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Title: Confessions and Criticisms
Author: Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934
Language: English
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In 1869, when I was about twenty-three years old, I sent a couple of
sonnets to the revived _Putnam's Magazine_. At that period I had no
intention of becoming a professional writer: I was studying civil
engineering at the Polytechnic School in Dresden, Saxony. Years before,
I had received parental warnings--unnecessary, as I thought--against
writing for a living. During the next two years, however, when I was
acting as hydrographic engineer in the New York Dock Department, I
amused myself by writing a short story, called "Love and Counter-Love,"
which was published in _Harper's Weekly_, and for which I was paid
fifty dollars. "If fifty dollars can be so easily earned," I thought,
"why not go on adding to my income in this way from time to time?" I
was aided and abetted in the idea by the late Robert Carter, editor of
_Appletons' Journal_; and the latter periodical and _Harper's Magazine_
had the burden, and I the benefit, of the result. When, in 1872, I was
abruptly relieved from my duties in the Dock Department, I had the
alternative of either taking my family down to Central America to watch
me dig a canal, or of attempting to live by my pen. I bought twelve
reams of large letter-paper, and began my first work,--"Bressant." I
finished it in three weeks; but prudent counsellors advised me that it
was too immoral to publish, except in French: so I recast it, as the
phrase is, and, in its chastened state, sent it through the post to a
Boston publisher. It was lost on the way, and has not yet been found. I
was rather pleased than otherwise at this catastrophe; for I had in
those days a strange delight in rewriting my productions: it was,
perhaps, a more sensible practice than to print them. Accordingly, I
rewrote and enlarged "Bressant" in Dresden (whither I returned with my
family in 1872); but--immorality aside--I think the first version was
the best of the three. On my way to Germany I passed through London,
and there made the acquaintance of Henry S. King, the publisher, a
charming but imprudent man, for he paid me one hundred pounds for the
English copyright of my novel: and the moderate edition he printed is,
I believe, still unexhausted. The book was received in a kindly manner
by the press; but both in this country and in England some surprise and
indignation were expressed that the son of his father should presume to
be a novelist. This sentiment, whatever its bearing upon me, has
undoubtedly been of service to my critics: it gives them something to
write about. A disquisition upon the mantle of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and
an analysis of the differences and similarities between him and his
successor, generally fill so much of a notice as to enable the reviewer
to dismiss the book itself very briefly. I often used to wish, when,
years afterwards, I was myself a reviewer for the London _Spectator_,
that I could light upon some son of his father who might similarly
lighten my labors. Meanwhile, I was agreeably astonished at what I
chose to consider the success of "Bressant," and set to work to surpass
it in another romance, called (for some reason I have forgotten)
"Idolatry." This unknown book was actually rewritten, in whole or in
part, no less than seven times. _Non sum qualis eram_. For seven or
eight years past I have seldom rewritten one of the many pages which
circumstances have compelled me to inflict upon the world. But the
discipline of "Idolatry" probably taught me how to clothe an idea in

By the time "Idolatry" was published, the year 1874 had come, and I was
living in London. From my note-books and recollections I compiled a
series of papers on life in Dresden, under the general title of "Saxon
Studies." Alexander Strahan, then editor of the _Contemporary Review_,
printed them in that periodical as fast as I wrote them, and they were
reproduced in certain eclectic magazines in this country,--until I
asserted my American copyright. Their publication in book form was
followed by the collapse of both the English and the American firm
engaging in that enterprise. I draw no deductions from that fact: I
simply state it. The circulation of the "Studies" was naturally small;
but one copy fell into the hands of a Dresden critic, and the manner in
which he wrote of it and its author repaid me for the labor of
composition and satisfied me that I had not done amiss.

After "Saxon Studies" I began another novel, "Garth," instalments of
which appeared from month to month in _Harper's Magazine_. When it had
run for a year or more, with no signs of abatement, the publishers felt
obliged to intimate that unless I put an end to their misery they
would. Accordingly, I promptly gave Garth his quietus. The truth is, I
was tired of him myself. With all his qualities and virtues, he could
not help being a prig. He found some friends, however, and still shows
signs of vitality. I wrote no other novel for nearly two years, but
contributed some sketches of English life to _Appletons' Journal_, and
produced a couple of novelettes,--"Mrs. Gainsborough's Diamonds" and
"Archibald Malmaison,"--which, by reason of their light draught, went
rather farther than usual. Other short tales, which I hardly care to
recall, belong to this period. I had already ceased to take pleasure in
writing for its own sake,--partly, no doubt, because I was obliged to
write for the sake of something else. Only those who have no reverence
for literature should venture to meddle with the making of it,--unless,
at all events, they can supply the demands of the butcher and baker
from an independent source.

In 1879, "Sebastian Strome" was published as a serial in _All the Year
Round_. Charley Dickens, the son of the great novelist, and editor of
the magazine, used to say to me while the story was in progress, "Keep
that red-haired girl up to the mark, and the story will do." I took a
fancy to Mary Dene myself. But I uniformly prefer my heroines to my
heroes; perhaps because I invent the former out of whole cloth, whereas
the latter are often formed of shreds and patches of men I have met.
And I never raised a character to the position of hero without
recognizing in him, before I had done with him, an egregious ass.
Differ as they may in other respects, they are all brethren in that;
and yet I am by no means disposed to take a Carlylese view of my actual

I did some hard work at this time: I remember once writing for
twenty-six consecutive hours without pausing or rising from my chair;
and when, lately, I re-read the story then produced, it seemed quite as
good as the average of my work in that kind. I hasten to add that it
has never been printed in this country: for that matter, not more than
half my short tales have found an American publisher. "Archibald
Malmaison" was offered seven years ago to all the leading publishers in
New York and Boston, and was promptly refused by all. Since its recent
appearance here, however, it has had a circulation larger perhaps than
that of all my other stories combined. But that is one of the accidents
that neither author nor publisher can foresee. It was the horror of
"Archibald Malmaison," not any literary merit, that gave it vogue,--its
horror, its strangeness, and its brevity.

On Guy Fawkes's day, 1880, I began "Fortune's Fool,"--or "Luck," as it
was first called,--and wrote the first ten of the twelve numbers in
three months. I used to sit down to my table at eight o'clock in the
evening and write till sunrise. But the two remaining instalments were
not written and published until 1883, and this delay and its
circumstances spoiled the book. In the interval between beginning and
finishing it another long novel--"Dust"--was written and published. I
returned to America in 1882, after an absence in Europe far longer than
I had anticipated or desired. I trust I may never leave my native land
again for any other on this planet.

"Beatrix Randolph," "Noble Blood," and "Love--or a Name," are the
novels which I have written since my return; and I also published a
biography, "Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife." I cannot conscientiously
say that I have found the literary profession--in and for
itself--entirely agreeable. Almost everything that I have written has
been written from necessity; and there is very little of it that I
shall not be glad to see forgotten. The true rewards of literature, for
men of limited calibre, are the incidental ones,--the valuable
friendships and the charming associations which it brings about. For
the sake of these I would willingly endure again many passages of a
life that has not been all roses; not that I would appear to belittle
my own work: it does not need it. But the present generation (in
America at least) does not strike me as containing much literary
genius. The number of undersized persons is large and active, and we
hardly believe in the possibility of heroic stature. I cannot
sufficiently admire the pains we are at to make our work--embodying the
aims it does--immaculate in form. Form without idea is nothing, and we
have no ideas. If one of us were to get an idea, it would create its
own form, as easily as does a flower or a planet. I think we take
ourselves too seriously: our posterity will not be nearly so grave over
us. For my part, I do not write better than I do, because I have no
ideas worth better clothes than they can pick up for themselves.
"Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with your best pains,"
is a saying which has injured our literature more than any other single
thing. How many a lumber-closet since the world began has been filled
by the results of this purblind and delusive theory! But this is not
autobiographical,--save that to have written it shows how little
prudence my life has taught me.

       *       *       *       *       *

I remember wondering, in 1871, how anybody could write novels. I had
produced two or three short stories; but to expand such a thing until
it should cover two or three hundred pages seemed an enterprise far
beyond my capacity. Since then, I have accomplished the feat only too
often; but I doubt whether I have a much clearer idea than before of
the way it is done; and I am certain of never having done it twice in
the same way. The manner in which the plant arrives at maturity varies
according to the circumstances in which the seed is planted and
cultivated; and the cultivator, in this instance at least, is content
to adapt his action to whatever conditions happen to exist.

While, therefore, it might be easy to formulate a cut-and-dried method
of procedure, which should be calculated to produce the best results by
the most efficient means, no such formula would truly represent the
present writer's actual practice. If I ever attempted to map out my
successive steps beforehand, I never adhered to the forecast or reached
the anticipated goal. The characters develop unexpected traits, and
these traits become the parents of incidents that had not been
contemplated. The characters themselves, on the other hand, cannot be
kept to any preconceived characteristics; they are, in their turn,
modified by the exigencies of the plot.

In two or three cases I have tried to make portraits of real persons
whom I have known; but these persons have always been more lifeless
than the others, and most lifeless in precisely those features that
most nearly reproduced life. The best results in this direction are
realized by those characters that come to their birth simultaneously
with the general scheme of the proposed events; though I remember that
one of the most lifelike of my personages (Madge, in the novel "Garth")
was not even thought of until the story of which she is the heroine had
been for some time under consideration.

Speaking generally, I should suppose that the best novels are apt to be
those that have been longest in the novelist's mind before being
committed to paper; and the best materials to use, in the way of
character and scenery, are those that were studied not less than seven
or eight years previous to their reproduction. Thereby is attained that
quality in a story known as atmosphere or tone, perhaps the most
valuable and telling quality of all. Occasionally, however, in the rare
case of a story that suddenly seizes upon the writer's imagination and
despotically "possesses" him, the atmosphere is created by the very
strength of the "possession." In the former instance, the writer is
thoroughly master of his subject; in the latter, the subject thoroughly
masters him; and both amount essentially to the same thing, harmony
between subject and writer.

With respect to style, there is little to be said. Without a good
style, no writer can do much; but it is impossible really to create a
good style. A writer's style was born at the same time and under the
same conditions that he himself was. The only rule that can be given
him is, to say what he has to say in the clearest and most direct way,
using the most fitting and expressive words. But often, of course, this
advice is like that of the doctor who counsels his patient to free his
mind from all care and worry, to live luxuriously on the fat of the
land, and to make a voyage round the world in a private yacht. The
patient has not the means of following the prescription. A writer may
improve a native talent for style; but the talent itself he must either
have by nature, or forever go without. And the style that rises to the
height of genius is like the Phoenix; there is hardly ever more than
one example of it in an age.

Upon the whole, I conceive that the best way of telling how a novel may
be written will be to trace the steps by which some one novel of mine
came into existence, and let the reader draw his own conclusions from
the record. For this purpose I will select one of the longest of my
productions, "Fortune's Fool."

It is so long that, rather than be compelled to read it over again, I
would write another of equal length; though I hasten to add that
neither contingency is in the least probable. In very few men is found
the power of sustained conception necessary to the successful
composition of so prolix a tale; and certainly I have never betrayed
the ownership of such a qualification. The tale, nevertheless, is an
irrevocable fact; and my present business it is to be its biographer.

When, in the winter of 1879, the opportunity came to write it, the
central idea of it had been for over a year cooking in my mind. It was
originally derived from a dream. I saw a man who, upon some occasion,
caught a glimpse of a woman's face. This face was, in his memory, the
ideal of beauty, purity, and goodness. Through many years and
vicissitudes he sought it; it was his religion, a human incarnation of
divine qualities.

At certain momentous epochs of his career, he had glimpses of it again;
and the effect was always to turn him away from the wrong path and into
the right. At last, near the end of his life, he has, for the first
time, an opportunity of speaking to this mortal angel and knowing her;
and then he discovers that she is mortal indeed, and chargeable with
the worst frailties of mortality. The moral was that any substitute for
a purely spiritual religion is fatal, and, sooner or later, reveals its

This seemed good enough for a beginning; but, when I woke up, I was not
long in perceiving that it would require various modifications before
being suitable for a novel; and the first modifications must be in the
way of rendering the plot plausible. What sort of a man, for example,
must the hero be to fall into and remain in such an error regarding the
character of the heroine? He must, I concluded, be a person of great
simplicity and honesty of character, with a strong tinge of ideality
and imagination, and with little or no education.

These considerations indicated a person destitute of known parentage,
and growing up more or less apart from civilization, but possessing by
nature an artistic or poetic temperament. Fore-glimpses of the further
development of the story led me to make him the child of a wealthy
English nobleman, but born in a remote New England village. His
artistic proclivities must be inherited from his father, who was,
therefore, endowed with a talent for amateur sketching in oils; which
talent, again, led him, during his minority, to travel on the continent
for purposes of artistic study. While in Paris, this man, Floyd Vivian,
meets a young Frenchwoman, whom he secretly marries, and with whom he
elopes to America. Then Vivian receives news of his father's death,
compelling him to return to England; and he leaves his wife behind him.

A child (Jack, the hero of the story) is born during his absence, and
the mother dies. Vivian, now Lord Castleman, finds reason to believe
that his wife is dead, but knows nothing of the boy; and he marries
again. The boy, therefore, is left to grow up in the Maine woods,
ignorant of his parentage, but with one or two chances of finding it
out hereafter. So far, so good.

But now it was necessary to invent a heroine for this hero. In order to
make the construction compact, I made her Jack's cousin, the daughter,
of Lord Vivian's younger brother, who came into being for that purpose.
This brother (Murdock) was a black sheep; and his daughter, Madeleine,
was adopted by Lord Vivian, because I now perceived that Lord Vivian's
conscience was going to trouble him with regard to his dead wife and
her possible child, and that he would make a pilgrimage to New England
to settle his doubts, taking Madeleine with him; intending, if no child
by the first marriage were forthcoming, to make Madeleine his heir; for
he had no issue by his second marriage. This journey would enable Jack
and Madeleine to meet as children. But it was necessary that they
should have no suspicion of their cousinship. Consequently, Lord
Vivian, who alone could acquaint them with this fact, must die in the
very act of learning it himself. And what should be the manner of his

At first, I thought he should be murdered by his younger brother; but I
afterwards hit upon another plan, that seemed less hackneyed and
provided more interesting issues. Murdock should arrive at the Maine
village at the same time as Lord Vivian, and upon the same errand, to
get hold of Lord Vivian's son, of whose existence he had heard, and
whom he wished to get out of the way, in order that his own daughter,
Madeleine, might inherit the property. Murdock should find Jack, and
Jack, a mere boy, should kill him, though not, of course,
intentionally, or even consciously (for which purpose the machinery of
the Witch's Head was introduced).

With Murdock's death, the papers that he carried, proving Jack's
parentage, should disappear, to be recovered long afterward, when they
were needed. Lord Vivian should quietly expire at the same time, of
heart disease (to which he was forthwith made subject), and Madeleine
should be left temporarily to her own devices. Thus was brought about
her meeting with Jack in the cave. It was their first meeting; and Jack
must remember her face, so as to recognize her when they meet, years
later, in England. But, as it was beyond belief that the girl's face
should resemble the woman's enough to make such a recognition possible,
I devised the miniature portrait of her mother, which Madeleine gave to
Jack for a keepsake, and which was the image of what Madeleine herself
should afterward become.

Something more was needed, however, to complete the situation; and to
meet this exigency, I created M. Jacques Malgré, the grandfather of
Jack, who had followed his daughter to America, in the belief that she
had been seduced by Vivian; who had brought up Jack, hating him for his
father's sake, and loving him for his mother's sake; and who dwelt year
after year in the Maine village, hoping some day to wreak his vengeance
upon the seducer. But when M. Malgré and Vivian at last meet, this
revenge is balked by the removal of its supposed motive; Vivian having
actually married Malgré's daughter, and being prepared to make Jack
heir of Castlemere. Moral: "'Vengeance is mine,' saith the Lord, 'I
will repay.'"

The groundwork of the story was now sufficiently denned. Madeleine and
Jack were born and accounted for. They had met and made friends with
each other without either knowing who the other was; they were rival
claimants for the same property, and would hereafter contend for it;
still, without identifying each other as the little boy and girl that
had met by chance in the cave so long ago. In the meanwhile, there
might be personal meetings, in which they should recognize each other
as persons though not by name; and should thus be cementing their
friendship as man and woman, while, as Jack Vivian and Madeleine, they
were at open war in the courts of law.

This arrangement would need careful handling to render it plausible;
but it could be done. I am now of opinion, however, that I should have
done well to have given up the whole fundamental idea of the story, as
suggested by the dream. The dream had done its office when it had
provided me with characters and materials for a more probable and less
abstruse and difficult plot. All further dependence upon it should then
have been relinquished, and the story allowed to work out its own
natural and unforced conclusion. But it is easy to be wise after the
event; and the event, at this time, was still in the future.

As Madeleine was to be the opposite of the sinless, ideal woman that
Jack was to imagine her to be, it was necessary to subject her to some
evil influence; and this influence was embodied in the form of Bryan
Sinclair, who, though an afterthought, came to be the most powerful
figure in the story. But, before he would bring himself to bear upon
her, she must have reached womanhood; and I also perceived that Jack
must become a man before the action of the story, as between him and
Madeleine, could continue. An interval of ten or fifteen years must
therefore occur; and this was arranged by sending Jack into the western
wilderness of California, and fixing the period as just preceding the
date of the California gold fever of '49.

Jack and Bryan were to be rivals for Madeleine; but artistic
considerations seemed to require that they should first meet and become
friends much in the same way that Jack and Madeleine had done. So I
sent Bryan to California, and made him the original discoverer of the
precious metal there; brought him and Jack together; and finally sent
them to England in each other's company. Jack, of course, as yet knows
nothing of his origin, and appears in London society merely as a
natural genius and a sculptor of wild animals.

By this time, I had begun to make Madeleine's acquaintance, and, in
consequence, to doubt the possibility of her becoming wholly evil, even
under the influence of Bryan Sinclair. There would be a constant
struggle between them; she would love him, but would not yield to him,
though her life and happiness would be compromised by his means. He, on
the other hand, would love her, and he would make some effort to be
worthy of her; but his other crimes would weigh him down, until, at the
moment when the battle cost her her life, he should be destroyed by the
incarnation of his own wickedness, in the shape of Tom Berne.

This was not the issue that I had originally designed, and, whether
better or worse than that, did not harmonize with what had gone before.
The story lacked wholeness and continuous vitality. As a work of art,
it was a failure. But I did not realize this fact until it was too
late, and probably should not have known how to mend matters had it
been otherwise. One of the dangers against which a writer has
especially to guard is that of losing his sense of proportion in the
conduct of a story. An episode that has little relative importance may
be allowed undue weight, because it seems interesting intrinsically, or
because he has expended special pains upon it. It is only long
afterward, when he has become cool and impartial, if not indifferent or
disgusted, that he can see clearly where the faults of construction lie.

I need not go further into the details of the story. Enough has been
said to give a clew to what might remain to say. I began to write it in
the winter of 1879-80, in London; and, in order to avoid noise and
interruption, it was my custom to begin writing at eight in the
evening, and continue at work until six or seven o'clock the next
morning. In three months I had written as far as the 393d page, in the
American edition. The remaining seventy pages were not completed, in
their published form, until about three years later, an extraordinary
delay, which did not escape censure at the time, and into the causes of
which I will not enter here.

The title of the story also underwent various vicissitudes. The one
first chosen was "Happy Jack"; but that was objected to as suggesting,
to an English ear at least, a species of cheap Jack or rambling
peddler. The next title fixed upon was "Luck"; but before this could be
copyrighted, somebody published a story called "Luck, and What Came of
It," and thereby invalidated my briefer version. For several weeks, I
was at a loss what to call it; but one evening, at a representation of
"Romeo and Juliet," I heard the exclamation of _Romeo_, "Oh, I am
fortune's fool!" and immediately appropriated it to my own needs. It
suited the book well enough, in more ways than one.



The novel of our times is susceptible of many definitions. The American
publishers of Railway libraries think that it is forty or fifty
double-column pages of pirated English fiction. Readers of the "New
York Ledger" suppose it to be a romance of angelic virtue at last
triumphant over satanic villany. The aristocracy of culture describe it
as a philosophic analysis of human character and motives, with an
agnostic bias on the analyst's part. Schoolboys are under the
impression that it is a tale of Western chivalry and Indian
outrage--price, ten cents. Most of us agree in the belief that it
should contain a brace or two of lovers, a suspense, and a solution.

To investigate the nature of the novel in the abstract would involve
going back to the very origin of things. It would imply the recognition
of a certain faculty of the mind, known as imagination; and of a
certain fact in history, called art. Art and imagination are
correlatives,--one implies the other. Together, they may be said to
constitute the characteristic badge and vindication of human nature;
imagination is the badge, and art is the vindication. Reason, which
gets so much vulgar glorification, is, after all, a secondary quality.
It is posterior to imagination,--it is one of the means by which
imagination seeks to realize its ends. Some animals reason, or seem to
do so: but the most cultivated ape or donkey has not yet composed a
sonnet, or a symphony, or "an arrangement in green and yellow." Man
still retains a few prerogatives, although, like Aesop's stag, which
despised the legs that bore it away from the hounds, and extolled the
antlers that entangled it in the thicket,--so man often magnifies those
elements of his nature that least deserve it.

But, before celebrating art and imagination, we should have a clear
idea what those handsome terms mean. In the broadest sense, imagination
is the cause of the effect we call progress. It marks all forms of
human effort towards a better state of things. It embraces a perception
of existing shortcomings, and an aspiration towards a loftier ideal. It
is, in fact, a truly divine force in man, reminding him of his heavenly
origin, and stimulating him to rise again to the level whence he fell.
For it has glimpses of the divine Image within or behind the material
veil; and its constant impulse is to tear aside the veil and grasp the
image. The world, let us say, is a gross and finite translation of an
infinite and perfect Word; and imagination is the intuition of that
perfection, born in the human heart, and destined forever to draw
mankind into closer harmony with it.

In common speech, however, imagination is deprived of this broader
significance, and is restricted to its relations with art. Art is not
progress, though progress implies art. It differs from progress chiefly
in disclaiming the practical element. You cannot apply a poem, a
picture, or a strain of music, to material necessities; they are not
food, clothing, or shelter. Only after these physical wants are
assuaged, does art supervene. Its sphere is exclusively mental and
moral. But this definition is not adequate; a further distinction is
needed. For such things as mathematics, moral philosophy, and political
economy also belong to the mental sphere, and yet they are not art. But
these, though not actually existing on the plane of material
necessities, yet do exist solely in order to relieve such necessities.
Unlike beauty, they are not their own excuse for being. Their
embodiment is utilitarian, that of art is aesthetic. Political economy,
for example, shows me how to buy two drinks for the same price I used
to pay for one; while art inspires me to transmute a pewter mug into a
Cellini goblet. My physical nature, perhaps, prefers two drinks to one;
but, if my taste be educated, and I be not too thirsty, I would rather
drink once from the Cellini goblet than twice from the mug. Political
economy gravitates towards the material level; art seeks incarnation
only in order to stimulate anew the same spiritual faculties that
generated it. Art is the production, by means of appearances, of the
illusion of a loftier reality; and imagination is the faculty which
holds that loftier reality up for imitation.

The disposition of these preliminaries brings us once more in sight of
the goal of our pilgrimage. The novel, despite its name, is no new
thing, but an old friend in a modern dress. Ever since the time of
Cadmus,--ever since language began to express thought as well as
emotion,--men have betrayed the impulse to utter in forms of literary
art,--in poetry and story,--their conceptions of the world around them.
According to many philologists, poetry was the original form of human
speech. Be that as it may, whatever flows into the mind, from the
spectacle of nature and of mankind, that influx the mind tends
instinctively to reproduce, in a shape accordant with its peculiar bias
and genius. And those minds in which imagination is predominant, impart
to their reproductions a balance and beauty which stamp them as art.
Art--and literary art especially--is the only evidence we have that
this universal frame of things has relation to our minds, and is a
universe and not a poliverse. Outside revelation, it is our best
assurance of an intelligent purpose in creation.

Novels, then, instead of being (as some persons have supposed) a wilful
and corrupt conspiracy on the part of the evilly disposed, against the
peace and prosperity of the realm, may claim a most ancient and
indefeasible right to existence. They, with their ancestors and near
relatives, constitute Literature,--without which the human race would
be little better than savages. For the effect of pure literature upon a
receptive mind is something more than can be definitely stated. Like
sunshine upon a landscape, it is a kind of miracle. It demands from its
disciple almost as much as it gives him, and is never revealed save to
the disinterested and loving eye. In our best moments, it touches us
most deeply; and when the sentiment of human brotherhood kindles most
warmly within us, we discover in literature an exquisite answering
ardor. When everything that can be, has been said about a true work of
art, its finest charm remains,--the charm derived from a source beyond
the conscious reach even of the artist.

The novel, then, must be pure literature; as much so as the poem. But
poetry--now that the day of the broad Homeric epic is past, or
temporarily eclipsed--appeals to a taste too exclusive and abstracted
for the demands of modern readers. Its most accommodating metre fails
to house our endless variety of mood and movement; it exacts from the
student an exaltation above the customary level of thought and
sentiment greater than he can readily afford. The poet of old used to
clothe in the garb of verse his every observation on life and nature;
but to-day he reserves for it only his most ideal and abstract
conceptions. The merit of Cervantes is not so much that he laughed
Spain's chivalry away, as that he heralded the modern novel of
character and manners. It is the latest, most pliable, most catholic
solution of the old problem,--how to unfold man to himself. It improves
on the old methods, while missing little of their excellence. No one
can read a great novel without feeling that, from its outwardly prosaic
pages, strains of genuine poetry have ever and anon reached his ears.
It does not obtrude itself; it is not there for him who has not skill
to listen for it: but for him who has ears, it is like the music of a
bird, denning itself amidst the innumerable murmurs of the forest.

So, the ideal novel, conforming in every part to the behests of the
imagination, should produce, by means of literary art, the illusion of
a loftier reality. This excludes the photographic method of
novel-writing. "That is a false effort in art," says Goethe, towards
the close of his long and splendid career, "which, in giving reality to
the appearance, goes so far as to leave in it nothing but the common,
every-day actual." It is neither the actual, nor Chinese copies of the
actual, that we demand of art. Were art merely the purveyor of such
things, she might yield her crown to the camera and the stenographer;
and divine imagination would degenerate into vulgar inventiveness.
Imagination is incompatible with inventiveness, or imitation. Imitation
is death, imagination is life. Imitation is servitude, imagination is
royalty. He who claims the name of artist must rise to that vision of a
loftier reality--a more true because a more beautiful world--which only
imagination can reveal. A truer world,--for the world of facts is not
and cannot be true. It is barren, incoherent, misleading. But behind
every fact there is a truth: and these truths are enlightening,
unifying, creative. Fasten your hold upon them, and facts will become
your servants instead of your tyrants. No charm of detail will be lost,
no homely picturesque circumstance, no touch of human pathos or humor;
but all hardness, rigidity, and finality will disappear, and your story
will be not yours alone, but that of every one who feels and thinks.
Spirit gives universality and meaning; but alas! for this new gospel of
the auctioneer's catalogue, and the crackling of thorns under a pot. He
who deals with facts only, deprives his work of gradation and
distinction. One fact, considered in itself, has no less importance
than any other; a lump of charcoal is as valuable as a diamond. But
that is the philosophy of brute beasts and Digger Indians. A child,
digging on the beach, may shape a heap of sand into a similitude of
Vesuvius; but is it nothing that Vesuvius towers above the clouds, and
overwhelms Pompeii?

       *       *       *       *       *

In proceeding from the general to the particular,--to the novel as it
actually exists in England and America,--attention will be confined
strictly to the contemporary outlook. The new generation of novelists
(by which is intended not those merely living in this age, but those
who actively belong to it) differ in at least one fundamental respect
from the later representatives of the generation preceding them.
Thackeray and Dickens did not deliberately concern themselves about a
philosophy of life. With more or less complacency, more or less
cynicism, they accepted the religious and social canons which had grown
to be the commonplace of the first half of this century. They pictured
men and women, not as affected by questions, but as affected by one
another. The morality and immorality of their personages were of the
old familiar Church-of-England sort; there was no speculation as to
whether what had been supposed to be wrong was really right, and _vice
versa_. Such speculations, in various forms and degrees of energy,
appear in the world periodically; but the public conscience during the
last thirty or forty years had been gradually making itself comfortable
after the disturbances consequent upon the French Revolution; the
theoretical rights of man had been settled for the moment; and interest
was directed no longer to the assertion and support of these rights,
but to the social condition and character which were their outcome.
Good people were those who climbed through reverses and sorrows towards
the conventional heaven; bad people were those who, in spite of worldly
and temporary successes and triumphs, gravitated towards the
conventional hell. Novels designed on this basis in so far filled the
bill, as the phrase is: their greater or less excellence depended
solely on the veracity with which the aspect, the temperament, and the
conduct of the _dramatis personae_ were reported, and upon the amount
of ingenuity wherewith the web of events and circumstances was woven,
and the conclusion reached. Nothing more was expected, and, in general,
little or nothing more was attempted. Little more, certainly, will be
found in the writings of Thackeray or of Balzac, who, it is commonly
admitted, approach nearest to perfection of any novelists of their
time. There was nothing genuine or commanding in the metaphysical
dilettanteism of Bulwer: the philosophical speculations of Georges Sand
are the least permanently interesting feature of her writings; and the
same might in some measure be affirmed of George Eliot, whose gloomy
wisdom finally confesses its inability to do more than advise us rather
to bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of. As
to Nathaniel Hawthorne, he cannot properly be instanced in this
connection; for he analyzed chiefly those parts of human nature which
remain substantially unaltered in the face of whatever changes of
opinion, civilization, and religion. The truth that he brings to light
is not the sensational fact of a fashion or a period, but a verity of
the human heart, which may foretell, but can never be affected by,
anything which that heart may conceive. In other words, Hawthorne
belonged neither to this nor to any other generation of writers further
than that his productions may be used as a test of the inner veracity
of all the rest.

