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Title: A Critic in Pall Mall - Being Extracts from Reviews and Miscellanies
Author: Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1919 Methuen & Co. Ltd. edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org



                                 A CRITIC
                               IN PALL MALL


                           BEING EXTRACTS FROM
                         REVIEWS AND MISCELLANIES

                                    BY
                               OSCAR WILDE

                                * * * * *

                            METHUEN & CO. LTD.
                           36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
                                  LONDON

                                * * * * *

                        _First Published in 1919_

                                * * * * *

            _This selection has been made by Mr._ E. V. LUCAS



CONTENTS

                                                         PAGE

THE TOMB OF KEATS                                              1
KEATS’S SONNET ON BLUE                                         4
DINNERS AND DISHES                                             8
SHAKESPEARE ON SCENERY                                        10
‘HENRY THE FOURTH’ AT OXFORD                                  15
A HANDBOOK TO MARRIAGE                                        18
TO READ OR NOT TO READ                                        21
THE LETTERS OF A GREAT WOMAN                                  22
BÉRANGER IN ENGLAND                                           27
THE POETRY OF THE PEOPLE                                      29
‘THE CENCI’                                                   32
BALZAC IN ENGLISH                                             34
BEN JONSON                                                    37
MR. SYMONDS’ HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE                       39
MR. MORRIS’S ‘ODYSSEY’                                        44
RUSSIAN NOVELISTS                                             48
MR. PATER’S ‘IMAGINARY PORTRAITS’                             51
A GERMAN PRINCESS                                             55
‘A VILLAGE TRAGEDY’                                           63
MR. MORRIS’S COMPLETION OF THE ‘ODYSSEY’                      65
MRS. SOMERVILLE                                               70
ARISTOTLE AT AFTERNOON TEA                                    76
EARLY CHRISTIAN ART IN IRELAND                                81
MADAME RISTORI                                                85
ENGLISH POETESSES                                             91
VENUS OR VICTORY                                             101
M. CARO ON GEORGE SAND                                       105
A FASCINATING BOOK                                           108
HENLEY’S POEMS                                               123
SOME LITERARY LADIES                                         129
POETRY AND PRISON                                            143
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WALT WHITMAN                         146
IRISH FAIRY TALES                                            152
MR. W. B. YEATS                                              158
MR. YEATS’S ‘WANDERINGS OF OISIN’                            160
MR. WILLIAM MORRIS’S LAST BOOK                               162
SOME LITERARY NOTES                                          167
MR. SWINBURNE’S ‘POEMS AND BALLADS’ (Third Series)           173
A CHINESE SAGE                                               177
MR. PATER’S ‘APPRECIATIONS’                                  187
SENTENTIAE                                                   194



THE TOMB OF KEATS
(_Irish Monthly_, July 1877.)


As one enters Rome from the Via Ostiensis by the Porta San Paolo, the
first object that meets the eye is a marble pyramid which stands close at
hand on the left.

There are many Egyptian obelisks in Rome—tall, snakelike spires of red
sandstone, mottled with strange writings, which remind us of the pillars
of flame which led the children of Israel through the desert away from
the land of the Pharaohs; but more wonderful than these to look upon is
this gaunt, wedge-shaped pyramid standing here in this Italian city,
unshattered amid the ruins and wrecks of time, looking older than the
Eternal City itself, like terrible impassiveness turned to stone.  And so
in the Middle Ages men supposed this to be the sepulchre of Remus, who
was slain by his own brother at the founding of the city, so ancient and
mysterious it appears; but we have now, perhaps unfortunately, more
accurate information about it, and know that it is the tomb of one Caius
Cestius, a Roman gentleman of small note, who died about 30 B.C.

Yet though we cannot care much for the dead man who lies in lonely state
beneath it, and who is only known to the world through his sepulchre,
still this pyramid will be ever dear to the eyes of all English-speaking
people, because at evening its shadows fall on the tomb of one who walks
with Spenser, and Shakespeare, and Byron, and Shelley, and Elizabeth
Barrett Browning in the great procession of the sweet singers of England.

For at its foot there is a green sunny slope, known as the Old Protestant
Cemetery, and on this a common-looking grave, which bears the following
inscription:

    This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who
    on his deathbed, in the bitterness of his heart, desired these words
    to be engraven on his tombstone: HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN
    WATER.  February 24, 1821.

And the name of the young English poet is John Keats.

Lord Houghton calls this cemetery ‘one of the most beautiful spots on
which the eye and heart of man can rest,’ and Shelley speaks of it as
making one ‘in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so
sweet a place’; and indeed when I saw the violets and the daisies and the
poppies that overgrow the tomb, I remembered how the dead poet had once
told his friend that he thought the ‘intensest pleasure he had received
in life was in watching the growth of flowers,’ and how another time,
after lying a while quite still, he murmured in some strange prescience
of early death, ‘I feel the flowers growing over me.’

But this time-worn stone and these wildflowers are but poor memorials {2}
of one so great as Keats; most of all, too, in this city of Rome, which
pays such honour to her dead; where popes, and emperors, and saints, and
cardinals lie hidden in ‘porphyry wombs,’ or couched in baths of jasper
and chalcedony and malachite, ablaze with precious stones and metals, and
tended with continual service.  For very noble is the site, and worthy of
a noble monument; behind looms the grey pyramid, symbol of the world’s
age, and filled with memories of the sphinx, and the lotus leaf, and the
glories of old Nile; in front is the Monte Testaccio, built, it is said,
with the broken fragments of the vessels in which all the nations of the
East and the West brought their tribute to Rome; and a little distance
off, along the slope of the hill under the Aurelian wall, some tall gaunt
cypresses rise, like burnt-out funeral torches, to mark the spot where
Shelley’s heart (that ‘heart of hearts’!) lies in the earth; and, above
all, the soil on which we tread is very Rome!

As I stood beside the mean grave of this divine boy, I thought of him as
of a Priest of Beauty slain before his time; and the vision of Guido’s
St. Sebastian came before my eyes as I saw him at Genoa, a lovely brown
boy, with crisp, clustering hair and red lips, bound by his evil enemies
to a tree, and though pierced by arrows, raising his eyes with divine,
impassioned gaze towards the Eternal Beauty of the opening heavens.  And
thus my thoughts shaped themselves to rhyme:

                              HEU MISERANDE PUER

    Rid of the world’s injustice and its pain,
       He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue;
       Taken from life while life and love were new
    The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
    Fair as Sebastian and as foully slain.
       No cypress shades his grave, nor funeral yew,
       But red-lipped daisies, violets drenched with dew,
    And sleepy poppies, catch the evening rain.

    O proudest heart that broke for misery!
       O saddest poet that the world hath seen!
          O sweetest singer of the English land!
          Thy name was writ in water on the sand,
       But our tears shall keep thy memory green,
    And make it flourish like a Basil-tree.

    _Rome_, 1877.

_Note_.—A later version of this sonnet, under the title of ‘The Grave of
Keats,’ is given in the _Poems_, page 157.



KEATS’S SONNET ON BLUE
(_Century Guild Hobby Horse_, July 1886.)


During my tour in America I happened one evening to find myself in
Louisville, Kentucky.  The subject I had selected to speak on was the
Mission of Art in the Nineteenth Century, and in the course of my lecture
I had occasion to quote Keats’s Sonnet on Blue as an example of the
poet’s delicate sense of colour-harmonies.  When my lecture was concluded
there came round to see me a lady of middle age, with a sweet gentle
manner and a most musical voice.  She introduced herself to me as Mrs.
Speed, the daughter of George Keats, and invited me to come and examine
the Keats manuscripts in her possession.  I spent most of the next day
with her, reading the letters of Keats to her father, some of which were
at that time unpublished, poring over torn yellow leaves and faded scraps
of paper, and wondering at the little Dante in which Keats had written
those marvellous notes on Milton.  Some months afterwards, when I was in
California, I received a letter from Mrs. Speed asking my acceptance of
the original manuscript of the sonnet which I had quoted in my lecture.
This manuscript I have had reproduced here, as it seems to me to possess
much psychological interest.  It shows us the conditions that preceded
the perfected form, the gradual growth, not of the conception but of the
expression, and the workings of that spirit of selection which is the
secret of style.  In the case of poetry, as in the case of the other
arts, what may appear to be simply technicalities of method are in their
essence spiritual not mechanical, and although, in all lovely work, what
concerns us is the ultimate form, not the conditions that necessitate
that form, yet the preference that precedes perfection, the evolution of
the beauty, and the mere making of the music, have, if not their artistic
value, at least their value to the artist.

It will be remembered that this sonnet was first published in 1848 by
Lord Houghton in his _Life_, _Letters_, _and Literary Remains of John
Keats_.  Lord Houghton does not definitely state where he found it, but
it was probably among the Keats manuscripts belonging to Mr. Charles
Brown.  It is evidently taken from a version later than that in my
possession, as it accepts all the corrections, and makes three
variations.  As in my manuscript the first line is torn away, I give the
sonnet here as it appears in Lord Houghton’s edition.

    ANSWER TO A SONNET ENDING THUS:

          Dark eyes are dearer far
    Than those that make the hyacinthine bell. {5}

                                                        By J. H. REYNOLDS.

    Blue!  ’Tis the life of heaven,—the domain
       Of Cynthia,—the wide palace of the sun,—
    The tent of Hesperus and all his train,—
       The bosomer of clouds, gold, grey and dun.
    Blue!  ’Tis the life of waters—ocean
       And all its vassal streams: pools numberless
    May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can
       Subside if not to dark-blue nativeness.
    Blue! gentle cousin of the forest green,
       Married to green in all the sweetest flowers,
    Forget-me-not,—the blue-bell,—and, that queen
       Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers
    Hast thou, as a mere shadow!  But how great,
       When in an Eye thou art alive with fate!

                                                              _Feb._ 1818.

In the _Athenæum_ of the 3rd of June 1876 appeared a letter from Mr. A.
J. Horwood, stating that he had in his possession a copy of _The Garden
of Florence_ in which this sonnet was transcribed.  Mr. Horwood, who was
unaware that the sonnet had been already published by Lord Houghton,
gives the transcript at length.  His version reads _hue_ for _life_ in
the first line, and _bright_ for _wide_ in the second, and gives the
sixth line thus:

    With all his tributary streams, pools numberless,

a foot too long: it also reads _to_ for _of_ in the ninth line.  Mr.
Buxton Forman is of opinion that these variations are decidedly genuine,
but indicative of an earlier state of the poem than that adopted in Lord
Houghton’s edition.  However, now that we have before us Keats’s first
draft of his sonnet, it is difficult to believe that the sixth line in
Mr. Horwood’s version is really a genuine variation.  Keats may have
written,

                Ocean
    His tributary streams, pools numberless,

and the transcript may have been carelessly made, but having got his line
right in his first draft, Keats probably did not spoil it in his second.
The _Athenæum_ version inserts a comma after _art_ in the last line,
which seems to me a decided improvement, and eminently characteristic of
Keats’s method.  I am glad to see that Mr. Buxton Forman has adopted it.

As for the corrections that Lord Houghton’s version shows Keats to have
made in the eighth and ninth lines of this sonnet, it is evident that
they sprang from Keats’s reluctance to repeat the same word in
consecutive lines, except in cases where a word’s music or meaning was to
be emphasized.  The substitution of ‘its’ for ‘his’ in the sixth line is
more difficult of explanation.  It was due probably to a desire on
Keats’s part not to mar by any echo the fine personification of Hesperus.

It may be noticed that Keats’s own eyes were brown, and not blue, as
stated by Mrs. Proctor to Lord Houghton.  Mrs. Speed showed me a note to
that effect written by Mrs. George Keats on the margin of the page in
Lord Houghton’s _Life_ (p. 100, vol. i.), where Mrs. Proctor’s
description is given.  Cowden Clarke made a similar correction in his
_Recollections_, and in some of the later editions of Lord Houghton’s
book the word ‘blue’ is struck out.  In Severn’s portraits of Keats also
the eyes are given as brown.

The exquisite sense of colour expressed in the ninth and tenth lines may
be paralleled by

    The Ocean with its vastness, its blue green,

of the sonnet to George Keats.



DINNERS AND DISHES
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, March 7, 1885.)


A man can live for three days without bread, but no man can live for one
day without poetry, was an aphorism of Baudelaire.  You can live without
pictures and music but you cannot live without eating, says the author of
_Dinners and Dishes_; and this latter view is, no doubt, the more
popular.  Who, indeed, in these degenerate days would hesitate between an
ode and an omelette, a sonnet and a salmis?  Yet the position is not
entirely Philistine; cookery is an art; are not its principles the
subject of South Kensington lectures, and does not the Royal Academy give
a banquet once a year?  Besides, as the coming democracy will, no doubt,
insist on feeding us all on penny dinners, it is well that the laws of
cookery should be explained: for were the national meal burned, or badly
seasoned, or served up with the wrong sauce a dreadful revolution might
follow.

Under these circumstances we strongly recommend _Dinners and Dishes_ to
every one: it is brief and concise and makes no attempt at eloquence,
which is extremely fortunate.  For even on ortolans who could endure
oratory?  It also has the advantage of not being illustrated.  The
subject of a work of art has, of course, nothing to do with its beauty,
but still there is always something depressing about the coloured
lithograph of a leg of mutton.

As regards the author’s particular views, we entirely agree with him on
the important question of macaroni.  ‘Never,’ he says, ‘ask me to back a
bill for a man who has given me a macaroni pudding.’  Macaroni is
essentially a savoury dish and may be served with cheese or tomatoes but
never with sugar and milk.  There is also a useful description of how to
cook risotto—a delightful dish too rarely seen in England; an excellent
chapter on the different kinds of salads, which should be carefully
studied by those many hostesses whose imaginations never pass beyond
lettuce and beetroot; and actually a recipe for making Brussels sprouts
eatable.  The last is, of course, a masterpiece.

The real difficulty that we all have to face in life is not so much the
science of cookery as the stupidity of cooks.  And in this little
handbook to practical Epicureanism the tyrant of the English kitchen is
shown in her proper light.  Her entire ignorance of herbs, her passion
for extracts and essences, her total inability to make a soup which is
anything more than a combination of pepper and gravy, her inveterate
habit of sending up bread poultices with pheasants,—all these sins and
many others are ruthlessly unmasked by the author.  Ruthlessly and
rightly.  For the British cook is a foolish woman who should be turned
for her iniquities into a pillar of salt which she never knows how to
use.

But our author is not local merely.  He has been in many lands; he has
eaten back-hendl at Vienna and kulibatsch at St. Petersburg; he has had
the courage to face the buffalo veal of Roumania and to dine with a
German family at one o’clock; he has serious views on the right method of
cooking those famous white truffles of Turin of which Alexandre Dumas was
so fond; and, in the face of the Oriental Club, declares that Bombay
curry is better than the curry of Bengal.  In fact he seems to have had
experience of almost every kind of meal except the ‘square meal’ of the
Americans.  This he should study at once; there is a great field for the
philosophic epicure in the United States.  Boston beans may be dismissed
at once as delusions, but soft-shell crabs, terrapin, canvas-back ducks,
blue fish and the pompono of New Orleans are all wonderful delicacies,
particularly when one gets them at Delmonico’s.  Indeed, the two most
remarkable bits of scenery in the States are undoubtedly Delmonico’s and
the Yosemité Valley; and the former place has done more to promote a good
feeling between England and America than anything else has in this
century.

We hope the ‘Wanderer’ will go there soon and add a chapter to _Dinners
and Dishes_, and that his book will have in England the influence it
deserves.  There are twenty ways of cooking a potato and three hundred
and sixty-five ways of cooking an egg, yet the British cook, up to the
present moment, knows only three methods of sending up either one or the
other.

_Dinners and Dishes_.  By ‘Wanderer.’  (Simpkin and Marshall.)



SHAKESPEARE ON SCENERY
(_Dramatic Review_, March 14, 1885.)


I have often heard people wonder what Shakespeare would say, could he see
Mr. Irving’s production of his _Much Ado About Nothing_, or Mr. Wilson
Barrett’s setting of his _Hamlet_.  Would he take pleasure in the glory
of the scenery and the marvel of the colour?  Would he be interested in
the Cathedral of Messina, and the battlements of Elsinore?  Or would he
be indifferent, and say the play, and the play only, is the thing?

Speculations like these are always pleasurable, and in the present case
happen to be profitable also.  For it is not difficult to see what
Shakespeare’s attitude would be; not difficult, that is to say, if one
reads Shakespeare himself, instead of reading merely what is written
about him.

Speaking, for instance, directly, as the manager of a London theatre,
through the lips of the chorus in _Henry V._, he complains of the
smallness of the stage on which he has to produce the pageant of a big
historical play, and of the want of scenery which obliges him to cut out
many of its most picturesque incidents, apologises for the scanty number
of supers who had to play the soldiers, and for the shabbiness of the
properties, and, finally, expresses his regret at being unable to bring
on real horses.

In the _Midsummer Night’s Dream_, again, he gives us a most amusing
picture of the straits to which theatrical managers of his day were
reduced by the want of proper scenery.  In fact, it is impossible to read
him without seeing that he is constantly protesting against the two
special limitations of the Elizabethan stage—the lack of suitable
scenery, and the fashion of men playing women’s parts, just as he
protests against other difficulties with which managers of theatres have
still to contend, such as actors who do not understand their words;
actors who miss their cues; actors who overact their parts; actors who
mouth; actors who gag; actors who play to the gallery, and amateur
actors.

And, indeed, a great dramatist, as he was, could not but have felt very
much hampered at being obliged continually to interrupt the progress of a
play in order to send on some one to explain to the audience that the
scene was to be changed to a particular place on the entrance of a
particular character, and after his exit to somewhere else; that the
stage was to represent the deck of a ship in a storm, or the interior of
a Greek temple, or the streets of a certain town, to all of which
inartistic devices Shakespeare is reduced, and for which he always amply
apologizes.  Besides this clumsy method, Shakespeare had two other
substitutes for scenery—the hanging out of a placard, and his
descriptions.  The first of these could hardly have satisfied his passion
for picturesqueness and his feeling for beauty, and certainly did not
satisfy the dramatic critic of his day.  But as regards the description,
to those of us who look on Shakespeare not merely as a playwright but as
a poet, and who enjoy reading him at home just as much as we enjoy seeing
him acted, it may be a matter of congratulation that he had not at his
command such skilled machinists as are in use now at the Princess’s and
at the Lyceum.  For had Cleopatra’s barge, for instance, been a structure
of canvas and Dutch metal, it would probably have been painted over or
broken up after the withdrawal of the piece, and, even had it survived to
our own day, would, I am afraid, have become extremely shabby by this
time.  Whereas now the beaten gold of its poop is still bright, and the
purple of its sails still beautiful; its silver oars are not tired of
keeping time to the music of the flutes they follow, nor the Nereid’s
flower-soft hands of touching its silken tackle; the mermaid still lies
at its helm, and still on its deck stand the boys with their coloured
fans.  Yet lovely as all Shakespeare’s descriptive passages are, a
description is in its essence undramatic.  Theatrical audiences are far
more impressed by what they look at than by what they listen to; and the
modern dramatist, in having the surroundings of his play visibly
presented to the audience when the curtain rises, enjoys an advantage for
which Shakespeare often expresses his desire.  It is true that
Shakespeare’s descriptions are not what descriptions are in modern
plays—accounts of what the audience can observe for themselves; they are
the imaginative method by which he creates in the mind of the spectators
the image of that which he desires them to see.  Still, the quality of
the drama is action.  It is always dangerous to pause for
picturesqueness.  And the introduction of self-explanatory scenery
enables the modern method to be far more direct, while the loveliness of
form and colour which it gives us, seems to me often to create an
artistic temperament in the audience, and to produce that joy in beauty
for beauty’s sake, without which the great masterpieces of art can never
be understood, to which, and to which only, are they ever revealed.

To talk of the passion of a play being hidden by the paint, and of
sentiment being killed by scenery, is mere emptiness and folly of words.
A noble play, nobly mounted, gives us double artistic pleasure.  The eye
as well as the ear is gratified, and the whole nature is made exquisitely
receptive of the influence of imaginative work.  And as regards a bad
play, have we not all seen large audiences lured by the loveliness of
scenic effect into listening to rhetoric posing as poetry, and to
vulgarity doing duty for realism?  Whether this be good or evil for the
public I will not here discuss, but it is evident that the playwright, at
any rate, never suffers.

Indeed, the artist who really has suffered through the modern mounting of
plays is not the dramatist at all, but the scene-painter proper.  He is
rapidly being displaced by the stage-carpenter.  Now and then, at Drury
Lane, I have seen beautiful old front cloths let down, as perfect as
pictures some of them, and pure painter’s work, and there are many which
we all remember at other theatres, in front of which some dialogue was
reduced to graceful dumb-show through the hammer and tin-tacks behind.
But as a rule the stage is overcrowded with enormous properties, which
are not merely far more expensive and cumbersome than scene-paintings,
but far less beautiful, and far less true.  Properties kill perspective.
A painted door is more like a real door than a real door is itself, for
the proper conditions of light and shade can be given to it; and the
excessive use of built-up structures always makes the stage too glaring,
for as they have to be lit from behind, as well as from the front, the
gas-jets become the absolute light of the scene instead of the means
merely by which we perceive the conditions of light and shadow which the
painter has desired to show us.

So, instead of bemoaning the position of the playwright, it were better
for the critics to exert whatever influence they may possess towards
restoring the scene-painter to his proper position as an artist, and not
allowing him to be built over by the property man, or hammered to death
by the carpenter.  I have never seen any reason myself why such artists
as Mr. Beverley, Mr. Walter Hann, and Mr. Telbin should not be entitled
to become Academicians.  They have certainly as good a claim as have many
of those R.A.’s whose total inability to paint we can see every May for a
shilling.

And lastly, let those critics who hold up for our admiration the
simplicity of the Elizabethan stage remember that they are lauding a
condition of things against which Shakespeare himself, in the spirit of a
true artist, always strongly protested.



_HENRY THE FOURTH_ AT OXFORD
(_Dramatic Review_, May 23, 1885.)


I have been told that the ambition of every Dramatic Club is to act
_Henry IV_.  I am not surprised.  The spirit of comedy is as fervent in
this play as is the spirit of chivalry; it is an heroic pageant as well
as an heroic poem, and like most of Shakespeare’s historical dramas it
contains an extraordinary number of thoroughly good acting parts, each of
which is absolutely individual in character, and each of which
contributes to the evolution of the plot.

To Oxford belongs the honour of having been the first to present on the
stage this noble play, and the production which I saw last week was in
every way worthy of that lovely town, that mother of sweetness and of
light.  For, in spite of the roaring of the young lions at the Union, and
the screaming of the rabbits in the home of the vivisector, in spite of
Keble College, and the tramways, and the sporting prints, Oxford still
remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life
and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.  Indeed, in most
other towns art has often to present herself in the form of a reaction
against the sordid ugliness of ignoble lives, but at Oxford she comes to
us as an exquisite flower born of the beauty of life and expressive of
life’s joy.  She finds her home by the Isis as once she did by the
Ilissus; the Magdalen walks and the Magdalen cloisters are as dear to her
as were ever the silver olives of Colonus and the golden gateway of the
house of Pallas: she covers with fanlike tracery the vaulted entrance to
Christ Church Hall, and looks out from the windows of Merton; her feet
have stirred the Cumnor cowslips, and she gathers fritillaries in the
river-fields.  To her the clamour of the schools and the dullness of the
lecture-room are a weariness and a vexation of spirit; she seeks not to
define virtue, and cares little for the categories; she smiles on the
swift athlete whose plastic grace has pleased her, and rejoices in the
young Barbarians at their games; she watches the rowers from the reedy
bank and gives myrtle to her lovers, and laurels to her poets, and rue to
those who talk wisely in the street; she makes the earth lovely to all
who dream with Keats; she opens high heaven to all who soar with Shelley;
and turning away her head from pedant, proctor and Philistine, she has
welcomed to her shrine a band of youthful actors, knowing that they have
sought with much ardour for the stern secret of Melpomene, and caught
with much gladness the sweet laughter of Thalia.  And to me this ardour
and this gladness were the two most fascinating qualities of the Oxford
performance, as indeed they are qualities which are necessary to any fine
dramatic production.  For without quick and imaginative observation of
life the most beautiful play becomes dull in presentation, and what is
not conceived in delight by the actor can give no delight at all to
others.

I know that there are many who consider that Shakespeare is more for the
study than for the stage.  With this view I do not for a moment agree.
Shakespeare wrote the plays to be acted, and we have no right to alter
the form which he himself selected for the full expression of his work.
Indeed, many of the beauties of that work can be adequately conveyed to
us only through the actor’s art.  As I sat in the Town Hall of Oxford the
other night, the majesty of the mighty lines of the play seemed to me to
gain new music from the clear young voices that uttered them, and the
ideal grandeur of the heroism to be made more real to the spectators by
the chivalrous bearing, the noble gesture and the fine passion of its
exponents.  Even the dresses had their dramatic value.  Their
archæological accuracy gave us, immediately on the rise of the curtain, a
perfect picture of the time.  As the knights and nobles moved across the
stage in the flowing robes of peace and in the burnished steel of battle,
we needed no dreary chorus to tell us in what age or land the play’s
action was passing, for the fifteenth century in all the dignity and
grace of its apparel was living actually before us, and the delicate
harmonies of colour struck from the first a dominant note of beauty which
added to the intellectual realism of archæology the sensuous charm of
art.

I have rarely seen a production better stage-managed.  Indeed, I hope
that the University will take some official notice of this delightful
work of art.  Why should not degrees be granted for good acting?  Are
they not given to those who misunderstand Plato and who mistranslate
Aristotle?  And should the artist be passed over?  No.  To Prince Hal,
Hotspur and Falstaff, D.C.L.’s should be gracefully offered.  I feel sure
they would be gracefully accepted.  To the rest of the company the
crimson or the sheepskin hood might be assigned _honoris causâ_ to the
eternal confusion of the Philistine, and the rage of the industrious and
the dull.  Thus would Oxford confer honour on herself, and the artist be
placed in his proper position.  However, whether or not Convocation
recognizes the claims of culture, I hope that the Oxford Dramatic Society
will produce every summer for us some noble play like _Henry IV_.  For,
in plays of this kind, plays which deal with bygone times, there is
always this peculiar charm, that they combine in one exquisite
presentation the passions that are living with the picturesqueness that
is dead.  And when we have the modern spirit given to us in an antique
form, the very remoteness of that form can be made a method of increased
realism.  This was Shakespeare’s own attitude towards the ancient world,
this is the attitude we in this century should adopt towards his plays,
and with a feeling akin to this it seemed to me that these brilliant
young Oxonians were working.  If it was so, their aim is the right one.
For while we look to the dramatist to give romance to realism, we ask of
the actor to give realism to romance.



A HANDBOOK TO MARRIAGE
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, November 18, 1885.)


In spite of its somewhat alarming title this book may be highly
recommended to every one.  As for the authorities the author quotes, they
are almost numberless, and range from Socrates down to Artemus Ward.  He
tells us of the wicked bachelor who spoke of marriage as ‘a very harmless
amusement’ and advised a young friend of his to ‘marry early and marry
often’; of Dr. Johnson who proposed that marriage should be arranged by
the Lord Chancellor, without the parties concerned having any choice in
the matter; of the Sussex labourer who asked, ‘Why should I give a woman
half my victuals for cooking the other half?’ and of Lord Verulam who
thought that unmarried men did the best public work.  And, indeed,
marriage is the one subject on which all women agree and all men
disagree.  Our author, however, is clearly of the same opinion as the
Scotch lassie who, on her father warning her what a solemn thing it was
to get married, answered, ‘I ken that, father, but it’s a great deal
solemner to be single.’  He may be regarded as the champion of the
married life.  Indeed, he has a most interesting chapter on marriage-made
men, and though he dissents, and we think rightly, from the view recently
put forward by a lady or two on the Women’s Rights platform that Solomon
owed all his wisdom to the number of his wives, still he appeals to
Bismarck, John Stuart Mill, Mahommed, and Lord Beaconsfield, as instances
of men whose success can be traced to the influence of the women they
married.  Archbishop Whately once defined woman as ‘a creature that does
not reason and pokes the fire from the top,’ but since his day the higher
education of women has considerably altered their position.  Women have
always had an emotional sympathy with those they love; Girton and Newnham
have rendered intellectual sympathy also possible.  In our day it is best
for a man to be married, and men must give up the tyranny in married life
which was once so dear to them, and which, we are afraid, lingers still,
here and there.

‘Do you wish to be my wife, Mabel?’ said a little boy.  ‘Yes,’
incautiously answered Mabel.  ‘Then pull off my boots.’

On marriage vows our author has, too, very sensible views and very
amusing stories.  He tells of a nervous bridegroom who, confusing the
baptismal and marriage ceremonies, replied when asked if he consented to
take the bride for his wife: ‘I renounce them all’; of a Hampshire rustic
who, when giving the ring, said solemnly to the bride: ‘With my body I
thee wash up, and with all my hurdle goods I thee and thou’; of another
who when asked whether he would take his partner to be his wedded wife,
replied with shameful indecision: ‘Yes, I’m willin’; but I’d a sight
rather have her sister’; and of a Scotch lady who, on the occasion of her
daughter’s wedding, was asked by an old friend whether she might
congratulate her on the event, and answered: ‘Yes, yes, upon the whole it
is very satisfactory; it is true Jeannie hates her gudeman, but then
there’s always a something!’  Indeed, the good stories contained in this
book are quite endless and make it very pleasant reading, while the good
advice is on all points admirable.

Most young married people nowadays start in life with a dreadful
collection of ormolu inkstands covered with sham onyxes, or with a
perfect museum of salt-cellars.  We strongly recommend this book as one
of the best of wedding presents.  It is a complete handbook to an earthly
Paradise, and its author may be regarded as the Murray of matrimony and
the Baedeker of bliss.

_How to be Happy though Married_: _Being a Handbook to Marriage_.  By a
Graduate in the University of Matrimony.  (T. Fisher Unwin.)



TO READ OR NOT TO READ
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, February 8, 1886.)


Books, I fancy, may be conveniently divided into three classes:

1.  Books to read, such as Cicero’s _Letters_, Suetonius, Vasari’s _Lives
of the Painters_, the _Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini_, Sir John
Mandeville, Marco Polo, St. Simon’s _Memoirs_, Mommsen, and (till we get
a better one) Grote’s _History of Greece_.

2.  Books to re-read, such as Plato and Keats: in the sphere of poetry,
the masters not the minstrels; in the sphere of philosophy, the seers not
the _savants_.

3.  Books not to read at all, such as Thomson’s _Seasons_, Rogers’s
_Italy_, Paley’s _Evidences_, all the Fathers except St. Augustine, all
John Stuart Mill except the essay on _Liberty_, all Voltaire’s plays
without any exception, Butler’s _Analogy_, Grant’s _Aristotle_, Hume’s
_England_, Lewes’s _History of Philosophy_, all argumentative books and
all books that try to prove anything.

The third class is by far the most important.  To tell people what to
read is, as a rule, either useless or harmful; for, the appreciation of
literature is a question of temperament not of teaching; to Parnassus
there is no primer and nothing that one can learn is ever worth learning.
But to tell people what not to read is a very different matter, and I
venture to recommend it as a mission to the University Extension Scheme.

Indeed, it is one that is eminently needed in this age of ours, an age
that reads so much, that it has no time to admire, and writes so much,
that it has no time to think.  Whoever will select out of the chaos of
our modern curricula ‘The Worst Hundred Books,’ and publish a list of
them, will confer on the rising generation a real and lasting benefit.

After expressing these views I suppose I should not offer any suggestions
at all with regard to ‘The Best Hundred Books,’ but I hope you will allow
me the pleasure of being inconsistent, as I am anxious to put in a claim
for a book that has been strangely omitted by most of the excellent
judges who have contributed to your columns.  I mean the _Greek
Anthology_.  The beautiful poems contained in this collection seem to me
to hold the same position with regard to Greek dramatic literature as do
the delicate little figurines of Tanagra to the Phidian marbles, and to
be quite as necessary for the complete understanding of the Greek spirit.

I am also amazed to find that Edgar Allan Poe has been passed over.
Surely this marvellous lord of rhythmic expression deserves a place?  If,
in order to make room for him, it be necessary to elbow out some one
else, I should elbow out Southey, and I think that Baudelaire might be
most advantageously substituted for Keble.

No doubt, both in the _Curse of Kehama_ and in the _Christian Year_ there
are poetic qualities of a certain kind, but absolute catholicity of taste
is not without its dangers.  It is only an auctioneer who should admire
all schools of art.



THE LETTERS OF A GREAT WOMAN
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, March 6, 1886.)


Of the many collections of letters that have appeared in this century
few, if any, can rival for fascination of style and variety of incident
the letters of George Sand which have recently been translated into
English by M. Ledos de Beaufort.  They extend over a space of more than
sixty years, from 1812 to 1876, in fact, and comprise the first letters
of Aurore Dupin, a child of eight years old, as well as the last letters
of George Sand, a woman of seventy-two.  The very early letters, those of
the child and of the young married woman, possess, of course, merely a
psychological interest; but from 1831, the date of Madame Dudevant’s
separation from her husband and her first entry into Paris life, the
interest becomes universal, and the literary and political history of
France is mirrored in every page.

For George Sand was an indefatigable correspondent; she longs in one of
her letters, it is true, for ‘a planet where reading and writing are
absolutely unknown,’ but still she had a real pleasure in letter-writing.
Her greatest delight was the communication of ideas, and she is always in
the heart of the battle.  She discusses pauperism with Louis Napoleon in
his prison at Ham, and liberty with Armand Barbes in his dungeon at
Vincennes; she writes to Lamennais on philosophy, to Mazzini on
socialism, to Lamartine on democracy, and to Ledru-Rollin on justice.
Her letters reveal to us not merely the life of a great novelist but the
soul of a great woman, of a woman who was one with all the noblest
movements of her day and whose sympathy with humanity was boundless
absolutely.  For the aristocracy of intellect she had always the deepest
veneration, but the democracy of suffering touched her more.  She
preached the regeneration of mankind, not with the noisy ardour of the
paid advocate, but with the enthusiasm of the true evangelist.  Of all
the artists of this century she was the most altruistic; she felt every
one’s misfortunes except her own.  Her faith never left her; to the end
of her life, as she tells us, she was able to believe without illusions.
But the people disappointed her a little.  She saw that they followed
persons not principles, and for ‘the great man theory’ George Sand had no
respect.  ‘Proper names are the enemies of principles’ is one of her
aphorisms.

So from 1850 her letters are more distinctly literary.  She discusses
modern realism with Flaubert, and play-writing with Dumas _fils_; and
protests with passionate vehemence against the doctrine of _L’art pour
l’art_.  ‘Art for the sake of itself is an idle sentence,’ she writes;
‘art for the sake of truth, for the sake of what is beautiful and good,
that is the creed I seek.’  And in a delightful letter to M. Charles
Poncy she repeats the same idea very charmingly.  ‘People say that birds
sing for the sake of singing, but I doubt it.  They sing their loves and
happiness, and in that they are in keeping with nature.  But man must do
something more, and poets only sing in order to move people and to make
them think.’  She wanted M. Poncy to be the poet of the people and, if
good advice were all that had been needed, he would certainly have been
the Burns of the workshop.  She drew out a delightful scheme for a volume
to be called _Songs of all Trades_ and saw the possibilities of making
handicrafts poetic.  Perhaps she valued good intentions in art a little
too much, and she hardly understood that art for art’s sake is not meant
to express the final cause of art but is merely a formula of creation;
but, as she herself had scaled Parnassus, we must not quarrel at her
bringing Proletarianism with her.  For George Sand must be ranked among
our poetic geniuses.  She regarded the novel as still within the domain
of poetry.  Her heroes are not dead photographs; they are great
possibilities.  Modern novels are dissections; hers are dreams.  ‘I make
popular types,’ she writes, ‘such as I do no longer see, but such as they
should and might be.’  For realism, in M. Zola’s acceptation of the word,
she had no admiration.  Art to her was a mirror that transfigured truths
but did not represent realities.  Hence she could not understand art
without personality.  ‘I am aware,’ she writes to Flaubert, ‘that you are
opposed to the exposition of personal doctrine in literature.  Are you
right?  Does not your opposition proceed rather from a want of conviction
than from a principle of æsthetics?  If we have any philosophy in our
brain it must needs break forth in our writings.  But you, as soon as you
handle literature, you seem anxious, I know not why, to be another man,
the one who must disappear, who annihilates himself and is no more.  What
a singular mania!  What a deficient taste!  The worth of our productions
depends entirely on our own.  Besides, if we withhold our own opinions
respecting the personages we create, we naturally leave the reader in
uncertainty as to the opinion he should himself form of them.  That
amounts to wishing not to be understood, and the result of this is that
the reader gets weary of us and leaves us.’

She herself, however, may be said to have suffered from too dominant a
personality, and this was the reason of the failure of most of her plays.

Of the drama in the sense of disinterested presentation she had no idea,
and what is the strength and life-blood of her novels is the weakness of
her dramatic works.  But in the main she was right.  Art without
personality is impossible.  And yet the aim of art is not to reveal
personality, but to please.  This she hardly recognized in her æsthetics,
though she realized it in her work.  On literary style she has some
excellent remarks.  She dislikes the extravagances of the romantic school
and sees the beauty of simplicity.  ‘Simplicity,’ she writes, ‘is the
most difficult thing to secure in this world: it is the last limit of
experience and the last effort of genius.’  She hated the slang and
_argot_ of Paris life, and loved the words used by the peasants in the
provinces.  ‘The provinces,’ she remarks, ‘preserve the tradition of the
original tongue and create but few new words.  I feel much respect for
the language of the peasantry; in my estimation it is the more correct.’

She thought Flaubert too much preoccupied with the sense of form, and
makes these excellent observations to him—perhaps her best piece of
literary criticism.  ‘You consider the form as the aim, whereas it is but
the effect.  Happy expressions are only the outcome of emotion and
emotion itself proceeds from a conviction.  We are only moved by that
which we ardently believe in.’  Literary schools she distrusted.
Individualism was to her the keystone of art as well as of life.  ‘Do not
belong to any school: do not imitate any model,’ is her advice.  Yet she
never encouraged eccentricity.  ‘Be correct,’ she writes to Eugène
Pelletan, ‘that is rarer than being eccentric, as the time goes.  It is
much more common to please by bad taste than to receive the cross of
honour.’

On the whole, her literary advice is sound and healthy.  She never
shrieks and she never sneers.  She is the incarnation of good sense.  And
the whole collection of her letters is a perfect treasure-house of
suggestions both on art and on politics.

_Letters of George Sand_.  Translated and edited by Raphael Ledos de
Beaufort.  (Ward and Downey.)



BÉRANGER IN ENGLAND
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, April 21, 1886.)


A philosophic politician once remarked that the best possible form of
government is an absolute monarchy tempered by street ballads.

Without at all agreeing with this aphorism we still cannot but regret
that the new democracy does not use poetry as a means for the expression
of political opinion.  The Socialists, it is true, have been heard
singing the later poems of Mr. William Morris, but the street ballad is
really dead in England.  The fact is that most modern poetry is so
artificial in its form, so individual in its essence and so literary in
its style, that the people as a body are little moved by it, and when
they have grievances against the capitalist or the aristocrat they prefer
strikes to sonnets and rioting to rondels.

Possibly, Mr. William Toynbee’s pleasant little volume of translations
from Béranger may be the herald of a new school.  Béranger had all the
qualifications for a popular poet.  He wrote to be sung more than to be
read; he preferred the Pont Neuf to Parnassus; he was patriotic as well
as romantic, and humorous as well as humane.  Translations of poetry as a
rule are merely misrepresentations, but the muse of Béranger is so simple
and naïve that she can wear our English dress with ease and grace, and
Mr. Toynbee has kept much of the mirth and music of the original.  Here
and there, undoubtedly, the translation could be improved upon; ‘rapiers’
for instance is an abominable rhyme to ‘forefathers’; ‘the hated arms of
Albion’ in the same poem is a very feeble rendering of ‘le léopard de
l’Anglais,’ and such a verse as

    ’Mid France’s miracles of art,
       Rare trophies won from art’s own land,
    I’ve lived to see with burning heart
       The fog-bred poor triumphant stand,

reproduces very inadequately the charm of the original:

    Dans nos palais, où, près de la victoire,
    Brillaient les arts, doux fruits des beaux climats,
    J’ai vu du Nord les peuplades sans gloire,
    De leurs manteaux secouer les frimas.

