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Title: Women Novelists of Queen Victoria's Reign - A Book of Appreciations
Author: Alexander, Mrs., 1825-1902, Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret), 1828-1897, Linton, Mrs. Lynn, Macquoid, Mrs., Parr, Mrs.
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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  Women Novelists


  Queen Victoria's Reign

  _A Book of Appreciations_


  Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. Lynn Linton
  Mrs. Alexander, Mrs. Macquoid, Mrs. Parr
  Mrs. Marshall, Charlotte M. Yonge
  Adeline Sergeant & Edna Lyall


  Hurst & Blackett, Limited
  13 Great Marlborough Street



  At the Ballantyne Press


      _By_ MRS. OLIPHANT                            _Page_   1

      _By_ MRS. LYNN LINTON                         _Page_  61

      _By_ EDNA LYALL                               _Page_ 117

      _By_ ADELINE SERGEANT                         _Page_ 149

      _By_ CHARLOTTE M. YONGE                       _Page_ 193

      _By_ MRS. PARR                                _Page_ 217

      _By_ MRS. MACQUOID                            _Page_ 249

      _By_ MRS. ALEXANDER                           _Page_ 275

  "A. L. O. E." (MISS TUCKER)
      _By_ MRS. MARSHALL                            _Page_ 291


_Having been concerned for many years in the publication of works of
fiction by feminine writers, it has occurred to us to offer, as our
contribution to the celebration of "the longest Reign," a volume having
for its subject leading Women Novelists of the Victorian Era._

_In the case of living lady fictionists, it is too early to assess the
merit or forecast the future of their works. The present book,
therefore, is restricted to Women Novelists deceased._

_It was further necessary to confine the volume within reasonable
limits, and it was decided, consequently, that it should deal only with
Women who did all their work in Fiction after the accession of the
Queen. This decision excludes not only such writers as Lady Morgan, Mrs.
Opie, Miss Ferrier, Miss Mitford, Mrs. Shelley, and Miss Jane Porter,
who, although they died after 1837, published all their most notable
stories early in the century; but also such writers as Mrs. Gore, Mrs.
Bray, Mrs. S. C. Hall, Mrs. Trollope, Lady Blessington, and Mrs. Marsh,
who made their débuts as novelists between 1823 and 1834._

_As regards some of the last-named, it might be urged that the works
they produced have now no interest other than historical, and can be
said to live only so far as they embody more or less accurate
descriptions of Society early in the Reign. The "Deerbrook" and "The
Hour and the Man" of Miss Martineau are still remembered, and, perhaps,
still read; but it is as a political economist and miscellaneous writer,
rather than as a Novelist, that their author ranks in literature; while
of the tales by Miss Pardoe, Miss Geraldine Jewsbury, and others once
equally popular, scarcely the titles are now recollected._

_On the other hand, the eminence and permanence of the Brontës, George
Eliot, and Mrs. Gaskell are universally recognised; the popularity of
Mrs. Craik and Mrs. Henry Wood is still admittedly great; the
personality of Mrs. Norton will always send students to her works; Mrs.
Crowe and Mrs. Clive were pioneers in domestic and "sensational"
fiction; Lady Georgiana Fullerton produced a typical religious novel;
Miss Manning made pleasing and acceptable the autobiographico-historical
narrative; the authors of "The Valley of a Hundred Fires" of "Barbara's
History," and of "Adèle" have even now their readers and admirers; while
"A. L. O. E." and Mrs. Ewing were among the most successful caterers for
the young._

_It has seemed to us that value as well as interest would attach to
critical estimates of and biographical notes upon, these representative
Novelists, supplied by living mistresses of the craft; and we are glad
to have been able to secure for the purpose, the services of the
contributors to this volume, all of whom may claim to discourse with
some authority upon the art they cultivate. It is perhaps scarcely
necessary to say that each contributor is responsible only for the essay
to which her name is appended._




The effect produced upon the general mind by the appearance of Charlotte
Brontë in literature, and afterwards by the record of her life when that
was over, is one which it is nowadays somewhat difficult to understand.
Had the age been deficient in the art of fiction, or had it followed any
long level of mediocrity in that art, we could have comprehended this
more easily. But Charlotte Brontë appeared in the full flush of a period
more richly endowed than any other we know of in that special branch of
literature, so richly endowed, indeed, that the novel had taken quite
fictitious importance, and the names of Dickens and Thackeray ranked
almost higher than those of any living writers except perhaps Tennyson,
then young and on his promotion too. Anthony Trollope and Charles Reade
who, though in their day extremely popular, have never had justice from
a public which now seems almost to have forgotten them, formed a
powerful second rank to these two great names. It is a great addition to
the value of the distinction gained by the new comer that it was
acquired in an age so rich in the qualities of the imagination.

But this only increases the wonder of a triumph which had no artificial
means to heighten it, nothing but genius on the part of a writer
possessing little experience or knowledge of the world, and no sort of
social training or adventitious aid. The genius was indeed unmistakable,
and possessed in a very high degree the power of expressing itself in
the most vivid and actual pictures of life. But the life of which it had
command was seldom attractive, often narrow, local, and of a kind which
meant keen personal satire more than any broader view of human
existence. A group of commonplace clergymen, intense against their
little parochial background as only the most real art of portraiture,
intensified by individual scorn and dislike, could have made them: the
circle of limited interests, small emulations, keen little spites and
rancours, filling the atmosphere of a great boarding school, the
Brussels _Pensionnat des filles_--these were the two spheres chiefly
portrayed: but portrayed with an absolute untempered force which knew
neither charity, softness, nor even impartiality, but burned upon the
paper and made everything round dim in the contrast. I imagine it was
this extraordinary naked force which was the great cause of a success,
never perhaps like the numerical successes in literature of the present
day, when edition follows edition, and thousand thousand, of the books
which are the favourites of the public: but one which has lived and
lasted through nearly half a century, and is even now potent enough to
carry on a little literature of its own, book after book following each
other not so much to justify as to reproclaim and echo to all the winds
the fame originally won. No one else of the century, I think, has called
forth this persevering and lasting homage. Not Dickens, though perhaps
more of him than of any one else has been dealt out at intervals to an
admiring public; not Thackeray, of whom still we know but little; not
George Eliot, though her fame has more solid foundations than that of
Miss Brontë. Scarcely Scott has called forth more continual droppings of
elucidation, explanation, remark. Yet the books upon which this
tremendous reputation is founded though vivid, original, and striking in
the highest degree, are not great books. Their philosophy of life is
that of a schoolgirl, their knowledge of the world almost _nil_, their
conclusions confused by the haste and passion of a mind self-centred and
working in the narrowest orbit. It is rather, as we have said, the most
incisive and realistic art of portraiture than any exercise of the
nobler arts of fiction--imagination, combination, construction--or
humorous survey of life or deep apprehension of its problems--upon which
this fame is built.

The curious circumstance that Charlotte Brontë was, if the word may be
so used, doubled by her sisters, the elder, Emily, whose genius has been
taken for granted, carrying the wilder elements of the common
inspiration to extremity in the strange, chaotic and weird romance of
"Wuthering Heights," while Anne diluted such powers of social
observation as were in the family into two mildly disagreeable novels of
a much commoner order, has no doubt also enhanced the central figure of
the group to an amazing degree. They placed her strength in relief by
displaying its separate elements, and thus commending the higher skill
and larger spirit which took in both, understanding the moors and wild
country and rude image of man better than the one, and misunderstanding
the common course of more subdued life less than the other. The three
together are for ever inseparable; they were homely, lowly, somewhat
neglected in their lives, had few opportunities and few charms to the
careless eye: yet no group of women, undistinguished by rank, unendowed
by beauty, and known to but a limited circle of friends as unimportant
as themselves have ever, I think, in the course of history--certainly
never in this century--come to such universal recognition. The effect is
quite unique, unprecedented, and difficult to account for; but there
cannot be the least doubt that it is a matter of absolute fact which
nobody can deny.

       *       *       *       *       *

These three daughters of a poor country clergyman came into the world
early in the century, the dates of their births being 1816, 1818, 1820,
in the barest of little parsonages in the midst of the moors--a wild but
beautiful country, and a rough but highly characteristic and keen-witted
people. Yorkshire is the very heart of England; its native force, its
keen practical sense, its rough wit, and the unfailing importance in the
nation of the largest of the shires has given it a strong individual
character and position almost like that of an independent province. But
the Brontës, whose name is a softened and decorated edition of a common
Irish name, were not of that forcible race: and perhaps the strong
strain after emotion, and revolt against the monotonies of life, which
were so conspicuous in them were more easily traceable to their Celtic
origin than many other developments attributed to that cause. They were
motherless from an early age, children of a father who, after having
been depicted as a capricious tyrant, seems now to have found a fairer
representation as a man with a high spirit and peculiar temper, yet
neither unkind to his family nor uninterested in their welfare. There
was one son, once supposed to be the hero and victim of a disagreeable
romance, but apparent now as only a specimen, not alas, uncommon, of the
ordinary ne'er-do-well of a family, without force of character or
self-control to keep his place with decency in the world.

These children all scribbled from their infancy as soon as the power of
inscribing words upon paper was acquired by them, inventing imaginary
countries and compiling visionary records of them as so many imaginative
children do. The elder girl and boy made one pair, the younger girls
another, connected by the closest links of companionship. It was thought
or hoped that the son was the genius of the family, and at the earliest
possible age he began to send his effusions to editors, and to seek
admission to magazines with the mingled arrogance and humility of a
half-fledged creature. But the world knows now that it was not poor
Branwell who was the genius of the family; and this injury done him in
his cradle, and the evil report of him that everybody gives throughout
his life, awakens a certain pity in the mind for the unfortunate youth
so unable to keep any supremacy among the girls whom he must have
considered his natural inferiors and vassals. We are told by Charlotte
Brontë herself that he never knew of the successes of his sisters, the
fact of their successive publications being concealed from him out of
tenderness for his feelings; but it is scarcely to be credited that when
the parish knew the unfortunate brother did not find out. The unhappy
attempt of Mrs. Gaskell in writing the lives of the sisters to make this
melancholy young man accountable for the almost brutal element in Emily
Brontë's conception of life, and the strange views of Charlotte as to
what men were capable of, has made him far too important in their
history; where, indeed, he had no need to have appeared at all, had the
family pride consisted, as the pride of so many families does, in
veiling rather than exhibiting the faults of its members. So far as can
be made out now, he had as little as possible to do with their
development in any way.

There was nothing unnatural or out of the common in the youthful life of
the family except that strange gift of genius, which though consistent
with every genial quality of being, in such a nature as that of Scott,
seems in other developments of character to turn all the elements into
chaos. Its effect upon the parson's three daughters was, indeed, not of
a very wholesome kind. It awakened in them an uneasy sense of
superiority which gave double force to every one of the little
hardships which a girl in a great school of a charitable kind, and a
governess in a middle-class house, has to support: and made life harder
instead of sweeter to them in many ways, since it was full of the biting
experience of conditions less favourable than those of many persons
round them whom they could not but feel inferior to themselves.

The great school, which it was Charlotte Brontë's first act when she
began her literary career to invest with an almost tragic character of
misery, privation, and wrong, was her first step from home. Yorkshire
schools did not at that period enjoy a very good reputation in the
world, and Nicholas Nickleby was forming his acquaintance with the
squalid cruelty of Dotheboys Hall just about the same time when
Charlotte Brontë's mind was being filled with the privations and
discontents of Lowood. In such a case there is generally some fire where
there is so much smoke, and probably Lowood was under no very heavenly
_régime_: but at the same time its drawbacks were sharply accentuated by
that keen criticism which is suggested by the constant sense of injured
worth and consciousness of a superiority not acknowledged. The same
feeling pursued her into the situations as governess which she occupied
one after another, and in which her indignation at being expected to
feel affection for the children put under her charge, forms a curious
addition to the other grievances with which fate pursues her life. No
doubt there are many temptations in the life of a governess; the
position of a silent observer in a household, looking on at all its
mistakes, and seeing the imperfection of its management with double
force because of the effect they have on herself--especially if she
feels herself competent, had she but the power, to set things
right--must always be a difficult one. It was not continued long enough,
however, to involve very much suffering; though no doubt it helped to
mature the habit of sharp personal criticism and war with the world.

At the same time Charlotte Brontë made some very warm personal
friendships, and wrote a great many letters to the school friends who
pleased her, in which a somewhat stilted tone and demure seriousness is
occasionally invaded by the usual chatter of girlhood, to the great
improvement of the atmosphere if not of the mind. Ellen Nussey, Mary
Taylor, women not manifestly intellectual but sensible and independent
without either exaggeration of sentiment or hint of tragic story,
remained her close friends as long as she lived, and her letters to
them, though always a little demure, give us a gentler idea of her than
anything else she has written. Not that there is much charm either of
style or subject in them: but there is no sort of bitterness or sense
of insufficient appreciation. Nothing can be more usual and commonplace,
indeed, than this portion of her life. As in so many cases, the
artificial lights thrown upon it by theories formed afterwards, clear
away when we examine its actual records, and it is apparent that there
was neither exceptional harshness of circumstance nor internal struggle
in the existence of the girl who, though more or less in arms against
everybody outside--especially when holding a position superior to her
own, more especially still when exercising authority over her in any
way--was yet quite an easy-minded, not unhappy, young woman at home,
with friends to whom she could pour out long pages of what is, on the
whole, quite moderate and temperate criticism of life, not without
cheerful allusion to now and then a chance curate or other young person
of the opposite sex, suspected of "paying attention" to one or other of
the little coterie. These allusions are not more lofty or dignified than
are similar notes of girls of less exalted pretensions, but there is not
a touch in them of the keen pointed pen which afterwards put up the
Haworth curates in all their imperfections before the world.

The other sisters at this time in the background, two figures always
clinging together, looking almost like one, have no great share in this
softer part of Charlotte's life. They were, though so different in
character, completely devoted to each other, apparently forming no other
friendships, each content with the one other partaker of her every
thought. A little literature seems to have been created between them,
little chapters of recollection and commentary upon their life, sealed
up and put away for three years in each case, to be opened on Emily's or
on Anne's birthday alternately, as a pathetic sign of their close unity,
though the little papers were in themselves simple in the extreme. Anne
too became a governess with something of the same experience as
Charlotte, and uttering very hard judgments of unconscious people who
were not the least unkind to her. But Emily had no such trials. She
remained at home perhaps because she was too uncompromising to be
allowed to make the experiment of putting up with other people, perhaps
because one daughter at home was indispensable. The family seems to have
had kind and trusted old servants, so that the cares of housekeeping did
not weigh heavily upon the daughter in charge, and there is no evidence
of exceptional hardness or roughness in their circumstances in any way.

In 1842, Charlotte and Emily, aged respectively twenty-six and
twenty-four, went to Brussels. Their design was "to acquire a thorough
familiarity with French," also some insight into other languages, with
the view of setting up a school on their own account. The means were
supplied by the aunt, who had lived in their house and taken more or
less care of them since their mother's death. The two sisters were
nearly a year in the Pensionnat Héger, now so perfectly known in every
detail of its existence to all who have read "Villette." They were
recalled by the death of the kind aunt who had procured them this
advantage, and afterwards Charlotte, no one quite knows why, went back
to Brussels for a second year, in which all her impressions were
probably strengthened and intensified. Certainly a more clear and
lifelike picture, scathing in its cold yet fierce light, was never made
than that of the white tall Brussels house, its class rooms, its
gardens, its hum of unamiable girls, its sharp display of rancorous and
shrill teachers, its one inimitable professor. It startles the reader to
find--a fact which we had forgotten--that M. Paul Emmanuel was M. Héger,
the husband of Madame Héger and legitimate head of the house: and that
this daring and extraordinary girl did not hesitate to encounter gossip
or slander by making him so completely the hero of her romance. Slander
in its commonplace form had nothing to do with such a fiery spirit as
that of Charlotte Brontë: but it shows her perfect independence of mind
and scorn of comment that she should have done this. In the end of '43
she returned home, and the episode was over. It was really the only
episode of possible practical significance in her life until we come to
the records of her brief literary career and her marriage, both towards
its end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The prospect of the school which the three sisters were to set up
together was abandoned; there was no more talk of governessing. We are
not told if it was the small inheritance of the aunt--only, Mr. Clement
Shorter informs us, £1500--which enabled the sisters henceforward to
remain at home without thought of further effort: but certainly this was
what happened. And the lives of the two younger were drawing so near the
end that it is a comfort to think that they enjoyed this moment of
comparative grace together. Their life was extremely silent, secluded,
and apart. There was the melancholy figure of Branwell to distract the
house with the spectacle of heavy idleness, drink, and disorder; but
this can scarcely have been so great an affliction as if he had been a
more beloved brother. He was not, however, veiled by any tender attempt
to cover his follies or wickedness, but openly complained of to all
their friends, which mitigates the affliction: and they seem to have
kept very separate from him, living in a world of their own.

In 1846 a volume of poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, was
published at their own cost. It had not the faintest success; they were
informed by the publisher that two copies only had been sold, and the
only satisfaction that remained to them was to send a few copies to some
of the owners of those great names which the enthusiastic young women
had worshipped from afar as stars in the firmament. These poems were
re-published after Charlotte Brontë had attained her first triumph, and
people had begun to cry out and wonder over "Wuthering Heights." The
history of "Jane Eyre," on the other hand, is that of most works which
have been the beginning of a career. It fell into the hands of the right
man, the "reader" of Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co., Mr. Williams, a man
of great intelligence and literary insight. The first story written by
Charlotte Brontë, which was called "The Professor," and was the original
of "Villette," written at a time when her mind was very full of the
emotions raised by that singular portion of her life, had been rejected
by a number of publishers, and was also rejected by Mr. Williams, who
found it at once too crude and too _short_ for the risks of
publication, three volumes at that period being your only possible form
for fiction. But he saw the power in it, and begged the author to try
again at greater length. She did so; not on the basis of the "Professor"
as might have seemed natural--probably the materials were still too much
at fever-heat in her mind to be returned to at that moment--but by the
story of "Jane Eyre," which at once placed Charlotte Brontë amid the
most popular and powerful writers of her time.

I remember well the extraordinary thrill of interest which in the midst
of all the Mrs. Gores, Mrs. Marshs, &c.--the latter name is mentioned
along with those of Thackeray and Dickens even by Mr. Williams--came
upon the reader who, in the calm of ignorance, took up the first volume
of "Jane Eyre." The period of the heroine in white muslin, the
immaculate creature who was of sweetness and goodness all compact, had
lasted in the common lines of fiction up to that time. Miss Austen
indeed might well have put an end to that abstract and empty fiction,
yet it continued, as it always does continue more or less, the primitive
ideal. But "Jane Eyre" gave her, for the moment, the _coup de grace_.
That the book should be the story of a governess was perhaps necessary
to the circumstances of the writer: and the governess was already a
favourite figure in fiction. But generally she was of the beautiful,
universally fascinating, all-enduring kind, the amiable blameless
creature whose secret merits were never so hidden but that they might be
perceived by a keen sighted hero. I am not sure, indeed, that anybody
believed Miss Brontë when she said her heroine was plain. It is very
clear from the story that Jane was never unnoticed, never failed to
please, except among the women, whom it is the instinctive art of the
novelist to rouse in arms against the central figure, thus demonstrating
the jealousy, spite, and rancour native to their minds in respect to the
women who please men. No male cynic was ever stronger on that subject
than this typical woman. She cannot have believed it, I presume, since
her closest friends were women, and she seems to have had perfect faith
in their kindness: but this is a matter of conventional belief which has
nothing to do with individual experience. It is one of the doctrines
unassailable of the art of fiction; a thirty-ninth article in which
every writer of novels is bound to believe.

Miss Brontë did not know fine ladies, and therefore, in spite of herself
and a mind the reverse of vulgar, she made the competitors for Mr.
Rochester's favour rather brutal and essentially vulgar persons, an
error, curiously enough, which seems to have been followed by George
Eliot in the corresponding scenes in "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," where
Captain Wybrow's _fiancée_ treats poor Tiny very much as the beauty in
Mr. Rochester's house treats Jane Eyre. Both were imaginary pictures,
which perhaps more or less excuses their untruthfulness in writers both
so sincere and lifelike in treating things they knew. It is amusing to
remember that Jane Eyre's ignorance of dress gave a clinching argument
to Miss Rigby in the _Quarterly_ to decide that the writer was not and
could not possibly be a woman. The much larger and more significant fact
that no man (until in quite recent days when there have been instances
of such effeminate art) ever made a woman so entirely the subject and
inspiration of his book, the only interest in it, was entirely
overlooked in what was, notwithstanding, the very shrewd and telling
argument about the dress.

The chief thing, however, that distressed the candid and as yet
unaccustomed reader in "Jane Eyre," and made him hope that it might be a
man who had written it, was the character of Rochester's confidences to
the girl whom he loved--not the character of Rochester, which was
completely a woman's view, but that he should have talked to a girl so
evidently innocent of his amours and his mistresses. This, however, I
think, though, as we should have thought, a subject so abhorrent to a
young woman such as Charlotte Brontë was, was also emphatically a
woman's view. A man might have credited another man of Rochester's kind
with impulses practically more heinous and designs of the worst kind:
but he would not have made him err in that way.

In this was a point of honour which the woman did not understand. It
marks a curious and subtle difference between the sexes. The woman less
enlightened in practical evil considers less the risks of actual vice;
but her imagination is free in other ways, and she innocently permits
her hero to do and say things so completely against the code which is
binding on gentlemen whether vicious or otherwise that her want of
perception becomes conspicuous. The fact that the writer of the review
in the _Quarterly_ was herself a woman accounts for her mistake in
supposing that the book was written if not by a man, by "a woman
unsexed;" "a woman who had forfeited the society of her sex." And
afterwards, when Mrs. Gaskell made her disastrous statements about
Branwell Brontë and other associates of Charlotte's youth, it was with
the hope of proving that the speech and manners of the men to whom she
had been accustomed were of a nature to justify her in any such
misapprehension of the usual manners of gentlemen. It was on the
contrary, as I think, only the bold and unfettered imagination of a
woman quite ignorant on all such subjects which could have suggested
this special error. The mind of such a woman, casting about for
something to make her wicked but delightful hero do by way of
demonstrating his wickedness, yet preserving the fascination which she
meant him to retain, probably hit upon this as the very wickedest thing
she could think of, yet still attractive: for is there not a thrill of
curiosity in searching out what such a strange being might think or say,
which is of itself a strong sensation? Miss Brontë was, I think, the
first to give utterance to that curiosity of the woman in respect to the
man, and fascination of interest in him--not the ideal man, not Sir
Kenneth, too reverent for anything but silent worship--which has since
risen to such heights of speculation, and imprints now a tone upon
modern fiction at which probably she would have been horrified.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were numberless stories in those days of guilty love and betrayal,
of how "lovely woman stoops to folly," and all the varieties of that
endless subject; but it was, except in the comic vein, or with grotesque
treatment, the pursuit of the woman by the man, the desire of the lover
for the beloved which was the aim of fiction. A true lady of romance
walked superior: she accepted (or not) the devotion: she stooped from
her white height to reward her adorer: but that she herself should
condescend to seek him (except under the circumstances of fashionable
life, where everybody is in quest of a coronet), or call out for him to
heaven and earth when he tarried in his coming, was unknown to the
situations of romantic art. When the second of Charlotte Brontë's books
appeared, there was accordingly quite a new sensation in store for the
public. The young women in "Shirley" were all wild for this lover who,
though promised by all the laws of nature and romance, did not appear.
They leaned out of their windows, they stretched forth their hands,
calling for him--appealing to heaven and earth. Why were they left to
wear out their bloom, to lose their freshness, to spend their days in
sewing and dreaming, when he, it was certain, was about somewhere, and
by sheer perversity of fate could not find the way to them? Nothing was
thought of the extra half-million of women in those days; perhaps it had
not begun to exist; but that "nobody was coming to marry us, nobody
coming to woo" was apparent.

Young ladies like Miss Charlotte Brontë and Miss Ellen Nussey her
friend, would have died rather than give vent to such sentiments; but
when the one of them to whom that gift was given found that her pen had
become a powerful instrument in her hand, the current of the restrained
feeling burst all boundaries, and she poured forth the cry which nobody
had suspected before. It had been a thing to be denied, to be
indignantly contradicted as impossible, if ever a lovesick girl put
herself forth to the shame of her fellows and the laugh of the world.
When such a phenomenon appeared, she was condemned as either bad or
foolish by every law: and the idea that she was capable of "running
after" a man was the most dreadful accusation that could be brought
against a woman. Miss Brontë's heroines, however, did not precisely do
this. Shirley and Caroline Helstone were not in love so much as longing
for love, clamouring for it, feeling it to be their right of which they
were somehow defrauded. There is a good deal to be said for such a view.
If it is the most virtuous thing in the world for a man to desire to
marry, to found a family, to be the father of children, it should be no
shameful thing for a woman to own the same desire. But it is somehow
against the instinct of primitive humanity, which has decided that the
woman should be no more than responsive, maintaining a reserve in
respect to her feelings, subduing the expression, unless in the "once,
and only once, and to One only" of the poet.

Charlotte Brontë was the first to overthrow this superstition.
Personally I am disposed to stand for the superstition, and dislike all
transgression of it. But that was not the view of the most reticent and
self-controlled of maidens, the little governess, clad in all the strict
proprieties of the period, the parson's daughter despising curates, and
unacquainted with other men. In her secret heart, she demanded of fate
night and day why she, so full of life and capability, should be left
there to dry up and wither; and why Providence refused her the
completion of her being. Her heart was not set on a special love; still
less was there anything fleshly or sensual in her imagination. It is a
shame to use such words in speaking of her, even though to cast them
forth as wholly inapplicable. The woman's grievance--that she should be
left there unwooed, unloved, out of reach of the natural openings of
life: without hope of motherhood: with the great instinct of her being
unfulfilled--was almost a philosophical, and entirely an abstract,
grievance, felt by her for her kind: for every woman dropped out of
sight and unable to attain the manner of existence for which she was
created. And I think it was the first time this cry had been heard out
of the mouth of a perfectly modest and pure-minded woman, nay, out of
the mouth of any woman; for it had nothing to do with the shriek of the
Sapphos for love. It was more startling, more confusing to the general
mind, than the wail of the lovelorn. The gentle victim of "a
disappointment," or even the soured and angered victim, was a thing
quite understood and familiar: but not the woman calling upon heaven and
earth to witness that all the fates were conspiring against her to cheat
her of her natural career.

So far as I can see this was the great point which gave force to
Charlotte Brontë's genius and conferred upon her the curious
pre-eminence she possesses among the romancers of her time. In this view
"Shirley," though I suppose the least popular, is the most
characteristic of her works. It is dominated throughout with this
complaint. Curates? Yes, there they are, a group of them. Is that the
thing you expect us women to marry? Yet it is our right to bear
children, to guide the house. And we are half of the world, and where is
the provision for us?

This cry disturbed the critic, the reader, the general public in the
most curious way; they did not know what to make of it. Was it a
shameless woman who was so crying out? It is always the easiest way, and
one which avoids all complications, to say so, and thus crush every
question. But it was scarcely easy to believe this in face of other
circumstances. Mrs. Gaskell, as much puzzled as any one, when Charlotte
Brontë's short life was over, tried hard to account for it by
"environment" as the superior persons say, that is by the wicked folly
of her brother, and the coarseness of all the Yorkshiremen round; and
thus originated in her bewilderment, let us hope without other
intention, a new kind of biography, as the subject of it inaugurated an
entirely new kind of social revolution. The cry of the women indeed
almost distressed as well as puzzled the world. The vivid genius still
held it, but the ideas were alarming, distracting beyond measure. The
_Times_ blew a trumpet of dismay; the book was revolution as well as
revelation. It was an outrage upon good taste, it was a betrayal of
sentiments too widespread to be comfortable. It was indelicate if not
immodest. We have outgrown now the very use of this word, but it was a
potent one at that period. And it was quite a just reproach. That cry
shattered indeed altogether the "delicacy" which was supposed to be the
most exquisite characteristic of womankind. The softening veil is blown
away, when such exhibitions of feeling are given to the world.

From that period to this is a long step. We have travelled through many
years and many gradations of sentiment: and we have now arrived at a
standard of opinion by which the "sex-problem" has become the most
interesting of questions, the chief occupation of fiction, to be
discussed by men and women alike with growing warmth and openness, the
immodest and the indelicate being equally and scornfully dismissed as
barriers with which Art has nothing to do. My impression is that
Charlotte Brontë was the pioneer and founder of this school of romance,
though it would probably have shocked and distressed her as much as any
other woman of her age.

       *       *       *       *       *

The novels of Emily and Anne Brontë were published shortly after "Jane
Eyre," in three volumes, of which "Wuthering Heights" occupied the first
two. I am obliged to confess that I have never shared the common
sentiment of enthusiasm for that, to me, unlovely book. The absence of
almost every element of sympathy in it, the brutality and misery,
tempered only by an occasional gleam of the heather, the freshness of an
occasional blast over the moors, have prevented me from appreciating a
force which I do not deny but cannot admire. The figure of Heathcliffe,
which perhaps has called forth more praise than any other single figure
in the literature of the time, does not touch me. I can understand how
in the jumble which the reader unconsciously makes, explaining him more
or less by Rochester and other of Charlotte Brontë's heroes, he may take
his place in a sort of system, and thus have humanities read into him,
so to speak, which he does not himself possess. But though the horror
and isolation of the house is powerful I have never been able to
reconcile myself either to the story or treatment, or to the estimate of
Emily Brontë's genius held so strongly by so many people. There is
perhaps the less harm in refraining from much comment on this singular
book, of which I gladly admit the unique character, since it has been
the occasion of so many and such enthusiastic comments. To me Emily
Brontë is chiefly interesting as the double of her sister, exaggerating
at once and softening her character and genius as showing those limits
of superior sense and judgment which restrained her, and the softer
lights which a better developed humanity threw over the landscape common
to them both. We perceive better the tempering sense of possibility by
which Charlotte made her rude and almost brutal hero still attractive,
even in his masterful ferocity, when we see Emily's incapacity to
express anything in _her_ hero except perhaps a touch of that tragic
pathos, prompting to fiercer harshness still, which is in the soul of a
man who never more, whatever he does, can set himself right. This is the
one strain of poetry to my mind in the wild conception. There was no
measure in the younger sister's thoughts, nor temperance in her methods.

The youngest of all, the gentle Anne, would have no right to be
considered at all as a writer but for her association with these
imperative spirits. An ordinary little novelette and a moral story,
working out the disastrous knowledge gained by acquaintance with the
unfortunate Branwell's ruinous habits, were her sole productions. She
was the element wanting in Emily's rugged work and nature. Instead of
being two sisters constantly entwined with each other, never separate
when they could help it, had Anne been by some fantastic power swamped
altogether and amalgamated with her best beloved, we may believe that
Emily might then have shown herself the foremost of the three. But the
group as it stands is more interesting than any single individual could
be. And had Charlotte Brontë lived a long and triumphant life, a
fanciful writer might have imagined that the throwing off of those other
threads of being so closely attached to her own had poured greater force
and charity into her veins. But we are baffled in all our suggestions
for the amendment of the ways of Providence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The melancholy and tragic year, or rather six months, which swept from
Haworth Parsonage three of its inmates, and left Charlotte and her
father alone to face life as they might, was now approaching; and it
seems so completely an episode in the story of the elder sister's
genius as well as her life, that its history is like that of an
unwritten tragedy, hers as much as her actual work. Branwell was the
first to die, unwept yet not without leaving a pathetic note in the
record. Then came the extraordinary passion and agony of Emily, which
has affected the imagination so much, and which, had it been for any
noble purpose, would have been a true martyrdom. But to die the death of
a Stoic, in fierce resistance yet subjection to Nature, regardless of
the feelings of all around, for the sake of pride and self-will alone,
is not an act to be looked upon with the reverential sympathy which,
however, it has secured from many. The strange creature with her shoes
on her feet and her staff in her hand, refusing till the last to
acknowledge herself to be ill or to receive any help in her weakness,
gives thus a kind of climax to her strange and painful work. Her death
took place in December of the same year (1848) in which Branwell died.
Anne, already delicate, would never seem to have held up her head after
her sister's death, and in May 1849 she followed, but in all sweetness
and calmness, to her early grave. She was twenty-eight; Emily
twenty-nine. So soon had the fever of life worn itself out and peace
come. Charlotte was left alone. There had not been to her in either of
them the close companion which they had found in each other. But yet
life ebbed away from her with their deaths, which occurred in such a
startling and quick succession as always makes bereavement more

This occurred at the height of her mental activity. "Shirley" had been
published, and had been received with the divided feeling we have
referred to; and when she was thus left alone she found, no doubt, the
solace which of all mortal things work gives best, by resuming her
natural occupation in the now more than ever sombre seclusion of the
Parsonage, to which, however, her favourite friend, Ellen Nussey, came
from time to time. One or two visits to London occurred after the two
first publications in which, a demure little person, silent and shy, yet
capable of expressing herself very distinctly by times, and by no means
unconscious of the claim she now had upon other people's respect and
admiration, Charlotte Brontë made a little sensation in the society
which was opened to her, not always of a very successful kind. Everybody
will remember the delightfully entertaining chapter in literary history
in which Mrs. Ritchie, with charming humour and truth, recounts the
visit of this odd little lion to her father's house, and Thackeray's
abrupt and clandestine flight to his club when it was found that nothing
more was to be made of her than an absorbed conversation with the
governess in the back drawing-room, a situation like one in a novel, and
so very like the act of modest greatness, singling out the least
important person as the object of her attentions.

She is described by all her friends as plain, even ugly--a small woman
with a big nose, and no other notable feature, not even the bright eyes
which are generally attributed to genius--which was probably, however,
better than the lackadaisical portrait prefixed to her biography, after
a picture by Richmond, which is the typical portrait of a governess of
the old style, a gentle creature deprecating and wistful. Her letters
are very good letters, well expressed in something of the old-fashioned
way, but without any of the charm of a born letter-writer. Indeed, charm
does not seem to have been hers in any way. But she had a few very
staunch friends who held fast by her all her life, notwithstanding the
uncomfortable experience of being "put in a book," which few people
like. It is a gift by itself to put other living people in books. The
novelist does not always possess it; to many the realms of imagination
are far more easy than the arid realms of fact, and to frame an image of
a man much more natural than to take his portrait. I am not sure that it
is not a mark of greater strength to be able to put a living and
recognisable person on the canvas than it is to invent one. Anyhow, Miss
Brontë possessed it in great perfection. Impossible to doubt that the
characters of "Shirley" were real men; still more impossible to doubt
for a moment the existence of M. Paul Emmanuel. The pursuit of such a
system requires other faculties than those of the mere romancist. It
demands a very clear-cut opinion, a keen judgment not disturbed by any
strong sense of the complexities of nature, nor troubled by any
possibility of doing injustice to its victim.

       *       *       *       *       *

One thing strikes us very strongly in the description of the school,
Lowood, which was her very first step in literature, and in which there
can now be no doubt, from her own remarks on the manner in which it was
received, she had a vindictive purpose. I scarcely know why, for, of
course, the dates are all there to prove the difference--but my own
conclusion had always been that she was a girl of fourteen or fifteen,
old enough to form an opinion when she left the school. I find, with
much consternation, that she was only nine; and that so far as such a
strenuous opinion was her own at all, it must have been formed at that
early and not very judicious age. That the picture should be so vivid
with only a little girl's recollection to go upon is wonderful; but it
is not particularly valuable as a verdict against a great institution,
its founder and all its ways. Nevertheless, it had its scathing and
wounding effect as much as if the little observer, whose small judgment
worked so precociously, had been capable of understanding the things
which she condemned. It would be rash to trust nineteen in such a
report, but nine!

It was at a different age and in other circumstances that Charlotte
Brontë made her deep and extraordinary study of the Brussels Pensionnat.
She was twenty-seven; she had already gone through a number of those
years of self-repression during which, by dint of keeping silence, the
heart burns. She was, if we may accept the freedom of her utterances in
fiction as more descriptive of her mind than the measured sentences of
her letters, angry with fate and the world which denied her a brighter
career, and bound her to the cold tasks of dependence and the company of
despised and almost hated inferiors during the best of her life. Her
tremendous gift of sight--not second sight or any visionary way of
regarding the object before her, but that vivid and immediate vision
which took in every detail, and was decisive on every act as if it had
been the vision of the gods--was now fully matured. She saw all that was
about her with this extraordinary clearness without any shadow upon the
object or possibility of doubt as to her power of seeing it all round
and through and through. She makes us also see and know the big white
house, with every room distinct: the garden, with its great trees and
alleys: the class-rooms, each with its tribune: the girls, fat and round
and phlegmatic in characteristic foreignism, and herself as spectator,
looking on with contemptuous indifference, not caring to discriminate
between them. The few English figures, which concern her more, are drawn
keen upon the canvas, though with as little friendliness; the teachers
sharply accentuated, Mdlle. Sophie, for instance, who, when she is in a
rage, has no lips, and all the sharp contentions and false civilities of
those banded Free Lances, enemies to everybody and to each other; the
image of watchful suspicion in the head of the house--all these are set
forth in glittering lines of steel. There is not a morsel of compunction
in the picture. Everybody is bad, worthless, a hater of the whole race.
The mistress of the establishment moves about stealthily, watching, her
eyes showing through a mist in every corner, going and coming without a
sound. What a picture it is! There is not a good meaning in the whole
place--not even that beneficent absence of meaning which softens the
view. They are all bent on their own aims, on gaining an advantage great
or small over their neighbours; nobody is spared, nobody is worth a
revision of judgment--except one.

