History of English Literature (volume 3 of 3) (2024)

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{{Template}} History of English Literature Volume 3 (of 3)

CHAPTER SEVENTH


THE POETS


Section I--The Domination of the Classical Spirit


When we take in at one view the vast literary region in England,extending from the restoration of the Stuarts to the French Revolution,we perceive that all the productions, independently of the Englishcharacter, bear a classical impress, and that this impress, special tothis region, is met with neither in the preceding nor in the succeedingtime. This dominant form of thought is imposed on all writers fromWaller to Johnson, from Hobbes and Temple to Robertson and Hume: thereis an art to which they all aspire; the work of a hundred and fiftyyears, practice and theory, inventions and imitations, examples andcriticism, are employed in attaining it. They comprehend only one kindof beauty; they establish only the precepts which may produce it; theyrewrite, translate, and disfigure on its pattern the great works ofother ages; they carry it into all the different kinds of literature,and succeed or fail in them according as it is adapted to them or not.The sway of this style is so absolute that it is imposed on thegreatest, and condemns them to impotence when they would apply it beyondits domain. The possession of this style is so universal that it is metwith in the weakest authors, and raises them to the height of talentwhen they apply it in its domain.[1] This it is which brings toperfection prose, discourse, essay, dissertation, narration, and all theproductions which form part of conversation and eloquence. This it iswhich destroyed the old drama, debased the new, impoverished anddiverted poetry, produced a correct, agreeable, sensible, colorless, andnarrow-minded history. This spirit, common to England and France,impressed its form on an infinite diversity of literary works, so thatin its universal manifest ascendancy we cannot but recognize thepresence of one of those internal forces which bend and govern thecourse of human genius.

In no branch was it displayed more manifestly than in poetry, and at notime did it appear more clearly than in the reign of Queen Anne. Thepoets have just attained to the art which they had before dimlydiscerned. For sixty years they were approaching it; now they possessit, handle it; they use and exaggerate it. The style is at the same timefinished and artificial. Let us open the first that comes to hand,Parnell or Philips, Addison or Prior, Gay or Tickell, we find a certainturn of mind, versification, language. Let us pass to a second, the sameform reappears; we might say that they are imitations of one another.Let us go on to a third; the same diction, the same apostrophes, thesame fashion of arranging an epithet and rounding a period. Let us turnover the whole lot; with little individual differences, they seem to beall cast in the same mould; one is more epicurean, another more moral,another more biting; but a noble language, an oratorical pomp, aclassical correctness, reign throughout; the substantive is accompaniedby its adjective, its knight of honor; antithesis balances itssymmetrical architecture; the verb, as in Lucan or Statius, isdisplayed, flanked on each side by a noun decorated by an epithet; wewould say that it is of a uniform make, as if fabricated by a machine;we forget what it wishes to make known; we are tempted to count themeasure on our fingers; we know beforehand what poetical ornaments areto embellish it. There is a theatrical dressing, contrasts, allusions,mythological elegance, Greek or Latin quotations. There is a scholasticsolidity, sententious maxims, philosophic commonplaces, moraldevelopments, oratorical exactness. We might imagine ourselves to bebefore a family of plants; if the size, color, accessories, namesdiffer, the fundamental type does not vary; the stamens are of the samenumber, similarly inserted around similar pistils, above leaves arrangedon the same plan: a man who knows one knows all; there is a commonorganism and structure which involves the uniformity of the rest. If wereview the whole family we will doubtless find there some characteristicplant which displays the type in a clear light, whilst all around it andby degrees it alters, degenerates, and at last loses itself in thesurrounding families. So here we see classical art find its centre inthe neighbors of Pope, and above all in Pope himself, then, after beinghalf effaced, mingle with foreign elements until it disappears in thepoetry which succeeded it.[2]


Section II.--Alexander Pope.--His Education and Mode of Life


In 1688, at a linen draper's in Lombard Street, London, was born alittle, delicate, and sickly creature, by nature artificial, constitutedbeforehand for a studious existence, having no taste but for books, whofrom his early youth derived his whole pleasure from the contemplationof printed books. He copied the letters, and thus learned to write. Hepassed his infancy with them, and was a verse-maker as soon as he knewhow to speak. At the age of twelve he had written a little tragedy outof the Iliad, and an "Ode on Solitude." From thirteen to fifteen hecomposed a long epic of four thousand verses, called "Alcander." Foreight years shut up in a little house in Windsor Forest, he read all thebest critics, almost all the English, Latin, and French poets who had areputation, Homer, the Greek poets, and a few of the great ones in theoriginal, Tasso and Ariosto in translations, with such assiduity that henearly died from it. He did not search in them for passions, but style:there was never a more devoted adorer, never a more precocious master ofform. Already his taste showed itself: amongst all the English poets hisfavorite was Dryden, the least inspired and the most classical. Heperceived his career. He states that Mr. Walsh told him there was oneway left of excelling. "We have several great poets," he said, "but wenever had one great poet that was correct; and he advised me to makethat my study and aim."[3] He followed this advice, tried his hand intranslations of Ovid and Statius, and in recasting parts of old Chaucer.He appropriated all the poetic elegances and excellences, stored them upin his memory; he arranged in his head a complete dictionary of allhappy epithets, all ingenious turns of expression, all sonorous rhythmsby which a poet may exalt, render precise, illuminate an idea. He waslike those little musicians, infant prodigies, who, brought up at thepiano, suddenly acquire a marvellous touch, roll out scales, brilliantshakes, make the octaves vault with an agility and accuracy which driveoff the stage the most famous performers. At seventeen, becomingacquainted with old Wycherley, who was sixty-nine, he undertook, at hisrequest, to correct his poems, corrected them so well that the other wasat once charmed and mortified. Pope blotted out, added, recast, spokefrankly, and eliminated firmly. The author, in spite of himself, admiredthe corrections secretly, and tried openly to make light of them, untilat last his vanity, wounded at owing so much to so young a man, and atfinding a master in a scholar, ended by breaking off an intercourse bywhich he profited and suffered too much. For the scholar had at theoutset carried the art beyond any of the masters. At sixteen[4] hisPastorals bore witness to a correctness which no one had possessed, noteven Dryden. When people observed these choice words, these exquisitearrangements of melodious syllables, this science of division andrejection, this style so fluent and pure, these graceful images renderedstill more graceful by the diction, and all this artificial andmany-tinted garland of flowers which Pope called pastoral, they thoughtof the first eclogues of Vergil. Mr. Walsh declared "that it is notflattery at all to say that Vergil had written nothing so good at hisage."[5] When later they appeared in a volume, the public was dazzled."You have only displeased the critics," wrote Wycherley, "by pleasingthem too well."[6] The same year the poet of twenty-one finished his"Essay on Criticism," a sort of "Ars Poetica"; it is the kind of a poema man might write at the end of his career, when he has handled allmodes of writing and has grown gray in criticism; and in this subject,of which the treatment demands the experience of a whole literary life,he was at the first onset as ripe as Boileau.

What will this consummate musician, who begins by a treatise on harmony,make of his incomparable mechanism and his science as a teacher? It iswell to feel and think before, writing: a full source of living ideasand real passions is necessary to make a genuine poet, and in him, seenclosely, we find that everything, to his very person, is scanty andartificial; he was a dwarf, four feet high, contorted, hunchbacked,thin, valetudinarian, appearing, when he arrived at maturity, no longercapable of existing. He could not get up himself, a woman dressed him;he wore three pairs of stockings, drawn on one over the other, soslender were his legs; "when he rose, he was invested in bodices made ofstiff canvas, being scarce able to hold himself erect till they werelaced, and he then put on a flannel waistcoat;"[7] next came a sort offur doublet, for the least thing made him shiver; and lastly, a thicklinen shirt, very warm, with fine sleeves. Over all this he wore a blackgarment, a tye-wig, a little sword; thus equipped, he went and took hisplace at the table of his great friend, the Earl of Oxford. He was sosmall that he had to be raised on a chair of his own; so bald that whenhe had no company he covered his head with a velvet cap; so punctiliousand exacting that the footman evaded going his errands, and the Earl hadto discharge several "for their resolute refusal of his messages." Atdinner he ate too much; like a spoiled child, he would have highlyseasoned dishes, and thus "would oppress his stomach with repletion."When cordials were offered him, he got angry, but did not refuse them.He had all the appetite and whims of an old child, an old invalid, anold author, an old bachelor. We are prepared to find him whimsical andsusceptible. He often, without saying a word, and without any knowncause, quitted the house of Lord Oxford, and the footman had to gorepeatedly with messages to bring him back. If Lady Mary Wortley, hisformer poetical divinity, were unfortunately at table, there was nodining in peace; they would not fail to contradict, peck at each other,quarrel; and one or other would leave the room. He would be sent for andwould return, but he brought his hobbies back with him. He was as craftyand malignant as a nervous abortion, which he was; when he wantedanything, he dared not ask for it plainly; with hints and contrivancesof speech he induced people to mention it, to bring it forward, afterwhich he would make use of it. "Thus he teased Lord Orrery till heobtained a screen. He hardly drank tea without a stratagem. LadyBolingbroke used to say that 'he played the politician about cabbagesand turnips.'"[8]

The rest of his life is not much more noble. He wrote libels on the Dukeof Chandos, Aaron Hill, Lady Mary Wortley, and then lied or equivocatedto disavow them. He had an ugly liking for artifice, and played adisloyal trick on Lord Bolingbroke, his greatest friend. He was neverfrank, always acting a part; he aped the _blasé_ man, the impartialgreat artist, a contemner of the great, of kings, of poetry itself. Thetruth is, that he thought of nothing but his phrases, his author'sreputation, and "a little regard shown him by the Prince of Wales meltedhis obduracy."[9] When we read his correspondence, we find that thereare not more than about ten genuine letters; he is a literary man evenin the moments when he opened his heart; his confidences are formalrhetoric; and when he conversed with a friend he was always thinking ofthe printer, who would give his effusions to the public. Through thisvery pretentiousness he grew awkward, and unmasked himself. One dayRichardson and his father, the painter, found him reading a pamphletthat Cibber had written against him. "These things," said Pope, "are mydiversion. They sat by him while he perused it, and saw his featureswrithing with anguish; and young Richardson said to his father, whenthey returned, that he hoped to be preserved from such diversion."[10]After all, his great cause for writing was literary vanity: he wished tobe admired, and nothing more; his life was that of a coquette studyingherself in a glass, painting her face, smirking, receiving complimentsfrom anyone, yet declaring that compliments weary her, that paint makesher dirty, and that she has a horror of affectation. Pope has no dash,no naturalness or manliness; he has no more ideas than passions; atleast such ideas as a man feels it necessary to write, and in connectionwith which we lose thought of words. Religious controversy and partyquarrels resound about him; he studiously avoids them; amidst all theseshocks his chief care is to preserve his writing-desk; he is a verylukewarm Catholic, all but a deist, not well aware of what deism means;and on this point he borrows from Bolingbroke ideas whose scope hecannot see, but which he thinks suitable to be put into verse. In aletter to Atterbury (1717) he says: "In my politics, I think no furtherthan how to prefer the peace of my life, in any government under which Ilive; nor in my religion, than to preserve the peace of my conscience inany church with which I communicate. I hope, all churches andgovernments are so far of God, as they are rightly understood andrightly administered; and where they err, or may be wrong, I leave it toGod alone to mend or reform them."[11] Such convictions do not torment aman. In reality, he did not write because he thought, but thought inorder to write; manuscript and the noise it makes in the world, whenprinted, was his idol; if he wrote verses, it was merely for the sake ofdoing so.

This is the best training for versification. Pope gave himself up to it;he was a man of leisure, his father had left him a very fair fortune; heearned a large sum by translating the Iliad and Odyssey; he had anincome of eight hundred pounds. He was never in the pay of a publisher;he looked from an eminence upon the beggarly authors grovelling in theirfree and easy life, and, calmly seated in his pretty house atTwickenham, in his grotto, or in the fine garden which he had himselfplanned, he could polish and file his writings as long as he chose. Hedid not fail to do so. When he had written a work he kept it at leasttwo years in his desk. From time to time he re-read and corrected it;took counsel of his friends, then of his enemies; no new edition wasunamended; he altered without wearying. His first outburst became sorecast and transformed that it could not be recognized in the finalcopy. The pieces which seem least retouched are two satires, and Dodsleysays that in the manuscript "almost every line was written twice over; Igave him a clean transcript, which he sent some time afterwards to mefor the press, with almost every line written twice over a secondtime."[12] Dr. Johnson says: "From his attention to poetry he was neverdiverted. If conversation offered anything that could be improved, hecommitted it to paper; if a thought, or perhaps an expression, morehappy than was common, rose to his mind, he was careful to write it; anindependent distich was preserved for an opportunity of insertion; andsome little fragments have been found containing lines, or parts oflines, to be wrought upon at some other time."[13] His writing-desk hadto be placed upon his bed before he rose. "Lord Oxford's domesticrelated that, in the dreadful winter of 1740, she was called from herbed by him four times in one night to supply him with paper, lest heshould lose a thought."[14] Swift complains that he was never at leisurefor conversation, because he "had always some poetical scheme in hishead." Thus nothing was lacking for the attainment of perfectexpression; the practice of a lifetime, the study of every model, anindependent fortune, the company of men of the world, an immunity fromturbulent passions, the absence of dominant ideas, the facility of aninfant prodigy, the assiduity of an old man of letters. It seems asthough he were expressly endowed with faults and good qualities, hereenriched, there impoverished, at once narrowed and developed, to set inrelief the classical form by the diminution of the classical depth, topresent the public with a model of a worn-out and accomplished art, toreduce to a brilliant and rigid crystal the flowing sap of an expiringliterature.


Section III.--Eloisa to Abelard.--The Rape of the Lock.--The Dunciad


It is a great misfortune for a poet to know his business too well; hispoetry then shows the man of business, and not the poet. I wish I couldadmire Pope's works of imagination, but I cannot. In vain I read thetestimony of his contemporaries, and even that of the moderns, andrepeat to myself that in his time he was the prince of poets; that hisepistle from "Eloisa to Abelard" was received with a cry of enthusiasm;that a man could not then imagine a finer expression of true passion;that to this very day it is learned by heart, like the speech ofHippolyte in the "Phèdre" of Racine; that Johnson, the great literarycritic, ranked it amongst "the happiest productions of the human mind";that Lord Byron himself preferred it to the celebrated ode of Sappho. Iread it again and am bored; this is not as it ought to be; but, in spiteof myself, I yawn, and I open the original letters of Eloisa to find thecause of my weariness.

Doubtless poor Eloisa is a barbarian, nay worse, a literary barbarian;she puts down learned quotations, arguments, tries to imitate Cicero, toarrange her periods; she could not do otherwise, writing a deadlanguage, with an acquired style; perhaps the reader would do as much ifhe were obliged to write to his mistress in Latin.[15] But how does truefeeling pierce through the scholastic form! "Thou art the only one whocan sadden me, console me, make me joyful.... I should be happier andprouder to be called thy mistress than to be the lawful wife of anemperor.... Never, God knows, have I wished for anything else in theebut thee. It is thee alone whom I desire; nothing that thou couldstgive; not marriage, not dowry: I never dreamt of doing my own pleasureor my own will, thou knowest it, but thine." Then come passionate words,genuine love words,[16] then the unrestrained words of a penitent, whosays and dares everything, because she wishes to be cured, to show herwound to her confessor, even her most shameful wound; perhaps alsobecause in extreme agony, as in child-birth, modesty vanishes. All thisis very crude, very rude; Pope has more wit than she, and how he enduesher with it! In his hands she becomes an academician, and her letter isa repertory of literary effects; portraits and descriptions; she paintsto Abelard the nunnery and the landscape:


"In these lone walls (their days eternal bound),These moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crowned,Where awful arches make a noon-day night,And the dim windows shed a solemn light....The wandering streams that shine between the hills,The grots that echo to the tinkling rills,The dying gales that pant upon the trees,The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze."[17]


Declamation and commonplace: she sends Abelard discourses on love andthe liberty which it demands, on the cloister and the peaceful lifewhich it affords, on writing and the advantages of the post.[18]Antitheses and contrasts, she forwards them to Abelard by the dozen; acontrast between the convent illuminated by his presence and desolate byhis absence, between the tranquillity of the pure nun and the anxiety ofthe sinful nun, between the dream of human happiness and the dream ofdivine happiness. In fine, it is a _bravura_, with contrasts of _forte_and _piano_, variations and change of key. Eloisa makes the most of hertheme, and sets herself to crowd into it all the powers and effects ofher voice. Admire the _crescendo_, the shakes by which she ends herbrilliant _morceaux_; to transport the hearer at the close of theportrait of the innocent nun, she says:


"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!The world forgetting, by the world forgot:Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!Each prayer accepted and each wish resigned;Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;'Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep;'Desires composed, affections ever even;Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heav'n.Grace shines around her with serenest beams,And whisp'ring angels prompt her golden dreams.For her, th' unfading rose of Eden blooms,And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes,For her the spouse prepares the bridal ring,For her white virgins hymeneals sing,To sounds of heavenly harps she dies away,And melts in visions of eternal day."[19]


Observe the noise of the big drum; I mean the grand contrivances, for somay be called all that a person says who wishes to rave and cannot; forinstance, speaking to rocks and walls, praying the absent Abelard tocome, fancying him present, apostrophizing grace and virtue:


"O grace serene! O virtue heavenly fair!Divine oblivion of low-thoughted care!Fresh-blooming hope, gay daughter of the sky!And faith, our early immortality!Enter, each mild, each amicable guest;Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest!"[20]


Hearing the dead speaking to her, telling the angels:


"I come! I come! Prepare your roseate bow'rs,Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flow'rs."[21]


This is the final symphony with modulations of the celestial organ. Ipresume that Abelard cried "Bravo" when he heard it.

But this is nothing in comparison with the art exhibited by her in everyphrase. She puts ornaments into every line. Imagine an Italian singertrilling every word. O what pretty sounds! how nimbly and brilliantlythey roll along, how clear, and always exquisite! it is impossible toreproduce them in another tongue. Now it is a happy image, filling up awhole phrase; now a series of verses, full of symmetrical contrasts; twoordinary words set in relief by strange conjunction; an imitative rhythmcompleting the impression of the mind by the emotion of the senses; themost elegant comparisons and the most picturesque epithets; the closeststyle and the most ornate. Except truth, nothing is wanting. Eloisa isworse than a singer, she is an author: we look at the back of herepistle to Abelard to see if she has not written on it "For Press."

Pope has somewhere given a receipt for making an epic poem: take astorm, a dream, five or six battles, three sacrifices, funeral games, adozen gods in two divisions; shake together until there rises the frothof a lofty style. We have just seen the receipt for making alove-letter. This kind of poetry resembles cookery; neither heart norgenius is necessary to produce it, but a light hand, an attentive eye,and a cultivated taste.

It seems that this kind of talent is made for light verses. It isfactitious, and so are the manners of society. To make pretty speeches,to prattle with ladies, to speak elegantly of their chocolate or theirfan, to jeer at fools, to criticise the last tragedy, to be good atinsipid compliments or epigrams--this, it seems, is the naturalemployment of a mind such as this, but slightly impassioned, very vain,a perfect master of style, as careful of his verses as a dandy of hiscoat. Pope wrote the "Rape of the Lock" and the "Dunciad"; hiscontemporaries went into ecstasies about the charm of his badinage andthe precision of his raillery, and believed that he had surpassedBoileau's "Lutrin" and "Satires."

That may well be; at all events the praise would be scanty. In Boileauthere are, as a rule, two kinds of verse, as was said by a man ofwit;[22] most of which seem to be those of a sharp schoolboy in thethird class, the rest those of a good schoolboy in the upper division.Boileau wrote the second verse before the first: this is why once out offour times his first verse only serves to stop a gap. Doubtless Pope hada more brilliant and adroit mechanism; but this faculty of hand does notsuffice to make a poet, even a poet of the boudoir. There, as elsewhere,we need genuine passion, or at least genuine taste. When we wish topaint the pretty nothings of conversation and the world, we must atleast like them. We can only paint well what we love.[23] Is there nocharming grace in the prattle and frivolity of a pretty woman? Painters,like Watteau, have spent their lives in feasting on them. A lock of hairraised by the wind, a pretty arm peeping from underneath a great deal oflace, a stooping figure making the bright folds of a petticoat sparkle,and the arch half-engaging, half-mocking smile of the poutingmouth--these are enough to transport an artist. Certainly he will beaware of the influence of the toilet, as much so as the lady herself,and will never scold her for passing three hours at her glass; there ispoetry in elegance. He enjoys it as a picture; delights in therefinements of worldly life, the grand quiet lines of the lofty,wainscoted drawing-room, the soft reflection of the high mirrors andglittering porcelain, the careless gayety of the little sculpturedLoves, locked in embrace above the mantelpiece, the silvery sound ofthese soft voices, buzzing scandal round the tea-table. Pope hardly ifat all rejoices in them; he is satirical and English amidst this amiableluxury, introduced from France. Although he is the most worldly ofEnglish poets, he is not enough so: nor is the society around him. LadyMary Wortley Montague, who was in her time "the pink of fashion" and whois compared to Mme de Sévigné, has such a serious mind, such a decidedstyle, such a precise judgment, and such a harsh sarcasm, that we wouldtake her for a man. In reality the English, even Lord Chesterfield andHorace Walpole, never mastered the true tone of the _salon._ Pope islike them; his voice is out of tune, and then suddenly becomes biting.Every instant a harsh mockery blots out the graceful images which hebegan to awaken. Consider "The Rape of the Lock" as a whole; it is abuffoonery in a noble style. Lord Petre had cut off a lock of hair of afashionable beauty, Mrs. Arabella Fermor; out of this trifle the problemis to make an epic, with invocations, apostrophes, the interventions ofsupernatural beings, and the rest of poetic mechanism; the solemnity ofstyle contrasts with the littleness of the events; we laugh at thesebickerings as at insects quarrelling.

Such has always been the case in England; whenever Englishmen wish torepresent social life, it is with a superficial and assumed politeness;at the bottom of their admiration there is scorn. Their insipidcompliments conceal a mental reservation; let us observe them well, andwe will see that they look upon a pretty, well-dressed, and coquettishwoman as a pink doll, fit to amuse people for half an hour by heroutward show. Pope dedicates his poem to Mrs. Arabella Fermor with everykind of compliment. The truth is, he is not polite; a Frenchwoman wouldhave sent him back his book, and advised him to learn manners; for onecommendation of her beauty she would find ten sarcasms upon herfrivolity. Is it very pleasant to have it said: "You have the prettiesteyes in the world, but you live in the pursuit of trifles"? Yet to thisall his homage is reduced.[24] His complimentary emphasis, hisdeclaration that the "ravish'd hair... adds new glory to the shiningsphere,"[25] all his stock of phrases is but a parade of gallantry whichbetrays indelicacy and coarseness. Will she


"Stain her honor, or her new brocade,Forget her pray'rs or miss a masquerade,Or lose her heart, or necklace at a ball?"[26]


No Frenchman of the eighteenth century would have imagined such acompliment. At most, that bearish Rousseau, that former lackey andGeneva moralist, might have delivered this disagreeable thrust. InEngland it was not found too rude. Mrs. Arabella Fermor was so pleasedwith the poem that she gave away copies of it. Clearly she was not hardto please, for she had heard much worse compliments. If we read in Swiftthe literal transcript of a fashionable conversation, we shall see thata woman of fashion of that time could endure much before she was angry.

But the strangest thing is, that this trifling is, for Frenchmen, atleast, no badinage at all. It is not at all like lightness or gayety.Dorat, Gresset, would have been stupefied and shocked by it. We remaincold under its most brilliant hits. Now and then at most a crack of thewhip arouses us, but not to laughter. These caricatures seem strange tous, but do not amuse. The wit is no wit: all is calculated, combined,artificially prepared; we expect flashes of lightning, but at the lastmoment they do not descend. Thus Lord Petre, to "implore propitiousheaven, and every power,"


"To Love an altar builtOf twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt.There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves,And all the trophies of his former loves;With tender billets-doux he lights the pyre,And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire."[27]


We remain disappointed, not seeing the comicality of the description. Wego on conscientiously, and in the picture of Melancholy and her palacefind figures much stranger:


"Here sighs a jar, and there a goose-pye talks;Men proved with child, as pow'rful fancy works,And maids turned bottles, call aloud for corks."[28]


We say to ourselves now that we are in China: that so far from Paris andVoltaire we must be surprised at nothing, that these folk have earsdifferent from ours, and that a Pekin mandarin vastly relisheskettle-music. Finally, we comprehend that, even in this correct age andthis artificial poetry, the old style of imagination exists; that it isnourished as before, by oddities and contrasts; and that taste, in spiteof all culture, will never become acclimatized; that incongruities, farfrom shocking, delight it; that it is insensible to French sweetness andrefinements; that it needs a succession of expressive figures,unexpected and grinning, to pass before it; that it prefers this coarsecarnival to delicate insinuations; that Pope belongs to his country, inspite of his classical polish and his studied elegances, and that hisunpleasant and vigorous fancy is akin to that of Swift.

We are now prepared and can enter upon his second poem, "The Dunciad."We need much self-command not to throw down this masterpiece as insipid,and even disgusting. Rarely has so much talent been spent to producegreater tedium. Pope wished to be avenged on his literary enemies, andsang of Dulness, the sublime goddess of literature, "daughter of Chaosand eternal Night,... gross as her sire, and as her mother grave,"[29]queen of hungry authors, who chooses for her son and favorite, firstTheobald and afterwards Cibber. There he is, a king, and to celebratehis accession she institutes public games in imitation of the ancients;first a race of booksellers, trying to seize a poet; then the struggleof the authors, who first vie with each other in braying, and then dashinto the Fleet-ditch filth; then the strife of critics, who have toundergo the reading of two voluminous authors, without fallingasleep.[30] Strange parodies, to be sure, and, in truth, not verystriking. Who is not deafened by these hackneyed and bald allegories,Dulness, poppies, mists, and Sleep? What if I entered into details, anddescribed the poetess offered for a prize, "with cow-like udders, andwith ox-like eyes"; if I related the plunges of the authors, thefloundering in the Fleet-ditch, the vilest sewer in the town; if Itranscribed all the extraordinary verses in which


"First he relates, how sinking to the chin,Smit with his mien, the mud-nymphs suck'd him in:How young Lutetia, softer than the down,Nigrina black, and Merdamante brown,Vied for his love in jetty bow'rs below."...[31]


I must stop. Swift alone might have seemed capable of writing somepassages, for instance, that on the fall of Curll. We might have excusedit in Swift; the extremity of despair, the rage of misanthropy, theapproach of madness, might have carried him to such excess. But Pope,who lived calm and admired in his villa, and who was only urged byliterary rancor! He can have had no nerves! How could a poet havedragged his talent wantonly through such images, and so constrained hisingeniously woven verses to receive such dirt? Picture a prettydrawing-room basket, destined only to contain flowers and fancy worksent down to the kitchen to be turned into a receptacle for filth. Infact, all the filth of literary life is here; and heaven knows what itthen was! In no age were hack-writers so beggarly and so vile. Poorfellows, like Richard Savage, who slept during one winter in the openair on the cinders of a glass manufactory, lived on what he received fora dedication, knew the inside of a prison, rarely dined, and drank atthe expense of his friends; pamphleteers, like Tutchin, who was soundlywhipped; plagiarists, like Ward, exposed in the pillory and pelted withrotten eggs and apples; courtesans, like Eliza Heywood, notorious by theshamelessness of their public confessions; bought journalists, hiredslanderers, venders of scandal and insults, half rogues, completeroisterers, and all the literary vermin which haunted thegambling-houses, the stews, the gin-cellars, and at a signal from abookseller, stung honest folk for a crownpiece. These villanies, thisfoul linen, the greasy coat six years old, the musty pudding, and therest, are to be found in Pope as in Hogarth, with English coarseness andprecision. This is their error, they are realists, even under theclassical wig; they do not disguise what is ugly and mean; they describethat ugliness and meanness with their exact outlines and distinguishingmarks; they do not clothe them in a fine cloak of general ideas; they donot cover them with the pretty innuendoes of society. This is the reasonwhy their satires are so harsh. Pope does not flog the dunces, he knocksthem down; his poem is hard and malicious; it is so much so that itbecomes clumsy; to add to the punishment of dunces, he begins at thedeluge, writes historical passages, represents at length the past,present, and future empire of Dullness, the library of Alexandria burnedby Omar, learning extinguished by the invasion of the barbarians and bythe superstition of the Middle Ages, the empire of stupidity whichextends over England and will swallow it up. What paving-stones to crushflies!


"See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,Mountains of casuistry heap'd o'er her head!Philosophy, that leaned on Heav'n before,Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,And Metaphysic calls for aid on sense!...Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,And unawares Morality expires.Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine,Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;Light dies before thy uncreating word:Thy hand, great anarch! lets the curtain fall;And universal darkness buries all."[32]


The last scene ends with noise, cymbals and trombones, crackers andfireworks. As for me, I carry away from this celebrated entertainmentonly the remembrance of a hubbub. Unwittingly I have counted the lights,I know the machinery, I have touched the toilsome stage property ofapparitions and allegories. I bid farewell to the scene-painter, themachinist, the manager of literary effects, and go elsewhere to find thepoet.


Section IV.--Pope's Descriptive Talent.--His Didactic Poems


However, a poet exists in Pope, and to discover him we have only to readhim by fragments; if the whole is, as a rule, wearisome or shocking, thedetails are admirable. It is so at the close of every literary age.Pliny the younger, and Seneca, so affected and so stiff, are charming insmall bits; each of their phrases, taken by itself, is a masterpiece;each verse in Pope is a masterpiece when taken alone. At this time, andafter a hundred years of culture, there is no movement, no object, noaction, which poets cannot describe. Every aspect of nature wasobserved; a sunrise, a landscape reflected in the water,[33] a breezeamid the foliage, and so forth. Ask Pope to paint in verse an eel, aperch, or a trout, he has the exact phrase ready; we might glean fromhim the contents of a "Gradus." He gives the features so exactly, thatat once we think we see the thing; he gives the expression so copiously,that our imagination, however obtuse, will end by seeing it. He markseverything in the flight of a pheasant:


"See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springsAnd mounts exulting on triumphant wings....Ah! what avail his glossy, varying dyes,His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes,The vivid green his shining plumes unfold,His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold?"[34]


He possesses the richest store of words to depict the sylphs whichflutter round his heroine, Belinda:


"But now secure the painted vessel glides,The sunbeams trembling on the floating tides:While melting music steals upon the sky,And softened sounds along the waters die;Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play,The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:Soft o'er the shrouds the aerial whispers breathe,That seemed but zephyrs to the train beneath.Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light.Loose to the wind their airy garment flew,Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew,Dipped in the richest tincture of the skies,Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes;While ev'ry beam new transient colors flings,Colors that change whene'er they wave their wings."[35]


Doubtless these are not Shakespeare's sylphs; but side by side with anatural and living rose, we may still look with pleasure on a flower ofdiamonds, as they come from the hand of the jeweller, a masterpiece ofart and patience, whose facets make the light glitter, and cast a showerof sparkles over the filagree foliage in which they are embedded. Ascore of times in a poem of Pope's we stop to look with wonder on someof these literary adornments. He feels so well in what the strong pointof his talent lies, that he abuses it; he delights to show his skill.What can be staler than a card party, or more repellent to poetry thanthe queen of spades or the king of hearts? Yet, doubtless for a wager,he has recorded in the "Rape of the Lock" a game of ombre; we follow it,hear it, recognize the dresses:


"Behold four kings in majesty revered,With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;And four fair queens whose hands sustain a flower,Th' expressive emblem of their softer power;Four knaves in garb succinct, a trusty band;Caps on their heads and halberts in their hand;And parti-coloured troops, a shining train,Drawn forth to combat on the velvet plain."[36]


We see the trumps, the cuts, the tricks, and instantly afterwards thecoffee, the china, the spoons, the fiery spirits (to wit, spirits ofwine); we have here in advance the modes and periphrases of Delille. Thecelebrated verses in which Delille at once employs and describesimitative harmony are translated from Pope.[37] It is an expiringpoetry, but poetry still: an ornament to put on a mantelpiece is aninferior work of art, but still it is a work of art. To descriptivetalent Pope unites oratorical talent. This art, proper to the classicalage, is the art of expressing ordinary general ideas. For a hundred andfifty years men of both the thinking countries, England and France,employed herein all their study. They seized those universal and limitedtruths, which, being situated between lofty philosophical abstractionsand petty sensible details, are the subject-matter of eloquence andrhetoric, and form what we nowadays call commonplaces. They arrangedthem in compartments; methodically developed them; made them obvious bygrouping and symmetry; disposed them in regular processions, which withdignity and majesty advanced well disciplined, and in a body. Theinfluence of this oratorical reason became so great that it was imposedon poetry itself. Buffon ends by saying, in praise of certain verses,that they are as fine as fine prose. In fact, poetry at this time becamea more affected prose subjected to rhyme. It was only a higher kind ofconversation and more select discourse. It is powerless when it isnecessary to paint or represent an action, when the need is to see andmake visible living passions, large genuine emotions, men of flesh andblood; it results only in college epics like the "Henriade," freezingodes and tragedies like those of Voltaire and Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, orthose of Addison, Thomson, Dr. Johnson, and the rest. It makes them upof dissertations, because it is capable of nothing else butdissertations. Here henceforth is its domain; and its final task is thedidactic poem, which is a dissertation in verse. Pope excelled in it,and his most perfect poems are those made up of precepts and arguments.Artifice in these is less shocking than elsewhere. A poem--I am wrong,essays like his upon "Criticism," on "Man" and the "Government ofProvidence," on the "Knowledge and Characters of Men," deserve to bewritten after reflection; they are a study, and almost a scientificmonograph. We may, we even ought, to weigh all the words, and verify allthe connections: art and attention are not superfluous, but necessary;the question concerns exact precepts and close arguments. In this Popeis incomparable. I do not think that there is in the world a versifiedprose like his; that of Boileau is not to be compared to it. Not thatit* ideas are very worthy of attention; we have worn them out, theyinterest us no longer. "The Essay on Criticism" resembles Boileau's"Epitres" and "L'Art Poétique," excellent works, no longer read but inclasses at school. It is a collection of very wise precepts, whose onlyfault is their being too true. To say that good taste is rare; that weought to reflect and learn before deciding; that the rules of art aredrawn from nature; that pride, ignorance, prejudice, partiality, envy,pervert our judgment; that a critic should be sincere, modest, polished,kindly--all these truths might then be discoveries, but they are so nolonger. I suppose that in the time of Pope, Dryden, and Boileau, men hadspecial need of setting their ideas in order, and of seeing them verydistinctly in very clear phrases. Now that this need is satisfied, ithas disappeared: we demand ideas, not arrangement of ideas; thepigeon-holes are manufactured, fill them. Pope was obliged to do it oncein the "Essay on Man," which is a sort of "Vicaire Savoyard,"[38] lessoriginal than the other. He shows that God made all for the best, thatman is limited in his capacity and ought not to judge God, that ourpassions and imperfections serve for the general good and for the endsof Providence, that happiness lies in virtue and submission to thedivine will. We recognize here a sort of deism and optimism, of whichthere was much at that time, borrowed, like those of Rousseau, from the"Théodicée" of Leibnitz,[39] but tempered, toned down, and arrangedfor the use of respectable people. The conception is not very lofty:this curtailed deity making his appearance at the beginning of theeighteenth century, is but a residuum: religion having disappeared, heremained at the bottom of the crucible; and the reasoners of the time,having no metaphysical inventiveness, kept him in their system to stop agap. In this state and at this place this deity resembles classic verse.He has an imposing appearance, is comprehended easily, is stripped ofpower, is the product of cold argumentative reason, and leaves thepeople who attend to him very much at ease; on all these accounts he isakin to an Alexandrine. This poor conception is all the more wretched inPope because it does not belong to him, for he is only accidentally aphilosopher; and to find matter for his poem, three or four systems,deformed and attenuated, are amalgamated in his work. He boasts ofhaving tempered them one with the other, and having "steered between theextremes."[40] The truth is, that he did not understand them, and thathe jumbles incongruous ideas at every step. There is a passage in which,to obtain an effect of style, he becomes a pantheist; moreover he isbombastic, and assumes the supercilious, imperious tone of a youngdoctor of theology. I find no individual invention except in his "MoralEssays"; in them is a theory of dominant passion which is worth reading.After all he went farther than Boileau, for instance, in the knowledgeof man. Psychology is indigenous in England; we meet it therethroughout, even in the least creative minds. It gives rise to thenovel, dispossesses philosophy, produces the essay, appears in thenewspapers, fills current literature, like those indigenous plants whichmultiply on every soil.

But if the ideas are mediocre, the art of expressing them is trulymarvellous: marvellous is the word. "I chose verse," says Pope in his"Design of an Essay on Man, because I found I could express them(ideas) more shortly this way than in prose itself." In fact, every wordis effective: every passage must be read slowly; every epithet is anepitome; a more condensed style was never written; and, on the otherhand, no one labored more skilfully in introducing philosophicalformulas into the current conversation of society. His maxims havebecome proverbs. I open his "Essay on Man" at random, and fall upon thebeginning of his second book. An orator, an author of the school ofBuffon, would be transported with admiration to see so many literarytreasures collected in so small a space:


"Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,The proper study of mankind is man.Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,A being darkly wise, and rudely great:With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,With too much weakness for the stoic's pride;He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;In doubt to deem himself a God or beast;In doubt his mind or body to prefer;Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;Alike in ignorance, his reason such,Whether he thinks too little or too much;Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;Still by himself abused or disabused;Created half to rise, and half to fall;Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;Sole judge of truth in endless error hurled,The glory, jest, and riddle of the world."[41]


The first verse epitomizes the whole of the preceding Epistle, and thesecond epitomizes the present Epistle, it is, as it were, a kind ofstaircase leading from one temple to another, regularly composed ofsymmetrical steps, so aptly disposed that from the first step we see ata glance the whole building we have left, and from the second the wholeedifice we are about to visit. Have we ever seen a finer entrance, orone more conformable to the rules which bid us unite our ideas, recallthem when developed, pre-announce them when not yet developed? But thisis not enough. After this brief announcement, which premises that he isabout to treat of human nature, a longer announcement is necessary, topaint beforehand, with the greatest possible splendor, this human natureof which he is about to treat. This is the proper oratorical exordium,like those which Bossuet places at the beginning of his funeralorations; a sort of elaborate portico to receive the audience on theirentrance, and prepare them for the magnificence of the temple. Theantitheses follow each other in couples like a succession of columns;thirteen couples form a suite; and the last is raised above the rest bya word, which concentrates and combines all. In other hands thisprolongation of the same form would become tedious; in Pope's itinterests us, so much variety is there in the arrangement, and theadornments. In one place the antithesis is comprised in a single line,in another it occupies two; now it is in the substantives, now in theadjectives and verbs; now only in the ideas, now it penetrates the soundand position of the words. In vain we see it reappear; we are notwearied, because each time it adds somewhat to our idea, and shows usthe object in a new light. This object itself may be abstract, obscure,unpleasant, opposed to poetry; the style spreads over it its own light;noble images borrowed from the grand and simple spectacles of natureillustrate and adorn it. For there is a classical architecture of ideasas well as of stones: the first, like the second, is a friend toclearness and regularity, majesty and calm; like the second, it wasinvented in Greece, transmitted through Rome to France, through Franceto England, and slightly altered in its passage. Of all the masters whohave practised it in England, Pope is the most skilled.

After all, is there anything in the lines just quoted but decoration?Translate them literally into prose, and of all those beauties thereremains not one. If the reader dissects Pope's arguments, he will hardlybe moved by them; he would instinctively think of Pascal's "Pensées,"and remark upon the astonishing difference between a versifier and aman. A good epitome, a good bit of style, well worked out, well written,he would say, and nothing further. Clearly the beauty of the versesarose from the difficulty overcome, the well-chosen sounds, thesymmetrical rhythms; this was all, and it was not much. A great writeris a man who, having passions, knows his dictionary and his grammar;Pope thoroughly knew his dictionary and his grammar, but stopped there.

People will say that this merit is small, and that I do not inspire themwith a desire to read Pope's verses. True; at least I do not counselthem to read many. I would add, however, by way of excuse, that there isa kind in which he succeeds, that his descriptive and oratorical talentsfind in portraiture matter which suits them, and that in this hefrequently approaches La Bruyère; that several of his portraits, thoseof Addison, Lord Hervey, Lord Wharton, the duch*ess of Marlborough, aremedals worthy of finding a place in the cabinets of the curious, and ofremaining in the archives of the human race; that when he chisels one ofthese heads, the comprehensive images, the unlooked-for connections ofwords, the sustained and multiplied contrasts, the perpetual andextraordinary conciseness, the incessant and increasing impulse of allthe strokes of eloquence brought to bear upon the same spot, stamp uponthe memory an impress which we never forget. It is better to repudiatethese partial apologies, and frankly to avow that, on the whole, thisgreat poet, the glory of his age, is wearisome--wearisome to us. "Awoman of forty," says Stendhal, "is only beautiful to those who haveloved her in their youth." The poor muse in question is not forty yearsold for us; she is a hundred and forty. Let us remember, when we wish tojudge her fairly, the time when we made French verses like our Latinverse. Taste became transformed an age ago, for the human mind haswheeled round; with the prospect the perspective has changed; we musttake this change of place into account. Nowadays we demand new ideas andbare sentiments; we care no longer for the clothing, we want the thing.Exordiums, transitions, peculiarities of style, elegances of expression,the whole literary wardrobe, is sent to the old-clothes shop; we onlykeep what is indispensable; we trouble ourselves no more aboutadornment, but about truth. The men of the preceding century were quitedifferent. This was seen when Pope translated the Iliad; it was theIliad written in the style of the "Henriade": by virtue of this travestythe public admired it. They would not have admired it in the simpleGreek guise; they only consented to see it in powder and ribbons. It wasthe costume of the time, and it was very necessary to put it on. Dr.Johnson, in his commercial and academical style, affirms even that thedemand for elegance had increased so much, that pure nature could nolonger be borne.

Good society and men of letters made a little world by themselves, whichhad been formed and refined after the manner and ideas of France. Theyadopted a correct and noble style at the same time as fashion and finemanners. They held by this style as by their coat; it was a matter ofpropriety or ceremony; there was an accepted and unalterable pattern;they could not change it without indecency or ridicule; to write, notaccording to the rules, especially in verse, effusively and naturally,would have been like showing one's self in the drawing-room in slippersand a dressing-gown. Their pleasure in reading verse was to try whetherthe pattern had been exactly followed, originality was only permitted indetails; a man might adjust here a lace, there some embroidered stripe,but he was bound scrupulously to preserve the conventional form, tobrush everything minutely, and never to appear without new gold lace andglossy broadcloth. The attention was only bestowed on refinements; amore elaborate braid, a more brilliant velvet, a feather more gracefullyarranged; to this were boldness and experiment reduced; the smallestincorrectness, the slightest incongruity, would have offended theireyes; they perfected the infinitely little. Men of letters acted likethese coquettes, for whom the superb goddesses of Michael Angelo andRubens are but milk-maids, but who utter a cry of pleasure at the sightof a ribbon at twenty francs a yard. A division, a displacing of verses,a metaphor delighted them, and this was all which could still charmthem. They went on day by day embroidering, bedizening, narrowing thebright classic robe, until at last the human mind, feeling fettered,tore it, cast it away, and began to move. Now that this robe is on theground the critics pick it up, hang it up in their museum of ancientcuriosities, so that everybody can see it, shake it, and try toconjecture from it the feelings of the fine lords and of the finespeakers who wore it.


Section V.--The Poets Prior, Gay and Thomson


It is not everything to have a beautiful dress, strongly sewn andfashionable; a man must be able to get into it easily. Reviewing thewhole train of the English poets of the eighteenth century, we perceivethat they do not easily get into the classical dress. Thisgold-embroidered jacket, which fits a Frenchman so well, hardly suitstheir figure; from time to time a too powerful, awkward movement makesrents in the sleeves and elsewhere. For instance, Matthew Prior seems atfirst sight to have all the qualities necessary to wear the jacket well;he has been an ambassador to the French court, and writes pretty Frenchimpromptus; he turns off with facility little jesting poems on a dinner,a lady; he is gallant, a man of society, a pleasant storyteller,epicurean, even sceptical like the courtiers of Charles II, that is tosay, as far as and including political roguery; in short, he is anaccomplished man of the world, as times went, with a correct and flowingstyle, having at command a light and a noble verse, and pulling,according to the rules of Bossu and Boileau, the string of mythologicalpuppets. With all this, we find him neither gay enough nor refinedenough. Bolingbroke called him wooden-faced, stubborn, and said therewas something Dutch in him. His manners smacked very strongly of thoseof Rochester, and the well-clad scamps whom the Restoration bequeathedto the Revolution. He took the first woman at hand, shut himself up withher for several days, drank hard, fell asleep, and let her make off withhis money and clothes. Amongst other drabs, ugly enough and alwaysdirty, he finished by keeping Elizabeth Cox, and all but married her;fortunately he died just in time. His style was like his manners. Whenhe tried to imitate La Fontaine's "Hans Carvel," he made it dull, andlengthened it; he could not be piquant, but he was biting; hisobscenities have a cynical harshness; his raillery is a satire; and inone of his poems, "To a Young Gentleman in Love," the lash becomesknock-down blow. On the other hand, he was not a common roisterer. Ofhis two principal poems, one on "Solomon" paraphrases and treats of theremark of Ecclesiastes, "All is vanity." From this picture we seeforthwith that we are in a Biblical land: such an idea would not thenhave occurred to a boon companion of the Duke of Orleans, Regent ofFrance. Solomon relates how he in vain "proposed his doubts to thelettered Rabbins," how he has been equally unfortunate in the hopes anddesires of love, the possession of power, and ends by trusting to an"omniscient Master, omnipresent King." Here we have English gloom andEnglish conclusions.[42] Moreover, under the rhetorical and uniformcomposition of his verses, we perceive warmth and passion, richpainting, a sort of magnificence, and the profusion of an overchargedimagination. The sap in England is always stronger than in France; thesensations there are deeper, and the thoughts more original. Prior'sother poem, very bold and philosophical, against conventional truths andpedantries, is a droll discourse on the seat of the soul, from whichVoltaire has taken many ideas and much foulness. The whole armory of thesceptic and materialist was built and furnished in England, when theFrench took to it. Voltaire has only selected and sharpened the arrows.This poem is also wholly written in a prosaic style, with a harshcommon-sense and a medical frankness, not to be terrified by the foulestabominations.[43] "Candide" and the "Earl of Chesterfield's Ears," byVoltaire, are more brilliant but not more genuine productions. On thewhole, with his coarseness, want of taste, prolixity, perspicacity,passion, there is something in this man not in accordance with classicalelegance. He goes beyond it or does not attain it.

This dissonance increases, and attentive eyes soon discover under theregular cloak a kind of energetic and precise imagination, ready tobreak through it. In this age lived Gay, a sort of La Fontaine, as nearLa Fontaine as an Englishman can be, that is, not very near, but atleast a kind and amiable good fellow, very sincere, very frank,strangely thoughtless, born to be duped, and a young man to the last.Swift said of him that he ought never to have lived more than twenty-twoyears. "In wit a man, simplicity a child," wrote Pope. He lived, like LaFontaine, at the expense of the great, travelled as much as he could attheir charge, lost his money in South Sea speculations, tried to get aplace at court, wrote fables full of humanity to form the heart of theDuke of Cumberland,[44] and ended as a beloved parasite and the domesticpoet of the Duke and duch*ess of Queensberry. He had little of the gravein his character, and neither many scruples nor manners. It was his sadlot, he said, "that he could get nothing from the court, whether hewrote for or against it." And he wrote his own epitaph:


"Life is a jest; and all things show it,I thought so once; but now I know it."[45]


This laughing, careless poet, to revenge himself on the minister, wrotethe "Beggars' Opera," the fiercest and dirtiest of caricatures. In thisOpera they cut the throat of men in place of scratching them; babeshandle the knife like the rest. Yet Gay was a laugher, but in a style ofhis own, or rather in that of his country. Seeing "certain young men ofinsipid delicacy,"[46] Ambrose Philips, for instance, who wrote elegantand tender pastorals, in the manner of Fontenelle, he amused himself byparodying and contradicting them, and in the "Shepherd's Week"introduced real rural manners into the metre and form of the visionarypoetry; "Thou wilt not find my shepherdesses idly piping on oaten reeds,but milking the kine, tying up the sheaves, or if the hogs are astray,driving them to their styes. My shepherd... sleepeth not under myrtleshades, but under a hedge, nor doth he vigilantly defend his flocks fromwolves, because there are none."[47] Fancy a shepherd of Theocritus orVergil, compelled to put on hobnailed shoes and the dress of aDevonshire cowherd; such an oddity would amuse us by the contrast of Hisperson and his garments. So here "The Magician, The Shepherd'sStruggle," are travestied in a modern guise. Listen to the song of thefirst shepherd, "Lobbin Clout":


"Leek to the Welch, to Dutchmen butter's dear,Of Irish swains potatoe is the chear;Oat for their feast, the Scotish shepherds grind,Swetet turnips are the food of Blouzelind.While she loves turnips, butter I'll despise,Nor leeks, nor oatmeal, nor potatoe prize."[48]


The other shepherd answers in the same metre; and the two continue verseafter verse, in the ancient manner, but now amidst turnips, strong beer,fat pigs, bespattered at will by modern country vulgarities and the dirtof a northern climate. Van Ostade and Tenies love these vulgar andclownish idyls; and in Gay, as well as with them, unvarnished andsensual drollery has its sway. The people of the north, who are greateaters, always liked country fairs. The vagaries of toss-pots andgossips, the grotesque outburst of the vulgar and animal mind, put theminto good humor. A man must be a genuine man of the world or an artist,a Frenchman or an Italian, to be disgusted with them. They are theproduct of the country, as well as meat and beer; let us try, in orderthat we may enjoy them, to forget wine, delicate fruits, to giveourselves blunted senses, to become in imagination compatriots of suchmen. We have become used to the pictures of these drunken boobies, whomLouis XIV called "baboons," to these red-faced cooks who clean fish, andto the like scenes. Let us get used to Gay; to his poem, "Trivia, or theArt of Walking the Streets of London"; to his advice as to dirtygutters, and shoes "with firm, well-hammer'd soles"; his description ofthe amours of the goddess Cloacina and a scavenger, whence sprang thelittle shoe-blacks. He is a lover of the real, has a preciseimagination, does not see objects wholesale and from a general point ofview, but singly, with all their outlines and surroundings, whateverthey may be, beautiful or ugly, dirty or clean. The other literary menact likewise, even the chief classical writers, including Pope. There isin Pope a minute description, with high-colored words, local details, inwhich comprehensive and characteristic features are stamped with such aliberal and sure hand, that we would take the author for a modernrealist, and would find in the work an historical document.[49] As toSwift, he is the bitterest positivist, and more so in poetry than inprose. Let us read his eclogue on "Strephon and Chloe," if we would knowhow far men can debase the noble poetic drapery. They make a dishcloutout of it, or dress clodhoppers in it; the Roman toga and Greek chlamysdo not suit these barbarians' shoulders. They are like those knights ofthe Middle Ages, who, when they had taken Constantinople, muffledthemselves for a joke in long Byzantine robes, and went riding throughthe streets in these disguises, dragging their embroidery in the gutter.

These men will do well, like the knights, to return to their manor, tothe country, the mud of their ditches, and the dunghill of theirfarm-yards. The less man is fitted for social life, the more he isfitted for solitary life. He enjoys the country the more for enjoyingthe world less. Englishmen have always been more feudal and more fond ofthe country than Frenchmen. Under Louis XIV and Louis XV the worstmisfortune for a nobleman was to go to his estate in the country andgrow rusty there; away from the smiles of the king and the fineconversation of Versailles, there was nothing left but to yawn and die.In England, in spite of artificial civilization and the charms of politesociety, the love of the chase and of bodily exercise, politicalinterests and the necessities of elections brought the nobles back totheir estates. And there their natural instincts returned. A sad andimpassioned man, naturally self-dependent, converses with objects; agrand gray sky, whereon the autumn mists slumber, a sudden burst ofsunshine lighting up a moist field, depress or excite him; inanimatethings seem to him instinct with life; and the faint light, which in themorning reddens the fringe of heaven, moves him as much as the smile ofa young girl at her first ball. Thus is genuine descriptive poetry born.It appears in Dryden, in Pope himself, even in the writers of elegantpastorals, and shines in Thomson's "Seasons." This poet, the son of aclergyman, and very poor, lived, like most of the literary men of thetime, on donations and literary subscriptions, on sinecures andpolitical pensions; for lack of money he did not marry; wrote tragedies,because tragedies brought in plenty of money; and ended by settling in acountry house, lying in bed till midday, indolent, contemplative, but asimple and honest man, affectionate and beloved. He saw and loved thecountry in its smallest details, not outwardly only, as SaintLambert,[50] his imitator; he made it his joy, his amusem*nt, hishabitual occupation; a gardener at heart, delighted to see the springarrive, happy to be able to add another field to his garden. He paintsall the little things, without being ashamed, for they interest him, andtakes pleasure in "the smell of the dairy." We hear him speak of the"insect armies," and "when the envenomed leaf begins to curl,"[51] andof the birds which, foreseeing the approaching rain, "streak their wingswith oil, to throw the lucid moisture trickling off."[52] He perceivesobjects so clearly that he makes them visible: we recognize the Englishlandscape, green and moist, half drowned in floating vapors, blottedhere and there by violet clouds, which burst in showers at the horizon,which they darken, but where the light is delicately dimmed by the fog,and the clear heavens show at intervals very bright and pure:


"Th' effusive SouthWarms the wide air, and o'er the void of heavenBreathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.[53]...Thus all day long the full-distended cloudsIndulge their genial stores, and well-showered earthIs deep enriched with vegetable life;Till in the western sky, the downward sunLooks out, effulgent, from amid the flushOf broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam.The rapid radiance instantaneous strikesThe illumined mountain; through the forest streams;Shakes on the floods; and in a yellow mist,Far smoking o'er the interminable plain,In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs around."[54]


This is emphatic, but it is also opulent. In this air and thisvegetation, in this imagination and this style, there is a heaping up,and, as it were, an impasto of effaced or sparkling tints; they are herethe glistening and lustrous robe of nature and art. We must see them inRubens--he is the painter and poet of the teeming and humid clime; butwe discover it also in others; and in this magnificence of Thomson, inthis exaggerated, luxuriant, grand coloring, we find occasionally therich palette of Rubens.


Section VI.--The Beginnings of the Modern Age


All this suits ill the classical embroidery. Thomson's visibleimitations of Vergil, his episodes inserted to fill up space, hisinvocations to spring, to the muse, to philosophy, all these pedanticrelics and conventionalisms, produce incongruity. But the contrast ismuch more marked in another way. The worldly artificial life, such asLouis XIV had made fashionable, began to weary Europe. It was foundmeagre and hollow; people grew tired of always acting, submitting toetiquette. They felt that gallantry is not love, nor madrigals poetry,nor amusem*nt happiness. They perceived that man is not an elegant doll,or a dandy the masterpiece of nature, and that there is a world beyondthe drawing-room. A Genevese plebeian (J. J. Rousseau), a Protestant anda recluse, whom religion, education, poverty, and genius had led morequickly and further than others, spoke out the public secret aloud; andit was thought that he had discovered or rediscovered the country,conscience, religion, the rights of man, and natural sentiments. Thenappeared a new personality, the idol and model of his time, the man offeeling who, by his grave character and liking for nature, contrastedwith the man at court. Doubtless the man of feeling has not escaped theinfluence of the places he has frequented. He is refined and insipid,melting at the sight of the young lambs nibbling the newly grown grass,blessing the little birds, who give a concert to celebrate theirhappiness. He is emphatic and wordy, writes tirades about sentiment,inveighs against the age, apostrophizes virtue, reason, truth, and theabstract divinities, which are engraved in delicate outline onfrontispieces. In spite of himself, he continues a man of thedrawing-room and the academy; after uttering sweet things to the ladies,he utters them to nature, and declaims in polished periods about theDeity. But after all, it is through him that the revolt againstclassical customs begins; and in this respect, he is more advanced inGermanic England than in Latin France. Thirty years before Rousseau,Thompson had expressed all Rousseau's sentiments, almost in the samestyle. Like him, he painted the country with sympathy and enthusiasm.Like him, he contrasted the golden age of primitive simplicity withmodern miseries and corruption. Like him, he exalted deep love, conjugaltenderness, the union of souls and perfect esteem animated by desire,paternal affection, and all domestic joys. Like him, he combatedtemporary frivolity, and compared the ancient republics with modernStates:


"Proofs of a people, whose heroic aimsSoared far above the little selfish sphereOf doubting modern life."[55]


Like Rousseau, he praised gravity, patriotism, liberty, virtue; rosefrom the spectacle of nature to the contemplation of God, and showed toman glimpses of immortal life beyond the tomb. Like him, in short, hemarred the sincerity of his emotion and the truth of his poetry bysentimental vapidities, by pastoral billing and cooing, and by such anabundance of epithets, personified abstractions, pompous invocations andoratorical tirades, that we perceive in him beforehand the false andornamental style of Thomas,[56] David,[57] and the first FrenchRevolution.

Other authors follow in the same track. The literature of that periodmight be called the library of the man of feeling. First there wasRichardson, the puritanic printer, with his Sir Charles Grandison, a manof principles, an accomplished model of a gentleman, a professor ofdecorum and morality, with a soul into the bargain. There is Sterne too,a refined and sickly blackguard, who, amidst his buffooneries andoddities, pauses to weep over an ass or an imaginary prisoner. There is,in particular, Henry Mackenzie, "the Man of Feeling," whose timid,delicate hero weeps five or six times a day; who grows consumptivethrough sensibility, dares not broach his love till at the point ofdeath, and dies in broaching it. Naturally, praise induces satire; andin the opposite camp we see Fielding, a valiant roisterer, and Sheridan,a brilliant but naughty fellow, the one with Blifil, the other withJoseph Surface, two hypocrites, especially the second, not coarse,red-faced, and smelling of the vestry, like Tartuffe, but worldly,well-clad, a fine talker, loftily serious, sad and gentle from excess oftenderness, who, with his hand on his heart and a tear in his eye,showers on the public his sentences and periods whilst he soils hisbrother's reputation and debauches his neighbor's wife. When a man offeeling has been thus created, he soon has an epic made for him. AScotsman, a man of wit, of too much wit, having published on his ownaccount an unsuccessful rhapsody, wished to recover his expenses,visited the mountains of his country, gathered picturesque images,collected fragments of legends, plastered over the whole an abundance ofeloquence and rhetoric, and created a Celtic Homer, Ossian, who withOscar, Malvina, and his whole troop, made the tour of Europe, and, about1830, ended by furnishing baptismal names for French _grisettes_ and_perruquiers._ Macpherson displayed to the world an imitation ofprimitive manners, not over-true, for the extreme rudeness of barbarianswould have shocked the people, but yet well enough preserved orportrayed to contrast with modern civilization, and persuade the publicthat they were looking upon pure nature. A keen sympathy with Scottishlandscape, so grand, so cold, so gloomy, rain on the hills, the birchtrembling to the wind, the mist of heaven and the vague musing of thesoul, so that every dreamer found there the emotions of his solitarywalks and his philosophic sadness; chivalric exploits and magnanimity,heroes who set out alone to engage an army, faithful virgins dying onthe tomb of their betrothed; an impassioned, colored style, affecting tobe abrupt, yet polished; able to charm a disciple of Rousseau by itswarmth and elegance: here was something to transport the youngenthusiasts of the time; civilized barbarians, scholarly lovers ofnature, dreaming of the delights of savage life, whilst they shook offthe powder which the hairdresser had left on their coats.