On the whole, however, Mr. Toynbee’s work is good; _Les Champs_, for
example, is very well translated, and so are the two delightful poems
_Rosette_ and _Ma République_; and there is a good deal of spirit in _Le
Marquis de Carabas_:

    Whom have we here in conqueror’s _rôle_?
    Our grand old marquis, bless his soul!
    Whose grand old charger (mark his bone!)
    Has borne him back to claim his own.
    Note, if you please, the grand old style
    In which he nears his grand old pile;
    With what an air of grand old state
    He waves that blade immaculate!
       Hats off, hats off, for my lord to pass,
       The grand old Marquis of Carabas!—

though ‘that blade immaculate’ has hardly got the sting of ‘un sabre
innocent’; and in the fourth verse of the same poem, ‘Marquise, you’ll
have the bed-chamber’ does not very clearly convey the sense of the line
‘La Marquise a le tabouret.’  Béranger is not nearly well enough known in
England, and though it is always better to read a poet in the original,
still translations have their value as echoes have their music.

_A Selection from the Songs of De Béranger in English Verse_.  By William
Toynbee.  (Kegan Paul.)



THE POETRY OF THE PEOPLE
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, May 13, 1886.)


The Countess Martinengo deserves well of all poets, peasants and
publishers.  Folk-lore is so often treated nowadays merely from the point
of view of the comparative mythologist, that it is really delightful to
come across a book that deals with the subject simply as literature.  For
the Folk-tale is the father of all fiction as the Folk-song is the mother
of all poetry; and in the games, the tales and the ballads of primitive
people it is easy to see the germs of such perfected forms of art as the
drama, the novel and the epic.  It is, of course, true that the highest
expression of life is to be found not in the popular songs, however
poetical, of any nation, but in the great masterpieces of self-conscious
Art; yet it is pleasant sometimes to leave the summit of Parnassus to
look at the wildflowers in the valley, and to turn from the lyre of
Apollo to listen to the reed of Pan.  We can still listen to it.  To this
day, the vineyard dressers of Calabria will mock the passer-by with
satirical verses as they used to do in the old pagan days, and the
peasants of the olive woods of Provence answer each other in amœbæan
strains.  The Sicilian shepherd has not yet thrown his pipe aside, and
the children of modern Greece sing the swallow-song through the villages
in spring-time, though Theognis is more than two thousand years dead.
Nor is this popular poetry merely the rhythmic expression of joy and
sorrow; it is in the highest degree imaginative; and taking its
inspiration directly from nature it abounds in realistic metaphor and in
picturesque and fantastic imagery.  It must, of course, be admitted that
there is a conventionality of nature as there is a conventionality of
art, and that certain forms of utterance are apt to become stereotyped by
too constant use; yet, on the whole, it is impossible not to recognize in
the Folk-songs that the Countess Martinengo has brought together one
strong dominant note of fervent and flawless sincerity.  Indeed, it is
only in the more terrible dramas of the Elizabethan age that we can find
any parallel to the Corsican _voceri_ with their shrill intensity of
passion, their awful frenzies of grief and hate.  And yet, ardent as the
feeling is, the form is nearly always beautiful.  Now and then, in the
poems of the extreme South one meets with a curious crudity of realism,
but, as a rule, the sense of beauty prevails.

Some of the Folk-poems in this book have all the lightness and loveliness
of lyrics, all of them have that sweet simplicity of pure song by which
mirth finds its own melody and mourning its own music, and even where
there are conceits of thought and expression they are conceits born of
fancy not of affectation.  Herrick himself might have envied that
wonderful love-song of Provence:

    If thou wilt be the falling dew
       And fall on me alway,
    Then I will be the white, white rose
       On yonder thorny spray.
    If thou wilt be the white, white rose
       On yonder thorny spray,
    Then I will be the honey-bee
       And kiss thee all the day.

    If thou wilt be the honey-bee
       And kiss me all the day,
    Then I will be in yonder heaven
       The star of brightest ray.
    If thou wilt be in yonder heaven
       The star of brightest ray,
    Then I will be the dawn, and we
       Shall meet at break of day.

How charming also is this lullaby by which the Corsican mother sings her
babe to sleep!

    Gold and pearls my vessel lade,
       Silk and cloth the cargo be,
    All the sails are of brocade
       Coming from beyond the sea;
    And the helm of finest gold,
    Made a wonder to behold.
       Fast awhile in slumber lie;
       Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

    After you were born full soon,
       You were christened all aright;
    Godmother she was the moon,
       Godfather the sun so bright.
    All the stars in heaven told
    Wore their necklaces of gold.
       Fast awhile in slumber lie;
       Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

Or this from Roumania:

    Sleep, my daughter, sleep an hour;
    Mother’s darling gilliflower.
    Mother rocks thee, standing near,
    She will wash thee in the clear
    Waters that from fountains run,
    To protect thee from the sun.

    Sleep, my darling, sleep an hour,
    Grow thou as the gilliflower.
    As a tear-drop be thou white,
    As a willow tall and slight;
    Gentle as the ring-doves are,
    And be lovely as a star!

We hardly know what poems are sung to English babies, but we hope they
are as beautiful as these two.  Blake might have written them.

The Countess Martinengo has certainly given us a most fascinating book.
In a volume of moderate dimensions, not too long to be tiresome nor too
brief to be disappointing, she has collected together the best examples
of modern Folk-songs, and with her as a guide the lazy reader lounging in
his armchair may wander from the melancholy pine-forests of the North to
Sicily’s orange-groves and the pomegranate gardens of Armenia, and listen
to the singing of those to whom poetry is a passion, not a profession,
and whose art, coming from inspiration and not from schools, if it has
the limitations, at least has also the loveliness of its origin, and is
one with blowing grasses and the flowers of the field.

_Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs_.  By the Countess Evelyn Martinengo
Césaresco.  (Redway.)



_THE CENCI_
(_Dramatic Review_, May 15, 1886.)


The production of _The Cenci_ last week at the Grand Theatre, Islington,
may be said to have been an era in the literary history of this century,
and the Shelley Society deserves the highest praise and warmest thanks of
all for having given us an opportunity of seeing Shelley’s play under the
conditions he himself desired for it.  For _The Cenci_ was written
absolutely with a view to theatric presentation, and had Shelley’s own
wishes been carried out it would have been produced during his lifetime
at Covent Garden, with Edmund Kean and Miss O’Neill in the principal
parts.  In working out his conception, Shelley had studied very carefully
the æsthetics of dramatic art.  He saw that the essence of the drama is
disinterested presentation, and that the characters must not be merely
mouthpieces for splendid poetry but must be living subjects for terror
and for pity.  ‘I have endeavoured,’ he says, ‘as nearly as possible to
represent the characters as they probably were, and have sought to avoid
the error of making them actuated by my own conception of right or wrong,
false or true: thus under a thin veil converting names and actions of the
sixteenth century into cold impersonations of my own mind. . . .

‘I have avoided with great care the introduction of what is commonly
called mere poetry, and I imagine there will scarcely be found a detached
simile or a single isolated description, unless Beatrice’s description of
the chasm appointed for her father’s murder should be judged to be of
that nature.’

He recognized that a dramatist must be allowed far greater freedom of
expression than what is conceded to a poet.  ‘In a dramatic composition,’
to use his own words, ‘the imagery and the passion should interpenetrate
one another, the former being reserved simply for the full development
and illustration of the latter.  Imagination is as the immortal God which
should assume flesh for the redemption of mortal passion.  It is thus
that the most remote and the most familiar imagery may alike be fit for
dramatic purposes when employed in the illustration of strong feeling,
which raises what is low, and levels to the apprehension that which is
lofty, casting over all the shadow of its own greatness.  In other
respects I have written more carelessly, that is, without an
over-fastidious and learned choice of words.  In this respect I entirely
agree with those modern critics who assert that in order to move men to
true sympathy we must use the familiar language of men.’

He knew that if the dramatist is to teach at all it must be by example,
not by precept.

‘The highest moral purpose,’ he remarks, ‘aimed at in the highest species
of the drama, is the teaching the human heart, through its sympathies and
antipathies, the knowledge of itself; in proportion to the possession of
which knowledge every human being is wise, just, sincere, tolerant and
kind.  If dogmas can do more it is well: but a drama is no fit place for
the enforcement of them.’  He fully realizes that it is by a conflict
between our artistic sympathies and our moral judgment that the greatest
dramatic effects are produced.  ‘It is in the restless and anatomizing
casuistry with which men seek the justification of Beatrice, yet feel
that she has done what needs justification; it is in the superstitious
horror with which they contemplate alike her wrongs and their revenge,
that the dramatic character of what she did and suffered consists.’

In fact no one has more clearly understood than Shelley the mission of
the dramatist and the meaning of the drama.



BALZAC IN ENGLISH
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, September 13, 1886.)


Many years ago, in a number of _All the Year Round_, Charles Dickens
complained that Balzac was very little read in England, and although
since then the public has become more familiar with the great
masterpieces of French fiction, still it may be doubted whether the
_Comédie Humaine_ is at all appreciated or understood by the general run
of novel readers.  It is really the greatest monument that literature has
produced in our century, and M. Taine hardly exaggerates when he says
that, after Shakespeare, Balzac is our most important magazine of
documents on human nature.  Balzac’s aim, in fact, was to do for humanity
what Buffon had done for the animal creation.  As the naturalist studied
lions and tigers, so the novelist studied men and women.  Yet he was no
mere reporter.  Photography and _procès-verbal_ were not the essentials
of his method.  Observation gave him the facts of life, but his genius
converted facts into truths, and truths into truth.  He was, in a word, a
marvellous combination of the artistic temperament with the scientific
spirit.  The latter he bequeathed to his disciples; the former was
entirely his own.  The distinction between such a book as M. Zola’s
_L’Assommoir_ and such a book as Balzac’s _Illusions Perdues_ is the
distinction between unimaginative realism and imaginative reality.  ‘All
Balzac’s characters,’ said Baudelaire, ‘are gifted with the same ardour
of life that animated himself.  All his fictions are as deeply coloured
as dreams.  Every mind is a weapon loaded to the muzzle with will.  The
very scullions have genius.’  He was, of course, accused of being
immoral.  Few writers who deal directly with life escape that charge.
His answer to the accusation was characteristic and conclusive.  ‘Whoever
contributes his stone to the edifice of ideas,’ he wrote, ‘whoever
proclaims an abuse, whoever sets his mark upon an evil to be abolished,
always passes for immoral.  If you are true in your portraits, if, by
dint of daily and nightly toil, you succeed in writing the most difficult
language in the world, the word immoral is thrown in your face.’  The
morals of the personages of the _Comédie Humaine_ are simply the morals
of the world around us.  They are part of the artist’s subject-matter;
they are not part of his method.  If there be any need of censure it is
to life, not to literature, that it should be given.  Balzac, besides, is
essentially universal.  He sees life from every point of view.  He has no
preferences and no prejudices.  He does not try to prove anything.  He
feels that the spectacle of life contains its own secret.  ‘Il crée un
monde et se tait.’

And what a world it is!  What a panorama of passions!  What a pell-mell
of men and women!  It was said of Trollope that he increased the number
of our acquaintances without adding to our visiting list; but after the
_Comédie Humaine_ one begins to believe that the only real people are the
people who never existed.  Lucien de Rubempré, le Père Goriot, Ursule
Mirouët, Marguerite Claës, the Baron Hulot, Madame Marneffe, le Cousin
Pons, De Marsay—all bring with them a kind of contagious illusion of
life.  They have a fierce vitality about them: their existence is fervent
and fiery-coloured; we not merely feel for them but we see them—they
dominate our fancy and defy scepticism.  A steady course of Balzac
reduces our living friends to shadows, and our acquaintances to the
shadows of shades.  Who would care to go out to an evening party to meet
Tomkins, the friend of one’s boyhood, when one can sit at home with
Lucien de Rubempré?  It is pleasanter to have the entrée to Balzac’s
society than to receive cards from all the duchesses in Mayfair.

In spite of this, there are many people who have declared the _Comédie
Humaine_ to be indigestible.  Perhaps it is: but then what about
truffles?  Balzac’s publisher refused to be disturbed by any such
criticism as that.  ‘Indigestible, is it?’ he exclaimed with what, for a
publisher, was rare good sense.  ‘Well, I should hope so; who ever thinks
of a dinner that isn’t?’

Balzac’s Novels in English.  _The Duchesse de Langeais and Other
Stories_; _César Birotteau_.  (Routledge and Sons.)



BEN JONSON
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, September 20, 1886.)


As for Mr. Symonds’ estimate of Jonson’s genius, it is in many points
quite excellent.  He ranks him with the giants rather than with the gods,
with those who compel our admiration by their untiring energy and huge
strength of intellectual muscle, not with those ‘who share the divine
gifts of creative imagination and inevitable instinct.’  Here he is
right.  Pelion more than Parnassus was Jonson’s home.  His art has too
much effort about it, too much definite intention.  His style lacks the
charm of chance.  Mr. Symonds is right also in the stress he lays on the
extraordinary combination in Jonson’s work of the most concentrated
realism with encyclopædic erudition.  In Jonson’s comedies London slang
and learned scholarship go hand in hand.  Literature was as living a
thing to him as life itself.  He used his classical lore not merely to
give form to his verse, but to give flesh and blood to the persons of his
plays.  He could build up a breathing creature out of quotations.  He
made the poets of Greece and Rome terribly modern, and introduced them to
the oddest company.  His very culture is an element in his coarseness.
There are moments when one is tempted to liken him to a beast that has
fed off books.

We cannot, however, agree with Mr. Symonds when he says that Jonson
‘rarely touched more than the outside of character,’ that his men and
women are ‘the incarnations of abstract properties rather than living
human beings,’ that they are in fact mere ‘masqueraders and mechanical
puppets.’  Eloquence is a beautiful thing but rhetoric ruins many a
critic, and Mr. Symonds is essentially rhetorical.  When, for instance,
he tells us that ‘Jonson made masks,’ while ‘Dekker and Heywood created
souls,’ we feel that he is asking us to accept a crude judgment for the
sake of a smart antithesis.  It is, of course, true that we do not find
in Jonson the same growth of character that we find in Shakespeare, and
we may admit that most of the characters in Jonson’s plays are, so to
speak, ready-made.  But a ready-made character is not necessarily either
mechanical or wooden, two epithets Mr. Symonds uses constantly in his
criticism.

We cannot tell, and Shakespeare himself does not tell us, why Iago is
evil, why Regan and Goneril have hard hearts, or why Sir Andrew Aguecheek
is a fool.  It is sufficient that they are what they are, and that nature
gives warrant for their existence.  If a character in a play is lifelike,
if we recognize it as true to nature, we have no right to insist on the
author explaining its genesis to us.  We must accept it as it is: and in
the hands of a good dramatist mere presentation can take the place of
analysis, and indeed is often a more dramatic method, because a more
direct one.  And Jonson’s characters are true to nature.  They are in no
sense abstractions; they are types.  Captain Bobadil and Captain Tucca,
Sir John Daw and Sir Amorous La Foole, Volpone and Mosca, Subtle and Sir
Epicure Mammon, Mrs. Purecraft and the Rabbi Busy are all creatures of
flesh and blood, none the less lifelike because they are labelled.  In
this point Mr. Symonds seems to us unjust towards Jonson.

We think, also, that a special chapter might have been devoted to Jonson
as a literary critic.  The creative activity of the English Renaissance
is so great that its achievements in the sphere of criticism are often
overlooked by the student.  Then, for the first time, was language
treated as an art.  The laws of expression and composition were
investigated and formularized.  The importance of words was recognized.
Romanticism, Realism and Classicism fought their first battles.  The
dramatists are full of literary and art criticisms, and amused the public
with slashing articles on one another in the form of plays.

‘English Worthies.’  Edited by Andrew Lang.  _Ben Jonson_.  By John
Addington Symonds.  (Longmans, Green and Co.)



MR. SYMONDS’ HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, November 10, 1886.)


Mr. Symonds has at last finished his history of the Italian Renaissance.
The two volumes just published deal with the intellectual and moral
conditions in Italy during the seventy years of the sixteenth century
which followed the coronation of Charles the Fifth at Bologna, an era to
which Mr. Symonds gives the name of the Catholic Reaction, and they
contain a most interesting and valuable account of the position of Spain
in the Italian peninsula, the conduct of the Tridentine Council, the
specific organization of the Holy Office and the Company of Jesus, and
the state of society upon which those forces were brought to bear.  In
his previous volumes Mr. Symonds had regarded the past rather as a
picture to be painted than as a problem to be solved.  In these two last
volumes, however, he shows a clearer appreciation of the office of
history.  The art of the picturesque chronicler is completed by something
like the science of the true historian, the critical spirit begins to
manifest itself, and life is not treated as a mere spectacle, but the
laws of its evolution and progress are investigated also.  We admit that
the desire to represent life at all costs under dramatic conditions still
accompanies Mr. Symonds, and that he hardly realizes that what seems
romance to us was harsh reality to those who were engaged in it.  Like
most dramatists, also, he is more interested in the psychological
exceptions than in the general rule.  He has something of Shakespeare’s
sovereign contempt of the masses.  The people stir him very little, but
he is fascinated by great personalities.  Yet it is only fair to remember
that the age itself was one of exaggerated individualism, and that
literature had not yet become a mouthpiece for the utterances of
humanity.  Men appreciated the aristocracy of intellect, but with the
democracy of suffering they had no sympathy.  The cry from the
brickfields had still to be heard.  Mr. Symonds’ style, too, has much
improved.  Here and there, it is true, we come across traces of the old
manner, as in the apocalyptic vision of the seven devils that entered
Italy with the Spaniard, and the description of the Inquisition as a
Belial-Moloch, a ‘hideous idol whose face was blackened with soot from
burning human flesh.’  Such a sentence, also, as ‘over the Dead Sea of
social putrefaction floated the sickening oil of Jesuitical hypocrisy,’
reminds us that rhetoric has not yet lost its charms for Mr. Symonds.
Still, on the whole, the style shows far more reserve, balance and
sobriety, than can be found in the earlier volumes where violent
antithesis forms the predominant characteristic, and accuracy is often
sacrificed to an adjective.

Amongst the most interesting chapters of the book are those on the
Inquisition, on Sarpi, the great champion of the severance of Church from
State, and on Giordano Bruno.  Indeed, the story of Bruno’s life, from
his visit to London and Oxford, his sojourn in Paris and wanderings
through Germany, down to his betrayal at Venice and martyrdom at Rome, is
most powerfully told, and the estimate of the value of his philosophy and
the relation he holds to modern science, is at once just and
appreciative.  The account also of Ignatius Loyola and the rise of the
Society of Jesus is extremely interesting, though we cannot think that
Mr. Symonds is very happy in his comparison of the Jesuits to ‘fanatics
laying stones upon a railway’ or ‘dynamiters blowing up an emperor or a
corner of Westminster Hall.’  Such a judgment is harsh and crude in
expression and more suitable to the clamour of the Protestant Union than
to the dignity of the true historian.  Mr. Symonds, however, is rarely
deliberately unfair, and there is no doubt but that his work on the
Catholic Reaction is a most valuable contribution to modern history—so
valuable, indeed, that in the account he gives of the Inquisition in
Venice it would be well worth his while to bring the picturesque fiction
of the text into some harmony with the plain facts of the footnote.

On the poetry of the sixteenth century Mr. Symonds has, of course, a
great deal to say, and on such subjects he always writes with ease,
grace, and delicacy of perception.  We admit that we weary sometimes of
the continual application to literature of epithets appropriate to
plastic and pictorial art.  The conception of the unity of the arts is
certainly of great value, but in the present condition of criticism it
seems to us that it would be more useful to emphasize the fact that each
art has its separate method of expression.  The essay on Tasso, however,
is delightful reading, and the position the poet holds towards modern
music and modern sentiment is analysed with much subtlety.  The essay on
Marino also is full of interest.  We have often wondered whether those
who talk so glibly of Euphuism and Marinism in literature have ever read
either _Euphues_ or the _Adone_.  To the latter they can have no better
guide than Mr. Symonds, whose description of the poem is most
fascinating.  Marino, like many greater men, has suffered much from his
disciples, but he himself was a master of graceful fancy and of exquisite
felicity of phrase; not, of course, a great poet but certainly an artist
in poetry and one to whom language is indebted.  Even those conceits that
Mr. Symonds feels bound to censure have something charming about them.
The continual use of periphrases is undoubtedly a grave fault in style,
yet who but a pedant would really quarrel with such periphrases as
_sirena de’ boschi_ for the nightingale, or _il novello Edimione_ for
Galileo?

From the poets Mr. Symonds passes to the painters: not those great
artists of Florence and Venice of whom he has already written, but the
Eclectics of Bologna, the Naturalists of Naples and Rome.  This chapter
is too polemical to be pleasant.  The one on music is much better, and
Mr. Symonds gives us a most interesting description of the gradual steps
by which the Italian genius passed from poetry and painting to melody and
song, till the whole of Europe thrilled with the marvel and mystery of
this new language of the soul.  Some small details should perhaps be
noticed.  It is hardly accurate, for instance, to say that Monteverde’s
_Orfeo_ was the first form of the recitative-Opera, as Peri’s _Dafne_ and
_Euridice_ and Cavaliere’s _Rappresentazione_ preceded it by some years,
and it is somewhat exaggerated to say that ‘under the regime of the
Commonwealth the national growth of English music received a check from
which it never afterwards recovered,’ as it was with Cromwell’s auspices
that the first English Opera was produced, thirteen years before any
Opera was regularly established in Paris.  The fact that England did not
make such development in music as Italy and Germany did, must be ascribed
to other causes than ‘the prevalence of Puritan opinion.’

These, however, are minor points.  Mr. Symonds is to be warmly
congratulated on the completion of his history of the Renaissance in
Italy.  It is a most wonderful monument of literary labour, and its value
to the student of Humanism cannot be doubted.  We have often had occasion
to differ from Mr. Symonds on questions of detail, and we have more than
once felt it our duty to protest against the rhetoric and over-emphasis
of his style, but we fully recognize the importance of his work and the
impetus he has given to the study of one of the vital periods of the
world’s history.  Mr. Symonds’ learning has not made him a pedant; his
culture has widened not narrowed his sympathies, and though he can hardly
be called a great historian, yet he will always occupy a place in English
literature as one of the remarkable men of letters in the nineteenth
century.

_Renaissance in Italy_: _The Catholic Reaction_.  In Two Parts.  By John
Addington Symonds.  (Smith, Elder and Co.)



MR. MORRIS’S _ODYSSEY_
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, April 26, 1887.)


Of all our modern poets, Mr. William Morris is the one best qualified by
nature and by art to translate for us the marvellous epic of the
wanderings of Odysseus.  For he is our only true story-singer since
Chaucer; if he is a Socialist, he is also a Saga-man; and there was a
time when he was never wearied of telling us strange legends of gods and
men, wonderful tales of chivalry and romance.  Master as he is of
decorative and descriptive verse, he has all the Greek’s joy in the
visible aspect of things, all the Greek’s sense of delicate and
delightful detail, all the Greek’s pleasure in beautiful textures and
exquisite materials and imaginative designs; nor can any one have a
keener sympathy with the Homeric admiration for the workers and the
craftsmen in the various arts, from the stainers in white ivory and the
embroiderers in purple and gold, to the weaver sitting by the loom and
the dyer dipping in the vat, the chaser of shield and helmet, the carver
of wood or stone.  And to all this is added the true temper of high
romance, the power to make the past as real to us as the present, the
subtle instinct to discern passion, the swift impulse to portray life.

It is no wonder the lovers of Greek literature have so eagerly looked
forward to Mr. Morris’s version of the Odyssean epic, and now that the
first volume has appeared, it is not extravagant to say that of all our
English translations this is the most perfect and the most satisfying.
In spite of Coleridge’s well-known views on the subject, we have always
held that Chapman’s _Odyssey_ is immeasurably inferior to his _Iliad_,
the mere difference of metre alone being sufficient to set the former in
a secondary place; Pope’s _Odyssey_, with its glittering rhetoric and
smart antithesis, has nothing of the grand manner of the original; Cowper
is dull, and Bryant dreadful, and Worsley too full of Spenserian
prettinesses; while excellent though Messrs. Butcher and Lang’s version
undoubtedly is in many respects, still, on the whole, it gives us merely
the facts of the _Odyssey_ without providing anything of its artistic
effect.  Avia’s translation even, though better than almost all its
predecessors in the same field, is not worthy of taking rank beside Mr.
Morris’s, for here we have a true work of art, a rendering not merely of
language into language, but of poetry into poetry, and though the new
spirit added in the transfusion may seem to many rather Norse than Greek,
and, perhaps at times, more boisterous than beautiful, there is yet a
vigour of life in every line, a splendid ardour through each canto, that
stirs the blood while one reads like the sound of a trumpet, and that,
producing a physical as well as a spiritual delight, exults the senses no
less than it exalts the soul.  It may be admitted at once that, here and
there, Mr. Morris has missed something of the marvellous dignity of the
Homeric verse, and that, in his desire for rushing and ringing metre, he
has occasionally sacrificed majesty to movement, and made stateliness
give place to speed; but it is really only in such blank verse as
Milton’s that this effect of calm and lofty music can be attained, and in
all other respects blank verse is the most inadequate medium for
reproducing the full flow and fervour of the Greek hexameter.  One merit,
at any rate, Mr. Morris’s version entirely and absolutely possesses.  It
is, in no sense of the word, literary; it seems to deal immediately with
life itself, and to take from the reality of things its own form and
colour; it is always direct and simple, and at its best has something of
the ‘large utterance of the early gods.’

As for individual passages of beauty, nothing could be better than the
wonderful description of the house of the Phœacian king, or the whole
telling of the lovely legend of Circe, or the manner in which the pageant
of the pale phantoms in Hades is brought before our eyes.  Perhaps the
huge epic humour of the escape from the Cyclops is hardly realized, but
there is always a linguistic difficulty about rendering this fascinating
story into English, and where we are given so much poetry we should not
complain about losing a pun; and the exquisite idyll of the meeting and
parting with the daughter of Alcinous is really delightfully told.  How
good, for instance, is this passage taken at random from the Sixth Book:

    But therewith unto the handmaids goodly Odysseus spake:
    ‘Stand off I bid you, damsels, while the work in hand I take,
    And wash the brine from my shoulders, and sleek them all around.
    Since verily now this long while sweet oil they have not found.
    But before you nought will I wash me, for shame I have indeed,
    Amidst of fair-tressed damsels to be all bare of weed.’
    So he spake and aloof they gat them, and thereof they told the may,
    But Odysseus with the river from his body washed away
    The brine from his back and shoulders wrought broad and mightily,
    And from his head was he wiping the foam of the untilled sea;
    But when he had thoroughly washed him, and the oil about him had
    shed,
    He did upon the raiment the gift of the maid unwed.
    But Athene, Zeus-begotten, dealt with him in such wise
    That bigger yet was his seeming, and mightier to all eyes,
    With the hair on his head crisp curling as the bloom of the daffodil.
    And as when the silver with gold is o’erlaid by a man of skill,
    Yea, a craftsman whom Hephæstus and Pallas Athene have taught
    To be master over masters, and lovely work he hath wrought;
    So she round his head and his shoulders shed grace abundantly.

It may be objected by some that the line

    With the hair on his head crisp curling as the bloom of the daffodil,

is a rather fanciful version of

    ουλας ηκε κόμας, ύακινθίνω ανθει όμοιασ

and it certainly seems probable that the allusion is to the dark colour
of the hero’s hair; still, the point is not one of much importance,
though it may be worth noting that a similar expression occurs in
Ogilby’s superbly illustrated translation of the _Odyssey_, published in
1665, where Charles II.’s Master of the Revels in Ireland gives the
passage thus:

    Minerva renders him more tall and fair,
    Curling in rings like daffodils his hair.

No anthology, however, can show the true merit of Mr. Morris’s
translation, whose real merit does not depend on stray beauties, nor is
revealed by chance selections, but lies in the absolute rightness and
coherence of the whole, in its purity and justice of touch, its freedom
from affectation and commonplace, its harmony of form and matter.  It is
sufficient to say that this is a poet’s version of a poet, and for such
surely we should be thankful.  In these latter days of coarse and vulgar
literature, it is something to have made the great sea-epic of the South
native and natural to our northern isle, something to have shown that our
English speech may be a pipe through which Greek lips can blow, something
to have taught Nausicaa to speak the same language as Perdita.

_The Odyssey of Homer_.  Done into English Verse by William Morris,
author of _The Earthly Paradise_.  In two volumes.  Volume I.  (Reeves
and Turner.)

For review of Volume II. see _Mr. Morris’s Completion of the Odyssey_,
page 65.



RUSSIAN NOVELISTS
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, May 2, 1887.)


Of the three great Russian novelists of our time Tourgenieff is by far
the finest artist.  He has that spirit of exquisite selection, that
delicate choice of detail, which is the essence of style; his work is
entirely free from any personal intention; and by taking existence at its
most fiery-coloured moments he can distil into a few pages of perfect
prose the moods and passions of many lives.

Count Tolstoi’s method is much larger, and his field of vision more
extended.  He reminds us sometimes of Paul Veronese, and, like that great
painter, can crowd, without over-crowding, the giant canvas on which he
works.  We may not at first gain from his works that artistic unity of
impression which is Tourgenieff’s chief charm, but once that we have
mastered the details the whole seems to have the grandeur and the
simplicity of an epic.  Dostoieffski differs widely from both his rivals.
He is not so fine an artist as Tourgenieff, for he deals more with the
facts than with the effects of life; nor has he Tolstoi’s largeness of
vision and epic dignity; but he has qualities that are distinctively and
absolutely his own, such as a fierce intensity of passion and
concentration of impulse, a power of dealing with the deepest mysteries
of psychology and the most hidden springs of life, and a realism that is
pitiless in its fidelity, and terrible because it is true.  Some time ago
we had occasion to draw attention to his marvellous novel _Crime and
Punishment_, where in the haunt of impurity and vice a harlot and an
assassin meet together to read the story of Dives and Lazarus, and the
outcast girl leads the sinner to make atonement for his sin; nor is the
book entitled _Injury and Insult_ at all inferior to that great
masterpiece.  Mean and ordinary though the surroundings of the story may
seem, the heroine Natasha is like one of the noble victims of Greek
tragedy; she is Antigone with the passion of Phædra, and it is impossible
to approach her without a feeling of awe.  Greek also is the gloom of
Nemesis that hangs over each character, only it is a Nemesis that does
not stand outside of life, but is part of our own nature and of the same
material as life itself.  Aleósha, the beautiful young lad whom Natasha
follows to her doom, is a second Tito Melema, and has all Tito’s charm
and grace and fascination.  Yet he is different.  He would never have
denied Baldassare in the Square at Florence, nor lied to Romola about
Tessa.  He has a magnificent, momentary sincerity, a boyish
unconsciousness of all that life signifies, an ardent enthusiasm for all
that life cannot give.  There is nothing calculating about him.  He never
thinks evil, he only does it.  From a psychological point of view he is
one of the most interesting characters of modern fiction, as from an
artistic he is one of the most attractive.  As we grow to know him he
stirs strange questions for us, and makes us feel that it is not the
wicked only who do wrong, nor the bad alone who work evil.

And by what a subtle objective method does Dostoieffski show us his
characters!  He never tickets them with a list nor labels them with a
description.  We grow to know them very gradually, as we know people whom
we meet in society, at first by little tricks of manner, personal
appearance, fancies in dress, and the like; and afterwards by their deeds
and words; and even then they constantly elude us, for though
Dostoieffski may lay bare for us the secrets of their nature, yet he
never explains his personages away; they are always surprising us by
something that they say or do, and keep to the end the eternal mystery of
life.

Irrespective of its value as a work of art, this novel possesses a deep
autobiographical interest also, as the character of Vania, the poor
student who loves Natasha through all her sin and shame, is
Dostoieffski’s study of himself.  Goethe once had to delay the completion
of one of his novels till experience had furnished him with new
situations, but almost before he had arrived at manhood Dostoieffski knew
life in its most real forms; poverty and suffering, pain and misery,
prison, exile, and love, were soon familiar to him, and by the lips of
Vania he has told his own story.  This note of personal feeling, this
harsh reality of actual experience, undoubtedly gives the book something
of its strange fervour and terrible passion, yet it has not made it
egotistic; we see things from every point of view, and we feel, not that
fiction has been trammelled by fact, but that fact itself has become
ideal and imaginative.  Pitiless, too, though Dostoieffski is in his
method as an artist, as a man he is full of human pity for all, for those
who do evil as well as for those who suffer it, for the selfish no less
than for those whose lives are wrecked for others and whose sacrifice is
in vain.  Since _Adam Bede_ and _Le Père Goriot_ no more powerful novel
has been written than _Insult and Injury_.

_Injury and Insult_.  By Fedor Dostoieffski.  Translated from the Russian
by Frederick Whishaw.  (Vizetelly and Co.)



MR. PATER’S _IMAGINARY PORTRAITS_
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, June 11, 1887.)


To convey ideas through the medium of images has always been the aim of
those who are artists as well as thinkers in literature, and it is to a
desire to give a sensuous environment to intellectual concepts that we
owe Mr. Pater’s last volume.  For these Imaginary or, as we should prefer
to call them, Imaginative Portraits of his, form a series of philosophic
studies in which the philosophy is tempered by personality, and the
thought shown under varying conditions of mood and manner, the very
permanence of each principle gaining something through the change and
colour of the life through which it finds expression.  The most
fascinating of all these pictures is undoubtedly that of Sebastian Van
Storck.  The account of Watteau is perhaps a little too fanciful, and the
description of him as one who was ‘always a seeker after something in the
world, that is there in no satisfying measure, or not at all,’ seems to
us more applicable to him who saw Mona Lisa sitting among the rocks than
the gay and debonair _peintre des fêtes galantes_.  But Sebastian, the
grave young Dutch philosopher, is charmingly drawn.  From the first
glimpse we get of him, skating over the water-meadows with his plume of
squirrel’s tail and his fur muff, in all the modest pleasantness of
boyhood, down to his strange death in the desolate house amid the sands
of the Helder, we seem to see him, to know him, almost to hear the low
music of his voice.  He is a dreamer, as the common phrase goes, and yet
he is poetical in this sense, that his theorems shape life for him,
directly.  Early in youth he is stirred by a fine saying of Spinoza, and
sets himself to realize the ideal of an intellectual disinterestedness,
separating himself more and more from the transient world of sensation,
accident and even affection, till what is finite and relative becomes of
no interest to him, and he feels that as nature is but a thought of his,
so he himself is but a passing thought of God.  This conception, of the
power of a mere metaphysical abstraction over the mind of one so
fortunately endowed for the reception of the sensible world, is
exceedingly delightful, and Mr. Pater has never written a more subtle
psychological study, the fact that Sebastian dies in an attempt to save
the life of a little child giving to the whole story a touch of poignant
pathos and sad irony.

_Denys l’Auxerrois_ is suggested by a figure found, or said to be found,
on some old tapestries in Auxerre, the figure of a ‘flaxen and flowery
creature, sometimes well-nigh naked among the vine-leaves, sometimes
muffled in skins against the cold, sometimes in the dress of a monk, but
always with a strong impress of real character and incident from the
veritable streets’ of the town itself.  From this strange design Mr.
Pater has fashioned a curious mediæval myth of the return of Dionysus
among men, a myth steeped in colour and passion and old romance, full of
wonder and full of worship, Denys himself being half animal and half god,
making the world mad with a new ecstasy of living, stirring the artists
simply by his visible presence, drawing the marvel of music from reed and
pipe, and slain at last in a stage-play by those who had loved him.  In
its rich affluence of imagery this story is like a picture by Mantegna,
and indeed Mantegna might have suggested the description of the pageant
in which Denys rides upon a gaily-painted chariot, in soft silken raiment
and, for head-dress, a strange elephant scalp with gilded tusks.

If _Denys l’Auxerrois_ symbolizes the passion of the senses and
_Sebastian Van Storck_ the philosophic passion, as they certainly seem to
do, though no mere formula or definition can adequately express the
freedom and variety of the life that they portray, the passion for the
imaginative world of art is the basis of the story of _Duke Carl of
Rosenmold_.  Duke Carl is not unlike the late King of Bavaria, in his
love of France, his admiration for the _Grand Monarque_ and his fantastic
desire to amaze and to bewilder, but the resemblance is possibly only a
chance one.  In fact Mr. Pater’s young hero is the precursor of the
_Aufklärung_ of the last century, the German precursor of Herder and
Lessing and Goethe himself, and finds the forms of art ready to his hand
without any national spirit to fill them or make them vital and
responsive.  He too dies, trampled to death by the soldiers of the
country he so much admired, on the night of his marriage with a peasant
girl, the very failure of his life lending him a certain melancholy grace
and dramatic interest.

On the whole, then, this is a singularly attractive book.  Mr. Pater is
an intellectual impressionist.  He does not weary us with any definite
doctrine or seek to suit life to any formal creed.  He is always looking
for exquisite moments and, when he has found them, he analyses them with
delicate and delightful art and then passes on, often to the opposite
pole of thought or feeling, knowing that every mood has its own quality
and charm and is justified by its mere existence.  He has taken the
sensationalism of Greek philosophy and made it a new method of art
criticism.  As for his style, it is curiously ascetic.  Now and then, we
come across phrases with a strange sensuousness of expression, as when he
tells us how Denys l’Auxerrois, on his return from a long journey, ‘ate
flesh for the first time, tearing the hot, red morsels with his delicate
fingers in a kind of wild greed,’ but such passages are rare.  Asceticism
is the keynote of Mr. Pater’s prose; at times it is almost too severe in
its self-control and makes us long for a little more freedom.  For
indeed, the danger of such prose as his is that it is apt to become
somewhat laborious.  Here and there, one is tempted to say of Mr. Pater
that he is ‘a seeker after something in language, that is there in no
satisfying measure, or not at all.’  The continual preoccupation with
phrase and epithet has its drawbacks as well as its virtues.  And yet,
when all is said, what wonderful prose it is, with its subtle
preferences, its fastidious purity, its rejection of what is common or
ordinary!  Mr. Pater has the true spirit of selection, the true art of
omission.  If he be not among the greatest prose writers of our
literature he is, at least, our greatest artist in prose; and though it
may be admitted that the best style is that which seems an unconscious
result rather than a conscious aim, still in these latter days when
violent rhetoric does duty for eloquence and vulgarity usurps the name of
nature, we should be grateful for a style that deliberately aims at
perfection of form, that seeks to produce its effect by artistic means
and sets before itself an ideal of grave and chastened beauty.

_Imaginary Portraits_.  By Walter Pater, M.A., Fellow of Brasenose
College, Oxford.  (Macmillan and Co.)



A GERMAN PRINCESS
(_Woman’s World_, November 1887.)


The Princess Christian’s translation of the _Memoirs of Wilhelmine_,
_Margravine of Baireuth_, is a most fascinating and delightful book.  The
Margravine and her brother, Frederick the Great, were, as the Princess
herself points out in an admirably written introduction, ‘among the first
of those questioning minds that strove after spiritual freedom’ in the
last century.  ‘They had studied,’ says the Princess, ‘the English
philosophers, Newton, Locke, and Shaftesbury, and were roused to
enthusiasm by the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau.  Their whole lives
bore the impress of the influence of French thought on the burning
questions of the day.  In the eighteenth century began that great
struggle of philosophy against tyranny and worn-out abuses which
culminated in the French Revolution.  The noblest minds were engaged in
the struggle, and, like most reformers, they pushed their conclusions to
extremes, and too often lost sight of the need of a due proportion in
things.  The Margravine’s influence on the intellectual development of
her country is untold.  She formed at Baireuth a centre of culture and
learning which had before been undreamt of in Germany.’