The little Englishwoman herself, who is the centre of all this, is not
represented as more lovable than the rest. She is the hungry little
epicure, looking on while others feast, and envying every one of them,
even while she snarls at their fare as apples of Gomorrah. She cannot
abide that they should be better off than she, even though she scorns
their satisfaction in what they possess. Her wild and despairing rush
through Brussels when the town is _en fête_, cold, impassioned,
fever-hot with rancour and loneliness, produces the most amazing effect
on the mind. She is the banished spirit for whom there is no place, the
little half-tamed wild beast, wild with desire to tear and rend
everything that is happy. One feels that she has a certain justification
and realises the full force of being left out in the cold, of having no
part or lot in the matter when other people are amused and rejoice. Many
other writers have endeavoured to produce a similar effect with milder
means, but I suppose because of a feeble-minded desire to preserve the
reputation of their forlorn heroine and give the reader an amiable view
of her, no one has succeeded like the author of "Villette," who is in no
way concerned for the amiability of Lucy Snowe.

For the impartiality of this picture is as extraordinary as its power.
Lucy Snowe is her own historian; it is the hot blood of the
autobiographist that rushes through her veins, yet no attempt is made to
recommend her to the reader or gain his sympathy. She is much too real
to think of these outside things, or of how people will judge her, or
how to make her proceedings acceptable to their eyes. We do not know
whether Charlotte Brontë ever darted out of the white still house,
standing dead in the moonlight, and rushed through the streets and, like
a ghost, into the very heart of the gaslights and festivities; but it
would be difficult to persuade any reader that some one had not done so,
imprinting that phantasmagoria of light and darkness upon a living
brain. Whether it was Charlotte Brontë or Lucy Snowe, the effect is the
same. We are not even asked to feel for her or pity her, much less to
approve her. Nothing is demanded from us on her account but merely to
behold the soul in revolt and the strange workings of her despair. It
was chiefly because of the indifference to her of Dr. John that Lucy was
thus driven into a momentary madness; and with the usual regardless
indiscretion of all Charlotte Brontë's amateur biographers, Mr. Shorter
intimates to us who was the living man who was Dr. John and occasioned
all the commotion. The tragedy, however it appears, was unnecessary, for
the victim got over it with no great difficulty, and soon began the much
more engrossing interest which still remained behind.

Nothing up to this point has attracted us in "Villette," except, indeed,
the tremendous vitality and reality of the whole, the sensation of the
actual which is in every line, and which forbids us to believe for a
moment that what we are reading is fiction. But a very different
sentiment comes into being as we become acquainted with the black
bullet-head and vivacious irascible countenance of M. Paul Emmanuel. He
is the one only character in Miss Brontë's little world who has a real
charm, whose entrance upon the stage warms all our feelings and awakens
in us not interest alone, but lively liking, amusement and sympathy. The
quick-witted, quick-tempered Frenchman, with all the foibles of his
vanity displayed, as susceptible to any little slight as a girl, as
easily pleased with a sign of kindness, as far from the English ideal as
it is possible to imagine, dancing with excitement, raging with
displeasure, committing himself by every step he takes, cruel,
delightful, barbarous and kind, is set before us in the fullest light,
intolerable but always enchanting. He is as full of variety as Rosalind,
as devoid of dignity as Pierrot, contradictory, inconsistent, vain, yet
conquering all our prejudices and enchanting us while he performs every
antic that, according to our usual code, a man ought not to be capable
of. How was it that for this once the artist got the better of all her
restrictions and overcame all her misconceptions, and gave us a man to
be heartily loved, laughed at, and taken into our hearts?

I cannot answer that question. I am sorry that he was M. Héger, and the
master of the establishment, and not the clever tutor who had so much of
Madame Beck's confidence. But anyhow, he is the best that Miss Brontë
ever did for us, the most attractive individual, the most perfect
picture. The Rochesters were all more or less fictitious,
notwithstanding the unconscious inalienable force of realism which gives
them, in spite of themselves and us, a kind of overbearing life; but
Miss Brontë never did understand what she did not know. She had to see a
thing before it impressed itself upon her, and when she did see it, with
what force she saw! She knew M. Paul Emmanuel, watching him day by day,
seeing all his littlenesses and childishness, his vanity, his big warm
heart, his clever brain, the manifold nature of the man. He stands out,
as the curates stood out, absolutely real men about whom we could
entertain no doubt, recognisable anywhere. The others were either a
woman's men, like the Moors of Shirley, whose roughness was bluster (she
could not imagine an Englishman who was not rough and rude), and their
strength more or less made up; or an artificial composition like St.
John, an ideal bully like Rochester. The ideal was not her forte--she
had few gifts that way: but she saw with overwhelming lucidity and
keenness, and what she saw, without a doubt, without a scruple, she
could put upon the canvas in lines of fire. Seldom, very seldom, did an
object appear within reach of that penetrating light, which could be
drawn lovingly or made to appear as a being to be loved. Was not the
sole model of that species M. Paul? It would seem that in the piteous
poverty of her life, which was so rich in natural power, she had never
met before a human creature in whom she could completely trust, or one
who commended himself to her entirely, with all his foibles and
weaknesses increasing, not diminishing, the charm.

It is, in my opinion, a most impertinent inquiry to endeavour to search
out what were the sentiments of Charlotte Brontë for M. Héger. Any one
whom it would be more impossible to imagine as breaking the very first
rule of English decorum, and letting her thoughts stray towards another
woman's husband, I cannot imagine. Her fancy was wild and her utterance
free, and she liked to think that men were quite untrammelled by those
proprieties which bound herself like bonds of iron in her private
person, and that she might pluck a fearful joy by listening to their
dreadful experiences: but she herself was as prim and Puritan as any
little blameless governess that ever went out of an English parish. But
while believing this I cannot but feel it was an intolerable spite of
fortune that the one man whom she knew in her life, whom her story
could make others love, the only man whom she saw with that real
illumination which does justice to humanity, was not M. Paul Emmanuel
but M. Héger. This was why we were left trembling at the end of Lucy
Snowe's story, not knowing whether he ever came back to her out of the
wilds, fearing almost as keenly that nothing but loss could fitly end
the tale, yet struggling in our imaginations against the doom--as if it
had concerned our own happiness.

Was this new-born power in her, the power of representing a man at his
best, she who by nature saw both men and women from their worst side, a
sign of the development of genius in herself, the softening of that
scorn with which she had hitherto regarded a world chiefly made up of
inferior beings, the mellowing influence of maturity? So we might have
said, had it not been that after this climax of production she never
spake word more in the medium of fiction. Had she told the world
everything she had to say? Could she indeed say nothing but what she had
seen and known in her limited experience--the trials of school and
governessing, the longing of women, the pangs of solitude? That strange
form of imagination which can deal only with fact, and depict nothing
but what is under its eyes, is in its way perhaps the most impressive of
all--especially when inspired by the remorseless lights of that keen
outward vision which is unmitigated by any softening of love for the
race, any embarrassing toleration as to feelings and motives. It is
unfortunately true in human affairs that those who expect a bad ending
to everything, and suspect a motive at least dubious to every action,
prove right in a great number of cases, and that the qualities of truth
and realism have been appropriated to their works by almost universal
consent. Indeed there are some critics who think this the only true form
of art. But it is at the same time a power with many limitations. The
artist who labours, as M. Zola does, searching into every dust-heap, as
if he could find out human nature, the only thing worth depicting, with
all its closely hidden secrets, all its flying indistinguishable tones,
all its infinite gradations of feeling, by that nauseous process, or by
a roaring progress through the winds, upon a railway brake, or the visit
of a superficial month to the most complicated, the most subtle of
cities--must lay up for himself and for his reader many disappointments
and deceptions: but the science of artistic study, as exemplified in
him, had not been invented in Charlotte Brontë's day.

She did not attempt to go and see things with the intention of
representing them; she was therefore limited to the representation of
those things which naturally in the course of life came under her eyes.
She knew, though only as a child, the management and atmosphere of a
great school, and set it forth, branding a great institution with an
insufferable stigma, justly or unjustly, who knows? She went to another
school and turned out every figure in it for our inspection--a community
all jealous, spiteful, suspicious, clandestine: even the chance pupil
with no particular relation to her story or herself, painted with all
her frivolities for the edification of the world did not escape. "She
was Miss So-and-So," say the army of commentators who have followed Miss
Brontë, picking up all the threads, so that the grand-daughter of the
girl who had the misfortune to be in the Brussels Pensionnat along with
that remorseless artist may be able to study the character of her
ancestress. The public we fear loves this kind of art, however,
notwithstanding all its drawbacks.

On the other hand probably no higher inspiration could have set before
us so powerfully the image of M. Paul. Thus we are made acquainted with
the best and the worst which can be effected by this method--the base in
all their baseness, the excellent all the dearer for their
characteristic faults: but the one representation scarcely less
offensive than the other to the victim. Would it be less trying to the
individual to be thus caught, identified, written out large in the light
of love and glowing adoration, than in the more natural light of scorn?
I know not indeed which would be the worst ordeal to go through, to be
drawn like Madame Beck, suspicious, stealthy, with watchful eyes
appearing out of every corner, surprising every incautious word, than to
be put upon the scene in the other manner, with all your peccadilloes
exposed in the light of admiration and fondness, and yourself put to
play the part of hero and lover. The point of view of the public is one
thing, that of the victim quite another. We are told that Miss Brontë,
perhaps with a momentary compunction for what she had done, believed
herself to have prevented all injurious effects by securing that
"Villette" should not be published in Brussels, or translated into the
French tongue, both of them of course perfectly futile hopes since the
very desire to hinder its appearance was a proof that this appearance
would be of unusual interest. The fury of the lady exposed in all her
stealthy ways could scarcely have been less than the confusion of her
spouse when he found himself held up to the admiration of his town as
Lucy Snowe's captivating lover. To be sure it may be said the public has
nothing to do with this. These individuals are dead and gone, and no
exposure can hurt them any longer, whereas the gentle reader lives for
ever, and goes on through the generations, handing on to posterity his
delight in M. Paul. But all the same it is a cruel and in reality an
immoral art; and it has this great disadvantage, that its area is
extremely circumscribed, especially when the artist lives most of her
life in a Yorkshire parsonage amid the moors, where so few notable
persons come in her way.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was however one subject of less absolute realism which Charlotte
Brontë had at her command, having experienced in her own person and seen
her nearest friends under the experience, of that solitude and longing
of women, of which she has made so remarkable an exposition. The long
silence of life without an adventure or a change, the forlorn gaze out
at windows which never show any one coming who can rouse the slightest
interest in the mind, the endless years and days which pass and pass,
carrying away the bloom, extinguishing the lights of youth, bringing a
dreary middle age before which the very soul shrinks, while yet the
sufferer feels how strong is the current of life in her own veins, and
how capable she is of all the active duties of existence--this was the
essence and soul of the existence she knew best. Was there no help for
it? Must the women wait and long and see their lives thrown away, and
have no power to save themselves?

The position in itself so tragic is one which can scarcely be expressed
without calling forth an inevitable ridicule, a laugh at the best, more
often a sneer at the women whose desire for a husband is thus betrayed.
Shirley and Caroline Helston both cried out for that husband with an
indignation, a fire and impatience, a sense of wrong and injury, which
stopped the laugh for the moment. It might be ludicrous but it was
horribly genuine and true. Note there was nothing sensual about these
young women. It was life they wanted; they knew nothing of the grosser
thoughts which the world with its jeers attributes to them: of such
thoughts they were unconscious in a primitive innocence which perhaps
only women understand. They wanted their life, their place in the world,
the rightful share of women in the scheme of nature. Why did not it come
to them? The old patience in which women have lived for all the
centuries fails now and again in a keen moment of energy when some one
arises who sees no reason why she should endure this forced inaction, or
why she should invent for herself inferior ways of working and give up
her birthright, which is to carry on the world.

The reader was horrified with these sentiments from the lips of young
women. The women were half ashamed, yet more than half stirred and
excited by the outcry, which was true enough if indelicate. All very
well to talk of women working for their living, finding new channels for
themselves, establishing their independence. How much have we said of
all that, endeavouring to persuade ourselves! Charlotte Brontë had the
courage of her opinions. It was not education nor a trade that her women
wanted. It was not a living but their share in life, a much more
legitimate object had that been the way to secure it, or had there been
any way to secure it in England. Miss Brontë herself said correct things
about the protection which a trade is to a woman, keeping her from a
mercenary marriage; but this was not in the least the way of her
heroines. They wanted to be happy, no doubt, but above all things they
wanted their share in life--to have their position by the side of men,
which alone confers a natural equality, to have their shoulder to the
wheel, their hands on the reins of common life, to build up the world,
and link the generations each to each. In her philosophy marriage was
the only state which procured this, and if she did not recommend a
mercenary marriage she was at least very tolerant about its conditions,
insisting less upon love than was to be expected and with a covert
conviction in her mind that if not one man then another was better than
any complete abandonment of the larger path. Lucy Snowe for a long time
had her heart very much set on Dr. John and his placid breadth of
Englishism: but when she finally found out that to be impossible her
tears were soon dried by the prospect of Paul Emmanuel, so unlike him,
coming into his place.

Poor Charlotte Brontë! She has not been as other women, protected by the
grave from all betrayal of the episodes in her own life. Everybody has
betrayed her, and all she thought about this one and that, and every
name that was ever associated with hers. There was a Mr. Taylor from
London about whom she wrote with great freedom to her friend Miss
Nussey, telling how the little man had come, how he had gone away
without any advance in the affairs, how a chill came over her when he
appeared and she found him much less attractive than when at a distance,
yet how she liked it as little when he went away and was somewhat
excited about his first letter, and even went so far as to imagine with
a laugh that there might be possibly a dozen little Joe Taylors before
all was over. She was hard upon Miss Austen for having no comprehension
of passion, but no one could have been cooler and less impassioned than
she as she considered the question of Mr. Taylor, reluctant to come to
any decision yet disappointed when it came to nothing. There was no
longing in her mind for Mr. Taylor, but there was for life and action
and the larger paths and the little Joes.

This longing which she expressed with so much vehemence and some poetic
fervour as the burden of the lives of Shirley and her friends has been
the keynote of a great deal that has followed--the revolts and
rebellions, the wild notions about marriage, the "Sex Problem," and a
great deal more. From that first point to the prevailing discussion of
all the questions involved is a long way; but it is a matter of logical
progression, and when once the primary matter is opened, every
enlargement of the subject may be taken as a thing to be expected.
Charlotte Brontë was in herself the embodiment of all old-fashioned
restrictions. She was proper, she was prim, her life was hedged in by
all the little rules which bind the primitive woman. But when she left
her little recluse behind and rushed into the world of imagination her
exposure of the bondage in which she sat with all her sisters was far
more daring than if she had been a woman of many experiences and knew
what she was speaking of. She did know the longing, the discontent, the
universal contradiction and contrariety which is involved in that
condition of unfulfilment to which so many grey and undeveloped lives
are condemned. For her and her class, which did not speak of it,
everything depended upon whether the woman married or did not marry.
Their thoughts were thus artificially fixed to one point in the horizon,
but their ambition was neither ignoble nor unclean. It was bold, indeed,
in proportion to its almost ridiculous innocence, and want of perception
of any grosser side. Their share in life, their part in the mutual
building of the house, was what they sought. But the seed she thus sowed
has come to many growths which would have appalled Charlotte Brontë.
Those who took their first inspiration from this cry of hers, have quite
forgotten what it was she wanted, which was not emancipation but an
extended duty. But while it would be very unjust to blame her for the
vagaries that have followed and to which nothing could be less desirable
than any building of the house or growth of the race, any responsibility
or service--we must still believe that it was she who drew the curtain
first aside and opened the gates to imps of evil meaning, polluting and
profaning the domestic hearth.

The marriage which--after all these wild embodiments of the longing and
solitary heart which could not consent to abandon its share in life,
after Shirley and Lucy Snowe, and that complex unity of three female
souls all unfulfilled, which had now been broken by death--she accepted
in the end of her life, is the strangest commentary upon all that went
before, or rather, upon all the literary and spiritual part of her
history, though it was a quite appropriate ending to Mr. Brontë's
daughter, and even to the writer of those sober letters which discussed
Mr. Taylor, whether he should or should not be encouraged, and how it
was a little disappointing after all to see him go away. Her final
suitor was one of the class which she had criticised so scathingly, one
who, it might have been thought, would scarcely have ventured to enter
the presence or brave the glance of so penetrating an eye, but who would
seem to have brought all the urgency of a _grand passion_ to the sombre
parlour of the parsonage, to the afternoon stillness of the lonely woman
who would not seem to have suspected anything of the kind till it was
poured out before her without warning. She was startled and confused by
his declaration and appeal, never apparently having contemplated the
possibility of any such occurrence; and in the interval which followed
the father raged and resisted, and the lover did not conceal his
heartbroken condition but suffered without complaining while the lady
looked on wistful, touched and attracted by the unlooked-for love, and
gradually melting towards that, though indifferent to the man who
offered it. Mr. Brontë evidently thought that if this now distinguished
daughter who had been worshipped among the great people in London, and
talked of in all the newspapers, married at all in her mature age, it
should be some one distinguished like herself, and not the mere curate
who was the natural fate of every clergyman's daughter, the simplest and
least known.

Charlotte meanwhile said no word, but saw the curate enact various
tragic follies of love for her sake with a sort of awe and wonder,
astonished to find herself thus possessed still of the charm which none
are so sure as women that only youth and beauty can be expected to
possess. And she had never had any beauty, and, though she was not old,
was no longer young. It is a conventional fiction that a woman still in
the thirties is beyond the exercise of that power. Indeed, it would be
hard to fix the age at which the spell departs. Certainly the demeanour
of Mr. Nicholls gave her full reason to believe that it had not departed
from her. He faltered in the midst of the service, grew pale, almost
lost his self-possession when he suddenly saw her among the kneeling
figures round the altar; and no doubt this rather shocking and startling
exhibition of his feelings was more pardonable to the object of so much
emotion than it was likely to have been to any other spectator. The
romance is a little strange, but yet it is a romance in its quaint
ecclesiastical way. And soon Charlotte was drawn still more upon her
lover's side by the violence of her father. It was decided that the
curate was to go, and that this late gleam of love-making was to be
extinguished and the old dim atmosphere to settle down again for ever.
Finally, however, the mere love of love, which had always been more to
her than any personal inclination, and the horror of that permanent
return to the twilight of dreamy living against which she had struggled
all her life, overcame her, and gave her courage; but she married
characteristically, not as women marry who are carried to a new home and
make a new beginning in life, but retaining all the circumstances of the
old and receiving her husband into her father's house where she had
already passed through so many fluctuations and dreamed so many dreams,
and which was full to overflowing with the associations of the past.

We have no reason to suppose that it did not add to the happiness of her
life; indeed, every indication is to the contrary, and the husband seems
to have been kind, considerate and affectionate. Still this thing upon
which so many of her thoughts had been fixed during her whole life,
which she had felt to be the necessary condition of full development,
and for which the little impassioned female circle of which she was the
expositor had sighed and cried to heaven and earth, came to her at last
very much in the form of a catastrophe. No doubt the circumstances of
her quickly failing health and shortened life promote this feeling. But
without really taking these into consideration the sensation remains the
same. The strange little keen soul with its sharply fixed restrictions,
yet intense force of perception within its limits, dropped out of the
world into which it had made an irruption so brilliant and so brief and
sank out of sight altogether, sank into the humdrum house between the
old father and the sober husband, into the clerical atmosphere with
which she had no sympathy, into the absolute quiet of domestic life to
which no Prince Charming could now come gaily round the corner, out of
the mists and moors, and change with a touch of his wand the grey
mornings and evenings into golden days. Well! was not this that which
she had longed for, the natural end of life towards which her Shirley,
her Caroline, her Lucy had angrily stretched forth their hands,
indignant to be kept waiting, clamouring for instant entrance? And so it
was, but how different! Lucy Snowe's little housekeeping, all the
preparations which M. Paul made for her comfort and which seemed better
to her than any palace, would not they too have taken the colour of
perpetual dulness if everything had settled down and the Professor
assumed his slippers by the domestic hearth? Ah no, for Lucy Snowe loved
the man, and Charlotte Brontë, as appears, loved only the love. It is a
parable. She said a little later that she began to see that this was the
fate which she would wish for those she loved best, for her friend
Ellen, perhaps for her Emily if she had lived--the good man very
faithful, very steady, worth his weight in gold--yet flatter than the
flattest days of old, _solidement nourri_, a good substantial husband,
managing all the parish business, full of talk about the Archdeacon's
charge, and the diocesan meetings, and the other clergy of the moorland
parishes. We can conceive that she got to fetching his slippers for him
and taking great care that he was comfortable, and perhaps had it been
so ordained might have grown into a contented matron and forgotten the
glories and miseries, so inseparably twined and linked together, of her
youth. But she only had a year in which to do all that, and this is how
her marriage seems to turn into a catastrophe, the caging of a wild
creature that had never borne captivity before, and which now could no
longer rush forth into the heart of any shining _fête_, or to the window
of a strange confessional, anywhere, to throw off the burden of the
perennial contradiction, the ceaseless unrest of the soul, the boilings
of the volcano under the snow.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have said it was difficult to account for the extreme interest still
attaching to everything connected with Charlotte Brontë; not only the
story of her peculiar genius, but also of everybody connected with her,
though the circle was in reality quite a respectable, humdrum, and
uninteresting one, containing nobody of any importance except the
sister, who was her own wilder and fiercer part. One way, however, in
which these sisters have won some part of their long-lasting interest is
due to the treatment to which they have been subjected. They are the
first victims of that ruthless art of biography which is one of the
features of our time; and that not only by Mrs. Gaskell, who took up her
work in something of an apologetic vein, and was so anxious to explain
how it was that her heroine expressed certain ideas not usual in the
mouths of women, that she was compelled to take away the reputation of a
number of other people in order to excuse the peculiarities of these two
remarkable women. But everybody who has touched their history since, and
there have been many--for it would seem that gossip, when restrained by
no bonds of decorum or human feeling, possesses a certain interest
whether it is concerned with the household of a cardinal or that of a
parish priest--has followed the same vicious way without any
remonstrance or appeal for mercy. We have all taken it for granted that
no mercy was to be shown to the Brontës. Let every rag be torn from
Charlotte, of whom there is the most to say. Emily had the good luck to
be no correspondent, and so has escaped to some degree the complete
exposure of every confidence and every thought which has happened to
her sister. Is it because she has nobody to defend her that she has been
treated thus barbarously? I cannot conceive a situation more painful,
more lacerating to every feeling, than that of the father and the
husband dwelling silent together in that sombre parsonage, from which
every ray of light seems to depart with the lost woman, whose presence
had kept a little savour in life, and looking on in silence to see their
life taken to pieces, and every decent veil dragged from the inner being
of their dearest and nearest. They complained as much as two voiceless
persons could, or at least the father complained: and the very servants
came hot from their kitchen to demand a vindication of their character:
but nobody noted the protest of the old man amid the silence of the
moors: and the husband was more patient and spoke no word. Even he,
however, after nearly half a century, when that far-off episode of life
must have become dim to him, has thrown his relics open for a little
more revelation, a little more interference with the helpless ashes of
the dead.

No dot is now omitted upon i, no t left uncrossed. We know, or at least
are told, who Charlotte meant by every character she ever portrayed,
even while the model still lives. We know her opinion of her friends, or
rather acquaintances, the people whom she saw cursorily and formed a
hasty judgment upon, as we all do in the supposed safety of common life.
Protests have been offered in other places against a similar treatment
of other persons; but scarcely any protest has been attempted in respect
to Charlotte Brontë. The resurrection people have been permitted to make
their researches as they pleased. It throws a curious pathos, a not
unsuitably tragic light upon a life always so solitary, that this should
all have passed in silence because there was actually no one to
interfere, no one to put a ban upon the dusty heaps and demand that no
mere should be said. When one looks into the matter a little more
closely, one finds it is so with almost all those who have specially
suffered at the hands of the biographer. The Carlyles had no child, no
brother to rise up in their defence. It gives the last touch of
melancholy to the conclusion of a lonely life. Mrs. Gaskell, wise woman,
defended herself from a similar treatment by will, and left children
behind her to protect her memory. But the Brontës are at the mercy of
every one who cares to give another raking to the diminished heap of
_débris_. The last writer who has done so, Mr. Clement Shorter, had some
real new light to throw upon a story which surely has now been
sufficiently turned inside out, and has done his work with perfect good
feeling, and, curiously enough after so many exploitations, in a way
which shows that interest has not yet departed from the subject. But we
trust that now the memory of Charlotte Brontë will be allowed to rest.

  [Signature: Mrs. M. Oliphant]




In this essay it is not intended to go into the vexed question of George
Eliot's private life and character. Death has resolved her individuality
into nothingness, and the discrepancy between her lofty thoughts and
doubtful action no longer troubles us. But her work still remains as
common property for all men to appraise at its true value--to admire for
its beauty, to reverence for its teaching, to honour for its grandeur,
yet at the same time to determine its weaknesses and to confess where it
falls short of the absolute perfection claimed for it in her lifetime.

For that matter indeed, no one has suffered from unmeasured adulation
more than has George Eliot. As a philosopher, once bracketed with Plato
and Kant; as a novelist, ranked the highest the world has seen; as a
woman, set above the law and, while living in open and admired
adultery, visited by bishops and judges as well as by the best of the
laity; her faults of style and method praised as genius--since her death
she has been treated with some of that reactionary neglect which always
follows on extravagant esteem. The mud-born ephemeridæ of literature
have dispossessed her. For her profound learning, which ran like a
golden thread through all she wrote till it became tarnished by
pedantry, we have the ignorance which misquotes Lemprière and thinks
itself classic. For her outspoken language and forcible diction,
wherein, however, she always preserved so much modesty, and for her
realism which described things and feelings as they are, but without
going into revolting details, we have those lusciously suggestive
epithets and those unveiled presentations of the sexual instinct which
seem to make the world one large lupanar. For her accurate science and
profound philosophy, we have those claptrap phrases which have passed
into common speech and are glibly reproduced by facile parrots who do
not understand and never could have created; and for her scholarly
diction we have the tawdriness of a verbal ragbag where grammar is as
defective as taste. Yet our modern tinselled dunces have taken the place
of the one who, in her lifetime, was made almost oppressively
great--almost too colossal in her supremacy.

But when all this rubbish has been thrown into the abyss of oblivion,
George Eliot's works will remain solid and alive, together with
Thackeray's, Scott's and Fielding's. Our Immortals will include in their
company, as one of the "choir invisible" whose voice will never be
stilled for man, the author of "Adam Bede" and "Romola," of the "Mill on
the Floss" and "Middlemarch."

       *       *       *       *       *

Her first essays in fiction, her "Scenes of Clerical Life," show the
germs of her future greatness as well as the persistency of her aim. In
"Janet's Repentance," which to our mind is the best of the three, those
germs are already shaped to beauty. Nothing can be more delicately
touched than the nascent love between Janet and Mr. Tryon. No more
subtle sign of Janet's besetting sin could be given than by that
candlestick held "aslant;" while her character, compounded of pride,
timidity, affectionateness, spiritual aspiration and moral degradation,
is as true to life as it was difficult to portray. It would be
impossible to note all the gems in these three stories. We can indicate
only one or two. That splendid paragraph in "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story,"
beginning: "While this poor heart was being bruised"--the sharp summing
up of Mr. Amos Barton's "middling" character--Lady Cheverel's silent
criticisms contrasted with her husband's iridescent optimism--the almost
Shakesperean humour of the men, the author's keen appraisement of the
commonplace women; such aphorisms as Mrs. Linnet's "It's right enough to
be speritial--I'm no enemy to that--but I like my potatoes
meally;"--these and a thousand more, eloquent, tender, witty, deep, make
these three stories masterpieces in their way, despite the improbability
of the Czerlaski episode in "Amos Barton" and the inherent weakness of
the Gilfil plot. We, who can remember the enthusiasm they excited when
they first appeared in _Blackwood's Magazine_, on re-reading them in
cooler blood can understand that enthusiasm, though we no longer share
its pristine intensity. It was emphatically a new departure in
literature, and the noble note of that religious feeling which is
independent of creed and which touches all hearts alike, woke an echo
that even to this day reverberates though in but a poor, feeble and
attenuated manner.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Adam Bede," the first novel proper of the long series, shows George
Eliot at her best in her three most noteworthy qualities--lofty
principles, lifelike delineation of character, and fine humour, both
broad and subtle. The faults of the story are the all-pervading
anachronism of thought and circumstance; the dragging of the plot in the
earlier half of the book; and the occasional ugliness of style, where,
as in that futile opening sentence the author as I directly addresses
the reader as You. The scene is laid in the year 1799--before the Trades
Unions had fixed a man's hours of work so accurately as to make him
leave off with a screw half driven in, so soon as the clock begins to
strike--before too the hour of leaving off was fixed at six. We older
people can remember when workmen wrought up to eight and were never too
exact even then. Precision of the kind practised at the present day was
not known then; and why were there no apprentices in Adam's shop?
Apprentices were a salient feature in all the working community, and no
shop could have existed without them. Nor would the seduction by the
young squire of a farmer's niece or daughter have been the heinous crime
George Eliot has made it. If women of the lower class held a somewhat
better position than they did in King Arthur's time, when, to be the
mother of a knight's bastard, raised a churl's wife or daughter far
above her compeers and was assumed to honour not degrade her, they still
retained some of the old sense of inferiority. Does any one remember
that famous answer in the Yelverton trial not much more than a
generation ago? In 1799 Hetty's mishap would have been condoned by all
concerned, save perhaps by Adam himself; and Arthur Donnithorne would
have suffered no more for his escapade than did our well-known Tom Jones
for his little diversions. And--were there any night schools for
illiterate men in 1799? And how was that reprieve got so quickly at a
time when there were neither railroads nor telegraphs?--indeed, would it
have been got at all in days when concealment of birth alone was felony
and felony was death? Also, would Hetty have been alone in her cell? In
1799 all prisoners were herded together, young and old, untried and
condemned; and the separate system was not in existence. Save for
Hetty's weary journey on foot and in chance carts, the story might have
been made as of present time with more _vraisemblance_ and

These objections apart, how supreme the whole book is! The characters
stand out fresh, firm and living. As in some paintings you feel as if
you could put your hand round the body, so in George Eliot's writings
you feel that you have met those people in the flesh, and talked to
them, holding them by the hand and looking into their eyes. There is not
a line of loose drawing anywhere. From the four Bedes, with that
inverted kind of heredity which Zola has so powerfully shown, to the
stately egoism of Mrs. Irwine--from the marvellous portraiture of Hetty
Sorrel with her soft, caressing, lusciously-loving outside, and her
heart "as hard as a cherry-stone" according to Mrs. Poyser--from the
weak-willed yet not conscienceless Arthur Donnithorne to the exquisite
purity of Dinah, the character-drawing is simply perfect. Many were
people personally known to George Eliot, and those who were at all
behind the scenes recognised the portraits. Down at Wirksworth they knew
the Bedes, Dinah, the Poysers, and some others. In London, among the
intimates of George Lewes, Hetty needed no label. Mrs. Poyser's good
things were common property in the neighbourhood long before George
Eliot crystallised them for all time, and embellished them by her
matchless setting; and Dinah's sermon was not all imaginary. But though
in some sense her work was portraiture, it was portraiture passed
through the alembic of her brilliant genius, from commonplace material
distilled into the finest essence.

It is impossible here again to give adequate extracts of the wise,
witty, tender and high-minded things scattered broadcast over this
book--as, indeed, over all that George Eliot ever wrote. That paragraph
beginning--"Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it"; the
description of Hetty's flower-like beauty, which fascinated even her
sharp-tongued aunt; phrases like "John considered a young master as the
natural enemy of an old servant," and "young people in general as a poor
contrivance for carrying on the world"; that sharp little bit of moral
and intellectual antithesis, with the learned man "meekly rocking the
twins in the cradle with his left hand, while with his right he
inflicted the most lacerating sarcasms on an opponent who had betrayed a
brutal ignorance of Hebrew"--forgiving human weaknesses and moral errors
as is a Christian's bounden duty, but treating as "the enemy of his
race, the man who takes the wrong side on the momentous subject of the
Hebrew points"; how masterly, how fine are these and a dozen other
unnoted passages!

Hetty in her bedroom, parading in her concealed finery, reminds one too
closely of Gretchen with her fatal jewels to be quite favourable to the
English version; and we question the truth of Adam Bede's hypothetical
content with such a Dorothy Doolittle as his wife. Writers of love
stories among the working classes in bygone days forget that notableness
was then part of a woman's virtue--part of her claims to love and
consideration--and that mere flower-like kittenish prettiness did not
count to her honour any more than graceful movements and æsthetic taste
would count to the honour of a Tommy in the trenches who could neither
handle a spade nor load a rifle. Blackmore made the same mistake in his
"Lorna Doone," and George Eliot has repeated it in Adam's love for Hetty
solely for her beauty and without "faculty" as her dower. In his own way
Bartle Massey, misogynist, is as smart as Mrs. Poyser herself, as
amusing and as trenchant; but the coming-of-age dance is fifty years
and more too modern, and the long dissertation at the beginning of the
second book is a blot, because it is a clog and an interruption. Not so
that glorious description of nature in August when "the sun was hidden
for a moment and then shone out warm again like a recovered joy;"--nor
that deep and tender bit of introspection, setting forth the spiritual
good got from sorrow as well as its indestructible impress.

Yet for all the beauty of these philosophic passages there are too many
of them in this as in all George Eliot's works. They hamper the action
and lend an air of pedantry and preaching with which a novel proper has
nothing to do. It is bad style as well as bad art, and irritating to a
critical, while depressing to a sympathetic reader. But summing up all
the faults together, and giving full weight to each, we gladly own the
masterly residuum that is left. The dawning love between Adam and Dinah
alone is enough to claim for "Adam Bede" one of the highest places in
literature, had not that place been already taken by the marvellous
truth, diversity and power of the character-drawing. Mrs. Poyser's
epigrams, too, generally made when she was "knitting with fierce
rapidity, as if her movements were a necessary function like the
twittering of a crab's antennæ," both too numerous and too well known
to quote, would have redeemed the flimsiest framework and the silliest
padding extant.

The light that seemed to flash on the world when this glorious book was
published will never be forgotten by those who were old enough at the
time to read and appreciate. By the way, is that would-be famous Liggins
still alive? When he sums it all up, how much did he get out of his bold
attempt to don the giant's robe?

       *       *       *       *       *

If "Adam Bede" was partly reminiscent, "The Mill on the Floss" was
partly autobiographical. There is no question that in the sensitive,
turbulent, loving nature of Maggie Tulliver Marian Evans painted
herself. Those who knew her when she first came to London knew her as a
pronounced insurgent. Never noisy and never coarse, always quiet in
manner, sensitive, diffident and shrinking from unpleasantness, she yet
had not put on that "made" and artificial pose which was her
distinguishing characteristic in later years. She was still Maggie
Tulliver, with a conscience and temperament at war together, and with a
spiritual ideal in no way attained by her practical realisation. For
indeed, the union between Marian Evans and George Lewes was far more
incongruous in some of its details than was Maggie's love for Philip or
her passion for Stephen. Philip appealed to her affection of old time,
her pity and her love of art--Stephen to her hot blood and her sensuous
love of beauty. But George Lewes's total want of all religiousness of
feeling, his brilliancy of wit, which was now coarse now mere
_persiflage_, his cleverness, which was more quickness of assimilation
than the originality of genius, were all traits of character unlike the
deeper, truer and more ponderous qualities of the woman who braved the
world for his sake when first she linked her fate with his--the woman
who did not, like Maggie, turn back when she came to the brink but who
boldly crossed the Rubicon--and who, in her after efforts to cover up
the conditions, showed that she smarted from the consequences.

Read in youth by the light of sympathy with insurgency, Maggie is
adorable, and her brother Tom is but a better-looking Jonas Chuzzlewit.
Read in age by the light of respect for conformity and self-control,
much of Maggie's charm vanishes, while most of Tom's hardness becomes
both respectable and inevitable. Maggie was truly a thorn in the side of
a proud country family, not accustomed to its little daughters running
off to join the gipsies, nor to its grown girls eloping with their
cousin's lover. Tom was right when he said no reliance could be placed
on her; for where there is this unlucky divergence between principle and
temperament, the will can never be firm nor the walk steady. Sweet
little Lucy had more of the true heroism of a woman in her patient
acceptance of sorrow and her generous forgiveness of the cause thereof,
than could be found in all Maggie's struggles between passion and
principle. The great duties of life lying at our feet and about our path
cannot be done away with by the romantic picturesqueness of one
character contrasted with the more prosaic because conventional
limitations of the other; nor is it right to give all our sympathy to
the one who spoilt so many lives and brought so much disgrace on her
family name, merely because she did not mean, and did not wish, and had
bitter remorse after terrible conflicts, which never ended in real
self-control or steadfast pursuance of the right.

There is something in "The Mill on the Floss" akin to the gloomy
fatalism of a Greek tragedy. In "Adam Bede" is more spontaneity of
action, more liberty of choice; but, given the natures by which events
were worked out to their final issues in "The Mill on the Floss," it
seems as if everything must have happened precisely as it did. An
obstinate, litigious and irascible man like Mr. Tulliver was bound to
come to grief in the end. Fighting against long odds as he did, he could
not win. Blind anger and as blind precipitancy, against cool tenacity
and clear perceptions, must go under; and Mr. Tulliver was no match
against the laws of life as interpreted by Mr. Wakem and the decisions
of the law courts. His choice of a fool for his wife--was not Mrs.
Tulliver well known at Coventry?--was another step in the terrible March
of Fate. She was of no help to him as a wife--with woman's wit to assist
his masculine decisions--nor as a mother was she capable of ruling her
daughter or influencing her son. She was as a passive instrument in the
hands of the gods--one of those unnoted and unsuspected agents by whose
unconscious action such tremendous results are produced. George Eliot
never did anything more remarkable than in the union she makes in this
book between the most commonplace characters and the most majestic
conception of tragic fate. There is not a stage hero among them all--not
a pair of buskins for the whole company; but the conception is
Æschylean, though the stage is no bigger than a doll's house.

