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: A Little English Gallery
Author: Guiney, Louise Imogen
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 "A Little English Gallery" ***

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



Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/littleenggallery00guinrich


Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

      A carat character is used to denote superscription. A
      single character following the carat is superscripted
      (example: 9^a).



[Illustration]


A LITTLE ENGLISH GALLERY

by

LOUISE IMOGEN GUINEY



[Illustration]

New York
Harper and Brothers
MDCCCXCIV

Copyright, 1894, by Harper & Brothers.

All rights reserved.



    TO

    EDMUND GOSSE

    THIS FRIENDLY TRESPASS ON HIS FIELDS



PREFATORY NOTE


THE studies in this book are chosen from a number written at irregular
intervals, and from sheer interest in their subjects, long ago.
Portions of them, or rough drafts of what has since been wholly
remodelled from fresher and fuller material at first hand, have
appeared within five years in _The Atlantic Monthly_, _Macmillan’s_,
_The Catholic World_, and _Poet-Lore_; and thanks are due the
magazines for permission to reprint them. Yet more cordial thanks,
for kind assistance on biographical points, belong to the Earl of
Powis; the Rev. R. H. Davies, Vicar of old St. Luke’s, Chelsea; the
Rev. T. Vere Bayne, of Christchurch, and H. E. D. Blakiston, Esq.,
of Trinity College, Oxford; T. W. Lyster, Esq., of the National
Library of Ireland; Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, Esq.; Miss Langton,
of Langton-by-Spilsby; the Vicars of Dauntsey, Enfield Highway, and
Montgomery, and especially those of High Ercall and Speke; and the
many others in England through whose courtesy and patience the tracer
of these unimportant sketches has been able to make them approximately
life-like.



CONTENTS


    CHAP.                                PAGE
      I. LADY DANVERS (1561-1627)           1

     II. HENRY VAUGHAN (1621-1695)         53

    III. GEORGE FARQUHAR (1677-1707)      119

     IV. TOPHAM BEAUCLERK (1739-1780)
                  AND
         BENNET LANGTON (1741-1800)       171

      V. WILLIAM HAZLITT (1778-1830)      229



I

LADY DANVERS

1561-1627


MR. MATTHEW ARNOLD somewhere devotes a grateful sentence to the women
who have left a fragrance in literary history, and whose loss of long
ago can yet inspire men of to-day with indescribable regret. Lady
Danvers is surely one of these. As John Donne’s dear friend, and George
Herbert’s mother, she has a double poetic claim, like her unforgotten
contemporary, Mary Sidney, for whom was made an everlasting epitaph.
If Dr. Donne’s fraternal fame have not quite the old lustre of the
incomparable Sir Philip’s, it is, at least, a greater honor to own
Herbert for son than to have perpetuated the race of Pembroke. Nor is
it an inharmonious thing to remember, in thus calling up, in order to
rival it, the sweet memory of “Sidney’s sister,” that Herbert and
Pembroke have long been, and are yet, married names.

Magdalen, the youngest child of Sir Richard Newport, and of Margaret
Bromley, his wife, herself daughter of that Bromley who was
Privy-Councillor, Lord Chief-Justice, and executor to Henry VIII., was
born in High Ercall, Salop; the loss or destruction of parish registers
leaves us but 1561-62 as the probable date. Of princely stock, with
three sisters and an only brother, and heir to virtue and affluence,
she could look with the right pride of unfallen blood upon “the many
fair coats the Newports bear” over their graves at Wroxeter. It was
the day of learned and thoughtful girls; and this girl seems to have
been at home with book and pen, with lute and viol. She married, in
the flower of her youth, Richard Herbert, Esquire, of Blache Hall,
Montgomery, black-haired and black-bearded, as were all his line; a man
of some intellectual training, and of noted courage, descended from
a distinguished brother of the yet more distinguished Sir Richard
Herbert of Edward IV.’s time, and from the most ancient rank of Wales
and England. At Eyton in Salop, in 1581, was born their eldest child,
Edward, afterwards Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a writer who is still the
puzzle and delight of Continental critics. He is said to have been a
beautiful boy, and not very robust; his first speculation with his
infant tongue was the piercing query: “How came I into this world?” But
his next brother, Richard, was of another stamp; and went his frank,
flashing, fighting way through Europe, “with scars of four-and-twenty
wounds upon him, to his grave” at Bergen-op-Zoom, with William, the
third son, following in his soldierly footsteps. Charles grew up
reserved and studious, and died, like his paternal uncle, a dutiful
Fellow of New College, Oxford. The fifth of these Herberts, “a soul
composed of harmonies,” as Cotton said of him, and destined to make the
name beloved among all readers of English, was George, the poet, the
saintly “parson of Fuggleston and Bemerton.” Henry, his junior, with
whom George had a sympathy peculiarly warm and long, became in his
manhood Master of the Revels, and held the office for over fifty years.
“You and I are alone left to brother it,” Lord Herbert of Cherbury once
wrote him, in a mood more tender than his wont, when all else of that
radiant family had gone into dust. The youngest of Magdalen Newport’s
sons was Thomas, “a posthumous,” traveller, sailor, and master of a
ship in the war against Algiers. Elizabeth, Margaret, and Frances
were the daughters, of whom Izaak Walton says, with satisfaction,
that they lived to be examples of virtue, and to do good to their
generation. None of them made an illustrious match. Margaret married
a Vaughan. Frances secured unto herself the patronymic Brown, and was
happily seconded by Elizabeth, George Herbert’s “dear sick sister,”
who became Mistress Jones. In the south chancel transept of Montgomery
Church, where Richard Herbert the elder had been buried three years
before, there was erected in 1600, at his wife’s cost, a large canopied
alabaster altar-tomb, with two portrait-figures recumbent. All around
it, in the quaint and affectionate boast of the age, are the small
images of these seven sons and three daughters; “Job’s number and Job’s
distribution,” as she once remarked, and as her biographers failed
not to repeat after her. But their kindred ashes are widely sundered,
and “as content with six foot as with the moles of Adrianus.” This at
Montgomery is the only known representation of the Lady Magdalen. Her
effigy lies at her husband’s left, the palms folded, the eyes open, the
full hair rolled back from a low brow, beneath a charming and simple
head-dress. Nothing can be nobler than the whole look of the face, like
her in her prime, and reminding one of her son’s loving epithet, “my
Juno.” The short-sighted inscription upon the slab yet includes her
name.

Never had an army of brilliant and requiring children a more excellent
mother. “_Severa parens_,” her gentle George called her in his
scholarly verses; and such she was, with the mingled sagacity and
joyousness which made up her character. If we are to believe their
own testimony, the leading members of her young family were of
excessively peppery Cymric temperaments, and worthy to call out that
“manlier part” of her which Dr. Donne, who had every opportunity of
observing it in play, was so quick to praise. There is a passage in
a letter of Sir Thomas Lacy, addressed to Edward Herbert, touching
upon “the knowledge I had how ill you can digest the least indignity.”
“Holy George Herbert” himself, in 1618, commended to his dear brother
Henry the gospel of self-honoring: “It is the part of a poor spirit to
undervalue himself and blush.” And physical courage went hand in hand
with this blameless haughtiness of the Herberts, a pretty collateral
proof of which may be adduced from a message of Sir Henry Jones to his
brother-in-law, the other Henry just mentioned, concerning a gift for
his little nephew. “If my cozen, William Herbert your sonne . . . be
ready for the rideing of a horse, I will provide him with a Welch nagg
that shall be as mettlesome as himself.” There is no doubt that all
this racial fire was fostered by one woman. “Thou my root, and my most
firm rock, O my mother!” George cried, long after in the _Parentalia_,
aware that he owed to her his high ideals, and the strength of
character which is born of self-discipline.

“God gave her,” says one of her two devoted annalists, who we wish
were not so brief and meagre of detail—“God gave her such a comeliness
as though she was not proud of it, yet she was so content with it as
not to go about to mend it by any art.” Her fortune was large, her
benevolence wide-spreading. All the countryside knew her for the living
representative of the ever-hospitable houses of Newport and Bromley.
“She gave not on some great days,” continues Dr. Donne, “or at solemn
goings abroad; but as God’s true almoners, the sun and moon, that pass
on in a continual doing of good; as she received her daily bread from
God, so daily she distributed it, and imparted it to others.” In these
years of her wifehood and widowhood at Montgomery Castle (the “romancy
place” dating from the eleventh century, and ruined, like the fine
old house at High Ercall, during the Civil Wars), and afterwards at
Oxford and London, she reared her happy crew of boys and girls in an
air of generosity and honor; training them to habits of hardiness and
simplicity, and to the equal relish of work and play. “Herself with
her whole family (as a church in that elect lady’s house, to whom John
wrote his second Epistle) did every Sabbath shut up the day at night
with a general, with a cheerful singing of psalms.” One may guess at
young Richard’s turmoil in-doors, and at the little Elizabeth’s soft,
patient ways, and think of George (on Sundays at any rate) as the child
of content, “the contesseration of elegances” worthy Archdeacon Oley
called him.

The fair and stately matron moving over them and among them was not
without her prejudices. “I was once,” Edward testifies, “in danger of
drowning, learning to swim. My mother, upon her blessing, charged me
never to learn swimming; telling me, further, that she had learned of
more drowned than saved by it.” Though the given reason failed to
impress him, he adds, the commandment did; so that the accomplished
Crichton of Cherbury, who understood alchemy, broke his way through
metaphysics, and rode the Great Horse; the ambassador, author, and
beau, to whom Ben Jonson sent his greeting:

    “What man art thou that art so many men,
     All-virtuous Herbert?”

even he lacked, on principle, the science of keeping himself alive
in an alien element, because it had been pronounced less risky to
die outright! It was a pretty paradox, and one which sets down our
high-minded Magdalen as quite feminine, quite human.

Her Edward was matriculated in 1595 at University College, Oxford,[1]
for which he seemed to retain no great partiality; he bequeathed his
books, like a loyal Welshman, to Jesus College, instead, and his
manuscripts to the Bodleian Library. In 1598, when he was little
more than seventeen, he was wedded to his cousin Mary Herbert, of
St. Gillian in Monmouthshire. Her age was one-and-twenty; she was an
heiress, enjoined by her father’s will to marry a Herbert or forfeit
her estates; she was also almost a philosopher. There was no wild
affection on either side, but the marriage promised rather well, both
persons having resources; and no real catastrophe befell either in
after-life. Much as she desired the match for worldly motives, the
chief promoter of it was too solicitous for her tall dreamer of a
son, who underwent the pleasing peril of having Queen Bess clap him
on the cheek, not to take the whole weight of conjugal direction on
her own shoulders. Without undue officiousness, but with the masterly
foresight of a shrewd saint, she moved to Oxford from Montgomery with
her younger children and their tutors, in order to handle Mistress
Herbert’s husband during his minority. “She continued there with him,”
says Walton, in his _Life of George Herbert_, “and still kept him in
a moderate awe of herself, and so much under her own eye as to see and
converse with him daily; but she managed this power over him without
any such rigid sourness as might make her company a torment to her
child, but with such a sweetness and compliance with the recreations
and pleasures of youth as did incline him willingly to spend much of
his time in the company of his dear and careful mother.”

It was during this stay that she contracted the chivalrous friendship
which has embalmed her tranquil memory. Dr. John Donne (not ordained
until 1614, and indeed not Dr. Donne then at all, but “Jack Donne,”
his profaner self) had been at Cadiz with Essex, and had wandered over
the face of Europe; and he came back, accidentally, to Oxford during
the most troubled year of his early prime. It was no strange place to
him,[2] who had been, at eleven, the Pico della Mirandola of Hart
Hall, and whose relatives seem to have resided always in the town.
There and then, however, he cast his bright eye upon Excellence, and in
his own phrase,

    “—dared love that, and say so, too,
     And forget the He and She.”

We can do no better than cite a celebrated and beautiful passage, once
more from Walton: “This amity, begun at this time and place, was not
an amity that polluted their souls, but an amity made up of a chain of
suitable inclinations and virtues; an amity like that of St. Chrysostom
to his dear and virtuous Olympias, whom, in his letters, he calls his
saint; or an amity, indeed, more like that of St. Hierom to his Paula,
whose affection to her was such that he turned poet in his old age, and
then made her epitaph, wishing all his body were turned into tongues
that he might declare her just praises to posterity.” How these words
remind one of the sweet historic mention which Condivi gives to the
relations between Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo! The little English
idyl of friendship and the great Italian one run parallel in much.

Donne’s trenchant _Satires_, some of the earliest and very best in
the language, were already written, and he was not without the hint
of fame. Born in 1573, he was but eight years the senior of Edward
Herbert, and not more than a dozen years the junior of Edward Herbert’s
mother. To her two sons, also, who were to figure as men of letters,
he was sincerely attached from the first, and had a marked and lasting
influence on their minds. Donne had the superabundance of mental power
which Mr. Minto has pointed out as the paradoxical cause of his failure
to become a great poet. He was a three-storied soul, as the French say:
a spirit of many sides and moods, a life-long dreamer of good and bad
dreams. To his restless, incisive intelligence his contemporaries, with
Jonson and Carew at their head, bowed in hyperboles of acclaim. He had
a changeful conscience, often antagonized and often appeased. There
was a strain in him of strong joy, for he was descended through his
mother from pleasant John Heywood the dramatist, and from the father
of that great and merry-hearted gentleman, Sir Thomas More. If ever
man needed vitality to buoy him over sorrows heavy and vast, it was
Donne in his “yeasting youth.” Thrown, through no fault but his own,
from his old footholds of religion and occupation, and unable, despite
his versatile and alert genius, to grind a steady living from the hard
mills of the world, he was in the midst of a bitter plight when the
friends worthy of him found a heavenly opportunity which they did not
let go by, and made his acceptance of their favor a rich gift unto
themselves. Foremost among these, besides Lady Herbert, were Sir Robert
Drury of Drury Lane, and a kinsman, Sir Francis Woolly, of Pirford,
Surrey, fated to die in his youth, both of whom gave the Donnes, for
some nine consecutive years, the use of their princely houses. John
Donne had been in the service of the Chancellor, Lord Ellesmere,
and lost place and purse by the opposition to his marriage with his
“_lectissima dilectissimaque_,” Anne More, who was Lady Ellesmere’s
niece, the daughter of Sir George More of Loxly, Lieutenant of the
Tower, and probably a distant cousin of his own. No reverses, however,
could beat the pathetic cheer out of him. “Anne Donne,[3] undone,” was
one of his inveterate teary jests over the state of things at home. He
wrote once, with sickness, poverty, and despair at his elbow: “If God
should ease us with burials, I know not how to perform even that. But I
flatter myself that I am dying, too, for I cannot waste faster than by
such griefs.” Five of his twelve children passed before their father to
the grave, the good domestic daughter Constance upholding him always,
and keeping the house together. But just as hope dawned with his
appointment to the Lectureship of Lincoln’s Inn, heavenward suddenly,
with her youngest-born, in 1617, went his dear and faithful wife, whom
he laid to rest in St. Clement Danes.

About the time when the remorseful old queen died disdainfully on her
chamber-floor at Richmond, the necessities of this family called for
daily succors, and with a simple and noble delicacy they were supplied.
Nor did they cease. Magdalen Herbert was a “bountiful benefactor,”
Donne “as grateful an acknowledger.” His first letter to her from
Mitcham in Surrey, dated July 10, 1607, is made up of terse, tender
thanks, in his heart’s own odd language. He sends her an enclosure of
sonnets and hymns, “lost to us,” says Walton, movingly, “but doubtless
they were such as they two now sing in heaven.” Dr. Grosart, with a
great show of justice, claims that the sequence called _La Corona_, and
familiar to latter-day readers, are the identical sonnets passed from
one to the other. During this same month of July we know that, paying a
call in his “London, plaguey London,” and finding his friend abroad,[4]
Dr. Donne consoled himself by leaving a courtliest message: “Your
memory is a state-cloth and presence which I reverence, though you be
away;” and went back after to his “sallads and onions” at Mitcham, or
to his solitary lodgings near Whitehall.

The attachment, close and deferent on both sides, was continued without
a breach, and with the intention, at least, of “almost daily letters.”
Thoreau, quoting Chaucer, so saluted Mrs. Emerson: “You have helped
to keep my life on loft.” No meaner service than this was his dear
lady’s to John Donne, often heretofore astray in the slough of doubt
and dissipation; she fed more than his little children, clothed more
than his body, and fostered anew in him that faith in humanity which
is the well-spring of good works. He was not a poet of Leigh Hunt’s
innocent temperament, who could accept benefits gladly and gracefully
from any appreciator; his soul dwelt too remote and proud in her
accustomed citadels. But this loving help, thrust upon him, he took
with dignity, and after 1621, when he was able, in his own person, to
befriend others, he gave back gallantly to mankind the blessings he
once received from two or three. It was something for Magdalen Herbert
to have saved a master-name to English letters, and kept in his unique
place the poet, interesting beyond many, whose fantastic but real force
swayed generations of thinking and singing men; it was something, also,
to have won in return the words which were his gold coin of payment.
Nowhere is Donne’s sentiment more genuine, his workmanship more happy
and less complex, than in the verses dedicated to her blameless
name. They have a lucidity unsurpassed among the yet straightforward
lyrics of their day. Drayton’s self, who died in the same year with
Donne, might have addressed to the lady of Eyton so much of his noble
extravagance;

    “Queens hereafter shall be glad to live
     Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.”

Yet in these eulogies, as in most of the graver contemporaneous poems
of the sort, there is little personality to be detected; the homage
has rather a floating outline, an unapproaching music, exquisite and
awed. Donne gives, sometimes, the large Elizabethan measure:

    “Is there any good which is not she?”

In the so-called _Elegy, The Autumnal_, written on leaving Oxford, he
starts off with a well-known cherishable strophe:

    “No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
     As I have seen in one autumnal face.”

The entire poem is a monody on the encroachments of years, and neatly
chronological:

    “If we love things long-sought, age is a thing
     Which we are fifty years in compassing;
     If transitory things, which soon decay,
     Age must be loveliest at the latest day.”

It strikes the modern ear as maladroit enough that a woman in her yet
sunshiny forties, and a most comely woman to boot, should have required
prosody’s ingenious excuses for wrinkles and kindred damages. Was life
so hard as that in “the spacious days”? Shakespeare, in agreement with
Horace, had already reminded his handsome “Will” of the pitiless and
too expeditious hour,

    “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
     And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field!”

which also seems, to a nice historical sense, somewhat staggering. The
close of Donne’s little homily is perfect, and full of the winning
melancholy which was part of his birthright in art, whenever he allowed
himself direct and homely expression:

                            “May still
    My love descend! and journey down the hill,
    Not panting after growing beauties; so
    I shall ebb on with them who homeward go.”

Such was John Donne’s first known tribute to his friend. She must have
been early and thoroughly familiar with his manuscripts, which were
passed about freely, Dr. Grosart thinks, prior to 1613, and which
burned what Massinger would call “no adulterate incense” to herself.
Her bays are to be gleaned off many a tree, and she must have cast a
frequent influence on Donne’s work, which is not traceable now. He
seems to have had a Crashaw-like devotion to the Christian saint whose
inheritance

    “Bethina was, and jointure Magdalo,”

not unconnected with the fact that some one else was Magdalen also;
never does he tire of dwelling on the coincidence and the difference.
In one of his quaintly moralizing songs, he goes seeking a “true-love”
primrose, where but on Montgomery Hill! for he is hers, by all
chivalrous tokens, as much as he may be. Again he cites, and almost
with humor:

                  “that perplexing eye
    Which equally claims love and reverence.”

And his platonics make their honorable challenge at the end of some
fine lines:

    “So much do I love her choice, that I
     Would fain love him that shall be loved of her!”

There was prescience in that couplet. As early, at least, as 1607-8,
the widow’s long privacy ended, probably while she was at her “howse
at Charing Cross,” watching over the progress of her son George at
Westminster School; and he that was “loved of her” was the grandson of
the last Lord Latimer of the Nevilles, junior brother of a nobleman
who perished with Essex in 1602, and brother and heir of that Sir
Henry Danvers who was created Earl of Danby in 1625 for his services
in Ireland, and who literally left a green memory as the founder of
the pleasant Physic Gardens at Oxford. The name of Danvers, the kindly
step-father, is one of the noteworthy omissions of Lord Herbert of
Cherbury’s _Autobiography_. But George Herbert was devoted to him,
as his many letters show, and turned to him, never in vain, during
his restless years at Cambridge; and into his circle of relatives,
with romantic suddenness, he afterwards married. Sir John Danvers, of
Dauntsey, Wilts, was twenty years younger than his wife. It is worth
while to quote the very deft and courtly statement of the case made at
the last by Dr. Donne: “The natural endowments of her person were such
as had their part in drawing and fixing the affections of such a person
as by his birth and youth and interest in great favors at court, and
legal proximity to great possessions in the world, might justly have
promised him acceptance in what family soever, or upon what person
soever, he had directed. . . . He placed them here, neither diverted
thence, nor repented since. For as the well-tuning of an instrument
makes higher and lower strings of one sound, so the inequality of their
years was thus reduced to an evenness, that she had a cheerfulness
agreeable to his youth, and he had a sober staidness conformable to her
more advanced years. So that I would not consider her at so much more
than forty, nor him at so much less than thirty, at that time; but as
their persons were made one and their fortunes made one by marriage,
so I would put their years into one number, and finding a sixty
between them, think them thirty apiece; for as twins of one hour they
lived.”[5]

In the August of 1607, a masque by John Marston was given in the now
ruined castle of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, eighteen miles from Leicester, as
an entertainment devised by Lord Huntingdon and his young wife, the
Lady Elizabeth Stanley, to welcome her mother, Alice, Countess-Dowager
of Derby,[6] “the first night of her honor’s arrival at the house of
Ashby.” Fourteen noble ladies took part in the masque, and among them
was “Mris Da’vers.” The name may, perhaps, be recognized as that of the
subject of this sketch, for Sir John Danvers was not knighted until the
following year; and it has been so recognized by interested scholars
who have searched Nichols’s _Progresses of James I_. And yet we cannot
be too sure that we have her before us, in the wreaths and picturesque
draperies of the amateur stage; for there was another Mistress Da’vers
at court, whose purported letter, dated February 3, 1613, signed with
her confusing Christian names of “Mary Magdaline,” gave great trouble,
thirty years ago, to the experts of the Camden Society. Besides, a
letter of the good gossipy Chamberlain, dated March 3, 1608-9, mentions
as if it were then a piece of fresh news: “Young Davers is likewise
wedded to the widow Herbert, Sir Edward’s mother, of more than twice
his age.” This would seem to preclude the possibility of the fair
masquer being the same person.

The mother of many Herberts, the “more than forty” bride, was by
nature a home-keeping character. Among the correspondence relating
to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, privately printed in 1886 by the Earl
of Powis, are a few pages which give us invaluable glimpses of the
London household. Lady Danvers’s eldest son, who set off upon his
travels soon after her second marriage, and who applied himself
vigorously to the various diversions of body and mind catalogued
in the _Autobiography_, found himself often pinched for money. In
such a strait, not unfamiliar to other fine gentlemen of his day, he
invariably appealed to the services of the step-father who was his
junior, in England. The latter, writing how “wee are all some what
after the olde manner, and doe hartely wish you well,” seems to have
busied himself to some avail, in concert with his brother-in-law, Sir
Francis Newport (the first Lord Newport), in securing letters of credit
to Milan, Turin, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and in explaining at
length, in his long involved sentences, how matters could be bettered.
Whether or not the absent Knight of the Bath had reason to suspect Sir
John’s disinterested action when it came to the handling of pounds
and pence, he does not seem, then or after, to have burdened him with
any great harvest of thanks. But Sir John’s faithful wife knew how to
defend him, in a script of May 12, 1615, which may be quoted precisely
as it stands in the Herbert papers.

    “To my best beloved sonn, S’r Edward Herbert, Knight,
        “My deare Sonn,

                        it is straunge to me to here you
    to complayne of want of care of you in your absence
    when my thoughts are seldom removed from you which
    must assuredly set me aworkinge of any thinge may doe
    you good, & for writinge the one of us yf not both
    never let messenges pass without letter, your stay
    abroad is so short in any one place & we so unhappy in
    givinge you contentment as our letters com not to your
    hands which we are sorry for. And to tel you further
    of S’r John Da’vers Love which I dare sweare is to no
    man more, he is & hath beene so careful to keep you
    from lake of money now you are abroad as your Baylife
    faylinge payment as they continually doe & pay no man,
    he goeth to your Merchaunt, offers him self & all the
    powers he can make to supply you as your occasions may
    require, mistake him not, but beleeve me there was
    never a tenderer hart or a lovinger minde in any man
    then is in him towards you who have power to com’aund
    him & all that is his. Now for your Baylifs I must
    tell you they have not yet payed your brothers all
    their Anuities due at Midsom’er past & but half due
    at Christmas last and no news of the rest, this yf
    advauntage were taken might be preiuditiall to you and
    it is ill for your Brothers & very ill you have such
    officers.

    “I hope it will bringe you home & that is all the good
    can com of this. your sister Johnes hath long beene
    sicke & within this 8 dayes hath brought a boy she is
    so weake as she is much feared by those aboute her. my
    Lady Vachell lyes now adyeinge the bell hath twice gone
    for her. your wife & sweet children are well & herein
    I send you little Florence letter to see what comfort
    you may have of your deare children, let them, my Dear
    sonn, draw you home & affoorde them your care and me
    your comfort that desire more to see you then I desire
    any thinge ells in the world, and now I end with my
    dayly prayer for your health and safe retorne to Your
    ever lovinge mother,

                                         Magd: Da’vers.

    “I have received the Pattent of your Br: William, & S’r
    John hath beene with the ambassatore who stayes for S’r
    James Sandaline[7] his cominge.”

A sympathizing reader, aware of sequences, may wonder whence Sir John
drew “all the powers he can make”! The dignified letter, with its
undulating syntax and thrifty punctuation, harmonizes with all we
know of this delightful woman, who could so reproach what she deemed
a shortcoming, without a touch of temper. How affectionate is the
reference to the “little Florence” who died young, and to the other
children, sufficiently precious to all that household, except to the
wool-gathering chevalier their father, far away! Their innocent faces
peer again through a sweet postscript of their grand-uncle: (“Dick
is here, Ned and Bettye at Haughmond,”) written in the winter, from
Eyton, to the truant at the Hague.[8] This same genial Sir Francis
Newport, “imoderately desyring to see you,” confides to his nephew,
during what he complains of as “a verye drye and hott time”[9] for
Shropshire farmers, that “mye syster your mother is confident to take
a iourney into these pts this somer, the rather, I think, because yo’r
brother Vaugh’n is dead & if yo’ have a willing harte you maye come
tyme enough to acco’pany her heare, & would not then the companye bee
much the better?” But we fear the little excursion never came off.
Edward Herbert’s next visit to his home, presumably after a four-years’
absence, was in 1619; and in May of that year he accepted the office
of Ambassador to France, and spread his ready wing again to the
Continent. And the _Athenæ Oxoniensis_ will not let us forget that the
too spirited envoy had to be temporarily recalled in 1621, because he
had “irreverently treated” De Luynes, the powerful but good-for-nothing
Constable of France. It is not insignificant that this was the year in
which George Herbert wrote to his mother in one of his consoling moods,
bidding her be of good cheer, albeit her health and wealth were gone,
and the conduct of her children was not very satisfying!

We know that Lady Danvers had the “honor, love, obedience, troops of
friends” which became her, and that she lost none of her influence,
none of her serene charm. Her poet was much with her in his advancing
age. In July, 1625, while the plague was raging in London, Donne
reminded Sir Henry Wotton of the leisure he enjoyed, golden as
Cicero’s, by dating his letter “from S’r John Davor’s house at Chelsey,
of w’ich house & my Lord Carlil’s at Hanworth I make up my Tusculum.”
Many a peaceful evening must they have passed upon the terraces,
within sound of the solemn songs always dear to both. Visitors yet
more illustrious came there from the city; for the noble hostess
had once the privilege of reviving the great Lord Bacon,[10] who
had fainted in her garden. We learn, with sympathy, that “sickness,
in the declination of her years, had opened her to an overflowing
of melancholy; not that she ever lay under that water, but yet had,
sometimes, some high tides of it.” Death chose Dr. Donne’s ministering
angel before him, after thirty years of mutual fealty. Her restless son
Edward, now at home, was already eminent, and wearing his little Irish
title of Baron Castleisland; her thoughtful Charles was long dead; her
brother, also, was no more; her daughters were matrons, and dwelling in
prosperity. With but one unfulfilled wish, that of seeing her favorite
George married and in holy orders,[11] and after a life which left a
wake of sunshine behind it in the world, very patiently and hopefully
Magdalen Newport, Lady Danvers, entered upon eternity, in the early
June of 1627. On the eighth day of the month, in St. Luke’s, the parish
church of Chelsea, she was buried:

    “Old age with snow-bright hair, and folded palm,”

the final earthly glimpse of her still traditionally beautiful. On the
first of July her faithful liegeman, now Dean of St. Paul’s and Vicar
of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, preached her funeral sermon there, before
a crowd of the great ones of London, the clergy, and the poor. Izaak
Walton’s kind face looked up from a near pew, whence he saw Dr. Donne’s
tears, and felt his breaking voice, the voice of one who did not belie
his friend, nigh the end of his own pilgrimage. In present grief and
among graver memories, he had the true perception not to forget how
joyous she had been. “She died,” he said, “without any change of
countenance or posture, without any struggling, any disorder, . . . and
expected that which she hath received: God’s physic and God’s music,
a Christianly death. . . . She was eyes to the blind, and feet to the
lame, . . . naturally cheerful and merry, and loving facetiousness and
sharpness of wit.” His own fund of mirth and strength was fast going;
and a haunting line of his youth,

    “And all my pleasures are like yesterday,”

must have reverted to him many and many a time. Morbid and persistent
thoughts beset him from this hour, probably, more than ever, until
he had the effigy of himself, painted as he was, laid in his failing
sight;[12] morbid and persistent thoughts of the ruin which befalls the
bright bodies of humanity, sometimes surging up in his loneliness, and
crowding out the better vision which yet may “grace us in the disgrace
of death.” His inward eye was drawn strongly to his friend’s sepulchre,
sealed and sombre before him, and to what had been her, “going into
dust now almost a month of days, almost a lunar year . . . which, while
I speak, is mouldering and crumbling into less and less dust.” But he
ended in a wholesomer strain, subdued and calm: “This good soul being
thus laid down to sleep in His peace, ‘I charge you, O daughters of
Jerusalem, that ye wake her not!’”

The rare little duodecimo which contains Lady Danvers’s funeral sermon
was printed soon after, “together with other Commemorations of Her, by
her Sonne G. Herbert,” and offered to the public at the Golden Lion in
Paul’s Churchyard. The commemorations are in Greek and Latin. Strangely
enough, nowhere is the sweet and sage poet of _The Temple_ so set upon
his prosody, so given to awkward pagan conceits, so out of tune with
the ideals of classic diction. But he, who tenderly loved his mother,
has given to us, in the _Memoriæ Matris Sacrum_, several precious
personal fragments, and one more precious whole picture of daily habits
in the lines beginning _Corneliæ sanctæ_: her morning prayer, her bath,
and the plaiting of her glossy hair; her housewifely cares, her fit
replies, her writing to her friends, her passion for music, her gentle
helpfulness; the long felicity of a glad and stainless life,

    “Quicquid habet tellus, quicquid et astra, fruens.”

Dr. Donne died in 1631, whatever was yet of earth in his spirit healed
and chastened by long pain. His last remembrance to some he loved
was his own seal of Christ on the Anchor, “engraven very small on
heliotropium stones, and set in gold, for rings.” Many of those to
whom his heart would have turned, the “autumnal beauty” scarce second
among them, had preceded him out of England. But in travelling towards
his Maker, he had that other sacred hope to “ebb on with them,” and
gloriously overtake them, as he traced the epitaph which covered
him in old St. Paul’s: “_Hic licet in occiduo cinere, aspicit eum
cujus nomen est Oriens_.” The tie between himself and her was not
unremembered in the next generation; for we find John Donne the younger
dedicating his father’s posthumous work to Francis, Lord Newport,
and when making his will, in 1662, bequeathing also to the same Lord
Newport “the picture of St. Anthony in a round frame.” And thus, in a
revived fragrance, the annals of true friendship close.

