
itself, he was rather a butt, or, to speak less despiteously, a
stimulant, than an originator; and he had neither the education nor
indeed the gifts of a critic. Of each of the others some account must
be given, and Maginn will introduce yet another flight of brilliant
journalists, some of whom, especially the greatest of all, Carlyle,
lived till far into the last quarter of the present century.

Wilson, the eldest of those just mentioned, though a younger man than
any one as yet noticed in this chapter, and for many years the guiding
spirit (there never has been any "editor" of _Blackwood_ except the
members of the firm who have published it) of _Maga_, must at some time
or other have taken to literature, and would probably in any case have
sooner or later written the poems and stories which exist under his
name, but do not in the very least degree constitute its eminence. It
was the chapter of accidents that made him a journalist and a critic. He
was born in 1785, his father being a rich manufacturer of Paisley, was
educated at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford, came early into a
considerable fortune, married at twenty-six, and having established
himself at Elleray on Windermere, lived there the life of a country
gentleman, with more or less literary tastes. His fortune being lost by
bad luck and dishonest agency, he betook himself to Edinburgh, and
finding it impossible to get on with Jeffrey (which was not surprising),
threw himself heart and soul into the opposition venture of _Blackwood_.
He had, moreover, the extraordinary good luck to obtain, certainly on no
very solid grounds (though he made at least as good a professor as
another), the valuable chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of
Edinburgh, which of itself secured him from any fear of want or narrow
means. But no penniless barrister on his promotion could have flung
himself into militant journalism with more ardour than did Wilson. He
re-created, if he did not invent, the _Noctes Ambrosianæ_--a series of
convivial conversations on food, drink, politics, literature, and things
in general, with interlocutors at first rather numerous, and not very
distinct, but latterly narrowed down to "Christopher North" (Wilson
himself), the "Ettrick Shepherd" (Hogg), and a certain "Timothy
Tickler," less distinctly identified with Wilson's mother's brother, an
Edinburgh lawyer of the name of Sym. A few outsiders, sometimes real
(as De Quincey), sometimes imaginary, were, till the last, added now and
then. And besides these conversations, which are his great title to
fame, he contributed, also under the _nom de guerre_ of Christopher
North, an immense number of articles, in part collected as _Christopher
North in his Sporting Jacket_, substantive collections on Homer, on
Spenser, and others, and almost innumerable single papers and essays on
things in general. From the time when Lockhart (see below) went to
London, no influence on _Blackwood_ could match Wilson's for some ten or
twelve years, or nearly till the end of the thirties. Latterly
ill-health, the death of friends and of his wife, and other causes,
lessened his energy, and for some years before his death in 1854 he
wrote little. Two years before that time his increasing ailments caused
him even to resign his professorship.

Wilson--whose stories are merely mediocre, and whose poems, _The Isle of
Palms_ (1812) and _The City of the Plague_ (1816), merely show that he
was an intelligent contemporary of Scott and Byron, and a neighbour of
the Lake poets--developed in his miscellaneous journalism one of the
most puissant and luxuriant literary faculties of the time; and in
particular was among the first in one, and perhaps the very first in
another, kind of writing. The first and less valuable of the two was the
subjection of most, if not all, of the topics of the newspaper to a
boisterous but fresh and vigorous style of critical handling, which
bears some remote resemblance to the styles of L'Estrange towards the
end of the seventeenth century, and Bentley a little later, but is in
all important points new. The second and higher was the attempt to
substitute for the correct, balanced, exactly-proportioned, but even in
the hands of Gibbon, even in those of Burke, somewhat colourless and
jejune prose of the past age, a new style of writing, exuberant in
diction, semi-poetical in rhythm, confounding, or at least alternating
very sharply between, the styles of high-strung enthusiasm and
extravagant burlesque, and setting at naught all precepts of the
immediate elders. It would be too much, no doubt, to attribute the
invention of this style to Wilson. It was "in the air"; it was the
inevitable complement of romantic diction in poetry; it had been
anticipated to some extent by others, and it displayed itself in various
forms almost simultaneously in the hands of Landor, who kept to a more
classical form, and of De Quincey, who was modern. But Wilson, unless in
conversation with De Quincey, cannot be said to have learnt it from any
one else: he preceded most in the time, and greatly exceeded all in the
bulk and influence of his exercises, owing to his position on the staff
of a popular and widely-read periodical.

The defect of both these qualities of Wilson's style (a defect which
extends largely to the matter of his writings in criticism and in other
departments) was a defect of sureness of taste; while his criticism was
more vigorous than safe. Except his Toryism (which, however, was shot
with odd flashes of democratic sentiment and a cross-vein of crotchety
dislike not to England but to London), he had not many pervading
prejudices. But at the same time he had not many clear principles: he
was the slave of whim and caprice in his individual opinions; and he
never seems to have been able to distinguish between a really fine thing
and a piece of fustian, between an urbane jest and a piece of gross
buffoonery, between eloquence and rant, between a reasoned condemnation
and a spiteful personal fling. Accordingly the ten reprinted volumes of
his contributions to _Blackwood_ and the mass of his still uncollected
articles contain the strangest jumble of good and bad in matter and form
that exists anywhere. By turns trivial and magnificent, exquisite and
disgusting, a hierophant of literature and a mere railer at men of
letters, a prince of describers, jesters, enthusiasts, and the author of
tedious and commonplace newspaper "copy," Wilson is one of the most
unequal, one of the most puzzling, but also one of the most stimulating
and delightful, figures in English literature. Perhaps slightly
over-valued for a time, he has for many years been distinctly neglected,
if not depreciated and despised; and the voluminousness of his work,
coupled with the fact that it is difficult to select from it owing to
the pervading inequality of its merits, may be thought likely to keep
him in the general judgment at a lower plane than he deserves. But the
influence which he exerted during many years both upon writers and
readers by his work in _Blackwood_ cannot be over-estimated. And it may
be said without fear that no one with tolerably wide sympathies, who is
able to appreciate good literature, will ever seriously undertake the
reading of his various works without equal satisfaction and profit.

Wilson's principal coadjutor in the early days of _Blackwood_, and his
friend of all days (though the mania for crying down not so much England
as London made "Christopher North" indulge in some girds at his old
comrade's editorship of the _Quarterly_), was a curious contrast to
Wilson himself. This contrast may may have been due partly, but by no
means wholly, to the fact that there was ten years between them. John
Gibson Lockhart was born at Cambusnethan, where his father was minister,
on 14th July 1794. Like Wilson, he was educated at Glasgow and at
Oxford, where he took a first-class at a very early age, and whence he
went to Germany, a completion of "study-years" which the revolutionary
wars had for a long time rendered difficult, if not dangerous. On
returning home he was called to the Scottish Bar, where it would seem
that he might have made some figure, but for his inability to speak in
public. _Blackwood_ gave him the very opening suited to his genius; and
for years he was one of its chief contributors, and perhaps the most
dangerous wielder of the pretty sharp weapons in which its staff
indulged. Shortly afterwards, in 1819, he published (perhaps with some
slight assistance from Wilson) his first original book (he had
translated Schlegel's _Lectures on History_ earlier), _Peter's Letters
to his Kinsfolk_. The title was a parody on Scott's account of his
continental journey after Waterloo, the substance an exceedingly
vivacious account of the things and men of Edinburgh at the time,
something after the fashion of _Humphrey_ _Clinker_. Next year, on 29th
April, Lockhart married Sophia, Scott's elder daughter; and the pair
lived for some years to come either in Edinburgh or at the cottage of
Chiefswood, near Abbotsford, Lockhart contributing freely to
_Blackwood_, and writing his four novels and his _Spanish Ballads_. At
the end of 1825 or the beginning of 1826, just at the time when his
father-in-law's financial troubles set in, he received the appointment
of editor of the _Quarterly Review_ in succession, though not in
immediate succession, to Gifford. He then removed to London, where he
continued to direct the _Review_, to contribute for a time to _Fraser_,
to be a very important figure in literary and political life, and after
Scott's death to write an admirable _Life_. Domestic troubles came
rather thickly on him after Scott's death, which indeed was preceded by
that of Lockhart's own eldest son, the "Hugh Littlejohn" of the _Tales
of a Grandfather_. Mrs. Lockhart herself died in 1837. In 1843 Lockhart
received the auditorship of the duchy of Lancaster, a post of some
value. Ten years later, in broken health, he resigned the editorship of
the _Quarterly_, and died towards the end of the year.

Lockhart's works, at present uncollected, and perhaps in no small
proportion irrecoverable, must have been of far greater bulk than those
of any one yet mentioned in this chapter except Wilson, and not
inconsiderably greater than his. They are also of a remarkable variety,
and of an extraordinary level of excellence in their different kinds.
Lockhart was not, like Wilson, an advocate or a practitioner of very
ornate or revolutionary prose. On the contrary, he both practised,
preached, and most formidably defended by bitter criticism of opposite
styles, a manner in prose and verse which was almost classical, or which
at least admitted no further Romantic innovation than that of the Lake
poets and Scott. His authorship of the savage onslaught upon Keats in
_Blackwood_ is not proven; but there is no doubt that he wrote the
scarcely less ferocious, though much more discriminating and
better-deserved, attack on Tennyson's early poems in the _Quarterly_. He
was himself no mean writer of verse. His _Spanish Ballads_ (1823), in
which he had both Southey and Scott as models before him, are of great
excellence; and some of his occasional pieces display not merely much
humour (which nobody ever denied him), but no mean share of the feeling
which is certainly not often associated with his name. But verse was
only an occasional pastime with him: his vocation was to write prose,
and he wrote it with admirable skill and a seldom surpassed faculty of
adaptation to the particular task. It is indeed probable--and it would
be no discredit to him--that his reputation with readers as opposed to
students will mainly depend, as it depends at present, upon his _Life of
Scott_. Nor would even thus his plumes be borrowed over much. For though
no doubt the letters and the diary of Sir Walter himself count for much
in the interest of the book, though the beauty and nobility of Scott's
character, his wonderful achievements, the pathetic revolution of his
fortune, form a subject not easily matched, yet to be equal to such a
subject is to be in another sense on an equality with it. Admiration for
the book is not chequered or tempered, as it almost necessarily must be
in the case of its only possible rival, Boswell's _Johnson_, with more
or less contempt for the author; still less is it (as some have
contended that admiration for Boswell is) due to that contempt. The
taste and spirit of Lockhart's book are not less admirable than the
skill of its arrangement and the competency of its writing; nor would it
be easily possible to find a happier adjustment in this respect in the
whole annals of biography.

But this great book ought not to obscure the other work which Lockhart
has done. His biography of Burns is of remarkable merit; it may be
questioned whether to this day, though it may be deficient in a few
modern discoveries of fact (and these have been mostly supplied in the
edition by the late Mr. Scott Douglas), it is not the best book on the
subject. The taste and judgment, the clear vision and sound sense, which
distinguished Lockhart, are in few places more apparent than here. His
abridgment of Scott's _Life of Napoleon_ is no ordinary abridgment, and
is a work of thorough craft, if not even of art. His novels, with one
exception, have ceased to be much read; and perhaps even that one can
hardly be said to enjoy frequent perusal. _Valerius_, the first, is a
classical novel, and suffers under the drawbacks which have generally
attended its kind. _Reginald Dalton_, a novel in part of actual life at
Oxford, and intended to be wholly of actual life, still shows something
of the artificial handling, of the supposed necessity for adventure,
which is observable in Hook and others of the time, and which has been
sufficiently noticed in the last chapter. _Matthew Wald_, the last of
the four, is both too gloomy and too extravagant: it deals with a mad
hero. But _Adam Blair_, which was published in the same year (1821) with
_Valerius_, is a wonderful little book. The story is not well told; but
the characters and the principal situation--a violent passion
entertained by a pious widowed minister for his neighbour's wife--are
handled with extraordinary power. _Peter's Letters_, which is half a
book and half journalism, may be said to be, with rare exceptions (such
as an obituary article on Hook, which was reprinted from the
_Quarterly_), the only specimen of Lockhart's miscellaneous writing that
is easily accessible or authentically known. He was still but in his
apprenticeship here; but his remarkable gifts are already apparent.
These gifts included a faculty of sarcastic comment so formidable that
it early earned him the title of "the Scorpion"; a very wide and sound
knowledge of literature, old and new, English and foreign; some
acquirements in art and in other matters; an excellent style, and a
solid if rather strait-laced theory of criticism. Except that he was, as
almost everybody was then, too much given to violent personalities in
his anonymous work, he was a very great journalist indeed, and he was
also a very great man of letters.

Thomas de Quincey was not of the earliest _Blackwood_ staff (in that
respect Maginn should be mentioned before him), but he was the older as
well as the more important man of the two, and there is the additional
reason for postponing the founder of _Fraser_, that this latter
periodical introduced a fresh flight of birds of passage (as journalists
both fortunate and unfortunate may peculiarly be called) to English
literature. De Quincey was born in 1785 (the same year as his friend
Wilson) at Manchester, where his father was a merchant of means. He was
educated at the Grammar School of his native town, after some
preliminary teaching at or near Bath, whither his mother had moved after
his father's death. He did not like Manchester, and when he had nearly
served his time for an exhibition to Brasenose College, Oxford, he ran
away and hid himself. He went to Oxford after all, entering at
Worcester, where he made a long though rather intermittent residence,
but took no degree. In 1809 he took up his abode at Grasmere, married
after a time, and lived there, at least as his headquarters, for more
than twenty years. In 1830 he moved to Edinburgh, where, or in its
neighbourhood, he resided for the rest of his long life, and where he
died in December 1859. He has given various autobiographic handlings of
this life--in the main it would seem quite trustworthy, but invested
with an air of fantastic unreality by his manner of relation.

His life, however, and his personality, and even the whole of his
voluminous published work, have in all probability taken colour in the
general thought from his first literary work of any consequence, the
wonderful _Confessions of an English Opium Eater_, which, with the
_Essays of Elia_, were the chief flowers of the _London Magazine_, and
appeared in that periodical during the year 1821. He had acquired this
habit during his sojourn at Oxford, and it had grown upon him during his
at first solitary residence at the Lakes to an enormous extent. Until he
thus committed the results of his dreams, or of his fancy and literary
genius working on his dreams, or of his fancy and genius by themselves,
to print and paper, in his thirty-sixth year, he had been, though a
great reader, hardly anything of a writer. But thenceforward, and
especially after, in 1825, he had visited his Lake neighbour Wilson at
Edinburgh, and had been by him introduced to _Blackwood_, he became a
frequent contributor to different magazines, and continued to be so,
writing far more even than he published, till his death. He wrote very
few books, the chief being a very free translation of a German novel,
forged as Scott's, and called _Walladmor_; a more original and stable,
though not very brilliant, effort in fiction, entitled _Klosterheim_;
and the _Logic of Political Economy_. Towards the end of his life he
superintended an English collection--there had already been one in
America--of his essays, and this has been supplemented more than once
since.

It may, indeed, fairly be doubted whether so large a collection, of
miscellaneous, heterogeneous, and, to tell the truth, very unequally
interesting and meritorious matter, has ever been received with greater
or more lasting popular favour, a fresh edition of the fourteen or
sixteen volumes of the _Works_ having been called for on an average
every decade. There have been dissidents: and recently in particular
something of a set has been made against De Quincey--a set to some
extent helped by the gradual addition to the _Works_ of a great deal of
unimportant matter which he had not himself cared to reproduce. This,
indeed, is perhaps the greatest danger to which the periodical writer is
after his death exposed, and is even the most serious drawback to
periodical writing. It is impossible that any man who lives by such
writing can always be at his best in form, and he will sometimes be
compelled to execute what Carlyle has called "honest journey-work in
default of better,"--work which, though perfectly honest and perfectly
respectable, is mere journey-work, and has no claim to be disturbed from
its rest when its journey is accomplished. Of this there was some even
in De Quincey's own collection, and the proportion has been much
increased since. Moreover, even at his very best, he was not a writer
who could be trusted to keep himself at that best. His reading was
enormous,--nearly as great perhaps as Southey's, though in still less
popular directions,--and he would sometimes drag it in rather
inappropriately. He had an unconquerable and sometimes very irritating
habit of digression, of divagation, of aside. And, worst of all, his
humour, which in its own peculiar vein of imaginative grotesque has
seldom been surpassed, was liable constantly to degenerate into a kind
of laboured trifling, inexpressibly exasperating to the nerves. He could
be simply dull; and he can seldom be credited with the possession of
what may be called literary tact.

Yet his merits were such as to give him no superior in his own manner
among the essayists, and hardly any among the prose writers of the
century. He, like Wilson, and probably before Wilson, deliberately aimed
at a style of gorgeous elaboration, intended not exactly for constant
use, but for use when required; and he achieved it. Certain well-known
passages, as well as others which have not become hackneyed, in the
_Confessions of an Opium Eater_, in the _Autobiography_, in _The English
Mail Coach_, in _Our Ladies of Sorrow_, and elsewhere, are unsurpassed
in English or out of it for imaginative splendour of imagery, suitably
reproduced in words. Nor was this De Quincey's only, though it was his
most precious gift. He had a singular, though, as has been said, a very
untrustworthy faculty of humour, both grim and quaint. He was possessed
of extraordinary dialectic ingenuity, a little alloyed no doubt by a
tendency to wire-drawn and over subtle minuteness such as besets the
born logician who is not warned of his danger either by a strong vein of
common sense or by constant sojourn in the world. He could expound and
describe admirably; he had a thorough grasp of the most complicated
subjects when he did not allow will-o'-the-wisps to lure him into
letting it go, and could narrate the most diverse kinds of action, such
as the struggles of Bentley with Trinity College, the journey of the
Tartars from the Ukraine to Siberia, and the fortunes of the Spanish
Nun, Catalina, with singular adaptability. In his biographical articles
on friends and contemporaries, which are rather numerous, he has been
charged both with ill-nature and with inaccuracy. The first charge may
be peremptorily dismissed, the second requires much argument and sifting
in particular cases. To some who have given not a little attention to
the matter it seems that De Quincey was never guilty of deliberate
fabrication, and that he was not even careless in statement. But he was
first of all a dreamer; and when it is true of a man that, in the words
of the exquisite passage where Calderon has come at one with
Shakespeare, his very dreams are a dream, it will often happen that his
facts are not exactly a fact.

Nevertheless, De Quincey is a great writer and a great figure in
literature, while it may plausibly be contended that journalism may make
all the more boast of him in that it is probable that without it he
would never have written at all. And he has one peculiarity not yet
mentioned. Although his chief excellences may not be fully perceptible
except to mature tastes, he is specially attractive to the young.
Probably more boys have in the last forty years been brought to a love
of literature proper by De Quincey than by any other writer whatever.

Of other contributors to these periodicals much might be said in larger
space, as for instance of the poisoner-critic Thomas Griffiths
Wainewright, the "Janus Weathercock" of the _London_, the original of
certain well-known heroes of Bulwer and Dickens, and the object of a
more than once recurrent and distinctly morbid attention from young men
of letters since. Lamb, who was not given to think evil of his friends,
was certainly unlucky in calling Wainewright "warm- as light-hearted";
for the man (who died a convict in Australia, though he cheated the
gallows which was his due) was both an affected coxcomb and a callous
scoundrel. But he was a very clever fellow, though indignant morality
has sometimes endeavoured to deny this. That he anticipated by sixty
years and more certain depravations in style and taste notorious in our
own day is something: it is more that his achievement in gaudy writing
and in the literary treatment of art was really considerable.

Wainewright, however, is only "curious" in more than one sense of that
term: Leigh Hunt, who, though quite incapable of poisoning anybody, had
certain points in common with Wainewright on the latter's more excusable
sides, and whose prose must now be treated, is distinguished. He
reappears with even better right here than some others of the more
important constituents of this chapter. For all his best work in prose
appeared in periodicals, though it is impossible to say that all his
work that appeared in periodicals was his best work. He was for fourteen
years editor of, and a large contributor to, the _Examiner_, which he
and his brother started in 1808. After his liberation from prison he not
merely edited, but in the older fashion practically wrote the
_Reflector_ (1810), the _Indicator_ (1819-21), and the _Companion_
(1828). His rather unlucky journey to Italy was undertaken to edit the
_Liberal_. He was one of the rare and rash men of letters who have tried
to keep up a daily journal unassisted--a new _Tatler_, which lasted for
some eighteen months (1830-32); and a little later (1834-35) he
supported for full two years a similar but weekly venture, in part
original, in part compiled or borrowed, called _Leigh Hunt's London
Journal_. These were not his only ventures of the kind: he was an
indefatigable contributor to periodicals conducted by others; and most
of his books now known by independent titles are in fact collections of
"articles"--sometimes reprinted, sometimes published for the first time.

It was impossible that such a mass of matter should be all good; and it
is equally impossible to deny that the combined fact of so much
production and of so little concentration argues a certain idiosyncrasy
of defect. In fact the butterfly character which every unprejudiced
critic of Leigh Hunt has noticed, made it impossible for him to plan or
to execute any work on a great scale. He never could have troubled
himself to complete missing knowledge, to fill in gaps, to co-ordinate
thinking, as the literary historian, whose vocation in some respects he
might seem to have possessed eminently, must do--to weave fancy into the
novelist's solid texture, and not to leave it in thrums or in gossamer.
But he was, though in both ways a most unequal, a delightful
miscellanist and critic. In both respects it is natural, and indeed
unavoidable, to compare him with Lamb and with Hazlitt, whom, however,
he really preceded, forming a link between them and the eighteenth
century essayists. His greater voluminousness, induced by necessity,
puts him at a rather unfair disadvantage with the first; and we may
perhaps never find in him those exquisite felicities which delight and
justify the true "Agnist." Yet he has found some things that Lamb missed
in Lamb's own subjects; and though his prejudices (of the middle-class
Liberal and freethinking kind) were sometimes more damaging than any to
which Lamb was exposed, he was free from the somewhat wilful eclecticism
of that inimitable person. He could like nearly all things that were
good--in which respect he stands above both his rivals in criticism. But
he stands below them in his miscellaneous work; though here also, as in
his poetry, he was a master, not a scholar. Lamb and Hazlitt improved
upon him here, as Keats and Shelley improved upon him there. But what a
position is it to be "improved upon" by Keats and Shelley in poetry, by
Hazlitt and Lamb in prose!

Hartley Coleridge might with about equal propriety have been treated in
the last chapter and in this; but the already formidable length of the
catalogue of bards perhaps turns the scale in favour of placing him with
other contributors to _Blackwood_, to which, thanks to his early
friendship with Wilson, he enjoyed access, and in which he might have
written much more than he did, and did actually write most of what he
published himself, except the _Biographia Borealis_.

The life of Hartley was a strange and sad variant of his father's,
though, if he lacked a good deal of S. T. C.'s genius, his character was
entirely free from the baser stains which darkened that great man's
weakness. Born (1796) at Clevedon, the first-fruits of the marriage of
Coleridge and Sara, he was early celebrated by Wordsworth and by his
father in immortal verse, and by Southey, his uncle, in charming prose,
for his wonderful dreamy precocity; but he never was a great reader.
Southey took care of him with the rest of the family when Coleridge
disappeared into the vague; and Hartley, after schooling at Ambleside,
was elected to a post-mastership at Merton College, Oxford. He missed
the Newdigate thrice, and only got a second in the schools, but was
more than consoled by a Fellowship at Oriel. Unfortunately Oriel was not
only gaining great honour, but was very jealous of it; and the
probationary Fellows were subjected to a most rigid system of
observation, which seems to have gone near to espionage. If ever there
was a man born to be a Fellow under the old English University scheme,
that man was Hartley Coleridge; and it is extremely probable that if he
had been let alone he would have produced, in one form or another, a
justification of that scheme, worthy to rank with Burton's _Anatomy_.
But he was accused of various shortcomings, of which intemperance seems
to have been the most serious, though it is doubtful whether it would
have sunk the beam if divers peccadilloes, political, social, and
miscellaneous, had not been thrown in. Strong interest was made in
favour of mercy, but the College deprived him of his Fellowship,
granting him, not too consistently, a _solatium_ of £300. This was
apparently in 1820. Hartley lived for nearly thirty years longer, but
his career was closed. He was, as his brother Derwent admits, one of
those whom the pressure of necessity does not spur but numbs. He wrote a
little for _Blackwood_; he took pupils unsuccessfully, and
school-mastered with a little better success; and during a short time he
lived with a Leeds publisher who took a fancy to him and induced him to
write his only large book, the _Biographia Borealis_. But for the most
part he abode at Grasmere, where his failing (it was not much more) of
occasional intemperance was winked at by all, even by the austere
Wordsworth, where he wandered about, annotated a copy of Anderson's
_Poets_ and some other books, and supported himself (with the curious
Coleridgean faculty of subsisting like the bird of paradise, without
either foot or foothold) till, at his mother's death, an annuity made
his prospects secure. He died on 6th January 1849, a little before
Wordsworth, and shortly afterwards his work was collected by his brother
Derwent in seven small volumes; the _Poems_ filling two, the _Essays and
Fragments_ two, and the _Biographia Borealis_ three.

This last (which appeared in its second form as _Lives of Northern
Worthies_, with some extremely interesting notes by S. T. C.) is an
excellent book of its kind, and shows that under more favourable
circumstances Hartley might have been a great literary historian. But it
is on the whole less characteristic than the volumes of _Poems_ and
_Essays_. In the former Hartley has no kind of _souffle_ (or
long-breathed inspiration), nor has he those exquisite lyrical touches
of his father's which put Coleridge's scanty and unequal work on a level
with that of the greatest names in English poetry. But he has a singular
melancholy sweetness, and a meditative grace which finds its special
home in the sonnet. In the "Posthumous Sonnets" especially, the
sound--not an echo of, but a true response to, Elizabethan music--is
unmistakable, and that to Shakespeare ("the soul of man is larger than
the sky"), that on himself ("When I survey the course that I have run"),
and not a few others, rank among the very best in English. Many of the
miscellaneous poems contain beautiful things. But on the whole the
greatest interest of Hartley Coleridge is that he is the first and one
of the best examples of a kind of poet who is sometimes contemned, who
has been very frequent in this century, but who is dear to the lover of
poetry, and productive of delightful things. This kind of poet is
wanting, it may be, in what is briefly, if not brutally, called
originality. He might not sing much if others had not sung and were not
singing around him; he does not sing very much even as it is, and the
notes of his song are not extraordinarily piercing or novel. But they
are true, they are not copied, and the lover of poetry could not spare
them.

It is improbable that Hartley Coleridge would ever have been a great
poet: he might, if Fate or even if the Oriel dons had been a little
kinder, have been a great critic. As it is, his essays, his introduction
to Massinger and Ford, and his _Marginalia_, suffer on the one side from
certain defects of reading; for his access to books was latterly small,
and even when it had been ample, as at Oxford, in London, or at
Southey's house, he confesses that he had availed himself of it but
little. Hence he is often wrong, and more often incomplete, from sheer
lack of information. Secondly, much of his work is mere jotting, never
in the very least degree intended for publication, and sometimes
explicitly corrected or retracted by later jottings of the same kind. In
such a case we can rather augur of the might-have-been than pronounce on
the actual. But the two volumes are full of delicate critical views on
literature; and the longest series, "Ignoramus on the Fine Arts," shows
how widely, with better luck and more opportunity, he might have
extended his critical performances. In short, Hartley Coleridge, if a
"sair sicht" to the moralist, is an interesting and far from a wholly
painful one to the lover of literature, which he himself loved so much,
and practised, with all his disadvantages, so successfully.

All the persons hitherto mentioned in this chapter appear by undoubted
right in any history of English Literature: it may cause a little
surprise to see that of Maginn figuring with them. Yet his abilities
were scarcely inferior to those of any; and he was kept back from
sharing their fame only by infirmities of character and by his
succumbing to that fatal Bohemianism which, constantly recurring among
men of letters, exercised its attractions with special force in the
early days of journalism in this century. William Maginn (1793), who was
the son of a schoolmaster at Cork, took a brilliant degree at Trinity
College, Dublin, and for some years followed his father's profession.
The establishment, however, and the style of _Blackwood_ were an
irresistible attraction to him, and he drifted to Edinburgh, wrote a
great deal in the earlier and more boisterous days of _Maga_ under the
pseudonym of Ensign O'Doherty, and has, as has been said, some claims to
be considered the originator of the _Noctes_. Then, as he had gone from
Ireland to Edinburgh, he went from Edinburgh to London, and took part in
divers Tory periodicals, acting as Paris correspondent for some of them
till, about 1830, he started, or helped in starting, a London
_Blackwood_ in _Fraser_. He had now every opportunity, and he gathered
round him a staff almost more brilliant than that of the _Edinburgh_, of
the _London_, of the _Quarterly_, or of _Blackwood_ itself. But he was
equally reckless of his health and of his money. The acknowledged
original of Thackeray's Captain Shandon, he was not seldom in jail; and
at last, assisted by Sir Robert Peel almost too late, he died at Walton
on Thames in August 1842, not yet fifty, but an utter wreck.

The collections of Maginn's work are anything but exhaustive, and the
work itself suffers from all the drawbacks, probable if not inevitable,
of work written in the intervals of carouse, at the last moment, for
ephemeral purposes. Yet it is instinct with a perhaps brighter genius
than the more accomplished productions of some much more famous men. The
_Homeric Ballads_, though they have been praised by some, are nearly
worthless; and the longer attempts in fiction are not happy. But
Maginn's shorter stories in _Blackwood_, especially the inimitable
"Story without a Tail," are charming; his more serious critical work,
especially that on Shakespeare, displays a remarkable combination of
wide reading, critical acumen, and sound sense; and his miscellanies in
prose and verse, especially the latter, are characterised by a mixture
of fantastic humour, adaptive wit, and rare but real pathos and melody,
which is the best note of the specially Irish mode. It must be said,
however, that Maginn is chiefly important to the literary historian as
the captain of a band of distinguished persons, and as in a way the link
between the journalism of the first and the journalism of the second
third of the century. A famous plate by Maclise, entitled "The
Fraserians," contains, seated round abundant bottles, with Maginn as
president, portraits (in order by "the way of the sun," and omitting
minor personages) of Irving, Gleig the Chaplain-General, Sir Egerton
Brydges, Allan Cunningham, Carlyle, Count D'Orsay, Brewster, Theodore
Hook, Lockhart, Crofton Croker of the Irish Fairy Tales, Jerdan, Dunlop
of the "History of Fiction," Gait, Hogg, Coleridge, Harrison Ainsworth,
Thackeray, Southey, and Barry Cornwall. It is improbable that all these
contributed at one time, and tolerably certain that some of them were
very sparing and infrequent contributors at any time, but the important
point is the juxtaposition of the generation which was departing and
the generation which was coming on--of Southey with Thackeray and of
Coleridge with Carlyle. Yet it will be noticed (and the point is of some
importance) that these new-comers are, at least the best of them, much
less merely periodical writers than those who came immediately before
them. In part no doubt this was accident; in part it was due to the
greater prominence which novels and serial works of other kinds were
beginning to assume; in part it may be to the fact that the great
increase in the number of magazines and newspapers had lowered their
individual dignity and perhaps their profitableness. But it is certain
that of the list just mentioned, Thackeray and Carlyle, of the
contemporary new generation of the _Edinburgh_ Macaulay, of the nascent
_Westminster_ Mill, and others, were not, like Jeffrey, like Sydney
Smith, like Wilson, and like De Quincey, content to write articles. They
aspired to write, and they did write, books; and, that being so, they
will all be treated in chapters other than the present, appropriated to
the kinds in which their chief books were designed.

The name of John Sterling is that of a man who, with no great literary
claims of his own, managed to connect it durably and in a double fashion
with literature, first as the subject of an immortal biography by
Carlyle, secondly as the name-giver of the famous Sterling Club, which
about 1838, and hardly numbering more members than the century did
years, included a surprising proportion of the most rising men of
letters of the day, while all but a very few of its members were of
literary mark. John Sterling himself was the son of a rather eccentric
father, Edward Sterling, who, after trying soldiering with no great, and
farming with decidedly ill, success, turned to journalism and succeeded
brilliantly on the _Times_. His son was born in the Isle of Bute on 20th
July 1806, was educated, first privately, then at Glasgow, and when
about nineteen went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he fell in with
a famous and brilliant set. He migrated from Trinity College to Trinity
Hall, took no degree, wrote a little for the then young _Athenæum_, was
engaged in a romantic and in all ways rather unfortunate business of
encouraging a rebellion in Spain, but married instead of taking active
part in it, and went to the West Indies. When he came home he, it is
said under Coleridgean influence, took orders, but soon developed
heterodox views and gave up active duty. He lived, though under sentence
of death by consumption, till 1843, spending much time abroad, but
writing a little, chiefly for periodicals.

The chief characteristic of Sterling in life and thought appears to have
been a vacillating impulsiveness, while in letters his production, small
in bulk, is anything but strong in substance or form. But, like some
other men who do not, in the common phrase, "do much," he seems to have
been singularly effectual as a centre of literary friendship and
following. The Sterling Club included not merely Tennyson, John Stuart
Mill, Carlyle, Allan Cunningham, Lord Houghton, Sir Francis Palgrave,
Bishop Thirlwall, who all receive separate notice elsewhere, but others
who, being of less general fame, may best be noticed together here.
There were the scholars Blakesley, Worsley, and Hepworth Thompson
(afterwards Master of Trinity); H. N. Coleridge, the poet's nephew,
son-in-law, and editor; Sir Francis Doyle, afterwards Professor of
Poetry at Oxford, the author of some interesting reminiscences in prose,
and in verse of some of the best songs and poems on military subjects to
be found in the language, such as "The Loss of the Birkenhead," the
"Private of the Buffs," and above all the noble and consummate "Red
Thread of Honour"; Sir Edmund Head, Fellow of Merton and
Governor-General of Canada, and a writer on art (not to be confounded
with his namesake Sir Francis, the agreeable miscellanist, reviewer, and
travel writer, who was also a baronet and also connected with Canada,
where he was Governor of the Upper Province at the time of the Rebellion
of 1835). There was Sir George Cornewall Lewis, a keen scholar and a
fastidious writer, whose somewhat short life (1806-63) was chiefly
occupied by politics; for he was a Poor-Law Commissioner, a Member of
Parliament, and a holder of numerous offices up to those of Chancellor
of the Exchequer and Secretary of State. Lewis, who edited the
_Edinburgh_ for a short time, wrote no very long work, but many on a
great variety of subjects, the chief perhaps being _On the Influence of
Authority in Matters of Opinion_, 1850 (a book interesting to contrast
with one by a living statesman forty-five years later), the _Inquiry
into the Credibility of the Ancient Roman History_ (1855), and later
treatises on _The Government of Dependencies_ and the _Best Form of
Government_. He was also an exact verbal scholar, was, despite the
addiction to "dry" subjects which this list may seem to show, the author
of not a few _jeux d'esprit_, and was famous for his conversational
sayings, the most hackneyed of which is probably "Life would be
tolerable if it were not for its amusements."

But even this did not exhaust the Sterling Club. There was another
scholar, Malden, who should have been mentioned with the group above;
the second Sir Frederick Pollock, who wrote too little but left an
excellent translation of Dante, besides some reminiscences and other
work; Philip Pusey, elder brother of the theologian, and a man of
remarkable ability; James Spedding, who devoted almost the whole of his
literary life to the study, championship, and editing of Bacon, but left
other essays and reviews of great merit; Twisleton, who undertook with
singular patience and shrewdness the solution of literary and historical
problems like the Junius question and that of the African martyrs; and
lastly George Stovin Venables, who for some five and thirty years was
the main pillar in political writing of the _Saturday Review_, was a
parliamentary lawyer of great diligence and success, and combined a
singularly exact and wide knowledge of books and men in politics and
literature with a keen judgment, an admirably forcible if somewhat
mannered style, a disposition far more kindly than the world was apt to
credit him with, and a famous power of conversation. All these men,
almost without exception, were more or less contributors to periodicals;
and it may certainly be said that, but for periodicals, it is rather
unlikely that some of them would have contributed to literature at all.

Not as a member of the Sterling Club, but as the intimate friend of all
its greatest members, as a contributor, though a rather unfrequent one,
to papers, and as a writer of singular and extraordinary quality but
difficult to class under a more precise head, may be noticed Edward
FitzGerald, who, long a recluse, unstintedly admired by his friends but
quite unknown to the public, became famous late in life by his
translation of Omar Khayyám, and familiar somewhat after his death
through the publication of his charming letters by Mr. Aldis Wright. He
was born on 31st March 1809, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, the
neighbourhood which was his headquarters for almost his entire life,
till his death on a visit to a grandson of the poet Crabbe at Merton in
Norfolk, 14th June 1883. He went to school at Bury, and thence to
Cambridge, where he laid the foundation of his acquaintance with the
famous Trinity set of 1825-30. But on taking his degree in the last
named year and leaving college, he took to no profession, but entered on
the life of reading, thinking, gardening, and boating, which he pursued
for more than half a century. Besides his Trinity contemporaries, from
Tennyson and Thackeray downwards, he had Carlyle for an intimate friend,
and he married the daughter of Bernard Barton, the poet-Quaker and
friend of Lamb. He published nothing till the second half of the century
had opened, when _Euphranor_, written long before at Cambridge, or with
reference to it, appeared. Then he learnt Spanish, and first showed his
extraordinary faculty of translation by Englishing divers dramas of
Calderon. Spanish gave way to Persian, and after some exercises
elsewhere the famous version, paraphrase, or whatever it is to be
called, of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám appeared in 1859, to be much
altered in subsequent editions.

FitzGerald's works in the collected edition of 1889 fill three pretty
stout volumes, to which a considerable number of letters (he was first
of all and almost solely a letter-writer and translator) have been
added. In his prose (no disrespect being intended to _Euphranor_, a
dialogue Berkeleian in form and of great beauty, and other things) he
interests us doubly as a character and as a critic, for the letters
contain much criticism. Personally FitzGerald was a man of rather few
and not obtrusive, but deep and warm sympathies, slow to make new
friends but intensely tenacious of and affectionate towards the old,
with a very strong distaste for crowds and general society, and
undoubtedly somewhat of what the French call a _maniaque_, that is to
say, a slightly hypochondriac crotcheteer. These characteristics, which
make him interesting as a man, are still more interestingly reflected in
his criticism, which is often one-sided and unjust, sometimes crotchety
(as when he would not admit that even his beloved Alfred Tennyson had
ever been at his best since the collection of 1842), but often also
wonderfully delicate and true.

As a translator he stands almost alone, his peculiar virtue, noticeable
alike in his versions from the Spanish and Greek, being so capitally and
once for all illustrated in that of Omar Khayyám that in narrow space it
is not necessary to go beyond this. From the purist and pedantic point
of view FitzGerald, no doubt, is wildly unfaithful. He scarcely ever
renders word for word, and will insert, omit, alter, with perfect
freedom; yet the total effect is reproduced as perhaps no other
translator has ever reproduced it. Whether his version of the Rubaiyat,
with its sensuous fatalism, its ridicule of asceticism and renunciation,
and its bewildering kaleidoscope of mysticism that becomes materialist
and materialism that becomes mystical, has not indirectly had
influences, practical and literary, the results of which would have been
more abhorrent to FitzGerald than to almost any one else, may be
suggested. But the beauty of the poem as a poem is unmistakable and
altogether astounding. The melancholy richness of the rolling quatrain
with its unicorn rhymes, the quaint mixture of farce and solemnity,
passion and playfulness, the abundance of the imagery, the power of the
thought, the seduction of the rhetoric, make the poem actually, though
not original or English, one of the greatest of English poems.

Of the periodical too, if not entirely, was Richard Harris Barham,
"Thomas Ingoldsby," the author of the most popular book of light verse
that ever issued from the press. His one novel, _My Cousin Nicholas_,
was written for _Blackwood_; the immortal _Ingoldsby Legends_ appeared
in _Bentley_ and _Colburn_. Born at Canterbury in 1788, of a family
possessed of landed property, though not of much, and educated at St.
Paul's School and Brasenose College, Barham took orders, and, working
with thorough conscience as a clergyman, despite his light literature,
became a minor canon in St. Paul's Cathedral. He died in 1845. Hardly
any book is more widely known than the collected _Ingoldsby Legends_,
which originally appeared in the last eight years of their author's
life. Very recently they have met with a little priggish depreciation,
the natural and indeed inevitable result, first of a certain change in
speech and manners, and then of their long and vast popularity. Nor
would any one contend that they are exactly great literature. But for
inexhaustible fun that never gets flat and scarcely ever simply
uproarious, for a facility and felicity in rhyme and rhythm which is
almost miraculous, and for a blending of the grotesque and the terrible
which, if less _fine_ than Praed's or Hood's, is only inferior to
theirs--no one competent to judge and enjoy will ever go to Barham in
vain.

The same difficulty which beset us at the end of the last chapter recurs
here, the difficulty arising from the existence of large numbers of
persons of the third or lower ranks whose inclusion may be desired or
their exclusion resented. At the head, or near it, of this class stand
such figures as that of Douglas Jerrold, a sort of very inferior Hook on
the other side of politics, with a dash (also very inferior) of Hood,
whose _Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures_ and similar things were very
popular at and a little before the middle of the century, but whose
permanent literary value is of the smallest, if indeed it can be said to
exist. But of these--not a few of them more worthy if less prominent in
their day than Jerrold--there could be no end; and there would be little
profit in trying to reach any. The successful "contributor," by the laws
of the case, climbs on the shoulders of his less successful mates even
more than elsewhere; and the very impetus which lands him on the height
rejects them into the depths.



CHAPTER V

THE HISTORIANS OF THE CENTURY


After the brilliant group of historians whose work illustrated the close
of the period covered by the preceding volume, it was some time before a
historical writer of the first rank again appeared in England; and there
were reasons for this. Not that, as in the case of purely creative
literature, in prose as in verse, there is any natural or actual lull
between different successive periods in this case; on the contrary the
writing of history is more likely to be stimulated by example, and
requires rather the utmost talent than positive genius, except in those
rare cases which, as in other departments, are not to be accounted for,
either in their presence or in their absence, by observation or
inference. But in the first place the greatest minds of the first
generation of which we have to take account, who were born about the
beginning of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, were, partly
by time and partly by chance, directed for the most part either into
poetry, or into politics, or into active life; and the five and twenty
years of the Revolutionary War in which they passed their manhood were
more likely to provide materials for history, than history itself.

Yet history, after the example given by Hume, by Robertson, and above
all by Gibbon, was not at all likely to cease, nor did some men of great
talents in other ways fail to betake themselves to it. Godwin was a
historian, and, considering his strong prejudices, the unkindness of
fortune (for history demands leisure almost as much as poetry), and some
defects of knowledge, not a contemptible historian in his way.
Mackintosh, intended for a philosopher, was a historian. Southey was a
very considerable historian, and master of one of the most admirable
historical styles on record. But he was signally unfortunate in having
that work of his which should have been most popular, the _History of
the Peninsular War_, pitted against another by a younger man of
professional competence, of actual experience, and of brilliant literary
powers, Sir William Napier (1786-1860). The literary value of these two
histories is more even than a generation which probably reads neither
much and has almost forgotten Southey is apt to imagine; and though
there is no doubt that the Poet Laureate was strongly prejudiced on the
Tory side, his competitor was even more partial and biassed against that
side. But the difference between the two books is the difference between
a task admirably performed, and performed to a certain extent _con
amore_, by a skilled practitioner in task-work, and the special effort
of one who was at once an enthusiast and an expert in his subject. It is
customary to call _Napier's History of the Peninsular War_ "the finest
military history in the English language," and so, perhaps, it is. The
famous description of the Battle of Albuera is only one of many showing
eloquence without any mere fine writing, and with the knowledge of the
soldier covering the artist's exaggeration.

Moore, Campbell, Scott himself, were all, as has been previously
recorded in the notices of their proper work, historians by trade,
though hardly, even to the extent to which Southey was, historians by
craft. But an exception must be made for the exquisite _Tales of a
Grandfather_, in which Sir Walter, without perhaps a very strict
application of historical criticism, applied his creative powers,
refreshed in their decay by combined affection for the subject and for
the presumed auditor, to fashioning the traditional history of old
Scotland into one of the most delightful narratives of any language or
time. But Henry Hallam, a contemporary of these men (1778-1859), unlike
them lives as a historian only, or as a historian and literary
critic--occupations so frequently combined during the present century
that perhaps an apology is due for the presentation of some writers
under the general head of one class rather than under that of the other.
Hallam, the son of a Dean of Bristol, educated at Eton and Christ
Church, an early _Edinburgh_ reviewer, and an honoured pundit and
champion of the Whig party, possessing also great literary tastes, much
industry, and considerable faculty both of judging and writing, united
almost all the qualifications for a high reputation; while his
abstinence from public affairs, and from participation in the violent
half-personal, half-political squabbles which were common among the
literary men of his day, freed him from most of the disadvantages, while
retaining for him all the advantages, of party connections. Early, too,
he obtained a post in the Civil Service (a Commissionership of Audit),
which gave him a comfortable subsistence while leaving him plenty of
leisure. For thirty years, between 1818 and 1848, he produced a series
of books on political and literary history which at once attained a very
high reputation, and can hardly be said to have yet lost it. These were
a _View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages_, published in the
first, and supplemented by a volume of notes and corrections in the
last, of the years just mentioned; a _Constitutional History of England_
from Henry VII. to George II. (1827); and an _Introduction to the
Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth
Centuries_ (1837-39).

The value of Hallam as a political and as a literary historian is by no
means the same. In the former capacity he was perhaps too much
influenced by that artificial and rather curious ideal of politics which
distinguished the Whig party of the later eighteenth century, which was
exaggerated, celebrated brilliantly, and perhaps buried by his pupil and
younger contemporary, Macaulay, and which practically erects the result
of a coincidence of accidents in English history into a permanent and
rationally defensible form of government, comparable with and preferable
to the earlier and unchanging forms of monarchy, aristocracy, and
democracy with their sub-varieties. A certain coldness and sluggishness
of temperament and sympathy also marred this part of Hallam's work,
though less mischievously than elsewhere. But to balance these drawbacks
handsomely in his favour, he possessed an industry which, immense as
have been the pains spent on his subjects since he wrote, leaves him in
possession of a very fair part of the field as a still trustworthy
authority; a mind, on the whole, judicial and fair; and an excellently
clear and scholarly if not exactly brilliant or engaging style.

As a literary historian and critic Hallam deserves, except on the score
of industry and width of reading, rather less praise; and his dicta,
once quoted with veneration even by good authorities, and borrowed, with
or without acknowledgment, by nearly all second-hand writers, are being
more and more neglected by both. Nor is this unjust, for Hallam, though
possessed, as has been said, of sound and wide scholarship, and of a
taste fairly trustworthy in accepted and recognised matters, was too apt
to be at a loss when confronted with an abnormal or eccentric literary
personality, shared far too much the hide-bound narrowness of the rules
which guided his friend Jeffrey, lacked the enthusiasm which not seldom
melted Jeffrey's chains of ice, and was constantly apt to intrude into
the court of literary judgments, methods, procedures, and codes of law
which have no business there.

Many other estimable, and some excellent writers fill up the space of
fifty years, which may be described best, both for remembrance and for
accuracy, as the space between Gibbon and Carlyle. William Roscoe, who
was born as far back as 1753 and did not die till 1831, was the son of a
market-gardener near Liverpool, and had few advantages of education, but
became an attorney, attached himself strenuously to literature,
especially Italian literature, and in 1796 published his _Life of
Lorenzo de Medici_, which, after finishing it, he followed up nine years
later with the _Life of Leo the Tenth_. Both obtained not merely an
English but a continental reputation, both became in a manner classics,
and both retain value to this day, though the Italian Renaissance has
been a specially favourite subject of modern inquiry. Roscoe was a
violent Whig, and not a very dispassionate student in some respects; but
he wrote well, and he is an early example of the diffusion of the
historic spirit proper, in which Gibbon had at once set the example and,
with some lapses, attained nearly to perfection.

William Mitford (1744-1827) was even an older man than Roscoe, and
belonged to a slightly less modern school of history-writing. He was a
man of means, a friend of Gibbon, his fellow-officer in the militia, and
like him a strong Tory, though unlike him he could not keep his politics
out of his history. Although Mitford's hatred of democracy, whether
well- or ill-founded, makes him sometimes unfair, and though his
_History of Greece_ contains some blunders, it is on the whole rather a
pity that it should have been superseded to the extent to which it
actually has been by those of Grote and Thirlwall. For it is not more
prejudiced and much better written than Grote's, while it has greater
liveliness and zest than the Bishop's. It occupied more than thirty
years in publication, the first volume appearing in 1784, the last in
1818.

While Roscoe and Mitford were thus dealing with foreign and ancient
subjects, English history became the theme of a somewhat younger pair of
historians, one of whom, Sharon Turner, was born in 1768 and died in
1847; while John Lingard, born three years later, outlived Turner by
four. Lingard was a Roman Catholic priest, and after being educated at
Douai, divided most of his time between pastoral work and teaching at
the newly founded Roman Catholic school of Ushaw. He was the author of
what still retains the credit of being the best history of England on
the great scale, in point of the union of accuracy, skilful arrangement,
fairness (despite his inevitable prepossessions), and competent literary
form,--no mean credit for a member of an unpopular minority to have
attained in a century of the most active historical investigation.
Turner was more of a specialist and particularist, and his style is not
very estimable. He wrote many books on English history, those on the
later periods being of little value. But his _History of the
Anglo-Saxons_, first issued in 1799, was based on thorough research, and
may be said to have for the first time rescued the period of origins of
English history from the discreditable condition of perfunctory,
traditional, and second- or third-hand treatment in which most, if not
all, previous historians of England had been content to leave it.

Sir Francis Palgrave, another historian to whom the student of early
English history is deeply indebted, was born in London in 1788, his
paternal name being Cohen. He took to the law, and early devoted himself
both within and outside his profession to genealogical and antiquarian
research. Before much attention had been paid in France itself to Old
French, he published a collection of Anglo-Norman poems in 1818, and
from these studies he passed to that of English history as such. He was
knighted in 1832, and made Deputy-Keeper of the Records in 1838; his
tenure of this post being only terminated by his death in 1861. Palgrave
edited many State documents (writs, calendars, rolls, and so forth), and
in his last years executed a _History of Normandy and England_ of great
value. His considerable literary power became more considerable still in
two of his sons: the eldest, for some time past Professor of Poetry at
Oxford, Mr. F. T. Palgrave, being still alive, and therefore merely to
be mentioned; while the second, William Gifford, who was born in 1826
and died in 1888, Minister at Monte Video, was a man of the most
brilliant talents and the most varied career. He was a soldier, a
Jesuit, a traveller in the most forbidden parts of Arabia at the expense
of a foreign country, and for nearly a quarter of a century a member of
the consular and diplomatic service of his own. His _Narrative_ of his
Arabian journey, his _Dutch Guiana_, and some remarkable poems are only
a few of his works, all of which have strong character.

Nearly contemporary with these was Dr. Thomas M'Crie (1772-1835), whose
_Lives of Knox_ (1812) and _Melville_ (1819) entitle him to something
like the title of Historian of Scotch Presbyterianism in its militant
period. M'Crie, who was styled by Hallam (a person not given to
nicknames), "the Protestant Hildebrand," was a worthy and learned man of
untiring industry, and his subjects so intimately concern not merely
Scottish but British history for nearly two centuries, that his handling
of them could not but be important. But he was desperately prejudiced,
and his furious attack on Sir Walter Scott's _Old Mortality_, by which
he is perhaps known to more persons than by his own far from
uninteresting works, argues a crass deficiency in intellectual and
æsthetic comprehension.

The tenth decade of the eighteenth century was as much a decade of
historians as the eighth had been a decade of poets; and with Milman and
Tytler born in 1791, Alison in 1792, Grote in 1794, Arnold and Carlyle
in 1795, Thirlwall in 1797, and Macaulay in 1800, it may probably
challenge comparison with any period of equal length. The batch falls
into three pretty distinct classes, and the individual members of it are
also pretty widely separated in importance, so that it may be more
convenient to discuss them in the inverse order of their merit rather
than in the direct order of their births.

Patrick Fraser Tytler, son and grandson of historians (his grandfather
William being the first and not the worst champion of Queen Mary against
the somewhat Philistine estimates of Hume and Robertson, and his father
Alexander a Professor of History, a Scotch Judge, and an excellent
writer in various kinds of _belles lettres_), was a man of the finest
character, the friend of most of the great men of letters at Edinburgh
in the age of Scott and Jeffrey, and the author of an excellent _History
of Scotland_ from Alexander the Third to the Union of the Crowns. He was
born in 1791, was called to the Scotch Bar in 1813, and died young for a
historian (a class which has so much to do with Time that he is apt to
be merciful to it) in 1849. He was perhaps hardly a man of genius, but
he commanded universal respect. Sir Archibald Alison was the son of a
clergyman of the same name, who, after taking orders in England and
holding some benefices there, became known as the author of _Essays on
the Principles of Taste_, which possess a good deal of formal and some
real merit. Archibald the younger was highly distinguished at the
University of Edinburgh, was called to the Scotch Bar, and distinguished
himself there also, being ultimately appointed Sheriff of Lanarkshire.
Like most of the brighter wits among his immediate contemporaries in
Scotland (we have the indisputable testimony of Jeffrey to the fact)
Alison was an out-and-out Tory, and a constant contributor to
_Blackwood_, while his literary activity took very numerous shapes. At
last he began, and in the twenty years from 1839 to 1859 carried
through, a _History of Europe during the French Revolution_, completed
by one of _Europe from the Fall of the First to the Accession of the
Third Napoleon_. He died in 1867. It was rather unfortunate for Alison
that he did not undertake this great work until the period of Liberal
triumph which marked the middle decades of the century had well set in.
It was still more unlucky, and it could less be set down to the
operations of unkind chance, that in many of the qualifications of the
writer in general, and the historical writer in particular, he was
deficient. He had energy and industry; he was much less inaccurate than
it was long the fashion to represent him; a high sense of patriotism and
the political virtues generally, a very fair faculty of judging
evidence, and a thorough interest in his subject were his. But his book
was most unfortunately diffuse, earning its author the _sobriquet_ of
"Mr. Wordy," and it was conspicuously lacking in grasp, both in the
marshalling of events and in the depicting of characters. Critics, even
when they sympathised, have never liked it; but contrary to the wont of
very lengthy histories, it found considerable favour with the public,
who, as the French gibe has it, were not "hampered by the style," and
who probably found in the popular explanation of a great series of
important and interesting affairs all that they cared for. Nor is it
unlikely that this popularity rather exaggerated the ill-will of the
critics themselves. Alison is not quotable; he is, even after youth,
read with no small difficulty; but it would be no bad thing if other
periods of history had been treated in his manner and spirit.

Henry Hart Milman belongs to very much the same class of historian as
Hallam, but unlike Hallam he was a poet, and, though a Broad Churchman
of the days before the nickname was given, more of an adherent to the
imaginative and traditional side of things. His father was a King's
Physician, and he was educated at Eton and Brasenose. He obtained the
Newdigate, and after bringing out his best play _Fazio_ (of which more
will be said later), took orders and received the vicarage of St.
Mary's, Reading. Some poems of merit in the second class, including some
hymns very nearly in the first, followed, and in 1821 he became
Professor of Poetry at Oxford, where six years later he was Bampton
Lecturer. It was in 1829 that Milman, who had been a frequent
contributor to the _Quarterly Review_, began the series of his works on
ecclesiastical history with the _History of the Jews_, the weakest of
them (for Milman was not a very great Hebraist, and while endeavouring
to avoid rigid orthodoxy did not satisfy the demands of the newer
heterodox criticism). The _History of Christianity to the Abolition of
Paganism_ was better (1840), and the _History of Latin Christianity_
(1854) better still. This last indeed, based on an erudition which
enabled Milman to re-edit Gibbon with advantage, is a great book, and
will probably live. For Milman here really _knew_; he had (like most
poets who write prose with fair practice) an excellent style; and he was
able--as many men who have had knowledge have not been able, and as many
who have had style have not tried or have failed to do--to rise to the
height of a really great argument, and treat it with the grasp and ease
which are the soul of history. That he owed much to Gibbon himself is
certain; that he did not fail to use his pupilage to that greatest of
historians so as to rank among the best of his followers is not less
certain, and is high enough praise for any man. He received the Deanery
of St. Paul's in 1849, and held it till his death in 1868, having
worthily sustained the glory of this the most literary of all great
preferments in the Church of England by tradition, and having earned
among English ecclesiastical historians a place like that of Napier
among their military comrades.

Hallam and Milman were both, as has been said, Oxford men, and the
unmistakable impress of that University was on both, though less on
Hallam than on Milman. It is all the more interesting that their chief
historical contemporaries of the same class were, the one a Cambridge
man, and one of the most distinguished, the other not a University man
at all. Both Grote and Thirlwall, as it happens, were educated at the
same public school, Charterhouse. George Grote, the elder of them, born
in 1794, was the son of a banker, and himself carried on that business
for many years of his life. He was an extreme Liberal, or as it then
began to be called, Radical, and a chief of the Philosophical Radicals
of his time--persons who followed Bentham and the elder Mill. He was
elected member for the City in the first Reform Parliament and held the
seat for nine years; though if he had not retired he would probably have
been turned out. Leaving Parliament in 1841, he left business two years
later, and gave himself up to his _History of Greece_, which was
published in the ten years between 1846 and 1856. He died in 1871, and
was buried in Westminster Abbey. So was, four years later, his
school-fellow, fellow-historian of Greece, and junior by three years,
Connop Thirlwall. Thirlwall was one of the rare examples of
extraordinary infant precocity (he could read Latin at three and Greek
at four) who have been great scholars and men of distinction in after
life, and to a ripe age. He was of a Northumbrian family, but was born
at Stepney. From Charterhouse he went rather early (in 1814) to Trinity
College, Cambridge, where he had almost the most brilliant undergraduate
career on record, and duly gained his fellowship. He entered Lincoln's
Inn, was actually called to the Bar, but preferred the Church, and took
orders in his thirtieth year. He had already shown a strong leaning to
theology, and had translated Schleiermacher. He now returned to
Cambridge, taking both tutorial work and cure of souls; but in 1834 his
Liberal views attracted the disfavour of Christopher Wordsworth, Master
of Trinity, and Thirlwall, resigning his tutorship, was consoled by
Brougham with a Yorkshire living. Nor was this long his only preferment,
for the Whigs were not too well off for clergymen who united
scholarship, character, and piety, and he was made Bishop of St. David's
in 1840. He held the see for thirty-four years, working untiringly,
earning justly (though his orthodoxy was of a somewhat Broad character,
and he could reconcile his conscience to voting for the disestablishment
of the Irish Church) the character of one of the most exemplary bishops
of the century, and seldom dining without a cat on his shoulder.

Thirlwall wrote many Charges, some of them famous, some delightful
letters, part of a translation of Niebuhr, and some essays, while Grote,
besides his historical work, produced some political and other work
before it, with a large but not very good book on Plato, and the
beginning of another on Aristotle after it. But it is by their
_Histories of Greece_ that they must live in literature. These histories
(of which Grote's was planned and begun as early as 1823, though not
completed till long afterwards, while Thirlwall's began to appear in
1835, and was finished just after Grote's saw the light) were both
written with a certain general similarity of point of view as antidotes
to Mitford, and as putting the Liberal view of the ever memorable and
ever typical history of the Greek states. But in other respects they
diverge widely; and it has been a constant source of regret to scholars
that the more popular, and as the French would say _tapageur_, of the
two, to a considerable extent eclipsed the solid worth and the excellent
form of Thirlwall. Grote's history displays immense painstaking and no
inconsiderable scholarship, though it is very nearly as much a "party
pamphlet" as Macaulay's own, the advocate's client being in this case
not merely the Athenian democracy but even the Athenian demagogue. Yet
it to a great extent redeems this by the vivid way in which it makes the
subject alive, and turns Herodotus and Thucydides, Demosthenes and
Xenophon, from dead texts and school-books into theses of eager and
stimulating interest. But it has absolutely no style; its scale is much
too great; the endless discussions and arguments on quite minor points
tend to throw the whole out of focus, and to disaccustom the student's
eye and mind to impartial and judicial handling; and the reader
constantly sighs for the placid Olympian grasp of Gibbon, nay, even for
the confident dogmatism of Macaulay himself, instead of the perpetual
singlestick of argument which clatters and flourishes away to the utter
discomposure of the dignity of the Historic Muse.

