Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Essays from 'The Guardian'
Author: Pater, Walter, 1839-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays from 'The Guardian'" ***

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



ESSAYS FROM 'THE GUARDIAN'

By WALTER HORATIO PATER



NOTES BY THE E-TEXT EDITOR:

Reliability: Although I have done my best to ensure that the text you
read is error-free in comparison with an exact reprint of the standard
edition--Macmillan's 1910 Library Edition--please exercise scholarly
caution in using it.  It is not intended as a substitute for the
printed original but rather as a searchable supplement.  My e-texts may
prove convenient substitutes for hard-to-get works in a course where
both instructor and students accept the possibility of some
imperfections in the text, but if you are writing a scholarly article,
dissertation, or book, you should use the standard hard-copy editions
of any works you cite.


Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, I
have transferred original pagination to brackets.  A bracketed numeral
such as [22] indicates that the material immediately following the
number marks the beginning of the relevant page.  I have preserved
paragraph structure except for first-line indentation.

Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-text
does not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliterated
Pater's Greek quotations.  If there is a need for the original Greek,
it can be viewed at my site, http://www.ajdrake.com/etexts, a
Victorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Pater
and many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.



CONTENTS



1. English Literature: 1-16

2. Amiel's "Journal Intime": 17-37

3. Browning: 39-51

4. "Robert Elsmere": 53-70

5. Their Majesties' Servants: 71-88

6. Wordsworth: 89-104

7. Mr. Gosse's Poems: 105-118

8. Ferdinand Fabre: 119-134

9. The "Contes" of M. Augustin Filon: 135-149



ESSAYS FROM 'THE GUARDIAN'

WALTER HORATIO PATER


E-text Editor: Alfred J. Drake, Ph.D. Electronic Version 1.0 / Date
10-12-01



PATER'S NOTE: The nine papers contained in the following volume
originally appeared anonymously in The Guardian newspaper.



E-TEXT EDITOR'S NOTE: I have not preserved the title pages of this
volume, but have instead moved dates to each essay's end and included
any necessary title-page material in the heading area of the first
substantive page.



I.  ENGLISH LITERATURE



FOUR BOOKS FOR STUDENTS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE


[3] THE making of an anthology of English prose is what must have
occurred to many of its students, by way of pleasure to themselves, or
of profit to other persons.  Such an anthology, the compass and variety
of our prose literature being considered, might well follow exclusively
some special line of interest in it; exhibiting, for instance, what is
so obviously striking, its imaginative power, or its (legitimately)
poetic beauty, or again, its philosophical capacity.  Mr. Saintsbury's
well-considered Specimens of English Prose Style, from Malory to
Macaulay (Kegan Paul), a volume, as we think, which bears fresh witness
to the truth of the old remark that it takes a scholar indeed to make a
[4] good literary selection, has its motive sufficiently indicated in
the very original "introductory essay," which might well stand, along
with the best of these extracts from a hundred or more deceased masters
of English, as itself a document or standard, in the matter of prose
style.  The essential difference between poetry and prose--"that other
beauty of prose"--in the words of the motto he has chosen from Dryden,
the first master of the sort of prose he prefers:--that is Mr.
Saintsbury's burden.  It is a consideration, undoubtedly, of great
importance both for the writer and the critic; in England especially,
where, although (as Mr. Saintsbury rightly points out, in correction of
an imperfectly informed French critic of our literature) the radical
distinction between poetry and prose has ever been recognized by its
students, yet the imaginative impulse, which is perhaps the richest of
our purely intellectual gifts, has been apt to invade the province of
that tact and good judgment, alike as to matter and manner, in which we
are not richer than other people.  Great poetry and great prose, it
might be found, have most of their qualities in common.  But [5] their
indispensable qualities are different, or even opposed; and it is just
the indispensable qualities of prose and poetry respectively, which it
is so necessary for those who have to do with either to bear ever in
mind.  Order, precision, directness, are the radical merits of prose
thought; and it is more than merely legitimate that they should form
the criterion of prose style, because within the scope of those
qualities, according to Mr. Saintsbury, there is more than just the
quiet, unpretending usefulness of the bare sermo pedestris. Acting on
language, those qualities generate a specific and unique beauty--"that
other beauty of prose"--fitly illustrated by these specimens, which the
reader needs hardly be told, after what has been now said, are far from
being a collection of "purple patches."

Whether or not he admits their practical cogency, an attentive reader
will not fail to be interested in the attempt Mr. Saintsbury has made
to give technical rules of metre for the production of the true prose
rhythm.  Any one who cares to do so might test the validity of those
rules in the nearest possible way, by applying them to the varied
examples in this wide [6] survey of what has been actually well done in
English prose, here exhibited on the side of their strictly prosaic
merit--their conformity, before all other aims, to laws of a structure
primarily reasonable.  Not that that reasonable prose structure, or
architecture, as Mr. Saintsbury conceives it, has been always, or even
generally, the ideal, even of those chosen writers here in evidence.
Elizabethan prose, all too chaotic in the beauty and force which
overflowed into it from Elizabethan poetry, and incorrect with an
incorrectness which leaves it scarcely legitimate prose at all: then,
in reaction against that, the correctness of Dryden, and his followers
through the eighteenth century, determining the standard of a prose in
the proper sense, not inferior to the prose of the Augustan age in
Latin, or of the "great age in France": and, again in reaction against
this, the wild mixture of poetry and prose, in our wild nineteenth
century, under the influence of such writers as Dickens and Carlyle:
such are the three periods into which the story of our prose literature
divides itself.  And Mr. Saintsbury has his well-timed, practical
suggestions, upon a survey of them.

[7] If the invasion of the legitimate sphere of prose in England by the
spirit of poetry, weaker or stronger, has been something far deeper
than is indicated by that tendency to write unconscious blank verse,
which has made it feasible to transcribe about one-half of Dickens's
otherwise so admirable Barnaby Rudge in blank-verse lines, a tendency
(outdoing our old friend M. Jourdain) commoner than Mr. Saintsbury
admits, such lines being frequent in his favourite Dryden; yet, on the
other hand, it might be maintained, and would be maintained by its
French critics, that our English poetry has been too apt to dispense
with those prose qualities, which, though not the indispensable
qualities of poetry, go, nevertheless, to the making of all first-rate
poetry--the  qualities, namely, of orderly structure, and such
qualities generally as depend upon second thoughts.  A collection of
specimens of English poetry, for the purpose of exhibiting the
achievement of prose excellences by it (in their legitimate measure) is
a desideratum we commend to Mr. Saintsbury. It is the assertion, the
development, the product of those very different indispensable
qualities of poetry, in the presence [8] of which the English is equal
or superior to all other modern literature--the native, sublime, and
beautiful, but often wild and irregular, imaginative power in English
poetry from Chaucer to Shakespeare, with which Professor Minto deals,
in his Characteristics of English Poets (Blackwood), lately reprinted.
That his book should have found many readers we can well understand, in
the light of the excellent qualities which, in high degree, have gone
to the making of it: a tasteful learning, never deserted by that hold
upon contemporary literature which is so animating an influence in the
study of what belongs to the past.  Beginning with an elaborate notice
of Chaucer, full of the minute scholarship of our day, he never forgets
that his subject is, after all, poetry.  The followers of Chaucer, and
the precursors of Shakespeare, are alike real persons to him--old
Langland reminding him of Carlyle's "Gospel of Labour." The product of
a large store of reading has been here secreted anew for the reader who
desires to see, in bird's-eye view, the light and shade of a long and
varied period of poetic literature, by way of preparation for
Shakespeare, [9] (with a full essay upon whom the volume closes,)
explaining Shakespeare, so far as he can be explained by literary
antecedents.

That powerful poetry was twin-brother to a prose, of more varied, but
certainly of wilder and more irregular power than the admirable, the
typical, prose of Dryden.  In Dryden, and his followers through the
eighteenth century, we see the reaction against the exuberance and
irregularity of that prose, no longer justified by power, but
cognizable rather as bad taste.  But such reaction was effective only
because an age had come--the age of a negative, or agnostic
philosophy--in which men's minds must needs be limited to the
superficialities of things, with a kind of narrowness amounting to a
positive gift.  What that mental attitude was capable of, in the way of
an elegant, yet plain-spoken, and life-like delineation of men's moods
and manners, as also in the way of determining those moods and manners
themselves to all that was lively, unaffected, and harmonious, can be
seen nowhere better than in Mr. Austin Dobson's Selections from Steele
(Clarendon Press) prefaced by his careful "Life."  The well-known
qualities of [10] Mr. Dobson's own original work are a sufficient
guarantee of the taste and discrimination we may look for in a
collection like this, in which the random lightnings of the first of
the essayists are grouped under certain heads--"Character Sketches,"
"Tales and Incidents," "Manners and Fashions," and the like--so as to
diminish, for the general reader, the scattered effect of short essays
on a hundred various subjects, and give a connected, book-like
character to the specimens.

Steele, for one, had certainly succeeded in putting himself, and his
way of taking the world--for this pioneer of an everybody's literature
had his subjectivities--into books.  What a survival of one long-past
day, for instance, in "A Ramble from Richmond to London"!  What truth
to the surface of common things, to their direct claim on our interest!
yet with what originality of effect in that truthfulness, when he
writes, for instance:

"I went to my lodgings, led by a light, whom I put into the discourse
of his private economy, and made him give me an account of the charge,
hazard, profit, and loss of a family that depended upon a link."

[11] It was one of his peculiarities, he tells us, to live by the eye
far more than by any other sense (a peculiarity, perhaps, in an
Englishman), and this is what he sees at the early daily service then
common in some City churches.  Among those who were come only to see or
be seen, "there were indeed a few in whose looks there appeared a
heavenly joy and gladness upon the entrance of a new day, as if they
had gone to sleep with expectation of it."

The industrious reader, indeed, might select out of these specimens
from Steele, a picture, in minute detail, of the characteristic manners
of that time.  Still, beside, or only a little way beneath, such a
picture of passing fashion, what Steele and his fellows really deal
with is the least transitory aspects of life, though still merely
aspects--those points in which all human nature, great or little, finds
what it has in common, and directly shows itself up. The natural
strength of such literature will, of course, be in the line of its
tendencies; in transparency, variety, and directness.  To the
unembarrassing matter, the unembarrassed style!  Steele is, perhaps,
the most impulsive writer of the school [12] to which he belongs; he
abounds in felicities of impulse.  Yet who can help feeling that his
style is regular because the matter he deals with is the somewhat
uncontentious, even, limited soul, of an age not imaginative, and
unambitious in its speculative flight?  Even in Steele himself we may
observe with what sureness of instinct the men of that age turned aside
at the contact of anything likely to make them, in any sense, forget
themselves.

No one indicates better than Charles Lamb, to whose memory Mr. Alfred
Ainger has done such good service, the great and peculiar change which
was begun at the end of the last century, and dominates our own; that
sudden increase of the width, the depth, the complexity of intellectual
interest, which has many times torn and distorted literary style, even
with those best able to comprehend its laws.  In Mrs. Leicester's
School, with other Writings in Prose and Verse (Macmillan), Mr. Ainger
has collected and annotated certain remains of Charles and Mary Lamb,
too good to lie unknown to the present generation, in forgotten
periodicals or inaccessible reprints.  The story of the Odyssey,
abbreviated [13] in very simple prose, for children--of all ages--will
speak for itself.  But the garland of graceful stories which gives name
to the volume, told by a party of girls on the evening of their
assembling at school, are in the highest degree characteristic of the
brother and sister who were ever so successful in imparting to others
their own enjoyment of books and people.  The tragic circumstance which
strengthened and consecrated their natural community of interest had,
one might think, something to do with the far-reaching pensiveness even
of their most humorous writing, touching often the deepest springs of
pity and awe, as the way of the highest humour is--a way, however, very
different from that of the humorists of the eighteenth century.  But
one cannot forget also that Lamb was early an enthusiastic admirer of
Wordsworth: of Wordsworth, the first characteristic power of the
nineteenth century, his essay on whom, in the Quarterly Review, Mr.
Ainger here reprints.  Would that he could have reprinted it as
originally composed, and ungarbled by Gifford, the editor!  Lamb, like
Wordsworth, still kept the charm of a serenity, [14] a precision,
unsurpassed by the quietest essayist of the preceding age. But it might
have been foreseen that the rising tide of thought and feeling, on the
strength of which they too are borne upward, would sometimes overflow
barriers.  And so it happens that these simple stories are touched,
much as Wordsworth's verse-stories were, with tragic power.  Dealing
with the beginnings of imagination in the minds of children, they
record, with the reality which a very delicate touch preserves from
anything lugubrious, not those merely preventible miseries of childhood
over which some writers have been apt to gloat, but the contact of
childhood with the great and inevitable sorrows of life, into which
children can enter with depth, with dignity, and sometimes with a kind
of simple, pathetic greatness, to the discipline of the heart.  Let the
reader begin with the "Sea Voyage," which is by Charles Lamb; and, what
Mr. Ainger especially recommends, the "Father's Wedding-Day," by his
sister Mary.

The ever-increasing intellectual burden of our age is hardly likely to
adapt itself to the exquisite, but perhaps too delicate and limited,
[15] literary instruments of the age of Queen Anne.  Yet Mr. Saintsbury
is certainly right in thinking that, as regards style, English
literature has much to do.  Well, the good quality of an age, the
defect of which lies in the direction of intellectual anarchy and
confusion, may well be eclecticism: in style, as in other things, it is
well always to aim at the combination of as many excellences as
possible--opposite excellences, it may be--those other beauties of
prose.  A busy age will hardly educate its writers in correctness. Let
its writers make time to write English more as a learned language; and
completing that correction of style which had only gone a certain way
in the last century, raise the general level of language towards their
own.  If there be a weakness in Mr. Saintsbury's view, it is perhaps in
a tendency to regard style a little too independently of matter.  And
there are still some who think that, after all, the style is the man;
justified, in very great varieties, by the simple consideration of what
he himself has to say, quite independently of any real or supposed
connection with this or that literary age or school.  Let us close with
the words of a most [16] versatile master of English--happily not yet
included in Mr. Saintsbury's book--a writer who has dealt with all the
perturbing influences of our century in a manner as classical, as
idiomatic, as easy and elegant, as Steele's:

"I wish you to observe," says Cardinal Newman, "that the mere dealer in
words cares little or nothing for the subject which he is embellishing,
but can paint and gild anything whatever to order; whereas the artist,
whom I am acknowledging, has his great or rich visions before him, and
his only aim is to bring out what he thinks or what he feels in a way
adequate to the thing spoken of, and appropriate to the speaker."