But of late years a new order of things has been coming into vogue, and
the new novelists have been among the first to reflect it; and of these
the Americans have shown themselves among the most susceptible.
Science, or the investigation of the phenomena of existence (in
opposition to philosophy, the investigation of the phenomena of being),
has proved nature to be so orderly and self-sufficient, and inquiry as
to the origin of the primordial atom so unproductive and quixotic, as
to make it convenient and indeed reasonable to accept nature as a
self-existing fact, and to let all the rest--if rest there be--go. From
this point of view, God and a future life retire into the background;
not as finally disproved,--because denial, like affirmation, must, in
order to be final, be logically supported; and spirit is, if not
illogical, at any rate outside the domain of logic,--but as being a
hopelessly vague and untrustworthy hypothesis. The Bible is a human
book; Christ was a gentleman, related to the Buddha and Plato families;
Joseph was an ill-used man; death, so far as we have any reason to
believe, is annihilation of personal existence; life is--the
predicament of the body previous to death; morality is the enlightened
selfishness of the greatest number; civilization is the compromises men
make with one another in order to get the most they can out of the
world; wisdom is acknowledgment of these propositions; folly is to
hanker after what may lie beyond the sphere of sense. The supporter of
these doctrines by no means permits himself to be regarded as a rampant
and dogmatic atheist; he is simply the modest and humble doubter of
what he cannot prove. He even recognizes the persistence of the
religious instinct in man, and caters to it by a new religion suited to
the times--the Religion of Humanity. Thus he is secure at all points:
for if the religion of the Bible turn out to be true, his
disappointment will be an agreeable one; and if it turns out false, he
will not be disappointed at all. He is an agnostic--a person bound to
be complacent whatever happens. He may indulge a gentle regret, a
musing sadness, a smiling pensiveness; but he will never refuse a
comfortable dinner, and always wear something soft next his skin, nor
can he altogether avoid the consciousness of his intellectual

Agnosticism, which reaches forward into nihilism on one side, and
extends back into liberal Christianity on the other, marks, at all
events, a definite turning-point from what has been to what is to come.
The human mind, in the course of its long journey, is passing through a
dark place, and is, as it were, whistling to keep up its courage. It is
a period of doubt: what it will result in remains to be seen; but
analogy leads us to infer that this doubt, like all others, will be
succeeded by a comparatively definite belief in something--no matter
what. It is a transient state--the interval between one creed and
another. The agnostic no longer holds to what is behind him, nor knows
what lies before, so he contents himself with feeling the ground
beneath his feet. That, at least, though the heavens fall, is likely to
remain; meanwhile, let the heavens take care of themselves. It may be
the part of valor to champion divine revelation, but the better part of
valor is discretion, and if divine revelation prove true, discretion
will be none the worse off. On the other hand, to champion a myth is to
make one's self ridiculous, and of being ridiculous the agnostic has a
consuming fear. From the superhuman disinterestedness of the theory of
the Religion of Humanity, before which angels might quail, he flinches
not, but when it comes to the risk of being laughed at by certain
sagacious persons he confesses that bravery has its limits. He dares do
all that may become an agnostic,--who dares do more is none.

But, however open to criticism this phase of thought may be, it is a
genuine phase, and the proof is the alarm and the shifts that it has
brought about in the opposite camp. "Established" religion finds the
foundation of her establishment undermined, and, like the lady in
Hamlet's play, she doth protest too much. In another place, all manner
of odd superstitions and quasi-miracles are cropping up and gaining
credence, as if, since the immortality of the soul cannot be proved by
logic, it should be smuggled into belief by fraud and violence--that
is, by the testimony of the bodily senses themselves. Taking a
comprehensive view of the whole field, therefore, it seems to be
divided between discreet and supercilious skepticism on one side, and,
on the other, the clamorous jugglery of charlatanism. The case is not
really so bad as that: nihilists are not discreet and even the Bishop
of Rome is not necessarily a charlatan. Nevertheless, the outlook may
fairly be described as confused and the issue uncertain. And--to come
without further preface to the subject of this paper--it is with this
material that the modern novelist, so far as he is a modern and not a
future novelist, or a novelist _temporis acti_, has to work. Unless a
man have the gift to forecast the years, or, at least, to catch the
first ray of the coming light, he can hardly do better than attend to
what is under his nose. He may hesitate to identify himself with
agnosticism, but he can scarcely avoid discussing it, either in itself
or in its effects. He must entertain its problems; and the personages
of his story, if they do not directly advocate or oppose agnostic
views, must show in their lives either confirmation or disproof of
agnostic principles. It is impossible, save at the cost of affectation
or of ignorance, to escape from the spirit of the age. It is in the air
we breathe, and, whether we are fully conscious thereof or not, our
lives and thoughts must needs be tinctured by it.

Now, art is creative; but Mephistopheles, the spirit that denies, is
destructive. A negative attitude of mind is not favorable for the
production of works of art. The best periods of art have also been
periods of spiritual or philosophical convictions. The more a man
doubts, the more he disintegrates and the less he constructs. He has in
him no central initial certainty round which all other matters of
knowledge or investigation may group themselves in symmetrical
relation. He may analyze to his heart's content, but must be wary of
organizing. If creation is not of God, if nature is not the expression
of the contact between an infinite and a finite being, then the
universe and everything in it are accidents, which might have been
otherwise or might have not been at all; there is no design in them nor
purpose, no divine and eternal significance. This being conceded, what
meaning would there be in designing works of art? If art has not its
prototype in creation, if all that we see and do is chance, uninspired
by a controlling and forming intelligence behind or within it, then to
construct a work of art would be to make something arbitrary and
grotesque, something unreal and fugitive, something out of accord with
the general sense (or nonsense) of things, something with no further
basis or warrant than is supplied by the maker's idle and irresponsible
fancy. But since no man cares to expend the trained energies of his
mind upon the manufacture of toys, it will come to pass (upon the
accidental hypothesis of creation) that artists will become shy of
justifying their own title. They will adopt the scientific method of
merely collecting and describing phenomena; but the phenomena will no
longer be arranged as parts or developments of a central controlling
idea, because such an arrangement would no longer seem to be founded on
the truth: the gratification which it gives to the mind would be deemed
illusory, the result of tradition and prejudice; or, in other words,
what is true being found no longer consistent with what we have been
accustomed to call beauty, the latter would cease to be an object of
desire, though something widely alien to it might usurp its name. If
beauty be devoid of independent right to be, and definable only as an
attribute of truth, then undoubtedly the cynosure to-day may be the
scarecrow of to-morrow, and _vice versâ_, according to our varying
conception of what truth is.

And, as a matter of fact, art already shows the effects of the agnostic
influence. Artists have begun to doubt whether their old conceptions of
beauty be not fanciful and silly. They betray a tendency to eschew the
loftier flights of the imagination, and confine themselves to what they
call facts. Critics deprecate idealism as something fit only for
children, and extol the courage of seeing and representing things as
they are. Sculpture is either a stern student of modern trousers and
coat-tails or a vapid imitator of classic prototypes. Painters try all
manner of experiments, and shrink from painting beneath the surface of
their canvas. Much of recent effort in the different branches of art
comes to us in the form of "studies," but the complete work still
delays to be born. We would not so much mind having our old idols and
criterions done away with were something new and better, or as good,
substituted for them. But apparently nothing definite has yet been
decided on. Doubt still reigns, and, once more, doubt is not creative.
One of two things must presently happen. The time will come when we
must stop saying that we do not know whether or not God, and all that
God implies, exists, and affirm definitely and finally either that he
does not exist or that he does. That settled, we shall soon see what
will become of art. If there is a God, he will be understood and
worshipped, not superstitiously and literally as heretofore, but in a
new and enlightened spirit; and an art will arise commensurate with
this new and loftier revelation. If there is no God, it is difficult to
see how art can have the face to show herself any more. There is no
place for her in the Religion of Humanity; to be true and living she
can be nothing which it has thus far entered into the heart of man to
call beautiful; and she could only serve to remind us of certain vague
longings and aspirations now proved to be as false as they were vain.
Art is not an orchid: it cannot grow in the air. Unless its root can be
traced as deep down as Yggdrasil, it will wither and vanish, and be
forgotten as it ought to be; and as for the cowslip by the river's
brim, a yellow cowslip it shall be, and nothing more; and the light
that never was on sea or land shall be permanently extinguished, in the
interests of common sense and economy, and (what is least inviting of
all to the unregenerate mind) we shall speedily get rid of the notion
that we have lost anything worth preserving.

This, however, is only what may be, and our concern at present is with
things as they are. It has been observed that American writers have
shown themselves more susceptible of the new influences than most
others, partly no doubt from a natural sensitiveness of organization,
but in some measure also because there are with us no ruts and fetters
of old tradition from which we must emancipate ourselves before
adopting anything new. We have no past, in the European sense, and so
are ready for whatever the present or the future may have to suggest.
Nevertheless, the novelist who, in a larger degree than any other,
seems to be the literary parent of our own best men of fiction, is
himself not an American, nor even an Englishman, but a
Russian--Turguénieff. His series of extraordinary novels, translated
into English and French, is altogether the most important fact in the
literature of fiction of the last twelve years. To read his books you
would scarcely imagine that their author could have had any knowledge
of the work of his predecessors in the same field. Originality is a
term indiscriminately applied, and generally of trifling significance,
but so far as any writer may be original, Turguénieff is so. He is no
less original in the general scheme and treatment of his stories than
in their details. Whatever he produces has the air of being the outcome
of his personal experience and observation. He even describes his
characters, their aspect, features, and ruling traits, in a novel and
memorable manner. He seizes on them from a new point of vantage, and
uses scarcely any of the hackneyed and conventional devices for
bringing his portraits before our minds; yet no writer, not even
Carlyle, has been more vivid, graphic, and illuminating than he. Here
are eyes that owe nothing to other eyes, but examine and record for
themselves. Having once taken up a character he never loses his grasp
on it: on the contrary, he masters it more and more, and only lets go
of it when the last recesses of its organism have been explored. In the
quality and conduct of his plots he is equally unprecedented. His
scenes are modern, and embody characteristic events and problems in the
recent history of Russia. There is in their arrangement no attempt at
symmetry, nor poetic justice. Temperament and circumstances are made to
rule, and against their merciless fiat no appeal is allowed. Evil does
evil to the end; weakness never gathers strength; even goodness never
varies from its level: it suffers, but is not corrupted; it is the
goodness of instinct, not of struggle and aspiration; it happens to
belong to this or that person, just as his hair happens to be black or
brown. Everything in the surroundings and the action is to the last
degree matter-of-fact, commonplace, inevitable; there are no
picturesque coincidences, no providential interferences, no desperate
victories over fate; the tale, like the world of the materialist, moves
onward from a predetermined beginning to a helpless and tragic close.
And yet few books have been written of deeper and more permanent
fascination than these. Their grim veracity; the creative sympathy and
steady dispassionateness of their portrayal of mankind; their constancy
of motive, and their sombre earnestness, have been surpassed by none.
This earnestness is worth dwelling upon for a moment. It bears no
likeness to the dogmatism of the bigot or the fanaticism of the
enthusiast. It is the concentration of a broadly gifted masculine mind,
devoting its unstinted energies to depicting certain aspects of society
and civilization, which are powerfully representative of the tendencies
of the day. "Here is the unvarnished fact--give heed to it!" is the
unwritten motto. The author avoids betraying, either explicitly or
implicitly, the tendency of his own sympathies; not because he fears to
have them known, but because he holds it to be his office simply to
portray, and to leave judgment thereupon where, in any case, it must
ultimately rest--with the world of his readers. He tells us what is; it
is for us to consider whether it also must be and shall be. Turguénieff
is an artist by nature, yet his books are not intentionally works of
art; they are fragments of history, differing from real life only in
presenting such persons and events as are commandingly and exhaustively
typical, and excluding all others. This faculty of selection is one of
the highest artistic faculties, and it appears as much in the minor as
in the major features of the narrative. It indicates that Turguénieff
might, if he chose, produce a story as faultlessly symmetrical as was
ever framed. Why, then, does he not so choose? The reason can only be
that he deems the truth-seeming of his narrative would thereby be
impaired. "He is only telling a story," the reader would say, "and he
shapes the events and persons so as to fit the plot." But is this
reason reasonable? To those who believe that God has no hand in the
ordering of human affairs, it undoubtedly is reasonable. To those who
believe the contrary, however, it appears as if the story of no human
life or complex of lives could be otherwise than a rounded and perfect
work of art--provided only that the spectator takes note, not merely of
the superficial accidents and appearances, but also of the underlying
divine purpose and significance. The absence of this recognition in
Turguénieff's novels is the explanation of them: holding the creed
their author does, he could not have written them otherwise; and, on
the other hand, had his creed been different, he very likely would not
have written novels at all.

The pioneer, in whatever field of thought or activity, is apt to be
also the most distinguished figure therein. The consciousness of being
the first augments the keenness of his impressions, and a mind that can
see and report in advance of others a new order of things may claim a
finer organization than the ordinary. The vitality of nature animates
him who has insight to discern her at first hand, whereas his followers
miss the freshness of the morning, because, instead of discovering,
they must be content to illustrate and refine. Those of our writers who
betray Turguénieff's influence are possibly his superiors in finish and
culture, but their faculty of convincing and presenting is less. Their
interest in their own work seems less serious than his; they may
entertain us more, but they do not move and magnetize so much. The
persons and events of their stories are conscientiously studied, and
are nothing if not natural; but they lack distinction. In an epitome of
life so concise as the longest novel must needs be, to use any but
types is waste of time and space. A typical character is one who
combines the traits or beliefs of a certain class to which he is
affiliated--who is, practically, all of them and himself besides; and,
when we know him, there is nothing left worth knowing about the others.
In Shakespeare's Hamlet and Enobarbus, in Fielding's Squire Western, in
Walter Scott's Edie Ochiltree and Meg Merrilies, in Balzac's Père
Goriot and Madame Marneff, in Thackeray's Colonel Newcome and Becky
Sharp, in Turguénieff's Bazarof and Dimitri Roudine, we meet persons
who exhaust for us the groups to which they severally belong. Bazarof,
the nihilist, for instance, reveals to us the motives and influences
that have made nihilism, so that we feel that nothing essential on that
score remains to be learnt.

The ability to recognize and select types is a test of a novelist's
talent and experience. It implies energy to rise above the blind walls
of one's private circle of acquaintance; the power to perceive what
phases of thought and existence are to be represented as well as who
represents them; the sagacity to analyze the age or the moment and
reproduce its dominant features. The feat is difficult, and, when done,
by no means blows its own trumpet. On the contrary, the reader must
open his eyes to be aware of it. He finds the story clear and easy of
comprehension; the characters come home to him familiarly and remain
distinctly in his memory; he understands something which was, till now,
vague to him: but he is as likely to ascribe this to an exceptional
lucidity in his own mental condition as to any special merit in the
author. Indeed, it often happens that the author who puts
out-of-the-way personages into his stories--characters that represent
nothing but themselves, or possibly some eccentricity of invention on
their author's part, will gain the latter a reputation for cleverness
higher than his fellow's who portrays mankind in its masses as well as
in its details. But the finest imagination is not that which evolves
strange images, but that which explains seeming contradictions, and
reveals the unity within the difference and the harmony beneath the

Were we to compare our fictitious literature, as a whole, with that of
England, the balance must be immeasurably on the English side. Even
confining ourselves to to-day, and to the prospect of to-morrow, it
must be conceded that, in settled method, in guiding tradition, in
training and associations both personal and inherited, the average
English novelist is better circumstanced than the American.
Nevertheless, the English novelist is not at present writing better
novels than the American. The reason seems to be that he uses no
material which has not been in use for hundreds of years; and to say
that such material begins to lose its freshness is not putting the case
too strongly. He has not been able to detach himself from the
paralyzing background of English conventionality. The vein was rich,
but it is worn out; and the half-dozen pioneers had all the luck.

There is no commanding individual imagination in England--nor, to say
the truth, does there seem to be any in America. But we have what they
have not--a national imaginative tendency. There are no fetters upon
our fancy; and, however deeply our real estate may be mortgaged, there
is freedom for our ideas. England has not yet appreciated the true
inwardness of a favorite phrase of ours,--a new deal. And yet she is
tired to death of her own stale stories; and when, by chance, any one
of her writers happens to chirp out a note a shade different from the
prevailing key, the whole nation pounces down upon him, with a shriek
of half-incredulous joy, and buys him up, at the rate of a million
copies a year. Our own best writers are more read in England, or, at
any rate, more talked about, than their native crop; not so much,
perhaps, because they are different as because their difference is felt
to be of a significant and typical kind. It has in it a gleam of the
new day. They are realistic; but realism, so far as it involves a
faithful study of nature, is useful. The illusion of a loftier reality,
at which we should aim, must be evolved from adequate knowledge of
reality itself. The spontaneous and assured faith, which is the
mainspring of sane imagination, must be preceded by the doubt and
rejection of what is lifeless and insincere. We desire no resurrection
of the Ann Radclyffe type of romance: but the true alternative to this
is not such a mixture of the police gazette and the medical reporter as
Emile Zola offers us. So far as Zola is conscientious, let him live;
but, in so far as he is revolting, let him die. Many things in the
world seem ugly and purposeless; but to a deeper intelligence than
ours, they are a part of beauty and design. What is ugly and
irrelevant, can never enter, as such, into a work of art; because the
artist is bound, by a sacred obligation, to show us the complete curve
only,--never the undeveloped fragments.

But were the firmament of England still illuminated with her Dickenses,
her Thackerays, and her Brontës, I should still hold our state to be
fuller of promise than hers. It may be admitted that almost everything
was against our producing anything good in literature. Our men, in the
first place, had to write for nothing; because the publisher, who can
steal a readable English novel, will not pay for an American novel, for
the mere patriotic gratification of enabling its American author to
write it. In the second place, they had nothing to write about, for the
national life was too crude and heterogeneous for ordinary artistic
purposes. Thirdly, they had no one to write for: because, although, in
one sense, there might be readers enough, in a higher sense there were
scarcely any,--that is to say, there was no organized critical body of
literary opinion, from which an author could confidently look to
receive his just meed of encouragement and praise. Yet, in spite of all
this, and not to mention honored names that have ceased or are ceasing
to cast their living weight into the scale, we are contributing much
that is fresh and original, and something, it may be, that is of
permanent value, to literature. We have accepted the situation; and,
since no straw has been vouchsafed us to make our bricks with, we are
trying manfully to make them without.

It will not be necessary, however, to call the roll of all the able and
popular gentlemen who are contending in the forlorn hope against
disheartening odds; and as for the ladies who have honored our
literature by their contributions, it will perhaps be well to adopt
regarding them a course analogous to that which Napoleon is said to
have pursued with the letters sent to him while in Italy. He left them
unread until a certain time had elapsed, and then found that most of
them no longer needed attention. We are thus brought face to face with
the two men with whom every critic of American novelists has to reckon;
who represent what is carefullest and newest in American fiction; and
it remains to inquire how far their work has been moulded by the
skeptical or radical spirit of which Turguénieff is the chief exemplar.

The author of "Daisy Miller" had been writing for several years before
the bearings of his course could be confidently calculated. Some of his
earlier tales,--as, for example, "The Madonna of the Future,"--while
keeping near reality on one side, are on the other eminently fanciful
and ideal. He seemed to feel the attraction of fairyland, but to lack
resolution to swallow it whole; so, instead of idealizing both persons
and plot, as Hawthorne had ventured to do, he tried to persuade real
persons to work out an ideal destiny. But the tact, delicacy, and
reticence with which these attempts were made did not blind him to the
essential incongruity; either realism or idealism had to go, and step
by step he dismissed the latter, until at length Turguénieff's current
caught him. By this time, however, his culture had become too wide, and
his independent views too confirmed, to admit of his yielding
unconditionally to the great Russian. Especially his critical
familiarity with French literature operated to broaden, if at the same
time to render less trenchant, his method and expression. His
characters are drawn with fastidious care, and closely follow the tones
and fashions of real life. Each utterance is so exactly like what it
ought to be that the reader feels the same sort of pleased surprise as
is afforded by a phonograph which repeats, with all the accidental
pauses and inflections, the speech spoken into it. Yet the words come
through a medium; they are not quite spontaneous; these figures have
not the sad, human inevitableness of Turguénieff's people. The reason
seems to be (leaving the difference between the genius of the two
writers out of account) that the American, unlike the Russian,
recognizes no tragic importance in the situation. To the latter, the
vision of life is so ominous that his voice waxes sonorous and
terrible; his eyes, made keen by foreboding, see the leading elements
of the conflict, and them only; he is no idle singer of an empty day,
but he speaks because speech springs out of him. To his mind, the
foundations of human welfare are in jeopardy, and it is full time to
decide what means may avert the danger. But the American does not think
any cataclysm is impending, or if any there be, nobody can help it. The
subjects that best repay attention are the minor ones of civilization,
culture, behavior; how to avoid certain vulgarities and follies, how to
inculcate certain principles: and to illustrate these points heroic
types are not needed. In other words, the situation being unheroic, so
must the actors be; for, apart from the inspirations of circumstances,
Napoleon no more than John Smith is recognizable as a hero.

Now, in adopting this view, a writer places himself under several
manifest disadvantages. If you are to be an agnostic, it is better (for
novel-writing purposes) not to be a complacent or resigned one.
Otherwise your characters will find it difficult to show what is in
them. A man reveals and classifies himself in proportion to the
severity of the condition or action required of him, hence the American
novelist's people are in considerable straits to make themselves
adequately known to us. They cannot lay bare their inmost soul over a
cup of tea or a picture by Corôt; so, in order to explain themselves,
they must not only submit to dissection at the author's hands, but must
also devote no little time and ingenuity to dissecting themselves and
one another. But dissection is one thing, and the living word rank from
the heart and absolutely reeking of the human creature that uttered
it--the word that Turguénieff's people are constantly uttering--is
another. Moreover, in the dearth of commanding traits and stirring
events, there is a continual temptation to magnify those which are
petty and insignificant. Instead of a telescope to sweep the heavens,
we are furnished with a microscope to detect infusoria. We want a
description of a mountain; and, instead of receiving an outline, naked
and severe, perhaps, but true and impressive, we are introduced to a
tiny field on its immeasurable side, and we go botanizing and
insect-hunting there. This is realism; but it is the realism of
texture, not of form and relation. It encourages our glance to be
near-sighted instead of comprehensive. Above all, there is a misgiving
that we do not touch the writer's true quality, and that these scenes
of his, so elaborately and conscientiously prepared, have cost him much
thought and pains, but not one throb of the heart or throe of the
spirit. The experiences that he depicts have not, one fancies, marked
wrinkles on his forehead or turned his hair gray. There are two kinds
of reserve--the reserve which feels that its message is too mighty for
it, and the reserve which feels that it is too mighty for its message.
Our new school of writers is reserved, but its reserve does not strike
one as being of the former kind. It cannot be said of any one of Mr.
James's stories, "This is his best," or "This is his worst," because no
one of them is all one way. They have their phases of strength and
veracity, and, also, phases that are neither veracious nor strong. The
cause may either lie in a lack of experience in a certain direction on
the writer's part; or else in his reluctance to write up to the
experience he has. The experience in question is not of the ways of the
world,--concerning which Mr. James has every sign of being politely
familiar,--nor of men and women in their every-day aspect; still less
of literary ways and means, for of these, in his own line, he is a
master. The experience referred to is experience of passion. If Mr.
James be not incapable of describing passion, at all events he has
still to show that he is capable of it. He has introduced us to many
characters that seem to have in them capacity for the highest
passion,--as witness Christina Light,--and yet he has never allowed
them an opportunity to develop it. He seems to evade the situation; but
the evasion is managed with so much plausibility that, although we may
be disappointed, or even irritated, and feel, more or less vaguely,
that we have been unfairly dealt with, we are unable to show exactly
where or how the unfairness comes in. Thus his novels might be compared
to a beautiful face, full of culture and good breeding, but lacking
that fire of the eye and fashion of the lip that betray a living human

The other one of the two writers whose names are so often mentioned
together, seems to have taken up the subject of our domestic and social
pathology; and the minute care and conscientious veracity which he has
brought to bear upon his work has not been surpassed, even by
Shakespeare. But, if I could venture a criticism upon his productions,
it would be to the effect that there is not enough fiction in them.
They are elaborate and amiable reports of what we see around us. They
are not exactly imaginative,--in the sense in which I have attempted to
define the word. There are two ways of warning a man against
unwholesome life--one is, to show him a picture of disease; the other
is, to show him a picture of health. The former is the negative, the
latter the positive treatment. Both have their merits; but the latter
is, perhaps, the better adapted to novels, the former to essays. A
novelist should not only know what he has got; he should also know what
he wants. His mind should have an active, or theorizing, as well as a
passive, or contemplative, side. He should have energy to discount the
people he personally knows; the power to perceive what phases of
thought are to be represented, as well as to describe the persons who
happen to be their least inadequate representatives; the sagacity to
analyze the age or the moment, and to reveal its tendency and meaning.
Mr. Howells has produced a great deal of finely wrought tapestry; but
does not seem, as yet, to have found a hall fit to adorn it with.

And yet Mr. James and Mr. Howells have done more than all the rest of
us to make our literature respectable during the last ten years. If
texture be the object, they have brought texture to a fineness never
surpassed anywhere. They have discovered charm and grace in much that
was only blank before. They have detected and described points of human
nature hitherto unnoticed, which, if not intrinsically important, will
one day be made auxiliary to the production of pictures of broader as
well as minuter veracity than have heretofore been produced. All that
seems wanting thus far is a direction, an aim, a belief. Agnosticism
has brought about a pause for a while, and no doubt a pause is
preferable to some kinds of activity. It may enable us, when the time
comes to set forward again, to do so with better equipment and more
intelligent purpose. It will not do to be always at a prophetic heat of
enthusiasm, sympathy, denunciation: the coolly critical mood is also
useful to prune extravagance and promote a sense of responsibility. The
novels of Mr. James and of Mr. Howells have taught us that men and
women are creatures of infinitely complicated structure, and that even
the least of these complications, if it is portrayed at all, is worth
portraying truthfully. But we cannot forget, on the other hand, that
honest emotion and hearty action are necessary to the wholesomeness of
society, because in their absence society is afflicted with a
lamentable sameness and triviality; the old primitive impulses remain,
but the food on which they are compelled to feed is insipid and
unsustaining; our eyes are turned inward instead of outward, and each
one of us becomes himself the Rome towards which all his roads lead.
Such books as these authors have written are not the Great American
Novel, because they take life and humanity not in their loftier, but in
their lesser manifestations. They are the side scenes and the
background of a story that has yet to be written. That story will have
the interest not only of the collision of private passions and efforts,
but of the great ideas and principles which characterize and animate a
nation. It will discriminate between what is accidental and what is
permanent, between what is realistic and what is real, between what is
sentimental and what is sentiment. It will show us not only what we
are, but what we are to be; not only what to avoid, but what to do. It
will rest neither in the tragic gloom of Turguénieff, nor in the
critical composure of James, nor in the gentle deprecation of Howells,
but will demonstrate that the weakness of man is the motive and
condition of his strength. It will not shrink from romance, nor from
ideality, nor from artistic completeness, because it will know at what
depths and heights of life these elements are truly operative. It will
be American, not because its scene is laid or its characters born in
the United States, but because its burden will be reaction against old
tyrannies and exposure of new hypocrisies; a refutation of respectable
falsehoods, and a proclamation of unsophisticated truths. Indeed, let
us take heed and diligently improve our native talent, lest a day come
when the Great American Novel make its appearance, but written in a
foreign language, and by some author who--however purely American at
heart--never set foot on the shores of the Republic.



Contemporary criticism will have it that, in order to create an
American Literature, we must use American materials. The term
"Literature" has, no doubt, come to be employed in a loose sense. The
London _Saturday Review_ has (or used to have until lately) a monthly
two-column article devoted to what it called "American Literature,"
three-fourths of which were devoted to an examination of volumes of
State Histories, Statistical Digests, Records of the Census, and other
such works as were never, before or since, suspected of being
literature; while the remaining fourth mentioned the titles
(occasionally with a line of comment) of whatever productions were at
hand in the way of essays, novels, and poetry. This would seem to
indicate that we may have--nay, are already possessed of--an American
Literature, composed of American materials, provided only that we
consent to adopt the _Saturday Review's_ conception of what literature

Many of us believe, however, that the essays, the novels, and the
poetry, as well as the statistical digests, ought to go to the making
up of a national literature. It has been discovered, however, that the
existence of the former does not depend, to the same extent as that of
the latter, upon the employment of exclusively American material. A
book about the census, if it be not American, is nothing; but a poem or
a romance, though written by a native-born American, who, perhaps, has
never crossed the Atlantic, not only may, but frequently does, have
nothing in it that can be called essentially American, except its
English and, occasionally, its ideas. And the question arises whether
such productions can justly be held to form component parts of what
shall hereafter be recognized as the literature of America.