Yet this is not the course of the main current of poetry; it runs in thedirection of sentimental reflection; the greatest number of poems, andthose most sought after, are emotional dissertations. In fact, a man offeeling breaks out in excessive declamations. When he sees a cloud, hedreams of human nature and constructs a phrase. Hence at this time amongpoets, swarm the melting philosophers and the tearful academicians;Gray, the morose hermit of Cambridge, and Akenside, a noble thinker,both learned imitators of lofty Greek poetry; Beattie, a metaphysicalmoralist, with a young girl's nerves and an old maid's hobbies; theamiable and affectionate Goldsmith, who wrote the "Vicar of Wakefield,"the most charming of Protestant pastorals; poor Collins, a youngenthusiast, who was disgusted with life, would read nothing but theBible, went mad, was shut up in an asylum, and in his intervals ofliberty wandered in Chichester cathedral, accompanying the music withsobs and groans; Glover, Watts, Shenstone, Smart, and others. The titlesof their works sufficiently indicate their character. One writes a poemon "The Pleasures of Imagination," another odes on the "Passions" and on"Liberty"; one an "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" and a "Hymn toAdversity," another a poem on a "Deserted Village," and on the characterof surrounding civilizations (Goldsmith's "Traveller"); one a sort ofepic on "Thermopylæ," and the other the moral history of a youngminstrel. They were nearly all grave, spiritual men, impassioned fornoble ideas, with Christian aspirations or convictions, given tomeditating on man, inclined to melancholy, to description, invocation,lovers of abstraction and allegory, who, to attain greatness, willinglymounted on stilts. One of the least strict and most noted of them wasYoung, the author of "Night Thoughts," a clergyman and a courtier, who,having vainly attempted to enter Parliament, then to become a bishop,married, lost his wife and children, and made use of his misfortunes towrite meditations on "Life, Death, Immortality, Time, Friendship, TheChristian Triumph, Virtue's Apology, A Moral Survey of the NocturnalHeavens," and many other similar pieces. Doubtless there are brilliantflashes of imagination in his poems; seriousness and elevation are notwanting; we can even see that he aims at them; but we discover much morequickly that he makes the most of his grief, and strikes attitudes. Heexaggerates and declaims, studies effect and style, confuses Greek andChristian ideas. Fancy an unhappy father, who says:


"Silence and Darkness! Solemn sisters! TwinsFrom ancient Night! I to Day's soft-ey'd sister pay my court,...[58](Endymion's rival!) and her aid implore;Now first implor'd in succour to the Muse."[59]


And a few pages further on he invokes heaven and earth, when mentioningthe resurrection of the Saviour. And yet the sentiment is fresh andsincere. Is it not one of the greatest of modern ideas to put Christianphilosophy into verse? Young and his contemporaries say beforehand thatwhich Chateaubriand and Lamartine were to discover. The true, thefutile, all is here forty years earlier than in France. The angels andthe other celestial machinery long figured in England before appearingin Chateaubriand's "Génie du Christianisme" and the "Martyrs." Atalaand Chactas are of the same family as Malvina and Fingal. If Lamartineread Gray's odes and Akenside's reflections, he would find there themelancholy sweetness, the exquisite art, the fine arguments, and halfthe ideas of his own poetry. And nevertheless, near as they were to aliterary renovation, Englishmen did not yet attain it. In vain thefoundation was changed, the form remained. They did not shake off theclassical drapery; they write too well, they dare not be natural. Theyhave always a patent stock of fine suitable words, poetical elegances,where each of them thought himself bound to go and pick out his phrases.It boots them nothing to be impassioned or realistic; like Shenstone, todare to describe a schoolmistress, and the very part on which she whipsa young rascal; their simplicity is conscious, their frankness archaic,their emotion formal, their tears academical. Ever at the moment ofwriting, an august model starts up, a sort of schoolmaster, weighing oneach with his full weight, with all the weight which a hundred andtwenty years of literature can give his precepts. Their prose is alwaysthe slave of the period: Dr. Johnson, who was at once the La Harpe andthe Boileau of his age, explains and imposes on all the studied,balanced, irreproachable phrase; and classical ascendancy is still sostrong that it domineers over nascent history, the only kind of Englishliterature which was then European and original. Hume, Robertson, andGibbon, were almost French in their taste, language, education,conception of man. They relate like men of the world, cultivated andwell-informed, with charm and clearness, in a polished, rhythmic,sustained style. They show a liberal spirit, an unvaried moderation, animpartial reason. They banish from history all coarseness andtediousness. They write without fanaticism or prejudice. But, at thesame time, they attenuate human nature; comprehend neither barbarism norloftiness; paint revolutions and passions, as people might do who hadseen nothing but decked drawing-rooms and dusted libraries; they judgeenthusiasts with the coldness of chaplains or the smile of a sceptic;they blot out the salient features which distinguish humanphysiognomies; they cover all the harsh points of truth with a brilliantand uniform varnish. At last there started up an unfortunate Scotchpeasant (Burns), rebelling against the world, and in love, with theyearnings, lusts, greatness, and irrationality of modern genius. Now andthen, behind his plough, he lighted on genuine verses, verses such asHeine and Alfred de Musset have written in our own days. In those fewwords, combined after a new fashion, there was a revolution. Two hundrednew verses sufficed. The human mind turned on its hinges, and so didcivil society. When Roland, being made a minister, presented himselfbefore Louis XVI in a simple dress-coat and shoes without buckles, themaster of the ceremonies raised his hands to heaven, thinking that allwas lost. In reality, all was changed.


[Footnote 1: Paul Louis Courier (1772-1825) says, "a lady's maid, in LouisXIV's time, wrote better than the greatest of modern writers."]

[Footnote 2: The Rev. Whitwell Elwin, in his second volume of the worksof Alexander Pope, at the end of his introduction to "An Essay on Man,"p. 338, says: "M. Taine asserts that from the Restoration to the FrenchRevolution, from Waller to Johnson, from Hobbes and Temple to Robertsonand Hume, all our literature, both prose and verse, bears the impress ofclassic art. The mode, he says, culminated in the reign of Queen Anne,and Pope, he considers, was the extreme example of it.... Many of themost eminent authors who flourished between the English Restorationwrote in a style far removed from that which M. Taine calls classical...The verse differs like the prose, though in a less degree, and is not'of a uniform make, as if fabricated by a machine.'... Neither is thesubstance of the prose and verse, from the Restoration to the FrenchRevolution, an invariable common-sense mediocrity.... There is muchtruth in his (M. Taine's) view, that there was a growing tendency tocultivate style, and in some writers the art degenerated into theartificial."--Tr.]

[Footnote 3: R. Carruthers, "Life of Alexander Pope," 2d ed. 1857. ch. I.33.]

[Footnote 4: It is very doubtful whether Pope was not older than sixteenwhen he wrote the Pastorals. See on this subject, Pope's Works, ed.Elwin, London, 1871, I. 230 et passim.--Tr.]

[Footnote 5: Ibid. 233.]

[Footnote 6: Pope's Works, ed. Elwin, I. 242.]

[Footnote 7: Johnson, "Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets." 3vols. ed. Cunningham, 1854. A. Pope, III. 96.]

[Footnote 8: Johnson. "Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets"; A.Pope, III. 99.]

[Footnote 9: Boswell's "Life of Johnson," ch. LXXI. 670.]

[Footnote 10: Carruthers's "Life of Pope," ch. X. 377.]

[Footnote 11: Carruthers's "Life of Pope," ch. IV. 164.]

[Footnote 12: Johnson, "The Lives of the English Poets"; Alexander Pope,III. 114.]

[Footnote 13: Ibid. III. 111.]

[Footnote 14: Ibid. III. 105.]

[Footnote 15: Rev. W. Elwin, in his edition of Pope's Works, II. 224,says: "The authenticity of the Latin letters has usually been taken forgranted, but I have a strong belief that they are a forgery.... It isfar more likely that they are the fabrication of an unconcernedromancer, who speaks in the name of others with a latitude which people,not entirely degraded, would never adopt towards themselves. Thesuspicion is strengthened when the second party to the correspondence,the chief philosopher of his generation, exhibits the same exceptionaldepravity of taste."--Tr.]

[Footnote 16: "Vale, unice."]

[Footnote 17: Pope's Works, ed. Elwin; "Eloisa to Abelard," II. 245,lines 141-160.]

[Footnote 18: Ibid. II. 240, lines 51-58.

"Heav'n first taught letters for somewretch's aid,Some banished lover, or some captivemaid;They live, they speak, they breathewhat love inspires,Warm from the soul, and faithful toits fires,The virgin's wish without her fearsimpart,Excuse the blush, and pour out allthe heart,Speed the soft intercourse from soulto soul,And waft a sigh from Indus to thePole."]

[Footnote 19: Ibid. II. 249, lines 207-222.]

[Footnote 20: Ibid. 255, line 317.]

[Footnote 21: "Eloisa to Abelard," II. 254, lines 297-302.]

[Footnote 22: M. Guillaume Guizot.]

[Footnote 23: Goethe sings:"Liebe sei vor alien Dingen,Unser Thema, wenn wir singen."]

[Footnote 24: See his "Epistle of the Characters of Women." Accordingto Pope, this character is composed of love of pleasure and love of power.]

[Footnote 25: "Rape of the Lock," c. V. 181, line 141.]

[Footnote 26: Ibid. c. II. 153, lines 37-42.]

[Footnote 27: Ibid. c. IV. 169, line 52.]

[Footnote 28: Ibid. c. II. 156, line 107.]

[Footnote 29: Pope's Works, "The Dunciad," bk. I.]

[Footnote 30: Ibid. bk. II.]

[Footnote 31: "The Dunciad," bk. II.]

[Footnote 32: "The Dunciad," the end.]

[Footnote 33: Pope's Works, I. 352; "Windsor Forest," line 211."Oft in her glass the musing shepherdspiesThe headlong mountains and thedownward skies,The wat'ry landscape of the pendantwoods,And absent trees that tremble in thefloods."]

[Footnote 34: Ibid. I. 347; "Windsor Forest," lines 111-118.]

[Footnote 35: Ibid. II. 154; "The Rape of the Lock," c. 2, lines 47-68.]

[Footnote 36: Pope's Works, II. 160, "The Rape of the Lock," c. 3,160, lines 37-44.]

[Footnote 37: "Peins-moi légèrement l'amant légerde Flore,Qu'un doux ruisseau murmure envers plus doux encore."]

[Footnote 38: A tale of J. J. Rousseau, in which he tries to depicta philosophical clergyman.--Tr.]

[Footnote 39: The "Théodicée" was written in French, and published in1710.--Tr.]

[Footnote 40: These words are taken from the "Design of an Essay on Man."]

[Footnote 41: Pope's Works, II.; "An Essay on Man," Ep. II. 375,lines 1-18.]

[Footnote 42: Prior's Works, ed. Gilfillan, 1851:"In the remotest wood and lonely grot,Certain to meet that worst of evils,thought."]

[Footnote 43: "Alma," canto II. lines 937-978:"Your nicer Hottentots think meetWith guts and tripe to deck their feet;With downcast looks on Totta's legsThe ogling youth most humbly begs,She would not from his hopes removeAt once his breakfast and hislove....Before you see you smell your toast,And sweetest she who stinks themost."]

[Footnote 44: The same duke who was afterwards nicknamed "the Butcher."]

[Footnote 45: "Poems on Several Occasions," by Mr. John Gay, 1745, 2 vols.II. 141.]

[Footnote 46: Ibid. The Poem to "The Shepherd's Week." I. 6.]

[Footnote 47: Ibid. I. 66.]

[Footnote 48: Gay's Poems, "The Shepherd's Week"; first pastoral,"The Squabble," p. 80.]

[Footnote 49: "Epistle to Mrs. Blount, on Her Leaving the Town."]

[Footnote 50: A French pastoral writer (1717-1803), who wrote, inimitation of Thomson, "Les Saisons."--Tr.]

[Footnote 51: Poetical Works of T. Thomson, ed. R. Bell, 1855, 2 vols.;II. "Spring," 18.]

[Footnote 52: Ibid. 19.]

[Footnote 53: Ibid. 20.]

[Footnote 54: Ibid.]

[Footnote 55: Poetical Works of Thomson, "Liberty," part I. 102.]

[Footnote 56: Anthony Léonard Thomas (1732-1785) wrote memoirs andessays on the character of celebrated men in highly oratorical andpompous style.--Tr.]

[Footnote 57: See the paintings of David, called "Les Fêtes de laRévolution."]

[Footnote 58: Young's "Night Thoughts." Night the First: On Life, Death,and Immortality.]

[Footnote 59: Ibid. Night the Third: Narcissa.]


BOOK IV--MODERN LIFE


CHAPTER FIRST


IDEAS AND PRODUCTIONS


Section I--Rise of Democracy


On the eve of the nineteenth century the great modern revolution beganin Europe. The thinking public and the human mind changed, and whilstthese changes took place a new literature sprang up.

The preceding age had done its work. Perfect prose and classical styleput within reach of the most backward and the dullest minds the notionsof literature and the discoveries of science. Moderate monarchies andregular administrations had permitted the middle class to develop itselfunder the pompous aristocracy of the court, as useful plants may be seenshooting up beneath trees which serve for show and ornament. Theymultiply, grow, rise to the height of their rivals, envelop them intheir luxuriant growth, and obscure them by their dense clusters. A newworld, a world of citizens and plebeians, henceforth occupies theground, attracts the gaze, imposes its form on manners, stamps its imageon minds. Towards the close of the century a sudden concourse ofextraordinary events brings it all at once to the light, and sets it onan eminence unknown to any previous age. With the grand applications ofscience, democracy appears. The steam-engine and spinning-jenny createin England towns of from three hundred and fifty thousand to fivehundred thousand souls. The population is doubled in fifty years, andagriculture becomes so perfect that, in spite of this enormous increaseof mouths to be fed one-sixth of the inhabitants provide from the samesoil food for the rest; imports increase threefold, and even more; thetonnage of vessels increases sixfold, the exports sixfold and more.[60]Comfort, leisure, instruction, reading, travel, whatever had been theprivilege of a few, became the common property of the many. The risingtide of wealth raised the best of the poor to comfort, and the best ofthe well-to-do to opulence. The rising tide of civilization raised themass of the people to the rudiments of education, and the mass ofcitizens to complete education. In 1709 appeared the first dailynewspaper,[61] as big as a man's hand, which the editor did not know howto fill, and which, added to all the other papers, did not circulate tothe extent of three thousand numbers in the year. In 1844 the StampOffice showed that seventy-one million newspapers had been printedduring the past year, many as large as volumes, and containing as muchmatter. Artisans and townsfolk, enfranchised, enriched, having gained acompetence, left the low depths where they had been buried in theirnarrow parsimony, ignorance, and routine; they made their appearance onthe stage now, doffed their workman's and supernumerary's dress, assumedthe leading parts by a sudden irruption or a continuous progress, bydint of revolutions, with a prodigality of labor and genius, amidst vastwars, successively or simultaneously in America, France, the whole ofEurope, founding or destroying states, inventing or restoring sciences,conquering or acquiring political rights. They grew noble through theirgreat deeds, became the rivals, equals, conquerors of their masters;they need no longer imitate them, being heroes in their turn: like them,they can point to their crusades; like them, they have gained the rightof having a poetry; and like them, they will have a poetry.

In France, the land of precocious equality and completed revolutions, wemust observe this new character--the plebeian bent on getting on;Augereau, son of a green-grocer; Marceau, son of a lawyer; Murat, son ofan innkeeper; Ney, son of a cooper; Hoche, formerly a sergeant, who inhis tent, by night, read Condillac's "Traité des Sensations"; and chiefof all, that spare young man, with lank hair, hollow cheeks, eaten upwith ambition, his heart full of romantic fancies and grand roughhewnideas, who, a lieutenant for seven years, read twice through the wholestock of a bookseller at Valence, who about this time (1792) in Italy,though suffering from itch, had just destroyed five armies with a troopof barefooted heroes, and gave his government an account of hisvictories with all his faults of spelling and of French. He becamemaster, proclaimed himself the representative of the Revolution,declared "that a career is open to talent," and impelled others alongwith him in his enterprises. They follow him, because there is glory,and above all, advancement, to be won. "Two officers," says Stendhal,"commanded a battery at Talavera; a ball laid low the captain. 'So!'said the lieutenant, 'François is dead, I shall be captain. Not yet,'said François, who was only stunned, and got on his feet again." Thesetwo men were neither enemies nor wicked; on the contrary, they werecompanions and comrades; but the lieutenant wanted to rise a step. Suchwas the sentiment which provided men for the exploits and carnage of theEmpire, which caused the Revolution of 1830, and which now, in this vaststifling democracy, compels men to vie with each other in intrigues andlabor, genius and baseness, to get out of their primitive condition, andraise themselves to the summit, of which the possession is given up totheir rivalry or promised to their toil. The dominant character nowadaysis no longer the man of the drawing-room, whose position in society issettled and whose fortune is made: elegant and careless, with noemployment but to amuse himself and to please; who loves to converse,who is gallant, who passes his life in conversation with finely dressedladies, amidst the duties of society and the pleasures of the world: itis the man in a black coat who works alone in his room or rushes aboutin a cab to make friends and protectors; often envious, feeling himselfalways above or below his station in life, sometimes resigned, neversatisfied, but fertile in invention, not sparing his labor, finding thepicture of his blemishes and his strength in the drama of Victor Hugoand the novels of Balzac.[62]

This man has also other and greater cares. With the state of humansociety, the form of the human mind has changed. It changed by a naturaland irresistible development, like a flower growing into fruit, likefruit turning to seed. The mind renews the evolution which it hadalready performed in Alexandria, not as then in a deleteriousatmosphere, amidst the universal degradation of enslaved men, in theincreasing decadence of a disorganized society, amidst the anguish ofdespair and the mists of a dream; but lapt in a purifying atmosphere,amidst the visible progress of an improving society and the generalennobling of lofty and free men, amidst the proudest hopes, in thewholesome clearness of experimental sciences. The oratorical age whichdeclined, as it declined in Athens and Rome, grouped all ideas inbeautiful commodious compartments, whose subdivisions instantaneouslyled the gaze towards the object which they define, so that thenceforththe intellect could enter upon the loftiest conceptions, and seize theaggregate which it had not yet embraced. Isolated nations, French,English, Italians, Germans, drew near and became known to each otherthrough the upheaving of the first French Revolution and the wars of theEmpire, as formerly races divided from one another, Greeks, Syrians,Egyptians, Gauls, by the conquests of Alexander and the domination ofRome: so that henceforth each civilization, expanded by the collisionwith neighboring civilizations, can pass beyond its national limits, andmultiply its ideas by the commixture of the ideas of others. History andcriticism spring up as under the Ptolemies; and from all sides,throughout the universe, in all directions, they were engaged inresuscitating and explaining literatures, religions, manners,societies, philosophies: so that thenceforth the intellect, enfranchisedby the spectacle of past civilizations, can escape from the prejudicesof its century, as it has escaped from the prejudices of its country. Anew race, hitherto torpid, gave the signal: Germany communicated to thewhole of Europe the impetus to a revolution of ideas, as France to arevolution of manners. These simple folk who smoked and warmedthemselves by a stove, and seemed only fit to produce learned editions,became suddenly the promoters and leaders of human thought. No race hassuch a comprehensive mind; none is so well adapted for loftyspeculation. We see it in their language, so abstract, that away fromthe Rhine it seems an unintelligible jargon. And yet, thanks to thislanguage, they attained to superior ideas. For the specialty of thisrevolution, as of the Alexandrian revolution, was that the human mindbecame more capable of abstraction. They made, on a large scale, thesame step as the mathematicians when they pass from arithmetic toalgebra, and from ordinary calculation to the computation of theinfinite. They perceived that beyond the limited truths of theoratorical age, there were deeper unfoldings; they passed beyondDescartes and Locke; as the Alexandrians went beyond Plato andAristotle: they understood that a great operative architect, or roundand square atoms, were not causes; that fluids, molecules, and monadswere not forces; that a spiritual soul or a physiological secretionwould not account for thought. They sought religious sentiment beyonddogmas, poetic beauty beyond rules, critical truths beyond myths. Theydesired to grasp natural and moral powers as they are, and independentlyof the fictitious supports, to which their predecessors had attachedthem. All these supports, souls and atoms, all these fictions, fluidsand monads, all these conventions, rules of the beautiful and ofreligious symbols, all rigid classifications of things natural, humanand divine, faded away and vanished. Thenceforth they were nothing butfigures; they were only kept as an aid to the memory, and as auxiliariesof the mind; they served only provisionally, and as starting-points.Through a common movement along the whole line of human thought, causesdraw back into an abstract region, where philosophy had not been tosearch them out for eighteen centuries. Then appeared the disease of theage, the restlessness of Werther and Faust, very like that which in asimilar moment agitated men eighteen centuries ago; I mean discontentwith the present, the vague desire of a higher beauty and an idealhappiness, the painful aspiration for the infinite. Man suffered throughdoubt, yet he doubted; he tried to seize again his beliefs, they meltedin his hand: he would settle and rest in the doctrines and thesatisfactions which sufficed for his predecessors, and he does not findthem sufficient. He launches, like Faust, into anxious researchesthrough science and history, and judges them vain, dubious, good for menlike Wagner,[63] learned pedants and bibliomaniacs. It is the "beyond"he sighs for; he forebodes it through the formulas of science, the textsand confessions of the churches, through the amusem*nts of the world,the intoxication of love. A sublime truth exists behind coarseexperience and transmitted catechisms; a grand happiness exists beyondthe pleasures of society and family joys. Whether men are sceptical,resigned, or mystics, they have all caught a glimpse of or imagined it,from Goethe to Beethoven, from Schiller to Heine; they have risentowards it in order to stir up the whole swarm of their grand dreams;they will not be consoled from falling away from it; they have musedupon it, even during their deepest fall; they have instinctively dwelt,like their predecessors the Alexandrians and Christians, in thatsplendid invisible world in which, in ideal peace, slumber the creativeessences and powers; and the vehement aspiration of their heart hasdrawn from their sphere the elementary spirits, "film of flame, who flitand wave in eddying motion! birth and the grave, an infinite ocean, aweb ever growing, a life ever glowing, ply at Time's whizzing loom, andweave the vesture of God."[64]

Thus rises the modern man, impelled by two sentiments, one democratic,the other philosophic. From the shallows of his poverty and ignorance heexerts himself to rise, lifting the weight of established society andadmitted dogmas, disposed either to reform or to destroy them, and atonce generous and rebellious. These two currents from France and Germanyat this moment swept into England. The dykes there were so strong, theycould hardly force their way, entering more slowly than elsewhere, butentering nevertheless. They made for themselves a new channel betweenthe ancient barriers, and widened without bursting them, by a peacefuland slow transformation which continues till this day.


Section II.--Robert Burns


The new spirit broke out first in a Scottish peasant, Robert Burns: infact, the man and the circ*mstances were suitable; scarcely ever wasseen together more of misery and talent. He was born January, 1759, amidthe hoar frost of a Scottish winter, in a cottage of clay built by hisfather, a poor farmer of Ayrshire; a sad condition, a sad country, a sadlot. A part of the gable fell in a few days after his birth, and hismother was obliged to seek refuge with her child, in the middle of astorm, in a neighbor's house. It is hard to be born in Scotland; it isso cold there, that in Glasgow on a fine day in July, whilst the sun wasshining, I did not feel my overcoat too warm. The soil is wretched;there are many bare hills, where the harvest often fails. Burns'sfather, no longer young, having little more than his arms to dependupon, having taken his farm at too high a rent, burdened with sevenchildren, lived parsimoniously, or rather fasting, in solitude, to avoidtemptations to expense. "For several years butchers' meat was a thingunknown in the house." Robert went barefoot and bareheaded; at "the ageof thirteen he assisted in thrashing the crop of corn, and at fifteen hewas the principal laborer on the farm." The family did all the labor;they kept no servant, male or female. They had not much to eat, but theyworked hard. "This kind of life--the cheerless gloom of a hermit, withthe unceasing toil of a galley slave--brought me to my sixteenth year,"Burns says. His shoulders were bent, melancholy seized him; "almostevery evening he was constantly afflicted with a dull headache, which ata future period of his life was exchanged for a palpitation of theheart, and a threatening of fainting and suffocation in his bed in thenight-time. The anguish of mind which we felt," says his brother, "wasvery great." The father grew old; his gray head, careworn brow, temples"wearing thin and bare," his tall bent figure, bore witness to the griefand toil which had spent him. The factor wrote him insolent andthreatening letters which "set all the family in tears." There was arespite when the father changed his farm, but a lawsuit sprang upbetween him and the proprietor: "After three years' tossing and whirlingin the vortex of litigation, my father was just saved from the horrorsof a gaol by consumption, which after two years' promises kindly steppedin." In order to snatch something from the claws of the lawyers, the twosons were obliged to step in as creditors for arrears of wages. Withthis little sum they took another farm. Robert had seven pounds a yearfor his labor; for several years his whole expenses did not exceed thiswretched pittance; he had resolved to succeed by dint of abstinence andtoil: "I read farming books, I calculated crops, I attended markets;...but the first year, from unfortunately buying bad seed, the second froma late harvest, we lost half our crops." Troubles came apace; povertyalways engenders them. The master-mason Armour, whose daughter wasBurns's sweetheart, was said to contemplate prosecuting him, to obtain aguarantee for the support of his expected progeny, though he refused toaccept him as a son-in-law. Jean Armour abandoned him; he could not givehis name to her child. He was obliged to hide; he had been publiclyadmonished by the church. He said: "Even in the hour of social mirth, mygayety is the madness of an intoxicated criminal under the hands of theexecutioner." He resolved to leave the country; he agreed with Dr.Charles Douglas for thirty pounds a year to be bookkeeper or overseer onhis estate in Jamaica; for want of money to pay the passage, he wasabout to "indent himself," that is, become bound as apprentice, when thesuccess of a volume of poetry he had published put a score of guineasinto his hands, and for a time brought him brighter days. Such was hislife up to the age of twenty-seven, and that which succeeded was littlebetter.

Let us fancy in this condition a man of genius, a true poet, capable ofthe most delicate emotions and the loftiest aspirations, wishing torise, to rise to the summit, of which he deemed himself capable andworthy.[65]

Ambition had early made itself heard in him: "I had felt early somestirrings of ambition, but they were the blind groping of Homer'sCyclops around the walls of his cave.... The only two openings by whichI could enter the temple of fortune were the gate of nigg*rdly economy,or the path of little chicaning bargain-making. The first is socontracted an aperture, I never could squeeze myself into it; the last Ialways hated--there was contamination in the very entrance."[66] Lowoccupations depress the soul even more than the body; man perishes inthem--is obliged to perish; of necessity there remains of him nothingbut a machine: for in the kind of action in which all is monotonous, inwhich throughout the very long day the arms lift the same flail anddrive the same plough, if thought does not take this uniform movement,the work is ill done. The poet must take care not to be turned aside byhis poetry; to do as Burns did, "think only of his work whilst he was atit." He must think of it always, in the evening unyoking his cattle, onSunday putting on his new coat, counting on his fingers the eggs andpoultry, thinking of the kinds of dung, finding a means of using onlyone pair of shoes, and selling his hay at a penny a truss more. He willnot succeed if he has not the patient dulness of a laborer, and thecrafty vigilance of a petty shopkeeper. How could poor Burns succeed? Hewas out of place from his birth, and tried his utmost to raise himselfabove his condition.[67] At the farm at Lochlea, during mealtimes, theonly moments of relaxation, parents, brothers, and sisters, ate with aspoon in one hand and a book in the other. Burns, at the school of HughRodger, a teacher of mensuration, and later at a club of young men atTarbolton, strove to exercise himself in general questions, and debated_pro_ and _con_ in order to see both sides of every idea. He carried abook in his pocket to study in spare moments in the fields; he wore outthus two copies of Mackenzie's "Man of Feeling. The collection of songswas my _vade mecum._ I pored over them driving my cart, or walking tolabor, song by song, verse by verse, carefully noting the true, tender,sublime, or fustian." He maintained a correspondence with several of hiscompanions in the same rank of life in order to form his style, kept acommonplace-book, entered in it ideas on man, religion, the greatestsubjects, criticising his first productions. Burns says, "Never did aheart pant more ardently than mine to be distinguished." He thus divinedwhat he did not learn, rose of himself to the level of the most highlycultivated; in a while, at Edinburgh, he was to read through and throughrespected doctors, Blair himself; he was to see that Blair hadattainments, but no depth. At this time he studied minutely and lovinglythe old Scotch ballads; and by night in his cold little room, by daywhilst whistling at the plough, he invented forms and ideas. We mustthink of this in order to measure his efforts, to understand hismiseries and his revolt. We must think that the man in whom these greatideas are stirring, threshed the corn, cleaned his cows; went out to digpeats, waded in the muddy snow, and dreaded to come home and find thebailiffs prepared to carry him off to prison. We must think also, thatwith the ideas of a thinker he had the delicacies and reveries of apoet. Once having cast his eyes on an engraving representing a deadsoldier, and his wife beside him, his child and dog lying in the snow,suddenly, involuntarily, he burst into tears. He writes:


"There is scarcely any earthly object gives me more--I do not know if Ishould call it pleasure--but something which exalts me, something whichenraptures me--than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood, or highplantation, in a cloudy winter day, and hear the stormy wind howlingamong the trees and raving over the plain.[68]... I listened to thebirds and frequently turned out of my path, lest I should disturb theirlittle songs or frighten them to another station."


The slavery of mechanical toil and perpetual economy crushed this swarmof grand or graceful dreams as soon as they began to soar. Burns wasmoreover proud, so proud, that afterwards in the world, amongst thegreat, "an honest contempt for whatever bore the appearance of meannessand servility" made him "fall into the opposite error of hardness ofmanner." He had also the consciousness of his own merits. "_Pauvreinconnu_ as I then was, I had pretty nearly as high an opinion of myselfand of my works as I have at this moment, when the public has decided intheir favor."[69] Who can wonder that we find at every step in his poemsthe bitter protests of an oppressed and rebellious plebeian?

We find such recriminations against all society, against State andChurch. Burns has a harsh tone, often the very phrases of Rousseau, andwished to be a "vigorous savage," quit civilized life, the dependenceand humiliations which it imposes on the wretched.

"It is mortifying to see a fellow, whose abilities would scarcely havemade an eight-penny tailor, and whose heart is not worth threefarthings, meet with attention and notice that are withheld from the sonof genius and poverty."[70] It is hard to


"See yonder poor, o'erlabour'd wight,So abject, mean, and vile,Who begs a brother of the earthTo give him leave to toil;And see his lordly fellow-wormThe poor petition spurn,Unmindful, though a weeping wifeAnd helpless offspring mourn."[71]


Burns says also:


"While winds frae off Ben-Lomond blaw,And bar the doors wi' driving snaw,...I grudge a wee the great folks' gift,That live so bien an' snug:I tent less, and want lessTheir roomy fire-side;But hanker and cankerTo see their cursed pride.

"It's hardly in a body's powerTo keep, at times, frae being sour,To see how things are shar'd;How best o' chiels are whiles in want,While coofs on countless thousands rant,And ken na how to wair't."[72]


But "a man's a man for a' that," and the peasant is as good as the lord.There are men noble by nature, and they alone are noble; the coat is thebusiness of the tailor, titles a matter for the Herald's office. "Therank is but the guinea's stamp, the man's the gowd for a' that."

Against men who reverse this natural equality Burns is pitiless; theleast thing puts him out of temper. Read his "Address of Beelzebub, tothe Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane, President of the RightHonourable and Honourable the Highland Society, which met on the 23d ofMay last at the Shakespeare, Covent Garden, to concert ways and means tofrustrate the designs of five hundred Highlanders, who, as the societywere informed by Mr. Mackenzie of Applecross, were so audacious as toattempt an escape from their lawful lords and masters, whose propertythey were, by emigrating from the lands of Mr. M'Donald of Glengarry tothe wilds of Canada, in search of that fantastic thing--liberty!"Rarely was an insult more prolonged and more biting, and the threat isnot far behind. He warns Scotch members like a revolutionist, towithdraw "that curst restriction on aquavitæ, get auld Scotland backher kettle":


"An', Lord, if ance they pit her till't,Her tartan petticoat she'll kilt,An' durk an' pistol at her belt,She'll tak the streets,An' rin her whittle to the hiltI' the first she meets!"[73]


In vain he writes, that


"In politics if thou wouldst mixAnd mean thy fortunes be;Bear this in mind, be deaf and blind,Let great folks hear and see."[74]


Not alone did he see and hear, but he also spoke, and that aloud. Hecongratulates the French, on having repulsed conservative Europe, inarms against them. He celebrates the Tree of Liberty, planted "whereance the Bastile stood":


"Upo' this tree there grows sic fruit,Its virtues a' can tell, man;It raises man aboon the brute,It makes him ken himsel', man.Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,He's greater than a Lord, man....King Loui' thought to cut it down,When it was unco sma', man.For this the watchman cracked his crown.Cut off his head and a', man."[75]


A strange gayety, savage and nervous, and which, in better style,resembles that of the _Ça ira._

Burns is hardly more tender to the church. At that time the straitpuritanical garment began to give way. Already the learned world ofEdinburgh had Frenchified, widened, adapted it to the fashions ofsociety, decked it with ornaments, not very brilliant, it is true, butselect. In the lower strata of society dogma became less rigid, andapproached by degrees the looseness of Arminius and Socinus. JohnGoldie, a merchant, had quite recently discussed the authority ofScripture.[76] John Taylor had denied original sin. Burns's father,pious as he was, inclined to liberal and humane doctrines, and detractedfrom the province of faith to add to that of reason. Burns, after hiswont, pushed things to an extreme, thought himself a deist, saw in theSaviour only an inspired man, reduced religion to an inner and poeticsentiment, and attacked with his railleries the paid and patentedorthodox people. Since Voltaire, no literary man in religious matterswas more bitter or more jocose. According to him, ministers areshopkeepers trying to cheat each other out of their customers, decryingat the top of their voice the shop next door, puffing their drugs innumberless advertisem*nts, and here and there setting up fairs to pushthe trade. These "holy fairs" are gatherings of the pious, where thesacrament is administered. One after another the clergymen preach andthunder, in particular a Rev. Mr. Moodie, who raves and fumes to throwlight on points of faith--a terrible figure:


"Should Hornie, as in ancient days,'Mong sons o' God present him,The vera sight o' Moodie's faceTo's ain het hame had sent himWi' fright that day.

"Hear how he clears the points o' faithWi' rattlin' an' wi' thumpin'!Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath,He's stampin' an' he's jumpin'!His lengthen'd chin, his turn'd-up snout,His eldritch squeel and gestures,Oh! how they fire the heart devout.Like cantharidian plasters,On sic a day!"[77]


The minister grows hoarse; now "Smith opens out his cauld harangues,"then two more ministers speak. At last the audience rest, "theChange-house fills," and people begin to eat; each brings cakes andcheese from his bag; the young folks have their arms round their lasses'waists. That was an attitude to listen in! There is a great noise in theinn; the cans rattle on the board; whiskey flows, and provides argumentsto the tipplers commenting on the sermons. They demolish carnal reason,and exalt free faith. Arguments and stamping, shouts of sellers anddrinkers, all mingle together. It is a "holy fair":


"But now the Lord's ain trumpet touts,Till a' the hills are rairin',An' echoes back return the shouts;Black Russell is na sparin';His piercing words, like Highlan' swords,Divide the joints and marrow.His talk o' hell, where devils dwell,Our vera sauls does harrowWi' fright that day.

"A vast unbottom'd boundless pit,Fill'd fu' o' lowin' brunstane.Wha's raging flame, an scorchin' heat,Wad melt the hardest whunstane.The half-asleep start up wi' fear,An' think they hear it roarin',When presently it does appear'Twas but some neebor snorin'Asleep that day....

"How monie hearts this day convertsO' sinners and o' lasses!Their hearts o' stane, gin night, are gane,As saft as ony flesh is.There's some are fou o' love divine,There's some are fou o' brandy."[78]Etc., etc.


The young men meet the girls, and the devil does a better business thanGod. A fine ceremony and morality! Let us cherish it carefully, and ourwise theology too, which damns men.

As for that poor dog common-sense, which bites so hard, let us send himacross seas; let him go "and bark in France." For where shall we findbetter men than our "unco guid"--Holy Willie for instance? He feelshimself predestinated, full of never-failing grace; therefore all whor*sist him resist God, and are fit only to be punished; may He "blasttheir name, who bring thy elders to disgrace, and public shame."[79]Burns says also:


"An honest man may like a glass,An honest man may like a lass,But mean revenge an' malice fauseHe'll still disdain;And then cry zeal for gospel lawsLike some we ken....... I rather would beAn atheist clean,Than under gospel colours hid beJust for a screen."[80]


There is a beauty, an honesty, a happiness outside the conventionalitiesand hypocrisy, beyond correct preachings and proper drawing-rooms,unconnected with gentlemen in white ties and reverends in new bands.

In 1785 Burns wrote his masterpiece, the "Jolly Beggars," like the"Gueux" of Béranger; but how much more picturesque, varied, andpowerful! It is the end of autumn, the gray leaves float on the gusts ofthe wind; a joyous band of vagabonds, happy devils, come for a junketingat the change-house of Poosie Nansie:


"Wi' quaffing and laughingThey ranted and they sang;Wi' jumping and thumpingThe very girdle rang."


First, by the fire, in old red rags, is a soldier, and his old woman iswith him; the jolly old girl has drunk freely; he kisses her, and sheagain pokes out her greedy lips; the coarse loud kisses smack like "acadger's whip. Then staggering and swaggering, he roar'd this ditty up:"


"I lastly was with Curtis, among the floating batt'ries,And there I left for witness an arm and a limb;Yet let my country need me, with Elliot to head me,I'd clatter on my stumps at the sound of a drum....He ended; and the kebars sheuk,Aboon the chorus' roar;While frighted rattoons backward leuk,And seek the benmost bore."


Now it is the "doxy's" turn:


"I once was a maid, tho' I cannot tell when,And still my delight is in proper young men....Some one of a troop of dragoons was my daddie,No wonder I'm fond of a sodger laddie.The first of my loves was a swaggering blade,To rattle the thundering drum was his trade....The sword I forsook for the sake of the church....Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot,The regiment at large for a husband I got,From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was ready,I ask no more but a sodger laddie.But the peace it reduc'd me to beg in despair,Till I met my old boy at a Cunningham fair;His rags regimental they flutter'd so gaudy,My heart it rejoic'd at a sodger laddie....But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady,Here's to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie."


This is certainly a free and easy style, and the poet is not mealymouthed. His other characters arc in the same taste, a Merry Andrew, araucle carlin (a stout beldame), "a pigmy-scraper wi' his fiddle," atravelling tinker--all in rags, brawlers and gypsies, who fight, bang,and kiss each other, and make the glasses ring with the noise of theirgood humor:


"They toomed their pocks, and pawned their duds,They scarcely left to co'er their fuds,To quench their lowin' drouth."


And their chorus rolls about like thunder, shaking the rafters and walls.


"A fig for those by law protected!Liberty's a glorious feast!Courts for cowards were erected,Churches built to please the priest!

"What is title? What is treasure?What is reputation's care?If we lead a life of pleasure,'Tis no matter how or where!

"With the ready trick and fable,Round we wander all the day;And at night, in barn or stable,Hug our doxies on the hay.

"Life is all a variorum,We regard not how it goes;Let them cant about decorum,Who have characters to lose.

"Here's to budgets, bags and wallets!Here's to all the wandering train!Here's our ragged brats and callets!One and all cry out--Amen."


Has any man better spoken the language of rebels and levellers? There ishere, however, something else than the instinct of destruction and anappeal to the senses; there is hatred of cant and return to nature.Burns sings:


"Morality, thou deadly bane,Thy tens o' thousands thou hast slain;Vain is his hope, whose stay and trust isIn moral mercy, truth and justice!"[81]


Mercy! this grand word renews all. Now, as formerly, eighteen centuriesago, men rose above legal formulas and prescriptions; now, as formerly,under Vergil and Marcus Aurelius, refined sensibility and widesympathies embraced beings who seemed forever out of the pale of societyand law. Burns pities, and that sincerely, a wounded hare, a mouse whosenest was upturned by his plough, a mountain daisy. Is there such a verygreat difference between man, beast, or plant? A mouse stores up,calculates, suffers like a man:


"I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;What then? poor beastie, thou maun live."


We even no longer wish to curse the fallen angels, the grandmalefactors, Satan and his troop. Like the "randie, gangrel bodies, whoin Poosie Nancy's held the splore," they have their good points, andperhaps after all are not so bad as people say:


"Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee,An' let poor damned bodies be;I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie,E'n to a deil,To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,An' hear us squeel!...

"Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog!Ye came to Paradise incog.,An' played on man a cursed brogue,(Black be your fa'!)An' gied the infant warld a shog,'Maist ruin'd a'....

"But, fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben!O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!Ye aiblins might--I dinna ken--Still hae a stake--I'm wae to think upo' yon den,Ev'n for your sake."[82]


We see that he speaks to the devil as to an unfortunate comrade, adisagreeable fellow, but fallen into trouble. Let us take another step,and we will see in a contemporary, Goethe, that Mephistopheles himselfis not overmuch damned; his god, the modern god, tolerates him and tellshim he has never hated such as he. For wide conciliating natureassembles in her company, on equal terms, the ministers of destructionand life. In this deep change the ideal changes; citizen and orderlylife, strict Puritan duty, do not exhaust all the powers of man. Burnscries out in favor of instinct and enjoyment, so as to seem epicurean.He has genuine gayety, a glow of jocularity; laughter commends itself tohim; he praises it as well as the good suppers of good comrades, wherewine is plentiful, pleasantry abounds, ideas pour forth, poetrysparkles, and causes a carnival of beautiful figures and good-humoredpeople to move about in the human brain.

He always was in love.[83] He made love the great end of existence, tosuch a degree that at the club which he founded with the young men ofTarbolton, every member was obliged "to be the declared lover of one ormore fair ones." From the age of fifteen this was his main business. Hehad for companion in his harvest toil a sweet and lovable girl, a yearyounger than himself: "In short, she, altogether unwittingly to herself,initiated me in that delicious passion, which, in spite of aciddisappointment, gin-horse prudence, and book-worm philosophy, I hold tobe the first of human joys, our dearest blessing here below."[84] He satbeside her with a joy which he did not understand, to "pick out from herlittle hand the cruel nettle-stings and thistles." He had many otherless innocent fancies; it seems to me that by his very nature he was inlove with all women: as soon as he saw a pretty one, he grew lively; hiscommonplace-book and his songs show that he set off in pursuit afterevery butterfly, golden or not, which seemed about to settle. Moreover,he did not confine himself to Platonic reveries; he was as free ofaction as of words; broad jests crop up freely in his verses. He callshimself an unregenerate heathen, and he is right. He has even writtenobscene verses; and Lord Byron refers to a quantity of his letters, ofcourse unpublished, than which worse could not be imagined:[85] it wasthe excess of the sap which overflowed in him, and soiled the bark.Doubtless he did not boast about these excesses, he rather repented ofthem; but as to the uprising and blooming of the free poetic life in theopen air, he found no fault with it. He thought that love, with thecharming dreams it brings, poetry, pleasure, and the rest, are beautifulthings, suitable to human instincts, and therefore to the designs ofGod. In short, in contrast with morose Puritanism, he approved joy andspoke well of happiness.[86]

Not that he was a mere epicurean; on the contrary, he could bereligious. When, after the death of his father, he prayed aloud in theevening, he drew tears from those present; and his "Cottar's SaturdayNight" is the most heartfelt of virtuous idyls. I even believe he wasfundamentally religious. He advised his "pupil as he tenders his ownpeace, to keep up a regular warm intercourse with the Deity." What hemade fun of was official worship; but as for religion, the language ofthe soul, he was greatly attached to it. Often before Dugald Stewart atEdinburgh, he disapproved of the sceptical jokes which he heard at thesupper table. He thought he had "every evidence for the reality of alife beyond the stinted bourne of our present existence"; and many atime, side by side with a jocose satire, we find in his writings stanzasfull of humble repentance, confiding fervor, or Christian resignation.These, if you will, are a poet's contradictions, but they are also apoet's divinations; under these apparent variations there rises a newideal; old narrow moralities are to give place to the wide sympathy ofthe modern man, who loves the beautiful wherever it meets him, and who,refusing to mutilate human nature, is at once Pagan and Christian.

This originality and divining instinct exist in his style as in hisideas. The specialty of the age in which we live, and which heinaugurated, is to blot out rigid distinctions of class, catechism, andstyle; academic, moral, or social conventions are falling away, and weclaim in society a mastery for individual merit, in morality for inborngenerosity, in literature for genuine feeling. Burns was the first toenter on this track, and he often pursues it to the end. When he wroteverses, it was not on calculation or in obedience to fashion: "Mypassions, when once lighted up, raged like so many devils, till they gotvent in rhyme; and then the conning over my verses, like a spell,soothed all into quiet."[87] He hummed them to old Scotch airs which hepassionately loved, as he drove his plough, and which, he says, as soonas he sang them, brought ideas and rhymes to his lips. That, indeed, wasnatural poetry; not forced in a hot-house, but born of the soil betweenthe furrows, side by side with music, amidst the gloom and beauty of theclimate, like the violet heather of the moors and the hillside. We canunderstand that it gave vigor to his tongue. For the first time this manspoke as men speak, or rather as they think, without premeditation, witha mixture of all styles, familiar and terrible, hiding an emotion undera joke, tender and jeering in the same place, apt to place side by sidetap-room trivialities and the high language of poetry,[88] soindifferent was he to rules, content to exhibit his feeling as it cameto him, and as he felt it. At last, after so many years, we escape frommeasured declamation, we hear a man's voice! and what is better still,we forget the voice in the emotion which it expresses, we feel thisemotion reflected in ourselves, we enter into relations with a soul.Then form seems to fade away and disappear: I think that this is thegreat feature of modern poetry; seven or eight times has Burns reachedit.

He has done more; he has made his way, as we say nowadays. On thepublication of his first volume he became suddenly famous. Coming toEdinburgh, he was feasted, caressed, admitted on a footing of equalityin the best drawing-rooms, amongst the great and the learned, loved of awoman who was almost a lady. For one season he was sought after, and hebehaved worthily amidst these rich and noble people. He was respected,and even loved. A subscription brought him a second edition and fivehundred pounds. He also at last had won his position, like the greatFrench plebeians, amongst whom Rousseau was the first. Unfortunately, hebrought thither, like them, the vices of his condition and of hisgenius. A man does not rise with impunity, nor, above all, desire torise with impunity: we also have our vices, and suffering vanity is thefirst of them. "Never did a heart pant more ardently than mine to bedistinguished," said Burns. This grievous pride marred his talent, andthrew him into follies. He labored to attain a fine epistolary style,and brought ridicule on himself by imitating in his letters the men ofthe academy and the court. He wrote to his lady-loves with choicephrases, full of periods as pedantic as those of Dr. Johnson. Certainlywe dare hardly quote them, the emphasis is so grotesque.[89] At othertimes he committed to his commonplace-book literary expressions thatoccurred to him, and six months afterwards sent them to hiscorrespondents as extemporary effusions and natural improvisations. Evenin his verses, often enough, he fell into a grand conventionalstyle;[90] brought into play sighs, ardors, flames, even the bigclassical and mythological machinery. Béranger, who thought or calledhimself the poet of the people, did the same. A plebeian must have muchcourage to venture on always remaining himself, and never slipping onthe court dress. Thus Burns, a Scottish villager, avoided, in speaking,all Scotch village expressions: he was pleased to show himself aswell-bred as fashionable folks. It was forcibly and by surprise that hisgenius drew him away from the proprieties: twice out of three times hisfeeling was marred by his pretentiousness.

His success lasted one winter, after which the wide incurable wound ofplebeianism made itself felt--I mean that he was obliged to work for hisliving. With the money gained by the second edition of his poems he tooka little farm. It was a bad bargain; and, moreover, we can imagine thathe had not the money-grubbing character necessary. He says: "I mightwrite you on farming, on building, on marketing; but my poor distractedmind is so torn, so jaded, so racked, and bedeviled with the task of thesuperlatively damned obligation to make one guinea do the business ofthree, that I detest, abhor, and swoon at the very word business." Soonhe left his farm, with empty pockets, to fill at Dumfries the small postof exciseman, which was worth, in all, £90 a year. In this fineemployment he branded leather, gauged casks, tested the make of candles,issued licenses for the transit of spirits. From his dunghills he passedto office work and grocery: what a life for such a man! He would havebeen unhappy, even if independent and rich. These great innovators,these poets, are all alike. What makes them poets is the violent affluxof sensations. They have a nervous mechanism more sensitive than ours;the objects which leave us cool, transport them suddenly beyondthemselves. At the least shock their brain is set going, after whichthey once more fall flat, loathe existence, sit morose amidst thememories of their faults and their lost pleasures. Burns said: "My worstenemy is _moi-même._... There are just two creatures I would envy: ahorse in his wild state traversing the forests of Asia, or an oyster onsome of the desert shores of Europe. The one has not a wish withoutenjoyment, the other has neither wish nor fear." He was always inextremes, at the height of exaltation or in the depth of depression; inthe morning, ready to weep; in the evening at table or under the table;enamored of Jean Armour, then on her refusal engaged to another, thenreturning to Jean, then quitting her, then taking her back, amidst muchscandal, many blots on his character, still more disgust. In such headsideas are like cannon balls: the man, hurled onward, bursts througheverything, shatters himself, begins again the next day, but in acontrary direction, and ends by finding nothing left in him, but ruinswithin and without. Burns had never been prudent, and was so less thanever, after his success at Edinburgh. He had enjoyed too much; hehenceforth felt too acutely the painful sting of modern man, namely thedisproportion between the desire for certain things and the power ofobtaining them. Debauch had all but spoiled his fine imagination, whichhad before been "the chief source of his happiness"; and he confessedthat, instead of tender reveries, he had now nothing but sensualdesires. He had been kept drinking till six in the morning; he was veryoften drunk at Dumfries, not that the whiskey was very good, but itmakes thoughts to whirl about in the head; and hence poets, like thepoor, are fond of it. Once at Mr. Riddell's he made himself so tipsythat he insulted the lady of the house; next day he sent her an apologywhich was not accepted, and, out of spite, wrote rhymes against her: alamentable excess, betraying an unseated mind. At thirty-seven he wasworn out. One night, having drunk too much, he sat down and went tosleep in the street. It was January, and he caught rheumatic fever. Hisfamily wanted to call in a doctor. "What business has a physician towaste his time on me?" he said; "I am a poor pigeon not worth plucking."He was horribly thin, could not sleep, and could not stand on his legs."As to my individual self, I am tranquil. But Burns' poor widow and halfa dozen of his dear little ones, there I am as weak as a woman's tear."He was even afraid he should not die in peace, and had the bitterness ofbeing obliged to beg. Here is a letter he wrote to a friend: "A rascalof a haberdasher, taking into his head that I am dying, has commenced aprocess against me, and will infallibly put my emaciated body into jail.Will you be so good as to accommodate me, and that by return of post,with ten pounds? O James! did you know the pride of my heart, you wouldfeel doubly for me! Alas, I am not used to beg!"[91] He died a few daysafterwards, at thirty-eight. His wife was lying-in of her fifth child atthe time of her husband's funeral.


Section III.--Conservative Rule in England.--Cowper's Poetry


A sad life, most often the life of the men in advance of their age; itis not wholesome to go too quick. Burns was so much in advance that ittook forty years to catch him. At this time in England the conservativesand the believers took the lead before sceptics and revolutionists. Theconstitution was liberal, and seemed to be a guarantee of rights; thechurch was popular, and seemed to be the support of morality. Practicalcapacity and speculative incapacity turned the mind aside from thepropounded innovations, and bound them down to the established order.The people found themselves well off in their great feudal house,widened and accommodated to modern needs; they thought it beautiful,they were proud of it; and national instinct, like public opinion,declared against the innovators who would throw it down to build it upagain. Suddenly a violent shock changed this instinct into a passion,and this opinion into fanaticism. The French Revolution, at firstadmired as a sister, had shown itself a fury and a monster. Pittdeclared in Parliament, "that one of the leading features of this(French) Government was the extinction of religion and the destructionof property."[92] Amidst universal applause, the whole thinking andinfluential class rose to stamp out this party of robbers, unitedbrigands, atheists on principle; Jacobinism, sprung from blood to sit inpurple, was persecuted even in its child and champion, "Buonaparte, whois now the sole organ of all that was formerly dangerous and pestiferousin the revolution."[93] Under this national rage liberal ideas dwindled;the most illustrious friends of Fox--Burke, Windham, Spencer--abandonedhim: out of a hundred and sixty partisans in the House of Commons, onlyfifty remained to him. The great Whig party seemed to be disappearing;and in 1799, the strongest minority that could be collected against theGovernment was twenty-nine. Yet English Jacobinism was taken by thethroat and held down:


"The Habeas Corpus Act was repeatedly suspended.... Writers whopropounded doctrines adverse to monarchy and aristocracy, wereproscribed and punished without mercy. It was hardly safe for arepublican to avow his political creed over his beefsteak and his bottleof port at a chophouse.... Men of cultivated mind and polished mannerswere (in Scotland), for offences which at Westminster would have beentreated as mere misdemeanours, sent to herd with felons at BotanyBay."[94]


But the intolerance of the nation aggravated that of the Government. Ifanyone had dared to avow democratic sentiments, he would have beeninsulted. The papers represented the innovators as wretches and publicenemies. The mob in Birmingham burned the houses of Priestley and theUnitarians. And in the end Priestley was obliged to leave England.

New theories could not arise in this society armed against new theories.Yet the revolution made its entrance; it entered disguised, and throughan indirect way, so as not to be recognized. It was not social ideas, asin France, that were transformed, nor philosophical ideas as in Germany,but literary ideas; the great rising tide of the modern mind, whichelsewhere overturned the whole edifice of human conditions andspeculations, succeeded here only at first in changing style and taste.It was a slight change, at least apparently, but on the whole of equalvalue with the others; for this renovation in the manner of writing is arenovation in the manner of thinking: the one led to all the rest, as acentral pivot being set in motion causes all the indented wheels to movealso.

Wherein consists this reform of style? Before defining it, I prefer toexhibit it; and for that purpose, we must study the character and lifeof a man who was the first to use it, without any system--WilliamCowper: for his talent is but the picture of his character, and hispoems but the echo of his life. He was a delicate, timid child, of atremulous sensibility, passionately tender, who, having lost his motherat six, was almost at once subjected to the fa*gging and brutality of apublic school. These, in England, are peculiar: a boy of about fifteensingled him out as a proper object upon whom he might practise thecruelty of his temper: and the poor little fellow, ceaselesslyill-treated, "conceived," he says, "such a dread of his (tormentor's)figure,... that I well remember being afraid to lift my eyes upon himhigher than his knees; and that I knew him better by his shoe-bucklesthan by any other part of his dress."[95] At the age of nine melancholyseized him, not the sweet reverie which we call by that name, but theprofound dejection, gloomy and continual despair, the horrible malady ofthe nerves and the soul, which leads to suicide, Puritanism, andmadness. "Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, andrising up in despair."[96]

The evil changed form, diminished, but did not leave him. As he had onlya small fortune, though born of a high family, he accepted, withoutreflection, the offer of his uncle, who wished to give him a place asclerk of the journals of the House of Lords; but he had to undergo anexamination, and his nerves were unstrung at the very idea of having tospeak in public. For six months he tried to prepare himself; but he readwithout understanding. His continual misery brought on at last a nervousfever. Cowper writes of himself: "The feelings of a man when he arrivesat the place of execution, are probably much like mine, every time I setmy foot in the office, which was every day, for more than a half yeartogether.[97] In this situation, such a fit of passion has sometimesseized me, when alone in my chambers, that I have cried out aloud, andcursed the hour of my birth; lifting up my eyes to heaven not as asuppliant, but in the hellish spirit of rancorous reproach and blasphemyagainst my Maker."[98] The day of examination came on: he hoped he wasgoing mad, so that he might escape from it; and as his reason held out,he thought even of "self-murder." At last, "in a horrible dismay ofsoul," insanity came, and he was placed in an asylum, whilst "hisconscience was scaring him, and the avenger of blood pursuing him"[99]to the extent even of thinking himself damned, like Bunyan and the firstPuritans. After several months his reason returned, but it bore tracesof the strange lands where it had journeyed alone. He remained sad, likea man who thought himself in disfavor with God, and felt himselfincapable of an active life. However, a clergyman, Mr. Unwin, and hiswife, very pious and very regular people, had taken charge of him. Hetried to busy himself mechanically, for instance, in makingrabbit-hutches, in gardening, and in taming hares. He employed the restof the day like a Methodist, in reading Scripture or sermons, in singinghymns with his friends, and speaking of spiritual matters. This way ofIrving, the wholesome country air, the maternal tenderness of Mrs. Unwinand Lady Austen, brought him a few gleams of light. They loved him sogenerously, and he was so lovable! Affectionate, full of freedom andinnocent raillery, with a natural and charming imagination, a gracefulfancy, and exquisite delicacy, and so unhappy! He was one of those towhom women devote themselves, whom they love maternally, first fromcompassion, then by attraction, because they find in them alone theconsideration, the minute and tender attentions, the delicateobservances which men's rude nature cannot give them, and which theirmore sensitive nature nevertheless craves. These sweet moments, however,did not last. He says: "My mind has always a melancholy cast, and islike some pools I have seen, which, though filled with a black andputrid water, will nevertheless in a bright day reflect the sunbeamsfrom their surface." He smiled as well as he could, but with effort; itwas the smile of a sick man who knows himself incurable, and tries toforget it for an instant, at least to make others forget it: "Indeed, Iwonder that a sportive thought should ever knock at the door of myintellects, and still more that it should gain admittance. It is as ifharlequin should intrude himself into the gloomy chamber where a corpseis deposited in state. His antic gesticulations would be unseasonable atany rate, but more specially so if they should distort the features ofthe mournful attendants into laughter. But the mind, long wearied withthe sameness of a dull, dreary prospect, will gladly fix his eyes onanything that may make a little variety in its contemplations, though itwere but a kitten playing with her tail."[100] In reality, he had toodelicate and too pure a heart: pious, irreproachable, austere, hethought himself unworthy of going to church, or even of praying to God.He says also: "As for happiness, he that once had communion with hisMaker must be more frantic than ever I was yet, if he can dream offinding it at a distance from him."[101] And elsewhere: "The heart of aChristian, mourning yet rejoicing, (is) pierced with thorns, yetwreathed about with roses. I have the thorn without the rose. My brieris a wintry one; the flowers are withered, but the thorn remains." Onhis death-bed, when the clergyman told him to confide in the love of theRedeemer, who desired to save all men, he uttered a passionate cry,begging him not to give him such consolations. He thought himself lost,and had thought so all his life. One by one, under this terror all hisfaculties gave way. Poor charming soul, perishing like a frail flowertransplanted from a warm land to the snow: the world's temperature wastoo rough for it; and the moral law, which should have supported it,tore it with its thorns.