The historical value of these _Memoirs_ is, of course, well known.
Carlyle speaks of them as being ‘by far the best authority’ on the early
life of Frederick the Great.  But considered merely as the autobiography
of a clever and charming woman, they are no less interesting, and even
those who care nothing for eighteenth-century politics, and look upon
history itself as an unattractive form of fiction, cannot fail to be
fascinated by the Margravine’s wit, vivacity and humour, by her keen
powers of observation, and by her brilliant and assertive egotism.  Not
that her life was by any means a happy one.  Her father, to quote the
Princess Christian, ‘ruled his family with the same harsh despotism with
which he ruled his country, taking pleasure in making his power felt by
all in the most galling manner,’ and the Margravine and her brother ‘had
much to suffer, not only from his ungovernable temper, but also from the
real privations to which they were subjected.’  Indeed, the picture the
Margravine gives of the King is quite extraordinary.  ‘He despised all
learning,’ she writes, ‘and wished me to occupy myself with nothing but
needlework and household duties or details.  Had he found me writing or
reading, he would probably have whipped me.’  He ‘considered music a
capital offence, and maintained that every one should devote himself to
one object: men to the military service, and women to their household
duties.  Science and the arts he counted among the “seven deadly sins.”’
Sometimes he took to religion, ‘and then,’ says the Margravine, ‘we lived
like trappists, to the great grief of my brother and myself.  Every
afternoon the King preached a sermon, to which we had to listen as
attentively as if it proceeded from an Apostle.  My brother and I were
often seized with such an intense sense of the ridiculous that we burst
out laughing, upon which an apostolic curse was poured out on our heads,
which we had to accept with a show of humility and penitence.’  Economy
and soldiers were his only topics of conversation; his chief social
amusement was to make his guests intoxicated; and as for his temper, the
accounts the Margravine gives of it would be almost incredible if they
were not amply corroborated from other sources.  Suetonius has written of
the strange madness that comes on kings, but even in his melodramatic
chronicles there is hardly anything that rivals what the Margravine has
to tell us.  Here is one of her pictures of family life at a Royal Court
in the last century, and it is not by any means the worst scene she
describes:

    On one occasion, when his temper was more than usually bad, he told
    the Queen that he had received letters from Anspach, in which the
    Margrave announced his arrival at Berlin for the beginning of May.
    He was coming there for the purpose of marrying my sister, and one of
    his ministers would arrive previously with the betrothal ring.  My
    father asked my sister whether she were pleased at this prospect, and
    how she would arrange her household.  Now my sister had always made a
    point of telling him whatever came into her head, even the greatest
    home-truths, and he had never taken her outspokenness amiss.  On this
    occasion, therefore, relying on former experience, she answered him
    as follows: ‘When I have a house of my own, I shall take care to have
    a well-appointed dinner-table, better than yours is, and if I have
    children of my own, I shall not plague them as you do yours, and
    force them to eat things they thoroughly dislike!’

    ‘What is amiss with my dinner-table?’ the King enquired, getting very
    red in the face.

    ‘You ask what is the matter with it,’ my sister replied; ‘there is
    not enough on it for us to eat, and what there is is cabbage and
    carrots, which we detest.’  Her first answer had already angered my
    father, but now he gave vent to his fury.  But instead of punishing
    my sister he poured it all on my mother, my brother, and myself.  To
    begin with he threw his plate at my brother’s head, who would have
    been struck had he not got out of the way; a second one he threw at
    me, which I also happily escaped; then torrents of abuse followed
    these first signs of hostility.  He reproached the Queen with having
    brought up her children so badly.  ‘You will curse your mother,’ he
    said to my brother, ‘for having made you such a good-for-nothing
    creature.’ . . . As my brother and I passed near him to leave the
    room, he hit out at us with his crutch.  Happily we escaped the blow,
    for it would certainly have struck us down, and we at last escaped
    without harm.

Yet, as the Princess Christian remarks, ‘despite the almost cruel
treatment Wilhelmine received from her father, it is noticeable that
throughout her memoirs she speaks of him with the greatest affection.
She makes constant reference to his “good heart”’; and says that his
faults ‘were more those of temper than of nature.’  Nor could all the
misery and wretchedness of her home life dull the brightness of her
intellect.  What would have made others morbid, made her satirical.
Instead of weeping over her own personal tragedies, she laughs at the
general comedy of life.  Here, for instance, is her description of Peter
the Great and his wife, who arrived at Berlin in 1718:

    The Czarina was small, broad, and brown-looking, without the
    slightest dignity or appearance.  You had only to look at her to
    detect her low origin.  She might have passed for a German actress,
    she had decked herself out in such a manner.  Her dress had been
    bought second-hand, and was trimmed with some dirty looking silver
    embroidery; the bodice was trimmed with precious stones, arranged in
    such a manner as to represent the double eagle.  She wore a dozen
    orders; and round the bottom of her dress hung quantities of relics
    and pictures of saints, which rattled when she walked, and reminded
    one of a smartly harnessed mule.  The orders too made a great noise,
    knocking against each other.

    The Czar, on the other hand, was tall and well grown, with a handsome
    face, but his expression was coarse, and impressed one with fear.  He
    wore a simple sailor’s dress.  His wife, who spoke German very badly,
    called her court jester to her aid, and spoke Russian with her.  This
    poor creature was a Princess Gallizin, who had been obliged to
    undertake this sorry office to save her life, as she had been mixed
    up in a conspiracy against the Czar, and had twice been flogged with
    the knout!

                                  * * * * *

    The following day [the Czar] visited all the sights of Berlin,
    amongst others the very curious collection of coins and antiques.
    Amongst these last named was a statue, representing a heathen god.
    It was anything but attractive, but was the most valuable in the
    collection.  The Czar admired it very much, and insisted on the
    Czarina kissing it.  On her refusing, he said to her in bad German
    that she should lose her head if she did not at once obey him.  Being
    terrified at the Czar’s anger she immediately complied with his
    orders without the least hesitation.  The Czar asked the King to give
    him this and other statues, a request which he could not refuse.  The
    same thing happened about a cupboard, inlaid with amber.  It was the
    only one of its kind, and had cost King Frederick I. an enormous sum,
    and the consternation was general on its having to be sent to
    Petersburg.

    This barbarous Court happily left after two days.  The Queen rushed
    at once to Monbijou, which she found in a state resembling that of
    the fall of Jerusalem.  I never saw such a sight.  Everything was
    destroyed, so that the Queen was obliged to rebuild the whole house.

Nor are the Margravine’s descriptions of her reception as a bride in the
principality of Baireuth less amusing.  Hof was the first town she came
to, and a deputation of nobles was waiting there to welcome her.  This is
her account of them:

    Their faces would have frightened little children, and, to add to
    their beauty, they had arranged their hair to resemble the wigs that
    were then in fashion.  Their dresses clearly denoted the antiquity of
    their families, as they were composed of heirlooms, and were cut
    accordingly, so that most of them did not fit.  In spite of their
    costumes being the ‘Court Dresses,’ the gold and silver trimmings
    were so black that you had a difficulty in making out of what they
    were made.  The manners of these nobles suited their faces and their
    clothes.  They might have passed for peasants.  I could scarcely
    restrain my laughter when I first beheld these strange figures.  I
    spoke to each in turn, but none of them understood what I said, and
    their replies sounded to me like Hebrew, because the dialect of the
    Empire is quite different from that spoken in Brandenburg.

    The clergy also presented themselves.  These were totally different
    creatures.  Round their necks they wore great ruffs, which resembled
    washing baskets.  They spoke very slowly, so that I might be able to
    understand them better.  They said the most foolish things, and it
    was only with much difficulty that I was able to prevent myself from
    laughing.  At last I got rid of all these people, and we sat down to
    dinner.  I tried my best to converse with those at table, but it was
    useless.  At last I touched on agricultural topics, and then they
    began to thaw.  I was at once informed of all their different
    farmsteads and herds of cattle.  An almost interesting discussion
    took place as to whether the oxen in the upper part of the country
    were fatter than those in the lowlands.

                                  * * * * *

    I was told that as the next day was Sunday, I must spend it at Hof,
    and listen to a sermon.  Never before had I heard such a sermon!  The
    clergyman began by giving us an account of all the marriages that had
    taken place from Adam’s time to that of Noah.  We were spared no
    detail, so that the gentlemen all laughed and the poor ladies
    blushed.  The dinner went off as on the previous day.  In the
    afternoon all the ladies came to pay me their respects.  Gracious
    heavens!  What ladies, too!  They were all as ugly as the gentlemen,
    and their head-dresses were so curious that swallows might have built
    their nests in them.

As for Baireuth itself, and its petty Court, the picture she gives of it
is exceedingly curious.  Her father-in-law, the reigning Margrave, was a
narrow-minded mediocrity, whose conversation ‘resembled that of a sermon
read aloud for the purpose of sending the listener to sleep,’ and he had
only two topics, Telemachus, and Amelot de la Houssaye’s _Roman History_.
The Ministers, from Baron von Stein, who always said ‘yes’ to everything,
to Baron von Voit, who always said ‘no,’ were not by any means an
intellectual set of men.  ‘Their chief amusement,’ says the Margravine,
‘was drinking from morning till night,’ and horses and cattle were all
they talked about.  The palace itself was shabby, decayed and dirty.  ‘I
was like a lamb among wolves,’ cries the poor Margravine; ‘I was settled
in a strange country, at a Court which more resembled a peasant’s farm,
surrounded by coarse, bad, dangerous, and tiresome people.’

Yet her _esprit_ never deserted her.  She is always clever, witty, and
entertaining.  Her stories about the endless squabbles over precedence
are extremely amusing.  The society of her day cared very little for good
manners, knew, indeed, very little about them, but all questions of
etiquette were of vital importance, and the Margravine herself, though
she saw the shallowness of the whole system, was far too proud not to
assert her rights when circumstances demanded it, as the description she
gives of her visit to the Empress of Germany shows very clearly.  When
this meeting was first proposed, the Margravine declined positively to
entertain the idea.  ‘There was no precedent,’ she writes, ‘of a King’s
daughter and the Empress having met, and I did not know to what rights I
ought to lay claim.’  Finally, however, she is induced to consent, but
she lays down three conditions for her reception:

    I desired first of all that the Empress’s Court should receive me at
    the foot of the stairs, secondly, that she should meet me at the door
    of her bedroom, and, thirdly, that she should offer me an armchair to
    sit on.

                                  * * * * *

    They disputed all day over the conditions I had made.  The two first
    were granted me, but all that could be obtained with respect to the
    third was, that the Empress would use quite a small armchair, whilst
    she gave me a chair.

    Next day I saw this Royal personage.  I own that had I been in her
    place I would have made all the rules of etiquette and ceremony the
    excuse for not being obliged to appear.  The Empress was small and
    stout, round as a ball, very ugly, and without dignity or manner.
    Her mind corresponded to her body.  She was terribly bigoted, and
    spent her whole day praying.  The old and ugly are generally the
    Almighty’s portion.  She received me trembling all over, and was so
    upset that she could not say a word.

    After some silence I began the conversation in French.  She answered
    me in her Austrian dialect that she could not speak in that language,
    and begged I would speak in German.  The conversation did not last
    long, for the Austrian and low Saxon tongues are so different from
    each other that to those acquainted with only one the other is
    unintelligible.  This is what happened to us.  A third person would
    have laughed at our misunderstandings, for we caught only a word here
    and there, and had to guess the rest.  The poor Empress was such a
    slave to etiquette that she would have thought it high treason had
    she spoken to me in a foreign language, though she understood French
    quite well.

Many other extracts might be given from this delightful book, but from
the few that have been selected some idea can be formed of the vivacity
and picturesqueness of the Margravine’s style.  As for her character, it
is very well summed up by the Princess Christian, who, while admitting
that she often appears almost heartless and inconsiderate, yet claims
that, ‘taken as a whole, she stands out in marked prominence among the
most gifted women of the eighteenth century, not only by her mental
powers, but by her goodness of heart, her self-sacrificing devotion, and
true friendship.’  An interesting sequel to her _Memoirs_ would be her
correspondence with Voltaire, and it is to be hoped that we may shortly
see a translation of these letters from the same accomplished pen to
which we owe the present volume. {63}

_Memoirs of Wilhelmine Margravine of Baireuth_.  Translated and edited by
Her Royal Highness Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Princess of
Great Britain and Ireland.  (David Stott.)



A VILLAGE TRAGEDY


One of the most powerful and pathetic novels that has recently appeared
is _A Village Tragedy_ by Margaret L. Woods.  To find any parallel to
this lurid little story, one must go to Dostoieffski or to Guy de
Maupassant.  Not that Mrs. Woods can be said to have taken either of
these two great masters of fiction as her model, but there is something
in her work that recalls their method; she has not a little of their
fierce intensity, their terrible concentration, their passionless yet
poignant objectivity; like them, she seems to allow life to suggest its
own mode of presentation; and, like them, she recognizes that a frank
acceptance of the facts of life is the true basis of all modern imitative
art.  The scene of Mrs. Woods’s story lies in one of the villages near
Oxford; the characters are very few in number, and the plot is extremely
simple.  It is a romance of modern Arcadia—a tale of the love of a
farm-labourer for a girl who, though slightly above him in social station
and education, is yet herself also a servant on a farm.  True Arcadians
they are, both of them, and their ignorance and isolation serve only to
intensify the tragedy that gives the story its title.  It is the fashion
nowadays to label literature, so, no doubt, Mrs. Woods’s novel will be
spoken of as ‘realistic.’  Its realism, however, is the realism of the
artist, not of the reporter; its tact of treatment, subtlety of
perception, and fine distinction of style, make it rather a poem than a
_procès-verbal_; and though it lays bare to us the mere misery of life,
it suggests something of life’s mystery also.  Very delicate, too, is the
handling of external Nature.  There are no formal guide-book descriptions
of scenery, nor anything of what Byron petulantly called ‘twaddling about
trees,’ but we seem to breathe the atmosphere of the country, to catch
the exquisite scent of the beanfields, so familiar to all who have ever
wandered through the Oxfordshire lanes in June; to hear the birds singing
in the thicket, and the sheep-bells tinkling from the hill.

Characterization, that enemy of literary form, is such an essential part
of the method of the modern writer of fiction, that Nature has almost
become to the novelist what light and shade are to the painter—the one
permanent element of style; and if the power of _A Village Tragedy_ be
due to its portrayal of human life, no small portion of its charm comes
from its Theocritean setting.

_A Village Tragedy_.  By Margaret L. Woods.  (Bentley and Son.)



MR. MORRIS’S COMPLETION OF THE _ODYSSEY_
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, November 24, 1887.)


Mr. Morris’s second volume brings the great romantic epic of Greek
literature to its perfect conclusion, and although there can never be an
ultimate translation of either _Iliad_ or _Odyssey_, as each successive
age is sure to find pleasure in rendering the two poems in its own manner
and according to its own canons of taste, still it is not too much to say
that Mr. Morris’s version will always be a true classic amongst our
classical translations.  It is not, of course, flawless.  In our notice
of the first volume we ventured to say that Mr. Morris was sometimes far
more Norse than Greek, nor does the volume that now lies before us make
us alter that opinion.  The particular metre, also, selected by Mr.
Morris, although admirably adapted to express ‘the strong-winged music of
Homer,’ as far as its flow and freedom are concerned, misses something of
its dignity and calm.  Here, it must be admitted, we feel a distinct
loss, for there is in Homer not a little of Milton’s lofty manner, and if
swiftness be an essential of the Greek hexameter, stateliness is one of
its distinguishing qualities in Homer’s hands.  This defect, however, if
we must call it a defect, seems almost unavoidable, as for certain
metrical reasons a majestic movement in English verse is necessarily a
slow movement; and, after all that can be said is said, how really
admirable is this whole translation!  If we set aside its noble qualities
as a poem and look on it purely from the scholar’s point of view, how
straightforward it is, how honest and direct!  Its fidelity to the
original is far beyond that of any other verse-translation in our
literature, and yet it is not the fidelity of a pedant to his text but
rather the fine loyalty of poet to poet.

When Mr. Morris’s first volume appeared many of the critics complained
that his occasional use of archaic words and unusual expressions robbed
his version of the true Homeric simplicity.  This, however, is not a very
felicitous criticism, for while Homer is undoubtedly simple in his
clearness and largeness of vision, his wonderful power of direct
narration, his wholesome sanity, and the purity and precision of his
method, simple in language he undoubtedly is not.  What he was to his
contemporaries we have, of course, no means of judging, but we know that
the Athenian of the fifth century B.C. found him in many places difficult
to understand, and when the creative age was succeeded by the age of
criticism and Alexandria began to take the place of Athens as the centre
of culture for the Hellenistic world, Homeric dictionaries and glossaries
seem to have been constantly published.  Indeed, Athenæus tells us of a
wonderful Byzantine blue-stocking, a _précieuse_ from the Propontis, who
wrote a long hexameter poem, called _Mnemosyne_, full of ingenious
commentaries on difficulties in Homer, and in fact, it is evident that,
as far as the language is concerned, such a phrase as ‘Homeric
simplicity’ would have rather amazed an ancient Greek.  As for Mr.
Morris’s tendency to emphasize the etymological meaning of words, a point
commented on with somewhat flippant severity in a recent number of
_Macmillan_’_s Magazine_, here Mr. Morris seems to us to be in complete
accord, not merely with the spirit of Homer, but with the spirit of all
early poetry.  It is quite true that language is apt to degenerate into a
system of almost algebraic symbols, and the modern city-man who takes a
ticket for Blackfriars Bridge, naturally never thinks of the Dominican
monks who once had their monastery by Thames-side, and after whom the
spot is named.  But in earlier times it was not so.  Men were then keenly
conscious of the real meaning of words, and early poetry, especially, is
full of this feeling, and, indeed, may be said to owe to it no small
portion of its poetic power and charm.  These old words, then, and this
old use of words which we find in Mr. Morris’s _Odyssey_ can be amply
justified upon historical grounds, and as for their artistic effect, it
is quite excellent.  Pope tried to put Homer into the ordinary language
of his day, with what result we know only too well; but Mr. Morris, who
uses his archaisms with the tact of a true artist, and to whom indeed
they seem to come absolutely naturally, has succeeded in giving to his
version by their aid that touch, not of ‘quaintness,’ for Homer is never
quaint, but of old-world romance and old-world beauty, which we moderns
find so pleasurable, and to which the Greeks themselves were so keenly
sensitive.

As for individual passages of special merit, Mr. Morris’s translation is
no robe of rags sewn with purple patches for critics to sample.  Its real
value lies in the absolute rightness and coherence of the whole, in the
grand architecture of the swift, strong verse, and in the fact that the
standard is not merely high but everywhere sustained.  It is impossible,
however, to resist the temptation of quoting Mr. Morris’s rendering of
that famous passage in the twenty-third book of the epic, in which
Odysseus eludes the trap laid for him by Penelope, whose very faith in
the certainty of her husband’s return makes her sceptical of his identity
when he stands before her; an instance, by the way, of Homer’s wonderful
psychological knowledge of human nature, as it is always the dreamer
himself who is most surprised when his dream comes true.

    Thus she spake to prove her husband; but Odysseus, grieved at heart,
    Spake thus unto his bed-mate well-skilled in gainful art:
    ‘O woman, thou sayest a word exceeding grievous to me!
    Who hath otherwhere shifted my bedstead? full hard for him should it
    be,
    For as deft as he were, unless soothly a very God come here,
    Who easily, if he willed it, might shift it otherwhere.
    But no mortal man is living, how strong soe’er in his youth,
    Who shall lightly hale it elsewhere, since a mighty wonder forsooth
    Is wrought in that fashioned bedstead, and I wrought it, and I alone.
    In the close grew a thicket of olive, a long-leaved tree full-grown,
    That flourished and grew goodly as big as a pillar about,
    So round it I built my bride-room, till I did the work right out
    With ashlar stone close-fitting; and I roofed it overhead,
    And thereto joined doors I made me, well-fitting in their stead.
    Then I lopped away the boughs of the long-leafed olive-tree,
    And, shearing the bole from the root up full well and cunningly,
    I planed it about with the brass, and set the rule thereto,
    And shaping thereof a bed-post, with the wimble I bored it through.
    So beginning, I wrought out the bedstead, and finished it utterly,
    And with gold enwrought it about, and with silver and ivory,
    And stretched on it a thong of oxhide with the purple dye made
    bright.
    Thus then the sign I have shown thee; nor, woman, know I aright
    If my bed yet bideth steadfast, or if to another place
    Some man hath moved it, and smitten the olive-bole from its base.’

These last twelve books of the _Odyssey_ have not the same marvel of
romance, adventure and colour that we find in the earlier part of the
epic.  There is nothing in them that we can compare to the exquisite
idyll of Nausicaa or to the Titanic humour of the episode in the Cyclops’
cave.  Penelope has not the glamour of Circe, and the song of the Sirens
may sound sweeter than the whizz of the arrows of Odysseus as he stands
on the threshold of his hall.  Yet, for sheer intensity of passionate
power, for concentration of intellectual interest and for masterly
dramatic construction, these latter books are quite unequalled.  Indeed,
they show very clearly how it was that, as Greek art developed, the epos
passed into the drama.  The whole scheme of the argument, the return of
the hero in disguise, his disclosure of himself to his son, his terrible
vengeance on his enemies and his final recognition by his wife, reminds
us of the plot of more than one Greek play, and shows us what the great
Athenian poet meant when he said that his own dramas were merely scraps
from Homer’s table.  In rendering this splendid poem into English verse,
Mr. Morris has done our literature a service that can hardly be
over-estimated, and it is pleasant to think that, even should the
classics be entirely excluded from our educational systems, the English
boy will still be able to know something of Homer’s delightful tales, to
catch an echo of his grand music and to wander with the wise Odysseus
round ‘the shores of old romance.’

_The Odyssey of Homer_.  Done into English Verse by William Morris,
Author of _The Earthly Paradise_.  Volume II.  (Reeves and Turner.)



MRS. SOMERVILLE
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, November 30, 1887.)


Phyllis Browne’s Life of Mrs. Somerville forms part of a very interesting
little series, called ‘The World’s Workers’—a collection of short
biographies catholic enough to include personalities so widely different
as Turner and Richard Cobden, Handel and Sir Titus Salt, Robert
Stephenson and Florence Nightingale, and yet possessing a certain
definite aim.  As a mathematician and a scientist, the translator and
popularizer of _La Mécanique Céleste_, and the author of an important
book on physical geography, Mrs. Somerville is, of course, well known.
The scientific bodies of Europe covered her with honours; her bust stands
in the hall of the Royal Society, and one of the Women’s Colleges at
Oxford bears her name.  Yet, considered simply in the light of a wife and
a mother, she is no less admirable; and those who consider that stupidity
is the proper basis for the domestic virtues, and that intellectual women
must of necessity be helpless with their hands, cannot do better than
read Phyllis Browne’s pleasant little book, in which they will find that
the greatest woman-mathematician of any age was a clever needlewoman, a
good housekeeper, and a most skilful cook.  Indeed, Mrs. Somerville seems
to have been quite renowned for her cookery.  The discoverers of the
North-West Passage christened an island ‘Somerville,’ not as a tribute to
the distinguished mathematician, but as a recognition of the excellence
of some orange marmalade which the distinguished mathematician had
prepared with her own hands and presented to the ships before they left
England; and to the fact that she was able to make currant jelly at a
very critical moment she owed the affection of some of her husband’s
relatives, who up to that time had been rather prejudiced against her on
the ground that she was merely an unpractical Blue-stocking.

Nor did her scientific knowledge ever warp or dull the tenderness and
humanity of her nature.  For birds and animals she had always a great
love.  We hear of her as a little girl watching with eager eyes the
swallows as they built their nests in summer or prepared for their flight
in the autumn; and when snow was on the ground she used to open the
windows to let the robins hop in and pick crumbs on the breakfast-table.
On one occasion she went with her father on a tour in the Highlands, and
found on her return that a pet goldfinch, which had been left in the
charge of the servants, had been neglected by them and had died of
starvation.  She was almost heart-broken at the event, and in writing her
_Recollections_, seventy years after, she mentioned it and said that, as
she wrote, she felt deep pain.  Her chief pet in her old age was a
mountain sparrow, which used to perch on her arm and go to sleep there
while she was writing.  One day the sparrow fell into the water-jug and
was drowned, to the great grief of its mistress who could hardly be
consoled for its loss, though later on we hear of a beautiful paroquet
taking the place of _le moineau d’Uranie_, and becoming Mrs. Somerville’s
constant companion.  She was also very energetic, Phyllis Browne tells
us, in trying to get a law passed in the Italian Parliament for the
protection of animals, and said once, with reference to this subject, ‘We
English cannot boast of humanity so long as our sportsmen find pleasure
in shooting down tame pigeons as they fly terrified out of a cage’—a
remark with which I entirely agree.  Mr. Herbert’s Bill for the
protection of land birds gave her immense pleasure, though, to quote her
own words, she was ‘grieved to find that “the lark, which at heaven’s
gate sings,” is thought unworthy of man’s protection’; and she took a
great fancy to a gentleman who, on being told of the number of singing
birds that is eaten in Italy—nightingales, goldfinches, and
robins—exclaimed in horror, ‘What! robins! our household birds!  I would
as soon eat a child!’  Indeed, she believed to some extent in the
immortality of animals on the ground that, if animals have no future, it
would seem as if some were created for uncompensated misery—an idea which
does not seem to me to be either extravagant or fantastic, though it must
be admitted that the optimism on which it is based receives absolutely no
support from science.

On the whole, Phyllis Browne’s book is very pleasant reading.  Its only
fault is that it is far too short, and this is a fault so rare in modern
literature that it almost amounts to a distinction.  However, Phyllis
Browne has managed to crowd into the narrow limits at her disposal a
great many interesting anecdotes.  The picture she gives of Mrs.
Somerville working away at her translation of Laplace in the same room
with her children is very charming, and reminds one of what is told of
George Sand; there is an amusing account of Mrs. Somerville’s visit to
the widow of the young Pretender, the Countess of Albany, who, after
talking with her for some time, exclaimed, ‘So you don’t speak Italian.
You must have had a very bad education’!  And this story about the
Waverley Novels may possibly be new to some of my readers:

    A very amusing circumstance in connection with Mrs. Somerville’s
    acquaintance with Sir Walter arose out of the childish
    inquisitiveness of Woronzow Greig, Mrs. Somerville’s little boy.

    During the time Mrs. Somerville was visiting Abbotsford the Waverley
    Novels were appearing, and were creating a great sensation; yet even
    Scott’s intimate friends did not know that he was the author; he
    enjoyed keeping the affair a mystery.  But little Woronzow discovered
    what he was about.  One day when Mrs. Somerville was talking about a
    novel that had just been published, Woronzow said, ‘I knew all these
    stories long ago, for Mr. Scott writes on the dinner-table; when he
    has finished he puts the green cloth with the papers in a corner of
    the dining-room, and when he goes out Charlie Scott and I read the
    stories.’

Phyllis Browne remarks that this incident shows ‘that persons who want to
keep a secret ought to be very careful when children are about’; but the
story seems to me to be far too charming to require any moral of the
kind.

Bound up in the same volume is a Life of Miss Mary Carpenter, also
written by Phyllis Browne.  Miss Carpenter does not seem to me to have
the charm and fascination of Mrs. Somerville.  There is always something
about her that is formal, limited, and precise.  When she was about two
years old she insisted on being called ‘Doctor Carpenter’ in the nursery;
at the age of twelve she is described by a friend as a sedate little
girl, who always spoke like a book; and before she entered on her
educational schemes she wrote down a solemn dedication of herself to the
service of humanity.  However, she was one of the practical, hardworking
saints of the nineteenth century, and it is no doubt quite right that the
saints should take themselves very seriously.  It is only fair also to
remember that her work of rescue and reformation was carried on under
great difficulties.  Here, for instance, is the picture Miss Cobbe gives
us of one of the Bristol night-schools:

    It was a wonderful spectacle to see Mary Carpenter sitting patiently
    before the large school gallery in St. James’s Back, teaching,
    singing, and praying with the wild street-boys, in spite of endless
    interruptions caused by such proceedings as shooting marbles at any
    object behind her, whistling, stamping, fighting, shrieking out
    ‘Amen’ in the middle of a prayer, and sometimes rising _en masse_ and
    tearing like a troop of bisons in hob-nailed shoes down from the
    gallery, round the great schoolroom, and down the stairs, and into
    the street.  These irrepressible outbreaks she bore with infinite
    good humour.

Her own account is somewhat pleasanter, and shows that ‘the troop of
bisons in hob-nailed shoes’ was not always so barbarous.

    I had taken to my class on the preceding week some specimens of ferns
    neatly gummed on white paper. . . . This time I took a piece of
    coal-shale, with impressions of ferns, to show them. . . . I told
    each to examine the specimen, and tell me what he thought it was.  W.
    gave so bright a smile that I saw he knew; none of the others could
    tell; he said they were ferns, like what I showed them last week, but
    he thought they were chiselled on the stone.  Their surprise and
    pleasure were great when I explained the matter to them.

    The history of Joseph: they all found a difficulty in realizing that
    this had actually occurred.  One asked if Egypt existed now, and if
    people lived in it.  When I told them that buildings now stood which
    had been erected about the time of Joseph, one said that it was
    impossible, as they must have fallen down ere this.  I showed them
    the form of a pyramid, and they were satisfied.  One asked if _all_
    books were true.

    The story of Macbeth impressed them very much.  They knew the name of
    Shakespeare, having seen his name over a public-house.

A boy defined conscience as ‘a thing a gentleman hasn’t got, who, when a
boy finds his purse and gives it back to him, doesn’t give the boy
sixpence.’

Another boy was asked, after a Sunday evening lecture on ‘Thankfulness,’
what pleasure he enjoyed most in the course of a year.  He replied
candidly, ‘Cock-fightin’, ma’am; there’s a pit up by the “Black Boy” as
is worth anythink in Brissel.’

There is something a little pathetic in the attempt to civilize the rough
street-boy by means of the refining influence of ferns and fossils, and
it is difficult to help feeling that Miss Carpenter rather over-estimated
the value of elementary education.  The poor are not to be fed upon
facts.  Even Shakespeare and the Pyramids are not sufficient; nor is
there much use in giving them the results of culture, unless we also give
them those conditions under which culture can be realized.  In these
cold, crowded cities of the North, the proper basis for morals, using the
word in its wide Hellenic signification, is to be found in architecture,
not in books.

Still, it would be ungenerous not to recognize that Mary Carpenter gave
to the children of the poor not merely her learning, but her love.  In
early life, her biographer tells us, she had longed for the happiness of
being a wife and a mother; but later she became content that her
affection could be freely given to all who needed it, and the verse in
the prophecies, ‘I have given thee children whom thou hast not borne,’
seemed to her to indicate what was to be her true mission.  Indeed, she
rather inclined to Bacon’s opinion, that unmarried people do the best
public work.  ‘It is quite striking,’ she says in one of her letters, ‘to
observe how much the useful power and influence of woman has developed of
late years.  Unattached ladies, such as widows and unmarried women, have
quite ample work to do in the world for the good of others to absorb all
their powers.  Wives and mothers have a very noble work given them by
God, and want no more.’  The whole passage is extremely interesting, and
the phrase ‘unattached ladies’ is quite delightful, and reminds one of
Charles Lamb.

_Mrs. Somerville_ and _Mary Carpenter_.  By Phyllis Browne, Author of
_What Girls Can Do_, _etc._  (Cassell and Co.)



ARISTOTLE AT AFTERNOON TEA
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, December 16, 1887.)


In society, says Mr. Mahaffy, every civilized man and woman ought to feel
it their duty to say something, even when there is hardly anything to be
said, and, in order to encourage this delightful art of brilliant
chatter, he has published a social guide without which no _débutante_ or
dandy should ever dream of going out to dine.  Not that Mr. Mahaffy’s
book can be said to be, in any sense of the word, popular.  In discussing
this important subject of conversation, he has not merely followed the
scientific method of Aristotle which is, perhaps, excusable, but he has
adopted the literary style of Aristotle for which no excuse is possible.
There is, also, hardly a single anecdote, hardly a single illustration,
and the reader is left to put the Professor’s abstract rules into
practice, without either the examples or the warnings of history to
encourage or to dissuade him in his reckless career.  Still, the book can
be warmly recommended to all who propose to substitute the vice of
verbosity for the stupidity of silence.  It fascinates in spite of its
form and pleases in spite of its pedantry, and is the nearest approach,
that we know of, in modern literature to meeting Aristotle at an
afternoon tea.

As regards physical conditions, the only one that is considered by Mr.
Mahaffy as being absolutely essential to a good conversationalist, is the
possession of a musical voice.  Some learned writers have been of opinion
that a slight stammer often gives peculiar zest to conversation, but Mr.
Mahaffy rejects this view and is extremely severe on every eccentricity
from a native brogue to an artificial catchword.  With his remarks on the
latter point, the meaningless repetition of phrases, we entirely agree.
Nothing can be more irritating than the scientific person who is always
saying ‘_Exactly so_,’ or the commonplace person who ends every sentence
with ‘_Don’t you know_?’ or the pseudo-artistic person who murmurs
‘_Charming_, _charming_,’ on the smallest-provocation.  It is, however,
with the mental and moral qualifications for conversation that Mr.
Mahaffy specially deals.  Knowledge he, naturally, regards as an absolute
essential, for, as he most justly observes, ‘an ignorant man is seldom
agreeable, except as a butt.’  Upon the other hand, strict accuracy
should be avoided.  ‘Even a consummate liar,’ says Mr. Mahaffy, is a
better ingredient in a company than ‘the scrupulously truthful man, who
weighs every statement, questions every fact, and corrects every
inaccuracy.’  The liar at any rate recognizes that recreation, not
instruction, is the aim of conversation, and is a far more civilized
being than the blockhead who loudly expresses his disbelief in a story
which is told simply for the amusement of the company.  Mr. Mahaffy,
however, makes an exception in favour of the eminent specialist and tells
us that intelligent questions addressed to an astronomer, or a pure
mathematician, will elicit many curious facts which will pleasantly
beguile the time.  Here, in the interest of Society, we feel bound to
enter a formal protest.  Nobody, even in the provinces, should ever be
allowed to ask an intelligent question about pure mathematics across a
dinner-table.  A question of this kind is quite as bad as inquiring
suddenly about the state of a man’s soul, a sort of _coup_ which, as Mr.
Mahaffy remarks elsewhere, ‘many pious people have actually thought a
decent introduction to a conversation.’

As for the moral qualifications of a good talker, Mr. Mahaffy, following
the example of his great master, warns us against any disproportionate
excess of virtue.  Modesty, for instance, may easily become a social
vice, and to be continually apologizing for one’s ignorance or stupidity
is a grave injury to conversation, for, ‘what we want to learn from each
member is his free opinion on the subject in hand, not his own estimate
of the value of that opinion.’  Simplicity, too, is not without its
dangers.  The _enfant terrible_, with his shameless love of truth, the
raw country-bred girl who always says what she means, and the plain,
blunt man who makes a point of speaking his mind on every possible
occasion, without ever considering whether he has a mind at all, are the
fatal examples of what simplicity leads to.  Shyness may be a form of
vanity, and reserve a development of pride, and as for sympathy, what can
be more detestable than the man, or woman, who insists on agreeing with
everybody, and so makes ‘a discussion, which implies differences in
opinion,’ absolutely impossible?  Even the unselfish listener is apt to
become a bore.  ‘These silent people,’ says Mr. Mahaffy, ‘not only take
all they can get in Society for nothing, but they take it without the
smallest gratitude, and have the audacity afterwards to censure those who
have laboured for their amusement.’  Tact, which is an exquisite sense of
the symmetry of things, is, according to Mr. Mahaffy, the highest and
best of all the moral conditions for conversation.  The man of tact, he
most wisely remarks, ‘will instinctively avoid jokes about Blue Beard’ in
the company of a woman who is a man’s third wife; he will never be guilty
of talking like a book, but will rather avoid too careful an attention to
grammar and the rounding of periods; he will cultivate the art of
graceful interruption, so as to prevent a subject being worn threadbare
by the aged or the inexperienced; and should he be desirous of telling a
story, he will look round and consider each member of the party, and if
there be a single stranger present will forgo the pleasure of anecdotage
rather than make the social mistake of hurting even one of the guests.
As for prepared or premeditated art, Mr. Mahaffy has a great contempt for
it and tells us of a certain college don (let us hope not at Oxford or
Cambridge) who always carried a jest-book in his pocket and had to refer
to it when he wished to make a repartee.  Great wits, too, are often very
cruel, and great humorists often very vulgar, so it will be better to try
and ‘make good conversation without any large help from these brilliant
but dangerous gifts.’

In a _tête-à-tête_ one should talk about persons, and in general Society
about things.  The state of the weather is always an excusable exordium,
but it is convenient to have a paradox or heresy on the subject always
ready so as to direct the conversation into other channels.  Really
domestic people are almost invariably bad talkers as their very virtues
in home life have dulled their interest in outer things.  The very best
mothers will insist on chattering of their babies and prattling about
infant education.  In fact, most women do not take sufficient interest in
politics, just as most men are deficient in general reading.  Still,
anybody can be made to talk, except the very obstinate, and even a
commercial traveller may be drawn out and become quite interesting.  As
for Society small talk, it is impossible, Mr. Mahaffy tells us, for any
sound theory of conversation to depreciate gossip, ‘which is perhaps the
main factor in agreeable talk throughout Society.’  The retailing of
small personal points about great people always gives pleasure, and if
one is not fortunate enough to be an Arctic traveller or an escaped
Nihilist, the best thing one can do is to relate some anecdote of ‘Prince
Bismarck, or King Victor Emmanuel, or Mr. Gladstone.’  In the case of
meeting a genius and a Duke at dinner, the good talker will try to raise
himself to the level of the former and to bring the latter down to his
own level.  To succeed among one’s social superiors one must have no
hesitation in contradicting them.  Indeed, one should make bold
criticisms and introduce a bright and free tone into a Society whose
grandeur and extreme respectability make it, Mr. Mahaffy remarks, as
pathetically as inaccurately, ‘perhaps somewhat dull.’  The best
conversationalists are those whose ancestors have been bilingual, like
the French and Irish, but the art of conversation is really within the
reach of almost every one, except those who are morbidly truthful, or
whose high moral worth requires to be sustained by a permanent gravity of
demeanour and a general dullness of mind.

These are the broad principles contained in Mr. Mahaffy’s clever little
book, and many of them will, no doubt, commend themselves to our readers.
The maxim, ‘If you find the company dull, blame yourself,’ seems to us
somewhat optimistic, and we have no sympathy at all with the professional
storyteller who is really a great bore at a dinner-table; but Mr. Mahaffy
is quite right in insisting that no bright social intercourse is possible
without equality, and it is no objection to his book to say that it will
not teach people how to talk cleverly.  It is not logic that makes men
reasonable, nor the science of ethics that makes men good, but it is
always useful to analyse, to formularize and to investigate.  The only
thing to be regretted in the volume is the arid and jejune character of
the style.  If Mr. Mahaffy would only write as he talks, his book would
be much pleasanter reading.

_The Principles of the Art of Conversation_: _A Social Essay_.  By J. P.
Mahaffy.  (Macmillan and Co.)



EARLY CHRISTIAN ART IN IRELAND
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, December 17, 1887.)


The want of a good series of popular handbooks on Irish art has long been
felt, the works of Sir William Wilde, Petrie and others being somewhat
too elaborate for the ordinary student; so we are glad to notice the
appearance, under the auspicesof the Committee of Council on Education,
of Miss Margaret Stokes’s useful little volume on the early Christian art
of her country.  There is, of course, nothing particularly original in
Miss Stokes’s book, nor can she be said to be a very attractive or
pleasing writer, but it is unfair to look for originality in primers, and
the charm of the illustrations fully atones for the somewhat heavy and
pedantic character of the style.