It is possible, on the other hand, that Thirlwall may have sacrificed a
little too much, considering his age and its demands, to mere
dispassionate dignity. He is seldom picturesque, and indeed he never
tries to be so. But to a scholarship naturally far superior to Grote's,
he united a much fairer and more judicial mind, and the faculty of
writing--instead of loose stuff not exactly ungrammatical nor always
uncomely, but entirely devoid of any grace of style--an excellent kind
of classical English, but slightly changed from the best eighteenth
century models. And he had what Grote lacked, the gift of seeing that
the historian need not--nay, that he ought not to--parade every detail
of the arguments by which he has reached his conclusions; but should
state those conclusions themselves, reserving himself for occasional
emergencies in which process as well as result may be properly
exhibited. It is fair to say, in putting this curious pair forward as
examples respectively of the popular and scholarly methods of historical
writing, that Grote's learning and industry were very much more than
popular, while Thirlwall's sense and style might with advantage have put
on, now and then, a little more pomp and circumstance. But still the
contrast holds; and until fresh discoveries like that of the _Athenian
Polity_ accumulate to an extent which calls for and obtains a new real
historian of Greece, it is Thirlwall and not Grote who deserves the
first rank as such in English.

Intimately connected with all these historians in time and style, but
having over them the temporary advantage of being famous in another way,
and the, as some think, permanent disadvantage of falling prematurely
out of public favour, was Thomas Arnold. He was born at Cowes, in the
Isle of Wight, on 13th June 1795, and was educated at Winchester and at
Corpus Christi College, Oxford. At the age of twenty he was elected a
fellow of Oriel--a distinction which was, and remained for two decades,
almost the highest in the University--and he gained both Chancellor's
Essay prizes, for Latin and English. Oriel was not in his time, as it
was very shortly afterwards, a centre of ecclesiastical orthodoxy; but
rather the home of a curious transition blend of thought which in
different persons took the high-and-dry or the Rationalist direction,
and was only generally opposed to Evangelicalism. Arnold himself
inclined to the Liberal side, and had also strong personal gifts for
teaching. He took orders, but neither became a tutor nor took a living,
and established himself at Laleham, on the Thames, to take private
pupils. After ten years' practice here he was elected to the
Head-mastership of Rugby, a school then, after vicissitudes, holding
little if anything more than a medium place among those English Grammar
Schools which ranked below the great schools of Eton, Harrow,
Westminster, Winchester, and Charterhouse. How he succeeded in placing
it on something like an equality with these, and how on the other hand
he became, as it were, the apostle of the infant Broad Church School
which held aloof alike from Evangelicals and Tractarians, are points
which do not directly concern us. His more than indirect influence on
literature was great; for few schools have contributed to it, in the
same time, a greater number of famous writers than Rugby did under his
head-mastership. His direct connection with it was limited to a fair
number of miscellaneous works, many sermons, an edition of Thucydides,
and a _History of Rome_ which did not proceed (owing to his death in
1842, just after he had been appointed Regius Professor of Modern
History at Oxford) beyond the Second Punic War. Arnold, once perhaps
injudiciously extolled by adoring pupils, and the defender of a theory
of churchmanship which strains rather to the uttermost the principle of
unorthodox economy, has rather sunk between the undying disapproval of
the orthodox and the fact that the unorthodox have long left his
standpoint. But his style is undoubtedly of its own kind scholarly and
excellent; the matter of his history suffers from the common fault of
taking Niebuhr at too high a valuation.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (who may be conveniently discussed before
Carlyle, though he was Carlyle's junior by five years, inasmuch as, even
putting relative critical estimate aside, he died much earlier and
represented on the whole an older style of thought) was born at Rothley
Temple in Leicestershire on 25th October 1800. His father, Zachary
Macaulay, though a very active agitator against the Slave Trade, was a
strong Tory; and the son's conversion to Whig opinions was effected at
some not clearly ascertained period after he had reached manhood. A very
precocious child, he was at first privately educated, but entered
Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of eighteen. Here he fell in with
a set somewhat but not much less distinguished than that of the famous
time, about ten years later, of which Tennyson was the centre--a set the
most brilliant member of which, besides Macaulay, was the poet Praed.
Praed had been accustomed to journalism before he left Eton, and had
made acquaintance at Windsor with the bookseller Knight, for whose
_Quarterly Magazine_ both he and Macaulay wrote some very good things.
Macaulay himself obtained the Chancellor's prize for English poems on
"Pompeii" and "Evening," in two successive years 1819 and 1820; and
after a very distinguished undergraduate career was elected fellow of
his college. He went to the Bar, and his father's fortune, which had
been a good one, being lost, his chances were for a time uncertain. In
1825, however, he won the admiration of Jeffrey and a place on the
_Edinburgh Review_ by his well-known, and slightly gaudy, but
wonderfully fresh and stimulating article on Milton; and literature,
which had always been his ideal employment, seemed already likely to
yield him a fair subsistence--for review-writing was at that time much
more highly paid than it is at present. Moreover the Whigs, on the eve
of their long postponed triumph, were looking out for young men of
talent; and Macaulay, being recruited by them, was put into Lord
Lansdowne's pocket-borough of Calne. In the Reform debates themselves he
distinguished himself greatly, and after the Bill was carried, having
been elected for Leeds, he was not long in receiving his reward. It was
munificent, for he, a man of little more than thirty, who had made no
reputation at the Bar, though much elsewhere, was appointed Legal Member
of Council in India with a salary very much of which could in those days
be saved by a careful man, especially if, like Macaulay, he was
unmarried. Accordingly when, after between four and five years' stay,
Macaulay in 1838 returned home, he was in possession of means sufficient
to enable him to devote himself without fear or hindrance to literary
and political pursuits, while his fame had been raised higher during his
absence by his contributions to the _Edinburgh Review_. Indeed his
Indian experiences furnished the information--erroneous in some cases
and partisan in others, but brilliantly used--enabling him to write the
famous essays on Clive and on Hastings, where his historical method is
at almost its best. He was elected member for Edinburgh, a very high
compliment, in 1839; and next year became Secretary for War. In 1842 and
1843 respectively he established his position in verse and prose by
publishing the _Lays of Ancient Rome_ and a collection of his _Essays_;
and in 1846 he was made Postmaster-General. But his support of the
Maynooth Grant offended the Protestantism of his constituents, and he
lost his seat, and for the time his political opportunities, in 1847.
The disaster was no disaster for literature: he had long been employed
on a _History of England from the Accession of James II._, and being now
able to devote his whole time to it, he published the first volumes in
1848 with astonishing success.

He was re-elected for Edinburgh in 1852, published the third and fourth
volumes of his History in 1855 with success greater in pecuniary ways
and otherwise than even that of their forerunners, was raised to the
Upper House as Lord Macaulay of Rothley in 1857, and died two years
later, on 28th December 1859, of heart disease. Some personal
peculiarities of Macaulay's--his extraordinary reading and memory, his
brilliant but rather tyrannical conversation, his undoubting
self-confidence--were pretty well known in his lifetime, and did not
always create a prejudice in his favour. But a great revolution in this
respect was brought about by the _Life_ of him, produced a good many
years later by his nephew, Sir George Trevelyan--a Life, standing for
the interest of its matter and the skill and taste of its manner, not
too far below the masterpieces of Boswell and Lockhart.

The literary personality of Macaulay, though a great one in all
respects, is neither complex nor unequally present, and it is therefore
desirable to discuss all its manifestations together. In the order of
importance and of bulk his work may be divided into verse, prose-essays,
and history, for his speeches less directly concern us, and are very
little more than essays adroitly enough adjusted so as not to be tedious
to the hearer. In all three capacities he was eminently popular; and in
all three his popularity has brought with it a sort of reaction, partly
justified, partly unjust. The worst brunt of this reaction has fallen
upon his verse, the capital division of which, the _Lays of Ancient
Rome_, was persistently decried by Mr. Matthew Arnold, the critic of
most authority in the generation immediately succeeding Macaulay's. A
poet of the very highest class Macaulay was not; his way of thought was
too positive, too clear, too destitute either of mystery or of dream, to
command or to impart the true poetical mirage, to "make the common as if
it were not common." His best efforts of this kind are in small and not
very generally known things, the "Jacobite's Epitaph," "The Last
Buccaneer." But his ballads earlier and later, _Ivry_, _The Armada_,
_Naseby_, and the Roman quartet, exhibit the result of a consummate
literary faculty with a real native gift for rhythm and metre, applying
the lessons of the great Romantic generation with extraordinary vigour
and success, and not without considerable eloquence and refinement. It
is a gross and vulgar critical error to deem Macaulay's poetical effects
vulgar or gross. They are _popular_; they hit exactly that scheme of
poetry which the general ear can appreciate and the general brain
understand. They are coin for general circulation; but they are not base
coin. Hundreds and thousands of immature and 'prentice tastes have been
educated to the enjoyment of better things by them; thousands and tens
of thousands of tastes, respectable at least, have found in them the
kind of poetry which they can like, and beyond which they are not fitted
to go. And it would be a very great pity if there were ever wanting
critical appreciations which, while relishing things more exquisite and
understanding things more esoteric, can still taste and savour the
simple genuine fare of poetry which Macaulay offers. There are few wiser
proverbs than that which cautions us against demanding "better bread
than is made of wheat," and the poetical bread of the _Lays of Ancient
Rome_ is an honest household loaf that no healthy palate will reject.

In the second division, that of essay writing, Macaulay occupies a
position both absolutely and relatively higher. That the best verse
ranks above even the best prose is not easily disputable; that prose
which is among the very best of its own particular kind ranks above
verse which though good is not the best, may be asserted without any
fear. And in their own kind of essay, Macaulay's are quite supreme.
Jeffrey, a master of writing and a still greater master of editing, with
more than twenty years' practice in criticism, asked him "where he got
that style?" The question was not entirely unanswerable. Macaulay had
taken not a little from Gibbon; he had taken something from a then still
living contributor of Jeffrey's own, Hazlitt. But his private and
personal note was after all uppermost in the compound. It had appeared
early (it can be seen in things of his written when he was an
undergraduate). It owed much to the general atmosphere of the century,
to the habit of drawing phrase, illustration, idea, not merely from the
vernacular or from classical authorities, but from the great writers of
earlier European literature. And it would probably have been impossible
without the considerable body of forerunners which the _Edinburgh_, the
_Quarterly_, and other things of which some notice has been given in a
former chapter, had supplied. But still the individual character reigns
supreme.

Macaulay's Essays are in something more than the ordinary loose
acceptation of the term a household word; and it cannot be necessary to
single out individual instances where almost all are famous, and where
all deserve their fame. The "Milton" and the "Southey," the "Pitt" and
the "Chatham," the "Addison" and the "Horace Walpole," the "Clive" and
the "Hastings," the "Frederick the Great" and the "Madame D'Arblay," the
"Restoration Dramatists" and the "Boswell," the "Hallam" and the
"Ranke," present with a marvellous consistency the same merits and the
same defects. The defects are serious enough. In the first place the
system, which Macaulay did not invent, but which he carried to
perfection, of regarding the particular book in hand less as a subject
of elaborate and minute criticism and exposition than as a mere
starting-point from which to pursue the critic's own views of the
subject, inevitably leads to unfairness, especially in matters of pure
literature. Macaulay's most famous performance in this latter kind, the
crushing review of the unlucky Robert Montgomery, though well enough
deserved in the particular case, escapes this condemnation only to fall
under another, that of looking at the parts rather than at the whole. It
is quite certain that, given their plan, the two famous critiques of
Tennyson and Keats, in the _Quarterly_ and in _Blackwood_, are well
enough justified. The critic looks only at the weak parts, and he judges
the weak parts only by the stop-watch. But, on his own wide and more
apparently generous method, Macaulay was exposed to equal dangers, and
succumbed to them less excusably. He had strong prejudices, and it is
impossible for any one who reads him with knowledge not to see that the
vindication of those prejudices, rather than the exposition and
valuation of the subject, was what he had first at heart. He was too
well informed (though, especially in the Indian Essays, he was sometimes
led astray by his authorities), and he was too honest a man, to be
untrustworthy in positive statement. But though he practised little in
the courts, he had the born advocate's gift, or drawback, of inclination
to _suppressio veri_ and _suggestio falsi_, and he has a heavy account
to make up under these heads. Even under them perhaps he has less to
answer for than on the charge of a general superficiality and
shallowness, which is all the more dangerous because of the apparently
transparent thoroughness of his handling, and because of the actual
clearness and force with which he both sees and puts his view. For a
first draft of a subject Macaulay is incomparable, if his readers will
only be content to take it for a first draft, and to feel that they must
fill up and verify, that they must deepen and widen. But the heights and
depths of the subject he never gives, and perhaps he never saw them.

Part of this is no doubt to be set down to the quality of his style;
part to a weakness of his, which was not so much readiness to accept any
conclusion that was convenient as a constitutional incapacity for not
making up his mind. To leave a thing in half lights, in compromise, to
take it, as the legal phrase of the country of his ancestors has it, _ad
avizandum_, was to Macaulay abhorrent and impossible. He must
"conclude," and he was rather too apt to do so by "quailing, crushing,
and quelling" all difficulties of opposing arguments and qualifications.
He simply would not have an unsolved problem mystery. Strafford was a
"rancorous renegade"; Swift a sort of gifted Judas; Bacon a mean fellow
with a great intellect; Dryden again a renegade, though not rancorous;
Marlborough a self-seeking traitor of genius. And all these conclusions
were enforced in their own style--the style of _l'homme même_. It was
rather teasingly antithetical, "Tom's snip-snap" as the jealous
smartness of Brougham called it; it was somewhat mechanical in its
arrangement of narrative, set passages of finer writing, cunningly
devised summaries of facts, comparisons, contrasts (to show the
writer's learning and dazzle the reader with names), exordium,
iteration, peroration, and so forth. But it observed a very high
standard of classical English, a little intolerant of neologism, but not
stiff nor jejune. It had an almost unexampled--a certainly
unsurpassed--power (slightly helped by repetition perhaps) of bringing
the picture that the writer saw, the argument that he thought, the
sentiment that he felt, before the reader's eyes, mind, and feeling.
And, as indeed follows from this, it was pre-eminently clear. It is
perhaps the clearest style in English that does not, like those of Swift
and Cobbett, deliberately or scornfully eschew rhetorical ornament. What
Macaulay means you never, being any degree short of an idiot, can fail
to understand; and yet he gives you the sense, equipped with a very
considerable amount of preparation and trimming. It would not merely
have been ungrateful, it would have been positively wrong, if his
audience, specially trained as most of them were to his standpoint of
Whig Reformer, had failed to hail him as one of the greatest writers
that had ever been known. Nor would it be much less wrong if judges very
differently equipped and constituted were to refuse him a high place
among great writers.

The characteristics of the _Essays_ reproduce themselves on a magnified
scale so exactly in the _History_ that the foregoing criticism applies
with absolute fidelity to the later and larger, as well as to the
earlier and more minute work. But it would not be quite fair to say that
no new merits appear. There are no new defects; though the difference of
the scope and character of the undertaking intensifies in degree, as
well as magnifies in bulk, the faults of advocacy and of partiality
which have caused the book to be dismissed, with a flippancy only too
well deserved by its own treatment of opponents, as "a Whig pamphlet in
four octavo volumes." Yet the width of study and the grasp of results,
which, though remarkable, were not exactly extraordinary, in the compass
and employed on the subject of a _Review_ article, became altogether
amazing and little short of miraculous in this enlarged field. One of
the earliest and one of the best passages, the view of the state of
England at the death of Charles the Second, may challenge comparison, as
a clearly arranged and perfectly mastered collection of innumerable
minute facts sifted out of a thousand different sources, with anything
in history ancient or modern. The scale of the book is undoubtedly too
great; and if it had been carried, as the author originally intended, to
a date "within the memory of" his contemporaries, it would have required
the life of Old Parr to complete it and the patience of Job to read it
through. The necessity of a hero is a necessity felt by all the nobler
sort of writers. But the choice of William of Orange for the purpose
was, to say the least, unlucky; and the low morality which he had
himself, in an earlier work, confessed as to the statesmen of the period
imparted an additional stimulus to the historian's natural tendency to
be unfair to his political opponents, in the vain hope, by deepening the
blacks, to get a sort of whiteness upon the grays. It has further to be
confessed that independent examination of separate points is not very
favourable to Macaulay's trustworthiness. He never tells a falsehood;
but he not seldom contrives to convey one, and he constantly conceals
the truth. Still, the general picture is so vivid and stimulating, the
mastery of materials is so consummate, and the beauty of occasional
passages--the story of Monmouth's Conspiracy, that of James' insane
persecution of Magdalen College, that of the Trial of the Seven Bishops,
that of the Siege of Londonderry--so seductive, that the most hostile
criticism which is not prepared to shut eyes and ears to anything but
faults cannot refuse admiration. And it ought not to be omitted that
Macaulay was practically the first historian who not merely examined the
literature of his subject with unfailing care and attention, but took
the trouble to inspect the actual places with the zeal of a topographer
or an antiquary. That this added greatly to the vividness and
picturesque character of his descriptions need hardly be said; that it
often resulted in a distinct gain to historical knowledge is certain.
But perhaps not its least merit was the putting down in a practically
imperishable form, and in the clearest possible manner, of a vast number
of interesting details which time is only too quick to sweep away. The
face of England has changed more since Macaulay's time, though a bare
generation since, than it had changed in the four or five generations
between the day of his theme and his own; and thus he rescued for us at
once the present and the past.

It is almost impossible to imagine a greater contrast between two
contemporaries of the same nation, both men of letters of the first
rank, than that which exists between Thomas Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle.
In the subjects to which both had affinity there was a rather remarkable
connection. Macaulay's education rather than his sympathies made him
something of a master of at least the formal part of poetry, in which
Carlyle could do nothing. But essentially they were both writers of
prose; they were both men in whom the historico-politico-social
interests were much greater than the purely literary, the purely
artistic, or the purely scientific--though just as Carlyle was a bad
verse-writer or none at all, Macaulay a good one, so Carlyle was a good
mathematician, Macaulay a bad one or none at all. But in the point of
view from which they regarded the subjects with which they dealt, and in
the style in which they treated them, they were poles asunder. Indeed it
may be questioned whether "the style is the point of view" would not be
a better form of the famous deliverance than that which, in full or
truncated form, has obtained currency.

Carlyle was born on the 4th December 1795 at Ecclefechan (the Entepfuhl
of the _Sartor_), in Dumfriesshire, being the son of a stone-mason. He
was educated first at the parish school, then at that of Annan (the
nearest town), and was about fifteen when he was sent, in the usual way
of Scotch boys with some wits and no money, to the University of
Edinburgh. His destination was equally of course the Church, but he very
early developed that dislike to all fixed formularies which
characterised him through life, and which perhaps was not his greatest
characteristic. To mathematics, on the other hand, he took pretty
kindly, though he seems to have early exhausted the fascinations of
them. Like most men of no means who have little fancy for any of the
regular professions, he attempted teaching; and as a schoolmaster at
Annan, Haddington, and Kirkcaldy, or a private tutor (his chief
experience in which art was with Charles Buller), he spent no small
number of years, doing also some hack-work in the way of translating,
writing for Brewster's _Encyclopædia_, and contributing to the _London
Magazine_, that short-lived but fertile nurse of genius. The most
remarkable of these productions was the _Life of Schiller_, which was
published as a volume in 1825, his thirtieth year, at which time he was
a resident in London and a frequenter--a not too amiable one--of
Coleridge's circle at Highgate and of other literary places.

The most important event in his life took place in 1826, when he married
Miss Jane Welsh, a young lady who traced her descent to John Knox, who
had some property, who had a genius of her own, and who was all the more
determined to marry a man of genius. She had hesitated between Irving
and Carlyle, and, whatever came of it, there can be no doubt that she
was right in preferring the somewhat uncouth and extremely undeveloped
tutor who had taught her several things,--whether love in the proper
sense was among them or not will always be a moot point. The _Edinburgh
Review_ was kind to Carlyle after its fashion, and he wrote for it; but
Jeffrey, though very well disposed both to Carlyle and to his wife,
could not endure the changes which soon came on his style, and might
have addressed the celebrated query which, as mentioned, just at the
same time he addressed in delighted surprise to Macaulay, "Where did you
get that style," to Carlyle in the identical words but with a very
different meaning. Even had it been different, it was impossible that
Carlyle should serve anywhere or any one; and his mind, not an early
ripening one, was even yet, at the age of thirty-two, in a very
unorganised condition. He resolved to retire to his wife's farm of
Craigenputtock in Nithsdale; and Mrs. Carlyle had the almost
unparalleled heroism to consent to this. For it must be remembered that
her husband, with the exception of the revenue of a few essays, was
living on her means, that he undertook no professional duties, and that
in the farmhouse she had to perform those of a servant as well as those
of a wife. Whatever other opinions may be passed on this episode of
Carlyle's life, which lasted from 1828 to 1834, there can be no doubt
that it "made" him. He did much positive work there, including all his
best purely literary essays. There he wrote _Sartor Resartus_, his
manifesto and proclamation, a wild book which, to its eternal honour,
_Fraser's Magazine_ accepted, probably under the influence of Lockhart,
with whom, strangely different as they were, Carlyle was always on good,
though never on intimate terms. There too was written great part of the
earlier form of the _French Revolution_. But the greatest thing that he
did at Craigenputtock was the thorough fermentation, clearing, and
settling of himself. When he went there, at nearly thirty-three, it was
more uncertain what would come of him than it is in the case of many a
man when he leaves the University at three and twenty. When he left it,
at close on his fortieth year, the drama of his literary life was
complete, though only a few lines of it were written.

That drama lasted in actual time for forty-seven years longer; and for
more than the first thirty of them fresh and ever fresh acts and scenes
carried it on. For the public his place was taken once and for all by
the _History of the French Revolution_, which, after alarming
vicissitudes (John Stuart Mill having borrowed the first volume in MS.
and lent it to a lady, to be destroyed by her housemaid), appeared in
1837. From at least that time Mrs. Carlyle's aspiration was fulfilled.
There were gain-sayers of course,--it may almost be said that genius
which is not gainsaid is not genius,--there were furious decriers of
style, temper, and so forth. But nine out of every ten men at least
whose opinion was worth taking knew that a new star of the first
magnitude had been added to English literature, however much they might
think its rays in some respects baleful.

Lecturing, after the example set chiefly by Coleridge and Hazlitt, was
at this time a favourite resource for those men of letters whose line
of composition was not of the gainfulest; and Carlyle delivered several
courses, some of which are unreported while others survive only in
inadequate shapes. But _Heroes and Hero-Worship_ was at first delivered
orally, though it was not printed till 1841; and about the same time, or
rather earlier, appeared the _Miscellaneous Essays_--a collection of his
work at its freshest, least mannered, most varied, and in some respects
best. _Chartism_ (1839) and _Past and Present_ (1843) reflected the
political problems of the time and Carlyle's interest in them. But it
was not till 1845 that a second, in the ordinary sense, great work,
_Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches_, was published. Five years
passed without anything substantive from him, but in 1850 appeared
_Latter-Day Pamphlets_, the most brilliantly satiric, and in 1851 the
softest, most finished, and (save theologically) least debatable of all
his books, the exquisite biography in miniature called the _Life of
Sterling_. Then he engaged, it is difficult to say whether by ill-luck
or not, on the last and largest of his great single undertakings, the
_History of Frederick the Great_. Fourteen years were passed, as a
matter of composition, in "the valley of the shadow of Frederick," as
his wife put it: half the time (from 1858 to 1865) saw the actual
publication. Shortly after the completion of this, Carlyle visited
Edinburgh to receive the Lord Rectorship of his University, and soon
after his wife died. He survived her fifteen years, but did nothing more
of great importance; indeed, he was seventy-one when this loss happened.
Some short things on "John Knox," on "The Early Kings of Norway," and a
famous letter on "Shooting Niagara" (the Reform Bill of 1867), with a
few more, appeared; but he was chiefly occupied (as far as he was
occupied at all) in writing reminiscences, and arranging memorials of
Mrs. Carlyle. The publication of these books after his death by the late
Mr. Froude led to a violent conflict of opinion both as to the propriety
of the publication and as to the character of Carlyle himself.

This conflict fortunately concerns us but little here. It is certain
that Carlyle--springing from the lower ranks of society, educated
excellently as far as the intellect was concerned, but without attention
to such trifles as the habit (which his future wife early remarked in
him) of putting bread and butter in his tea, a martyr from very early
years to dyspepsia, fostering a retiring spirit and not too social
temper, thoroughly convinced that the times were out of joint and not at
all thoroughly convinced that he or any one could set them right,
finally possessed of an intensely religious nature which by accident or
waywardness had somehow thrown itself out of gear with religion--was not
a happy man himself or likely to make any one else happy who lived with
him. But it is certain also that both in respect to his wife and to
those men, famous or not famous, of whom he has left too often unkindly
record, his bark was much worse than his bite. And it is further certain
that Mrs. Carlyle was no down-trodden drudge, but a woman of brains
almost as alert as her husband's and a tongue almost as sharp as his,
who had deliberately made her election of the vocation of being "wife to
a man of genius," and who received what she had bargained for to the
uttermost farthing. There will always be those who will think that Mr.
Froude, doubtless with the best intentions, made a very great mistake;
that, at any rate for many years after Carlyle's death, only a strictly
genuine but judicious selection of the Reminiscences and Memorials
should have been published, or else that the whole should have been
worked into a real biography in which the frame and setting could have
given the relief that the text required. But already, after more than
the due voices, there is some peace on the subject; and a temporary wave
of neglect, partly occasioned by this very controversy, was to be
expected.

That this wave will pass may be asserted with a fulness and calmness of
assurance not to be surpassed in any similar case. Carlyle's influence
during a great part of the second and the whole of the third quarter of
this century was so enormous, his life was so prolonged, and the general
tone of public thought and public policy which has prevailed since some
time before his death has been so adverse to his temper, that the
reaction which is all but inevitable in all cases was certain to be
severe in his. And if this were a history of thought instead of being a
history of the verbal expression of thought, it would be possible and
interesting to explain this reaction, and to forecast the certain
rebound from it. As it is, however, we have to do with Carlyle as a man
of letters only; and if his position as the greatest English man of
letters of the century in prose be disputed, it will generally be found
that the opposition is due to some not strictly literary cause, while it
is certain that any competitor who is set up can be dislodged by a
fervent and well-equipped Carlylian without very much difficulty.

He has been classed here as a historian, and though the bulk of his work
is very great and its apparent variety considerable, it will be found
that history and her sister biography, even when his subjects bore an
appearance of difference, always in reality engaged his attention. His
three greatest books, containing more than half his work in bulk,--_The
French Revolution_, the _Cromwell_, and the _Frederick_,--are all openly
and avowedly historical. The _Schiller_ and the _Sterling_ are
biographies; the _Sartor Resartus_ a fantastic autobiography. Nearly all
the _Essays_, even those which are most literary in subject--all the
_Lectures on Heroes_, the greater part of _Past and Present_, _The Early
Kings of Norway_, the _John Knox_, are more or less plainly and strictly
historical or biographical. Even _Chartism_, the non-antique part of
_Past and Present_, and the _Latter-Day Pamphlets_, deal with politics
in the sense in which politics are the principal agent in making
history, regard them constantly and almost solely in their actual or
probable effect on the life-story of the nation, and to no small extent
of its individual members. Out of the historic relation of nation or
individual Carlyle would very rarely attempt to place, and hardly ever
succeeded in placing, any thing or person. He could not in the least
judge literature--of which he was so great a practitioner always, and
sometimes so great a judge--from the point of view of form: he would
have scorned to do so, and did scorn those who did so. His deficiencies
in abstract philosophy, whether political, theological, metaphysical,
or other, arise directly from this--that he could never contemplate any
of these things as abstract, but only in the common conduct of men
towards their fellows, towards themselves, and towards God. For Carlyle
never "forgot God," though he might speak unadvisedly with his lips of
other men's ways of remembering Him. The "human document," as later
slang has it, was in effect the only thing that interested him; and he
was content to employ it in constructing human history. More than once
he put his idea of this history formally under a formal title. But his
entire work is a much better exposition of that idea than these
particular essays; and it is not easy to open any page of it in which
the idea itself is not vividly illustrated and enforced upon the reader.

But once more, this is no place for even a summary, much less for a
discussion, of the much discussed Carlylian "Gospel of Work"; of its
apostle's less vague, but also less disputable, condemnations of shams
and cants; or of the innumerable applications and uses to which he put
these doctrines. The important thing for our purpose is that these
applications took form in thirty volumes of the most brilliant, the most
stimulating, the most varied, the most original work in English
literature. The titles of this work have been given; to give here any
notion of their contents would take the chapter. Carlyle could be--as in
the _Cromwell_, where he sets himself and confines himself to the double
task of elucidating his hero's rugged or crafty obscurities of speech
and writing and of piecing them into a connected history, or where he
wrestles with the huge accumulation of documents about Frederick--as
practical as the driest of Dry-as-dusts. But others could equal, though
few surpass him, in this. Where he stands alone is in a fantastic
fertility of divagation and comment which is as much his own as the
clear, neat directness of Macaulay is his. Much of it is due to his
gospel, or temper, or whatever it is to be called, of earnest suasion to
work and scornful denunciation of cant; something to his wide reading
and apt faculty of illustration; but most to his style.

In the early days of his unpopularity this style used to be abused with
heat or dismissed with scorn as mere falsetto, copied to a great extent
from Richter. It is certain that in Carlyle's very earliest works there
is small trace of it; and that he writes in a fashion not very
startlingly different from that of any well-read and well-taught author
of his time. And it is certain also that it was after his special
addiction to German studies that the new manner appeared. Yet it is very
far indeed from being copied from any single model, or even from any
single language; and a great deal that is in it is not German at all.
Something may even be traced to our own more fantastic writers in the
seventeenth century, such as Sir Thomas Urquhart in Scotland and Sir
Roger L'Estrange in England; much to a Scottish fervour and quaintness
blending itself with and utilising a wider range of reading than had
been usual with Scotsmen; most to the idiosyncrasy of the individual.

Carlyle's style is not seldom spoken of as compact of tricks and
manners; and no doubt these are present in it. Yet a narrow inspection
will show that its effect is by no means due so much in reality as in
appearance to the retaining of capital letters, the violent breaches and
aposiopeses, the omission of pronouns and colourless parts of speech
generally, the coining of new words, and the introduction of unusual
forms. These things are often there, but they are not always; and even
when they are, there is something else much more important, much more
characteristic, but also much harder to put the finger on. There is in
Carlyle's fiercer and more serious passages a fiery glow of enthusiasm
or indignation, in his lighter ones a quaint felicity of unexpected
humour, in his expositions a vividness of presentment, in his arguments
a sledge-hammer force, all of which are not to be found together
anywhere else, and none of which is to be found anywhere in quite the
same form. And despite the savagery, both of his indignation and his
laughter, there is no greater master of tenderness. Wherever he is at
home, and he seldom wanders far from it, the weapon of Carlyle is like
none other,--it is the very sword of Goliath.

And this sword pierces to the joints and marrow as no other of the
second division of our authors of the nineteenth century proper pierces,
with the exception of that of Tennyson in verse. It is possible to
disagree with Carlyle intensely; perhaps it is not possible to agree
with him in any detailed manner, unless the agreer be somewhat destitute
of individual taste and judgment. But on his whole aspect and tendency,
reserving individual expressions, he is, as few are, great. The
_diathesis_ is there--the general disposition towards noble and high
things. The expression is there--the capacity of putting what is felt
and meant in a manner always contemptuous of mediocrity, yet seldom
disdainful of common sense. To speak on the best things in an original
way, in a distinguished style, is the privilege of the elect in
literature; and none of those who were born within, or closely upon, the
beginning of the century has had these gifts in English as have the
authors of _The Lotos Eaters_ and _Sartor Resartus_.

Only one other writer of history during the century, himself the latest
to die of his generation except Mr. Ruskin, deserves, for the union of
historical and literary merit, to be placed, if not on a level with
Macaulay and Carlyle, yet not far below them; but a not inconsiderable
number of historians and biographers of value who distinguished
themselves about or since the middle of the century must be chronicled
more or less briefly. Two Scottish scholars of eminence, both in turn
Historiographers Royal of Scotland, John Hill Burton and William Forbes
Skene, were born in the same year, 1809. Burton, who died in 1881,
busied himself with the history of his country at large, beginning with
the period since the Revolution, and tackling the earlier and more
distinctively national time afterwards. He was not a very good writer,
but displayed very great industry and learning with a sound and
impartial judgment. Skene, on the other hand, was the greatest authority
of his time (he lived till 1892) on "Celtic Scotland," which is the
title of his principal book. In the same year (or in 1808) was born
Charles Merivale, afterwards Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge,
and Dean of Ely, who, besides other work, established himself in the
same class of historians with Hallam and Milman, Thirlwall and Grote, by
his extensive _History of the Romans under the Empire_. On the whole,
Merivale (who died in 1894) ranks, both for historical and literary
gifts, somewhat below the other members of this remarkable group--a
position which is still a very honourable one.

Shortly after these three was born Alexander Kinglake (1811-1891)--a man
of very remarkable talents, but something of a "terrible example" in
regard to the practice, which has already been noticed as characteristic
of the century, of devoting enormously long histories to special
subjects and points. Kinglake, who was a native of Somerset, an Eton and
Cambridge man, a barrister subsequently, for some years a Member of
Parliament, and a man of independent means, first distinguished himself
in letters by the very brilliant and popular book of travels in the East
called _Eothen_ which was published in 1847. That there is something of
manner and trick about this is not to be denied; but it must be allowed
that the trick and manner have been followed, apparently with success,
in travel-writing for about half a century, while it cannot be fairly
said that Kinglake himself had any exact models, though he may have owed
something to Beckford and a little to Sterne. It is not very easy to say
whether Kinglake's literary reputation would have stood higher or lower
if he had written nothing else; but as a matter of fact, before many
years were over, he attempted a much more ambitious task in the _History
of the Crimean War_, the first two volumes of which appeared in 1863,
though the book was not finished till twenty years later. That this
history shows no small literary faculties no competent judge can deny.
The art of word-painting--a dubious and dangerous art--is pushed to
almost its furthest limits; the writer has a wonderful gift of combining
the minutest and most numerous details into an orderly and intelligible
whole; and the quality which the French untranslatably call _diable au
corps_, or, as we more pedantically say, "dæmonic energy," is present
everywhere. But the book is monstrously out of proportion,--a single
battle has something like an entire volume, and the events of some two
years occupy eight,--and, clear as the individual pictures are, the
panorama is of such endless length that the mind's eye retains no proper
notion of it. In the second place, the style, though brilliant, is hard
and brassy, full of points that are more suitable to the platform or the
newspaper than to the historic page,--not so much polished as varnished,
and after a short time intolerably fatiguing. In the third,--and this is
the gravest fault of all,--the author's private or patriotic likes or
dislikes pervade the whole performance and reduce too much of it to a
tissue of extravagant advocacy or depreciation, made more disgusting by
the repetition of catch phrases and pet labels somewhat after the manner
of Dickens. Sir Stratford Canning, "the great Eltchi," is one of
Kinglake's divinities, Lord Raglan another; and an acute and energetic,
but not quite heaven-born diplomatist, a most honest, modest, and in
difficult circumstances steadfast, if not always judicious soldier,
become, the one Marlborough in the council-chamber, the other
Marlborough in the field. On the other hand, for this or that reason,
Mr. Kinglake had taken a violent dislike to the Emperor Napoleon the
Third, and affected, as did some other English Liberals, to consider the
_coup d'état_ as not merely a dubious piece of statecraft, but a hideous
and abominable crime. Consequently, he abused all those who took part in
it with tedious virulence, which has probably made not a few Englishmen
look on them with much more leniency than they deserved. In short,
Kinglake, with many of the qualities of the craftsman in an
extraordinary degree, was almost entirely deficient in those of the
artist. He served as a favourite example to Mr. Matthew Arnold of the
deficiency of the British literary temper in accomplishment and grace,
and it cannot be denied that Mr. Arnold's strictures were here justified
to an extent which was not always the case when he assumed the office of
censor.

John Forster, who was born a year later than Kinglake, and died fifteen
years before him, was an industrious writer of biographies and
biographical history, the friend of a good many men of letters, editor
for many years of the _Examiner_, and secretary to the Lunacy
Commissioners. He paid particular attention to the period of the
Rebellion; his _Arrest of the Five Members_ being his chief work, among
several devoted to it. He wrote a _Life of Goldsmith_, and began one of
Swift. In contemporary biography his chief performances were lives of
Landor and of Dickens, with both of whom he was extremely intimate. In
private life Forster had the character of a bumptious busybody, which
character indeed the two books just mentioned, even without the
anecdotes abundant in more recent books of biography, abundantly
establish. And towards the men of letters with whom he was intimate
(Carlyle and Browning may be added to Landor and Dickens) he seems to
have behaved like a Boswell-Podsnap, while in the latter half of the
character he no doubt sat to Dickens himself. But he was an
indefatigable literary inquirer, and seems, in a patronising kind of
way, to have been liberal enough of the result of his inquiries. He had
a real interest both in history and literature, and he wrote fairly
enough.

One of the most curious figures among the historians of this century was
Henry Thomas Buckle, who was born near Blackheath in 1823, and privately
educated. He had ample means, and was fond of books; and in 1857 he
brought out the first volume (which was followed by a second in 1861) of
a _History of Civilisation_. He did not nearly complete--in fact he only
began--his scheme, in which the European part was ultimately intended to
be subordinate to the English, and he died of typhus at Damascus in May
1862. The book attained at once, and for some time kept, an
extraordinary popularity, which has been succeeded by a rather unjust
depreciation. Both are to be accounted for by the fact that it is in
many ways a book rather of the French than of the English type, and
displays in fuller measure than almost any of Buckle's contemporaries in
France itself, with the possible exception of Taine, could boast, the
frank and fearless, some would say the headlong and headstrong, habit
of generalisation--scorning particulars, or merely impressing into
service such as are useful to it and drumming the others out--on which
Frenchmen pride themselves, and for the lack of which they are apt to
pronounce English historians, and indeed English men of letters of all
kinds, plodding and unilluminated craftsmen rather than artists. In
Buckle's reflections on Spain and Scotland, he accounts for the whole
history of both countries and the whole character of both peoples by
local conditions in the first place, and by forms of civil and
ecclesiastical government. In respect to these last, his views were
crude Voltairianism; but perhaps this is the best and most
characteristic example of his method. He was extremely prejudiced; his
lack of solid disciplinary education made him unapt to understand the
true force and relative value of his facts and arguments; and as his
premises are for the most part capriciously selected facts cemented
together with an untempered mortar of theory, his actual conclusions are
rarely of much value. But his style is clear and vigorous; the
aggressive _raiding_ character of his argument is agreeably stimulating,
and excellent to make his readers clear up their minds on the other
side; while the dread of over-generalisation, however healthy in itself,
has been so long a dominant force in English letters and philosophy that
a little excess the other way might be decidedly useful as an
alterative. The worst fault of Buckle was the Voltairianism above
referred to, causing or caused by, as is always the case, a deplorable
lack of taste, which is not confined to religious matters.

Edward Augustus Freeman, who was a little younger than Buckle and
survived him for thirty years, had some points in common with the
historian of civilisation, though his education, interests, and tone in
reference to religion were wholly different. Mr. Freeman, who was not at
any public school but was a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, very soon
devoted himself to the study of early English history, and secured a
durable position by his elaborate _History of the Norman Conquest_
(1867-76), which, even though the largest and most important, was only
one among scores of works, ending in an unfinished _History of Sicily_.
He was, when he died in 1892, Regius Professor of Modern History at
Oxford, and he had for many years been very influential in determining
the course of historical study. He was also, for many years of his life,
an active journalist, being especially known as a contributor to the
_Saturday Review_, and he sometimes took a very busy part in politics.
Mr. Freeman was a student of untiring energy, and will always deserve
honourable memory as the first historian who recognised and utilised the
value of architecture in supplying historical documents and
illustrations. His style was at times picturesque but too diffuse, and
disfigured by a habit of allusion as teasing as Macaulay's antithesis or
Kinglake's stock phrases. That he was apt to pronounce very strong
opinions on almost any question with which he dealt, was perhaps a less
drawback to his excellence as a historian than the violently
controversial tone in which he was wont to deal with those who happened
to hold opinions different from his own. Putting defects of manner
aside, there is no question that, for his own special period of English
history (the eleventh and twelfth centuries), Mr. Freeman did more than
any man had done before him, and as much as any man has done for any
other period; while in relation to his further subjects of study, his
work, though less trustworthy, is full of stimulus and of information.

His chief pupil John Richard Green, who was born in 1837 and died of
consumption in 1883, was a native of Oxford, and was educated there at
Magdalen College School and Jesus College. Mr. Green, like Mr. Freeman,
was a frequent contributor to the _Saturday Review_, and did some
clerical duty in the east of London; but he is best known by his
historical work on English subjects, especially the famous _Short
History of the English People_, perhaps the most popular work of its
class and kind ever written. Mr. Green professed, on a principle which
had been growing in favour for some time, to extend the usual conception
of historical dealing to social, literary, and other matters. These,
however, had never as a fact been overlooked by historians, and the
popularity of the book was chiefly due to its judicious selection of
interesting facts, to the spirit of the narrative, and to the style,
based partly on Macaulay, but infused with a modernness which exactly
hit the taste of the readers of our time. Mr. Green afterwards expanded
this book somewhat; and his early death cut short a series of more
extended monographs, _The Making of England_, _The Conquest of England_,
etc., which would have enabled him to display the minute knowledge on
which his more summary treatment of the general theme had been based.

Among historians to whom in larger space more extended notice than is
here possible would have to be given, perhaps the first place is due to
Philip Henry, sixth Earl Stanhope (1805-75), who (chiefly under the
title of Lord Mahon, which he bore before his succession to the earldom
in 1855) was an active historical writer of great diligence and
impartiality, and possessed of a fair though not very distinguished
style. The first notable work,--a _History of the War of the Succession
in Spain_ (1832),--of Lord Stanhope (who was an Oxford man, took some
part in politics, and was a devoted Peelite) was reviewed by Macaulay,
and he wrote later several other and minor historical books. But his
reputation rests on his _History of Europe from the Peace of Utrecht to
the Peace of Versailles_, which occupied him for some twenty years,
finishing in 1854. Very much less known to the general, but of singular
ability, was William Johnson or Cory, who under the earlier name had
attracted considerable public attention as an Eton master and as author
of a small but remarkable volume of poems called _Ionica_. After his
retirement from Eton and the change of his name, Mr. Cory amused himself
with the composition of a _History of England_, or rather a long essay
thereon, which was very little read and falls completely out of the
ordinary conception of such a book, but is distinguished by an
exceptionally good and scholarly style, as well as by views and
expressions of great originality. Many others must pass wholly unnoticed
that we may finish this chapter with one capital name.

One of the greatest historians of the century, except for one curious
and unfortunate defect, and (without any drawback) one of the greatest
writers of English prose during that century, was James Anthony Froude,
who was born at Dartington near Totnes in 1818, on 23rd April
(Shakespeare's birthday and St. George's Day), and died in 1894 at the
Molt near Salcombe in his native county. Mr. Froude (the youngest son of
the Archdeacon of Totnes and the brother of Richard Hurrell Froude who
played so remarkable a part in the Oxford Movement, and of William
Froude the distinguished naval engineer) was a Westminster boy, and went
to Oriel College, Oxford, afterwards obtaining a fellowship at Exeter.
Like his elder brother he engaged in the Tractarian Movement, and was
specially under the influence of Newman, taking orders in 1844. The
great convulsion, however, of Newman's secession sent him, not as it
sent some with Newman, but like Mark Pattison and a few more, into
scepticism if not exactly negation, on all religious matters. He put his
change of opinions (he had previously written under the pseudonym of
"Zeta" a novel called _Shadows of the Clouds_) into a book entitled _The
Nemesis of Faith_, published in 1849, resigned his fellowship, gave up
or lost (to his great good fortune) a post which had been offered him in
Tasmania, and betook himself to literature, being very much, except in
point of style, under the influence of Carlyle. He wrote for _Fraser_,
the _Westminster_, and other periodicals; but was not content with
fugitive compositions, and soon planned a _History of England from the
Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Armada_. The first volumes of this
appeared in 1856, and it was finished in 1869. Meanwhile Froude from
time to time collected his essays into volumes called _Short Studies_,
which contain some of his very best writing. His next large work was
_The English in Ireland_, which was published in three volumes
(1871-74). In 1874-75 Lord Carnarvon sent him on Government missions to
the Cape, an importation of a French practice into England which was not
very well justified by the particular instance. Between 1881 and 1884 he
was occupied as Carlyle's literary executor in issuing his biographical
remains. Later _Oceana_ and _The English in the West Indies_ contained
at once sketches of travel and political reflections; and in 1889 he
published an Irish historical romance, _The Two Chiefs of Dunboy_. He
was made Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in succession to
Mr. Freeman, and his two latest works, _Erasmus_, published just before,
and _English Seamen_ some months after his death, contain in part the
results of the appointment.

It is a vulgar observation that the natural element of some men appears
to be hot water. No English author of the century justifies this better
than Mr. Froude. His early change of faith attracted to him a very
considerable share of the obloquy which usually (and perhaps not so
unreasonably as is sometimes thought) attaches to violent revolutions of
opinion on important points. His _History_ was no sooner published than
most acrimonious attacks were made upon it, and continued for many
years, by a school of historical students with the late Mr. Freeman at
their head. His Irish book, coinciding with the rise of "Home Rule"
sentiment in Ireland, brought upon him furious enmity from the Irish
Nationalist party and from those who, at first or by and by, sympathised
with them in England. His colonial visits and criticisms not merely
attracted to him the animosity of all those Englishmen who espoused the
politics of non-intervention and non-aggrandisement, but aroused lively
irritation in the Colonies themselves. About his discharge of his duties
as Carlyle's executor, a perfect tempest of indignation arose; it being
alleged that he had either carelessly, or through bad taste, or with
deliberate treachery, revealed his dead friend's and master's weaknesses
and domestic troubles to the public view.

With some of the causes of this odium we are fortunately here dispensed
from dealing. Theological and political matters, in so far as they are
controversial, are altogether outside of our scope. The question of the
dealing with Carlyle's "Remains" is one rather of ethics than of
literature proper, and it is perhaps sufficient to make, in reference to
it, the warning observation that Lockhart, who is now considered by
almost all competent critics as a very pattern of the union of fidelity
and good taste towards both his subject and his readers, was accused, at
the appearance of his book, of treachery towards Scott.

But it must be confessed that if Mr. Froude's critics were unfair (and
they certainly were) he himself gave only too abundant opening to fair
criticism. That his first great book (not perhaps any of his others) was
planned on an unduly large scale, and indulged in far too extensive
dissertation, divagation, and so forth, was rather the fault of his time
than of himself. Grote and Macaulay had obtained, the first
considerable, the latter immense popularity by similar prolixity; and
Carlyle was about, in the _Frederick_, to follow the fashion. But
whereas all these three, according to the information open to them, were
and are among the most painfully laborious researchers and, with a fair
allowance, the most faithful recorders among historians, Mr. Froude
displayed an attention to accuracy which his warmest admirers must allow
to be sadly, and which enemies asserted to be scandalously insufficient.
He has been called by well-affected critics "congenitally inaccurate,"
and there is warrant for it. Nor did any one of his three great models
come short of him in partiality, in advocacy, in the determination to
make the reader accept his own view first of all.

He was, in the earlier part of his career at any rate, a very poor man,
whereas Macaulay was in easy, and Grote in affluent circumstances, and
he had not Carlyle's Scotch thrift. But the carelessness of his dealing
with documents had more in it than lack of pence to purchase assistance,
or even than lack of dogged resolve to do the drudgery himself. His
enemies of course asserted, or hinted, that the added cause was
dishonesty at the worst, indifference to truth at the best. As far as
dishonesty goes they may be summarily non-suited. The present writer
once detected, in a preface of Mr. Froude's to a book with which the
introducer was thoroughly in sympathy, repeated errors of quotation or
allusion which actually weakened Mr. Froude's own argument--cases where
he made his own case worse by miscitation. To the very last, in his
_Erasmus_ itself, which he had prepared at some pains for the press, his
work would always abound in the most astonishing slips of memory,
oversights of fact, hastinesses of statement. There is probably no
historian of anything like his calibre in the whole history of
literature who is so dangerous to trust for mere matters of fact, who
gives such bad books of reference, who is so little to be read with
implicit confidence in detail. Had his critics confined themselves to
pointing this out, and done him justice in his other and real merits,
little fault could have been found with them. But it is impossible not
to see that these merits were, at least in some cases, part of his
crime, in the eyes of those who did not like him; in others were of a
kind which their natural abilities did not qualify them to detect.

The first of these merits--the least it may be in some eyes, not so in
others--was a steadfast, intense, fiery patriotism, which may remind us
of that which Macaulay in a famous passage has ascribed to Chatham in
modern times and to Demosthenes of old. This quality differed as much
from the flowery and conventional rhetoric not uncommon in writers of
some foreign nations, as from the smug self-satisfaction which was so
frequent in English speakers and authors of his own earlier time. No one
probably of Mr. Froude's day was less blind to English faults than he
was; no one more thoroughly grasped and more ardently admired the
greatness of England, or more steadfastly did his utmost in his own
vocation to keep her great.

His second excellence--an excellence still contested and in a way
contestable, but less subject than the first to personal and particular
opinion--was his command of the historic grasp, his share of the
historic sense. I have seen these terms referred to as if they were
chatter or claptrap; while the qualities which they denote are very
often confounded with qualities which, sometimes found in connection
with them, may exist without either. The historic sense may be roughly
described as the power of seizing, and so of portraying, a historic
character, incident, or period as if it were alive not dead; in such a
manner that the fit reader, whether he is convinced or not that the
things ever did happen, sees that they might and probably must have
happened. Some of the most estimable and excellent of historians have
not had even a glimmering of this sense: they have at best laboriously
assembled the materials out of which, sooner or later, some one with the
sense will make a live history. But Thucydides and Herodotus had it;
Tacitus had it, and even Sallust; it betrays itself in the most artless
fashion in Villehardouin and Joinville, less artlessly in Comines;
Clarendon had it; Gibbon had it; Carlyle had it as none has had it
before or since. And Mr. Froude had it; not much less though more
fitfully than Carlyle. It is not in the least necessary to agree with
his views; it is possible to regard his facts with the most anxious
suspicion. You may think that the case made out for King Henry is pretty
weak, and the case made out against Queen Mary is much weaker. But Mr.
Froude is among the rare Deucalions of historic literature: he cannot
cast a stone but it becomes alive.

Thirdly, and still rising in the scale of incontestability, though even
so contested, I believe, by some, is the merit of style. I have
sometimes doubted whether Mr. Froude at his best has any superior among
the prose writers of the last half of this century. His is not a
catching style; and in particular it does not perhaps impress itself
upon green tastes. It has neither the popular and slightly brusque
appeal of Macaulay or Kinglake, nor the unique magnificence of Mr.
Ruskin, nor the fretted and iridescent delicacy of some other writers.
It must be frankly confessed that, the bulk of his work being very great
and his industry not being untiring, it is unequal, and sometimes not
above (it is never below) good journey-work. But at its best it is of a
simply wonderful attraction--simply in the pure sense, for it is never
very ornate, and does not proceed in point of "tricks" much beyond the
best varieties of the latest Georgian form. That strange quality of
"liveliness" which has been noticed in reference to its author's view of
history, animates it throughout. It is never flat; never merely
popular; never merely scholarly; never merely "precious" and eccentric.
And at its very best it is excelled by no style in this century, and
approached by few in this or any other, as a perfect harmony of
unpretentious music, adjusted to the matter that it conveys, and
lingering on the ear that it reaches.

     NOTE.--As examples of the almost enforced omissions referred
     to in the text may be mentioned earlier Archdeacon Coxe, the
     biographer of Marlborough and the historian of the House of
     Austria; later, Finlay (1799-1875), the valiant successor of
     Gibbon, and the chronicler of the obscure and thankless
     fortunes of the country called Greece, after it had ceased
     to be living. Professor Sir J. R. Seeley, Kingsley's
     successor at Cambridge (1834-94), equally distinguished in
     his professional business, and as a lay theologian in a
     sense rather extra-orthodox than unorthodox; and Sir John
     Stirling-Maxwell, no mean historian either in the general
     sense or in the special department of Art. It is open to any
     one to contend that each and all of these as well deserve
     notice as not a few dealt with above; yet if they were
     admitted others still could hardly be excluded.



CHAPTER VI

THE SECOND POETICAL PERIOD


The second period of English poetry in the nineteenth century displays a
variety and abundance of poetical accomplishment which must rank it very
little below either its immediate predecessor, or even the great
so-called Elizabethan era. But it is distinguished from both these
periods, and, indeed, from almost all others by the extraordinary
predominance of a single poet in excellence, in influence, and in
duration. There is probably no other instance anywhere of a poet who for
more than sixty years wrote better poetry than any one of his
contemporaries who were not very old men when he began, and for exactly
fifty of those years was recognised by the best judges as the chief poet
of his country if not of his time.

Alfred Tennyson was born in 1809 at Somersby, in Lincolnshire, where his
father, a member of a good county family, was rector. He was the third
son, and his two elder brothers, Frederick and Charles, both possessed
considerable poetical gifts, though it cannot be said that the _Poems by
Two Brothers_ (it seems that it should really have been "three"), which
appeared in 1826, display much of this or anything whatever of Alfred's
subsequent charm. From the Grammar School of Louth the poet went to
Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was contemporary, and in most cases
intimate, with an unusually distinguished set of undergraduates, many of
whom afterwards figured in the famous Sterling Club (see chapter iv). He
also did what not many great future poets have done, he obtained the
Chancellor's prize for English verse with a poem on "Timbuctoo," where
again his special note is almost, though perhaps not quite, absent: it
appears faintly and fitfully in another juvenile poem not formally
published till long afterwards, "The Lover's Tale."

It was in 1830 that he made his first substantive appearance with a book
of _Poems_. This volume was afterwards subjected to a severe handling by
the poet in the way of revision and omission--processes which through
life he continued with such perseverance and rigour, that the final
critical edition of him, when it appears, will be one of the most
complicated of the kind in English literature. So did he also with
another which appeared two years (or a little more) later. It is not
therefore quite just to judge the criticism which these books received,
by the present condition of the poems which figured in them; for though
most of the beauties were there then, they were accompanied by many
defects which are not there now. Criticism, however, was undoubtedly
unfavourable, and even unfair. Although Tennyson was not, either at this
time or at any other, a party politician, the two great Tory
periodicals, the _Quarterly Review_ and _Blackwood's Magazine_, were
still animated, the former by a dislike to the Romantic school in
poetry, the latter by a dislike to "Cockneys"--though how anybody could
have discovered a Cockney in Tennyson may seem marvellous enough.
Accordingly Lockhart in the one and Wilson in the other fell foul
(though in Wilson's case, at least, not indiscriminately) of work which
beyond all question offered very numerous and very convenient handles,
in ways which will be mentioned presently, to merely carping criticism.
Some attempts at reply were made by the poet's friends, notably A. H.
Hallam, but the public did not take to him, and even well-affected and
competent older judges, such as Coleridge, expressed very qualified
admiration.

But during the next decade, in which he gave himself up silently to the
task of perfecting his art, attempting no profession or literary
occupation of profit, and living (partly in London, partly in the
country at High Beach and elsewhere) with extreme simplicity and economy
on his own small means and a pension which was provided for him, the
leaven of an almost fanatical admiration was spreading among readers of
his own age or a little younger. And his next publication, a new issue
of _Poems_ in 1842--containing the final selection and revision of the
others already mentioned, and a large reinforcement of admirable
work--was received, not indeed with the popular avidity which had been
displayed towards Scott and Byron in the generation before, and which
revived in the case of his own later work, but with an immense enjoyment
by almost all true lovers of poetry. Even Wordsworth, the most
ungracious critic of other men's work in his own art of whom the history
of literature gives record, acknowledged Tennyson in the amplest terms.

This was, as has been hinted above, exactly fifty years before his
death, and though in the first of these five decades the pudding if not
the praise was still rather scanty, his reputation waxed steadily and
never waned. To keep for the present to chronicle in biography and
bibliography, he published in 1847 the exquisite "medley" of _The
Princess_, his first attempt at a poem of any length. 1850 was a great
year in his career, for in it he published the collection of elegiacs on
his friend Arthur Hallam, in which some have seen his most perfect work,
and he became Poet Laureate. Three years later he bought a house at
Farringford, near Freshwater in the Isle of Wight, which was for the
rest of his life his occasional and, until 1870 (when to avoid intrusion
he built himself another at Aldworth near Haslemere), his main house.
His poetry now was beginning to bring in some profit, the editions of it
multiplying every year; and during the last thirty years of his life, if
not more, he was probably at least as richly provided with mere gold as
any poet has ever been. He was, however, never seduced into hasty
writing; and he never gave himself to any other occupation save poetry,
while during his entire life he was a hater of what is commonly called
society. In 1855 there appeared _Maud_, the reception of which seemed
at first something of a relapse in welcome, which was in its first form
open to some criticism, and which he touched up to one of the finest as
a whole, as it was in parts one of the most passionate and melodious of
his works. But the _Idylls of the King_, the first and best instalment
of which appeared in 1858, completely revived even his popular vogue,
and made him indeed popular as no poet had been since Byron. It was said
at the time that 17,000 copies of _Enoch Arden_, his next volume (1864),
were sold on the morning of publication.

For the rest of his life his issues were pretty frequent, though the
individual volumes were never large. A series of dramas beginning with
_Queen Mary_ in 1875, and continuing through _Harold_, _The Falcon_,
_The Cup_, the unlucky _Promise of May_, _Becket_, and _The Foresters_,
though fine enough for any other man, could be better spared by his
critical admirers than any other portion of his works. But the volumes
of poems proper, which appeared between 1864 and his death, _Lucretius_,
_Tiresias_, the successive instalments of the _Idylls_, _Locksley Hall
Sixty Years After_, _Demeter_, _The Death of Oenone_, and perhaps
above all the splendid _Ballads_ of 1880, never failed to contain with
matter necessarily of varying excellence things altogether
incomparable--one of the last, the finest and fortunately also the most
popular, being the famous "Crossing the Bar," which appeared in his
penultimate, but last not posthumous, volume in 1889. He died at
Aldworth in October 1892, and was buried with an unequalled solemnity in
Westminster Abbey.

In the case of no English poet is it more important and interesting than
in the case of Tennyson, considering the excellence of his own work in
the first place, and the altogether unparalleled extent of his influence
in the second, to trace the nature and character of his poetical
quality. Nor is this difficult, though strange to say it has not always
been done. In his very earliest work, so soon as this quality appeared
at all, it is to be discovered side by side with other things which are
not native. Undoubtedly the tradition which, in the general filiation
of English poetry, connects Tennyson with Keats, is not wholly wrong.
In many of the weaker things, and not a few of the better, of the
volumes of 1830 and 1832, there is to be seen both the wonderful music
which Keats attained by a combination of the classical and romantic
appeals--the appeals which in his own case are singly exhibited at their
best in the "Grecian Urn" and in "La Belle Dame sans Merci,"--and the
sometimes faulty and illegitimate means which Keats took to produce this
effect. But to any one who compares rationally (and it may be permitted
to remark parenthetically, that nothing seems to be more misunderstood
than the comparative point of view) the difference between Keats and
Tennyson will emerge at once. Both being great poets, there is the
inexplicable in both; while as Keats undoubtedly died before he had any
chance of applying to his own powers and products the unequalled process
of clarifying and self-criticism which went on with Tennyson in the ten
years' silence between the second of the volumes just mentioned and his
issue of 1842, it is impossible to say that Keats himself could not have
done something similar. Nothing that he ever did is worse in point of
"gush," of undisciplined fluency, of mistakes in point of taste and of
other defects than the notorious piece about "the darling little room,"
on which the future Poet Laureate's critics were so justly severe; while
in the single point of passion it is very doubtful whether Tennyson ever
approached the author of "La Belle Dame sans Merci." There was not
perhaps much to choose between the two in their natural power of
associating pictorial with musical expression; while both had that gift
of simple humanity, of plain honest healthy understanding of common
things, the absence of which gives to Shelley--in some ways a greater
poet than either of them--a certain unearthliness and unreality.

But Tennyson had from the first a wider range of interest and capacity
than Keats, and he had the enormous advantage of thorough and regular
literary training. No poet ever improved his own work as Tennyson did;
nor has any, while never allowing his genius to be daunted by
self-comparison with his predecessors, had such a faculty of availing
himself of what they had done without copying, of seeing what they had
not done and supplying the gap himself. And besides this he had the
inexplicable, the incommunicable, the unique, the personal gift. In the
very earliest things, in "Claribel," in "Mariana," in the "Recollections
of the Arabian Nights," in the "Ode to Memory," in the "Dirge," in the
"Dying Swan," in "Oriana," there is even to those who were born long
after they were written, even to those who have for years sedulously
compared them with almost all things before and with all things since,
the unmistakable note of the new, of the new that never can be old. It
is there in the rhythms, it is there in the phrase. The poet may take
things that had previously existed--the Keatsian and Shelleian lyric,
the Wordsworthian attitude to Nature, the Miltonic blank verse; but
inevitably, invariably, each under his hands becomes different, becomes
individual and original. The result cannot be accounted for by
mannerisms, from which at no time was Tennyson free, and after the
thousands and ten thousands of imitations which have been seen since, it
stands out untouched, unrivalled.