Such a man does not write for the pleasure of making a noise. He madeverses as he painted or worked at his bench to occupy himself, todistract his mind. His soul was too full; he need not go far forsubjects. Picture this pensive figure, silently-wandering and gazingalong the banks of the Ouse. He gazes and dreams. A buxom peasant girl,with a basket on her arm; a distant cart slowly rumbling on behindhorses in a sweat; a sparkling spring, which polishes the bluepebbles--this is enough to fill him with sensations and thoughts. Hereturned, sat in his little summer-house, as large as a sedan-chair, thewindow of which opened out upon a neighbor's orchard, and the door on agarden full of pinks, roses, and honeysuckle. In this nest he labored.In the evening, beside his friend, whose needles were working for him,he read, or listened to the drowsy sounds without. Rhymes are born insuch a life as this. It sufficed for him, and for their birth. He didnot need a more violent career: less harmonious or monotonous, it wouldhave upset him; impressions small to us were great to him; and in aroom, a garden, he found a world. In his eyes the smallest objects werepoetical. It is evening; winter; the postman comes:


"The herald of a noisy world,With spattered boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks;News from all nations lumbering at his back.True to his charge, the close-packed load behind,Yet careless what he brings, his one concernIs to conduct it to the destined inn;And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on.He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of griefPerhaps to thousands, and of joy to some."[102]


At last we have the precious "close-packed load"; we open it; we wish tohear the many noisy voices it brings from London and the universe:


"Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urnThrows up a steamy column, and the cups,That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,So let us welcome peaceful evening in."[103]


Then he unfolds the whole contents of the newspaper--politics, news,even advertisem*nts--not as a mere realist, like so many writers ofto-day, but as a poet; that is, as a man who discovers a beauty andharmony in the coals of a sparkling fire, or the movement of fingersover a piece of wool-work; for such is the poet's strange distinction.Objects not only spring up in his mind more powerful and more precisethan they were of themselves, and before entering there; but also, onceconceived, they are purified, ennobled, colored, like gross vapors,which, being transfigured by distance and light, change into silkyclouds, lined with purple and gold. For him there is a charm in therolling folds of the vapor sent up by the tea-urn, sweetness in theconcord of guests assembled around the same table in the same house.This one expression, "News from India," causes him to see India itself,"with her plumed and jeweled turban."[104] The mere notion of "excise"sets before his eyes "ten thousand casks, forever dribbling out theirbase contents, touched by the Midas finger of the State, (which) bleedgold for ministers to sport away."[105] Strictly speaking, nature is tohim like a gallery of splendid and various pictures, which to usordinary folk are always covered up with cloths. At most, now and then,a rent suffers us to imagine the beauties hid behind the uninterestingcurtains; but the poet raises these curtains, one and all, and sees apicture where we see but a covering. Such is the new truth Cowper'spoems brought to light. We know from him that we need no longer go toGreece, Rome, to the palaces, heroes, and academicians, in search ofpoetic objects. They are quite near us. If we see them not, it isbecause we do not know how to look for them; the fault is in our eyes,not in the things. We may find poetry, if we wish, at our fireside, andamongst the beds of our kitchen-garden.[106]

Is the kitchen-garden indeed poetical? To-day, perhaps; but to-morrow,if my imagination is barren, I shall see there nothing but carrots andother kitchen stuff. It is my feelings which are poetical, which I mustrespect, as the most precious flower of beauty. Hence a new style. Weneed no longer, after the old oratorical fashion, box up a subject in aregular plan, divide it into symmetrical portions, arrange ideas intofiles, like the pieces on a draught-board. Cowper takes the firstsubject that comes to hand--one which Lady Austen gave him athaphazard--the "Sofa," and speaks about it for a couple of pages; thenhe goes whither the bent of his mind leads him, describing a winterevening, a number of interiors and landscapes, mingling here and thereall kinds of moral reflections, stories, dissertations, opinions,confidences, like a man who thinks aloud before the most intimate andbeloved of his friends. Let us look at his great poem, the "Task. Thebest didactic poems," says Southey, "when compared with the 'Task,' arelike formal gardens in comparison with woodland scenery." If we enterinto details, the contrast is greater still. He does not seem to dreamthat he is being listened to; he only speaks to himself. He does notdwell on his ideas, as the classical writers do, to set them in relief,and make them stand out by repetitions and antitheses; he marks hissensation, and that is all. We follow this sensation in him as itgradually springs up; we see it rising from a former one, swelling,falling, remounting, as we see vapor issuing from a spring, andinsensibly rising, unrolling, and developing its shifting forms.Thought, which in others was congealed and rigid, becomes here mobileand fluent; the rectilinear verse grows flexible; the noble vocabularywidens its scope to let in vulgar words of conversation and life. Atlength poetry has again become lifelike; we no longer listen to words,but we feel emotions; it is no longer an author, but a man who speaks.His whole life is there, perfect, beneath its black lines, withoutfalsehood or concoction; his whole effort is bent on removing falsehoodand concoction. When he describes his little river, his dear Ouse, "slowwinding through a level plain of spacious meads, with cattle sprinkledo'er,"[107] he sees it with his inner eye; and each word, caesura,sound, answers to a change of that inner vision. It is so in all hisverses; they are full of personal emotions, genuinely felt, neveraltered or disguised; on the contrary, fully expressed, with theirtransient shades and fluctuations; in a word, as they are, that is, inthe process of production and destruction, not all complete, motionless,and fixed, as the old style represented them. Herein consists the greatrevolution of the modern style. The mind, outstripping the known rulesof rhetoric and eloquence, penetrates into profound psychology, and nolonger employs words except to mark emotions.


Section IV.--The Romantic School


Now[108] appeared the English romantic school, closely resembling theFrench in its doctrines, origin, and alliances, in the truths which itdiscovered, the exaggerations it committed, and the scandal it excited.The followers of that school formed a sect, a sect of "dissenters inpoetry," who spoke out aloud, kept themselves close together, andrepelled settled minds by the audacity and novelty of their theories.For their foundation were attributed to them the anti-social principlesand the sickly sensibility of Rousseau; in short, a sterile andmisanthropical dissatisfaction with the present institutions of society.Southey, one of their leaders, began by being a Socinian and Jacobin;and one of his first poems, "Wat Tyler," cited the glory of the pastJacquerie in support of the present revolution. Another, Coleridge, apoor fellow, who had served as a dragoon, his brain stuffed withincoherent reading and humanitarian dreams, thought of founding inAmerica a communist republic, purged of kings and priests; then, havingturned Unitarian, steeped himself at Göttingen in heretical andmystical theories on the Logos and the absolute. Wordsworth himself, thethird and most moderate, had begun with enthusiastic verses againstkings:


"Great God,... grant that every sceptred child of clay,Who cries presumptuous, 'Here the flood shall stay,'May in its progress see thy guiding hand,And cease the acknowledged purpose to withstand;Or, swept in anger from the insulted shore,Sink with his servile bands, to rise no more!"[109]


But these rages and aspirations did not last long; and at the end of afew years, the three, brought back into the-pale of Church and State,became, Coleridge, a Pittite journalist, Wordsworth, a distributor ofstamps, and Southey, poet-laureate; all zealous converts, decidedAnglicans, and intolerant Conservatives. In point of taste, however,they had advanced, not retired. They had violently broken withtradition, and leaped over all classical culture to take their modelsfrom the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. One of their friends, CharlesLamb, like Saint-Beuve, had discovered and restored the sixteenthcentury. The most unpolished dramatists, like Marlowe, seemed to thesem*n admirable; and they sought in the collections of Percy and Warton,in the old national ballads and ancient poetry of foreign lands, thefresh and primitive accent which had been wanting in classicalliterature, and whose presence seemed to them to be a sign of truth andbeauty. Above every other reform, they labored to destroy the grandaristocratical and oratorical style, such as it sprang from methodicalanalyses and court polish. They proposed to adapt to poetry the ordinarylanguage of conversation, such as is spoken in the middle and lowerclasses, and to replace studied phrases and a lofty vocabulary bynatural tones and plebeian words. In place of the classical mould, theytried stanzas, sonnets, ballads, blank verse, with the roughness andsubdivisions of the primitive poets. They adopted or arranged the metresand diction of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Charles Lambwrote an archaic tragedy, "John Woodvil," which we might fancy to havebeen written during Elizabeth's reign. Others, like Southey, andColeridge, in particular, manufactured totally new rhythms, as happy attimes, and at times also as unfortunate, as those of Victor Hugo: forinstance, a verse in which accents, and not syllables, werecounted;[110] a singular medley of confused attempts, manifestabortions, and original inventions. The plebeian having doffed thearistocratical costume, sought another; borrowed one piece of his dressfrom the knights or the barbarians, another from peasants orjournalists, not too critical of incongruities, pretentious andsatisfied with his motley and badly sewn cloak, till at last, after manyattempts and many rents, he ended by knowing himself, and selecting thedress that fitted him.

In this confusion of labors two great ideas stand out: the firstproducing historical poetry, the second philosophical; the oneespecially manifest in Southey and Walter Scott, the other in Wordsworthand Shelley; both European, and displayed with equal brilliancy inFrance by Hugo, Lamartine, and Musset; with greater brilliancy inGermany by Goethe, Schiller, Rückert, and Heine; both so profound, thatnone of their representatives, except Goethe, divined their scope; andhardly now, after more than half a century, can we define their nature,so as to forecast their results.

The first consists in saying, or rather foreboding, that our ideal isnot the ideal; it is only one ideal, but there are others. Thebarbarian, the feudal man, the cavalier of the Renaissance, theMussulman, the Indian, each age and each race has conceived its beauty,which was a beauty. Let us enjoy it, and for this purpose put ourselvesentirely in the place of the discoverers; for it will not suffice todepict, as the previous novelists and dramatists have done, modern andnational manners under old and foreign names; let us paint thesentiments of other ages and other races with their own features,however different these features may be from our own, and howeverunpleasing to our taste. Let us show our hero as he was, grotesque ornot, with his true costume and speech: let him be fierce andsuperstitious if he was so; let us dash the barbarian with blood, andload the Covenanter with his bundle of biblical texts. Then one by oneon the literary stage men saw the vanished or distant civilizationsreturn; first the Middle Age and the Renaissance; then Arabia,Hindostan, and Persia; then the classical age, and the eighteenthcentury itself; and the historic taste becomes so eager, that fromliterature the contagion spread to other arts. The theatre changed itsconventional costumes and decorations into true ones. Architecture builtRoman villas in our northern climates, and feudal towers amidst ourmodern security. Painters travelled to imitate local coloring, andstudied to reproduce moral coloring. Every man became a tourist and anarchæologist; the human mind quitting its individual sentiments toadopt all sentiments really felt, and finally all possible sentiments,found its pattern in the great Goethe, who by his "Tasso, Iphigenia,Divan," his second part of "Faust," became a citizen of all nations anda contemporary of all ages, seemed to live at pleasure at every point oftime and place, and gave an idea of universal mind. Yet this literature,as it approached perfection, approached its limit, and was onlydeveloped in order to die. Men did comprehend at last that attemptedresurrections are always incomplete, that every imitation is only animitation, that the modern accent infallibly penetrates the words whichwe place in the mouths of ancient characters, that every picture ofmanners must be indigenous and contemporaneous, and that archaicl*terature is essentially untrue. People saw at last that it is in thewriters of the past that we must seek the portraiture of the past; thatthere are no Greek tragedies but the Greek tragedies; that the concoctednovel must give place to authentic memoirs, as the fabricated ballad tothe spontaneous; in other words, that historical literature must vanishand become transformed into criticism and history, that is, intoexposition and commentary of documents.

How shall we select in this multitude of travellers and historians,disguised as poets? They abound like swarms of insects, hatched on asummer's day amidst a rank vegetation; they buzz and glitter, and themind is lost in their sparkle and hum. Which shall I quote? ThomasMoore, the gayest and most French of all, a witty railer,[111] toograceful and _recherché_, writing descriptive odes on the Bermudas,sentimental Irish melodies, a poetic Egyptian tale,[112] a romantic poemon Persia and India;[113] Lamb, a restorer of the old drama; Coleridge,a thinker and dreamer, a poet and critic, who in "Christabel" and the"Ancient Mariner" reopened the vein of the supernatural and thefantastic; Campbell, who, having begun with a didactic poem on the"Pleasures of Hope," entered the new school without giving up his nobleand half-classical style, and wrote American and Celtic poems, onlyslightly Celtic and American; in the first rank, Southey, a clever man,who, after several mistakes in his youth, became the professed defenderof aristocracy and cant, an indefatigable reader, an inexhaustiblewriter, crammed with erudition, gifted in imagination, famed like VictorHugo for the freshness of his innovations, the combative tone of hisprefaces, the splendors of his picturesque curiosity, having spanned theuniverse and all history with his poetic shows, and embraced in theendless web of his verse, Joan of Arc, Wat Tyler, Roderick the Goth,Madoc, Thalaba, Kehama, Celtic and Mexican traditions, Arabic and Indianlegends, successively a Catholic, a Mussulman, a Brahmin, but only inverse; in reality, a prudent and respectable Protestant. Theabove-mentioned authors have to be taken as examples merely--there aredozens behind; and I think that, of all fine visible or imaginablesceneries, of all great real or legendary events, at all times, in thefour quarters of the world, not one has escaped them. The diorama theyshow us is very brilliant; unfortunately we perceive that it ismanufactured. If we would have its fellow picture, let us imagineourselves at the opera. The decorations are splendid, we see them comingdown from above, that is, from the ceiling, thrice in an act; loftyGothic cathedrals, whose rose-windows glow in the rays of the settingsun, whilst processions wind round the pillars, and the lights flickerover the elaborate copes and the gold embroidery of the priestlyvestments; mosques and minarets, moving caravans creeping afar over theyellow sand, whose lances and canopies, ranged in line, fringe theimmaculate whiteness of the horizon; Indian paradises, where the heapedroses swarm in myriads, where fountains mingle their plumes of pearls,where the lotus spreads its large leaves, where thorny plants raisetheir many thousand purple calices around the apes and crocodiles whichare worshipped as divinities, and crawl in the thickets. Meantime thedancing-girls lay their hands on their heart with deep and delicateemotion, the tenors sing that they are ready to die, tyrants roll forththeir deep bass voice, the orchestra struggles hard, accompanying thevariations of sentiment with the gentle sounds of flutes, the lugubriousclamors of the trombones, the angelic melodies of the harps; till atlast, when the heroine sets her foot on the throat of the traitor, itbreaks out triumphantly with its thousand vibrant voices harmonized intoa single strain. A fine spectacle! we depart mazed, deafened; the sensesgive way under this inundation of splendors; but as we return home, weask ourselves what we have learnt, felt--whether we have, in truth, feltanything. After all, there is little here but decoration and scenery;the sentiments are factitious; they are operatic sentiments: the authorsare only clever men, libretti-makers, manufacturers of painted canvas;they have talent without genius; they draw their ideas not from theheart, but from the head. Such is the impression left by "Lalla Rookh,Thalaba, Roderick the last of the Goths, The Curse of Kehama," and therest of these poems. They are great decorative machines suited to thefashion. The mark of genius is the discovery of some wide unexploredregion in human nature, and this mark fails them; they prove only muchcleverness and knowledge. After all, I prefer to see the East inOrientals from the East, rather than in Orientals in England; in Vyasaor Firdousi, rather than in Southey[114] and Moore. These poems may bedescriptive or historical; they are less so than the texts, notes,emendations, and justifications which their authors carefully print atthe foot of the page.

Beyond all general causes which have fettered this literature, there isa national one: the mind of these men is not sufficiently flexible, andtoo moral. Their imitation is only literal. They know past times anddistant lands only as antiquaries and travellers. When they mention acustom, they put their authorities in a foot-note; they do not presentthemselves before the public without testimonials; they establish byweighty certificates that they have not committed an error in topographyor costume. Moore, like Southey, named his authorities; Sir JohnMalcolm, Sir William Ouseley, Mr. Cary, and others, who returned fromthe East, and had lived there, state that his descriptions arewonderfully faithful, that they thought that Moore had travelled in theEast. In this respect their minuteness is ridiculous;[115] and theirnotes, lavished without stint, show that their matter-of-fact publicrequired to ascertain whether their poetical commodities were genuineproduce. But that broader truth, which lies in penetrating into thefeelings of characters, escaped them; these feelings are too strange andimmoral. When Moore tried to translate and recast Anacreon, he was toldthat his poetry was fit for "the stews."[116] To write an Indian poem,we must be pantheistical at heart, a little mad, and pretty generallyvisionary; to write a Greek poem, we must be polytheistic at heart,fundamentally pagan, and a naturalist by profession. This is the reasonthat Heine spoke so fitly of India, and Goethe of Greece. A genuinehistorian is not sure that his own civilization is perfect, and lives asgladly out of his country as in it. Judge whether Englishmen can succeedin this style. In their eyes there is only one rational civilization,which is their own; every other morality is inferior, every otherreligion is extravagant. With such narrowness, how can they reproducethese other moralities and religions? Sympathy alone can restoreextinguished or foreign manners, and sympathy here is forbidden. Underthis narrow rule, historical poetry, which itself is hardly likely tolive, languishes as though suffocated under a leaden cover.

One of them, a novelist, critic, historian, and poet, the favorite ofhis age, read over the whole of Europe, was compared and almost equalledto Shakespeare, had more popularity than Voltaire, made dressmakers andduch*esses weep, and earned about two hundred thousand pounds. Murray,the publisher, wrote to him: "I believe I might swear that I neverexperienced such unmixed pleasure as the reading of this exquisite work(first series of 'Tales of my Landlord' has afforded me....) Lord Hollandsaid, when I asked his opinion: 'Opinion! we did not one of us go to bedlast night--nothing slept but my gout.'"[117] In France, fourteenhundred thousand volumes of these novels were sold, and they continue tosell. The author, born in Edinburgh, was the son of a writer to thesignet, learned in feudal law and ecclesiastical history, himself anadvocate, a sheriff, and always fond of antiquities, especially nationalantiquities; so that by his family, education, by his own instincts, hefound the materials for his works and the stimulus for his talent. Hispast recollections were impressed on him at the age of three, in afarm-house, where he had been taken to try the effect of bracing air onhis little shrunken leg. He was wrapped naked in the warm skin of asheep just killed, and he crept about in this attire, which passed for aspecific. He continued to limp, and became a reader. From his infancy helistened to the stories which he afterwards gave to the public--that ofthe battle of Culloden, of the cruelties practised on the Highlanders,the wars and sufferings of the Covenanters. At three he used to sing outthe ballad of Hardyknute so loudly that he prevented the villageminister, a man gifted with a very fine voice, from being heard, andeven from hearing himself. As soon as he had heard "a Border-raidballad," he knew it by heart. But in other things he was indolent,studied by fits and starts, and did not readily learn dry, hard facts;yet for poetry, old songs, and ballads, the flow of his genius wasprecocious, swift, and invincible. The day on which he first opened,"under a platanus tree," the volumes in which Percy had collected thefragments of ancient poetry, he forgot dinner, "notwithstanding thesharp appetite of thirteen," and thenceforth he overwhelmed with theseold rhymes not only his school-fellows, but everyone else who wouldlisten to him. After he had become a clerk to his father, he crammedinto his desk all the works of imagination which he could find. "Thewhole Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy tribe I abhorred," he said, "and itrequired the art of Burney, or the feeling of Mackenzie, to fix myattention upon a domestic tale. But all that was adventurous andromantic,... that touched upon knight-errantry, I devoured."[118] Havingfallen ill, he was kept a long time in bed, forbidden to speak, with noother pleasure than to read the poets, novelists, historians, andgeographers, illustrating the battle-descriptions by setting in line anddisposing little pebbles, which represented the soldiers. Once cured,and able to walk well, he turned his walks to the same purpose, anddeveloped a passion for the country, especially the historical regions.He said:


"But show me an old castle or a field of battle, and I was at home atonce, filled it with its combatants in their proper costume, andoverwhelmed my hearers by the enthusiasm of my description. In crossingMagus Moor, near St. Andrews, the spirit moved me to give a picture ofthe assassination of the Archbishop of St. Andrews to somefellow-travellers with whom I was accidentally associated, and one ofthem, though well acquainted with the story, protested my narrative hadfrightened away his night's sleep."[119]


Amidst other excursions, in search after knowledge, he travelled onceevery year during seven years in the wild district of Liddesdale,exploring every stream and every ruin, sleeping in the shepherds' huts,gleaning legends and ballads. We can judge from this of his antiquariantastes and habits. He read provincial charters, the wretched Middle AgeLatin verses, the parish registers, even contracts and wills. The firsttime he was able to lay his hand on one of the great "old Borderwar-horns," he blew it all along his route. Rusty mail and dirtyparchment attracted him, filled his head with recollections and poetry.In truth, he had a feudal mind, and always wished to be the founder of adistinct branch of an historical family. Literary glory was onlysecondary; his talent was to him only as an instrument. He spent thevast sums which his prose and verse had won, in building a castle inimitation of the ancient knights, "with a tall tower at either end,...sundry zigzagged gables,... a myriad of indentations and parapets, andmachicollated eaves; most fantastic waterspouts; labelled windows, not afew of them painted glass;... stones carved with heraldriesinnumerable";[120] apartments filled with sideboards and carved chests,adorned with "cuirasses, helmets, swords of every order, from theclaymore and rapier to some German executioner's swords." For long yearshe held open house there, so to speak, and did to every stranger the"honours of Scotland," trying to revive the old feudal life, with allits customs and its display; dispensing liberal and joyous hospitalityto all comers, above all to relatives, friends, and neighbors; singingballads and sounding pibrochs amidst the clinking of glasses; holdinggay hunting-parties, where the yeomen and gentlemen rode side by side;and encouraging lively dances, where the lord was not ashamed to givehis hand to the miller's daughter. He himself, frank of speech, happy,amidst his forty guests, kept up the conversation with a profusion ofstories, lavished from his vast memory and imagination, conducted hisguests over his domain, extended at large cost, amidst new plantationswhose future shade was to shelter his posterity; and he thought with apoet's smile of the distant generations who would acknowledge for theirancestor Sir Walter Scott, first baronet of Abbotsford.

"The Lady of the Lake, Marmion, The Lord of the Isles, The Fair Maid ofPerth, Old Mortality, Ivanhoe, Quentin Durward," who does not know thesenames by heart? From Walter Scott we learned history. And yet is thishistory? All these pictures of a distant age are false. Costumes,scenery, externals alone are exact; actions, speech, sentiments, all therest is civilized, embellished, arranged in modern guise. We mightsuspect it when looking at the character and life of the author; forwhat does he desire, and what do the guests, eager to hear him, demand?Is he a lover of truth as it is, foul and fierce; an inquisitiveexplorer, indifferent to contemporary applause, bent alone on definingthe transformations of living nature? By no means. He is in history, ashe is at Abbotsford, bent on arranging points of view and Gothic halls.The moon will come in well there between the towers; here is a nicelyplaced breastplate, the ray of light which it throws back is pleasant tosee on these old hangings; suppose we took out the feudal garments fromthe wardrobe and invited the guests to a masquerade? The entertainmentwould be a fine one, in accordance with their reminiscences and theiraristocratic principles. English lords, fresh from a bitter war againstFrench democracy, ought to enter zealously into this commemoration oftheir ancestors. Moreover, there are ladies and young girls, and we mustarrange the show, so as not to shock their severe morality and theirdelicate feelings, make them weep becomingly; not put on the stageover-strong passions, which they would not understand; on the contrary,select heroines to resemble them, always touching, but above allcorrect; young gentlemen, Evandale, Morton, Ivanhoe, irreproachablybrought up, tender and grave, even slightly melancholic (it is thelatest fashion), and worthy to lead them to the altar. Is there a manmore suited than the author to compose such a spectacle? He is a goodProtestant, a good husband, a good father, very moral, so decided a Torythat he carries off as a relic a glass from which the king has justdrunk. In addition, he has neither talent nor leisure to reach thedepths of his characters. He devotes himself to the exterior; he seesand describes forms and externals much more at length than inwardfeelings. Again, he treats his mind like a coal-mine, serviceable forquick working, and for the greatest possible gain: a volume in a month,sometimes in a fortnight even, and this volume is worth one thousandpounds. How should he discover, or how dare exhibit, the structure ofbarbarous souls? This structure is too difficult to discover, and toolittle pleasing to show. Every two centuries, amongst men, theproportion of images and ideas, the mainspring of passions, the degreeof reflection, the species of inclinations, change. Who, without a longpreliminary training, now understands and relishes Dante, Rabelais, andRubens? And how, for instance, could these great Catholic and mysticaldreams, these vast temerities, or these impurities of carnal art, findentrance into the head of this gentlemanly citizen? Walter Scott pauseson the threshold of the soul, and in the vestibule of history, selectsin the Renaissance and the Middle Ages only the fit and agreeable, blotsout plain-spoken words, licentious sensuality, bestial ferocity. Afterall, his characters, to whatever age he transports them, are hisneighbors, "cannie" farmers, vain lairds, gloved gentlemen, youngmarriageable ladies, all more or less commonplace, that is, steady; bytheir education and character at a great distance from the voluptuousfools of the Restoration, or the heroic brutes and fierce beasts of theMiddle Ages. As he has the greatest supply of rich costumes, and themost inexhaustible talent for scenic effect, he makes all his people geton very pleasantly, and composes tales which, in truth, have only themerit of fashion, though that fashion may last a hundred years yet.

That which he himself acted lasted for a shorter time. To sustain hisprincely hospitality and his feudal magnificence, he went intopartnership with his printers; lord of the manor in public and merchantin private, he gave them his signature, without keeping a check over theuse they made of it.[121] Bankruptcy followed; at the age of fifty-fivehe was ruined, and one hundred and seventeen thousand pounds in debt.With admirable courage and uprightness he refused all favor, acceptingnothing but time, set to work on the very day, wrote untiringly, in fouryears paid seventy thousand pounds, exhausted his brain so as to becomeparalytic, and to perish in the attempt. Neither in his conduct nor hisliterature did his feudal tastes succeed, and his manorial splendor wasas fragile as his Gothic imaginations. He had relied on imitation, andwe live by truth only; his glory is to be found elsewhere; there wassomething solid in his mind as well as in his writings. Beneath thelover of the Middle Ages we find, first the "pawky" Scotchman, anattentive observer, whose sharpness became more intense by hisfamiliarity with law; a good-natured man, easy and cheerful, as beseemsthe national character, so different from the English. One of hiswalking companions (Shortreed) said: "Eh me, sic an endless fund o'humour and drollery as he had wi' him! Never ten yards but we wereeither laughing or roaring and singing. Wherever we stopped, how brawliehe suited himsel' to everybody! He aye did as the lave did; never madehimsel' the great man, or took ony airs in the company."[122] Grownolder and graver, he was none the less amiable, the most agreeable ofhosts, so that one of his guests, a farmer, I think, said to his wife,when home, after having been at Abbotsford, "Ailie, my woman, I'm readyfor my bed.... I wish I could sleep for a towmont, for there's only aething in this warld worth living for, and that's the Abbotsfordhunt!"[123]

In addition to a mind of this kind, he had all-discerning eyes, anall-retentive memory, a ceaseless studiousness which comprehended thewhole of Scotland, and all classes of people; and we see his true talentarise, so agreeable, so abundant and so easy, made up of minuteobservation and gentle raillery, recalling at once Teniers and Addison.Doubtless he wrote badly, at times in the worst possible manner:[124] itis clear that he dictated, hardly reread his writing, and readily fellinto a pasty and emphatic style--a style very common in the presenttimes, and which we read day after day in the prospectuses andnewspapers. What is worse, he is terribly long and diffuse; hisconversations and descriptions are interminable; he is determined, atall events, to fill three volumes. But he has given to Scotland acitizenship of literature--I mean to the whole of Scotland: scenery,monuments, houses, cottages, characters of every age and condition, fromthe baron to the fisherman, from the advocate to the beggar, from thelady to the fishwife. When we mention merely his name they crowdforward; who does not see them coming from every niche of memory? TheBaron of Bradwardine, Dominie Sampson, Meg Merrilies, the Antiquary,Edie Ochiltree, Jeanie Deans and her father--innkeepers, shopkeepers,old wives, an entire people. What Scotch features are absent? Saving,patient, "cannie," and of course "pawky"; the poverty of the soil andthe difficulty of existence has compelled them to be so: this is thespecialty of the race. The same tenacity which they introduced intoevery-day affairs they have introduced into mental concerns--studiousreaders and perusers of antiquities and controversies, poets also;legends spring up readily in a romantic land, amidst time-honored warsand brigandism. In a land thus prepared, and in this gloomy clime,Presbyterianism sunk its sharp roots. Such was the real and modernworld, lit up by the far-setting sun of chivalry, as Sir Walter Scottfound it; like a painter who, passing from great show-pictures, findsinterest and beauty in the ordinary houses of a paltry provincial town,or in a farm surrounded by beds of beet-roots and turnips. A continuousarchness throws its smile over these interior and _genre_ pictures, solocal and minute, and which, like the Flemish, indicate the rise ofwell-to-do citizens. Most of these good folk are comic. Our author makesfun of them, brings out their little deceits, parsimony, fooleries,vulgarity, and the hundred thousand ridiculous habits people alwayscontract in a narrow sphere of life. A barber, in "The Antiquary," movesheaven and earth about his wigs; if the French Revolution takes rooteverywhere, it was because the magistrates gave up this ornament. Hecries out in a lamentable voice: "Haud a care, haud a care, Monkbarns!God's sake, haud a care!--Sir Arthur's drowned already, and an ye fa'over the cleugh too, there will be but ae wig left in the parish, andthat's the minister's."[125] Mark how the author smiles, and withoutmalice: the barber's candid selfishness is the effect of the man'scalling, and does not repel us. Walter Scott is never bitter; he lovesmen from the bottom of his heart, excuses or tolerates them; does notchastise vices, but unmasks them, and that not rudely. His greatestpleasure is to pursue at length, not indeed a vice, but a hobby; themania for odds and ends in an antiquary, the archaeological vanity ofthe Baron of Bradwardine, the aristocratic drivel of the Dowager LadyBellenden--that is, the amusing exaggeration of an allowable taste; andthis without anger, because, on the whole, these ridiculous people areestimable, and even generous. Even in rogues like Dirk Hatteraick, incut-throats like Bothwell, he allows some goodness. In no one, not evenin Major Dalgetty, a professional murderer, a result of the thirtyyears' war, is the odious unveiled by the ridiculous. In this criticalrefinement and this benevolent philosophy, he resembles Addison.

He resembles him again by the purity and endurance of his moralprinciples. His amanuensis, Mr. Laidlaw, told him that he was doinggreat good by his attractive and noble tales, and that young peoplewould no longer wish to look in the literary rubbish of the circulatinglibraries. When Walter Scott heard this, his eyes filled with tears: "Onhis deathbed he said to his son-in-law: 'Lockhart, I have but a minuteto speak to you. My dear, be a good man--be virtuous, be religious--be agood man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to liehere.'"[126] This was almost his last word. By this fundamental honesty,and this broad humanity, he was the Homer of modern citizen life. Aroundand after him, the novel of manners, separated from the historicalromance, has produced a whole literature, and preserved the characterwhich he stamped upon it. Miss Austen, Miss Brontë, Mrs. Gaskell,George Eliot, Bulwer, Thackeray, Dickens, and many others, paint,especially or entirely in his style, contemporary life, as it is,unembellished, in all ranks, often amongst the people, more frequentlystill amongst the middle class. And the causes which made the historicalnovel come to naught, in Scott and others, made the novel of manners, bythe same authors, succeed. These men were too minute copyists and toodecided moralists, incapable of the great divinations and the widesympathies which unlock the door of history; their imagination was tooliteral, and their judgment too unwavering. It is precisely by thesefaculties that they created a new species of novel, which multiplies tothis day in thousands of offshoots, with such abundance, that men oftalent in this branch of literature may be counted by hundreds, and thatwe can only compare them, for their original and national spirit, to thegreat age of Dutch painting. Realistic and moral, these are their twofeatures. They are far removed from the great imagination which createsand transforms, as it appeared in the Renaissance or in the seventeenthcentury, in the heroic or noble ages. They renounce free invention; theynarrow themselves to scrupulous exactness; they paint with infinitedetail costumes and places, changing nothing; they mark little shades oflanguage; they are not disgusted by vulgarities or platitudes. Theirinformation is authentic and precise. In short, they write like citizensfor fellow-citizens, that is, for well-ordered people, members of aprofession, whose imagination does not soar high, and sees thingsthrough a magnifying glass, unable to relish anything in the way of apicture except interiors and make-believes. Ask a cook which picture sheprefers in the museum, and she will point to a kitchen, in which thestewpans are so well painted that a man is tempted to put soup and breadin them. Yet beyond this inclination, which is now European, Englishmenhave a special craving, which with them is national and dates from thepreceding century; they desire that the novel, like all other things,should contribute to their great work--the amelioration of man andsociety. They ask from it the glorification of virtue, and thechastisem*nt of vice. They send it into all the corners of civilsociety, and all the events of private history, in search of examplesand expedients, to learn thence the means of remedying abuses, succoringmiseries, avoiding temptations. They make of it an instrument ofinquiry, education, and morality. A singular work, which has not itsequal in all history, because in all history there has been no societylike it, and which--of moderate attraction for lovers of the beautiful,admirable to lovers of the useful--offers, in the countless variety ofits painting, and the invariable stability of its spirit, the picture ofthe only democracy which knows how to restrain, govern, and reformitself.


Section V.--Philosophy Enters into Literature.--Wordsworth.--Shelley


Side by side with this development there was another, and with historyphilosophy entered into literature, in order to widen and modify it. Itwas manifest throughout, on the threshold as in the centre. On thethreshold it had planted aesthetics: every poet, becoming theoretic,defined before producing the beautiful, laid down principles in hispreface and originated only alter a preconceived system. But theascendancy of metaphysics was much more visible yet in the middle of thework than on its threshold; for not only did it prescribe the form ofpoetry, but it furnished it with its elements. What is man, and what hashe come into the world to do? What is this far-off greatness to which heaspires? Is there a haven which he may reach, and a hidden hand toconduct him thither? These are the questions which poets, transformedinto thinkers, agreed to agitate; and Goethe, here as elsewhere thefather and promoter of all lofty modern ideas, at once sceptical,pantheistic, and mystic, wrote in "Faust" the epic of the age and thehistory of the human mind. Need I say that in Schiller, Heine,Beethoven, Victor Hugo, Lamartine, and dc Musset, the poet, in hisindividual person, always speaks the words of the universal man? Thecharacters which they have created, from Faust to Ruy Blas, only servedthem to exhibit some grand metaphysical and social idea; and twentytimes this too great idea, bursting its narrow envelope, broke outbeyond all human likelihood and all poetic form, to display itself tothe eyes of the spectators. Such was the domination of the philosophicalspirit, that, after doing violence to literature, or rendering it rigid,it imposed on music humanitarian ideas, inflicted on painting symbolicaldesigns, penetrated current speech, and marred style by an overflow ofabstractions and formulas, from which all our efforts now fail toliberate us. As an overstrong child, which at its birth injures itsmother, so it has contorted the noble forms which had endeavored tocontain it, and dragged literature through an agony of struggles andsufferings.

This philosophical spirit was not born in England, and fromGermany to England the passage was very long. For a considerable time itappeared dangerous or ridiculous. One of the reviews stated even, thatGermany was a large country peopled by hussars and classical scholars;that if folks go there, they will see at Heidelberg a very large tun,and could feast on excellent Rhine wine and Westphalian ham, but thattheir authors were, very heavy and awkward, and that a sentimentalGerman resembles a tall and stout butcher crying over a killed calf. Ifat length German literature found entrance, first by the attraction ofextravagant dramas and fantastic ballads, then by the sympathy of thetwo nations, which, allied against French policy and civilization,acknowledged their cousinship in speech, religion, and blood, Germanmetaphysics did not enter, unable to overturn the barrier which apositive mind and a national religion opposed to it. It tried to pass,with Coleridge for instance, a philosophical theologian and dreamy poet,who toiled to widen conventional dogma, and who, at the close of hislife, having become a sort of oracle, endeavored, in the pale of theChurch, to unfold and unveil before a few faithful disciples theChristianity of the future. It did not make head; the English mind wastoo positive, the theologians too enslaved. It was constrained totransform itself and become Anglican, or to deform itself and becomerevolutionary; and to produce a Wordsworth, a Byron, a Shelley, insteadof a Schiller and Goethe.

The first, Wordsworth, a new Cowper, with less talent and more ideasthan the other, was essentially a man of inner feelings, that is,engrossed by the concerns of the soul. Such men ask what they have cometo do in this world, and why life has been given to them; if they areright or wrong, and if the secret movements of their heart areconformable to the supreme law, without taking into account the visiblecauses of their conduct. Such, for men of this kind, is the masterconception which renders them serious, meditative, and as a rulegloomy.[127] They live with eyes turned inwards, not to mark andclassify their ideas, like physiologists, but as moralists, to approveor blame their feelings. Thus understood, life becomes a grave business,of uncertain issue, on which we must incessantly and scrupulouslyreflect. Thus understood, the world changes its aspect; it is no longera machine of wheels working into each other, as the philosopher says,nor a splendid blooming plant, as the artist feels--it is the work of amoral being, displayed as a spectacle to moral beings.

Figure such a man facing life and the world; he sees them, and takespart in it, apparently like anyone else; but how different is he inreality! His great thought pursues him; and when he beholds a tree, itis to meditate on human destiny. He finds or lends a sense to the leastobjects: a soldier marching to the sound of the drum makes him reflecton heroic sacrifice, the support of societies; a train of clouds lyingheavily on the verge of a gloomy sky, endues him with that melancholycalm, so suited to nourish moral life. There is nothing which does notrecall him to his duty and admonish him of his origin. Near or far, likea great mountain in a landscape, his philosophy will appear behind allhis ideas and images. If he is restless, impassioned, sick withscruples, it will appear to him amidst storm and lightning, as it did tothe genuine Puritans, to Cowper, Pascal, Carlyle. It will appear to himin a grayish kind of fog, imposing and calm, if he enjoys, likeWordsworth, a calm mind and a quiet life. Wordsworth was a wise andhappy man, a thinker and a dreamer, who read and walked. He was from thefirst in tolerably easy circ*mstances, and had a small fortune. Happilymarried, amidst the favors of government and the respect of the public,he lived peacefully on the margin of a beautiful lake, in sight of noblemountains, in the pleasant retirement of an elegant house, amidst theadmiration and attentions of distinguished and chosen friends, engrossedby contemplations which no storm came to distract, and by poetry whichwas produced without any hinderance. In this deep calm he listens to hisown thoughts; the peace was so great, within him and around him, that hecould perceive the imperceptible. "To me, the meanest flower that blows,can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." He saw agrandeur, a beauty, a teaching in the trivial events which weave thewoof of our most commonplace days. He needed not, for the sake ofemotion, either splendid sights or unusual actions. The dazzling glareof lamps, the pomp of the theatre, would have shocked him; his eyes weretoo delicate, accustomed to quiet and uniform tints. He was a poet ofthe twilight. Moral existence is commonplace existence, such was hisobject--the object of his choice. His paintings are cameos with a grayground, which have a meaning; designedly he suppresses all which mightplease the senses, in order to speak solely to the heart.

Out of this character sprang a theory--his theory of art, altogetherspiritualistic, which, after repelling classical habits, ended byrallying Protestant sympathies, and won for him as many partisans as ithad raised enemies.[128] Since the only important thing is moral life,let us devote ourselves solely to nourishing it. The reader must bemoved, genuinely, with profit to his soul; the rest is indifferent: letus, then, show him objects moving in themselves, without dreaming ofclothing them in a beautiful style. Let us strip ourselves ofconventional language and poetic diction. Let us neglect noble words,scholastic and courtly epithets, and all the pomp of factitioussplendor, which the classical writers thought themselves bound toassume, and justified in imposing. In poetry, as elsewhere, the grandquestion is, not ornament, but truth. Let us leave show, and seekeffect. Let us speak in a bare style, as like as possible to prose, toordinary conversation, even to rustic conversation, and let us chooseour subjects at hand, in humble life. Let us take for our characters anidiot boy, a shivering old peasant woman, a hawker, a servant stoppingin the street. It is the truth of sentiment, not the dignity of thefolks, which makes the beauty of a subject; it is the truth ofsentiment, not dignity of the words, which makes the beauty of poetry.What matters that it is a villager who weeps, if these tears enable meto see the maternal sentiment? What matters that my verse is a line ofrhymed prose, if this line displays a noble emotion? Men read that theymay carry away emotion, not phrases; they come to us to look for moralculture, not pretty ways of speaking. And thereupon Wordsworthclassifying his poems according to the different faculties of men andthe different ages of life, undertakes to lead us through allcompartments and degrees of inner education, to the convictions andsentiments which he has himself attained.

All this is very well, but on condition that the reader is inWordsworth's position; that is, essentially a philosophical moralist,and an excessively sensitive man. When I shall have emptied my head ofall worldly thoughts, and looked up at the clouds for ten years torefine my soul, I shall love this poetry. Meanwhile the web ofimperceptible threads by which Wordsworth endeavors to bind together allsentiments and embrace all nature, breaks in my fingers; it is toofragile; it is a woof of woven spider-web, spun by a metaphysicalimagination, and tearing as soon as a hand of flesh and blood tries totouch it. Half of his pieces are childish, almost foolish;[129] dullevents described in a dull style, one platitude after another, and thaton principle. All the poets in the world would not reconcile us to somuch tedium. Certainly a cat playing with three dry leaves may furnish aphilosophical reflection, and figure forth a wise man sporting with thefallen leaves of life; but eighty lines on such a subject make usyawn--much worse, smile. At this rate we will find a lesson in an oldtooth-brush, which still continues in use. Doubtless, also, the ways ofProvidence are not to be fathomed, and a selfish and brutal artisan likePeter Bell may be converted by the beautiful conduct of an ass full offidelity and unselfishness; but this sentimental prettiness quicklygrows insipid, and the style, by its factitious simplicity, renders itstill more insipid. We are not over-pleased to see a grave man seriouslyimitate the language of nurses, and we murmur to ourselves that, with somany emotions, he must wet so many handkerchiefs. We will acknowledge,if you like, that your sentiments are interesting; yet there is no needto trot them all out before us.

We imagine we hear him say: "Yesterday I read Walton's 'CompleteAngler'; let us write a sonnet about it. On Easter Sunday I was in avalley in Westmoreland; another sonnet. Two days ago I put too manyquestions to my little boy and caused him to tell a lie; a poem. I amgoing to travel on the Continent and through Scotland; poems about allthe incidents, monuments, adventures of the journey."

You must consider your emotions very precious, that you put them allunder glass! There are only three or four events in each of our livesworthy of being related; our powerful sensations deserve to beexhibited, because they recapitulate our whole existence; but not thelittle effects of the little agitations which pass through us, and theimperceptible oscillations of our every-day condition. Else I might endby explaining in rhyme that yesterday my dog broke his leg, and thatthis morning my wife put on her stockings inside out. The specialty ofthe artist is to cast great ideas in moulds as great; Wordsworth'smoulds are of bad common clay, cracked, unable to hold the noble metalwhich they ought to contain.

But the metal is really noble: and besides several very beautifulsonnets, there is now and then a work, amongst others his largest, "TheExcursion," in which we forget the poverty of the getting up to admirethe purity and elevation of the thought. In truth, the author hardlyputs himself to the trouble of imagining; he walks along and converseswith a pious Scotch peddler; this is the whole of the story. The poetsof this school always walk, look at nature and think of human destiny;it is their permanent attitude. He converses, then, with the peddler, ameditative character, who has been educated by a long experience of menand things, who speaks very well (too well!) of the soul and of God, andrelates to him the history of a good woman who died of grief in hercottage; then he meets a solitary, a sort of sceptical Hamlet--morose,made gloomy by the death of his family, and the disappointments sufferedduring his long journeyings; then a clergyman, who took them to thevillage churchyard, and described to them the life of severalinteresting people who are buried there. Observe that, just inproportion as reflections and moral discussions arise, and as sceneryand moral descriptions spread before us in hundreds, so alsodissertations entwine their long thorny hedgerows, and metaphysicalthistles multiply in every corner. In short, the poem is as grave anddull as a sermon. And yet, in spite of this ecclesiastical air and thetirades against Voltaire and his age,[130] we feel ourselves impressedas by a discourse of Théodore Jouffroy. After all, Wordsworth isconvinced; he has spent his life meditating on these kind of ideas, theyare the poetry of his religion, race, climate; he is imbued with them;his pictures, stories, interpretations of visible nature and human lifetend only to put the mind in a grave disposition which is proper to theinner man. I enter here as in the valley of Port Royal: a solitary nook,stagnant waters, gloomy woods, ruins, gravestones, and above all theidea of responsible man and the obscure beyond, to which weinvoluntarily move. I forget the careless French fashions, the custom ofnot disturbing the even tenor of life. There is an imposing seriousness,an austere beauty in this sincere reflection; we begin to feel respect,we stop and are moved. This book is like a Protestant temple, august,though bare and monotonous. The poet sets forth the great interests ofthe soul:


"On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life,Musing in solitude, I oft perceiveFair trains of imagery before me rise,Accompanied by feelings of delightPure, or with no unpleasing sadness mixed;And I am conscious of affecting thoughtsAnd dear remembrances, whose presence soothesOr elevates the Mind, intent to weighThe good and evil of our mortal state.--To these emotions, whencesoe'er they come,Whether from breath of outward circ*mstance,Or from the Soul--an impulse to herself,--I would give utterance in numerous verse.Of Truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope,And melancholy Fear subdued by Faith;Of blessed consolations in distress;Of moral strength, and intellectual Power;Of joy in widest commonalty spread;Of the individual Mind that keeps her ownInviolate retirement, subject thereTo Conscience only, and the law supremeOf that Intelligence which governs all--I sing."[131]


This intelligence, the only holy part of man, is holy in all stages; forthis, Wordsworth selects as his characters a peddler, a parson,villagers; in his eyes rank, education, habits, all the worldly envelopeof a man, is without interest; what constitutes our worth is theintegrity of our conscience; science itself is only profound when itpenetrates moral life; for this life fails nowhere;


"To every Form of being is assigned...An active principle:--howe'er removedFrom sense and observation, it subsistsIn all things, in all natures; in the starsOf azure heaven, the unenduring clouds,In flow'r and tree, in every pebbly stoneThat paves the brooks, the stationary rocks,The moving waters, and the invisible air.Whate'er exists hath properties that spreadBeyond itself, communicating good,A simple blessing, or with evil mixed;Spirit that knows no insulated spot,No chasm, no solitude; from link to linkIt circulates, the Soul of all the worlds."[132]


Reject, then, with disdain this arid science:


"Where Knowledge, ill begun in cold remarksOn outward things, with formal inference ends;Or, if the mind turn inward, she recoils,At once--or not recoiling, is perplexed--[133]Lost in a gloom of uninspired research....Viewing all objects unremittinglyIn disconnexion dead and spiritless;And still dividing, and dividing still,Breaks down all grandeur."[134]


Beyond the vanities of science and the pride of the world, there is thesoul, whereby all are equal, and the broad and inner Christian lifeopens at once its gates to all who would enter:


"The sun is fixed,And the infinite magnificence of heavenFixed within reach of every human eye.The sleepless Ocean murmurs for all ears,The vernal field infuses fresh delightInto all hearts....The primal duties shine aloft like stars,The charities that soothe and heal and blessAre scattered at the feet of man--like flowers."


So, at the end of all agitation and all search appears the greattruth, which is the abstract of the rest:


"Life, I repeat, is energy of loveDivine or human; exercised in pain,In strife and tribulation; and ordained,If so approved and sanctified, to passThrough shades and silent rest to endless joy."[135]


The verses sustain these serious thoughts by their grave harmony, as amotet accompanies meditation or prayer. They resemble the grand andmonotonous music of the organ, which in the eventide, at the close ofthe service, rolls slowly in the twilight of arches and pillars.

When a certain phase of human intelligence comes to light, it does sofrom all sides; there is no part where it does not appear, no instinctwhich it does not renew. It enters simultaneously the two oppositecamps, and seems to undo with one hand what it has made with the other.If it is, as it was formerly, the oratorical style, we find it at thesame time in the service of cynical misanthropy, and in that of decoroushumanity, in Swift and in Addison. If it is, as now, the philosophicalspirit, it produces at once conservative harangues and socialisticutopias, Wordsworth and Shelley.[136] The latter, one of the greatestpoets of the age, son of a rich baronet, beautiful as an angel, ofextraordinary precocity, gentle, generous, tender, overflowing with allthe gifts of heart, mind, birth, and fortune, marred his life, as itwere, wantonly, by allowing his conduct to be guided by an enthusiasticimagination which he should have kept for his verses. From his birth hehad "the vision" of sublime beauty and happiness; and the contemplationof an ideal world set him in arms against the real. Having refused atEton to be a fa*g of the big boys, he was treated by boys and masterswith a revolting cruelty; suffered himself to be made a martyr, refusedto obey, and, falling back into forbidden studies, began to form themost immoderate and most poetical dreams. He judged society by theoppression which he underwent, and man by the generosity which he feltin himself; thought that man was good, and society bad, and that it wasonly necessary to suppress established institutions to make earth "aparadise." He became a republican, a communist, preached fraternity,love, even abstinence from flesh, and as a means the abolition of kings,priests, and God.[137] We can fancy the indignation which such ideasroused in a society so obstinately attached to established order--sointolerant, in which, above the conservative and religious instincts,Cant spoke like a master. Shelley was expelled from the university; hisfather refused to see him; the Lord Chancellor, by a decree took fromhim, as being unworthy, the custody of his two children; finally, he wasobliged to quit England. I forgot to say that at eighteen he married ayoung girl of inferior rank, that they separated, that she committedsuicide, that he undermined his health by his excitement andsuffering,[138] and that to the end of his life he was nervous or ill.Is not this the life of a genuine poet? Eyes fixed on the splendidapparitions with which he peopled space, he went through the world notseeing the highroad, stumbling over the stones of the roadside. Hepossessed not that knowledge of life which most poets share in commonwith novelists. Seldom has a mind been seen in which thought soared inloftier regions, and more removed from actual things. When he tried tocreate characters and events--in "Queen Mab," in "Alastor," in "TheRevolt of Islam," in "Prometheus"--he only produced unsubstantialphantoms. Once only, in the "Cenci," did he inspire a living figure(Beatrice) worthy of Webster or old Ford; but in some sort this was inspite of himself, and because in it the sentiments were so unheard ofand so strained that they suited superhuman conceptions. Elsewhere hisworld is throughout beyond our own. The laws of life are suspended ortransformed. We move in Shelley's world between heaven and earth, inabstraction, dreamland, symbolism: the beings float in it like thosefantastic figures which we see in the clouds, and which alternatelyundulate and change form capriciously, in their robes of snow and gold.

For souls thus constituted, the great consolation is nature. They aretoo finely sensitive to find amusem*nt in the spectacle and picture ofhuman passions. Shelley instinctively avoided that spectacle; the sightreopened his own wounds. He was happier in the woods, at the sea-side,in contemplation of grand landscapes. The rocks, clouds, and meadows,which to ordinary eyes seem dull and insensible, are, to a widesympathy, living and divine existences, which are an agreeable changefrom men. No virgin smile is so charming as that of the dawn, nor anyjoy more triumphant than that of the ocean when its waves swell andshimmer, as far as the eye can reach, under the lavish splendor ofheaven. At this sight the heart rises unwittingly to the sentiment ofancient legends, and the poet perceives in the inexhaustible bloom ofthings the peaceful soul of the great mother by whom everything growsand is supported. Shelley spent most of his life in the open air,especially in his boat; first on the Thames, then on the Lake of Geneva,then on the Arno, and in the Italian waters. He loved desert andsolitary places, where man enjoys the pleasure of believing infinitewhat he sees, infinite as his soul. And such was this wide ocean, andthis shore more barren than its waves. This love was a deep Teutonicinstinct, which, allied to pagan emotions, produced his poetry,pantheistic and yet full of thought, almost Greek and yet English, inwhich fancy plays like a foolish, dreamy child, with the splendid skeinof forms and colors. A cloud, a plant, a sunrise--these are hischaracters: they were those of the primitive poets, when they took thelightning for a bird of fire, and the clouds for the flocks of heaven.But what a secret ardor beyond these splendid images, and how we feelthe heat of the furnace beyond the colored phantoms, which it setsafloat over the horizon![139] Has anyone since Shakespeare and Spenserlighted on such tender and such grand ecstasies? Has anyone painted somagnificently the cloud which watches by night in the sky, enveloping inits net the swarm of golden bees, the stars:


"The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,And his burning plumes outspread,Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,When the morning star shines dead...[140]That orbed maiden with white fire laden,Whom mortals call the moon,Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor,By the midnight breezes strewn."[141]


Read again those verses on the garden, in which the sensitive plantdreams. Alas! they are the dreams of the poet; and the happy visionswhich floated in his virgin heart up to the moment when it opened outand withered. I will pause in time; I will not proceed, as he did,beyond the recollections of his springtime:


"The snowdrop, and then the violet,Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sentFrom the turf, like the voice and the instrument.

"Then the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,And narcissi, the fairest among them all,Who gaze on their eyes in the stream's recess,Till they die of their own dear loveliness.

"And the Naiad-like lily of the vale,Whom youth makes so fair and passion so pale,That the light of its tremulous bells is seenThrough their pavilions of tender green;

"And the hyacinth purple, and white, and blue,Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anewOf music so delicate, soft, and intense,It was felt like an odor within the sense;

"And the rose like a nymph to the bath addrest,Which unveiled the depth of her glowing breast,Till, fold after fold, to the fainting airThe soul of her beauty and love lay bare;

"And the wand-like lily, which lifted up,As a Mænad, its moonlight-colored cup,Till the fiery star, which is its eye,Gazed through the clear dew on the tender sky...

"And on the stream whose inconstant bosomWas prankt, under boughs of embowering blossom,With golden and green light, slanting throughTheir heaven of many a tangled hue,

"Broad water-lilies lay tremulously,And starry river-buds glimmered by,And round them the soft stream did glide and danceWith a motion of sweet sound and radiance.

"And the sinuous paths of lawn and of moss,Which led through the garden along and across,Some open at once to the sun and the breeze,Some lost among bowers of blossoming trees,

"Were all paved with daisies and delicate bells,As fair as the fabulous asphodels,And flowerets which drooping as day drooped too,Fell into pavilions, white, purple, and blue,To roof the glow-worm from the evening dew."[142]


Everything lives here, everything breathes and yearns for something.This poem, the story of a plant, is also the story of a soul--Shelley'ssoul, the sensitive. Is it not natural to confound them? Is there nota community of nature amongst all the dwellers in this world? Verilythere is a soul in everything; in the universe is a soul; be theexistence what it will, uncultured or rational, defined or vague, everbeyond its sensible form shines a secret essence and something divine,which we catch sight of by sublime illuminations, never reaching orpenetrating it. It is this presentiment and yearning which sustains allmodern poetry--now in Christian meditations, as with Campbell andWordsworth, now in pagan visions, as with Keats and Shelley. They hearthe great heart of nature beat; they wish to reach it; they try allspiritual and sensible approaches, through Judea and through Greece, byconsecrated doctrines and by proscribed dogmas. In this splendid andfruitless effort the greatest become exhausted and die. Their poetry,which they drag with them over these sublime tracks, is torn to pieces.One alone, Byron, attains the summit; and of all these grand poeticdraperies, which float like banners, and seem to summon men to theconquest of supreme truth, we see now but tatters scattered by thewayside.

Yet these men did their work. Under their multiplied efforts, and bytheir unconscious working together, the idea of the beautiful ischanged, and other ideas change by contagion. Conservatives contributeto it as well as revolutionaries, and the new spirit breathes throughthe poems which bless and those which curse Church and State. We learnfrom Wordsworth and Byron, by profound Protestantism[143] and confirmedscepticism, that in this sacred cant-defended establishment there ismatter for reform or for revolt; that we may discover moral merits otherthan those which the law tickets and opinion accepts; that beyondconventional confessions there are truths; that beyond respected socialconditions there are grandeurs; that beyond regular positions there arevirtues; that greatness is in the heart and the genius; and all therest, actions and beliefs, are subaltern. We have just seen that beyondliterary conventionalities there is a poetry, and consequently we aredisposed to feel that beyond religious dogmas there may be a faith, andbeyond social institutions a justice. The old edifice totters, and theRevolution enters, not by a sudden inundation, as in France, but by slowinfiltration. The wall built up against it by public intolerance cracksand opens: the war waged against Jacobinism, republican and imperial,ends in victory; and henceforth we may regard opposing ideas, not asopposing enemies, but as ideas. We regard them, and, accommodating themto the different countries, we import them. Roman Catholics areenfranchised, rotten boroughs abolished, the electoral franchiselowered; unjust taxes, which kept up the price of corn, are repealed;ecclesiastical tithes changed into rent-charges; the terrible lawsprotecting property are modified, the assessment of taxes brought moreand more on the rich classes; old institutions, formerly established forthe advantage of a race, and in this race of a class, are onlymaintained when for the advantage of all classes; privileges becomefunctions; and in this triumph of the middle class, which shapes opinionand assumes the ascendancy, the aristocracy, passing from sinecures toservices, seems now legitimate only as a national nursery, kept up tofurnish public men. At the same time narrow orthodoxy is enlarged.Zoology, astronomy, geology, botany, anthropology, all the sciences ofobservation, so much cultivated and so popular, forcibly introduce theirdissolvent discoveries. Criticism comes in from Germany, rehandles theBible, rewrites the history of dogma, attacks dogma itself. Meanwhile,poor Scottish philosophy is dried up. Amidst the agitations of sects,endeavoring to transform each other, and rising Unitarianism, we hear atthe gates of the sacred ark the continental philosophy roaring like atide. Now already it has reached literature: for fifty years all greatwriters have plunged into it--Sydney Smith, by his sarcasms against thenumbness of the clergy, and the oppression of the Catholics; Arnold, byhis protests against the religious monopoly of the clergy, and theecclesiastical monopoly of the Anglicans; Macaulay, by his history andpanegyric of the liberal revolution; Thackeray, by attacking the nobles,in the interests of the middle class; Dickens, by attacking dignitariesand wealthy men, in the interests of the lowly and poor; Currer Bell andMrs. Browning, by defending the initiative and independence of women;Stanley and Jowett, by introducing the German exegesis, and by givingprecision to biblical criticism; Carlyle, by importing Germanmetaphysics in an English form; Stuart Mill, by importing Frenchpositivism in an English form; Tennyson himself, by extending over thebeauties of all lands and all ages the protection of his amiabledilettantism and his poetical sympathies--each according to his powerand his difference of position; all retained within reach of the shoreby their practical prejudices, all strengthened against falling by theirmoral prejudices; all bent, some with more of eagerness, others withmore of distrust, in welcoming or giving entrance to the growing tide ofmodern democracy and philosophy in State and Church, without doingdamage, and gradually, so as to destroy nothing, and to make everythingbear fruit.


[Footnote 60: See Alison, "History of Europe"; Porter, "Progress ofthe Nation."]

[Footnote 61: In the "Fourth Estate," by F. Knight Hunt, 2 vols. 1840,it is said (I. 175) that the first daily and morning paper, "TheDaily Courant," appeared in 1709.--Tr.]