17th February 1886



II.  AMIEL'S "JOURNAL INTIME"


Amiel's Journal.  The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel.
Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Mrs. Humphry Ward. Two
vols.  Macmillans.

[19] CERTAIN influential expressions of opinion have attracted much
curiosity to Amiel's Journal Intime, both in France, where the book has
already made its mark, and in England, where Mrs. Humphry Ward's
translation is likely to make it widely known among all serious lovers
of good literature.  Easy, idiomatic, correct, this English version
reads like an excellent original English work, and gives fresh proof
that the work of translation, if it is to be done with effect, must be
done by those who, possessing, like Mrs. Ward, original literary gifts,
are willing to make a long act of self-denial or self-effacement [20]
for the benefit of the public.  In this case, indeed, the work is not
wholly one of self-effacement, for the accomplished translator has
prefaced Amiel's Journal by an able and interesting essay of seventy
pages on Amiel's life and intellectual position.  And certainly there
is much in the book, thus effectively presented to the English reader,
to attract those who interest themselves in the study of the finer
types of human nature, of literary expression, of metaphysical and
practical philosophy; to attract, above all, those interested in such
philosophy, at points where it touches upon questions of religion, and
especially at the present day.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel was born at Geneva in 1821.  Orphaned of both his
parents at the age of twelve, his youth was necessarily "a little bare
and forlorn," and a deep interest in religion became fixed in him
early.  His student days coming to an end, the years which followed,
from 1842 to 1848--Wanderjahre, in which he visited Holland, Italy,
Sicily, and the principal towns of Germany--seem to have been the
happiest of his life.  In 1849 he became a Professor at Geneva, and
there is little more to tell of him in [21] the way of outward events.
He published some volumes of verse; to the last apparently still only
feeling after his true literary métier.  Those last seven years were a
long struggle against the disease which ended his life, consumption, at
the age of fifty-three.  The first entry in his Journal is in 1848.
From that date to his death, a period of over twenty-five years, this
Journal was the real object of all the energies of his richly-endowed
nature: and from its voluminous sheets his literary executors have
selected the deeply interesting volumes now presented in English.

With all its gifts and opportunities it was a melancholy
life--melancholy with something not altogether explained by the
somewhat pessimistic philosophy exposed in the Journal, nor by the
consumptive tendency of Amiel's physical constitution, causing him from
a very early date to be much preoccupied with the effort to reconcile
himself with the prospect of death, and reinforcing the far from
sanguine temperament of one intellectually also a poitrinaire.

You might think him at first sight only an admirable specimen of a
thoroughly well-educated [22] man, full, of course, of the modern
spirit; stimulated and formed by the influences of the varied
intellectual world around him; and competing, in his turn, with many
very various types of contemporary ability.  The use of his book to
cultivated people might lie in its affording a kind of standard by
which they might take measure of the maturity and producible quality of
their own thoughts on a hundred important subjects.  He will write a
page or two, giving evidence of that accumulated power and attainment
which, with a more strenuous temperament, might have sufficed for an
effective volume.  Continually, in the Journal, we pause over things
that would rank for beauties among widely differing models of the best
French prose.  He has said some things in Pascal's vein not unworthy of
Pascal.  He had a right to compose "Thoughts": they have the force in
them which makes up for their unavoidable want of continuity.

But if, as Amiel himself challenges us to do, we look below the surface
of a very equable and even smoothly accomplished literary manner, we
discover, in high degree of development, that perplexity or complexity
of soul, the expression [23] of which, so it be with an adequate
literary gift, has its legitimate, because inevitable, interest for the
modern reader.  Senancour and Maurice de Guérin in one, seem to have
been supplemented here by a larger experience, a far greater education,
than either of them had attained to.  So multiplex is the result that
minds of quite opposite type might well discover in these pages their
own special thought or humour, happily expressed at last (they might
think) in precisely that just shade of language themselves had searched
for in vain.  And with a writer so vivid and impressive as Amiel, those
varieties of tendency are apt to present themselves as so many
contending persons.  The perplexed experience gets the apparent
clearness, as it gets also the animation, of a long dialogue; only, the
disputants never part company, and there is no real conclusion.  "This
nature," he observes, of one of the many phases of character he has
discovered in himself, "is, as it were, only one of the men which exist
in me.  It is one of my departments.  It is not the whole of my
territory, the whole of my inner kingdom"; and again, "there are ten
men in me, according to time, place, surrounding, [24] and occasion;
and, in my restless diversity, I am for ever escaping myself."

Yet, in truth, there are but two men in Amiel--two sufficiently opposed
personalities, which the attentive reader may define for himself;
compare with, and try by each other--as we think, correct also by each
other.  There is the man, in him and in these pages, who would be "the
man of disillusion," only that he has never really been "the man of
desires"; and who seems, therefore, to have a double weariness about
him.  He is akin, of course, to Obermann, to René, even to Werther,
and, on our first introduction to him, we might think that we had to do
only with one more of the vague "renunciants," who in real life
followed those creations of fiction, and who, however delicate,
interesting as a study, and as it were picturesque on the stage of
life, are themselves, after all, essentially passive, uncreative, and
therefore necessarily not of first-rate importance in literature.
Taken for what it is worth, the expression of this mood--the culture of
ennui for its own sake--is certainly carried to its ideal of negation
by Amiel.  But the completer, the positive, soul, which will merely
take [25] that mood into its service (its proper service, as we hold,
is in counteraction to the vulgarity of purely positive natures) is
also certainly in evidence in Amiel's "Thoughts"--that other, and far
stronger person, in the long dialogue; the man, in short, possessed of
gifts, not for the renunciation, but for the reception and use, of all
that is puissant, goodly, and effective in life, and for the varied and
adequate literary reproduction of it; who, under favourable
circumstances, or even without them, will become critic, or poet, and
in either case a creative force; and if he be religious (as Amiel was
deeply religious) will make the most of "evidence," and almost
certainly find a Church.

The sort of purely poetic tendency in his mind, which made Amiel known
in his own lifetime chiefly as a writer of verse, seems to be
represented in these volumes by certain passages of natural
description, always sincere, and sometimes rising to real distinction.
In Switzerland it is easy to be pleased with scenery. But the record of
such pleasure becomes really worth while when, as happens with Amiel,
we feel that there has been, and with success, an intellectual [26]
effort to get at the secret, the precise motive, of the pleasure; to
define feeling, in this matter.  Here is a good description of an
effect of fog, which we commend to foreigners resident in London:

"Fog has certainly a poetry of its own--a grace, a dreamy charm.  It
does for the daylight what a lamp does for us at night; it turns the
mind towards meditation; it throws the soul back on itself.  The sun,
as it were, sheds us abroad in nature, scatters and disperses us; mist
draws us together and concentrates us--it is cordial, homely, charged
with feeling.  The poetry of the sun has something of the epic in it;
that of fog and mist is elegiac and religious.  Pantheism is the child
of light; mist engenders faith in near protectors.  When the great
world is shut off from us, the house becomes itself a small universe.
Shrouded in perpetual mist, men love each other better; for the only
reality then is the family, and, within the family, the heart; and the
greatest thoughts come from the heart--so says the moralist."

It is of Swiss fog, however, that he is speaking, as, in what follows,
of Swiss frost:

[27] "Three snowstorms this afternoon.  Poor blossoming plum-trees and
peach-trees!  What a difference from six years ago, when the
cherry-trees, adorned in their green spring dress and laden with their
bridal flowers, smiled at my departure along the Vaudois fields, and
the lilacs of Burgundy threw great gusts of perfume into my face!"  The
weather is seldom talked of with so much real sensitiveness to it as in
this:

"The weather is rainy, the whole atmosphere grey; it is a time
favourable to thought and meditation.  I have a liking for such days as
these; they revive one's converse with oneself and make it possible to
live the inner life: they are quiet and peaceful, like a song in a
minor key.  We are nothing but thought, but we feel our life to its
very centre.  Our very sensations turn to reverie.  It is a strange
state of mind; it is like those silences in worship which are not the
empty moments of devotion, but the full moments, and which are so
because at such times the soul, instead of being polarized, dispersed,
localized, in a single impression or thought, feels her own totality
and is conscious of herself."

[28] "Every landscape," he writes, "is, as it were, a state of the
soul": and again, "At bottom there is but one subject of study; the
forms and metamorphoses of mind: all other subjects may be reduced to
that; all other studies bring us back to this study."  And, in truth,
if he was occupied with the aspects of nature to such an excellent
literary result, still, it was with nature only as a phenomenon of the
moral order.  His interest, after all, is, consistently, that of the
moralist (in no narrow sense) who deals, from predilection, with the
sort of literary work which stirs men--stirs their intellect--through
feeling; and with that literature, especially, as looked at through the
means by which it became capable of thus commanding men. The powers,
the culture, of the literary producer: there, is the centre of Amiel's
curiosity.

And if we take Amiel at his own word, we must suppose that but for
causes, the chief of which were bad health and a not long life, he too
would have produced monumental work, whose scope and character he would
wish us to conjecture from his "Thoughts."  Such indications there
certainly are in them.  He was [29] meant--we see it in the variety,
the high level both of matter and style, the animation, the gravity, of
one after another of these thoughts--on religion, on poetry, on
politics in the highest sense; on their most abstract principles, and
on the authors who have given them a personal colour; on the genius of
those authors, as well as on their concrete works; on outlying isolated
subjects, such as music, and special musical composers--he was meant,
if people ever are meant for special lines of activity, for the best
sort of criticism, the imaginative criticism; that criticism which is
itself a kind of construction, or creation, as it penetrates, through
the given literary or artistic product, into the mental and inner
constitution of the producer, shaping his work.  Of such critical
skill, cultivated with all the resources of Geneva in the nineteenth
century, he has given in this Journal abundant proofs.  Corneille,
Cherbuliez; Rousseau, Sismondi; Victor Hugo, and Joubert; Mozart and
Wagner--all who are interested in these men will find a value in what
Amiel has to say of them. Often, as for instance in his excellent
criticism of Quinet, he has to make large exceptions [30]; limitations,
skilfully effected by the way, in the course of a really appreciative
estimate.  Still, through all, what we feel is that we have to do with
one who criticises in this fearlessly equitable manner only because he
is convinced that his subject is of a real literary importance.  A
powerful, intellectual analysis of some well-marked subject, in such
form as makes literature enduring, is indeed what the world might have
looked for from him: those institutes of aesthetics, for instance,
which might exist, after Lessing and Hegel, but which certainly do not
exist yet.  "Construction," he says--artistic or literary
construction--"rests upon feeling, instinct, and," alas! also, "upon
will."  The instinct, at all events, was certainly his. And over and
above that he had possessed himself of the art of expressing, in quite
natural language, very difficult thoughts; those abstract and
metaphysical conceptions especially, in which German mind has been
rich, which are bad masters, but very useful ministers towards the
understanding, towards an analytical survey, of all that the intellect
has produced.

But something held him back: not so much [31] a reluctancy of
temperament, or of physical constitution (common enough cause why men
of undeniable gifts fail of commensurate production) but a cause purely
intellectual--the presence in him, namely, of a certain vein of
opinion; that other, constituent but contending, person, in his complex
nature.  "The relation of thought to action," he writes, "filled my
mind on waking, and I found myself carried towards a bizarre formula,
which seems to have something of the night still clinging about it.
Action is but coarsened thought."  That is but an ingenious
metaphysical point, as he goes on to show.  But, including in "action"
that literary production in which the line of his own proper activity
lay, he followed--followed often--that fastidious utterance to a
cynical and pessimistic conclusion.

Maia, as he calls it, the empty "Absolute" of the Buddhist, the
"Infinite," the "All," of which those German metaphysicians he loved
only too well have had so much to say: this was for ever to give the
go-by to all positive, finite, limited interests whatever.  The vague
pretensions of an abstract expression acted on him with all the force
of a prejudice.  "The ideal," he admits, [32] "poisons for me all
imperfect possession"; and again, "The Buddhist tendency in me blunts
the faculty of free self-government, and weakens the power of action. I
feel a terror of action and am only at ease in the impersonal,
disinterested, and objective line of thought."  But then, again, with
him "action" meant chiefly literary production.  He quotes with
approval those admirable words from Goethe, "In der Beschrankung zeigt
sich erst der Meister"; yet still always finds himself wavering between
"frittering myself away on the infinitely little, and longing after
what is unknown and distant."  There is, doubtless, over and above the
physical consumptive tendency, an instinctive turn of sentiment in this
touching confession.  Still, what strengthened both tendencies was that
metaphysical prejudice for the "Absolute," the false intellectual
conscience.  "I have always avoided what attracted me, and turned my
back upon the point where secretly I desired to be"; and, of course,
that is not the way to a free and generous productivity, in literature,
or in anything else; though in literature, with Amiel at all events, it
meant the fastidiousness which [33] is incompatible with any but the
very best sort of production.

And as that abstract condition of Maia, to the kind and quantity of
concrete literary production we hold to have been originally possible
for him; so was the religion he actually attained, to what might have
been the development of his profoundly religious spirit, had he been
able to see that the old-fashioned Christianity is itself but the
proper historic development of the true "essence" of the New Testament.
There, again, is the constitutional shrinking, through a kind of
metaphysical prejudice, from the concrete--that fear of the actual--in
this case, of the Church of history; to which the admissions, which
form so large a part of these volumes, naturally lead.  Assenting, on
probable evidence, to so many of the judgments of the religious sense,
he failed to see the equally probable evidence there is for the
beliefs, the peculiar direction of men's hopes, which complete those
judgments harmoniously, and bring them into connection with the facts,
the venerable institutions of the past--with the lives of the saints.
By failure, as we think, of that historic sense, of [34] which he could
speak so well, he got no further in this direction than the glacial
condition of rationalistic Geneva.  "Philosophy," he says, "can never
replace religion."  Only, one cannot see why it might not replace a
religion such as his: a religion, after all, much like Seneca's.

"I miss something," he himself confesses, "common worship, a positive
religion, shared with other people.  Ah!  when will the Church to which
I belong in heart rise into being?"  To many at least of those who can
detect the ideal through the disturbing circumstances which belong to
all actual institutions in the world, it was already there. Pascal,
from considerations to which Amiel was no stranger, came to the large
hopes of the Catholic Church; Amiel stopped short at a faith almost
hopeless; and by stopping short just there he really failed, as we
think, of intellectual consistency, and missed that appeasing influence
which his nature demanded as the condition of its full activity, as a
force, an intellectual force, in the world--in the special business of
his life.  "Welcome the unforeseen," he says again, by way of a counsel
of perfection in the matter of culture, "but give to [35] your life
unity, and bring the unforeseen within the lines of your plan."  Bring,
we should add, the Great Possibility at least within the lines of your
plan--your plan of action or production; of morality; especially of
your conceptions of religion. And still, Amiel too, be it remembered
(we are not afraid to repeat it), has said some things in Pascal's vein
not unworthy of Pascal.