The humour in "The Mill on the Floss" is almost as rich as that of "Adam
Bede," though the special qualities of the four sisters are perhaps
unduly exaggerated. Sister Pullet's eternal tears become wearisome, and
lose their effect by causeless and ceaseless repetition; and surely
sister Grigg could not have been always such an unmitigated Gorgon! Mrs.
Tulliver's helpless foolishness and tactless interference, moving with
her soft white hands the lever which set the whole crushing machinery
in motion, are after George Eliot's best manner; and the whole comedy
circling round sister Pullet's wonderful bonnet and the linen and the
chaney--comedy at last linked on to tragedy--is of inimitable richness.
The girlish bond of sympathy between sister Pullet and sister Tulliver,
in that they both liked spots for their patterned linen, while sister
Grigg--allays contrairy to Sophy Pullet, would have striped things--is
repeated in that serio-comic scene of the ruin, when the Tullivers are
sold up and the stalwart cause of their disaster is in bed, paralysed.
By the way, would he have recovered so quickly and so thoroughly as he
did from such a severe attack? Setting that aside, for novelists are not
expected to be very accurate pathologists, the humour of this part of
the book is all the more striking for the pathos mingled with it.

"The head miller, a tall broad-shouldered man of forty, black-eyed and
black-haired, subdued by a general mealiness like an auricula":--
"They're nash things, them lop-eared rabbits--they'd happen ha' died if
they'd been fed. Things out o' natur never thrive. God Almighty doesn't
like 'em. He made the rabbit's ears to lie back, and it's nothing but
contrariness to make 'em lie down like a mastiff dog's":--"Maggie's
tears began to subside, and she put out her mouth for the cake and bit
a piece; and then Tom bit a piece, just for company, and they ate
together and rubbed each other's cheeks and brows and noses together,
while they ate, with a humiliating resemblance to two friendly
ponies":--Is there anything better than these in Mrs. Poyser's

Of acute psychological vision is that fine bit on "plotting contrivance
and deliberate covetousness"; and the summing up of the religious and
moral life of the Dodsons and Tullivers, beginning "Certainly the
religious and moral ideas of the Dodsons and Tullivers," is as good as
anything in our language. No one theoretically knew human nature better
than George Eliot. Practically, she was too thin-skinned to bear the
slightest abrasion, such as necessarily comes to us from extended
intercourse or the give and take of equality. But theoretically she
sounded the depths and shallows, and knew where the bitter springs rose
and where the healing waters flowed; and when she translated what she
knew into the conduct and analysis of her fictitious characters, she
gave them a life and substance peculiarly her own.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hitherto George Eliot has dealt with her own experiences, her
reminiscences of old friends and well-known places, of familiar
acquaintances, and, in Maggie Tulliver, of her own childish frowardness
and affectionateness--her girlish desire to do right and facile slipping
into wrong. In "Silas Marner" she ventures into a more completely
creative region; and, for all the exquisite beauty and poetry of the
central idea, she has failed her former excellence. The story is one of
the not quite impossible but highly improbable kind, with a _Deus ex
machinâ_ as the ultimate setter-to-rights of all things wrong. As with
"Adam Bede," the date is thrown back a generation or two, without the
smallest savour of the time indicated, save in the fashion of the
dresses of the sisters Lammeter--a joseph substituted for a cloak, and
riding on a pillion for a drive in a fly. Else there is not the least
attempt to synchronise time, circumstances and sentiment, while the
story is artificial in its plot and unlikely in its treatment. Yet it is
both pretty and pathetic; and the little introduction of fairyland in
the golden-haired child asleep by the fire, as the substitute for the
stolen hoard, is as lovely as fairy stories generally are. But we
altogether question the probability of a marriage between the young
squire and his drunken wife. Such a woman would not have been too
rigorous, and was not; and such a man as Godfrey Cass would not have
married a low-born mistress from "a movement of compunction." As we
said before, in the story of Hetty and Arthur, young squires a century
ago were not so tender-hearted towards the honour of a peasant girl. It
was a pity, of course, when things went wrong; but then young men will
be young men, and it behoved the lasses to keep themselves to
themselves! If the young squire did the handsome thing in money, that
was all that could be expected of him. The girl would be none the worse
thought of for her slip; and the money got by her fault would help in
her plenishing with some honest fellow who understood things. This is
the sentiment still to be found in villages, where the love-children of
the daughters out in service are to be found comfortably housed in the
grandmother's cottage, and where no one thinks any the worse of the
unmarried mother; and certainly, a century ago, it was the universal
rule of moral measurement. George Eliot undoubtedly made a chronological
mistake in both stories by the amount of conscientious remorse felt by
her young men, and the depth of social degradation implied in this slip
of her young women.

The beginning of "Silas Marner" is much finer than that of either of her
former books. It strikes the true note of a harmonious introduction, and
is free from the irritating trivialities of the former openings. In
those early days of which "Silas Marner" treats, a man from the next
parish was held as a "stranger"; and even now a Scotch, Irish or Welsh
man would be considered as much a foreigner as a "Frenchy" himself, were
he to take up his abode in any of the more remote hamlets of the north
or west. The state of isolation in which Silas Marner lived was true on
all these counts--his being a "foreigner" to the autochthonous shepherds
and farmers of Ravaloe--his half mazed, half broken-hearted state owing
to the false accusation brought against him and the criminal neglect of
Providence to show his innocence--and his strange and uncongenial trade.
Yet, for this last, were not the women of that time familiar with the
weaving industry?--else what could they have done with the thread which
they themselves had spun? If it were disposed of to a travelling agent
for the hand-loom weavers, why not have indicated the fact? It would
have been one touch more to the good of local colour and conditional
accuracy. To be sure, the paints are laid on rather thickly throughout;
but eccentricities and folks with bees in their bonnets were always to
be found in remote places before the broom of steam and electricity came
to sweep them into a more common conformity; and that line between
oddity and insanity, always narrow, was then almost invisible.

The loss of the hoarded treasure and the poor dazed weaver's terrified
flight to the Rainbow introduces us to one of George Eliot's most
masterly of her many scenes of rustic humour.

"The more important customers, who drank spirits and sat nearest the
fire, staring at each other as if a bet were depending on the first man
who winked; while the beer drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets and
smock-frocks, kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands across
their mouths, as if their draughts of beer were a funereal duty attended
with embarrassing sadness"--these, as well as Mr. Snell, the landlord,
"a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human
differences, as those of beings who were all alike in need of
liquor"--do their fooling admirably. From the cautious discussion on the
red Durham with a star on her forehead, to the authoritative dictum of
Mr. Macey, tailor and parish clerk (were men of his social stamp called
_Mr._ in those days?) when he asserts that "there's allays two 'pinions;
there's the 'pinion a man has of himsen, and there's the 'pinion other
folks have on him. There'd be two 'pinions about a cracked bell, if the
bell could hear itself"--from the gossip about the Lammeter land to the
ghos'es in the Lammeter stables, it is all excellent--rich, racy and to
the manner born. And the sudden appearance of poor, scared, weazen-faced
Silas in the midst of the discussion on ghos'es, gives occasion for
another fytte of humour quite as good as what has gone before.

Worthy of Mrs. Poyser, too, was sweet and patient Dolly Winthrop's
estimate of men. "It seemed surprising that Ben Winthrop, who loved his
quart-pot and his joke, got along so well with Dolly; but she took her
husband's jokes and joviality as patiently as everything else,
considering that 'men _would_ be so' and viewing the stronger sex in the
light of animals whom it had pleased Heaven to make naturally
troublesome, like bulls and turkey-cocks." Good, too, when speaking of
his wife, is Mr. Macey's version of the "mum" and "budget" of the
fairies' dance. "Before I said 'sniff' I took care to know as she'd say
'snaff,' and pretty quick too. I wasn't a-going to open _my_ mouth like
a dog at a fly, and snap it to again, wi' nothing to swaller."

But in spite of all this literary value of "Silas Marner" we come back
to our first opinion of its being unreal and almost impossible in plot.
The marriage of Godfrey to an opium-eating(?) drab, and the robbery of
Silas Marner's hoard by the squire's son were pretty hard nuts to crack
in the way of probability; but the timely death of the wife just at the
right moment and in the right place--the adoption of a little girl of
two by an old man as nearly "nesh" as was consistent with his power of
living free from the restraint of care--the discovery of Dunsay's body
and the restoration to the weaver of his long-lost gold--the _impasse_
of Eppie, the squire's lawfully born daughter and his only legal
inheritor, married to a peasant and living as a peasant at her father's
gates: all these things make "Silas Marner" a beautiful unreality,
taking it out of the ranks of human history and placing it in those of
fairy tale and romance.

       *       *       *       *       *

In "Felix Holt" we come back to a more actual kind of life, such as it
was in the early thirties when the "democratic wave," which has swept
away so much of the old parcelling out of things social and political,
was first beginning to make itself felt. But here again George Eliot
gives us the sense of anachronism in dealing too familiarly with those
new conditions of the Reform Bill which gave Treby Magna for the first
time a member, and which also for the first time created the Revising
Barrister--while Trades Unions were still unrecognised by the law, and
did their work mainly by rattening and violence. Any one who was an
intelligent and wide-awake child at that time, and who can remember the
talk of the excited elders, must remember things somewhat differently
from what George Eliot has set down. Radical was in those days a term of
reproach, carrying with it moral obloquy and condemnation. The Tories
might call the Whigs Radicals when they wanted to overwhelm them with
shame, as we might now say Anarchists and Dynamiters. But the most
advanced Gentleman would never have stood for Parliament as a Radical.
Felix Holt himself, and the upper fringe of the working class, as also
the lower sediment, might be Radicals, but scarcely such a man as Harold
Transome, who would have been a Whig of a broad pattern. And as for the
Revising Barrister, he was looked on as something akin to Frankenstein's
Monster. No one knew where his power began nor where it ended; and on
each side alike he was dreaded as an unknown piece of machinery which,
once set a-going, no one could say what it would do or where it would

In its construction "Felix Holt" is perhaps the most unsatisfactory of
all George Eliot's books. The ins and outs of Transome and Durfey and
Scaddon and Bycliffe were all too intricate in the weaving and too
confused in the telling to be either intelligible or interesting. In
trying on the garment of Miss Braddon the author of "Felix Holt" showed
both want of perception and a deplorable misfit. Also she repeats the
situation of Eppie and her adopted father Silas in that of Esther and
Rufus Lyon. But where it was natural enough for the contentedly rustic
Eppie to refuse to leave her beloved old father for one new and
unknown--her old habits of cottage simplicity, including a suitable
lover, for the unwelcome luxuries of an unfamiliar state--natural in her
though eminently unnatural in the drama of life--it was altogether
inharmonious with Esther's character and tastes to prefer poverty to
luxury, Felix to Harold, Malhouse Yard to Transome Court. George Eliot's
usually firm grip on character wavers into strange self-contradiction in
her delineations of Esther Lyon. Even the situation of which she is so
fond--the evolution of a soul from spiritual deadness to keen spiritual
intensity, and the conversion of a mind from folly to seriousness--even
in this we miss the masterly drawing of her better manner. The humour
too is thinner. Mrs. Holt is a bad Mrs. Nickleby; and the comic chorus
of rustic clowns, which George Eliot always introduces where she can, is
comparatively poor. She is guilty of one distinct coarseness, in her own
character as the author, when she speaks of the cook at Treby Manor--"a
much grander person than her ladyship"--"as wearing gold and jewelry to
a vast amount of suet."

When Esther has been taken up by the Transomes, George Eliot misses what
would have been absolutely certain--these fine little points of
difference between the high-bred lady of Transome Court and the
half-bred Esther of Malhouse Yard; and yet, quite unintentionally, she
makes Esther as vulgar as a barmaid in her conversations and flirtatious
coquetries with Harold Transome. Nor, we venture to think, as going too
far on the other side, would a girl of Esther's upbringing and
surroundings have used such a delightfully literary phrase as
"importunate scents." On the whole we do not think it can be denied
that, so far as she had gone in her literary career when she wrote
"Felix Holt," it is undeniably her least successful work.

And yet, how many and how beautiful are the good things in it! If Homer
nods at times, when he is awake who can come near him? The opening of
the book is beyond measure fine, and abounds in felicitous phrases. "His
sheep-dog following with heedless unofficial air as of a beadle in
undress:"--"The higher pains of a dim political consciousness:"--"The
younger farmers who had almost a sense of dissipation in talking to a
man of his questionable station and unknown experience:"--"Her life
would be exalted into something quite new--into a sort of difficult
blessedness such as one may imagine in beings who are conscious of
painfully growing into the possession of higher powers" (true for George
Eliot herself but not for such a girl as Esther Lyon):--These are
instances of literary supremacy taken at random, with many more behind.

Then how exquisite is that first love-scene between Felix and Esther! It
is in these grave and tender indications of love that George Eliot is at
her best. Gentle as "sleeping flowers"--delicately wrought, like the
most perfect cameos--graceful and suggestive, subtle and yet
strong--they are always the very gems of her work. And in "Felix Holt"
especially they stand out with more perfectness because of the inferior
quality of so much that surrounds them.

Felix himself is one of George Eliot's masterpieces in the way of
nobleness of ideal and firmness of drawing. Whether he would have won
such a girl as Esther, or have allowed himself to be won by her, may be
doubtful; but for all the rugged and disagreeable honesty of his
nature--for all his high ideals of life and hideous taste in
costume--for all his intrinsic tendency and external bearishness, he is
supreme. And with one of George Eliot's best aphorisms, made in his
intention, we close the book with that kind of mingled disappointment
and delight which must needs be produced by the inferior work of a great
master. "Blows are sarcasms turned stupid; wit is a form of force that
leaves the limbs at rest."

The last three books of the series are the most ponderous. Still
beautiful and ever noble, they are like over-cultivated fruits and
flowers of which the girth is inconvenient; and in one, at least,
certain defects already discernible in the earlier issues attain a
prominence fatal to perfect work.

Never spontaneous, as time went on George Eliot became painfully
laboured. Her scholarship degenerated into pedantry, and what had been
stately and dignified accuracy in her terms grew to be harsh and
inartistic technicality. The artificial pose she had adopted in her life
and bearing reacted on her work; and the contradiction between her
social circumstances and literary position coloured more than her
manners. All her teaching went to the side of self-sacrifice for the
general good, of conformity with established moral standards, while her
life was in direct opposition to her words; for though she did no other
woman personal injustice, she did set an example of disobedience to the
public law which wrought more mischief than was counteracted by even the
noblest of her exhortations to submit to the restraints of
righteousness, however irksome they might be. And it was this endeavour
to co-ordinate insurgency and conformity, self-will and self-sacrifice,
that made the discord of which every candid student of her work, who
knew her history, was conscious from the beginning. Nowhere do we find
this contradiction more markedly shown than in "Romola," the first of
the ponderous last three.

Her noblest work, "Romola" is yet one of George Eliot's most defective
in what we may call the scaffolding of the building. The loftiness of
sentiment, the masterly delineation of character, the grand grasp of the
political and religious movement of the time, the evidences of deep
study and conscientious painstaking visible on every page, are combined
with what seems to us to be the most extraordinary indifference to--for
it cannot be ignorance of--the social and domestic conditions of the
time. The whole story is surely impossible in view of the long arm of
the Church--the personal restraints necessarily imposed on women during
the turbulent unrest of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--the proud
exclusiveness of the well-born citizens of any state.

Take the last first. Grant all the honour paid by Cosmo and Lorenzo to
the learned men of all nations, especially to Greek scholars who, in the
first fervour of the Renaissance, were as sons of the gods to those
thirsting for the waters of the divine spring. Grant, too, the example
set by Bartolommeo Scala, who had given his beautiful daughter
Alessandra in marriage to the "soldier-poet" Marullo; was it likely that
even an eccentric old scholar like the blind Bardo de' Bardi should
have so unreservedly adopted a nameless Greek adventurer, flung up like
a second Ulysses from the waves, unvouched for by any sponsor and
unidentified by any document? We allow that Bardo might have taken Tito
as his scribe and secretary, seeing that the Cennini had already
employed him, waif and stray as he was; but that he should have
consented to his daughter's marriage with this stranger, and that her
more conservative and more suspicious godfather, Bernado del Nero,
should have consented, even if reluctantly, was just about as likely as
that an English country gentleman should allow his daughter to marry a
handsome gipsy.

If we think for a moment of what citizenship meant in olden times, the
improbability of the whole of Tito's career becomes still more striking.
As, in Athens, the Sojourner never stood on the same plane with the
autochthon, so in Rome the Peregrinus was ineligible for public office
or the higher kind of marriage; and though the stricter part of the law
was subsequently relaxed in favour of a wider civic hospitality, the
sentiment of exclusiveness remained, and indeed does yet remain in
Italy. It seems more than improbable that Tito, a Greek adventurer,
should have been employed in any political service, save perhaps as a
base kind of scout and unhonoured spy. That he should ever have taken
the position of an accredited public orator was so contrary to all the
old traditions and habits of thought as to be of the same substance as a
fairy tale.

The character of Bardo, too, is non-Italian; and his modes of life and
thought were as impossible as are some other things to be hereafter
spoken of. The Church had a long arm, as we said, and a firm grip; and
while it blinked indulgently enough at certain aberrations, it demanded
the show of conformity in essentials. Lorenzo was a pagan, but he died
receiving the Sacraments. The Borgias were criminals, but their
professions of faith were loud-voiced and in true earnest. Men might
inveigh against the evil lives of the clergy and the excesses of monks
and nuns, but they had to confess God and the Church; and their
diatribes had to be carefully worded--as witness Rabelais--or a plea
would certainly be found for the fire and faggot--as with Fra Dolcino
and Savonarola. So with conformity to the usages of life which, then and
now, are considered integral to morality. It could not have been
possible for Bardo to bring up his daughter "aloof from the debasing
influence" of her own sex, and in a household with only one old man for
a servant. The times did not allow it; no more than we should allow it
now in this freer day. This womanless home for an Italian girl at any
time, more especially in the Middle Ages, when even young wives were
bound to have their companions and duennas, is a serious blot in
workmanship. So, indeed, is the whole of Romola's life, being
anachronism and simply nineteenth-century English from start to finish.

The things which both she and Tessa did, and were allowed to do, are on
a par with "Gulliver's Travels" and "Peter Wilkins." It was as
impossible for Tessa, a pretty young unmarried girl, contadina as she
was, to come into Florence alone, as for a peasant child of three years
old to be sent with a message on business into the City of London alone.
To this day well-conducted women of any class do not wander about the
streets of Italian cities unaccompanied; and maidenhood is, as it always
was, sacredly and jealously guarded. Nor could Romola have gone out and
come in at her desire, as she is allowed by the author. With streets
filled by the turbulent factions of the Bianchi and Neri, always ready
for a fight or for a love-adventure, what would have happened to, and
been thought of, a beautiful young woman slipping about within the city
and outside the gates at all hours of the day and night? She is said to
be either quite alone (!), as when she goes to Tessa's house, or merely
accompanied by Monna Brigida, as when she goes to the convent to see
her dying brother--which also, by the way, was impossible--or attended,
at a distance, by old Maso when she attempts her flight as a solitary
nun. She would have lost name and state had she committed these
eccentricities; and had she persisted in them, she would have been sent
to a convent--that refuge for sorrow, that shelter from danger, that
prison for contumacy--and her godfather would have been the first to
consign her to what was then the only safe asylum for women. The scene
she has with Tito before Nello's shop is ludicrously impossible--as is
their English-like return home together, without retinue or lights, just
like a man and wife of to-day when she has been to fetch him from the
public-house, or, if she be of the better class, from his club. English,
too, is Romola's sitting up for her husband in her queer womanless
establishment, and opening the door to him when he comes home late at
night. For the matter of that, indeed, Tito's solitary rambles are as
much out of line with the time, and the circumstances of that time, as
is Romola's strange daring. No man of any note whatever appeared alone
in the streets when out on a midnight expedition, either to commit
murder or break the seventh commandment. He took some one with him,
friend or servant, armed; and to this day you will not find Italians
willingly walk alone at night. The whole of this kind of life, if
necessary for the story, is dead against truth and probability. So is
Romola's flight, disguised as a nun. Splendid as is the scene between
her and Savonarola, the _vraisemblance_ is spoilt by this impossibility
of condition. Nor could any woman of that time, brought up in a city,
have felt a sense of freedom when fairly outside the walls by herself on
a strange road, going to meet an unknown fate and bound to an unknown
bourne. She would have felt as a purdah woman of India suddenly turned
loose in the streets and environs of Delhi--as felt all those women
whose evidence we read of in matters of crime and murder, when they came
face to face with the desolation of unprotectedness. Modern women call
it freedom, but in the Middle Ages such a feeling did not exist. All
these things are anachronisms; as much so as if a novelist of the
twentieth century, writing of English life in the eighteenth, should
clothe his women in knickerbockers, mount them on bicycles, and turn
them into the football field and cricket-ground.

These exceptions taken to the scaffolding of the book, we are free to
admire its glorious nobility of sentiment, its lofty purpose, its
perfection of character-drawing, and the dramatic power of its various
scenes. Nothing can excel the power with which Tito's character is shown
in its gradual slipping from simple selfishness to positive
criminality. The whole action may be summed up in George Eliot's own

"When, the next morning, Tito put this determination into act, he had
chosen his colour in the game, and had given an inevitable bent to his
wishes. He had made it impossible that he should not from henceforth
desire it to be the truth that his father was dead; impossible that he
should not be tempted to baseness rather than that the precise facts of
his conduct should not remain for ever concealed. Under every guilty
secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome
infecting life is cherished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of
deeds often lies less in the commission than in the consequent
adjustment of our desires--the enlistment of our self-interest on the
side of falsity; as, on the other hand, the purifying influence of
public confession springs from the fact that by it the hope in lies is
for ever swept away, and the soul recovers its noble attitude of

But, giving every weight to the natural weakness, sweetness and
affectionateness, as well as to the latent falsity of Tito's character,
we cannot accept the Tessa episode as true to life in general, while it
is eminently untrue to Italian life, especially of those times. Tessa
herself, too, is wearisome with her tears and her kisses, her blue eyes
and baby face, so incessantly repeated and harped on. She is as
nauseating as she is impossible; and the whole story from first to last
is an ugly blot on the book.

In Romola and in Savonarola we touch the heights. The "tall lily" is an
exquisite conception and is supreme in human loveliness. Her two
interviews with Savonarola are superbly done, and the gradual crushing
down of her proud self-will under the passionate fervour of the priest
is beyond praise both for style and psychology. So, too, are the changes
in the great preacher himself--the first, when his simple earnestness of
belief in his mission degenerates into self-consciousness and personal
assumption, as is the way with all reformers--the second, when he
abandons his later attitude, and the dross is burnt away as the hour of
trial comes on him, and the World no longer stands between God and his
soul. The final scenes of the Frate's public life are powerfully
wrought, with all George Eliot's mastery and eloquence and deep
religious fervour; but it is in scenes and circumstances of this kind
that she is ever at her best. In humour and psychologic insight she is
greater than any English woman writer we have had; in aphorisms she is
unrivalled; but in playfulness she is clumsy, and in catching the moral,
intellectual and social tone of the times of which she writes, she is

Contrast Romola's character and manner of life--above all those two
thoroughly English letters of hers--with all that we know of Vittoria
Colonna, the purest and noblest woman of her day--which was
Romola's--and at once we see the difference between them--the difference
wrought by four centuries--Vittoria being essentially a woman of the
time, though a head and shoulders above the ruck; while Romola is as
essentially a product of the nineteenth century. In spite of the local
colour--which, after all, is only a wash--given by the descriptions of
pageants and processions, and by the history of which George Eliot so
ably mastered the details, the whole book is nineteenth century, from
Monna Brigida's characteristically English speech about Tessa's place in
the house and the children's sweets, to Romola's as characteristically
English attitude and hygienic objections--from a little maiden, without
a caretaker, carrying eggs to Piero, to Romola's solitary visit to the
studio and night perambulations about the city.

All these shortcomings notwithstanding, "Romola" will ever remain one of
the noblest works of our noblest author; and, after all, did not
Shakspere make Hector quote Aristotle, and show all his Greeks and
Romans and outlandish nondescripts from countries unknown to himself, as
nothing but sturdy Englishmen, such as lived and loved in the times of
the great Eliza? Where we have so much to admire--nay, to venerate--we
may let the smaller mistakes pass. Yet they must be spoken of by those
who would be candid and not fulsome--just and not flattering. By the
way, did George Eliot know that "Baldassare" is the name of one of the
devils invoked to this day by Sicilian witches?

       *       *       *       *       *

The longest of all the novels, "Middlemarch," is the most interesting in
its characters, its isolated scenes, its moral meaning and philosophic
extension; but it is also the most inartistic and the most encumbered
with subordinate interests and personages. The canvas is as crowded as
one of George Cruikshank's etchings; and the work would have gained by
what George Eliot would have called fission--a division into two. The
stories of Dorothea and Casaubon and of Rosamond and Lydgate are
essentially separate entities; and though they are brought together at
the last by an intermingled interest, the result is no more true
unification than the Siamese twins or the Double-headed Nightingale
represented one true human being. The contrast between the two beautiful
young wives is well preserved, and the nicer shades of difference are as
clearly marked as are the more essential; for George Eliot was far too
good a workman to scamp in any direction, and the backs of her stories
are as well wrought as the fronts. But if one-third of the book had been
cut out--failing that fission, which would have been still better--the
work would have gained in proportion to its compression.

The character of Dorothea marks the last stage in the development of the
personality which begins with Maggie Tulliver, and is in reality Marian
Evans's own self. Maggie, Romola and Dorothea are the same person in
progressive stages of moral evolution. All are at cross corners with
life and fate--all are rebellious against things as they find them.
Maggie's state of insurgency is the crudest and simplest; Romola's is
the most passionate in its moral reprobation of accepted unworthiness;
Dorothea's is the widest in its mental horizon, and the most womanly in
the whole-hearted indifference to aught but love, which ends the story
and gives the conclusive echo. In its own way, her action in taking Will
Ladislaw is like Esther's in marrying Felix Holt; but it has not the
unlikelihood of Esther's choice. It is all for love, if one will, but it
runs more harmoniously with the broad lines of her character, and gives
us no sense of that dislocation which we get from Esther's decision. And
in its own way it is at once a parallel and an apology.

The most masterly bits of work in "Middlemarch" are the characters of
Rosamond and Casaubon. Rosamond's unconscious selfishness, her moral
thinness, and the superficial quality of her love are all portrayed
without a flaw in the drawing; while Casaubon's dryness, his literary
indecision following on his indefatigable research, and his total
inability to adjust himself to his new conditions, together with his
scrupulous formality of politeness combined with real cruelty of temper,
make a picture of supreme psychologic merit. They who think that
Casaubon was meant for the late Rector of Lincoln know nothing about
George Eliot's early life. They who do know some of those obscurer
details, are well aware of the origin whence she drew her masterly
portrait, as they know who was Mrs. Poyser, who Tom Tulliver, and who
Hetty Sorrel. Hetty, indeed, is somewhat repeated in that amazingly
idiotic Tessa, who is neither English nor Italian, nor, indeed, quite
human in her molluscous silliness; but there are lines of relation which
show themselves to experts, and the absence of the "cherry stone" does
not count for more than the dissimilarity always to be found between two

No finer bit of work was ever done than the deep and subtle but true and
most pathetic tragedy of Lydgate's married life. The character of
Rosamond was a difficult one to paint, and one false touch could have
been fatal. To show her intense selfishness and shallowness and yet not
to make her revolting, was what only such a consummate psychologist as
George Eliot could have done. And to show how Lydgate, strong man as he
was and full of noble ambition and splendid aims, was necessarily
subdued, mastered and ruined by the tenacious weakness and moral
unworthiness of such a wife, yet not to make him contemptible, was also
a task beyond the power of any but the few Masters of our literature.
All the scenes between this ill-assorted pair are in George Eliot's best
manner and up to her highest mark; and the gradual declination of
Rosamond's love, together with Lydgate's gradual awakening to the truth
of things as they were, are portrayed with a touch as firm as it is

That scene on the receipt of Sir Godwin's letter is as tragic in its own
way as Othello or a Greek drama. It has in it the same sense of human
helplessness in the presence of an overmastering fate. Rosamond was
Lydgate's Fate. Her weakness, tenacity and duplicity--his stronger
manhood, which could not crush the weaker woman--his love, which could
not coerce, nor punish, nor yet control the thing he loved--all made the
threads of that terrible net in which he was entangled, and by which the
whole worth of his life was destroyed. It is a story that goes home to
the consciousness of many men, who know, as Lydgate knew, that they have
been mastered by the one who to them is "as an animal of another and
feebler species"--who know, as Lydgate knew, that their energies have
been stunted, their ambition has been frustrated, and their horizon
narrowed and darkened because of that tyranny which the weaker woman so
well knows how to exercise over the stronger man.

Casaubon is as masterly in drawing as is Rosamond or Lydgate. We confess
to a sadly imperfect sympathy with Dorothea in her queer enthusiasm for
this dry stick of a man. Learned or not, he was scarcely one to whom a
young woman, full of life's strong and sweet emotions, would care to
give herself as a wife. One can understand the more impersonal impulse
which threw Marian Evans into an attitude of adoration before the
original of her dry stick; but when it comes to the question of
marriage, the thing is simply revolting as done by the girl, not only of
her own free-will but against the advice and prayers of her friends. Tom
was to be excused for his harshness and irritation against Maggie; and
Celia's commonplaces of wisdom for the benefit of that self-willed and
recalcitrant Dodo, if not very profound nor very stimulating, nor yet
sympathetic, were worth more in the daily life and ordering of sane folk
than Dorothea's blind and obstinate determination. Beautiful and
high-minded as she is, she is also one of those irritating saints whose
virtues one cannot but revere, whose personal charms one loves and
acknowledges, and whose wrongheadedness makes one long to punish
them--or at least restrain them by main force from social suicide. And
to think that to her first mistake she adds that second of marrying Will
Ladislaw--the utter snob that he is! Where were George Eliot's
perceptions? Or was it that in Ladislaw she had a model near at hand,
whom she saw through coloured glasses, which also shed their rosy light
on her reproduction, so that her copy was to her as idealised as the
original, and she was ignorant of the effect produced on the
clear-sighted? Yet over all the mistakes made by her through defective
taste and obstinate unwisdom, the beauty of Dorothea's character stands
out as did Romola's--like a "white lily" in the garden. She is a superb
creature in her own way, and her disillusionment is of the nature of a
tragedy. But what could any woman expect from a man who could write such
a love-letter as that of Mr. Casaubon's?

The canvas of "Middlemarch" is overcrowded, as we said; yet how good
some of the characters are! The sturdy uprightness, tempered with such
loving sweetness, of Cabel Garth; the commonplace negation of all great
and all unworthy qualities of the Vincys--Celia and Sir James--Mr.
Farebrother and Mr. and Mrs. Cadwallader--all are supreme. We confess we
do not care much for the portraiture of Mr. Bulstrode and his spiteful
delator Raffles--George Eliot is not good at melodrama; also the whole
episode of Mr. Featherstone's illness, with his watching family and Mary
Garth, too vividly recalls old Anthony Chuzzlewit and all that took
place round his death-bed and about his will, to give a sense of truth
or novelty. George Eliot's power did not lie in the same direction as
that of Charles Dickens, and the contrast is not to her advantage. Great
humorists as both were, their humour was essentially different, and will
not bear comparison.

No book that George Eliot ever wrote is without its wise and pithy
aphorisms, its brilliant flashes of wit, its innumerable good things.
Space will not permit our quoting one-tenth part of the good things
scattered about these fascinating pages. Celia's feeling, which she
stifled in the depths of her heart, that "her sister was too religious
for family comfort. Notions and scruples were like spilt needles, making
one afraid of treading or sitting down, or even eating:"--(But, farther
on, what an unnecessary bit of pedantry!--"In short, woman was a problem
which, since Mr. Brooke's mind felt blank before it, could be hardly
less complicated than the _revolutions of an irregular solid_.")--Mrs.
Cadwallader's sense of birth, so that a "De Bracy reduced to take his
dinner in a basin would have seemed to her an example of pathos worth
exaggerating; and I fear his aristocratic vices would not have horrified
her. But her feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious
hatred:"--"Indeed, she (Mrs. Waule) herself was accustomed to think that
entire freedom from the necessity of behaving agreeably was included in
the Almighty's intentions about families:"--"Strangers, whether wrecked
and clinging to a raft, or duly escorted and accompanied by
portmanteaus, have always had a circumstantial fascination for the
virgin mind, against which native merit has urged itself in
vain:"--"Ladislaw, a sort of Burke with a leaven of Shelley:"--"But it
is one thing to like defiance, and another thing to like its
consequences"--an observation wrung out of her own disturbed and
inharmonious experience:--"That controlled self-consciousness of manner
which is the expensive substitute for simplicity:"--These are a few
picked out at random, but the wealth that remains behind is but
inadequately represented by stray nuggets.

Before we close the volume we would like to note the one redeeming
little flash of human tenderness in Mr. Casaubon when he had received
his death-warrant from Lydgate, and Dorothea waits for him to come up to
bed. It is the only tender and spontaneous moment in his life as George
Eliot has painted it, and its strangeness makes its pathos as well as
its truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last of the lengthy three, and the last novel she wrote, "Daniel
Deronda" is the most wearisome, the least artistic, and the most
unnatural of all George Eliot's books. Of course it has the masterly
touch, and, for all its comparative inferiority, has also its supreme
excellence. But in plot, treatment and character it is far below its
predecessors. Some of the characters are strangely unnatural.
Grandcourt, for instance, is more like the French caricature of an
English milord than like a possible English gentleman depicted by a
compatriot. Deronda himself is a prig of the first water; while
Gwendolen is self-contradictory all through--like a tangled skein of
which you cannot find the end, and therefore cannot bring it into order
and intelligibility. Begun on apparently clear lines of self-will,
pride, worldly ambition and personal self-indulgence--without either
conscience or deep affections--self-contained and self-controlled--she
wavers off into a condition of moral weakness, of vagrant impulses and
humiliating self-abandonment for which nothing that went before has
prepared us.

That she should ever have loved, or even fancied she loved, such a
frozen fish as Grandcourt was impossible to a girl so full of energy as
Gwendolen is shown to be. Clear in her desires of what she wanted, she
would have accepted him, as she did, to escape from the hateful life to
which else she would have been condemned. But she would have accepted
him without even that amount of self-deception which is portrayed in the
decisive interview. She knew his cruel secret, and she deliberately
chose to ignore it. So far good. It is what she would have done. But
where is the logic of making her "carry on" as she did when she received
the diamonds on her wedding-day? It was a painful thing, sure enough,
and the mad letter that came with them was disagreeable enough; but it
could not have been the shock it is described, nor could it have made
Gwendolen turn against her husband in such sudden hatred, seeing that
she already knew the whole shameful story. These are faults in
psychology; and the conduct of the plot is also imperfect. George
Eliot's plots are always bad when she attempts intricacy, attaining
instead confusion and unintelligibility; but surely nothing can be much
sillier than the whole story of Deronda's birth and upbringing, nor can
anything be more unnatural than the character and conduct of his
mother. What English gentleman would have brought up a legitimately-born
Jewish child under conditions which made the whole world believe him to
be his own illegitimate son? And what young man, brought up in the
belief that he was an English gentleman by birth--leaving out on which
side of the blanket--would have rejoiced to find himself a Jew instead?
The whole story is improbable and far-fetched; as also is Deronda's
rescue of Mirah and her unquestioning adoption by the Meyricks. It is
all distortion, and in no wise like real life; and some of the
characters are as much twisted out of shape as is the story. Sir Hugo
Mallinger and Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne are the most natural of the whole
gallery--the defect of exaggeration or caricature spoiling most of the

Of these others, Gwendolen herself is far and away the most
unsatisfactory. Her sudden hatred of her husband is strained; so is her
love for Deronda; so is her repentance for her constructive act of
murder. That she should have failed to throw the rope to Grandcourt,
drowning in the sea, was perhaps natural enough. That she should have
felt such abject remorse and have betrayed herself in such humiliating
unreserve to Deronda was not. All through the story her action with
regard to Deronda is dead against the base lines of her character, and
is compatible only with such an overwhelming amount of physical passion
as does sometimes make women mad. We have no hint of this. On the
contrary, all that Gwendolen says is founded on spiritual longing for
spiritual improvement--spiritual direction with no hint of sexual
impulse. Yet she acts as one overpowered by that impulse--throwing to
the winds pride, reserve, womanly dignity and common sense. Esther was
not harmonious with herself in her choice of Felix Holt over Harold
Transome, but Esther was naturalness incarnate compared with Gwendolen
as towards Daniel Deronda. And the evolution of Esther's soul, and the
glimpse given of Rosamond's tardy sense of some kind of morality,
difficult to be believed as each was, were easy sums in moral arithmetic
contrasted with the birth and sudden growth of what had been Gwendolen's
very rudimentary soul--springing into maturity in a moment, like a
fully-armed Athene, without the need of the more gradual process. Add to
all these defects, an amount of disquisition and mental dissection which
impedes the story till it drags on as slowly as a heavily laden
wain--add the fatal blunder of making long scenes which do not help on
the action nor elucidate the plot, and the yet more fatal blunder of
causeless pedantry, and we have to confess that our great master's last
novel is also her worst. But then the one immediately preceding was
incomparably her best.

We come now to the beauties of the work--to the inimitable force of some
phrases--to the noble aim and meaning of the story--to the lofty spirit
informing all those interrupting disquisitions, which are really
interpolated moral essays, and must not be confounded with padding. Take
this little shaft aimed at that _Græculus esuriens_ Lush, that
"half-caste among gentlemen" and the _âme damnée_ of Grandcourt. "Lush's
love of ease was well satisfied at present, and if his puddings were
rolled towards him in the dust he took the inside bits and found them
relishing." Again: "We sit up at night to read about Cakya-Mouni, Saint
Francis and Oliver Cromwell, but whether we should be glad for any one
at all like them to call on us the next morning, still more to reveal
himself as a new relation, is quite another matter:"--"A man of refined
pride shrinks from making a lover's approaches to a woman whose wealth
or rank might make them appear presumptuous or low-motived; but Deronda
was finding a more delicate difficulty in a position which,
superficially taken, was the reverse of that--though, to an ardent
reverential love, the loved woman has always a kind of wealth which
makes a man keenly susceptible about the aspect of his addresses." (We
extract this sentence as an instance of George Eliot's fine feeling and
delicate perception expressed in her worst and clumsiest manner.) "A
blush is no language, only a dubious flag-signal, which may mean either
of two contradictions."