These rapid, ragged strokes of a pen make the only possible biography
of Lady Danvers. When Walton wrote of her, he had the entire
correspondence with Dr. Donne before him.[13] “There were sacred
endearments betwixt these two excellent persons,” he assures us, but
disappointingly hurries on into the highway of his subject. It is
curious that it seems impossible now to trace these breathing relics,
or others from the same source; for George Herbert, in the second
elegy of the _Parentalia_, has much to say, and very sweetly, of the
industry of his mother’s “white right hand,” and of the “many and most
notable letters, flying over all the world.” Much detail is utterly
lost which men who agree with Prosper Mérimée that all Thucydides
would not be worth an authentic memoir of Aspasia, or even of one of
the slaves of Pericles, might be glad to remember. A copy of a song,
a reminiscence of the glow and stir of the days through which she
moved, a guess through a mist at the blond head,[14] the half-imperious
carriage, the open hand, as she went her ways, like Dante’s lovely
lady, _sentendosi laudare_,—these are all we have of the daughter of
England’s golden age. It would be easy, were it also just, to throw
a dash of color into her shadowy history. One would like to verify
the scene at Eyton, while the news of the coming Armada roused the
lion in Drake, and struck terror into the Devon towns; and to hear the
young wife, with three lisping Herberts at her knee, beguile them with
mellow contralto snatches of a Robin Hood ballad, or with the sweet
yesterday’s tale of Zutphen, where their country’s dearest gave his
cup of water to a dying comrade. A decade later, before their handsome
bluff father, her other healthful boys stood up to wrestle, and twang
their arrows at forty paces; or a rosy daughter stole to his side, and
asked him of mishaps in Ireland, or of the giant laughter bubbling
from the “oracle of Apollo” in a London street. It is to be believed
that one who watched events through the insurrection of Essex, through
Raleigh’s dramatic trial, reprieve, and execution, through the national
mourning for the Prince of Wales, through the fever for colonization,
the savage sea-fights, the great intrigues in behalf of the Queen of
Scots, the religious divisions, the muttering parliamentary thunders,
the stress and heat of the exciting dawn of the seventeenth century,
was not unmindful of all it meant to be alive, there and then. Magdalen
Newport’s girlhood fell on Lyly’s _Euphues_, fresh from the printers;
the _Arcadia_ made the talk of Oxford, in her prime; the dusky splendor
of Marlowe’s _Faustus_ was abroad before her second marriage. She was,
surely, aware of Shakespeare, and of the wonder-folio of 1623; of the
newest delighting madrigals and antiphons set forth by one Robert
Jones, when every soul in England had the gift of music; of rascal
Robert Greene’s lovable lyrics, of Wyatt’s, Campion’s, and Drayton’s.
She wrote no verses, indeed, but her familiars wrote them; her every
step jostled a Muse. We may assume that no growth nor loss in literary
circles escaped that tender “perplexing eye.” Perhaps it glistened from
a bench, in the pioneer British theatre, on the actors of _Volpone_,
and followed silently, behind the royal group, the first mincings
of the first dear Fool in _King Lear_, one day-after-Christmas at
Whitehall. Last of all, for whim’s sake, how any sociologist would
enjoy having the honest opinion of young Lady Herbert, or that of
little Mistress Donne, concerning the person they could but thank and
praise! _Utinam vivisset Pepys!_ It is a cheat of history that it
preserves no clearer tint or trace of this chosen passer-by. Such, in
truth, she was, and the quiet vanishing name clings to her: the woman
of durable gladness, happily born and taught, like the soul whereof Sir
Henry Wotton, who must have known her well, made his immortal song.

Of the gracious figure of Sir John Danvers we may be said to lose
sight; for he seems less gracious, as by a Hindoo trick, as soon as
it is written that his wife departed unto her reward. Comment on
his character is equal comment upon hers, and adds new force to the
classic episode of a lady philanthropist espousing a ne’er-do-weel and
a featherbrain. Aubrey, always happy over a little ultra-contemporary
gossip, calls it “a disagreeable match,” disappointing to the
bridegroom’s kindred; but adds that “he married her for love of her
wit.” Now, wit is an admirable magnet, but it is to be suspected that
there was also, and in the immediate vicinity, “metal more attractive,”
as Hamlet says. In the Chelsea parish-books is an entry, the first of
its kind, certifying that Sir John Danvers had settled his account with
“the poore,” a matter of thirty pounds’ loan (in which the vicar must
have connived), for the year ending in January of 1628. If the payment
were, by any hap, in advance, it may have fallen in Lady Danvers’s own
lifetime; and if so, it is quite as likely that she paid it, with an
admonition! Her “high tides of melancholy,” of whose true cause she
certainly would not have complained to Dr. Donne, had something to
do with this young spendthrift, who must have had his wheedling way,
sooner or later, with such of her ample revenues as were yet extant.
Perhaps Lord Herbert of Cherbury was both shrewd and charitable, in
suppressing mention of his new relative.[15] The longer one looks into
the matter, the less curious seems his unexplained silence concerning
this late graft of a family hitherto always respectable and always
loyal.

There are gleams of subsequent private history in the tell-tale records
at Chelsea. We are not incurably astonished to learn that as early as
May of 1629 was christened Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Danvers
and Elizabeth his wife. This Lady Elizabeth, arriving providentially
with her Dauntsey wealth, having borne him four children, died, as
did his mother, in 1636; and left him even as she found him, none too
monogamous. In 1648 Sir John Danvers again appeared at the venerable
altars where his first saint never had a memorial, loving, honoring,
and cherishing a Mrs. Grace Hewes, Hawes, or Hewet, of Kemerton in
Gloucestershire, and, as it is to be surmised, leading her tame
fortune by a ribbon. His debts and difficulties, not of one but of all
time, sprout perennially in the registers. His indefatigable name,
oftener than any rival’s whatsoever, figures as borrowing and paying
interest on a forty-pound note, which, like a Hydra-head, was always
forthcoming so soon as it was demolished. This disgraceful business was
the man’s chief concern: for the older he grew the deeper and deeper
he sank into entanglements, particularly after the death of the King.
It was never doubted, in his day, but that this was a judgment on the
former Gentleman Usher who affixed hand and seal to the warrant of his
sovereign’s execution.[16] His own family, it is said, as well as the
royalist Herberts and Newports, dropped his acquaintance; and who knows
whether Mrs. Grace Hewet was faithful? At his favorite Chelsea, in the
April of 1655, and in about the seventy-fourth year of his age, Sir
John Danvers ended his career by more conventional agencies than the
rope and the knife, which might have befallen him in the Stuart triumph
of the morrow. His manor fell an immediate forfeit to the crown. In
1661, the dead republican was attainted, and all of his estate which
was unprotected was declared regal booty. The year before his own
burial at Dauntsey he laid there, “to the great grief of all good men,”
the body of his elder son Henry, who had just attained his majority.
The Earl of Danby had died, “full of honors, wounds, and days,” in
1643, while this Henry, his nephew, was still a hopeful child; and on
him alone he had taken pains to settle his possessions. But Henry, in
turn, was persuaded to bequeath the major part of them to his father’s
ever-gaping pocket, the remainder reverting to one of his two surviving
sisters. The third Lady Danvers, who lived until 1678, had also a son
Charles,[17] who petitioned the crown for his paternal rights, but
died in old age, with neither income nor issue.

Clarendon quietly indicts Sir John Danvers as a “proud, formal, weak
man,” such as Cromwell “employed and contemned at once.” George Bate
gives him a harder character, saying that he “proved his brother to be
a delinquent in the Rump Parliament, whereby he might overthrow his
will, and so compass the estate himself. He sided with the sectarian
party, was one of the King’s judges, and lived afterwards some years
in his sin, without repentance.” But the same accuser adds the saving
fact that Dr. Thomas Fuller, like Aubrey, was Sir John’s friend, and,
by his desire, preached many times at Chelsea, “where, I am sure, he
was instructed to repent of his misguided and wicked consultations in
having to do with the murther of that just man.” One half surmises
that had the preliminaries of the great struggle occurred in her time
Magdalen Herbert’s rather austere and advanced standards of right would
have stood it out, despite her traditions, for the Commons against
_Carolus Agnus_.[18] But that would have been a very different matter
from sharing the feelings of the crude advocates of revolution and
regicide. What a misconception of her spotless motives must she have
borne, had others found her in agreement with her vagabond lord, who
treated politics as he treated the sacrament of matrimony, purely as a
makeshift and a speculation!

He was no raw-head-and-bloody-bones, this Roderigo-like Briton who won
the approval of Lord Bacon, and whom George Wither thanks for “those
pleasurable refreshments often vouchsafed”; and whom very different
men, such as George Herbert and Walton[19] and peaceable Fuller loved.
He was a comely creature of some parts, a luckless worldling anxious
to feather his own nest, and driven by timidity and the desire of gain
into treacheries against himself. His short, thin, and “fayre bodie,”
common, as George Herbert would have us imply, to all who bore his
name, his elegance, his hospitality, and his devotedness to his elderly
wife, carried him off handsomely in the eyes of her jealous circle. His
house in Chelsea, commemorated now by Danvers Street, adjoined that
which had been Sir Thomas More’s, and was presumably a part of the same
estate. All around it, and due to its master’s genuine enthusiasm, lay
the first Italian garden planted in England; and there, rolling towards
the Thames, were the long glowing flower-beds and green orchard-alleys,
which were also the “_horti deliciæ dominæ_” recalled thrice in the
music of filial sorrow. This home of Magdalen Danvers was pulled down,
and built over, in 1716. Within its unfallen walls, where she spent
her serene married life, and where she died, she had time to think,
nevertheless, that she stood, towards evening, in the ways of folly,
and that hers was one of those little incipient domestic tragedies
which must always look amusing, even to a friend.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Walton confuses this Edward Herbert with a namesake entered at
Queen’s College; and he follows the erring dates of the _Autobiography
of Lord Herbert of Cherbury_. The boy’s age is correctly given as
fourteen in the college registers.

[2] Donne had been in residence at both Universities, but took no
degree at either, as he had scruples against accepting the conditions
imposed. He was at that time, and until about 1593, like his parents, a
Catholic. His father was of Welsh descent: a fact which may have borne
its share in attracting him towards the Herberts.

[3] Anne Donne, it may be remarked, was also the name of Cowper’s
mother.

[4] Sir Richard Baker’s _Chronicle_, 1684, mentions Dr. Donne as one
of his “heroic Grecians,” and adds, in the same breath, that he was “a
great visitor of ladies.”

[5] Dr. Donne’s conceit about the ages of his friends is better handled
in the young Cartwright’s

“Chloe, why wish you that your years,”

a little later. It is not impossible that Cartwright, an Oxonian and an
observer, may have drawn upon Donne’s report of this very wedding for
his charming and ingenious lyric.

[6] This august personage was one of the Spencers of Althorp. At
this time she had been for six years the wife of her second husband,
the Lord Keeper Egerton, although retaining the magnificent title of
her widowhood. At their estate of Harefield in Middlesex, Milton’s
_Arcades_ was afterwards given, and it will be remembered what fine
compliments to the then aged countess-dowager figure in its opening
verses. Spenser’s _Teares of the Muses_ had been dedicated to her, in
her prime, and she was the Amaryllis “highest in degree” of his _Colin
Clout’s Come Home Again_.

[7] Sir James Sandelyn, Sandalo, or Sandilands (who cuts his finest
figure as Jacobus Sandilandius in _The Muses’ Welcome_) was appointed
Maistre d’Hostel to the beloved and beautiful Princess Elizabeth on
her marriage to Frederic, Count Palatine of the Rhine, afterwards
King of Bohemia, in 1612. As Sir James’s name is down on the lists of
the Exchequer for a gift in 1615, and as his little son Richard was
baptized in Deptford Church two months after the date of Lady Danvers’s
letter, we may conclude that he came back to England just when the
“ambassatore” expected him.

[8] Edward Herbert served as a volunteer in the campaign of 1614-15
in the Netherlands, under the Prince of Orange. Richard Herbert, here
mentioned, was his eldest son, a future Cavalier and captain of a troop
of horse in the Civil Wars; Edward was the baby, and “Bettye” the child
Beatrice, destined, like her sister, to a short life.

[9] This 1614-15 was an eccentric and un-English year throughout. The
winter signalized itself by the Great Snow; “_frigus intensum_,” as
Camden says, “_et nix copiosissima_.”

[10] Lord Bacon dedicated to Edward Herbert, “the father of English
deists,” his very flat translation of the Psalms! George wrote three
Latin poems in his honor, one being upon the occasion of his death.

[11] He was, in July of 1626, ordained deacon, and prebendary of Layton
Ecclesia in Huntingdonshire. Readers of Walton will remember how his
dear mother invited him to commit simony on that occasion.

[12] The standing marble figure in a winding-sheet which Dr. King had
modelled upon this strange painting on wood, may yet be seen in the
south ambulatory of the choir of St. Paul’s; almost the only relic
saved from the old cathedral which perished in the Great Fire of 1666.
It is not only of unique interest, but of considerable artistic beauty,
and “seems to breathe faintly,” as Sir Henry Wotton said of it.

[13] Dr. Donne’s papers were bequeathed to Dr. Henry King, the
poet-Bishop of Chichester, then residentiary of St. Paul’s. The “find”
were a precious one, if they yet survive.

[14] The half-romantic reference, which occurs more than once in
Donne’s poems, to his own long-dead arm which still shall keep

“The bracelet of bright hair about the bone,”—

has it nothing to do with this blond head? _Honi soit qui mal y pense._
The internal evidences in _The Relic_, with its mention of St. Mary
Magdalen, and its boast of purest friendship, and the roguery of the
closing line in _The Funeral_, are somewhat strong, nevertheless.

[15] The famous _Autobiography_, indeed, boldly assures posterity
that Lady Herbert, after 1597, “continued unmarried,” and, in brief,
“was the woman Dr. Donne hath described her.” The acknowledgment of
the accuracy of that funeral sermon, containing, as it does, its very
specific Danvers passages, is in our fearless philosopher’s best style.

[16] There was afterwards, in France, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber who
had other notions. “Gratitude,” said Thierry to his executioner in the
court-yard of the Abbaye—“gratitude has no opinions. I am leal to my
master.”

[17] An elder Charles, son of the Lady Elizabeth Danvers, was baptized
in 1632, and must have died early.

[18] Edward Herbert sided eventually with the Parliament, which
indemnified him for the burning and sacking of Montgomery Castle.

[19] The six very innocent, cheerful, pious ten-syllable stanzas,
attributed in _The Complete Angler_ to “another angler, Jo. Davors,
Esq.,” are not, it is hardly necessary to add, from our scapegrace’s
pen. He ceased to be “Jo. Davors, Esq.,” when Walton was fourteen years
old.



II

HENRY VAUGHAN

1621-1695


IN his own person, Henry Vaughan left no trace in society. His life
seemed to slip by like the running water on which he was forever gazing
and moralizing, and his memory met early with the fate which he hardly
foresaw. Descended from the royal chiefs of southern Wales whom Tacitus
mentions, and whose abode, in the day of Roman domination, was in the
district called Siluria,[20] he called himself the Silurist upon his
title-pages; and he keeps the distinctive name in the humblest of
epitaphs, close by his home in the glorious valley of the Usk and the
little Honddu, under the shadow of Tretower, the ruined castle of his
race, and of Pen-y-Fan and his kindred peaks. What we know of him
is a sort of pastoral: how he was born, the son of a poor gentleman,
in 1621, at Newton St. Bridget, in the old house yet asleep on the
road between Brecon and Crickhowel; how he went up to Oxford, Laud’s
Oxford, with Thomas, his twin, as a boy of sixteen, to be entered at
Jesus College;[21] how he took his degree (just where and when no one
can discover), and came back, after a London revel, to be the village
physician, though he was meant for the law, in what had become his
brother’s parish of Llansantffraed; to write books full of sequestered
beauty, to watch the most tragic of wars, to look into the faces of
love and loss, and to spend his thoughtful age on the bowery banks of
the river he had always known, his _Isca parens florum_, to which
he consecrated many a sweet English line. And the ripple of the not
unthankful Usk was “distinctly audible over its pebbles,” as was the
Tweed to the failing sense of Sir Walter, in the room where Henry
Vaughan drew his last breath, on St. George’s day, April 23, 1695. He
died exactly seventy-nine years after Shakespeare, exactly one hundred
and fifty-five years before Wordsworth.

Circumstances had their way with him, as with most poets. He knew
the touch of disappointment and renunciation, not only in life, but
in his civic hopes and in his art. He broke his career in twain, and
began over, before he had passed thirty; and he showed great æsthetic
discretion, as well as disinterestedness, in replacing his graceful
early verses by the deep dedications of his prime. Religious faith and
meditation seem so much part of his innermost nature, it is a little
difficult to remember that Vaughan considered himself a brand snatched
from the burning, a lawless Cavalier brought by the best of chances
to the quiet life, and the feet of the moral Muse. He suffered most
of the time between 1643 and 1651 from a sorely protracted and nearly
fatal illness; and during its progress his wife and his dearest friends
were taken from him. Nor was the execution of the King a light event
to so sensitive a poet and so passionate a partisan. Meanwhile Vaughan
read George Herbert, and his theory of proportional values began to
change. It was a season of transition and silent crises, when men bared
their breasts to great issues, and when it was easy for a childlike
soul,

    “Weary of her vain search below, above,
     In the first Fair to find the immortal Love.”[22]

Vaughan, in his new fervor, did his best to suppress the numbers
written in his youth, thus clearing the field for what he afterwards
called his “hagiography”; and a critic may wonder what he found in his
first tiny volume of 1646, or in _Olor Iscanus_, to regret or cancel.
Every unbaptized song is “bright only in its own innocence, and
kindles nothing but a generous thought”; and one of them, at least,
has a manly postlude of love and resolve worthy of the free lyres of
Lovelace and Montrose. Vaughan, unlike other ardent spirits of his
class, had nothing very gross to be sorry for; if he was, indeed, one
of his own

              “feverish souls,
    Sick with a scarf or glove,”

he had none but noble ravings. Happily, his very last verses, _Thalia
Rediviva_, breaking as it were by accident a silence of twenty-three
years, indorse with cheerful gallantry the accents of his youth.
The turn in his life which brought him lasting peace, in a world
rocking between the cant of the Parliament and resurgent audacity
and riot, achieved for us a body of work which, small as it is, has
rare interest, and an out-of-door beauty, as of the natural dusk,
“breathless with adoration,” which is almost without parallel. Eternity
has been known to spoil a poet for time, but not in this instance.
Never did religion and art interchange a more fortunate service,
outside Italian studios. Once he had shaken off secular ambitions,
Vaughan’s voice grew at once freer and more forceful. In him a
marked intellectual gain sprang from an apparently slight spiritual
readjustment, even as it did, three centuries later, in one greater
than he, John Henry Newman.

Vaughan’s work is thickly sown with personalities, but they are so
delicate and involved that there is little profit in detaching them.
What record he made at the University is not apparent; nor is it at
all sure that so independent and speculative a mind applied itself
gracefully to the curriculum. He was, in the only liberal sense, a
learned man, full of life-long curiosity for the fruit of the Eden
Tree. His lines beginning

    “Quite spent with thought I left my cell”

show the acutest thirst for hidden knowledge; he would “most gladly
die,” if death might buy him intellectual growth. He looks forward to
eternity as to the unsealing and disclosing of mysteries. He makes the
soul sing joyously to the body:

    “I that here saw darkly, in a glass,
       But mists and shadows pass,
     And by their own weak shine did search the springs
       And source of things,
     Shall, with inlighted rays,
       Pierce all their ways!”

With an imperious query, he encounters the host of midnight stars:

                  “Who circled in
    Corruption with this glorious ring?”

What Vaughan does know is nothing to him; when he salutes the Bodleian
from his heart, he is thinking how little honey he has gathered from
that vast hive, and how little it contains, when measured with what
there is to learn from living and dying. He had small respect for the
sinister sciences among which the studies of his beloved brother,
a Neo-Platonist, lay. Though he was no pedant, he dearly loved to
get in a slap against the ignorant whom we have always with us. At
twenty-five, he printed a good adaptation of the Tenth of Juvenal, and
flourished his wit, in the preface, at the expense of some possible
gentle reader of the parliamentary persuasion who would “quarrel with
antiquitie.” “These, indeed, may think that they have slept out so many
centuries in this Satire, and are now awaked; which had it been still
Latin, perhaps their nap had been everlasting!”

He was an optimist, proven through much personal trial; he had
sympathy with the lower animals, and preserved a humorous deference
towards all things alive, even the leviathan of Holy Writ, which
he affectionately exalts into “the shipmen’s fear” and “the comely
spacious whale”! Vaughan adored his friends; he had a unique veneration
for childhood; his adjective for the admirable and beautiful, whether
material or immaterial, is “dear”; and his mind dwelt with habitual
fondness on what Sir Thomas Browne (a man after his own heart) calls
“incomprehensibles, and thoughts of things which thoughts do but
tenderly touch.”

His occupation as a resident physician must have fostered his fine
eye and ear for the green earth, and furnished him, day by day,
with musings in sylvan solitudes, and rides abroad over the fresh
hill-paths. The breath of the mountains is about his books. An early
riser, he uttered a constant invocation to whomever would listen, that

                    “Manna was not good
    After sun-rising; far-day sullies flowers.”

He was hospitable on a limited income.[23] His verses of invitation
_To his Retired Friend_, which are not without their thrusts at
passing events, have a classic jollity fit to remind the reader of
Randolph’s ringing ode to Master Anthony Stafford. Again and again
Vaughan reiterates the Socratic and Horatian song of content: that he
has enough lands and money, that there are a thousand things he does
not want, that he is blessed in what he has. All this does not prevent
him from recording the phenomenal ebb-tides of his purse, and from
whimsically synthesizing on “the threadbare, goldless genealogie” of
bards! No sour zealot in anything, he enjoyed an evening now and then
at the Globe Tavern in London, where he consumed his sack with relish,
that he might be “possessor of more soul,” and “after full cups have
dreams poetical.” But he was no lover of the town. Country life was
his joy and pride; the only thing which seemed, in his own most vivid
phrase, to “fill his breast with home.”

    “Here something still like Eden looks!
     Honey in woods, juleps in brooks.”

A literary acquaintance, one unrecognized N. W., congratulates
Vaughan that he is able to “give his Muse the swing in an hereditary
shade.” He translated with great gusto _The Old Man of Verona_, out
of Claudian, and Guevara’s _Happiness of Country Life_; and he notes
with satisfaction that Abraham was of his rural mind, in “Mamre’s holy
grove.” Vaughan was an angler, need it be added? Nay, the autocrat of
anglers: he was a salmon-catcher.

With “the charity which thinketh no evil,” he loved almost everything,
except the Jesuits, and his ogres the Puritans. For Vaughan knew where
he stood, and his opinion of Puritanism never varied. He kept his
snarls and satires, for the most part, hedged within his prose, the
proper ground of the animosities. When he put on his singing-robes, he
tried to forget, not always with success, his spites and bigotries.
For his life, he could not help sidelong glances, stings, strictures
between his teeth, thistle-down hints cast abroad in the neatest of
generalities:

    “Who saint themselves, they are no saints!”

The introduction to his _Mount of Olives_ (whose pages have a soft
billowy music like Jeremy Taylor’s) is nominally inscribed to “the
peaceful, humble, and pious reader.” That functionary must have found
it a trial to preserve his peaceful and pious abstraction, while the
peaceful and pious author proceeded to flout the existing government,
in a towering rage, and in very elegant caustic English. Vaughan was
none too godly to be a thorough hater. He was genially disposed to
the pretensions of every human creature; he refused to consider his
ancestry and nurture by themselves, as any guarantee of the justice
of his views or of his superior insight into affairs. Yet in spite of
his enforced Quaker attitude during the clash of arms, he nursed in
that gentle bosom the heartiest loathing of democracy, and shared the
tastes of a certain clerk of the Temple “who never could be brought to
write Oliver with a great O.” It is fortunate that he did not spoil
himself, as Wither did, upon the wheels of party, for politics were his
most vehement concern. Had he been richer, as he tells us in a playful
passage, nothing on earth would have kept him from meddling with
national issues.

The poets, save the greatest, Milton, his friend Andrew Marvell, and
Wither, rallied in a bright group under the royal standard. Those
among them who did not fight were commonly supposed, as was Drummond
of Hawthornden, to redeem their reputation by dying of grief at the
overthrow of the King. Yet Vaughan did not fight, and Vaughan did not
die of grief. It is so sure that he suffered some privation, and it
may be imprisonment, for his allegiance, that shrewd guessers, before
now, have equipped him and placed him in the ranks of the losing cause,
where he might have had choice company. His generous erratic brother (a
writer of some note, an alchemist, an Orientalist, a Rosicrucian, who
was ejected from his vicarage in 1654, and died either of the plague,
or of inhaling the fumes of a caldron, at Albury, in 1665, while the
court was at Oxford)[24] had been a recruit, and a brave one. But Henry
Vaughan explicitly tells us, in his _Ad Posteros_, and in a prayer in
the second part of _Silex Scintillans_, that he had no personal share
in the constitutional struggle, that he shed no blood. Again he cries,
in a third lyric,

                              “O accept
    Of his vowed heart, whom Thou hast kept
    From bloody men!”

This painstaking record of a fact by one so loyal as he goes far
to prove, to an inductive mind not thoroughly familiar with his
circumstances, that he considered war the worst of current evils, and
was willing, for this first principle of his philosophy, to lay himself
open to the charge, not indeed of cowardice (was he not a Vaughan?),
but of lack of appreciation for the one romantic opportunity of his
life. His withdrawal from the turmoil which so became his colleagues
may seem to harmonize with his known moral courage and right sentiment;
and fancy is ready to fasten on him the sad neutrality, and the
passionate “ingemination” for “peace, peace,” which “took his sleep
from him, and would shortly break his heart,” such as Clarendon tells
us of in his beautiful passage touching the young Lord Falkland. But
it is greatly to be feared that Vaughan, despite all the abstract
reasoning which arrays itself against so babyish and barbarous a thing
as a battle, would have swung himself into a saddle as readily as any,
had not “God’s finger touched him.” A comparison of dates will show
that he was bedridden, while his hot heart was afield with the shouting
gentlemen whom Mr. Browning heard in a vision:

    “King Charles! and who’ll do him right, now?
     King Charles! and who’s ripe for fight, now?
     Give a rouse: here’s in Hell’s despite now,
                  King Charles!”

This is the secret of Vaughan’s blood-guiltlessness. Of course he
thanked Heaven, after, that he was kept clean of carnage; he would have
thanked Heaven for anything that happened to him. It was providential
that we of posterity lost a soldier in the Silurist, and gained a poet.
As the great confusion cleared, his spirit cleared too, and the Vaughan
we know,

    “Delicious, lusty, amiable, fair,”

comes in, like a protesting angel, with the Commonwealth. Perhaps
he lived long enough to sum up the vanity of statecraft and the
instability of public choice, driven from tyranny to license, from
absolute monarchy to absolute anarchy; and to turn once more to his
“loud brook’s incessant fall” as an object much worthier of a rational
man’s regard. Born while James I. was vain-gloriously reigning, Henry
Vaughan survived the Civil War, the two Protectorates, the orgies of
the Restoration (which he did not fail to satirize), and the Revolution
of “Meenie the daughter,” as the old Scots song slyly calls her. He had
seen the Stuarts in and out, in and out again, and his seventy-four
years, on-lookers at a tragedy, were not forced to sit through the dull
Georgian farce which began almost as soon as his grave was green.

Moreover, he was thoroughly out of touch with his surroundings. While
all the world was either devil-may-care or Calvin-colored, he had for
his characteristic a rapt, inexhaustible joy, buoying him up and
sweeping him away. He might well have said, like Dr. Henry More, his
twin’s rival and challenger in metaphysics, that he was “most of his
time mad with pleasure.” While

                  “every burgess foots
    The mortal pavement in eternal boots,”

Vaughan lay indolently along a bank, like a shepherd swain, pondering
upon the brood of “green-heads” who denied miracles to have been or to
be, and wishing the noisy passengers on the highways of life could be
taught the value of

    “A sweet self-privacy in a right soul.”

His mind turned to paradoxes and inverted meanings, and the analysis
of his own tenacious dreams, in an England of pikes and bludgeons and
hock-carts and wassail-cakes. “A proud, humoursome person,” Anthony
à Wood called him. He was something of a fatalist, inasmuch as he
followed his lonely and straight path, away from crowds, and felt eager
for nothing but what fell into his open hands. He strove little, being
convinced that temporal advantage is too often an eternal handicap.
“Who breaks his glass to take more light,” he reminds us, “makes way
for storms unto his rest.” This passive quality belongs to happy men,
and Vaughan was a very happy man, thanks to the faith and will which
made him so, although he had known calamity, and had failed in much.
Throughout his pages one can trace the affecting struggle between
things desired and things forborne. It is only a brave philosopher who
can afford to pen a stanza intimate as this:

    “O Thou who didst deny to me
     The world’s adored felicity!
     Keep still my weak eyes from the shine
     Of those gay things which are not Thine.”

He had better possessions than glory under his hand in the health and
peace of his middle age and in his cheerful home. He was twice married,
and must have lost his first wife, nameless to us, but most tenderly
mourned, in his twenty-ninth or thirtieth year. She seems to have been
the mother of five of his six children. Vaughan was rich in friends. He
had known Davenant and Cartwright, but it is quite characteristic of
him that the two great authors to whom he was especially attached were
Jonson and John Fletcher, both only a memory at the time of his first
going to London. Of Randolph, Jonson’s strong “son,” who so beggared
English literature by dying young in 1634, Vaughan sweetly says
somewhere that he will hereafter

    “Look for Randolph in those holy meads.”

Mention of his actual fellow-workers is very infrequent, nor does he
mention the Shakespeare who had “dwelt on earth unguessed at,” and who
is believed to have visited the estates of the Vaughans at Scethrog,
and to have picked up the name of his merry fellow Puck from goblin
traditions of the neighborhood. Vaughan followed his leisure and his
preference in translating divers works of meditation, biography, and
medicine, pleasing himself, like Queen Bess, with naturalizing bits of
Boethius, and much from Plutarch, Ausonius, Severinus, and Claudian.
He did some passages from Ovid, but he must have felt sharply the
violence done to the lyric essence in passing it ever so gently from
language to language, for he lingered over Adrian’s darling _Animula
vagula blandula_, only to leave it alone, and to write of it as the
saddest poetry that ever he met with.

Not the least of Henry Vaughan’s blessings was his warm friendship with
“the matchless Orinda.”[25] This delightful Catherine Fowler married,
in 1647, a stanch royalist, Mr. James Philips of Cardigan Priory, and
as his bride, became what, in the Welsh solitudes, was considered
“neighbor” to Vaughan, her home being distant from his just fifty miles
as the crow flies. She had been, in her infancy, a prodigy of Biblical
quotation, like Evelyn’s little Richard, and grew up to be such another
_précieuse_ as Madame la Comtesse de Lafayette, _née_ Lavergne; but
we know that she was the cleverest and comeliest of good women, and
Vaughan’s association with her must have been a perpetual sunshine
to him and his. She prefixed, after the fashion of the day, some
commendatory verses to his published work. They are not only pretty,
but they furnish a bit of adequate criticism. The secular Muse of the
Silurist is, according to Orinda,

    “Truth clothed in wit, and Love in innocence,”

and has, for her birthright, seriousness and a “charming rigour.” The
last two words might stand for him in the fast-coming day when nobody
will have time to discuss old poets in anything but technical terms and
epigrams. Orinda, with her accurate judgment, should have had a chance
to talk to Mr. Thomas Campbell, who adorned his _Specimens_ with the
one official and truly prepositional phrase that “Vaughan was one of
the harshest of writers, even of the inferior order of the school of
conceit!”[26]

While Henry Vaughan was preparing for publication the first half of
_Silex Scintillans_ as the token of his arrested and uplifted youth,
Rev. Mr. Thomas Vaughan, backed by a few other sanguine Oxonians, and
disregardful of his twin’s exaggerated remorse for the fruits of his
profaner years, brought out the “formerly written and newly named”
_Olor Iscanus_, over the author’s head, in 1650, and gave to it a
motto from the Georgics. The preface is in Eugenius Philalethes’ own
gallant style, and offers a haughty commendation to “beauty from the
light retired.” Perhaps Vaughan’s earliest and most partial editor
felt, like Thoreau on a certain occasion, that it were well to make an
extreme statement, if only so he might make an emphatic one. He chose
to supplicate the public of the Protectorate in this wise: “It was
the glorious Maro that referred his legacies to the fire, and though
princes are seldom executors, yet there came a Cæsar to his testament,
as if the act of a poet could not be repealed but by a king. I am
not, reader, Augustus Vindex: here is no royal rescue, but here is a
Muse that deserves it. The author had long ago condemned these poems
to obscurity and the consumption of that further fate which attends
it. This censure gave them a gust of death, and they have partly known
that oblivion which our best labors must come to at last. I present
thee, then, not only with a book, but with a prey, and, in this kind,
the first recoveries from corruption. Here is a flame hath been some
time extinguished, thoughts that have been lost and forgot, but now
they break out again like the Platonic reminiscency. I have not the
author’s approbation to the fact, but I have law on my side, though
never a sword: I hold it no man’s prerogative to fire his own house.
Thou seest how saucy I am grown, and if thou dost expect I should
commend what is published, I must tell thee I cry no Seville oranges;
I will not say ‘Here is fine,’ or ‘cheap’: that were an injury to
the verse itself, and to the effect it can produce. Read on; and
thou wilt find thy spirit engaged, not by the deserts of what we call
tolerable, but by the commands of a pen that is above it.” All this is
uncritical, but useful and proper on the part of the clerical brother,
who writes very much as Lord Edward Herbert might be supposed to write
for George under like conditions; for he knew, according to an ancient
adage, that there is great folly in pointing out the shortcomings of
a work of art to eyes uneducated to its beauties. It was just as well
to insist disproportionately upon the principle at stake, that Henry
Vaughan’s least book was unique and precious. He was not, like the
majority of the happy lyrists of his time, a writer by accident; he
was strictly a man of letters, and his sign-manual is large and plain
upon everything which bears his name. He indites like a Roman, with
evenness and without a superfluous syllable. One cannot italicize
him; every word is a congested force, packed to bursting with meaning
and insistence; the utterance of a man who has been thinking all his
life upon his own chosen subjects, and who unerringly despatches
a language about its business, as if he had just created it. Like
Andrew Marvell’s excellent father, “he never broached what he had
never brewed.” It follows that his work, to which second editions were
wellnigh unknown, shows scarcely any variation from itself. It carries
with it a testimony that, such as it stands, it is the very best its
author can do. Its faults are not slips; they are quite as radical and
congenital as its virtues. Vaughan (to transfer a fine phrase of Mr.
W. T. Arnold) is “enamoured of perfection,” but he is fully so before
he makes up his mind to write, and from the first every stroke of his
pen is fatal. It transfixes a noun or a verb, pins it to the page, and
challenges a reformer to move or replace it. His modest Muse is as
sure as Shakespeare, as nice as Pope; she is incapable of scruples and
apprehensions, once she has spoken. What Vaughan says of Cartwright may
well be applied to his own deliberate grace of diction:

    “Thou thy thoughts hast drest in such a strain
     As doth not only speak, but rule and reign.”

