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Title: A History of Story-telling - Studies in the development of narrative
Author: Ransome, Arthur
Language: English
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EACH volume contains a selection of complete stories, an Introductory
Essay by ARTHUR RANSOME, and a Frontispiece Portrait by J. GAVIN.

List of volumes already published:--

    Others in preparation

_In cloth, 1s. net; cloth gilt, gilt top, 1s. 6d. net per vol._



[Illustration: JEAN DE MEUNG]

                             A HISTORY OF

                            STUDIES IN THE
                       DEVELOPMENT OF NARRATIVE

                            ARTHUR RANSOME
                 Editor of 'The World's Story-Tellers'

                [Illustration: ALIENI TEMPORIS FLORES]

                     WITH 27 PORTRAITS BY J. GAVIN

                      LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK
                       16 HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.



THIS is a spring day, and I am writing in a flood of sunlight in front
of a brown French inn. Above my head there is the dusty branch of a
tree stuck out of a window, the ancient sign that gave point to the
proverb, 'Good wine needs no bush.' Good books, I suppose, need no
prefaces. But honest authors realise that their books are never as good
as they had planned them. A preface, put on last and worn in front, to
show what they would have liked their books to be, is the pleasantest
of their privileges. And I am not inclined to do without it.

A book that calls itself a history of a subject with as many byeways
and blind alleys as exist in the history of story-telling, is precisely
the kind of book that one would wish one's enemy to have written.
Everybody who reads it grumbles because something or other is left
out that, if they had had the writing of it, would have been put in.
And yet in the case of this particular book (how many authors have
thought the same!) criticism of omissions is like quarrelling with a
guinea-pig because it has not got a tail. It is not the guinea-pig's
business to have a tail, and it is not the business of this book to be
a chronicle, full of facts, and admirable for reference. That place
is already filled by Dunlop's _History of Fiction_, and, in a very
delightful manner, by Professor Raleigh's _English Novel_. The word
history can be used in a different sense. The French say that such an
one makes a history of a thing when he makes a great deal of talk about
it. That is what I set out to do. My business was not to be noting down
dates and facts--this book was published in such a year and this in the
year preceding. I was to write with a livelier imp astride my pen. The
schoolmaster was to be sent to steal apples in the orchard. I was to
write of story-telling as a man might write of painting or jewellery
or any other art he loved. I was to take here a book and there a book,
and notice the development of technique, the conquests of new material,
the gradual perfecting of form. I would talk of old masters and modern
ones, and string my chapters like beads, a space between each, along
the history of the art.

Well, I have _fait une histoire_, suggested mainly by the masterpieces
that I love, and without too much regard for those that happen to be
loved by other people. And now that it is done, I think of it sadly
enough. It should have been so beautiful. When I see an old church,
like the priory church at Cartmel, standing grey and solemn in the mist
above the houses, or hear an old song, like 'Summer is icumen in,' or
see a browned old picture, like Poussin's 'Bergers d'Arcadie,' I feel
that these things have meant more to man than battles. These are his
dreams and his ideals, resting from age to age, long after the din of
fighting has died and been forgotten, recorded each in its own way,
in stone, in melody, in colour, and in the tales also that, changing
continually, have 'held children from play and old men from the
chimney-corner,' the dreams lie hid. What a tapestry they should have
made. For the story of this art, or indeed of any art, is the story
of man. Looking back through the years, as I sit here and close my
eyes against the sunlight, I see the hard men and fierce women of the
Sagas living out their lives in the cold and vigorous north--Pippin,
the grandfather of Charlemagne, sticking his sword indifferently
through the devil, Beaumains and his scornful lady riding through the
green wood. In the dungeon of the tower sits Aucassin sorrowing for
Nicolete his so sweet friend. Among the orange-trees on the Italian
slope the gold-haired Fiammetta watches for her lover. With battered
armour and ascetic face Don Quixote, upright in his saddle, rides on
the bare roads of Spain, dreaming of Dulcinea del Toboso. Gil Blas
swindles his way through life and comes out top as an honest rascal
will. Clarissa sits in her chamber blotting with tears her interminable
correspondence. Tom Jones draws blood from many meaner noses. My Uncle
Toby looks, not in the white, for the mote in the Widow Wadman's
eye. Mrs. Bennet begs her husband, to 'come and make Lizzy marry Mr.
Collins.' Old Goriot pawns his plate and moves to cheaper and yet
cheaper rooms to keep his daughters in their luxury. Raphael, nearing
death, watches the relentless shrinking of the morsel of shagreen.
There falls the House of Usher. There floats the white face of Marie
Roget down the waters of the Seine. Quasimodo leers through the rosace;
Mateo Falcone feels the earth with the butt of his gun and finds it
not too hard for the digging of a child's grave; Clarimonde throws her
passionate regard across the cathedral to the young novice about to
take his vows; and, with a clatter of hoofs, the musketeers ride off
for the reputation of the Queen of France.

A tapestry indeed.

I turn over my chapters, torn rags of colour loosely patched together,
and then look back to my dream, that gorgeous thing that for these
five years past has glittered and swung before me. I look from one to
the other and back again, and am almost ready to tear up the book in
order to regain the delightful possession of the dream. It was a task
to be taken up reverently and with love; and indeed these are the only
qualifications I can honestly claim. But it needed far more. Now that I
have done my best, I look at the result and am afraid. I hate, like I
hate the tourists in Notre Dame, impertinent little books on splendid
subjects. With my heart in my mouth I ask myself if I have made one.

       *       *       *       *       *

Impertinent or no, my book is very vulnerable, and since it is my own I
must defend it, so far as that is possible, by defining my intentions.
The chapters are, as I meant them be, threaded like beads along the
history of the art, and it is very easy to quarrel not only with the
beads, but also with the spaces between them. There is no one who
reads the book who will not find somewhere a space where he would have
had a gleaming bead, a bead, where he would have had a contemptuous
space. I could not put everything in; but have left material for many
complementary volumes. It would perhaps be possible, writing only of
authors I have not considered, to produce a history of story-telling
no more incomplete than this. But it will be found, and the fact is
perhaps my justification, that few of my omissions have been made by
accident. In order to have the satisfaction of coming to an end at
all, I had to seek the closest limits, and those limits, once chosen,
barred, to my own surprise, more than one great story-teller from any
detailed discussion.

My object not being an expanded bibliography of story-telling, but
rather a series of chapters that would trace the development of the
art, many admirable writers, who were content with the moulds that
were ready made to their hands, fell outside my range, however noble,
however human was the material they poured into the ancient matrices.
Dickens and Thackeray, for example, pouring their energy and feeling
and wit and humour into the moulds designed by the eighteenth century,
had, economically, to be passed over, since across the channel and in
America men were writing stories, not necessarily greater, nor of wider
appeal to mankind, but of more vital interest to their fellow artists.
Throughout the book we hunt, my readers and I, with the hare. Always
we discuss the art in those examples that seem the most advanced of
their time. Just as with the Romantic movement I pass over from England
to France, though the book contains no survey of French fiction, so
when Cervantes is the leading story-teller, the artist nearest our own
time, I shall be in Spain, though Spanish literature does not make a
continuous thread in the history. I shall think more of the art than
of my own country, or indeed of any country, and shall neglect all
literatures in turn when they are producing nothing that is memorable
in the progress of the technique of story-telling, however freely they
may be contributing great or brilliant tales to the world's resources
of amusement.

Then too, it will be noticed that I neglect my opportunities.
What a semblance of erudition I might have made by discussing,
among the origins of story-telling, the Greek and Latin specimens
of narrative. But it seemed desirable, since it was possible, to
trace the development of the art entirely in the literatures of our
own civilisation. French and English, the two greatest European
literatures, contain, grafted on their national stocks, every flower
of the art that was cultivated by Greece or Rome. I have used for
discussion only the books known and made by our own ancestors, and
when, at the Renaissance, they lifted forms out of Antiquity and
filled them with imitations of classical matter, I have considered
the imitations rather than the originals, if only because any further
influence they may have had on the development of the art was exerted
not by the classical writers but by the Englishmen, Frenchmen,
Spaniards, and Italians who made their manners and materials their own.

The book represents many years of reading, and two of writing where it
should have taken ten. It has travelled about with me piecemeal, and,
if I dated my chapters from the places where I wrote them, they would
trace a very various itinerary. In France, in England, and in Scotland
it has shared my adventures, and indeed it is a wilful, rambling thing,
more than a little reminiscent of its infancy. Do not expect it to be
too consistent. There is, I fear, no need for me to ask you not to read
it all at once.

                                                        ARTHUR RANSOME.



  PREFACE                                                           vii

                                PART I

  ORIGINS                                                              5
  'THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE'                                           19
  CHAUCER AND BOCCACCIO                                               31
  THE ROGUE NOVEL                                                     51
  THE ELIZABETHANS                                                    67
  THE PASTORAL                                                        81
  CERVANTES                                                           93
  TRANSITION: BUNYAN AND DEFOE                                       125
  RICHARDSON AND THE FEMININE NOVEL                                  139
  FIELDING, SMOLLETT, AND THE MASCULINE NOVEL                        155
  A NOTE ON STERNE                                                   169

                                PART II

  CHATEAUBRIAND AND ROMANTICISM                                      175
  SCOTT AND ROMANTICISM                                              187
  THE ROMANTICISM OF 1830                                            201
  BALZAC                                                             217
  GAUTIER AND THE EAST                                               231
  POE AND THE NEW TECHNIQUE                                          243
  HAWTHORNE AND MORAL ROMANCE                                        257
  MÉRIMÉE AND CONVERSATIONAL STORY-TELLING                           273
  FLAUBERT                                                           287
  A NOTE ON DE MAUPASSANT                                            298
  CONCLUSION                                                         305

  INDEX                                                              313


                                                           TO FACE PAGE

  JEAN DE MEUNG                                                       22
  GEOFFREY CHAUCER                                                    38
  GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO                                                  44
  ALAIN RENÉ LE SAGE                                                  60
  SIR PHILIP SIDNEY                                                   84
  MIGUEL DE CERVANTES SAAVEDRA                                        96
  RICHARD STEELE AND JOSEPH ADDISON                                  114
  JOHN BUNYAN                                                        126
  DANIEL DEFOE                                                       132
  SAMUEL RICHARDSON                                                  140
  FANNY BURNEY                                                       146
  JANE AUSTEN                                                        150
  HENRY FIELDING                                                     156
  TOBIAS SMOLLETT                                                    166
  JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU                                              176
  FRANÇOIS RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND                                     180
  SIR WALTER SCOTT                                                   188
  VICTOR HUGO                                                        202
  ALEXANDRE DUMAS                                                    210
  HONORÉ DE BALZAC                                                   218
  THÉOPHILE GAUTIER                                                  236
  WILLIAM GODWIN                                                     244
  EDGAR ALLAN POE                                                    250
  NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE                                                258
  PROSPER MÉRIMÉE                                                    274
  GUSTAVE FLAUBERT                                                   288
  GUY DE MAUPASSANT                                                  300




[Story-telling outside books.]

STORY-TELLING has nowadays only a shamefaced existence outside books.
We leave the art to the artist, perhaps because he has brought it to
such perfection that we do not care to expose our amateur bunglings. If
a man has a story to tell after dinner he carefully puts it into slang,
or tells it with jerk and gesture in as few words as possible; it is as
if he were to hold up a little placard deprecating the idea that he is
telling a story at all. The only tales in which we allow ourselves much
detail of colouring and background are those in which public opinion
has prohibited professional competition. We tell improper stories
as competently as ever. But, for the other tales, we set them out
concisely, almost curtly, refusing any attempt to imitate the fuller,
richer treatment of literature. Our tales are mere plots. We allow
ourselves scarcely two sentences of dialogue to clinch them at the
finish. We give them no framework. We are shy, except perhaps before a
single intimate friend, of trying in a spoken story to reproduce the
effect of moonlight in the trees, the flickering firelight on the faces
in a tavern, or whatever else of delicacy and embroidery we should be
glad to use in writing.

But in the beginning story-telling was not an affair of pen and ink.
It began with the Warning Examples naturally told by a mother to her
children, and with the Embroidered Exploits told by a boaster to his
wife or friends. The early woman would persuade her child from the
fire with a tale of how just such another as he had touched the yellow
dancer, and had had his hair burned and his eyelashes singed so that
he could not look in the face of the sun. Enjoying the narrative, she
would give it realistic and credible touches, and so make something
more of it than the dull lie of utility. The early man, fresh from an
encounter with some beast of the woods, would not be so little of an
artist as to tell the actual facts; how he heard a noise, the creaking
of boughs and crackling in the undergrowth, and ran. No; he would
describe the monster, sketch his panic moments, the short, fierce
struggle, his stratagem, and his escape. In these two primitive tales,
and their combination in varying proportions, are the germs of all
the others. There is no story written to-day which cannot trace its
pedigree to those two primitive types of narrative, generated by the
vanity of man and the exigencies of his life.

[The professional story-teller.]

At first there would be no professional story-tellers. But it would
not be long before, by the camp fire, in the desert tents, and in
the huts at night, wherever simple men were together relating the
experiences of vigorous days, there would be found some one whose
adventures were always the pleasantest to hear, whose deeds were the
most marvellous, whose realistic details the most varied. Probably it
would also be found that this same man could also give the neatest
point to the tales of wisdom that were the children of the Warning
Example. Men would begin to quote his stories, and gradually the
discrepancy between his life and the life that he lived as he recounted
it to his nightly audiences would grow too great to be ignored. His
adventures would become too tremendous for himself, and, to save his
modesty and preserve his credit, he would father them upon some dead
chief, a strong man who had done things that others had not, and, being
dead, was unable to contradict with his stone axe his too enthusiastic
biographer. Such a man, like many a modern story-teller, would likely
use his hold over the imagination of his fellows to become the medicine
man of his tribe, the depositary of their traditions, their sage as
well as their entertainer. He would create gods besides rebuilding men,
and while his people were sheltering in the huts and listening atremble
to the dying rolls of the thunder, would describe how his hero, the
dead chief of long ago, was even now wrestling with the Thunder God and
getting his knee upon that mighty throat. In the beginning man was a
very little thing in the face of a stupendous Universe. Story-telling
raised him higher and higher until at last heaven and earth were hidden
by the gigantic figure of a man. In the Arthur legend, in the legend of
Charlemagne, in the Sagas, we can watch men becoming heroes, and heroes
supernatural. Then story-telling, having done so much, was to set to
work in the opposite direction, and we shall see the figures of men
gradually shrinking into their true proportions through each successive
phase of the art, until, now that we have examples of all stages
permanently before us, we manufacture gods, heroes, men, and creatures
less than men, with almost equal profusion.

[In early story-telling heroes are more than life size.]

But in the beginning of written story-telling, when life was a huge
battle in which it was the proper thing to die, when the heroes of
stories were not finished off with marriage but by the more definite
means of a battle-axe, when life was a thing of such swiftness,
fierceness, and force, it was clear to his biographer that the creature
who conquered it was surely more than man. His were the attributes of
the gods, with whom he was not frightened to struggle or to be allied.
Sigurd's pedigree is carried back to Odin. Pippin struck a sword
through the devil who met him as he went to bath, and found that 'the
shape was so far material that it defiled all those waters with blood
and gore and horrid slime. Even this did not upset the unconquerable
Pippin. He said to his chamberlain: "Do not mind this little affair.
Let the defiled water run for a while; and then, when it flows clear
again, I will take my bath without delay."' Beowulf fought with dragons
and died boasting gloriously. Theirs are the figures of men a thousand
times man's height, very man-like, but gigantic, like the watchers
shadowed on the mountain mist.

[Silk and homespun stories.]

Each nation showed its peculiar spirit in huge cycles of narrative.
The solid force of the Vikings and their sword-bright imagery survives
in the Sagas; the French chivalry in the legends of Charlemagne and
Arthur; the Celtic feeling for the veiled things in the spells and
dreams of the _Mabinogion_. These were the great stories of their
peoples. But side by side with them were others. The thralls of the
Vikings heard of Brunhild and Gudrun, the serfs of France heard of
Roland and Bertha with the Large Feet; but they had also tales of their
own. The tales of silk have been preserved for us in writing, but what
of the tales of homespun yarn that no old clerk thought worthy of a
manuscript with gold leaves, and sweet faces, and blue and scarlet
flowers entwined around its borders?

Very few of these homespun stories were written down. _Reynard the
Fox_ had few brethren except in spoken story-telling. Perhaps just
because they never were written down, we can guess from the folk-lore
that has survived among us to our own day, and from the tales we hear
from savages, what were those tales of Jean and Jaques, that were
perhaps nearer modern story-telling than the great books that were
known by their masters. In folk-tale, as in _Reynard the Fox_, we find
very different virtues from those of the knights, heroes, kings, and
gods. In the silken tales the virtues are those of Don Quixote; in the
homespun stories they are those of Sancho Panza. Chivalry would seem an
old conceit; bravery, foolhardiness. Sagacity, cunning, and mischief
are their motives. In the silken tales there is no scorn shown save of
cowards, in the folk-tales none save of fools. Perhaps the proverbs
illustrate them best. 'Do not close the stable door after the horse has
gone.' 'A stitch in time saves nine.' 'A bird in the hand is worth two
in the bush.' These are all short stories summed in a sentence, and any
one of them might serve as the motive of a modern novel.

[The swineherd and the king's daughter.]

From the time that stories began to be written down, we can watch them
coming nearer and nearer to this level, nearer and nearer the ordinary
man. The history of story-telling henceforth is that of the abasement
of the grand and the uplifting of the lowly, and of the mingling of the
two. The folk-tale of the swineherd who married the king's daughter is
the history alike of the progress of humanity and of the materials of

[Reduction in the size of the heroes.]

But before the heroes of written story-telling could begin to be
humble, they had to leave off being gods. It is possible to observe
the transformation by comparing a set of early stories composed at
practically the same time, but in different countries, in different
stages of civilisation, and so, for the purpose of our argument,
in sequence. The _Volsunga Saga_, the _Mabinogion_ and _Aucassin
and Nicolete_ were all composed about the same time, but there are
centuries of development between them. The heroes of the sagas are 'too
largely thewed for life'; Aucassin is a boy. Love in the sagas is a
fierce passion, the mainspring of terrific deeds; Aucassin's love is
a tender obsession that keeps him from his arms, and lets him ride,
careless and dreaming, into the midst of his enemies. In the _Morte
Darthur_, as we have it in Malory's version of the much older tales,
we can see the two spirits pulling at cross purposes in the same book.
Beneath there is the rugged brutality of the old fighting tales,
overlaid now with the softer texture of chivalry and gentleness. The
one shows through the other like the grey rock through the green turf
of our north country fields.

[Technique of the Sagas.]

The technique of the old tales varies most precisely with the humanity
and loss of super-humanity of their heroes. In the sagas it is very
simple. The effect is got by sheer weight and mass of magnificent
human material. The details are those of personal appearance and
armour; there are no settings. The men ride out gorgeous and bright
in battle array, with gold about their helms, and painted shields, on
great white horses against a sombre sky. There is no other background
to the tales than heaven and the watchful gods. It was not until a
later stage in their development that story-tellers painted their full
canvas, and put in woodland and castle and all those other accessories
that force their human figures to a human height. At first, like the
early painters, they were content with the outlines of men doing
things; their audiences, with unspoilt imaginations, filled in the rest
themselves. Then, too, they told their tales in a short sing-song form
of verse that served well to keep them in mind, but prevented any great
variation in emphasis. A lament for the dead warrior, a pæan for his
victory, and an account of his wife's beauty, a genealogical tree, were
all forced to jog to the same tune, and the atmosphere and scent of
their telling could only be altered by the intonations of the singer.
They still depended for their effect on the men who recited them, and
had not achieved the completeness of expression that would give them

[Of the _Mabinogion_.]

The _Mabinogion_, that took literary form at about the same time, were
made by a Celtic nation, far further advanced as artists than the
Scandinavians. The men are not so great in their biographers' eyes as
to hide all else. Picture after picture is made and left as the tale
goes on. For example:--

    'And at the mouth of the river he beheld a castle, the fairest that
    man ever saw, and the gate of the castle was open, and he went
    into the castle. And in the castle he saw a fair hall, of which
    the roof seemed to be all gold; the walls of the hall seemed to be
    entirely of glittering precious gems; the doors all seemed to be of
    gold. Golden seats he saw in the hall, and silver tables. And on
    a seat opposite to him he beheld two auburn-haired youths playing
    at chess. He saw a silver board for the chess, and golden pieces
    thereon. The garments of the youths were of jet black satin, and
    chaplets of ruddy gold bound their hair, whereon were sparkling
    jewels of great price, rubies, and gems, alternately with imperial
    stones. Buskins of new Cordovan leather on their feet, fastened by
    slides of red gold.

    'And beside a pillar in the hall he saw a hoary-headed man, in
    a chair of ivory, with the figures of two eagles of ruddy gold
    thereon. Bracelets of gold were upon his arms, and many rings were
    on his hands, and a golden torque about his neck; and his hair was
    bound with a golden diadem. He was of powerful aspect. A chessboard
    of gold was before him and a rod of gold, and a steel file in his
    hand. And he was carving out chessmen.'[1]

These two paragraphs are almost perfect in their kind. See only how
the details are presented in a perfectly natural order, each one
as it would strike a man advancing into the hall, who would see
everything before discovering exactly what the old man was about with
his chessboard, his gold, and his steel file. The Welsh bards were
trained more rigorously than the skalds, and were more delicate in
their craftsmanship. And yet it is interesting to see how these two
paragraphs are the work of a man writing for people in whose eyes gold
and ivory and precious stones have still the glory of the new. The
feeling of that little piece of story is the same we know ourselves
when we have a little child before us, and are telling it wonderful
things to make it open its eyes. The opening of eyes was one of the
effects at which the early artists aimed.

[Of _Aucassin and Nicolete_.]

And then when we come to _Aucassin and Nicolete_, also written at
the same time, but in a country still less barbaric, we find an even
more delicate artistry, and a material far nearer that of later
story-telling. Not only have the heroes become men, but the wondrous
background has become that of real life. There are no castles in
_Aucassin and Nicolete_ whose walls are built 'of precious gems, whose
doors are all of gold.' Nicolete 'went through the streets of Beaucaire
keeping to the shadow, for the moon shone very bright; and she went on
till she came to the tower where her friend was. The tower had cracks
in it here and there, and she crouched against one of the piers, and
wrapped herself in her mantle, and thrust her head into a chink in the
tower, which was old and ancient, and heard Aucassin within weeping,
and making very great sorrow, and lamenting for his sweet friend whom
he loved so much.' Now that is a real tower, as we see again when
presently Nicolete has to go along its wall, and let herself down into
the ditch, hurting her feet sorely before climbing out on the other
side. And is not that an admirable sense for reality that suggested
the keeping to the shadow as she crept through the town? As for the
humanity of the tale; we have been smitten to awe and worship by the
heroes of the sagas, interested in the heroes of the magic-laden
Mabinogion, and now we are made to be sorry for Aucassin. Like the
swing of a pendulum, the character of heroes has swung from that of
God-like ruffians, through that of men, almost to womanhood. We have
had terrible tales, and wondrous tales, and now

    'There is none in such ill case,
    Sad with sorrow, waste with care,
    Sick with sadness, if he hear,
    But shall in the hearing be
    Whole again and glad with glee,
      So _sweet_ the story.'

Loveliness and delicacy are here for their own sakes. We have already
passed the early stages of narrative. We are in the time of sweetly
patterned art; in the monastery over in England a monk is writing
the air of 'Summer is icumen in,' the first known piece of finished,
ordered music; everywhere clerks and holy men, aloof a little from the
turmoil of life, are making gardens in the margins of missals, and on
the roads throughout the world the vagabond students, as separate from
the turmoil as the monks, are singing the Latin songs that promised the



[The thirteenth century.]

THINKING of the Renaissance now, we are apt to see only the flowers
of its spring, the work of men like Boccaccio and Chaucer, who were
strong enough and aloof enough to lift their heads above the flood of
classical learning that refreshed them, and to write as blithely as if
there had been never a book in the world before them. It is easy to
forget those dull years after Chaucer that showed how exceptional he
had been in being at once a student and an artist. It is still easier
to forget the winter years of ploughing and sowing and premature birth
that were before him, the years when no one thought that poetry could
be more esteemed than knowledge, those greedy years of rough and ready
erudition between the making of the students' songs and the building of
the _Decameron_. Many versions of old legends come to us from that time
like the _Life of Robert the Devil_, whose son fought with Charlemagne.
Many of the legends of the kind that the son of Mr. Bickerstaff's
friend was such a proficient in, and many collections of miracles and
small romances of chivalry less beautiful than that of Aucassin, were
at least written down in these years. The monasteries held most of
the learned men, and became more important than the minstrels in the
history of story-telling. They produced the books of miracles, and also
several armouries of warning examples, many of them taken from the
classics, for the vanquishing of scrupulous sinners and the edification
of all. Books like the _Gesta Romanorum_, volumes of tales more or less
irrelevantly tagged with morals, were the forerunners of collections
of less instructive stories, like those of Boccaccio's country-house
party, or those of Chaucer's pilgrims riding to Canterbury. These
books, with their frequent reference to antiquity, showed signs of the
new spirit that was spreading over Europe; the miracle-tales and the
exaggerated wondering biographies held the essence of the old. Rome in
the former was the city built by Romulus and Remus; Rome in the latter
was the place that had been rescued by Charlemagne, the place that was
ruled by the Pope.

But in that thirteenth century, when so many new things were struggling
to birth, one book stands out above all others as the most perfect
illustration of its spirit. The very fact that it is so much less of a
story than the anecdotes of the _Gesta Romanorum_ had almost made me
pass it over in a more detailed criticism of them, but this same fact
perfects it as an example of an artist's attitude in the time of the
revival of classical learning. It was almost an accident that let me
see these years of novel study and eager wisdom so clearly expressed in
the long rhyming narrative of the _Romance of the Rose_, that was known
above all other books for a hundred years, that was read by Ronsard,
modernised by Marot, and partly translated by Chaucer. The accident was
such that I think there is no irrelevance in describing it.


Walking through France with the manuscript of my history on my back,
I came at evening of an April day into the little grey French town of
Meung, set on the side of a hill above the Loire. Small cobbled streets
twisted this way and that, up and down, between the old houses, and
walking under the gateway, the Porte d'Amont, with its low arch and
narrow windows overhead, I felt I was stepping suddenly from the broad,
practical France, whose roadside crucifixes are made of iron a hundred
at a time, into a forgotten corner of that older France whose spirit
clings about the new, like the breath of lavender in a room where it
has once been kept. In the inn where I left my knapsack there was a
miller who drank a bottle of wine with me, and talked of old Jean
Clopinel, who was born here in Meung those centuries ago. 'And it was
a big book he had the writing of too, and a wise book, so they tell
me, and good poetry; but it's written in the old French that's not our
language any longer; I could not read it if I tried, and why should I?
They know all about it in the town.'

Indeed the town seemed a piece of the old French itself, with its
partly ruined church, and the little château crowned with conical
cap-like towers, the broad Loire flowing below. I thought of _The
Romance of the Rose_, Jean Clopinel's book, the book that meant so
much to the Middle Ages, the book that, unwieldy as it is, is still
deliciously alive. I thought of Jean Clopinel and his description of
himself, put as a prophecy into the mouth of the God of Love:--

    'Then shall appear Jean Clopinel,
    Joyous of heart, of body well
    And fairly built: at Meun shall he
    Be born where Loire flows peacefully.'[2]

I made up my mind to look at the old book again when I should have
left the road, and be within reach of a larger library than my own
manuscript and a single volume of Defoe.

[Jean de Meung.]

Jean de Meung, joyous of heart, belongs absolutely to the mediæval
revival of learning. He was less of a poet than a scholar, more pleased
with a display of knowledge than of beauty, and yet so far undamped by
his learning as to be always ready to put plainly out such observations
upon life as keep a reader smiling to-day at their shrewdness and
applicability. His share of _The Romance of the Rose_ is a strange and
suggestive contrast with the beginning that was written by Guillaume
de Lorris. The first part, earlier by forty years than the second, and
about a fifth of the length, is a delicious allegory on love, with
the sweetness and purity of _Aucassin and Nicolete_; the second opens
solidly with a good round speech by Reason, filling something like two
thousand lines, and ransacking antiquity to fit her wise saws with
ancient instances according to the new fashion of the time.

Taine finds this garrulous Jean 'the most tedious of doctors'; but it
is difficult not to throw yourself into his own delight in his new-won
knowledge, hard not to enjoy his continual little revelations of
character, as when you read:--

    'Let one demand of some wise clerk
    Well versed in that most noble work
    "Of Consolation" foretime writ
    By great Boethius, for in it
    Are stored and hidden most profound
    And learned lessons: 'twould redound
    Greatly to that man's praise who should
    Translate that book with masterhood,'

and know that he made the translation himself.

[The world at school.]

The very popularity of the book proves that the whole world was at
school then, and eager to be taught. Lorris, poet though he is, reminds
his readers that his embroidered tale hides something really valuable,
that it is 'fair wit with wisdom closely wed,' knowing well that he
could find no better bait to keep them with him to the end. And Jean,
when it comes to his turn, admirably expresses the contemporary point
of view. He has no doubts at all between the comparative worths of
manner and matter. He justifies the classics by saying:--

    'For oft their quip and crank and fable
    Is wondrous good and profitable.'

[One of the schoolmasters.]

The permanent value of knowledge is always before him, and having
learnt a great deal himself, what wonder that he should empty it all
out, only now and again giving the tale a perfunctory prod forward
before continuing his discourse? Knowledge comes always before culture,
and knowledge taken with such abandon is almost inspiriting. I cannot
be bored by a scholar who in the thirteenth century is so independent
and so frank. Eager quarry work such as his had to precede the refined
statuary of the Renaissance, and in _The Romance of the Rose_ the
pedagogue is far too human to be dismissed as a dealer in books alone.
Wisdom and observation were not disunited in him, and there are in that
rambling, various repository of learning promises enough of realistic
story-telling and of the criticism of life, sufficiently valuable
to excuse its atrocious narrative, even were that not justified by
the classical allusion with which it is so abundantly loaded. It
gives me pleasure to hear Jean Clopinel defend plain speaking, and,
protesting against calling spades anything but spades, prepare the
way for Rabelais. What matter if the romance suffer a little, and the
Rose lie pressed beneath a weight of scholarship? Jean himself moves
on unhampered. He talked of women's table-manners so well that Chaucer
himself could do no better than borrow from him. He attacked womenkind
in general so mercilessly (with the authority of the classics behind
him) that he won a stern rebuke from Christine de Pisan, that popular
authoress of a century later, just as Schopenhauer might be censured by
Miss Corelli. He looks at kings, and, turning away, remarks that it is
best, if a man wishes to feel respectful towards them, that he should
not see them too close. Nor does he forget to let us know his views
on astronomy, on immortality, or his preference of nature over art in
sculpture and painting. This last opinion of his is an illustration
of that good and honest Philistinism that he needed for his work. All
these things and a thousand others he puts, without a shudder, into the
continuation of a story on the art of loving, that begins with a spring
morning account of a dreamer's vision of a rose and a garden, and Mirth
and Idleness, Youth and Courtesy, dancing together as if in a picture
by Botticelli.

[In Meung six hundred years ago.]

I went down that night just after sunset and crossed the river in the
dusk. Resting in the middle of the bridge and looking over the dim
reflections to the far-distant bank, with its grove of huge trees, and
the tower of the church with the outline of the gateway on the hill
behind just showing against the sky, I dreamed that I was back in the
old days, when the minstrel was giving place to the scholar, and that
up there on the hill, in the little town of Meung, was Jean, Doctor of
Divinity, poring at his books. I remembered the bust by Desvergnes,
that beautiful scholar's face, and thought how strong a personality his
must have been, to leave after six hundred years and more the memory of
himself and the feeling of his time so vividly impressed upon the town.
For even now, though they do not read his book in Meung, they know all
about it, and talk of him with that reverence in speaking that children
use when they talk of a master whom they do not often see. I could not
help feeling that their attitude was traditional. It has been the same
for all these years, and perhaps long ago the townsfolk, passing in
the narrow streets, hushed themselves before one door, and whispered,
'Yes; he is in there writing a book; there are not many who can do
that,' while old Jean Clopinel inside nursed his lame leg and dipped
from folio to folio, as he took gem and pebble from the dead tongue and
put his vivid thought and gleeful knowledge in black letter on the
parchment, in black-lettered French, the speech of his own people, that
all might see how fine a thing it was to look into antiquity and to be



[The Romancers before Chaucer.]

THE Franklin of Chaucer's pilgrims introduces his own story by
remarking that,

    'Thise olde gentil Britons in hir dayes
    Of diverse aventures maden layes,
    Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge;
    Which layes with hir instruments they songe,
    Or elles redden hem for hir pleasaunce;
    And oon of hem have I in remembraunce
    Which I shal seyn with good wil as I can.'

Chaucer had many of them 'in remembraunce,' and though he shared the
knowledge of Jean de Meung, and was not, like the Franklin, a man who

      'sleep never on the mount of Parnaso,
    Ne lerned Marcus Tullius Cithero,'

these tales, whether made by the 'olde gentil Britons' or the French,
must not be forgotten in considering him.

The romancers who preceded him, and, clad in bright colours, chanted
their stories before the ladies and knights in the rush-carpeted halls,
turning somersaults between their chapters, as many a modern novelist
might for the enlivenment of his narrative, were not scholars, but
had great store of legendary matter from which they made their tales.
Their material continued to be used, more and more elaborately, until
the time of Cervantes, and in such books as the _Morte Darthur_ we can
see what manner of material it was. They were not in the least afraid
of the supernatural, and they knew the undying attraction of hard
blows. Their tales were compiled without reference to the classics,
and contain all the characteristics of primitive story-telling noted
in the chapter on Origins. They represented, fairly accurately, the
Embroidered Exploit. They were tales of heroes, knights, and kings,
half elfin stuff, half history, elaborate genealogical narratives in
which the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and the
grandsons' misfortunes are connected with their parents' revenge on
the previous generation. There were great dragon-slayers before the
Lord, and many who, like Charlemagne, were mighty killers of Saracens
in the cause of Christendom. And then there were such tales as that of
Melusine, whose father, King Helymas, married a fairy, and out of love
for her broke his promise not to inquire how she was when she lay in
childbed. Melusine suffers accordingly, spending every Saturday bathing
herself, with her delicate white limbs hidden beneath a serpent's scaly
skin. There comes to her a young knight called Raymondin whom she
saves by her wisdom, enriches by her magic, weds with great pomp, and
presents in successive years with ten sons, each curiously deformed by
reason of the fairy blood. Raymondin, in espousing her, promises to
make no inquiries about her doings on Saturdays. He breaks his promise,
like his father-in-law before him, and when, in anger at the ill-deeds
of one of his sons, he reproaches her with what she is, she sadly takes
leave of him, and flies off through the window, 'transfigured lyke a
serpent grete and long in fifteen foote of lengthe.' There were tales
too of more charming fancy, like that of the queen who bore seven
children at a birth, six boys and a girl, with silver chains about
their necks. The midwife, in her devilish way, showed her seven puppies
with silver collars instead of her litter of babes, privately sending
the children to be killed. The children, however, left in the forest,
were nurtured by a nanny-goat and cared for by a hermit, until the
midwife discovered that they were not dead, when she sent men to see
that they were properly scotched. But the men were so softened by the
accident of meeting a crowd busied with the burning of a woman who had
killed her child, that they had only heart to take the chains from off
the babies' necks, whereupon they flew away as white swans. That is the
beginning of the tale.

[The _Gesta Romanorum._]

There were tales like these representing the Embroidered Exploit,
and there were others illustrating in a curious manner the growth of
the Warning Example. These latter were the forerunners of the tales
of Boccaccio, who, like Chaucer, stands as it were with a Janus-head,
looking both ways, modern and primitive at once. The _Gesta Romanorum_
is a perfectly delightful book, whose purpose was, however, not
pleasure but edification. It is a collection of stories containing
amusement and religion, diversion and instruction--a primrose path from
the everlasting bonfire. The anecdotes are from a thousand sources.
Many of them are taken from the classics, but the references are so
inaccurate as to make it pretty certain that the monkish writer had not
read them, but had gleaned them from the conversation of other monks he
knew. And some of them cannot have come to him within the monastery.
I can imagine the old man, with his hood well thrown back, lolling on
a bench, behind a tankard of good wine and a dish of fruit, laughing
gleefully at the tale of the rich patroness or pious knight who wished
to entertain themselves and him. For almost the only things monkish
about the stories are the applications or morals, some of which are so
far fetched as to make it clear that the monk compiler has included a
tale for the pleasure he has himself won from it, and, after writing it
down, been hard put to it to find a moral that should justify its place
in a book intended as an armoury for preachers. Here is an example:--


    'A certain carpenter, residing in a city near the sea, very
    covetous and very wicked, collected a large sum of money, and
    placed it in the trunk of a tree, which he stationed by his
    fireside, and which he never lost sight of. A place like this, he
    thought, no one could suspect; but it happened, that while all his
    household slept, the sea overflowed its boundaries, broke down
    that side of the building where the log was situated, and carried
    it away. It floated many miles from its original destination, and
    reached at length a city in which there lived a person who kept
    open house. Arising early in the morning, he perceived the trunk
    of a tree in the water, and thinking it would be of service to
    him, he brought it to his own home. He was a liberal, kind-hearted
    man, and a great benefactor to the poor. It one day chanced that
    he entertained some pilgrims in his house; and the weather being
    extremely cold, he cut up the log for firewood. When he had struck
    two or three blows with the axe, he heard a rattling sound;
    and cleaving it in twain, the gold pieces rolled out in every
    direction. Greatly rejoiced at the discovery, he reposited them in
    a secure place, until he should ascertain who was the owner.

    'Now the carpenter, bitterly lamenting the loss of his money,
    travelled from place to place in pursuit of it. He came, by
    accident, to the house of the hospitable man who had found the
    trunk. He failed not to mention the object of his search; and the
    host, understanding that the money was his, reflected whether his
    title to it were good. "I will prove," said he to himself, "if God
    will that the money should be returned to him." Accordingly he made
    three cakes, the first of which he filled with earth, the second
    with the bones of dead men, and in the third he put a quantity of
    the gold which he had discovered in the trunk. "Friend," said he,
    addressing the carpenter, "we will eat three cakes, composed of the
    best meat in my house. Chuse which you will have." The carpenter
    did as he was directed, he took the cakes and weighed them in
    his hand, one after another, and finding that the earth weighed
    heaviest, he chose it. "And if I want more, my worthy host," added
    he, "I will have that"--laying his hand upon the cake containing
    the bones. "You may keep the third cake yourself." "I see clearly,"
    murmured the host, "I see very clearly that God does not will the
    money to be returned to this wretched man." Calling, therefore,
    the poor and infirm, the blind and the lame, and opening the cake
    of gold in the presence of the carpenter, to whom he spoke, "Thou
    miserable varlet, this is thine own gold. But thou preferredst the
    cake of earth and dead men's bones. I am persuaded, therefore, that
    God wills not that I return thee thy money." Without delay, he
    distributed the whole among the paupers, and drove the carpenter
    away in great tribulation.'

So much for the story, which is indeed rather long to be quoted in so
small a book. But listen now to the application:--

    'My beloved, the carpenter is any worldly-minded man; the trunk of
    the tree denotes the human heart, filled with the riches of this
    life. The host is a wise confessor. The cake of earth is the world;
    that of the bones of dead men is the flesh; and that of gold is the
    kingdom of heaven.'