How was it with the makers of English literature? Beginning with
Chaucer, his "Canterbury Pilgrims" is English, both in scene and
character; it is even mentioned of the Abbess that "Frenche of Paris
was to her unknowe"; but his "Legende of Goode Women" might, so far as
its subject-matter is concerned, have been written by a French, a
Spanish, or an Italian Chaucer, just as well as by the British Daniel.
Spenser's "Faërie Queene" numbers St. George and King Arthur among its
heroes; but its scene is laid in Faërie Lande, if it be laid anywhere,
and it is a barefaced moral allegory throughout. Shakespeare wrote
thirty-seven plays, the elimination of which from English literature
would undeniably be a serious loss to it; yet, of these plays
twenty-three have entirely foreign scenes and characters. Milton, as a
political writer, was English; but his "Paradise Lost and Regained,"
his "Samson," his "Ode on the Nativity," his "Comus," bear no reference
to the land of his birth. Dryden's best-known work to-day is his
"Alexander's Feast." Pope has come down to us as the translator of
Homer. Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne are the great quartet
of English novelists of the last century; but Smollett, in his preface
to "Roderick Random," after an admiring allusion to the "Gil Blas" of
Le Sage, goes on to say: "The following sheets I have modelled on his
plan"; and Sterne was always talking and thinking about Cervantes, and
comparing himself to the great Spaniard: "I think there is more
laughable humor, with an equal degree of Cervantic satire, if not more,
than in the last," he writes of one of his chapters, to "my witty
widow, Mrs. F." Many even of Walter Scott's romances are un-English in
their elements; and the fame of Shelley, Keats, and Byron rests
entirely upon their "foreign" work. Coleridge's poetry and philosophy
bear no technical stamp of nationality; and, to come down to later
times, Carlyle was profoundly imbued with Germanism, while the "Romola"
of George Eliot and the "Cloister and the Hearth" of Charles Reade are
by many considered to be the best of their works. In the above
enumeration innumerable instances in point are, of course, omitted; but
enough have been given, perhaps, to show that imaginative writers have
not generally been disowned by their country on the ground that they
have availed themselves, in their writings, of other scenes and
characters than those of their own immediate neighborhoods.

The statistics of the work of the foremost American writers could
easily be shown to be much more strongly imbued with the specific
flavor of their environment. Benjamin Franklin, though he was an author
before the United States existed, was American to the marrow. The
"Leather-Stocking Tales" of Cooper are the American epic. Irving's
"Knickerbocker" and his "Woolfert's Roost" will long outlast his other
productions. Poe's most popular tale, "The Gold-Bug," is American in
its scene, and so is "The Mystery of Marie Roget," in spite of its
French nomenclature; and all that he wrote is strongly tinged with the
native hue of his strange genius. Longfellow's "Evangeline" and
"Hiawatha" and "Miles Standish," and such poems as "The Skeleton in
Armor" and "The Building of the Ship," crowd out of sight his graceful
translations and adaptations. Emerson is the veritable American eagle
of our literature, so that to be Emersonian is to be American. Whittier
and Holmes have never looked beyond their native boundaries, and
Hawthorne has brought the stern gloom of the Puritan period and the
uneasy theorizings of the present day into harmony with the universal
and permanent elements of human nature. There was certainly nothing
European visible in the crude but vigorous stories of Theodore
Winthrop; and Bret Harte, the most brilliant figure among our later
men, is not only American, but Californian,--as is, likewise, the Poet
of the Sierras. It is not necessary to go any further. Mr. Henry James,
having enjoyed early and singular opportunities of studying the effects
of the recent annual influx of Americans, cultured and otherwise, into
England and the Continent, has very sensibly and effectively, and with
exquisite grace of style and pleasantness of thought, made the
phenomenon the theme of a remarkable series of stories. Hereupon the
cry of an "International School" has been raised, and critics profess
to be seriously alarmed lest we should ignore the signal advantages for
_mise-en-scène_ presented by this Western half of the planet, and
should enter into vain and unpatriotic competition with foreign writers
on their own ground. The truth is, meanwhile, that it would have been a
much surer sign of affectation in us to have abstained from literary
comment upon the patent and notable fact of this international
_rapprochement_,--which is just as characteristic an American trait as
the episode of the Argonauts of 1849,--and we have every reason to be
grateful to Mr. Henry James, and to his school, if he has any, for
having rescued us from the opprobrium of so foolish a piece of
know-nothingism. The phase is, of course, merely temporary; its
interest and significance will presently be exhausted; but, because we
are American, are we to import no French cakes and English ale? As a
matter of fact, we are too timid and self-conscious; and these
infirmities imply a much more serious obstacle to the formation of a
characteristic literature than does any amount of gadding abroad.

That must be a very shallow literature which depends for its national
flavor and character upon its topography and its dialect; and the
criticism which can conceive of no deeper Americanism than this is
shallower still. What is an American book? It is a book written by an
American, and by one who writes as an American; that is, unaffectedly.
So an English book is a book written by an unaffected Englishman. What
difference can it make what the subject of the writing is? Mr. Henry
James lately brought out a volume of essays on "French Poets and
Novelists." Mr. E. C. Stedman recently published a series of monographs
on "The Victorian Poets." Are these books French and English, or are
they nondescript, or are they American? Not only are they American, but
they are more essentially American than if they had been disquisitions
upon American literature. And the reason is, of course, that they
subject the things of the old world to the tests of the new, and
thereby vindicate and illustrate the characteristic mission of America
to mankind. We are here to hold up European conventionalisms and
prejudices in the light of the new day, and thus afford everybody the
opportunity, never heretofore enjoyed, of judging them by other
standards, and in other surroundings than those amidst which they came
into existence. In the same way, Emerson's "English Traits" is an
American thing, and it gives categorical reasons why American things
should be. And what is an American novel except a novel treating of
persons, places, and ideas from an American point of view? The point of
view is _the_ point, not the thing seen from it.

But it is said that "the great American novel," in order fully to
deserve its name, ought to have American scenery. Some thousands of
years ago, the Greeks had a novelist--Homer--who evolved the great
novel of that epoch; but the scenery of that novel was Trojan, not
Greek. The story is a criticism, from a Greek standpoint, of foreign
affairs, illustrated with practical examples; and, as regards
treatment, quite as much care is bestowed upon the delineation of
Hector, Priam, and Paris, as upon Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Achilles.
The same story, told by a Trojan Homer, would doubtless have been very
different; but it is by no means certain that it would have been any
better told. It embodies, whether symbolically or literally matters
not, the triumph of Greek ideas and civilization. But, even so, the
sympathies of the reader are not always, or perhaps uniformly, on the
conquering side. Homer was doubtless a patriot, but he shows no signs
of having been a bigot. He described that great international episode
with singular impartiality; what chiefly interested him was the play of
human nature. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Greeks were
backward in admitting his claims as their national poet; and we may
legitimately conclude that were an American Homer--whether in prose or
poetry--to appear among us, he might pitch his scene where he liked--in
Patagonia, or on the banks of the Zambezi--and we should accept the
situation with perfect equanimity. Only let him be a native of New
York, or Boston, or San Francisco, or Mullenville, and be inspired with
the American idea, and we ask no more. Whatever he writes will belong
to our literature, and add lustre to it.

One hears many complaints about the snobbishness of running after
things European. Go West, young man, these moralists say, or go down
Fifth Avenue, and investigate Chatham Street, and learn that all the
elements of romance, to him who has the seeing eye, lie around your own
front doorstep and back yard. But let not these persons forget that he
who fears Europe is a less respectable snob than he who studies it. Let
us welcome Europe in our books as freely as we do at Castle Garden; we
may do so safely. If our digestion be not strong enough to assimilate
her, and work up whatever is valuable in her into our own bone and
sinew, then America is not the thing we took her for. For what is
America? Is it simply a reproduction of one of these Eastern
nationalities, which we are so fond of alluding to as effete? Surely
not. It is a new departure in history; it is a new door opened to the
development of the human race, or, as I should prefer to say, of
humanity. We are misled by the chatter of politicians and the bombast
of Congress. In the course of ages, the time has at last arrived when
man, all over this planet, is entering upon a new career of moral,
intellectual, and political emancipation; and America is the concrete
expression and theatre of that great fact, as all spiritual truths find
their fitting and representative physical incarnation. But what would
this huge western continent be, if America--the real America of the
mind--had no existence? It would be a body without a soul, and would
better, therefore, not be at all. If America is to be a repetition of
Europe on a larger scale, it is not worth the pain of governing it.
Europe has shown what European ideas can accomplish; and whatever fresh
thought or impulse comes to birth in it can be nothing else than an
American thought and impulse, and must sooner or later find its way
here, and become naturalized with its brethren. Buds and blossoms of
America are sprouting forth all over the Old World, and we gather in
the fruit. They do not find themselves at home there, but they know
where their home is. The old country feels them like thorns in her old
flesh, and is gladly rid of them; but such prickings are the only
wholesome and hopeful symptoms she presents; if they ceased to trouble
her, she would be dead indeed. She has an uneasy experience before her,
for a time; but the time will come when she, too, will understand that
her ease is her disease, and then Castle Garden may close its doors,
for America will be everywhere.

If, then, America is something vastly more than has hitherto been
understood by the word nation, it is proper that we attach to that
other word, patriotism, a significance broader and loftier than has
been conceived till now. By so much as the idea that we represent is
great, by so much are we, in comparison with it, inevitably chargeable
with littleness and short-comings. For we are of the same flesh and
blood as our neighbors; it is only our opportunities and our
responsibilities that are fairer and weightier than theirs.
Circumstances afford every excuse to them, but none to us. "_E Pluribus
Unum_" is a frivolous motto; our true one should be, "_Noblesse
oblige_." But, with a strange perversity, in all matters of comparison
between ourselves and others, we display what we are pleased to call
our patriotism by an absurd touchiness as to points wherein Europe,
with its settled and polished civilization, must needs be our superior;
and are quite indifferent about those things by which our real strength
is constituted. Can we not be content to learn from Europe the graces,
the refinements, the amenities of life, so long as we are able to teach
her life itself? For my part, I never saw in England any appurtenance
of civilization, calculated to add to the convenience and
commodiousness of existence, that did not seem to me to surpass
anything of the kind that we have in this country. Notwithstanding
which--and I am far, indeed, from having any pretensions to
asceticism--I would have been fairly stifled at the idea of having to
spend my life there. No American can live in Europe, unless he means to
return home, or unless, at any rate, he returns here in mind, in hope,
in belief. For an American to accept England, or any other country, as
both a mental and physical finality, would, it seems to me, be
tantamount to renouncing his very life. To enjoy English comforts at
the cost of adopting English opinions, would be about as pleasant as to
have the privilege of retaining one's body on condition of surrendering
one's soul, and would, indeed, amount to just about the same thing.

I fail, therefore, to feel any apprehension as to our literature
becoming Europeanized, because whatever is American in it must lie
deeper than anything European can penetrate. More than that, I believe
and hope that our novelists will deal with Europe a great deal more,
and a great deal more intelligently, than they have done yet. It is a
true and healthy artistic instinct that leads them to do so.
Hawthorne--and no American writer had a better right than he to
contradict his own argument--says, in the preface to the "Marble Faun,"
in a passage that has been often quoted, but will bear repetition:--

    "Italy, as the site of a romance, was chiefly valuable to him as <
    affording a sort of poetic or fairy precinct, where actualities would
    not be so terribly insisted on as they are, and must needs be, in
    America. No author, without a trial, can conceive of the difficulty of
    writing a romance about a country where there is no shadow, no
    antiquity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong, nor anything
    but a commonplace prosperity, in broad and simple daylight, as is
    happily the case with my dear native land. It will be very long, I
    trust, before romance writers may find congenial and easily handled
    themes, either in the annals of our stalwart Republic, or in any
    characteristic and probable events of our individual lives. Romance
    and poetry, ivy, lichens, and wall-flowers, need ruin to make them

Now, what is to be understood from this passage? It assumes, in the
first place, that a work of art, in order to be effective, must contain
profound contrasts of light and shadow; and then it points out that the
shadow, at least, is found ready to the hand in Europe. There is no
hint of patriotic scruples as to availing one's self of such a
"picturesque and gloomy" background; if it is to be had, then let it be
taken; the main object to be considered is the work of art. Europe, in
short, afforded an excellent quarry, from which, in Hawthorne's
opinion, the American novelist might obtain materials which are
conspicuously deficient in his own country, and which that country is
all the better for not possessing. In the "Marble Faun" the author had
conceived a certain idea, and he considered that he had been not
unsuccessful in realizing it. The subject was new, and full of especial
attractions to his genius, and it would manifestly have been impossible
to adapt it to an American setting. There was one drawback connected
with it, and this Hawthorne did not fail to recognize. He remarks in
the preface that he had "lived too long abroad not to be aware that a
foreigner seldom acquires that knowledge of a country at once flexible
and profound, which may justify him in endeavoring to idealize its
traits." But he was careful not to attempt "a portraiture of Italian
manners and character." He made use of the Italian scenery and
atmosphere just so far as was essential to the development of his idea,
and consistent with the extent of his Italian knowledge; and, for the
rest, fell back upon American characters and principles. The result has
been long enough before the world to have met with a proper
appreciation. I have heard regret expressed that the power employed by
the author in working out this story had not been applied to a romance
dealing with a purely American subject. But to analyze this objection
is to dispose of it. A man of genius is not, commonly, enfeebled by his
own productions; and, physical accidents aside, Hawthorne was just as
capable of writing another "Scarlet Letter" after the "Marble Faun" was
published, as he had been before. Meanwhile, few will deny that our
literature would be a loser had the "Marble Faun" never been written.

The drawback above alluded to is, however, not to be underrated. It may
operate in two ways. In the first place, the American's European
observations may be inaccurate. As a child, looking at a sphere, might
suppose it to be a flat disc, shaded at one side and lighted at the
other, so a sightseer in Europe may ascribe to what he beholds
qualities and a character quite at variance with what a more
fundamental knowledge would have enabled him to perceive. In the second
place, the stranger in a strange land, be he as accurate as he may,
will always tend to look at what is around him objectively, instead of
allowing it subjectively--or, as it were, unconsciously--to color his
narrative. He will be more apt directly to describe what he sees, than
to convey the feeling or aroma of it without description. It would
doubtless, for instance, be possible for Mr. Henry James to write an
"English" or even a "French" novel without falling into a single
technical error; but it is no less certain that a native writer, of
equal ability, would treat the same subject in a very different manner.
Mr. James's version might contain a great deal more of definite
information; but the native work would insinuate an impression which
both comes from and goes to a greater depth of apprehension.

But, on the other hand, it is not contended that any American should
write an "English" or anything but an "American" novel. The contention
is, simply, that he should not refrain from using foreign material,
when it happens to suit his exigencies, merely because it is foreign.
Objective writing may be quite as good reading as subjective writing,
in its proper place and function. In fiction, no more than elsewhere,
may a writer pretend to be what he is not, or to know what he knows
not. When he finds himself abroad, he must frankly admit his situation;
and more will not then be required of him than he is fairly competent
to afford. It will seldom happen, as Hawthorne intimates, that he can
successfully reproduce the inner workings and philosophy of European
social and political customs and peculiarities; but he can give a
picture of the scenery as vivid as can the aborigine, or more so; he
can make an accurate study of personal native character; and, finally,
and most important of all, he can make use of the conditions of
European civilization in events, incidents, and situations which would
be impossible on this side of the water. The restrictions, the
traditions, the law, and the license of those old countries are full of
suggestions to the student of character and circumstances, and supply
him with colors and effects that he would else search for in vain. For
the truth may as well be admitted; we are at a distinct disadvantage,
in America, in respect of the materials of romance. Not that vigorous,
pathetic, striking stories may not be constructed here; and there is
humor enough, the humor of dialect, of incongruity of character; but,
so far as the story depends for its effect, not upon psychical and
personal, but upon physical and general events and situations, we soon
feel the limit of our resources. An analysis of the human soul, such as
may be found in the "House of the Seven Gables," for instance, is
absolute in its interest, apart from outward conditions. But such an
analysis cannot be carried on, so to say, _in vacuo_. You must have
solid ground to stand on; you must have fitting circumstances,
background, and perspective. The ruin of a soul, the tragedy of a
heart, demand, as a necessity of harmony and picturesque effect, a
corresponding and conspiring environment and stage--just as, in music,
the air in the treble is supported and reverberated by the bass
accompaniment. The immediate, contemporary act or predicament loses
more than half its meaning and impressiveness if it be re-echoed from
no sounding-board in the past--its notes, however sweetly and truly
touched, fall flatly on the ear. The deeper we attempt to pitch the key
of an American story, therefore, the more difficulty shall we find in
providing a congruous setting for it; and it is interesting to note how
the masters of the craft have met the difficulty. In the "Seven
Gables"--and I take leave to say that if I draw illustrations from this
particular writer, it is for no other reason than that he presents,
more forcibly than most, a method of dealing with the special problem
we are considering--Hawthorne, with the intuitive skill of genius,
evolves a background, and produces a reverberation, from materials
which he may be said to have created almost as much as discovered. The
idea of a house, founded two hundred years ago upon a crime, remaining
ever since in possession of its original owners, and becoming the
theatre, at last, of the judgment upon that crime, is a thoroughly
picturesque idea, but it is thoroughly un-American. Such a thing might
conceivably occur, but nothing in this country could well be more
unlikely. No one before Hawthorne had ever thought of attempting such a
thing; at all events, no one else, before or since, has accomplished
it. The preface to the romance in question reveals the principle upon
which its author worked, and incidentally gives a new definition of the
term "romance,"--a definition of which, thus far, no one but its
propounder has known how to avail himself. It amounts, in fact, to an
acknowledgment that it is impossible to write a "novel" of American
life that shall be at once artistic, realistic, and profound. A novel,
he says, aims at a "very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible,
but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience." A
romance, on the other hand, "while, as a work of art, it must rigidly
subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may
swerve aside from the truth of the human heart, has fairly a right to
present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the
writer's own choosing or creation. If he think fit, also, he may so
manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out and mellow the lights,
and deepen and enrich the shadows, of the picture." This is good
advice, no doubt, but not easy to follow. We can all understand,
however, that the difficulties would be greatly lessened could we but
command backgrounds of the European order. Thackeray, the Brontës,
George Eliot, and others have written great stories, which did not have
to be romances, because the literal conditions of life in England have
a picturesqueness and a depth which correspond well enough with
whatever moral and mental scenery we may project upon them. Hawthorne
was forced to use the scenery and capabilities of his native town of
Salem. He saw that he could not present these in a realistic light, and
his artistic instinct showed him that he must modify or veil the
realism of his figures in the same degree and manner as that of his
accessories. No doubt, his peculiar genius and temperament eminently
qualified him to produce this magical change; it was a remarkable
instance of the spontaneous marriage, so to speak, of the means to the
end; and even when, in Italy, he had an opportunity to write a story
which should be accurate in fact, as well as faithful to "the truth of
the human heart," he still preferred a subject which bore to the
Italian environment the same relation that the "House of the Seven
Gables" and the "Scarlet Letter" do to the American one; in other
words, the conception of Donatello is removed as much further than
Clifford or Hester Prynne from literal realism as the inherent romance
of the Italian setting is above that of New England. The whole thing is
advanced a step further towards pure idealism, the relative proportions
being maintained.

"The Blithedale Romance" is only another instance in point, and here,
as before, we find the principle admirably stated in the preface. "In
the old countries," says Hawthorne, "a novelist's work is not put
exactly side by side with nature; and he is allowed a license with
regard to everyday probability, in view of the improved effects he is
bound to produce thereby. Among ourselves, on the contrary, there is as
yet no Faëry Land, so like the real world that, in a suitable
remoteness, we cannot well tell the difference, but with an atmosphere
of strange enchantment, beheld through which the inhabitants have a
propriety of their own. This atmosphere is what the American romancer
needs. In its absence, the beings of his imagination are compelled to
show themselves in the same category as actually living mortals; a
necessity that renders the paint and pasteboard of their composition
but too painfully discernible." Accordingly, Hawthorne selects the
Brook Farm episode (or a reflection of it) as affording his drama "a
theatre, a little removed from the highway of ordinary travel, where
the creatures of his brain may play their phantasmagorical antics,
without exposing them to too close a comparison with the actual events
of real lives." In this case, therefore, an exceptional circumstance is
made to answer the same purpose that was attained by different means in
the other romances.

But in what manner have our other writers of fiction treated the
difficulties that were thus dealt with by Hawthorne?--Herman Melville
cannot be instanced here; for his only novel or romance, whichever it
be, was also the most impossible of all his books, and really a
terrible example of the enormities which a man of genius may perpetrate
when working in a direction unsuited to him. I refer, of course, to
"Pierre, or the Ambiguities." Oliver Wendell Holmes's two delightful
stories are as favorable examples of what can be done, in the way of an
American novel, by a wise, witty, and learned gentleman, as we are
likely to see. Nevertheless, one cannot avoid the feeling that they are
the work of a man who has achieved success and found recognition in
other ways than by stories, or even poems and essays. The interest, in
either book, centres round one of those physiological phenomena which
impinge so strangely upon the domain of the soul; for the rest, they
are simply accurate and humorous portraitures of local dialects and
peculiarities, and thus afford little assistance in the search for a
universally applicable rule of guidance. Doctor Holmes, I believe,
objects to having the term "medicated" applied to his tales; but surely
the adjective is not reproachful; it indicates one of the most charming
and also, alas! inimitable features of his work.

Bret Harte is probably as valuable a witness as could be summoned in
this case. His touch is realistic, and yet his imagination is poetic
and romantic. He has discovered something. He has done something both
new and good. Within the space of some fifty pages, he has painted a
series of pictures which will last as long as anything in the fifty
thousand pages of Dickens. Taking "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" as
perhaps the most nearly perfect of the tales, as well as the most truly
representative of the writer's powers, let us try to guess its secret.
In the first place, it is very short,--a single episode, succinctly and
eloquently told. The descriptions of scenery and persons are masterly
and memorable. The characters of these persons, their actions, and the
circumstances of their lives, are as rugged, as grotesque, as terrible,
and also as beautiful, as the scenery. Thus an artistic harmony is
established,--the thing which is lacking in so much of our literature.
The story moves swiftly on, through humor, pathos, and tragedy, to its
dramatic close. It is given with perfect literary taste, and naught in
its phases of human nature is either extenuated or set down in malice.
The little narrative can be read in a few minutes, and can never be
forgotten. But it is only an episode; and it is an episode of an
episode,--that of the Californian gold-fever. The story of the
Argonauts is only one story, after all, and these tales of Harte's are
but so many facets of the same gem. They are not, however, like
chapters in a romance; there is no such vital connection between them
as develops a cumulative force. We are no more impressed after reading
half a dozen of them than after the first; they are variations of the
same theme. They discover to us no new truth about human nature; they
only show us certain human beings so placed as to act out their naked
selves,--to be neither influenced nor protected by the rewards and
screens of conventional civilization. The affectation and insincerity
of our daily life make such a spectacle fresh and pleasing to us. But
we enjoy it because of its unexpectedness, its separateness, its
unlikeness to the ordinary course of existence. It is like a huge,
strange, gorgeous flower, an exaggeration and intensification of such
flowers as we know; but a flower without roots, unique, never to be
reproduced. It is fitting that its portrait should be painted; but,
once done, it is done with; we cannot fill our picture-gallery with it.
Carlyle wrote the History of the French Revolution, and Bret Harte has
written the History of the Argonauts; but it is absurd to suppose that
a national literature could be founded on either episode.

But though Mr. Harte has not left his fellow-craftsmen anything to
gather from the lode which he opened and exhausted, we may still learn
something from his method. He took things as he found them, and he
found them disinclined to weave themselves into an elaborate and
balanced narrative. He recognized the deficiency of historical
perspective, but he saw that what was lost in slowly growing,
culminating power was gained in vivid, instant force. The deeds of his
character could not be represented as the final result of
long-inherited proclivities; but they could appear between their motive
and their consequence, like the draw--aim--fire! of the Western
desperado,--as short, sharp, and conclusive. In other words, the
conditions of American life, as he saw it, justified a short story, or
any number of them, but not a novel; and the fact that he did
afterwards attempt a novel only served to confirm his original
position. I think that the limitation that he discovered is of much
wider application than we are prone to realize. American life has been,
as yet, nothing but a series of episodes, of experiments. There has
been no such thing as a fixed and settled condition of society, not
subject to change itself, and therefore affording a foundation and
contrast to minor or individual vicissitudes. We cannot write
American-grown novels, because a novel is not an episode, nor an
aggregation of episodes; we cannot write romances in the Hawthorne
sense, because, as yet, we do not seem to be clever enough. Several
courses are, however, open to us, and we are pursuing them all. First,
we are writing "short stories," accounts of episodes needing no
historical perspective, and not caring for any; and, so far as one may
judge, we write the best short stories in the world. Secondly, we may
spin out our short stories into long-short stories, just as we may
imagine a baby six feet high; it takes up more room, but is just as
much a baby as one of twelve inches. Thirdly, we may graft our flower
of romance on a European stem, and enjoy ourselves as much as the
European novelists do, and with as clear a conscience. We are stealing
that which enriches us and does not impoverish them. It is silly and
childish to make the boundaries of the America of the mind coincide
with those of the United States. We need not dispute about free trade
and protection here; literature is not commerce, nor is it politics.
America is not a petty nationality, like France, England, and Germany;
but whatever in such nationalities tends toward enlightenment and
freedom is American. Let us not, therefore, confirm ourselves in a
false and ignoble conception of our meaning and mission in the world.
Let us not carry into the temple of the Muse the jealousies, the
prejudice, the ignorance, the selfishness of our "Senate" and
"Representatives," strangely so called! Let us not refuse to breathe
the air of Heaven, lest there be something European or Asian in it. If
we cannot have a national literature in the narrow, geographical sense
of the phrase, it is because our inheritance transcends all
geographical definitions. The great American novel may not be written
this year, or even in this century. Meanwhile, let us not fear to ride,
and ride to death, whatever species of Pegasus we can catch. It can do
us no harm, and it may help us to acquire a firmer seat against the
time when our own, our very own winged steed makes his appearance.



Literature is that quality in books which affords delight and
nourishment to the soul. But this is a scientific and skeptical age,
insomuch that one hardly ventures to take for granted that every reader
will know what his soul is. It is not the intellect, though it gives
the intellect light; nor the emotions, though they receive their warmth
from it. It is the most catholic and constant element of human nature,
yet it bears no direct part in the practical affairs of life; it does
not struggle, it does not even suffer; but merely emerges or retires,
glows or congeals, according to the company in which it finds itself.
We might say that the soul is a name for man's innate sympathy with
goodness and truth in the abstract; for no man can have a bad soul,
though his heart may be evil, or his mind depraved, because the soul's
access to the mind or heart has been so obstructed as to leave the
moral consciousness cold and dark. The soul, in other words, is the
only conservative and peacemaker; it affords the only unalterable
ground upon which all men can always meet; it unselfishly identifies or
unites us with our fellows, in contradistinction to the selfish
intellect, which individualizes us and sets each man against every
other. Doubtless, then, the soul is an amiable and desirable
possession, and it would be a pity to deprive it of so much
encouragement as may be compatible with due attention to the serious
business of life. For there are moments, even in the most active
careers, when it seems agreeable to forget competition, rivalry,
jealousy; when it is a rest to think of one's self as a man rather than
a person;--moments when time and place appear impertinent, and that
most profitable which affords least palpable profit. At such seasons, a
man looks inward, or, as the American poet puts it, he loafs and
invites his soul, and then he is at a disadvantage if his soul, in
consequence of too persistent previous neglect, declines to respond to
the invitation, and remains immured in that secret place which, as
years pass by, becomes less and less accessible to so many of us.

When I say that literature nourishes the soul, I implicitly refuse the
title of literature to anything in books that either directly or
indirectly promotes any worldly or practical use. Of course, what is
literature to one man may be anything but literature to another, or to
the same man under different circumstances; Virgil to the schoolboy,
for instance, is a very different thing from the Virgil of the scholar.
But whatever you read with the design of improving yourself in some
profession, or of acquiring information likely to be of advantage to
you in any pursuit or contingency, or of enabling yourself to hold your
own with other readers, or even of rendering yourself that enviable
nondescript, a person of culture,--whatever, in short, is read with any
assignable purpose whatever, is in so far not literature. The Bible may
be literature to Mr. Matthew Arnold, because he reads it for fun; but
to Luther, Calvin, or the pupils of a Sunday-school, it is essentially
something else. Literature is the written communications of the soul of
mankind with itself; it is liable to appear in the most unexpected
places, and in the oddest company; it vanishes when we would grasp it,
and appears when we look not for it. Chairs of literature are
established in the great universities, and it is literature, no doubt,
that the professor discourses; but it ceases to be literature before it
reaches the student's ear; though, again, when the same students
stumble across it in the recesses of their memory ten or twenty years
later, it may have become literature once more. Finally, literature
may, upon occasion, avail a man more than the most thorough technical
information; but it will not be because it supplements or supplants
that information, but because it has so tempered and exalted his
general faculty that whatever he may do is done more clearly and
comprehensively than might otherwise be the case.