And so we get only the Journal.  Watching in it, in the way we have
suggested, the contention of those two men, those two minds in him, and
observing how the one might have ascertained and corrected the
shortcomings of the other, we certainly understand, and can sympathize
with Amiel's despondency in the retrospect of a life which seemed to
have been but imperfectly occupied.  But, then, how excellent a
literary product, after all, the Journal is.  And already we have found
that it improves also on second reading.  A book of "thoughts" should
be a book that may be fairly dipped into, and yield good quotable
sayings.  Here are some of its random offerings:

"Look twice, if what you want is a just [36] conception; look once, if
what you want is a sense of beauty."

"It is not history which teaches conscience to be honest; it is the
conscience which educates history.  Fact is corrupting--it is we who
correct it by the persistence of our ideal."

"To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent.  To
do what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius."

"Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world,
while at the same time detaching us from it."

"As it is impossible to be outside God, the best is consciously to
dwell in Him."

"He also (the Son of Man), He above all, is the great Misunderstood,
the least comprehended."

"The pensée writer is to the philosopher what the dilettante is to the
artist."

There are some, we know, who hold that genius cannot, in the nature of
things, be "sterile"; that there are no "mute" Miltons, or the like.
Well! genius, or only a very distinguished talent, the gift which Amiel
nursed so jealously did come into evidence.  And the [37] reader, we
hope, sees also already how well his English translator has done her
work.  She may justly feel, as part at least of the reward of a labour
which must have occupied much time, so many of the freshest hours of
mind and spirit, that she has done something to help her author in the
achievement of his, however discouraged still irrepressible, desire, by
giving additional currency to a book which the best sort of readers
will recognize as an excellent and certainly very versatile companion,
not to be forgotten.

17th March 1886



III.  BROWNING


An Introduction to the Study of Browning. By Arthur Symons.  Cassells.


[41] WHETHER it be true or not that Mr. Browning is justly chargeable
with "obscurity"--with a difficulty of manner, that is, beyond the
intrinsic difficulty of his matter--it is very probable that an
Introduction to the study of his works, such as this of Mr. Symons,
will add to the number of his readers.  Mr. Symons's opening essay on
the general characteristics of Mr. Browning is a just and acceptable
appreciation of his poetry as a whole, well worth reading, even at this
late day.  We find in Mr. Symons the thoughtful and practised yet
enthusiastic student in literature--in intellectual problems; always
quiet and sane, praising Mr. Browning with tact, with a real refinement
and grace; saying well many [42] things which every competent reader of
the great poet must feel to be true; devoting to the subject he loves a
critical gift so considerable as to make us wish for work from his
hands of larger scope than this small volume. His book is, according to
his intention, before all things a useful one.  Appreciating Mr.
Browning fairly, as we think, in all his various efforts, his aim is to
point his readers to the best, the indisputable, rather than to the
dubious portions of his author's work.  Not content with his own
excellent general criticism of Mr. Browning, he guides the reader to
his works, or division of work, seriatim, making of each a distinct and
special study, and giving a great deal of welcome information about the
poems, the circumstances of their composition, and the like, with
delightful quotations. Incidentally, his Introduction has the interest
of a brief but effective selection from Mr. Browning's poems; and he
has added an excellent biography.

Certainly we shall not quarrel with Mr. Symons for reckoning Mr.
Browning, among English poets, second to Shakespeare alone--"He comes
very near the gigantic total of [43] Shakespeare."  The quantity of his
work?  Yes! that too, in spite of a considerable unevenness, is a sign
of genius.  "So large, indeed, appear to be his natural endowments that
we cannot feel as if even thirty volumes would have come near to
exhausting them."  Imaginatively, indeed, Mr. Browning has been a
multitude of persons; only (as Shakespeare's only untried style was the
simple one) almost never simple ones; and certainly he has controlled
them all to profoundly interesting artistic ends by his own powerful
personality.  The world and all its action, as a show of thought, that
is the scope of his work.  It makes him pre-eminently a modern poet--a
poet of the self-pondering, perfectly educated, modern world, which,
having come to the end of all direct and purely external experiences,
must necessarily turn for its entertainment to the world within:--

"The men and women who live and move in that new world of his creation
are as varied as life itself; they are kings and beggars, saints and
lovers, great captains, poets, painters, musicians, priests and Popes,
Jews, gipsies and dervishes, street-girls, princesses, dancers with the
wicked [44] witchery of the daughter of Herodias, wives with the
devotion of the wife of Brutus, joyous girls and malevolent
grey-beards, statesmen, cavaliers, soldiers of humanity, tyrants and
bigots, ancient sages and modern spiritualists, heretics, scholars,
scoundrels, devotees, rabbis, persons of quality and men of low
estate--men and women as multiform as nature or society has made them."

The individual, the personal, the concrete, as distinguished from, yet
revealing in its fulness, the general, the universal--that is Mr.
Browning's chosen subject-matter: "Every man is for him an epitome of
the universe, a centre of creation."  It is always the particular soul,
and the particular act or episode, as the flower of the particular
soul--the act or episode by which its quality comes to the test--in
which he interests us.  With him it is always "a drama of the interior,
a tragedy or comedy of the soul, to see thereby how each soul becomes
conscious of itself."  In the Preface to the later edition of Sordello,
Mr. Browning himself told us that to him little else seems worth study
except the development of a soul, the incidents, the story, of that.
And, [45] in fact, the intellectual public generally agrees with him.
It is because he has ministered with such marvellous vigour, and
variety, and fine skill to this interest, that he is the most modern,
to modern people the most important, of poets.

So much for Mr. Browning's matter; for his manner, we hold Mr. Symons
right in thinking him a master of all the arts of poetry.  "These
extraordinary little poems," says Mr. Symons of "Johannes Agricola" and
"Porphyria's Lover"--

"Reveal not only an imagination of intense fire and heat, but an almost
finished art--a power of conceiving subtle mental complexities with
clearness and of expressing them in a picturesque form and in perfect
lyric language.  Each poem renders a single mood, and renders it
completely."

Well, after all, that is true of a large portion of Mr. Browning's
work.  A curious, an erudite artist, certainly, he is to some extent an
experimenter in rhyme or metre, often hazardous.  But in spite of the
dramatic rudeness which is sometimes of the idiosyncrasy, the true and
native colour of his multitudinous dramatis personae, or monologists,
Mr. Symons is right in [46] laying emphasis on the grace, the finished
skill, the music, native and ever ready to the poet himself--tender,
manly, humorous, awe-stricken--when speaking in his own proper person.
Music herself, the analysis of the musical soul, in the characteristic
episodes of its development is a wholly new range of poetic subject in
which Mr. Browning is simply unique. Mr. Symons tells us:--

"When Mr. Browning was a mere boy, it is recorded that he debated
within himself whether he should not become a painter or a musician as
well as a poet.  Finally, though not, I believe, for a good many years,
he decided in the negative.  But the latent qualities of painter and
musician had developed themselves in his poetry, and much of his finest
and very much of his most original verse is that which speaks the
language of painter and musician as it had never before been spoken.
No English poet before him has ever excelled his utterances on music,
none has so much as rivalled his utterances on art.  'Abt Vogler' is
the richest, deepest, fullest poem on music in the language.  It is not
the theories of the poet, but the instincts of the [47] musician, that
it speaks.  'Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha,' another special poem on
music, is unparalleled for ingenuity of technical interpretation: 'A
Toccata of Galuppi's' is as rare a rendering as can anywhere be found
of the impressions and sensations caused by a musical piece; but 'Abt
Vogler' is a very glimpse into the heaven where music is born."

It is true that "when the head has to be exercised before the heart
there is chilling of sympathy."  Of course, so intellectual a poet (and
only the intellectual poet, as we have pointed out, can be adequate to
modern demands) will have his difficulties.  They were a part of the
poet's choice of vocation, and he was fully aware of them:--

"Mr. Browning might say, as his wife said in an early preface, I never
mistook pleasure for the final cause of poetry, nor leisure for the
hour of the poet--as indeed he has himself said, to much the same
effect, in a letter printed many years ago: I never pretended to offer
such literature as should be a substitute for a cigar or a game at
dominoes to an idle man."

"Moreover, while a writer who deals with [48] easy themes has no excuse
if he is not pellucid to a glance, one who employs his intellect and
imagination on high and hard questions has a right to demand a
corresponding closeness of attention, and a right to say with Bishop
Butler, in answer to a similar complaint: 'It must be acknowledged that
some of the following discourses are very abstruse and difficult, or,
if you please, obscure; but I must take leave to add that those alone
are judges whether or no, and how far this is a fault, who are judges
whether or no, and how far it might have been avoided--those only who
will be at the trouble to understand what is here said, and to see how
far the things here insisted upon, and not other things, might have
been put in a plainer manner.'"

In Mr. Symons's opinion Pippa Passes is Mr. Browning's most perfect
piece of work, for pregnancy of intellect, combined with faultless
expression in a perfectly novel yet symmetrical outline: and he is very
likely right.  He is certainly right in thinking Mas they formerly
stood, Mr. Browning's most delightful volumes.  It is only to be
regretted [49] that in the later collected edition of the works those
two magical old volumes are broken up and scattered under other
headings.  We think also that Mr. Symons in his high praise does no
more than justice to The Ring and the Book.  The Ring and the Book is
at once the largest and the greatest of Mr. Browning's works, the
culmination of his dramatic method, and the turning-point more
decisively than Dramatis Personae of his style.  Yet just here he
rightly marks a change in Mr. Browning's manner:--

"Not merely the manner of presentment, the substance, and also the
style and versification have undergone a change.  I might point to the
profound intellectual depth of certain pieces as its characteristic,
or, equally, to the traces here and there of an apparent carelessness
of workmanship; or, yet again, to the new and very marked partiality
for scenes and situations of English and modern rather than mediæval
and foreign life."

Noble as much of Mr. Browning's later work is, full of intellect, alive
with excellent passages (in the first volume of the Dramatic Idyls [50]
perhaps more powerful than in any earlier work); notwithstanding all
that, we think the change here indicated matter of regret.  After all,
we have to conjure up ideal poets for ourselves out of those who stand
in or behind the range of volumes on our book-shelves; and our ideal
Browning would have for his entire structural type those two volumes of
Men and Women with Pippa Passes.

Certainly, it is a delightful world to which Mr. Browning has given us
the key, and those volumes a delightful gift to our age-record of so
much that is richest in the world of things, and men, and their
works--all so much the richer by the great intellect, the great
imagination, which has made the record, transmuted them into
imperishable things of art:--

"'With souls should souls have place'--this, with Mr. Browning, is
something more than a mere poetical conceit.  It is the condensed
expression of an experience, a philosophy, and an art.  Like the lovers
of his lyric, Mr. Browning has renounced the selfish serenities of
wild-wood and dream-palace; he has fared up and down among men,
listening to the music of humanity, [51] observing the acts of men, and
he has sung what he has heard, and he has painted what he has seen.
Will the work live? we ask; and we can answer only in his own words--

  It lives,
  If precious be the soul of man to man."

9th November 1887



IV.  "ROBERT ELSMERE"


[55] THOSE who, in this bustling age, turn to fiction not merely for a
little passing amusement, but for profit, for the higher sort of
pleasure, will do well, we think (after a conscientious perusal on our
own part) to bestow careful reading on Robert Elsmere.  A chef d'oeuvre
of that kind of quiet evolution of character through circumstance,
introduced into English literature by Miss Austen, and carried to
perfection in France by George Sand (who is more to the point, because,
like Mrs. Ward, she was not afraid to challenge novel-readers to an
interest in religious questions), it abounds in sympathy with people as
we find them, in aspiration towards something better--towards a certain
ideal--in a refreshing sense of second thoughts everywhere.  The author
clearly has developed a remarkable natural aptitude for literature by
liberal reading and most patient care [56] in composition--composition
in that narrower sense which is concerned with the building of a good
sentence; as also in that wider sense, which ensures, in a work like
this, with so many joints, so many currents of interest, a final unity
of impression an the part of the reader, and easy transition by him
from one to the other.  Well-used to works of fiction which tell all
they have to tell in one thin volume, we have read Mrs. Ward's three
volumes with unflagging readiness.

For, in truth, that quiet method of evolution, which she pursues
undismayed to the end, requires a certain lengthiness; and the reader's
reward will be in a secure sense that he has been in intercourse with
no mere flighty remnants, but with typical forms, of character, firmly
and fully conceived.  We are persuaded that the author might have
written a novel which should have been all shrewd impressions of
society, or all humorous impressions of country life, or all quiet fun
and genial caricature.  Actually she has chosen to combine something of
each of these with a very sincerely felt religious interest; and who
will deny that to trace the influence of religion upon human character
is one of the [57] legitimate functions of the novel?  In truth, the
modern "novel of character" needs some such interest, to lift it
sufficiently above the humdrum of life; as men's horizons are enlarged
by religion, of whatever type it may be--and we may say at once that
the religious type which is dear to Mrs. Ward, though avowedly "broad,"
is not really the broadest.  Having conceived her work thus, she has
brought a rare instinct for probability and nature to the difficult
task of combining this religious motive and all the learned thought it
involves, with a very genuine interest in many  varieties of average
mundane life.

We should say that the author's special ethical gift lay in a
delicately intuitive sympathy, not, perhaps, with all phases of
character, but certainly with the very varied class of persons
represented in these volumes.  It may be congruous with this, perhaps,
that her success should be more assured in dealing with the characters
of women than with those of men.  The men who pass before us in her
pages, though real and tangible and effective enough, seem,
nevertheless, from time to time to reveal their joinings.  They are
composite of many different men we seem to have [58] known, and fancy
we could detach again from the ensemble and from each other.  And their
goodness, when they are good, is--well! a little conventional; the kind
of goodness that men themselves discount rather largely in their
estimates of each other.  Robert himself is certainly worth knowing--a
really attractive union of manliness and saintliness, of shrewd sense
and unworldly aims, and withal with that kindness and pity the absence
of which so often abates the actual value of those other gifts.  Mrs.
Ward's literary power is sometimes seen at its best (it is a proof of
her high cultivation of this power that so it should be) in the
analysis of minor characters, both male and female. Richard Leyburn,
deceased before the story begins, but warm in the memory of the few who
had known him, above all of his great-souled daughter Catherine,
strikes us, with his religious mysticism, as being in this way one of
the best things in the book:--

"Poor Richard Leyburn!  Yet where had the defeat lain?

"'Was he happy in his school life?' Robert asked gently.  'Was teaching
what he liked?'