His verses have the tone of a Vandyck portrait, with all its firm
pensive elegance and lack of shadow.

Vaughan has very little quaintness, as we now understand that word, and
none of the cloudiness and incorrigible grotesqueness which dominated
his Alexandrian day. He has great temperance; he keeps his eye upon
the end, and scarcely falls at all into “the fond adulteries of art,”
inversions, unscholarly compound words, or hard-driven metaphors. If
he be difficult to follow, it is only because he lives, as it were, in
highly oxygenated air; he is remote and peculiar, but not eccentric.
His conceits are not monstrous; the worst of them proclaims:

      “Some love a rose
    In hand, some in the skin;
       But, cross to those,
    I would have mine within”;

which will bear a comparison with Carew’s hatched cherubim, or with
that very provincialism of Herbert’s which describes a rainbow as the
lace of Peace’s coat! Those of Vaughan’s figures not drawn from the
open air, where he was happiest, are, indeed, too bold and too many,
and they come from strange corners: from finance, medicine, mills, the
nursery, and the mechanism of watches and clocks. In no one instance,
however, does he start wrong, like the great influencer, Donne, in
_The Valediction_, and finish by turning such impediments as “stiff
twin-compasses” into images of memorable beauty. The _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, like Campbell, finds Vaughan “untunable,” and so he is
very often. But poets may not always succeed in metaphysics and in
music too. The lute which has the clearest and most enticing twang
under the laurel boughs is Herrick’s, and not Donne’s; Mr. Swinburne’s,
and not Mr. Browning’s. It is to be observed that when Vaughan lets go
of his regrets, his advice, and his growls over the bad times, he falls
into instant melody, as if in that, and not in a rough impressiveness,
were his real strength. His blessing for the river Usk flows sweetly as
the tide it hangs upon:

    “Garlands, and songs, and roundelays,
     And dewy nights, and sunshine days,
     The turtle’s voice, joy without fear,
     Dwell on thy bosom all the year!
     To thee the wind from far shall bring
     The odors of the scattered spring,
     And, loaden with the rich arrear,
     Spend it in spicy whispers here.”

Vaughan played habitually with his pauses, and unconsciously threw the
metrical stress on syllables and words least able to bear it; but no
sensitive ear can be otherwise than pleased at the broken sequence of
such lines as

        “these birds of light make a land glad
    Chirping their solemn matins on a tree,”

and the hesitant symbolism of

    “As if his liquid loose retinue stayed
     Lingering, and were of this steep place afraid.”

The word “perspective,” with the accent upon the first syllable, was
a favorite with him; and Wordsworth approved of that usage enough to
employ it in the majestic opening of the sonnet on King’s College
Chapel.[27] In short, if Vaughan be “untunable,” it is because he
never learned to distil vowels at the expense or peril of the message
which he believed himself bound to deliver, even where hearers were
next to none, and which he tried only to make compact and clear. His
speech has a deep and free harmony of its own, to those whom abruptness
does not repel; and even critics who turn from him to the masters of
verbal sound may do him the parting honor of acknowledging the nature
of his limitation.

    “A noble error, and but seldom made,
     When poets are by too much force betrayed!”

Vaughan was a born observer, and in his poetry may be found the pioneer
expression of the nineteenth-century feeling for landscape. His canvas
is not often large; he had an indifference towards the exquisite
presence of autumn, and an inland ignorance of the sea. But he could
portray depth and distance at a stroke, as in the buoyant lines:

    “It was high spring, and all the way
     Primrosed, and hung with shade,”

which etches for you the whole winding lane, roofed and floored with
beauty; he carries a reader over half a continent in his

    “Paths that are hidden from the vulture’s eyes,”

and suspends him above man’s planet altogether with his audacious
eagle, to whom “whole seas are narrow spectacles,” and who

          “in the clear height and upmost air
    Doth face the sun, and his dispersèd hair!”

Besides this large vision, Vaughan had uncommon knowledge how to employ
detail, during the prolonged literary interval when it was wholly out
of fashion. It has been the lot of the little rhymesters of all periods
to deal with the open air in a general way, and to embellish their
pages with birds and boughs; but it takes a true modern poet, under the
influence of the Romantic revival, to sum up perfectly the ravages of
wind and frost:

    “Where is the pride of summer, the green prime,
      The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
     On the mossed elm; three on the naked lime
      Trembling; and one upon the old oak tree”;

and it takes another to give the only faithful and ideal report of a
warbling which every schoolboy of the race had heard before him:

    “That’s the wise thrush: he sings each song twice over,
     Lest you should think he never could recapture
     The first fine careless rapture.”

That Vaughan’s pages should furnish this patient specification is
remarkable in a man whose mind was set upon things invisible. His gaze
is upon the inaccessible ether, but he seems to detect everything
between himself and heaven. He sighs over the inattentive rustic, whom,
perhaps, he catches scowling by the pasture-bars of the wild Welsh
downs:

                  “O that he would hear
    The world read to him!”

Whatever is in that pleasant world he himself hears and sees; and his
interrupted chronicle is always terse, graphic, straight from life. He
has the inevitable phrase for every phenomenon, a little low-comedy
phrase, sometimes, such as Shakespeare and Carew had used before him:

                        “Deep snow
    Candies our country’s woody brow.”

It seems never to have entered the primitive mind of Vaughan to love,
or serve, art and nature for themselves. His cue was to walk abroad
circumspectly and with incessant reverence, because in all things
he found God. He marks, at every few rods in the thickets, “those
low violets of Thine,” and the “breathing sacrifice” of earth-odors
which the “parched and thirsty isle” gratefully sends back after a
shower.[28] His prayer is that he may not forget that physical beauty
is a great symbol, but only a symbol; a “hid ascent” through “masks and
shadows” to the divine; or, as Mr. Lowell said in one of his last poems,

                                  “a tent
    Pitched for an Inmate far more excellent.”

A humanist of the school of Assisi, Vaughan was full of out-of-door
meeknesses and pieties, nowhere sweeter in their expression than in
this all-embracing valedictory:

    “O knowing, glorious Spirit! when
     Thou shalt restore trees, beasts, and men,

           *       *       *       *       *

     Give him among Thy works a place
     Who in them loved and sought Thy face.”

He muses in the garden, at evenfall:

    “Man is such a marigold
     As shuts, and hangs the head.”

Clouds, seasons, and the eternal stars are his playfellows; he
apostrophizes our sister the rainbow, and reminds her of yesterday, when

    “Terah, Nahor, Haran, Abram, Lot,
     The youthful world’s grey fathers, in one knot,”

lifted anxious looks to her new splendor. He is familiar with the
depression which comes from boding weather, when

            “a pilgrim’s eye,
        Far from relief,
    Measures the melancholy sky.”

He has an artist’s feeling, also, for the wrath of the elements, which
inevitably hurry him on to the consummation

    “When Thou shalt spend Thy sacred store
      Of thunders in that heat,
     And low as e’er they lay before
      Thy six-days buildings beat!”

“I saw,” he says, suddenly—

    “I saw Eternity the other night”;

and he is perpetually seeing things almost as startling and as bright:
the “edges and the bordering light” of lost infancy; the processional
grandeur of old books, which he fearlessly calls

    “The track of fled souls, and their Milky Way”;

and visions of the Judgment, when

                        “from the right
    The white sheep pass into a whiter light.”

Here the figure beautifully forecasts a famous one of Rossetti’s.
Light, indeed, is Vaughan’s distinctive word, and the favorite source
of his similes and illustrations.

If Vaughan’s had not been so profoundly moral a nature, he would
have lacked his picturesque sense of the general, the continuous.
That shibboleth, “a primrose by the river’s brim,” is to him all the
generations of all the yellow primroses smiling there since the Druids’
day, and its mild moonlike ray reflects the hope and fear and pathos
of the mortal pilgrimage that has seen and saluted it, age after age.
Whatever he meets upon his walk is drowned and dimmed in a wide halo
of association and sympathy. His unmistakable accent marks the opening
of a little sermon called _The Timber_; a sigh of pity, tender as a
child’s, over the fallen and unlovely logs:

    “Sure, thou didst flourish once! and many springs
       Many bright mornings, much dew, many showers,
     Passed o’er thy head; many light hearts and wings,
       Which now are dead, lodged in thy living towers.”[29]

Leigh Hunt once challenged England and America[30] to produce anything
approaching, for music and feeling, the beauty of

              “boughs that shake against the cold,
    Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

He forgot the closes of these artless lines of a minor poet; or he did
not know them.

Vaughan’s meek reputation began to renew itself about 1828, when four
critics eminently fitted to appraise his worth were in their prime;
but, curiously enough, none of these, not even the best of them, the
same Charles Lamb who said a just and generous word for Wither, had the
satisfaction of rescuing his sunken name. Lamb’s friend, the good soul
Bernard Barton, seems, however, to have known and admired his Vaughan.

Eight little books, if we count the two parts of _Silex Scintillans_
as one,[31] enclose all of the Silurist’s original work. He began to
publish in 1646, and he practically ceased in 1655, reappearing but
in 1678 with _Thalia Rediviva_, which was not issued under his own
supervision. It is commonly supposed that his verses were forgotten
up to the date (1847) of the faulty but timely Aldine edition of the
Rev. H. F. Lyte, thrice reprinted and revised since then, and until the
appearance of Dr. Grosart’s four inestimable quartos; but Mr. Carew
Hazlitt has been fortunate enough to discover the advertisement of an
eighteenth-century reprint of Vaughan. As the results of Dr. Grosart’s
patient service to our elder writers are necessarily semi-private,
it may be said with truth that the real Vaughan is still debarred
from the general reader, who is, indeed, the identical person least
concerned about that state of affairs. His name is not irrecoverable
nor unfamiliar to scholars.[32] His mind, on the whole, might pass
for the product of yesterday; and he, who needs no glossary, may
handsomely cede the honors of one to Mr. William Morris. It is at least
certain that had Vaughan lately lifted up his sylvan voice out of
Brecknockshire, he would not so readily be accused of having modelled
himself unduly upon George Herbert.[33] He has gone into eclipse behind
that gracious name.

Henry Vaughan was a child of thirteen when Herbert, a stranger to
him, died at Bemerton, and he read him first in the sick-chamber to
which the five years’ distresses of his early manhood confined him.
The reading could not have been prior to 1647, for _Olor Iscanus_,
Vaughan’s second volume, was lying ready for the press that year, as
we know from the date of its dedication to Lord Kildare Digby. As no
novice poet, therefore, he fell under the spell of a sweet and elect
soul, who was also a lover of vanquished royalty, a convert who had
looked upon the vanities of the court and the city, a Welshman born,
and not unconnected with Vaughan’s own ancient and patrician house.
These were slight coincidences, but they served to strengthen a forming
tie. The Silurist somewhere thanks Herbert’s “holy ever-living lines”
for checking his blood; and it was, perhaps, the only service rendered
of which he was conscious. But his endless iambics and his vague
allegorical titles are cast thoroughly in the manner of Herbert, and
he takes from the same source the heaped categorical epithets, the
didactic tone, and the introspectiveness which are his most obvious
failings. Vaughan’s intellectual debt to Herbert resolves itself into
somewhat less than nothing; for in following him with zeal to the
Missionary College of the Muses, he lost rather than gained, and he
is altogether delightful and persuasive only where he is altogether
himself. Nevertheless, a certain spirit of conformity and filial
piety towards Herbert has betrayed Vaughan into frequent and flagrant
imitations. It seems as if these must have been voluntary, and rooted
in an intention to enforce the same truths in all but the same
words; for the moment Vaughan breaks into invective, or comes upon
his distinctive topics, such as childhood, natural beauty (for which
Herbert had an imperfect sense), friendship, early death, spiritual
expectation, he is off and away, free of any predecessor, thrilling and
unforgettable. Comparisons will not be out of place here, for Vaughan
can bear, and even invoke them. Dryden said in Jonson’s praise that he
was “a learned plagiary,” and nobody doubts nowadays that Shakespeare
and Milton were the bandit kings of their time. There was, indeed,
in English letters, up to Queen Anne’s reign, an open communism of
ideas and idioms astonishing to look upon; there is less confiscation
at present, because, outside the pale of the sciences, there is less
thinking. If any one thing can be closer to another, for instance, than
even Drummond’s sonnet on _Sleep_ is to Sidney’s, it is the dress of
Vaughan’s morality to that of George Herbert’s. Mr. Simcox is the only
critic who has taken the trouble to contrast them, and he does so in
so random a fashion as to suggest that his scrutiny, in some cases,
has been confined to the rival titles. It is certain that no other
mind, however bent upon identifications, can find a likeness between
_The Quip_ and _The Queer_, or between _The Tempest_ and _Providence_.
Vaughan’s _Mutiny_, like _The Collar_, ends in a use of the word
“child,” after a scene of strife; and if ever it were meant to match
Herbert’s poem, distinctly falls behind it, and deals, besides, with
a much weaker rebelliousness. _Rules and Lessons_ is so unmistakably
modelled upon _The Church Porch_ that it scarcely calls for comment.
Herbert’s admonitions, however, are continued, but nowhere repeated;
and Vaughan’s succeed in being poetic, which the others are not. Beyond
these replicas, Vaughan’s structural genius is in no wise beholden to
Herbert’s. But numerous phrases and turns of thought descend from the
master to the disciple, undergoing such subtle and peculiar changes,
and given back, as Coleridge would say, with such “usurious interest,”
that it may well be submitted whether, in this casual list, every
borrowing, save two, be not a bettering.


HERBERT.

    “A throbbing conscience, spurrèd by remorse,
               Hath a strange force.”

    “My thoughts are all a case of knives,
             Wounding my heart
             With scattered smart.”

                 “And trust
    Half that we have
    Unto an honest faithful grave.”

    “Teach me Thy love to know,
       That this new light which now I see
     May both the work and workman show:
       Then by a sunbeam I will climb to Thee!”

    “I will go searching, till I find a sun
           Shall stay till we have done,
     A willing shiner, that will shine as gladly
           As frost-nipt suns look sadly.
     Then we will sing and shine all our own day,
           And one another pay;
     His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine
     Till even his beams sing, and my music shine.”

(_Of prayer._)

    “Heaven in ordinary, man well-drest,
     The Milky Way, the bird of Paradise.”

    “Then went I to a garden, and did spy
              A gallant flower,
     The crown-imperial: Sure, said I,
          Peace at the root must dwell.”


VAUGHAN.

    “A darting conscience, full of stabs and fears.”

    “And wrap us in imaginary flights
     Wide of a faithful grave.”

    “That in these masks and shadows I may see
               Thy sacred way,
     And by these hid ascents climb to that day
               Which breaks from Thee
     Who art in all things, though invisibly!”

    “O would I were a bird or star
     Fluttering in woods, or lifted far
              Above this inn
              And road of sin!
     Then either star or bird would be
     Shining or singing still to Thee!”

(_Of books._)

    “The track of fled souls, and their Milky Way.”

    “I walked the other day to spend my hour
               Into a field,
     Where I sometime had seen the soil to yield
               A gallant flower.”


HERBERT.

    “But groans are quick and full of wings,
       And all their motions upward be,
     And ever as they mount, like larks they sing:
     The note is sad, yet music for a king.”

    “Joys oft are there, and griefs as oft as joys,
           But griefs without a noise;
     Yet speak they louder than distempered fears:
           What is so shrill as silent tears?”

    “At first Thou gavest me milk and sweetnesses,
           I had my wish and way;
     My days were strewed with flowers and happiness;
           There was no month but May.”

               “Only a scarf or glove
    Doth warm our hands, and make them write of Love.”

    “I got me flowers to strew Thy way,
       I got me boughs off many a tree;
     But Thou wast up by break of day,
       And brought Thy sweets along with Thee.”

    “O come! for Thou dost know the way:
       Or if to me Thou wilt not move,
     Remove me where I need not say,
       ‘Drop from above.’”

    “Sure Thou wilt joy by gaining me
     To fly home like a laden bee.”


VAUGHAN.

    “A silent tear can pierce Thy throne
       When loud joys want a wing;
     And sweeter airs stream from a groan
       Than any artèd string.”

    “Follow the cry no more! There is
             An ancient way,
     All strewed with flowers and happiness,
             And fresh as May!”

                   “feverish souls
    Sick with a scarf or glove.”

    “I’ll get me up before the sun,
       I’ll cull me boughs off many a tree;
     And all alone full early run
       To gather flowers and welcome Thee.”

    “Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
       My perspective still as they pass;
     Or else remove me hence unto that hill
       Where I shall need no glass!”

    “Thy grave, to which my thoughts shall move
     Like bees in storms unto their hive.”

To arraign Vaughan is to vindicate him. In the too liberal assizes of
literature, an idea becomes the property of him who best expresses
it. Herbert’s odd and fresh metaphors, his homing bees and pricks of
conscience and silent tears, the adoring star and the comrade bird,
even his famous female scarf, go over bodily to the spoiler. In many an
instance something involved and difficult still characterizes Herbert’s
diction; and it is diverting to watch how the interfering hand sorts
and settles it at one touch, and sends it, in Mr. Matthew Arnold’s
word, to the “centre.” Vaughan’s mind, despite its mysticism, was full
of despatch and impetuosity. Like Herbert, he alludes to himself, more
than once, as “fierce”; and the adjective undoubtedly belongs to him.
There is in Vaughan, at his height, an imaginative rush and fire which
Herbert never knew, a greater clarity and conciseness, a far greater
restraint, a keener sense both of color and form, and so much more
deference for what Mr. Ruskin calls “the peerage of words,” that the
younger man could never have been content to send forth a line which
might mean its opposite, such as occurs in the fine stanza about glory
in the beautiful _Quip_. It is only on middle ground that the better
poet and the better saint collide. Vaughan never could have written

    “O that I once past changing were
     Fast in Thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!”

or the tranquil confession of faith:

    “Whether I fly with angels, fall with dust,
       Thy hands made both, and I am there:
     Thy power and love, my love and trust
       Make one place everywhere!”

For his best is not Herbert’s best, nor his worst Herbert’s worst. It
is not Vaughan who reminds us that “filth” lies under a fair face. He
does the “fiercer” thing: he goes to the Pit’s mouth in a trance, and
“hears them yell.” Herbert’s noblest and most winning art still has its
stand upon the altar steps of _The Temple_; but Vaughan is always on
the roof, under the stars, like a somnambulist, or actually above and
out of sight, “pinnacled dim in the intense inane”; absorbed in larger
and wilder things, and stretching the spirits of all who try to follow
him. Herbert has had his reward in the world’s lasting appreciation;
and though Vaughan had a favorable opinion of his own staying powers,
nothing would have grieved him less than to step aside, if the choice
had lain between him and his exemplar. Or re-risen, he would cry
loyally to him, as to that other Herbert, the rector of Llangattock and
his old tutor: “_Pars vertat patri, vita posthuma tibi_.”

Vaughan, then, owed something to Herbert, although it was by no means
the best which Herbert could give; but he himself is, what Herbert is
not, an ancestor. He leans forward to touch Cowper and Keble; and Mr.
Churton Collins has taken the pains to trace him in Tennyson.

The angels who

                    “familiarly confer
    Beneath the oak and juniper,”

invoke an instant thought of the Milton of the _Allegro_; and the
fragrant winds which linger by Usk, “loaden with the rich arrear,”
appear to be Milton’s, too. His austere music first sounded in the
public ear in 1645, one year before Vaughan, much his junior, began
to print. It would seem very unlikely that a Welsh physician should
be beholden long after to the manuscripts of the Puritan stripling,
close-kept at Cambridge and Horton; but it is interesting to find the
prototype of Vaughan’s charming lines about Rachel,

    “the sheep-keeping Syrian maid,”

in the _Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester_, dating from
1631.[34] Vaughan’s dramatic Fleet Street,

    “Where the loud whip and coach scolds all the way,”

might as well be Swift’s, or Crabbe’s; and his salutation to the lark,

    “And now, as fresh and cheerful as the light,
     Thy little heart in early hymns doth sing,”

is like a quotation from some tender sonnet of Bowles, or from his
admirer, the young Coleridge who instantly outstepped him. _Olor_,
_Silex_, and _Thalia_ establish unexpected relationships with genius
the most remote from them and from each other. The animated melody of
poor Rochester’s best songs seems deflected from

    “If I were dead, and in my place,”

addressed to Amoret,[35] in the _Poems_ of 1646. The delicate simile,

    “As some blind dial, when the day is done,
     Can tell us at midnight there was a sun,”

and

    “But I am sadly loose and stray,
     A giddy blast each way.
     O let me not thus range:
     Thou canst not change!”

(a verse of a poem headed by an extract, in the Vulgate, from the
eighth chapter to the Romans), come home with a smile to the lover of
Clough. Vaughan was that dangerous person, an original thinker; and the
consequence is that he compromises a great many authors who may never
have heard of him. It is admitted now that we owe to his prophetic lyre
one of the boasts of modern literature. Dr. Grosart has handled so well
the obvious debt of Wordsworth in _The Intimations of Immortality_, and
has proven so conclusively that Vaughan figured in the library at Rydal
Mount, that little need be said here on that theme. In _Corruption_,
_Childhood_, _Looking Back_, and _The Retreat_, most markedly in the
first, lie the whole point and pathos of

    “Trailing clouds of glory do we come
     From Heaven, which is our home.”

Few studies are more fascinating than that of the liquidation, so
to speak, of Vaughan’s brief, tense, impassioned monodies into “the
mighty waters rolling evermore” of the great _Ode_. It is Holinshed’s
accidental honor that he is lost in Shakespeare, and incorporated
with him. So with Vaughan: if shorn of his dues, he still remains
illustrious by virtue of one signal service to Wordsworth, whom, in the
main, he distinctly foreshadows. Yet it is no unpardonable heresy to be
jealous that the “first sprightly runnings” of a classic should not be
better known, and to prefer their touching simplicity to the grandly
adult and theory-burdened lines which everybody quotes. In the broad
range of English letters we find two persons whose normal mental habits
seem altogether of a piece with Vaughan’s: a woman of the eighteenth
century, and a philosopher of the nineteenth. The lovely _Petition for
an Absolute Retreat_, by Anne, Countess of Winchelsea (whose genius
was the charming _trouvaille_ of Mr. Edmund Gosse), might pass for
Vaughan’s, in Vaughan’s best manner; and so might

    “Their near camp my spirit knows
     By signs gracious as rainbows,”

as indeed the whole of Emerson’s ever-memorable _Forerunners_, itself a
mate for _The Retreat_; or rather, had these been anonymous lyrics of
Vaughan’s own day, it would have been impossible to persuade a Caroline
critic that he could not name their common author.

Our poet had a curious fashion of coining verbs and adjectives out of
nouns, and carried it to such a degree as to challenge pre-eminence
with Keats.

      “O how it bloods
    And spirits all my earth!”

is part and parcel of the young cries of Endymion. When Vaughan has
discovered something to produce a fresh effect, he is not the man who
will hesitate to use it; and this mannerism occurs frequently: “our
grass straight russets,” “angel’d from that sphere,” “the mountained
wave,” “He heavened their walks, and with his eyes made those wild
shades a Paradise.” A little informality of this sort sometimes
justifies itself, as in the couplet ending the grim and powerful
_Charnel-House_:

    “But should wild blood swell to a lawless strain,
     One check from thee shall channel it again!”

And Henry Vaughan shares also with Keats, writing three hundred
years later, a defect which he had inherited, together with many
graces, directly from Ben Jonson:[36] the fashion of crowding the
sense of his text and the pauseless voice of his reader from the
natural breathing-place at the end of a line into the beginning or
the middle of the next line. More than any other, except Keats in his
first period, he roughens, without always strengthening, his rich
decasyllabics, by using what Mr. Gosse has happily classified as the
“overflow.”

Though the Silurist had in him the possibilities of a great elegiac
poet, and his laments for his dead are many and memorable, there is not
one sustained masterpiece among them; nothing to equal or approach,
for example, Cowley’s _Ode on the Death of Mr. William Hervey_, in
the qualities which abide, and are visited with the honors of the
class-book and the library shelf. Yet Vaughan’s elegies are exquisite
and endearing; they haunt one with the conviction that they stop short
of immortality, not because their author had too little skill, but
because, between his repressed speech and his extreme emotions, no art
could make out to live. He had a deep heart, such as deep hearts will
always recognize and reverence:

    “And thy two wings were grief and love.”

In the face of eternity he seems so to accord with the event which
all but destroys him, that sorrow inexpressible becomes suddenly
unexpressed, and his funeral music ends in a high enthusiasm and
serenity open to no misconception. Distance, and the lapse of time,
and his own utter reconciliation to the play of events make small
difference in his utterance upon the old topic. The thought of his
friend, forty years after, is the same mystical rapture:

    “O could I track them! but souls must
           Track one the other;
     And now the spirit, not the dust,
           Must be thy brother:
     Yet I have one pearl by whose light
           All things I see,
     And in the heart of death and night,
           Find Heaven and thee.”

_Daphnis_, the eclogue to the memory of Thomas Vaughan, is the only
one of these elegies which, possessing a surplus of beautiful lines,
is not even in the least satisfying. “R. Hall,” “no woolsack soldier,”
who was slain at the siege of Pontefract, won from Henry Vaughan a
passionate requiem, which opens with a gush of agony, “I knew it would
be thus!” as affecting as anything in the early ballads; and the battle
of Rowton Heath took from him “R. W.,” the comrade of his youth. But
it was in one who bore his sovereign’s name (hitherto unidentified,
although he is said to have been the subject of a “public sorrow”) that
Vaughan lost the friend upon whom his whole nature seemed to lean. The
soldier-heart in himself spoke out firmly in the cry he consecrated
_To the Pious Memory of C. W._ Its masculine dignity; the pride and
soft triumph which it gathers about it, advancing; the plain heroic
ending which sweeps away all images of remoteness and gloom, in

    “Good-morrow to dear Charles! for it is day,”

can be compared to nothing but an _agitato_ of Schubert’s mounting
strings, slowing to their major chord with a courage and cheer that
bring tears to the eyes. Vaughan’s tender threnodies would make a small
but precious volume. _To the Pious Memory_, with _Thou that Knowest for
Whom I Mourn_, _Silence and Stealth of Days_, _Joy of my Life while
Left me Here_, _I Walked the other Day to spend my Hour_, _The Morning
Watch_, and _Beyond the Veil_, are alone enough to give him rank
forever as a genius and a good man.

“C. W.’s” death was one of the things which turned him forever from
temporal pursuits and pleasures. Of his first wife we can find none but
conjectural traces in his books, for he was shy of using the beloved
name. The sense of those departed is never far from him. The air of
melancholy recollection, not morbid, which hangs over his maturer
lyrics, is directly referable to the close-following calamities which
estranged him from the presence of “the blessèd few,” and sent him, as
he nobly hoped,

    “Home from their dust to empty his own glass.”

His thoughts centred, henceforward, in their full intensity, on the
supernatural world; nay, if he were irremediably depressed, not only
on the persistence of resolved matter, by means of which buried men
come forth again in the color of flowers and the fragrance of the wind,
but even on the physical damp and dark which confine our mortality. It
is the poet of dawn and of crisp mountain air who can pack horror on
horror into his nervous quatrains about Death:

    “A nest of nights; a gloomy sphere
       Where shadows thicken, and the cloud
     Sits on the sun’s brow all the year,
       And nothing moves without a shroud.”

This is masterly; but here, again, there is reserve, the curbing hand
of a man who holds, with Plato, a wilful indulgence in the “realism” of
sadness to be an actual crime. Vaughan’s dead dwell, indeed, as his own
mind does, in “the world of light.” As his corporeal sight is always
upon the zenith or the horizon, so his fancy is far away, with his
radiant ideals, and with the virtue and beauty he has walked with in
the flesh. He takes his harp to the topmost hill, and sits watching

    “till the white-winged reapers come.”

He thinks of his obscured self, the child he was, and of “the narrow
way” (an ever-recurrent Scriptural phrase in his poetry) by which he
shall “travel back.” To leave the body is merely to start anew and
recover strength, and, with it, the inspiring companionship of which he
is inscrutably deprived.

Chambers’ _Cyclopædia_ made an epic blunder, long ago, when it ascribed
to this gentlest of Anglicans a “gloomy sectarianism.” He, of all
religious poets, makes the most charming secular reading, and may well
be a favorite with the heathen for whom Herbert is too decorative,
Crashaw too hectic and intense, Cowper too fearful, and Faber too
fluent; _Lyra Apostolica_ a treatise, though a glorious one, on Things
which Must be Revived, and _Hymns Ancient and Modern_ an exceeding
weariness to the spirit. It is a saw of Dr. Johnson’s that it is
impossible for theology to clothe itself in attractive numbers; but
then Dr. Johnson was ignorant of Vaughan. It is not in human nature to
refuse to cherish the “holy, happy, healthy Heaven” which he has left
us (in a graded alliteration which smacks of the physician rather than
of the “gloomy sectarian”), his very social “angels talking to a man,”
and his bright saints, hovering and smiling nigh, who

        “are indeed our pillar-fires
          Seen as we go;
    They are the city’s shining spires
          We travel to.”

Who can resist the earnestness and candor with which, in a few
sessions, he wrote down the white passion of the last fifty years
of his life? No English poet, unless it be Spenser, has a piety so
simple and manly, so colored with mild thought, so free from emotional
consciousness. The elect given over to continual polemics do not count
Henry Vaughan as one of themselves. His double purpose is to make life
pleasant to others and to praise God; and he considers that he is
accomplishing it when he pens a compliment to the valley grass, or,
like Coleridge, caresses in some affectionate strophes the much-abused
little ass. All this liberal sweetness and charity heighten Vaughan’s
poetic quality, as they deepen the impression of his practical
Christianity. The nimbus is about his laic songs. When he talks of
moss and rocks, it is as if they were incorporated into the ritual. He
has the genius of prayer, and may be recognized by “those graces which
walk in a veil and a silence.” He is full of distinction, and of a sort
of golden idiosyncrasy. Vaughan’s true “note” is—Vaughan. To read him
is like coming alone to a village church-yard with trees, where the
west is dying, in hues of lilac and rose, behind the low ivied Norman
tower. The south windows are open, the young choir are within, and the
organist, with many a hushed unconventional interlude of his own, is
rehearsing with them the psalm of “pleasures for evermore.”

FOOTNOTES:

[20] Siluria comprised the shires of Monmouth, Hereford, Glamorgan,
Radnor, and Brecon.

[21] The Reverend H. F. Lyte, Vaughan’s enthusiastic editor, best known
as the author of _Abide with Me_, reminds us that there was another
Henry Vaughan of the same college and the same neighborhood at home—a
pleasant theological person not to be confounded with the poet. It was
probably he, and not the Silurist, who devoted some verses to Charles
the First in the book called _Eucharistica Oxoniensis_, 1641.

[22] These deep Augustinian lines are Carew’s, gay Carew’s; and they
mark the highest religious expression of their time.