Having thus, in some measure, considered what is literature and what
the soul, let us note, further, that the literature proper to manhood
is not proper to childhood, though the reverse is not--or, at least,
never ought to be--true. In childhood, the soul and the mind act in
harmony; the mind has not become preoccupied or sophisticated by
so-called useful knowledge; it responds obediently to the soul's
impulses and intuitions. Children have no morality; they have not yet
descended to the level where morality suggests itself to them. For
morality is the outcome of spiritual pride, the most stubborn and
insidious of all sins; the pride which prompts each of us to declare
himself holier than his fellows, and to support that claim by parading
his docility to the Decalogue. Docility to any set of rules, no matter
of how divine authority, so long as it is inspired by hope of future
good or present advantage, is rather worse than useless: except our
righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees,--that is,
except it be spontaneous righteousness or morality, and, therefore, not
morality, but unconscious goodness,--we shall in no wise have benefited
either ourselves or others. Children, when left to themselves,
artlessly and innocently act out the nature that is common to saint and
sinner alike; they are selfish, angry, and foolish, because their state
is human; and they are loving, truthful, and sincere, because their
origin is divine. All that pleases or agrees with them is good; all
that opposes or offends them is evil, and this, without any reference
whatever to the moral code in vogue among their elders. But, on the
other hand, children cannot be tempted as we are, because they suppose
that everything is free and possible, and because they are as yet
uncontaminated by the artificial cravings which the artificial
prohibitions incident to our civilization create. Life is to them a
constantly widening circle of things to be had and enjoyed; nor does it
ever occur to them that their desires can conflict with those of
others, or with the laws of the universe. They cannot consciously do
wrong, nor understand that any one else can do so; untoward accidents
may happen, but inanimate nature is just as liable to be objectionable
in this respect as human beings: the stone that trips them up, the
thorn that scratches them, the snow that makes their flesh tingle, is
an object of their resentment in just the same kind and degree as are
the men and women who thwart or injure them. But of duty--that dreary
device to secure future reward by present suffering; of
conscientiousness--that fear of present good for the sake of future
punishment; of remorse--that disavowal of past pleasure for fear of the
sting in its tail; of ambition--that begrudging of all honorable
results that are not effected by one's self; of these, and all similar
politic and arbitrary masks of self-love and pusillanimity, these poor
children know and suspect nothing. Yet their eyes are much keener than
ours, for they see through the surface of nature and perceive its
symbolism; they see the living reality, of which nature is the veil,
and are continually at fault because this veil is not, after all, the
reality,--because it is fixed and unplastic. The "deep mind of
dauntless infancy" is, in fact, the only revelation we have, except
divine revelation itself, of that pure and natural life of man which we
dream of, and liken to heaven; but we, nevertheless, in our penny-wise,
pound-foolish way, insist upon regarding it as ignorance, and do our
best, from the earliest possible moment, to disenchant and dispel it.
We call the outrage education, understanding thereby the process of
exterminating in the child the higher order of faculties and the
intuitions, and substituting for them the external memory, timidity,
self-esteem, and all that armament of petty weapons and defences which
may enable us to get the better of our fellow-creatures in this world,
and receive the reward of our sagacity in the next. The success of our
efforts is pitiably complete; for though the child, if fairly engaged
in single combat, might make a formidable resistance against the
infliction of "lessons," it cannot long withstand our crafty device of
sending it to a place where it sees a score or a hundred of little
victims like itself, all being driven to the same Siberia. The spirit
of emulation is aroused, and lo! away they all scamper, each straining
its utmost to reach the barren goal ahead of all competitors. So do we
make the most ignoble passions of our children our allies in the unholy
task of divesting them of their childhood. And yet, who is not aware
that the best men the world has seen have been those who, throughout
their lives, retained the aroma of childlike simplicity which they
brought with them into existence? Learning--the acquisition of specific
facts--is not wisdom; it is almost incompatible with wisdom; indeed,
unless the mind be powerful enough not only to fuse its facts, but to
vaporize them,--to sublimate them into an impalpable atmosphere,--they
will stand in wisdom's way. Wisdom comes from the pondering and the
application to life of certain truths quite above the sphere of facts,
and of infinitely more moment and less complexity,--truths which are
often found to be in accordance with the spiritual instinct called
intuition, which children possess more fully than grown persons. The
wisdom of our children would often astonish us, if we would only
forbear the attempt to make them knowing, and submissively accept
instruction from them. Through all the imperfection of their inherited
infirmity, we shall ever and anon be conscious of the radiance of a
beautiful, unconscious intelligence, worth more than the smartness of
schools and the cleverness of colleges. But no; we abhor the very
notion of it, and generally succeed in extinguishing it long before the
Three R's are done with.

And yet, by wisely directing the child's use of the first of the Three,
much of the ill effects of the trio and their offspring might be
counteracted. If we believed--if the great mass of people known as the
civilized world did actually and livingly believe--that there was
really anything beyond or above the physical order of nature, our
children's literature, wrongly so called, would not be what it is. We
believe what we can see and touch; we teach them to believe the same,
and, not satisfied with that, we sedulously warn them not to believe
anything else. The child, let us suppose, has heard from some
unauthorized person that there are fairies--little magical creatures an
inch high, up to all manner of delightful feats. He comprehends the
whole matter at half a word, feels that he had known it already, and
half thinks that he sees one or two on his way home. He runs up to his
mother and tells her about it; and has she ever seen fairies? Alas! His
mother tells him that the existence of such a being as a fairy is
impossible. In old times, when the world was very ignorant and
superstitious, they used to ascribe everything that happened to
supernatural agency; even the trifling daily accidents of one's life,
such as tumbling down stairs, or putting the right shoe on the left
foot, were thought or fancied to be the work of some mysterious power;
and since ignorant people are very apt to imagine they see what they
believe [proceeds this mother] instead of only believing what they see;
and since, furthermore, ignorance disposes to exaggeration and thus to
untruth, these people ended by asserting that they saw fairies. "Now,
my child," continues the parent, "it would grieve me to see you the
victim of such folly. Do not read fairy stories. They are not true to
life; they fill your mind with idle notions; they cannot form your
understanding, or aid you to do your work in the world. If you should
happen to fall in with such fables, be careful as you read to bear in
mind that they are pure inventions--pretty, sometimes, perhaps, but
essentially frivolous, if not immoral. You have, however, thanks to the
enlightened enterprise of writers and publishers, an endless assortment
of juvenile books and periodicals which combine legitimate amusement
with sound and trustworthy instruction. Here are stories about little
children, just like yourself, who talk and act just as you do, and to
whom nothing supernatural or outlandish ever happens; and whose
adventures, when you have read them, convey to you some salutary moral
lesson. What more can you want? Yes, very likely 'Grimm's Tales' and
'The Arabian Nights' may seem more attractive; but in this world many
harmful things put on an inviting guise, which deceives the
inexperienced eye. May my child remember that all is not gold that
glitters, and desire, not what is diverting merely, but what is useful
and ... and conventional!"

Let us admit that, things being as they are, it is necessary to develop
the practical side of the child's nature, to ground him in moral
principles, and to make him comprehend and fear--nominally God, but
really--society. But why, in addition to doing this, should we strangle
the unpractical side of his nature,--the ideal, imaginative, spiritual
side,--the side which alone can determine his value or worthlessness in
eternity? If our minds were visible as our bodies are, we should behold
on every side of us, and in our own private looking-glasses, such
abortions, cripples, and monstrosities as all the slums of Europe and
the East could not parallel. We pretend to make little men and women
out of our children, and we make little dwarfs and hobgoblins out of
them. Moreover, we should not diminish even the practical efficiency of
the coming generation by rejecting their unpractical side. Whether this
boy's worldly destination be to clean a stable or to represent his
country at a foreign court, he will do his work all the better, instead
of worse, for having been allowed freedom of expansion on the ideal
plane. He will do it comprehensively, or as from above downward,
instead of blindly, or as from below upward. To a certain extent, this
position is very generally admitted by instructors nowadays; but the
admission bears little or no fruit. The ideality and imagination which
they have in mind are but a partial and feeble imitation of what is
really signified by those terms. Ideality and imagination are
themselves merely the symptom or expression of the faculty and habit of
spiritual or subjective intuition--a faculty of paramount value in
life, though of late years, in the rush of rational knowledge and
discovery, it has fallen into neglect. But it is by means of this
faculty alone that the great religion of India was constructed--the
most elaborate and seductive of all systems; and although as a faith
Buddhism is also the most treacherous and dangerous attack ever made
upon the immortal welfare of mankind, that circumstance certainly does
not discredit or invalidate the claim to importance of spiritual
intuition itself. It may be objected that spiritual intuition is a
vague term. It undoubtedly belongs to an abstruse region of psychology;
but its meaning for our present purpose is simply the act of testing
questions of the moral consciousness by an inward touchstone of truth,
instead of by external experience or information. That the existence of
such a touchstone should be ridiculed by those who are accustomed to
depend for their belief upon palpable or logical evidence, goes without
saying; but, on the other hand, there need be no collision or argument
on the point, since no question with which intuition is concerned can
ever present itself to persons who pin their faith to the other sort of
demonstration. The reverse of this statement is by no means true; but
it would lead us out of our present path to discuss the matter.

Assuming, however, that intuition is possible, it is evident that it
should exist in children in an extremely pure, if not in its most
potent state; and to deny it opportunity of development might fairly be
called a barbarity. It will hardly be disputed that children are an
important element in society. Without them we should lose the memory of
our youth, and all opportunity for the exercise of unselfish and
disinterested affection. Life would become arid and mechanical to a
degree now scarcely conceivable; chastity and all the human virtues
would cease to exist; marriage would be an aimless and absurd
transaction; and the brotherhood of man, even in the nominal sense that
it now exists, would speedily be abjured. Political economy and
sociology neglect to make children an element in their arguments and
deductions, and no small part of their error is attributable to that
circumstance. But although children still are born, and all the world
acknowledges their paramount moral and social value, the general
tendency of what we are forced to call education at the present day is
to shorten as much as possible the period of childhood. In America and
Germany especially--but more in America than in Germany--children are
urged and stimulated to "grow up" almost before they have been
short-coated. That conceptions of order and discipline should be early
instilled into them is proper enough; but no other order and discipline
seems to be contemplated by educators than the forcing them to stand
and be stuffed full of indigestible and incongruous knowledge, than
which proceeding nothing more disorderly could be devised. It looks as
if we felt the innocence and naturalness of our children to be a rebuke
to us, and wished to do away with it in short order. There is something
in the New Testament about offending the little ones, and the preferred
alternative thereto; and really we are outraging not only the objective
child, but the subjective one also--that in ourselves, namely, which is
innocent and pure, and without which we had better not be at all. Now I
do not mean to say that the only medicine that can cure this malady is
legitimate children's literature; wise parents are also very useful,
though not perhaps so generally available. My present contention is
that the right sort of literature is an agent of great efficiency, and
may be very easily come by. Children derive more genuine enjoyment and
profit from a good book than most grown people are susceptible of: they
see what is described, and themselves enact and perfect the characters
of the story as it goes along.

Nor is it indispensable that literature of the kind required should
forthwith be produced; a great deal, of admirable quality, is already
on hand. There are a few great poems----Spenser's "Faërie Queene" is
one--which no well regulated child should be without; but poetry in
general is not exactly what we want. Children--healthy children--never
have the poetic genius; but they are born mystics, and they have the
sense of humor. The best way to speak to them is in prose, and the best
kind of prose is the symbolic. The hermetic philosophers of the Middle
Ages are probably the authors of some of the best children's stories
extant. In these tales, disguised beneath what is apparently the
simplest and most artless flow of narrative, profound truths are
discussed and explained. The child reads the narrative, and certainly
cannot be accused of comprehending the hidden philosophical problem;
yet that also has its share in charming him. The reason is partly that
true symbolic or figurative writing is the simplest form known to
literature. The simplest, that is to say, in outward form,--it may be
indefinitely abstruse as to its inward contents. Indeed, the very cause
of its formal simplicity is its interior profundity. The principle of
hermetic writing was, as we know, to disguise philosophical
propositions and results under a form of words which should ostensibly
signify some very ordinary and trivial thing. It was a secret language,
in the vocabulary of which material facts are used to represent
spiritual truths. But it differed from ordinary secret language in
this, that not only were the truths represented in the symbols, but the
philosophical development of the truth, in its ramifications, was
completely evolved under the cover of a logically consistent tale.
This, evidently, is a far higher achievement of ingenuity than merely
to string together a series of unrelated parts of speech, which, on
being tested by the "key," shall discover the message or information
really intended. It is, in fact, a practical application of the
philosophical discovery, made by or communicated to the hermetic
philosophers, that every material object in nature answers to or
corresponds with a certain one or group of philosophical truths. Viewed
in this light, the science of symbols or of correspondences ceases to
be an arbitrary device, susceptible of alteration according to fancy,
and avouches itself an essential and consistent relation between the
things of the mind and the things of the senses. There is a complete
mental creation, answering to the material creation, not continuously
evolved from it, but on a different or detached plane. The sun,--to
take an example,--the source of light and heat, and thereby of physical
nature, is in these fables always the symbol of God, of love and
wisdom, by which the spirit of man is created. Light, then, answers to
wisdom, and heat to love. And since all physical substances are the
result of the combined action of light and heat, we may easily perceive
how these hermetic sages were enabled to use every physical object as a
cloak of its corresponding philosophical truth,--with no other
liability to error than might result from the imperfect condition of
their knowledge of physical laws.

To return, however, to the children, I need scarcely remark that the
cause of children's taking so kindly to hermetic writing is that it is
actually a living writing; it is alive in precisely the same way that
nature, or man himself, is alive. Matter is dead; life organizes and
animates it. And all writing is essentially dead which is a mere
transcript of fact, and is not inwardly organized and vivified by a
spiritual significance. Children do not know what it is that makes a
human being smile, move, and talk; but they know that such a phenomenon
is infinitely more interesting than a doll; and they prove it by
themselves supplying the doll with speech and motions out of their own
minds, so as to make it as much like a real person as possible. In the
same way, they do not perceive the philosophical truth which is the
cause of existence of the hermetic fable; but they find that fable far
more juicy and substantial than the ordinary narrative of every-day
facts, because, however fine the surface of the latter may be, it has,
after all, nothing but its surface to recommend it. It has no soul; it
is not alive; and, though they cannot explain why, they feel the
difference between that thin, fixed grimace and the changing smile of
the living countenance.

It would scarcely be practicable, however, to confine the children's
reading to hermetic literature; for not much of it is extant in its
pure state. But it is hardly too much to say that all fairy stories,
and derivations from these, trace their descent from an hermetic
ancestry. They are often unaware of their genealogy; but the sparks of
that primal vitality are in them. The fairy is itself a symbol for the
expression of a more complex and abstract idea; but, once having come
into existence, and being, not a pure symbol, but a hybrid between the
symbol and that for which it stands, it presently began an independent
career of its own. The mediaeval imagination went to work with it,
found it singularly and delightfully plastic to its touch and
requirements, and soon made it the centre of a new and charming world,
in which a whole army of graceful and romantic fancies, which are
always in quest of an arena in which to disport themselves before the
mind, found abundant accommodation and nourishment. The fairy land of
mediaeval Christianity seems to us the most satisfactory of all fairy
lands, probably because it is more in accord with our genius and
prejudices than those of the East; and it fitted in so aptly with the
popular mediaeval ignorance on the subject of natural phenomena, that
it became actually an article of belief with the mass of men, who
trembled at it while they invented it, in the most delicious imaginable
state of enchanted alarm. All this is prime reading for children;
because, though it does not carry an orderly spiritual meaning within
it, it is more spiritual than material, and is constructed entirely
according to the dictates of an exuberant and richly colored, but,
nevertheless, in its own sphere, legitimate imagination. Indeed, fairy
land, though as it were accidentally created, has the same permanent
right to be that Beauty has; it agrees with a genuine aspect of human
nature, albeit one much discountenanced just at present. The sequel to
it, in which romantic human personages are accredited with fairy-like
attributes, as in the "Faërie Queene," already alluded to, is a step in
the wrong direction, but not a step long enough to carry us altogether
outside of the charmed circle. The child's instinct of selection being
vast and cordial,--he will make a grain of true imagination suffuse and
glorify a whole acre of twaddle,---we may with security leave him in
that fantastic society. Moreover, some children being less imaginative
than others, and all children being less imaginative in some moods and
conditions than at other seasons, the elaborate compositions of Tasso,
Cervantes, and the others, though on the boundary line between what is
meat for babes and the other sort of meat, have also their abiding use.

The "Arabian Nights" introduced us to the domain of the Oriental
imagination, and has done more than all the books of travel in the East
to make us acquainted with the Asiatic character and its differences
from our own. From what has already been said on the subject of
spiritual intuition in relation to these races, one is prepared to find
that all the Eastern literature that has any value is hermetic writing,
and therefore, in so far, proper for children. But the incorrigible
subtlety of the Oriental intellect has vitiated much of their
symbology, and the sentiment of sheer wonder is stimulated rather than
that of orderly imagination. To read the "Arabian Nights" or the
"Bhagavad-Gita" is a sort of dissipation; upon the unhackneyed mind of
the child it leaves a reactionary sense of depression. The life which
it embodies is distorted, over-colored, and exciting; it has not the
serene and balanced power of the Western productions. Moreover, these
books were not written with the grave philosophic purpose that animated
our own hermetic school; it is rather a sort of jugglery practised with
the subject---an exercise of ingenuity and invention for their own
sake. It indicates a lack of the feeling of responsibility on the
writers' part,--a result, doubtless, of the prevailing fatalism that
underlies all their thought. It is not essentially wholesome, in short;
but it is immeasurably superior to the best of the productions called
forth by our modern notions of what should be given to children to read.

But I can do no more than touch upon this branch of the subject; nor
will it be possible to linger long over the department of our own
literature which came into being with "Robinson Crusoe." No theory as
to children's books would be worth much attention which found itself
obliged to exclude that memorable work. Although it submits in a
certain measure to classification, it is almost _sui generis_; no book
of its kind, approaching it in merit, has ever been written. In what,
then, does its fascination consist? There is certainly nothing hermetic
about it; it is the simplest and most studiously matter-of-fact
narrative of events, comprehensible without the slightest effort, and
having no meaning that is not apparent on the face of it. And yet
children, and grown people also, read it again and again, and cannot
find it uninteresting. I think the phenomenon may largely be due to the
nature of the subject, which is really of primary and universal
interest to mankind. It is the story of the struggle of man with wild
and hostile nature,--in the larger sense an elementary theme,--his
shifts, his failures, his perils, his fears, his hopes, his successes.
The character of Robinson is so artfully generalized or universalized,
and sympathy for him is so powerfully aroused and maintained, that the
reader, especially the child reader, inevitably identifies himself with
him, and feels his emotions and struggles as his own. The ingredient of
suspense is never absent from the story, and the absence of any plot
prevents us from perceiving its artificiality. It is, in fact, a type
of the history of the human race, not on the higher plane, but on the
physical one; the history of man's contest with and final victory over
physical nature. The very simplicity and obviousness of the details
give them grandeur and comprehensiveness: no part of man's character
which his contact with nature can affect or develop is left untried in
Robinson. He manifests in little all historical earthly experiences of
the race; such is the scheme of the book; and its permanence in
literature is due to the sobriety and veracity with which that scheme
is carried out. To speak succinctly, it does for the body what the
hermetic and cognate literature does for the soul; and for the healthy
man, the body is not less important than the soul in its own place and
degree. It is not the work of the Creator, but it is contingent upon

But poor Robinson has been most unfortunate in his progeny, which at
this day overrun the whole earth, and render it a worse wilderness than
ever was the immortal Crusoe Island. Miss Edgeworth, indeed, might
fairly pose as the most persistently malignant of all sources of error
in the design of children's literature; but it is to be feared that it
was Defoe who first made her aware of the availability of her own
venom. She foisted her prim and narrow moral code upon the commonplace
adventures of a priggish little boy and his companions; and straightway
the whole dreary and disastrous army of sectarians and dogmatists took
up the cry, and have been ringing the lugubrious changes on it ever
since. There is really no estimating the mortal wrong that has been
done to childhood by Maria Edgeworth's "Frank" and "The Parent's
Assistant"; and, for my part, I derive a melancholy joy in availing
myself of this opportunity to express my sense of my personal share in
the injury. I believe that my affection for the human race is as
genuine as the average; but I am sure it would have been greater had
Miss Edgeworth never been born; and were I to come across any
philosophical system whereby I could persuade myself that she belonged
to some other order of beings than the human, I should be strongly
tempted to embrace that system on that ground alone.

After what has been advanced in the preceding pages, it does not need
that I should state how earnestly I deprecate the kind of literary food
which we are now furnishing to the coming generation in such sinister
abundance. I am sure it is written and published with good and
honorable motives; but at the very best it can only do no harm.
Moreover, however well intentioned, it is bad as literature; it is
poorly conceived and written, and, what is worse, it is saturated with
affectation. For an impression prevails that one needs to talk down to
children;--to keep them constantly reminded that they are innocent,
ignorant little things, whose consuming wish it is to be good and go to
Sunday-school, and who will be all gratitude and docility to whomsoever
provides them with the latest fashion of moral sugarplums; whereas, so
far as my experience and information goes, children are the most
formidable literary critics in the world. Matthew Arnold himself has
not so sure an instinct for what is sound and good in a book as any
intelligent little boy or girl of eight years old. They judge
absolutely; they are hampered by no comparisons or relative
considerations. They cannot give chapter and verse for their opinion;
but about the opinion itself there is no doubt. They have no theories;
they judge in a white light. They have no prejudices nor traditions;
they come straight from the simple source of life. But, on the other
hand, they are readily hocussed and made morbid by improper drugs, and
presently, no doubt, lose their appetite for what is wholesome. Now, we
cannot hope that an army of hermetic philosophers or Mother-Gooses will
arise at need and remedy all abuses; but at least we might refrain from
moralizing and instruction, and, if we can do nothing more, confine
ourselves to plain stories of adventure, say, with no ulterior object
whatever. There still remains the genuine literature of the past to
draw upon; but let us beware, as we would of forgery and perjury, of
serving it up, as has been done too often, medicated and modified to
suit the foolish dogmatism of the moment. Hans Christian Andersen was
the last writer of children's stories, properly so called; though,
considering how well married to his muse he was, it is a wonder as well
as a calamity that he left no descendants.



The producers of modern fiction, who have acquiesced more or less
completely in the theory of art for art's sake, are not, perhaps, aware
that a large class of persons still exist who hold fiction to be
unjustifiable, save in so far as the author has it at heart not only
(or chiefly) to adorn the tale, but also (and first of all) to point
the moral. The novelist, in other words, should so mould the characters
and shape the plot of his imaginary drama as to vindicate the wisdom
and integrity of the Decalogue: if he fail to do this, or if he do the
opposite of this, he deserves not the countenance of virtuous and
God-fearing persons.

Doubtless it should be evident to every sane and impartial mind,
whether orthodox or agnostic, that an art which runs counter to the
designs of God toward the human race, or to the growth of the sentiment
of universal human brotherhood, must sooner or later topple down from
its fantastic and hollow foundation. "Hitch your wagon to a star," says
Emerson; "do not lie and steal: no god will help." And although, for
the sake of his own private interests of the moment, a man will
occasionally violate the moral law, yet, with mankind at large, the
necessity of vindicating the superior advantages of right over wrong is
acknowledged not only in the interests of civilized society, but
because we feel that, however hostile "goodness" may seem to be to my
or your personal and temporary aims, it still remains the only
wholesome and handsome choice for the race at large: and therefore do
we, as a race, refuse to tolerate--on no matter how plausible an
artistic plea--any view of human life which either professes
indifference to this universal sentiment, or perversely challenges it.

The true ground of dispute, then, does not lie here. The art which can
stoop to be "procuress to the lords of hell," is art no longer. But, on
the other hand, it would be difficult to point to any great work of
art, generally acknowledged to be such, which explicitly concerns
itself with the vindication of any specific moral doctrine. The story
in which the virtuous are rewarded for their virtue, and the evil
punished for their wickedness, fails, somehow, to enlist our full
sympathy; it falls flatly on the ear of the mind; it does not stimulate
thought. It does not satisfy; we fancy that something still remains to
be said, or, if this be all, then it was hardly worth saying. The real
record of life--its terror, its beauty, its pathos, its depth--seems to
have been missed. We may admit that the tale is in harmony with what we
have been taught ought to happen; but the lessons of our private
experience have not authenticated our moral formulas; we have seen the
evil exalted and the good brought low; and we inevitably desire that
our "fiction" shall tell us, not what ought to happen, but what, as a
matter of fact, does happen. To put this a little differently: we feel
that the God of the orthodox moralist is not the God of human nature.
He is nothing but the moralist himself in a highly sublimated state,
but betraying, in spite of that sublimation, a fatal savor of human
personality. The conviction that any man--George Washington, let us
say--is a morally unexceptionable man, does not in the least reconcile
us to the idea of God being an indefinitely exalted counterpart of
Washington. Such a God would be "most tolerable, and not to be
endured"; and the more exalted he was, the less endurable would he be.
In short, man instinctively refuses to regard the literal inculcation
of the Decalogue as the final word of God to the human race, and much
less to the individuals of that race; and when he finds a story-teller
proceeding upon the contrary assumption, he is apt to put that
story-teller down as either an ass or a humbug.

As for art--if the reader happen to be competent to form an opinion on
that phase of the matter--he will generally find that the art dwindles
in direct proportion as the moralized deity expatiates; in fact, that
they are incompatible. And he will also confess (if he have the courage
of his opinions) that, as between moralized deity and true art, his
choice is heartily and unreservedly for the latter.

I do not apprehend that the above remarks, fairly interpreted, will
encounter serious opposition from either party to the discussion; and
yet, so far as I am aware, neither party has as yet availed himself of
the light which the conclusion throws upon the nature of art itself. It
should be obvious, however, that upon a true definition of art the
whole argument must ultimately hinge: for we can neither deny that art
exists, nor affirm that it can exist inconsistently with a recognition
of a divinely beneficent purpose in creation. It must, therefore, in
some way be an expression or reflection of that purpose. But in what
does the purpose in question essentially consist?

Broadly speaking--for it would be impossible within the present limits
to attempt a full analysis of the subject--it may be considered as a
gradual and progressive Purification, not of this or that particular
individual in contradistinction to his fellows, but of human nature as
an entirety. The evil into which all men are born, and of which the
Decalogue, or conscience, makes us aware, is not an evil voluntarily
contracted on our part, but is inevitable to us as the creation of a
truly infinite love and wisdom. It is, in fact, our characteristic
nature as animals: and it is only because we are not only animal, but
also and above all human, that we are enabled to recognize it as evil
instead of good. We absolve the cat, the dog, the wolf, and the lion
from any moral responsibility for their deeds, because we feel them to
be deficient in conscience, which, is our own divinely bestowed gift
and privilege, and which has been defined as the spirit of God in the
created nature, seeking to become the creature's own spirit. Now, the
power to correct this evil does not abide in us as individuals, nor
will a literal adherence to the moral law avail to purify any mother's
son of us. Conscience always says "Do not,"--never "Do"; and obedience
to it neither can give us a personal claim on God's favor nor was it
intended to do so: its true function is to keep us innocent, so that we
may not individually obstruct the accomplishment of the divine ends
toward us as a race. Our nature not being the private possession of any
one of us, but the impersonal substratum of us all, it follows that it
cannot be redeemed piecemeal, but only as a whole; and, manifestly, the
only Being capable of effecting such redemption is not Peter, or Paul,
or George Washington, or any other atomic exponent of that nature, be
he who he may; but He alone whose infinitude is the complement of our
finiteness, and whose gradual descent into human nature (figured in
Scripture under the symbol of the Incarnation) is even now being
accomplished--as any one may perceive who reads aright the progressive
enlightenment of conscience and intellect which history, through many
vicissitudes, displays. We find, therefore, that art is, essentially,
the imaginative expression of a divine life in man. Art depends for its
worth and veracity, not upon its adherence to literal fact, but upon
its perception and portrayal of the underlying truth, of which fact is
but the phenomenal and imperfect shadow. And it can have nothing to do
with personal vice or virtue, in the way either of condemning the one
or vindicating the other; it can only treat them as elements in its
picture--as factors in human destiny. For the notion commonly
entertained that the practice of virtue gives us a claim upon the
Divine Exchequer (so to speak), and the habit of acting virtuously for
the sake of maintaining our credit in society, and ensuring our
prosperity in the next world,--in so thinking and acting we
misapprehend the true inwardness of the matter. To cultivate virtue
because its pays, no matter what the sort of coin in which payment is
looked for, is to be the victims of a lamentable delusion. For such
virtue makes each man jealous of his neighbor; whereas the aim of
Providence is to bring about the broadest human fellowship. A man's
physical body separates him from other men; and this fact disposes him
to the error that his nature is also a separate possession, and that he
can only be "good" by denying himself. But the only goodness that is
really good is a spontaneous and impersonal evolution, and this occurs,
not where self-denial has been practised, but only where a man feels
himself to be absolutely on the same level of desert or non-desert as
are the mass of his fellow-creatures. There is no use in obeying the
commandments, unless it be done, not to make one's self more deserving
than another of God's approbation, but out of love for goodness and
truth in themselves, apart from any personal considerations. The
difference between true religion and formal religion is that the first
leads us to abandon all personal claims to salvation, and to care only
for the salvation of humanity as a whole; whereas the latter stimulates
is to practise outward self-denial, in order that our real self may be
exalted. Such self-denial results not in humility, but in spiritual

In no other way than this, it seems to me, can art and morality be
brought into harmony. Art bears witness to the presence in us of
something purer and loftier than anything of which we can be
individually conscious. Its complete expression we call inspiration;
and he who is the subject of the inspiration can account no better than
any one else for the result which art accomplishes through him. The
perfect poem is found, not made; the mind which utters it did not
invent it. Art takes all nature and all knowledge for her province; but
she does not leave it as she found it; by the divine necessity that is
upon her, she breathes a soul into her materials, and organizes chaos
into form. But never, under any circumstances, does she deign to
minister to our selfish personal hope or greed. She shows us how to
love our neighbor, never ourselves. Shakspeare, Homer, Phidias,
Raphael, were no Pharisees--at least in so far as they were artists;
nor did any one ever find in their works any countenance for that
inhuman assumption--"I am holier than thou!" In the world's darkest
hours, art has sometimes stood as the sole witness of the nobler life
that was in eclipse. Civilizations arise and vanish; forms of religion
hold sway and are forgotten; learning and science advance and gather
strength; but true art was as great and as beautiful three thousand
years ago as it is to-day. We are prone to confound the man with the
artist, and to suppose that he is artistic by possession and
inheritance, instead of exclusively by dint of what he does. No artist
worthy the name ever dreams of putting himself into his work, but only
what is infinitely distinct from and other than himself. It is not the
poet who brings forth the poem, but the poem that begets the poet; it
makes him, educates him, creates in him the poetic faculty. Those whom
we call great men, the heroes of history, are but the organs of great
crises and opportunities: as Emerson has said, they are the most
indebted men. In themselves they are not great; there is no ratio
between their achievements and them. Our judgment is misled; we do not
discriminate between the divine purpose and the human instrument. When
we listen to Napoleon fretting his soul away at Elba, or to Carlyle
wrangling with his wife at Chelsea, we are shocked at the discrepancy
between the lofty public performance and the petty domestic
shortcoming. Yet we do wrong to blame them; the nature of which they
are examples is the same nature that is shared also by the publican and
the sinner.