[Chaucer and Boccaccio.]

The modern novel could have no beginning in a literature so far removed
from ordinary life as the romances, so brief in narration, so pious
in ideal as the Gesta. Something more of flesh and blood, something
of coarser grain than dreams, on the one hand, and on the other
something fuller fleshed than the skeletonic anecdote (however marrowy
its bones) was needed to produce it. It needed men and women, and it
needed a more delicate narrative form, portraiture, and the fine art of
story-telling, Chaucer, and Boccaccio. Chaucer, for all that he wrote
in verse, was not a _trouveur_ when he was at his best. Boccaccio was
not a collector of anecdotes. The new classical learning had given them
humaner outlooks. The attitude of the _Canterbury Tales_ is not that
of the _Song of Roland_, or the _Morte Darthur_; the attitude of the
_Decameron_ is not that of the Gesta. Chaucer and Boccaccio, sometimes
at least, were plain men, pleasantly conscious of their humanity,
telling stories to amuse their friends.

Chaucer was a middle-class Englishman, Boccaccio a middle-class
Italian. They both wrote in languages that were scarcely older than
themselves, in languages that were rather popular than learned. They
were both in a sense mediators between the classical culture and
their own people. There the resemblance ends, and their personal
characters begin to seal the impressions they made on their respective
literatures. They represent two quite distinct advances in the art of
story-telling, the one in material, the other in technique. In both of
them there is a personal honesty of workmanship that makes their work
their own. The names of the _trouveurs_ are lost, or, at least, not
connected with what they did. They were workers on a general theme, and
counted no more in the production of the whole than the thousand men
who chiselled out each his piece of carving round the arches of Notre
Dame. They were the tools of their nations. Chaucer and Boccaccio were
men whose workmanship had its special marks, its private personality.
They were artists in their own right and not artisans.

[Illustration: GEOFFREY CHAUCER]


Chaucer's was a fairly simple nature. He seems to have taken to
Renaissance fashions just as he took to Renaissance learning, without
in the least disturbing the solid Englishness of his foundation. He
married a Damsell Philippa without letting his marriage interfere with
an ideal and unrequited passion like that of Petrarch for Laura. He
had Jean de Meung's own reverence for the classics. 'Go litel book, go
litel my tragedie,' he says in '_Troilus and Criseyd_,

    'And kiss the steppes, wher-as thou seest pace
    Virgil, Ovyde, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.'

And yet few men have about them less of a classical savour. He may well
have liked 'at his beddes heed

    'Twenty bokes clad in blak or reed,
    Of Aristotle and his philosophye,'

but he was a man of the true 'Merry England,' when oxen were roasted
whole on feast-days, and pigs ran in the London streets. He followed
the Court, but he knew the populace. His father was a vintner in Thames
Street, and in the Cheapside taverns Chaucer found some of the material
that his travels and learning taught him how to use. On St. George's
day 1374 he was granted a pitcher of wine daily for life by his Majesty
Edward the Third. It is probable that he met Petrarch at Padua. These
two facts seem to me to present no very hollow portrait of the man.


He brought into the art of story-telling a new clearness of sight in
looking at other people and at the manners of the time. The romances
had not represented contemporary life, but rather contemporary ideals.
No one can pretend to find in Lancelot, in Roland, in Isoud of the
White Hands, character-sketch or portrait. Lancelot is the perfect
knight, Roland the perfect warrior, Isoud the beautiful woman. They
were not a knight, a warrior, a woman. Those who heard the tales used
the names as servant-girls use names in modern novels of plot, as pegs
on which to hang their own emotions and their own ambitions. The lady
who listened with her chin upon her hands as the _trouveurs_ chanted
before her, took herself the part of Isoud, and gave her lover or the
lover for whom she hoped the attributes of Tristram. The jack-squire
listening near the foot of the table himself felt Roland's steed
between his legs. These names of romance were qualities not people. The
Wife of Bath is a very different matter.

    'In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon
    That to th' offering bifore hir sholde goon;
    And if ther dide, certeyn, so wrooth was she,
    That she was out of alle charitee.
    Hir coverchiefs ful fyne were of ground;
    I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
    That on a Sonday were upon hir heed.
    Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
    Ful streite y-teyd, and shoos ful moiste and newe.
    Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
    She was a worthy womman al hir lyve,
    Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve,
    Withouten other companye in youthe;
    But therof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe.
    And thryes hadde she been at Jerusalem;
    She hadde passed many a straunge streem;
    At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,
    In Galice at seint Jame, and at Coloigne.
    She coude much of wandring by the weye;
    Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
    Upon an amblere esily she sat,
    Y-wimpled wel, and on hir heed an hat
    As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
    A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
    And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
    In felawschip wel coude she laughe and carpe.
    Of remedyes of love she knew perchaunce,
    For she coude of that art the olde daunce.'

She is there, solid, garrulous, herself. She does not get husbands
because she is a worshipped goddess, but because she is a practical
woman. Bold indeed would be the lady who in imagination played her
part. The Wife is no empty fancy dress in which we move and live; she
is well filled out with her own flesh, and we watch her from outside as
we would watch a neighbour. Hers is no veil of dreams, but a good and
costly one, bought at Bristol Fair by one or other of her five husbands
whom she has badgered into getting it.

Story-tellers before Chaucer seemed scarcely to have realised that men
were more than good or bad, brave or coward. You hated a man, or you
loved him, laughed at, or admired him; it never occurred to you to
observe him. Every man was man, every woman woman. It was not until the
Renaissance that modern story-telling found one of its motives, which
is, that there are as many kinds of man and woman as there are men and
women in the world. Then, at last, character and individuality became
suddenly important. Passion, reverence, charm had existed before in
story-telling. To these was now added another possibility of the art
in portrait painting. So was the modern world differentiated from the
dark ages; blinking in the unaccustomed light, men began to look at one
another. In painting, almost simultaneously with literature, the new
power found expression. The Van Eycks were alive before Chaucer was
dead, and in the careful, serene painting of 'John Arnolfini and his
Wife,' is the observant spirit of the _Canterbury Tales_. That woman
standing there in her miraculously real green robe, her linen neat upon
her head, her hand laid in her husband's, and her eyes regarding his
pious, solemn gesture as if she had consented in her own mind to see
him painted as he wished, and not betray her sense of humour, the man,
the pattens on the floor, the little dog, and the detailed chandelier,
are all painted as if in Chaucer's verse. The identity of them is the
amazing thing; their difference from all the other men and women of
the town, the difference of their room from all other rooms, and their
little dog from all other little dogs. To compare that married couple
with any knight and lady carved in stone, hands folded over breasts, on
a tomb in an old church, is to compare the modern with the mediæval,
and the Wife of Bath with Guenevere or the Wife of Sir Segwarides.

[Prose and verse.]

After Chaucer, narrative scarcely developed except in prose. Scott,
indeed, nearly five centuries later, wrote his first tales in verse,
but the rhyming story-teller disappeared in the greater author of
the Waverley Novels.[3] Chaucer himself is interesting for marking
the transition. He had many attributes of later narrative, in his
round English humour, in his concern with actual life, although in
this essay I have only needed him to illustrate the beginnings of the
portrait-making that has since become so important a byway of the art.
But while his verse in the _Canterbury Tales_ has the effect of good
prose, his prose, excellent elsewhere, is here unwieldy and beyond his
governance. He expressed the new attitude in the old way; but when he
was only nine years old, there had been written in Italy prose tales
that have hardly been excelled as examples of the two forms of the
short story. Chaucer was born in 1340. In 1349 Boccaccio finished the


Boccaccio had a more intricate mind than Chaucer's, and a more
elaborate life. He is said to have been an illegitimate son of a
Florentine merchant and a Frenchwoman, and the two nations certainly
seem to have contributed to his character. He spent six years of his
youth apprenticed to a merchant in Paris, forsook business, and was
sent to learn law, and only in the end persuaded his father to let him
devote himself to books. He had a knowledge of the world uncommon even
in his day, and a knowledge of letters that was rare. He was something
of a scholar, something of a courtier, and, particularly, something of
a poet. Sentence after sentence in the _Decameron_ glides by like a
splash of sunlight on a stream with floating blossoms. I must quote
one of his poems in Rossetti's most beautiful translation:--

    'By a clear well, within a little field
      Full of green grass and flowers of every hue,
      Sat three young girls, relating (as I knew)
    Their loves. And each had twined a bough to shield
    Her lovely face; and the green leaves did yield
      The golden hair their shadow; while the two
      Sweet colours mingled, both blown lightly through
    With a soft wind for ever stirred and still'd.
    After a little while one of them said
      (I heard her), 'Think! If, ere the next hour struck,
      Each of our lovers should come here to-day,
    Think you that we should fly or feel afraid?'
      To whom the others answered, 'From such luck
        A girl would be a fool to run away.'

He could write a poem like that; he could write the _Decameron_; he
could write books of greater impropriety; and at the end of his life
could beg his friends to leave such books alone, devoting himself to
the compilation of ponderous works of classical learning. There is
a legend of a deathbed vision of Judgment where Boccaccio figured,
which, being reported to him, nearly gave the wit, the scholar, and the
gallant the additional mask of the Carthusian religious.


But the Boccaccio of the _Decameron_ was the mature young man, of
personal beauty, and nimble tongue, a Dioneo, who had his own way
with the company in which he found himself, and was licensed, like a
professional jester, to say the most scandalous things. He knew the
rich colour, classical learning, and jollity of morals of the Court
of Naples. Here he heard the travelling story-tellers, and perhaps
learnt from them a little of the art of narrative. He knew the _Gesta
Romanorum_, and began to collect tales himself with the idea of making
some similar collection. Noting story after story that he heard told
(for it would be ridiculous to reason from the widespread origin of
his tales that he had a stupendous knowledge of the world's books),
he wrote them with a perfect feeling for value and proportion. In
him the story-teller ceased to be an improviser. In his tales the
longwindedness of the _trouveurs_ was gone, gone also the nakedness
of the anecdote. He refused to excuse them with the moral tags of
the Gesta. These new forms were not things of utility that needed
justification; they were things of independent beauty.

[His story-telling.]

Boccaccio was intent simply on the art of telling tales. He knew enough
of classical literature to feel the possible dignity and permanence of
prose, and he told his stories as they were told to him in a supple,
pleasant vernacular that obeyed him absolutely and never led him off by
its own strangeness into byways foreign to the tales and to himself.
He found his material in anecdotes of current gossip, like Cecco
Angiolieri's misadventure with his money, his palfrey, and his clothes,
and in popular tales like that of the overpatient Griselda. He took
it in the rough and shaped it marvellously, creating two forms, the
short story proper, the skilful development of a single episode, and
the little novel, the French _nouvelle_, a tale whose incidents are
many and whose plot may be elaborate. From his day to our own these two
forms have scarcely altered, and in the use of both of them he showed
that invaluable art, so strenuously attained by later story-tellers, of
compelling us to read with him to the end, even if we know it, for the
mere joy of narrative, the delight of his narrating presence. We are
so well content with Chaucer's gorgeous improvisations that we never
ask whether this piece or that is relevant to the general theme. But in
Boccaccio there are no irrelevancies, praise that can be given to few
story-tellers before the time of the self-conscious construction of men
like Poe, and the austere selection of men like Mérimée and Flaubert.

[Importance of framework in books of short tales.]

Even without their setting his tales would have been something
memorable, something that lifted the art to a new level and made less
loving workmanship an obvious backsliding. But stories put together do
not make good books. The _Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_ are very short and
make a collection of anecdotes. The _Exemplary Novels_ of Cervantes
are very long and stand and fall each one alone. But the _Canterbury
Tales_ are the better for that merry company on pilgrimage. And when
Queen Joan of Naples, profligate, murderess, and bluestocking, asked
Boccaccio to put his stories in a book, it was well that he should have
the plague of 1348 to set as purple velvet underneath his gems--the
morality inseparable from the tales was so simple and so careless.
Boccaccio's attitude was that of his age. Man has wants: if he can
satisfy them, good: if not, why then it may ease his sorrow to hear it
professionally expressed:--'Help me,' as Chaucer says:--

    'Help me that am the sorwful instrument
    That helpeth lovers, as I can, to pleyne!'

As for good fortune, it is taken as naïvely as by the topers in the

    'Maults gone down, maults gone down
    From an old angel to a French crown.
    And every drunkard in this town
    Is very glad that maults gone down.'

When Troilus is happy with Cressida, Chaucer smiles aside:--'With worse
hap God let us never mete.' And Boccaccio, after describing a scene
that in England at the present day would be the prelude to a case at
law, and columns of loathsomely prurient newspaper reports, ejaculates
with simple piety:--'God grant us the like.' The _Decameron_ owes
much of its dignity and permanence to its double frame, to the Court
of Story-telling in the garden on the hill, and to the deeper irony
that places it, sweet, peaceful, and insouciant, in the black year of
pestilence and death.



[Democracy in literature.]

FEW characters in literature have had so large or so honourable a
progeny as the gutter-snipe. If the Kings' daughters of High Romance,
charming, delicate creatures, had only wedded with Kings' sons, as
delicately fashioned as themselves, we should never have known the
sterling dynasty of the Tom Joneses and the Humphry Clinkers, with
their honest hearts and coarse hides warranted to wear. All those Kings
of men, whose thrones were beer-barrels, whose sceptres, oaken cudgels,
whose perennial counsellor was Jollity, whose enemy, Introspection,
would never have come to their own, and indeed would never have been
born, if it had not been for the sixteenth century entry of the rascal
into the Palace gardens, for the escapades of such shaggy-headed,
smutfaced, barefooted urchins as Lazarillo de Tormes.

To such rogues as he must be attributed much of our present humanity;
for until we could laugh at those of low estate, we held them of
little account. There is small mention made of serving-men in the
_Morte Darthur_ or the _Mabinogion_, and when, in the _Heptameron_ of
Margaret of Navarre, we hear of the drowning of a number of them in
trying to render easy the passage of their masters through the floods,
the comment is extremely short: 'One must not despair for the loss of
servants, for they are easy to replace.' On a similar occasion 'all
the company were filled with a joy inestimable, praising the Creator,
who, contenting himself with serving-men, had saved the masters and
mistresses,' an index alike to the ferocity they still attributed to
God and the rather exclusive humanity of themselves. Do you not think
with sudden awe of the revolution to come? Do you not hear a long way
off the trampling of a million serving-men, prepared to satisfy God
with other lives? It is a fine contrast to turn from these queenly
sentences to this little book, the autobiography of a beggar, who
thinks himself sufficiently important to set down the whole truth about
his birth, lest people should make any mistake. 'My father, God be
kind to him, had for fifteen years a mill on the river of Tormes....
I was scarcely eight when he was accused of having, with evil intent,
made leakage in his check sacks.... Letting himself be surprised, he
confessed all, and suffered patiently the chastisement of justice,
which makes me hope that he is, according to the Gospel, of the number
of those happy in the Glory of God.' No very reputable parentage this,
in a day when it was the fashion to derive heroes from Charlemagne or

[_Lazarillo de Tormes._]

It is a short step from the ironic to the sincere. The author of the
book is laughing at his hero, and makes a huge joke of his pretensions.
But to recognise, even in jest, that a vagabond rogue could have
pretensions, or indeed any personal character at all beyond that of a
tool in the hand of whoever was kind enough to use him, was to look
upon him with a humaner eye and, presently, to recognise him in earnest
as a fellow creature. It seems to me significant that the first rogues
in our literature should come from Spain, a country that has never
quite forgotten its Moorish occupation. In the Spanish student, who, so
tradition says, wrote _Lazarillo_ while in the University of Salamanca,
there must have been something of the spirit of the race that lets the
hunchback tell his story to the Caliph, and is glad when the son of the
barber marries the daughter of the Grand Vizier. For, joke as it is,
the book is the story of a beggar, told as a peculiarly fearless and
brazen beggar would tell it, without suggesting or demanding either
condescension or pity.

[The morality of the underworld.]

There is genius in the little book. Its author perhaps did better than
he meant, for he brings on every page the moral atmosphere of the
underworld, the old folk-morality, the same in sixteenth-century Spain
as in the oldest tales of sagacity and cunning. Lazarillo's shameless
mother apprentices him to a blind beggar who promises to treat him like
a son and begins his education at once. He takes the boy to a big
stone on the outskirts of the town, and bids him listen to the noise
within it. The boy puts his head close to the stone to hear the better,
and the old rascal gives him a thundering blow, which, the stone being
an admirable anvil, nearly cracks his skull. That is his first lesson
... never to be unsuspicious ... and it is as characteristic of the
others as of _Reynard the Fox_.

There never was so excellent a beggar as Lazarillo's master; no trick
of the trade was unknown to him. As a fortune-teller, he could prophesy
what his victims wished to hear. As a doctor he had his remedies for
toothache, and for fainting-fits; not an illness could be mentioned
but he had a physic ready to his hands. Then too, 'he knew by heart
more prayers than all the blind men of Spain. He recited them very
distinctly, in a low tone, grave and clear, calling the attention of
the whole church; he accompanied them with a posture humble and devout,
without gesticulations or grimaces of mouth, after the manner of those
blind men who have not been properly brought up.' Indeed his only fault
was avarice. 'He was not content with making me die of hunger,' says
his pupil; 'he was doing the same himself.'

Under such a master Lazarillo's wits sharpen quickly. 'A fool would
have been dead a hundred times; but by my subtlety and my good
tricks, I always, or mostly (in spite of all his care), succeeded
in getting hold of the biggest and best portion.' Lazarillo becomes
as astute a rascal as his teacher, and, living fairly and squarely
in the conditions of the underworld, his villainy does not damp his
spirits, or disturb his peace of nights. I was reminded of him by a
young tramp with whom I walked in the north country, a rogue with as
merry a heart as he, and a similar well-fitting morality. With me, from
whom he knew there was nothing to gain but good fellowship, he was a
good fellow, walked with a merry stride, whistled as he went, sang me
songs in the Gaelic of his childhood, and told me of the jolly tricks
he had played with a monkey he had brought from over sea. We walked
like men in the sunshine. But when, beyond a turn in the road, he saw
some person coming a little better dressed, why then his face flashed
into a winking melancholy, his stride degenerated as if by magic into
a slouch, and it was odd if his mean figure and despairing hand did
not attract a copper, for which he would call down a blessing. Then,
as soon as we were out of sight of his benefactor, he would resume his
natural walk and burst again into whistling and merriment. Lazarillo
is as frank as he. He recognises his needs (Hunger is not an easy
fellow to ignore), and would be much surprised if you denied his right
to satisfy them. Nor is he disappointed in you. Every honest man must
love a rogue, and you are as consciencelessly glad as himself when
Lazarillo, by kneeling before him and sucking the liquor through a
straw, diddles the blind man who greedily guards the wine bowl between
his ragged knees. You feel that he has but his due when he happens
upon a wife and a living and (if you read the continuation of his
history[4]) find nothing blameworthy in the fact that he spends his
last years in the clothes and reputation of a dead hermit, subsisting
on the charity of the religious.

[The form of the rogue novel.]

I have talked at some length about the contents of this little book in
order to illustrate the new material then brought into story-telling.
Let me now consider the new form that came with it. _Lazarillo de
Tormes_ was a very simple development from the plain anecdote or merry
quip of folklore or gossip, which was, as we have seen in the last
chapter, one of the popular early forms of narrative. Boccaccio raised
the anecdote to a higher level of art by giving it a fuller technique
and expanding it into the short story. The inventors of the rogue
novels achieved a similar result by stringing a number of anecdotes
together about a particular hero, making as it were cycles of anecdotes
comparable in their humbler way with the grand cycles of romance.
Lazarillo himself is not an elaborate conception, but simply a fit
rogue to play the main part in a score or so of roguish exploits, idly
following one another as they occurred to the mind of the narrator. His
life is a jest-book turned into a biography, a collection of anecdotes
metamorphosed into a novel.

[Its satirical material.]

The new form gave story-telling a wider scope. In writing a collection
of anecdotes it was difficult to realise the hero who was no more than
a name that happened to be common to them all. It was impossible to
make much of the minor characters who walk on or off the tiny stage of
each adventure. But in stringing them along a biography, in producing
instead of a number of embroidered exploits a single embroidered life,
there need be no limit to the choice and elaboration of the embroidery.
Though the hero was no more than a quality, a puppet guaranteed to
jump on the pull of a string, the setting of his life turned easily
into a satirical picture of contemporary existence, and satire became
eventually one of the principal aims with which such novels were

The low estate of the rogue novel's hero made satire from his lips
not only easy but palatable. In writing the opinions of a rogue you
can politely assume that his standpoint is not that of his readers.
For that reason they can applaud the rascal's wit playing over other
people, or, if it touches them too closely, regard it with compassion
as lions might listen to the criticism of jackals. _Lazarillo_
contains plenty of good-humoured, bantering portraits: the seller
of forged indulgences, the miserly priest, and particularly the
out-at-elbows gentleman who walks abroad each day to lunch with a
rich friend, and is unable on his return from his hungry promenade to
keep from eyeing, and at last from sharing, the rough bread that his
servant has begged or stolen for himself. Lazarillo's merit is that he
writes of himself _à propos_ of other people, and never barrenly of
himself for his own sake. Smollett in writing _Roderick Random_ is true
to his traditions in getting his own back from schoolmasters and the
Navy Office. And the arms of Dickens, who reformed the workhouses in
telling the story of Oliver Twist, must have had quartered upon them
the rampant begging bowl of the little Spanish rogue.

Now the characteristic language of satire is as pointed as the blade
of a rapier, and for this we owe some gratitude to these rascally
autobiographies whose plainness of style was nearer talk than that
of any earlier form of narrative. The prose of the picaresque novel
has been in every age remarkably free from the literary tricks most
fashionable at the time. When your hero dresses in rags you cannot
do better than clothe his opinions in simplicity. The writing of
_Lazarillo_, of _Tom Jones_, of _Captain Singleton_, of _Lavengro_,
is clear, virile, not at all ornate, the exact opposite to that of
the Pastorals. Such heroes deliver their sentences, like Long Melford,
straight from the shoulder, and would consider fine writing as so much
aimless trifling in the air.

[Picaresque autobiographies.]

Mention of _Lavengro_ suggests a paragraph on one of the most curious
developments to be noticed in the history of the art. All that we have
examined so far have been from truth to fiction; this is a movement
from fiction to truth. Stories of the deeds of a man have become
romances of the deeds of a hero. A biography has changed as we watched
it into a tale of miracle. Here is a quite different phenomenon. An
imaginary autobiography that pretends to be real, of a rascally hero,
makes it possible for rogues to write real autobiographies that pretend
to be imaginary. _Lavengro_ and the _Romany Rye_ are two parts of a
rogue novel constructed like the oldest of the kind. They contain a
hero somehow put on a different plane from that of respectable society,
and the books are made up of the people he meets and the things they
say and do to him, or make him do and say. 'Why,' says Borrow, whose
attitude towards life is as confident as Lazarillo's, 'there is not a
chapter in the present book which is not full of adventures, with the
exception of the present one, and this is not yet terminated.'

[The development of the rogue novel.]

But Borrow and other makers of confessions are not of the direct
line, in spite of the roguish and adventurous air that clings about
them as they rest upon our shelves. _Lazarillo_ had many sincerer and
more immediate flatterers--Thomas Nash, for example, whose _Jacke
Wilton, or the Unfortunate Traveller_, holds in itself, as one of the
earliest pieces of realism in English literature, more than enough
of interest for an essay. He had also many younger brothers at home,
and an enormous progeny, and it has so happened that the influence of
the rogue novel on our own fiction was exerted through them, and not
through his early imitations in France and England. Cervantes used its
form for the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and, combining
the picaresque spirit with that of the tales of chivalry, produced the
first realistic romance. Many lesser writers were content to follow
Lazarillo's lead without such independent ingenuity. They brought up
their literary children to be heroes after Lazarillo's fashion and
were proud to have him as a godfather. In their hands the rogue novel
retained its form and gained only a multiplicity of incident, a hundred
writers earnestly devising new swindles and more exciting adventures
for the hero, whose personality under all their buffetings remained
constant to its original characteristics. No nation has shown more
fertility in fancy than the Spanish. We owe to Spain half the trap-door
excitements, half the eavesdropping discoveries, half the ingenious
plots and counter-plots of the theatre. And when we remember that
for a hundred and fifty years the rogue novel had been one of the most
popular forms of Spanish literature, we need not wonder that Le Sage,
in turning over volume after volume of the lives of Spanish rascals,
should find that the Spanish language was an Open Sesame to an Ali
Baba's cave of opulent invention. Just as a hundred forgotten trouveurs
chanted the tales of the _Morte Darthur_, before Malory made from their
songs the epic that we know, so the rogue novel had seeded and repeated
itself again and again, before it met its great man who seized the
vitality of a hundred bantlings to make a breeched book.

[Illustration: ALAIN RENÉ LE SAGE]

[Its culmination in Le Sage.]

Just as Malory was not a Frenchman but an Englishman, so Le Sage was
not a Spaniard but a Frenchman, and a Frenchman in a very different age
from that which produced his models. The

            'Stately Spanish galleons
            Sailing from the Isthmus,
    Dipping through the tropics by the palm green shores,
            With cargoes of diamonds,
            Emeralds, amethysts,
    Topazes and cinnamon and gold moidores,'[5]

no longer brought the wealth of the Incas to Cadiz and Barcelona,
but had been burnt as firewood in the cabins on the Irish coast. The
Elizabethan age had come and gone. Cervantes had been dead a hundred
years. Molière had brought comedy to the French stage. Watteau was
painting, and Boileau was formulating the eighteenth-century code of
letters, when in a little garden summer-house behind a Paris street, Le
Sage sat at his desk, dipped through Spanish books, and wrote with a
light heart of the people that he knew, disguised in foreign clothes,
and moving in places he had never seen. He made his travels by his
own fireside, and the contrast between Cervantes' active life and his
peaceable _Galatea_ is no greater than that between the adventurous Gil
Blas and Le Sage's sedentary industry. His lack of personal experience
left him very free in the handling of his material, and made him just
the man to recast the old adventures of a century before, to translate
them, spilling none of their vitality, to a later time, to fill them
out with a more delicate fancy, to finish them with a more fastidious
pen, and to build from them a new and delicious French book, Spanish in
colouring, but wholly Parisian in appeal.

Gil Blas is a Frenchman in a Spanish cloak, Le Sage, as he imagined
himself under the tattered mantle of Lazarillo. His disguise left him
doubly licensed for the criticism of contemporary France. He was of
low estate, so that he could see things from below, upside down, and
comment upon them. His circumstances were Spanish, so that he could
observe French things, call them by Spanish names, and laugh at them
without being inexcusably impertinent. He had also a very excellent
technique. Le Sage had read La Bruyère and La Bruyère's translation of
Theophrastus, and was the better able to allow his hero to take the
hint from Lazarillo, and use his autobiography as an outlet for his
social satire. Everything that Lazarillo had done, Gil Blas did in a
larger and more skilful fashion. The book summed up the rogue novels in
itself, and in its own right brought their influence to bear on English
narrative. Smollett translated it, and it shares with _Don Quixote_ the
parentage of the masculine novel.



[The new conditions of professional story-telling.]

PROFESSIONAL story-tellers before the sixteenth century seem very far
removed from the novelists of our circulating libraries. Theirs was
a simpler patronage; they had but to please one rich man, and they
could live. The invention of printing made them leap suddenly into the
conditions of modernity. It changed the audience of the castle hall
into the audience of the world, and patrons into the public. A man told
his stories in his own room. He was not sure of a single listener; he
might have ten thousand without raising his voice or pressing harder
with his pen. Poets might write for their friends or the Court; but
Elizabethan story-tellers were already able to exist by writing for
the booksellers. Middlemen were between their audience and themselves.
They had no chance of excusing the defects of their wares by charm
of voice or charm of personality, unless they could get that charm
on paper. The characteristics of modern story-telling were rapidly
appearing; already, as in the case of _Euphues_, a single book might
set the fashion for a thousand; already the novelist felt his audience
through his sales. Men like Greene, swift 'yarkers up' of pamphlets,
had to write what the Elizabethan public wanted--with the result that
there is very little purely English story-telling of the period. The
Elizabethans wanted silks and gold from overseas. They fell in love
with what was new and strange. They were hungry for all countries but
their own, and for all times but those in which they lived. There never
were such thieves. They stole from Spain, from France, from Italy, from
Portugal, and, curiously mixing impudence and awe, copied crudely and
continually from a newly discovered antiquity.

[Elizabethan borrowings.]

There was _Paynter's Pallace_, peopled with characters from the
love-tales of France and Italy, in whose adventures Elizabethan
playwrights found a score of plots. And then there was _Pettie's
Pallace_, with its delightful title, _A petite Pallace of Pettie his
pleasure_, that shows how late our language lost its French. Pettie
steals his tales from the classics, with a most engaging air of right
of way. Wherever the Elizabethans went they carried their heads high
and were not abashed. They were ready to nod to Cæsar, call Endymion
a Johnny-head-in-air, and clink a glass in honour of Ulysses. All
the world was so new that Antiquity seemed only yesterday. Classical
allusion was used with the most lavish hand. Progne, inveighing against
her husband, explains his iniquity as follows:--

    'He sheweth his cursed cruel kind, he plainly proves himself to
    proceed of the progeny of that traitor Aeneas, who wrought the
    confusion of Queen Dido, who succoured him in his distress. It is
    evident he is engendered of Jason's race, who disloyally forsook
    Medea that made him win the golden fleece! He is descended of
    the stock of Demophoon, who through his faithless dealing forced
    Phyllis to hang herself! He seems of the seed of Theseus, who
    left Ariadne in the deserts to be devoured, through whose help he
    subdued the monster Minotaur, and escaped out of the intricate
    labyrinth! He cometh of Nero his cruel kind, who carnally abused
    his own mother Agrippina, and then caused her to be slain and
    ripped open, that he might see the place wherein he lay being an
    infant in her belly! So that what but filthiness is to be gathered
    of such grafts? What boughs but beastliness grow out of such stems?'

And yet, quite undismayed by such family connections, so intimate was
he with antiquity, the story-teller sums up the deeds of his characters
as though he were a prosecuting counsel, and they even now cowering in
the dock before him.

    'It were hard here, Gentlewoman, for you to give sentence, who more
    offended of the husband or the wife, seeing the doings of both the
    one and the other near in the highest degree of devilishness--such
    unbridled lust and beastly cruelty in him, such monstrous mischief
    and murder in her; in him such treason, in her such treachery; in
    him such falseness, in her such furiousness; in him such devilish
    desire, in her such revengeful ire; in him such devilish heat,
    in her such haggish hate, that I think them both worthy to be
    condemned to the most bottomless pit in hell.'

[Lyly writes for women.]

There is something in the style of this, as well as in the address to
a female reader, that suggests the _Euphues_ of John Lyly, published
two years later. Lyly, alchemist of Spanish magniloquence into English
euphuism, who settled the style of the Elizabethan romance, and brought
into it many elements still characteristic of English story-telling,
wrote as well as his letter to 'Gentlemen Readers,' and to his 'verrie
good friends, the Gentlemen Schollers of Oxford,' Epistles dedicatory
to women--'To the Ladies and Gentlewoemen of England, John Lyly wisheth
what they would.' They were grateful to him, and since he said that he
would rather 'lye shut in a Ladye's Casket, then open in a Scholler's
studie,' there was scarce a gentlewoman in London but knew much of him
by heart, addressed her husband or lover in terms his Lucia might have
used, and woke nearly as eager to read in him as in her looking-glass.
His was a very modern success. Then, too, the end of all his tales
was high morality. He winds up each with a reflection, and like most
English story-telling, they contain more of the Warning Example than of
the Embroidered Exploit. He reminds the 'Gentlewoemen of England' that
he has 'diligently observed that there shall be nothing found that may
offend the chaste mind with unseemly tearmes or uncleanly talke.' And
yet he wrote of love a hundred years before the eighteenth century,
and throughout those hundred years, and for some fifty afterwards,
the chaste mind was to be almost disregarded. Mrs. Aphra Behn was
to pour forth what Swinburne called her 'weltering sewerage,' and
Fielding and Smollett were to write, before the chaste mind was to
exert any very lasting influence on literature. Fielding and Smollett
wrote for men, while, like an earlier Richardson, 'could Euphues take
the measure of a woman's minde, as the Tailour doth of hir bodie, he
would go as neere to fit them for a fancie as the other doth for a
fashion.' Elizabethan women must have been less squeamish than their
descendants on the subject of themselves. For in this book planned to
fit them, Lyly writes like an Elizabethan Schopenhauer:--'Take from
them their periwigges, their paintings, their Jewells, their rowles,
their boulstrings, and thou shalt soone perceive that a woman is the
least part of hir selfe.' That is the gentle art of being rude, in
which so much of early wit consisted. But, as it was designed as a
'Cooling Carde for Philautus and all fond lovers,' whose affections
were misplaced or unrequited, the women, accepting not without pride
responsibility for the disease, must have found it easy to forgive him
and to smile at so impotent a cure.


The style of Euphues had a much wider influence than his matter. Like
Pettie's, it is precious, but with a preciousness at the same time
so elaborate and infectious that I am finding it difficult even now,
in thinking about it, to keep from imitating it. Its principle is a
battledore-and-shuttlecock motion, in which the sense, sometimes a
little bruised, is kept up between similar sounds or words that are
not quite puns but nearly so. An idea that could be expressed in a
single very short sentence is expanded as long as the breath lasts,
or longer, by the insertion of separate contrasts, like those used in
the intermediate lines of one of the forms of Japanese poetry. There
was something of this in Pettie's peroration that was quoted three
paragraphs ago; and here is an example from Lyly:--'Alas, Euphues, by
how much the more I love the high clymbing of thy capacitie, by so much
the more I feare thy fall.' (There is the idea; all that follows is its
embroidery.) 'The fine Christall is sooner erased then the hard Marble;
the greenest Beech burneth faster then the dryest Oke; the fairest
silke is soonest soyled; and the sweetest wine tourneth to the sharpest
Vinegar. The Pestilence doth most infect the clearest complection, and
the Caterpiller cleaveth into the ripest fruite: the most delycate
witte is allured with small enticement unto vice, and most subject to
yeelde unto vanitie.'

['Cruditie and indigestion.']

Such a style could not but attract a newly educated people, still able
to marvel at knowledge. Its lavishness of information is comparable
to that generosity of gold and precious gems that has been noticed as
characteristic of the writers of the _Mabinogion_. The Briton wondered
at wealth, the Elizabethan at learning. It is not surprising that in
this state of civilisation a fact-laden style should be brought to
perfection. 'It is a sign of cruditie and indigestion,' says Montaigne,
'for a man to yeelde up his meat even as he swallowed the same: the
stomach hath not wrought his full operation unlesse it have changed
forme and altered fashion of that which was given him to boyle and
concoct.' In Elizabethan England, when knowledge was so new and so
delightful that men did not scruple to invent it, it is easy to imagine
John Lyly writing with a huge Bestiary open to the left of him, and
a classical dictionary open to the right, from which he might dig
out metaphors learned and ingenious, and present them immediately to
his readers without putting any undue strain on his own intellectual

[Lyly's followers.]

His imitators were no less numerous than his readers. If they could
not write they talked his peculiar language. If they were novelists
they wrote in something like his manner, and with cheerful consciences
used his name as a trade-mark to attract his popularity to themselves.
Lodge's _Rosalynde_ is introduced as _Euphues' Golden Legacie_, and
many other stories were connected by some ingenious silken thread to
Lyly's garlanded triumphal car. It is too easy to laugh at euphuism.
It was the first prophecy of the ordered poetic prose in which such
delicate work has been done in our own time. In the hands of Lodge and
Greene, who tempered it with homelier periods, it showed at once its
possibilities of beauty. Nor with Lyly was it continued pedantry. A
golden smile appears sometimes beneath the mask. Euphues, crossing to
England, tells the story of Callimachus to Philautus and the sailors,
and when he says, 'You must imagine (because it were too long to
tell all his journey) that he was Sea-sick (as thou beginnest to be,
Philautus),' we perceive that Lyly is not always to be hidden behind
his sentences. The stories he introduces, the tale of Callimachus and
Cassander, or the pretty history of old Fidus and his Issida, are as
pleasant as the tales of Lodge and Greene.

How near he was to being a story-teller may be seen from the work of
these two men. They tried to imitate him in everything; but Greene
wrote in a hurry for the press, and you could not expect Lodge, writing
on the high seas, to be as consistently euphuistical as an Oxford
gentleman, holding an appointment from Lord Burleigh, and having
nothing else to do. Euphuism fell away from both journalist and sailor,
leaving a pleasant glow over their style. They were more intent than
Lyly on the plain forwarding of the narrative. For the long rhetorical
harangues they substituted shorter, simpler speeches to express the
feelings of their characters. The harangue was a step from the bald
statement that so-and-so 'made great dole,' and these shorter speeches
were a further step from the by no means bald declamations on the
subject of the dole, towards the working up of emotion by a closer
copy of the action and dialogue in which emotion expresses itself.
Dialogue was yet to be introduced from the theatre. In Lyly it meant
argument, but in the best of his imitators it had become already a tool
imperfectly understood but sometimes used for the actual progress of
the tale.

Greene and Lodge illustrate very well the characteristics of
Elizabethan story-telling. _Pandosto_, _Rosalynde_, and some of
Greene's confessions let us know pretty clearly what it was that the
public of the day found interesting. Greene was a Bohemian, 'with a
jolley red peaked beard' who could 'yark up a pamphlet in a single
night,' and do it so well that the booksellers were glad to pay 'for
the very dregs of his wit.' Lodge was an undergraduate at Oxford, a
pirate, and later a very successful physician. Both were, like their
audiences, exceedingly alive.

[Romance and confession.]

In Greene's _Pandosto_ we find reminiscences of old romance, classical
nomenclature, the influence of the Italian _novelle_, and plenty of the
wild improbability that still had power over his audience. _Pandosto_
is a love pamphlet, and after a euphuistic dedication and a little
preface on jealousy, 'from which oft ensueth bloody revenge as this
ensuing history manifestly proveth,' Greene leads off with, 'In the
country of Bohemia there reigned a king called Pandosto.' Bohemia
is an island--no matter. Pandosto, in a most obliging manner, 'to
close up the comedy with a tragical stratagem,' slays himself at the
finish--no matter again. We must remember that for the Elizabethans,
fortunate people who believed in the Lamia and the Boas, probability
and improbability had no existence as relative terms. Everything was
credible, and one of the joys of romance reading was the exercise of
an athletic faith. Another was the gathering of knowledge, and Greene
met this demand with books whose breathings of realism illustrate, like
Nash's _Jacke Wilton_, the rogue novel in England, and give his name
a double importance. These other books were more personal to their
writer, and depend more closely on his own life and character. Greene
was a wild liver with a conscience. He enjoyed debauch and the company
of rogues better than virtue and the society of sober citizens. But
his conscience oscillated between hibernation and wakefulness with
a periodicity that corresponded to the fulness and emptiness of his
purse, and in times of poverty and righteousness he wrote confessions
of his own misdoing, and books on the methods of rapscallions with whom
he consorted, that brought him the money to continue on his riotous
career, and satisfied the curiosity of his public as well as his
romances had delighted their imaginations.

