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Title: Res Judicatæ - Papers and Essays
Author: Birrell, Augustine, 1850-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Res Judicatæ - Papers and Essays" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                         RES JUDICATÆ

                     _IN UNIFORM BINDING_

                        =ANDREW LANG=

        Letters to Dead Authors                 $1 00

                     =AUGUSTINE BIRRELL=

        Obiter Dicta--First Series               1 00
        Obiter Dicta--Second Series              1 00
        Res Judicatæ                             1 00

                        =W. E. HENLEY=

        Views and Reviews--Literature            1 00

                         RES JUDICATÆ

                     _PAPERS AND ESSAYS_



   'It need hardly be added that such sentences do not any more
   than the records of the superior courts conclude as to matters
   which may or may not have been controverted.'--_See_ BLACKHAM'S
   _Case I. Salkeld 290_


                     COPYRIGHT, 1892, BY

                   CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS.


The first two essays in this volume were composed as lectures, and are
now printed for the first time; the others have endured that indignity
before. The papers on 'The Letters of Charles Lamb' and 'Authors in
Court' originally appeared in _Macmillan's Magazine_; and the short
essays entitled 'William Cowper' and 'George Borrow' in the _Reflector_,
a lively sheet which owed its existence to and derived its inspiration
from the energy and genius of the late Mr. J. K. Stephen, whose too
early death has not only eclipsed the gaiety of many gatherings, but has
robbed the country of the service of a noble and truth-loving man.

The other papers appeared either in _Scribner's Magazine_ or in the
columns of the _Speaker_ newspaper.

Although, by the kindness of my present publishers, I have always been
practically a 'protected article' in the States, I cannot help
expressing my pleasure in finding myself in the enjoyment of the same
modest rights as an author in the new home of my people as in the old.

                                   A. B.



 I. SAMUEL RICHARDSON                                                1

 II. EDWARD GIBBON                                                  39

 III. WILLIAM COWPER                                                84

 IV. GEORGE BORROW                                                 115

 V. CARDINAL NEWMAN                                                140

 VI. MATTHEW ARNOLD                                                181

 VII. WILLIAM HAZLITT                                              224

 VIII. THE LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB                                 232

 IX. AUTHORS IN COURT                                              253

 X. NATIONALITY                                                    274

 XI. THE REFORMATION                                               284

 XII. SAINTE-BEUVE                                                 298

                      SAMUEL RICHARDSON

                          A LECTURE

It is difficult to describe mankind either in a book or in a breath, and
none but the most determined of philosophers or the most desperate of
cynics have attempted to do so, either in one way or the other. Neither
the philosophers nor the cynics can be said to have succeeded. The
descriptions of the former are not recognisable and therefore as
descriptions at all events, whatever may be their other merits, must be
pronounced failures; whilst those of the cynics describe something which
bears to ordinary human nature only the same sort of resemblance that
chemically polluted waters bear to the stream as it flows higher up than
the source of contamination, which in this case is the cynic himself.

But though it is hard to describe mankind, it is easy to distinguish
between people. You may do this in a great many different ways: for
example, and to approach my subject, there are those who can read
Richardson's novels, and those who cannot. The inevitable third-class
passenger, no doubt, presents himself and clamours for a ticket: I mean
the man or woman who has never tried. But even a lecturer should have
courage, and I say boldly that I provide no accommodation for that
person tonight. If he feels aggrieved, let him seek his

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Samuel Richardson, of Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, printer, was,
if you have only an eye for the outside, a humdrum person enough.
Witlings, writing about him in the magazines, have often, out of
consideration for their pretty little styles, and in order to avoid the
too frequent repetition of his highly respectable if unromantic name,
found it convenient to dub him the 'little printer.'

He undoubtedly was short of stature, and in later life, obese in figure,
but had he stood seven feet high in his stockings, these people would
never have called him the 'big printer.' Richardson has always been
exposed to a strong under-current of ridicule. I have known people to
smile at the mention of his name, as if he were a sort of
man-milliner--or, did the thing exist, as some day it may do, a male
nursery-governess. It is at first difficult to account for this strange
colouring of the bubble reputation. Richardson's life, admirable as is
Mrs. Barbauld's sketch, cannot be said to have been written--his
letters, those I mean, he wrote in his own name, not the nineteen
volumes he made his characters write, have not been reprinted for more
than eighty years. He of all men might be suffered to live only in his
works, and when we turn to those works, what do we find? _Pamela_ and
_Clarissa_ are both terribly realistic; they contain passages of horror,
and are in parts profoundly pathetic, whilst _Clarissa_ is desperately
courageous. Fielding, with all his swagger and bounce, gold lace and
strong language, has no more of the boldness than he has of the
sublimity of the historian of Clarissa Harlowe. But these qualities
avail poor Richardson nothing. The taint of afternoon tea still clings
to him. The facts--the harmless, nay, I will say the attractive,
facts--that he preferred the society of ladies to that of his own sex,
and liked to be surrounded by these, surely not strange creatures, in
his gardens and grottos, first at North End, Hammersmith, and afterwards
at Parsons Green, are still remembered against him. Life is indeed full
of pitfalls, if estimates of a man's genius are to be formed by the
garden-parties he gave, and the tea he consumed a century and a quarter
ago. The real truth I believe to be this: we are annoyed with Richardson
because he violates a tradition. The proper place for an
eighteenth-century novelist was either the pot or the sponging house. He
ought to be either disguised in liquor or confined for debt. Richardson
was never the one or the other. Let us see how this works: take Dr.
Johnson; we all know how to describe him. He is our great moralist, the
sturdy, the severe, the pious, the man who, as Carlyle puts it in his
striking way, worshipped at St. Clement Danes in the era of Voltaire,
or, as he again puts it, was our real primate, the true spiritual
edifier and soul's teacher of all England? Well, here is one of his
reminiscences: 'I remember writing to Richardson from a sponging-house
and was so sure of my deliverance through his kindness and liberality,
that before his reply was brought I knew I could afford to joke with the
rascal who had me in custody, and did so over a pint of adulterated wine
for which at that moment I had no money to pay.'

Now, there we have the true, warm-hearted, literary tradition of the
eighteenth century. It is very amusing, it is full of good feeling and
fellowship, but the morality of the transaction from the great
moralist's point of view is surely, like his linen, a trifle dingy. The
soul's teacher of all England, laid by the heels in a sponging-house,
and cracking jokes with a sheriff's officer over a pint of wine on the
chance of another man paying for it, is a situation which calls for
explanation. It is not my place to give it. It could, I think, easily be
given. Dr. Johnson was, in my judgment, all Carlyle declared him to be,
and to have been called upon to set him free was to be proudly
privileged, and, after all, why make such a fuss about trifles? The
debt and costs together only amounted to £5 18s., so that the six
guineas Richardson promptly sent more than sufficed to get our 'real
primate' out of prison, and to pay for the pint. All I feel concerned to
say here is, that the praise of this anecdote belongs to the little
printer, and not to the great lexicographer. The hero of the parable of
the Good Samaritan is the Good Samaritan himself, and not the
unfortunate, and therefore probably foolish, traveller who must need
fall amongst thieves.

But if you violate traditions, and disturb people's notions as to what
it is becoming for you to be, to do, or to suffer, you have to pay for
it. An eighteenth-century novelist who made a fortune first by honest
labour and the practice of frugality, and wrote his novels afterwards;
who was fond of the society of ladies, and a vegetarian in later life;
who divided his time between his shop and his villa, and became in due
course master of a city company, is not what we have a right to expect,
and makes a figure which strongly contrasts with that of Richardson's
great contemporary, the entirely manly Henry Fielding, whose very name
rings in the true tradition; whilst as for his books, to take up _Tom
Jones_ is like re-entering in middle life your old college rooms, where,
so at least Mr. Lowell assures us,

                    'You feel o'er you stealing
    The old, familiar, warm, champagny, brandy-punchy feeling.'

It may safely be said of Richardson that, after attaining to
independence, he did more good every week of his life--for he was a wise
and most charitable man--than Fielding was ever able to do throughout
the whole of his; but this cannot alter the case or excuse a violated

The position, therefore, of Richardson in our literature is that of a
great Nonconformist. He was not manufactured according to any
established process. If I may employ a metaphor borrowed from his own
most honourable craft, he was set up in a new kind of type. He was born
in 1689 in a Derbyshire village, the name of which, for some
undiscovered reason, he would never tell. The son of poor parents--his
father was a joiner--he had never any but a village school education,
nor did he in later life worry much about learning, or seek, as so many
printers have done, to acquire foreign tongues. At fourteen years of age
he was bound apprentice to a printer in Aldersgate Street, and for seven
years toiled after a fashion which would certainly nowadays be forbidden
by Act of Parliament, were there the least likelihood of anybody either
demanding or performing drudgery so severe. When out of his
apprenticeship, he worked for eight years as a compositor, reader, and
overseer, and then, marrying his late master's daughter, set up for
himself, and slowly but steadily grew prosperous and respected. His
first wife dying, he married again, the daughter of a bookseller of
Bath. At the age of fifty he published his first novel, _Pamela_. John
Bunyan's life was not more unlike an Archbishop of Canterbury's than was
Richardson's unlike the life of an ordinary English novelist of his

This simile to Nonconformity also holds good a little when we seek to
ascertain the ambit of Richardson's popularity. To do this we must take
wide views. We must not confine our attention to what may be called the
high and dry school of literary orthodoxy. There, no doubt, Richardson
has his admirers, just as Spurgeon's sermons have been seen peeping out
from under a heap of archidiaconal, and even episcopal Charges, although
the seat of Spurgeon's popularity is not in bishops' palaces, but in
shop parlours. I do not mean by this that Richardson is now a popular
novelist, for the fact, I suppose, is otherwise; but I mean that to take
the measure of his popularity, you must look over the wide world and not
merely at the clans and the cliques, the noble army of writers, and the
ever lessening body of readers who together constitute what are called
literary circles. Of Richardson's great fame on the Continent, it will
be time enough to speak in a few minutes; for the moment I will stop at
home. Mr. Leslie Stephen, who has been called to be editor of our first
really great Dictionary of National Biography, and has in that capacity
to sit like a coroner's jury upon every dead author, and to decide
whether his exploits are to be squeezed into one miserable paragraph,
or may be allowed proudly to expand over a page--he, I say, pronounces
_Pamela_ to be neither moral nor amusing. Poor Pamela, who through two
mortal volumes thinks of nothing but her virtue, and how to get married
according to law! to be thus dismissed by her most recent, most
distinguished editor! But, I repeat, we must take wide views. We must
not be content with the verdict of the university; we must seek that of
the kitchen: nor is the distance ever great between these institutions.
Two months ago a cook in a family of my acquaintance, one Saturday
evening, when like old Caspar 'her work was done,' suddenly bethought
herself of _Pamela_, a book she had not read since girlhood. Rest was
impossible--get it forthwith she must. The housemaid proffered her _The
Heir of Redclyffe_, and the kitchen-maid, a somewhat oppressed damsel,
timidly produced _Gates Ajar_. The cook was not to be trifled with after
any such feeble fashion. The spell of _Pamela_ was upon her, and out she
sallied, arrayed in her majesty, to gratify her soul's desire. Had she
been a victim of what is called 'Higher Education of Women,' and
therefore in the habit of frequenting orthodox bookshops, she would
doubtless have found the quest at so late an hour as hopeless as that of
the _Holy Grail_; but she was not that sort of person, and the shop she
had in her mind, and whither she straightway bent her steps, was a small
stationer's where are vended _Family Heralds_ and _Ballads_ and
_Pamelas_; for the latter, in cheap sixpenny guise--and I hope complete,
but for this I cannot vouch--is a book which is constantly reprinted for
sale amongst the poor. The cook, having secured her prize, returned to
her home in triumph, where a dinner worthy of the name was not to be had
until Pamela's virtue was rewarded, which, as you doubtless remember, it
only was when her master brings her a license and presses for a day. She
desires it may be on a Thursday, and gives her reasons. He rallies her
agreeably on that head. The Thursday following is fixed upon. She
reflects seriously on the near prospect of her important change of
condition, and is diffident of her own worthiness, and prays for
humility that her new condition may not be a snare to her, and makes up
her mind how to behave herself to the servants, she herself having been

There are well-authenticated instances of the extraordinary power
_Pamela_ possesses of affecting those who are not much in the habit of
reading. There is a story of its being read aloud by a blacksmith round
his anvil night after night, to a band of eager rustics, all dreadfully
anxious good Mr. Richardson would only move on a little faster, and yet
unwilling to miss a single one of poor Pamela's misadventures; and of
their greeting by hearty rounds of British cheers, the happy issue out
of her afflictions that awaits her, namely, her marriage with the cause
of every one of them.

There are living writers who have written some admirable novels, and I
have known people to be glad when they were finished, but never to the
pitch of three times three.

I am not, of course, recommending anyone to read _Pamela_; to do so
would be an impertinence. You have all done so, or tried to do so. 'I do
not remember,' says Charles Lamb, 'a more whimsical surprise than
having been once detected by a familiar damsel, reclining at my ease
upon the grass on Primrose Hill, reading _Pamela_. There was nothing in
the book to make a man seriously ashamed at the exposure; but as she
seated herself down by me, and seemed determined to read in company, I
could have wished it had been--any other book. We read on very socially
for a few pages; and not finding the author much to her taste, she got
up and went away. Gentle casuist, I leave it to thee to conjecture
whether the blush (for there was one between us) was the property of the
nymph or the swain in the dilemma. From me you shall never learn the

Miss Pamela Andrews was, to tell the truth, a vulgar young person. There
is nothing heroic or romantic about her; she has not a touch or a trace
of the moral sublimity of Jeannie Deans, who though of the same rank of
life, belonged to another country and had had an entirely different
up-bringing. What a reply was that of Jeannie's to the Rev. Mr.
Staunton, George Robertson's father, when he, entirely misapprehending
the purport of her famous journey, lets her perceive that he fancies she
is plotting for her own marriage with his son. Says the father to the
son: 'Perhaps you intend to fill up the cup of disobedience and
profligacy by forming a low and disgraceful marriage; but let me bid you
beware.' 'If you were feared for sic a thing happening with me, sir,'
said Jeannie, 'I can only say that not for all the land that lies
between the twa ends of the rainbow, wad I be the woman that should wed
your son.' 'There is something very singular in all this,' said the
elder Staunton; and so Pamela would have thought. She, honest girl that
she was, was always ready to marry anybody's son, only she must have the
marriage lines to keep in her desk and show to her dear parents.

The book's origin ought not to be overlooked. Some London booksellers,
knowing Mr. Richardson to be a grave man of decorous life, and with a
talent for moralising, desired him to write a series of familiar letters
on the behaviour of young women going out to service for the first
time; they never intended a novel: they wanted a manual of conduct--that
conduct which, according to a precise Arithmetician is three-fourths, or
some other fraction, of human life. It was in this spirit that
Richardson sat down to write _Pamela_ and make himself famous. He had a
facile pen, and the book, as it grew under his hand, outstripped its
design, but never lost sight of it. It was intended for Pamelas, and is
_bourgeois_ to the very last degree. The language is simple, but its
simplicity is not the noble, soul-stirring simplicity of Bunyan, nor is
it the manly simplicity of Cobbett or Hugh Miller: it is the ignoble,
and at times almost the odious, simplicity of a merely uncultured life.
It abounds in vulgar phrases and vulgar thoughts; still, it reflects
powerfully the scenes it portrays, and you feel as you read a fine
affinity between the communicating medium, the language, and the thing
communicated, the story. When people said, in the flush of their first
enthusiasm, as they did say, that there were but two good books in the
world, the _Bible_, and _Pamela_, this is what, perhaps unconsciously
they were thinking of; otherwise they were talking nonsense. Pamela
spoke a language still understood of many, and if she was not romantic
or high-flown, there are others like her. We are always well pleased,
and it is perhaps lucky for the majority of novelists that it should be
so, to read about people who do not in the least resemble us; still,
anyone who describes us as we are, 'strikes the electric chain wherewith
we are darkly bound,' and makes humanity quiver right down the
centuries. Pamela was a vulgar little thing, and saucy withal: her
notions of honour and dishonour were neither lofty nor profound; but she
had them and stuck to them in perilous paths along which the defenceless
of her sex are too often called to tread; and when finally her virtue is
rewarded, and she is driven off in a chariot drawn by the four
long-tailed mares upon whom she had been cruelly twitted for setting her
affections, I for one am quite prepared to join with the rustics round
the blacksmith's anvil in loud cheers for Pamela.

Ten years after _Pamela_ came _Clarissa_. It is not too much to say that
not only Great Britain and Ireland, (the latter country not yet
deprived of her liberties by the Act of Union, and therefore in a
position to pirate popular authors, after the agreeable fashion of our
American cousins,[2]) but also France, Germany, and Holland, simply
gulped _Clarissa_ down; and she was in seven volumes. It was a kind of
gospel, something good and something new. Its author was a stout
tradesman of sixty, but he was not in the very least degree what is now
called--perhaps to the point of nausea--a Philistine. By a Philistine I
suppose we must understand someone who lives and moves and has his being
in the realm of ordinary stock conventional ideas--a man who is as blind
to the future as he is deaf to the past. For example, that Dr. Drummond,
Archbishop of York, who just about this very time told the Rev. Mr.
Conyers, one of his clergy, 'that he would be better employed preaching
the morality of Socrates than canting about the New Birth,' was a
Philistine--I doubt not a very amiable one, but, being a Philistine, he
had no chance of recognising what this nascent methodism was, and as
for dreaming what it might become--had he been capable of this--he would
not have been a Philistine or, probably, Archbishop of York!

Richardson on the other hand had his quiver full of new ideas; he had
his face to the east; he was no mere inheritor, he was a progenitor. He
is, in short, as has been often said, our Rousseau; his characters were
not stock characters. Think of Fielding's characters, his Tom Joneses
and Booths, his Amelias and Sophias. They are stage properties as old as
the Plantagenets. They are quite unidea'd, if I may use a word which, as
applied to girls, has the authority of Dr. Johnson. Fielding's men are
either good fellows with large appetites, which they gratify openly, or
sneaks with equally large appetites, which they gratify on the sly;
whilst the characters of his women are made to hinge solely upon their
willingness or unwillingness to turn a blind eye. If they are ready to
do this, they are angels; Sophia comes upon the stage in a chapter
headed 'A short hint of what we can do in the sublime, and a description
of Miss Sophia Western.' Poor neglected Amelia, whenever she is
forgiving her husband, is described as 'all one blaze of beauty;' but if
they are not willing to play this _rôle_, why then they are unsexed and
held up to the ridicule and reprobation of all good fellows and pretty
women. This sort of thing was abhorrent to the soul of the little
printer; he hated Fielding's boisterous drunkards with an entire hatred.
I believe he would have hated them almost as much if Fielding had not
been a rival of his fame. He said he was not able to read any more than
the first volume of _Amelia_, and as for _Tom Jones_, in the year 1750,
he was audacious enough to say that its run was over. Regarded merely as
writers, there can, I suppose, be no real rivalry between Fielding and
Richardson. The superiority of Fielding is apparent on every page. Wit,
good-humour, a superb lusty style which carries you along like a pair of
horses over a level moorland road, incidents, adventures, inns, and all
the glory of motion, high spirits, huge appetites, pretty women--what a
catalogue it makes of things no doubt smacking of this world and the
kingdom thereof, but none the less delightful on that account! No
wonder _Tom Jones_ is still running; where, I should like to know, is
the man bold enough to stop him. But for all this, Richardson was the
more remarkable and really interesting man of the two; and for the
reason that he was the evangel of the new sentimentalism, that word
which so puzzled one of his most charming correspondents that she wrote
to ask him what it meant--this new word sentimental which was just
beginning to be in everybody's mouth. We have heard a good deal of it

_Clarissa Harlowe_ has a place not merely amongst English novels, but
amongst English women.

It was a new thing for a woman to be described as being not only in
herself but by herself commendable and altogether lovely, as triumphing
in her own right over the cruelest dishonour, and rejecting, with a
noble scorn new to literature, the hand in marriage of the villain who
had done her wrong. The book opened the flood-gates of human tears. The
waters covered the earth. We cannot weep as they used to do in 'the
brave days of old.'

Listen to the wife of a Lancashire baronet: 'I verily believe I have
shed a pint of tears, my heart is still bursting though they cease not
to flow at this moment, nor will I fear for some time.... Had you seen
me I surely should have moved your pity. When alone in agonies would I
lay down the book, take it up again, walk about the room, let fall a
flood of tears, wipe my eyes, read again, perhaps not three lines, throw
away the book, crying out: "Excuse me, good Mr. Richardson, I cannot go
on, it is your fault, you have done more than I can bear;" threw myself
upon my couch to compose; again I read, again I acted the same part,
sometimes agreeably interrupted by my dear man, who was at that time
labouring through the sixth volume with a heart capable of impressions
equal to my own--tho' the effects shown in a more justifiable
manner--which I believe may be compared to what Mr. Belfort felt when he
found the beauteous sufferer in her prison-room. Something rose in my
throat, I knew not what, which made me guggle as it were for speech.'

Nor did the men escape; a most grave and learned man writes:

'That _Pamela_ and _Clarissa_ have again "obtained the _honour_ of my
perusal," do you say, my dear Mr. Richardson. I assure you I think it an
_honour_ to be able to say I have read, and as long as I have eyes will
read, all your three most excellent _pieces_ at least once a year, that
I am capable of doing it with increasing pleasure which is perpetually
doubled by the reflection, that this good man, this charming author, is
_my friend_. I have been this day weeping over the seventh volume of
_Clarissa_ as if I had attended her dying bed and assisted at her
funeral procession. Oh may my latter end be like hers!'

It is no wonder the author of _Clarissa_ had soon a great correspondence
with ladies, married and single, young and old, virtuous and the
reverse. Had he not written seven volumes, all about a girl? had he not
made her beautiful, wise and witty and learned withal? had he not
depicted with extraordinary skill the character of the fascinating--the
hitherto resistless Lovelace, who, though accomplishing Clarissa's ruin
does thereby but establish her triumph and confound himself? It is no
doubt unhappily the case that far too many of Richardson's fair
correspondents lacked the splendid courage of their master, and to his
infinite annoyance fell in love with his arch-scamp, and prayed his
creator that Lovelace might first be led to see the error of his ways,
and then to the altar with the divine Clarissa. But the heroic printer
was adamant to their cries, and he was right if ever man was. As well
might _King Lear_ end happily as _Clarissa Harlowe_.

The seven volumes caused immense talk and discussion, and it was all
Clarissa, Clarissa, Clarissa. Sophia Western was, as we have seen, a
comely girl enough, but she was as much like Clarissa as a ship in dock
is like a ship at sea and on fire. What can you find to say of her or to
her?[3] When you have dug Tom Jones in the ribs, and called him a lucky
dog, and wished her happy, you turn away with a yawn; but Clarissa is
immense. Do you remember Thackeray's account in the _Roundabout Papers_
of Macaulay's rhapsody in the Athenæum Club? 'I spoke to him once about
_Clarissa_. "Not read _Clarissa_?" he cried out. "If you have once
thoroughly entered on _Clarissa_ and are infected by it, you can't leave
off. When I was in India I passed one hot season at the hills, and there
were the governor-general, the secretary of government, the
commander-in-chief and their wives. I had _Clarissa_ with me, and as
soon as they began to read the whole station was in a passion of
excitement about Miss Harlowe and her misfortunes, and her scoundrelly
Lovelace. The governor's wife seized the book, and the secretary waited
for it, and the chief justice could not read it for tears." He acted the
whole scene, he paced up and down the Athenæum Library. I dare say he
could have spoken pages of the book, of that book, and of what countless
piles of others.'

I must be permitted to observe that lawyers have been great
Richardsonians. The Rev. Mr. Loftus, writing to our author from Ireland,
says: 'I will tell you a story about your sweet girl Pamela. Our late
lord chancellor,[4] who was a man more remarkable for the goodness of
his heart than even for the abilities of his head, which were of the
most exalted kind, was so struck with her history that he sat up reading
it the whole night, although it was then the middle of term, and
declared to his family he could not find it in his heart to quit his
book, nor imagined it to be so late by many hours.'

The eminent Sergeant Hill, though averse to literature, used to set
Clarissa's will before his pupils, and bid them determine how many of
its uses and trusts could be supported in court. I am sorry to have to
add that in the learned sergeant's opinion, poor Clarissa, in addition
to all her other misfortunes, died intestate.

All this commotion and excitement and Clarissa-worship meant that
something was brewing, and that good Mr. Richardson, with his fat,
round face flushed with the fire, had his ladle in the pan and was busy
stirring it about. What is called the correspondence of Samuel
Richardson, which was edited by that admirable woman, Mrs. Barbauld, and
published in six volumes in 1804, is mostly made up, not of letters
from, but to, the author of _Clarissa_. All the more effectually on that
account does it let us into the manufactory of his mind. The letters a
man receives are perhaps more significant of his real character than
those he writes. People did not write to Mr. Richardson about themselves
or about their business, or about literature, unless it were to say they
did not like _Tom Jones_, or about politics, or other sports, but they
wrote to him about himself and his ideas, his good woman, Clarissa, his
good man, Sir Charles, and the true relation between the sexes. They are
immense fun, these letters, but they ought also to be taken seriously;
Mr. Richardson took them as seriously as he always took himself. There
was, perhaps, only one subject Richardson regarded as of equal
importance with himself, and that was the position of woman. This is
why he hated Fielding, the triumphant, orthodox Fielding, to whom man
was a rollicking sinner, and woman a loving slave. He pondered on this
subject, until the anger within him imparts to his style a virility and
piquancy not usually belonging to it. The satire in the following
extract from a letter he wrote to the good lady who shed a pint of tears
over _Clarissa_, is pungent: 'Man is an animal that must bustle in the
world, go abroad, converse, fight battles, encounter other dangers of
seas, winds, and I know not what, in order to protect, provide for,
maintain in ease and plenty, women. Bravery, anger, fierceness are made
familiar to them. They buffet and are buffeted by the world; are
impatient and uncontrollable; they talk of honour, run their heads
against stone walls to make good their pretensions to it, and often
quarrel with one another and fight duels upon any other silly thing that
happens to raise their choler--their shadows if you please; while women
are meek, passive, good creatures, who used to stay at home, set their
maids at work, and formerly themselves, get their houses in order to
receive, comfort, oblige, give joy to their fierce, fighting, bustling,
active protectors, providers, maintainers, divert him with pretty pug's
tricks, tell him soft tales of love, and of who and who's together, what
has been done in his absence, bring to him little master, so like his
own dear papa, and little pretty miss, a soft, sweet, smiling soul, with
her sampler in her hand, so like what her meek mamma was at her years.'

You cannot, indeed, lay hold of many specific things which Richardson
advocated. Ignorant of the classics himself, he was by no means disposed
to advocate the teaching of them to women. Clarissa, indeed, knew Latin,
but Harriet Byron did not. The second Mrs. Richardson was just a little
bit too much for her husband, and he was consequently led to hold what
may be called 'high doctrine' as to the duty of wives obeying their
husbands. Though never was man less of a revolutionary than Richardson,
still he was on the side of the revolution. He had an ethical system
different from that which stood beside him. This did not escape the
notice of a keen-witted contemporary, the great Smollett, whose own
Roderick Randoms and Peregrine Pickles are such unmitigated,
high-coloured ruffians as to induce Sir Walter Scott to call him the
Rubens of fiction, but who none the less had an eye for the future; he
in his history speaks in terms of high admiration of the sublime code of
ethics of the author of _Clarissa_. Richardson was fierce against
duelling, and also against corporal punishment. He had the courage to
deplore the evil effects produced by the works of Homer, 'that fierce,
fighting _Iliad_,' as he called it. We may be sure his children were
never allowed to play with tin soldiers, at least, not with their
father's consent.

Having written _Clarissa_ it became inevitable that Richardson should
proceed further and write _Grandison_. In reading his correspondence we
hail Sir Charles afar off. Richardson had deeply grieved to see how many
of his ladies had fallen in love with the scoundrelly Lovelace. It
wounded him to the quick, for he could not but feel that he was not in
the least like Lovelace himself. He turns almost savagely upon some of
his fair correspondents and upbraids them, telling them indeed plainly
that he feared they were no better than they should be. They had but one
answer: 'Ah, dear Mr. Richardson, in _Clarissa_ you have shown us the
good woman we all would be. Now show us the good man we all should
love.' And he set about doing so seriously, aye and humbly, too. He
writes with a sad sincerity a hundred years cannot hide:

'How shall a man obscurely situated, never in his life delighting in
public entertainments, nor in his youth able to frequent them from
narrowness of fortune; one of the most attentive of men to the calls of
business--his situation for many years producing little but prospects of
a numerous family--a business that seldom called him abroad when he
might in the course of it see and know a little of the world, as some
employments give opportunities to do--naturally shy and sheepish, and
wanting more encouragement by smiles to draw him out than anybody
thought it worth their while to give him--and blest (in this he will
say blest) with a mind that set him above dependence, and making an
absolute reliance on Providence and his own endeavours--how I say, shall
such a man pretend to describe and enter into characters in upper life?'

However, he set about it, and in 1754 produced _Sir Charles Grandison_,
or as he had originally intended to call it, the _Good Man_, in six
octavo volumes.

I am not going to say he entirely succeeded with his good man, who I
know has been called an odious prig. I have read _Sir Charles Grandison_
once--I cannot promise ever to read it again, and yet who knows what may
happen? Sir Walter Scott, in his delightful, good-humoured fashion,
tells a tale of a venerable lady of his acquaintance, who, when she
became subject to drowsy fits, chose to have _Sir Charles_ read to her
as she sat in her elbow chair in preference to any other work; because,
said she, 'should I drop asleep in the course of the reading, I am sure
when I awake I shall have lost none of the story, but shall find the
party where I left them, conversing in the cedar-parlour.'

After _Sir Charles_, Richardson wrote no more. Indeed, there was nothing
to write about, unless he had taken the advice of a morose clerical
friend who wrote to him: 'I hope you intend to give us a bad
woman--expensive, imperious, lewd, and, at last, a drammer. This is a
fruitful and necessary subject which will strike and entertain to a
miracle.' Mr. Richardson replied jocosely that if the Rev. Mr. Skelton
would only sketch the she-devil for him, he would find room for her
somewhere, and the subject dropped. The wife of the celebrated German
poet, Klopstock, wrote to him in her broken English: 'Having finished
your _Clarissa_ (oh, the heavenly book!) I would prayed you to write the
history of a manly _Clarissa_, but I had not courage enough at that
time. I should have it no more to-day, as this is only my first English
letter; but I am now Klopstock's wife, and then I was only the single
young girl. You have since written the manly _Clarissa_ without my
prayer. Oh, you have done it to the great joy and thanks of all your
happy readers! Now you can write no more. You must write the history of
an Angel.'

The poor lady died the following year under melancholy circumstances,
but her prophecy proved true. Richardson wrote no more. He died in 1761,
seventy-two years of age. His will, after directing numerous
mourning-rings to be given to certain friends, proceeds as follows: 'Had
I given rings to all the ladies who have honoured me with their
correspondence, and whom I sincerely venerate for their amiable
qualities, it would even in this last solemn act appear like

It now only remains to say two or three words about Richardson's great
popularity abroad. Until quite recently, he and Sterne may be said to
have been the only popular English authors abroad; perhaps Goldsmith
should be added to the party. Foreigners never felt any difficulty about
him or about the tradition he violated. The celebrated author of _Manon
Lescaut_ translated _Clarissa_ into French, though it was subsequently
better done by a less famous hand. She was also turned into German and
Dutch. Foreigners, of course, could not be expected to appreciate the
hopeless absurdity of a man who lived at Parson's Green attempting to
describe the upper classes. Horace Walpole when in Paris did his best to
make this plain, but he failed. Say what he might, _Clarissa_ lay on the
toilet tables of the French Princesses, and everybody was raving about
her. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was also very angry. 'Richardson,' says
she, writing to the Countess of Bute, 'has no idea of the manners of
high life. Such liberties as pass between Mr. Lovelace and his cousins
are not to be excused by the relation. I should have been much
astonished if Lord Denbigh should have offered to kiss me; and, I dare
swear Lord Trentham never attempted such impertinence to you.' To the
English reader these criticisms of Lady Mary's have immense value; but
the French sentimentalist, with his continental insolence, did not care
a sou what impertinences Lord Denbigh and Lord Trentham might or might
not have attempted towards their female cousins. He simply read his
_Clarissa_ and lifted up his voice and wept: and so, to do her justice,
did Lady Mary herself. 'This Richardson,' she writes, 'is a strange
fellow. I heartily despise him and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his
works in a most scandalous manner.'

The effect produced upon Rousseau by Richardson is historical. Without
_Clarissa_ there would have been no _Nouvelle Heloïse_, and had there
been no _Nouvelle Heloïse_ everyone of us would have been somewhat
different from what we are.

The elaborate eulogy of Diderot is well-known, and though extravagant in
parts is full of true criticism. One sentence only I will quote: 'I have
observed,' he says, 'that in a company where the works of Richardson
were reading either privately or aloud the conversation at once became
more interesting and animating.' This, surely, is a legitimate test to
which to submit a novel. You sometimes hear people say of a book, 'Oh,
it is not worth talking about! I was only reading it.'

The great Napoleon was a true Richardsonian. Only once did he ever seem
to take any interest in an Englishman. It was whilst he was first
consul and when he was introduced to an officer called Lovelace, 'Why,'
he exclaimed with emotion, 'that is the name of the man in _Clarissa_!'
When our own great critic, Hazlitt, heard of this incident he fell in
love with Napoleon on the spot, and subsequently wrote his life in
numerous volumes.

In Germany _Clarissa_ had a great sale, and those of you who are
acquainted with German sentiment, will have no difficulty in tracing a
good deal of it to its original fountain in Fleet Street.