Instead, therefore, of saying that art should be moral, we should
rather say that all true morality is art--that art is the test of
morality. To attempt to make this heavenly Pegasus draw the sordid
plough of our selfish moralistic prejudices is a grotesque subversion
of true order. Why should the novelist make believe that the wicked are
punished and the good are rewarded in this world? Does he not know, on
the contrary, that whatsoever is basest in our common life tends
irresistibly to the highest places, and that the selfish element in our
nature is on the side of public order? Evil is at present a more
efficient instrument of order (because an interested one) than good;
and the novelist who makes this appear will do a far greater and more
lasting benefit to humanity than he who follows the cut-and-dried
artificial programme of bestowing crowns on the saint and whips of
scorpions on the sinner.

As a matter of fact, I repeat, the best influences of the best
literature have never been didactic, and there is no reason to believe
they ever will be. The only semblance of didacticism which can enter
into literature is that which conveys such lessons as may be learned
from sea and sky, mountain and valley, wood and stream, bird and beast;
and from the broad human life of races, nations, and firesides; a
lesson that is not obvious and superficial, but so profoundly hidden in
the creative depths as to emerge only to an apprehension equally
profound. For the chatter and affectation of sense disturb and offend
that inward spiritual ear which, in the silent recesses of meditation,
hears the prophetic murmur of the vast ocean of human nature that flows
within us and around us all.



During the winter of 1879, when I was in London, it was my fortune to
attend, a social meeting of literary men at the rooms of a certain
eminent publisher. The rooms were full of tobacco-smoke and talk, amid
which were discernible, on all sides, the figures and faces of men more
or less renowned in the world of books. Most noticeable among these
personages was a broad-shouldered, sturdy man, of middle height, with a
ruddy countenance, and snow-white tempestuous beard and hair. He wore
large, gold-rimmed spectacles, but his eyes were black and brilliant,
and looked at his interlocutor with a certain genial fury of
inspection. He seemed to be in a state of some excitement; he spoke
volubly and almost boisterously, and his voice was full-toned and
powerful, though pleasant to the ear. He turned himself, as he spoke,
with a burly briskness, from one side to another, addressing himself
first to this auditor and then to that, his words bursting forth from
beneath his white moustache with such an impetus of hearty breath that
it seemed as if all opposing arguments must be blown quite away.
Meanwhile he flourished in the air an ebony walking-stick, with much
vigor of gesticulation, and narrowly missing, as it appeared, the pates
of his listeners. He was clad in evening dress, though the rest of the
company was, for the most part, in mufti; and he was an exceedingly
fine-looking old gentleman. At the first glance, you would have taken
him to be some civilized and modernized Squire Western, nourished with
beef and ale, and roughly hewn out of the most robust and least refined
variety of human clay. Looking at him more narrowly, however, you would
have reconsidered this judgment. Though his general contour and aspect
were massive and sturdy, the lines of his features were delicately cut;
his complexion was remarkably pure and fine, and his face was
susceptible of very subtle and sensitive changes of expression. Here
was a man of abundant physical strength and vigor, no doubt, but
carrying within him a nature more than commonly alert and impressible.
His organization, though thoroughly healthy, was both complex and
high-wrought; his character was simple and straightforward to a fault,
but he was abnormally conscientious, and keenly alive to others'
opinion concerning him. It might be thought that he was overburdened
with self-esteem, and unduly opinionated; but, in fact, he was but
overanxious to secure the good-will and agreement of all with whom he
came in contact. There was some peculiarity in him--some element or
bias in his composition that made him different from other men; but, on
the other hand, there was an ardent solicitude to annul or reconcile
this difference, and to prove himself to be, in fact, of absolutely the
same cut and quality as all the rest of the world. Hence he was in a
demonstrative, expository, or argumentative mood; he could not sit
quiet in the face of a divergence between himself and his associates;
he was incorrigibly strenuous to obliterate or harmonize the
irreconcilable points between him and others; and since these points
remained irreconcilable, he remained in a constant state of storm and
stress on the subject.

It was impossible to help liking such a man at first sight; and I
believe that no man in London society was more generally liked than
Anthony Trollope. There was something pathetic in his attitude as above
indicated; and a fresh and boyish quality always invested him. His
artlessness was boyish, and so were his acuteness and his transparent
but somewhat belated good-sense. He was one of those rare persons who
not only have no reserves, but who can afford to dispense with them.
After he had shown you all he had in him, you would have seen nothing
that was not gentlemanly, honest, and clean. He was a quick-tempered
man, and the ardor and hurry of his temperament made him seem more so
than he really was; but he was never more angry than he was forgiving
and generous. He was hurt by little things, and little things pleased
him; he was suspicious and perverse, but in a manner that rather
endeared him to you than otherwise. Altogether, to a casual
acquaintance, who knew nothing of his personal history, he was
something of a paradox--an entertaining contradiction. The publication
of his autobiography explained many things in his character that were
open to speculation; and, indeed, the book is not only the most
interesting and amusing that its author has ever written, but it places
its subject before the reader more completely and comprehensively than
most autobiographies do. This, however, is due much less to any direct
effort or intention on the writer's part, than to the unconscious
self-revelation which meets the reader on every page. No narrative
could be simpler, less artificial; and yet, everywhere, we read between
the lines, and, so to speak, discover Anthony Trollope in spite of his
efforts to discover himself to us.

The truth appears to be that the youthful Trollope, like a more famous
fellow-novelist, began the world with more kicks than half-pence. His
boyhood, he affirms, was as unhappy as that of a young gentleman could
well be, owing to a mixture of poverty and gentle standing on his
father's part, and, on his own, to "an utter lack of juvenile
manhood"--whatever that may be. His father was a lawyer, who frightened
away all his clients by his outrageous temper, and who encountered one
mischance after another until he landed himself and his family in open
bankruptcy; from which they were rescued, partly by death, which
carried away four of them (including the old gentleman), and partly by
Mrs. Trollope, who, at fifty years of age, brought out her famous book
on America, and continued to make a fair income by literature (as she
called it) until 1856, when, being seventy-six years old, and having
produced one hundred and fourteen volumes, she permitted herself to
retire. This extraordinary lady, in her youth, cherished what her son
calls "an emotional dislike to tyrants"; but when her American
experience had made her acquainted with some of the seamy aspects of
democracy, and especially after the aristocracy of her own country had
begun to patronize her, she confessed the error of her early way, "and
thought that archduchesses were sweet." But she was certainly a valiant
and indefatigable woman,--"of all the people I have ever known," says
her son, "the most joyous, or, at any rate, the most capable of joy";
and he adds that her best novels were written in 1834-35, when her
husband and four of her six children were dying upstairs of
consumption, and she had to divide her time between nursing them and
writing. Assuredly, no son of hers need apprehend the
reproach--"_Tydides melior matre_"; though Anthony, and his brother
Thomas Adolphus, must, together, have run her pretty hard. The former
remarks, with that terrible complacency in an awful fact which is one
of his most noticeable and astounding traits, that the three of them
"wrote more books than were probably ever before produced by a single
family." The existence of a few more such families could be consistent
only with a generous enlargement of the British Museum.

The elder Trollope was a scholar, and to make scholars of his sons was
one of his ruling ideas. Poor little Anthony endured no less than
twelve mortal years of schooling--from the time he was seven until he
was nineteen--and declares that, in all that time, he does not remember
that he ever knew a lesson. "I have been flogged," he says, "oftener
than any other human being." Nay, his troubles began before his
school-days; for his father used to make him recite his infantile tasks
to him while he was shaving, and obliged him to sit with his head
inclined in such a manner "that he could pull my hair without stopping
his razor or dropping his shaving-brush." This is a depressing picture;
and there are plenty more like it. Dr. Butler, the master of Harrow,
meeting the poor little draggletail urchin in the yard, desired to
know, in awful accents, how so dirty a boy dared to show himself near
the school! "He must have known me, had he seen me as he was wont to
see me, for he was in the habit of flogging me constantly. Perhaps,"
adds his victim, "he did not recognize me by my face!" But it is
comforting to learn, in another place, that justice overtook the
oppressor. "Dr. Butler only lived to be Dean of Peterborough; but his
successor (Dr. Longley) became Archbishop of Canterbury." There is a
great deal of Trollopian morality in the fate of these two men, the
latter of whom "could not have said anything ill-natured if he had

Black care, however, continued to sit behind the horseman with
harrowing persistence. A certain Dr. Drury (another schoolmaster)
punished him on suspicion of "some nameless horror," of which the
unfortunate youngster happened to be innocent. When, afterward, the
latter fact began to be obvious, "he whispered to me half a word that
perhaps he had been wrong. But, with a boy's stupid slowness, I said
nothing, and he had not the courage to carry reparation farther." The
poverty of Anthony's father deprived the boy of all the external
advantages that might have enabled him to take rank with his fellows:
and his native awkwardness and sensitiveness widened the breach. "I had
no friend to whom I could pour out my sorrows. I was big, awkward and
ugly, and, I have no doubt, skulked about in a most unattractive
manner. Something of the disgrace of my school-days has clung to me all
through life. When I have been claimed as school-fellow by some of
those many hundreds who were with me either at Harrow or at Winchester,
I have felt that I had no right to talk of things from most of which I
was kept in estrangement. I was never a coward, but to make a stand
against three hundred tyrants required a moral courage which I did not
possess." Once, however, they pushed him too far, and he was driven to
rebellion. "And then came a great fight--at the end of which my
opponent had to be taken home to be cured." And then he utters the
characteristic wish that some one, of the many who witnessed this
combat, may still be left alive "who will be able to say that, in
claiming this solitary glory of my school-days, I am making no false
boast." The lonely, lugubrious little champion! One would almost have
been willing to have received from him a black eye and a bloody nose,
only to comfort his sad heart. It is delightful to imagine the terrific
earnestness of that solitary victory: and I would like to know what boy
it was (if any) who lent the unpopular warrior a knee and wiped his

After he got through his school-days, his family being then abroad, he
had an offer of a commission in an Austrian cavalry regiment; and he
might have been a major-general or field-marshal at this day had his
schooling made him acquainted with the French and German languages.
Being, however, entirely ignorant of these, he was obliged to study
them in order to his admission; and while he was thus employed, he
received news of a vacant clerkship in the General Post-Office, with
the dazzling salary of £90 a year. Needless to say that he jumped at
such an opening, seeing before him a vision of a splendid civil and
social career, at something over twenty pounds a quarter. But London,
even fifty years ago, was a more expensive place than Anthony imagined.
Moreover, the boy was alone in the wilderness of the city, with no one
to advise or guide him. The consequence was that these latter days of
his youth were as bad or worse than the beginning. In reviewing his
plight at this period, he observes: "I had passed my life where I had
seen gay things, but had never enjoyed them. There was no house in
which I could habitually see a lady's face or hear a lady's voice. At
the Post-Office I got credit for nothing, and was reckless. I hated my
work, and, more than all, I hated my idleness. Borrowings of money,
sometimes absolute want, and almost constant misery, followed as a
matter of course. I Had a full conviction that my life was taking me
down to the lowest pits--a feeling that I had been looked upon as an
evil, an encumbrance, a useless thing, a creature of whom those
connected with me had to be ashamed. Even my few friends were
half-ashamed of me. I acknowledge the weakness of a great desire to be
loved--a strong wish to be popular. No one had ever been less so."
Under these circumstances, he remarks that, although, no doubt, if the
mind be strong enough, the temptation will not prevail, yet he is fain
to admit that the temptation prevailed with him. He did not sit at
home, after his return from the office, in the evening, to drink tea
and read, but tramped out in the streets, and tried to see life and be
jolly on £90 a year. He borrowed four pounds of a money-lender, to
augment his resources, and found, after a few years, that he had paid
him two hundred pounds for the accommodation. He met with every variety
of absurd and disastrous adventure. The mother of a young woman with
whom he had had an innocent flirtation in the country appeared one day
at his desk in the office, and called out before all the clerks,
"Anthony Trollope, when are you going to marry my daughter?" On another
occasion a sum of money was missing from the table of the director.
Anthony was summoned. The director informed him of the loss--"and, by
G--!" he continued, thundering his fist down on the table, "no one has
been in the room but you and I." "Then, by G--!" cried Anthony,
thundering _his_ fist down upon something, "you have taken it!" This
was very well; but the thing which Anthony had thumped happened to be,
not a table, but a movable desk with an inkstand on it, and the ink
flew up and deluged the face and shirt-front of the enraged director.
Still another adventure was that of the Queen of Saxony and the
Half-Crown; but the reader must investigate these matters for himself.

So far there has been nothing looking toward the novel-writer. But now
we learn that from the age of fifteen to twenty-six Anthony kept a
journal, which, he says, "convicted me of folly, ignorance,
indiscretion, idleness, and conceit, but habituated me to the rapid use
of pen and ink, and taught me how to express myself with facility." In
addition to this, and more to the purpose, he had formed an odd habit.
Living, as he was forced to do, so much to himself, if not by himself,
he had to play, not with other boys, but with himself; and his favorite
play was to conceive a tale, or series of fictitious events, and to
carry it on, day after day, for months together, in his mind. "Nothing
impossible was ever introduced, or violently improbable. I was my own
hero, but I never became a king or a duke, still less an Antinoüs, or
six feet high. But I was a very clever person, and beautiful young
women used to be very fond of me. I learned in this way to live in a
world outside the world of my own material life." This is pointedly,
even touchingly, characteristic. Never, to the day of his death, did
Mr. Trollope either see or imagine anything impossible, or violently
improbable, in the world. This mortal plane of things never dissolved
before his gaze and revealed the mysteries of absolute Being; his
heavens were never rolled up as a scroll, and his earth had no bubbles
as the water hath. He took things as he found them; and he never found
them out. But if the light that never was on sea or land does not
illuminate the writings of Mr. Trollope, there is generally plenty of
that other kind of light with which, after all, the average reader is
more familiar, and which not a few, perhaps, prefer to the
transcendental lustre. There is no modern novelist who has more clearly
than Trollope defined to his own apprehension his own literary
capabilities and limitations. He is thoroughly acquainted with both his
fortes and his foibles; and so sound is his good sense, that he is
seldom beguiled into toiling with futile ambition after effects that
are beyond him. His proper domain is a sufficiently wide one; he is
inimitably at home here; and when he invites us there to visit him, we
may be sure of getting good and wholesome entertainment. The writer's
familiarity with his characters communicates itself imperceptibly to
the reader; there are no difficult or awkward introductions; the toning
of the picture (to use the painter's phrase) is unexceptionable; and if
it be rather tinted than colored, the tints are handled in a
workmanlike manner. Again, few English novelists seem to possess so
sane a comprehension of the modes of life and thought of the British
aristocracy as Trollope. He has not only made a study of them from the
observer's point of view, but he has reasoned them out intellectually.
The figures are not vividly defined; the realism is applied to events
rather than to personages: we have the scene described for us but we do
not look upon it. We should not recognize his characters if we saw
them; but if we were told who they were, we should know, from their
author's testimony, what were their characteristic traits and how they
would act under given circumstances. The logical sequence of events is
carefully maintained; nothing happens, either for good or for evil,
other than might befall under the dispensations of a Providence no more
unjust, and no more far-sighted, than Trollope himself. There is a good
deal of the _a priori_ principle in his method; he has made up his mind
as to certain fundamental data, and thence develops or explains
whatever complication comes up for settlement. But to range about
unhampered by any theories, concerned only to examine all phenomena,
and to report thereupon, careless of any considerations save those of
artistic propriety, would have been vanity and striving after wind to
Trollope, and derivatively so, doubtless, to his readers.

Considered in the abstract, it is a curious question what makes his
novels interesting. The reader knows, in a sense, just what is in store
for him,--or, rather, what is not. There will be no astonishment, no
curdling horror, no consuming suspense. There may be, perhaps, as many
murders, forgeries, foundlings, abductions, and missing wills, in
Trollope's novels as in any others; but they are not told about in a
manner to alarm us; we accept them philosophically; there are
paragraphs in our morning paper that excite us more. And yet they are
narrated with art, and with dramatic effect. They are interesting, but
not uncourteously--not exasperatingly so; and the strangest part of it
is that the introductory and intermediate passages are no less
interesting, under Trollope's treatment, than are the murders and
forgeries. Not only does he never offend the modesty of nature,--he
encourages her to be prudish, and trains her to such evenness and
severity of demeanor that we never know when we have had enough of her.
His touch is eminently civilizing; everything, from the episodes to the
sentences, moves without hitch or creak: we never have to read a
paragraph twice, and we are seldom sorry to have read it once.

Amusingly characteristic of Trollope is his treatment of his villains.
His attitude toward them betrays no personal uncharitableness or
animosity, but the villain has a bad time of it just the same. Trollope
places upon him a large, benevolent, but unyielding forefinger, and
says to us: "Remark, if you please, how this inferior reptile squirms
when pressure is applied to him. I will now augment the pressure. You
observe that the squirmings increase in energy and complexity. Now, if
you please, I will bear down yet a little harder. Do not be alarmed,
madam; the reptile undoubtedly suffers, but the spectacle may do us
some good, and you may trust me not to let him do you any harm.
There!--Yes, evisceration by means of pressure is beyond question
painful; but every one must have observed the benevolence of my
forefinger during the operation; and I fancy even the subject of the
experiment (were he in a condition to express his sentiments) would
have admitted as much. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I shall have
the pleasure of meeting you again very shortly. John, another reptile,
please!" Upon the whole, it is much to Trollope's credit that he wrote
somewhere about fifty long novels; and to the credit of the English
people that they paid him three hundred and fifty thousand dollars for
these novels--and read them!

But his success as a man of letters was still many years in the future.
After seven years in the London office, he went to Ireland as assistant
surveyor, and thenceforward he began to enjoy his business, and to get
on in it. He was paid sixpence a mile, and he would ride forty miles a
day. He rode to hounds, incidentally, whenever he got a chance, and he
kept up the practice, with enthusiasm, to within a few years of his
death. "It will, I think, be accorded to me," he says, "that I have
ridden hard. I know very little about hunting; I am blind, very heavy,
and I am now old; but I ride with a boy's energy, hating the roads, and
despising young men who ride them; and I feel that life cannot give me
anything better than when I have gone through a long run to the finish,
keeping a place, not of glory, but of credit, among my juniors."
Riding, working, having a jolly time, and gradually increasing his
income, he lived until 1842, when he became engaged; and he was married
on June 11, 1844. "I ought to name that happy day," he declares, "as
the commencement of my better life." It was at about this date, also,
that he began and finished, not without delay and procrastination, his
first novel. Curiously enough, he affirms that he did not doubt his own
intellectual sufficiency to write a readable novel: "What I did doubt
was my own industry, and the chances of a market." Never, surely, was
self-distrust more unfounded. As for the first novel, he sent it to his
mother, to dispose of as best she could; and it never brought him
anything, except a perception that it was considered by his friends to
be "an unfortunate aggravation of the family disease." During the
ensuing ten years, this view seemed to be not unreasonable, for, in all
that time, though he worked hard, he earned by literature no more than
£55. But, between 1857 and 1860, he received for various novels, from
£100 to £1000 each; and thereafter, £3000 or more was his regular price
for a story in three volumes. As he maintained his connection with the
post-office until 1867, he was in receipt of an income of £4500, "of
which I spent two-thirds and put by one." We should be doing an
injustice to Mr. Trollope to omit these details, which he gives so
frankly; for, as he early informs us, "my first object in taking to
literature was to make an income on which I and those belonging to me
might live in comfort." Nor will he let us forget that novel-writing,
to him, was not so much an art, or even a profession, as a trade, in
which all that can be asked of a man is that he shall be honest and
punctual, turning out good average work, and the more the better. "The
great secret consists in"--in what?--why, "in acknowledging myself to
be bound to rules of labor similar to those which an artisan or
mechanic is forced to obey." There may be, however, other incidental
considerations. "I have ever thought of myself as a preacher of
sermons, and my pulpit as one I could make both salutary and agreeable
to my audience"; and he tells us that he has used some of his novels
for the expression of his political and social convictions. Again--"The
novelist must please, and he must teach; a good novel should be both
realistic and sensational in the highest degree." He says that he sees
no reason why two or three good novels should not be written at the
same time; and that, for his own part, he was accustomed to write two
hundred and fifty words every fifteen minutes, by the watch, during his
working hours. Nor does he mind letting us know that when he sits down
to write a novel, he neither knows nor cares how it is to end. And
finally, one is a little startled to hear him say, epigrammatically,
that a writer should not have to tell a story, but should have a story
to tell. Beyond a doubt, Anthony Trollope is something of a paradox.

The world has long ago passed its judgment on his stories, but it is
interesting, all the same, to note his own opinion of them; and though
never arrogant, he is generally tolerant, if not genial. "A novel
should be a picture of common life, enlivened by humor and sweetened by
pathos. I have never fancied myself to be a man of genius," he says;
but again, with strange imperviousness, "A small daily task, if it be
daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules." Beat them, how?
Why, in quantity. But how about quality? Is the travail of a work of
art the same thing as the making of a pair of shoes? Emerson tells us

  "Ever the words of the gods resound,
    But the porches of man's ear
  Seldom, in this low life's round,
    Are unsealed, that he may hear."

No one disputes, however, that you may hear the tapping of the
cobbler's hammer at any time.

To the view of the present writer, how much good soever Mr. Trollope
may have done as a preacher and moralist, he has done great harm to
English fictitious literature by his novels; and it need only be added,
in this connection, that his methods and results in novel-writing seem
best to be explained by that peculiar mixture of separateness and
commonplaceness which we began by remarking in him. The separateness
has given him the standpoint whence he has been able to observe and
describe the commonplaceness with which (in spite of his separateness)
he is in vital sympathy.

But Trollope the man is the abundant and consoling compensation for
Trollope the novelist; and one wishes that his books might have died,
and he lived on indefinitely. It is charming to read of his life in
London after his success in the _Cornhill Magazine_. "Up to that time I
had lived very little among men. It was a festival to me to dine at the
'Garrick.' I think I became popular among those with whom I associated.
I have ever wished to be liked by those around me--a wish that during
the first half of my life was never gratified." And, again, in summing
up his life, he says: "I have betrayed no woman. Wine has brought to me
no sorrow. It has been the companionship, rather than the habit of
smoking that I loved. I have never desired to win money, and I have
lost none. To enjoy the excitement of pleasure, but to be free from its
vices and ill-effects--to have the sweet, and to leave the bitter
untasted--that has been my study. I will not say that I have never
scorched a finger; but I carry no ugly wounds."

A man who, at the end of his career, could make such a profession as
this--who felt the need of no further self-vindication than this--such
a man, whatever may have been his accountability to the muse of
Fiction, is a credit to England and to human nature, and deserves to be
numbered among the darlings of mankind. It was an honor to be called
his friend; and what his idea of friendship was, may be learned from
the passage in which he speaks of his friend Millais--with the
quotation of which this paper may fitly be concluded:--

"To see him has always been a pleasure; his voice has always been a
sweet sound in my ears. Behind his back I have never heard him praised
without joining the eulogist; I have never heard a word spoken against
him without opposing the censurer. These words, should he ever see
them, will come to him from the grave, and will tell him of my
regard--as one living man never tells another."



Before criticising Mr. Mallock's little essay, let us summarize its
contents. The author begins with an analysis of the aims, the
principles, and the "pseudo-science" of modern Democracy. Having
established the evil and destructive character of these things, he sets
himself to show by logical argument that the present state of social
inequality, which Democrats wish to disturb, is a natural and wholesome
state; that the continuance of civilization is dependent upon it; and
that it could only be overturned by effecting a radical change--not in
human institutions, but in human character. The desire for inequality
is inherent in the human character; and in order to prove this
statement, Mr. Mallock proceeds to affirm that there is such a thing as
a science of human character; that of this science he is the
discoverer; and that the application of this science to the question at
issue will demonstrate the integrity of Mr. Mallock's views, and the
infirmity of all others. In the ensuing chapters the application is
made, and at the end the truth of the proposition is declared

This is the outline; but let us note some of the details. Mr. Mallock
asserts (Chap. I.) that the aim of modern Democracy is to overturn "all
that has hitherto been connected with high-breeding or with personal
culture"; and that "to call the Democrats a set of thieves and
confiscators is merely to apply names to them which they have no wish
to repudiate." He maintains (Chap. II.) that the first and foremost of
the Democratic principles is "that the perfection of society involves
social equality"; and that "the luxury of one man means the deprivation
of another." He credits the Democrats with arguing that "the means of
producing equality are a series of changes in existing institutions";
that "by changing the institutions of a society we are able to change
its structure"; that "the cause of the distribution of wealth" is "laws
and forms of government"; and that "the wealthy classes, as such, are
connected with wealth in no other way but as the accidental
appropriators of it." In his third chapter he tells us that "the entire
theory of modern Democracy ... depends on the doctrine that the cause
of wealth is labor"; that Democrats believe we "may count on a man to
labor, just as surely as we may count on a man to eat"; that "the man
who does not labor is supported by the man who does"; and that the
pseudo-science of modern Democracy "starts with the conception of man
as containing in himself a natural tendency to labor." And here Mr.
Mallock's statement of his opponent's position ends.

In the fourth chapter we are brought within sight of "The Missing
Substitute." "A man's character," we are told, "divides into his
desires on the one hand, and his capacities on the other"; and it is
observed that "various as are men's desires and capacities, yet if
talent and ambition commanded no more than idleness and stupidity, all
men practically would be idle and stupid." "Men's capacities," we are
reminded, "are practically unequal, because they develop their own
potential inequalities; they do this because they desire to place
themselves in unequal external circumstances,--which result the
condition of society renders possible."

Coming now to the Science of Human Character itself, we find that it
"asserts a permanent relationship to exist between human character and
social inequality"; and the author then proceeds at some length to show
how near Herbert Spencer, Buckle, and other social and economic
philosophers, came to stumbling over his missing science, and yet
avoided doing so. Nevertheless, argues Mr. Mallock, "if there be such a
thing as a social science, or a science of history, there must be also
a science of biography"; and this science, though it "cannot show us
how any special man will act in the future," yet, if "any special
action be given us, it can show us that it was produced by a special
motive; and conversely, that if the special motive be wanting, the
special action is sure to be wanting also." As an example how to
distinguish between those traits of human character which are available
for scientific purposes, and those which are not, Mr. Mallock instances
a mob, which temporarily acts together for some given purpose: the
individual differences of character then "cancel out," and only points
of agreement are left. Proceeding to the sixth chapter, he applies
himself to setting to rest the scruples of those who find something
cynical in the idea that the desire for Inequality is compatible with a
respectable form of human character. It is true, he says, that man does
not live by bread alone; but he denies that he means to say "that all
human activity is motived by the desire for inequality"; he would
assert that only "of all productive labor, except the lowest." The only
actions independent of the desire for inequality, however, are those
performed in the name of art, science, philanthropy, and religion; and
even in these cases, so far as the actions are not motived by a desire
for inequality, they are not of productive use; and _vice versâ_. In
the remaining chapters, which we must dismiss briefly, we meet with
such statements as "labor has been produced by an artificial creation
of want of food, and by then supplying the want on certain conditions";
that "civilization has always been begun by an oppressive minority";
that "progress depends on certain gifted individuals," and therefore
social equality would destroy progress; that inequality influences
production by existing as an object of desire and as a means of
pressure; that the evils of poverty are caused by want, not by
inequality; and that, finally, equality is not the goal of progress,
but of retrogression; that inequality is not an accidental evil of
civilization, but the cause of its development; the distance of the
poor from the rich is not the cause of the former's poverty as distinct
from riches, but of their civilized competence as distinct from
barbarism; and that the apparent changes in the direction of equality
recorded in history, have been, in reality, none other than "a more
efficient arrangement of inequalities."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, let us inquire what all this ingenious prattle about Inequality
and the Science of Human Character amounts to. What does Mr. Mallock
expect? His book has been out six months, and still Democracy exists.
But does any such Democracy as he combats exist, or could it
conceivably exist? Have his investigations of the human character
failed to inform him that one of the strongest natural instincts of
man's nature is immovably opposed to anything like an equal
distribution of existing wealth?--because whoever owns anything, if it
be only a coat, wishes to keep it; and that wish makes him aware that
his fellow-man will wish to keep, and will keep at all hazards,
whatever things belong to him. What Democrats really desire is to
enable all men to have an equal chance to obtain wealth, instead of
being, as is largely the case now, hampered and kept down by all manner
of legal and arbitrary restrictions. As for the "desire for
Inequality," it seems to exist chiefly in Mr. Mallock's imagination.
Who does desire it? Does the man who "strikes" for higher wages desire
it? Let us see. A strike, to be successful, must be not an individual
act, but the act of a large body of men, all demanding the same
thing--an increase in wages. If they gain their end, no difference has
taken place in their mutual position; and their position in regard to
their employers is altered only in that an approach has been made
toward greater equality with the latter. And so in other departments of
human effort: the aim, which the man who wishes to better his position
sets before himself, is not to rise head and shoulders above his
equals, but to equal his superiors. And as to the Socialist schemes for
the reorganization of society, they imply, at most, a wish to see all
men start fair in the race of life, the only advantages allowed being
not those of rank or station, but solely of innate capacity. And the
reason the Socialist desires this is, because he believes, rightly or
wrongly, that many inefficient men are, at present, only artificially
protected from betraying their inefficiency; and that many efficient
men are only artificially prevented from showing their efficiency; and
that the fair start he proposes would not result in keeping all men on
a dead level, but would simply put those in command who had a genuine
right to be there.