Lodge, although his work was also various, appealed mainly to the

    'Roome for a souldier and a sailer that gives you the fruits of his
    labors that he wrote, in the ocean, when everie line was wet with a
    surge, and every humorous passion countercheckt with a storme. If
    you like it, so; and yet I will be yours in duetie, if you be mine
    in favour. But if Momus, or any squinteied asse, that hath mighty
    eares to conceive with Midas, and yet little reason to judge, if
    he come abord our barke to find fault with the tackling, when hee
    knowes not the shrowds, Ile down into the hold, and fetch out a
    rustie pollax, that sawe no sunne this seaven yeare, and either
    well bebast him, or heave the cockescombe over boord to feed cods.
    But curteous gentlemen, that favour most, backbite none, and pardon
    what is overslipt, let such come and welcome; Ile into the stewards
    roome, and fetch them a kanne of our best bevradge.'

[_As You Like It._]

That is the way in which Thomas Lodge, newly returned to England from
piracies on the western seas, introduces his _Rosalynde_. With such a
preface, you would expect a ruffianly tale, full of hard knocks and
coarse words, certainly not the dainty little pastoral, romantic fairy
story, found in Euphues' cell, and holding lessons of much profit for
the guidance of his friend's children. The very contrast between its
buccaneering author and its own fragility is the same as that between
the pastoral writers and their books, between, for example, Cervantes
of Lepanto and the author of the _Galatea_, between the Sidney who died
at Zutphen and the author of _Arcadia_. It is the tale of _As You Like
It_, and Shakespeare, in turning it into a play, chose the right title
for it, since it contains every one of the surest baits with which to
hook an Elizabethan audience. It was brought from overseas, and in that
time when ships were sailing up to London Bridge with all the new-found
riches of the world, the hint of travel was a sufficient promise of
delight. It begins with a dying knight who leaves a legacy between his
sons, and its audience had not yet tired of Sir Bevis and Sir Isumbras.
It has the fairy-tale notion of the youngest born, and was not England
youngest son of all the world? There are beautiful women in it, and one
of them dresses like a man--a delicious, romantic thing to dream upon.
And finally, is it not left by Euphues himself, and therefore full of
profit as of pleasure, of wit as of wisdom, and written in something
not too far from that embroidered manner, as dear to the Elizabethans
as their new won luxuries, their newly imported frivolities.



[The discovery and exploitation of Arcadia.]

THE Pastoral, whose influence touches even the Elizabethan novels not
professedly Arcadian, had been fished up from sunken antiquity by the
early scholars of the Renaissance. They were fascinated by the serene
country pieces of Virgil, and the leafy embroideries of Theocritus, and
were, of course, too newly learned, too eager for the name of learning,
to be able to apply the old form to their own material. Instead, they
did their best to write not only in a classical manner, but also of a
classical country. They used Greek names, Latin names, any but homespun
names of their own times. It was not on purpose that Arcadia was set by
them in the Golden Age; they had aimed at a century more prosaic. The
best time of all the world had a date for them, and they did their best
to live up to its particular antiquity. But in using conventions so
different from real life, in a time of hurry and stress, it was natural
that they should be led into daydreams of a greater simplicity than
their own elaborate existence. It was natural, too, that by refining
character, tempering the wind, and keeping the year at its sweetest
season, they should end in the making of books that were beyond all
measure artificial. From the time of Boccaccio to the time of Cervantes
these books had multiplied, and become more and more like arrangements
of marionettes in landscapes dotted with Noah's Ark trees, until,
when the curate in Don Quixote's library defends them to the niece
and calls them 'ingenious books that can do nobody any prejudice,'
the niece hurriedly replies, 'Oh! good sir, burn them with the rest I
beseech you; for should my uncle get cured of his knight-errant frenzy,
and betake himself to the reading of these books, we should have him
turn shepherd, and so wander through the woods and fields; nay, and
what would be worse yet, turn poet, which they say is a catching and
incurable disease.'

[Shepherds' plaints.]

The niece was right, for when shepherds love sweet shepherdesses, it
seems that for the benefit of a Renaissance public they must pour their
sorrows out in verse, as elegant and classical as may be. No sooner
does one shepherd begin his song than another joins him and another,
until there is a chorus of complaining lovers; the infection is so
virulent that it leaps from man to man, and if a shepherd-boy breathe a
poem to his lass, it is great odds that she will cap it with another,
and then they will keep it up between them like a shuttlecock. The
disease is so strong indeed that if poor Corydon has no one to cross
Muses with, it forces Echo herself to answer him in rhyme:--

    'In what state was I then, when I took this deadly disease?
    And what manner of mind which had to that humour a vain?
    Hath not reason enough vehemence to desire to reprove?
    Oft prove I but what salve when reason seeks to begone?
    Oh! what is it? what is it that may be a salve to my love?
    What do lovers seek for long seeking for to enjoy?
    What be the joys for which to enjoy they went to the pains?
    Then to an earnest love what doth best victory end?

These lines are from Sir Philip Sidney's _Arcadia_, which, of course,
was not in the Knight's library. We are told in advance that they are
hexameters. How delightfully they scan:--

    -   ˘   ˘  |  -   -   |  -   -   |  -  -   |  -  ˘ ˘   |  -
  'What do lov | ers seek | for long | seeking | for to en | joy?

On the next page a shepherdess 'threw down the burden of her mind
in Anacreon's kind of verses.' And 'Basilius, when she had fully
ended her song, fell prostrate upon the ground and thanked the gods
they had preserved his life so long as to hear the very music they
themselves had used in an earthly body.' Presently follows a copy of
'Phaleuciaks,' and then Dorus 'had long he thought kept silence from
saying something which might tend to the glory of her, in whom all
glory to his seeming was included, but now he broke it, singing those
verses called Asclepiadiks.' And they thought the night had passed

[Illustration: SIR PHILIP SIDNEY]

[An apology to Sidney.]

This is no insult to Sir Philip Sidney, but only to the rather
exorbitant demands of the form he had chosen. His own sonnets vindicate
him as a poet, and some of them, even Hazlitt owned, who did not
like him, 'are sweet even to a sense of faintness, luscious as the
woodbine, and graceful and luxurious like it.' Sidney lets us see
his own attitude in that splendid sentence which begins, 'Certainly
I must confesse my own barbarousnes, I neuer heard the olde song
of _Percy_ and _Duglas_ that I found not my heart mooued more then
with a Trumpet; and yet is it sung but by some blinde Crouder, with
no rougher voyce then rude stile'; I should be almost sorry that
he finished it by saying 'which, being so euill apparrelled in the
dust and cobwebbes of that vnciuill age, what would it worke trymmed
in the gorgeous eloquence of _Pindar_?' but that it rings with the
sincerity of his classicism. Taste has changed, and now we find his
'barbarousnes' in the question rather than in the confession. But the
sentence illustrating at once his sensitiveness to simplicity and his
predilection for the classics, shows how genuine was the expression
that the busy, chivalric diplomatist found for himself in the confines
of Arcadia. The classic metres brought as near as might be our Tudor
English to 'the language of the Gods.'

[The slow progress of Arcadian narrative.]

The continual downpour of poetry, the Arcadian substitute for rain,
was not the only drag on the narrative of the pastoral story-tellers.
Serenity was considered essential, and so, while the story was being
everlastingly shunted, so that the lovesick shepherds might plain, it
had also for every step it took forward to take another back in order
to catch again the chosen atmosphere of lovesick repose. The result
was 'a note of linked sweetness long drawn out,' a series of agitated
standstills, and a narrative impossible to end. Cervantes' _Galatea_
was never finished; the last books of _Arcadia_ were written by another
hand; d'Urfé died before putting an end to _l'Astrée_; and Montemor
abandoned his _Diana_.

In the history of story-telling it is not the form of the pastoral that
is important, but the motive that gave it its popularity. We begin to
understand the motive when we notice that it became the fashion to
hide real people under the names of Corydon and Phyllis, and to put
ribboned crooks and silver horns into the hands of enemies and friends.
At first it was the genuine feeling that made Boccaccio enshrine his
Fiammetta; at the end it degenerated into mere privy gossip and books
uninteresting without their keys; but in general it was simply a
desire of flattering elaborate people into thinking themselves of
simple heart. [The motive of the Pastoral.] The pastorals were like the
paintings of Watteau and Lancret, where we find the ladies of a lively
court playing innocent games under the trees, while, if we searched in
the brushwood, we should find in the soft earth under the brambles the
hoofmarks of the sporting satyrs. The feelings of author and subjects
were those of the Vicar of Wakefield's family when they sat before the
portrait painter:--'Olivia would be drawn as an Amazon, sitting upon a
bank of flowers, dressed in a green Joseph richly laced with gold, and
a whip in her hand. Sophia was to be a shepherdess, with as many sheep
as the painter could put in for nothing.' Elizabethan ladies liked to
think of themselves sitting on banks garlanding flowers, troubled only
by the sweet difficulties of love, and with innumerable sheep, since
the writer was able to put them in so very inexpensively.

[Poussin's _Les Bergers d'Arcadie_.]

There is another artist who, living before Cervantes and Sidney were
dead, gives in his pictures, cleaner and sweeter than Watteau, an idea
of the pastoral spirit. You can imagine one of Watteau's shepherdesses
using paint. It would be impossible to suspect the same of one of
Sidney's, or of one of Nicolas Poussin's, that solemn, sweet-minded man
who was shocked as if by sacrilege at Scarron's irreverent treatment
of Virgil. There is in the Louvre (how many times have I been to see
it) a picture called 'Les Bergers d'Arcadie.' Hazlitt mentions it, most
inaccurately as to facts, but most precisely as to feeling, in his
essay on the painter:[6]--'But above all, who shall celebrate in terms
of fit praise, his picture of the shepherds in the Vale of Tempe going
out on a fine morning in the spring, and coming to a tomb with this
inscription: _Et Ego in Arcadia vixi!_ The eager curiosity of some, the
expression of others who start back with fear and surprise, the clear
breeze playing with the branches of the shadowing trees, "the valleys
low where the mild zephyrs use," the distant, uninterrupted, sunny
prospects speak (and for ever will speak on) of ages past to ages yet
to come!'

In those sentences Hazlitt, who found the written pastoral dull, shows
us the very secret of its life. In trying to copy the classic country
writing, it came to be an attempt to reconstruct the time that has
always been past since the beginning of the world. Real shepherds
never do and never did show fear and surprise and eager curiosity on
their weather-beaten faces; but then in Arcadia is no rain. Sweet,
sunny days, soft, peaceful nights, green grass, white sheep, and
smooth-cheeked shepherds Grecian limbed; the whole is the convention of
a dream. It was the dream of busy men in close touch with a life whose
end was apt to come short and sharp between the lifting of a flagon
and putting the lips to it. And in Sidney's dream especially, there is
something of the true Renaissance worship of the ancient gods. Sidney's
dream was of a pastoral life; yes, but to him other things in it were
more important than its rusticity. For him, at least, it must be a life
where the goatfoot god still moved in the green undergrowth, where
Diana hunted the white fawns, while Silenus tippled in the valley, and
Apollo looked serenely from the wooded hill.

[Conventional and realistic art.]

This was the same art as that of Malory, though not that of the
chansons or the sagas. It is the art in which life is simplified into
a convention, and human figures worked into a tapestry. The pastoral
romances are duller than those of chivalry, partly, no doubt, because
their conventions are not home-made but taken as strictly as possible
from another civilisation, and partly because they are too long for
their motives--the pattern is repeated too often. But they do not
represent a dead or a dying art, but rather a stage in the infancy
of an art that has blossomed in our own day, in some of the work of
Théophile Gautier, for example; in Mr. Nevinson's _Plea of Pan_,
in some of the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley. Sidney's _Arcadia_ is
terribly unwieldy, but passage after passage in it breathes a fragrance
different from anything in the literature of realism.

Indeed it is well to mark thus early the distinction between these
two arts, the one that seeks to show us our own souls, the other
that shows us life, that one that, using symbols disentangled from
ordinary existence, can legitimately fill books with things beautiful
in themselves, and the other that reconciles us to ugliness by showing
us some vital interest, some hidden loveliness, some makeshift beauty
in things as they generally are. The spirit of the one set statues
of lovely forms in the bedchambers of the Grecian women, the spirit
of the other praises ugly babies to their mothers. Both spirits have
shown their right to be by the works of art whose inspiration they
have been. We must only be careful not to criticise the art of the one
by the canons that rule the art of the other. There are two worlds,
the actual and the ideal. If Tom Jones were to open a door by saying
'Open Sesame' to it, we should have a right to laugh, just as we
should be legitimately disappointed if Ali Baba were to turn a key and
enter the robber's treasury in the ordinary way. We cannot blame the
Arcadian shepherds because they are not like the shepherds we meet
about the hills, any more than we can blame that little kitchen slut
called Cinderella for riding to a king's ball in a gold chariot made
of a pumpkin. Truth to an ideal is all we may ask of dreams. And the
pastorals, in spite of their borrowed conventions, do hold an ideal,
suffocated though it sometimes is under an impossible technique, and
the weight of ornament which is so tempting to those who have but newly
learned the secrets of its manufacture.

[Poetic prose.]

Our later Arcadians have not so hampered themselves. They have made
short stories instead of labyrinthine narratives, and they have
been able, as Sidney tried to do, to disclaim any competition with
utilitarian homespun literature by the use of a poetic prose. In the
prose of Sidney's _Arcadia_, imitated from that of Lyly, but a little
less noisily eccentric, falling perhaps too often between poetry and
prose, we can see the promise of that new prose of ornament perfected
by the artists of the nineteenth century, a prose firm, unshaken by the
recurrent rhythms of verse, but richer in colour and melody than the
prose of use.




IT is curious how many odds and ends may be heaped together and woven
into a patchwork of thought, by a mind concentrating itself upon one
idea, and, as if in spite of itself, making excursions after each
chance butterfly and puff of wind, each half promise of real or phantom
value it perceives. The mind returns continually to where it stood,
bringing with it always something new, like a starling adding to its
nest, until at last the original idea is so covered over with half
visualised images, half clarified obscurities, dimly comprehended
notions, that it is itself no longer to be seen but by a reverse
process of picking away and throwing aside, one by one, the accretions
that have been brought to it by the adventuring mind. For the last hour
I have been sitting in my easy-chair, a cup of tea at my elbow, a pipe
in my mouth, a good fire at my feet, trying not to let myself stray too
far from the consideration of Cervantes and his place in the history
of story-telling. All that hour, without effort, almost against my
will, my mind has been playing about the subject, and bringing straw
and scraps of coloured cloth, until now the plain notion of Cervantes
is dotted over and burdened with a dozen other things--a comparison
between an active life and a bookish one, the relation between parody
and progress, the mingling of rogue novel and romance, Sir Walter
Scott, and the remembrance of a band of Spanish village musicians.
Perhaps if I disentangle this superstructure piece by piece Cervantes
himself will become as visible as he intends to allow me to present him.

       *       *       *       *       *

[An active life and a bookish one.]

Cervantes was one of the men who write books in two languages; in
literature and in life. Indeed, his contribution to his country's
history is scarcely less vivid than his share in the history of
story-telling. Cervantes the soldier, losing the use of his hand in
the naval battle of Lepanto, in which he took so glorious a part
that the grandiloquent Spanish tradition attributed to him, a mere
private soldier, more than half the merit of the victory, is quite
as attractive as Cervantes the impecunious author, writing plays for
the theatre and poems for the nobility, collecting taxes for the
king, pleasing himself with his _Galatea_, and laying literature
under an international debt to him for his _Exemplary Novels_ and his
_Don Quixote_. Like Sir Philip Sidney, he won admiration from his
contemporaries as much for his personal worth as for his intellect.
The maimed hand meant to them and him as much as any printed books.
His own life was as romantic as his romance. Wherever he had found
himself, boarding a Turkish galley, plotting for freedom in the prisons
of Algiers, he had played the game as stirringly as d'Artagnan. Don
Quixote's patriotism was no more obstinate and glamorous than his, and
Sancho Panza's wisdom was gained in no school of harder knocks.

It is not without significance that his first book should be a specimen
of pastoral romance. The _Galatea_ bears no closer relation to workaday
life than Sir Philip Sidney's _Arcadia_. This old soldier began his
career as a man of letters by trying to settle upon an estate in
Arcady, the very country whose cardboard foliage he was afterwards to
ridicule, and the last book he wrote, in spite of the humaner work
that had preceded it, was a romance not dissimilar from his first.
Partly this must have been due to the fashion of the time; but it is
not extravagant to find in it an illustration of the wistful manner in
which men write about their opposites. Men like Stevenson, caged in
sick rooms, may love to be buccaneers on paper. The real adventurers
set the balance even by imagining themselves tending sheep on a smooth
grassy slope.

[_Don Quixote_ no parody.]

Cervantes' _Galatea_ is not a great work. Its shepherds weep more
than Sir Philip Sidney's, and sing considerably worse. But it had
its success, and Cervantes was never anything but proud of it, a
fact that should not be forgotten in remembering his _Don Quixote_.
_Don Quixote_ has often been described as a parody of the heroic and
pastoral romances, which indeed had become a little foolish. But
Cervantes was not the man to jeer at what he loved. Instead, he fills
the old skins that had held the wine of dreams with the new wine of
experience. He did not parody the old romances, but re-wrote them in
a different way. Parody laughs and writes a full stop; the art of
Cervantes, Fielding, and Rabelais ends always in a hyphen, a sign that
allows all manner of developments.


[The picaresque form.]

Cervantes, like Shakespeare, used all the resources of his time, and
did not disdain to profit by other men's experiments. _Don Quixote_
owed a triple debt to the common-sensible humorous rogue novel invented
seventy years before, as well as to the more serious tales of knights
and pastoral life that made his existence possible. Thieves and
shepherds and paragons of chivalry assisted at his birth. The thieves
in particular were responsible for the design, or lack of design, in
the construction of the book. The rogue novels were made by stringing
a series of disconnected 'merry quips' along the autobiography or
biography of a disreputable hero. They were like Punch and Judy shows.
The character of Punch is as stable as his red nose or his hump back.
His deeds do not change him, and, so long as he is always well in the
front of his stage we ask for no other connecting thread in the
entertainment than his habit of punctuating his conversation with a
well-directed log of wood. Let him continue his villainous career, let
his squeaking inhuman voice continue to exult, and we are perfectly
contented. It was so with the rogues, and it is so with _Don Quixote_.
As the Bachelor says, 'many of those that love mirth better than
melancholy, cry out, give us more Quixoteries: let but Don Quixote lay
on, and Sancho talk, be it what it will, we are satisfied.'

[Rogue novel and romance.]

Three hundred years after the Bachelor, we too are satisfied with
Sancho's chatter, and his master's Quixoteries, because they are both
pretty closely connected with humanity. If Don Quixote is among the
clouds, Sancho Panza sits firm upon his donkey, and between the two of
them the book itself moves spaciously upon a mellowed earth. There is
a perpetual interplay between dignity and impudence, the ridiculous
and the sublime, and the partners, as if at tennis, lend vigour and
give opportunity to each other. Sancho is not a mere village bellyful
of common sense, whose business is to make the Knight of the Doleful
Countenance appear ridiculous. He, too, has his delusions; he, too,
prefers sometimes those two birds twittering distantly in the bush;
Romance, smilingly enough, has touched his puzzled forehead also. And
Don Quixote, with ideals no less noble than those of Amadis of Gaul or
Don Belianis of Greece, with notions of life no less exaggerated than
those in the interminable pastorals, is yet a man of blood and bone.
His ideals and notions are properly fleshed, and are in the book as a
soul in a body. _Don Quixote_ is a book of dreams set upon earth, and
earthly shrewdness reaching vainly after dreams. The rogue novels and
the romances were, either of them, the one without the other.

[The ideal not spoilt by the reality.]

We see Don Quixote's adventures with the realist's eye of disillusion,
and find that external perfection does not matter to our dreams. ''Tis
not the deed but the intent.' The gorgeous charger of the knight of
chivalry is become a poor old starveling hack that should have been
horsemeat these dozen years. Mambrino's helmet is but a barber's bason
after all. Lancelot's Guinevere is Dulcinea of the Mill. Her feet are
large and her shoulders one higher than the other. The castle is a
wayside inn, the routed army a flock of luckless sheep. The goatherds
do not talk after the fashion of the Court, like those in _Galatea_;
but, 'with some coarse compliment, after the country way, they desired
Don Quixote to sit down upon a trough with the bottom upwards.' Gone
are the rose-flecked cloudy pinnacles of dawn; we know them now for
drenching rain. And yet--the play's the thing, and is not judged by its
trappings, but by its beating heart. Not one scene in the Romances, not
one glimpse of the Happy Valley in the Pastorals, has ever moved us
like this book, which is so near life that when we close it we seem not
to have flown on an enchanted carpet from a thousand leagues away, but
to have stepped merely from one room to another of our own existence.

[The _Exemplary Novels_.]

The _Exemplary Novels_ were begun before _Don Quixote_, and published
afterwards. They are examples rather of a form in story-telling than
of any particular piety. Cervantes was, he tells us, 'the first to
essay novels in the Castilian tongue, for the many novels which go
about in print in Spanish are all translated from foreign languages,
while these are my own, neither imitated nor stolen.' He took the form
of the Italian short story, not the episode but the _nouvelle_, the
little novel that had inspired the Elizabethans. He took this form and
filled it with his own material, told in his own manner. In thinking of
that manner I am reminded of the band of Spanish village musicians who
seemed at first to have no obvious connection with my subject. There
were perhaps a dozen of them grouped on the stage of a London music
hall, and they played small windy tunes, occasionally blaring out with
trumpets, using a musical scale entirely different from our own. I
remembered a Japanese I had heard playing on a bamboo flute, and then
the semitones of a little henna-stained flageolet from Kairouan. For
theirs was Eastern music, and I wondered if these Spaniards still owed
their scale to the old rulers of Granada. They set me thinking whether
the peculiar movement of Cervantes' narrative had not also an Eastern
origin. The facts favour the supposition. Up to the battle of Lepanto
the Turks were so far a ruling nation as to be the supreme sea-power;
until even later the most likely of incidents for the use of the
story-teller was that which happened to Cervantes himself--capture by
a Moslem pirate and imprisonment in Algiers. Only a hundred years had
passed since the Moors had been driven from Granada. It would indeed be
surprising if in Cervantes' work we found no sign of Eastern influence.
'I tell it you,' quoth Sancho of his tale, 'as all stories are told
in my country, and I cannot for the blood of me tell it in any other
way, nor is it fit I should alter the custom.' Many characteristics of
Cervantes' narrative remind us that he was writing in a country only
recently freed from the Moors, and in a time when it took the united
forces of Venice, Spain, and the Papacy to beat the Turks at sea.

[Oriental story-telling.]

Cervantes is not ignorant, for example, of the literary trick
of letting his heroes quote from the poets, after the engaging,
erudite manner of the heroes of the _Arabian Nights_. Sancho Panza's
conversation is an anthology of those short wisdom-laden maxims that
had been the staple of Hebrew and Arabic literature. 'Set a hen
upon an egg'; 'While a man gets he never can lose'; 'Where there is
no hook, to be sure there can hang no bacon'; shrewd Ali and careful
Hakim exchange such sentences to-day in the market-places of the
East. But these are small things and beside the main point. I want to
suggest that Cervantes had caught, whether in his Algerine prison, or
in his Morocco-Spanish Spain, the yarning, leisurely, humanity-laden,
unflinching atmosphere of Oriental story-telling. The form of the
_nouvelle_, Eastern in origin, had been passed on from Naples to Paris
and to London, without noticeable improvement, but it seems to me that
now in Spain it met the East again, and was accordingly recreated. It
is just the element of Eastern narrative, accidental in the genius of
Cervantes, that makes his examples of that form so infinitely more
important than those of the English Elizabethans. Scott told Lockhart
that the reading of the _Exemplary Novels_ first turned his mind to
the writing of fiction, and in Scott there is precisely the mood of
uninterruptible story-telling that Cervantes shares with the Princess

The novels are delightful specimens of ambling, elaborate narrative,
full of the easiest, most confident knowledge of humanity, illustrating
with serene clarity a point of view that is to-day as refreshing as it
is surprising. The happy endings, when the seducer falls in love at
sight on meeting the seduced of years before, and satisfies all her
scruples, and turns her sorrow to unblemished joy by marrying her, show
an ethic of respectability no less assured than Richardson's. They are
enriched by passages whose observation is as minute as Fielding's. They
are never tales about nothing. There is always meat on their bones.
They are among the few stories that can be read on a summer afternoon
under an apple-tree, for they will bear contact with nature, and are
never in a hurry. Even if Cervantes had not written _Don Quixote_, the
_Exemplary Novels_ would have assured him a place in the history of his
art. There is no cleverness in them, any more than in the greater book.
The whole body of Cervantes' work is an illustration of the impregnable
advantage that plain humanity possesses over intellect.

[The portrait of Cervantes.]

And now, after these various questions for the schoolmen, questions to
more than one of which the cautious man must answer with Sir Roger,
that 'much might be said on both sides,' let us return to the old
story-teller himself, who will survive by innumerable generations our
little praises and discussions as he has lived benevolent and secure
through the centuries that have already passed over his grave. The
only authentic portrait of Cervantes is in his own words. A hundred
artists have tried to supplement these words with paint, and their
pictures have at least a family likeness. The portrait made by Miss
Gavin after a careful comparison parison of many others represents
very fairly the traditional Cervantes type, and does not materially
belie the lineaments that he describes:--'He whom you here behold, with
aquiline visage, with chestnut hair, smooth and unruffled brow, with
sparkling eyes, and a nose arched though well proportioned, a silver
beard, although not twenty years ago it was golden, large moustache,
small mouth, teeth not important, for he has but six of them, and
those in ill condition and worse placed because they do not correspond
the one with the other, the body between two extremes, neither large
nor small, the complexion bright, rather white than brown, somewhat
heavy-shouldered, and not very nimble on his feet; this, I say, is
the portrait of the author of the _Galatea_ and of _Don Quixote de
la Mancha_.' That is the sort of statement of himself that an honest
humorous man might make to a friend. Part of the satisfaction given
by his books is due to the comfortable knowledge that there is a
man behind them, a man who knew the world and had not frozen in it.
Cervantes, for all his intimacy with life, never became worldly enough
to believe in hatred. He assumed that all his readers were his friends,
and made them so by the assumption.

       *       *       *       *       *


No: Cervantes is too simple a man to do anything but suffer in
discussion. There are men whom you know well, who seem to elude you
like the final mystery of metaphysics when you try to talk about them.
My history and not Cervantes is the clearer for the rags and tatters
of observation I have picked off him one by one. I had put them there
myself. It was necessary, for the purposes of my book, to notice the
Eastern character of his story-telling and his position between rogue
novel and romance, but, now that it is done, I am glad to go back to
him without pre-occupations. There is yet hot water in the kettle, and
tea in the pot, and four hours to spend with _Don Quixote_ before I go
to bed. Cervantes, at least, will bear me no malice, but tell me his
story as simply as before I had tried to bring it into argument.



[The Character.]

THE detailed, silver-point portrait studies of Fanny Burney, the
miniatures of Jane Austen, and the stronger etchings of Fielding
and Smollett, owed their existence to something outside the art of
story-telling, something other than the grave, humorous pictures of
Chaucer, or the hiding of real people under the homespun of lovesick
shepherds, or the gay autobiographies of swindling rogues. They owed it
to an art which in its beginnings seemed far enough away from any sort
of narrative. In those happy, thievish times when plagiary was a virtue
to be cried upon the housetops, this art, or rather this artistic form,
had been, like much else, stolen from antiquity.

When literature was for the first time become a fashionable toy, and
when, even at Court, a gallant or a soldier was far outmatched by a
wit, the little book of _Theophrastus his Characters_ suggested a
pastime that offered no less opportunity than poetry for the display
of nimbleness and sparkling fancy. Life had become very diverse and
elaborate, and how delightful to take one of its flowerings, one man,
one woman, of a particular species, and exhibit it in a small space,
in a select number of points and quips, each one barbed and sticking
in the chosen target. Sir Thomas Overbury, trying to define the art he
used so skilfully, said, in his clear way:--'To square out a character
by our English levell, it is a picture (reall or personall) quaintly
drawne, in various colours, all of them heightned by one shadowing.
It is a quicke and soft touch of many strings, all shutting up in one
musicall close: it is wit's descant on any plaine song.' The thing had
to be witty; it had to be short. A busy courtier could compose one
in a morning while his barber was arranging his coiffure, and show
it round in the afternoon for the delectation of his friends and the
increase of his vanity. He could take a subject like 'A Woman,' and
with quick sentences pin her to the paper like a butterfly on cork.
Then he could take another title, like 'A Very Woman,' and repeat his
triumph with another variety of the species. [Sir Thomas Overbury.]
Sir Thomas Overbury, that charming, insolent, honest man, the friend
of Somerset, venomously done to death by his Countess for having given
too good advice to her husband, is perhaps the most notable of the
early practitioners. He is not to be despised for his sage poem on the
choice of a wife, but he is at his best in the making of these little
portraits, like that of the 'Faire and happy Milk-mayd,' wherein, in
accordance with his definition, he could polish each detail without
jarring his musical close, and without nullifying the single shadowing
designed to heighten the whole. The form was fitted to the times like
their fashions in clothes. The Character belonged to that age, like the
novel to the nineteenth century. Sir Thomas, as his title-page tells
us, was assisted by 'other much learned gentlemen'; he was presently
followed by a man as different from himself as gentle John Earle,
Doctor of Divinity, and just such a student as an Inns of Court man
like Sir Thomas would naturally despise. So general was the inclination
of the age to portraiture.

[John Earle.]

With Earle we are nearer the drawing of individuals, and so to a
tenderer touch on idiosyncrasies. He relies less on quaint conceits
(though he has plenty of them and charming ones at command; witness the
child whose 'father hath writ him as his owne little story, wherein hee
reads those dayes of his life that hee cannot remember') and trusts
more often to fragments of real observation. His Characters are not so
consistently wit's descant on a plain song. He is often content to give
us a plain descant on a plain song--less concerned with his cleverness
than with his subjects. With Earle we are already some way from the
age of Elizabeth, and indeed Overbury, though he was able to quarrel
with Ben Jonson, and in spite of his Renaissance death, seems to have
a part in a less youthful century. In his wisdom, in his wise advice
unwisely given to his friend, there is something already of the flavour
of Addison; an essence ever so slight of the sound morality of the
periodical essayists whose work owed more than a little to his own.

[La Bruyère.]

The same impulse that suggested the pleasure and profit of collecting
Londoners as Theophrastus had collected his Athenians, suggested
also the noting of contemporary manners. Manners and Characters,
especially since Characters meant peculiarities, belonged to each
other. Overbury's 'Pyrate' is a picture of the times quite as much as
of that sterling fellow they produced, to whom if you gave 'sea roome
in never so small a vessell, like a witch in a sieve, you would think
he were going to make merry with the devill.' And the portrait of 'The
Faire and happy Milk-mayd' betrays in its painting more than a little
of the artist and of the age in which she sat for him. This is true of
the plain Character, unexpanded and unframed; it is still more true of
the Character in the form it very speedily took. The Character became
a paragraph in a discursive essay, and La Bruyère, who copied directly
from Theophrastus, does not make series of separate portraits, but
notices in his original less his picturing of types than his suggestion
of their circumstances, dividing his own work into large sections,
'de la ville,' 'de la Cour,' 'des Biens de Fortune,' 'de la Société
et de la Conversation,' where he seems to stroll slowly through a
garden-walk of philosophy, pointing his remarks with his stick, and
using such portraits as he cares to make to illustrate his general
observations. His Characters are almost anecdotes. He is like the more
advanced naturalist who, no longer content with his butterflies on
cork and his stuffed birds stiff on perches, attempts to place them in
the setting of their ordinary existence, where they may illustrate at
once that existence and their own natures by some characteristic pose.
How near is this to the desire of seeing them alive and in continuous
action, which, if he had had it, would perhaps have made him combine
his notes and sketches in a novel.

[The periodical essayists.]

The periodical essayists had La Bruyère, and Earle's _Microcosmography:
A Piece of the World discovered in Essays and Characters_, and Sir
Thomas Overbury with his much learned gentlemen, and Theophrastus, the
father of them all, well in their memory. They too were collectors
of Characters and observers of public morals and censurers of
private follies. La Bruyère's aims with something more were theirs.
Hazlitt's is so excellent a description of their work that I shall
quote it instead of writing a stupid one. '_Quicquid agunt homines
nostri farrago libelli_, is the general motto of this department of
literature.... It makes familiar with the world of men and women,
assigns their motives, exhibits their whims, characterises their
pursuits in all their singular and endless variety, ridicules their
absurdities, exposes their inconsistencies, "holds the mirror up to
nature, and shows the very age and body of the time its form and
pressure"; takes minutes of our dress, air, looks, words, thoughts,
and actions; shows us what we are, and what we are not; plays the
whole game of human life over before us, and by making us enlightened
spectators of its many coloured scenes, enables us (if possible)
to become tolerably reasonable agents in the one in which we have
to perform a part.' We might be listening to a description of the
eighteenth century novel of manners. Fanny Burney would have recognised
these pretensions for her secret own, though she might have blushed to
see them so emblazoned.

[Minuteness of observation.]

_The Tatler_, _The Spectator_, _The Guardian_, and the rest of them,
are like a long series of skirmishes in a determined campaign on the
part of the essayists to cross the borderland of narrative. Their
traditions, the Character, Montaigne, and Bacon, were very different
from those of the story-tellers. The canvases prescribed for them were
not huge things almost shutting out the sky, but a very small stock
size, two or three pages only, to lie two days on coffee-house tables,
and be used for wrapping butter on the third. The essayists were like
men compelled to examine an elephant with a pocket microscope. Each
subject, small as it was, hid all others for the moment, so that their
observation made mountain peaks and ranges out of pimples and creases.
These very limitations sharpened the weapons of their struggle, the
weapons that were at last to be taken over by the novelists. The small
canvas made carelessness impossible, and this compulsory attention to
detail gave a new dignity to the trivialities that the novelists had so
far overlooked.

[Mr. Bickerstaff.]

The very conception of these papers contained an accidental discovery
of a possibility in fiction. _The Tatler_ was not written by Steele,
or Swift, or Addison, or indeed by any one of its contributors, but
by a Mr. Isaac Bickerstaff, an oldish gentleman, a bachelor, a lover
of children and discreet good fellowship, of an austere but kindly
life, possessed by a pleasant, old-gentlemanly desire to better the
manners of the town. This is personal, yes, but ... and the _but_ has
the dignity of the sentence ... the personality is imaginary. It is a
Character so far alive as to be able to conduct a magazine. It was a
utilitarian conception. Steele was, or pretended to be, vastly annoyed
when the authorship was found out and his own jolly person discovered
under the sober clothes of Mr. Bickerstaff. 'The work,' he says, 'has
indeed for some time been disagreeable to me, and the purpose of it
wholly lost by my being so long understood as its author.... The
general purpose of the whole has been to recommend truth, innocence,
honour, and virtue as the chief ornaments of life; but I considered
that severity of manners was absolutely necessary to him who would
censure others, and for that reason, and that only, chose to talk
in a mask. I shall not carry my humility so far as to call myself a
vicious man, but at the same time must confess, my life is at best but
pardonable. And, with no greater character than this, a man would make
but an indifferent progress in attacking prevailing and fashionable
vices, which Mr. Bickerstaff has done with a freedom of spirit, that
would have lost both its beauty and efficacy, had it been pretended
to by Mr. Steele.' It is as if we were to hear Defoe apologising for
dressing up as Robinson Crusoe, assuring us that his book is but an
allegory, and telling us with due solemnity that he has lived with his
wife these many years, and hardly above once set foot on shipboard, and
then only between London Bridge and Greenwich. Steele was quite unaware
that _The Tatler_ was an embryo novel. And yet, what is it, but an
imaginary character, sometimes meeting other imaginary characters, and
experiencing subjects instead of undergoing adventures?


[The Character and the short story.]

Mr. Bickerstaff was in himself a contribution to character-study in
fiction; the daily talks that were put into his mouth by Steele and
his friends, supplied others no less valuable. The Character, the neat
driven team of short sentences, became in his hands something like
a story. It became an anecdote with no other point than to bring alive
the person described. And the portraits became less general. Types
turned into individuals. Ned Softly, for example, is not called 'a very
Poet,' and hit off with, 'He will ever into Company with a Copy of
Verses in his Pocket; and these will be read to all that suffer him.
Every Opinion he taketh for Praise, and Ridicule in his Ears soundeth
like Flattery.' He is given the name by which he is known in private
life. We see him walk into the room, hear his preliminaries, watch
his battery unmasked as he opens his pocket, listen to his verses,
hear them again, line by ridiculous line, observe him batten on the
opinions he extracts, and see him hide his darlings at the approach
of sterner-featured critics. The Character is become a little scene.
The moth has no pin through his middle, but flaps his way where we may
see him best. Here is the very art that Fanny Burney, that charming
show-woman, was to use for the exhibition of Madame Duval; here the
alchemy that was to turn puppets into people. It is the same that gave
Pygmalion his mistress. The essayists owed much to their own hearts, or
to the heart they set in 'our' Mr. Bickerstaff, for if you love a man
as well as you laugh at him, it is great odds that he will come alive.

[Mr. Bickerstaff's letter-box.]

Steele probably got a few letters from unknown correspondents, dull
and stupid as such things are. Perhaps in laughingly parodying them
at the coffee-house tables he caught the idea of inventing better
ones for Mr. Bickerstaff's assistance. Perhaps, when hard pressed for
time, thrown to the last minute for his work by some merry expedition
with the Kit Kats to talk and drink wine under the mulberry-tree
on Hampstead Heath, he found he could get quicker into a subject
through the letter of a servant girl than through Mr. Bickerstaff's
first-personal lucubrations. However that may be, much of the best
reading in both _Tatler_ and _Spectator_ is held in the letters
supposed to be written to the man who was supposed to write the whole.
These letters are not mere statements of fact, to serve instead of
Latin quotations as texts for essays. They are imitations, 'liker than
life itself,' of the letters of reality. Each one of them is written
by some individual person whose impress on its writing is so clear
that the letter makes a portrait of himself. Even the cock in Clare
Market has a personality quite his own when he sends Mr. Bickerstaff
a petition. And as for the Quaker; remember how he would have been
described in the old manner, and read this:--


    'FRIEND,--Forasmuch as at the Birth of thy Labour, thou didst
    promise upon thy Word, that letting alone the Vanities that do
    abound, thou wouldest only endeavour to strengthen the crooked
    Morals of this our _Babylon_, I gave Credit to thy fair Speeches,
    and admitted one of thy Papers every Day, save _Sunday_, into my
    House; for the Edification of my Daughter _Tabitha_, and to the End
    that _Susanna_, the Wife of my Bosom, might profit thereby. But
    alas! my Friend, I find that thou art a Liar, and that the Truth is
    not in thee; else why didst thou in a Paper which thou didst lately
    put forth, make Mention of those vain Coverings for the Heads of
    our Females, which thou lovest to liken unto Tulips, and which are
    lately sprung up among us? Nay, why didst thou make Mention of them
    in such a Seeming, as if thou didst approve the Invention, insomuch
    that my Daughter _Tabitha_ beginneth to wax wanton, and to lust
    after these foolish Vanities? Surely thou dost see with the Eyes
    of the Flesh. Verily, therefore, unless thou dost speedily amend
    and leave off following thine own Imagination, I will leave off
    thee.--_Thy Friend as hereafter thou dost demean Thyself_,


Could anything of the kind be better? It needed only a series of such
letters, consistent to a few characters, and dealing with a succession
of events, to produce a 'Humphry Clinker.' The letters of Matthew
Bramble and his sister, and Lyddy, 'who had a languishing eye and read
romances,' are built no more cunningly than this of Hezekiah.