As a man, Richardson had perhaps only two faults. He was very nervous on
the subject of his health and he was very vain. His first fault gave a
great deal of trouble to his wives and families, his second afforded
nobody anything but pleasure. The vanity of a distinguished man, if at
the same time he happens to be a good man, is a quality so agreeable in
its manifestations that to look for it and not to find it would be to
miss a pleasure. When the French poet Boileau was invited to Versailles
by Louis Quatorze, he was much annoyed by the vanity of that monarch.
'Whenever,' said he, 'the conversation left the king's doings'--and, let
us guess, just approached the poet's verses--'his majesty always had a
yawning-fit, or suggested a walk on the terrace.' The fact is, it is not
vanity, but contending vanities, that give pain.

As for those of you who cannot read Richardson's nineteen volumes, it
can only be said you are a large and intelligent class of persons. You
number amongst you poets like Byron--for I presume Byron is still among
the poets--and philosophers like d'Alembert, who, when asked whether
Richardson was not right in imitating Nature, replied, 'Yes, but not to
the point of ennui.' We must not bear you malice or blacken your private
characters. On the other hand, you must not sneer at us or call us
milksops. There is nothing to be proud of, I can assure you, in not
being able to read _Clarissa Harlowe_, or to appreciate the genius which
created Lovelace.

A French critic, M. Scherer, has had the audacity to doubt whether
_Tristram Shandy_ is much read in England, and it is commonly asserted
in France that _Clarissa_ is too good for us. Tristram may be left to
his sworn admirers who could at any moment take the field with all the
pomp and circumstance of war, but with Clarissa it is different. Her
bodyguard is small and often in need of recruits. This indeed is my
apology for the trouble I have put you to.

                        EDWARD GIBBON

                          A LECTURE

'It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst
the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare-footed fryars were singing
vespers in the Temple of Jupiter that the idea of writing the Decline
and Fall of the City first started to my mind.

'It was on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787, between
the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last
page, in a summer-house in my garden. After laying down my pen I took
several turns in a _berceau_, or covered walk of acacias, which commands
a prospect of the country, the lake and the mountains. The air was
temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected
from the waters and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the
first emotions of joy on recovery of my freedom and perhaps of the
establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled and a sober
melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken an
everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that whatever
might be the future date of my history, the life of the historian must
be short and precarious.'

Between these two passages lies the romance of Gibbon's life--a romance
which must be looked for, not, indeed, in the volumes, whether the
original quartos or the subsequent octavos, of his history--but in the
elements which went to make that history what it is: the noble
conception, the shaping intellect, the mastered learning, the stately
diction and the daily toil.

Mr. Bagehot has declared that the way to reverence Gibbon is not to read
him at all, but to look at him, from outside, in the bookcase, and think
how much there is within; what a course of events, what a muster-roll of
names, what a steady solemn sound. All Mr. Bagehot's jokes have a kernel
inside them. The supreme merit of Gibbon's history is not to be found in
deep thoughts, or in wide views, or in profound knowledge of human
nature, or prophetic vision. Seldom was there an historian less
well-equipped with these fine things than he. Its glory is its
architecture, its structure, its organism. There it is, it is worth
looking at, for it is invulnerable, indispensable, immortal. The
metaphors which have been showered upon it, prove how fond people have
been of looking at it from outside. It has been called a Bridge, less
obviously an Aqueduct, more prosaically a Road. We applaud the design
and marvel at the execution.

There is something mournful in this chorus of approbation in which it is
not difficult to detect the notes of surprise. It tells a tale of
infirmity both of life and purpose. A complete thing staggers us. We are
accustomed to failure.

    'What act proves all its thought had been?'

The will is weak, opportunities are barren, temper uncertain and life

    'I thought all labour, yet no less,
    Bear up beneath their unsuccess;
    Look at the end of work: contrast
    The petty done--the undone vast.'

It is Gibbon's triumph that he made his thoughts acts. He is not exactly
what you call a pious writer, but he is provocative of at least one
pious feeling. A sabbatical calm results from the contemplation of his
labours. Succeeding scholars have read his history and pronounced it
good. It is likewise finished. Hence this feeling of surprise.

Gibbon's life has the simplicity of an epic. His work was to write his
history. Nothing else was allowed to rob this idea of its majesty. It
brooked no rival near its throne. It dominated his life, for though a
man of pleasure, and, to speak plainly, a good bit of a coxcomb, he had
always the cadences of the _Decline and Fall_ in his ears. It has been
wittily said of him, that he came at last to believe that he was the
Roman Empire, or, at all events, something equally majestic and
imposing. His life had, indeed, its episodes, but so has an epic.
Gibbon's episodes are interesting, abrupt, and always concluded. In his
sixteenth year he, without the aid of a priest or the seductions of
ritual, read himself into the Church of Rome, and was one fine June
morning in 1753 baptized by a Jesuit father. By Christmas, 1754, he had
read himself out again. Gibbon's conversion was perfectly genuine and
should never be spoken of otherwise than respectfully, but it was
entirely a matter of books and reading. 'Persons influence us,' cries
Dr. Newman, 'voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a
man will live and die upon a dogma; no man will be a martyr for a
conclusion.' It takes all sorts to make a world, and our plump historian
was one of those whose actions are determined in libraries, whose lives
are unswayed by personal influences, to whom conclusions may mean a
great deal, but dogmas certainly nothing. Whether Gibbon on leaving off
his Catholicism ever became a Protestant again, except in the sense that
Bayle declared himself one, is doubtful. But all this makes an
interesting episode. The second episode is his well-known love affair
with Mademoiselle Curchod, afterwards Madame Neckar and the mother of
that social portent, Madame de Stael. Gibbon, of course, behaved badly
in this affair. He fell in love, made known his plight, obtained
mademoiselle's consent, and then speeded home to tell his father.
'Love,' said he, 'will make me eloquent.' The elder Gibbon would not
hear of it: the younger tamely acquiesced. His very acquiescence, like
all else about him, has become classical. 'I sighed as a lover, I obeyed
as a son.' He proceeds: 'My wound was insensibly healed by time, absence
and the habits of a new life.' It is shocking. Never, surely, was love
so flouted before. Gibbon is charitably supposed by some persons to have
regretted Paganism, but it was lucky for both him and for me that the
gods had abandoned Olympus, since otherwise it would have required the
pen of a Greek dramatist to depict the horrors that must have eventually
overtaken him for so impious an outrage; as it was, he simply grew
fatter every day. A very recent French biographer of Madame Neckar, who
has published some letters of Gibbon's for the first time, evidently
expects his readers to get very angry with this perfidious son of
Albion. It is much too late to get angry. Of all the many wrongs women
suffer at the hands of men, that of not marrying them, is the one they
ought to find it easiest to forgive; they generally do forgive. Madame
Neckar forgave, and if she, why not you and I? Years after she welcomed
Gibbon to her house, and there he used to sit, fat and famous, tapping
his snuff-box and arranging his ruffles, and watching with a smile of
complacency the infantine, yet I doubt not, the pronounced gambols of
the vivacious Corinne. After Neckar's fall, Gibbon writes to Madame:
'Your husband's condition is always worthy of envy, he knows himself,
his enemies respect him, Europe admires him, _you_ love him.' I decline
to be angry with such a man.

His long residence in Switzerland, an unusual thing in those days, makes
a third episode, which, in so far as it led him to commence author in
the French language, and to study Pascal as a master of style, was not
without its effects on his history, but it never diverted him from his
studies or changed their channels. Though he lived fifteen years in
Lausanne, he never climbed a mountain or ever went to the foot of one,
for though not wholly indifferent to Nature, he loved to see her framed
in a window. He actually has the audacity, in a note to his fifty-ninth
chapter, to sneer at St. Bernard because that true lover of nature on
one occasion, either because his joy in the external world at times
interfered with his devotions, or, as I think, because he was bored by
the vulgar rhapsodies of his monkish companions, abstained from looking
at the lake of Geneva. Gibbon's note is characteristic, 'To admire or
despise St. Bernard as he ought, the reader should have before the
windows of his library the beauty of that incomparable landscape.' St.
Bernard was to Gibbon, as Wordsworth to Pope,

                    'A forest seer,
    A minstrel of the natural year,
    A lover true who knew by heart
    Each joy the mountain dales impart.'

He was proud to confess that whatever knowledge he had of the scriptures
he had acquired chiefly in the woods and the fields, and that beeches
and oaks had been his best teachers of the Word of God. One cannot fancy
Gibbon in a forest. But if Gibbon had not been fonder of the library
than of the lake, though he might have known more than he did of 'moral
evil and of good,' he would hardly have been the author he was.

But the _Decline and Fall_ was threatened from a quarter more likely to
prove dangerous than the 'incomparable landscape.' On September 10th,
1774, Gibbon writes:

'Yesterday morning about half-past seven, as I was destroying an army of
barbarians, I heard a double rap at the door and my friend Mr. Eliot was
soon introduced. After some idle conversation he told me that if I was
desirous of being in parliament he had an _independent_ seat, very much
at my service. This is a fine prospect opening upon me, and if next
spring I should take my seat and publish my book--(he meant the first
volume only)--it will be a very memorable era in my life. I am ignorant
whether my borough will be Liskeard or St. Germains.'

Mr. Eliot controlled four boroughs and it was Liskeard that became
Gibbon's, and for ten years, though not always for Liskeard, he sat in
parliament. Ten most eventful years they were too, both in our national
and parliamentary history. This might have been not an episode, but a
catastrophe. Mr. Eliot's untimely entrance might not merely have
postponed the destruction of a horde of barbarians, but have destroyed
the history itself. However Mr. Gibbon never opened his mouth in the
House of Commons; 'I assisted,' says he, in his magnificent way, 'at,'
(mark the preposition,) 'at the debates of a free assembly,' that is, he
supported Lord North. He was not from the first content to be a mute; he
prepared a speech and almost made up his mind to catch Sir Fletcher
Norton's eye. The subject, no mean one, was to be the American war; but
his courage oozed away, he did not rise in his place. A month after he
writes from Boodle's: 'I am still a mute, it is more tremendous than I
imagined; the great speakers fill me with despair, the bad ones with
terror.' In 1779 his silent assistance was rewarded with a seat at the
Board of Trade, and a salary of between seven and eight hundred a year.
Readers of Burke's great speech on Economical Reform will remember the
twenty minutes he devoted to this marvellous Board of Trade, with its
perpetual virtual adjournment and unbroken sitting vacation. Such was
Gibbon's passion for style that he listened to the speech with delight,
and gives us the valuable assurance that it was spoken just as it reads,
and that nobody enjoyed either hearing or reading it more than he did.
What a blessing it is to have a good temper! But Gibbon's constituency
did not approve of his becoming a minister's man, and he lost his seat
at the general election of 1783. 'Mr. Eliot,' this is Gibbon's account
of it, 'Mr. Eliot was now deeply engaged in the measures of opposition
and the electors of Liskeard are commonly of the same opinion as Mr.
Eliot.' Lord North found him another seat, and for a short time he sat
in the new parliament for the important seaport of Lymington, but his
office being abolished in 1784, he bade parliament and England farewell,
and, taking his library with him, departed for Lausanne to conclude his

Gibbon, after completing his history, entertained notions of writing
other books, but, as a matter of fact, he had but one thing left him to
do in order to discharge his duty to the universe. He had written a
magnificent history of the Roman Empire. It remained to write the
history of the historian. Accordingly we have the autobiography. These
two immortal works act and react upon one another; the history sends us
to the autobiography, and the autobiography returns us to the history.

The style of the autobiography is better than that of the history. The
awful word 'verbose' has been launched against certain pages of the
history by a critic, formidable and friendly--the great Porson. There is
not a superfluous word in the autobiography. The fact is, in this matter
of style, Gibbon took a great deal more pains with himself than he did
with the empire. He sent the history, except the first volume, straight
to his printer from his first rough copy. He made six different sketches
of the autobiography. It is a most studied performance, and may be
boldly pronounced perfect. Not to know it almost by heart is to deny
yourself a great and wholly innocent pleasure. Of the history it is
permissible to say with Mr. Silas Wegg, 'I haven't been, not to say
right slap through him very lately, having been otherwise employed, Mr.
Boffin;' but the autobiography is no more than a good-sized pamphlet. It
has had the reward of shortness. It is not only our best, but our best
known autobiography. Almost its first sentence is about the style it is
to be in: 'The style shall be simple and familiar, but style is the
image of character, and the habits of correct writing may produce
without labour or design the appearance of art and study.' There is
nothing artless or unstudied about the autobiography, but is it not
sometimes a relief to exchange the quips and cranks of some of our
modern writers, whose humour it is to be as it were for ever slapping
their readers in the face or grinning at them from unexpected corners,
for the stately roll of the Gibbonian sentence? The style settled, he
proceeds to say something about the pride of race, but the pride of
letters soon conquers it, and as we glance down the page we see
advancing to meet us, curling its head, as Shakespeare says of billows
in a storm, the god-like sentence which makes it for ever certain, not
indeed that there will never be a better novel than _Tom Jones_, for
that I suppose is still just possible, but that no novel can ever
receive so magnificent a compliment. The sentence is well known but

'Our immortal Fielding was of the younger branch of the Earls of Denbigh
who draw their origin from the Counts of Hapsburg. Far different have
been the fortunes of the English and German divisions of the family. The
former, the knights and sheriffs of Leicestershire, have slowly risen to
the dignity of a peerage, the latter, the Emperors of Germany and Kings
of Spain, have threatened the liberty of the old and invaded the
treasures of the new world. The successors of Charles the Fifth may
disdain their brethren of England, but the romance of _Tom Jones_, that
exquisite picture of human manners, will outlive the Palace of the
Escurial, and the imperial eagle of the House of Austria.'

Well might Thackeray exclaim in his lecture on Fielding, 'There can be
no gainsaying the sentence of this great judge. To have your name
mentioned by Gibbon is like having it written on the dome of St.
Peter's. Pilgrims from all the world admire and behold it.'

After all this preliminary magnificence Gibbon condescends to approach
his own pedigree. There was not much to tell, and the little there was
he did not know. A man of letters whose memory is respected by all
lovers of old books and Elizabethan lyrics, Sir Egerton Brydges, was a
cousin of Gibbon's, and as genealogies were this unfortunate man's
consuming passion, he of course knew all that Gibbon ought to have known
about the family, and speaks with a herald's contempt of the historian's
perfunctory investigations. 'It is a very unaccountable thing,' says Sir
Egerton, 'that Gibbon was so ignorant of the immediate branch of the
family whence he sprang'; but the truth is that Gibbon was far prouder
of his Palace of the Escurial, and his imperial eagle of the House of
Austria, than of his family tree, which was indeed of the most ordinary
hedge-row description. His grandfather was a South Sea director, and
when the bubble burst he was compelled by act of parliament to disclose
on oath his whole fortune. He returned it at £106,543 5s. 6d., exclusive
of antecedent settlements. It was all confiscated, and then £10,000 was
voted the poor man to begin again upon. Such bold oppression, says the
grandson, can scarcely be shielded by the omnipotence of parliament. The
old man did not keep his £10,000 in a napkin, and speedily began, as his
grandson puts it, to erect on the ruins of the old, the edifice of a new
fortune. The ruins must, I think, have been more spacious than the
affidavit would suggest, for when only sixteen years afterwards, the
elder Gibbon died he was found to be possessed of considerable property
in Sussex, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, and the New River Company, as
well as of a spacious house with gardens and grounds at Putney. A
fractional share of this inheritance secured to our historian the
liberty of action so necessary for the accomplishment of his great
design. Large fortunes have their uses. Mr. Milton, the scrivener, Mr.
Gibbon, the South Sea director, and Dr. Darwin of Shrewsbury had
respectively something to do with _Paradise Lost_, _The Decline and
Fall_, and _The Origin of Species_.

The most, indeed the only, interesting fact about the Gibbon _entourage_
is that the greatest of English mystics, William Law, the inimitable
author of _A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, adapted to the
State and Conditions of all Orders of Christians_, was long tutor to the
historian's father, and in that capacity accompanied the future
historian to Emanuel College, Cambridge, and was afterwards, and till
the end of his days, spiritual director to Miss Hester Gibbon, the
historian's eccentric maiden aunt.

It is an unpleasing impertinence for anyone to assume that nobody save
himself reads any particular book. I read with astonishment the other
day that Sir Humphry Davy's _Consolations in Travel; or, The Closing
Days of a Philosopher's Life_, was a curious and totally forgotten work.
It is, however, always safe to say of a good book that it is not read
as much as it ought to be, and of Law's _Serious Call_ you may add, 'or
as much as it used to be.' It is a book with a strange and moving
spiritual pedigree. Dr. Johnson, one remembers, took it up carelessly at
Oxford, expecting to find it a dull book, 'as,' (the words are his, not
mine,) 'such books generally are; but,' he proceeds, 'I found Law an
overmatch for me, and this was the first occasion of my thinking in
earnest.' George Whitfield writes, 'Soon after my coming up to the
university, seeing a small edition of Mr. Law's _Serious Call_ in a
friend's hand, I soon purchased it. God worked powerfully upon my soul
by that excellent treatise.' The celebrated Thomas Scott, of Aston
Sandford, with the confidence of his school, dates the beginning of his
spiritual life from the hour when he 'carelessly,' as he says, 'took up
Mr. Law's _Serious Call_, a book I had hitherto treated with contempt.'
When we remember how Newman in his _Apologia_ speaks of Thomas Scott as
the writer 'to whom, humanly speaking, I almost owe my soul,' we become
lost amidst a mazy dance of strange, spectral influences which flit
about the centuries and make us what we are. Splendid achievement though
the _History of the Decline and Fall_ may be, glorious monument though
it is, more lasting than brass, of learning and industry, yet in sundry
moods it seems but a poor and barren thing by the side of a book which,
like Law's _Serious Call_, has proved its power

    'To pierce the heart and tame the will.'

But I must put the curb on my enthusiasm, or I shall find myself
re-echoing the sentiment of a once celebrated divine who brought down
Exeter Hall by proclaiming, at the top of his voice, that he would
sooner be the author of _The Washerwoman on Salisbury Plain_ than of
_Paradise Lost_.

But Law's _Serious Call_, to do it only bare literary justice, is a
great deal more like _Paradise Lost_ than _The Washerwoman on Salisbury
Plain_, and deserves better treatment at the hands of religious people
than to be reprinted, as it too often is, in a miserable, truncated,
witless form which would never have succeeded in arresting the
wandering attention of Johnson or in saving the soul of Thomas Scott.
The motto of all books of original genius is:

    'Love me or leave me alone.'

Gibbon read Law's _Serious Call_, but it left him where it found him.
'Had not,' so he writes, 'Law's vigorous mind been clouded by
enthusiasm, he might be ranked with the most agreeable and ingenious
writers of his time.'

Upon the death of Law in 1761, it is sad to have to state that Miss
Hester Gibbon cast aside the severe rule of female dress which he had
expounded in his _Serious Call_, and she had practised for sixty years
of her life. She now appeared like Malvolio, resplendent in yellow
stockings. Still, it was something to have kept the good lady's feet
from straying into such evil garments for so long. Miss Gibbon had a
comfortable estate; and our historian, as her nearest male relative,
kept his eye upon the reversion. The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters
had created a coolness, but he addressed her a letter in which he
assured her that, allowing for differences of expression, he had the
satisfaction of feeling that practically he and she thought alike on the
great subject of religion. Whether she believed him or not I cannot say;
but she left him her estate in Sussex. I must stop a moment to consider
the hard and far different fate of Porson. Gibbon had taken occasion to
refer to the seventh verse of the fifth chapter of the First Epistle of
St. John as spurious. It has now disappeared from our Bibles, without
leaving a trace even in the margin. So judicious a writer as Dean Alford
long ago, in his Greek Testament, observed, 'There is not a shadow of a
reason for supposing it genuine.' An archdeacon of Gibbon's period
thought otherwise, and asserted the genuineness of the text, whereupon
Porson wrote a book and proved it to be no portion of the inspired text.
On this a female relative who had Porson down in her will for a
comfortable annuity of £300, revoked that part of her testamentary
disposition, and substituted a paltry bequest of £30: 'for,' said she,
'I hear he has been writing against the Holy Scriptures.' As Porson only
got £16 for writing the book, it certainly cost him dear. But the book
remains a monument of his learning and wit. The last quarter of the
annuity must long since have been paid.

Gibbon, the only one of a family of five who managed to grow up at all,
had no school life; for though a short time at Westminster, his feeble
health prevented regularity of attendance. His father never won his
respect, nor his mother (who died when he was ten) his affection. 'I am
tempted,' he says, 'to enter my protest against the trite and lavish
praise of the happiness of our boyish years which is echoed with so much
affectation in the world. That happiness I have never known.' Upon which
passage Ste. Beuve characteristically remarks 'that it is those who have
been deprived of a mother's solicitude, of the down and flower of tender
affection, of the vague yet penetrating charm of dawning impressions,
who are most easily denuded of the sentiment of religion.'

Gibbon was, however, born free of the 'fair brotherhood' Macaulay so
exquisitely described in his famous poem, written after the Edinburgh
election. Reading became his sole employment. He enjoyed all the
advantages of the most irregular of educations, and in his fifteenth
year arrived at Oxford, to use his celebrated words, though for that
matter almost every word in the _Autobiography_ is celebrated, with a
stock of erudition that might have puzzled a doctor, and a degree of
ignorance of which a schoolboy would have been ashamed--for example, he
did not know the Greek alphabet, nor is there any reason to suppose that
he would have been taught it at Oxford.

I do not propose to refer to what he says about his university. I hate
giving pain, besides which there have been new statutes since 1752. In
Gibbon's time there were no public examinations at all, and no
class-lists--a Saturnian reign which I understand it is now sought to
restore. Had Gibbon followed his father's example and gone to Cambridge,
he would have found the Mathematical Tripos fairly started on its
beneficent career, and might have taken as good a place in it as Dr.
Dodd had just done, a divine who is still year after year referred to
in the University Calendar as the author of _Thoughts in Prison_, the
circumstance that the thinker was later on taken from prison, and hung
by the neck until he was dead being no less wisely than kindly omitted
from a publication, one of the objects of which is to inspire youth with
confidence that the path of mathematics is the way to glory.

On his profession of Catholicism, Gibbon, _ipso facto_ ceased to be a
member of the university, and his father, with a sudden accession of
good sense, packed off the young pervert, who at that time had a very
big head and a very small body, and was just as full of controversial
theology as he could hold, to a Protestant pastor's at Lausanne, where
in an uncomfortable house, with an ill-supplied table and a scarcity of
pocket-money, the ex-fellow-commoner of Magdalen was condemned to live
from his sixteenth to his twenty-first year. His time was mainly spent
in reading. Here he learnt Greek; here also he fell in love with
Mademoiselle Curchod. In the spring of 1758 he came home. He was at
first very shy, and went out but little, pursuing his studies even in
lodgings in Bond Street. But he was shortly to be shaken out of his
dumps, and made an Englishman and a soldier.

If anything could provoke Gibbon's placid shade, it would be the light
and airy way his military experiences are often spoken of, as if, like a
modern volunteer, he had but attended an Easter Monday review. I do not
believe the history of literature affords an equally striking example of
self-sacrifice. He was the most sedentary of men. He hated exercise, and
rarely took any. Once after spending some weeks in the summer at Lord
Sheffield's country place, when about to go, his hat was missing.
'When,' he was asked, 'did you last see it?' 'On my arrival,' he
replied. 'I left it on the hall-table; I have had no occasion for it
since.' Lord Sheffield's guests always knew that they would find Mr.
Gibbon in the library, and meet him at the dinner-table. He abhorred a
horse. His one vocation, and his only avocation, was reading, not lazy
glancing and skipping, but downright savage reading--geography,
chronology, and all the tougher sides of history. What glorious, what
martial times, indeed, must those have been that made Mr. Gibbon leap
into the saddle, desert his books, and for two mortal years and a half
live in camps! He was two months at Blandford, three months at
Cranbrook, six months at Dover, four months at Devizes, as many at
Salisbury, and six more at Southampton, where the troops were disbanded.
During all this time Captain Gibbon was energetically employed. He
dictated the orders and exercised the battalion. It did him a world of
good. What a pity Carlyle could not have been subjected to the same
discipline! The cessation, too, of his habit of continued reading, gave
him time for a little thinking, and when he returned to his father's
house, in Hampshire, he had become fixed in his determination to write a
history, though of what was still undecided.

I am rather afraid to say it, for no two men could well be more unlike
one another, but Gibbon always reminds me in an odd inverted way of
Milton. I suppose it is because as the one is our grandest author, so
the other is our most grandiose. Both are self-conscious and make no
apology--Milton magnificently self-conscious, Gibbon splendidly so.
Everyone knows the great passages in which Milton, in 1642, asked the
readers of his pamphlet on the reason of Church government urged against
prelacy, to go on trust with him for some years for his great unwritten
poem, as 'being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth or the
vapour of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some
vulgar amorist or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, nor to be
obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her seven daughters, but
by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all
utterance and knowledge, and sends out His seraphim with the hallow'd
fire of His Altar to touch and purify the lips of whom He pleases: to
this must be added industrious and select reading, study, observation
and insight into all seemly opinions, arts, and affairs.' Different men,
different minds. There are things terrestrial as well as things
celestial. Certainly Gibbon's _Autobiography_ contains no passages like
those which are to be found in Milton's pamphlets; but for all that he,
in his mundane way, consecrated himself for his self-imposed task, and
spared no toil to equip himself for it. He, too, no less than Milton,
had his high hope and his hard attempting. He tells us in his stateliest
way how he first thought of one subject, and then another, and what
progress he had made in his different schemes before he abandoned them,
and what reasons induced him so to do. Providence watched over the
future historian of the Roman Empire as surely as it did over the future
author of _Paradise Lost_, as surely as it does over everyone who has it
in him to do anything really great. Milton, we know, in early life was
enamoured of King Arthur, and had it in his mind to make that blameless
king the hero of his promised epic, but

                          'What resounds
    In fable or romance of Uther's son,
    Begirt with British and Amoric knights,'

can brook a moment's comparison with the baffled hero of _Paradise
Lost_; so too, what a mercy that Gibbon did not fritter away his
splendid energy, as he once contemplated doing, on Sir Walter Raleigh,
or squander his talents on a history of Switzerland or even of Florence!

After the disbanding of the militia Gibbon obtained his father's consent
to spend the money it was originally proposed to lay out in buying him a
seat in Parliament, upon foreign travel, and early in 1763 he reached
Paris, where he abode three months. An accomplished scholar whose too
early death all who knew him can never cease to deplore, Mr. Cotter
Morison, whose sketch of Gibbon is, by general consent, admitted to be
one of the most valuable books of a delightful series, does his best,
with but partial success, to conceal his annoyance at Gibbon's stupidly
placid enjoyment of Paris and French cookery. 'He does not seem to be
aware,' says Mr. Morison, 'that he was witnessing one of the most
singular social phases which have ever yet been presented in the history
of man.' Mr. Morison does not, indeed, blame Gibbon for this, but
having, as he had, the most intimate acquaintance with this period of
French history, and knowing the tremendous issues involved in it, he
could not but be chagrined to notice how Gibbon remained callous and
impervious. And, indeed, when the Revolution came it took no one more by
surprise than it did the man who had written the _Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire_. Writing, in 1792, to Lord Sheffield, Gibbon says,
'Remember the proud fabric of the French monarchy: not four years ago it
stood founded, and might it not seem on the rock of time, force, and
opinion, supported by the triple authority of the Church, the Nobility,
and the Parliament?' But the Revolution came for all that; and what,
when it did come, did it teach Mr. Gibbon? 'Do not, I beseech you,
tamper with Parliamentary representation. If you begin to improve the
Constitution, you may be driven step by step from the disfranchisement
of Old Sarum to the King in Newgate; the Lords voted useless, the
bishops abolished, the House of Commons _sans culottes_.' The importance
of shutting off the steam and sitting on the safety-valve was what the
French Revolution taught Mr. Gibbon. Mr. Bagehot says: 'Gibbon's horror
of the French Revolution was derived from the fact that he had arrived
at the conclusion that he was the sort of person a populace invariably
kills.' An excellent reason, in my opinion, for hating revolution, but
not for misunderstanding it.

After leaving Paris Gibbon lived nearly a year in Lausanne, reading hard
to prepare himself for Italy. He made his own handbook. At last he felt
himself fit to cross the Alps, which he did seated in an osier basket
planted on a man's shoulders. He did not envy Hannibal his elephant. He
lingered four months in Florence, and then entered Rome in a spirit of
the most genuine and romantic enthusiasm. His zeal made him positively
active, though it is impossible to resist a smile at the picture he
draws of himself 'treading with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum.' He
was in Rome eighteen weeks; there he had, as we saw at the beginning,
his heavenly vision, to which he was not disobedient. He paid a visit of
six weeks' duration to Naples, and then returned home more rapidly.
'The spectacle of Venice,' he says, 'afforded some hours of
astonishment.' Gibbon has sometimes been called 'long-winded,' but when
he chooses, nobody can be shorter with either a city or a century.

He returned to England in 1765, and for five rather dull years lived in
his father's house in the country or in London lodgings. In 1770 his
father died, and in 1772 Gibbon took a house in Bentinck Street,
Manchester Square, filled it with books--for in those days it must not
be forgotten there was no public library of any kind in London--and
worked hard at his first volume, which appeared in February, 1775. It
made him famous, also infamous, since it concluded with the fifteenth
and sixteenth chapters on Christianity. In 1781 two more volumes
appeared. In 1783 he gave up Parliament and London, and rolled over
Westminster Bridge in a post-chaise, on his way to Lausanne, where he
had his home for the rest of his days. In May, 1788, the three last
volumes appeared. He died in St. James's Street whilst on a visit to
London, on the 15th of January, 1794, of a complaint of a most
pronounced character, which he had with characteristic and almost
criminal indolence totally neglected for thirty years. He was buried in
Fletching Churchyard, Sussex, in the family burial-place of his faithful
friend and model editor, the first Lord Sheffield. He had not completed
his fifty-eighth year.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before concluding with a few very humble observations on Gibbon's
writings, something ought to be said about him as a social being. In
this aspect he had distinguished merit, though his fondness of, and
fitness for, society came late. He had no schooldays, no college days,
no gilded youth. From sixteen to twenty-one he lived poorly in Lausanne,
and came home more Swiss than English. Nor was his father of any use to
him. It took him a long time to rub off his shyness; but the militia,
Paris, and Rome, and, above all, the proud consciousness of a noble
design, made a man of him, and after 1772, he became a well-known figure
in London society. He was a man of fashion as well as of letters. In
this respect, and, indeed, in all others, except their common love of
learning, he differed from Dr. Johnson. Lords and ladies, remarked that
high authority, don't like having their mouths shut. Gibbon never shut
anybody's mouth, and in Johnson's presence rarely opened his own.
Johnson's dislike of Gibbon does not seem to have been based upon his
heterodoxy, but his ugliness. 'He is such an amazing ugly fellow,' said
that Adonis. Boswell follows suit, and, with still less claim to be
critical, complains loudly of Gibbon's ugliness. He also hated him very
sincerely. 'The fellow poisons the whole club to me,' he cries. I feel
sorry for Boswell, who has deserved well of the human race. Ironical
people like Gibbon are rarely tolerant of brilliant folly. Gibbon, no
doubt, was ugly. We get a glance at him in one of Horace Walpole's
letters, which, sparkling as it does with vanity, spite, and humour, is
always pleasant. He is writing to Mr. Mason:

'You will be diverted to hear that Mr. Gibbon has quarrelled with me. He
lent me his second volume in the middle of November; I returned it with
a most civil panegyric. He came for more incense. I gave it, but, alas!
with too much sincerity; I added: "Mr. Gibbon, I am sorry _you_ should
have pitched on so disgusting a subject as the Constantinopolitan
history. There is so much of the Arians and Eunomians and
semi-Pelagians; and there is such a strange contrast between Roman and
Gothic manners, that, though you have written the story as well as it
could be written, I fear few will have patience to read it." He
coloured, all his round features squeezed themselves into sharp angles;
he screwed up his button-mouth, and rapping his snuff-box, said, "It had
never been put together before"--so _well_ he meant to add, but gulped
it. He meant so _well_, certainly, for Tillemont, whom he quotes in
every page, has done the very thing. Well, from that hour to this, I
have never seen him, though he used to call once or twice a week; nor
has he sent me the third volume, as he promised. I well knew his vanity,
even about his ridiculous face and person, but thought he had too much
sense to avow it so palpably.' 'So much,' adds Walpole, with sublime
nescience of the verdict of posterity upon his own most amusing self,
'so much for literature and its fops.'

Male ugliness is an endearing quality, and in a man of great talents it
assists his reputation. It mollifies our inferiority to be able to add
to our honest admiration of anyone's great intellectual merit, 'But did
you ever see such a chin!'

Nobody except Johnson, who was morbid on the subject of looks, liked
Gibbon the less for having a button-mouth and a ridiculous nose. He was,
Johnson and Boswell apart, a popular member of the club. Sir Joshua and
he were, in particular, great cronies, and went about to all kinds of
places, and mixed in every sort of society. In May, June, and July,
1779, Gibbon sat for his picture--that famous portrait to be found at
the beginning of every edition of the History. Sir Joshua notes in his
Diary: 'No new sitters--hard at work repainting the "Nativity," and busy
with sittings of Gibbon.'

If we are to believe contemporary gossip, this was not the first time
Reynolds had depicted the historian. Some years earlier the great
painter had executed a celebrated portrait of Dr. Beattie, still
pleasingly remembered by the lovers of old-fashioned poetry as the poet
of _The Minstrel_, but who, in 1773, was better known as the author of
an _Essay on Truth_. This personage, who in later life, it is melancholy
to relate, took to drinking, is represented in Reynolds's picture in his
Oxford gown of Doctor of Laws, with his famous essay under his arm,
while beside him is Truth, habited as an angel, holding in one hand a
pair of scales, and with the other thrusting down three frightful
figures emblematic of Sophistry, Scepticism, and Infidelity. That
Voltaire and Hume stood for two of these figures was no secret, but it
was whispered Gibbon was the third. Even if so, an incident so trifling
was not likely to ruffle the composure, or prevent the intimacy, of two
such good-tempered men as Reynolds and Gibbon. The latter was immensely
proud of Reynolds's portrait--the authorised portrait, of course--the
one for which he had paid. He had it hanging up in his library at
Lausanne, and, if we may believe Charles Fox, was fonder of looking at
it than out of the window upon that incomparable landscape, with
indifference to which he had twitted St. Bernard.