[59] "'Oh! yes, only--' and then added hurriedly, as though drawn on in
spite of herself by the grave sympathy of his look, 'I never knew
anybody so good who thought himself of so little account.  He always
believed that he had missed everything, wasted everything, and that
anybody else would have made infinitely more out of his life.  He vas
always blaming, scourging himself.  And all the time he was the
noblest, purest, most devoted--'

"She stopped.  Her voice had passed beyond her control.  Elsmere was
startled by the feeling she showed.  Evidently he had touched one of
the few sore places in this pure heart.  It was as though her memory of
her father had in it elements of almost intolerable pathos, as though
the child's brooding love and loyalty were in perpetual protest even
now after this lapse of years against the verdict which an
over-scrupulous, despondent soul had pronounced upon itself.  Did she
feel that he had gone uncomforted out of life--even by her--even by
religion?  Was that the sting?"

A little later she gives the record of his last hours:--

[60] "'Catherine!  Life is harder, the narrower way narrower than ever.
I die--and memory caught still the piteous long-drawn breath by which
the voice was broken--'in much--much perplexity about many things.  You
have a clear soul, an iron will.  Strengthen the others. Bring them
safe to the day of account.'"

And then the smaller--some of them, ethically, very small--women; Lady
Wynnstay, Mrs. Fleming, Mrs. Thornburgh; above all, Robert's delightful
Irish mother, and Mrs. Darcy; how excellent they are! Mrs. Darcy we
seem to have known, yet cannot have enough of, rejoiced to catch sight
of her capital letter on the page, as we read on.  In truth, if a high
and ideal purpose, really learned in the school of Wordsworth and among
the Westmorland hills which Mrs. Ward describes so sympathetically,
with fitting dignity and truth of style, has accompanied the author
throughout; no less plain, perhaps more pleasing to some readers, is
the quiet humour which never fails her, and tests, while it relieves,
the sincerity of her more serious thinking:--

"At last Mrs. Darcy fluttered off, only, however, to come hurrying back
with little, short, [61] scudding steps, to implore them all to come to
tea with her as soon as possible in the garden that was her special
hobby, and in her last new summer-house.

"'I build two or three every summer,' she said; 'now there are
twenty-one!  Roger laughs at me,' and there was a momentary bitterness
in the little eerie face; 'but how can one live without hobbies?
That's one--then I've two more.  My album--oh, you will all write in my
album, won't you?  When I was young--when I was Maid of Honour'--and
she drew herself up slightly--'everybody had albums. Even the dear
Queen herself!  I remember how she made M. Guizot write in it;
something quite stupid, after all.  Those hobbies--the garden and the
album--are quite harmless, aren't they?  They hurt nobody, do they?'
Her voice dropped a little, with a pathetic expostulating intonation in
it, as of one accustomed to be rebuked."

Mrs. Ward's women, as we have said, are more organic, sympathetic, and
really creative, than her men, and make their vitality evident by
becoming, quite naturally, the centres of very [62] life-like and
dramatic groups of people, family or social; while her men are the very
genii of isolation and division.  It is depressing to see so really
noble a character as Catherine soured, as we feel, and lowered, as time
goes on, from the happy resignation of the first volume (in which
solemn, beautiful, and entire, and so very real, she is like a poem of
Wordsworth) down to the mere passivity of the third volume, and the
closing scene of Robert Elsmere's days, very exquisitely as this
episode of unbelieving yet saintly biography has been conceived and
executed.  Catherine certainly, for one, has no profit in the
development of Robert's improved gospel.  The "stray sheep," we think,
has by no means always the best of the argument, and her story is
really a sadder, more testing one than his.  Though both alike, we
admit it cordially, have a genuine sense of the eternal moral charm of
"renunciation," something even of the thirst for martyrdom, for those
wonderful, inaccessible, cold heights of the Imitation, eternal also in
their aesthetic charm.

These characters and situations, pleasant or profoundly interesting,
which it is good to have [63] come across, are worked out, not in rapid
sketches, nor by hazardous epigram, but more securely by patient
analysis; and though we have said that Mrs. Ward is most successful in
female portraiture, her own mind and culture have an unmistakable
virility and grasp and scientific firmness.  This indispensable
intellectual process, which will be relished by admirers of George
Eliot, is relieved constantly by the sense of a charming landscape
background, for the most part English.  Mrs. Ward has been a true
disciple in the school of Wordsworth, and really undergone its
influence.  Her Westmorland scenery is more than a mere background; its
spiritual and, as it were, personal hold on persons, as understood by
the great poet of the Lakes, is seen actually at work, in the
formation, in the refining, of character.  It has been a stormy day:--

"Before him the great hollow of High Fell was just coming out from the
white mists surging round it.  A shaft of sunlight lay across its upper
end, and he caught a marvellous apparition of a sunlit valley hung in
air, a pale strip of blue above it, a white thread of stream wavering
[64] through it, and all around it and below it the rolling
rain-clouds."

There is surely something of "natural magic" in that!  The wilder
capacity of the mountains is brought out especially in a weird story of
a haunted girl, an episode well illustrating the writer's more
imaginative psychological power; for, in spite of its quiet general
tenour, the book has its adroitly managed elements of
sensation--witness the ghost, in which the average human susceptibility
to supernatural terrors takes revenge on the sceptical Mr. Wendover,
and the love-scene with Madame de Netteville, which, like those other
exciting passages, really furthers the development of the proper
ethical interests of the book.  The Oxford episodes strike us as being
not the author's strongest work, as being comparatively conventional,
coming, as they do, in a book whose predominant note is reality.  Yet
her sympathetic command over, her power of evoking, the genius of
places, is clearly shown in the touches by which she brings out the so
well-known grey and green of college and garden--touches which bring
the real Oxford to the mind's eye better than any elaborate description
[65] --for the beauty of the place itself resides also in delicate
touches.  The book passes indeed, successively, through distinct,
broadly conceived phases of scenery, which, becoming veritable parts of
its texture, take hold on the reader, as if in an actual sojourn in the
places described.  Surrey--its genuine though almost suburban wildness,
with the vicarage and the wonderful abode, above all, the ancient
library of Mr. Wendover, all is admirably done, the landscape naturally
counting for a good deal in the development of the profoundly
meditative, country-loving souls of Mrs. Ward's favourite characters.

Well!  Mrs. Ward has chosen to use all these varied gifts and
accomplishments for a certain purpose.  Briefly, Robert Elsmere, a
priest of the Anglican Church, marries a very religious woman; there is
the perfection of "mutual love"; at length he has doubts about
"historic Christianity"; he gives up his orders; carries his learning,
his fine intellect, his goodness, nay, his saintliness, into a kind of
Unitarianism; the wife becomes more intolerant than ever; there is a
long and faithful effort on both sides, eventually successful, on the
part of these mentally [66] divided people, to hold together; ending
with the hero's death, the genuine piety and resignation of which is
the crowning touch in the author's able, learned, and thoroughly
sincere apology for Robert Elsmere's position.

For good or evil, the sort of doubts which troubled Robert Elsmere are
no novelty in literature, and we think the main issue of the "religious
question" is not precisely where Mrs. Ward supposes--that it has
advanced, in more senses than one, beyond the point raised by Renan's
Vie de Jésus.  Of course, a man such as Robert Elsmere came to be ought
not to be a clergyman of the Anglican Church.  The priest is still, and
will, we think, remain, one of the necessary types of humanity; and he
is untrue to his type, unless, with whatever inevitable doubts in this
doubting age, he feels, on the whole, the preponderance in it of those
influences which make for faith.  It is his triumph to achieve as much
faith as possible in an age of negation.  Doubtless, it is part of the
ideal of the Anglican Church that, under certain safeguards, it should
find room for latitudinarians even among its clergy.  Still, with
these, as [67] with all other genuine priests, it is the positive not
the negative result that justifies the position.  We have little
patience with those liberal clergy who dwell on nothing else than the
difficulties of faith and the propriety of concession to the opposite
force.  Yes! Robert Elsmere was certainly right in ceasing to be a
clergyman.  But it strikes us as a blot on his philosophical
pretensions that he should have been both so late in perceiving the
difficulty, and then so sudden and trenchant in dealing with so great
and complex a question.  Had he possessed a perfectly philosophic or
scientific temper he would have hesitated.  This is not the place to
discuss in detail the theological position very ably and seriously
argued by Mrs. Ward.  All we can say is that, one by one, Elsmere's
objections may be met by considerations of the same genus, and not less
equal weight, relatively to a world so obscure, in its origin and
issues, as that in which we live.

Robert Elsmere was a type of a large class of minds which cannot be
sure that the sacred story is true.  It is philosophical, doubtless,
and a duty to the intellect to recognize our doubts, [68] to locate
them, perhaps to give them practical effect.  It may be also a moral
duty to do this.  But then there is also a large class of minds which
cannot be sure it is false--minds of very various degrees of
conscientiousness and intellectual power, up to the highest.  They will
think those who are quite sure it is false unphilosophical through lack
of doubt.  For their part, they make allowance in their scheme of life
for a great possibility, and with some of them that bare concession of
possibility (the subject of it being what it is) becomes the most
important fact in the world.

The recognition of it straightway opens wide the door to hope and love;
and such persons are, as we fancy they always will be, the nucleus of a
Church.  Their particular phase of doubt, of philosophic uncertainty,
has been the secret of millions of good Christians, multitudes of
worthy priests.  They knit themselves to believers, in various degrees,
of all ages.  As against the purely negative action of the scientific
spirit, the high-pitched Grey, the theistic Elsmere, the "ritualistic
priest," the quaint Methodist Fleming, both so admirably sketched,
present [69] perhaps no unconquerable differences.  The question of the
day is not between one and another of these, but in another sort of
opposition, well defined by Mrs. Ward herself, between--

"Two estimates of life--the estimate which is the offspring of the
scientific spirit, and which is for ever making the visible world
fairer and more desirable in mortal eyes; and the estimate of Saint
Augustine."

To us, the belief in God, in goodness at all, in the story of
Bethlehem, does not rest on evidence so diverse in character and force
as Mrs. Ward supposes.  At his death Elsmere has started what to us
would be a most unattractive place of worship, where he preaches an
admirable sermon on the purely human aspect of the life of Christ.  But
we think there would be very few such sermons in the new church or
chapel, for the interest of that life could hardly be very varied, when
all such sayings as that "though He was rich, for our sakes He became
poor" have ceased to be applicable to it.  It is the infinite nature of
Christ which has led to such diversities of genius in preaching as St.
Francis, and Taylor, and Wesley.

[70] And after all we fear we have been unjust to Mrs. Ward's work. If
so, we should read once more, and advise our readers to read, the
profoundly thought and delicately felt chapter--chapter forty-three in
her third volume--in which she describes the final spiritual reunion,
on a basis of honestly diverse opinion, of the husband and wife.  Her
view, we think, could hardly have been presented more attractively.
For ourselves we can only thank her for pleasure and profit in the
reading of her book, which has refreshed actually the first and deepest
springs of feeling, while it has charmed the literary sense.

28th March 1888



V.  THEIR MAJESTIES' SERVANTS


Annals of the English Stage, from Thomas Betterton to Edmund Kean. By
Dr. Doran, F.S.A.  Edited and revised by Robert W. Lowe.  John C. Nimmo.

[73] THOSE who care for the history of the drama as a branch of
literature, or for the history of that general development of human
manners of which the stage has been always an element and a very lively
measure or index, will be grateful to Mr. Lowe for this revised and
charmingly illustrated edition of Dr. Doran's pleasant old book.  Three
hundred years and more of a singularly varied and vivacious sort of
history!--it was a bold thing to undertake; and Dr. Doran did his work
well--did it with adequate "love."  These Annals of the English Stage,
from Thomas Betterton to Edmund [74] Kean, are full of the colours of
life in their most emphatic and motley contrasts, as is natural in
proportion as the stage itself concentrates and artificially
intensifies the character and conditions of ordinary life.  The long
story of "Their Majesties' Servants," treated thus, becomes from age to
age an agreeable addition to those personal memoirs--Evelyn's, and the
like--which bring the influence and charm of a visible countenance to
the dry tenour of ordinary history, and the critic's work upon it
naturally becomes, in the first place, a mere gathering of some of the
flowers which lie so abundantly scattered here and there.

A history of the English stage must necessarily be in part a history of
one of the most delightful of subjects--old London, of which from time
to time we catch extraordinary glimpses in Dr. Doran's pages. From 1682
to 1695, as if the Restoration had not come, there was but one theatre
in London.  In Charles I.'s time Shoreditch was the dramatic quarter of
London par excellence.--

"The popular taste was not only there directed towards the stage, but
it was a district [75] wherein many actors dwelt, and consequently
died.  The baptismal register of St.  Leonard's, Shoreditch, contains
Christian names which appear to have been chosen with reference to the
heroines of Shakespeare; and the record of burials bears the name of
many an old actor of mark whose remains now lie within the churchyard."

Earlier and later, the Surrey side of the Thames was the favourite
locality for play-houses.  The Globe was there, and the Bear-garden,
represented in Mr. Lowe's luxurious new edition by delightful woodcuts.
For this new edition adds to the original merits of the work the very
substantial charm of abundant illustrations, first-rate in subject and
execution, and of three kinds--copper-plate likenesses of actors and
other personages connected with theatrical history; a series of
delicate, picturesque, highly detailed woodcuts of theatrical
topography, chiefly the little old theatres; and, by way of tail-pieces
to the chapters, a second series of woodcuts of a vigour and reality of
information, within very limited compass, which make one think of
Callot and the German [76] "little masters," depicting Garrick and
other famous actors in their favourite scenes.

In the vignettes of the Bear-garden and the Swan Theatre, for instance,
the artist has managed to throw over his minute plate a wonderful air
of pleasantness, a light which, though very delicate, is very
theatrical.  The river and its tiny craft, the little gabled houses of
the neighbourhood, with a garden or two dropped in, tell delightfully
in the general effect.  They are worthy to rank with Cruikshank's
illustrations of Jack Sheppard and The Tower of London, as mementoes of
the little old smokeless London before the century of Johnson, though
that, too, as Dr. Doran bears witness, knew what fogs could be.  Then
there is the Fortune Theatre near Cripplegate, and, most charming of
all, two views--street and river fronts--the Duke's Theatre, Dorset
Garden, in Fleet Street, designed by Wren, decorated by
Gibbons--graceful, naïve, dainty, like the work of a very refined
Palladio, working minutely, perhaps more delicately than at Vicenza, in
the already crowded city on the Thames side.