[Sir Roger de Coverley--a novel.]

If I were asked which was the first English novel of character-study,
as I am asking myself now, I should reply, as I reply now, those essays
in the _Spectator_ that are concerned with Sir Roger de Coverley.
Set that little series of pictures in a book by themselves, as has
been done with appropriate and delightful illustrations by Mr. Hugh
Thomson, and in reading them you will find it hard to remember that you
are not enjoying a more than usually leisurely kind of narrative. The
knight is shown to us in different scenes; we watch him at the assizes,
leaning over to the judge to congratulate him on the good weather
his lordship enjoys; we see him smile in greeting of Will Wimble; we
watch him fidget in his seat with impatience of the misdeeds of the
villain in the play; we hear of his death with a tear in our eye that
is a testimony to the completeness and humanity of the portraiture.
If only his love-story were thinly spread throughout the book and not
begun and ended in a chapter, _Sir Roger de Coverley_ would be a novel
indeed. As it is, in that delicate picture of a country gentleman and
country life--for Sir Roger does not stand against a black curtain for
his portraiture, but before his tenants and his friends--we have the
promise of _The Vicar of Wakefield_ and of _Cranford_, and of all that
chaste and tender kind of story-telling that is almost peculiar to our

[Johnson and Goldsmith.]

Johnson and Goldsmith followed the tradition. Even the ponderous Doctor
could step lightly at times, and never so lightly as when he obeyed the
instinct that turns discussion into fiction and essays into sketches.
He too can write his letters, and that from Mrs. Deborah Ginger,
the unfortunate wife of a city wit, is a story in itself. And as for
Goldsmith, he can hardly hold his pen for half a paragraph before it
breaks away from the hard road of ideas and goes merrily along the
bridle-path of mere humanity. His letters from Lien Chi Altangi, that
serious Chinese busied in exposing the follies of the Occident, turn
continually to story-telling. A wise remark will usher in an Eastern
tale, and, not even in the papers of Steele or Addison are the subjects
of characters, like the little beau, who would have been a 'mere
indigent gallant,' magicked so deliciously to life. Finally, he did
with 'The Man in Black' what Addison and Steele could so well have done
with Sir Roger. Fielding and Smollett had written before him, and he
saw that he could follow their art without resigning any of the graces
of the essayist.

[The later essayists.]

The eighteenth century saw the absorption of the periodical essayists
into avowed story-telling. Miss Burney left them nothing to do
but to write sketches for chapters that might have appeared in
her books. The essayists who came later could only make beautiful
examples of a form that was already a little old-fashioned, though,
following other suggestions, they experimented in a new direction and
found another art to teach to story-tellers. Leigh Hunt's pair of
early nineteenth-century portraits, 'The Old Gentleman,' and 'The
Old Lady,' betray the family likeness of the character as it was
known to Overbury. Lamb's portrait of Mrs. Battle is nearer modern
story-telling. He does not let us into more than one of Sarah Battle's
secrets, but in telling us of her attitude towards the game of whist
he shows us how she looked upon the game of life. We would know her
if we met her, even if she were not seated at the card-table, the
candles unsnuffed, the fire merry on the hearth, and in the faces of
her and her partner and foes the frosty joy of 'the rigour of the
game.' Hazlitt, though he stuck close to his Montaigne, and cared less
to illustrate himself by other people than by his own opinions, gives
us characters too--that noble one of his father!--and his account of
Jack Cavanagh the fives player, and his description of his going down
to see the fight, are splendid passages of biography and narrative.
But the gift of the later essayists to story-telling was the new
art of reverie, and of the description of an event so soaked in the
describer's personality as to be at once an essay and a story. [The art
of reverie.] Few forms are richer in opportunity either for essayist or
story-teller, than that which made possible Lamb's 'Dream Children,'
and in which the child De Quincey, who had been in Hell, could show
us the calamity of three generations of beautiful children, and ask
at last whether death or life were the more terrible, the more to be
feared. It is sufficient to mention the names of Walter Pater and
Mr. Cunninghame Graham to show that some of the finest work of modern
times has been done in this kind of story-telling, and is being so done
to-day. And this art, this most delicate art of suggested narrative, is
it not also--to return, perhaps a little fancifully, to the tragic old
knight's definition--is it not also 'a picture in various colours, all
of them heightned by one shadowing'? Is it not also 'a quicke and soft
touch of many strings, all shutting up in one musicall close'?



[The old world of fairy tale.]

THE hundred years between the Elizabethan romancers and the English
novelists was not a period of great story-telling like the fifty that
were to follow it, or the first half of the nineteenth century. It
is of interest here mainly because it witnessed a complete change of
audience, the gradual transition of all the arts from a light-hearted
and credulous old world to a careful and common-sense new one. The
change is made very clear by a comparison of the stories popular before
and after.

Robert Burton gives us a fairly accurate notion of the story-telling
of the first quarter of the century, in a paragraph of _The Anatomy
of Melancholy_. He is referring to spoken tales, but his description
applies quite as well to tales in print. 'The ordinary recreations
which we have in winter, and in the most solitarie times busie our
minds with, are cards, tables and dice ... merry tales of errant
knights, queens, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfs, theeves,
cheaters, witches, fayries, goblins, friers, etc., such as the old
woman told Psyche in Apuleius, Bocace novels, and the rest, _quarum
auditione pueri delectantur, senes narratione_, which some delight to
hear, some to tell, all are well pleased with.' In short, the material
of Shakespeare's plays, of Spenser's _Faërie Queene_, of the early
rogue books, and of the tales imitated from Italy and antiquity by
Greene and Lodge and Pettie.

[A more sober spirit.]

By 1640 things had already changed a little. James Mabbe, the quaint
flavour of whose Tudor style, endearing as the moss on an old house,
reminds us that he published his translation of six of the _Exemplary
Novels_ before Cervantes had been dead for a quarter of a century,
felt that he had to apologise for them to the more sober spirit of the
time. 'Your wisest and learnedst Men,' he writes, 'both in Church and
Common-weale, will sometimes leave off their more serious discourses,
and entertain themselves with matters of harmelesse Merriment and
Disports. Such are these stories I present unto your view. I will
not promise any great profit you shall reape by reading them, but I
promise they will be pleasing and delightful, the Sceane is so often
varied, the Passages are so pretty, the Accidents so strange, and in
the end wrought to so happy a Conclusion.' That marks very neatly the
mid-seventeenth-century attitude towards the art. It was not impossible
that the simple unascetic humanity of Cervantes would be taken amiss
by these people who were stirred by the forces that were producing a
Cromwell and a Bunyan, a Commonwealth and a _Pilgrim's Progress_.
Only, in contradiction to this, the translator could make a confident
appeal to a Pepysian delight in pretty passages, strange accidents,
and happy conclusions--a delight only different from that of the
Elizabethans in its anxiety to be able to write 'harmelesse' when it
had enjoyed them.

[Illustration: JOHN BUNYAN]

[Bunyan's world.]

Before the _Pilgrim's Progress_ was written there had come to be
two parties in the audience: one with an epicurean delight in loose
living, and one whose care was for a stern decency that postponed all
flamboyance to a future life. The men of the first party flung their
roses the more joyously for their antagonism to the sober black of
the others, and were all the merrier for the thought that most of the
community held them damned, although, when Bunyan wrote, theirs was
the outward victory. Consciences were violently stirred, and so were
either hardened absolutely, or else unmistakably alive. If you were
good you were very very good, and if you were bad you were horrid,
like the little girl in the rhyme. There had been revolutions and
counter-revolutions; and likes and dislikes were pretty strongly
marked, because men had had to fight for them.

Bunyan's business was the description of a pilgrim's progress through
a world thus vividly good and bad. His choice of allegory as a method
allowed him to illustrate at the same time the earnestness of his times
and their extraordinary clarity of sensation. It was a form ready to
his hand. The authorised version of the Bible, published in 1611, its
English retaining the savour of a style then out of date, formed at
once his writing and his method, as it constituted his education. 'My
Bible and Concordance are my only library in my writings.' And, himself
a minor prophet, he could quote from Hosea: 'I have used similitudes.'

[The justification of allegory.]

Bunyan's use of them was very different from Spenser's. Hazlitt said
of _The Faërie Queene_ that, if you left the allegory alone, it would
leave you; and his advice may be safely followed. It is not so with
Bunyan, and his allegory must be defended in another manner. It needs
defence, for although it is one of the oldest and pleasantest ways
of producing wisdom-laden stories, it is so easy to use badly that
people have become a little out of patience with it. We remember the
far-fetched explanations tagged on to the _Gesta Romanorum_, and refuse
any longer to be fobbed off with puzzles that are easy to make and hard
to solve. We demand that a book shall have cost its author at least as
much as it costs us. Allegory is like fantasy, either worthless, or not
to be bought with rubies and precious stones; with anything, in fact,
but blood. When Bunyan writes:

    'It came from my own heart, so to my head,
    And thence into my fingers trickled;
    Then to my pen, from whence immediately
    On paper I did dribble it daintily,'

he sets up the one plea that is an absolute justification of his
method; that it is 'dribbled daintily,' and came from the depths of
him. The old monks wrote their stories, and searched their heads for a
meaning. But Bunyan thought for himself, and could not think without
seeing. His heart's talk was in passionate imagery.

[Bunyan and the early painters.]

He was the son of a tinker, and a tinker himself, and saw his visions
as clearly as he saw his tin pans. His book is never opalescent with
the shifting colours of a vague mysticism. It is painted in tints as
sharp and bright and simple as Anglo-Saxon words. Bunyan had to throw
himself into no trance in order to watch the pilgrim's arrival at the
New Jerusalem. The Celestial City was as real to him as London, and
there seemed to him no need to describe it in a whisper. His eyes
were as childlike as those of the early painters, who clothed the
builders of the Tower of Babel in fifteenth-century Italian costume,
put a little bonnet on the head and a flying cloak about the shoulders
of Tobias, and set soft leather boots on the feet of the angel. The
whole of the _Pilgrim's Progress_ is contemporary with Mr. Pepys. 'Now
Christiana, if need was, could play upon the viol, and her daughter
Mercy upon the lute; so, since they were so merry disposed, she played
them a lesson, and Ready-to-halt would dance. So he took Despondency's
daughter, named Much-afraid, by the hand, and to dancing they went
in the road. True, he could not dance without one crutch in his
hand; but, I promise you, he footed it well. Also the girl was to be
commended, for she answered the music handsomely.' It might be Mr.
Pepys himself describing the frolic of some friends. And yet it was
the most natural, righteous thing in the world, since Great Heart had
killed Giant Despair, and Despondency and Much-afraid had just been
freed from the dungeons of Doubting Castle.

[The Fear of Life.]

It is characteristic of the English spirit that the greatest national
classic of piety should be written by a man whose relish for life was
in no way blunted by his thoughts of immortality. Bunyan had a fear of
life no less real than his fear of God, and loved both God and life the
better for fearing them. Men set capital letters to the Fear of God,
and there is a Fear of Life no less different from cowardice. Bunyan,
a brave man, imprisoned again and again for his beliefs, and more than
once in imminent danger of hanging, shows in a passage of his _Grace
Abounding_ this Fear of Life in a very glare of light. Bunyan had loved
bell-ringing, and, after he had come to consider it not the occupation
of a man whose profession was so perilous and serious as a Christian's,
he could not help going to the belfry to watch those whose scruples
still allowed them his favourite pastime.

    'But quickly after, I began to think, "How if one of the bells
    should fall?" Then I chose to stand under a main beam, that lay
    athwart the steeple from side to side, thinking here I might stand
    sure; but then I thought again, should the bell fall with a swing,
    it might first hit the wall, and then rebounding upon me, might
    kill me for all this beam. This made me stand in the steeple door;
    and now thought I, I am safe enough, for if a bell should then
    fall, I can slip out behind these thick walls, and so be preserved
    notwithstanding. So after this I would yet go to see them ring,
    but would not go any further than the steeple door; but then it
    came into my head, 'How if the steeple itself should fall?' And
    the thought (it may, for aught I know, when I stood and looked
    on) did continually so shake my mind, that I durst not stand at
    the steeple-door any longer, but was forced to flee, for fear the
    steeple should fall upon my head.'

A man who felt as vividly as that, and was as stout as Bunyan, taking
existence as he would take a nettle, took it with a grip as firm as
that of love, and loved and feared his life as he loved and feared
his God. He knew that brightness and clarity of sensation desired by
Stendhal when he wrote, 'The perfection of civilisation would be to
combine all the delicate pleasures of the nineteenth century with the
more frequent presence of danger.' Life was very actual to him, and
so, in this account of a pious dream, we find the clearest prophecy of
that sense for reality that distinguishes the novels of the eighteenth
century. The _Pilgrim's Progress_ was the first great story of that
series of books that was to paint the English character in the eyes of
the world.


A fact is something very like an Englishman. It is a thing complete in
itself, and satisfactory on that account. There is no vanity about a
fact, and, as a people, we hate showing off. I can think of no other
nation as hungry for fact as ours, none with a book that corresponds
to the _Newgate Calendar_ and has been so popular, none with a book of
spiritual adventure so actual as the _Pilgrims Progress_, none with a
book of bodily adventure comparable with _Robinson Crusoe_. Defoe and
Bunyan stand for the plain facts of religion and existence, in both of
which they found so English a delight.

[The instinct for verisimilitude.]

Bunyan's book is an account of a dream. It is not a frank fairy tale
demanding a certain licence of nature to make possible its supernatural
events. Like the _Romance of the Rose_, unlike the _Faërie Queene_, it
takes its licence in its first sentence--'As I slept, I dreamed'--and
is able thenceforth to be as miraculous as it pleases without much loss
of credibility, since miracle, if not consistency and continuity, is of
the very element of a dream. It was an instinct for reality that made
Bunyan give his story such a setting. Giants and dwarfs could no longer
be jostled with thieves and cheaters as when Burton wrote. And Defoe,
writing another forty years later, shows this same instinct for reality
very much more conscientiously developed.

[Illustration: DANIEL DEFOE]

With an imagination scarcely less opulent than Bunyan's, Defoe,
if he had described a dream, would have managed somehow to make it
as short-winded and inconsequent as a real one. He was in love with
verisimilitude, and delighted in facts for their own sakes. 'To read
Defoe,' wrote Charles Lamb, 'is like hearing evidence in a Court of
Justice.' No compliment could have pleased him better.

[Lamb and Defoe.]

The letter in which Lamb paid it him was written at the East India
House, immediately after the labour of entering the accounts of a tea
sale. Careless as it is, it contains a criticism of Defoe's books that
goes to the root of his method. Here is its kernel. 'The author,'
writes Lamb, 'never appears in these self-narratives (for so they ought
to be called, or rather, autobiographies), but the _narrator_ chains us
down to an implicit belief in everything he says.' (It is interesting
to notice that Defoe, a very early realist, obeyed the spirit of
Flaubert's maxim, that a writer should be everywhere invisible in his
work, and that his books should, so to speak, tell themselves.) 'There
is all the minute detail of a log-book in it. Dates are painfully
impressed upon the memory. Facts are repeated over and over in varying
phases, till you cannot choose but believe them.' Then follows the
sentence already quoted. Lamb goes on: 'So anxious the story-teller
seems that the truth should be clearly comprehended, that when he has
told us a matter of fact or a motive in a line or two farther down he
repeats it, with his favourite figure of speech, 'I say,' so and so,
though he had made it abundantly plain before. This is an imitation of
the common people's way of speaking, or rather of the way in which they
are addressed by a master or mistress, who wishes to impress something
on their memories, and has a wonderful effect upon matter-of-fact

[The new world of matter-of-fact.]

There is little to add to that, though Lamb 'had not looked into
them latterly,' or he would have noticed in Defoe's books, with his
quick eye for such things, Defoe's wary way with anything that seems
to him at all incredible. In _The Journal of the Plague Year_, for
example, none of the more dramatic anecdotes are vouched for by the
writer. He heard them from some one else, did not see them with his
own eyes, finds them hard to believe, and so rivets the belief of his
readers. We shall observe in discussing Hawthorne the more advanced
possibilities of this ingenious trick. The best books of Defoe's
are rogue novels, and in none of them was he content with a merely
literary reality. His heroes are as solid as ordinary men, or more so.
The figure of Selkirk shrinks away like a faint shadow behind that of
Crusoe, whose imaginary adventures his own had suggested, and there
can be no doubt in anybody's mind as to which of the two is the more
credible. And then there is that style of his, homelier even than
Bunyan's, though less markedly so, since he is describing homelier
things. There is no Euphuism here; Defoe was not the man to deal in
gossamers. The essayist's delicacy of line had not yet been given to
the story-tellers, and Defoe was not the man to deal with silver point.
His style is as simple and effective as a bricklayer's hod. He carries
facts in it, and builds with them alone. The resulting books are like
solid Queen Anne houses. There is no affectation about them; they are
not decorated with carving; but they are very good for 'matter-of-fact
readers' to live in. Matter-of-fact readers made Defoe's audience, and
the hundred years since Burton wrote had made a matter-of-fact English
nation out of the credulous Elizabethans. The eighteenth century opens
with this note. The tales the old woman told Psyche have been blown
away like dead leaves into heaps for the children to play in, and
grown-up people, serious now, have done with fairy tale and are ready
for the English novel.



[For women by women.]

EUPHUES had addressed a dedication to the 'Ladies and Gentlewomen
of England,' and had said openly that he would rather lie shut in
a tiring closet than open in a study; but, writing for women as he
did, he never tried to write as if he were himself a woman. On the
contrary, Lyly's attitude was that of the gallant. The Elizabethan
romancers who followed him were read by women but content to be men.
Mrs. Behn, whose 'weltering sewerage' we have not had space to discuss,
wrote for women, but certainly not less coarsely than if she had been
writing for her own heroes. It was not until the eighteenth century
that there was fairly launched a new story-telling, characteristically
English in origin, without the fine careless heroism and improbability
of romance, that it held was 'calculated for amusement only,' and
different also from the mischievous realism of the picaresque. These
ships, with their gallant scarlet and gold pennons, and their merry
skull and cross-bones, had been long afloat before there came to join
them a white barge with a lily at the prow and on her decks girls in
white dresses, with their heads close together telling stories to each
other. The author of a tale had hitherto been either a man, a god, or
a rascal; he had never been content to be a girl. And the first of the
new craftswomen was a fat and solid little printer and alderman of the
City of London, called Samuel Richardson.

[Samuel Richardson.]

Richardson was an author of a kind quite new to English
letters--neither a great gentleman like Sidney, nor a roisterer like
Greene, nor a fanatic preacher like Bunyan, nor a journalist like
Defoe; just a quiet, conscientious, little business man, who, after a
duteous apprenticeship, had married his master's daughter like a proper
Whittington, and, when she died, had married again, with admirable
judgment in each case. It is not every one who can marry two wives and
be unhappy with neither. As a boy, he had written love-letters for
young women who were shy of their abilities. Girlish in his youth, he
had preferred the tea-table to the tavern. Surrounded by women in his
manhood, he was a grotesque little figure of a man, as inquisitive as
an old maid, as serious over detail as a village gossip; walking in the
Park, and looking at the feet of the women he met, and, as they passed
him, quickly scanning their faces, and saying to himself, 'that kind
of person,' or 'this kind of person,' and then going on to observe and
summarise the next. He was accustomed, like a Japanese draughtsman, or
a woman in a theatre, to complete and instantaneous observation.
His was just the mind to show women what they could do; and this, with
their constant applause and help, he did.


He had a lifetime of feminine society behind him when he was asked
to write a series of letters on 'the useful concerns in common life'
for the guidance of servant-girls, and, setting himself to the task,
produced _Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded_, and then, stepping on from his
success, _Clarissa Harlowe_, and finally the monstrous _Grandison_.
The books were written in a close atmosphere of femininity. 'My
worthy-hearted wife and the young lady who is with us, when I had read
them some part of the story, which I had begun without their knowing
it, used to come into my little closet every night, with--"Have you any
more of Pamela, Mr. R.? We are come to hear a little more of Pamela."'
Every letter of Clarissa's was canvassed by the tea-parties that wept
and trembled for her fate, and worshipped her proud little creator.
And all his friends contributed their ideas of the perfect man to the
making of Sir Charles Grandison. No author had ever written so before.

[The novel by post.]

I believe that the femininity of the resulting books was due to his
choice of the epistolary method as well as to his own temperament, and
his enviable opportunities of studying the character of the audience
at which he aimed. If he had not happened upon it, if he had tried
to tell his stories in the manner fashionable at the time, they would
but have been exaggerations and amplifications of tales that Steele
would have put most comfortably into a single number of _The Tatler_
or _Spectator_. If he had used the autobiographical form he would have
been prohibited from much of his detail, and all the effect of lighting
his subject from several points of view. But letters were so new in
story-telling that they helped him to be new himself, just as a new
and unusual fashion of coat helps a man to be militantly original,
within as well as without. And then letters, always describing events
that have scarcely happened, excuse the most unlimited detail, the
most elaborately particularised gossip or confession. Letters were the
perfect medium for the expression of the feminine mind.

I do not deny that there are disadvantages in the novel by post,
that concerns many characters in elaborate play. Richardson has, for
example, to keep his corresponding couples, naughty Lovelace and
uneasy Belford, Clarissa and the giddy Miss Howe, dodging apart again
and again for the purpose of exchanging letters. We are tortured by
Pamela's efforts for the good of her story, her letters sandwiched
between tiles and buried in earth, the incredible agility of her
postman John, and the forethought and luck that enables her to provide
herself with ink and paper in the most impossible circumstances. And
when Mr. Belford writes of Clarissa, 'there never was a woman so young
who wrote so much and with such celerity,' we look at the huge volumes
and find it easy to believe him. When we hear that 'Her thoughts
keeping pace with her pen she hardly ever stopped or hesitated, and
very seldom blotted out or altered,' we reflect that she certainly
had not the time. And when later we are told that 'Last night, for
the first time since Monday last, she got to her pen and ink; but
she pursues her writing with such eagerness and hurry as show her
discomposure,' we cannot help smiling to think how very advantageous
such discomposure must be to Mr. Richardson, who is to edit the
correspondence. There is this difficulty of credibility, and also
occasional even more obvious awkwardnesses, as when the characters,
always very obliging to their creator, have to enclose copies of
letters that would not otherwise have got into print.

[Richardson does not attempt illusion.]

On the other hand, we cannot count these as serious blemishes on a
form of art so far removed from any attempt at illusion. There is in
Richardson's novels no sort of visualised presentment of life. We see
his principal characters through little panes of glass over their
hearts, and in no other way. I cannot for the life of me imagine what
Clarissa really looked like, but I know well enough what she thought.
Spasmodic reminders of Pamela's abstract prettiness produce little
but an impatient desire to see a portrait. I remember but one glimpse
of her, and that is in the first volume, when she has dressed herself
up in her new homespun clothes, dangles a straw hat by its two blue
strings, and looks at herself in the looking-glass. There comes an
expression a little later, 'a pretty neat damsel,' and again, 'a tight
prim lass,' and I think that the ghost of a little girl shows in the
looking-glass, but only for a moment, like the reflection of a bird
flying over a pool of water. Richardson's characters are decreasingly
real from their hearts outwards. They have no feet. But their hearts
are so beautifully exhibited that we cannot ask for anything else.
To quarrel over them with Richardson is like quarrelling with the
delightful Euclid because no one has ever been able to draw a straight
line that should really be length without breadth. Such a line does
not exist outside his books, yet Euclid is all in the right when he
talks of geometry. Pamela and Clarissa do not exist outside their
propositions, yet Johnson, talking fairly honestly, was able to say
that there was more knowledge of the human heart in a letter of
Richardson's than in all _Tom Jones_.

[The passion for respectability.]

It is knowledge of the human heart from the girl's point of view--the
unromantic girl, for Richardson could never bring himself to believe
in great passions. He would never have used as the text of a novel
that sentence from the New Testament that has inspired so many later
story-tellers: 'Her sins are forgiven her because she loved much.'
Richardson's only passion is one not usually so called, and that is
a passion for respectability. The desire for respectability, for her
children's sake if not for her own, is part of every woman's armour
in the battle of this world. In Richardson's two best novels it is
something far more than this, an obsession that love cannot conquer nor
goodness override. In Clarissa it is so Quixotic, so forlorn a hope
as to be noble; but Pamela's respectability is a little disgusting.
What, after all, is Pamela's story but the tale of a servant-girl
who declaims continually about her honesty, writes foolish verse
about it, lets her head fall on her master's shoulder, and refuses to
be his except as his wife? She is quite right, of course, and most
estimable. But her affronted virtue does not seem much more than a
practical commercial asset, when she successfully marries the man who
by every means in his power has sought to destroy it. Clarissa, on
the other hand, has nothing to gain, nothing even to retain, except
her self-respect. The respect of Howes, Belfords, and Harlowes could
weigh but little with a being lifted from ordinary Philistine life
into a conflict as unworldly as hers. She has the ivory dignity of
some flowers, and the curious power of the book that traces her
misfortunes is due to the spectacle of so flowerlike and fragile a
being engaged in a struggle so terribly unequal. The struggle itself
could hardly have been imagined by a wholly masculine writer. It is
a kind of elaborate proposition, not a picture of life. It is like a
chess problem in which we know that white mates in two moves, and are
interested only in seeing how he does it. In Richardson, as in Euclid,
we know always what is coming. Our artistic pleasure is in the logic
and sequence of the intervening steps. If you expect a theorem to turn
into a problem or _vice versâ_, the inevitability of Richardson annoys
you; but if you read him in the right spirit that quality is your chief

It is interesting to notice that Richardson, inventing girls' theorems,
is unable to draw a hero in whom a man can believe. Lovelace, for
example, is touched in in a way that makes women fall in love with
him, but men feel for cobwebs in the air. Pamela's master is frankly
incredible. And it is no bad illustration of Richardson's femininity
that Charles Grandison, planned as the perfect man, has been found
unbearable in the smoking-room, insipid at the tea-table, and has
probably had no conquests but a few Georgian ladies'-maids. But the
women, abstractions, algebraical formulæ, as they are, let us into
secrets of the machinery of a woman's mind that no earlier novelist had
been able to examine.

[Richardson's influence.]

Richardson's precise, intimate, feminine knowledge of women and
feminine method of writing had a wider influence than that we are
tracing in this chapter. He showed story-tellers a new world to conquer
and quite unexplored possibilities in the telling of a tale. It was
for this that he was translated by the Abbé Prévost, the Jesuit,
soldier, priest and novelist, who wrote in _Manon Lescaut_ of a passion
greater and more self-sacrificing than any that had come in the way of
the little printer of Salisbury Court. And when St. Preux and Julie
exchange those letters that brought a new freedom of sentiment into
literature, Rousseau, who taught them how to write, had himself been
taught by Richardson.

[Illustration: FANNY BURNEY]

[Fanny Burney.]

I do not intend any detailed portraiture of the later writers of the
feminine novel, but only in a brief mention of two of them to suggest
the course they took in the development of their art, until in the
nineteenth century it combined with and became indistinguishable from
the masculine novel that held it at first in a not lightly to be
reconciled hostility. Let us look along the bookshelf for a volume
called _Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the
World_. Thirty years had passed between the publication of _Clarissa_
and that of Fanny Burney's best book, and in those years Fielding and
Smollett had written, and _Humphry Clinker_ had shown that it was
possible to describe in letters other things than a series of attacks
on the armour of respectability. Fanny Burney took more material
with a lighter hand, stealing away the business of _The Tatler_, _The
Spectator_, _The Citizen of the World_, and trying not only to 'draw
characters from nature' but also to 'mark the manners of the time.'
She had learnt from a diligent perusal of Richardson, avoided a too
elaborate postal system, and made her butterfly task the easier by
writing of herself, whereas he had to invent the Clarissas and Pamelas
of his more bee-like labours.

[Young lady's 'manners.']

Fanny Burney was the daughter of a popular music-master, whose house
was always full of all sorts of people, so that she had the best of
opportunities for observing that surface of life which she was able so
incomparably to reproduce. She was able to see manners in contrast. Now
'manners' described by a man in a coffee-house--by Steele, for example,
or Goldsmith, mean the habits and foibles of contemporary society.
'Manners' 'marked' at a young lady's rosewood desk mean vulgarity and
its opposite, and the various shades between the two. In the essayist's
eyes, manners were simply manners, to be described each one for its
own sake. The feminine novelist found manners either good or bad, and
was concerned with the tracing of a gossamer thread of distinction.
The story of Evelina is not so much that of her love-affair with Lord
Orville, but of the suffering or satisfaction of a sensitive person
exposed alternately to atmospheres of bad manners or good. Evelina
threads her way shyly along the border-line, and illustrates both
sides by their effects upon her happiness. We are sorrier for her when
she hears Miss Branghton cry out joyfully, 'Miss is going to marry a
Lord,' than when she is in more serious trouble over her acknowledgment
by her father. All the minor characters for whom the story makes a
frame are set there as types less of character than of behaviour.
There is Mrs. Selwyn with her habit of 'setting down' young men, and
her characteristic praise of Lord Orville, 'there must have been
some mistake about the birth of that young man; he was, undoubtedly,
designed for the last age; for he is really polite.' There is Captain
Mirvan, representing good birth and brutality of manners; Madame Duval,
low birth seeking to veil itself in lofty affectation; the Branghtons,
frank vulgarity; Mr. Smith, the tinsel gentility of the Holborn beau.
Each character is in the book in order to inflict its peculiar type
of manners on the heroine, so that we may watch the result. Evelina
herself, delicious as she is, is given to us as a touchstone between
good breeding and vulgarity.

[Feminine standards of delicacy.]

Miss Burney marks very clearly the introduction of the feminine
standards of delicacy that were to rule the English novel of the
nineteenth century. Evelina's criticism of _Love for Love_, written
less than a hundred years before she saw it, distinguishes honestly
between her own point of view and that of the best of men. 'Though it
(the play) was fraught with wit and entertainment, I hope I shall never
see it represented again; for it is so extremely indelicate--to use
the softest word I can--that Miss Mirvan and I were perpetually out of
countenance, and could neither make any observations ourselves, nor
venture to listen to those of others. This was the more provoking, as
Lord Orville was in excellent spirits, and exceedingly entertaining.'

[Illustration: JANE AUSTEN]

[Jane Austen.]

Twenty years after _Evelina_, the novel of femininity took a further
step in technique and breadth of design. Miss Austen, who in the last
decade of the eighteenth century was writing the novels that were not
to be published till after the first decade of the nineteenth, learnt
from both her precursors. She was a proper follower of Richardson, but
dispensed altogether with the artifice of letters, although the whole
of her work is so intimate and particular in expression that it would
almost seem to be written in a letter to the reader.[7] Like Miss
Burney she had read the masculine novels of an ordinary life, whose
strings were not so finely stretched as those of life in the books of
the sentimental little printer; she had read Fielding and Smollett and
the Essayists, and Miss Burney herself, but she carried the satire
she had learnt from them deeper than Miss Burney's criticism of well
or ill-bred manners. She deals more directly with existence. Miss
Burney with lovable skill made her puppets play her game. Miss Austen's
puppets played a game of their own. She remarked before writing _Emma_,
'I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,'
exactly as if she were a little girl rather capriciously choosing a
new plaything. But Emma, once chosen, illustrates no special theorem,
and is compelled to tread no tight-rope over the abyss of vulgarity.
Miss Austen's world has the vitality of independent life, and is yet
close under observation, like society in a doll's house. Her people are
alive and real, and yet so small that she found it easy to see round
them and be amused. Indeed, she grew so accustomed to laughing at them
that she came to include the reader in her play. I am not sure if it
would not be wise for any one who found a page of hers a little dull
or incomprehensible, to consider very carefully and seriously if she
is not being mischievous enough and insolent enough to win her silvery
laugh from his own self. To read her is like being in the room with an
unscrupulously witty woman; it is delightful, but more than a trifle

[The analysis of the heart.]

But Miss Austen's satire is not so important as the clear, keen sight
that made it possible. The feminine novel finds its justification
and characteristic in the quick light gossiping knowledge of Miss
Burney, in Miss Austen's bric-à-brac of observation, in Richardson's
topographical accuracy among the hidden alleys and byways of the
heart. Its tenderness of detail is its most valuable contribution to
story-telling, associated though it is with feminine standards of
decency, and the sharp point of feminine raillery. The first of these
concomitants is a gift of doubtful, and certainly not universal,
virtue. The second is no more than a variation, a different-tinted,
other-textured version of the satire of men. But the gift to which
they were attached has made possible some of the finest work of later
artists, in those stories whose absorbing interest is the unravelling
of tangled skeins of intricate psychology. Theirs is a minuteness in
the dissection of the heart quite different from, and indeed hostile
to, the free-and-easy way of men like Fielding and Smollett, and
wherever we meet with this fine and delicate surgery practice we can
trace its ancestry with some assurance to the feminine novel of the
eighteenth century.



[The English Renaissance.]

I HAVE always felt that the English Renaissance was considerably later
than that of France or Italy, and happened in the eighteenth century.
When we speak of the Italian or the French Renaissance we mean the
times in the histories of Italy or France when the peculiar genius
of each of these countries showed the most energetic and satisfying
efflorescence. In Italy and in France this time was that of the revival
of classical learning, when Boccaccio lectured on Dante at Florence
and Ronsard gardened and rhymed. In England, although from the time
of Chaucer to the time of Shakespeare we were picking continental
flowers, and flowering ourselves individually and gorgeously, yet we
had no general efflorescence in our national right, no sudden and
complete self-portraiture in several arts at once. And this in the
eighteenth century was what we had. All our national characteristics
were unashamedly on view. Our solidity, our care for matter of fact,
our love of oversea adventure, were exhibited in Defoe. Our sturdy
spirituality had only recently found expression in Bunyan. Richardson
discovered the young person who, rustling her petticoats, sits with
so demure an air of permanence on Victorian literature, and represents
indeed so real a part of our national character that we shall never be
able to forget her blushes altogether. Our serious turn for morality
showed itself at once in the aims all our authors professed, and in the
pictures of Hogarth who, with courage unknown elsewhere, dared to paint
ugliness as ugly. This is the century that represents us in the eyes
of the world. If we would think of the Italian spirit we remember the
_Decameron_; if of the French, we remember Ronsard's 'Mignonne, allons
voir si la rose,' or Marot's 'Mignonne, je vous donne le bon jour.'
But if a Frenchman tries to describe an Englishman his model is not a
Chaucer but a Jean Bull, and the only adequate portraits of Jean Bull
are to be found in the novels of Fielding and Smollett.

[Illustration: HENRY FIELDING]

[Two points of view.]

Out of this general efflorescence were to spring two branches of
story-telling different and hostile from the start. The novel was
given sex. Richardson had scarcely invented the feminine novel before
Fielding and Smollett were at work producing books of a masculinity
correspondingly pronounced. Fielding was the first to mark the
difference, and Richardson to the end of his life hated him for writing
_Joseph Andrews_. It often happens that one philosopher hates another
whose system though less elaborate is obviously founded on a broader
basis than his own. Fielding could afford to laugh at Richardson, but
Richardson could never laugh at Fielding. He could only enjoy the
lesser satisfaction of holding his rival accursed. Their upbringings
had been as different as the resulting books. Eton, law studies at
Leyden and the Middle Temple, were a different training for the art of
story-telling than the Dick Whittington youth of the little business
man. Richardson saw the game of life from the outside. Harry Fielding
knew the rough and tumble. Richardson was all for virtue; so was
Fielding, but, as he would have put it himself, for virtue that is
virtue. Virtue at the expense of nature he could no more understand
than Benvenuto Cellini, who, if the facts in the case of Pamela had
been set before him, would have thought her a devilish artful young
woman, and, if he had met her, congratulated her upon her capture.
Fielding had a short, rough and ready creed, and that was that a good
heart goes farther than a capful of piety towards keeping the world a
habitable place.

[_Pamela_ and _Joseph Andrews_.]

_Pamela_ made him laugh. He wanted to make money by writing, so he sat
down to put the laugh on paper, with the ultimate notion of filling
his pocket by publishing a squib. He set out to parody Pamela in the
person of her brother Mr. Joseph Andrews. He had not gone very far in
the performance before Parson Adams came into the story, and became
so prodigiously delightful that it occurred to Fielding that he had
here as admirable a couple for adventure as Cervantes himself could
have wished, with the result that Mr. Andrews' correspondence does
not compare at all favourably with his sister's, while his biography
is infinitely more entertaining. When the book was done, its creator
printed on the title-page: 'Written in imitation of the Manner of
Cervantes, Author of Don Quixote,' made no very particular reference
to his original purpose, and described his book as 'A Comic Epic in
Prose.' The masculine novel was on its way. Like _Don Quixote_ or
_Le Roman Comique_ it represented a smiling move towards reality, or
the criticism of reality, in Fielding's hands through the high and
difficult art of ridicule, in the hands of Smollett, whose first book
was published six years later, through the easier art of caricature.

These two men between them made the masculine novel of the eighteenth
century. Its scope and character are best mapped out by a study
of their respective lives, which were sufficiently unlike to make
their books almost as different from each other's as they were from

[Fielding and Smollett.]

They both looked on man as man, a simple creature seldom wholly bad.
They were not the fellows to tolerate humbug about platonic love,
or the soul, or religion. Religion meant the Established Church,
and a parson was a man, good or bad, a representative of the State
perhaps, but not a representative of God. Love was no opal passion
between Endymion and the moon. It meant desire between man and woman,
as tender as you liked, but still desire. It was as simple a thing as
valour, which meant ability to use the fists and stand fire. Fielding
and Smollett knew a fairly brutal world. But their positions in it
had been different. Fielding had always had his head above water. He
is continually thinking of fair play, and feels, as we do, a thrill
at the heart when he sees Tom Jones and an innkeeper shake hands
after bleeding each other's noses. Smollett had had a harder time.
He had known what it was to be denied the privileges of a gentleman.
He had been in a subordinate position in the navy when that was an
organisation of licensed brutality. He was as accustomed to seeing
men's bodies cross-questioned, as Fielding to reading law-cases and
examining men's minds. He writes always on a more animal level than
Fielding. After every fight he lines up his characters for medical

        '"'n' well," says he, "'n' how
    Are yer arms, 'n' legs, 'n' liver, 'n' lungs, 'n' bones
            a-feelin' now?"'

Fielding only inquires after their hearts. Put their portraits side
by side, and the difference is clear. Fielding's is the face of the
fortunate man who has had his bad times and come smiling through;
Smollett's that of the man not bruised but permanently scarred by the
experiences he has suffered. An old sailor once said to me that you
can judge of the roughness of a man's employment by the coarseness of
his language; those whose work is roughest, using the coarsest words.
Fielding is seldom disgusting. His heroes are constantly putting their
feet into it; but not into unnecessary filth. It is impossible to say
the same of Smollett.

[Smollett and Le Sage.]