In the next instalment this quality of intense poetical individuality
strengthened and deepened. As we read "The Two Voices," "Oenone," "The
Palace of Art," "The Lotos Eaters," "A Dream of Fair Women," it becomes
almost incomprehensible how any one who ever read them even in forms
less perfect than those that we possess, should have mistaken their
incomparable excellence. But the student of literary history knows
better. He knows that nearly always the poet has to create his audience,
that he sings before the dawn of the day in which he is to be sovereign.

And then with the 1842 book came practically the completion of Tennyson
in the sense of the indication of his powers. Edward FitzGerald, as is
elsewhere noticed, thought, or at least said, that everything his friend
had done after this was more or less a declension. This is a common and
not an ignoble Fallacy of Companionship--the delusion of those who have
hailed and accompanied a poet or a prophet in his early struggles. It
is not even wholly a fallacy, inasmuch as, in the case of the class of
poets to which Tennyson belongs, there does come a time when the rest of
the products of their genius is so to speak _applied_: it ceases to
reveal them in new aspects. They do not repeat themselves; but they
chiefly vary. Now came the magnificent "Morte D'Arthur" (the "Idylls of
the King" in microcosm, with all their merits and none of their
defects), "St. Simeon Stylites," "Ulysses," "Locksley Hall," "St. Agnes'
Eve," and other exquisite things; while to this period, as the
subsequent arrangement shows, belong not a few, such as "Tithonus" and
"The Voyage," which were not actually published till later, and in which
keen observers at the time of their publication detected as it were an
older ring, a more genuine and unblended vintage.

It is not improper therefore to break off here for a moment and to
endeavour to state--leaving out the graces that can never be stated, and
are more important than all the others--the points in which this new
excellence of Tennyson differed from the excellences of his forerunners.
One of them, not the least important, but the least truly original,
because something distantly resembling it had been seen before in Keats
and Shelley, is the combined application of pictorial and musical
handling. Not, of course, that all poets had not endeavoured to depict
their subjects vividly and to arrange the picture in a melodious frame
of sound, not that the best of them had not also endeavoured to convey,
if it were possible, the colours into the sense, the sense into the
music. But partly as a result of the natural development and acquired
practice of the language, partly for the very reason that the arts both
of painting and music had themselves made independent progress, most of
all, perhaps, because Tennyson was the first poet in English of the very
greatest genius who dared not to attempt work on the great scale, but
put into short pieces (admitting, of course, of infinite formal variety)
what most of his forerunners would have spun into long poems--the result
here is, as a rule, far in advance of those forerunners in this
respect, and as an exception on a level with the very best of their
exceptions. With Shakespeare there is no comparison; Shakespeare can
send to every poet an "O of Giotto" in his own style to which that poet
must bow. But of others only Spenser had hitherto drawn such pictures as
those of the "Palace" and the "Dream," and Spenser had done them in far
less terse fashion than Tennyson. Only Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Blake,
perhaps Beddoes, and a few Elizabethans had poured into the veins of
language the ineffable musical throb of a score of pieces from
"Claribel" to "Break! Break!" and not one of them had done it in quite
the same way. Only Milton, with Thomson as a far distant second, had
impressed upon non-dramatic blank verse such a swell and surge as that
of "Oenone." And about all these different kinds and others there
clung and rang a peculiar dreamy slow music which was heard for the
first time, and which has never been reproduced,--a music which in "The
Lotos Eaters," impossible as it might have seemed, adds a new charm
after the _Faerie Queen_, after the _Castle of Indolence_, after the
_Revolt of Islam_ to the Spenserian stanza, which makes the stately
verses of the "Palace" and the "Dream" tremble and cry with melodious
emotion, and which accomplishes the miracle of the poet's own dying swan
in a hundred other poems all "flooded over with eddying song."

But there is something more to be noted still. The poet had caught and
was utilising the spirit of his time in two ways, one of them almost
entirely new. That he constantly sang the subjective view of nature may
be set down to the fact that he came after Wordsworth, though the fact
that he sang it without the Wordsworthian dryness and dulness must be
set down to his own credit. But in that sense of the history of former
times which is perhaps the chief glory of the nineteenth century in
matters of thought he had been anticipated by no one. He might not have
attained it without Scott and Byron, but his expression of it was hardly
conditioned in the very slightest degree by the expression either of
Byron or of Scott. They were not in strictness men of the nineteenth
century; he was, and he represented the very best features of his time
in attending, from its point of view mainly, to the features of better
times.

But if FitzGerald's dictum were taken in the sense that Tennyson's
poetical career might, with advantage or with anything but the greatest
possible loss, have been closed in 1842, then certainly it would be
something more than a crotchet. Nothing perhaps appeared subsequently
(with unimportant exceptions such as the plays, and as the dialect
pieces of which the "Northern Farmer" was the first and best) the
possibility of which could not have been divined from the earlier work.
The tree had blossomed; it had almost, to keep up the metaphor, set; but
by far the greater part of the fruit was yet to ripen, and very much of
it was to be of quality not inferior, of quantity far greater, than
anything that had yet been given.

_The Princess_ and _In Memoriam_, the two first-fruits of this later
crop, were certainly not the least important. Indeed they may be said to
have shown for the first time that the poet was capable of producing, in
lighter and severer styles respectively, work not limited to short
flights and exemplifying what (perhaps mistakenly) is called "thought,"
as well as style and feeling, colour and music. _The Princess_ is
undoubtedly Tennyson's greatest effort, if not exactly in comedy, in a
vein verging towards the comic--a side on which he was not so well
equipped for offence or for defence as on the other. But it is a
masterpiece. Exquisite as its author's verse always is, it was never
more exquisite than here, whether in blank verse or in the (superadded)
lyrics, while none of his deliberately arranged plays contains
characters half so good as those of the Princess herself, of Lady
Blanche and Lady Psyche, of Cyril, of the two Kings, and even of one or
two others. And that unequalled dream-faculty of his, which has been
more than once glanced at, enabled him to carry off whatever was
fantastical in the conception with almost unparalleled felicity. It may
or may not be agreed that the question of the equality of the sexes is
one of the distinguishing questions of this century; and some of those
who would give it that position may or may not maintain, if they think
it worth while, that it is treated here too lightly, while their
opponents may wish that it had been treated more lightly still. But this
very difference will point the unbiassed critic to the same conclusion,
that Tennyson has hit the golden mean; while that, whatever he has hit
or missed in subject, the verse of his essay is golden, no one who is
competent will doubt. Such lyrics as "The splendour falls" and "Tears,
idle tears," such blank verse as that of the closing passage, would
raise to the topmost heights of poetry whatever subject it was spent
upon.

_In Memoriam_ attacked two subjects in the main,--the one perennial, the
other of the time,--just as _The Princess_ had done. The perennial,
which is often but another, if not an exclusive, word for the poetical,
was in the first case aspirant and happy love, in the other mourning
friendship. The ephemeral was, in the latter, the sort of half doubting
religiosity which has occupied so much of the thought of our day. On
this latter point, as on the other just mentioned and on most beside,
the attitude of Tennyson was "Liberal-Conservatism" (if political slang
may be generalised), inclining always to the Conservative rather than to
the Liberal side, but giving Liberalism a sufficient footing and
hearing. Here again opinions may be divided; and here again those who
think that in poetry the mere fancies of the moment are nothing may be
disposed to pay little attention to the particular fancies which have
occupied the poet. But here again the manner, as always with real poets,
carries off, dissolves, annihilates the special matter for poetical
readers. Tennyson had here taken (not invented) a remarkable and not
frequently used stanza, the iambic dimeter quatrain with the rhymes not
alternated, but arranged _a b b a_. It is probable that if a
well-instructed critic had been asked beforehand what would be the
effect of this employed with a certain monotone of temper and subject in
a book of some three thousand lines or so, he would have shaken his head
and hinted that the substantive would probably justify its adjective
and the monotone become monotonous. And if he had been really a deacon
in his craft he would have added: "But to a poet there is nothing
impossible." The difficulty was no impossibility to Tennyson. He has not
only, in the rather more than six score poems of this wonderful book,
adjusted his medium to a wide range of subjects, all themselves adjusted
to the general theme, but he has achieved that poetic miracle, the
communication to the same metre and to no very different scheme of
phrase of an infinite variety of interior movement. There is scarcely a
bad line in _In Memoriam_; there are few lines that do not contain a
noble thought, a passionate sentiment, a beautiful picture; but there is
nothing greater about it than the way in which, side by side with the
prevailing undertone of the stanza, the individual pieces vary the music
and accompany it, so to speak, in duet with a particular melody. It must
have been already obvious to good ears that no greater master of English
harmonics--perhaps that none so great--had ever lived; but _In Memoriam_
set the fact finally and irrevocably on record.

_Maud_ was the third, and perhaps it may be said to have been, on a
great scale, the last experiment in thus combining the temporal with the
eternal. It was also probably the weakest as a whole, though the poet
had never done more poetical things than the passage beginning, "Cold
and clear-cut face"; than the prothalamium, never to have its due
sequel, "I have led her home"; than the incomparable and
never-to-be-hackneyed "Come into the garden"; or than the best of all,
"Oh! that 'twere possible." It may even be contended that if it were
ever allowable to put the finger down and say, "Here is the highest,"
these, and not the best things of the 1842 volumes, are the absolute
summit of the poet's effort, the point which, though he was often near
it, he never again quite reached. But the piece, as a whole, is
certainly less of a success, less smooth and finished as it comes from
its own lathe, than either _The Princess_ or _In Memoriam_. It looks too
like an essay in competition with the "Spasmodic School" of its own day;
it drags in merely casual things--adulteration, popular politics, and
ephemera of all kinds--too assiduously, and its characterisations are
not happy. There is a tradition that the poet met a critic, and a very
accomplished critic too, who was one of his own oldest friends, and
said, "What do you mean by calling _Maud_ vulgar?" "I didn't," said the
critic, quite truly. "No, but you meant it," growled Tennyson. And there
was something of a confession in the growl.

But these slight relapses (and, after all, what sort of a relapse is it
which gives us not merely the incomparable things referred to, but
others hardly less exquisite?) never, in the great writers, serve as
anything but retreats before an advance; and certainly, in a sense, the
_Idylls of the King_ were an advance, though not, perhaps, in all
senses. No total so brilliant, so varied within a certain general unity,
so perfectly polished in style, so cunningly adjusted to meet the
popular without disappointing the critical ear, had ever come from
Tennyson's pen as the first quartet of Idylls, _Enid_, _Vivien_,
_Elaine_, and _Guinevere_. No such book of English blank verse, with the
doubtful exception of the _Seasons_, had been seen since Milton. Nothing
more adroitly selected than the contrast of the four special pieces--a
contrast lost to those who only read them in the completed
Arthuriad--has been often attempted or ever achieved. It is true that
the inner faithful, the sacred band of Tennysonians, old and young,
grumbled a little that polish had been almost too much attended to; that
there was a certain hardish mannerism, glittering but cold, about the
style; that there was noticeable a certain compromise in the appeal, a
certain trimming of the sail to the popular breeze. These criticisms
were not entirely without foundation, and they were more justified than
their authors could know by the later instalments of the poem, which,
the latest not published till twenty-seven years afterwards, rounded it
off to its present bulk of twelve books, fifteen separate pieces, and
over ten thousand lines. Another, more pedantic in appearance, but not
entirely destitute of weight, was that which urged that in handling the
Arthurian story the author had, so to speak, "bastardised it," and had
given neither mediæval nor modern sentiment or colouring, but a sort of
amalgamation of both. Yet the charm of the thing was so great, and the
separate passages were so consummate, that even critics were loth to
quarrel with such a gift.

The later instalments of the poem--some of them, as has been said, very
much later, but still so closely connected as to be best noticed
here--were of somewhat less even excellence. It was an inevitable, but
certainly an unfortunate thing, that the poet republished the
magnificent early fragment above noticed in a setting which, fine as it
would have been for any one else, was inferior to this work of the very
best time. Some of the lighter passages, as in _Gareth and Lynette_,
showed less grace than their forerunners in _The Princess_; and in
_Pelleas and Ettarre_ and _Balin and Balan_ the poet sometimes seemed to
be attempting alien moods which younger poets than himself had made
their own. But the best passages of some of these later Idylls, notably
those of _The Holy Grail_ and _The Last Tournament_, were among the
finest, not merely of the book, but of the poet. Nowhere has he caught
the real, the best, spirit of the legends he followed more happily;
nowhere has he written more magnificent verse than in Percivale's
account of his constantly baffled quest and of Lancelot's visit to the
"enchanted towers of Carbonek."

Far earlier than these, _Enoch Arden_ and its companion poems were
something more of a return to the scheme of the earlier books--no very
long single composition, but a medley of blank verse pieces and lyrics,
the former partly expansions of the scheme of the earlier "English
Idyll," the latter various and generally beautiful; one or two, such as
"In the Valley of Cauterets," of the most beautiful. Here, too, were
some interesting translations, with the dialect pieces above referred
to; and all the later volumes, except those containing the plays,
preserved this mixed manner. Their contents are too numerous for many to
be mentioned here. Only in the _Ballads and Other Poems_ was something
like a distinctly new note struck in the two splendid patriotic pieces
on "The Last Fight of the _Revenge_" and the "Defence of Lucknow,"
which, even more than the poet's earlier "Charge of the Light Brigade,"
deserve the title of the best English war-songs since Campbell; in
"Rizpah," an idyll of a sterner and more tragic kind than anything he
had previously attempted; and in the "Voyage of Maeldune," this last in
some respects the most interesting of the whole. For the marvellous
power which great poets possess of melting, of "founding," so to speak,
minor styles and kinds of poetry to their own image, while not losing a
certain character of the original, has never been shown better than
here. Attention had, even before the date of this poem, been drawn to
the peculiar character of early Celtic poetry,---not the adulterated
style of Ossian, but the genuine method of the old Irish singers. And,
since, a whole band of young and very clever writers have set
themselves, with a mixture of political and poetical enthusiasm, the
task of reviving these notes if possible. They have rarely succeeded in
getting very close to them without mere archaic pastiche. Tennyson in
this poem carried away the whole genius of the Celtic legend, infused it
into his own verse, branded it with his own seal, and yet left the
character of the vintage as unmistakable as if he had been an Irishman
of the tenth century, instead of an Englishman of the nineteenth. And
indeed there are no times, or countries, or languages in the kingdom of
poetry.

A very little more may, perhaps, still be said about this great
poet,--great in the character and variety of his accomplishment, in the
volume of it, and, above all, in the extraordinarily sustained quality
of his genius and the length of time during which it dominated and
pervaded the literature of his country. The influences of Pope and
Dryden were weak in force and merely external in effect, the influence
of Byron was short-lived, that of Wordsworth was partial and limited, in
comparison with the influence of Tennyson. Of this, as of a mere
historical fact, there can be no dispute among those who care to inform
themselves of the facts and to consider them coolly. Of his intrinsic
merit, as opposed to his influential importance, it is not of course
possible to speak so peremptorily. Among the great volume of more or
less unfavourable criticism which such a career was sure to call forth,
two notes perhaps were the most dominant, the most constant, and (even
fervent admirers may admit) the least unjust. He was accused of a
somewhat excessive prettiness, a sort of dandyism and coquetry in form,
and of a certain want of profundity in matter. The last charge is the
more unprofitable in discussion, for it turns mainly on vast and vague
questions of previous definition. "What is thought?" "What is
profundity?" a by no means jesting demurrer may object, and he will not
soon be cleared out of the way. And it will perhaps seem to some that
what is called Tennyson's lack of profundity consists only in a
disinclination on his part to indulge in what the Germans call the
_Schwätzerei_, the endless, aimless talkee-talkee about "thoughtful"
things in which the nineteenth century has indulged beyond the record of
any since what used to be called the Dark Ages. On the real "great
questions" Tennyson was not loth to speak, and spoke gravely enough;
even to the ephemeralities, as we have said, he paid rather too much
than too little attention. But he did not go into the ins and outs of
them as some of his contemporaries did, and as other contemporaries
thought fitting. He usually neglected the negligible; and perhaps it
would not hurt him with posterity if he had neglected it a little more,
though it hurt him a little with contemporaries that he neglected it as
much as he did.

The charge of prettiness is to be less completely ruled out; though it
shows even greater mistake in those who do more than touch very lightly
on it. In the earliest forms of the earlier poems not seldom, and
occasionally in even the latest forms of the later, the exquisiteness of
the poet's touch in music and in painting, in fancy and in form, did
sometimes pass into something like finicalness, into what is called in
another language _mignardise_. But this was only the necessary, and,
after he was out of his apprenticeship, the minimised effect of his
great poetical quality--that very quality of exquisiteness in form, in
fancy, in painting, and in music which has just been stated. We have, it
must be admitted, had greater poets than Tennyson. Shakespeare,
Spenser, Milton, Shelley, undoubtedly deserve this preference to him;
Wordsworth and Keats may deserve it. But we have had none so uniformly,
and over such a large mass of work, exquisite. In the lighter fantastic
veins he may sometimes be a little unsure in touch and taste; in satire
and argument a little heavy, a little empty, a little rhetorical; in
domestic and ethical subjects a little tame. But his handlings of these
things form a very small part of his work. And in the rest none of all
these faults appears, and their absence is due to the fact that nothing
interferes with the exquisite perfection of the form. Some faults have
been found with Tennyson's rhymes, though this is generally
hypercriticism; and in his later years he was a little too apt to
accumulate tribrachs in his blank verse, a result of a mistaken sense of
the true fact that he was better at slow rhythms than at quick, and of
an attempt to cheat nature. But in all other respects his versification
is by far the most perfect of any English poet, and results in a harmony
positively incomparable. So also his colour and outline in conveying the
visual image are based on a study of natural fact and a practice in
transferring it to words which are equally beyond comparison. Take any
one of a myriad of lines of Tennyson, and the mere arrangement of vowels
and consonants will be a delight to the ear; let any one of a thousand
of his descriptions body itself before the eye, and the picture will be
like the things seen in a dream, but firmer and clearer.

Although, as has been said, the popularity of Lord Tennyson itself was
not a plant of very rapid growth, and though but a short time before his
position was undisputed it was admitted only by a minority, imposing in
quality but far from strong in mere numbers, his chief rival during the
latter part of their joint lives was vastly slower in gaining the public
ear. It is not quite pleasant to think that the well-merited but
comparatively accidental distinction of the Laureateship perhaps did
more even for Tennyson in this respect than the intrinsic value of his
work. Robert Browning had no such aid, his verse was even more
abhorrent than Tennyson's to the tradition of the elders, and until he
found a sort of back-way to please, he was even more indifferent to
pleasing. So that while Tennyson became in a manner popular soon after
1850, two decades more had to pass before anything that could be called
popularity came to Browning. It is, though the actual dates are well
enough known to most people, still something of a surprise to remember
that at that time he had been writing for very nearly forty years, and
that his first book, though a little later than Tennyson's, actually
appeared before the death of Coleridge and not more than a few months
after that of Scott. Browning, about whose ancestry and parentage a good
deal of mostly superfluous ink has been shed, was born, the son of a
city man, on 7th May 1812, in the, according to the elder Mr. Weller,
exceptional district of Camberwell. He was himself exceptional enough in
more ways than one. His parents had means; but Browning did not receive
the ordinary education of a well-to-do Englishman at school and college,
and his learning, though sufficiently various, was privately obtained.
_Pauline_, his first poem, appeared in 1833, but had been written about
two years earlier. He did not reprint it in the first general collection
of his verse, nor till after his popularity had been established; and it
cannot be said to be of great intrinsic excellence. But it was
distinctly characteristic:--first, in a strongly dramatic tone and
strain without regular dramatic form; secondly, in a peculiar fluency of
decasyllabic verse that could not be directly traced to any model; and,
thirdly, in a certain quality of thought, which in later days for a long
time received, and never entirely lost from the vulgar, the name of
"obscurity," but which perhaps might be more justly termed
breathlessness--the expression, if not the conception, of a man who
either did not stop at all to pick his words, or was only careful to
pick them out of the first choice that presented itself to him of
something not commonplace.

In _Pauline_, however, there is little positive beauty. In the next
book, _Paracelsus_ (1835), there is a great deal. Here the dramatic form
was much more definite, though still not attempting acted or actable
drama. The poet's appetite for "soul-dissection" was amply shown in the
characters not merely of Paracelsus himself, but of his soberer friends
Festus and Michal, and of the Italian poet Aprile, a sort of Euphorion
pretty evidently suggested by, though greatly enlarged from, the actual
Euphorion of the second part of _Faust_, then not long finished. The
rapid, breathless blank verse, the crowding rush of simile and
illustration, and the positive plethora of meaning, more often glanced
and hinted at than fully worked out, were as noteworthy as before in
kind, and as much more so in degree as in scale. Here too were lyrics,
not anticipating the full splendour of the poet's later lyrical verse,
but again quite original. Here, in fact, to anybody who chose to pay
attention, was a real "new poet" pretty plainly announced.

Very few did choose to pay attention; and Browning's next attempt was
not of a kind to conciliate halting or hostile opinion, though it might
please the initiated. He wrote for his friend Macready a play intended
at least to be of the regular acting kind. This play, _Strafford_
(1837), contains fine things; but the involution and unexpectedness of
the poet's thought now and always showed themselves least engagingly
when they were even imagined as being spoken not read. After yet another
three years _Sordello_ followed, and here the most peculiar but the
least estimable side of the author's genius attained a prominence not
elsewhere equalled, till in his latest stage he began to parody himself,
and scarcely even then. Although this book does not deserve the
disgusted contempt which used to be poured on it, though it contains
many noble passages, and as the "story of a soul" is perfectly
intelligible to moderate intellects, it must have occasioned some doubts
and qualms to intelligent admirers of the poet as to whether he would
lose himself in the paths on which he was entering. Such doubts must
have been soon set at rest by the curious medley issued in parts, under
the general title of _Bells and Pomegranates_, between 1841 and 1846.
The plays here, though often striking and showing that the author's
disabilities, though never likely to leave, were also not likely to
master him, showed also, with the possible exception of the charming
nondescript of _Pippa Passes_, no new or positively unexpected faculty.
But certain shorter things, lyrical and other, at last made it clear
that Browning could sing as well as say: and from this time, 1846 (which
also was the year of his marriage with Miss Elizabeth Barrett), he could
claim rank as a great poet. He had been hitherto more or less a
wanderer, but with headquarters in England; he now went to Florence,
which in turn was his headquarters till his wife's death in 1861. His
publications during the time were only two--_Christmas Eve and Easter
Day_ in 1850, and _Men and Women_ in 1855. But these were both
masterpieces. He never did better work, and, with _Bells and
Pomegranates_ and _Dramatis Personæ_, which appeared in 1864 (when,
after Mrs. Browning's death, he had returned to London), they perhaps
contain all his very best work.

Up to this time, the thirty-first year from the publication of
_Pauline_, Browning's work, though by no means scanty, could hardly be
called voluminous as the result of half a lifetime of absolute leisure.
A little before _Dramatis Personæ_--itself not a long book, though of
hardly surpassed quality--the whole of the poems except _Pauline_ had
been gathered into three small but thick volumes, which undoubtedly did
very much to spread the poet's fame--a spread much helped by their
immediate successors. The enormous poem of _The Ring and the Book_,
originally issued in four volumes and containing more than twenty
thousand verses, was published in 1869, and, the public being by this
time well prepared for it, received a welcome not below its merits.
Having at last gained the public ear, Mr. Browning did not fail to
improve the occasion, and of the next fifteen years few passed without a
volume, while some saw two, from his pen. These, including translations
of the _Alcestis_ and the _Agamemnon_ (for the poet was at this time
seized with a great fancy for Greek, which he rendered with much fluency
and a very singular indulgence in a sort of hybrid and pedantic spelling
of proper names), were _Balaustion's Adventure_ and _Prince
Hohenstiel-Schwangau_ (1871), _Fifine at the Fair_ (1872), _Red Cotton
Night-Cap Country_ (1873), _Aristophanes' Apology_ and _The Inn Album_
(1875), _Pacchiarotto and how he Worked in Distemper_ (1876), _La
Saisiaz_ (1878), _Dramatic Idylls_, two volumes (1879-80), _Jocoseria_
(1883), and _Ferishtah's Fancies_ (1884). The five remaining years of
Browning's long life were somewhat less fruitful; but _Parleyings with
Certain People of Importance_ came in 1887, and at the end of 1889,
almost simultaneously with his death in Italy, _Asolando_, which some
think by far his best volume since _Dramatis Personæ_, a quarter of a
century older. These volumes occasionally contained a few, and
_Asolando_ contained several, of the lovely lyrics above referred to.
But the great bulk of them consisted of the curious blank verse, now
narrative, now ostensibly dramatic monologue, which the poet had always
affected, and which he now seemed to affect more and more. In them, too,
from _The Ring and the Book_ onwards, there appeared a tendency stronger
than ever to an eccentric and almost burlesque phraseology, which at one
time threatened to drown all his good qualities, as involution of
thought had threatened to drown them in the _Sordello_ period. But this
danger also was averted at the last.

Critical estimate of Browning's poetry was for years hampered by, and
cannot even yet be said to have been quite cleared from, the violent
prepossessions of public opinion respecting him. For more than a
generation, in the ordinary sense, he was more or less passionately
admired by a few devotees, stupidly or blindly ignored by the public in
general, and persistently sneered at, lectured, or simply disliked by
the majority of academically educated critics. The sharp revulsion of
his later years has been noticed; and it amounted almost to this, that
while dislike to him in those who had intelligently, if somewhat
narrowly, disapproved of his ways was not much affected, a Browning
_cultus_, almost as blind as the former pooh-poohing or ignoring, set
in, and extended from a considerable circle of ardent worshippers to the
public at large. A "Browning Society" was founded in 1881, and received
from the poet a kind of countenance which would certainly not have been
extended to it by most English men of letters. During his later years
handbooks solemnly addressed to neophytes in Browningism, as if the cult
were a formal science or art, appeared with some frequency; and there
has been even a bulky _Browning Dictionary_, which not only expounds the
more recondite (and, it is fair to say, tolerably frequent) allusions of
the master, but provides for his disciples something to make up for the
ordinary classical and other dictionaries with which, it seemed to be
presumed, their previous education would have made them little
conversant.

This not very wise adulation in its turn not unnaturally excited a sort
of irritation and dislike, to a certain extent renewing the old
prejudice in a new form. To those who could discard extraneous
considerations and take Browning simply as he was, he must, from a
period which only very old men can now remember, have always appeared a
very great, though also a very far from perfect poet. His imperfections
were always on the surface, though perhaps they were not always confined
to it; and only uncritical partisanship could at any time have denied
them, while some of them became noticeably worse in the period of rapid
composition or publication from 1870 to 1885. A large license of
unconventionality, and even of defiance of convention, may be claimed
by, and should be allowed to, persons of genius such as Mr. Browning
undoubtedly possessed. But it can hardly be denied that he, like his
older contemporary Carlyle, whose example may not have been without
influence upon him, did set at naught not merely the traditions, but the
sound norms and rules of English phrase to a rather unnecessary extent.
A beginning of deliberate provocation and challenge, passing into an
after-period of more or less involuntary persistence in an exaggeration
of the mannerisms at first more or less deliberately adopted, is apt to
be shown by persons who set themselves in this way to innovate; and it
was shown by Mr. Browning. It is impossible for any intelligent admirer
to maintain, except as a paradox, that his strange modulations, his
cacophonies of rhythm and rhyme, his occasional adoption of the
foreshortened language of the telegraph or the comic stage, and many
other peculiarities of his, were not things which a more perfect art
would have either absorbed and transformed, or at least have indulged in
with far less luxuriance. Nor does it seem much more reasonable for
anybody to contend that his fashion of soul-dissection at a hand-gallop,
in drama, in monologue, in lay sermon, was not largely, even grossly,
abused. Sometimes the thing was not worth doing at all--there are at
least half a dozen of the books between _The Ring and the Book_ and
_Asolando_ from the whole of which a judicious lover of poetry would not
care to save more than the bulk of the smallest of them should they be
menaced with entire destruction. Even in the best of these what is good
could generally, if not always, have been put at the length of the
shorter _Men and Women_ with no loss, nay, with great advantage. The
obscurity so much talked of was to some extent from the very first, and
to the last continued to be, in varying degrees, an excuse, or at least
an occasion, for putting at great length thought that was not always so
far from commonplace as it looked into expression which was very often
not so much original as unkempt. "Less matter with more art" was the
demand which might have been made of Mr. Browning from first to last,
and with increasing instance as he became more popular.

But though no competent lover of poetry can ever have denied the truth
and cogency of these objections, the admission of them can never, in any
competent lover of poetry, have obscured or prevented an admiration of
Browning none the less intense because not wholly unreserved. Even his
longer poems, in which his faults were most apparent, possessed an
individuality of the first order, combined the intellectual with no
small part of the sensual attraction of poetry after a fashion not
otherwise paralleled in England since Dryden, and provided an
extraordinary body of poetical exercise and amusement. The pathos, the
power, at times the humour, of the singular soul-studies which he was so
fond of projecting with little accessory of background upon his canvas,
could not be denied, and have not often been excelled. If he was not
exactly what is commonly called orthodox in religion, and if his
philosophy was of a distinctly vague order, he was always "on the side
of the angels" in theology, in metaphysics, in ethics; and his politics,
if exceedingly indistinct and unpractical, were always noble and
generous. Further, though he seems to have been utterly destitute of the
slightest gift of dramatic construction, he had no mean share of a much
rarer gift, that of dramatic character; and in a century of descriptions
of nature his, if not the most exquisite, have a freedom and truth, a
largeness of outline combined with felicity of colour, not elsewhere to
be discovered.

But it is as a lyric poet that Browning ranks highest; and in this
highest class it is impossible to refuse him all but the highest rank,
in some few cases the very highest. He understood love pretty
thoroughly; and when a lyric poet understands love thoroughly there is
little doubt of his position. But he understood many other things as
well, and could give strange and delightful voice to them. Even his
lyrics, still more his short non-lyrical poems, admirable as they often
are, and closely as they group with the lyrics proper, are not untouched
by his inseparable defect. He cannot be prevented from inserting now and
then in the midst of exquisite passages more or fewer of his quirks and
cranks of thought and phrase, of his vernacularity or his euphuism, of
his outrageous rhymes (which, however, are seldom or never absolutely
bad), of those fantastic tricks of his in general which remind one of
nothing so much as of dashing a bladder with rattling peas in the
reader's face just at the height of the passion or the argument.

Yet the beauty, the charm, the variety, the vigour of these short poems
are as wonderful as the number of them. He never lost the secret of them
to his latest years. The delicious lines "Never the time and the place,
And the loved one all together" are late; and there are half a dozen
pieces in _Asolando_, latest of all, which exhibit to the full the
almost bewildering beauty of combined sound, thought, and sight, the
clash of castanets and the thrill of flutes, the glow of flower and
sunset, the subtle appeal for sympathy in feeling or assent in judgment.
The song snatches in _Pippa Passes_, "Through the Metidja," "The Lost
Leader," "In a Gondola," "Earth's Immortalities," "Mesmerism," "Women
and Roses," "Love Among the Ruins," "A Toccata of Galuppis," "Prospice,"
"Rabbi Ben Ezra," "Porphyria's Lover," "After," with scores of others,
and the "Last Ride Together," the poet's most perfect thing, at the head
of the list, are such poems as a very few--Shakespeare, Shelley, Burns,
Coleridge--may surpass now and then in pure lyrical perfection, as
Tennyson may excel in dreamy ecstasy, as some seventeenth century
songsters may outgo in quaint and perfect fineness of touch, but such as
are nowhere to be surpassed or equalled for a certain volume and variety
of appeal, for fulness of life and thought, of action and passion.

Mr. Browning's wife, Elizabeth Barrett, was older than himself by six
years, and her period of popularity considerably anticipated his. But
except one very juvenile book she published nothing of importance till
1838, when Browning, whom she did not then know, had already manifested
his idiosyncrasy. Miss Barrett, whose father's original name was
Moulton, was born at Carlton Hall, Durham, on 6th March 1806. The change
of name was brought on by succession to estates in the West Indies; and
the family were wealthy. For the greater part of Miss Barrett's youth
they lived in Herefordshire at a place, Hope End, which has left great
traces on her early poetry; later her headquarters were in London, with
long excursions to Devonshire. These excursions were mainly caused by
bad health, from which, as well as from family bereavements, Miss
Barrett was a great sufferer. She had read widely; she began to write as
a mere child; and her studies extended even to Greek, though in a rather
amateurish and desultory fashion. Her _Essay on Mind_ and other poems
appeared in 1825; but a considerable interval, as noted above, elapsed
before, in _The Seraphim_ and other poems, she gave, if not a truer, a
more characteristic note. And two more intervals of exactly the same
length gave _Poems_ 1846 and _Poems_ 1850, containing most of her best
work. Meanwhile she had met Robert Browning, and had married him, rather
against the wish of her family, in 1846. The rest of her life was spent
mostly at Florence, where, in 1849, the only child of the marriage was
born. Two years later appeared _Casa Guidi Windows_ and the long
"sociological" romance of Aurora Leigh. In these, and still more in the
_Poems before Congress_ (1860), a not unnatural tendency to echo the
peculiar form and spirit of her husband's work is observable, not by any
means always or frequently to advantage. She died at Florence on 30th
June 1861, and next year a volume of _Last Poems_ was issued. The most
interesting document in regard to her since has been her Letters to R.
H. Horne, the author of _Orion_, which were published in 1876.

It has been said that Mrs. Browning's popularity long anticipated her
husband's; indeed, years after her death, and on the very eve of the
publication of _The Ring and the Book_, it was possible to meet persons,
not uncultivated, who were fairly well acquainted with her verse and
entirely ignorant of his. The case has since been altered; but it is
believed that Mrs. Browning still retains, and it is probable that she
will always retain, no small measure of general favour. It has been
usual to speak of her as the chief English poetess, which she certainly
is if bulk and character of work as distinguished from perfection of
workmanship are considered. Otherwise, she must as certainly give place
to Miss Christina Rossetti. But Mrs. Browning no doubt combined, in very
unusual and interesting manner, the qualities which appeal to what may
be called, with no disdainful intention, the crowd of readers of poetry,
and those which appeal to the elect. Even the peculiarities which lent
themselves so easily to parody--and some of the happiest parodies ever
written were devoted to her in _Bon Gaultier_ and other books--did not
serve her badly with the general, for a parody always in a way attracts
attention to the original. Although her expression was not always of the
very clearest, its general drift was never easily mistakable; and
though she was wont to enshrine her emotions in something of a mist of
mysticism, they were in the main simple and human enough. It must also
be admitted that pathetic sentiment is almost the surest of popular
appeals in poetry; and Miss Barrett--partly through physical suffering,
partly through the bereavements above referred to, but very mainly it
may be suspected by temperament and preference--was much more a visitant
of the House of Mourning than of the House of Mirth. She was, yet again,
profoundly and sincerely, if a little vaguely, religious: and her sacred
poems, of which the famous and beautiful "Cowper's Grace" is the chief
example, secured one portion of the public to her as firmly as the
humanitarianism of "The Cry of the Children," chiming in with famous
things of Hood and Dickens, did another; "Isobel's Child," a pathetic
domesticity, a third; the somewhat gushing and undistinguished
Romanticism of "The Duchess May" and "The Brown Rosary," a fourth; and
the ethical and political "noble sentiments" of "Lady Geraldine's
Courtship," a fifth.

But it would argue gross unfairness in an advocate, and gross
incompetence in a critic, to let it be supposed that these popular
attractions were the only ones that Mrs. Browning possessed. Despite and
besides the faults which will be presently noticed, and which,
critically speaking, are very grave faults, she had poetical merits of a
very high order. Her metrical faculty, though constantly flawed and
imperfect, was very original and full of musical variety. Although her
choice of words could by no means always be commended, her supply of
them was extraordinary. Before her imprisonment in sick-rooms she had
pored on nature with the eagerest and most observant eye, and that
imprisonment itself only deepened the intensity of her remembered
nature-worship. Her pathos, if it sometimes over-flowed into gush, was
quite unquestionable in sincerity and most powerful in appeal; her
sentiment was always pure and generous; and it is most curious to see
how in the noble directness of such a piece as "Lord Walter's Wife," not
only her little faults of _sensiblerie_, but her errors of diction, are
burnt and smelted out by the fire of the expressed impression. Her
verse-pictures--for instance those in the "Vision of Poets"--vie, in
beauty if not in clearness of composition and definition, with
Tennyson's own. The Romantic pieces already glanced at, obnoxious and
obvious as are their defects, unite the pathos and the picturesqueness
just assigned to her in a most remarkable manner. And when, especially
in the Sonnet, she consented to undergo the limitations of a form which
almost automatically restrained her voluble facility, the effect was
often simply of the first order. The exquisite "Sonnets from the
Portuguese" (which are not from the Portuguese, and are understood to
have been addressed to Mr. Browning), especially that glorious one
beginning--

    If thou wilt love me, let it be for naught
    Except for love's sake only--

(which is not far below Shakespeare's or the great thing which was
published as Drayton's), rank with the noblest efforts of the 16th-17th
century in this exquisite form. And if this, instead of having to
conform to the requirements of a connected history, were a separate
study of Mrs. Browning, it would be necessary to mention scores of
separate pieces full of varied beauty.

But in no poet, perhaps not even in Byron, are such great beauties
associated with such astonishing defects as in Mrs. Browning; some of
these defects being so disgusting as well as so strange that it requires
not a little critical detachment to put her, on the whole, as high as
she deserves to be put. Like almost all women who have written, she was
extremely deficient in self-criticism, and positively pampered and
abused her natural tendency towards fluent volubility. There is hardly
one of the pieces named above, outside the sonnets, with the exception
certainly of "Lord Walter's Wife" and possibly of "Cowper's Grave,"
which would not be immensely improved by compression and curtailment,
"The Rhyme of the Duchess May" being a special example. In other pieces
not yet specified, such as "The Romaunt of Margret," "Bianca among the
Nightingales," and especially "The Poet's Vow," the same defect is
painfully felt. That the poetess frequently, and especially in her later
poetical work, touches subjects which she does not very well comprehend,
and which are very doubtfully suited for poetical treatment at all, is a
less important because a more controversial objection; and the merits of
such a book as _Aurora Leigh_ depend so much upon the arguing out of the
general question whether what is practically a modern novel has any
business to be written in verse, that they perhaps can receive no
adequate treatment here. But as to the fatal fluency of Mrs. Browning
there can be no question before any tribunal which knows its own
jurisdiction and its own code. And that fluency extends to more than
length. The vocabulary is wilfully and tastelessly unusual,--"abele"
rhymed "abeel" for "poplar"; American forms such as "human" for
"humanity" and "weaken" for a neuter verb; fustianish words like
"reboant"; awkward suggestions of phrase, such as "droppings of warm
tears."

But all these things, and others put together, are not so fatal as her
extraordinary dulness of ear in the matter of rhyme. She endeavoured to
defend her practice in this respect in the correspondence with Horne,
but it is absolutely indefensible. What is known as assonance, that is
to say, vowel rhyme only, as in Old French and in Spanish, is not in
itself objectionable, though it is questionably suited to English. But
Mrs. Browning's eccentricities do not as a rule, though they sometimes
do, lie in the direction of assonance. They are simply bad and vulgar
rhymes--rhymes which set the teeth on edge. Thus, when she rhymes
"palace" and "chalice," "evermore" and "emperor," "Onora" and "o'er
her," or, most appalling of all, "mountain" and "daunting," it is
impossible not to remember with a shudder that every omnibus conductor
does shout "Pal_lis_," that the common Cockney would pronounce it
"Onorer," that the vulgar ear is deaf to the difference between _ore_
and _or_, and that it is possible to find persons not always of the
costermonger class who would make of "mountain" something very like
"mauunting." In other words, Mrs. Browning deliberately, or lazily, or
for want of ear, admits false pronunciation to save her the trouble of
an exact rhyme. Nay, more, despite her Greek, she will rhyme "idyll" to
"middle," and "pyramidal" to "idle," though nothing can be longer than
the _i_ in the first case, and nothing shorter than the _i_ in the
second. The positive anguish which such hideous false notes as these
must cause to any one with a delicate ear, the maddening interruption to
the delight of these really beautiful pieces of poetry, cannot be
over-estimated. It is fair to say that among the later fruit of her
poetical tree there are fewer of these Dead Sea apples,--her husband,
who, though audacious, was not vulgar in his rhymes, may have taught her
better. But to her earlier, more spontaneous, and more characteristic
verse they are a most terrible drawback, such as no other English poet
exhibits or suffers.

No poets at all approaching the first class can be said to have been
born within a decade either way of Tennyson and Browning, though some
extremely interesting writers of verse of about the same date will have
to be noticed in the latter part of this chapter. The next year that
produced a poet almost if not quite great, though one of odd lapses and
limitations, was 1822, the birth-year of Matthew Arnold. When a writer
has produced both prose and verse, or prose of distinctly different
kinds in which one division or kind was very far superior in intrinsic
value and extrinsic importance to the others, it has seemed best here to
notice all his work together. But in the case of Mr. Arnold, as in some
others, this is not possible, the volume, the character, and the
influence of his work in creative verse and critical prose alike
demanding separate treatment for the two sections. He was the eldest son
of Dr. Arnold, the famous head-master of Rugby, and was educated first
at the two schools, Winchester and Rugby itself, with which his father
was connected as scholar and master, and then at Balliol, where he
obtained a scholarship in 1840. He took the Newdigate in 1844, and was
elected a fellow of Oriel in 1845. After some work as private
secretary, he received an inspectorship of schools, and held it until
nearly the time of his death in 1888. He had been Professor of Poetry at
Oxford from 1857-67. He published poetry early, and though his fame at
this time was never very wide, he was known to those interested in
poetry, and especially to Oxford men, for more than twenty years before
he acquired popularity as a critic and began the remarkable series of
prose works which will be noticed in a later chapter. So early as 1849
he had published, under the initial of his surname only, _The Strayed
Reveller, and other Poems_; but his poetical building was not securely
founded until 1853, when there appeared, with a very remarkable preface,
a collection of Poems, which was certainly the best thing that had been
produced by any one younger than the two masters already discussed.
_Merope_, which followed in 1858, was an attempt at an English-Greek
drama, which, with Mr. Swinburne's _Atalanta in Calydon_ and
_Erechtheus_, is perhaps the best of a somewhat mistaken kind, for
Shelley's _Prometheus Unbound_ soars far above the kind itself. Official
duty first, and the growing vogue of his prose writing later, prevented
Mr. Arnold from issuing very many volumes of verse. But his _New Poems_
in 1867 made important additions, and in this way and that his poetical
production reached by the time of his death no inconsiderable
volume--perhaps five hundred pages averaging thirty lines each, or very
much more than has made the reputation of some English poets of very
high rank. Until late in his own life the general tendency was not to
take Mr. Arnold very seriously as a poet; and there are still those who
reproach him with too literary a character, who find fault with him as
thin and wanting in spontaneity. On the other hand, there are some who
not only think him happier in verse than in prose, but consider him
likely to take, when the "firm perspective of the past" has dispelled
mirages and false estimates, a position very decidedly on the right side
of the line which divides the great from the not great.

Family, local, and personal reasons (for Dr. Arnold had a house in the
immediate vicinity of Rydal), as well as the strong contemporary set in
favour of Wordsworth which prevailed in both universities between 1830
and 1845, caused Mr. Arnold early to take a distinctly Wordsworthian
bent. He was, later, somewhat outspoken in his criticism of Wordsworth's
weaker points; but it is impossible for any one to read his own poems
without perceiving that Arnold stands in a line of filiation from
Milton, with a slight deviation by way of Gray, through Wordsworth,
though with a strong personal element in his verse. This personal
element, besides other things, represents perhaps more powerfully than
it represents anything else, and than anything else represents this, a
certain reaction from the ornate and fluent Romanticism of the school of
Keats and Tennyson. Both, especially the latter, influenced Mr. Arnold
consciously and unconsciously. But consciously he was striving against
both to set up a neo-classic ideal as against the Romantic; and
unconsciously he was endeavouring to express a very decided, though a
perhaps not entirely genial or masculine, personal temperament. In other
words, Mr. Arnold is on one side a poet of "correctness"--a new
correctness as different from that of Pope as his own time, character,
and cultivation were from Pope's, but still correctness, that is to say
a scheme of literature which picks and chooses according to standards,
precedents, systems, rather than one which, given an abundant stream of
original music and representation, limits the criticising province in
the main to making the thing given the best possible of its kind. And it
is not a little curious that his own work is by no means always the best
of its kind--that it would often be not a little the better for a
stricter application of critical rules to itself.

But when it is at its best it has a wonderful charm--a charm nowhere
else to be matched among our dead poets of this century. Coleridge was
perhaps, allowing for the fifty years between them, as good a scholar as
Mr. Arnold, and he was a greater poet; but save for a limited time he
never had his faculties under due command, or gave the best of his work.
Scott, Byron, Keats, were not scholars at all; Shelley and Tennyson not
critical scholars; Rossetti a scholar only in modern languages. And none
of these except Coleridge, whatever their mere knowledge or instruction,
had the critical vein, the knack of comparing and adjusting, at all
strongly developed. Many attempts have been made at a formula of which
the following words are certainly not a perfect expression, that a poet
without criticism is a failure, and that a critic who is a poet is a
miracle. Mr. Arnold is beyond all doubt the writer who has most nearly
combined the two gifts. But for the present we are only concerned with
his poetry.

This shows itself distinctly enough, and perhaps at not far from its
best, in almost his earliest work. Among this earliest is the
magnificent sonnet on Shakespeare which perhaps better deserves to be
set as an epigraph and introduction to Shakespeare's own work than
anything else in the libraries that have been written on him except
Dryden's famous sentence; "Mycerinus," a stately blending of
well-arranged six-lined stanzas with a splendid finale of blank verse
not quite un-Tennysonian, but slightly different from Tennyson's; "The
Church of Brou," unequal but beautiful in the close (it is a curious and
almost a characteristic thing that Matthew Arnold's finales, his
perorations, were always his best); "Requiescat," an exquisite dirge. To
this early collection, too, belongs almost the whole of the singular
poem or collection of poems called "Switzerland," a collection much
rehandled in the successive editions of Mr. Arnold's work, and
exceedingly unequal, but containing, in the piece which begins--

    Yes! in the sea of life enisled,

one of the noblest poems of its class which the century has produced;
the mono-dramatic "Strayed Reveller," which as mentioned above is one of
the very earliest of all; and the more fully dramatised and longer
"Empedocles on Etna," in regard to which Mr. Arnold showed a singular
vacillation, issuing it, withdrawing nearly all of it, and than issuing
it again. Its design, like that of the somewhat later "Merope," is not
of the happiest, but it contains some lyrical pieces which are among
the best-known and the best of their author's work. Early too, if not of
the earliest, are certain longer narrative or semi-narrative poems, not
seldom varied with or breaking into lyric--"Sohrab and Rustum" with
another of the fine closes referred to, perhaps indeed the finest of
all; "The Sick King in Bokhara"; "Balder Dead"; "Tristram and Iseult";
"The Scholar-Gipsy," a most admirable "poem of place," being chiefly
devoted to the country round Oxford; "Thyrsis" (an elegy on Clough which
by some is ranked not far below _Lycidas_ and _Adonais_). But perhaps
Mr. Arnold's happiest vein, like that of most of the poets of the last
two-thirds of the century, lay, not in long poems but in shorter pieces,
more or less lyrical in form but not precisely lyrics--in short of the
same general class (though differing often widely enough in subject and
handling) as those in which the main appeal of Tennyson himself has been
said to consist. Such is "The Forsaken Merman," the poet's most original
and perhaps most charming if not his deepest or most elaborate thing--a
piece of exquisite and passionate music modulated with art as touching
as it is consummate; "Dover Beach," where the peculiar religious
attitude, with the expression of which so much of Mr. Arnold's prose is
concerned, finds a more restrained and a very melodious voice; the
half-satiric, half-meditative "Bacchanalia"; the fine "Summer Night";
the Memorial Verses (Mr. Arnold was a frequent and a skilled attempter
of epicedes) on Wordsworth, on Heine, and on the dog _Geist_; with,
almost latest of all and not least noble, "Westminster Abbey," the
opening passages of which vie in metre (though of a more complicated
mould) and in majesty with Milton's "Nativity Ode," and show a wonderful
ability to bear this heavy burden of comparison.

Perhaps these last words may not unfairly hint at a defect--if not _the_
defect--of this refined, this accomplished, but this often disappointing
poetry. Quite early, in the preface before referred to, the poet had run
up and nailed to the mast a flag-theory of poetic art to which he always
adhered as far as theory went, and which it may be reasonably supposed
he always endeavoured to exemplify in practice. According to this "all
depends on the subject," and the fault of most modern poetry and of
nearly all modern criticism is that the poets strive to produce and the
critics expect to receive, not an elaborately planned and adjusted
treatment of a great subject, but touches or bursts of more or less
beautiful thought and writing. Now of course it need not be said that in
the very highest poetry the excellence of the subject, the complete
appropriateness of the treatment, and the beauty of patches and
passages, all meet together. But it will also happen that this is not
so. And then the poet of "the subject" will not only miss the happy
"jewels five words long," the gracious puffs and cat's paws of the wind
of the spirit, that his less austere brother secures, but will not make
so very much of his subjects, of his schemes of treatment themselves.
His ambition, as ambition so often does, will over-reach itself, and he
will have nothing to show but the unfinished fragments of a poetical
Escurial instead of the finished chantries and altar-tombs which a less
formal architect is able to boast.

However this may be, two things are certain, the first that the best
work of Matthew Arnold in verse bears a somewhat small proportion to the
work that is not his best, and that his worst is sometimes strangely
unworthy of him; the second, that the best where it appears is of
surpassing charm--uniting in a way, of which Andrew Marvell is perhaps
the best other example in English lyric, romantic grace, feeling, and
music to a classical and austere precision of style, combining nobility
of thought with grace of expression, and presenting the most
characteristically modern ideas of his own particular day with an almost
perfect freedom from the jargon of that day, and in a key always
suggesting the great masters, the great thinkers, the great poets of the
past. To those who are in sympathy with his own way of thinking he must
always possess an extraordinary attraction; perhaps he is not least,
though he may be more discriminatingly, admired by those who are very
much out of sympathy with him on not a few points of subject, but who
are one with him in the Humanities--in the sense and the love of the
great things in literature.

The natural and logical line of development, however, from the
originators of the Romantic movement through Keats and Tennyson did not
lie through Matthew Arnold; and the time was not yet ripe--it can
perhaps hardly be said to be ripe yet--for a reaction in his sense. He
was, as has been said, a branch from Wordsworth, only slightly
influenced by Tennyson himself, than whom indeed he was not so very much
younger. The direct male line of descent lay in another direction; and
its next most important stage was determined by the same causes which
almost at the middle of the century or a little before brought about
Præ-Raphaelitism in art. Both of these were closely connected with the
set of events called the Oxford Movement, about which much has been
written, but of which the far-reaching significance, not merely in
religion but in literature, politics, art, and almost things in general,
has never yet been fully estimated. As far as literature is concerned,
and this special part of literature with which we are here dealing, this
movement had partly shown and partly shaped the direction of the best
minds towards the Middle Ages, which had been begun by Percy's
_Reliques_ in a vague and blind sort of way, and which had been
strengthened, directed, but still not altogether fashioned according to
knowledge, by Scott and Coleridge.

This movement which dominates the whole English poetry of the later half
of the century with the exception of that produced by a few survivors of
the older time, and to which no successor of equal brilliancy and
fertility has yet made its appearance, is popularly represented by three
writers, two of whom, Mr. William Morris and Mr. Swinburne, are
fortunately still alive, and therefore fall out of our province.
Rossetti, the eldest of the three, a great influence on both, and as it
happens an example unique in all history of combined excellence in
poetry and painting, has passed away for some years, and will give us
quite sufficient text for explaining the development and illustrating
its results without outstripping the limits traced in the preface to
this book; while his sister, and a distinguished junior member of the
school, also dead, Mr. Arthur O'Shaughnessy, may profitably be brought
in to complete the illustration.

Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, generally known as Dante Gabriel
Rossetti, was born in London on 12th May 1828. He was the son of an
Italian poet and critic of eminence, who, like so many of his countrymen
of literary tastes during the early part of the century, had fallen into
the Carbonaro movement, and who had to fly first to Malta and then to
England. Here he married Miss Polidori, whose mother was an
Englishwoman; and his four children--the two exquisite poets below dealt
with, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, a competent critic, and Maria Francesca, the
eldest daughter, who wrote an excellent introduction to Dante--all made
contributions, and two of them great contributions, to English
literature. The father himself, who was Professor of Italian at King's
College, London, was an enthusiastic though rather a fantastic Dantist,
and somewhat of a visionary generally, with wild notions about mediæval
secret societies; but a man of the greatest honesty and honour, and a
brilliant contrast to the various patriot-charlatans, from Ugo Foscolo
downwards, who brought discredit on the Italian name in his time in
England. These particulars, of a kind seldom given in this book, are not
otiose; for they have much to do with the singular personality of our
English Rossetti himself.

He was educated at King's College School; but his leanings towards art
were so strong that at the age of fifteen he began the study of it,
leaving school to draw at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. His art
career and the formation of the P.R.B. (Præ-Raphaelite Brotherhood)
unfortunately fall outside our sphere. It is enough to say that for some
twenty years Rossetti, if he was known at all (and he was never known
very widely nor did he ever seek notoriety) was known as a painter only,
though many who only knew his poems later conceived the most passionate
admiration for his painting. Yet he wrote almost as early as he
painted, contributing to the famous Præ-Raphaelite magazine, the _Germ_,
in 1850, to the remarkable _Oxford and Cambridge Magazine_, which also
saw the early work of Mr. Morris, in 1856, and publishing some
translations from _The Early Italian Poets_ in 1861. He had married the
year before this last date and was about to publish _Poems_ which he had
been writing from an early age. But his wife died in 1862, and in a fit
of despair he buried his MSS. in her coffin. They were years afterwards
exhumed and the _Poems_ appeared in 1870. Eleven years later another
volume of _Ballads and Sonnets_ was published, and Rossetti, whose
health in the interval had been much shattered, and who had
unfortunately sought refuge from insomnia in chloral, died next year in
April 1882. The last years of his life were not happy, and he was most
unnecessarily affected by attacks on the first arrangement of his
_Poems_.

These poems had a certain advantage in being presented to a public
already acquainted with the work of Mr. Morris and Mr. Swinburne; but
Rossetti was not merely older than his two friends, he was also to some
extent their master. At the same time the influences which acted on him
were naturally diverse from those which, independently of his own
influence, acted on them. For the French and English mediæval
inspirations of Mr. Morris, for the classical and general study of Mr.
Swinburne, he had his ancestral Italians almost for sole teachers; and
for their varied interests he had his own art of painting for a
continual companion, reminder, and model. Yet the mediæval impulse is
almost equally strong on all three, and its intensity shows that it was
the real dominant of the moment in English poetry. The opening poem of
Rossetti's first book, "The Blessed Damozel," which is understood to
have been written very early, though afterwards wrought up by touches
both of his love for his wife while living and of his regret for her
when dead, is almost a typical example of the whole style and school,
though it is individualised by the strong pictorial element rarely
absent from his work. The "Blessed Damozel" herself, who "leaned out
From the gold Bar of Heaven," is a figure from the _Paradiso_, divested
of the excessive abstraction of that part of Dante, and clothed partly
in the gayer colours and more fleshly personality of English and French
mediævalism, partly in a mystical halo which is peculiar to these
nineteenth century re-creations of mediæval thought and feeling. The
poem is of extreme beauty, and ornate as is its language in parts there
are touches, such as the poet's reflection

    To one it is ten years of years,

which utter the simplest truth and tenderness; while others, such as the
enumeration of the Virgin's handmaidens (over which at the time the
hoofs of earless critics danced)--

    With her five handmaidens, whose names
    Are five sweet symphonies--
    Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
    Margaret and Rosalys--

are consummate triumphs of the word-music brought by Tennyson into
English poetry. Indeed this couplet of names might be made a sort of
text to expound the great appeal to the ear of this kind of poetry,
which any one who is deaf to the exceptional and golden harmony of the
arrangement need never hope to appreciate. It is perfectly easy to
change the order in many ways without affecting the verse; there is
absolutely none of these combinations which approaches the actual one in
beauty of sound and suggestion.

"Love's Nocturn" which follows is more of the early Italian school pure
and simple; and "Troy Town," a ballad with burdens, is one of a class of
poem much affected by Rossetti and ever since, which has produced some
admirable work, but is perhaps a little open to the charge of too
deliberate archaism. It is at any rate far inferior to his own "Sister
Helen." But "The Burden of Nineveh" which follows is in a quite
different style, and besides its intrinsic excellence is noteworthy as
showing how very far Rossetti was from being limited in his choice of
manners. But to go through the whole contents of this very remarkable
volume would be impossible, and we can only particularise the great
sonnet-sequence "The House of Life" (which was attacked for want of
decency with as little intelligence as "The Blessed Damozel" had been
attacked for want of sense), and a set "for pictures." The first,
somewhat thorny and obscure in language, is of extreme poetical and
philosophical beauty. The latter, beautiful enough, may be said to lend
themselves a little to the attacks of those critics who charged Rossetti
with, in the Aristotelian phrase, "shifting his ground to another kind"
or (to vary the words) of taking the quotation _ut pictura poesis_ in
too literal a sense. Some songs, especially "Penumbra" and "The
Woodspurge," of intense sweetness and sadness, were also included; and
the simple directness of "Jenny" showed, like "Nineveh," capacities in
the poet not easily to be inferred from the bulk of his poems.

Rossetti's second volume, while it added only too little to the bulk of
his work--for much of it consisted of a revised issue of "The House of
Life"--added greatly to its enjoyment. But it produced no new kind,
unless certain extensions of the ballad-scheme into narrative poems of
considerable length--"Rose-Mary," "The White Ship," and "The King's
Tragedy"--be counted as such. "Rose-Mary" in particular exhibits the
merits and defects of the poet in almost the clearest possible light,
and it may be safely said that no English poet, not the very greatest,
need have been ashamed of such a stanza as this, where there is no
affectation worth speaking of, where the eternal and immortal
commonplaces of poetry are touched to newness as only a master touches,
and where the turn of the phrase and verse is impeccable and supreme:--

    And lo! on the ground Rose-Mary lay,
    With a cold brow like the snows ere May,
    With a cold breast like the earth till Spring--
    With such a smile as the June days bring
    When the year grows warm for harvesting.

Here, as elsewhere, it has seemed better to postpone most of the
necessary general criticism of schools and groups till the concluding
chapter, but in this particular respect the paucity of individuals which
our scheme leaves (though Miss Rossetti and Mr. O'Shaughnessy will give
valuable assistance presently), may make a few words desirable, even if
they be partly repetition and partly anticipation. We find in Rossetti a
strong influence of pictorial on poetic art; an overpowering tendency to
revert to the forms and figures, the sense and sentiment of the past,
especially the mediæval past; and a further tendency to a mysticism
which is very often, if not always, poetic in character, as indeed
mysticism generally if not always is. We find in point of form a
distinct preference for lyric over other kinds, a fancy for archaic
language and schemes of verse, a further fancy for elaborate and ornate
language (which does not, however, exclude perfect simplicity when the
poet chooses), and above all, a predilection for attempting and a
faculty for achieving effects of verbal music by cunning adjustment of
vowel and consonant sound which, though it had been anticipated
partially, and as it were accidentally in the seventeenth century, and
had been after the Romantic revival displayed admirably by Coleridge and
Keats, and brought to a high pitch by Tennyson, was even further
elaborated and polished by the present school. Indeed, they may be said
to have absolutely finished this poetical appeal as a distinct and
deliberate one. All poets have always attempted, and all poets always
will attempt, and when they are great, achieve these enchanting effects
of mere sound. But for some considerable time it will not be possible
(indeed it will be quite impossible until the structure, the intonation,
the phrase of English have taken such turns as will develop physical
possibilities as different from those of our language as ours are from
those of the seventeenth century) for any poets to get distinctly great
effects in the same way. It is proof enough of this that, except the
masters, no poet for many years now _has_ achieved a great effect by
this means, and that the most promising of the newer school, whether
they may or may not have found a substitute, are abandoning it.