"Grandcourt held that the Jamaican negro was a beastly sort of baptist
Caliban; Deronda said he had always felt a little with Caliban, who
naturally had his own point of view and could sing a good song;" "Mrs.
Davilow observed that her father had an estate in Barbadoes, but that
she herself had never been in the West Indies; Mrs. Torrington was sure
she should never sleep in her bed if she lived among blacks; her husband
corrected her by saying that the blacks would be manageable enough if it
were not for the half-breeds; and Deronda remarked that the whites had
to thank themselves for the half-breeds."

It is in such "polite pea-shooting" as this that George Eliot shows her
inimitable humour--the quick give-and-take of her conversations being
always in harmony with her characters. But, indeed, unsatisfactory as a
novel though "Daniel Deronda" is, it is full of beauties of all kinds,
from verbal wit to the grandly colossal sublimity of Mordecai, and
Deronda's outburst of passionate desire to weld the scattered Jews into
one nation of which he should be the heart and brain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whatever George Eliot did bears this impress of massive sincerity--of
deep and earnest feeling--of lofty purpose and noble teaching. She was
not a fine artist, and she spoilt her later work by pedantry and
overlay, but she stands out as the finest woman writer we have had or
probably shall have--stands a head and shoulders above the best of the
rest. She touched the darker parts of life and passion, but she touched
them with clean hands and a pure mind, and with that spirit of
philosophic truth which can touch pitch and not be defiled. Yet prolific
as she was, and the creator of more than one living character, she was
not a flexible writer and her range was limited. She repeated situations
and motives with a curious narrowness of scope, and in almost all her
heroines, save Dinah and Dorothea, who are evoluted from the beginning,
paints the gradual evolution of a soul by the ennobling influence of a
higher mind and a religious love.

We come now to a curious little crop of errors. Though so profound a
scholar--being indeed too learned for perfect artistry--she makes
strange mistakes for a master of the language such as she was. She
spells "insistence" with an "a," and she gives a superfluous "c" to
"Machiavelli." She sometimes permits herself to slip into the literary
misdemeanour of no nominative to her sentence, and into the graver sin
of making a singular verb govern the plural noun of a series. She says
"frightened at" and "under circumstances"; "by the sly" and "down upon";
and she follows "neither" with "or," as also "never" and "not." She is
"averse to"; she has even been known to split her infinitive, and to say
"and which" without remorse. Once she condescends to the iniquity of
"proceeding to take," than which "commencing" is only one stage lower in
literary vulgarity; and many of her sentences are as clumsy as a clown's
dancing-steps. As no one can accuse her of either ignorance or
indifference, still less of haste and slap-dash, these small flaws in
the great jewel of her genius are instructive instances of the clinging
effect of our carelessness in daily speech; so that grammatical
inaccuracy becomes as a second nature to us, and has to be unlearned by
all who write.

Nevertheless, with all her faults fully acknowledged and honestly shown,
we ever return as to an inexhaustible fountain, to her greatness of
thought, her supreme power, her nobility of aim, her matchless humour,
her magnificent drawing, her wise philosophy, her accurate learning--as
profound as it was accurate. Though we do not bracket her with Plato and
Kant, as did one of her panegyrists, nor hold her equal to Fielding for
naturalness, nor to Scott for picturesqueness, nor as able as was
Thackeray to project herself into the conditions of thought and society
of times other than her own, we do hold her as the sceptred queen of our
English Victorian authoresses--superior even to Charlotte Brontë, to
Mrs. Gaskell, to Harriet Martineau--formidable rivals as these are to
all others, living or dead.

If she had not crossed that Rubicon, or, having crossed it, had been
content with more complete insurgency than she was, she would have been
a happier woman and a yet more finished novelist. As things were, her
life and principles were at cross-corners; and when her literary success
had roused up her social ambition, and fame had lifted her far above the
place where her birth had set her, she realised the mistake she had
made. Then the sense of inharmoniousness between what she was and what
she would have been did, to some degree, react on her work, to the
extent at least of killing in it all passion and spontaneity. Her whole
life and being were moulded to an artificial pose, and the "made" woman
could not possibly be the spontaneous artist. Her yet more fatal blunder
of marrying an obscure individual many years younger than herself, and
so destroying the poetry of her first union by destroying its sense of
continuity and constancy, would have still more disastrously reacted on
her work had she lived. She died in time, for anything below
"Theophrastus Such" would have seriously endangered her fame and
lessened her greatness--culminating as this did in "Middlemarch," the
best and grandest of her novels, from the zenith of which "Daniel
Deronda," her last, is a sensible decline.

  [Signature: E. Lynn Linton.]




Of all the novelists of Queen Victoria's reign there is not one to whom
the present writer turns with such a sense of love and gratitude as to
Mrs. Gaskell. This feeling is undoubtedly shared by thousands of men and
women, for about all the novels there is that wonderful sense of
sympathy, that broad human interest which appeals to readers of every
description. The hard-worked little girl in the schoolroom can forget
the sorrows of arithmetic or the vexations of French verbs as she pores
over "Wives and Daughters" on a Saturday half-holiday, and, as George
Sand remarked to Lord Houghton, this same book, "Wives and Daughters,"
"would rivet the attention of the most _blasé_ man of the world."

With the exception of her powerful "Life of Charlotte Brontë," Mrs.
Gaskell wrote only novels or short stories. The enormous difficulties
which attended the writing of a biography of the author of "Jane Eyre"
would, we venture to think, have baffled any other writer of that time.
It is easy now, years after Charlotte Brontë's death, to criticise the
wisdom of this or that page, to hunt up slight mistakes, to maintain
that in some details Mrs. Gaskell was wrong. To be wise too late is an
easy and, to some apparently, a most grateful task; but it would,
nevertheless, be hard to find a biography of more fascinating interest,
or one which more successfully grappled with the great difficulty of the

As Mr. Clement Shorter remarks, the "Life of Charlotte Brontë" "ranks
with Boswell's 'Life of Johnson' and Lockhart's 'Life of Scott.'" It is
pleasant, too, to read Charlotte Brontë's own words in a letter to Mr.
Williams, where she mentions her first letter from her future friend and

"The letter you forwarded this morning was from Mrs. Gaskell, authoress
of 'Mary Barton.' She said I was not to answer it, but I cannot help
doing so. The note brought the tears to my eyes. She is a good, she is a
great woman. Proud am I that I can touch a chord of sympathy in souls so
noble. In Mrs. Gaskell's nature it mournfully pleases me to fancy a
remote affinity to my sister Emily. In Miss Martineau's mind I have
always felt the same, though there are wide differences. Both these
ladies are above me--certainly far my superiors in attainments and
experience. I think I could look up to them if I knew them."

For lovers of the author of "Mary Barton" it is hard, however, not to
feel a grudge against the "Life of Charlotte Brontë"--or, rather, the
reception accorded to it. Owing to the violent attacks to which it gave
rise, to a threatened action for libel on the part of some of those
mentioned in the book, and to the manifold annoyances to which the
publication of the Biography subjected the writer, Mrs. Gaskell
determined that no record of her own life should be written.

It is pleasant to find that there were gleams of light mixed with the
many vexations. Charles Kingsley writes to Mrs. Gaskell in warm
appreciation of the "Life":

"Be sure," he says, "that the book will do good. It will shame literary
people into some stronger belief that a simple, virtuous, practical
home-life is consistent with high imaginative genius; and it will shame,
too, the prudery of a not over-cleanly, though carefully whitewashed,
age, into believing that purity is now (as in all ages till now) quite
compatible with the knowledge of evil. I confess that the book has made
me ashamed of myself. 'Jane Eyre' I hardly looked into, very seldom
reading a work of fiction--yours, indeed, and Thackeray's are the only
ones I care to open. 'Shirley' disgusted me at the opening, and I gave
up the writer and her books with the notion that she was a person who
liked coarseness. How I misjudged her! and how thankful I am that I
never put a word of my misconceptions into print, or recorded my
misjudgments of one who is a whole heaven above me. Well have you done
your work, and given us a picture of a valiant woman made perfect by
sufferings. I shall now read carefully and lovingly every word she has

Mrs. Gaskell's wish regarding her own biography has, of course, been
respected by her family; but the world is the poorer, and it is
impossible not to regret that the life of so dearly loved a writer must
never be attempted.

The books reveal a mind as delicately pure as a child's, wedded to that
true mother's heart which is wide enough to take in all the needy.
Looking, moreover, at that goodly row of novels--whether in the dear old
shabby volumes that have been read and re-read for years, or in that
dainty little set recently published in a case, which the rising
generation can enjoy--one cannot help reflecting that here is "A Little
Child's Monument," surely the most beautiful memorial of a great love
and a great grief that could be imagined. It was not until the death of
her little child--the only son of the family--that Mrs. Gaskell,
completely broken down by grief, began, at her husband's suggestion, to
write. And thus a great sorrow brought forth a rich and wonderful
harvest, as grief borne with strength and courage always may do; and the
world has good reason to remember that little ten months' child whose
short life brought about such great results.

A question naturally suggests itself at this point as to Mrs. Gaskell's
birth and education. How far had she inherited her literary gifts? And
in what way had her mind been influenced by the surroundings of her
childhood and girlhood? Her mother, Mrs. Stevenson, was a Miss Holland,
of Sandlebridge, in Cheshire; her father--William Stevenson--was at
first classical tutor in the Manchester Academy, and later on, during
his residence in Edinburgh, was editor of the _Scots Magazine_ and a
frequent contributor to the _Edinburgh Review_. He was next appointed
Keeper of the Records to the Treasury, an appointment which caused his
removal from Edinburgh to Chelsea; and it was there, in Cheyne Row, that
Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson, the future novelist, was born.

Owing to the death of her mother, she was adopted when only a month old
by her aunt, Mrs. Lumb, and taken to Knutsford, in Cheshire, the little
town so wonderfully described in "Cranford." For two years in her
girlhood she was educated at Stratford-on-Avon, walking in the flowery
meadows where Shakspere once walked, worshipping in the stately old
church where he worshipped, and where he willed that his body should be
left at rest; nor is it possible to help imagining that the associations
of that ideal place had an influence on the mind of the future writer,
doing something to give that essentially English tone which
characterises all her books.

After her father's second marriage she went to live with him, and her
education was superintended by him until his death in 1829, when she
once more returned to Knutsford. Here, at the age of twenty-two, she was
married to the Rev. William Gaskell, M.A., of Cross Street Chapel,
Manchester; and Manchester remained her home ever after.

Such are the brief outlines of a life story which was to have such a
wide and lasting influence for good. For nothing is more striking than
this when we think over the well-known novels--they are not only
consummate works of art, full of literary charm, perfect in style and
rich with the most delightful humour and pathos--they are books from
which that morbid lingering over the loathsome details of vice, those
sensuous descriptions of sin too rife in the novels of the present day,
are altogether excluded.

Not that the stories are namby-pamby, or unreal in any sense; they are
wholly free from the horrid prudery, the Pharisaical temper, which makes
a merit of walking through life in blinkers and refuses to know of
anything that can shock the respectable. Mrs. Gaskell was too genuine an
artist to fall either into this error or into the error of bad taste and
want of reserve. She drew life with utter reverence; she held the
highest of all ideals, and she dared to be true.

How tender and womanly and noble, for instance, is her treatment of the
difficult subject which forms the _motif_ of "Ruth"! How sorrowfully
true to life is the story of the dressmaker's apprentice with no place
in which to spend her Sunday afternoons! We seem ourselves to breathe
the dreadful "stuffy" atmosphere of the workroom, to feel the dreary
monotony of the long day's work. It is so natural that the girl's fancy
should be caught by Henry Bellingham, who was courteous to her when she
mended the torn dress of his partner at the ball; so inevitable that she
should lose her heart to him when she witnessed his gallant rescue of
the drowning child. But her fall was not inevitable, and one of the
finest bits in the whole novel is the description of Ruth's hesitation
in the inn parlour when, finding herself most cruelly and unjustly cast
off by her employer, she has just accepted her lover's suggestion that
she shall go with him to London, little guessing what the promise
involved, yet intuitively feeling that her consent had been unwise.

"Ruth became as hot as she had previously been cold, and went and opened
the window, and leant out into the still, sweet evening air. The bush of
sweetbriar underneath the window scented the place, and the delicious
fragrance reminded her of her old home. I think scents affect and
quicken the memory even more than either sights or sounds; for Ruth had
instantly before her eyes the little garden beneath the window of her
mother's room, with the old man leaning on his stick watching her, just
as he had done not three hours before on that very afternoon." She
remembers the faithful love of the old labouring man and his wife who
had served her parents in their lifetime, and for their sake would help
and advise her now. Would it not be better to go to them?

"She put on her bonnet and opened the parlour door; but then she saw the
square figure of the landlord standing at the open house door, smoking
his evening pipe, and looming large and distinct against the dark air
and landscape beyond. Ruth remembered the cup of tea that she had drunk;
it must be paid for, and she had no money with her. She feared that he
would not let her leave the house without paying. She thought that she
would leave a note for Mr. Bellingham saying where she was gone, and how
she had left the house in debt, for (like a child) all dilemmas appeared
of equal magnitude to her; and the difficulty of passing the landlord
while he stood there, and of giving him an explanation of the
circumstances, appeared insuperable, and as awkward and fraught with
inconvenience as far more serious situations. She kept peeping out of
her room after she had written her little pencil note, to see if the
outer door was still obstructed. There he stood motionless, enjoying his
pipe, and looking out into the darkness which gathered thick with the
coming night. The fumes of the tobacco were carried into the house and
brought back Ruth's sick headache. Her energy left her; she became
stupid and languid, and incapable of spirited exertion; she modified her
plan of action to the determination of asking Mr. Bellingham to take her
to Milham Grange, to the care of her humble friends, instead of to
London. And she thought in her simplicity that he would instantly
consent when he had heard her reasons."

The selfishness of the man who took advantage of her weakness and
ignorance is finely drawn because it is not at all exaggerated. Henry
Bellingham is no monster of wickedness, but a man with many fine
qualities spoilt by an over-indulgent and unprincipled mother, and
yielding too easily to her worldly-wise arguments.

Ruth first sees a faint trace of his selfishness--she calls it
"unfairness"--when, on their arrival in Wales, he persuades the landlady
to give them rooms in the hotel and to turn out on a false pretext some
other guests into the _dépendance_ across the road. She understands his
selfish littleness of soul only too well when, years after, she talks to
him during that wonderfully described interview in the chapter called
"The Meeting on the Sands." He cannot in the least understand her. "The
deep sense of penitence she expressed he took for earthly shame, which
he imagined he could soon soothe away." He actually has the audacity to
tempt her a second time; then, after her indignant refusal, he offers
her marriage. To his great amazement she refuses this too. "Why, what on
earth makes you say that?" asked he....

"I do not love you. I did once. Don't say I did not love you then; but I
do not now. I could never love you again. All you have said and done
since you came to Abermouth has only made me wonder how I ever could
have loved you. We are very far apart; the time that has pressed down my
life like brands of hot iron, and scarred me for ever, has been nothing
to you. You have talked of it with no sound of moaning in your voice,
no shadow over the brightness of your face; it has left no sense of sin
on your conscience, while me it haunts and haunts; and yet I might plead
that I was an ignorant child; only I will not plead anything, for God
knows all. But this is only one piece of our great difference."

"You mean that I am no saint," he said, impatient at her speech.
"Granted. But people who are no saints have made very good husbands
before now. Come, don't let any morbid, overstrained conscientiousness
interfere with substantial happiness--happiness both to you and to
me--for I am sure I can make you happy--ay! and make you love me too, in
spite of your pretty defiance.... And here are advantages for Leonard,
to be gained by you quite in a holy and legitimate way."

She stood very erect.

"If there was one thing needed to confirm me, you have named it. You
shall have nothing to do with my boy by my consent, much less by my
agency. I would rather see him working on the roadside than leading such
a life--being such a one as you are.... If at last I have spoken out too
harshly and too much in a spirit of judgment, the fault is yours. If
there were no other reason to prevent our marriage but the one fact that
it would bring Leonard into contact with you, that would be enough."

Later on, a fever visits the town, and Ruth becomes a nurse. When she
hears that the father of her child is ill and untended she volunteers to
nurse him, and, being already worn out with work, she dies in
consequence. The man's smallness of mind, his contemptible selfishness,
are finely indicated in the scene where he goes to look at Ruth as she
lies dead.

He was "disturbed" by the distress of the old servant Sally, and saying,
"Come, my good woman! we must all die," _tries to console her with a

The old servant turns upon him indignantly, then "bent down and kissed
the lips from whose marble, unyielding touch he recoiled even in
thought." At that moment the old minister, who had sheltered Ruth in her
trouble, enters. Henry makes many offers to him as to providing for
Ruth's child, Leonard, and says, "I cannot tell you how I regret that
she should have died in consequence of her love to me." But from gentle
old Mr. Benson he receives only an icy refusal, and the stern words,
"Men may call such actions as yours youthful follies. There is another
name for them with God."

The sadness of the book is relieved by the delightful humour of Sally,
the servant. The account of the wooing of Jeremiah Dixon is a
masterpiece; and Sally's hesitation when, having found her proof against
the attractions of "a four-roomed house, furniture conformable, and
eighty pounds a year," her lover mentions the pig that will be ready for
killing by Christmas, is a delicious bit of comedy.

"Well, now! would you believe it? the pig were a temptation. I'd a
receipt for curing hams.... However, I resisted. Says I, very stern,
because I felt I'd been wavering, 'Master Dixon, once for all, pig or no
pig, I'll not marry you.'"

The description of the minister's home is very beautiful. Here are a few
lines which show in what its charm consisted:

"In the Bensons' house there was the same unconsciousness of individual
merit, the same absence of introspection and analysis of motive, as
there had been in her mother; but it seemed that their lives were pure
and good not merely from a lovely and beautiful nature, but from some
law the obedience to which was of itself harmonious peace, and which
governed them.... This household had many failings; they were but human,
and, with all their loving desire to bring their lives into harmony with
the will of God, they often erred and fell short. But somehow the very
errors and faults of one individual served to call out higher
excellences in another; and so they reacted upon each other, and the
result of short discords was exceeding harmony and peace."

The publication of "Ruth," with its brave, outspoken words, its fearless
demand for one standard of morality for men and women, subjected the
author to many attacks, as we may gather from the following warm-hearted
letter by Charles Kingsley:

                                                     "_July 25, 1853._

    "I am sure that you will excuse my writing to you thus abruptly
    when you read the cause of my writing. I am told, to my great
    astonishment, that you had heard painful speeches on account of
    'Ruth'; what was told me raised all my indignation and disgust....
    Among all my large acquaintance I never heard, or have heard, but
    one unanimous opinion of the beauty and righteousness of the book,
    and that above all from really good women. If you could have heard
    the things which I heard spoken of it this evening by a thorough
    High Church, fine lady of the world, and by her daughter, too, as
    pure and pious a soul as one need see, you would have no more
    doubt than I have, that, whatsoever the 'snobs' and the bigots may
    think, English people, in general, have but one opinion of 'Ruth,'
    and that is, one of utter satisfaction. I doubt not you have had
    this said to you already often. Believe me, you may have it said
    to you as often as you will by the purest and most refined of
    English women. May God bless you, and help you to write many more
    such books as you have already written, is the fervent wish of
    your very faithful servant,

                                                        "C. KINGSLEY."

"Mary Barton," which was the first of the novels, was published in 1848,
and this powerful and fascinating story at once set Mrs. Gaskell in the
first rank of English novelists. People differed as to the views set
forth in the book, but all were agreed as to its literary force and its
great merits. Like "Alton Locke," it has done much to break down class
barriers and make the rich try to understand the poor; and when we see
the great advance in this direction which has been made since the date
of its publication, we are able partly to realise how startling the
first appearance of such a book must have been. The secret of the
extraordinary power which the book exercises on its readers is,
probably, that the writer takes one into the very heart of the life she
is describing.

Most books of the sort fail to arrest our attention. Why? Because they
are written either as mere "goody" books for parish libraries, and are
carefully watered down lest they should prove too sensational and
enthralling; or because they are written by people who have only a
surface knowledge of the characters they describe and the life they
would fain depict. "David Copperfield" is probably the most popular book
Dickens ever wrote, and is likely to outlive his other works, just
because he himself knew so thoroughly well all that his hero had to pass
through, and could draw from real knowledge the characters in the
background. And at the present time we are all able to understand the
Indian Mutiny in a way that has never been possible before, because Mrs.
Steel in her wonderful novel, "On the Face of the Waters," has, through
her knowledge of native life, given us a real insight into the heart of
a great nation.

Brilliant trash may succeed for two or three seasons, but unless there
is in it some germ of real truth which appeals to the heart and
conscience it will not live. Sensationalism alone will not hold its
ground. There must be in the writer a real deep inner knowledge of his
subject if the book is to do its true work. And we venture to think that
"Mary Barton," which for nearly half a century has been influencing
people all over the world, owes its vitality very largely to the fact
that Mrs. Gaskell knew the working people of Manchester, not as a
professional doler out of tracts or charitable relief, not in any
detestable, patronising way, but knew them as _friends_.

This surely is the reason why the characters in the novel are so
intensely real. What could be finer than the portrait of Mary herself,
from the time when we are first introduced to her as the young
apprentice to a milliner and dressmaker, to the end of the book, when
she has passed through her great agony? How entirely the reader learns
to live with her in her brave struggle to prove her lover's innocence!
One of the most powerful parts of the book is the description of her
plucky pursuit of the good ship _John Cropper_, on board of which was
the only man who could save her lover's life by proving an alibi.

But it is not only the leading characters that are so genuine and so
true to life. Old Ben Sturgis, the boat-man, rough of speech but with
more heart than many a smooth-tongued talker; his wife, who sheltered
Mary when she had no notion what manner of woman she was; Job Legh, who
proved such a good friend to both hero and heroine in their trouble, and
whose well-meaning deception of old Mrs. Wilson is so humorously
described; John Barton, the father, with the mournful failure at the
close of his upright life; old Mr. Carson, the rich father of the
murdered man, with his thirst for vengeance, and his tardy but real
forgiveness, when he let himself be led by a little child--all these are
living men and women, not puppets; while in the character and the tragic
story of poor Esther we see the fruits of the writer's deep knowledge of
the life of those she helped when released from gaol.

But Mrs. Gaskell looked on both sides of the question. In "North and
South," published in 1855, she deals with the labour question from the
master's standpoint, and in Mr. Thornton draws a most striking picture
of a manufacturer who is just and well-meaning--one who really respects
and cares for the men he employs. The main interest of this book lies,
however, in the character of the heroine, Margaret, who is placed in a
most cruel dilemma by a ne'er-do-well brother whom she shields. By far
the most dramatic scene is that in which, to enable Frederick to escape,
Margaret tells a deliberate falsehood to the detective who is in search
of him. The torture of mind she suffers afterwards for having uttered
this intentional lie, and the difficult question whether under any
circumstances a lie is warrantable, are dealt with in the writer's most
powerful way.

In 1853--the same year in which "Ruth" was published--the greatest of
all Mrs. Gaskell's works appeared, the inimitable "Cranford." For humour
and for pathos we have nothing like this in all the Victorian
literature. It is a book of which one can never tire: yet it can
scarcely be said to have a plot at all, being just the most delicate
miniature painting of a small old-fashioned country town and its
inhabitants. What English man or woman is there, however, who will not
read and re-read its pages with laughter and tears?

Cranford is said to be in many respects the Knutsford of Mrs. Gaskell's
childhood and youth, and there is something so wonderfully lifelike in
the descriptions of the manners and customs of the very select little
community that one is inclined to believe that there is truth in the
assertion. They were gently bred, those old Cranford folk, with their
"elegant economy," their hatred of all display, and their considerate
tact. There is pathos as well as fun in the description of Mrs.
Forrester pretending not to know what cakes were sent up "at a party in
her baby-house of a dwelling ... though she knew, and we knew, and she
knew that we knew, and we knew that she knew that we knew, she had been
busy all the morning making tea-bread and sponge-cakes!"

There is an air of leisure and peacefulness in every page of the book,
for there was no hurrying life among those dignified old people. "I had
often occasion to notice the use that was made of fragments and small
opportunities in Cranford: the rose-leaves that were gathered ere they
fell to make into a pot-pourri for some one who had no garden; the
little bundles of lavender-flowers sent to some town-dweller. Things
that many would despise, and actions which it seemed scarcely worth
while to perform, were all attended to in Cranford."

Who has not laughed over Miss Betsy Barker's Alderney cow "meekly going
to her pasture, clad in dark grey flannel" after her disaster in the
lime-pit! or over the masterly description of Miss Jenkyns, who "wore a
cravat, and a little bonnet like a jockey-cap, and altogether had the
appearance of a strong-minded woman; although she would have despised
the modern idea of women being equal to men. Equal, indeed! she knew
they were superior."

Dear old Miss Matty, however, with her reverence for the stronger
sister, and her love affair of long ago, has a closer hold on the heart
of the reader. The description of the meeting of the former lovers is
idyllic; and when Thomas Holbrook dies unexpectedly, soon after, the
woman whose love-story had been spoilt by the home authorities reverses
her own ordinance against "followers" in the case of Martha, the
maid-servant, but otherwise makes no sign.

"Miss Matty made a strong effort to conceal her feelings--a concealment
she practised even with me, for she has never alluded to Mr. Holbrook
again, though the book he gave her lies with her Bible on the little
table by her bedside. She did not think I heard her when she asked the
little milliner of Cranford to make her caps something like the
Honourable Mrs. Jamieson's, or that I noticed the reply:

"'But she wears widows' caps, ma'am!'

"'Oh? I only meant something in that style; not widows', of course, but
rather like Mrs. Jamieson's.'"

In the whole book there is not a character that we cannot vividly
realise: the Honourable (but sleepy) Mrs. Jamieson; brisk, cheerful Lady
Glenmire, who married the sensible country doctor and sacrificed her
title to become plain Mrs. Hoggins; Miss Pole, who always with withering
scorn called ghosts "indigestion," until the night they heard of the
headless lady who had been seen wringing her hands in Darkness Lane,
when, to avoid "the woebegone trunk," she with tremulous dignity offered
the sedan chairman an extra shilling to go round another way! Captain
Brown with his devotion to the writings of Mr. Boz and his feud with
Miss Jenkyns as to the superior merits of Dr. Johnson; and Peter, the
long-lost brother, who from first to last remains an inveterate
practical joker. One and all they become our life-long friends, while
the book stands alone as a perfect picture of English country town
society fifty years ago.

Mrs. Gaskell's shorter stories are scarcely equal to the novels, yet
some of them are very beautiful. "Cousin Phillis," for example, gives
one more of the real atmosphere of country life than any other writer
except Wordsworth. We seem actually to smell the new-mown hay as we read
the story.

Charming, too, is "My Lady Ludlow" with her genteel horror of dissenters
subdued in the end by her genuine good feeling. How often one has longed
for that comfortable square pew of hers in the parish church, in which,
if she did not like the sermon, she would pull up a glass window as
though she had been in her coach, and shut out the sound of the
obnoxious preacher! But, with all her peculiarities, she was the most
courteous of women--a lady in the true sense of the word--and when
people smiled at a shy and untaught visitor who spread out her
handkerchief on the front of her dress as the footman handed her coffee,
my Lady Ludlow with infinite tact and grace promptly spread _her_
handkerchief exactly in the same fashion which the tradesman's wife had

Among the short tragic stories, the most striking is one called "The
Crooked Branch," in which the scene at the assizes has almost unrivalled
power; while among the lighter short stories, "My French Master," with
its delicate portraiture of the old refugee, and "Mr. Harrison's
Confessions," the delightfully written love-story of a young country
doctor, are perhaps the most enjoyable.

In 1863 the novel "Sylvia's Lovers" was published, and although, by its
fine description of old Whitby and the pathos of the story, it has won
many admirers, we infinitely prefer its successor, "Wives and
Daughters." There is something very sad in the thought that this last
and best of the writer's stories was left unfinished; but happily very
little remained to be told, and that little was tenderly touched in to
the almost perfect picture of English home life by the daughter who had
been not only Mrs. Gaskell's child but her friend. "Wives and Daughters"
will always remain as a true and vivid and powerful study of life and
character; while Molly Gibson, with her loyal heart and sweet sunshiny
nature, will, we venture to think, better represent the majority of
English girls than the happily abnormal Dodos and Millicent Chynes of
present-day fashion.

In Mr. Gibson's second wife the author has given us a most subtle study
of a thoroughly selfish and false-hearted woman, and she is made all the
more repulsive because of her outward charms, her soft seductive voice
and her lavish employment of terms of endearment. Wonderfully clever,
too, is the study of poor little Cynthia, her daughter, whose relations
to Molly are most charmingly drawn.

The story was just approaching its happy and wholesome ending, and the
difficulties which had parted Roger Hamley and Molly had just
disappeared, when death summoned the writer from a world she had done so
much to brighten and to raise. On Sunday evening, November 12, 1865,
Mrs. Gaskell died quite suddenly at Holybourne, Alton, Hampshire, a
house which she had recently bought as a surprise for her husband. Sad
as such a death must always be for those who are left behind, one can
imagine nothing happier than "death in harness" for a worker who loves
his work.

  ".... There's rest above.
  Below let work be death, if work be love!"

Her "last days," wrote one of those who knew her best, "had been full of
loving thought and tender help for others. She was so sweet and dear and
noble beyond words." That is the summing-up of the whole; and, after
all, what better could a long biography give us? The motto of all of us
should surely be the words of Mme. Viardot Garcia: "First I am a
woman ... then I am an artist." And assuredly Mrs. Gaskell's life was
ruled on those lines.

"It was wonderful"--wrote her daughter, Mrs. Holland, in a letter to me
the other day--"how her writing never interfered with her social or
domestic duties. I think she was the best and most practical housekeeper
I ever came across, and the brightest, most agreeable hostess, to say
nothing of being everything as a mother and friend. She combined both,
being my mother and greatest friend in a way you do not often, I think,
find between mother and daughter."

Some people are fond of rashly asserting that the ideal wife and mother
cares little and knows less about the world beyond the little world of
home. Mrs. Gaskell, however, took a keen interest in the questions of
the day, and was a Liberal in politics; while it is quite evident that
neither these wider interests nor her philanthropic work tended to
interfere with the home life, which was clearly of the noblest type.

The friend as well as the mother of her children, the sharer of all her
husband's interests, she yet found time to use to the utmost the great
literary gift that had been entrusted to her; while her sympathy for
those in trouble was shown not only in the powerful pleading of her
novels, but in quiet, practical work in connection with prisoners. She
was one of the fellow labourers of Thomas Wright, the well-known prison
philanthropist, and was able to help in finding places for young girls
who had been discharged from prison. For working women she also held
classes, and both among the poor and the rich had many close

How far the characters in the novels were studied from life is a
question which naturally suggests itself; and Mrs. Holland replies to it
as follows: "I do not think my mother ever _consciously_ took her
characters from special individuals, but we who knew often thought we
recognised people, and would tell her, 'Oh, so and so is just like Mr.
Blank,' or something of that kind; and she would say, 'So it is, but I
never meant it for him.' And really many of the characters are from
originals, or rather are like originals, but they were not consciously
meant to be like."

For another detail which will interest Mrs. Gaskell's fellow workers I
am indebted to the same source:

"Sometimes she planned her novels more or less beforehand, but in many
cases, certainly in that of 'Wives and Daughters,' she had very little
plot made beforehand, but planned her story as she wrote. She generally
wrote in the morning, but sometimes late at night, when the house was

Few writers, we think, have exercised a more thoroughly wholesome
influence over their readers than Mrs. Gaskell. Her books, with their
wide human sympathies, their tender comprehension of human frailty,
their bright flashes of humour and their infinite pathos, seem to plead
with us to love one another. Through them all we seem to hear the
author's voice imploring us to "seize the day" and to "make friends," as
she does in actual words at the close of one of her Christmas stories,
adding pathetically: "I ask it of you for the sake of that old angelic
song, heard so many years ago by the shepherds, keeping watch by night
on Bethlehem Heights."

  [Signature: A E Bayly.

           'Edna Lyall.']




Mrs. Catherine Crowe, whose maiden name was Stevens, was born at Borough
Green, in Kent, about 1800, and died in 1876. She married Colonel Crowe
in 1822, and took up her residence with him in Edinburgh. Her books were
written chiefly between the years 1838 and 1859, and she is best known
by her novel, "Susan Hopley," and her collection of ghost stories, "The
Night Side of Nature." She was a woman of considerable ability, which
appears, however, to have run into rather obscure and sombre channels,
such as showed a somewhat morbid bent of mind, with a tendency towards
depression, which culminated at last in a short but violent attack of
insanity. But love of the unseen and supernatural does not seem to have
blunted her keenness of observation in ordinary life, for her novels,
the scenes of which are laid chiefly among homely and domestic
surroundings, display alike soundness of judgment and considerable
dramatic power. As a writer, indeed, Mrs. Crowe was extremely versatile;
she wrote plays, children's stories, short historical tales, romantic
novels, as well as the ghost stories with which her name seems chiefly
to be associated in the minds of this generation. It is evident too,
that she believed herself--rightly or wrongly--to be possessed of great
philosophical discrimination; but it must be acknowledged that her
philosophical and metaphysical studies often led her into curious byways
of speculation, into which the reader does not willingly wander.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is worth noting that Mrs. Crowe's ideas respecting the status and
education of women were, for the days in which she lived, exceedingly
"advanced." In "Lilly Dawson," for instance, a story published in 1847,
she makes an elaborate protest against the kind of education which women
were then receiving. "It is true," she says, "that there is little real
culture amongst men; there are few strong minds and fewer honest ones,
but they have still more advantages. If their education has been bad, it
has at least been a trifle better than ours. Six hours a day at Latin
and Greek are better than six hours a day at worsted work and
embroidery; and time is better spent in acquiring a smattering of
mathematics than in strumming Hook's lessons on a bad pianoforte."

Her views of women in general are well expressed in the following words
from the same work of fiction. "If, as we believe, under no system of
training, the intellect of woman would be found as strong as that of a
man, she is compensated by her intuitions being stronger. If her reason
be less majestic, her insight is clearer; where man reasons she sees.
Nature, in short, gave her all that was needful to enable her to play a
noble part in the world's history, if man would but let her play it out,
and not treat her like a full-grown baby, to be flattered and spoilt on
the one hand, and coerced and restricted on the other, vibrating between
royal rule and slavish serfdom." Surely we hear the voice of Nora Helmer
herself, the very quintessence of Ibsenism! It must have required
considerable courage to write in this way in the year 1847, and Mrs.
Crowe should certainly be numbered among the lovers of educational
reform. In many ways she seems to have been a woman of strong
individuality and decided opinions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her first work was a drama, "Aristodemus," published anonymously in
1838; it showed considerable ability and was well regarded by the
critics. She then wrote a novel, "Men and Women, or Manorial Rights," in
1839; and in 1841 published her most successful work of fiction: "Susan
Hopley, or the Adventures of a Maid-servant." This story was more
generally popular than any other from her pen, but it is to be doubted
whether it possesses more literary ability or points of greater interest
than the rest.

Mrs. Crowe then embarked upon a translation of "The Seeress of
Provorst," by Justinus Kerner, a book of revelations concerning the
inner life of man; and in 1848 she published a book called "The Night
Side of Nature," a collection of supernatural tales gathered from many
sources, probably the best storehouse of ghost stories in the English
language. Its interest is a little marred by the credulity of the
author. She seems never to disbelieve any ghost story of any kind that
comes in her way. From the humble apologies, however, with which she
opens her dissertation on the subject, it is easy to see how great a
change has passed over people's minds in the course of the last fifty
years, with respect to the supernatural. If Mrs. Crowe had lived in
these days, she would have found herself in intimate relations with the
Society for Psychical Research, and would have had no reason to excuse
herself for the choice of her subject. She divides her book into
sections, which treat of dreams (where we get Sir Noel Paton's account
of his mother's curious vision); warnings; double-dreaming and trance,
with the stories of Colonel Townshend's voluntary trance and the
well-known legend of Lord Balcarres and the ghost of Claverhouse;
doppel-gängers and apparitions (including the stories of Lady
Beresford's branded wrist and Lord Lyttleton's warning); and other
chapters descriptive of haunted houses, with details concerning
clairvoyance and the use of the crystal. It is interesting to find among
these the original account of "Pearlin Jean," of which Miss Sarah Tytler
has made such excellent use in one of her recent books. An account of
the phenomena of _stigmata_ and the case of Catherine Emmerich, are also
described in detail. Lovers of the supernatural will find much to
gratify their taste in a perusal of "The Night Side of Nature."

Mrs. Crowe did not exhaust the subject in this volume, for she issued a
book on ghosts and family legends, a volume for Christmas, in the year
1859; a work full of the kind of stories which became so popular in the
now almost obsolete Christmas Annual of succeeding years. It is also
curious to note, that in 1848, Mrs. Crowe produced a work of an entirely
different nature, namely, an excellent story for children, entitled
"Pippie's Warning, or Mind Your Temper"--another instance of her
versatility of mind.

"The Adventures of a Beauty" and "Light and Darkness" appeared in 1852.
The latter is a collection of short tales from different sources, partly
historical and partly imaginative, and certainly more in accordance with
the taste of modern days than her elaborate domestic stories. Mrs.
Crowe's taste for the horrible is distinctly perceptible in this
collection. There is an account of the celebrated poisoners, Frau
Gottfried, Madame Ursinus, and Margaret Zwanziger, whose crimes were so
numerous that they themselves forgot the number of their victims; and of
Mr. Tinius, who went about making morning calls and murdering the
persons whom he honoured with a visit. The histories of Lesurques, the
hero of the "Lyons Mail," and of Madame Louise, Princess of France, who
became a nun, are well narrated; but nearly all the stories are
concerned with horrors such as suggest the productions of Mr. Wilkie
Collins. "The Priest of St. Quentin" and "The Lycanthropist" are two of
the most powerful.