Their choice of models was characteristic; _Joseph Andrews_ being
written in imitation of the gentle banter of Cervantes, while _Roderick
Random_ copied the more acid satire of Le Sage. Indeed, Le Sage
was not serious enough. 'The disgraces of Gil Blas,' says Smollett
in his preface, 'are for the most part such as rather excite mirth
than compassion; he himself laughs at them; and his transitions from
distress to happiness, or at least ease, are so sudden, that neither
the reader has time to pity him, nor himself to be acquainted with
affliction. This conduct, in my opinion, not only deviates from
probability, but prevents that generous indignation, which ought to
animate the reader against the sordid and vicious disposition of the
world.' That is a moving and very remarkable paragraph. Between those
lines is the memory of more than enough 'acquaintance with affliction,'
and there is something terrible in the assumption, made with such
absolute conviction, that good luck 'deviates from probability.'
Smollett had not known much happiness, and found so light-hearted an
aim as Le Sage's impossible. His own was almost vengeful. 'I have
attempted to represent modest merit struggling with every difficulty to
which a friendless orphan is exposed, from his own want of experience,
as well as from the selfishness, envy, malice, and base indifference of
mankind.' Roderick Random is a rogue and a skunk, but we cannot blame
Tobias Smollett if he did not know it. Random's more objectionable
qualities are those that pull him through his difficulties. A nicer man
would have gone under. The difficulties are at fault for making not
Random but Smollett what he was.

[The technique of the English novel.]

The technique of the English novel was more elaborate than that of its
models. Just as _Joseph Andrews_ is more orderly than _Don Quixote_, so
_Roderick Random_ is a step between the pure rogue novel, the string
of adventures only connected by the person of the adventurer, and the
modern novel of definite plot. _Don Quixote_ and _Gil Blas_ could be
cut off anywhere. Their creators had only to kill them. But the curtain
could not be rung down on the adventures of Random or Andrew before
quite a number of different threads had been properly gathered and
explained. There were a few pretty wild coincidences to be discovered.
Rory, Joseph, and Fanny all find their true parents; perhaps but rough
and ready means to give rotundity to a story, but still pleasant
mysteries, to be kept like sweetmeats and dessert as lures for flagging
appetites. The novel had assumed some of the elaborate interest of the
_nouvelle_, as practised by Cervantes and the Elizabethans, and the
influence of the stage perhaps partly accounts for the construction
of the English imitations, more consistent than that of their Spanish
and Franco-Spanish models. The art of play-writing had reached its
period of most scrupulous technique so recently that these two men who
had failed in the theatre were not likely to forget its methods when
experimenting with the more plastic art of narrative.

[Fielding the better artist.]

Of the two, Fielding is always the better artist. He is more interested
in his art, more single-minded. He never forgets his duties as a
novelist, and continually turns to the reader, just as if he were a
sculptor executing a difficult piece of work in the presence of an
audience whose admiration he expects. He was ready to laugh at himself
for it too: 'We assure the reader we would rather have suffered half
mankind to be hanged than have saved one contrary to the strictest laws
of unity and probability.' He did not always keep up this admirable
conscientiousness; but he did so more consistently than Smollett.

The delicacy of their craftsmanship is best compared not in their
greatest books but in those two novels in which they essayed the same
task, the portraiture of a rogue, and a rogue not after the merry
sympathetic fashion of Lazarillo, but one whom the authors themselves
accounted a villain and expected their readers to detest.

[_Jonathan Wild._]

The ironic biographer of Jonathan Wild realised the difficulties of
the undertaking. He saw that unless he adopted an attitude which would
make it proper for him always to express approval of his hero, his
readers would begin to cast this way and that, not knowing whether to
sympathise or hate, as the genius of the author or the villainy of the
hero were alternately prominent in their eyes. Accordingly, choosing
the name of a real and famous gallows-bird who had been hung some
twenty years before, Fielding took his tone from those little penny
biographies that used to be hawked among the crowd who waited at Tyburn
to see their hero swing. He ironically takes this tone; and sustains it
without a false note for a couple of hundred pages. How admirably he
uses it:--

    'The hero, though he loved the chaste Laetitia with excessive
    tenderness, was not of that low snivelling breed of mortals
    who, as is generally expressed, _tie themselves to a woman's
    apron-strings_; in a word, who are afflicted with that mean, base,
    low vice or virtue, as it is called, of constancy.'

And again in the passage that sums up the book:--

    'He laid down several maxims, as the certain means of attaining
    greatness, to which, in his own pursuit of it, he constantly


    1. Never to do more mischief than was necessary to the effecting
    of his purpose; for that mischief was too precious a thing to be
    thrown away.

    2. To know no distinction of men from affection; but to sacrifice
    all with equal readiness to his interest.

    3. Never to communicate more of an affair than was necessary to the
    person who was to execute it.

    4. Not to trust him who hath deceived you, nor who knows he has
    been deceived by you.

    5. To forgive no enemy; but to be cautious and often dilatory in

    6. To shun poverty and distress, and to ally himself as close as
    possible to power and riches.

    7. To maintain a constant gravity in his countenance and behaviour,
    and to affect wisdom on all occasions.

    8. To foment eternal jealousies in his gang, one of another.

    9. Never to reward any one equal to his merit; but always to
    insinuate that the reward was above it.

    10. That all men were knaves or fools, and much the greater number
    a composition of both.

    11. That a good name, like money, must be parted with or at least
    greatly risked, in order to bring the owner any advantage.

    12. That virtues, like precious stones, were easily counterfeited;
    that the counterfeits in both cases adorned the wearer equally;
    and that very few had knowledge or discernment sufficient to
    distinguish the counterfeit jewels from the real.

    13. That many men were undone by not going deep enough in roguery;
    as in gaming any man may be a loser who doth not play the whole

    14. That men proclaim their own virtues, as shopkeepers expose
    their goods, in order to profit by them.

    15. That the heart was the proper seat of hatred, and the
    countenance of affection and friendship.'

The whole scheme is worked out with a scrupulous attention to the main
idea, and a consistency of mood that would not have been unworthy one
of the self-conscious artists of a hundred years later. Poe himself
could have built no more skilfully, and, lacking Fielding's knowledge
of rascaldom, the straw for his bricks would not have been so good.

[_Ferdinand, Count Fathom._]

Smollett had the knowledge; but, a less perspicuous artist, did not
realise the difficulties of using it. His villain is never frank in his
villainy. Smollett intended from the beginning to disobey Fielding's
principle, meant to save his rogue from the gallows, meant to do it
all along, and was consequently handicapped in making him respectably
wicked. Ferdinand, Count Fathom, does damnable deeds, but his author's
purpose is completely nullified by his promise of eventual conversion.
The book is not true to itself, but fails because Smollett was not
sufficient of an artist to be able to send his hero to hell.

It is interesting to notice in one of the dullest scenes of this
unsatisfactory book, that Smollett touched for the first time, in a
fumbling, hesitant manner, the note of quasi-supernatural horror that
was soon to be sounded with clarity and almost too facile skill. In the
hero's device for the undoing of Celinda there is the first warning of
the Radcliffes and Lewises and their kind, with their groans upon the
battlements, their figures in white, and their unearthly music in the
wind. Smollett did not wait long enough to find out what could be done
with this new sensation. He jangled the note, and, in his inartistic
way, passed on to paint and to reform the wickedness of the Count.

[Illustration: TOBIAS SMOLLETT]

[Smollett the more versatile.]

I am a little ungracious to Smollett in saying so loud that he was an
artist inferior to Fielding. Inferior he was, but when I set their
best books side by side, I remember that there is little to choose
between the pleasures they have given me, and am compelled to admit
that the less scrupulous Smollett had the wider range. I read _Tom
Jones_ in one sitting of twenty-four hours, and should like to write
an essay on it, but can find no excuse for discussing here that epic
of good-heartedness, since its characteristics are not different from
those already noticed in _Joseph Andrews_. But _Humphry Clinker_ would
have held me for as long if it had had as many pages, and in the
history of the art, has, as an example of the novel in letters, an
interest wholly separate from that of _Roderick Random_, which is a
specimen of the picaresque. When Smollett came to write that book he
was fifty years old and just about to die. He seems to have forgotten
his old feud with life, and to look at things with a kindlier eye
as one just ready to depart. His late-won detachment helped him to
a scheme as clear as one of Fielding's, although even in this he is
sometimes submerged in human nature. His notion was to describe the
same scenes and events simultaneously from several points of view, in
letters from different persons, so as to keep a story moving gently
forward, with half a dozen personalities revolving round it, able to
realise themselves or be realised in their own letters or those of
their friends. In none of his other books are the characters so rounded
and complete. There is Matthew Bramble, the old knight, outwardly
morose and secretly generous; his sister, an old maid determined not to
remain one, for ever grumbling at her brother's generosities; Lyddy,
their romantic niece, and Jerry, their young blood of a nephew; and, as
persons of the counterplot, Mistress Winifred Jenkins and Mary Jones;
not to speak of the ubiquitous Clinker. The letters tell the whole
story, and yet, written long after Richardson's, they have an older
manner. Richardson's letters, with all their passionate reiteration
of detail, do not concern themselves with foibles. They do not make
you smile at their writers, and if you had laughed, as Fielding did,
he would have been prodigiously annoyed. Smollett's letters have the
same aim as the letters of the _Spectator_ or the _Tatler_. They
are different only in less brilliant polish, and in their grouping
round a story. The Humphry Clinker correspondence is as important as
the letters of Clarissa in forming the most delicate and humorous
epistolary style employed by Miss Evelina Anville.

[The motives of the masculine novel.]

The extreme difficulty I have experienced throughout this chapter
in thinking of the technique of these novelists, instead of their
material, is a tribute to their power. It is the same with Hogarth.
It is impossible to get at the artist for thinking of the life upon
his canvases. It is almost impossible to consider Fielding or Smollett
as technicians (I have had to do it in their least human books),
for thinking of the England that they represented. And now that I
am looking about for a concluding paragraph on the work of these
two men, when I should be summing up the general characteristics of
their craftsmanship, I look at the pile of their books on the table
before me, and feel a full and comfortable stomach, and cannot get
out of my nose the smell of beer and beef and cheese associated as
closely with their pages as lavender with the pages of _Cranford_.
What an England it was in their day. Mr. Staytape carried Rory 'into
an alehouse, where he called for some beer and bread and cheese, on
which we _breakfasted_.' 'Our landlord and we sat down at a board, and
dined upon a shin of beef most deliciously; our reckoning amounting to
twopence halfpenny each, bread and small beer included.' The bright
glances of Mistress Waters 'hit only a vast piece of beef which he was
carrying into his plate, and harmless spent their force.' Her sighs
were drowned 'by the coarse bubbling of some bottled ale.' Square
meals are the best antidotes for sentiment, and in every scene of
these novelists there is always some one who has fed too recently to
allow any hairsplitting delicacy in the room with him. No confessional
disentangling of emotions, but beer, beef, cheese, a good heart, a
sound skin, and the lack of these things, are the motives of the
masculine novel.


    STERNE hardly comes within the scope of this book, since his was
    the art, not of telling stories, but of withholding them, not of
    keeping things on the move, but of keeping them on the point of
    moving. It is not without much difficulty and two or three chapters
    that a character of Sterne's crosses the room. The nine books
    of _Tristram Shandy_ bring him through the midwife's hands, and
    a little further. I believe we hear breeches talked of for him.
    Another nine books would perhaps let him put one leg into them.
    _Tristram Shandy_ is a continuous denial of the forms that Fielding
    and Smollett were doing their best to fix. But it is read by many
    who find them superficial, because Sterne writes of universal,
    whereas they write of a limited and particular humanity. They
    write of a Mr. Jones or a Mr. Random, while the hero of Sterne's
    book is man. He begins, as he puts it himself, _ab ovo_. He saw
    that the whole of humanity is a constellation revolving round the
    birth of a child, and contrived to introduce into his book every
    imaginable incident connected with that event. If Tristram Shandy
    does not grow up quick enough to take to himself a wife, My Uncle
    Toby is taken as a husband by the Widow Wadman. If he does not
    die, Yorick does. If My Uncle Toby's affairs do not go far enough
    to produce a baby, Tristram is born. In this book, where nothing
    seems to happen, everything does. It is the Life and Opinions, not
    of Tristram Shandy, but of Humanity, illustrated, not in a single
    character over a long period, but in half a dozen over a short one.
    For the story of the three generations of the giants, Rabelais
    needed land and sea, Paris and Touraine. For the adventures of his
    strolling players, Scarron needed a dozen little towns along the
    Loire, with inns and châteaux and what not. But for the adventures
    of Humanity, Sterne, who learnt from both of them, needed only a
    bowling-green, a study, a bedroom, and a parlour. There is really
    little else of background to the story. And it is all there; birth,
    love, death, and all the sad comedy of man misunderstood, and
    fortunate when, like Uncle Toby, he does not try to understand, the
    beginning in triviality, and the end in 'Alas, poor Yorick!'





[Chateaubriand and the French Revolution.]

THERE are some men who seem epitomes of their periods, of all the
weaknesses, strengths, ideals and follies and wisdoms of their times.
All the tangled skeins of different movements seem embroidered into
the pattern of a face; and that face is theirs. We seek in them the
years in which they lived, and are never disappointed. Sir Philip
Sidney means the age of Elizabeth, Dr. Johnson the common-sense English
eighteenth century, Rousseau the stirring of revolutionary France,
Goethe the awakening of Germany. Of these men was Chateaubriand. He
was born before the storm and died after it. He gathered up the best
of the things that were before the revolution, and handed them on to
the men who, when the revolution had left a new France, were to make
that new country the centre of European literature. Rousseau and the
Romantics meet in him. He wrote when France, her eyes still bright and
wide after the sight of blood, was seeking in religion for one thing,
at least, that might be covered by the tossing waves of revolution and
yet survive. Christianity in his finest story is the rock on which
his lovers break themselves. And Christianity was the first earthwork
attacked before the revolution, and the first reoccupied afterwards.

Chateaubriand stands curiously in the midst of the opposing elements.
Like Byron he was a patrician and a fighter. He too would have died
for freedom. But whereas Byron fought, contemptuously sometimes, for
revolutionaries, Chateaubriand fought against them.

When some of the ragged ones marched joyously down his street carrying
the heads of two of their enemies bleeding on the ends of pikes, he
cried at them, 'Brigands! Is this what you mean by Liberty?' and
declared that if he had had a gun he would have shot them down like
wolves. And if Chateaubriand had not been an aristocrat, he could never
so well have represented his times. He would have fought and written
as a revolutionist, instead of caring passionately for one party, and
pinning to it the ideals of the other, so claiming both for his own.
Everything that could make him one with his period and country was his.
After a childhood of severe repression, he had seen the fall of the
Bastille, and then sought liberty and the North-West Passage, coming
back from America to find the revolution successful against himself.
Could any man's life be so perfect an analogy of the meteor-like
progress of France? France also sought liberty and a North-West
Passage, quicker than all others; France also was to return and find
the ground aquiver beneath her feet.


[Jean-Jacques Rousseau.]

After that she was to be mistress of Europe. The three stages of
Romanticism correspond with these three stages of France; the last that
of Hugo and Gautier and Dumas, the Romanticism of 1830, promised by
that of Chateaubriand, itself made possible by the unrestful writing
of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is impossible to understand any one of
the three without referring to the others. Rousseau was the son of a
watchmaker, in a day when superiority of intellect in a man of low
birth won him either neglect or the most insufferable patronage.
His mother died in bearing him, and his father, although he made a
second marriage, never mentioned her without tears. He seems to have
been a very simple-hearted man, and found such pleasure in romances
that he would sit up all night reading them to his little son, going
ashamedly to bed in the morning when the swallows began to call in
the eaves. These two traits in his father are characteristic of the
work of Rousseau himself. His life was spent in emphasising the
compatibility of low birth with lofty animation, and so in preparing
that democratisation of literature that generously attributes humanity
to men who are not gentlemen. Richardson gave him a suitable narrative
form for what he had to say, and _La Nouvelle Héloïse_ is a novel in
letters whose hero is a poor tutor in love with his pupil. The book
is full of an emotional oratory so fresh and sincere that it seems as
if the ice of fifty years of passionless reasoning has suddenly broken
over the springs of the human heart. There is in it too an Ossianic
sharing of feelings with Nature, as if man had realised with the tears
in his eyes that he had not always lived in towns.

[The world of the Revolution.]

Chateaubriand had not Rousseau's birthright of handicap. He could not
feel the righteous energy of the watchmaker's son against a people who
did not know their own language and were yet in a position to employ
him as a footman. He was outside that quarrel. He left Rousseau's
social reform behind him on the threshold of his world, but had learnt
from him to carry his heart upon his sleeve, and to cry, like _Ossian_,
'The murmur of thy streams, O Lara! brings back the memory of the past.
The sound of thy woods, Garmallar, is lovely in mine ear.' He took with
him Rousseau's twin worships of passion and nature into the melancholy
turmoil that was waiting for him, sad with an unrest not of classes but
of a nation. He knew, like France, what it was to question everything
while standing firm upon nothing. In that maelstrom nothing seemed
fixed; there was nothing a man might grasp for a moment to keep his
head above the waters of infinite doubt. Everything seemed possible,
and much of the Romantic melancholy is a despairing cry for a little
impossibility from which at least there could be no escape. It is
one thing to question religion by the light of atheism, or atheism by
the light of religion; it is another thing, and far more terrible, to
question both while sure of neither, and to see not one word in all the
universe, not God, nor Man, nor State, nor Church, without a question
mark at its side, a ghastly reminder of uncertainty, like, in some old
engravings, the waiting figure of Death muffled in each man's shadow.


That was the world of the Revolution, a world whose permanent
instability had been suddenly made manifest by a violent removal of the
apparently stable crust. With the overturning of one mountain every
other shuddered in its bed, and seemed ready at any moment to shake
with crash and groan into the valleys. This was the world for whose
expression the face of Chateaubriand, nervous, passionate, the fire of
vision in his eye, the wind of chaos in his tempestuous hair, seems so
marvellously made. This was the world in which, like the spirit of his
age, he wrote the books the times expected because they were their own.
_Atala_ and _René_, but particularly _Atala_, seemed to be the old,
vague promises of Rousseau and _Ossian_, reaffirmed with the clarity
of a silver trumpet. Chactas and Atala, those savage lovers, who 'took
their way towards the star that never moves, guiding their steps by the
moss on the tree stems,' walked like young deities of light before
these people who had known the half-mummied courtesies of an eighteenth
century civilisation. 'She made him a cloak of the inner bark of the
ash, and mocassins of the musk rat's skin, and he set on her head a
wreath of blue mallows, and on her neck red berries of the azalea,
smiling as he did so to see how fair she was.' The world is young
again, and man has won his way back into Eden, conscious of sorrow,
conscious of evil, but alive and unafraid to be himself.

[Nature and emotion.]

Chateaubriand carried further than Rousseau the transfiguration of
nature by emotion, although in _Atala_ nature is still a stage effect,
subjected to its uses as illustration of the feelings of the humans in
the tale. Chateaubriand tunes up the elements with crash of thunder,
bright forked lightning, and fall of mighty tree, to the moment when,
in the supreme crisis the hand of Atala's God intervenes between the
lovers, and the bell of the forest hermitage sounds in the appropriate
silence. But in those vivid, fiery descriptions there is already
something besides the theatrical, a new generosity of sentiment that
was to let Barye make lions and tigers instead of what would once
have been rather impersonal decorations, and to allow Corot to give
landscapes their own personality without always seeking to impose on
them the irrelevant interest of human figures. Nature is never excluded
from the story, and when the action is less urgent the setting is given
a greater freedom. The lovers never meet on a studio background,
but are always seen with trees and rivers, and forest dawn and forest
night, more real than any that had been painted before. Chateaubriand
is never content to call a tree a tree or a bird a bird, but gives them
the dignity of their own names. Aurora no longer rises from her rosy
bed in the approved convention for the dawn, but a bar of gold shapes
itself in the east, the sparrow-hawks call from the rocks, and the
martens retire to the hollows of the elms.


[Particularity in setting.]

It was through caring for his setting in this way that Chateaubriand
came as if by accident to the discovery of local colour. He wanted
his savages to love in the wilderness, and happening to have seen a
wilderness, reproduced it, and made his savages not merely savages but
Muskogees, fashioned their talk to fit their race, and made it quite
clear that this tale, at any rate, could not be imagined as passing
on the Mountains of the Moon. When the older story-tellers named a
locality they did little more than the Elizabethan stage managers, who
placed a label on the stage and expected it to be sufficient to conjure
up a forest or a battlefield. Chateaubriand, in making his writing
more completely pictorial, visualised his scenes in detail, and so
showed the Romantics the way to that close distinction between country
and country, age and age, race and race, that made the artists of the
nineteenth century richer than any who were before them in variety of
subject, and in the material of self-expression.


The Christianity of _Atala_ was the religion that Chateaubriand
offered to his country in _Le Génie du Christianisme_. I can never be
quite sure that it was his own, but in that amazing book, divided and
subdivided like an ancient treatise on some occult science, he showed
with passionate use of reasoning and erudition that Christianity was
not the ugly thing that it had been pictured by the eighteenth century
philosophers, and, more, that it at least was older than France,
and permanent in a world where kings, emperors, and republics swung
hither and thither like dead leaves in the wind. The teaching came to
Paris like a gospel. These people, anchorless as they were, were not
difficult converts, because they were eager to be converted, and to be
able, if only for a moment in their lives, to whisper, 'I believe' in
something other than uncertainty. All society became Christian for a
time, and when that time passed, the effects of the book did not all
pass with it. The artists of a younger generation had learned that
Christianity was the belief that had brought most loveliness into the
world, and that the Gods of Antiquity were not the only deities who
were favourable to beautiful things. The false taste of the end of the
eighteenth century had been pierced by Gothic spires, and through the
dull cloud of correct and half-hearted imitation showed again the
pinnacles and gargoyles and flying buttresses of the naïve and trustful
mediæval art. Atala joins hands with Nicolete, and links Victor Hugo
with the builders of Notre Dame.

[The art of Chateaubriand survives the battle in which it was used.]

There is little wonder that a writer who answered so fully the needs
of his own generation, and did so much to cut a way for the generation
to come, became instantly famous, immediately execrated. Chateaubriand
wrote: 'La polémique est mon allure naturelle.... Il me faut toujours
un adversaire, n'importe où.' In 1800 he had no difficulty in finding
them. But it takes two to make a quarrel. It would not have been
surprising if books that belonged so absolutely to the battles of their
times should have struck their blows, and been then forgotten for want
of opposition. Manifestations of the time spirit, and particularly
fighting manifestations, not infrequently manifest it only to the
time, and are worthless to future generations. _Atala_, after setting
in an uproar the Paris of 1802 is for us but a beautiful piece of
colour whose pattern has faded away. Unless we can feel with the men
of the dawn that we are tossing on mad waves, clutching at religion
as at a rock beneath the shifting waters, and breathlessly thankful
for any proof of its steadfastness and power: unless we can remember
with them the old love of drawing-rooms and bent knees and kisses on
gloved hands, and feel with them a passionate novelty in the love of
wild things in the open air; unless we can remember the tamed, docile
nature of the pastorals, and open our eyes upon a first view of any
sort of real country; unless, in a word, we can dream back a hundred
years, the beauty of _Atala_ is like that of an old battle-cry:--

    'So he cried, as the fight grew thick at the noon,
    _Two red roses across the moon_!'

The cry no longer calls to battle. The combatants are dead. The bugle
sounds to armies of white bones, and we who overhear it think only of
the skill of the trumpeter. And Chateaubriand had something in him
that was independent of his doctrines, independent of his enemies.
Flaubert, looking back to him over the years, saw in his books, when
the dust of their battles settled about them, early examples of a most
scrupulous technique. Chateaubriand the fighter, the man of his time,
was forgotten in the old master of a new prose. These books shaped in
the din of battle were models for men writing in a fat, quiet day of
peace. Then it was possible, the clangour no longer sounding in the
ears, to notice the mastery of form, the elaboration, carried so far
and no further, of the main idea into the significant detail that was
to make the idea alive; then became clear the economy that makes of
every fact a vivid illustration of some trait in the people of the
story, a heightening of the lights or a deepening of the shadows of the



[Scott's place in the romantic movement.]

THE genius of a man like Scott does not leap into the world a complete
and novel creation, like Minerva from the skull of Jupiter, ready
for battle, and accoutred in the armour that it never afterwards
forsakes. Nor does it with the strength of its own hand turn one world
into another, or the audience of Fielding and Smollett into that
of the Waverley Novels. The world is prepared for it; it finds its
weapons lying round its cradle, and works its miracle with the world's

Romanticism, although, in our indolence, we like to think of it as the
work of a single man, as a stream gushing from the hard rock at the
stroke of a Moses, was no conjuring trick, nor sudden invention, but a
force as old as story-telling. The rock had been built gradually over
it, and was as gradually taken away. It suits our convenience and the
pictorial inclination of our minds to imagine it as the work of one man
or two; but there is hardly need to remind ourselves of facts we have
so wilfully forgotten, and that, if we choose, we can trace without
difficulty a more diffuse as well as a more ancient origin of the

Romanticism was a movement too large and too various to be defined in
a paragraph, or to allow an essay on any single man to describe, even
in the art of story-telling, its several sources, and the innumerable
streams that flowed from them to fertilise the nineteenth century.
It carried with it liberty and toleration, liberty of expression and
toleration of all kinds of spiritual and physical vitality. It was
comparable with and related to the French Revolution. It allowed men
to see each other in their relations with the universe as well as with
each other, and made existence a thing about which it was possible
to be infinitely curious. Old desires for terror and fantasy and
magnificence arose in the most civilised of minds. Glamour was thrown
over the forest and the palace, and the modern and ancient worlds came
suddenly together, so that all the ages seemed to be contemporary and
all conditions of human life simultaneous and full of promise.

Scott was a part of this revivified world, and his importance in it
is not that of its inventor, but of the man who brought so many of
its qualities into the art of story-telling that his novels became a
secondary inspiration, and moved men as different as Hugo, Balzac, and
Dumas, to express themselves in narrative.

[Illustration: SIR WALTER SCOTT]

[Romanticism before the Waverley Novels.]

Before the writing of the Waverley Novels, Romanticism in English
narrative had shown itself but a stuttering and one-legged
abortion, remarkable only for its extravagances. It had not, except in
poetry, been humane enough to be literature. It had made only violent
gesticulations like a man shut up in a sack.

Horace Walpole, protesting, I suppose, against Fielding and Smollett,
had said that the 'great resources of fancy had been dammed up by a
strict adherence to common life,' while the older romances were 'all
imagination and improbability.' He had tried to combine the two in _The
Castle of Otranto_, a book in which portraits sigh and step down from
their canvases, dead hermits reappear as skeletons in sackcloth, and
gigantic ghosts in armour rise to heaven in a clap of thunder. These
eccentricities were efforts after the strangeness of all true romance,
and their instant popularity showed how ready people were for mystery
and ancient tale. Before Scott succeeded in doing what Walpole had
attempted, in writing a tale that should be strange but sane, ancient
but real, a crowd of novels, whose most attractive quality was their
'horridness,' had turned the heads of the young women who read them.
Miss Thorpe, in _Northanger Abbey_, says:

    'My dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all
    this morning? Have you gone on with _Udolpho_?'

    'Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the
    black veil.'

    'Are you indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is
    behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?'

    'Oh! yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me: I would not
    be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton; I am sure
    it is Laurentina's skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I
    should like to spend my whole life in reading it, I assure you; if
    it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for
    all the world.'

    'Dear creature, how much I am obliged to you; and when you have
    finished _Udolpho_, we will read the Italian together; and I have
    made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.'

    'Have you indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?'

    'I will read you their names directly; here they are in my
    pocket-book. _Castle of Wolfenbach_, _Clermont_, _Mysterious
    Warnings_, _Necromancer of the Black Forest_, _Midnight Bell_,
    _Orphan of the Rhine_, and _Horrid Mysteries_. These will last us
    some time.'

    'Yes; pretty well; but are they all horrid? Are you sure they are
    all horrid?'

    'Yes, quite sure, for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews,
    a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read
    every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be
    delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you
    can imagine.'

[Percy, _Ossian_, and Chatterton.]

These things were but the clothes of romantic story-telling, walking
bodiless about the world, while a poetry old enough to be astonishingly
new was nurturing the body that was to stretch them for itself.
Chatterton's ballads, imitations as they were, showed a sudden and
novel feeling for mediæval colouring. _Ossian_, that book of majestic
moments, carried imagination out again to stand between the wind and
the hill. Scott disliked its vagueness, but it helped in preparing his
world. Percy's _Reliques_, excused by their compiler on the frivolous
ground of antiquarian interest, brought the rough voice and rude style
of Sir Philip Sidney's blind beggar ringing across the centuries, and
in those old tales, whose rhymes clash like sword on targe, Scott found
the inspiration that Macpherson's disorderly, splendid flood swept down
on other men.

[Scott's life.]

Scott's life was no patchwork but woven on a single loom. He did not
turn suddenly in manhood to discover the colour of his life. It had
been his in babyhood. An old clergyman, a friend of his aunt, protested
that 'one may as well speak in the mouth of a cannon as where that
child is,' while Walter Scott, aged three or four, shouted the ballad
of Hardyknute:--

    'And he has ridden o'er muir and moss,
      O'er hills and mony a glen,
    When he came to a wounded knight
      Making a heavy mane.
    Here maun I lye, here maun I dye,
      By treacherie's false guiles;
    Witless I was that e'er gave faith
      To wicked woman's smiles.'

As he grew older, he was able, like Froissart, to 'inquire of the truth
of the deeds of war and adventures' that were to be the background
of much of his work. He knew old Lowland gentlemen who had paid
blackmail to Rob Roy, was told of the '15 and the '45 by veterans who
had used their swords on those occasions, and heard of the executions
after Culloden from one who had seen at Carlisle the rebels' heads
above the Scottish Gate. The warlike knowledge of his childhood was
ripened and mellowed for story-telling by the enthusiasms of his
youth. Riding through the Lowland valleys collecting the border
minstrelsy, his good nature and pleasant way let him learn in a broad
acquaintanceship fashion the character of his countrymen. He had not
Balzac's deep-cutting analytic knowledge of men, but knew them as
a warm-hearted fellow of themselves. He knew them as one man knows
another, and not with the passionately speculative knowledge belonging
to a mind that contemplates them from another world. He did not analyse
them, but wrote of their doings with an unconscious externality that
very much simplified their motives and made them fit participators in
the sportsman-like life of his books.

[Scott and reality.]

Ballads and sagas and the historical reading to which they had given
their savour; a free open air life, and a broad, humorous understanding
of men; these were the things that Scott had behind him when Cervantes
moved him to write narrative, and when the gold that shines through
the dress of education in the stories of Maria Edgeworth made him
fall in love with local as well as historical colour, anxious to draw
his nation as she had drawn hers, and to paint Scottish character in
prose as Burns had painted it in verse. The historical character of his
work should not disguise from us its more vital qualities. Hazlitt,
whose keen eye was not to be put out by the gold and pomp of trappings
and armour, notices that Scott represents a return to the real. He
is noticing the most invigorating quality of Romanticism. Scott's
importance is not his because he wrote historical novels, but because
his historical novels were humane. He had found out, as Hazlitt says,
that 'there is no romance like the romance of real life.'

[His technique.]

'As for his technique, there is no need to praise him, who had so many
other virtues, for that of delicate craftsmanship, which he had not.
He was not a clever performer, but an honest one whose methods were no
more elaborate than himself. Dumas describes them in that chapter of
the _Histoire de mes Bêtes_ in which he discusses his own:--

    'His plan was to be tedious, mortally tedious, often for half a
    volume, sometimes for a volume.

    'But during this volume he posed his characters; during this volume
    he made so minute a description of their physiques, characters, and
    habits; you learnt so well how they dressed, how they walked, how
    they talked, that when, at the beginning of the second volume, one
    of these characters found himself in some danger, you exclaimed to

    '"What, that poor gentleman in an applegreen coat, who limped as
    he walked, and lisped as he talked, how is he going to get out of

    'And you were very much astonished, after being bored for half a
    volume, a volume, sometimes indeed for a volume and a half; you
    were astonished to find that you were enormously concerned for the
    gentleman who lisped in talking, limped in walking, and had an
    applegreen coat.'

The sensation of reading a Waverley Novel is that of leaning on the
parapet of a bridge on a summer day, watching the sunlight on a twig
that lies motionless in a backwater. The day is so calm and the
sunlight so pleasant that we continue watching the twig for a time
quite disproportionate to the interest we feel in it, until, when it is
at last carried into the main current, we follow its swirling progress
down the stream, and are no more able to take our eyes from it than if
we were watching the drowning of ourselves.


Scott knew very well the disadvantages of improvisation, of piling
up his interest and our own together. But he could work in no other
manner. He said: 'There is one way to give novelty, to depend for
success on the interest of a well contrived story. But, wo's me! that
requires thought, consideration--the writing out of a regular plan or
plot--above all, the adhering to one, which I can never do, for the
ideas rise as I write, and bear such a disproportioned extent to that
which each occupied at the first concoction, that (cocksnowns!) I shall
never be able to take the trouble.' His was a mind entirely different
from Poe's, or Mérimée's, or Flaubert's, those scrupulous technicians
with whom was the future of Romanticism, and it was an artistic virtue
in him to realise the fact, to proceed on his own course, leaving as he
went large, rough, incomparable things, as impressive as the boulder
stones of which the country people say that a giant threw them as he

[His character and work.]

His swift, confused writing gets its effect because he never asked
too much from it. He never tried to do anything with it beyond the
description of his characters and the telling of their story. He
had no need to catch an atmosphere by subtleties of language. His
conception of the beings and life of another age did not make them
different except in externals, from our own. He did not, like Gautier
or Flaubert, regard the past as a miraculous time in which it was
possible to be oneself, or in which true feeling was not veiled in
inexactitudes. Very simple himself, he did not feel in the present
those laxities of sensation or inexactitudes of expression that made
the past a place of refuge. He was not dissatisfied with life as he
found it, and was not disposed to alter it when he dressed it for a
masquerade. Nor was that difficult for him. His mind was full of the
stage properties of the past, and, as he walked about, he lived in any
time he chose and was the same in all of them. He lived with humanity
rather than in any particular half-century, and did not feel, like
Peacock, the need of dainty, careful movement in order not to break the
fabric he was building. _Maid Marian_ is the same story as _Ivanhoe_.
Scott seems to have stepped straight out of his story to write it,
Peacock to be looking a long way back, and building very skilfully
the replica of something he had never seen but in a peculiarly happy
vision. Scott is quite at home in his tale, and can treat it as rudely
as he likes. Peacock seems to be playing very warily on the fragile
keys of a spinet.

Sir Walter's fingers would have broken a spinet. His was no elaborately
patterned music threaded with the light delicacies of melody. He
struck big chords and used the loud pedal. His was the art of a Wagner
rather than that of a Scarlatti. 'The Big Bow-wow strain,' he wrote,
comparing himself with Jane Austen, 'I can do like any now going; but
the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and
characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the
sentiment, is denied to me.' 'One man can do but one thing. Universal
pretensions end in nothing.' Scott knew that jewellery-work was not
for him, and never tried his eyes by peering through the watchmaker's
glass. He saw life, as a short-sighted man sees a landscape, in its
essentials. He could spread over it what dress of detail he preferred,
and chose that which came readiest to his hand, flinging over humanity
the cloak of his boyish dreams. Humanity was not hampered by it, but
moves through his pages like a stout wind over a northern moor.



[The mingling of the arts.]

DUMAS in _La Femme au Collier de Velours_ thus describes Hoffmann's
room: 'It was the room of a genius at once capricious and picturesque,
for it had the air of a studio, a music-shop, and a study, all
together. There was a palette, brushes, and an easel, and on the easel
the beginnings of a sketch. There was a guitar, a violin, and a piano,
and on the piano an open sonata. There was pen, ink, and paper, and on
the paper the first scrawled lines of a ballad. Along the walls were
bows, arrows, and arbalests of the fifteenth century, sixteenth-century
drawings, seventeenth-century musical instruments, chests of all
times, tankards of all shapes, jugs of all kinds, and, lastly, glass
necklaces, feather fans, stuffed lizards, dried flowers, a whole world
of things, but a whole world not worth twenty-five silver thalers.'

That account, whether from hearsay, conjecture, or knowledge, I do
not know, is not only an admirable portrait of the room and brain of
an arch-romantic, but might serve as a parable of the Romanticism
of 1830. In that year Hugo's _Hernani_ was produced at the Comédie
Française, and the young men who battled with the Philistines for its
success were drawn from the studios as well as from the libraries,
and had their David in Théophile Gautier. Never before had the arts
been so inextricably entangled, had antiquarianism been so lively and
humane, had gems and worthless baubles been so confounded together.
Chateaubriand had reaffirmed the pictorial rights of literature.
Delacroix was painting pictures from Byron and from Dante, in bold,
predominant colours, very different from the lassitudinous livery
of the schools. There was a new generosity of sentiment responsible
for Corot's landscapes and Barye's beasts. The sudden widening of
knowledge and sympathy was expressed in the new broadness and courage
of technique, and the same forces that covered the palette with vivid
reds and blues, and compelled the sculptor to a virile handling of his
chisel, found outlet in words also. Writers, like painters, seized
the human, coloured, passionate elements in foreign literatures,
looking everywhere for the liberty and brilliance they desired. The
open-throated, sinewy, gladiatorial muse of Byron found here devoted
worshippers, and the spacious movements of Shakespeare, his people
alive and free, independent of the dramas in which for a few hours
in the Globe Theatre they had had a part to play, delighted men with
an outlook very different from, and hostile to, that of Voltaire,
although he had done his share in making their outlook possible.

[Illustration: VICTOR HUGO]

The studio and the study were very close together. Gautier, Hugo, and
Mérimée were all painters in their own right, and there is a difference
between the writers who have only seen life from a library, and those
who have seen it from behind an easel. The writer who has once felt
them can never forget the eye-delighting pleasures of the palette,
but composes in colour-schemes, and feels for the tints of words as
well as for their melody. The work of the Romantics was visualised
and coloured in a manner then new. It was almost shocking to men who
had been accustomed, as it were, to write in the severest monotone,
and to refuse, if indeed they had ever thought of it, such luxury of

[Local colour.]

There is no need, except for the sake of the argument, to state the
fact that pictures are called up in a reader's mind by a careful
selection of details presented in a proper order. It is well known
that a few details correctly chosen have a more compelling power on
the imagination than a complete and catalogued description. These men,
writing pictorially, gave a new responsibility to single touches. It
became clear that visualisation was impossible unless observation
preceded it, and details accordingly took upon themselves the exigent
dignity of local colour. Local colour, from distinguishing between
places, was brought to mark the difference between times. Archæology
became suddenly of absorbing interest; its materials were more than
its materials; they were made the symbols of lives as real and as red
in the veins as those of the archæologists themselves. Notre Dame was
no longer to be expressed in a learned antiquarian paper, but in a
passionate book. And Victor Hugo visualising with the accuracy of a
poet, found that just as archæology meant little without life, so the
life was vapid without the archæology. Quasimodo shoves his hideous
face through a hole in order to be elected king of fools, but Hugo does
not allow that marvellous grimace to fill the picture. The hole must
be there as well, and so 'une vitre brisée à la jolie rosace audessus
de la porte laissa libre un cercle de pierre par lequel il fut convenu
que les concurrents passeraient la tête.' The setting is as important
as the head; humanity and its trappings are worthless by themselves,
and valuable only together. Here is the source of Realism, within
Romanticism itself. Indeed almost the whole development of the art in
the nineteenth century is due to this new care for the frame, and to
this new honesty in dealing with the man within it.

[The youth of the Romantics.]