Rossetti's younger, but very little younger, sister, Christina Georgina,
was born in 1830, sat to her brother early for the charming picture of
"The Girlhood of Mary Virgin," and is said also to figure in his
illustration of the weeping queens in Tennyson's _Morte D' Arthur_. But
she lived an exceedingly quiet life, mainly occupied in attention to her
mother and in devotion; for she had been brought up, and all her life
remained, a member of the Church of England. Her religious feelings more
and more coloured her poetical work, which was produced at intervals
from 1861 till close upon her death in the winter of 1894-95. It was not
hastily written, and latterly formed mainly the embellishment of certain
prose books of religious reflection or excerpt. But it was always of an
exquisite quality. Its first expression in book form was _Goblin Market,
and other Poems_ (1861), which, as well as her next volume, _The
Prince's Progress_ (1866), was illustrated by her brother's pencil. A
rather considerable time then passed without anything of importance (a
book called _Sing-Song_ excepted), till in 1881 _A Pageant, and other
Poems_ was added. A collection of all these was issued nine years later,
but with this the gleanings from the devotional works above mentioned
(the chief of which were _Time Flies_ and _The Face of the Deep_) have
still to be united.

There are those who seriously maintain Miss Rossetti's claim to the
highest rank among English poetesses, urging that she excels Mrs.
Browning, her only possible competitor, in freedom from blemishes of
form and from the liability to fall into silliness and maudlin gush, at
least as much as she falls short of her in variety and in power of
shaping a poem of considerable bulk. But without attempting a too rigid
classification we may certainly say that Miss Rossetti has no superior
among Englishwomen who have had the gift of poetry. In the title-piece
of her first book the merely quaint side of Præ-Raphaelitism perhaps
appears rather too strongly, though very agreeably to some. But
"Dreamland," "Winter Rain," "An End," "Echo," the exquisite song for
music "When I am dead, my dearest," and the wonderful devotional pieces
called "The Three Enemies" and "Sleep at Sea," with many charming
sonnets, adorned a volume which, on the whole, showed more of the
tendencies of the school than any which had yet appeared. For it was
less exclusively mediæval than Mr. Morris' _Defence of Guinevere_, and
very much more varied as well as more mature than Mr. Swinburne's _Queen
Mother_ and _Rosamond_. _The Prince's Progress_ showed a great advance
on _Goblin Market_ in dignity and freedom from mannerism, and the minor
poems in general rivalled those in the earlier collection, though the
poetess perhaps never quite equalled "Sleep at Sea." The contents of _A
Pageant, and other Poems_ were at once more serious and lighter than
those of the two former books (for Miss Rossetti, like her brother, had
a strong touch of humour), while the _Collected Poems_ added some
excellent pieces. But the note of the whole had been struck, as is
usually the case with good poets who do not publish too early, at the
very first.

The most distinguished members, with the exception of Mr. and Miss
Rossetti, of this school are still alive; and, as it did not become
fashionable until about five-and-twenty years ago, even the junior
members of it have in but few cases been sent to that majority of which
alone we treat. Mr. John Addington Symonds, an important writer of
prose, began early and never abandoned the practice of verse, but his
accomplishment in it was never more than an accomplishment. Mr. Philip
Bourke Marston, son of Dr. Westland Marston, the dramatist, was highly
reputed as a poet by his friends, but friendship and compassion (he was
blind) had perhaps more to do with this reputation than strict
criticism. The remarkable talents of Mr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, which
could never be mistaken by any one who knew him, and of which some
memorials remain in verse, were mainly lost to English poetry by the
fact of his passing the last twenty years of his life as a Jesuit
priest. But the most characteristic figure now passed away was Arthur
O'Shaughnessy (1844-81). He was an official of the British Museum, and
published three volumes of poetry--_The Epic of Women_ (1870), _Lays of
France_ (1872), and _Music and Moonlight_ (1874)--which were completed
in the year of his death by a posthumous volume entitled _Songs of a
Worker_. Of these the _Lays of France_ are merely paraphrases of Marie:
great part of the _Songs of a Worker_ is occupied with mere translation
of modern French verses--poor work for a poet at all times. But _The
Epic of Women_ and _Music and Moonlight_ contain stuff which it is not
extravagant to call extraordinary.

It was never widely popular, for O'Shaughnessy pushed the fancy of the
Præ-Raphaelites for a dreamy remoteness to its very furthest, and the
charge (usually an uncritical one, but usually also explaining with a
certain justice a poet's unpopularity) of "lack of human interest" was
brought against him. Sometimes, too, either of deliberate conviction or
through corrupt following of others, he indulged in expressions of
opinion about matters on which the poet is not called upon to express
any, in a manner which was always unnecessary and sometimes offensive.
But judged as a poet he has the _unum necessarium_, the individual note
of song. Like Keats, he was not quite individual--there are echoes,
especially of Edgar Poe, in him. But the genuine and authentic
contribution is sufficient, and is of the most unmistakable kind. In the
first book "Exile," "A Neglected Heart," "Bisclavaret," "The Fountain of
Tears," "Barcarolle," make a new mixture of the fair and strange in
meaning, a new valuation of the eternal possibilities of language in
sound. _Music and Moonlight_--O'Shaughnessy was one of the few poets who
have been devoted to music--is almost more remote, and even less
popularly beautiful; but the opening "Ode," some of the lyrics in the
title poem (such as "Once in a hundred years"), the song "Has summer
come without the rose," and not a few others, renew for those who can
receive it the strange attraction, the attraction most happily hinted by
the very title of this book itself, which O'Shaughnessy could exercise.
That there was not a little that is morbid in him--as perhaps in the
school generally--sane criticism cannot deny. But though it is as unwise
as it is unsafe to prefer morbidness for itself or to give it too great
way, there are undoubted charms in it, and O'Shaughnessy could give
poetical form to these as few others could. Two of his own lines--

    Oh! exquisite malady of the soul,
    How hast thou marred me--

put the thing well. Those who have once tasted his poetry return, and
probably, though they are never likely to be numerous, always when they
have once tasted will return, to the visions and the melodies--

            Of a dreamer who slumbers,
    And a singer who sings no more.

Another poet whose death brings him within our range, and who may be
said to belong, with some striking differences of circumstance as well
as individual genius, to the same school, was James Thomson, second of
the name in English poetry, but a curious and melancholy contrast to
that Epicurean animal, the poet of _The Seasons_. He was born at
Port-Glasgow on 23rd November 1834, and was the son of a sailor. His
parents being in poor circumstances, he obtained, as a child, a place in
the Royal Caledonian Asylum, and, after a good education there, became
an army schoolmaster--a post which he held for a considerable time. But
Thomson's natural character was recalcitrant to discipline and
distinguished by a morbid social jealousy. He gradually, under the
influence of, or at any rate in company with, the notorious Charles
Bradlaugh, adopted atheistic and republican opinions, and in 1862 an act
of insubordination led to his dismissal from the army, for which he had
long lost, if he ever had, any liking. It is also said that the death of
a girl to whom he was passionately attached had much to do with the
development of the morbid pessimism by which he became distinguished.
For some time Thomson tried various occupations, being by turns a
lawyer's clerk, a mining agent, and war correspondent of a newspaper
with the Carlists. But even before he left the army he had, partly with
Mr. Bradlaugh's help, obtained work on the press, and such income as he
had during the last twenty years of his life was chiefly derived from
it. He might undoubtedly have made a comfortable living in this way, for
his abilities were great and his knowledge not small. But in addition to
the specially poetical weakness of disliking "collar-work," he was
hampered by the same intractable and morose temper which he had shown in
the army, by the violence of his religious and political views, and
lastly and most fatally by an increasing slavery to drink and chloral.
At last, in 1882, he--after having been for some time in the very worst
health--burst a blood-vessel while visiting his friend the blind poet
Philip Bourke Marston, and died in University College Hospital on 3rd
June.

This melancholy story is to be found sufficiently reflected in his
works. Those in prose, though not contemptible, neither deserve nor are
likely to receive long remembrance, being for the most part critical
studies, animated by a real love for literature and informed by
respectable knowledge, but of necessity lacking in strict scholarship,
distinguished by more acuteness than wisdom, and marred by the sectarian
violence and narrowness of a small anti-orthodox clique. They may
perhaps be not unfairly compared to the work of a clever but
ill-conditioned schoolboy. The verse is very different. He began to
write it early, and it chiefly appeared in Mr. Bradlaugh's _National
Reformer_ with the signature "B. V.," the initials of "Bysshe Vanolis,"
a rather characteristic _nom de guerre_ which Thomson had taken to
express his admiration for Shelley directly, and for Novalis by anagram.
Some of it, however, emerged into a wider hearing, and attracted the
favourable attention of men like Kingsley and Froude. But Thomson did
nothing of importance till 1874, when "The City of Dreadful Night"
appeared in the _National Reformer_, to the no small bewilderment
probably of its readers. Six years later the poem was printed with
others in a volume, quickly followed by a second, _Vane's Story_,
_etc._ Thomson's melancholy death attracted fresh attention to him, and
much--perhaps a good deal too much--of his writings has been
republished since. His claims, however, must rest on a comparatively
small body of work, which will no doubt one day be selected and issued
alone. "The City of Dreadful Night" itself, incomparably the best of the
longer poems, is a pessimist and nihilist effusion of the deepest gloom
amounting to despair, but couched in stately verse of an absolute
sincerity and containing some splendid passages. With this is connected
one of the latest pieces, the terrible "Insomnia." Of lighter strain,
written when the poet could still be happy, are "Sunday at Hampstead"
and "Sunday up the River," "The Naked Goddess," and one or two others;
while other things, such as "The fire that filled my heart of old," must
also be cited. Even against these the charge of a monotonous, narrow,
and irrational misery has been brought. But what saves Thomson is the
perfection with which he expresses, the negative and hopeless side of
the sense of mystery, of the Unseen; just as Miss Rossetti expresses the
positive and hopeful one. No two contemporary poets perhaps ever
completed each other in a more curious way than this Bohemian atheist
and this devout lady.

So far in this chapter the story of poetry, from Tennyson downwards, has
been conducted in regular fashion, and by citing the principal names
which represent the chief schools or sub-schools. But we must now return
to notice a very considerable company of other verse-writers, without
mention of whom this history would be wofully incomplete. Nor must it by
any means be supposed that they are to be regarded invariably as
constituting a "second class." On the contrary, some of them are the
equals, one or two the superiors, of Thomson or of O'Shaughnessy. But
they have been postponed, either because they belong to schools of which
the poets already mentioned are masters, to choruses of which others are
the leaders, or because they show rather blended influences than a
distinct and direct advance in the main poetical line of development.
Others again rank here, and not earlier, because they are of the second
class, or a lower one.

Of these, though he leaves a name certain to live in English literary
history, if not perhaps quite in the way in which its author wished, is
Martin Farquhar Tupper, who was born, in 1810, of a very respectable
family in the Channel Islands, his father being a surgeon of eminence.
Tupper was educated at the Charterhouse and at Christ Church, and was
called to the bar. But he gave himself up to literature, especially
poetry or verse, of which he wrote an enormous quantity. His most famous
book appeared originally in 1839, though it was afterwards continued. It
was called _Proverbial Philosophy_, and criticised life in rhythmical
rather than metrical lines, with a great deal of orthodoxy. Almost from
the first the critics and the wits waged unceasing war against it; but
the public, at least for many years, bought it with avidity, and perhaps
read it, so that it went through forty editions and is said to have
brought in twenty thousand pounds. Nor is it at all certain that any
genuine conception of its pretentious triviality had much to do with the
decay which, after many years, it, like other human things, experienced.
Mr. Tupper, who did not die till 1889, is understood to have been
privately an amiable and rather accomplished person; and some of his
innumerable minor copies of verse attain a very fair standard of minor
poetry. But _Proverbial Philosophy_ remains as one of the bright and
shining examples of the absolute want of connection between literary
merit and popular success.

It has been said that Lord Tennyson's first work appeared in _Poems by
Two Brothers_, and it is now known that this book was actually by the
_three_,--Frederick, Charles, and Alfred. Frederick, the eldest, who, at
a great age, is still alive, has never ceased verse-writing. Charles,
who afterwards took the name of Turner, and, having been born in 1808,
died in 1879, was particularly famous as a sonneteer, producing in this
form many good and some excellent examples. Arthur Hallam, whom _In
Memoriam_ has made immortal, was credited by the partial judgment of his
friends with talents which, they would fain think, were actually shown
both in verse and prose. A wiser criticism will content itself with
saying that in one sense he produced _In Memoriam_ itself, and that
this is enough connection with literature for any man. His own work has
a suspicious absence of faults, without the presence of any great
positive merit,--a combination almost certainly indicating precocity, to
be followed by sterility. But this consummation he was spared. John
Sterling, who has been already referred to, and who stands to Carlyle in
what may be called a prose version of the relation between Tennyson and
Hallam, wrote some verse which is at least interesting; and Sir Francis
Doyle, also elsewhere mentioned, belongs to the brood of the remarkable
years 1807-14, having been born in 1810. But his splendid war-songs were
written not very early in life.

Of the years just mentioned, the first, 1807, contributed, besides Mr.
Frederick Tennyson, the very considerable talent of Archbishop Trench, a
Harrow and Trinity (Cambridge) man who had an actual part in the
expedition to Spain from which Sterling retreated, took orders, and
ended a series of ecclesiastical promotions by the Archbishopric of
Dublin, to which he was consecrated in 1864, which he held with great
dignity and address during the extremely trying period of
Disestablishment, and which he resigned in 1884, dying two years later.
Trench wrote always well, and always as a scholar, on a wide range of
subjects. He was an interesting philologist,--his _Study of Words_ being
the most popular of scholarly and the most scholarly of popular works on
the subject,--a valuable introducer of the exquisite sacred Latin poetry
of the Middle Ages to Englishmen, a sound divine in preaching and
teaching. His original English verse was chiefly written before the
middle of the century, though perhaps his best known (not his best)
verses are on the Battle of the Alma. He was a good sonneteer and an
excellent hymn-writer.

1809 contributed three writers of curiously contrasted character. One
was Professor Blackie, an eccentric and amiable man, a translator of
Æschylus, and a writer of songs of a healthy and spirited kind. The
second, Dr. Thomas Gordon Hake, a poet of Parables, has never been
popular, and perhaps seldom arrived at that point of projection in which
poetical alchemy finally and successfully transmutes the rebel
materials of thought and phrase into manifest gold; but he had very high
and distinctly rare, poetical qualities. Such things as "Old Souls,"
"The Snake Charmer," "The Palmist," three capital examples of his work,
are often, and not quite wrongly, objected to in different forms of some
such a phrase as this: "Poetry that is perfect poetry ought never to
subject any tolerable intellect to the necessity of searching for its
meaning. It is not necessary that it should yield up the whole treasures
of that meaning at once, but it must carry on the face of it such a
competent quantity as will relieve the reader from postponing the poetic
enjoyment in order to solve the intellectual riddle." The truth of this
in the main, and the demurrers and exceptions to it in part, are pretty
clear; nor is this the place to state them at length. It is sufficient
to say that in Dr. Hake's verse, especially that part of it published
between 1870 and 1880 under the titles _Madeline_, _Parables and Tales_,
_New Symbols_, _Legends of the Morrow_ and _Maiden Ecstasy_, the reader
of some poetical experience will seldom fail to find satisfaction.

It is impossible to imagine a greater contrast than that of this poet
with Lord Houghton, earlier known to everybody as Richard Monckton
Milnes, who died in 1885. He was of the golden age of Trinity during
this century, the age of Tennyson, and throughout life he had an amiable
fancy for making the acquaintance of everybody who made any name in
literature, and of many who made none. A practical and active
politician, and a constant figure in society, he was also a very
considerable man of letters. His critical work (principally but not
wholly collected in _Monographs_) is not great in bulk but is
exceedingly good, both in substance and in style. His verse, on the
other hand, which was chiefly the produce of the years before he came to
middle life, is a little slight, and perhaps appears slighter than it
really is. Few poets have ever been more successful with songs for
music: the "Brookside" (commonly called from its refrain, "The beating
of my own heart"), the famous and really fine "Strangers Yet," are the
best known, but there are many others. Lord Houghton undoubtedly had no
strong vein of poetry. But it was always an entire mistake to represent
him as either a fribble or a sentimentalist, while with more inducements
to write he would probably have been one of the very best critics of his
age.

It is necessary once more to approach the unsatisfactory brevity of a
catalogue in order to mention, since it would be wrong to omit, Sir
Samuel Ferguson (1810-86), an Irish writer who produced some pleasant
and spirited work of ordinary kinds, and laboured very hard to achieve
that often tried but seldom achieved adventure, the rendering into
English poetry of Irish Celtic legends and literature; Alfred Domett
(1811-87), author of the New Zealand epic of _Ranulf and Amohia_ and
much other verse, but most safely grappled to English poetry as
Browning's "Waring"; W. B. Scott (1812-90), an outlying member of the
Præ-Raphaelite School in art and letters, in whom for the most part
execution lagged behind conception both with pen and pencil; Charles
Mackay (1814-89), an active journalist who wrote a vast deal in verse
and prose, his best things perhaps being the mid-century "Cholera
Chant," the once well-known song of "A good time coming," and in a
sentimental strain the piece called "O, ye Tears"; and Mrs. Archer
Clive, the author of the remarkable novel of _Paul Ferroll_, whose _IX.
Poems by V._ attracted much attention from competent critics in the
doubtful time of poetry about the middle of the century, and are really
good.

Not many writers, either in prose or poetry, give the impression of
never having done what was in them more than William Edmonstoune Aytoun,
who was born in 1813 and died in 1865. He was a son-in-law of
"Christopher North," and like him a pillar of _Blackwood's Magazine_, in
which some of his best things in prose and verse appeared. He divided
himself between law and literature, and in his rather short life rose to
a Professorship in the latter and a Sheriffdom in the former, deserving
the credit of admirably stimulating influence in the first capacity and
competent performance in the second. He published poems when he was
only seventeen. But his best work consists of the famous _Bon Gaultier
Ballads_--a collection of parodies and light poems of all kinds written
in conjunction with Sir Theodore Martin, and one of the pleasantest
books of the kind that the century has seen--and the more serious _Lays
of the Scottish Cavaliers_, both dating from the forties, the
satirically curious _Firmilian_ (see below), 1854, and some _Blackwood_
stories of which the very best perhaps is _The Glenmutchkin Railway_.
His long poem of _Bothwell_, 1855, and his novel of _Norman Sinclair_,
1861, are less successful.

The _Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers_, on which his chief serious claim
must rest, is an interesting book, if hardly a great one. The style is
modelled with extreme closeness upon that of Scott, which even Sir
Walter, with all his originality and genius, had not been able always to
preserve from flatness. In Aytoun's hands the flats are too frequent,
though they are relieved and broken at times by really splendid bursts,
the best of which perhaps are "The Island of the Scots" and "The Heart
of the Bruce." For Aytoun's poetic vein, except in the lighter kinds,
was of no very great strength; and an ardent patriotism, a genuine and
gallant devotion to the Tory cause, and a keen appreciation of the
chivalrous and romantic, did not always suffice to supply the want of
actual inspiration.

If it had been true, as is commonly said, that the before-mentioned
_Firmilian_ killed the so-called Spasmodic School, Aytoun's failure to
attain the upper regions of poetry would have been a just judgment; for
the persons whom he satirised, though less clever and humorous, were
undoubtedly more poetical than himself. But nothing is ever killed in
this way, and as a matter of fact the Spasmodic School of the early
fifties was little more than one of the periodical outbursts of poetic
velleity, more genuine than vigorous and more audacious than organic,
which are constantly witnessed. It is, as usual, not very easy to find
out who were the supposed scholars in this school. Mr. P. H. Bailey, the
author of _Festus_, who still survives, is sometimes classed with them;
but the chief members are admitted to have been Sydney Dobell and
Alexander Smith, both remarkable persons, both failures of something
which might in each case have been a considerable poet, and both
illustrating the "second middle" period of the poetry of the century
which corresponds to that illustrated earlier by Darley, Horne, and
Beddoes.

Of this pair, Sydney Dobell had some, and Alexander Smith had others, of
the excuses which charity not divorced from critical judgment makes for
imperfect poets. Dobell, with sufficient leisure for poetical
production, had a rather unfortunate education and exceedingly bad
health. Smith had something of both of these, and the necessity of
writing for bread as well. Dobell, the elder of the two, and the longer
lived, though both died comparatively young, was a Kentish man, born at
Cranbrook on 5th April 1824. When he was of age his father established
himself as a wine-merchant at Cheltenham, and Sydney afterwards
exercised the same not unpoetical trade. He went to no school and to no
University, privations especially dangerous to a person inclined as he
was to a kind of passionate priggishness. He was always ill; and his
wife, to whom he engaged himself while a boy, and whom he married before
he had ceased to be one, was always ill likewise. He travelled a good
deal, with results more beneficial to his poetry than to his health;
and, the latter becoming ever worse, he died near Cheltenham on 22nd
August 1874. His first work, an "Italomaniac" closet drama entitled _The
Roman_, was published in 1850; his second, _Balder_, in 1853. This
latter has been compared to Ibsen's _Brand_: I do not know whether any
one has noticed other odd, though slight, resemblances between _Peer
Gynt_ and Beddoes' chief work. The Crimean War had a strong influence on
Dobell, and besides joining Smith in _Sonnets on the War_ (1855), he
wrote by himself _England in Time of War_, next year. He did not publish
anything else; but his works were edited shortly after his death by
Professor Nichol.

Alexander Smith, like so many of the modern poets of Scotland, was born
in quite humble life, and had not even the full advantages open to a
Scottish "lad o' pairts." His birthplace, however, was Kilmarnock, a
place not alien to the Muses; and before he was twenty-one (his birth
year is diversely given as 1829 and 1830) the Rev. George Gilfillan, an
amiable and fluent critic of the middle of the century, who loved
literature very much and praised its practitioners with more zeal than
discrimination, procured the publication of the _Life Drama_. It sold
enormously; it is necessary to have been acquainted with those who were
young at the time of its appearance to believe in the enthusiasm with
which it was received; but a little intelligence and a very little
goodwill will enable the critic to understand, if not to share their
raptures. For a time Smith was deliberately pitted against Tennyson by
"the younger sort" as Dennis says of the faction for Settle against
Dryden in his days at Cambridge. The reaction which, mercifully for the
chances of literature if not quite pleasantly for the poet, always comes
in such cases, was pretty rapid, and Smith, ridiculed in _Firmilian_,
was more seriously taxed with crudity (which was just), plagiarism
(which was absurd), and want of measure (which, like the crudity, can
hardly be denied). Smith, however, was not by any means a weakling
except physically; he could even satirise himself sensibly and
good-humouredly enough; and his popularity had the solid result of
giving him a post in the University of Edinburgh--not lucrative and by
no means a sinecure, but not too uncongenial, and allowing him a chance
both to read and to write. For some time he stuck to poetry, publishing
_City Poems_ in 1857 and _Edwin of Deira_ in 1861. But the taste for his
wares had dwindled: perhaps his own poetic impulse, a true but not very
strong one, was waning; and he turned to prose, in which he produced a
story or two and some pleasant descriptive work--_Dreamthorpe_ (1863),
and _A Summer in Skye_ (1865). Consumption showed itself, and he died on
8th January 1867.

It has already been said that there is much less of a distinct
brotherhood in Dobell and Smith, or of any membership of a larger but
special "Spasmodic school," than of the well-known and superficially
varying but generally kindred spirit of periods and persons in which
and in whom poetic yearning does not find organs or opportunities
thoroughly suited to satisfy itself. Dobell is the more unequal, but the
better of the two in snatches. His two most frequently quoted
things--"Tommy's Dead" and the untitled ballad where the refrain--

    Oh, Keith of Ravelston,
        The sorrows of thy line!

occurs at irregular intervals--are for once fair samples of their
author's genius. "Tommy's dead," the lament of a father over his son, is
too long, it has frequent flatnesses, repetitions that do not add to the
effect, bits of mere gush, trivialities. The tragic and echoing
magnificence of the Ravelston refrain is not quite seconded by the text:
both to a certain extent deserve the epithet (which I have repudiated
for Beddoes in another place) of "artificial." And yet both have the
fragmentary, not to be analysed, almost uncanny charm and grandeur which
have been spoken of in that place. Nor do this charm, this grandeur,
fail to reappear (always more or less closely accompanied by the faults
just mentioned, and also by a kind of flatulent rant which is worse than
any of them) both in Dobell's war-songs, which may be said in a way to
hand the torch on from Campbell to Mr. Kipling, and in his marvellously
unequal blank verse, where the most excellent thought and phrase
alternate with sheer balderdash--a pun which (it need hardly be said)
was not spared by contemporary critics to the author of _Balder_.

Alexander Smith never rises to the heights nor strikes the distinct
notes of Dobell; but the _Life Drama_ is really on the whole better than
either _Balder_ or _The Roman_, and is full of what may be called, from
opposite points of view, happy thoughts and quaint conceits, expressed
in a stamp of verse certainly not quite original, but melodious always,
and sometimes very striking. He has not yet had his critical
resurrection, and perhaps none such will ever exalt him to a very high
prominent position. He seems to suffer from the operation of that
mysterious but very real law which decrees that undeserved popularity
shall be followed by neglect sometimes even more undeserved. But when he
does finally find his level, it will not be a very low one.

To the Spasmodics may be appended yet another list of bards who can
claim here but the notice of a sentence or a clause, though by no means
uninteresting to the student, and often very interesting indeed to the
student-lover of poetry:--the two Joneses--Ernest (1819-69), a rather
silly victim of Chartism, for which he went to prison, but a generous
person and master of a pretty twitter enough; and Ebenezer (1820-60), a
London clerk, author of _Studies of Sensation and Event_, a rather
curious link between the Cockney school of the beginning of the century
and some minor poets of our own times, but overpraised by his
rediscoverers some years ago; W. C. Bennett, a popular song-writer;
William Cory (  -1892), earlier and better known as Johnson, an Eton
master, a scholar, an admirable writer of prose and in _Ionica_ of verse
slightly effeminate but with a note in it not unworthy of one glance of
its punning title; W. C. Roscoe (1823-59), grandson of the historian, a
minor poet in the best sense of the term; William Allingham (1824-89),
sometime editor of _Fraser_, and a writer of verse from whom at one time
something might have been expected; Thomas Woolner, a sculptor of great,
and--in _My Beautiful Lady_, _Pygmalion_, etc.--a poet of estimable
merit, whose first-named volume attracted rather disproportionate praise
at its first appearance. As one thinks of the work of these and
others--often enjoyable, sometimes admirable, and long ago or later
admired and enjoyed--the unceremoniousness of despatching them so
slightly brings a twinge of shame. But it is impossible to do justice to
their work, or to the lyrics, merry or sensuous, of Mortimer Collins,
who was nearly a real poet of _vers de société_, and had a capital
satiric and a winning romantic touch; the stirring ballads of Walter
Thornbury (which, however, would hardly have been written but for
Macaulay on the one hand and Barham on the other) and the
ill-conditioned but clever Radical railing of Robert Brough at
"Gentlemen." But if they cannot be discussed, they shall at least be
mentioned. On three others, Frederick Locker, Arthur Hugh Clough, and
"Owen Meredith" (Lord Lytton), we must dwell longer.

Clough has been called by persons of distinction a "bad poet"; but this
was only a joke, and, with all respect to those who made it, a rather
bad joke. The author of "Qua Cursum Ventus," of the marvellous picture
of the advancing tide in "Say not the struggle," and of not a few other
things, was certainly no bad poet, though it would not be uncritical to
call him a thin one. He was born at Liverpool on New Year's Day 1819,
spent part of his childhood in America, went to Rugby very young and
distinguished himself there greatly, though it may be doubted whether
the peculiar system which Arnold had just brought into full play was the
healthiest for a self-conscious and rather morbid nature like Clough's.
From Rugby he went to Balliol, and was entirely upset, not, as is
sometimes most unjustly said, by Newman, but by the influence of W. G.
Ward, a genial Puck of Theology, who, himself caring for nothing but
mathematics, philosophy, and play-acting, disturbed the consciences of
others by metaphysical quibbles, and then took refuge in the Church of
Rome. Clough, who had been elected to an Oriel fellowship, threw it up
in 1848, turned freethinker, and became the head of an educational
institution in London called University Hall. He did not hold this very
long, receiving a post in the Education Office, which he held in various
forms till his death in 1861 at Florence.

It is not necessary to be biassed by Matthew Arnold's musical epicede of
"Thyrsis" in order to admit, nor should any bias against his theological
views and his rather restless character be sufficient to induce any one
to deny, a distinct vein of poetry in Clough. His earliest and most
popular considerable work, _The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich_ (the title
of which was originally rather different,) is written in hexameters
which do not, like Kingsley's, escape the curse of that "pestilent
heresy"; and the later _Amours de Voyage_ and _Dipsychus_, though there
are fine passages in both, bring him very close to the Spasmodic
school, of which in fact he was an unattached and more cultivated
member, with fancies directed rather to religiosity than to strict
literature. _Ambarvalia_ had preceded the _Bothie_, and other things
followed. On the whole, Clough is one of the most unsatisfactory
products of that well-known form of nineteenth century scepticism which
has neither the strength to believe nor the courage to disbelieve "and
have done with it." He hankers and looks back, his "two souls" are
always warring with each other, and though the clash and conflict
sometimes bring out fine things (as in the two pieces above cited and
the still finer poem at Naples with the refrain "Christ is not risen"),
though his "Latest Decalogue" has satirical merit, and some of his
country poems, written without undercurrent of thought, are fresh and
genial, he is on the whole a failure. But he is a failure of a
considerable poet, and some fragments of success chequer him.

Frederick Locker, who on his second marriage took the additional name of
Lampson, was born in 1821 of a family long connected with the Navy and
with Greenwich Hospital. He himself held for some years a post in the
Admiralty; but he was much more addicted to society and to literature
than to official work. His first marriage with Lady Charlotte Bruce
strengthened his social position, and his second gave him wealth. He
published, as early as 1857, a volume of light verse entitled _London
Lyrics_, which, with the work of Prior, Praed, and Mr. Austin Dobson,
stands at the head of its kind in English. But--an exceedingly rare
thing for amateur as well as for professional writers in our time--he
was not tempted either by profit or fame to write copiously. He added
during his not short life, which closed in May 1895, a few more poems to
_London Lyrics_. He edited in 1867 an anthology of his own kind of verse
called _Lyra Elegantiarum_, and in 1879 he produced a miscellany of
verse and prose, original and selected, called _Patchwork_, in which
some have seen his most accomplished and characteristic production. In
form it is something like Southey's _Omniana_, partly a commonplace
book, partly full of original things; but the extracts are so choicely
made and the original part is so delightful that it is not quite like
any book in the language. If Charles Lamb had been of Mr. Locker's time
and circumstances he might have made its fellow. "My Guardian Angel," a
short prose anecdote, is, as nearly as the present writer knows, unique.
Latterly its author was chiefly known as a man of much hospitality and a
collector of choice books. He would not do anything bad, and apparently
he did not feel inclined to do anything good. And as this is a century
when almost everybody must still be doing, and taking the chance of
goodness and badness, such an exception to the rule should meet with
honour.

No poet of the period, perhaps none of the century, occupies a position
less settled by general criticism, or more difficult to settle, than
that of Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton, for a long time known in
poetry as "Owen Meredith." The only son of the novelist, he was born on
8th November 1831, and after going to Harrow, but not to either
university, entered the diplomatic service at the age of eighteen. In
this he filled a great many different offices at a great many different
places for nearly thirty years, till, after succeeding to his father's
title, he was made First Minister at Lisbon, and then in 1876 Viceroy of
India. This post he gave up in 1880, and after the return of the Tory
party to power, was sent in 1887 as Ambassador to Paris, where he was
very popular, and where he died in 1892.

Despite the fact that his time, save for the interval of 1880-87, was
thus uninterruptedly occupied with business, Lord Lytton was an
indefatigable writer of verse; while in _The Ring of Amasis_ he tried
the prose romance. His chief poetical books were _Clytemnestra_ (1855);
_The Wanderer_ (1859), which contains some charming lyrical work;
_Lucile_ (1860), a verse story; _Songs of Servia_ (_Serbski Pesme_)
(1861); _Orval, or the Fool of Time_ and _Chronicles and Characters_
(1869); _Fables in Song_ (1874); _Glenaveril_, a very long modern epic
(1885); and _After Paradise, or Legends of Exile_ (1887). Besides these
he collaborated in 1861 with his friend Julian Fane in a poem,
_Tannhäuser_, which, though too much of a Tennysonian echo, has good
passages; and after his death two volumes equal if not superior to
anything he had done, _Marah_, a collection of short poems, and _King
Poppy_, a fantastic epic, were published. This extensive and not always
easily accessible work is conveniently represented by two volumes of
selections, one representing chiefly the earlier and shorter works,
edited by Miss Betham-Edwards in 1890, the other drawn mostly from the
later and longer, edited by his daughter, Lady Betty Balfour, in 1894.
This latter was accompanied by reprints of _The Wanderer_ and _Lucile_.

The difficulties in criticism above referred to arise, not merely from
the voluminousness of this work, nor from the fact that Lord Lytton
shares with all the poets of his special generation, except Rossetti,
that inability to hit upon a definite and distinct manner of his own
which is so frequently and strangely remarkable in what may be called
intermediate poetical periods. Indeed in his later years he did strike
out something like a very distinct style. But he suffers more than any
other poet of anything like his gifts from two faults, one of which is
perhaps the fault that hurts a poet most with the vulgar, and the other
that which does him most harm with critics. He was so frankly pleased
with, and so apt at imitating the work of his great contemporaries, that
he would publish things to which fools gave the name of
plagiarisms--when they were in fact studies in the manner of Tennyson,
Heine, Browning, and others. And in the second place, though he
frequently rewrote, it seemed impossible for him to retrench and
concentrate. To this may be added his fondness for extremely long
narrative poems, the taste for which has certainly gone out, while it
may be doubted whether, unless they are pure romances of adventure, they
are ever good things.

The consequence of all this, and perhaps of other things less
legitimately literary, such as political partnership, has hitherto been
that Lord Lytton has been ranked very far indeed below his proper place.
For he had two poetical gifts, the higher of them in a high, the lower
in an eminent degree. The first was the gift of true lyric, not seldom
indeed marred by the lack of polish above noticed, but real, true, and
constant, from the "Fata Morgana" and "Buried Heart" of _The Wanderer_
to the "Experientia Docet" and "Selenites" of _Marah_, more than thirty
years later. The other was a much more individual power, and by some
might be ranked higher. It is the gift of what can best generally be
called ironical narration, using irony in its proper sense of covert
suggestive speech. This took various forms, indicated with more or less
clearness in the very titles of _Chronicles and Characters_ and _Fables
in Song_,--symbolic-mystical in _Legends of Exile_ (where not only some
of the legends but the poems called "Uriel" and "Strangers" are among
the best things of the author and highly typical of his later manner),
and fantastically romantic, with a strong touch of symbolism, in _King
Poppy_. And when, as happens in most of the pieces mentioned above and
many others, the combination welds itself into a kind of passionate
allegory, few poets show a better power of transporting the reader in
the due poetic manner. There can be no doubt that if Lord Lytton had
developed this faculty somewhat earlier (there are traces of it very
early), had made its exercises rather more clear and direct, and had
subjected their expression to severer thinning and compression, he would
have made a great reputation as a poet. As it is, it cannot be denied
that he had the positive faculties of poetry in kind and degree only
inferior to those possessed by at most four or five of his English
contemporaries from Tennyson downwards.

Nor should there perhaps lack mention of Roden Noel and Thomas Ashe, two
writers in whom, from their earlier work, it was not unreasonable to
expect poets of a distinct kind, and who, though they never improved on
this early work, can never be said exactly to have declined from it. The
first and elder was a son of the Earl of Gainsborough, was born in 1834,
went to Cambridge, travelled a good deal, and at various times, till his
death at the age of sixty, published much verse and not a little prose,
both showing a distinctly poetical imagination without a sufficient
organ of expression. Nor did he ever develop this except in _A Little
Child's Monument_, where the passionate personal agony injures as much
as it helps the poetical result. Mr. Ashe, who was born in 1836, and
died in 1889, also a Cambridge man, had a much less ambitious and rather
less interesting but somewhat better-organised talent for verse, and his
_Sorrows of Hypsipyle_, published in 1866, caused and authorised at the
time considerable expectations from him. But his vein was rather the
result of classical culture working on a slight original talent than
anything better, and he did not rise beyond a pleasant competence in
verse which was never that of a poetaster, but hardly ever that of a
distinct poet. In which respect he may appear here as the representative
of no scanty company dead and living. For even the longest chapter of a
book must have an end; and it is impossible to find room in it for the
discussion of the question, whether the friends of Oliver Madox Brown,
son of the famous Præ-Raphaelite painter, were or were not wrong in
seeing extraordinary promise in his boyish work; whether the sonnets of
Ernest Lefroy (1855-91) were exercises or works of art. A few more
remarks on humorous poets and women-poets must close the record.

In the art of merely or mainly humorous singing two names, those of
Edward Lear and Charles Stuart Calverley, entirely dominate the rest
among dead writers in the last part of the century. Lear, a good deal
the elder man of the two, was born in 1813, was a painter by profession,
and was the "E. L." of a well-known poem of Tennyson's. It was not till
1861 that his delightful nonsense-verses, known to his friends in
private, were first published, and they received various additions at
intervals till his death in 1888. The sheer nonsense-verse--the
_amphigouri_ as the French call it--has been tried in various countries
and at various times, but never with such success as in England, and it
has seldom, if ever, been cultivated in England with such success as by
Lear. His happy concoction of fantastic names, the easy slipping flow of
his verse, and above all, the irresistible parody of sense and pathos
that he contrived to instil into his rigmarole are unapproachable. In a
new and not in the least opprobrious sense he was "within the realms of
Nonsense absolute."

Calverley attempted less "uttermost isles" of fun. Born in 1831 of an
excellent Yorkshire family, he was educated at Harrow, and--a thing as
rare in the nineteenth as common in the seventeenth century--at both
universities, gaining at both a great reputation for scholarship,
eccentricity, and bodily strength. After some time he married and began
to work at the Bar; but an accident on the ice in 1867 brought on
concussion of the brain, though he lingered in constantly weakening
health till 1884. His _Verses and Translations_ twenty-two years earlier
had made him the model of all literary undergraduates with a turn for
humour; and he was able in spite of his affliction to issue some things
later, the chief being _Fly Leaves_ in 1872. Calverley, as has been
said, was a scholar, and his versions both from and into the classical
languages would of themselves have given him a reputation; but his forte
lay partly in the easier vein of parody, wherein few excelled him,
partly in the more difficult one of original light verse, wherein he had
a turn (as in his famous eulogy on tobacco) quite his own. He has never
been equalled in this, or even approached, except by James Kenneth
Stephen (1859-92), whose premature death deprived his friends of a most
amiable personality, and literature, in all probability, of a
considerable ornament. As it was, "J. K. S." left next to nothing but
two tiny collections of verse, showing an inspiration midway between
Calverley and Praed, but with quite sufficient personal note.

Two other writers of less scholarly style, but belonging to the London
Bohemian school of the third quarter of the century, W. J. Prowse,
"Nicholas" (1836-70), and H. S. Leigh (1837-83), may be noticed. Prowse,
whose career was very short, was the author of the charming lines on
"The beautiful City of Prague," which have been attributed to others:
while Leigh's _Carols of Cockayne_ (he was also a playwright) vary the
note of Hood happily, and now and then with a real originality.

Except Miss Rossetti, no woman during this time approached the poetical
excellence of Mrs. Barrett Browning. But the whole period has been
unprecedentedly fertile in poetesses, and whereas we had but five or six
to mention in the earlier chapter devoted to verse, we have here at
least a dozen, though no one who requires very extended notice here.
Lady Dufferin (1807-1867), mother of the well-known diplomatist, a
member of the Sheridan family, and her sister, and junior by a year,
Mrs. Norton (1808-1876), were both writers of facile and elegant verse,
with the Irish note of easy melody. The former was the less known to the
general reader, though a few of her pieces, such as "The Irish Emigrant"
and "Katie's Letter," have always been favourite numbers for recitation.
Mrs. Norton at one time enjoyed a considerable reputation as a poetess
by contributions to "Annuals" and "Souvenirs," chiefly in the
sentimental ballad style which pleased the second quarter of the
century. "The Outward Bound," "Bingen on the Rhine," and other things
are at least passable, and one of the author's latest and most ambitious
poems, _The Lady of La Garaye_, has a sustained respectability. To a few
fanatical admirers the scanty verse of Emily Brontë has seemed worthy of
such high praise that only mass of work would appear to be wanting to
put her in the first rank of poetesses if not of poets. Part of this,
however, it is to be feared, is due to admiration of the supposed
freedom of thought in her celebrated "Last Lines," which either in
sincerity or bravado pronounce that "vain are the thousand creeds," and
declare for a sort of vague Pantheism, immanent at once in self and the
world. At thirty, however, a genuine poetess should have produced more
than a mere handful of verse, and its best things should be independent
of polemical partisanship either for or against orthodoxy. As a matter
of fact, her exquisite "Remembrance," and the slightly rhetorical but
brave and swinging epigram of "The Old Stoic," give her better claims
than the "Last Lines," and with them and a few others place her as a
remarkable though not by any means a supreme figure.

The more prudent admirers of Marian Evans (George Eliot), who wrote a
good deal of verse, either admit that her verse was not poetry, or hold
up a much-quoted passage, "Oh, may I join the choir invisible," which,
like the far superior piece just referred to, is only a hymn on the side
which generally dispenses with hymns; and not a very good one, though
couched in fair Wordsworthian blank verse. They would no doubt indulge
in derisive scorn at the idea of the mild muse of Adelaide Anne Procter,
daughter of "Barry Cornwall," receiving praise denied to Miss Brontë and
Miss Evans; and it must be admitted that Miss Procter never did anything
so good as "Remembrance." On the other hand, she was quite free from the
"sawdust" and heaviness which mar George Eliot's verse. Her style was
akin to that which has been noticed in speaking of Mrs. Norton, though
of a somewhat later fashion, and like those of her father, her songs,
especially the famous "Message," had the knack of suiting composers.
Menella Bute Stedley and Dora Greenwell, a respectable pair, somewhat
older than Miss Procter (she was born in 1825 and died in 1864),
considerably outlived her, Miss Stedley's life lasting from 1820 to
1877, and Miss Greenwell's from 1821 to 1882. Both were invalids, and
soothed their cares with verse, the latter to the better effect, though
both in no despicable strain. Augusta Webster (1840-94) and Emily
Pfeiffer (  -1890) were later poetesses of the same kind, but lower rank,
though both were greatly praised by certain critics. Sarah Williams, a
short-lived writer of some sweetness (1841-68), commended herself
chiefly to those who enjoy verse religious but "broad"; Constance Naden
to those who like pessimist agnosticism; Amy Levy to those who can
deplore a sad fate and admire notes few and not soaring, but passionate
and genuine.



CHAPTER VII

THE NOVEL SINCE 1850


Certain novelists who were mentioned at the end of chapter iii., though
they all lived far into the last half of the century, not only belonged
essentially to its first division, but strictly speaking fell out of
strict chronological arrangement of any kind, being of the class of more
or less eccentric men of genius who may appear at any time and belong to
none in particular; and certain others of the earlier time, less
eccentric, lived on far towards our own. About 1850 however, a little
before or a little after it, there appeared a group of novelists of
great talent, and in some cases of genius itself, who were less
self-centred, and exemplified to a greater degree the special tendencies
of the time. These tendencies were variously connected with the Oxford
or Tractarian Movement; the transfer of political power from the upper
to the middle classes by the first Reform Bill; the rise of what is for
shortness called Science; the greater esteem accorded to and the more
general practice of what is, again for shortness, called Art; the
extension in a certain sense of education; the re-engagement of England,
long severed from continental politics, in those politics by the Crimean
war; the enormous development of commerce by the use of steam navigation
and of railways; the opening up of Australia and its neighbourhood; the
change effected in the East by the removal, gradual for some time, then
rapid and complete after the Indian Mutiny, of the power of the East
India Company; and the "Liberal" movement generally.

To work and counterwork out the influence of these various causes on
separate authors, and the connection of the authors with the causes,
would take a volume in itself. But on the scale and within the limits
possible here, the names of Charlotte Brontë, Marian Evans (commonly
called George Eliot), Charles Kingsley, Anthony Trollope, and Charles
Reade will give us such central points as can be most safely utilised.
Another, Miss Charlotte Yonge, the chief practitioner of the religious
novel, was contemporary with almost the earliest of these, but falls out
of this book as still living.

The members of this group were, as happens with a repeated coincidence
in literary history too distinct to be altogether neglected, born within
a very few years of each other: Reade in 1814, Trollope in 1815, Miss
Brontë next year, Kingsley and Miss Evans in 1819; but as generally
happens likewise, their appearance as authors, or at least as novelists,
did not follow in exact sequel. The first-renowned, the shortest-lived,
and though by no means the most brilliant or powerful, in a certain way
the freshest and most independent, was Charlotte Brontë, the daughter of
a Yorkshire clergyman of eccentric and not altogether amiable character
and of Irish blood. She was born on 21st April 1816. The origin of the
Brontës or Pruntys has, as well as their family history generally, been
discussed with the curiously disproportionate minuteness characteristic
of our time; but hardly anything need be said of the results of the
investigation, except that they were undoubtedly Irish. Charlotte's
mother died soon after the Rev. Patrick Brontë had received the living
of Haworth, and Charlotte herself was sent to school at a place called
Cowan's Bridge, her experiences at which have in the same way been the
subject of endless inquiry into the infinitely little, in connection
with the "Lowood" of _Jane Eyre_. After two of her sisters had died, and
she herself had been very ill, she was taken away and educated partly at
home, partly elsewhere. Her two surviving sisters, who were her juniors,
Emily by two years and Anne by four, were both of more or less literary
leanings, and as they were all intended to be governesses, the sole
profession for poor gentlewomen in the middle of the century, Emily and
Charlotte were sent to Brussels to qualify. In 1846 the three published
a joint volume of _Poems_ under the pseudonyms (which kept their
initials) of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, and to people over middle
age Charlotte Brontë is still perhaps most familiar as Currer Bell.
Emily's poems are elsewhere commented upon. The eldest and youngest
sister had no poetical vocation, and Anne had not much for prose. But
she, like the others, attempted it after the failure of their verse in a
triad of novels, _The Professor_, by Charlotte; _Wuthering Heights_
(very much praised by those who look first for unconventionality and
force), by Emily, who followed it with _The Tenant of Wildfell Hall_;
and _Agnes Grey_, by Anne. But Charlotte could not get _The Professor_
published--indeed it is anything but a good book--and set to work at the
famous _Jane Eyre_, which after being freely refused by publishers, was
accepted by Messrs. Smith and Elder and published in 1847, with the
result of violent attacks and very considerable popularity. Death the
next year and the year after robbed her of both her sisters and of her
brother Patrick, a ne'er-do-weel, who, on the strength of his
Bohemianism and his sisters, is sometimes supposed to have had genius.
_Shirley_ appeared in 1849, and _Villette_ in 1852. In 1854 Charlotte
married her father's curate, Mr. Nicholls, but died next year, on 31st
March 1855.

Perhaps the most interesting way of looking at Charlotte Brontë, who, as
has been said, has been violently attacked, and who has also been
extravagantly praised (though not so extravagantly as her sister Emily),
is to look at her in the light of a precursor or transition-novelist,
representing the time when the followers of Scott had wearied the public
with second-rate romances, when Thackeray had not arisen, or had only
just arisen, and when the modern domestic novel in its various kinds,
from the religious to the problematic, was for the most part in embryo,
or in very early stages. This latter novel she in fact anticipated in
many of its kinds, and partly to the fact of this anticipation, partly
to the vividness which her representation of personal experiences gave
to her work, may the popularity which it at first had, and such of it as
has survived, be assigned. In this latter point, however, lay danger as
well as safety. It seems very improbable that if Charlotte Brontë had
lived, and if she had continued to write, her stock of experiences would
have sufficed her; and it would not appear that she had much else. She
is indeed credited with inventing the "ugly hero" in the Mr. Rochester
of _Jane Eyre_, but in the long-run ugliness palls almost as much as
beauty, perhaps sooner. Except in touches probably due to suggestions
from Emily, the "weirdness" of the younger sister was not exhibited by
the elder. The more melodramatic parts of the book would not have borne
repetition, and its main appeal now lies in the Lowood scenes and the
character of Jane herself, which are both admittedly autobiographical.
So also Shirley is her sister Emily, the curates who pester her appear
to have been almost in case to enter libel actions if they thought
proper, and _Villette_ is little more than an embroidered version of the
Brussels sojourn. How successful an appeal of this kind is, the
experience of Byron and many others has shown; how dangerous it is,
could not be better shown than by the same experience. It was Charlotte
Brontë's good fortune that she died before she had utterly exhausted her
vein, though those who fail to regard Paul Emanuel with the affection
which he seems to inspire in some, may think that she went perilously
near it. But fate was kind to her: some interesting biographies and
brilliant essays at different periods have revived and championed her
fame: and her books--at least _Jane Eyre_ almost as a whole and parts of
the others--will always be simply interesting to the novel-reader, and
interesting in a more indirect fashion to the critic. For this last will
perceive that, thin and crude as they are, they are original, they
belong to their own present and future, not to their past, and that so
they hold in the history of literature a greater place than many books
of greater accomplishment which are simply worked on already projected
and accepted lines. Emily's work, though too small in bulk and too
limited in character to be put really high, has this original character
in intense equality.

The mantle of Charlotte Brontë fell almost directly from her shoulders
on those of another novelist of her sex. The author of _Jane Eyre_ died,
as has been said, in the spring of 1855. In the autumn of the next year
was written, and in the January issue of _Blackwood's Magazine_ for 1857
appeared, the first of a series of _Scenes of Clerical Life_. The
author, then and for some time afterwards unknown, was Mary Ann or
Marian Evans, who took various styles during her life, but wrote
habitually under the _nom de guerre_ of "George Eliot." Miss Brontë had
not been a very precocious novelist; but Miss Evans did not begin to
write novels till she was nearly as old as Miss Brontë was when she
died. Her time, however, had been by no means wasted. Born on 22nd
November 1819, at Arbury in Warwickshire, where her father was
land-steward to Mr. Newdigate, she moved, after twenty years' life in
the country or at school, with her father into Coventry, and became
acquainted with a set of Unitarians who had practically broken all
connection with Christianity. She accepted their opinions with the
curious docility and reflexiveness which, strong as was her mind in a
way, always distinguished her; and as a sign of profession she undertook
the translation of Strauss' _Leben Jesu_. In 1849 she went abroad, and
stayed for some time at Geneva, studying hard, and not returning to
England till next year. Then establishing herself in London, she began
to write for the _Westminster Review_, which she helped to edit, and
translated Feuerbach's _Wesen des Christenthums_. It is highly probable
that she would never have been known except as an essayist and
translator, if she had not formed an irregular union with George Henry
Lewes, a very clever and versatile journalist, who was almost a
philosopher, almost a man of science, and perhaps quite a man of letters
of the less creative kind. Under his influence (he had been a novelist
himself, though an unsuccessful one, and was an excellent critic) the
docility above remarked on turned itself into the channel of
novel-writing, with immediate and amazing success.

Some good judges have thought that Miss Evans never exceeded, in her own
special way, the _Scenes of Clerical Life_. But it was far exceeded in
popularity by _Adam Bede_, which, oddly enough, was claimed by or at
least for an impostor after its triumphant appearance in 1858. The
position of the author may be said to have been finally established by
_The Mill on the Floss_ (1860), though the opening part of _Silas
Marner_ (1861) is at least equal if not superior to anything she ever
did. Her later works were _Romola_, a story of the Italian Renaissance
(1863); _Felix Holt, the Radical_ (1866); some poems (the _Spanish
Gypsy_, _Jubal_, etc., 1868-74); _Middlemarch_ (1871); and _Daniel
Deronda_ (1876). This last was followed by a volume of essays entitled
the _Impressions of Theophrastus Such_. Mr. Lewes having died in 1878,
Miss Evans, in May 1880, married Mr. John Cross, and died herself in
December of the same year. Her _Life and Letters_ were subsequently
published by her husband, but the letters proved extremely disappointing
to her admirers, and the life was not very illuminative, except as to
that docility and capacity for taking colour and pressure from
surroundings which have been noticed above.

As a poet George Eliot has been noticed elsewhere. She merely put some
of the thoughtful commonplaces of her time and school into wooden verse,
occasionally grandiose but never grand, and her purple passages have the
purple of plush not of velvet. Nor is she very remarkable as an
essayist, though some of her early articles have merit, and though
_Theophrastus Such_, appearing at a time when her general hold on the
public was loosening, not commending itself in form to her special
admirers, and injured in parts by the astonishing pseudo-scientific
jargon which she had acquired, was received rather more coldly than it
deserved. But as a novelist she is worthy of careful attention. Between
1860 and 1870, a decade in which Thackeray passed away early and during
which Dickens did no first-class work, she had some claims to be
regarded as the chief English novelist who had given much and from whom
more was to be expected; after Dickens' death probably four critics out
of five would have given her the place of greatest English novelist
without hesitation. Nevertheless, even from the first there were
dissidents: while at the time of the issue of _Middlemarch_ her fame was
at the very highest, the publication of _Daniel Deronda_ made it fall
rapidly; and a considerable reaction (perhaps to be reversed, perhaps
not) has set in against her since her death.

The analysis of George Eliot's genius is indeed exceedingly curious.
There are in her two currents or characters which are more or less
mingled in all her books, but of which the one dominates in those up to
and including _Silas Marner_, while the other is chiefly noticeable in
those from _Romola_ onward. The first, the more characteristic and
infinitely the more healthy and happy, is a quite extraordinary faculty
of humorous observation and presentation of the small facts and oddities
of (especially provincial) life. The _Scenes of Clerical Life_ show this
strongly, together with a fund of untheatrical pathos which scarcely
appears in so genuine a form afterwards. In _Adam Bede_ and _The Mill on
the Floss_ it combines with a somewhat less successful vein of tragedy
to make two admirable, if not faultless, novels; it lends a wonderful
charm to the slight and simple study of _Silas Marner_. But, abundant as
it is, it would seem that this is observation, not invention, nor that
happiest blending of observation and invention which we find in
Shakespeare and Scott. The accumulated experiences of her long and
passive youth were now poured out with a fortunate result. But in
default of invention, and in presence of the scientific or
pseudo-scientific spirit which was partly natural to her and partly
imbibed from those who surrounded her, she began, after _Silas Marner_,
to draw always in part and sometimes mainly upon quite different
storehouses. It is probable that the selection of the Italian
Renaissance subject of _Romola_ was a very disastrous one. She herself
said that she "was a young woman when she began the book and an old one
when she finished it." It is a very remarkable _tour de force_, but it
is a _tour de force_ executed entirely against the grain. It is not
alive: it is a work of erudition not of genius, of painful manufacture
not of joyous creation or even observation. And this note of labour
deepened and became more obvious even when she returned to modern and
English subjects, by reason of the increased "purpose" which marked her
later works. It has been noted by all critics of any perception as
extremely piquant, though not to careful students of life and letters at
all surprising, that George Eliot, whose history was always well known,
is in almost every one of her books the advocate of the strictest union
of love and marriage--no love without marriage and no marriage without
love. But she was not satisfied with defending this thesis, beneficial,
comparatively simple, and, in the situations which it suggests, not
unfriendly to art. In her last book, _Daniel Deronda_, she embarked on a
scheme, equally hopeless and gratuitous, of endeavouring to enlist the
public sympathies in certain visions of neo-Judaism. In all these books
indeed, even in _Deronda_, the old faculty of racy presentation of the
humours of life recurred. But it became fainter and less frequent; and
it was latterly obscured, as has been hinted, by a most portentous
jargon borrowed from the not very admirable lingo of the philosophers
and men of science of the last half of the nineteenth century. All these
things together made the later books conspicuously, what even the
earlier had been to some extent, lifeless structures. They were
constructed no doubt with much art and of material not seldom precious,
but they were not lively growths, and they were fatally tinged with
evanescent "forms in chalk," fancies of the day and hour, not less
ephemeral for being grave in subject and seeming, and almost more jejune
or even disgusting to posterity on that account.

Almost as much of the time, though curiously different in the aspect of
it which he represented, was Charles Kingsley, who was born in the same
year as George Eliot, on the 18th of June 1819. A fanciful critic might
indulge in a contrast between the sober though not exactly dull scenery
of the Midlands which saw her birth, and that of the most beautiful part
of Devonshire (Holne, on the south-eastern fringe of Dartmoor) where, at
the vicarage which his father held, Kingsley was born. He was educated
at King's College, London, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, took a very
good degree, and very soon after his appointment to the curacy of
Eversley, in Hampshire, became rector thereof in 1844. He held the
living for the rest of his life, dying there on the 23rd January 1875.
It was not, however, by any means his only preferment. In 1860 he was
made Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, not the most fortunate of
appointments; for, with a tendency to small slips in fact at least equal
to that of his friend and brother-in-law Mr. Froude, Kingsley, though
capable of presenting separate aspects and facets of the past admirably,
had not the general historic grasp which redeemed Froude. Nine years
later he resigned the post and was made a Canon of Chester, while in
1873 this was exchanged for a Canonry at Westminster and a Chaplaincy to
the Queen. Otherwise Kingsley's private life was happy and uneventful,
its chief incident being a voyage to the West Indies (which, though
unvisited, he had long before so brilliantly described) in 1871.

His literary work was very large, much varied, and of an excellence
almost more varied than its kinds. He began, of course, with verse, and
his _Saint's Tragedy_ (1848), a drama on the story of St. Elizabeth of
Hungary, was followed by shorter poems (far too few) at different times,
most of them previous to 1858, though the later books contain some
charming fragments, and some appeared posthumously. Of all men who have
written so little verse during as long a life in our time, Kingsley is
probably the best poet. The _Saint's Tragedy_ is a little "viewy" and
fluent. But in _Andromeda_ he has written the very best English
hexameters ever produced, and perhaps the only ones in which that alien
or rebel takes on at least the semblance of a loyal subject to the
English tongue. The rise of the breeze after the passage of the Nereids,
the expostulation of Andromeda with Perseus, and the approach of the
monster, are simply admirable. "The Last Buccaneer" and "The Red
King"--call them "Wardour Street," as some critics may--are among the
best of their kind; and scores of songs, snatches, etc., from "The Three
Fishers" and "The Starlings" of a very early date to the "When all the
world is young" ballad of the _Water Babies_ and the posthumous fragment
in rhyme of "Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorrèe"--one of the triumphs of that
pure poetry which has the minimum of meaning, yet enough--are of
extraordinary vigour, freshness, and charm.

But Kingsley was one of those darlings--perhaps the rarest--of the Muses
to whom they grant the gift not only of doing a little poetry
exquisitely, but the further gift of abstaining from doing anything ill;
and he seems to have recognised almost at once that "the other harmony,"
that of prose, was the one meant for him to do his day's work in. An
enthusiast for the people, and an eager disciple of Carlyle, he produced
in the fateful year 1849 two novels, _Alton Locke_ and _Yeast_, a little
crude, immature, and violent, but of wonderful power and beauty as
literature, and putting current ideas of Chartism, the Tractarian
movement, the woes of the working classes, and what not, with that most
uncommon touch which takes out of the expression all its ephemerality.
He had joined Maurice in the "Christian Socialist" movement, and was a
frequent newspaper writer in the same sense as that of his novels; while
he soon began to contribute to _Fraser's Magazine_ a series of extremely
brilliant essays, since collected in various forms, on literature,
scenery, sport (he was an ardent fisherman), and things in general. His
next novel, _Hypatia_, is still shot with Christian Socialism, but is
much less crude; and a further sobering down without any loss of force
appears in the great Elizabethan novel of _Westward Ho!_ usually, and
perhaps rightly, thought his masterpiece (1855). _Two Years Ago_ (1857),
the title of which refers to the Crimean War, is much more unequal, and
exhibits signs of a certain declension, though to a level still very
high. His last novel, _Hereward the Wake_ (1866), was and is very
variously judged.