This early Christian art of Ireland is full of interest to the artist,
the archæologist and the historian.  In its rudest forms, such as the
little iron hand-bell, the plain stone chalice and the rough wooden
staff, it brings us back to the simplicity of the primitive Christian
Church, while to the period of its highest development we owe the great
masterpieces of Celtic metal-work.  The stone chalice is now replaced by
the chalice of silver and gold; the iron bell has its jewel-studded
shrine, and the rough staff its gorgeous casing; rich caskets and
splendid bindings preserve the holy books of the Saints and, instead of
the rudely carved symbol of the early missionaries, we have such
beautiful works of art as the processional cross of Cong Abbey.
Beautiful this cross certainly is with its delicate intricacy of
ornamentation, its grace of proportion and its marvel of mere
workmanship, nor is there any doubt about its history.  From the
inscriptions on it, which are corroborated by the annals of Innisfallen
and the book of Clonmacnoise, we learn that it was made for King Turlough
O’Connor by a native artist under the superintendence of Bishop O’Duffy,
its primary object being to enshrine a portion of the true cross that was
sent to the king in 1123.  Brought to Cong some years afterwards,
probably by the archbishop, who died there in 1150, it was concealed at
the time of the Reformation, but at the beginning of the present century
was still in the possession of the last abbot, and at his death it was
purchased by Professor MacCullagh and presented by him to the museum of
the Royal Irish Academy.  This wonderful work is alone well worth a visit
to Dublin, but not less lovely is the chalice of Ardagh, a two-handled
silver cup, absolutely classical in its perfect purity of form, and
decorated with gold and amber and crystal and with varieties of
_cloisonné_ and _champlevé_ enamel.  There is no mention of this cup, or
of the so-called Tara brooch, in ancient Irish history.  All that we know
of them is that they were found accidentally, the former by a boy who was
digging potatoes near the old Rath of Ardagh, the latter by a poor child
who picked it up near the seashore.  They both, however, belong probably
to the tenth century.

Of all these works, as well as of the bell shrines, book-covers,
sculptured crosses and illuminated designs in manuscripts, excellent
pictures are given in Miss Stokes’s handbook.  The extremely interesting
_Fiachal Phadrig_, or shrine of St. Patrick’s tooth, might have been
figured and noted as an interesting example of the survival of ornament,
and one of the old miniatures of the scribe or Evangelist writing would
have given an additional interest to the chapter on Irish MSS.  On the
whole, however, the book is wonderfully well illustrated, and the
ordinary art student will be able to get some useful suggestions from it.
Indeed, Miss Stokes, echoing the aspirations of many of the great Irish
archæologists, looks forward to the revival of a native Irish school in
architecture, sculpture, metal-work and painting.  Such an aspiration is,
of course, very laudable, but there is always a danger of these revivals
being merely artificial reproductions, and it may be questioned whether
the peculiar forms of Irish ornamentation could be made at all expressive
of the modern spirit.  A recent writer on house decoration has gravely
suggested that the British householder should take his meals in a Celtic
dining-room adorned with a dado of Ogham inscriptions, and such wicked
proposals may serve as a warning to all who fancy that the reproduction
of a form necessarily implies a revival of the spirit that gave the form
life and meaning, and who fail to recognize the difference between art
and anachronisms.  Miss Stokes’s proposal for an ark-shaped church in
which the mural painter is to repeat the arcades and ‘follow the
architectural compositions of the grand pages of the Eusebian canons in
the Book of Kells,’ has, of course, nothing grotesque about it, but it is
not probable that the artistic genius of the Irish people will, even when
‘the land has rest,’ find in such interesting imitations its healthiest
or best expression.  Still, there are certain elements of beauty in
ancient Irish art that the modern artist would do well to study.  The
value of the intricate illuminations in the Book of Kells, as far as
their adaptability to modern designs and modern material goes, has been
very much overrated, but in the ancient Irish torques, brooches, pins,
clasps and the like, the modern goldsmith will find a rich and,
comparatively speaking, an untouched field; and now that the Celtic
spirit has become the leaven of our politics, there is no reason why it
should not contribute something to our decorative art.  This result,
however, will not be obtained by a patriotic misuse of old designs, and
even the most enthusiastic Home Ruler must not be allowed to decorate his
dining-room with a dado of Oghams.

_Early Christian Art in Ireland_.  By Margaret Stokes.  (Published for
the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall.)



MADAME RISTORI
(_Woman’s World_, January 1888.)


Madame Ristori’s _Etudes et Souvenirs_ is one of the most delightful
books on the stage that has appeared since Lady Martin’s charming volume
on the Shakespearian heroines.  It is often said that actors leave
nothing behind them but a barren name and a withered wreath; that they
subsist simply upon the applause of the moment; that they are ultimately
doomed to the oblivion of old play-bills; and that their art, in a word,
dies with them, and shares their own mortality.  ‘Chippendale, the
cabinet-maker,’ says the clever author of _Obiter Dicta_, ‘is more potent
than Garrick the actor.  The vivacity of the latter no longer charms
(save in Boswell); the chairs of the former still render rest impossible
in a hundred homes.’  This view, however, seems to me to be exaggerated.
It rests on the assumption that acting is simply a mimetic art, and takes
no account of its imaginative and intellectual basis.  It is quite true,
of course, that the personality of the player passes away, and with it
that pleasure-giving power by virtue of which the arts exist.  Yet the
artistic method of a great actor survives.  It lives on in tradition, and
becomes part of the science of a school.  It has all the intellectual
life of a principle.  In England, at the present moment, the influence of
Garrick on our actors is far stronger than that of Reynolds on our
painters of portraits, and if we turn to France it is easy to discern the
tradition of Talma, but where is the tradition of David?

Madame Ristori’s memoirs, then, have not merely the charm that always
attaches to the autobiography of a brilliant and beautiful woman, but
have also a definite and distinct artistic value.  Her analysis of the
character of Lady Macbeth, for instance, is full of psychological
interest, and shows us that the subtleties of Shakespearian criticism are
not necessarily confined to those who have views on weak endings and
rhyming tags, but may also be suggested by the art of acting itself.  The
author of _Obiter Dicta_ seeks to deny to actors all critical insight and
all literary appreciation.  The actor, he tells us, is art’s slave, not
her child, and lives entirely outside literature, ‘with its words for
ever on his lips, and none of its truths engraven on his heart.’  But
this seems to me to be a harsh and reckless generalization.  Indeed, so
far from agreeing with it, I would be inclined to say that the mere
artistic process of acting, the translation of literature back again into
life, and the presentation of thought under the conditions of action, is
in itself a critical method of a very high order; nor do I think that a
study of the careers of our great English actors will really sustain the
charge of want of literary appreciation.  It may be true that actors pass
too quickly away from the form, in order to get at the feeling that gives
the form beauty and colour, and that, where the literary critic studies
the language, the actor looks simply for the life; and yet, how well the
great actors have appreciated that marvellous music of words, which in
Shakespeare, at any rate, is so vital an element of poetic power, if,
indeed, it be not equally so in the case of all who have any claim to be
regarded as true poets.  ‘The sensual life of verse,’ says Keats, in a
dramatic criticism published in the _Champion_, ‘springs warm from the
lips of Kean, and to one learned in Shakespearian hieroglyphics, learned
in the spiritual portion of those lines to which Kean adds a sensual
grandeur, his tongue must seem to have robbed the Hybla bees and left
them honeyless.’  This particular feeling, of which Keats speaks, is
familiar to all who have heard Salvini, Sarah Bernhardt, Ristori, or any
of the great artists of our day, and it is a feeling that one cannot, I
think, gain merely by reading the passage to oneself.  For my own part, I
must confess that it was not until I heard Sarah Bernhardt in _Phèdre_
that I absolutely realized the sweetness of the music of Racine.  As for
Mr. Birrell’s statement that actors have the words of literature for ever
on their lips, but none of its truths engraved on their hearts, all that
one can say is that, if it be true, it is a defect which actors share
with the majority of literary critics.

The account Madame Ristori gives of her own struggles, voyages and
adventures, is very pleasant reading indeed.  The child of poor actors,
she made her first appearance when she was three months old, being
brought on in a hamper as a New Year’s gift to a selfish old gentleman
who would not forgive his daughter for having married for love.  As,
however, she began to cry long before the hamper was opened, the comedy
became a farce, to the immense amusement of the public.  She next
appeared in a mediæval melodrama, being then three years of age, and was
so terrified at the machinations of the villain that she ran away at the
most critical moment.  However, her stage-fright seems to have
disappeared, and we find her playing Silvio Pellico’s _Francesca da
Rimini_ at fifteen, and at eighteen making her _début_ as Marie Stuart.
At this time the naturalism of the French method was gradually displacing
the artificial elocution and academic poses of the Italian school of
acting.  Madame Ristori seems to have tried to combine simplicity with
style, and the passion of nature with the self-restraint of the artist.
‘J’ai voulu fondre les deux manières,’ she tells us, ‘car je sentais que
toutes choses étant susceptibles de progrès, l’art dramatique aussi était
appelé à subir des transformations.’  The natural development, however,
of the Italian drama was almost arrested by the ridiculous censorship of
plays then existing in each town under Austrian or Papal rule.  The
slightest allusion to the sentiment of nationality or the spirit of
freedom was prohibited.  Even the word _patria_ was regarded as
treasonable, and Madame Ristori tells us an amusing story of the
indignation of a censor who was asked to license a play, in which a dumb
man returns home after an absence of many years, and on his entrance upon
the stage makes gestures expressive of his joy in seeing his native land
once more.  ‘Gestures of this kind,’ said the censor, ‘are obviously of a
very revolutionary tendency, and cannot possibly be allowed.  The only
gestures that I could think of permitting would be gestures expressive of
a dumb man’s delight in scenery generally.’  The stage directions were
accordingly altered, and the word ‘landscape’ substituted for ‘native
land’!  Another censor was extremely severe on an unfortunate poet who
had used the expression ‘the beautiful Italian sky,’ and explained to him
that ‘the beautiful Lombardo-Venetian sky’ was the proper official
expression to use.  Poor Gregory in _Romeo and Juliet_ had to be
rechristened, because Gregory is a name dear to the Popes; and the

    Here I have a pilot’s thumb,
    Wrecked as homeward he did come,

of the first witch in _Macbeth_ was ruthlessly struck out as containing
an obvious allusion to the steersman of St. Peter’s bark.  Finally, bored
and bothered by the political and theological Dogberrys of the day, with
their inane prejudices, their solemn stupidity, and their entire
ignorance of the conditions necessary for the growth of sane and healthy
art, Madame Ristori made up her mind to leave the stage.  She, however,
was extremely anxious to appear once before a Parisian audience, Paris
being at that time the centre of dramatic activity, and after some
consideration left Italy for France in the year 1855.  There she seems to
have been a great success, particularly in the part of Myrrha; classical
without being cold, artistic without being academic, she brought to the
interpretation of the character of Alfieri’s great heroine the
colour-element of passion, the form-element of style.  Jules Janin was
loud in his praises, the Emperor begged Ristori to join the troupe of the
Comédie Française, and Rachel, with the strange narrow jealousy of her
nature, trembled for her laurels.  Myrrha was followed by Marie Stuart,
and Marie Stuart by Medea.  In the latter part Madame Ristori excited the
greatest enthusiasm.  Ary Scheffer designed her costumes for her; and the
Niobe that stands in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, suggested to Madame
Ristori her famous pose in the scene with the children.  She would not
consent, however, to remain in France, and we find her subsequently
playing in almost every country in the world from Egypt to Mexico, from
Denmark to Honolulu.  Her representations of classical plays seem to have
been always immensely admired.  When she played at Athens, the King
offered to arrange for a performance in the beautiful old theatre of
Dionysos, and during her tour in Portugal she produced _Medea_ before the
University of Coimbra.  Her description of the latter engagement is
extremely interesting.  On her arrival at the University, she was
received by the entire body of the undergraduates, who still wear a
costume almost mediæval in character.  Some of them came on the stage in
the course of the play as the handmaidens of Creusa, hiding their black
beards beneath heavy veils, and as soon as they had finished their parts
they took their places gravely among the audience, to Madame Ristori’s
horror, still in their Greek dress, but with their veils thrown back and
smoking long cigars.  ‘Ce n’est pas la première fois,’ she says, ‘que
j’ai dû empêcher, par un effort de volonté, la tragédie de se terminer en
farce.’  Very interesting, also, is her account of the production of
Montanelli’s _Camma_, and she tells an amusing story of the arrest of the
author by the French police on the charge of murder, in consequence of a
telegram she sent to him in which the words ‘body of the victim’
occurred.  Indeed, the whole book is full of cleverly written stories,
and admirable criticisms on dramatic art.  I have quoted from the French
version, which happens to be the one that lies before me, but whether in
French or Italian the book is one of the most fascinating autobiographies
that has appeared for some time, even in an age like ours when literary
egotism has been brought to such an exquisite pitch of perfection.

_Etudes et Souvenirs_.  By Madame Ristori.  (Paul Ollendorff.)



ENGLISH POETESSES
(_Queen_, December 8, 1888.)


England has given to the world one great poetess, Elizabeth Barrett
Browning.  By her side Mr. Swinburne would place Miss Christina Rossetti,
whose New Year hymn he describes as so much the noblest of sacred poems
in our language, that there is none which comes near it enough to stand
second.  ‘It is a hymn,’ he tells us, ‘touched as with the fire, and
bathed as in the light of sunbeams, tuned as to chords and cadences of
refluent sea-music beyond reach of harp and organ, large echoes of the
serene and sonorous tides of heaven.’  Much as I admire Miss Rossetti’s
work, her subtle choice of words, her rich imagery, her artistic naïveté,
wherein curious notes of strangeness and simplicity are fantastically
blended together, I cannot but think that Mr. Swinburne has, with noble
and natural loyalty, placed her on too lofty a pedestal.  To me, she is
simply a very delightful artist in poetry.  This is indeed something so
rare that when we meet it we cannot fail to love it, but it is not
everything.  Beyond it and above it are higher and more sunlit heights of
song, a larger vision, and an ampler air, a music at once more passionate
and more profound, a creative energy that is born of the spirit, a winged
rapture that is born of the soul, a force and fervour of mere utterance
that has all the wonder of the prophet, and not a little of the
consecration of the priest.

Mrs. Browning is unapproachable by any woman who has ever touched lyre or
blown through reed since the days of the great Æolian poetess.  But
Sappho, who to the antique world was a pillar of flame, is to us but a
pillar of shadow.  Of her poems, burnt with other most precious work by
Byzantine Emperor and by Roman Pope, only a few fragments remain.
Possibly they lie mouldering in the scented darkness of an Egyptian tomb,
clasped in the withered hand of some long-dead lover.  Some Greek monk at
Athos may even now be poring over an ancient manuscript, whose crabbed
characters conceal lyric or ode by her whom the Greeks spoke of as ‘the
Poetess’ just as they termed Homer ‘the Poet,’ who was to them the tenth
Muse, the flower of the Graces, the child of Erôs, and the pride of
Hellas—Sappho, with the sweet voice, the bright, beautiful eyes, the dark
hyacinth coloured hair.  But, practically, the work of the marvellous
singer of Lesbos is entirely lost to us.

We have a few rose-leaves out of her garden, that is all.  Literature
nowadays survives marble and bronze, but in the old days, in spite of the
Roman poet’s noble boast, it was not so.  The fragile clay vases of the
Greeks still keep for us pictures of Sappho, delicately painted in black
and red and white; but of her song we have only the echo of an echo.

Of all the women of history, Mrs. Browning is the only one that we could
name in any possible or remote conjunction with Sappho.

Sappho was undoubtedly a far more flawless and perfect artist.  She
stirred the whole antique world more than Mrs. Browning ever stirred our
modern age.  Never had Love such a singer.  Even in the few lines that
remain to us the passion seems to scorch and burn.  But, as unjust Time,
who has crowned her with the barren laurels of fame, has twined with them
the dull poppies of oblivion, let us turn from the mere memory of a
poetess to one whose song still remains to us as an imperishable glory to
our literature; to her who heard the cry of the children from dark mine
and crowded factory, and made England weep over its little ones; who, in
the feigned sonnets from the Portuguese, sang of the spiritual mystery of
Love, and of the intellectual gifts that Love brings to the soul; who had
faith in all that is worthy, and enthusiasm for all that is great, and
pity for all that suffers; who wrote the _Vision of Poets_ and _Casa
Guidi Windows_ and _Aurora Leigh_.

As one, to whom I owe my love of poetry no less than my love of country,
said of her:

             Still on our ears
    The clear ‘Excelsior’ from a woman’s lip
    Rings out across the Apennines, although
    The woman’s brow lies pale and cold in death
    With all the mighty marble dead in Florence.
    For while great songs can stir the hearts of men,
    Spreading their full vibrations through the world
    In ever-widening circles till they reach
    The Throne of God, and song becomes a prayer,
    And prayer brings down the liberating strength
    That kindles nations to heroic deeds,
    She lives—the great-souled poetess who saw
    From Casa Guidi windows Freedom dawn
    On Italy, and gave the glory back
    In sunrise hymns to all Humanity!

She lives indeed, and not alone in the heart of Shakespeare’s England,
but in the heart of Dante’s Italy also.  To Greek literature she owed her
scholarly culture, but modern Italy created her human passion for
Liberty.  When she crossed the Alps she became filled with a new ardour,
and from that fine, eloquent mouth, that we can still see in her
portraits, broke forth such a noble and majestic outburst of lyrical song
as had not been heard from woman’s lips for more than two thousand years.
It is pleasant to think that an English poetess was to a certain extent a
real factor in bringing about that unity of Italy that was Dante’s dream,
and if Florence drove her great singer into exile, she at least welcomed
within her walls the later singer that England had sent to her.

If one were asked the chief qualities of Mrs. Browning’s work, one would
say, as Mr. Swinburne said of Byron’s, its sincerity and its strength.
Faults it, of course, possesses.  ‘She would rhyme moon to table,’ used
to be said of her in jest; and certainly no more monstrous rhymes are to
be found in all literature than some of those we come across in Mrs.
Browning’s poems.  But her ruggedness was never the result of
carelessness.  It was deliberate, as her letters to Mr. Horne show very
clearly.  She refused to sandpaper her muse.  She disliked facile
smoothness and artificial polish.  In her very rejection of art she was
an artist.  She intended to produce a certain effect by certain means,
and she succeeded; and her indifference to complete assonance in rhyme
often gives a splendid richness to her verse, and brings into it a
pleasurable element of surprise.

In philosophy she was a Platonist, in politics an Opportunist.  She
attached herself to no particular party.  She loved the people when they
were king-like, and kings when they showed themselves to be men.  Of the
real value and motive of poetry she had a most exalted idea.  ‘Poetry,’
she says, in the preface of one of her volumes, ‘has been as serious a
thing to me as life itself; and life has been a very serious thing.
There has been no playing at skittles for me in either.  I never mistook
pleasure for the final cause of poetry, nor leisure for the hour of the
poet.  I have done my work so far, not as mere hand and head work apart
from the personal being, but as the completest expression of that being
to which I could attain.’

It certainly is her completest expression, and through it she realizes
her fullest perfection.  ‘The poet,’ she says elsewhere, ‘is at once
richer and poorer than he used to be; he wears better broadcloth, but
speaks no more oracles.’  These words give us the keynote to her view of
the poet’s mission.  He was to utter Divine oracles, to be at once
inspired prophet and holy priest; and as such we may, I think, without
exaggeration, conceive her.  She was a Sibyl delivering a message to the
world, sometimes through stammering lips, and once at least with blinded
eyes, yet always with the true fire and fervour of lofty and unshaken
faith, always with the great raptures of a spiritual nature, the high
ardours of an impassioned soul.  As we read her best poems we feel that,
though Apollo’s shrine be empty and the bronze tripod overthrown, and the
vale of Delphi desolate, still the Pythia is not dead.  In our own age
she has sung for us, and this land gave her new birth.  Indeed, Mrs.
Browning is the wisest of the Sibyls, wiser even than that mighty figure
whom Michael Angelo has painted on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at
Rome, poring over the scroll of mystery, and trying to decipher the
secrets of Fate; for she realized that, while knowledge is power,
suffering is part of knowledge.

To her influence, almost as much as to the higher education of women, I
would be inclined to attribute the really remarkable awakening of woman’s
song that characterizes the latter half of our century in England.  No
country has ever had so many poetesses at once.  Indeed, when one
remembers that the Greeks had only nine muses, one is sometimes apt to
fancy that we have too many.  And yet the work done by women in the
sphere of poetry is really of a very high standard of excellence.  In
England we have always been prone to underrate the value of tradition in
literature.  In our eagerness to find a new voice and a fresh mode of
music, we have forgotten how beautiful Echo may be.  We look first for
individuality and personality, and these are, indeed, the chief
characteristics of the masterpieces of our literature, either in prose or
verse; but deliberate culture and a study of the best models, if united
to an artistic temperament and a nature susceptible of exquisite
impressions, may produce much that is admirable, much that is worthy of
praise.  It would be quite impossible to give a complete catalogue of all
the women who since Mrs. Browning’s day have tried lute and lyre.  Mrs.
Pfeiffer, Mrs. Hamilton King, Mrs. Augusta Webster, Graham Tomson, Miss
Mary Robinson, Jean Ingelow, Miss May Kendall, Miss Nesbit, Miss May
Probyn, Mrs. Craik, Mrs. Meynell, Miss Chapman, and many others have done
really good work in poetry, either in the grave Dorian mode of thoughtful
and intellectual verse, or in the light and graceful forms of old French
song, or in the romantic manner of antique ballad, or in that ‘moment’s
monument,’ as Rossetti called it, the intense and concentrated sonnet.
Occasionally one is tempted to wish that the quick, artistic faculty that
women undoubtedly possess developed itself somewhat more in prose and
somewhat less in verse.  Poetry is for our highest moods, when we wish to
be with the gods, and in our poetry nothing but the very best should
satisfy us; but prose is for our daily bread, and the lack of good prose
is one of the chief blots on our culture.  French prose, even in the
hands of the most ordinary writers, is always readable, but English prose
is detestable.  We have a few, a very few, masters, such as they are.  We
have Carlyle, who should not be imitated; and Mr. Pater, who, through the
subtle perfection of his form, is inimitable absolutely; and Mr. Froude,
who is useful; and Matthew Arnold, who is a model; and Mr. George
Meredith, who is a warning; and Mr. Lang, who is the divine amateur; and
Mr. Stevenson, who is the humane artist; and Mr. Ruskin, whose rhythm and
colour and fine rhetoric and marvellous music of words are entirely
unattainable.  But the general prose that one reads in magazines and in
newspapers is terribly dull and cumbrous, heavy in movement and uncouth
or exaggerated in expression.  Possibly some day our women of letters
will apply themselves more definitely to prose.

Their light touch, and exquisite ear, and delicate sense of balance and
proportion would be of no small service to us.  I can fancy women
bringing a new manner into our literature.

However, we have to deal here with women as poetesses, and it is
interesting to note that, though Mrs. Browning’s influence undoubtedly
contributed very largely to the development of this new song-movement, if
I may so term it, still there seems to have been never a time during the
last three hundred years when the women of this kingdom did not
cultivate, if not the art, at least the habit, of writing poetry.

Who the first English poetess was I cannot say.  I believe it was the
Abbess Juliana Berners, who lived in the fifteenth century; but I have no
doubt that Mr. Freeman would be able at a moment’s notice to produce some
wonderful Saxon or Norman poetess, whose works cannot be read without a
glossary, and even with its aid are completely unintelligible.  For my
own part, I am content with the Abbess Juliana, who wrote
enthusiastically about hawking; and after her I would mention Anne Askew,
who in prison and on the eve of her fiery martyrdom wrote a ballad that
has, at any rate, a pathetic and historical interest.  Queen Elizabeth’s
‘most sweet and sententious ditty’ on Mary Stuart is highly praised by
Puttenham, a contemporary critic, as an example of ‘Exargasia, or the
Gorgeous in Literature,’ which somehow seems a very suitable epithet for
such a great Queen’s poems.  The term she applies to the unfortunate
Queen of Scots, ‘the daughter of debate,’ has, of course, long since
passed into literature.  The Countess of Pembroke, Sir Philip Sidney’s
sister, was much admired as a poetess in her day.

In 1613 the ‘learned, virtuous, and truly noble ladie,’ Elizabeth Carew,
published a _Tragedie of Marian_, _the Faire Queene of Jewry_, and a few
years later the ‘noble ladie Diana Primrose’ wrote _A Chain of Pearl_,
which is a panegyric on the ‘peerless graces’ of Gloriana.  Mary Morpeth,
the friend and admirer of Drummond of Hawthornden; Lady Mary Wroth, to
whom Ben Jonson dedicated _The Alchemist_; and the Princess Elizabeth,
the sister of Charles I., should also be mentioned.

After the Restoration women applied themselves with still greater ardour
to the study of literature and the practice of poetry.  Margaret, Duchess
of Newcastle, was a true woman of letters, and some of her verses are
extremely pretty and graceful.  Mrs. Aphra Behn was the first
Englishwoman who adopted literature as a regular profession.  Mrs.
Katharine Philips, according to Mr. Gosse, invented sentimentality.  As
she was praised by Dryden, and mourned by Cowley, let us hope she may be
forgiven.  Keats came across her poems at Oxford when he was writing
_Endymion_, and found in one of them ‘a most delicate fancy of the
Fletcher kind’; but I fear nobody reads the Matchless Orinda now.  Of
Lady Winchelsea’s _Nocturnal Reverie_ Wordsworth said that, with the
exception of Pope’s _Windsor Forest_, it was the only poem of the period
intervening between _Paradise Lost_ and Thomson’s _Seasons_ that
contained a single new image of external nature.  Lady Rachel Russell,
who may be said to have inaugurated the letter-writing literature of
England; Eliza Haywood, who is immortalized by the badness of her work,
and has a niche in _The Dunciad_; and the Marchioness of Wharton, whose
poems Waller said he admired, are very remarkable types, the finest of
them being, of course, the first named, who was a woman of heroic mould
and of a most noble dignity of nature.

Indeed, though the English poetesses up to the time of Mrs. Browning
cannot be said to have produced any work of absolute genius, they are
certainly interesting figures, fascinating subjects for study.  Amongst
them we find Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who had all the caprice of
Cleopatra, and whose letters are delightful reading; Mrs. Centlivre, who
wrote one brilliant comedy; Lady Anne Barnard, whose _Auld Robin Gray_
was described by Sir Walter Scott as ‘worth all the dialogues Corydon and
Phillis have together spoken from the days of Theocritus downwards,’ and
is certainly a very beautiful and touching poem; Esther Vanhomrigh and
Hester Johnson, the Vanessa and the Stella of Dean Swift’s life; Mrs.
Thrale, the friend of the great lexicographer; the worthy Mrs. Barbauld;
the excellent Miss Hannah More; the industrious Joanna Baillie; the
admirable Mrs. Chapone, whose _Ode to Solitude_ always fills me with the
wildest passion for society, and who will at least be remembered as the
patroness of the establishment at which Becky Sharp was educated; Miss
Anna Seward, who was called ‘The Swan of Lichfield’; poor L. E. L. whom
Disraeli described in one of his clever letters to his sister as ‘the
personification of Brompton—pink satin dress, white satin shoes, red
cheeks, snub nose, and her hair _à la_ Sappho’; Mrs. Ratcliffe, who
introduced the romantic novel, and has consequently much to answer for;
the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, of whom Gibbon said that she was
‘made for something better than a Duchess’; the two wonderful sisters,
Lady Dufferin and Mrs. Norton; Mrs. Tighe, whose _Psyche_ Keats read with
pleasure; Constantia Grierson, a marvellous blue-stocking in her time;
Mrs. Hemans; pretty, charming ‘Perdita,’ who flirted alternately with
poetry and the Prince Regent, played divinely in the _Winter’s Tale_, was
brutally attacked by Gifford, and has left us a pathetic little poem on a
Snowdrop; and Emily Brontë, whose poems are instinct with tragic power,
and seem often on the verge of being great.

Old fashions in literature are not so pleasant as old fashions in dress.
I like the costume of the age of powder better than the poetry of the age
of Pope.  But if one adopts the historical standpoint—and this is,
indeed, the only standpoint from which we can ever form a fair estimate
of work that is not absolutely of the highest order—we cannot fail to see
that many of the English poetesses who preceded Mrs. Browning were women
of no ordinary talent, and that if the majority of them looked upon
poetry simply as a department of _belles lettres_, so in most cases did
their contemporaries.  Since Mrs. Browning’s day our woods have become
full of singing birds, and if I venture to ask them to apply themselves
more to prose and less to song, it is not that I like poetical prose, but
that I love the prose of poets.



VENUS OR VICTORY
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, February 24, 1888.)


There are certain problems in archæology that seem to possess a real
romantic interest, and foremost among these is the question of the
so-called Venus of Melos.  Who is she, this marble mutilated goddess whom
Gautier loved, to whom Heine bent his knee?  What sculptor wrought her,
and for what shrine?  Whose hands walled her up in that rude niche where
the Melian peasant found her?  What symbol of her divinity did she carry?
Was it apple of gold or shield of bronze?  Where is her city and what was
her name among gods and men?  The last writer on this fascinating subject
is Mr. Stillman, who in a most interesting book recently published in
America, claims that the work of art in question is no sea-born and
foam-born Aphrodite, but the very Victory Without Wings that once stood
in the little chapel outside the gates of the Acropolis at Athens.  So
long ago as 1826, that is to say six years after the discovery of the
statue, the Venus hypothesis was violently attacked by Millingen, and
from that time to this the battle of the archæologists has never ceased.
Mr. Stillman, who fights, of course, under Millingen’s banner, points out
that the statue is not of the Venus type at all, being far too heroic in
character to correspond to the Greek conception of Aphrodite at any
period of their artistic development, but that it agrees distinctly with
certain well-known statues of Victory, such as the celebrated ‘Victory of
Brescia.’  The latter is in bronze, is later, and has the wings, but the
type is unmistakable, and though not a reproduction it is certainly a
recollection of the Melian statue.  The representation of Victory on the
coin of Agathocles is also obviously of the Melian type, and in the
museum of Naples is a terra-cotta Victory in almost the identical action
and drapery.  As for Dumont d’Urville’s statement that, when the statue
was discovered, one hand held an apple and the other a fold of the
drapery, the latter is obviously a mistake, and the whole evidence on the
subject is so contradictory that no reliance can be placed on the
statement made by the French Consul and the French naval officers, none
of whom seems to have taken the trouble to ascertain whether the arm and
hand now in the Louvre were really found in the same niche as the statue
at all.  At any rate, these fragments seem to be of extremely inferior
workmanship, and they are so imperfect that they are quite worthless as
data for measure or opinion.  So far, Mr. Stillman is on old ground.  His
real artistic discovery is this.  In working about the Acropolis of
Athens, some years ago, he photographed among other sculptures the
mutilated Victories in the Temple of Nikè Apteros, the ‘Wingless
Victory,’ the little Ionic temple in which stood that statue of Victory
of which it was said that ‘_the Athenians made her without wings that she
might never leave Athens_.’  Looking over the photographs afterwards,
when the impression of the comparatively diminutive size had passed, he
was struck with the close resemblance of the type to that of the Melian
statue.  Now, this resemblance is so striking that it cannot be
questioned by any one who has an eye for form.  There are the same large
heroic proportions, the same ampleness of physical development, and the
same treatment of drapery, and there is also that perfect spiritual
kinship which, to any true antiquarian, is one of the most valuable modes
of evidence.  Now it is generally admitted on both sides that the Melian
statue is probably Attic in its origin, and belongs certainly to the
period between Phidias and Praxiteles, that is to say, to the age of
Scopas, if it be not actually the work of Scopas himself; and as it is to
Scopas that these bas-reliefs have been always attributed, the similarity
of style can, on Mr. Stillman’s hypothesis, be easily accounted for.

As regards the appearance of the statue in Melos, Mr. Stillman points out
that Melos belonged to Athens as late as she had any Greek allegiance,
and that it is probable that the statue was sent there for concealment on
the occasion of some siege or invasion.  When this took place, Mr.
Stillman does not pretend to decide with any degree of certainty, but it
is evident that it must have been subsequent to the establishment of the
Roman hegemony, as the brickwork of the niche in which the statue was
found is clearly Roman in character, and before the time of Pausanias and
Pliny, as neither of these antiquaries mentions the statue.  Accepting,
then, the statue as that of the Victory Without Wings, Mr. Stillman
agrees with Millingen in supposing that in her left hand she held a
bronze shield, the lower rim of which rested on the left knee where some
marks of the kind are easily recognizable, while with her right hand she
traced, or had just finished tracing, the names of the great heroes of
Athens.  Valentin’s objection, that if this were so the left thigh would
incline outwards so as to secure a balance, Mr. Stillman meets partly by
the analogy of the Victory of Brescia and partly by the evidence of
Nature herself; for he has had a model photographed in the same position
as the statue and holding a shield in the manner he proposes in his
restoration.  The result is precisely the contrary to that which Valentin
assumes.  Of course, Mr. Stillman’s solution of the whole matter must not
be regarded as an absolutely scientific demonstration.  It is simply an
induction in which a kind of artistic instinct, not communicable or
equally valuable to all people, has had the greatest part, but to this
mode of interpretation archæologists as a class have been far too
indifferent; and it is certain that in the present case it has given us a
theory which is most fruitful and suggestive.

The little temple of Nikè Apteros has had, as Mr. Stillman reminds us, a
destiny unique of its kind.  Like the Parthenon, it was standing little
more than two hundred years ago, but during the Turkish occupation it was
razed, and its stones all built into the great bastion which covered the
front of the Acropolis and blocked up the staircase to the Propylæa.  It
was dug out and restored, nearly every stone in its place, by two German
architects during the reign of Otho, and it stands again just as
Pausanias described it on the spot where old Ægeus watched for the return
of Theseus from Crete.  In the distance are Salamis and Ægina, and beyond
the purple hills lies Marathon.  If the Melian statue be indeed the
Victory Without Wings, she had no unworthy shrine.

There are some other interesting essays in Mr. Stillman’s book on the
wonderful topographical knowledge of Ithaca displayed in the _Odyssey_,
and discussions of this kind are always interesting as long as there is
no attempt to represent Homer as the ordinary literary man; but the
article on the Melian statue is by far the most important and the most
delightful.  Some people will, no doubt, regret the possibility of the
disappearance of the old name, and as Venus not as Victory will still
worship the stately goddess, but there are others who will be glad to see
in her the image and ideal of that spiritual enthusiasm to which Athens
owed her liberty, and by which alone can liberty be won.

_On the Track of Ulysses_; _together with an Excursion in Quest of the
So-called Venus of Melos_.  By W. J. Stillman.  (Houghton, Mifflin and
Co., Boston.)



M. CARO ON GEORGE SAND
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, April 14, 1888.)


The biography of a very great man from the pen of a very ladylike
writer—this is the best description we can give of M. Caro’s Life of
George Sand.  The late Professor of the Sorbonne could chatter charmingly
about culture, and had all the fascinating insincerity of an accomplished
phrase-maker; being an extremely superior person he had a great contempt
for Democracy and its doings, but he was always popular with the
Duchesses of the Faubourg, as there was nothing in history or in
literature that he could not explain away for their edification; having
never done anything remarkable he was naturally elected a member of the
Academy, and he always remained loyal to the traditions of that
thoroughly respectable and thoroughly pretentious institution.  In fact,
he was just the sort of man who should never have attempted to write a
Life of George Sand or to interpret George Sand’s genius.  He was too
feminine to appreciate the grandeur of that large womanly nature, too
much of a _dilettante_ to realize the masculine force of that strong and
ardent mind.  He never gets at the secret of George Sand, and never
brings us near to her wonderful personality.  He looks on her simply as a
littérateur, as a writer of pretty stories of country life and of
charming, if somewhat exaggerated, romances.  But George Sand was much
more than this.  Beautiful as are such books as _Consuelo_ and _Mauprat_,
_François le Champi_ and _La Mare au Diable_, yet in none of them is she
adequately expressed, by none of them is she adequately revealed.  As Mr.
Matthew Arnold said, many years ago, ‘We do not know George Sand unless
we feel the spirit which goes through her work as a whole.’  With this
spirit, however, M. Caro has no sympathy.  Madame Sand’s doctrines are
antediluvian, he tells us, her philosophy is quite dead and her ideas of
social regeneration are Utopian, incoherent and absurd.  The best thing
for us to do is to forget these silly dreams and to read _Teverino_ and
_Le Secrétaire Intime_.  Poor M. Caro!  This spirit, which he treats with
such airy flippancy, is the very leaven of modern life.  It is remoulding
the world for us and fashioning our age anew.  If it is antediluvian, it
is so because the deluge is yet to come; if it is Utopian, then Utopia
must be added to our geographies.  To what curious straits M. Caro is
driven by his violent prejudices may be estimated by the fact that he
tries to class George Sand’s novels with the old _Chansons de geste_, the
stories of adventure characteristic of primitive literatures; whereas in
using fiction as a vehicle of thought, and romance as a means of
influencing the social ideals of her age, George Sand was merely carrying
out the traditions of Voltaire and Rousseau, of Diderot and of
Chateaubriand.  The novel, says M. Caro, must be allied either to poetry
or to science.  That it has found in philosophy one of its strongest
allies seems not to have occurred to him.  In an English critic such a
view might possibly be excusable.  Our greatest novelists, such as
Fielding, Scott and Thackeray, cared little for the philosophy of their
age.  But coming, as it does, from a French critic, the statement seems
to show a strange want of recognition of one of the most important
elements of French fiction.  Nor, even in the narrow limits that he has
imposed upon himself, can M. Caro be said to be a very fortunate or
felicitous critic.  To take merely one instance out of many, he says
nothing of George Sand’s delightful treatment of art and the artist’s
life.  And yet how exquisitely does she analyse each separate art and
present it to us in its relation to life!  In _Consuelo_ she tells us of
music; in _Horace_ of authorship; in _Le Château des Désertes_ of acting;
in _Les Maîtres Mosaïstes_ of mosaic work; in _Le Château de Pictordu_ of
portrait painting; and in _La Daniella_ of the painting of landscape.
What Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Browning have done for England she did for
France.  She invented an art literature.  It is unnecessary, however, to
discuss any of M. Caro’s minor failings, for the whole effect of the
book, so far as it attempts to portray for us the scope and character of
George Sand’s genius, is entirely spoiled by the false attitude assumed
from the beginning, and though the dictum may seem to many harsh and
exclusive, we cannot help feeling that an absolute incapacity for
appreciating the spirit of a great writer is no qualification for writing
a treatise on the subject.

As for Madame Sand’s private life, which is so intimately connected with
her art (for, like Goethe, she had to live her romances before she could
write them), M. Caro says hardly anything about it.  He passes it over
with a modesty that almost makes one blush, and for fear of wounding the
susceptibilities of those _grandes dames_ whose passions M. Paul Bourget
analyses with such subtlety, he transforms her mother, who was a typical
French _grisette_, into ‘a very amiable and _spirituelle_ milliner’!  It
must be admitted that Joseph Surface himself could hardly show greater
tact and delicacy, though we ourselves must plead guilty to preferring
Madame Sand’s own description of her as an ‘enfant du vieux pavé de
Paris.’

_George Sand_.  By the late Elmé Marie Caro.  Translated by Gustave
Masson, B.A., Assistant Master, Harrow School.  ‘Great French Writers’
Series.  (Routledge and Sons.)



A FASCINATING BOOK
(_Woman’s World_, November 1888.)


Mr. Alan Cole’s carefully-edited translation of M. Lefébure’s history of
_Embroidery and Lace_ is one of the most fascinating books that has
appeared on this delightful subject.  M. Lefébure is one of the
administrators of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at Paris, besides being a
lace manufacturer; and his work has not merely an important historical
value, but as a handbook of technical instruction it will be found of the
greatest service by all needle-women.  Indeed, as the translator himself
points out, M. Lefébure’s book suggests the question whether it is not
rather by the needle and the bobbin, than by the brush, the graver or the
chisel, that the influence of woman should assert itself in the arts.  In
Europe, at any rate, woman is sovereign in the domain of art-needlework,
and few men would care to dispute with her the right of using those
delicate implements so intimately associated with the dexterity of her
nimble and slender fingers; nor is there any reason why the productions
of embroidery should not, as Mr. Alan Cole suggests, be placed on the
same level with those of painting, engraving and sculpture, though there
must always be a great difference between those purely decorative arts
that glorify their own material and the more imaginative arts in which
the material is, as it were, annihilated, and absorbed into the creation
of a new form.  In the beautifying of modern houses it certainly must be
admitted—indeed, it should be more generally recognized than it is—that
rich embroidery on hangings and curtains, _portières_, couches and the
like, produces a far more decorative and far more artistic effect than
can be gained from our somewhat wearisome English practice of covering
the walls with pictures and engravings; and the almost complete
disappearance of embroidery from dress has robbed modern costume of one
of the chief elements of grace and fancy.