       *       *       *       *       *

But this is taxing Mr. Mallock too seriously: he has not written in
earnest. But, as his uncle, Mr. Froude, said, when reading "The New
Republic,"--"The rogue is clever!" He has read a good deal, he has an
active mind, a smooth redundancy of expression, a talent for
caricature, a fondness for epigram and paradox, a useful shallowness,
and an amusing impudence. He has no practical knowledge of mankind, no
experience of life, no commanding point of view, and no depth of
insight. He has no conception of the meaning and quality of the
problems with whose exterior aspects he so prettily trifles. He has
constructed a Science of Human Character without for one moment being
aware that, for instance, human character and human nature are two
distinct things; and that, furthermore, the one is everything that the
other is not. As little is he conscious of the significance of the
words "society" and "civilization"; nor can he explain whether, or why,
either of them is desirable or undesirable, good or bad. He has never
done, and (judging from his published works) we do not believe him
capable of doing, any analytical or constructive thinking; at most, as
in the present volume, he turns a few familiar objects upside down, and
airily invites his audience to believe that he has thereby earned the
name of Discoverer, if not of Creator.



On an accessible book-shelf in my library, stand side by side four
volumes whose contents I once knew by heart, and which, after the lapse
of twenty years, are yet tolerably distinct in my memory. These are
stoutly bound in purple muslin, with a stamp, of Persian design
apparently, on the centre of each cover. They are stained and worn, and
the backs have faded to a brownish hue, from exposure to the light, and
a leaf in one of the volumes has been torn across; but the paper and
the sewing and the clear bold type are still as serviceable as ever.
The books seem to have been made to last,--to stand a great deal of
reading. Contrasted with the aesthetically designed covers one sees
nowadays, they would be considered inexcusably ugly, and the least
popular novelist of our time would protest against having his
lucubrations presented to the public in such plain attire.
Nevertheless, on turning to the title-pages, you may see imprinted, on
the first, "Fourteenth Edition"; on the second, "Twelfth Edition"; and
on the others, indications somewhat less magnificent, but still
evidence of very exceptional circulation. The date they bear is that of
the first years of our civil war; and the first published of them is
prefaced by a biographical memoir of the author, written by his friend
George William Curtis. This memoir was originally printed in the
_Atlantic Monthly_, two or three months after the death of its subject,
Theodore Winthrop.

For these books,--three novels, and one volume of records of
travel,--came from his hand, though they did not see the light until
after he had passed beyond the sphere of authors and publishers. At
that time, the country was in an exalted and heroic mood, and the men
who went to fight its battles were regarded with a personal affection
by no means restricted to their personal acquaintances. Their names
were on all lips, and those of them who fell were mourned by multitudes
instead of by individuals. Winthrop's historic name, and the
influential position of some of his nearest friends, would have
sufficed to bring into unusual prominence his brief career and his fate
as a soldier, even had his intrinsic qualities and character been less
honorable and winning than they were. But he was a type of a young
American such as America is proud to own. He was high-minded, refined,
gifted, handsome. I recollect a portrait of him published soon after
his death,--a photograph, I think, from a crayon drawing; an eloquent,
sensitive, rather melancholy, but manly and courageous face, with grave
eyes, the mouth veiled by a long moustache. It was the kind of
countenance one would wish our young heroes to have. When, after the
catastrophe at Great Bethel, it became known that Winthrop had left
writings behind him, it would have been strange indeed had not every
one felt a desire to read them.

Moreover, he had already begun to be known as a writer. It was during
1860, I believe, that a story of his, in two instalments, entitled
"Love on Skates," appeared in the "Atlantic." It was a brilliant and
graphic celebration of the art of skating, engrafted on a love-tale as
full of romance and movement as could be desired. Admirably told it
was, as I recollect it; crisp with the healthy vigor of American wintry
atmosphere, with bright touches of humor, and, here and there, passages
of sentiment, half tender, half playful. It was something new in our
literature, and gave promise of valuable work to come. But the writer
was not destined to fulfil the promise. In the next year, from the camp
of his regiment, he wrote one or two admirable descriptive sketches,
touching upon the characteristic points of the campaigning life which
had just begun; but, before the last of these had become familiar to
the "Atlantic's" readers, it was known that it would be the last.
Theodore Winthrop had been killed.

He was only in his thirty-third year. He was born in New Haven, and had
entered Yale College with the class of '48. The Delta Kappa Epsilon
Fraternity was, I believe, founded in the year of his admission, and he
must, therefore, have been among its earliest members. He was
distinguished as a scholar, and the traces of his classic and
philosophical acquirements are everywhere visible in his books. During
the five or six years following his graduation, he travelled abroad,
and in the South and West; a wild frontier life had great attractions
for him, as he who reads "John Brent" and "The Canoe and the Saddle"
need not be told. He tried his hand at various things, but could settle
himself to no profession,--an inability which would have excited no
remark in England, which has had time to recognize the value of men of
leisure, as such; but which seems to have perplexed some of his friends
in this country. Be that as it may, no one had reason to complain of
lack of energy and promptness on his part when patriotism revealed a
path to Winthrop. He knew that the time for him had come; but he had
also known that the world is not yet so large that all men, at all
times, can lay their hands upon the work that is suitable for them to

Let us, however, return to the novels. They appear to have been written
about 1856 and 1857, when their author was twenty-eight or nine years
old. Of the order in which they were composed I have no record; but,
judging from internal evidence, I should say that "Edwin Brothertoft"
came first, then "Cecil Dreeme," and then "John Brent." The style, and
the quality of thought, in the latter is more mature than in the
others, and its tone is more fresh and wholesome. In the order of
publication, "Cecil Dreeme" was first, and seems also to have been most
widely read; then "John Brent," and then "Edwin Brothertoft," the scene
of which was laid in the last century. I remember seeing, at the house
of James T. Fields, their publisher, the manuscripts of these books,
carefully bound and preserved. They were written on large ruled
letter-paper, and the handwriting was very large, and had a
considerable slope. There were scarcely any corrections or erasures;
but it is possible that Winthrop made clean copies of his stories after
composing them. Much of the dialogue, especially, bears evidence of
having been revised, and of the author's having perhaps sacrificed ease
and naturalness, here and there, to the craving for conciseness which
has been one of the chief stumbling-blocks in the way of our young
writers. He wished to avoid heaviness and "padding," and went to the
other extreme. He wanted to cut loose from the old, stale traditions of
composition, and to produce something which should be new, not only in
character and significance, but in manner of presentation. He had the
ambition of the young Hafiz, who professed a longing to "tear down this
tiresome old sky." But the old sky has good reasons for being what and
where it is, and young radicals finally come to perceive that, regarded
from the proper point of view, and in the right spirit, it is not so
tiresome after all. Divine Revelation itself can be expressed in very
moderate and commonplace language; and if one's thoughts are worth
thinking, they are worth clothing in adequate and serene attire.

But "culture," and literature with it, have made such surprising
advances of late, that we are apt to forget how really primitive and
unenlightened the generation was in which Winthrop wrote. Imagine a
time when Mr. Henry James, Jr., and Mr. W. D. Howells had not been
heard of; when Bret Harte was still hidden below the horizon of the far
West; when no one suspected that a poet named Aldrich would ever write
a story called "Marjorie Daw"; when, in England, "Adam Bede" and his
successors were unborn;--a time of antiquity so remote, in short, that
the mere possibility of a discussion upon the relative merit of the
ideal and the realistic methods of fiction was undreamt of! What had an
unfortunate novelist of those days to fall back upon? Unless he wished
to expatriate himself, and follow submissively in the well worn steps
of Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope, the only models he could look to
were Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Foe, James Fenimore Cooper, and
Nathaniel Hawthorne. "Elsie Venner" had scarcely made its appearance at
that date. Irving and Cooper were, on the other hand, somewhat
antiquated. Poe and Hawthorne were men of very peculiar genius, and,
however deep the impression they have produced on our literature, they
have never had, because they never can have, imitators. As for the
author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," she was a woman in the first place, and,
in the second place, she sufficiently filled the field she had
selected. A would-be novelist, therefore, possessed of ambition, and
conscious of not being his own father or grandfather, saw an untrodden
space before him, into which he must plunge without support and without
guide. No wonder if, at the outset, he was a trifle awkward and
ill-at-ease, and, like a raw recruit under fire, appeared affected from
the very desire he felt to look unconcerned. It is much to his credit
that he essayed the venture at all; and it is plain to be seen that,
with each forward step he took, his self-possession and simplicity
increased. If time had been given him, there is no reason to doubt that
he might have been standing at the head of our champions of fiction

But time was not given him, and his work, like all other work, if it is
to be judged at all, must be judged on its merits. He excelled most in
passages descriptive of action; and the more vigorous and momentous the
action, the better, invariably, was the description; he rose to the
occasion, and was not defeated by it. Partly for this reason, "Cecil
Dreeme," the most popular of his books, seems to me the least
meritorious of them all. The story has little movement; it stagnates
round Chrysalis College. The love intrigue is morbid and unwholesome,
and the characters (which are seldom Winthrop's strong point) are more
than usually artificial and unnatural. The _dramatis personae_ are,
indeed, little more than moral or immoral principles incarnate. There
is no growth in them, no human variableness or complexity; it is "Every
Man in his Humor" over again, with the humor left out. Densdeth is an
impossible rascal; Churm, a scarcely more possible Rhadamanthine saint.
Cecil Dreeme herself never fully recovers from the ambiguity forced
upon her by her masculine attire; and Emma Denman could never have been
both what we are told she was, and what she is described as being. As
for Robert Byng, the supposed narrator of the tale, his name seems to
have been given him in order wantonly to increase the confusion caused
by the contradictory traits with which he is accredited. The whole
atmosphere of the story is unreal, fantastic, obscure. An attempt is
made to endow our poor, raw New York with something of the stormy and
ominous mystery of the immemorial cities of Europe. The best feature of
the book (morbidness aside) is the construction of the plot, which
shows ingenuity and an artistic perception of the value of mystery and
moral compensation. It recalls, in some respects, the design of
Hawthorne's "Blithedale Romance,"--that is, had the latter never been
written, the former would probably have been written differently. In
spite of its faults, it is an interesting book, and, to the critical
eye, there are in almost every chapter signs that indicate the
possession of no ordinary gifts on the author's part. But it may be
doubted whether the special circumstances under which it was published
had not something to do with its wide popularity. I imagine "John
Brent" to have been really much more popular, in the better sense; it
was read and liked by a higher class of readers. It is young ladies and
school-girls who swell the numbers of an "edition," and hence the
difficulty in arguing from this as to the literary merit of the book

"Edwin Brothertoft," though somewhat disjointed in construction, and
jerky in style, is yet a picturesque and striking story; and the gallop
of the hero across country and through the night to rescue from the
burning house the woman who had been false to him, is vigorously
described, and gives us some foretaste of the thrill of suspense and
excitement we feel in reading the story of the famous "Gallop of three"
in "John Brent." The writer's acquaintance with the history of the
period is adequate, and a romantic and chivalrous tone is preserved
throughout the volume. It is worth noting that, in all three of
Winthrop's novels, a horse bears a part in the crisis of the tale. In
"Cecil Dreeme" it is Churm's pair of trotters that convey the party of
rescuers to the private Insane Asylum in which Densdeth had confined
the heroine. In "Edwin Brothertoft," it is one of Edwin's renowned
breed of white horses that carries him through almost insuperable
obstacles to his goal. In "John Brent," the black stallion, Don Fulano,
who is throughout the chief figure in the book, reaches his apogee in
the tremendous race across the plains and down the rocky gorge of the
mountains, to where the abductors of the heroine are just about to
pitch their camp at the end of their day's journey. The motive is fine
and artistic, and, in each of the books, these incidents are as good
as, or better then, anything else in the narrative.

"John Brent" is, in fact, full enough of merit to more than redeem its
defects. The self-consciousness of the writer is less noticeable than
in the other works, and the effort to be epigrammatic, short, sharp,
and "telling" in style, is considerably modified. The interest is
lively, continuous, and cumulative; and there is just enough tragedy in
the story to make the happy ending all the happier. It was a novel and
adventurous idea to make a horse the hero of a tale, and the manner in
which the idea is carried out more than justifies the hazard. Winthrop,
as we know, was an ideal horseman, and knows what he is writing about.
He contrives to realize Don Fulano for us, in spite of the almost
supernatural powers and intelligence that he ascribes to the gallant
animal. One is willing to stretch a point of probability when such a
dashing and inspiring end is in view. In the present day we are getting
a little tired of being brought to account, at every turn, by Old
Prob., who tyrannizes over literature quite as much as over the
weather. Theodore Winthrop's inspiration, in this instance at least,
was strong and genuine enough to enable him to feel what he was telling
as the truth, and therefore it produces an effect of truth upon the
reader. How distinctly every incident of that ride remains stamped on
the memory, even after so long an interval as has elapsed since it was
written! And I recollect that one of the youthful devourers of this
book, who was of an artistic turn, was moved to paint three little
water-color pictures of the Gallop; the first showing the three
horses,--the White, the Gray, and the Black, scouring across the
prairie, towards the barrier of mountains behind which the sun was
setting; the second depicting Don Fulano, with Dick Wade and John Brent
on his back, plunging down the gorge upon the abductors, one of whom
had just pulled the trigger of his rifle; while the third gives the
scene in which the heroic horse receives his death-wound in carrying
the fugitive across the creek away from his pursuers. At this distance
of time, I am unable to bear any testimony as to the technical value of
the little pictures; I am inclined to fancy that they would have to be
taken _cum grano amoris_, as they certainly were executed _con amore_.
But, however that may be, the instance (which was doubtless only one of
many analogous to it) shows that Winthrop possessed the faculty of
stimulating and electrifying the imagination of his readers, which all
our recent improvements in the art and artifice of composition have not
made too common, and for which, if for nothing else, we might well feel
indebted to him.



It is not with Americans as with other peoples. Our position is more
vague and difficult, because it is not primarily related to the senses.
I can easily find out where England or Prussia is, and recognize an
Englishman or German when we meet; but we Americans are not, to the
same extent as these, limited by geographical and physical boundaries.
The origin of America was not like that of the European nations; the
latter were born after the flesh, but we after the spirit. It is of the
first consequence to them that their frontiers should be defended, and
their nationality kept distinct. But, though I esteem highly all our
innumerable square miles of East and West, North and South, and our
Pacific and Atlantic coasts, I cannot help deeming them quite a
secondary consideration. If America is not a great deal more than these
United States, then the United States are no better than a penal
colony. It is convenient, no doubt, for a great idea to find a great
embodiment--a suitable incarnation and stage; but the idea does not
depend upon these things. It is an accidental--or, I would rather say,
a Providential--matter that the Puritans came to New England, or that
Columbus discovered the continent in time for them; but it has always
happened that when a soul is born it finds a body ready fitted to it.
The body, however, is an instrument merely; it enables the spirit to
take hold of its mortal life, just as the hilt enables us to grasp the
sword. If the Puritans had not come to New England, still the spirit
that animated them would have lived, and made itself a place somehow.
And, in fact, how many Puritans, for how many ages previous, had been
trying to find standing-room in the world, and failed! They called
themselves by many names; their voices were heard in many countries;
the time had not yet come for them to be born--to touch their earthly
inheritance; but, meantime, the latent impetus was accumulating, and
the Mayflower was driven across the Atlantic by it at last. Nor is this
all--the Mayflower is sailing still between the old world and the new.
Every day it brings new settlers, if not to our material harbors--to
our Boston Bay, our Castle Garden, our Golden Gate--at any rate, to our
mental ports and wharves. We cannot take up a European newspaper
without finding an American idea in it. It is said that a great many of
our countrymen take the steamer to England every summer. But they come
back again; and they bring with them many who come to stay. I do not
refer specially to the occupants of the steerage--the literal
emigrants. One cannot say much about them--they may be Americans or
not, as it turns out. But England and the continent are full of
Americans who were born there, and many of whom will die there.
Sometimes they are better Americans than the New Yorker or the
Bostonian who lives in Beacon Street or the Bowery and votes in the
elections. They may be born and reside where they please, but they
belong to us, and, in the better sense, they are among us. Broadway and
Washington Street, Vermont and Colorado extend all over Europe. Russia
is covered with them; she tries to shove them away to Siberia, but in
vain. We call mountains and prairies solid facts; but the geography of
the mind is infinitely more stubborn. I dare say there are a great many
oblique-eyed, pig-tailed New Englanders in the Celestial Empire. They
may never have visited these shores, or even heard of them; but what of
that? They think our thought--they have apprehended our idea, and, by
and by, they or their heirs will cause it to prevail.

It is useless for us to hide our heads in the grass and refuse to rise
to the height of our occasion. We are here as the realization of a
truth--the fulfilment of a prophecy; we must attest a new departure in
the moral and intellectual development of the human race; for whichever
of us does not, must suffer annihilation. If I deny my birthright as an
American, I shall disappear and not be missed, for an American will
take my place. It is not altogether a luxurious position to find
yourself in. You cannot sit still and hold your hands. All manner of
hard and unpleasant things are expected of you, which you neglect at
your peril. It is like the old fable of the mermaid. She loved a mortal
youth, and, in order that she might win his affection, she prayed that
she might have the limbs and feet of a human maiden. Her prayer was
answered, and she met her prince; but every step she took was as if she
trod on razors. It is a fine thing to sit in your chair and reflect on
being an American; but when you have to rise up and do an American's
duty before the world--how sharp the razors are!

Of course, we do not always endure the test; the flesh and blood on
this side of the planet is not, so far as I have observed, of a quality
essentially different from that on the other. Possibly our population
is too many for us. Out of fifty million people it would be strange if
here and there one appeared who was not at all points a hero. Indeed, I
am sometimes tempted to think that that little band of original
Mayflower Pilgrims has not greatly multiplied since their
disembarkation. However it may be with their bodily offspring, their
spiritual progeny are not invariably found in the chair of the Governor
or on the floor of the Senate. What are these Irish fellow-creatures
doing here? Well, Bridget serves us in the kitchen; but Patrick is more
helpful yet; he goes to the legislature, and is the servant of the
people at large. It is very obliging of him; but turn and turn about is
fair play; and it would be no more than justice were we, once in a
while, to take off our coat and serve Patrick in the same way.

When we get into a tight place we are apt to try to slip out of it
under some plea of a European precedent. But it used to be supposed
that it was precisely European precedents that we came over here to
avoid. I am not profoundly versed in political economy, nor is this the
time or place to discuss its principles; but, as regards protection,
for example, I can conceive that there may be arguments against it as
well as for it. Emerson used to say that the way to conquer the foreign
artisan was not to kill him but to beat his work. He also pointed out
that the money we made out of the European wars, at the beginning of
this century, had the result of bringing the impoverished population of
those countries down upon us in the shape of emigrants. They shared our
crops and went on the poor-rates, and so we did not gain so much after
all. One cannot help wishing that America would assume the loftiest
possible ground in her political and commercial relations. With all due
respect to the sagacity and ability of our ruling demagogues, I should
not wish them to be quoted as typical Americans. The domination of such
persons has an effect which is by no means measurable by their personal
acts. What they can do is of infinitesimal importance. But the mischief
is that they incline every one of us to believe, as Emerson puts it, in
two gods. They make the morality of Wall Street and the White House
seem to be a different thing from that of our parlors and nurseries.
"He may be a little shady on 'change," we say, "but he is a capital
fellow when you know him." But if he is a capital fellow when I know
him, then I shall never find much fault with his professional
operations, and shall end, perhaps, by allowing him to make some
investments for me. Why should not I be a capital fellow too--and a
fellow of capital, to boot! I can endure public opprobrium with
tolerable equanimity so long as it remains public. It is the private
cold looks that trouble me.

In short, we may speak of America in two senses--either meaning the
America that actually meets us at the street corners and in the
newspapers, or the ideal America--America as it ought to be. They are
not the same thing; and, at present, there seems to be a good deal more
of the former than of the latter. And yet, there is a connection
between them; the latter has made the former possible. We sometimes see
a great crowd drawn together by proclamation, for some noble
purpose--to decide upon a righteous war, or to pass a just decree. But
the people on the outskirts of the crowd, finding themselves unable to
hear the orators, and their time hanging idle on their hands, take to
throwing stones, knocking off hats, or, perhaps, picking pockets. They
may have come to the meeting with as patriotic or virtuous intentions
as the promoters themselves; nay, under more favorable circumstances,
they might themselves have become promoters. Virtue and patriotism are
not private property; at certain times any one may possess them. And,
on the other hand, we have seen examples enough, of late, of persons of
the highest respectability and trust turning out, all at once, to be
very sorry scoundrels. A man changes according to the person with whom
he converses; and though the outlook is rather sordid to-day, we have
not forgotten that during the Civil War the air seemed full of heroism.
So that these two Americas--the real and the ideal--far apart though
they may be in one sense, may, in another sense, be as near together as
our right hand to our left. In a greater or less degree, they exist
side by side in each one of us. But civil wars do not come every day;
nor can we wish them to, even to show us once more that we are worthy
of our destiny. We must find some less expensive and quieter method of
reminding ourselves of that. And of such methods, none, perhaps, is
better than to review the lives of Americans who were truly great; to
ask what their country meant to them; what they wished her to become;
what virtues and what vices they detected in her. Passion may be
generous, but passion cannot last; and when it is over, we are cold and
indifferent again. But reason and example reach us when we are calm and
passive; and what they inculcate is more likely to abide. At least, it
will be only evil passion that can cast it out.

I have said that many a true American is doubtless born, and lives,
abroad; but that does not prevent Emerson from having been born here.
So far as the outward accidents of generation and descent go, he could
not have been more American than he was. Of course, one prefers that it
should be so. A rare gem should be fitly set. A noble poem should be
printed with the fairest type of the Riverside Press, and upon fine
paper with wide margins. It helps us to believe in ourselves to be told
that Emerson's ancestry was not only Puritan, but clerical; that the
central and vital thread of the idea that created us, ran through his
heart. The nation, and even New England, Massachusetts, Boston, have
many traits that are not found in him; but there is nothing in him that
is not a refinement, a sublimation and concentration of what is good in
them; and the selection and grouping of the elements are such that he
is a typical figure. Indeed, he is all type; which is the same as
saying that there is nobody like him. And, mentally, he produces the
impression of being all force; in his writings, his mind seems to have
acted immediately, without natural impediment or friction; as if a
machine should be run that was not hindered by the contact of its
parts. As he was physically lean and narrow of figure, and his face
nothing but so many features welded together, so there was no adipose
tissue in his thought. It is pure, clear, and accurate, and has the
fault of dryness; but often moves in forms of exquisite beauty. It is
not adhesive; it sticks to nothing, nor anything to it; after ranging
through all the various philosophies of the world, it comes out as
clean and characteristic as ever. It has numberless affinities, but no
adhesion; it does not even adhere to itself. There are many separate
statements in any one of his essays which present no logical
continuity; but although this fact has caused great anxiety to many
disciples of Emerson, it never troubled him. It was the inevitable
result of his method of thought. Wandering at will in the flower-garden
of religious and moral philosophy, it was his part to pluck such
blossoms as he saw were beautiful; not to find out their botanical
interconnection. He would afterward arrange them, for art or harmony's
sake, according to their color or their fragrance; but it was not his
affair to go any farther in their classification.

This intuitive method of his, however little it may satisfy those who
wish to have all their thinking done for them, who desire not only to
have given to them all the cities of the earth, but also to have
straight roads built for them from one to the other, carries with it
its own justification. "There is but one reason," is Emerson's saying;
and again and again does he prove without proving it. We confess, over
and over, that the truth which he asserts is indeed a truth. Even his
own variations from the truth, when he is betrayed into them, serve to
confirm the rule. For these are seldom or never intuitions at first
hand--pure intuitions; but, as it were, intuitions from previous
intuitions--deductions. The form of statement is the same, but the
source is different; they are from Emerson, instead of from the
Absolute; tinted, not colorless. They show a mental bias, very slight,
but redeeming him back to humanity. We love him the more for them,
because they indicate that for him, too, there was a choice of ways,
and that he must struggle and watch to choose the right.

We are so much wedded to systems, and so accustomed to connect a system
with a man, that the absence of system, either explicit or implicit, in
Emerson, strikes us as a defect. And yet truth has no system, nor the
human mind. This philosopher maintains one, that another thesis. Both
are true essentially, and yet there seems a contradiction between them.
We cannot bear to be illogical, and so we enlist some under this
banner, some under that. By so doing we sacrifice to consistency at
least the half of truth. Thence we come to examine our intuitions, and
ask them, not whether they are true in themselves, but what are their
tendencies. If it turn out that they will lead us to stultify some past
conclusion to which we stand committed, we drop them like hot coals. To
Emerson, this behavior appeared the nakedest personal vanity.
Recognizing that he was finite, he could not desire to be consistent.
If he saw to-day that one thing was true, and to-morrow that its
opposite was true, was it for him to elect which of the two truths
should have his preference? No; to reject either would be to reject
all; it belonged to God alone to reconcile these contradictious.
Between infinite and finite can be no ratio; and the consistency of the
Creator implies the inconsistency of the creature.

Emerson's Americanism, therefore, was Americanism in its last and
purest analysis, which is giving him high praise, and to America great
hope. But I do not mean to pay him, who was so full of modesty and
humility, the ungrateful compliment of holding him up as the permanent
American ideal. It is his tendencies, his quality, that are valuable,
and only in a minor, incipient degree his actual results. All human
results must be strictly limited, and according to the epoch and
outlook. Emerson does not solve for all time the problem of the
universe; he solves nothing; but he does what is far more useful--he
gives a direction and an impetus to lofty human endeavor. He does not
anticipate the lessons and the discipline of the ages, but he shows us
how to deal with circumstances in such a manner as to secure the good
instead of the evil influence. New conditions, fresh discoveries,
unexpected horizons opening before us, will, no doubt, soon carry us
beyond the scope of Emerson's surmise; but we shall not so easily
improve upon his aim and attitude. In the spaces beyond the stars there
may be marvels such as it has not entered into the mind of man to
conceive; but there, as here, the right way to look will still be
upward, and the right aspiration be still toward humbleness and
charity. I have just spoken of Emerson's absence of system; but his
writings have nevertheless a singular coherence, by virtue of the
single-hearted motive that has inspired them. Many will, doubtless,
have noticed, as I have done, how the whole of Emerson illustrates
every aspect of him.

Whether your discourse be of his religion, of his ethics, of his
relation to society, or what not, the picture that you draw will have
gained color and form from every page that he has written. He does not
lie in strata; all that he is permeates all that he has done. His books
cannot be indexed, unless you would refer every subject to each
paragraph. And so he cannot treat, no matter what subject, without
incorporating in his statement the germs at least of all that he has
thought and believed. In this respect he is like light--the presence of
the general at the particular. And, to confess the truth, I find myself
somewhat loath to diffract this pure ray to the arbitrary end of my
special topic. Why should I speak of him as an American? That is not
his definition. He was an American because he was himself. America,
however, gives less limitation than any other nationality to a generous
and serene personality.

I am sometimes disposed to think that Emerson's "English Traits" reveal
his American traits more than anything else he has written. We are
described by our own criticisms of others, and especially by our
criticisms of another nation; the exceptions we take are the mould of
our own figures. So we have valuable glimpses of Emerson's contours
throughout this volume. And it is in all respects a fortunate work; as
remarkable a one almost for him to write as a volume of his essays for
any one else. Comparatively to his other books, it is as flesh and
blood to spirit; Emersonian flesh and blood, it is true, and
semi-translucent; but still it completes the man for us: he would have
remained too problematical without it. Those who have never personally
known him may finish and solidify their impressions of him here. He
likes England and the English, too; and that sympathy is beyond our
expectation of the mind that evolved "Nature" and "The Over-Soul." The
grasp of his hand, I remember, was firm and stout, and we perceive
those qualities in the descriptions and cordiality of "English Traits."
Then, it is an objective book; the eye looks outward, not inward; these
pages afford a basis not elsewhere obtainable of comparing his general
human faculty with that of other men. Here he descends from the airy
heights he treads so easily and, standing foot to foot with his peers,
measures himself against them. He intends only to report their stature,
and to leave himself out of the story; but their answers to his
questions show what the questions were, and what the questioner. And we
cannot help suspecting, though he did not, that the Englishmen were not
a little put to it to keep pace with their clear-faced, penetrating,
attentive visitor.