But, as I have said, Gibbon was a man of fashion as well as a man of
letters. In another volume of Walpole we have a glimpse of him playing a
rubber of whist. His opponents were Horace himself, and Lady Beck. His
partner was a lady whom Walpole irreverently calls the Archbishopess of
Canterbury.[5] At Brooks's, White's, and Boodle's, Gibbon was a prime
favourite. His quiet manner, ironical humour, and perpetual good temper
made him excellent company. He is, indeed, reported once, at Brooks's,
to have expressed a desire to see the heads of Lord North and half a
dozen ministers on the table; but as this was only a few days before he
accepted a seat at the Board of Trade at their hands, his wrath was
evidently of the kind that does not allow the sun to go down upon it.
His moods were usually mild:

    'Soon as to Brooks's thence thy footsteps bend,
    What gratulations thy approach attend!
    See Gibbon rap his box, auspicious sign
    That classic wit and compliment combine.'

To praise Gibbon heartily, you must speak in low tones. 'His cheek,'
says Mr. Morison, 'rarely flushes in enthusiasm for a good cause.' He
was, indeed, not obviously on the side of the angels. But he was a
dutiful son to a trying father, an affectionate and thoughtful stepson
to a stepmother who survived him, and the most faithful and warm-hearted
of friends. In this article of friendship he not only approaches, but
reaches, the romantic. While in his teens he made friends with a Swiss
of his own age. A quarter of a century later on, we find the boyish
companions chumming together, under the same roof at Lausanne, and
delighting in each other's society. His attachment to Lord Sheffield is
a beautiful thing. It is impossible to read Gibbon's letters without
responding to the feeling which breathes through Lord Sheffield's
preface to the miscellaneous writings:

'The letters will prove how pleasant, friendly, and amiable Mr. Gibbon
was in private life; and if in publishing letters so flattering to
myself I incur the imputation of vanity, I meet the charge with a frank
confession that I am indeed highly vain of having enjoyed for so many
years the esteem, the confidence, and the affection of a man whose
social qualities endeared him to the most accomplished society, whose
talents, great as they were, must be acknowledged to have been fully
equalled by the sincerity of his friendship.'

To have been pleasant, friendly, amiable and sincere in friendship, to
have written the _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, and the
_Autobiography_, must be Gibbon's excuse for his unflushing cheek.

To praise Gibbon is not wholly superfluous; to commend his history would
be so. In May, 1888, it attained, as a whole, its hundredth year. Time
has not told upon it. It stands unaltered, and with its authority
unimpaired. It would be invidious to name the histories it has seen
born and die. Its shortcomings have been pointed out--it is well; its
inequalities exposed--that is fair; its style criticised--that is just.
But it is still read. 'Whatever else is read,' says Professor Freeman,
'Gibbon must be.'

The tone he thought fit to adopt towards Christianity was, quite apart
from all particular considerations, a mistaken one. No man is big enough
to speak slightingly of the constructions his fellow-men have from time
to time put upon the Infinite. And conduct which in a philosopher is
ill-judged, is in an historian ridiculous. Gibbon's sneers could not
alter the fact that his History, which he elected to style the _Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire_, might equally well, as Dean Stanley has
observed, have been called the 'Rise and Progress of the Christian
Church.' This tone of Gibbon's was the more unfortunate because he was
not of those men who are by the order of their minds incapable of
theology. He was an admirable theologian, and, even as it is, we have
Cardinal Newman's authority for the assertion, that Gibbon is the only
Church historian worthy of the name who has written in English.

Gibbon's love of the unseemly may also be deprecated. His is not the
boisterous impropriety which may sometimes be observed staggering across
the pages of Mr. Carlyle, but the more offensive variety which is
overheard sniggering in the notes.

The importance, the final value, of Gibbon's History has been assailed
in high quarters. Coleridge, in a well-known passage in his _Table
Talk_--too long to be quoted--said Gibbon was a man of immense reading;
but he had no philosophy. 'I protest,' he adds, 'I do not remember a
single philosophical attempt made throughout the work to fathom the
ultimate causes of the decline and fall of the empire.' This spoiled
Gibbon for Coleridge, who has told us that 'though he had read all the
famous histories, and he believed some history of every country or
nation, that is or ever existed, he had never done so for the story
itself--the only thing interesting to him being the principles to be
evolved from and illustrated by the facts.'

I am not going to insult the majestic though thickly-veiled figure of
the Philosophy of History. Every sensible man, though he might blush to
be called a philosopher, must wish to be the wiser for his reading; but
it may, I think, be fairly said that the first business of an historian
is to tell his story, nobly and splendidly, with vivacity and vigour.
Then I do not see why we children of a larger growth may not be
interested in the annals of mankind simply as a story, without worrying
every moment to evolve principles from each part of it. If I choose to
be interested in the colour of Mary Queen of Scots' eyes, or the
authorship of the _Letters of Junius_, I claim the right to be so. Of
course, if I imagine either of these subjects to be matters of
importance--if I devote my life to their elucidation, if I bore my
friends with presentation pamphlets about them--why, then, I am either a
feeble fribble or an industrious fool; but if I do none of these things
I ought to be left in peace, and not ridiculed by those who seem to
regard the noble stream of events much as Brindley did rivers--mainly
as something which fills their ugly canals of dreary and frequently
false comment.

But, thirdly, whilst yielding the first place to philosophy, divine
philosophy, as I suppose, when one comes to die, one will be glad to
have done, it is desirable that the text and the comment should be kept
separate and apart. The historian who loads his frail craft with that
perilous and shifting freight, philosophy, adds immensely to the dangers
of his voyage across the ocean of Time. Gibbon was no fool, yet it is as
certain as anything can be, that had he put much of his philosophy into
his history, both would have gone to the bottom long ago. And even
better philosophy than Gibbon's would have been, is apt to grow mouldy
in a quarter of a century, and to need three new coats of good oily
rhetoric, to make it presentable to each new generation.

Gibbon was neither a great thinker nor a great man. He had neither light
nor warmth. This is what, doubtless, prompted Sir James Mackintosh's
famous exclamation, that you might scoop Gibbon's mind out of Burke's
without missing it. But hence, I say, the fitness of things that chained
Gibbon to his library chair, and set him as his task, to write the
history of the Roman Empire, whilst leaving Burke at large to illuminate
the problems of his own time.

Gibbon avowedly wrote for fame. He built his History meaning it to last.
He got £6,000 for writing it. The booksellers netted £60,000 by printing
it. Gibbon did not mind. He knew it would be the volumes of his History,
and not the banking books of his publishers, who no doubt ran their
trade risks, which would keep their place upon men's shelves. He did an
honest piece of work, and he has had a noble reward. Had he attempted to
know the ultimate causes of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, he
must have failed, egregiously, childishly. He abated his pretensions as
a philosopher, was content to attempt some picture of the thing
acted--of the great pageant of history--and succeeded.

                        WILLIAM COWPER

The large and weighty family of Gradgrinds may, from their various
well-cushioned coigns of advantage, give forcible utterance to their
opinions as to what are the really important things in this life; but
the fact remains, distasteful as it may be to those of us who accomplish
the disciplinary end of vexing our fathers' souls by other means than
'penning stanzas,' that the lives of poets, even of people who have
passed for poets, eclipse in general and permanent interest the lives of
other men. Whilst above the sod, these poets were often miserable
enough. But charm hangs over their graves. The sternest pedestrian, even
he who is most bent on making his inn by the precise path he has, with
much study of the map, previously prescribed for himself, will yet often
veer to the right or to the left, to visit the lonely churchyard where,
as he hears by the way, lie the ashes of some brother of the tuneful
quill. It may well be that this brother's verses are not frequently on
our lips. It is not the lot of every bard to make quotations. It may
sometimes happen to you, as you stand mournfully surveying the little
heap, to rack your brains unavailingly for so much as a single couplet;
nay, so treacherous is memory, the very title of his best-known poem
may, for the moment, have slipped you. But your heart is melted all the
same, and you feel it would indeed have been a churlish thing to go on
your original way, unmindful of the fact that

    'In yonder grave a Druid lies!'

And you have your reward. When you have reached your desired haven, and
are sitting alone after dinner in the coffee-room, neat-handed Phyllis
(were you not fresh from a poet's grave, a homelier name might have
served her turn) having administered to your final wants, and
disappeared with a pretty flounce, the ruby-coloured wine the dead poet
loved, the bottled sunshine of a bygone summer, glows the warmer in
your cup as you muse over minstrels now no more, whether

    'Of mighty poets in their misery dead,'

or of such a one as he whose neglected grave you have just visited.

It was a pious act, you feel, to visit that grave. You commend yourself
for doing so. As the night draws on, this very simple excursion down a
rutty lane and across a meadow, begins to wear the hues of devotion and
of love; and unless you are very stern with yourself, the chances are
that by the time you light your farthing dip, and are proceeding on your
dim and perilous way to your bedroom at the end of a creaking passage,
you will more than half believe you were that poet's only unselfish
friend, and that he died saying so.

All this is due to the charm of poetry. Port has nothing to do with it.
Indeed, as a plain matter of fact, who would drink port at a village
inn? Nobody feels a bit like this after visiting the tombs of soldiers,
lawyers, statesmen, or divines. These pompous places, viewed through the
haze of one's recollections of the 'careers' of the men whose names
they vainly try to perpetuate, seem but, if I may slightly alter some
words of old Cowley's, 'An ill show after a sorry sight.'

It would be quite impossible, to enumerate one half of the reasons which
make poets so interesting. I will mention one, and then pass on to the
subject-matter. They often serve to tell you the age of men and books.
This is most interesting. There is Mr. Matthew Arnold. How impossible it
would be to hazard even a wide solution of the problem of his age, but
for the way he has of writing about Lord Byron! Then we know

    'The thought of Byron, of his cry
    Stormily, sweet, his Titan agony.'

And again:

    'What boots it now that Byron bore,
      With haughty scorn which mocked the smart,
    Through Europe to the Ætolian shore,
      The pageant of his bleeding heart?'

Ask any man born in the fifties, or even the later forties, what he
thinks of Byron's Titan agony, and his features will probably wear a
smile. Insist upon his giving his opinion about the pageant of the
Childe's bleeding heart, and more likely than not he will laugh
outright. But, I repeat, how interesting to be able to tell the age of
one distinguished poet from his way of writing of another!

So, too, with books. Miss Austen's novels are dateless things. Nobody in
his senses would speak of them as 'old novels.' _John Inglesant_ is an
old novel, so is _Ginx's Baby_. But _Emma_ is quite new, and, like a
wise woman, affords few clues as to her age. But when, taking up _Sense
and Sensibility_, we read Marianne Dashwood's account of her sister's

'And besides all this, I am afraid, mamma, he has no real taste. Music
seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor's drawings
very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their
worth. He admires as a lover, and not as a connoisseur. Oh, mamma! how
spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading last night! I felt
for my sister most severely. I could hardly keep my seat to hear those
beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced
with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!' 'He would
certainly [says Mrs. Dashwood] have done more justice to simple and
elegant prose. I thought so, at the time, but you _would_ give him
Cowper.' 'Nay, mamma, if he is not to be animated by Cowper!'--when we
read this, we know pretty well when Miss Austen was born. It is surely
pleasant to be reminded of a time when sentimental girls used Cowper as
a test of a lover's sensibility. One of our modern swains is no more
likely to be condemned as a Philistine for not reading _The Task_ with
unction, than he is to be hung for sheep-stealing, or whipped at the
cart's tail for speaking evil of constituted authorities; but the
position probably still has its perils, and the Marianne Dashwoods of
the hour are quite capable of putting their admirers on to _Rose Mary_,
or _The Blessed Damosel_, and then flouting their insensibility. The
fact, of course, is, that each generation has a way of its own, and
poets are interesting because they are the mirrors in which their
generation saw its own face; and what is more, they are magic mirrors,
since they retain the power of reflecting the image long after what was
pleased to call itself the substance has disappeared into thin air.

There is no more interesting poet than Cowper, and hardly one the area
of whose influence was greater. No man, it is unnecessary to say,
courted popularity less, yet he threw a very wide net, and caught a
great shoal of readers. For twenty years after the publication of _The
Task_ in 1785, his general popularity never flagged, and even when in
the eyes of the world it was eclipsed, when Cowper became in the opinion
of fierce Byronians and moss-trooping Northerners, 'a coddled Pope' and
a milksop, our great, sober, Puritan middle-class took him to their warm
firesides for two generations more. Some amongst these were not, it must
be owned, lovers of poetry at all; they liked Cowper because he is full
of a peculiar kind of religious phraseology, just as some of Burns'
countrymen love Burns because he is full of a peculiar kind of strong
drink called whisky. This was bad taste; but it made Cowper all the more
interesting, since he thus became, by a kind of compulsion, the
favourite because the only poet, of all these people's children; and the
children of the righteous do not wither like the green herb, neither do
they beg their bread from door to door, but they live in slated houses
and are known to read at times. No doubt, by the time it came to these
children's children the spell was broken, and Cowper went out of fashion
when Sunday travelling and play-going came in again. But his was a long
run, and under peculiar conditions. Signs and tokens are now abroad,
whereby the judicious are beginning to infer that there is a renewed
disposition to read Cowper, and to love him, not for his faults, but for
his great merits, his observing eye, his playful wit, his personal

Hayley's _Life of Cowper_ is now obsolete, though since it is adorned
with vignettes by Blake it is prized by the curious. Hayley was a kind
friend to Cowper, but he possessed, in a highly developed state, that
aversion to the actual facts of a case which is unhappily so
characteristic of the British biographer. Southey's _Life_ is horribly
long-winded and stuffed out; still, like Homer's _Iliad_, it remains
the best. It was long excluded from strict circles because of its
worldly tone, and also because it more than hinted that the Rev. John
Newton was to blame for his mode of treating the poet's delusions. Its
place was filled by the Rev. Mr. Grimshaw's _Life_ of the poet, which is
not a nice book. Mr. Benham's recent _Life_, prefixed to the cheap Globe
edition of _Cowper's Poems_, is marvellously good and compressed. Mr.
Goldwin Smith's account of the poet in Mr. Morley's series could not
fail to be interesting, though it created in the minds of some readers a
curious sensation of immense distance from the object described. Mr.
Smith seemed to discern Cowper clearly enough, but as somebody very far
off. This, however, may be fancy.

The wise man will not trouble the biographers. He will make for himself
a short list of dates, so that he may know where he is at any particular
time, and then, poking the fire and (his author notwithstanding)
lighting his pipe--

    'Oh, pernicious weed, whose scent the fair annoys--'

he will read Cowper's letters. There are five volumes of them in
Southey's edition. It would be to exaggerate to say you wish there were
fifty, but you are, at all events, well content there should be five. In
the course of them Cowper will tell you the story of his own life, as it
ought to be told, as it alone can be told, in the purest of English and
with the sweetest of smiles. For a combination of delightful qualities,
Cowper's letters have no rivals. They are playful, witty, loving,
sensible, ironical, and, above all, as easy as an old shoe. So easy,
indeed, that after you have read half a volume or so, you begin to think
their merits have been exaggerated, and that anybody could write letters
as good as Cowper's. Even so the man who never played billiards, and who
sees Mr. Roberts play that game, might hastily opine that he, too, could
go and do likewise.

To form anything like a fair estimate of Cowper, it is wise to ignore as
much as possible his mental disease, and always to bear in mind the
manner of man he naturally was. He belonged essentially to the order of
wags. He was, it is easy to see, a lover of trifling things, elegantly
finished. He hated noise, contention, and the public gaze, but society
he ever insisted upon.

    'I praise the Frenchman, his remark was shrewd,
    How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude!
    But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
    Whom I may whisper--"solitude is sweet."'

He loved a jest, a barrel of oysters, and a bottle of wine. His
well-known riddle on a kiss is Cowper from top to toe:

    'I am just two and two; I am warm, I am cold,
    And the parent of numbers that cannot be told.
    I am lawful, unlawful, a duty, a fault,
    I am often sold dear, good for nothing when bought,
    An extraordinary boon, and a matter of course,
    And yielded with pleasure when taken by force.'

Why, it is a perfect dictionary of kisses in six lines!

Had Cowper not gone mad in his thirty-second year, and been frightened
out of the world of trifles, we should have had another Prior, a wittier
Gay, an earlier Praed, an English La Fontaine. We do better with _The
Task_ and the _Lines to Mary_, but he had a light touch.

    ''Tis not that I design to rob
    Thee of thy birthright, gentle Bob,
    For thou art born sole heir and single
    Of dear Mat Prior's easy jingle.
    Not that I mean while thus I knit
    My threadbare sentiments together,
    To show my genius or my wit,
    When God and you know I have neither,
    Or such as might be better shown
    By letting poetry alone.'

This lightness of touch, this love of trifling, never deserted Cowper,
not even when the pains of hell got hold of him, and he believed himself
the especially accursed of God. In 1791, when things were very black, we
find him writing to his good Dissenting friend, the Rev. William Bull
('Charissime Taurorum'), as follows:

'Homer, I say, has all my time, except a little that I give every day to
no very cheering prospects of futurity. I would I were a Hottentot, or
even a Dissenter, so that my views of an hereafter were more
comfortable. But such as I am, Hope, if it please God, may visit even
me. Should we ever meet again, possibly we may part no more. Then, if
Presbyterians ever find their way to heaven, you and I may know each
other in that better world, and rejoice in the recital of the terrible
things that we endured in this. I will wager sixpence with you now, that
when that day comes you shall acknowledge my story a more wonderful one
than yours; only order your executors to put sixpence in your mouth when
they bury you, that you may have wherewithal to pay me.'

Whilst living in the Temple, which he did for twelve years, chiefly it
would appear on his capital, he associated with a race of men, of whom
report has reached us, called 'wits.' He belonged to the Nonsense Club;
he wrote articles for magazines. He went to balls, to Brighton, to the
play. He went once, at all events, to the gallery of the House of
Commons, where he witnessed an altercation between a placeman and an
alderman--two well-known types still in our midst. The placeman had
misquoted Terence, and the alderman had corrected him; whereupon the
ready placeman thanked the worthy alderman for teaching him Latin, and
volunteered in exchange to teach the alderman English. Cowper must at
this time have been a considerable reader, for all through life he is
to be found quoting his authors, poets, and playwrights, with an easy
appositeness, all the more obviously genuine because he had no books in
the country to refer to. 'I have no English History,' he writes, 'except
Baker's _Chronicle_, and that I borrowed three years ago from Mr.
Throckmorton.' This was wrong, but Baker's _Chronicle_ (Sir Roger de
Coverley's favourite Sunday reading) is not a book to be returned in a

After this easy fashion Cowper acquired what never left him--the style
and manner of an accomplished worldling.

The story of the poet's life does not need telling; but as Owen Meredith
says, probably not even for the second time, 'after all, old things are
best.' Cowper was born in the rectory at Great Berkhampstead, in 1735.
His mother dying when he was six years old, he was despatched to a
country academy, where he was horribly bullied by one of the boys, the
reality of whose persecution is proved by one terrible touch in his
victim's account of it: 'I had such a dread of him, that I did not dare
lift my eyes to his face. I knew him best by his shoe-buckle.' The
odious brute! Cowper goes on to say he had forgiven him, which I can
believe, but when he proceeds to ejaculate a wish to meet his persecutor
again in heaven, doubt creeps in. When ten years old he was sent to
Westminster, where there is nothing to show that he was otherwise than
fairly happy; he took to his classics very kindly, and (so he says)
excelled in cricket and football. This is evidence, but as Dr. Johnson
once confessed about the evidence for the immortality of the soul, 'one
would like more.' He was for some time in the class of Vincent Bourne,
who, though born in 1695, and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,
ranks high amongst the Latin poets. Whether Cowper was bullied at
Westminster is a matter of controversy. Bourne was bullied. About that
there can be no doubt. Cowper loved him, and relates with delight how on
one occasion the Duke of Richmond (Burke's Duke, I suppose) set fire to
the greasy locks of this latter-day Catullus, and then, alarmed at the
spread of the conflagration, boxed his master's ears to put it out. At
eighteen Cowper left Westminster, and after doing nothing (at which he
greatly excelled) for nine months in the country, returned to town, and
was articled to an attorney in Ely Place, Holborn, for three years. At
the same time, being intended for the Bar, he was entered at the Middle,
though he subsequently migrated to the Inner Temple. These three years
in Ely Place Cowper fribbled away agreeably enough. He had as his
desk-companion Edward Thurlow, the most tremendous of men. Hard by Ely
Place is Southampton Row, and in Southampton Row lived Ashley Cowper,
the poet's uncle, with a trio of affable daughters, Theodora Jane,
Harriet, afterwards Lady Hesketh, and a third, who became the wife of
Sir Archer Croft. According to Cowper, a great deal of giggling went on
in Southampton Row. He fell in love with Theodora, and Theodora fell in
love with him. He wrote her verses enough to fill a volume. She was
called Delia in his lays. In 1752, his articles having expired, he took
chambers in the Temple, and in 1754 was called to the Bar.

Ashley Cowper, a very little man, who used to wear a white hat lined
with yellow silk, and was on that account likened by his nephew to a
mushroom, would not hear of his daughter marrying her cousin; and being
a determined little man, he had his own way, and the lovers were parted
and saw one another no more. Theodora Cowper wore the willow all the
rest of her long life. Her interest in her cousin never abated. Through
her sister, Lady Hesketh, she contributed in later years generously to
his support. He took the money and knew where it came from, but they
never wrote to one another, nor does her name ever appear in Cowper's
correspondence. She became, so it is said, morbid on the subject during
her latter days, and dying twenty-four years after her lover, she
bequeathed to a nephew a mysterious packet she was known to cherish. It
was found to contain Cowper's love-verses.

In 1756 Cowper's father died, and the poet's patrimony proved to be a
very small one. He was made a Commissioner of Bankrupts. The salary was
£60 a year. He knew one solicitor, but whether he ever had a brief is
not known. He lived alone in his chambers till 1763, when, under
well-known circumstances, he went raving mad, and attempted to hang
himself in his bedroom, and very nearly succeeded. He was removed to Dr.
Cotton's asylum, where he remained a year. This madness, which in its
origin had no more to do with religion than it had with the Binomial
Theorem, ultimately took the turn of believing that it was the will of
God that he should kill himself, and that as he had failed to do so he
was damned everlastingly. In this faith, diversified by doubt, Cowper
must be said henceforth to have lived and died.

On leaving St. Albans, the poet, in order to be near his only brother,
the Rev. John Cowper, Fellow of Corpus, Cambridge, and a most delightful
man, had lodgings in Huntingdon; and there, one eventful Tuesday in
1765, he made the acquaintance of Mary Unwin. Mrs. Unwin's husband, a
most scandalously non-resident clergyman--whom, however, Cowper
composedly calls a veritable Parson Adams--was living at this time, not
in his Norfolk rectory of Grimston, but contentedly enough in
Huntingdon, where he took pupils. Cowper became a lodger in the family,
which consisted of the rector and his wife, a son at Cambridge, and a
daughter, also one or two pupils. In 1767 Mr. Unwin was thrown from his
horse and fractured his skull. Church-reformers pointed out, at the
time, that had the Rector of Grimston been resident, this accident could
not have occurred in Huntingdon. They then went on to say, but less
convincingly, that Mr. Unwin's death was the judgment of Heaven upon
him. Mr. Unwin dead, the poet and the widow moved to Olney, where they
lived together for nineteen years in a tumble-down house, and on very
slender means. Their attraction to Olney was in the fact that John
Newton was curate-in-charge. Olney was not an ideal place by any means.
Cowper and Mrs. Unwin lived in no fools' paradise, for they visited the
poor and knew the manner of their lives. The inhabitants were mostly
engaged in lace-making and straw-plaiting; they were miserably poor,
immoral, and drunken. There is no idyllic nonsense in Cowper's poetry.

In 1773 he had another most violent attack of suicidal mania, and
attempted his life more than once. Writing in 1786 to Lady Hesketh,
Cowper gives her an account of his illness, of which at the time she
knew nothing, as her acquaintance with her cousin was not renewed till

'Know then, that in the year '73, the same scene that was acted at St.
Albans opened upon me again at Olney, only covered with a still deeper
shade of melancholy, and ordained to be of much longer duration. I
believed that everybody hated me, and that Mrs. Unwin hated me most of
all; was convinced that all my food was poisoned, together with ten
thousand megrims of the same stamp. Dr. Cotton was consulted. He replied
that he could do no more for me than might be done at Olney, but
recommended particular vigilance, lest I should attempt my life; a
caution for which there was the greatest occasion. At the same time that
I was convinced of Mrs. Unwin's aversion to me, I could endure no other
companion. The whole management of me consequently devolved upon her,
and a terrible task she had; she performed it, however, with a
cheerfulness hardly ever equalled on such an occasion, and I have often
heard her say that if ever she praised God in her life, it was when she
found she was to have all the labour. She performed it accordingly, but
as I hinted once before, very much to the hurt of her own constitution.'

Just before this outbreak, Cowper and Mrs. Unwin had agreed to marry,
but after it they felt the subject was not to be approached, and so the
poor things spoke of it no more. Still, it was well they had spoken out.
'Love me, and tell me so,' is a wise maxim of behaviour.

Stupid people, themselves leading, one is glad to believe, far duller
lives than Cowper and Mary Unwin, have been known to make dull,
ponderous jokes about this _ménage_ at Olney--its country walks, its
hymn tunes, its religious exercises. But it is pleasant to note how
quick Sainte Beuve, whose three papers on Cowper are amongst the glories
of the _Causeries du Lundi_, is to recognise how much happiness and
pleasantness was to be got out of this semi-monastic life and close
social relation.

Cowper was indeed the very man for it. One can apply to him his own
well-known lines about the winter season, and crown him

              'The King of intimate delights,
    Fireside enjoyments, and homeborn happiness.'

No doubt he went mad at times. It was a terrible affliction. But how
many men have complaints of the liver, and are as cheerful to live with
as the Black Death, or Young's _Night Thoughts_. Cowper had a famous
constitution. Not even Dr. James's powder, or the murderous practices of
the faculty, could undermine it. Sadness is not dulness.

    'Dear saints, it is not sorrow, as I hear,
    Nor suffering that shuts up eye and ear
    To all which has delighted them before,
    And lets us be what we were once no more!
    No! we may suffer deeply, yet retain
    Power to be moved and soothed, for all our pain,
    By what of old pleased us, and will again.
    No! 'tis the gradual furnace of the world,
    In whose hot air our spirits are upcurled
    Until they crumble, or else grow like steel,
    Which kills in us the bloom, the youth, the spring,
    Which leaves the fierce necessity to feel,
    But takes away the power--this can avail
    By drying up our joy in everything,
    To make our former pleasures all seem stale.'

I can think of no one to whom these beautiful lines of Mr. Arnold's are
so exquisitely appropriate as to Cowper. Nothing could knock the
humanity out of him. Solitude, sorrow, madness, found him out, threw him
down and tore him, as did the devils their victims in the days of old;
but when they left him for a season, he rose from his misery as sweet
and as human, as interested and as interesting as ever. His descriptions
of natural scenery and country-side doings are amongst his best things.
He moralises enough, heaven knows! but he keeps his morality out of his
descriptions. This is rather a relief after overdoses of Wordsworth's
pantheism and Keats's paganism. Cowper's Nature is plain county Bucks.

              'The sheepfold here
    Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
    At first progressive as a stream, they seek
    The middle field; but scattered by degrees,
    Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.'

The man who wrote that had his eye on the object; but lest the quotation
be thought too woolly by a generation which has a passion for fine
things, I will allow myself another:

    'Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
    Exhilarate the spirit and restore
    The tone of languid nature, mighty winds
    That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood
    Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
    The dash of ocean on his winding shore
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . of rills that slip
    Through the cleft rock, and chiming as they fall
    Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
    In matted grass, that with a livelier green
    Betrays the secret of their silent course.'

In 1781 began the episode of Lady Austen. That lady was doing some small
shopping in Olney, in company with her sister, the wife of a
neighbouring clergyman, when our poet first beheld her. She pleased his
eye. Whether in the words of one of his early poems he made free to
comment on her shape I cannot say; but he hurried home and made Mrs.
Unwin ask her to tea. She came. Cowper was seized with a fit of shyness,
and very nearly would not go into the room. He conquered the fit, went
in and swore eternal friendship. To the very end of her days Mrs. Unwin
addressed the poet, her true lover though he was, as 'Mr. Cowper.' In a
week, Lady Austen and he were 'Sister Ann' and 'William' one to another.
Sister Ann had a furnished house in London. She gave it up. She came to
live in Olney, next door. She was pretty, she was witty, she played, she
sang. She told Cowper the story of John Gilpin, she inspired his _Wreck
of the Royal George_. _The Task_ was written at her bidding. Day in and
day out, Cowper and Lady Austen and Mrs. Unwin were together. One turns
instinctively to see what Sainte Beuve has to say about Lady Austen.
'C'était Lady Austen, veuve d'un baronet. Cette rare personne était
douée des plus heureux dons; elle n'était plus très-jeune ni dans la
fleur de beauté; elle avait ce qui est mieux, une puissance d'attraction
et d'enchantement qui tenait à la transparence de l'âme, une faculté de
reconnaissance, de sensibilité émue jusqu'aux larmes pour toute marque
de bienveillance dont elle était l'objet. Tout en elle exprimait une
vivacité pure, innocente et tendre. C'était une créature _sympathique_,
et elle devait tout-à-fait justifier dans le cas présent ce mot de
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre: "Il y a dans la femme une gaieté légère qui
dissipe la tristesse de l'homme."'

That odd personage, Alexander Knox, who had what used to be called a
'primitive,' that is, a fourth-century mind, and on whom the Tractarian
movement has been plausibly grandfathered, and who was (incongruously)
employed by Lord Castlereagh to help through the Act of Union with
Ireland, of which we have lately heard, but who remained all the time
primitively unaware that any corruption was going on around him--this
odd person, I say, was exercised in his mind about Lady Austen, of whom
he had been reading in Hayley's _Life_. In October, 1806, he writes to
Bishop Jebb in a solemn strain: 'I have rather a severer idea of Lady A.
than I should wish to put into writing for publication. I almost suspect
she was a very artful woman. But I need not enlarge.' He puts it rather
differently from Sainte Beuve, but I dare say they both meant much the
same thing. If Knox meant more it would be necessary to get angry with
him. That Lady Austen fell in love with Cowper and would have liked to
marry him, but found Mrs. Unwin in the way, is probable enough; but
where was the artfulness? Poor Cowper was no catch. The grandfather of
Tractarianism would have been better employed in unmasking the
corruption amongst which he had lived, than in darkly suspecting a
lively lady of designs upon a penniless poet, living in the utmost
obscurity, on the charity of his relatives.

But this state of things at Olney did not last very long. 'Of course
not,' cackle a chorus of cynics. 'It could not!' The Historical Muse,
ever averse to theory, is content to say, 'It did not,' but as she
writes the words she smiles. The episode began in 1781, it ended in
1784. It became necessary to part. Cowper may have had his qualms, but
he concealed them manfully and remained faithful to Mrs. Unwin--

            'The patient flower
    Who possessed his darker hour.'

Lady Austen flew away, and afterwards, as if to prove her levity
incurable, married a Frenchman. She died in 1802. English literature
owes her a debt of gratitude. Her name is writ large over much that is
best in Cowper's poetry. Not indeed over the very best; _that_ bears the
inscription _To Mary_. And it was right that it should be so, for Mrs.
Unwin had to put up with a good deal.

_The Task_ and _John Gilpin_ were published together in 1785, and some
of Cowper's old friends (notably Lady Hesketh) rallied round the now
known poet once more. Lady Hesketh soon begins to fill the chair vacated
by Lady Austen, and Cowper's letters to her are amongst his most
delightful. Her visits to Olney were eagerly expected, and it was she
who persuaded the pair to leave the place for good and all, and move to
Weston, which they did in 1786. The following year Cowper went mad
again, and made another most desperate attempt upon his life. Again Mary
Unwin stood by the poor maniac's side, and again she stood alone. He got
better, and worked away at his translation of Homer as hard and wrote
letters as charming as ever. But Mrs. Unwin was pretty well done for.
Cowper published his Homer by subscription, and must be pronounced a
dab hand in the somewhat ignoble art of collecting subscribers. I am not
sure that he could not have given Pope points. Pope had a great
acquaintance, but he had barely six hundred subscribers. Cowper scraped
together upwards of five hundred. As a beggar he was unabashed. He
quotes in one of his letters, and applies to himself patly enough,
Ranger's observation in the _Suspicious Husband_, 'There is a degree of
assurance in you modest men, that we impudent fellows can never arrive
at!' The University of Oxford was, however, too much for him. He beat
her portals in vain. She had but one answer, 'We subscribe to nothing.'
Cowper was very angry, and called her 'a rich old vixen.' She did not
mind. The book appeared in 1791. It has many merits, and remains unread.

The clouds now gathered heavily over the biography of Cowper. Mrs. Unwin
had two paralytic strokes, the old friends began to torture one another.
She was silent save when she was irritable, indifferent except when
exacting. At last, not a day too soon, Lady Hesketh came to Weston.
They were moved into Norfolk--but why prolong the tale? Mrs. Unwin died
at East Dereham on the 17th of December, 1796. Thirty-one years had gone
since the poet and she first met by chance in Huntingdon. Cowper himself
died in April, 1800. His last days were made physically comfortable by
the kindness of some Norfolk cousins, and the devotion of a Miss
Perowne. But he died in wretchedness and gloom.

The _Castaway_ was his last original poem:

    'I therefore purpose not or dream
      Descanting on his fate,
    To give the melancholy theme
      A more enduring date;
    But misery still delights to trace
    Its semblance in another's case.'