But even the poems, the essays, and the novels, do not by any means fill
up the list of the results of Kingsley's activity. He was a constant,
and at his best a very good, sermon-writer for publication. He produced
in the first flush of the rage for seashore studies (1854) a very
pleasant little book called _Glaucus_; he collected some of his
historical lectures in _The Roman and the Teuton_; and he wrote in 1863
the delightful nondescript of _The Water Babies_, part story, part
satire, part Rabelaisian _fatrasie_, but almost all charming, and
perhaps the latest book in which his powers appear at their very best.
These powers, as exhibited in his novels, with a not dissimilar
exhibition in little in his essays, are so remarkable that in certain
senses Kingsley may, with a little kindness, be put in the very first
class of English novelists, and might be put there by the sternest
critical impartiality were it not for his concomitant defects. These
defects are fairly numerous, and they are unfortunately of a kind not
likely to escape attention. He was a rather violent, though a very
generous partisan, and was perpetually going out of his way to provoke
those on the other side by "flings" of this or that kind. He was
extremely fond of arguing, but was a most poor and unhappy logician. One
of the best known and most unfortunate episodes of his literary life was
the controversy into which he plunged with Newman in 1864. Kingsley had
before on various occasions spoken enthusiastically of Newman's genius
and character: the reference to the peculiar estimate of truth held by
some Roman Catholics, and approved, or supposed to be approved, by
Newman, which was the text for the latter's wrath, was anything but
offensive, and it afterwards became certain, through the publication of
the _Apologia_, that the future Cardinal, with the inspiration of a born
controversialist, had simply made Kingsley the handle for which he had
been waiting. A very little dialectical skill would have brought
Kingsley out of the contest with honours at least divided; but, as it
was, he played like a child into Newman's hands, and not only did much
to re-establish that great man in public opinion, but subjected himself
at the time, and to some extent since, to an obloquy at least as unjust
as that which had rested upon Newman. This maladroitness appears
constantly in the novels themselves, and it is accompanied not merely by
the most curious and outrageous blunders in fact (such as that which
represents Marlowe as dying in the time of James the First, not that of
Elizabeth), but by odd lapses of taste in certain points, and in some
(chiefly his later) books by a haphazard and inartistic construction.

We must, of course, allow for these things, which are the more annoying
in that they are simply a case of those which _incuria fudit_. But when
they are allowed for, there will remain such a gallery of scenes,
characters, and incidents, as few English novelists can show. The best
passages of Kingsley's description, from _Alton Locke_ to _Hereward_,
are almost unequalled and certainly unsurpassed. The shadows of London
low life and of working-class thought in _Alton Locke_, imitated with
increasing energy for half a century, have never been quite reached, and
are most brilliantly contrasted with the lighter Cambridge scenes.
_Yeast_, perhaps the least general favourite among his books, and
certainly the crudest, has a depth of passion and power, a life, an
intensity, the tenth part of which would make the fortune of a novel
now; and the variety and brilliancy of _Hypatia_ are equalled by its
tragedy. Unequal as _Two Years Ago_ is, and weak in parts, it still has
admirable passages; and _Hereward_ to some extent recovers the strange
panoramic and phantasmagoric charm of _Hypatia_. But where _Westward
Ho!_ deserves the preference, and where Kingsley vindicates his claim to
be the author not merely of good passages but of a good book, is in the
sustained passion of patriotism, the heroic height of adventure and
chivalry, which pervades it from first to last. Few better historical
novels have ever been written; and though, with one exception, that of
Salvation Yeo, the author has drawn better characters elsewhere, he has
nowhere knitted his incidents into such a consistent whole, or worked
characters and scenes together into such a genuine and thorough work of
art.

Anthony Trollope, one of the most typical novelists of the century, or
at least of the half-century, in England, if not one of the greatest,
was a member of a literary family whose other members, of more or less
distinction, may for convenience' sake best be mentioned here. Little is
recorded of his father, who was, however, a barrister, and a Fellow of
New College, Oxford. But Anthony's mother, the "Mrs. Trollope" of two
generations ago, who was born a Miss Milton in 1780, was herself very
well known in print, especially by her novel of _The Widow Barnaby_
(1839), which had sequels, and by her very severe _Domestic Manners of
the Americans_, which appeared in 1832, after she had qualified herself
to write it by a three years' residence in the United States. She wrote
a great deal at this period, and survived till 1863; but her work hardly
survived as long as she did. It has, however, been said, and not without
justice, that much of the more vivid if coarser substance of her younger
son's humour is to be traced in it. The elder son, Thomas Adolphus, who
was born in 1810, and lived from 1841 for some half-century onwards in
Italy, was also a prolific novelist, and wrote much on Italian history;
while perhaps his best work was to be found in some short pieces,
combining history with a quasi-fictitious interest, which he contributed
to the periodicals edited by Dickens.

But neither mother nor elder brother could vie with Anthony, who was
born in 1815, was educated at Winchester and Harrow, spent the greater
part of his life as an official of the Post Office, and died in December
1882, leaving an enormous number of novels, which at one time were the
most popular, or almost the most popular, of their day, and to which
rather fastidious judges have found it difficult to refuse all but the
highest praise. Almost immediately after Trollope's death appeared an
_Autobiography_ in which, with praiseworthy but rather indiscreet
frankness, he detailed habits of work of a mechanical kind, the
confession of which played into the hands of those who had already begun
to depreciate him as a mere book-maker. It is difficult to say how many
novels he wrote, persevering as he did in composition up to the very
time of his death; and it is certain that the productions of his last
decade were, as a rule, very inferior to his best. This best is to be
found chiefly, but not entirely, in what is called the "Barsetshire"
series, clustering round a county and city which are more or less
exactly Hampshire and Winchester, beginning in 1855 with _The Warden_, a
good but rather immature sketch, and continuing through _Barchester
Towers_ (perhaps his masterpiece), _Doctor Thorne_, _Framley Parsonage_,
and _The Small House at Allington_ (the two latter among the early
triumphs of the _Cornhill Magazine_), to _The Last Chronicle of Barset_
(1867), which runs _Barchester Towers_ very hard, if it does not surpass
it. Other favourite books of his were _The Three Clerks_, _Orley Farm_,
_Can You Forgive Her_, and _Phineas Finn_--nor does this by any means
exhaust the list even of his good books.

It has been said that Trollope is a typical novelist, and the type is of
sufficient importance to receive a little attention, even in space so
jealously allotted as ours must be. The novel craved by and provided for
the public of this second period (it has also been said) was a novel of
more or less ordinary life, ranging from the lower middle to the upper
class, correctly observed, diversified by sufficient incident not of an
extravagant kind, and furnished with description and conversation not
too epigrammatic but natural and fairly clever. This norm Trollope hit
with surprising justness, and till the demand altered a little or his
own hand failed (perhaps there was something of both) he continued to
hit it. His interests and experiences were fairly wide; for, besides
being active in his Post Office duties at home and abroad, he was an
enthusiastic fox-hunter, fairly fond of society and of club-life,
ambitious enough at least to try other paths than those of fiction in
his _Thackeray_ (a failure), his _Cicero_ (a worse failure), and other
things. And everything that he saw he could turn into excellent
novel-material. No one has touched him in depicting the humours of a
public office, few in drawing those of cathedral cities and the
hunting-field. If his stories, as stories, are not of enthralling
interest or of very artfully constructed plots, their craftsmanship in
this respect leaves very little to complain of. And he can sometimes, as
in the Stanhope family of _Barchester Towers_, in Mrs. Proudie _passim_,
in Madalina Demolines, and in others, draw characters very little
removed from those who live with us for ever. It is extremely improbable
that there will ever be a much better workman of his own class; and his
books are certainly, at their best, far better than all but one or two
that appear, not merely in any given year nowadays, but in any given
lustrum. Yet the special kind of their excellence, the facts that they
reflect their time without transcending it, and that in the way of
merely reflective work each time prefers its own workmen and is never
likely to find itself short of them, together with the great volume of
Trollope's production, are certainly against him; and it is hard even
for those who enjoyed him most, and who can still enjoy him, to declare
positively that there is enough of the permanent and immortal in him to
justify the hope of a resurrection.

In Charles Reade, on the other hand, there is undoubtedly something of
this permanent or transcendent element, though less perhaps than some
fervent admirers of his have claimed. He was born on June 1814 at Ipsden
in Oxfordshire, where his family had been some time seated as squires.
He had no public school education, but was elected first to a Demyship
and then to a Fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was called to
the Bar in 1842; but his Fellowship made him independent, and he pursued
many crazes--he was one of the most eccentric of those English authors
who are noticed in this volume--but no profession. He did not even begin
to write very early, and when he did it was drama, not prose or fiction.
He was not very successful with the stage, though he never quite gave it
up. It was about 1852 when he began to write, or at least to publish,
novels; and between the _Peg Woffington_ of that year and his death on
1st April 1884 he produced nearly a score, diversifying the publication
with law-suits, eccentric newspaper correspondences, and other things.
Indeed he has in more than one of his books introduced mental delusions
with such startling subtlety and truth, and was so entirely odd in the
ordinary relations of life, that some have not hesitated to insinuate a
slight want of sanity.

If there was any madness in him, the hackneyed alliance of great wits
was certainly not refused. A novelist of violent likes and dislikes
himself, he has found violent partisans and scornful pooh-poohers. Among
the former there is perhaps hardly one of his chief books--the quaint
and brilliant _Peg Woffington_, the pathetic _Christie Johnstone_, _Hard
Cash_, _Griffith Gaunt_, _Put Yourself in his Place_, _A Terrible
Temptation_, and the rest--which has not special sectaries. But catholic
criticism would undoubtedly put _It is Never too Late to Mend_ (1856)
and _The Cloister and the Hearth_ (1861) at the head of all. The former
is a tale of the moment, based chiefly on some stories which had got
abroad of tyranny in gaols, and on the Australian gold fever of a few
years earlier. The latter is a pure romance, purporting to tell the
adventures of Erasmus' father in the fifteenth century. The contrast of
these subjects illustrates admirably a curious combination in Reade's
genius which, for the matter of that, might be independently exemplified
from either book. On the one side he was one of the earliest and one of
the most industrious of those who have been called the "document" or
"reporter" novelists--now collecting enormous stores of newspaper
cuttings and busying himself with keenest interest in the things of the
day; now, as in _The Cloister and the Hearth_, not disdaining to impart
realism and vividness to his pictures by adapting and almost translating
whole passages from Erasmus' own _Colloquies_. On the other, he was a
poetic seer and dreamer, of the strongest romantic force, and capable of
extraordinary flights of power, passion, and pathos. But there was
another thing that he was _not_, and that was a critic. His taste and
judgment were extremely deficient; he had no sense of general proportion
in his work; and was quite as likely to be melodramatic as to be
tragical, to be coarse as to be strong, to be tedious as to be amusing,
to be merely revolting as to purify by pity and terror. Both the books
just specially mentioned may be thought too long: it is certain that
_The Cloister and the Hearth_ is. That a freshness still evident in
_Christie Johnstone_ has been lost in both (having been killed by "the
document") is also true. But still, Reade undoubtedly had genius, and to
genius most things can without much trouble be forgiven.

The chief novelist of what is rather loosely called the School of
Dickens, was Wilkie Collins, son of the painter of that name, who was
born in London on 8th January 1824, and died in 1889. His greatest
popularity was in the decade between 1857 and 1866, when _The Dead
Secret_, _The Woman in White_, _No Name_, and _Armadale_, especially the
second, had an immense vogue. Perhaps _The Moonstone_, which is later,
is also better than any of these. The strictly literary merit of none
could be put high, and the method, that of forwarding the result by a
complicated intertwist of letters and narratives, though it took the
public fancy for a time, was clumsy; while the author followed his
master in more than one aberration of taste and sentiment. His brother
Charles Collins, who had a much shorter life, had a much more delicate
style and fancy; and the _Cruise upon Wheels_, a record of an actual
tour slightly embellished and thrown into fictitious form, is one of the
books which have, and are not, unless they drop entirely out of sight,
likely to lose, a firm following of friends, few perhaps but faithful.
Mortimer Collins, a contemporary, but no relation of these, whose poems
have already been mentioned, was born in 1827 and died in 1876, the last
twenty years of his life having been occupied by various and voluminous
literary work. He was one of the last of the so-called Bohemian school
in letters and journalism, something of a scholar, a fertile novelist,
and a versatile journalist in most of the kinds which make up modern
journalism.

Henry Kingsley, younger brother of Charles, was himself a prolific and
vigorous novelist; and though a recent attempt to put him above his
brother cannot possibly be allowed by sound criticism, he had perhaps a
more various command of fiction, certainly a truer humour, and if a
less passionate, perhaps a more thoroughly healthy literary temperament.
But his life was not long, and he was unfortunately compelled during
most of it to write for a living. Born in 1830, he was educated at
King's College, London, and Worcester College, Oxford, on leaving which
latter he went to Australia and lived there for five years. Returning in
1859, he wrote the admirable Australian story of _Geoffrey Hamlyn_,
which, with _Ravenshoe_ two years later, contains most of his work that
can be called really first rate. He returned to Australia for his
subject in _The Hillyars and the Burtons_, and wrote several other
novels before his death in 1876, having been during part of the time a
newspaper editor, a newspaper correspondent, and a journalist generally.
The absence of composition, which Flaubert deplored in English novels
generally, shows at its height in Henry Kingsley, whose _Ravenshoe_, for
instance, has scarcely any plot at all, and certainly owes nothing to
what it has; while he was a rapid and careless writer. But he had, in a
somewhat less elaborate form, all his brother's talents for description
of scene and action, and his characters, if more in the way of ordinary
life, are also truer to that life. Also he is particularly to be
commended for having, without the slightest strait-lacedness, and indeed
with a good deal of positive Bohemianism, exhibited the nineteenth
century English notion of what constitutes a gentleman perhaps better
than any one else. "There are some things a fellow _can't_ do"--the
chance utterance of his not ungenerous scamp Lord Welter--is a memorable
sentence, whereon a great sermon might be preached.

A little older than Henry Kingsley (he died in the same year), much more
popular for a time, and the exerter of an influence which has not ceased
yet, and has been on the whole distinctly undervalued, was George Henry
Lawrence, who was educated at Rugby and Balliol, was called to the Bar,
but was generally known in his own time as Major Lawrence from a militia
commission which he held. He also fought in, or at least was present
during, the war of independence of the southern states of America.
Lawrence, who was born in 1827, published in his thirtieth year a
novel, _Guy Livingstone_, which was very popular, and much denounced as
the Gospel of "muscular blackguardism"--a parody on the phrase "muscular
Christianity," which had been applied to and not unwelcomed by Charles
Kingsley. The book exhibited a very curious blend of divers of the
motives and interests which have been specified as actuating the novel
about this time. Lawrence, who was really a scholar, felt to the full
the Præ-Raphaelite influence in art, though by no means in religion, and
wrote in a style which is a sort of transition between the excessive
floridness of the first Lord Lytton and the later Corinthianism of Mr.
Symonds. But he retained also from his prototype, and new modelled, the
tendency to take "society" and the manners, especially the amatory
manners, of society very much as his province. And thus he rather
shocked the moralists, not only in _Guy Livingstone_ itself, but in its
successors _Sword and Gown_, _Barren Honour_, _Sans Merci_, etc. That
Lawrence's total ideal, both in style and sentiment, was artificial,
false, and flawed, may be admitted. But he has to a great extent been
made to bear the blame of exaggerations of his own scheme by others; and
he was really a novelist and a writer of great talent, which somehow
came short, but not so very far short, of genius.

Mrs. Gaskell was older than most of those hitherto mentioned in this
chapter, having been born in 1810; but she did not begin to write very
early. _Mary Barton_, her first and nearly her best book, appeared in
1848, and its vivid picture of Manchester life, assisted by its great
pathos, naturally attracted attention at that particular time.
_Cranford_ (1853), in a very different style, something like a blend of
Miss Mitford and Miss Austen, has been the most permanently popular of
her works. _Ruth_, of the same year, shocked precisians (which it need
not have done), but is of much less literary value than _Mary Barton_ or
_Cranford_. Mrs. Gaskell, who was the biographer of Charlotte Brontë,
produced novels regularly till her death in 1865, and never wrote
anything bad, though it may be doubted whether anything but _Cranford_
will retain permanent rank.

The year 1857, which saw _Guy Livingstone_, saw a book as different as
possible in ideal, but also one of no common merit, in _John Halifax,
Gentleman_. The author of this was Dinah Maria Mulock, who afterwards
became Mrs. Craik. She was born at Stoke-upon-Trent in 1826, and had
written for nearly ten years when _John Halifax_ appeared. She died in
1888, having written a very great deal both in prose and verse; the
former part including many novels, of which the best perhaps is _A Life
for a Life_. Mrs. Craik was an example of the influence, so often
noticed and to be noticed in the latter part of our period, of the great
demand for books on writers of any popularity. Her work was never bad;
but it was to a very great extent work which was, as the French say, the
"small change" for what would probably in other circumstances have been
a very much smaller quantity of much better work. How this state of
things--which has been brought about on the one hand by the printing
press, newspapers, and the spread of education, on the other by the
disuse of sinecures, patronage, pensions, and easy living generally--is
to be prevented from affecting literature very disastrously is not
clear. Its negative or rather privative effect cannot but be bad; if its
positive effect is always as good as the works of Mrs. Craik, it will be
fortunate.

It is difficult, in a book of this kind, to know how far to attempt the
subdivisions of specialist novels which have been common, such as for
instance the sporting novel, the practitioners of which have been
innumerable. The chief perhaps were Robert Surtees, the author of the
facetious series of which "Mr. Jorrocks" is the central and best figure,
and Major Whyte-Melville. The former, about the middle of the century,
carried out with much knowledge, not inconsiderable wit, and the
advantage of admirable illustrations from the pencil of John Leech,
something like the original idea of _Pickwick_ as a sporting romance,
and there is a strong following of Dickens in him. Major Whyte-Melville,
born near St. Andrews in 1821 and heir to property there, was educated
at Eton, served for some years in the Guards, and with the Turkish
Contingent in the Crimean War, and was killed in the hunting-field in
1878. He touched various styles, chiefly those of Lever and Bulwer,
while he had a sort of contact with George Lawrence. He was never
happier than in depicting his favourite pastime, which figures in most
of his novels and inspired him with some capital verse. But in _Holmby
House_, _Sarchedon_, the _Gladiators_, etc., he tried the historical
style also.

Nor must the brief life, embittered by physical suffering, but
productive of not a little very cheerful work, of Francis Edward
Smedley, a relation of the poetess mentioned in the last chapter, be
forgotten. He, born in 1818, went to Cambridge, and then became a
novelist and journalist, dying in 1864. His best work belongs to exactly
the period with which this chapter begins, the early fifties, and had
the advantage, like other novels of the time, of illustration by "Phiz."
The three chief books are _Frank Fairleigh_ (1850), _Lewis Arundel_
(1852), and _Harry Coverdale's Courtship_ (1854). With a touch of
Bulwerian romance, something of the sporting novel, and a good deal of
the adventure story, Smedley united plenty of pleasant humour and
occasionally not a little real wit.

It will have been observed that more than one of the more distinguished
novelists of this time attempted, and that at least one of them
achieved, the historical novel; nor was it at all likely that a kind so
attractive in itself, illustrated by such remarkable genius, and
discovered at last after many centuries of futile endeavour, should
immediately or entirely lose its popularity. Yet it is certain that for
about a quarter of a century, from 1845 to 1870, not merely the
historical novel, but the romance generally, did lose general practice
and general attention, while, though about the latter date at least one
novel of brilliant quality, Mr. Blackmore's _Lorna Doone_, vindicated
romance, and historical romance, it was still something of an exception.
Those who are old enough, and who paid sufficient attention to
contemporary criticism, will remember that for many years the advent of
a historical novel was greeted in reviews with a note not exactly of
contempt, but of the sort of surprise with which men greet something out
of the way and old fashioned.

This was the inevitable result of that popularity of the domestic and
usual novel which this chapter has hitherto described, and it was as
natural and as inevitable that the domestic and usual novel should in
its turn undergo the same law. Not that this, again, was summarily, much
less finally displaced; on the contrary, the enormous and
ever-increasing demand for fiction--which the establishment of public
free libraries, and the custom of printing in cheaper form for sale, has
encouraged _pari passu_ with the apparent discouragement given to it by
the fall of circulating libraries from the absolutely paramount place
which they occupied not long ago--maintained the call for this as for
other kinds of story. But partly mere love of change, partly the
observations of those critics who were not content to follow the fashion
merely, and partly also the familiar but inexplicable rise at the same
time of divers persons whose talent inclined in a new direction, brought
in, about 1880 or later, a demand for romance, for historical romance,
and for the short story--three things against which the taste of the
circulating-library reader during the generation then expiring had
distinctly set itself. The greater part of the results of this change
falls out of our subject; but one remarkable name, perhaps the most
remarkable of all, is given to us by the Fates.

For one of the pillars of this new building of romance was only too soon
removed. Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (more commonly known to the
public by the first two, and to his friends by the second of his
Christian names) belonged to the famous family of lighthouse architects
who so long carried on the traditions of Smeaton in that department of
engineering; and he was to have been an engineer himself. But he was
incurably literary; and after school and college at Edinburgh, was
called to the Bar, with no more practical results in that profession
than in the other. Born on 13th November 1850, he was not extremely
precocious in publication; and it was not till nearly the end of the
seventies that his essays in the _Cornhill Magazine_ and his stories in
a periodical called _London_, short lived and not widely circulated,
but noteworthy in its way, attracted attention. He followed them up
with two volumes of somewhat Sternian travel, _An Inland Voyage_ (1878)
and _Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes_ (1879); next collecting his
_Cornhill Essays_ in two other volumes, _Virginibus Puerisque_ (1881)
and _Familiar Studies of Men and Books_ (1882), and his _London_ stories
in _The New Arabian Nights_ (1882). But he did not get hold of the
public till a year later than the latest of these dates, with his famous
_Treasure Island_, the best boys' story since Marryat, and one of a
literary excellence to which Marryat could make no pretensions. The vein
of romance which he then struck, and the older and more fanciful one of
_The New Arabian Nights_, were followed up alternately or together in an
almost annual succession of books--_Prince Otto_ (1885), _The Strange
Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_ (1886), _Kidnapped_ (1886), _The Black
Arrow_ (a wonderfully good, though not very generally popular,
York-and-Lancaster story) (1888), _The Master of Ballantræ_ (1889), the
exquisite _Catriona_ (1893). It also pleased him to write, in
collaboration with others, _The Dynamiter_, _The Wrecker_, _The Ebb
Tide_, etc., where the tracing of the several shares is not unamusing.
Stevenson also attempted poetry, and his _Child's Garden of Verse_
(1885) has very warm admirers, who are often more doubtful about
_Underwoods_ (1887) and _Ballads_ (1891). The list of his work is not
exhausted, and one of the latest additions to it was _A Footnote to
History_ (1892), containing an account of the intestine troubles of the
island of Samoa, where Mr. Stevenson, long a victim to lung disease,
latterly fixed his abode, and where he died suddenly in the winter of
1894.

As has been the case with most of the distinguished writers of recent
years, Mr. Stevenson has been praised by some of his contemporaries and
juniors with an uncritical fervour which has naturally provoked
depreciation from others; and the charm of his personality was so great
that it is extremely difficult for any one who knew him to hold the
scales quite even. As the most brilliant and interesting by far,
however, of those English writers whose life was comprised in the last
half of the century he absolutely demands critical treatment here, and
it so happens that his method and results were extremely typical of the
literary movement and character of our time. He has left somewhat minute
accounts of his own apprenticeship, but they are almost unnecessary: no
critic of the slightest competence could fail to divine the facts.
Adopting to the full, and something more than the full, the modern
doctrine of the all-importance of art, of manner, of style in
literature, Mr. Stevenson early made the most elaborate studies in
imitative composition. There is no doubt that he at last succeeded in
acquiring a style which was quite his own: but it was complained, and
with justice, that even to the last he never attained complete ease in
this style; that its mannerism was not only excessive, but bore, as even
excessive mannerism by no means always does, the marks of distinct and
obvious effort. This was perhaps most noticeable in his essays, which
were further marred by the fact that much of them was occupied by
criticism, for which, though his taste was original and delicate,
Stevenson's knowledge was not quite solid enough, and his range of
sympathies a little deficient in width. In his stories, on the other
hand, the devil's advocate detected certain weak points, the chief of
them being an incapacity to finish, and either a distaste or an
incapacity for introducing women. This last charge was finally refuted
by _Catriona_, not merely in the heroine, but in the much more charming
and lifelike figure of Barbara Grant; but the other was something of a
true bill to the last. It was Stevenson's weakness (as by the way it
also was Scott's) to huddle up his stories rather than to wind them off
to an orderly conclusion.

But against this allowance--a just but an ample one--for defects, must
be set to Stevenson's credit such a combination of literary and
story-telling charm as perhaps no writer except Mérimée has ever
equalled; while, if the literary side of him had not the golden
perfection, the accomplished ease of the Frenchman, his romance has a
more genial, a fresher, a more natural quality. Generally, as in the
famous examples of Scott, of Dumas, and of Balzac, the great
story-tellers have been a little deficient in mere style; the fault in
Stevenson, if it could be called a fault, was that the style was in
excess. But this only set off and enhanced, it did not account for, the
magic of his scene and character, from John Silver to Barbara Grant,
from "The Suicide Club" to the escapes of Alan Breck. Very early, when
most of his critical friends were urging him to cultivate the essay
mainly, others discerned the supremacy of his story-telling faculty,
and, years before the public fell in love with _Treasure Island_, bade
him cultivate that. Fortunately he did so; and his too short life has
left a fairly ample store of work, not always quite equal, seldom quite
without a flaw, but charming, stimulating, distinguished as few things
in this last quarter of a century have been.

Nearly all of Mr. Stevenson's contemporaries in novel-writing, as well
as many distinguished persons far his seniors whose names will occur to
every one, lie outside our limits. And in no chapter of this book,
perhaps, is it so necessary to turn the back sternly on much interesting
performance once famous and popular--not once only of interest to the
reader of time and chance but put by this cause or that out of our
reach. We cannot talk here of _Emilia Wyndham_ or _Paul Ferroll_, both
emphatically novels of their day, and that no short one; and in the
latter case, if not in the former, books deserving to be read at
intervals by more than the bookworm. The exquisite _Story without an
End_, which Sarah Austin half adapted, half translated, and which, with
some unusually good translations from Fouqué and others, set a whole
fashion fifty years ago, must pass with mere allusion; the abundant and
not seldom excellent fiction of the earlier High Church movement pleads
in vain for detailed treatment. For all doors must be shut or open; and
this door must now be shut.



CHAPTER VIII

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY


It is the constant difficulty of the literary historian, especially if
he is working on no very great scale, that he is confronted with what
may be called "applied" literature, in which not only is the matter of
superior importance to the form, but the importance of the matter itself
disappears to a greater or less extent with time. In these cases it is
only possible for him to take notice of those writers who, whatever the
subject they handled, would have written literature, and perhaps of
those who from the unusual eminence and permanence of their position in
their own subjects have attained as it were an honorary position in
literature itself.

The literary importance and claim, however, of these applied branches
varies considerably; and there have been times when the two divisions
whose names stand at the head of this chapter even surpassed--there have
been not a few in which they equalled--any section of the purest _belles
lettres_ in strictly literary attractions. With rare exceptions this has
not been the case during the present century; poetry, fiction, history,
and essay-writing having drawn off the best hands on the one side, while
science has attracted them on the other. But the great Oxford Movement
in the second quarter created no small amount of theological or
ecclesiastical writing of unusual interest, while there had been
earlier, and continued to be till almost the time when the occupation of
the field by living writers warns us off, philosophers proper of great
excellence. Latterly (indeed till quite recently, when a certain
renaissance of philosophical writing not in jargon has taken place with
a corresponding depression of the better kind of literary theology) the
philosophers of Britain have not held a prominent place in her
literature. Whether this was because they have mostly been content to
Germanise, or because they have not been provided with sufficient
individual talent, it is fortunately unnecessary for us to attempt to
determine in this place and at this time.

Among the dead writers of the century who are known wholly or mainly for
the cultivation of philosophical studies, Bentham, Mackintosh, John
Stuart Mill (to whom some would add his father James), Sir William
Hamilton, Dean Mansel, are likely to hold a place in history, while at
present many might be disposed to add the name of Mr. T. H. Green, a
tutor of Balliol College, who between 1870 and his death propagated in
Oxford a sort of neo-Hegelianism much tinctured with political and
social Liberalism, and obtained a remarkable personal position. It is
however as yet too early to assign a distinct historical place to one
whose philosophy was in no sense original, though it was somewhat
originally combined and applied, and who exhibited very small literary
skill in setting forth. The others are already set "in the firm
perspective of the past," and, with yet others who, still living, escape
our grasp, have their names clearly marked for a place in an adequate
history.

Jeremy Bentham, a curious person who reminds one of a Hobbes without the
literary genius, was born in London, near Houndsditch, as far back as
5th February 1748. He was the son of a solicitor who was very well off,
and wished his son to take to the superior branch of the law. Jeremy was
sent to Westminster, and thence to Queen's College, Oxford, in his
thirteenth year. He was a Master of Arts at eighteen, and was called to
the Bar six years later; but he never practised. He must have been very
early drawn to the study of the French _philosophes_; much indeed of the
doctrine which afterwards made him famous was either taken from, or
incidentally anticipated by, Turgot and others of them, and it was a
common remark, half in earnest half in gibe, that Bentham's views had
made the tour of Europe in the French versions of Dumont before they
attained to any attention in England. In 1776 he wrote a _Fragment on
Government_, a kind of critique of Blackstone, which is distinguished by
acute one-sided deduction from Whig principles; and he became a sort of
prophet of the Whigs, who sometimes plagiarised and popularised,
sometimes neglected, his opinions. He never married, though he would
have liked to do so; and lived on his means till 1832, when he died in
the eighty-fifth year of his age. His chief books after the _Fragment_
had been his _Theory of Punishments and Rewards_; 1787, _Letters on
Usury_; 1789, _Introduction to the Principles of Morals and
Legislation_; 1813, _Treatise on Evidence_; and 1824, _Fallacies_.

The central pillar and hinge of all Bentham's doctrines in politics,
morals, and law is the famous principle of Utility, or to use the cant
phrase which he borrowed from Priestley, "the greatest happiness of the
greatest number." What the greatest number is--for instance whether in a
convict settlement of forty thieves and ten honest men, the thieves are
to be consulted--and what happiness means, what is utility, what things
have brought existing arrangements about, and what the loss of altering
them might be, as well as a vast number of other points, Bentham never
deigned to consider. Starting from a few crude phrases such as this, he
raised a system remarkable for a sort of apparent consistency and
thoroughness, and having the luck or the merit to hit off in parts not a
few of the popular desires and fads of the age of the French Revolution
and its sequel. But he was a political theorist rather than a political
philosopher, his neglect of all the nobler elements of thought and
feeling was complete, and latterly at least he wrote atrocious English,
clumsy in composition and crammed with technical jargon. The brilliant
fashion in which Sydney Smith has compressed and spirited his
_Fallacies_ into the famous "Noodle's Oration" is an example of the kind
of treatment which Bentham requires in order to be made tolerable in
form; and even then he remains one-sided in fact.

Sir James Mackintosh has been mentioned before, and is less of a
philosopher pure and simple than any person included in this
list--indeed his philosophical reputation rests almost wholly upon his
brilliant, though rather slight, _Dissertation on Ethics_ for the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_. The greater part by far of his by no means
short life (1765-1832) was occupied in practising medicine and law, in
defending the French Revolution against Burke (_Vindiciæ Gallicæ_,
1791); in defending the French Royalists in the person of Peltier
against Bonaparte, 1803; in acting as Recorder and Judge in India,
1804-1811; and in political and literary work at home for the last
twenty years, his literature being chiefly history, and contributions to
the _Edinburgh Review_. But there has been a certain tendency, both in
his own time and since, to regard Mackintosh as a sort of philosopher
thrown away. If he was so, he would probably have made his mark rather
in the history of philosophy than in philosophy itself, for there are no
signs in him of much original depth. But he wrote very well, and was a
sound and on the whole a fair critic.

Of the two Mills, the elder, James, was like Mackintosh only an
_interim_ philosopher: his son John belongs wholly to our present
subject. James was the son of a farmer, was born near Montrose in 1773,
and intended to enter the ministry, but became a journalist instead. In
the ten years or so after 1806, he composed a _History of British
India_, which was long regarded as authoritative, but on which the
gravest suspicions have recently been cast. Mill, in fact, was a violent
politician of the Radical type, and his opinions of ethics were so
peculiar that it is uncertain how far he might have carried them in
dealing with historical characters. His book, however, gained him a high
post in the East India Company, the Directors of which just at that time
were animated by a wish to secure distinguished men of letters as
servants. He nevertheless continued to write a good deal both in
periodicals and in book form, the chief examples of the latter being his
_Political Economy_, his _Analysis of the Human Mind_, and his _Fragment
on Mackintosh_. James Mill, of whom most people have conceived a rather
unfavourable idea since the appearance of his son's _Autobiography_, was
an early disciple of Bentham, and to a certain extent resembled him in
hard clearness and superficial consistency.

His son John Stuart was born in London on 20th May 1806, and educated by
his father in the unnatural fashion which he has himself recorded.
Intellectually, however, he was not neglected, and after some years,
spent mainly in France, he was, through his father's influence,
appointed at seventeen to a clerkship in the India House, which gave him
a competence for the rest of his life and a main occupation for
thirty-four years of it. He was early brought into contact (by his
father's friendship with Grote and others) with the Philosophical
Radicals, as well as with many men of letters, especially Carlyle, of
the destruction of the first version of whose _French Revolution_ Mill
(having lent it to his friend Mrs. Taylor) was the innocent cause. To
this Mrs. Taylor, whom he afterwards married, Mill was fanatically
attached, the attachment being the cause of some curious flights in his
later work. His character was very amiable, and the immense influence
which, especially in the later years of his life, he exercised, was
partly helped by his personal friendships. But it was unfortunate for
him that in 1865 he was returned to Parliament. His political views,
though it was the eve of the triumph of what might be called his party,
were _doctrinaire_ and out of date, and his life had given him no
practical hold of affairs, so that he more than fulfilled the usual
prophecy of failure in the case of men of thought who are brought late
in life into action. Fortunately for him he was defeated in 1868, and
passed the rest of his life mostly in France, dying at Avignon on 8th
May 1873.

Brought up in an atmosphere of discussion and of books, Mill soon took
to periodical writing, and in early middle life was for some years
editor of the _London and Westminster Review_; but his literary
ambition, which directed itself not to pure literature but to
philosophical and political discussion, was not content with periodical
writing as an exercise, and his circumstances enabled him to do without
it as a business. In 1843 he published what is undoubtedly his chief
work, _A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive_, five years later
a companion treatise on _Political Economy_ which may perhaps rank
second. In 1859 his essay on _Liberty_, a short but very attractive
exposition of his political principles, appeared; next year a collection
of essays entitled _Dissertations and Discussions_. After lesser works
on _Utilitarianism_ and on Comte, of whom he had been a supporter in
more senses than one, but whose later eccentricities revolted him, he
issued in 1865 his _Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy_,
which ranks as the third of his chief works, and completes his system,
as far as a system so negative can be said to be completed, on the side
of theology and metaphysics. Among his smaller works may be mentioned
_Representative Government_, and (very late) the fanatical and curious
_Subjection of Women_. His _Autobiography_, an interesting but
melancholy book, appeared shortly after his death.

Mill must be accounted on the whole by good judges, even if they are
utterly opposed to his whole system of philosophy, the chief
philosophical _writer_ of England in this century; and the enormous
though not permanent influence which he attained about its middle was
deserved, partly by qualities purely literary, but partly also by some
purely philosophical. He had inherited from his father not merely the
theoretical exaltation of liberty (except in the philosophical sense)
which characterised eighteenth century philosophers, but also that
arrogant and pragmatical impatience of the supernatural which was to a
still greater extent that century's characteristic. The arrogance and
the pragmaticality changed in John Stuart Mill's milder nature to a sort
of nervous dread of admitting even the possibility of things not
numerable, ponderable, and measurable; and it may be observed with
amusement that for the usual division of logic into Deductive and
Inductive he substituted _Ratiocinative_ for the first member, so as not
even by implication to admit the possibility of deduction from any
principles not inductively given. So, too, later, in his _Examination
of Sir William Hamilton_, between the opposing spectres of Realism and
Idealism, he was driven to take refuge in what he called "permanent
possibilities" of Sensation, though logicians vainly asked how he
assured himself of the permanence, and jesters rudely observed that to
call a bottle of gin a "permanent possibility of drunkenness" was an
unnecessary complication of language for a very small end or meaning.
His great philosophical weapon (borrowed from though of course not
invented by his father) was the Association of Ideas, just as his clue
in political economy was in the main though not exclusively
_laissez-faire_, in ethics a modified utilitarianism, and in politics an
absolute deference to, tempered by a resigned distrust of, the majority.
The defect in a higher and more architectonic theory of the world with
which he has been charged is not quite justly chargeable, for from his
point of view no such theory was possible.

Even those, however, who, as the present writer acknowledges in his own
case, are totally opposed to the whole Millian conception of logic and
politics, of metaphysics and morality, must, unless prejudiced, admit
his great merits of method and treatment. He not only very seldom
smuggles in sophistry into the middle of his arguments, but even
paralogisms are not common with him; it is with his premises, not with
his conclusions, that you must deal if you wish to upset him. Unlike
most contemners of formal logic, he is not in much danger, as far as his
merely dialectic processes go, from formal logic itself; and it is in
the arbitrary and partial character of his preliminary admissions,
assumptions, and exclusions that the weak points of his system are to be
found.

His style has also very considerable merits. It is not brilliant or
charming; it has neither great strength nor great stateliness. But it is
perfectly clear, it is impossible to mistake its meaning, and its
simplicity is unattended by any of the down-at-heel neglect of neatness
and elegance which is to be found, for instance, in Locke. Little
scholastic as he was in most ways, Mill had far outgrown the ignorant
eighteenth century contempt of the Schoolmen, and had learnt from them
an exact precision of statement and argument, while he had managed to
keep (without its concomitant looseness and vulgarity) much of the
eighteenth century's wholesome aversion to jargon and to excess of
terminology. In presenting complicated statements of detail, as in the
_Political Economy_, the _Representative Government_, and elsewhere, he
has as much lucidity as Macaulay, with an almost total freedom from
Macaulay's misleading and delusive suppression of material details. And
besides his usual kind of calm and measured argument, he can
occasionally, as in divers passages of the _Sir William Hamilton_ and
the political books, rise or sink from the logical and rhetorical points
of view respectively to an impassioned advocacy, which, though it may be
rarely proof against criticism, is very agreeable so far as it goes.
That Mill wholly escaped the defects of the popular philosopher, I do
not suppose that even those who sympathise with his views would contend;
though they might not admit, as others would, that these defects were
inseparable from his philosophy in itself. But it may be doubtful
whether, all things considered, a better _literary_ type of the popular
philosopher exists in modern English; and it certainly is not surprising
that, falling in as he did with the current mode of thought, and
providing it with a defence specious in reasoning and attractive in
language, he should have attained an influence perhaps greater than that
of which any English philosophical writer has been able during his
lifetime to boast.

The convenience of noticing the Mills together, and of putting Sir
William Hamilton next to his most famous disciples, seems to justify a
certain departure from strict chronological order. Hamilton was indeed
considerably the senior of his critic, having been born on 8th March
1788. His father and grandfather, both professors at the University of
Glasgow, had been plain "Dr. Hamilton." But they inherited, and Sir
William made good, the claim to a baronetcy which had been in abeyance
since the days of Robert Hamilton, the Covenanting leader. He himself
proceeded from Glasgow, with a Snell Exhibition, to Balliol in 1809. He
was called to the Scottish Bar, but never practised, though some
business came to him as Crown solicitor in the Court of Teinds (tithes).
He competed in 1820 for the Chair of Moral Philosophy, which Wilson,
with far inferior claims, obtained; but it is fair to say that at the
time the one candidate had given no more public proofs of fitness than
the other. Soon, however, he began to make his mark as a contributor of
philosophical articles to the _Edinburgh Review_, and in 1836 he
obtained a professorship in the University for which he was even better
fitted--that of Logic and Metaphysics. His lectures became celebrated,
but he never published them; indeed his only publication of any
importance during his lifetime was a collection of his articles under
the title of _Dissertations_, with the exception of his monumental
edition of Reid, on which he spent, and on which it has sometimes been
held that he wasted, most of his time. He died in 1856, and his lectures
were published after his death by his successor, Professor Veitch
(himself an enthusiastic devotee of literature, especially Border
literature, as well as of philosophy), and his greatest disciple,
Mansel, between 1859 and 1861. And this was how Mill's _Examination_
came to be posthumous. The "Philosophy of the Conditioned," as
Hamilton's is for shortness called, could not be described in any brief,
and perhaps not with propriety in any, space of the present volume. It
is enough to say that it was an attempt to reinforce the so-called
"Scotch Philosophy" of Reid against Hume by the help of Kant, as well as
at once to continue and evade the latter without resorting either to
Transcendentalism or to the experience-philosophy popular in England. In
logic, Hamilton was a great and justly honoured defender of the formal
view of the science which had been in persistent disrepute during the
eighteenth century; but some of the warmest lovers of logic doubt
whether his technical inventions or discoveries, such as the famous
Quantification of the Predicate, are more than "pretty" in the sense of
mathematicians and wine-merchants. This part of his doctrine, by the
way, attracted special attention, and was carefully elaborated by
another disciple, Professor Thomas Spencer Baynes (1823-1887), who,
after chequering philosophy with journalism, became editor of the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_, and a careful Shakespearian student. Yet
another disciple, and the most distinguished save one, was James
Frederick Ferrier, nephew of Susan Ferrier, to whom we owe three most
brilliant novels, who was born in 1808 and died in 1864 at St. Andrews,
where he had for nearly twenty years been Professor of Moral Philosophy,
after previously holding for a short time a History Professorship at
Edinburgh. Of this latter University Ferrier had been an alumnus, as
well as of Oxford. He edited his father-in-law Wilson's works, and was a
contributor to _Blackwood's Magazine_, but his chief book was his
_Institutes of Metaphysic_, published in 1854. Too strong a Hamiltonian
influence (not in style but in some other ways), and an attempt at an
almost Spinosian rigidity of method, have sometimes been held to have
marred Ferrier's philosophical performance; but it is certain that he
had the makings of a great metaphysician, and that he was actually no
small one.

The great merit of Hamilton was that he, in a somewhat irregular and
informal way (for, as has been said, he was ostensibly more a
commentator and critic than an independent theorist), introduced German
speculation into England after a fashion far more thorough than the
earlier but dilettante and haphazard attempts of De Quincey and
Coleridge, and contributed vastly to the lifting of the whole tone and
strain of English philosophic disputation from the slovenly commonsense
into which it had fallen. In fact, he restored metaphysics proper as a
part of English current thought; and helped (though here he was not
alone) to restore logic. His defects were, in the first place, that he
was at once too systematic and two piecemeal in theory, and worse still,
that his philosophical style was one of the very worst existing, or that
could exist. That this may have been in some degree a designed reaction
from ostentatious popularity is probable; and that it was in great part
caught from his studious frequentation of that Hercynian forest, which
takes the place of the groves of Academe in German philosophical
writing, is certain. But the hideousness of his dialect is a melancholy
fact; and it may be said to have contributed at least as much to the
decadence of his philosophical vogue as any defects in the philosophy
itself. He was, in fact, at the antipodes from Mill in attractiveness of
form as well as in character of doctrine.

There are some who think that Henry Longueville Mansel was actually in
more than one respect, and might, with some slight changes of accidental
circumstance, have been indisputably, the greatest philosopher of
Britain in the nineteenth century. Of the opinion entertained by
contemporaries of great intellectual gifts, that of Mark Pattison, a
bitter political and academical opponent, and the most acrimonious
critic of his time, that Mansel was, though according to Pattison's
view, an "arch-jobber," an "acute thinker, and a metaphysician" seems
pretty conclusive. But Mansel died in middle age, he was much occupied
in various kinds of University business, and he is said by those who
knew him to have been personally rather indolent. He was born in
Northamptonshire on 6th October 1820, and after school-days at Merchant
Taylors' passed in the then natural course to St. John's College,
Oxford, of which he became fellow. He was an active opponent of the
first University Commission, in reference to which he wrote the most
brilliant satire of the kind proper to University wits which this
century has produced--the Aristophanic parody entitled _Phrontisterion_.
But the Commission returned him good for evil, insomuch as he became the
first Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, a post
created in consequence of it. In 1859 he was Bampton Lecturer, and his
sermons in this office again attained the first excellence in style,
though they were made the subject of severe criticism not merely by the
disciples of Liberal philosophy, but by some timid defenders of
orthodoxy, for their bold application of the philosophy of the
conditioned, on scholastic lines, to the problems of theodicy. Mansel
was not a more frequent lecturer than the somewhat indulgent conditions
of the English Universities, especially Oxford, even after the
Commission, required; but his deliverances were of exceptional
importance, both in conception and expression. At the death of Milman,
his political friends being in power, he was made Dean of St. Paul's,
but enjoyed the dignity only a short time, and died in 1870. Besides
_Phrontisterion_ and his _Bampton Lectures_, which bring him under both
the divisions of this chapter, he had published in his lifetime an
excellent edition of Aldrich's "Logic," _Prolegomena Logica_ (the
principal work of the Hamiltonian school, though quite independent in
main points), and an enlarged edition of an Encyclopædia dissertation on
_Metaphysics_. His essays, chiefly from the _Quarterly Review_, were
published after his death, with _Phrontisterion_ and other things.

It will appear from this brief summary that Mansel was a many-sided man;
and it may be added that he possessed an exceptionally keen wit, by no
means confined to professional subjects, and was altogether far more of
a man of the world than is usual in a philosopher. But though this
man-of-the-worldliness may have affected the extent and quantity of his
philosophical work, it did not touch the quality of it. It may be
contended that Mansel was on the whole rather intended for a critic or
historian of philosophy than for an independent philosophical teacher;
and in this he would but have exhibited a tendency of his century. Yet
he was very far from mere slavish following even of Hamilton, while the
copying, with a little travesty and adjustment of German originals, on
which so much philosophical repute has been founded in England, was
entirely foreign to his nature and thought. In Mill's _Examination of
Hamilton_, the _Bampton Lectures_, above referred to, came in for the
most vehement protest, for Mill, less blind than the orthodox objectors,
perceived that their drift was to steer clear of some of the commonest
and most dangerous reefs and shoals on which the orthodoxy of
intelligent but not far-sighted minds has for some generations past been
wrecked. But Mansel's rejoinder, written at a time when he was more than
ever distracted by avocations, and hampered certainly by the necessity
of speaking for his master as well as for himself, and probably by
considerations of expediency in respect to the duller of the faithful,
was not his happiest work. In fact he was too clear and profound a
thinker to be first-rate in controversy--a function which requires
either unusual dishonesty or one-sidedness in an unusual degree. He may
sometimes have been a very little of a sophist--it is perhaps impossible
to be a great philosopher without some such touch. But of paralogism--of
that sincere advancing of false argument which from the time of Plato
has been justly regarded as the most fatal of philosophic
drawbacks--there is no trace in Mansel. His natural genius, moreover,
assisted by his practice in miscellaneous writing, which though much
less in amount of result than Mill's was even more various in kind,
equipped him with a most admirable philosophical style, hitting the
exact mean between the over-popular and the over-technical, endowing
even the _Prolegomena Logica_ with a perfect readableness, and in the
_Metaphysics_ and large parts of the editorial matter of the _Aldrich_
showing capacities which make it deeply to be regretted that he never
undertook a regular history of philosophy.

The place which might have been thus filled, was accepted but partially
and with no capital success by divers writers. Frederick Denison
Maurice, who will be mentioned again in this chapter, wrote on _Moral
and Metaphysical Philosophy_, but the book, though like all his work
attractively written, does not show very wide or very profound knowledge
of the subject. The _Lectures on the History of Ancient Philosophy_, by
William Archer Butler, a Dublin professor, who died prematurely, would
probably, had the author lived, have formed the best history of the
subject in English, and even in their fragmentary condition make an
admirable book, free from jargon, not unduly popular, but at once sound
and literary. The most ambitious attempt at the whole subject was that
of George Henry Lewes, the companion of George Eliot, a versatile man of
letters of great ability, who brought out on a small scale in 1845, and
afterwards on a much larger one, a _Biographical History of
Philosophy_. This, though occasionally superficial, and too much tinged
with a sort of second-hand Positivism, had, as the qualities of these
defects, an excellent though sometimes a rather treacherous clearness,
and a unity of vision which is perhaps more valuable for fairly
intelligent readers than desultory profundity. But it can hardly take
rank as a book of philosophical scholarship, though it is almost a
brilliant specimen of popular philosophical literature.

Philosophy, science, and perhaps theology may dispute between them two
remarkable figures, nearly contemporary, the one an Oxford and the other
a Cambridge man--Whately and Whewell. Besides the differences which
their respective universities impress upon nearly all strong characters,
there were others between them, Whately being the better bred, the more
accomplished writer, and the more original, Whewell the more widely
informed, and perhaps the more thoroughgoing. But both were curiously
English in a sort of knock-me-down Johnsonian dogmatism; and both were
in consequence extremely intolerant. For Whately's so-called
impartiality consisted in being equally biassed against Evangelicals and
Tractarians; and both were accused by their unfriends of being a little
addicted to the encouragement of flatterers and toadies. Richard
Whately, the elder, was born in London in 1787, his father being a
clergyman in the enjoyment of several pluralities. He went to Oriel,
gained a fellowship there in 1811, and was with intervals a resident in
Oxford for some twenty years, being latterly Principal of St. Alban Hall
(where he made Newman his Vice-Principal), and in 1829 Professor of
Political Economy. In 1831 the Whigs made him Archbishop of Dublin,
which difficult post he held for more than thirty years till his death
in 1863. His work is not very extensive, but it is remarkable. His
_Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte_ was an exceedingly
clever "skit" on the Rationalist position in regard to miracles and
biblical criticism generally; though Whately's orthodoxy was none of the
strictest. His Bampton Lectures on _Party Feeling in Religion_ preceded
rather curiously the greatest outburst of the said party feeling which
had been seen in England since the seventeenth century. But the books by
which he is or was most widely known are his _Logic_ and _Rhetoric_,
expansions of Encyclopædia articles (1826 and 1828) intentionally
popular and perhaps almost unnecessarily exoteric, but extremely
stimulating and clear. Whately, who had some points in common with
Sydney Smith, was, like him, in part the victim of the extreme want of
accuracy and range in the Oxford education of his youth; but his mental
and literary powers were great.

William Whewell, the son of a carpenter, showed talent for mathematics
early, and obtaining an exhibition at Trinity, Cambridge, became fellow,
tutor, and Master of his College. He had the advantage, which his
special studies gave, of more thorough training, and extended his
attention from pure and applied mathematics to science and a kind of
philosophy. His chief works were _The History_ (1837) and _The
Philosophy_ (1840) _of the Inductive Sciences_, his Bridgewater Treatise
on _Astronomy and Physic in Reference to Natural Philosophy_ (1833) and
his _Plurality of Worlds_ (1853) being also famous in their day; but he
wrote voluminously in various kinds. He was rather a bully, and his work
has no extraordinary merit of style, but it is interesting as being
among the latest in which science permitted her votaries not to
specialise very much, and rather to apply the ancient education to the
new subjects than to be wholly theirs.

If the difficulty of deciding on rejection or admission be great in the
case of philosophers proper, much greater is it in the numerous
subdivisions which are themselves applied philosophy as philosophy is
applied literature. The two chief of these perhaps are Jurisprudence and
Political Economy. Under the head of the first, three remarkable writers
at least absolutely demand notice--Austin, Maine, and Stephen. The first
of these was in respect of influence, if not also of actual
accomplishment, one of the most noteworthy Englishmen of the century.
Born in 1790, he died in 1859, having begun life in the Army which he
exchanged for the Bar not long after Waterloo. He was made Professor of
Jurisprudence in the new University College of London in 1827. He held
this post for five years only; but it resulted in his famous _Province
of Jurisprudence Determined_, a book standing more or less alone in
English. He did not publish much else, though he did some official work;
and his _Lectures on Jurisprudence_ were posthumously edited by his
wife, a Miss Taylor of Norwich, who has been referred to as translator
of the _Story without an End_, and who did much other good work. Austin
(whose younger brother Charles (1799-1874) left little if anything in
print but accumulated a great fortune at the Parliamentary Bar, and left
a greater, though vague, conversational reputation) had bad health
almost throughout his life, and his work is not large in bulk. At first
pooh-poohed and neglected, almost extravagantly prized later, and later
still, according to the usual round, a little cavilled at, it presents
Utilitarian theory at its best in the intellectual way; and its
disciplinary value, if it is not taken for gospel, can hardly be
overrated. But its extreme clearness, closeness, and logical precision
carry with them the almost inevitable defects of hardness, narrowness,
and want of "play," as well as of that most fatal of intellectual
attitudes which takes for granted that everything is explicable. Still,
these were the defects of Austin's school and time; his merits were
individual, and indeed very nearly unique.

Sir Henry James Summer Maine was born in 1822, and educated first as a
Blue Coat boy and then at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After a quite
exceptional career as an undergraduate, he became fellow of Trinity
Hall, of which he died Master in 1888. But he had only held this latter
post for eleven years, and the midmost of his career was occupied with
quite different work. He had been made Professor of Civil Law in his
University in 1847, at a very early age, when he had not even been
called to the Bar; but he supplied this omission three years later, and
a little later still exchanged his Cambridge Professorship for a
Readership at Lincoln's Inn. In 1862 he obtained the appointment, famous
from its connection with letters, of Legal Member of the Viceroy's
Council in India. On quitting it after seven years he was transferred to
the Council at Home, and became Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence
at Oxford. Besides his work as a reviewer, which was considerable, Maine
wrote--in an admirable style, and with a scholarship and sense which, in
the recrudescence of more barbaric thought, have brought down socialist
and other curses on his head--many works on the philosophy of law,
politics, and history, the chief of which were his famous _Ancient Law_
(1861), _Village Communities_ (1871), _Early Law and Custom_ (1883),
with a severe criticism on Democracy called _Popular Government_ (1885).
Few writers of our time could claim the phrase _mitis sapentia_ as Maine
could, though it is possible that he was a little too much given to
theorise. But his influence in checking that of Austin was admirable.

A colleague of Maine's on the _Saturday Review_, his successor in his
Indian post, like him a _malleus demagogorum_, but in some ways no small
contrast, was Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-94), the most
distinguished member of a family unusually distinguished during the past
century in the public service and in literature. His father, Sir James
Stephen, was himself well known as a reviewer, as a civil servant, as
Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, and as author of _Essays in
Ecclesiastical History_ and _Lectures on the History of France_ (1849
and 1851). The second Sir James was born at Kensington in 1829, went to
Eton, thence to King's College, London, and thence to Trinity,
Cambridge, and was called to the Bar in 1854. His legal career was
brilliant and varied, and led him to the Bench, which he resigned
shortly before his death. Sir James Stephen published some works of
capital importance on his own subject, the chief relating the Criminal
Law, collected both earlier and later a good deal of his _Saturday_
work, discussed a famous passage of Indian History in the _Story of
Nuncomar_ (1885), and wrote not a little criticism--political,
theological, and other--of a somewhat negative but admirably
clear-headed kind--the chief expression of which is _Liberty, Equality,
and Fraternity_ (1873).

Even less room can be given to the Political Economists than to the
"Jurisprudents," partly because the best writers of them, such as J. S.
Mill, have figured or will figure elsewhere; partly because, from
Ricardo to Jevons and Cliffe Leslie, though they have often displayed no
mean literary power, the necessities or supposed necessities of their
subject have usually kept their books further away from _belles lettres_
than the documents of any other department of what is widely called
philosophy. But a paragraph must at least be given to one of the
earliest and one of the most famous of them.

If a prize were offered to the best-abused person in English literature,
few competitors would have much chance with Thomas Robert Malthus,
author of the _Essay on the Principles of Population_ (1798), and of
divers works on Political Economy, of which he was Professor in the East
India College at Haileybury. To judge from the references which for many
years used to be, and to some extent still are, made to Malthus, still
more from the way in which the term "Malthusian" is still often used, he
might be supposed to have been a reprobate anarchist and revolutionary,
who had before his eyes neither the fear of God, nor the love of man,
nor the respect of morality and public opinion. As a matter of fact
Malthus was a most respectable and amiable clergyman, orthodox I believe
in religion, Tory I believe in politics, who incurred odium chiefly by
his inculcation of the most disagreeable lessons of the new and
cheerless science which he professed. Born on 24th February 1766 near
Dorking, of a very respectable family, he went to Cambridge, took
honours, a fellowship at his college (Jesus), and orders, obtained a
benefice, and spent most of the last thirty years of his life in the
Professorship above referred to, dying in 1854. His _Essay_ was one of
the numerous counter-blasts to Godwin's anarchic perfectibilism, and its
general drift was simply to show that the increase of population, unless
counter-acted by individual and moral self-restraint, must reduce
humanity to misery. The special formula that "population increases in a
geometrical, food in a arithmetical ratio," is overstrained and a
little absurd; the general principle is sound beyond all question, and
not only consistent with, but absolutely deducible from, the purest
Christian doctrines. Malthus wrote well, he knew thoroughly what he was
writing about, and he suffers only from the inevitable drawback to all
writers on such subjects who have not positive genius of form, that a
time comes when their contentions appear self-evident to all who are not
ignorant or prejudiced.

The greatest _theological_ interest of the century belongs to what is
diversely called the Oxford and the Tractarian Movement; while, even if
this statement be challenged on non-literary grounds, it will scarcely
be so by any one on grounds literary. For the present purpose, of
course, nothing like a full account of the Movement can be attempted. It
is enough to say that it arose partly in reaction from the Evangelical
tendency which had dominated the more active section of the Church of
England for many years, partly in protest against the Liberalising and
Latitudinarian tendency in matters both temporal and spiritual. In
contradistinction to its predecessor (for the Evangelicals had been the
reverse of literary), it was from the first--_i.e._ about 1830, or
earlier if we take _The Christian Year_ as a harbinger of it--a very
literary movement both in verse and prose. Of its three leaders,
Pusey--whose name, given to it in derision and sometimes contested by
sympathisers as unappropriate, unquestionably ranks of right as that of
its greatest theologian, its most steadfast character, and the most of a
born leader engaged in it--was something less of a pure man of letters
than either Keble or Newman. But he was a man of letters; and perhaps a
greater one than is usually thought.

Edward Bouverie Pusey, who belonged to the family of Lord Folkestone by
blood, his father having become by bequest the representative of the
very old Berkshire house of Pusey, was born at the seat of this family
in 1800. He went to Eton and to Christ Church, and became a fellow of
Oriel, studied theology and oriental languages in Germany, and was made
Professor of Hebrew at the early age of twenty-seven. He was a thorough
scholar, and even in the times of his greatest unpopularity no charge of
want of competence for his post was brought against him by any one who
knew. It is, however, somewhat comic that charges of Rationalism were
brought against his first book, a study of contemporary German theology.
In or soon after 1833 he joined Newman and Keble in the famous _Tracts
for the Times_, at the same time urging the return to a more primitive
and catholic theology in his sermons, and by means of the great
enterprise in translation called the _Oxford Library of the Fathers_, of
which he executed part and sedulously edited others. Pusey first came
before general public notice outside Oxford in 1843, in consequence of a
very high-handed exertion of power by the authorities of the University,
who, without allowing him a hearing, suspended him for a sermon on the
Eucharist from preaching for three years. His mouth was thus closed at
the very moment when Newman "went over"; and when some of the enemies of
the movement declared that Pusey would go too. Others were equally
certain that if he stayed it was either from base motives of
self-interest, or, still more basely, in order to do underhand damage to
the Church. But all who unite knowledge and fairness now admit, not only
his perfect loyalty, but the almost unexampled heroism and steadfastness
with which for some ten or fifteen years after Newman's secession,
against popular obloquy, against something very like persecution from
the authorities of the Church and the University, and against the
constant and repeated discouragement given by the desertion of friends
and colleagues, he upheld his cause and made the despised and reproached
"Puseyites" of his middle life what he lived to see them--the greatest
and almost the dominant party in the Anglican Church. He was less
fortunate in his opposition to the secularising of the Universities, and
in his attempts (which ill-willers did not fail to liken to the attempts
made to stifle his own teaching) to check by legal means the spread of
Rationalism. But he was nearly as full of honours as of years when he
died on 16th September 1882.

Many of the constituents of this remarkable and perhaps unexampled
success--Pusey's personal saintliness, his unselfish use of his
considerable income, his unwearied benevolence in other than pecuniary
ways--do not concern us here. But his works, which are numerous, and the
most literary of which are his _Sermons_ and his _Eirenicon_,
contributed not a little to it. Pusey's style was accused by some of
bareness and by others of obscurity; but these accusations may be safely
dismissed as due merely to the prevalent fancy for florid expression,
and to the impatience of somewhat scholastically arranged argument which
has also distinguished our times.