That, however, a great improvement has taken place in English embroidery
during the last ten or fifteen years cannot, I think, be denied.  It is
shown, not merely in the work of individual artists, such as Mrs.
Holiday, Miss May Morris and others, but also in the admirable
productions of the South Kensington School of Embroidery (the
best—indeed, the only real good—school that South Kensington has
produced).  It is pleasant to note on turning over the leaves of M.
Lefébure’s book, that in this we are merely carrying out certain old
traditions of Early English art.  In the seventh century, St. Ethelreda,
first abbess of the monastery of Ely, made an offering to St. Cuthbert of
a sacred ornament she had worked with gold and precious stones, and the
cope and maniple of St. Cuthbert, which are preserved at Durham, are
considered to be specimens of _opus Anglicanum_.  In the year 800, the
Bishop of Durham allotted the income of a farm of two hundred acres for
life to an embroideress named Eanswitha, in consideration of her keeping
in repair the vestments of the clergy in his diocese.  The battle
standard of King Alfred was embroidered by Danish Princesses; and the
Anglo-Saxon Gudric gave Alcuid a piece of land, on condition that she
instructed his daughter in needle-work.  Queen Mathilda bequeathed to the
Abbey of the Holy Trinity at Caen a tunic embroidered at Winchester by
the wife of one Alderet; and when William presented himself to the
English nobles, after the Battle of Hastings, he wore a mantle covered
with Anglo-Saxon embroideries, which is probably, M. Lefébure suggests,
the same as that mentioned in the inventory of the Bayeux Cathedral,
where, after the entry relating to the _broderie à telle_ (representing
the conquest of England), two mantles are described—one of King William,
‘all of gold, powdered with crosses and blossoms of gold, and edged along
the lower border with an orphrey of figures.’  The most splendid example
of the _opus Anglicanum_ now in existence is, of course, the Syon cope at
the South Kensington Museum; but English work seems to have been
celebrated all over the Continent.  Pope Innocent IV. so admired the
splendid vestments worn by the English clergy in 1246, that he ordered
similar articles from Cistercian monasteries in England.  St. Dunstan,
the artistic English monk, was known as a designer for embroideries; and
the stole of St. Thomas à Becket is still preserved in the cathedral at
Sens, and shows us the interlaced scroll-forms used by Anglo-Saxon MS.
illuminators.

How far this modern artistic revival of rich and delicate embroidery will
bear fruit depends, of course, almost entirely on the energy and study
that women are ready to devote to it; but I think that it must be
admitted that all our decorative arts in Europe at present have, at
least, this element of strength—that they are in immediate relationship
with the decorative arts of Asia.  Wherever we find in European history a
revival of decorative art, it has, I fancy, nearly always been due to
Oriental influence and contact with Oriental nations.  Our own keenly
intellectual art has more than once been ready to sacrifice real
decorative beauty either to imitative presentation or to ideal motive.
It has taken upon itself the burden of expression, and has sought to
interpret the secrets of thought and passion.  In its marvellous truth of
presentation it has found its strength, and yet its weakness is there
also.  It is never with impunity that an art seeks to mirror life.  If
Truth has her revenge upon those who do not follow her, she is often
pitiless to her worshippers.  In Byzantium the two arts met—Greek art,
with its intellectual sense of form, and its quick sympathy with
humanity; Oriental art, with its gorgeous materialism, its frank
rejection of imitation, its wonderful secrets of craft and colour, its
splendid textures, its rare metals and jewels, its marvellous and
priceless traditions.  They had, indeed, met before, but in Byzantium
they were married; and the sacred tree of the Persians, the palm of
Zoroaster, was embroidered on the hem of the garments of the Western
world.  Even the Iconoclasts, the Philistines of theological history,
who, in one of those strange outbursts of rage against Beauty that seem
to occur only amongst European nations, rose up against the wonder and
magnificence of the new art, served merely to distribute its secrets more
widely; and in the _Liber Pontificalis_, written in 687 by Athanasius,
the librarian, we read of an influx into Rome of gorgeous embroideries,
the work of men who had arrived from Constantinople and from Greece.  The
triumph of the Mussulman gave the decorative art of Europe a new
departure—that very principle of their religion that forbade the actual
representation of any object in nature being of the greatest artistic
service to them, though it was not, of course, strictly carried out.  The
Saracens introduced into Sicily the art of weaving silken and golden
fabrics; and from Sicily the manufacture of fine stuffs spread to the
North of Italy, and became localized in Genoa, Florence, Venice, and
other towns.  A still greater art-movement took place in Spain under the
Moors and Saracens, who brought over workmen from Persia to make
beautiful things for them.  M. Lefébure tells us of Persian embroidery
penetrating as far as Andalusia; and Almeria, like Palermo, had its Hôtel
des Tiraz, which rivalled the Hôtel des Tiraz at Bagdad, _tiraz_ being
the generic name for ornamental tissues and costumes made with them.
Spangles (those pretty little discs of gold, silver, or polished steel,
used in certain embroidery for dainty glinting effects) were a Saracenic
invention; and Arabic letters often took the place of letters in the
Roman characters for use in inscriptions upon embroidered robes and
Middle Age tapestries, their decorative value being so much greater.  The
book of crafts by Etienne Boileau, provost of the merchants in 1258–1268,
contains a curious enumeration of the different craft-guilds of Paris,
among which we find ‘the tapiciers, or makers of the _tapis sarrasinois_
(or Saracen cloths), who say that their craft is for the service only of
churches, or great men like kings and counts’; and, indeed, even in our
own day, nearly all our words descriptive of decorative textures and
decorative methods point to an Oriental origin.  What the inroads of the
Mohammedans did for Sicily and Spain, the return of the Crusaders did for
the other countries of Europe.  The nobles who left for Palestine clad in
armour, came back in the rich stuffs of the East; and their costumes,
pouches (_aumônières sarrasinoises_), and caparisons excited the
admiration of the needle-workers of the West.  Matthew Paris says that at
the sacking of Antioch, in 1098, gold, silver and priceless costumes were
so equally distributed among the Crusaders, that many who the night
before were famishing and imploring relief, suddenly found themselves
overwhelmed with wealth; and Robert de Clair tells us of the wonderful
fêtes that followed the capture of Constantinople.  The thirteenth
century, as M. Lefébure points out, was conspicuous for an increased
demand in the West for embroidery.  Many Crusaders made offerings to
churches of plunder from Palestine; and St. Louis, on his return from the
first Crusade, offered thanks at St. Denis to God for mercies bestowed on
him during his six years’ absence and travel, and presented some richly
embroidered stuffs to be used on great occasions as coverings to the
reliquaries containing the relics of holy martyrs.  European embroidery,
having thus become possessed of new materials and wonderful methods,
developed on its own intellectual and imitative lines, inclining, as it
went on, to the purely pictorial, and seeking to rival painting, and to
produce landscapes and figure-subjects with elaborate perspective and
subtle aerial effects.  A fresh Oriental influence, however, came through
the Dutch and the Portuguese, and the famous _Compagnie des Grandes
Indes_; and M. Lefébure gives an illustration of a door-hanging now in
the Cluny Museum, where we find the French _fleurs-de-lys_ intermixed
with Indian ornament.  The hangings of Madame de Maintenon’s room at
Fontainebleau, which were embroidered at St. Cyr, represent Chinese
scenery upon a jonquil-yellow ground.

Clothes were sent out ready cut to the East to be embroidered, and many
of the delightful coats of the period of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. owe
their dainty decoration to the needles of Chinese artists.  In our own
day the influence of the East is strongly marked.  Persia has sent us her
carpets for patterns, and Cashmere her lovely shawls, and India her
dainty muslins finely worked with gold thread palmates, and stitched over
with iridescent beetles’ wings.  We are beginning now to dye by Oriental
methods, and the silk robes of China and Japan have taught us new wonders
of colour-combination, and new subtleties of delicate design.  Whether we
have yet learned to make a wise use of what we have acquired is less
certain.  If books produce an effect, this book of M. Lefébure should
certainly make us study with still deeper interest the whole question of
embroidery, and by those who already work with their needles it will be
found full of most fertile suggestion and most admirable advice.

Even to read of the marvellous works of embroidery that were fashioned in
bygone ages is pleasant.  Time has kept a few fragments of Greek
embroidery of the fourth century B.C. for us.  One is figured in M.
Lefébure’s book—a chain-stitch embroidery of yellow flax upon a
mulberry-coloured worsted material, with graceful spirals and
palmetto-patterns: and another, a tapestried cloth powdered with ducks,
was reproduced in the _Woman’s World_ some months ago for an article by
Mr. Alan Cole. {115}  Now and then we find in the tomb of some dead
Egyptian a piece of delicate work.  In the treasury at Ratisbon is
preserved a specimen of Byzantine embroidery on which the Emperor
Constantine is depicted riding on a white palfrey, and receiving homage
from the East and West.  Metz has a red silk cope wrought with great
eagles, the gift of Charlemagne, and Bayeux the needle-wrought epic of
Queen Matilda.  But where is the great crocus-coloured robe, wrought for
Athena, on which the gods fought against the giants?  Where is the huge
velarium that Nero stretched across the Colosseum at Rome, on which was
represented the starry sky, and Apollo driving a chariot drawn by steeds?
How one would like to see the curious table-napkins wrought for
Heliogabalus, on which were displayed all the dainties and viands that
could be wanted for a feast; or the mortuary-cloth of King Chilperic,
with its three hundred golden bees; or the fantastic robes that excited
the indignation of the Bishop of Pontus, and were embroidered with
‘lions, panthers, bears, dogs, forests, rocks, hunters—all, in fact, that
painters can copy from nature.’  Charles of Orleans had a coat, on the
sleeves of which were embroidered the verses of a song beginning
‘_Madame_, _je suis tout joyeux_,’ the musical accompaniment of the words
being wrought in gold thread, and each note, of square shape in those
days, formed with four pearls. {116}  The room prepared in the palace at
Rheims for the use of Queen Joan of Burgundy was decorated with ‘thirteen
hundred and twenty-one _papegauts_ (parrots) made in broidery and
blazoned with the King’s arms, and five hundred and sixty-one
butterflies, whose wings were similarly ornamented with the Queen’s
arms—the whole worked in fine gold.’  Catherine de Medicis had a
mourning-bed made for her ‘of black velvet embroidered with pearls and
powdered with crescents and suns.’  Its curtains were of damask, ‘with
leafy wreaths and garlands figured upon a gold and silver ground, and
fringed along the edges with broideries of pearls,’ and it stood in a
room hung with rows of the Queen’s devices in cut black velvet on cloth
of silver.  Louis XIV. had gold-embroidered caryatides fifteen feet high
in his apartment.  The state bed of Sobieski, King of Poland, was made of
Smyrna gold brocade embroidered in turquoises and pearls, with verses
from the Koran; its supports were of silver-gilt, beautifully chased and
profusely set with enamelled and jewelled medallions.  He had taken it
from the Turkish camp before Vienna, and the standard of Mahomet had
stood under it.  The Duchess de la Ferté wore a dress of reddish-brown
velvet, the skirt of which, adjusted in graceful folds, was held up by
big butterflies made of Dresden china; the front was a _tablier_ of cloth
of silver, upon which was embroidered an orchestra of musicians arranged
in a pyramidal group, consisting of a series of six ranks of performers,
with beautiful instruments wrought in raised needle-work.  ‘Into the
night go one and all,’ as Mr. Henley sings in his charming _Ballade of
Dead Actors_.

Many of the facts related by M. Lefébure about the embroiderers’ guilds
are also extremely interesting.  Etienne Boileau, in his book of crafts,
to which I have already alluded, tells us that a member of the guild was
prohibited from using gold of less value than ‘eight sous (about 6s.) the
skein; he was bound to use the best silk, and never to mix thread with
silk, because that made the work false and bad.’  The test or trial piece
prescribed for a worker who was the son of a master-embroiderer was ‘a
single figure, a sixth of the natural size, to be shaded in gold’; whilst
one not the son of a master was required to produce ‘a complete incident
with many figures.’  The book of crafts also mentions ‘cutters-out and
stencillers and illuminators’ amongst those employed in the industry of
embroidery.  In 1551 the Parisian Corporation of Embroiderers issued a
notice that ‘for the future, the colouring in representations of nude
figures and faces should be done in three or four gradations of
carnation-dyed silk, and not, as formerly, in white silks.’  During the
fifteenth century every household of any position retained the services
of an embroiderer by the year.  The preparation of colours also, whether
for painting or for dyeing threads and textile fabrics, was a matter
which, M. Lefébure points out, received close attention from the artists
of the Middle Ages.  Many undertook long journeys to obtain the more
famous recipes, which they filed, subsequently adding to and correcting
them as experience dictated.  Nor were great artists above making and
supplying designs for embroidery.  Raphael made designs for Francis I.,
and Boucher for Louis XV.; and in the Ambras collection at Vienna is a
superb set of sacerdotal robes from designs by the brothers Van Eyck and
their pupils.  Early in the sixteenth century books of embroidery designs
were produced, and their success was so great that in a few years French,
German, Italian, Flemish, and English publishers spread broadcast books
of design made by their best engravers.  In the same century, in order to
give the designers opportunity of studying directly from nature, Jean
Robin opened a garden with conservatories, in which he cultivated strange
varieties of plants then but little known in our latitudes.  The rich
brocades and brocadelles of the time are characterized by the
introduction of large flowery patterns, with pomegranates and other
fruits with fine foliage.

The second part of M. Lefébure’s book is devoted to the history of lace,
and though some may not find it quite as interesting as the earlier
portion it will more than repay perusal; and those who still work in this
delicate and fanciful art will find many valuable suggestions in it, as
well as a large number of exceedingly beautiful designs.  Compared to
embroidery, lace seems comparatively modern.  M. Lefébure and Mr. Alan
Cole tell us that there is no reliable or documentary evidence to prove
the existence of lace before the fifteenth century.  Of course in the
East, light tissues, such as gauzes, muslins, and nets, were made at very
early times, and were used as veils and scarfs after the manner of
subsequent laces, and women enriched them with some sort of embroidery,
or varied the openness of them by here and there drawing out threads.
The threads of fringes seem also to have been plaited and knotted
together, and the borders of one of the many fashions of Roman toga were
of open reticulated weaving.  The Egyptian Museum at the Louvre has a
curious network embellished with glass beads; and the monk Reginald, who
took part in opening the tomb of St. Cuthbert at Durham in the twelfth
century, writes that the Saint’s shroud had a fringe of linen threads an
inch long, surmounted by a border, ‘worked upon the threads,’ with
representations of birds and pairs of beasts, there being between each
such pair a branching tree, a survival of the palm of Zoroaster, to which
I have before alluded.  Our authors, however, do not in these examples
recognize lace, the production of which involves more refined and
artistic methods, and postulates a combination of skill and varied
execution carried to a higher degree of perfection.  Lace, as we know it,
seems to have had its origin in the habit of embroidering linen.  White
embroidery on linen has, M. Lefébure remarks, a cold and monotonous
aspect; that with coloured threads is brighter and gayer in effect, but
is apt to fade in frequent washing; but white embroidery relieved by open
spaces in, or shapes cut from, the linen ground, is possessed of an
entirely new charm; and from a sense of this the birth may be traced of
an art in the result of which happy contrasts are effected between
ornamental details of close texture and others of open-work.

Soon, also, was suggested the idea that, instead of laboriously
withdrawing threads from stout linen, it would be more convenient to
introduce a needle-made pattern into an open network ground, which was
called a _lacis_.  Of this kind of embroidery many specimens are extant.
The Cluny Museum possesses a linen cap said to have belonged to Charles
V.; and an alb of linen drawn-thread work, supposed to have been made by
Anne of Bohemia (1527), is preserved in the cathedral at Prague.
Catherine de Medicis had a bed draped with squares of _réseuil_, or
_lacis_, and it is recorded that ‘the girls and servants of her household
consumed much time in making squares of _réseuil_.’  The interesting
pattern-books for open-ground embroidery, of which the first was
published in 1527 by Pierre Quinty, of Cologne, supply us with the means
of tracing the stages in the transition from white thread embroidery to
needle-point lace.  We meet in them with a style of needle-work which
differs from embroidery in not being wrought upon a stuff foundation.  It
is, in fact, true lace, done, as it were, ‘in the air,’ both ground and
pattern being entirely produced by the lace-maker.

The elaborate use of lace in costume was, of course, largely stimulated
by the fashion of wearing ruffs, and their companion cuffs or sleeves.
Catherine de Medicis induced one Frederic Vinciolo to come from Italy and
make ruffs and gadrooned collars, the fashion of which she started in
France; and Henry III. was so punctilious over his ruffs that he would
iron and goffer his cuffs and collars himself rather than see their
pleats limp and out of shape.  The pattern-books also gave a great
impulse to the art.  M. Lefébure mentions German books with patterns of
eagles, heraldic emblems, hunting scenes, and plants and leaves belonging
to Northern vegetation; and Italian books, in which the _motifs_ consist
of oleander blossoms, and elegant wreaths and scrolls, landscapes with
mythological scenes, and hunting episodes, less realistic than the
Northern ones, in which appear fauns, and nymphs or _amorini_ shooting
arrows.  With regard to these patterns, M. Lefébure notices a curious
fact.  The oldest painting in which lace is depicted is that of a lady,
by Carpaccio, who died about 1523.  The cuffs of the lady are edged with
a narrow lace, the pattern of which reappears in Vecellio’s _Corona_, a
book not published until 1591.  This particular pattern was, therefore,
in use at least eighty years before it got into circulation with other
published patterns.

It was not, however, till the seventeenth century that lace acquired a
really independent character and individuality, and M. Duplessis states
that the production of the more noteworthy of early laces owes more to
the influence of men than to that of women.  The reign of Louis XIV.
witnessed the production of the most stately needle-point laces, the
transformation of Venetian point, and the growth of _Points d’Alençon_,
_d’Argentan_, _de Bruxelles_ and _d’Angleterre_.

The king, aided by Colbert, determined to make France the centre, if
possible, for lace manufacture, sending for this purpose both to Venice
and to Flanders for workers.  The studio of the Gobelins supplied
designs.  The dandies had their huge rabatos or bands falling from
beneath the chin over the breast, and great prelates, like Bossuet and
Fénelon, wore their wonderful albs and rochets.  It is related of a
collar made at Venice for Louis XIV. that the lace-workers, being unable
to find sufficiently fine horse-hair, employed some of their own hairs
instead, in order to secure that marvellous delicacy of work which they
aimed at producing.

In the eighteenth century, Venice, finding that laces of lighter texture
were sought after, set herself to make rose-point; and at the Court of
Louis XV. the choice of lace was regulated by still more elaborate
etiquette.  The Revolution, however, ruined many of the manufactures.
Alençon survived, and Napoleon encouraged it, and endeavoured to renew
the old rules about the necessity of wearing point-lace at Court
receptions.  A wonderful piece of lace, powdered over with devices of
bees, and costing 40,000 francs, was ordered.  It was begun for the
Empress Josephine, but in the course of its making her escutcheons were
replaced by those of Marie Louise.

M. Lefébure concludes his interesting history by stating very clearly his
attitude towards machine-made lace.  ‘It would be an obvious loss to
art,’ he says, ‘should the making of lace by hand become extinct, for
machinery, as skilfully devised as possible, cannot do what the hand
does.’  It can give us ‘the results of processes, not the creations of
artistic handicraft.’  Art is absent ‘where formal calculation pretends
to supersede emotion’; it is absent ‘where no trace can be detected of
intelligence guiding handicraft, whose hesitancies even possess peculiar
charm . . . cheapness is never commendable in respect of things which are
not absolute necessities; it lowers artistic standard.’  These are
admirable remarks, and with them we take leave of this fascinating book,
with its delightful illustrations, its charming anecdotes, its excellent
advice.  Mr. Alan Cole deserves the thanks of all who are interested in
art for bringing this book before the public in so attractive and so
inexpensive a form.

_Embroidery and Lace_: _Their Manufacture and History from the Remotest
Antiquity to the Present Day_.  Translated and enlarged by Alan S. Cole
from the French of Ernest Lefébure.  (Grevel and Co.)



HENLEY’S POEMS
(_Woman’s World_, December 1888.)


‘If I were king,’ says Mr. Henley, in one of his most modest rondeaus,

    ‘Art should aspire, yet ugliness be dear;
    Beauty, the shaft, should speed with wit for feather;
    And love, sweet love, should never fall to sere,
             If I were king.’

And these lines contain, if not the best criticism of his own work,
certainly a very complete statement of his aim and motive as a poet.  His
little _Book of Verses_ reveals to us an artist who is seeking to find
new methods of expression and has not merely a delicate sense of beauty
and a brilliant, fantastic wit, but a real passion also for what is
horrible, ugly, or grotesque.  No doubt, everything that is worthy of
existence is worthy also of art—at least, one would like to think so—but
while echo or mirror can repeat for us a beautiful thing, to render
artistically a thing that is ugly requires the most exquisite alchemy of
form, the most subtle magic of transformation.  To me there is more of
the cry of Marsyas than of the singing of Apollo in the earlier poems of
Mr. Henley’s volume, _In Hospital_: _Rhymes and Rhythms_, as he calls
them.  But it is impossible to deny their power.  Some of them are like
bright, vivid pastels; others like charcoal drawings, with dull blacks
and murky whites; others like etchings with deeply-bitten lines, and
abrupt contrasts, and clever colour-suggestions.  In fact, they are like
anything and everything, except perfected poems—that they certainly are
not.  They are still in the twilight.  They are preludes, experiments,
inspired jottings in a note-book, and should be heralded by a design of
‘Genius Making Sketches.’  Rhyme gives architecture as well as melody to
verse; it gives that delightful sense of limitation which in all the arts
is so pleasurable, and is, indeed, one of the secrets of perfection; it
will whisper, as a French critic has said, ‘things unexpected and
charming, things with strange and remote relations to each other,’ and
bind them together in indissoluble bonds of beauty; and in his constant
rejection of rhyme, Mr. Henley seems to me to have abdicated half his
power.  He is a _roi en exil_ who has thrown away some of the strings of
his lute; a poet who has forgotten the fairest part of his kingdom.

However, all work criticizes itself.  Here is one of Mr. Henley’s
inspired jottings.  According to the temperament of the reader, it will
serve either as a model or as the reverse:

    As with varnish red and glistening
       Dripped his hair; his feet were rigid;
       Raised, he settled stiffly sideways:
       You could see the hurts were spinal.

    He had fallen from an engine,
       And been dragged along the metals.
       It was hopeless, and they knew it;
       So they covered him, and left him.

    As he lay, by fits half sentient,
       Inarticulately moaning,
       With his stockinged feet protruded
       Sharp and awkward from the blankets,

    To his bed there came a woman,
       Stood and looked and sighed a little,
       And departed without speaking,
       As himself a few hours after.

    I was told she was his sweetheart.
       They were on the eve of marriage.
       She was quiet as a statue,
       But her lip was gray and writhen.

In this poem, the rhythm and the music, such as it is, are
obvious—perhaps a little too obvious.  In the following I see nothing but
ingeniously printed prose.  It is a description—and a very accurate
one—of a scene in a hospital ward.  The medical students are supposed to
be crowding round the doctor.  What I quote is only a fragment, but the
poem itself is a fragment:

    So shows the ring
    Seen, from behind, round a conjuror
    Doing his pitch in the street.
    High shoulders, low shoulders, broad shoulders, narrow ones,
    Round, square, and angular, serry and shove;
    While from within a voice,
    Gravely and weightily fluent,
    Sounds; and then ceases; and suddenly
    (Look at the stress of the shoulders!)
    Out of a quiver of silence,
    Over the hiss of the spray,
    Comes a low cry, and the sound
    Of breath quick intaken through teeth
    Clenched in resolve.  And the master
    Breaks from the crowd, and goes,
    Wiping his hands,
    To the next bed, with his pupils
    Flocking and whispering behind him.

    Now one can see.
    Case Number One
    Sits (rather pale) with his bedclothes
    Stripped up, and showing his foot
    (Alas, for God’s image!)
    Swaddled in wet white lint
    Brilliantly hideous with red.

Théophile Gautier once said that Flaubert’s style was meant to be read,
and his own style to be looked at.  Mr. Henley’s unrhymed rhythms form
very dainty designs, from a typographical point of view.  From the point
of view of literature, they are a series of vivid, concentrated
impressions, with a keen grip of fact, a terrible actuality, and an
almost masterly power of picturesque presentation.  But the poetic
form—what of that?

Well, let us pass to the later poems, to the rondels and rondeaus, the
sonnets and quatorzains, the echoes and the ballades.  How brilliant and
fanciful this is!  The Toyokuni colour-print that suggested it could not
be more delightful.  It seems to have kept all the wilful fantastic charm
of the original:

    Was I a Samurai renowned,
    Two-sworded, fierce, immense of bow?
    A histrion angular and profound?
    A priest? a porter?—Child, although
    I have forgotten clean, I know
    That in the shade of Fujisan,
    What time the cherry-orchards blow,
    I loved you once in old Japan.

    As here you loiter, flowing-gowned
    And hugely sashed, with pins a-row
    Your quaint head as with flamelets crowned,
    Demure, inviting—even so,
    When merry maids in Miyako
    To feel the sweet o’ the year began,
    And green gardens to overflow,
    I loved you once in old Japan.

    Clear shine the hills; the rice-fields round
    Two cranes are circling; sleepy and slow,
    A blue canal the lake’s blue bound
    Breaks at the bamboo bridge; and lo!
    Touched with the sundown’s spirit and glow,
    I see you turn, with flirted fan,
    Against the plum-tree’s bloomy snow . . .
    I loved you once in old Japan!

                                    ENVOY.

    Dear, ’twas a dozen lives ago
    But that I was a lucky man
    The Toyokuni here will show:
    I loved you—once—in old Japan!

This rondel, too—how light it is, and graceful!—

    We’ll to the woods and gather may
    Fresh from the footprints of the rain.
    We’ll to the woods, at every vein
    To drink the spirit of the day.

    The winds of spring are out at play,
    The needs of spring in heart and brain.
    We’ll to the woods and gather may
    Fresh from the footprints of the rain.

    The world’s too near her end, you say?
    Hark to the blackbird’s mad refrain!
    It waits for her, the vast Inane?
    Then, girls, to help her on the way
    We’ll to the woods and gather may.

There are fine verses, also, scattered through this little book; some of
them very strong, as—

    Out of the night that covers me,
       Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
       For my unconquerable soul.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
       How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
       I am the captain of my soul.

Others with a true touch of romance, as—

    Or ever the knightly years were gone
       With the old world to the grave,
    I was a king in Babylon,
       And you were a Christian slave.

And here and there we come across such felicitous phrases as—

             In the sand
    The gold prow-griffin claws a hold,

or—

             The spires
    Shine and are changed,

and many other graceful or fanciful lines, even ‘the green sky’s minor
thirds’ being perfectly right in its place, and a very refreshing bit of
affectation in a volume where there is so much that is natural.

However, Mr. Henley is not to be judged by samples.  Indeed, the most
attractive thing in the book is no single poem that is in it, but the
strong humane personality that stands behind both flawless and faulty
work alike, and looks out through many masks, some of them beautiful, and
some grotesque, and not a few misshapen.  In the case with most of our
modern poets, when we have analysed them down to an adjective, we can go
no further, or we care to go no further; but with this book it is
different.  Through these reeds and pipes blows the very breath of life.
It seems as if one could put one’s hand upon the singer’s heart and count
its pulsations.  There is something wholesome, virile and sane about the
man’s soul.  Anybody can be reasonable, but to be sane is not common; and
sane poets are as rare as blue lilies, though they may not be quite so
delightful.

    Let the great winds their worst and wildest blow,
    Or the gold weather round us mellow slow;
    We have fulfilled ourselves, and we can dare,
    And we can conquer, though we may not share
    In the rich quiet of the afterglow,
             What is to come,

is the concluding stanza of the last rondeau—indeed, of the last poem in
the collection, and the high, serene temper displayed in these lines
serves at once as keynote and keystone to the book.  The very lightness
and slightness of so much of the work, its careless moods and casual
fancies, seem to suggest a nature that is not primarily interested in
art—a nature, like Sordello’s, passionately enamoured of life, one to
which lyre and lute are things of less importance.  From this mere joy of
living, this frank delight in experience for its own sake, this lofty
indifference, and momentary unregretted ardours, come all the faults and
all the beauties of the volume.  But there is this difference between
them—the faults are deliberate, and the result of much study; the
beauties have the air of fascinating impromptus.  Mr. Henley’s healthy,
if sometimes misapplied, confidence in the myriad suggestions of life
gives him his charm.  He is made to sing along the highways, not to sit
down and write.  If he took himself more seriously, his work would become
trivial.

_A Book of Verses_.  By William Ernest Henley.  (David Nutt.)



SOME LITERARY LADIES
(_Woman’s World_, January 1889.)


In a recent article on _English Poetesses_, I ventured to suggest that
our women of letters should turn their attention somewhat more to prose
and somewhat less to poetry.  Women seem to me to possess just what our
literature wants—a light touch, a delicate hand, a graceful mode of
treatment, and an unstudied felicity of phrase.  We want some one who
will do for our prose what Madame de Sévigné did for the prose of France.
George Eliot’s style was far too cumbrous, and Charlotte Brontë’s too
exaggerated.  However, one must not forget that amongst the women of
England there have been some charming letter-writers, and certainly no
book can be more delightful reading than Mrs. Ross’s _Three Generations
of English Women_, which has recently appeared.  The three Englishwomen
whose memoirs and correspondence Mrs. Ross has so admirably edited are
Mrs. John Taylor, Mrs. Sarah Austin, and Lady Duff Gordon, all of them
remarkable personalities, and two of them women of brilliant wit and
European reputation.  Mrs. Taylor belonged to that great Norwich family
about whom the Duke of Sussex remarked that they reversed the ordinary
saying that it takes nine tailors to make a man, and was for many years
one of the most distinguished figures in the famous society of her native
town.  Her only daughter married John Austin, the great authority on
jurisprudence, and her _salon_ in Paris was the centre of the intellect
and culture of her day.  Lucie Duff Gordon, the only child of John and
Sarah Austin, inherited the talents of her parents.  A beauty, a _femme
d’esprit_, a traveller, and clever writer, she charmed and fascinated her
age, and her premature death in Egypt was really a loss to our
literature.  It is to her daughter that we owe this delightful volume of
memoirs.

First we are introduced to Mrs. Ross’s great-grandmother, Mrs. Taylor,
who ‘was called, by her intimate friends, “Madame Roland of Norwich,”
from her likeness to the portraits of the handsome and unfortunate
Frenchwoman.’  We hear of her darning her boy’s grey worsted stockings
while holding her own with Southey and Brougham, and dancing round the
Tree of Liberty with Dr. Parr when the news of the fall of the Bastille
was first known.  Amongst her friends were Sir James Mackintosh, the most
popular man of the day, ‘to whom Madame de Staël wrote, “Il n’y a pas de
société sans vous.”  “C’est très ennuyeux de dîner sans vous; la société
ne va pas quand vous n’êtes pas là”;’ Sir James Smith, the botanist;
Crabb Robinson; the Gurneys; Mrs. Barbauld; Dr. Alderson and his charming
daughter, Amelia Opie; and many other well-known people.  Her letters are
extremely sensible and thoughtful.  ‘Nothing at present,’ she says in one
of them, ‘suits my taste so well as Susan’s Latin lessons, and her
philosophical old master. . . . When we get to Cicero’s discussions on
the nature of the soul, or Virgil’s fine descriptions, my mind is filled
up.  Life is either a dull round of eating, drinking, and sleeping, or a
spark of ethereal fire just kindled. . . . The character of girls must
depend upon their reading as much as upon the company they keep.  Besides
the intrinsic pleasure to be derived from solid knowledge, a woman ought
to consider it as her best resource against poverty.’  This is a somewhat
caustic aphorism: ‘A romantic woman is a troublesome friend, as she
expects you to be as impudent as herself, and is mortified at what she
calls coldness and insensibility.’  And this is admirable: ‘The art of
life is not to estrange oneself from society, and yet not to pay too dear
for it.’  This, too, is good: ‘Vanity, like curiosity, is wanted as a
stimulus to exertion; indolence would certainly get the better of us if
it were not for these two powerful principles’; and there is a keen touch
of humour in the following: ‘Nothing is so gratifying as the idea that
virtue and philanthropy are becoming fashionable.’  Dr. James Martineau,
in a letter to Mrs. Ross, gives us a pleasant picture of the old lady
returning from market ‘weighted by her huge basket, with the shank of a
leg of mutton thrust out to betray its contents,’ and talking divinely
about philosophy, poets, politics, and every intellectual topic of the
day.  She was a woman of admirable good sense, a type of Roman matron,
and quite as careful as were the Roman matrons to keep up the purity of
her native tongue.

Mrs. Taylor, however, was more or less limited to Norwich.  Mrs. Austin
was for the world.  In London, Paris, and Germany, she ruled and
dominated society, loved by every one who knew her.  ‘She is “My best and
brightest” to Lord Jeffrey; “Dear, fair and wise” to Sydney Smith; “My
great ally” to Sir James Stephen; “Sunlight through waste weltering
chaos” to Thomas Carlyle (while he needed her aid); “La petite mère du
genre humain” to Michael Chevalier; “Liebes Mütterlein” to John Stuart
Mill; and “My own Professorin” to Charles Buller, to whom she taught
German, as well as to the sons of Mr. James Mill.’  Jeremy Bentham, when
on his deathbed, gave her a ring with his portrait and some of his hair
let in behind.  ‘There, my dear,’ he said, ‘it is the only ring I ever
gave a woman.’  She corresponded with Guizot, Barthelemy de St. Hilaire,
the Grotes, Dr. Whewell, the Master of Trinity, Nassau Senior, the
Duchesse d’Orléans, Victor Cousin, and many other distinguished people.
Her translation of Ranke’s _History of the Popes_ is admirable; indeed,
all her literary work was thoroughly well done, and her edition of her
husband’s _Province of Jurisprudence_ deserves the very highest praise.
Two people more unlike than herself and her husband it would have been
difficult to find.  He was habitually grave and despondent; she was
brilliantly handsome, fond of society, in which she shone, and ‘with an
almost superabundance of energy and animal spirits,’ Mrs. Ross tells us.
She married him because she thought him perfect, but he never produced
the work of which he was worthy, and of which she knew him to be worthy.
Her estimate of him in the preface to the _Jurisprudence_ is wonderfully
striking and simple.  ‘He was never sanguine.  He was intolerant of any
imperfection.  He was always under the control of severe love of truth.
He lived and died a poor man.’  She was terribly disappointed in him, but
she loved him.  Some years after his death, she wrote to M. Guizot:

    In the intervals of my study of his works I read his letters to
    me—_forty-five years of love-letters_, the last as tender and
    passionate as the first.  And how full of noble sentiments!  The
    midday of our lives was clouded and stormy, full of cares and
    disappointments; but the sunset was bright and serene—as bright as
    the morning, and _more_ serene.  Now it is night with me, and must
    remain so till the dawn of another day.  I am always alone—that is,
    _I live with him_.

The most interesting letters in the book are certainly those to M.
Guizot, with whom she maintained the closest intellectual friendship; but
there is hardly one of them that does not contain something clever, or
thoughtful, or witty, while those addressed to her, in turn, are very
interesting.  Carlyle writes her letters full of lamentations, the wail
of a Titan in pain, superbly exaggerated for literary effect.

    Literature, one’s sole craft and staff of life, lies broken in
    abeyance; what room for music amid the braying of innumerable
    jackasses, the howling of innumerable hyænas whetting the tooth to
    eat them up?  Alas for it! it is a sick disjointed time; neither
    shall we ever mend it; at best let us hope to mend ourselves.  I
    declare I sometimes think of throwing down the Pen altogether as a
    worthless weapon; and leading out a colony of these poor starving
    Drudges to the waste places of their old Mother Earth, when for sweat
    of their brow bread _will_ rise for them; it were perhaps the
    worthiest service that at this moment could be rendered our old world
    to throw open for it the doors of the New.  Thither must they come at
    last, ‘bursts of eloquence’ will do nothing; men are starving and
    will try many things before they die.  But poor I, _ach Gott_!  I am
    no Hengist or Alaric; only a writer of Articles in bad prose; stick
    to thy last, O Tutor; the Pen is not worthless, it is omnipotent to
    those who have Faith.

Henri Beyle (Stendhal), the great, I am often tempted to think the
greatest of French novelists, writes her a charming letter about
_nuances_.  ‘It seems to me,’ he says, ‘that except when they read
Shakespeare, Byron, or Sterne, no Englishman understands “_nuances_”; we
adore them.  A fool says to a woman “I love you”; the words mean nothing,
he might as well say “Olli Batachor”; it is the _nuance_ which gives
force to the meaning.’  In 1839 Mrs. Austin writes to Victor Cousin: ‘I
have seen young Gladstone, a distinguished Tory who wants to re-establish
education based on the Church in quite a Catholic form’; and we find her
corresponding with Mr. Gladstone on the subject of education.  ‘If you
are strong enough to provide motives and checks,’ she says to him, ‘you
may do two blessed acts—reform your clergy and teach your people.  As it
is, how few of them conceive what it is to teach a people’!  Mr.
Gladstone replies at great length, and in many letters, from which we may
quote this passage:

    You are for pressing and urging the people to their profit against
    their inclination: so am I.  You set little value upon all merely
    technical instruction, upon all that fails to touch the inner nature
    of man: so do I.  And here I find ground of union broad and
    deep-laid. . . .

    I more than doubt whether your idea, namely that of raising man to
    social sufficiency and morality, can be accomplished, except through
    the ancient religion of Christ; . . . or whether, the principles of
    eclecticism are legitimately applicable to the Gospel; or whether, if
    we find ourselves in a state of incapacity to work through the
    Church, we can remedy the defect by the adoption of principles
    contrary to hers. . . .

    But indeed I am most unfit to pursue the subject; private
    circumstances of no common interest are upon me, as I have become
    very recently engaged to Miss Glynne, and I hope your recollections
    will enable you in some degree to excuse me.

Lord Jeffrey has a very curious and suggestive letter on popular
education, in which he denies, or at least doubts, the effect of this
education on morals.  He, however, supports it on the ground ‘that it
will increase the enjoyment of individuals,’ which is certainly a very
sensible claim.  Humboldt writes to her about an old Indian language
which was preserved by a parrot, the tribe who spoke it having been
exterminated, and about ‘young Darwin,’ who had just published his first
book.  Here are some extracts from her own letters:

    I heard from Lord Lansdowne two or three days ago. . . . I think he
    is _ce que nous avons de mieux_.  He wants only the energy that great
    ambition gives.  He says, ‘We shall have a parliament of railway
    kings’ . . . what can be worse than that?—The deification of money by
    a whole people.  As Lord Brougham says, we have no right to give
    ourselves pharisaical airs.  I must give you a story sent to me.
    Mrs. Hudson, the railway queen, was shown a bust of Marcus Aurelius
    at Lord Westminster’s, on which she said, ‘I suppose that is not the
    present Marquis.’  To _goûter_ this, you must know that the extreme
    vulgar (hackney coachmen, etc.) in England pronounce ‘marquis’ very
    like ‘Marcus.’

    _Dec._ 17_th_.—Went to Savigny’s.  Nobody was there but W. Grimm and
    his wife and a few men.  Grimm told me he had received two volumes of
    Norwegian fairy-tales, and that they were delightful.  Talking of
    them, I said, ‘Your children appear to be the happiest in the world;
    they live in the midst of fairy-tales.’  ‘Ah,’ said he, ‘I must tell
    you about that.  When we were at Göttingen, somebody spoke to my
    little son about his father’s _Mährchen_.  He had read them but never
    thought of their being mine.  He came running to me, and said with an
    offended air, “Father, they say you wrote those fairy-tales; surely
    you never invented such silly rubbish?”  He thought it below my
    dignity.’

    Savigny told a _Volksmährchen_ too:

    ‘St. Anselm was grown old and infirm, and lay on the ground among
    thorns and thistles.  _Der liebe Gott_ said to him, “You are very
    badly lodged there; why don’t you build yourself a house?”  “Before I
    take the trouble,” said Anselm, “I should like to know how long I
    have to live.”  “About thirty years,” said _Der liebe Gott_.  “Oh,
    for so short a time,” replied he, “it’s not worth while,” and turned
    himself round among the thistles.’