He has never said of his own countrymen the comfortable things that he
tells of the English; but we need not grumble at that. The father who
is severe with his own children will freely admire those of others, for
whom he is not responsible. Emerson is stern toward what we are, and
arduous indeed in his estimate of what we ought to be. He intimates
that we are not quite worthy of our continent; that we have not as yet
lived up to our blue china. "In America the geography is sublime, but
the men are not." And he adds that even our more presentable public
acts are due to a money-making spirit: "The benefaction derived in
Illinois and the great West from railroads is inestimable, and vastly
exceeding any intentional philanthropy on record." He does not think
very respectfully of the designs or the doings of the people who went
to California in 1849, though he admits that "California gets civilized
in this immoral way," and is fain to suppose that, "as there is use in
the world for poisons, so the world cannot move without rogues," and
that, in respect of America, "the huge animals nourish huge parasites,
and the rancor of the disease attests the strength of the
constitution." He ridicules our unsuspecting provincialism: "Have you
seen the dozen great men of New York and Boston? Then you may as well
die!" He does not spare our tendency to spread-eagleism and
declamation, and having quoted a shrewd foreigner as saying of
Americans that, "Whatever they say has a little the air of a speech,"
he proceeds to speculate whether "the American forest has refreshed
some weeds of old Pictish barbarism just ready to die out?" He finds
the foible especially of American youth to be--pretension; and remarks,
suggestively, that we talk much about the key of the age, but "the key
to all ages is imbecility!" He cannot reconcile himself to the mania
for going abroad. "There is a restlessness in our people that argues
want of character.... Can we never extract this tapeworm of Europe from
the brain of our countrymen?" He finds, however, this involuntary
compensation in the practice--that, practically "we go to Europe to be
Americanized," and has faith that "one day we shall cast out the
passion for Europe by the passion for America." As to our political
doings, he can never regard them with complacency. "Politics is an
afterword," he declares--"a poor patching. We shall one day learn to
supersede politics by education." He sympathizes with Lovelace's theory
as to iron bars and stone walls, and holds that freedom and slavery are
inward, not outward conditions. Slavery is not in circumstance, but in
feeling; you cannot eradicate the irons by external restrictions; and
the truest way to emancipate the slave would be to educate him to a
comprehension of his inviolable dignity and freedom as a human being.
Amelioration of outward circumstances will be the effect, but can never
be the means of mental and moral improvement. "Nothing is more
disgusting," he affirms, generalizing the theme, "than the crowing
about liberty by slaves, as most men are, and the flippant mistaking
for freedom of some paper preamble like a 'Declaration of Independence'
or the statute right to vote." But, "Our America has a bad name for
superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and
buffoons, but perceivers of the terrors of life, and have nerved
themselves to face it." He will not be deceived by the clamor of
blatant reformers. "If an angry bigot assumes the bountiful cause of
abolition, and comes to me with his last news from Barbadoes, why
should I not say to him: 'Go love thy infant; love thy wood-chopper; be
good-natured and modest; have that grace, and never varnish your hard,
uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk a
thousand miles off!'"

He does not shrink from questioning the validity of some of our pet
institutions, as, for instance, universal suffrage. He reminds us that
in old Egypt the vote of a prophet was reckoned equal to one hundred
hands, and records his opinion that it was much underestimated. "Shall
we, then," he asks, "judge a country by the majority or by the
minority? By the minority, surely! 'Tis pedantry to estimate nations by
the census, or by square miles of land, or other than by their
importance to the mind of the time." The majority are unripe, and do
not yet know their own opinion. He would not, however, counsel an
organic alteration in this respect, believing that, with the progress
of enlightenment, such coarse constructions of human rights will adjust
themselves. He concedes the sagacity of the Fultons and Watts of
politics, who, noticing that the opinion of the million was the terror
of the world, grouped it on a level, instead of piling it into a
mountain, and so contrived to make of this terror the most harmless and
energetic form of a State. But, again, he would not have us regard the
State as a finality, or as relieving any man of his individual
responsibility for his actions and purposes. We are to confide in
God--and not in our money, and in the State because it is guard of it.
The Union itself has no basis but the good pleasure of the majority to
be united. The wise and just men impart strength to the State, not
receive it; and, if all went down, they and their like would soon
combine in a new and better constitution. Yet he will not have us
forget that only by the supernatural is a man strong; nothing so weak
as an egotist. We are mighty only as vehicles of a truth before which
State and individual are alike ephemeral. In this sense we, like other
nations, shall have our kings and nobles--the leading and inspiration
of the best; and he who would become a member of that nobility must
obey his heart.

Government, he observes, has been a fossil--it should be a plant;
statute law should express, not impede, the mind of mankind. In tracing
the course of human political institutions, he finds feudalism
succeeding monarchy, and this again followed by trade, the good and
evil of which is that it would put everything in the market, talent,
beauty, virtue, and man himself. By this means it has done its work; it
has faults and will end as the others. Its aristocracy need not be
feared, for it can have no permanence, it is not entailed. In the time
to come, he hopes to see us less anxious to be governed, in the
technical sense; each man shall govern himself in the interests of all;
government without any governor will be, for the first time,
adamantine. Is not every man sometimes a radical in politics? Men are
conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most
luxurious; conservatism stands on man's limitations, reform on his
infinitude. The age of the quadruped is to go out; the age of the brain
and the heart is to come in. We are too pettifogging and imitative in
our legislative conceptions; the Legislature of this country should
become more catholic and cosmopolitan than any other. Let us be brave
and strong enough to trust in humanity; strong natures are inevitable
patriots. The time, the age, what is that, but a few prominent persons
and a few active persons who epitomize the times? There is a bribe
possible for any finite will; but the pure sympathy with universal ends
is an infinite force, and cannot be bribed or bent. The world wants
saviors and religions; society is servile from want of will; but there
is a Destiny by which the human race is guided, the race never dying,
the individual never spared; its law is, you shall have everything as a
member, nothing to yourself. Referring to the communities of various
kinds, which were so much in vogue some years ago, he holds such to be
valuable, not for what they have done, but for the indication they give
of the revolution that is on the way. They place great faith in mutual
support, but it is only as a man puts off from himself all external
support and stands alone, that he is strong and will prevail. He is
weaker by every recruit to his banner. A man ought to compare
advantageously with a river, an oak, or a mountain. He must not shun
whatever comes to him in the way of duty; the only path of escape
is--performance. He must rely on Providence, but not in a timid or
ecclesiastical spirit; it is no use to dress up that terrific
benefactor in a clean shirt and white neckcloth of a student of
divinity. We shall come out well, whatever personal or political
disasters may intervene. For here in America is the home of man. After
deducting our pitiful politics--shall John or Jonathan sit in the chair
and hold the purse?--and making due allowance for our frivolities and
insanities, there still remains an organic simplicity and liberty,
which, when it loses its balance, redresses itself presently, and which
offers to the human mind opportunities not known elsewhere.

Whenever he touches upon the fundamental elements of social and
rational life, it is always to enlarge and illuminate our conception of
them. We are not wont to question the propriety of the sentiment of
patriotism, for instance. We are to swear by our own _lares_ and
_penates_, and stand up for the American eagle, right or wrong. But
Emerson instantly goes beneath this interpretation and exposes its
crudity. The true sense of patriotism, according to him, is almost the
reverse of its popular sense. He has no sympathy with that boyish
egotism, hoarse with cheering for our side, for our State, for our
town; the right patriotism consists in the delight which springs from
contributing our peculiar and legitimate advantages to the benefit of
humanity. Every foot of soil has its proper quality; the grape on two
sides of the fence has new flavors; and so every acre on the globe,
every family of men, every point of climate, has its distinguishing
virtues. This being admitted, however, Emerson will yield in patriotism
to no one; his only concern is that the advantages we contribute shall
be the most instead of the least possible. "This country," he says,
"does not lie here in the sun causeless, and though it may not be easy
to define its influence, men feel already its emancipating quality in
the careless self-reliance of the manners, in the freedom of thought,
in the direct roads by which grievances are reached and redressed, and
even in the reckless and sinister politics, not less than in purer
expressions. Bad as it is, this freedom leads onward and upward to a
Columbia of thought and art, which is the last and endless end of
Columbus's adventure." Nor is this poet of virtue and philosophy ever
more truly patriotic, from his spiritual standpoint, than when he
throws scorn and indignation upon his country's sins and frailties.
"But who is he that prates of the culture of mankind, of better arts
and life? Go, blind worm, go--behold the famous States harrying Mexico
with rifle and with knife! Or who, with accent bolder, dare praise the
freedom-loving mountaineer? I found by thee, O rushing Contoocook! and
in thy valleys, Agiochook! the jackals of the negro-holder.... What
boots thy zeal, O glowing friend, that would indignant rend the
northland from the South? Wherefore? To what good end? Boston Bay and
Bunker Hill would serve things still--things are of the snake. The
horseman serves the horse, the neat-herd serves the neat, the merchant
serves the purse, the eater serves his meat; 'tis the day of the
chattel, web to weave, and corn to grind; things are in the saddle, and
ride mankind!"

But I must not begin to quote Emerson's poetry; only it is worth noting
that he, whose verse is uniformly so abstractly and intellectually
beautiful, kindles to passion whenever his theme is of America. The
loftiest patriotism never found more ardent and eloquent expression
than in the hymn sung at the completion of the Concord monument, on the
19th of April, 1836. There is no rancor in it; no taunt of triumph;
"the foe long since in silence slept"; but throughout there resounds a
note of pure and deep rejoicing at the victory of justice over
oppression, which Concord fight so aptly symbolized. In "Hamatreya" and
"The Earth Song," another chord is struck, of calm, laconic irony.
Shall we too, he asks, we Yankee farmers, descendants of the men who
gave up all for freedom, go back to the creed outworn of medieval
feudalism and aristocracy, and say, of the land that yields us its
produce, "'Tis mine, my children's, and my name's"? Earth laughs in
flowers at our boyish boastfulness, and asks "How am I theirs if they
cannot hold me, but I hold them?" "When I heard 'The Earth Song,' I was
no longer brave; my avarice cooled, like lust in the child of the
grave" Or read "Monadnoc," and mark the insight and the power with
which the significance and worth of the great facts of nature are
interpreted and stated. "Complement of human kind, having us at vantage
still, our sumptuous indigence, oh, barren mound, thy plenties fill! We
fool and prate; thou art silent and sedate. To myriad kinds and times
one sense the constant mountain doth dispense; shedding on all its
snows and leaves, one joy it joys, one grief it grieves. Thou seest,
oh, watchman tall, our towns and races grow and fall, and imagest the
stable good for which we all our lifetime grope; and though the
substance us elude, we in thee the shadow find." ... "Thou dost supply
the shortness of our days, and promise, on thy Founder's truth, long
morrow to this mortal youth!" I have ignored the versified form in
these extracts, in order to bring them into more direct contrast with
the writer's prose, and show that the poetry is inherent. No other
poet, with whom I am acquainted, has caused the very spirit of a land,
the mother of men, to express itself so adequately as Emerson has done
in these pieces. Whitman falls short of them, it seems to me, though
his effort is greater.

Emerson is continually urging us to give heed to this grand voice of
hills and streams, and to mould ourselves upon its suggestions. The
difficulty and the anomaly are that we are not native; that England is
our mother, quite as much as Monadnoc; that we are heirs of memories
and traditions reaching far beyond the times and the confines of the
Republic. We cannot assume the splendid childlikeness of the great
primitive races, and exhibit the hairy strength and unconscious genius
that the poet longs to find in us. He remarks somewhere that the
culminating period of good in nature and the world is in just that
moment of transition, when the swarthy juices still flow plentifully
from nature, but their astringency or acidity is got out by ethics and

It was at such a period that Greece attained her apogee; but our
experience, it seems to me, must needs be different. Our story is not
of birth, but of regeneration, a far more subtle and less obvious
transaction. The Homeric California of which Bret Harte is the reporter
does not seem to me in the closest sense American. It is a
comparatively superficial matter--this savage freedom and raw poetry;
it belongs to all pioneering life, where every man must stand for
himself, and Judge Lynch strings up the defaulter to the nearest tree.
But we are only incidentally pioneers in this sense; and the
characteristics thus impressed upon us will leave no traces in the
completed American. "A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont," says
Emerson, "who in turn tries all the professions--who teams it, farms
it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to
Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and
always, like a cat, falls on his feet--is worth a hundred of these city
dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not
studying a 'profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives
already." That is stirringly said: but, as a matter of fact, most of
the Americans whom we recognize as great did not have such a history;
nor, if they had it, would they be on that account more American. On
the other hand, the careers of men like Jim Fiske and Commodore
Vanderbilt might serve very well as illustrations of the above sketch.
If we must wait for our character until our geographical advantages and
the absence of social distinctions manufacture it for us, we are likely
to remain a long while in suspense. When our foreign visitors begin to
evince a more poignant interest in Concord and Fifth Avenue than in the
Mississippi and the Yellowstone, it may be an indication to us that we
are assuming our proper position relative to our physical environment.
"The _land_," says Emerson, "is a sanative and Americanizing influence
which promises to disclose new virtues for ages to come." Well, when we
are virtuous, we may, perhaps, spare our own blushes by allowing our
topography, symbolically, to celebrate us, and when our admirers would
worship the purity of our intentions, refer them to Walden Pond; or to
Mount Shasta, when they would expatiate upon our lofty generosity. It
is, perhaps, true, meanwhile, that the chances of a man's leading a
decent life are greater in a palace than in a pigsty.

But this is holding our author too strictly to the letter of his
message. And, at any rate, the Americanism of Emerson is better than
anything that he has said in vindication of it. He is the champion of
this commonwealth; he is our future, living in our present, and showing
the world, by anticipation, as it were, what sort of excellence we are
capable of attaining. A nation that has produced Emerson, and can
recognize in him bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh--and, still
more, spirit of her spirit--that nation may look toward the coming age
with security. But he has done more than thus to prophesy of his
country; he is electric and stimulates us to fulfil our destiny. To use
a phrase of his own, we "cannot hear of personal vigor of any kind,
great power of performance, without fresh resolution." Emerson, helps
us most in provoking us to help ourselves. The pleasantest revenge is
that which we can sometimes take upon our great men in quoting of
themselves what they have said of others.

It is easy to be so revenged upon Emerson, because he, more than most
persons of such eminence, has been generous and cordial in his
appreciation of all human worth. "If there should appear in the
company," he observes, "some gentle soul who knows little of persons
and parties, of Carolina or Cuba, but who announces a law that disposes
these particulars, and so certifies me of the equity which checkmates
every false player, bankrupts every self-seeker, and apprises me of my
independence on any conditions of country, or time, or human body, that
man liberates me.... I am made immortal by apprehending my possession
of incorruptible goods." Who can state the mission and effect of
Emerson more tersely and aptly than those words do it?

But, once more, he does not desire eulogiums, and it seems half
ungenerous to force them upon him now that he can no longer defend
himself. I prefer to conclude by repeating a passage characteristic of
him both as a man and as an American, and which, perhaps, conveys a
sounder and healthier criticism, both for us and for him, than any mere
abject and nerveless admiration; for great men are great only in so far
as they liberate us, and we undo their work in courting their tyranny.
The passage runs thus:--

"Let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set
the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not,
as if I pretended to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all
things. No facts to me are sacred; none are profane. I simply
experiment--an endless seeker, with no Past at my back!"



Human nature enjoys nothing better than to wonder--to be mystified; and
it thanks and remembers those who have the skill to gratify this
craving. The magicians of old knew that truth and conducted themselves
accordingly. But our modern wonder-workers fail of their due influence,
because, not content to perform their marvels, they go on to explain
them. Merlin and Roger Bacon were greater public benefactors than Morse
and Edison. Man is--and he always has been and will be--something else
besides a pure intelligence: and science, in order to become really
popular, must contrive to touch man somewhere else besides on the
purely intellectual side: it must remember that man is all heart, all
hope, all fear, and all foolishness, quite as much as he is all brains.
Otherwise, science can never expect to take the place of superstition,
much less of religion, in mankind's affection. In order to be a really
successful man of science, it is first of all indispensable to make
one's self master of everything in nature and in human nature that
science is not.

What must one do, in short, in order to become a magician? I use the
term, here, in its weightiest sense. How to make myself visible and
invisible at will? How to present myself in two or more places at once?
How answer your question before you ask it, and describe to you your
most secret thoughts and actions? How shall I call spirits from the
vasty deep, and make you see and hear and feel them? How paralyze your
strength with a look, heal your wound with a touch, or cause your
bullet to rebound harmless from my unprotected flesh? How shall I walk
on the air, sink through the earth, pass through stone walls, or walk,
dry-shod, on the floor of the ocean? How shall I visit the other side
of the moon, jump through the ring of Saturn, and gather sunflowers in
Sirius? There are persons now living who profess to do no less
remarkable feats, and to regard them as incidental merely to
achievements far more important. A school of hierophants or adepts is
said to exist in Tibet, who, as a matter of daily routine, quite
transcend everything that we have been accustomed to consider natural
possibility. What is the course of study, what are the ways and means
whereby such persons accomplish such results?

The conventional attitude towards such matters is, of course, that of
unconditional scepticism. But it is pleasant, occasionally, to take an
airing beyond the bounds of incredulity. For my own part, it is true, I
must confess my inability to believe in anything positively
supernatural. The supernatural and the illusory are to my mind
convertible terms: they cannot really exist or take place. Let us be
sure, however, that we are agreed as to what supernatural means. If a
magician, before my eyes, transformed an old man into a little girl, I
should call that supernatural; and nothing should convince me that my
senses had not been grossly deceived. But were the magician to leave
the room by passing through the solid wall, or "go out" like an
exploding soap-bubble,--I might think what I please, but I should not
venture to dogmatically pronounce the thing supernatural; because the
phenomenon known as "matter" is scientifically unknown, and therefore
no one can tell what modifications it may not be susceptible of:--no
one, that is to say, except the person who, like the magician of our
illustration, professes to possess, and (for aught I can affirm to the
contrary) may actually possess a knowledge unshared by the bulk of
mankind. The transformation of an old man into a little girl, on the
other hand, would be a transaction involving the immaterial soul as
well as the material body; and if I do not know that that cannot take
place, I am forever incapable of knowing anything. These are extreme
examples, but they serve to emphasize an important distinction.

The whole domain of magic, in short, occupies that anomalous neutral
ground that intervenes between the facts of our senses and the truths
of our intuitions. Fact and truth are not convertible terms; they abide
in two distinct planes, like thought and speech, or soul and body; one
may imply or involve the other, but can never demonstrate it.
Experience and intuition together comprehend the entire realm of actual
and conceivable knowledge. Whatever contradicts both experience and
intuition may, therefore, be pronounced illusion. But this neutral
ground is the home of phenomena which intuition does not deny, and
which experience has not confirmed. It is still a wide zone, though not
so wide as it was a hundred years ago, or fifty, or even ten. It
narrows every day, as science, or the classification of experience,
expands. Are we, then, to look for a time when the zone shall have
dwindled to a mathematical line, and magic confess itself to have been
nothing but the science of an advanced school of investigators? Will
the human intellect acquire a power before which all mysteries shall
become transparent? Let us dwell upon this question a little longer.

A mystery that is a mystery can never, humanly speaking, become
anything else. Instances of such mysteries can readily be adduced. The
universe itself is built upon them and is the greatest of them. They
lie before the threshold and at the basis of all existence. For
example:--here is a lump of compact, whitish, cheese-like substance,
about as much as would go into a thimble. From this I profess to be
able to produce a gigantic, intricate structure, sixty feet in height
and diameter, hard, solid, and enduring, which shall furthermore
possess the power of extending and multiplying itself until it covers
the whole earth, and even all the earths in the universe, if it could
reach them. Is such a profession as this credible? It is entirely
credible, as soon as I paraphrase it by saying that I propose to plant
an acorn. And yet all magic has no mystery which is so wonderful as
this universal mystery of growth: and the only reason we are not lost
in amazement at it is that it goes quietly on all the time, and
perfects itself under uniform conditions. But let me eliminate from the
phenomenon the one element of time--which is logically the least
essential factor in the product, unreal and arbitrary, based on the
revolution of the earth, and conceivably variable to any extent--grant
me this, and the world would come to see me do the miracle. But, with
time or without it, the mystery is just as mysterious.

Natural mysteries, then,--the mysteries of life, death, creation,
growth,--do not fall under our present consideration: they are beyond
the legitimate domain of magic: and no intellectual development to
which we may hereafter attain will bring us a step nearer their
solution. But with the problems proper to magic, the case is different.
Magic is distinctively not Divine, but human: a finite conundrum, not
an Infinite enigma. If there has ever been a magician since the world
began, then all mankind may become magicians, if they will give the
necessary time and trouble. And yet, magic is not simply an advanced
region of the path which science is pursuing. Science is concerned with
results,--with material phenomena; whereas magic is, primarily, the
study of causes, or of spiritual phenomena; or, to use another
definition,--of phenomena which the senses perceive, not in themselves,
but only in their results. So long as we restrict ourselves to results,
our activity is confined to analysis; but when we begin to investigate
causes, we are on the road not only to comprehend results, but (within
limits) to modify or produce them.

Science, however, blocks our advance in this direction by denying, or
at least refusing to admit, the existence of the spiritual world, or
world of causes: because, being spiritual, it is not sensible, or
cognizable in sense. Science admits only material causes, or the
changes wrought in matter by itself. If we ask what is the cause of a
material cause, we are answered that it is a supposed entity called
Force, concerning which there is nothing further to be known.

At this point, then, argument (on the material plane) comes to an end,
and speculation or assumption begins. Science answers its own
questions, but neither can nor will answer any others. And upon what
pretence do we ask any others? We ask them upon two grounds. The first
is that some people,--we might even say, most people,--would be glad to
believe in supersensuous existence, and are always on the alert to
examine any plausible hypothesis pointing in that direction: and
secondly, there exists a vast amount of testimony (we need not call it
evidence) tending to show that the supersensuous world has been
discovered, and that it endows its discoverers with sundry notable
advantages. Of course, we are not obliged to credit this testimony,
unless we want to: and--for some reason, never fully explained--a great
many people who accept natural mysteries quite amiably become indignant
when requested to examine mysteries of a much milder order. But it is
not my intention to discuss the limits of the probable; but to swallow
as much as possible first, and endeavor to account for it afterwards.

There is, as every reader knows, a class of phenomena--such as
hypnotism, trance, animal magnetism, and so forth--the occurrence of
which science has conceded, though failing as yet to offer any
intelligent explanation of them. It is suggested that they are peculiar
states of the brain and nerve-centres, physical in their nature and
origin, though evading our present physical tests. Be that as it may,
they afford a capital introduction to the study of magic; if, indeed,
they, and a few allied phenomena, do not comprise the germs of the
whole matter. Apropos of this subject, a society has lately been
organized in London, with branches on the Continent and in this
country, composed of scientific men, Fellows of the Royal Society,
members of Parliament, professors, and literary men, calling themselves
the "Psychical Research Society," and making it their business to test
and investigate these very marvels, under the most stringent scientific
conditions. But the capacity to be deceived of the bodily senses is
almost unlimited; in fact, we know that they are incapable of telling
us the ultimate truth on any subject; and we are able to get along with
them only because we have found their misinformation to be sufficiently
uniform for most practical purposes. But once admit that the origin of
these phenomena is not on the physical plane, and then, if we are to
give any weight at all to them, it can be only from a spiritual
standpoint. In other words, unless we can approach such questions by an
_a priori_ route, we might as well let them alone. We can reason from
spirit to body--from mind to matter--but we can never reverse that
process, and from matter evolve mind. The reason is that matter is not
found to contain mind, but is only acted upon by it, as inferior by
superior; and we cannot get out of the bag more than has been put into
it. The acorn (to use our former figure) can never explain the oak; but
the oak readily accounts for the acorn. It may be doubted, therefore,
whether the Psychical Research Society can succeed in doing more than
to give a respectable endorsement to a perplexing possibility,--so long
as they adhere to the inductive method. Should they, however, abandon
the inductive method for the deductive, they will forfeit the
allegiance of all consistently scientific minds; and they may, perhaps,
make some curious contributions to philosophy. At present, they appear
to be astride the fence between philosophy and science, as if they
hoped in some way to make the former satisfy the latter's demands. But
the difference between the evidence that demonstrates a fact and the
evidence that confirms a truth is, once more, a difference less of
degree than of kind. We can never obtain sensible verification of a
proposition that transcends sense. We must accept it without material
proof, or not at all. We may believe, for instance, that Creation is
the work of an intelligent Divine Being; or we may disbelieve it; but
we can never prove it. If we do believe it, innumerable confirmations
of it meet us at every turn: but no such confirmations, and no
multiplication of them, can persuade a disbeliever. For belief is ever
incommunicable from without; it can be generated only from within. The
term "belief" cannot be applied to our recognition of a physical fact:
we do not believe in that--we are only sensible of it.

In this connection, a few words will be in order concerning what is
called Spiritism,--a subject which has of late years been exciting a
good deal of remark. Its disciples claim for it the dignity of a new
and positive revelation,--a revelation to sense of spiritual being.
Now, the entire universe may be described as a revelation to sense of
spiritual being--for those who happen to believe _a priori_, or from
spontaneous inward conviction, in spiritual being. We may believe a
man's body, for example, to be the effect of which his soul is the
cause; but no one can reach that conviction by the most refined
dissection of the bodily tissues. How, then, does the spiritists'
Positive Revelation help the matter? Their answer is that the physical
universe is a permanent and orderly phenomenon which (setting aside the
problem of its First Cause) fully accounts for itself; whereas the
phenomena of Spiritism, such as rapping, table-tipping, materializing,
and so forth, are, if not supernatural, at any rate extra-natural. They
occur in consequence of a conscious effort to bring them about; they
cease when that effort is discontinued; they abound in indications of
being produced by independent intelligencies; they are inexplicable
upon any recognized theory of physics; and, therefore, there is nothing
for it but to regard them as spiritual. And what then? Then, of course,
there must be spirits, and a life after the death of the body; and the
great question of Immortality is answered in the affirmative!

Let us, for the sake of argument, concede that the manifestations upon
which the Spiritists found their claims are genuine: that they are or
can be produced without fraud; and let us then enquire in what respect
our means for the conversion of the sceptic are improved. In the first
place we find that all the manifestations--be their cause what it
may--can occur only on the physical plane. However much the origin of
the phenomena may perplex us, the phenomena themselves must be purely
material, in so far as they are perceptible at all. "Raps" are audible
according to the same laws of vibration as other sounds: the tilting
table is simply a material body displaced by an adequate agency; the
materialized hand or face is nothing but physical substance assuming
form. Plainly, therefore, we have as much right to ascribe a spiritual
source to such phenomena as we have to ascribe a spiritual source to
the ordinary phenomena of nature, such as a tree or a man's body,--just
as much right--and no more! Consequently, we are no nearer converting
our sceptic than we were at the outset. He admits the physical
manifestation: there is no intrinsic novelty about that: but when we
proceed to argue that the manifestations are wrought by spirits, he
points out to us that this is sheer assumption on our part. "I have not
seen a spirit," he says: "I have not heard one; I have not felt one;
nor is it possible that my bodily senses should perceive anything that
is not at least as physical as they are. I have witnessed certain
transactions effected by means unknown to me--possibly by the action of
a natural law not yet fully expounded by science. If there was anything
spiritual in the affair, it has not been manifest to my apprehension:
and I must decline to lend my countenance to any such pretensions."

That would be the reply of the sceptic who was equal to the emergency.
But let us suppose that he is not equal to it: that he is a weak-kneed,
impressionable person, with a tendency to jump at conclusions; and that
he is scared or mystified into believing that "spirits" may be at the
bottom of it. What, then, will be the character of the faith which the
Positive Revelation has furnished him? He has discovered that existence
continues, in some fashion, after the death of the body. He has learned
that there may be such a thing as--not immortality exactly,
but--postmortem consciousness. He has been saddled with the conviction
that the other world is full of restless ghosts, who come shuddering
back from their cold emptiness, and try to warm themselves in the
borrowed flesh and blood, and with the purblind selfishness and
curiosity of us who still remain here. "Have faith: be not impatient:
the conditions are unfavorable: but we are working for you!"--such is
the constant burden of the communications. But, if there be a God, why
must our relations with him be complicated by the interference of such
forlorn prevaricators and amateur Paracletes as these? we do not wish
to be "worked for,"--to be carried heavenward on some one else's
shoulders: but to climb thither by God's help and our own will, or to
stay where we are. Moreover, by what touchstone shall we test the
veracity of the self-appointed purveyors of this Positive Revelation?
Are we to believe what they say, because they have lost their bodies?
If life teaches us anything, it is that God does above all things
respect the spiritual freedom of his creatures. He does not terrify and
bully us into acknowledging Him by ghostly juggleries in darkened
rooms, and by vapid exhibitions addressed to our outward senses. He
approaches each man in the innermost sacred audience-chamber of his
heart, and there shows him good and evil, truth and falsehood, and bids
him choose. And that choice, if made aright, becomes a genuine and
undying belief, because it was made in freedom, unbiassed by external
threats and cajoleries.

Such belief is, itself, immortality,--something as distinct from
post-mortem consciousness as wisdom is distinct from mere animal
intelligence. On the whole, therefore, there seems to be little real
worth in Spiritism, even accepting it at its own valuation. The
nourishment it yields the soul is too meagre; and--save on that one
bare point of life beyond the grave, which might just as easily prove
an infinite curse as an infinite blessing--it affords no trustworthy
news whatever.

But these objections do not apply to magic proper. Magic seems to
consist mainly in the control which mind may exceptionally exercise
over matter. In hypnotism, the subject abjectly believes and obeys the
operator. If he be told that he cannot step across a chalk mark on the
floor, he cannot step across it. He dissolves in tears or explodes with
laughter, according as the operator tells him he has cause for
merriment or tears: and if he be assured that the water he drinks is
Madeira wine or Java coffee, he has no misgiving that such is not the

To say that this state of things is brought about by the exercise of
the operator's will, is not to explain the phenomenon, but to put it in
different terms. What is the will, and how does it produce such a
result? Here is a man who believes, at the word of command, that the
thing which all the rest of the world calls a chair is a horse. How is
such misapprehension on his part possible? our senses are our sole
means of knowing external objects: and this man's senses seem to
confirm--at least they by no means correct--his persuasion that a given
object is something very different. Could we solve this puzzle, we
should have done something towards gaining an insight into the
philosophy of magic.

We observe, in the first place, that the _rationale_ of hypnotism, and
of trance in general, is distinct from that of memory and of
imagination, and even from that of dreams. It resembles these only in
so far as it involves a quasi-perception of something not actually
present or existent. But memory and imagination never mislead us into
mistaking their suggestions for realities: while in dreams, the
dreamer's fancy alone is active; the bodily faculties are not in
action. In trance, however, the subject may appear to be, to all
intents and purposes, awake. Yet this state, unlike the others, is
abnormal. The brain seems to be in a passive, or, at any rate, in a
detached condition; it cannot carry out or originate ideas, nor can it
examine an idea as to its truth or falsehood. Furthermore, it cannot
receive or interpret the reports of its own bodily senses. In short,
its relations with the external world are suspended: and since the body
is a part of the external world, the brain can no longer control the
body's movements.