Her next novel, a more purely domestic one, was "Linny Lockwood," issued
in 1854. A sentence from the preface to this book anticipates--rather
early, as we may think--the approaching death of the three-volume
novel: "Messrs. Routledge and Co. have been for some time soliciting me
to write them an original novel for their cheap series; and being
convinced that the period for publishing at £1 11s. 6d., books of a kind
that people generally read but once, is gone by, I have resolved to make
the experiment."

She wrote another tragedy, "The Cruel Kindness," in 1853, and abridged
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" for children. In 1859 a pamphlet on "Spiritualism
and the Age we Live in," constituted the last of her more important
works, although she continued, for some time after recovery from the
attack of insanity which we have mentioned, to write papers and stories
for periodicals.

In spite of Mrs. Crowe's love for the supernatural and the horrible, she
is one of the pioneers of the purely domestic story--that story of the
affections and the emotions peculiar to the Victorian Age. She is allied
to the schools of Richardson and Fanny Burney rather than to those of
Sir Walter Scott or Miss Austen; for although her incidents are often
romantic and even far-fetched, her characters are curiously homely and
generally of humble environment. Thus, for instance, "Susan Hopley" is a
maid-servant (though not of the Pamela kind nor with the faintest
resemblance to Esther Waters); Lilly Dawson, although proved ultimately
to be the daughter of a colonel, passes the greater part of her earlier
life as a drudge and a dependent; and Linny Lockwood, while refined and
educated, is reduced to the situation of a lady's maid. The
circumstances of her heroines are, as a rule, extremely prosaic, and
would possibly have been condemned by writers of Miss Austen's school as
hopelessly vulgar; but Mrs. Crowe's way of treating these characters and
their surroundings bears upon it no stamp of vulgarity at all. Its great
defect is its want of humour to light up the sordid side of the life
which she describes. She is almost always serious, full of exalted and
occasionally overstrained sentiment. And even when treating of
childhood, it is rarely that she relaxes so far as (in "Lilly Dawson")
to describe the naughtiness of the little girl who insisted upon praying
for the cat. This is almost the sole glimpse of a sense of fun to which
Mrs. Crowe treats us in her numerous volumes.

To the present age "Susan Hopley," although so popular at the time of
its publication, is less attractive than the stories of "Linny Lockwood"
and "Lilly Dawson." The form adopted for the recital of Susan's
narrative is extremely inartistic, for it comprises Susan's
reminiscences, interspersed at intervals with narrative, and supposed to
be told by her in mature age, when she is housekeeper to the hero of
the story. Nevertheless, the plot is ingenious, turning on the murder of
Susan's brother by a handsome and gentlemanly villain, and the
subsequent exposure of his guilt by means of Susan's energy and the
repentance of one of his victims. It has all the elements of a
sensational story, with the exception of a "sympathetic" heroine or any
other really interesting character; for Susan Hopley, the embodiment of
all homely virtues, is distinctly dull, and it is difficult to feel the
attractiveness of the "beautiful and haughty" dairymaid, Mabel
Lightfoot, whose frailty forms an important element in the discovery of
Gaveston's guilt.

"Lilly Dawson" may be said to possess something of a psychological
interest, which redeems it from the charge of dulness brought against
"Susan Hopley." The heroine is thrown as a child into the hands of a
wild and lawless family, smugglers and desperadoes, who make of her a
household slave; and the child appears at first to be utterly stupid and
apathetic. A touch of affection and sympathy is needed before her
intellect awakes. In fear of being forced to marry one of the sons of
the house in which she has been brought up, when she is only fifteen,
she escapes from her enemies, becomes the guide and adopted child of an
old blind man, takes service as a nursemaid, is employed in a milliner's
workroom, narrowly escapes being murdered by the man whom she refused
to marry, and finally acts as maid in the house of her own relations,
where she is discovered and received with the greatest affection.
Nevertheless, she cannot endure the life of "a fine lady," and goes back
ultimately to marry the humble lover whose kindness had cheered her in
the days of her childhood and poverty.

In "Linny Lockwood" there is a touch of emotion, even of passion, which
is wanting in the previous stories. It embraces scenes and situations
which are quite as moving as any which thrilled the English public in
the pages of "Jane Eyre" or "East Lynne," but, owing possibly to Mrs.
Crowe's obstinate realism and somewhat didactic homeliness of diction
and sentiment, it seems somewhat to have missed its mark. Linny Lockwood
marries a man entirely unworthy of her, whose love strays speedily from
her to another woman--a married woman with whom he elopes and whom he
afterwards abandons. Linny, being poor and destitute, looks about for
work, and takes the post of maid to her husband's deserted mistress,
without, of course, knowing what had been the connection between them.
But before the birth of Kate's child, Linny learns the truth and
nevertheless remains with her to soothe her weakness, and lessen the
pangs of remorse of which the poor woman ultimately dies. A full
explanation between the two women takes place before Kate's death; and
the child that is left behind is adopted by Linny Lockwood, who refuses
to pardon the husband, who sues to her for forgiveness, or to live with
him again.

The character of Linny Lockwood is a very beautiful one, and the story
appeals to the reader's sensibilities more strongly than the recital of
Susan Hopley's adventures or the girlish sorrows of Lilly Dawson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Crowe's writings certainly heralded the advent of a new kind of
fiction: a kind which has been, perhaps more than any other,
characteristic of the early years of the Victorian Age. It is the
literature of domestic realism, of homely unromantic characters, which
no accessories of exciting adventure can render interesting or
remarkable in themselves--characters distinguished by every sort of
virtue, yet not possessed of any ideal attractiveness. She is
old-fashioned enough to insist upon a happy ending, to punish the wicked
and to reward the good. But amid all the conventionality of her style,
one is conscious of a note of hard common sense and a power of seeing
things as they really are, which in these days would probably have
forced her (perhaps against her will) into the realistic school. She
seems, in fact, to hover between two ages of literature, and to be
possessed at times of two different spirits--one the romantic and the
supernatural, the other distinctly commonplace and workaday. Perhaps it
is by the former that she will be chiefly remembered, but it is through
the latter that she takes a place in English literature. She left a mark
upon the age in which she lived, and she helped, in a quiet,
undemonstrative fashion, to mould the women of England after higher
ideals than had been possible in the early days of the century. Those
who consider the development of women to be one of the distinguishing
features of Queen Victoria's reign should not forget that they owe deep
gratitude to writers like Mrs. Crowe, who upheld the standard of a
woman's right to education and economic independence long before these
subjects were discussed in newspapers and upon public platforms. For, as
George Eliot has said, with her usual wisdom, it is owing to the labours
of those who have lived in comparative obscurity and lie in forgotten
graves, that things are well with us here and now.

Caroline Clive was the second daughter and co-heiress of Edmund
Meysey-Wigley, of Shakenhurst, Worcestershire. She was born in 1801, at
Brompton Green, London, and was married in 1840 to the Rev. Archer
Clive, Rector of Solihull, Warwickshire. In the latest edition of her
poems, her daughter states that "Mrs. Archer Clive, from a severe
illness when she was three years old, was lame; and though her strong
mind and high spirit carried her happily through childhood and early
life, as she grew up she felt sharply the loss of all the active
pleasures enjoyed by others."

Her novel, "Paul Ferroll," contains a touching poem which shows how
deeply she felt the privations consequent on her infirmity.

  "Gaeta's orange groves were there
    Half circling round the sun-kissed sea;
  And all were gone and left the fair
    Rich garden solitude but me.

  "My feeble feet refused to tread
    The rugged pathway to the bay;
  Down the steep rocky way they tread
    And gain the boat and glide away.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Above me hung the golden glow
    Of fruit which is at one with flowers;
  Below me gleamed the ocean's flow,
    Like sapphires in the midday hours.

  "A passing by there was of wings,
    Of silent, flower-like butterflies;
  The sudden beetle as it springs
    Full of the life of southern skies.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "It was an hour of bliss to die,
    But not to sleep, for ever came
  The warm thin air, and, passing by,
    Fanned sense and soul and heart to flame."

A great love of nature and a yearning to tread its scenes breathe in
every word of these lines, which possess an essentially pathetic charm
of their own.

Mrs. Clive died in July 1873, from the result of an accident, by which
her dress was set on fire when she was writing in her boudoir at
Whitfield, with her books and papers around her. Her health was
extremely delicate, and she had been for many years a confirmed invalid.

Her first work consisted of the well-known "IX Poems by V." published in
1840. These poems were very favourably received, and were much praised
by Dugald Stewart, by Lockhart, and by Mr. Gladstone, who says of them,
"They form a small book, which is the life and soul of a great book."
They were also very favourably reviewed in the _Quarterly_ (LXVI.
408-11). Her other poems, "I Watch the Heavens," "The Queen's Ball,"
"The Vale of the Rea," etc., have been re-published with the original
"IX" in a separate volume. "Year After Year," published in 1858, passed
into two editions; but Mrs. Clive's reputation chiefly rests upon her
story of "Paul Ferroll," published in 1855, and its sequel, "Why Paul
Ferroll Killed his Wife." The second story was, however, in no way equal
to the first; and a subsequent novel, "John Greswold," which appeared in
1864, was decidedly inferior to its predecessors, although containing
passages of considerable literary merit.

"Paul Ferroll" has passed through several editions, and has been
translated into French. It was not until the fourth edition that the
concluding chapter, which brings the story down to the death of Paul
Ferroll, was added.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is little difference in date between the writings of Mrs. Crowe
and those of Mrs. Archer Clive, but there is a tremendous gap between
their methods and the tone of their novels. As a matter of fact they
belong to different generations, in spite of their similarity of age.
Mrs. Crowe belongs to the older school of fictionists, while Mrs.
Archer Clive is curiously modern. The tone and style are like the tone
and style of the present day, not so much in the dialogue, which is
generally stilted, after the fashion of the age in which she lived, as
in the mental attitude of the characters, in the atmosphere of the
books, and the elaborate, sometimes even artistic, collocation of scenes
and incidents.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Paul Ferroll" is often looked upon merely as a novel of plot, almost
the first "sensational" novel, as we call it, of the century. But it is
more than that. There is a distinct working out of character and a
subordination of mere incident to its development; and the original
ending was of so striking and pathetic a nature that we can only regret
the subsequent addition, which probably the influence of others made
necessary, just as in "Villette" Charlotte Brontë was obliged to soften
down her own conception, in order to satisfy the conventional
requirements of her friends.

The story of "Paul Ferroll" displays a good deal of constructive skill,
although the mystery enfolded in its pages is more easily penetrated
than would be the case in a modern sensational novel. The fact is, we
have increased our knowledge of the intricacies both of human nature and
of criminal law in these latter days, and our novelists are cleverer in
concealing or half revealing their mysteries than they were in "the
forties." For a few pages, at least, the reader may be deluded into the
belief that Paul Ferroll is a worthy and innocent man, and that his wife
has been murdered by some revengeful servant or ruffianly vagabond. But
the secret of his guilt is too speedily fathomed; and from that point to
the end of the book, the question turns on the possibilities of its
discovery or the likelihood and effects of his own confession.

Mrs. Clive's picture of the "bold bad man" is not so successful as that
of Charlotte Brontë's Rochester. Rochester, with all his faults,
commands sympathy, but our sympathies are alienated from Paul Ferroll
when we find (in the first chapter) that he could ride out tranquilly on
a summer's morning, scold his gardener, joke with the farmer's wife, and
straighten out the farmer's accounts, when he had just previously
murdered his wife in her sleep by thrusting a sharp pointed knife
through her head "below the ear." Even although he afterwards exhibits
agitation on being brought face to face with the corpse of his wife, we
cannot rid ourselves of our remembrance of the insensibility which he
had shown. The motive for the crime is not far to seek. He had fixed his
affections on a young girl, his marriage with whom had been prevented by
the woman who became his wife. Dissension and increasing bitterness
grew up between the pair; and her death was held as a release by Paul
Ferroll, who hastened to bring home, as his second wife, the girl whom
he had formerly loved.

No suspicion attached to him, and he is careful to provide means of
defence for the labourer Franks and his wife, who have been accused of
the murder. On returning home with his second wife, to whom he is
passionately attached, he devotes himself entirely to literary pursuits,
refusing to mix with any of the society of the place. From time to time
his motive is allowed to appear; he has determined never to accept a
favour from, nor become a friend of, the country gentlemen, with whom he
is thrown into contact, so that they shall never have to say, supposing
the truth should ever be acknowledged, that he has made his way into
their houses on false pretences. But in spite of his seclusion, he lives
a life of ideal happiness with his wife, Ellinor, and their beautiful
little child, Janet, who, however, occupies quite a secondary place in
the hearts of her father and mother, who are wrapt up in one another.

The events of the next few years are not treated in detail, although
there is at one point a most interesting description of the state of a
town in which cholera rages, when Paul Ferroll flings himself with
heroic ardour into every effort to stem the tide of the disease. Owing
to a riot at the time of the Assizes, Ferroll fires on one of the crowd
and kills him, so that by a curious coincidence, he is tried for murder,
and has full experience of the horrors accompanying the situation of a
criminal. He is sentenced to death but pardoned, and returns to his old
life at home. The widow of the labourer who had formerly been accused of
the murder of his first wife then returns to England, and Ferroll knows
that her return increases the danger of discovery. He tries to escape it
by going abroad, but finds on his return that Martha Franks, the widow,
is in possession of some trinkets which belonged to the late Mrs.
Ferroll, that she has been accused of theft and finally of the murder of
her mistress. This is the very conjuncture which had always appeared
possible to Paul Ferroll; the moment has come when he feels himself
obliged to confess the truth, in order to save a fellow creature from
unjust condemnation. He thereupon acknowledges his guilt, is at once
conveyed to prison, and after a merely formal trial is condemned to
death--the execution to take place, apparently, in three days, according
to the inhuman custom of the time.

Ellinor dies on the day when she hears of his confession; and Janet, his
daughter, now eighteen years old, and Janet's young lover, Hugh
Bartlett, are the only persons who remain faithful to him or make
efforts for his safety. Through Hugh's efforts and the treachery of the
gaoler, Paul Ferroll manages, in a somewhat improbable manner, to escape
from prison; and he and Janet make their way to Spain, whence they will
be able to take ship for America.

The conclusion of the story, as at first written, is particularly
striking. Janet, after an illness, has come to herself: "She did not
know the place where she was. The air was warm and perfumed, the windows
shaded, the room quite a stranger to her. An elderly woman, with a black
silk mantle on her head and over her shoulders, spoke to her. She did
not understand the meaning, but she knew the words were Spanish. Then
the tide of recollection rushed back, and the black cold night came
fully before her, which was the last thing she recollected. 'My father,'
she said, rising as well as she could. The woman had gone to the window
and beckoned, and in another minute Mr. Ferroll stood by her bedside.
'Can you still love me, Janet?' said he. 'Love you! oh yes, my father.'"

It seems a pity that a concluding chapter was afterwards added,
containing a description of Janet's life with her father in Boston, and
of his dying moments and last words, which might well have been left to
the imagination. The original conclusion was more impressive without
these details.

It is rather curious, too, that Mrs. Clive should have written another
volume to explain _why_ Paul Ferroll killed his wife; but possibly she
thought further explanation was necessary, since she prefixed to the
latter volume a quotation from Froude's "Henry the Eighth": "A man does
not murder his wife gratuitously." In this book she changes the names of
all the characters except that of Ellinor. Paul Ferroll is Leslie, and
his wife, Anne, is Laura. Ellinor, the young and beautiful girl out of a
convent, completely enchants Leslie, whom Laura had intended to marry;
and Laura contrives, by deliberate malice, so completely to sever them
that he makes Laura his wife, while Ellinor returns to the convent.
"Violent were the passions of the strong but bitter man; fierce the
hatred of the powerful but baffled intellect. Wild was the fury of the
man who believed in but one world of good, and saw the mortal moments
pass away unenjoyed and irretrievable. Out of these hours arose a
purpose. The reader sees the man and knows the deed. From the premises
laid before him, he need not indeed conclude that even that man would do
the deed, but since it was told in 1855 that the husband killed his
wife, so now in 1860 it is explained _why_ he killed her."

This second volume is decidedly inferior to the first, but it shared in
the popularity which "Paul Ferroll" had already achieved, and the
author's vigorous portraiture of characters and events was well marked
in both volumes.

       *       *       *       *       *

With her third volume, "John Greswold," came a sudden falling off, at
any rate as regards dramatic force. "John Greswold" is the autobiography
of a young man who has very little story to tell and does not know how
to tell it. No grip is laid on the reader's attention; no character
claims especial interest, but the thing that is remarkable in the book
is the literary touch, which is far more perceptible than in the more
interesting story of "Paul Ferroll." The book is somewhat inchoate, but
contains short passages of real beauty, keen shafts of observation, and
an occasional flight of emotional expression, which raise the writer to
a greater literary elevation than the merely sensational incidents of
her earlier novels. She has gained in reflective power, but lost her
dramatic instinct. Consequently "John Greswold" was less successful than
"Paul Ferroll."

The conclusion of the book, vague and indecisive, shows the author to be
marked out by nature as one of the Impressionist School. It is powerful
and yet indefinite; in fact it could only have been written by one with
a true poetic gift. "The seven stars that never set are going westward.
The funeral car of Lazarus moves on and the three mourners follow
behind. They are above the fir wood and that's the sign of midnight.
Twenty-three years ago I was born into this world and now the
twenty-third has run out. The time is gone. The known things are all
over and buried in the darkness behind. Before me lies the great blank
page of the future and no writing traced upon it. But it is nothing to
me. I won't ask nor think, nor hope, nor fear about it. The leaf of the
book is turned and there's an end--the tale is told."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Paul Ferroll" may be considered as the precursor of the purely
sensational novel, or of what may be called the novel of mystery. Miss
Brontë in "Jane Eyre" uses to some extent the same kind of material, but
her work is far more a study of character than the story of "Paul
Ferroll" can claim to be. In "Paul Ferroll," indeed, the analysis of
motive is entirely absent. The motives that actuated Paul Ferroll are to
be gathered simply from chance expressions or his actions. No
description of the human heart has been attempted. The picture of the
violent, revengeful, strongly passionate nature of the man is forcible
enough, but it is displayed by action and not by introspection. It is
for this reason that Mrs. Clive may be placed in the forefront of the
sensational novelists of the century. She anticipated the work of Wilkie
Collins, of Charles Reade, of Miss Braddon, and many others of their
school, in showing human nature as expressed by its energies, neither
diagnosing it like a physician, nor analysing it like a priest. A
vigorous representation of the outside semblance of things is the
peculiar characteristic of the so-called sensational novelist; and it is
in this respect that "Paul Ferroll" excels many of the novels of
incident written during the first half of this century. It heralded a
new departure in the ways of fiction. It set forth the delights of a
mystery, the pleasures of suspense, together with a thrilling picture of
"the strong man in adversity," which has been beloved of fiction-mongers
from the first days of fable in the land.

But perhaps it was successful, most of all, because it introduced its
readers to a new sensation. Hitherto they had been taught to look on the
hero of a novel as necessarily a noble and virtuous being, endowed with
heroic, not to say angelic qualities; but this conviction was now to be
reversed. The change was undoubtedly startling. Even Scott had not got
beyond the tradition of a good young man as hero, a tradition which the
Brontës and Mrs. Archer Clive were destined to break down. For Scott's
most fascinating character, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, was confessedly the
villain of the piece; and the splendidly picturesque figure of Dundee
was supposed to be less attractive than the tame and scrupulous
personality of Henry Morton. It was a convention amongst writers that
vice and crime must be repulsive, and that there was something
inherently attractive in virtue--a wholesome doctrine, insufficiently
preached in these days, but not strictly consistent with facts. To find,
therefore, a villain--and a thorough-paced villain, the murderer of his
wife--installed in the place of hero and represented as noble, handsome,
and gifted, naturally thrilled the readers' minds with a mixture of
horror and delight. The substitution of villain for hero is now too
common to excite remark, but it was a striking event in the days when
"Paul Ferroll" was published, although there had been instances of a
similar kind in the novels of the eighteenth century. The new fashion
gained ground and speedily exceeded the limits which Mrs. Archer Clive
would no doubt have set to it; but it is nevertheless in part to her
that we owe this curious transposition of _rôles_, which has
revolutionised the aims and objects of fiction in the latter half of the
nineteenth century.


The art of the _raconteur_, pure and simple, is apt to be undervalued in
our days. A rage for character-painting, for analysis, for subtle
discrimination, down to the minutest detail, has taken hold upon us; and
although we have lately returned to a taste for adventure of the more
stirring kind, there is still an underlying conviction that the highest
forms of literary art deal with mental states and degrees of emotions,
instead of with the ordinary complications of every-day life. Hence the
person who is gifted simply with a desire (and the power) of telling a
story _as_ a story, with no ulterior motive, with no ambition of
intellectual achievement, the Scheherazade of our quiet evenings and
holiday afternoons, is apt to take a much lower place in our estimation
than she deserves.

This is especially the case with Mrs. Henry Wood. It is impossible to
claim for her any lofty literary position; she is emphatically
un-literary and middle-class. But she never has cause to say, "Story?
God bless you, I have none to tell, Sir," for she always has a very
distinct and convincing story, which she handles with a skill which can
perhaps be valued only by the professional novelist, who knows the
technical difficulty of handling the numerous _groups_ of characters
which Mrs. Wood especially affects. There is no book of hers which
deals--as so many novels deal--with merely one or two characters. She
takes the whole town into her story, wherever it may be. We not only
know the Lord-Lieutenant and the High Sheriff and the Squire, but we are
intimate (particularly intimate) with the families of the local lawyer
and doctor. We are almost equally well acquainted with their bootmaker
and green-grocer, while their maids and their grooms are as much living
entities to us as if they had served us in our own houses. To take a
great group of _dramatis personæ_, widely differing in circumstances, in
character, in individuality; to keep them all perfectly clear without
confusion and without wavering; to evolve from them some central figures
on which the attention of the subsidiary characters shall be unavoidably
fixed, and to weave a plot of mystery, intrigue, treachery or passion
which must be resolved to its ultimate elements before the last page of
the book--to do all this is really an achievement of which many a
writer, who values himself on his intellectual superiority to Mrs. Henry
Wood, might well be proud. It is no more easy to marshal a multitude of
characters in the pages of your book than to dispose bodies of soldiers
in advantageous positions over an unknown country. The eye of a general
is in some respects needed for both operations, and the true balance
and proportion of a plot are not matters which come by accident or can
be accomplished without skill. It may not be literary skill, but it is
skill of a kind which deserves recognition, under what name soever it
may be classed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Henry Wood was born in Worcestershire in 1814, and died in London
in 1887. She suffered from delicate health and passed the greater part
of her life as an invalid. She was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Price, one
of the largest glove manufacturers in the city of Worcester. She married
Mr. Henry Wood, the head of a large banking and shipping firm, who
retired early from work and died comparatively young. It was not until
middle life that Mrs. Wood began to write; and her first work,--perhaps,
of all her works, the most popular--was "East Lynne," which first
appeared in _Colburn's New Monthly Magazine_. Its success was prodigious
and it is still one of the most popular novels upon the shelves of every
circulating library. It has been translated into many languages and
dramatised in different forms. It was published in 1861, and reached a
fifth edition within the year.

Amongst her most popular works also are "The Channings" and "Mrs.
Halliburton's Troubles," 1862; "The Shadow of Ashlydyat," 1863; "St.
Martin's Eve," 1866; "A Life's Secret," 1867; "Roland Yorke," a sequel
to "The Channings," 1869; "Johnny Ludlow," stories re-printed from the
_Argosy_, 1874 to 1885; "Edina," 1876; "Pomeroy Abbey," 1878; "Court
Netherleigh," 1881; and many other stories and novels. Mrs. Wood was for
many years the editor of the _Argosy_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reason of the popularity of "East Lynne" is not far to seek. It is,
to begin with, a very touching story; and its central situation, which
in some respects recalls the relation of the two women in Mrs. Crowe's
"Linny Lockwood," is genuinely striking. It is perhaps not worth while
to argue as to its probability. It is, of course, barely possible that a
woman should come disguised into the house where she formerly reigned as
mistress, and act as governess to her own children, without being
recognised. As a matter of fact, she is recognised by one of the
servants only on account of a momentary forgetfulness of her disguise.
Her own husband, her own children, do not know her in the least; and
although he and his kinswoman are vaguely troubled by what they consider
a chance resemblance, they dismiss it from their minds as utterly
impossible, until the day when Lady Isabel, dying in her husband's
house, begs to see him for the last time. The changes in her personal
appearance, her lameness, for instance, and the greyness of her hair,
are very ingeniously contrived; but it certainly seems almost impossible
that two or three years should have so completely changed her that
nobody should even guess at her identity.

The present generation complains that the pathos of the story is
overdone; but even if detail after detail is multiplied, so as to harrow
the reader's feelings almost unnecessarily, the fact still remains that
Mrs. Wood has imagined as pitiful and tragic a situation as could
possibly exist in the domestic relations of man and woman. The erring
wife returning to find her husband married to another woman, to nurse
one of her own children through his last illness without being
recognised by him or by her husband, and to die at last in her husband's
house with the merest shadow of consolation in the shape of his somewhat
grudging forgiveness, presents us with a figure which cannot fail to be
extremely pathetic.

The faults of Mrs. Henry Wood's style, its occasional prolixity and
commonplaceness, the iteration of the moral reflections, as well as the
triteness and feebleness sometimes of the dialogue, very nearly
disappear from view when we resign ourselves to a consideration of this
tragic situation. It cannot be denied that there is just a touch of
mawkishness now and then, just a slight ring of false sentiment in the
pity accorded to Lady Isabel, who was certainly one of the silliest
young women that ever existed in the realms of fiction. Nevertheless the
spectacle of the mother nursing the dying boy, who does not know her, is
one that will always appeal to the heart of the ordinary reader, and
will go far to account for the extraordinary popularity of "East Lynne."

A novelist of more aspiring genius would perhaps have concentrated our
attention exclusively upon Lady Isabel's feelings and tragic fate. Here
Mrs. Wood's failings, as well as her capacities, reveal themselves. She
sees the tragic side of things, but she sees also (and perhaps too much)
the pathos of small incidents, the importance of trifles. She spares us
no jot of the sordid side of life. And in a novel of the undoubted power
of "East Lynne" there are some details which might have been spared us.
The rapacity of the creditors who seize the body of Lady Isabel's
father, the gossip of the servants, the suspicions of Afy Hallijohn,
and, in short, almost all the underplot respecting Richard Hare--these
matters are superfluous. The reader's eye ought to be kept more
attentively upon the heroine and her relations with Mr. Carlisle and Sir
Francis. The one inexplicable point in the story is Lady Isabel's
desertion of her husband for a man whom she must despise. It is never
hinted that she had for one moment lost her heart to Francis Levison.
She left her husband out of sheer pique and jealousy, loving him
ardently all the while, although, in her ignorance and folly, she
scarcely knew that she loved him. Here the story is weak. We feel that
Mrs. Wood sacrifices probability in her effort to obtain a striking
situation. For the strongest part of "East Lynne" is the description of
what occurs when Lady Isabel returns as a governess to her old home,
when her husband, supposing her to be dead, has married his old love
Barbara Hare. To this situation, everything is subordinate; and it is in
itself so strong that we cannot wonder if the author strains a point or
two in order to achieve it.

But the curious, the characteristic, thing is that even in this supreme
crisis of the story, Mrs. Wood's essential love of detail, and of
somewhat commonplace detail, asserts itself over and over again. The
incidents she takes pains to narrate are rational enough. There is no
reason why pathos should be marred because a dying child asks for cheese
with his tea, or because the sensible stepmother condemns Lucy to a diet
of bread and water for some trifling offence, or because Miss Cornelia
Carlisle displays her laughable eccentricities at Lady Isabel's bedside.
The pathos is marred now and then, not because of these trifling yet
irritating incidents, but because we get an impression that the author
has forced a number of utterly prosaic people into a tragic situation
for which they are eminently unfitted. The ducking of Sir Francis
Levison in the horsepond is an example of this. The man was a heartless
villain and murderer, yet he is presented to us in a scene of almost
vulgar farce as part of his retribution. If the author had herself
realised the insufficiency of her characters to rise to the tragic
height demanded of them, she might have achieved either satire or
intense realism; but there is a certain smugness in Mrs. Henry Wood's
acceptance of the commonplaces of life which makes us feel her an
inadequate painter of tragedy. We close the book with a suspicion that
she preferred the intolerable Barbara to the winsome and erring Lady

"East Lynne" owes half its popularity, however, to that reaction against
inane and impossible goodness which has taken place since the middle of
the century. Just as Rochester and Paul Ferroll are protests against the
conventional hero, so Lady Isabel is a protest against the conventional
heroine--and a portent of her time! We were all familiar with beauty and
virtue in distress, from Clarissa Harlowe downwards. It is during later
years that we have become conversant with beauty and guilt as objects of
our sympathy and commiseration.

The moralists of the time--Saturday Reviewers, and others--perceived the
change from one point of view, and were not slow to comment on it. Their
opposition to the modern novel was chiefly based upon what they called a
glorification of vice and crime. Now that the mists of prejudice have
cleared away, we can see very well that no more praise of wrong-doing was
implied by Mrs. Wood's portrait of Lady Isabel than by Thackeray's
keen-edged delineation of Becky Sharp or George Eliot's sorrowful
sympathy with Maggie Tulliver. What was at first set down as a new and
revolutionary kind of admiration for weakness and criminality soon
resolved itself into a manifestation of that remarkable _Zeit-Geist_
which has made itself felt in every department of human life. It is that
side of the modern spirit which leads to the comprehension of the
sufferings of others, to a new pity for their faults and weaknesses, a
new breadth of tolerance, and a generous reluctance to judge harshly of
one's fellow man. It has crept into the domain of law, of religious
thought, of philanthropic effort, and it cannot be excluded from the
realms of literature and art. It is, in fact, the scientific spirit,
which says "there's nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so;" which
refuses to dogmatise or hastily to condemn; which looks for the motives
and reasons and causes of men's actions, and knows the infinite
gradations between folly and wisdom, between black and white, between
right and wrong. If science had done nothing else, it would be an
enormous gain that she should teach us to suspend our judgment, to weigh
evidence, and thus to pave the way for that diviner spirit by which we
refuse to consider any sinner irreclaimable or any criminal beyond the
reach of human sympathy.

"East Lynne" was received with general acclamation, and has been
translated, it is said, into every known tongue, including Parsee and
Hindustanee. "Some years ago," her son states, "one of the chief
librarians in Madrid informed Mrs. Henry Wood that the most popular book
on his shelves, original or translated, was 'East Lynne.' Not very long
ago it was translated into Welsh and brought out in a Welsh newspaper.
It has been dramatised and played so often that had the author received
a small royalty from every representation it was long since estimated
that it would have returned to her no less than a quarter of a million
sterling, but she never received anything.... In the English Colonies
the sale of the various works increased steadily year by year. In France
the story has been dramatised and is frequently played in Paris and the
Provinces." On its first appearance, an enthusiastic review in the
_Times_ produced a tremendous effect upon the public; the libraries
were besieged for copies, and the printers had to work night and day
upon new editions. In fact the success of "East Lynne" was one of the
most remarkable literary incidents of the century.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most popular of Mrs. Henry Wood's books, next to "East Lynne," seem
to be "Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles" and "The Channings." These are
stories of more entirely quiet domestic interest than "East Lynne." The
situations are less tragical and the plots less complicated. Mrs.
Halliburton's quiet endurance of the privations and difficulties of her
life, the pathetic life and death of her little Janey, and the ultimate
success and achievements of her sons, linger in the memory of the reader
as a pleasant and homely picture of the vicissitudes of English life.

There is a more humorous element in "The Channings," from the
introduction of so many youthful characters--the boys of the Cathedral
school, notably Bywater, who is the incarnation of good-humoured
impudence, giving brightness to the tone of the story. The schoolboys
are in this, as in many other of Mrs. Wood's novels, particularly well
drawn. They are not prigs; they are anything but angels, in spite of
their white surplices and their beautiful voices; and their escapades
and adventures in the old cloisters were wild enough to make the old
monks turn in their graves. No doubt many incidents of this kind were
drawn from life and owe their origin to Mrs. Wood's acquaintance with
the Choir School belonging to Worcester Cathedral.

It was not the only occasion on which the manufacturer's daughter turned
her knowledge of Worcester to good account. It may be said that the
majority of her novels are coloured, more or less, by the author's
lengthy residence in a cathedral town. It was in 1874 that the first
series of short stories, supposed to be narrated by Johnny Ludlow, began
in the _Argosy_. Johnny Ludlow is a young lad belonging to a
Worcestershire family, who is supposed to narrate incidents which have
come under his observation at school or at home. Some of the stories
thus produced are striking and vigorous; others are of less merit, but
all are distinguished by the strong individuality of the characters, and
by the fidelity with which Worcester and Worcestershire life are
described. It now seems extraordinary that there should have been the
slightest doubt as to the authorship of these stories, for Mrs. Wood's
peculiarities of style are observable on every page. Mr. Charles W.
Wood, her son, remarks that "no one knew, or even guessed at, the
authorship;" but this is a rather exaggerated statement, as we have
reason to be aware that the author was recognised at once by critics of
discrimination. Still the general public were for some time deceived,
imagining Johnny Ludlow to be a new author, whose stories they
occasionally contrasted with those of Mrs. Henry Wood, and were said to
prefer, probably much to the novelist's own amusement.

The great variety of plot and incident found in the "Johnny Ludlow"
stories is their most remarkable feature. The same characters are, of
course, introduced again and again, as Johnny Ludlow moves in a circle
of country squires, clergy, and townspeople. But it is astonishing with
how much effect the stories of different lives can be placed in the same
setting, and with what infinite changes the life of a country district
can be reproduced. The characters are clearly drawn and often very well
contrasted, and no doubt Mrs. Henry Wood's memories of her earlier life
in the district contributed largely to the success of this series. The
first series ran in the _Argosy_ and were re-printed, 1874-1880, while a
second and third series maintained their popularity in 1881 and in 1885.

       *       *       *       *       *

It has been computed that Mrs. Wood wrote not fewer than from three to
four hundred short stories, every one of them with a distinct and
carefully worked-out plot, in addition to nearly forty long novels: a
proof, if any were wanted, of the extreme fertility of her imagination
and the facility of her pen.

It has, however, sometimes been wondered why Mrs. Henry Wood's works
should have attained so great a circulation when they are conspicuously
wanting in the higher graces of literary style or intellectual
attainment. The reason appears to lie chiefly in certain qualities of
her writings which appeal in an entirely creditable way to the heart and
mind of the British public. Mrs. Wood's stories, although sensational in
plot, are purely domestic. They are concerned chiefly with the great
middle-class of England, and she describes lower middle-class life with
a zest and a conviction and a sincerity which we do not find in many
modern writers, who are apt to sneer at the _bourgeois_ habits and modes
of thought found in so many English households. Now the _bourgeoisie_
does not like to be sneered at. If it eats tripe and onions, and wears
bright blue silk dresses, and rejoices in dinner-tea, it nevertheless
considers its fashions to be as well worth serious attention as those of
the Upper Ten. Mrs. Henry Wood never satirises, she only records. It is
her fidelity to truth, to the smallest domestic detail, which has
charmed and will continue to charm, a large circle of readers, who are
inclined perhaps to glory in the name of "Philistine."

Then there is the loftier quality of a high, if somewhat conventional,
moral tone. Mrs. Wood's novels are emphatically on the side of purity,
honesty, domestic life and happiness. There is no book of hers which
does not breathe this spirit, or can be said to be anything but
harmless. Her character-drawing has merit; but it is not to be wondered
at, considering the number of works she produced, that she should repeat
the same type over and over again with a certain monotonous effect. The
sweet and gentle wife and mother, not too strong in character, but
perfectly refined and conscientious, such as Maria in the "Shadow of
Ashlydyat"; the "perfect gentleman," noble, upright, proud, generally
with blue eyes and straight features, like Oswald Cray and Mr. Carlisle
and Mr. North--these are characters with which we continually meet and
of which, admirable in themselves as they are, we sometimes weary. But
although the portraiture is not very subtle, it is on the whole faithful
to life.

Then there is that especial group of Mrs. Wood's stories already
mentioned, into which an element of freshness, then somewhat unusual in
fiction, is largely introduced. These are the stories which have much to
do with boys and boy-life--notably "The Channings," "Roland Yorke,"
"Orville College," "Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles," "Lady Grace," and the
"Johnny Ludlow" series. These books, less sensational in plot than many
of Mrs. Wood's novels, have been peculiarly successful, perhaps because
the scenes and characters are largely drawn from real life. Mrs. Wood's
long residence at Worcester made her familiar with the life of the
college boys, who haunt the precincts of the stately old cathedral, and
she has introduced her knowledge of their pranks with very great effect.
Her descriptions of the old city itself, of the streets, of the
cloisters, of the outlying villages and byways, are remarkably accurate,
and remind one of the use which Charles Dickens made, in the same way,
of Rochester and its cathedral.

It is really extraordinary to see how large a part of Mrs. Wood's work
is concerned with Worcester, and how well she could render, when she
chose, the dialogue of the country and the customs of its people. The
reason is, of course, that these things are true; that she gives us in
these books a part of her own experience, of her own life. Another group
of her books is interesting for a similar reason--the novels in which
she deals with business life, and the relations of employers to their
men. Such are "A Life's Secret," which is the very interesting history
of a strike; "The Foggy Night at Offord," "Mrs. Halliburton's
Troubles," and several of the "Johnny Ludlow" stories, where incidents
of the manufacturing districts of England have been introduced with very
good effect, Mrs. Wood's own connection with glove manufacturers in
Worcester having supplied her with ample materials for this kind of
fiction. In "A Life's Secret" there is an extremely clever picture of
the lower type of workman, and some excellent sketches of poor people
and of the misery they suffer during the strike and subsequent lockout.