    Dr. Franck told me a story of which I had never heard before.
    Voltaire had for some reason or other taken a grudge against the
    prophet Habakkuk, and affected to find in him things he never wrote.
    Somebody took the Bible and began to demonstrate to him that he was
    mistaken.  ‘_C’est égal_,’ he said impatiently, ‘_Habakkuk était
    capable de tout_!’

                                                          _Oct._ 30, 1853.

    I am not in love with the _Richtung_ (tendency) of our modern
    novelists.  There is abundance of talent; but writing a pretty,
    graceful, touching, yet pleasing story is the last thing our writers
    nowadays think of.  Their novels are party pamphlets on political or
    social questions, like _Sybil_, or _Alton Locke_, or _Mary Barton_,
    or _Uncle Tom_; or they are the most minute and painful dissections
    of the least agreeable and beautiful parts of our nature, like those
    of Miss Brontë—_Jane Eyre_ and _Villette_; or they are a kind of
    martyrology, like Mrs. Marsh’s _Emilia Wyndham_, which makes you
    almost doubt whether any torments the heroine would have earned by
    being naughty could exceed those she incurred by her virtue.

    Where, oh! where is the charming, humane, gentle spirit that dictated
    the _Vicar of Wakefield_—the spirit which Goethe so justly calls
    _versöhnend_ (reconciling), with all the weaknesses and woes of
    humanity? . . . Have you read Thackeray’s _Esmond_?  It is a curious
    and very successful attempt to imitate the style of our old
    novelists. . . .  Which of Mrs. Gore’s novels are translated?  They
    are very clever, lively, worldly, bitter, disagreeable, and
    entertaining. . . .  Miss Austen’s—are they translated?  They are not
    new, and are Dutch paintings of every-day people—very clever, very
    true, very _unæsthetic_, but amusing.  I have not seen _Ruth_, by
    Mrs. Gaskell.  I hear it much admired—and blamed.  It is one of the
    many proofs of the desire women now have to _friser_ questionable
    topics, and to _poser_ insoluble moral problems.  George Sand has
    turned their heads in that direction.  I think a few _broad_ scenes
    or hearty jokes _à la_ Fielding were very harmless in comparison.
    They _confounded_ nothing. . . .

    The _Heir of Redcliffe_ I have not read. . . . I am not worthy of
    superhuman flights of virtue—in a novel.  I want to see how people
    act and suffer who are as good-for-nothing as I am myself.  Then I
    have the sinful pretension to be amused, whereas all our novelists
    want to reform us, and to show us what a hideous place this world is:
    _Ma foi_, _je ne le sais que trop_, without their help.

    The _Head of the Family_ has some merits. . . . But there is too much
    affliction and misery and frenzy.  The heroine is one of those
    creatures now so common (in novels), who remind me of a poor bird
    tied to a stake (as was once the cruel sport of boys) to be ‘shyed’
    at (_i.e._ pelted) till it died; only our gentle lady-writers at the
    end of all untie the poor battered bird, and assure us that it is
    never the worse for all the blows it has had—nay, the better—and that
    now, with its broken wings and torn feathers and bruised body, it is
    going to be quite happy.  No, fair ladies, you know that it is not
    so—_resigned_, if you please, but make me no shams of happiness out
    of such wrecks.

In politics Mrs. Austin was a philosophical Tory.  Radicalism she
detested, and she and most of her friends seem to have regarded it as
moribund.  ‘The Radical party is evidently effete,’ she writes to M.
Victor Cousin; the probable ‘leader of the Tory party’ is Mr. Gladstone.
‘The people must be instructed, must be guided, must be, in short,
governed,’ she writes elsewhere; and in a letter to Dr. Whewell, she says
that the state of things in France fills ‘me with the deepest anxiety on
one point,—the point on which the permanency of our institutions and our
salvation as a nation turn.  Are our higher classes able to keep the lead
of the rest?  If they are, we are safe; if not, I agree with my poor dear
Charles Buller—_our_ turn must come.  Now Cambridge and Oxford must
really look to this.’  The belief in the power of the Universities to
stem the current of democracy is charming.  She grew to regard Carlyle as
‘one of the dissolvents of the age—as mischievous as his extravagances
will let him be’; speaks of Kingsley and Maurice as ‘pernicious’; and
talks of John Stuart Mill as a ‘demagogue.’  She was no _doctrinaire_.
‘One ounce of education demanded is worth a pound imposed.  It is no use
to give the meat before you give the hunger.’  She was delighted at a
letter of St. Hilaire’s, in which he said, ‘We have a system and no
results; you have results and no system.’  Yet she had a deep sympathy
with the wants of the people.  She was horrified at something Babbage
told her of the population of some of the manufacturing towns who are
_worked out_ before they attain to thirty years of age.  ‘But I am
persuaded that the remedy will not, cannot come from the people,’ she
adds.  Many of her letters are concerned with the question of the higher
education of women.  She discusses Buckle’s lecture on ‘The Influence of
Women upon the Progress of Knowledge,’ admits to M. Guizot that women’s
intellectual life is largely coloured by the emotions, but adds: ‘One is
not precisely a fool because one’s opinions are greatly influenced by
one’s affections.  The opinions of men are often influenced by worse
things.’  Dr. Whewell consults her about lecturing women on Plato, being
slightly afraid lest people should think it ridiculous; Comte writes her
elaborate letters on the relation of women to progress; and Mr. Gladstone
promises that Mrs. Gladstone will carry out at Hawarden the suggestions
contained in one of her pamphlets.  She was always very practical, and
never lost her admiration for plain sewing.

All through the book we come across interesting and amusing things.  She
gets St. Hilaire to order a large, sensible bonnet for her in Paris,
which was at once christened the ‘Aristotelian,’ and was supposed to be
the only useful bonnet in England.  Grote has to leave Paris after the
_coup d’état_, he tells her, because he cannot bear to see the
establishment of a Greek tyrant.  Alfred de Vigny, Macaulay, John
Stirling, Southey, Alexis de Tocqueville, Hallam, and Jean Jacques Ampère
all contribute to these pleasant pages.  She seems to have inspired the
warmest feelings of friendship in those who knew her.  Guizot writes to
her: ‘Madame de Staël used to say that the best thing in the world was a
serious Frenchman.  I turn the compliment, and say that the best thing in
the world is an affectionate Englishman.  How much more an Englishwoman!
Given equal qualities, a woman is always more charming than a man.’

Lucie Austin, afterwards Lady Duff Gordon, was born in 1821.  Her chief
playfellow was John Stuart Mill, and Jeremy Bentham’s garden was her
playground.  She was a lovely, romantic child, who was always wanting the
flowers to talk to her, and used to invent the most wonderful stories
about animals, of whom she was passionately fond.  In 1834 Mrs. Austin
decided on leaving England, and Sydney Smith wrote his immortal letter to
the little girl:

    Lucie, Lucie, my dear child, don’t tear your frock: tearing frocks is
    not of itself a proof of genius.  But write as your mother writes,
    act as your mother acts: be frank, loyal, affectionate, simple,
    honest, and then integrity or laceration of frock is of little
    import.  And Lucie, dear child, mind your arithmetic.  You know in
    the first sum of yours I ever saw there was a mistake.  You had
    carried two (as a cab is licensed to do), and you ought, dear Lucie,
    to have carried but one.  Is this a trifle?  What would life be
    without arithmetic but a scene of horrors?  You are going to
    Boulogne, the city of debts, peopled by men who have never understood
    arithmetic.  By the time you return, I shall probably have received
    my first paralytic stroke, and shall have lost all recollection of
    you.  Therefore I now give you my parting advice—don’t marry anybody
    who has not a tolerable understanding and a thousand a year.  And God
    bless you, dear child.

At Boulogne she sat next Heine at _table d’hôte_.  ‘He heard me speak
German to my mother, and soon began to talk to me, and then said, “When
you go back to England, you can tell your friends that you have seen
Heinrich Heine.”  I replied, “And who is Heinrich Heine?”  He laughed
heartily and took no offence at my ignorance; and we used to lounge on
the end of the pier together, where he told me stories in which fish,
mermaids, water-sprites and a very funny old French fiddler with a poodle
were mixed up in the most fanciful manner, sometimes humorous, and very
often pathetic, especially when the water-sprites brought him greetings
from the “Nord See.”  He was . . . so kind to me and so sarcastic to
every one else.’  Twenty years afterwards the little girl whose ‘braune
Augen’ Heine had celebrated in his charming poem _Wenn ick an deinem
Hause_, used to go and see the dying poet in Paris.  ‘It does one good,’
he said to her, ‘to see a woman who does not carry about a broken heart,
to be mended by all sorts of men, like the women here, who do not see
that a total want of heart is their real failing.’  On another occasion
he said to her: ‘I have now made peace with the whole world, and at last
also with God, who sends thee to me as a beautiful angel of death: I
shall certainly soon die.’  Lady Duff Gordon said to him: ‘Poor Poet, do
you still retain such splendid illusions, that you transform a travelling
Englishwoman into Azrael?  That used not to be the case, for you always
disliked us.’  He answered: ‘Yes, I do not know what possessed me to
dislike the English, . . . it really was only petulance; I never hated
them, indeed, I never knew them.  I was only once in England, but knew no
one, and found London very dreary, and the people and the streets odious.
But England has revenged herself well; she has sent me most excellent
friends—thyself and Milnes, that good Milnes.’

There are delightful letters from Dicky Doyle here, with the most amusing
drawings, one of the present Sir Robert Peel as he made his maiden speech
in the House being excellent; and the various descriptions of Hassan’s
performances are extremely amusing.  Hassan was a black boy, who had been
turned away by his master because he was going blind, and was found by
Lady Duff Gordon one night sitting on her doorstep.  She took care of
him, and had him cured, and he seems to have been a constant source of
delight to every one.  On one occasion, ‘when Prince Louis Napoleon (the
late Emperor of the French) came in unexpectedly, he gravely said:
“Please, my lady, I ran out and bought twopennyworth of sprats for the
Prince, and for the honour of the house.”’  Here is an amusing letter
from Mrs. Norton:

    MY DEAR LUCIE,—We have never thanked you for the _red Pots_, which no
    early Christian should be without, and which add that finishing
    stroke to the splendour of our demesne, which was supposed to depend
    on a roc’s egg, in less intelligent times.  We have now a warm
    _Pompeian_ appearance, and the constant contemplation of these
    classical objects favours the beauty of the facial line; for what can
    be deducted from the great fact, apparent in all the states of
    antiquity, that _straight noses_ were the ancient custom, but the
    logical assumption that the constant habit of turning up the nose at
    unsightly objects—such as the National Gallery and other offensive
    and obtrusive things—has produced the modern divergence from the true
    and proper line of profile?  I rejoice to think that we ourselves are
    exempt.  I attribute this to our love of Pompeian Pots (on account of
    the beauty and distinction of this Pot’s shape I spell it with a big
    P), which has kept us straight in a world of crookedness.  The
    pursuit of profiles under difficulties—how much more rare than a
    pursuit of knowledge!  Talk of setting good examples before our
    children!  Bah! let us set good Pompeian Pots before our children,
    and when they grow up they will not depart from them.

Lady Duff Gordon’s _Letters from the Cape_, and her brilliant translation
of _The Amber Witch_, are, of course, well known.  The latter book was,
with Lady Wilde’s translation of _Sidonia the Sorceress_, my favourite
romantic reading when a boy.  Her letters from Egypt are wonderfully
vivid and picturesque.  Here is an interesting bit of art criticism:

    Sheykh Yoosuf laughed so heartily over a print in an illustrated
    paper from a picture of Hilton’s of Rebekah at the well, with the old
    ‘wekeel’ of ‘Sidi Ibraheem’ (Abraham’s chief servant) _kneeling_
    before the girl he was sent to fetch, like an old fool without his
    turban, and Rebekah and the other girls in queer fancy dresses, and
    the camels with snouts like pigs.  ‘If the painter could not go into
    “Es Sham” to see how the Arab really look,’ said Sheykh Yoosuf, ‘why
    did he not paint a well in England, with girls like English
    peasants—at least it would have looked natural to English people? and
    the wekeel would not seem so like a madman if he had taken off a
    hat!’  I cordially agree with Yoosuf’s art criticism.  _Fancy_
    pictures of Eastern things are hopelessly absurd.

Mrs. Ross has certainly produced a most fascinating volume, and her book
is one of the books of the season.  It is edited with tact and judgment.

_Three Generations of English Women_.  _Memoirs and Correspondence of
Susannah Taylor_, _Sarah Austin_, _and Lady Duff Gordon_.  By Janet Ross,
author of Italian Sketches, Land of Manfred, etc.  (Fisher Unwin.)



POETRY AND PRISON
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, January 3, 1889.)


Prison has had an admirable effect on Mr. Wilfrid Blunt as a poet.  The
_Love Sonnets of Proteus_, in spite of their clever Musset-like
modernities and their swift brilliant wit, were but affected or fantastic
at best.  They were simply the records of passing moods and moments, of
which some were sad and others sweet, and not a few shameful.  Their
subject was not of high or serious import.  They contained much that was
wilful and weak.  In _Vinculis_, upon the other hand, is a book that
stirs one by its fine sincerity of purpose, its lofty and impassioned
thought, its depth and ardour of intense feeling.  ‘Imprisonment,’ says
Mr. Blunt in his preface, ‘is a reality of discipline most useful to the
modern soul, lapped as it is in physical sloth and self-indulgence.  Like
a sickness or a spiritual retreat it purifies and ennobles; and the soul
emerges from it stronger and more self-contained.’  To him, certainly, it
has been a mode of purification.  The opening sonnets, composed in the
bleak cell of Galway Gaol, and written down on the flyleaves of the
prisoner’s prayer-book, are full of things nobly conceived and nobly
uttered, and show that though Mr. Balfour may enforce ‘plain living’ by
his prison regulations, he cannot prevent ‘high thinking’ or in any way
limit or constrain the freedom of a man’s soul.  They are, of course,
intensely personal in expression.  They could not fail to be so.  But the
personality that they reveal has nothing petty or ignoble about it.  The
petulant cry of the shallow egoist which was the chief characteristic of
the _Love Sonnets of Proteus_ is not to be found here.  In its place we
have wild grief and terrible scorn, fierce rage and flame-like passion.
Such a sonnet as the following comes out of the very fire of heart and
brain:

    God knows, ’twas not with a fore-reasoned plan
       I left the easeful dwellings of my peace,
    And sought this combat with ungodly Man,
       And ceaseless still through years that do not cease
       Have warred with Powers and Principalities.
    My natural soul, ere yet these strifes began,
       Was as a sister diligent to please
    And loving all, and most the human clan.

    God knows it.  And He knows how the world’s tears
       Touched me.  And He is witness of my wrath,
    How it was kindled against murderers
       Who slew for gold, and how upon their path
    I met them.  Since which day the World in arms
    Strikes at my life with angers and alarms.

And this sonnet has all the strange strength of that despair which is but
the prelude to a larger hope:

    I thought to do a deed of chivalry,
       An act of worth, which haply in her sight
    Who was my mistress should recorded be
       And of the nations.  And, when thus the fight
       Faltered and men once bold with faces white
    Turned this and that way in excuse to flee,
       I only stood, and by the foeman’s might
    Was overborne and mangled cruelly.

    Then crawled I to her feet, in whose dear cause
       I made this venture, and ‘Behold,’ I said,
    ‘How I am wounded for thee in these wars.’
       But she, ‘Poor cripple, would’st thou I should wed
    A limbless trunk?’ and laughing turned from me.
    Yet she was fair, and her name ‘Liberty.’

The sonnet beginning

    A prison is a convent without God—
       Poverty, Chastity, Obedience
    Its precepts are:

is very fine; and this, written just after entering the gaol, is
powerful:

    Naked I came into the world of pleasure,
       And naked come I to this house of pain.
    Here at the gate I lay down my life’s treasure,
       My pride, my garments and my name with men.
       The world and I henceforth shall be as twain,
    No sound of me shall pierce for good or ill
       These walls of grief.  Nor shall I hear the vain
    Laughter and tears of those who love me still.

    Within, what new life waits me!  Little ease,
       Cold lying, hunger, nights of wakefulness,
    Harsh orders given, no voice to soothe or please,
       Poor thieves for friends, for books rules meaningless;
    This is the grave—nay, hell.  Yet, Lord of Might,
    Still in Thy light my spirit shall see light.

But, indeed, all the sonnets are worth reading, and _The Canon of
Aughrim_, the longest poem in the book, is a most masterly and dramatic
description of the tragic life of the Irish peasant.  Literature is not
much indebted to Mr. Balfour for his sophistical _Defence of Philosophic
Doubt_, which is one of the dullest books we know, but it must be
admitted that by sending Mr. Blunt to gaol he has converted a clever
rhymer into an earnest and deep-thinking poet.  The narrow confines of a
prison cell seem to suit the ‘sonnet’s scanty plot of ground,’ and an
unjust imprisonment for a noble cause strengthens as well as deepens the
nature.

_In Vinculis_.  By Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Author of _The Wind and the
Whirlwind_, _The Love Sonnets of Proteus_, _etc. etc._  (Kegan Paul.)



THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WALT WHITMAN
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, January 25, 1889.)


‘No one will get to my verses who insists upon viewing them as a literary
performance . . . or as aiming mainly towards art and æstheticism.’
‘_Leaves of Grass_ . . . has mainly been the outcropping of my own
emotional and other personal nature—an attempt, from first to last, to
put _a Person_, a human being (myself, in the latter half of the
Nineteenth Century in America,) freely, fully and truly on record.  I
could not find any similar personal record in current literature that
satisfied me.’  In these words Walt Whitman gives us the true attitude we
should adopt towards his work, having, indeed, a much saner view of the
value and meaning of that work than either his eloquent admirers or noisy
detractors can boast of possessing.  His last book, _November Boughs_, as
he calls it, published in the winter of the old man’s life, reveals to
us, not indeed a soul’s tragedy, for its last note is one of joy and
hope, and noble and unshaken faith in all that is fine and worthy of such
faith, but certainly the drama of a human soul, and puts on record with a
simplicity that has in it both sweetness and strength the record of his
spiritual development, and of the aim and motive both of the manner and
the matter of his work.  His strange mode of expression is shown in these
pages to have been the result of deliberate and self-conscious choice.
The ‘barbaric yawp’ which he sent over ‘the roofs of the world’ so many
years ago, and which wrung from Mr. Swinburne’s lip such lofty panegyric
in song and such loud clamorous censure in prose, appears here in what
will be to many an entirely new light.  For in his very rejection of art
Walt Whitman is an artist.  He tried to produce a certain effect by
certain means and he succeeded.  There is much method in what many have
termed his madness, too much method, indeed, some may be tempted to
fancy.

In the story of his life, as he tells it to us, we find him at the age of
sixteen beginning a definite and philosophical study of literature:

    Summers and falls, I used to go off, sometimes for a week at a
    stretch, down in the country, or to Long Island’s seashores—there, in
    the presence of outdoor influences, I went over thoroughly the Old
    and New Testaments, and absorb’d (probably to better advantage for me
    than in any library or indoor room—it makes such difference _where_
    you read) Shakspere, Ossian, the best translated versions I could get
    of Homer, Eschylus, Sophocles, the old German Nibelungen, the ancient
    Hindoo poems, and one or two other masterpieces, Dante’s among them.
    As it happen’d, I read the latter mostly in an old wood.  The _Iliad_
    . . . I read first thoroughly on the peninsula of Orient, northeast
    end of Long Island, in a shelter’d hollow of rock and sand, with the
    sea on each side.  (I have wonder’d since why I was not overwhelm’d
    by those mighty masters.  Likely because I read them, as described,
    in the full presence of Nature, under the sun, with the far-spreading
    landscapes and vistas, or the sea rolling in.)

Edgar Allan Poe’s amusing bit of dogmatism that, for our occasions and
our day, ‘there can be no such thing as a long poem,’ fascinated him.
‘The same thought had been haunting my mind before,’ he said, ‘but Poe’s
argument . . . work’d the sum out, and proved it to me,’ and the English
translation of the Bible seems to have suggested to him the possibility
of a poetic form which, while retaining the spirit of poetry, would still
be free from the trammels of rhyme and of a definite metrical system.
Having thus, to a certain degree, settled upon what one might call the
‘technique’ of Whitmanism, he began to brood upon the nature of that
spirit which was to give life to the strange form.  The central point of
the poetry of the future seemed to him to be necessarily ‘an identical
body and soul, a personality,’ in fact, which personality, he tells us
frankly, ‘after many considerations and ponderings I deliberately settled
should be myself.’  However, for the true creation and revealing of this
personality, at first only dimly felt, a new stimulus was needed.  This
came from the Civil War.  After describing the many dreams and passions
of his boyhood and early manhood, he goes on to say:

    These, however, and much more might have gone on and come to naught
    (almost positively would have come to naught,) if a sudden, vast,
    terrible, direct and indirect stimulus for new and national
    declamatory expression had not been given to me.  It is certain, I
    say, that although I had made a start before, only from the
    occurrence of the Secession War, and what it show’d me as by flashes
    of lightning, with the emotional depths it sounded and arous’d (of
    course, I don’t mean in my own heart only, I saw it just as plainly
    in others, in millions)—that only from the strong flare and
    provocation of that war’s sights and scenes the final
    reasons-for-being of an autochthonic and passionate song definitely
    came forth.

    I went down to the war fields of Virginia . . . lived thenceforward
    in camp—saw great battles and the days and nights afterward—partook
    of all the fluctuations, gloom, despair, hopes again arous’d, courage
    evoked—death readily risk’d—_the cause_, too—along and filling those
    agonistic and lurid following years . . . the real parturition years
    . . . of this henceforth homogeneous Union.  Without those three or
    four years and the experiences they gave, _Leaves of Grass_ would not
    now be existing.

Having thus obtained the necessary stimulus for the quickening and
awakening of the personal self, some day to be endowed with universality,
he sought to find new notes of song, and, passing beyond the mere passion
for expression, he aimed at ‘Suggestiveness’ first.

    I round and finish little, if anything; and could not, consistently
    with my scheme.  The reader will have his or her part to do, just as
    much as I have had mine.  I seek less to state or display any theme
    or thought, and more to bring you, reader, into the atmosphere of the
    theme or thought—there to pursue your own flight.

Another ‘impetus-word’ is Comradeship, and other ‘word-signs’ are Good
Cheer, Content and Hope.  Individuality, especially, he sought for:

    I have allow’d the stress of my poems from beginning to end to bear
    upon American individuality and assist it—not only because that is a
    great lesson in Nature, amid all her generalizing laws, but as
    counterpoise to the leveling tendencies of Democracy—and for other
    reasons.  Defiant of ostensible literary and other conventions, I
    avowedly chant ‘the great pride of man in himself,’ and permit it to
    be more or less a _motif_ of nearly all my verse.  I think this pride
    is indispensable to an American.  I think it not inconsistent with
    obedience, humility, deference, and self-questioning.

A new theme also was to be found in the relation of the sexes, conceived
in a natural, simple and healthy form, and he protests against poor Mr.
William Rossetti’s attempt to Bowdlerise and expurgate his song.

    From another point of view _Leaves of Grass_ is avowedly the song of
    Sex and Amativeness, and even Animality—though meanings that do not
    usually go along with these words are behind all, and will duly
    emerge; and all are sought to be lifted into a different light and
    atmosphere.  Of this feature, intentionally palpable in a few lines,
    I shall only say the espousing principle of those lines so gives
    breath to my whole scheme that the bulk of the pieces might as well
    have been left unwritten were those lines omitted. . . .

    Universal as are certain facts and symptoms of communities . . .
    there is nothing so rare in modern conventions and poetry as their
    normal recognizance.  Literature is always calling in the doctor for
    consultation and confession, and always giving evasions and swathing
    suppressions in place of that ‘heroic nudity’ on which only a genuine
    diagnosis . . . can be built.  And in respect to editions of _Leaves
    of Grass_ in time to come (if there should be such) I take occasion
    now to confirm those lines with the settled convictions and
    deliberate renewals of thirty years, and to hereby prohibit, as far
    as word of mine can do so, any elision of them.

But beyond all these notes and moods and motives is the lofty spirit of a
grand and free acceptance of all things that are worthy of existence.  He
desired, he says, ‘to formulate a poem whose every thought or fact should
directly or indirectly be or connive at an implicit belief in the wisdom,
health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every
human or other existence, not only consider’d from the point of view of
all, but of each.’  His two final utterances are that ‘really great
poetry is always . . . the result of a national spirit, and not the
privilege of a polish’d and select few’; and that ‘the strongest and
sweetest songs yet remain to be sung.’

Such are the views contained in the opening essay _A Backward Glance O’er
Travel’d Roads_, as he calls it; but there are many other essays in this
fascinating volume, some on poets such as Burns and Lord Tennyson, for
whom Walt Whitman has a profound admiration; some on old actors and
singers, the elder Booth, Forrest, Alboni and Mario being his special
favourites; others on the native Indians, on the Spanish element in
American nationality, on Western slang, on the poetry of the Bible, and
on Abraham Lincoln.  But Walt Whitman is at his best when he is analysing
his own work and making schemes for the poetry of the future.
Literature, to him, has a distinctly social aim.  He seeks to build up
the masses by ‘building up grand individuals.’  And yet literature itself
must be preceded by noble forms of life.  ‘The best literature is always
the result of something far greater than itself—not the hero but the
portrait of the hero.  Before there can be recorded history or poem there
must be the transaction.’  Certainly, in Walt Whitman’s views there is a
largeness of vision, a healthy sanity and a fine ethical purpose.  He is
not to be placed with the professional littérateurs of his country,
Boston novelists, New York poets and the like.  He stands apart, and the
chief value of his work is in its prophecy, not in its performance.  He
has begun a prelude to larger themes.  He is the herald to a new era.  As
a man he is the precursor of a fresh type.  He is a factor in the heroic
and spiritual evolution of the human being.  If Poetry has passed him by,
Philosophy will take note of him.

_November Boughs_.  By Walt Whitman.  (Alexander Gardner.)



IRISH FAIRY TALES
(_Woman’s World_, February 1889.)


‘The various collectors of Irish folk-lore,’ says Mr. W. B. Yeats in his
charming little book _Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry_,
‘have, from our point of view, one great merit, and from the point of
view of others, one great fault.’

    They have made their work literature rather than science, and told us
    of the Irish peasantry rather than of the primitive religion of
    mankind, or whatever else the folk-lorists are on the gad after.  To
    be considered scientists they should have tabulated all their tales
    in forms like grocers’ bills—item the fairy king, item the queen.
    Instead of this they have caught the very voice of the people, the
    very pulse of life, each giving what was most noticed in his day.
    Croker and Lover, full of the ideas of harum-scarum Irish gentility,
    saw everything humorized.  The impulse of the Irish literature of
    their time came from a class that did not—mainly for political
    reasons—take the populace seriously, and imagined the country as a
    humorist’s Arcadia; its passion, its gloom, its tragedy, they knew
    nothing of.  What they did was not wholly false; they merely
    magnified an irresponsible type, found oftenest among boatmen,
    carmen, and gentlemen’s servants, into the type of a whole nation,
    and created the stage Irishman.  The writers of ’Forty-eight, and the
    famine combined, burst their bubble.  Their work had the dash as well
    as the shallowness of an ascendant and idle class, and in Croker is
    touched everywhere with beauty—a gentle Arcadian beauty.  Carleton, a
    peasant born, has in many of his stories, . . . more especially in
    his ghost stories, a much more serious way with him, for all his
    humour.  Kennedy, an old bookseller in Dublin, who seems to have had
    a something of genuine belief in the fairies, comes next in time.  He
    has far less literary faculty, but is wonderfully accurate, giving
    often the very words the stories were told in.  But the best book
    since Croker is Lady Wilde’s _Ancient __Legends_.  The humour has all
    given way to pathos and tenderness.  We have here the innermost heart
    of the Celt in the moments he has grown to love through years of
    persecution, when, cushioning himself about with dreams, and hearing
    fairy-songs in the twilight, he ponders on the soul and on the dead.
    Here is the Celt, only it is the Celt dreaming.

Into a volume of very moderate dimensions, and of extremely moderate
price, Mr. Yeats has collected together the most characteristic of our
Irish folklore stories, grouping them together according to subject.
First come _The Trooping Fairies_.  The peasants say that these are
‘fallen angels who were not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be
lost’; but the Irish antiquarians see in them ‘the gods of pagan
Ireland,’ who, ‘when no longer worshipped and fed with offerings,
dwindled away in the popular imagination, and now are only a few spans
high.’  Their chief occupations are feasting, fighting, making love, and
playing the most beautiful music.  ‘They have only one industrious person
amongst them, the _lepra-caun_—the shoemaker.’  It is his duty to repair
their shoes when they wear them out with dancing.  Mr. Yeats tells us
that ‘near the village of Ballisodare is a little woman who lived amongst
them seven years.  When she came home she had no toes—she had danced them
off.’  On May Eve, every seventh year, they fight for the harvest, for
the best ears of grain belong to them.  An old man informed Mr. Yeats
that he saw them fight once, and that they tore the thatch off a house.
‘Had any one else been near they would merely have seen a great wind
whirling everything into the air as it passed.’  When the wind drives the
leaves and straws before it, ‘that is the fairies, and the peasants take
off their hats and say “God bless them.”’  When they are gay, they sing.
Many of the most beautiful tunes of Ireland ‘are only their music, caught
up by eavesdroppers.’  No prudent peasant would hum _The Pretty Girl
Milking the Cow_ near a fairy rath, ‘for they are jealous, and do not
like to hear their songs on clumsy mortal lips.’  Blake once saw a
fairy’s funeral.  But this, as Mr. Yeats points out, must have been an
English fairy, for the Irish fairies never die; they are immortal.

Then come _The Solitary Fairies_, amongst whom we find the little
_Lepracaun_ mentioned above.  He has grown very rich, as he possesses all
the treasure-crocks buried in war-time.  In the early part of this
century, according to Croker, they used to show in Tipperary a little
shoe forgotten by the fairy shoemaker.  Then there are two rather
disreputable little fairies—the _Cluricaun_, who gets intoxicated in
gentlemen’s cellars, and the Red Man, who plays unkind practical jokes.
‘The _Fear-Gorta_ (Man of Hunger) is an emaciated phantom that goes
through the land in famine time, begging an alms and bringing good luck
to the giver.’  The _Water-sheerie_ is ‘own brother to the English
Jack-o’-Lantern.’  ‘_The Leanhaun Shee_ (fairy mistress) seeks the love
of mortals.  If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent,
they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their
place.  The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away.  Death is no
escape from her.  She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to
those she persecutes.  The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless,
and will not let them remain long on earth.’  The _Pooka_ is essentially
an animal spirit, and some have considered him the forefather of
Shakespeare’s ‘Puck.’  He lives on solitary mountains, and among old
ruins ‘grown monstrous with much solitude,’ and ‘is of the race of the
nightmare.’  ‘He has many shapes—is now a horse, . . . now a goat, now an
eagle.  Like all spirits, he is only half in the world of form.’  The
_banshee_ does not care much for our democratic levelling tendencies; she
loves only old families, and despises the _parvenu_ or the _nouveau
riche_.  When more than one banshee is present, and they wail and sing in
chorus, it is for the death of some holy or great one.  An omen that
sometimes accompanies the banshee is ‘. . . an immense black coach,
mounted by a coffin, and drawn by headless horses driven by a
_Dullahan_.’  A _Dullahan_ is the most terrible thing in the world.  In
1807 two of the sentries stationed outside St. James’s Park saw one
climbing the railings, and died of fright.  Mr. Yeats suggests that they
are possibly ‘descended from that Irish giant who swam across the Channel
with his head in his teeth.’

Then come the stories of ghosts, of saints and priests, and of giants.
The ghosts live in a state intermediary between this world and the next.
They are held there by some earthly longing or affection, or some duty
unfulfilled, or anger against the living; they are those who are too good
for hell, and too bad for heaven.  Sometimes they ‘take the forms of
insects, especially of butterflies.’  The author of the _Parochial Survey
of Ireland_ ‘heard a woman say to a child who was chasing a butterfly,
“How do you know it is not the soul of your grandfather?”  On November
eve they are abroad, and dance with the fairies.’  As for the saints and
priests, ‘there are no martyrs in the stories.’  That ancient chronicler
Giraldus Cambrensis ‘taunted the Archbishop of Cashel, because no one in
Ireland had received the crown of martyrdom.  “Our people may be
barbarous,” the prelate answered, “but they have never lifted their hands
against God’s saints; but now that a people have come amongst us who know
how to make them (it was just after the English invasion), we shall have
martyrs plentifully.”’  The giants were the old pagan heroes of Ireland,
who grew bigger and bigger, just as the gods grew smaller and smaller.
The fact is they did not wait for offerings; they took them _vi et
armis_.

Some of the prettiest stories are those that cluster round _Tír-na-n-Og_.
This is the Country of the Young, ‘for age and death have not found it;
neither tears nor loud laughter have gone near it.’  ‘One man has gone
there and returned.  The bard, Oisen, who wandered away on a white horse,
moving on the surface of the foam with his fairy Niamh, lived there three
hundred years, and then returned looking for his comrades.  The moment
his foot touched the earth his three hundred years fell on him, and he
was bowed double, and his beard swept the ground.  He described his
sojourn in the Land of Youth to Patrick before he died.’  Since then,
according to Mr. Yeats, ‘many have seen it in many places; some in the
depths of lakes, and have heard rising therefrom a vague sound of bells;
more have seen it far off on the horizon, as they peered out from the
western cliffs.  Not three years ago a fisherman imagined that he saw
it.’

Mr. Yeats has certainly done his work very well.  He has shown great
critical capacity in his selection of the stories, and his little
introductions are charmingly written.  It is delightful to come across a
collection of purely imaginative work, and Mr. Yeats has a very quick
instinct in finding out the best and the most beautiful things in Irish
folklore.

I am also glad to see that he has not confined himself entirely to prose,
but has included Allingham’s lovely poem on _The Fairies_:

    Up the airy mountain,
       Down the rushy glen,
    We daren’t go a-hunting
       For fear of little men;
    Wee folk, good folk,
       Trooping all together;
    Green jacket, red cap,
       And white owl’s feather!

    Down along the rocky shore
       Some make their home,
    They live on crispy pancakes
       Of yellow tide-foam;
    Some in the reeds
       Of the black mountain lake,
    With frogs for their watch-dogs
       All night awake.

    High on the hill-top
       The old King sits;
    He is now so old and gray
       He’s nigh lost his wits.
    With a bridge of white mist
       Columbkill he crosses,
    On his stately journeys
       From Slieveleague to Rosses;
    Or going up with music,
       On cold starry nights,
    To sup with the Queen
       Of the gay Northern Lights.

All lovers of fairy tales and folklore should get this little book.  _The
Horned Women_, _The Priest’s Soul_, {157} and _Teig O’Kane_, are really
marvellous in their way; and, indeed, there is hardly a single story that
is not worth reading and thinking over.

_Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry_.  Edited and Selected by W.
B. Yeats.  (Walter Scott.)



MR. W. B. YEATS
(_Woman’s World_, March 1889.)


‘_The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems_ is, I believe, the first
volume of poems that Mr. Yeats has published, and it is certainly full of
promise.  It must be admitted that many of the poems are too fragmentary,
too incomplete.  They read like stray scenes out of unfinished plays,
like things only half remembered, or, at best, but dimly seen.  But the
architectonic power of construction, the power to build up and make
perfect a harmonious whole, is nearly always the latest, as it certainly
is the highest, development of the artistic temperament.  It is somewhat
unfair to expect it in early work.  One quality Mr. Yeats has in a marked
degree, a quality that is not common in the work of our minor poets, and
is therefore all the more welcome to us—I mean the romantic temper.  He
is essentially Celtic, and his verse, at its best, is Celtic also.
Strongly influenced by Keats, he seems to study how to ‘load every rift
with ore,’ yet is more fascinated by the beauty of words than by the
beauty of metrical music.  The spirit that dominates the whole book is
perhaps more valuable than any individual poem or particular passage, but
this from _The Wanderings of Oisin_ is worth quoting.  It describes the
ride to the Island of Forgetfulness:

    And the ears of the horse went sinking away in the hollow light,
       For, as drift from a sailor slow drowning the gleams of the world
    and the sun,
    Ceased on our hands and faces, on hazel and oak leaf, the light,
       And the stars were blotted above us, and the whole of the world
    was one;

    Till the horse gave a whinny; for cumbrous with stems of the hazel
    and oak,
       Of hollies, and hazels, and oak-trees, a valley was sloping away
    From his hoofs in the heavy grasses, with monstrous slumbering folk,
       Their mighty and naked and gleaming bodies heaped loose where they
    lay.

    More comely than man may make them, inlaid with silver and gold,
       Were arrow and shield and war-axe, arrow and spear and blade,
    And dew-blanched horns, in whose hollows a child of three years old
       Could sleep on a couch of rushes, round and about them laid.

And this, which deals with the old legend of the city lying under the
waters of a lake, is strange and interesting:

    The maker of the stars and worlds
       Sat underneath the market cross,
    And the old men were walking, walking,
       And little boys played pitch-and-toss.

    ‘The props,’ said He, ‘of stars and worlds
       Are prayers of patient men and good.
    The boys, the women, and old men,
       Listening, upon their shadows stood.

    A grey professor passing cried,
       ‘How few the mind’s intemperance rule!
    What shallow thoughts about deep things!
       The world grows old and plays the fool.’

    The mayor came, leaning his left ear—
       There were some talking of the poor—
    And to himself cried, ‘Communist!’
       And hurried to the guardhouse door.

    The bishop came with open book,
       Whispering along the sunny path;
    There was some talking of man’s God,
       His God of stupor and of wrath.

    The bishop murmured, ‘Atheist!
       How sinfully the wicked scoff!’
    And sent the old men on their way,
       And drove the boys and women off.

    The place was empty now of people;
       A cock came by upon his toes;
    An old horse looked across the fence,
       And rubbed along the rail his nose.

    The maker of the stars and worlds
       To His own house did Him betake,
    And on that city dropped a tear,
       And now that city is a lake.

Mr. Yeats has a great deal of invention, and some of the poems in his
book, such as _Mosada_, _Jealousy_, and _The Island of Statues_, are very
finely conceived.  It is impossible to doubt, after reading his present
volume, that he will some day give us work of high import.  Up to this he
has been merely trying the strings of his instrument, running over the
keys.

_The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems_.  By W. B. Yeats.  (Kegan
Paul.)



MR. YEATS’S _WANDERINGS OF OISIN_
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, July 12, 1889.)


Books of poetry by young writers are usually promissory notes that are
never met.  Now and then, however, one comes across a volume that is so
far above the average that one can hardly resist the fascinating
temptation of recklessly prophesying a fine future for its author.  Such
a book Mr. Yeats’s _Wanderings of Oisin_ certainly is.  Here we find
nobility of treatment and nobility of subject-matter, delicacy of poetic
instinct and richness of imaginative resource.  Unequal and uneven much
of the work must be admitted to be.  Mr. Yeats does not try to ‘out-baby’
Wordsworth, we are glad to say; but he occasionally succeeds in
‘out-glittering’ Keats, and, here and there, in his book we come across
strange crudities and irritating conceits.  But when he is at his best he
is very good.  If he has not the grand simplicity of epic treatment, he
has at least something of the largeness of vision that belongs to the
epical temper.  He does not rob of their stature the great heroes of
Celtic mythology.  He is very naïve and very primitive and speaks of his
giants with the air of a child.  Here is a characteristic passage from
the account of Oisin’s return from the Island of Forgetfulness:

    And I rode by the plains of the sea’s edge, where all is barren and
    grey,
       Grey sands on the green of the grasses and over the dripping
    trees,
    Dripping and doubling landward, as though they would hasten away
       Like an army of old men longing for rest from the moan of the
    seas.

    Long fled the foam-flakes around me, the winds fled out of the vast,
       Snatching the bird in secret, nor knew I, embosomed apart,
    When they froze the cloth on my body like armour riveted fast,
       For Remembrance, lifting her leanness, keened in the gates of my
    heart.

    Till fattening the winds of the morning, an odour of new-mown hay
       Came, and my forehead fell low, and my tears like berries fell
    down;
    Later a sound came, half lost in the sound of a shore far away,
       From the great grass-barnacle calling, and later the shore-winds
    brown.