[23] Vaughan apparently enjoyed that privilege of genius, acquaintance
with a London garret, if we may take autobiographically the fine brag
worthy of the tribe of Henri Mürger:

“I scorn your land, So far it lies below me; here I see How all the
sacred stars do circle me.”

[24] The King lodged at Christchurch, the Queen and my Lady Castlemaine
(together, alas!) at Merton, amid endless hawking, tennis, boating,
basset, and general revelry.

[25] Orinda’s own verses, scattered in manuscript among her friends,
were collected and printed without her knowledge, and much against her
desire, in 1663: a piece of treachery which threw her into a severe
indisposition. She could therefore condole more than enough with Henry
Vaughan. Friends were officious creatures in those days.

[26] This, to say the least, was not “pretty” of Campbell, who thought
so well of the “world’s grey fathers” congregated to gaze at Vaughan’s
_Rainbow_ that he conveyed them bodily into the foreground of his own.

[27] Per´-spective was, of course, the general pronunciation from
Shakespeare to Dr. Johnson, and is used with great beauty in Dryden’s
_Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigrew_. But it is a characteristic
word with Vaughan, and it was from Vaughan that Wordsworth took it.

[28] Vaughan had a relish for damp weather, the thing which makes the
loveliness of the British isles, and which the ungrateful islanders
are prone to revile. He never passes a sheet of water without looking
upward for the forming cloud:

“That drowsy lake From her faint bosom breathed thee!”

[29] Sometimes erroneously printed “bowers.”

[30] It was kind of the ever-kind Hunt to include America in his
enumeration, at a time when the United States were supposed by his
fellow-countrymen to have no literature at all of their own. The
circumstance that his challenge appeared in the preface to _The Book
of the Sonnet_, which was edited by Hunt in conjunction with an
American, and published at Boston in 1868, may help to account for the
mannerliness of the reference.

[31] In the _Letters and Memorials of Archbishop Trench_, vol. ii.,
p. 57, there is a letter bearing upon this point from Mr. Frank
Millson, dated 1868, which deserves serious consideration from
Vaughan’s forthcoming editors. “I think,” he writes the Dean, “that
your supposition that the 1655 edition is the same book as the one
of 1650, with a new title-page and additions, can hardly be correct,
though I know that Lyte, the editor of Pickering’s reprint, thinks as
you do. The preface to the 1655 edition is dated September 30, 1654,
and contains this passage” (not given in the _Memorials_) “which seems
to me to refer to the fact of a new edition. A comparison of my two
copies shows that the 1650 edition consists of half a sheet, title
and dedication, and 110 pages. The second edition has title, preface,
dedication, motto, the 110 pages of the first edition, with 84 pages
of new matter, and a table of first lines. A noticeable thing in the
arrangement is that the sheets do not begin with new printer’s marks,
as they might be expected to do if the second part were simply new
matter added to the first volume, but begin with A, the last sheet of
the former volume having ended with G. I am sorry to trouble you with
these trifling details; but as Vaughan has long been a favorite author
of mine, they have an interest for me, and if they help to show that he
was not neglected by readers of his own time, I shall be glad.”

[32] Anthologies and cyclopædias nowadays, especially since Dr. John
Brown and Principal Shairp drew attention to the Silurist in their
pages, are more than likely to admit him. It was not so always.
Winstanley, sharp as was his eye, let Vaughan escape him in his
_Lives of the Poets_, published in 1687. He is not in the _Theatrum
Poetarum_, nor in Johnson’s _Lives_. He is in neither of Southey’s
collections. Mr. Palgrave allows him, in _The Golden Treasury_, but
a song and a half; Ellis’s sheaf of excellent _Specimens_ of 1811
furnishes eighteen lines of a wedding blessing on the _Best and Most
Accomplished Couple_ apologizing for “their too much quaintness and
conceit”; and in Willmott’s _Sacred Poets_ Vaughan occupies four
pages, as against Crashaw’s thirty-five, Herbert’s thirty-seven, and
Wither’s one hundred and thirty-two. But Vaughan fares well in Dr.
George Macdonald’s _England’s Antiphon_, and in Archbishop Trench’s
_Household Book_. Ward’s _English Poets_, in the second volume, has a
conventional selection from him, as has, at greater length, Fields’ and
Whipple’s _Family Library of British Poetry_. There is a goodly list
entered under Vaughan’s name in Gilfillan’s _Less-Known British Poets_,
all chosen from his devotional work. Thirty-seven religious lyrics
again adorn the splendid _Treasury of Sacred Song_. Vaughan’s secular
numbers yet await their proper bays, although a limited edition of most
of them, containing a bibliography, was printed in 1893 by J. R. Tutin
of Hull. Mr. Saintsbury, in his _Seventeenth Century Lyrics_, has a
small and very choice group of Vaughan’s songs, and Professor Palgrave,
having to do with him for the third time, gives him large and cordial
honor in the eleventh volume of _Y Cymmrodor_. In Emerson’s Parnassus
he appears but once. He had his most graceful and grateful American
tribute when Mr. Lowell, long ago, named him in passing as “dear Henry
Vaughan,” in _A Certain Condescension in Foreigners_.

[33] In one of his prefaces, Vaughan hits neatly at the crowd of
Herbertists: “These aim more at verse than at perfection.” Where there
are noble resemblances, it is well to remember that two sides have the
right to be heard. Mrs. Thoreau used to say: “Mr. Emerson imitates
Henry!” And she was at least as accurate as the critics who annoyed her
old age by the reversed statement.

[34] Mr. R. H. Stoddard owns a copy of the first edition of
_Nieremberg’s Meditations_, translated by Vaughan in 1654, and
published the following year, which has upon the title-page an
autographic “J. M.” supposed, by every evidence, to be Milton’s. If it
be so, the busy Latin Secretary, meditating his grand work, must have
been, on his part, a reader and a lover of the man who was almost his
equal at golden phrases.

[35] Congreve and Waller employ the same rather too obvious love-name
for their serenaded divinities.

[36] Vaughan openly wears jewels which belong to Jonson.

“Go seek thy peace in war: Who falls for love of God shall rise a star!”

wrote brave Father Ben; and no Englishman of spirit, between 1642 and
the Restoration, was likely to forget it. The passage certainly clung
to Vaughan’s mind, for he assimilated it later in a sweet line all for
peace:

“Do thou the works of day, and rise a star.”



III

GEORGE FARQUHAR

1677-1707


THERE is a narrow dark Essex Street West in the city of Dublin, running
between Fishamble Street and Essex Gate, at the rear of the Lower
Blind Quay. The older people still bluntly call it what it was called
before 1830: Smock Alley. On its north side stands the sufficiently
ugly church of SS. Michael and John. The arched passage still in use,
parallel with the nave of this church, was the entrance to a theatre
on the same site; what is now the burial vault was once the pit, full
of ruddy and uproarious faces. The theatre, erected about 1660, which
had a long, stormy and eventful history, was rebuilt in 1735, and
having been turned into a warehouse, fell into decay, to be replaced
by a building of another clay. But while it was still itself, it was
great and popular, and the lane between Trinity College and the old
arched passage was choked every night with the press of jolly youths,
who, as Archbishop King pathetically complained, appeared to love the
play better than study! Among those who hung about Smock Alley like a
barnacle in the years 1694 and 1695, was a certain George Farquhar,
son of William,[37] a poor Londonderry clergyman of the Establishment;
a long-faced peculiar lad of mild mien but high spirits. He had come
from the north, under episcopal patronage, to wear a queer dress among
his social betters, to sweep and scour and carry tankards of ale to
the Fellows in hall; and incidentally, to imbibe, on his own part, the
lore of all the ages. The major event in his history is that, instead
of sitting up nights over _Isocrates de Pace_, he slipped off to see
Robert Wilkes and the stock company, and to decide that acting, or,
as he afterwards sarcastically defined it, “tearing his Lungs for a
Livelihood,” was also the thing for him. Wherefore, at eighteen, either
because his benefactor, Bishop Wiseman of Dromore, had died, or else,
as is not very credibly reported, because he was cashiered from his
class, Master Farquhar, cut loose from his old moorings, applied to
Manager Ashbury of the Dublin Theatre, and to such avail that he was
able presently to make his own appearance there as no less a personage
than Othello. He had a weak voice and a shy presence; but the public
encouraged him. One of his first parts was that of Guyomar, Montezuma’s
younger brother, in Dryden’s tragedy of _The Indian Emperor_. In the
fifth act, as soon as he had declaimed to Vasquez in sounding sing-song:

    “Friendship with him whose hand did Odmar kill?
     Base as he was, he was my brother still!
     But since his blood has washed away his guilt,
     Nature asks thine for that which thou hast spilt,”

he made, according to stage directions, a fierce lunge at his too
conciliatory foe. Guyomar had armed himself, inadvertently, with
a genuine sword, and Vasquez came near enough to being killed in
the flesh. The man eventually recovered; but it shows of what
impressionable stuff Farquhar was made, that his mental horror
and pain, during that moment while he believed he had slain a
fellow-creature, should have turned the course of his life. He left the
stage; nor would he return to it. Some eight years after, indeed, he
visited Dublin again, and on the old boards played Sir Harry Wildair
for his own benefit; but this was at a time when he forced himself to
undertake all honorable chances of money-making, out of his consuming
anxiety for his family.

Wilkes and his wife returned to London, and the lad Farquhar went with
them. He obtained a commission in the army from the Earl of Orrery;
he was in Holland on duty during a part of the year 1700, and came
back to England with one of her earliest military red coats on his
back, in the train of his much-approved sovereign, William III. He
had already written, thanks to Wilkes and his incessant urging, his
first two plays, and had seen them successful at Drury Lane;[38] he
had also overheard with enthusiasm, at the Mitre Tavern in St. James’s
Market, Mistress Nance Oldfield, an orphan of sixteen, niece of the
proprietress, reading _The Scornful Lady_ behind the bar. Captain
Vanbrugh was duly told of Farquhar’s delight and admiration, and on
the strength of them introduced the girl to Rich, who did few things
so good in his lifetime as when he put her upon the stage at fifteen
shillings a week. It was not long before this distinguished actress
and generous woman, destined to lend her gayety and beautiful bearing
to the interpretation of Farquhar’s women, enlivened the town as the
glorious Sylvia of _The Recruiting Officer_, who can “gallop all the
morning after a hunting-horn, and all the evening after a fiddle.”

“We hear of Farquhar at one time,” says Leigh Hunt, in a pretty
summary, “in Essex, hare-hunting (not in the style of a proficient);
at another, at Richmond, sick; and at a third, in Shropshire on a
recruiting party, where he was treated with great hospitality, and
found material for one of the best of his plays.”

_Love and a Bottle_ inaugurated the vogue of the Farquhar comedy; and
Wilkes, whose name in London carried favor and precedence, was the
Roebuck of the cast. Its successors, _The Constant Couple_ (with a
framework transferred and adapted from its author’s earlier _Adventures
of Covent Garden_), and its sequel, _Sir Harry Wildair_, again
championed by the “friendly and indefatigable” Wilkes, who impersonated
the engaging rakish heroes, had long runs, and firmly established
their author’s fame. In 1702 Farquhar produced _The Inconstant_ (which
he had perverted from Fletcher’s _Wild Goose Chase_, as if a fit
setting were sought for the wonderfully effective last act of his own
devising); and after _The Inconstant_, _The Twin Rivals_. _The Stage
Coach_, a one-act farce in which he had a collaborator,[39] dates from
1704, and _The Recruiting Officer_ from 1706; _The Beaux’ Stratagem_
was written in the spring of 1707. This is a working record of barely
nine years; it represents a secure and continuous artistic advance; and
it should have brought its patient originator something better than the
privilege of dying young, “broken-hearted,” as he confessed to Wilkes,
“and without a shilling.”

Farquhar had but the trifling income of an officer’s pay on which to
support his wife and his two little daughters. He seems to have sought
no political preferment, nor did his numerous patrons put themselves
out to advance him, although these were the very days when men of
letters were crowded into the public service. Ever and anon he received
fifteen guineas, then a very handsome sum, for a play. Perhaps,
like his rash gallants, he had “a head to get money, and a heart to
spend it.” He greatly wished success, for the sake of those never
absent from his thought; and he complained bitterly when the French
acrobats and rope-dancers took from _The Twin Rivals_ the attention of
pleasure-seeking Londoners, much as poor Haydon complained afterwards
of the crowds who surged down Piccadilly, to behold not his “Christ’s
Entry into Jerusalem” at all, but General Tom Thumb, holding court
under the same roof.

When Farquhar’s health was breaking, and debts began to involve him at
last, it appears that the Earl of Ormonde, his general, prompted him
to sell his commission in order to liquidate them, and agreed to give
him a captaincy. Or, as is yet more probable, in view of the fact that
Farquhar was already known by the title of captain, he was urged to
sell out of the army, on a given pledge that preferment of another sort
awaited him. His other industrious devices to secure support for four
having missed fire, he gladly performed his part of the transaction,
only to experience a fatal delay on the part of my Lord Ormonde,
whose mind had strayed to larger matters. In fine, the unkept promise
hurt the subaltern to the heart; he sank, literally from that hour,
of grief and disquietude. Lintott the stationer, and his old friend
Wilkes stood manfully by him, one with liberal payment in advance,
and one with affectionate furtherance and gifts; but Farquhar did not
rally. It was to Wilkes, as everybody knows, that he penned this most
touching testament: “Dear Bob, I have not anything to leave thee to
perpetuate my memory but two helpless girls. Look upon them sometimes!
and think of him who was, to the last moment of his life, thine.” The
end came on or about April 29, 1707, George Farquhar being just thirty
years of age. While he lay dying in Soho, his last and best comedy
was in progress at the new magnificent Haymarket, and his audiences,
with a barren benevolence not uncharacteristic of the unthinking human
species, are said to have wept for him. He was buried in the parish
church-yard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields,[40] where Nell Gwynne’s
contrite ashes lay, and where her legacied bells tolled for his passing.

Farquhar’s name is always coupled with those of Congreve, Wycherley,
and Vanbrugh, although in spirit and also in point of time he was
removed from the influences which formed them. Many critics, notably
Hazlitt, Macaulay, and Thackeray, have allowed him least mention of the
four, but he is, in reality, the best playwright among them; and it is
greatly to the credit of a discreditable period if he be taken as its
representative. He had Vanbrugh’s exuberant vivacity, Congreve’s grace,
Wycherley’s knack of climax. Wycherley, retiring into private life when
Farquhar was born, lived to see his exit; Etherege was then at his
zenith; Dryden’s _All for Love_ was in the printer’s case, and Otway,
almost on the point of his two great works, was coming home ragged
from Flanders: Otway, whose boyish ventures on the stage, and whose
subsequent soldiering, Farquhar was so closely to follow.

Pope, and a gentler observer, Steele, found Farquhar’s dialogue “low,”
and so it must have sounded between the brave surviving extravagances
of the Jacobean buskin and the modulated utterances of _Cato_ and _The
Revenge_. A practical talent like Farquhar’s was bound to provoke hard
little words from the Popes who shrank from his spontaneous style,
and the Steeles who could not approve of the gross themes he had
inherited. For sheer good-breeding, some scenes in _The Way of the
World_ can never be surpassed; they prove that one cannot hold the
stage by talk alone. It is fortunate for Farquhar that he could not
emulate the exquisitely civilized depravities of Congreve’s urban Muse.
But his dialogue is not “low” to modern tastes; it has, in general, a
simple, natural zest, infinitely preferable to the Persian apparatus
of the early eighteenth century. Even he, however, can rant and
deviate into rhetoric, as soon as his lovers drop upon one knee. More
plainly in Farquhar’s work than in that of any contemporary, we mark
the glamour of the Caroline literature fading, and the breath of life
blowing in. An essentially Protestant nationalism began to settle down
upon England for good and all with William and Mary, and it brought
subtle changes to bear upon the arts, the trades, the sports, and
the manners of the people. In Farquhar’s comedies we have the reflex
of a dulling and strengthening age; the fantasticalities of the last
three reigns are all but gone; the Vandyck dresses gleam and swish
no longer. Speech becomes more pert and serviceable, in a vocabulary
of lesser range; lives are vulgarizing, that is, humanizing, and
getting closer to common unromantic concerns; no such delicately unreal
creature as Millamant, all fire and dew and perfumery,—Millamant who
could not suffer to have her hair done up in papers written in prose,
and who, quite by herself, is a vindication of what Mr. Allibone is
pleased to call “Lamb’s sophistical and mischievous essay,”—walks the
world of Farquhar. With him, notwithstanding that the sorry business
to be despatched is the same old amorous intrigue, come in at once
less license, less affectation, less Gallicism. He reports from the
beginning what he himself apprehends; his plays are shorthand notes,
albeit timid in character, upon the transitional and prosaic time. His
company is made up of individuals he had seen in a thousand lights at
the Spread Eagle and the Rummer; in the Inner Temple and in St. James’s
Park; in barracks domestic and foreign; and in his native place, where
adventurers, eloquent in purest Londonderry,[41] stumbled along
full of whiskey and ideas. He anticipates certain phases of Private
Ortheris’s thorough-going love of London, and figures his exiled Dicky
as “just dead of a consumption, till the sweet smoke of Cheapside
and the dear perfume of Fleet-ditch” made him a man again. In this
laughing affectionate apprehension of the local and the temporal
lies Farquhar’s whole strength or weakness. From the poets of the
Restoration there escapes, most incongruously, now and then, something
which betokens a sense of natural beauty, or even a recognition of the
divine law; but Farquhar is not a poet, and this spray from the deeps
is not in him. He perceives nothing that is not, and opens no crack or
chink where the fancy can air itself for a moment and

    —“step grandly out into the infinite.”

Such a lack would not be worth remarking in the debased and insincere
writers who but just preceded him. But from the very date of his
first dealings with London managers, idealism was abroad, and a man
with affinities for “the things that are more excellent” need have
feared no longer to divulge them, since the court and the people, if
not the dominant town gentry, were with him. Farquhar had neither the
full moral illumination nor the will, though he had the capacity,
to lend a hand to the blessed work waiting for the opportunist. He
was young, he was of provincial nurture; he was carried away by the
theatrical tradition. Yet his mind was a Medea’s kettle, out of which
everything issued cleaner and more wholesome. Despite the prodigious
animal spirits of his characters, they conduct their mad concerns with
sense and moderation; they manage tacitly to proclaim themselves as
temporarily “on a tear,” as going forth to angle in angling weather,
and as likely to lead sober citizen lives from to-morrow on. Under bad
old maintained conditions they develop traits approximately worthy of
the _Christian Hero_. They “look before and after.” They are to be
classed as neutrals and nondescripts, for they have all the swagger
of their lax progenitors, and none of their deviltry. They belong
professionally to one family, while they bear a tantalizing resemblance
to another. Farquhar himself, perhaps unaware that partisanship is
better than compromise, made his bold toss for bays both spiritual
and temporal. Imitating, as novices will ever do, the art back of
him, he adopted the claim to approbation which that art never dreamed
of. In the very good preface to _The Twin Rivals_ (which has always
been approved of critics rather than of audiences), he sets up for a
castigator of vice and folly, and he offers to appease “the ladies and
the clergy,” as, in some measure apparent to the more metaphysical
among them, he may have done. His friend, Mr. John Hopkins, the
author of _Amasia_, invited, on behalf of _The Constant Couple_, the
commendation of Collier. That open-minded censor may have seen with
satisfaction, in the general trend of Farquhar’s composition, the less
and less dubious day-beams of Augustan decency. Though Farquhar did not
live, like Vanbrugh and the magnanimous Dryden, to admit the abuse of a
gift, and to deplore it, he alone, of the minor dramatists, seems all
along to have had a negative sort of conscience better than none. His
instincts continually get the better not only of his environment, but
of his practice. Some uneasiness, some misgiving, are at the bottom of
his homely materialism. He thinks it best, on the whole, to forswear
the temptation to be sublime, and to keep to his cakes and ale; and
for cakes and ale he had an eminent and inborn talent. What was ably
said of Hogarth, the great exemplar, will cover all practicians of his
school: “He had an intense feeling for and command over the impressions
of senses and habit, of character and passion, the serious and the
comic; in a word, of nature as it fell in with his own observation, or
came into the sphere of his actual experience. But he had little power
beyond that sphere, or sympathy for that which existed only in idea. He
was ‘conformed to this world, not transformed.’” Or, as Leigh Hunt, in
his beautiful memoir, adds, with acuteness, of Farquhar himself: “He
could turn what he had experienced in common life to the best account,
but he required in all cases the support of ordinary associations, and
could not project his spirit beyond them.” In short, Farquhar lacked
imagination. He had insight, however, of another order, which is
his praise, and which distinguishes him from all his fellows: he had
sympathy and charity.

The major blot on the literature of the English stage of the period is
not its libertinism, but rather its concomitant utter heartlessness.
“Arrogance” (so, according to Erasmus, that ascetic scholar Dean Colet
used to remind his clergy) “is worse than a hundred concubines.” The
slight sporadic touches of tenderness, of pity, of disinterested
generosity, to be found by patient search in Congreve, come in boldly
with Farquhar, and boldly overrun his prompter’s books. Vanbrugh’s
scenes stand on nothing but their biting and extravagant sarcasm. As
Congreve’s characters are indiscriminately witty, so Vanbrugh’s are
universally and wearisomely cynical, and at the expense of themselves
and all society. His women in high life have no individuality; they
wear stings of one pattern. The genial conception of the shrewd,
material Mrs. Amlet, however, in _The Confederacy_, is worthy of
Farquhar, and certainly Congreve himself could not have bettered
her in the execution. Etherege’s typical Man of Mode is a tissue
of untruth, hardness, and scorn, all in impeccable attire; a most
mournful spectacle. Thinking of such dainty monsters, Macaulay let fly
his famous invective against their creators: “Foreheads of bronze,
hearts like the nether millstone, and tongues set on fire of hell!”
George Farquhar may be exempted altogether from this too-deserved
compliment. There is honest mirth in his world of fiction, there is
dutifulness, there is true love, there are good women; there is genuine
friendship between Roebuck and Lovewell, between Trueman and Hermes
Wouldbe, between Aimwell and Archer, and between the green Tummas of
_The Recruiting Officer_ and his Costar, whom he cannot leave behind.
Sylvia, Angelica, Constance, Leanthe, Oriana, Dorinda, free-spoken
as they are, how they shine, and with what morning freshness, among
the tiger-lilies of that evil garden of the Restoration drama! These
heroines are an innovation, for they are maids, not wedded wives.
As to the immortal periwigged young bloods their suitors, they are
“real gentlemen,” as Hazlitt, who loved Farquhar, called them, “and
only pretended impostors;” or, to quote Farquhar’s latest editor, Mr.
A. C. Ewald, they are “always men and never yahoos.” Their author
had no interest in “preferring vice, and rendering virtue dull and
despicable.” Their praise may be negative, but it establishes a wide
wall of difference between them and the fops and cads with whom they
have been confounded. In their conversations, glistening with epigram
and irony, malevolence has no part; they sneer at no virtue, they
tamper with none; and at every turn of a selfish campaign they find
opportunity for honorable behavior. From the mouths of these worldlings
comes satire, hot and piping, against worldliness; for Farquhar is
as moralizing, if not as moral, as he dares be. Some of the least
attractive of them, the most greedy and contriving, have moments of
sweetly whimsical and optimistic speech. Thus Benjamin Wouldbe, the
plotter against his elder brother in _The Twin Rivals_, makes his
adieu after the fashion of a true gallant: “I scorn your beggarly
benevolence! Had my designs succeeded, I would not have allowed you the
weight of a wafer, and therefore will accept none.” The same person
soars again into a fine Aurelian speculation: “Show me that proud stoic
that can bear success and champagne! Philosophy can support us in hard
fortune, but who can have patience in prosperity?” Over his men and
women in middle life Farquhar lingers with complacence entirely foreign
to his colleagues, to whom mothers, guardians, husbands, and other
apple-guarding dragons were uniformly ridiculous and odious. Justice
Balance is as attractive as a hearth-fire on a December night; so is
Lady Bountiful. Over Fairbank, the good goldsmith, Farquhar gets fairly
sentimental, and permits him to drop unaware into decasyllabics, like
the pastoral author of _Lorna Doone_. His rogues are merely roguish,
in the softened sense of the word; in his panorama, though black
villains come and go, it is only for an instant, and to further some
one dramatic effect. He has eulogy for his heroes when they deserve it,
and when they do not you may trust him to find a compassionate excuse;
as when poor Leanthe feelingly says of her lover that “his follies are
weakly founded upon the principles of honor, where the very foundation
helps to undermine the structure.” Even Squire Sullen, for his
lumpishness, is divorced without derision, and in a peal of harmless
laughter. Farquhar, indeed, is all gentleness, all kindness. He had the
pensive attitude of the true humorist towards the world he laughed at;
his characters let slip words too deep for their living auditors. It
is curious that to a Restoration dramatist, “a nether millstone,” we
should owe a perfect brief description of ideal married life. In the
scene of the fourth act of _Sir Harry Wildair_, where Lady Lurewell,
with her “petrifying affectation,” is trying to tease Sir Harry out
of all endurance on the subject of his wife (whom he believes to be
lost or dead), and the degree of affection he had for her, he makes
reply: “My own heart whispered me her desires, ’cause she herself was
there; no contention ever rose but the dear strife of who should most
oblige—no noise about authority, for neither would stoop to command,
where both thought it glory to obey.” This is meant to be spoken
rapidly, and not without its tantalizing lack of emphasis; but what a
pearl it is, set there in the superlatively caustic dialogue! English
chivalry and English literature have no such other golden passage in
their rubrics, unless it be the famous tribute to the Lady Elizabeth
Hastings that “to love her was a liberal education,” or Lovelace’s
unforgettable song:

    “I could not love thee, dear, so much,
     Loved I not Honour more!”

The passage takes on a very great accidental beauty when we remember
that it required courage, in its time and place, to have written it.
It is characteristic also of Farquhar that it should be introduced,
as it is, on the top wave of a vivacious and stormy conversation,
which immediately sweeps it under, as if in proof that he understood
both his art and his audience. The conjugal tie, among the leaders
of fashion, was still something to laugh at and to toy with. Captain
Vanbrugh, from whom nobody need expect much edification, had put in the
mouth of his Constant, in a play which was a favorite with Garrick,
a bit of sense and sincerity quoted, as it deserved to be, by Hunt:
“Though marriage be a lottery in which there are a wondrous many
blanks, yet there is one inestimable lot in which the only heaven on
earth is written.” And again: “To be capable of loving one is better
than to possess a thousand.” This was in 1698, and Farquhar therefore
was not first, nor alone, in daring to speak for the derided idea of
wedlock. Steele was soon to arise as the very champion of domestic
life; and English wit, since he wrote, has never subsisted by its
mockery of the conditions which create

    “home-keeping days and household reverences.”

But it was Farquhar who spoke in behalf of these the most memorable
word of his generation. After that lofty evidence of what he must be
suspected to have been, it is well to see, as best we may, what manner
of man George Farquhar was. And first let us take some extracts from
his own account of himself, “candid and modest,” as Hunt named it.

He gives us to understand that he had an ardent temperament, held in
check by an introspective turn of thought, by natural bashfulness, and
by habits of consideration for others. The portrait is drawn from a
letter in the _Miscellanies_, of “a mind and person generally dressed
in black,” and might have come bodily, and with charming grace, from
_The Spectator_. “I have very little estate but what lies under the
circumference of my hat . . . and should I by misfortune come to lose
my head, I should not be worth a groat.” “I am seldom troubled by what
the world calls airs and caprices, and I think it an idiot’s excuse
for a foolish action to say: ‘’Twas my humor.’” “I cannot cheerfully
fix to any study which bears not a pleasure in the application.”
“Long expectation makes the blessing always less to me; I lose the
great transport of surprise.” “I am a very great epicure; for which
reason I hate all pleasure that’s purchased by excess of pain. I can’t
relish the jest that vexes another. In short, if ever I do a wilful
injury, it must be a very great one.” “I have many acquaintances, very
few intimates, but no friend; I mean, in the old romantic way.” “I
have no secret so weighty but that I can bear it in my own breast.”
“I would have my passion, if not led, at least waited on by my
reason.” This last text, repeated elsewhere by Farquhar, which is the
counterpart of one in Sir Philip Sidney’s _Arcadia_, has interest from
the lips of a child of the “dancing, drinking, and unthinking time.”
Farquhar’s face, in the old prints, is wonderfully of a piece with
these amiable reports: a handsome, humane, careworn, melancholy young
face, the negation of the contemporary idea of the man about town. His
constitution, at its best, was but frail. “You are as dear to me,” he
says, pathetically, to his Penelope, “as my hopes of waking in health
to-morrow morning.”

A tradition has been received without question by his many critics and
biographers, that his chief characters, all cast in the same animated
mould, are but incognitos of himself. Highly-colored projections of
himself, with latent traits exaggerated, and formed mental restraints
removed, they may indeed be. The public, which loves identifications,
insisted on finding him revealed in his Archers and Sir Harrys. Whether
or not the dramatists of the day had universally the Rembrandtesque
whim of painting themselves into their own foregrounds, they were
obstinately supposed to do so, with Etherege in Young Bellair, with
Otway in Jaffier. But the real Farquhar

                  —“courteous, facile, sweet,
    Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride,”

with his reserve, his simple dress, his thin, agreeable voice,
his early reputation at college for uncongeniality, acting in
every emergency whither we can fairly trace him with deliberate
high-mindedness, is far enough from the temper of his restless and
jocund creations. He wished to remove the impression that he could have
been his own model; for he took pains to inscribe _The Inconstant_ to
his classmate, Richard Tighe, and to compliment him upon his kinship
with Mirabel, “a gay, splendid, easy, generous, fine young gentleman”;
the applauded type, in short, of all that Farquhar’s heroes set out to
be. Again, lest he should pass for a realist as rabid as Mademoiselle
de Scudéry, who pinioned three hundred and seventy of her acquaintances
between the covers of _Clélie_, Farquhar adds this warning to his
enthusiastic dedication of _The Recruiting Officer_ “to all friends
round the Wrekin”: “Some little turns of humor that I met with almost
within the shade of that famous hill gave the rise to this comedy;
and people were apprehensive that, by the example of some others, I
would make the town merry at the expense of the country gentleman. But
they forgot that I was to write a comedy, not a libel.” He disclaims
everywhere, with the same playful decisiveness, the interpretations put
upon his designs and actions by the world of overgrown infants which he
entertained. Endowed with courage and much personal charm, he had small
chance of distinguishing himself upon the field, and for the most part
shone at a garrison mess; but he had led a not inadventurous life, in
which were incidents of the most pronounced melodrama, with a touch of
mystery to enhance their value for the curious. Farquhar had travelled,
and with an open, not an insular mind; he had, by his own confession,
too deep an acquaintance with wine, and with the nightingales of Spring
Gardens, outsinging “the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow”; he had
been, in short, though with “melancholy as his every-day apparel,”
alive and abroad as a private Whig of the Revolution, shy of ladies’
notice till it came, and proud of it ever after. When he printed, in
his twenty-first year, _The Adventures of Covent Garden_, he added to
it a boy’s bragging motto: _Et quorum pars magna fui_. The inference
seems to have clung closer to him than he found comfortable. He
complains, not without significance, in his prose essay upon the
drama, that the public think any rôle compounded of “practical rake
and speculative gentleman is, ten to one, the author’s own character.”
With the incident which furnished its thrilling closing scenes to _The
Inconstant_, Farquhar had probably no connection; he takes pains to
state that the hero of it was the Chevalier de Chastillon, quite as if
he feared another confusion of himself, as fearless and quick-witted
a man, with the “golden swashbucklers” of his imagination. The rumor
which confounded them with him has next to nothing to support it.
Fortune, fashion, foolhardiness, impudence, were not the stars which
shone upon Farquhar’s nativity. Such exotic and epic virtues as may
flourish under these, such as do adorn the delightful dandies he
depicted, surely belonged to him in person; and his quiet habit of
living apart and letting the town talk, fixed to perpetuity the belief
that he had exploited himself vicariously, for good and all, upon the
stage. Certain qualities of his, certain brave truces established with
adverse conditions, force one to consider him with more attention and
respect than even his brilliant pen invites. It is something to find
him diffident and studious in a bacchanalian society, and with such
scrupulous sensitiveness that a mere inadvertence in boyhood forbade
him ever to fence again;[42] but his outstanding characteristic, the
thing which sets him apart from his brocaded _dramatis personæ_, is his
known lasting devotion to the welfare of his family, and his admirable
behavior in relation to his early and extraordinary marriage.