The third class of Mrs. Wood's books consists of what may be called
works of pure imagination, with sometimes a slight touch of the romantic
and supernatural--such as "The Shadow of Ashlydyat," "St. Martin's Eve,"
"Lady Adelaide's Oath," "Lord Oakburn's Daughters," "George Canterbury's
Will," etc. From the literary point of view these books are less worthy
than the others, but they are particularly well constructed and
ingenious. There are no loose ends, and Mrs. Wood's skill in weaving a
plot seems never to have diminished to the last day of her life. But her
earlier and perhaps simpler work had more real value than even the books
which display such great constructive skill. Mrs. Wood would possibly
have taken a higher place amongst English novelists if she had avoided
mere sensation, and confined herself to what she could do well--namely,
the faithful and realistic rendering of English middle class life. She
has had, perhaps, more popularity than any novelist of the Victorian
age; and her popularity is justified by the wholesomeness and purity of
her moral tone, the ingenuity and sustained interest of her plots, and
the quiet truthfulness, in many cases, of her delineation of character.

Her faults are those of the class for which she wrote, her merits are
theirs also. It is no small praise to say that she never revelled in
dangerous situations, nor justified the wrong-doing of any of her
characters. When one considers the amount of work that she produced, and
the nature of that work, it is amazing to reflect on the variety of
incident and character which she managed to secure. Her plots often
turned upon sad or even tragic events, but the sadness and the tragedy
were natural and simple. There was nothing unwholesome about her books.
She will probably be read and remembered longer than many writers of a
far higher literary standing; and although fashions, even in fiction,
have greatly changed since the days when "East Lynne" and "The
Channings" made their mark, there is no doubt that they hold their place
in the affections of many an English novel-reader. They neither aim high
nor fall low: their gentle mediocrity is soothing; and they are not
without those gleams of insight and intensity which reveal the gift of
the born story-teller--a title to which Mrs. Henry Wood may well lay

    [Signature: Adeline Sergeant.]




The three ladies here grouped together are similar in the purity and
principle which breathe throughout their writings, though different in
other respects. The first named wrote in the stress, and later in the
calm, of a religious struggle; the second in the peaceful, fond memory
of a happy home-life; the third in the pleasurable realisation of
historic days long gone by. In each case, the life is reflected in the

Georgiana Charlotte Leveson Gower was born on September 23, 1812, being
the second daughter of one of those noble families predestined, by their
rank and condition, to a diplomatic course. Her father became
ultimately Earl Granville, and when his little daughter was twelve years
old, he received the appointment of ambassador at Paris. It is well
known that the upper diplomatic circles form the _crème de la crème_ of
aristocratic society, their breeding, refinement, knowledge of man and
manners, as well as their tact, being almost necessarily of the highest
order. Lady Granville was noted for her admirable management of her
receptions, and her power of steering her way through the motley crowd
of visitors and residents presented to her. The charm of her manner was
very remarkable, and made a great impression on all who came in her way.
And, giving reality and absolute sincerity to all this unfailing
sweetness, Lady Granville was a deeply religious and conscientious
woman, who trained her daughters to the highest standard of excellence,
and taught them earnest devotion.

Naturally, French was as familiar to the young ladies as English, and
they became intimate with many of the best and purest families in
France, among others, with that of de Ferronaye, whose memoirs, as told
by one of them, Mrs. Augustus Craven, has touched many hearts. It was a
happy life, in which study and accomplishment had their place, and
gaieties did not lose the zest of youthful enjoyment because they were
part of the duty of station.

Between France and England the time of the family was spent, and, in
1833, both sisters were married--Lady Georgiana on July 13, to Alexander
Fullerton, heir to considerable estates in Gloucestershire and in
Ireland. He had been in the Guards, but had resigned his commission, and
become an _attaché_ to the Embassy at Paris. There the young couple
continued, and there, at the end of the year, was born their only child,
a son, whose very delicate health was a constant anxiety.

In 1841 Lord Granville ceased to be ambassador, and the whole family led
a wandering life in the South of France, Italy, and Germany,
interspersed with visits in England. In 1843 Mr. Fullerton, after long
study of the controversy, was received into the Church of Rome. His wife
had always greatly delighted in the deep and beautiful rites of that
communion, in its best aspects, and many of her most intimate friends
were devout and enlightened members of that Church; but she had been
bred up as a faithful Anglican, and she made no change as long as her
father lived. The tale on which her chief fame rests was the product of
the heart-searchings that she underwent, at the very time when the
thoughts and studies of good men were tending to discover neglected
truths in the Church of England.

Lady Georgiana said, in her old age, that she had never written for her
own pleasure, or to find expression of feeling, but always with a view
to the gains for her charities. She would rather have written poetry,
and the first impulse was given by her publisher telling her that she
would find a novel far more profitable than verses. Yet it is hardly
possible to believe that when once embarked she did not write from her
heart. She was a long time at work on her tale, which was written during
sojourns at various continental resorts, and finally submitted to two
such different critics as Lord Brougham and Charles Greville, both of
whom were carried away by admiration of the wonderful pathos of the
narrative, and the charm of description, as well as the
character-drawing. It is, however, curious that, while marking some
lesser mistakes, neither advised her to avoid the difficulty which makes
the entire plot an impossibility, namely, the omission of an inquest,
which must have rendered the secrecy of "Ellen Middleton" out of the

The story opens most effectively with the appearance of a worn and
wasted worshipper in Salisbury Cathedral. One of the canons becomes
interested, and with much difficulty induces her to confide her griefs
to him in an autobiography, which she had intended to be read only after
her death. The keynote of Ellen's misfortunes is a slight blow, given
in a moment of temper, at fifteen years old, to her cousin, a naughty
child of eight, causing a fatal fall into the river below. No one knows
the manner of the disaster, except two persons whose presence was
unknown to her: Henry Lovell, a relative of the family, and his old
nurse, whom he swears to silence.

This woman, however, cannot refrain from strewing mysterious hints in
Ellen's way, and Henry Lovell obtains a power over the poor girl which
is the bane of her life. His old nurse (by very unlikely means) drives
him into a marriage with her grand-daughter, Alice, whose lovely,
innocent, devotional character, is one of the great charms of the book.
Ellen, almost at the same time, marries her cousin, Edward Middleton,
whom she loves with all her heart; but he is a hard man, severe in his
integrity, and his distrust is awakened by Henry's real love for Ellen,
and the machinations by which he tries to protect her from the malice of
the old nurse. The net closes nearer and nearer round Ellen, till at
last Edward finds her on her knees before Henry, conjuring him to let
her confess her secret. Without giving her a hearing, Edward commands
her to quit his house. A letter from Henry, declaring that she is his
own, and that she will not escape him, drives her to seek concealment at
Salisbury, where she is dying of consumption, caused by her broken
heart, when the good canon finds her, gives her absolution, and brings
about repentance, reconciliation, and an infinite peace, in which we are
well content to let her pass away, tended by her husband, her
mother-like aunt, and the gentle Alice.

It is altogether a fine tragedy. The strong passions of Henry Lovell,
the enthusiastic nature of Ellen, beaten back in every higher flight by
recurring threats from her enemies, the unbending nature of Edward, and
in the midst the exquisite sweetness of Alice, like a dove in the midst
of the tempest, won all hearts, either by the masterly analysis of
passion or by the beauty of delineation, while the religious side of the
tale was warmly welcomed by those who did not think, like Lord Brougham,
that it was "rank Popery." The sense of the power and beauty of the
story is only enhanced by freshly reading it after the lapse of many

Naturally, it was a great success, and the second book, "Grantley
Manor," which was not published till after her father's death and her
own secession to Rome, was floated up on the same tide of popularity. It
contrasted two half-sisters, Margaret and Ginevra, one wholly English,
the other half Italian by race and entirely so by breeding. Still,
though Ginevra is the more fascinating, Margaret is her superior in
straightforward truth. For, indeed, Lady Georgiana never fell into the
too frequent evil of depreciation and contempt of the system she had
quitted, and remained open-minded and loving to the last. The excellence
of style and knowledge of character as well as the tone of high breeding
which are felt in all these writings recommended both this and
"Ladybird," published in 1852. Both are far above the level of the
ordinary novel, and some readers preferred "Ladybird" to the two

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime, an estate in England at Midgham had become a home, and
young Granville Fullerton had gone into the army. On the 29th of May
1855, he was cut off by a sudden illness, and his parents' life was ever
after a maimed one, though full of submission and devotion. Externally,
indeed, Lady Georgiana still showed her bright playfulness of manner,
and keen interest in all around her, so that the charm of her society
was very great, but her soul was the more entirely absorbed in religion
and in charity, doing the most menial offices for the sick poor and
throwing herself into the pleasures of little children. She questioned
with herself whether she ought to spend time in writing instead of on
her poor, when the former task meant earning two hundred pounds a year
for them, but she decided on uniting the two occupations, the more
readily because she found that her works had a good influence and helped
on a religious serial in which she took a warm interest.

But her _motifs_ were now taken from history, not actual life. "La
Comtesse de Boneval" is a really marvellous _tour de force_, being a
development from a few actual letters written by a poor young wife,
whose reluctant husband left her, after ten days, for foreign service,
and never returned. Lady Georgiana makes clear the child's hero-worship,
the brief gleam of gladness, the brave resolve not to interfere with
duty and honour, and the dreary deserted condition. All is written in
French, not only pure and grammatical, but giving in a wonderful manner
the epigrammatic life and freshness of the old Parisian society. This is
really the ablest, perhaps the most pathetic, of her books.

"Ann Sherwood" is a picture of the sufferings of the Romanists in
Elizabethan times, "A Stormy Life" is the narrative of a companion of
Margaret of Anjou--both showing too much of the author's bias. "Too
Strange not to be True" is founded on a very curious story, disinterred
by Lord Dover, purporting that the unhappy German wife of the
ferociously insane son of Peter the Great, at the point of death from
his brutality, was smuggled away by her servants, with the help of
Countess Konigsmark, the mother of Marshal Saxe, while a false funeral
took place. She was conveyed to the French Settlements in Louisiana, and
there, after hearing that the Czarowitz was dead, she married a French
gentleman, the Chevalier d'Auban. Here, in these days of one-volume
tales, the story might well have ended, but Lady Georgiana pursues the
history through the latter days of the princess, after she had returned
to Europe and had been bereaved of her husband and her daughter. She
lived at Brussels, and again met Marshal Saxe in her extreme old age.
The figures of the Chevalier, and the sweet daughter, Mina, are very
winning and graceful, and there are some most interesting descriptions
of the Jesuit missions to the Red Indians; but, as a whole, the book had
better have closed with the marriage with d'Auban.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is little more to say of Lady Georgiana's life. It was always
affectionate, cheerful and unselfish, and it became increasingly devout
as she grew older. After a long illness, she died at Bournemouth, on the
19th of January 1885, remembered fondly by many, and honoured by all who
knew her saintly life. As to literary fame, she may be described as
having written one first-rate book and a number fairly above the


About the same time as "Ellen Middleton" appeared, a novel was making
its way rather by force of affectionate family portraiture than by plot
or incident. "The Valley of a Hundred Fires" is really and truly Mrs.
Stretton's picture of her father and mother, and her home; and her
mother is altogether her heroine, while old family habits and anecdotes
are given with only a few alterations. "The Valley of the Hundred Fires"
has been placed by her on the borders of Wales, but it really was
Gateshead, in Durham, quite as black and quite as grimy as the more
southern region, inasmuch as no flowers would grow in the Rectory garden
which, nevertheless, the children loved so heartily as to call it dear
old Dingy. (It is Cinder Tip in the story.) Literally, they lived so as
to show that

    "Love's a flower that will not die
      For lack of leafy screen;
    And Christian hope may cheer the eye
      That ne'er saw vernal green;"

and that--at least, in the early days of this century--an abnormally
large family was no misfortune to themselves or their parents.

The real name was Collinson, and the deep goodness and beneficence of
the father, the Reverend John Collinson, and the undaunted cheerfulness,
motherliness, and discipline of Emily, his wife, shine throughout, not
at all idealised. The number of their children was fifteen, ten
daughters and five sons; and the second daughter, Julia Cecilia, was, as
she describes herself, a tall, lank, yellow baby who was born on the
25th of November 1812. She became as the eldest daughter to the others,
for there had always been a promise that if there were several girls the
eldest should be adopted by her aunt, wife to a clergyman and childless.

The two homes were a great contrast: the one kept in absolute order and
great refinement, with music and flowers the constant delight and
occupation, and the single adopted child trained up in all the precision
of the household; while the other was a house of joyous freedom, kept
under the needful restraints of sound religious principle, discipline
and unselfishness. The story went that when the children were asked how
many of them there were, they answered, "One young lady and eight little
girls." Mrs. Collinson used to say, that if she ever saw any signs that
her "one young lady" was either pining for companionship, or growing
spoilt by the position, she would recall her at once; but the child was
always happy and obedient, and pleased to impart her accomplishments to
her sisters, who admired without jealousy. Comical adventures are
recorded in the "Valley," such as when the whole train of little
damsels, walking out under the convoy of Julia and a young nurserymaid,
encountered a bull, which had lifted a gate on its horns. The maid
thrust the baby into Julia's arms and ran away, while her charges
retired into a ditch, the elder ones not much alarmed, because, as they
said, the bull could not hurt them with the gate on its horns. It passed
safely by them; but the little ones confessed to having been dreadfully
frightened by a snail in the ditch, "which put out its horns like a
little Kerry cow," and it creeped and it creeped!

One incident in their early childhood was the rioting that pervaded the
collieries in the years immediately following the great French war. Mr.
Collinson, being a magistrate, was called upon to accompany the dragoons
in order to read the Riot Act. He thus left his family unprotected; but
the seven thousand pitmen never touched the Rectory, and, according to
the "Valley," replied courteously to two of the children, who rushed out
to the top of the Cinder Tip, begging to know whether they had seen "our
papa" and if he was safe.

There was another sadder episode, related also with much feeling, though
a little altered, for it concerned the second son, not the eldest (then
the only son) as described. A blow from a cricket ball did irreparable
mischief to his knee, and it was suddenly decreed that amputation was
necessary, long before the days of chloroform. The father was away from
home, the mother sentenced not to be present, and the doctors consented
that Julia should hold the patient's hand, smooth his hair, and try to
tell him stories through the operation. It was successfully and bravely
carried out, but the evil was not removed, and a few weeks later this
much-loved boy was taken away. The circumstances, very beautiful and
consoling, are given in the story; and there too is told how, before
sunset on that sad day, the ninth little daughter was given, and
struggled hard for the vigorous life she afterwards attained.

The "Parson's man" said one day, when his mistress, for once in her
life, indulged in a sigh that her garden could never rival that of her
sister, "We've got the finer flowers, ma'am."

Education was not the tyrannical care in those days that it is at
present, and the young people obtained it partly through their parents,
some at school, and some by the help of their grandmother and their
aunt, but mostly by their own intelligence and exertions; and the family
income was augmented by Mr. Collinson taking pupils. He had a fair
private income; he had a curate, and was able to give a good education
to his sons, one of whom made himself a name as Admiral Collinson, one
of the Arctic explorers. If there were anxieties, they did not tell upon
the children, whose memories reflect little save sunshine.

       *       *       *       *       *

At nineteen, Julia Collinson became the wife of Walter de Winton,
Esquire, of Maedlwch Castle, Radnorshire; but after only twelve years
was left a widow, with two sons and a daughter. Her life was devoted to
making their home as bright and joyous as her own had been; and it was
only in the loneliness that ensued on the children going to school that
her authorship commenced, with a child's book called "The Lonely

Later she wrote "The Valley of the Hundred Fires," tracing the habits,
characters and the destiny of the family of Gateshead. The father was by
this time dead, and extracts from his sermons and diary appear; but
"Emily," the mother, is the real heroine of the whole narrative, and
though there is so little plot that it hardly deserves the name of
novel, there is a wonderful charm in the delineation. There are a few
descriptions of manners and of dresses which are amusing; nor must we
omit the portrait of the grandmother, Mrs. King (called Reine in the
book), daughter to the governor of one of the colonies in America before
the separation, with the manners of her former princess-ship and
something of the despotism. She was a friend of Hannah More, a
beneficent builder of schools, and produced a revolt by herself cutting
the hair of all the scholars!

"The Queen of the County" relates Mrs. de Winton's experiences of
elections among "the stormy hills of Wales" in the early days of the
Reform Bill. "Margaret and her Bridesmaids" draws more upon invention.
Each of two young girls, through the injudiciousness of her parents, has
married the _wrong_ person. Margaret acquiesces too much in her
husband's indolence, and when herself roused to the perception of duty
tries in vain to recover lost ground. Her friend Lottie is a
high-spirited little soul, determined to do her duty as a wife, but not
to pretend the love she does not feel, till it has been won. She is
rather provokingly and unnaturally perfect, especially as she is only
seventeen, always knowing when to obey up to the letter in a manner
which must so have "riled" her husband that his persistent love is
hardly credible, though it shows itself in attempts to isolate her, so
that she shall have no resource save himself. His endeavours bring upon
him heart complaint, whereof he dies, under her tender care, though she
never affects to be grief-stricken. Only, as Margaret has lost her
husband about the same time in a yachting accident, Lottie refuses to
listen to the addresses of a former lover of Margaret's until she is
convinced both that her friend will never form another attachment and
that the original passion she had inspired is absolutely dead. There is
a good deal of character in the story, though overdrawn, and it has
survived so as to call for a new edition.

       *       *       *       *       *

To her children, as well as to her many nephews and nieces, Mrs. de
Winton was a charming companion-mother, always fresh, young, vigorous
and as full of playfulness as the Julia who led the band of little
sisters. When all her children were grown up, in 1858, she married
Richard William Stretton, who had been their guardian and an intimate
friend of the family, by whom he was much beloved. He died in 1868, and
Mrs. Stretton followed him on the 17th of July 1878, leaving behind her
one of the brightest of memories. Her books are emphatically herself in
their liveliness, their tenderness, their fond enshrining of the past.

The third of our group had an even more eventless life, and, instead of
letting her imagination dwell on her own past, she studied the women of
past history, and realised what they must have felt and thought in the
scenes where most of them figure only as names. Her father belonged to
the higher professional class, and lived with his large family, of whom
Anne was the eldest, at the Paragon, Chelsea, where at eight years old
Anne listened to the crash of the carriages, when the Bourbons were on
their return to France, and witnessed the ecstasy of London on the visit
of the Allied Sovereigns after Waterloo.

With the help of masters for special accomplishments, the daughters had
the best of educations, namely, the stimulating influence of their
father, an accomplished man, for whom they practised their music, wrote
their themes, went out star-gazing, and studied astronomy, listening
with delight to his admirable reading of Scott or Shakspere; they also
had the absolute freedom of an extensive library. Anne Manning was
pronounced to be no genius, but a most diligent, industrious girl; as
indeed was proved, for, becoming convinced during the brief reign of a
good governess of the duty of solid reading, she voluntarily read from
the age of fourteen ten pages a day of real, if dry, history,
persevering year after year, and thus unconsciously laying in a good
foundation for her future work.

For health's sake the family went into the country, where they became
tenants of a tumble-down Cistercian priory on the borders of Salisbury
Plain. The numerous girls, with their mother and governess, lived there
constantly; the father coming down as often as his business would allow,
almost always by the Saturday coach, to spend Sunday. Here the first
literary venture was made, when Anne was about seventeen. It was a short
dialogue on a serious subject, which a young aunt managed to get
accepted in St. Paul's Churchyard; and, as Miss Manning candidly avows,
was so well advertised privately by her fond grandfather that--such were
the palmy days of authorship--five hundred copies brought her in a
profit of £60.

The story, "Village Belles," was completed at Tenby, the Priory having
become too ruinous for habitation. It was put into the hands of Baldwin
and Cradock, and no proofs were sent till the whole of the two first
volumes came together. It was introduced to Mr. Manning thus, "Papa, I
don't know what you will say, but I have been writing a story."

"Ho! ho! ho!" was his first answer, but he afterwards said, "My dear, I
like your story very much"--and never again referred to it.

Her own after judgment was that it was an "incurably young,
inexperienced tale which, after all top dressing, remained but daisied
meadow grass."

Sorrow came in to fill the minds of the family (to the exclusion of mere
fictitious interests) in the deaths within short intervals of two of the
sisters, and their mother's invalidism, ending, within a few years, in
her death. After this the winters were spent by the three sisters at the
Paragon, the summers in a cottage at Penshurst, their father coming down
for the Sunday. Anne Manning, meantime, was pursuing studies in painting
and was an excellent amateur artist. She was also a botanist, and this
has much to do with her accuracy in writing details of country life and

       *       *       *       *       *

Dates, alas! are wanting both in her own "Passages in the life of an
Authoress," and in the recollections of her kind and affectionate
biographer, Mrs. Batty; but it seems to have been in 1849 that her
"Maiden and Married Life of Mary Powell," at first written to amuse
herself and her sisters, and afterwards sent to assist a brother in
Australia, who was starting a local magazine, was given to the editor
of "Sharpe's Magazine," then in its early youth.

It made her fame. Nobody had particularly thought of Milton in his
domestic capacity before, except as having advocated divorce and made
his daughters read Greek to him, and it was reserved for Miss Manning to
make the wife paint her own portrait as the lively, eager girl, happy in
country freedom with her brothers, important with her "housewife-skep"
in her mother's absence, pleased with dress, but touched by the
beautiful countenance and the sudden admiration of the strange visitor.
There proves to be a debt which makes her marriage with him convenient
to the father, and it is carried out in spite of the mother's strong
objections, alike to the suitor's age, his politics, and his puritanism.
We go along with the country girl in her disappointment and sense of
dreariness in her unaccustomed London life, in the staid and serious
household, where she sorely misses her brothers and is soon condemned
for love of junketing. Then come her joy in her visit to her home at
Forest Hill and her reluctance to return, fortified by her father's
disapproval of Milton's opinions. By the time that a visit to some wise
relatives has brought her to a better mind and to yearning after her
husband, Milton has taken offence and has put forth his plea for
divorce, which so angers her father that he will not hear of her
return; nor does she go back till after many months and the surrender of
Oxford, when on her own impulse she hurries to London, meets her husband
unexpectedly, and when he "looks down on her with goodness and sweetness
'tis like the sun's gleams shining after rain."

There Mary Powell's journal ends. It is written in beautiful English,
such as might well have been contemporary and could only have been
acquired by familiarity with the writers of the period, flowing along
without effort or pedantry so as to be a really successful imitation. It
crept into separate publication anonymously, and achieved a great
success, being in fact the first of many books imitating the like style
of autobiography; nor has it ever been allowed to drop into oblivion. It
was followed up after a time by "Deborah's Diary," being the record
supposed to be kept by Milton's one faithful and dutiful daughter, who
lived with him in his old age.

The "fascination of the old style," as she calls it, led her to deal
with "The Household of Sir Thomas More" in the person of his noble
daughter Margaret. There was a good deal more genuine material here, and
she has woven in the fragments from Erasmus and others with great
ingenuity, and imitated the style of the fifteenth century as well as
she had done that of the seventeenth.

From that time Anne Manning's books had a ready sale, though still her
name did not appear. "Cherry and Violet" was a tale of the plague of
London; "Edward Osborne" told of the apprentice who leapt from the
window of a house on London Bridge to save his master's daughter from
drowning; "The Old Chelsea Bunhouse" described the haunts with which
Miss Manning was familiar; and there were other stories of country life,
such as the "Ladies of Bever Hollow." All were written in the purest
style, such as could only be attained by one to whom slip-shod writing
was impossible, and to whom it was equally impossible not to write what
was gentle, charitable, and full of religious principle.

Miss Manning was a kind friend and charming letter-writer. Her health
began to fail in 1854, when she was writing for a magazine "Some
Passages in the Life of an Authoress," never completed. She continued to
be an invalid under the care of her sisters till her death on the 14th
of September, 1879.

  [Signature: C M Yonge]




In the small circle of women writers who shed literary lustre on the
early years of her present Majesty's reign was Dinah Mulock, best known
to the present novel-reading generation as the author of "John Halifax,

To appreciate fully the position that we claim for her, it will be
necessary to turn back to the period when she began to write, and see
who were her contemporaries.

Pre-eminent among these stand out three names--names immortal on the
roll of fame for so long as taste and critical judgment last; the books
of Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot must be
regarded as masterpieces of fiction. We, their humble followers, bow
before their genius which time, fashion, or progress cannot dim or take
from; therefore, to have achieved success and to have made an abiding
fame while such luminaries were shining in the firmament was a
distinction to be justly proud of--the result of talent, delicacy of
handling, and grasp of character that were only a little below genius.

How vast the difference that one small step would have made it is not
our purpose to show; our intention is rather to take a general view of
the work of a writer who--now that close upon half a century has passed,
since, in 1849, timidly and without giving her name, she launched on the
world her first novel, "The Ogilvies"--has never lost her hold upon the
reading public of Great Britain, the Colonies, America, or wherever the
English tongue is spoken.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dinah Mulock was born in 1826 at Stoke-upon-Trent in Staffordshire. Her
disposition towards literature seems to have been inherited from her
father, who was connected--but in no very prosperous way--with letters,
and was known to Byron and to the poet Moore, whose fellow countryman he
was. At the time of his daughter's birth, he was acting as spiritual
minister to a small congregation who were followers of what were then
generally thought to be his advanced and unorthodox opinions. Few who
forsake the established road for their own peculiar rut find that
prosperity bears them company, and the fortunes of the Mulock family
during the embryo authoress's early years were unsettled and
unsatisfactory. We are all given to rebel against the clouds which
overcast our youth, seldom realising that to this pinch of adverse
circumstance we owe much of that power to depict the sorrows, joys, and
perplexities of life in the setting forth of which Miss Mulock became so
eminently successful.

Before she had reached the age of twenty, she left her home and came to
London, "feeling conscious," we are told, "of a vocation for

Now, in the present day, when novel writing has become an employment,
profession, distraction, I might almost say a curse, there would be
nothing remarkable in such a conviction; but in 1846 the mania of
desiring to see their names in print had not seized upon our sex;
therefore the divine afflatus must have been very strong which sent a
timid attractive girl, hampered by all the prejudices of her day, to try
the fortunes of her pen in London.

That she had not been deceived in her quality is shown by the success of
"The Ogilvies," which not only was popular with novel readers, but
raised hopes that the writer possessed great dramatic power, to be more
ably used when experience had corrected the crude faults of a first
book. The story, based on passionate first love, is written with the
enthusiasm and vigour which comes pleasantly from a young hand, and
makes us disposed to view leniently the superabundance of sentiment
which, under other circumstances, we should censure. The death of the
boy, Leigh Pennythorne, is rendered with a pathos which calls for
admiration, and we are not surprised to see it ranked with the death of
little Paul Dombey; while that of Katherine Lynedon, spoken of at the
time as possessing great dramatic force, strikes us now as melodramatic
and sensational.

       *       *       *       *       *

Encouraged by having found favour with the public, Miss Mulock followed
up her success with "Olive" (1850), "Agatha's Husband" (1852), "Head of
the Family" (1854). Her literary reputation was now established; and,
though her _magnum opus_, "John Halifax," had yet to be written, it may
be as well to consider some of the merits and weaknesses of her style,
her treatment of her subjects, and her delineation of character.

In a short sketch, such as this, it is not possible to give a synopsis
of the plots of the various books, or even, in most cases, extracts from
them. We have to confine ourselves to the endeavour to realise the
effect they produced at the time they were written--the estimation they
were then held in, and to see what position they now command among the
novels of the present day.

Perhaps it will be only fair towards the faults we are about to find
that we should recall the forward strides made by women in the past
forty years. We who can recall the faulty teaching and the many
prejudices of that date must often question if women now are
sufficiently sensible of the advantages they possess.

A reviewer of Miss Mulock's novels, writing in 1866, says: "It is one of
the chief misfortunes of almost every female novelist that her own
education, as a woman, has been wretchedly defective;" and further on he
adds: "the _education_ of the majority of women leaves them not only
without information, but without intelligent interest in any subject
that does not immediately concern them." He then points out that it
seems impossible for women to describe a man as he is--that they see him
only from the outside. "They are ignorant of the machinery which sets
the thing going, and the principle of the machinery; and so they
discreetly tell you what kind of case it has, but nothing more."

Now, when the time has come that young men and maidens have other
interests in common than those which spring out of flirtation and
love-making, we may feel quite sure that each sex will get a better
insight and have a juster knowledge of the other. The general taste for
exercise, and the development of activity and health of body, has
killed sentimentality and the heroines of the Rosa Matilda school. Not
that these were the heroines that Miss Mulock created. Her ideals are to
a certain extent made of flesh and blood, although they are not always
living figures. Even at the period when we are told that "In the world
of letters few authors have so distinct and at the same time so eminent
a position as this lady," her judicious admirers find fault with her
overflow of feminine sentimentality, which never permitted her ideal
sufferers to conquer their griefs so far that they could take a
practical and healthy interest in the affairs of the living world. "They
live only 'for others'" says one critic, "'the beautiful light' is
always in their faces; their hands 'work spasmodically' at least once in
every two or three chapters."

Regarding the cramping influence of the prejudices which hedged in women
in Miss Mulock's day, is it not very possible that this flaw in the
portraiture of her own sex may have been due to the narrowness of her
training rather than to any deficiency in her talent? Nothing more
plainly shows how warped her judgment had become than many of the
passages in "A Woman's Thoughts about Women." This is a book with much
sound argument in it, and full of the desire to rectify the feminine
grievances to which she was not blind. But when we come to a passage
like the following, in which she asserts that all who "preach up lovely
uselessness, fascinating frivolity, delicious helplessness, not only
insult womanhood but her Creator," we ask how is this to be reconciled
with the text which comes immediately after: "Equally blasphemous, and
perhaps even more harmful, is the outcry about the equality of the
sexes; the frantic attempt to force women, many of whom are either
ignorant of, or unequal for, their own duties, into the position and
duties of men. A pretty state of matters would ensue! Who that ever
listened for two hours to the verbose confused inanities of a ladies'
committee would immediately go and give his vote for a female House of
Commons? or who, on receipt of a lady's letter of business--I speak of
the average--would henceforth desire to have our courts of justice
stocked with matronly lawyers and our colleges thronged by 'sweet girl
graduates with their golden hair'? As for finance, if you pause to
consider the extreme difficulty there always is in balancing Mrs.
Smith's housekeeping book, or Miss Smith's quarterly allowance, I think,
my dear Paternal Smith, you need not be much afraid lest this loud
acclaim for women's rights should ever end in pushing you from your
counting house, college, or elsewhere."

On this showing, such crass ignorance is to be accepted in women, and
is to be taken as a matter of course and as natural to them as cutting
their teeth or having measles or chicken pox. It is of little use to
advocate "Self Dependence," "Female Professions," "Female Handicrafts,"
for those who cannot write a business letter or do a simple sum. Miss
Mulock may have had, indeed I fear had, much reason to cast these
reproaches at her sex. But that she did not feel their shame, and urge
her sister women to strive for an education more worthy of intelligent
beings, proves to me how deeply her mental gifts suffered from the
cramping influence of the time in which she lived. Could she have
enjoyed some of the advantages which spring out of the greater freedom
of thought and action permitted in the present day, how greatly it would
have enlarged her mental vision! Her male creations would have been cast
in a more vigorous man-like mould. Her feminine ideals would no longer
be incarnations of sentiment but living vital creatures. Where the mind
is stunted the mental insight must be limited; and strong as were Miss
Mulock's talents, they were never able to burst the bonds which for
generations had kept the greater number of women in intellectual

       *       *       *       *       *

In "Olive," the novel which immediately followed "The Ogilvies," Miss
Mulock ventured on a very fresh and interesting subject. Olive, the
heroine of the story, is a deformed girl, "a puir bit crippled lassie"
with a crooked spine. To make this centre-character attractive and
all-absorbing was a worthy effort on the part of an author, and we take
up the book and settle ourselves to see how it will be done.
Unfortunately, before long, the courage which conceived the personal
blemish gives way, and, succumbing to the difficulties of making mind
triumph over beauty, Miss Mulock commits the artistic error of trying to
impress upon you that, notwithstanding the pages of lamentations over
this deformity and the attack made on your sympathy, the disfigurement
was so slight that no person could possibly have noticed it. Naturally
this puts the heroine in a more commonplace position; and as several
minor plots are introduced which Olive only serves to string together,
much of the interest in her with which we started is frittered away.

Finally, Olive marries and restores the faith of a religious sceptic.
And here it is curious to read the objections raised at the time against
bringing into fiction "subjects most vital to the human soul." One
critic, after describing the hero he is willing to accept--and, much to
our regret, space prevents us showing this terrible model that we have
escaped--says: "But a hero whose intellectual crotchets, or delusions,
or blindness, are to be entrusted for repairs to a fascinating
heroine--a mental perplexity which is to be solved in fiction--a
deep-rooted scepticism which is to lose its _vis vitæ_ according to the
artistic demands of a tale of the fancy, this we cannot away with.
Sceptics are not plastic and obliging. Would to Heaven scepticism
_could_ be cured by bright eyes, dulcet tones, and a novelist's art of

Criticisms in this tone make more plain to us the difficulties which
novelists in the fifties had to grapple with. So many subjects were
tabooed, so many natural impulses restrained, while the bogey Propriety
was flaunted to scare the most innocent actions, so that nothing short
of genius could ride safely over such narrow-minded bigotry. That an
extreme licence should follow before the happy mean could be arrived at,
was a safe prediction; but many of the writers in that day must have had
a hard task while trying to clip the wings of their soaring
imaginations, so that they might not rise above the level marked out by
Mrs. Grundy.

Now, all these social dogmas must have had an immense influence on the
receptive mind of Dinah Mulock, and readers must not lose sight of this
fact should they be inclined to call some of her books didactic, formal,
or old-fashioned. She never posed as a brilliant, impassioned writer of
stories which tell of wrongs, or crimes, or great mental conflicts. In
her novels there is no dissection of character, no probing into the
moral struggles of the human creature. Her teaching holds high the
standard of duty, patience, and the unquestioning belief that all that
God wills is well.

       *       *       *       *       *

The enormous hold which, ever since its first appearance in 1857, "John
Halifax" has had on a great portion of the English-speaking public, is
due to the lofty elevation of its tone, its unsullied purity and
goodness, combined with a great freshness, which appeals to the young
and seems to put them and the book in touch with each other. Those who
read the story years ago still recollect the charm it had for them; and,
in a degree, the same fascination exists for youthful readers at the
present time. The theme is noble, setting forth the high moral truth of
"the nobility of man as man," and into its development the author threw
all her powers.

From the opening sentence, where you are at once introduced to the
ragged, muddy boy and the sickly helpless lad, you feel that these two
will prove to be the leading actors in the story--probably made
contrasts of, and perhaps played one against the other. This idea,
however, is speedily dispelled. Possibly from a dread of failing where
it is thought so many women do fail--in the portrayal of the unseen
sides of character and the infinite subtleties it gives rise to--Miss
Mulock, wisely we think, decided to place her story in the
autobiographic form; and the gentle refined invalid, Phineas Fletcher,
is made the _deus ex machinâ_ to unravel to the reader not only the
romance of his friend John Halifax's history, but also the working of
his noble chivalrous nature. Few situations are more pathetically drawn
than the attitude of these two lads, with its exchange of dependence and
hero-worship on the one side, and of tender, helpful compassion on the
other. A true David and Jonathan we see them, full of the trust,
confidence, and sincerity young unsullied natures are capable of. And
the story of the friendship, as it grows towards maturity, is equally
well told.

His energy and his indomitable faith in himself make a prosperous man of
the penniless boy. We follow him on from driving the skin cart to being
master of the tan-yard; and throughout all his temptations, struggles,
success, he maintains the same honest, fearless spirit.

It seems natural that when to such an exalted nature love comes it
should come encircled with romance, and the wooing of Ursula March, as
told by sensitive, affectionate Phineas Fletcher, is very prettily

For the reason that Ursula is an heiress with a host of aristocratic
relations, John believes his love for her to be hopeless. He struggles
against this overwhelming passion for some time, until the continuous
strain throws him into a fever of which his friend fears he will die. In
this agonising strait Phineas is inspired with the idea of confessing
the truth to Ursula; and, after a touching scene in which this is most
delicately done, she determines to go to the man who is dying of love
for her. In the interview, which is too long to be given in its entirety
and too good to be curtailed, John tells her that owing to a great
sorrow that has come to him he must leave Norton Bury and go to America.
She begs to be told the reason, and without an actual avowal he lets her
see his secret.

"'John, stay!'

"It was but a low, faint cry, like that of a little bird. But he heard
it--felt it. In the silence of the dark she crept up to him, like a
young bird to its mate, and he took her into the shelter of his love for
evermore. At once all was made clear between them, for whatever the
world might say they were in the sight of heaven equal, and she received
as much as she gave."

When lights are brought into the room John takes Ursula's hand and leads
her to where old Abel Fletcher is sitting.

"His head was erect, his eyes shining, his whole aspect that of a man
who declares before all the world, 'This is my _own_." 'Eh?' said my
father, gazing at them from over his spectacles.

"John spoke brokenly, 'We have no parents, neither she nor I. Bless
her--for she has promised to be my wife.'

"And the old man blessed her with tears."

Abel Fletcher, grave, stern, uncompromising--as members of the Society
of Friends in that day were wont to be--is a clever study. He will not
yield readily to the influence of John, and when he does give way it is
by slow degrees. Yet one of the most winning traits in this somewhat
over-perfect young man, given at times to impress his moral obligations
rather brusquely, is the deference he pays to his former master and the
filial affection he keeps for him; and the author manages in these
scenes to put the two into excellent touch with each other--so that,
through John's attitude to him, the hard close-fisted old tanner is
transfigured into a patriarch who fitly gives his blessing to the bride,
and later on, in a scene of great pathos, bestows his last benediction
on her blind baby daughter.