The second of this remarkable trio, John Keble, was the eldest, having
been born on 24th April 1792, at Fairford, in Gloucestershire, with
which county his family had for some centuries been connected. Keble's
father was a clergyman, and there was a clerical feeling and tradition
in the whole family. John went to no public school, but was very
carefully educated at home, obtained an open scholarship at Corpus
Christi College, Oxford, when he was only fourteen, and went into
residence next year--for just at this time extremely early entrance at
the University was much commoner than a little earlier or later. He had
only just entered his nineteenth year when he took a double first, and
had not concluded it when he was elected, at the same time with Whately,
to an Oriel fellowship. He followed this up by winning both the
Chancellor's Essays, English and Latin, and established his reputation
as the most brilliant man of his day. He was ordained as soon as he
could be, and served the usual offices of tutor in his College and
examiner in the University. But even such semi-public life as this was
distasteful to him, and he soon gave up his Oriel tutorship for a
country curacy and private pupils. Indeed the note, some would say the
fault, of Keble's whole life was an almost morbid retiringness, which
made him in 1827 refuse even to compete with Hawkins for the Provostship
of Oriel. It is possible that he would not have been elected, for oddly
enough his two future colleagues in the triumvirate, both Fellows, were
both in favour of his rival; but his shunning the contest has been
deeply deplored, and by some even blamed as a _gran rifiuto_. The
publication of _The Christian Year_, however, which immediately
followed, probably did more for the Movement and for the spiritual life
of England than any office-holding could have done; and in 1831, Keble,
being elected Professor of Poetry, distinguished himself almost as much
in criticism as he had already done in poetry. He obtained, and was
contented with, the living of Hursley, in Hampshire, where he resided
till his death on 29th March 1866.

Keble's very generally granted character as one of the holiest persons
of modern times, and even his influence on the Oxford Movement, concern
us less here than his literary work, which was of almost the first
importance merely as literature. The reaction from an enormous
popularity of nearly seventy years' date, and the growth of
anti-dogmatic opinions, have brought about a sort of tendency in some
quarters to belittle, if not positively to sneer at, _The Christian
Year_, which, with the _Lyra Innocentium_ and a collection of
_Miscellaneous Poems_, contains Keble's poetical work. There never was
anything more uncritical. The famous reference which Thackeray--the
least ecclesiastically inclined, if by no means the least religious, of
English men of letters of genius in this century--makes to its
appearance in _Pendennis_, shows what the thoughts of unbiassed
contemporaries were. And no very different judgment can be formed by
unbiassed posterity. With Herbert and Miss Rossetti, Keble ranks as the
greatest of English writers in sacred verse, the irregular and unequal
efforts of Vaughan and Crashaw sometimes transcending, oftener sinking
below the three. If Keble has not the exquisite poetical mysticism of
Christina Rossetti he is more copious and more strictly scholarly, while
he escapes the quaint triviality, or the triviality sometimes not even
quaint, which mars Herbert. The influence of Wordsworth is strongly
shown, but it is rendered and redirected in an entirely original manner.
The lack of taste which mars so much religious poetry never shows
itself even for a moment in Keble; yet the correctness of his diction,
like the orthodoxy of his thought, is never frigid or tame. There are
few poets who so well deserve the nickname of a Christian Horace, though
the phrase may seem to have something of the paradox of "prose
Shakespeare." The careful melody of the versification and the exact
felicity of the diction exclude, it may be, those highest flights which
create most enthusiasm, at any rate in this century. But for measure,
proportion, successful attainment of the proposed end, Keble has few
superiors.

It would indeed be surprising if he had many, for, with his gift of
verse, he was also one of the most accomplished of critics. His
_Prælectiones Academicæ_, written, as the rule then was, in Latin, is
unfortunately a sealed book to too many persons whom modern practice
calls and strives to consider "educated"; but he did not confine himself
even in these to classical subjects, and he wrote not a few reviews in
English dealing with modern poetry. His æsthetics are of course deeply
tinged with ethic; but he does not in the least allow moral
prepossessions to twist his poetic theory, which may be generally
described as the Aristotelian teaching on the subject, supplied and
assisted by the aid of a wide study of the literatures not open to
Aristotle. There can be no doubt that if Keble's mind had not been more
and more absorbed by religious subjects he would have been one of the
very greatest of English critics of literature; and he is not far from
being a great one as it is. He did not publish many sermons, though one
of his, the Assize Sermon at Oxford in 1833, is considered to have
started the Movement; and opinions as to his pulpit powers have varied.
But it is certainly not too much to say that it was impossible for Keble
not to make everything that he wrote, whether in verse or prose,
literature of the most perfect academic kind, informed by the spirit of
scholarship and strengthened by individual talent.

John Henry Newman was the eldest son of a man of business of some means
(who came of a family of Cambridgeshire yeomen) and of a lady of
Huguenot descent. He was born in London on 21st February 1801, was
educated privately at Ealing, imbibed strong evangelical principles, and
went up to Oxford (Trinity College) so early that he went in for
"Greats" (in which he only obtained a third class) before he was
nineteen. He continued, however, to reside at Trinity, where he held a
scholarship, and more than made up for his mishap in the schools by
winning an Oriel fellowship in 1823. In three successive years he took
orders and a curacy in the first, the Vice-Principalship of St. Alban's
Hall under Whately in the second, and an Oriel tutorship in the third;
while in 1827 he succeeded Hawkins, who became Provost, in the Vicarage
of St. Mary's, the most important post of the kind--to a man who chose
to make it important--in Oxford.

Newman did so choose, and his sermons--not those to the University,
though these also are notable, but those nominally "Parochial," really
addressed to the undergraduates who soon flocked to hear him--were the
foundation and mainstay of his influence, constitute the largest single
division of his printed work, and perhaps present that work in the best
and fairest light. His history for the next sixteen years cannot be
attempted here; it is the history of the famous thing called the Oxford
Movement, which changed the intellectual as well as the ecclesiastical
face of England, on which libraries have been written, and which, even
yet, has not been satisfactorily or finally judged. His travels with
Hurrell Froude in the Mediterranean during 1832-33 seem to have been the
special turning-point of his career. After ten years, perhaps of
"development," certainly of hard fighting, he resigned St. Mary's in
1843, and after two years more of halting between two opinions he was
received into the Church of Rome in October 1845. He left Oxford, never
to return to it as a residence, and not to visit it for thirty-two
years, in the following February.

His first public appearance after this was in the once famous Achilli
trial for libel, in which the plaintiff, an anti-Roman lecturer,
recovered damages from Newman for an utterly damning description of
Achilli's career in the Roman Church itself. Impartial judges generally
thought and think that the verdict was against the weight of evidence.
At any rate it produced a decided revulsion in Newman's favour, of which
he was both too convinced of his own position and too astute not to take
advantage. He had hitherto since his secession resided (he had been
re-ordained in Rome) at Birmingham, London, and Dublin, but he now took
up his abode, practically for the rest of his life, at Birmingham or
rather Edgbaston. In 1864 the great opportunity, presented by Kingsley's
unguarded words (_vide supra_), occurred, and he availed himself of it
at once. Most of those who read the _Apologia pro Vitâ Suâ_ were not
familiar with Newman's masterly English, and his competent, if not
supreme, dialectic and sophistic. They were not, as a former generation
had been, prejudiced against him; the untiring work of those of his
former friends who remained faithful to the Church of England had of
itself secured him a fair hearing. During the remaining twenty-five
years of his life he had never again to complain of ostracism or unfair
prejudice. The controversy as to the Vatican Council brought him once
more forward, and into collision with Mr. Gladstone, but into no odium
of any kind. Indeed he was considerably less popular at Rome than at
home, the more supple and less English character of Manning finding
greater favour with Pius IX. The late seventies, however, were a time of
triumph for Newman. In 1877 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of his own
College, Trinity, and next year paid what may be called a visit of
restoration to Oxford, while in 1879 the new Pope Leo XIII., a man of
great abilities and wide piety, raised Newman to the cardinalate. He
visited Rome on the occasion, but returned to Birmingham, where the
Edgbaston Oratory was still his home for the remaining years of his
life. This did not end till 11th August 1890, when almost all men spoke
almost all good things over his grave, though some did not spare to
interpose a sober criticism. The books composed during this long and
eventful career, especially in the first half of it, were very
numerous, Cardinal Newman's works at the time of his death, and before
the addition of Letters, etc., extending to nearly forty volumes. Much
of the matter of these is still _cinis dolosissimus_, not to be trodden
on save in the most gingerly manner in such a book as this. Yet there
are probably few qualified and impartial judges who would refuse Newman,
all things considered, the title of the greatest theological writer in
English during this century; and there are some who uphold him for one
of the very greatest of English prose writers. It is therefore
impossible not to give him a place, and no mean place, here.

Although his chief work, indeed all but a very small part of it, was in
prose, he was a good verse writer. The beautiful poem or hymn usually
called from its first words "Lead, kindly Light," but entitled by its
author "The Pillar of Cloud," is not merely as widely known as any piece
of sacred verse written during the century, but may challenge anything
of that class (out of the work of Miss Christina Rossetti) for really
poetical decoction and concoction of religious ideas. It was written,
with much else, during a voyage in a sailing ship from Sicily to
Marseilles at the close (June 1833) of that continental tour which was
of such moment in Newman's life; and the whole batch ferments with
spiritual excitement. Earlier, and indeed later, Newman, besides plenty
of serious verse, contributed to the _Lyra Apostolica_ or written
independently, was a graceful writer of verse trifles; but his largest
and best poetical work, _The Dream of Gerontius_, was not produced till
he was approaching old age, and had long passed the crisis of his
career. Possibly the new ferment of soul into which the composition of
the _Apologia_ had thrown him, may have been responsible for this, which
is dated a year later. It is the recital in lyrical-dramatic form of an
anticipatory vision, just before death, of the Last Things, and unites
dignity and melody in a remarkable manner. The only other parts of his
work to which Newman himself attached the title "literature" were the
prose romances of _Callista_ and _Loss and Gain_. They display his power
over language, but are exposed on one side to the charges usually
incurred by novels with a purpose, and on the other to a suspicion of
bad taste, incurred in the effort to be popular.

By far the larger bulk of the works, however, belongs to theology. This
includes twelve volumes of Sermons, all but a small part delivered
before Newman's change of creed, and eight of them the _Parochial and
Plain Sermons_, preached in the pulpit of St. Mary's but not to the
University; four of treatises, including the most famous and
characteristic of Newman's works except the _Apologia_, _The Grammar of
Assent_, and _The Development of Christian Doctrine_; four of Essays;
three of Historical Sketches; four theological, chiefly on Arianism, and
translations of St. Athanasius; and six Polemical, which culminate in
the _Apologia_. With respect to the substance of this work it is soon
easy, putting controversial matters as much as possible apart, to
discover where Newman's strength and weakness respectively lay. He was
distinctly deficient in the historic sense; and in the _Apologia_ itself
he threw curious light on this deficiency, and startled even friends and
fellow-converts, by speaking contemptuously of "antiquarian arguments."
The same defect is quaintly illustrated by a naïf and evidently sincere
complaint that he should have been complained of for (in his own words)
"attributing to the middle of the third century what is certainly to be
found in the fourth." And it is understood that he was not regarded
either by Anglican or by Roman Catholic experts as a very deep
theologian in either of his stages. The special characteristic--the
_ethos_ as his own contemporaries and immediate successors at Oxford
would have said--of Newman seems to have been strangely combined. He was
perhaps the last of the very great preachers in English--of those who
combined a thoroughly classical training, a scholarly form, with the
incommunicable and almost inexplicable power to move audiences and
readers. And he was one of the first of that class of journalists who in
the new age have succeeded the preachers, whether for good or ill, as
the prophets of the illiterate. It may seem strange to speak of Newman
as a journalist; but if any one will read his essays, his _Apologia_,
above all the curious set of articles called _The Tamworth
Reading-Room_, he will see what a journalist was lost, or only partly
developed, in this cardinal. He had the conviction, which is far more
necessary to a journalist than is generally thought; and yet his
convictions were not of that extremely systematic and far-reaching kind
which no doubt often stands in the journalist's way. He had the faculty
of mixing bad and good argument, which is far more effective with mixed
audiences than unbated logic. And, little as he is thought of as
sympathising with the common people, he was entirely free from that
contempt of them which always prevents a man from gaining their ear
unless he is a consummately clever scoundrel.

It may however be retorted that if Newman was a born journalist, sermons
and theology must be a much better school of style in journalism than
articles and politics. And it is quite true that his writing at its best
is of extraordinary charm, while that charm is not, as in the case of
some of his contemporaries and successors, derived from dubiously
legitimate ornament and flourish, but observes the purest classical
limitations of proportion and form. It has perhaps sometimes been a
little over-valued, either by those who in this way or that--out of love
for what he joined or hate to what he left--were in uncritical sympathy
with Newman, or by others it may be from pure ignorance of the fact that
much of this charm is the common property of the more scholarly writers
of the time, and is only eminently, not specially, present in him. But
of the fact of it there is no doubt. In such a sermon for instance as
that on "The Individuality of the Soul," a thought or series of
thoughts, in itself poetically grandiose enough for Taylor or even for
Donne, is presented in the simplest but in the most marvellously
impressive language. The sentences are neither volleying in their
shortness, nor do they roll thundrously; the cadences though perfect are
not engineered with elaborate musical art; there are in proportion very
few adjectives; the writer exercises the most extreme continence in
metaphor, simile, illustration, all the tricks and frounces of literary
art. Yet Taylor, though he might have attained more sweetness or more
grandeur, could hardly have been more beautiful; and though Donne might
have been so, it would have been at the expense of clearness. Newman is
so clear that he has often been accused of being, and sometimes is, a
little hard; but this is not always or often the case: it is especially
not so when he is dealing with things which, as in the sermon just
referred to and that other on "The Intermediate State," admit the
diffusion of religious awe. The presence of that awe, and of a constant
sense and dread of Sin, have been said, and probably with truth, to be
keynotes of Newman's religious ideas, and of his religious history; but
they did not harden, as in thinkers of another temper has often been the
case, his style or his thought. On the contrary, they softened both; and
it is when he is least under the influence of them that unction chiefly
deserts him. Yet he by no means often sought to excite his hearers. He
held, as he himself somewhere says, that "impassioned thoughts and
sublime imaginings have no strength in them." And this conviction of his
can hardly be strange to the fact that few writers indulge so little as
Newman in what is called fine writing. He has "organ passages," but they
are such as the wind blowing as it lists draws from him, not such as are
produced by deliberate playing on himself.

In a wider space it would be interesting to comment on numerous other
exponents of the Movement. Archdeacon afterwards Cardinal Manning
(1807-93), the successful rival of Newman among those Anglican clergymen
who joined the Church of Rome, was less a man of letters than a very
astute man of business; but his sermons before he left the Church had
merit, and he afterwards wrote a good deal. Richard Hurrell Froude
(1803-36), elder brother of the historian, had a very great and not
perhaps a very beneficent influence on Newman, and through Newman on
others; but he died too soon to leave much work. His chief
distinguishing note was a vigorous and daring humour allied to a strong
reactionary sentiment. Isaac Williams, the second poet of the Movement
(1802-65), was in most respects, as well as in poetry, a minor Keble.
W. G. Ward, commonly called "Ideal" Ward from his famous, very
ill-written, very ill-digested, but important _Ideal of a Christian
Church_, which was the alarm-bell for the flight to Rome, was a
curiously constituted person of whom something has been said in
reference to Clough. He had little connection with pure letters, and
after his secession to Rome and his succession to a large fortune he
finally devoted himself to metaphysics of a kind. His acuteness was
great, and he had a scholastic subtlety and logical deftness which made
him very formidable to the loose thinkers and reasoners of
Utilitarianism and anti-Supernaturalism. One of the latest important
survivors was Dean Church (1815-91), who, as Proctor, had arrested the
persecution of the Tractarians, with which it was sought to complete the
condemnation of Ward's _Ideal_, and who afterwards, both in a country
cure and as Dean of St. Paul's, acquired very high literary rank by work
on Dante, Anselm, Spenser, and other subjects, leaving also the best
though unfortunately an incomplete history of the Movement itself; while
the two Mozleys, the one a considerable theologian, the other an active
journalist, brothers-in-law of Newman, also deserve mention. Last of all
perhaps we must notice Henry Parry Liddon (1829-90), of a younger
generation, but the right-hand man of Pusey in his later day, and his
biographer afterwards--a popular and pleasing, though rather rhetorical
than argumentative or original, preacher, and a man very much affected
by his friends. Even this list is nothing like complete, but it is
impossible to enlarge it.

Midway between the Movement and its enemies, a partial sympathiser in
early days, almost an enemy when the popular tide turned against it,
almost a leader when public favour once more set in in its favour, was
Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and Winchester (1805-73). The third
son of the celebrated emancipationist and evangelical, he had brothers
who were more attracted than himself by the centripetal force of Roman
doctrine, and succumbed to it. Worldly perhaps as much as spiritual
motives kept him steadier. He did invaluable work as a bishop; and at
all times of his life he was in literature a distinct supporter of the
High Church cause, though with declensions and defections of Erastian
and evangelical backsliding. He was a very admirable preacher, though
his sermons do not read as well as they "heard"; some of his devotional
manuals are of great excellence; and in the heyday of High Church
allegory (an interesting by-walk of literature which can only be glanced
at here, but which was trodden by some estimable and even some eminent
writers) he produced the well hit-off tale of _Agathos_ (1839). But it
may be that he will, as a writer, chiefly survive in the remarkable
letters and diaries in his _Life_, which are not only most valuable for
the political and ecclesiastical history of the time, but precious
always as human documents and sometimes as literary compositions.

Three remarkable persons must be mentioned among the opponents of (and
in one case harsh judgment might say the deserters of) the Movement.
These were Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Mark Pattison, and Benjamin Jowett.
Stanley, born in 1815, was the son of the (afterwards) Bishop of Norwich
and a nephew of the first Lord Stanley of Alderley, and was brought up
very much under the influence of Arnold, whose biographer he became. But
he went further than Arnold in Broad Church ways. His career at Rugby
and at Oxford was distinguished, and after being fellow and tutor of
University College for some ten years, he became successively Canon of
Canterbury, Canon of Christ Church, and Professor of Ecclesiastical
History at Oxford, and Dean of Westminster, in which last post he had
almost greater opportunities than any bishop, and used them to the full.
He also wrote busily, devoting himself especially to the geography of
Palestine and the history of the Eastern Church, which he handled in a
florid and popular style, though not with much accuracy or scholarship.
Personally, Stanley was much liked, though his conception of his duties
as a sworn servant of the Church has seemed strange to some. He died in
July 1881.

Mark Pattison (1813-84), Fellow and Rector of Lincoln College, had a
less amiable character than Stanley's, but a greater intellect and far
nicer, profounder, and wider scholarship, though he actually did very
little. He fell under the influence of Newman early, and was one of that
leader's closest associates in his monastic retreat at Littlemore. But
when Newman "went over," the wave swept Pattison neither to Rome nor
safely on to higher English ground, but into a religious scepticism, the
exact extent of which was nowhere definitely announced, but which was
regarded by some as nearly total. He did not nominally leave the Church,
but he acted always with the extreme Liberal party in the University,
and he was one of the famous Seven who contributed to _Essays and
Reviews_[11]. The shock of his religious revolution was completed by a
secular disappointment--his defeat for the office of Rector, which he
actually attained much later; and a temper always morbid, appears, to
judge from his painful but extraordinarily interesting and
characteristic _Memoirs_, to have been permanently soured. Even active
study became difficult to him, and though he was understood to have a
more extensive acquaintance with the humanists of the late Renaissance
than any man of his day, his knowledge took little written form except a
volume on Isaac Casaubon. He also wrote an admirable little book on
_Milton_ for the _English Men of Letters_, edited parts of Milton and
Pope, and contributed a not inconsiderable number of essays and articles
to the _Quarterly_ and _Saturday Reviews_, and other papers. The
autobiography mentioned was published after his death.

Despite Pattison's peculiar temper he had warm and devoted friends, and
it was impossible for any one, whether personally liking him or not, to
deny him the possession of most unusual gifts. Whether his small
performance was due to the shocks just referred to, to genuine
fastidiousness and resolve to do nothing but the best, or to these
things mixed with a strong dash of downright indolence and want of
energy, is hard to say. But it would be entirely unjust to regard him as
merely a man who was "going to do something." His actual work though not
large is admirable, and his style is the perfection of academic
correctness, not destitute of either vigour or grace.

There were some resemblances between Pattison and Jowett (1817-94); but
the latter, unlike Pattison, had never had any sympathies with the
religious renaissance of his time. Like Pattison he passed his entire
life (after he obtained a Balliol fellowship) in his College, and like
him became head of it; while he was a much more prominent member of the
Liberal party in Oxford. His position as Regius Professor of Greek gave
him considerable influence even beyond Balliol. He, too, was an
_Essayist and Reviewer_, and he exercised a quiet but pervading
influence in University matters. He even acquired no mean name in
literature, though his work, after an early _Commentary_ on some
Epistles of St. Paul, was almost entirely confined to translations,
especially of Plato, and though in these translations he was much
assisted by pupils. He wrote well, but with much less distinction and
elegance than Pattison, nor had he by any means the same taste for
literature and erudition in it. But, as an influence on the class of
persons from whom men of letters are drawn, no one has exceeded him in
his day.

The dramatic catastrophe of the Disruption of the Scotch Kirk, which, by
a strange coincidence, was nearly contemporary with the crisis of the
Oxford Movement, set the final seal upon the reputation of Thomas
Chalmers, who headed the seceders. But this reputation had been made
long before, and indeed Chalmers died 30th May 1847, only four years
after he "went out." He was a much older man than the Oxford leaders,
having been born in 1780, and after having for some years, though a
minister, devoted himself chiefly to secular studies, he became famous
as a preacher at the Tron Church, Glasgow. In 1823 he was appointed
Professor of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, and (shortly afterwards)
of Theology in Edinburgh. He was one of the Bridgewater treatise
writers--a group of distinguished persons endowed to produce tractates
on Natural Theology--and his work, _The Adaptation of External Nature to
the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man_, was one of the most
famous of that set, procuring for him a correspondence-membership from
the French Institute and a D.C.L. from Oxford. Chalmers' works are
extremely voluminous; the testimony as to the effect of his preaching is
tolerably uniform; he was a man of very wide range of thought, and of
remarkable faculty of popularisation; and there is no doubt that he was
a born leader of men. But as literature his works have hardly maintained
the reputation which they once had, and even those who revere him,
unless they let reverence stifle criticism, are apt to acknowledge that
there is more rhetoric than logic in him, and that the rhetoric itself
is not of the finest.

Edward Irving, at one time an assistant to Chalmers, and an early friend
of Carlyle, was twelve years the junior of Chalmers himself, and died
thirteen years before him. But at nearly the time when Chalmers was at
the height of his reputation as a preacher in Glasgow, Irving was
drawing crowds to the unfashionable quarter of Hatton Garden, London, by
sermons of extraordinary brilliancy. Later he developed eccentricities
of doctrine which do not concern us, and his preaching has not worn much
better than that of his old superior. Irving, however, had more strictly
literary affinities than Chalmers; he came under the influence of
Coleridge (which probably had not a little to do both with his eloquence
and with his vagaries); and he may be regarded as having been much more
of a man of letters who had lost his way and strayed into theology than
as a theologian proper.

To what extent this great and famous influence of Coleridge actually
worked upon Frederick Denison Maurice has been debated. It is however
generally stated that he, like his friend Sterling, was induced to take
orders in the Church of England by this influence. He was not a very
young man when in 1834, the year of Irving's death, he did this, for he
had been born in 1805, and had been educated at Cambridge, though being
then a Unitarian he did not take a degree. He afterwards went to Oxford
and took an M.A. degree there, and he was regarded for a time as a sort
of outlying sympathiser with the Tractarian Movement. But his opinions
took a very different line of development not merely from those of
Newman, but from those of Keble and Pusey. He indeed never left the
Church, in which he held divers preferments; and though his views on
eternal punishment lost him a professorship in King's College, London,
he met with no formal ecclesiastical censure. But he came to be regarded
as a champion of the Broad Church school, and upheld eloquently and
vehemently, if not always with a sufficiency either of logic or of
learning, a curious conglomerate of "advanced" views, ranging from
Christian Socialism to something like the views of the Atonement
attributed to Origen, and from deprecation of dogma to deprecation of
the then fashionable political economy. He was made Professor of Moral
Philosophy at Cambridge in 1866, and died in 1872. Maurice's sermons
were effective, and his other works numerous. A very generous and
amiable person with a deficient sense of history, Maurice in his writing
is a sort of elder, less gifted, and more exclusively theological
Charles Kingsley, on whom he exercised great and rather unfortunate
influence. But his looseness of thought, wayward eclecticism of system,
and want of accurate learning, were not remedied by Kingsley's splendid
pictorial faculty, his creative imagination, or his brilliant style.

Somewhat akin to Maurice, but of a more feminine and less robust
temperament, was Frederick Robertson, generally called "Robertson of
Brighton," from the place of his last cure. Robertson, who was the son
of a soldier, was born in London on 3rd February 1816. After a rather
eccentric education and some vacillations about a profession, he went,
rather late, to Oxford, and was ordained in 1840. He had very bad
health, but did duty, chiefly at Cheltenham and at Brighton, pretty
valiantly, and died on August 1853. He published next to nothing in his
lifetime, but after his death there appeared several volumes of sermons
which gained great popularity, and were followed by other posthumous
works. Robertson's preaching is not very easy to judge, because the
published sermons are admittedly not what was actually delivered, but
after-reminiscences or summaries, and the judgment is not rendered
easier by the injudicious and gushing laudation of which he has been
made the subject. He certainly possessed a happy gift of phrase now and
then, and remarkable earnestness.

     NOTE.--In no chapter, perhaps, has there been greater
     difficulty as to inclusion and exclusion than in the
     present. The names of Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, of Dean
     Alford, of Bishop Lightfoot for England, of Bishop Charles
     Wordsworth, of Dean Ramsay, of Drs. Candlish, Guthrie, and
     Macleod for Scotland, may seem to clamour among orthodox
     theologians, those of W. R. Greg, of James Hinton, of W. K.
     Clifford among not always orthodox lay dealers with the
     problems of philosophy, or of theology, or both. With less
     tyrannous limits of space Principal Tulloch, who was
     noteworthy in both these and in pure literature as well (he
     was the last editor of _Fraser_), must have received at
     least brief notice in this chapter, as must his brother
     Principal, J. C. Shairp (an amiable poet, an agreeable
     critic, and Professor of Poetry at Oxford), in others.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] This famous book, published in 1860, was a collection of papers by
six clergymen and a layman, some of which undoubtedly were, and the rest
of which were by association thought to be, unorthodox. It was condemned
by Convocation, and actual legal proceedings were taken against two of
the writers, but without final effect.



CHAPTER IX

LATER JOURNALISM AND CRITICISM IN ART AND LETTERS


In a former chapter we conducted the history of criticism, especially
literary criticism, and that chiefly as displayed in the periodicals
which were reorganized and refreshed in the early years of the century,
to about 1850. We have now to take it up at that point and conduct
it--subject to the limitations of our plan as regards living authors,
and in one extremely important case taking the license of outstepping
these limits--to the present or almost the present day. We shall have to
consider the rise and performances of two great individual writers, one
of whom entirely re-created, if he may not almost be said to have
created, the criticism of art in England, while the other gave a new
temper, if not exactly a new direction, to the criticism of literature;
and we shall have, in regard to periodicals, to observe the rise, in the
first place of the weekly newspaper, and then of the daily, as
competitors in strictly critical and literary work with the quarterly
and monthly reviews, as well as some changes in these latter.

For just as we found that the first development of nineteenth century
criticism coincided with or followed upon a new departure or development
in periodicals, so we shall find that a similar change accompanied or
caused changes in the middle of the century. Although the popularity of
the quarterly and monthly reviews and magazines which had been headed
respectively by the _Edinburgh_ and _Blackwood_ did not exactly wane,
and though some of the most brilliant work of the middle of the
century--George Eliot's novels, Kingsley's and Froude's essays, and the
like--appeared in them, the ever fickle appetite of readers seemed to
desire something else in shape, something different in price, style, and
form. Why this sort of change, which is perpetually recurring, should
usually bring with it a corresponding change, and sometimes a
corresponding improvement, of literary production, is more than any one
can say, but the fact is not easily disputable.

On the present occasion the change took three successive forms--first,
the raising, or rather restoring, of the weekly sixpenny critical
newspaper to a higher pitch of popularity than it had ever held;
secondly, the cheapening and multiplying of the monthly magazines;
thirdly, the establishment of new monthly reviews, somewhat more
resembling the old quarterlies than anything else, but with signed
instead of anonymous articles.

The uprising of the weekly newspaper took shape in two remarkably
different forms, represented respectively by _Household Words_, which
Dickens started early in the fifties, and by the _Saturday Review_,
which came a little later. The former might best be described as a
monthly of the _Blackwood_ and _London_ kind cheapened, made more
frequent in issue, and adjusted to a considerably lower and more popular
standard of interest and culture--politics, moreover, being ostensibly
though not quite really excluded. Dickens contributed to it largely
himself. He received contributions from writers of established repute
like Bulwer and Lever; but he made his chief mark with the paper by
breeding up a school of younger writers who wrote to his own pattern in
fiction, miscellaneous essay, and other things. Wilkie Collins was the
chief of these, but there were many others. In particular the periodical
developed a sort of popular, jocular, and picturesque-descriptive manner
of treating places, travels, ceremonies, and what not, which took the
public fancy immensely. It was not quite original (for Leigh Hunt,
Wainewright the murderer-miscellanist of the _London_, some of the
_Blackwood_ men, and others, had anticipated it to a certain extent),
and it was vulgarised as regards all its models; but it was distinct
and remarkable. The æsthetic and literary tone of _Household Words_, and
of its successor _All the Year Round_ to a somewhat less extent, was
distinctly what is called Philistine; and though Dickens always had a
moral purpose, he did not aim much higher than amusement that should not
be morbid, and instruction of the middle-class diffusion-of-knowledge
kind. But there was very little harm and much good to be said of
_Household Words_; and if some of the imitations of it were far from
being happy, its own popularity and that of its successor were very
fairly deserved.

The aims, the character, and the success of the _Saturday Review_ were
of the most widely different character. It was less novel in form, for
the weekly review was an established thing, and had at least two very
respectable examples--the _Examiner_, which (under the Hunts, under
Fonblanque, under Forster, and under the late Mr. Minto) had a
brilliant, if never an extremely prosperous, career for three-quarters
of the century, and the _Spectator_, which attained a reputation for
unswerving honesty under the editorship of Mr. Rentoul, and has
increased it under that of its present conductors. But both these were
Liberal papers first of all; the _Saturday Review_, at first and
accidentally Peelite, was really (throughout the nearly forty years
during which it remained in the possession of the same family and was
directed by a succession of editors each of whom had been trained under
his predecessor) Independent Tory, or (to use a rather unhappy and now
half-forgotten name) Liberal-Conservative. It never tied itself to party
chariot-wheels, and from the first to the last of the period just
referred to very distinguished writers of Liberal and Radical opinions
contributed to it. But the general attitude of the paper during this
time expressed that peculiar tone of mainly Conservative persiflage
which has distinguished in literature the great line of writers
beginning with Aristophanes. Its staff was, as a rule, recruited from
the two Universities (though there was no kind of exclusion for the
unmatriculated; as a matter of fact, neither of its first two editors
was a son either of Oxford or Cambridge), and it always insisted on the
necessity of classical culture. It eschewed the private personality
which had been too apt to disfigure newspapers of a satirical kind
during the first half of the century; but it claimed and exercised to
the full the privilege of commenting on every public writing, utterance,
or record of the subjects of its criticism. It observed, for perhaps a
longer time than any other paper, the salutary principles of anonymity
(real as well as ostensible) in regard to the authorship of particular
articles; and those who knew were constantly amused at the public
mistakes on this subject.

Applying this kind of criticism,--perfectly fearless, on the whole
fairly impartial, informed, human errors excepted, by a rather
exceptionally high degree of intelligence and education, and above all
keeping before it the motto, framed by its "sweet enemy" Thackeray, of
being written "by gentlemen for gentlemen,"--the _Saturday Review_
quickly attained, and for many years held, the very highest place in
English critical journalism as regards literature, in a somewhat less
degree politics, and in a degree even greater the farrago of social and
miscellaneous matters. By consent too general and too unbiassed to be
questioned, it gave and maintained a certain tone of comment which
prevailed for the seventh, eighth, and ninth decades of the century, and
of which the general note may be said to have been a coolly scornful
intolerance of ignorance and folly. There were those who accused it even
in its palmiest days of being insufficiently positive and constructive;
but on the negative side it was generally sound in intention, and in
execution admirably thorough. It may sometimes have mishandled an honest
man, it may sometimes have forgiven a knave; but it always hated a fool,
and struck at him with might and with main.

The second change began with the establishment of the _Cornhill_ and
_Macmillan's Magazine_, two or three years later. There was no
perceptible difference in the general scheme of these periodicals from
that of the earlier ones, of which _Blackwood_ and _Fraser_ were the
most famous; but their price was lowered from half a crown to a
shilling, and the principle of signed articles and of long novels by
famous names was adopted. The editorship of Thackeray in the _Cornhill_,
with the contributions of Matthew Arnold and others, quickly gave a
character to it; while _Macmillan's_ could boast contributions from the
Kingsleys, Henry and Charles, as well as from many others. From this
time the monthly magazine, with the exception of _Blackwood_, found a
shilling, which attempts have been recently made to lower to sixpence,
its almost necessary tariff, while the equal necessity of addressing the
largest possible audience made pure politics, with occasional
exceptions, unwelcome in it. It is to the credit of the English
magazines of this class, however, that they have never relinquished the
tradition of serious literary studies. Many of the essays of Mr. Arnold
appeared first either in one or the other of the two just mentioned; the
_Cornhill_ even ventured upon Mr. Ruskin's _Unto this Last_; and other
famous books of a permanent character saw the light in these, in _Temple
Bar_, started by Mr. Bentley, in the rather short-lived _St. Paul's_, of
which Anthony Trollope was editor, and in others.

Whether the starting of the monthly "Review" as distinguished from the
"Magazine," which came again a little later towards the middle or end of
the sixties, be traceable to a parallel popularisation of the quarterly
ideal--to the need for the political and "heavy" articles which the
lightened monthlies had extruded--or to a mere imitation of the famous
French _Revue des Deux Mondes_, is an academic question. The first of
these new Reviews was the _Fortnightly_, which found the exact French
model unsuitable to the meridian of Greenwich, and dropped the
fortnightly issue, while retaining the title. It was followed by the
_Contemporary_, the _Nineteenth Century_, and others. The exclusion of
fiction in these was not invariable--the _Fortnightly_, in particular,
has published many of Mr. Meredith's novels. But, as a rule, these
reviews have busied themselves with more or less serious subjects, and
have encouraged signed publication.

It would, of course, be impossible here to go through all, or even all
the most noteworthy, of the periodicals of the century. We are dealing
with classes, not individuals, and the only class yet to be
noticed--daily newspapers falling out of our ken almost entirely--are
those weekly newspapers which have eschewed politics altogether. The
oldest and most famous of these is the _Athenæum_, which still
flourishes after a life of nearly seventy years, while between forty and
fifty years later the _Academy_ was founded on the same general
principles. But the _Athenæum_ has always cleaved, as far as its main
articles went, to the unsigned system, while the _Academy_ started at a
period which leant the other way. Of late years, too, criticism proper,
that is to say, of letters and art, has played a larger and larger part
in daily newspapers, some of which attempt a complete review of books as
they appear, while others give reviews of selected works as full as
those of the weeklies. If any distinct setting of example is necessary
to be attributed in this case, the credit is perhaps mainly due to the
original _Pall Mall Gazette_, an evening newspaper started in 1864 with
one of the most brilliant staffs ever known, including many of the
original _Saturday_ writers and others.

The result of this combined opportunity and stimulus in so many forms
has been that almost the whole of the critical work of the latter part
of the century has passed through periodicals--that, except as regards
Mr. Ruskin, a writer always indocile to editing, every one who will
shortly be mentioned in this chapter has either won his spurs or
exercised them in this kind, and that of the others, mentioned in other
chapters and in connection with other subjects, a very small proportion
can be said to have been entirely disdainful of periodical publication.
At the very middle of the century, and later, the older Quarterlies were
supported by men like John Wilson Croker, a survival of their first
generation Nassau W. Senior, and Abraham Hayward, the last a famous
talker and "diner-out." Other chief critics and essayists, besides
Kingsley and Froude, were George Brimley, Librarian of Trinity College,
Cambridge; Henry Lancaster, a Balliol man and a Scotch barrister; and
Walter Bagehot, a banker, and not a member of either University.
Brimley has left us what is perhaps the best appreciation of Tennyson in
the time between the days when that poet was flouted or doubted by the
usual critic, and those when he was accepted as a matter of course or
cavilled at as a matter of paradox; and Lancaster occupies pretty much
the same position with regard to Thackeray. It is not so easy to single
out any particular and distinguishing critical effort of Bagehot's, who
wrote on all subjects, from Lombard Street to Tennyson, and from the
_Coup d'État_ (which he saw) to Browning. But his distinction of the
poetical art of Wordsworth and that of these other poets as "pure,
ornate, and grotesque" will suffice to show his standpoint, which was a
sort of middle place between the classical and the Romantic. Bagehot
wrote well, and possessed a most keen intelligence. Also to be classed
here are Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, the very agreeable author of _Horæ
Subsecivæ_, and James Hannay, a brilliant journalist, a novelist of some
merit and an essayist of more, and author of _A Course of English
Literature_ which, though a little popular and desultory, is full of
sense and stimulus.

Most popular of all at the time was Sir Arthur Helps (1813-75), a
country gentleman of some means and of the usual education, who took to
a mixed life of official and literary work, did some useful work in
regard to Spanish-American history, but acquired most popularity by a
series of dialogues, mostly occupied by ethical and æsthetic criticism,
called _Friends in Council_. This contains plenty of knowledge of books,
touches of wit and humour, a satisfactory standard of morals and
manners, a certain effort at philosophy, but suffers from the
limitations of its date. In different ways enough--for he was as quiet
as the other was showy--Helps was the counterpart of Kinglake, as
exhibiting a certain stage in the progress of English culture during the
middle of the century--a stage in which the Briton was considerably more
alive to foreign things than he had been, had enlarged his sphere in
many ways, and was at least striving to be cosmopolitan, but had lost
insular strength without acquiring Continental suppleness.

Of the literary critic who attracted most public attention during this
period,--the late Mr. Matthew Arnold,--considerable mention has already
been made in dealing with his poetry, and biographical details must be
looked for there. It will be remembered that Mr. Arnold was not very
early a popular writer either as poet or prose-man, that his poetical
exercises preceded by a good deal his prose, and that these latter were,
if not determined, largely influenced by his appointment to the
Professorship of Poetry at Oxford. He began, however, towards the end of
the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, to be much noticed, not
merely as the deliverer of lectures, but as the contributor of essays of
an exceedingly novel, piquant, and provocative kind; and in 1865 these,
or some of them, were collected and published under the title of _Essays
in Criticism_. These _Essays_--nine in number, besides a characteristic
preface--dealt ostensibly for the most part, if not wholly, with
literary subjects,--"The Function of Criticism," "The Literary Influence
of Academies," "The Guérins" (brother and sister), "Heine," "Pagan and
Mediæval Religious Sentiment," "Joubert," "Spinoza," and "Marcus
Aurelius,"--but they extended the purport of the title of the first of
them in the widest possible way. Mr. Arnold did not meddle with art, but
he extended the province of literature outside of it even more widely
than Mr. Ruskin did, and was, under a guise of pleasant scepticism, as
dogmatic within the literary province as Mr. Ruskin in the artistic. It
might almost be said that Mr. Arnold put himself forth, with a becoming
attempt at modesty of manner, but with very uncompromising intentions,
as "Socrates in London," questioning, probing, rebuking with ironical
faithfulness, the British Philistine--a German term which he, though not
the first to import it, made first popular--in literature, in
newspapers, in manners, in politics, in philosophy. Foreign, and
specially French, ways were sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely,
held up as examples for our improvement; and the want of "ideas," the
want of "light," the want of "culture," was dwelt on with a mixture of
sorrow and satire. All this was couched in a very peculiar and (till its
mannerism became irritating) a very captivating style, which cannot be
assigned to any single original, but which is a sort of compound or
eclectic outcome of the old Oxford academic style as it may be seen at
times in Newman, of French persiflage, and of some elements peculiar to
Mr. Arnold himself. The strongest, though the most dangerous, of these
elements was a trick of iterating words and phrases, sometimes exactly,
sometimes with a very slight variation, which inevitably arrested
attention, and perhaps at first produced conviction, on the principle
formulated by a satirist (also of Oxford) a little later in the words--

    What I tell you three times is true.

But besides and underneath all this flourish, all this wide-ranging
scatter of sometimes rather haphazard arrows, there was a solid literary
value in Mr. Arnold's method. As has been noticed earlier in this
chapter, the literary essay of the best kind had somewhat gone off in
England during the middle of the century, and the short, crisp
criticisms which had appeared to take its place in weekly papers were
almost necessarily exposed to grave faults and inadequacies. It was Mr.
Arnold's great merit that by holding up Sainte-Beuve, from whom he had
learnt much, and other French critics, and by urging successfully the
revival of the practice of "introducing" editions of classics by a sound
biographical and critical essay from the pen of some contemporary, he
did much to cure this state of things. So that, whereas the _corpus_ of
English essay-criticism between 1800 and 1835 or thereabouts is
admirable, and that of 1835 to 1865 rather thin and scanty, the last
third of the century is not on such very bad terms as regards the first.
And he gave example as well as precept, showing--though his subjects, as
in the case of the Guérins, were sometimes most eccentrically
selected--a great deal of critical acuteness, coupled, it may be, with
something of critical "will-worship," with a capricious and unargued
preference of this and rejection of that, but exhibiting wide if not
extraordinarily deep reading, an honest enthusiasm for the best things,
and above all a fascinating rhetoric.

The immediate effect of this remarkable book was good almost unmixedly
on two of the three parties concerned. It was more than time for the
flower of middle-class complacency, which horticulturists of all
degrees, from Macaulay downwards, had successively striven to cultivate,
and which was already overblown, to drop from its stalk; and the whiff
of pleasant scorn which Mr. Arnold directed at it was just the thing to
puff it off. So the public, upon which he was never likely to produce
too much effect, had reason to thank him for the effect that he did
produce, or helped to produce. And on the critics too his effect, or the
effect of which he was the symptom and voice, was also good, recalling
them on the one hand from the dulness of the long reviews of the period,
and on the other from the flippancy of the short, while inculcating a
wider if not always a sounder comparison. Practically German poetry had
nothing left to do in Mr. Arnold's day, and French had much: he thought
just the other way, and reserved his encomium of France for its prose,
in which it was drooping and failing. But this did not matter: it is the
general scope of the critic's advice which is valuable in such cases,
and the general scope of Mr. Arnold's was sound. On the third party,
however,--himself,--the effect was a little disastrous. The reception
which, after long waiting, he had attained, encouraged him not so much
to continue in his proper sphere of literary criticism as to embark on a
wide and far-ranging enterprise of general censure, which narrowed
itself pretty rapidly to an attempt to establish undogmatic on the ruins
of dogmatic Christianity. It would be very improper to discuss such an
undertaking on the merits here; or to criticise narrowly the series of
singular treatises which absorbed (with exceptions, no doubt, such as
the quaint sally of _Friendship's Garland_ on the occasion of the
Franco-German War) Mr. Arnold's energies for some fifteen or sixteen
years. The titles--_Culture and Anarchy_, _God and the Bible_, _St. Paul
and Protestantism_, _Literature and Dogma_, etc.--are well known. Of the
contents it is enough to say that, apart from the popular audacity of
their wit and the interesting spectacle of a pure man of letters
confidently attacking thorny questions without any apparatus of special
knowledge and study, they have not been generally thought quite worthy
of their author. There are many brilliant passages in these books as
writing, just as there are some astonishing lapses of taste and logic;
but the real fault of the whole set is that they are popular, that they
undergo the very curse, of speaking without qualification and without
true culture, which Mr. Arnold had himself so freely pronounced.

Fortunately, however, he never quite abandoned the old ways; and in his
last years he returned to them almost wholly. Nothing better of the kind
(individual crotchets always excepted) has ever been written than his
introductions to selected lives from Johnson's _Poets_, to Byron, to
Shelley (the most crotchety and unsound of all), to Wordsworth
(incomparably the best). He aided others; and a collection of his purely
or mainly literary work is still eagerly expected. Even this would be
extremely unequal and open to exception here and there. But it would
contain some of the very best things to be found in any English critic.
And this after all, if not the absolutely highest, is one of the highest
things that can be said of a critic, and one of the rarest. Undoubtedly
the influence of Mr. Arnold did not make for good entirely. He
discouraged--without in the least meaning to do so, and indeed meaning
quite the contrary--seriousness, thoroughness, scholarship in criticism.
He discouraged--without in the least meaning to do so, and indeed
meaning quite the contrary--simplicity and unaffectedness in style. But
he was a most powerful stimulus, and in some ways, if not in all, a
great example. Some at least of the things he said were in the very
greatest need of saying, and some of the ways in which he said them were
inimitably charming.

Contemporary with Mr. Arnold, and his complement in critical influence,
was John Ruskin, the sole living author of whom it has seemed proper to
treat here at length, and, since the death of Mr. Froude, the sole
surviving man of letters of the first class who had published before the
middle of the century. He was born in 1819: he has given copious
accounts of his family, of his youth at Denmark Hill, and so forth, and
all the world knows that his father was a sherry merchant who, though he
lived rather plainly, was able to give his son an early and plentiful
indulgence in that Continental travel which had so much to do with
developing his genius. Mr. Ruskin's education was oddly combined; for,
after going to no school, he was sent to Christ Church as a
gentleman-commoner and took his degree in 1842, having gained the
Newdigate three years earlier. He wrote a good deal of other verse in
his early years,--and he made himself a not inconsiderable draughtsman.
But his real vocation was as little the practice of art as it was the
practice of poetry. As early as 1843 there appeared, by "a Graduate of
Oxford," the first volume of the famous _Modern Painters_, which ran to
five large volumes, which covered seventeen years in its original period
of publication, and which was very largely altered and remodelled by the
author during and after this period. But Mr. Ruskin by no means confined
his energies before 1860 to this extensive task. The _Seven Lamps of
Architecture_ (1849), and (between 1851 and 1853) the larger _Stones of
Venice_, did for architecture what the companion work did for painting.
The Præ-Raphaelite movement of the middle of the century found in Mr.
Ruskin an ardent encomiast and literary apostle, and between 1850 and
1860 he delivered divers lectures, the text of which--_Architecture and
Painting_ (1854), _Political Economy of Art_ (1858)--was subsequently
published in as elaborately magnificent a style as his other works. As
_Modern Painters_ drew to its close he became prolific of more numerous
and shorter works, generally with somewhat fantastic but agreeable
titles--_Unto this Last_ (1861), _Munera Pulveris_ (1862), _Sesame and
Lilies_ (1865), _The Cestus of Aglaia_ (1865), _The Ethics of the Dust_
(1866), _The Crown of Wild Olive_ (1866), _Time and Tide by Wear and
Tyne_ (1867), _The Queen of the Air_ (1869), _Aratra Pentelici_ and _The
Eagle's Nest_ (1872), _Ariadne Florentina_ (1873), _Proserpina and
Deucalion_ (1875 _seq._), _St. Mark's Rest_ and _Præterita_ (1885). Not
a few of these were issued in parts and numbers, but Mr. Ruskin's
bulkiest and most characteristic venture in this kind was _Fors
Clavigera_, which was published at irregular intervals from 1871 to
1884. He has written many other things even in book form, besides
innumerable essays and letters, some of which have been collected in two
gatherings--_Arrows of the Chace_ and _On the Old Road_.

Two things are mainly perceptible in this immense and at first sight
rather bewildering production. The first, the most disputable and
probably the least important, though the most at the author's heart, is
a vast, fluctuating, but on the whole pretty coherent body of doctrine
in reference to Art. Up to Mr. Ruskin's day, æsthetics had been little
cultivated in England, and such handlings of the subject as
existed--Burke's, Adam Smith's, Alison's, and a few others--were of a
jejune and academic character. Even writers of distinct literary genius
and of great taste for the matter, who had not resided abroad long, such
as Hazlitt, much more such as Charles Lamb and Hartley Coleridge, betray
the want of range and practice in examples. Even the valuable and
interesting work of Mrs. Jameson (1794-1860) was more occupied with
careful arrangement and attractive illustration than with original
theory; and, well as she wrote, her _Characteristics of Shakespeare's
Women_ (1832) is perhaps more important as literature than the series of
volumes--_Sacred and Legendary Art_, etc.--which she executed between
1845 and her death. The sense of the endless and priceless illustration
of the best art which was provided by Gothic domestic and ecclesiastical
architecture was only wakening; as for painting, the examples publicly
visible in England were very few, and even private collections were
mostly limited to one or two fashionable schools--Raphael and his
successors, the later Low Country schools, the French painters in the
grand style, and a few Spaniards.

Strongly impressed by the Romantic revival (he has all his life been the
staunchest of Sir Walter's devotees), a passionate lover of Gothic
architecture both at home and abroad, and early drawn both to the
romantic nature-painting of Turner and the gorgeous colouring of the
early Italian schools, Mr. Ruskin heralded Art with a passion of which
eighteenth century "gusto" had had no notion. But he was by no means
satisfied with heralding Art alone. Anathematising at once the doctrine
that utility is beauty--that beauty is utility he would always have
cheerfully admitted--and the doctrine that the beautiful is not
necessarily connected either with utility, with goodness, or with truth,
he from the first and to the last has endeavoured to work ethics and
æsthetics into a sort of single texture of warp and woof respectively,
pushing his endeavours into the most multiform, the most curious, and it
must be owned sometimes the most grotesque ramifications and
extremities. But he was not satisfied with this bold attempt at the
marriage of two things sometimes deemed hostile to, and generally held
to be independent of, one another. He must needs be bolder still, and
actually attempt to ally with Art, if not to subject to her, the
youngest, the most rebellious, and, as it might seem, the most
matter-of-fact and utilitarian of all the sciences--that of Political
Economy. As we have seen, he had brought the subjects together in
lectures pretty early in his career, and he developed the combination
further in the eccentric book called _Unto this Last_, originally
published in the _Cornhill Magazine_ as noted above. In this Æsthetics
and Economics combined took a distinctly Socialist turn; and as England
was under the very fullest dominion of the Liberal middle-class regime,
with its belief in _laissez-faire_ and in supply-and-demand, Mr. Ruskin
was not a little pooh-poohed. It would be improper here to attack or to
defend his views, but it is part of the historian's duty to say that,
for good or for ill, they have, though in forms different from his and
doubtless by no means always meeting his approval, made constant
headway, and that much legislation and still more agitation on the
extreme Liberal side, and not there only, may be said to represent, with
very slight transformation, Ruskinian doctrine applied, now and then, to
very anti-Ruskinian purposes.

With regard to æsthetics proper, it might be contended, without too much
rashness, that the history of Ruskinism has not been different; but to
some observers it seems to have described rather a curve than a steady
ascent. After being, between 1840 and 1860, laughed at, despised,
attacked all at once, Mr. Ruskin found his influence as an art teacher
rise steadily during the seventh decade of the century, and attain its
highest point about the close thereof, when he was made Slade Professor
in his own university, and caused young Oxford to do many fantastic
things. But, as always happens, the hour of triumph was the hour, not,
perhaps, of downfall, but of opposition and renegation. Side by side
with Mr. Ruskin's own theories had risen the doctrine of Art-for-Art's
sake, which, itself as usual half truth and half nonsense, cut at the
very root of Ruskinism. On the other hand, the practical centre of
art-schools had shifted from Italy and Germany to Paris and its
neighbourhood, where morality has seldom been able to make anything like
a home; and the younger painters and sculptors, full of realism,
impressionism, and what not, would have none of the doctrines which, as
a matter of fact, stood in immediate relationship of antecedence to
their own. Lastly, it must be admitted that the extreme dogmatism on all
the subjects of the encyclopedia in which Mr. Ruskin had seen fit to
indulge, was certain to provoke a revolt. But with the substance of
Ruskinism, further than is necessary for comprehension, we are not
concerned.

Yet there are not many things in the English nineteenth century with
which a historian is more concerned than with the style of the
deliverance of these ideas. We have noticed in former chapters--we shall
have to notice yet more in the conclusion--the attempts made in the
years just preceding and immediately following Mr. Ruskin's birth, by
Landor, by De Quincey, by Wilson, and by others in the direction of
ornate, of--as some call it--_flamboyant_ English prose. All the
tendencies thus enumerated found their crown and flower in Mr. Ruskin
himself. That later the crowns and the flowers were, so to speak,
divided, varied, and multiplied by later practitioners, some of whom
will presently be noticed, while more are still alive, is quite true.
But in 1895 it is not very unsafe to prophesy that the _flamboyant_
style of the nineteenth century will be found by posterity to have
reached its highest exposition in prose with Mr. Ruskin himself.

Like all great prose styles--and the difference between prose and poetry
here is very remarkable--this was born nearly full grown. The instances
of comparison in those who have tried both harmonies are rare; those in
poets only are delusive and uncertain. But with the three greatest poets
of England who have also been great prose writers, Milton, Dryden,
Shelley, the assertion that the distinctive quality of their prose
developed itself earlier than the distinctive quality of their verse is
only disputable in the case of Milton. And Milton, as it happened, wrote
prose and verse in manners more nearly approaching each other than any
one on record. Mr. Ruskin has not been a poet, except in extreme
minority; but he has been a great prose writer from the first. It is
almost inconceivable that good judges can ever have had any doubt about
him. It is perfectly--it is, indeed, childishly easy to pick faults,
even if matter be kept wholly out of sight. In Mr. Ruskin's later books
a certain tendency to conversational familiarity sometimes mocks those,
and not those only, who hold to the tradition of dignified and _ex
cathedra_ pronouncement; in his earlier, and in all, it is possible for
Momus to note an undue floridness, an inclination to blank verse in
prose, tricks and manners of this or that kind unduly exuberant and
protuberant.

But when all these things have been allowed for to the very fullest,
what an enormous advance there is on anything that had gone before! The
ornate prose writers of the seventeenth century had too frequently
regarded their libraries only; they had seldom looked abroad to the vast
field of nature, and of art other than literary art. The ornate writers
of the eighteenth, great as they were, had been as afraid of
introspection as of looking outwards, and had spun their webs, so far as
style and ornament were concerned, of words only. Those of the early
nineteenth had been conscious of revolt, and, like all conscious
revolters, had not possessed their souls in sufficient quietness and
confidence. Landor, half a classic and half a Romantic, had been too
much the slave of phrase,--though of a great phrase. Wilson, impatient
in everything, had fluctuated between grandeur and _galimatias_, bathos
and bad taste; De Quincey, at times supreme, had at others simply
succumbed to "rigmarole." Mr. Ruskin had a gift of expression equal to
the best of these men; and, unlike them, he had an immense, a steady, a
uniform group of models before him. Indulge as he might in extravagance,
there were always before him, as on a vastly extended dais set before
the student, the glories of nature and of art, the great personalities
and productions of the great artists. He had seen, and he could see
(which is a different thing), the perennial beauties of mountain and
cloud, of tree, and sea, and river; the beauties long, if not perennial,
of architecture and painting. A man may say foolish things,--Mr. Ruskin
has said plenty; but when he has Venice and Amiens and Salisbury, the
Alps and the Jura and the Rhine, Scott and Wordsworth, Turner and
Lionardo, always silently present before his mind's eye, he can never,
if he is a man of genius, go wholly wrong. And he can never go more than
a little wrong when he is furnished by his genius with such a gift of
expression as Mr. Ruskin has had.

For this gift of expression was such as had never been seen before, and
such as, for all the copying and vulgarising of it, has never been seen
since. It is a commonplace of literary history that description, as
such, is not common or far advanced in the earlier English prose. We
find Gray, far on in the eighteenth century, trying to describe a
sunrise, and evidently vexed at the little "figure it makes on paper."
Then the tourists and the travellers of the end of that age made valiant
but not always well directed efforts to induce "it" to make a figure on
paper. Then came the experts or student-interpreters in ornate prose who
have been mentioned. And then came Mr. Ruskin. "Never so before and
never quite so since," must be the repeated verdict. The first
sprightly runnings in these, as in other kinds, are never surpassed.
Kingsley, an almost contemporary, Mr. Swinburne, a younger rival, have
come near; others have done creditably in imitation; none have equalled,
and certainly none have surpassed. Let the reader read the "Wave
Studies" in the first volume of _Modern Painters_, more than fifty years
old; the "Pine Forest in the Jura," almost forty; the "Angel of the
Sea," fully thirty-five, and say, if he has any knowledge of English
literature, whether there had been anything like any of these before.
Shelley, perhaps, in some of his prose had gone near it. Shelley was
almost as great a prose writer as he was a poet. No one else could even
be mentioned.

Nor was it mere description, great as Mr. Ruskin is in that, which
differentiated him so strongly. He is a bad arguer; but his arguments
are couched in rhetoric so persuasive that the very critics who detect
his fallacies would almost consent to forfeit the power of detecting, if
they could acquire that of constructing, such delightful paralogisms.
His crotchets of all sorts are sometimes merely childish, and not even
always or very often original; for, like all fertile minds, he never
could receive any seed of thought from another but it bore plant and
fruit at once. But the statement of them is at its best so captivating
that weaklings may pardonably accept, and strong men may justly
tolerate, the worthless kernel for the sake of the exquisite husk. Few
men have less of the true spirit of criticism than Mr. Ruskin, for in
his enthusiasm he will compass sea and land to exalt his favourite,
often for reasons which are perfectly invalid; and in his appreciation
he is not to be trusted at all, having a feminine rather than a
masculine faculty of unreasoned dislike. But praise or blame, argue or
paralogise as he may, the golden beauty of his form redeems his matter
in the eyes of all but those who are unhappy enough not to see it.

That his influence has been wholly good no one can say. There is
scarcely a page of him that can be safely accepted on the whole as
matter, and the unwary have accepted whole volumes; his form is
peculiarly liable to abuse in the way of imitation, and it has actually
been abused to nausea and to ridicule. But this is not his fault. There
is so little subtlety about Mr. Ruskin that he can hardly deceive even
an intelligent child when he goes wrong. There is so much genius about
him that the most practised student of English can never have done with
admiration at the effects that he produces, after all these centuries,
with the old material and the old tools. He is constantly provocative of
adverse, even of severe criticism; of half the heresies from which he
has suffered--not only that of impressionism--he was himself the
unconscious heresiarch. And yet the more one reads him the more one
feels inclined almost to let him go uncriticised, to vote him the
primacy in nineteenth-century prose by simple acclamation.

Richard (or as his full name ran), John Richard Jefferies, occupies,
though an infinitely smaller and a considerably lower place than Mr.
Ruskin's, yet one almost as distinctly isolated in a particular
department of æsthetic description. The son of a farmer at Coate, in
North Wiltshire, and born in November 1848, he began journalism at
eighteen, and was a contributor to the _North Wilts Herald_ till he was
nearly thirty. Then he went to London, and in 1878 published some
sketches (previously contributed to the _Pall Mall Gazette_) under the
title of _The Game-Keeper at Home_. These, though not much bought, were
very much admired; and Jefferies was encouraged to devote himself to
work of the same kind, which he varied with curious and not very
vigorous semi-philosophic speculations and attempts at downright novels
(a kind which he had also tried in his youth). Unfortunately the
peculiar sort of descriptive writing in which he excelled was not very
widely called for, could hardly under the most favourable circumstances
have brought in any great sums of money, and was peculiarly liable to
depreciate when written to order. It does not appear that Jefferies had
the rare though sometimes recorded power of accommodating himself to
ordinary newspaper hack-work, while reserving himself for better things
now and then; and finally, he had not been long in London before
painful and ultimately fatal disease added to his troubles. He died in
August 1887, being not yet forty. A burst of popularity followed; his
books, _The Game-Keeper at Home_, _Wild Life in a Southern Country_,
_The Amateur Poacher_, _Round about a Great Estate_, etc., none of which
had been printed in large numbers, were sold at four or five times their
published price; and, worst of all, cheap imitations of his style began
to flood the newspapers. Nay, the yet later results of this imitation
was that another reaction set in, and even Jefferies' own work was once
more pooh-poohed.