Bodily movements are, however, to some extent, automatic. Given a
certain stimulus in the brain or nerve-centres, and certain
corresponding muscular contractions follow: and this whether or not the
stimulus be applied in a normal manner. Although, therefore, the
entranced brain cannot spontaneously control the body, yet if we can
apply an independent stimulus to it, the body will make a fitting and
apparently intelligent response. The reader has doubtless seen those
ingenious pieces of mechanism which are set in motion by dropping into
an orifice a coin or pellet. Now, could we drop into the passive brain
of an entranced person the idea that a chair is a horse, for
instance,--the person would give every sensible indication of having
adopted that figment as a fact.

But how (since he can no longer communicate with the world by means of
his senses) is this idea to be insinuated? The man is magnetized--that
is to say, insulated; how can we have intercourse with him?

Experiments show that this can be effected only through the magnetizer.
Asleep towards the rest of the world, towards him the entranced person
is awake. Not awake, however, as to the bodily senses; neither the
magnetizer nor any one else can approach by that route. It is true
that, if the magnetizer speaks to him, he knows what is said: but he
does not hear physically; because he perceives the unspoken thought
just as readily. But since whatever does not belong to his body must
belong to his soul (or mind, if that term be preferable), it follows
that the magnetizer must communicate with the magnetized on the mental
or spiritual plane; that is, immediately, or without the intervention
of the body.

Let us review the position we have reached:--We have an entranced or
magnetized person,--a person whose mind, or spirit, has, by a certain
process, been so far withdrawn from conscious communion with his own
bodily senses as to disable him from receiving through them any tidings
from the external world. He is not, however, wholly withdrawn from his
body, for, in that case, the body would be dead; whereas, in fact, its
organic or animal life continues almost unimpaired. He is therefore
neither out of the body nor in it, but in an anomalous region midway
between the two,--a state in which he can receive no sensuous
impressions from the physical world, nor be put in conscious
communication with the spiritual world through any channel--save one.

This one exception is, as we have seen, the person who magnetized him.
The magnetizer is, then, the one and only medium through which the
person magnetized can obtain impressions: and these impressions are
conveyed directly from the mind, or spirit, of the magnetizer to that
of the magnetized. Let us note, further, that the former is not, like
the latter, in a semi-disembodied state, but is in the normal exercise
of his bodily functions and faculties. He possesses, consequently, his
normal ability to originate ideas and to impart them: and whatever
ideas he chooses to impart to the magnetized person, the latter is fain
passively and implicitly to accept. And having so received them, they
descend naturally into the automatic mechanism of the body, and are by
it mechanically interpreted or enacted.

So far, the theory is good: but something seems amiss in the working.
We find that a certain process frequently issues in a certain effect:
but we do not yet know why this should be the case. Some fundamental
link is wanting; and this link is manifestly a knowledge of the true
relations between mind and matter: of the laws to which the mental or
spiritual world is subject: of what nature itself is: and of what
Creation means. Let us cast a glance at these fundamental subjects; for
they are the key without which the secrets of magic must remain locked
and hidden.

In common speech we call the realm of the material universe, Creation;
but philosophy denies its claim to that title. Man alone is Creation:
everything else is appearance. The universe appears, because man
exists: he implies the universe, but is not implied by it. We may
assist our metaphysics, here, by a physical illustration. Take a glass
prism and hold in the sunlight before a white surface. Let the prism
represent man: the sun, man's Creator: and the seven-hued ray cast by
the prism, nature, or the material universe. Now, if we remove the
light, the ray vanishes: it vanishes, also, if we take away the prism:
but so long as the sun and the prism--God and man--remain in their
mutual relation, so long must the rainbow nature appear. Nature, in
short, is not God; neither is it man; but it is the inevitable
concomitant or expression of the creative attitude of God towards man.
It is the shadow of the elements of which humanity or human nature is
composed: or, shall we say, it is the apparition in sense of the
spiritual being of mankind,--not, be it observed, of the being of any
individual or of any aggregation of individuals; but of humanity as a
whole. For this reason, also, is nature orderly, complete, and
permanent,--that it is conditioned not upon our frail and faulty
personalities, but upon our impersonal, universal human nature, in
which is transacted the miracle of God's incarnation, and through which
He forever shines.

Besides Creator and creature, nothing else can be; and whatever else
seems to be, must be only a seeming. Nature, therefore, is the shadow
of a shade, but it serves an indispensable use. For since there can be
no direct communication between finite and Infinite--God and man--a
medium or common ground is needed, where they may meet; and nature, the
shadow which the Infinite causes the finite to project, is just that
medium. Man, looking upon this shadow, mistakes it for real substance,
serving him for foothold and background, and assisting him to attain
self-consciousness. God, on the other hand, finds in nature the means
of revealing Himself to His creature without compromising the
creature's freedom. Man supposes the universe to be a physical
structure made by God in space and time, and in some region of which He
resides, at a safe distance from us His creatures: whereas, in truth,
God is distant from us only so far as we remove ourselves from our own
inmost intuitions of truth and good.

But what is that substance or quality which underlies and gives
homogeneity to the varying forms of nature, so that they seem to us to
own a common origin?--what is that logical abstraction upon which we
have bestowed the name of matter? scientific analysis finds matter only
as forms, never as itself: until, in despair, it invents an atomic
theory, and lets it go at that. But if, discarding the scientific
method, we question matter from the philosophical standpoint, we shall
find it less obdurate.

Man, considered as a mind or spirit, consists of volition and
intelligence; or, what is the same, of emotion or affection, and of the
thoughts which are created by this affection. Nothing can be affirmed
of man as a spirit which does not fall under one or other of these two
parts. Now, a creature consisting solely of affections and thoughts
must, of course, have something to love and to think about. Man's final
destiny is no doubt to love and consider his Creator; but that can only
be after a reactionary or regenerative process has begun in him.
Meanwhile, he must love and consider the only other available
object--that is, himself. Manifestly, however, in order to bestow this
attention upon himself, he must first be made aware of his own
existence. In order to effect this, something must be added to man as
spirit, enabling him to discriminate between the subject thinking and
loving, and the object loved and thought of. This additional something,
again, in order to fulfill its purpose, must be so devised as not to
appear an addition: it must seem even more truly the man than the man
himself. It must, therefore, perfectly represent or correspond to the
spiritual form and constitution; so that the thoughts and affections of
the spirit may enter into it as into their natural home and continent.

This continent or vehicle of the mind is the human body. The body has
two aspects,--substance and form, answering to the two aspects of the
mind,--affection and thought: and affection finds its incarnation or
correspondence in substance; and thought, in form. The mind, in short,
realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the body, much as the
body realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the looking-glass:
but it does more than this, for it identifies itself with this its
image. And how is this identification made possible?

It is brought about by the deception of sense, which is the medium of
communication between the spiritual and the material man. Until this
miraculous medium is put in action, there can be no conscious relation
between these two planes, admirably as they are adapted to each other.
Sense is spiritual on one side and material on the other: but it is
only on the material side that it gathers its reports: on the spiritual
side it only delivers them. Every one of the five messengers whereby we
are apprised of external existence brings us an earthly message only.
And since these messengers act spontaneously, and since the mind's only
other source of knowledge is intuition, which cannot be sensuously
confirmed,--it is little wonder if man has inclined to the persuasion
that what is highest in him is but an attribute of what is lowest, and
that when the body dies, the soul must follow it into nothingness.

Creative energy, being infinite, passes through the world of causes to
the world of effects--through the spiritual to the physical plane.
Matter is therefore the symbol of the ultimate of creative activity; it
is the negative of God. As God is infinite, matter is finite; as He is
life, it is death; as He is real, it is unreal; as He reveals, matter
veils. And as the relation of God to man's spirit is constant and
eternal, so is the physical quality of matter fixed and permanent. Now,
in order to arrive at a comprehension of what matter is in itself, let
us descend from the general to the specific, and investigate the
philosophical elements of a pebble, for instance. A pebble is two
things: it is a mineral: and it is a particular concrete example of
mineral. In its mineral aspect, it is out of space and time, and
is--not a fact, but--a truth; a perception of the mind. In so far as it
is mineral, therefore, it has no relation to sense, but only to
thought: and on the other hand, in so far as it is a particular
concrete pebble, it is cognizable by sense but not by thought; for what
is in sense is out of thought: the one supersedes the other. But if
sense thus absorbs matter, so as to be philosophically
indistinguishable from it, we are constrained to identify matter with
our sensuous perception of it: and if our exemplary pebble had nothing
but its material quality to depend upon, it would cease to exist not
only to thought, but to sense likewise. Its metaphysical aspect, in
short, is the only reality appertaining to it. Matter, then, may be
defined as the impact upon sense of that prismatic ray which we have
called nature.

To apply this discussion to the subject in hand: Magic is a sort of
parody of reality. And when we recognize that Creation proceeds from
within outwards, or endogenously; and that matter is not the objective
but the subjective side of the universe, we are in a position to
perceive that in order magically to control matter, we must apply our
efforts not to matter itself, but to our own minds. The natural world
affects us from without inwards: the magical world affects us from
within outwards: instead of objects suggesting ideas, ideas are made to
suggest objects. And as, in the former case, when the object is removed
the idea vanishes; so in the latter case, when the idea is removed, the
object vanishes. Both objects are illusions; but the illusion in the
first instance is the normal illusion of sense, whereas in the second
instance it is the abnormal illusion of mind.

The above argument can at best serve only as a hint to such as incline
seriously to investigate the subject, and perhaps as a touchstone for
testing the validity of a large and noisy mass of pretensions which
engage the student at the outset of his enquiry. Many of these
pretensions are the result of ignorance; many of deliberate intent to
deceive; some, again, of erroneous philosophical theories. The Tibetan
adepts seem to belong either to the second or to the last of these
categories,--or, perhaps, to an impartial mingling of all three. They
import a cumbrous machinery of auras, astral bodies, and elemental
spirits; they divide man into seven principles, nature into seven
kingdoms; they regard spirit as a refined form of matter, and matter as
the one absolute fact of the universe,--the alpha and omega of all
things. They deny a supreme Deity, but hold out hopes of a practical
deityship for the majority of the human race. In short, their
philosophy appeals to the most evil instincts of the soul, and has the
air of being ex-post-facto; whenever they run foul of a prodigy, they
invent arbitrarily a fanciful explanation of it. But it will be found,
I think, that the various phases of hypnotism, and a systematized use
of spiritism, will amply account for every miracle they actually bring
to pass.

Upon the whole, a certain vulgarity is inseparable from even the most
respectable forms of magic,--an atmosphere of tinsel, of ostentation,
of big cry and little wool. A child might have told us that matter is
not almighty, that minds are sometimes transparent to one another, that
love and faith can work wonders. And we also know that, in this mortal
life, our means are exquisitely adapted to our ends; and that we can
gain no solid comfort or advantage by striving to elbow our way a few
inches further into the region of the occult and abnormal. Magic,
however specious its achievements, is only a mockery of the Creative
power, and exposes its unlikeness to it. "It is the attribute of
natural existence," a profound writer has said, "to be a form of use to
something higher than itself, so that whatever does not, either
potentially or actually, possess within it this soul of use, does not
honestly belong to nature, but is a sensational effect produced upon
the individual intelligence." [Footnote: Henry James, in "Society the
Redeemed Form of Man."]

No one can overstep the order and modesty of general existence without
bringing himself into perilous proximity to subjects more profound and
sacred than the occasion warrants. Life need not be barren of mystery
and miracle to any one of us; but they shall be such tender mysteries
and instructive miracles as the devotion of motherhood, and the
blooming of spring. We are too close to Infinite love and wisdom to
play pranks before it, and provoke comparison between our paltry
juggleries and its omnipotence and majesty.



The hunter and the sportsman are two very different persons. The hunter
pursues animals because he loves them and sympathizes with them, and
kills them as the champions of chivalry used to slay one
another--courteously, fairly, and with admiration and respect. To stalk
and shoot the elk and the grizzly bear is to him what wooing and
winning a beloved maiden would be to another man. Far from being the
foe or exterminator of the game he follows, he, more than any one else,
is their friend, vindicator, and confidant. A strange mutual ardor and
understanding unites him with his quarry. He loves the mountain sheep
and the antelope, because they can escape him; the panther and the
bear, because they can destroy him. His relations with them are clean,
generous, and manly. And on the other hand, the wild animals whose
wildness can never be tamed, whose inmost principle of existence it is
to be apart and unapproachable,--those creatures who may be said to
cease to be when they cease to be intractable,--seem, after they have
eluded their pursuer to the utmost, or fought him to the death, to
yield themselves to him with a sort of wild contentment--as if they
were glad to admit the sovereignty of man, though death come with the
admission. The hunter, in short, asks for his happiness only to be
alone with what he hunts; the sportsman, after his day's sport, must
needs hasten home to publish the size of the "bag," and to wring from
his fellow-men the glory and applause which he has not the strength and
simplicity to find in the game itself.

But if the true hunter is rare, the union of the hunter and the artist
is rarer still. It demands not only the close familiarity, the loving
observation, and the sympathy, but also the faculty of creation--the
eye which selects what is constructive and beautiful, and passes over
what is superfluous and inharmonious, and the hand skilful to carry out
what the imagination conceives. In the man whose work I am about to
consider, these qualities are developed in a remarkable degree, though
it was not until he was a man grown, and had fought with distinction
through the civil war, that he himself became aware of the artistic
power that was in him. The events of his life, could they be rehearsed
here, would form a tale of adventure and vicissitude more varied and
stirring than is often found in fiction. He has spent by himself days
and weeks in the vast solitudes of our western prairies and southern
morasses. He has been the companion of trappers and frontiersmen, the
friend and comrade of Indians, sleeping side by side with them in their
wigwams, running the rapids in their canoes, and riding with them in
the hunt. He has met and overcome the panther and the grizzly
single-handed, and has pursued the flying cimmaron to the snowy summits
of the Rocky Mountains, and brought back its crescent horns as a
trophy. He has fought and slain the gray wolf with no other weapons
than his hands and teeth; and at night he has lain concealed by lonely
tarns, where the wild coyote came to patter and bark and howl at the
midnight moon. His name and achievements are familiar to the dwellers
in those savage regions, whose estimate of a man is based, not upon his
social and financial advantages, but upon what he is and can do. Yet he
is not one who wears his merit outwardly. His appearance, indeed, is
striking; tall and athletic, broad-shouldered and stout-limbed, with
the long, elastic step of the moccasined Indian, and something of the
Indian's reticence and simplicity. But he can with difficulty be
brought to allude to his adventures, and is reserved almost to the
point of ingenuity on all that concerns himself or redounds to his
credit. It is only in familiar converse with friends that the humor,
the cultivation, the knowledge, and the social charm of the man appear,
and his marvellous gift of vivid and picturesque narration discloses
itself. But, in addition to all this, or above it all, he is the only
great animal sculptor of his time, the successor of the French Barye,
and (as any one may satisfy himself who will take the trouble to
compare their works) the equal of that famous artist in scope and
treatment of animal subjects, and his superior in knowledge and in
truth and power of conception. It would be a poor compliment to call
Edward Kemeys the American Barye; but Barye is the only man whose
animal sculptures can bear comparison with Mr. Kemeys's.

Of Mr. Kemeys's productions, a few are to be seen at his studio, 133
West Fifty-third Street, New York city. These are the models, in clay
or plaster, as they came fresh from the artist's hand. From this
condition they can either be enlarged to life or colossal size, for
parks or public buildings, or cast in bronze in their present
dimensions for the enrichment of private houses. Though this collection
includes scarce a tithe of what the artist has produced, it forms a
series of groups and figures which, for truth to nature, artistic
excellence, and originality, are actually unique. So unique are they,
indeed, that the uneducated eye does not at first realize their really
immense value. Nothing like this little sculpture gallery has been seen
before, and it is very improbable that there will ever again be a
meeting of conditions and qualities adequate to reproducing such an
exhibition. For we see here not merely, nor chiefly, the accurate
representation of the animal's external aspect, but--what is vastly
more difficult to seize and portray--the essential animal character or
temperament which controls and actuates the animal's movements and
behavior. Each one of Mr. Kemeys's figures gives not only the form and
proportions of the animal, according to the nicest anatomical studies
and measurements, but it is the speaking embodiment of profound insight
into that animal's nature and knowledge of its habits. The spectator
cannot long examine it without feeling that he has learned much more of
its characteristics and genius than if he had been standing in front of
the same animal's cage at the Zoological Gardens; for here is an artist
who understands how to translate pose into meaning, and action into
utterance, and to select those poses and actions which convey the
broadest and most comprehensive idea of the subject's prevailing
traits. He not only knows what posture or movement the anatomical
structure of the animal renders possible, but he knows precisely in
what degree such posture or movement is modified by the animal's
physical needs and instincts. In other words, he always respects the
modesty of nature, and never yields to the temptation to be dramatic
and impressive at the expense of truth. Here is none of Barye's
exaggeration, or of Landseer's sentimental effort to humanize animal
nature. Mr. Kemeys has rightly perceived that animal nature is not a
mere contraction of human nature; but that each animal, so far as it
owns any relation to man at all, represents the unimpeded development
of some particular element of man's nature. Accordingly, animals must
be studied and portrayed solely upon their own basis and within their
own limits; and he who approaches them with this understanding will
find, possibly to his surprise, that the theatre thus afforded is wide
and varied enough for the exercise of his best ingenuity and
capacities. At first, no doubt, the simple animal appears too simple to
be made artistically interesting, apart from this or that conventional
or imaginative addition. The lion must be presented, not as he is, but
as vulgar anticipation expects him to be; not with the savageness and
terror which are native to him, but with the savageness and terror
which those who have trembled and fled at the echo of his roar invest
him with,--which are quite another matter. Zoölogical gardens and
museums have their uses, but they cannot introduce us to wild animals
as they really are; and the reports of those who have caught terrified
or ignorant glimpses of them in their native regions will mislead us no
less in another direction. Nature reveals her secrets only to those who
have faithfully and rigorously submitted to the initiation; but to them
she shows herself marvellous and inexhaustible. The "simple animal"
avouches his ability to transcend any imaginative conception of him.
The stern economy of his structure and character, the sureness and
sufficiency of his every manifestation, the instinct and capacity which
inform all his proceedings,--these are things which are concealed from
a hasty glance by the very perfection of their state. Once seen and
comprehended, however, they work upon the mind of the observer with an
ever increasing power; they lead him into a new, strange, and
fascinating world, and generously recompense him for any effort he may
have made to penetrate thither. Of that strange and fascinating world
Mr. Kemeys is the true and worthy interpreter, and, so far as appears,
the only one. Through difficulty and discouragement of all kinds, he
has kept to the simple truth, and the truth has rewarded him. He has
done a service of incalculable value to his country, not only in
vindicating American art, but in preserving to us, in a permanent and
beautiful form, the vivid and veracious figures of a wild fauna which,
in the inevitable progress of colonization and civilization, is
destined within a few years to vanish altogether. The American bear and
bison, the cimmaron and the elk, the wolf and the 'coon--where will
they be a generation hence? Nowhere, save in the possession of those
persons who have to-day the opportunity and the intelligence to
decorate their rooms and parks with Mr. Kemeys's inimitable bronzes.
The opportunity is great--much greater, I should think, than the
intelligence necessary for availing ourselves of it; and it is a unique
opportunity. In other words, it lies within the power of every
cultivated family in the United States to enrich itself with a work of
art which is entirely American; which, as art, fulfils every
requirement; which is of permanent and increasing interest and value
from an ornamental point of view; and which is embodied in the most
enduring of artistic materials.

The studio in which Mr. Kemeys works--a spacious apartment--is, in
appearance, a cross between a barn-loft and a wigwam. Round the walls
are suspended the hides, the heads, and the horns of the animals which
the hunter has shot; and below are groups, single figures, and busts,
modelled by the artist, in plaster, terracotta, or clay. The colossal
design of the "Still Hunt"--an American panther crouching before its
spring--was modelled here, before being cast in bronze and removed to
its present site in Central Park. It is a monument of which New York
and America may be proud; for no such powerful and veracious conception
of a wild animal has ever before found artistic embodiment. The great
cat crouches with head low, extended throat, and ears erect. The
shoulders are drawn far back, the fore paws huddled beneath the jaws.
The long, lithe back rises in an arch in the middle, sinking thence to
the haunches, while the angry tail makes a strong curve along the
ground to the right. The whole figure is tense and compact with
restrained and waiting power; the expression is stealthy, pitiless, and
terrible; it at once fascinates and astounds the beholder. While Mr.
Kemeys was modelling this animal, an incident occurred which he has
told me in something like the following words. The artist does not
encourage the intrusion of idle persons while he is at work, though no
one welcomes intelligent inspection and criticism more cordially than
he. On this occasion he was alone in the studio with his Irish
factotum, Tom, and the outer door, owing to the heat of the weather,
had been left ajar. All of a sudden the artist was aware of the
presence of a stranger in the room. "He was a tall, hulking fellow,
shabbily dressed, like a tramp, and looked as if he might make trouble
if he had a mind to. However, he stood quite still in front of the
statue, staring at it, and not saying anything. So I let him alone for
a while; I thought it would be time enough to attend to him when he
began to beg or make a row. But after some time, as he still hadn't
stirred, Tom came to the conclusion that a hint had better be given him
to move on; so he took a broom and began sweeping the floor, and the
dust went all over the fellow; but he didn't pay the least attention. I
began to think there would probably be a fight; but I thought I'd wait
a little longer before doing anything. At last I said to him, 'Will you
move aside, please? You're in my way.' He stepped over a little to the
right, but still didn't open his mouth, and kept his eyes fixed on the
panther. Presently I said to Tom, 'Well, Tom, the cheek of some people
passes belief!' Tom replied with more clouds of dust; but the stranger
never made a sign. At last I got tired, so I stepped up to the fellow
and said to him: 'Look here, my friend, when I asked you to move aside,
I meant you should move the other side of the door.' He roused up then,
and gave himself a shake, and took a last look at the panther, and said
he, 'That's all right, boss; I know all about the door; but--what a
spring she's going to make!' Then," added Kemeys, self-reproachfully,
"I could have wept!"

But although this superb figure no longer dominates the studio, there
is no lack of models as valuable and as interesting, though not of
heroic size. Most interesting of all to the general observer are,
perhaps, the two figures of the grizzly bear. These were designed from
a grizzly which Mr. Kemeys fought and killed in the autumn of 1881 in
the Rocky Mountains, and the mounted head of which grins upon the wall
overhead, a grisly trophy indeed. The impression of enormous strength,
massive yet elastic, ponderous yet alert, impregnable for defence as
irresistible in attack; a strength which knows no obstacles, and which
never meets its match,--this impression is as fully conveyed in these
figures, which are not over a foot in height, as if the animal were
before us in its natural size. You see the vast limbs, crooked with
power, bound about with huge ropes and plates of muscle, and clothed in
shaggy depths of fur; the vast breadth of the head, with its thick, low
ears, dull, small eyes, and long up-curving snout; the roll and lunge
of the gait, like the motion of a vessel plunging forward before the
wind; the rounded immensity of the trunk, and the huge bluntness of the
posteriors; and all these features are combined with such masterly
unity of conception and plastic vigor, that the diminutive model
insensibly grows mighty beneath your gaze, until you realize the
monster as if he stood stupendous and grim before you. In the first of
the figures the bear has paused in his great stride to paw over and
snuff at the horned head of a mountain sheep, half buried in the soil.
The action of the right arm and shoulder, and the burly slouch of the
arrested stride, are of themselves worth a gallery of pseudo-classic
Venuses and Roman senators. The other bear is lolling back on his
haunches, with all four paws in the air, munching some grapes from a
vine which he has torn from its support. The contrast between the
savage character of the beast and his absurdly peaceful employment
gives a touch of terrific comedy to this design. After studying these
figures, one cannot help thinking what a noble embellishment either of
them would be, put in bronze, of colossal size, in the public grounds
of one of our great Western cities. And inasmuch as the rich citizens
of the West not only know what a grizzly bear is, but are more fearless
and independent, and therefore often more correct in their artistic
opinion than the somewhat sophisticated critics of the East, there is
some cause for hoping that this thing may be brought to pass.

Beside the grizzly stands the mountain sheep, or cimmaron, the most
difficult to capture of all four-footed animals, whose gigantic curved
horns are the best trophy of skill and enterprise that a hunter can
bring home with him. The sculptor has here caught him in one of his
most characteristic attitudes--just alighted from some dizzy leap on
the headlong slope of a rocky mountainside. On such a spot nothing but
the cimmaron could retain its footing; yet there he stands, firm and
secure as the rock itself, his fore feet planted close together, the
fore legs rigid and straight as the shaft of a lance, while the hind
legs pose easily in attendance upon them. "The cimmaron always strikes
plumb-centre, and he never makes a mistake," is Mr. Kemeys's laconic
comment; and we can recognize the truth of the observation in this
image. Perfectly at home and comfortable on its almost impossible
perch, the cimmaron curves its great neck and turns its head upward,
gazing aloft toward the height whence it has descended. "It's the
golden eagle he hears," says the sculptor; "they give him warning of
danger." It is a magnificent animal, a model of tireless vigor in all
its parts; a creature made to hurl itself head-foremost down appalling
gulfs of space, and poise itself at the bottom as jauntily as if
gravitation were but a bugbear of timid imaginations. I find myself
unconsciously speaking about these plaster models as if they were the
living animals which they represent; but the more one studies Mr.
Kemeys's works, the more instinct with redundant and breathing life do
they appear.

It would be impossible even to catalogue the contents of this studio,
the greater part of which is as well worth describing as those examples
which have already been touched upon; nor could a more graphic pen than
mine convey an adequate impression of their excellence. But there is
here a figure of the 'coon, which, as it is the only one ever modelled,
ought not to be passed over in silence. In appearance this animal is a
curious medley of the fox, the wolf, and the bear, besides
I-know-not-what (as the lady in "Punch" would say) that belongs to none
of those beasts. As may be imagined, therefore, its right portrayal
involves peculiar difficulties, and Mr. Kemeys's genius is nowhere
better shown than in the manner in which these have been surmounted.
Compact, plump, and active in figure, quick and subtle in its
movements, the 'coon crouches in a flattened position along the limb of
a tree, its broad, shallow head and pointed snout a little lifted, as
it gazes alertly outward and downward. It sustains itself by the clutch
of its slender-clawed toes on the branch, the fore legs being spread
apart, while the left hind leg is withdrawn inward, and enters smoothly
into the contour of the furred side; the bushy, fox-like tail, ringed
with dark and light bands, curving to the left. Thus posed and modelled
in high relief on a tile-shaped plaque, Mr. Kemeys's coon forms a most
desirable ornament for some wise man's sideboard or mantle-piece, where
it may one day be pointed out as the only surviving representative of
its species.

The two most elaborate groups here have already attained some measure
of publicity; the "Bison and Wolves" having been exhibited in the Paris
Salon in 1878, and the "Deer and Panther" having been purchased in
bronze by Mr. Winans during the sculptor's sojourn in England. Each
group represents one of those deadly combats between wild beasts which
are among the most terrific and at the same time most natural incidents
of animal existence; and they are of especial interest as showing the
artist's power of concentrated and graphic composition. A complicated
story is told in both these instances with a masterly economy of
material and balance of proportion; so that the spectator's eye takes
in the whole subject at a glance, and yet finds inexhaustible interest
in the examination of details, all of which contribute to the central
effect without distracting the attention. A companion piece to the
"Deer and Panther" shows the same animals as they have fallen, locked
together in death after the combat is over. In the former group, the
panther, in springing upon the deer, had impaled its neck on the deer's
right antler, and had then swung round under the latter's body, burying
the claws of its right fore foot in the ruminant's throat. In order
truthfully to represent the second stage of the encounter, therefore,
it was necessary not merely to model a second group, but to retain the
elements and construction of the first group under totally changed
conditions. This is a feat of such peculiar difficulty that I think few
artists in any branch of art would venture to attempt it; nevertheless,
Mr. Kemeys has accomplished it; and the more the two groups are studied
in connection with each other, the more complete will his success be
found to have been. The man who can do this may surely be admitted a
master, whose works are open only to affirmative criticism. For his
works the most trying of all tests is their comparison with one
another; and the result of such comparison is not merely to confirm
their merit, but to illustrate and enhance it.

For my own part, my introduction to Mr. Kemeys's studio was the opening
to me of a new world, where it has been my good fortune to spend many
days of delightful and enlightening study. How far the subject of this
writing may have been already familiar to the readers of it, I have no
means of knowing; but I conceive it to be no less than my duty, as a
countryman of Mr. Kemeys's and a lover of all that is true and original
in art, to pay the tribute of my appreciation to what he has done.
There is no danger of his getting more recognition than he deserves,
and he is not one whom recognition can injure. He reverences his art
too highly to magnify his own exposition of it; and when he reads what
I have set down here, he will smile and shake his head, and mutter that
I have divined the perfect idea in the imperfect embodiment. Unless I
greatly err, however, no one but himself is competent to take that
exception. The genuine artist is never satisfied with his work; he
perceives where it falls short of his conception. But to others it will
not be incomplete; for the achievements of real art are always invested
with an atmosphere and aroma--a spiritual quality perhaps--proceeding
from the artist's mind and affecting that of the beholder. And thus it
happens that the story or the poem, the picture or the sculpture,
receives even in its material form that last indefinable grace, that
magic light that never was on sea or land, which no pen or brush or
graving-tool has skill to seize. Matter can never rise to the height of
spirit; but spirit informs it when it has done its best, and ennobles
it with the charm that the artist sought and the world desired.

*** Since the above was written, Mr. Kemeys has removed his studio to
Perth Amboy, N. J.

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