It was said at the time of its publication, and it is still said, that
in "John Halifax" Miss Mulock reached the summit of her power. That she
felt this herself seems to be shown by her adopting the title of
"Author of 'John Halifax.'" Its publication was in many ways a new
departure. It was the first of that numerous series of books brought out
by her (after) life-long friend, Mr. Blackett. Those were not the days
when "twenty thousand copies were exhausted before a word of this novel
was written;" yet the book had a remarkable and legitimate success. Of
its merits a notable critic said, "If we could erase half a dozen
sentences from this book it would stand as one of the most beautiful
stories in the English language, conveying one of the highest moral
truths." And that these few sentences, while in no way affecting the
actual beauty of the story, are a blot and an "artistic and intellectual
blunder--" the more to be deplored in a book whose moral teaching
throughout is so excellent--we must confess. "The ragged boy, with his
open, honest face, as he asks the respectable Quaker for work, is no
beggar; the lad who drives the cart of dangling skins is not inferior to
Phineas Fletcher, who watches for him from his father's windows and
longs for his companionship; and the tanner--the honest and good man who
marries Ursula March, a lady born--is her equal. Having shown that men
in the sight of God are equal and that therefore all good men must be
equal upon earth, what need that John should have in his keeping a
little Greek Testament which he views as a most precious possession
because in it is written 'Guy Halifax, Gentleman'? Are we to conclude
that all his moral excellence and intellectual worth were derived from
_ladies_ and _gentlemen_ who had been his remote ancestors, but with
whom he had never been in personal contact at all, since at twelve years
old he was a ragged orphan, unable to read and write?"

Miss Mulock could not have meant this, and yet she lays herself open to
the charge, a kind of echo of which is heard in the adding to her good
plain title of "John Halifax" the unnecessary tag, "Gentleman."

       *       *       *       *       *

Her literary career being now fully established, Miss Mulock decided on
taking up her permanent residence in London; and, about this time, she
went to live at Wildwood, a cottage at North End, Hampstead. The now
ubiquitous interviewer--that benefactor of those who want to know--had
not then been called into being, so there is no record at hand to tell
how the rooms were furnished, what the mistress wore, her likes,
dislikes, and the various idiosyncrasies she displayed in half an hour's
conversation. Such being the case we must be content with the simple
fact that, charming by the candid sincerity of her disposition, and the
many personal attractions that when young she possessed, Miss Mulock
speedily drew around her a circle of friends whom, with rare fidelity,
she ever after kept.

       *       *       *       *       *

"John Halifax" was followed in 1859 by "A Life for a Life," a novel
which, although it never obtained the same popularity, fully maintains
the position won by its precursor. In it Miss Mulock breaks new ground
both as to plot and the manner in which she relates the story, which is
told by the hero and heroine in the form of a journal kept by each, so
that we have alternate chapters of _his_ story and _her_ story. This
form of construction is peculiar and occasionally presents to the reader
some difficulties, but as a medium to convey opinions and convictions
which the author desires to demonstrate it is happily conceived. The
motive of the book is tragedy, the keynote murder--that is murder
according to the exigencies of the story-teller. Max Urquhart, the
hero--who at the time the tale opens is a staid, serious man of
forty--is the perpetrator of this crime, committed at the age of
nineteen in a fit of intoxication on a man named Johnston. Journeying
from London to join a brother who is dying of consumption at Pau,
Urquhart, through a mistake, finds that instead of being at Southampton
he is at Salisbury. On the way he has made the acquaintance of the
pseudo-driver of the coach, a flashy, dissipated fellow, who by a
tissue of lies induces the raw Scotch lad to remain for some hours at
the inn and then be driven on by him to where they will overtake the
right coach. By this man young Urquhart is made drunk, and when as a
butt he no longer amuses the sottish company they brutally turn him into
the street. Later on he is aroused by the cut of a whip. It is his coach
companion who pacifies him with the assurance that if he gets into the
gig he will be speedily taken by him to Southampton. The lad consents,
he is helped up and soon falls fast asleep to be awakened in the middle
of Salisbury plain by his savage tormentor, who pushes him out and tells
him to take up his lodging at Stonehenge. The poor youth, with just
sufficient sense left in him to feel that he is being kept from his
dying brother, implores the ruffian to take him on his way. "To the
devil with your brother," is the answer, and in spite of all entreaties,
Johnston whips up his horse, and is on the point of starting, when
Urquhart, maddened by rage, catches him unawares, drags him from the
gig, and, flings him violently on the ground, where his head strikes
against one of the great stones, and he is killed.

How Urquhart manages to reach Southampton, and to get to Pau, he never
knows; but when he does arrive at his destination, it is to find his
brother dead and buried, and the fit of mania which follows is set down
to the shock this gives him. At the end of a year, hearing that
Johnston's death is attributed to accident, and being under the
conviction that if the truth were told he would be hanged, he resolves
to lock the secret in his own breast until the hour of his death draws
near, and, in the meanwhile, to expiate his offence by living for
others, and for the good he can do to them. He becomes an army doctor,
goes through the Crimean War, and, when we are introduced to him, is
doing duty at Aldershot, near where, at a ball, he meets the inevitable
she, Theodora Johnston. If the hero is drawn dark, thin, with a spare,
wiry figure, and a formal, serious air, the portrait of the heroine,
with her undeniably ordinary figure, and a face neither pretty nor
young, forms a fitting pendant to it. These two are irresistibly drawn
towards each other, and, notwithstanding that the lady bears the fatal
name of Johnston, they soon become engaged. Dr. Urquhart's tender
conscience then demands that the tragic misdeed of his life shall be
confessed to the woman he is about to make his wife, and, in a letter,
he confides to her the sad history, adding, as postscript, some few days
later: "I have found his grave at last." Here follows the inscription,
which proves the dead man to have been the son of Theodora's father,
her own half-brother, Henry Johnston. "Farewell, Theodora!"

It is impossible here to give more than this crude outline of the plot
of a book in which, far beyond the story she means to tell, the author
has her own individual opinions and convictions to impress on us. The
temptation to earnest writers to try, through their writings, to make
converts of their readers, is often very strong, and in this instance
Miss Mulock undoubtedly gave way to it. She had not only a vehement
abhorrence of capital punishment, but, to quote from her book, she
maintained "that any sin, however great, being repented of and forsaken,
is, by God, and ought to be by man, altogether pardoned, blotted out,
and done away."

As was at the time said, "Her argument demands a stronger case than she
has dared to put;" but so ably are the incidents strung together, so
touchingly are the relative positions of these suffering souls
described, that their sorrows, affection, and fidelity become
convincing; and, full of the pathetic tragedy of the situation, we are
oblivious of the fact that what is called a crime is nothing greater
than an accident, a misfortune, and that for murder we must substitute

       *       *       *       *       *

From the date of the appearance of "John Halifax," Miss Mulock's pen
was never long idle. Composition was not a labour to her; and friends
who knew her at that time, describe her as walking about the room, or
bending over on a low stool, rapidly setting down her thoughts in that
small delicate writing which gave no trouble to read. She had beautiful
hands; a tall, slim, graceful figure; and, with the exception of her
mouth, which was too small, and not well shaped, delicate and regular
features. These attractions, heightened by a charming frankness of
manner, made her very popular. Her poetic vein was strong. She published
several volumes of poems, and many of her verses, when set to music,
became much admired as songs.

Following "A Life for a Life," came, in somewhat quick succession,
"Studies from Life," "Mistress and Maid," "Christian's Mistake," "A
Noble Life," "Two Marriages." These in a period of ten years.

As may be supposed, they are not all of equal merit; neither does any
one of them touch the higher level of the author's earlier books. Still,
there is good honest work in each, and the same exalted purity of tone,
while much of the sentimentality complained of before is wholly omitted
or greatly toned down.

"Mistress and Maid" is one of those good, quiet stories, full of homely
truths and pleasant teaching, in which is shown the writer's quick
sympathy with the working class. The maid, Elizabeth, is as full of
character and of refined feelings as is Hilary Leaf, the mistress, and
her one romance of love, although not so fortunate, has quite as much
interest. The opening scenes, in which these two first meet, are
excellent, giving us, all through their early association, touches of
humour--a quality which, in Miss Mulock's writings, is very rare.

The picture of the rather tall, awkward, strongly built girl of fifteen,
hanging behind her anxious-eyed, sad-voiced mother, who pushes her into
notice with "I've brought my daughter, ma'am, as you sent word you'd
take on trial. 'Tis her first place, and her'll be awk'ard like at
first. Hold up your head, Elizabeth," is drawn with that graphic
fidelity which gives interest to the most commonplace things in life.
The awkward girl proves to be a rough diamond, capable of much polish,
and by the kindly teaching of Hilary Leaf she is turned into an
admirable, praiseworthy woman. One has to resist the temptation to say
more about Hilary Leaf, an energetic, intelligent girl who, when she
cannot make a living for herself and her sister by school-keeping,
tries, and succeeds, by shop-keeping. The description of the struggles
of these two poor ladies to pay their way, and keep up a respectable
appearance, comes sympathetically from the pen of a woman whose heart
was ever open to similar distresses in real life. To her praise be it
remembered that to any tale of true suffering Dinah Mulock never closed
her ears or her hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her next two novels, "Christian's Mistake" and "A Noble Life," in our
opinion, fall far short of any of her previous efforts. Yet they were
both received with much popular favour, particularly the former, which
called forth warm praise from reviewers.

For us not one of the characters has a spark of vitality. Christian is
not even the shadow of a young girl made of flesh and blood. Her
forbearance and self-abnegation are maddening. Her husband, the "Master
of St. Bede's,'" twenty-five years her senior and a widower, is nothing
but a lay figure, meant to represent a good man, but utterly devoid of
intellect and, one would think, of feeling, since he permits his young
bride, possessed of all the seraphic virtues, to be snubbed and
brow-beaten by two vulgar shrewish sisters-in-law. There is no interest
of plot or depicting of character, and the children are as unreal and
offensive as their grown up relations. In "A Noble Life," also, there is
nothing which stirs our sympathies. Even the personal deformities of the
unfortunate little earl fail to touch us, and, when grown up and
invested with every meritorious attribute, he is more like the
"example" of a moral tale than a being of human nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

As has been said, the portrayal of men is not this author's strong
point. "Her sympathy with a good man is complete on the moral, but
defective on the intellectual side"--a serious deficiency in one who has
to create beings in whom we are asked to take a sustained interest.

That she could rise superior to this defect is shown in "The Woman's
Kingdom." In this story Miss Mulock displays all her old charm of
simplicity and directness, and is strong in her treatment of domestic
life. At the outset she announces that it will be a thorough love story,
and takes as her text that "love is the very heart of life, the pivot
upon which its whole machinery turns, without which no human existence
can be complete, and with which, however broken and worn in part, it can
still go on working somehow, and working to a comparatively useful and
cheerful end." This question we shall not stop to argue, but proceed
with--we cannot say the plot, for of plot there is none; it is just an
every-day version of the old, old story, given with admirable force and
sweetness. It is said to appeal principally to young women, and it is
possible that this is true, as the writer can recall the intense
pleasure reading it gave to her nearly thirty years ago.

The book opens with the description of some seaside lodgings, in which
we find twin sisters as opposite in character as in appearance. Edna is
an epitome of all the virtues in a very plain binding. Letty, vain,
spoilt, but loving her sister dearly, is a beauty. "Such women Nature
makes rarely, very rarely; queens of beauty who instinctively take their
places in the tournament of life, and rain influence upon weak mortals,
especially men mortals." Two of the latter kind arrive as lodgers at the
same house, brothers, also most dissimilar--Julius Stedman, impulsive,
erratic and undisciplined; William, his elder brother, a grave,
hard-working doctor, just starting practice. The four speedily become
acquaintances--friends--and when they part are secretly lovers. Letty,
by reason of what she calls "her unfortunate appearance," never doubts
but that she has conquered both brothers; but happily it is to Edna that
the young doctor has given his heart; and when in time Letty hears the
news, "and remembers that she had been placing herself and Dr. Stedman
in the position of the Irish ballad couplet,

    Did ye ever hear of Captain Baxter,
    Whom Miss Biddy refused afore he axed her?

her vanity was too innocent and her nature too easy to bear offence

"But to think that after all the offers I have had you should be the
first to get married, or anyhow, engaged! Who would ever have expected
such a thing?" "Who would, indeed?" said Edna, in all simplicity, and
with a sense almost of contrition for the fact. "Well, never mind,"
answered Letty consolingly, "I am sure I hope you will be very happy;
and as for me"--she paused and sighed--"I should not wonder if I were
left an old maid after all, in spite of my appearance."

But to be left an old maid is not to be Letty's fate. Julius, already
bewitched by her beauty through being much more thrown into her society,
falls passionately in love with her, and for lack of any one else, and
because his ardour flatters and amuses her, Letty encourages him,
permits an engagement, and promises to join him in India. But on the
voyage out she meets a rich Mr. Vanderdecken, with whom she lands at the
Cape, and whom she marries. This is the tragic note in the happy story,
the one drop of gall in the Stedmans' cup of felicity. Edna and her
husband are patterns of domestic well-being. The joys and cares of
every-day life have mellowed all that was good in them, and the account
given of their home and their family is one we dwell upon lovingly.

Perhaps it is but natural that in our later reading we should note some
small discrepancies that had formerly escaped us. We regret that the
sisters had drifted so widely apart, and that each should seem to be so
unconcerned at the distance which divides them. It is as if happiness
can make us callous as well as luxury. And although it was true that
Letty's desertion suddenly wrecked the hopes of her lover, it seems
hardly probable that such an unstable being as Julius would have taken
her falseness so seriously. A wiser man might have foreseen the

Still, when this and more is said, our liking for the story remains as
strong as ever. We know of few books which give a better picture of
healthful domestic happiness and pure family life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although we have hitherto called, and shall continue to call, our
authoress by her maiden name, she had in 1864 changed it by marrying Mr.
G. Lillie Craik, a partner in the house of Macmillan & Co., and shortly
after she removed to Shortlands, near Bromley, in Kent. This change in
her state does not appear to have interfered with her occupation, and
for many years volume followed volume in quick succession.

Unwisely, we think, for her literary reputation, she was led, through
her strong sympathy, to advocate marriage with a deceased wife's sister
in a novel, published in 1871, called "Hannah."

The novel with a purpose is almost certain to fall into the error of
giving the argument on one side only. Its author has rarely any
toleration for the ethical aspect of the other side of the question, and
it is to be doubted if such books ever advance the cause they desire to
advocate. In "Hannah" we are perfectly surfeited by those who wish to
marry within the forbidden degree, and we feel as little toleration for
the placid Bernard Rivers--one of those men who never believe in the
pinch of a shoe until they want to put it on their own feet--as for Jim
Dixon, who, after evading the law, speedily grows tired of the deceased
wife's sister, and avails himself of his legal advantage to take another

The objections we feel to novels of this class are well stated by a
writer in the _Edinburgh Review_, No. clxxxix. "We object," he says, "on
principle to stories written with the purpose of illustrating an
opinion, or establishing a doctrine. We consider this an illegitimate
use of fiction. Fiction may be rightfully employed to impress upon the
public mind an acknowledged truth, or to revive a forgotten woe--never
to prove a disputed one. Its appropriate aims are the delineation of
life, the exhibition and analysis of character, the portraiture of
passion, the description of nature."

In most of these aims Miss Mulock had proved herself an expert. In
addition to her numerous novels and volumes of poems, she wrote a large
number of tales for children, many of which, I am told, are exceedingly
charming. One cannot read her books without being struck by the intense
affection she felt for children. She had none of her own, but she
adopted a daughter to whom she gave a mother's love and care. From time
to time there appeared from her pen volumes of short stories, studies,
and essays; but it is not by these that her name and fame will be kept
green. Neither will her reputation rest on her later novels. This she
must have realised herself when writing, "Brains, even if the strongest,
will only last a certain time and do a certain quantity of work--really
good work." Miss Mulock had begun to work the rich vein of her
imagination at an early age. She took few holidays, and gave herself but
little rest.

She was by no means what is termed a literary woman. She was not a great
reader; and although much praise is due to the efforts she made to
improve herself, judged by the present standard, her education remained
very defective. That she lacked the fire of genius is true, but it is no
less true that she was gifted with great imaginative ability and the
power of depicting ordinary men and women leading upright, often noble

The vast public that such books as hers appeal to is shown in the large
circulation of some of her works, the sale of "John Halifax, Gentleman"
amounting to 250,000 copies, 80,000 of which--the sixpenny edition--have
been sold within the last few months. This shows that her popularity is
not confined to any one class. The gospel she wrote was for all

As a woman, she was loved best by those who knew her best. "Dinah was
far more clever than her books," said an old friend who had been
recalling pleasant memories to repeat to me. She died suddenly on the
12th of October 1887, from failure of the heart's action--the death she
had described in the cases of Catherine Ogilvie, of John Halifax, and of
Ursula, his wife--the death she had always foreseen for herself.

Around her grave in Keston churchyard stood a crowd of mourners--rich,
poor, old and young--sorrowing for the good loyal friend who had gone
from them, whose face they should see no more.

  [Signature: Louisa Parr]




It is difficult to think of two writers more strongly contrasted,
judging from the revelation their books afford of their natures and ways
of thought. They both strove, in their novels, to represent individual
specimens of humanity. They must both have possessed the power of
distinct vision; but though Miss Kavanagh was a keen observer of
externals, her types seem to have been created by imaginative faculty
rather than by insight into real men and women, while Miss Edwards
appears to have gone about the world open-eyed, and with note-book in
hand, so vivid are some of her portraits.

In traditions, also, these writers differ. Miss Kavanagh has complete
faith in the old French motto, "le bon sang ne peut pas mentir;" while
one of Miss Edwards's heroes, an aristocrat by birth, is extremely happy
as a merchant captain, with his plebeian Italian wife.

The two writers, however, strike the same note in regard to some of
their female personages. Both Barbara Churchill and Nathalie Montolieu
are truthful to rudeness.

Julia Kavanagh never obtrudes her personality on the reader, though she
lifts him into the exquisitely pure and peaceful atmosphere which one
fancies must have been hers. There is something so restful in her books,
that it is difficult to believe she was born no longer ago than 1824,
and that only twenty years ago she died in middle life; she seems to
belong to a farther-away age--probably because her secluded life kept
her strongly linked to the past, out of touch with the new generation
and the new world of thought around her.

She began to write for magazines while still very young, and was only
twenty-three when her first book, "The Three Paths," a child's story,
was published. After this she wrote about fourteen novels, the best
known of which are "Madeleine," "Nathalie," and "Adèle." She wrote many
short stories, some of which were re-printed in volumes--notably the
collection called "Forget-me-nots," published after her death. She also
wrote "A Summer and Winter in the two Sicilies," "Woman in France in the
18th Century," "Women of Christianity," and two books which seem to have
been highly praised--"Englishwomen of Letters" and "Frenchwomen of

       *       *       *       *       *

Julia Kavanagh's first novel, "Madeleine," appeared in 1848--a charming
story, its scene being in the Auvergne. The beginning is very striking,
the theme being somewhat like that of "Bertha in the Lane"; but
Madeleine, when she has given up her false lover, devotes the rest of
her life to founding and caring for an orphanage.

Born in Ireland, Julia Kavanagh spent the days of her youth in Normandy,
and the scene of her second novel, "Nathalie," is Norman, though
Nathalie herself is a handsome, warm-blooded Provençale. The scenery and
surroundings are very lifelike, but, with one exception, the people are
less attractive than they are in "Adèle." In both books one feels a wish
to eliminate much of the interminable talk, which could easily be
dispensed with.

Nathalie, the country doctor's orphan daughter, teacher to the
excellently drawn schoolmistress, Mademoiselle Dantin, is sometimes
disturbingly rude and tactless, in spite of her graceful beauty. With
all this _gaucherie_, and a violent temper to boot, Nathalie exercises a
singular fascination over the people of the story, especially over the
delightful Canoness, Aunt Radégonde, who is to me the most real of Miss
Kavanagh's characters. Madame Radégonde de Sainville is a true old
French lady of fifty years ago, as charming as she is natural.

The men in Julia Kavanagh's books have led secluded lives, or they are
extremely reserved--very hard nuts indeed to crack for the ingenuous,
inexperienced girls on whom they bestow their lordly affection. One does
not pity Nathalie, who certainly brings her troubles on herself; but in
the subsequent book, sweet little Adèle is too bright a bit of sunshine
to be sacrificed to such a being as William Osborne.

The old château in which Adèle has spent her short life is in the
north-east of France; its luxuriant but neglected garden, full of lovely
light and shade, its limpid lake, and the old French servants, are
delightfully fresh. The chapters which describe these are exquisite
reading--a gentle idyll glowing with sunshine, and with a leisureful
charm that makes one resent the highly coloured intrusion of the Osborne
family, though the Osborne women afford an effective contrast. Adèle is
scantily educated, but she is always delightful, though we are never
allowed to forget that she is descended from the ancient family of de
Courcelles. She is thoroughly amiable and much enduring, in spite of an
occasional waywardness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fresh and full of beauty as these novels are, with their sweet
pure-heartedness, their truth and restful peace, they cannot compare
with the admirable short sketches of the quiet side of French life by
the same writer. The scenes in which the characters of these short
stories are set, show the truth of Julia Kavanagh's observation, as well
as the quality of her style; they are quite as beautiful as some of Guy
de Maupassant's little gem-like Norman stories, but they are perfectly
free from cynicism, although she truly shows the greedy grasping nature
of the Norman peasant. The gifts of this writer are intensified, and
more incisively shown, in these sketches because they contain few
superfluous words and conversations. Julia Kavanagh must have revelled
in the creation of such tales as "By the Well," and its companions; they
are steeped in joyous brightness, toned here and there with real pathos
as in "Clément's Love" and "Annette's Love-Story," in the collection
called "Forget-me-nots."

       *       *       *       *       *

Such a story as "By the Well" would nowadays be considered a lovely
idyll, and, by critics able to appreciate its breadth and finished
detail, a Meissonier in point of execution: it glows with true colour.

Fifine Delpierre is not a decked-out peasant heroine; she is a
bare-footed, squalid, half-clothed, half-starved little girl, when we
first see her beside the well. This is the scene that introduces her.

"It has a roof, as most wells have in Normandy, a low thatched roof,
shaggy, brown, and old, but made rich and gorgeous when the sun shines
upon it by many a tuft of deep green fern, and many a cluster of pink
sedum and golden stonecrop. Beneath that roof, in perpetual shade and
freshness, lies the low round margin, built of heavy ill-jointed stones,
grey and discoloured with damp and age; and within this ... spreads an
irregular but lovely fringe of hart's-tongue. The long glossy leaves of
a cool pale green grow in the clefts of the inner wall, so far as the
eye can reach, stretching and vanishing into the darkness, at the bottom
of which you see a little tremulous circle of watery light. This well is
invaluable to the Lenuds, for, as they pass by the farm the waters of
the little river grow brackish and unfit for use. So long ago, before
they were rich, the Lenuds having discovered this spring through the
means of a neighbouring mason, named Delpierre, got him to sink and make
the well, in exchange for what is called a servitude in French legal
phrase; that is to say, that he and his were to have the use of the well
for ever and ever. Bitter strife was the result of this agreement. The
feud lasted generations, during which the Lenuds throve and grew rich,
and the Delpierres got so poor, that, at the time when this story opens,
the last had just died leaving a widow and three children in bitter
destitution. Maître Louis Lenud, for the Parisian Monsieur had not yet
reached Manneville, immediately availed himself of this fact to bolt and
bar the postern-door through which his enemy had daily invaded the
courtyard to go to the well....

"'It was easily done, and it cost me nothing--not a sou,' exultingly
thought Maître Louis Lenud, coming to this conclusion for the hundredth
time on a warm evening in July. The evening was more than warm, it was
sultry; yet Maître Louis sat by the kitchen fire watching his old
servant, Madeleine, as she got onion soup ready for the evening meal,
utterly careless of the scorching blaze which shot up the deep dark
funnel of the chimney. Pierre, his son, unable to bear this additional
heat, stood in the open doorway, waiting with the impatience of eighteen
for his supper, occasionally looking out on the farmyard, grey and quiet
at this hour, but oftener casting a glance within. The firelight danced
about the stone kitchen, now lighting up the _armoire_ in the corner,
with cupids and guitars, and shepherds' pipes and tabors, and lovers'
knots carved on its brown oak panels; now showing the lad the bright
copper saucepans, hung in rows upon the walls; now revealing the stern
grim figure of his father, with his heavy grey eyebrows and his long
Norman features both harsh and acute; and very stern could Maître Louis
look, though he wore a faded blue blouse, an old handkerchief round his
neck, and on his head a white cotton nightcap, with a stiff tassel to
it; now suddenly subsiding and leaving all in the dim uncertain shadows
of twilight.

"During one of these grey intervals, the long-drawling Norman voice of
Maître Louis spoke:

"'The Delpierres have given up the well,' he said, with grim triumph.

"'Ay, but Fifine comes and draws water every night,' tauntingly answered

"'Hem!' the old man exclaimed with a growl....

"'Fifine comes and draws water every night,' reiterated Pierre....

"... he had seen the eldest child Fifine, a girl of eight or ten,
sitting on her doorstep singing her little brother to sleep, with a
wreath of hart's-tongue round her head, and a band of it round her
waist. 'And a little beggar, too, she looked,' scornfully added Pierre,
'with her uncombed hair and her rags.'

"'Shall we let the dog loose to-night?' he said."

"Maître Louis uttered his deepest growl, and promised to break every bone
in his son's body if he attempted such a thing.

"Pierre silently gulped down his onion soup, but the 'do it if you dare'
of the paternal wink only spurred him on. He gave up the dog as too
cruel, but not his revenge.

"The night was a lovely one and its tender subdued meaning might have
reached Pierre's heart, but did not. He saw as he crouched in the grass
near the old well that the full round moon hung in the sky; he saw that
the willows by the little river looked very calm and still" ... [the
revengeful lad watches for the child and falls asleep, then wakes

"... behold ... there was little Fifine with her pitcher standings in the
moonlight ... she stood there with her hair falling about her face, her
torn bodice, her scanty petticoats, and her little bare feet. How the
little traitress had got in, whilst he, the careless dragon, slept,
Pierre could not imagine; but she was evidently quite unconscious of
his presence.... The child set her pitcher down very softly, shook back
the hanging hair from her face, and peeped into the well. She liked to
look thus into that deep dark hole, with its damp walls clothed with the
long green hart's-tongue that had betrayed her. She liked also to look
at that white circle of water below; for you see if there was a wrathful
Adam by her, ready for revenge, she was a daughter of Eve, and Eve-like
enjoyed the flavour of this forbidden fruit.... Fifine ... took up her
pitcher again and walked straight on to the river. Pierre stared amazed,
then suddenly he understood it all. There was an old forgotten gap in
the hedge beyond the little stream, and through that gap Fifine and her
pitcher nightly invaded Maître Louis Lenud's territory.... having picked
up a sharp flint which lay in the grass Pierre rose and bided his
opportunity. Fifine went on till she had half-crossed a bridge-like
plank which spanned the stream, then, as her ill-luck would have it, she
stood still to listen to the distant hooting of an owl in the old church
tower on the hill. Pierre saw the child's black figure in the moonlight
standing out clearly against the background of grey willows, he saw the
white plank and the dark river tipped with light flowing on beneath it.
Above all, he saw Fifine's glazed pitcher, bright as silver; he was an
unerring marksman, and he took a sure aim at this. The flint sped
swiftly through the air; there was a crash, a low cry, and all was
suddenly still. Both Fifine and her pitcher had tumbled into the river
below and vanished there."

Pierre rescues her, and when Fifine has been for some years in service
with the repentant Pierre's cousin her improved looks and clothing make
her unrecognisable to the thick-headed well-meaning young farmer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The only fault that can be found with these chronicles of Manneville is
the likeness between them. The "Miller of Manneville," in the
"Forget-me-not" collection, is full of charm, but it too much resembles
"By the Well." The "Story of Monique" gives, however, a happy variety,
and Monique is a thorough French girl; so is Mimi in the bright little
story called "Mimi's Sin." Angélique again, in "Clément's Love," is a
girl one meets with over and over again in Normandy, but these Norman
stories are all so exquisitely told that it is invidious to single out

The stories laid in England, in which the characters are English, are
less graphic; they lack the fresh and true atmosphere of their fellows
placed across the Channel.

Julia Kavanagh died at Nice, where she spent the last few years of her
life. Had she lived longer she would perhaps have given us some graphic
stories from the Riviera, for it is evident that foreign people and
foreign ways attracted her sympathies so powerfully that she was able to
reproduce them in their own atmosphere. In a brief but touching preface
to the collection called "Forget-me-nots," published after her death,
Mr. C. W. Wood gives us a lovable glimpse of this charming writer;
reading this interesting little sketch deepens regret that one had not
the privilege of personally knowing so sweet a woman.

In regard to truth of atmosphere in her foreign stories, Julia Kavanagh
certainly surpasses Amelia B. Edwards. In "Barbara's History," in "Lord
Brackenbury," and in other stories by Miss Edwards, there are beautiful
and graphic descriptions of foreign scenery, and we meet plenty of
foreign people; but we feel that the latter are described by an
Englishwoman who has taken an immense amount of pains to make herself
acquainted with their ways and their speech--they somewhat lack
spontaneity. In the two novels named there are chapters so full of local
history and association that one thinks it might be well to have the
books for companions when visiting the places described; they are full
of talent--in some places near akin to genius.

"Barbara's History" contains a great deal of genuine humour. It is a
most interesting and exciting story, though in parts stagey; the opening
chapters, indeed the whole of Barbara's stay at her great-aunt's farm of
Stoneycroft, are so excellent that one cannot wonder the book was a
great success. Now and again passages and characters remind one of
Dickens; the great-aunt, Mrs. Sandyshaft, is a thorough Dickens woman,
with a touch of the great master's exaggeration; Barbara's father is
another Dickens character. There are power and passion as well as humour
in this book, but in spite of its interest it becomes fatiguing when
Barbara leaves her aunt and the hundred pigs.

There is remarkable truth of characterisation in some of this writer's
novels. Hugh Farquhar is sometimes an eccentric bore, but he is real.
Barbara Churchill at times is wearyingly pedantic; then, again, she is
just as delightfully original--her first meeting with Mrs. Sandyshaft is
so inimitable that I must transcribe a part of it.

A rich old aunt has invited Barbara Churchill, a neglected child of ten
years old, to stay with her in Suffolk. Barbara is the youngest of Mr.
Churchill's three girls, and she is not loved by either her widowed
father or her sisters, though an old servant named Goody dotes on the
child. Barbara is sent by stage-coach from London to Ipswich:--

"Dashing on between the straggling cottages, and up a hill so closely
shaded by thick trees that the dusk seems to thicken suddenly to-night,
we draw up all at once before a great open gate, leading to a house of
which I can only see the gabled outline and the lighted windows.

"The guard jumps down; the door is thrown open; and two persons, a man
and a woman, come hurrying down the path.

"'One little girl and one box, as per book,' says the guard, lifting me
out and setting me down in the road, as if I were but another box, to be
delivered as directed.

"'From London?' asks the woman sharply.

"'From London,' replies the guard, already scrambling back to his seat;
'All right, ain't it?'

"'All right.'

"Whereupon the coach plunges on again into the dusk; the man shoulders
my box as though it were a feather; and the woman who looks strangely
gaunt and grey by this uncertain light, seizes me by the wrist and
strides away towards the house at a pace that my cramped and weary limbs
can scarcely accomplish.

"Sick and bewildered, I am hurried into a cheerful room where the table
is spread as if for tea and supper, and a delicious perfume of coffee
and fresh flowers fills the air; and--and, all at once even in the
moment when I am first observing them, these sights and scents grow all
confused and sink away together, and I remember nothing ... when I
recover, I find myself laid upon a sofa, with my cloak and bonnet off,
my eyes and mouth full of Eau de Cologne, and my hands smarting under a
volley of slaps, administered by a ruddy young woman on one side, and by
the same gaunt person who brought me in from the coach on the other.
Seeing me look up, they both desist; and the latter, drawing back a step
or two, as if to observe me to greater advantage, puts on an immense
pair of heavy gold spectacles, stares steadily for some seconds, and and
at length says:

"'What did you mean by that now?'

"Unprepared for so abrupt a question, I lie as if fascinated by her
bright grey eyes, and cannot utter a syllable.

"'Are you better?'

"Still silent, I bow my head feebly, and keep looking at her.

"'Hey now. Am I a basilisk? Are you dumb, child?'

"Wondering why she speaks to me thus, and being, moreover, so very weak
and tired, what can I do, but try in vain to answer, and failing in the
effort, burst into tears again? Hereupon she frowns, pulls off her
glasses, shakes her head angrily, and, saying: 'That's done to aggravate
me, I know it is,' stalks away to the window, and stands there grimly,
looking out upon the night. The younger woman, with a world of kindness
in her rosy face ... whispers me not to cry.

"'That child's hungry,' says the other coming suddenly back. 'That's
what's the matter with her. She's hungry, I know she is, and I won't be
contradicted. Do you hear me, Jane?--I won't be contradicted.'

"'Indeed, ma'am, I think she is hungry, and tired too, poor little

"'Tired and hungry!... Mercy alive, then why don't she eat? Here's food
enough for a dozen people. Child, what will you have? Ham, cold chicken
pie, bread, butter, cheese, tea, coffee, ale?'

" ... Everything tastes delicious; and not even the sight of the gaunt
housekeeper ... has power to spoil my enjoyment.

"For she is the housekeeper, beyond a doubt. Those heavy gold
spectacles, that sad-coloured gown, that cap with its plain close
bordering can belong to no one but a housekeeper. Wondering within
myself that she should be so disagreeable; then where my aunt herself
can be; why she has not yet come to welcome me; how she will receive me
when she does come; and whether I shall have presence of mind enough to
remember all the curtseys I have been drilled to make, and all the
speeches I have been taught to say, I find myself eating as though
nothing at all had been the matter with me, and even staring now and
then quite confidently at my opposite neighbour.... Left alone now with
the sleeping dogs and the housekeeper--who looks as if she never slept
in her life--I find the evening wearisome. Observing too that she
continues to look at me in the same grim imperturbable way, and seeing
no books anywhere about, it occurs to me that a little conversation
would perhaps be acceptable, and that, as I am her mistress's niece, it
is my place to speak first.

"'If you please, ma'am,' I begin after a long hesitation.


"Somewhat disconcerted by the sharpness and suddenness of this
interruption, I pause, and take some moments to recover myself.

"'If you please, ma'am, when am I to see my aunt?'

"'Hey? What? Who?'

"'My aunt, if you please, ma'am?'

"'Mercy alive! and pray who do you suppose I am?'

"'You, ma'am,' I falter, with a vague uneasiness impossible to describe;
'are you not the housekeeper?'

"To say that she glares vacantly at me from behind her spectacles, loses
her very power of speech, and grows all at once quite stiff and rigid in
her chair, is to convey but a faint picture of the amazement with which
she receives this observation.

"'I,' she gasps at length, 'I! Gracious me, child, I am your aunt.' I
feel my countenance become an utter blank. I am conscious of turning red
and white, hot and cold, all in one moment. My ears tingle; my heart
sinks within me; I can neither speak nor think. A dreadful silence
follows, and in the midst of this silence my aunt, without any kind of
warning, bursts into a grim laugh, and says:

"'Barbara, come and kiss me.'

"I could have kissed a kangaroo just then, in the intensity of my
relief; and so getting up quite readily, touch her gaunt cheek with my
childish lips, and look the gratitude I dare not speak. To my surprise
she draws me closer to her knee, passes one hand idly through my hair,
looks not unkindly, into my wondering eyes, and murmurs more to herself
than me, the name of 'Barbara.'

"This gentle mood is, however, soon dismissed, and as if ashamed of
having indulged it, she pushes me away, frowns, shakes her head, and
says quite angrily:

"'Nonsense, child, nonsense. It's time you went to bed.'"

[Next morning at breakfast.]

"'Your name,' said my aunt, with a little off-hand nod, 'is Bab.
Remember that.'" ... [Mrs. Sandyshaft asks her great niece why she took
her for the housekeeper; the child hesitates, and at last owns that it
was because of her dress.]

... "'Too shabby?'

"'N--no, ma'am, not shabby; but....'

"'But what? You must learn to speak out, Bab. I hate people who

"'But Papa said you were so rich, and....'

"'Ah! He said I was rich did he? Rich! Oho! And what more, Bab? What
more? Rich indeed! Come, you must tell me. What else did he say when he
told you I was rich?'

"'N--nothing more, ma'am,' I replied, startled and confused by her
sudden vehemence. 'Indeed nothing more.'

"'Bab!' said my aunt bringing her hand down so heavily upon the table
that the cups and saucers rang again, 'Bab, that's false. If he told you
I was rich, he told you how to get my money by-and-by. He told you to
cringe and fawn, and worm yourself into my favour, to profit by my
death, to be a liar, a flatterer, and a beggar, and why? Because I am
rich. Oh yes, because I am rich.'

"I sat as if stricken into stone, but half comprehending what she meant,
and unable to answer a syllable.

"'Rich indeed!' she went on, excited more and more by her own words and
stalking to and fro between the window and the table, like one
possessed. 'Aha! we shall see, we shall see. Listen to me, child. I
shall leave you nothing--not a farthing. Never expect it--never hope for
it. If you are good and true, and I like you, I shall be a friend to you
while I live; but if you are mean and false, and tell me lies, I shall
despise you. Do you hear? I shall despise you, send you home, never
speak to you, or look at you again. Either way, you will get nothing by
my death. Nothing--nothing!'

"My heart swelled within me--I shook from head to foot. I tried to speak
and the words seemed to choke me.

"'I don't want it,' I cried passionately. 'I--I am not mean. I have told
no lies--not one.'

"My aunt stopped short, and looked sternly down upon me, as if she would
read my very soul.

"'Bab,' said she, 'do you mean to tell me that your father said nothing
to you about why I may have asked you here, or what might come of it?
Nothing? Not a word?'

"'He said it might be for my good--he told Miss Whymper to make me
curtsey and walk better, and come into a room properly; he said he
wished me to please you. That was all. He never spoke of money, or of
dying, or of telling lies--never.'

"'Well then,' retorted my aunt, sharply, 'he meant it.'