Everybody interested in Cowper has of course to make out, as best he
may, a picture of the poet for his own use. It is curious how sometimes
little scraps of things serve to do this better than deliberate efforts.
In 1800, the year of Cowper's death, his relative, a Dr. Johnson, wrote
a letter to John Newton, sending good wishes to the old gentleman, and
to his niece, Miss Catlett; and added: 'Poor dear Mr. Cowper, oh that he
were as tolerable as he was, even in those days when, dining at his
house in Buckinghamshire with you and that lady, I could not help
smiling to see his pleasant face when he said, "Miss Catlett, shall I
give you a piece of cutlet?"' It was a very small joke indeed, and it is
a very humble little quotation, but for me it has long served, in the
mind's eye, for a vignette of the poet, doomed yet _debonnaire_.
Romney's picture, with that frightful nightcap and eyes gleaming with
madness, is a pestilent thing one would forget if one could. Cowper's
pleasant face when he said, 'Miss Catlett, shall I give you a piece of
cutlet?' is a much more agreeable picture to find a small corner for in
one's memory.

                        GEORGE BORROW

Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, in his delightful _Memories and Portraits_,
takes occasion to tell us, amongst a good many other things of the sort,
that he has a great fancy for _The Bible in Spain_, by Mr. George
Borrow. He has not, indeed, read it quite so often as he has Mr. George
Meredith's _Egoist_, but still he is very fond of it. It is interesting
to know this, interesting, that is, to the great Clan Stevenson who owe
suit and service to their liege lord; but so far as Borrow is concerned,
it does not matter, to speak frankly, two straws. The author of
_Lavengro_, _The Romany Rye_, _The Bible in Spain_, and _Wild Wales_ is
one of those kings of literature who never need to number their tribe.
His personality will always secure him an attendant company, who, when
he pipes, must dance. A queer company it is too, even as was the
company he kept himself, composed as it is of saints and sinners, gentle
and simple, master and man, mistresses and maids; of those who, learned
in the tongues, have read everything else, and of those who have read
nothing else and do not want to. People there are for whom Borrow's
books play the same part as did horses and dogs for the gentleman in the
tall white hat, whom David Copperfield met on the top of the Canterbury
coach. ''Orses and dorgs,' said that gentleman, 'is some men's fancy.
They are wittles and drink to me, lodging, wife and children, reading,
writing, and 'rithmetic, snuff, tobacker, and sleep.'

Nothing, indeed, is more disagreeable, even offensive, than to have
anybody else's favourite author thrust down your throat. 'Love me, love
my dog,' is a maxim of behaviour which deserves all the odium Charles
Lamb has heaped upon it. Still, it would be hard to go through life
arm-in-arm with anyone who had stuck in the middle of _Guy Mannering_,
or had bidden a final farewell to Jeannie Deans in the barn with the
robbers near Gunnerly Hill in Lincolnshire. But, oddly enough, Borrow
excites no such feelings. It is quite possible to live amicably in the
same house with a person who has stuck hopelessly in the middle of _Wild
Wales_, and who braves it out (what impudence!) by the assertion that
the book is full of things like this: 'Nothing worthy of commemoration
took place during the two following days, save that myself and family
took an evening walk on the Wednesday up the side of the Berwyn, for the
purpose of botanising, in which we were attended by John Jones. There,
amongst other plants, we found a curious moss which our good friend said
was called in Welsh Corn Carw, or deer's horn, and which he said the
deer were very fond of. On the Thursday he and I started on an
expedition on foot to Ruthyn, distant about fourteen miles, proposing to
return in the evening.'

The book _is_ full of things like this, and must be pronounced as arrant
a bit of book-making as ever was. But judgment is not always followed by
execution, and a more mirth-provoking error can hardly be imagined than
for anyone to suppose that the admission of the fact--sometimes
doubtless a damaging fact--namely, book-making, will for one moment
shake the faithful in their certitude that _Wild Wales_ is a delightful
book; not so delightful, indeed, as _Lavengro_, _The Romany_, or _The
Bible in Spain_, but still delightful because issuing from the same mint
as they, stamped with the same physiognomy, and bearing the same
bewitching inscription.

It is a mercy the people we love do not know how much we must forgive
them. Oh the liberties they would take, the things they would do, were
it to be revealed to them that their roots have gone far too deep into
our soil for us to disturb them under any provocation whatsoever!

George Borrow has to be forgiven a great deal. The Appendix to _The
Romany Rye_ contains an assault upon the memory of Sir Walter Scott, of
which every word is a blow. It is savage, cruel, unjustifiable. There is
just enough of what base men call truth in it, to make it one of the
most powerful bits of devil's advocacy ever penned. Had another than
Borrow written thus of the good Sir Walter, some men would travel far
to spit upon his tomb. Quick and easy would have been his descent to the
Avernus of oblivion. His books, torn from the shelf, should have long
stood neglected in the shop of the second-hand, till the hour came for
them to seek the stall, where, exposed to wind and weather, they should
dolefully await the sack of the paper-merchant, whose holy office it
should be to mash them into eternal pulp. But what rhodomontade is this!
No books are more, in the vile phrase of the craft, 'esteemed' than
Borrow's. The prices demanded for the early editions already impinge
upon the absurd, and are steadily rising. The fact is, there is no use
blinking it, mankind cannot afford to quarrel with George Borrow, and
will not do so. It is bad enough what he did, but when we remember that
whatever he had done, we must have forgiven him all the same, it is just
possible to thank Heaven (feebly) that it was no worse. He might have
robbed a church!

Borrow is indeed one of those lucky men who, in Bagehot's happy phrase,
'keep their own atmosphere,' and as a consequence, when in the destined
hour the born Borrovian--for men are born Borrovians, not made--takes up
a volume of him, in ten minutes (unless it be _Wild Wales_, and then
twenty must be allowed) the victory is won; down tumbles the standard of
Respectability which through a virtuous and perhaps long life has braved
the battle and the breeze; up flutters the lawless pennon of the Romany
Chal, and away skims the reader's craft over seas, hitherto untravelled,
in search of adventures, manifold and marvellous, nor in vain.

If one was in search of a single epithet most properly descriptive of
Borrow's effect upon his reader, perhaps it would best be found in the
word 'contagious.' He is one of the most 'catching' of our authors. The
most inconsistent of men, he compels those who are born subject to his
charm to share his inconsistencies. He was an agent of the Bible
Society, and his extraordinary adventures in Spain were encountered, so
at least his title-page would have us believe, in an attempt to
circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula. He was a sound Churchman, and
would have nothing to do with Dissent, even in Wild Wales, but he had
also a passion for the ring. Mark his devastations. It is as bad as the
pestilence. A gentle lady, bred amongst the Quakers, a hater of physical
force, with eyes brimful of mercy, was lately heard to say, in
heightened tones, at a dinner-table, where the subject of momentary
conversation was a late prize-fight: 'Oh! pity was it that ever
corruption should have crept in amongst them.' 'Amongst whom?' inquired
her immediate neighbour. 'Amongst the bruisers of England,' was the
terrific rejoinder. Deep were her blushes--and yet how easy to forgive
her! The gentle lady spoke as one does in dreams; for, you must know,
she was born a Borrovian, and only that afternoon had read for the first
time the famous twenty-fifth chapter of _Lavengro_:

'But what a bold and vigorous aspect pugilism wore at that time! And the
great battle was just then coming off; the day had been decided upon,
and the spot--a convenient distance from the old town (Norwich); and to
the old town were now flocking the bruisers of England, men of
tremendous renown. Let no one sneer at the bruisers of England; what
were the gladiators of Rome, or the bull-fighters of Spain, in its
palmiest days, compared to England's bruisers? Pity that ever corruption
should have crept in amongst them--but of that I wish not to talk. There
they come, the bruisers from far London, or from wherever else they
might chance to be at the time, to the great rendezvous in the old city;
some came one way, some another: some of tip-top reputation came with
peers in their chariots, for glory and fame are such fair things that
even peers are proud to have those invested therewith by their sides;
others came in their own gigs, driving their own bits of blood; and I
heard one say: "I have driven through at a heat the whole hundred and
eleven miles, and only stopped to bait twice!" Oh! the blood horses of
old England! but they too have had their day--for everything beneath the
sun there is a season and a time.... So the bruisers of England are come
to be present at the grand fight speedily coming off; there they are
met in the precincts of the old town, near the field of the chapel,
planted with tender saplings at the restoration of sporting Charles,
which are now become venerable elms, as high as many a steeple; there
they are met at a fitting rendezvous, where a retired coachman with one
leg keeps an hotel and a bowling-green. I think I now see them upon the
bowling-green, the men of renown, amidst hundreds of people with no
renown at all, who gaze upon them with timid wonder. Fame, after all, is
a glorious thing, though it lasts only for a day. There's Cribb, the
champion of England, and perhaps the best man in England--there he is,
with his huge, massive figure, and face wonderfully like that of a lion.
There is Belcher the younger--not the mighty one, who is gone to his
place, but the Teucer Belcher, the most scientific pugilist that ever
entered a ring, only wanting strength to be--I won't say what.... But
how shall I name them all? They were there by dozens, and all tremendous
in their way. There was Bulldog Hudson and fearless Scroggins, who beat
the conqueror of Sam the Jew. There was Black Richmond--no, he was not
there, but I knew him well. He was the most dangerous of blacks, even
with a broken thigh. There was Purcell, who could never conquer till all
seemed over with him. There was--what! shall I name thee last? Ay, why
not? I believe that thou art the last of all that strong family still
above the sod, where may'st thou long continue--true piece of English
stuff, Tom of Bedford, sharp as Winter, kind as Spring!'

No wonder the gentle lady was undone. It is as good as Homer.

Diderot, it will be remembered, once wrote a celebrated eulogium on
Richardson, which some have thought exaggerated, because he says in it
that, on the happening of certain events, in themselves improbable, he
would keep _Clarissa_ and _Sir Charles_ on the same shelf with the
writings of Moses, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles. Why a literary man
should not be allowed to arrange his library as he chooses, without
being exposed to so awful a charge as that of exaggeration, it is hard
to say. But no doubt the whole eulogium is pitched in too high a key for
modern ears; still, it contains sensible remarks, amongst them this one:
that he had observed that in a company where the writings of Richardson
were being read, either privately or aloud, the conversation became at
once interesting and animated. Books cannot be subjected to a truer
test. Will they bear talking about? A parcel of friends can talk about
Borrow's books for ever. The death of his father, as told in the last
chapter of _Lavengro_. Is there anything of the kind more affecting in
the library? Somebody is almost sure to say, 'Yes, the death of Le Fevre
in _Tristram Shandy_.' A third, who always (provoking creature) likes
best what she read last, will wax eloquent over the death of the little
princess in Tolstoi's great book. The character-sketch of Borrow's elder
brother, the self-abnegating artist who declined to paint the portrait
of the Mayor of Norwich because he thought a friend of his could do it
better, suggests De Quincey's marvellous sketch of his elder brother.
And then, what about Benedict Moll, Joey the dog-fancier of Westminster,
and that odious wretch the London publisher? You had need to be a deaf
mute to avoid taking part in a conversation like this. Who was Mary
Fulcher? All the clocks in the parish will have struck midnight before
that question has been answered. It is not to take a gloomy view of the
world to say that there are few pleasanter things in it than a good talk
about George Borrow.

For invalids and delicate persons leading retired lives, there are no
books like Borrow's. Lassitude and Languor, horrid hags, simply pick up
their trailing skirts and scuttle out of any room into which he enters.
They cannot abide him. A single chapter of Borrow is air and exercise;
and, indeed, the exercise is not always gentle. 'I feel,' said an
invalid, laying down _The Bible in Spain_, as she spoke, upon the
counterpane, 'as if I had been gesticulating violently for the space of
two hours.' She then sank into deep sleep, and is now hale and hearty.
Miss Martineau, in her _Life in the Sick Room_, invokes a blessing upon
the head of Christopher North. But there were always those who refused
to believe in Miss Martineau's illness, and certainly her avowed
preference for the man whom Macaulay in his wrath, writing to Napier in
Edinburgh, called 'your grog-drinking, cock-fighting, cudgel-playing
Professor of Moral Philosophy,' is calculated to give countenance to
this unworthy suspicion. It was an odd taste for an invalid who, whilst
craving for vigour, must necessarily hate noise. Borrow is a vigorous
writer, Wilson a noisy one. It was, however, his _Recreations_ and not
the _Noctes Ambrosianæ_, that Miss Martineau affected. Still the
_Recreations_ are noisy too, and Miss Martineau must find her best
excuse, and I am determined to find an excuse for her--for did she not
write the _Feats on the Fiord_?--in the fact, that when she wrote her
_Life in the Sick Room_ (a dear little book to read when in rude
health), Borrow had published nothing of note. Had he done so, she would
have been of my way of thinking.

How much of Borrow is true and how much is false, is one of those
questions which might easily set all mankind by the ears, but for the
pleasing circumstance that it does not matter a dump. Few things are
more comical than to hear some douce body, unread in Borrow, gravely
inquiring how far his word may be relied upon. The sole possible
response takes the exceptionable shape of loud peals of laughter. And
yet, surely, it is a most reasonable question, or query, as the Scotch
say. So it is; but after you have read your author you won't ask it--you
won't want to. The reader can believe what he likes, and as much as he
likes. In the old woman on London Bridge and her convict son, in the man
in black (how unlike Goldsmith's!), in the _Flaming Tinman_, in Ursula,
the wife of Sylvester. There is but one person in whom you must believe,
every hour of the day and of the night, else are you indeed
unworthy--you must believe in Isopel Berners. A stranger and more
pathetic figure than she is not to be seen flitting about in the great
shadow-dance men call their life. Born and bred though she was in a
workhouse, where she learnt to read and sew, fear God, and take her own
part, a nobler, more lovable woman never crossed man's path. Her
introduction to her historian was quaint. 'Before I could put myself on
my guard, she struck me a blow on the face, which had nearly brought me
to the ground.' Alas, poor Isopel! Borrow returned the blow, a deadlier,
fiercer blow, aimed not at the face but at the heart. Of their life in
the Dingle let no man speak; it must be read in the last chapters of
_Lavengro_, and the early ones of _The Romany Rye_. Borrow was certainly
irritating. One longs to shake him. He was what children call 'a tease.'
He teased poor Isopel with his confounded philology. Whether he simply
made a mistake, or whether the girl was right in her final surmise, that
he was 'at the root mad,' who can say? He offered her his hand, but at
too late a stage in the proceedings. Isopel Berners left the Dingle to
go to America, and we hear of her no more. That she lived to become a
happy 'housemother,' and to start a line of brave men and chaste women,
must be the prayer of all who know what it is to love a woman they have
never seen. Of the strange love-making that went on in the Dingle no
idea can or ought to be given save from the original.

'Thereupon I descended into the Dingle. Belle was sitting before the
fire, at which the kettle was boiling. "Were you waiting for me?" I
inquired. "Yes," said Belle, "I thought you would come, and I waited for
you." "That was very kind," said I. "Not half so kind," said she, "as it
was of you to get everything ready for me in the dead of last night,
when there was scarcely a chance of my coming." The tea-things were
brought forward, and we sat down. "Have you been far?" said Belle.
"Merely to that public-house," said I, "to which you directed me on the
second day of our acquaintance." "Young men should not make a habit of
visiting public-houses," said Belle; "they are bad places." "They may be
so to some people," said I, "but I do not think the worst public-house
in England could do me any harm." "Perhaps you are so bad already," said
Belle with a smile, "that it would be impossible to spoil you." "How
dare you catch at my words?" said I; "come, I will make you pay for
doing so--you shall have this evening the longest lesson in Armenian
which I have yet inflicted upon you." "You may well say inflicted," said
Belle, "but pray spare me. I do not wish to hear anything about Armenian,
especially this evening." "Why this evening?" said I. Belle made no
answer. "I will not spare you," said I; "this evening I intend to make
you conjugate an Armenian verb." "Well, be it so," said Belle, "for this
evening you shall command." "To command is hramahyel," said I. "Ram her
ill indeed," said Belle, "I do not wish to begin with that." "No," said
I, "as we have come to the verbs we will begin regularly: hramahyel is a
verb of the second conjugation. We will begin with the first." "First of
all, tell me," said Belle, "what a verb is?" "A part of speech," said I,
"which, according to the dictionary, signifies some action or passion;
for example, 'I command you, or I hate you.'" "I have given you no
cause to hate me," said Belle, looking me sorrowfully in the face.

'"I was merely giving two examples," said I, "and neither was directed
at you. In those examples, to command and hate are verbs. Belle, in
Armenian there are four conjugations of verbs; the first ends in al, the
second in yel, the third in oul, and the fourth in il. Now, have you
understood me?"

'"I am afraid, indeed, it will all end ill," said Belle. "Hold your
tongue!" said I, "or you will make me lose my patience." "You have
already made me nearly lose mine," said Belle. "Let us have no
unprofitable interruptions," said I. "The conjugations of the Armenian
verbs are neither so numerous nor so difficult as the declensions of the
nouns. Hear that and rejoice. Come, we will begin with the verb hntal, a
verb of the first conjugation, which signifies to rejoice. Come along:
hntam, I rejoice; hyntas, thou rejoicest. Why don't you follow, Belle?"

'"I am sure I don't rejoice, whatever you may do," said Belle. "The
chief difficulty, Belle," said I, "that I find in teaching you the
Armenian grammar proceeds from your applying to yourself and me every
example I give. Rejoice, in this instance, is merely an example of an
Armenian verb of the first conjugation, and has no more to do with your
rejoicing than lal, which is also a verb of the first conjugation, and
which signifies to weep, would have to do with your weeping, provided I
made you conjugate it. Come along: hntam, I rejoice; hntas, thou
rejoicest; hnta, he rejoices; hntamk, we rejoice. Now repeat those
words." "I can't bear this much longer," said Belle. "Keep yourself
quiet," said I. "I wish to be gentle with you, and to convince you, we
will skip hntal, and also, for the present, verbs of the first
conjugation, and proceed to the second. Belle, I will now select for you
to conjugate the prettiest verb in Armenian, not only of the second, but
also of all the four conjugations. That verb is siriel. Here is the
present tense: siriem, siries, sire, siriemk, sirèk, sirien. Come on,
Belle, and say siriem." Belle hesitated. "Pray oblige me, Belle, by
saying siriem." Belle still appeared to hesitate. "You must admit, Belle,
that it is softer than hntam." "It is so," said Belle, "and to oblige
you I will say siriem." "Very well indeed, Belle," said I, "and now to
show you how verbs act upon pronouns in Armenian, I will say siriem
zkiez. Please to repeat siriem zkiez." "Siriem zkiez," said Belle; "that
last word is very hard to say." "Sorry that you think so, Belle," said
I. "Now, please to say siriá zis." Belle did so. "Exceedingly well,"
said I. "Now say girani thè sireir zis." "Girane thè sireir zis," said
Belle. "Capital!" said I. "You have now said I love you--love me. Ah!
would that you would love me!"

'"And I have said all these things?" said Belle. "Yes," said I. "You have
said them in Armenian." "I would have said them in no language that I
understood," said Belle. "And it was very wrong of you to take advantage
of my ignorance, and make me say such things!" "Why so?" said I. "If
you said them, I said them too."'

    'Was ever woman in this humour wooed?'

It is, I believe, the opinion of the best critics that _The Bible in
Spain_ is Borrow's masterpiece. It very likely is so. At the present
moment I feel myself even more than usually disqualified for so grave a
consideration by my over-powering delight in its dear, deluding title. A
quarter of a century ago, in all decent homes, a boy's reading was, by
the stern decree of his elders, divided rigorously, though at the same
time it must be admitted crudely, into Sunday books and week-day books.
'What have you got there?' has before now been an inquiry addressed on a
Sunday afternoon to some youngster, suspiciously engrossed in a book.
'Oh, _The Bible in Spain_,' would be the reply. 'It is written by a Mr.
Borrow, you know, and it is all about'--(then the title-page would serve
its turn) 'his attempts "to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula!"'
'Indeed! Sounds most suitable,' answers the gulled authority, some
foolish sisters' governess or the like illiterate, and moves off. And
then the happy boy would wriggle in his chair, and, as if thirsting to
taste the first fruits of his wile, hastily seek out a streaky page, and
there read, for perhaps the hundredth time, the memorable words:

'"Good are the horses of the Moslems," said my old friend; "where will
you find such? They will descend rocky mountains at full speed, and
neither trip nor fall; but you must be cautious with the horses of the
Moslems, and treat them with kindness, for the horses of the Moslems are
proud, and they like not being slaves. When they are young and first
mounted, jerk not their mouths with your bit, for be sure if you do,
they will kill you; sooner or later, you will perish beneath their feet.
Good are our horses, and good our riders. Yea, very good are the Moslems
at mounting the horse; who are like them? I once saw a Frank rider
compete with a Moslem on this beach, and at first the Frank rider had it
all his own way and he passed the Moslem, but the course was long, very
long, and the horse of the Frank rider, which was a Frank horse also,
panted; but the horse of the Moslem panted not, for he was a Moslem
also, and the Moslem rider at last gave a cry, and the horse sprang
forward and he overtook the Frank horse, and then the Moslem rider stood
up in his saddle. How did he stand? Truly he stood on his head, and
these eyes saw him; he stood on his head in the saddle as he passed the
Frank rider; and he cried ha! ha! as he passed the Frank rider; and the
Moslem horse cried ha! ha! as he passed the Frank breed, and the Frank
lost by a far distance. Good are the Franks, good their horses; but
better are the Moslems, and better the horses of the Moslems."'

That boy, as he lay curled up in his chair, doting over the enchanted
page, knew full well, else had he been no Christian boy, that it was not
a Sunday book which was making his eyes start out of his head; yet,
reckless, he cried, 'ha! ha!' and read on, and as he read he blessed the
madcap Borrow for having called his romance by the sober-sounding,
propitiatory title of _The Bible in Spain_!

    'Creeds pass, rites change, no altar standeth whole.'

In a world of dust and ashes it is a foolish thing to prophesy
immortality, or even a long term of years, for any fellow-mortal. Good
luck does not usually pursue such predictions. England can boast few
keener, better-qualified critics than that admirable woman, Mrs.
Barbauld, or, not to dock her of her accustomed sizings, Mrs. Anna
Lætitia Barbauld. And yet what do we find her saying? 'The young may
melt into tears at _Julia Mandeville_, and _The Man of Feeling_, the
romantic will shudder at _Udolpho_, but those of mature age who know
what human nature is, will take up again and again Dr. Moore's
_Zeluco_.' One hates to contradict a lady like Mrs. Barbauld, or to
speak in terms of depreciation of any work of Mrs. Radcliffe's, whose
name is still as a pleasant savour in the nostrils; therefore I will let
_Udolpho_ alone. As for Henry Mackenzie's _Man of Feeling_, what was
good enough for Sir Walter Scott ought surely to be good enough for us,
most days. I am no longer young, and cannot therefore be expected to
melt into tears at _Julia Mandeville_, but here my toleration is
exhausted. Dr. Moore's _Zeluco_ is too much; maturity has many ills to
bear, but repeated perusals of this work cannot fairly be included
amongst them.

Still, though prediction is to be avoided, it is impossible to feel
otherwise than very cheerful about George Borrow. His is a good life.
Anyhow, he will outlive most people, and that at all events is a

                       CARDINAL NEWMAN


There are some men whose names are inseparably and exclusively
associated with movements; there are others who are for ever united in
human memories with places; it is the happy fortune of the distinguished
man whose name is at the top of this page to be able to make good both
titles to an estate in our minds and hearts; for whilst his fierce
intellectual energy made him the leader of a great movement, his rare
and exquisite tenderness has married his name to a lovely place.
Whenever men's thoughts dwell upon the revival of Church authority in
England and America during this century, they will recall the Vicar of
St. Mary's, Oxford, who lived to become a Cardinal of Rome, and whenever
the lover of all things that are quiet, and gentle, and true in life,
and literature, visits Oxford he will find himself wondering whether
snap-dragon still grows outside the windows of the rooms in Trinity,
where once lived the author of the _Apologia_.

The Rev. John Wesley was a distinguished man, if ever there was one, and
his name is associated with a movement certainly as remarkable as, and a
great deal more useful than, the one connected with the name of Newman.
Wesley's great missionary tours in Devon and Cornwall, and the wild,
remote parts of Lancashire, lack no single element of sublimity. To this
day the memories of those apostolic journeys are green and precious, and
a source of strength and joy: the portrait of the eager preacher hangs
up in almost every miner's cottage, whilst his name is pronounced with
reverence by a hundred thousand lips. 'You seem a very temperate people
here,' once observed a thirsty pedestrian (who was, indeed, none other
than the present writer) to a Cornish miner, 'how did it happen?' He
replied solemnly, raising his cap, 'There came a man amongst us once,
and his name was John Wesley.' Wesley was an Oxford man, but he is not
much in men's thoughts as they visit that city of enchantment. Why is
this? It is because, great as Wesley was, he lacked charm. As we read
his diaries and letters, we are interested, we are moved, but we are not
pleased. Now, Oxford pleases and charms. Therefore it is, that when we
allow ourselves a day in her quadrangles we find ourselves thinking of
Dr. Newman, and his Trinity snap-dragon, and how the Rev. William James,
'some time in the year 1823,' taught him the doctrine of Apostolic
Succession in the course of a walk round Christchurch Meadow, rather
than of Wesley and his prayer-meetings at Lincoln, which were proclaimed
by the authorities as savouring of sedition.

A strong personal attachment of the kind which springs up from reading
an author, which is distilled through his pages, and turns his foibles,
even his follies, into pleasant things we would not for the world have
altered, is apt to cause the reader, who is thus affected, to exaggerate
the importance of any intellectual movement with which the author
happened to be associated. There are, I know, people who think this is
notably so in Dr. Newman's case. Crusty men are to be met with, who
rudely say they have heard enough of the Oxford movement, and that the
time is over for penning ecstatic paragraphs about Dr. Newman's personal
appearance in the pulpit at St. Mary's. I think these crusty people are
wrong. The movement was no doubt an odd one in some of its aspects--it
wore a very academic air indeed; and to be academic is to be ridiculous,
in the opinion of many. Our great Northern towns lived their grimy lives
amidst the whirl of their machinery, quite indifferent to the movement.
Our huge Nonconformist bodies knew no more of the University of Oxford
in those days, than they did of the University of Tübingen. This
movement sent no missionaries to the miners, and its tracts were not of
the kind that are served suddenly upon you in the streets like legal
process, but were, in fact, bulky treatises stuffed full of the dead
languages. London, of course, heard about the movement, and, so far as
she was not tickled by the comicality of the notion of anything really
important happening outside her cab-radius, was irritated by it. Mr.
Henry Rogers poked heavy fun at it in the _Edinburgh Review_. Mr. Isaac
Taylor wrote two volumes to prove that ancient Christianity was a
drivelling and childish superstition, and in the opinion of some pious
Churchmen succeeded in doing so. But for the most part people left the
movement alone, unless they happened to be Bishops or very clerically
connected. 'The bishops,' says Dr. Newman, 'began charging against us.'
But bishops' charges are amongst the many seemingly important things
that do not count in England. It is said to be the duty of an archdeacon
to read his bishop's charge, but it is undoubted law that a mandamus
will not be granted to compel him to do so.

But notwithstanding this aspect of the case, it was a genuine
thought-movement in propagating which these long-coated parsons, with
their dry jokes, strange smiles, and queer notions were engaged. They
used to drive about the country in gigs, from one parsonage to another,
and leave their tracts behind them. They were not concerned with the
flocks--their message was to the shepherds. As for the Dissenters, they
had nothing to say to them, except that their very presence in a parish
was a plenary argument for the necessity of the movement.

The Tractarians met with the usual fortune of those who peddle new
ideas. Some rectors did not want to be primitive--more did not know what
it meant; but enough were found pathetically anxious to read a meaning
into their services and offices, to make it plain that the Tracts really
were 'for' and not 'against' the times.

The great plot, plan, or purpose, call it what you will, of the
Tractarian movement was to make Churchmen believe with a personal
conviction that the Church of England was not a mere National
Institution, like the House of Commons or the game of cricket, but a
living branch of that Catholic Church which God had from the beginning,
endowed with sacramental gifts and graces, with a Priesthood
apostolically descended, with a Creed, precise and specific, which it
was the Church's duty to teach, and man's to believe, and with a ritual
and discipline to be practised and maintained, with daily piety and
entire submission.

These were new ideas in 1833. When Dr. Newman was ordained in 1824, he
has told us, he did not look on ordination as a sacramental rite, nor
did he ascribe to baptism any supernatural virtue.

It cannot be denied that the Tractarians had their work before them. But
they had forces on their side.

It is always pleasant to rediscover the meaning of words and forms which
have been dulled by long usage. This is why etymology is so fascinating.
By the natural bent of our minds we are lovers of whatever things are
true and real. We hanker after facts. To get a grip of reality is a
pleasure so keen--most of our faith is so desperate a 'make-believe,'
that it is not to be wondered at that pious folk should have been found
who rejoiced to be told that what they had been saying and doing all the
years of their lives really had a meaning and a history of its own. One
would have to be very unsympathetic not to perceive that the time we are
speaking of must have been a very happy one for many a devout soul. The
dry bones lived--formal devotions were turned into joyous acts of faith
and piety. The Church became a Living Witness to the Truth. She could be
interrogated--she could answer. The old calendar was revived, and
Saint's Day followed Saint's Day, and season season, in the sweet
procession of the Christian Year. Pretty girls got up early, made the
sign of the Cross, and, unscared by devils, tripped across the dewy
meadows to Communion. Grave men read the Fathers, and found themselves
at home in the Fourth Century.

A great writer had, so it appears, all unconsciously prepared the way
for this Neo-Catholicism. Dr. Newman has never forgotten to pay tribute
to Sir Walter Scott.

Sir Walter's work has proved to be of so permanent a character, his
insight into all things Scotch so deep and true, and his human worth and
excellence so rare and noble, that it has hardly been worth while to
remember the froth and effervescence he at first occasioned; but that he
did create a movement in the Oxford direction is certain. He made the
old Catholic times interesting. He was not indeed, like the Tractarians,
a man of 'primitive' mind; but he was romantic, and it all told. For
this we have the evidence not only of Dr. Newman (a very nice
observer), but also of the delightful, the bewitching, the never
sufficiently-to-be-praised George Borrow--Borrow, the Friend of Man, at
whose bidding lassitude and languor strike their tents and flee; and
health and spirits, adventure and human comradeship, take up the reins
of life, whistle to the horses, and away you go!

Borrow has indeed, in the Appendix to the _Romany Rye_, written of Sir
Walter after a fashion for which I hope he has been forgiven. A piece of
invective more terrible, more ungenerous, more savagely and exultingly
cruel, is nowhere to be found. I shudder when I think of it. Had another
written it, nothing he ever wrote should be in the same room with the
_Heart of Midlothian_, _Redgauntlet_, and _The Antiquary_. I am not
going to get angry with George Borrow. I say at once--I cannot afford
it. But neither am I going to quote from the Appendix. God forbid! I can
find elsewhere what will suit my purpose just as well. Readers of
_Lavengro_ will remember the Man in Black. It is hard to forget him, the
scandalous creature, or his story of the ironmonger's daughter at
Birmingham 'who screeches to the piano the Lady of the Lake's hymn to
the Virgin Mary, always weeps when Mary Queen of Scots is mentioned, and
fasts on the anniversary of the death of that very wise martyr, Charles
I. Why, said the Man in Black, I would engage to convert such an idiot
to popery in a week, were it worth my trouble. O Cavaliere Gualtereo,
avete fatto molto in favore della Santa Sede.'

Another precursor was Coleridge, who (amongst other things) called
attention to the writings of the earlier Anglican divines--some of whom
were men of primitive tempers and Catholic aspirations. Andrews and
Laud, Jackson, Bull, Hammond and Thorndyke--sound divines to a
man--found the dust brushed off them. The second-hand booksellers, a
wily and observant race, became alive to the fact that though Paley and
Warburton, Horsley and Hoadley, were not worth the brown paper they came
wrapped up in, seventeenth-century theology would bear being marked

Thus was the long Polar Winter that had befallen Anglican theology
broken up, and the icebergs began moving about after a haphazard and
even dangerous fashion--but motion is always something.

What has come to the Movement? It is hard to say. Its great leader has
written a book of fascinating interest to prove that it was not a
genuine Anglican movement at all; that it was foreign to the National
Church, and that neither was its life derived from, nor was its course
in the direction of, the National Church. But this was after he himself
had joined the Church of Rome. Nobody, however, ventured to contradict
him, nor is this surprising when we remember the profusion of argument
and imagery with which he supported his case.

A point was reached, and then things were allowed to drop. The Church of
Rome received some distinguished converts with her usual well-bred
composure, and gave them little things to do in their new places. The
Tracts for the Times, neatly bound, repose on many shelves. Tract No.
90, that fierce bomb-shell which once scattered confusion through
clerical circles, is perhaps the only bit of Dr. Newman's writing one
does not, on thinking of, wish to sit down at once to re-read. The fact
is that the movement, as a movement with a terminus _ad quem_, was
fairly beaten by a power fit to be matched with Rome herself--John
Bullism. John Bull could not be got to assume a Catholic demeanour. When
his judges denied that the grace of Baptism was a dogma of his faith,
Bull, instead of behaving as did the people of Milan when Ambrose was
persecuted by an Arian Government, was hugely pleased, clapped his
thigh, and exclaimed, through the mouth of Lord John Russell, that the
ruling was 'sure to give general satisfaction,' as indeed it did.

The work of the movement can still be seen in the new spirit that has
descended upon the Church of England and in the general heightening of
Church principles; but the movement itself is no longer to be seen, or
much of the temper or modes of thought of the Tractarians. The High
Church clergyman of to-day is no Theologian--he is an Opportunist. The
Tractarian took his stand upon Antiquity--he laboured his points, he was
always ready to prove his Rule of Faith and to define his position. His
successor, though he has appropriated the results of the struggle, does
not trouble to go on waging it. He is as a rule no great reader--you may
often search his scanty library in vain for the works of Bishop Jackson.
Were you to ask for them, it is quite possible he would not know to what
bishop of that name you were referring. He is as hazy about the
Hypostatic Union as are many laymen about the Pragmatic Sanction. He is
all for the People and for filling his Church. The devouring claims of
the Church of Rome do not disturb his peace of mind. He thinks it very
rude of her to dispute the validity of his orders--but, then, foreigners
are rude! And so he goes on his hard-working way, with his high
doctrines and his early services, and has neither time nor inclination
for those studies that lend support to his priestly pretensions.