[Footnote 62: To realize the contrast, compare Gil Blas and Ruy Blas,Marivaux's Paysan Parvenu and Stendhal's Julien Sorel (in "Rouge etNoir").]

[Footnote 63: The disciple of Faust.]

[Footnote 64: Goethe's "Faust," sc. 1.]

[Footnote 65: Most of these details are taken from the "Life and Worksof Burns," by R. Chambers, 1851, 4 vols.]

[Footnote 66: Ibid. I. 14.]

[Footnote 67: My great constituent elements are pride and passion.]

[Footnote 68: Extract from Burns's commonplace-book; Chambers's"Life," I. 79.]

[Footnote 69: Ibid. I. 231. Burns had a right to think so; when hearrived at night in an inn, the very servants woke their fellow-laborersto come and hear him talk.]

[Footnote 70: Ibid. II. 68.]

[Footnote 71: "Man was made to Mourn," a dirge.]

[Footnote 72: "First Epistle to Davie, a brother poet."]

[Footnote 73: "Earnest Cry and Prayer to the Scotch Representatives."]

[Footnote 74: "The Creed of Poverty;" Chambers's "Life," IV. 86.]

[Footnote 75: "The Tree of Liberty."]

[Footnote 76: 1780.]

[Footnote 77: "The Holy Fair."]

[Footnote 78: "The Holy Fair."]

[Footnote 79: "Holy Willie's Prayer."]

[Footnote 80: "Epistle to the Rev. John M'math."]

[Footnote 81: "A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton."]

[Footnote 82: "Address to the Deil."]

[Footnote 83: He himself says: "I have been all along a miserable dupeto Love." His brother Gilbert said: "He was constantly the victim ofsome fair enslaver."]

[Footnote 84: Chambers's "Life of Burns," I. 12.]

[Footnote 85: Byron's Works, ed. Moore, 17 vols, II. 302, "Journal,"Dec. 13, 1813.]

[Footnote 86: See a passage from Burns's commonplace-book in Chambers's"Life of Burns," I. 93.]

[Footnote 87: Chambers's "Life," I. 38.]

[Footnote 88: See "Tam o' Shanter. Address to the Deil, The JollyBeggars, A Man's a Man for a' that, Green Grow the Rashes," etc.]

[Footnote 89: "O Clarinda, shall we not meet in a state, some yetunknown state of being, where the lavish hand of plenty shall ministerto the highest wish of benevolence, and where the chill north-windof prudence shall never blow over the flowery fields of enjoyment?"]

[Footnote 90: "Epistle to James Smith:""O Life, how pleasant is thy morning,Young Fancy's rays the hillsadorning,Cold-pausing Caution's lessonspurning!"]

[Footnote 91: Chambers's "Life"; Letter to Mr. Js. Burnes, IV. 205.]

[Footnote 92: "The Speeches of William Pitt," 2d ed. 3 vols. 1808, II.17, Jan. 21, 1794.]

[Footnote 93: "The Speeches of William Pitt," III. 152, Feb. 17, 1800.]

[Footnote 94: Macaulay's Works, VII.; "Life of William Pitt," 396.]

[Footnote 95: "The Works of W. Cowper," ed. Southey, 8 vols. 1843.]

[Footnote 96: Ibid. I. 18.]

[Footnote 97: Ibid. 79.]

[Footnote 98: Ibid. 81.]

[Footnote 99: "The Works of W. Cowper," I. 97.]

[Footnote 100: "The Works of W. Cowper," ed. Southey; Letter to theRev. John Newton, July 12, 1780.]

[Footnote 101: Ibid. Letter to Rev. J. Newton, August 5, 1786.]

[Footnote 102: "The Task," IV; The Winter Evening.]

[Footnote 103: Ibid.]

[Footnote 104: Ibid.]

[Footnote 105: "The Task," IV; The Winter Evening.]

[Footnote 106: Crabbe may also be considered one of the masters andrenovators of poetry, but his style is too classical, and he hasbeen rightly nicknamed "a Pope in worsted stockings."]

[Footnote 107: "The Task," I; The Sofa.]

[Footnote 108: 1793-1794.]

[Footnote 109: Wordsworth's Works, new edition, 1870, 6 vols.;"Descriptive Sketches during a Pedestrian Tour," I. 42.]

[Footnote 110: In English poetry as since modified, no one dreams oflimiting the number of syllables, even in blank verse.--Tr.]

[Footnote 111: See "The Fudge Family."]

[Footnote 112: "The Epicurean."]

[Footnote 113: "Lalla Rookh."]

[Footnote 114: See also "The History of the Caliph Vathek," a fantasticbut powerfully written tale, by W. Beckford, published first in Frenchin 1784.]

[Footnote 115: See the notes of Southey, worse than those of Chateaubriandin the "Martyrs."]

[Footnote 116: "Edinburgh Review."]

[Footnote 117: Lockhart, "Life of Sir Walter Scott," 10 vols. 2d ed.1839, II. ch. XXXVII. p. 170.]

[Footnote 118: Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott;" Autobiography,I. 62.]

[Footnote 119: Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott," Autobiography,I. 72.]

[Footnote 120: Ibid, VII; Abbotsford in 1825.]

[Footnote 121: If Constable's "Memorials" (3 vols. 1873) had beenpublished when M. Taine wrote this portion of his work he perhaps wouldhave seen reason to alter this opinion, because it is clear that, so farfrom Sir Walter's printer and publisher ruining him, they, if notruined by Sir Walter, were only equal sharers with him in the imprudencesthat led to the disaster.--Tr.]

[Footnote 122: Lockhart's "Life," I. ch. VII. 269.]

[Footnote 123: Ibid. VI. ch. XLIX. 252.]

[Footnote 124: See the opening of "Ivanhoe": "Such being our chiefscene, the date of our story refers to a period towards the end of thereign of Richard I., when his return from his long captivity hadbecome an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects,who were in the meantime subjected to every species of subordinateoppression." It is impossible to write in a heavier style.]

[Footnote 125: Sir Walter Scott's Works, 48 vols., 1829; "The Antiquary,"ch. VIII.]

[Footnote 126: Lockhart's "Life," X. 217.]

[Footnote 127: The Jansenists, the Puritans, and the Methodists are theextremes of this class.]

[Footnote 128: See the preface of his second edition of "LyricalBallads."]

[Footnote 129: "Feter Bell, The White Doe, The Kitten and FallingLeaves," etc.]

[Footnote 130: "This dull product of a scoffer's penImpure conceits discharging from aheartHardened by impious pride!"--Wordsworth's Works, 7 vols. 1849; "The Excursion," book 2; "TheSolitary."]

[Footnote 131: Wordsworth's Works, 7 vols. 1849, VII; "The Excursion,"Preface, 11.]

[Footnote 132: Wordsworth's Works, 7 vols. 1849, VII. book 9; "Discourseof the Wanderer," opening verses, 315.]

[Footnote 133: Ibid. VII; "The Excursion," book 4; "DespondencyCorrected," 137.]

[Footnote 134: Ibid, VII; "The Excursion," book 4; "DespondencyCorrected," 149.]

[Footnote 135: Ibid, last lines of book 5, "The Pastor," 20.]

[Footnote 136: See also the novels of Godwin, "Caleb Williams" andothers.]

[Footnote 137: "Queen Mab," and notes. At Oxford Shelley issued a kindof thesis, calling it "On the Necessity of Atheism."]

[Footnote 138: Some time before his death, when he was twenty-nine, hesaid, "If I die now, I shall have lived as long as my father."]

[Footnote 139: See in Shelley's Works, 1853, "The Witch of Atlas, TheCloud, To a Sky-lark," the end of "The Revolt of Islam, Alastor," andthe whole of "Prometheus."]

[Footnote 140: "The Cloud," c. III. 502.]

[Footnote 141: Ibid. c. IV. 503.]

[Footnote 142: Shelley's Works, 1853, "The Sensitive Plant," 490.]

[Footnote 143: "Our life is turned out of her course, whenever man ismade an offering, a sacrifice, a tool, or implement, a passive thingemployed as a brute mean."--Wordsworth, "The Excursion."]

CHAPTER SECOND


LORD BYRON


Section I.--His Life and Character


I have reserved for the last the greatest and most English of theseliterary men; he is so great and so English that from him alone we shalllearn more truths of his country and of his age than from all the restput together. His ideas were proscribed during his life; it has beenattempted to depreciate his genius since his death. Even at the presentday English critics are hardly just to him. He fought all his lifeagainst the society from which he was descended; and during his life, asafter his death, he suffered the penalty of the resentment which heprovoked, and the dislike to which he gave rise. A foreign critic may bemore impartial, and freely praise the powerful hand whose blows he hasnot felt.

If ever there was a violent and madly sensitive soul, but incapable ofshaking off its bonds; ever agitated, but yet shut in; predisposed topoetry by its innate fire, but limited by its natural barriers to asingle kind of poetry--it was Byron's.

This promptitude to extreme emotions was with him a family legacy, andthe result of education. His great-uncle, a sort of raving andmisanthropical maniac, had slain in a tavern brawl, by candle-light, Mr.Chaworth, his relative, and had been tried before the House of Lords.His father, a brutal roisterer, had eloped with the wife of LordCarmarthen, ruined and ill-treated Miss Gordon, his second wife; and,after living like a madman and a scoundrel, had gone with the remains ofhis wife's family property, to die abroad. His mother, in her moments offury, would tear her dresses and her bonnets to pieces. When herwretched husband died she almost lost her reason, and her cries wereheard in the street. It would take a long story to tell what a childhoodByron passed under the care of "this lioness"; in what torrents ofinsults, interspersed with softer moods, he himself lived, just aspassionate and more bitter. His mother ran after him, called him a "lamebrat," shouted at him, and threw fire-shovel and tongs at his head. Heheld his tongue, bowed, and none the less felt the outrage. One day,when he was "in one of his silent rages," they had to take out of hishand a knife which he had taken from the table, and which he was alreadyraising to his throat. Another time the quarrel was so terrible that sonand mother, each privately, went to "the apothecary's, inquiringanxiously whether the other had been to purchase poison, and cautioningthe vendor of drugs not to attend to such an application, if made."[144]When he went to school, "his friendships were passions." Many yearsafter he left Harrow, he never heard the name of Lord Clare, one of hisold schoolfellows, pronounced, without "a beating of the heart."[145] Ascore of times he got himself into trouble for his friends, offeringthem his time, his pen, his purse. One day, at Harrow, a big boy claimedthe right to fa*g his friend, little Peel, and finding him refractory,gave him a beating on the inner fleshy side of his arm, which he hadtwisted round to render the pain more acute. Byron, too small to fightthe rascal, came up to him, "blushing with rage," tears in his eyes, andasked with a trembling voice how many stripes he meant to inflict."Why," returned the executioner, "you little rascal, what is that toyou? Because, if you please," said Byron, holding out his arm, "I wouldtake half."[146] He never met with objects of distress without affordingthem succor.[147] In his latter days, in Italy, he gave away a thousandpounds out of every four thousand he spent. The upwellings of this heartwere too copious, and flooded forth good and evil impetuously, and atthe least collision. Like Dante, in his early youth, Byron, at the ageof eight, fell in love with a child named Mary Duff.


"How very odd that I should have been so utterly, devotedly fond of thatgirl, at an age when I could neither feel passion, nor know the meaningof the word!... I recollect all our caresses,... my restlessness, mysleeplessness. My misery, my love for that girl were so violent, that Isometimes doubt if I have ever been really attached since. When I heardof her being married,... it nearly threw me into convulsions."[148]


At twelve years he fell in love with his cousin, Margaret Parker:


"My passion had its usual effects upon me. I could not sleep--I couldnot eat--I could not rest; and although I had reason to know that sheloved me, it was the texture of my life to think of the time which mustelapse before we could meet again, being usually about twelve hours ofseparation. But I was a fool then, and am not much wiser now."[149]


He never was wiser, read hard at school; took too much exercise; lateron, at Cambridge, Newstead, and London, he changed night into day,rushed into debauchery, kept long fasts, led an unwholesome way ofliving, and engaged in the extreme of every taste and every excess. Ashe was a dandy, and one of the most brilliant, he nearly let himself dieof hunger for fear of becoming fat, then drank and ate greedily duringhis nights of recklessness. Moore said:


"Lord Byron, for the last two days, had done nothing towards sustenancebeyond eating a few biscuits and (to appease appetite) chewingmastic.... He confined himself to lobsters, and of these finished two orthree to his own share,--interposing, sometimes, a small liqueur-glassof strong white brandy, sometimes a tumbler of very hot water, and thenpure brandy again, to the amount of near half a dozen small glasses ofthe latter.... After this we had claret, of which having despatched twobottles between us, at about four o'clock in the morning weparted."[150]


Another day we find in Byron's journal the following words:


"Yesterday, dined _tête-à-tête_ at the 'Cocoa' with ScropeDavies--sat from six till midnight--drank between us one bottle ofchampagne and six of claret, neither of which wines ever affectme."[151]


Later, at Venice:


"I have hardly had a wink of sleep this week past. I have had somecurious masking adventures this carnival.... I will work the mine of myyouth to the last vein of the ore, and then--good night. I have lived,and am content."[152]


At this rate the organs wear out, and intervals of temperance are notsufficient to repair them. The stomach does not continue to act, thenerves get out of order, and the soul undermines the body, and the bodythe soul.


"I always wake in actual despair and despondency, in all respects, evenof that which pleased me over-night. In England, five years ago, I hadthe same kind of hypochondria, but accompanied with so violent a thirstthat I have drank as many as fifteen bottles of soda-water in one nightafter going to bed, and been still thirsty,... striking off the necks ofbottles from mere thirsty impatience."[153]


Much less is necessary to ruin mind and body wholly. Thus these vehementminds live, ever driven and broken by their own energy, like a cannonball, which, when fired, turns and spins round quickly, but at thesmallest obstacle leaps up, rebounds, destroys everything, and ends byburying itself in the earth. Beyle, a most shrewd observer, who livedwith Byron for several weeks, says that on certain days he was mad; atother times, in presence of beautiful things, he became sublime. Thoughreserved and proud, music made him weep. The rest of his time, pettyEnglish passions, pride of rank, for instance, a vain dandyism, unhingedhim: he spoke of Brummel with a shudder of jealousy and admiration. Butsmall or great, the passion of the hour swept down upon his mind like atempest, roused him, transported him either into imprudence or genius.Byron's own journal, his familiar letters, all his unstudied prose, is,as it were, trembling with wit, anger, enthusiasm; the smallest wordsbreathe sensitiveness; since Saint Simon we have not seen more lifelikeconfidences. All styles appear dull, and all souls sluggish by the sideof his.

In this splendid rush of unbridled and disbanded faculties, which leapedup at random, and seemed to drive him without option to the fourquarters of the globe, one took the reins, and cast him on the wallagainst which he was broken.


"Sir Walter Scott describes Lord Byron as being a man of real goodnessof heart, and the kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown away byhis foolish contempt of public opinion. Instead of being warned orchecked by public opposition, it roused him to go on in a worse strain,as if he said, 'Ay, you don't like it; well, you shall have somethingworse for your pains.'"[154]


This rebellious instinct is inherent in the race; there was a wholecluster of wild passions, born of the climate,[155] which nourished him:a gloomy humor, violent imagination, indomitable pride, a relish fordanger, a craving for strife, that inner exaltation, only satiated bydestruction, and that sombre madness which urged forward theScandinavian Berserkirs, when, in an open bark, beneath a sky clovenwith lightning, they abandoned themselves to the tempest, whose furythey had breathed. This instinct is in the blood: people are born so, asthey are born lions or bull-dogs.[156] Byron was still a little boy inpetticoats when his nurse scolded him roughly for having soiled or torna new frock which he had just put on. He got into one of his silentrages, seized the garment with his hands, rent it from top to bottom,and stood erect, motionless, and gloomy before the storming nurse, so asto set more effectually her wrath at defiance. His pride mastered him.When at ten he inherited the title of lord, and his name was firstcalled at school, preceded by the title dominas, he could not answer thecustomary _adsum_, stood silent amidst the general stare of hisschool-fellows, and at last burst into tears. Another time, at Harrow,in a dispute which was dividing the school, a boy said, "Byron won'tjoin us, for he never likes to be second anywhere." He was offered thecommand, and then only would he condescend to take part with them. Neverto submit to a master; to rise with his whole soul against everysemblance of encroachment or rule; to keep his person intact andinviolate at all cost, and to the end against all; to dare everythingrather than give any sign of submission,--such was his character. Thisis why he was disposed to undergo anything rather than give signs ofweakness. At ten he was a stoic from pride. His foot was painfullystretched in a wooden contrivance whilst he was taking his Latin lesson,and his master pitied him, saying "he must be suffering. Never mind,Mr. Rogers," he said, "you shall not see any signs of it in me."[157]Such as he was as a child, he continued as a man. In mind and body hestrove, or prepared himself for strife. Every day, for hours at a time,he boxed, fired pistols, practised sword-exercise, ran and leaped, rode,overcame obstacles. These were the exploits of his hands and muscles;but he needed others. For lack of enemies he found fault with society,and made war upon it. We know to what excesses the dominant opinionsthen ran. England was at the height of the war with France, and thoughtit was fighting for morality and liberty. In English eyes, at this time,Church and State were holy things: anyone who touched them became apublic enemy. In this fit of natural passion and Protestant severity,whosoever publicly avowed liberal ideas and manners seemed anincendiary, and stirred up against himself the instincts of property,the doctrines of moralists, the interests of politicians, and theprejudices of the people. Byron chose this moment to praise Voltaire andRousseau, to admire Napoleon, to avow himself a sceptic, to plead fornature and pleasure against cant and regularity, to say that highEnglish society, debauched and hypocritical, made phrases and killedmen, to preserve its sinecures and rotten boroughs. As though politicalhatred was not enough, he contracted, in addition, literary animosities,attacked the whole body of critics,[158] ran down the new poetry,declared that the most celebrated were "Claudians," men of the laterempire, raged against the Lake school, and in consequence had in Southeya bitter and unwearied enemy. Thus provided with enemies, he laidhimself open to attack on all sides. He decried himself through hishatred of cant, his bravado, his boasting about his vices. He depictedhimself in his heroes, but for the worse; in such a way that no mancould fail to recognize him, and think him much worse than he was.Walter Scott wrote, immediately after seeing "Childe Harold":


"'Childe Harold' is, I think, a very clever poem, but gives no goodsymptom of the writer's heart or morals... Vice ought to be a littlemore modest, and it must require impudence almost equal to the nobleLord's other powers, to claim sympathy gravely for the ennui arisingfrom his being tired of his wassailers and his paramours. There is amonstrous deal of conceit in it, too, for it is informing the inferiorpart of the world that their little old-fashioned scruples of limitationare not worthy of his regard."[159]

"My noble friend is something like my old peaco*ck, who chooses tobivouac apart from his lady, and sit below my bedroom window, to keep meawake with his screeching lamentation. Only, I own he is not equal inmelody to Lord Byron."[160]


Such were the sentiments which he called forth in all respectableclasses. He was pleased thereat, and did worse--giving out that in hisadventures in the East he had dared a good many things; and he was notindignant when identified with his heroes. He said he should like tofeel for once the sensations of a man who had committed a murder.Another time he wrote in his diary:


"Hobhouse told me an odd report--that I am the actual Conrad, theveritable Corsair, and that part of my travels are supposed to havepassed in privacy. Um! people sometimes hit near the truth, but neverthe whole truth. He don't know what I was about the year after he leftthe Levant; nor does anyone--nor--nor--nor--however, it is a lie--'but Idoubt the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth.'"[161]


These dangerous words were turned against him like a dagger; but heloved danger, mortal danger, and was only at ease when he saw the pointsof all angers bristling against him. Alone against all, against an armedsociety; erect, invincible, even against common-sense, even againstconscience--it was then he felt in all his strained nerves the great andterrible sensation, to which his whole being involuntarily inclined.

A last imprudence brought down the attack. As long as he was anunmarried man, his excesses might be excused by the overstrong passionsof a temperament which often causes youth in England to revolt againstgood taste and rule; but marriage settles them, and it was marriagewhich in him completed his unsettling. He found that his wife was a kindof paragon of virtue, known as such, "a creature of rule," correct andwithout feelings, incapable of committing a fault herself, and offorgiving. His servant Fletcher observed, "It is very odd, but I neveryet knew a lady that could not manage my Lord _except_ my Lady."[162]Lady Byron thought her husband mad, and had him examined by physicians.Having learned that he was in his right mind, she left him, returned toher father, and refused ever to see him again. Thereupon he passed for amonster. The papers covered him with obloquy; his friends induced himnot to go to a theatre or to Parliament, fearing that he would be hootedor insulted. The rage and pangs which so violent a soul, precociouslyaccustomed to brilliant glory felt in this universal storm of outrage,can only be learned from his verses. He grew stubborn, went to Venice,and steeped himself in the voluptuous Italian life, even in lowdebauchery, the better to insult the Puritan prudery which had condemnedhim, and left it only through an offence still more blamed, his publicintimacy with the young Countess Guiccioli. Meanwhile he showed himselfas bitterly republican in politics as in morality. He wrote in 1813: "Ihave simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existinggovernments." This time, at Ravenna, his house was the centre andstorehouse of conspirators, and he generously and imprudently preparedto take arms with them, to strike for the deliverance of Italy:


"They meant to insurrect here, and are to honour me with a callthereupon. I shall not fall back; though I don't think them in force andheart sufficient to make much of it. But, _onward...._ What signifies_self?_... It is not one man nor a million, but the _spirit_ of libertywhich must be spread.... The mere selfish calculation ought never to bemade on such occasions; and, at present, it shall not be computed byme.... I should almost regret that my own affairs went well, when thoseof nations are in peril."[163]


In the meantime he had quarrels with the police: his house was watched,he was threatened with assassination, and yet he rode out daily, andwent into the neighboring pine-forest to practise pistol-shooting. Theseare the sentiments of a man standing at the muzzle of a loaded cannon,waiting for it to go off. The emotion is great, nay, heroic, but it isnot agreeable; and certainly, even at this season of great emotion, hewas unhappy. Nothing is more likely to poison happiness than a combativespirit. He writes:


"What is the reason that I have been, all my lifetime, more or less_ennuyé?_... I do not know how to answer this, but presume that it isconstitutional,--as well as the waking in low spirits, which I haveinvariably done for many years. Temperance and exercise, which I havepractised at times, and for a long time together vigorously andviolently, made little or no difference. Violent passions did: whenunder their immediate influence--it is odd, but--I was in agitated, but_not_ in depressed spirits.... Wine and spirits make me sullen andsavage to ferocity--silent, however, and retiring, and not quarrelsome,if not spoken to. Swimming also raises my spirits; but in general theyare low, and get daily lower. That is _hopeless_; for I do not think Iam so much _ennuyé_ as I was at nineteen. The proof is, that then Imust game, or drink, or be in motion of some kind, or I wasmiserable."[164]

"What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish morepowerful than indifference. If I rouse, it is into fury. I presume thatI shall end (if not earlier by accident, or some such termination) likeSwift, 'dying at top.'[165] Lega (his servant) came in with a letterabout a bill unpaid at Venice which I thought paid months ago. I flewinto a paroxysm of rage, which almost made me faint. I have always had_une âme_, which not only tormented itself, but everybody else incontact with it, and an _esprit violent_, which has almost left mewithout any esprit at all."[166]


A horrible foreboding, which haunted him to the end! On his death-bed,in Greece, he refused, I know not why, to be bled, and preferred to dieat once. They threatened that the uncontrolled disease might end inmadness. He sprang up: "There! you are, I see, a d--d set of butchers!Take away as much blood as you like, but have done with it,"[167] andstretched out his arm. Amidst such wild outbursts and anxieties hepassed his life. Anguish endured, danger braved, resistance overcome,grief relished, all the greatness and sadness of the black warlikemadness--such are the images which he needs must let pass before him. Indefault of action he had dreams, and he only betook himself to dreamsfor want of action. He said, when embarking for Greece, that he hadtaken poetry for lack of better, and that it was not his fit work. "Whatis a poet? what is he worth? what does he do? He is a babbler." Heaugured ill of the poetry of his age, even of his own; saying that, ifhe lived ten years more, they should see something else from him thanverses. In reality, he would have been more at home as a sea-king, or acaptain of a band of troopers during the Middle Ages. Except two orthree gleams of Italian sunshine, his poetry and life, are those of aScald transplanted into modern life, who in this over-well-regulatedworld did not find his vocation.


Section II.--The Style of Byron's Poetry


Byron was a poet, but in his own way--a strange way, like that in whichhe lived. There were internal tempests within him, avalanches of ideas,which found issue only in writing. He wrote: "I have written from thefulness of my mind, from passion, from impulse, from many motives, butnot 'for their sweet voices.' To withdraw myself from myself has everbeen my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all--andpublishing also the continuance of the same object, by the action itaffords to the mind, which else recoils upon itself." He wrote almostalways with astonishing rapidity, "The Corsair" in ten days, "The Brideof Abydos" in four days. While it was printing he added and corrected,but without recasting: "I told you before that I can never recastanything. I am like the tiger. If I miss the first spring, I gogrumbling back to my jungle again; but if I do it, it is crushing."[168]Doubtless he sprang, but he had a chain: never, in the freest flight ofhis thoughts, did he liberate himself from himself. He dreams ofhimself, and sees himself throughout. It is a boiling torrent, buthedged in with rocks. No such great poet has had so narrow animagination; he could not metamorphose himself into another. They arehis own sorrows, his own revolts, his own travels, which, hardlytransformed and modified, he introduces into his verses. He does notinvent, he observes; he does not create, he transcribes. His copy isdarkly exaggerated, but it is a copy. "I could not write upon anything,"says he, "without some personal experience and foundation." We will findin his letters and note-books, almost feature for feature, the moststriking of his descriptions. The capture of Ismail, the shipwreck ofDon Juan, are, almost word for word, like two accounts of it in prose.If none but co*ckneys could attribute to him the crimes of his heroes,none but blind men could fail to see in him the sentiments of hischaracters. This is so true that he has not created more than one.Childe Harold, Lara, the Giaour, the Corsair, Manfred, Sardanapalus,Cain, Tasso, Dante, and the rest, are always the same--one manrepresented under various costumes, in several lands, with differentexpressions; but just as painters do, when, by change of garments,decorations, and attitudes, they draw fifty portraits from the samemodel. He meditated too much upon himself to be enamored of anythingelse. The habitual sternness of his will prevented his mind from beingflexible; his force, always concentrated for effort and bent uponstrife, shut him up in self-contemplation, and reduced him never to makea poem, save of his own heart.

What style would he adopt? With these concentrated and tragic sentimentshe had a classical mind. By the strangest mixture, the books which hepreferred were at once the most violent or the most proper, the Bibleabove all: "I am a great reader and admirer of those books (the Bible),and had read them through and through before I was eight years old; thatis to say, the Old Testament, for the New struck me as a task, but theother as a pleasure."[169] Observe this word: he did not relish thetender, and self-denying mysticism of the gospel, but the cruelsternness and lyrical outcries of the old Hebrews. Next to the Bible heloved Pope, the most correct and formal of men:


"As to Pope, I have always regarded him as the greatest name in ourpoetry. Depend upon it, the rest are barbarians. He is a Greek Temple,with a Gothic Cathedral on one hand, and a Turkish Mosque and all sortsof fantastic pagodas and conventicles about him. You may call Shakspeareand Milton pyramids, but I prefer the Temple of Theseus or the Parthenonto a mountain of burnt brickwork.... The grand distinction of theunder-forms of the new school of poets is their vulgarity. By this I donot mean they are coarse, but shabby-genteel."[170]


And he presently wrote two letters with incomparable vivacity and spiritto defend Pope against the scorn of modern writers. These writers,according to him, have spoiled the public taste. The only ones who wereworth anything--Crabbe, Campbell, Rogers--imitate the style of Pope. Afew others had talent; but, take them all together, those who had comelast had perverted literature: they did not know their own language;their expressions are only approximate, above or below the true tone,forced or dull. He ranges himself amongst the corrupters,[171] and wesoon see that this theory is not an invention, springing from bad temperand polemics; he returns to it. In his two first attempts--"Hours ofIdleness, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers"--he tried to follow it up.Later, and in almost all his works, we find its effect. He recommendsand practises the rule of unity in tragedy. He loves oratorical form,symmetrical phrase, condensed style. He likes to plead his passions.Sheridan tried to induce Byron to devote himself to eloquence; and thevigor, piercing logic, wonderful vivacity, close argument of his prose,prove that he would have taken the first rank amongst pamphleteers.[172]If he attains to it amongst the poets, it is partly due to his classicalsystem. This oratorical form, in which Pope compresses his thought likeLa Bruyère, magnifies the force and swing of vehement ideas; like anarrow and straight canal, it collects and dashes them in their rightdirection; there is then nothing which their impetus does not carryaway; and it is thus Lord Byron from the first, in the face of hostilecriticisms, and over jealous reputations, has made his way to thepublic.[173]

Thus "Childe Harold" made its way. At the first onset every man whor*ad it was agitated. It was more than an author who spoke; it was aman. In spite of his denial, the author was identified with his hero: hecalumniated himself, but still it was himself whom he portrayed. He wasrecognized in that young voluptuous and disgusted man, ready to weepamidst his orgies, who


"Sore sick at heart,And from his fellow bacchanals would flee;'Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start,But pride congeal'd the drop within his ee:Apart he stalk'd in joyless reverie,And from his native land resolved to go,And visit scorching climes beyond the sea;With pleasure drugg'd, he almost long'd for woe."[174]


Fleeing from his native land, he carried, amongst the splendors andcheerfulness of the south, his unwearying persecutor, "demon thought,"implacable behind him. The scenery was recognized: it had been copied onthe spot. And what was the whole book but a diary of travel? He said init what he had seen and thought. What poetic fiction is so valuable asgenuine sensation? What is more penetrating than confidence, voluntaryor involuntary? Truly, every word here expressed an emotion of eye orheart:


"The tender azure of the unruffled deep....The mountain-moss by scorching skies imbrown'd...The orange tints that gild the greenest bough."...[175]


All these beauties, calm or imposing, he had enjoyed, and sometimessuffered through them: and hence we see them through his verse. Whateverhe touched, he made palpitate and live, because when he saw it, hisheart had beaten and he had lived. He himself, a little later, quittingthe mask of Harold, took up the parable in his own name; and who is nottouched by an avowal so passionate and complete?


"Yet must I think less wildly:--I have thoughtToo long and darkly, till my brain became,In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought,A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame:And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame,My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too late!Yet am I changed: though still enough the sameIn strength to bear what time can not abate,And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate....

"But soon he knew himself the most unfitOf men to herd with Man; with whom he heldLittle in common; untaught to submitHis thoughts to others, though his soul was quell'dIn youth by his own thoughts; still uncompell'd,He would not yield dominion of his mindTo spirits against whom his own rebell'd;Proud though in desolation, which could find,A life within itself, to breathe without mankind....

"Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,Till he had peopled them with beings brightAs their own beams; and earth, and earth-born jars,And human frailties, were forgotten quite:Could he have kept his spirit to that flightHe had been happy; but this clay will sinkIn spark immortal, envying it the lightTo which it mounts, as if to break the linkThat keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink.

"But in Man's dwellings he became a thingRestless and worn, and stern and wearisome,Droop'd as a wild-born falcon with clipt wing,To whom the boundless air alone were home:Then came his fit again, which to o'ercome,As eagerly the barr'd-up bird will beatHis breast and beak against his wiry domeTill the blood tinge his plumage, so the heatOf his impeded soul would through his bosom eat."[176]


Such are the sentiments wherewith he surveyed nature and history, not tocomprehend them and forget himself before them, but to seek in them andimpress upon them the image of his own passions. He does not leaveobjects to speak of themselves, but forces them to answer him. Amidsttheir peace, he is only occupied by his own emotion. He attunes them tohis soul, and compels them to repeat his own cries. All is inflatedhere, as in himself; the vast strophe rolls along, carrying in itsoverflowing bed the flood of vehement ideas; declamation unfolds itself,pompous, and at times artificial (it was his first work), but potent,and so often sublime that the rhetorical rubbish, which he yetpreserved, disappeared under the afflux of splendors, with which it isloaded. Wordsworth, Walter Scott, by the side of this prodigality ofaccumulated splendors, seemed poor and dull: never since Æschylus wasseen such a tragic pomp; and men followed with a sort of pang, the trainof gigantic figures, whom he brought in mournful ranks before theireyes, from the far past;


"I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;A palace and a prison on each hand:I saw from out the wave her structures riseAs from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:A thousand years, their cloudy wings expandAround me, and a dying Glory smilesO'er the far times, when many a subject landLook'd to the winged Lion's marble piles,Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

"She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,Rising with her tiara of proud towersAt airy distance, with majestic motion,A ruler of the waters and their powers:And such she was!--her daughters had their dowersFrom spoils of nations, and the exhaustless EastPour'd in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.In purple was she robed, and of her feastMonarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increased....[177]

"Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;Restless it rolls, now fix'd and now anonFlashing afar,--and at his iron feetDestruction cowers, to mark what deeds are done;For on this morn three potent nations meet,To shed before his shrine the blood he deems most sweet.

"By Heaven! it is a splendid sight to see(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)Their rival scarfs of mix'd embroidery,Their various arms that glitter in the air!What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!All join the chase, but few the triumph share;The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array....[178]

"What from this barren being do we reap?Our senses narrow, and our reason frail,Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep,And all things weigh'd in custom's falsest scale;Opinion an omnipotence, whose veilMantles the earth with darkness, until rightAnd wrong are accidents, and men grow paleLest their own judgments should become too bright,And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light.

"And thus they plod in sluggish misery,Rotting from sire to son, and age to age,Proud of their trampled nature, and so die,Bequeathing their hereditary rageTo the new race of inborn slaves, who wageWar for their chains, and rather than be free,Bleed gladiator-like and still engageWithin the same arena where they seeTheir fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree."[179]


Has ever style better expressed a soul? It is seen here laboring andexpanding. Long and stormily the ideas boiled within this soul like barsof metal heaped in the furnace. They melted there before the strain ofthe intense heat; they mingled therein their heated mass amidstconvulsions and explosions, and then at last the door is opened; a slowstream of fire descends into the trough prepared beforehand, heating thecircumambient air, and its glittering hues scorch the eyes which persistin looking upon it.


Section III.--Byron's Short Poems


Description and monologue did not suffice Byron; and he needed, toexpress his ideal, events and actions. Only events try the force andelasticity of the soul; only actions display and regulate this force andelasticity. Amidst events he sought for the most powerful, amidstactions the strongest; and we see appear successively "The Bride ofAbydos, The Giaour, The Corsair, Lara, Parisina, The Siege of Corinth,Mazeppa," and "The Prisoner of Chillon."

I know that these sparkling poems have grown dull in forty years. Intheir necklace of Oriental pearls have been discovered beads of glass;and Byron, who only half loved them, judged better than his judges. Yethe judged amiss; those which he preferred are the most false. His"Corsair" is marred by classic elegancies: the pirates' song at thebeginning is no truer than a chorus at the Italian opera; his scampspropound philosophical antitheses as balanced as those of Pope. Ahundred times ambition, glory, envy, despair, and the other abstractpersonages, whose images in the time of the first Empire the French usedto set upon their drawing-room clocks, break in amidst livingpassions.[180] The noblest passages are disfigured by pedanticapostrophes, and the pretentious poetic diction sets up its threadbarefrippery and conventional ornaments.[181] Far worse, he studies effectand follows the fashion. Melodramatic strings pull his characters at theright time, so as to obtain the grimace which shall make his publicshudder:


"Who thundering comes on blackest steed,With slacken'd bit and hoof of speed!... Approach, thou craven crouching slave,Say, is not this Thermopylæ?"


Wretched mannerisms, emphatic and vulgar, imitated from Lucan and ourmodern Lucans, but which produce their effect only on a first perusal,and on the common herd of readers. There is an infallible means ofattracting a mob, which is, to shout out loud; with shipwrecks, sieges,murders, and combats, we shall always interest them; show them pirates,desperate adventurers--these distorted or raging faces will draw themout of their regular and monotonous existence; they will go to see themas they go to melodramas, and through the same instinct which inducesthem to read novels in penny numbers. Add, by way of contrast, angelicwomen, tender and submissive, beautiful as angels. Byron describes allthis, and adds to these seductions a bewitching scenery, oriental orpicturesque adornments; old Alpine castles, the Mediterranean waves, thesetting suns of Greece, the whole in high relief, with marked shadowsand brilliant colors. We are all of the people, as regards emotion; andthe great lady, like the waiting-woman, sheds tears, without cavillingwith the author as to the means he uses.

And yet, after all, there is a great deal of truth in Byron's poems. No;this man is not a mere arranger of effects or an inventor of phrases. Hehas lived amidst the spectacles he describes; he has experienced theemotions he relates. He has been in the tent of Ali Pacha, and relishedthe strong savor of ocean adventure and savage manners. He has been ascore of times near death--in the Morea, in the anguish and the solitudeof fever; at Suli, in a shipwreck; at Malta, in England, and in Italy,in the dangers of a duel, plots of insurrection, commencements of suddenattacks, at sea, in arms, on horseback, having seen assassinations,wounds, agonies close to, him, and that more than once. "I am livinghere exposed to it (assassination) daily, for I have happened to make apowerful and unprincipled man my enemy; and I never sleep the worse forit, or ride in less solitary places, because precaution is useless, andone thinks of it as of a disease which may or may not strike."[182] Hespoke the truth; no one ever held himself more erect and firm in danger.One day, near the Gulf of San Fiorenzo, his yacht was thrown on thecoast; the sea was terrific, and the rocks in sight; the passengerskissed their rosaries, or fainted with horror; and the two captainsbeing consulted, declared shipwreck inevitable. "Well," said Lord Byron,"we are all born to die; I shall go with regret, but certainly not withfear." And he took off his clothes, begging the others to do the same,not that they could save themselves amidst such waves; but "it is everyman's duty to endeavour to preserve the life God has given him; so Iadvise you all to strip: swimming, indeed, can be of little use in thesebillows; but as children, when tired with crying, sink placidly torepose, we, when exhausted with struggling, shall die the easier..." Hethen sat down, folding his arms, very calm; he even joked with thecaptain, who was putting his dollars into his waistcoat pocket.... Theship approached the rocks. All this time Byron was not seen to changecountenance. A man thus tried and moulded can paint extreme situationsand sentiments. After all, they are never painted otherwise than byexperience. The most inventive--Dante and Shakespeare--though quitedifferent, yet do the same thing. However high their genius rose, italways had its feet on observation; and their most foolish, as well astheir most splendid pictures, never offer to the world more than animage of their age, or of their own heart. At most, they deduce; thatis, having derived from two or three features the inward qualities ofthe man within themselves and of the men around them, they draw thence,by a sudden ratiocination of which they have no consciousness, thevaried skein of actions and sentiments. They may be artists, but theyare observers. They may invent, but they describe. Their glory does notconsist in the display of a phantasmagoria, but in the discovery of atruth. They are the first to enter some unexplored province of humanity,which becomes their domain, and thenceforth supports their name like anappanage. Byron found his domain, which is that of sad and tendersentiments: it is a heath, and full of ruins; but he is at home there,and he is alone.

What an abode! And it is on this desolation that he dwells. He muses onit. See the brothers of Childe Harold pass--the characters who peopleit. One in his prison, chained up with his two remaining brothers. Theirfather and three others had perished fighting, or were burnt for theirfaith. One by one, before the eyes of the eldest, the last two languishand fade: a silent and slow agony amidst the damp darkness into which abeam of the sickly sun pierces through a crevice. After the death of thefirst, the survivors "begged as a boon" that he shall at least be buriedon a spot "whereon the day might shine." The jailers


"Coldly laugh'd--and laid him there:The flat and turfless earth aboveThe being we so much did love;His empty chain above it leant."[183]


Then the youngest "faded" daily


"With all the while a cheek whose bloomWas as a mockery of the tomb,Whose tints as gently sunk awayAs a departing rainbow's ray."[184]


But the pillars to which they are chained are too far apart--the eldercannot approach his dying younger brother; he listens and hears thefailing sighs; he cries for succor, and none comes. He bursts his chainwith one strong bound: all is over. He takes that cold hand, and then,before the motionless body, his senses are lost, his thoughts arrested;he is like a drowning man, who, after passing through pangs of agony,lets himself sink down like a stone, and no longer feels existence butby a complete petrifaction of horror. Here is another brother of ChildeHarold, Mazeppa, bound naked on a wild horse, rushing over the steppes.He writhes, and his swollen limbs, cut by the cords, are bleeding. Awhole day the course continues, and behind him the wolves are howling.The night through he hears their long monotonous chase, and at the endhis energy fails.


"... The earth gave way, the skies roll'd round,I seem'd to sink upon the ground;But err'd, for I was fastly bound.My heart turn'd sick, my brain grew sore,And throbb'd awhile, then beat no more;The skies spun like a mighty wheel;I saw the trees like drunkards reel,And a slight flash sprang o'er my eyes,Which saw no further: he who diesCan die no more than then I died....I felt the blackness come and go,And strove to wake; but could not makeMy senses climb up from below:I felt as on a plank at sea,When all the waves that dash o'er thee,At the same time upheave and whelm,And hurl thee towards a desert realm."[185]


[Illustration: The Castle of ChillonPhotogravure from an etching]


Shall I enumerate them all? Hugo, Parisina, the Foscari, the Giaour, theCorsair. His hero is always a man striving with the worst anguish, faceto face with shipwreck, torture, death--his own painful and prolongeddeath, the bitter death of his well-beloved, with remorse for hiscompanion, amidst the gloomy prospects of a threatening eternity, withno other support but innate energy and hardened pride. These men havedesired too much, too impetuously, with a senseless swing, like a horsewhich does not feel the bit, and thenceforth their inner doom drivesthem to the abyss which they see, and cannot escape from. What a nightwas that of Alp before Corinth! He is a renegade, and comes with theMussulmans to besiege the Christians, his old friends--Minotti, thefather of the girl he loves. Next day he is to lead the assault, and hethinks of his death, which he forebodes, the carnage of his ownsoldiers, which he is preparing. There is no inner support, but rootedresentment and a firm and stern will. The Mussulmans despise him, theChristians execrate him, and his glory only publishes his treason.Dejected and fevered, he passes through the sleeping camp, and wanderson the shore:


"'Tis midnight: on the mountains brownThe cold, round moon shines deeply down;Blue roll the waters, blue the skySpreads like an ocean hung on high,Bespangled with those isles of light....The waves on either shore lay thereCalm, clear, and azure as the air;And scarce their foam the pebbles shook,But murmured meekly as the brook.The winds were pillow'd on the waves;The banners droop'd along their staves....And that deep silence was unbroke,Save where the watch his signal spoke,Save where the steed neighed oft and shrill,...And the wide hum of that wild hostRustled like leaves from coast to coast...."[186]


How the heart sickens before such spectacles! What a contrast betweenhis agony and the peace of immortal nature! How man stretches then hisarms towards ideal beauty, and how impotently they fall back at thecontact of our clay and mortality! Alp advances over the sandy shore tothe foot of the bastion, exposed to the fire of the sentinels; and hehardly thinks of it:


"And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wallHold o'er the dead their carnival,Gorging and growling o'er carcase and limb;They were too busy to bark at him!From a Tartar's skull they had stripped the flesh,As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;And their white tusks crunched o'er the whiter skull,As it slipped through their jaws, when their edge grew dull,As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead,When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed;So well had they broken a lingering fastWith those who had fallen for that night's repast.And Alp knew, by the turbans that roll'd on the sand,The foremost of these were the best of his band:Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair,All the rest was shaven and bare.The scalps were in the wild dog's maw,The hair was tangled round his jaw.But close by the shore on the edge of the gulf,There sat a vulture flapping a wolf,Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away,Scared by the dogs, from the human prey;But he seized on his share of a steed that lay,Pick'd by the birds, on the sands of the bay."[187]


Such is the goal of man; the hot frenzy of life ends here; buried ornot, it matters little: vultures or jackals, one gravedigger is as goodas another. The storm of his rages and his efforts have but served tocast him to these animals for their food, and to their beaks and jaws hecomes only with the sentiment of frustrated hopes and insatiabledesires. Could any of us forget the death of Lara after once reading it?Has anyone elsewhere seen, save in Shakespeare, a sadder picture of thedestiny of a man vainly rearing against inevitable fate? Thoughgenerous, like Macbeth, he has, like Macbeth, dared everything againstlaw and conscience, even against pity and the most ordinary feelings ofhonor. Crimes committed have forced him into other crimes, and bloodpoured out has made him glide into a pool of blood. As a corsair, he hasslain; as a cut-throat, he assassinates; and his former murders whichhaunt his dreams come with their bat's-wings beating against the portalsof his brain. He does not drive them away, these black visitors; thoughthe mouth remains silent, the pallid brow and strange smile bear witnessto their approach. And yet it is a noble spectacle to see man standingwith calm countenance even under their touch. The last day comes, andsix inches of iron suffice for all this energy and fury. Lara is lyingbeneath a lime tree, and his wound "is bleeding fast from life away."With each convulsion the stream gushes blacker, then stops; the bloodflows now only drop by drop, and his brow is already moist, his eyesdim. The victors arrive--he does not deign to answer them; the priestbrings near the absolving cross, "but he look'd upon it with an eyeprofane." What remains to him of life is for his poor page, the onlybeing who loved him, who has followed him to the end, and who now triesto stanch the blood from his wound:


"He scarce can speak, but motions him 'tis vain,He clasps the hand that pang which would assuage,And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page....His dying tones are in that other tongue,To which some strange remembrance wildly clung....And once, as Kaled's answering accents ceased,Rose Lara's hand, and pointed to the East:Whether (as then the breaking sun from highRoll'd back the clouds) the morrow caught his eye,Or that 'twas chance, or some remember'd scene,That raised his arm to point where such had been,Scarce Kaled seem'd to know, but turn'd away,As if his heart abhorr'd that coming day,And shrunk his glance before that morning light,To look on Lara's brow--where all grew night....But from his visage little could we guess,So unrepentant, dark, and passionless....But gasping heaved the breath that Lara drew,And dull the film along his dim eye grew;His limbs stretch'd fluttering, and his head droop'd o'er."[188]


All is over, and of this haughty spirit there remains but a poor pieceof clay. After all, it is the desirable lot of such hearts; they havespent life amiss, and only rest well in the tomb.

A strange and altogether northern poetry, with its root in the Edda andits flower in Shakespeare, born long ago under an inclement sky, on theshores of a stormy ocean--the work of a too wilful, too strong, toosombre race--and which, after lavishing its images of desolation andheroism, ends by stretching like a black veil over the whole of livingnature the dream of universal destruction: this dream is here, as in theEdda, almost equally grand:


"I had a dream, which was not all a dream.The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the starsDid wander darkling in the eternal space,Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earthSwung blind and blackening in the moonless air;Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day....Forests were set on fire--but hour by hourThey fell and faded--and the crackling trunksExtinguish'd with a crash--and all was black....And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,The habitations of all things which dwell,Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,And men were gathered round their blazing homesTo look once more into each other's face....The brows of men by the despairing lightWore an unearthly aspect, as by fitsThe flashes fell upon them; some lay downAnd hid their eyes and wept; and some did restTheir chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled;And others hurried to and fro, and fedTheir funeral piles with fuel, and look'd upWith mad disquietude on the dull sky,The pall of a past world; and then againWith curses cast them down upon the dust,And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd,And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutesCame tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'dAnd twined themselves among the multitude,Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food:And War, which for a moment was no more,Did glut himself again; a meal was boughtWith blood, and each sate sullenly apartGorging himself in gloom: no love was left;All earth was but one thought--and that was death,Immediate and inglorious; and the pangOf famine fed upon all entrails--menDied, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one.And he was faithful to a corse, and keptThe birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,Till hunger clung them, or the drooping deadLured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,But with a piteous and perpetual moan,And a quick desolate cry, licking the handWhich answer'd not with a caress--he died.The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but twoOf an enormous city did survive,And they were enemies: they met besideThe dying embers of an altar-placeWhere had been heap'd a mass of holy thingsFor an unholy usage; they raked up,And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton handsThe feeble ashes, and their feeble breathBlew for a little life, and made a flameWhich was a mockery; then they lifted upTheir eyes as it grew lighter, and beheldEach other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--Even of their mutual hideousness they died."[189]


Section IV.--Manfred


Amongst these unrestrained and gloomy poems, which incessantly returnand dwell on the same subject, there is one more imposing and lofty thanthe rest, "Manfred," twin-brother of the greatest poem of the age,Goethe's "Faust." Goethe says of Byron: "This singular intellectual poethas taken my Faustus to himself, and extracted from it the strongestnourishment for his hypochondriac humour. He has made use of theimpelling principles in his own way, for his own purposes, so that noone of them remains the same; and it is particularly on this accountthat I cannot enough admire his genius." The play is indeed original.Byron writes: "His (Goethe's) 'Faust' I never read, for I don't knowGerman, but Matthew Monk Lewis, in 1816, at Coligny, translated most ofit to me _vivâ voce_, and I was naturally much struck with it; but itwas the 'Steinbach' and the 'Jungfrau' and something else, much morethan Faustus, that made me write 'Manfred.'"[190] Goethe adds: "Thewhole is so completely formed anew, that it would be an interesting taskfor the critic to point out not only the alterations he (Byron) hasmade, but their degree of resemblance or dissimilarity to the original."Let us speak of it, then, quite freely: the subject of "Manfred" is thedominant idea of the age, expressed so as to display the contrast of twomasters, and of two nations.

What constitutes Goethe's glory is, that in the nineteenth century hedid produce an epic poem--I mean a poem in which genuine gods act andspeak. This appeared impossible in the nineteenth century, since thespecial work of our age is the refined consideration of creative ideas,and the suppression of the poetic characters by which other ages havenever failed to represent them. Of the two divine families, the Greekand the Christian, neither seemed capable of re-entering the epic world.Classic literature dragged down in its fall the mythological puppets,and the ancient gods slept on their old Olympus, whither history andarchaeology alone might go to arouse them. The angels and saints of theMiddle Ages, as strange and almost as far from our thoughts, slept onthe vellum of their missals and in the niches of their cathedrals; andif a poet, like Chateaubriand, tried to make them enter the modernworld,[191] he succeeded only in degrading them, and in making of themvestry decorations and operatic machinery. The mythic credulitydisappeared amid the growth of experience, the mystic amid the growth ofprosperity. Paganism, at the contact of science, was reduced to therecognition of natural forces; Christianity, at the contact of morality,was reduced to the adoration of the ideal. In order again to deifyphysical powers, man should have become once more a healthy child, as inHomer's time. In order again to deify spiritual powers, man should havebecome once more a sickly child as in Dante's time. But he was an adult,and could not ascend again to civilizations or epics, from which thecurrent of his thought and of his life had withdrawn him forever. Howwas he to be shown his gods, the modern gods? how could he reclothe themin a personal and visible form, since he had toiled to strip themprecisely of all personal and sensible form, and had succeeded in this?Instead of rejecting legend, Goethe took it up again. He chose amediaeval story for his theme. Carefully, scrupulously, he tracked oldmanners and old beliefs; an alchemist's laboratory, a sorcerer'sconjuring-book, coarse villagers, students' or drunkards' gayety, awitches' meeting on the Brocken, a mass in church; we might fancy we sawan engraving of Luther's time, conscientious and minute: nothing isomitted. Heavenly characters appear in consecrated attitudes after thetext of Scripture, like the old mysteries: the Lord with his angels,then with the devil, who comes to ask permission to tempt Faust, asformerly he tempted Job; heaven, as St. Francis imagined it and Van Eyckpainted it, with anchorites, holy women and doctors--some in a landscapewith bluish rocks, others above in the sublime air, hovering in choirsabout the Virgin in glory, one tier above another. Goethe affects evento be so orthodox as to write under each her Latin name, and her dueniche in the Vulgate.[192] And this very fidelity proclaims him asceptic. We see that if he resuscitates the ancient world, it is as ahistorian, not as a believer. He is only a Christian through remembranceand poetic feeling. In him the modern spirit overflows designedly thenarrow vessel in which he designedly seems to enclose it. The thinkerpercolates through the narrator. Every instant a calculated word, whichseems involuntary, opens up glimpses of philosophy, beyond the veils oftradition. Who are they, these supernatural personages--this god, thisMephistopheles, these angels? Their substance incessantly dissolves andre-forms, to show or hide alternately the idea which fills it. Are theyabstractions or characters? Mephistopheles, a revolutionary and aphilosopher, who has read "Candide," and cynically jeers at thePowers--is he anything but "the spirit of negation"?

The angels


"Rejoice to shareThe wealth exuberant of all that's fair,Which lives, and has its being everywhere!And the creative essence which surrounds,And lives in all, and worketh evermore.Encompass... within love's gracious bounds;And all the world of things, which flit beforeThe gaze in seeming fitful and obscure.Do... in lasting thoughts embody and secure."[193]


Are these angels, for an instant at least, anything else than the idealintelligence which comes, through sympathy, to love all, and throughideas, to comprehend all? What shall we say of this Deity, at firstbiblical and individual, who little by little is unshaped, vanishes and,sinking to the depths, behind the splendors of living nature and mysticreverie, is confused with the inaccessible absolute? Thus is the wholepoem unfolded, action and characters, men and gods, antiquity and MiddleAges, aggregate and details, always on the confines of two worlds--onevisible and figurative, the other intelligible and formless; onecomprehending the moving externals of history or of life, and all thathued and perfumed bloom which nature lavishes on the surface ofexistence, the other containing the profound generative powers andinvisible fixed laws by which all these living beings come to the lightof day.[194] At last we see our gods: we no longer parody them, like ourancestors, by idols or persons; we perceive them as they are inthemselves, and we have no need, in order to see them, to renouncepoetry, nor break with the past We remain on our knees before theshrines where men have, prayed for three thousand years; we do not teara single rose from the chaplets with which they have crowned theirdivine Madonnas; we do not extinguish a single candle which they havecrowded on the altar steps; we behold with an artist's pleasure theprecious shrines where, amidst the wrought candlesticks, the suns ofdiamonds, the gorgeous copes, they have scattered the purest treasuresof their genius and their heart. But our thoughts pierce further thanour eyes. For us, at certain moments, these draperies, this marble, allthis pomp vacillates; it is no longer aught but beautiful phantoms; itvanishes in the smoke, and we discover through it and behind it theimpalpable ideal which has set up these pillars, lighted these roofs,and hovered for centuries over the kneeling multitude.

To understand the legend and also to understand life, is the object ofthis work, and of the whole work of Goethe. Everything, brutish orrational, vile or sublime, fantastic or tangible, is a group of powers,of which our mind, through study and sympathy, may reproduce in itselfthe elements and the disposition. Let us reproduce it, and give it inour thought a new existence. Is a gossip like Martha, babbling andfoolish--a drunkard like Frosch, brawling and dirty, and the other Dutchboors--unworthy to enter a picture? Even the female apes, and the apeswho sit beside the caldron, watching that it does not boil over, withtheir hoarse cries and disordered fancies, may repay the trouble of artin restoring them. Wherever there is life, even bestial or maniacal,there is beauty. The more we look upon nature, the more we find itdivine--divine even in rocks and plants. Consider these forests, theyseem motionless; but the leaves breathe, and the sap mounts insensiblythrough the massive trunks and branches, to the slender shoots,stretched like fingers at the end of the twigs; it fills the swollenducts, leaks out in living forms, loads the frail aments withfecundating dust, spreads profusely through the fermenting air thevapors and odors: this luminous air, this dome of verdure, this longcolonnade of trees, this silent soil, labor and are transformed; theyaccomplish a work, and the poet's heart has but to listen to them tofind a voice for their obscure instincts. They speak in his heart; stillbetter, they sing, and other beings do the same; each, by its distinctmelody, short or long, strange or simple, solely adapted to its nature,capable of manifesting it fully, in the same manner as a sound, by itspitch, its height, its force, manifests the inner structure of the bodywhich has produced it. This melody the poet respects; he avoids alteringit by confusing its ideas or accent; his whole care is to keep it intactand pure. Thus is his work produced, an echo of universal nature, a vastchorus in which gods, men, past, present, all periods of history, allconditions of life, all orders of existence agree without confusion, andin which the flexible genius of the musician, who is alternatelytransformed into each one of them in order to interpret and comprehendthem, only bears witness to his own thought in giving an insight, beyondthis immense harmony, into the group of ideal laws whence it is derived,and the inner reason which sustains it.

Beside this lofty conception, what is the supernatural part of Manfred?Doubtless Byron is moved by the great things of nature; he had just leftthe Alps; he has seen those glaciers which are like "a frozenhurricane"--those "torrents which roll the sheeted silver's wavingcolumn o'er the crag's headlong perpendicular, like the pale courser'stail, as told in the Apocalypse"--but he has brought nothing from thembut images. His witch, his spirits, his Arimanes, are but stage gods. Hebelieves in them no more than we do. Genuine gods are created with muchgreater difficulty; we must believe in them; we must, like Goethe, haveassisted long at their birth, like philosophers and scholars; we musthave seen of them more than their externals. He who, whilst continuing apoet, becomes a naturalist and geologist, who has followed in thefissures of the rocks the tortuous waters slowly distilled, and drivenat length by their own weight to the light, may ask himself, as theGreeks did formerly, when they saw them roll and sparkle in theiremerald tints, what these waters might be thinking, whether theythought. What a strange life is theirs, alternately at rest and inviolent motion. How far removed from ours! With what effort must we tearourselves from our worn and complicated passions, to comprehend theyouth and divine simplicity of a being without reflection and form! Howdifficult is such a work for a modern man! How impossible for anEnglishman! Shelley, Keats approached it--thanks to the nervous delicacyof their sickly or overflowing imagination; but how partial still wasthis approach! And how we feel, on reading them, that they would haveneeded the aid of public culture, and the aptitude of national genius,which Goethe possessed! That which the whole of civilization has alonedeveloped in the Englishman, is energetic will and practical faculties.Here man has braced himself up in his efforts, become concentrated inresistance, fond of action, and hence shut out from pure speculation,from wavering sympathy, and from disinterested art. In him metaphysicalliberty has perished under utilitarian preoccupation, and pantheisticreverie under moral prejudices. How would he frame and bend hisimagination so as to follow the numberless and fugitive outlines ofexistences, especially of vague existences? How would he leave hisreligion so a£ to reproduce indifferently the powers of indifferentnature? And who is further from flexibility and indifference than he?The flowing water, which in Goethe takes the mould of all the contoursof the soil, and which we perceive in the sinuous and luminous distancebeneath the golden mist which it exhales, was in Byron suddenly frozeninto a mass of ice, and makes but a rigid block of crystal. Here, aselsewhere, there is but one character, the same as before. Men, gods,nature, all the changing and multiplex world of Goethe, has vanished.The poet alone subsists, as expressed in his character. Inevitablyimprisoned within himself, he could see nothing but himself; if he mustcome to other existences, it is that they may reply to him; and throughthis pretended epic he persisted in his eternal monologue.