An energetic simplicity of nature was needed for the fullest enjoyment
of these new conditions, and the greatest of the French Romantics were
almost like big interested children in their attitude towards life
and themselves. As soon as we find a Romantic like Mérimée, reserved,
subtle, a tender-hearted Machiavellian, we find a man who is to
dissociate himself from them sooner or later, and to produce something
different a little from the purely Romantic ideals. There is something
beautiful and inspiriting in the youth of the Romantics. I like to
think of Gautier, the olive-skinned boy from the studio in the rue
St. Louis, overcome with nervousness at the idea of touching the hand
of Hugo, himself only twenty-seven, sitting down and trembling like
a girl on the stairs before the master's door. And then the splendid
prank of Dumas, who, on the eve of revolution, went down into the
country like one of his own heroes, held up a town, and with a very
few friends obtained the submission of the governor, and captured an
arsenal for his party. They were boys, and some hostility was needed
for their uttermost delight. In England the battles of art are more
like squabbles, but in the Paris of 1830 it seemed as if the town were
divided into camps for the defence of classicism and the support of
the new ideas. It was as if each point of vantage had to be taken by
storm, and the great night of _Hernani_, when Hugo's supporters had
red tickets and a password--the Spanish word _hierro_, which means
'steel'--was the noblest memory in the life of at least one of Hugo's
enthusiastic lieutenants.

Such a joyous and vigorous thing was the Romanticism of 1830. It
touched story-telling through Balzac, Hugo, Dumas, Gautier, and
Mérimée, of whom the first three, in turning from the theatre to the
art of narrative, found inspiration in Sir Walter Scott. Scott's
influence has been one of bulk rather than of quality on English
story-telling. But in France, instead of tracing his progeny in
insipid copies, we follow it through the bold variations of these
three powerful and original minds. Through them it returned to England
again. Balzac, as the most important of the three, in view of the
later developments of the novel, I have discussed in a separate
chapter. Gautier's Oriental and Antique inspiration, and Mérimée's
combination of ascetic narrative with vivid subject, are also themes
for separate and particular consideration. But Hugo and Dumas are so
generally representative of the Romantic movement in story-telling,
that in writing of them in this chapter I feel I am but filling in the
background already sketched for the others.

[The Preface to _Cromwell_.]

The theatre was, in 1830, the scene of the most decisive battle between
Romanticism and Classicism. The fight of the painters, of the poets,
of the story-tellers, seemed concentrated in the more obvious combat
of the dramatists, whose armies could see their enemies, and even come
to blows with them. And in Hugo's preface to _Cromwell_, that preface
which is now so much more interesting than the play that follows
it, he claims several things for the dramatist that by act if not by
argument he was later to claim for the artist in narrative. He demands
that the sublime and ridiculous should be together in literature
and, as in life, win their force from each other. The drama, and so
the novel, which also attempts in some sort a reproduction of human
existence, is not to be written on a single note. It is not to be
wholly sublime or wholly ridiculous, but both at once. The general in
his triumphal car is to be genuinely afraid of toppling over. And so,
in _Les Misérables_, the student's frolic is whole-heartedly described,
without in any way binding the author to make light of the sorrow of
Fantine when she finds that her own desertion is the merry surprise
at the end of it. The sublime will not be the less sublime for being
mingled with the grotesque, and so, in _Notre Dame de Paris_, the
deepest passion in the book is felt by a hideous and deformed dwarf,
and by this same dwarf rather than by any more obvious impersonation
of justice, the lascivious priest is flung from the tower. Looking up
in his agony, as he clings to the bending cornice his desperate hands
have clutched, he does not meet the eyes of some person of a grandeur
matching the moment, but sees the grotesque face of Quasimodo, utterly
indifferent to him, looking, like one of the gargoyles, over Paris,
with tears on his distorted cheeks.

In this same preface, too, Hugo justifies innovations in language,
very necessary for an art whose new won freedom was to let it explore
so much that was unknown. When the body changes, he asks, would you
keep the coat the same? Triumphantly appealing to history, he points
out that 'the language of Montaigne is no longer that of Rabelais, the
language of Pascal is no longer that of Montaigne, and the language of
Montesquieu is no longer that of Pascal.' He is justifying there the
coloured prose of Chateaubriand, the opulent vocabulary of Gautier, and
his own infinitely various effects in prose and verse.

[Victor Hugo on Scott.]

He was, until Sainte-Beuve took the work from his hands, at once
the leader and the defender of Romanticism. And, critic and artist,
severally and in the combination that we have grown accustomed to
expect in fulfilment of both these functions, his was too sovereign a
mind to adopt or borrow anything from another writer without knowing
very clearly what he intended to do with it. Writing of _Quentin
Durward_, he said: 'Après le roman pittoresque mais prosaïque de
Walter Scott il restera un autre roman à créer, plus beau et plus
complet encore selon nous. C'est le roman, à la fois drame et épopée,
pittoresque mais poètique, réel mais idéal, vrai mais grand, qui
enchâssera Walter Scott dans Homère.' That romance is Victor Hugo's
own. His tremendous books are conceived in the manner of an epic
poet rather than of a novelist or a romancer. The relations of his
characters are not solely concerned with themselves but with some
large principle that animates the book in which they live. If he is
without Norns or Fates, if he sets his characters against a background
other than that of Destiny, he substitutes the power of the law or the
power of the sea, and illumines with a story not only the actors who
take part in it, but also the spirit of the Gothic or the spirit of

[The Waverley Novels and Hugo's romances.]

To turn from the Waverley Novels to the romances of Hugo, is like
stepping from the open air into a vast amphitheatre whose enclosed
immensity is more overwhelming than the clear sky. Scott writes, on a
plain human level, tales that we can readily believe, chronicles that
are like private documents, or memoirs such as might have been written
by the ancestors of our own families. Hugo does not tell his tale from
the point of view of its actors, but puts them before us in a setting
far larger than the one they saw. Their petty adventures are but
threads chosen arbitrarily from a far more intricate design, and they
themselves but illustrations of some greater motion than any to which
in their own right they could aspire. There are hundreds of them, and
with our narrow powers of interest and attention we fasten on one or
two, like children choosing colours on a race-course, and follow them
to the end, while Hugo, with his godlike eye, sees them all as threads
in his pattern, poor, small lives, twisted in accordance with a design
beyond their comprehension. In Scott's open air we can live and breathe
and be content, and stand firmly with our feet upon the ground. In
Hugo's amphitheatre we see an ordered spectacle of life and death, and
are, as it were, present at the shapings of the ends of man.

[Illustration: ALEXANDRE DUMAS]

[Dumas on Scott.]

There is a much less terrible pleasure to be had from the works of
Dumas. Behind all Hugo's books is the solemnity, behind Dumas' the joy
of living, the _joie de vivre_--the French phrase, although identical,
seems better to express it. To compare Hugo's with Dumas' criticism of
the Scott novel is to see very clearly the difference in weight and
depth between the two men. Hugo sees in Scott the promise of another
and a greater kind of romance. Dumas sees only that it is possible
to improve on Scott's technique. He notices that Scott spends half
a volume or so in describing his characters before setting them in
action, and in his gay way justifies him by saying: 'Il n'y a pas de
feu sans fumée, il n'y a pas de soleil sans ombre. L'ennui, c'est
l'ombre; l'ennui c'est la fumée.' Sacrifice fifty pages of _ennui_
to the gods, and then away with your story. Dumas decides to improve
on this, to set his characters moving, and to pour his libations of
_ennui_ on the way. 'Commencer par l'intérêt, au lieu de commencer
 par l'ennui; commencer par l'action, au lieu de commencer par la
préparation; parler des personnages après les avoir fait paraître, au
lieu de les faire paraître après avoir parlé d'eux.' This is not very
sublime, after the suggestion that Hugo won from the same subject; but
it produced '_Les Trois Mousquetaires_.' D'Artagnan is in a hubbub on
the first page, and the _ennui_ of description is given us so sparsely
that, watching for it chapter by chapter, we almost consider ourselves
swindled when we reach the last and are still without it. 'The purpose
of this tale is not to describe interiors,' Dumas petulantly ejaculates
when tired of talking about Cornelius' room in _La Tulipe Noire_. No;
certainly not; neither of rooms nor of men. Damn psychology, and hey
for full-blooded adventure. Dumas took a free stage for his duels and
headlong rides and gallant adventures and ingenious stratagems. His
men moved too fast not to feel themselves encumbered in a furnished
room; there was little point in describing a landscape for them,
since, before it was done, they were several leagues off in another;
too intricate furniture in their own heads would have cost them
hesitancies, unguarded stabs, and possible falls from a galloping horse.

[_Les Trois Mousquetaires._]

Dumas' novels are novels of the theatre. His first piece of work was
an attempt to make a melodrama out of _Ivanhoe_, and his best books
exhibit the art of Walter Scott modified by the rules of the stage.
The curtain rises on people moving about. It falls on a climax. The
action of all its scenes is in crescendo. Alter Scott to fit these
rules, and you have something like the form that Dumas for more than
half a century has imposed on non-psychological fiction. How admirably
he filled it himself. Those splendid fellows of his, whose cavalier way
fairly takes us off our feet, are not dead puppets made to wield toy
swords at the pulling of a string. There is something exuberant and
infectious even in the restraint of Athos. They are all alive, not with
an independent, almost hostile existence like that of the characters
of Balzac, but with a vitality they owe to their creator and to us,
the free coursing blood of boyish dreams. They are the things that at
one time or another we have set our hearts on being, the things that
Dumas actually was. Where they ride a jolly spirit goes with them,
and we know that Dumas had only to settle in a quiet village to turn
it into a place of gay and prosperous festivity. 'Madeleine,' says
D'Artagnan at the end of _Vingt Ans Après_, 'give me the room on the
first floor. I must keep up my dignity now that I am captain of the
musketeers. But always keep my room on the fifth floor; one never
knows what may happen.' Is not that just the attitude of Dumas, who
remarked upon his deathbed, 'I took twenty francs with me to Paris.
Well, I have kept them. There they are,' and pointed to his last louis
on the mantelpiece. In the flamboyant youthfulness of Dumas, who died
a boy at sixty-seven, and called Mazarin 'still young, for he was only
fifty-six,' is perhaps that characteristic that made Romanticism in
France so complete and satisfactory a Renaissance. When such men as he
were writing books the world had won its youth again.



[His vitality.]

BALZAC used to tell a story of his father, who, when asked to carve
a partridge, not knowing how to set about it, rolled up his sleeves,
gripped his knife and fork, and cut it in four with such energy as to
cleave the plate at the same time and embed the knife in the table.
That was the manner of setting about things natural to Balzac himself.
He was a 'joyous wild boar' of a man, with the build and strength
of a navvy. He was never ill. Gautier tells us that the habitual
expression of that powerful face was a kind of Rabelaisian glee. Now a
man who could write the _Comédie Humaine_ and look aside from it with
a Rabelaisian glee was perhaps the only kind of man who could have
attempted such a task without being turned, willy nilly, into a pedant.

[The conception of the _Comédie Humaine_.]

There was a logic, a completeness, in the groundwork of the scheme,
that would have sterilised the imagination of a man with less exuberant
vitality. Compare for a moment the _Comédie Humaine_ with the novels of
Sir Walter Scott. Scott meant to Balzac what Maria Edgeworth had meant
to himself. He had seen in her an attempt to paint Irish country and
character, and had decided to do the same for Scotland. Balzac after
those ten years of bad mediæval stories, those ten years of labour for
the Rachel of his own soul, saw in him an attempt to paint Scottish
country and character, and decided to do the same for France. But,
whereas Scott had been brought up on the _Reliques of English Poetry_,
and in the country of purple heather, grey rock, and leaping stream,
Balzac was nourished on philosophy and science, and spent his youth in
a Paris lodging. Scott saw men rather than kinds of man. Bailie Nicol
Jarvie is more Nicol Jarvie than Bailie. Balzac comes at life in a
much more scientific spirit. 'Does not Society make of man,' he asks,
as Chaucer has unconsciously asked before him, 'as many different men
as there are varieties in zoology? The differences between a soldier,
a labourer, an administrator, an idler, a savant, a statesman, a
merchant, a sailor, a poet, a pauper, a priest, are, though more
difficult to seize, as considerable as those that distinguish the wolf,
the lion, the ass, the crow, the shark, the sea-calf, the goat, etc.'
Balzac made up his mind to collect specimens of the social species,
not pressed and dried, like the old 'Characters' of the seventeenth
century, but exhibited alive and in their natural surroundings. He was
to make a world with the colour of contemporary France, an 'august lie,
true in its details,' a world complete in itself, a world in which
all the characters were to show the impress of that state of life to
which it should please Balzac to call them. That was the idea that
turned the Waverley Novels into the _Comédie Humaine_, that the idea
whose exposition by a less full-blooded professor would have been so
readily precise, so readily dull in its precision.

[Illustration: HONORÉ DE BALZAC]

[Physical energy and the task of writing.]

Now there are few harder tasks for a man of overflowing physical energy
than this, of covering innumerable sheets of paper with wriggling
unnatural lines traced with the end of a pen. It is likely to become
a torment; the feet cross and uncross, the fingers itch, the inkpot
flies across the room, and the energy defeats itself. There is the
legend of Scott's hand, covering sheet after sheet so swiftly and
with such regularity that it was painful to watch it; but Scott's was
not the bomb-like brute energy of Balzac. Balzac, to give life to
his scientific ideas, needed a more fiery vitality than Scott's, who
began and ended with merely human notions. The actual writing of his
books was proportionately more difficult for him. There was no mere
eccentricity in his habit of getting the sketches for his books set up
in type, and enlarging them from proofs in the middle of large sheets
of paper, covering the vast margins with the additions that were to
make the books themselves. It was a wise attempt to give himself the
same physical outlet as that enjoyed by the painter or sculptor, to
give himself something to pull about, something actual, something that
could be attacked, anything rather than the terrible silkworm spinning
of a single endless fibre. His energy would have been wasted in a
hundred ways unless, so far as was possible, he had fitted his work
to himself and himself to his work. Giant of concentration as he was,
he added cubits to his stature by taking thought. He made his writing
hours different from every one else's, wore a white frock something
like a monk's habit, and found in the drinking of enormous quantities
of coffee a stimulant as much theatrical as medicinal. These things
meant much to him, and his use of them was an action similar to that
of Poe's schoolboy, who, when guessing odd or even the marbles in his
playmate's hand, would imitate the expression of his adversary's face
and see what thoughts arose in his mind. The paraphernalia of work were
likely to induce the proper spirit. When all his fellow Parisians were
in bed, Balzac, gathering the voluminous white folds about his sturdy
person, and glancing at the coffee stewing on the fire, sat down to his
writing-table with the conviction of an alderman sitting down to a city
dinner. There could never be a doubt in his mind as to the purpose for
which he was there.

[Balzac's prose.]

This navvy-work of production had its influence on the character of
his writing. But it was never in Balzac's nature to have understood
Gautier's craftsman's delight in the polishing and chasing of
diminutive things. Balzac, the working machine, was simply enormous
energy so coaxed and trained as to produce an enormous output. The raw
material of his rich humanity passed through violent processes. It had
but small chance of any very delicate finish. Balzac thought in books
and in cycles of books, never in pages, paragraphs, or sentences.
Although he was much preoccupied with 'style,' envying the men whose
writing would be charming to the ear even if it meant nothing to the
mind, the best of his own prose is unbeautiful, rugged, fiercely
energetic, peculiarly his own, and therefore not to be grumbled at.
He would have liked to write finely, just as he would have liked _la
vie splendide_. But his mind, delivering pickaxe blows, or furiously
wrestling with great masses of material, could not clothe itself in
stately periods. Always, out of any splendour that he made for it,
shows a brown, brawny arm, and the splendour becomes an impertinence.
He had ideas on art, as he had ideas on science, but his was too large
a humanity to allow itself to be subordinate to either. He was too
full-blooded a man to be withered by a theory. He was too eager to say
what he had in his mouth to be patient in the modulation of his voice.
He was almost too much of a man to be an artist. To think of that man
fashioning small, perfect poems, who avowed that he wrote his _Contes
Drôlatiques_ because he happened to notice the fall in the French birth
rate, is to think of a Colossus tinkering at the mechanism of a watch.

[His proximity to life.]

Then, too, he had been too close to life to think of art for art's
sake. During the years that followed his setting up author in a garret,
he had watched the existence of those who are so near starvation that
they seem to make a living by sweeping the doorstep of Death. And,
at the same time that, walking out in the evenings, and following a
workman and his wife on their way home, he had been able to feel their
rags upon his back, and to walk with their broken shoes upon his feet,
he had also had his glimpses of _la vie splendide_, the more vivid, no
doubt, for their contrast with the sober realities he knew. To this
man, however great a writer he might become, life would always mean
more than books. It always did. He could cut short other people's
lamentations by saying, 'Well, but let us talk of real things; let us
talk of Eugénie Grandet,' but Eugénie Grandet, the miser's daughter,
interested him much more than the mere novel of that name. His people
never existed for the sake of his books, but always his books for the
sake of his people. He makes a story one-legged or humpbacked without
scruple, so long as by doing so he can make his reader see a man and
his circumstances exactly as they appeared to himself. He was not like
a pure artist, an instrument on which life played, producing beautiful
things. His concern with life was always positive. His world was not
a world of dream and patterned imagery, but, according to his mood,
was an elaborate piece of mechanism and he an impassioned mechanician,
or a zoological garden and he an impassioned zoologist. It is almost
matter for wonder that such a man should choose to express himself in

[His conception of the novel.]

And yet the novel, as he conceived it, gave him the best of
opportunities for putting his results before the world. If we allow
ourselves to set all our attention on politics and finance and social
theory, we lose in life all but the smell of blue-books, and the grey
colour of Stock Exchange returns. If Balzac had written science, and
not stories, we should have only had the ideas of his novels without
that passionate presentment of concrete things that gives those ideas
their vitality. Indeed, the novels are far greater than the ideas, just
as the poetic, seeing man in Balzac was greater than the scientist.
Weariless in distinguishing man from man, type from type, specimen
from specimen, by the slightest indication of the clay, he was able
in novels, as he could never have done in works of science, to give
the colour of each man's life expressed in his actions, in his talk,
in his choice of clothes, in the furniture of his room. The action of
all novels, like that of all plays, is performed in the brain of the
reader or spectator. The novelist's and dramatist's characters are
like pieces on a chessboard, symbols of possibilities not obviously
expressed. In older fiction these possibilities were left so vague
that the reader could adopt any part he chose, without in the least
interfering with the story, independent as that was of personal
character. Never before Balzac made them had the chessmen assumed so
much of human detail. In his books they are no longer pegs of wood,
depending for their meanings on the reader's generosity, for their
adventures on the ingenuity of the author. They make their moves in
their own rights. The hero of a Balzac novel is not the reader, in
borrowed clothes, undergoing a series of quite arbitrary experiences.
He cannot be made to do what the author requires, but fills his own
suits, and has a private life. Balzac knows and makes his reader feel
that his characters have not leapt ready-made into the world to eat
and drink through a couple of hundred pages and vanish whence they
came. They have left their mark on things, and things have left their
mark on them. They have lived in pages where he has not seen them, and
Balzac never drags them to take a part in existences to which they do
not belong. I can remember no case where Balzac uses a stock scene, a
room, or a garden, or a valley that would do for anything. There was
only one room, one valley, one garden, where the characters could
have said those words, lost that money, or kissed those kisses, and
Balzac's stupendous energy is equal not only to pouring life into his
people, but also to forcing the particular scene upon his canvas with
such vivid strokes that every cobble seems to have a heart, and every
flower in a pot to sway its blossoms with the sun. Even in the short
stories, where he often follows gods that are not his own, writing of
madness like a Hoffmann, and of intrigue like a Boccaccio, his peculiar
genius is apparent in the environments. How carefully, in _La Messe
de l'Athée_, he works out the conditions of life that made the story
possible for its actors. And, in the longer novels, there is scarcely
a sentence unweighted with evidence that is of real import to him who
would truly understand the characters and happenings of the book. How
much does not the story of _Eugénie Grandet_ owe to that description of
the little money-getting, vine-growing town of Saumur, with its cobbled
streets, its old houses, its greedy faces watching the weather from the
house doors, the only proper setting for the narrow power of Goodman
Grandet, and the leaden monotony of his daughter's life?

[Balzac's world and that of Realism.]

Balzac's fierce determination that his lies should be true in their
details has often been remarked in claiming him as the first of the
French realists. And, indeed, others of his characteristics, his
interest in life as it is, the scientific bias that found its parody
in Zola, his fearlessness in choice of subject, his entire freedom
from classical ideals, are certainly attributes of realism. Realism
is ready, like Balzac, to deal with stock exchanges and bakeries and
all the side shops of civilisation; realism finds Greek Greek and not
an Elixir of Life; realism tries to see life as it is. But realism
(an impossible ideal) needs for its approximate attainment a man of
ordinary energy; and this Balzac was not. Balzac used Thor's hammer,
not one from the carpenter's shop. He lived like ten men and so do his
characters. A crossing-sweeper in a story by Balzac would wear out
his broom in half an hour, but the broom of a crossing-sweeper of de
Maupassant or Flaubert would be certain of an average life. Balzac's
world is not the world of realism, because it goes too fast, like a
clock without a pendulum, running at full speed. His world is more
alive than ours, and so are his men. They are demons, men carried to
the _n_th power. Fire runs in their veins instead of blood, and we
watch them with something like terror, as if we were peeping into hell.
They are superhuman like Balzac himself, and have become a kind of
lesser divinities. None but he would have dared 'to frame their fearful
symmetry.' None but they could so well have illustrated existence as
Balzac saw it.

[A new motive in fiction.]

And life, as this Rabelaisian Frenchman saw it, in the chaotic years of
the nineteenth century, was a terrible thing except to the blind and
the numbed, and to those who, like himself, possessed 'unconquerable
souls.' He found two primary motives in existence. Passion and the
production of children was one. He said that this was the only one.
But his life and his work made it clear that there was another, and
that this other was money. Money, the need of it, the spending of
it, fantastic but always acute plans for getting hold of it, like
that suggested in _Facino Cane_, filled his own life, and were not
banished even from his love-letters. His own obsession by debts and
business forced on him as a novelist a new way of looking at life,
and, through him, gave another outlook to story-telling. In the older
novels, Fielding's for example, rich were rich, and poor were poor,
and only to be changed from one to the other by some calamity or fairy
godmother of a coincidence. People were static; unless they turned
out to be Somebody's illegitimate son or rightful heir, their clothes
were not of a finer cut as they grew older, and if they ate off wooden
platters in the first chapter, they supped no more daintily in the
last. In romantic tales and fairy stories, a hero might cut his way
to fortune through dragons or piratical Turks; in the rogue novels he
might swindle a dinner, and after long switchbacking between twopence
and nothing, happen by accident upon a competence; he never, before
Balzac took him in hand, went grimly at life, closing his heart,
concentrating his energies, compelling even love to help him in his
steady climb from poverty to opulence. He left that to the villain,
and the story-teller took care that the villain eventually got his
deserts. The older novelists were vastly interested in the progress
of a love-affair; Balzac looks kindly at that, but his real interest
is in the progress of a financial superman. The wealth and poverty
of Balzac's characters is the quality that makes or breaks them. The
mainspring of their actions is the desire of getting on in life. What
is the tragedy of Eugénie Grandet, but money? What is the tragedy of
Père Goriot, but money? Eliminate wealth and poverty from either of
them and they cease to exist. If old Goriot had been rich and indulgent
to his daughters he would have been an estimable father; but he is
poor; his daughters must be luxurious, and so he is Père Goriot.
The story is that of Lear and his kingdom, translated into hundred
franc notes and lacking the Cordelia. Love, Wisdom, Gentleness are
inconsequent dreamers in a house of Mammon. They talk in window corners
and behind curtains, ashamed of their disinterestedness. They are like
the old gods banished from the temples, whispering in secret places in
the woods, and going abroad quietly in the twilight, while in the glare
of noon the clanking brazen giant strides heavily across the world.

    'And underneath his feet, all scattered lay
    Dead skulls and bones of men, whose life had gone astray.'



[The East as a means of expression.]

THE East is an invention of the nineteenth century. We have only
to look at the works of Voltaire or of Goldsmith to see that the
Orient did not exist before the time of the Romantic movement. To
early writers it meant nothing but polygamy, moguls, elephants, and
'bonzes,' and the eighteenth-century translation of the _Arabian
Nights_ did little more than supply an entertaining form to an ironical
philosopher. Even when it became the fashion to make imaginary
Orientals expose the follies of the West, the East had not yet become
alive for us. We find scarcely a hint in the hundred and twenty letters
of _The Citizen of the World_ that it meant more than a dialectical
expression for topsy-turvydom, a place to which you could refer as
to Lilliput or to Brobdingnag, useful like the _x_ of algebra in
illustrating the properties of other things. The first glimmerings of
discovery are in Beckford's _Vathek_, an extravagant book, belittled
by a schoolboyish humour--as when the Caliph plays football with the
rotund figure of the Indian Magician--but written by a man to whom the
East did really mean some sort of gorgeous dream.

For the East is not an expression of philosophy, or of geography, but
of temperament; it is a dream that has led many to leave their people
for its people, their homes for desert tents, in the effort to turn its
conventions into realities of life. Men have fallen in love with it, as
they have fallen in love with statues or with the beautiful women of
pictures. It means more than itself, like a man whom time has lifted
into Godhead. It has been given the compelling power of a religion. I
believe it was an invention made possible by the discovery of local
colour. With the emphasis of local colour came an emphasised difference
in places. Minds only mildly preferring one place to another when both
were vague, most vigorously preferred one or other place when both were
realised in vivid detail, and could be readily compared. Fastidious
minds seeking the stage-properties of expression could choose them in
the booths of all the world. Men who did not care for the settings of
their own lives were able to fill out their dim Arcadias with detail,
and vein their phantom goddesses with blood.

The East, when Gautier was growing up in the rich tastes of the
Romantic movement, was ready to supply the most delicious conventions.
Goethe had shown its possibilities. It was there like a many-coloured
curtain behind which he could build a world less entangled, less
unmanageable than his own. Its newness must not be forgotten in
considering his use of it, and in thinking of his use of Antiquity we
must remember that it was as novel as the East.

[The Antique.]

Now the Antique was one of the cudgels with which the Classicists tried
to beat the heads of the Romanticists in the battles of that time. It
did not mean to Gautier what it meant to them. Its metamorphosis was
simultaneous with the birth of the East, and had almost the same cause.
Insisting on local colour in places, the Romanticists insisted also on
local colour in humanity. Cromwell was to be allowed to say that he
had the parliament in his bag and the king in his pocket. Cæsar was to
be allowed to talk like a man and even to be one. So that for Gautier
Antiquity meant not a cold inhumanity that had been beautiful, but a
warm, full-blooded life that worshipped simple, energetic gods, and
found expression in a thousand ways other than the speech of blank
verse and heroic actions that had been so often represented in pictures
of an annoying timidity of colouring. The East and the Antique together
had been touched as if by magic, and turned from the abstract into the
concrete, from the heroic into the human, and so into the very material
for personal expression.

[The East and Arcadia.]

Gautier's attitude towards the East is not unlike that of the
Elizabethans towards Arcadia. Sir Philip Sidney, courtier, soldier,
and busy statesman, wrote in terms of shepherds, shepherdesses, and
shipwrecked princes, and worked in an ideal atmosphere where no cares
were greater than love, or a thorn in a lamb's foot. He, with

    'A sweet attractive kinde of grace
      A full assurance given by lookes,
    Continual comfort in a face,
      The lineaments of gospel bookes,'

seemed to belong to that Golden Age which has never been now, but
always long ago. And Gautier, busy writer of articles and travel-books,
massive and vividly alive, could not persuade himself to be Parisian
and contemporary. Nor would it be extravagant to compare him with the
pastoral writers of to-day, Celtic and Gaelic, who like him lift their
emotions into a simpler, more congenial atmosphere, and like him insist
continually on the local colour of their dreams. These writers, sitting
in London or in Edinburgh, hear, without moving from their comfortable
chairs, the cry of the curlew on the moor, and are transported to a
quiet bay, half enclosed by cliffs, 'in two white curves, like the
wings of the solander when she hollows them as she breasts the north
wind,' and under the spells of an intenser imagined life find their
own emotions more vivid and more easily expressed. Gautier, sitting in
Paris, sees the swallows fluttering about the roofs and flying south in

    'Je comprends tout ce qu'elles disent,
    Car le poète est un oiseau;
    Mais captif ses élans se brisent
    Contre un invisible réseau!

    Des ailes! des ailes! des ailes!
    Comme dans le chant de Ruckert,
    Pour voler, là-bas avec elles
    Au soleil d'or, au printemps vert!'

That cry for wings is the keynote of his most passionately beautiful
work. When he is at his best; when he is not projecting young men with
a mathematical freedom of morals into a Western society; in those
moments when he is most himself, we hear clipped feathers beat against
the bars. He sought to escape from Paris to the Enchanted Islands, and
from the nineteenth century to the Golden Age. The Enchanted Islands
he had identified with the East, and the Golden Age was the time of
the Pharaohs or of the making of the Venus. As the Christian fingers
his crucifix and is able to kneel upon the footsteps of the throne,
so Gautier found talismans to help his dreams to their desires. A
mummy's foot, a marble hand took him to the times he loved, or half
revealed the perfections that reality refused. A curiosity shop was a
postern-gate to heaven, and a merchant of antiquities held St. Peter's

[The story-telling of dreams.]

His art is that of making his dreams come true. He is not an observer
of life, like Richardson, Fielding, or De Maupassant. He does not copy
the surface of contemporary existence; but cuts away all but passion,
and clothes that in symbols whose strangeness disentangled it and
helped him to make it real. Beautiful women step down to him from their
tapestries, and, living on drops of his blood, come back to him out of
their graves. The Princess Hermonthis claims her little foot that he
has bought as a paper-weight, and takes him to the tomb of the Pharaohs
and the pre-adamite kings sitting with their thousand peoples waiting
for the final day. The Pompeian harlot is brought alive by the love of
a youth for the imprint her perfect breasts have left in molten lava.
He is ill at ease in his most famous _Roman de la Momie_ until he has
finished with the Englishman and the doctor, and is translating the
scroll of papyrus buried three thousand years ago with Tahoser in the


[Gautier the man.]

But it is too easy to construct a man out of his work. It is more
interesting to compare the man of this world with the man he would
have liked to be, and the man he chose to express. Gautier was not
pure dreamer. Though the world of his art was as far from the world of
Paris, as the world of Mr. Yeats from the world of London or Dublin,
he was not a seer, or a poet between whom and reality hung a veil of
dreams. He was a solid man, one of whose proudest memories was a blow
that registered five hundred and thirty-two pounds on an automatic
instrument, the result of daily washing down five pounds of gory
mutton with three bottles of red Bordeaux. He was a Porthos, and the
Gautier of his stories, that gorgeous barbaric figure, was his boast,
cherished as Porthos cherished his dignity. The traits he loved in
himself were those that gave colour to his fiction. His olive skin, his
strength, his vitality, his scorn of the religion of sacrifice--these
were the details he caressed. He was never tired of insisting on
everything that helped in this Oriental and Antique projection of
himself. His hero in _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ exclaims: 'I am a man of
the Homeric times; the world where I live does not belong to me, and
I do not understand the society about me. Christ has not yet come for
me; I am as pagan as Alcibiades and Phidias.... I find the earth as
beautiful as heaven, and I think that perfection of form is virtue.
I love a statue better than a phantom, and full noon better than
twilight. Three things please me: gold, marble and purple, splendour,
solidity, colour.' When a reviewer described him as a being, 'fat,
jovial, and sanguinary,' he quotes the description with gratitude, and
explains gleefully that it refers to his taste for bull-fights. He
begins a book: 'People have often caricatured us, dressed like a Turk,
cross-legged on cushions.... The caricature is only an exaggeration
of the truth.' That was how he liked to think of himself, and how he
would like to be imagined. It is interesting to know that he was a
kindly bear of a man, who was always called by his Christian name, and
delighted in astonishing his friends with outbursts of genius served up
in a joyous obscenity.

He was not a man of wealth as his work suggests; but an extremely
industrious journalist. Like Balzac, he was proud of his prodigious
activity. He confesses that he wrote about three hundred volumes: but
that is the estimate of Porthos; his biographer puts the number at
sixty. From his twenty-fifth year he was an artist on a treadmill, and
only at every hundredth, or two hundredth, or three hundredth turn of
the wheel could he escape for a little and try to satisfy himself. That
is why his poems and shorter stories are the most perfect specimens of
his later work. He needed things that could be roughed out in a sitting
and carried about without risk until the time when he could work on
them again. He was able to hurry out of sight his dozen sheets for the
_Presse_ or the _Figaro_, sit down on his cushions, let his fingers run
through the long hair of a Persian cat, and turn over again and again
one of the minute Enamels or Cameos of his poetry. In so small a space
he could afford to be fastidious. He could take up the little thing
a week later, and a month after that, and file and polish it to his
content. It was the same with the stories. The story-telling Gautier
was a Gautier on holiday.

He was a complete man, and could, in active life, have twisted the
present if he had chosen. But he did not choose. As for politics,
'what does it matter whether one is ruled by a sabre, a sprinkler of
holy-water, or an umbrella?' He has been censured for this, but the
censure means no more than to say he was a perfect artist unfortunately
not interested in local government. One does not ask a shoemaker if his
soles and uppers are Socialist or only gentle Liberal. As for his own
life, he worked hard, brought up his children, but found his emotions
too intricate to please him. He had to separate them, and translate
them into terms of another time and place. Modernity rattled past him,
like the chariots of the king past the potter, who would not look up
from his wheel lest an ugly curve should throw awry the vessel he was
shaping. Gautier did his duty by this world and left it, discovering
for others what Baudelaire called 'the consolation of the arts,' and
finding peace himself in the less encumbered simplicity of his Ancient
and Oriental Arcadia.

[The flowers of the white narcissus.]

His work was the construction of a paradise for himself in which other
people are allowed to walk. His stories are a substitute for opium
and haschisch, and take us into a world like that of old romance and
myth, where we meet our own souls walking in strange clothes. 'Art,'
says Santayana, 'so long as it needs to be a dream, will never cease
to be a disappointment.' We leave a volume of Gautier as we leave the
_Mabinogion_, or the _Morte Darthur_, or the _Volsunga Saga_, or a
book of fairy-tales. We have to readjust ourselves before meeting the
difficulties of life. But opposite Santayana's sentence we may set one
from Mahomet. 'If any man have two loaves, let him sell one, and buy
flowers of the white narcissus; for the one is food for the body and
the other is food for the soul.' And perhaps this art, where the world
is simplified into the conventions of a tapestry, by its intense appeal
to primitive emotions, may help us like a touchstone to distinguish
between the things to which more than lip-service is slavery, and the
things to which less than life-service is death.



[Self-conscious method.]

'IT is the curse,' says Poe, 'of a certain order of mind that it can
never rest satisfied with the consciousness of its ability to do a
thing. Not even is it content with doing it. It must both know and
show how it was done.' It is all very well to call it a curse; it is
the curse that gave us Leonardo's notebooks, Reynolds' Discourses,
and Stevenson's few essays on the art of writing; the curse that is
among the reasons of Leonardo's excellence, Reynolds' excellence,
Stevenson's excellence, and the excellence of Poe himself. It is the
curse that is the secret of all real knowledge of technique. The man
who is as interested in the way of doing a thing as in the thing when
done, is the man who is likely to put a new tool in the hands of his

Poe's methods were such a delight to him that his works have an uncanny
atmosphere about them, as if he had not written them but had been
present, passionately observant and critical, while they were being
written by somebody else. More than once he used his pen to make a
new thing out of a discussion of an old one, and on these occasions
he dissects his own motives in so impersonal a manner that it is
difficult for the reader to remember that the author examining is in
any way connected with the author undergoing examination. _The Raven_,
for example, a profound piece of technique, is scarcely as profound,
and certainly not as surprising, as _The Philosophy of Composition_,
in which its construction is minutely analysed, and Poe callously
explains, as a matter of scientific rather than personal interest, that
the whole poem was built on the refrain 'Nevermore,' and that this
particular refrain was chosen on account of the sonority and ease of
_o_ and _r_ sounded together. It was inevitable that such a man busying
himself with story-telling should bring something new into the art.

[Illustration: WILLIAM GODWIN]

[William Godwin and _Caleb Williams_.]

Another story-teller, who, like Poe, was a philosopher and deeply
interested in technique, had existed before, and from him Poe had that
strengthening of his ideas that is given by outside confirmation. He
refers often to William Godwin, the author of _An Enquiry concerning
Political Justice_ and of several novels, among them one now most
undeservedly half forgotten, called _Caleb Williams_. It is seldom
possible to point to any one book as the sign-post of a literary
cross-roads, but there can be no doubt that in _Caleb Williams_ we see
the beginnings of self-conscious construction in story-telling. Of that
book Hazlitt wrote: 'No one ever began _Caleb Williams_ that did not
read it through: no one that ever read it could possibly forget it,
or speak of it after any length of time but with an impression as if
the events and feelings had been personal to himself.' And the author
not only had done this, but had known how it was done. It is usual to
say that Poe himself was the first to choose an effect and then plan a
story to produce it. But _Caleb Williams_ was published in 1794, and in
a preface to one of the later editions Godwin gave his methods away. On
him also lay that fruitful curse. He wrote: 'I formed a conception of a
book of fictitious adventure that should in some way be distinguished
by a very powerful interest. Pursuing this idea, I invented first the
third volume of my tale, then the second, and last of all the first.'

Godwin perhaps did not realise how revolutionary was his attitude,
and even Hazlitt, delighted as he was by their results, does not
seem to have noticed the novelty of his methods. But Poe, finding
Godwin's ideas of the very temper of his own, developed them logically
as far as they would go, and in two paragraphs that I am going to
quote, expressed in a final manner the principles of self-conscious

[The architecture of narrative.]

The first is taken from an essay on Hawthorne:

    'A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he
    has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but,
    having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single
    effect to be worked out, he then invents such incidents--he then
    contrives such events as may best aid him in establishing this
    preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the
    outbringing of the effect, then he has failed in his first step.
    In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which
    the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established
    design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is
    at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates
    it with a kindred art a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea
    of the tale has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed.'

The second is more personal, and from _The Philosophy of Composition_:

    'I prefer commencing with the consideration of an _effect_....
    Keeping originality always in view, I say to myself, in the first
    place, "Of the innumerable effects or impressions of which the
    heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible,
    what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?" Having chosen
    a novel first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it
    can be best wrought out by incident or tone--whether by ordinary
    incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity
    both of incident and tone--afterwards looking about me (or rather
    within) for such combination of event and tone as shall best aid me
    in the construction of the effect.'

[_The Masque of the Red Death._]

Here, of course, he is exaggerating actual fact to make his meaning
more clear; but I am sure that even the exaggeration is deliberate.
If he did not literally work in that way he certainly worked in that
spirit. A writer of Poe's fertility of imagination would be at least
biassed in choosing his effect by consideration of material already in
his head. But, the effect once chosen, he left nothing to chance. He
would never, like the older story-tellers, allow himself to be carried
away by a wave of his own emotion. He stands beside de Maupassant and
the conscious artists of the latter half of the nineteenth century. His
emotional material is never emptied carelessly in front of the reader.
Chosen scraps of it are laid before him, one by one, in a chosen order,
producing a more powerful effect than the unrestrained discharge of the
whole. The first sentences of one of his stories prepare its readers
for the atmosphere demanded by its conclusion. In _The Masque of the
Red Death_, for example, revolting horror is the emotion on which he
built. So, from the terrible opening lines, 'The Red Death had long
devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal and so
hideous. Blood was its Avatar and seal--the redness and the horror of
blood. There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness, and then profuse
bleeding at the pores, with dissolution ...' to the end, 'And now was
acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in
the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed
hall of their revel, and died, each in the despairing posture of his
fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last
of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and
Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all,' we are led
on through consciously created disquietude and terror. How menacing
is the sentence that immediately follows the prelude: 'But the Prince
Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious.' We feel at once that
the shadow of death is at his elbow.