This temper of mind has given us peace in our time, and has undoubtedly
promoted the cause of Temperance and other good works; but some day or
another the old questions will have to be gone into again, and the
Anglican claim to be a Church, Visible, Continuous, Catholic, and
Gifted, investigated--probably for the last time.

Cynics may declare that it will be but a storm in a teacup--a dispute in
which none but 'women, priests, and peers' will be called upon to take
part--but it is not an obviously wise policy to be totally indifferent
to what other people are thinking about--simply because your own
thoughts are running in other directions.

But all this is really no concern of mine. My object is to call
attention to Dr. Newman's writings from a purely literary point of view.

The charm of Dr. Newman's style necessarily baffles description: as well
might one seek to analyse the fragrance of a flower, or to expound in
words the jumping of one's heart when a beloved friend unexpectedly
enters the room. It is hard to describe charm. Mr. Matthew Arnold, who
is a poet, gets near it:

    'And what but gentleness untired,
      And what but noble feeling warm,
    Wherever seen, howe'er inspired,
      Is grace, is charm?'

One can of course heap on words. Dr. Newman's style is pellucid, it is
animated, it is varied; at times icy cold, it oftener glows with a
fervent heat; it employs as its obedient and well-trained servant, a
vast vocabulary, and it does so always with the ease of the educated
gentleman, who by a sure instinct ever avoids alike the ugly pedantry of
the book-worm, the forbidding accents of the lawyer, and the stiff
conceit of the man of scientific theory. Dr. Newman's sentences
sometimes fall upon the ear like well-considered and final judgments,
each word being weighed and counted out with dignity and precision; but
at other times the demeanour and language of the judge are hastily
abandoned, and, substituted for them, we encounter the impetuous
torrent--the captivating rhetoric, the brilliant imagery, the frequent
examples, the repetition of the same idea in different words, of the
eager and accomplished advocate addressing men of like passions with

Dr. Newman always aims at effect, and never misses it. He writes as an
orator speaks, straight at you. His object is to convince, and to
convince by engaging your attention, exciting your interest, enlivening
your fancy. It is not his general practice to address the pure reason.
He knows (he well may) how little reason has to do with men's
convictions. 'I do not want,' he says, 'to be converted by a smart
syllogism.' In another place he observes: 'The heart is commonly reached
not through the reason--but through the imagination by means of direct
impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history and by
description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, books subdue us,
deeds inflame us.' I have elsewhere ventured upon a comparison between
Burke and Newman. Both men, despite their subtlety and learning and
super-refinement, their love of fine points and their splendid capacity
for stating them in language so apt as to make one's admiration
breathless, took very broad, common-sense, matter-of-fact views of
humanity, and ever had the ordinary man and woman in mind as they spoke
and wrote. Politics and Religion existed in their opinion, for the
benefit of plain folk, for Richard and for Jane, or, in other words, for
living bundles of hopes and fears, doubts and certainties, prejudices
and passions. Anarchy and Atheism are in their opinion the two great
enemies of the Human Race. How are they to be frustrated and confounded,
men and women being what they are? Dr. Newman, recluse though he is, has
always got the world stretched out before him; its unceasing roar sounds
in his ear as does the murmur of ocean in the far inland shell. In one
of his Catholic Sermons, the sixth of his Discourses to Mixed
Congregations, there is a gorgeous piece of rhetoric in which he
describes the people looking in at the shop-windows and reading
advertisements in the newspapers. Many of his pages positively glow with
light and heat and colour. One is at times reminded of Fielding. And all
this comparing, and distinguishing, and illustrating, and appealing, and
describing, is done with the practised hand of a consummate writer and
orator. He is as subtle as Gladstone, and as moving as Erskine; but
whereas Gladstone is occasionally clumsy and Erskine is frequently
crude, Newman is never clumsy, Newman is never crude, but always
graceful, always mellowed.

Humour he possesses in a marked degree. A quiet humour, of course, as
befits his sober profession and the gravity of the subjects on which he
loves to discourse. It is not the humour that is founded on a lively
sense of the incongruous. This kind, though the most delightful of all,
is apt, save in the hands of the great masters, the men whom you can
count upon your fingers, to wear a slightly professional aspect. It
happens unexpectedly, but all the same we expect it to happen, and we
have got our laughter ready. Newman's quiet humour always takes us
unawares, and is accepted gratefully, partly on account of its intrinsic
excellence, and partly because we are glad to find that the

    'Pilgrim pale with Paul's sad girdle bound'

has room for mirth in his heart.

In sarcasm Dr. Newman is pre-eminent. Here his extraordinary powers of
compression, which are little short of marvellous in one who has also
such a talent for expansion, come to his aid and enable him to squeeze
into a couple of sentences, pleadings, argument, judgment, and
execution. Had he led the secular life, and adopted a Parliamentary
career, he would have been simply terrific, for his weapons of offence
are both numerous and deadly. His sentences stab--his invective
destroys. The pompous high-placed imbecile mouthing his platitudes, the
wordy sophister with his oven full of half-baked thoughts, the ill-bred
rhetorician with his tawdry aphorisms, the heartless hate-producing
satirist, would have gone down before his sword and spear. But God was
merciful to these sinners: Newman became a Priest and they Privy

And lastly, all these striking qualities and gifts float about in a
pleasant atmosphere. As there are some days even in England when merely
to go out and breathe the common air is joy, and when, in consequence,
that grim tyrant, our bosom's lord

    'Sits lightly in his throne,'

so, to take up almost any one of Dr. Newman's books, and they are
happily numerous--between twenty and thirty volumes--is to be led away
from 'evil tongues,' and the 'sneers of selfish men,' from the mud and
the mire, the shoving and pushing that gather and grow round the
pig-troughs of life, into a diviner ether, a purer air, and is to spend
your time in the company of one who, though he may sometimes astonish,
yet never fails to make you feel (to use Carlyle's words about a very
different author), 'that you have passed your evening well and nobly, as
in a temple of wisdom, not ill and disgracefully as in brawling tavern
supper-rooms with fools and noisy persons.'

The tendency to be egotistical noticeable in some persons who are free
from the faintest taint of egotism is a tendency hard to account
for--but delightful to watch.

'Anything,' says glorious John Dryden, 'though ever so little, which a
man speaks of himself--in my opinion, is still too much.' A sound
opinion most surely, and yet how interesting are the personal touches we
find scattered up and down Dryden's noble prefaces. So with Newman--his
dignity, his self-restraint, his taste, are all the greatest stickler
for a stiff upper lip and the consumption of your own smoke could
desire, and yet the personal note is frequently sounded. He is never
afraid to strike it when the perfect harmony that exists between his
character and his style demands its sound, and so it has come about that
we love what he has written because he wrote it, and we love him who
wrote it because of what he has written.

I now approach by far the pleasantest part of my task, namely, the
selection of two or three passages from Dr. Newman's books by way of
illustrating what I have taken the liberty to say are notable
characteristics of his style.

Let me begin with a chance specimen of the precision of his language.
The passage is from the prefatory notice the Cardinal prefixed to the
Rev. William Palmer's _Notes of a Visit to the Russian Church in the
Years 1840, 1841_. It is dated 1882, and is consequently the writing of
a man over eighty years of age: 'William Palmer was one of those
earnest-minded and devout men, forty years since, who, deeply convinced
of the great truth that our Lord had instituted, and still acknowledges
and protects, a Visible Church--one, individual, and integral; Catholic,
as spread over the earth, Apostolic, as coeval with the Apostles of
Christ, and Holy, as being the dispenser of His Word and
Sacraments--considered it at present to exist in three main branches, or
rather in a triple presence, the Latin, the Greek, and the Anglican,
these three being one and the same Church distinguishable from each
other by secondary, fortuitous, and local, though important
characteristics. And whereas the whole Church in its fulness was, as
they believed, at once and severally Anglican, Greek, and Latin, so in
turn each one of those three was the whole Church; whence it followed
that, whenever any one of the three was present, the other two, by the
nature of the case, was absent, and therefore the three could not have
direct relations with each other, as if they were three substantive
bodies, there being no real difference between them except the external
accident of place. Moreover, since, as has been said, on a given
territory there could not be more than one of the three, it followed
that Christians generally, wherever they were, were bound to recognise,
and had a claim to be recognised by that one; ceasing to belong to the
Anglican Church, as Anglican, when they were at Rome, and ignoring Rome,
as Rome, when they found themselves at Moscow. Lastly, not to
acknowledge this inevitable outcome of the initial idea of the Church,
viz., that it was both everywhere and one, was bad logic, and to act in
opposition to it was nothing short of setting up altar against altar,
that is, the hideous sin of schism, and a sacrilege. This I conceive to
be the formal teaching of Anglicanism.'

The most carefully considered judgments of Lord Westbury or Lord Cairns
may be searched in vain for finer examples of stern accuracy and
beautiful aptness of language.

For examples of what may be called Newman's oratorical rush, one has not
far to look--though when torn from their context and deprived of their
conclusion they are robbed of three-fourths of their power. Here is a
passage from his second lecture addressed to the Anglican Party of 1833.
It is on the Life of the National Church of England.

'Doubtless the National religion is alive. It is a great power in the
midst of us, it wields an enormous influence; it represses a hundred
foes; it conducts a hundred undertakings; it attracts men to it, uses
them, rewards them; it has thousands of beautiful homes up and down the
country where quiet men may do its work and benefit its people; it
collects vast sums in the shape of voluntary offerings, and with them it
builds Churches, prints and distributes innumerable Bibles, books, and
tracts, and sustains missionaries in all parts of the earth. In all
parts of the earth it opposes the Catholic Church, denounces her as
anti-christian, bribes the world against her, obstructs her influence,
apes her authority, and confuses her evidence. In all parts of the world
it is the religion of gentlemen, of scholars, of men of substance, and
men of no personal faith at all. If this be life, if it be life to
impart a tone to the Court and Houses of Parliament, to Ministers of
State, to law and literature, to universities and schools, and to
society, if it be life to be a principle of order in the population, and
an organ of benevolence and almsgiving towards the poor, if it be life
to make men decent, respectable, and sensible, to embellish and reform
the family circle, to deprive vice of its grossness and to shed a glow
over avarice and ambition; if, indeed, it is the life of religion to be
the first jewel in the Queen's crown, and the highest step of her
throne, then doubtless the National Church is replete, it overflows with
life; but the question has still to be answered: life of what kind?'

For a delightful example of Dr. Newman's humour, which is largely, if
not entirely, a playful humour, I will remind the reader of the
celebrated imaginary speech against the British Constitution attributed
to 'a member of the junior branch of the Potemkin family,' and supposed
to have been delivered at Moscow in the year 1850. It is too long for
quotation, but will be found in the first of the _Lectures on the
Present Position of Catholics in England_. The whole book is one of the
best humoured books in the English language.

Of his sarcasm, the following example, well-known as it is, must be
given. It occurs in the _Essay on the Prospects of the Anglican Church_,
which is reprinted from the _British Critic_ in the first volume of the
_Essays Critical and Historical_.

'In the present day mistiness is the mother of wisdom. A man who can set
down half a dozen general propositions, which escape from destroying one
another only by being diluted into truisms, who can hold the balance
between opposites so skilfully as to do without fulcrum or beam, who
never enunciates a truth without guarding himself from being supposed to
exclude the contradictory, who holds that Scripture is the only
authority--yet that the Church is to be deferred to, that faith only
justifies, yet that it does not justify without works, that grace does
not depend on the sacraments, yet is not given without them, that
bishops are a divine ordinance--yet those who have them not are in the
same religious condition as those who have--this is your safe man and
the hope of the Church; this is what the Church is said to want, not
party men, but sensible, temperate, sober, well-judging persons to guide
it through the channel of No-meaning, between the Scylla and Charybdis
of Aye and No. But, alas! reading sets men thinking. They will not keep
standing in that very attitude, which you please to call sound
Church-of-Englandism or orthodox Protestantism. It tires them, it is so
very awkward, and for the life of them--they cannot continue in it long
together, where there is neither article nor canon to lean against--they
cannot go on for ever standing on one leg, or sitting without a chair,
or walking with their legs tied, or grazing like Tityrus's stags on the
air. Promises imply conclusions--germs lead to developments; principles
have issues; doctrines lead to action.'

Of the personal note to which I have made reference--no examples need
or should be given. Such things must not be transplanted from their own

    'The delicate shells lay on the shore;
    The bubbles of the latest wave
    Fresh pearl to their enamel gave;
    And the bellowing of the savage sea
    Greeted their safe escape to me.
    I wiped away the weeds and foam
    And brought my sea-born treasures home:
    But the poor, unsightly noisome things
    Had left their beauty on the shore,
    With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar.'

If I may suppose this paper read by someone who is not yet acquainted
with Newman's writings I would advise him, unless he is bent on
theology, to begin not with the _Sermons_, not even with the _Apologia_,
but with the _Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England_.
Then let him take up the _Lectures on the Idea of an University_, and on
_University Subjects_. These may be followed by _Discussions and
Arguments_, after which he will be well disposed to read the _Lectures
on the Difficulties felt by Anglicans_. If after he has despatched these
volumes he is not infected with what one of those charging Bishops
called 'Newmania,' he is possessed of a devil of obtuseness no wit of
man can expel.

Of the strength of Dr. Newman's philosophical position, which he has
explained in his _Grammar of Assent_, it would ill become me to speak.
He there strikes the shield of John Locke. _Non nostrum est tantas
componere lites._ But it is difficult for the most ignorant of us not to
have shy notions and lurking suspicions even about such big subjects and
great men. Locke maintained that a man's belief in a proposition really
depended upon and bore a relation to the weight of evidence forthcoming
in its favour. Dr. Newman asserts that certainty is a quality of
propositions, and he has discovered in man 'an illative sense' whereby
conclusions are converted into dogmas and a measured concurrence into an
unlimited and absolute assurance. This illative sense is hardly a thing
(if I may use an expression for ever associated with Lord Macaulay) to
be cocksure about. Wedges, said the mediæval mechanic to his pupils,
split wood by virtue of a wood-splitting quality in wedges--but now we
are indisposed to endow wedges with qualities, and if not wedges, why
propositions? But the _Grammar of Assent_ is a beautiful book, and with
a quotation from it I will close my quotations: 'Thus it is that
Christianity is the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham and of the
Mosaic revelations; this is how it has been able from the first to
occupy the world, and gain a hold on every class of human society to
which its preachers reached; this is why the Roman power and the
multitude of religions which it embraced could not stand against it;
this is the secret of its sustained energy, and its never-flagging
martyrdoms; this is how at present it is so mysteriously potent, in
spite of the new and fearful adversaries which beset its path. It has
with it that gift of stanching and healing the one deep wound of human
nature, which avails more for its success than a full encyclopædia of
scientific knowledge and a whole library of controversy, and therefore
it must last while human nature lasts.'

It is fitting that our last quotation should be one which leaves the
Cardinal face to face with his faith.

Dr. Newman's poetry cannot be passed over without a word, though I am
ill-fitted to do it justice. _Lead, Kindly Light_ has forced its way
into every hymn-book and heart. Those who go, and those who do not go to
church, the fervent believer and the tired-out sceptic here meet on
common ground. The language of the verses in their intense sincerity
seems to reduce all human feelings, whether fed on dogmas and holy rites
or on man's own sad heart, to a common denominator.

    'The night is dark, and I am far from home,
        Lead Thou me on.'

The believer can often say no more. The unbeliever will never willingly
say less.

Amongst Dr. Newman's _Verses on Various Occasions_--though in some cases
the earlier versions to be met with in the _Lyra Apostolica_ are to be
preferred to the later--poems will be found by those who seek, conveying
sure and certain evidence of the possession by the poet of the true
lyrical gift--though almost cruelly controlled by the course of the
poet's thoughts and the nature of his subjects. One is sometimes
constrained to cry, 'Oh, if he could only get out into the wild blowing
airs, how his pinions would sweep the skies!' but such thoughts are
unlicensed and unseemly. That we have two such religious poets as
Cardinal Newman and Miss Christina Rossetti is or ought to be matter for
sincere rejoicing.


To the inveterate truth-hunter there has been much of melancholy in the
very numerous estimates, hasty estimates no doubt, but all manifestly
sincere, which the death of Cardinal Newman has occasioned.

The nobility of the pursuit after truth wherever the pursuit may lead
has been abundantly recognised. Nobody has been base enough or cynical
enough to venture upon a sneer. It has been marvellous to notice what a
hold an unpopular thinker, dwelling very far apart from the trodden
paths of English life and thought, had obtained upon men's imaginations.
The 'man in the street' was to be heard declaring that the dead Cardinal
was a fine fellow. The newspaper-makers were astonished at the interest
displayed by their readers. How many of these honest mourners, asked the
_Globe_, have read a page of Newman's writings? It is a vain inquiry.
Newman's books have long had a large and increasing sale. They stand on
all sorts of shelves, and wherever they go a still, small voice
accompanies them. They are speaking books; an air breathes from their

    'Again I saw and I confess'd
      Thy speech was rare and high,
    And yet it vex'd my burden'd breast,
      And scared I knew not why.'

It is a strange criticism that recently declared Newman's style to lack
individuality. Oddity it lacked, and mannerisms, but not, so it seems to
me, individuality.

But this wide recognition of Newman's charm both of character and style
cannot conceal from the anxious truth-hunter that there has been an
almost equally wide recognition of the futility of Newman's method and

Method and position? These were sacred words with the Cardinal. But a
few days ago he seemed securely posed before the world. It cannot
surely have been his unrivalled dialectics only that made men keep civil
tongues in their heads or hesitate to try conclusions with him. It was
rather, we presume, that there was no especial occasion to speak of him
otherwise than with the respect and affection due to honoured age. But
when he is dead--it is different. It is necessary then to gauge his
method and to estimate his influence, not as a living man, but as a dead

And what has that estimate been? The saintly life, the mysterious
presence, are admitted, and well-nigh nothing else. All sorts of reasons
are named, some plausible, all cunningly contrived, to account for
Newman's quarrel with the Church of his baptism. A writer in the
_Guardian_ suggests one, a writer in the _Times_ another, a writer in
the _Saturday Review_ a third, and so on.

However much these reasons may differ one from another, they all agree
in this, that of necessity they have ceased to operate. They were
personal reasons, and perished with the man whose faith and actions they
controlled. Nobody else, it has been throughout assumed, will become a
Romanist for the same reasons as John Henry Newman. If he had not been
brought up an Evangelical, if he had learnt German, if he had married,
if he had been made an archdeacon, all would have been different.

There is something positively terrible in this natural history of
opinion. All the passion and the pleading of a life, the thought, and
the labour, the sustained argument, the library of books, reduced to
what?--a series of accidents!

Newman himself well knew this aspect of affairs. No one's plummet since
Pascal's had taken deeper soundings of the infirmity--the oceanic
infirmity--of the intellect. What actuary, he asks contemptuously, can
appraise the value of a man's opinions? In how many a superb passage
does he exhibit the absurd, the haphazard fashion in which men and women
collect the odds and ends, the bits and scraps they are pleased to place
in the museum of their minds, and label, in all good faith, their
convictions! Newman almost revels in such subjects. The solemn pomposity
which so frequently dignifies with the name of research or inquiry
feeble scratchings amongst heaps of verbosity had no more determined foe
than the Cardinal.

But now the same measure is being meted out to him, and we are told of a
thinker's life--it is nought.

He thought he had constructed a way of escape from the City of
Destruction for himself and his followers across the bridge of that
illative sense which turns conclusions into assents, and opinions into
faiths--but the bridge seems no longer standing.

The writer in the _Guardian_, who attributes Newman's restlessness in
the English Church to the smug and comfortable life of many of its
clergy rather than to any especial craving after authority, no doubt
wrote with knowledge.

A married clergy seemed always to annoy Newman. Readers of _Loss and
Gain_ are not likely to forget the famous 'pork chop' passage, which
describes a young parson and his bride bustling into a stationer's shop
to buy hymnals and tracts. What was once only annoyance at some of the
ways of John Bull on his knees, soon ripened into something not very
unlike hatred. Never was any invention less _ben trovato_ than that
which used to describe Newman as pining after the 'incomparable liturgy'
or the 'cultured society' of the Church of England. He hated _ex animo_
all those aspects of Anglicanism which best recommend it to Erastian
minds. A church of which sanctity is _not_ a note is sure to have many

The _Saturday Review_ struck up a fine national tune:

'An intense but narrow conception of personal holiness, and personal
satisfaction with dogma, ate him (Newman) up--the natural legacy of the
Evangelical school in which he had been nursed, the great tradition of
Tory churchmanship, _of pride in the Church of England, as such_, of
determination to stand shoulder to shoulder in resisting the foreigner,
whether he came from Rome or from Geneva, from Tübingen, or from Saint
Sulpice, of the union of all social and intellectual culture with
theological learning--the idea which, alone of all such ideas, has made
education patriotic, and orthodoxy generous, made insufficient appeal to
him, and for want of it he himself made shipwreck.'

Here is John Bullism, bold and erect. If the Ark of Peter won't hoist
the Union Jack, John Bull must have an Ark of his own, with patriotic
clergy of his own manufacture tugging at the oar, and with nothing
foreign in the hold save some sound old port. 'It will always be
remembered to Newman's credit,' says this same reviewer, 'that he knew
good wine if he did not drink much.' Mark the 'If'; there is much virtue
in it.

We are now provided with two causes of Newman's discomfort in the Church
of England--its too comfortable clergy, and its too frequent
introduction of the lion and the unicorn amongst the symbols of
religion--both effective causes, as may be proved by many passages; but
to say that either or both availed to drive him out, and compelled him
to seek shelter at the hands of one whom he had long regarded as a foe,
is to go very far indeed.

It should not be overlooked that these minimisers of Newman's influence
are all firmly attached for different reasons to the institution Newman
left. Their judgments therefore cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.
What Disraeli meant when he said that Newman's secession had dealt the
Church of England a blow under which it still reeled, was that by this
act Newman expressed before the whole world his profound conviction that
our so-called National Church was not a branch of the Church Catholic.
And this really is the point of weakness upon which Newman hurled
himself. This is the damage he did to the Church of this island.
Throughout all his writings, in a hundred places, in jests and sarcasms
as well as in papers and arguments, there crops up this settled
conviction that England is not a Catholic country, and that John Bull is
not a member of the Catholic Church.

This may not matter much to the British electorate; but to those who
care about such things, who rely upon the validity of orders and the
efficacy of sacraments, who need a pedigree for their faith, who do not
agree with Emerson that if a man would be great he must be a
Nonconformist--over these people it would be rash to assume that
Newman's influence is spent. The general effect of his writings, the
demands they awaken, the spirit they breathe, are all hostile to
Anglicanism. They create a profound dissatisfaction with, a distaste
for, the Church of England as by law established. Those who are affected
by this spirit will no longer be able comfortably to enjoy the maimed
rites and practices of their Church. They will feel their place is
elsewhere, and sooner or later they will pack up and go. It is far too
early in the day to leave Newman out of sight.

But to end where we began. There has been scant recognition in the
Cardinal's case of the usefulness of devoting life to anxious inquiries
after truth. It is very noble to do so, and when you come to die, the
newspapers, from the _Times_ to the _Sporting Life_, will first point
out, after their superior fashion, how much better was this pure-minded
and unworldly thinker than the soiled politician, full of opportunism
and inconsistency, trying hard to drown the echoes of his past with his
loud vociferations, and then proceed in a few short sentences to
establish how out of date is this Thinker's thought, how false his
reasoning, how impossible his conclusions, and lastly, how dead his

It is very puzzling and difficult, and drives some men to collect
butterflies and beetles. Thinkers are not, however, to be disposed of by
scratches of the pen. A Cardinal of the Roman Church is not, to say the
least of it, more obviously a shipwreck than a dean or even a bishop of
the English establishment. Character, too, counts for something. Of
Newman it may be said:

    'Fate gave what chance shall not control,
    His sad lucidity of soul.'

But the truth-hunter is still unsatisfied.

                        MATTHEW ARNOLD


The news of Mr. Arnold's sudden death at Liverpool struck a chill into
many hearts, for although a somewhat constrained writer (despite his
playfulness) and certainly the least boisterous of men, he was yet most
distinctly on the side of human enjoyment. He conspired and contrived to
make things pleasant. Pedantry he abhorred. He was a man of this life
and this world. A severe critic of the world he indeed was, but finding
himself in it and not precisely knowing what is beyond it, like a brave
and true-hearted man he set himself to make the best of it. Its sight
and sounds were dear to him. The 'uncrumpling fern,' the eternal
moon-lit snow, 'Sweet William with its homely cottage-smell,' 'the red
grouse springing at our sound,' the tinkling bells of the
'high-pasturing kine,' the vagaries of men, women, and dogs, their odd
ways and tricks, whether of mind or manner, all delighted, amused,
tickled him. Human loves, joys, sorrows, human relationships, ordinary
ties interested him:

          'The help in strife,
    The thousand sweet still joys of such
    As hand in hand face earthly life.'

In a sense of the words which is noble and blessed, he was of the Earth

In his earlier days Mr. Arnold was much misunderstood. That rowdy
Philistine the _Daily Telegraph_ called him 'a prophet of the kid-glove
persuasion,' and his own too frequent iteration of the somewhat
dandiacal phrase 'sweetness and light' helped to promote the notion that
he was a fanciful, finikin Oxonian,

    'A fine puss gentleman that's all perfume,'

quite unfit for the most ordinary wear and tear of life. He was in
reality nothing of the kind, though his literary style was a little in
keeping with this false conception. His mind was based on the plainest
possible things. What he hated most was the fantastic--the far-fetched,
all elaborated fancies, and strained interpretations. He stuck to the
beaten track of human experience, and the broader the better. He was a
plain-sailing man. This is his true note. In his much criticised, but as
I think admirable introduction to the selection he made from
Wordsworth's poems, he admits that the famous _Ode on Intimations of
Immortality from Recollections in Early Childhood_ is not one of his
prime favourites, and in that connection he quotes from Thucydides the
following judgment on the early exploits of the Greek Race and applies
it to these intimations of immortality in babies. 'It is impossible to
speak with certainty of what is so remote, but from all that we can
really investigate I should say that they were no very great things.'

This quotation is in Mr. Arnold's own vein. His readers will have no
difficulty in calling to mind numerous instances in which his dislike of
everything not broadly based on the generally admitted facts of sane
experience manifests itself. Though fond--perhaps exceptionally
fond--of pretty things and sayings, he had a severe taste, and hated
whatever struck him as being in the least degree sickly, or silly, or
over-heated. No doubt he may often have considered that to be sickly or
silly which in the opinion of others was pious and becoming. It may be
that he was over-impatient of men's flirtations with futurity. As his
paper on Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley shows, he disapproved of
'irregular relations.' He considered we were all married to plain Fact,
and objected to our carrying on a flirtation with mystic maybe's and
calling it Religion. Had it been a man's duty to believe in a specific
revelation it would have been God's duty to make that revelation
credible. Such, at all events, would appear to have been the opinion of
this remarkable man, who though he had even more than his share of an
Oxonian's reverence for the great Bishop of Durham, was unable to admit
the force of the main argument of _The Analogy_. Mr. Arnold was indeed
too fond of parading his inability for hard reasoning. I am not, he
keeps saying, like the Archbishop of York, or the Bishop of Gloucester
and Bristol. There was affectation about this, for his professed
inferiority did not prevent him from making it almost excruciatingly
clear that in his opinion those gifted prelates were, whilst exercising
their extraordinary powers, only beating the air, or in plainer words
busily engaged in talking nonsense. But I must not wander from my point,
which simply is that Arnold's dislike of anything recondite or remote
was intense, genuine, and characteristic.

He always asserted himself to be a good Liberal. So in truth he was. A
better Liberal than many a one whose claim to that title it would be
thought absurd to dispute. He did not indeed care very much about some
of the articles of the Liberal creed as now professed. He had taken a
great dislike to the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. He wished the Church
and the State to continue to recognise each other. He had not that
jealousy of State interference in England which used to be (it is so no
longer) a note of political Liberalism. He sympathised with Italian
national aspirations because he thought it wrong to expect a country
with such a past as Italy to cast in her lot with Austria. He did not
sympathise with Irish national aspirations because he thought Ireland
ought to be willing to admit that she was relatively to England an
inferior and less interesting country, and therefore one which had no
moral claim for national institutions. He may have been right or wrong
on these points without affecting his claim to be considered a Liberal.
Liberalism is not a creed, but a frame of mind. Mr. Arnold's frame of
mind was Liberal. No living man is more deeply permeated with the grand
doctrine of Equality than was he. He wished to see his countrymen and
countrywomen all equal: Jack as good as his master, and Jack's master as
good as Jack; and neither taking claptrap. He had a hearty un-English
dislike of anomalies and absurdities. He fully appreciated the French
Revolution and was consequently a Democrat. He was not a democrat from
irresistible impulse, or from love of mischief, or from hatred of
priests, or like the average British workman from a not unnatural
desire to get something on account of his share of the family
inheritance--but all roads lead to Rome, and Mr. Arnold was a democrat
from a sober and partly sorrowful conviction that no other form of
government was possible. He was an Educationalist, and Education is the
true Leveller. His almost passionate cry for better middle-class
education arose from his annoyance at the exclusion of large numbers of
this great class from the best education the country afforded. It was a
ticklish job telling this great, wealthy, middle class--which according
to the newspapers had made England what she is and what everybody else
wishes to be--that it was, from an educational point of view, beneath
contempt. 'I hear with surprise,' said Sir Thomas Bazley at Manchester,
'that the education of our great middle class requires improvement.' But
Mr. Arnold had courage. Indeed he carried one kind of courage to an
heroic pitch. I mean the courage of repeating yourself over and over
again. It is a sound forensic maxim: Tell a judge twice whatever you
want him to hear. Tell a special jury thrice, and a common jury
half-a-dozen times the view of a case you wish them to entertain. Mr.
Arnold treated the middle class as a common jury and hammered away at
them remorselessly and with the most unblushing iteration. They groaned
under him, they snorted, and they sniffed--but they listened, and, what
was more to the purpose, their children listened, and with filial
frankness told their heavy sires that Mr. Arnold was quite right, and
that their lives were dull, and hideous, and arid, even as he described
them as being. Mr. Arnold's work as a School Inspector gave him great
opportunities of going about amongst all classes of the people. Though
not exactly apostolic in manner or method, he had something to say both
to and of everybody. The aristocracy were polite and had ways he
admired, but they were impotent of ideas and had a dangerous tendency to
become studiously frivolous. Consequently the Future did not belong to
them. Get ideas and study gravity, was the substance of his discourse to
the Barbarians, as, with that trick of his of miscalling God's
creatures, he had the effrontery to dub our adorable nobility. But it
was the middle class upon whom fell the full weight of his discourse.
His sermons to them would fill a volume. Their great need was culture,
which he declared to be _a study of perfection_, the sentiment for
beauty and sweetness, the sentiment against hideousness and rawness. The
middle class, he protested, needed to know all the best things that have
been said and done in the world since it began, and to be thereby lifted
out of their holes and corners, private academies and chapels in side
streets, above their tenth-rate books and miserable preferences, into
the main stream of national existence. The lower orders he judged to be
a mere rabble, and thought it was as yet impossible to predict whether
or not they would hereafter display any aptitude for Ideas, or passion
for Perfection. But in the meantime he bade them learn to cohere, and to
read and write, and above all he conjured them not to imitate the middle

It is not easy to know everything about everybody, and it may be doubted
whether Mr. Arnold did not over-rate the degree of acquaintance with
his countrymen his peregrinations among them had conferred upon him. In
certain circles he was supposed to have made the completest possible
diagnosis of dissent, and was credited with being able, after five
minutes' conversation with any individual Nonconformist, unerringly to
assign him to his particular chapel, Independent, Baptist, Primitive
Methodist, Unitarian, or whatever else it might be, and this though they
had only been talking about the weather. To people who know nothing
about dissenters, Mr. Arnold might well seem to know everything.
However, he did know a great deal, and used his knowledge with great
cunning and effect, and a fine instinctive sense of the whereabouts of
the weakest points. Mr. Arnold's sense for equality and solidarity was
not impeded by any exclusive tastes or hobbies. Your collector, even
though it be but of butterflies, is rarely a democrat. One of Arnold's
favourite lines in Wordsworth was--

    'Joy that is in widest commonalty spread.'

The collector's joys are not of that kind. Mr. Arnold was not, I
believe, a collector of anything. He certainly was not of books. I once
told him I had been reading a pamphlet, written by him in 1859, on the
Italian Question. He inquired how I came across it. I said I had picked
it up in a shop. 'Oh, yes,' said he, 'some old curiosity shop, I
suppose.' Nor was he joking. He seemed quite to suppose that old books,
and old clothes, and old chairs were huddled together for sale in the
same resort of the curious. He did not care about such things. The
prices given for the early editions of his own poems seemed to tease
him. His literary taste was broadly democratic. He had no mind for
fished-up authors, nor did he ever indulge in swaggering rhapsodies over
second-rate poets. The best was good enough for him. 'The best poetry'
was what he wanted, 'a clearer, deeper sense of the best in poetry, and
of the strength and joy to be drawn from it.' So he wrote in his general
introduction to Mr. Ward's _Selections from the English Poets_. The best
of everything for everybody. This was his gospel and his prayer.

Approaching Mr. Arnold's writings more nearly, it seems inevitable to
divide them into three classes. His poems, his theological excursions,
and his criticism, using the last word in a wide sense as including a
criticism of life and of politics as well as of books and style.

Of Mr. Arnold's poetry it is hard for anyone who has felt it to the full
during the most impressionable period of life to speak without emotion
overcoming reason.

    'Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,
    Hopes and fears, belief and unbelieving.'