In 1702, Farquhar issued a charming and little-known miscellany,
called _Love and Business_, “a collection of occasionary verse and
epistolary prose.” The poetic exercises are of small importance;
but the other data (which survive as a hindrance, rather than as a
help, to biographers) come near being of very definite value. All
manner of futile guesses have been expended upon the identification
of his Penelope. It is given to no mouser to name her with certainty;
but, despite the gossip of the greenroom, now as ever too ready to
weave romances about the name of George Farquhar, internal evidence
is strongly against her having been Anne Oldfield. Yet this is the
supposition of most of his editors. Commenting upon one passage
touching some villanous stratagem from which Farquhar says he was
able to rescue a friend in the Low Countries, a friend with whom he
afterwards condoles upon a robbery she had undergone, Leigh Hunt adds
that this may have been the woman whom Farquhar subsequently made his
wife. A widow, whose Christian name was Margaret, but of whom we know
so little else that we cannot say whether she was English, or whether
her age considerably exceeded his, conceived a passionate attachment
for him, and managed to have it represented to him from several
quarters not only that she was kindly disposed towards him, but that
it would be well for his opening career if he should seek her hand,
as she had estates and revenues. Eventually, after we know not what
hesitations natural to a fastidious temperament, he proposed to her
and was accepted, and it soon transpired that the bride was quite as
penniless as himself. Hunt does not follow out his own hint in the
matter of the robbery, though the question, when carefully considered,
has a vital import. If the victim were indeed the lady whom Farquhar
married later, and if she were indeed robbed, it should signify that
she must then have been possessed of some wealth, so that the report
given to Farquhar could not have been, up to that time at least, a
lie. On the other hand, casuists must decide whether, again in the
event of the victim having been correctly identified by Hunt, the
robbery itself may not have been an invention meant, after Farquhar had
declared his allegiance, to quicken his sympathy, and to soften the
coming revelation that the robbery could never have resulted, owing to
a defect in the premises! There is very much else about the _Letters_
which is confusing and inconsistent. They are so disconnected, and
they vary so in tone and manner, as to suggest a doubt whether, if not
altogether imaginary, they could have been meant for any one person. A
lady is announced as having returned them for publication; she dresses
in mourning, and resides now on the Continent, now in London or in the
country; her suitor very explicitly states that he had long solicited
in vain the honor of her hand; and, in the end, with farewells and an
abrupt and unexplained severing, he gives up the quest, with his own
admission that he has lost her and that her heart “had no room for
him.” Now that the recipient of this correspondence, Anne Oldfield
or another, should have returned it for commercial purposes, not
having been won by the very real passion exhibited in parts of it,
seems somewhat peculiar; but to accept as fact that Farquhar himself
actually asked these letters back from her, and printed them as they
stood, is, under the conditions, absurd, and irreconcilable with
our knowledge of his character from other and prior sources. Hunt
further suggests that the _Miscellany_ was gathered together in some
press of pecuniary trouble; and its title, indeed, may hint at a
whimsical expectation that Love, being harnessed and sent abroad to
arouse curiosity among readers, may return in the way of Business to
headquarters. But Farquhar, in his bachelor days, had a fair income,
and would not have been so likely to hear the wolf at the door as he
was later, when that sound would awake in him a dread not ominous to
himself alone. It is possible that the undiscovered register of his
marriage bears the date of 1702 or even of 1701; if it were so, that
might explain the issue of his only book not in dramatic dress, and the
emergency which called it forth. It is difficult indeed to suppose,
although modern delicacy in these matters was just then a somewhat
unknown quantity, that we have between its covers genuine love-letters
hot from the pen. Steele, of an August morning nine years later,
inserted in _The Spectator_ as the communication of a third person, six
of his own notes to his comely and noble _fiancée_, Mary Scurlock. But
Farquhar had not Steele’s earnestness and love of circumstantial truth,
nor his zest for pointing a moral. Or was this publication the sort of
thing he would be likely, for a not unworthy purpose, to do? Was he,
in reality, a shade more obtuse and misguided than Miss Fanny Brawne?
Rather let us believe the _Letters_ a work of fiction, and only founded
largely upon various bygone moods and incidents of the foregoing two
years, which for one reason or another might interest buyers. Such is
the description to “dear Sam” of Dryden’s erratic funeral, which is
almost too keenly rhetorical a summing-up to have been written the next
day, or the thoughtful and sensible surveys of the Dutch. The amatory
epistles, with their leaven of reality, are presumably edited out of
all recognition. They make no defined impression; they do not move
forward; they veil impenetrably the traits of the person addressed, who
is made to appear as a vanishing unrelenting goddess, deaf and blind to
George Farquhar pleading his best. Whatever were the facts, the report
of them is chivalrous. Assume for a moment that his wife stands behind
the whole of this correspondence, or even behind the latter part of
it, and what seemed to constitute a little betrayal in the very worst
taste turns out to be an innocent joke. Of course the “lady” (or one of
the ladies) lent the manuscripts to the printers; of course Farquhar
originated, in order to give color to Mistress Farquhar’s known
pretence of riches, and their joint subsequent poverty, the magnificent
thieving practised upon the never-thieved and the unthievable! One can
fancy them both, in their hard chairs in the bare room, laughing well
and long, between tears of anxious hope that the more personal element
in the _Miscellany_ might fetch them from the Covent Garden book-stalls
a parcel of fagots and a dinner.

Aside from all theorizing, it is pleasant to know that their life
together was a happy one. The consensus of all witnesses, in the
significant absence of any contrary voice, affirms that Farquhar,
having been trapped, bore himself like the gentleman he was. Two
children were born to him, to brighten, but also to sadden, his brief
and diligent life. Under his added anxieties he did his royal best; he
addressed to their mother, from first to last, no word of reproach for
her fraud.

    “The secret pleasure of the generous act
     Is the great mind’s great bribe.”

In its fragrance of faith and patience and self-sacrificing tenderness,
their domestic story can almost rank next after that sacred one of
Charles and Mary Lamb.

Farquhar’s widow, who had loved him, appears to have loved his
memory.[43] She did not survive her husband many years; for there is
reason to suppose she died before 1719, and in penury. Poor Farquhar
used to declare that the dread that his family might suffer want was
far more bitter to him than death. Wilkes gave at his theatre, in the
May of 1708, a benefit for Margaret Farquhar, and twelve years later
he was acting as trustee for the young girls Mary and Anne Margaret,
whose pension is said by the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ to have amounted
to thirty pounds; it was obtained through the exertions of Edmund
Challoner, to whom their father had dedicated his _Miscellanies_.
Wilkes seems to have again aided both the orphans when they came of
age. One of them married an humble tradesman, and died early; the
other was living in 1764, wholly uneducated, and, as it is said on
small authority, as a maid-servant. Farquhar’s elder biographers
and editors, Ware, Genest, Chetwood, and the rest, writing in this
daughter’s lifetime, were apparently unconscious of her existence; but
the thought of her father’s child, old, neglected, and in a menial
position, served to anger Leigh Hunt as late as 1842.

Fear and forecast of what is only too likely to befall the helpless,
depressed Farquhar in the April long ago, when he lay dying of
consumption, and when, with a fortitude which sustained him under
his bitter disappointment, for six weeks, he wrote and finished his
masterly comedy _The Beaux’ Stratagem_. As he drew near the end of the
second act he was told to give up hope; but the second act closes with
the famous rattling catechism between Cherry and Archer, and the best
bit of verse its author ever made; and the third starts in with the
hearty sweet laugh—Anne Oldfield’s laugh—of that “exquisite creature,
Mrs. Sullen.” On a fund of grief, Farquhar enriched his London with a
legacy of perpetual merriment. The unflagging impetus of his dramas,
above and beyond their very real intrinsic merit, accounts for their
great and yet unforfeited popularity. They descend to us associated
with the intellectual triumphs of the most dear and dazzling names
upon the English stage; they move upon the wings of intelligence
and good-nature; they “give delight, and hurt not.” They swarm with
soldiers, welcome figures long tacitly prohibited from the boards, as
too painful a reminder of the Civil Wars. They begin with the clatter
of spurs, the bang of doors, the hubbub of bantering voices in “a
broadside of damme’s.” Sergeant Kite appears, followed by a mob on
whom he lavishes his wheedling, inspiriting gibble-gabble; Roebuck
enters in fantastic colloquy with a beggar; Sir Harry crosses the road,
singing, with footmen after him, and Vizard meanwhile indicating him
to Standard as “the joy of the playhouse and the life of the park,
Sir Harry Wildair, newly come from Paris”; _The Twin Rivals_ opens
in a volley of epigrams; the rise of the curtain in _The Beaux’
Stratagem_ discloses sly old Boniface and the ingenious Cherry calling
and running, running and calling, in a fluster pregnant of farce and
revel. Farquhar’s pages are not for the closet; they have little
passive charm; to quote from them, full as they are of familiar saws
almost all his own, is hardly fair. His mother-wit arises from the
ludicrous and unforeseen predicament, not from vanity and conscious
power; it is integral, not mere repartee; and it never calls a halt to
the action. As was well said by Charles Cowden Clarke, “there are no
traps for jests” in Farquhar; “no trains laid to fire _équivoque_.” The
clear fun, spurting unannounced in dialogue after dialogue, in incident
after incident; the incessant Molière-like masquerades; the thousand
little issues depending upon by-play and transient inspiration; the
narrowing scope and deepening sentiment of the plot, like a secret
given to the players, to be told fully only to the audience most in
touch with them—these commend Farquhar’s vivacious rôles to actors, and
make them both difficult and desirable. With what unction, from an
actor’s lips, falls his manifold and glowing praise of theatres! What
a pretty picture, a broad wash of rose-purple and white, he can make
of the interior seen from the wings! “There’s such a hurry of pleasure
to transport us; the bustle, noise, gallantry, equipage, garters,
feathers, wigs, bows, smiles, ogles, love, music, and applause!” And
again, in another mood: “The playhouse is the element of poetry,
because the region of beauty; the ladies, methinks, have a more
inspiring, triumphant air in the boxes than anywhere else. They sit
commanding on their thrones, with all their subject slaves about them;
their best clothes, best looks; shining jewels, sparkling eyes; the
treasures of the world in a ring.” And Mirabel, who is speaking, ends
with an ecstatic sigh: “I could wish that my whole life long were the
first night of a new play!”

This is a drop, or a rise, from Congreve and his aristocratic
abstractions. Farquhar, in his youth, had modelled himself chiefly
upon the comedy of Congreve, and may be said to have perfected the
mechanism which the genius of Congreve had brought into vogue. He never
attained, nor could attain, Congreve’s scholarly elegance of proportion
and his consummate diction. But he had the happiness of being no purely
literary dramatist; he had technical knowledge and skill. He brought
the existing heroes with their conniving valets, the buxom equivocal
maids, the laughing, masking, conscienceless fine ladies, out of their
disreputable moonlight into healthful comic air; and added to them, in
the transfer, a leaven of homely lovableness which will forever keep
his masterpieces upon the stage.

Farquhar’s original intellect has a value only relative; he may be
considered as Goldsmith’s tutor rather than as Congreve’s disciple.
Goldsmith had no small knowledge of Farquhar, his forerunner by sixty
years as a sizar student of Trinity; and, like him, he is reported
to have been dropped from his class for a buffoonery. What friends
(_Arcades ambo_, in both Virgilian and blameless Byronese) might
these two parsons’ sons have been! Scrub, Squire Sullen’s servant,
in _The Beaux’ Stratagem_, who “on Saturday draws warrants, and on
Sunday draws beer,” was a part Goldy once greatly desired to act. He,
too, when he came to write plays, cast about for conventional types
to handle and improve. Tony and his incomparable mother would hardly
have been, without their first imperfect apparition in Wycherley’s
powerful (and stolen) _Plain Dealer_; and Young Marlow and Hastings
are frank reproductions of Archer and Aimwell, in a much finer
situation. Miss Hardcastle hopes that in her cap and apron she may
resemble Cherry. And no one seems to have traced a celebrated passage
in _The Vicar of Wakefield_ either to my Lady Howdye’s message to my
Lady Allnight repeated by Archer (who in this same scene introduces
the “topical song” upon the modern boards), or else to the example
of the manœuvring Bisarre in Act II., Scene I., of _The Inconstant_.
Surely, “forms which proceed from simple enumeration and are exposed to
validity from a contradictory instance” supplies the unique original
of the nonsense-rhetoric which so confounded poor Moses.[44] The talk
of Clincher Junior and Tim, of Kite, Bullock, Scrub, Lyric, and the
unbaptized wench Parly, of the constable showing the big bed to Hermes
Wouldbe, the talk, that is, of Farquhar’s common people, shows humor
altogether of what we may call the Goldsmith order: genial, odd,
grotesque paradox, springing from Irish inconsequence and love of human
kind.

In the sixth year of Queen Anne, when Farquhar died, Steele was married
to his “Prue,” and having seen the last of his three reformatory
dramas “damned for its piety,” sought Joseph Addison’s approval and
collaboration, and fell to designing _The Tatler_. Fielding was
newborn, Johnson just out of the cradle, Pope was trying a cunning
young hand at his first _Pastorals_; Defoe, an alumnus of Newgate, was
beating his way outward and upward; Swift, yet a Whig, was known but
for his _Tale of a Tub_. The fresh waters were rising on all sides to
vivify the sick lowlands of the decadence. The kingdoms had a forgotten
lesson, and long in the learning, set before them: to regain, as a
basis for legitimate results, their mental independence and simplicity;
to serve art for art’s sake, and to achieve, through the reactionary
formalism of the nascent eighteenth century, freedom and a broad ethic
outlook. It was as if Comedy, in her winning meretricious perfections,
had to die, that English prose might live. It is enough for an immature
genius of the third order, born under Charles the Second, to have
vaguely foreshadowed a just and imperative change. Farquhar certainly
does foreshadow it, albeit with what theologians might call absence of
the necessary intention.

He wrote excellent prefaces and prologues. His _Discourse upon Comedy_,
in the _Miscellanies_, did pioneer work for his theory, since
expounded by more authoritative critics, and received by the English
world, that the observance or non-observance of the dramatic unities
is at the will of the wise, and that for guidance in all such matters
playwrights should look to Shakespeare rather than to Aristotle. The
_Discourse_, in Farquhar’s clear, sunny, homespun, forceful style,
does him honor, and should be reprinted. His best charm is that he
cannot be didactic. His suasion is of the strongest, but he has the
self-consciousness of all sensitive and analytic minds, which keeps
him free here as elsewhere from the slightest assumption of despotism.
It is very refreshing, in the face of that incessant belaboring of
the reader which Lesage was setting as a contemporaneous fashion, to
come across Farquhar’s gentle good-humored salutatory: “If you like
the author’s book, you have all the sense he thought you had; if you
dislike it, you have more sense than he was aware of!” Had he lived
longer, or a little later, we should have found him as well, with his
turn for skirmishing psychology, among the essayists and the novelists.
There were in him a mellowness and an unction which have their fullest
play in professedly subjective writing. Farquhar, after all, did not
fulfil himself, for he followed an ill outgoing fashion in æsthetics
rather than further a right incoming one. No one can help begrudging
him to the period he adorned. He deserved to flourish on the manlier
morrow, and to hold a historic position with the regenerators of public
taste in England. “Ah, go hang thyself up, my brave Crillon, for at
Arques we had a fight, and thou wert NOT in it!” One can fancy Sir
Richard Steele forever quoting that at Captain George Farquhar, in some
roomy club-window in Paradise.

FOOTNOTES:

[37] Incipit Annus Academicus Die Julii 9^a 1694.

------+---------+----------+-----+-----------+------------+----------+
Die |Georgius | filius | | Natus | ibidem | Eu. Lloyd 17a |Farquhare|
Gulielmi |Annos|Londonderry|educatus sub|(college Julii | Sizator
| Farqhare | 17 | | magistro | tutor) | | Clerici | | | Walker |
------+---------+----------+-----+-----------+------------+----------+

This matriculation entry from the register of Trinity does away
with our sizar’s presumed father, Rev. John Farquhar, prebendary of
Raphoe. We hear nothing more, ever after, of the Farquhar family, who
henceforth leave young George to his own profane devices; nor can any
certainty be attached to additional information, sometimes proffered,
that the father had seven children in all, and held a living of only
one hundred and fifty pounds a year. One other point is fixed by the
entry, to wit: if George Farquhar was seventeen in the July of 1694, he
cannot have been born in 1678.

[38] This was the theatre built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672.

[39] Peter Anthony Motteux, the wild and clever linguist and dramatist,
who made the best English translation of _Don Quixote_. _The Stage
Coach_, itself an adaptation, has little merit beyond its liveliness.

[40] The register of burial is dated a month later than the received
date of his death. It reads simply: “23 May, George Falkwere, M.” The
initial is the sapient sexton’s indication that this was neither a W
(woman) nor a C (child). The spelling of the name betokens its usual
and original pronunciation. The present famous porticoed church was not
built for nineteen years after Farquhar died.

[41] The not altogether foolish censure has been cast upon the rogue
Teague in _The Twin Rivals_ that he speaks an impossible brogue, which
might as well be Welsh. Farquhar did not succeed in transferring to
paper the weird and unlovely Ulster dialect with which he was familiar
in boyhood, and which had figured already in the third act of _Henry
the Fifth_, in Jonson’s Irish masque, in Shadwell’s _Lancashire
Witches_; which was simultaneously being used in his farce _The
Committee_, by Dryden’s friend Howard, and which was afterwards to have
good corroboration in Aytoun’s _Massacre of the MacPherson_. Farquhar
employs it twice elsewhere, passably well in the case of Torlough
Macahone of the parish of Curroughabegley (the personage who built a
mansion-house for himself and his predecessors after him), and with
lamentable flatness in that of Dugard in his last comedy. Dugard is a
rival of the nursery-maid dear to almanac humorists, who is wont to
exclaim: “Can’t ye tell boi me accint that ’tis Frinch Oi am!” It was
one of Farquhar’s inartistic mistakes that he made no loving study of
this or of anything touching nearly his own people. His Irishmen, with
the exception of Roebuck, are either rascals or characterless nobodies.
The name Teague, or Teig, which Howard had also employed, is old and
pure North Irish; and no less pleasant an authority than George Borrow
reminds us in the _Romano Lavo-Lil_ that it is Danish in origin.

[42] Dear Dick Steele, in 1701, while Captain of Fusileers, had a
duel thrust upon him; and in parrying, his sword pierced his man. To
his remorse may be ascribed his hatred of the custom of duelling,
expressed afterwards on every occasion. Steele owed his start in life
to James Butler, Duke of Ormonde, who entered him among the boys on
the Charterhouse foundation. This peer was grandfather to the man who
failed George Farquhar.

[43] Mrs. Farquhar published in 1711 an octavo volume of the _Plays,
Letters, and Verses_. Among the verses figures a poem of six cantos
dedicated to the victorious Earl of Peterborough, entitled _Barcelona_.
“It was found among my dear deceased husband’s writings,” says the
widow, in her prefatory note. He was not at the siege, and it is
possible that the six cantos were a manuscript copy of the effusion of
some former comrade. Farquhar was the author of several songs, one, of
highly didactic complexion, having emanated from him at the reputed age
of ten. Of these, only two are of fair lyrical quality: the page’s song
in _Love and a Bottle_, and “Tell me, Aurelia, tell me, pray,” which
Robert Southey included in his collection.

[44] _The Vicar of Wakefield_ dates from 1766. Almost twenty years
before that, the immortal Partridge had remarked to Tom Jones, quoting
his schoolmaster: “Polly matete cry town is my daskalon.” Noble
nonsense hath her pedigree. Goldsmith, however, is not so likely to
have taken his cue from Fielding.



IV

TOPHAM BEAUCLERK

1739-1780

AND

BENNET LANGTON

1741-1800


IN Samuel Johnson’s famous circle nearly every man stands for himself,
full of definite purpose and power. But two young men are there who
did nothing of moment, whose names chime often down the pages of all
his biographies, and to whom the world must pay honor, if only for
the friendship they took and gave. As Apollo should be set about with
his Graces “tripping neatly,” so the portentous old apparition of
Johnson seems never so complete and endearing as when attended by these
two above all things else Johnsonians. When the Turk’s Head is ajar
in Gerrard Street, in shadow-London; when the “unclubable” Hawkins
strides over the threshold, and Hogarth goes by the window with his
large nod and smile; when Chamier is there reading, Goldsmith posing
in purple silk small-clothes, Sir Joshua fingering his trumpet, Burke
and little brisk Garrick stirring “bishop”[45] in their glasses, and
the king of the hour, distinguished by his lack of ruffles, is rolling
about in his chair of state, saying something prodigiously humorous
and wise, it is still Bennet Langton and Topham Beauclerk who most
give the scene its human genial lustre, standing with laughter behind
him, arm in arm. They were his favorites, and it is the most adorable
thing about them both that they made out to like James Boswell, who
was jealous of them. (Perhaps they had apprehended thoroughly Newman’s
fine aphorism concerning a bore: “You may yield, or you may flee: you
cannot conquer!”) The rare glimpses we have of their brotherly lives is
through the door which opens or shuts for Johnson. Between him and them
was deep and enduring affection, and what little is known of them has
a right to be more, for his sake.

Bennet Langton, born in 1741 in the very neighborhood famous now as the
birthplace of Tennyson, was the elder son of the odd and long-descended
George Langton of Langton, and of Diana his wife, daughter of Edmund
Turnor, Esquire, of Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire. While a lad in the
fen-country, he read _The Rambler_, and conceived the purest enthusiasm
for its author. He came to London, indeed, on the ideal errand of
seeking him out, and, thanks to the kind apothecary Levett, found the
idol of his imagination at home at No. 17 Gough Square, Fleet Street.
Despite the somewhat staggering circumstances of Johnson’s attire,—for
the serious boy had rashly presupposed a stately, fastidious, and
well-mannered figure,—he paid his vows, and commended himself to
his new friend for once and all. Langton entered Trinity College,
Oxford, in 1757, at the age of sixteen.[46] The Doctor, who had
known him about three years, followed his career at the university
with interest, writing to Langton’s tutor, then “dear Tom Warton,”
just appointed to the professorship of poetry held by his father, and
afterwards poet-laureate: “I see your pupil: his mind is as exalted
as his stature,” and to Langton’s self the sweet generality: “I love,
dear sir, to think of you.” He even paid his Freshman a visit, and
swam sportively across a dangerous pool in the Isis, in the teeth of
his warning; and here also, in the Oxford which was long ago his own
“tent of a night,” he fell across a part of his destiny in the shape
of that strange bird, Mr. Topham Beauclerk, then a taking scapegrace
of eighteen. The Doctor must have shaken his head at first, and
wondered at the juxtaposition of this arrant Lord of Misrule and the
“evangelical goodness” of his admirable Langton, until mollified by
the knowledge that a species of cult for himself, and ardent perusal
of his writings, had first brought them together. It was a pleasant
thought to him, that of the two young ribboned heads high in the
quadrangle, bending for the ninth time over _The Reasons Why Advice is
Generally Ineffectual_, _The Mischief of Unbounded Raillery_, and the
jolly satire on _Screech-Owls_; or smiling over the shy Verecundulus
and the too-celebrated Misellus who were part of the author’s machinery
for adding “Christian ardor to virtue, and Christian confidence to
truth.”

Beauclerk, like Langton, was a critic and a student; he was well-bred,
urbane, and of excellent natural parts; moreover, he was a wit, one
of the very foremost of his day, when wits grew in every garden. An
only child, he was born in London in the December of 1739, and named
after that benevolent Topham of Windsor who left the manors of Clewer
Brocas and Didworth and a collection of paintings and drawings to his
father, the handsome wild Lord Sydney Beauclerk, fifth son of the
first Duke of St. Albans, and also, in his time, a gentleman commoner
of Trinity. Lord Sydney died early, in the autumn of 1744, and was
buried in Westminster Abbey with his hero-brother Aubrey, whose
epitaph, still to be read there, Thomson seems to have written. All
the pretty toys and curios passed to Topham the little boy, under the
guardianship of Lady Beauclerk, his excellent but literal mother, once
Mary Norris of Speke in Lancashire. His tutor was named Parker, and
must have been a much-enduring man. Young Beauclerk grew up, bearing
a resemblance in many ways to Charles II.; and so it befell that with
his aggravating flippancy, his sharp sense, his quiver full of gibes,
his time-wasting, money-wasting moods, foreign as Satan and his pomps
to those of his sweet-natured college companion, he was able to strike
Dr. Johnson in his own political weak spot. A flash of the liquid
Stuart eye was enough to disarm Johnson at the very moment when he was
calling up his most austere frown; it was enough to turn the vinegar
of his wrath to the honey of kindness. _Il ne nous reste qu’une chose
à faire: embrassons-nous!_ as the wheedling Prince, at a crisis,
says to Henry Esmond. Johnson, as everybody knows, was a Jacobite.
No sincerer testimony could he have given to his inexplicable liking
for a royal rogue than that he allowed Nell Gwynn’s great-grandson to
tease him and tyrannize over him during an entire lifetime. A choice
spectacle this: Mr. Topham Beauclerk, on his introduction, literally
bewitching Dr. Samuel Johnson! The stolid moralist was enraptured
with his Jack-o’-lantern antics; he rejoiced in his manners, his
taste and literary learning; admired him indiscreetly, rich clothes,
equipage, and all; followed his whims meekly, expostulated with him
almost against his traitorous impulses, and clung to him to the end in
unbroken fondness and faith.

Beauclerk had immense gayety and grace, and the full force given by
high spirits. His accurate, ever-widening knowledge of books and men,
his consummate culture, and his fearlessness, sat handsomely on one
who was regarded by contemporary old ladies as a mere “macaroni.” It
was a matter of course that he tried for no degree at college. The
mistress of Streatham Park, who was by no means his adorer, and who
remembered his chief wickedness in remembering that “he wished to be
accounted wicked,” informs us in a private jotting since published
that he was “a man of very strict veracity.” A philosopher and a
truth-teller, whatever his worldly weaknesses, was sure to be a
character within the range of Johnson’s affections. It was he who most
troubled the good Doctor, he for whom he suffered in silence, with whom
he wrangled; he whose insuperable taunting promise, never reaching any
special development, vexed and disheartened him; yet, perhaps because
of these very things, though Bennet Langton was infinitely more to his
mind, it was Absalom, once again, whom the old fatherly heart loved
best. Nor was he unrepaid. None loved him better, in return, than his
“Beau,” the very mirror of the name, who was wont to pick his way up
the grimy Fleet Street courts “with veneration,” as Boswell records.

Bennet Langton, as Mr. Forster expresses it in his noble _Life of
Goldsmith_, was “an eminent example of the high and humane class who
are content to ‘ring the bell’ to their friends.” He was a mild young
visionary, scrupulous, tolerant, and generous in the extreme; modest,
contemplative, averse to dissipation; a perfect talker and reader,
and a perfect listener; with a face sweet as a child’s, fading but
now, among his kindred, on the canvas of Sir Joshua Reynolds. He left
a gracious memory behind at Oxford, where his musing bust adorns the
old monastic library of Trinity. He was six feet six inches tall,
slenderly built, and slightly stooping. “The ladies got about him in
drawing-rooms,” said Edmund Burke, “like maids about the Maypole!”

Miss Hawkins, in her _Memoirs_, names him as the person with whom
Johnson was certainly seen to the fairest advantage. His deferent
suave manner was the best foil possible to the Doctor’s extraordinary
explosions. He had supreme self-command; no one ever saw him angry;
and in most matters of life, as a genuine contrast to his beloved
friend Beauclerk, he was apt to take things a shade too seriously. We
learn from Mr. Henry Best, author of some good _Personal and Literary
Memorials_, that the advance rumors of the French Revolution found
Langton, in the fullest sense, an aristocrat; but it was not long
before he became, from conviction, a thorough Liberal, and so remained,
although he suffered a great unpopularity, owing to this change, in
his native county. He wrote, in 1760, a little book of essays entitled
_Rustics_, which never got beyond the passivity of manuscript. The
year before, under the date of July 28th, Langton contributed to the
pages of _The Idler_ the paper numbered 67 and entitled _A Scholar’s
Journal_. It is a pleasant study of procrastination and of shifting
plans, a gentle bit of humor to be ranked as autobiographic. There is
an indorsement of Montrose in its heroic advice to “risk the certainty
of little for the chance of much.” But Langton’s graceful academic
pen was not destined to a public career. Perseverance of any sort was
not native to him. He fulfilled beautifully, adds the vivacious Miss
Hawkins, “the pious injunction of Sir Thomas Browne, ‘to sit quietly
in the soft showers of Providence,’ and might, without injustice,
be characterized as utterly unfit for every species of activity.”
Yet at the call of duty, so well was the natural man dominated by
his unclouded will, he girded himself to any exertion. Wine-drinking
was habitual with him, and he felt its need to sharpen and rouse
his intellect; “but the idea of Bennet Langton being what is called
‘overtaken,’” wrote the same associate whom we have been quoting, “is
too preposterous to be dwelt on.” She furnishes one illustration of
Langton’s Greek serenity. Talking to a company, of a chilly forenoon,
in his own house, he paused to remark that if the fire lacked attention
it might go out: a brief, casual, murmurous interruption. He resumed
his discourse, breaking off presently, and pleading abstractedly with
eye in air: “Pray ring for coals!” All sat looking at the fire, and
so little solicitous about the impending catastrophe that presently
Langton was off again on the stream of his softened eloquence. In a few
minutes came another lull. “Did anybody answer that bell?” A general
negative. “Did anybody ring that bell?” A sly shaking of heads. And
once more the inspired monody soared among the clouds, at last dropping
meditatively to the hearthstone: “Dear, dear, the fire is out!”

Langton was the centre of a group, wherever he happened to be, talking
delightfully, and twirling the oblong gold-mounted snuff-box, which
promptly appeared as sociabilities began: a conspicuous figure, with
his height, his courteous smile, his mild beauty, and his habit of
crossing his arms over his breast, or locking his hands together on
his knee. He was a great rider, and could run like a hound. He had a
queerness of constitution which seemed to leave him at his lowest ebb
every afternoon about two of the clock, forgetful, weary, confused,
and without an idea in his head; but after a little food, he was
himself again. At dinner-parties he usually rose fasting, “such was the
perpetual flow of his conversation, and such the incessant claim made
upon him.” A morning call from Mr. Langton was a thing to suggest the
eternal years; yet we are told that satiety dwelt not where he was;
like Cowley, “he never oppressed any man’s parts, or put any man out
of countenance.” He had much the same sense of humor as Beauclerk had,
and his speech was quite as full of good sense and direct observation,
if not as cutting. He indicted a fault of Edmund Burke’s in one extreme
stroke: “Burke whisks the end of his tail in the face of an arguer!”
Johnson, the arch-whisker of tails, was not to be brought to book; but
Burke’s greatness was of a texture to bear and enjoy the thrust. It is
curious that Langton was markedly fond of _Hudibras_; such a relish
indicates, perhaps, the turn his own wit might have taken, had it not
been held in by too much second thought.

Johnson was wont to announce that he valued Langton for his piety,
his ancient descent, his amiable behavior, and his mastery of Greek.
“Who in this town knows anything of Clenardus, sir, but you and I?”
he would say. In the midst of his talk Langton would fall into the
“vowelled undertone” of the tongue he loved, correcting himself with a
little wave of the hands, and the apologetic phrase: “And so it goes
on.” “Steeped to the lips in Greek” he was indeed, bursting out with
a joyous salute to the moon of Hellas, upon a friend’s doorstep, or
making grotesque Hellene puns, for his own delight,[47] upon the blank
leaves of a pocket-book. Every one familiar with Johnsoniana will
recall the charming and spirited retort written by Dr. Barnard, then
Dean of Derry, later, Bishop of Killaloe, which closes:

    “If I have thoughts and can’t express ’em,
     Gibbon shall teach me how to dress ’em
            In terms select and terse;
     Jones teach me modesty and Greek;
     Smith, how to think; Burke, how to speak;
            And Beauclerk, to converse!”

In all deference to the illustrious Sir William Jones, it may be
claimed that “modesty and Greek” were the very arts in which Langton
was a past-master. But he was an amateur, and a private scholar, and
his name was a dissyllable; else the Dean might have tossed at his feet
as pretty a compliment as that given in the last line to his colleague.
It must have gratified Johnson that Langton refused, at Reynolds’s
dinner-table, “like a sturdy scholar,” to sign the famous Round Robin
(not signed, either, by Beauclerk) which besought him to “disgrace the
walls of Westminster with an English inscription.” And as if to keep
Langton firmly of his own mind on the subject, it was to him the Doctor
confided the Greek quatrain, sad and proud, which he had dedicated to
Goldsmith’s[48] memory.

For Bennet Langton Johnson had no criticism but praise. He presented
him with pride to Young and to Richardson, described him handsomely to
Hannah More, and proceeded to draw his character for Miss Reynolds, ere
she had met him, with such “energy and fond delight” as she avowed she
never could forget. What fine ringing metal was Johnson’s commendation!
“He is one of those to whom Nature has not spread her volumes,
nor uttered her voices, in vain.” “Earth does not bear a worthier
gentleman.” “I know not who will go to Heaven if Langton does not.” And
in the sweetest and completest approval ever put by one mortal upon
another: “_Sit anima mea cum Langtono!_” Yet even with this “angel of a
man” the Doctor had one serious and ludicrous quarrel.