But how all these powers, assembled in a single being, make him great!Into what mediocrity and platitude sinks the Faust of Goethe, comparedto Manfred! As soon as we cease to see humanity in this Faust, what doeshe become? Is he a hero? A sad hero, who has no other task but to speak,is afraid, studies the shades of his sensations, and walks about! Hisworst action is to seduce a grisette, and to go and dance by night inbad company--two exploits which many a German student has accomplished.His wilfulness is whim, his ideas are longings and dreams. A poet's soulin a scholar's head, both unfit for action, and not harmonizing welltogether; discord within, and weakness without; in short, character iswanting: it is German all over. By his side, what a man is Manfred! Heis a man; there is no fitter word, or one which could depict him better.He will not, at the sight of a spirit, "quake like a crawling, cowering,timorous worm." He will not regret that "he has neither land, nor pence,nor worldly honours, nor influence." He will not let himself be duped bythe devil like a schoolboy, or go and amuse himself like a co*ckney withthe phantasmagoria of the Brocken. He has lived like a feudal chief, notlike a scholar who has taken his degree; he has fought, mastered others;he knows how to master himself. If he has studied magic arts, it is notfrom an alchemist's curiosity, but from a spirit of revolt:


"From my youth upwardsMy spirit walk'd not with the souls of men,Nor look'd upon the earth with human eyes;The thirst of their ambition was not mine,The aim of their existence was not mine;My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powersMade me a stranger; though I wore the form,I had no sympathy with breathing flesh....My joy was in the Wilderness, to breatheThe difficult air of the iced mountain's top,Where the birds dare not build, nor insect's wingFlit o'er the herbless granite, or to plungeInto the torrent, and to roll alongOn the swift whirl of the new breaking wave....To follow through the night the moving moon,The stars and their development; or catchThe dazzling lightnings till my eyes grew dim;Or to look, list'ning, on the scatter'd leaves,While Autumn winds were at their evening song.These were my pastimes, and to be alone;For if the beings, of whom I was one--Hating to be so--cross'd me in my path,I felt myself degraded back to them,And was all clay again....[195]I could not tame my nature down; for heMust serve who fain would sway--and soothe--and sue--And watch all time--and pry into all place--And be a living lie--who would becomeA mighty thing amongst the mean, and suchThe mass are; I disdain'd to mingle withA herd, though to be leader--and of wolves..."[196]


He lives alone, and he cannot live alone. The deep source of love, cutoff from its natural issues, then overflows and lays waste the heartwhich refused to expand. He has loved, too well, one too near to him,his sister it may be; she has died of it, and impotent remorse fills thesoul which no human occupation could satisfy:


"... My solitude is solitude no more,But peopled with the Furies;--I have gnash'dMy teeth in darkness till returning morn,Then cursed myself till sunset;--I have pray'dFor madness as a blessing--'tis denied me.I have affronted death--but in the warOf elements the waters shrunk from me,And fatal things pass'd harmless--the cold handOf an all-pitiless demon held me back,Back by a single hair, which would not break.In fantasy, imagination, allThe affluence of my soul.... I plunged deep,But, like an ebbing wave, it dashed me backInto the gulf of my unfathom'd thought....I dwell in my despair,And live, and live for ever."[197]


He only wishes to see her once more: to this sole and all-powerfuldesire flow all the energies of his soul. He calls her up in the midstof spirits; she appears, but answers not. He prays to her--with whatcries, what doleful cries of deep anguish! How he loves! With whatyearning and effort all his downtrodden and outcrushed tenderness gushesout and escapes at the sight of those well-beloved eyes, which he seesfor the last time! With what enthusiasm his convulsive arms arestretched towards that frail form which, shuddering, has quitted thetomb!--towards those cheeks in which the blood, forcibly recalled,plants "a strange hectic--like the unnatural red which Autumn plantsupon the perished leaf."


"... Hear me, hear me--Astarte! my beloved! speak to me:I have so much endured--so much endure--Look on me! the grave hath not changed thee moreThan I am changed for thee. Thou lovedst meToo much as I loved thee: we were not madeTo torture thus each other, though it wereThe deadliest sin to love as wehave loved.Say that thou loath'st me not--that I do bearThis punishment for both--that thou wilt beOne of the blessed--and that I shall die;For hitherto all hateful things conspireTo bind me in existence--in a lifeWhich makes me shrink from immortality--A future like the past. I cannot rest.I know not what I ask, nor what I seek:I feel but what thou art--and what I am;And I would hear yet once before I perishThe voice which was my music--Speak to me!For I have call'd on thee in the still night,Startled the slumbering birds from the hush'd boughs,And woke the mountain wolves, and made the cavesAcquainted with thy vainly echoed name,Which answer'd me--many things answer'd me--Spirits and men--but thou wert silent all....Speak to me! I have wander'd o'er the earth,And never found thy likeness--Speak to me!Look on the fiends around--they feel for me:I fear them not, and feel for thee alone--Speak to me! though it be in wrath;--but say--I reck not what--but let me hear thee once--This once--once more!"[198]


She speaks. What a sad and doubtful reply! Manfred's limbs are convulsedwhen she disappears. But an instant after the spirits see that:


"... He mastereth himself, and makesHis torture tributary to his will.Had he been one of us, he would have madeAn awful spirit."[199]


Will is the unshaken basis of this soul. He did not bend before thechief of the spirits; he stood firm and calm before the infernal throne,whilst all the demons were raging who would tear him to pieces: now hedies, and they assail him, but he still strives and conquers:


"... Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel;Thou never shalt possess me, that I know:What I have done is done; I bear withinA torture which could nothing gain from thine:The mind which is immortal makes itselfRequital for its good or evil thoughts--Is its own origin of ill and end--And its own place and time--its innate sense,When stripp'd of this mortality, derivesNo colour from the fleeting things without;But is absorb'd in sufferance or in joy,Born from the knowledge of its own desert.Thou didst not tempt me, and thou couldst not tempt me;I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey--But was my own destroyer, and will beMy own hereafter.--Back, ye baffled fiends!The hand of death is on me--but not yours!"[200]


This "I," the invincible I, who suffices to himself, on whom nothing hasa hold, demons nor men, the sole author of his own good and ill, a sortof suffering or fallen god, but god always, even in its quivering flesh,amidst his soiled and blighted destiny--such is the hero and the work ofthis mind, and of the men of his race. If Goethe was the poet of theuniverse, Byron was the poet of the individual; and if in one the Germangenius found its interpreter, the English genius found its interpreterin the other.


Section V.--What Byron's Contemporaries Thought of Him.--His Morals


We can well imagine that Englishmen clamored at and repudiated themonster. Southey, the poet-laureate, said of him, in good biblicalstyle, that he savored of Moloch and Belial--most of all of Satan; and,with the generosity of a brother poet, called the attention ofgovernment to him. We should fill many pages if we were to copy thereproaches of the respectable reviews against these "men of diseasedhearts and depraved imaginations, who, forming a system of opinions tosuit their own unhappy course of conduct, have rebelled against theholiest ordinances of human society, and, hating that revealed religionwhich, with all their efforts and bravadoes, they are unable entirely todisbelieve, labour to make others as miserable as themselves, byinfecting them with a moral virus that eats into the soul."[201] Thissounds like the emphasis of an episcopal charge and scholastic pedantry:in England the press does the duty of the police, and it never did itmore violently than at that time. Opinion backed the press. Severaltimes, in Italy, Lord Byron saw gentlemen leave a drawing-room withtheir wives, when he was announced. Owing to his title and celebrity,the scandal which he caused was more conspicuous than any other: he wasa public sinner. One day an obscure parson sent him a prayer which hehad found amongst the papers of his wife--a charming and pious lady,recently dead, and who had secretly prayed to God for the conversion ofthe great sinner. Conservative and Protestant England, after a quarterof a century of moral wars, and two centuries of moral education,carried its severity and rigor to extremes; and Puritan intolerance,like Catholic intolerance previously in Spain, put recusants out of thepale of the law. The proscription of voluptuous or abandoned life, thenarrow observation of order and decency, the respect of all police,human and divine; the necessary bows at the mere name of Pitt, of theking, the church, the God of the Bible; the attitude of a gentleman in awhite tie, conventional, inflexible, implacable--such were the customsthen met with across the Channel, a hundred times more tyrannical thannowadays: at that time, as Stendhal says, a peer at his fireside darednot cross his legs, for fear of its being improper. England held herselfstiff, uncomfortably laced in her stays of decorum. Hence arose twosources of misery: a man suffers, and is tempted to throw down the uglychoking apparatus, when he is sure that it can be done secretly. On theone side constraint, on the other hypocrisy--these are the two vices ofEnglish civilization; and it was these which Byron, with his poet'sdiscernment and his combative instincts, attacked.

He had seen them from the first; true artists are perspicacious: it isin this that they outstrip us; we judge from hearsay and formulas, likeco*ckneys; they, like eccentric beings, from accomplished facts, andthings: at twenty-two he perceived the tedium born of constraintdesolating all high life:


"There stands the noble hostess, nor shall sinkWith the three-thousandth curtsy;...Saloon, room, hall, o'erflow beyond their brink,And long the latest of arrivals halts,'Midst royal dukes and dames condemn'd to climb,And gain an inch of staircase at a time."[202]


He wrote also:


"He (the Count) ought to have been in the country during the huntingseason, with 'a select party of distinguished guests,' as the papersterm it. He ought to have seen the gentlemen after dinner (on thehunting days), and the soirée ensuing thereupon--and the women lookingas if they had hunted, or rather been hunted; and I could have wishedthat he had been at a dinner in town, which I recollect at LordC----'s--small, but select, and composed of the most amusing people. Thedessert was hardly on the table, when, out of twelve, I counted fiveasleep."[203]


As for the morals of the upper classes, this is what he says:


"Went to my box at Covent Garden to-night.... Casting my eyes round thehouse, in the next box to me, and the next, and the next, were the mostdistinguished old and young Babylonians of quality.... It was as if thehouse had been divided between your public and your understoodcourtesans;--but the intriguantes much outnumbered the regularmercenaries. Now, where lay the difference between Pauline and hermother,... and Lady---- and daughter? except that the two last may enterCarlton and any other house, and the two first are limited to the Operaand b-- house. How I do delight in observing life as it really is!--andmyself, after all, the worst of any!"[204]


Decorum and debauchery; moral hypocrites, "_qui mettent leurs vertus enmettant leurs gants blancs_";[205] an oligarchy which, to preserve itsplaces and its sinecures, ravages Europe, preys on Ireland, and excitesthe people by making use of the grand words, virtue, Christianity, andliberty: there was truth in all these invectives.[206] It is only thirtyyears since the ascendancy of the middle class diminished the privilegesand corruptions of the great; but at that time hard words could withjustice be thrown at their heads. Byron said, quoting from Voltaire:


"'_La Pudeur s'est enfuie des cœurs, et s'est réfugiée sur leslèvres.' ... 'Plus les mœurs sont dépravées, plus les expressionsdeviennent mesurées; on croit regagner en langage ce qu'on a perdu envertu._' This is the real fact, as applicable to the degraded andhypocritical mass which leavens the present English generation; and itis the only answer they deserve.... Cant is the crying sin of thisdouble-dealing and false-speaking time of selfish spoilers."[207]


And then he wrote his masterpiece, "Don Juan."[208]

All here was new, form as well as substance; for he had entered into anew world. The Englishman, the Northman, transplanted amongst southernmanners and into Italian life, had become imbued with a new sap, whichmade him bear new fruit. He had been induced to read[209] the rather freesatires of Buratti, and the more than voluptuous sonnets of Baffo. Helived in the happy Venetian society, still exempt from politicalanimosities, where care seemed a folly, where life was looked upon as acarnival, pleasure displayed itself openly, not timid and hypocritical,but loosely arrayed and commended. He amused himself here, impetuouslyat first, more than sufficient, even more than too much, and almostkilled himself by these amusem*nts; but after vulgar gallantries, havingfelt a feeling of love, he became a _cavalier' servente_, after thefashion of the country where he dwelt, with the consent of the family ofthe lady, offering his arm, carrying her shawl, a little awkwardly atfirst, and wonderingly, but on the whole happier than he had ever been,and fanned by a warm breath of pleasure and abandon. He saw in Italy theoverthrow of all English morality, conjugal infidelity established as arule, amorous fidelity raised to a duty: "There is no convincing a womanhere that she is in the smallest degree deviating from the rule of rightor the fitness of things in having an _amorosa._[210]... Love (thesentiment of love) is not merely an excuse for it, but makes it anactual virtue, provided it is disinterested, and not a caprice, and isconfined to one object."[211] A little later he translated the "MorganteMaggiore" of Pulci, to show "What was permitted in a Catholic countryand a bigoted age to a churchman on the score of religion, and tosilence those buffoons who accuse me of attacking the Liturgy."[212] Herejoiced in this liberty and this ease, and resolved never to fall againunder the pedantic inquisition, which in his country had condemned anddamned him past forgiveness. He wrote his "Beppo" like an improvisatore,with a charming freedom, a flowing and fantastic lightness of mood, andcontrasted in it the recklessness and happiness of Italy with theprejudices and repulsiveness of England:


"I like... to see the Sun set, sure he'll rise to-morrow,Not through a misty morning twinkling weak asA drunken man's dead eye in maudlin sorrow,But with all Heaven t' himself; that day will break asBeauteous as cloudless, nor be forced to borrowThat sort of farthing candlelight which glimmersWhere reeking London's smoky caldron simmers.

"I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,Which melts like kisses from a female mouth,And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,With syllables which breathe of the sweet South,And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in,That not a single accent seems uncouth,Like our harsh northern whistling, grunting guttural,Which we're obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.

"I like the women too (forgive my folly),From the rich peasant cheek of ruddy bronze,And large black eyes that flash on you a volleyOf rays that say a thousand things at once,To the high dama's brow, more melancholy,But clear, and with a wild and liquid glance,Heart on her lips, and soul within her eyes,Soft as her clime, and sunny as her skies."[213]


With other manners there existed in Italy another morality; there is onefor every age, race, and sky--I mean that the ideal model varies withthe circ*mstances which fashion it. In England the severity of theclimate, the warlike energy of the race, and the liberty of theinstitutions prescribe an active life, severe manners, Puritanicreligion, the marriage tie strictly kept, a feeling of duty andself-command. In Italy the beauty of the climate, the innate sense ofthe beautiful, and the despotism of the government induced an idle life,loose manners, imaginative religion, the culture of the arts, and thesearch after happiness. Each model has its beauties and its plots--theepicurean artist like the political moralist;[214] each shows by itsgreatnesses the littlenesses of the other, and, to set in relief thedisadvantages of the second, Lord Byron had only to set in relief theseductions of the first.

Thereupon he went in search of a hero, and did not find one, which, inthis age of heroes, is "an uncommon want." For lack of a better he chose"our ancient friend Don Juan"--a scandalous choice: what an outcry theEnglish moralists will make! But, to cap the horror, this Don Juan isnot wicked, selfish, odious, like his fellows; he does not seduce, he isno corrupter. When an opportunity arises, he lets himself drift; he hasa heart and senses, and, under a beautiful sun, they are easily touched:at sixteen a youth cannot help himself, nor at twenty, nor perhaps atthirty. Lay it to the charge of human nature, my dear moralists; it isnot I who made it as it is. If you will grumble, address yourselveshigher: we are here as painters, not as makers of human puppets, and wedo not answer for the inner structure of our dancing-dolls. Our Don Juanis now going about; he goes about in many places, and in all he isyoung; we will not launch thunderbolts on his head because he is young;that fashion is past: the green devils and their capers only came on thestage in the last act of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." And, moreover, Juan isso amiable! After all, what has he done that others don't do! He hasbeen a lover of Catherine II, but he only followed the lead of thediplomatic corps and the whole Russian army. Let him sow his wild oats;the good grain will spring up in its time. Once in England, he willbehave himself decently. I confess that he may even there, whenprovoked, go a-gleaning in the conjugal gardens of the aristocracy; butin the end he will settle, go and pronounce moral speeches inParliament, become a member of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.If you wish absolutely to have him punished, we will "make him end inhell, or in an unhappy marriage, not knowing which would be theseverest: the Spanish tradition says hell; but it is probably only anallegory of the other state."[215] At all events, married or damned, thegood folk at the end of the piece will have the pleasure of knowing thathe is burning all alive.

Is not this a singular apology? Does it not aggravate the fault? Let uswait; we know not yet the whole venom of the book: together with Juanthere are Donna Julia, Haidée, Gulbeyaz, Dudu, and many more. It ishere the diabolical poet digs in his sharpest claw, and he takes care todig it into our weakest side. What will the clergymen and white-chokeredreviewers say? For, to speak the truth, there is no preventing it: wemust read on, in spite of ourselves. Twice or three times following wemeet here with happiness; and when I say happiness, I mean profound andcomplete happiness--not mere voluptuousness, not obscene gayety; we arefar removed from the nicely-written ribaldry of Dorat, and the unbridledlicense of Rochester. Beauty is here, southern beauty, resplendent andharmonious, spread over everything, over the luminous sky, the calmscenery, corporal nudity, artlessness of heart. Is there a thing it doesnot deify? All sentiments are exalted under its hands. What was grossbecomes noble; even in the nocturnal adventure in the seraglio, whichseems worthy of Faublas, poetry embellishes licentiousness. The girlsare lying in the large silent apartment, like precious flowers broughtfrom all climates into a conservatory:


"One with her flush'd cheek laid on her white arm,And raven ringlets gather'd in dark crowdAbove her brow, lay dreaming soft and warm;One with her auburn tresses lightly bound,And fair brows gently drooping, as the fruitNods from the tree, was slumbering with soft breath,And lips apart, which show'd the pearls beneath....A fourth as marble, statue-like and still,Lay in a breathless, hush'd, and stony sleep;White, cold, and pure... a carved lady on a monument."[216]


However, "the fading lamps waned dim and blue"; Dudu is asleep, theinnocent girl; and if she has cast a glance on her glass,


"'Twas like the fawn, which, in the lake display'd,Beholds her own shy, shadowy image pass,When first she starts, and then returns to peep,Admiring this new native of the deep."[217]


What will become now of Puritanic prudery? Can the proprieties preventbeauty from being beautiful? Will you condemn a picture of Titian forits nudity? What gives value to human life, and nobility to humannature, if not the power of attaining delicious and sublime emotions? Wehave just had one--one worthy of a painter; is it not worth that of analderman? Shall we refuse to acknowledge the divine because it appearsin art and enjoyment, and not only in conscience and action? There is aworld beside ours, and a civilization beside ours; our rules are narrow,and our pedantry tyrannic; the human plant can be otherwise developedthan in our compartments and under our snows, and the fruits it willthen bear will not be less precious. We must confess it, since we relishthem when they are offered to us. Who has read the love of Haidée, andhas had any other thought than to envy and pity her? She is a wild childwho has picked up Juan--another child cast ashore senseless by thewaves. She has preserved him, nursed him like a mother, and now sheloves him: who can blame her for loving him? Who, in presence of thesplendid nature which smiles on and protects them, can imagine for themanything else than the all-powerful feeling which unites them:


"It was a wild and breaker-beaten coast,With cliffs above, and a broad sandy shore,Guarded by shoals and rocks as by an host,...And rarely ceased the haughty billow's roar,Save on the dead long summer days, which makeThe outstretch'd ocean glitter like a lake....And all was stillness, save the sea-bird's cry,And dolphin's leap, and little billow crostBy some low rock or shelve, that made it fretAgainst the boundary it scarcely wet....

"And thus they wandered forth, and hand in hand,Over the shining pebbles and the shells,Glided along the smooth and harden'd sand,And in the worn and wild receptaclesWork'd by the storms, yet work'd as it were plann'd,In hollow halls, with sparry roofs and cells,They turn'd to rest; and, each clasp'd by an arm,Yielded to the deep twilight's purple charm.

"They looked up to the sky whose floating glowSpread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;They gazed upon the glittering sea below,Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;They heard the wave's splash and the wind so low,And saw each other's dark eyes darting lightInto each other--and, beholding this,Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss....

"They were alone, but not alone as theyWho shut in chambers think it loneliness;The silent ocean, and the starlight bayThe twilight glow, which momently grew less,The voiceless sand, and dropping caves that layAround them, made them to each other press,As if there were no life beneath the skySave theirs, and that their life could never die."[218]


An excellent opportunity to introduce here your formularies andcatechisms:


"Haidée spoke not of scruples, ask'd no vows,Nor offer'd any...She was all which pure, ignorance allows,And flew to her young mate like a young bird."[219]


Nature suddenly expands, for she is ripe, like a bud bursting intobloom, nature in her fulness, instinct, and heart:


"Alas! they were so young, so beautiful,So lonely, loving, helpless, and the hourWas that in which the heart is always full,And, having o'er itself no further power,Prompts deeds eternity cannot annul...."[220]


O admirable moralists, you stand before these two flowers like patentedgardeners, holding in your hands a model of the bloom sanctioned by yoursociety of horticulture, proving that the model has not been followed,and deciding that the two weeds must be cast into the fire, which youkeep burning to consume irregular growths. You have judged well, and youknow your art.

Besides British cant, there is universal hypocrisy; besides Englishpedantry, Byron wars against human roguery. Here is the general aim ofthe poem, and to this his character and genius tended. His great andgloomy dreams of juvenile imagination have vanished; experience hascome; he knows man now; and what is man once known? does the sublimeabound in him? Do we think that the grand sentiments--those of ChildeHarold, for instance--are the ordinary course of life?[221] The truthis, that man employs most of his time in sleeping, dining, yawning,working like a horse, amusing himself like an ape. According to Byron,he is an animal; except for a few minutes, his nerves, his blood, hisinstincts lead him. Routine works over it all, necessity whips him on,the animal advances. As the animal is proud, and moreover imaginative,it pretends to be marching for its own pleasure, that there is no whip,that at all events this whip rarely touches its flanks, that at leastit* stoic back can make-believe that it does not feel it. It thinks thatit is decked with the most splendid trappings, and thus struts on withmeasured steps, fancying that it carries relics and treads on carpetsand flowers, whilst in reality it tramples in the mud, and carries withit the stains and bad smells of every dunghill. What a pastime to touchits mangy back, to set before its eyes the sacks full of flour which itcarries, and the goad which makes it go![222] What a pretty farce! It isthe eternal farce; and not a sentiment thereof but provides him with anact: love in the first place. Certainly Donna Julia is very lovable, andByron loves her; but she comes out of his hands, as rumpled as any otherwoman. She is virtuous, of course; and what is better still, she desiresto be so. She plies herself, in connection with Don Juan, with thefinest arguments; what a fine thing are arguments, and how suited theyare to check passion! Nothing can be more solid than a firm purpose,propped up by logic, resting on the fear of the world, the thought ofGod, the recollection of duty; nothing can prevail against it except a_tête-à-tête_ in June, on a moonlight evening. At last the deed isdone, and the poor timid lady is surprised by her outraged husband; inwhat a situation! Let us look again at the book. Of course she will bespeechless, ashamed and full of tears, and the moral reader duly reckonson her remorse. My dear reader, you have not reckoned on impulse andnerves. To-morrow she will feel shame; the business is now to overwhelmthe husband, to deafen him, to confound him, to save Juan, to saveherself, to fight. The war once begun, is waged with all kinds ofweapons, and chiefly with audacity and insults. The only idea is thepresent need, and this absorbs all others; it is in this that woman is awoman. This Julia cries lustily. It is a regular storm: hard words andrecriminations, mockery and challenges, fainting and tears. In a quarterof an hour she has gained twenty years' experience. You did not know,nor she either, what an actress can emerge, all on a sudden, unforeseen,out of a simple woman. Do you know what can emerge from yourself? Youthink yourself rational, humane; I admit it for to-day; you have dined,and you are comfortable in a pleasant room. Your human mechanism workswithout getting into disorder, because the wheels are oiled and wellregulated; but place it in a shipwreck, a battle, let the failing or theplethora of blood for an instant derange the chief pieces, and we shallsee you howling or drivelling like a madman or an idiot. Civilization,education, reason, health, cloak us in their smooth and polished cases;let us tear them away one by one, or all together, and we laugh to seethe brute, who is lying at the bottom. Here is our friend Juan readingJulia's last letter, and swearing in a transport never to forget thebeautiful eyes which he caused to weep so much. Was ever feeling moretender or sincere? But unfortunately Juan is at sea, and sickness setsin. He cries out:


"Sooner shall earth resolve itself to sea,Than I resign thine image, oh, my fair!...(Here the ship gave a lurch, and he grew sea-sick.)...Sooner shall heaven kiss earth--(here he fell sicker.)Oh, Julia! what is every other woe?(For God's sake let me have a glass of liquor;Pedro, Battista, help me down below.)Julia, my love!--(You rascal, Pedro, quicker)--Oh, Julia!--(this curst vessel pitches so)Beloved Julia, hear me still beseeching!(Here he grew inarticulate with retching.)...Love's a capricious power...Against all noble maladies he's bold,But vulgar illnesses don't like to meet;...Shrinks from the application of hot towels,And purgatives are dangerous to his reign,Sea-sickness death."[223]


Many other things cause the death of Love:


"'Tis melancholy, and a fearful signOf human frailty, folly, also crime,That love and marriage rarely can combine.Although they both are born in the same clime;Marriage from love, like vinegar from wine--A sad, sour, sober beverage.[224]...An honest gentleman, at his return,May not have the good fortune of Ulysses;...The odds are that he finds a handsome urnTo his memory--and two or three young missesBorn to some friend, who holds his wife and riches--And that his Argus bites him by--the breeches."[225]


These are the words of a sceptic, even of a cynic. Sceptic and cynic, itis in this he ends. Sceptic through misanthropy, cynic through bravado,a sad and combative humor always impels him; southern voluptuousness hasnot conquered him; he is only an epicurean through contradiction and fora moment:


"Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,Sermons and soda-water the day after.Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;The best of life is but intoxication."[226]


We see clearly that he is always the same, going to extremes andunhappy, bent on destroying himself. His "Don Juan," also, is adebauchery; in it he diverts himself outrageously at the expense of allrespectable things, as a bull in a china shop. He is always violent, andoften ferocious; a sombre imagination intersperses his love stories withhorrors leisurely enjoyed, the despair and famine of shipwrecked men,and the emaciation of the raging skeletons feeding on each other. Helaughs at it horribly, like Swift; he jests over it like Voltaire:


"And next they thought upon the master's mate,As fattest; but he saved himself, because,Besides being much averse from such a fate,There were some other reasons: the first was,He had been rather indisposed of late;And that which chiefly proved his saving clause,Was a small present made to him at Cadiz,By general subscription of the ladies."[227]


With his specimens in hand,[228] Byron follows with a surgeon'sexactness all the stages of death, gorging, rage, madness, howling,exhaustion, stupor; he wishes to touch and exhibit the naked andascertained truth, the last grotesque and hideous element of humanity.Let us read again the assault on Ismail--the grape-shot and the bayonet,the street massacres, the corpses used as fascines, and the thirty-eightthousand slaughtered Turks. There is blood enough to satiate a tiger,and this blood flows amidst an accompaniment of jests; it is in order torail at war, and the butcheries dignified with the name of exploits. Inthis pitiless and universal demolition of all human vanities, whatremains? What do we know except that life is a "scene of all-confess'dinanity," and that men are,


"Dogs, or men!--for I flatter you in sayingThat ye are dogs--your betters far--ye mayRead, or read not, what I am now essayingTo show ye what ye are in every way?"[229]


What does he find in science but deficiencies, and in religion butmummeries?[230] Does he so much as preserve poetry? Of the divinemantle, the last garment which a poet respects, he makes a rag totrample upon, to wring, to make holes in, out of sheer wantonness. Atthe most touching moment of Haidée's love he vents a buffoonery. Heconcludes an ode with caricatures. He is Faust in the first verse, andMephistopheles in the second. He employs, in the midst of tenderness orof murder, penny-print witticisms, trivialities, gossip, with apamphleteer's vilification and a buffoon's whimsicalities. He lays barethe poetic method, asks himself where he has got to, counts the stanzasalready done, jokes the Muse, Pegasus, and the whole epic stud, asthough he wouldn't give twopence for them. Again, what remains? Himself,he alone, standing amidst all this ruin. It is he who speaks here; hischaracters are but screens; half the time even he pushes them aside, tooccupy the stage. He lavishes upon us his opinions, recollections,anger, tastes; his poem is a conversation, a confidence, with the upsand downs, the rudeness and freedom of a conversation and a confidence,almost like the holographic journal, in which, by night, at hiswriting-table, he opened his heart and discharged his feelings. Neverwas seen in such a clear glass the birth of lively thought, the tumultof great genius, the inner life of a genuine poet, always impassioned,inexhaustibly fertile and creative, in whom suddenly, successively,finished and adorned, bloomed all human emotions and ideas--sad, gay,lofty, low, hustling one another, mutually impeding one another likeswarms of insects who go humming and feeding on flowers and in the mud.He may say what he likes; willingly or unwillingly we listen to him; lethim leap from sublime to burlesque, we leap with him. He has so muchwit, so fresh a wit, so sudden, so biting, such a prodigality ofknowledge, ideas, images picked up from the four corners of the horizon,in heaps and masses, that we are captivated, transported beyond alllimits; we cannot dream of resisting. Too vigorous, and henceunbridled--that is the word which ever recurs when we speak of Byron;too vigorous against others and himself, and so unbridled, that afterspending his life in setting the world at defiance, and his poetry indepicting revolt, he can only find the fulfilment of his talent and thesatisfaction of his heart, in a poem waging war on all human and poeticconventions. When a man lives in such a manner he must be great, but hebecomes also morbid. There is a malady of heart and mind in the style of"Don Juan," as in Swift. When a man jests amidst his tears, it isbecause he has a poisoned imagination. This kind of laughter is a spasm,and we see in one man a hardening of the heart, or madness; in another,excitement or disgust. Byron was exhausted, at least the poet wasexhausted in him. The last cantos of "Don Juan" drag: the gayety becameforced, the escapades became digressions; the reader began to be bored.A new kind of poetry, which he had attempted, had given way in hishands; in the drama he only attained to powerful declamation, hischaracters had no life; when he forsook poetry, poetry forsook him; hewent to Greece in search of action, and only found death.


Section VI.--The Malady of the Age


So lived and so died this unhappy great man; the malady of the age hadno more distinguished prey. Around him, like a hecatomb, lie the others,wounded also by the greatness of their faculties and their immoderatedesires--some ending in stupor or drunkenness, others worn out bypleasure or work: these driven to madness or suicide; those beaten downby impotence, or lying on a sick-bed; all agitated by their too acute oraching nerves; the strongest carrying their bleeding wound to old age,the happiest, having suffered as much as the rest, and preserving theirscars, though healed. The concert of their lamentations has filled theircentury, and we stood around them, hearing in our hearts the low echo oftheir cries. We were sad like them, and like them inclined to revolt.The reign of democracy excited our ambitions without satisfying them;the proclamation of philosophy kindled our curiosity without satisfyingit. In this wide-open career, the plebeian suffered for his mediocrity,and the sceptic for his doubt. The plebeian, like the sceptic, attackedby a precocious melancholy, and withered by a premature experience,abandoned his sympathies and his conduct to the poets, who declaredhappiness impossible, truth unattainable, society ill-arranged, manabortive or marred. From this unison of voices an idea arose, the centreof the literature, the arts, the religion of the age, to-wit, that hereis a monstrous disproportion between the different parts of our socialstructure, and that human destiny is vitiated by this disagreement.

What advice have they given us to cure this? They were great; were theywise? "Let deep and strong sensations rain upon you; if the humanmechanism breaks, so much the worse! Cultivate your garden, buryyourself in a little circle, re-enter the flock, be a beast of burden.Turn believer again, take holy water, abandon your mind to dogmas, andyour conduct to manuals of devotion. Make your way; aspire to power,honours, wealth." Such are the various replies of artists and citizens,Christians and men of the world. Are they replies? And what do theypropose but to satiate one's self, to become stupid, to turn aside, toforget? There is another and a deeper answer which Goethe was the firstto give, the truth of which we begin to conceive, in which issue all thelabor and experience of the age, and which may perhaps be thesubject-matter of future literature: "Try to understand yourself, andthings in general." A strange reply, which seems hardly new, whose scopewe shall only hereafter discover. For a long time yet men will feeltheir sympathies thrill at the sound of the sobs of their great poets.For a long time they will rage against a destiny which opens to theiraspirations the career of limitless space, to shatter them, within twosteps of the goal, against a wretched post which they had not seen. Fora long time they will bear like fetters the necessities which they oughtto have embraced as laws. Our generation, like the preceding, has beentainted by the malady of the age, and will never more than half get ridof it. We shall arrive at truth, not at tranquillity. All we can heal atpresent is our intellect; we have no hold upon our feelings. But we havea right to conceive for others the hopes which we no longer entertainfor ourselves, and to prepare for our descendants the happiness which weshall never enjoy. Brought up in a more wholesome air, they will have,mayhap, a wholesomer heart. The reformation of ideas ends by reformingthe rest, and the light of the mind produces serenity of heart.Hitherto, in our judgments on men, we have taken for our masters theoracles and poets, and like them we have received for undoubted truthsthe noble dreams of our imagination and the imperious suggestions of ourheart. We have bound ourselves to the partiality of religiousdivinations, and the inexactness of literary divinations, and we haveshaped our doctrines according to our instincts and our vexations.Science at last approaches, and approaches man; it has gone beyond thevisible and palpable world of stars, stones, plants, amongst which mandisdainfully confined her. It reaches the heart provided with exact andpenetrating implements, whose justness has been proved, and their reachmeasured by three hundred years of experience. Thought, with itsdevelopment and rank, its structure and relations, its deep materialroots, its infinite growth through history, its lofty bloom at thesummit of things, becomes the object of science--an object which, sixtyyears ago, it foresaw in Germany, and which, slowly and surely probed,by the same methods as the physical world, will be transformed beforeour eyes, as the physical world has been transformed. It is alreadybeing transformed, and we have left behind us the light in which Byronand the French poets had considered it. No, man is not an abortion or amonster; no, the business of poetry is not to disgust or defame him. Heis in his place, and completes a chain. Let us watch him grow andincrease, and we shall cease to rail at or curse him. He, likeeverything else, is a product, and as such it is right he should be whathe is. His innate imperfection is in order, like the constant abortionof a stamen in a plant, like the fundamental irregularity of four facetsin a crystal. What we took for a deformity, is a form; what seemed to usthe subversion of a law, is the accomplishment of a law. Human reasonand virtue have for their foundation instincts and animal images, asliving forms have for their instruments physical laws, as organicmatters have for their elements mineral substances. What wonder ifvirtue or human reason, like living form or organic matter, sometimesfails or decomposes, since like them, and like every superior andcomplex existence, they have for support and control inferior and simpleforces, which, according to circ*mstances, now maintain it by theirharmony, now mar it by their discord? What wonder if the elements ofexistence, like those of quantity, receive, from their very nature, theimmutable laws which constrain and reduce them to a certain species andorder of formation? Who will rise up against geometry? Who, especially,will rise up against a living geometry? Who will not, on the contrary,feel moved with admiration at the sight of those grand powers which,situated at the heart of things, incessantly urge the blood through thelimbs of the old world, disperse it quickly in the infinite network ofarteries, and spread over the whole surface the eternal flower of youthand beauty? Who, finally, will not feel himself ennobled, when he findsthat this pile of laws results in a regular series of forms, that matterhas thought for its goal, that nature ends in reason, and that thisideal to which, amidst so many errors, all the aspirations of men cling,is also the end to which aim, amidst so many obstacles, all the forcesof the universe? In this employment of science, and in this conceptionof things, there is a new art, a new morality, a new polity, a newreligion, and it is in the present time our task to try and discoverthem.


[Footnote 144: Byron's Works, ed. Moore, 17 vols. 1832; "Life," I. 102.]

[Footnote 145: Ibid. 63.]

[Footnote 146: Ibid. 69.]

[Footnote 147: Ibid. 137.]

[Footnote 148: Ibid. 26.]

[Footnote 149: Byron's Works, "Life," I. 53.]

[Footnote 150: Ibid. III. 83.]

[Footnote 151: Ibid. III. 20, March 28, 1814.]

[Footnote 152: Ibid. IV. 81; Letter to Moore, Feb. 12, 1818.]

[Footnote 153: Byron's Works, "Life," V. 96, Feb. 2, 1821.]

[Footnote 154: Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott," VII. 323.]

[Footnote 155: "If I was born, as the nurses say, with a 'silver spoonin my mouth,' it has stuck in my throat, and spoiled my palate, so thatnothing put into it is swallowed with much relish--unless it becayenne.... I see no such horror in a dreamless sleep, and I have noconception of any existence which duration would not make tiresome."]

[Footnote 156: "I like Junius: he was a good hater. I don't understandyielding sensitiveness. What I feel is an immense rage for forty-eighthours."]

[Footnote 157: Byron's Works, "Life," I. 41.]

[Footnote 158: In "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers."]

[Footnote 159: Lockhart's "Life of Sir Walter Scott," III. 389.]

[Footnote 160: Ibid. V. 141.]

[Footnote 161: Moore's "Life of Byron," III. 12, March 10, Thor's day.The last part of the sentence is a quotation from "Macbeth," V. 5.]

[Footnote 162: Ibid. IV. 169, note.]

[Footnote 163: Moore, Byron's Works; "Life," V. 67, Jan. 9, 1821.]

[Footnote 164: Ibid. V. 60, Jan. 6, 1821.]

[Footnote 165: Moore, Byron's Works; "Life," V. 97, February 2, 1821.]

[Footnote 166: Ibid. 95.]

[Footnote 167: Ibid. VI. 206.]

[Footnote 168: Moore, Byron's Works; "Life," V. 33, Ravenna, Nov. 18,1820.]

[Footnote 169: Moore, Byron's Works; "Life," V. 265.]

[Footnote 170: Ibid. V. 150, Ravenna, May 3, 1821.]

[Footnote 171: "All the styles of the day are bombastic. I don't exceptmy own; no one has done more through negligence to corrupt the language."]

[Footnote 172: See his "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers."]

[Footnote 173: Thirty thousand copies of "The Corsair" were sold in oneday.]

[Footnote 174: Byron's Works, VIII; "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," c. I.6.]

[Footnote 175: "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," c. I. 19.]

[Footnote 176: "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," c. III. 7-15.]

[Footnote 177: "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," c. IV. 1 and 2.]

[Footnote 178: "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," c. I. 39 and 40.]

[Footnote 179: Ibid. c. IV. 93 and 94.]

[Footnote 180: For example, "as weeping Beauty's cheek at Sorrow's tale."]

[Footnote 181: Here are verses like Pope, verybeautiful and false:"And havock loath so much the wasteof time,She scarce had left an uncommittedcrime,One hour beheld him since the tidehe stemm'd,Disguised, discover'd, conquering,ta'en condemn'd,A chief on land, an outlaw on thedeep,Destroying, saving, prison'd, andasleep!"]

[Footnote 182: Moore's "Life," IV. 345.]

[Footnote 183: Byron's Works, X., "The Prisoner of Chillon," c. VII. 234.]

[Footnote 184: Byron's Works, X., "The Prisoner of Chillon," c. VIII. 236.]

[Footnote 185: Ibid, XI., "Mazeppa," c. XIII. 167.]

[Footnote 186: Byron's Works, X., "The Siege of Corinth," c. XI. 116.]

[Footnote 187: Byron's Works, X., "The Siege of Corinth," c. XVI. 123.]

[Footnote 188: Byron's Works, X; "Lara," c. 2, st. 17-20, 60.]

[Footnote 189: Byron's Works, X; "Darkness," 283.]

[Footnote 190: Byron's Works, IV. 320; Letter to Mr. Murray, Ravenna,June 7, 1820.]

[Footnote 191: The angel of holy loves, the angel of the ocean, thechoirs of happy spirits. See this at length in the "Martyrs."]

[Footnote 192: "Magna peccatrix." S. Lucæ. VII. 36: "Mulier Samaritana."S. Johannis, IV; "Maria Ægyptiaca" (Acta Sanctorum), etc.]

[Footnote 193: Goethe's "Faust," translated by Theodore Martin. Prologuein Heaven.]

[Footnote 194: Goethe sings:"Wer ruft das Einzelne zur allgemeinen WeiheWo es in herrlichen Accorden schlägt?"]

[Footnote 195: Byron's Works, XI; "Manfred," II. 2, 32.]

[Footnote 196: Ibid.; "Manfred," III. 1, 56.]

[Footnote 197: Ibid.; "Manfred," II. 2, 35.]

[Footnote 198: Byron's Works, XI; "Manfred," II. 4, 47.]

[Footnote 199: Byron's Works, XI; "Manfred," II. 4, 49.]

[Footnote 200: Ibid. III. 4. 70.]

[Footnote 201: Southey, Preface to "A Vision of Judgment."]

[Footnote 202: Byron's Works, XVII; "Don Juan," c. 11, st. LXVII.]

[Footnote 203: Ibid. VI. 18; Letter 512, April 5, 1823.]

[Footnote 204: Ibid. II. 303; Journal, December 17, 1813.]

[Footnote 205: Alfred de Musset.]

[Footnote 206: See his terrible satirical poem, "The Vision of Judgment,"against Southey, George IV, and official pomp.]

[Footnote 207: Byron's Works, XVI. 131; Preface to "Don Juan," cantos VI.,VII., and VIII.]

[Footnote 208: "Don Juan" is a satire on the abuses in the present stateof society, and not a eulogy of vice.]

[Footnote 209: Stendhal, "Mémoires sur Lord Byron."]

[Footnote 210: Byron's Works, III. 333; Letter to Murray, Venice,January 2, 1817.]

[Footnote 211: Ibid. III. 363; Letter to Moore, Venice, March 25, 1817.]

[Footnote 212: Byron's Works, IV. 279; Letter to Murray. Ravenna,February 7, 1820.]

[Footnote 213: Ibid. XI; "Beppo," c. XLIII-XLV. 121.]

[Footnote 214: See Stendhal, "Vie de Giacomo Rossini," and Dean Stanley's"Life of Dr. Arnold." The contrast is complete. See also Mme. de Staël's"Corinne," where this opposition is very clearly grasped.]

[Footnote 215: Byron's Works, V. 127; Letter to Mr. Murray, Ravenna,February 16, 1821.]

[Footnote 216: Ibid. XVI; "Don Juan," c. VI. st. LXVI-LXVIII.]

[Footnote 217: Byron's Works, "Don Juan," c. VI. st. LX.]

[Footnote 218: Byron's Works, XV; "Don Juan," c. II. st.CLXXVII-CLXXXVIII.]

[Footnote 219: Ibid, XV; "Don Juan," c. II. st CXC.]

[Footnote 220: Ibid. c. II. st. CXCII.]

[Footnote 221: Byron says (V. October 12, 1820), "Don Juan is too true,and would. I suspect, live longer than Childe Harold. The women hatemany things which strip off the tinsel of sentiment."]

[Footnote 222: "Don Juan," c. VII. st. 2. "I hope it is no crime tolaugh at all things. For I wish to know what, after all, are allthings--but a show?"]

[Footnote 223: Byron's Works, XV; "Don Juan," c. II. st. XIX-XXIII.]

[Footnote 224: Ibid. c. III. st. V.]

[Footnote 225: Ibid. c. III. st. XXIII.]

[Footnote 226: Ibid. c. II. st. CLXXVIII., CLXXIX.]

[Footnote 227: Byron's Works, XV; "Don Juan," c. II. st. LXXXI.]

[Footnote 228: Byron had before him a dozen authentic descriptions.]

[Footnote 229: Byron's Works, XVI; "Don Juan," c. VII. st. 7.]

[Footnote 230: See his "Vision of Judgment."]


CHAPTER THIRD


THE PAST AND THE PRESENT


Part I.--The Past


Section I.--The Saxon Invasion.--The Norman Conquest


Having reached the limits of this long review, we can now survey as awhole the aggregate of English civilization: everything is connectedthere: a few primitive powers and circ*mstances have produced the rest,and we have only to pursue their continuous action in order tocomprehend the nation and its history, its past and its present. At thebeginning and far away in the region of causes, comes the race. A wholepeople, Angles and Saxons, destroyed, drove away, or enslaved the oldinhabitants, wiped out the Roman culture, settled by themselves andunmixed, and, amongst the later Danish pirates, only encountered a newreinforcement of the same blood. This is the primitive stock: from itssubstance and innate properties is to spring almost the whole futuregrowth. At this time and as they then were, alone in their island, theAngles and Saxons attained a development such as it was, rough, brutal,and yet solid. They ate and drank, built and cleared the land, and inparticular, multiplied: the scattered tribes who crossed the sea inleather boats, became a strong compact nation--three hundred thousandfamilies, rich, with store of cattle, abundantly provided with corporalsubsistence, partly at rest in the security of social life, with a king,respected and frequent assemblies, good judicial customs: here, amidstthe fire and vehemence of barbarian temperament, the old Germanicfidelity held men together, whilst the old Germanic independence heldthem upright. In all else they barely advanced. A few fragmentary songs,an epic in which still are to be found traces of the warlike excitementof ancient barbarism, gloomy hymns, a harsh and fierce poetry, sometimessublime and always rude--this is all that remains of them. In sixcenturies they had scarcely gone one step beyond the manners andsentiments of their uncivilized Germany: Christianity, which obtained ahold on them by the greatness of its biblical tragedies and the troubledsadness of its aspirations, did not bring to them a Latin civilization:this remained outside, hardly accepted by a few great men, deformed,when it did enter, by the difference between the Roman and Saxongenius--always altered and reduced; so much so, that for the men of theContinent these islanders were but illiterate dullards, drunkards, andgluttons; at all events, savage and slow by mood and nature, rebelliousagainst culture, and sluggish in development.

The empire of this world belongs to force. These people were conqueredforever and permanently--conquered by Normans; that is, by Frenchmenmore clever, more quickly cultivated and organized than they. This isthe great event which was to complete their character, decide theirhistory, and stamp upon character and history an impress of thepolitical and practical spirit which separates them from other Germannations. Oppressed, enclosed in the unyielding meshes of Normanorganization, they were not destroyed although they were conquered, theywere on their own soil, each with his friends and in his tithings; theyformed a body; they were yet twenty times more numerous than theirconquerors. Their situation and their necessities create their habitsand their aptitudes. They endure, protest, struggle, resist together andunanimously; strive to-day, to-morrow, daily, not to be slain orplundered, to restore their old laws, to obtain or extort guarantees;and they gradually acquire patience, judgment, all the faculties andinclinations by which liberties are maintained and states are founded.By a singular good fortune, the Norman lords assist them in this; forthe king has secured to himself so much, and is so formidable, that, inorder to repress the great pillager, the lesser ones are forced to makeuse of their Saxon subjects, to ally themselves with them, to give thema share in their charters, to become their representatives, to admitthem into Parliament, to leave them to labor freely, to grow rich, toacquire pride, strength, authority, to interfere with themselves inpublic affairs. Thus, then, gradually the English nation, struck down bythe Conquest to the ground, as if with a mace, extricates and raisesitself; five hundred years and more being occupied in this re-elevation.But during all this time, leisure failed for refined and lofty culture:it was needful to live and defend themselves, to dig the ground, spinwool, practise the bow, attend public meetings, serve on juries, tocontribute and argue for common interests: the important and respectedman is he who knows how to fight well and to gain much money. It was theenergetic and warlike manners which were developed, the active andpositive spirit which predominated; learning and elegance were left tothe gallicized nobles of the court. When the valiant Saxon townsfolkquitted bow and plough, it was to feast copiously, or to sing the balladof "Robin Hood." They lived and acted; they did not reflect or write;their national literature was reduced to fragments and rudiments,harpers' songs, tavern epics, a religious poem, a few books on religiousreformation. At the same time Norman literature faded; separated fromthe stem, and on a foreign soil, it languished in imitations; only onegreat poet, almost French in mind, quite French in style, appeared, and,after him, as before him, we find helpless drivel. For the second time,a civilization of five centuries became sterile in great ideas andworks; this still more so than its neighbors, and for a twofoldreason--because to the universal impotence of the Middle Ages was addedthe impoverishment of the Conquest, and because of the two componentliteratures, one transplanted, became abortive, and the other,mutilated, ceased to expand.


Section II.--Formative Periods


But amongst so many attempts and trials a character was formed, and therest was to spring from it. The barbarous age established on the soil aGerman race, phlegmatic and grave, capable of spiritual emotions andmoral discipline. The feudal age imposed on this race habits ofresistance and association, political and utilitarian prepossessions.Fancy a German from Hamburg or Bremen confined for five hundred years inthe iron corselet of William the Conqueror: these two natures, oneinnate, the other acquired, constitute all the springs of his conduct.So it was in other nations. Like runners drawn up in line at theentrance of the arena, we see at the epoch of the Renaissance the fivegreat peoples of Europe start, though we are unable at first to foreseeanything of their career. At first sight it seems as if accidents orcirc*mstances will alone regulate their speed, their fall, and theirsuccess. It is not so: from themselves alone their history depends: eachnation will be the artisan of its fortune; chance has no influence overevents so vast; and it is national tendencies and faculties which,overturning or raising obstacles, will lead them, according to theirfate, each one to its goal--some to the extreme of decadence, others tothe height of prosperity. After all, man is ever his own master and hisown slave. At the outset of every age he in a certain fashion _is_: hisbody, heart, mind have a distinct structure and disposition: and fromthis lasting arrangement, which all preceding centuries have contributedto consolidate or construct, spring permanent desires or aptitudes, bywhich he determines and acts. Thus is formed in him the ideal model,which, whether obscure or distinct, complete or rough-hewn, willhenceforth float before his eyes, rally all his aspirations, efforts,forces, and will cause him to aim for centuries at one effect, until atlength, renewed by impotence of success, he conceives a new goal, andassumes new energy. The Catholic and enthusiastic Spaniard figures lifelike the Crusaders, lovers, knights, and abandoning labor, liberty, andscience, casts himself, in the wake of the inquisition, and his king,into fanatical war, romanesque slothfulness, superstitious andimpassioned obedience, voluntary and incurable ignorance.[231] Thetheological and feudal German settles in his district docilely andfaithfully under his petty chief, through natural patience andhereditary loyalty, engrossed by his wife and household, content to haveconquered religious liberty, clogged by the dulness of his temperamentin gross physical existence, and in sluggish respect for establishedorder. The Italian, the most richly gifted and precocious of all, but,of all, the most incapable of voluntary discipline and moral austerity,turns towards the fine arts and voluptuousness, declines, deterioratesbeneath foreign rule, takes life at its easiest, forgetting to think,and satisfied to enjoy. The sociable and levelling Frenchman ralliesround his king, who secures for him public peace, external glory, thesplendid display of a sumptuous court, a regular administration, auniform discipline, a predominating influence in Europe, and universalliterature. So, if we look at the Englishman in the sixteenth century,we shall find in him the inclinations and the powers which for threecenturies are to govern his culture and shape his constitution. In thisEuropean expansion of natural existence and pagan literature we find atfirst in Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and the tragic poets, in Spenser,Sidney, and the lyric poets, the national features, all withincomparable depth and splendor, and such as race and history haveimpressed and implanted in them for a thousand years. Not in vain didinvasion settle here so serious a race, capable of reflection. Not invain did the Conquest turn this race toward warlike life and practicalpreoccupations. From the first rise of original invention, its workdisplays the tragic energy, the intense and disorderly passion, thedisdain of regularity, the knowledge of the real, the sentiment of innerthings, the natural melancholy, the anxious divination of the obscurebeyond--all the instincts which, forcing man upon himself, andconcentrating him within himself, prepare him for Protestantism andcombat. What is this Protestantism which establishes itself? What isthis ideal model which it presents; and what original conception is tofurnish to this people, its permanent and dominant poem? The harshestand most practical of all--that of the Puritans, which neglectingspeculation, falls back upon action, encloses human life in a rigiddiscipline, imposes on the soul continuous efforts, prescribes tosociety a cloistral austerity, forbids pleasure, commands action, exactssacrifice, and forms a moralist, a laborer, a citizen. Thus it isimplanted, the great English idea--I mean the conviction that man isbefore all a free and moral personage, and that, having conceived alonein his conscience and before God the rule of his conduct, he must employhimself entirely in applying it within himself, beyond himself,obstinately, inflexibly, by offering a perpetual resistance to others,and imposing a perpetual restraint upon himself. In vain will this ideaat first bring discredit upon itself by its transports and its tyranny;weakened by practice, it will gradually accommodate itself to humanity,and, carried from Puritan fanaticism to laic morality, it will win allpublic sympathy, because it answers to all the national instincts. Invain it will vanish from high society, under the scorn of theRestoration, and the importation of French culture; it subsistsunderground. For French culture did not come to a head in England: onthis too alien soil it produced only unhealthy, coarse, or imperfectfruit. Refined elegance became low debauchery; hardly expressed doubtbecame brutal atheism; tragedy failed, and was but declamation; comedygrew shameless, and was but a school of vice; of this literature, thereremained only studies of close reasoning and good style; it was drivenfrom the public stage, together with the Stuarts, at the beginning ofthe eighteenth century; and liberal and moral maxims resumed theascendancy, which they will not again lose. For, with ideas, events havefollowed their course: national inclinations have done their work insociety as in literature; and the English instincts have transformed theconstitution and politics at the same time as the talents and minds.These rich tithings, these valiant yeomen, these rude, well-armedcitizens, well-fed, protected by their juries, wont to reckon onthemselves, obstinate, combative, sensible, such as the English MiddleAges bequeathed them to modern England, did not object if the kingpractised his temporary tyranny on the classes above them, and oppressedthe nobility with a rigorous despotism, which the recollection of theCivil Wars and the danger of high treason justified. But Henry VIII, andElizabeth herself were obliged to follow in great interests the currentof public opinion: if they were strong, it was because they werepopular; the people only supported their designs, and authorized theirviolences, because they found in them defenders of their religion, andthe protectors of their labor.[232] The people themselves becameimmersed in this religion, and, from under a State-church, attained topersonal belief. They grew rich by toil, and under the first Stuartalready occupied the highest place in the nation. At this momenteverything was decided: whatever happened, they must one day becomemasters. Social situations create political situations; legalconstitutions always accommodate themselves to real things; and acquiredpreponderance infallibly results in written rights. Men so numerous, soactive, so resolute, so capable of keeping themselves, so disposed toeduce their opinions from their own reflection, and their subsistencefrom their own efforts, will under all circ*mstances seize theguarantees which they need. At the first onset, and in the ardor ofprimitive faith, they overturn the throne, and the current which bearsthem is so strong, that, in spite of their excess and their failure, theRevolution is accomplished by the abolition of feudal tenures, and theinstitution of Habeas Corpus under Charles II; by the universalupheaving of the liberal and Protestant spirit, under James II; by theestablishment of the constitution, the act of toleration, the freedom ofthe press, under William III. From that moment England had found herproper place; her two interior and hereditary forces--moral andreligious instinct, practical and political aptitude--had done theirwork, and were henceforth to build, without impediment or destruction,on the foundation which they had laid.


Section III.--The Broadening of Ideas


Thus was the literature of the eighteenth century born, altogetherconservative, useful, moral, and limited. Two powers direct it, oneEuropean, the other English: on one side a talent of oratorical analysisand habits of literary dignity, which belong to a classical age; on theother, a taste for application and an energy of precise observation,which are peculiar to the national mind. Hence that excellence andoriginality of political satire, parliamentary discourse, solid essays,moral novels, and all kinds of literature which demand an attentive goodsense, a correct good style, and a talent for advising, convincing, orwounding others. Hence that weakness or impotence of speculativethought, of genuine poetry, of original drama, and of all the kindswhich require a grand, free curiosity, or a grand, disinterestedimagination. The English did not attain complete elegance, nor superiorphilosophy; they dulled the French refinements which they copied, andwere terrified by the French boldness which they suggested; theyremained half co*ckneys and half barbarians; they only invented insularideas and English ameliorations, and were confirmed in their respect fortheir constitution and their tradition. But, at the same time, theycultivated and reformed themselves; their wealth and comfort increasedenormously; literature and opinion became severe and even intolerant;their long war against the French Revolution caused their morality tobecome strict and even immoderate; whilst the invention of machinerydeveloped their comfort and prosperity a hundredfold. A salutary anddespotic code of approved maxims, established proprieties, andunassailable beliefs, which fortifies, strengthens, curbs, and employsman usefully and painfully, without permitting him ever to deviate orgrow weak; a minute apparatus, and an admirable provision of commodiousinventions, associations, institutions, mechanisms, implements, methods,which incessantly co-operate to furnish body and mind with all whichthey need--such are henceforth the leading and special features of thispeople. To constrain themselves and to provide for themselves, to governthemselves and nature, to consider life as moralists and economists,like a close garment, in which people must walk becomingly, and like agood garment, the best to be had, to be at once respectable andcomfortable: these two words embrace all the mainsprings of Englishactions. Against this limited good sense, and this pedantic austerity, arevolt broke out. With the universal renewal of thought and imagination,the deep poetic source, which flowed in the sixteenth century, seeksanew an outlet in the nineteenth, and a fresh literature springs up;philosophy and history infiltrate their doctrines into the oldestablishment; the greatest poet of the time shocks it incessantly withits curses and sarcasms; from all sides, to this day, in science andletters, in practice and theory, in private and in public life, the mostpowerful minds endeavor to open up a new channel to the stream ofcontinental ideas. But they are patriots as well as innovators,conservative as well as revolutionary; if they touch religion andconstitution, manners and doctrines, it is to widen, not to destroythem: England is made; she knows it, and they know it. Such as thiscountry is, based on the whole national history, and on all the nationalinstincts, it is more capable than any other people in Europe oftransforming itself without recasting, and of devoting itself to itsfuture without renouncing its past.


Part II.--The Present


Section I.--Effects of the Saxon Invasion and the Norman Conquest


I began to perceive these ideas when I first landed in England, and Iwas singularly struck how they were corroborated by observation andhistory; it seemed to me that the present was completing the past, andthe past explained the present.

At first the sea troubles and strikes a man with wonder; not in vain isa people insular and maritime, especially with such a sea and suchcoasts; their painters, not very gifted, perceive, in spite of all, itsalarming and gloomy aspect; up to the eighteenth century, amidst theelegance of French culture, and under the joviality of Flemishtradition, we will find in Gainsborough the ineffaceable stamp of thisgreat sentiment. In pleasant moments, in the fine calm summer days, themoist fog stretches over the horizon its pearl-grey veil; the sea has apale slate color; and the ships, spreading their canvas, advancepatiently through the mist. But let us look around, and we will soon seethe signs of daily peril. The coast is eaten out, the waves haveencroached, the trees have vanished, the earth is softened by incessantshowers, the ocean is here, ever intractable and fierce. It growls andbellows eternally, that old hoarse monster; and the barking pack of itswaves advances like an endless army, before which all human force mustgive way. Think of the winter months, the storms, the long hours of thetempest-tossed sailor whirled about blindly by the squalls! Now, and inthis fine season, over the whole circle of the horizon, rise the dull,wan clouds, some like the smoke of a coal-fire, some of a frail anddazzling white, so swollen that they seem ready to burst. Their heavymasses creep slowly along; they are gorged, and already here and thereon the limitless plain a patch of sky is shrouded in a sudden shower.After an instant, the sea becomes dirty and cadaverous; its waves leapwith strange gambols, and their sides take an oily and livid tint. Thevast gray dome drowns and hides the whole horizon; the rain falls, closeand pitiless. We cannot have an idea of it until we have seen it. Whenthe southern men, the Romans, came here for the first time, they musthave thought themselves in the infernal regions. The wide space betweenearth and sky, and on which our eyes dwell as their domain, suddenlyfails; there is no more air, we see but a flowing mist. No more colorsor forms. In this yellowish smoke, objects look like fading ghosts;nature seems a bad crayon-drawing, over which a child has awkwardlysmeared his sleeve. Here we are at Newhaven, then at London; the skydisgorges rain, the earth returns her mist, the mist floats in the rain;all is swamped: looking round us, we see no reason why it should everend. Here, truly, is Homer's Cimmerian land: our feet splash, we have nouse left for our eyes; we feel all our organs stopped up, becoming rustyby the mounting damp; we think ourselves banished from the breathingworld, reduced to the condition of marshy beings dwelling in dirtypools: to live here is not life. We ask ourselves if this vast town isnot a cemetery, in which dabble busy and wretched ghosts. Amidst thedeluge of moist soot, the muddy stream with its unwearying iron ships,like black insects which take on board and land shades, makes us thinkof the Styx. As there is no light, they create it. Lately, in a largesquare in London, in the finest hotel, it was necessary to leave the gasalight for five days running. We become melancholy; we are disgustedwith others and with ourselves. What can people do in this sepulchre? Toremain at home without working is to gnaw one's vitals, and to prepareone's self for suicide. To go out is to make an effort, to care neitherfor damp nor cold, to brave discomfort and unpleasant sensations. Such aclimate prescribes action, forbids sloth, develops energy, teachespatience. I was looking just now on the steamboat at the sailors at thehelm--their tarpaulins, their great steaming boots, their sou'westers,so attentive, so precise in their movements, so grave, soself-contained. I have since seen workmen at their looms--calm, serious,silent, economizing their efforts, and persevering all day, all theyear, all their life, in the same regular and monotonous struggle ofmind and body: their soul is suited to their climate. Indeed it must beso in order to live: after a week, we feel that here a man must renouncerefined and heartfelt enjoyment, the happiness of careless life,complete idleness, the easy and harmonious expansion of artistic andanimal nature; that here he must marry, bring up a houseful of children,assume the cares and importance of a family man, grow rich, provideagainst an evil day, surround himself with comfort, become a Protestant,a manufacturer, a politician; in short, capable of activity andresistance; and in all the ways open to men, endure and strive.