[77] The portraits of actors and other theatrical celebrities range
from Elizabeth, from the melodramatic costumes and faces of the
contemporaries of Shakespeare, to the conventional costumes, the rotund
expression, of the age of the Georges, masking a power of imaginative
impersonation probably unknown in Shakespeare's day. Edward Burbage,
like Shakespeare's own portrait, is, we venture to think, a trifle
stolid.  Field--Nathaniel Field, author of The Fatal Dowry, and an
actor of reputation--in his singular costume, and with a face of
perhaps not quite reassuring subtlety, might pass for the original of
those Italian, or Italianized, voluptuaries in sin which pleased the
fancy of Shakespeare's age.  Mixed up with many striking, thoroughly
dramatic physiognomies, it must be confessed that some of these
portraits scarcely help at all to explain the power of the players to
whom they belonged.  That, perhaps, is what we might naturally expect;
the more, in proportion as the dramatic art is a matter in which many
very subtle and indirect channels to men's sympathy are called into
play.  Edward Alleyn, from the portrait preserved at [78] his noble
foundation at Dulwich, like a fine Holbein, figures, in blent strength
and delicacy, as a genial, or perhaps jovial, soul, finding time for
sentiment,--Prynne (included, we suppose, in this company, like the
skull at the feast) as a likable if somewhat melancholic young man;
while Garrick and his wife playing cards, after Zoffany, present a pair
of just very nice young people.  On the other hand, the tail-pieces,
chiefly devoted to Garrick, prove what a wonderful natural variety
there was in Garrick's soul, and are well worth comparative study.
Noticeable again, among the whole-plate portraits, is the thoroughly
reassuring countenance of Steele, the singularly fine heads of John,
Charles, and Fanny Kemble, while the certainly plain, pinched
countenance of William Davenant reminds one of Charles Kean, and might
well have lighted up, as did his, when the soul came into it, into
power and charm, as the speaking eyes assure us even in its repose.

The Renaissance inherited the old foolish prejudice of Roman times,
when, although the writers of plays were the intimate friends of
emperors, the actors were thought infamous. [79] Still, on the whole,
actors fared better in England than in Romanist France, where Molière
was buried with less ceremony than a favourite dog.  Very different was
the treatment of the eminent Mrs. Oldfield, who died in 1730:--

"Poor 'Narcissa' after death (says Walpole) was attired in a Holland
nightdress, with tucker and double ruffles of Brunswick lace, of which
latter material she also wore a headdress, and a pair of new kid
gloves.  In this dress the deceased actress received such honour as
actress never received before, nor has ever received since.  The lady
lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber.  Had she been really a queen the
public could not have thronged more eagerly to the spectacle; and after
the lying in state there was a funeral of as much ceremony as has been
observed at the obsequies of many a queen. There were anthems and
prayers and a sermon; and Dr. Parker, who officiated, remarked, when
all was over, to a few particular friends, and with some equivocation,
as it seems to me, that he  'buried her very willingly, and with much
satisfaction.'"

Yet even in England players had need of [80] powerful protectors.
"Wit," said Chesterfield, opposing an unjust licensing Act, "Wit, my
lords! is the property of those who have it, and too often the only
property they have to depend on."  Wit, indeed, with the other gifts
that make good company, has largely gone with theatrical talents, too
often little to the benefit of the gifted persons.  Theatrical society,
rather than the theatre, has made the lives of actors as we see them in
these volumes, in many cases so tragic, even sordidly tragic.

If misery and madness abound in stage life, so also does an indomitable
cheerfulness, always at least a cheerful countenance. Dr. Doran's book
abounds, as might be expected, with admirable impromptus and the like;
one might collect a large posy of them. Foote, seeing a sweep on a
blood-horse, remarked, "There goes Warburton on Shakespeare!"  When he
heard that the Rockingham Cabinet was fatigued to death and at its
wits' end, he exclaimed that it could not have been the length of the
journey which had tired it. Again, when Lord Carmarthen, at a party,
told him his handkerchief was hanging from his pocket, Foote replaced
[81] it with a "Thank you, my lord; you know the company better than
I."  Jevon, a century earlier, was in the habit of taking great
liberties with authors and audience.  He made Settle half mad and the
house ecstatic when having, as Lycurgus, Prince of China, to "fall on
his sword," he placed it flat on the stage, and, falling over it,
"died," according to the direction of the acting copy.  Quaint enough,
but certainly no instance of anybody's wit, is the account of how a
French translation of a play of Vanbrugh--not architect of Blenheim
only, but accomplished in many other ways--appeared at the Odéon, in
1862, with all fitting raptures, as a posthumous work of Voltaire
recently discovered.  The Voltairean wit vas found as "delightful in
this as in the last century."

Of Shakespeare on the stage Dr. Doran has a hundred curious things to
note:--that Richard the Third, for instance, who has retained a so
unflattering possession of the stage, was its "first practically useful
patron."  We see Queen Elizabeth full of misgiving at a difficult time
at the popularity of Richard the Second:--"The deposition and death of
King Richard the [82] Second."  "Tongues whisper to the Queen that this
play is part of a great plot to teach her subjects how to murder
kings."  It is perhaps not generally known that Charles Shakespeare,
William's brother, survived till the Restoration.

Oldys says, à propos of the restoration of the stage at that time:--

"The actors were greedily inquisitive into every little circumstance,
more especially in Shakespeare's dramatic character, which his brother
could relate of him.  But he, it seems, was so stricken in years, and
possibly his memory so weakened by infirmities, that he could give them
but little light into their inquiries; and all that could be
recollected from him of his brother Will in that station was the faint,
general, and almost lost ideas he had of having once seen him act a
part in one of his own comedies, wherein being present to personate a
decrepit old man, he wore a long beard, and appeared so weak and
drooping and unable to walk, that he was forced to be supported and
carried by another person to a table, at which he was seated among some
company who were eating, and one of them sang a song."

[83] This description applies to old Adam in As You Like It.  Many are
the evidences that Shakespeare's reputation had from time to time a
struggle to maintain itself.  James Howard, in Pepys's day--

"Belonged to the faction which affected to believe that there was no
popular love for Shakespeare, to render whom palatable he arranged
Romeo and Juliet for the stage, with a double dénouement--one serious,
the other hilarious.  If your heart were too sensitive to bear the
deaths of the loving pair, you had only to go on the succeeding
afternoon to see them wedded, and set upon the way of a well-assured
domestic felicity."

In 1678 Rymer asserted (was it undesignedly a true testimony to the
acting of his time?) that Shakespeare had depicted Brutus and Cassius
as "Jack Puddins."

Here, as in many another detail, we are reminded, of course, of the
difference between our own and past times in mimic as in real life. For
Prynne one of the great horrors of the stage was the introduction of
actresses from France by Henrietta Maria, to take the place of young
[84] male actors of whom Dr. Doran has some interesting notices.  Who
the lady was who first trod the stage as a professional actress is not
known, but her part was Desdemona.  And yet it was long after that--

"Edward Kynaston died (in 1712).  He lies buried in the churchyard of
St. Paul's, Covent Garden.  If not the greatest actor of his day,
Kynaston was the greatest of the 'boy-actresses.'  So exalted was his
reputation 'that,' says Downes, 'it has since been disputable among the
judicious, whether any woman that succeeded him so sensibly touched the
audience as he.'"

In Charles II.'s time it was a custom to return the price of admission
to all persons who left the theatre before the close of the first act.
Consequently, many shabby persons were wont to force their way in
without paying, on the plea that they did not intend to remain beyond
the time limited.  Hence much noisy contention, to the great discomfort
even of Royalty.  The brawling, drinking habits of the time were even
more discomforting.  An angry word, passed one April evening of 1682
between the son of Sir Edward Dering and a hot-blooded young [85]
Welshman, led to recrimination and sword-drawing. The two young fellows
not having elbow-room in the pit, clambered on to the stage, and fought
there, to the greater comfort of the audience, and with a more excited
fury on the part of the combatants. The mingling of the public with the
players was a practice which so annoyed the haughty French actor,
Baron, that to suggest to the audience the absurdity of it, he would
turn his back on them for a whole act, and play to the audience on the
stage.  Sometimes the noise was so loud that an actor's voice would
scarcely be heard.  It was about 1710 that the word encore was
introduced at the operatic performances in the Haymarket, and very much
objected to by plain-going Englishmen.  It was also the custom of some
who desired the repetition of a song to cry Altra volta!  Altra volta!

Even indirectly the history of the stage illustrates life, and affords
many unexpected lights on historical characters.  Oliver Cromwell,
though he despised the stage, could condescend to laugh at, and with,
men of less dignity than actors.  Buffoonery was not entirely expelled
[86] from his otherwise grave court.  Oxford and Drury Lane itself
dispute the dignity of giving birth to Nell Gwynne with Hereford, where
a mean house is still pointed out as the first home of this mother of a
line of dukes, whose great-grandson was to occupy the neighbouring
palace as Bishop of Hereford for forty years. At her burial in St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields, Archbishop Tenison preached the sermon.  When
this was subsequently made the ground of exposing him to the reproof of
Queen Mary, she remarked that the good doctor, no doubt, had said
nothing but what the facts authorized.

"Who should act genteel comedy perfectly," asks Walpole, "but people of
fashion, that have sense?"  And, in truth, the seventeenth century gave
many ladies to the stage, Mrs. Barry being the most famous of them.
Like many eminent actors, she was famous for the way in which she would
utter one single expression in a play.  Dr. Doran gives some curious
instances from later actors.  "What mean my grieving subjects?" uttered
in the character of Queen Elizabeth, was invested by her with such
emphatic grace and dignity as to call up murmurs of approbation [87]
which swelled into thunders of applause.  Her noble head is here
engraved after Kneller, like the head of a magnificent visionary man.

Should we really care for the greatest actors of the past could we have
them before us?  Should we find them too different from our accent of
thought, of feeling, of speech, in a thousand minute particulars which
are of the essence of all three?  Dr. Doran's long and interesting
records of the triumphs of Garrick, and other less familiar, but in
their day hardly less astonishing, players, do not relieve one of the
doubt.  Garrick himself, as sometimes happens with people who have been
the subject of much anecdote and other conversation, here as elsewhere,
bears no very distinct figure.  One hardly sees the wood for the trees.
On the other hand, the account of Betterton, "perhaps the greatest of
English actors," is delightfully fresh.  That intimate friend of
Dryden, Tillatson, Pope, who executed a copy of the actor's portrait by
Kneller which is still extant, was worthy of their friendship; his
career brings out the best elements in stage life.  The stage in these
volumes presents itself indeed not merely [88] as a mirror of life, but
as an illustration of the utmost intensity of life, in the fortunes and
characters of the players.  Ups and downs, generosity, dark fates, the
most delicate goodness, have nowhere been more prominent than in the
private existence of those devoted to the public mimicry of men and
women.  Contact with the stage, almost throughout its history, presents
itself as a kind of touchstone, to bring out the bizarrerie, the
theatrical tricks and contrasts, of the actual world.

27th June 1888



VI.  WORDSWORTH


The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth.  With an
Introduction by John Morley.  Macmillans.

The Recluse.  By William Wordsworth.  Macmillans.

Selections from Wordsworth.  By William Knight and other Members of the
Wordsworth Society.  With Preface and Notes.  Kegan Paul.

[91] THE appearance, so close to each other, of Professor Knight's
careful and elaborately annotated Selections from William Wordsworth,
of Messrs. Macmillan's collected edition of the poet's works, with the
first book of The Recluse, now published for the first time, and of an
excellent introductory essay by Mr. John Morley, forms a welcome proof
that the study of the [92] most philosophic of English poets is
increasing among us.  Surely nothing could be better, hardly anything
more directly fitted than careful reading of Wordsworth, to counter the
faults and offences of our busy generation, in regard both to thought
and taste, and to remind people, amid the enormous expansion, at the
present time, of all that is material and mechanical in life, of the
essential value, the permanent ends, of life itself.  In the collected
edition the poems are printed with the dates, so far as can be
ascertained, in the order of their composition--an arrangement which
has indisputable recommendations for the student of Wordsworth's
genius; though the former method of distributing his work into large
groups of subject had its value, as throwing light upon his poetic
motives, and more especially as coming from himself.

In his introductory essay Mr. Morley has dwelt strongly on the
circumstance of Wordsworth's remarkable personal happiness, as having
had much to do with the physiognomy of his poetic creation--a calm,
irresistible, well-being--almost mystic in character, and yet doubtless
[93] connected with physical conditions.  Long ago De Quincey noted it
as a strongly determinant fact in Wordsworth's literary career,
pointing, at the same time, to his remarkable good luck also, on the
material side of life.  The poet's own flawless temperament, his fine
mountain atmosphere of mind (so to express it), had no doubt a good
deal to do with that.  What a store of good fortune, what a goodly
contribution to happiness, in the very best sense of that term, is
really involved in a cheerful, grateful, physical temperament;
especially, in the case of a poet--a great poet--who will, of course,
have to face the appropriate trials of a great poet.

Coleridge and other English critics at the beginning of the present
century had a great deal to say concerning a psychological distinction
of much importance (as it appeared to them) between the fancy and the
imagination.  Stripped of a great deal of somewhat obscure metaphysical
theory, this distinction reduced itself to the certainly vital one,
with which all true criticism more or less directly has to do, between
the lower and higher degrees of intensity in the [94] poet's conception
of his subject, and his concentration of himself upon his work.  It was
Wordsworth who made most of this distinction, assuming it as the basis
for the final classification (abandoned, as we said, in the new
edition) of his poetical writings. And nowhere is the distinction more
realizable than in Wordsworth's own work.  For though what may be
called professed Wordsworthians, including Matthew Arnold, found a
value in all that remains of him--could read anything he wrote, "even
the 'Thanksgiving Ode,'--everything, I think, except 'Vaudracour and
Julia,'"--yet still the decisiveness of such selections as those made
by Arnold himself, and now by Professor Knight, hint at a certain very
obvious difference of level in his poetic work.

This perpetual suggestion of an absolute duality between his lower and
higher moods, and the poetic work produced in them, stimulating the
reader to look below the immediate surface of his poetry, makes the
study of Wordsworth an excellent exercise for the training of those
mental powers in us, which partake both of thought and imagination.  It
begets in those [95] who fall in with him at the right moment of their
spiritual development, a habit of reading between the lines, a faith in
the effect of concentration and collectedness of mind on the right
appreciation of poetry, the expectation that what is really worth
having in the poetic order will involve, on their part, a certain
discipline of the temper not less than of the intellect.  Wordsworth
meets them with the assurance that he has much to give them, and of a
very peculiar kind, if they will follow a certain difficult way, and
seems to possess the secret of some special mental illumination.  To
follow that way is an initiation, by which they will become able to
distinguish, in art, speech, feeling, manners, in men and life
generally, what is genuine, animated, and expressive from what is only
conventional and derivative, and therefore inexpressive.