"Flushed and trembling in my childish anger, I sprang from my chair and
stood before her, face to face.

"'He did not mean it,' I cried. 'How dare you speak so of Papa? How

"I could say no more, but, terrified at my own impetuosity, faltered,
covered my face with both hands, and burst into an agony of sobs.

"'Bab,' said my aunt, in an altered voice, 'little Bab,' and took me all
at once in her two arms, and kissed me on the forehead.

"My anger was gone in a moment. Something in her tone, in her kiss, in
my own heart, called up a quick response; and nestling close in her
embrace, I wept passionately. Then she sat down, drew me on her knee,
smoothed my hair with her hand, and comforted me as if I had been a
little baby.

"'So brave,' said she, 'so proud, so honest. Come, little Bab, you and I
must be friends.'

"And we were friends from that minute; for from that minute a mutual
confidence and love sprang up between us. Too deeply moved to answer her
in words, I only clung the closer, and tried to still my sobs. She
understood me.

"'Come,' said she, after a few seconds of silence, 'let's go and see the

The sketch of Hilda Churchill is very good, and so is that of the Grand
Duke of Zollenstrasse. Taken as a whole, if we leave out the concluding
chapters, "Barbara's History" is a stirring, original, and very amusing
book, full of historical and topographical information, written in terse
and excellent English, and very rich in colour--the people in it are so
wonderfully alive.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Lord Brackenbury" is very clever and full of pictures, but it lacks the
brightness and the originality of "Barbara's History." Amelia B. Edwards
wrote several other novels--"Half a Million of Money," "Miss Carew,"
"Debenham's Vow," &c. &c. She also published a collection of short
tales--"Monsieur Maurice," etc.--and a book of ballads. Born in 1831,
she began to write at a time when sensational stories were in fashion,
and produced a number of exciting stories--"The Four-fifteen Express,"
"The Tragedy in the Bardello Palace," "The Patagonian Brothers"--all
extremely popular; though, when we read them now, they seem wanting in
the insight into human nature so remarkably shown in some of her novels.

She was a distinguished Egyptologist, and the foundation in 1883 of the
Egypt Exploration Fund was largely due to her efforts; she became one of
the secretaries to this enterprise, and wrote a good deal on Egyptian
subjects for European and American periodicals. She wrote and
illustrated some interesting travel books, especially her delightful "A
Thousand Miles up the Nile," and an account of her travels in 1872 among
the--at that time--rarely visited Dolomites. The latter is called
"Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys:" it is interesting, but not
so bright as the Nile book.

When one considers that a large part of her output involved constant and
laborious research--that for the purposes of many of the books she had
to take long and fatiguing journeys--the amount of good work she
accomplished is very remarkable; the more so, because she was not only
a writer, but an active promoter of some of the public movements of her
time. She was a member of the Biblical Archæological Society--a member,
too, of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Literature. Then she
entered into the woman's question, not so popular in those days as it is
in these, and was vice-president of a Society for promoting Women's

It is difficult to understand how in so busy and varied a life she could
have found sufficient leisure for writing fiction; but she had a very
large mental grasp, and probably as large a power of concentration.
Remembering that she was an omnivorous reader, a careful student,
possessed too of an excellent memory, we need not wonder at the fulness
and richness of her books.

  [Signature: Katherine S. Macquoid]




It is hardly necessary to state that this beautiful and charming woman
was the second daughter of Thomas Sheridan and grand-daughter of Richard
Brinsley Sheridan, of Regency renown. She was one of three sisters
famous for beauty and brains, the eldest of whom married Lord Dufferin,
and the youngest Lord Seymour, afterwards Duke of Somerset.

Born in the first decade of the present century, she married at
nineteen, in 1827, George Norton, brother of the third Lord Grantley--a
union which proved most unhappy. In 1836 Mr. Norton sought for a
divorce, in an action which entirely failed. Nevertheless, Norton
remained irreconcilable, and availed himself of all the powers which the
law then lent to a vindictive husband, claiming the proceeds of his
wife's literary work, and interfering between her and her children. But
it is with Mrs. Norton as a writer rather than as a woman that we are
concerned, and it is useless now to dwell upon the story of her wrongs
and struggles.

Previous to this unfortunate suit she produced, in 1829, "The Story of
Rosalie, with other Poems," which seems to have been her first published
work. This was well received and much admired.

In 1830 "The Undying One," a poem on the Wandering Jew, was brought out,
followed in 1840 by "The Dream and other Poems." This was highly praised
in the _Quarterly Review_ by Lockhart, who spoke of her as "the Byron of
poetesses." Other poems from her pen touched on questions of social
interest: "A Voice from the Factories" and "The Child of the Islands," a
poem on the social condition of the English people. She also printed
"English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century," and published much
of it in pamphlets on Lord Cranworth's Divorce Bill of this year (1853),
thus assisting in the amelioration of the laws relating to the custody
of children, and the protection of married women's earnings.

Her natural tendency was towards poetry, and the first five books
published by her were all in verse. In 1851 appeared a novel, in three
volumes, called "Stuart of Dunleath," which was succeeded by "Lost and
Saved" and "Old Sir Douglas."

It is curious to observe the depth and width of the gulf which yawns
between the novel of 1851 and the novel of to-day.

The latter opens with some brief sentence spoken by one of the
characters, or a short dialogue between two or three of them, followed
by a rapid sketch of their position or an equally brief picture of the
scene in which the action of the piece is laid. The reader is plunged at
once into the drama, and left to guess the parts allotted by the author
to his puppets.

Forty-five years ago, when Mrs. Norton wrote "Stuart of Dunleath," the
reader had to pass through a wide porch and many long passages before he
reached the inner chambers of the story. An account of the hero and
heroine's families, even to the third and fourth generation, was
indispensable, and the minutest particulars of their respective abodes
and surroundings were carefully detailed. The tale travelled by easy
stages, with many a pause where byways brought additional wayfarers to
join the throng of those already travelling through the pages; while
each and all, regardless of proportion, were described with equal
fulness whatever their degree of importance.

       *       *       *       *       *

These are the characteristics of Mrs. Norton's novels, which stretch in
a leisurely fashion to something like two hundred thousand words.
Nevertheless, "Stuart of Dunleath" shows great ability and knowledge of
the world. It is evidently written by a well-read, cultivated, and
refined woman, with warm feelings and strong religious convictions. The
descriptions are excellent, the language is easy and graceful.

The scene of the story lies chiefly in Scotland, and the Scotch
characters are very well drawn, save one, Lady Macfarren, who is
inhumanly hard. This, too, is one of the peculiarities of the forty or
forty-five year old novel; its people are terribly consistent in good or
evil. The dignity, the high-mindedness, the angelic purity of the
heroine is insupportable, and the stainless honour, the stern resistance
to temptation, the defiance of tyrannical wrongdoers, makes the hero
quite as bad.

In "Stuart of Dunleath," however, the hero is decidedly weak. He is the
guardian of Eleanor Raymond, the heroine, and, seeing a probability of
making a large profit by a speculative loan, risks her money, hoping to
obtain the means to buy back his estate without diminishing her fortune.
The speculation fails. Eleanor is reduced to poverty, and Stuart is
supposed to drown himself. Then the impoverished heroine, who is
desperately in love with her guardian, is compelled to marry a wealthy
baronet, Sir Stephen Penrhyn. This is the beginning of troubles, and
very bad troubles they are, continuing steadily through two-thirds of
the book.

Sir Stephen is a brutally bad husband, is shamelessly unfaithful,
personally violent, breaks his wife's arm, and makes her life a burden.
Her little twin sons are drowned in a boating accident, and then Stuart
returns from the grave, having been stopped in his attempt to drown
himself by a picturesque old clergyman, and started off to America,
where he manages to recover the lost fortune.

By his advice, Eleanor leaves her tyrant and takes steps to obtain a
divorce, but before the case is ready for hearing is seized with
scruples and gives up the attempt, chiefly because she fears she is
influenced by an unholy love for Stuart. Finally she gets leave of
absence from her amiable spouse, and dies of a broken heart before it
expires, Stuart having married her dearest friend, the brilliant Lady
Margaret Fordyce, thinking that Eleanor had no real affection for him.

The scruples are much to her credit, of course, but she might have tried
to save the remainder of her life from the degradation which must have
been the result of a reunion with her husband, yet kept aloof from
Stuart without offending God or breaking any sacred law.

Eighteen very distinct characters figure in these pages, and three or
four children. Of these the best drawn are those most lightly sketched.
The author's favourites are too much described, their merits, their
peculiarities, their faults (if allowed to have any) are detailed as the
writer sees them. But they do not act and live and develop themselves to
the reader, and, therefore, become abstractions, not living entities.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Lost and Saved," written some dozen of years afterward, has much the
same qualities as "Stuart of Dunleath." The subsidiary characters are
more convincing than the leading ladies and gentlemen. The hero, if such
a man could be so termed, with his extreme selfishness, his surface
amiability, his infirmity of purpose and utter faithlessness, is well
drawn. There is a respectable hero also, but we do not see much of him,
which is not to be regretted, as he is an intolerable prig.

In this romance the heroine elopes with Treherne, the villainous hero.
(Of course, there are the usual family objections to their wedding.)
They intend to go to Trieste, but in the confusion of a night march they
get on board the wrong steamer, and find themselves at Alexandria. Here
Treherne is confronted with his aunt, the magnificent Marchioness of
Updown. He is therefore obliged to suppress Beatrice (the heroine) until
the Marchioness "moves on."

They consequently set off on a voyage up the Nile, apparently in search
of a clergyman to marry them. It seems, by the way, a curious sort of
hunting-ground in which to track an English parson. Then Beatrice falls
dangerously ill, and nothing will save her save a parson and the
marriage service. A benevolent and sympathetic young doctor is good
enough to simulate a British chaplain, and the knot is tied to the
complete satisfaction of Beatrice. Much misery ensues.

It must be added that the magnificent Marchioness of Updown is an
extraordinary picture. Besides being a peeress by marriage, she is the
daughter of an earl, an aristocrat born and bred. Yet her vulgarity is
amazing. Her stupid ill-nature, her ignorance, her speech and manner,
suggest the idea of a small shopkeeper in a shabby street.

In this novel Mrs. Norton portrays the whited-sepulchre sort of woman
very clearly in Milly, Lady Nesdale, who is admired and petted by
Society, always smiling, well tempered, well dressed, careful to observe
_les bienséances_, making herself pleasant even to her husband; while,
screened by this fair seeming, she tastes of a variety of forbidden
fruit, one mouthful of which would be enough to consign a less astute
woman to social death. This class of character figures largely in
present day novels, but few equal, none surpass, Mrs. Norton's masterly

"Old Sir Douglas," her last novel, was published in _Macmillan's
Magazine_, 1867. It is planned on the same lines as her previous works
of fiction--the plot rather complicated, the characters extremely
numerous; among these is an almost abnormally wicked woman who works
endless mischief.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was, however, as a poetess that Mrs. Norton was chiefly known. Her
verse was graceful and harmonious, but more emotional than intellectual.
Wrath at injustice and cruelty stirred the depths of her soul; her heart
was keenly alive to the social evils around her and she longed
passionately for power to redress them. The effect of her own wrongs and
sufferings was to quicken her ardour to help her fellow women smarting
under English law as it at that time existed. What that law then
permitted is best exemplified by her own experience. When the legal
proceedings between her and her husband were over, and her innocence of
the charges brought against her was fully established, she was allowed
to see her children only _once_ for the space of half an hour in the
presence of two witnesses chosen by Mr. Norton, though this state of
things was afterwards ameliorated by the Infant Custody Act, which
allowed some little further restricted intercourse.

But these evil times are past. Indeed, it seems hard to believe that
barely fifty years separates the barbarous injustice of that period from
the decent amenities of this, as regards the respective rights of
husbands and wives.

Mrs. Norton's second poem of importance, "The Undying One," is founded
on the legend of the Wandering Jew, a subject always attractive to the
poetic imagination. It contains many charming lines, and touches on an
immense variety of topics, wandering, like its hero, over many lands.
The sufferings of isolation are vividly depicted, and isolation must, of
necessity, be the curse of endless life in this world.

    "Thus, thus, to shrink from every outstretched hand,
    To strive in secret and alone to stand,
    Or, when obliged to mingle in the crowd,
    Curb the pale lip which quiveringly obeys,
    Gapes wide with sudden laughter, vainly loud,
    Or writhes a faint, slow smile to meet their gaze.
    This, this is hell! the soul which dares not show
    The barbed sorrow which is rankling there,
    Gives way at length beneath its weight of woe,
    Withers unseen, and darkens to despair!"

In these days of rapidity and concentration, poems such as this would
never emerge from the manuscript stage, in which they might be read by
appreciative friends with abundant leisure.

The same observation applies to "The Dream." A mother sits watching the
slumber of her beautiful young daughter who, waking, tells her dream of
an exquisite life with the one she loves best, unshadowed by grief or
pain. The mother warns her that life will not be like this, and draws a
somewhat formidable picture of its realities. From this the girl
naturally shrinks, wondering where Good is to be found, and is answered

    "He that deals blame, and yet forgets to praise,
    Who sets brief storms against long summer days,
    Hath a sick judgment.
    And shall we _all_ condemn, and _all_ distrust,
    Because some men are false and some unjust?"

Some of Mrs. Norton's best and most impassioned verses are to be found
in the dedication of this poem to her friend, the Duchess of Sutherland.

Affection, gratitude, indignation, grief, regret--_these_ are the
sources of Mrs. Norton's inspiration; but of any coldly intellectual
solution of life's puzzles, such as more modern writers affect, there is
little trace.

"The Lady of La Garaye" is a Breton tale (a true one) of a beautiful and
noble Châtelaine, on whom Heaven had showered all joy and blessing.
Adored by her husband, she shared every hour of his life and
accompanied him in his favourite sport of hunting. One day she dared to
follow him over too wide a leap. Her horse fell with and on her. She was
terribly injured, and crippled for life. After much lamenting she is
comforted by a good priest, and institutes a hospital for incurables,
she and her husband devoting themselves to good works for the remainder
of their days. The versification is smooth, the descriptions are
graceful and picturesque; but neither the subject nor its treatment is

Mrs. Norton's finest poetic efforts are to be found in her short pieces.
One entitled "Ataraxia" has a soothing charm, which owes half its melody
to the undertone of sadness which pervades the verse.

      "Come forth! The sun hath flung on Thetis' breast
      The glittering tresses of his golden hair;
      All things are heavy with a noon-day rest,
      And floating sea-birds cleave the stirless air.
      Against the sky in outlines clear and rude
      The cleft rocks stand, while sunbeams slant between
      And lulling winds are murmuring through the wood
      Which skirts the bright bay, with its fringe of green.

      "Come forth! all motion is so gentle now
      It seems thy step alone should walk the earth,
      Thy voice alone, the 'ever soft and low,'
      Wake the far haunting echoes into birth.

      "Too wild would be Love's passionate store of hope,
      Unmeet the influence of his changeful power,
      Ours be companionship whose gentle scope
      Hath charm enough for such a tranquil hour."

From the perusal of her writings, the impression given by her portrait,
and the reminiscences of one who knew her, we gather an idea of this
charming and gifted woman, whose nature seems to have been rich in all
that makes for the happiness of others, and of herself. We feel that she
possessed a mind abundantly stored, an imagination stimulated and
informed by sojourning in many lands; a heart, originally tender and
compassionate, mellowed by maternal love, a judgment trained and
restrained by constant intercourse with the best minds of the period, a
wit keen as a damascene blade, and a soul to feel, even to enthusiasm,
the wrongs and sufferings of others.

Add to these gifts the power of swift expression, and we can imagine
what a fascination Mrs. Norton must have possessed for those of her
contemporaries who had the privilege of knowing her. "She was the most
brilliant woman I ever met," said the late Charles Austen, "and her
brilliancy was like summer lightning; it dazzled, but did not hurt."
Unless, indeed, she was impelled to denounce some wrong or injustice,
when her words could strike home. Yet to this lovely and lovable woman,
life was a long disappointment; and through all she has written a strain
of profound rebellion against the irony of fate colours her views, her
delineations of character, her estimate of the social world. By her
relations and friends she was warmly appreciated.

She did not succeed in obtaining the relief of divorce until about 1853.
Mr. Norton survived till 1875, and in 1877, a few months before her
death, his widow married Sir William Stirling-Maxwell.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a curious instance of the change of fashion and the transient
nature of popular memory that great difficulty is experienced in
obtaining copies of Mrs. Norton's works, especially of her poems. "The
Undying One," "The Dream," and one or two smaller pieces, are found only
in the British Museum Library. The novels are embedded in the deeper
strata of Mudie's, but are not mentioned in the catalogue of that
all-embracing collection. Yet forty years ago, Mrs. Norton acknowledged
that she made at one time about £1400 a year by her pen, this chiefly by
her contributions to the annuals of that time.

Mrs. Norton, however, had not to contend with the cruel competition
which lowers prices while it increases labour. In her day, the workers
were few, and the employers less difficult to please. But these
comparisons are not only odious, but fruitless. The crowd, the
competition, the desperate struggle for life, exists, increases, and we
cannot alter it. We can but train for the contest as best we may, and
say with the lovely and sorely tried subject of this sketch, as she
writes in her poem to her absent boys:

    "Though my lot be hard and lonely,
    Yet I hope--I hope through all."

  [Signature: Annie Hector]






Forty years ago, the mystic letters "A. L. O. E." ("A Lady of England")
on the title-page of a book ensured its welcome from the children of
those days. There was not then the host of gaily bound volumes pouring
from the press to be piled up in tempting array in every bookseller's
shop at Christmas. The children for whom "A. L. O. E." wrote were
contented to read a "gift-book" more than once; and, it must be said,
her stories were deservedly popular, and bore the crucial test of being
read aloud to an attentive audience several times.

Many of these stories still live, and the allegorical style in which "A.
L. O. E." delighted has a charm for certain youthful minds to this day.
There is a pride and pleasure in thinking out the lessons hidden under
the names of the stalwart giants in the "Giant Killer," which is one of
"A. L. O. E.'s" earlier and best tales. A fight with Giant Pride, a hard
battle with Giant Sloth, has an inspiriting effect on boys and girls,
who are led to "look at home" and see what giants hold them in bondage.

"A. L. O. E.'s" style was almost peculiar to herself. She generally used
allegory and symbol, and she was fired with the desire to arrest the
attention of her young readers and "do them good." We may fear that she
often missed her aim by forcing the moral, and by indulging in long and
discursive "preachments," which interrupted the main current of the
story, and were impatiently skipped that it might flow on again without
vexatious hindrances.

In her early girlhood and womanhood "A. L. O. E." had written plays,
which, we are told by her biographer, Miss Agnes Giberne, were full of
wit and fun. Although her literary efforts took a widely different
direction when she began to write for children, still there are flashes
of humour sparkling here and there on the pages of her most didactic
stories, showing that her keen sense of the ludicrous was present though
it was kept very much in abeyance.

From the first publication of "The Claremont Tales" her success as a
writer for children was assured. The list of her books covering the
space of fifteen or twenty years is a very long one, and she had no
difficulty in finding publishers ready to bring them out in an
attractive form.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Rambles of a Rat" is before me, as I write, in a new edition, and
is a very fair specimen of "A. L. O. E.'s" work. Weighty sayings are put
into the mouth of the rats, and provoke a smile. The discussion about
the ancestry of Whiskerando and Ratto ends with the trite remark--which,
however, was not spoken aloud--that the great weakness of one opponent
was pride of birth, and his anxiety to be thought of an ancient family;
but the chief matter, in Ratto's opinion, was not whether our ancestors
do honour to us, but whether by our conduct we do not disgrace them.
Probably this page of the story was hastily turned here, that the
history of the two little waifs and strays who took shelter in the
warehouse, where the rats lived, might be followed.

Later on there is a discussion between a father and his little boy about
the advantage of ragged schools, then a somewhat new departure in
philanthropy. Imagine a boy of nine, in our time, exclaiming, "What a
glorious thing it is to have ragged schools and reformatories, to give
the poor and the ignorant, and the wicked, a chance of becoming honest
and happy." Boys of Neddy's age, nowadays, would denounce him as a
little prig, who ought to be well snubbed for his philanthropical
ambition, when he went on to say, "How I should like to build a ragged
school myself!" "The Voyage of the Rats to Russia" is full of interest
and adventure, and the glimpse of Russian life is vivid, and in "A. L.
O. E.'s" best manner.

Indeed, she had a graphic pen, and her descriptions of places and things
were always true to life. In "Pride and his Prisoners," for instance,
there are stirring scenes, drawn with that dramatic power which had
characterised the plays she wrote in her earlier days. "The Pretender, a
farce in two Acts, by Charlotte Maria Tucker," is published in Miss
Giberne's biography. In this farce there is a curious and constantly
recurring play on words, but the allegory and the symbol with which she
afterwards clothed her stories are absent.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A. L. O. E." did not write merely to _amuse_ children; and the
countless fairy tales and books of startling adventure, in their gilded
covers and with their profuse illustrations, which are published every
year, have thrown her stories into the shade. But they are written with
verve and spirit, and in good English, which is high praise, and cannot
always be given to the work of her successors in juvenile literature. In
her books, as in every work she undertook throughout her life, she had
the high and noble aim of doing good. Whether she might have widened the
sphere of her influence by less of didactic teaching, and by allowing
her natural gifts to have more play, it is not for us to inquire.

It is remarkable that this long practice in allegory and symbol fitted
her for her labours in her latter years, amongst the boys and girls of
the Far East. Her style was well adapted to the Oriental mind, and
kindled interest and awoke enthusiasm in the hearts of the children in
the Batala Schools. Here she did a great work, which she undertook at
the age of fifty-four, when she offered her services to the Church
Missionary Society as an unpaid missionary.

"All for love, and no reward" may surely be said to be "A. L. O. E.'s"
watchword, as, with untiring energy, she laboured amongst the children
in a distant part of the empire. Even there she was busy as an author.
By her fertile pen she could reach thousands in that part of India who
would never see her face or hear her voice. She wrote for India as she
had written for England, ever keeping before her the good of her
readers. The Hindu boys and girls, as well as the children of this
country, have every reason to hold her name in grateful remembrance as
one of the authors who have left a mark on the reign of Queen Victoria.


There lingers over some people whom we know a nameless charm. It is
difficult to define it, and yet we feel it in their presence as we feel
the subtle fragrance of flowers, borne to us on the wings of the fresh
breeze, which has wandered over gorse and heather, beds of wild
hyacinth, and cowslip fields, in the early hours of a sunny spring day.
A charm like this breathes over the stories which Mrs. Ewing has left as
an inheritance for English children, and for their elders also, for all
time. The world must be better for her work; and looking back over the
sometimes toilsome paths of authorship, this surely, above all others,
is the guerdon all craftswomen of the pen should strive to win.

There is nothing morbid or melodramatic in Mrs. Ewing's beautiful
stories. They bubble over with the joys of child-life; they bristle with
its humour; they touch its sorrows with a tender, sympathetic hand; they
lend a gentle sadness of farewell to Death itself, with the sure hope of
better things to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in 1861 and 1862 that those who were looking for healthy stories
for children found, in "Melchior's Dream and other Tales," precisely
what they wanted. Soon after, _Aunt Judy's Magazine_, edited by Mrs.
Ewing's mother, Mrs. Gatty, made a new departure in the periodical
literature for children. The numbers were eagerly looked for month by
month, and the title of the magazine was given to commemorate the "Judy"
of the nursery, who had often kept a bevy of little brothers and sisters
happy and quiet by pouring forth into their willing ears stories full of
the prowess of giants, the freaks of fairies, with occasional but always
good-natured shafts aimed at the little faults and frailties of the
listening children.

_Aunt Judy's Magazine_ had no contributions from Mrs. Ewing's pen till
May 1866 and May 1867. Then the delightful "Remembrances of Mrs.
Overtheway" enchanted her youthful readers. Little Ida's own story and
her lonely childhood had an especial charm for them; and Mrs.
Overtheway's remembrances of the far-off days when she, too, was a
child, were told as things that had really happened. And so they had!
For, in the disappointment of the imaginative child who had created a
fair vision from her grandmother's description of Mrs. Anastasia Moss as
a golden-haired beauty in rose-bud brocade, and instead, saw an old lady
with sunken black eyes, dressed in _feuilles mortes_ satin, many a child
may have found the salient parts of her own experience rehearsed!

"Alas!" says Mrs. Overtheway, when little Ida, soothed by her gentle
voice, has fallen asleep. "Alas! my grown-up friends, does the moral
belong to children only? Have manhood and womanhood no passionate,
foolish longings, for which we blind ourselves to obvious truth, and of
which the vanity does not lessen the disappointment? Do we not all toil
after rose-buds to find _feuilles mortes_?" It is in touches like this,
in her stories, that Mrs. Ewing appeals to many older hearts as well as
to those of the young dreamers, taking their first steps in the journey
of life.

In 1857, Juliana Horatia Gatty married Alexander Ewing, A.P.D., and for
some time "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances" were not continued. The last
of them, "Kerguelin's Land," is considered by some critics the most
beautiful of the series, ending with the delightful surprise of little
Ida's joy in the return of her lost father.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Ewing's stories are so rich in both humour and pathos, that it is
difficult to choose from them distinctive specimens of her style, and of
that charm which pervades them, a charm which we think is peculiarly her

Mrs. Ewing gave an unconsciously faithful portrait of herself in "Madam
Liberality." The reader has in this story glimpses of the author's own
heroic and self-forgetful childhood. Perhaps this tale is not as well
known as some which followed it: so a few notes from its pages may not
be unwelcome here.

Madam Liberality, when a little girl, was accustomed to pick out all the
plums from her own slice of cake and afterwards make a feast with them
for her brothers and sisters and the dolls. Oyster shells served for
plates, and if by any chance the plums did not go round the party, the
shell before Madam Liberality's place was always the empty one. Her
eldest brother had given her the title of Madam Liberality; and yet he
could, with refreshing frankness, shake his head at her and say, "You
are the most _meanest_ and the _generousest_ person I ever knew."

Madam Liberality wept over this accusation, and it was the grain of
truth in it that made her cry, for it was too true that she screwed, and
saved, and pinched to have the pleasure of "giving away." "Tom, on the
contrary, gave away without pinching and saving. This sounds much
handsomer, and it was poor Tom's misfortune that he always believed it
to be so, though he gave away what did not belong to him, and fell back
for the supply of his own pretty numerous wants upon other people, not
forgetting Madam Liberality."

What a clever analysis of character is this! We have all known the
"Toms," for they are numerous, and some of us have known and but
scantily appreciated the far rarer "Madam Liberalitys."

It is difficult to read unmoved of the brave child's journey alone to
the doctor to have a tooth taken out which had caused her much
suffering. Then when about to claim the shilling from her mother, which
was the accustomed reward for the unpleasant operation, she remembered
the agreement was a shilling for a tooth with fangs, sixpence for a
tooth without them. She did so want the larger sum to spend on Christmas
presents; so, finding a fang left in her jaw, she went back to the
doctor, had it extracted, and staggered home once more, very giddy but
very happy, with the tooth and the fang safe in a pill box!

"Moralists say a great deal about pain treading so very closely on the
heels of pleasure in this life, but they are not always wise or grateful
enough to speak of the pleasure which springs out of pain. And yet there
is a bliss which comes just when pain has ceased, whose rapture rivals
even the high happiness of unbroken health.

"Relief is certainly one of the most delicious sensations which poor
humanity can enjoy."

Madam Liberality often suffered terrible pain from quinsy. Thus we read
sympathetically of her heroic efforts one Christmastide, when nearly
suffocated with this relentless disease, to go on with her preparations
to get her little gifts ready for the family. And how we rejoice when a
cart rumbles up to the door and brings a load of beautiful presents,
sent by a benevolent lady who has known Madam Liberality's desire to
make purchases for her brothers and sisters, and has determined to give
her this delightful surprise.

       *       *       *       *       *

The story of Madam Liberality, from childhood to maturity, is, we think,
written in Mrs. Ewing's best manner, though, perhaps, it has never
gained the widespread popularity of "Jackanapes," and "The Story of a
Short Life," or "A Flat Iron for a Farthing."

Of the last-named story Mrs. Bundle is almost the central figure. In the
childhood of Reginald Dacre, who writes his own reminiscences, she
played a prominent part. Loyal and true, she held the old traditions of
faithful service; her master's people were her people, and she had but
few interests apart from them.

The portrait of Reginald's mother hung in his father's dressing-room,
and was his resort in the early days of his childish sorrows. Once when
his dog Rubens had been kicked by a guest in his father's house,
Reginald went to that picture of his golden-haired mother and wept out
his plaintive entreaties that "Mamma would come back to Rubens and to
him--they were so miser-ra-ble." "Then," he says, "in the darkness came
a sob that was purely human, and I was clasped in a woman's arms and
covered with tender kisses and soothing caresses. For one wild moment,
in my excitement and the boundless faith of childhood, I thought my
mother had heard me and come back. But it was only Nurse Bundle!"

Then, passing over many years, when Reginald Dacre brought his bride to
his old home, this faithful friend, after giving her loving welcome to
the new Mrs. Dacre, went, in the confusion and bewilderment of old age,
with its strange mingling of past and present, to the room where the
portrait of her lost lady with the golden hair still hung; and there,
the story goes on to say, "There, where years before she had held me in
her arms with tears, I, weeping also, held her now in mine--quite dead!"

This is one of the most pathetic incidents in all Mrs. Ewing's works,
told without the least exaggeration and with the simplicity which is one
of the characteristics of her style.

"Lob Lie by the Fire" contains some of the author's brightest flashes of
humour, and yet it closes with a description of Macalister's death,
drawn with the tender hand with which that solemn mystery is ever
touched by Mrs. Ewing, beautiful in its pathetic simplicity. Nothing in
its way can be more profoundly touching than the few words which end
this story:--

"After a while Macalister repeated the last word, '_Home_.' And as he
spoke there spread over his face a smile so tender and so full of
happiness that John Broom held his breath as he watched him. As the
light of sunrise creeps over the face of some rugged rock, it crept from
chin to brow, and the pale blue eyes shone, tranquil, like water that
reflects heaven. And when it had passed, it left them still open--but
gems that had lost their ray."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Jackanapes" is so well known, almost the best known of the author's
charming stories, that we will not dwell on the pathos of that last
scene, when Jackanapes, like one in the old allegory, heard the trumpets
calling for him on the other side--the gallant boy who had laid down his
life for his friend. But the character of the Gray Goose, who slept
securely with one leg tucked up under her on the green, is so
delightfully suggestive that we must give some of her wisdom as a
specimen of the author's humorous but never unkindly hits at the
weaknesses to which we are all prone.

"The Gray Goose and the big Miss Jessamine were the only elderly
persons who kept their ages secret. Indeed, Miss Jessamine never
mentioned any one's age, or recalled the exact year in which anything
had happened. The Gray Goose also avoided dates. She never got farther
than 'last Michaelmas,' 'the Michaelmas before that,' and 'the
Michaelmas before the Michaelmas before that.' After this her head,
which was small, became confused, and she said 'Ga-ga!' and changed the

Then again:

"The Gray Goose always ran away at the first approach of the caravans,
and never came back to the green till nothing was left of the fair but
footmarks and oyster-shells. Running away was her pet principle; the
only system, she maintained, by which you can live long and easily, and
lose nothing.

"Why in the world should any one spoil the pleasures of life, or risk
his skin, if he can help it?

    'What's the use?
    Said the goose.'

Before answering which one might have to consider what world, which
life, and whether his skin were a goose skin. But the Gray Goose's head
would never have held all that."

       *       *       *       *       *

Major Ewing was stationed at Aldershot in 1869, and during the eight
years Mrs. Ewing lived there her pen was never idle. _Aunt Judy's
Magazine_ for 1870 was well supplied with tales, of which "Amelia" is
perhaps one of the best.

To her life at Aldershot we owe the story which had for its motto
"Loetus sorte mea," and which is full of the most graphic descriptions
of the huts and the soldiers' life in camp. As in the story of Madam
Liberality we have glimpses of the author's childhood with all its
little cares and joys, so in the "Story of a Short Life" we have the
actual experience of a soldier's life in camp.

O'Reilly, the useful man of all trades, with his warm Irish heart, and
his devotion to the Colonel's wife, his erratic and haphazard way of
performing his duties, his admiration for the little gentleman in his
velvet coat and lace collar, who stood erect by his side when the
funeral passed to the music of the Dead March, imitating his soldierlike
bearing and salute, is a vivid picture touched by the skilled hand of a
word painter.

So also is the figure of the V.C., who in his first talk with the
crippled child, stands before us as the ideal of a brave soldier, who
sets but little store on his achievements, modest as the truly great
always are, and encouraging the boy to fight a brave battle against
irritable temper and impatience at the heavy cross of suffering laid
upon him.

"'You are a V.C.,' Leonard is saying, 'and you ought to know. I suppose
nothing--not even if I could be good always from this minute right away
till I die--nothing could ever count up to the courage of a V.C.?'

"'God knows it could, a thousand times over,' was the V.C.'s reply.

"'Where are you going? Please don't go. Look at me. They're not going to
chop the Queen's head off, are they?'

"'Heaven forbid! What are you thinking about?'

"'Why because--look at me again--ah! you've winked it away; but your
eyes were full of tears, and the only other brave man I ever heard of
crying was Uncle Rupert, and that was because he knew they were going to
chop the poor king's head off.' That was enough to make anybody cry."

They were in the room where the picture of the young cavalier ancestor
of Leonard hung. He always called him "Uncle Rupert," and he would
meditate on the young face with the eyes dim with tears--eyes which
always seemed to follow him, and, as he fancied, watched him
sorrowfully, now no longer able to jump about and play with the Sweep,
but lying helpless on his couch, or limping about on his crutches, often
with pain and difficulty.

This conversation between the V.C. and Leonard was the beginning of a
strong friendship which was put to the test one Sunday when Leonard lay
dying in the hut of his uncle, the barrack-master.

The V.C. hated anything like display or bringing himself into notice.
Thus it cost him something to take up his position outside the iron
church in the camp, that Leonard might hear the last verses of the
tug-of-war hymn. The V.C.'s attachment to his little friend triumphed
over his dislike to stand alone singing,

    "The Son of God goes forth to war,
      A kingly crown to gain."

The melodious voice of the gallant young soldier rang through the air
and reached the dying ears of little Leonard. The soldiers loved this
hymn, and the organist could never keep them back. The soldiers, the
story says, had begun to tug. In a moment more the organ stopped, and
the V.C. found himself with over three hundred men at his back, singing
without accompaniment and in unison:

    "A noble army, men and boys,
      The matron and the maid,
    Around the Saviour's throne rejoice
      In robes of white arrayed."

Even now, as the men paused to take breath after their "tug," the organ
spoke again softly but seraphically. Clearer and sweeter above the
voices behind him rose the voice of the V.C. singing to his little

    "They climbed the steep ascent to Heaven
      Through peril, toil and pain."

The men sang on, but the V.C. stopped as if he had been shot. For a
man's hand had come to the Barrack Master's window _and pulled down the

Here, again, we have an instance of this author's power to touch her
readers, even to tears, by the true pathos which needs but few words to
bring it home to many hearts.

Taken as a whole, "The Story of a Short Life" has, it may be, some
faults of construction, which arose from its being written in detached
portions. The history of St. Martin, though it is not without its
bearing on the story of the beautiful and once active child's bruised
and broken life, and his desire to be a soldier, rather spoils the
continuity of the narrative.

"The Story of a Short Life" was not published in book form until four
days before the author's death; but it was not her last work, though
from its appearance at that moment the title was spoken of by some
reviewers as singularly appropriate.

Mrs. Ewing's love for animals may be seen in all her stories--Leonard's
beloved "Sweep," Lollo the red-haired pony on which Jackanapes took his
first ride, and the dog in the blind man's story dying of grief on his
grave, are all signs of the author's affection for those who have been
well called "our silent friends." Her own pets were indeed her
friends--from a pink-nosed bulldog called Hector, to a refugee pup saved
from the common hang-man, and a collie buried with honours, his master
making a sketch of him as he lay on his bier.

Mrs. Ewing was passionately fond of flowers, and "Mary's Meadow" was
written in the last years of her life as a serial for _Aunt Judy's
Magazine_. Her very last literary work was a series of letters from a
Little Garden, and the love of and care for flowers is the theme.

       *       *       *       *       *
Much of Mrs. Ewing's work cannot be noticed in a paper which is
necessarily short. But enough has been said to show what was her
peculiar gift as a writer for children.

It is sometimes said that to write books for children cannot be
considered a high branch of literature. We venture to think this is a
mistake. There is nothing more difficult than to arrest the attention of
children. They do not as a rule care to be _written down_ to--they can
appreciate what is good and are pleased when their elders can enter into
and admire the story which has interested and delighted them.

To write as Mrs. Ewing wrote is undoubtedly a great gift which not many
possess, but a careful study of her works by young and old authors and
readers alike cannot be without benefit. She was a perfect mistress of
the English language; she was never dull and never frivolous. There is
not a slip-shod sentence, or an exaggerated piling up of adjectives to
be found in her pages. She knew what she had to say, and she said it in
language at once pure, forcible, and graceful.

We must be grateful to her for leaving for us, and for our children's
children, so much that is a model of all that tends to make the
literature of the young--yes, and of the old also--attractive, healthy,
and delightful.

  [Signature: Emma Marshall]


London & Edinburgh

       *       *       *       *       *


Punctuation has been normalized without note.

The following have been corrected:

    page 45: "beween" changed to "between" (discriminate between them)

    page 48: "esipodes" changed to "episodes" (of the episodes in her
    own life)

    page 70: "of of" changed to "of" (part of a woman's virtue)

    page 97: "Shakespeare" changed to "Shakspere" for consistency (did
    not Shakspere make Hector)

    page 100: "Sorel" chanaged to "Sorrel" (and who Hetty Sorrel) page
    185: "mon s" changed to "monks" (to make the old monks)

    page 298: "Melchoir's" changed to "Melchior's" ("Melchior's Dream
    and Other Tales")

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Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.