Yet there are charming and touching beauties here--those, to-wit, of awell-watered land. When, on a partly clear day, we take a drive into thecountry and reach an eminence, our eyes experience a unique sensation,and a pleasure hitherto unknown. In the far distance, wherever we lookon the horizon, in the fields, on the hills, spreads the always visibleverdure, plants for fodder and food, clover, hops; lovely meadowsoverflowing with high thick grass; here and there a cluster of loftytrees; pasture lands hemmed in with hedges, in which the heavy cowsruminate in peace. The mist rises insensibly between the trees, and inthe distance float luminous vapors. There is nothing sweeter in theworld, nor more delicate, than these tints; we might pause for hourstogether gazing on these pearly clouds, this fine aerial down, this softtransparent gauze which imprisons the rays of the sun, dulls them, andlets them reach the ground only to smile on it and to caress it. On bothsides of our carriage pass before our eyes incessantly meadows each morelovely than the last, in which buttercups, meadow-sweet, Easter-daisies,are crowded in succession with their dissolving hues; a sweetness almostpainful, a strange charm, breathes from this inexhaustible and transientvegetation. It is too fresh, it cannot last; nothing here is staid,stable and firm, as in the South; all is fleeting, springing up, ordying away, hovering betwixt tears and joy. The rolling water-dropsshine on the leaves like pearls; the round tree-tops, the widespreadfoliage, whisper in the feeble breeze, and the sound of the fallingtears left by the last shower never ceases. How well these plants thrivein the glades, spread out wantonly, ever renewed and watered by themoist air! How the sap mounts in these plants, refreshed and protectedagainst the weather! And how sky and land seem made to guard theirtissue and refresh their hues! At the least glimpse of sun they smilewith delicious charm; we would call them delicate and timid virginsunder a veil about to be raised. Let the sun for an instant emerge, andwe will see them grow resplendent as in a ball dress. The light falls indazzling sheets; the lustrous golden petals shine with a too vividcolor; the most splendid embroideries, velvet starred with diamonds,sparkling silk seamed with pearls, are not to be compared to this deephue; joy overflows like a brimming cup. In the strangeness and therarity of this spectacle, we understand for the first time the life of ahumid land. The water multiplies and softens the living tissues; plantsincrease, and have no substance; nourishment abounds, and has no savor;moisture fructifies, but the sun does not fertilize. Much grass, muchcattle, much meat; large quantities of coarse food: thus an absorbingand phlegmatic temperament is supported; the human growth, like theanimal and vegetable, is powerful, but heavy; man is amply but coarselyframed; the machine is solid, but it turns slowly on its hinges, and thehinges generally creak and are rusty. When we look at the people closer,it seems that their various parts are independent, at least that theyneed time to let sensations pass through them. Their ideas do not atfirst break out in passions, gestures, actions. As in the Fleming andthe German, they dwell first of all in the brain; they expand there,they rest there; man is not shaken by them, he has no difficulty inremaining motionless, he is not wrapped; he can act wisely, uniformly;for his inner motive power is an idea or a watchword, not an emotion oran attraction. He can bear tedium, or rather he does not weary himself;his ordinary course consists of dull sensations, and the insipidmonotony of mechanical life has nothing which need repel him. He isaccustomed to it, his nature is suited for it. When a man has all hislife eaten turnips, he does not wish for oranges. He will readily resignhimself to hear fifteen consecutive discourses on the same subject,demanding for twenty years the same reform, compiling statistics,studying moral treatises, keeping Sunday schools, bringing up a dozenchildren. The piquant, the agreeable, are not a necessity to him. Theweakness of his sensitive impulses contributes to the force of his moralimpulses. His temperament makes him argumentative; he can get on withoutpolicemen; the shocks of man against man do not here end in explosions.He can discuss in the market-place aloud, religion and politics, holdmeetings, form associations, rudely attack men in office, say that theConstitution is violated, predict the ruin of the State; there is noobjection to this; his nerves are calm; he will argue without cuttingthroats; he will not raise revolutions; and perhaps he will obtain areform. Observe the passers-by in the streets; in three hours we willsee all the visible features of this temperament: light hair, inchildren almost white; pale eyes, often blue as Wedgwood-ware, redwhiskers, a tall figure, the motions of an automaton; and with theseother still more striking features, those which strong food andcombative life have added to this temperament. Here the enormousguardsman, with rosy complexion, majestic, slightly bent, who strutsalong twirling a little cane in his hand, displaying his chest, andshowing a clear parting between his pomaded hair; there the over-fedstout man, short, sanguine, like an animal fit for the shambles, withhis startled, dazed, yet sluggish air; a little further on the countrygentleman, six feet high, stout and tall, like the German who left hisforest, with the muzzle and nose of a bulldog, tremendous savage-lookingwhiskers, rolling eyes, apoplectic face; these are the excesses ofcoarse blood and food; add to which, even in the women, the white frontteeth of a carnivorous animal, and big feet solidly shod, excellent forwalking in the mud. Again, look at the young men in a cricket match orpicnic party; doubtless mind does not sparkle in their eyes, but lifeabounds there; there is something of decision and energy in their wholebeing; healthy and active, ready for motion, for enterprise, these arethe words which rise involuntarily to our lips when we speak of them.Many look like fine, slender harriers, sniffing the air, and in fullcry. A life passed in gymnastic exercises or in venturesome deeds ishonored in England; they must move their body, swim, throw the ball, runin the damp meadow, row, breathe in their boats the briny sea-vapor,feel on their foreheads the raindrops falling from the large oak trees,leap their horses over ditches and gates; the animal instincts areintact. They still relish natural pleasures; precocity has not spoiledthem. Nothing can be simpler than the young English girls; amidst manybeautiful things, there are few so beautiful in the world; slim, strong,self-assured, so fundamentally honest and loyal, so free from coquetry!A man cannot imagine, if he has not seen it, this freshness andinnocence; many of them are flowers, expanded flowers; only a morningrose, with its transient and delicious color, with its petals drenchedin dew, can give us an idea of it; it leaves far behind the beauty ofthe South, and its precise, stable, finished contours, its well-definedoutlines; here we perceive fragility, delicacy, the continual budding oflife; candid eyes, blue as periwinkles, looking at us without thinkingof our look. At the least stirring of the soul, the blood rushes inpurple waves into these girls' cheeks, neck, and shoulders; we seeemotions pass over these transparent complexions, as the colors changein the meadows; and their modesty is so virginal and sincere, that weare tempted to lower our eyes from respect. And yet, natural and frankas they are, they are not languishing or dreamy; they love and endureexercise like their brothers; with flowing locks, at six years they rideon horseback and take long walks. Active life in this countrystrengthens the phlegmatic temperament, and the heart is kept moresimple whilst the body grows healthier. Another observation: far aboveall these figures one type stands out, the most truly English, the moststriking to a foreigner. Post yourself for an hour, early in themorning, at the terminus of a railway, and observe the men above thirtywho come to London on business: the features are drawn, the faces pale,the eyes steady, preoccupied; the mouth open and, as it were,contracted; the man is tired, worn out, and hardened by too much work;he runs without looking round him. His whole existence is directed to asingle end; he must incessantly exert himself to the utmost, practisethe same exertion, a profitable one; he has become a machine. This isespecially visible in workmen; perseverance, obstinacy, resignation, aredepicted on their long bony and dull faces. It is still more visible inwomen of the lower orders: many are thin, consumptive, their eyeshollow, their nose sharp, their skin streaked with red patches; theyhave suffered too much, have had too many children, have a washed-out,or oppressed, or submissive, or stoically impassive air; we feel thatthey have endured much, and can endure still more. Even in the middle orupper class this patience and sad hardening are frequent; we think whenwe see them of those poor beasts of burden, deformed by the harness,which remain motionless under the falling rain without thinking ofshelter. Verily the battle of life is harsher and more obstinate herethan elsewhere; whoever gives way, falls. Beneath the rigor of climateand competition, amidst the strikes of industry, the weak, theimprovident, perish or are degraded; then comes gin and does its work;thence the long files of wretched women who sell themselves by night inthe Strand to pay their rent; thence those shameful quarters of London,Liverpool, all the great towns, those spectres in tatters, gloomy ordrunk, who crowd the dram-shops, who fill the streets with their dirtylinen, and their rags hung out on ropes, who lie on a soot-heap, amidsttroops of wan children; horrible shoals, whither descend all whom theirwounded, idle, or feeble arms could not keep on the surface of the greatstream. The chances of life are tragic here, and the punishment ofimprovidence cruel. We soon understand why, under this obligation tofight and grow hard, fine sensations disappear; why taste is blunted,how man becomes ungraceful and stiff; how discords, exaggerations, marthe costume and the fashion: why movements and forms become finallyenergetic and discordant, like the motions of a machine. If the man isGerman by race, temperament, and mind, he has been compelled in processof time to fortify, alter, altogether turn aside his original nature; heis no longer a primitive animal, but a well-trained animal; his body andmind have been transformed by strong food, by bodily exercise, byaustere religion, by public morality, by political strife, by perpetuityof effort; he has become of all men the most capable of acting usefullyand powerfully in all directions, the most productive and effectuallaborer, as his ox has become the best animal for food, his sheep thebest for wool, his horse the best for racing.


Section II.--English Commerce and Industry


Indeed, there is no greater spectacle than his work; in no age oramongst no nation on the earth, I believe, has matter ever been betterhandled and utilized. If we enter London by water, we see anaccumulation of toil and work which has no equal on this planet. Paris,by comparison, is but an elegant city of pleasure; the Seine, with itsquays, a pretty serviceable plaything. Here all is vast. I have seenMarseilles, Bordeaux, Amsterdam, but I had no idea of such a mass. FromGreenwich to London the two shores are a continuous wharf: merchandiseis always being piled up, sacks hoisted, ships moored; ever newwarehouses for copper, beer, ropework, tar, chemicals. Docks,timber-yards, calking-basins, and shipbuilders' yards, multiply andencroach on each other. On the left there is the iron framework of achurch being finished, to be sent to India. The Thames is a mile broad,and is but a populous street of vessels, a winding workyard. Steamboats,sailing vessels, ascend and descend, come to anchor in groups of two,three, ten, then in long files, then in dense rows; there are five orsix thousand of them at anchor. On the right, the docks, like so manyintricate, maritime streets, disgorge or store up the vessels. If we geton a height, we see vessels in the distance by hundreds and thousands,fixed as if on the land; their masts in a line, their slender rigging,make a spider-web which girdles the horizon. Yet on the river itself,towards the west, we see an inextricable forest of masts, yards, andcables; the ships are unloading, fastened to one another, mingled withchimneys, amongst the pulleys of the storehouses, cranes, capstans, andall the implements of the vast and ceaseless toil. A foggy smoke,penetrated by the sun, wraps them in its russet veil; it is the heavyand smoky air of a big hot-house; soil and man, light and air, all istransformed by work. If we enter one of these docks, the impression willbe yet more overwhelming: each resembles a town; always ships, stillmore ships, in a line, showing their heads; their wide sides, theircopper chests, like monstrous fishes under their breastplate of scales.When we are on the ground, we see that this breastplate is fifty feethigh; many ships are of three thousand or four thousand tons. Clippersthree hundred feet long are on the point of sailing for Australia,Ceylon, America. A bridge is raised by machinery; it weighs a hundredtons, and only one man is needed to raise it. Here are the winestores--there are thirty thousand tuns of port in the cellars; here theplace for hides, here for tallow, here for ice. The store for groceriesextends as far as the eye can see, colossal, sombre as a picture byRembrandt filled with enormous vats, and crowded with many men, who moveabout in the flickering shade. The universe tends to this centre. Like aheart, to which blood flows, and from which it pours, money, goods,business arrive hither from the four quarters of the globe, and flowthence to the distant poles. And this circulation seems natural, so wellis it conducted. The cranes turn noiselessly; the tuns seem to move ofthemselves; a little car rolls them at once, and without effort; thebales descend by their own weight on the inclined planes, which leadthem to their place. Clerks, without flurry, call out the numbers; menpush or pull without confusion, calmly, husbanding their labor; whilstthe stolid master, in his black hat, gravely, with spare gestures, andwithout one word, directs the whole.

Now let us take rail and go to Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool,Manchester, to see their industry. As we advance into the coal country,the air is darkened with smoke; the chimneys, high as obelisks, are inhundreds, and cover the plain as far as we can see; many and variousrows of lofty buildings, in red monotonous brick, pass before our eyes,like files of economical and busy beehives. The blast-furnaces flamethrough the smoke; I counted sixteen in one group. The refuse ofminerals is heaped up like mountains; the engines run like black ants,with monotonous and violent motion, and suddenly we find ourselvesswallowed up in a monstrous town. This manufactory has five thousandhands, one mill three hundred thousand spindles. The Manchesterwarehouses are Babylonian edifices of six stories high, and wide inproportion. In Liverpool there are five thousand ships along the Mersey,which choke one another up; more wait to enter. The docks are six mileslong, and the cotton warehouses on the side extend their vast redrampart out of sight. All things here seem built in unmeasuredproportions, and as though by colossal arms. We enter a mill; nothingbut iron pillars, as thick as tree-trunks, cylinders as big as a man;locomotive shafts like vast oaks, notching machines which send up ironchips, rollers which bend sheet-iron like paste, flywheels which becomeinvisible by the swiftness of their revolution. Eight workmen, commandedby a kind of peaceful colossus, pushed into and pulled from the fire atree of red-hot iron as big as my body. Coal has produced all this.England produces twice as much coal as the rest of the world. It hasalso brick, on account of the great schists, which are close to thesurface; it has also estuaries filled by the sea, so as to make naturalports. Liverpool and Manchester, and about ten towns of forty thousandto one hundred thousand souls, are springing up in the basin ofLancashire. If we glance over a geological map we see whole parts shadedwith black; they represent the Scotch, the North of England, theMidland, the Welsh, the Irish coal districts. The old antediluvianforests, accumulating here their fuel, have stored up the power whichmoves matter, and the sea furnishes the true road by which matter can betransported. Man himself, mind and body, seems created to make the mostof these advantages. His muscles are firm, and his mind can supporttedium. He is less subject to weariness and disgust than other men. Heworks as well in the tenth hour as in the first. No one handles machinesbetter; he has their regularity and precision. Two workmen in acotton-mill do the work of three, or even four, French workmen. Let uslook now in the statistics how many leagues of stuffs they manufactureevery year, how many millions of tons they export and import, how manytens of millions they produce and consume; let us add the industrial orcommercial states they have founded, or are founding, in America,China, India, Australia; and then perhaps, reckoning men andmoney-value--considering that their capital is seven or eight timesgreater than that of France, that their population has doubled in fiftyyears, that their colonies, wherever the climate is healthy, arebecoming new Englands--we will obtain some notion, very slight, veryimperfect, of a work whose magnitude the eyes alone can measure.

There remains yet one of its parts to explore, the cultivation of theland. From the railway carriage we see quite enough to understand it: afield with a hedge, then another field with another hedge, and so on: attimes vast squares of turnips; all this well laid out, clean, glossy; noforests, here and there only a cluster of trees. The country is a greatkitchen-garden--a manufactory of grass and meat. Nothing is left tonature and chance; all is calculated, regulated, arranged to produce andto bring in profits. If we look at the peasants, we find no genuinepeasants; nothing like French peasants--a sort of fellahs, akin to thesoil, mistrustful and uncultivated, separated by a gulf from thetownsmen. The countryman here is like an artisan; and, in fact, a fieldis a manufactory, with a farmer for the foreman. Proprietors and farmerslavish their capital like great contractors. They drain the land, andhave a rotation of crops; they have produced cattle, the richest inreturns of any in the world; they have introduced steam-engines intocultivation, and into the rearing of cattle; they perfect alreadyperfect stables. The greatest of the aristocracy take a pride in it;many country gentlemen have no other occupation. Prince Albert, nearWindsor, had a model farm, and this farm brought in money. A few yearsago the papers announced that the Queen had discovered a cure for theturkey-disease. Under this universal effort,[233] the products ofa*griculture have doubled in fifty years. In England, two and a halfacres (_hectare_) receive eight or ten times more manure than the samenumber of French acres; though of inferior quality, the produce isdouble that of the French. Thirty persons are enough for this work, whenin France forty would be required for half thereof. We come upon a farm,even a small one, say of a hundred acres; we find respectable,dignified, well-clad men, who express themselves clearly and sensibly; alarge, wholesome, comfortable dwelling--often a little porch, withcreepers--a well-kept garden, ornamental trees, the inner wallswhitewashed yearly, the floors washed weekly--an almost Dutchcleanliness; therewith plenty of books--travels, treatises onagriculture, a few volumes of religion or history; and above all, thegreat family Bible. Even in the poorest cottages we find a few objectsof comfort and recreation; a large cast-iron stove, a carpet, nearlyalways paper on the walls, one or two moral tales, and always the Bible.The cottage is clean; the habits are orderly; the plates, with theirblue pattern, regularly arranged, look well above the shining dresser;the red floor-tiles have been swept; there are no broken or dirty panes;no doors off hinges, shutters unhung, stagnant pools, stragglingdunghills, as amongst the French villagers; the little garden is keptfree from weeds; frequently roses and honeysuckle round the door; and onSunday we can see the father and mother, seated by a well-scrubbedtable, with tea, bread and butter, enjoying their _home_, and the orderthey have established there. In France the peasant on Sunday leaves hishut to visit _his land_: what he aspires to is possession; whatEnglishmen love is comfort. There is no land in which they demand morein this respect. An Englishman said to me, not very long ago: "Our greatvice is the strong desire we feel for all good and comfortable things.We have too many wants, we spend too much. As soon as our peasants havea little money, they buy the best sherry and the best clothes they canget, instead of buying a bit of land."[234]

As we rise to the upper classes, this taste becomes stronger. In themiddle ranks a man burdens himself with toil, to give his wife gaudydresses, and to fill his house with the hundred thousand baubles ofquasi-luxury. Higher still, the inventions of comfort are so multipliedthat people are bored by them; there are too many newspapers and reviewson the table; too many kinds of carpets, washstands, matches, towels inthe dressing-room; their refinement is endless; in thrusting our feetinto slippers, we might imagine that twenty generations of inventorswere required to bring sole and lining to this degree of perfection. Wecannot conceive clubs better furnished with necessaries andsuperfluities, houses so well arranged and managed, pleasure andabundance so cleverly understood, servants so reliable, respectful,handy. Servants in the last census were "the most numerous class of HerMajesty's subjects"; in England there are five, where in France theyhave two. When I saw in Hyde Park the rich young ladies, the gentlemenriding or driving, when I thought of their country houses, their dress,their parks and stables, I said to myself that verily this people isconstituted after the heart of economists: I mean, that it is thegreatest producer and the greatest consumer in the world; that none ismore apt at squeezing out and absorbing the quintessence of things; thatit has developed its wants at the same time as its resources; and weinvoluntarily think of those insects which, after their metamorphosis,are suddenly provided with teeth, feelers, unwearying claws, admirableand terrible instruments, fitted to dig, saw, build, do everything, butfurnished also with incessant hunger and four stomachs.


Section III.--Agriculture


How is this ant-hill governed? As the train moves on, we perceive,amidst farms and tilled lands, the long wall of a park, the frontage ofa castle, more generally of some vast ornate mansion, a sort of countrytown-house, of inferior architecture, Gothic or Italian pretensions, butsurrounded by beautiful lawns, large trees scrupulously preserved. Herelives the rich _bourgeois_; I am wrong, the word is false--I must say_gentleman_: _bourgeois_ is a French word, and signifies the lazy_parvenus_, who devote themselves to rest, and take no part in publiclife; here it is quite different; the hundred or hundred and twentythousand families, who spend a thousand and more annually, really governthe country. And this is no government imported, implanted artificiallyand from without; it is a spontaneous and natural government. As soon asmen wish to act together, they need leaders; every association,voluntary or not, has one; whatever it be, state, army, ship, or parish,it cannot do without a guide to find the road, to take the lead, callthe rest, scold the laggards. In vain we call ourselves independent; assoon as we march in a body, we need a leader; we look right and left,expecting him to show himself. The great thing is to pick him out, tohave the best, and not to follow another in his stead; it is a greatadvantage that there should be one, and that we should acknowledge him.These men, without popular election, or selection from government, findhim ready-made and recognized in the large landed proprietor, a manwhose family has been long in the county, influential through hisconnections, dependents, tenantry, interested above all else by hisgreat estates in the affairs of the neighborhood, expert in directingthese affairs which his family have managed for three generations, mostfitted by education to give good advice, and by his influence to leadthe common enterprise to a good result. Indeed, it is thus that thingsfall out; rich men leave London by hundreds every day to spend a day inthe country; there is a meeting on the affairs of the county or of thechurch; they are magistrates, overseers, presidents of all kinds ofsocieties, and this gratuitously. One has built a bridge at his ownexpense, another a chapel or a school; many establish public libraries,where books are lent out, with warmed and lighted rooms, in which thevillagers in the evening can read the papers, play draughts, chess, andhave tea at low charges--in a word, simple amusem*nts which may keepthem from the public-house and gin-shop. Many of them give lectures;their sisters or daughters teach in Sunday schools; in fact, theyprovide for the ignorant and poor, at their own expense, justice,administration, civilization. I know a very rich man who in his Sundayschool taught singing to little girls. Lord Palmerston offered his parkfor archery meetings; the Duke of Marlborough opens his daily to thepublic, "requesting," this is the word used, "the public not to destroythe grass." A firm and proud sentiment of duty, a genuine public spirit,a noble idea of what a gentleman owes to himself, gives them a moralsuperiority which sanctions their command; probably from the time of theold Greek cities, no education or condition has been seen in which theinnate nobility of man has received a more wholesome or completerdevelopment. In short, they are magistrates and patrons from theirbirth, leaders of the great enterprises in which capital is risked,promoters of all charities, all improvements, all reforms, and with thehonors of command they accept its burdens. For observe, in contrast withthe aristocracies of other countries, they are are well educated,liberal, and march in the van, not in the rear of public civilization.They are not drawing-room exquisites, like the French marquises of theeighteenth century: an English lord visits his fisheries, studies thesystem of liquid manures, speaks to the purpose about cheese: and hisson is often a better rower, walker, and boxer than the farmers. Theyare not malcontents, like the French nobility, behind their age, devotedto whist, and regretting the Middle Ages. They have travelled throughEurope, and often further; they know languages and literature; theirdaughters read Schiller, Manzoni, and Lamartine with ease. By means ofreviews, newspapers, innumerable volumes of geography, statistics, andtravels, they have all the world at their finger-ends. They support andpreside over scientific societies; if the free inquirers of Oxford,amidst conventional rigor, have been able to give their explanations ofthe Bible, it is because they knew themselves to be backed byenlightened laymen of the highest rank. There is also no danger thatthis aristocracy should become a set; it renews itself; a greatphysician, a profound lawyer, an illustrious general, become ennobledand found families. When a manufacturer or merchant has gained a largefortune, he first thinks of acquiring an estate; after two or threegenerations his family has taken root and shares in the government ofthe country: in this way the best saplings of the great popular forestfill up the aristocratic nursery. Observe, finally, that an aristocracyin England is not an isolated fact. Everywhere there are leadersrecognized, respected, followed with confidence and deference, who feeltheir responsibility, and carry the burden as well as the advantages ofthe dignity. Such an aristocracy exists in marriage, where the manincontestably rules, followed by his wife to the end of the world,faithfully waited for in the evenings, unshackled in his business, ofwhich he does not speak. There is such in the family, when thefather[235] can disinherit his children, and keeps up with them, in themost petty circ*mstances of daily life, a degree of authority anddignity unknown in France: if in England a son, through ill-health, hasbeen away for some time from his home, he dare not come into the countryto see his father without first asking if he may come; a servant to whomI gave my card refused to take it, saying, "Oh! I dare not hand it innow. Master is dining." There is respect in all ranks, in the workshopsas well as in the fields, in the army as in the family. Throughout thereare inferiors and superiors who feel themselves so; if the mechanism ofestablished power were thrown out of gear, we should behold itreconstructed of itself; below the legal constitution is the social, andhuman action is forced into a solid mould prepared for it.

It is because this aristocratic network is strong that human action canbe free; for local and natural government being rooted throughout, likeivy, by a hundred small, ever-growing fibres, sudden movements, violentas they are, are not capable of pulling it up altogether. In vain menspeak, cry out, call meetings, hold processions, form leagues: they willnot demolish the state; they have not to deal with a set offunctionaries who have no real hold on the country, and who, like allexternal applications, can be replaced by another set: the thirty orforty gentlemen of a district, rich, influential, trusted, useful asthey are, will become the leaders of the district. "As we see in thepapers," says Montesquieu, speaking of England, "that they are playingthe devil, we fancy that the people will revolt to-morrow." Not at all,it is their way of speaking; they only talk loudly and rudely. Two daysafter I arrived in London, I saw advertising men walking with a placardon their backs and their stomachs, bearing these words: "Greatusurpation! Outrage of the Lords, in their vote on the budget,against the rights of the people." But then the placard added,"Fellow-countrymen, petition!" Things end thus; they argue freely, andif the reasoning is good it will spread. Another time in Hyde Park,orators were declaiming in the open air against the Lords, who werecalled rogues. The audience applauded or hissed, as it pleased them."After all," said an Englishman to me, "this is how we manage ourbusiness. With us, when a man has an idea, he writes it; a dozen menthink it good, and all contribute money to publish it; this creates alittle association, which grows, prints cheap pamphlets, gives lectures,then petitions, calls forth public opinion, and at last takes the matterinto Parliament; Parliament refuses or delays it; yet the matter gainsweight: the majority of the nation pushes, forces open the doors, andthen you'll have a law passed." It is open to everyone to do this;workmen can league against their masters; in fact, their associationsembrace all England; at Preston I believe there was once a strike whichlasted more than six months. They will sometimes mob, but never revolt;they know political economy by this time, and understand that to doviolence to capital is to suppress work. Their chief quality iscoolness; here, as elsewhere, temperament has great influence. Anger,blood does not rise at once to their eyes, as in the southern nations; along interval always separates idea from action, and wise arguments,repeated calculations, occupy the interval. If we go to a meeting, wesee men of every condition, ladies who come for the thirtieth time tohear the same speech, full of figures, on education, cotton, wages. Theydo not seem to be wearied; they can bring argument against argument, bepatient, protest gravely, recommence their protest; they are the samepeople who wait for the train on the platform, without getting crushed,and who play cricket for a couple of hours without raising their voicesor quarrelling for an instant. Two coachmen, who run into one another,set themselves free without storming or scolding. Thus their politicalassociation endures; they can be free because they have natural leadersand patient nerves. After all, the state is a machine like othermachines; let us try to have good wheels, and take care not to breakthem; Englishmen have the double advantage of possessing very good ones,and of managing them coolly.


Section IV.--English Society.--Philosophy.--Religion


Such is our Englishman, with his laws and his administration. Now thathe has private comfort and public security, what will he do, and howwill he govern himself in this higher, nobler domain, to which manclimbs in order to contemplate beauty and truth? At all events, the artsdo not lead him there. That vast London is monumental; but, like thecastle of a man who has become rich, everything there is well preservedand costly, but nothing more. Those lofty houses of massive stone,burdened with porches, short columns, Greek decorations, are generallygloomy; the poor columns of the monuments seem washed with ink. OnSunday, in foggy weather, we would think ourselves in a cemetery; theperfect readable names on the houses, in brass letters, are likesepulchral inscriptions. There is nothing beautiful: at most, thevarnished middle-class houses, with their patch of green, are pleasant;we feel that they are well kept, commodious, capital for a business manwho wants to amuse himself and unbend after a hard day's work. But afiner and higher sentiment could relish nothing here. As to the statues,it is difficult not to laugh at them. We see the Duke of Wellington witha co*cked hat and iron plumes; Nelson, with a cable which serves him fora tail, planted on his column, and pierced by a lightning-conductor,like a rat impaled on the end of a pole; or again, the half-dressedWaterloo generals, crowned by Victory. The English, though flesh andbone, seem manufactured out of sheet-iron: how much stiffer will Englishstatues look? They pride themselves on their painting; at least theystudy it with surprising minuteness, in the Chinese fashion; they canpaint a truss of hay so exactly that a botanist will tell the species ofevery stalk; one artist lived three months under canvas on a heath, sothat he might thoroughly know heath. Many are excellent observers,especially of moral expression, and succeed very well in showing thesoul in the face; we are instructed by looking at them; we go through acourse of psychology with them; they can illustrate a novel; we aretouched by the poetic and dreamy meaning of many of their landscapes.But in genuine painting, picturesque painting, they are revolting. I donot think there were ever laid upon canvas such crude colors, such stiffforms, stuffs so much like tin, such glaring contrasts. Fancy an operawith nothing but false notes in it. We may see landscapes paintedblood-red, trees which split the canvas, turf which looks like a pot ofoverturned green, Christs looking as if they were baked and preserved inoil, expressive stags, sentimental dogs, undressed women, to whom weshould like forthwith to offer a garment. In music, they import theItalian opera; it is an orange-tree kept up at great cost in the midstof turnips. The arts require idle, delicate minds--not stoics,especially not puritans--easily shocked by dissonance, inclined tovisible pleasure, employing their long periods of leisure, their freereveries, in harmoniously arranging, and with no other object butenjoyment, forms, colors, and sounds. I need not say that here the bentof mind is quite the opposite; and we see clearly enough why, amidstthese combative politicians, these laborious toilers, these men ofenergetic action, art can but produce exotic or ill-shaped fruit.

Not so in science; but in science there are two divisions. It may betreated as a business, to glean and verify observations, to combineexperiments, to arrange figures, to weigh probabilities to discoverfacts, partial laws, to possess laboratories, libraries, societiescharged with storing and increasing positive knowledge; in all thisEnglishmen excel. They have even a Lyell, a Darwin, an Owen, able toembrace and renew a science; in the construction of the vast edifice,the industrious masons, masters of the second rank, are not lacking; itis the great architects, the thinkers, the genuine speculative minds,who fail them; philosophy, especially metaphysics, is as littleindigenous here as music and painting; they import it, and yet theyleave the best part on the road. Carlyle was obliged to transform itinto a mystical poetry, humorous and prophetic fancies; Hamilton touchedupon it only to declare it chimerical; Stuart Mill and Buckle onlyseized the most palpable part--a heavy residuum, positivism. It is notin metaphysics that the English mind can find its vent. It is on otherobjects that the spirit of liberal inquiry--the sublime instincts of themind, the craving for the universal and the infinite, the desire ofideal and perfect things--will fall back. Let us take the day on whichthe hush of business leaves a free field for disinterested aspirations.There is no more striking spectacle for a foreigner than Sunday inLondon. The streets are empty, and the churches full. An Act ofParliament forbids any playing to-day, public or private; thepublic-houses are not allowed to harbor people during divine service.Moreover, all respectable people are at worship, the seats are full: itis not as in France, where there are none but servants, old women, a fewsleepy people, of private means, and a sprinkling of elegant ladies; butin England we see men well dressed, or at least decently clad, and asmany gentlemen as ladies in church. Religion does not remain out of thepale, and below the standard of public culture; the young, the learned,the best of the nation, all the upper and middle classes, continueattached to it. The clergyman, even in a village, is not a peasant'sson, with not over-much polish, just out of the seminary, shackled in acloistral education, separated from society by celibacy, half-buried inmediævalism. In England he is a man of the times, often a man of theworld, often of good family, with the interests, habits, freedom ofother men; keeping sometimes a carriage, several servants, havingelegant manners, generally well informed, who has read and still reads.On all these grounds he is able to be in his neighborhood the leader ofideas, as his neighbor the squire is the leader of business. If he doesnot walk in the same path as the free-thinkers, he is not more than astep or two behind them; a modern man, a Parisian, can talk with him onall lofty themes, and not perceive a gulf between his own mind and theclergyman's. Strictly speaking, he is a layman like ourselves; the onlydifference is, that he is a superintendent of morality. Even in hisexternals, except for occasional bands and the perpetual white tie, heis like us; at first sight we would take him for a professor, amagistrate, or a notary; and his sermons agree with his person. He doesnot anathematize the world; in this his doctrine is modern; he followsthe broad path in which the Renaissance and the Reformation impelledreligion. When Christianity arose, eighteen centuries ago, it was in theEast, in the land of the Essenes and the Therapeutists, amid universaldejection and despair, when the only deliverance seemed a renunciationof the world, an abandonment of civil life, destruction of the naturalinstincts, and a daily waiting for the kingdom of God. When it roseagain, three centuries ago, it was in the West, amongst laborious andhalf-free peoples, amidst universal restoration and invention, when man,improving his condition, regained confidence in his worldly destiny, andwidely expanded his faculties. No wonder if the new Protestantismdiffers from the ancient Christianity, if it enjoins action instead ofpreaching asceticism, if it authorizes comforts in place of prescribingmortification, if it honors marriage, work, patriotism, inquiry,science, all natural affections and faculties, in place of praisingcelibacy, withdrawal from the world, scorn of the age, ecstasy,captivity of mind, and mutilation of the heart. By this infusion of themodern spirit, Christianity has received new blood, and Protestantism nowconstitutes, with science, the two motive organs, and, as it were, thedouble heart of European life. For, in accepting the rehabilitation ofthe world, it has not renounced the purification of man's heart; on thecontrary, it is towards this that it has directed its whole effort. Ithas cut off from religion all the portions which are not this verypurification, and, by reducing it, has strengthened it. An institution,like a machine, and like a man, is the more powerful for being morespecial: a work is done better because it is done singly, and because weconcentrate ourselves upon it. By the suppression of legends andreligious observances, human thought in its entirety has beenconcentrated on a single object--moral amelioration. It is of this menspeak in the churches, gravely and coldly, with a succession of sensibleand solid arguments; how a man ought to reflect on his duties, mark themone by one in his mind, make for himself principles, have a sort ofinner code, freely accepted and firmly established, to which he mayrefer all his actions without bias or hesitation; how these principlesmay be rooted by practice; how unceasing examination, personal effort,the continual edification of himself by himself ought slowly to confirmour resolution in uprightness. These are the questions which, with amultitude of examples, proofs, appeals to daily experience,[236] arebrought forward in all the pulpits, to develop in man a voluntaryreformation, a guard and empire over himself, the habit ofself-restraint, and a kind of modern stoicism, almost as noble as theancient. On all hands laymen help in this; and moral warning, given byliterature as well as by theology, harmoniously unites society and theclergy. Hardly ever does a book paint a man in a disinterested manner:critics, philosophers, historians, novelists, poets even, give a lesson,maintain a theory, unmask or punish a vice, represent a temptationovercome, relate the history of a character being formed. Their exactand minute description of sentiments ends always in approbation orblame; they are not artists, but moralists: it is only in a Protestantcountry that we will find a novel entirely occupied in describing theprogress of moral sentiment in a child of twelve.[237] All co-operate inthis direction in religion, and even in the mystic part of it. Byzantinedistinctions and subtleties have been allowed to fall away; Germanicinquisitiveness and speculations have not been introduced; the God ofconscience reigns alone; feminine sweetness has been cut off; we do notfind the husband of souls, the lovable consoler, whom the author of the"Imitation of Christ" follows even in his tender dreams; something manlybreathes from religion in England; we find that the Old Testament, thesevere Hebrew Psalms, have left their imprint here. It is no longer anintimate friend to whom a man confides his petty desires, his smalltroubles, a sort of affectionate and quite human priestly guide; it isno longer a king whose relations and courtiers he tries to gain over,and from whom he looks for favor or place; we see in him only a guardianof duty, and we speak to him of nothing else. What we ask of him is thestrength to be virtuous, the inner renewal by which we become capable ofalways doing good; and such a prayer is in itself a sufficient lever totear a man from his weaknesses. What we know of the Deity is that he isperfectly righteous; and such a reliance suffices to represent all theevents of life as an approach to the reign of righteousness. Strictlyspeaking, righteousness alone exists; the world is a figure whichconceals it, but heart and conscience sustain it, and there is nothingimportant or true in man but the embrace by which he holds it. So speakthe old grave prayers, the severe hymns which are sung in the church,accompanied by the organ. Though a Frenchman, and brought up in adifferent religion, I listened to them with a sincere admiration andemotion. Serious and grand poems, which, opening a path to the Infinite,let in a ray of light into the limitless darkness, and satisfy the deeppoetic instincts, the vague desire of sublimity and melancholy, whichthis race has manifested from its origin, and which it has preserved tothe end.


Section V.--What Forces Have Produced the Present Civilization


As the basis of the present as well as of the past ever reappears aninner and persistent cause, the character of the race; transmission andclimate have maintained it; a violent perturbation--the NormanConquest--warped it; finally, after various oscillations, it wasmanifested by the conception of a special ideal, which graduallyfashioned or produced religion, literature, institutions. Thus fixed andexpressed, it was henceforth the mover of the rest; it explains thepresent, on it depends the future; its force and direction will producethe present and future civilization. Now that great historicviolences--I mean the destructions and enslavements of peoples--havebecome almost impracticable, each nation can develop its life accordingto its own conception of life; the chances of a war, a discovery, haveno hold but on details; national inclinations and aptitudes alone now'show the great features of a national history; when twenty-five millionsof men conceive the good and useful after a certain type, they will seekand end by attaining this kind of the good and useful. The Englishmanhas henceforth his priest, his gentleman, his manufacture, his comfort,and his novel. If we wish to know in what sense this work will alter, wemust inquire in what sense the central conception will change. A vastrevolution has taken place during the last three centuries in humanintelligence--like those regular and vast uprisings which, displacing acontinent, displace all the prospects. We know that positive discoveriesgo on increasing day by day, that they will increase daily more andmore, that from object to object they reach the most lofty, that theybegin by renewing the science of man, that their useful application andtheir philosophical consequences are ceaselessly unfolded; in short,that their universal encroachment will at last comprise the whole humanmind. From this body of invading truths springs in addition an originalconception of the good and the useful, and, moreover, a new idea ofchurch and state, art and industry, philosophy and religion. This hasits power, as the old idea had; it is scientific, if the other wasnational; it is supported on proved facts, if the other was uponestablished things. Already their opposition is being manifested;already their labors begin; and we may affirm beforehand, that theproximate condition of English civilization will depend upon theirdivergence or their agreement.


[Footnote 231: See the "Travels of Madame d'Aulnay in Spain," at the endof the seventeenth century. Nothing is more striking than this revolution,if we compare it with the times before Ferdinand the Catholic, namely thereign of Henry IV, the great power of the nobles, and the independence ofthe towns. Read about this history, Buckle's "History of Civilization,"1867, 3 vols. II. ch. VIII.]

[Footnote 232: Buckle, "History of Civilization," I. ch. VII.]

[Footnote 233: Léonce de Lavergne, "Economie rurale en Angleterre,"passim.]

[Footnote 234: De Foe was of the same opinion, and pretended that economywas not an English virtue, and that an Englishman can hardly live withtwenty shillings a week, while a Dutchman with the same money becomeswealthy, and leaves his children very well off. An English laborer livespoor and wretchedly with nine shillings a week, whilst a Dutchman livesvery comfortably with the same wages.]

[Footnote 235: In familiar language, the father is called in Englandthe "governor"; in France "le banquier."]

[Footnote 236: Let the reader, amongst many others, peruse the sermonsof Dr. Arnold, delivered in the school chapel at Rugby.]

[Footnote 237: "The Wide, Wide World," by Elizabeth Wetherell (an Americanbook). See also the novels of Miss Yonge, and chiefly those of GeorgeEliot.]


BOOK V--MODERN AUTHORS


INTRODUCTORY NOTE


The translator thinks it due to M. Taine to state that the fifth book,on the Modern Authors, was written whilst Dickens, Thackeray, Macaulay,and Mill were still alive. He also gives the original preface of thatbook:

"This fifth book is the complement to the 'History of EnglishLiterature'; it is written on another plan, because the subject isdifferent. The present period is not yet completed, and the ideas whichgovern it are in process of formation, that is, in the rough. We cannottherefore as yet systematically arrange them. When documents are stillmere indications, history is necessarily reduced to 'studies'; knowledgeis moulded from life; and our conclusions cannot be other thanincomplete, so long as the facts which suggest them are unfinished.Fifty years hence the history of this age may be written; in themeantime we can but sketch it. I have selected from contemporary Englishwriters the most original minds, the most consistent, and the mostcontrasted; they may be regarded as specimens, representing the commonfeatures, the opposing tendencies, and consequently the generaldirection of the public mind.

"They are only specimens. By the side of Macaulay and Carlyle we havehistorians like Hallam, Buckle, and Grote; by the side of Dickens,novel-writers like Bulwer, Charlotte Brontë, Mrs. Gaskell, GeorgeEliot, and many more; by the side of Tennyson, poets like ElizabethBrowning; by the side of Stuart Mill, philosophers like Hamilton, Bain,and Herbert Spencer. I pass over the vast number of men of talent whowrite anonymously in reviews, and who, like soldiers in an army, displayat times more clearly than their generals the faculties and inclinationsof their time and their country. If we look for the common marks in thismultitude of varied minds, we shall, I think, find the two salientfeatures which I have already pointed out. One of these features isproper to English civilization, the other to the civilization of thenineteenth century. The one is national, the other European. On the onehand, special to this people, their literature is an inquiry institutedinto humanity, altogether positive, and consequently only partiallybeautiful or philosophical, but very exact, minute, useful, and moreoververy moral; and this to such a degree, that sometimes the generosity orpurity of its aspirations raises it to a height which no artist orphilosopher has transcended. On the other hand, in common with thevarious peoples of our age, this literature subordinates dominant creedsand institutions to private inquiry and established science--I mean, tothat irresponsible tribunal which is erected in each man's individualconscience, and to that universal authority which the diverse humanjudgments, mutually rectified, and controlled by practice, borrow fromthe verifications of experience, and from their own harmony.

"Whatever be the judgment passed on these tendencies and on thesedoctrines, we cannot, I think, refuse them the merit of spontaneity andoriginality. They are living and thriving plants. The six writers,described in this volume, have expressed efficacious and complete ideason God, nature, man, science, religion, art, and morality. To producesuch ideas we have in Europe at this day but three nations--EnglandGermany, and France. Those of England will here be found arranged,discussed, and compared with those of the other two thinking countries."


CHAPTER FIRST


THE NOVEL--DICKENS


Were Dickens dead, his biography might be written.

On the day after the burial of a celebrated man, his friends and enemiesapply themselves to the work; his school-fellows relate in thenewspapers his boyish pranks; another man recalls exactly, and word forword, the conversations he had with him more than a score of years ago.The lawyer who manages the affairs of the deceased draws up a list ofthe different offices he has filled, his titles, dates and figures, andreveals to the matter-of-fact readers how the money left has beeninvested, and how the fortune has been made; the grand-nephews andsecond cousins publish an account of his acts of humanity, and thecatalogue of his domestic virtues. If there is no literary genius in thefamily, they select an Oxford man, conscientious, learned, who treatsthe deceased like a Greek author, collects endless documents, overloadsthem with endless comments, crowns the whole with endless discussions,and comes ten years later, some fine Christmas morning, with his whitetie and placid smile, to present to the assembled family three quartosof eight hundred pages each, the easy style of which would send a Germanfrom Berlin to sleep. He is embraced by them with tears in their eyes;they make him sit down; he is the chief ornament at their feasts; andhis work is sent to the "Edinburgh Review." The latter groans at thesight of the enormous present, and tells off a young and intrepid memberof the staff to concoct some kind of a biography from the table ofcontents. Another advantage of posthumous biographies is, that the deadman is no longer there to refute either biographer or man of learning.

Unfortunately, Dickens is still alive, and refutes the biographies madeof him. What is worse, he claims to be his own biographer. Histranslator in French once asked him for a few particulars of his life;Dickens replied that he kept them for himself. Without doubt, "DavidCopperfield," his best novel, has much the appearance of aconfession;[238] but where does the confession end, and how far doesfiction embroider truth? All that is known, or rather all that is told,is that Dickens was born in 1812, that he is the son of ashorthand-writer, that he was at first a shorthand-writer, that he waspoor and unfortunate in his youth, that his novels, published in parts,have gained for him a great fortune and an immense reputation. Thereader may conjecture the rest; Dickens will tell it him one day, whenhe writes his memoirs. Meanwhile he closes the door, and leaves outsidethe too inquisitive folk who go on knocking. He has a right to do so.Though a man may be illustrious, he is not on that account publicproperty; he is not compelled to be confidential; he still belongs tohimself; he may reserve of himself what he thinks proper. If we give ourworks to our readers, we do not give our lives. Let us be satisfied withwhat Dickens has given us. Forty volumes suffice, and more than suffice,to enable us to know a man well; moreover, they show of him all that isimportant to know. It is not through the accidental circ*mstances of hislife that he belongs to history, but by his talent; and his talent is inhis books. A man's genius is like a clock; it has its mechanism, andamongst its parts a mainspring. Find out this spring, show how itcommunicates movement to the others, pursue this movement from part topart down to the hands in which it ends. This inner history of geniusdoes not depend upon the outer history of the man; and it is worth more.


Part I.--The Author


Section I.--Importance of the Imaginative Faculty


The first question which should be asked in connection with an artist isthis: How does he regard objects? With what clearness, what energy, whatforce? The reply defines his whole work beforehand; for in a writer ofnovels the imagination is the master faculty; the art of composition,good taste, the feeling of what is true, depend upon it; one degree moreof vehemence destroys the style which expresses it, changes thecharacters which it produces, breaks the plot in which it is enclosed.Consider the imaginative power of Dickens, and you will perceive thereinthe cause of his faults and his merits, his power and his excess.


Section II.--Boldness of Dickens' Imagination


There is a painter in him, and an English painter. Never surely did amind figure to itself with more exact detail or greater force all theparts and tints of a picture. Read this description of a storm; theimages seem photographed by dazzling flashes of lightning:


"The eye, partaking of the quickness of the flashing light, saw in itsevery gleam a multitude of objects which it could not see at steady noonin fifty times that period. Bells in steeples, with the rope and wheelthat moved them; ragged nests of birds in cornices and nooks; faces fullof consternation in the tilted wagons that came tearing past: theirfrightened teams ringing out a warning which the thunder drowned;harrows and ploughs left out in fields; miles upon miles ofhedge-divided country, with the distant fringe of trees as obvious asthe scarecrow in the beanfield close at hand; in a trembling, vivid,flickering instant, everything was clear and plain: then came a flush ofred into the yellow light; a change to blue; a brightness so intensethat there was nothing else but light; and then the deepest andprofoundest darkness."[239]


An imagination so lucid and energetic cannot but animate inanimateobjects without an effort. It provokes in the mind in which it worksextraordinary emotions, and the author pours over the objects which hefigures to himself something of the ever-welling passion which overflowsin him. Stones for him take a voice, white walls swell out into bigphantoms, black wells yawn hideously and mysteriously in the darkness;legions of strange creatures whirl shuddering over the fantasticlandscape; blank nature is peopled, inert matter moves. But the imagesremain clear; in this madness there is nothing vague or disorderly;imaginary objects are designed with outlines as precise and details asnumerous as real objects, and the dream is equal to the reality.

There is, amongst others, a description of the night wind, quaint andpowerful, which recalls certain pages of "Notre-Dame de Paris." Thesource of this description, as of all those of Dickens, is pureimagination. He does not, like Walter Scott, describe in order to givehis reader a map, and to lay down the locality of his drama. He doesnot, like Lord Byron, describe from love of magnificent nature, and inorder to display a splendid succession of grand pictures. He dreamsneither of attaining exactness, nor of selecting beauty. Struck with acertain spectacle, he is transported, and breaks out into unforeseenfigures. Now it is the yellow leaves, pursued by the wind, fleeing andjostling, shivering, scared, in a giddy chase, clinging to the furrows,drowned in the ditches, perching on the trees.[240] Here it is the nightwind, sweeping round a church, moaning as it tries with an unseen handthe windows and the doors, and seeking out some crevices by which toenter:


"And when it has got in; as one not finding what he seeks, whatever thatmay be; it wails and howls to issue forth again: and, not content withstalking through the aisles, and gliding round and round the pillars,and tempting the deep organ, soars up to the roof, and strives to rendthe rafters: then flings itself despairingly upon the stones below, andpasses, muttering, into the vaults. Anon, it comes up stealthily, andcreeps along the walls: seeming to read, in whispers, the inscriptionssacred to the dead. At some of these, it breaks out shrilly, as withlaughter; and at others, moans and cries as if it were lamenting."[241]


Hitherto you have only recognized the sombre imagination of a man of thenorth. A little further you perceive the impassioned religion of arevolutionary Protestant, when he speaks to you of "a ghostly sound too,lingering within the altar; where it seems to chaunt, in its wild way,of wrong and murder done, and false Gods worshipped; in defiance of thetables of the law, which look so fair and smooth, but are so flawed andbroken. Ugh! Heaven preserve us, sitting snugly round the fire! It hasan awful voice, that wind at midnight, singing in a church!" But aninstant after, the artist speaks again; he leads you to the belfry, andin the jingle of the accumulated words, communicates to your nerves thesensation of an aerial tempest. The wind whistles, blows, and gambols inthe arches: "High up in the steeple, where it is free to come and gothrough many an airy arch and loop-hole, and to twist and twine itselfabout the giddy stair, and twirl the groaning weatherco*ck, and make thevery tower shake and shiver!"[242] Dickens has seen it all in the oldbelfry; his thought is a mirror; not the smallest or ugliest detailescapes him. He has counted "the iron rails ragged with rust"; "thesheets of lead," wrinkled and shrivelled, which crackle and heavebeneath the unaccustomed tread; "the shabby nests" which "the birdsstuff into corners" of the old oaken joists and beams; the gray dustheaped up; "the speckled spiders, indolent and fat with long security,"which, hanging by a thread, "swing idly to and fro in the vibration ofthe bells," and which "climb up sailor-like in quick-alarm, or drop uponthe ground and ply a score of nimble legs to save one life." Thispicture captivates us. Kept up at such a height, amongst the fleetingclouds which cast their shadows over the town, and the feeble lightsscarce distinguished in the mist, we feel a sort of dizziness; and wenearly discover, with Dickens, thought and a soul in the metallic voiceof the chimes which inhabit this trembling castle.

He writes a story about them, and it is not the first. Dickens is apoet; he is as much at home in the imaginative world as in the actual.Here the chimes are talking to the old messenger and consoling him.Elsewhere it is the Cricket on the Hearth singing of all domestic joys,and bringing before the eyes of the lonely master the happy evenings,the intimate conversations, the comfort, the quiet cheerfulness which hehas enjoyed, and which he has no longer. In another tale it is thehistory of a sick and precocious child who feels itself dying, and who,sleeping in the arms of its sister, hears the distant song of themurmuring waves which rocked him to sleep. Objects, with Dickens, taketheir hue from the thoughts of his characters. His imagination is solively that it carries everything with it in the path which it chooses.If the character is happy, the stones, flowers, and clouds must be happytoo; if he is sad, nature must weep with him. Even to the ugly houses inthe street, all speak. The style runs through a swarm of visions; itbreaks out into the strangest oddities. Here is a young girl, pretty andgood, who crosses Fountain Court and the law purlieus in search of herbrother. What can be more simple? what even more trivial? Dickens iscarried away by it. To entertain her, he summons up birds, trees,houses, the fountain, the offices, law papers, and much besides. It is afolly, and it is all but an enchantment:


"Whether there was life enough left in the slow vegetation of FountainCourt for the smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the brightestand purest-hearted little woman in the world, is a question forgardeners, and those who are learned in the loves of plants. But that itwas a good thing for that same paved yard to have such a delicate littlefigure flitting through it; that it passed like a smile from the grimyold houses, and the worn flagstones, and left them duller, darker,sterner than before; there is no sort of doubt. The Temple fountainmight have leaped up twenty feet to greet the spring of hopefulmaidenhood, that in her person stole on, sparkling, through the dry anddusty channels of the Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinksand crannies, might have held their peace to listen to imaginaryskylarks, as so fresh a little creature passed; the dingy boughs, unusedto droop, otherwise than in their puny growth might have bent down in akindred gracefulness, to shed their benedictions on her graceful head;old love-letters, shut up in iron boxes in the neighbouring offices, andmade of no account among the heaps of family papers into which they hadstrayed, and of which, in their degeneracy, they formed a part, mighthave stirred and fluttered with a moment's recollection of their ancienttenderness, as she went lightly by. Anything might have happened thatdid not happen, and never will, for the love of Ruth."[243]


This is far-fetched, without doubt. French taste, always measured,revolts against these affected strokes, these sickly prettinesses. Andyet this affectation is natural; Dickens does not hunt afterquaintnesses; they come to him. His excessive imagination is like astring too tightly stretched; it produces of itself, without any violentshock, sounds not heard elsewhere.

We shall see how it is excited. Imagine a shop, no matter what shop, themost repulsive; that of a mathematical-instrument maker. Dickens seesthe barometers, chronometers, telescopes, compasses, charts, maps,sextants, speaking-trumpets, and so forth. He sees so many, sees them soclearly, they are crowded and crammed, they replace each other soforcibly in his brain, which they fill and obstruct; there are so manygeographical and nautical ideas exposed under the glass cases hung fromthe ceiling, nailed to the wall, they swamp him from so many sides, andin such abundance, that he loses his judgment. "The shop itself,partaking of the general infection, seemed almost to become a snug,sea-going, ship-shape concern, wanting only good sea-room, in the eventof an unexpected launch, to work its way securely to any desert islandin the world."[244]

The difference between a madman and a man of genius is not very great.Napoleon, who knew men, said so to Esquirol.[245] The same faculty leadsus to glory or throws us into a cell in a lunatic asylum. It isvisionary imagination which forges the phantoms of the madman andcreates the personages of an artist, and the classifications serving forthe first may serve for the second. The imagination of Dickens is likethat of monomaniacs. To plunge one's self into an idea, to be absorbedby it, to see nothing else, to repeat it under a hundred forms, toenlarge it, to carry it, thus enlarged, to the eye of the spectator, todazzle and overwhelm him with it, to stamp it upon him so firmly anddeeply that he can never again tear it from his memory--these are thegreat features of this imagination and style. In this, "DavidCopperfield" is a masterpiece. Never did objects remain more visible andprésent to the memory of a reader than those which he describes. Theold house, the parlor, the kitchen, Peggotty's boat, and above all theschool play-ground, are interiors whose relief, energy, and precisionare unequalled. Dickens has the passion and patience of the painters ofhis nation; he reckons his details one by one, notes the various hues ofthe old tree-trunks; sees the dilapidated cask, the greenish and brokenflagstones, the chinks of the damp walls; he distinguishes the strangesmells which rise from them; marks the size of the mildewed spots, readsthe names of the scholars carved on the door, and dwells on the form ofthe letters. And this minute description has nothing cold about it; ifit is thus detailed, it is because the contemplation was intense; itproves its passion by its exactness. We felt this passion withoutaccounting for it; suddenly we find it at the end of a page; theboldness of the style renders it visible, and the violence of the phraseattests the violence of the impression. Excessive metaphors bring beforethe mind grotesque fancies. We feel ourselves beset by extravagantvisions. Mr. Mell takes his flute, and blows on it, says Copperfield,"until I almost thought he would gradually blow his whole being into thelarge hole at the top, and ooze away at the keys."[246] Tom Pinch,disabused at last, discovers that his master Pecksniff is a hypocriticalrogue. He "had so long been used to steep the Pecksniff of his fancy inhis tea, and spread him out upon his toast, and take him as a relishwith his beer, that he made but a poor breakfast on the first morningafter his expulsion."[247] We think of Hoffman's fantastic tales; we arearrested by a fixed idea, and our head begins to ache. Theseeccentricities are in the style of sickness rather than of health.