A very intimate sense of the expressiveness of outward things, which
ponders, listens, penetrates, where the earlier, less developed
consciousness passed lightly by, is an important element in the general
temper of our modern poetry.  Critics of literary history have again
[96] and again remarked upon it; it is a characteristic which reveals
itself in many different forms, but is strongest and most sympathetic
in what is strongest and most serious in modern literature; it is
exemplified by writers as unlike Wordsworth as the French romanticist
poets.  As a curious chapter in the history of the human mind, its
growth might be traced from Rousseau and St. Pierre to Chateaubriand,
from Chateaubriand to Victor Hugo; it has no doubt some obscure
relationship to those pantheistic theories which have greatly occupied
people's minds in many modern readings of philosophy; it makes as much
difference between the modern and the earlier landscape art as there is
between the roughly outlined masks of a Byzantine mosaic and a portrait
by Reynolds or Romney.  Of this new landscape sense the poetry of
Wordsworth is the elementary and central exposition; he is more
exclusively occupied with its development than any other poet.
Wordsworth's own character, as we have already observed, was dominated
by a certain contentment, a sort of naturally religious placidity, not
often found in union with a poetic sensibility so [97] active as his;
and this gentle sense of well-being was favourable to the quiet,
habitual observation of the inanimate, or imperfectly animate, world.
His life of eighty placid years was almost without what, with most
human beings, count for incidents.  His flight from the active world,
so genially celebrated in this newly published poem of The Recluse; his
flight to the Vale of Grasmere, like that of some pious youth to the
Chartreuse, is the most marked event of his existence.  His life's
changes are almost entirely inward ones; it falls into broad,
untroubled, perhaps somewhat monotonous, spaces; his biographers have
very little to tell.  What it really most resembles, different as its
superficies may look, is the career of those early mediaeval religious
artists, who, precisely because their souls swarmed with heavenly
visions, passed their fifty or sixty years in tranquil, systematic
industry, seemingly with no thoughts beyond it.  This placid life
developed in Wordsworth, to an extraordinary degree, an innate
sensibility to natural sights and sounds--the flower and its shadow on
the stone, the cuckoo and its echo.  The poem of [98] "Resolution and
Independence" is a storehouse of such records; for its fulness of
lovely imagery it may be compared to Keats's "Saint Agnes' Eve."  To
read one of his greater pastoral poems for the first time is like a day
spent in a new country; the memory is crowded for a while with its
precise and vivid incidents:--

  The pliant harebell swinging in the breeze,
  On some grey rock:
  The single sheep, and the one blasted tree,
  And the bleak music from that old stone wall:--
  In the meadows and the lower ground,
  Was all the sweetness of a common dawn:--
  And that green corn all day is rustling in thine ears!

Clear and delicate at once as he is in the outlining of visible
imagery, he is more finely scrupulous still in the noting of sounds; he
conceives of noble sound as even moulding the human countenance to
nobler types, and as something actually "profaned" by visible form or
colour.  He has a power likewise of realizing and conveying to the
consciousness of his reader abstract and elementary impressions,
silence, darkness, absolute motionlessness, or, again, the whole
complex sentiment of a particular place, the abstract expression of
desolation in the long [99] white road, of peacefulness in a particular
folding of the hills.

That sense of a life in natural objects, which in most poetry is but a
rhetorical artifice, was, then, in Wordsworth the assertion of what was
for him almost literal fact.  To him every natural object seemed to
possess something of moral or spiritual life, to be really capable of a
companionship with man, full of fine intimacies.  An emanation, a
particular spirit, belonged not to the moving leaves or water only, but
to the distant peak arising suddenly, by some change of perspective,
above the nearer horizon of the hills, to the passing space of light
across the plain, to the lichened Druidic stone even, for a certain
weird fellowship in it with the moods of men.  That he awakened "a sort
of thought in sense" is Shelley's just estimate of this element in
Wordsworth's poetry.

It was through nature, ennobled in this way by the semblance of passion
and thought, that the poet approached the spectacle of human life.  For
him, indeed, human life is, in the first instance, only an additional,
and as it were incidental grace, upon this expressive landscape.

[100] When he thought of men and women, it was of men and women as in
the presence and under the influence of those effective natural
objects, and linked to them by many associations.  Such influences have
sometimes seemed to belittle those who are the subject of them, at the
least to be likely to narrow the range of their sympathies. To
Wordsworth, on the contrary, they seemed directly to dignify human
nature, as tending to tranquillize it.  He raises physical nature to
the level of human thought, giving it thereby a mystic power and
expression; he subdues man to the level of nature, but gives him
therewith a certain breadth and vastness and solemnity.

Religious sentiment, consecrating the natural affections and rights of
the human heart, above all that pitiful care and awe for the perishing
human clay of which relic-worship is but the corruption, has always had
much to do with localities, with the thoughts which attach themselves
to definite scenes and places.  And what is true of it everywhere is
truest in those secluded valleys, where one generation after another
maintains the same abiding-place; and [101] it was on this side that
Wordsworth apprehended religion most strongly.  Having so much to do
with the recognition of local sanctities, the habit of connecting the
very trees and stones of a particular spot of earth with the great
events of life, till the low walls, the green mounds, the
half-obliterated epitaphs, seemed full of oracular voices, even the
religion of those people of the dales appeared but as another link
between them and the solemn imageries of the natural world.  And,
again, this too tranquillized them, by bringing them under the rule of
traditional, narrowly localized observances.  "Grave livers," they
seemed to him under this aspect, of stately speech, and something of
that natural dignity of manners which underlies the highest courtesy.

And, seeing man thus as a part of nature, elevated and solemnized in
proportion as his daily life and occupations brought him into
companionship with permanent natural objects, he was able to appreciate
passion in the lowly.  He chooses to depict people from humble life,
because, being nearer to nature than others, they are on the whole more
impassioned, certainly [102] more direct in their expression of
passion, than other men; it is for this direct expression of passion
that he values their humble words.  In much that he said in exaltation
of rural life he was but pleading indirectly for that sincerity, that
perfect fidelity to one's own inward presentations, to the precise
features of the picture within, without which any profound poetry is
impossible.  It was not for their tameness, but for their impassioned
sincerity, that he chose incidents and situations from common life,
"related in a selection of language really used by men."  He constantly
endeavours to bring his language nearer to the real language of men;
but it is to the real language of men, not on the dead level of their
ordinary intercourse, but in certain select moments of vivid sensation,
when this language is winnowed and ennobled by sentiment.  There are
poets who have chosen rural life for their subject for the sake of its
passionless repose; and there are times when Wordsworth himself extols
the mere calm and dispassionate survey of things as the highest aim of
poetical culture.  But it was not for such passionless calm that he
preferred the scenes of [103] pastoral life; and the meditative poet,
sheltering himself from the agitations of the outward world, is in
reality only clearing the scene for the exhibition of great emotions,
and what he values most is the almost elementary expression of
elementary feelings.

In Wordsworth's prefatory advertisement to the first edition of The
Prelude, published in 1850, it is stated that that work was intended to
be introductory to The Recluse: and that The Recluse, if completed,
would have consisted of three parts.  The second part is The Excursion.
The third part was only planned; but the first book of the first part
was left in manuscript by Wordsworth--though in manuscript, it is said,
in no great condition of forwardness for the printers.  This book, now
for the first time printed in extenso (a very noble passage from it
found place in that prose advertisement to The Excursion), is the great
novelty of this latest edition of Wordsworth's poetic works.  It was
well worth adding to the poet's great bequest to English literature.
The true student of his work, who has formulated for himself what he
supposes to be the leading characteristics [104] of Wordsworth's
genius, will feel, we think, a lively interest in putting them to test
by the many and various striking passages in what is there presented
for the first time.

17th February 1889



VII.  MR. GOSSE'S POEMS


On Viol and Flute.  By Edmund Gosse.

[107] PERHAPS no age of literature, certainly no age of literature in
England, has been so rich as ours in excellent secondary poetry; and it
is with our poetry (in a measure) as with our architecture, constrained
by the nature of the case to be imitative.  Our generation, quite
reasonably, is not very proud of its architectural creations; confesses
that it knows too much--knows, but cannot do. And yet we could name
certain modern churches in London, for instance, to which posterity may
well look back puzzled.--Could these exquisitely pondered buildings
have been indeed works of the nineteenth century?  Were they not the
subtlest creations of the age in which Gothic art was spontaneous?  In
truth, we have had instances of workmen, who, through long, large,
[108] devoted study of the handiwork of the past, have done the thing
better, with a more fully enlightened consciousness, with full
intelligence of what those early workmen only guessed at.  And
something like this is true of some of our best secondary poetry.  It
is the least that is true--the least that can fairly be said in praise
of the poetic work of Mr. Edmund Gosse.

Of course there can be no exact parallel between arts so different as
architecture and poetic composition: But certainly in the poetry of our
day also, though it has been in some instances powerfully initiative
and original, there is great scholarship, a large comparative
acquaintance with the poetic methods of earlier workmen, and a very
subtle intelligence of their charm.  Of that fine scholarship in this
matter there is no truer example than Mr. Gosse. It is manifested
especially in the even finish of his varied work, in the equality of
his level--a high level--in species of composition so varied as the
three specimens which follow.

Far away, in late spring, "by the sea in the south," the swallows are
still lingering around "white Algiers."  In Mr. Gosse's "Return of
[109] the Swallows," the northern birds--lark and thrush--have long
been calling to them:--

  And something awoke in the slumbering heart
  Of the alien birds in their African air,
  And they paused, and alighted, and twittered apart,
  And met in the broad white dreamy square,
  And the sad slave woman, who lifted up
  From the fountain her broad-lipped earthen cup,
  Said to herself, with a weary sigh,
  "To-morrow the swallows will northward fly."

Compare the following stanzas, from a kind of palinode, "1870-1871,"
years of the Franco-German war and the Parisian Commune:--

  The men who sang that pain was sweet
  Shuddered to see the mask of death
  Storm by with myriad thundering feet;
  The sudden truth caught up our breath
  Our throats like pulses beat.

  The songs of pale emaciate hours,
  The fungus-growth of years of peace,
  Withered before us like mown flowers;
  We found no pleasure more in these
  When bullets fell in showers.

  For men whose robes are dashed with blood,
  What joy to dream of gorgeous stairs,
  Stained with the torturing interlude
  That soothed a Sultan's midday prayers,
  In old days harsh and rude?

[110]

  For men whose lips are blanched and white,
  With aching wounds and torturing thirst,
  What charm in canvas shot with light,
  And pale with faces cleft and curst,
  Past life and life's delight?

And then Mr. Gosse's purely descriptive power, his aptitude for
still-life and landscape, is unmistakably vivid and sound.  Take, for
an instance, this description of high-northern summer:--

  The ice-white mountains clustered all around us,
  But arctic summer blossomed at our feet;
  The perfume of the creeping sallows found us,
  The cranberry-flowers were sweet.

  Below us through the valley crept a river,
  Cleft round an island where the Lap-men lay;
  Its sluggish water dragged with slow endeavour
  The mountain snows away.

  There is no night-time in the northern summer,
  But golden shimmer fills the hours of sleep,
  And sunset fades not, till the bright new-comer,
  Red sunrise, smites the deep.

  But when the blue snow-shadows grew intenser
  Across the peaks against the golden sky,
  And on the hills the knots of deer grew denser,
  And raised their tender cry,

[111]

  And wandered downward to the Lap-men's dwelling,
  We knew our long sweet day was nearly spent,
  And slowly, with our hearts within us swelling,
  Our homeward steps we bent.

"Sunshine before Sunrise!"  There's a novelty in that, for poetic use
at least, so far as we know, though we remember one fine paragraph
about it in Sartor Resartus.  The grim poetic sage of Chelsea, however,
had never seen what he describes: not so Mr. Gosse, whose acquaintance
with northern lands and northern literature is special. We have indeed
picked out those stanzas from a quiet personal record of certain
amorous hours of early youth in that quaint arctic land, Mr. Gosse's
description of which, like his pretty poem on Lübeck, made one think
that what the accomplished group of poets to which he belongs requires
is, above all, novelty of motive, of subject.

He takes, indeed, the old themes, and manages them better than their
old masters, with more delicate cadences, more delicate transitions of
thought, through long dwelling on earlier practice.  He seems to
possess complete command of the technique of poetry--every form of what
may be called skill of hand in it; and what marks in [112] him the
final achievement of poetic scholarship is the perfect balance his work
presents of so many and varied effects, as regards both matter and
form.  The memories of a large range of poetic reading are blent into
one methodical music so perfectly that at times the notes seem almost
simple.  Sounding almost all the harmonies of the modern lyre, he has,
perhaps as a matter of course, some of the faults also, the "spasmodic"
and other lapses, which from age to age, in successive changes of
taste, have been the "defects" of excellent good "qualities."  He is
certainly not the--

  Pathetic singer, with no strength to sing,

as he says of the white-throat on the tulip-tree,

  Whose leaves unfinished ape her faulty song.

In effect, a large compass of beautiful thought and expression, from
poetry old and new, have become to him matter malleable anew for a
further and finer reach of literary art.  And with the perfect grace of
an intaglio, he shows, as in truth the minute intaglio may do, the
faculty of structure, the logic of poetry.  "The New Endymion" is a
good instance of such sustained [113] power.  Poetic scholar!--If we
must reserve the sacred name of "poet" to a very small number, that
humbler but perhaps still rarer title is due indisputably to Mr. Gosse.
His work is like exquisite modern Latin verse, into the academic shape
of which, discreet and coy, comes a sincere, deeply felt consciousness
of modern life, of the modern world as it is.  His poetry, according
with the best intellectual instincts of our critical age, is as pointed
out recently by a clever writer in the Nineteenth Century, itself a
kind of exquisite, finally revised criticism.

Not that he fails in originality; only, the graces, inborn certainly,
but so carefully educated, strike one more.  The sense of his
originality comes to one as but an after-thought; and certainly one
sign of his vocation is that he has made no conscious effort to be
original.  In his beautiful opening poem of the "White-throat," giving
his book its key-note, he seems, indeed, to accept that position,
reasons on and justifies it.  Yet there is a clear note of originality
(so it seems to us) in the peculiar charm of his strictly personal
compositions; and, generally, in such touches as he gives us of the
soul, the life, of the [114] nineteenth century.  Far greater, we
think, than the charm of poems strictly classic in interest, such as
the "Praise of Dionysus," exquisite as that is, is the charm of those
pieces in which, so to speak, he transforms, by a kind of
colour-change, classic forms and associations into those--say! of
Thames-side--pieces which, though in manner or subject promising a
classic entertainment, almost unaware bring you home.--No! after all,
it is not imagined Greece, dreamy, antique Sicily, but the present
world about us, though mistakable for a moment, delightfully, for the
land, the age, of Sappho, of Theocritus:--

  There is no amaranth, no pomegranate here,
  But can your heart forget the Christmas rose,
  The crocuses and snowdrops once so dear?