It was the fatal outcome of his uneven moods that he must needs be
disenchanted at times even with his best beadsmen: there came days
when he would deny Beauclerk’s good-humor to be anything but “acid,”
Langton’s anything but “muddy.” He considered it the sole grave
fault of the latter that he was too ready to introduce a religious
discussion into a mixed assembly, where he knew scarcely any two of
the company would be of the same mind. On Boswell’s suggestion that
this may have been done for the sake of instructing himself, Johnson
replied angrily that a man had no more right to take that means of
gaining information than he had to pit two persons against each other
in a duel for the sake of learning the art of self-defence. Some
indiscretion of this sort on Langton’s part seems to have alienated
the friends for the first and last time. It was during their transient
bitterness that the Doctor made the historic apology, across the table,
to Oliver Goldsmith; an incident which, however beautiful in itself,
was a hard back-handed hit at Langton, standing by. Croker’s conjecture
may be true that the business which threatened to break a fealty of
some sixteen years’ standing arose rather from Langton’s settling his
estate by will upon his sisters, whose tutor he had been. On hearing
of it, the Great Cham grumbled and fumed, politely applying to the
Misses Langton the title of “three dowdies!”[49] and shouting, in a
feudal warmth, that “an ancient estate, sir! an ancient estate should
always go to males.” In fact, the Doctor behaved very badly, very
sardonically, and was pleased to lay hold of a post by Temple Bar one
night, and roar aloud over a piece of possible folly up in Lincolnshire
which concerned him not in the least. But in due time the breach,
whatever its cause, was healed. The Doctor, in writing of it, uses
one of his balancing sentences: “Langton is a worthy fellow, without
malice, though not without resentment.” The two could not keep apart
very long, despite all the unreason in the world. “Johnson’s quarrels,”
Mr. Forster tells us, “were lovers’ quarrels.” Another memorable
passage-at-arms, rich in comedy, happened in the course of one of
Johnson’s sicknesses, when, in the cloistral silence of his chamber,
he solemnly implored Bennet Langton, always the companion who comforted
his sunless hours, to tell him wherein his life had been faulty. His
shy and sagacious monitor wrote down, as accusation enough, various
Scriptural texts recommending tolerance, humility, long-suffering,
and other meek ingredients which were not predominant in the sinner’s
social composition. The penitent earnestly thanked Langton on taking
the paper from his hand, but presently turned his short-sighted eyes
upon him from the pillow, and emerging from what his own verbology
would call a “frigorific torpor,” he exclaimed in a loud, wrathful,
suspicious tone: “What’s your drift, sir?” “And when I questioned him,”
so Johnson afterwards told his blustering tale—“when I questioned him
as to what occasion I had given him for such animadversion, all that
he could say amounted to this: that I sometimes contradicted people in
conversation! Now, what harm does it do any man to be contradicted?” To
this same paternal young Langton the rebel submitted his Latin verses;
the _Poemata_, in the shape in which we possess them, were rigorously
edited by him. And Johnson leaned upon him in more intimate ways, as he
could never lean upon Beauclerk. To the scrupulous nature instinctively
right he made comfortable confidences: “Men of harder minds than ours
will do many things from which you and I would shrink; yet, sir, they
will, perhaps, do more good in life than we.”

As to the Honorable Topham Beauclerk, more volatile than Langton, he
had as steady a “sunshine of cheerfulness” for his heritage. We find
him complaining to a friend in the July of 1773: “Every hour adds to
my misanthropy; and I have had a pretty considerable share of it for
some years past.” This incursion of low spirits was not normal with
him. Johnson, bewailing his own morbid habits of mind, once said: “Some
men, and very thinking men, too, have not these vexing thoughts. Sir
Joshua Reynolds is the same all the year round; Beauclerk, when not ill
and in pain, is the same.” Boswell attests that Beauclerk took more
liberties with Johnson than durst any man alive, and that Johnson was
more disposed to envy Beauclerk’s talents than those of any one he had
ever known. Born into the freedom of London, Beauclerk was familiar
with Fox, Selwyn, and Walpole, and with the St. James men who did not
ache to consort with Johnson; and he was quite their match in ease and
astuteness. He walked the modish world, where Langton could not and
would not follow; he alternated the Ship Tavern and the gaming-table
with the court levees; Davies’s shop with the golden insipidities of
the drawing-room; _la comédie_, _la danse_, _l’amour même_, with the
intellectual tie-wigs of Soho. It shows something of his spirit that
whereas no member of the Club save himself was a frequenter of White’s
and Betty’s,[50] or a chosen guest at Strawberry Hill, yet there was no
person of fashion whom he was not proud to make known to Doctor Johnson
whenever he judged the candidate for so genuine an honor worthy of it.
Some of these encounters must have been queer and memorable!

Beauclerk’s unresting sarcasm often flattened out Boswell and irritated
the Doctor, though Bennet Langton, in his abandonments of enthusiastic
optimism, was never more than grazed. It is not to be denied that this
spoiled child of the Club liked to worry Goldsmith, the maladroit great
man who might have quoted often on such occasions the sad gibe of
Hamlet:

    “I’ll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance
     Your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night,
     Stick fiery off indeed.”

What a pity that Goldsmith’s _Retaliation_ was never finished, so as
to include his portrait of Beau! He was “a pestilent wit,” as Anthony
à Wood calls Marvell. Johnson, shy creature! deplored Beauclerk’s
“predominance over his company.” The tyranny, however, was gracefully
and decorously exercised, if we are to believe the unique eulogy that
“no man was ever freer, when he was about to say a good thing, from a
look which expressed that it was coming; nor, when he had said it, from
a look which expressed that it had come.” Few human beings have had
a finer sense of fun than Topham Beauclerk. He had an infallible eye
for the values of blunders, and an incongruity came home to him like
a blessing from above. Life with him was a night-watch for diverting
objects and ideas. When he was not studying, he was disporting himself,
like the wits of the Restoration; and he was equal to all emergencies,
as they succeeded one another. Every specimen preserved of his talk
is perfect of its kind, and makes us long for a full index. Pointed
his speech was, always, and reminds one indeed of a foil, but without
the button; a dangerous little weapon, somewhat unfair, but carried
with such consummate flourish that those whom it pricks could almost
cheer it. “O Lord! how I did hate that horrid Beauclerk!” Mrs. Piozzi
scribbled once on the margin of Wraxall’s _Memoirs_, in an exquisite
feminine vindication of poor Beau’s accomplished tongue.

He was no disguiser of his own likes and dislikes. Politics he avoided
as much as possible; but he affected less concern in public matters
than he really felt. “Consecrate that time to your friends,” he writes
with mock severity to the ideal Irishman, Lord Charlemont, “which
you spend in endeavoring to promote the interests of a half-million
of scoundrels.” For his private business he had least zeal of all;
and cites “my own confounded affairs” as the cause of his going into
Lancashire. Beauclerk had great tact, boldness, and independence; his
natural scorn of an oppressor was his modern and democratic quality.
His idleness (for he was as idle by habit as Langton was by nature) he
recognized, and lightly deprecated. Fastidious in everything, he made
“one hour of conversation at Elmsley’s”[51] his standard of enjoyment,
and his imagined extreme of annoyance was “to be clapped on the back
by Tom Davies.” What he chose to call his leisure (again the ancestral
Stuart trait!) he dedicated to the natural sciences in his beloved
laboratory. “I see Mr. Beauclerk often, both in town and country,”
wrote Goldsmith to Bennet Langton; “he is now going directly forward
to become a second Boyle, deep in chemistry and physics.” When there
was some fanciful talk of setting up the Club as a college, “to draw
a wonderful concourse of students,” Beauclerk, by unanimous vote, was
elected to the professorship of Natural Philosophy.

Johnson’s influence on him, potent though it was, seems to have been
negative enough. It kept him from a few questionable things, and
preserved in him an outward decorum towards customs and established
institutions; but it failed to incite him to make of his manifold
talents the “illustrious figure” which Langton’s eyes discerned in a
vain anticipation. Beauclerk and the great High Churchman went about
much together, and had amusing experiences. On such occasions, as in
all their familiar intercourse, the disciple had the true salt of the
Doctor’s talk, which, as Hazlitt remarks, was often something quite
unlike “the cumbrous cargo of words” he kept for professional use. In
the late winter of 1765 the two visited Cambridge, Beauclerk having a
mind to call upon a friend at Trinity.

These, as we know, had their many differences, “like a Spanish great
galleon, and an English man-o’-war”; the one smooth, sharp, and civil,
the other indignantly dealing with the butt-end of personality. Boswell
gives a long account of a charming dispute concerning the murderer
of Miss Reay, and the evidence of his having carried two pistols.
Beauclerk was right; but Johnson, with quite as solid a sense of
virtue, was angry; and he was soothed at the end only by an adroit
and affectionate reply. “Sir,” the Doctor began, sternly, at another
time, after listening to some mischievous waggery, “you never open your
mouth but with the intention to give pain, and you often give me pain,
not from the power of what you say, but from seeing your intention.”
And again, he said to him whom he had compared to Alexander, marching
in triumph into Babylon: “You have, sir! a love of folly, and a scorn
of fools; everything you do attests the one, and everything you say
the other.”[52] Beauclerk could also lecture his mentor. It was his
steadfast counsel that the Doctor should devote himself to poetry, and
draw in his horns of dogma and didactics.

He had, ever ready, some quaint simile or odd application from the
classics; in the habit of “talking from books,” as the Doctor called
it, he was, however, distanced by Langton. Referring to that friend’s
habit of sitting or standing against the fireplace, with one long leg
twisted about the other, “as if fearing to occupy too much space,”
Beauclerk likened him, for all the world, to the stork in Raphael’s
cartoon of The Miraculous Draught.[53] One of Beauclerk’s happiest
hits, and certainly his boldest, was made while Johnson was being
congratulated upon his pension. “How much now it was to be hoped,”
whispered the young blood, in reference to Falstaff’s celebrated vow,
“that he would purge and live cleanly, as a gentleman should do!”
Johnson seems to have taken the hint in good-humor, and actually to
have profited by it.

Very soon after leaving Oxford, Beauclerk became engaged to a Miss
Draycott, whose family were well known to that affable blue-stocking,
Mrs. Montagu; but some coldness on his part, some sensitiveness on
hers, broke off the match. His fortune-hunting parent is said to have
been disappointed, as the lady owned several lead-mines in her own
right. That same year, with Bennet Langton for companion part of the
way, Beauclerk, whose health, never robust, now began to give him
anxiety, set out on a Continental tour. Baretti, whom he had met at
home, received him most kindly at Milan, thanks to Johnson’s urgent
and friendly letter. By his subsequent knowledge of Italian popular
customs, he was able to testify in Baretti’s favor, when the latter
was under arrest for killing his man in the Haymarket, and in concert
with Burke, Garrick, Goldsmith, and Johnson, to help him, in a very
interesting case, towards his acquittal. It was reported to Selwyn
that the handsome gambling Inglese was robbed at Venice of £10,000!
an incident which, perhaps, shortened his peregrinations. If the
report were accurate, it would prove that he could have been in no
immediate need of pecuniary rescue from his leaden sweetheart. It was
Dr. Johnson’s opinion, coinciding with the opinion of Roger Ascham on
the same general subject, that travel adds very little to one’s mental
forces, and that Beauclerk might have learned more in the Academe of
“Fleet Street, sir!”

Topham Beauclerk married Lady Diana Spencer, the eldest daughter of
the second Duke of Marlborough, as soon as she obtained a divorce from
her first husband. This was Frederick, Lord Bolingbroke, nephew and
heir of the great owner of that title; a very trying gentleman, who
was the restless “Bully” of Selwyn’s correspondence; he survived until
1787. The ceremony took place March 12, 1768, in St. George’s, Hanover
Square, “by license of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” both conspirators
being then residents of the parish. Lady Diana Spencer was born in
the spring of 1734, and was therefore in her thirty-fifth year, while
Beauclerk was but twenty-nine.[54] Johnson was disturbed, and felt
offended at first with the whole affair; but he never withdrew from the
agreeable society of Beauclerk’s wife. It is nothing wonderful that the
courtship and honey-moon was signalized by the forfeit of Beauclerk’s
place in the exacting Club, “for continued inattendance,” and not
regained for a considerable period. “They are in town, at Topham’s
house, and give dinners,” one of George Selwyn’s gossiping friends
wrote, after the wedding. “Lord Ancram dined there yesterday, and
called her nothing but Lady Bolingbroke the whole time!” Let us hope
that “Milady Bully” triumphed over her awkward guest, and looked, as
Earl March once described her under other difficulties, “handsomer than
ever I saw her, and not the least abashed;” or as deliberately easy as
when she entertained with her gay talk the nervous Boswell who awaited
the news of his election or rejection from the Club. She was a blond
goddess, exceedingly fair to see. In her middle age she fell under the
observant glance of delightful Fanny Burney, who did not fail to allow
her “pleasing remains of beauty.”

The _divorcée_ was fond of and faithful to her new lord, and no
drawback upon his æsthetic pride, inasmuch as she was an artist of no
mean merit. Horace Walpole built a room for the reception of some of
her drawings, which he called his Beauclerk Closet, “not to be shown
to all the profane that come to see the house,” and he always praised
them extravagantly. It is surer critical testimony in her favor that
her name figures yet in encyclopædias, and that Sir Joshua, the honest
and unbought judge, much admired her work, which Bartolozzi was kept
busy engraving. It was her series of illustrations to Bürger’s wild
ballad of _Leonora_ (with the dolly knight, the wooden monks, the
genteel heroine, and the vigorous spectres) which, long after, helped
to fire the young imagination of Shelley. It is to be feared that her
invaluable portrait of Samuel Johnson is not, or never was, extant.
“Johnson was confined for some days in the Isle of Skye,” writes her
rogue of a spouse, “and we hear that he was obliged to swim over to
the mainland, taking hold of a cow’s tail. . . . Lady Di has promised
to make a drawing of it.” Sir Joshua’s pretty “Una” is the little
Elizabeth, afterwards Countess of Pembroke, elder daughter of Lady Di
and Topham Beauclerk, painted the year her father died.

The family lived in princely style, both at their “summer quarters” at
Muswell Hill, and on Great Russell Street, where the library, set in a
great garden, reached, as Walpole mischievously gauged it, “half-way to
Highgate.” Lady Di, an admirable hostess, proved herself one of those
odd and rare women who take to their husbands’ old friends. Selwyn
she cordially liked, and her warmest welcome attended Langton, whom
she would rally for his remissness, when he failed to come to them at
Richmond. He could reach them so easily! she said; all he need do was
to lay himself at length, his feet in London and his head with them,
_eodem die_. This Richmond home remained her residence during her
widowhood. Walpole mentions a Thames boat-race in 1791, when he sat in
a tent “just before Lady Di’s windows,” and gazed upon “a scene that
only Richmond, on earth, can exhibit.” In the church of the same leafy
town her body rests.

Beauclerk died at his Great Russell Street house on March 11, 1780. He
had been failing steadily under visitations of his old trouble since
1777, when he lay sick unto death at Bath, and when his wife nursed
him tenderly into what seemed to Walpole a miraculous recovery. He was
but forty-one years old, and, for all his genius, left no more trace
behind than that Persian prince who suddenly disappeared in the shape
of a butterfly, and whom old Burton calls a “light phantastick fellow.”
His air of boyish promise, quite unconsciously worn, hoodwinked his
friends into prophecies of his fame. He did not give events a chance to
put immortality on his “bright, unbowed, insubmissive head.” Yet he was
bitterly mourned. “I would walk to the extent of the diameter of the
earth to save him,” cried Johnson, who had loved him for over twenty
years; and again, to Lord Althorp: “This is a loss, sir, that perhaps
the whole nation could not repair.” Boswell mentions the Doctor’s April
stroll, at this time, while he was writing his _Lives of the Poets_;
and tells us how, returning from a call on the widow of the companion
of his youth, David Garrick, he leaned over the rails of the Adelphi
Terrace, watching the dark river, and thinking of “two such friends
as cannot be supplied.” “Poor dear Beauclerk!” Johnson wrote, when his
violent grief had somewhat subsided, “_nec, ut soles, dabis joca!_ His
wit and his folly, his acuteness and his maliciousness, his merriment
and his reasoning, are alike over. Such another will not often be found
among mankind.” Beyond this well-known and characteristic summing-up,
the Doctor made no discoverable mention, in his correspondence, of his
bereavement, certainly not to the highly-prejudiced Mrs. Thrale, to
whom he wrote often and gayly in the year of Beauclerk’s death. Nor
shall we know how the catastrophe affected Bennet Langton; for all the
most interesting papers relating to him were destroyed when the old
Hall at Langton-by-Spilsby was burned in 1855. On this subject, as on
others as intimate, he stands, perforce, silent.

Readers may recall a passage in Miss Burney’s _Diary_ which gives
countenance to an accusation not borne out by any other testimony,
that Beauclerk and his wife had not lived happily together. Dining
at Sir Joshua’s at Richmond, in 1782, Edmund Burke, sitting next the
author of _Evelina_, took occasion, on catching sight of Lady Di’s
“pretty white house” through the trees, to rejoice in the fact that
she was well-housed, moneyed, and a widow. He added that he had never
enjoyed the good-fortune of another so keenly as in this blessed
instance. Then, turning to his new acquaintance, as the least likely
to be informed of the matter, he spoke in his own “strong and marked
expressions” of the singular ill-treatment Beauclerk had shown his
wife, and the “necessary relief” it must have been to her when he was
called away. The statement does not seem to have been gainsaid by any
of the company; nor was Burke liable to a slanderous error. So severe a
comment on Beauclerk, resting, even as it does, wholly on Miss Burney’s
veracity, ought, in fairness, to be incorporated into any sketch of the
man. On the other side, it is pleasant to discover that Beauclerk, in
his will, made five days before the end, bequeathed all he possessed to
his wife, and reverted to her the estates of his children, should they
die under age. There was but one bequest beyond these, and that was to
Thomas Clarke, the faithful valet. The executors named were Lady Di
and her brother, Lord Charles Spencer, who had also been groomsman at
the marriage, which, despite Burke and its own evil beginnings, it is
hard to think of as ill-starred. The joint guardians of Charles George
Beauclerk, the only son, were to be Bennet Langton and a Mr. Loyrester,
whom Dr. Johnson speaks of as “Leicester, Beauclerk’s relation, and a
man of good character;” but the guardianship, provisional in case of
Lady Di’s decease, never came into force, as she survived, in fullest
harmony with her three children, up to August 1, 1808, having entered
her seventy-fifth year. Various private legacies came to Langton, by
his old comrade’s dying wish, the most precious among them, perhaps,
being the fine Reynolds portrait of Johnson, which had been painted at
Beauclerk’s cost. Under it was inscribed:

            “_Ingenium ingens
    Inculto latet hoc sub corpore._”

Langton thoughtfully effaced the lines. “It was kind of you to take
it off,” said the burly Doctor, with a sigh; and then (for how could
he but recall the contrast of temperament in the two, as well as the
affectionate context of Horace?), “not unkind in him to have put it
on.” The collection of thirty thousand glorious books “_pernobilis
Angli T. Beauclerk_” was sold at auction. The advertisement alone is
royal reading. There is much amiable witness to the circumstance that
Beauclerk was not only an admirer but a buyer of his friends’ works.
From some kind busybody who attended the twenty-ninth day of the sale,
and pencilled his observations upon the margins of the catalogue now in
the British Museum, we learn that Goldsmith’s _History of the Earth and
Animated Nature_ (nothing less!), which was issued, with cuts, in the
year he died, was knocked down to the vulgar for two and threepence.
The shelves, naturally, were stocked with Johnsons. Things dear to
the bibliophile were there: innumerable first editions, black-letter,
mediæval manuscript, Elzevirs, priceless English and Italian classics,
gathered with real feeling and pride; but the most vivid personal
interest belonged to the unpretending Lot 3444, otherwise known to fame
as _The Rambler_, printed at Edinburgh in 1751; for that was the young
Beauclerk’s own copy, carried with him to Oxford, and with a fragrance,
as of a last century garden, of the first hearty friendship of boys.
One cannot help wishing that a sentimental fate left it in Langton’s
own hands.

Lady Beauclerk, Topham’s mother, had died in 1766; and he asked to be
buried beside her, or at her feet, in the old chapel of Garston, near
Liverpool: “an instance of tenderness,” said Johnson, “which I should
hardly have expected.” There, in the place of his choice, he rests,
without an epitaph.

After this the Doctor consoled himself more than ever with Bennet
Langton, and with the atmosphere of love and reverence which surrounded
him in Langton’s house. He had been of old the most desired of all
guests at the family seat in Lincolnshire. “Langton, sir!” as he
liked to announce, “had a grant of warren from Henry II.; and Cardinal
Stephen Langton, of King John’s reign, was of this family.” Peregrine
Langton, Bennet’s uncle, was a man of simple and benevolent habits, who
brought economy to a science, without niggardliness, and whom Johnson
declared to be one of those he clung to at once, both by instinct and
reason; Bennet’s father, learned, good, and unaffected, the prototype
of his learned, good, and unaffected son, was, however, a more
diverting character. He had sincerest esteem for Johnson, but looked
askance on him for his liberal views, and suspected him, indeed, of
being a Papist in secret! He once offered the Doctor a living of some
value in the neighborhood, with the suggestion that he should qualify
himself for Orders: a chance gravely refused. Of this exemplary but
rather archaic squire, Johnson, a dissector of everything he loved,
said: “Sir! he is so exuberant a talker in public meetings that the
gentlemen of his county are afraid of him. No business can be done
for his declamation.” In his behalf, too, Johnson produced one of his
most astounding words; for having understood that both Mr. and Mrs.
Langton were averse to having their portraits taken, he observed aloud
that “a superstitious reluctance to sit for one’s picture is among the
anfractuosities of the human mind.”

Bennet Langton married, on the 24th of May, 1770, Mary Lloyd, daughter
of the Countess of Haddington, and widow of John, the eighth Earl of
Rothes, the stern soldier in laced waistcoat and breastplate beneath,
painted by Sir Joshua. It was a common saying at the time that
everybody was welcome to a Countess Dowager of Rothes; for it did so
happen that three ladies bearing that title were all remarried within
a few years. Lady Rothes, although a native of Suffolk, had acquired
from long residence in Scotland the accent of that country, which Dr.
Johnson bore with magnanimously, on the consideration that it was not
indigenous. She had a handsome presence, full of easy dignity, and a
naturalness marked enough in the heyday of Georgian affectation. With
a vivacity very different from Lady Di Beauclerk’s, she kept herself
the spring and centre of Langton’s tranquil domestic circle: a more
womanly woman historiographers cannot find. His own charm of character,
after his marriage, slipped more and more into the underground channels
of home-life, and so coursed on beneficently in silence. Their children
were no fewer than nine,[55] “not a plain face nor faulty person
among them:” the goddess daughters six feet in height, and the three
sons so like their Maypole father that they were able once to amuse
the Parisians by raising their arms to let a crowd pass. Langton was
wont to repeat with some glee certain jests about his height, and Dr.
Johnson’s nickname of “Lanky” he took ever with excellent grace; and
when Garrick had leaped upon a chair to shake hands with him, in old
days, he had knelt, at parting, to shake hands with Garrick. But the
King’s awkward digs at his “long legs” he found terribly distasteful,
nor was he thereby disposed to agree with the Doctor’s enthusiastic
proclamation, after the famous interview of 1767, that George III. was
“as fine a gentleman as Charles II.”

It was his cherished plan to educate his boys and girls at home, and
to give them a thorough acquaintance with the learned languages. No
social engagements were to stand in the way of this prime exigency. He
was in great haste to turn his young brood into Masters and Mistresses
of Arts. Johnson complained to Miss Burney, as they were both taking
tea at Mrs. Thrale’s, that nothing would serve Langton but to stand
them up before company, and get them to repeat a fable or the Hebrew
alphabet, supplying every other word himself, and blushing with pride
at the vicarious learning of his infants. But another of the tedious
royal jokes, “How does Education go on?” actually lessened his devotion
to his self-set task, and worried him like the water-drop in the
story, which fell forever on a criminal’s head until it had drilled
his brain. Again, both he and his wife, even after they had moved into
the retirement of Great George Street, Westminster, in pursuance of
their design, were far too agreeable and too accessible to be spared
the incursions of society. In a word, Minerva found her seat shaken,
and her altar-fires not very well tended, and therefore withdrew.
Langton impressed one axiom on his young scholars which they never
forgot: “Next best to knowing is to be sensible that you do not know.”
An entirely superfluous waif of a baby was once left at the doors of
this same many-childrened house, to be fed, clothed, and petted by Mr.
Bennet Langton and Lady Rothes, without protest. Dr. Johnson, who made
friends with all children, was especially attached to their third girl,
his god-daughter, whom he called “pretty Mrs. Jane,” and “my own little
Jenny.” The very last year of his life her “most humble servant” sent
her a loving letter, extant yet, and written purposely in a large round
hand as clear as print.

“Langton’s children are very pretty,” Johnson wrote to Boswell in
1777, “and his lady loses her Scotch.” But again, during the same
year, condescendingly: “I dined lately with poor dear Langton. I do
not think he goes on well. His table is rather coarse, and he has his
children too much about him.” Boswell takes occasion, in reproducing
this censure, to reprehend the custom of introducing the children after
dinner: a parental indulgence to which he, at least, was not addicted.
The Doctor gave him a mild nudge on the subject in remarking later:
“I left Langton in London. He has been down with the militia, and is
again quiet at home, talking to his little people, as I suppose you
do sometimes.” While Langton was in camp on Warley Common, in command
of the Lincolnshire troops, Johnson spent with him five delightful
days, admiring his tall captain’s blossoming energies, and poking
about curiously among the tents. Langton had fallen, little by little,
into a confirmed extravagance, so that the moral of Uncle Peregrine’s
sagacious living bade fair to be lost upon him. Boswell had a quarrel
with Johnson on the subject of Langton’s expenditure, during the course
of which, according to his own report, the Laird of Auchinleck suffered
a “horrible shock” by being told that the best way to drive Langton out
of his costly house would be to put him (Boswell) into it. The Doctor
was truly concerned, nevertheless, about his engaging spendthrift; up
to the very end, he would implore him to keep account-books, even if
he had to omit his Aristophanes. “He complains of the ill effects of
habit,” grumbled the great moralizer, “and he rests content upon a
confessed indolence. He told his father himself that he had ‘no turn
for economy!’ but a thief might as well plead that he had no turn for
honesty.” Such were the hard hits sacred to those Dr. Johnson most
esteemed. It transpires from his will that, by way of discouragement,
he had lent Langton £750.[56]

In the winter of 1785, Langton came from the country, and took lodgings
in Fleet Street, in order to sit beside Johnson as he lay dying, and
hold his hand. Nor was he alone in his pious offices: the Hooles, Mr.
Sestre, and several others were there, to keep constant vigil. Miss
Burney met Langton in the passage December 11th, two days before the
end: “He could not,” she wrote in her journal, “look at me, nor I at
him.” But through the foggy and restless nights when Johnson tried
to cheer himself, like More and Master William Lilly, by translating
into Latin some epigrams from the _Anthologia_, the true Grecian
beside him must have been his chief comfort. One can picture the old
eyes turning to him for sympathy, perhaps with that same murmured
“Lanky!” on awaking, which Boswell laughed to hear from him one merry
Hebridean morning, twelve years before. The last summons did not come
in Langton’s presence. Hurrying over to Bolt Court at eight of the
fatal evening, he was told that all was over three-quarters of an hour
ago. That large soul had gone away, as Leigh Hunt so beautifully said
of Coleridge, “to an infinitude hardly wider than his thoughts.” Then
Langton, who was wont to shape his words with grace and ease, went
up-stairs, and tried to pen a letter to Boswell, which is more touching
than tears: “I am now sitting in the room where his venerable remains
exhibit a spectacle, the interesting solemnity of which, difficult as
it would be in any sort to find terms to express, so to you, my dear
sir, whose sensations will paint it so strongly, it would be of all men
the most superfluous to”—and there, hopelessly choked and confused, it
broke off.

Langton bore Johnson’s pall; and he succeeded him as Professor of
Ancient Literature in the Royal Academy, as Gibbon had replaced
Goldsmith in the chair of Ancient History. He survived many years,
the delight of his company to the last. He, like others, was given
in his later years to detailing anecdotes of his great friend, with
an approximation to that friend’s manner. One lady critic, at least,
thought that these explosive imitations did not become “his own serious
and respectable character.” On December 18, 1801, in Anspach Place,
Southampton, a venerable nook “between the walls and the sea,” when
Wordsworth, Scott, and Coleridge were yet in their unheralded prime,
when Charles Lamb was twenty-six, Byron a dreaming boy on the Cotswold
hills, and Keats and Shelley little fair-eyed children, gentle Bennet
Langton, known to none of these, and somewhat forgotten as a loiterer
from the march of a glorious yesterday, slipped out of life. “I am
persuaded,” wrote one who knew him well, “that all his inactivity, all
the repugnance he showed to putting on the harness of this world’s
toil, arose from the spirituality of his frame of mind . . . I believe
his mind was in Heaven, wheresoever he corporeally existed.” He was
laid under the chancel of ancient St. Michael’s at Southampton, with
Johnson’s fond benison, “Be my soul with Langton’s!” inscribed on the
marble tablet above him.[57] The Rev. John Wooll of Midhurst, Joseph
Warton’s editor, was one of the few present at the funeral ceremony,
and he leaves us to infer that it had a rather neglectful privacy,
not, indeed, out of keeping with the “godly, righteous, and sober
life” it closed. Langton’s will, drawn up in the June of 1800, and
preserved in Somerset House, devised to the sole executrix, his “dear
wife,” who outlived him by nearly twenty years, his real and personal
estate, his books, his wines, his prints, his horses, and, as a gift
particularly pretty, his right of navigation in the river Wey. George
Langton was separately provided for, but there were some £8000 for the
eight younger children. The document is crowded with technical details,
and very long; and the manifest inference, on the whole, is that the
dear squire’s affairs were in a prodigious tangle. There is no wish
expressed concerning his burial, and, what is more curious, there
are no Christian formulas for the committal of the _animula vagula
blandula_: a lack perhaps not to be wondered at in Beauclerk’s concise
testament, but somewhat notable in the case of a person who certainly
had a soul.

So went Beauclerk first of the three, Langton last, with the good ghost
still between them, as he in his homespun, they in their flowered
velvet, had walked many a year together on this earth. The old
companionship had undergone some sorry changes ere it fell utterly to
dust and ashes. Its happy prime had been in the Oxford “Longs,” when
the Doctor humored his lads, and tented under their roofs, plucking
flowers at one house, and romping with dogs at the other; or in 1764,
at the starting of the immortal Club, when the two of its founders, who
had no valid or pretended claim to celebrity, perched on the sills like
useful genii, with a mission to overrule sluggish melancholy, and renew
the sparkle in abstracted eyes. How supereminently they did what they
chose to do, and what vagaries they roused out of Johnson’s profound
hypochondria! Did not Topham Beauclerk’s mother once have to reprove
that august author for a suggestion to seize some pleasure-grounds
which they were passing in a carriage? “Putting such things into young
people’s heads!” said she. Where could the innocent Beauclerk’s elbow
have been at that moment, contrary to the canons of polite society,
but in the innocent Langton’s ribs? The gray reprobate, so censured,
explained to Boswell: “Lady Beauclerk has no notion of a joke, sir! She
came late into life, and has a mighty unpliable understanding.” Who
can forget the Doctor’s visit to Beauclerk at Windsor, when, falling
into the clutches of that gamesome and ungodly youth, he was beguiled
from church-going of a fine Sunday morning, and strolled about outside,
talking and laughing during sermon-time, and finally spread himself at
length on a mossy tomb, only to be told, with a giggle and a pleased
rub of the hands, that he was as bad as Hogarth’s Idle Apprentice?
Or the other visit in the north, when, after ceremoniously relieving
his pockets of keys, knife, pencil, and purse, Samuel Johnson, LL.D.,
deliberately rolled down a hill, and landed, betumbled out of all
recognition, at the bottom? Langton had tried to dissuade him, for the
incline was very steep, and the candidate scarcely of the requisite
suppleness. “Oh, but I haven’t had a roll for such a long time!”
pleaded his unanswerable big guest.