The neglect, the over-valuation, and the shift back to injustice, were
all examples of the evils which beset literature at the present time,
and which the much-blamed critic is almost powerless to cause or cure.
In other days Jefferies was quite as likely to have been insufficiently
rewarded at first by the public; but he would then have had no
temptation to over-write himself, or try alien tasks, and he would have
stood a very good chance of a pension, or a sinecure, or an easy office
in church or state, on one or other of which he might have lived at ease
and written at leisure. Nothing else could really have been of service
to him, for his talent, though rare and exquisite, was neither rich nor
versatile. It consisted in a power of observing nature more than
Wordsworthian in delicacy, and almost Wordsworthian in the presence of a
sentimental philosophic background of thought. Unluckily for Jefferies,
his philosophic background was not like Wordsworth's, clear and
cheerful, but wholly vague and partly gloomy. Writing, too, in prose not
verse, and after Mr. Ruskin, he attempted an exceedingly florid style,
which at its happiest was happy enough, but which was not always at that
point, and which when it was not was apt to become trivial or tawdry, or
both. It is therefore certain that his importance for posterity will
dwindle, if it has not already dwindled, to that given by a bundle of
descriptive selections. But these will occupy a foremost place on their
particular shelf, the shelf at the head of which stand Gilbert White and
Gray.

Mr. Arnold, it has been said, abstained almost entirely from dealing
with art. Mr. Ruskin, who has abstained from dealing with nothing, did
not abstain from criticism of literature, but his utterances in it have
been more than usually _obiter dicta_. Yet we must take the two together
if we are to understand the most powerful influence and the most
flourishing school of criticism, literary and other, which has existed
for the last thirty years. This school may be said to halt in a way
between purely literary and generally æsthetic handling, and when it can
to mix the two. Most of its scholars--men obviously under the influence
both of Arnold and of Ruskin, either in submission or in revolt, are
alive, and we reason not of them. But, as it happens, the two most
famous, one of whom was a prose writer, pure and simple, the other a
copious artist in prose and verse, have died recently and call for
judgment. These were Walter Horatio Pater and John Addington Symonds.

The first-named was born in 1839, and went to Oxford, where he was
elected to a fellowship at Brasenose. He spent the whole of the rest of
his life either at that college or in London, practising no profession,
competing for no preferment, and for many years at least producing
literature itself with extreme sparingness. It was in 1873 that Mr.
Pater first collected a volume of _Studies in the History of
Renaissance_, which attracted the keenest attention both as to its
manner and as to its matter. The point of view, which was that of an
exceedingly refined and carefully guarded Hedonism, was in a way and at
least in its formulation novel. Mr. Pater did not meddle with any
question of religion; he did not (though there were some who scented
immorality in his attitude) offend directly any ethical prejudice or
principle. But he laid it down explicitly in some places, implicitly
throughout, that the object of life should be to extract to the utmost
the pleasure of living in the more refined way, and expressly and
especially the pleasure to be derived from education and art. The
indebtedness of this both to the Arnoldian and Ruskinian creeds, its
advance (in the main a legitimate advance) on the former, and its
heretical deviation from the development of the latter, require no
comment. But this propaganda, if so violent a word may be used, of Mr.
Pater's placid creed, called to aid a most remarkable style--a style of
the new kind, lavish of adjective and the _mot de lumière_, but not
exceedingly florid, and aiming especially at such an arrangement of the
clause, the sentence, and the paragraph, such a concerted harmony of
cadence and symphony, as had not been deliberately tried before in
prose. The effects which it produced on different tastes were themselves
sufficiently different. Some found the purport too distasteful to give a
dispassionate attention to the presentment; others disliked the manner
itself as formal, effeminate, and "precious." But there were others who,
while recognising the danger of excess in this direction, thought and
think that a distinct and remarkable experiment had been made in English
prose, and that the best examples of it deserved a place with the best
examples of the ornater styles at any previous time and in any other
kind.

Mr. Pater was not tempted by such popularity as his book received to
hasten publication; indeed it was understood that after beginning to
print a second collection of Essays, he became dissatisfied with them,
and caused the type to be broken up. But the advance of so-called
Æstheticism was too strong an invitation, and prepared for him too large
and eager an audience, so that the last decade of his life saw several
books, _Marius the Epicurean_, _Imaginary Portraits_, _Appreciations_,
while others appeared posthumously. Of these the first-named is
unquestionably the best and most important. Although Greek had been the
indispensable--almost the cardinal--principle in Mr. Pater's own
literary development, he had been so strongly affected by modern thought
and taste, that he could hardly recover a dispassionate view of the
older classics. _Imaginary Portraits_, an attempt at constructive rather
than critical art, required qualities which he did not possess, and even
made him temporarily forget his impeccable style: _Appreciations_, good
in itself, was inferior to the first book. But _Marius the Epicurean_
far excelled all these. It, too, took the form of fiction, but the story
went for so little in it that deficiencies therein were not felt. The
book was in effect a reconstruction, partly imaginative, but still more
critical, of a period with which Mr. Pater was probably more in sympathy
than with any other, even the Renaissance itself, to wit the extremely
interesting and strangely modern period when classicism and modernity,
Christianity and Paganism, touched and blended in the second century
after Christ after the fashion revealed to us in the works of Apuleius
most of all, of Lucian to some extent, and of a few others. Mr. Pater
indeed actually introduced the philosopher-novelist of Madaura in the
book, though he was not the hero; and his own peculiar style proved
itself admirably suited to the period and subject, whether in
description and conversation, or in such translation or paraphrase as
that of the famous and exquisite _Pervigilium Veneris_.

For this style, however, in perfection we must still go back to the
_Studies of the Renaissance_, which is what Mr. Arnold liked to call a
_point de repère_. The style, less exuberant, less far-reaching and
versatile, and, if any one pleases to say so, less healthy than Mr.
Ruskin's, is much more chastened, finished, and exquisite. It never at
its best neglects the difference between the rhythm of prose and the
metre of verse; if it is sometimes, and indeed usually, wanting in
simplicity, it is never overloaded or gaudy. The words are picked; but
they are seldom or never, as has been the case with others, not only
picked but wrenched, not only adjusted to a somewhat unusual society and
use, but deliberately forced into uses and societies wholly different
from those to which readers are accustomed. Above all, no one, it must
be repeated, has ever surpassed, and scarcely any one has ever equalled
Mr. Pater in deliberate and successful architecture of the
prose-paragraph--in what may, for the sake of a necessary difference, be
called the scriptorial in opposition to the oratorical manner. He may
fall short of the poetic grandeur of Sir Thomas Browne, of the
phantasmagoric charm of De Quincey at his rare best, of the gorgeous
panoramas of Mr. Ruskin. But his happiest paragraphs are like
_flamboyant_ chantries, not imposing, not quite supreme in quality, but
in their own kind showing wonderful perfection of craftsmanship.

Of the same school, though a less exact and careful practitioner in it,
was John Addington Symonds, who was born in Bristol on the 5th of
October 1840, and died at Rome on 19th April 1893. He was the son of a
famous doctor whose name figures often in literary history, inasmuch as
he made Clifton a frequent resort for persons of consumptive tendencies.
Mr. Symonds himself lived there for a great part of his life.
Unfortunately the disease which his father had combated revenged itself
upon him; and it was only by spending the greater part of his later
years at Davos that he staved it off as long as he did. Educated at
Harrow and at Balliol, a Fellow of Magdalen, and succeeding tolerably
young to an affluent fortune, Mr. Symonds was able to indulge his
tastes, literary and other, pretty much as he chose. The result was
fortunate in one way, unfortunate in another. He could hardly have made
a living by literature, in which though an eager worker he was a
thorough dilettante. But if he had been at less liberty to write what
and howsoever he pleased, he might or rather would have been obliged to
compress and chasten the extreme prolixity and efflorescence of his
style.

His largest work, the _History of the Renaissance in Italy_, is actually
one of great value in information, thought, and style; but its extreme
redundance cannot be denied, and has indeed already necessitated a sort
of boiling down into an abstract. Both in prose essays (which he wrote
in great numbers, chiefly on Greek or Renaissance subjects) and in verse
(where he was not so successful as in prose) Mr. Symonds was one of the
most characteristic and copious members of the rather foolishly named
"æsthetic" school of the last third of the century, the school which,
originally deriving more or less from Mr. Ruskin, more and more rejected
the ethical side of his teaching. But Mr. Symonds, who had been very
much under the influence of Professor Jowett, had philosophical
velleities, which have become more generally known than they once were
through the interesting biography published after his death by Mr.
Horatio Brown. But for the redundance above mentioned, which is all
pervading with him both in thought and style, and which once suggested
to a not unfriendly critic the remark that he should like "to squeeze
him like a sponge," Symonds would probably or rather certainly occupy a
much higher place than he has held or ever will hold. For his
appreciation both of books and of nature was intense, and his faculty of
description abundant. But the _ventosa et enormis loquacitas_ of his
style was everywhere, so that even selection would be hard put to it to
present him really at his best.

William Minto, who was born in 1846 and died in 1893, Professor of Logic
and English Literature at Aberdeen, showed fewer marks of the joint
direction of "æsthetic" criticism to art and letters than these two, and
had less distinct and original literary talent. He had his education
mainly at Aberdeen itself, where he was born and died; but he made a
short visit to Oxford. Subsequently taking to journalism, he became
editor of the _Examiner_, and considerably raised the standard of
literary criticism in that periodical, while after quitting it he wrote
for some time on the _Daily News_. His appointment to the professorship
enabled him to devote himself entirely to literature, and he produced
some novels, the best of which was _The Crack of Doom_. He had much
earlier executed two extremely creditable books, one on _English Prose_,
and one on part of the History of English verse, the only drawbacks to
which were a rather pedagogic and stiff arrangement; he was a frequent
contributor to the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, and after his death some
of his professorial Lectures on the Georgian era were published, but
without his final revision. The strongest side of Minto's criticism lay
in his combination of sufficiently sound and wide knowledge of the past
with a distinct and rather unusual sympathy with the latest schools of
literature as they rose. He was untainted by the florid style of his
day, but wrote solidly and well. If it were necessary to look for
defects in his work they would probably be found in a slight deficiency
of comparative estimate, and in a tendency to look at things rather from
the point of view of modern than from that of universal criticism. But
this tendency was not in him, as it so often is, associated with
ignorance or presumptuous judgment.



CHAPTER X

SCHOLARSHIP AND SCIENCE


The remarks which were made at the beginning of the chapter on
Philosophy and Theology apply with increasing force to the present
chapter; indeed, they need to be restated in a much more stringent and
exclusive form. To give some history of English philosophy and theology
in the nineteenth century, by noticing its literary expression, was
possible, though it had to be done, so to speak, in shorthand. To do the
same thing with science, or even with what is technically called
scholarship, would be simply impossible. Much of their expression is
hardly susceptible of literary form at all, hardly any ever receives
such form, while the subdivision of the branches of physical science is
now so great and their shadow so wide that no systematic sketch of them
is to be thought of. It is only possible to mention a few distinguished
writers, writers who would have been distinguished whatever their
subject, but who happen to have devoted themselves, solely or mainly, to
scientific writing, or to classical criticism and philology.

A curious independent study might be made of the literary gradations of
classical scholarship. In the Middle Ages, though the complete ignorance
of the classics, once imagined as prevailing, has been shown to be a
figment, scarcely anybody could claim to be a scholar. During the
Renaissance almost every man of letters had necessarily some tinge of
scholarship, and some of the greatest in its earlier period, such as
Erasmus, were scholars first of all. The growth of vernacular
literature, the constant increase and subdivision of subjects, and the
advance in minute study of the Greek and Latin languages, brought about
an inevitable cleavage, and from the seventeenth century onwards
scholarship became an independent profession or vocation. For some
considerable time, however, it was the almost indispensable novitiate of
a literary career, and the tradition that a scholar must be first
applied to, for no matter what literary work, was still potent in the
times of Salmasius, and cannot be said to have been discredited in those
of Bentley, who would undoubtedly have been as formidable in purely
political or general controversy as he was on _Phalaris_ or on his own
private interests. The eighteenth century, however, saw the divorce
nearly completed, and by the period of our present volume it was an
accomplished fact.

Even then, however, though for men of letters it was not customary to
turn first to scholars, scholars had not ceased to be men of letters,
and philology (or the mere study of language, as apart from literature)
had not absorbed them.

During that part of our period which is still concerned with the last
century, there were many excellent scholars in England, but perhaps only
three--two of whom as scholars were of no great account--who make much
figure in purely literary history. Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), an odd
person of uncritical judgment but great learning, who belongs more to
the last volume than to the present, devoted himself chiefly to
mythology, a subject which had not yet attracted general interest, and
which was treated by him and others in a somewhat unhistorical manner.
Gilbert Wakefield (1756-1801) was one of the characteristic figures of
the Revolutionary time. He was a Cambridge man, and took orders, but
left the church, became a violent Jacobin, and went to prison for a
seditious libel. He was one of those not very uncommon men who,
personally amiable, become merely vixenish when they write: and his
erudition was much more extensive than sound. But he edited several
classical authors, not wholly without intelligence and scholarship, and
his _Silva Critica_, a sort of _variorum_ commentary from profane
literature on the Bible, was the forerunner, at least in scheme, of a
great deal of work which has been seen since.

A very different person from these in scholarly attainments, in natural
gifts, and (it must unfortunately be added) in personal respectability,
was Richard Porson, who is generally bracketed with Bentley as the
greatest of English scholars, not of our own day, and who might have
been one of the most brilliant of men of letters. He was born in Norfolk
on Christmas Day 1759, of low station, but was well educated by the
parson of the parish, and sent to Eton by a neighbouring squire. In 1779
he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, obtained a scholarship, did
brilliantly in University contests and became fellow in 1782. Although
he was almost a boy the genius of his papers in scholarship attracted
notice at home and abroad, and he made some excursions into general
literature wherein, as in his recorded conversations, he showed
epigrammatic wit of the first rank. He lost his fellowship because he
would not take orders; but was made Regius Professor of Greek, an
appointment which unluckily was then, in both Universities, almost
honorary as regards income. The Whig party accepted his partisanship,
but had no opportunity of rewarding it, and after receiving the
Librarianship of the London Institution in Moorfields, he died of
apoplexy in 1808. He possessed in almost the highest degree that power
of divination, based on accurate knowledge, which distinguishes the
scholar, and it is, as has been said, nearly certain that he would have
been a brilliant writer in English on any subject he chose to take up.
But he was a hopeless drunkard, an offensive sloven, rude and aggressive
in society--in short a survival of the Grub Street pattern of the
century of his birth. This period, which was that of Burney, Elmsley,
Gaisford, and other scholars, robust but not very literary (except in
the case of Elmsley, who was a contributor both to the _Edinburgh_ and
the _Quarterly Reviews_), was succeeded by one in which the English
Universities did not greatly distinguish themselves in this department.
Gaisford indeed lived till 1855 at Oxford, and Cambridge produced among
other respectable scholars the already mentioned Malden and George Long
(1800-79), a Lancashire man, who went to Trinity, distinguished himself
greatly, but found such preferment as he met with outside his
university, in America, at University College, London, and elsewhere.
Long was a great diffusion-of-useful-knowledge man, and edited the
_Penny Cyclopædia_: but he did more germane work later in editing the
_Bibliotheca Classica_, an unequal but at its best excellent series of
classics, and in dealing with the great stoics Marcus Aurelius and
Epictetus. He was also one of the mainstays of the most important
enterprise of the middle of the century in classical scholarship, the
_Classical Dictionaries_ edited by the late Sir William Smith and
published by Mr. Murray; and he wrote an extensive but not
extraordinarily valuable _Decline of the Roman Republic_. Long appears
to have been one of those men who, with great ability, vast knowledge,
and untiring industry, somehow or other miss their proper place, whether
by fault or fate it is hard to say.

About 1860 three remarkable persons illustrated scholarship in the
Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh respectively, with a
combination of literary and linguistic knowledge which had been growing
rarer up to their time, and which has grown rarer still since.

The Oxford representative was John Conington, who was born at Boston on
10th August 1825. He went to Rugby and to Magdalen College, Oxford,
whence he migrated to University College, and there obtained a
fellowship, making nearly a clean sweep of the chief University prizes
meanwhile. He became in 1854 the first Professor of Latin, and held the
post till his death in 1869. He edited Virgil, Æschylus (part) and
Persius, translated Horace, Homer, and Virgil, and did a certain amount
of miscellaneous literary work. He was neither a very exact nor a very
great scholar: his scholarship indeed took rather the character of that
of foreign nations, other than Germany, than the dogged minuteness of
German, or the large but solid strength of English study of the
classics. But he was an exceedingly stimulating professor; and coming at
the time when it did, his work was valuable as a reminder that the
classics are live literature, and not so much dead material for science.

Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro, a native of Elgin, where he was born in
1819, a Shrewsbury boy and a scholar and fellow of Trinity College,
Cambridge, who became Professor of Latin there in 1869 and died in 1882,
was an incomparably greater verbal scholar than Conington, and may
fairly be said to have taken up the torch of Bentley and Porson. His
great edition (with a less great translation) of Lucretius, his work on
Horace and Catullus, and his scattered papers, all come up to a very
high standard; and in the delightful art of Greek and Latin composition
in verse, where England has long stood paramount, and which, since she
has abandoned it, remains uncultivated throughout Europe, he was almost
supreme. But Munro, though he never surrendered wholly to the
philological heresy, was affected thereby; and some of his Lucretian
readings were charged with a deficiency in ear such as that with which
he justly reproached his German predecessors.

The most strictly literary of the three has yet to be mentioned. William
Young Sellar, born near Golspie in the same year as Conington, was
educated at the Edinburgh Academy, at the University of Glasgow, and (as
a Snell exhibitioner) at Balliol. After holding an Oriel fellowship for
some years, and doing professorial or assistant-professorial work at
Durham and St. Andrews, he became in 1863 Professor of Humanity at
Edinburgh, and remained so till his death in 1890. In the year of his
election to the professorship appeared his _Roman Poets of the
Republic_, quite the best book of its kind existing in English; and this
was followed up by others on Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, and
Propertius--good, but less good, the mannered correctness of the
Augustans evidently appealing to the author less than the more strictly
poetic excellence of Lucretius and Catullus. Attempts, too few but
noteworthy, have since been made to handle classical literature in the
style of the _Roman Poets of the Republic_, but it has never been
surpassed, and it has very seldom been equalled.

On another scheme and in other circumstances names like those of Kennedy
and Shilleto, of Linwood and Burges, of Monk and Blomfield, would cry
for admission here, but as it is they must be ruled out. And it is not
possible to widen the scope much, so as to take in some eminent students
who have given not unliterary expression to the study of languages and
subjects other than the classical. It has indeed been a constantly
increasing feature of the century that fresh studies--Ægyptology, the
study of the Semitic languages, the study of the older forms not merely
of English but of the other modern tongues, the enormous range of
knowledge opened to Englishmen, and as it were forced on them by our
possession of India and our commerce and connection with other nations
of the East, as well as the newer subjects of comparative mythology,
folk-lore, and the like, all more or less offshoots of what may be
generally termed scholarship, have been added to the outer range of the
Humanities. Some of these appeal to very few, none of them to more than
few persons; and literature, in its best description if not exactly
definition, is that which does or should appeal to all persons of
liberal education and sympathies. Yet one exponent of these studies (and
of more than one of them) must have a place here, as well for the more
than professionally encyclopædic character of his knowledge as for his
intellectual vigour and his services to letters.

William Robertson Smith was born in 1846, and died in 1894. A native of
Aberdeenshire, the son of a Free Kirk minister, and educated at Aberdeen
and elsewhere, he became Professor of Hebrew in the Free Church College
of that city, and for some years discussed his subject, in the manner of
the Germans, without hindrance. His articles in the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, however, gave offence, and after much controversy he was
deprived of his chair in 1881. Two years later, however, he was made
Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, where he also became
Fellow of Christ's and University Librarian. And from a contributor he
proceeded to be first assistant-editor and then editor in chief of the
_Encyclopædia_. His health, never very strong, became worse and worse,
and he finally succumbed to a complication of diseases. It was
understood that the theological scandal connected with his name was
anything but a pleasure to him, and the justice of it does not concern
us; but his repute as an Orientalist is uncontested. Besides works
directly bearing on the Bible, he wrote two important books on _Kinship
and Marriage in Early Arabia_ and on _The Religion of the Semites_. He
was at least as remarkable for general as for special learning, and if
not actually a great man of letters, had a knowledge of literature
rivalled by few of his contemporaries.

To turn to physical science, Sir Humphry Davy, a great chemist and no
mean writer, was born at Penzance in December 1778. His father was a
wood-carver, but he himself was apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary, and
betook himself seriously to chemistry. Fortunately for him, Dr. Beddoes,
the father of the poet, a physician of great repute at Clifton, took him
to be his assistant there, and Davy, in his twentieth year, not only had
much improved opportunities of study, but made valuable friends, both
among the persons of rank who then frequented Clifton for health, and
among the literary society of which Coleridge and Southey were then the
ornaments in Bristol. This part of his sojourn was noteworthy for his
experiments with nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"). These attracted a great
deal of attention, and in 1801, being then barely twenty-three, he was
appointed to a lectureship in the Royal Institution, London. His
appointment was the beginning of a series of brilliant lectures in the
same place during almost the whole of the century, first by Davy
himself, then by his assistant Faraday, and then by Faraday's assistant
Tyndall. He was knighted in 1812, and soon afterwards married Mrs.
Apreece, a lively, pretty, and wealthy widow. His later years were
occupied, first by the investigations which led to the perfecting of
his famous safety-lamp for coal-mines (these brought him a handsome
testimonial and a baronetcy), and later by electrical researches. He had
not reached middle age when his health began to fail, and he died in
1829, aged little more than fifty. In connection with literary science
or scientific literature Davy was perhaps more remarkable as a lecturer
than as a writer, but his accomplishments as the latter were
considerable, and in his later years he wrote two non-scientific books,
_Salmonia_ and _Consolations in Travel_. These (though the former was
attacked as the work of an amateur and a milksop by Christopher North)
were very popular in their day. Davy always kept up his friendship with
men of letters, especially the Lake Poets and Scott (who was a
connection of his wife's), and he was no very small man of letters
himself.

A contemporary (though very much longer lived) of Davy's and the most
famous Englishwoman who has ever written on scientific subjects, was
Mary Fairfax, better known from the name of her second husband as Mrs.
Somerville. She was born at Jedburgh on 26th December 1780, and when
twenty-four married her cousin, Captain Greig, a member of a family of
Scotchmen who had settled in the Russian navy. Her first husband died
two years afterwards, and six years later she married Dr. William
Somerville, also her cousin. She had already devoted much attention,
especially during her widowhood, to mathematics and astronomy; and after
her second marriage she had no difficulty in pursuing these studies. She
adapted Laplace's _Mécanique Céleste_ in 1823, and followed it up by
more original work on physics, astronomy, and physical geography. Her
life was prolonged till 1872, and an interesting autobiography appeared
a year later. It is possible that Mrs. Somerville profited somewhat in
reputation by her coincidence with the period of "diffusion of useful
knowledge." But she had real scientific knowledge and real literary
gifts; and she made good use of both.

Of at least respectable literary merit, though hardly of enough to
justify the devoting of much space to them here, were Sir David
Brewster (1781-1868), Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), Sir Charles Lyell
(1797-1875), Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871), the first a
mathematician and physicist, the second an astronomer, the third and
fourth geologists, and all more or less copious writers on their several
subjects. John Tyndall (1820-1893), a younger man than any of these, had
perhaps a more distinctly literary talent. Born in Ireland, and for some
time a railway engineer, he gave himself up about 1847 to the study and
teaching of physics, was remarkable for the effect of his lecturing, and
held several Government appointments. His Presidential Address to the
British Association at Belfast in 1874 was not less noteworthy for
materialism in substance than for a brilliant if somewhat brassy style.

But the chief Englishmen of science who were men of letters during our
period were Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley. The opinions of the first
of these, their origin, the circumstances of their first expression, and
the probabilities of their future, have been the subject of about as
much controversy as in a given time has been bestowed upon any subject,
certainly on any similar subject. But we enjoy here the privilege of
neglecting this almost entirely. Darwin is to the literary historian a
very interesting subject, for he was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, who
himself, besides being the capital example of the polished mediocrity of
eighteenth century verse when all freshness had gone out of it, was a
man of science and an evolutionist in his way. Charles (who was also
christened Robert) was the son of yet another Dr. Darwin, an F.R.S. He
was born on 12th February 1809 at Shrewsbury, and his mother was (as was
afterwards his wife) a daughter of the Wedgwoods of Etruria. After
passing through the famous school of his native town, Darwin went to
Edinburgh for some years and then entered Christ's College, Cambridge,
in 1828. Here he devoted himself to physical science, and after taking
his degree was, in 1831, appointed to the _Beagle_, which was starting
on a scientific cruise. He spent five years in the South Seas and did
not return to England till late in 1836--a voyage which perhaps
prejudicially affected his health, but established his knowledge of
nature. After his return he settled down to scientific work, alone and
in the scientific societies, married in 1839, and was busy for many
years afterwards in publishing the results of the voyage. He possessed
considerable means, and for the last forty years of his life lived at
his ease at Down near Beckenham, experimenting in crossing species and
maturing his views. These took form, under circumstances interesting but
foreign to our theme, in the famous _Origin of Species_, published in
1859, and this was followed by a great number of other books, the most
noteworthy of which, if not the scientifically soundest, was _The
Descent of Man_ (1871). Darwin died after many years of continuous
ill-health on 19th April 1882.

Late in life he is said to have confessed that his relish for
Shakespeare and for pure literature generally, which had in earlier days
been keen, had entirely vanished. But there was perhaps nothing very
surprising in this, seeing that he had for half a century given himself
up with extraordinary and ever-increasing thoroughness to a class of
investigations the most remote possible from literature, and yet not, as
pure mathematical study not seldom induces its votaries, inducing men to
cultivate letters by mere contrast. Yet the ancestral literary tendency
had only fallen dormant in him then; and earlier it had been active. It
can indeed hardly be said that either his contribution to the _Voyage of
the Beagle_, or _The Origin of Species_, or _The Descent of Man_, or any
of the others, is absolutely remarkable for style in the ordinary sense
of that phrase. The style of Darwin attempts no ornateness, and on the
other hand it is not of those extremely simple styles which are
independent of ornament and to which ornament would be simply a
defacement. But it is very clear; it is not in the least slovenly; and
there is about it the indefinable sense that the writer might have been
a much greater writer, simply as such, than he is, if he had cared to
take the trouble, and had not been almost solely intent upon his matter.
Such writers are not so common that they should be neglected, and they
may at least stand in the Court of the Gentiles, the "provincial band"
of literature.

A very remarkable book which was in a way Darwinism before Darwin, which
attracted much attention and violent opposition in 1844, the year of its
publication, and which for a long time remained unowned, was the
_Vestiges of Creation_, subsequently known to be the work of Robert
Chambers, the younger of two brothers who did great things in the
popular publishing trade at Edinburgh, and who founded a house which has
always been foremost in the diffusion of sound and cheap literature,
information, and amusement. Robert was born at Peebles in 1802 and died
at St. Andrews in 1871, having been, besides his publishing labours, a
voluminous author and compiler. Nothing he did was quite equal to the
_Vestiges_, a book rather literary than scientific, and treating the
still crude evolution theory rather from the point of view of popular
philosophy than from that of strict biological investigation; but
curiously stimulating and enthusiastic, with a touch of poetry in it not
often to be found in such books, and attractive as showing the way in
which doctrines which are about to take a strong hold of the general
mind not infrequently communicate themselves, in an unfinished but
inspiring form, to persons who, except general literary culture and
interest, do not seem to offer any specially favourable soil for their
germination. Purely scientific men have usually rather pooh-poohed the
_Vestiges_, but there is the Platonic quality in it.

The _Vestiges_, like its more famous successor, was violently attacked
as irreligious. One of its opponents, from a point of view half orthodox
and half scientific, was Hugh Miller, a man of sterling excellence, of
an interesting and in its close melancholy career, of real importance as
a geologist, and possessed of an extremely agreeable literary faculty.
Miller was born at Cromarty in 1802, and though more than fairly
educated, held till he was past thirty no higher position than that of a
stone-mason. He had begun to write, however, earlier than this, and,
engaging in particular in the two rather dissimilar subjects of geology
and "Free Kirk" polemic, he was made editor of the _Witness_, a
newspaper started in the interest of the new principles. After nearly
twenty busy years of journalism and authorship he shot himself in
December 1856, as it is supposed in a fit of insanity brought on by
overwork. Miller was a very careful observer, and his _Old Red
Sandstone_ (1841) made a great addition to the knowledge of fossils. He
followed this up by a great number of other works, some merely
polemical, others descriptive of his own life and travels. In all the
better parts of Hugh Miller's writings there is a remarkable style,
extremely popular and unpretentious but never trivial or slipshod, which
is not far below the best styles of the century for its special purpose,
though in some respects it smacks more of the eighteenth, and has a
certain relation with that of White of Selborne.

The most considerable literary gifts of the century among men of science
probably belonged to a man more than twenty years younger than Miller,
and more than fifteen younger than Darwin, who died so recently that
until the greater part of this book was written it seemed that he would
have no place in it. Thomas Henry Huxley, born in May 1825, at Ealing,
studied medicine, and becoming a navy doctor, executed like Darwin a
voyage to the South Seas. His scientific work, though early
distinguished, met with no great encouragement from the Admiralty, and
he left the service, though he held many public appointments in later
life. He became F.R.S. at six-and-twenty, and from that time onwards
till his sixtieth year he was a busy professor, lecturer, member of
commissions, and (for a time) inspector of fisheries. In the ever
greater and greater specialising of science which has taken place,
Huxley was chiefly a morphologist. But outside the range of special
studies he was chiefly known as a vigorous champion of Darwinism and a
something more than vigorous aggressor in the cause of Agnosticism (a
word which he himself did much to spread), attacking supernaturalism of
every kind, and (though disclaiming materialism and not choosing to call
himself an atheist) unceasingly demanding that all things should submit
themselves to naturalist criticism. A great number of brilliant essays
and lectures were composed by him on different parts of what may be
called the debateable land between science, philosophy, and theology.
And one of his most characteristic and masterly single studies was a
little book on Hume, contributed to the series of "English Men of
Letters" in 1879.

This varied, copious, and brilliant polemic may or may not have been
open in substance to the charge which the bolder and more thoroughgoing
defenders of orthodoxy brought against it, that it committed the logical
error of demanding submission on the part of supernaturalism to laws and
limits to which, by its very essence, supernaturalism disclaimed
allegiance. But the form of it was excellent. Mr. Huxley had read much,
and had borrowed weapons and armour from more than one Schoolman and
Father as well as from purely profane authors. He had an admirable
style, free alike from the great faults of his contemporaries,
"preciousness" and slipshodness, and a knack of crisp but not too
mannered phrase recalling that of Swift or, still more, of Bentley. It
has been said, with some truth as well as with some paradox, that a
literary critic of the very first class was lost in him, at the salvage
only of some scientific monographs, which like all their kind will be
antiquated some day, and of some polemics which must suffer equally from
the touch of time.



CHAPTER XI

DRAMA


At no period, probably, in the history of English literature, from the
sixteenth century until that with which we are now dealing, would it
have been possible to compress the history of the drama during a hundred
years into the space which it is here proposed to give it. If we were
dealing with the works of living men the historian might be justly
charged with arrogant incompetence in not taking more notice of them.
But, fortunately, that is not the case; and the brevity of the treatment
is equally compatible with a belief that the plays of the present day
are masterpieces, and with a suspicion that they are not. As to the past
we have, with the exception of a few protesters, general consent that
the English drama of the nineteenth century has displayed one curious
and disastrous characteristic. The plays, as a rule, which have been
good literature have either never been acted or have seldom succeeded as
plays; the plays that have been acted and have been successful have
seldom been good literature.

The best idea of the state of the drama between 1790 and 1810 may
perhaps be obtained by any one who cares to look through--it would
require a monomania, a desert island, or at least a succession of wet
days in a country inn to enable any one to _read_ through--the ten
volumes of Mrs. Inchbald's _Modern British Theatre_, printed in 1811
"from the prompt-books of the Theatres Royal." This publication,
supplementing the larger _British Theatre_ of the same editor, contains
more than two volumes of the works of Frederick Reynolds, a prolific
playwright who was responsible for the English version of _Werther_ in
drama; another of Mrs. Inchbald's own writing and adaptation; one of
Holcroft's later works; one of Cumberland's; and the other five made up
of lesser pieces by Colman the younger, Dibdin, and others, serious
plays in blank verse such as Hannah More's _Percy_, and the Honourable
John St. John's _Mary Queen of Scots_, etc. More than one of these was a
person of talent, more than one a person even of very great talent;
while Holcroft and Colman, if not others, had displayed special ability
for drama. Yet there is, perhaps, in the fifty plays of the ten volumes
only one that can be called a good play, only one which is readable, and
that is the _Trip to Scarborough_, which Sheridan simply adapted, which
he did little more than edit, from Vanbrugh's _Relapse_. Outside these
volumes the acting drama of the period may be best studied in the other
and better work of the pair just mentioned, and in O'Keefe.

John O'Keefe, or O'Keeffe (for the name is spelt both ways), was a very
long-lived man, who was born at Dublin in 1748 and died at Southampton
in 1833. But in the later years of his life he suffered from blindness;
and the period of his greatest dramatic activity almost exactly
coincided with that of our first chapter. He is said to have written
some fifty pieces, of various kinds, between 1781 and 1798; and in the
latter year he published a collection of about thirty, referring in the
preface to others which "an inconsiderate disposal of the copyright"
prevented him from including. O'Keefe was to a certain extent a follower
of Foote; but his pieces--though he was a practised actor--depended less
upon his own powers of exposition than Foote's. They range from rather
farcical comedies to pure farces and comediettas much interspersed with
songs for music; and their strictly literary merit is not often great,
while for sheer extravagance they require the utmost license of the
boards to excuse them. There is, however, something much more taking in
them than in most of the dramatic work of the time. For instance, the
"wild farce" (referred to but not named by Lamb in his paper on Munden)
of _The Merry Mourners_, though as "improbable" as Mrs. Barbauld thought
_The Ancient Mariner_ to be, has a singular hustle and bustle of
sustained interest, and not a few shrewd strokes such as the following,
which perhaps does not only apply to the end of the _eighteenth_
century. "Your London ladies are so mannified with their switch rattans
and coats, and watch-chain nibbities, and their tip-top hats and their
cauliflower cravats, that, ecod! there's no mark of their being women
except the petticoat." _The Castle of Andalusia_ (1782) is an early and
capital example of the bandit drama, and _The Poor Soldier_ of the Irish
comic opera. _Wild Oats_ supplied favourite parts to the actors of the
time in Rover and Ephraim Smooth; and, with a little good will, one may
read even slight things like _A Beggar on Horseback_ and _The Doldrum_
with some amusement. But O'Keefe has few gifts beyond knowledge of the
stage, Irish shrewdness, Irish rattle, and an honest, straightforward
simplicity; and that one turns to him from other dramatists of the
period with some relief, is even more to their discredit than to his
credit.

A curious and early fruit of this gradual divorce between drama and
literature was Joanna Baillie, a lady whose virtues, amiability, and in
a way talents, caused her to be spoken of by her own contemporaries with
an admiration which posterity has found it hard to echo as concerns her
strictly literary position in drama--some of her shorter poems were
good. She was born in 1762 at Bothwell, of a good Scotch family, and her
mother was a sister of the great surgeon Hunter. This gift descended to
her elder brother Matthew, who was very famous in his own day as an
anatomist and physician. Partly to be near him, Joanna and her sister
Agnes established themselves at Hampstead, where she often entertained
Scott and other great people, and where she lived till 23rd February
1851. In 1798 she published the first of a series of _Plays on the
Passions_, in which the eighteenth century theory of the ruling passion
was carried out to the uncompromising and even whimsical extent of
supplying a brace of dramas, a tragedy and a comedy, on each of the
stronger passions, Hatred, Fear, Love, etc. The first volume, which
opened with the rather striking closet drama of _Basil_, sometimes
spoken of as _Count Basil_, was prefaced by an introductory discourse of
considerable ability. The book, coming at a dead season of literature,
was well received. It reached its third edition in the second year from
its appearance, and one of its plays, _De Montfort_, was acted, with
Kemble in the title part, not without success. A second volume followed
in 1802, and a third in 1812. In 1804 one of _Miscellaneous Plays_ had
been issued, while others and some poems were added later. Joanna's
plays in general, it was admitted, would not act (though the Ettrick
Shepherd in the _Noctes Ambrosianæ_ denies this), and it requires some
effort to read them. The blank verse of the tragedies, though
respectable, is uninspired; the local and historical colour, whether of
Byzantine, Saxon, or Renaissance times, is of that fatal "property"
character which has been noticed in the novel before Scott; and the
passion-scheme is obviously inartistic. The comedies are sometimes
genuinely funny; but they do not display either the direct and fresh
observation of manners, or the genial creation of character, which alone
can make comedy last. In short Miss Baillie was fortunate in the moment
of her appearance, but she cannot be called either a great dramatist or
a good one.

The school of Artificial Tragedy--the phrase, though not a consecrated
one, is as legitimate as that of artificial comedy--which sprung up soon
after the beginning of this century, and which continued during its
first half or thereabouts, if not later, is a curious phenomenon in
English history, and has hardly yet received the attention it deserves.
The tragedy of the eighteenth century is almost beneath contempt, being
for the most part pale French echo or else transpontine melodrama, with
a few plaster-cast attempts to reproduce an entirely misunderstood
Shakespeare. It was impossible that the Romantic movement in itself, and
the study of the Elizabethan drama which it induced, should not lead to
the practise of tragedy, while the existence of the Kembles as players
and managers, might be thought to promise well for the tragic stage.

Yet there has always been something out of joint with English nineteenth
century tragedy. Of Lamb's _John Woodvil_ and Godwin's _Antonio_ mention
has been made. Byron's tragedies are indeed by no means the worst part
of his work; but they also shared the defects of that work as poetry,
and they were not eminently distinguished for acting qualities. Scott
had no dramatic faculty; Shelley's _Cenci_, despite its splendid poetry,
is not actable; indeed the only one of the great English nineteenth
century _Pléiade_ who was successful on the stage was Coleridge; and
_Remorse_ and _Zapolya_ are not masterpieces.

Yet the fascination of the theatre, or at least of the drama, seemed to
continue unaltered, and the attempts on or in it varied from the wild
fantasy pieces of Beddoes (which no stage but the Elizabethan--if even
that--could ever have welcomed) to the curious academic drama of which
types extend not merely from Milman's _Fazio_ in 1815 to Talfourd's
_Ion_ twenty years later, but further still. Of Milman notice has been
taken in his far truer vocation as historian. Talfourd was a good
lawyer, a worthy man, and as noted above, the friend and editor of Lamb.
But his tragedies are very cold, and it is difficult to believe that
_Ion_ can have had any other attraction besides the popularity and skill
of Macready, who indeed was greatly responsible for the appearance both
of this and of better plays. In particular he stood usher to divers
productions of Browning's which have been mentioned, such as the rather
involved and impossible _Strafford_, and the intensely pathetic but not
wholly straightforward _Blot in the 'Scutcheon_. This last is the one
play of the century which--with a certain unsubstantiality of matter, a
defect almost total in character, and a constant provocation to the
fatal question, "Why are all these people behaving in this way?"--has
the actual tragic _vis_ in its central point.

The character, however, and the condemnation of the English drama of the
first half of this century from the literary point of view, are summed
up in the single statement that its most prominent and successful
dramatist was James Sheridan Knowles. Born in 1784, and son of the great
Sheridan's cousin at Cork, Knowles was introduced to London literary
society pretty early. He tried soldiering (at least the militia) and
medicine; but his bent towards the stage was too strong, and he became
an actor, though never a very successful one, and a teacher of acting,
though never a manager. He was about thirty when he turned dramatist,
and though his plays justify the theatrical maxim that no one who has
not practical knowledge of the stage can write a good acting play, they
also justify the maxim of the study that in his day literary excellence
had in some mysterious way obtained or suffered a divorce from dramatic
merit. Not that these plays are exactly contemptible as literature, but
that as literature they are not in the least remarkable. The most famous
of his tragedies is _Virginius_, which dates, as performed in London at
least, from 1820. It was preceded and followed by others, of which the
best are perhaps _Caius Gracchus_ (1815), and _William Tell_ (1834). His
comedies have worn better, and _The Hunchback_ (1832), and the _Love
Chase_ (1836), are still interesting examples of last-century artificial
comedy slightly refreshed. Independently of his technical knowledge,
Knowles really had that knowledge of human nature without which drama is
impossible, and he could write very respectable English. But the fatal
thing about him is that he is content to dwell in decencies for ever.
There is no inspiration in him; his style, his verse, his theme, his
character, his treatment are all emphatically mediocre, and his
technique as a dramatist deserves only a little, though a little, warmer
praise.

Better as literature, and at least as good as drama, are the best plays
of the first Lord Lytton, another of the eminent hands of Macready, who
undoubtedly counted for something in the success of _The Lady of Lyons_,
_Richelieu_, and _Money_, the two first produced in 1838, and the last
in 1840. _Richelieu_ is the nearest to Knowles in competence without
excellence, the other two perhaps excel if not positively yet
relatively. Many spectators quite recently, while unable to check
laughter at the grandiloquent sentimentality and the stock situations of
_The Lady of Lyons_, have been unable to avoid being touched by its real
though ordinary pathos, and moved by its astonishing cleverness; while
_Money_ is probably the very best comic example of the hybrid kind above
referred to, the modernised artificial comedy. But Bulwer's other plays,
though the unsuccessful _Duchesse de la Vallière_ is not bad reading,
were less fortunate, and one of them is the subject of perhaps the most
successful of Thackeray's early reviews in the grotesque style,
preserved in the _Yellowplush Papers_.

It will be observed that, with the single and not very notable exception
of Sheridan Knowles, almost all the names already mentioned are those of
persons to whom drama was a mere by-work. Another exception may be found
in James R. Planché (1796-1880), a man of no very exalted birth or
elaborate education, but an archæologist of some merit, and from 1854
onwards an official representative of the honourable though discredited
science of Heraldry as Rouge Croix Pursuivant and Somerset Herald. From
1818 onward Planché was the author, adapter, translator, and what not,
of innumerable--they certainly run to hundreds--dramatic pieces of every
possible sort from regular plays to sheer extravaganzas. He was happiest
perhaps in the lighter and freer kinds, having a pleasant and never
vulgar style of jocularity, a fair lyrical gift, and the indefinable
knowledge of what is a play. But he stands only on the verge of
literature proper, and the propriety, indeed the necessity, of including
him here is the strongest possible evidence of the poverty of dramatic
literature in our period. It would indeed only be possible to extend
this chapter much by including men who have no real claim to appear, and
who would too forcibly suggest the hired guests of story, introduced in
order to avoid a too obtrusive confession of the absence of guests
entitled to be present.

The greater and more strictly literary names of those who have tried the
stage in the intervals of happier studies, from Miss Mitford and R. H.
Horne to Tennyson, have been mentioned elsewhere; and there is no need
to return to them. Dr. James Westland Marston (1820-90) was once much
praised, and was an author of Macready's. Miss Isabella Harwood,
daughter of the second editor of the _Saturday Review_, produced under
the pseudonym of "Ross Neil" a series of closet-dramas of excellent
composition and really poetical fancy, but wanting the one thing
needful. Perhaps a few other writers might with pains be added; and of
course every reviewer knows that the flow of five-act tragedies, though
less abundant than of old, has continued. But, on the whole, the
sentence already put in more than one form remains true and firm--that
in this period the dramatic work of those who have been really men and
women of letters is generally far inferior to their other work, and
that, with the rarest exceptions, the dramatic work of those who have
not excelled in other kinds of literature is not literature at all.



CHAPTER XII

CONCLUSION


A conclusion which avows that it might almost as well have presented
itself as a preface may seem to be self-condemned; it must be the
business of the following pages to justify it. In summing up on such a
great matter as this it is desirable--it is indeed necessary--to
indicate, in broader lines than at the mere outset would have seemed
appropriate or indeed possible, the general course of thought and of
speech, of literary matter and literary form, during the century and
more which is submitted to the view. We can thus place individuals in
their position to each other and to the whole more boldly and with less
reserve; we can sketch the general character of existing movements, the
movers in which have been exempt from individual consideration by virtue
of their life and work being incomplete; we can at once record
accomplishment and indicate tendency.

The period dealt with in the first chapter of this book illustrates the
differences in appeal of such periods to the merely dilettante and
"tasting" critic, and to the student of literature in the historical and
comparative fashion. To the former it is one of the most ungrateful of
all such sub-periods or sub-divisions in English literature. He finds in
it none, or at most Boswell's _Johnson_, Burns, and the _Lyrical
Ballads_ (this last at its extreme end), of the chief and principal
things on which alone he delights to fix his attention. Its better
poetry, such as that of Cowper and Crabbe, he regards at best with a
forced esteem; its worse is almost below his disgust. Its fiction is
preposterous and childish; it contributes nothing even to the less
"bellettristic" departments of literature that is worth his attention;
it is a tedious dead season about which there is nothing tolerable
except the prospect of getting rid of it before very long.

To the latter--to the historical and comparative student--on the other
hand, it has an interest of an absolutely unique kind. As was observed
in a former volume of this history, the other great blossoming time of
English literature--that which we call Elizabethan, and by which we mean
the last five and twenty years of the Queen's reign and the fifty or
sixty after her death--was preceded by no certain signs except those of
restless seeking. Here, on the contrary, with no greater advantage of
looking back, we can see the old fruit dropping off and the new forming,
in a dozen different kinds and a hundred different ways. Extravagance on
one side always provokes extravagance on the other; and because the
impatient revolt of Coleridge and some others of the actual leaders into
the Promised Land chose to present the eighteenth century as a mere
wilderness in respect of poetry, enjoyment of nature, and so forth,
there have been of late years critics who maintained that the poetical
decadence of that century is all a delusion; in other words (it may be
supposed) that Akenside and Mason are the poetical equals of Herrick and
Donne. The _via media_, as almost always, is here also the _via
veritatis_. The poets of the eighteenth century were poets; but the
poetical stream did not, as a rule, run very high or strong in their
channels, and they were tempted to make up for the sluggishness and
shallowness of the water by playing rather artificial and rococo tricks
with the banks. The fiction of the eighteenth century was, at its
greatest, equal to the greatest ever seen; but it was as yet advancing
with uncertain steps, and had not nearly explored its own domain. The
history of the eighteenth century had returned to the true sense of
history, and was endeavouring to be accurate; but it only once
attained--it is true that with Gibbon it probably attained once for
all--a perfect combination of diligence and range, of matter and of
style.

In all these respects the list might, if it were proper, be extended to
much greater length. The twenty years from 1780 to 1800 show us in the
most fascinating manner the turn of the tide, not as yet coming in three
feet abreast, rather creeping up by tortuous channels and chance
depressions, but rising and forcing a way wherever it could. In the
poets, major and minor, of the period, omitting, and even not wholly
omitting, Burns and Blake--who are of no time intrinsically, but who, as
it happens, belong accidentally to this time as exponents, the one of
the refreshing influence of dialect and freedom from literary
convention, the other of the refreshing influence of sympathy with old
models and mystical dreaming--all the restlessness of the approaching
crisis is seen. Nothing in literature is more interesting than to watch
the effect of the half-unconscious aims and desires of Cowper and
Crabbe, to see how they try to put the new wine in the old bottles, to
compare them with Goldsmith and Thomson on the one hand, with Wordsworth
and Coleridge on the other. Hayley perhaps alone, or almost alone, is
rebel to the comparative method. Hayley is one of these hopeless
creatures who abound at all periods, and whose native cast of
nothingness takes a faint fashion from the time. But even in the verse
of "Monk" Lewis we see the itch for new measures, the craving for lyric
movement; even in the day-flies of the Della Crusca group the desire to
be "something different." And then in Bowles, with his sonnets of
places, in Sayers, with his rhymeless Pindarics, we come upon the actual
guides to the right way, guides the oddest, the blindest, the most
stumbling, but still--as not merely chronology but the positive
testimony and the still more positive practice of those who followed
them show--real guides and no misleaders.

Least studied, perhaps, because of its want of positive savour in
comparison with their later achievements, but more interesting than all
of these, is the early work of Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth
themselves, and the work, not merely early but later, of men like
Rogers and Campbell. Here the spectacle already presented in Crabbe and
Cowper is repeated; but the process is in a further stage, and the
fermentation is determining, according to the nature of the fermenting
material. On Rogers it is nearly powerless; in Campbell only in his
lyrics does it succeed in breaking up and dissolving the old crust; in
Southey the effect is never quite complete; in Coleridge and Wordsworth,
but especially in Coleridge, the leaven changes all the latter lump.
Thenceforward the process is reversed. Instead of instances of advance
amid a mass of inertia or aimless wandering we have instances of
reaction amid a mass of advance. The work of the revolutionary time is
done; the scholar, contrary to Goethe's dictum, has now not merely to
exercise himself but to perfect.

The phenomena of the time in fiction are of the same character, but they
lead as yet to no such distinct turn. The tale-telling of Beckford is
like the singing of Burns, not uncoloured by the time, but still in the
main purely individual; the purpose of the novels of Holcroft, Godwin,
and Bage is groping in the dark; the Radcliffian romance and its
exaggeration by Lewis exhibit the same uncertainty, the same application
of the Rule of False. And there is for once a more philosophical and
less cowardly explanation--that Scott, the Joshua in this instance, as
Coleridge and Wordsworth were in the other, was occupied elsewhere
before he sought the Palestine of the novel. For it must be remembered
that prose fiction, though it had been cultivated in a scattered and
tentative way for thousands of years, was up to this time the most
inorganic of literary kinds. Poets, when they chose to give themselves
up to poetry and to turn their backs on convention, were almost as well
off then as now. They had but to open the great Greeks of the fifth and
fourth centuries before Christ, the Latins such as Lucretius and
Catullus, the great mediæval, the great Renaissance examples of their
own art, to see, as soon as they chose to see, where and how to go
right. The adventurer in fiction was destitute of any such assistance.
Only a few examples of much real excellence in his art were before him;
many of those existing (including most of the mediæval instances) were
hardly before him at all; and none of these, with the exception of the
eighteenth century novel of manners and character (which, in the nature
of the case, was at that special time the last thing he wanted to
imitate), and the short tale of France and Italy, could be said to have
been brought to anything like perfection. Hence the wanderings and the
stumblings here were far greater, the touch of the groping hands far
feebler and less sure than even in poetry; but the crying for the light
was there too, and it was to be heard in time. Even as it was, before
the century closed, Miss Edgeworth had given important new lines to
fiction, and was on the eve of opening the most fertile of all its seams
or veins, that of national or provincial character; the purpose-novel
just referred to was full of future, though it might be a future of a
perilous and disputable kind; the terror-romance, subdued to saner
limits and informed with greater knowledge and greater genius, was not
soon to cease out of the land; and, a detail not to be neglected, the
ever increasing popularity of the novel was making it more and more
certain that it would number good intellects sooner or later.

In all other directions, with the single exception of drama, in which
there was neither performance nor promise, so far as literature was
concerned, to any great extent, the same restlessness of effort, and not
always the same incompetence of result was seen. The fact of the
revolutionary war abroad and the coercive policy thereby necessitated at
home may have somewhat postponed the appearance of the new kind of
periodical, in all shapes from quarterly to daily, which was to be so
great a feature of the next age; but the same causes increased the
desire for it and prepared not a few of its constituents. It is
impossible for any tolerably careful reader not to notice how much more
"modern," to use an unphilosophical but indispensable term, is the
political satire both in verse and prose, which has been noticed in the
first chapter of this book, than the things of more or less the same
kind that immediately preceded it. It was an accident, no doubt, that
made the _Anti-Jacobin_ ridicule Darwin's caricature of eighteenth
century style in poetry; yet that ridicule did far more to put this
particular convention out of fashion than all the attacks of the same
paper on innovators like Coleridge (who at that time had hardly
attempted their literary innovations) could do harm. The very interest
in foreign affairs, brought about by the most universal war that had
ever been known, helped to introduce the foreign element which was to
play so large a part in literature; and little affection as the critic
may have for the principles of Godwin or of Paine, he cannot deny that
the spirit of inquiry, the rally and shock of attack and defence, are
things a great deal better for literature than a placid contentment with
accepted conventions.

Theology indeed may share with drama the reproach of having very little
that is good to show from this time, or indeed for a long time to come.
For the non-conformist sects and the Low Church party, which had
resulted from the Evangelical movement in the earlier eighteenth
century, were, the Unitarians excepted, for the most part illiterate.
The Deist controversy had ceased, or, as conducted against Paine,
required no literary skill; and the High Church movement had not begun.
Philosophy, not productive of very much, was more active; and the
intensely alien and novel styles of German thought were certain in time
to produce their effect, while their working was in exact line with all
the other tendencies we have been surveying.

In short, during these twenty years, literature in almost all its parts
was being thoroughly "boxed about." The hands that stirred it were not
of the strongest as yet, they were absolutely unskilled, and for the
most part they had not even any very clear conception of what they
wanted to do. But almost everybody felt that something had to be done,
and was anxious--even childishly anxious--to do something. It by no
means always happens that such anxiety is rewarded or is a good sign;
but it is always a noteworthy one, and in this instance there is no
doubt about either the fact of the reward or its goodness.

The subsequent history of poetry during the century divides itself in an
exceedingly interesting way, which has not perhaps yet been subjected to
full critical comment. There are in it five pretty sharply marked
periods of some ten or fifteen years each, which are distinguished, the
first, third, and fifth, by the appearance in more or less numbers of
poets of very high merit, and of characteristics more or less distinctly
original; the second and fourth by poetic growths, not indeed scanty in
amount and sometimes exquisite in quality, but tentative, fragmentary,
and undecided. It will of course be understood that in this, as in all
literary classifications, mathematical accuracy must not be expected,
and that the lives of many of the poets mentioned necessarily extend
long before and after the periods which their poetical production
specially distinguishes. In fact the life of Wordsworth covers as nearly
as possible the whole five sub-periods mentioned, reckoning from his own
birth-year to that of almost the youngest of the poets, of whom we shall
here take account. And perhaps there are few better ways of realising
the extraordinary eminence of English nineteenth century poetry than by
observing, that during these eighty years there was never a single one
at which more or fewer persons were not in existence, who had produced
or were to produce poetry of the first class. And the more the five-fold
division indicated is examined and analysed the more curious and
interesting will its phenomena appear.

The divisions or batches of birth-years are worth indicating separately:
the first comprises the eighth and ninth decades of the eighteenth
century, from the birth of Scott and the Lakers to that of Shelley, with
Keats as a belated and so to speak posthumous but most genuine child of
it; the second covers about fifteen years from the birth of George
Darley, who was of the same year (1795) with Keats, to the eve of that
of Tennyson; the third goes from 1810 or thereabouts, throwing back to
include the elder Tennysons and Mrs. Browning; the fourth extends from
about 1825 to 1836; the fifth from the birth of Mr. Morris (throwing
back as before to admit Rossetti) to the end.

In the first of these we see the Romantic revolt or renaissance,
whichever word may be preferred, growing up under the joint influences
of the opening of mediæval and foreign literature; of the excitement of
the wars of the French Revolution; of the more hidden but perhaps more
potent force of simple ebb-and-flow which governs the world in all
things, though some fondly call it Progress; and of the even more
mysterious chance or choice, which from time to time brings into the
world, generally in groups, persons suited to effect the necessary
changes. The "Return to Nature," or to be less question-begging let us
say the taking up of a new standpoint in regard to nature, made half
unconsciously by men like Cowper and Crabbe, assisted without intending
it by men like Burns and Blake, effected in intention if not in full
achievement by feeble but lucky pioneers like Bowles, asserts itself
once for all in the _Lyrical Ballads_, and then works itself out in
different--in almost all possibly different--ways through the varying
administration of the same spirit by Wordsworth and Coleridge, Shelley
and Keats, in the highest and primary rank, by Scott and Byron in the
next, by Southey, Campbell, Leigh Hunt, Moore, and others in the third.
And it is again most interesting to watch how the exertion of influence
and the character of it are by no means in proportion to the exact
poetical strength of the agent. Scott and Byron, certainly inferior as
poets to the first four mentioned, have probably had a greater bulk of
poetical influence and poetical action on mankind at large certainly,
and a vastly earlier, more immediate and more sweeping influence on
other poets than their betters. Leigh Hunt, a poet quite of the third
rank, exercised directly and indirectly, through Shelley and Keats, an
influence on the form of poetry, on metre, cadence, phrase, greater than
any of the others, save Wordsworth and Byron, and perhaps more than
these. In all ways, however, by this channel and that, in
straightforward or stealthy fashion, the poetic flood comes up, and by
the death of Byron, Shelley and Keats having still more prematurely gone
before, it is at its very highest spring. Six and twenty years passed,
from 1798 to 1824, from the time when the _Lyrical Ballads_ were
brought out to take their chance to the time when Mr. Beddoes, Mr.
Procter, and somebody else clubbed to publish Shelley's posthumous poems
at their own expense or at least guarantee, and justly objected to
paying for more than 250 copies, because more were not likely to be
sold. In these six and twenty years such an addition had been made to
English poetry as five times the space had not previously seen, as
perhaps was not far from equalling the glorious gains of a not very
different though somewhat longer space of time between the appearance of
the _Shepherd's Calendar_ and the death of Shakespeare.

But the sequel of this abnormally high tide is hardly less interesting
than itself. We generally expect at such moments in literature either a
decided falling off, or else a period of decent imitation, of "school
work." It would be absurd to say that there is no contrast, no falling
off, and no imitation in the group of poets noticed at the end of the
second chapter in this volume. But they are not utterly decadent, and
they are by no means purely or merely imitative. On the contrary, their
note is quite different from that of mere school work, and in a sort of
eccentric and spasmodic fashion they attain to singular excellence.
Hood, Praed, Macaulay, Taylor, Darley, Beddoes, Hartley Coleridge,
Horne, are not to Wordsworth or Coleridge, to Byron or to Shelley, what
the later so-called Elizabethan playwrights are to Jonson and Fletcher,
the later poets of the same time to Spenser and Donne. But they almost
all, perhaps all, seem forced to turn into some bye-way or backwater of
poetry, to be unable or unwilling to keep the crown of the causeway, the
flood of the tide. Hood and Praed--the former after actually attempting
great poetry, and coming nearer to it than some great poets come in
their first attempts--wander into the special borderland of humorous and
grotesque verse, achieving in different parts of it something not unlike
absolute and unsurpassed success. Beddoes, and to some extent Darley,
adopt fantastic varieties, grim in the former's hands, playful chiefly
in the latter's, but alike remote from everyday interests and broad
appeals; while the incomparable lyrics of Beddoes are of no special
time or school, their very Elizabethanism being somewhat delusive.
Taylor and Horne attempt the serious moral play with hardly any stage
purposes or possibilities, and Horne in _Orion_ tries an eccentric kind
of ethical or satirical epic. Macaulay--the most prominent of all, and
the most popular in his tastes and aims--is perhaps the nearest to a
"schoolman," adapting Scott as he does in his _Lays_; yet even here
there is no mere imitation.

Thus the people of this minor transition exhibit--in a most interesting
way, rendered even more interesting by the repetition of it which, as we
have seen and shall see, came about twenty years later--the mixed
phenomena of an after-piece and a _lever de rideau_, of precursorship
and what we must for want of a better word call decadence. They were not
strong enough in themselves, or were not favourably enough
circumstanced, entirely to refresh or redirect the main current of
poetry; so they deviated from it. But hardly in the least of them is
there absent the sign and symptom of the poetic spirit being still
about, of the poetic craft still in full working order. And their
occasional efforts, their experiments in the half-kinds they affected,
have a curious charm. English poetry would be undeniably poorer without
the unearthly snatches of Beddoes, the exquisitely urbane
verse-of-society of Praed, the pathetic-grotesque of Hood, even the
stately tirades of Horne and Taylor. Some of them, if not all, may at
this or that time have been exaggerated in value, by caprice, by
reaction, by mere personal sympathy. But no universal critic will refuse
admiration to them in and for themselves.

In the next stage we are again face to face, not with half-talents,
uncertain of their direction, but with whole genius, inevitably working
on its predestined lines. Nothing quite like the poetical career and the
poetical conception of Alfred Tennyson and of Robert Browning, so
different in all respects, except that of duration and coincidence in
time, meets us in English, perhaps nothing similar meets us in any
literature. It is easy to overestimate both; and both have been
over-estimated. It is still easier to depreciate both; and both have
been depreciated. Both wrote constantly, and at frequent intervals, for
some sixty years--the same sixty years--and, with not more than fair
allowance for the effects of time, both wrote at the end better than at
the beginning, and nearly as well as at the best time of each.
Wordsworth, it is true, wrote for nearly as long, but no one can assert
the same duration of equality in his production.