Quite congruously with the placid, erudite, quality of his culture,
although, like other poets, he sings much of youth, he is often most
successful in the forecast, the expression, of the humours, the
considerations, that in truth are more proper to old age:--

  When age comes by and lays his frosty hands
  So lightly on mine eyes, that, scarce aware

[115]

  Of what an endless weight of gloom they bear,
  I pause, unstirred, and wait for his commands.
  When time has bound these limbs of mine with bands,
  And hushed mine ears, and silvered all my hair,
  May sorrow come not, nor a vain despair
  Trouble my soul that meekly girdled stands.

  As silent rivers into silent lakes,
  Through hush of reeds that not a murmur breaks,
  Wind, mindful of the poppies whence they came,
  So may my life, and calmly burn away,
  As ceases in a lamp at break of day
  The flagrant remnant of memorial flame.

Euthanasia!--Yet Mr. Gosse, with all his accomplishment, is still a
young man.  His youthful confidence in the perpetuity of poetry, of the
poetical interests in life, creed-less as he may otherwise seem to be,
is, we think, a token, though certainly an unconscious token, of the
spontaneous originality of his muse.  For a writer of his peculiar
philosophic tenets, at all events, the world itself, in truth, must
seem irretrievably old or even decadent.

Old, decadent, indeed, it would seem with Mr. Gosse to be also
returning to the thoughts, the fears, the consolations, of its youth in
Greece, in Italy:--

[116]

  Nor seems it strange indeed
  To hold the happy creed
  That all fair things that bloom and die
  Have conscious life as well as I.

  Then let me joy to be
  Alive with bird and tree,
  And have no haughtier aim than this,
  To be a partner in their bliss.

Convinced, eloquent,--again and again the notes of Epicurean philosophy
fall almost unconsciously from his lips.  With poetry at hand, he
appears to feel no misgivings.  A large faith he might seem to have in
what is called "natural optimism," the beauty and benignity of nature,
if let alone, in her mechanical round of changes with man and beast and
flower.  Her method, however, certainly involves forgetfulness for the
individual; and to this, to the prospect of oblivion, poetry, too, may
help to brace us, if, unlike so genial and cheerful a poet as Mr.
Gosse, we need bracing thereto:--

  Now, giant-like, the tall young ploughmen go
  Between me and the sunset, footing slow;
  My spirit, as an uninvited guest,
  Goes with them, wondering what desire, what aim,
  May stir their hearts and mine with common flame,
  Or, thoughtless, do their hands suffice their soul?

[117]

  I know not, care not, for I deem no shame
  To hold men, flowers, and trees and stars the same,
  Myself, as these, one atom in the whole.

That is from one of those half-Greek, half-English idylls, reminding
one of Frederick Walker's "Ploughman," of Mason's "Evening Hymn," in
which Mr. Gosse is at his best.  A favourite motive, he has treated it
even more melodiously in "Lying in the Grass":--

  I do not hunger for a well-stored mind,
  I only wish to live my life, and find
  My heart in unison with all mankind.

  My life is like the single dewy star
  That trembles on the horizon's primrose-bar,--
  A microcosm where all things living are.

  And if, among the noiseless grasses, Death
  Should come behind and take away my breath,
  I should not rise as one who sorroweth;

  For I should pass, but all the world would be
  Full of desire and young delight and glee,
  And why should men be sad through loss of me?

  The light is flying; in the silver-blue
  The young moon shines from her bright window through:
  The mowers are all gone, and I go too.

A vein of thought as modern as it is old!  More not less depressing,
certainly, to our over-meditative [118], susceptible, nervous, modern
age, than to that antiquity which was indeed the genial youth of the
world, but, sweetly attuned by his skill of touch, it is the sum of
what Mr. Gosse has to tell us of the experience of life.  Or is it,
after all, to quote him once more, that beyond those ever-recurring
pagan misgivings, those pale pagan consolations, our generation feels
yet cannot adequately express--

  The passion and the stress
  Of thoughts too tender and too sad to be
  Enshrined in any melody she knows?

29th October 1890



VIII.  FERDINAND FABRE


[NORINE]: AN IDYLL OF THE CEVENNES


[121] A FRENCH novelist who, with much of Zola's undoubted power,
writes always in the interest of that high type of Catholicism which
still prevails in the remote provinces of France, of that high type of
morality of which the French clergy have nobly maintained the ideal, is
worth recommending to the more serious class of English readers.
Something of the gift of François Millet, whose peasants are veritable
priests, of those older religious painters who could portray saintly
heads so sweetly and their merely human protégés so truly, seems indeed
to have descended to M. Ferdinand Fabre.  In the Abbé Tigrane, in
Lucifer, and elsewhere, he has delineated, with wonderful power and
patience, a strictly ecclesiastical portraiture-- [122] shrewd,
passionate, somewhat melancholy heads, which, though they are often of
peasant origin, are never by any chance undignified.  The passions he
treats of in priests are, indeed, strictly clerical, most often their
ambitions--not the errant humours of the mere man in the priest, but
movements of spirit properly incidental to the clerical type itself.
Turning to the secular brothers and sisters of these peasant
ecclesiastics, at first sight so strongly contrasted with them, M.
Fabre shows a great acquaintance with the sources, the effects, of
average human feeling; but still in contact--in contact, as its
conscience, its better mind, its ideal--with the institutions of
religion.  What constitutes his distinguishing note as a writer is the
recognition of the religious, the Catholic, ideal, intervening
masterfully throughout the picture he presents of life, as the only
mode of poetry realizable by the poor; and although, of course, it does
a great deal more beside, certainly doing the high work of poetry
effectively.  For his background he has chosen, has made his own and
conveys very vividly to his readers, a district of France, gloomy, in
spite of its almonds, its [123] oil and wine, but certainly grandiose.
The large towns, the sparse hamlets, the wide landscape of the
Cevennes, are for his books what the Rhineland is to those delightful
authors, Messrs. Erckmann-Chatrian.  In Les Courbezon, the French Vicar
of Wakefield, as Sainte-Beuve declared, with this imposing background,
the Church and the world, as they shape themselves in the Cevennes, the
priest and the peasant, occupy about an equal share of interest.
Sometimes, as in the charming little book we wish now to introduce,
unclerical human nature occupies the foreground almost exclusively;
though priestly faces will still be found gazing upon us from time to
time.

In form, the book is a bundle of letters from a Parisian littérateur to
the friend of his boyhood, now the curé of one of those mountain
villages.  He is refreshing himself, in the midst of dusty,
sophisticated Paris, with memories of their old, delightful
existence--vagabonde, libre, agreste, pastorale--in their upland
valley.  He can appeal safely to the aged curé's friendly justice, even
in exposing delicacies of sentiment which most men conceal:--

[124] "As for you, frank, certain of your own mind, joyous of heart,
methinks scarce understanding those whose religion makes their souls
tremble instead of fortifying them--you, I am sure, take things by the
large and kindly side of human life."

The story our Parisian has to tell is simple enough, and we have no
intention of betraying it, but only to note some of the faces, the
scenes, that peep out in the course of it.

The gloom of the Cevennes is the impression M. Fabre most commonly
conveys.  In this book it is rather the cheerful aspect of summer,
those upland valleys of the Cevennes presenting then a symphony in red,
so to call it--as in a land of cherries and goldfinches; and he has a
genial power certainly of making you really feel the sun on the backs
of the two boys out early for a long ramble, of old peasants resting
themselves a little, with spare enjoyment, ere the end:--

"As we turned a sharp elbow of the stream the aspect of the country
changed.  It seemed to me entirely red.  Cherries in enormous bunches
were hanging everywhere over our heads....

[125] "It was a hut, rather low, rather dark.  A log of chestnut was
smouldering in a heap of ashes.  Every object was in its place: the
table, the chairs, the plates ranged on the dresser.  A fairy, in
truth, reigned there, and, by the touch of her wand, brought
cleanliness and order on every side.

"'Is it you, Norine?' asked a voice from a dark corner, three steps
from the fireplace.

"'Yes, mon grand, it is I!  The heat was growing greater every moment,
and I have taken in the goats.'

"Norine unclosed the window.  A broad light spread over the floor of
beaten earth, like a white cloth.  The cottage was illuminated.  I saw
an old man seated on a wooden stool in a recess, where an ample serge
curtain concealed a bed.  He held himself slightly bent, the two hands
held forth, one over the other, on the knob of a knotty staff, highly
polished.  In spite of eighty years, Norine's grandfather--le grand, as
they say up there--had not lost a hair: beautiful white locks fell over
his shoulders--crisp, thick, outspread.  I thought of those fine wigs
of tow or hemp with which the distaff of [126] our Prudence was always
entangled.  He was close shaved, after the manner of our peasants; and
the entire mask was to be seen disengaged, all its admirable lines
free, commanded by a full-sized nose, below which the good, thick lips
were smiling, full of kindness.  The eyes, however, though still clear
and soft in expression, had a certain fixity which startled me.  He
raised himself.  His stature seemed to me beyond proportion.  He was
really beautiful, with the contentment of his face, straight as the
trunk of a chestnut, his old velvet coat thrown back, his shirt of
coarse cloth open at the breast, so that one saw the play of the ribs.

"'Monsieur le neveu!' he cried; 'where are you? Come to me!  I am
blind.'

"I approached.  He felt me, with ten fingers, laying aside his staff.

"'And you would not take offence if a poor peasant like me embraced
you?'

"'Quick, Jalaguier!'  I cried, throwing myself into his arms. 'Quick!'
He pressed me till the joints started.  Leaned upon his broad chest, I
heard the beating of his heart.  It beat under my ears with a burden
like our bell at [126] Camplong.  What powerful vitality in Norine's
grand!  'It does an old man good:--a good hug!' he said, letting me go."

The boyish visitors are quite ready to sit down there to dinner:--

"With the peasant of the Cevennes (M. Fabre tells us) the meal is what
nature meant it to be--a few moments for self-recovery after fatigue, a
short space of silence of a quite elevated character, almost sacred.
The poor human creature has given the sweat of his brow to extort from
an ungrateful soil his daily bread; and now he eats that well-savoured
bread in silent self-respect.

"'It is a weary thing to be thinking always of one's work (says the
grand to the somewhat sparing Norine).  We must also think of our
sustenance.  You are too enduring, my child! it is a mistake to demand
so much of your arms.  In truth, le bon Dieu has cut you out after the
pattern of your dead father.  Every morning, in my prayers, I put in my
complaint thereanent.  My poor boy died from going too fast.  He could
never sit still when it was a question of gathering a few sous from the
[128] fields; and those fields took and consumed him.'"

The boy fancies that the blind eyes are turned towards a particular
spot in the landscape, as if they saw:--

"'I often turn my eyes in that direction (the old man explains) from
habit.  One might suppose that a peasant had the scent of the earth on
which he has laboured.  I have given so much of the sweat of my
brow--there--towards Rocaillet!  Angélique, my dead wife, was of
Rocaillet; and when she married me, brought a few morsels of land in
her apron.  What a state they're in now!--those poor morsels of land we
used to weed and rake and hoe, my boy and I!  What superb crops of
vetches we mowed then, for feeding, in due time, our lambs, our calves!
All is gone to ruin since my blindness, and especially since Angélique
left me for the churchyard, never to come back.'  He paused to my great
relief.  For every one of those phrases he modulated under the
fig-trees more sadly than the Lamentations of Jeremiah on Jeudi Saint
overset me--was like death."

[129] That is good drawing, in its simple and quiet way!  The actual
scene, however, is cheerful enough on this early summer day--a
symphony, as we said, in cherries and goldfinches, in which the higher
valleys of the Cevennes abound.  In fact, the boys witness the
accordailles, the engagement, of Norine and Justin Lebasset.  The
latter is calling the birds to sing good luck to the event:--

"He had a long steady look towards the fruit-trees, and then whistled,
on a note at once extremely clear and extremely soft.  He paused,
watched awhile, recommenced.  The note became more rapid, more
sonorous.  What an astounding man he was, this Justin Lebasset!
Upright, his red beard forward, his forehead thrown back, his eyes on
the thick foliage of the cherry-trees, his hands on his haunches, in an
attitude of repose, easy, superb, he was like some youthful pagan god,
gilded with red gold, on his way across the country--like Pan, if he
chose to amuse himself by charming birds.  You should have seen the
enthusiastic glances with which Norine watched him.  Upright--she too,
slim, at full height, inclining from [130] time to time towards Justin
with a movement of irresistible fascination, she followed the notes of
her mate; and sometimes, her, lips half opening, added thereto a
sigh--something of a sigh, an aspiration, a prayer, towards the
goldfinch, withdrawn into the shadows.

"The leaves were shaken in the clear, burning green; and, on a sudden,
a multitude of goldfinches, the heads red in the wind, the wings half
spread, were fluttering from branch to branch.  I could have fancied,
amid the quivering of the great bunches of fruit, that they were
cherries on the wing.  Justin suffered his pipe to die away: the birds
were come at his invitation, and performed their prelude."

It is forty years afterwards that the narrator, now a man of letters in
Paris, writes to his old friend, with tidings of Justin and Norine:--

"In 1842 (he observes) you were close on fifteen; I scarcely twelve. In
my eyes your age made you my superior.  And then, you were so strong,
so tender, so amiteux, to use a word from up there--a charming word.
And so God, Who had His designs for you, whereas I, in spite of my
pious childhood, wandered on [131] my way as chance bade me, led you by
the hand, attached, ended by keeping you for Himself.  He did well
truly when He chose you and rejected me!"

His finding the pair in the wilds of Paris is an adventure, in which,
in fact, a goldfinch again takes an important part--a goldfinch who is
found to understand the Cevenol dialect:--

"The goldfinch (escaped from its cage somewhere, into the dreary court
of the Institute) has seen me: is looking at me.  If he chose to make
his way into my apartment, he would be very welcome.  I feel a strong
impulse to try him with that unique patois word, which, whistled after
a peculiar manner, when I was a boy never failed to succeed in the
mountains of Orb--Béni!  Béni!  Viens!  Viens!  I dare not!  He might
take fright and fly away altogether."