Best of all, we have the history of that memorable morning when
Beauclerk and Langton, having supped together at a city tavern, roused
Johnson at three o’clock at his Inner Temple Lane Chambers, and brought
him to the door, fearful but aggressive, in his shirt and his little
dark wig, and his slippers down at the heels, armed with a poker.
“What! and is it YOU? Faith, I’ll have a frisk with you, ye young
dogs!” We have visions of the Covent Garden inn, and the great brimming
bowl, with Lord Lansdowne’s drinking-song for grace; the hucksters and
fruiterers staring at the strange central figure, always sure to gather
a mob, even during the moment he would stand by a lady’s coach-door
in Fleet Street; the merry boat going its way by oar to Billingsgate,
its mad crew bantering the watermen on the river; and two of the
roisterers (equally wild, despite a little chronological disparity
of thirty years or so) scolding the other for hastening off, on an
afternoon appointment, “to dine with wretched unidea’d girls!” What
golden vagabondism! “I heard of your frolic t’other night; you’ll be in
_The Chronicle_! . . . I shall have my old friend to bail out of the
round-house!” said Garrick. “As for Garrick, sirs,” tittered the pious
Johnson aside to his accomplices, “he dare not do such a thing. His
wife would not let him!” All this mirth and whim sweetened the Doctor’s
heavy life. He had other intimates, other disciples. But these were Gay
Heart and Gentle Heart, who drove his own blue-devils away with their
idolatrous devotion, and whose bearing towards him stands ever as the
best possible corroboration of his great and warm nature. With him
and for him, they so fill the air of the time that to whomsoever has
but thought of them that hour, London must seem lonely without their
idyllic figures.

                          —“Our day is gone:
    Clouds, dews, and dangers come; our deeds are done.”

There are gods as good for the after-years; but Odin is down, and his
pair of unreturning birds have flown west and east.

FOOTNOTES:

[45] A popular eighteenth-century beverage, composed of wine, orange,
and sugar.

[46] Although Langton is recorded on his college books as having given
the usual £10 for plate, and also as having paid his caution money
in 1757, his name is not down upon the matriculation lists, possibly
because he failed to appear at the moment the entries were being made.
In what must have been his destined space upon one of the pages, Dr.
Ingram made this note: “Q. Num Bennet Langton hic inserendus?”

[47] A boyish fashion of self-entertainment afterwards in great favor
with Shelley.

[48] It is a pleasant thing to remember that it was Langton, always an
appreciator of Goldsmith’s lovable genius, who suggested “Auburn” as
the name for his _Deserted Village_. There is a hamlet called Auborne
in Lincolnshire.

[49] Langton’s sisters are generally spoken of as three in number. But
Burke’s _History of the Landed Gentry_ mentions but two, Diana and
Juliet. There was a younger brother, Ferne, who died in boyhood, and
the floral name, not unlike a girl’s, may have been responsible for the
confusion.

[50] The fruiterer.

[51] The bookseller’s.

[52] Rochester, in his immortal epigram, had said the same of King
Charles II.

[53] This neat descriptive stroke has been attributed also to Richard
Paget.

[54] The register of St. George’s betrays a little eager blunder of
Lady Di’s which is amusing. When the officiating curate asked her to
sign, she wrote “Diana Beauclerk,” and was obliged to cross out the
signature—one knows with what a smile and a flush!—and substitute the
“Diana Spencer” which stands beside it.

[55] Miss Hawkins says “ten,” and may have had the extra adopted child
in mind.

[56] It is a pity he did not live to read the jolly _American Ballad
of Bon Gaultier_, which seems to have a sort of muddled clairvoyant
knowledge of this transaction:

“Every day the huge Cawana Lifted up its monstrous jaws; And it
swallowed Langton Bennet,(!) And digested Rufus Dawes.

“Riled, I ween, was Philip Slingsby Their untimely deaths to hear; For
one author owed him money,(!) And the other loved him dear.”

[57] The church has since been “restored,” and the fine epitaph is now
(1890) “skyed” on the south wall of the nave.



V

WILLIAM HAZLITT

1778-1830


THE titles of William Hazlitt’s first books bear witness to the ethic
spirit in which he began life. From his beloved father, an Irish
dissenting minister, he inherited his unworldliness, his obstinacy, his
love of inexpedient truth, and his interest in the emancipation and
well-being of his fellow-creatures. Bred in an air of seriousness and
integrity, the child of twelve announced by post that he had spent “a
very agreeable day” reading one hundred and sixty pages of Priestley,
and hearing two good sermons. A year later he appeared, under a Greek
signature, in _The Shrewsbury Chronicle_, protesting against sectarian
injustice; an infant herald in the great modern movement towards fair
play. The roll of the portentous periods must have made his father
weep for pride and diversion. William’s young head was full of moral
philosophy and jurisprudence, and he had what is the top of luxury
for one of his temperament: perfect license of mental growth. Alone
with his parents (one of whom was always a student and a recluse),
and for the most part without the school-fellows who are likely to
adjust the perilous effects of books, he became choked with theories,
and thought more of the needful repeal of the Test Act than of his
breakfast. He found his way at fourteen into the Unitarian College at
Hackney, but eventually broke from his traces, saving his fatherland
from the spectacle of a unique theologian. During the year 1795 he
saw the pictures at Burleigh House, and began to live. Desultory but
deep study, at home and near home, took up the time before his first
leisurely choice of a profession. His lonely broodings, his early
love for Miss Railton, his four enthusiastic months at the Louvre,
his silent friendship with Wordsworth and with Coleridge; the country
walks, the pages and prints, the glad tears of his youth,—these were
the fantastic tutors which formed him; nor had he ever much respect for
any other kind of training. The lesson he prized most was the lesson
straight from life and nature. He comments, tartly enough, on the
sophism that observation in idleness, or the growth of bodily skill and
social address, or the search for the secret of honorable power over
people, is not in any wise to be accounted as learning. Montaigne, who
was in Hazlitt’s ancestral line, was of this mind: “_Ce qu’on sçait
droictement, on en dispose sans regarder au patron, sans tourner les
yeulx vers son livre._” Hazlitt insists, too, that learned men are
but “the cisterns, not the fountain-heads, of knowledge.” He hated
the schoolmaster, and has said as witty things of him as Mr. Oscar
Wilde. Yet his little portrait-study of the mere book-worm, in _The
Conversation of Authors_, has a never-to-be-forgotten sweetness. His
mental nurture was serviceable; it was of his own choosing; it fitted
him for the work he had to do. Like Marcus Aurelius, he congratulated
himself that he did not squander his youth “chopping logic and scouring
the heavens.” Hazlitt once entered upon an _Inquiry whether the Fine
Arts are promoted by Academies_; the answer, from him, is readily
anticipated.

    “If arts and schools reply,”

he might have added,—and it is a wonder that he did not,

    “Give arts and schools the lie!”

Mr. Matthew Arnold made a famous essay on the same topic, and some
readers recollect distinctly that his verdict, for England, would be
in the affirmative, whereas it was no such matter. Now, no man can
conceive of Hazlitt presenting both sides of a case so impartially as
to be misunderstood, especially upon so vital a subject. He pastured,
he was not trained; and therefore he would have you and your children’s
children scoff at universities. Indeed, though the boy’s lack of
discipline told on him all through life, his reader regrets nothing
else which a university could have given him, except, perhaps, milder
manners. Hazlitt was perfectly aware that he had too little general
knowledge; but general knowledge he did not consider so good a tool for
his self-set task in life as a persistent, passionate study of one or
two subjects. Again, he is pleased to conjecture, with bluntness, that
if he had learned more he would have thought less. (Perhaps he was the
friend cited by Elia, who gave up reading to improve his originality!
He was certainly useful to Elia in delicate and curious ways: a whole
vein of rich eccentricity ready for that sweet philosopher’s working.)
Hear him pronouncing upon himself at the very end: “I have, then, given
proof of some talent and more honesty; if there is haste and want of
method, there is no common-place, nor a line that licks the dust. If
I do not appear to more advantage, I at least appear such as I am.”
Divorce that remark and the truth of it from Hazlitt, and there is
no Hazlitt left. He stood for individualism. He wrote from what was,
in the highest degree for his purpose, a full mind, and with that
blameless conscious superiority which a full mind must needs feel in
this empty world. His whole intellectual stand is taken on the positive
and concrete side of things. He has a fine barbaric cocksureness; he
dwells not with althoughs and neverthelesses, like Mr. Symonds and Mr.
Saintsbury. “I am not one of those,” he says, concerning Edmund Kean’s
first appearance in London, “who, when they see the sun breaking from
behind a cloud, stop to inquire whether it is the moon.” And he takes
enormous interest in his own promulgation, because it is inevitably
not only what he thinks, but what he has long thought. He delivers an
opinion with the air proper to a host who is master of a vineyard, and
can furnish name and date to every flagon he unseals.

None of Hazlitt’s energies went to waste: he earned his soul early, and
how proud he was of the possession! Retrospection became his forward
horizon. He was all aglow at the thought of that beatific yesterday;
in his every mood “the years that are fled knock at the door, and
enter.” He struggled no more thereafter, having fixed his beliefs and
found his voice. He saw no occasion to change. “As to myself,” he wrote
at fifty, referring to Lamb’s well-known “surfeits of admiration”
concerning some objects once adored, “as to myself, any one knows
where to have me!” He adds: “In matters of taste and feeling, one
proof that my conclusions have not been quite shallow or hasty is the
circumstance of their having been lasting. . . . This continuity of
impression is the only thing on which I pride myself.” A fine saying in
the _Boswell Redivivus_, attributed to Opie, is as clearly expressed
elsewhere by Hazlitt’s self: that a man in his lifetime can do but
one thing; that there is but one effort and one victory, and all the
rest is as machinery in motion. “What I write costs me nothing, but it
cost me a great deal twenty years ago. I have added little to my stock
since then, and taken little from it.” His sensations, latterly, were
“July shoots,” graftings on the old sap. It is his boast in almost his
final essay that his tenacious brain holds fast while the planets are
turning. He can look at a child’s kite in heaven, to the last, with the
eyes of a child: “It pulls at my heart.”

His conservative habit, however, seemed to teach him everything by
inference. In 1821, familiar with none of the elder dramatists save
Shakespeare, he borrowed their folios, and shut himself up for six
weeks at Winterslow Hut on Salisbury Plain. He returned to town steeped
in his theme, and with the beautiful and authoritative _Lectures_
written. Appreciation of the great Elizabethans is common enough now;
seventy years ago, propagated by Lamb’s _Specimens_, 1808, it was the
business only of adventurers and pioneers. Here is a critic indeed who,
without a suspicion of audacity, can arise as a stranger to arraign
the _Arcadia_, and “shake hands with Signor Orlando Friscobaldo as the
oldest acquaintance” he has! The thing, exceptional as it was, proves
that William Hazlitt knew his resources. His devoted friend Patmore
attributes his “unpremeditated art,” terse, profound, original, and
always moving at full speed, to two facts: “first, that he never, by
choice, wrote on any topic or question in which he did not, for some
reason or other, feel a deep personal interest; and, secondly, because
on all questions on which he did so feel, he had thought, meditated,
and pondered, in the silence and solitude of his own heart, for years
and years before he ever contemplated doing more than thinking of
them.” Unlike a distinguished historian, who, according to Horace
Walpole, “never understood anything until he had written of it,”
Hazlitt brought to his every task a mind violently made up, and a
vocation for special pleading which nothing could withstand.

Sure as he is, he means to be nobody’s hired guide: a resolve for
which the general reader cannot be too grateful. In wilful and mellow
study of what chance threw in his way his strength grew, and his
limitations with it. It is small wonder that he hated schoolmasters,
and the public which expected of him schoolmaster platitudes. He had
a pride of intellect not unlike Rousseau’s, and he seems to have had
ever in mind Rousseau’s cardinal declaration that if he were no better
than other men, he was at least different from them. Hazlitt defined
his own functions with proper haughtiness, in the amusing apology of
_Capacity and Genius_. “I was once applied to, in a delicate emergency,
to write an article on a difficult subject for an encyclopædia; and was
advised to take time, and give it a systematic and scientific form;
to avail myself of all the knowledge that was to be obtained upon the
subject, and arrange it with clearness and method. I made answer that,
as to the first, I _had_ taken time to do all that I ever pretended
to do, as I had thought incessantly on different matters for twenty
years of my life; that I had no particular knowledge of the subject
in question, and no head for arrangement; that the utmost I could do,
in such a case, would be, when a systematic and scientific article
was prepared, to write marginal notes upon it, to insert a remark or
illustration of my own (not to be found in former encyclopædias!) or to
suggest a better definition than had been offered in the text.”[58]
Such independence nobly became him, and none the less because it kept
him poor. But in the course of time, he had to work, and keep on
working, under wretched disadvantages. He had spurts of revolt, after
long experience of compulsory composition; his darling wish in 1822
(confided to his wife, of all persons) being that he “could marry some
woman with a good fortune, that he might not be under the necessity of
writing another line!”

There was in him absolutely nothing of the antiquary and the
scholar, as the modern world understands those most serviceable
gentlemen. He was a “surveyor,” as he said, erroneously, of Bacon.
He was continuously drawn into the byway, and ever in search of the
accidental, the occult; he lusted, like Sir Thomas Browne, to find the
great meanings of minor things. The “pompous big-wigs” of his day, as
Thackeray called them, hated his informality, his boldly novel methods,
his vivacity and enthusiasm. He had, within proscribed bounds, an
exquisite and affectionate curiosity, like that of the Renaissance.
“The invention of a fable is to me the most enviable exertion of human
genius: it is the discovery of a truth to which there is no clew, and
which, when once found out, can never be forgotten.” “If the world were
good for nothing else, it would be a fine subject for speculation.” It
is his deliberate dictum that it were “worth a life” to sit down by an
Italian wayside, and work out the reason why the Italian supremacy in
art has always been along the line of color, not along the line of form.

He depended so entirely upon his memory that those who knew him best
say that he never took notes, neither in gallery, library, nor theatre;
yet his inaccuracies are few and slight,[59] and he must have secured
by this habit a prodigious freedom and luxury in the act of writing.
He would rather stumble than walk according to rule; and he was so
pleasantly beguiled with some of his own images (that, for instance,
of immortality the bride of the youthful spirit, and of the procession
of camels seen across the distance of three thousand years) that he
reiterates them upon every fit occasion. He cites, twice and thrice,
the same passages from the Elizabethans. He is a masterly quoter, and
lingers like a suitor upon the borders of old poesy. His infallibility,
like the Pope’s, is of narrow scope and nicely defined. When he steps
beyond his accustomed tracks, which is seldom, his vagaries are
entertaining. You may account for his declaration that Thomas Warton’s
sonnets rank as the very best in the language, by reflecting that he
dealt not in sonnets and knew nothing of them; if he prefer _Hercules
Raging_ to any other Greek tragedy, it is collateral proof that he was
no wide-travelled Grecian, nor even Euripideian; when he gives his
distinguished preference to Shakespeare’s Helena, there is small need
of adding that Mr. Hazlitt, albeit with an affectionate friendship for
Mary Lamb, with a mother, a sister, a dynasty of sweethearts, and two
wives, was notoriously unlearned in women.[60]

The events of his life count for so little that they are hardly worth
recording. He was born into a high-principled and intelligent family,
at Mitre Lane, Maidstone, Kent, on the 10th of April, in the year 1778.
His infancy was passed there and in Ireland, his boyhood in New England
and in Shropshire. Prior to a long visit to Paris, where he made some
noble copies of Titian, he came in 1802 to Bloomsbury, where his
elder brother John, an advanced Liberal in politics and an excellent
miniature-painter, had a studio; and here he worked at art for several
joyous years, finally abandoning it for literature. The portraits he
painted, utterly lacking in grace, are fraught with power and meaning;
few of these are extant, thanks to the fading and cracking pigments
of the modern schools. The old Manchester woman in shadow, done in
1803, and the head of his father, dating from a twelvemonth later (two
things to which Hazlitt makes memorable reference in his essays),
are no longer distinguishable, save to a very patient eye, upon the
blackened canvases in his grandson’s possession. The picture of the
child Hartley Coleridge, begun at the Lakes in 1802, has perished
from the damp; that of Charles Lamb in the Venetian doublet survives
since 1804, in its serious and primitive browns,[61] as the best-known
example of an English artist not in the catalogues. Its historic value,
however, is not superior to that of two portraits of Hazlitt himself:
one a study in strong light and shade, with a wreath upon the head,
now very much time-eaten; and another representing him at about the
age of twenty-five, with a three-quarters front face looking over the
right shoulder, which appeals to the spectator like spoken truth. It
is all but void of the beauty characterizing the striking Bewick head
(especially as retouched and reproduced in Mr. Alexander Ireland’s
valuable book of 1889, which is a sort of Hazlitt anthology), and
characterizing, no less, John Hazlitt’s charming miniatures of William
at five and at thirteen; therefore it can deal in no self-flattery.
Fortunately, we have from the hand which knew him best the lank, odd,
reserved youth in whom great possibilities were brewing; thought and
will predominate in this portrait, and it expresses the sincere soul.
It would be idle to criticise the technique of a work disowned by its
author. Hazlitt had, as we know from much testimony, a most interesting
and perplexing face, with the magnificent brow almost belied by
shifting eyes, and the petulance and distrust of the mouth and chin;
but a face prepossessing on the whole from the clear marble of his
complexion,[62] remarkable in a land of ruddy cheeks. His lonely and
peculiar life lent him its own hue; the eager look of one indeed a
sufferer, but with the light full upon him of visions and of dreams:

    “_Chi pallido si fece sotto l’ombra
    Sì di Parnaso, o bevve in sua cisterna?_”

In 1798 Hazlitt had his immortal meeting at Wem with Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. He described himself at this period as “dumb, inarticulate,
helpless, like a worm by the wayside,” striving in vain to put on paper
the thoughts which oppressed him, shedding tears of vexation at his
inability, and feeling happy if in eight years he could write as many
pages. The abiding influence of his First Poet he has acknowledged
in an imperishable chapter. For a long while he still kept in “the
o’erdarkened ways” of Malthus and Tucker, or in the shadow, dear to
him, of Hobbes; but in 1817 the floodgates broke, the pure current
gushed out; and in the _Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays_ we have the
primal pledge of Hazlitt as we know him, “such as had never been before
him, such as will never be again.” From a “dumbness” and diffidence
extreme, he developed into the readiest of writers; his sudden pages,
year after year, transcribed in his slant large hand, went to the
printers rapidly and at first draft. The longer he used his dedicated
pen, the freer, the brighter, the serener it grew. In the fourteen or
fifteen of his books which deal with genius and the conduct of life,
there is, throughout, an indescribable unaffected zest, a self-same
and unwavering certitude of handling. Once he learned his trade, he
gave himself a large field and an easy rein. He never warmed towards
a subject chosen for him. His conversation was non-professional. He
considered a discussion as to the likelihood of the weather’s holding
up for to-morrow as “the end and privilege of a life of study.”

In London, as soon as he had abandoned painting, he became a
parliamentary reporter, and began to lecture on the English
philosophers and metaphysicians. He furnished his famous dramatic
criticisms to _The Morning Chronicle_, _The Champion_, _The Examiner_,
and _The Times_, and he acted later as home editor of _The Liberal_.
He married, on May-day of 1808, Miss Sarah Stoddart, who owned the
property near Salisbury where he afterwards spent melancholy years
alone. He fulfilled one human duty perfectly, for he loved and reared
his son. A most singular infatuation for the unlovely daughter of his
landlady; a second inauspicious marriage in 1824 with a Mrs. Isabella
Bridgwater; a prolonged journey on the Continent; the failure of
the publishers of his _Life of Napoleon_, which thus in his needful
days brought him no competence; a long illness heroically borne, and
a burial in the parish churchyard of St. Anne’s, under a headstone
raised, in a romantic remorse after an estrangement, by Charles Wells,
the author of _Joseph and his Brethren_,—these round out the meagre
details of Hazlitt’s life. He died in the arms of his son and of his
old friend Charles Lamb,[63] on the 18th of September, 1830, at 6 Frith
Street, Soho.

His domestic experiences, indeed, had been nearly as extraordinary as
Shelley’s. Sarah Walker, of No. 9 Southampton Buildings, is a sort of
burlesque counterpart of that other “spouse, sister, angel,” Emilia
Viviani. Nothing in literary history is much funnier than Mr. Hazlitt’s
kind assistance to Mrs. Hazlitt in securing her divorce, going to visit
her at Edinburgh, and supplying funds and advice over the teacups,
while the process was pending, unless it be Shelley’s ingenuous
invitation to his deserted young wife to come and dwell forever with
himself and Mary! The silent dramatic withdrawal of the second Mrs.
Hazlitt, the well-to-do relict of a colonel, who is henceforth
swallowed up in complete oblivion, is a feature whose like is missing
in Shelley’s romance. Events in Hazlitt’s path were not many, and his
inner calamities seem somehow subordinated to exterior workings. It is
not too much to say that to the French Revolution and the white heat of
hope it diffused over Europe he owed the renewal of the very impetus
within him: his moral probity, his mental vigor, and his physical
cheer. His measure of men and things was fixed by its standard. Other
enthusiasts wavered and went back to the flesh-pots of Egypt, but not
he. _Et cuncta terrarum subacta præter atrocem animum Catonis._ Towards
the grandest inconsistency this world has seen, he bore himself with a
consistency nothing less than touching. Everywhere, always, as a friend
who understood him well reminds a later generation, “Hazlitt was the
only man of letters in England who dared openly to stand by the French
Revolution, through good and evil report, and who had the magnanimity
never to turn his back upon its child and champion.” The ruin of
Napoleon, and the final news that “the hunter of greatness and of glory
was himself a shade,” meant more to him than the relinquishment of
his early and cherished art, or the fading of the long dream that his
heart “should find a heart to speak to.” On his last autumn afternoon,
he said what no one else would have dared to say for him: “I have had
a happy life.” Such it was, if we are to compute happiness by souls,
and not by the incidents which befall them. What were the things
which atoned to this reformer for the curse of a mind too sentient,
a heart never far from breaking? Over and above all amended and
amending abuses, the memory of the Rembrandts on the walls of Burleigh
House; the waving crest of the Tuderley woods; the sky, the turf, “a
winding road, and a three-hours’ march to dinner”; the impersonator of
Richard III. most to his mind, who lighted the stage, “and fought as
if drunk with wounds”; and the figure (how pastoral and tender!) of
the shepherd-boy bringing a nest for his young mistress’s sky-lark,
“not doomed to dip his wings in the dappled dawn.” What heresy to
the ancients would be this creed of poetic compensation! Montesquieu
adhered to it; but hardly from baffled and impassioned Hazlitt, dying
in his prime, would the avowal have been expected. Yet he had written
almost always, as Jeffrey saw, in “a happy intoxication.” Like the
sundial, in one of the most charming among his miscellaneous essays, he
kept count only of the hours of joy.

Hazlitt’s erratic levees among coffee-house wits and politicians, his
slack dress, his rich and fitful talk, his beautiful fierce head, go to
make up any accurate impression of the man. Mr. P. G. Patmore has drawn
him for us; a strange portrait from a steady hand: in certain moods
“an effigy of silence,” pale, anxious, emaciated, with an awful look
ever and anon, like the thunder-cloud in a clear heaven, sweeping over
his features with still fury.[64] He was so much at the mercy of an
excitable and extra-sensitive organization that an accidental failure
to return his salute upon the street, or, above all, the gaze of a
servant as he entered a house, plunged him into an excess of wrath and
misery. Full, at other times, of scrupulous good faith and generosity,
he would, under the stress of a fancied hurt, say and write malicious
things about those he most honored. He must have been a general thorn
in the flesh, for he had no tact whatever. “I love Henry,” said one
of Thoreau’s friends, “but I cannot like him.” Shy, splenetic, with
Dryden’s “down look,” readier to give than to exchange, Hazlitt was
a riddle to strangers’ eyes. His deep voice seemed at variance with
his gliding step and his glance, bright but sullen; his hand felt
as if it were the limp, cold fin of a fish, and was an unlooked-for
accompaniment to the fiery soul warring everywhere with darkness, and
drenched in altruism. His habit of excessive tea-drinking, like Dr.
Johnson’s, was to keep down sad thoughts. For sixteen years before he
died, from the day on which he formed his resolution, Hazlitt never
touched spirits of any kind. Profuse of money when he had it, he lacked
heart, says Mr. Patmore, to live well. Wherever he dwelt there was
what Carlyle, in Hunt’s case, called “tinkerdom”; his marriage, and
his residence under the august roof which had been Milton’s,[65] did
not mend matters for him. He covered the walls and mantel-pieces of
London landladies, after the fashion of the French bohemian painters,
with samples of his noblest style; and the savor of yesterday’s potions
of strong tea exhaled into their curtains. Never was there, despite
his confessional attitude, so non-communicative a soul. He never
corresponded with anybody; he never would walk arm in arm with anybody;
he never, perhaps from horror of the “patron” bogie, dedicated a book
to anybody. De Quincey knew a man warmly disposed towards Hazlitt
who learned to shudder and dread daggers when poor Hazlitt, with a
gesture habitual to him, thrust his right hand between the buttons
of his waistcoat! And he once cheerfully requested of a cheerful
colleague: “Write a character of me for the next number. I want to
know why everybody has such a dislike to me.” As a social factor he
was something atrocious.[66] The most humane of men, his suspicions
and shyings cut him off completely from humanity. The base war waged
upon him by the great Tory magazines could not have affected him so
deeply that it changed his demeanor towards his fellows; for he had the
mettle of a paladin, which no invective could break. But, alas! he had
“the canker at the heart,” which is no fosterer of “the rose upon the
cheek.”

With all this fever and heaviness in Hazlitt’s blood, he had a hearty
laugh, musical to hear. Haydon, in his exaggerated manner, reports an
uncharitable conversation held with him once on the subject of Leigh
Hunt in Italy, during which the two misconstruing critics, in their
great glee, “made more noise than all the coaches, wagons, and carts
outside in Piccadilly.” His smile was singularly grave and sweet.
Mrs. Shelley wrote, on coming back to England, in her widowhood, and
finding him much changed: “His smile brought tears to my eyes; it
was like melancholy sunlight on a ruin.” A man who sincerely laughs
and smiles is somewhat less than half a cynic. If there be any alive
at this late hour who questions the genuineness of Hazlitt’s high
spirits, he may be referred to the essay _On Going a Journey_, with
the pæan about “the gentleman in the parlor,” in the finest emulation
of Cowley; but chiefly and constantly to _The Fight_, with its
lingering De-Foe-like details, sprinkled, not in the least ironically,
with gold-dust of Chaucer and the later poets: the rich-ringing,
unique _Fight_,[67] predecessor of Borrow’s famous burst about the
“all tremendous bruisers” of _Lavengro_; and not to be matched in our
peaceful literature save with the eulogy and epitaph of Jack Cavanagh,
by the same hand. Divers hints have been circulated, within sixty-odd
years, that Mr. Hazlitt was a timid person, also that he had no turn
for jokes. These ingenious calumnies may be trusted to meet the fate of
the Irish pagan fairies, small enough at the start, whose punishment
it is to dwindle ever and ever away, and point a moral to succeeding
generations. Hazlitt’s paradoxes are not of malice prepense, but are
the ebullitions both of pure fun and of the truest philosophy. “The
only way to be reconciled with old friends is to part with them for
good.” “Goldsmith had the satisfaction of good-naturedly relieving
the necessities of others, and of being harassed to death with his
own.” “Captain Burney had you at an advantage by never understanding
you.” Scattered mention of “people who live on their own estates and
on other people’s ideas”; of Jeremy Bentham, who had been translated
into French, “when it was the greatest pity in the world that he
had not been translated into English”; of the Coleridge of prose,
one of whose prefaces is “a masterpiece of its kind, having neither
beginning, middle, nor end”; and even of the “singular animal,”
John Bull himself, since “being the beast he is has made a man of
him”:—these are no ill shots at the sarcastic. Congreve, with all his
quicksilver wit, could not outgo Hazlitt on Thieves, _videlicet_: “Even
a highwayman, in the way of trade, may blow out your brains; but if he
uses foul language at the same time, I should say he was no gentleman!”
Hazlitt’s sense of humor has quality, if not quantity. How was it this
same sense of humor, this fine-grained reticence, which wrote, nay,
printed, in 1823, the piteous and ludicrous canticle of the goddess
Sarah?

Hazlitt was a great pedestrian from his boyhood on, and, like
Goldsmith, a fair hand at the game of fives, which he played by the
day. Wherever he was, his pocket bulged with a book. It gave him keen
pleasure to set down the hour, the place, the mood, and the weather
of various ecstatic first readings. He became acquainted with _Love
for Love_ in a low wainscoted tavern parlor between Farnham and Alton,
looking out upon a garden of larkspur, with a portrait of Charles
II. crowning the chimney-piece; in his father’s house he fell across
_Tom Jones_, “a child’s Tom Jones, an innocent creature”; he bought
Milton and Burke at Shrewsbury, on the march; he looked up from Mrs.
Inchbald’s _Simple Story_, when its pathos grew too poignant, to
find “a summer shower dropping manna” on his head, and “an old crazy
hand-organ playing _Robin Adair_.” And on April 10, 1798, his twentieth
birthday, he sat down to a volume of the _New Eloïse_, a book which
kept its hold upon him, “at the inn of Llangollen, over a bottle of
sherry and a cold chicken!” The frank epicurean catalogue, as of equal
spiritual and corporeal delight, is worth notice. Do we not know that
Mr. Hazlitt had wood-partridges for supper, in his middle age, at
the Golden Cross, in Rastadt, near Mayence? Yet he failed to record
what book lay by his plate, and distracted his attention from her
who had been a widow, and who was already planning her respectable
exit from his society. Evidence that he was an eater of taste is to
be accumulated eagerly by his partisans, for eating is one of many
engaging human characteristics which establish him as lovable—that is,
posthumously lovable. Barry Cornwall was so jealously tender of his
memory that he would have forbidden any one to write of Hazlitt who
had not known him. As he did not warm miscellaneously to everybody,
it followed that his friends were few. We do not forget which one
of these, during their only difference, thought “to go to his grave
without finding, or expecting to find, such another companion.”[68]

Hazlitt would have set himself down, by choice, as a metaphysician.
Up to the time when his _Life of Napoleon_ was well in hand, he used
to affirm that the anonymous _Principles of Human Action_, which he
completed at twenty, in the literary style of the azoic age, was his
best work. He was rather proud, too, of the _Characteristics in the
Manner of Rochefoucauld’s Maxims_, his one dreary book, which contains
a couple of inductions worthy of Pascal, some sophistries and hollow
cynicisms not native to Hazlitt’s brain, and a vast number of the very
professorisms which he scouted. Maxims, indeed, are sown broadcast
over his pages, which Alison the historian classified as better to
quote than to read; but they gain by being incidental, and embedded in
the body of his fancies. His vein of original thought comes nowhere
so perfectly into play as in its application to affairs. His pen is
anything but abstruse,

    “Housed in a dream, at distance from the kind.”

He did not recognize that to display his highest power he needed deeds
and men, and their tangible outcome to be criticised. His preferences
were altogether wed to the past. In his essay on _Envy_ he excuses,
with a wise reflection, his comparative indifference to living writers:
“We try to stifle the sense we have of their merit, not because they
are new or modern, but because we are not sure they will ever be old.”
Or, as Professor Wilson said of him, with tardy but winning kindness:
“In short, if you want Hazlitt’s praise, you must die for it . . .
and it is almost worth dying for.”[69] Yet what an eye he has for the
idiosyncrasy at his elbow, be it in the individual or in the race!
Every contemporary of his, every painter, author, actor, and statesman
of whom he cared to write at all, stands forth under his touch in
delicate and aggressive outlines from which a wind seems to blow
back the mortal draperies, like a figure in a triumphal procession
of Mantegna’s. His manner is essentially pictorial. His sketches of
Cobbett and of Northcote, in _The Spirit of Obligations_; of Johnson,
in _The Periodical Essayists_; of Sir Thomas Browne and Bishop Taylor;
and of Coleridge and Lamb, drawn more than once, with great power,
from the life, will never be excelled. His philippic on _The Spirit
of Monarchy_, or that on _The Regal Character_, is a pure vitriol
flame, to scorch the necks of princes. His comments upon English
and Continental types, if gathered from the necessarily promiscuous
_Notes of a Journey_, would make a most diverting and illuminating
duodecimo; the indictment of the French is especially masterly. _The
Spirit of the Age_, _The Plain Speaker_, the Northcote book, _The
English Comic Writers_, and the noble and little-read _Political
Essays_ are packed with vital personalities. So is _The Characters
of Shakespeare’s Plays_, full of beautiful metaphysical analysis, as
well as of vivifying criticism. This lavish accumulation of material,
never put to use according to modern methods, must appear to some as a
collection of interest awaiting the broom and the hanging committee;
but until the end of time it will be a place of delight for the scholar
and the lover of virtue. Hazlitt’s genius for assortment and sense of
relative values were not developed; he was in no wise a constructive
critic. Mr. R. H. Hutton complained once of Mr. Matthew Arnold that he
ranked his men, but did not portray them. Now Hazlitt, whose search is
all for character, irrespective of the historic position, falls into
the opposite extreme: he portrays his men, but does not rank them. An
attempt to break up into single file the merit which, with him, marches
abreast, he would look upon as a bit of arrogance and rank impiety.
He has nothing to say of the quality which stamps Bavius as the best
elegiac poet between Gray and Tennyson, or of the irony of Mævius,
which would place his dramas, were it not for their loose construction,
next to Molière’s. He does not care a fig for comparisons; or, rather,
he wishes them left to the gods, and to his perceiving reader.
Meanwhile, one face after another shines clear upon the wall, and
breathes enchantment on a passer-by.