It is easy to admit, in general terms, its limitations. Mr. Arnold is
the last man in the world anybody would wish to shove out of his place.
A poet at all points, armed cap-a-pie against criticism, like Lord
Tennyson, he certainly was not. Nor had his verse any share of the
boundless vitality, the fierce pulsation so nobly characteristic of Mr.
Browning. But these admissions made, we decline to parley any further
with the enemy. We cast him behind us. Mr. Arnold, to those who cared
for him at all, was the most _useful_ poet of his day. He lived much
nearer us than poets of his distinction usually do. He was neither a
prophet nor a recluse. He lived neither above us, nor away from us.
There are two ways of being a recluse--a poet may live remote from men,
or he may live in a crowded street but remote from their thoughts. Mr.
Arnold did neither, and consequently his verse tells and tingles. None
of it is thrown away. His readers feel that he bore the same yoke as
themselves. Theirs is a common bondage with his. Beautiful, surpassingly
beautiful some of Mr. Arnold's poetry is, but we seize upon the
_thought_ first and delight in the _form_ afterwards. No doubt the form
is an extraordinary comfort, for the thoughts are often, as thoughts so
widely spread could not fail to be, the very thoughts that are too
frequently expressed rudely, crudely, indelicately. To open Mr. Arnold's
poems is to escape from a heated atmosphere and a company not wholly
free from offence even though composed of those who share our
opinions--from loud-mouthed random talking men into a well-shaded
retreat which seems able to impart, even to our feverish persuasions
and crude conclusions, something of the coolness of falling water,
something of the music of rustling trees. This union of thought,
substantive thought, with beauty of form--of strength with elegance, is
rare. I doubt very much whether Mr. Arnold ever realised the devotedness
his verse inspired in the minds of thousands of his countrymen and
countrywomen, both in the old world and the new. He is not a bulky poet.
Three volumes contain him. But hardly a page can be opened without the
eye lighting on verse which at one time or another has been, either to
you or to someone dear to you, strength or joy. _The Buried Life_, _A
Southern Night_, _Dover Beach_, _A Wanderer is Man from his Birth_,
_Rugby Chapel_, _Resignation_. How easy to prolong the list, and what a
list it is! Their very names are dear to us even as are the names of
Mother Churches and Holy Places to the Votaries of the old Religion. I
read the other day in the _Spectator_ newspaper, an assertion that Mr.
Arnold's poetry had never consoled anybody. A falser statement was never
made innocently. It may never have consoled the writer in the
_Spectator_, but because the stomach of a dram-drinker rejects cold
water is no kind of reason for a sober man abandoning his morning
tumbler of the pure element. Mr. Arnold's poetry has been found full of
consolation. It would be strange if it had not been. It is

    'No stretched metre of an antique song,'

but quick and to the point. There are finer sonnets in the English
language than the two following, but there are no better sermons. And if
it be said that sermons may be found in stones, but ought not to be in
sonnets, I fall back upon the fact which Mr. Arnold himself so
cheerfully admitted, that the middle classes, who in England, at all
events, are Mr. Arnold's chief readers, are serious, and love sermons.
Some day perhaps they will be content with metrical exercises, ballades,
and roundels.

                   'EAST LONDON

    ''Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
    Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
    And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
    In Spitalfields, look'd thrice dispirited.

    'I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
    "Ill and o'erwork'd, how fare you in this scene?"
    "Bravely!" said he; "for I of late have been
    Much cheer'd with thoughts of Christ, _the living bread_."

    'O human soul! as long as thou canst so
    Set up a mark of everlasting light,
    Above the howling senses' ebb and flow,
    To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam--
    Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night!
    Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.'

                'THE BETTER PART

    'Long fed on boundless hopes, O race of man,
    How angrily thou spurn'st all simpler fare!
    "Christ," some one says, "was human as we are;
    No judge eyes us from Heaven, our sin to scan;

    '"We live no more, when we have done our span."--
    "Well, then, for Christ," thou answerest, "who can care?
    From Sin, which Heaven records not, why forbear?
    Live we like brutes our life without a plan!"

    'So answerest thou; but why not rather say:
    "Hath man no second life?--_Pitch this one high!_
    Sits there no judge in Heaven, our sin to see?

    '"_More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!_
    Was Christ a man like us?--_Ah! let us try
    If we then, too, can be such men as he!_"'

Mr. Arnold's love of nature, and poetic treatment of nature, was to many
a vexed soul a great joy and an intense relief. Mr. Arnold was a
genuine Wordsworthian--being able to read everything Wordsworth ever
wrote except _Vaudracour and Julia_. The influence of Wordsworth upon
him was immense, but he was enabled, by the order of his mind, to reject
with the heartiest goodwill the cloudy pantheism which robs so much of
Wordsworth's best verse of the heightened charm of reality, for, after
all, poetry, like religion, must be true, or it is nothing. This strong
aversion to the unreal also prevented Mr. Arnold, despite his love of
the classical forms, from a nonsensical neo-paganism. His was a manlier
attitude. He had no desire to keep tugging at the dry breasts of an
outworn creed, nor any disposition to go down on his knees, or _hunkers_
as the Scotch more humorously call them, before plaster casts of Venus,
or even of 'Proteus rising from the sea.' There was something very
refreshing about this. In the long run even a gloomy truth is better
company than a cheerful falsehood. The perpetual strain of living down
to a lie, the depressing atmosphere of a circumscribed intelligence
tell upon the system, and the cheerful falsehood soon begins to look
puffy and dissipated.

                    'THE YOUTH OF NATURE.

    'For, oh! is it you, is it you,
    Moonlight, and shadow, and lake,
    And mountains, that fill us with joy,
    Or the poet who sings you so well?
    .        .        .        .        .        .        .
    .        .        .        .        .        .        .
    More than the singer are these
    .        .        .        .        .        .        .
    .        .        .        .        .        .        .
    Yourselves and your fellows ye know not; and me,
    The mateless, the one, will ye know?
    Will ye scan me, and read me, and tell
    Of the thoughts that ferment in my breast,
    My longing, my sadness, my joy?
    Will ye claim for your great ones the gift
    To have rendered the gleam of my skies,
    To have echoed the moan of my seas,
    Uttered the voice of my hills?
    When your great ones depart, will ye say:
    _All things have suffered a loss,
    Nature is hid in their grave?_

    Race after race, man after man,
    Have thought that my secret was theirs,
    Have dream'd that I lived but for them,
    That they were my glory and joy.
    They are dust, they are changed, they are gone!
    I remain.'

When a poet is dead we turn to his verse with quickened feelings. He
rests from his labours. We still

    'Stem across the sea of life by night,'

and the voice, once the voice of the living, of one who stood by our
side, has for a while an unfamiliar accent, coming to us as it does no
longer from our friendly earth but from the strange cold caverns of

    'Joy comes and goes, hope ebbs and flows
            Like the wave,
    Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men.
      Love lends life a little grace,
      A few sad smiles; and then,
      Both are laid in one cold place,
            In the grave.

    'Dreams dawn and fly, friends smile and die
            Like spring flowers;
    Our vaunted life is one long funeral.
      Men dig graves with bitter tears
      For their dead hopes; and all,
      Mazed with doubts and sick with fears,
            Count the hours.

    'We count the hours! These dreams of ours,
            False and hollow,
    Do we go hence and find they are not dead?
            Joys we dimly apprehend,
      Faces that smiled and fled,
      Hopes born here, and born to end,
            Shall we follow?'

In a poem like this Mr. Arnold is seen at his best; he fairly forces
himself into the very front ranks. In form almost equal to Shelley, or
at any rate not so very far behind him, whilst of course in reality, in
wholesome thought, in the pleasures that are afforded by thinking, it is
of incomparable excellence.

We die as we do, not as we would. Yet on reading again Mr. Arnold's
_Wish_, we feel that the manner of his death was much to his mind.

                    'A WISH.

    'I ask not that my bed of death
      From bands of greedy heirs be free:
    For these besiege the latest breath
      Of fortune's favoured sons, not me.

    'I ask not each kind soul to keep
      Tearless, when of my death he hears.
    Let those who will, if any--weep!
      There are worse plagues on earth than tears.

    'I ask but that my death may find
      The freedom to my life denied;
    Ask but the folly of mankind
      Then--then at last to quit my side.

    'Spare me the whispering, crowded room,
      The friends who come, and gape, and go;
    The ceremonious air of gloom--
      All, which makes death a hideous show!

    'Nor bring to see me cease to live
      Some doctor full of phrase and fame
    To shake his sapient head and give
      The ill he cannot cure a name.

    'Nor fetch to take the accustom'd toll
      Of the poor sinner bound for death
    His brother-doctor of the soul
      To canvass with official breath

    'The future and its viewless things--
      That undiscover'd mystery
    Which one who feels death's winnowing wings
      Must needs read clearer, sure, than he!

    'Bring none of these; but let me be
      While all around in silence lies,
    Moved to the window near, and see
      Once more before my dying eyes,

    'Bathed in the sacred dews of morn
      The wide aerial landscape spread--
    The world which was ere I was born,
      The world which lasts when I am dead.

    'Which never was the friend of _one_,
      Nor promised love it could not give,
    But lit for all its generous sun
      And lived itself and made us live.

    'Then let me gaze--till I become
      In soul, with what I gaze on, wed!
    To feel the universe my home;
      To have before my mind--instead

    'Of the sick room, the mortal strife,
      The turmoil for a little breath--
    The pure eternal course of life,
      Not human combatings with death!

    'Thus feeling, gazing, let me grow
      Composed, refresh'd, ennobled, clear--
    Then willing let my spirit go
      To work or wait, elsewhere or here!'

To turn from Arnold's poetry to his theological writings--if so grim a
name can be given to these productions--from _Rugby Chapel_ to
_Literature and Dogma_, from _Obermann_ to _God and the Bible_, from
_Empedocles on Etna_ to _St. Paul and Protestantism_, is to descend from
the lofty table-lands,

    'From the dragon-warder'd fountains
    Where the springs of knowledge are,
    From the watchers on the mountains
    And the bright and morning star,'

to the dusty highroad. It cannot, I think, be asserted that either the
plan or the style of these books was in keeping with their subjects. It
was characteristic of Mr. Arnold, and like his practical turn of mind,
to begin _Literature and Dogma_ in the _Cornhill Magazine_. A book
rarely shakes off the first draft--_Literature and Dogma_ never did. It
is full of repetitions and wearisome recapitulations, well enough in a
magazine where each issue is sure to be read by many who will never see
another number, but which disfigure a book. The style is likewise too
jaunty. Bantering the Trinity is not yet a recognised English pastime.
Bishop-baiting is, but this notwithstanding, most readers of _Literature
and Dogma_ grew tired of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol and of his
alleged desire to do something for the honour of the Godhead, long
before Mr. Arnold showed any signs of weariness. But making all these
abatements, and fully admitting that _Literature and Dogma_ is not
likely to prove permanently interesting to the English reader, it must
be pronounced a most valuable and useful book, and one to which the
professional critics and philosophers never did justice. The object of
_Literature and Dogma_ was no less than the restoration of the use of
the Bible to the sceptical laity. It was a noble object, and it was in a
great measure, as thousands of quiet people could testify, attained. It
was not a philosophical treatise. In its own way it was the same kind of
thing as many of Cardinal Newman's writings. It started with an
assumption, namely, that it is impossible to believe in the miracles
recorded in the Old and New Testaments. There is no laborious attempt to
distinguish between one miracle and another, or to lighten the burden of
faith in any particular. Nor is any serious attempt made to disprove
miracles. Mr. Arnold did not write for those who find no difficulty in
believing in the first chapter of St. Luke's gospel, or the sixteenth
chapter of St. Mark's, but for those who simply cannot believe a word of
either the one chapter or the other. Mr. Arnold knew well that this
inability to believe is apt to generate in the mind of the unbeliever an
almost physical repulsion to open books which are full of supernatural
events. Mr. Arnold knew this and lamented it. His own love of the Bible
was genuine and intense. He could read even Jeremiah and Habakkuk. As he
loved Homer with one side of him, so he loved the Bible with the other.
He saw how men were crippled and maimed through growing up in ignorance
of it, and living all the days of their lives outside its influence. He
longed to restore it to them, to satisfy them that its place in the
mind of man--that its educational and moral power was not due to the
miracles it records nor to the dogmas that Catholics have developed or
Calvanists extracted from its pages, but to its literary excellence and
to the glow and enthusiasm it has shed over conduct, self-sacrifice,
humanity, and holy living. It was at all events a worthy object and a
most courageous task. It exposed him to a heavy cross-fire. The Orthodox
fell upon his book and abused it, unrestrainedly abused it for its
familiar handling of their sacred books. They almost grudged Mr. Arnold
his great acquaintance with the Bible, just as an Englishman might be
annoyed at finding Moltke acquainted with all the roads from Dover to
London. This feeling was natural, and on the whole I think it creditable
to the orthodox party that a book so needlessly pain-giving as
_Literature and Dogma_ did not goad them into any personal abuse of its
author. But they could not away with the book. Nor did the philosophical
sceptic like it much better. The philosophical sceptic is too apt to
hate the Bible, even as the devil was reported to hate holy water. Its
spirit condemns him. Its devout, heart-stirring, noble language creates
an atmosphere which is deadly for pragmatic egotism. To make men once
more careful students of the Bible was to deal a blow at materialism,
and consequently was not easily forgiven. 'Why can't you leave the Bible
alone?' they grumbled--'What have we to do with it?' But Pharisees and
Sadducees do not exhaust mankind, and Mr. Arnold's contributions to the
religious controversies of his time were very far from the barren things
that are most contributions, and indeed most controversies on such
subjects. I believe I am right when I say that he induced a very large
number of persons to take up again and make a daily study of the books
both of the Old and the New Testament.

As a literary critic Mr. Arnold had at one time a great vogue. His
_Essays in Criticism_, first published in 1865, made him known to a
larger public than his poems or his delightful lectures on translating
Homer had succeeded in doing. He had the happy knack of starting
interesting subjects and saying all sorts of interesting things by the
way. There was the French Academy. Would it be a good thing to have an
English Academy? He started the question himself and answered it in the
negative. The public took it out of his mouth and proceeded to discuss
it for itself, always on the assumption that he had answered it in the
affirmative. But that is the way with the public. No sensible man minds
it. To set something going is the most anybody can hope to do in this
world. Where it will go to, and what sort of moss it will gather as it
goes, for despite the proverb there is nothing incompatible between moss
and motion, no one can say. In this volume, too, he struck the note, so
frequently and usefully repeated, of self-dissatisfaction. To make us
dissatisfied with ourselves, alive to our own inferiority, not absolute
but in important respects, to check the chorus, then so loud, of
self-approval of our majestic selves--to make us understand why nobody
who is not an Englishman wants to be one, this was another of the tasks
of this militant man. We all remember how _Wragg[6] is in custody_. The
papers on Heine and Spinoza and Marcus Aurelius were read with
eagerness, with an enjoyment, with a sense of widening horizons too rare
to be easily forgotten. They were light and graceful, but it would I
think be unjust to call them slender. They were not written for
specialists or even for students, but for ordinary men and women,
particularly for young men and women, who carried away with them from
the reading of _Essays in Criticism_ something they could not have found
anywhere else and which remained with them for the rest of their days,
namely, a way of looking at things. A perfectly safe critic Mr. Arnold
hardly was. Even in this volume he fusses too much about the De Guérins.
To some later judgments of his it would be unkind to refer. It was said
of the late Lord Justice Mellish by Lord Cairns that he went right
instinctively. That is, he did not flounder into truth. Mr. Arnold never
floundered, but he sometimes fell. A more delightful critic of
literature we have not had for long. What pleasant reading are his
_Lectures on Translating Homer_, which ought to be at once reprinted.
How full of good things! Not perhaps fit to be torn from their contexts,
or paraded in a commonplace book, but of the kind which give a reader
joy--which make literature tempting--which revive, even in dull
middle-age, something of the enthusiasm of the love-stricken boy. Then,
too, his _Study of Celtic Literature_. It does not matter much whether
you can bring yourself to believe in the _Eisteddfod_ or not. In fact
Mr. Arnold did not believe in it. He knew perfectly well that better
poetry is to be found every week in the poet's corner of every county
newspaper in England than is produced annually at the _Eisteddfod_. You
need not even share Mr. Arnold's opinion as to the inherent value of
Celtic Literature, though this is of course a grave question, worthy of
all consideration--but his _Study_ is good enough to be read for love.
It is full of charming criticism. Most critics are such savages--or if
they are not savages, they are full of fantasies, and are capable at any
moment of calling _Tom Jones_ dull, or Sydney Smith a bore. Mr. Arnold
was not a savage, and could no more have called _Tom Jones_ dull or
Sydney Smith a bore, than Homer heavy or Milton vulgar. He was no gloomy
specialist. He knew it took all sorts to make a world. He was alive to
life. Its great movement fascinated him, even as it had done Burke, even
as it did Cardinal Newman. He watched the rushing stream, the 'stir of
existence,' the good and the bad, the false and the true, with an
interest that never flagged. In his last words on translating Homer he
says: 'And thus false tendency as well as true, vain effort as well as
fruitful, go together to produce that great movement of life, to present
that immense and magic spectacle of human affairs, which from boyhood to
old age fascinates the gaze of every man of imagination, and which would
be his terror if it were not at the same time his delight.'

Mr. Arnold never succeeded in getting his countrymen to take him
seriously as a practical politician. He was regarded as an unauthorised
practitioner whose prescriptions no respectable chemist would consent to
make up. He had not the diploma of Parliament, nor was he able, like
the Secretary of an Early Closing Association, to assure any political
aspirant that he commanded enough votes to turn an election. When Mr.
John Morley took occasion after Mr. Arnold's death to refer to him in
Parliament, the name was received respectfully but coldly. And yet he
was eager about politics, and had much to say about political questions.
His work in these respects was far from futile. What he said was never
inept. It coloured men's thoughts, and contributed to the formation of
their opinions far more than even public meetings. His introduction to
his _Report on Popular Education in France_, published in 1861, is as
instructive a piece of writing as is to be found in any historical
disquisition of the last three decades. The paper on 'My Countrymen' in
that most amusing book _Friendship's Garland_ (which ought also to be at
once reprinted) is full of point.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it is time to stop. It is only possible to stop where we began.
Matthew Arnold is dead. He would have been the last man to expect anyone
to grow hysterical over the circumstance, and the first to denounce any
strained emotion. _Il n'y a pas d'homme nécessaire._ No one ever grasped
this great, this comforting, this cooling, this self-destroying truth
more cordially than he did. As I write the words, I remember how he
employed them in his preface to the second edition of _Essays in
Criticism_, where he records a conversation, I doubt not an imaginary
one, between himself and a portly jeweller from Cheapside--his
fellow-traveller on the Woodford branch of the Great Eastern line. The
traveller was greatly perturbed in his mind by the murder then lately
perpetrated in a railway carriage by the notorious Müller. Mr. Arnold
plied him with consolation. 'Suppose the worst to happen,' I said,
'suppose even yourself to be the victim--_il n'y a pas d'homme
nécessaire_--we should miss you for a day or two on the Woodford Branch,
but the great mundane movement would still go on, the gravel walks of
your villa would still be rolled, dividends would still be paid at the
bank, omnibuses would still run, there would still be the old crush at
the corner of Fenchurch Street.'

And so it proves for all--for portly jewellers and lovely poets.

    'The Pillar still broods o'er the fields
    Which border Ennerdale Lake,
    And Egremont sleeps by the sea--
    Nature is fresh as of old,
    Is lovely; a mortal is dead.'


Lord Byron's antipathies were, as a rule, founded on some sound human
basis, and it may well be that he was quite right for hating an author
who was all author and nothing else. He could not have hated Matthew
Arnold on that score, at all events, though perhaps he might have found
some other ground for gratifying a feeling very dear to his heart. Mr.
Arnold was many other things as well as a poet, so many other things
that we need sometimes to be reminded that he was a poet. He allowed
himself to be distracted in a variety of ways, he poured himself out in
many strifes; though not exactly eager, he was certainly active. He
discoursed on numberless themes, and was interested in many things of
the kind usually called 'topics.'

Personally, we cannot force ourselves to bewail his agility, this
leaping from bough to bough of the tree of talk and discussion. It
argues an interest in things, a wide-eyed curiosity. If you find
yourself in a village fair you do well to examine the booths, and when
you bring your purchases home, the domestic authority will be wise not
to scan too severely the trivial wares never meant to please a critical
taste or to last a lifetime. Mr. Arnold certainly brought home some very
queer things from his village fair, and was perhaps too fond of taking
them for the texts of his occasional discourses. But others must find
fault, we cannot. There is a pleasant ripple of life through Mr.
Arnold's prose writings. His judgments are human judgments. He did not
care for strange, out-of-the-way things; he had no odd tastes. He drank
wine, so he once said, because he liked it--good wine, that is. And it
was the same with poetry and books. He liked to understand what he
admired, and the longer it took him to understand anything the less
disposed he was to like it. Plain things suited him best. What he hated
most was the far-fetched. He had the greatest respect for Mr. Browning,
and was a sincere admirer of much of his poetry, but he never made the
faintest attempt to read any of the poet's later volumes. The reason
probably was that he could not be bothered. Hazlitt, in a fine passage
descriptive of the character of a scholar, says: 'Such a one lives all
his life in a dream of learning, and has never once had his sleep broken
by a real sense of things.' Mr. Arnold had a real sense of things. The
writings of such a man could hardly fail to be interesting, whatever
they might be about, even the burial of Dissenters or the cock of a
nobleman's hat.

But for all that we are of those who, when we name the name of Arnold,
mean neither the head-master of Rugby nor the author of _Culture and
Anarchy_ and _Literature and Dogma_, but the poet who sang, not, indeed,
with Wordsworth, 'The wonder and bloom of the world,' but a severer,
still more truthful strain, a life whose secret is not joy, but peace.

Standing on this high breezy ground, we are not disposed to concede
anything to the enemy, unless, indeed, it be one somewhat ill-defended
outpost connected with metre. The poet's ear might have been a little
nicer. Had it been so, he would have spared his readers an occasional
jar and a panegyric on Lord Byron's poetry. There are, we know, those
who regard this outpost we have so lightly abandoned as the citadel.
These rhyming gentry scout what Arnold called the terrible sentence
passed on a French poet--_il dit tout ce qu'il veut_, _mais
malheureusement il n'a rien à dire_. They see nothing terrible in a
sentence which does but condemn them to nakedness. Thought is
cumbersome. You skip best with nothing on. But the sober-minded English
people are not the countrymen of Milton and Cowper, of Crabbe and
Wordsworth, for nothing. They like poetry to be serious. We are fond of
sermons. We may quarrel with the vicar's five-and-twenty minutes, but we
let Carlyle go on for twice as many years, and until he had filled
thirty-four octavo volumes.

The fact is that, though Arnold was fond of girding at the Hebrew in us,
and used to quote his own Christian name with humorous resignation as
only an instance of the sort of thing he had to put up with, he was a
Puritan at heart, and would have been as ill at ease at a Greek festival
as Newman at a Spanish _auto da fé_.

What gives Arnold's verse its especial charm is his grave and manly
sincerity. He is a poet without artifice or sham. He does not pretend to
find all sorts of meanings in all sorts of things. He does not
manipulate the universe and present his readers with any bottled elixir.
This has been cast up against him as a reproach. His poetry, so we have
been told, has no consolation in it. Here is a doctor, it is said, who
makes up no drugs, a poet who does not proclaim that he sees God in the
avalanche or hears Him in the thunder. The world will not, so we are
assured, hang upon the lips of one who bids them not to be too sure that
the winds are wailing man's secret to the complaining sea, or that
nature is nothing but a theme for poets. These people may be right. In
any event it is unwise to prophesy. What will be, will be. Nobody can
wish to be proved wrong. It is best to be on the side of truth, whatever
the truth may be. The real atheism is to say, as men are found to do,
that they would sooner be convicted of error they think pleasing, than
have recognised an unwelcome truth a moment earlier than its final
demonstration, if, indeed, such a moment should ever arrive for souls so
craven. In the meantime, this much is plain, that there is no
consolation in non-coincidence with fact, and no sweetness which does
not chime with experience. Therefore, those who have derived consolation
from Mr. Arnold's noble verse may take comfort. Religion, after all,
observes Bishop Butler in his tremendous way, is nothing if it is not
true. The same may be said of the poetry of consolation.

The pleasure it is lawful to take in the truthfulness of Mr. Arnold's
poetry should not be allowed to lead his lovers into the pleasant paths
of exaggeration. The Muses dealt him out their gifts with a somewhat
niggardly hand. He had to cultivate his Sparta. No one of his admirers
can assert that in Arnold

          'The force of energy is found,
    And the sense rises on the wings of sound.'

He is no builder of the lofty rhyme. This he was well aware of. But
neither had he any ample measure of those 'winged fancies' which wander
at will through the pages of Apollo's favourite children. His strange
indifference to Shelley, his severity towards Keats, his lively sense of
the wantonness of Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, incline us to the
belief that he was not quite sensible of the advantages of a fruitful as
compared with a barren soil. His own crop took a good deal of raising,
and he was perhaps somewhat disposed to regard luxuriant growths with

But though severe and restricted, and without either grandeur or fancy,
Arnold's poetry is most companionable. It never teases you--there he has
the better of Shelley--or surfeits you--there he prevails over Keats. As
a poet, we would never dare or wish to class him with either Shelley or
Keats, but as a companion to slip in your pocket before starting to
spend the day amid

    'The cheerful silence of the fells,'

you may search far before you find anything better than either of the
two volumes of Mr. Arnold's poems.

His own enjoyment of the open air is made plain in his poetry. It is no
borrowed rapture, no mere bookish man's clumsy joy in escaping from his
library, but an enjoyment as hearty and honest as Izaak Walton's. He has
a quick eye for things, and rests upon them with a quiet satisfaction.
No need to give instances; they will occur to all. Sights and sounds
alike pleased him well. So obviously genuine, so real, though so quiet,
was his pleasure in our English lanes and dells, that it is still
difficult to realise that his feet can no longer stir the cowslips or
his ear hear the cuckoo's parting cry.

Amidst the melancholy of his verse, we detect deep human enjoyment and
an honest human endeavour to do the best he could whilst here below. The
best he could do was, in our opinion, his verse, and it is a comfort,
amidst the wreckage of life, to believe he made the most of his gift,
cultivating it wisely and well, and enriching man's life with some
sober, serious, and beautiful poetry. We are, indeed, glad to notice
that there is to be a new edition of Mr. Arnold's poems in one volume.
It will, we are afraid, be too stout for the pocket, but most of its
contents will be well worth lodgment in the head. This new edition will,
we have no doubt whatever, immensely increase the number of men and
women who own the charm of Arnold. The times are ripening for his
poetry, which is full of foretastes of the morrow. As we read we are not
carried back by the reflection, 'so men once thought,' but rather
forward along the paths, dim and perilous it may be, but still the paths
mankind is destined to tread. Truthful, sober, severe, with a capacity
for deep, if placid, enjoyment of the pageant of the world, and a quick
eye for its varied sights and an eager ear for its delightful sounds,
Matthew Arnold is a poet whose limitations we may admit without denying
his right. Our passion for him is a loyal passion for a most temperate
king. There is an effort on his brow, we must admit it. It would never
do to mistake his poetry for what he called the best, and which he was
ever urging upon a sluggish populace. It intellectualises far too much;
its method is a known method, not a magical one. But though effort may
be on his brow, it is a noble effort and has had a noble result.

          'For most men in a brazen prison live,
    Where in the sun's hot eye,
    With heads bent o'er their toil, they languidly
    Their lives to some unmeaning task-work give,
    Dreaming of nought beyond their prison wall.
    And as, year after year,
    Fresh products of their barren labour fall
    From their tired hands, and rest
    Never yet comes more near,
    Gloom settles slowly down over their breast;
    And while they try to stem
    The waves of mournful thought by which they are prest,
    Death in their prison reaches them
    Unfreed, having seen nothing, still unblest.'

Or if not a slave he is a madman, sailing where he will on the wild
ocean of life.

    'And then the tempest strikes him, and between
    The lightning bursts is seen
    Only a driving wreck.
    And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck,
    With anguished face and flying hair,
    Grasping the rudder hard,
    Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
    Still standing for some false impossible shore;

    And sterner comes the roar
    Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom
    Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom,
    And he too disappears and comes no more.'

To be neither a rebel nor a slave is the burden of much of Mr. Arnold's
verse--his song we cannot call it. It will be long before men cease to
read their Arnold; even the rebel or the slave will occasionally find a
moment for so doing, and when he does it may be written of him:

    'And then arrives a lull in the hot race
    Wherein he doth for ever chase
    That flying and illusive shadow Rest.
    An air of coolness plays upon his face,
    And an unwonted calm pervades his breast,
    And then he thinks he knows
    The hills where his life rose
    And the sea where it goes.'

                       WILLIAM HAZLITT

For an author to fare better dead than alive is good proof of his
literary vivacity and charm. The rare merit of Hazlitt's writing was
recognised in his lifetime by good judges, but his fame was obscured by
the unpopularity of many of his opinions, and the venom he was too apt
to instil into his personal reminiscences. He was not a safe man to
confide in. He had a forked crest which he sometimes lifted. Because
they both wrote essays and were fond of the Elizabethans, it became the
fashion to link Hazlitt's name with Lamb's. To be compared with the
incomparable is hard fortune. Hazlitt suffered by the comparison, and
consequently his admirers, usually in those early days men of keen wits
and sharp tongues, grew angry, and infused into their just eulogiums too
much of Hazlitt's personal bitterness, and too little of his wide
literary sympathies.

But this period of obscurity is now over. No really good thing once come
into existence and remaining so is ever lost to the world. This is most
comfortable doctrine, and true, besides. In the long run the world's
taste is infallible. All it requires is time. How easy it is to give it
that! Is substantial injustice at this moment done to a single English
writer of prose or verse who died prior to the 1st of January, 1801? Is
there a single bad author of this same class who is now read? Both
questions may be truthfully answered by a joyful shout of, No! This fact
ought to make the most unpopular of living authors the sweetest-tempered
of men. The sight of your rival clinging to the cob he has purchased and
maintains out of the profits of the trashiest of novels should be
pleasant owing to the reflection that both rival and cob are trotting to
the same pit of oblivion.

But humorous as is the prospect of the coming occultation of personally
disagreeable authors, the final establishment of the fame of a dead one
is a nobler spectacle.

William Hazlitt had to take a thrashing from life. He took it standing
up like a man, not lying down like a cur; but take it he had to do. He
died on September 18, 1830, tired out, discomfited, defeated. Nobody
reviewing the facts of his life can say that it was well spent. There is
nothing in it of encouragement. He reaped what he sowed, and it proved a
sorry harvest. When he lay dying he wanted his mother brought to his
side, but she was at a great distance, and eighty-four years of age, and
could not come. Carlyle in his old age, grim, worn, and scornful, said
once, sorrowfully enough, 'What I want is a mother.' It is indeed an
excellent relationship.

But though Hazlitt got the worst of it in his personal encounter with
the universe, he nevertheless managed to fling down before he died what
will suffice to keep his name alive. You cannot kill merit. We are all
too busily engaged struggling with dulness, our own and other people's,
and with ennui; we are far too much surrounded by would-be wits and
abortive thinkers, ever to forget what a weapon against weariness lies
to our hand in the works of Hazlitt, who is as refreshing as cold
water, as grateful as shade.

His great charm consists in his hearty reality. Life may be a game, and
all its enjoyments counters, but Hazlitt, as we find him in his
writings--and there is now no need to look for him anywhere else--played
the game and dealt out the counters like a man bent on winning. He cared
greatly about many things. His admiration was not extravagant, but his
force is great; in fact, one may say of him as he said of John Cavanagh,
the famous fives player, 'His service was tremendous.' Indeed, Hazlitt's
whole description of Cavanagh's play reminds one of his own literary

'His style of play was as remarkable as his power of execution. He had
no affectation, no trifling. He did not throw away the game to show off
an attitude or try an experiment. He was a fine, sensible, manly player,
who did what he could, but that was more than anyone else could even
affect to do. His blows were not undecided and ineffectual, lumbering
like Mr. Wordsworth's epic poetry, nor wavering like Mr. Coleridge's
lyric prose, nor short of the mark like Mr. Brougham's speeches, nor
wide of it like Mr. Canning's wit, nor foul like the _Quarterly_, nor
_let_ balls like the _Edinburgh Review_.'

Wordsworth, Coleridge, Brougham, Canning! was ever a fives player so
described before? What splendid reading it makes! but we quote it for
the purpose of applying its sense to Hazlitt himself. As Cavanagh
played, so Hazlitt wrote.

He is always interesting, and always writes about really interesting
things. His talk is of poets and players, of Shakespeare and Kean, of
Fielding and Scott, of Burke and Cobbett, of prize fights and Indian
jugglers. When he condescends to the abstract, his subjects bring an
appetite with them. The Shyness of Scholars, the Fear of Death, the
Identity of an Author with his Books, Effeminacy of Character, the
Conversation of Lords, On Reading New Books: the very titles make you
lick your lips.

Hazlitt may have been an unhappy man, but he was above the vile
affectation of pretending to see nothing in life. Had he not seen Mrs.
Siddons, had he not read Rousseau, had he not worshipped Titian in the

No English writer better pays the debt of gratitude always owing to
great poets, painters, and authors than Hazlitt; but his is a manly, not
a maudlin, gratitude. No other writer has such gusto as he. The glowing
passage in which he describes Titian's St. Peter Martyr almost recalls
the canvas uninjured from the flames which have since destroyed it. We
seem to see the landscape background, 'with that cold convent spire
rising in the distance amidst the blue sapphire mountains and the golden
sky.' His essay on Sir Walter Scott and the _Waverley Novels_ is the
very best that has ever been written on that magnificent subject.

As a companion at the Feast of Wits commend us to Hazlitt, and as a
companion for a fortnight's holiday commend us to the admirable
selection recently made from his works, which are numerous--some twenty
volumes--by Mr. Ireland, and published at a cheap price by Messrs. F.
Warne and Co. The task of selection is usually a thankless one. It
involves of necessity omission and frequently curtailment. It is
annoying to look in vain for some favourite passage, and your annoyance
prompts the criticism that a really sound judgment would have made room
for what you miss. We lodge no complaint against Mr. Ireland. Like a
wise man, he has allowed to himself ample space, and he has compiled a
volume of 510 closely though well-printed pages, which has only to be
read in order to make the reader well acquainted with an author whom not
to know is a severe mental deprivation.