Therefore Dickens is admirable in depicting hallucinations. We see thathe feels himself those of his characters, that he is engrossed by theirideas, that he enters into their madness. As an Englishman and amoralist, he has described remorse frequently. Perhaps it may be saidthat he makes a scarecrow of it, and that an artist is wrong totransform himself into an assistant of the policeman and the preacher.What of that? The portrait of Jonas Chuzzlewit is so terrible that wemay pardon it for being useful. Jonas, leaving his chamber secretly, hastreacherously murdered his enemy, and thinks henceforth to breathe inpeace; but the recollection of the murder gradually disorganizes hismind, like poison. He is no longer able to control his ideas; they bearhim on with the fury of a terrified horse. He is forever thinking, andshuddering as he thinks, of the room where people believed he slept. Hesees this room, counts the tiles of the floor, pictures the long foldsof the dark curtains, the tumbled bed, the door at which some one mighthave knocked. The more he wants to escape from this vision, the more heis immersed in it; it is a burning abyss in which he rolls, struggling,with cries and sweats of agony. He fancies himself lying in his bed, ashe ought to be, and an instant after he sees himself there. He fearsthis other self. The dream is so vivid that he is not sure that he isnot in London. "He became, in a manner, his own ghost and phantom." Andthis imaginary being, like a mirror, only redoubles before hisconscience the image of assassination and punishment. He returns, andshuffles, with pale face, to the door of his chamber. He, a man ofbusiness, a man of figures, a coarse machine of positive reasoning, hasbecome as fanciful as a nervous woman. "He stole on, to the door, ontip-toe, as if he dreaded to disturb his own imaginary rest." At themoment when he turns the key in the lock, "a monstrous fear beset hismind. What if the murdered man were there before him?" At last heenters, and tumbles into bed, burnt up with fever. "He buried himselfbeneath the blankets," so as to try not to see "that infernal room"; hesees it more clearly still. The rustling of the clothes, the buzz of aninsect, the beatings of his heart, all cry to him Murderer! His mindfixed with "an agony of listening" on the door, he ends by thinking thatpeople open it; he hears it creak. His senses are distorted; he daresnot mistrust them, he dares no longer believe in them; and in thisnightmare, in which drowned reason leaves nothing but a chaos of hideousforms, he finds no reality but the incessant burden of his convulsivedespair. Thenceforth all his thoughts, dangers, the whole worlddisappears for him in "the one dread question only, When would they findthe body in the wood?" He forces himself to distract his thoughts fromthis; they remain stamped and glued to it; they hold him to it as by achain of iron. He continually figures himself going into the wood,"going softly about it and about it among the leaves, approaching itnearer and nearer through a gap in the boughs, and startling the veryflies, that were thickly sprinkled all over it like heaps of driedcurrants." His mind was fixed and fastened on the discovery, forintelligence of which he listened intently to every cry and shout;listened when any one came in, or went out; watched from the window thepeople who passed up and down the street. At the same time, he has everbefore his eyes that corpse "lying alone in the wood"; "he was forevershowing and presenting it, as it were, to every creature whom he saw.'Look here! do you know of this? Is it found? Do you suspect me?' If hehad been condemned to bear the body in his arms, and lay it down forrecognition at the feet of every one he met, it could not have been moreconstantly with him, or a cause of more monotonous and dismal occupationthan it was in this state of his mind."[248]

Jonas is on the verge of madness. There are other characters quite mad.Dickens has drawn three or four portraits of madmen, very funny at firstsight, but so true that they are in reality horrible. It needed animagination like his, irregular, excessive, capable of fixed ideas, toexhibit the derangements of reason. Two especially there are, which makeus laugh, and which make us shudder. Augustus, a gloomy maniac, who ison the point of marrying Miss Pecksniff; and poor Mr. Dick, partly anidiot, partly a monomaniac, who lives with Miss Trotwood. To understandthese sudden exaltations, these unforeseen gloominesses, theseincredible somersaults of perverted sensitiveness; to reproduce thesehiatuses of thought, these interruptions of reasoning, this recurrenceof a word, always the same, which breaks in upon a phrase attempted andoverturns renascent reason; to see the stupid smile, the vacant look,the foolish and uneasy physiognomy of these haggard old children, whopainfully grope about from one idea to another, and stumble at everystep on the threshold of the truth which they cannot attain, is afaculty which Hoffman alone has possessed in an equal degree withDickens. The play of these shattered reasons is like the creaking of adoor on its rusty hinges; it makes one sick to hear it. We find in it,if we like, a discordant burst of laughter, but we discover still moreeasily a groan and a lamentation, and we are terrified to gauge thelucidity, strangeness, exaltation, violence of imagination which hasproduced such creations, which has carried them on and sustained themunbendingly to the end, and which found itself in its proper sphere inimitating and producing their irrationality.


Section III.--His Trivialities.--His Minuteness


To what can this force be applied? Imaginations differ not only in theirnature, but also in their object; after having gauged their energy, wemust define their domain; in the wide world the artist makes a world forhimself; involuntarily he chooses a class of objects which he prefers;others do not warm his genius, and he does not perceive them. Dickensdoes not perceive great things; this is the second feature of hisimagination. Enthusiasm seizes him in connection with everything,especially in connection with vulgar objects: a curiosity shop, asign-post, a town-crier. He has vigor, he does not attain beauty. Hisinstrument produces vibrating, but not harmonious sounds. If he isdescribing a house, he will draw it with geometrical clearness; he willput all its colors in relief, discover a face and thought in theshutters and the spouts; he will make a sort of human being out of thehouse, grimacing and forcible, which attracts our attention, and whichwe shall never forget; but he will not see the grandeur of the longmonumental lines, the calm majesty of the broad shadows boldly dividedby the white plaster; the cheerfulness of the light which covers them,and becomes palpable in the black niches in which it dives, as though torest and to sleep. If he is painting a landscape, he will perceive thehaws which dot with their red fruit the leafless hedges, the thin vaporsteaming from a distant stream, the motion of an insect in the grass;but the deep poetry which the author of "Valentine" and "André"[249]would have felt, will escape him. He will be lost, like the painters ofhis country, in the minute and impassioned observation of small things;he will have no love of beautiful forms and fine colors. He will notperceive that the blue and the red, the straight line and the curve, areenough to compose vast concerts, which amidst so many variousexpressions maintain a grand serenity, and open up in the depths of thesoul a spring of health and happiness. Happiness is lacking in him; hisinspiration is a feverish rapture, which does not select its objects,which animates promiscuously the ugly, the vulgar, the ridiculous, andwhich communicating to his creations an indescribable jerkiness andviolence, deprives them of the delight and harmony which in other handsthey might have retained. Miss Ruth is a very pretty housekeeper; sheputs on her apron; what a treasure this apron is! Dickens turns it overand over, like a milliner's shopman who wants to sell it. She holds itin her hands, then she puts it round her waist, ties the strings,spreads it out, smoothes it that it may fall well. What does she not dowith her apron? And how delighted is Dickens during these innocentoccupations? He utters little exclamations of joyous fun. "Oh heaven,what a wicked little stomacher!" He apostrophizes a ring, he sportsround Ruth, he is so delighted he claps his hands. It is much worse whenshe is making the pudding; there is a whole scene, dramatic and lyric,with exclamations, protasis, sudden inversions as complete as a Greektragedy. These kitchen refinements and this waggery of imagination makeus think, by way of contrast, of the household pictures of George Sand,of the room of Geneviève the flower-girl. She, like Ruth, is making auseful object, very useful, since she will sell it to-morrow forten-pence; but this object is a full-blown rose, whose fragile petalsare moulded by her fingers as by the fingers of a fairy, whose freshcorolla is purpled with a vermilion as tender as that of her cheeks; afragile masterpiece which bloomed on an evening of poetic emotion,whilst from her window she beheld in the sky the piercing and divineeyes of the stars, and in the depths of her virgin heart murmured thefirst breath of love. Dickens does not need such a sight for histransports; a stagecoach throws him into dithyrambs; the wheels, thesplashing, the cracking whip, the clatter of the horses, harness, thevehicle; here is enough to transport him. He feels sympathetically themotion of the coach; it bears him along with it; he hears the gallop ofthe horses in his brain, and goes off, uttering this ode, which seems toproceed from the guard's horn:


"Yoho, among the gathering shades; making of no account the deepreflections of the trees, but scampering on through light and darkness,all the same, as if the light of London, fifty miles away, were quiteenough to travel by, and some to spare. Yoho, beside the village green,where cricket-players linger yet, and every little indentation made inthe fresh grass by bat or wicket, ball or player's foot, sheds out itsperfume on the night. Away with four fresh horses from the BaldfacedStag, where topers congregate about the door admiring; and the lastteam, with traces hanging loose, go roaming off towards the pond, untilobserved and shouted after by a dozen throats, while volunteering boyspursue them. Now, with a clattering of hoofs and striking out of fierysparks, across the old stone bridge, and down again into the shadowyroad, and through the open gate, and far away, away into the wold. Yoho!

"Yoho, behind there, stop that bugle for a moment! Come creeping over tothe front, along the coach-roof, guard, and make one at this basket! Notthat we slacken in our pace the while, not we: we rather put the bits ofblood upon their mettle, for the greater glory of the snack. Ah! It islong since this bottle of old wine was brought into contact with themellow breath of night, you may depend, and rare good stuff it is to weta bugler's whistle with. Only try it. Don't be afraid of turning up yourfinger, Bill, another pull! Now, take your breath, and try the bugle,Bill. There's music! There's a tone! 'Over the hills and far away,'indeed, Yoho! The skittish mare is all alive tonight. Yoho! Yoho!

"See the bright moon; high up before we know it; making the earthreflect the objects on its breast like water. Hedges, trees, lowcottages, church steeples, blighted stumps and flourishing young slips,have all grown vain upon the sudden, and mean to contemplate their ownfair images till morning. The poplars yonder rustle, that theirquivering leaves may see themselves upon the ground. Not so the oak;trembling does not become him; and he watches himself in his stout oldburly steadfastness, without the motion of a twig. The moss-grown gate,ill poised upon its creaking hinges, crippled and decayed, swings to andfro before its glass like some fantastic dowager; while our own ghostlylikeness travels on, Yoho! Yoho! through ditch and brake, upon theploughed land and the smooth, along the steep hill-side and steeperwall, as if it were a phantom-Hunter.

"Clouds too! And a mist upon the Hollow! Not a dull fog that hides it,but a light, airy, gauze-like mist, which in our eyes of modestadmiration gives a now charm to the beauties it is spread before: asreal gauze has done ere now, and would again, so please you, though wewere the Pope. Yoho! Why, now we travel like the Moon herself. Hidingthis minute in a grove of trees, next minute in a patch of vapour,emerging now upon our broad, clear course, withdrawing now, but alwaysdashing on, our journey is a counterpart of hers. Yoho! A match againstthe Moon!

"The beauty of the night is hardly felt, when Day comes leaping up.Yoho! Two stages, and the country roads are almost changed to acontinuous street. Yoho, past market gardens, rows of houses, villas,crescents, terraces, and squares; past wagons, coaches, carts; pastearly workmen, late stragglers, drunken men, and sober carriers ofloads; past brick and mortar in its every shape; and in among therattling pavements, where a jaunty-seat upon a coach is not so easy topreserve! Yoho down countless turnings, and through countless mazy ways,until an old Inn-yard is gained, and Tom Pinch, getting down, quitestunned and giddy, is in London!"[250]


All this to tell us that Tom Pinch is come to London! This fit of lyricpoetry, in which the most poetic extravagances spring from the mostvulgar commonplaces, like sickly flowers growing in a broken oldflower-pot, displays in its natural and quaint contrasts all the sidesof Dickens's imagination. We shall have his portrait if we picture toourselves a man who, with a stew-pan in one hand and a postilion's whipin the other, took to making prophecies.


Section IV.--His Emotions.--His Pathos.--His Humor


The reader already foresees what vehement emotions this species ofimagination will produce. The mode of conception in a man governs themode of thought. When the mind, barely attentive, follows the indistinctoutlines of a rough-sketched image, joy and grief glide past him withinsensible touch. When the mind, with rapt attention, penetrates theminute details of a precise image, joy and grief shake the whole man.

Dickens has this attention, and sees these details: this is why he meetseverywhere with objects of exaltation. He never abandons his impassionedtone; he never rests in a natural style and in simple narrative; he onlyrails or weeps; he writes but satires or elegies. He has the feverishsensibility of a woman who laughs loudly, or melts into tears at thesudden shock of the slightest occurrence. This impassioned style isextremely potent, and to it may be attributed half the glory of Dickens.The majority of men have only weak emotions. We labor mechanically, andyawn much; three-fourths of things leave us cold; we go to sleep byhabit, and we no longer remark the household scenes, petty details,stale adventures, which are the basis of our existence. A man comes, whosuddenly renders them interesting; nay, who makes them dramatic, changesthem into objects of admiration, tenderness and dread. Without leavingthe fireside or the omnibus, we are trembling, our eyes full of tears,or shaken by fits of inextinguishable laughter. We are transformed, ourlife is doubled; our soul has been vegetating; now it feels, suffers,loves. The contrast, the rapid succession, the number of the sentiments,add further to its trouble; we are immersed for two hundred pages in atorrent of new emotions, contrary and increasing, which communicates itsviolence to the mind, which carries it away in digressions and falls,and only casts it on the bank enchanted and exhausted. It is anintoxication, and on a delicate soul the effect would be too forcible;but it suits the English public, and that public has justified it.

This sensibility can hardly have more than two issues--laughter andtears. There are others, but they are only reached by lofty eloquence;they are the path to sublimity, and we have seen that for Dickens thispath is cut off. Yet there is no writer who knows better how to touchand melt; he makes us weep, absolutely shed tears; before reading him wedid not know there was so much pity in the heart. The grief of a child,who wishes to be loved by his father, and whom his father does not love;the despairing love and slow death of a poor half-imbecile young man;all these pictures of secret grief leave an ineffaceable impression. Thetears which he sheds are genuine, and compassion is their only source.Balzac, George Sand, Stendhal have also recorded human miseries; is itpossible to write without recording them? But they do not seek them out,they hit upon them; they do not dream of displaying them to us; theywere going elsewhere, and met them on their way. They love art betterthan men. They delight only in setting in motion the springs ofpassions, in combining large systems of events, in constructing powerfulcharacters: they do not write from sympathy with the wretched, but fromlove of beauty. When we have finished George Sand's "Mauprat," ouremotion is not pure sympathy; we feel, in addition, a deep admirationfor the greatness and the generosity of love. When we have come to theend of Balzac's "Le Père Goriot," our heart is pained by the torturesof that anguish; but the astonishing inventiveness, the accumulation offacts, the abundance of general ideas, the force of analysis, transportus into the world of science, and our painful sympathy is calmed by thespectacle of this physiology of the heart. Dickens never calms oursympathy; he selects subjects in which it alone, and more thanelsewhere, is unfolded: the long oppression of children persecuted andstarved by their schoolmaster; the life of a factory-hand Stephen,robbed and degraded by his wife, driven away by his fellow-workmen,accused of theft, lingering six days at the bottom of a pit into whichhe has fallen, maimed, consumed by fever, and dying when he is at lengthdiscovered. Rachael, his only friend, is there; and his delirium, hiscries, the storm of despair in which Dickens envelops his characters,have prepared the way for the painful picture of this resigned death.The bucket brings up a poor, crushed human creature, and we see "thepale, worn, patient face looking up to the sky, whilst the right hand,shattered and hanging down, seems as if waiting to be taken by anotherhand." Yet he smiles, and feebly said "Rachael!" She stooped down, andbent over him until her eyes were between his and the sky, for he couldnot so much as turn them to look at her. Then in broken words he tellsher of his long agony. Ever since he was born he has met with nothingbut misery and injustice; it is the rule--the weak suffer, and are madeto suffer. This pit into which he has fallen "has cost hundreds andhundreds o' men's lives--fathers, sons, brothers, dear to thousands an'thousands, an' keeping 'em fro' want and hunger.... The men that worksin pits... ha' pray'n an' pray'n the lawmakers for Christ's sake not tolet their work be murder to 'em, but to spare 'em for th' wives andchildren, that they loves as well as gentlefok loves theirs"; all invain. "When the pit was in work, it killed wi'out need; when 't is letalone, it kills wi'out need."[251] Stephen says this without anger,quietly, merely as the truth. He has his calumniator before him; he doesnot get angry, accuses no one; he only charges old Gradgrind to clearhim and make his name good with all men as soon as he shall be dead. Hisheart is up there in heaven, where he has seen a star shining. In hisagony, on his bed of stones, he has gazed upon it, and the tender andtouching glance of the divine star has calmed, by its mystical serenity,the anguish of mind and body.


"'It ha' shined in upon me,' he said reverently, 'in my pain and troubledown below. It ha' shined into my mind. I ha' lookn at't and thowt o'thee, Rachael, till the muddle in my mind have cleared awa, above a bit,I hope. If soom ha' been wantin' in unnerstan'in' me better, I, too, ha'been wantin' in unnerstan'in' them better.

"'In my pain an' trouble, lookin' up yonder--wi' it shinin' on me--I ha'seen more clear, and ha' made it my dyin' prayer that aw th' world mayon'y coom toogether more, an' get a better unnerstan'in' o' one another,than when I were in't my own weak seln.

"'Often as I coom to myseln, and found it shinin' on me down there in mytrouble, I thowt it were the star as guided to our Saviour's home. Iawmust think it be the very star!'

"They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes, andover the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in hers. Veryfew whispers broke the mournful silence. It was soon a funeralprocession. The star had shown him where to find the God of the poor;and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to hisRedeemer's rest."[252]


This same writer is the most railing, the most comic, the most jocose ofEnglish authors. And it is moreover a singular gayety! It is the onlykind which would harmonize with this impassioned sensibility. There is alaughter akin to tears. Satire is the sister of elegy: if the secondpleads for the oppressed, the first combats the oppressors. Feelingpainfully all the wrongs that are committed, and the vices that arepractised, Dickens avenges himself by ridicule. He does not paint, hepunishes. Nothing could be more damaging than those long chapters ofsustained irony, in which the sarcasm is pressed, line after line, moresanguinary and piercing in the chosen adversary. There are five or sixagainst the Americans--their venal newspapers, their drunkenjournalists, their cheating speculators, their women authors, theircoarseness, their familiarity, their insolence, their brutality--enoughto captivate an absolutist, and to justify the French Liberal who,returning from New York, embraced with tears in his eyes the firstgendarme whom he saw on landing at Havre. Starting of commercialcompanies, interviews between a member of Parliament and hisconstituents, instructions of a member of the House of Commons to hissecretary, the outward display of great banking-houses, the laying ofthe first stone of a public building, every kind of ceremony and lie ofEnglish society, are depicted with the fire and bitterness of Hogarth.There are parts where the comic element is so violent that it has thesemblance of vengeance--as the story of Jonas Chuzzlewit. "The veryfirst word which this excellent boy learnt to spell was gain, and thesecond (when he came into two syllables) was money." This fine educationhad unfortunately produced two results: first, that, "having been longtaught by his father to overreach everybody, he had imperceptiblyacquired a love of overreaching that venerable monitor himself";secondly, that being taught to regard everything as a matter ofproperty, "he had gradually come to look with impatience on his parentas a certain amount of personal estate," who would be very well"secured," in that particular description of strong-box which iscommonly called a coffin, and banked in the grave.[253] "Is that myfather snoring, Pecksniff?" asked Jonas; "tread upon his foot; will yoube so good? The foot next you is the gouty one."[254] Young Chuzzlewitis introduced to us with this mark of attention; we may judge by this ofhis other feelings. In reality, Dickens is gloomy, like Hogarth; but,like Hogarth, he makes us burst with laughter by the buffoonery of hisinvention and the violence of his caricatures. He pushes his charactersto absurdity with unwonted boldness. Pecksniff hits off moral phrasesand sentimental actions in so grotesque a manner that they make himextravagant. Never were heard such monstrous oratorical displays.Sheridan had already painted an English hypocrite, Joseph Surface; buthe differs from Pecksniff as much as a portrait of the eighteenthcentury differs from a cartoon of "Punch." Dickens makes hypocrisy sodeformed and monstrous that his hypocrite ceases to resemble a man; wewould call him one of those fantastic figures whose nose is greater thanhis body. This exaggerated comicality springs from excess ofimagination. Dickens uses the same spring throughout. The better to makeus see the object he shows us, he dazzles the reader's eyes with it; butthe reader is amused by this irregular fancy; the fire of the executionmakes him forget that the scene is improbable, and he laughs heartily ashe listens to the undertaker, Mould, enumerating the consolations whichfilial piety, well backed by money, may find in his shop. What griefcould not be softened by


"'Four horses to each vehicle... velvet trappings... drivers in clothcloaks and top-boots... the plumage of the ostrich, dyed black... anynumber of walking attendants, dressed in the first style of funeralfashion, and carrying batons tipped with brass... a place in WestminsterAbbey itself, if he choose to invest it in such a purchase. Oh! do notlet us say that gold is dross, when it can buy such things as these. Ay,Mrs. Gamp, you are right,' rejoined the undertaker. 'We should be anhonoured calling. We do good by stealth, and blush to have it mentionedin our little bills. How much consolation may I--even I,' cried Mr.Mould, 'have diffused among my fellow-creatures by means of my fourlong-tailed prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten!'"[255]


Usually Dickens remains grave whilst drawing his caricatures. Englishwit consists in saying very jocular things in a solemn manner. Tone andideas are then in contrast; every contrast makes a strong impression.Dickens loves to produce them, and his public to hear them.

If at times he forgets to castigate his neighbor, if he tries to sport,to amuse himself, he is not the more happy for all that. The chiefelement of the English character is its want of happiness. The ardentand tenacious imagination of Dickens is impressed with things too firmlyto pass lightly and gayly over the surface. He leans too heavily onthem, he penetrates, works into, hollows them out; all these violentactions are efforts, and all efforts are sufferings. To be happy, a manmust be light-minded, as a Frenchman of the eighteenth century, orsensual, as an Italian of the sixteenth; a man must not get anxiousabout things, if he wishes to enjoy them. Dickens does get anxious anddoes not enjoy. Let us take a little comical accident, such as we meetwith in the street--a gust of wind, which blows about the garments of astreet-porter. Scaramouche will grin with good humor; Le Sage smile likea diverted man; both will pass by and think no more of it. Dickens musesover it for half a page. He sees so clearly all the effects of the wind,he puts himself so entirely in its place, he imagines for it a will soimpassioned and precise, he shakes the clothes of the poor man hitherand thither so violently and so long, he turns the gust into a tempest,into a persecution so great, that we are made giddy; and even whilst welaugh, we feel in ourselves too much emotion and compassion to laughheartily:


"And a breezy, goose-skinned, blue-nosed, red-eyed, stony-toed,tooth-chattering place it was, to wait in, in the winter-time, as TobyVeck well knew. The wind came tearing round the corner--especially theeast wind--as if it had sallied forth, express, from the confines of theearth, to have a blow at Toby. And often-times it seemed to come uponhim sooner than it had expected; for, bouncing round the corner, andpassing Toby, it would suddenly wheel round again, as if it cried":

"'Why, here he is!' Incontinently his little white apron would be caughtup over his head like a naughty boy's garments, and his feeble littlecane would be seen to wrestle and struggle unavailingly in his hand, andhis legs would undergo tremendous agitation; and Toby himself, allaslant, and facing now in this direction, now in that, would be sobanged and buffeted, and tousled, and worried, and hustled, and liftedoff his feet, as to render it a state of things but one degree removedfrom a positive miracle that he wasn't carried up bodily into the air asa colony of frogs or snails or other portable creatures sometimes are,and rained down again, to the great astonishment of the natives, on somestrange corner of the world where ticket-porters are unknown."[256]


If now we would picture in a glance this imagination--so lucid, soviolent, so passionately fixed on the object selected, so deeply touchedby little things, so wholly attached to the details and sentiments ofvulgar life, so fertile in incessant emotions, so powerful in rousingpainful pity, sarcastic raillery, nervous gayety--we must fancy a Londonstreet on a rainy winter's night. The flickering light of the gasdazzles our eyes, streams through the shop windows, floods over thepassing forms; and its harsh light, settling upon their contractedfeatures, brings out, with endless detail and damaging force, theirwrinkles, deformities, troubled expression. If in this close and dirtycrowd we discover the fresh face of a young girl, this artificial lightcovers it with false and excessive lights and shades; it makes it standout against the rainy and cold blackness with a strange halo. The mindis struck with wonder; but we carry our hand to our eyes to cover them,and whilst we admire the force of this light, we involuntarily think ofthe real country sun and the tranquil beauty of day.


Part II.--The Public


Section I.--The Morality of English Novels


Plant this talent on English soil; the literary opinion of the countrywill direct its growth and explain its fruits. For this public opinionis its private opinion; it does not submit to it as to an externalconstraint, but feels it inwardly as an inner persuasion; it does nothinder, but develops it, and only repeats aloud what it said to itselfin a whisper.

The counsels of this public taste are somewhat like this; the morepowerful because they agree with its natural inclination, and urge itupon its special course:

"Be moral. All your novels must be such as may be read by young girls.We are practical minds, and we would not have literature corruptpractical life. We believe in family life, and we would not haveliterature paint the passions which attack family life. We areProtestants, and we have preserved something of the severity of ourfathers against enjoyment and passions. Amongst these, love is theworst. Beware of resembling in this respect the most illustrious of ourneighbors. Love is the hero of all George Sand's novels. Married or not,she thinks it beautiful, holy, sublime in itself; and she says so. Don'tbelieve this; and if you do believe it don't say it. It is a badexample. Love thus represented makes marriage a secondary matter. Itends in marriage, or destroys it, or does without it, according tocirc*mstances; but whatever it does, it treats it as inferior; it doesnot recognize any holiness in it beyond that which love gives it, andholds it impious if it is excluded. A novel of this sort is a plea forthe heart, the imagination, enthusiasm, nature; but it is also often aplea against society and law: we do not suffer society and law to betouched, directly or indirectly. To present a feeling as divine, to makeall institutions bow before it, to carry it through a series of generousactions, to sing with a sort of heroic inspiration the combats which itwages and the attacks which it sustains, to enrich it with all the forceof eloquence, to crown it with all the flowers of poetry, is to paintthe life, which it results in, as more beautiful and loftier thanothers, to set it far above all passions and duties, in a sublimeregion, on a throne, whence it shines as a light, a consolation, a hope,and draws all hearts towards it. Perhaps this is the world of artists;it is not the world of ordinary men. Perhaps it is true to nature; wemake nature give way before the interests of society. George Sand paintsimpassioned women; paint you for us good women. George Sand makes usdesire to be in love; do you make us desire to be married.

"This has its disadvantages without doubt; art suffers by it, if thepublic gains. Though your characters give the best examples, your workswill be of less value. No matter; you may console yourself with thethought that you are moral. Your lovers will be uninteresting; for theonly interest natural to their age is the violence of passion, and youcannot paint passion. In 'Nicholas Nickleby' you will show two goodyoung men, like all young men, marrying two good young women, like allyoung women; in 'Martin Chuzzlewit' you will show two more good youngmen, perfectly resembling the other two, marrying again two good youngwomen, perfectly resembling the other two; in 'Dombey and Son' therewill be only one good young man and one good young woman. Otherwisethere is no difference. And so on. The number of your marriages ismarvellous, and you marry enough couples to people England. What is morecurious still, they are all disinterested, and the young man and youngwoman snap their fingers at money as sincerely as in the Opéra Comique.You will not cease to dwell on the pretty shynesses of the betrothed,the tears of the mothers, the tears of all the guests, the amusing andtouching scenes of the dinner table; you will create a crowd of familypictures, all touching, and almost all as agreeable as screen-paintings.The reader is moved; he thinks he is beholding the innocent loves andvirtuous attentions of a little boy and girl of ten. He should like tosay to them: 'Good little people, continue to be very proper.' But thechief interest will be for young girls, who will learn in how devotedand yet suitable a manner a lover ought to court his intended. If youventure on a seduction, as in 'Copperfield,' you do not relate theprogress, ardor, intoxication of love; you only depict its miseries,despair and remorse. If in 'Copperfield' and the 'Cricket on the Hearth'you present a troubled marriage and a suspected wife, you hasten torestore peace to the marriage and innocence to the wife; and you willdeliver, by her mouth, so splendid a eulogy on marriage, that it mightserve for a model to Émile Augier.[257] If in 'Hard Times' the wifetreads on the border of crime, she shall check herself there. If in'Dombey and Son' she flees from her husband's roof, she remains pure,only incurs the appearance of crime, and treats her lover in such amanner that the reader wishes to be the husband. If, lastly, in'Copperfield' you relate the emotions and follies of love, you willrally this poor affection, depict its littlenesses, not venture to makeus hear the ardent, generous, undisciplined blast of the all-powerfulpassion; you turn it into a toy for good children, or a prettymarriage-trinket. But marriage will compensate you. Your genius ofobservation and taste for details is exercised on the scenes of domesticlife; you will excel in the picture of a fireside, family prattle,children on the knees of their mother, a husband watching by lamplightby the side of his sleeping wife, the heart full of joy and courage,because it feels that it is working for its own. You will describecharming or grave portraits of women; of Dora, who after marriagecontinues to be a little girl, whose pouting, prettinesses,childishnesses, laughter, make the house gay, like the chirping of abird; Esther, whose perfect goodness and divine innocence cannot beaffected by trials or years; Agnes, so calm, patient, sensible, pure,worthy of respect, a very model of a wife, sufficient in herself toclaim for marriage the respect which we demand for it. And when it isnecessary to show the beauty of these duties, the greatness of thisconjugal love, the depth of the sentiment which ten years of confidence,cares, and reciprocal devotion have created, you will find in yoursensibility, so long constrained, speeches as pathetic as the strongestwords of love.[258]

"The worst novels are not those which glorify love. A man must liveacross the Channel to dare what the French have dared. In England, someadmire Balzac; but no man would tolerate him. Some pretend that he isnot immoral; but every one will recognize that he always and everywheremakes morality an abstraction. George Sand has only celebrated onepassion; Balzac has celebrated them all. He has considered them asforces; and holding that force is beautiful, he has supported them bytheir causes, surrounded them by their circ*mstances, developed them intheir effects, pushed them to an extreme, and magnified them so as tomake them into sublime monsters, more systematic and more true than thetruth. We do not admit that a man is only an artist, and nothing else.We would not have him separate himself from his conscience, and losesight of the practical. We will never consent to see that such is theleading feature of our own Shakespeare; we will not recognize that he,like Balzac, brings his heroes to crime and monomania, and that, likehim, he lives in a land of pure logic and imagination. We have changedmuch since the sixteenth century, and we condemn now what we approvedformerly. We would not have the reader interested in a miser, anambitious man, a rake. And he is interested in them when the writer,neither praising nor blaming, sets himself to unfold the mood, training,shape of the head, and habits of mind which have impressed in him thisprimitive inclination, to prove the necessity of its effects, to lead itthrough all its stages, to show the greater power which age andcontentment give, to expose the irresistible fall which hurls man intomadness or death. The reader, caught by this reasoning, admires the workwhich it has produced, and forgets to be indignant against the personagecreated. He says, What a splendid miser! and thinks not of the evilswhich avarice causes. He becomes a philosopher and an artist, andremembers not that he is an upright man. Always recollect that you aresuch, and renounce the beauties which may flourish on this evil soil.

"Amongst these, the first is greatness. A man must be interested inpassions to comprehend their full effect, to count all their springs, todescribe their whole course. They are diseases; if a man is content toblame them he will never know them; if you are not a physiologist, ifyou are not enamoured of them, if you do not make your heroes out ofthem, if you do not start with pleasure at the sight of a fine featureof avarice, as at the sight of a valuable symptom, you will not be ableto unfold their vast system, and to display their fatal greatness. Youwill not have this immoral merit; and, moreover, it does not suit yourspecies of mind. Your extreme sensibility, and ever-ready irony, mustneeds be exercised; you have not sufficient calmness to penetrate to thedepths of a character, you prefer to weep over or to rail at it; you laythe blame on it, make it your friend or foe, render it touching orodious; you do not depict it; you are too impassioned, and not enoughinquisitive. On the other hand, the tenacity of your imagination, thevehemence and fixity with which you impress your thought into the detailyou wish to grasp, limit your knowledge, arrest you in a single feature,prevent you from reaching all the parts of a soul, and from sounding itsdepths. Your imagination is too lively, too meagre. These, then, are thecharacters you will outline. You will grasp a personage in a singleattitude, you will see of him only that and you will impose it upon himfrom beginning to end. His face will always have the same expression,and this expression will be almost always a grimace. Your personageswill have a sort of knack which will not quit them. Miss Mercy willlaugh at every word; Mark Tapley will say 'jolly' in every scene; Mrs.Gamp will be ever talking of Mrs. Harris; Dr. Chillip will not venture asingle action free from timidity; Mr. Micawber will speak through threevolumes the same kind of emphatic phrases, and will pass five or sixtimes, with comical suddenness, from joy to grief. Each of yourcharacters will be a vice, a virtue, a ridicule personified; and thepassion, with which you endow it, will be so frequent, so invariable, soabsorbing, that it will no longer be like a living man, but anabstraction in man's clothes. The French have a Tartuffe like yourPecksniff, but the hypocrisy which he represents has not destroyed theother traits of his character; if he adds to the comedy by his vice, hebelongs to humanity by his nature. He has, besides his ridiculousfeature, a character and a mood; he is coarse, strong, red in the face,brutal, sensual; the vehemence of his blood makes him bold; his boldnessmakes him calm; his boldness, his calm, his quick decision, his scorn ofmen, make him a great politician. When he has entertained the publicthrough five acts, he still offers to the psychologist and the physicianmore than one subject of study. Your Pecksniff will offer nothing tothese. He will only serve to instruct and amuse the public. He will be aliving satire of hypocrisy, and nothing more. If you give him a tastefor brandy, it is gratuitously; in the mood which you assign to him,nothing requires it; he is so steeped in oily hypocrisy, in softness, ina flowing style, in literary phrases, in tender morality that the restof his nature has disappeared; it is a mask, and not a man. But thismask is so grotesque and energetic that it will be useful to the public,and will diminish the number of hypocrites. It is our end and yours, andthe list of your characters will have rather the effect of a book ofsatires than of a portrait gallery.

"For the same reason, these satires, though united, will continueeffectually detached, and will not constitute a genuine collection. Youbegan with essays, and your larger novels are only essays, taggedtogether. The only means of composing a natural and solid whole is towrite the history of a passion or of a character, to take them up attheir birth, to see them increase, alter, become destroyed, tounderstand the inner necessity for their development. You do not followthis development; you always keep your character in the same attitude;he is a miser, or a hypocrite, or a good man to the end, and alwaysafter the same fashion: thus he has no history. You can only change thecirc*mstances in which he is met with, you do not change him; he remainsmotionless, and at every shock that touches him, emits the same sound.The variety of events which you contrive is, therefore, only an amusingphantasmagoria; they have no connection, they do not form a system, theyare but a heap. You will only write lives, adventures, memoirs,sketches, collections of scenes, and you will not be able to compose anaction. But if the literary taste of your nation, added to the naturaldirection of your genius, imposes upon you moral intentions, forbids youthe lofty depicture of characters, vetoes the composition of unitedaggregates, it presents to your observation, sensibility and satire, asuccession of original figures which belong only to England, which drawnby your hand, will form a unique gallery, and which, with the stamp ofyour genius, will offer that of your country and of your time."


Part III.--The Characters


Section I.--Dickens's Love for Natural Characters


Take away the grotesque characters, who are only introduced to fill upand to excite laughter, and you will find that all Dickens's characters,belong to two classes--people who have feelings and emotions, and peoplewho have none. He contrasts the souls which nature creates with thosewhich society deforms. One of his last novels, "Hard Times," is anabstract of all the rest. He there exalts instinct above reason,intuition of heart above positive knowledge; he attacks education builton statistics, figures, and facts; overwhelms the positive andmercantile spirit with misfortune and ridicule; combats the pride,harshness, selfishness of the merchant and the aristocrat; falls foul ofmanufacturing towns, towns of smoke and mud, which fetter the body in anartificial atmosphere, and the mind in a factitious existence. He seeksout poor artisans, mountebanks, a foundling, and crushes beneath theircommon-sense, generosity, delicacy, courage, and gentleness, the falsescience, false happiness, and false virtue of the rich and powerful whodespise them. He satirizes oppressive society; mourns over oppressednature; and his elegiac genius like his satirical genius, finds ready tohis hand in the English world around him, the sphere which it needs forits development.


Section II.--The Hypocrite.--The Positive Man.--The Proud Man


The first fruits of English society is hypocrisy. It ripens here underthe double breath of religion and morality; we know their popularity andsway across the Channel. In a country where it is shocking to laugh onSunday, where the gloomy Puritan has preserved something of his oldrancor against happiness, where the critics of ancient history insertdissertations on the relative virtue of Nebuchadnezzar, it is naturalthat the appearance of morality should be serviceable. It is a needfulcoin: those who lack good money coin bad; and the more public opiniondeclares it precious, the more it is counterfeited. This vice istherefore English. Mr. Pecksniff is not found in France. His speechwould disgust Frenchmen. If they have an affectation, it is not ofvirtue, but of vice: if they wish to succeed, they would be wrong tospeak of their principles: they prefer to confess their weaknesses; andif they have quacks, they are boasters of immorality. They had theirhypocrites once, but it was when religion was popular. Since Voltaire,Tartuffe is impossible. Frenchmen no longer try to affect a piety whichwould deceive no one, and lead to nothing. Hypocrisy comes and goes,varying with the state of morals, religion, and mind; we can see, then,how Pecksniff's suits the dispositions of his country. English religionis not very dogmatical, but wholly moral. Therefore Pecksniff does not,like Tartuffe, utter theological phrases; he expands altogether inphilanthropic tirades. He has progressed with the age; he has become ahumanitarian philosopher. He calls his daughters Mercy and Charity. Fieis tender, he is kind, he gives vent to domestic effusions. Heinnocently exhibits, when visited, charming domestic scenes; he displayshis paternal heart, marital sentiments, the kindly feeling of a goodmaster. The family virtues are honored nowadays; he must muffle himselftherewith. Orgon formerly said, as taught by Tartuffe:


"My brother, children, mother, wife might die!You think I'll care; no surely, no! not I!"[259]


Modern virtue and English piety think otherwise; we must not despisethis world in view of the next; we must improve it. Tartuffe speaks ofhis hair-shirt and his discipline; Pecksniff, of his comfortable littleparlor, of the charm of friendship, the beauties of nature. He tries tomake men "dwell in unity." He is like a member of the Peace Society. Hedevelops the most touching considerations on the benefits and beautiesof union among men. It will be impossible to hear him without beingaffected. Men are refined nowadays, they have read much elegiac poetry;their sensibility is more active; they can no longer be deceived by thecoarse impudence of Tartuffe. This is why Mr. Pecksniff will usegestures of sublime long-suffering, smiles of ineffable compassion,starts, free and easy movements, graces, tendernesses which will seducethe most reserved and charm the most delicate. The English in theirParliament, meetings, associations, public ceremonies, have learned theoratorical phraseology, the abstract terms, the style of politicaleconomy, of the newspapers and the prospectus. Pecksniff talks like aprospectus. He possesses its obscurity, its wordiness, and its emphasis.He seems to soar above the earth, in the region of pure ideas, in thebosom of truth. He resembles an apostle, brought up in the "Times"office. He spouts general ideas on every occasion. He finds a morallesson in the ham and eggs he has just eaten. As he folds his napkin, herises to lofty contemplations:


"Even the worldly goods of which we have just disposed, even they havetheir moral. See how they come and go. Every pleasure istransitory."[260]

"'The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomicalfriends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature. I do not know howit may be with others, but it is a great satisfaction to me to know,when regaling on my humble fare, that I am putting in motion the mostbeautiful machinery with which we have any acquaintance. I really feelat such times as if I was doing a public service. When I have woundmyself up, if I may employ such a term/ said Mr. Pecksniff withexquisite tenderness, 'and know that I am Going, I feel that in thelesson afforded by the works within me, I am a Benefactor to myKind!'"[261]


We recognize a new species of hypocrisy. Vices, like virtues, changein every age.

The practical, as well as the moral spirit, is English; by commerce,labor, and government, this people has acquired the taste and talent forbusiness; this is why they regard the French as children and madmen. Theexcess of this disposition is the destruction of imagination andsensibility. Man becomes a speculative machine, in which figures andfacts are set in array; he denies the life of the mind and the joys ofthe heart; he sees in the world nothing but loss and gain; he becomeshard, harsh, greedy, and avaricious; he treats men as machinery; on acertain day he finds himself simply a merchant, banker, statistician; hehas ceased to be a man. Dickens has multiplied portraits of the positiveman--Ralph Nickleby, Scrooge, Anthony Chuzzlewit, Jonas Chuzzlewit,Alderman Cute, Mr. Murdstone and his sister, Bounderby, Gradgrind: wecan find them in all his novels. Some are so by education, others bynature; but all are odious, for they all rail at and destroy kindness,sympathy, compassion, disinterested affections, religious emotions, afanciful enthusiasm, all that is lovely in man. They oppress children,strike women, starve the poor, insult the wretched. The best aremachines of polished steel, methodically performing their officialduties, and not knowing that they make others suffer. These kinds of menare not found in France. Their rigidity is not in the French character.They are produced in England by a school which has its philosophy, itsgreat men, its glory, and which has never been established amongst theFrench. More than once, it is true, French writers have depictedavaricious men, men of business, and shopkeepers: Balzac is full ofthem: but he explains them by their imbecility, or makes them monsters,like Grandet and Gobseck. Those of Dickens constitute a real class, andrepresent a national vice. Read this passage of "Hard Times," and seeif, body and soul, Mr. Gradgrind is not wholly English:


"'Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing butFacts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root outeverything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals uponFacts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is theprinciple on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principleon which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!'

"The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and thespeaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoringevery sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasiswas helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had hiseyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in twodark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by thespeaker's mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis washelped by the speaker's voice, which was inflexible, dry, anddictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's hair, whichbristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keepthe wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like thecrust of a plum-pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for thehard facts stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat,square legs, square shoulders--nay, his very neckcloth, trained to takehim by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact,as it was--all helped the emphasis.

"'In this life we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!'

"The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present,all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane oflittle vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperialgallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.[262]

"'Thomas Gradgrind, sir! A man of realities. A man of facts andcalculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two arefour, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing foranything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir--peremptorily Thomas--ThomasGradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplicationtable always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcelof human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a merequestion of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to getsome other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, orAugustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgind, or Joseph Gradgrind (allsupposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of ThomasGradgrind--no, sir!'

"In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whetherto his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. Insuch terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and girls' for 'sir,'Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchersbefore him, who were to be filled so full of facts."[263]


Another fault, arising from the habit of commanding and striving, ispride. It abounds in an aristocratic country, and no one has moresoundly rated aristocracy than Dickens; all his portraits are sarcasms.James Harthouse, a dandy disgusted with everything, chiefly withhimself, and rightly so; Lord Frederick Verisopht, a poor duped idiot,brutalized with drink, whose wit consists in staring at men and suckinghis cane; Lord Feenix, a sort of mechanism of parliamentary phrases, outof order, and hardly able to finish the ridiculous periods into which healways takes care to lapse; Mrs. Skewton, a hideous old ruin, a coquetteto the last, demanding rose-colored curtains for her death-bed, andparading her daughter through all the drawing-rooms of England, in orderto sell her to some vain husband; Sir John Chester, a wretch of highsociety, who, for fear of compromising himself, refuses to save hisnatural son, and refuses it with all kinds of airs, as he finishes hischocolate. But the most complete and most English picture of thearistocratic spirit is the portrait of a London merchant, Mr. Dombey.

In France people do not look for types among the merchants, but they arefound among that class in England, as forcible as in the proudestchâteaux. Mr. Dombey loves his house as if he were a nobleman, as muchas himself. If he neglects his daughter and longs for a son, it is toperpetuate the old name of his bank. He has his ancestors in commerce,and he likes to have his descendants in the same branch of business. Hemaintains traditions, and continues a power. At this height of opulence,and with this scope of action, he is a prince, and with a prince'sposition he has his feelings. We see there a character which could onlybe produced in a country whose commerce embraces the globe, wheremerchants are potentates, where a company of merchants has trafficked incontinents, maintained wars, destroyed kingdoms, founded an empire of ahundred million men. The pride of such a man is not petty, but terrible;it is so calm and high that to find a parallel we must read again thememoirs of the Duke of Saint Simon. Mr. Dombey has always commanded, andit does not enter his mind that he could yield to anyone or anything. Hereceives flattery as a tribute to which he has a right, and sees menbeneath him, at a vast distance, as beings made to beseech and obey him.His second wife, proud Edith Skewton, resists and scorns him; the prideof the merchant is pitted against the pride of the highborn woman, andthe restrained outbursts of the growing opposition reveal an intensityof passion, which souls thus born and bred alone can feel. Edith, toavenge herself, flees on the anniversary of her marriage, and givesherself the appearance of being an adulteress. It is then that hisinflexible pride asserts itself in all its rigidity. He has driven outof the house his daughter, whom he believes the accomplice of his wife;he forbids the one or the other to be recalled to his memory; hecommands his sister and his friends to be silent; he receives guestswith the same tone and the same coldness. With despair in his heart, andfeeling bitterly the insult offered to him by his wife, theconscientiousness of his failure, and the idea of public ridicule, heremains as firm, as haughty, as calm as ever. He launches out morerecklessly in speculations, and is ruined; he is on the point ofsuicide. Hitherto all was well: the bronze column continued whole andunbroken; but the exigencies of public morality mar the idea of thebook. His daughter arrives in the nick of time. She entreats him; hisfeelings get the better of him, she carries him off; he becomes the bestof fathers, and spoils a fine novel.


Section III.--Children


Let us look at some different personages. In contrast with these bad andfactitious characters, produced by national institutions, we find goodcreatures such as nature made them; and first, children.

We have none in French literature. Racine's little Joas could only existin a piece composed for the ladies' college of Saint Cyr; the littlechild speaks like a prince's son, with noble and acquired phrases, as ifrepeating his catechism. Nowadays these portraits are only seen inFrance in New-Year's books, written as models for good children. Dickenspainted his with special gratification; he did not think of edifying thepublic, and he has charmed it. All his children are of extremesensibility; they love much, and they crave to be loved. To understandthis gratification of the painter, and this choice of characters, wemust think of their physical type. English children have a color sofresh, a complexion so delicate, a skin so transparent, eyes so blue andpure, that they are like beautiful flowers. No wonder if a novelistloves them, lends to their soul a sensibility and innocence which shineforth from their looks, if he thinks that these frail and charming rosesare crushed by the coarse hands which try to bend them. We must alsoimagine to ourselves the households in which they grow up. When, at fiveo'clock, the merchant and the clerk leave their office and theirbusiness, they return as quickly as possible to the pretty cottage,where their children have played all day on the lawn. The fireside bywhich they will pass the evening is a sanctuary, and domestic tendernessis the only poetry they need. A child deprived of these affections andthis happiness seems to be deprived of the air we breathe, and thenovelist does not find a volume too much to explain its unhappiness.Dickens has recorded it in ten volumes, and at last he has written thehistory of "David Copperfield." David is loved by his mother, and by anhonest servant girl, Peggotty; he plays with her in the garden; hewatches her sew; he reads to her the natural history of crocodiles; hefears the hens and geese, which strut in a menacing and ferocious mannerin the yard; he is perfectly happy. His mother marries again, and allchanges. The father-in-law, Mr. Murdstone, and his sister Jane, areharsh, methodical, and cold beings. Poor little David is every momentwounded by harsh words. He dare not speak or move; he is afraid to kisshis mother; he feels himself weighed down, as by a leaden cloak, by thecold looks of the new master and mistress. He falls back on himself;mechanically studies the lessons assigned him; cannot learn them, sogreat is his dread of not knowing them. He is whipped, shut up withbread and water in a lonely room. He is terrified by night, and fearshimself. He asks himself whether in fact he is not bad or wicked, andweeps. This incessant terror, hopeless and issueless, the spectacle ofthis wounded sensibility and stupefied intelligence, the long anxieties,the sleepless nights, the solitude of the poor, imprisoned child, hispassionate desire to kiss his mother or to weep on the breast of hisnurse--all this is sad to see. These children's griefs are as heartfeltas the sorrows of a man. It is the history of a frail plant, which wasflourishing in a warm air, beneath a mild sun, and which, suddenlytransplanted to the snow, sheds its leaves and withers.

The working-classes are like children, dependent, not very cultivated,akin to nature, and liable to oppression. And so Dickens extols them.That is not new in France; the novels of Eugène Sue have given us morethan one example, and the theme is as old as Rousseau; but in the handsof the English writer it has acquired a singular force. His heroespossess feelings so delicate, and are so self-sacrificing, that wecannot admire them sufficiently. They have nothing vulgar but theirpronunciation; the rest is but nobility and generosity. We see amountebank abandon his daughter, his only joy, for fear of injuring herin any way. A young woman devotes herself to save the unworthy wife of aman who loves her, and whom she loves; the man dies; she continues, frompure self-sacrifice, to care for the degraded creature. A poor wagoner,who thinks his wife unfaithful, loudly pronounces her innocent, and allhis vengeance is to think only of loading her with tenderness andkindness. None, according to Dickens, feel so strongly as they do thehappiness of loving and being loved--the pure joys of domestic life.None have so much compassion for those poor, deformed and infirmcreatures whom they so often bring into the world, and who seem onlyborn to die. None have a juster and more inflexible moral sense. Iconfess that even Dickens's heroes unfortunately resemble the indignantfathers of French melodramas. When old Peggotty learns that his niece isseduced, he sets off, stick in hand, and walks over France, Germany, andItaly, to find her and bring her back to duty. But above all, they havean English sentiment, which fails in Frenchmen: they are Christians. Itis not only women, as in France, who take refuge in the idea of anotherworld; men turn also their thoughts towards it. In England, where thereare so many sects, and everyone chooses his own, each one believes inthe religion he has made for himself; and this noble sentiment raisesstill higher the throne upon which the uprightness of their resolutionand the delicacy of their heart have placed them.

In reality, the novels of Dickens can all be reduced to one phrase,to-wit: Be good, and love; there is genuine joy only in the emotions ofthe heart; sensibility is the whole man. Leave science to the wise,pride to the nobles, luxury to the rich; have compassion on humblewretchedness; the smallest and most despised being may in himself beworth as much as thousands of the powerful and the proud. Take care notto bruise the delicate souls which flourish in all conditions, under allcostumes, in all ages. Believe that humanity, pity, forgiveness, are thefinest things in man; believe that intimacy, expansion, tenderness,tears, are the sweetest things in the world. To live is nothing; to bepowerful, learned, illustrious, is little; to be useful is not enough.He alone has lived and is a man who has wept at the remembrance of akind action which he himself has performed or received.


Section IV.--The Ideal Man


We do not believe that this contrast between the weak and the strong, orthis outcry against society in favor of nature, are the caprice of anartist or the chance of the moment. When we penetrate deeply into thehistory of English genius, we find that its primitive foundation wasimpassioned sensibility, and that its natural expression was lyricalexaltation. Both were brought from Germany, and make up the literatureexisting before the Conquest. After an interval you find them again inthe sixteenth century, when the French literature, introduced fromNormandy, had passed away: they are the very soul of the nation. But theeducation of this soul was opposite to its genius; its historycontradicted its nature; and its primitive inclination has clashed withall the great events which it has created or suffered. The chance of avictorious invasion and an imposed aristocracy, whilst establishing theenjoyment of political liberty, has impressed on the character habits ofstrife and pride. The chance of an insular position, the necessity ofcommerce, the abundant possession of the first materials for industry,have developed the practical faculty and the positive mind. Theacquisition of these habits, faculties, and mind, to which must be addedformer hostile feelings to Rome, and an inveterate hatred against anoppressive church, has given birth to a proud and reasoning religion,replacing submission by independence, poetic theology by practicalmorality, and faith by discussion. Politics, business, and religion,like three powerful machines, have created a new man above the old.Stern dignity, self-command, the need of authority, severity in itsexercise, strict morality, without compromise or pity, a taste forfigures and dry calculation, a dislike of facts not palpable and ideasnot useful, ignorance of the invisible world, scorn of the weaknessesand tendernesses of the heart--such are the dispositions which thestream of facts and the ascendancy of institutions tend to confirm intheir souls. But poetry and domestic life prove that they have only halfsucceeded. The old sensibility, oppressed and perverted, still lives andworks. The poet subsists under the Puritan, the trader, the statesman.The social man has not destroyed the natural man. This frozen crust,this unsociable pride, this rigid attitude, often cover a good andtender nature. It is the English mask of a German head; and when atalented writer, often a writer of genius, reaches the sensibility whichis bruised or buried by education and national institutions, he moveshis reader in the most inner depths, and becomes the master of allhearts.


[Footnote 238: Taine was not wrong in thinking so. In the "Life of CharlesDickens" by J. Forster we find (vol. I. p. 8) the following words: "Andhere I may at once expressly mention, what already has been hinted, thateven as Fielding described himself and his belongings in Captain Boothand Amelia, and protested always that he had writ in his books nothingmore than he had seen in life, so it may be said of Dickens, in moreespecial relation to David Copperfield. Many guesses have been madesince his death, connecting David's autobiography with his own.... There is not only truth in all this, but it will very shortly beseen that the identity went deeper than any had supposed, and coveredexperiences not less startling in the reality than they appear to bein the fiction."--Tr.]

[Footnote 239: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. XLII. The translator has usedthe "Charles Dickens" edition, 1868, 18 vols.]

[Footnote 240: "It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to gowreaking its vengeance on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves; butthis wind happening to come up with a great heap of them just afterventing its humour on the insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatterthem that they fled away, pell-mell, some here, some there, rolling overeach other, whirling round and round upon their thin edges, takingfrantic flights into the air, and playing all manner of extraordinarygambols in the extremity of their distress. Nor was this enough for itsmalicious fury: for, not content with driving them abroad, it chargedsmall parties of them and hunted them into the wheel-wright's saw-pit,and below the planks and timbers in the yard, and, scattering thesawdust in the air, it looked for them underneath, and when it did meetwith any, whew! how it drove them on and followed at their heels!

"The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy chaseit was: for they got into unfrequented places, where there was no outlet,and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round at his pleasure;and they crept under the eaves of houses, and clung tightly to the sidesof hayricks, like bats; and tore in at open chamber windows, and coweredclose to hedges; and, in short, went anywhere for safety."--"MartinChuzzlewit," ch. II.]

[Footnote 241: "The Chimes," first quarter.]

[Footnote 242: "The Chimes," first quarter.]

[Footnote 243: "Martin Chuzzlewit." ch. XLV.]

[Footnote 244: "Dombey and Son," ch. IV.]

[Footnote 245: See ante, vol. I. note, page 393.]

[Footnote 246: "David Copperfield," ch. V.]

[Footnote 247: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. XXXVI.]

[Footnote 248: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. LI.]

[Footnote 249: Novels of George Sand.]

[Footnote 250: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. XXXVI.]

[Footnote 251: "Hard Times," bk. 3, ch. VI.]

[Footnote 252: Ibid.]

[Footnote 253: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. VIII.]

[Footnote 254: Ibid.]

[Footnote 255: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. XIX.]

[Footnote 256: "The Chimes," the first quarter.]

[Footnote 257: A living French author, whose dramas are all said to havea moral purpose.--Tr.]

[Footnote 258: "David Copperfield," ch. LXV; the scene between thedoctor and his wife.]

[Footnote 259: "Et je verrais mourir frère, enfants,mère, et femmeQue je m'en soucierais autant quede cela."These lines, said by Orgon to his brother-in-law Cléante, are fromMolière's "Tartuffe," I. 6.]

[Footnote 260: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. II.]

[Footnote 261: "Martin Chuzzlewit," ch. VIII.]

[Footnote 262: "Hard Times," book I. ch. I.]

[Footnote 263: Ibid, book I. ch. II.]


[Illustration: Page from the Letters of St. Jerome.Fac-simile example of Printing and Engraving in the Fifteenth Century.]


CHAPTER SECOND


THE NOVEL CONTINUED--THACKERAY


Comparison Between Dickens and Thackeray


The novel of manners in England multiplies, and for this there areseveral reasons: first, it is born there, and every plant thrives wellin its own soil; secondly, it is a natural outlet: there is no music inEngland as in Germany, or conversation as in France; and men who mustthink and feel find in it a means of feeling and thinking. On the otherhand, women take part in it with eagerness; amidst the stagnation ofgallantry and the coldness of religion, it gives scope for imaginationand dreams. Finally, by its minute details and practical counsels, itopens up a career to the precise and moral mind. The critic thus is, asit were, swamped in this copiousness; he must select in order to graspthe whole, and confine himself to a few in order to embrace all.

In this crowd two men have appeared of superior talent, original andcontrasted, popular on the same grounds, ministers to the same cause,moralists in comedy and drama, defenders of natural sentiments againstsocial institutions; who, by the precision of their pictures, the depthof their observations, the succession and bitterness of their attacks,have renewed, with other views and in another style, the old combativespirit of Swift and Fielding.

One, more ardent, more expansive, wholly given up to rapture, animpassioned painter of crude and dazzling pictures, a lyricprose-writer, omnipotent in laughter and tears, plunged into fantasticinvention, painful sensibility, vehement buffoonery; and by the boldnessof his style, the excess of his emotions, the grotesque familiarity ofhis caricatures, he has displayed all the forces and weaknesses of anartist, all the audacities, all the successes, and all the oddities ofthe imagination.

The other, more contained, better informed and stronger, a loverof moral dissertations, a counsellor of the public, a sort oflay preacher, less bent on defending the poor, more bent oncensuring man, has brought to the aid of satire a sustainedcommon-sense, a great knowledge of the heart, consummate cleverness,powerful reasoning, a treasure of meditated hatred, and has persecutedvice with all the weapons of reflection. By this contrast the onecompletes the other; and we may form an exact idea of English taste byplacing the portrait of William Makepeace Thackeray by the side of thatof Charles Dickens.


Part I.--The Satirist


Section I.--The English Satirist


No wonder if in England a novelist writes satires. A gloomy andreflective man is impelled to it by his character; he is still furtherimpelled by the surrounding manners. He is not permitted to contemplatepassions as poetic powers; he is bidden to appreciate them as moralqualities. His pictures become sentences; he is a counsellor rather thanan observer, a judge rather than an artist. We see by what machineryThackeray has changed novel into satire.

I open at random his three great works--"Pendennis, Vanity Fair, TheNewcomes." Every scene sets in relief a moral truth: the author desiresthat at every page we should form a judgment on vice and virtue; he hasblamed or approved beforehand, and the dialogues or portraits are to himonly means by which he adds our approbation to his approbation, ourblame to his blame. He is giving us lessons; and beneath the sentimentswhich he describes, as beneath the events which he relates, wecontinually discover rules for our conduct and the intentions of areformer.

On the first page of "Pendennis" we see the portrait of an old major, aman of the world, selfish and vain, seated comfortably in his club, atthe table by the fire, and near the window, envied by Surgeon Glowry,whom nobody ever invites, seeking in the records of aristocraticentertainments for his own name, gloriously placed amongst those ofillustrious guests. A family letter arrives. Naturally he puts it asideand reads it, carelessly, last of all. He utters an exclamation ofhorror; his nephew wants to marry an actress. He has places booked inthe coach (charging the sum which he disburses for the seats to theaccount of the widow and the young scape-grace of whom he is guardian),and hastens to save the young fool. If there were a low marriage, whatwould become of his invitations? The manifest conclusion is: Let us notbe selfish, or vain, or fond of good living, like the major.

Chapter the second: Pendennis, the father of the young man in love, had"exercised the profession of apothecary and surgeon," but, being of goodbirth, his "secret ambition had always been to be a gentleman." He comesinto money; is called Doctor, marries the very distant relative of alord, tries to get acquainted with high families. He boasts to the lastday of his life of having been invited by Sir Pepin Ribstone to anentertainment. He buys a small estate, tries to sink the apothecary, andshows off in the new glory of a landed proprietor. Each of these detailsis a concealed or evident sarcasm, which says to the reader: "My goodfriend, remain the honest John Tomkins that you are; and for the love ofyour son and yourself, avoid taking the airs of a great nobleman."

Old Pendennis dies. His son, the noble heir of the domain, "Prince ofPendennis and Grand Duke of Fairoaks," begins to reign over his mother,his cousin, and the servants. He sends wretched verses to the countypapers, begins an epic poem, a tragedy in which sixteen persons die, ascathing history of the Jesuits, and defends church and king like aloyal Tory. He sighs after the ideal, wishes for an unknown maiden, andfalls in love with an actress, a woman of thirty-two, who learns herparts mechanically, as ignorant and stupid as can be. Young folks, mydear friends, you are all affected, pretentious, dupes of yourselves andof others. Wait to judge the world until you have seen it, and do notthink you are masters when you are scholars.

The lesson continues, and lasts as long as the life of Arthur. Like LeSage in "Gil Blas," and Balzac in "Le Père Goriot," the author of"Pendennis" depicts a young man having some talent, endowed with goodfeelings, even generous, desiring to make a name, whilst, at the sametime, he falls in with the maxims of the world; but Le Sage only wishedto amuse us, and Balzac only wished to stir our passions: Thackeray,from beginning to end, labors to correct us.