In effect, the Cevenol bird, true to call, introduces Norine, his
rightful owner, whose husband Justin is slowly dying.  Towards the end
of a hard life, faithful to their mountain ideal, they have not lost
their dignity, though in a comparatively sordid medium: [132]

"As for me, my dear Arribas, I remained in deep agitation, an attentive
spectator of the scene; and while Justin and Norine, set both alike in
the winepress of sorrow, le pressoir de la douleur, as your good books
express it, murmured to each other their broken consoling words, I saw
them again, in thought, young, handsome, in the full flower of life,
under the cherry-trees, the swarming goldfinches, of blind Barthélemy
Jalaguier.  Ah me!  It was thus that, five-and-forty years after, in
this dark street of Paris, that festive day was finishing, blessed, in
the plenitude of nature, by that august old man, celebrated by the
alternate song of all the birds of Rocaillet."

Justin's one remaining hope is to go home to those native mountains, if
it may be, with the dead body of his boy, dead "the very morning on
which he should have received the tonsure from the hands of Mgr.
l'Archevêque," and buried now temporarily at the cemetery of
Montparnasse:--

Theodore calls me.  I saw him distinctly to-night.  He gave me a sign.
After all said, life is heavy, sans le fillot, and but [133] for you it
were well to be released from it....'

"I have seen Justin Lebasset die, dear Arribas, and was touched,
edified, to the bottom of my soul.  God grant, when my hour comes, I
may find that calm, that force, in the last struggle with life.  Not a
complaint!  not a sigh!  Once only he gave Norine a sorrowful,
heartrending look; then, from lips already cold, breathed that one
word, 'Theodore!'  Marcus Aurelius used to say: 'A man should leave the
world as a ripe olive falls from the tree that bore it, and with a kiss
for the earth that nourished it.'  Well! the peasant of Rocaillet had
the beautiful, noble, simple death of the fruit of the earth, going to
the common receptacle of all mortal beings, with no sense that he was
torn away.  Pardon, I pray, my quotation from Marcus Aurelius, who
persecuted the Christians.  I give it with the same respect with which
you would quote some holy writer.  Ah! my dear Arribas! not all the
saints have received canonization."

It is to the priestly character, in truth, that M. Fabre always comes
back for tranquillizing [134] effect; and if his peasants have
something akin to Wordsworth's, his priests may remind one of those
solemn ecclesiastical heads familiar in the paintings and etchings of
M. Alphonse Legros.  The reader travelling in Italy, or Belgium
perhaps, has doubtless visited one or more of those spacious
sacristies, introduced to which for the inspection of some more than
usually recherché work of art, one is presently dominated by their
reverend quiet: simple people coming and going there, devout, or at
least on devout business, with half-pitched voices, not without touches
of kindly humour, in what seems to express like a picture the most
genial side, midway between the altar and the home, of the
ecclesiastical life.  Just such interiors we seem to visit under the
magic of M. Fabre's well-trained pen.  He has a real power of taking
one from Paris, or from London, to places and people certainly very
different from either, to the satisfaction of those who seek in fiction
an escape.

12th June 1889



IX.  THE "CONTES" OF M. AUGUSTIN FILON


TALES OF A HUNDRED YEARS SINCE ["CONTES DU CENTENAIRE."  PAR AUGUSTIN
FILON.  PARIS: HACHETTE ET CIE. ]


[137] IT was a happy thought of M. Filon to put into the mouth of an
imaginary centenarian a series of delightfully picturesque studies
which aim at the minute presentment of life in France under the old
régime, and end for the most part with the Revolution.  A genial
centenarian, whose years have told happily on him, he appreciates not
only those humanities of feeling and habit which were peculiar to the
last century and passed away with it, but also that permanent humanity
which has but undergone a change of surface in the new world of our
own, wholly different though it may look.  With a sympathetic sense of
life as it is always, [138] M. Filon has transplanted the creations of
his fancy into an age certainly at a greater distance from ourselves
than can be estimated by mere lapse of time, and where a fully detailed
antiquarian knowledge, used with admirable tact and economy, is indeed
serviceable in giving reality of effect to scene and character.  In
truth, M. Filon's very lively antiquarianism carries with it a genuine
air of personal memory.  With him, as happens so rarely, an intimate
knowledge of historic detail is the secret of life, of the impression
of life; puts his own imagination on the wing; secures the imaginative
cooperation of the reader.  A stately age--to us, perhaps, in the
company of the historic muse, seeming even more stately than it
actually was--it is pleasant to find it, as we do now and again on
these pages, in graceful déshabille.  With perfect lightness of touch,
M. Filon seems to have a complete command of all the physiognomic
details of old France, of old Paris and its people--how they made a
holiday; how they got at the news; the fashions.  Did the English
reader ever hear before of the beautifully dressed doll which came once
a month [139] from Paris to Soho to teach an expectant world of fashion
how to dress itself? Old Paris!  For young lovers at their windows; for
every one fortunate enough to have seen it: "Qu'il est joli ce paysage
du Paris nocturne d'il y a cent ans!"  We think we shall best do
justice to an unusually pretty book by taking one of M. Filon's stories
(not because we are quite sure it is the cleverest of them) with a view
to the more definite illustration of his method, therein.

Christopher Marteau was a warden of the corporation of Luthiers.  He
dealt in musical instruments, as his father and grandfather had done
before him, at the sign of Saint Cecilia.  With his wife, his only
child Phlipote, and Claude his apprentice, who was to marry Phlipote,
he occupied a good house of his own.  Of course the disposition of the
young people, bred together from their childhood, does not at first
entirely concur with the parental arrangements.  But the story tells,
reassuringly, how--to some extent how sadly--they came heartily to do
so.  M. Marteau was no ordinary shopkeeper.  The various distinguished
people who had fingered his clavecins, and turned over the [140] folios
of music, for half a century past, had left their memories behind them;
M. de Voltaire, for instance, who had caressed the head of Phlipote
with an aged, skeleton hand, leaving, apparently, no very agreeable
impression on the child, though her father delighted to recall the
incident, being himself a demi-philosophe.  He went to church, that is
to say, only twice a year, on the Feast of St. Cecilia and on the
Sunday when the Luthiers offered the pain bénit.  It was his opinion
that everything in the State needed reform except the Corporations.
The relations of the husband to his affectionate, satiric,
pleasure-seeking wife, who knew so well all the eighteen theatres which
then existed in Paris, are treated with much quiet humour.  On Sundays
the four set forth together for a country holiday.  At such times
Phlipote would walk half-a-dozen paces in advance of her father and
mother, side by side with her intended.  But they never talked to each
other: the hands, the eyes, never met.  Of what was Phlipote dreaming?
and what was in the thoughts of Claude?

It happened one day that, like sister and brother, the lovers exchanged
confidences.  "It [141] is not always," observes Phlipote, whom every
one excepting Claude on those occasions sought with admiring eyes--

"'It is not always one loves those one is told to love.'

"'What, have you, too, a secret, my little Phlipote?'

"'I too, Claude!  Then what may be yours?'

"'Listen, Phlipote!' he answered.  'We don't wish to be husband and
wife, but we can be friends--good and faithful friends, helping each
other to change the decision of our parents.'

"'Were I but sure you would not betray me--'

"'Would you like me to confess first?  The woman I love--Ah! but you
will laugh at my folly!'

"'No, Claude!  I shall not laugh.  I know too well what one suffers.'

"'Especially when love is hopeless.'

"'Hopeless?'

"'Alas!  I have never spoken to her.  Perhaps never shall!'

[142] "'Well! as for me, I don't even know the name of him to whom my
heart is given!'

"'Ah! poor Phlipote!'

"'Poor Claude!'

"They had approached each other.  The young man took the tiny hand of
his friend, pressing it in his own.

"'The woman I adore is Mademoiselle Guimard!'

"'What!  Guimard of the Opera?--the fiancée of Despréaux?'"

Claude still held the hands of Phlipote, who was trembling now, and
almost on fire at the story of this ambitious love.  In return she
reveals her own.  It was Good Friday.  She had come with her mother to
the Sainte Chapelle to hear Mademoiselle Coupain play the organ and
witness the extraordinary spectacle of the convulsionnaires, brought
thither to be touched by the relic of the True Cross.  In the press of
the crowd at this exciting scene Phlipote faints, or nearly faints,
when a young man comes kindly to their aid.  "She is so young!" he
explains to the mother, "she seems so delicate!"  "He looked at me,"
she tells Claude--"he looked at [143] me, through his half-closed
eyelids; and his words were like a caress."--

"'And have you seen him no More?' asks Claude, full of sympathy.

"'Yes! once again.  He pretended to be looking at the window of the
Little Dunkirk, over the way, but with cautious glances towards our
house.  Only, as he did not know what storey we live on, he failed to
discover me behind my curtain, where I was but half visible.'

"'You should have shown yourself.'

"'Oh, Claude!' she cried, with a delicious gesture of timidity, of
shame.

"So they prattled for a long time; he talking of the great Guimard, she
of her unknown lover, scarce listening to, but completely understanding
each other.

"'Holloa!'cries the loud voice of Christopher Marteau.  'What are you
doing out there?'

"The young people arose.  Phlipote linked her arm gaily in that of
Claude.  'How contented I feel!' she says; 'how good it is to have a
friend--to have you whom I used to detest, because I thought you were
in love with me.  Now, when I know you can't bear me, I [144] shall be
nicely in love with you.'  The soft warmth of her arm seemed to pass
through Claude, and gave him strange sensations.  He resumed naïvely,
'Yes! and how odd it is after all that I am not in love with you.  You
are so pretty!'  Phlipote raised her finger coquettishly, 'No
compliments, monsieur.  Since we are not to marry each other, it is
forbidden to pay court to me!'"

From that day a close intimacy established itself between the formerly
affianced pair, now become accomplices in defeating the good intentions
of their elders.  In long conversations, they talked in turn, or both
together, of their respective loves.  Phlipote allows Claude entrance
to her chamber, full of admiration for its graceful arrangements, its
virgin cleanliness.  He inspects slowly all the familiar objects daily
touched by her, her books, her girlish ornaments.  One day she cried
with an air of mischief, "If she were here in my place, what would you
do?" and no sooner were the words uttered than his arms were round her
neck.  "'Tis but to teach you what I would do were she here."  They
were a little troubled by this adventure.

[145] And the next day was a memorable one.  By the kind contrivance of
Phlipote herself, Claude gains the much-desired access to the object of
his affections, but to his immense disillusion.  If he could but speak
to her, he fancies he should find the courage, the skill, to bend her.
Breathless, Phlipote comes in secret with the good news.  The great
actress desires some one to tune her clavecin:--

"'Papa would have gone; but I begged him so earnestly to take me to the
Théâtre Français that he could not refuse; and it is yourself will go
this evening to tune the clavecin of your beloved.'

"'Phlipote, you've a better heart than I!  This morning I saw a
gentleman, who resembled point by point your description of the unknown
at the Sainte Chapelle, prowling about our shop.'

"'And you didn't tell me!'

"Claude hung his head.

"'But why not?' the young girl asks imperiously.  'Why not?'

"'In truth I could hardly say, hardly understand, myself.  Do you
forgive me, Phlipote?'

"'I suppose I must.  So make yourself as smart as you can, to please
your goddess.'"

[146] Next day she hears the story of Claude's grievous disappointment
on seeing the great actress at home--plain, five-and-forty,
ill-tempered.  He had tuned the clavecin and taken flight.

And now for Phlipote's idol!  It was agreed that Whitsunday should be
spent at Versailles.  On that day the royal apartments were open to the
public, and at the hour of High Mass the crowd flowed back towards the
vestibule of the chapel to witness what was called the procession of
the Cordons Bleus.  The "Blue Ribbons" were the knights of the Order Du
Saint-Esprit in their robes of ceremony, who came to range themselves
in the choir according to the date of their creation.  The press was so
great that the parents were separated from the young people.  Claude,
however, at the side of Phlipote, realized the ideal of a faithful and
jealous guardian.  The hallebardes of the Suisses rang on the marble
pavement of the gallery.  Royalty, now unconsciously presenting its
ceremonies for the last time, advanced through a cloud of splendour;
but before the Queen appeared it was necessary that all the knights of
the order down to the youngest should pass by, slow, solemn, majestic.

[147] They wore, besides their ribbons of blue moiré, the silver dove
on the shoulder, and the long mantle of sombre blue velvet lined with
yellow satin.  Phlipote watched mechanically the double file of haughty
figures passing before them: then, on a sudden, with a feeble cry,
falls fainting into the arms of Claude.

Recovered after a while, under shelter of the great staircase, she wept
as those weep whose heart is broken by a great blow.  Claude, without a
word, sustained, soothed her.  A sentiment of gratitude mingled itself
with her distress.  "How good he is!" she thought.

"It was a pity," says her mother a little later "a pity you did not see
the Cordons Bleus.  Fancy!  You will laugh at me!  But in one of the
handsomest of the Chevaliers I felt sure I recognized the stranger who
helped us at the Sainte Chapelle, and was so gallant with you."

Phlipote did not laugh.  "You are deceived, mother!" she said in a
faint voice.  "Pardi!" cries the father.  "'Tis what I always say. Your
stranger was some young fellow from a shop."

Two months later the young people receive [148] the nuptial
benediction, and continue the musical business when the elders retire
to the country.  At first a passionate lover, Claude was afterwards a
good and devoted husband.  Phlipote never again opened her lips
regarding the vague love which for a moment had flowered in her heart:
only sometimes, a cloud of reverie veiled her eyes, which seemed to
seek sadly, beyond the circle of her slow, calm life, a brilliant but
chimeric image visible for her alone.

And once again she saw him.  It was in the terrible year 1794.  She
knew the hour at which the tumbril with those condemned to die passed
the windows; and at the first signal would close them and draw the
curtain.  But on this day some invincible fascination nailed her to her
place.  There were ten faces; but she had eyes for one alone. She had
not forgotten, could not mistake, him--that pale head, so proud and
fine, but now thin with suffering; the beautiful mobile eyes, now
encircled with the signs of sorrow and watching.  The convict's shirt,
open in large, broad folds, left bare the neck, delicate as a woman's,
and made for that youthful face an aureole, of innocence, of martyrdom.
His looks [149] met hers.  Did he recognize her?  She could not have
said.  She remained there, paralyzed with emotion, till the moment when
the vision disappeared.

Then she flung herself into her chamber, fell on her knees, lost
herself in prayer.  There was a distant roll of drums.  The man to whom
she had given her maiden soul was gone.

"Cursed be their anger, for it was cruel!" says the reader.  But
Monsieur Filon's stories sometimes end as merrily as they begin; and
always he is all delicacy--a delicacy which keeps his large yet minute
antiquarian knowledge of that vanished time ever in service to a direct
interest in humanity as it is permanently, alike before and after '93.
His book is certainly one well worth possessing.



THE END

16th July 1890





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays from 'The Guardian'" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

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



Home