Mr. Ireland's book is a library in itself, and a marvellous tribute to
the genius of his author. It seems almost incredible that one man should
have said so many good things. It is true he does not go very deep as a
critic, he does not see into the soul of the matter as Lamb and
Coleridge occasionally do--but he holds you very tight--he grasps the
subject, he enjoys it himself and makes you do so. Perhaps he does say
too many good things. His sparkling sentences follow so quickly one upon
another that the reader's appreciation soon becomes a breathless
appreciation. There is something almost uncanny in such sustained
cleverness. This impression, however, must not be allowed to remain as a
final impression. In Hazlitt the reader will find trains of sober
thought pursued with deep feeling and melancholy. Turn to the essays,
_On Living to One's Self_, _On Going a Journey_, _On the Feeling of
Immortality in Youth_, and read them over again. When you have done so
you will be indisposed to consider their author as a mere sayer of good
things. He was much more than that. One smiles when, on reading the
first Lord Lytton's _Thoughts on the Genius of Hazlitt_, the author of
_Eugene Aram_, is found declaring that Hazlitt 'had a keen sense of the
Beautiful and the Subtle; and what is more, he was deeply imbued with
sympathies for the Humane'; but when Lord Lytton proceeds, 'Posterity
will do him justice,' we cease to smile, and handling Mr. Ireland's
book, observe with deep satisfaction, 'It has.'

                THE LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB[7]

Four hundred and seventeen letters of Charles Lamb's, some of them never
before published, in two well-printed but handy volumes, edited, with
notes illustrative, explanatory, and biographical, by Canon Ainger, and
supplied with an admirable index, are surely things to be thankful for
and to be desired. No doubt the price is prohibitory. They will cost you
in cash, these two volumes, full as they are from title-page to colophon
with the sweetness and nobility, the mirth and the melancholy of their
author's life, touched as every page of them is with traces of a hard
fate bravely borne, seven shillings and sixpence. None but American
millionaires and foolish book-collectors can bear such a strain upon
their purses. It is the cab-fare to and from a couple of dull
dinner-parties. But Mudie is in our midst, ever ready to supply our very
modest intellectual wants at so much a quarter, and ward off the
catastrophe so dreaded by all dust-hating housewives, the accumulation
of those 'nasty books,' for which indeed but slender accommodation is
provided in our upholstered homes. Yet these volumes, however acquired,
whether by purchase, and therefore destined to remain by your side ready
to be handled whenever the mood seizes you, or borrowed from a library
to be returned at the week's end along with the last new novel people
are painfully talking about, cannot fail to excite the interest and stir
the emotions of all lovers of sound literature and true men.

But first of all, Canon Ainger is to be congratulated on the completion
of his task. He told us he was going to edit _Lamb's Works and Letters_,
and naturally one believed him; but in this world there is nothing so
satisfactory as performance. To see a good work well planned, well
executed, and entirely finished by the same hand that penned, and the
same mind that conceived the original scheme, has something about it
which is surprisingly gratifying to the soul of man, accustomed as he is
to the wreckage of projects and the failure of hopes.

Canon Ainger's edition of _Lamb's Works and Letters_ stands complete in
six volumes. Were one in search of sentiment, one might perhaps find it
in the intimate association existing between the editor and the old
church by the side of which Lamb was born, and which he ever loved and
accounted peculiarly his own. Elia was born a Templar.

'I was born and passed the first seven years of my life in the Temple.
Its church, its halls, its gardens, its fountain, its river, I had
almost said--for in those young years, what was this king of rivers to
me but a stream that watered our pleasant places?--these are my oldest

Thus begins the celebrated essay on 'The Old Benchers of the Inner
Temple.' As a humble member of that honourable Society, I rejoice that
its Reader should be the man who has, as a labour of love and by virtue
of qualifications which cannot be questioned, placed upon the library
shelf so complete and choice an edition of the works of one whose memory
is perhaps the pleasantest thing about the whole place.

So far as these two volumes of letters are concerned the course adopted
by the editor has been, if I may make bold to say so, the right one. He
has simply edited them carefully and added notes and an index. He has
not attempted to tell Lamb's life between times. He has already told the
story of that life in a separate volume. I wish the practice could be
revived of giving us a man's correspondence all by itself in consecutive
volumes, as we have the letters of Horace Walpole, of Burke, of
Richardson, of Cowper, and many others. It is astonishing what
interesting and varied reading such volumes make. They never tire you.
You do not stop to be tired. Something of interest is always occurring.
Some reference to a place you have visited; to a house you have stayed
at; to a book you have read; to a man or woman you wish to hear about.
As compared with the measured malice of a set biography, where you feel
yourself in the iron grasp, not of the man whose life is being
professedly written, but of the man (whom naturally you dislike) who has
taken upon himself to write the life, these volumes of correspondence
have all the ease and grace and truthfulness of nature. There is about
as much resemblance between reading them and your ordinary biography, as
between a turn on the treadmill and a saunter into Hertfordshire in
search of Mackery End. I hope when we get hold of the biographies of
Lord Beaconsfield, and Dean Stanley, we shall not find ourselves
defrauded of our dues. But it is of the essence of letters that we
should have the whole of each. I think it wrong to omit even the merely
formal parts. They all hang together. The method employed in the
biography of George Eliot was, in my opinion--I can but state it--a
vicious method. To serve up letters in solid slabs cut out of longer
letters is distressing. Every letter a man writes is an incriminating
document. It tells a tale about him. Let the whole be read or none.

Canon Ainger has adopted the right course. He has indeed omitted a few
oaths--on the principle that 'damns have had their day.' For my part, I
think I should have been disposed to leave them alone.

    'The rough bur-thistle spreading wide
      Amang the bearded bear,
    I turn'd my weeding-clips aside
      And spared the symbol dear.'

But this is not a question to discuss with a dignitary of the Church.
Leaving out the oaths and, it may perhaps be, here and there a passage
where the reckless humour of the writer led him to transcend the limits
of becoming mirth, and mere notelets, we have in these two volumes
Lamb's letters just as they were written, save in an instance or two
where the originals have been partially destroyed. The first is to
Coleridge, and is dated May 27, 1796; the last is to Mrs. Dyer, and was
written on December 22, 1834. Who, I wonder, ever managed to squeeze
into a correspondence of forty years truer humour, madder nonsense,
sounder sense, or more tender sympathy! They do not indeed (these
letters) prate about first principles, but they contain many things
conducive to a good life here below.

The earlier letters strike the more solemn notes. As a young man Lamb
was deeply religious, and for a time the appalling tragedy of his life,
the death of his mother by his sister's hand, deepened these feelings.
His letters to Coleridge in September and October, 1769, might very well
appear in the early chapters of a saint's life. They exhibit the rare
union of a colossal strength, entire truthfulness, (no single emotion
being ever exaggerated,) with the tenderest and most refined feelings.
Some of his sentences remind one of Johnson, others of Rousseau. How
people reading these letters can ever have the impudence to introduce
into the tones of their voices when they are referring to Lamb the
faintest suspicion of condescension, as if they were speaking of one
weaker than themselves, must always remain an unsolved problem of human

These elevated feelings passed away. He refers to this in a letter
written in 1801 to Walter Wilson.

'I have had a time of seriousness, and I have known the importance and
reality of a religious belief. Latterly, I acknowledge, much of my
seriousness has gone off, whether from new company or some other new
associations, but I still retain at bottom a conviction of the truth and
a certainty of the usefulness of religion.'

The fact, I suspect, was that the strain of religious thoughts was
proving too great for a brain which had once succumbed to madness.
Religion sits very lightly on some minds. She could not have done so on
Lamb's. He took refuge in trivialities seriously, and played the fool in
order to remain sane.

These letters are of the same material as the _Essays of Elia_. The
germs, nay, the very phrases, of the latter are frequently to be found
in the former. This does not offend in Lamb's case, though as a rule a
good letter ought not forcibly to remind us of a good essay by the same
hand. Admirable as are Thackeray's lately published letters, the parts I
like best are those which remind me least of a _Roundabout Paper_. The
author is always apt to steal in, and the author is the very last person
you wish to see in a letter. But as you read Lamb's letters you never
think of the author: his personality carries you over everything. He
manages--I will not say skilfully, for it was the natural result of his
delightful character, always to address his letter to his
correspondent--to make it a thing which, apart from the correspondent,
his habits and idiosyncrasies, could not possibly have existed in the
shape it does. One sometimes comes across things called letters, which
might have been addressed to anybody. But these things are not letters:
they are extracts from journals or circulars, and are usually either
offensive or dull.

Lamb's letters are not indeed model letters like Cowper's. Though
natural to Lamb, they cannot be called easy. 'Divine chit-chat' is not
the epithet to describe them. His notes are all high. He is sublime,
heartrending, excruciatingly funny, outrageously ridiculous, sometimes
possibly an inch or two overdrawn. He carries the charm of incongruity
and total unexpectedness to the highest pitch imaginable. John Sterling
used to chuckle over the sudden way in which you turn up Adam in the
following passage from a letter to Bernard Barton:

'DEAR B. B.--You may know my letters by the paper and the folding. For
the former I live on scraps obtained in charity from an old friend,
whose stationery is a permanent perquisite; for folding I shall do it
neatly when I learn to tie my neckcloths. I surprise most of my friends
by writing to them on ruled paper, as if I had not got past pot-hooks
and hangers. Sealing-wax I have none in my establishment; wafers of the
coarsest bran supply its place. When my epistles come to be weighed with
Pliny's, however superior to them in Roman delicate irony, judicious
reflections, etc., his gilt post will bribe over the judges to him. All
the time I was at the E. I. H. I never mended a pen. I now cut 'em to
the stumps, marring rather than mending the primitive goose-quill. I
cannot bear to pay for articles I used to get for nothing. When Adam
laid out his first penny upon nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamos, I
think it went hard with him, reflecting upon his old goodly orchard
where he had so many for nothing.'

There are not many better pastimes for a middle-aged man who does not
care for first principles or modern novels than to hunt George Dyer
up-and-down Charles Lamb. Lamb created Dyer as surely as did Cervantes
Don Quixote, Sterne Toby Shandy, or Charles Dickens Sam Weller. Outside
Lamb George Dyer is the deadest of dead authors. Inside Lamb he is one
of the quaintest, queerest, most humorously felicitous of living
characters. Pursue this sport through Canon Ainger's first volume and
you will have added to your gallery of whimsicalities the picture of
George Dyer by a master-hand.

Lamb's relations towards Coleridge and Wordsworth are exceedingly
interesting. He loved them both as only Lamb could love his friends. He
admired them both immensely as poets. He recognised what he considered
their great intellectual superiority over himself. He considered their
friendship the crowning glory of his life. For Coleridge his affection
reached devotion. The news of his death was a shock he never got over.
He would keep repeating to himself, 'Coleridge is dead!' But with what a
noble, independent, manly mind did he love his friends! How deep, how
shrewd was his insight into their manifold infirmities! His masculine
nature and absolute freedom from that curse of literature, coterieship,
stand revealed on every page of the history of Lamb's friendships.

On page 327 of Canon Ainger's first volume there is a letter of Lamb's,
never before printed, addressed to his friend Manning, which is
delightful reading. The editor did not get it in time to put it in the
text, so the careless reader might overlook it, lurking as it does
amongst the notes. It is too long for quotation, but a morsel must be
allowed me:

'I lately received from Wordsworth a copy of the second volume,
accompanied by an acknowledgment of having received from me many months
since a copy of a certain tragedy with excuses for not having made any
acknowledgment sooner, it being owing to an almost insurmountable
aversion from letter-writing. This letter I answered in due form and
time, and enumerated several of the passages which had most affected me,
adding, unfortunately, that no single piece had moved me so forcibly as
the _Ancient Mariner_, _The Mad Mother_, or the _Lines at Tintern
Abbey_. The Post did not sleep a moment. I received almost
instantaneously a long letter of four sweating pages from my Reluctant
Letter-Writer, the purport of which was, he was sorry his second volume
had not given me more pleasure (Devil a hint did I give that it had not
pleased me), and was compelled to wish that my range of sensibility was
more extended, being obliged to believe that I should receive large
influxes of happiness and happy thoughts (I suppose from the _Lyrical
Ballads_). With a deal of stuff about a certain union of Tenderness and
Imagination, which in the sense he used Imagination was not the
characteristic of Shakespeare, but which Milton possessed in a degree
far exceeding other Poets, which union, as the highest species of Poetry
and chiefly deserving that name "he was most proud to aspire to"; then
illustrating the said union by two quotations from his own second volume
which I had been so unfortunate as to miss.'

But my quotation must stop. It has been long enough to prove what I was
saying about the independence of Lamb's judgment even of his best
friends. No wonder such a man did not like being called 'gentle-hearted'
even by S. T. C, to whom he writes:

'In the next edition of the _Anthology_ (which Phœbus avert, those nine
other wandering maids also!) please to blot out "gentle-hearted," and
substitute drunken dog, ragged head, seld-shaven, odd-eyed, stuttering,
or any other epithet which truly and properly belongs to the gentleman
in question.'

Of downright fun and fooling of the highest intellectual calibre fine
examples abound on all sides. The 'Dick Hopkins' letter ranks very
high. Manning had sent Lamb from Cambridge a piece of brawn, and Lamb
takes into his head, so teeming with whimsical fancies, to pretend that
it had been sent him by an imaginary Dick Hopkins, 'the swearing
scullion of Caius,' who 'by industry and agility has thrust himself into
the important situation (no sinecure, believe me) of cook to Trinity
Hall'; and accordingly he writes the real donor a long letter, singing
the praises of this figment of his fancy, and concludes:

'Do me the favour to leave off the business which you may be at present
upon, and go immediately to the kitchens of Trinity and Caius and make
my most respectful compliments to Mr. Richard Hopkins and assure him
that his brawn is most excellent: and that I am moreover obliged to him
for his innuendo about salt water and bran, which I shall not fail to
improve. I leave it to you whether you shall choose to pay him the
civility of asking him to dinner while you stay in Cambridge, or in
whatever other way you may best like to show your gratitude to _my
friend_. Richard Hopkins considered in many points of view is a very
extraordinary character. Adieu. I hope to see you to supper in London
soon, where we will taste Richard's brawn, and drink his health in a
cheerful but moderate cup. We have not many such men in any rank of life
as Mr. R. Hopkins. Crisp, the barber of St. Mary's, was just such
another. I wonder _he_ never sent me any little token, some chestnuts or
a puff, or two pound of hair; just to remember him by.'

We have little such elaborate jesting nowadays. I suppose we think it is
not worth the trouble. The Tartary letter to Manning and the rheumatism
letters to Crabb Robinson are almost distractingly provocative of deep
internal laughter. The letter to Cary apologising for the writer's
getting drunk in the British Museum has its sad side; but if one may
parody the remark, made by 'the young lady of quality,' to Dr. Johnson,
which he was so fond of getting Boswell to repeat, though it was to the
effect that had he (our great moralist) been born out of wedlock his
genius would have been his mother's excuse, it may be said that such a
letter as Lamb's was ample atonement for his single frailty.

Lamb does not greatly indulge in sarcasm, though nobody could say more
thoroughly ill-natured things than he if he chose to do so. George Dawe,
the Royal Academician, is roughly used by him. The account he gives of
Miss Berger--Benjay he calls her--is not lacking in spleen. But as a
rule if Lamb disliked a person he damned him and passed on. He did not
stop to elaborate his dislikes, or to toss his hatreds up and down, as
he does his loves and humorous fancies. He hated the second Mrs. Godwin
with an entire hatred. In a letter written to Manning when in China he

'Mrs. Godwin grows every day in disfavour with me. I will be buried with
this inscription over me: "Here lies C. L., the woman hater": I mean
that hated one woman; for the rest God bless them! How do you like the
Mandarinesses? Are you on some little footing with any of them?'

Scattered up and down these letters are to be found golden sentences,
criticisms both of life and of books, to rival which one would have far
to go. He has not the glitter of Hazlitt--a writer whom it is a shame to
depreciate; nor does he ever make the least pretence of aspiring to the
chair of Coleridge. He lived all his life through conscious of a great
weakness, and therein indeed lay the foundation of the tower of his
strength. 'You do not know,' he writes to Godwin, 'how sore and weak a
brain I have, or you would allow for many things in me which you set
down for whims.' Lamb apologising for himself to Godwin is indeed a
thing at which the imagination boggles. But his humility must not blind
us to the fact that there are few men from whom we can learn more.

The most striking note of Lamb's literary criticism is its veracity. He
is perhaps never mistaken. His judgments are apt to be somewhat too much
coloured with his own idiosyncrasy to be what the judicious persons of
the period call final and classical, but when did he ever go utterly
wrong either in praise or in dispraise? When did he like a book which
was not a good book? When did either the glamour of antiquity or the
glare of novelty lead him astray? How free he was from that silly
chatter about books now so abundant! When did he ever pronounce
wire-drawn twaddle or sickly fancies, simply reeking of their impending
dissolution, to be enduring and noble workmanship?

But it must be owned Lamb was not a great reader of new books. That task
devolved upon his sister. He preferred Burnet's _History of his Own
Times_, to any novel, even to a 'Waverley.'

'Did you ever read,' he wrote to Manning, 'that garrulous, pleasant
history? He tells his story like an old man past political service,
bragging to his sons on winter evenings of the part he took in public
transactions, when his "old cap was new." Full of scandal, which all
true history is. No palliatives; but all the stark wickedness, that
actually gives the _momentum_ to national actors. Quite the prattle of
age and outlived importance. Truth and sincerity staring out upon you in
_alto relievo_. Himself a party man, he makes you a party man. None of
the cursed, philosophical, Humeian indifference, so cold and unnatural
and inhuman. None of the cursed Gibbonian fine writing so fine, and
composite! None of Dr. Robertson's periods with three members. None of
Mr. Roscoe's sage remarks, all so apposite and coming in so clever, lest
the reader should have had the trouble of drawing an inference.'

On the subject of children's books Lamb held strong opinions, as indeed
he was entitled to do. What married pair with their quiver full ever
wrote such tales for children as did this old bachelor and his maiden

'I am glad the snuff and Pipos books please. _Goody Two Shoes_ is almost
out of print. Mrs. Barbauld's stuff has banished all the old classics of
the nursery, and the shop-man at Newberry's hardly deigned to reach them
off an old exploded corner of a shelf when Mary asked for them. Mrs.
Barbauld's and Mrs. Trimmer's nonsense lay in piles about. Knowledge
insignificant and vapid as Mrs. Barbauld's books convey, it seems must
come to a child in the _shape of knowledge_, and his empty noddle must
be turned with conceit of his own powers when he has learnt that a horse
is an animal, and Billy is better than a horse, and such like--instead
of that beautiful interest in wild tales which made the child a man,
while all the time he suspected himself to be no bigger than a child.'

Canon Ainger's six volumes are not very big. They take up but little
room. They demand no great leisure. But they cannot fail to give immense
pleasure to generations to come, to purify tastes, to soften hearts, to
sweeten discourse.

                       AUTHORS IN COURT

There is always something a little ludicrous about the spectacle of an
author in pursuit of his legal remedies. It is hard to say why, but like
a sailor on horseback, or a Quaker at the play, it suggests that
incongruity which is the soul of things humorous. The courts are of
course as much open to authors as to the really deserving members of the
community; and, to do the writing fraternity justice, they have seldom
shown any indisposition to enter into them--though if they have done so
joyfully, it must be attributed to their natural temperament, which (so
we read) is easy, rather than to the mirthful character of legal

To write a history of the litigations in which great authors have been
engaged would indeed be _renovare dolorem_, and is no intention of mine;
though the subject is not destitute of human interest--indeed, quite
the opposite.

Great books have naturally enough, being longer lived, come into court
even more frequently than great authors. _Paradise Lost_, _The Whole
Duty of Man_, _The Pilgrim's Progress_, _Thomson's Seasons_, _Rasselas_,
all have a legal as well as a literary history. Nay, Holy Writ herself
has raised some nice points. The king's exclusive prerogative to print
the authorised version has been based by some lawyers on the commercial
circumstance that King James paid for it out of his own pocket. Hence,
argued they, cunningly enough, it became his, and is now his
successor's. Others have contended more strikingly that the right of
multiplying copies of the Scriptures necessarily belongs to the king as
head of the Church. A few have been found to question the right
altogether, and to call it a job. As her present gracious Majesty has
been pleased to abandon the prerogative, and has left all her subjects
free (though at their own charges) to publish the version of her learned
predecessor, the Bible does not now come into court on its own account.
But whilst the prerogative was enforced, the king's printers were
frequently to be found seeking injunctions to restrain the vending of
the Word of God by (to use Carlyle's language) 'Mr. Thomas Teggs and
other extraneous persons.' Nor did the judges, on proper proof, hesitate
to grant what was sought. It is perhaps interesting to observe that the
king never claimed more than the text. It was always open to anybody to
publish even King James's version, if he added notes of his own. But how
shamefully was this royal indulgence abused! Knavish booksellers,
anxious to turn a dishonest penny out of the very Bible, were known to
publish Bibles with so-called notes, which upon examination turned out
not to be _bonâ-fide_ notes at all, but sometimes mere indications of
assent with what was stated in the text, and sometimes simple
ejaculations. And as people as a rule preferred to be without notes of
this character they used to be thoughtfully printed at the very edge of
the sheet, so that the scissors of the binder should cut them off and
prevent them annoying the reader. But one can fancy the question, 'What
is a _bonâ-fide_ note?' exercising the legal mind.

Our great lawyers on the bench have always treated literature in the
abstract with the utmost respect. They have in many cases felt that they
too, but for the grace of God, might have been authors. Like Charles
Lamb's solemn Quaker, 'they had been wits in their youth.' Lord
Mansfield never forgot that, according to Mr. Pope, he was a lost Ovid.
Before ideas in their divine essence the judges have bowed down. 'A
literary composition,' it has been said by them, 'so long as it lies
dormant in the author's mind, is absolutely in his own possession.' Even
Mr. Horatio Sparkins, of whose brilliant table-talk this observation
reminds us, could not more willingly have recognised an obvious truth.

But they have gone much further than this. Not only is the repose of the
dormant idea left undisturbed, but the manuscript to which it, on
ceasing to be dormant, has been communicated, is hedged round with
divinity. It would be most unfair to the delicacy of the legal mind to
attribute this to the fact, no doubt notorious, that whilst it is easy
(after, say, three years in a pleader's chambers) to draw an indictment
against a man for stealing paper, it is not easy to do so if he has only
stolen the ideas and used his own paper. There are some quibbling
observations in the second book of Justinian's _Institutes_, and a few
remarks of Lord Coke's which might lead the thoughtless to suppose that
in their protection of an author's manuscripts the courts were thinking
more of the paper than of the words put upon it; but that this is not so
clearly appears from our law as it is administered in the Bankruptcy
branch of the High Court.

Suppose a popular novelist were to become a bankrupt--a supposition
which, owing to the immense sums these gentlemen are now known to make,
is robbed of all painfulness by its impossibility--and his effects were
found to consist of the three following items: first, his wearing
apparel; second, a copy of _Whitaker's Almanack_ for the current year;
and third, the manuscript of a complete and hitherto unpublished novel,
worth in the Row, let us say, one thousand pounds. These are the days
of cash payments, so we must not state the author's debts at more than
fifteen hundred pounds. It would have been difficult for him to owe more
without incurring the charge of imprudence. Now, how will the law deal
with the effects of this bankrupt? Ever averse to exposing anyone to
criminal proceedings, it will return to him his clothing, provided its
cash value does not exceed twenty pounds, which, as authors have left
off wearing bloom-coloured garments even as they have left off writing
_Vicars of Wakefield_, it is not likely to do. This humane rule disposes
of item number one. As to _Whitaker's Almanack_, it would probably be
found necessary to take the opinion of the court; since, if it be a tool
of the author's trade, it will not vest in the official receiver and be
divisible amongst the creditors, but, like the first item, will remain
the property of the bankrupt--but otherwise, if not such a tool. On a
point like this the court would probably wish to hear the evidence of an
expert--of some man like Mr. George Augustus Sala, who knows the
literary life to the backbone. This point disposed of, or standing over
for argument, there remains the manuscript novel, which, as we have
said, would, if sold in the Row, produce a sum not only sufficient to
pay the costs of the argument about the _Almanack_ and of all parties
properly appearing in the bankruptcy, but also, if judiciously handled,
a small dividend to the creditors. But here our law steps in with its
chivalrous, almost religious respect for ideas, and declares that the
manuscript shall not be taken from the bankrupt and published without
his consent. In ordinary cases everything a bankrupt has, save the
clothes for his back and the tools of his trade, is ruthlessly torn from
him. Be it in possession, reversion, or remainder, it all goes. His
incomes for life, his reversionary hopes, are knocked down to the
speculator. In vulgar phrase, he is 'cleaned out.' But the manuscripts
of the bankrupt author, albeit they may be worth thousands, are not
recognised as property; they are not yet dedicated to the public. The
precious papers, despite all their writer's misfortunes, remain his--his
to croon and to dream over, his to alter and re-transcribe, his to
withhold, ay, his to destroy, if he should deem them, either in calm
judgment, or in a despairing hour, unhappy in their expression or
unworthy of his name.

There is something positively tender in this view. The law may be an
ass, but it is also a gentleman.

Of course, in my imaginary case, if the bankrupt were to withhold his
consent to publication, his creditors, even though it were held that the
_Almanack_ was theirs, would get nothing. I can imagine them grumbling,
and saying (what will not creditors say?): 'We fed this gentleman whilst
he was writing this precious manuscript. Our joints sustained him, our
bread filled him, our wine made him merry. Without our goods he must
have perished. By all legal analogies we ought to have a lien upon that
manuscript. We are wholly indifferent to the writer's reputation. It may
be blasted for all we care. It was not as an author but as a customer
that we supplied his very regular wants. It is now our turn to have
wants. We want to be paid.'

These amusing, though familiar, cries of distress need not disturb our
equanimity or interfere with our admiration for the sublime views as to
the sanctity of unpublished ideas entertained by the Court sitting in

We have thus found, so far as we have gone, the profoundest respect
shown by the law both for the dormant ideas and the manuscripts of the
author. Let us now push boldly on, and inquire what happens when the
author withdraws his interdict, takes the world into his confidence, and
publishes his book.

Our old Common Law was clear enough. Subject only to laws or customs
about licensing and against profane books and the like, the right of
publishing and selling any book belonged exclusively to the author and
persons claiming through him. Books were as much the subjects of
property-rights as lands in Kent or money in the bank. The term of
enjoyment knew no period. Fine fantastic ideas about genius endowing the
world and transcending the narrow bounds of property were not
countenanced by our Common Law. Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_, in the
year 1680, belonged to Mr. Ponder: _Paradise Lost_, in the year 1739,
was the property of Mr. Jacob Tonson. Mr. Ponder and Mr. Tonson had
acquired these works by purchase. Property-rights of this description
seem strange to us, even absurd. But that is one of the provoking ways
of property-rights. Views vary. Perhaps this time next century it will
seem as absurd that Ben Mac Dhui should ever have been private property
as it now does that in 1739 Mr. Tonson should have been the owner 'of
man's first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree.' This is
not said with any covered meaning, but is thrown out gloomily with the
intention of contributing to the general depreciation of property.

If it be asked how came it about that authors and booksellers allowed
themselves to be deprived of valuable and well-assured rights--to be in
fact disinherited, without so much as an expostulatory ode or a single
epigram--it must be answered, strange as it may sound, it happened
accidentally and through tampering with the Common Law.

Authors are indeed a luckless race. To be deprived of your property by
Act of Parliament is a familiar process, calling for no remarks save of
an objurgatory character; but to petition Parliament to take away your
property--to get up an agitation against yourself, to promote the
passage through both Houses of the Act of spoliation, is unusual; so
unusual indeed that I make bold to say that none but authors would do
such things. That they did these very things is certain. It is also
certain that they did not mean to do them. They did not understand the
effect of their own Act of Parliament. In exchange for a term of either
fourteen or twenty-one years, they gave up not only for themselves, but
for all before and after them, the whole of time. Oh! miserable men! No
enemy did this; no hungry mob clamoured for cheap books; no owner of
copyrights so much as weltered in his gore. The rights were
unquestioned: no one found fault with them. The authors accomplished
their own ruin. Never, surely, since the well-nigh incredible folly of
our first parents lost us Eden and put us to the necessity of earning
our living, was so fine a property--perpetual copyright--bartered away
for so paltry an equivalent.

This is how it happened. Before the Revolution of 1688 printing
operations were looked after, first by the Court of Star Chamber, which
was not always engaged, as the perusal of constitutional history might
lead one to believe, in torturing the unlucky, and afterwards by the
Stationers' Company. Both these jurisdictions revelled in what is called
summary process, which lawyers sometimes describe as _brevi manu_, and
suitors as 'short shrift.' They hailed before them the Mr. Thomas Teggs
of the period, and fined them heavily and confiscated their stolen
editions. Authors and their assignees liked this. But then came Dutch
William and the glorious Revolution. The press was left free; and
authors and their assignees were reduced to the dull level of unlettered
persons; that is to say, if their rights were interfered with, they
were compelled to bring an action, of the kind called 'trespass on the
case,' and to employ astute counsel to draw pleadings with a pitfall in
each paragraph, and also to incur costs; and in most cases, even when
they triumphed over their enemy, it was only to find him a pauper from
whom it was impossible to recover a penny. Nor had the law power to fine
the offender or to confiscate the pirated edition; or if it had this
last power, it was not accustomed to exercise it, deeming it unfamiliar
and savouring of the Inquisition. Grub Street grew excited. A noise went
up 'most musical, most melancholy,

    'As of cats that wail in chorus.'

It was the Augustan age of literature. Authors were listened to. They
petitioned Parliament, and their prayer was heard. In the eighth year of
good Queen Anne the first copyright statute was passed which, 'for the
encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books,'
provided that the authors of books already printed who had not
transferred their rights, and the booksellers or other persons who had
purchased the copy of any books in order to print or reprint the same,
should have the sole right of printing them for a term of twenty-one
years from the tenth of April, 1710, and no longer; and that authors of
books not then printed, should have the sole right of printing for
fourteen years, and no longer. Then followed, what the authors really
wanted the Act for, special penalties for infringement. And there was
peace in Grub Street for the space of twenty-one years. But at the
expiration of this period the fateful question was stirred--what had
happened to the old Common Law right in perpetuity? Did it survive this
peddling Act, or had it died, ingloriously smothered by a statute? That
fine old book--once on every settle--_The Whole Duty of Man_, first
raised the point. Its date of publication was 1657, so it had had its
term of twenty-one years. That term having expired, what then? The
proceedings throw no light upon the vexed question of the book's
authorship. Sir Joseph Jekyll was content with the evidence before him
that, in 1735 at all events, _The Whole Duty of Man_ was, or would have
been but for the statute, the property of one Mr. Eyre. He granted an
injunction, thus in effect deciding that the old Common Law had survived
the statute. Nor did the defendant appeal, but sat down under the
affront, and left _The Whole Duty of Man_ alone for the future.

Four years later there came into Lord Hardwicke's court 'silver-tongued
Murray,' afterwards Lord Mansfield, then Solicitor-General, and on
behalf of Mr. Jacob Tonson moved for an injunction to restrain the
publication of an edition of _Paradise Lost_. Tonson's case was, that
_Paradise Lost_ belonged to him, just as the celebrated ewer by
Benvenuto Cellini once belonged to the late Mr. Beresford Hope. He
proved his title by divers mesne assignments and other acts in the law,
from Mrs. Milton--the poet's third wife, who exhibited such skill in the
art of widowhood, surviving her husband as she did for fifty-three
years. Lord Hardwicke granted the injunction. It looked well for the
Common Law. Thomson's _Seasons_ next took up the wondrous tale. This
delightful author, now perhaps better remembered by his charming habit
of eating peaches off the wall with both hands in his pockets, than by
his great work, had sold the book to Andrew Millar, the bookseller whom
Johnson respected because, said he, 'he has raised the price of
literature.' If so, it must have been but low before, for he only gave
Thomson a hundred guineas for 'Summer,' 'Autumn,' and 'Winter,' and some
other pieces. The 'Spring' he bought separately, along with the
ill-fated tragedy, _Sophonisba_, for one hundred and thirty-seven pounds
ten shillings. A knave called Robert Taylor pirated Millar's Thomson's
_Seasons_; and on the morrow of All Souls in Michaelmas, in the seventh
year of King George the Third, Andrew Millar brought his plea of
trespass on the case against Robert Taylor, and gave pledges of
prosecution, to wit, John Doe and Richard Roe. The case was recognised
to be of great importance, and was argued at becoming length in the
King's Bench. Lord Mansfield and Justices Willes and Aston upheld the
Common Law. It was, they declared, unaffected by the statute. Mr.
Justice Yates dissented, and in the course of a judgment occupying
nearly three hours, gave some of his reasons. It was the first time the
court had ever finally differed since Mansfield presided over it. Men
felt the matter could not rest there. Nor did it. Millar died, and went
to his own place. His executors put up Thomson's _Poems_ for sale by
public auction, and one Beckett bought them for five hundred and five
pounds. When we remember that Millar only gave two hundred and forty-two
pounds ten shillings for them in 1729, and had therefore enjoyed more
than forty years' exclusive monopoly, we realise not only that Millar
had made a good thing out of his brother Scot, but what great interests
were at stake. Thomson's _Seasons_, erst Millar's, now became Beckett's;
and when one Donaldson of Edinburgh brought out an edition of the poems,
it became the duty of Beckett to take proceedings, which he did by
filing a bill in the Court of Chancery.[8]

These proceedings found their way, as all decent proceedings do, to the
House of Lords--farther than which you cannot go, though ever so minded.
It was now high time to settle this question, and their lordships
accordingly, as was their proud practice in great cases, summoned the
judges of the land before their bar, and put to them five
carefully-worded questions, all going to the points--what was the old
Common Law right, and has it survived the statute? Eleven judges
attended, heard the questions, bowed and retired to consider their
answers. On the fifteenth of February, 1774, they reappeared, and it
being announced that they differed, instead of being locked up without
meat, drink, or firing until they agreed, they were requested to deliver
their opinions with their reasons, which they straightway proceeded to
do. The result may be stated with tolerable accuracy thus: by ten to one
they were of opinion that the old Common Law recognised perpetual
copyright. By six to five they were of opinion that the statute of Queen
Anne had destroyed this right. The House of Lords adopted the opinion of
the majority, reversed the decree of the Court below, and thus Thomson's
_Seasons_ became your _Seasons_, my _Seasons_, anybody's _Seasons_. But
by how slender a majority! To make it even more exciting, it was
notorious that the most eminent judge on the Bench (Lord Mansfield)
agreed with the minority; but owing to the combined circumstances of his
having already, in a case practically between the same parties and
relating to the same matter, expressed his opinion, and of his being not
merely a judge but a peer, he was prevented (by etiquette) from taking
any part, either as a judge or as a peer, in the proceedings. Had he not
been prevented (by etiquette), who can say what the result might have

Here ends the story of how authors and their assignees were disinherited
by mistake, and forced to content themselves with such beggarly terms
of enjoyment as a hostile legislature doles out to them.