[The detective stories.]

Perhaps Poe's technique is more easily examined in those of his tales
in which the same faculties that planned the construction supplied also
the motive. The three great detective stories, _The Purloined Letter_,
_The Murders in the Rue Morgue_, and _The Mystery of Marie Roget_,
are made of reasoning and built on curiosity, the very mainspring
of analysis. It is a profitable delight to take any one of these
stories, and, working backwards from the end to the beginning, to
follow the mind of the architect. Each of the tales states a difficulty
and secretes an explanation that is gradually to be reached by the
reader, who identifies the processes of his own mind with those of
the analytical Dupin. Starting always with the solution, we can watch
Poe refusing the slightest irrelevance, and at the same time artfully
piling up detail upon detail in exactly that order best calculated to
keep the secret, to heighten the curiosity, to disturb the peace of the
reader's mind, and to hold him in conjectural suspense until the end.

[Poe's mind.]

But it is easy, in considering the technique of Poe's stories, his
smiling refusal of 'inspiration,' his confident mastery over his
material, to let the brilliance of his analytical powers hide from
us his intimacy with the beautiful, the richness and vividness of
his imagination, and, particularly, the passionate character of his
mind. Like Leonardo da Vinci, he was a man whose works were the result
of the energetic fusing of an emotional personality into moulds
designed by reason. Not all Leonardo's theories and calculations
would have sufficed to make a _Mona Lisa_. And if Poe had been merely
a skilled technician, like so many of his imitators, we should have
had from him only unbeautiful toys no less valueless than theirs. All
Poe's work depends, like all Leonardo's, on his power of retaining
the poetry, the energy of his material, after submitting it to his
constructive science, and then, when the moulds have been made, of
pouring it into them red-hot and fluid, as if in the primal vitality
of its conception. In those very detective stories, that seem built by
and of the coldest-blooded reason, what is it that makes them great
but Poe's absorbing passion for the manner of mind of their leading
character. Dupin is not a mere detective. He is not an analyst, but
analysis. He is the embodiment of the logical spirit in mankind, just
as Nicolete, in the old French tale, is the embodiment of the loving
spirit in womankind. It is for this reason that some have accused Dupin
and Nicolete of a lack of individuality. They are not individual, but

If we would understand the matter as well as the manner of his
stories, we must think of him as two men, and remember that the
same sensibility that served the man of anagrams, and ciphers, and
detective puzzles, served also the worshipper of beauty, and made him
tremble like a lover at the faintest whisper of her name. Delicately
balanced, alike as analyst and æsthete, he was moved profoundly by
the smallest circumstance. Just as a glass of wine was sufficient to
overturn his reason, so the least wind of suggestion stirred his brain
in a deep and surprising manner. Nothing that happened to him touched
him only on the surface. Everything dropped to the depths of him, and
sometimes returned enriched and recreated. Ideas that others would have
passed over became for him and for his readers powerful, haunting and
inevitable. Ideas of mesmerism, of hypnotism, and of madness, that have
been for so many lesser artists only the materials for foolishness,
were pregnant for him with wonderful effects and stories that, once
read, can never be forgotten. In _William Wilson_ he is using less
flippantly than Stevenson the idea of dual personality. In _The Oval
Portrait_, where a painter transfers the very soul of his lady to his
canvas, and, as the portrait seems to breathe alive, turns round to
find her dead, he is using the subtle, half-thought things that an
earlier writer would scarcely have felt, or, if he had, would have
brushed, like cobwebs, secretly aside.

[Illustration: EDGAR ALLAN POE]

[His failures.]

With a mind so sensitive, a coinage so rare, and a technique so
thorough, it is curious that he should so frequently have failed. And
yet, when we examine his failures they are not difficult to explain.
They are due in every case, saving only his attempts to be funny,
which are like hangman's jokes, to sudden rents in the veils of his
illusions, made by single impossible phrases whose impossibility
he seems to have been unable to recognise. I could give a hundred
examples, but perhaps none better than the excruciating line in an
otherwise beautiful poem, where he tells us that

    'The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside.'

Lapses like that destroy like lightning flashes the mysterious
atmosphere he has been at pains to create. They are the penalty he had
to pay for being a citizen in a youthful democracy. Americans are never
safe from the pitfalls of a language that is older than their nation.

[His isolation.]

In the America of that time, Poe was like the little boy in the
grocer's shop, who, while the shopmen are busy with paper and string,
dreams of green meadows and scribbles verses on the sugar bags. Even
in Europe he would have been one of those men 'who live on islands in
the sea of souls.' There are some like Scott and Gautier who are always
called by their Christian names, and can talk unreservedly with a
thousand. There are others more aloof in mind of whom it is difficult
even to think with familiarity. It seems fitting enough to hear of
Scott as Walter or Wattie, and of Gautier as Théo, even in old age;
but who would have dared to call that man Tommy who heard in tavern
song some echo of the music of the spheres? There are men who cannot be
habitually good companions, and, when the talk is at its loudest, turn
from the crowd, pull aside the curtain, and look up to see the pale
moon far above the housetops. Such a man was Poe. He would have been
lonely even in the city of Europe where he could perhaps have found
three men of his own aloofness from the inessential, his own hatred
of the commonplace, his own intense belief in individualism. He was
extraordinarily lonely in America. His love of beauty, his elevation
of his work above its results in gold, were next to incomprehensible
by that people in that chaotic state of their development. Energetic
and wholly practical, fiercely busied with material advancement,
they could not understand his passionate, impractical, intellectual
existence. His biographer, a literary man, remembered not that he was
a great artist, but that he died through drink, not that he had made
beautiful things but that he had gained little money by doing so. In
the Poe who 'reeled across Broadway on the day of the publication of
_The Raven_,' in the Poe who died in an hospital, they forgot the
reality, and, in their hurry, found it easy to make a melodrama out of
a gentle and inoffensive life. Their traditional idea of Poe allows his
extravagances to represent him. It is as if we were to describe some
hills by saying there was a lightning flash between the peaks. I prefer
to think of the little cottage at Fordham, where he lived with his wife
and her mother, and their pets, parrots and bobolinks, a peaceful,
small citadel held by those three friends against the world. Throughout
Poe's harassed existence this note of gentleness and quiet is always
sounding somewhere below the discords of penury and suffering.

[His work.]

The result of his isolation, his poverty, his sensibility, and his
intellectual energy was a great deal of work of no value whatever, some
melancholy and beautiful verse, critical articles of a kind then new in
America, a philosophical poem, some tales of the same flavour as the
most delightful of Euclid's propositions, and some other stories that
can only be fully enjoyed by those who come to them with the reverence
and careful taste it is proper to bring to a glass of priceless wine.
It is by them chiefly that he will be remembered. They are a delicacy,
not a staple of food. They are not stories from which we can learn
life; but they are the key to strange knowledge of ourselves. They
leave us richer, not in facts but in emotions. We find our way with
their help into novel corners of sensation. They are like rare coloured
goblets or fantastic metal-work, and we find, often with surprise,
that we have waited for them. That is their vindication, that the test
between the valueless and the invaluable of the fantastic. There are
tales of twisted extravagance that stir us with no more emotion than is
given by an accidental or capricious decoration never felt or formed in
the depths of a man. But these stories, like those patterns, however
grotesque, that have once meant the world to a mind sensible to beauty,
have a more than momentary import. Like old melody, like elaborate and
beautiful dancing, like artificial light, like the sight of poison
or any other concentrated power, they are among the significant
experiences that are open to humanity.



[The essayist in story-telling.]

HAWTHORNE is one of the earliest story-tellers whom we remember as much
for himself as for his books. He is loved or hated, as an essayist is
loved or hated, without reference to the subjects on which he happened
to write. He wrote in a community for whom a writer was still so novel
as to possess some rags of the old splendours of the sage; an author
was something wonderful, and no mere business man. He had not to expect
any hostility in his reader, but rather a readiness to admire (of which
he seldom took advantage), and an eagerness to enjoy him for his own
sake. He could assume, as an essayist assumes when he dances naked
before his readers, that they were not there to scoff. He brought a
sweet ingenuous spirit into modern story-telling that would perhaps
have been impossible had he been writing for a more sophisticated
audience. We love him for it. He made books, he said, 'for his known
and unknown friends.' As he says it, he brings us all into the circle.
When we think of Fielding, Bunyan, or Cervantes, we think of _Tom
Jones_, _Pilgrim's Progress_, and _Don Quixote_; when we think of
_Elia_, _Table Talk_, and _The Scarlet Letter_, we think of Lamb,
Hazlitt, and Hawthorne.

[Hawthorne and Poe.]

This engaging, unsuspicious, essayistical attitude of his would have
been quite impossible to Poe; but we must remember that Hawthorne
and Poe, although contemporary, knew very different Americas. Poe's
birth was a kind of accident, and he approached America penniless, so
that she was a hostile place to him, a country of skinflint editors
and large terrible towns, from which to escape in books, and, as far
as possible, in life. He hated the New America, but he belonged to
her. Hawthorne belonged to the old. His family connected him with her
history; he was never at her mercy; as we learn from his rambling
prefaces, that would be intolerable in a less lovable writer, she was
endeared to him by a delightful boyhood, and did not refuse him a
peaceful youth of devotion to his art. She never treated him otherwise
than tenderly, and he did not leave her until as a representative of
her people, nor sought escape from her in books, except for those of
his shadowy creatures who could move with greater freedom in a less
bread-and-buttery fairyland.


[Hawthorne's life.]

His life, as we learn it from those prefaces and from his biographers,
was as gentle as the man himself. We read of quiet days of work in
a study from whose windows he could watch the sunlight through the
willow boughs; of days on the river with Thoreau in a canoe which
that angular reformer had built with his own hands; of meetings
with Emerson walking in the woods, 'with that pure intellectual gleam
diffused about his person like the garment of a shining one'; of
evenings before the red fire in a little room with white moonlight
bringing out the patterns on the carpet, weaving the tapestries
of dream that were next day to come alive upon the paper. These
people, who were to make the intellectual life of America, were not
American in the peace of their existence. Hawthorne, in the newest
of all countries, wrote 'in a clear, brown, twilight atmosphere.'
He was a lover of secondhand things, and so clothed things with his
imagination that all he touched was green with ivy. No contemporary or
even historical romances have about them such ancient tenderness and
legendary dusk as his. It is extraordinary to think that he was born
within two years of Poe. He thought 'the world was very weary, and
should recline its vast head on the first convenient pillow and take an
age-long nap.' America, at least, had a thousand other things to do,
but it was not until he had seen Europe that Hawthorne recognised the

[His notebooks.]

His notebooks reflect at the same time this quiet life and its
excitements, the stirring adventures of an artist in search of
perfection. He 'had settled down by the wayside of life like a man
under an enchantment.' None but the artist can know how happy such
enchantment is. He notices the flashing soles of a boy's bare feet
running past him in the wood, and 'a whirlwind, whirling the dried
leaves round in a circle, not very violently.' He writes one day, 'The
tops of the chestnut trees have a whitish appearance, they being, I
suppose, in bloom'; two days later, unsatisfied, he makes another
attempt to fit his words to his impression:--'The tops of the chestnut
trees are peculiarly rich, as if a more luscious sunshine were falling
on them than anywhere else, "Whitish," as above, don't express it.' One
of his biographers, himself no mean artist, suggests that Hawthorne's
must have been a dull existence, if in it such trifles were worthy of
note. But the frequency of such notes, interspersed by innumerable
sketches for stories, is not a sign of the poverty of Hawthorne's life
but of its opulence. For Hawthorne, busied always with dim things not
easily expressed, every walk was a treasure hunt that might supply some
phrase, some simile, that would give blood and sinew to the ghost of an

[The material of his work.]

His friends were as far removed from the ordinary as himself. He was
never 'bustled in the world of workaday.' Even his spell of life as
surveyor in the Customs was such that his description of it reads
not unlike Charles Lamb's recollections of the old clerks in the
South-Sea House. The Customs House was a place of sleep and cobwebs,
and the people in it, mostly retired sea-captains, 'partook of the
genius of the place.' 'Pour connaître l'homme,' says Stendhal, 'il
suffit de l'étudier soi-même; pour connaître les hommes, il faut les
pratiquer.' Hawthorne had never kept company with men; his nature
and his circumstances made him learn man from his own heart. He was
never hampered as a romancer by the kind of knowledge that would have
made him a novelist. He deals not with manners, for he had little
opportunity of studying them, nor with passions, for they had not
greatly troubled him, but with conscience. He plays upon the strings of
conscience, and, dusty as the instrument may be, his playing wakes an

Perhaps if he had been less personal, less lovable, we could not have
tolerated his tampering with those secret strings whose music is so
novel and so poignant. Certainly we would have found him intolerable
if he had been less serious. If he had jangled those fibres with a
laugh they would have given no response. If he had waked them with a
careless discord they would have broken. We can bear it because he is
Hawthorne; we listen to him because he is in earnest. All, in such
matters, depends upon the attitude of the artist. War, for example, is
a terrible thing in Tolstoy, a joyous thing in Dumas, and an ordinary
thing, neither terrible nor joyous, in Smollett. We take to ourselves
something of an artist's outlook, and sin is nothing to us unless we
hear of it from a man to whom it is momentous.

[Goya's 'Monk and Witch'.]

I remember a little picture by Goya representing a monk and a witch.
The woman, with white staring eyeballs, wide nostrils, fallen jaw,
shrinks back against the monk in puling terror; and he, crazed utterly,
his eyes fixed on nothingness, shrieks with gaping mouth some horrid
incantation that drowns the gasping breathing of the witch. Theirs is
no physical fear of fire or sword or scourge: they have sinned, and
seen the face of God. Before me are a set of reproductions of Holbein's
'Dance of Death.' Death lies before the feet of the burgess in the
road, plucks unconcernedly at the robe of the abbot, viciously sticks
a spear through the middle of the knight, and snuffs the altar candles
in the nun's cell, where her young lover is playing on a guitar. But
the picture of Judgment at the end is no more than a careless grace
after meat. It is there with propriety but without conviction. Death is
a full stop, not a comma. What is it to me that the burgess may have
cheated, the abbot be a hypocrite, the knight a roysterer, and the
nun a wanton? Death is close at hand to put a stop to the doings of
them all. I do not know what was the sin of the monk or the witch, and
yet the mere memory of their spiritual terror moves me more than the
pictures before my eyes. Their peril is not of this world.

[The background of Hawthorne's tales.]

Hawthorne's finest stories are a Dance of Death, in which Death is
no mere end of a blind alley, but a dividing of the ways. Those dim
people he found in his own soul are important to us by their chances of
salvation or damnation. Their feet

    'Are in the world as on a tight-rope slung
    Over the gape and hunger of Hell.'[8]

The background to their actions is not happiness and misery, questions
of this world only, but righteousness and mortal sin. The fortunes
of Hawthorne's characters are shaping for Eternity. When Ethan Brand
flings himself into the furnace, what one of Hawthorne's readers ever
thought he died there?

Even this dignity of grave belief, combined with the charm of the
writer, would not excuse unskilful playing. But Hawthorne is as
dexterous on his chosen instrument as Poe on his, and as consciously
an artist as Stevenson, who indeed, in _Markheim_, plays, no more
skilfully than he, Hawthorne's peculiar tune. In the preface to _The
House of the Seven Gables_ there is a paragraph that, though long, it
is not impertinent to quote. It shows how carefully he had thought out
the possibilities, and how scrupulously he had defined the limits, of
his chosen art.

[Romance and Novel.]

    'When a writer calls his work a Romance it need hardly be observed
    that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion
    and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to
    assume had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form
    of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not
    merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course
    of man's experience. The former--while, as a work of art, it must
    subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as
    it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart--has fairly
    a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great
    extent, of the writer's own choosing or creation. If he thinks
    fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring
    out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the
    picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of
    the privileges here stated, and especially to mingle the Marvellous
    rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavour, than as any
    portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public.
    He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if
    he disregard this caution.'

There is a hint here of the provincial pedant; 'dishes offered
to the public' are a little out of date; but the principles are
sound. Hawthorne could not give clear outlines to the results of
his 'burrowings in our common nature' unless he set them in an
atmospherical medium that made such outlines possible for things so
vague and so mysterious. Romance left him free to do so. He could
make a world to fit them, a patterned world, coloured to suggest
New England, Italy, or Nowhere. He was never forced to shock us by
introducing them into quite ordinary life. He never loses command over
his 'atmospherical medium,' and never weakens the importance of his
characters by letting them escape from the dominion of morals. And yet
his stories are not 'impaled on texts.' Moral feeling makes them alive,
but it is treated like the Marvellous--'mingled as a slight, delicate,
and evanescent flavour.' No artist had ever such tricky balances to
keep. No artist keeps his balance more successfully.

[Devices of craftsmanship.]

His artistry is as subtle in the details as in the design. It is hard
to examine his stories unmoved. But, if we quiet our consciences, and
still the throbbing of our hearts, and force ourselves to read them
paragraph by paragraph with scientific calm, we find there are few
tales from which we can learn more delicate devices of craftsmanship
in making afraid, and in giving reality to intangible and mysterious
things. Before such skill the most prosaic reader surrenders his reason
and shudders with the rest.

Notice, for example, in _Rappacini's Daughter_, Hawthorne's way of
making credible the marvellous. He states the miracle quite simply,
and by asking 'Was it really so?' lays, without making his intention
obvious, a double emphasis on every point. On every point he throws
a doubt, and stamps belief into the mind. When Giovanni wonders if
Beatrice is like the flowers in that rich garden of death, in breath
and body poisonous, 'to be touched only with a glove, nor to be
approached without a mask,' Hawthorne suggests that he had grown
morbid. We know at once that he had not. A beautiful insect flutters
about her and dies at her feet. 'Now here it could not be but that
Giovanni Guasconti's eyes deceived him.' We know that they did not.
As Beatrice goes into the house, Giovanni fancies that the flowers
he had given her were already withering in her grasp. 'It was an
idle thought,' says Hawthorne, 'there could be no possibility of
distinguishing a faded flower from a fresh one at so great a distance.'
We see the dead petals fall like leaves in autumn as she steps across
the threshold.

And then notice, in _The Scarlet Letter_, his use of simple actions
made significant by their contexts. When Hester Prynne has thrown
aside, as if for ever, the searing symbol of her outlawry, her child
refuses to recognise her, until she picks it miserably up, and pains
her bosom once again with the embroidered scarlet character. 'Now
thou art my mother, indeed!' cries the child, 'and I am thy little
Pearl!' And when Hester tells her that one day the minister will share
a fireside with them, and hold her on his knees, and teach her many
things, and love her dearly--'And will he always keep his hand over
his heart?' the child inquires. It is quite natural in her to notice a
peculiar habit, and to cling to a familiar piece of ornament; but her
words and actions assume the dignity of portents when we know what
they meant to that poor woman and that conscience-stricken man.

[The power of details.]

The imagination needs straws to make its bricks, and Hawthorne is
careful never to set it the impossible task. He knows how to squeeze
all the emotion in his material into one small fragment of pictorial
suggestion that can be confidently left to produce its effect in
concert with the reader's mind. Remember how Goodman Brown, at setting
out, looked back and saw 'the head of Faith still peeping after
him with a melancholy air in spite of her pink ribbons.' A trifle,
apparently, but one that is not to be wasted. After his talk with the
devil, he thought he heard his wife's voice above him in the air, as
an unseen multitude of saints and sinners were encouraging her to
that awful meeting in the forest. '"Faith!" he shouted in a voice of
agony and desperation, and the echoes of the forest mocked him, crying
"Faith! Faith!" as if bewildered wretches were seeking her all through
the wilderness. The cry of grief, rage, and terror was yet piercing the
night when the unhappy wretch held his breath for a response. There
was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading
into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the dear
and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly
down through the air and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man
seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.'--A pink ribbon, a merry little
thing that we can see and touch, is made a sudden, awful summary of
horror and despair.

He makes nature throb with his own mood, and by imperceptible art
weights the simplest words with the emotion of his tale. How are the
very tones of madness caught as the young man flourishes the devil's
stick and strides along the forest path. '"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Goodman
Brown when the wind laughed at him. "Let us hear which will laugh
loudest. Think not to frighten me with your deviltry. Come witch, come
wizard, come Indian powpow, come devil himself and here comes Goodman
Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you."' That paragraph is the
work of a master.

[The character of his work.]

And yet, artist as he was, Hawthorne lived too near provincialism to
show no signs of its influence in his outlook and his work. He could
not enjoy statues without clothes. He was able to commit the enormity
of typifying a search for the absolute beautiful by the making of a
tiny toy butterfly that flapped its wings just like a real one. Nor
did he ever reach that conception of his art, of all art, that sets
prettiness in niches round rather than upon the altar of the temple.
He valued perhaps too highly the simple flowerlike embroidery that is
characteristic of his work. When, while he was in the Custom House,
this power of facile prettiness deserted him for a season, he produced
nothing, and feared that all his power was gone, for it was not in
him to conjure without a wand. He thought afterwards that he might
have written something with the pedestrian fidelity of the novel; but
that was the one thing he could never do. A man who is accustomed to
see his pages glimmer with opalescent colour, and to feel the touch
of elfin fingers on his brow, is oddly disconcerted in those moments
when the little people must be brushed aside like midges, and the
glimmering veil be torn by the elbows of a ruder reality. Such men are
not so common that we can complain of the _défauts de leurs qualités_.
And indeed, in his more solemn stories, instinct with the spiritual
terror of Goya's miniature, the grace that never leaves him adds to
the effect. A rapier seems never more cruel than in a hand elaborately
gloved. What kind of man is that, we ask, who, balancing souls between
Heaven and Hell, can never quite forget his friendship with the



[Mérimée's attitude towards writing.]

THERE is a lean athletic air about the tales of Prosper Mérimée. Their
author is like a man who throws balls at the cocoa-nuts in the fair--to
bring them down, and not for the pleasure of throwing. His writing was
something quite outside himself, undertaken for the satisfaction of
feeling himself able to do it. He was in the habit of setting himself
tasks. 'I will blacken some paper,' he writes, 'in 1829,' and he keeps
his word. He was not an author, in the modern professional sense,
but a man, one of whose activities was authorship. There is a real
difference between writers of these classes, the amateurs existing
outside their work, the professionals breathing only through it.
Gautier, full-blooded, brutal, splendid creature, is almost invisible
but in his books. Mérimée, irreproachably dressed, stands beside his,
looking in another direction. I am reminded of the sporting gentlemen
of Hazlitt's day who now and again would step into the ring and show
that they too had a pretty way with the gloves. Late in his life, when
one of his juvenile theatrical pieces was to be played for the first
time, Mérimée went to the performance, and heard a hostile noise in the
house. 'Is it me they are hissing?' he asked, 'I am going to hiss with
the rest.' I think of Congreve asking Voltaire to consider him as a
plain gentleman, not as an author.

[Illustration: PROSPER MÉRIMÉE]

Writing was only one of the interests of Mérimée's life; only one
of the innumerable tasks he set himself. He learnt half a dozen
languages without being a mere linguist. He travelled in half a dozen
countries without being a traveller. He was extremely erudite, but
never a bookish scholar. He fulfilled with enthusiasm his duties as
Inspector of Ancient Monuments without lapsing into a dusty-handed
antiquary. He saw much of the fashionable life of Paris without being
a man of the world. He was a courtier without being nothing but a
courtier, and could accomplish a state mission without turning into a
diplomatist. He studied 'la théologie, la tactique, la poliorcétique,
l'architecture, l'épigraphie, la numismatique, la magie et la cuisine,'
without being solely a theologian, a tactician, a specialist in
sieges, an architect, a decipherer of inscriptions, a coin collector,
a wizard, or an undiluted cook. No more was he a writer, as Dumas,
Hazlitt, Hawthorne, and Keats were writers. On no shore did he burn
his boats. His character was as various as his activities. He was
sensualist and sentimentalist, dandy and Bohemian. Evenings begun in
the salon of Mme. de Boigne or at the Hôtel Castellane were, his
biographer tells us, finished behind the scenes at the Opera. He wrote
delightful love-letters, but whole series of his letters to his friends
are unfitted for print by consistent indecency. He read his tales to
his Empress, and told them in the gipsy tongue by the camp-fires of
Andalusian muleteers. His experiments in literature were analogous
to his experiments in cooking. Both were expressions of an intense
curiosity about life and the methods of life, and a thirst for personal
practical efficiency in them all. Never had man more facets in which to
see the world. It is important in this essay, that considers only one
of them, not to forget that there were others.

[The imaginary author of his tales.]

It is indeed not easy to see more than one facet of a man's personality
at once, and difficult not to assume that this one facet is the whole.
The _curés_ of the old churches in France who saw Mérimée busied in
protecting the ancient buildings from ruin and restoration would
have been amazed by the witty dandy of the dinners in the Café de
la Rotonde, or by the author of _Colomba_. Each one of such a man's
expressions suggests a complete portrait, but only the composite
picture tells the truth. It is difficult not to reason from his work
and build up an imaginary author--a discreet, slightly ironical person,
who smiles only with the corners of his mouth, never laughs, never
weeps, modestly disclaims any very personal connection with his tales,
and is careful to seem as little moved as may be by the terrible or
mysterious things he sets before us. This imaginary polite person,
who represented Mérimée in conversation as well as in books, is not
Mérimée, but, just now, as I see him quietly smiling in the air before
me, I know who he is. He is the conventional raconteur, whose manner
every Englishman assumes in the telling of anecdote or ghost story.

[Printed and spoken stories.]

Perhaps each nation has its own. Perhaps each nation adopts an attitude
for anecdote peculiar to its own genius. The French at any rate is
very different from the English. The Frenchman will gesticulate in
his tale, suit the expression of his face to its emotions, and try,
ingratiatingly, to win our indulgence for his story, that becomes,
as he tells it, part of himself. The Englishman, more tenacious of
his dignity, less willing to hazard it for an effect, throws all
responsibility upon the thing itself. In England, the distinction
between printed story-telling and story-telling by word of mouth is
more marked than elsewhere. The object of both is to interest and
move us, but, while the literary artist makes no bones about it, and
takes every advantage possible, giving the setting of his tale, its
colour scheme, its scent, its atmosphere, the plain Englishman shrinks
from all assumption of craftsmanship, sets out his facts bare, rough
like uncut stones, and repudiates by a purposely disordered language,
perhaps by a few words of slang, any desire of competition with the
professional.[9] And we, the audience, allow ourselves to be moved
more readily by an amateur than by a man who avows his intention of
moving us. The avowed intention provokes a kind of hostility; it is a
declaration of war, an open announcement of a plan to usurp the throne
of our own mind, and to order the sensations we like to think we can
control. We are more lenient with the amateur; we wish to save his
face; politeness and good-fellowship are traitors in our citadel, and
we conspire with the enemy to compass our own yielding.

[Mérimée's adoption of the conventions of anecdote.]

Mérimée gives his tales no more background than an Englishman could
put without immodesty into an after-dinner conversation. He does not
decorate them with words, nor try to suggest atmosphere by rhythm or
any other of the subtler uses of language. He does not laugh at his
jokes, nor, in moments of pathos, show any mist in his eyes. The only
openly personal touches in his stories are those sentences of irony as
poignant as those of another great conversationalist, whose _Modest
Proposal_ for the eating of little children is scarcely more cruel
than _Mateo Falcone_. His style is without felicities. It has none of
the Oriental pomp of Gautier's prose, none of the torrential eloquence
of Hugo's; but its limitations are its virtues. Pomp is the ruin of a
plain fact as of a plain man, and rhetoric rolls facts along too fast
to do anything but smooth them. This style, that seems to disclaim any
pretension to be a style at all, leaves facts unencumbered, with their
corners unpolished. It emphasises Mérimée's continual suggestion that
he is not a story-teller, and so helps to betray us into his power.
But I cannot understand those critics who find it a style of clear
glass that shows us facts through no personality whatever. Always, in
reading a Mérimée, I have an impression of listening to a man who has
seen the world, and was young once upon a time, who loves Brantôme, and
who in another century would have been a friend of Anthony Hamilton,
and perhaps have written or had a minor part in memoirs like those
of the Count Grammont. And this man is the imaginary mouthpiece of
English anecdote, the mask handed from speaker to speaker at an English

[Mérimée's _anglomanie_.]

Mérimée himself had something of the appearance of an Englishman;
everything except the smile, according to Taine. No Frenchman can write
of him without referring to his _anglomanie_. His mother had English
relatives, and Hazlitt, Holcroft, and Hazlitt's worshipped Northcote
were among his father's friends. He was not baptized in the Catholic
religion. He seems to have grown up in an atmosphere not unlike that of
many English intellectual families, and very early made friends across
the Channel for himself. This Englishness perhaps partly accounts for
the peculiar attitude he took as a story-teller, and also made possible
that curious reconciliation between the virtues of rival schools that
the attitude demanded; made possible, that is to say, the apparent
paradox of a man whose subjects were Romantic, whose style was almost
Classical, and whose stories were yet a prophecy of the Realists. It
is not a French characteristic to recognise virtues in more than one
type at once, and to combine them. 'Le Roi est mort; vive le Roi.' The
French invented that saying. They do not recognise compromises, but are
exclusive in their judgments, and regulate their opinions by general
rules. A Romantic hates all Classicists, a Realist finds his worst term
of opprobrium in the word Romantic. An Englishman, on the other hand,
does not think of regulating his affections or actions by a theory. If
he has principles, he locks them up with his black clothes for use on
special occasions. He keeps a sturdy affection for Oliver Cromwell,
without letting his love for the Commonwealth abate in the least his
loyalty to the King. Mérimée seems extraordinarily English in being
able to own Romantic ideals, without using Romantic method.

[The contrast between his manner and his material.]

The conversational story-telling depends for its success, not on the
wit or charm of the talker, but on the plots of his stories. No more
exigent test of the intrinsic power of a tale can be applied than
this, of telling it badly in conversation. A good story will sometimes
gain by the naked recital of its facts; a bad one is immediately
betrayed. Bad stories, in this sense, are those that resemble the
women of whom Lyly wrote:--'Take from them their periwigges, their
paintings, their Jewells, their rowles, their boulstrings, and thou
shalt soone perceive that a woman is the least part of hir selfe.'
How many times, in repeating to a friend the story of a book, you
have become suddenly aware it was an empty, worthless thing that, in
clothes more gorgeous than it had a right to wear, had made you its
dupe for a moment. Mérimée was compelled by his method to tell good
stories or none. His material, to be sufficiently strong to stand
without support, to be built with rigid economy, and to make its
effects out of its construction, to be told as if with a desire of
making no impression, and to make an impression all the stronger for
such telling, could not be of a light or delicate nature. His events
had to be striking, visible, conclusive. He had to choose stories in
which something happened. There is death in almost every one of his
tales. Hence comes the amazing contrast between his work and that of
the Romantics. The large gesture, the simple violent passions are his
as well as theirs, because he needed them, but, while they matched
their subjects in their temperaments, and wrote of hot blood with
pulsing veins, everything in Mérimée's stories is vivid and passionate
except the author. The atmosphere of his tales is not warm or moist,
but extraordinarily rarified. In that clear air his colours seem almost
white. If they were not so brilliant we should not perceive them at
all. Even his women are chosen for the attitude. The women a man loves
are usually reflected in his work. But Mérimée's women are the women
of Romance, dying for love or for hate, ready at any moment to throw
their emotions into dramatic action, while the women he loved were
capricious, whimsical, tender seldom, _outrées_ never. The writer
needed picturesque women as clear as facts. The man loved women who
never betrayed themselves, but were sufficiently elusive to give him an
Epicurean pleasure in pursuing them.

[An art of construction.]

The art of Mérimée's tales is one of expository construction. He was
compelled by his self-denials to be as conscious an artist as Poe. He
is like a good chess-player who surrenders many pieces, and is forced
to make most wonderful play with the few that remain. His effects are
got from the material of his tales, not superimposed on the vital stuff
like the front of a Venetian palace on the plain wall. He takes his
dramatic material, and sets it before us in his undecorated style,
so that no morsel of its vitality is wasted, smothering no wild
gesture in elaborate drapery, but cutting it out so nakedly that every
quivering sinew can be seen. His art has been compared to drawing, but
it is more like sculpture. His stories are so cleanly carved out of
existence that they are 'without deception.' We can examine them from
above and from below, in a dozen different lights. There is no point of
view from which the artist begs us to refrain. Behind a drawing there
is a bare sheet. Behind a story of Mérimée's there is the other side.

[Pointillism in facts.]

His art is more like painting in those few tales of the marvellous
that are his ghost stories, as the others are his anecdotes. Mérimée
had the archæologist's hatred of the mysterious, and the artist's
delight in creating it. He reconciled the two by producing mysterious
effects by statements of the utmost clarity, the very clarity of the
statements throwing the reader off his guard so that he does not
perceive the purposeful skill with which they are chosen and put
together. There is a school of painting in France, whose followers
call themselves Pointillists; they get their effects by laying spots
of simple colours side by side, each one separate, each one though in
the right position with regard to other spots of other colours placed
in its neighbourhood. At a sufficient distance they merge luminously
into the less simple colours of the picture. Mérimée's treatment of
the marvellous was not unlike this. The vague mystery of _La Vénus
d'Ille_ is not reflected by any vagueness or mystery in the telling
of the tale. It is impossible to point to the single sentence, the
single paragraph that makes the mystery mysterious. You cannot find
them because they do not exist. Instead, there are a hundred morsels of
fact. Not one of them is incredible; not one is without a reasonable
explanation if an explanation is necessary. And yet all these concrete,
simple facts combine imperceptibly in producing the extraordinary
supernatural feeling of the tale. Compare this negative manner of
treating a miracle with the frank, positive fairy-tale of Gautier's
_Arria Marcella_. The effects of both tales are perfectly achieved,
but Arria Marcella belongs to written story-telling. We believe in her
because Gautier wishes us to believe, and uses every means of colour
and rhythm and sensual suggestion to compel his readers to subject
their imaginations to his own. The Venus belongs to story-telling
by word of mouth. Hers is a ghost story whose shudder we covet, and
experience, in spite of ourselves, in spite of the half-incredulous
story-teller, by virtue of those simple facts so cunningly put together.

[Strength or charm.]

But to write analytically of such stories is to write with compass and
rule, dully, awkwardly, technically, badly. It is impossible to express
the excellence of a bridge except by showing how perfectly its curves
represent the principles of its design, and to talk like an architect
of the method of its building. And that is so very inadequate. It is
easy to write of warmth, of delicacy, of sweetness; there is nothing
harder in the world than to write of the icy strength that is shown
not in action but in construction. And although there is a real charm
about the shy, active, intellectual man who made them, a charm that is
shown in his love-letters, yet there is no charm at all about Mérimée's
stories. The difference between them and such tales as Nathaniel
Hawthorne's is that between the little Grecian lady in baked clay, who
stands upon my mantelpiece, still removing with what grace of curved
body and neck and delicate arm the thorn that pricked her tiny foot
some thousand years ago, and the copy of an Egyptian god, standing
upright, one straight leg advanced, his jackal head set square upon
his shoulders, his arms stiff at his sides, his legs like pillars, so
strong in the restraint of every line that to look at him is a bracing
of the muscles. There is no charm in him, no grace, no delicacy, and
he needs neither delicacy, grace, nor charm. Erect in his own economy
of strength he has an implacable, strenuous power that any added
tenderness would weaken and perhaps destroy.



'I AM the last of the fathers of the church,' said Flaubert, and on
this text his niece remarks that 'with his long chestnut coat, and
little black silk skull-cap, he had something the air of one of the
Port-Royal solitaries.' The metaphor is accurately chosen. Flaubert
lived in an atmosphere of monastic devotion to his art, and the
solitaries of Port-Royal were not more constant than he to their
intellectual preoccupations. A man of excessive openness to sensation,
he fled it and was fascinated by it. He would take ever so little of
the world and torture himself with its examination because it hurt
him to look at it. Life, and especially that life whose sensitiveness
was so slight as, in comparison with his own, to have no existence,
brought him continual pain. 'La bêtise entre mes pores.' Stupidity
touching him anywhere made him shrink like a snail touched with a
feather. He had _recoquillements_, shrinkings up, when with his dearest
friends, and it was pain to him to be recalled to ordinary existence.
He escaped from modernity in dreams of the Orient, but was continually
drawn back by memory of the unhappiness that was waiting for him, to
the contemplation of those ordinary people whose slightest act, as he
imagined it, struck such a grating discord with himself. An exuberant
life like Gautier's was impossible to such a man. He could not be so
gregarious a recluse as Balzac. He had to fashion a peculiar retreat,
a room with two windows, from one of which he could see the stars,
and from the other watch and listen to the people whom he hated and
found so efficient as the instruments of his self torture. He found
the seclusion he desired in a most absolute devotion to the art of
literature, which was in his hands the art of making beauty out of
pain. Pain, self-inflicted, was at the starting-point of all his works,
and in most of them went with him step by step throughout.

[Illustration: GUSTAVE FLAUBERT]

[Flaubert and the bourgeois.]

An analysis of the pain that Flaubert suffered in examining
Philistines, that white light of suffering which throws up so clearly
the bourgeois figures on which he let it play, supplies the key
not only to the matter of much of his work, but to its manner, and
particularly to that wonderful prose of his, whose scrupulosity has
been and is so frequently misunderstood. Flaubert was not pained by a
bourgeois because he felt differently from himself. He was pained by
a bourgeois because a bourgeois did not know that he felt differently
from himself, because a bourgeois never knew how he felt at all.
Whole wolves hate a lame one. It has never been stated with what
inveterate hatred a lame one regards whole wolves. And Flaubert was
less fitted for life than an ordinary man. He was given to know when
he was honest or dishonest to himself. In so far was he, on their own
ground, weaker than those others, who never know whether they tell the
truth or a lie. He was born as it were with no skin over his heart.
He had no need to make guesses at his feelings. What more terrible
nightmare could be imagined for such a man than to hear men and women,
educated, as the bourgeois are, into a horrible facility of speech,
using the language of knowledge and emotion, unchecked by any doubts as
to their possible inaccuracy. In all bourgeois life, where language and
action have larger scales than are necessary, there is a discrepancy
between expression and the thing for which expression is sought. For
Flaubert, sensitive to this discrepancy as the ordinary man is not, it
was a perpetual pain. And just as a man who has a nerve exposed in one
of his teeth, touches it again and again, in spite of himself, for the
exquisite twinge that reminds him it is there, so Flaubert in more than
one half of his books is occupied in hurting himself by the delicate
and infinitely varied search for this particular discord.

[Flaubert's prose.]

Flaubert's prose is due, like his unhappiness, to his inhuman trueness
of feeling. He realised that flexible as language is, there are almost
insuperable difficulties in the way of any one who wishes to put an
idea accurately into words. He went to the bottom of all writing and
announced that literature is founded on the word; and that unless you
have the right word you have the wrong literature. He was a little
puzzled at the survival of the mighty improvisations of older times,
although he loved them; but there was no doubt in his mind that his
own way was not 'a primrose path to the everlasting bonfire' of bad
books. Whatever he wrote, he would have it in words chosen one by
one, scrupulously matched in scent, colour, and atmosphere to the
ideas or emotions he wished to express. His whole creed was to tell
the truth. What exactly did he feel? These were the letters that were
always flaming before him. It is vivid discomfort to a labourer to be
cross-questioned, and forced to find words for his unrealised meanings.
With increased facility of speech we grow callous, and, compromising
with our words, write approximations to the thoughts that, not having
accurately described, we can scarcely be said to possess. Flaubert, in
disgust at such inexactitudes, forced on his own highly educated brain
the discomfort of the cross-questioned labourer. Knowing the truth, he
would say it or nothing, and rejected phrase after phrase in his search
for precision. It was gain and loss to him; gain in texture, loss in
scope. 'What a scope Balzac had,' he cried, and then: 'What a writer
he would have been if only he had been able to write.' The work of such
men is loosely knit in comparison with his, because built in a less
resisting material. 'Oui,' says Gautier--

    'Oui, l'œuvre sort plus belle
    D'une forme au travail
    Vers, marbre, onyx, émail.'