It is very difficult to be severe with William Hazlitt, who was
towards himself so outspokenly severe. Every stricture upon him, as
well as every defence to be urged for it, may be taken out of his own
mouth. Even the _Liber Amoris_, as must always have been discerned,
demonstrates not only his weakness, but his essential uprightness
and innocence. His vindication is written large in _Depth and
Superficiality_, in _The Pleasures of Hating_, in _The Disadvantage of
Intellectual Superiority_. His “true Hamlet” is as faithful a sketch
of the author as is Newman’s celebrated definition of a gentleman.
Hazlitt says a tender word for Dr. Johnson’s prejudices which covers
and explains many of his own. Who can call him irritable, recalling
the splendid exposition of merely selfish content, in the opening
paragraphs of the essay on _Good Nature_? Yet, with all his lofty and
endearing qualities, he had a warped and soured mind, a constitutional
disability to find pleasure in persons or in conditions which were
quiescent. He would have every one as mettlesome and gloomily
vigilant as he was himself. His perfectly proper apostrophe to the
lazy Coleridge at Highgate to “start up in his promised likeness,
and shake the pillared rottenness of the world,” is somewhat comic.
Hazlitt’s nerves never lost their tension; to the last hour of his
last sickness he was ready for a bout. Much of his personal grief
arose from his refusal to respect facts as facts, or to recognize in
existing evil, including the calamitous perfumed figure of Turveydrop
gloriously reigning, what Vernon Lee calls “part of the mechanism
for producing good.” He bit at the quietist in a hundred ways, and
with choice venom. “There are persons who are never very far from the
truth, because the slowness of their faculties will not suffer them to
make much progress in error. These are ‘persons of great judgment.’
The scales of the mind are pretty sure to remain even when there is
nothing in them.” He was a natural snarler at sunshiny people with full
pockets and feudal ideas, like Sir Walter, who got along with the ogre
What Is, and even asked him to dine. In fact, William Hazlitt hated
a great many things with the utmost enthusiasm, and he was impolite
enough to say so, in and out of season. The Established Church and all
its tenets and traditions were only less monstrous in his eyes than
legendry, mediævalism, and “the shoal of friars.” He knew, from actual
experience, the loyalty and purity of the early Unitarians, and he
praised these with all his heart and tongue. As far as one can make
out, he had not the remotest conception of the breadth and texture
of Christianity as a whole. His theory, for he practised no creed
except the cheap one of universal dissent, was a faint-colored local
Puritanism; and that, as the Merry Monarch (an excellent judge of what
was not what!) reminds us, is “no religion for a gentleman.” But more
than this, Hazlitt had no apprehension of the supernatural in anything;
he was very unspiritual. It is curious to see how he sidles away from
the finer English creatures whom he had to handle. Sidney almost repels
him, and he dismisses Shelley, on one occasion, with an inadequate but
apt allusion to the “hectic flutter” of his verse. Living in a level
country with no outlook upon eternity, and no deep insight into the
human past, nor fully understanding those who had wider vision and more
instructed utterance than his own, it follows that beside such men as
those just named, then as now, Hazlitt has a crude villageous mien. He
had his refined sophistications; chief among them was a surpassing love
of natural beauty. But he relished, on the whole, the beef and beer of
life. The normal was what he wrote of with “gusto”; a word he never
tired of using, and which one must use in speaking of himself. While he
is an admirable arbiter of what is or is not truly intellectual, he is
all at sea when he has to discuss, for instance, emotional poetry, or,
what is yet more difficult to him, poetry purely poetic; its inevitable
touch of the fantastic, the mystical, puts his wits completely to rout.
The stern, lopsided, and magnificent article on Shelley’s _Posthumous
Poems_ in the _Edinburgh Review_ for July, 1824, and his impatience
with Coleridge at his best, perfectly exemplify this limitation.
Despite his partiality for Rousseau and certain of the early Italian
painters, most of the men whose genius he seizes upon and exalts with
unerring success are the men who display, along with enormous acumen
and power, nothing which betokens the morbid and exquisite thing we
have learned to call modern culture. Hazlitt, fortunately for us,
was not over-civilized, had no cinque-cento instincts, and would
have groaned aloud over such hedonism as Mr. Pater’s. Homespun and
manly as he is, who can help feeling that his was but an imperfect
development? that, as Mr. Arnold said so paternally of Byron, “he
did not know enough”? He lacked both mental discipline and moral
governance. He has the wayward and appealing Celtic utterance; the
manner made of largeness and simpleness, all shot and interwoven with
the hues of romanticism. Prodigal that he is, he cannot stoop to build
up his golden piecemeal, or to clinch his generalizations, thrown down
loosely, side by side. Esoteric thrift is not in him, nor the spirit of
co-operation, nor the sweetest of artistic anxieties, that of marching
in line. He has a knight-errant pen; his glad and chivalrous services
to literature resemble those of an outlaw to the commonwealth. Despite
his personal value, he stands detached; he is episodic, and represents
nothing.

    “The earth hath bubbles as the water hath,
     And this is of them.”

He misses the white station of a classic; for the classics have
equipoise, and inter-relationship. But it is great cause for
thankfulness that William Hazlitt cannot be made other than he is. Time
can not take away his height and his red-gold garments, bestow on him
the “smoother head of hair” which Lamb prayed for, and shrivel him into
one of several very wise and weary _précieux_. No: he stalks apart in
state, the splendid Pasha of English letters.

Hazlitt boasts, and permissibly, of genuine disinterestedness: “If you
wish to see me perfectly calm,” he remarks somewhere, “cheat me in a
bargain, or tread on my toes.”[70] But he cannot promise the same
behavior for a sophism repeated in his presence, or a truth repelled.
In his sixth year he had been taken, with his brother and sister, to
America, and he says that he never afterwards got out of his mouth the
delicious tang of a frost-bitten New England barberry. It is tolerably
sure that the blowy and sunny atmosphere of the young republic of
1783-7 got into him also. Liberalism was his birthright. He flourishes
his fighting colors; he trembles with eagerness to break a lance with
the arch-enemies; he is a champion, from his cradle, against class
privilege, of slaves who know not what they are, nor how to wish for
liberty. But he cannot do all this in the laughing Horatian way; he
cannot keep cool; he cannot mind his object. If he could, he would be
the white devil of debate. There are times when he speaks, as does
Dr. Johnson, out of all reason, because aware of the obstinacy and the
bad faith of his hearers. Morals are too much in his mind, and, after
their wont, they spoil his manners. Like the Caroline Platonist, Henry
More, he “has to cut his way through a crowd of thoughts as through a
wood.” His temper breaks like a rocket, in little lurid smoking stars,
over every ninth page; he lays about him at random; he raises a dust of
side-issues. Hazlitt sometimes reminds one of Burke himself gone off
at half-cock. He will not step circumspectly from light to light, from
security to security. Some of his very best essays, as has been noted,
have either no particular subject, or fail to follow the one they have.
Nor is he any the less attractive if he be heated, if he be swearing

    “By the blood so basely shed
     Of the pride of Norfolk’s line,”

or scornfully settling accounts of his own with the asinine public.
When he is not driven about by his moods, Hazlitt is set upon his fact
alone; which he thinks is the sole concern of a prose-writer. Grace and
force are collateral affairs. “In seeking for truth,” he says proudly,
in words fit to be the epitome of his career, “I sometimes found
beauty.”

_The Edinburgh Review_, in an article written while Hazlitt was in the
full of his activity, summed up his shortcomings. “There are no great
leading principles of taste to give singleness to his aims, nor any
central points in his mind around which his feelings may revolve and
his imaginations cluster. There is no sufficient distinction between
his intellectual and his imaginative faculties. He confounds the truths
of imagination with those of fact, the processes of argument with
those of feeling, the immunities of intellect with those of virtue.”
Here is an admirable arraignment, which goes to the heart of the
matter. Hazlitt himself corroborates it in a confession of gallant
directness: “I say what I think; I think what I feel.” It is this fatal
confusion which makes his course now rapid and clear, anon clogged with
vagaries, as if his rudder had run into a mesh of sea-weed; it is
this which deflects his judgments, and leads him, in the shrewd phrase
of a modern critic, to praise the right things for the wrong reasons.
Hazlitt’s prejudices are very instructive, even while he bewails
Landor’s or Cobbett’s, and tells you, as it were, with a tear in his
eye, when he has done berating the French, that, after all, they are
Catholics; and as for manners, “Catholics must be allowed to carry it,
all over the world!” His exquisite treatment of Northcote, a winning
old sharper for whom he cared nothing, is all due to his looking like
a Titian portrait. So with the great Duke: Hazlitt hated the sight
of him, “as much for his pasteboard visor of a face as for anything
else.” One of his justifications for adoring Napoleon was, that at a
levee a young English officer named Lovelace drew from him an endearing
recognition: “I perceive, sir, that you bear the name of the hero of
Richardson’s romance.” If you look like a Titian portrait, if you read
and remember Richardson, you may trust a certain author, who knows a
distinction when he sees it, to set you up for the idol of posterity.
Hazlitt thought Mr. Wordsworth’s long and immobile countenance
resembled that of a horse; and it is not impossible that this
conviction, twin-born with that other that Mr. Wordsworth was a mighty
poet, is responsible for various gibes at the august contemporary whose
memory owes so much to his pen in other moods.

He is the most ingenuous and agreeable egoist we have had since the
seventeenth-century men. It must be remembered how little he was in
touch outwardly with social and civic affairs; how he was content to
be the always young looker-on. There was nothing for him to do but
fall back, under given conditions, upon his own capacious entity. The
automaton called William Hazlitt is to him a toy made to his hand,
to be reached without effort; the digest of all his study and the
applicable test of all his assumptions. He knew himself; he could, and
did, with decorum, approve or chastise himself in open court. “His
life was of humanity the sphere.” His “I” has a strong constituency
in the other twenty-five initials. In this sense, and in our current
cant, Hazlitt is nothing if not subjective, super-personal. His sort of
sentimentalism is an anomaly in Northern literature, even in the age
when nearly every literary Englishman of note was variously engaged
in baring his breast. Whether he would carp or sigh, he will still
hold you by the button, as he held host and guest, master and valet,
to pour into their adjacent ears the mad extravagances of the _Liber
Amoris_. He gets a little tired at his desk, after battling for hours
with the slow and stupid in behalf of the beauty ever-living; he wants
fresh air and a reverie; he must digress or die. And from abstractions
bardic as Carlyle’s, he runs gladly to his own approved self. This very
circumstance, which lends Hazlitt’s pages their curious blur and stain,
is the same which stamps his individuality, and gives those who are
drawn towards him at all an unspeakably hearty relish for his company.
What shall we call it?—the habit, not maudlin in him, of speaking out,
of draining his well of emotion for the benefit of the elect; nay, even
of delicate lyric whimperings, beside which

    “Poore Petrarch’s long-deceasèd woes”

take on a tinsel glamour. As the dancing-girl carries her jewels,
every one in sight as she moves, so our “Faustus, that was wont to
make the schools ring with _Sic probo_,” steps into the forum jingling
and twinkling with personalia. He is quite aware of the figure he
may cut: he does not stumble into an intimacy with you because he is
absent-minded, or because he is liable to an attack of affectation. He
is as conscious as Poussin’s giants, whom he once described as “seated
on the tops of craggy mountains, playing idly on their Pan’s pipes, and
knowing the beginning and the end of their own story.” Many sentences
of his, from their structure, might be attributed to Coleridge, the
single person from whom Hazlitt admits to have learned anything;[71]
but there is no mistaking his _note émue_: that is as obvious as the
syncopations in a Scotch tune, or the long eyes of Orcagna’s saints.

He wishes you to know, at every breathing-space, “how ill’s all here
about my heart; but ’tis no matter.” Laying by or taking up an old
print or folio, he loosens some fond confidence to that surprised
novice, the common reader. Like Shelley here, as in a few other
affectionate absurdities, the prince of prose, turning from his proper
affairs, assures you that he, too, is human, hoping, unhappy; he also
has lived in Arcadia. It is in such irrelevancies that he is fully
himself, Hazlitt freed, Hazlitt autobiographic, “his chariot-wheels
hot by driving fast.”[72] Who can forget the parentheses in his advices
to his little son, about the scholar having neither mate nor fellow,
and the god of love clapping his wings upon the river-bank to mock him
as he passes by? Or the noble and moving passage in _The Pleasures of
Painting_, beginning with “My father was willing to sit as long as I
pleased,” and ending with the longing for the revolution of the great
Platonic year, that those times might come over again! He freshens with
his own childhood the garden of larkspur and mignonette at Walworth,
and “the rich notes of the thrush that startle the ear of winter . . .
dear in themselves, and dearer for the sake of what is departed.” You
care not so much for the placid stream by Peterborough as for his own
wistful pilgrimage to the nigh farmhouse gate, where the ten-year-old
Grace Loftus (his much-beloved mother, who survived him) used to gaze
upon the setting sun. And in a choric outburst of praise for Mrs.
Siddons, the splendor seems to culminate less in “her majestic form
rising up against misfortune, an antagonist power to it” (what a truly
Shakespearean breadth is in that description!); less in the sight of
her name on the play-bill, “drawing after it a long trail of Eastern
glory, a joy and felicity unutterable,” than in the widening dream of
the happy lad in the pit, in his sovereign vision “of waning time, of
Persian thrones and them that sat on them”; in the human life which
appeared to him, of a sudden, “far from indifferent,” and in his
“overwhelming and drowning flood of tears.” He can beautify the evening
star itself, this innovator, who records that after a tranced and
busy day at the easel, the day of Austerlitz, he watched it set over
a poor man’s cottage with other thoughts and feelings than he shall
ever have again. There is nothing of _le moi haïssable_ in all this. It
is deliberate naturalism; the rebellion against didactics and “tall
talk,” the milestone of a return, parallel with that of Wordsworth,
to the fearless contemplation of plain and near things. But in a
professing logician, is it not somewhat peculiar? When has even a poet
so centred the universe in his own heart, without offence?

Hazlitt threw away his brush, as a heroic measure, because he foresaw
but a middling success. Many canvases he cut into shreds, in a fury
of dissatisfaction with himself. Northcote, however, thought his lack
of patience had spoiled a great painter. He was too full of worship
of the masters to make an attentive artisan. The sacrifice, like all
his sacrifices, great or small, left nothing behind but sweetness,
the unclouded love of excellence, and the capacity of rejoicing at
another’s attaining whatever he had missed. But the sense of disparity
between supreme intellectual achievement and that which is only
partial and relative, albeit of equal purity, followed him like a
frenzy. Comparison is yet more difficult in literature than in art,
and Hazlitt could take some satisfaction in the results of his second
ardor. He felt his power most, perhaps, as a critic of the theatre.
English actors owe him an incalculable debt, and their best spirits
are not unmindful of it. He was reasonably assured of the duration and
increase of his fame. Has he not, in one of his headstrong digressions,
called the thoughts in his _Table-Talk_ “founded as rock, free as
air, the tone like an Italian picture?” Even there, however, the
faint-heartedness natural to every true artist troubled him. He went
home in despair from the spectacle of the Indian juggler, “in his
white dress and tightened turban,” tossing the four brass balls. “To
make them revolve round him at certain intervals, like the planets in
their spheres, to make them chase one another like sparkles of fire, or
shoot up like flowers or meteors, to throw them behind his back, and
twine them round his neck like ribbons or like serpents; to do what
appears an impossibility, and to do it with all the ease, the grace,
the carelessness imaginable; to laugh at, to play with the glittering
mockeries, to follow them with his eye as if he could fascinate them
with its lambent fire, or as if he had only to see that they kept time
to the music on the stage—there is something in all this which he who
does not admire may be quite sure he never really admired anything in
the whole course of his life. It is skill surmounting difficulty, and
beauty triumphing over skill. . . . It makes me ashamed of myself. I
ask what there is that I can do as well as this? Nothing.” A third
person must give another answer. The whole passage offers a very
exquisite parallel; for in just such a daring, varied, and magical
way can William Hazlitt write. The astounding result, “which costs
nothing,” is founded, in each case, upon the toil of a lifetime.
Hazlitt’s style is an incredible thing. It is not, like Lamb’s, of one
warp and woof. It soars to the rhetorical sublime, and drops to hard
Saxon slang. It is for all the world, and not only for specialists. Its
range and change incorporate the utmost of many men. The trenchant
sweep, the simplicity and point of Newman at his best, are matched
by the pages on _Cobbett_, on _Fox_, and _On the Regal Character_;
and there is, to choose but one opposite instance, in the paper _On
the Unconsciousness of Genius_, touching Correggio, a fragment of
pure eloquence of a very ornate sort, whose onward bound, glow, and
volley can give Mr. Swinburne’s _Essays and Studies_ a look as of
sails waiting for the wind. The same hand which fills a brief with
epic cadences and invocations overwrought, throws down, often without
an adjective, sentence after sentence of ringing steel: “Fashion is
gentility running away from vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken
by it.” “It is not the omission of individual circumstance, but the
omission of general truth, which constitutes the little, the deformed,
and the short-lived in art.” The man’s large voice in these aphorisms
is Hazlitt’s unmistakably. If it be not as novel to this generation as
if he were but just entering the lists of authorship, it is because his
fecundating mind has been long enriching at second-hand the libraries
of the English world. He comes forth, like another outrider, Rossetti,
so far behind his heralds and disciples, that his mannered utterance
seems familiar, and an echo of theirs. For it may be said at last,
thanks to the numerous reprints of the last seven years, and thanks
to a few competent critics, whom Mr. Stevenson leads, that Hazlitt’s
robust work is in a fair way to be known and appraised, by a public
which is a little less unworthy of him than his own. His method is
entirely unscientific, and therefore archaic. If we can profit no
longer by him, we can get out of him cheer and delight: and these
profit unto immortality. Meanwhile, what mere “maker of beautiful
English” shall be pitted against him there where he sits, the despair
of a generation of experts, continually tossing the four brass balls?

It has been said often by shallow reviewers, and is said sometimes
still, that Hazlitt’s style aims at effect; as if an effect must not
be won, without aiming, by a “born man of letters,” as Mr. Saintsbury
described him, “who could not help turning into literature everything
he touched.”[73] The “effect,” under given conditions, is manifest,
unavoidable. Once let Hazlitt speak, as he speaks ever, in the warmth
of conviction, and what an intoxicating music begins!—wild as that of
the gypsies, and with the same magnet-touch on the sober senses: enough
to subvert all “criticism and idle distinction,” and to bring back
those Theban times when the force of a sound, rather than masons and
surveyors, sent the very walls waltzing into their places.

In the face of diction so joyously clear as his, so sumptuous and
splendid, it is well to endorse Mr. Ruskin, that “no right style
was ever founded save out of a sincere heart.” It can never be
said of William Hazlitt, as Dean Trench well said of those other
“great stylists,” Landor and De Quincey, that he had a lack of moral
earnestness. What he was determined to impress upon his reader, during
the quarter-century while he held a pen, was not that he was knowing,
not that he was worthy of the renown and fortune which passed him by,
but only that he had rectitude and a consuming passion for good. He
declares aloud that his escutcheon has no bar-sinister: he has not
sold himself; he has spoken truth in and out of season; he has honored
the excellent at his own risk and cost; he has fought for a principle
and been slain for it, from his youth up. His sole boast is proven.
In a far deeper sense than Leigh Hunt, for whom he forged the lovely
compliment, he was “the visionary in humanity, the fool of virtue,” and
the captain of those who stood fast, in a hostile day, for ignored and
eternal ideals. The best thing to be said of him, the thing for which,
in Haydon’s phrase, “everybody must love him,” is that he himself loved
justice and hated iniquity. He shared the groaning of the spirit
after mortal welfare with Swift and Fielding, with Shelley and Matthew
Arnold, with Carlyle and Ruskin; he was corroded with cares and desires
not his own. Beside this intense devotedness, what personal flaw will
ultimately show? The host who figure in the Roman martyrology hang all
their claim upon the fact of martyrdom, and, according to canon law,
need not have been saints in their lifetime at all. So with such souls
as his: in the teeth of a thousand acknowledged imperfections in life
or in art, they remain our exemplars. Let them do what they will, at
some one stroke they dignify this earth. It is not Hazlitt, “the born
man of letters” alone, but Hazlitt the born humanist, who bequeaths us,
from his England of coarse misconception and abuse, a memory like a
loadstar, and a name which is a toast to be drunk standing.


THE END

FOOTNOTES:

[58] The article on _The Fine Arts_ in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ is
signed “W. H.”

[59] Mrs. Hazlitt the first, it would appear, undertook to verify
her husband’s quotations for him. His favorite metaphor, “Like the
tide which flows on to the Propontic, and knows no ebb,” must have
passed many times under her eye. Any reference to Othello himself, in
the great scene of Act III., would have shown four lines for William
Hazlitt’s explicit one.

[60] Some of Hazlitt’s comments on women are full of unconscious humor.
In _Great and Little Things_ he admits being snubbed by the fair, and
adds with grandiloquence: “I took a pride in my disgrace, and concluded
that I had elsewhere my inheritance!”

[61] In the National Portrait Gallery, London.

[62] _Blackwood’s_, in the charming fashion of the time, repeatedly
refers to Hazlitt’s “pimples”; and Byron credited and supplemented the
allegation. Hazlitt himself says somewhere “that to lay a thing to
a person’s charge from which he is perfectly free, shows spirit and
invention!” The calumny is not worth mention, except as a fair specimen
of the journalistic methods against which literary men had to contend
some eighty years ago.

[63] Lamb had been his groomsman twenty-two years before, at the Church
of St. Andrew, Holborn, “and like to have been turned out several times
during the ceremony; anything awful makes me laugh!” as he confessed in
a letter to Southey in 1815.

[64] Orrery had seen this same bitter indignation overwhelm Swift at
times, “so that it is scarcely possible for human features to carry in
them more terror and austerity.”

[65] At 19 York Street, Westminster. The house, with its tablet “To the
Prince of Poets” set by Hazlitt himself, was destroyed in 1877.

[66] A snappy unpublished letter to Hunt, sold among the Hazlitt
papers at Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge’s, in the late autumn of 1893,
complains bitterly of kind Basil Montagu, who had once put off a
proffered visit from Hazlitt, on the ground that a party of other
guests was expected. The deterred one was naturally wroth. “Yet after
this, I am not to look at him a little _in abstracto_! This is what has
soured me and made me sick of friendship and acquaintanceship.” Hazlitt
confounded cause and effect. He was unwelcome in general gatherings
where his genius was unappreciated; and we may be sure Montagu
was sorry for it when, in the interests of concord, he held up so
deprecating and inhospitable a hand. But among those who nursed Hazlitt
in his last illness, Basil Montagu was not the least loyal.

[67] _The Fight_ appeared in the _New Monthly Magazine_ in 1822. It
was itself antedated by _The Fancy_ of John Hamilton Reynolds, Keats’s
friend and Hood’s brother-in-law, which was printed in 1820. The jolly
iambics are as inspired as the essay. “P. C.” is, of course, Pugilistic
Club.

“Oh, it is life! to see a proud And dauntless man step, full of hopes,
Up to the P. C. stakes and ropes, Throw in his hat, and with a spring
Get gallantly within the ring; Eye the wide crown, and walk awhile
Taking all cheerings with a smile; To see him strip; his well-trained
form, White, glowing, muscular, and warm, All beautiful in conscious
power, Relaxed and quiet, till the hour; His glossy and transparent
frame, In radiant plight to strive for fame! To look upon the clean
shap’d limb In silk and flannel clothèd trim; While round the waist
the kerchief tied Makes the flesh glow in richer pride. ’Tis more than
life to watch him hold His hand forth, tremulous yet bold, Over his
second’s, and to clasp His rival’s in a quiet grasp; To watch the noble
attitude He takes, the crowd in breathless mood; And then to see, with
adamant start, The muscles set, and the great heart Hurl a courageous
splendid light Into the eye, and then—the FIGHT!”

But this is general: Hazlitt is specific. His particular Fight was the
great one between Neate of Bristol and Tom Hickman the Gasman, Neate
being the victor. On May 20, 1823, Neate met Spring of Hertfordshire
(so translated out of his natural patronymic of Winter), in a contest
for the championship, and Neate himself went under. This latter battle
was mock-heroically celebrated by Maginn in _Blackwood’s_, and Hood’s
casual meteorological simile heaped up honors on the winner:

“The Spring! I shrink and shudder at her name. For why? I find her
breath a bitter blighter, And suffer from her blows as if they came
From Spring the fighter!”

So that literature may be said to have set close to the ropes in those
days, from first to last.

[68] Lamb, in “_A Letter to R. Southey, Esq._”

[69] The man of Martial’s epigram had other “views.” The capital
translation is Dr. Goldwin Smith’s:

“Vacerra lauds no living poet’s lays, But for departed genius keeps his
praise. I, alas, live; nor deem it worth my while To die, that I may
win Vacerra’s smile.”

[70] This was the spirit of Henry Fielding on his last voyage, hoisted
aboard among the watermen at Redcliffe, and hearing his emaciated body
made the subject of jeers and laughter. “No man who knew me,” he writes
in his journal, “will think I conceived any personal resentment at this
behavior; but it was a lively picture of that cruelty and inhumanity
in the nature of man which I have often contemplated with concern, and
which leads the mind into a train of very uncomfortable and melancholy
thoughts.” It is a fine passage, and a strong heart, not given to
boasting, penned it. Poor Hazlitt could not bear even an unintentional
slight without imputing diabolical malice to the offender. Yet it was
certainly true that, in his saner hours, he could suffer personal
discomfort in public without flinching, and deplore the habit which
imposed it, rather than the act.

[71] If Hazlitt conveyed some of his best mannerisms from Coleridge,
not always transmuting them, surely the balance may be said to be
even when one discovers later in Hartley Coleridge such an easy
inherited use of Hazlitt’s “flail of gold” as is exemplified in this
summary of Roger Ascham’s career. “There was a primitive honesty, a
kindly innocence about this good old scholar, which gave a personal
interest to the homeliest details of his life. He had the rare
felicity of passing through the worst of times without persecution and
without dishonor. He lived with princes and princesses, prelates and
diplomatists, without offence as without ambition. Though he enjoyed
the smiles of royalty, his heart was none the worse, and his fortunes
little the better.”

[72] The quotation is from Coleridge, and it was applied by him to
Dryden. Hazlitt himself unconsciously expanded and spoiled it in his
essay on _Burke_. “The wheels of his imagination did not catch fire
from the rottenness of the material, but from the rapidity of their
motion.”

[73] The Rev. H. R. Haweis has another characterization of these
breathing and burning pages: “long and tiresome essays by Hazlitt.”
So they are, sure enough, if only you be endowed to think so! Hazlitt
himself gives the diverting fact for what it is worth, that “three
chimney-sweeps meeting three Chinese in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, they
laughed at one another till they were ready to drop down.”



MONSIEUR HENRI

    A Foot-note to French History. By LOUISE IMOGEN GUINEY.
      With Portrait and Map. Small 16mo, Cloth, Ornamental,
      $1 00.


A fascinating career, truly, and here most exquisitely chronicled. The
little book, in its ardor of appreciation, vivacity of portraiture, and
grace and spontaneity of style, is a masterpiece of concise narration,
and by those who read it once will be sought with unfailing delight
again and again.—_Boston Beacon._

Miss Guiney writes with a love for her subject which makes her fine
discrimination all the finer, and shows an insight into history
all the more admirable for the research which it has compelled.
This tiny volume gives evidence of as thorough study as would
fit out a post-octavo, as some authors understand the writing of
history.—_Evangelist_, N. Y.

Miss Guiney has written La Rochejaquelein’s life on a small scale,
but with spirit and enthusiasm, and her little book is very
interesting.—_N. Y. Tribune._

A spirited, vivid, and felicitously phrased account of that dramatic
side-issue of the French Revolution, the Vendée War. . . . Miss
Guiney’s literary touch is always admirable and, not infrequently,
inspired.—_Hartford Courant._

    ————

    PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

    [Illustration] _For sale by all booksellers, or will be
    sent by the publishers, postage prepaid, to any part of
    the United States, Canada, or Mexico, receipt of the
    price._



BY CONSTANCE F. WOOLSON.

————

    HORACE CHASE. 16mo, Cloth, $1 25.
    JUPITER LIGHTS. 16mo, Cloth, $1 25.
    EAST ANGELS. 16mo, Cloth, $1 25.
    ANNE. Illustrated. 16mo, Cloth, $1 25.
    FOR THE MAJOR. 16mo, Cloth, $1 00.
    CASTLE NOWHERE. 16mo, Cloth, $1 00.
    RODMAN THE KEEPER. 16mo, Cloth, $1 00.

————

One of the most remarkable qualities of Miss Woolson’s work was its
intense picturesqueness. Few writers have shown equal beauty in
expressing the poetry of landscape.—_Springfield Republican._

Characterization is Miss Woolson’s forte. Her men and women are
original, breathing, and finely contrasted creations.—_Chicago Tribune._

Delightful touches justify those who see many points of analogy between
Miss Woolson and George Eliot.—_N. Y. Times._

Miss Woolson’s power of describing natural scenery and strange,
out-of-the-way phases of American life is undoubted. One cannot well
help being fascinated by her stories.—_Churchman_, N. Y.

Miss Woolson is one of the few novelists of the day who know how to
make conversation, how to individualize the speakers, how to exclude
rabid realism without falling into literary formality.—_N. Y. Tribune._

    ————

    PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

[Illustration] _Any of the above works will be sent by mail, postage
prepaid, to any part of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, on
receipt of the price._



HARPER’S AMERICAN ESSAYISTS.

    With Portraits. 16mo, Cloth, $1 00 each.

    ————

    LITERARY AND SOCIAL SILHOUETTES. By HJALMAR HJORTH
      BOYESEN.

    STUDIES OF THE STAGE. By BRANDER MATTHEWS.

    AMERICANISMS AND BRITICISMS, with Other Essays on Other
      Isms. By BRANDER MATTHEWS.

    AS WE GO. By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER. With Illustrations.

    AS WE WERE SAYING. By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER. With
      Illustrations.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. By GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. _Second Series._ By GEORGE WILLIAM
      CURTIS.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. _Third Series._ By GEORGE WILLIAM
      CURTIS.

    CRITICISM AND FICTION. By WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS.

    FROM THE BOOKS OF LAURENCE HUTTON.

    CONCERNING ALL OF US. By THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.

    THE WORK OF JOHN RUSKIN. By CHARLES WALDSTEIN.

    PICTURE AND TEXT. By HENRY JAMES. With Illustrations.

    ————

    PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

    [Illustration] _For sale by all booksellers, or will be
    sent by the publishers, postage prepaid, to any part of
    the United States, Canada, or Mexico, receipt of the
    price._



BY GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.

    ————

    ORATIONS AND ADDRESSES. Three Volumes. 8vo, Cloth,
      Uncut Edges and Gilt Tops, $3 50 each.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. With Portrait. 16mo, Cloth,
      Ornamental $1 00.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. _Second Series._ With Portrait.
      16mo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 00.

    FROM THE EASY CHAIR. _Third Series._ With Portrait.
      16mo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 00.

    PRUE AND I. Illustrated Edition. 8vo, Illuminated Silk,
      $3 50. Also 12mo, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1 50.

    LOTUS-EATING. Illustrated. 12mo, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1 50.

    NILE NOTES OF A HOWADJI. 12mo, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1 50.

    THE HOWADJI IN SYRIA. 12mo, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1 50.

    THE POTIPHAR PAPERS. Illustrated. 12mo, Cloth, Gilt
      Top, $1 50.

    TRUMPS. A Novel. Illustrated. 12mo, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1
      50.

    JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL. Illustrated. 32mo, Cloth,
      Ornamental, 50 cents.

    WENDELL PHILLIPS. A Eulogy. 8vo, Paper, 25 cents.

    ————

    PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

[Illustration] _For sale by all booksellers, or will be sent by the
publishers, postage prepaid, to any part of the United States, Canada,
or Mexico, on receipt of the Price._



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber’s note:

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Repeated headings were removed.

Page 56, “Llansaintfraed” changed to “Llansantffraed” (brother’s parish
of Llansantffraed)

Page 171, Footnote 37, “Farquhare” and “Farqhare” retained as printed
from the matriculation entry.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Little English Gallery" ***

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