    If I were as I once was, the gold hooves crushing the sand and the
    shells,
       Coming forth from the sea like the morning with red lips murmuring
    a song,
    Not coughing, my head on my knees, and praying, and wroth with the
    bells,
       I would leave no Saint’s head on his body, though spacious his
    lands were and strong.

    Making way from the kindling surges, I rode on a bridle-path,
       Much wondering to see upon all hands, of wattle and woodwork made,
    Thy bell-mounted churches, and guardless the sacred cairn and the
    earth,
       And a small and feeble populace stooping with mattock and spade.

In one or two places the music is faulty, the construction is sometimes
too involved, and the word ‘populace’ in the last line is rather
infelicitous; but, when all is said, it is impossible not to feel in
these stanzas the presence of the true poetic spirit.

_The Wanderings of Oisin and other Poems_.  By W. B. Yeats.  (Kegan
Paul.)



MR. WILLIAM MORRIS’S LAST BOOK
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, March 2, 1889.)


Mr. Morris’s last book is a piece of pure art workmanship from beginning
to end, and the very remoteness of its style from the common language and
ordinary interests of our day gives to the whole story a strange beauty
and an unfamiliar charm.  It is written in blended prose and verse, like
the mediæval ‘cante-fable,’ and tells the tale of the House of the
Wolfings in its struggles against the legionaries of Rome then advancing
into Northern Germany.  It is a kind of Saga, and the language in which
the folk-epic, as we may call it, is set forth recalls the antique
dignity and directness of our English tongue four centuries ago.  From an
artistic point of view it may be described as an attempt to return by a
self-conscious effort to the conditions of an earlier and a fresher age.
Attempts of this kind are not uncommon in the history of art.  From some
such feeling came the Pre-Raphaelite movement of our own day and the
archaistic movement of later Greek sculpture.  When the result is
beautiful the method is justified, and no shrill insistence upon a
supposed necessity for absolute modernity of form can prevail against the
value of work that has the incomparable excellence of style.  Certainly,
Mr. Morris’s work possesses this excellence.  His fine harmonies and rich
cadences create in the reader that spirit by which alone can its own
spirit be interpreted, awake in him something of the temper of romance
and, by taking him out of his own age, place him in a truer and more
vital relation to the great masterpieces of all time.  It is a bad thing
for an age to be always looking in art for its own reflection.  It is
well that, now and then, we are given work that is nobly imaginative in
its method and purely artistic in its aim.  As we read Mr. Morris’s story
with its fine alternations of verse and prose, its decorative and
descriptive beauties, its wonderful handling of romantic and adventurous
themes, we cannot but feel that we are as far removed from the ignoble
fiction as we are from the ignoble facts of our own day.  We breathe a
purer air, and have dreams of a time when life had a kind of poetical
quality of its own, and was simple and stately and complete.

The tragic interest of _The House of the Wolfings_ centres round the
figure of Thiodolf, the great hero of the tribe.  The goddess who loves
him gives him, as he goes to battle against the Romans, a magical hauberk
on which rests this strange fate: that he who wears it shall save his own
life and destroy the life of his land.  Thiodolf, finding out this
secret, brings the hauberk back to the Wood-Sun, as she is called, and
chooses death for himself rather than the ruin of his cause, and so the
story ends.

But Mr. Morris has always preferred romance to tragedy, and set the
development of action above the concentration of passion.  His story is
like some splendid old tapestry crowded with stately images and enriched
with delicate and delightful detail.  The impression it leaves on us is
not of a single central figure dominating the whole, but rather of a
magnificent design to which everything is subordinated, and by which
everything becomes of enduring import.  It is the whole presentation of
the primitive life that really fascinates.  What in other hands would
have been mere archæology is here transformed by quick artistic instinct
and made wonderful for us, and human and full of high interest.  The
ancient world seems to have come to life again for our pleasure.

Of a work so large and so coherent, completed with no less perfection
than it is conceived, it is difficult by mere quotation to give any
adequate idea.  This, however, may serve as an example of its narrative
power.  The passage describes the visit of Thiodolf to the Wood-Sun:

    The moonlight lay in a great flood on the grass without, and the dew
    was falling in the coldest hour of the night, and the earth smelled
    sweetly: the whole habitation was asleep now, and there was no sound
    to be known as the sound of any creature, save that from the distant
    meadow came the lowing of a cow that had lost her calf, and that a
    white owl was flitting about near the eaves of the Roof with her wild
    cry that sounded like the mocking of merriment now silent.  Thiodolf
    turned toward the wood, and walked steadily through the scattered
    hazel-trees, and thereby into the thick of the beech-trees, whose
    boles grew smooth and silver-grey, high and close-set: and so on and
    on he went as one going by a well-known path, though there was no
    path, till all the moonlight was quenched under the close roof of the
    beech-leaves, though yet for all the darkness, no man could go there
    and not feel that the roof was green above him.  Still he went on in
    despite of the darkness, till at last there was a glimmer before him,
    that grew greater till he came unto a small wood-lawn whereon the
    turf grew again, though the grass was but thin, because little
    sunlight got to it, so close and thick were the tall trees round
    about it. . . . Nought looked Thiodolf either at the heavens above,
    or the trees, as he strode from off the husk-strewn floor of the
    beech wood on to the scanty grass of the lawn, but his eyes looked
    straight before him at that which was amidmost of the lawn: and
    little wonder was that; for there on a stone chair sat a woman
    exceeding fair, clad in glittering raiment, her hair lying as pale in
    the moonlight on the grey stone as the barley acres in the August
    night before the reaping-hook goes in amongst them.  She sat there as
    though she were awaiting some one, and he made no stop nor stay, but
    went straight up to her, and took her in his arms, and kissed her
    mouth and her eyes, and she him again; and then he sat himself down
    beside her.

As an example of the beauty of the verse we would take this from the song
of the Wood-Sun.  It at least shows how perfectly the poetry harmonizes
with the prose, and how natural the transition is from the one to the
other:

    In many a stead Doom dwelleth, nor sleepeth day nor night:
    The rim of the bowl she kisseth, and beareth the chambering light
    When the kings of men wend happy to the bride-bed from the board.
    It is little to say that she wendeth the edge of the grinded sword,
    When about the house half builded she hangeth many a day;
    The ship from the strand she shoveth, and on his wonted way
    By the mountain hunter fareth where his foot ne’er failed before:
    She is where the high bank crumbles at last on the river’s shore:
    The mower’s scythe she whetteth; and lulleth the shepherd to sleep
    Where the deadly ling-worm wakeneth in the desert of the sheep.
    Now we that come of the God-kin of her redes for ourselves we wot,
    But her will with the lives of men-folk and their ending know we not.
    So therefore I bid thee not fear for thyself of Doom and her deed.
    But for me: and I bid thee hearken to the helping of my need.
    Or else—Art thou happy in life, or lusteth thou to die
    In the flower of thy days, when thy glory and thy longing bloom on
    high?

The last chapter of the book in which we are told of the great feast made
for the dead is so finely written that we cannot refrain from quoting
this passage:

    Now was the glooming falling upon the earth; but the Hall was bright
    within even as the Hall-Sun had promised.  Therein was set forth the
    Treasure of the Wolfings; fair cloths were hung on the walls, goodly
    broidered garments on the pillars: goodly brazen cauldrons and
    fair-carven chests were set down in nooks where men could see them
    well, and vessels of gold and silver were set all up and down the
    tables of the feast.  The pillars also were wreathed with flowers,
    and flowers hung garlanded from the walls over the precious hangings;
    sweet gums and spices were burning in fair-wrought censers of brass,
    and so many candles were alight under the Roof, that scarce had it
    looked more ablaze when the Romans had litten the faggots therein for
    its burning amidst the hurry of the Morning Battle.

    There then they fell to feasting, hallowing in the high-tide of their
    return with victory in their hands: and the dead corpses of Thiodolf
    and Otter, clad in precious glittering raiment, looked down on them
    from the High-seat, and the kindreds worshipped them and were glad;
    and they drank the Cup to them before any others, were they Gods or
    men.

In days of uncouth realism and unimaginative imitation, it is a high
pleasure to welcome work of this kind.  It is a work in which all lovers
of literature cannot fail to delight.

_A Tale of the House of the Wolfings and all the Kindreds of the Mark_.
Written in Prose and in Verse by William Morris.  (Reeves and Turner.)



SOME LITERARY NOTES
(_Woman’s World_, April 1889.)


‘In modern life,’ said Matthew Arnold once, ‘you cannot well enter a
monastery; but you can enter the Wordsworth Society.’  I fear that this
will sound to many a somewhat uninviting description of this admirable
and useful body, whose papers and productions have been recently
published by Professor Knight, under the title of _Wordsworthiana_.
‘Plain living and high thinking’ are not popular ideals.  Most people
prefer to live in luxury, and to think with the majority.  However, there
is really nothing in the essays and addresses of the Wordsworth Society
that need cause the public any unnecessary alarm; and it is gratifying to
note that, although the society is still in the first blush of
enthusiasm, it has not yet insisted upon our admiring Wordsworth’s
inferior work.  It praises what is worthy of praise, reverences what
should be reverenced, and explains what does not require explanation.
One paper is quite delightful; it is from the pen of Mr. Rawnsley, and
deals with such reminiscences of Wordsworth as still linger among the
peasantry of Westmoreland.  Mr. Rawnsley grew up, he tells us, in the
immediate vicinity of the present Poet-Laureate’s old home in
Lincolnshire, and had been struck with the swiftness with which,

    As year by year the labourer tills
    His wonted glebe, or lops the glades,

the memories of the poet of the Somersby Wold had ‘faded from off the
circle of the hills’—had, indeed, been astonished to note how little real
interest was taken in him or his fame, and how seldom his works were met
with in the houses of the rich or poor in the very neighbourhood.
Accordingly, when he came to reside in the Lake Country, he endeavoured
to find out what of Wordsworth’s memory among the men of the Dales still
lingered on—how far he was still a moving presence among them—how far his
works had made their way into the cottages and farmhouses of the valleys.
He also tried to discover how far the race of Westmoreland and Cumberland
farm-folk—the ‘Matthews’ and the ‘Michaels’ of the poet, as described by
him—were real or fancy pictures, or how far the characters of the
Dalesmen had been altered in any remarkable manner by tourist influences
during the thirty-two years that have passed since the Lake poet was laid
to rest.

With regard to the latter point, it will be remembered that Mr. Ruskin,
writing in 1876, said that ‘the Border peasantry, painted with absolute
fidelity by Scott and Wordsworth,’ are, as hitherto, a scarcely injured
race; that in his fields at Coniston he had men who might have fought
with Henry V. at Agincourt without being distinguished from any of his
knights; that he could take his tradesmen’s word for a thousand pounds,
and need never latch his garden gate; and that he did not fear
molestation, in wood or on moor, for his girl guests.  Mr. Rawnsley,
however, found that a certain beauty had vanished which the simple
retirement of old valley days fifty years ago gave to the men among whom
Wordsworth lived.  ‘The strangers,’ he says, ‘with their gifts of gold,
their vulgarity, and their requirements, have much to answer for.’  As
for their impressions of Wordsworth, to understand them one must
understand the vernacular of the Lake District.  ‘What was Mr. Wordsworth
like in personal appearance?’ said Mr. Rawnsley once to an old retainer,
who still lives not far from Rydal Mount.  ‘He was a ugly-faäced man, and
a meän-liver,’ was the answer; but all that was really meant was that he
was a man of marked features, and led a very simple life in matters of
food and raiment.  Another old man, who believed that Wordsworth ‘got
most of his poetry out of Hartley,’ spoke of the poet’s wife as ‘a very
onpleasant woman, very onpleasant indeed.  A close-fisted woman, that’s
what she was.’  This, however, seems to have been merely a tribute to
Mrs. Wordsworth’s admirable housekeeping qualities.

The first person interviewed by Mr. Rawnsley was an old lady who had been
once in service at Rydal Mount, and was, in 1870, a lodging-house keeper
at Grasmere.  She was not a very imaginative person, as may be gathered
from the following anecdote:—Mr. Rawnsley’s sister came in from a late
evening walk, and said, ‘O Mrs. D---, have you seen the wonderful
sunset?’  The good lady turned sharply round and, drawing herself to her
full height, as if mortally offended, answered: ‘No, miss; I’m a tidy
cook, I know, and “they say” a decentish body for a landlady, but I don’t
knaw nothing about sunsets or them sort of things, they’ve never been in
my line.’  Her reminiscence of Wordsworth was as worthy of tradition as
it was explanatory, from her point of view, of the method in which
Wordsworth composed, and was helped in his labours by his enthusiastic
sister.  ‘Well, you know,’ she said, ‘Mr. Wordsworth went humming and
booing about, and she, Miss Dorothy, kept close behint him, and she
picked up the bits as he let ’em fall, and tak’ ’em down, and put ’em
together on paper for him.  And you may be very well sure as how she
didn’t understand nor make sense out of ’em, and I doubt that he didn’t
know much about them either himself, but, howivver, there’s a great many
folk as do, I dare say.’  Of Wordsworth’s habit of talking to himself,
and composing aloud, we hear a great deal.  ‘Was Mr. Wordsworth a
sociable man?’ asked Mr. Rawnsley of a Rydal farmer.  ‘Wudsworth, for a’
he had noa pride nor nowt,’ was the answer, ‘was a man who was quite one
to hissel, ye kna.  He was not a man as folks could crack wi’, nor not a
man as could crack wi’ folks.  But there was another thing as kep’ folk
off, he had a ter’ble girt deep voice, and ye might see his faace agaan
for long enuff.  I’ve knoan folks, village lads and lasses, coming over
by old road above, which runs from Grasmere to Rydal, flayt a’most to
death there by Wishing Gaate to hear the girt voice a groanin’ and
mutterin’ and thunderin’ of a still evening.  And he had a way of
standin’ quite still by the rock there in t’ path under Rydal, and folks
could hear sounds like a wild beast coming from the rocks, and childer
were scared fit to be dead a’most.’

Wordsworth’s description of himself constantly recurs to one:

    And who is he with modest looks,
       And clad in sober russet gown?
    He murmurs by the running brooks,
       A music sweeter than their own;
    He is retired as noontide dew,
    Or fountain in a noonday grove.

But the corroboration comes in strange guise.  Mr. Rawnsley asked one of
the Dalesmen about Wordsworth’s dress and habits.  This was the reply:
‘Wudsworth wore a Jem Crow, never seed him in a boxer in my life,—a Jem
Crow and an old blue cloak was his rig, and _as for his habits_, _he had
noan_; niver knew him with a pot i’ his hand, or a pipe i’ his mouth.
But he was a greät skater, for a’ that—noan better in these parts—why, he
could cut his own naäme upo’ the ice, could Mr. Wudsworth.’  Skating
seems to have been Wordsworth’s one form of amusement.  He was ‘over
feckless i’ his hands’—could not drive or ride—‘not a bit of fish in
him,’ and ‘nowt of a mountaineer.’  But he could skate.  The rapture of
the time when, as a boy, on Esthwaite’s frozen lake, he had

             wheeled about,
    Proud and exulting like an untired horse
    That cares not for his home, and, shod with steel,
    Had hissed along the polished ice,

was continued, Mr. Rawnsley tells us, into manhood’s later day; and Mr.
Rawnsley found many proofs that the skill the poet had gained, when

    Not seldom from the uproar he retired,
    Into a silent bay, or sportively
    Glanced sideways, leaving the tumultuous throng
    To cut across the reflex of a star,

was of such a kind as to astonish the natives among whom he dwelt.  The
recollection of a fall he once had, when his skate caught on a stone,
still lingers in the district.  A boy had been sent to sweep the snow
from the White Moss Tarn for him.  ‘Did Mr. Wudsworth gie ye owt?’ he was
asked, when he returned from his labour.  ‘Na, but I seed him tumlle,
though!’ was the answer.  ‘He was a ter’ble girt skater, was Wudsworth
now,’ says one of Mr. Rawnsley’s informants; ‘he would put one hand i’
his breast (he wore a frill shirt i’ them days), and t’ other hand i’ his
waistband, same as shepherds does to keep their hands warm, and he would
stand up straight and sway and swing away grandly.’

Of his poetry they did not think much, and whatever was good in it they
ascribed to his wife, his sister, and Hartley Coleridge.  He wrote
poetry, they said, ‘because he couldn’t help it—because it was his
hobby’—for sheer love, and not for money.  They could not understand his
doing work ‘for nowt,’ and held his occupation in somewhat light esteem
because it did not bring in ‘a deal o’ brass to the pocket.’  ‘Did you
ever read his poetry, or see any books about in the farmhouses?’ asked
Mr. Rawnsley.  The answer was curious: ‘Ay, ay, time or two.  But ya’re
weel aware there’s potry and potry.  There’s potry wi’ a li’le bit
pleasant in it, and potry sic as a man can laugh at or the childer
understand, and some as takes a deal of mastery to make out what’s said,
and a deal of Wudsworth’s was this sort, ye kna.  You could tell fra the
man’s faace his potry would niver have no laugh in it.  His potry was
quite different work from li’le Hartley.  Hartley ’ud goa running along
beside o’ the brooks and mak his, and goa in the first oppen door and
write what he had got upo’ paper.  But Wudsworth’s potry was real hard
stuff, and bided a deal of makking, and he’d keep it in his head for long
enough.  Eh, but it’s queer, mon, different ways folks hes of making
potry now. . . .  Not but what Mr. Wudsworth didn’t stand very high, and
was a well-spoken man enough.’  The best criticism on Wordsworth that Mr.
Rawnsley heard was this: ‘He was an open-air man, and a great critic of
trees.’

There are many useful and well-written essays in Professor Knight’s
volume, but Mr. Rawnsley’s is far the most interesting of all.  It gives
us a graphic picture of the poet as he appeared in outward semblance and
manner to those about whom he wrote.

_Wordsworthiana_: _A Selection from Papers read to the Wordsworth
Society_.  Edited by William Knight.  (Macmillan and Co.)



MR. SWINBURNE’S _POEMS AND BALLADS_ (THIRD SERIES)
(_Pall Mall Gazette_, June 27, 1889.)


Mr. Swinburne once set his age on fire by a volume of very perfect and
very poisonous poetry.  Then he became revolutionary and pantheistic, and
cried out against those that sit in high places both in heaven and on
earth.  Then he invented Marie Stuart and laid upon us the heavy burden
of _Bothwell_.  Then he retired to the nursery and wrote poems about
children of a somewhat over-subtle character.  He is now extremely
patriotic, and manages to combine with his patriotism a strong affection
for the Tory party.  He has always been a great poet.  But he has his
limitations, the chief of which is, curiously enough, the entire lack of
any sense of limit.  His song is nearly always too loud for his subject.
His magnificent rhetoric, nowhere more magnificent than in the volume
that now lies before us, conceals rather than reveals.  It has been said
of him, and with truth, that he is a master of language, but with still
greater truth it may be said that Language is his master.  Words seem to
dominate him.  Alliteration tyrannizes over him.  Mere sound often
becomes his lord.  He is so eloquent that whatever he touches becomes
unreal.

Let us turn to the poem on the Armada:

    The wings of the south-west wind are widened; the breath of his
    fervent lips,
    More keen than a sword’s edge, fiercer than fire, falls full on the
    plunging ships.
    The pilot is he of the northward flight, their stay and their
    steersman he;
    A helmsman clothed with the tempest, and girdled with strength to
    constrain the sea.
    And the host of them trembles and quails, caught fast in his hand as
    a bird in the toils:
    For the wrath and the joy that fulfil him are mightier than man’s,
    whom he slays and spoils.
    And vainly, with heart divided in sunder, and labour of wavering
    will,
    The lord of their host takes counsel with hope if haply their star
    shine still.

Somehow we seem to have heard all this before.  Does it come from the
fact that of all the poets who ever lived Mr. Swinburne is the one who is
the most limited in imagery?  It must be admitted that he is so.  He has
wearied us with his monotony.  ‘Fire’ and the ‘Sea’ are the two words
ever on his lips.  We must confess also that this shrill
singing—marvellous as it is—leaves us out of breath.  Here is a passage
from a poem called _A Word with the Wind_:

    Be the sunshine bared or veiled, the sky superb or shrouded,
       Still the waters, lax and languid, chafed and foiled,
    Keen and thwarted, pale and patient, clothed with fire or clouded,
       Vex their heart in vain, or sleep like serpents coiled.
    Thee they look for, blind and baffled, wan with wrath and weary,
       Blown for ever back by winds that rock the bird:
    Winds that seamews breast subdue the sea, and bid the dreary
       Waves be weak as hearts made sick with hope deferred.
    Let the clarion sound from westward, let the south bear token
       How the glories of thy godhead sound and shine:
    Bid the land rejoice to see the land-wind’s broad wings broken,
       Bid the sea take comfort, bid the world be thine.

Verse of this kind may be justly praised for the sustained strength and
vigour of its metrical scheme.  Its purely technical excellence is
extraordinary.  But is it more than an oratorical _tour de force_?  Does
it really convey much?  Does it charm?  Could we return to it again and
again with renewed pleasure?  We think not.  It seems to us empty.

Of course, we must not look to these poems for any revelation of human
life.  To be at one with the elements seems to be Mr. Swinburne’s aim.
He seeks to speak with the breath of wind and wave.  The roar of the fire
is ever in his ears.  He puts his clarion to the lips of Spring and bids
her blow, and the Earth wakes from her dreams and tells him her secret.
He is the first lyric poet who has tried to make an absolute surrender of
his own personality, and he has succeeded.  We hear the song, but we
never know the singer.  We never even get near to him.  Out of the
thunder and splendour of words he himself says nothing.  We have often
had man’s interpretation of Nature; now we have Nature’s interpretation
of man, and she has curiously little to say.  Force and Freedom form her
vague message.  She deafens us with her clangours.

But Mr. Swinburne is not always riding the whirlwind and calling out of
the depths of the sea.  Romantic ballads in Border dialect have not lost
their fascination for him, and this last volume contains some very
splendid examples of this curious artificial kind of poetry.  The amount
of pleasure one gets out of dialect is a matter entirely of temperament.
To say ‘mither’ instead of ‘mother’ seems to many the acme of romance.
There are others who are not quite so ready to believe in the pathos of
provincialism.  There is, however, no doubt of Mr. Swinburne’s mastery
over the form, whether the form be quite legitimate or not.  _The __Weary
Wedding_ has the concentration and colour of a great drama, and the
quaintness of its style lends it something of the power of a grotesque.
The ballad of _The Witch-Mother_, a mediæval Medea who slays her children
because her lord is faithless, is worth reading on account of its
horrible simplicity.  _The Bride’s Tragedy_, with its strange refrain of

    In, in, out and in,
    Blaws the wind and whirls the whin:

The _Jacobite’s Exile_—

    O lordly flow the Loire and Seine,
       And loud the dark Durance:
    But bonnier shine the braes of Tyne
       Than a’ the fields of France;
    And the waves of Till that speak sae still
       Gleam goodlier where they glance:

_The Tyneside Widow_ and _A Reiver’s Neck-verse_ are all poems of fine
imaginative power, and some of them are terrible in their fierce
intensity of passion.  There is no danger of English poetry narrowing
itself to a form so limited as the romantic ballad in dialect.  It is of
too vital a growth for that.  So we may welcome Mr. Swinburne’s masterly
experiments with the hope that things which are inimitable will not be
imitated.  The collection is completed by a few poems on children, some
sonnets, a threnody on John William Inchbold, and a lovely lyric entitled
_The Interpreters_.

    In human thought have all things habitation;
             Our days
    Laugh, lower, and lighten past, and find no station
             That stays.

    But thought and faith are mightier things than time
             Can wrong,
    Made splendid once by speech, or made sublime
             By song.

    Remembrance, though the tide of change that rolls
             Wax hoary,
    Gives earth and heaven, for song’s sake and the soul’s,
             Their glory.

Certainly, ‘for song’s sake’ we should love Mr. Swinburne’s work, cannot,
indeed, help loving it, so marvellous a music-maker is he.  But what of
the soul?  For the soul we must go elsewhere.

_Poems and Ballads_.  Third Series.  By Algernon Charles Swinburne.
(Chatto and Windus.)



A CHINESE SAGE
(_Speaker_, February 8, 1890.)


An eminent Oxford theologian once remarked that his only objection to
modern progress was that it progressed forward instead of backward—a view
that so fascinated a certain artistic undergraduate that he promptly
wrote an essay upon some unnoticed analogies between the development of
ideas and the movements of the common sea-crab.  I feel sure the
_Speaker_ will not be suspected even by its most enthusiastic friends of
holding this dangerous heresy of retrogression.  But I must candidly
admit that I have come to the conclusion that the most caustic criticism
of modern life I have met with for some time is that contained in the
writings of the learned Chuang Tzŭ, recently translated into the vulgar
tongue by Mr. Herbert Giles, Her Majesty’s Consul at Tamsui.

The spread of popular education has no doubt made the name of this great
thinker quite familiar to the general public, but, for the sake of the
few and the over-cultured, I feel it my duty to state definitely who he
was, and to give a brief outline of the character of his philosophy.

Chuang Tzŭ, whose name must carefully be pronounced as it is not written,
was born in the fourth century before Christ, by the banks of the Yellow
River, in the Flowery Land; and portraits of the wonderful sage seated on
the flying dragon of contemplation may still be found on the simple
tea-trays and pleasing screens of many of our most respectable suburban
households.  The honest ratepayer and his healthy family have no doubt
often mocked at the dome-like forehead of the philosopher, and laughed
over the strange perspective of the landscape that lies beneath him.  If
they really knew who he was, they would tremble.  Chuang Tzŭ spent his
life in preaching the great creed of Inaction, and in pointing out the
uselessness of all useful things.  ‘Do nothing, and everything will be
done,’ was the doctrine which he inherited from his great master Lao Tzŭ.
To resolve action into thought, and thought into abstraction, was his
wicked transcendental aim.  Like the obscure philosopher of early Greek
speculation, he believed in the identity of contraries; like Plato, he
was an idealist, and had all the idealist’s contempt for utilitarian
systems; he was a mystic like Dionysius, and Scotus Erigena, and Jacob
Böhme, and held, with them and with Philo, that the object of life was to
get rid of self-consciousness, and to become the unconscious vehicle of a
higher illumination.  In fact, Chuang Tzŭ may be said to have summed up
in himself almost every mood of European metaphysical or mystical
thought, from Heraclitus down to Hegel.  There was something in him of
the Quietist also; and in his worship of Nothing he may be said to have
in some measure anticipated those strange dreamers of mediæval days who,
like Tauler and Master Eckhart, adored the _purum nihil_ and the Abyss.
The great middle classes of this country, to whom, as we all know, our
prosperity, if not our civilization, is entirely due, may shrug their
shoulders over all this and ask, with a certain amount of reason, what is
the identity of contraries to them, and why they should get rid of that
self-consciousness which is their chief characteristic.  But Chuang Tzŭ
was something more than a metaphysician and an illuminist.  He sought to
destroy society, as we know it, as the middle classes know it; and the
sad thing is that he combines with the passionate eloquence of a Rousseau
the scientific reasoning of a Herbert Spencer.  There is nothing of the
sentimentalist in him.  He pities the rich more than the poor, if he even
pities at all, and prosperity seems to him as tragic a thing as
suffering.  He has nothing of the modern sympathy with failures, nor does
he propose that the prizes should always be given on moral grounds to
those who come in last in the race.  It is the race itself that he
objects to; and as for active sympathy, which has become the profession
of so many worthy people in our own day, he thinks that trying to make
others good is as silly an occupation as ‘beating a drum in a forest in
order to find a fugitive.’  It is a mere waste of energy.  That is all.
While, as for a thoroughly sympathetic man, he is, in the eyes of Chuang
Tzŭ, simply a man who is always trying to be somebody else, and so misses
the only possible excuse for his own existence.

Yes; incredible as it may seem, this curious thinker looked back with a
sigh of regret to a certain Golden Age when there were no competitive
examinations, no wearisome educational systems, no missionaries, no penny
dinners for the people, no Established Churches, no Humanitarian
Societies, no dull lectures about one’s duty to one’s neighbour, and no
tedious sermons about any subject at all.  In those ideal days, he tells
us, people loved each other without being conscious of charity, or
writing to the newspapers about it.  They were upright, and yet they
never published books upon Altruism.  As every man kept his knowledge to
himself, the world escaped the curse of scepticism; and as every man kept
his virtues to himself, nobody meddled in other people’s business.  They
lived simple and peaceful lives, and were contented with such food and
raiment as they could get.  Neighbouring districts were in sight, and
‘the cocks and dogs of one could be heard in the other,’ yet the people
grew old and died without ever interchanging visits.  There was no
chattering about clever men, and no laudation of good men.  The
intolerable sense of obligation was unknown.  The deeds of humanity left
no trace, and their affairs were not made a burden for prosperity by
foolish historians.

In an evil moment the Philanthropist made his appearance, and brought
with him the mischievous idea of Government.  ‘There is such a thing,’
says Chuang Tzŭ, ‘as leaving mankind alone: there has never been such a
thing as governing mankind.’  All modes of government are wrong.  They
are unscientific, because they seek to alter the natural environment of
man; they are immoral because, by interfering with the individual, they
produce the most aggressive forms of egotism; they are ignorant, because
they try to spread education; they are self-destructive, because they
engender anarchy.  ‘Of old,’ he tells us, ‘the Yellow Emperor first
caused charity and duty to one’s neighbour to interfere with the natural
goodness of the heart of man.  In consequence of this, Yao and Shun wore
the hair off their legs in endeavouring to feed their people.  They
disturbed their internal economy in order to find room for artificial
virtues.  They exhausted their energies in framing laws, and they were
failures.’  Man’s heart, our philosopher goes on to say, may be ‘forced
down or stirred up,’ and in either case the issue is fatal.  Yao made the
people too happy, so they were not satisfied.  Chieh made them too
wretched, so they grew discontented.  Then every one began to argue about
the best way of tinkering up society.  ‘It is quite clear that something
must be done,’ they said to each other, and there was a general rush for
knowledge.  The results were so dreadful that the Government of the day
had to bring in Coercion, and as a consequence of this ‘virtuous men
sought refuge in mountain caves, while rulers of state sat trembling in
ancestral halls.’  Then, when everything was in a state of perfect chaos,
the Social Reformers got up on platforms, and preached salvation from the
ills that they and their system had caused.  The poor Social Reformers!
‘They know not shame, nor what it is to blush,’ is the verdict of Chuang
Tzŭ upon them.

The economic question, also, is discussed by this almond-eyed sage at
great length, and he writes about the curse of capital as eloquently as
Mr. Hyndman.  The accumulation of wealth is to him the origin of evil.
It makes the strong violent, and the weak dishonest.  It creates the
petty thief, and puts him in a bamboo cage.  It creates the big thief,
and sets him on a throne of white jade.  It is the father of competition,
and competition is the waste, as well as the destruction, of energy.  The
order of nature is rest, repetition, and peace.  Weariness and war are
the results of an artificial society based upon capital; and the richer
this society gets, the more thoroughly bankrupt it really is, for it has
neither sufficient rewards for the good nor sufficient punishments for
the wicked.  There is also this to be remembered—that the prizes of the
world degrade a man as much as the world’s punishments.  The age is
rotten with its worship of success.  As for education, true wisdom can
neither be learnt nor taught.  It is a spiritual state, to which he who
lives in harmony with nature attains.  Knowledge is shallow if we compare
it with the extent of the unknown, and only the unknowable is of value.
Society produces rogues, and education makes one rogue cleverer than
another.  That is the only result of School Boards.  Besides, of what
possible philosophic importance can education be, when it serves simply
to make each man differ from his neighbour?  We arrive ultimately at a
chaos of opinions, doubt everything, and fall into the vulgar habit of
arguing; and it is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.  Look at
Hui Tzu.  ‘He was a man of many ideas.  His work would fill five carts.
But his doctrines were paradoxical.’  He said that there were feathers in
an egg, because there were feathers on a chicken; that a dog could be a
sheep, because all names were arbitrary; that there was a moment when a
swift-flying arrow was neither moving nor at rest; that if you took a
stick a foot long, and cut it in half every day, you would never come to
the end of it; and that a bay horse and a dun cow were three, because
taken separately they were two, and taken together they were one, and one
and two made up three.  ‘He was like a man running a race with his own
shadow, and making a noise in order to drown the echo.  He was a clever
gadfly, that was all.  What was the use of him?’

Morality is, of course, a different thing.  It went out of fashion, says
Chuang Tzŭ, when people began to moralize.  Men ceased then to be
spontaneous and to act on intuition.  They became priggish and
artificial, and were so blind as to have a definite purpose in life.
Then came Governments and Philanthropists, those two pests of the age.
The former tried to coerce people into being good, and so destroyed the
natural goodness of man.  The latter were a set of aggressive busybodies
who caused confusion wherever they went.  They were stupid enough to have
principles, and unfortunate enough to act up to them.  They all came to
bad ends, and showed that universal altruism is as bad in its results as
universal egotism.  ‘They tripped people up over charity, and fettered
them with duties to their neighbours.’  They gushed over music, and
fussed over ceremonies.  As a consequence of all this, the world lost its
equilibrium, and has been staggering ever since.

Who, then, according to Chuang Tzŭ, is the perfect man?  And what is his
manner of life?  The perfect man does nothing beyond gazing at the
universe.  He adopts no absolute position.  ‘In motion, he is like water.
At rest, he is like a mirror.  And, like Echo, he answers only when he is
called upon.’  He lets externals take care of themselves.  Nothing
material injures him; nothing spiritual punishes him.  His mental
equilibrium gives him the empire of the world.  He is never the slave of
objective existences.  He knows that, ‘just as the best language is that
which is never spoken, so the best action is that which is never done.’
He is passive, and accepts the laws of life.  He rests in inactivity, and
sees the world become virtuous of itself.  He does not try to ‘bring
about his own good deeds.’  He never wastes himself on effort.  He is not
troubled about moral distinctions.  He knows that things are what they
are, and that their consequences will be what they will be.  His mind is
the ‘speculum of creation,’ and he is ever at peace.

All this is of course excessively dangerous, but we must remember that
Chuang Tzŭ lived more than two thousand years ago, and never had the
opportunity of seeing our unrivalled civilization.  And yet it is
possible that, were he to come back to earth and visit us, he might have
something to say to Mr. Balfour about his coercion and active
misgovernment in Ireland; he might smile at some of our philanthropic
ardours, and shake his head over many of our organized charities; the
School Board might not impress him, nor our race for wealth stir his
admiration; he might wonder at our ideals, and grow sad over what we have
realized.  Perhaps it is well that Chuang Tzŭ cannot return.

Meanwhile, thanks to Mr. Giles and Mr. Quaritch, we have his book to
console us, and certainly it is a most fascinating and delightful volume.
Chuang Tzŭ is one of the Darwinians before Darwin.  He traces man from
the germ, and sees his unity with nature.  As an anthropologist he is
excessively interesting, and he describes our primitive arboreal ancestor
living in trees through his terror of animals stronger than himself, and
knowing only one parent, the mother, with all the accuracy of a lecturer
at the Royal Society.  Like Plato, he adopts the dialogue as his mode of
expression, ‘putting words into other people’s mouths,’ he tells us, ‘in
order to gain breadth of view.’  As a story-teller he is charming.  The
account of the visit of the respectable Confucius to the great Robber Chê
is most vivid and brilliant, and it is impossible not to laugh over the
ultimate discomfiture of the sage, the barrenness of whose moral
platitudes is ruthlessly exposed by the successful brigand.  Even in his
metaphysics, Chuang Tzŭ is intensely humorous.  He personifies his
abstractions, and makes them act plays before us.  The Spirit of the
Clouds, when passing eastward through the expanse of air, happened to
fall in with the Vital Principle.  The latter was slapping his ribs and
hopping about: whereupon the Spirit of the Clouds said, ‘Who are you, old
man, and what are you doing?’  ‘Strolling!’ replied the Vital Principle,
without stopping, for all activities are ceaseless.  ‘I want to _know_
something,’ continued the Spirit of the Clouds.  ‘Ah!’ cried the Vital
Principle, in a tone of disapprobation, and a marvellous conversation
follows, that is not unlike the dialogue between the Sphinx and the
Chimera in Flaubert’s curious drama.  Talking animals, also, have their
place in Chuang Tzŭ’s parables and stories, and through myth and poetry
and fancy his strange philosophy finds musical utterance.

Of course it is sad to be told that it is immoral to be consciously good,
and that doing anything is the worst form of idleness.  Thousands of
excellent and really earnest philanthropists would be absolutely thrown
upon the rates if we adopted the view that nobody should be allowed to
meddle in what does not concern him.  The doctrine of the uselessness of
all useful things would not merely endanger our commercial supremacy as a
nation, but might bring discredit upon many prosperous and serious-minded
members of the shop-keeping classes.  What would become of our popular
preachers, our Exeter Hall orators, our drawing-room evangelists, if we
said to them, in the words of Chuang Tzŭ, ‘Mosquitoes will keep a man
awake all night with their biting, and just in the same way this talk of
charity and duty to one’s neighbour drives us nearly crazy.  Sirs, strive
to keep the world to its own original simplicity, and, as the wind
bloweth where it listeth, so let Virtue establish itself.  Wherefore this
undue energy?’  And what would be the fate of governments and
professional politicians if we came to the conclusion that there is no
such thing as governing mankind at all?  It is clear that Chuang Tzŭ is a
very dangerous writer, and the publication of his book in English, two
thousand years after his death, is obviously premature, and may cause a
great deal of pain to many thoroughly respectable and industrious
persons.  It may be true that the ideal of self-culture and
self-development, which is the aim of his scheme of life, and the basis
of his scheme of philosophy, is an ideal somewhat needed by an age like
ours, in which most people are so anxious to educate their neighbours
that they have actually no time left in which to educate themselves.  But
would it be wise to say so?  It seems to me that if we once admitted the
force of any one of Chuang Tzŭ’s destructive criticisms we should have to
put some check on our national habit of self-glorification; and the only
thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise
he always gives himself for doing them.  There may, however, be a few who
have grown wearied of that strange modern tendency that sets enthusiasm
to do the work of the intellect.  To these, and such as these, Chuang Tzŭ
will be welcome.  But let them only read him.  Let them not talk about
him.  He would be disturbing at dinner-parties, and impossible at
afternoon teas, and his whole life was a protest against platform
speaking.  ‘The perfect man ignores self; the divine man ignores action;
the true sage ignores reputation.’  These are the principles of Chuang
Tzŭ.

_Chuang Tzŭ_: _Mystic_, _Moralist_, _and Social Reformer_.  Translated
from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles, H.B.M.’s Consul at Tamsui.
(Bernard Quaritch.)



MR. PATER’S _APPRECIATIONS_
(_Speaker_, March 22, 1890.)


When I first had the privilege—and I count it a very high one—of meeting
Mr. Walter Pater, he said to me, smiling, ‘Why do you always write
poetry?  Why do you not write prose?  Prose is so much more difficult.’

It was during my undergraduate days at Oxford; days of lyrical ardour and
of studious sonnet-writing; days when one loved the exquisite intricacy
and musical repetitions of the ballade, and the villanelle with its
linked long-drawn echoes and its curious completeness; days when one
solemnly sought to discover the proper temper in which a triolet should
be written; delightful days, in which, I am glad to say, there was far
more rhyme than reason.

I may frankly confess now that at the time I did not quite comprehend
what Mr. Pater really meant; and it was not till I had carefully studied
his beautiful and suggestive essays on the Renaissance that I fully
realized what a wonderful self-conscious art the art of English
prose-writing really is, or may be made to be.  Carlyle’s stormy
rhetoric, Ruskin’s winged and passionate eloquence, had seemed to me to
spring from enthusiasm rather than from art.  I do not think I knew then
that even prophets correct their proofs.  As for Jacobean prose, I
thought it too exuberant; and Queen Anne prose appeared to me terribly
bald, and irritatingly rational.  But Mr. Pater’s essays became to me
‘the golden book of spirit and sense, the holy writ of beauty.’  They are
still this to me.  It is possible, of course, that I may exaggerate about
them.  I certainly hope that I do; for where there is no exaggeration
there is no love, and where there is no love there is no understanding.
It is only about things that do not interest one, that one can give a
really unbiassed opinion; and this is no doubt the reason why an
unbiassed opinion is always valueless.