As the law now stands, they may enjoy their own during the period of the
author's life, _plus_ seven years, or the period of forty-two years,
whichever may chance to prove the longer.

So strangely and so quickly does the law colour men's notions of what is
inherently decent, that even authors have forgotten how fearfully they
have been abused and how cruelly robbed. Their thoughts are turned in
quite other directions. I do not suppose they will care for these
old-world memories. Their great minds are tossing on the ocean which
pants dumbly-passionate with dreams of royalties. If they could only
shame the English-reading population of the United States to pay for
their literature, all would be well. Whether they ever will, depends
upon themselves. If English authors will publish their books cheap,
Brother Sam may, and probably will, pay them a penny a copy, or some
such sum. If they will not, he will go on stealing. It is wrong, but he
will do it. 'He says,' observes an American writer, 'that he was born
of poor but honest parents, _I_ say, "Bah!"'[9]


Nothing can well be more offensive than the abrupt asking of questions,
unless indeed it be the glib assurance which professes to be able to
answer them without a moment's doubt or consideration. It is hard to
forgive Sir Robert Peel for having once asked, 'What is a pound?'
Cobden's celebrated question, 'What next? And next?' was perhaps less
objectionable, being vast and vague, and to employ Sir Thomas Browne's
well-known phrase, capable of a wide solution.

But in these disagreeable days we must be content to be disagreeable. We
must even accept being so as our province. It seems now recognised that
he is the best Parliamentary debater who is most disagreeable. It is not
so easy as some people imagine to be disagreeable. The gift requires
cultivation. It is easier, no doubt, for some than for others.

What is a nation--socially and politically, and as a unit to be dealt
with by practical politicians? It is not a great many things. It is not
blood, it is not birth, it is not breeding. A man may have been born at
Surat and educated at Lausanne, one of his four great-grandfathers may
have been a Dutchman, one of his four great-grandmothers a French
refugee, and yet he himself may remain from his cradle in Surat to his
grave at Singapore, a true-born Englishman, with all an Englishman's
fine contempt for mixed races and struggling nationalities.

Where the English came from is still a matter of controversy, but where
they have gone to is writ large over the earth's surface. Yet their
nationality has suffered no eclipse. Caviare is not so good in London as
in Moscow, but it is caviare all the same. No foreigner needs to ask the
nationality of the man who treads on his corns, smiles at his religion,
and does not want to know anything about his aspirations.

England has all the notes of a nation. She has a National Church, based
upon a view of history peculiarly her own. She has a National Oath,
which, without any undue pride, may be pronounced adequate for ordinary
occasions. She has a Constitution, the admiration of the world, and of
which a fresh account has to be written every twenty years. She has a
History, glorious in individual feats, and splendid in accomplished
facts; she has a Literature which makes the poorest of her children, if
only he has been taught to read, rich beyond the dreams of avarice. As
for the national character, it may be said of an Englishman, what has
been truly said of the great English poet Wordsworth--take him at his
best and he need own no superior. He cannot always be at his best; and
when he is at his worst the world shudders.

But what about Scotland and Ireland? Are they nations? If they are not,
it is not because their separate characteristics have been absorbed by
John Bullism. Scotland and Ireland are no more England than Holland or
Belgium. It may be doubted whether, if the three countries had never
been politically united, their existing unlikeness would have been any
greater than it is. It is a most accentuated unlikeness. Scotland has
her own prevailing religion. Mr. Arnold recognised this when he
observed, in that manner of his which did not always give pleasure, that
Dr. Chalmers reminded him of a Scotch thistle valorously trying to look
as much like the rose of Sharon as possible. This distorted view of Mr.
Arnold's at all events recognises a fact. Then there is Scotch law. If
there is one legal proposition which John Bull--poor attorney-ridden
John Bull--has grasped for himself, it is that a promise made without a
monetary or otherwise valuable consideration, is in its legal aspect a
thing of nought, which may be safely disregarded. Bull's views about the
necessity of writing and sixpenny stamps are vague, but he is quite
sound and certain about promises going for nothing unless something
passed between the parties. Thus, if an Englishman, moved, let us say,
by the death of his father, says hastily to a maiden aunt who has made
the last days of his progenitor easy, 'I will give you fifty pounds a
year,' and then repents him of his promise, he is under no legal
obligation to make it good. If he is a gentleman he will send her a
ten-pound note at Christmas and a fat goose at Michaelmas, and the
matter drops as being but the babble of the sick-room. But in Scotland
the maiden aunt, provided she can prove her promise, can secure her
annuity and live merrily in Peebles for the rest of a voluptuous life.
Here is a difference indeed!

Then, Scotland has a history of her own. The late Dr. Hill Burton wrote
it in nine comfortable volumes. She has a thousand traditions, foreign
connections, feelings to which the English breast must always remain an
absolute stranger. Scottish fields are different from English fields;
her farms, roads, walls, buildings, flowers, are different; her schools,
universities, churches, household ways, songs, foods, drinks, are all as
different as may be. Boswell's Johnson, Lockhart's Scott! What a host of
dissimilarities, what an Iliad of unlikenesses, do the two names of
Johnson and Scott call up from the vasty deep of national differences!

One great note of a nation is possessed to the full by Scotland. I mean
the power of blending into one state of national feeling all those who
call what is contained within her geographical boundaries by the sacred
name of 'Home.' The Lowlander from Dumfries is more at home at Inverness
than in York. Why is this? Because Scotland is a nation. The great
Smollett, who challenges Dickens for the foremost place amongst British
comic writers, had no Celtic blood in his veins. He was neither a Papist
nor a Jacobite, yet how did his Scottish blood boil whilst listening in
London to the cowardly exultations of the cockneys over the brutalities
that followed the English victory at Colloden! and how bitterly--almost
savagely--did he contrast that cowardly exultation with the depression
and alarm that had prevailed in London when but a little while before
the Scotch had reached Derby.

What patriotic feeling breathes through Smollett's noble lines, _The
Tears of Caledonia_, and with what delightful enthusiasm, with what
affectionate admiration, does Sir Walter Scott tell us how the last
stanza came to be written! 'He (Smollett) accordingly read them the
first sketch of the _Tears of Scotland_ consisting only of six stanzas,
and on their remarking that the termination of the poem, being too
strongly expressed, might give offence to persons whose political
opinions were different, he sat down without reply, and with an air of
great indignation, subjoined the concluding stanza:

    '"While the warm blood bedews my veins,
    And unimpaired remembrance reigns,
    Resentment of my country's fate
    Within my filial breast shall beat.
    Yes, spite of thine insulting foe,
    My sympathising verse shall flow,
    Mourn, hopeless Caledonia, mourn,
    Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn."'

In the same sense is the story told by Mr. R. L. Stevenson, how, when
the famous Celtic regiment, the Black Watch, which then drew its
recruits from the now unpeopled glens of Ross-shire and Sutherland,
returned to Scotland after years of foreign service, veterans leaped out
of the boats and kissed the shore of Galloway.

The notes of Irish nationality have been, by conquest and ill-usage,
driven deeper in. Her laws were taken from her, and her religion
brutally proscribed. In the great matter of national education she has
not been allowed her natural and proper development. Her children have
been driven abroad to foreign seminaries to get the religious education
Protestant England denied them at home. Her nationality has thus been
checked and mutilated, but that it exists in spirit and in fact can
hardly be questioned by any impartial traveller. Englishmen have many
gifts, but one gift they have not--that of making Scotsmen and Irishmen
forget their native land.

The attitude of some Englishmen towards Scotch and Irish national
feelings requires correction. The Scotsman's feelings are laughed at.
The Irishman's insulted. So far as the laughter is concerned, it must be
admitted that it is good-humoured. Burns, Scott, and Carlyle, Scotch
moors and Scotch whisky, the royal game of golf, all have mollified and
beautified English feelings. In candour, too, it must be admitted that
Scotsmen are not conciliatory. They do not meet people half-way. I do
not think the laughter does much harm. Insults are different....

Mr. Arnold, in a now scarce pamphlet published in 1859, on the Italian
Question, with the motto prefixed, '_Sed nondum est finis_,' makes the
following interesting observations:--

'Let an Englishman or a Frenchman, who respectively represent the two
greatest nationalities of modern Europe, sincerely ask himself what it
is that makes him take pride in his nationality, what it is which would
make it intolerable to his feelings to pass, or to see any part of his
country pass, under foreign dominion. He will find that it is the sense
of self-esteem generated by knowing the figure which his nation makes in
history; by considering the achievements of his nation in war,
government, arts, literature, or industry. It is the sense that his
people, which have done such great things, merits to exist in freedom
and dignity, and to enjoy the luxury of self-respect.'

This is admirable, but not, nor does it pretend to be, exhaustive. The
love of country is something a little more than mere _amour propre_. You
may love your mother, and wish to make a home for her, even though she
never dwelt in kings' palaces, and is clad in rags. The children of
misery and misfortune are not all illegitimate. Sometimes you may
discern amongst them high hope and pious endeavour. There may be,
indeed, there is, a Niobe amongst the nations, but tears are not always
of despair.

'The luxury of self-respect.' It is a wise phrase. To make Ireland and
Irishmen self-respectful is the task of statesmen.

                       THE REFORMATION

Long ago an eminent Professor of International Law, at the University of
Cambridge, lecturing his class, spoke somewhat disparagingly of the
Reformation as compared with the Renaissance, and regretted there was no
adequate history of the glorious events called by the latter name. So
keenly indeed did the Professor feel this gap in his library, that he
proceeded to say that inconvenient as it had been to him to lecture at
Cambridge that afternoon, still if what he had said should induce any
member of the class to write a history of the Renaissance worthy to be
mentioned with the masterpiece of Gibbon, he (the Professor) would never
again think it right to refer to the inconvenience he had personally
been put to in the matter.

It must be twenty years since these words were uttered. The class to
whom they were addressed is scattered far and wide, even as the
household referred to in the touching poem of Mrs. Hemans. No one of
them has written a history of the Renaissance. It is now well-nigh
certain no one of them ever will. Looking back over those twenty years
it seems a pity it was never attempted. As Owen Meredith sweetly sings--

    'And it all seems now in the waste of life
    Such a very little thing.'

But it has remained undone. Regrets are vain.

For my part, I will make bold to say that the Professor was all wrong.
Professors do not stand where they did. They have been blown upon. The
ugliest gap in an Englishman's library is in the shelf which ought to
contain, but does not, a history of the Reformation of Religion in his
own country. It is a subject made for an Englishman's hand. At present
it is but (to employ some old-fashioned words) a hotch-potch, a
gallimaufry, a confused mingle-mangle of divers things jumbled or put
together. Puritan and Papist, Anglican and Erastian, pull out what they
choose, and drop whatever they do not like with a grimace of humorous
disgust. What faces the early Tractarians used to pull over Bishop
Jewel! How Dr. Maitland delighted in exhibiting the boundless vulgarity
of the Puritan party! Lord Macaulay had only a paragraph or two to spare
for the Reformation; but as we note amongst the contents of his first
chapter the following heads: 'The Reformation and its Effects,' 'Origin
of the Church of England,' 'Her Peculiar Character,' we do not need to
be further reminded of the views of that arch-Erastian.

It is time someone put a stop to this 'help yourself' procedure. What is
needed to do this is a long, luminous, leisurely history, written by
somebody who, though wholly engrossed by his subject, is yet absolutely
indifferent to it.

The great want at present is of common knowledge; common, that is, to
all parties. The Catholic tells his story, which is much the most
interesting one, sure of his audience. The Protestant falls back upon
his Fox, and relights the fires of Smithfield with entire
self-satisfaction. The Erastian flourishes his Acts of Parliament in the
face of the Anglican, who burrows like a cony in the rolls of
Convocation. Each is familiar with one set of facts, and shrinks
nervously from the honour of an introduction to a totally new set. We
are not going to change our old '_mumpsimus_' for anybody's new
'_sumpsimus_.' But we must some day, and we shall when this new history
gets itself written.

The subject cannot be said to lack charm. Border lands, marshes, passes
are always romantic. No bagman can cross the Tweed without emotion. The
wanderer on the Malvern Hills soon learns to turn his eyes from the dull
eastward plain to where they can be feasted on the dim outlines of wild
Wales. Border periods of history have something of the same charm. How
the old thing ceased to be? How the new thing became what it is? How the
old colours faded, and the old learning disappeared, and the Church of
Edward the Confessor, and St. Thomas of Canterbury, and William of
Wykeham, became the Church of George the Third, Archbishop Tait, and
Dean Stanley? There is surely a tale to be told. Something must have
happened at the Reformation. Somebody was dispossessed. The common
people no longer heard 'the blessed mutter of the mass,' nor saw 'God
made and eaten all day long.' Ancient services ceased, old customs were
disregarded, familiar words began to go out of fashion. The Reformation
meant something. On these points the Catholics entertain no kind of
doubt. That they suffered ejectment they tearfully admit. Nor, to do
them justice, have they ever acquiesced in the wrong they allege was
then done them, or exhibited the faintest admiration for the intruder.

    'Have ye beheld the young God of the Seas,
    My dispossessor? Have ye seen his face?
    Have ye beheld his chariot foam'd along
    By noble wing'd creatures he hath made?
    I saw him on the calmed waters scud,
    With such a glow of beauty in his eyes
    That it enforced me to bid sad farewell
    To all my empire.'

This has never been the attitude or the language of the Roman Church
towards the Anglican. 'Canterbury has gone its way, and York is gone,
and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with
them.' So spoke Dr. Newman on a memorable occasion. His distress would
have been no greater had the venerable buildings to which he alluded
been in the possession of the Baptists.

But against this view must be set the one represented by the somewhat
boisterous Church of Englandism of Dean Hook, who ever maintained that
all the Church did at the Reformation was to wash her dirty face, and
that consequently she underwent only an external and not a corporate
change during the process.

There are thousands of pious souls to whom the question, What happened
at the Reformation? is of supreme importance; and yet there is no
history of the period written by a 'kinless loon,' whose own personal
indifference to Church Authority shall be as great as his passion for
facts, his love of adventures and biography, and his taste for theology.

In the meantime, and pending the production of the immortal work, it is
pleasant to notice that annually the historian's task is being made
easier. Books are being published, and old manuscripts edited and
printed, which will greatly assist the good man, and enable him to write
his book by his own fireside. The Catholics have been very active of
late years. They have shaken off their shyness and reserve, and however
reluctant they still may be to allow their creeds to be overhauled and
their rites curtailed by strangers, they have at least come with their
histories in their hands and invited criticism. The labours of Father
Morris of the Society of Jesus, and of the late Father Knox of the
London Oratory, greatly lighten and adorn the path of the student who
loves to be told what happened long ago, not in order that he may know
how to cast his vote at the next election, but simply because it so
happened, and for no other reason whatsoever.

Father Knox's name has just been brought before the world, not, it is to
be hoped, for the last time, by the publication of a small book, partly
his, but chiefly the work of the Rev. T. E. Bridgett, entitled _The True
Story of the Catholic Hierarchy deposed by Queen Elizabeth, with
Fuller Memoirs of its Two Last Survivors_ (Burns and Oates).

The book was much wanted. When Queen Mary died, on the 17th of November,
1558, the dioceses of Oxford, Salisbury, Bangor, Gloucester, and
Hereford were vacant. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Pole, died
a few hours after his royal relative; and the Bishops of Rochester,
Norwich, Chichester, and Bristol did not long survive her. It thus
happened that at the opening of 1559 there were only sixteen bishops on
the bench. What became of them? The book I have just mentioned answers
this deeply interesting question.

One of them, Oglethorpe of Carlisle, was induced to crown the Queen,
which service was, however, performed according to the Roman ceremonial,
and included the Unction, the Pontifical Mass, and the Communion; but
when the oath prescribed by the Act of Supremacy was tendered to the
bishops, they all, with one exception, Kitchen of Llandaff, declined to
take it, and their depositions followed in due course, though at
different dates, during the year 1559. They were, in plain English,
turned out, and their places given to others.

A whole hierarchy turned a-begging like this might have been a very
startling thing--but it does not seem to have been so. There was no
Ambrose amongst the bishops. The mob showed no disposition to rescue
Bonner from the Marshalsea. The Queen called them 'a set of lazy
scamps.' This was hard measure. The reverend authors of the book before
me call them 'confessors,' which they certainly were. But there is
something disappointing and non-apostolic about them. They none of them
came to violent ends. What did happen to them?

The classical passage recording their fortunes occurs in Lord Burghley's
_Execution of Justice in England_, which appeared in 1583. His lordship
in a good-tempered vein runs through the list of the deposed bishops one
by one, and says in substance, and in a style not unlike Lord Russell's,
that the only hardship put upon them was their removal 'from their
ecclesiastical offices, which they would not exercise according to
law.' For the rest, they were 'for a great time retained in bishops'
houses in very civil and courteous manner, without charge to themselves
or their friends, until the time the Pope began, by his Bulls and
messages, to offer trouble to the realm by stirring of rebellion;' then
Burghley admits, some of them were removed to more quiet places, but
still without being 'called to any capital or bloody question.'

In this view historians have pretty generally acquiesced. Camden speaks
of Tunstall of Durham dying at Lambeth 'in free custody'--a happy phrase
which may be recommended to those of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland
who find themselves in prison under a statute of Edward III., not for
doing anything, but for refusing to say they will not do it again. Even
that most erudite and delightful of English Catholics, Charles Butler,
who is one of the pleasantest memories of Lincoln's Inn, made but little
of the sufferings of these bishops, whilst some Protestant writers have
thought it quite amazing they were not all burnt as heretics. 'There
were no retaliatory burnings,' says Canon Perry regretfully. But this
surely is carrying Anglican assurance to an extraordinary pitch. What
were they to be burnt for? You are burnt for heresy. That is right
enough. No one would complain of that. But who in the year 1559 would
have been bold enough to declare that the Archbishop of York was a
heretic for refusing an oath prescribed by an Act of the Queen of the
same year? Why, even now, after three centuries and a quarter of
possession, I suppose Lord Selborne would hesitate before burning the
Archbishop of Westminster as a heretic. Hanging is a different matter.
It is very easy to get hung--but to be burnt requires a combination of
circumstances not always forthcoming. Canon Perry should have remembered

These deposed bishops were neither burnt nor hung. The aged Tunstall of
Durham, who had played a very shabby part in Henry's time, died, where
he was bound to die, in his bed, very shortly after his deposition; so
also did the Bishops of Lichfield and Coventry, St. David's, Carlisle,
and Winchester. Dr. Scott of Chester, after four years in the Fleet
prison, managed to escape to Belgium, where he died in 1565. Dr. Pate of
Worcester, who was a Council of Trent man, spent three years in the
Tower, and then contrived to slip away unobserved. Dr. Poole of
Peterborough was never in prison at all, but was allowed to live in
retirement in the neighbourhood of London till his death in 1568. Bishop
Bonner was kept a close prisoner in the Marshalsea till his death in
1569. He was not popular in London. As he had burnt about one hundred
and twenty persons, this need not surprise us. Bishop Bourne of Bath and
Wells was lodged in the Tower from June, 1560, to the autumn of 1563,
when the plague breaking out, he was quartered on the new Bishop of
Lincoln, who had to provide him with bed and board till May, 1566, after
which date the ex-bishop was allowed to be at large till his death in
1569. The Bishop of Exeter was kept in the Tower for three years. What
subsequently became of him is not known. He is supposed to have lived in
the country. Bishop Thirlby of Ely, after three years in the Tower,
lived for eleven years with Archbishop Parker, uncomfortably enough,
without confession or mass. Then he died. It is not to be supposed that
Parker ever told his prisoner that they both belonged to the same
Church. Dr. Heath, the Archbishop of York, survived his deprivation
twenty years, three only of which were spent in prison. He was a man of
more mark than most of his brethren, and had defended the Papal
supremacy with power and dignity in his place in Parliament. The Queen,
who had a liking for him, was very anxious to secure his presence at
some of the new offices, but he would never go, summing up his
objections thus:--'Whatever is contrary to the Catholic faith is heresy,
whatever is contrary to Unity is schism.' On getting out of the Tower,
Dr. Heath, who had a private estate, lived upon it till his death. Dr.
Watson of Lincoln was the most learned and the worst treated of the
deposed bishops. He was in the Tower and the Marshalsea, with short
intervals, from 1559 to 1577, when he was handed over to the custody of
the Bishop of Winchester, who passed him on, after eighteen months, to
his brother of Rochester, from whose charge he was removed to join other
prisoners in Wisbeach Castle, where very queer things happened. Watson
died at Wisbeach in 1584. There was now but one bishop left, the by no
means heroic Goldwell of St. Asaph's, who in June, 1559, proceeded in
disguise to the sea-coast, and crossed over to the Continent without
being recognised. He continued to live abroad for the rest of his days,
which ended on the 3rd of April, 1585. With him the ancient hierarchy
ceased to exist. That, at least, is the assertion of the reverend
authors of the book referred to. There are those who maintain the


The vivacious, the in fact far too vivacious, Abbé Galiani, writing to
Madame d'Épinay, observes with unwonted seriousness: 'Je remarque que le
caractère dominant des Français perce toujours. Ils sont causeurs,
raisonneurs, badins par essence; un mauvais tableau enfante une bonne
brochure; ainsi, vous parlerez mieux des arts que vous n'en ferez
jamais. Il se trouvera, au bout du compte, dans quelques siècles, que
vous aurez le mieux raisonné, le mieux discuté ce que toutes les autres
nations auront fait de mieux.' To affect to foretell the final balance
of an account which is not to be closed for centuries demands either
celestial assurance or Neapolitan impudence; but, regarded as a guess,
the Abbé's was a shrewd one. The _post-mortem_ may prove him wrong, but
can hardly prove him absurdly wrong.

We owe much to the French--enlightenment, pleasure, variety, surprise;
they have helped us in a great many ways: amongst others, to play an
occasional game of hide-and-seek with Puritanism, a distraction in which
there is no manner of harm; unless, indeed, the demure damsel were to
turn huffy, and after we had hidden ourselves, refuse to find us again.
Then, indeed--to use a colloquial expression--there would be the devil
to pay.

But nowhere have the French been so helpful, in nothing else has the
change from the native to the foreign article been so delightful, as in
this very matter of criticism upon which the Abbé Galiani had seized
more than a hundred years ago. Mr. David Stott has lately published two
small volumes of translations from the writings of Sainte-Beuve, the
famous critic, who so long has been accepted as the type of all that is
excellent in French criticism. French turned into English is always a
woful spectacle--the pale, smileless corpse of what was once rare and
radiant; but it is a thousand times better to read Sainte-Beuve or any
other good foreign author in English than not to read him at all.
Everybody has not time to emulate the poet Rowe, who learned Spanish in
order to qualify himself, as he fondly thought, for a snug berth at
Madrid, only to be told by his scholarly patron that now he could read
_Don Quixote_ in the original.

We hope these two volumes may be widely read, as they deserve to be, and
that they may set their readers thinking what it is that makes
Sainte-Beuve so famous a critic and so delightful a writer. His volumes
are very numerous. 'All Balzac's novels occupy a shelf,' says Browning's
Bishop; Sainte-Beuve's criticisms take up quite as much room. The
_Causeries du Lundi_ and the _Nouveaux Lundis_ fill some twenty-eight
tomes. _À priori_, one would be disposed to mutter, 'This is too much.'
Can any man turned fifty truthfully declare that he wishes De Quincey
had left thirty volumes behind him instead of fifteen? Great is De
Quincey, but so elaborate are his movements, so tremendous his literary
contortions, that when you have done with him you feel it would be
cruelty to keep him stretched upon the rack of his own style for a
moment longer. Sainte-Beuve is as easy as may be. Never before or since
has there been an author so well content with his subject, whatever it
might chance to be; so willing to be bound within its confines, and not
to travel beyond it. In this excellent 'stay-at-home' quality, he
reminds the English reader more of Addison than of any of our later
critics and essayists. These latter are too anxious to please, far too
disposed to believe that, apart from themselves and their flashing wits,
their readers can have no possible interest in the subject they have in
hand. They are ever seeking to adorn their theme instead of exploring
it. They are always prancing, seldom willing to take a brisk
constitutional along an honest, turnpike road. Even so admirable, so
sensible a writer as Mr. Lowell is apt to worry us with his Elizabethan
profusion of imagery, epithet, and wit. 'Something too much of this,' we
cry out before we are half-way through. William Hazlitt, again, is
really too witty. It is uncanny. Sainte-Beuve never teases his readers
this way. You often catch yourself wondering, so matter-of-fact is his
narrative, why it is you are interested. The dates of the births and
deaths of his authors, the facts as to their parentage and education,
are placed before you with stern simplicity, and without a single one of
those quips and cranks which Carlyle ('God rest his soul!--he was a
merry man') scattered with full hands over his explosive pages. But yet
if you are interested, as for the most part you are, what a triumph for
sobriety and good sense! A noisy author is as bad as a barrel-organ; a
quiet one is as refreshing as a long pause in a foolish sermon.

Sainte-Beuve covered an enormous range in his criticism; he took the
Whole Literature as his province. It is an amusing trait of many living
authors whose odd craze it is to take themselves and what they are fond
of calling their 'work'--by which, if you please, they mean their rhymes
and stories--very seriously indeed, to believe that critics exist for
the purpose of calling attention to them--these living solemnities--and
pointing out their varied excellences, or promise of excellence, to an
eager book-buying public. To detect in some infant's squall the rich
futurity of a George Eliot, to predict a glorious career for Gus
Hoskins--this it is to be a true critic. For my part, I think a critic
better occupied, though he be destitute of the genius of Lamb or
Coleridge, in calling attention to the real greatnesses or shortcomings
of dead authors than in dictating to his neighbours what they ought to
think about living ones. If you teach me or help me to think aright
about Milton, you can leave me to deal with _The Light of Asia_ on my
own account. Addison was better employed expounding the beauties of
_Paradise Lost_ to an unappreciative age than when he was puffing
Philips and belittling Pope, or even than he would have been had he
puffed Pope and belittled Philips.

Sainte-Beuve was certainly happier snuffing the 'parfums du passée' than
when ranging amongst the celebrities of his own day. His admiration for
Victor Hugo, which so notoriously grew cool, is supposed to have been by
no means remotely connected with an admiration for Victor Hugo's wife.
These things cannot be helped, but if you confine yourself to the past
they cannot happen.

The method pursued by this distinguished critic during the years he was
producing his weekly _Causerie_, was to shut himself up alone with his
selected author--that is, with his author's writings, letters, and
cognate works--for five days in the week. This was his period of
immersion, of saturation. On the sixth day he wrote his criticism. On
the seventh he did no manner of work. The following day the _Causerie_
appeared, and its author shut himself up again with another set of books
to produce another criticism. This was a workmanlike method.
Sainte-Beuve had a genuine zeal to be a good workman in his own
trade--the true instinct of the craftsman, always honoured in France,
not so honoured as it deserves to be in England.

Sainte-Beuve's most careless reader cannot fail to observe his
contentment with his subject, his restraint, and his good sense--all
workmanlike qualities: but a more careful study of his writings fully
warrants his title to the possession of other qualities it would be
rash to rank higher, but which, here in England, we are accustomed to
reward with more lavish praise--namely, insight, sympathy, and feeling.

To begin with, he was endlessly curious about people, without being in
the least bit a gossip or a tattler. His interest never fails him, yet
never leads him astray. His skill in collecting the salient facts and in
emphasising the important ones is marvellous. How unerring was his
instinct in these matters the English reader is best able to judge by
his handling of English authors, so diverse and so difficult as Cowper,
Gibbon, and Chesterfield. He never so much as stumbles. He understands
Olney as well as Lausanne, Lady Austen and Mrs. Unwin as well as Madame
Neckar or the Hampshire Militia. One feels sure that he could have
written a better paper on John Bunyan than Macaulay did, a wiser on John
Wesley than anybody has ever done.

Next to his curiosity must be ranked his sympathy, a sympathy all the
more contagious because so quietly expressed, and never purporting to
be based on intellectual accord. He handles mankind tenderly though
firmly. His interest in them is not merely scientific--his methods are
scientific, but his heart is human. Read his three papers on Cowper over
again, and you will agree with me. How thoroughly he appreciates the
charm of Cowper's happy hours--his pleasant humour--his scholar-like
fancies--his witty verse! No clumsy jesting about old women and balls of
worsted. It is the mixture of insight with sympathy that is so
peculiarly delightful.

Sainte-Beuve's feeling is displayed doubtless in many ways, but to me it
is always most apparent when he is upholding modesty and grace and
wisdom against their loud-mouthed opposites. When he is doing this, his
words seem to quiver with emotion--the critic almost becomes the
preacher. I gladly take an example from one of the volumes already
referred to. It occurs at the close of a paper on Camille Desmoulins, of
whom Sainte-Beuve does his best to speak kindly, but the reaction
comes--powerful, overwhelming, sweeping all before it:

'What a longing we feel after reading these pages, encrusted with mire
and blood--pages which are the living image of the disorder in the souls
and morals of those times! What a need we experience of taking up some
wise book, where common-sense predominates, and in which the good
language is but the reflection of a delicate and honest soul, reared in
habits of honour and virtue! We exclaim: Oh! for the style of honest
men--of men who have revered everything worthy of respect; whose innate
feelings have ever been governed by the principles of good taste! Oh!
for the polished, pure, and moderate writers! Oh! for Nicole's Essays,
for D'Aguesseau writing the Life of his Father. Oh! Vauvenargues! Oh!

I have quoted from one volume; let me now quote from the other. I will
take a passage from the paper on Madame de Souza:--

'In stirring times, in moments of incoherent and confused imagination
like the present, it is natural to make for the most important point, to
busy one's self with the general working, and everywhere, even in
literature, to strike boldly, aim high, and shout through trumpets and
speaking-tubes. The modest graces will perhaps come back after a while,
and come with an expression appropriate to their new surroundings. I
would fain believe it; but while hoping for the best, I feel sure that
it will not be to-morrow that their sentiments and their speech will
once more prevail.'

But I must conclude with a sentence from Sainte-Beuve's own pen. Of
Joubert he says: 'Il a une manière qui fait qu'il ne dit rien,
absolument rien comme un autre. Cela est sensible dans les lettres qu'il
écrit, et ne laisse pas de fatiguer à la longue.' Of such a judgment,
one can only scribble in the margin, 'How true!' Sainte-Beuve was always
willing to write like another man. Joubert was not. And yet, strange
paradox! there will be always more men able to write in the strained
style of Joubert than in the natural style of Sainte-Beuve. It is easier
to be odd, intense, over-wise, enigmatic, than to be sensible, simple,
and to see the plain truth about things.


[1] _Last Essays of Elia_, 52.

[2] Since abandoned, _Laus Deo!_

[3] Richardson in a letter says this of her, 'the weak, the insipid, the
runaway, the inn-frequenting Sophia;' and calls her lover 'her
illegitimate Tom.' But nobody else need say this of Sophia, and as for
Tom he was declared to be a foundling from the first.

[4] Jocelyn, founder of the Roden peerage.

[5] By which title he refers to Mrs. Cornwallis, a lively lady who used
to get her right reverend lord, himself a capital hand at whist, into
great trouble by persisting in giving routs on Sunday.

[6] See _Essays in Criticism_, p. 23.

[7] _Letters of Charles Lamb._ Newly arranged, with additions; and a New
Portrait. Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by the Rev. Alfred
Ainger, M.A., Canon of Bristol. 2 vols. London, 1888.

[8] Donaldson was a well-known man in Edinburgh. He was Boswell's first
publisher, and on one occasion gave that gentleman a dinner consisting
mainly of pig. Johnson's view of his larcenous proceedings is stated in
the Life. Thurlow was his counsel in this litigation. Donaldson's
Hospital in Edinburgh represents the fortune made by this publisher.

[9] I was wrong, and this very volume is protected by law in the United
States of America--but it still remains pleasingly uncertain whether the
book-buying public across the water who were willing to buy _Obiter
Dicta_ for twelve cents will give a dollar for _Res Judicata_.



HISTORICAL ESSAYS. (12mo, $2.00.)

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[Transcriber's Notes: Typographical errors have been corrected as

Page 14 - "series of familiar letter" replaced with "series of familiar

Page 24 - Question mark added to "Do you remember Thackeray's

Page 95 - "pains of hell gat hold" replaced with "pains of hell got

Page 108 - "jusqu aux" replaced with "jusqu'aux"

Page 127 - "perference" replaced with "preference"

Page 127 - "inbecile" replaced with "imbecile"

Page 196 - Correct single-double quotes before "We live no more" and
"More strictly, then"

Page 224 - "vemon" replaced with "venom"

Page 253 - "ligitations" replaced with "litigations"

Page 282 - "his people, which has" replaced with "his people, which

Page 287 - "marches" replaced with "marshes"]

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