Flaubert's attitude made prose a medium as hard, as challenging as

It is difficult to believe that the older writers bought their
excellence so dearly. Their thoughts cannot have been so biassed, for
it is the expression of every bias, of the background, of the smell, of
the feel of an idea that makes circumspicuity of writing so difficult.
Montaigne, for example, sitting peaceably in his tower, asking himself
with lively interest what were his opinions, was not at all like the
almost terrible figure of Flaubert, striding to and fro in his chamber,
wringing phrases from his nerves, asking passionately, ferociously,
what he meant, and almost throttling himself for an accurate answer. Is
it harder than it was to produce a masterpiece?

[Romanticism and realism.]

Flaubert, who held Chateaubriand a master, was the friend of Gautier,
and the director in his art of Guy de Maupassant, who wrote with one
hand _Madame Bovary_ and with the other _Salammbo_, who put in the same
book _St. Julien l'Hospitalier_ and _Un Cœur Simple_, is, on a far
grander scale than Mérimée, an illustration as well as a reason of the
development of romanticism into realism. Flaubert's passionate care
for the truth, would, if he had lived before the Romantic movement,
have confined itself to the elaboration of a very scrupulous prose. But
after the discovery of local colour, after the surprising discovery
of the variety that exists in things, as great as the variety that
exists in words and in their combinations, it was sure to apply itself
not only to the writing but also to those external things that had
suggested the ideas the writing was to embody. It would try to make
the sentences true to their author; it would also try to make them
true to the life they were to represent. It was Flaubert who said to
De Maupassant as they passed a cabstand, 'Young man, describe that
horse in one sentence so as to distinguish him from every other horse
in the world, and I shall begin to believe that you have possibilities
as a writer.' This demand for accurate portraiture turned the romantic
realism of Balzac's _Comédie Humaine_ into the other realism of _Madame
Bovary_. [_Madame Bovary._] Balzac had his models, yes, as hints in the
back of his head, but he made his characters alive with his own energy
and his own brain. As I have already pointed out, they are all too
alive to be true. But Flaubert, true to himself in his manner, wished
to be true to life in his matter. Madame Bovary, that second-rate,
ordinary, foolish, weak, little provincial wife, has no atmosphere
about her but her own. She has not been inoculated with the blood of
Flaubert, as all the veins of all the characters of Balzac have been
scorched with fire from those of that 'joyful wild boar.' When Flaubert
wrote that everything in the book was outside himself, he was saying
no more than the truth. He was as honest towards her and her life as
he was towards his own ideas. She talks like herself. Now the older
writers, like Fielding and Smollett, are content to let their people
talk as men and women should talk to be fit for good literature. Even
the characters of men like Balzac or Hugo say what they think, as
nearly as their creators are themselves able to express it. Flaubert
is infinitely more scrupulous. The Bovary never says what she thinks.
Flaubert knew well enough what she was thinking, but sought out exactly
those phrases and sentences beneath which she would have hidden her
thought, those horrible bourgeois inaccuracies that it was torture for
him to hear.

A life so wholly concerned with intangible things seems too
intellectual for humanity. I am glad to turn aside from it for a moment
to remember the Flaubert who was loved by those who spent their days
with him; the uncle who taught her letters to his little niece, and
who would, as she says, have done anything imaginable to enliven her
when sad or ill. 'One of his greatest pleasures was the amusement of
those about him,' although he never saw a woman without thinking of
her skeleton, a child without remembering that it would one day be
old, or a cradle without finding in it the promise of a grave. He was
one of the men who love their friends the dearer for their dislike of
mankind in general. He never shaved without laughing at 'the intrinsic
absurdity of human life,' and yet he lived out his own share in it
with steadfast purpose, 'yoking himself to his work like an ox to the

The result of his incessant labour divides itself into four kinds;
novels of the bourgeoisie, a novel of the East, three short stories,
and two other books that are, as it were, twin keys to the whole.


_Madame Bovary_ and _L'Éducation Sentimentale_ are the novels of the
bourgeoisie, novels with an entirely new quality of vision, due to
the sustained contrast between his own articulate habit of mind and
the unconsciously inarticulate minds of his characters; these are the
books commonly described as his contributions to Realism by men too
ready to set him on their own level. Opposed to these two books there
is _Salammbo_, an Oriental and ancient romance, a reposeful dream for
him, in which move characters whose feelings and expressions are no
more blurred than his own. All these books offer more delight at each
re-reading, although the last, considered as an example of narrative,
is almost a failure. The Romantics too often miss the trees for the
wood. Flaubert's method makes it rather easy to miss the wood for the
trees. But his trees are of such interest and beauty that we are ready
to examine them singly. In writing _Madame Bovary_, his subject was
close within his reach. Madame was too near to allow him to cover her
up with a library of knowledge about his own times. But in _Salammbo_
he was so anxious to be true to the life that he did not know, that he
read until he knew too much. The book is made of perfect sentences,
perfect descriptions, while the story itself is buried beneath a
dust-heap of antiquity. Cartloads after cartloads of gorgeous things
are emptied on the top of each other, until the whole is a glittering
mass with here and there some splendid detail shining so brilliantly
among the rest that we would like to remove it for a museum. The mass
stirs: there are movements within it; but they are too heavily laden to
shake themselves free and become visible and intelligible.

[_Trois Contes._]

No such criticism can be urged against the three short stories,
the _Trois Contes_, in which Flaubert proves himself not only one
of the greatest writers of all time, but also one of the greatest
story-tellers. This little book is a fit pendant to the novels, since
it represents both the Flaubert of _Madame Bovary_ and the Flaubert of
_Salammbo_. _Un Cœur Simple_, the first of the three, is the story
of a servant woman and her parrot, a subject that de Maupassant might
have chosen. So completely is it weaned from himself, that no one
would suspect that Flaubert wrote it after his mother's death, for the
pleasure, in describing the provincial household, of remembering his
own childhood. It and the two stories, _St. Julien l'Hospitalier_ and
_Hérodias_, which are purely romantic in subject and treatment, and
more scrupulous in technique than the finest of Gautier, are among the
most beautiful tales that the nineteenth century produced. All three
answer the supreme test of a dozen readings as admirably as those old
improvisations from whose spirit they are so utterly alien.

[_La Tentation de Saint Antoine_ and _Bouvard et Pécuchet_.]

That is the sum of Flaubert's work in pure narrative. There are beside
it two books, one a _Tentation de Saint Antoine_, that he spent his
whole life in bringing to perfection, and the other, _Bouvard et
Pécuchet_, that he left unfinished at his death. They are among the
most wonderful philosophic books of the world. In an Oriental dream,
a dialogue form with stage directions so explicit and descriptive as
to do the work of narrative, and in a story whose form might have been
dictated by Voltaire, whose material was the same as that used in the
novels, he expressed man in the presence of Religion, and man in the
presence of Knowledge. The legend of St. Anthony is treated by the
Flaubert who loved the East, the story of Bouvard and Pécuchet by
the Flaubert who tortured himself with observation of the bourgeois.
St. Anthony is tempted of love and of all the religions; at last, not
triumphing, but shaken and very weary, he kneels again, and Flaubert
leaves him. Bouvard and Pécuchet, the two clerks given by the accident
of a legacy the aloofness and the opportunity for development that was
Anthony's, are tempted of love and of all the knowledges; at last made
very miserable they return to their desks; that is where Flaubert would
have left them if he had lived. To discuss the settings of these two
great expositions is to ask the question that was asked by a disciple
at the end of Voltaire's _Dream of Plato_. 'And then, I suppose, you
awoke?' It is only permissible after recognising the grandeur of the
underlying idea.

[The statue of _Le Penseur_.]

There have been two men with such a conception of thought. Rodin carved
what Flaubert had written. The statue of _Le Penseur_, that stands
in front of the Panthéon in Paris, is the statue of a man tormented
like St. Anthony, baffled like Bouvard and Pécuchet. This statue does
not represent man's dream of the power of thought, of the dominion of
thought. That head is no clear mechanism, faultless and frictionless;
that attitude is not one of placid contemplation. The head is in
torture, the whole body grips itself in the agony of articulation. The
statue is not that of _a_ thinker, but of _the_ thinker; man before
the Universe, man unable to wrest the words out of himself. Flaubert
had such a vision as that when he wrote the _Tentation_ and _Bouvard et
Pécuchet_. He hated mankind because they could not share it with him.
They did not know as he knew, or see as he saw, but knelt or worked,
and were happy. This one stupendous conception of the true relation
between man and thought is that on which all Flaubert's work is
founded. Expressed in these two books, it is implied in all the others
(even in _Salammbo_, which is almost an attempt to escape from it). It
is not a message; it does not say anything; it is as dumb as Rodin's
statue; it simply _is_--like _Paradise Lost_ or the _Mona Lisa_ or a
religion. 'I am the last of the Fathers of the Church.'


    DE MAUPASSANT for seven years submitted all he wrote to Flaubert's
    criticism. If we add to the preceding essay some sentences from
    Flaubert's correspondence, it will be easy to imagine the lines
    that criticism must have taken, and interesting to compare them
    with the resulting craftsman.

    'I love above all the nervous phrase, substantial, clear, with
    strong muscles and browned skin. I love masculine phrases not

    'What dull stupidity it is always to praise the lie, and to say
    that poetry lives on illusion: as if disillusion were not a hundred
    times more poetic.

    'Find out what is really your nature, and be in harmony with it.
    _Sibi constat_ said Horace. All is there.

    'Work, above all think, condense your thought; you know that
    beautiful fragments are worthless; unity, unity is everything.

    'The author in his work ought to be like God in the Universe,
    present everywhere and visible nowhere.

    'Fine subjects make mediocre works.'

    These sentences might well be taken as de Maupassant's inspiration.
    De Maupassant, a man of powerful mind, with Flaubert's example
    before him, makes each of his tales a rounded unity, and a thing
    outside himself, and yet a thing that no one else could have
    written. He shunned fine subjects. His stories are like sections
    of life prepared for examination, and in looking at them we are
    flattered into thinking that we have clearer eyes than usual. He
    chooses some quite ordinary incident, and by working up selected
    details of it, turns it into a story as exciting to the curiosity
    as a detective puzzle. He allows no abstract feminine-phrased
    discourses on the psychology of his characters: he does not take
    advantage of their confessions. Their psychology is manifested in
    things said and in things done. The works, as in life, are hidden
    in the fourth dimension, where we cannot see them.

    _La Rendezvous_, a tiny story of seven pages, will illustrate his
    methods. The chosen incident is that of a woman going to see her
    lover, meeting some one else on the way, and going off with him
    instead. That is all. Let us see how de Maupassant works it out.
    Here is his first paragraph:

    'Her hat on her head, her cloak on her back, a black veil across
    her face, another in her pocket, which she would put on over the
    first as soon as she was in the guilty cab, she was tapping the
    point of her boot with the end of her umbrella, and stayed sitting
    in her room, unable to make up her mind to go out to keep the

    The whole of her indecision is expressed before it is explained.
    Then there is a paragraph that lets us know that she had been
    keeping the appointment regularly for two years, and we sympathise
    with her a little. A description of her room follows, made by
    mention of a clock ticking the seconds, a half-read book on a
    rosewood desk, and a perfume. The clock strikes and she goes out,
    lying to the servant. We watch her, loitering on the way, telling
    herself that the Vicomte awaiting her would be opening the window,
    listening at the door, sitting down, getting up, and, since she
    had forbidden him to smoke on the days of her visits, throwing
    desperate glances at the cigarette-box. De Maupassant's characters
    think in pictures of physical action. People do so in real life.

    The heroine sits in a square watching children, and reflects,
    always in the concrete, how much the Vicomte is going to bore
    her, and on the terrible danger of rendezvous, and so on, making
    pictures all the time. At last, when she is three-quarters of an
    hour late, she gets up and sets out for his rooms. She has not gone
    ten steps before she meets a diplomatic baron, of whose character
    in her eyes de Maupassant has been careful to let us have a hint
    beforehand. He asks her, after the usual politenesses, to come and
    see his Japanese collections. He is an adroit person this baron.
    He does not make love to her. He laughs at her. He ends, after a
    delightful little dialogue, in half hurrying, half frightening her
    into a cab. They have scarcely started when she cries out that
    she has forgotten that she had promised her husband to invite the
    Vicomte to dinner. They stop at a post office. The baron goes
    in and gets her a telegram card. She writes on it in pencil--it
    would be vandalism to spoil the message by translating it from the
    French--she writes:

    'Mon cher ami, je suis très souffrante; j'ai une névralgie
    atroce qui me tient au lit. Impossible sortir. Venez diner
    demain soir pour que je me fasse pardonner.


    She licks the edge, closes it carefully, writes the Vicomte's
    address, and then, handing it to the baron, 'Now, will you be so
    good as to drop this in the box for telegrams.'

    There de Maupassant ends, without comment of any kind. His stories
    have always 'the look of a gentleman,' and know how to move, when
    to stop, what to put in and what to leave out. They are impersonal,
    but not more impersonal than Mérimée's. There is a man behind them,
    and in contradistinction to the school of writers with whom he has
    been confounded, he does not blink the fact, but obeys Flaubert's
    maxim, allowing his presence to be felt but keeping himself
    invisible. De Maupassant, the pupil of Flaubert, makes even clearer
    than his master the intimate connection between those apparently
    hostile things, Romanticism and Realism. Lesser and coarser minds
    may have needed the stimulus of a revolt when none was; but the
    great men on the heights knew that the suns of dawn and sunset were
    the same.

    De Maupassant's position in this book is commensurate neither with
    his genius nor with what I should like to say of him, and hope
    to write in another place. I had wished my book to end with the
    Romantic Movement, and so with Flaubert, who seems to me to mark
    its ultimate development without a change of name. De Maupassant is
    here only to show how direct is the descent of the least exuberant
    of modern story-telling from the Romanticism that made possible
    the work of Chateaubriand, Hugo, or Balzac. His true position is
    in a book that should begin with Flaubert and end with some great
    writer of to-morrow, whose work should show by what alchemy the
    story-telling of to-day will be changed into that of the future.

[Illustration: GUY DE MAUPASSANT]



MY table is covered with a green cloth, and on it, under the lamplight,
are two bowls of roses. One is full of the rich garden flowers, whose
hundred folded petals hold in their depths the shadows of their
colourings--cream, crimson, and the rose and orange of an autumn
sunset. In the other are three or four wild roses from the hedge on the
far side of the lane. I scarcely know which give me greater pleasure.
In comparing them I seem to be setting _Aucassin and Nicolete_ by the
side of _La Morte Amoureuse_. How many flowers must represent the
gradual growth of one into the other. How large a collection would be
necessary to illustrate every stage of the transformation of the simple
beauty of the wild blossoms into the luxuriant loveliness, majesty, and
variety of the roses in the opposite bowl. I have attempted such a task
in this book; not the impossible one of collecting every flower in any
way different from those that had opened before it, but of bringing
together a score or so to make the difference between first and last a
little less tantalising and obscure.

[Genius a stationary quality.]

I had thought I was tracing a progress of the art itself; but I no
longer think so. Century after century has laid its gift before the
story-teller, its gift of a form, an unworked vein, a point of view. He
has learnt to hold us with an episode, and also, evening after evening,
to keep us interested in the lives of a dozen different people whose
adventures in the pages of a book he makes no less actual than our
own. In this last century of the art we have seen men looking back to
all the ages before them, and bringing into modern story-telling the
finest qualities of the most ancient, recreating it, and winning for
it the universal acknowledgment that is given to painting, poetry, or
music. Much seems to have been done, and yet, who would dare assign to
a modern story-teller, however excellent a craftsman, a place above
Boccaccio? Who says that his digressions make old Dan Chaucer out of
date? Art does not progress but in consciousness of its technique and
in breadth of power. Genius is a stationary quality. Techniques and the
conditions of production, qualified the one by the other, and modified
by genius, move past it side by side, like an endless procession before
a seated king. The works they carry between them are not to be judged
by their place in the cavalcade, but by the spirit before whom they
pass, who wakes from time to time to give them life and meaning.

None the less, there is a kind of imperfect contemporariness in the
art that lets the finest works of all times remain side by side to
be imitated or compared. And this power of survival that belongs to
works of genius accounts for two phenomena, which give genius itself a
spurious air of progress. The one is an ever clearer consciousness of
technique, the other an ever wider range of possibilities, both due to
the increasing number of works of art that are ready for comparison or

[The dissociation of forms.]

In the latter half of my book, and particularly in the chapters on
Poe, Mérimée, Hawthorne, and Flaubert, we have been partly busied in
remarking the later stages of self-conscious craftsmanship. There
remains to be discussed the dissociation of one form from another
that naturally accompanied this more observant technique. I want to
distinguish here between the short story, the _nouvelle_, and the
novel, which are not short, middle-sized, and lengthy specimens of the
same thing, but forms whose beauties are individual and distinct. They
demand quite different skills, and few men have excelled in more than
one of them. Before proceeding to closer definition, let me name an
example of each, to keep in our minds for purposes of reference while
considering their several moulds. Balzac's _Père Goriot_ is a novel;
Gautier's _La Morte Amoureuse_ is a _nouvelle_; de Maupassant's _La
Petite Ficelle_ is a short story.

[The novel.]

The novel was the first form to be used by men with a clear knowledge
of what it allowed them to do, and what it expected of them in return.
Smollett's is its simplest definition. 'A novel,' he says, 'is a large
diffused picture, comprehending the characters of life, disposed in
different groups and exhibited in various attitudes, for the purpose
of a uniform plan and general occurrence, to which every individual
figure is subservient.' It is, as near as may be, a piece of life,
and one of its similarities to ordinary existence is perhaps the
characteristic that best marks its difference from the _nouvelle_. The
novel contains at least one counterplot, the _nouvelle_ none. Life has
as many counterplots as it has actors, as many heroes and heroines as
play any part in it at all. No man is a hero to his valet, because in
that particular plot the valet happens to be a hero to himself. The
novelist does not attempt so equable a characterisation, but by telling
the adventures of more than one group of people, and by threading
their tales in and out through each other, he contrives to give a
conventional semblance of the intricate story-telling of life.[10]

[The _nouvelle_.]

The _nouvelle_ is a novel without a counterplot, and on a smaller
scale.[11] The latter quality is dependent on the former, since it
combats the difficulty of sustained attention, that the novel avoids
by continual change from one to another of its parallel stories. The
_nouvelle_ was with Boccaccio little more than a plot made actual by
the more important sentences of dialogue, and by concise sketching
of its principal scenes. It has now grown to be a most delicate and
delightful form, without breathlessness and without compression, its
aim of pure story being implicit in the manner of its telling. It is
differentiated from the short story, the advantage of whose brevity it
shares in a lesser degree, by the separate importance of its scenes,
which are not bound to be subjected so absolutely to its conclusion.
For example, the splendid cathedral scene in _La Morte Amoureuse_,
where, at the moment of ordination, a young priest is stricken with
passion for a courtesan, would be unjustifiable in a short story unless
it ended in the climax of the tale. The priest would have to die on
the steps of the altar, or the woman to kill herself at his feet as he
passed, a vowed celebate, down the cathedral aisle. The short story
must be a single melody ending with itself; the _nouvelle_ a piece of
music, the motive of whose opening bars, recurring again and again
throughout, is finally repeated with the increase in meaning that is
given it by the whole performance.

[The short story.]

The short story proper is in narrative prose what the short lyric is
in poetry. It is an episode, an event, a scene, a sentence, whose
importance is such that it allows nothing in the story that is not
directly concerned with its realisation. This is true of many specimens
of the _nouvelle_, but it is the essential rule of the short story.
Look at the end of _La Petite Ficelle_, or of any other of the _Contes_
of de Maupassant. 'Une 'tite ficelle ... une 'tite ficelle ... t'nez
la, voila, m'sieu le Maire.' 'A little bit of string ... a little bit
of string ... look, there it is, M. le Maire.' That sentence, repeated
by the dying man in his delirium, needs for the full pathos of its
effect every word of the story. From the first paragraph about an
ordinary market day, the accident of the old man picking up a piece of
string in a place where a purse had been lost, the false accusation,
and his guilt-seeming protestation of innocence, every detail in the
story is worked just so far as to make the reader's mind as ready and
sensitive as possible for the final infliction of those few words.
Keats once coated the inside of his mouth with cayenne pepper to feel
as keenly as he could 'the delicious coolness of claret.' The art
of the short story is just such a making ready for such a momentary

[The possibilities of narrative.]

Just as Time, with the clearer consciousness of technique, has made the
moulds of the art more markedly distinct, so it has given the artist
an infinite choice of amalgams with which to fill them. Although some
of the most delightful examples of narrative are still produced with
the old and worthy object of telling a tale to pass the time, although
there are still men who lay their mats upon the ground, squat down on
them, and keep their audiences happy by stories that demand no more
intellectual attention than the buzz of bees in the magnolia flowers;
yet, if we consider only those artists who have been discussed in
the preceding chapters, we perceive at once how many are the other
possibilities of narrative, and, if we examine the story-telling
of our own day, we shall find that most of them are illustrated in
contemporary practice.

Story-telling has grown into a means of expression with a gamut as
wide as that of poetry, which is as wide as that of humanity. 'It is
literature,' says Wilde, 'that shows us the body in its swiftness and
the soul in its unrest'; and the same art that helps us to laze away
a summer afternoon is a key that lets us into the hearts of men we
have never seen, and not infrequently opens our own to us, when, in
the bustle of existence, we have gone out and found ourselves unable
to return. It is a Gyges' ring with which, upon our finger, we can go
about the world and mingle in the business of men to whom we would not
bow, or who would not bow to us. It breaks the gold or iron collars of
our classes and sets each man free as a man to understand all other men
soever. It opens our eyes like Shelley's to see that life--

      'like a dome of many-coloured glass,
    Stains the white radiance of eternity.'

We become conscious of that radiance when, by this art made free of
time, we can dream the dreams of the Pharaohs, pray with the hermits
in the Thebaid, and send our hazardous guesses like seeking dogs into
the dim forests of futurity. Our eyes may fitly shine, and we become
as little children in brief resting-hours out of the grown-up world,
when this art makes those tints ours that we never knew, and sends us,
divested of our monotones, to choose among all the glittering colours
of mankind.

And if we are not listeners only, but have ourselves something to
fit with wings and to send out to find those men who will know the
whispering sound of its flight and take it to themselves, how much do
we not owe to this most manifold art of story-telling?

There is nothing that its pinions will not bear.


ABERCROMBIE, Lascelles, 263.

Addison, Joseph, 110, 113 _et seq._

_Ali Baba_, 89.

_Amadis of Gaul_, 52, 97.

_Anatomy of Melancholy, The_, 125.

Apuleius, 125.

_Arabian Nights, The_, 46, 100, 101, 231.

_Arcadia_, The Duchess of Pembroke's, 78, 83 _et seq._, 196.

_Arria Marcella_, 283.

_Astrée, l'_, 85.

_Atala_, 179 _et seq._

_Aucassin and Nicolete_, 11, 14, 15, 249, 305.

BACON, Sir Francis, 112.

Balzac, Honoré de, 188, 192, 206, 212, 217 _et seq._, 238, 288, 290,
292, 293, 301, 307.

Barye, Antoine Louis, 180, 202.

Baudelaire, Charles, 239.

Beardsley Aubrey, 88.

Behn, Mrs. Aphra, 70, 139.

Beowulf, 9.

_Bergers d'Arcadie, Les_, 87.

Bible, The, 128.

_Bickerstaff, Mr._, 19, 113 _et seq._

Boccaccio, Giovanni, 19, 20 _et seq._, 56, 82, 85, 125, 155, 225, 306,

Boigne, Mme. de, 275.

Boileau, Nicolas B.-Despreaux, 62.

Borrow, George, 59.

Botticelli, 25.

_Bouvard et Pécuchet_, 296, 297, 298.

Brantôme, 278.

Browne, Sir Thomas, 252.

Bunyan, John, 126 _et seq._, 140, 155, 257.

Burleigh, Lord, 74.

Burney, Fanny, 107, 112, 115, 119, 147 _et seq._

Burns, Robert, 193.

Burton, Robert, 125, 132, 134.

Byron, Lord, 176, 202.

_Caleb Williams_, 244, 245.

_Canterbury Tales, The_, 37 _et seq._

_Captain Singleton_, 58.

_Caractères_, La Bruyère's, 110.

_Castle of Otranto, The_, 189.

Cellini, Benvenuto, 157.

_Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, Les_, 46.

Cervantes, Miguel de C. Saavedra, 32, 60, 61, 78, 82, 85, 86, 93 _et
seq._, 126, 158, 162, 192, 257.

_Characters_, Sir Thomas Overbury's, 107 _et seq._

Charlemagne, 8, 9, 32, 52.

Chateaubriand, François René de, 175 _et seq._, 202, 208, 291, 301.

Chatterton, Thomas, 190.

Chaucer, Geoffrey, 19, 20, 21, 31 _et seq._, 107, 155, 156, 218, 306.

_Cinderella_, 89.

_Citizen of the World, The_, 148, 231.

_Clarissa Harlowe_, 140 _et seq._

Clopinel, Jean, 21 _et seq._

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 42.

_Colomba_, 275.

_Comédie Humaine, La_, 217 _et seq._, 292.

Congreve, William, 274.

_Contes Drôlatiques, Les_, 222.

Corelli, Miss, 25.

_Cranford_, 118, 168.

Cromwell, Oliver, 126.

_Cromwell_, 206.

_Dance of Death, The_, 262.

Dante, 155, 202.

_Decameron, The_, 19, 37 _et seq._, 156.

Defoe, Daniel, 114, 132 _et seq._, 140, 155.

Delacroix, Eugène, 202.

De Quincey, Thomas, 120.

Desvergnes, 26.

_Diana_, 85.

Dickens, Charles, 58.

_Don Quixote_, 10, 60, 82, 96 _et seq._, 158, 161, 257.

_Dream Children_, 120.

Dumas, Alexandre, 177, 188, 193, 201, 205, 206, 210 _et seq._, 261, 274.

EARLE, John, 109, 110, 111.

Edgeworth, Maria, 192, 217.

_Éducation Sentimentale, l'_, 294.

Edward III., 39.

_Elia_, 258.

Ellis, F. S., 22.

_Émaux et Camées_, 238.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 259.

_Emma_, 151.

_Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, An_, 244.

_Ethan Brand_, 263.

Euclid, 144, 146, 253.

_Eugénie Grandet_, 222, 225, 228.

_Euphues_, 67, 70 _et seq._, 139.

_Evelina_, 147 _et seq._, 168.

_Exemplary Novels, The_, 46, 94, 99, 101, 102, 126.

_Facino Cane_, 227.

_Faërie Queene, The_, 126, 128, 132.

_Femme au Collier de Velours, La_, 201.

_Ferdinand Count, Fathom_, 165.

Fiametta, 85.

Fielding, Henry, 71, 96, 107, 119, 147, 150, 152, 156 _et seq._, 187,
227, 235, 257, 293.

_Figaro, Le_, 238.

Flaubert, Gustave, 46, 133, 184, 195, 226, 287 _et seq._, 307.

Froissart, 191.

_Galatea_, 62, 78, 85, 94, 95, 98, 103.

Gautier, Théophile, 88, 177, 195, 202, 203, 205, 206, 208, 217, 221,
231 _et seq._, 251, 273, 277, 283, 288, 291, 307.

Gavin, Miss J., 102.

Gay, John, 42.

_Génie du Christianisme, Le_, 182.

_Gesta Romanorum, The_, 20, 34 _et seq._, 45, 128.

_Gil Blas_, 61, 62, 63, 161.

Godwin, William, 244 _et seq._

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 175, 232.

Goldsmith, Oliver, 42, 118 _et seq._, 148, 231.

Goya, Francisco Jose de G. y Lucientes, 262, 269.

_Grace Abounding_, 130.

Graham, R. B. Cunninghame, 121.

_Grammont Memoirs, The_, 278.

Greene, Robert, 67, 74, 126, 140.

_Griselda_, 46.

_Guardian, The_, 112.

Guest, Lady Charlotte, 13.

HAMILTON, Anthony, 278.

_Hardyknute, The Ballad of_, 191.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 134, 245, 257 _et seq._, 274, 283, 307, 308.

Hazlitt, William, 84, 111, 128, 193, 244, 245, 258, 273, 274, 278.

_Heptameron, The_, 51.

_Hernani_, 201, 205.

_Hérodias_, 296.

_Histoire mes de Bêtes, l'_, 193.

Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Wilhelm, 201, 225.

Hogarth, William, 156, 168.

Holbein, Hans, 262.

Holcroft, Thomas, 278.

Homer, 208.

Hosea, 128.

_House of the Seven Gables, The_, 263.

Hugo, Victor, 177, 183, 201, 203 _et seq._, 277, 295, 301.

_Humphry Clinker_, 51, 117, 147, 166 _et seq._

Hunt, Leigh, 119.

_Ivanhoe_, 196, 211.

_Jack Wilton_, or _The Unfortunate Traveller_, 60, 76.

_John Arnolfini and his Wife_, 41.

Johnson, Samuel, 118, 144, 175.

_Jonathan Wild_, 163 _et seq._

Jonson, Ben, 109.

_Joseph Andrews_, 156 _et seq._

_Journal of the Plague Year, A_, 134.

_Julie_, or _La Nouvelle Héloïse_, 147, 177.

KEATS, John, 42, 274, 310.

_King Lear_, 228.

Kit Kats, The, 115.

LA BRUYÈRE, Jean de, 63, 110, 111.

Lafontaine, Jean de, 42.

Lamb, Charles, 120, 133, 258, 260.

Lancret, Nicolas, 86.

_Lavengro_, 58, 59.

_Lazarillo de Tormes_, 51 _et seq._

_Lenore_, 251.

Leonardo da Vinci, 243, 248.

Le Sage, Alain René, 61 _et seq._, 160.

Lewis, Matthew Gregory, 166.

Lockhart, John Gibson, 101.

Lodge, Thomas, 73 _et seq._, 126.

Lorris, Guillaume de, 23.

_Love for Love_, 149.

Luna, H. de, 56.

Lyly, John, 70 _et seq._, 90, 139, 280.

MABBE, James, 126.

_Mabinogion, The_, 9, 11 _et seq._, 51, 73, 240.

Macpherson, James, 191.

_Madame Bovary_, 291 _et seq._

_Mademoiselle de Maupin_, 237.

Mahomet, 240.

Malory, Sir Thomas, 11, 61, 88.

_Manon Lescaut_, 147.

Margaret, Queen of Navarre, 51.

_Markheim_, 263.

Marot, Clément, 21, 156.

Masefield, John, 61.

_Masque of the Red Death, The_, 247.

_Mateo Falcone_, 277.

Maupassant, Guy de, 226, 235, 247, 291, 292, 298 _et seq._, 307.

Mérimée, Prosper, 46, 195, 203, 205, 206, 273 _et seq._, 292, 301, 307.

_Messe de l'Athée, La_, 225.

Meung, Jean de, 21 _et seq._, 31.

_Microcosmography, A_, 111.

Milton, John, 42.

_Misérables, Les_, 207.

_Modest Proposal, A_, 277.

Molière, Jean Baptiste Poquelin de, 61.

_Monk and Witch_, 262.

_Mona Lisa_, 249, 298.

Montaigne, Michel Eyquem Sieur de, 73, 112, 120, 208.

Montemôr, Jorge de, 85.

Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, Baron de, 208.

_Morte Amoureuse, La_, 305, 307, 309.

_Morte Darthur, The_, 8, 11, 32, 37, 51, 61, 240.

_Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist_, 120.

_Murders in the Rue Morgue, The_, 248.

_Mystery of Marie Roget, The_, 248.

NAPLES, Queen Joan of, 47.

Nash, Thomas, 60, 76.

Nevinson, H. W., 88.

_Newgate Calendar, The_, 132.

_New Testament, The_, 144.

_Northanger Abbey_, 189.

Northcote, James, 278.

_Notre Dame de Paris_, 204, 207.

_Nouvelle Héloïse, La_, or _Julie_, 147, 177.

ODIN, 8.

_Old Gentleman, The_, 119.

_Old Lady, The_, 120.

_Oliver Twist_, 58.

_Ossian_, 178, 179, 191.

_Oval Portrait, The_, 250.

Overbury, Sir Thomas, 108, 109, 110, 111.

_Pamela_, 140 _et seq._, 157.

_Pandosto_, 75, 76.

_Paradise Lost_, 298.

Pascal, 208.

Pater, Walter, 121.

_Paynter's Pallace_, 68.

Peacock, Thomas Love, 196.

_Penseur, Le_, 297.

Pepys, Samuel, 129.

_Percy and Duglas_, 84.

Percy, Bishop, 191.

_Père Goriot_, 228, 307.

_Petite Ficelle, La_, 307, 310.

_Petite Pallace of Petite his Pleasure, A_, 68 _et seq._

Petrarch, 38.

Pettie, George, 68, 69, 126.

_Philosophy of Composition, The_, 244, 246.

_Pilgrim's Progress_, 126 _et seq._, 257.

Pindar, 84.

Pippin, 8.

Pisan, Christine de, 25.

_Plea of Pan, The_, 88.

Poe, Edgar Allan, 46, 165, 195, 220, 243 _et seq._, 258, 259, 263, 281,

Poussin, Nicolas, 86, 87.

_Presse, La_, 238.

Prévost, l'Abbé, 147.

_Punch and Judy_, 96.

_Purloined Letter, The_, 248.

_Quentin Durward_, 208.

RABELAIS, François, 25, 96, 170, 208.

Radcliffe, Mrs., 166.

_Rappacini's Daughter_, 265.

_Raven, The_, 244, 253.

_Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, The_, 191, 218.

_Rendezvous, Le_, 299.

_René_, 179.

_Reynard the Fox_, 9, 54.

Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 243.

Richardson, Samuel, 71; 139 _et seq._, 155, 156, 157, 158, 167, 235.

_Robert the Devil, The Life of_, 19.

_Robinson Crusoe_, 114, 132.

_Rob Roy_, 192.

_Roderick Random_, 58, 160 _et seq._

Rodin, Auguste, 297.

_Romance of the Rose, The_, 19 _et seq._, 132.

_Roman Comique, Le_, 158.

_Roman de la Momie, Le_, 236.

_Romany Rye, The_, 59.

Ronsard, Pierre de, 21, 155, 158.

_Rosalynde_, 73, 75, 77, 78.

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 42, 44.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 147, 175, 177, 178, 179, 180.

SAINTE-BEUVE, Charles Augustin de, 208.

_St. Julien l'Hospitalier_, 291, 296.

_Salammbo_, 291, 294, 295, 298.

Santayana, George, 239.

Scarlatti, Alessandro, 196.

_Scarlet Letter, The_, 258, 266.

Scarron, Paul, 86, 170.

Schopenhauer, Arthur, 25.

Scott, Sir Walter, 42, 101, 187 _et seq._, 206, 208, 210, 211, 212,
217, 218, 219, 251.

Selkirk, Alexander, 134.

_Sense and Sensibility_, 150.

Shakespeare, William, 78, 96, 126, 155, 202.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 311.

Sidney, Sir Philip, 78, 83 _et seq._, 95, 140, 175, 191, 233.

_Sir Charles Grandison_, 140.

_Sir Roger de Coverley_, 117 _et seq._

Smollett, Tobias, 58, 71, 107, 119, 147, 150, 152, 156 _et seq._, 187,
261, 293, 308.

Somerset, The Countess of, 108.

Somerset, The Earl of, 108.

_Song of Roland, The_, 37.

_Spectator, The_, 112, 116, 117, 142, 148, 168.

Spenser, Edmund, 42, 126, 128.

Steele, Sir Richard, 113 _et seq._, 142, 148.

Stendhal, Henri Beyle who wrote as, 131, 261.

Sterne, Laurence, 169, 170.

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 243, 250.

_Summer is icumen in_, 15.

Swift, Dean, 113.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 71.

_Table Talk_, 258.

Taine, Hippolyte, 23, 278.

_Tatler, The_, 112, 113, 142, 148, 168.

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 42.

_Tentation de Saint Antoine, La_, 296, 297, 298.

Theocritus, 81.

Theophrastus, 63, 107, 110, 111.

Thomson, Hugh, 118.

Thoreau, Henry David, 258.

Tolstoy, Leo, Count, 261.

_Tom Jones_, 51, 58, 89, 144, 166, 257.

_Tristram Shandy_, 169, 170.

_Troilus and Criseyd_, 38, 47.

_Trois Contes_, 295.

_Trois Mousquetaires, Les_, 211, 212.

_Tulipe Noire, La_, 211.

_Un Cœur Simple_, 291, 295.

Urfé, Honoré d', 85.

VAN EYCK, Jan and Hubert, 41, 42.

_Vathek_, 231.

_Venus d'Ille, La_, 283.

_Vicar of Wakefield, The_, 86, 118, 119.

_Vingt Ans Après_, 212.

Virgil, 81, 86.

_Volsunga Saga, The_, 11, 240.

Voltaire, 202, 231, 274, 296, 297.

WAGNER, Wilhelm Richard, 196.

Walpole, Horace, 189.

Watteau Antoine, 61, 86.

_Waverley Novels, The_, 42, 187 _et seq._, 209.

Wilde, Oscar, 311.

_William Wilson_, 250.

Wordsworth, William, 42.

YEATS, William Butler, 236.

_Young Goodman Brown_, 267, 268.

ZOLA, Emile, 226.

Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty at the
Edinburgh University Press


[1] Translation by Lady Charlotte Guest, 1838.

[2] The quotations in this chapter are from the translation by Mr. F.
S. Ellis.

[3] It would be possible to trace an interesting history of narrative
in verse from Chaucer to our own day. But although the names of
Spenser, Milton, Lafontaine, Gay, Goldsmith, Keats, Coleridge,
Wordsworth, Tennyson, Rossetti, which with many others come instantly
to mind, show how various and suggestive such an essay might be, yet
the purpose of this book would hardly be served by its inclusion. It
would be more nearly concerned with the history of poetry than with
that of story-telling.

[4] By H. de Luna, 1620. The earliest known edition of _Lazarillo_ was
published in 1553.

[5] From a poem by John Masefield.

[6] There is another picture of the same name and subject in the Duke
of Devonshire's collection.

[7] It is worth noticing as an additional proof of the close connection
between the story in letters and the feminine novel that _Sense and
Sensibility_ was built out of an older tale that she actually wrote in
epistolary form.

[8] From a poem by Lascelles Abercrombie.

[9] This is repeated with a new purpose from the chapter on Origins.

[10] The distinction between novel and romance made in the chapter on
Hawthorne is one of material rather than of form. It is possible to use
the material of romance in the form of either novel, _nouvelle_, or
short story.

[11] The novelette is not the same as the _nouvelle_, but simply a
short novel as its name implies.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of Story-telling - Studies in the development of narrative" ***

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