In a certain sense, no doubt, neither can claim the same distinct
individuality, the same unmistakable and elementary _quality_, as that
which distinguishes Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Shelley.
The work of each is always at once recognisable by any tolerably
competent judge; but the signs of identity are more composite than
atomic, more derived and literary than essentially native. Browning's
unconventional mannerisms, and his wide range of subject, have made him
seem even less of a mere scholar than Tennyson; but, as a fact, each is
independent enough to a certain extent and to a certain extent only. In
both appears, perhaps for the first time, certainly for the first time
in combination with distinct original genius, that indebtedness to the
past, that relapse upon it in the very act of forming vast schemes for
the future, which is more the note of the nineteenth century than
anything else. They not merely have all literature and all history
behind them; but they know it. Yet this knowledge does not weigh on
them. They do not exactly neglect it as Wordsworth and Shelley were
still able to do, but they keep it under. It is the attendant fiend for
which they must find work, but which they never, as too many of their
contemporaries and followers have done, allow to become their master.
And so they two, as it seems to me, do actually win their way to the
first class, not perhaps to the absolutely first division of it, but to
a first class still pretty rigidly limited.

It is not the object of this Conclusion to deal with the performances of
individuals at any length, and therefore I must refer back to the text
for a detailed indication of the position of Keats as the summer-up of
the tradition of the first of the groups or periods here noticed, and
the begetter, master, and teacher of the third, as well as for
descriptions of the different manners in which Tennyson and Browning
respectively shared and distributed between themselves that catholic
curiosity in poetical subject, that exploration of all history and art
and literature, which is the main characteristic of strictly nineteenth
century poetry. But it is very pertinent here to point out the
remarkable way in which these two poets, from the unexampled combination
of length and potency in their poetical period of influence, governed
all the poetry that has followed them. We shall now see that under their
shadow at least two well-marked groups arose, each of magnitude and
individuality sufficient to justify the assignment to it of a separate
position. Yet it was in their shadow that these rose and flourished, and
though the trees themselves have at length fallen, the shadow of their
names is almost as great as ever.

The first of these two groups, the fourth of our present classification,
renews, as has been said before, the features of its twenty or thirty
years older forerunner, the group between Keats and Tennyson, in a most
curious and attractive fashion. Once more we find the notes of
uncertainty, of straying into paths,--not always quite blind-alleys, but
bye-paths certainly,--the presence of isolated burst and flash, of
effort unsuccessful or unequal as a whole. But here we find, what in the
earlier chapter or section we do not find, distinct imitativeness and
positive school-following. This imitation, attempting Shelley at times
with little success (for, let it be repeated, Shelley is not imitable),
selected in regular chronological order, three masters, Wordsworth,
Tennyson, and Browning, though in each stage the master of the preceding
rather shared than yielded his chair. It has been said in a famous
passage that Wordsworth was more read about sixty years ago than at any
time before or since, and this may perhaps be true. But his influence on
writers has not depended on his popularity with readers, and from Sir
Aubrey de Vere, who was born more than a century ago, to verse-writers
who have only just published, his unmistakable tone, the tone which, so
far as we can see, would never have been if Wordsworth had never
existed, shows itself. The writing influence of Tennyson did not begin
till the issue of the _Poems_ of 1842, but it began almost immediately
then, and has remained in full force to the present day. It is an
influence somewhat more external and technical than Wordsworth's, but
for that reason even more unmistakable, and some of its results are
among the most curious of school-copies in literature. As for Browning,
imitation there tried both the outside and the inside, not very often
with happy results, but, of course, with results even more obvious to
the most uncritical eye than the results of the imitation of Tennyson
itself.

The attempts to be original and to break away from these and their
imitations--the principal of them being that of the so-called Spasmodic
school, which flourished at the dead waist and middle of the
century--were not particularly happy, and those who incline to gloomy
views may say that the imitation was less happy still. In Mr. Matthew
Arnold, a recalcitrant but unmistakable Wordsworthian, sharing a partly
reluctant allegiance between Wordsworth, the ancients, Goethe, and
Tennyson himself, it is impossible not to think that a freer attitude, a
more independent and less literary aim, might have strengthened his
elegance, supplied his curious mixture of stiffness and grace, and even
made him less unequal than he actually is. And yet he is much the
greatest poet of the period. Its effect was more disastrous still upon
the second Lord Lytton, who was content to employ an excellent lyrical
vein, and a gift of verse satire of the fantastic kind so distinct and
fascinating, that it approaches the merit of fantasists in other kinds
of the former group, like Beddoes and Darley, to far too great an extent
on echoes. The fact is, that by this time, to speak conceitedly, the
obsession of the book was getting oppressive. Men could hardly sing for
remembering, or, at least, without remembering, what others had sung
before them, and became either slavishly imitative or wilfully
recalcitrant to imitation. The great leaders indeed continued to sing
each in his own way, and, though with perfect knowledge of their
forerunners, not in the least hampered by that knowledge. But something
else was needed to freshen the middle regions of song.

It was found in that remarkable completion of the English Romantic
movement, which is in relation to art called præ-Raphaelitism, and which
is represented in literature, to mention only the greatest names, by
Rossetti, his sister, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Swinburne. The death of the
two former, and the fact that the movement itself, still active in art,
has in a manner rounded itself off, though it is not necessarily
finished, in literature, enable us to discuss it here as a whole, though
its two chief poets are luckily still alive.

The first thing of interest in general history which strikes us, in
regard to this delightful chapter of English poetry, is its
illustration--a common one in life and letters--of the fact that there
is a false as well as a true side to the question quoted by Aristotle:
"If water chokes you, what are you to drink on the top of it?" "Wine,"
one kind of humourist might answer; "More water," another: and both
rightly. It has been said that the group which preceded this suffered
from the pressure of too constant, wide, and various reminiscence,
literary, artistic, and other. The præ-Raphaelites refreshed themselves
and the world by applying still more strenuously to the particular kind
and period of such reminiscence which had been hitherto, despite the
mediæval excursions of many from Percy to Tennyson, imperfectly
utilised. The literary practitioners of the school (with whom alone we
are concerned) were not indeed by any means purely mediæval in their
choice of subject, in their founts of inspiration, or in their method of
treatment. English poetry has known few if any more accomplished
scholars both in the classics and in the modern languages than Mr.
Swinburne, for instance; and something similar might be said of others.
But, on the whole, the return of this school--for all new things in
literature are returns--was to a mediævalism different from the
tentative and scrappy mediævalism of Percy, from the genial but slightly
superficial mediævalism of Scott, and even from the more exact but
narrow and distinctly conventionalised mediævalism of Tennyson. They
had other appeals, but this was their chief.

It may seem that mere or main archaism is not a very charming or
powerful thing, and in weaker hands it would not have been either one or
the other; but it so happened that these hands were very strong indeed.
Mr. Rossetti had one of the most astonishing combinations ever known of
artistically separate gifts, as well as a singular blend of passion and
humour. His sister was one of the great religious poets of the world.
Mr. Swinburne has never been surpassed, if he has ever been equalled, by
any poet in any language for command of the more rushing and flowing
forms of verse. Mr. Morris has few equals in any time or country for
narrative at once decorative and musical. Moreover, though it may seem
whimsical or extravagant to say so, these poets added to the very charm
of mediæval literature which they thus revived a subtle something which
differentiates it from--which to our perhaps blind sight seems to be
wanting in--mediæval literature itself. It is constantly complained (and
some of those who cannot go all the way with the complainants can see
what they mean) that the graceful and labyrinthine stories, the sweet
snatches of song, the quaint drama and legend of the Middle Ages
lack--to us--life; that they are shadowy, unreal, tapestry on the wall,
not alive even as living pageants are. By the strong touch of modernness
which these poets and the best of their followers introduced into their
work, they have given the vivification required.

Beyond them we must not go, nor inquire whether the poets who have not
come to forty years represent a new school of the masterful and supreme
kind, or one of the experimental and striving sort, or something a good
deal worse than this, a period of sheer interval and suspense,
unenlivened even by considerable attempt. Not only our scheme, not only
common prudence and politeness, but most of all the conditions of
critical necessity insist on the curtain being here dropped. It is
possible that a critic may be able to isolate and project himself
sufficiently to judge, as posterity will judge them, the actually
accomplished work of his own contemporaries and juniors. But even such a
skilful and fortunate person cannot judge the work which they have not
yet produced, and which may in all cases, and must in some, modify their
position and alter their rank.

But what has been has been, and on this mass (not in the actual case
"vulgar" by any means) of things done it is possible to pronounce
securely. And with security it may be said that for total amount, total
merit, total claims of freshness and distinctness, no period of poetical
literature can much, if at all, exceed the ninety years of English verse
from _The Ancient Mariner_ to _Crossing the Bar_. The world has had few
poets better than the best of ours during this time in degree; it has
had none like Shelley, perhaps none exactly like Wordsworth, in kind.
The secret of long narrative poems that should interest has been
recovered; the sonnet, one of the smallest but one of the most perfect
of poetic forms, has been recovered likewise. Attempts to recover the
poetic drama have been mostly failures; and serious satire has hardly
reappeared. But lighter satire, with other "applied" poetry, has shown
variety and excellence. Above all lyric, the most poetic kind of poetry,
has attained a perfection never known before, except once in England and
once in Greece. It has been impossible hitherto to make a full and free
anthology of the lyric poets from Burns and Blake to Tennyson and
Browning to match the anthologies often made of those from Surrey or
Sidney to Herrick or Vaughan. But when it can be done it is a question
whether the later volume will not even excel the earlier in intensity
and variety, if not perhaps in freshness of charm.

And then it is needful once more to insist, even at the risk of
disgusting, on the additional interest given by the subtle and delicate,
but still distinctly traceable gradations, the swell and sinking, the
flow and ebb, of poetical production and character during the time. As
no other flourishing time of any poetry has lasted so long, so none has
had the chance of developing these mutations in so extensive and
attractive a manner; in none has it been possible to feel the pulse of
poetry, so to speak, in so connected and considerable a succession of
experiment. Poetical criticism can never be scientific; but it can
seldom have had an opportunity of going nearer to a scientific process
than here, owing to the volume, the connection, the duration, the
accessibility of the phenomena submitted to the critic. The actual
secret as usual escapes; but we can hunt the fugitive by a closer trail
than usual through the chambers of her flight.

Of the highest poetry, however, as of other highest things, Goethe's
famous axiom _Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh_ holds good. Although there is
a difference between the expressions of this highest poetry in the fifth
and fourth centuries before Christ, in the fourteenth, seventeenth, and
nineteenth after Christ there is also a certain quiet sameness, not
indiscernibility but still identity. The lower kinds of literature admit
of more apparent and striking freshness of exterior. And perhaps the
most strikingly fresh, some might even say the distinctive, product of
the nineteenth century, is its prose fiction.

This, as has been shown in detail, is much later in date than the poetry
in anything like a characteristic and fully developed state. Although it
was busily produced during the last twenty years of the eighteenth
century and the first fifteen of the nineteenth, the very best work of
the time, except such purely isolated things as _Vathek_, are
experiments, and all but the very best--the novels of Miss Edgeworth,
those written but not till quite the end of the time published by Miss
Austen, and a very few others--are experiments of singular lameness and
ill success.

With Scott's change from verse to prose, the modern romance admittedly,
and to a greater extent than is generally thought the modern novel, came
into being; and neither has gone out of being since. In the two chapters
which have been devoted to the subject we have seen how the overpowering
success of _Waverley_ bred a whole generation of historical novels; how
side by side with this the older novel of manners, slightly altered,
continued to be issued, with comic deviations chiefly, as in the hands
of Theodore Hook; how Bulwer attempted a sort of cross between the two;
how about the middle of the century the historical novel either ceased
or changed, to revive later after a middle period illustrated by the
brilliant romances of Kingsley; how about the same time the strictly
modern novel of manners came into being in the hands of Thackeray, Miss
Brontë, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope, Dickens overlapping both
periods in a fantastic and nondescript style of his own; and how more
recently still both romance and novel have spread out and ramified into
endless subdivisions.

There is, however, this broad line of demarcation between poetry and the
novel, that they are written for different ends and from different
motives. It is natural to man to write poetry; it does not appear to be
by any means so certainly or unvaryingly necessary to him to read it.
Except at rare periods and for short times, poetry has never offered the
slightest chance of livelihood to any considerable number of persons;
and it is tolerably certain that if the aggregate number of poets since
the foundation of the world had had nothing to live on but their
aggregate gains as poets, starvation would have been the commonplace
rule, instead of the dramatic exception, among the sons of Apollo.

On the other hand, it is no doubt also natural to man to tell prose
stories, and it seems, though it was a late-discovered aptitude, that it
is not unnatural to him to read them; but the writing of them does not
seem to be at all an innate or widely disseminated need. Until some
hundred or two hundred years ago very few were written at all; the
instances of persons who do but write novels because they must are
exceedingly rare, and it is as certain as anything can be that of the
enormous production of the last three-quarters of a century not 5,
perhaps not 1 per cent would have been produced if the producing had not
led, during the whole of that time, in most cases but those of hopeless
incompetence to some sort of a livelihood, in many to very comfortable
income, and in some to positive wealth and fame. In other words, poetry
is the creation of supply and novel-writing of demand; poetry can hardly
ever be a trade and in very rare cases a profession, while novel-writing
is commonly a very respectable profession, and unfortunately sometimes a
rather disreputable trade.

Like other professions, however, it enlists genius sometimes, talent
often; and the several and successive ways in which this genius and this
talent show themselves are of more than sufficient interest. But the
steady demand, and the inevitable answer to it, work adversely to such
spontaneous and interesting fluctuations of production as those which we
have traced in reference to poetry. There have been times, particularly
that between the cessation of Sir Walter's best work and the perfecting
of that of Thackeray, in which the average value of even the best novels
was much lower than at other times. But even in these the average volume
maintained itself very well, and, indeed, steadily increased.

It is this which, with another to be mentioned shortly, will, so far as
it is possible for a contemporary to judge, be noted in the literary
history of the future as the distinguishing crop or field of the
nineteenth century. Sermons, essays, plays, no doubt, continue to be
written; but the novel has supplanted the sermon, the essay, the play in
the place which each at different times held as the _popular_ form of
literature. It may be added, or repeated, that it has in part at least
achieved this result by trespassing upon the provinces of all these
three forms and of many others. This is true, but is of somewhat less
importance than might be thought. The fable has an old trick of
adjusting itself to almost every possible kind of literary use, and the
novel is only an enlarged and more fully organised fable. It does not,
no doubt, do best when it abuses this privilege of its ancestor, and
saturates itself overmuch with "purpose," but it has at least an
ancestral right to do so.

There is no doubt also that the popularity of the novel has been very
directly connected with a cause which has had all manner of effects
fathered upon it--often with no just causation or filiation whatever--to
wit, the spread of education. In the proper sense of course the spread
of education must always be strictly limited. The number of educable
persons probably bears a pretty constant ratio to the population, and
when the education reaches the level of the individual's containing
power, it simply runs over and is lost. But it is possible to teach
nearly everybody reading and writing; and it is a curious but exact
observation that a very large proportion of those who have been taught
reading require something to read. Now the older departments of
literature do not lend themselves with any facility to constant reading
by the average man or woman, whose requirements may be said to be
amusement rather than positive delight, occupation much rather than
intellectual exertion, and above all, something to pass time. For these
requirements, or this compound requirement, the hearing of some new
thing has been of old recognised as the surest and most generally useful
specific. And the novel holds itself out, not indeed always quite truly,
as being new or nothing by name and nature. Accordingly the demand for
novels has gone on ever increasing, and the supply has never failed to
keep up with it.

Nor would it be just to say that the quality has sunk appreciably. The
absolutely palmy day of the English nineteenth century in novel-writing
was no doubt some thirty-five or forty years ago. Not even the
contemporary France of that date can show such a "galaxy-gallery" as the
British novelists--Dickens, Thackeray, Miss Brontë, George Eliot,
Trollope, Kingsley, Bulwer, Disraeli, Lever, Mr. Meredith, and
others--who all wrote in the fifties. But at the beginning of the period
the towering genius of Scott and the perfect art of Miss Austen, if we
add to them Miss Edgeworth's genial talent, did not find very much of
even good second-rate matter to back them; there was, as has been said,
a positively barren time succeeding this first stage and preceding the
"fifty" period; and twenty years or a little more ago, when Thackeray
and Dickens were dead, Trollope and George Eliot past their best,
Kingsley and Bulwer moribund, Mr. Meredith writing sparely and
unnoticed, the new romantic school not arisen, and no recruit of
distinction except Mr. Blackmore firmly set, things were apparently a
great deal worse with us in point of novel-writing than they are at
present. Whether, with a return of promise and an increase of
performance, with a variation of styles and an abundance of experiment,
there has also been a relapse into the extravagances which we have had
in this very book to chronicle as characterising the fiction of exactly
a century ago,--whether we have had over-luxuriant and non-natural
style, attempts to attract by loose morality, novels of purpose, novels
of problem, and so forth,--and whether the coming age will dismiss much
of our most modern work as not superior in literary and inferior in
other appeal to the work of Godwin and Lewis, Holcroft and Bage, it is
not necessary distinctly to say. But our best is certainly better than
the best of that time, our worst is perhaps not worse; and the novel
occupies a far higher place in general estimation than it did then.
Indeed it has been observed by the sarcastic that to some readers of
novels, and even to some writers of them, "novel" and "book" seem to be
synonymous terms, and that when such persons speak of "literature," they
mean and pretty distinctly indicate that they mean novel-writing, and
novel-writing only. This at least shows that the seed which Scott sowed,
or the plant which he grafted, has not lost its vitality.

Certainly not less, perhaps even more, distinctive of the time in
history must be that development and transformation of what is broadly
called the newspaper, of which the facts and details have occupied two
more of these chapters. It is true that at times considerably earlier
than even the earliest that here concerns us, periodical writing had
been something of a power in England as regards politics, had enlisted
eminent hands, and had even served once or twice as the means of
introduction of considerable works in _belles lettres_. But the
Addisonian Essay had been something of an accident; Swift's
participation in the _Examiner_ was another; Defoe's abundant journalism
brought him more discredit than profit or praise; and though Pulteney
and the Opposition worked the press against Walpole, the process brought
little benefit to the persons concerned. Reviewing was meagrely done and
wretchedly paid; the examples of _Robinson Crusoe_ earlier and _Sir
Launcelot Greaves_ later are exceptions which prove the rule that the
_feuilleton_ was not in demand; in fact before our present period
newspaper-writing was rather dangerous, was more than rather
disreputable, and offered exceedingly little encouragement to any one to
make it the occasion of work in pure literature, or even to employ it as
a means of livelihood, while attempting other and higher, though less
paying kinds.

The period of the French Revolution, if not the French Revolution
itself, changed all this, assisted no doubt by the natural and
inevitable effects of the spread of reading and the multiplication of
books. People wanted to see the news; papers sprang up in competition to
enable them to see the news; and the competitors strove to make
themselves more agreeable than their rivals by adding new attractions.
Again, the activity of the Jacobin party, which early and of course
directed itself to the press, necessitated activity on the other side.
The keenest intellects, the best-trained wits of the nation, sometimes
under some disguise, sometimes openly, took to journalism, and it became
simply absurd to regard the journalist as a disreputable garreteer when
Windham and Canning were journalists. The larger sale of books and the
formation of a regular system of "pushing" them also developed
reviews--too frequently, no doubt, in the direction of mere puffing, but
even thus with the beneficent result that other reviews came into
existence which were not mere puff-engines.

Even these causes and others will not entirely explain the extraordinary
development of periodicals of all kinds from quarterly to daily, of
which the _Edinburgh_, _Blackwood_, the _Examiner_, and the _Times_ were
respectively the most remarkable examples and pioneers in the earlier
years of the century, though as a literary organ the _Morning Post_ had
at first rather the advantage of the _Times_. But, as has been said here
constantly, you can never explain everything in literary history; and
it would be extremely dull if you could. The newspaper press had, for
good or for ill, to come; external events to some obvious extent helped
its coming; individual talents and aptitudes helped it likewise; but the
main determining force was the force of hidden destiny.

There is, however, no mistake possible about the results. It is but a
slight exaggeration to say that the periodical rapidly swallowed up all
other forms of literature, to this extent and in this sense, that there
is hardly a single one of these forms capital performance in which has
not at one time or another formed part of the stuff of periodicals, and
has not by them been first introduced to the world. Not a little of our
poetry; probably the major part of our best fiction; all but a very
small part of our essay-writing, critical, meditative, and
miscellaneous; and a portion, much larger than would at one time have
seemed conceivable, of serious writing in history, philosophy, theology,
science, and scholarship, have passed through the mint or mill of the
newspaper press before presenting themselves in book form. A certain
appreciable, though small part of the best, with much of the worst, has
never got beyond that form.

To attempt to collect the result of this change is to attempt something
not at all easy, something perhaps which may be regarded as not
particularly valuable. The distinction between literature and journalism
which is so often heard is, like most such things, a fallacy, or at
least capable of being made fallacious. Put as it usually is when the
intention is disobliging to the journalist, it comes to this:--that the
_Essays of Elia_, that Southey's _Life of Nelson_, that some of the best
work of Carlyle, Tennyson, Thackeray, and others the list of whom might
be prolonged at pleasure, is not literature. Put as it sometimes is by
extremely foolish people, it would go to the extent that anything which
has _not_ been published in a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly
publication is literature.

There is probably no subject on which it is more necessary to clear the
mind of cant than this. Of course there is journalism in the sense
opposed to literature, though not necessarily opposed in any bad sense.
No wise man intends, and no wise man will ever suffer, articles which
are in the strict sense articles, which are intended to comment on
merely passing events, and to produce a merely immediate effect, to be
extracted from journals and put on record as books. Not only is the
treatment unsuitable for such record, but it may almost be said that the
treatment suitable for things so to be recorded is actually unsuitable
for things ephemeral. But there is a very large amount of writing to
which this does not in the least apply, and in which it can make no kind
of real difference whether the result appears by itself in a bound cloth
volume as a whole, or in parts with other things in a pamphlet, covered
with paper, or not covered at all. The grain of truth which the fallacy
carries is really this:--that the habit of treating some subjects in the
peculiar fashion most effective in journalism may spread disastrously to
the treatment of other subjects which ought to be treated as literature.
This is a truth, but not a large one. There have been at all times, at
least since the invention of printing and probably before it, persons
who, though they may be guiltless of having ever written an article in
their lives, have turned out more or less ponderous library volumes in
which the very worst sins of the worst kind of journalist are rampant.

There are, however, more thoughtful reasons for regarding the
development of periodicals as not an unmixed boon to letters. The more
evanescent kinds of writing are, putting fiction out of the question, so
much the more profitable in journalism that it certainly may tempt--that
it certainly has tempted--men who could produce, and would otherwise
have produced, solid literature. And there is so much more room in it
for light things than for things which the average reader regards as
heavy, that the heavy contributor is apt to be at a discount, and the
light at a premium. But all this is exceedingly obvious. And it may be
met on the other side by the equally obvious consideration already
referred to, that periodicals have made the literary life possible in a
vast number of cases where it was not possible before; that whereas
"toil, envy, want, the patron, and the gaol" was not a very exaggerated
description of its prospects little more than a hundred years ago, the
patron has become superfluous, want and the gaol rather unlikely, except
in cases of extreme misconduct, incompetence, or ill-luck, while if toil
and envy remain unvanquished, they are not specially fated to the
literary lot. Indeed the more paradoxical of Devil's Advocates against
the press usually urge that it has made the literary life too easy, has
tempted too many into it, and has thereby increased the flood of
mediocrity.

The most serious objection of all perhaps, though even this is rather
idle in face of accomplished facts, is that the perpetual mincing up and
boiling down of the constituents of the diet of reading have produced,
in the appetite and digestive faculties of the modern reader, an
inability to cope with a really solid meal of perhaps slightly tough
matter, and that periodicals not merely eschew the provision of this
solid stuff themselves, but do their best to make things worse by
manipulating the contents of books that do contain it.

The fact, however, once more, concerns us much more than moralisings
about the fact; and the fact of the prominence, the extraordinary
prominence, of the periodical press in the nineteenth century, is as
little open to dispute as the prominence in that century's later
mechanical history of discoveries in electricity, or in its earlier of
experiments with steam. Occasionally one may hear enthusiasts of one
kind or another announcing with joy or horror that the periodical is
killing the book. But if it is, it is very impartially engaged in
begetting it at the same time that it kills; and it may be very
seriously doubted whether this killing of a book is an easy act of
murder to commit. With the printing press to produce, the curiosity of
man to demand, and his vanity and greed--if not also his genius and
ambition--to supply, the book is in all probability pretty safe. In the
forms and varieties of this periodical publication we have seen some
interesting changes. As might have been expected, the tendency has been
for the intervals of publication to be shortened--for the quarterly to
give way as the fashionable form to the monthly, the monthly to the
weekly, the weekly to the daily. Many years ago Macaulay, in a mild
protest against having his articles altered by Macvey Napier, suggested
in effect that the bloom might be left on poor things destined to be
read only for a month or so. The duration of an article now may be
measured rather by hours than by weeks. Still many of these changes are
more apparent than real; and just as the institution of the graver
monthly reviews twenty years ago simply reintroduced the quarterly
article in a scarcely altered form after it had been pushed out of
favour by the slighter magazine, so other introductions have been in
fact reintroductions.

One point, however, of real importance in literary history remains to be
noticed, and that is the conflict between signed and anonymous writing.
Partly from the causes above enumerated as having conduced to the
keeping of journalism in a condition of discredit and danger, partly
owing to national idiosyncrasies, the habit of anonymous writing was
almost universal in the English press at the beginning of the century.
It may have been perfectly well known that such and such an article in
the _Quarterly_ was by Southey or Croker, such another in the
_Edinburgh_ by Sydney Smith or Macaulay, but the knowledge was, so to
speak, unofficial. The question of the identity of "Zeta" in _Blackwood_
cost a man's life; and the system resulted (in daily papers especially)
in so much editorial inter-mixture and refashioning, that sometimes it
would really have been impossible to assign a single and authentic
paternity. Even about the editorship of the great periodicals a sort of
coquetry of veiling was preserved, and editors' names, though in most
cases perfectly well known, seldom or never appeared.

It is difficult to say exactly when or how this system began to be
infringed. But there is no doubt that the prominence given in _Household
Words_ to the name and personality of Dickens, who was not unfriendly to
self-advertisement, had a good deal to do with it; and when, a little
later, the cheap shilling magazines appeared, writing with names became
the rule, without them the exception. Criticism, however, for obvious
reasons still held back; and it was not till about five and twenty years
ago that the example, taken more or less directly from the French, of
signed reviews was set by the _Academy_ among weekly papers, and the
_Fortnightly_ among monthly reviews. It has been very largely followed
even in daily newspapers, and the _Saturday Review_ was probably the
last newspaper of mark that maintained an absolutely rigid system of
anonymity. It should, however, be observed that the change, while not
even yet complete--leading articles being still very rarely signed--has
by no means united all suffrages, and has even lost some that it had.
Mr. John Morley, for instance, who had espoused it warmly as editor of
the _Fortnightly_, and had, perhaps, done more than any other man to
spread it, has avowed in a very interesting paper grave doubts about the
result. Still it undoubtedly has increased, and is increasing, and in
such cases it is much easier to express an opinion that things ought to
be diminished, than either to expect that they will, or to devise any
means whereby the diminution is to be effected. As for what is desirable
as distinguished from what is likely, the weight of opinion may be
thought to be in favour of the absence of signature. Anonymous
criticism, if abused, may no doubt be abused to a graver extent than is
possible with signed criticism. But such a hackneyed maxim as _corruptio
optimi_ shows that this is of itself no argument. On the other hand,
signed criticism diminishes both the responsibility and the authority of
the editor; it adds either an unhealthy gag or an unhealthy stimulus to
the tongue and pen of the contributor; it lessens the general weight of
the verdict; and it provokes the worst fault of criticism, the aim at
showing off the critic's cleverness rather than at exhibiting the real
value and character of the thing criticised. And perhaps some may think
the most serious objection of all to be that it encourages the
employment of critics, and the reception of what they say, rather for
their names than for their competence.

In that very important department of literature which stands midway
between Belles Lettres and Science, the department of History, the
century cannot indeed claim such striking and popularly effective
innovations as in the departments of prose fiction and of periodical
writing. Yet it may be questioned whether the change of this old kind is
not in itself almost as noteworthy as in the other cases is the
practical introduction of a new. What the change is was
epigrammatically, if somewhat paradoxically, summed up recently by a
great authority, Lord Acton. "History," the Cambridge Professor of that
art or science said in his inaugural lecture, "has become independent of
the historian."

It is possible to demur to the fact, but it is not difficult to explain
the meaning. From the necessity of the case, the earliest history, at
least in the West, is almost independent of documents and records.
Thucydides and Herodotus wrote, the one from what he had actually seen
and heard of contemporary events, the other partly from the same sources
and partly from tradition of short date. Somewhat later historians of
course had their predecessors before them, and in a few cases a certain
amount of document, but never a large amount. When history, vernacular
or Latin, began to be written again in the dark and middle ages, the
absence of documents was complicated (except in the case of those early
chroniclers, English and Irish chiefly, who merely put down local
events) by that more peculiar and unaccountable, though possibly
kindred, absence of critical spirit, which, of the many things more or
less fancifully attributed to the mediæval mind, is perhaps the most
certain. It is a constant puzzle to modern readers how to account
exactly for the fashion in which men, evidently of great intellectual
ability, managed to be without any sense of the value of evidence, or
any faculty of distinguishing palpable and undoubted fiction from what
either was, or reasonably might be held to be, history. But by degrees
this sense came into being side by side with the multiplication of the
document itself. Even then, however, it was very long before the average
historian either could or would regard himself as bound first to consult
all the documents available, and then to sift and adjust them in
accordance rather with the laws of evidence and the teachings of the
philosophy of history than with his own predilections, or with the
necessities of an agreeable narrative. But the patient industry of the
French school of historical scholars, at the end of the seventeenth and
the beginning of the eighteenth century, founded this new tradition; the
magnificent genius of Gibbon showed how the observance of it might not
be incompatible with history-writing of the most literary kind; the
national and natural tendency of German study adopted it; and shortly
after Gibbon's own day the school of historians, which is nothing if not
documentary, began gradually to oust that of which the picturesque, if
not strictly historical, legend about the Abbé Vertot and his "Mon siège
est fait" is the anecdotic _locus classicus_ of characterisation.

It has been shown, in the chapter devoted to the subject, how this
school of documentary historians grew and flourished in England itself,
from the days of Turner and Palgrave to those of Froude and Freeman.
Certainly there could not, at least for some time, be said to be any
very sensible tendency in history to dispense with the historian, or, in
other and perhaps rather more intelligible words, of history ceasing to
be literary. No historians have been more omnilegent, more careful of
the document, than Carlyle and Macaulay, much as they differed in other
respects, and in no histories has the "historian"--that is to say, the
personal writer as opposed to the mere "diplomatist"--been more evident
than he is in theirs. Nor is it very easy to see why the mere study of
the document, still less why the mere accumulation of the document,
should ever render superfluous the intelligent shaping which the
historian alone can give. In the first place, documents are
contradictory and want shifting and harmonising; in the second they want
grasping and interpreting; in the third (and most important of all) they
need to be made alive.

Nevertheless Lord Acton's somewhat enigmatic utterance points, however
vaguely, to real dangers, and it would be idle to say that these dangers
have not been exemplified in the period and department we are
considering. In the first place, the ever-increasing burden of the
documents to be consulted is more and more crushing, and more and more
likely to induce any one but a mere drudge either to relinquish the task
in despair, or to perform it with a constant fear before his eyes, which
prevents freedom and breadth of work. In the second it leads, on the one
hand, to enormous extension of the scale of histories, on the other to
an undue restraining and limiting of their subjects. Macaulay took four
large volumes to do, nominally at least, not more than a dozen years;
Froude twelve to cover fifty or sixty; Grote as many to deal with the
important, but neither long nor richly documented, period of Greek, or
rather Athenian, flourishing. To this has to be added the very serious
drawback that when examination of documents is ranked before everything,
even the slightest questioning of that examination becomes fatal, and a
historian is discredited because some one of his critics has found a
document unknown to him, or a flaw, possibly of the slightest
importance, in his interpretation of the texts.

Nevertheless it is necessary to lay our account with this new style of
history, and it is fortunately possible to admit that the gains of it
have not been small. Thanks to its practitioners, we know infinitely
more than our fathers did, though it may not be so certain that we make
as good a use of our knowledge. And the evil of multiplication of
particulars, like other evils, brings its own cure. The work of mere
rough-hewing, of examination into the brute facts, is being done--has to
no small extent actually been done--as it never was done before. The
"inedited" has ceased to be inedited--is put on record for anybody to
examine with little trouble. The mere loss of valuable material, which
has gone on in former ages to an extent only partially compensated by
the welcome destruction of material that has no value at all, has been
stopped. The pioneers of the historical summer (to borrow a decorative
phrase from Charles of Orleans) have been very widely abroad, and there
is no particular reason why the summer itself should not come.

When it does it will perhaps discard some ways and fashions which have
been lately in vogue; but it will assuredly profit by much that has been
done during the period we survey, no less in form than in matter. The
methods have been to a certain extent improved, the examples have been
multiplied, the historical sense has certainly taken a wider and deeper
hold of mankind. Very little is wanting but some one _ausus contemnere
vana_; and when the future Thucydides or the future Carlyle sets to
work, he will be freed, by the labour of others, alike from the paucity
of materials that a little weakened Thucydides, and from the brute mass
of them that embittered the life of Carlyle.

Not so much is to be said of the remaining divisions or departments
individually. If the drama of the century is not, in so far as acting
drama is concerned, almost a blank from the point of view of literature,
the literary drama of the century is almost a blank as regards acting
qualities. It is true that there have been at times attempts to obtain
restitution of conjugal rights on one side or on the other. In the
second and third decades, perhaps a little later, a strong effort was
made to give vogue to, and some vogue was obtained for, the scholarly if
pale attempts of Milman and Talfourd, and the respectable work of
others. Bulwer, his natural genius assisted by the stage-craft of
Macready, brought the acting and the literary play perhaps nearer
together than any one else did. Much later still, the mighty authority
of Tennyson, taking to dramatic writing at the time when he was the
unquestioned head of English poetry and English literature, and assisted
by the active efforts of the most popular actor and manager of the day,
succeeded in holding the stage fairly well with plays which are not very
dramatic among dramas, and which are certainly not very poetical among
their author's poems. With more recent times we have luckily nothing to
do, and the assertions of some authors that they themselves or others
have brought back literature to the stage may be left confronted with
the assertions of not a few actors that, for reasons which they do not
themselves profess entirely to comprehend, a modern drama is almost
bound not to be literary if it is to act, and not to act if it is
literary. Some have boldly solved the difficulty by hinting, if not
declaring, that the drama is an outworn form except as mere spectacle or
entertainment; others have exhausted themselves in solutions of a less
trenchant kind; none, it may safely be said, has really solved it. And
though it is quite true that what has happened was predicted sixty or
seventy years ago, as a result of the breach of the monopoly of Covent
Garden and Drury Lane, it is fair to say that the condition of the drama
of at least a quarter of a century earlier had been little if at all
better than it has been since. It is a simple fact that since Sheridan
we have had no dramatist who combined very high acting with very high
literary merit.

Of what have been called the applied departments of literature, a
somewhat less melancholy account has to be given; but, except in their
enormous multiplication of quantity, they present few opportunities for
remarks of a general character.

Very great names have been added to the list of theological writers, but
these names on the whole belong to the earlier rather than to the later
portion of the period, and even then something of a change has been
observable in the kinds of their writing. The sermon, that is to say the
literary sermon, has become more and more uncommon; and the popular ear
which calls upon itself to hear sermons at all prefers usually what are
styled practical discourses, often deviating very considerably from the
sermon norm, or else extremely florid addresses modelled on later
Continental patterns, and having as a rule few good literary qualities.
So, too, the elaborate theological treatise has gone out of fashion, and
it may be doubted whether, at least for the last half century, a single
book of the kind has been added to the first class of Anglican
theological writing. This writing has thus taken the form either of
discourses of the older kind, maintained in existence by endowment or by
old prescription, such as the Bampton Lectures, or of rather popular
polemics, or of what may be called without disrespect theological
journalism of various kinds. The general historical energy of the
century, moreover, has not displayed itself least in the theological
department, and valuable additions have been made, not merely to general
church history, but to a vast body of biography and journal-history, as
well as to a certain amount of Biblical scholarship. In this latter
direction English scholars have distinguished themselves by somewhat
less violation of the rules of criticism in general than their foreign
brethren and masters. But it cannot be said that the nineteenth century
is ever likely to rank high in the history of English theology. Even its
greatest names--Irving, Chalmers, the Oxford leaders, and others, with
perhaps the single exception of Newman--are important much more
personally and as influences than as literary figures; while the rank
and file, putting history aside, have been distinctly less noteworthy
than in any of the three preceding centuries.

The "handmaid of theology" has received, at any rate during the first
half of the period, or even the first three-quarters, more distinguished
attentions than her mistress; and the additions made to the list headed
by Erigena and Anselm, if we allow Latin to count, by Bacon and Hobbes,
if we stick to the vernacular, have been many and great. Yet it would
not be unreasonable laudation of times past to say that there hardly,
after Hume's death, arose any philosopher who combined the originality,
the acuteness, and the literary skill of Hume during the first half of
this century, while certainly, at least till within a period forbidden
to our scheme, the latter part of the time has not seen any writer who
could vie even with those of the earlier. To a certain extent the
historical and critical tendencies so often noticed have here been
unfortunate, inasmuch as they have diverted philosophical students from
original writing--or at least from writing as original as the somewhat
narrow and self-repeating paths of philosophy admit--to historical and
critical exercises. But there is also no doubt that the immense
authority which the too long neglected writers of Germany attained, a
little before the middle of the century, has been unfortunate in at
least one respect, if not also in others. The ignorant contempt of
technicalities, and the determination to refer all things to common
sense employing common language, which distinguished the eighteenth
century with us, was certain to provoke a reaction; and this reaction,
assisted by imitation of the Germans, produced in the decades from 1840
onwards an ever-increasing tendency among English philosophers or
students of philosophy to employ a jargon often as merely technical as
the language of the schoolmen, and not seldom far emptier of any real
argument. It is not too much to say that if the rough methods of Hobbes
with a terminology far less fallacious, were employed with this jargon,
it would look much poorer than Bramhall's scholasticisms look in the
hands of the redoubtable Nominalist. Fortunately of late there have been
more signs than one of yet another turn of tide, and of a fresh appeal
to the _communis sensus_, not it may be hoped of the obstinately and
deafly exoteric character of the eighteenth century, but such as will
refuse to pay itself with words, and will exercise a judicious criticism
in a language understanded of all educated people. Then, and not till
then, we may expect to meet philosophy that is literature and literature
that is philosophic.

Science, that is to say physical science, which has sometimes openly
boasted itself as about to take, and has much more commonly made silent
preparations for taking, the place both of philosophy and of theology,
will hardly be said by the hardiest of her adherents to have done very
much to justify these claims to seats not yet quite vacant from the
point of view of the purely literary critic. We have had some excellent
scientific writers, from Bishop Watson to Professor Huxley; and some of
the books of the century which would deserve remembrance and reading,
whatever their subject matter, have been books of science. Yet it is
scarcely rash to assert that the essential characteristics of science
and the essential characteristics of literature are, if not so
diametrically opposed as some have thought, at any rate very far apart
from one another. Literature can never be scientific; and though science
may be literary, yet it is rather in the fashion in which a man borrows
some alien vesture in order to present himself, in compliance with
decency and custom, at a foreign court. Mathematics give us the
example--perhaps the only example--of pure science, of what all science
would be if it could, and of what it approaches, ever more nearly, as
far as it can. It is needless to say that the perfect presentation of
mathematics is in pure symbols, divested of all form and colour, of all
personal tincture and bias. And it should be equally superfluous to add
that it is in form and colour, in suggestion of sound rather than in
precise expression and sense, in personal bias and personal tincture,
that not merely the attraction but the very essence of literature
consists.

By so much as verbal science or scholarship, which would seem to be more
especially bound to be literature, claims to be and endeavours to be
strictly scientific, by so much also necessarily does it divorce itself
from the literature which it studies. This, if not an enormously great,
is certainly rather a sore evil; and it is one of the most considerable
and characteristic signs of the period we are discussing. The older
scholarship, though sufficiently minute, still clung to the literary
side proper: it was even, in the technical dialect of one of the
universities, opposed to "science," which word indeed was itself used in
a rather technical way. The invention of comparative philology, with its
even more recent off-shoot phonetics, has changed all this, and we now
find "linguistic" and "literary" used by common consent as things not
merely different but hostile, with a further tendency on the part of
linguistics to claim the term "scholarship" exclusively for itself.

This could hardly in any case be healthy. What may be the abstract value
of the science, or group of sciences, called philology, it is perhaps
not necessary here to inquire. It is sufficient to say that it clearly
has nothing to do with literature except in accidental and remote
applications, that it stands thereto much as geology does to
architecture. Unfortunately, while the scientific side of scholarship is
thus becoming, if it has not become, wholly unliterary, the æsthetic
side has shown signs of becoming, to far too great an extent,
unscientific in the bad and baneful sense. With some honourable
exceptions, we find critics of literature too often divided into
linguists who seem neither to think nor to be capable of thinking of the
meaning or the melody, of the individual and technical mastery, of an
author, a book, or a passage, and into loose æsthetic rhetoricians who
will sometimes discourse on Æschylus without knowing a second aorist
from an Attic perfect, and pronounce eulogies or depreciations on Virgil
without having the faintest idea whether there is or is not any
authority for _quamvis_ with one mood rather than another. Nor is it
possible to see what eirenicon is likely to present itself between two
parties, of whom the extremists on the one side may justly point to such
things as have here been quoted, while the extremists on the other feel
it a duty to pronounce phonetics the merest "hariolation," and a very
large part of what goes by the name of philology ingenious guesswork,
some of which may possibly not be false, but hardly any of which can on
principles of sound general criticism be demonstrated to be true. It is
not wonderful, though it is in the highest degree unhealthy, that the
stricter scholars should be more or less scornfully relinquishing the
province of literary criticism altogether, while the looser æsthetics
consider themselves entitled to neglect scholarship in any proper sense
with a similarly scornful indifference.

It is, however, impossible that offences of this sort should not come
now and then in the history of literature, and fortunately, in that
history, they disappear as they appear. For the present purpose it is
more important to conclude this conclusion with a few general remarks on
the past, fewer on the present, and fewest of all on the future.

On this last head, indeed, no words were perhaps even better than even
fewest; though something of the sort may be expected. Rash as prophecy
always is, it is never quite so rash as in literature; and though we can
sometimes, looking backward, say--perhaps even then with some
rashness--that such and such a change might or ought to have been
expected, it is very seldom that we can, when deprived of this
illegitimate advantage, vaticinate on such subjects with any safety. Yet
the study of the present always, so to speak, includes and overlaps
something of the future, and by comparison at least of other presents we
can discern what it is at least not improbable that the future may be.
What, then, is the present of literature in England?

It can be described with the greater freedom that, as constantly
repeated, we are not merely at liberty _ex hypothesi_ to omit references
to individuals, but are _ex hypothesi_ bound to exclude them. And no
writer, as it happens rather curiously, of anything like great promise
or performance who was born later than the beginning of the fifties has
died as yet, though the century is so near its close. Yet again, all the
greatest men of the first quarter of the century, with the single
exception of Mr. Ruskin, are gone; and not many of the second remain. By
putting these simple and unmistakable facts together it will be seen, in
a fashion equally free from liability to cavil and from disobliging
glances towards persons, that the present is at best a stationary state
in our literary history. Were we distinctly on the mounting hand, it is,
on the general calculation of the liabilities of human life, certain
that we must have had our Shelley or our Keats side by side with our
Wordsworth and our Coleridge. That we have much excellent work is
certain; that we have much of the absolutely first class not so. And if
we examine even the good work of our younger writers we shall find in
much of it two notes or symptoms--one of imitation or exaggeration, the
other of uncertain and eccentric quest for novelty--which have been
already noted above as signs of decadence or transition.

Whether it is to be transition or decadence, that is the question. For
the solution of it we can only advance with safety a few considerations,
such as that in no literary history have periods of fresh and first-rate
production ever continued longer than--that they have seldom continued
so long as--the period now under notice, and that it is reasonable, it
is almost certain, that, though by no means an absolutely dead season,
yet a period of comparatively faint life and illustration should
follow. To this it may be added as a consideration not without
philosophical weight that the motives, the thoughts, the hopes, the
fears, perhaps even the manners, which have defrayed the expense of the
literary production of this generation, together with the literary forms
in which, according to custom, they have embodied and ensconced
themselves, have been treated with unexampled, certainly with
unsurpassed, thoroughness, and must now be near exhaustion; while it is
by no means clear that any fresh set is ready to take their place. It is
on this last point, no doubt, that the more sanguine prophets would like
to fight the battle, urging that new social ideas, and so forth, _are_
in possession of the ground. But this is not the field for that battle.

In dealing with what has been, with the secular hour that we have
actually and securely had, we are on far safer, if not on positively
safe ground. Here the sheaves are actually reaped and brought home; and
if the teller of them makes a mistake, his judgment, and his judgment
only, need be at fault. Not all ways of such telling are of equal value.
It may be tempting, for instance, but can hardly be very profitable, to
attempt to strike an exact balance between the production of the century
from 1780 to 1880 with that of the other great English literary century
from 1580 to 1680. Dear as the exercise is to some literary accountants,
there is perhaps no satisfactory system of book-keeping by which we can
really set the assets and the liabilities of the period from the
appearance of Spenser to the death of Browne against the assets and
liabilities of that from the appearance of Burns to the death of
Tennyson, and say which has the greater sum to its credit. Still more
vague and futile would it be to attempt to set with any exactness this
balance-sheet against that of the other great literary periods of other
countries, languages, and times. Here again, most emphatically, accuracy
of this kind is _not_ to be expected.

But what we can say with confidence and profit is that the nineteenth
century in England and English is of these great periods, and of the
greatest of them; that it has taken its place finally and certainly,
with a right never likely to be seriously challenged, and in a rank
never likely to be much surpassed.

The period which lisped its numbers in Burns and Blake and Cowper, which
broke out into full song with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Byron,
Shelley, and Keats, which, not to mention scores of minor singers, took
up the tale with Tennyson and Browning and passed it on to Arnold,
Rossetti, Mr. Morris, and Mr. Swinburne, need fear no comparisons in the
matter of poetry. In prose fiction, as we have seen, it stands alone. It
is almost a century of origins as regards the most important kinds; it
is quite a century of capital and classical performance in them. In
"making"--prose or verse--no time leaves record of performance more
distinguished or more various.

That in one great literary kind, drama, it exhibits lamentable
deficiency, that indeed in that kind it hardly counts at all, has been
admitted; and it is not probable that in any of the serious prose kinds,
except history, it will ever rank very high when compared with others.
Its theology has, as far as literature is concerned, been a little
wanting in dignity, in finish, and even in fervour, its philosophy
either commonplace or jargonish, its exercises in science and
scholarship ever divorcing themselves further from literary ideals. But
in the quality of its miscellaneous writing, as well as in the
facilities given to such writing by its special growth--some would say
its special fungus--of the periodical, it again rises to the first
class. Hardly the period of Montaigne and Bacon, certainly not that of
Dryden, Cowley, and Temple, nor that of Addison and Steele, nor that of
Johnson and Goldsmith, can vie with the century of Charles Lamb and
William Hazlitt, of Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey, of Macaulay and
Thackeray and Carlyle, of Arnold and Mr. Ruskin. Miscellaneous we have
been,--perhaps too much so,--but we should be a little saved by the
excellence of some of our miscellanists.

Pessimists would probably say that the distinguishing and not altogether
favourable notes of the century are a somewhat vagabond curiosity in
matter and a tormented unrest of style. The former concerns us little,
and is chiefly noticeable here because of the effect which it has had on
the great transformation of historical writing so often noticed; the
latter concerns us intimately. And no doubt there is hardly a single
feature--not even the growth of the novel, not even the development of
the newspaper--which will so distinctly and permanently distinguish this
century in English literary history as the great changes which have come
over style, and especially prose style. There has been less opportunity
to notice these collectively in any of the former chapters than there
has been to notice some other changes: nor was this of much importance,
for the present is the right place for gathering up the fragments.

The change of style in prose is undoubtedly as much the leading feature
of the century as is in poetry the change of thought and outlook, on
which latter enough perhaps has been said elsewhere; the whole of our
two long chapters on poetry being indeed, with great part of this
conclusion, a continuous exposition of it. But the change in prose was
neither confined to, nor specially connected with, any single department
of literature. Indirectly indeed, and distantly, it may be said to have
been connected with the growth of the essay and the popularity of
periodicals; and yet it is not quite certain that this was anything more
than a coincidence due to the actual fact that the first extensive
practitioners of ornate prose, Wilson and De Quincey, were in a way
journalists.

That the sudden ornateness, in part a mere ordinary reaction, was also
in part due to a reflection of the greater gorgeousness of poetry,
though it was in itself less a matter of thought than of style, is true.
But literary reactions are always in part at least literary
developments; and after the prose of Burke and Gibbon, even after that
of Johnson, it was certain that the excessive plainness reached in the
mid-eighteenth century would be exchanged for something else. But it
could not possibly have been anticipated that the change would exhibit
the extent or the variety that it has actually shown.

That it has enriched English literature with a great deal of admirable
matter is certain; that it has not merely produced a great deal of sad
stuff, but has perhaps inflicted some permanent or at least lasting
damage on the purity, the simplicity, and in the best sense the strength
of style, is at least equally certain. It is less easy to say whether it
is, as a movement, near its close, or with what sort of reaction it is
likely to be followed. On the one hand the indication of particular
follies and excesses may not seem decisive; for there is little doubt
that in all the stages of this _flamboyant_ movement--from De Quincey to
Carlyle, from Carlyle to Mr. Ruskin, from Mr. Ruskin to persons whom it
is unnecessary to mention--the advocates of the sober styles thought and
said that the force of extravagance could no further go, and that the
last outrages had been committed on the dignity and simplicity of
English. On the other hand there are signs, which are very unlikely to
deceive the practised critic, tending to show that the mode is likely to
change. When actual frippery is seen hanging up in Monmouth Street or
Monmouth Street's successors, when cheap imitations of fashionable
garments crowd the shop windows and decorate the bodies of the
vulgar--then the wise know that this fashion will shortly change. And
certainly something similar may be observed in literature to-day.
Cacophony jostles preciousness in novel and newspaper; attempts at
contorted epigram appear side by side with slips showing that the writer
has not the slightest knowledge of the classics in the old sense, and
knows exceedingly little of anything that can be called classic in the
widest possible acceptation of the term. Tyrannies cease when the
cobblers begin to fear them; fashions, especially literary fashions,
when the cobblers take them up.

Yet the production of what must or may be called literature is now so
large, and in consequence of the spread of what is called education the
appetite so largely exceeds the taste for it, that it is not so easy as
it would once have been to forecast the extent and validity of any
reaction that may take place.

If, without undue praising of times past, without pleading guilty to
the prejudices sometimes attributed to an academic education, and also
without trespassing beyond the proper limits of this book, it may be
permitted to express an opinion on the present state of English
literature, that opinion, while it need not be very gloomy, can hardly
be very sanguine. And one ground for discouragement, which very
especially concerns us, lies in the fact that on the whole we are now
_too_ "literary." Not, as has been said, that the general taste is too
refined, but that there is a too indiscriminate appetite in the general;
not that the actual original force of our writers is, with rare
exceptions, at all alarming, but that a certain amount of literary
craftsmanship, a certain knowledge of the past and present of
literature, is with us in a rather inconvenient degree. The public
demands quantity, not quality; and it is ready, for a time at any rate,
to pay for its quantity with almost unheard of returns, both, as the
homely old phrase goes, in praise and in pudding. And the writer, though
seldom hampered by too exact an education in form, has had books, as a
rule, too much with him. Sometimes he simply copies, and knows that he
copies; oftener, without knowing it, he follows and imitates, while he
thinks that he is doing original work.

And worse than all this, the abundance of reading has created an
altogether artificial habit--a habit quite as artificial as any that can
ever have prevailed at other periods--of regarding the main stuff and
substance of literature. Much reading of novels, which are to the
ordinary reader his books, and his only books, has induced him to take
their standards as the standards of both nature and life. And this is
all the more dangerous because in all probability the writers of these
very novels have themselves acquired their knowledge, formed their
standards, in a manner little if at all more first-hand. We have nature,
not as Jones or Brown saw it for himself, but as he saw it through the
spectacles of Mr. Ruskin or of Jefferies; art, not as he saw it himself,
but as he saw it through those of Mr. Ruskin again or of Mr. Pater;
literary criticism as he learnt it from Mr. Arnold or from
Sainte-Beuve; criticism of life as he took it from Thackeray or from
Mr. Meredith.

Something like this has occurred at least three times before in the
history of European literature. It happened in late Græco-Roman times,
and all the world knows what the cure was then, and how the
much-discussed barbarian cleared the mind of Europe of its literary cant
by very nearly clearing out all the literature as well. It happened on a
much smaller scale, and with a less tremendous purgation, at the close
of the Middle Ages, when the world suddenly, as it were, shut up one
library and opened another; and at the end of the seventeenth and
beginning of the eighteenth century, when it shut both of these or the
greater part of them, and took to a small bookshelf of "classics," a
slender stock of carefully observed formulæ and--common sense.

What it will take to now, nobody can say; but that it will in one
fashion or another change most of its recent wear, shut most of its
recent books, and perhaps give itself something of a holiday from
literature, except in scholastic shapes, may be not quite impossible.
Another _Lyrical Ballads_ may be coming for this decade, as it came a
hundred years ago: all we can say is that it apparently has not come
yet. But whether it does come or does not, the moment is certainly no
bad one, even if chronology did not make it inviting, for setting in
order the actual, the certain, the past and registered production of the
century since the dawn of the great change which ended its vigil. The
historian, as he closes his record, is only too conscious of the
objections to omission that may probably be brought against him, and of
those of too liberal admission which certainly will be brought. It is
possible that for some tastes even this chapter may not contain enough
of _Tendenz_-discussion, that they may miss the broader sweeps and more
confident generalisations of another school of criticism. But the old
objection to fighting with armour which you have not proved has always
seemed a sound one, and has seldom failed to be justified of those who
set it at nought. Careful arrangement of detail and premiss, cautious
drawing of conclusions, and constant subjection of these conclusions to
that process of literary comparison which I believe to be the strongest,
the safest, the best engine of literary criticism altogether--these are
the things which I have endeavoured to observe here. It might have shown
greater strength of mind to reject a large number of the authors here
named, and so bring the matter into case for more extended treatment of
interesting individuals. But there is something, as it seems to me, a
little presumptuous in a too peremptory anticipation of the operations
of Time the Scavenger. The critic may pretty well foresee the operations
of the wallet-bearer, but he is not to dictate to him the particular
"alms for oblivion" which he shall give. As it used to be the custom for
a dramatic author, even though damned, to have his entrées at the
theatre, so those who have once made an actual figure on the literary
stage are entitled, until some considerable time has elapsed, to
book-room. They lose it gradually and almost automatically; and as I
have left out many writers of the end of last century whom, if I had
been writing sixty years since, I should doubtless have put in, many of
the first half of it whom I should have admitted if I had been writing
thirty years since, so in another generation others will no doubt
exercise a similar thinning on my own passed or pressed men.

But few, however, I think, appear here without more or less right of
admission to the mind-map of the century's literature which a
well-furnished mind should at this moment contain. That such a mind-map,
quite irrespective of examinations and lecture-courses, and of literary
bread-study generally, is a valuable thing, I have no doubt. And I
think, without wishing to magnify mine office, that the general
possession of it might do something to counteract these disastrous
influences which have been referred to a little earlier. A man should
surely be a little less apt to take the pinchbeck poetry of his own day
for gold when he remembers the Della Cruscans and Sentimentalists, the
Montgomerys and the Tuppers; the terror-novel and the Minerva Press
should surely be useful skeletons to him at his feast of fiction in
kinds which it would be beyond my province to describe more
particularly. He will not clamour, as I have known very excellent
persons clamour, for the "raising of English to a new power" when he has
before him the long procession of ingenious jargonists whose jargon has
been in its turn hailed as a revelation and dismissed as an old song.
And he will neither overexalt the dignity of literature, nor be a
self-tormentor and a tormentor of others about its approaching decline
and fall, when he sees how constantly, how incessantly, the kissed mouth
has renewed its freshness, the apparently dying flower has shed seed and
shot suckers for a new growth.



INDEX

(_It has been endeavoured in this Index to include the name (with dates)
of every author, and the title of every book, discussed in detail. But
in order to avoid unnecessary bulk, books and authors merely referred
to, as well as parts of books, are not usually given._)


_Academy_, 383

_Adam Bede_, 322 _sq._

_Adam Blair_, 194

_Age of Reason, The_, 30 _sq._

Ainsworth, Harrison (1805-82), 138, 139

Alison, Sir Archibald (1792-1867), 217, 218

Allingham, William (1824-89), 307

_Alton Locke_, 326 _sq._

_Ancient Law_, 358

_Ancient Mariner, The Rime of the_, 61-63

_Andromeda_, 325

_Anna St. Ives_, 39

_Annals of the Parish_, 140

_Anti-Jacobin_, 2

_Apologia pro Vitâ Suâ_, 327, 368

Arnold, Matthew (1822-88), 15, 52, 281-287, 385-388

Arnold, Thomas (1795-1842), 223, 224

Ashe, Thomas, 1836-89, 313

_Asolando_, 271 _sq._

_Athenæum_, 383

Atherstone, Edwin (1788-1872), 124

_Aurora Leigh_, 280

Austen, Jane (1775-1817), 43, 128-131

Austen, Lady, 4

Austin, John (1790-1859), 357, 358

Austin, Sarah (1793-1867), 358

Aytoun, William Edmonstoune (1813-65), 302-304


Bage, Robert (1728-1801), 41, 42

Bagehot, Walter (1826-77), 383-384

Baillie, Joanna (1762-1851), 419, 420

Barbauld, Mrs. (1743-1825), 19, 62

_Barchester Towers_, 330

Barham, Richard Harris (1788-1845), 209, 210

_Barnaby Rudge_, 149

Barnes, William (1800-86), 118

Barry Cornwall, see Procter, B. W.

Barrow, Sir John (1764-1848), 179

Barton, Bernard (1784-1849), 107

Baynes, Thomas Spencer (1823-87), 351

Beckford, William (1759-1844), 40, 41

Beddoes, Thomas Lovell (1803-49), 114-116

_Bells and Pomegranates_, 270

Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832), 343, 344

_Biographia Borealis_, 201

Blackie, John Stuart (1809-95), 300

_Blackwood's Magazine_, 168 _sqq._

Blake, William (1757-1827), 1-3, 9-13

_Bleak House_, 150

Bloomfield, Robert (1766-1823), 107

_Bon Gaultier Ballads_, 303

Borrow, George (1803-81), 162, 163

Bowles, Caroline (1787-1854), 65, 124

Bowles, William Lisle (1762-1850), 19, 105, 106

Brimley, George (1819-57), 383, 384

Brontë, Anne (1820-49), 319

Brontë, Charlotte (1816-55), 319-321

Brontë, Emily (1818-48), 315, 321

Brown, Dr. John (1810-82), 384

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett (1809-61), 276-281

Browning, Robert (1812-89), 90, 268-277

Bryant, Jacob (1715-1804), 405

Buckle, Henry Thomas (1821-62), 243, 244

Bulwer, see Lytton

Burges, Sir James Bland (1752-1824), 48

Burke, 1, 7

Burney, Miss (1752-1840), 125

Burns, Robert (1759-96), 1-3, 9, 10, 13-18

Burton, John Hill (1809-81), 240

Burton, Sir Richard (1821-90), vi

Byron, 6

Byron, Lord (1788-1824), 6, 75-81


_Caleb Williams_, 32 _sq._

Calverley, Charles Stuart (1831-84), 314

Campbell, Mr. Dykes, 57

Campbell, Thomas (1777-1844), 92-94

Canning, George (1770-1827), 19

Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881), 232-240

Cary, Henry (1772-1844), 110

_Castle Rackrent_, 127

Chalmers, Thomas (1780-1847), 374, 375

Chambers, Robert (1802-71), 414

Chamier, Captain, 159

_Chartism_, 235 _sqq._

_Christabel_, 61-63

_Christian Year_, 362-364

"Christopher North," see Wilson, John

Church, Richard (1815-90), 371

Churchill, 3, 5

_City of Dreadful Night, The_, 298

Clive, Mrs. Archer (