But I must not allow this brief notice of Mr. Pater’s new volume to
degenerate into an autobiography.  I remember being told in America that
whenever Margaret Fuller wrote an essay upon Emerson the printers had
always to send out to borrow some additional capital ‘I’s,’ and I feel it
right to accept this transatlantic warning.

_Appreciations_, in the fine Latin sense of the word, is the title given
by Mr. Pater to his book, which is an exquisite collection of exquisite
essays, of delicately wrought works of art—some of them being almost
Greek in their purity of outline and perfection of form, others mediæval
in their strangeness of colour and passionate suggestion, and all of them
absolutely modern, in the true meaning of the term modernity.  For he to
whom the present is the only thing that is present, knows nothing of the
age in which he lives.  To realize the nineteenth century one must
realize every century that has preceded it, and that has contributed to
its making.  To know anything about oneself, one must know all about
others.  There must be no mood with which one cannot sympathize, no dead
mode of life that one cannot make alive.  The legacies of heredity may
make us alter our views of moral responsibility, but they cannot but
intensify our sense of the value of Criticism; for the true critic is he
who bears within himself the dreams and ideas and feelings of myriad
generations, and to whom no form of thought is alien, no emotional
impulse obscure.

Perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the least successful, of the
essays contained in the present volume is that on _Style_.  It is the
most interesting because it is the work of one who speaks with the high
authority that comes from the noble realization of things nobly
conceived.  It is the least successful, because the subject is too
abstract.  A true artist like Mr. Pater is most felicitous when he deals
with the concrete, whose very limitations give him finer freedom, while
they necessitate more intense vision.  And yet what a high ideal is
contained in these few pages!  How good it is for us, in these days of
popular education and facile journalism, to be reminded of the real
scholarship that is essential to the perfect writer, who, ‘being a true
lover of words for their own sake, a minute and constant observer of
their physiognomy,’ will avoid what is mere rhetoric, or ostentatious
ornament, or negligent misuse of terms, or ineffective surplusage, and
will be known by his tact of omission, by his skilful economy of means,
by his selection and self-restraint, and perhaps above all by that
conscious artistic structure which is the expression of mind in style.  I
think I have been wrong in saying that the subject is too abstract.  In
Mr. Pater’s hands it becomes very real to us indeed, and he shows us how,
behind the perfection of a man’s style, must lie the passion of a man’s
soul.

As one passes to the rest of the volume, one finds essays on Wordsworth
and on Coleridge, on Charles Lamb and on Sir Thomas Browne, on some of
Shakespeare’s plays and on the English kings that Shakespeare fashioned,
on Dante Rossetti, and on William Morris.  As that on Wordsworth seems to
be Mr. Pater’s last work, so that on the singer of the _Defence of
Guenevere_ is certainly his earliest, or almost his earliest, and it is
interesting to mark the change that has taken place in his style.  This
change is, perhaps, at first sight not very apparent.  In 1868 we find
Mr. Pater writing with the same exquisite care for words, with the same
studied music, with the same temper, and something of the same mode of
treatment.  But, as he goes on, the architecture of the style becomes
richer and more complex, the epithet more precise and intellectual.
Occasionally one may be inclined to think that there is, here and there,
a sentence which is somewhat long, and possibly, if one may venture to
say so, a little heavy and cumbersome in movement.  But if this be so, it
comes from those side-issues suddenly suggested by the idea in its
progress, and really revealing the idea more perfectly; or from those
felicitous after-thoughts that give a fuller completeness to the central
scheme, and yet convey something of the charm of chance; or from a desire
to suggest the secondary shades of meaning with all their accumulating
effect, and to avoid, it may be, the violence and harshness of too
definite and exclusive an opinion.  For in matters of art, at any rate,
thought is inevitably coloured by emotion, and so is fluid rather than
fixed, and, recognizing its dependence upon the moods and upon the
passion of fine moments, will not accept the rigidity of a scientific
formula or a theological dogma.  The critical pleasure, too, that we
receive from tracing, through what may seem the intricacies of a
sentence, the working of the constructive intelligence, must not be
overlooked.  As soon as we have realized the design, everything appears
clear and simple.  After a time, these long sentences of Mr. Pater’s come
to have the charm of an elaborate piece of music, and the unity of such
music also.

I have suggested that the essay on Wordsworth is probably the most recent
bit of work contained in this volume.  If one might choose between so
much that is good, I should be inclined to say it is the finest also.
The essay on Lamb is curiously suggestive; suggestive, indeed, of a
somewhat more tragic, more sombre figure, than men have been wont to
think of in connection with the author of the _Essays of Elia_.  It is an
interesting aspect under which to regard Lamb, but perhaps he himself
would have had some difficulty in recognizing the portrait given of him.
He had, undoubtedly, great sorrows, or motives for sorrow, but he could
console himself at a moment’s notice for the real tragedies of life by
reading any one of the Elizabethan tragedies, provided it was in a folio
edition.  The essay on Sir Thomas Browne is delightful, and has the
strange, personal, fanciful charm of the author of the _Religio Medici_,
Mr. Pater often catching the colour and accent and tone of whatever
artist, or work of art, he deals with.  That on Coleridge, with its
insistence on the necessity of the cultivation of the relative, as
opposed to the absolute spirit in philosophy and in ethics, and its high
appreciation of the poet’s true position in our literature, is in style
and substance a very blameless work.  Grace of expression and delicate
subtlety of thought and phrase, characterize the essays on Shakespeare.
But the essay on Wordsworth has a spiritual beauty of its own.  It
appeals, not to the ordinary Wordsworthian with his uncritical temper,
and his gross confusion of ethical and æsthetical problems, but rather to
those who desire to separate the gold from the dross, and to reach at the
true Wordsworth through the mass of tedious and prosaic work that bears
his name, and that serves often to conceal him from us.  The presence of
an alien element in Wordsworth’s art is, of course, recognized by Mr.
Pater, but he touches on it merely from the psychological point of view,
pointing out how this quality of higher and lower moods gives the effect
in his poetry ‘of a power not altogether his own, or under his control’;
a power which comes and goes when it wills, ‘so that the old fancy which
made the poet’s art an enthusiasm, a form of divine possession, seems
almost true of him.’  Mr. Pater’s earlier essays had their _purpurei
panni_, so eminently suitable for quotation, such as the famous passage
on _Mona Lisa_, and that other in which Botticelli’s strange conception
of the Virgin is so strangely set forth.  From the present volume it is
difficult to select any one passage in preference to another as specially
characteristic of Mr. Pater’s treatment.  This, however, is worth quoting
at length.  It contains a truth eminently suitable for our age:

    That the end of life is not action but contemplation—_being_ as
    distinct from _doing_—a certain disposition of the mind: is, in some
    shape or other, the principle of all the higher morality.  In poetry,
    in art, if you enter into their true spirit at all, you touch this
    principle in a measure; these, by their sterility, are a type of
    beholding for the mere joy of beholding.  To treat life in the spirit
    of art is to make life a thing in which means and ends are
    identified: to encourage such treatment, the true moral significance
    of art and poetry.  Wordsworth, and other poets who have been like
    him in ancient or more recent times, are the masters, the experts, in
    this art of impassioned contemplation.  Their work is not to teach
    lessons, or enforce rules, or even to stimulate us to noble ends, but
    to withdraw the thoughts for a while from the mere machinery of life,
    to fix them, with appropriate emotions, on the spectacle of those
    great facts in man’s existence which no machinery affects, ‘on the
    great and universal passions of men, the most general and interesting
    of their occupations, and the entire world of nature’—on ‘the
    operations of the elements and the appearances of the visible
    universe, on storm and sunshine, on the revolutions of the seasons,
    on cold and heat, on loss of friends and kindred, on injuries and
    resentments, on gratitude and hope, on fear and sorrow.’  To witness
    this spectacle with appropriate emotions is the aim of all culture;
    and of these emotions poetry like Wordsworth’s is a great nourisher
    and stimulant.  He sees nature full of sentiment and excitement; he
    sees men and women as parts of nature, passionate, excited, in
    strange grouping and connection with the grandeur and beauty of the
    natural world:—images, in his own words, ‘of men suffering; amid
    awful forms and powers.’

Certainly the real secret of Wordsworth has never been better expressed.
After having read and reread Mr. Pater’s essay—for it requires
re-reading—one returns to the poet’s work with a new sense of joy and
wonder, and with something of eager and impassioned expectation.  And
perhaps this might be roughly taken as the test or touchstone of the
finest criticism.

Finally, one cannot help noticing the delicate instinct that has gone to
fashion the brief epilogue that ends this delightful volume.  The
difference between the classical and romantic spirits in art has often,
and with much over-emphasis, been discussed.  But with what a light sure
touch does Mr. Pater write of it!  How subtle and certain are his
distinctions!  If imaginative prose be really the special art of this
century, Mr. Pater must rank amongst our century’s most characteristic
artists.  In certain things he stands almost alone.  The age has produced
wonderful prose styles, turbid with individualism, and violent with
excess of rhetoric.  But in Mr. Pater, as in Cardinal Newman, we find the
union of personality with perfection.  He has no rival in his own sphere,
and he has escaped disciples.  And this, not because he has not been
imitated, but because in art so fine as his there is something that, in
its essence, is inimitable.

_Appreciations_, _with an Essay on Style_.  By Walter Pater, Fellow of
Brasenose College.  (Macmillan and Co.)



SENTENTIAE
(_Extracted from Reviews_)


Perhaps he will write poetry some day.  If he does we would earnestly
appeal to him to give up calling a cock ‘proud chanticleer.’  Few
synonyms are so depressing.

A young writer can gain more from the study of a literary poet than from
the study of a lyrist.

I have seen many audiences more interesting than the actors, and have
often heard better dialogue in the _foyer_ than I have on the stage.

The Dramatic College might take up the education of spectators as well as
that of players, and teach people that there is a proper moment for the
throwing of flowers as well as a proper method.

Life remains eternally unchanged; it is art which, by presenting it to us
under various forms, enables us to realize its many-sided mysteries, and
to catch the quality of its most fiery-coloured moments.  The
originality, I mean, which we ask from the artist, is originality of
treatment, not of subject.  It is only the unimaginative who ever
invents.  The true artist is known by the use he makes of what he
annexes, and he annexes everything.

If I ventured on a bit of advice, which I feel most reluctant to do, it
would be to the effect that while one should always study the method of a
great artist, one should never imitate his manner.  The manner of an
artist is essentially individual, the method of an artist is absolutely
universal.  The first is personality, which no one should copy; the
second is perfection, which all should aim at.

A critic who posed as an authority on field sports assured me that no one
ever went out hunting when roses were in full bloom.  Personally, that is
exactly the season I would select for the chase, but then I know more
about flowers than I do about foxes, and like them much better.

The nineteenth century may be a prosaic age, but we fear that, if we are
to judge by the general run of novels, it is not an age of prose.

Perhaps in this century we are too altruistic to be really artistic.

I am led to hope that the University will some day have a theatre of its
own, and that proficiency in scene-painting will be regarded as a
necessary qualification for the Slade Professorship.  On the stage,
literature returns to life and archæology becomes art.  A fine theatre is
a temple where all the muses may meet, a second Parnassus.

It would be sad indeed if the many volumes of poems that are every year
published in London found no readers but the authors themselves and the
authors’ relations; and the real philanthropist should recognize it as
part of his duties to buy every new book of verse that appears.

A fifteen-line sonnet is as bad a monstrosity as a sonnet in dialogue.

Antiquarian books, as a rule, are extremely dull reading.  They give us
facts without form, science without style, and learning without life.

The Roman patron, in fact, kept the Roman poet alive, and we fancy that
many of our modern bards rather regret the old system.  Better, surely,
the humiliation of the _sportula_ than the indignity of a bill for
printing!  Better to accept a country-house as a gift than to be in debt
to one’s landlady!  On the whole, the patron was an excellent
institution, if not for poetry at least for the poets; . . . every poet
longs for a Mæcenas.

The two things the Greeks valued most in actors were grace of gesture and
music of voice.  Indeed, to gain these virtues their actors used to
subject themselves to a regular course of gymnastics and a particular
regime of diet, health being to the Greeks not merely a quality of art,
but a condition of its production.

One should not be too severe on English novels: they are the only
relaxation of the intellectually unemployed.

Most modern novels are more remarkable for their crime than for their
culture.

Not that a tramp’s mode of life is at all unsuited to the development of
the poetic faculty.  Far from it!  He, if any one, should possess that
freedom of mood which is so essential to the artist, for he has no taxes
to pay and no relations to worry him.  The man who possesses a permanent
address, and whose name is to be found in the Directory, is necessarily
limited and localized.  Only the tramp has absolute liberty of living.
Was not Homer himself a vagrant, and did not Thespis go about in a
caravan?

In art as in life the law of heredity holds good.  _On est toujours fils
de quelqu’un_.

He has succeeded in studying a fine poet without stealing from him—a very
difficult thing to do.

Morocco is a sort of paradox among countries, for though it lies westward
of Piccadilly, yet it is purely Oriental in character, and though it is
but three hours’ sail from Europe, yet it makes you feel (to use the
forcible expression of an American writer) as if you had been taken up by
the scruff of the neck and set down in the Old Testament.

As children themselves are the perfect flowers of life, so a collection
of the best poems written on children should be the most perfect of all
anthologies.

No English poet has written of children with more love and grace and
delicacy [than Herrick].  His _Ode on the Birth of Our Saviour_, his poem
_To His Saviour_, _A Child_: _A Present by a Child_, his _Graces for
Children_, and his many lovely epitaphs on children are all of them
exquisite works of art, simple, sweet and sincere.

As the cross-benches form a refuge for those who have no minds to make
up, so those who cannot make up their minds always take to Homeric
studies.  Many of our leaders have sulked in their tents with Achilles
after some violent political crisis and, enraged at the fickleness of
fortune, more than one has given up to poetry what was obviously meant
for party.

There are two ways of misunderstanding a poem.  One is to misunderstand
it and the other to praise it for qualities it does not possess.

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding
us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly
uninteresting event.  It is true that such aphorisms as

    Graves are a _mother’s dimples_
          When we complain,

or

    The primrose wears a constant smile,
    And captive takes the heart,

can hardly be said to belong to the very highest order of poetry, still,
they are preferable, on the whole, to the date of Hannah More’s birth, or
of the burning down of Exeter Change, or of the opening of the Great
Exhibition; and though it would be dangerous to make calendars the basis
of Culture, we should all be much improved if we began each day with a
fine passage of English poetry.

Even the most uninteresting poet cannot survive bad editing.

Prefixed to the Calendar is an introductory note . . . displaying that
intimate acquaintance with Sappho’s lost poems which is the privilege
only of those who are not acquainted with Greek literature.

Mediocre critics are usually safe in their generalities; it is in their
reasons and examples that they come so lamentably to grief.

All premature panegyrics bring their own punishment upon themselves.

No one survives being over-estimated.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the first true men of letters
America produced, and as such deserves a high place in any history of
American civilization.  To a land out of breath in its greed for gain he
showed the example of a life devoted entirely to the study of literature;
his lectures, though not by any means brilliant, were still productive of
much good; he had a most charming and gracious personality, and he wrote
some pretty poems.  But his poems are not of the kind that call for
intellectual analysis or for elaborate description or, indeed, for any
serious discussion at all.

Though the _Psalm of Life_ be shouted from Maine to California, that
would not make it true poetry.

Longfellow has no imitators, for of echoes themselves there are no echoes
and it is only style that makes a school.

Poe’s marvellous lines _To Helen_, a poem as beautiful as a Greek gem and
as musical as Apollo’s lute.

Good novelists are much rarer than good sons, and none of us would part
readily with Micawber and Mrs. Nickleby.  Still, the fact remains that a
man who was affectionate and loving to his children, generous and
warm-hearted to his friends, and whose books are the very bacchanalia of
benevolence, pilloried his parents to make the groundlings laugh, and
this fact every biographer of Dickens should face and, if possible,
explain.

No age ever borrows the slang of its predecessor.

What we do not know about Shakespeare is a most fascinating subject, and
one that would fill a volume, but what we do know about him is so meagre
and inadequate that when it is collected together the result is rather
depressing.

They show a want of knowledge that must be the result of years of study.

Rossetti’s was a great personality, and personalities such as his do not
easily survive shilling primers.

We are sorry to find an English dramatic critic misquoting Shakespeare,
as we had always been of opinion that this was a privilege reserved
specially for our English actors.

Biographies of this kind rob life of much of its dignity and its wonder,
add to death itself a new terror, and make one wish that all art were
anonymous.

A pillar of fire to the few who knew him, and of cloud to the many who
knew him not, Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived apart from the gossip and
tittle-tattle of a shallow age.  He never trafficked with the merchants
for his soul, nor brought his wares into the market-place for the idle to
gape at.  Passionate and romantic though he was, yet there was in his
nature something of high austerity.  He loved seclusion, and hated
notoriety, and would have shuddered at the idea that within a few years
after his death he was to make his appearance in a series of popular
biographies, sandwiched between the author of _Pickwick_ and the Great
Lexicographer.

We sincerely hope that a few more novels like these will be published, as
the public will then find out that a bad book is very dear at a shilling.

The only form of fiction in which real characters do not seem out of
place is history.  In novels they are detestable.

Shilling literature is always making demands on our credulity without
ever appealing to our imagination.

Pathology is rapidly becoming the basis of sensational literature, and in
art, as in politics, there is a great future for monsters.

It is only mediocrities and old maids who consider it a grievance to be
misunderstood.

As truly religious people are resigned to everything, even to mediocre
poetry, there is no reason at all why Madame Guyon’s verses should not be
popular with a large section of the community.

A simile committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle.

Such novels as _Scamp_ are possibly more easy to write than they are to
read.

We have no doubt that when Bailey wrote to Lord Houghton that
common-sense and gentleness were Keats’s two special characteristics the
worthy Archdeacon meant extremely well, but we prefer the real Keats,
with his passionate wilfulness, his fantastic moods and his fine
inconsistence.  Part of Keats’s charm as a man is his fascinating
incompleteness.

The Apostolic dictum, that women should not be suffered to teach, is no
longer applicable to a society such as ours, with its solidarity of
interests, its recognition of natural rights, and its universal
education, however suitable it may have been to the Greek cities under
Roman rule.  Nothing in the United States struck me more than the fact
that the remarkable intellectual progress of that country is very largely
due to the efforts of American women, who edit many of the most powerful
magazines and newspapers, take part in the discussion of every question
of public interest, and exercise an important influence upon the growth
and tendencies of literature and art.  Indeed, the women of America are
the one class in the community that enjoys that leisure which is so
necessary for culture.  The men are, as a rule, so absorbed in business,
that the task of bringing some element of form into the chaos of daily
life is left almost entirely to the opposite sex, and an eminent
Bostonian once assured me that in the twentieth century the whole culture
of his country would be in petticoats.  By that time, however, it is
probable that the dress of the two sexes will be assimilated, as
similarity of costume always follows similarity of pursuits.

The aim of social comedy, in Menander no less than in Sheridan, is to
mirror the manners, not to reform the morals, of its day, and the censure
of the Puritan, whether real or affected, is always out of place in
literary criticism, and shows a want of recognition of the essential
distinction between art and life.  After all, it is only the Philistine
who thinks of blaming Jack Absolute for his deception, Bob Acres for his
cowardice, and Charles Surface for his extravagance, and there is very
little use in airing one’s moral sense at the expense of one’s artistic
appreciation.

The _Æneid_ bears almost the same relation to the _Iliad_ that the
_Idylls of the King_ do to the old Celtic romances of Arthur.  Like them
it is full of felicitous modernisms, of exquisite literary echoes and of
delicate and delightful pictures; as Lord Tennyson loves England so did
Virgil love Rome; the pageants of history and the purple of empire are
equally dear to both poets; but neither of them has the grand simplicity
or the large humanity of the early singers, and, as a hero, Æneas is no
less a failure than Arthur.

There is always a certain amount of danger in any attempt to cultivate
impossible virtues.

As far as the serious presentation of life is concerned, what we require
is more imaginative treatment, greater freedom from theatric language and
theatric convention.  It may be questioned, also, whether the consistent
reward of virtue and punishment of wickedness be really the healthiest
ideal for an art that claims to mirror nature.

True originality is to be found rather in the use made of a model than in
the rejection of all models and masters.  _Dans l’art comme dans la
nature on est toujours fils de quelqu’un_, and we should not quarrel with
the reed if it whispers to us the music of the lyre.  A little child once
asked me if it was the nightingale who taught the linnets how to sing.

In France they have had one great genius, Balzac, who invented the modern
method of looking at life; and one great artist, Flaubert, who is the
impeccable master of style; and to the influence of these two men we may
trace almost all contemporary French fiction.  But in England we have had
no schools worth speaking of.  The fiery torch lit by the Brontës has not
been passed on to other hands; Dickens has influenced only journalism;
Thackeray’s delightful superficial philosophy, superb narrative power,
and clever social satire have found no echoes; nor has Trollope left any
direct successors behind him—a fact which is not much to be regretted,
however, as, admirable though Trollope undoubtedly is for rainy
afternoons and tedious railway journeys, from the point of view of
literature he is merely the perpetual curate of Pudlington Parva.

George Meredith’s style is chaos illumined by brilliant flashes of
lightning.  As a writer he has mastered everything, except language; as a
novelist he can do everything, except tell a story; as an artist he is
everything, except articulate.  Too strange to be popular, too individual
to have imitators, the author of _Richard Feverel_ stands absolutely
alone.  It is easy to disarm criticism, but he has disarmed the disciple.
He gives us his philosophy through the medium of wit, and is never so
pathetic as when he is humorous.  To turn truth into a paradox is not
difficult, but George Meredith makes all his paradoxes truths, and no
Theseus can thread his labyrinth, no Œdipus solve his secret.

The most perfect and the most poisonous of all modern French poets once
remarked that a man can live for three days without bread, but that no
one can live for three days without poetry.  This, however, can hardly be
said to be a popular view, or one that commends itself to that curiously
uncommon quality which is called common-sense.  I fancy that most people,
if they do not actually prefer a salmis to a sonnet, certainly like their
culture to repose on a basis of good cookery.

A cynical critic once remarked that no great poet is intelligible and no
little poet worth understanding, but that otherwise poetry is an
admirable thing.  This, however, seems to us a somewhat harsh view of the
subject.  Little poets are an extremely interesting study.  The best of
them have often some new beauty to show us, and though the worst of them
may bore yet they rarely brutalize.

It is a curious thing that when minor poets write choruses to a play they
should always consider it necessary to adopt the style and language of a
bad translator.  We fear that Mr. Bohn has much to answer for.

In one sonnet he makes a distinct attempt to be original and the result
is extremely depressing.

    Earth wears her grandest robe, by autumn spun,
    _Like some stout matron who of youth has run_
    _The course_, . . .

is the most dreadful simile we have ever come across even in poetry.  Mr.
Griffiths should beware of originality.  Like beauty, it is a fatal gift.

There is a wide difference between the beautiful Tuscan city and the
sea-city of the Adriatic.  Florence is a city full of memories of the
great figures of the past.  The traveller cannot pass along her streets
without treading in the very traces of Dante, without stepping on soil
made memorable by footprints never to be effaced.  The greatness of the
surroundings, the palaces, churches, and frowning mediæval castles in the
midst of the city, are all thrown into the background by the greatness,
the individuality, the living power and vigour of the men who are their
originators, and at the same time their inspiring soul.  But when we turn
to Venice the effect is very different.  We do not think of the makers of
that marvellous city, but rather of what they made.  The idealized image
of Venice herself meets us everywhere.  The mother is not overshadowed by
the too great glory of any of her sons.  In her records the city is
everything—the republic, the worshipped ideal of a community in which
every man for the common glory seems to have been willing to sink his
own.  We know that Dante stood within the red walls of the arsenal, and
saw the galleys making and mending, and the pitch flaming up to heaven;
Petrarch came to visit the great Mistress of the Sea, taking refuge
there, ‘in this city, true home of the human race,’ from trouble, war and
pestilence outside; and Byron, with his facile enthusiasms and fervent
eloquence, made his home for a time in one of the stately, decaying
palaces; but with these exceptions no great poet has ever associated
himself with the life of Venice.  She had architects, sculptors and
painters, but no singer of her own.

To realize the popularity of the great poets one should turn to the minor
poets and see whom they follow, what master they select, whose music they
echo.

Ordinary theology has long since converted its gold into lead, and words
and phrases that once touched the heart of the world have become
wearisome and meaningless through repetition.  If Theology desires to
move us, she must re-write her formulas.

It takes a great artist to be thoroughly modern.  Nature is always a
little behind the age.

Mr. Nash, who styles himself ‘a humble soldier in the army of Faith,’
expresses a hope that his book may ‘invigorate devotional feeling,
especially among the young, to whom verse is perhaps more attractive than
to their elders,’ but we should be sorry to think that people of any age
could admire such a paraphrase as the following:

    Foxes have holes in which to slink for rest,
    The birds of air find shelter in the nest;
    But He, the Son of Man and Lord of all,
    Has no abiding place His own to call.

It is a curious fact that the worst work is always done with the best
intentions, and that people are never so trivial as when they take
themselves very seriously.

Mr. Foster is an American poet who has read Hawthorne, which is wise of
him, and imitated Longfellow, which is not quite so commendable.

_Andiatoroctè_ is the title of a volume of poems by the Rev. Clarence
Walworth, of Albany, N.Y.  It is a word borrowed from the Indians, and
should, we think, be returned to them as soon as possible.  The most
curious poem of the book is called _Scenes at the Holy Home_:

       Jesus and Joseph at work!  Hurra!
    Sight never to see again,
       A prentice Deity plies the saw,
    While the Master ploughs with the plane.

Poems of this kind were popular in the Middle Ages when the cathedrals of
every Christian country served as its theatres.  They are anachronisms
now, and it is odd that they should come to us from the United States.
In matters of this kind we should have some protection.

As for the triolets, and the rondels, and the careful study of metrical
subtleties, these things are merely the signs of a desire for perfection
in small things and of the recognition of poetry as an art.  They have
had certainly one good result—they have made our minor poets readable,
and have not left us entirely at the mercy of geniuses.

Poetry has many modes of music; she does not blow through one pipe alone.
Directness of utterance is good, but so is the subtle recasting of
thought into a new and delightful form.  Simplicity is good, but
complexity, mystery, strangeness, symbolism, obscurity even, these have
their value.  Indeed, properly speaking, there is no such thing as Style;
there are merely styles, that is all.

Writers of poetical prose are rarely good poets.

Poetry may be said to need far more self-restraint than prose.  Its
conditions are more exquisite.  It produces its effects by more subtle
means.  It must not be allowed to degenerate into mere rhetoric or mere
eloquence.  It is, in one sense, the most self-conscious of all the arts,
as it is never a means to an end but always an end in itself.

It may be difficult for a poet to find English synonyms for Asiatic
expressions, but even if it were impossible it is none the less a poet’s
duty to find them.  As it is, Sir Edwin Arnold has translated Sa’di and
some one must translate Sir Edwin Arnold.

Lounging in the open air is not a bad school for poets, but it largely
depends on the lounger.

People are so fond of giving away what they do not want themselves, that
charity is largely on the increase.  But with this kind of charity I have
not much sympathy.  If one gives away a book, it should be a charming
book—so charming, that one regrets having given it.

Mr. Whistler, for some reason or other, always adopted the phraseology of
the minor prophets.  Possibly it was in order to emphasize his well-known
claims to verbal inspiration, or perhaps he thought with Voltaire that
_Habakkuk était capable de tout_, and wished to shelter himself under the
shield of a definitely irresponsible writer none of whose prophecies,
according to the French philosopher, has ever been fulfilled.  The idea
was clever enough at the beginning, but ultimately the manner became
monotonous.  The spirit of the Hebrews is excellent but their mode of
writing is not to be imitated, and no amount of American jokes will give
it that modernity which is essential to a good literary style.  Admirable
as are Mr. Whistler’s fireworks on canvas, his fireworks in prose are
abrupt, violent and exaggerated.

‘The decisive events of the world,’ as has been well said, ‘take place in
the intellect,’ and as for Board-schools, academic ceremonies, hospital
wards and the like, they may be well left to the artists of the
illustrated papers, who do them admirably and quite as well as they need
be done.  Indeed, the pictures of contemporary events, Royal marriages,
naval reviews and things of this kind that appear in the Academy every
year, are always extremely bad; while the very same subjects treated in
black and white in the _Graphic_ or the _London News_ are excellent.
Besides, if we want to understand the history of a nation through the
medium of art, it is to the imaginative and ideal arts that we have to go
and not to the arts that are definitely imitative.  The visible aspect of
life no longer contains for us the secret of life’s spirit.

The difficulty under which the novelists of our day labour seems to me to
be this: if they do not go into society, their books are unreadable; and
if they do go into society, they have no time left for writing.

I must confess that most modern mysticism seems to me to be simply a
method of imparting useless knowledge in a form that no one can
understand.  Allegory, parable, and vision have their high artistic uses,
but their philosophical and scientific uses are very small.

The object of most modern fiction is not to give pleasure to the artistic
instinct, but rather to portray life vividly for us, to draw attention to
social anomalies, and social forms of injustice.  Many of our novelists
are really pamphleteers, reformers masquerading as story-tellers, earnest
sociologists seeking to mend as well as to mirror life.

The book is certainly characteristic of an age so practical and so
literary as ours, an age in which all social reforms have been preceded
and have been largely influenced by fiction.

Mr. Stopford Brooke said some time ago that Socialism and the socialistic
spirit would give our poets nobler and loftier themes for song, would
widen their sympathies and enlarge the horizon of their vision, and would
touch, with the fire and fervour of a new faith, lips that had else been
silent, hearts that but for this fresh gospel had been cold.  What Art
gains from contemporary events is always a fascinating problem and a
problem that is not easy to solve.  It is, however, certain that
Socialism starts well equipped.  She has her poets and her painters, her
art lecturers and her cunning designers, her powerful orators and her
clever writers.  If she fails it will not be for lack of expression.  If
she succeeds her triumph will not be a triumph of mere brute force.

Socialism is not going to allow herself to be trammelled by any hard and
fast creed or to be stereotyped into an iron formula.  She welcomes many
and multiform natures.  She rejects none and has room for all.  She has
the attraction of a wonderful personality and touches the heart of one
and the brain of another, and draws this man by his hatred and injustice,
and his neighbour by his faith in the future, and a third, it may be, by
his love of art or by his wild worship of a lost and buried past.  And
all of this is well.  For, to make men Socialists is nothing, but to make
Socialism human is a great thing.

The Reformation gained much from the use of popular hymn-tunes, and the
Socialists seem determined to gain by similar means a similar hold upon
the people.  However, they must not be too sanguine about the result.
The walls of Thebes rose up to the sound of music, and Thebes was a very
dull city indeed.

We really must protest against Mr. Matthews’ efforts to confuse the
poetry of Piccadilly with the poetry of Parnassus.  To tell us, for
instance, that Mr. Austin Dobson’s verse ‘has not the condensed clearness
nor the incisive vigor of Mr. Locker’s’ is really too bad even for
Transatlantic criticism.  Nobody who lays claim to the slightest
knowledge of literature and the forms of literature should ever bring the
two names into conjunction.

Mr. Dobson has produced work that is absolutely classical in its
exquisite beauty of form.  Nothing more artistically perfect in its way
than the _Lines to a Greek Girl_ has been written in our time.  This
little poem will be remembered in literature as long as _Thyrsis_ is
remembered, and _Thyrsis_ will never be forgotten.  Both have that note
of distinction that is so rare in these days of violence, exaggeration
and rhetoric.  Of course, to suggest, as Mr. Matthews does, that Mr.
Dobson’s poems belong to ‘the literature of power’ is ridiculous.  Power
is not their aim, nor is it their effect.  They have other qualities, and
in their own delicately limited sphere they have no contemporary rivals;
they have none even second to them.

The heroine is a sort of well-worn Becky Sharp, only much more beautiful
than Becky, or at least than Thackeray’s portraits of her, which,
however, have always seemed to me rather ill-natured.  I feel sure that
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was extremely pretty, and I have never understood how
it was that Thackeray could caricature with his pencil so fascinating a
creation of his pen.

A critic recently remarked of Adam Lindsay Gordon that through him
Australia had found her first fine utterance in song.  This, however, is
an amiable error.  There is very little of Australia in Gordon’s poetry.
His heart and mind and fancy were always preoccupied with memories and
dreams of England and such culture as England gave him.  He owed nothing
to the land of his adoption.  Had he stayed at home he would have done
much better work.

That Australia, however, will some day make amends by producing a poet of
her own we cannot doubt, and for him there will be new notes to sound and
new wonders to tell of.

The best that we can say of him is that he wrote imperfectly in Australia
those poems that in England he might have made perfect.

Judges, like the criminal classes, have their lighter moments.

There seems to be some curious connection between piety and poor rhymes.

The South African poets, as a class, are rather behind the age.  They
seem to think that ‘Aurora’ is a very novel and delightful epithet for
the dawn.  On the whole they depress us.

The only original thing in the volume is the description of Mr. Robert
Buchanan’s ‘grandeur of mind.’  This is decidedly new.

Dr. Cockle tells us that Müllner’s _Guilt_ and _The Ancestress_ of
Grillparzer are the masterpieces of German fate-tragedy.  His translation
of the first of these two masterpieces does not make us long for any
further acquaintance with the school.  Here is a specimen from the fourth
act of the fate-tragedy.

                                 SCENE VIII.

                      ELVIRA.                     HUGO.

    ELVIRA (_after long silence_, _leaving the harp_, _steps to Hugo_,
    _and seeks his gaze_).

    HUGO (_softly_).  Though I made sacrifice of thy sweet life, the
    Father has forgiven.  Can the wife—forgive?

    ELVIRA (_on his breast_).  She can!

    HUGO (_with all the warmth of love_).  Dear wife!

    ELVIRA (_after a pause_, _in deep sorrow_).  Must it be so, beloved
    one?

    HUGO (_sorry to have betrayed himself_).  What?

The Renaissance had for its object the development of great
personalities.  The perfect freedom of the temperament in matters of art,
the perfect freedom of the intellect in intellectual matters, the full
development of the individual, were the things it aimed at.  As we study
its history we find it full of great anarchies.  It solved no political
or social problems; it did not seek to solve them.  The ideal of the
‘Grand Siècle,’ and of Richelieu, in whom the forces of that great age
were incarnate, was different.  The ideas of citizenship, of the building
up of a great nation, of the centralization of forces, of collective
action, of ethnic unity of purpose, came before the world.

The creation of a formal tradition upon classical lines is never without
its danger, and it is sad to find the provincial towns of France, once so
varied and individual in artistic expression, writing to Paris for
designs and advice.  And yet, through Colbert’s great centralizing scheme
of State supervision and State aid, France was the one country in Europe,
and has remained the one country in Europe, where the arts are not
divorced from industry.

Hawthorne re-created for us the America of the past with the incomparable
grace of a very perfect artist, but Mr. Bret Harte’s emphasized modernity
has, in its own sphere, won equal, or almost equal, triumphs.

It is pleasant to come across a heroine [Bret Harte’s _Cressy_] who is
not identified with any great cause, and represents no important
principle, but is simply a wonderful nymph from American backwoods, who
has in her something of Artemis, and not a little of Aphrodite.

It is always a pleasure to come across an American poet who is not
national, and who tries to give expression to the literature that he
loves rather than to the land in which he lives.  The Muses care so
little for geography!

Blue-books are generally dull reading, but Blue-books on Ireland have
always been interesting.  They form the record of one of the great
tragedies of modern Europe.  In them England has written down her
indictment against herself and has given to the world the history of her
shame.  If in the last century she tried to govern Ireland with an
insolence that was intensified by race hatred and religious prejudice,
she has sought to rule her in this century with a stupidity that is
aggravated by good intentions.

Like most penmen he [Froude] overrates the power of the sword.  Where
England has had to struggle she has been wise.  Where physical strength
has been on her side, as in Ireland, she has been made unwieldy by that
strength.  Her own strong hands have blinded her.  She has had force but
no direction.

There are some who will welcome with delight the idea of solving the
Irish question by doing away with the Irish people.  There are others who
will remember that Ireland has extended her boundaries, and that we have
now to reckon with her not merely in the Old World but in the New.

Plastic simplicity of outline may render for us the visible aspect of
life; it is different when we come to deal with those secrets which
self-consciousness alone contains, and which self-consciousness itself
can but half reveal.  Action takes place in the sunlight, but the soul
works in the dark.  There is something curiously interesting in the
marked tendency of modern poetry to become obscure.  Many critics,
writing with their eyes fixed on the masterpieces of past literature,
have ascribed this tendency to wilfulness and to affectation.  Its origin
is rather to be found in the complexity of the new problems, and in the
fact that self-consciousness is not yet adequate to explain the contents
of the Ego.  In Mr. Browning’s poems, as in life itself, which has
suggested, or rather necessitated, the new method, thought seems to
proceed not on logical lines, but on lines of passion.  The unity of the
individual is being expressed through its inconsistencies and its
contradictions.  In a strange twilight man is seeking for himself, and
when he has found his own image, he cannot understand it.  Objective
forms of art, such as sculpture and the drama, sufficed one for the
perfect presentation of life; they can no longer so suffice.

As he is not a genius he, naturally, behaves admirably on every occasion.

Certainly dialect is dramatic.  It is a vivid method of re-creating a
past that never existed.  It is something between ‘A Return to Nature’
and ‘A Return to the Glossary.’  It is so artificial that it is really
naïve.  From the point of view of mere music, much may be said for it.
Wonderful diminutives lend new notes of tenderness to the song.  There
are possibilities of fresh rhymes, and in search for a fresh rhyme poets
may be excused if they wander from the broad highroad of classical
utterance into devious byways and less-trodden paths.  Sometimes one is
tempted to look on dialect as expressing simply the pathos of
provincialisms, but there is more in it than mere mispronunciation.  With
that revival of an antique form, often comes the revival of an antique
spirit.  Through limitations that are sometimes uncouth, and always
narrow, comes Tragedy herself; and though she may stammer in her
utterance, and deck herself in cast-off weeds and trammelling raiment,
still we must hold ourselves in readiness to accept her, so rare are her
visits to us now, so rare her presence in an age that demands a happy
ending from every play, and that sees in the theatre merely a source of
amusement.

There is a great deal to be said in favour of reading a novel backwards.
The last page is, as a rule, the most interesting, and when one begins
with the catastrophe or the _dénoûment_ one feels on pleasant terms of
equality with the author.  It is like going behind the scenes of a
theatre.  One is no longer taken in, and the hairbreadth escapes of the
hero and the wild agonies of the heroine leave one absolutely unmoved.

He has every form of sincerity except the sincerity of the artist, a
defect that he shares with most of our popular writers.

On the whole _Primavera_ is a pleasant little book, and we are glad to
welcome it.  It is charmingly ‘got up,’ and undergraduates might read it
with advantage during lecture hours.

                                * * * * *

         Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                    at the Edinburgh University Press



Footnotes:


{2}  Reverently some well-meaning persons have placed a marble slab on
the wall of the cemetery with a medallion-profile of Keats on it and some
mediocre lines of poetry.  The face is ugly, and rather hatchet-shaped,
with thick sensual lips, and is utterly unlike the poet himself, who was
very beautiful to look upon.  ‘His countenance,’ says a lady who saw him
at one of Hazlitt’s lectures, ‘lives in my mind as one of singular beauty
and brightness; it had the expression as if he had been looking on some
glorious sight.’  And this is the idea which Severn’s picture of him
gives.  Even Haydon’s rough pen-and-ink sketch of him is better than this
‘marble libel,’ which I hope will soon be taken down.  I think the best
representation of the poet would be a coloured bust, like that of the
young Rajah of Koolapoor at Florence, which is a lovely and lifelike work
of art.

{5}  ‘Make’ is of course a mere printer’s error for ‘mock,’ and was
subsequently corrected by Lord Houghton.  The sonnet as given in _The
Garden_ of _Florence_ reads ‘orbs for ‘those.’

{63}  _The Margravine of Baireuth and Voltaire_.  (David Stott, 1888.)

{115}  September 1888.

{116}  See _The Picture of Dorian Gray_, chapter xi., page 222.

{157}  From Lady Wilde’ _Ancient Legends of Ireland_.





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