This intention becomes still more evident if we examine in detail one ofhis dialogues and one of his pictures. We will not find there impartialenergy, bent on copying nature, but attentive thoughtfulness, bent ontransforming into satire objects, words, and events. All the words ofthe character are chosen and weighed so as to be odious or ridiculous.It accuses itself, is studious to display vice, and behind its voice wehear the voice of the writer who judges, unmasks, and punishes it. MissCrawley, a rich old woman, falls ill.[264] Mrs. Bute Crawley, herrelative, hastens to save her, and to save the inheritance. Her aim isto have excluded from the will a nephew, Captain Rawdon, an oldfavorite, presumptive heir of the old lady. This Rawdon is a stupidguardsman, a frequenter of taverns, a too clever gambler, a duellist,and a _roué._ Fancy the capital opportunity for Mrs. Bute, therespectable mother of a family, the worthy spouse of a clergyman,accustomed to write her husband's sermons! From sheer virtue she hatesCaptain Rawdon, and will not suffer that such a good sum of money shouldfall into such bad hands. Moreover, are we not responsible for ourfamilies? and is it not for us to publish the faults of our relatives?It is our strict duty, and Mrs. Bute acquits herself of hersconscientiously. She collects edifying stories of her nephew, andtherewith she edifies the aunt. He has ruined so and so; he has wrongedsuch a woman. He has duped this tradesman; he has killed this husband.And above all, unworthy man, he has mocked his aunt! Will that generouslady continue to cherish such a viper? Will she suffer her numberlesssacrifices to be repaid by such ingratitude and such ridicule? We canimagine the ecclesiastical eloquence of Mrs. Bute. Seated at the foot ofthe bed, she keeps the patient in sight, plies her with draughts,enlivens her with terrible sermons, and mounts guard at the door againstthe probable invasion of the heir. The siege was well conducted, thelegacy attacked so obstinately must be yielded up; the virtuous fingersof the matron grasped beforehand and by anticipation the substantialheap of shining sovereigns. And yet a carping spectator might have foundsome faults in her management. Mrs. Bute managed rather too well. Sheforgot that a woman persecuted with sermons, handled like a bale ofgoods, regulated like a clock, might take a dislike to so harassing anauthority. What is worse, she forgot that a timid old woman, confined tothe house, overwhelmed with preachings, poisoned with pills, might diebefore having changed her will, and leave all, alas, to her scoundrellynephew. Instructive and formidable example! Mrs. Bute, the honor of hersex, the consoler of the sick, the counsellor of her family, havingruined her health to look after her beloved sister-in-law, and topreserve the inheritance, was just on the point, by her exemplarydevotion, of putting the patient in her coffin, and the inheritance inthe hands of her nephew.

Apothecary Clump arrives; he trembles for his dear client; she is worthto him two hundred a year; he is resolved to save this precious life, inspite of Mrs. Bute. Mrs. Bute interrupts him, and says: "I am sure, mydear Mr. Clump, no efforts of mine have been wanting to restore our dearinvalid, whom the ingratitude of her nephew has laid on the bed ofsickness. I never shrink from personal discomfort; I never refuse tosacrifice myself.... I would lay down my life for my duty, or for anymember of my husband's family."[265] The disinterested apothecaryreturns to the charge heroically. Immediately she replies in the fineststrain; her eloquence flows from her lips as from an over-full pitcher.She cries aloud: "Never, as long as nature supports me, will I desertthe post of duty. As the mother of a family and the wife of an Englishclergyman, I humbly trust that my principles are good. When my poorJames was in the small-pox, did I allow any hireling to nurse him? No!"The patient Clump scatters about sugared compliments, and pressing hispoint amidst interruptions, protestations, offers of sacrifice, railingsagainst the nephew, at last hits the mark. He delicately insinuates thatthe patient "should have change, fresh air, gaiety. The sight of herhorrible nephew casually in the Park, where I am told the wretch driveswith the brazen partner of his crimes," Mrs. Bute said (letting the catof selfishness out of the bag of secrecy), "would cause her such a shockthat we should have to bring her back to bed again. She must not go out,Mr. Clump. She shall not go out as long as I remain to watch over her.And as for my health, what matters it? I give it cheerfully, sir. Isacrifice it at the altar of my duty." It is clear that the authorattacks Mrs. Bute and all legacy-hunters. He gives her ridiculous airs,pompous phrases, a transparent, coarse, and blustering hypocrisy. Thereader feels hatred and disgust for her the more she speaks. He wouldunmask her; he is pleased to see her assailed, driven into a corner,taken in by the polished manoeuvres of her adversary, and rejoices withthe author, who tears from her and emphasizes the shameful confession ofher tricks and her greed.

Having arrived so far, satirical reflection quits the literary form. Inorder the better to develop itself, it exhibits itself alone. Thackeraynow attacks vice himself, and in his own name. No author is more fertilein dissertations; he constantly enters his story to reprimand orinstruct us; he adds theoretical to active morality. We might glean fromhis novels one or two volumes of essays, in the manner of La Bruyère orof Addison. There are essays on love, on vanity, on hypocrisy, onmeanness, on all the virtues, on all the vices; and turning over a fewpages, we shall find one on the comedies of legacies, and on tooattentive relatives:


"What a dignity it gives an old lady, that balance at the banker's! Howtenderly we look at her faults, if she is a relative (and may everyreader have a score of such), what a kind, good-natured old creature wefind her! How the junior partner of Hobbs and Dobbs leads her smiling tothe carriage, with the lozenge upon it, and the fat wheezy coachman!How, when she comes to pay us a visit, we generally find an opportunityto let our friends know her station in the world! We say (and withperfect truth) I wish I had Miss MacWhirter's signature to a cheque forfive thousand pounds. She wouldn't miss it, says your wife. She is myaunt, say you, in an easy, careless way, when your friend asks if MissMacWhirter is any relative? Your wife is perpetually sending her littletestimonies of affection; your little girls work endless worstedbaskets, cushions, and foot-stools for her. What a good fire there is inher room when she comes to pay you a visit, although your wife laces herstays without one! The house during her stay assumes a festive, neat,warm, jovial, snug appearance, not visible at other seasons. Youyourself, dear sir, forget to go to sleep after dinner, and findyourself all of a sudden (though you invariably lose) very fond ofrubber. What good dinners you have--game every day, Malmsey-Madeira, andno end of fish from London! Even the servants in the kitchen share inthe general prosperity; and, somehow, during the stay of MissMacWhirter's fat coachman, the beer is grown much stronger, and theconsumption of tea and sugar in the nursery (where her maid takes hermeals) is not regarded in the least. Is it so, or is it not so? I appealto the middle classes. Ah, gracious powers! I wish you would send me anold aunt--a maiden aunt--an aunt with a lozenge on her carriage, and afront of light coffee-coloured hair--how my children should workworkbags for her, and my Julia and I would make her comfortable!Sweet--sweet vision! Foolish--foolish dream!"[266]


There is no disguising it. The reader most resolved not to be warned, iswarned. When we have an aunt with a good sum to leave, we shall valueour attentions and our tenderness at their true worth. The author hastaken the place of our conscience, and the novel, transformed byreflection, becomes a school of manners.


Section II.--The English Temperament


The lash is laid on very heavily in this school; it is the Englishtaste. About tastes and whips there is no disputing; but withoutdisputing we may understand, and the surest means of understanding theEnglish taste is to compare it with the French taste.

I see in France, in a drawing-room of men of wit, or in an artist'sstudio, a score of lively people: they must be amused, that is theircharacter. You may speak to them of human wickedness, but on conditionof diverting them. If you get angry, they will be shocked; if you teacha lesson, they will yawn. Laugh, it is the rule here--not cruelly, orfrom manifest enmity, but in good humor and in lightness of spirit. Thisnimble wit must act; the discovery of a clean piece of folly is afortunate hap for it. As a light flame, it glides and flickers in suddenoutbreaks on the mere surface of things. Satisfy it by imitating it, andto please gay people be gay. Be polite, that is the second commandment,very like the other. You speak to sociable, delicate, vain men, whom youmust take care not to offend, but whom you must flatter. You would woundthem by trying to carry conviction by force, by dint of solid arguments,by a display of eloquence and indignation. Do them the honor ofsupposing that they understand you at the first word, that a hintedsmile is to them as good as a sound syllogism, that a fine allusioncaught on the wing reaches them better than the heavy onset of a dullgeometrical satire. Think, lastly (between ourselves), that, in politicsas in religion, they have been for a thousand years very well governed,over-governed; that when a man is bored he desires to be so no more;that a coat too tight splits at the elbows, and elsewhere. They arecritics from choice; from choice they like to insinuate forbiddenthings; and often, by abuse of logic, by transport, by vivacity, fromill humor, they strike at society through government, at moralitythrough religion. They are scholars who have been too long, under therod; they break the windows in opening the doors. I dare not tell you toplease them: I simply remark that, in order to please them, a grain ofseditious humor will do no harm.

I cross seven leagues of sea, and here I am in a great unadorned hall,with a multitude of benches, with gas burners, swept, orderly, adebating club or a preaching-house. There are five hundred long faces,gloomy and subdued;[267] and at the first glance it is clear that theyare not there to amuse themselves. In this land a grosser mood,overcharged with a heavier and stronger nourishment, has deprivedimpressions of their swift nobility, and thought, less facile andprompt, has lost its vivacity and its gayety. If we rail before them, wemust think that we are speaking to attentive, concentrated men, capableof durable and profound sensations, incapable of changeable and suddenemotion. Those immobile and contracted faces will preserve the sameattitude; they resist fleeting and half-formed smiles; they cannotunbend; and their laughter is a convulsion as stiff as their gravity.Let us not skim over our subject, but lay stress upon it; let us notpass over it lightly, but impress it; let us not dally, but strike; beassured that we must vehemently move vehement passions, and that shocksare needed to set these nerves in motion. Let us also not forget thatour hearers are practical minds, lovers of the useful; that they comehere to be taught; that we owe them solid truths; that theircommon-sense, somewhat contracted, does not fall in with hazardousextemporizations or doubtful hints; that they demand worked-outrefutations and complete explanations; and that if they have paid tocome in, it was to hear advice which they might apply, and satirefounded on proof. Their mood requires strong emotions; their mind asksfor precise demonstrations. To satisfy their mood, we must not merelyscratch, but torture vice; to satisfy their mind, we must not rail insallies, but by arguments. One word more: down there, in the midst ofthe assembly, behold that gilded, splendid book, resting royally on avelvet cushion. It is the Bible: around it there are fifty moralists,who awhile ago met at the theatre and pelted an actor off the stage,with apples, who was guilty of having the wife of a citizen for hismistress. If with our finger-tip, with all the compliments and disguisesin the world, we touch a single sacred leaf, or the smallest moralconventionalism, immediately fifty hands will fasten themselves on ourcoat collar and put us out at the door. With Englishmen we must beEnglish, with their passion and their common-sense adopt theirleading-strings. Thus confined to recognize truths, satire will becomemore bitter, and will add the weight of public belief to the pressure oflogic and the force of indignation.


Section III.--Superiority of Thackeray as a Satirist.--Literary Snobs


No writer was better gifted than Thackeray for this kind of satire,because no faculty is more proper to satire than reflection. Reflectionis concentrated attention, and concentrated attention increases ahundredfold the force and duration of emotions. He who is immersed inthe contemplation of a vice feels a hatred of vice, and the intensity ofhis hatred is measured by the intensity of his contemplation. At first,anger is a generous wine, which intoxicates and excites; when preservedand shut up, it becomes a liquor burning all that it touches, andcorroding even the vessel which contains it. Of all satirists,Thackeray, after Swift, is the most gloomy. Even his countrymen havereproached him with depicting the world uglier than it is.[268]Indignation, grief, scorn, disgust, are his ordinary sentiments. When hedigresses, and imagines tender souls, he exaggerates their sensibility,in order to render their oppression more odious. The selfishness whichwounds them appears horrible, and their resigned sweetness is a mortalinsult to their tyrants: it is the same hatred which has calculated thekindliness of the victims and the harshness of the persecutors.[269]

This anger, exasperated by reflection, is also armed by reflection. Itis clear that the author is not carried away by passing indignation orpity. He has mastered himself before speaking. He has often weighed therascality which he is about to describe. He is in possession of themotives, species, results, as a naturalist is of his classifications. Heis sure of his judgment, and has matured it. He punishes like a manconvinced, who has before him a heap of proofs, who advances nothingwithout a document or an argument, who has foreseen all objections andrefuted all excuses, who will never pardon, who is right in beinginflexible, who is conscious of his justice, and who rests his sentenceand his vengeance on all the powers of meditation and equity. The effectof this justified and contained hatred is overwhelming. When we haveread to the end of Balzac's novels, we feel the pleasure of a naturalistwalking through a museum, past a fine collection of specimens andmonstrosities. When we have read to the end of Thackeray, we feel theshudder of a stranger brought before a mattress in the operating-room ofa hospital, on the day when cautery is applied or a limb is taken off.

In such a case the most natural weapon is serious irony, because itbears witness to concentrated hatred: he who employs it suppresses hisfirst feeling; he feigns to be speaking against himself, and constrainshimself to take the part of his adversary. On the other hand, thispainful and voluntary attitude is the sign of excessive scorn; theprotection which apparently is afforded to an enemy is the worst ofinsults. The author seems to say: "I am ashamed to attack you; you areso weak that, even supported, you must fall; your reasonings are yourshame, and your excuses are your condemnation." Thus the more seriousthe irony, the stronger it is; the more you take care to defend youradversary, the more you degrade him; the more you seem to aid him themore you crush him. This is why Swift's grave sarcasm is so terrible; wethink he is showing respect, and he slays; his approbation is aflagellation. Amongst Swift's pupils, Thackeray is the first. Severalchapters in the "Book of Snobs"--that, for instance, on literarysnobs--are worthy of Gulliver. The author has been passing in review allthe snobs of England; what will he say of his colleagues, the literarysnobs? Will he dare to speak of them? Certainly:


"My dear and excellent querist, whom does the Schoolmaster flog soresolutely as his own son? Didn't Brutus chop his offspring's head off?You have a very bad opinion indeed of the present state of Literatureand of literary men, if you fancy that any one of us would hesitate tostick a knife into his neighbour penman, if the latter's death could dothe State any service.

"But the fact is, that in the literary profession there are no Snobs.Look round at the whole body of British men of letters, and I defy youto point out among them a single instance of vulgarity, or envy, orassumption."

"Men and women, as far as I have known them, they are all modest intheir demeanour, elegant in their manners, spotless in their lives, andhonourable in their conduct to the world and to each other. You mayoccasionally, it is true, hear one literary man abusing his brother; butwhy? Not in the least out of malice; not at all from envy: merely from asense of truth and public duty. Suppose, for instance, I good-naturedlypoint out a blemish in my friend Mr. Punch's person, and say Mr. P. hasa hump-back, and his nose and chin are more crooked than those featuresin the Apollo or Antinous, which we are accustomed to consider as ourstandards of beauty; does this argue malice on my part towards Mr.Punch? Not in the least. It is the critic's duty to point out defects aswell as merits, and he invariably does his duty with the utmostgentleness and candour....

"That sense of equality and fraternity amongst Authors has always struckme as one of the most amiable characteristics of the class. It isbecause we know and respect each other, that the world respects us somuch; that we hold such a good position in society, and demean ourselvesso irreproachably when there.

"Literary persons are held in such esteem by the nation, that about twoof them have been absolutely invited to Court during the present reign;and it is probable that towards the end of the season, one or two willbe asked to dinner by Sir Robert Peel.

"They are such favourites with the public, that they are continuallyobliged to have their pictures taken and published; and one or two couldbe pointed out, of whom the nation insists upon having a fresh portraitevery year. Nothing can be more gratifying than this proof of theaffectionate regard which the people has for its instructors.

"Literature is held in such honour in England, that there is a sum ofnear twelve hundred pounds per annum set apart to pension deservingpersons following that profession. And a great compliment this is, too,to the professors, and a proof of their generally prosperous andflourishing condition. They are generally so rich and thrifty, thatscarcely any money is wanted to help them."[270]


We are tempted to make a mistake; and to comprehend this passage, wemust remember that, in an aristocratical and monarchical society, amidstmoney-worship and adoration of rank, poor and low born talent is treatedas its low birth and poverty deserve.[271] What makes these ironies yetstronger, is their length; some are prolonged during a whole tale, likethe Fatal Boots. A Frenchman could not keep up a sarcasm so long. Itwould escape, right or left, through various emotions; it would changecountenance, and not preserve so fixed an attitude--the mark of such adecided animosity, so calculated and bitter. There are characters whichThackeray develops through three volumes--Blanche Amory, RebeccaSharp--and of whom he never speaks but with insult; both are base, andhe never introduces them without plying them with tendernesses: dearRebecca! tender Blanche! The tender Blanche is a sentimental andliterary young creature, obliged to live with her parents, who do notunderstand her. She suffers so much that she ridicules them aloud beforeeverybody; she is so oppressed by the folly of her mother andfather-in-law that she never omits an opportunity of making them feeltheir folly. In good conscience, could she do otherwise? Would it not beon her part a lack of sincerity to affect a gayety which she has not, ora respect which she cannot feel? We understand that the poor child is inneed of sympathy. When she gave up her dolls, this loving heart becamefirst enamoured of Trenmor, a high-souled convict, the fiery Sténio,Prince Djalma, and other heroes of French novels. Alas! the imaginaryworld is not sufficient for wounded souls, and to satisfy the cravingfor the ideal, for satiety, the heart at last gives itself up to beingsof this world. At eleven years of age Miss Blanche felt tender emotionstowards a young Savoyard, an organ-grinder at Paris, whom she persistedin believing to be a prince carried off from his parents; at twelve, anold and hideous drawing-master had agitated her young heart; at Madamede Carmel's boarding-school a correspondence by letter took place withtwo young gentlemen at the College Charlemagne. Dear forlorn girl, herdelicate feet are already wounded by the briers in her path of life;every day her illusions shed their leaves; in vain she puts them down inverse, in a little book bound in blue velvet, with a clasp of gold,entitled "Mes Larmes." In this isolation, what is she to do? She growsenthusiastic over the young ladies whom she meets, feels a magneticattraction at sight of them, becomes their sister, except that she caststhem aside to-morrow like an old dress: we cannot command our feelings,and nothing is more beautiful than the natural. Moreover, as the amiablechild has much taste, a lively imagination, a poetic inclination forchange, she keeps her maid Pincott at work day and night. Like adelicate person, a genuine dilettante and lover of the beautiful, shescolds her for her heavy eyes and her pale face:


"Our muse, with the candour which distinguished her, never failed toremind her attendant of the real state of matters. 'I should send youaway, Pincott, for you are a great deal too weak, and your eyes arefailing you, and you are always crying and snivelling, and wanting thedoctor; but I wish that your parents at home should be supported, and Igo on enduring, for their sake, mind,' the dear Blanche would say to hertimid little attendant. Or, 'Pincott, your wretched appearance andslavish manner, and red eyes, positively give me the migraine; and Ithink I shall make you wear rouge, so that you may look a littlecheerful'; or, 'Pincott, I can't bear, even for the sake of yourstarving parents, that you should tear my hair out of my head in thatmanner; and I will thank you to write them and say that I dispense withyour services.'"[272]


This fool of a Pincott does not appreciate her good fortune. Can one besad in serving such a superior being as Miss Blanche? How delightful tofurnish her with subjects for her style! for, to confess the truth, MissBlanche has not disdained to write "some very pretty verses about thelonely little tiring-maid, whose heart was far away, sad exile in aforeign land." Alas! the slightest event suffices to wound this toosensitive heart. At the least emotion her tears flow, her feelings areshaken, like a delicate butterfly, crushed as soon as touched. There shegoes, aërial, her eyes fixed on heaven, a faint smile lingering roundher rosy lips, a touching sylphide, so consoling to all who surround herthat everyone wishes her at the bottom of a well.

One step added to serious irony leads us to serious caricature. Here, asbefore, the author pleads the rights of his neighbor; the onlydifference is, that he pleads them with too much warmth; it is insultupon insult. Under this head it abounds in Thackeray. Some of hisgrotesques are outrageous: for instance, M. Alcide de Mirobolant, aFrench cook, an artist in sauces, who declares his passion to MissBlanche through the medium of symbolic dishes, and thinks himself agentleman; Mrs. Major O'Dowd, a sort of female grenadier, the mostpompous and talkative of Irishwomen, bent on ruling the regiment, andmarrying the bachelors will they nill they; Miss Briggs, an oldcompanion, born to receive insults, to make phrases and to shed tears;the Doctor, who proves to his scholars who write bad Greek, thathabitual idleness and bad construing lead to the gallows. Thesecalculated deformities only excite a sad smile. We always perceivebehind the oddity of the character the sardonic air of the painter, andwe conclude that the human race is base and stupid. Other figures, lessexaggerated, are not more natural. We see that the author throws themexpressly into palpable follies and marked contradictions. Such is MissCrawley, an old maid, without any morals, and a free-thinker, whopraises unequal marriages, and falls into a fit when on the next pageher nephew makes one; who calls Rebecca Sharp her equal, and at the sametime bids her "put some coals on the fire"; who, on learning thedeparture of her favorite, cries with despair: "Gracious goodness, andwho's to make my chocolate"? These are comedy scenes, and not picturesof manners. There are twenty such. You see an excellent aunt, Mrs.Hoggarty, of Castle Hoggarty, settling down in the house of her nephew,Titmarsh, throw him into vast expenses, persecute his wife, drive awayhis friends, make his marriage unhappy. The poor ruined fellow is throwninto prison. She denounces him to the creditors with genuineindignation, and reproaches him with perfect sincerity. The wretch hasbeen his aunt's executioner; she has been dragged by him from her home,tyrannized over by him, robbed by him, outraged by his wife. She writes:


"Such waist and extravygance never, never, never did I see. Butterwaisted as if it had been dirt, coles flung away, candles burned at bothends;... and now you have the audassaty, being placed in prison justlyfor your crimes, for cheating me of £3000.... You come upon me to payyour detts! No, sir, it is quite enough that your mother should go onthe parish, and that your wife should sweep the streets, to which youhave indeed brought them; I at least... have some of the comforts towhich my rank entitles me. The furniture in this house is mine; and as Ipresume you intend your lady to sleep in the streets, I give you warningthat I shall remove it all to-morrow. Mr. Smithers will tell you that Ihad intended to leave you my intire fortune. I have this morning, in hispresents, solamly toar up my will, and hereby renounce all connectionwith you and your beggarly family. P.S.--I took a viper into my bosom,and it stung me."[273]


This just and compassionate woman finds her match, a piousman, John Brough, Esquire, M.P., director of the IndependentWest Diddlesex Fire and Life Insurance Company. This virtuousChristian has sniffed from afar the cheering odor of herlands, houses, stocks, and other landed and personal property.He pounces upon the fine property of Mrs. Hoggarty, is sorryto see that it only brings that lady four per cent., and resolves todouble her income. He calls upon her at her lodgings when herface was shockingly swelled and bitten by--never mind what:


"'Gracious heavens!' shouted John Brough, Esquire, 'a lady of your rankto suffer in this way!--the excellent relative of my dear boy, Titmarsh!Never, madam--never let it be said that Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggartyshould be subject to such horrible humiliation, while John Brough has ahome to offer her--a humble, happy Christian home, madam, though unlike,perhaps, the splendour to which you have been accustomed in the courseof your distinguished career. Isabella, my love!--Belinda! speak to Mrs.Hoggarty. Tell her that John Brough's house is hers from garret tocellar. I repeat it, madam, from garret to cellar. I desire--I insist--Iorder, that Mrs. Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty's trunks should be placedthis instant in my carriage!'"[274]


This style raises a laugh, if you will, but a sad laugh. We have justlearned that man is a hypocrite, unjust, tyrannical, blind. In ourvexation we turn to the author, and we see on his lips only sarcasms, onhis brow only chagrin.


Section IV.--Resemblance of Thackeray to Swift


Let us look carefully; perhaps in less grave matters we shall findsubject of genuine laughter. Let us consider, not a rascality, but amisadventure; rascality revolts, a misadventure might amuse. Butamusem*nt alone is not here; even in a diversion the satire retains itsforce, because reflection retains its intensity. There is in English funa seriousness, an effort, an application that is marvellous, and theircomicalities are composed with as much knowledge as their sermons. Thepowerful attention decomposes its object in all its parts, andreproduces it with illusive detail and relief. Swift describes the landof speaking horses, the politics of Liliput, the inventors of the FlyingIsland, with details as precise and harmonious as an experiencedtraveller, an exact inquirer into manners and countries. Thus supported,the impossible monster and the literary grotesque enter upon actualexistence, and the phantoms of imagination take the consistency ofobjects which we touch. Thackeray introduces this imperturbable gravity,this solid conception, this talent for illusion, into his farce. Let usstudy one of his moral essays; he wishes to prove that in the world wemust conform to received customs, and he transforms this commonplaceinto an Oriental anecdote. Let us count up the details of manners,geography, chronology, cookery, the mathematical designation of everyobject, person, and gesture, the lucidity of imagination, the profusionof local truths; we will then understand why his raillery produces sooriginal and biting an impression, and we will find here the same degreeof study and the same attentive energy as in the foregoing ironies andexaggerations: his humor is as reflective as his hatred; he has changedhis attitude, not his faculty:


"I am naturally averse to egotism, and hate self-laudation consumedly;but I can't help relating here a circ*mstance illustrative of the pointin question, in which I must think I acted with considerable prudence.

"Being at Constantinople a few years since--(on a delicate mission)--theRussians were playing a double game, between ourselves, and it becamenecessary on our part to employ an extra negotiator--Leckerbiss Pasha ofRoumelia, then Chief Galeongee of the Porte, gave a diplomatic banquetat his summer palace at Bujukdere. I was on the left of the Galeongee;and the Russian agent Count de Diddloff on his dexter side. Diddloff isa dandy who would die of a rose in aromatic pain: he had tried to haveme assassinated three times in the course of the negotiation: but ofcourse we were friends in public, and saluted each other in the mostcordial and charming manner.

"The Galeongee is--or was, alas! for a bow-string has done for him--astaunch supporter of the old school of Turkish politics. We dined withour fingers, and had flaps of bread for plates; the only innovation headmitted was the use of European liquors, in which he indulged withgreat gusto. He was an enormous eater. Amongst the dishes a very largeone was placed before him of a lamb dressed in its wool, stuffed withprunes, garlic, assafœtida, capsic*ms, and other condiments, the mostabominable mixture that ever mortal smelt or tasted. The Galeongee ateof this hugely; and, pursuing the Eastern fashion, insisted on helpinghis friends right and left, and when he came to a particularly spicymorsel, would push it with his own hands into his guests' very mouths.

"I shall never forget the look of poor Diddloff, when his Excellency,rolling up a large quantity of this into a ball, and exclaiming, 'BukBuk' (it is very good), administered the horrible bolus to Diddloff. TheRussian's eyes rolled dreadfully as he received it: he swallowed it witha grimace that I thought must precede a convulsion, and seizing a bottlenext him, which he thought was Sauterne, but which turned out to beFrench brandy, he drank off nearly a pint before he knew his error. Itfinished him; he was carried away from the dining-room almost dead, andlaid out to cool in a summer-house on the Bosphorus.

"When it came to my turn, I took down the condiment with a smile, said'Bismillah,' licked my lips with easy gratification, and when the nextdish was served, made up a ball myself so dexterously, and popped itdown the old Galeongee's mouth with so much grace, that his heart waswon. Russia was put out of Court at once, and the treaty of Kabobanoplewas signed. As for Diddloff, all was over with him; he was recalled toSt. Petersburg, and Sir Roderick Murchison saw him, under the No. 3,067,working in the Ural mines."[275]


The anecdote is evidently authentic; and when De Foe related theapparition of Mrs. Veal, he did not better imitate the style of anauthenticated account.


Section V.--Thackeray's Misanthropy


Such attentive reflection is a source of sadness. To amuse ourselveswith human passions, we must consider them as inquisitive men, likeshifting puppets, or as learned men, like regulated wheels, or asartists, like powerful springs. If we only consider them as virtuous orvicious, our lost illusions will enchain us in gloomy thoughts, and wewill find in man only weakness and ugliness. This is why Trackeraydepreciates our whole nature. He does, as a novelist, what Hobbes doesas a philosopher. Almost everywhere, when he describes fine sentiments,he derives them from an ugly source. Tenderness, kindness, love, are inhis characters the effect of the nerves, of instinct, or of a moraldisease. Amelia Sedley, his favorite, and one of his master-pieces, is apoor little woman, snivelling, incapable of reflection and decision,blind, a superstitious adorer of a coarse and selfish husband, alwayssacrificed by her own will and fault, whose love is made up of folly andweakness, often unjust, accustomed to see falsely, and more worthy ofcompassion than respect. Lady Castlewood, so good and tender, isenamoured, like Amelia, of a drunken and imbecile boor; and her wildjealousy, exasperated on the slightest suspicion, implacable against herhusband, giving utterance violently to cruel words, shows that her lovesprings not from virtue but from mood. Helen Pendennis, a model mother,is a somewhat silly country prude, of narrow education, jealous also,and having in her jealousy all the harshness of Puritanism and passion.She faints on learning that her son has a mistress: it is "such a sin,such a dreadful sin. I can't bear to think that my boy should commitsuch a crime. I wish he had died, almost, before he had done it."[276]Whenever she is spoken to of little Fanny, "the widow's countenance,always soft and gentle, assumed a cruel and inexorable expression."[277]Meeting Fanny at the bedside of the sick young man, she drives her away,as if she were a prostitute and a servant. Maternal love, in her as inthe others, is an incurable blindness: her son is her idol; in heradoration she finds the means of making his lot unbearable, and himselfunhappy. As to the love of the men for the women, if we judge from thepictures of the author, we can but feel pity for it, and look on it asridiculous. At a certain age, according to Thackeray, nature speaks: wemeet Somebody; a fool or not, good or bad, we adore her; it is a fever.At the age of six months dogs have their disease; man has his at twenty.If a man loves, it is not because the lady is lovable, but because it ishis nature so to do. "Do you suppose you would drink if you were notthirsty, or eat if you were not hungry?"[278]

He relates the history of this hunger and thirst with a bitter vigor. Heseems like an intoxicated man grown sober, railing at drunkenness. Heexplains at length, in a half-sarcastic tone, the follies which MajorDobbin commits for the sake of Amelia; how the Major buys bad wines fromher father; how he tells the postilions to make haste, how he rouses theservants, persecutes his friends, to see Amelia more quickly; how, afterten years of sacrifice, tenderness, and service, he sees that he is heldsecond to an old portrait of a faithless, coarse, selfish, and deadhusband. The saddest of these accounts is that of the first love ofPendennis--Miss Fotheringay, the actress, whom he loves, amatter-of-fact person, a good housekeeper, who has the mind andeducation of a kitchen-maid. She speaks to the young man of the fineweather, and the pie she has just been making: Pendennis discovers inthese two phrases a wonderful depth of intellect and a superhumanmajesty of devotion. He asks Miss Fotheringay, who has just been playingOphelia, if the latter loved Hamlet. Miss Fotheringay answers:


"'In love with such a little ojous wretch as that stunted manager of aBingley?' She bristled with indignation at the thought. Pen explained itwas not of her he spoke, but of Ophelia of the play. 'Oh, indeed; if nooffence was meant, none was taken: but as for Bingley, indeed, she didnot value him--not that glass of punch.' Pen next tried her on Kotzebue.'Kotzebue? who was he? The author of the play in which she had beenperforming so admirably. She did not know that--the man's name at thebeginning of the book was Thompson,' she said. Pen laughed at heradorable simplicity."

"'How beautiful she is,' thought Pen, cantering homewards. 'Pendennis,Pendennis--how she spoke the word! Emily, Emily! how good, how noble,how beautiful, how perfect she is!'"[279]


The first volume runs wholly upon this contrast; it seems as thoughThackeray says to his reader: "My dear brothers in humanity, we arerascals forty-nine days in fifty; in the fiftieth, if we escape pride,vanity, wickedness, selfishness, it is because we fall into a hot fever;our folly causes our devotion."


Section VI.--His Characters


Yet, short of being Swift, a man must love something; he cannot alwaysbe wounding and destroying; and the heart, wearied of scorn and hate,needs repose in praise and tenderness. Moreover, to blame a fault is tolaud the contrary quality; and a man cannot sacrifice a victim withoutraising an altar: it is circ*mstance which fixes on the one, and whichbuilds up the other; and the moralist who combats the dominant vice ofhis country and his age, preaches the virtue contrary to the vice of hisage and his country. In an aristocratical and commercial society, thisvice is selfishness and pride! Thackeray therefore extols sweetness andtenderness. Let love and kindness be blind, instinctive, unreasoning,ridiculous, it matters little: such as they are, he adores them; andthere is no more singular contrast than that of his heroes and of hisadmiration. He creates foolish women, and kneels before them; the artistwithin him contradicts the commentator: the first is ironical, thesecond laudatory; the first represents the pettiness of love, the secondwrites its panegyric; the top of a page is a satire in action, thebottom is a dithyramb in periods. The compliments which he lavishes onAmelia Sedley, Helen Pendennis, Laura, are infinite; no author ever morevisibly and incessantly paid court to his female creations; hesacrifices his male creations to them, not once, but a hundred times:


"Very likely female pelicans like so to bleed under the selfish littlebeaks of their young ones: it is certain that women do. There must besome sort of pleasure which we men don't understand, which accompaniesthe pain of being sacrificed.[280]... Do not let us men despise theseinstincts because we cannot feel them. These women were made for ourcomfort and delectation, gentlemen--with all the rest of the minoranimals.[281]... Be it for a reckless husband, a dissipated son, adarling scapegrace of a brother, how ready their hearts are to pour outtheir best treasures for the benefit of the cherished person; and what adeal of this sort of enjoyment are we on our side, ready to give thesoft creatures! There is scarce a man that reads this, but hasadministered pleasure in that fashion to his womankind, and has treatedthem to the luxury of forgiving him."[282]


When he enters the room of a good mother, or of a young honest girl, hecasts down his eyes as on the threshold of a sanctuary. In the presenceof Laura resigned, pious, he checks himself:


"And as that duty was performed quite noiselessly--while thesupplications which endowed her with the requisite strength forfulfilling it, also took place in her own chamber, away from all mortalsight--we, too, must be perforce silent about these virtues of hers,which no more bear public talking about than a flower will bear to bloomin a ballroom."[283]


Like Dickens, he has a reverence for the family, for tender and simplesentiments, calm and pure contentments, such as are relished by thefireside between a child and a wife. When this misanthrope, soreflective and harsh, lights upon a filial effusion or a maternal grief,he is wounded in a sensitive place, and, like Dickens, he makes usweep.[284]

We have enemies because we have friends, and aversions because we havepreferences. If we prefer devoted kindliness and tender affections, wedislike arrogance and harshness; the cause of love is also the cause ofhate; and sarcasm, like sympathy, is the criticism of a social form anda public vice. This is why Thackeray's novels are a war againstaristocracy. Like Rousseau, he praised simple and affectionate manners;like Rousseau, he hated the distinction of ranks.

He wrote a whole book on this, a sort of moral and half politicalpamphlet, the "Book of Snobs." The word does not exist in France,because they have not the thing. The snob is a child of aristocraticalsocieties; perched on his step of the long ladder, he respects the manon the step above him, and despises the man on the step below, withoutinquiring what they are worth, solely on account of their position; inhis innermost heart he finds it natural to kiss the boots of the first,and to kick the second. Thackeray reckons up at length the degrees ofthis habit. Hear his conclusion:


"I can bear it no longer--this diabolical invention of gentility, whichkills natural kindliness and honest friendship. Proper pride, indeed!Rank and precedence, forsooth! The table of ranks and degrees is a lieand should he flung into the fire. Organize rank and precedence! thatwas well for the masters of ceremonies of former ages. Come forward,some great marshal, and organize Equality in society."


Then he adds, with common-sense, altogether English bitterness andfamiliarity:


"If ever our cousins the Smigsmags asked me to meet Lord Longears, Iwould like to take an opportunity after dinner, and say, in the mostgood-natured way in the world:--Sir, Fortune makes you a present of anumber of thousand pounds every year. The ineffable wisdom of ourancestors has placed you as a chief and hereditary legislator over me.Our admirable Constitution (the pride of Britons and envy of surroundingnations) obliges me to receive you as my senator, superior, andguardian. Your eldest son, Fitz-Heehaw, is sure of a place inParliament; your younger sons, the De Brays, will kindly condescend tobe post-captains and lieutenant-colonels, and to represent us in foreigncourts, or to take a good living when it falls convenient. These prizesour admirable Constitution (the pride and envy of, etc.) pronounces tobe your due; without count of your dulness, your vices, yourselfishness; of your entire incapacity and folly. Dull as you may be(and we have as good a right to assume that my lord is an ass, as theother proposition, that he is an enlightened patriot);--dull, I say, asyou may be, no one will accuse you of such monstrous folly, as tosuppose that you are indifferent to the good luck which you possess, orhave any inclination to part with it. No--and patriots as we are, underhappier circ*mstances, Smith and I, I have no doubt, were we dukesourselves, would stand by our order.

"We would submit good-naturedly to sit in a high place. We wouldacquiesce in that admirable Constitution (pride and envy of, etc.) whichmade us chiefs and the world our inferiors; we would not cavilparticularly at that notion of hereditary superiority which brought somany simple people cringing to our knees. May be we would rally roundthe Corn-Laws; we would make a stand against the Reform Bill; we woulddie rather than repeal the acts against Catholics and Dissenters; wewould, by our noble system of class-legislation, bring Ireland to itspresent admirable condition.

"But Smith and I are not Earls as yet. We don't believe that it is forthe interest of Smith's army, that young De Bray should be a Colonel atfive-and-twenty, of Smith's diplomatic relations, that Lord Longearsshould go ambassador to Constantinople--of our politics, that Longearsshould put his hereditary foot into them.

"This booing and cringing, Smith believes to be the act of Snobs; and hewill do all in his might and main to be a Snob, and to submit to Snobsno longer. To Longears he says, 'We can't help seeing, Longears, that weare as good as you. We can spell even better; we can think quite asrightly; we will not have you for our master, or black your shoes anymore.'"[285]


Thackeray's opinion on politics only continues his remarks as amoralist. If he hates aristocracy, it is less because it oppresses manthan because it corrupts him; in deforming social life, it deformsprivate life; in establishing injustice, it establishes vice; afterhaving made itself master of the government, it poisons the soul; andThackeray finds its trace in the perversity and foolishness of allclasses and all sentiments.

The king opens this list of vengeful portraits. It is George IV, "thefirst gentleman in Europe." This great monarch, so justly regretted,could cut out a coat, drive a four-in-hand nearly as well as theBrighton coachman, and play the fiddle well. "In the vigour of youth andthe prime force of his invention, he invented Maraschino punch, ashoe-buckle, and a Chinese pavilion, the most hideous building in theworld:"


"Two boys had leave from their loyal masters to go from Slaughter HouseSchool where they were educated, and to appear on Drury Lane stage,amongst a crowd which assembled there to greet the king. The king? Therehe was. Beef-eaters were before the august box: the Marquis of Steyne(Lord of the Powder Closet) and other great officers of state werebehind the chair on which he sate, He sate--florid of face, portly ofperson, covered with orders, and in a rich curling head of hair--How wesang God save him! How the house rocked and shouted with thatmagnificent music. How they cheered, and cried, and waved handkerchiefs.Ladies wept: mothers clasped their children: some fainted withemotion.... Yes, we saw him. Fate cannot deprive us of that. Others haveseen Napoleon. Some few still exist who have beheld Frederick the Great,Doctor Johnson, Marie Antoinette, etc.--be it our reasonable boast toour children, that we saw George the Good, the Magnificent, theGreat."[286]


Dear prince! the virtues emanating from his heroic throne spread throughthe hearts of all his courtiers. Whoever presented a better example thanthe Marquis of Steyne? This lord, a king in his own house, tried toprove that he was so. He forces his wife to sit at table beside womenwithout any character, his mistresses. Like a true prince, he had forhis special enemy his eldest son, presumptive heir to the marquisate,whom he leaves to starve, and compels to run into debt. He is now makinglove to a charming person, Mrs. Rebecca Crawley, whom he loves for herhypocrisy, coolness, and unequalled insensibility. The Marquis, by dintof debasing and oppressing all who surround him, ends by hating anddespising men; he has no taste for anything but perfect rascalities.Rebecca rouses him; one day even she transports him with enthusiasm. Sheplays Clytemnestra in a charade, and her husband Agamemnon; she advancesto the bed, a dagger in her hand; her eyes are lighted up with a smileso ghastly that people quake as they look at her; Brava! brava! oldSteyne's strident voice was heard roaring over all the rest, "By----,she'd do it too!" We can hear that he has the true conjugal feeling. Hisconversation is remarkably frank. "I can't send Briggs away," Beckysaid.--"You owe her her wages, I suppose," said the peer.--"Worse thanthat, I have ruined her."--"Ruined her? then why don't you turn herout?"

He is, moreover, an accomplished gentleman, of fascinating sweetness; hetreats his women like a pacha, and his words are like blows. Let us readagain the domestic scene in which he gives the order to invite Mrs.Crawley. Lady Gaunt, his daughter-in-law, says that she will not bepresent at dinner, and will go home. His lordship answered:


"I wish you would, and stay there. You will find the bailiffs atBareacres very pleasant company, and I shall be freed from lending moneyto your relations, and from your own damned tragedy airs. Who are you togive orders here? You have no money. You've got no brains. You were hereto have children, and you have not had any. Gaunt's tired of you; andGeorge's wife is the only person in the family who doesn't wish you weredead. Gaunt would marry again if you were. ... You, forsooth, must giveyourself airs of virtue.... Pray, madame, shall I tell you some littleanecdotes about my Lady Bareacres, your mamma?"[287]


The rest is in the same style. His daughters-in-law, driven to despair,say they wish they were dead. This declaration rejoices him, and heconcludes with these words; "This Temple of Virtue belongs to me. And ifI invite all Newgate or all Bedlam here, by----, they shall be welcome."The habit of despotism makes despots, and the best means of implantingdespots in families is to preserve nobles in the State.

Let us take rest in the contemplation of the country gentleman. Theinnocence of the fields, hereditary respect, family traditions, thepursuit of agriculture, the exercise of local magistracy, must haveproduced these upright and sensible men, full of kindness and probity,protectors of their county, and servants of their country. Sir PittCrawley is a model; he has four thousand a year and two parliamentaryboroughs. It is true that these are rotten boroughs, and that he sellsthe second for fifteen hundred a year. He is an excellent steward, andshears his farmers so close that he can only find bankrupt-tenants. Acoach proprietor, a government contractor, a mine proprietor, he payshis subordinates so badly, and is so nigg*rd in outlay, that his mines"are filled with water; and as for his coach-horses, every mailproprietor in the kingdom knew that he lost more horses than any man inthe country"; the Government flung his contract of damaged beef upon hishands. A popular man, he always prefers the society of a horse-dealer tothe company of a gentleman. "He was fond of drink, of swearing, ofjoking with the farmers' daughters;... would cut his joke and drink hisglass with a tenant, and sell him up the next day; or have his laughwith the poacher he was transporting, with equal good humour." He speakswith a country accent, has the mind of a lackey, the habits of a boor.At table, waited on by three men and a butler, on massive silver, heinquires into the dishes, and the beasts which have furnished them."What _ship_ was it, Horrocks, and when did you kill? One of theblack-faced Scotch, Sir Pitt: we killed on Thursday. Who took any? Steelof Mudbury took the saddle and two legs, Sir Pitt; but he says the lastwas too young and confounded woolly, Sir Pitt. What became of theshoulders?" The dialogue goes on in the same tone; after the Scotchmutton comes the Black Kentish pig: these animals might be Sir Pitt'sfamily, so much is he interested in them. As for his daughters, he letsthem stray to the gardener's cottage, where they pick up theireducation. As for his wife, he beats her from time to time. If he payshis people one farthing more than he owes them he asks it back. "Afarthing a day is seven shillings a year; seven shillings a year is theinterest of seven guineas. Take care of your farthings, old Tinker, andyour guineas will come quite natural. He never gave away a farthing inhis life," growled Tinker. "Never, and never will: it is against myprinciple." He is impudent, brutal, coarse, stingy, shrewd, extravagant;but is courted by ministers, is a high-sheriff, honored, powerful, herolls in a gilded carriage, and is one of the pillars of the State.

These are the rich; probably money has corrupted them. Let us look for apoor aristocrat, free from temptations; his lofty mind, left to itself,will display all its native beauty. Sir Francis Clavering is in thiscase. He has played, drunk, and supped until he has nothing more left.Transactions at the gambling-table speedily effected his ruin; he hadbeen forced to sell out of his regiment; had shown the white feather,and after frequenting all the billiard-rooms in Europe, been thrown intoprison by his uncourteous creditors. To get out he married agood-natured Indian widow, who outrages spelling, and whose money wasleft her by her father, a disreputable old lawyer and indigo-smuggler.Clavering ruins her, goes on his knees to obtain gold and pardon, swearson the Bible to contract no more debts, and when he goes out runsstraight to the money-lender. Of all the rascals that novelists haveever exhibited, he is the basest. He has neither resolution norcommon-sense; he is simply a man in a state of dissolution. He swallowsinsults like water, weeps, begs pardon, and begins again. He debaseshimself, prostrates himself, and the next moment swears and storms, tofall back into the depths of the extremest cowardice. He implores,threatens, and in the same quarter of an hour accepts the threatened manas his intimate confidant and friend:


"Now, ain't it hard that she won't trust me with a single tea-spoon;ain't it ungentlemanlike, Altamont? You know my lady's of lowbirth--that is--I beg your pardon--hem--that is, it's most cruel of hernot to show more confidence in me. And the very servants begin tolaugh--the dam scoundrels!... They don't answer my bell; and--and my manwas at Vauxhall last night with one of my dress shirts and my velvetwaistcoat on, I know it was mine--the confounded impudentblackguard!--and he went on dancing before my eyes, confound him! I'msure he'll live to be hanged--he deserves to be hanged--all thoseinfernal rascals of valets!"[288]


His conversation is a compound of oaths, whines, and ravings; he is nota man, but the wreck of a man: there survive in him but the discordantremains of vile passions, like the fragments of a crushed snake, which,unable to bite, bruise themselves and wriggle about in their slaver andmud. The sight of a banknote makes him launch blindly into a mass ofentreaties and lies. The future has disappeared for him, he sees but thepresent. He will sign a bill for twenty pounds at three months to get asovereign. His degradation has become imbecility; his eyes are shut; hedoes not see that his protestations excite mistrust, that his liesexcite disgust, that by his very baseness he loses the fruit of hisbaseness; so that when he comes in, a man feels a violent inclination totake the honorable baronet, the member of Parliament, the proudinhabitant of a historic house, by the neck, and pitch him, like abasket of rubbish, from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

We must stop. A volume would not exhaust the list of perfections whichThackeray discovers in the English aristocracy. The Marquis ofFarintosh, twenty-fifth of his name, an illustrious fool, healthy andfull of self-conceit, whom all the women ogle and all the men bow to;Lady Kew, an old woman of the world, tyrannical and corrupted, at enmitywith her daughter, and a match-maker; Sir Barnes Newcome, one of themost cowardly of men, the wickedest, the falsest, the best-abused andbeaten who has ever smiled in a drawing-room or spoken in Parliament. Isee only one estimable character, and he is not in the front rank--LordKew, who, after many follies and excesses, is touched by his Puritan oldmother, and repents. But these portraits are sweet, compared to thedissertations; the commentator is still more bitter than the artist; hewounds more in speaking than in making his personages speak. We mustread his biting diatribes against marriages for the sake of money orrank, and against the sacrifice of girls; against the inequality ofinheritance and the envy of younger sons; against the education of thenobles, and their traditionary insolence; against the purchase ofcommissions in the army, the isolation of classes, the outrages onnature and family, invented by society and law. Behind this philosophyis shown a second gallery of portraits as insulting as the first: forinequality, having corrupted the great men whom it exalts, corrupts thesmall men whom it degrades; and the spectacle of envy or baseness in thesmall, is as ugly as that of insolence or despotism in the great.According to Thackeray, English society is a compound of flatteries andintrigues, each striving to hoist himself up a step higher on the socialladder and to push back those who are climbing. To be received at court,to see one's name in the papers amongst a list of illustrious guests, togive a cup of tea at home to some stupid and bloated peer; such is thesupreme limit of human ambition and felicity. For one master there arealways a hundred lackeys. Major Pendennis, a resolute man, cool andclever, has contracted this leprosy. His happiness to-day is to bow to alord. He is only at peace in a drawing-room, or in a park of thearistocracy. He craves to be treated with that humiliating condescensionwherewith the great overwhelm their inferiors. He pockets lack ofattention with ease, and dines graciously at a noble board, where he isinvited twice in three years, to stop a gap. He leaves a man of geniusor a woman of wit to converse with a titled fool or a tipsy lord. Heprefers being tolerated at a Marquis's to being respected at acommoner's. Having exalted these fine dispositions into principles, heinculcates them on his nephew, whom he loves, and to push him on in theworld offers him in marriage a basely acquired fortune and the daughterof a convict. Others glide through the proud drawing-rooms, not withparasitic manners, but on account of their splendid balance at thebanker's. Once upon a time in France the nobles manured their estateswith the money of citizens; now, in England, the citizens ennoble theirmoney by marrying a lady of noble birth. For a hundred thousand poundsto the father, Pump, the merchant, marries Lady Blanche Stiffneck, who,though married, remains my Lady. Naturally young Pump is scorned by her,as a tradesman, and moreover, hated for having made her half a woman ofthe people. He dare not see his own friends in his own house; they aretoo vulgar for his wife. He dare not visit the friends of his wife; theyare too high for him. He is his wife's butler, the butt of hisfather-in-law, the servant of his son, and consoles himself by thinkingthat his grandsons, when they become Lord Pump, will blush for him andnever mention his name.[289] A third means of entering the aristocracyis to ruin one's self, and never see anyone. This ingenious method isemployed by Mrs. Major Ponto in the country. She has an incomparablegoverness for her daughters, who thinks that Dante is called Alighieribecause he was born at Algiers, but who has educated two marchionessesand a countess.


"Some one wondered we were not enlivened by the appearance of some ofthe neighbours.--We can't in our position of life, we can't wellassociate with the attorney's family, as I leave you to suppose--andthe Doctor--one may ask one's medical man to one's table, certainly:but his family.--The people in that large red house just outsideof the town.--What! the _château-calicot._ That purse-proudex-linendraper.--The parson--Oh! he used to preach in a surplice. He isa Puseyite!"


This sensible Ponto family yawns in solitude for six months, and therest of the year enjoys the gluttony of the country squires whom theyregale, and the rebuffs of the great lords whom they visit. The son, anofficer of the hussars, requires to be kept in luxury so as to be on anequality with his noble comrades, and his tailor receives above threehundred a year out of the nine hundred which make up the whole familyincome.[290] I should never end, if I recounted all the villainies andmiseries which Thackeray attributes to the aristocratic spirit, thedivision of families, the pride of the ennobled sister, the jealousy ofthe sister who has not been ennobled, the degradation of the characterstrained up from school to reverence the little lords, the abasem*nt ofthe daughters who strive to compass noble marriages, the rage ofsnubbed vanity, the meanness of the attentions offered, the triumph offolly, the scorn of talent, the consecrated injustice, the heartrendered unnatural, the morals perverted. Before this striking pictureof truth and genius, we need remember that this injurious inequality isthe cause of a wholesome liberty, that social injustice producespolitical welfare, that a class of hereditary nobles is a class ofhereditary statesmen, that in a century and a half England has had ahundred and fifty years of good government, that in a century and a halfFrance has had a hundred and fifty years of bad government, that all iscompensated, and that it is possible to pay dearly for capable leaders,a consistent policy, free elections, and the control of the governmentby the nation. We must also remember that this talent, founded onintense reflection, concentrated in moral prejudices, could not but havetransformed the picture of manners into a systematic and combativesatire, exasperate satire into calculated and implacable animosity,blacken human nature, and attack again and again with studied,redoubled, and natural hatred, the chief vice of his country and of histime.


Part II.--The Artist


Section I--The Art of Thackeray


In literature as well as in politics, we cannot have everything.Talents, like happiness, do not always follow suit. Whateverconstitution it selects, a people is always half unhappy; whatevergenius he has, a writer is always half impotent. We cannot preserve atonce more than a single attitude. To transform the novel is to deformit; he who, like Thackeray, gives to the novel satire for its object,ceases to give it art for its rule, and the complete strength of thesatirist is the weakness of the novelist.

What is a novelist? In my opinion he is a psychologist, who naturallyand involuntarily sets psychology at work; he is nothing else, nor more.He loves to picture feelings, to perceive their connections, theirprecedents, their consequences; and he indulges in this pleasure. In hiseyes they are forces, having various directions and magnitudes. Abouttheir justice or injustice he troubles himself little. He introducesthem in characters, conceives the dominant quality, perceives the traceswhich this leaves on the others, marks the discordant or harmoniousinfluences of temperament, of education, of occupation, and labors tomanifest the invisible world of inward inclinations and dispositions bythe visible world of outward words and actions. To this is his laborreduced. Whatever these bents are, he cares little. A genuine paintersees with pleasure a well-shaped arm and vigorous muscles, even if theybe employed in knocking down a man. A genuine novelist enjoys thecontemplation of the greatness of a harmful sentiment, or the organizedmechanism of a pernicious character. He has sympathy with talent,because it is the only faculty which exactly copies nature; occupied inexperiencing the emotions of his personages, he only dreams of markingtheir vigor, kind, and mutual action. He represents them to us as theyare, whole, not blaming, not punishing, not mutilating them; hetransfers them to us intact and separate, and leaves to us the right ofjudging, if we desire it. His whole effort is to make them visible, tounravel the types darkened and altered by the accidents andimperfections of real life, to set in relief grand human passions, to beshaken by the greatness of the beings whom he animates, to raise us outof ourselves by the force of his creations. We recognize art in thiscreative power, impartial and universal as nature, freer and more potentthan nature, taking up the rough-drawn or disfigured work of its rivalin order to correct its faults and give effect to its conceptions.

All is changed by the intervention of satire; and more particularly, thepart of the author. When, in an ordinary novel, he speaks in his ownname, it is to explain a sentiment or mark the cause of a faculty; in asatirical novel it is to give us moral advice. It has been seen to howmany lessons Thackeray subjects us. That they are good ones, no onedisputes; but at least they take the place of useful explanations. Athird of a volume, being occupied by warnings, is lost to art. Summonedto reflect on our faults, we know the character less. The authordesignedly neglects a hundred delicate shades which he might havediscovered and shown to us. The character, less complete, is lesslifelike; the interest, less concentrated, is less lively. Turned awayfrom it, instead of brought back to it, our eyes wander and forget it;instead of being absorbed, we are absent in mind. And, what is worse, weend by experiencing some degree of weariness. We judge these sermonstrue, but repeated till we are sick of them, we fancy ourselveslistening to college lectures, or handbooks for the use of youngpriests. We find similar things in books with gilt edges and picturedcovers, given as Christmas presents to children. Are we much rejoiced tolearn that marriages for the sake of money or rank have theirinconvenience, that in the absence of a friend we readily speak evil ofhim, that a son often afflicts his mother by his irregularities, thatselfishness is an ugly fault? All this is true; but it is too true. Welisten in order to hear new things. These old moralities, though usefuland well spoken, smack of the paid pedant, so common in England, theclergyman in white tie, standing bolt upright in his room, and droning,for three hundred a year, daily admonition to the young gentlemen whomparents have sent to his educational hot-house.

This regular presence of a moral intention spoils the novel as well asthe novelist. It must be confessed, a volume of Thackeray has the cruelmisfortune of recalling the novels of Miss Edgeworth or the stories ofCanon Schmidt. Here is one which shows us Pendennis proud, extravagant,hare-brained, lazy, shamefully plucked at his examination; whilst hiscompanions, less intellectual but more studious, take high places inhonors, or pass with decent credit. This edifying contrast does not warnus; we do not wish to go back to school; we shut the book, and recommendit, like medicine, to our little cousin. Other puerilities, lessshocking, end in wearying us just as much. We do not like the prolongedcontrast between good Colonel Newcome and his wicked relatives. TheColonel gives money and cakes to every child, money and shawls to allhis cousins, money and kind words to all the servants; and these peopleonly answer him with coldness and coarseness. It is clear, from thefirst page, that the author would persuade us to be affable, and we kickagainst the too matter-of-course invitation; we don't want to be scoldedin a novel; we are in a bad humor with this invasion of pedagogy. Wewanted to go to the theatre; we have been taken in by the outside bill,and we growl _sotto voce_ to find ourselves at a sermon.

Let us console ourselves: the characters suffer as much as we; theauthor spoils them in preaching to us; they like us, are sacrificed tosatire. He does not animate beings, he lets puppets act. He onlycombines their actions to make them ridiculous, odious, ordisappointing. After a few scenes we recognize the spring, andthenceforth we are always foreseeing when it is going to act. Thisforesight deprives the character of half its truth, and the reader ofhalf his illusion. Perfect fooleries, complete mischances, unmitigatedwickednesses, are rare things. The events and feelings of real life arenot so arranged as to make such calculated contrasts and such clevercombinations. Nature does not invent these dramatic effects: we soon seethat we are before the foot-lights, in front of bedizened actors, whosewords are written for them, and their gestures arranged.

To bring before our mind exactly this alteration of truth and art, wemust compare two characters step by step. There is a personage,unanimously recognized as Thackeray's masterpiece, Becky Sharp, anintriguante and a bad character, but a superior and well-mannered woman.Let us compare her to a similar personage of Balzac, in "Les ParentsPauvres," Valérie Marneffe. The difference of the two works willexhibit the difference of the two literatures. As the English excel asmoralists and satirists, so the French excel as artists andnovel-writers.

Balzac loves his Valérie; this is why he explains and magnifies her. Hedoes not labor to make her odious, but intelligible. He gives her theeducation of a prostitute, a "husband as depraved as a prison full ofgalley-slaves," luxurious habits, recklessness, prodigality, womanlynerves, a pretty woman's dislikes, an artist's rapture. Thus born andbred, her corruption is natural. She needs elegance, as she needs air.She takes it, no matter whence, remorselessly, as we drink water fromthe first stream. She is not worse than her profession: she has all itsinnate and acquired excuses, of mood, tradition, circ*mstance,necessity; she has all its powers, abandon, charms, mad gayety,alternations of triviality and elegance, sudden audacity, comicaldevices, magnificence and success. She is perfect of her kind, like aproud and dangerous horse, which we admire while we fear it. Balzacdelights to paint her only for the sake of his picture. He dresses her,lays on for her her patches, arranges her garments, trembles before herdancing-girl's motions. He details her gestures with as much pleasureand truth as if he were her waiting-woman. His artistic curiosity is fedon the least traits of character and manners. After a violent scene, hepauses at a spare moment, and shows her idle, stretched on her couchlike a cat, yawning and basking in the sun. Like a physiologist, heknows that the nerves of the beast of prey are softened, and that itonly ceases to bound in order to sleep. But what bounds! She dazzles,fascinates; she defends herself successively against three provedaccusations, refutes evidence, alternately humiliates and glorifiesherself, rails, adores, demonstrates, changing a score of times hervoice, her ideas, tricks, and all this in one quarter of an hour. An oldshopkeeper, protected against emotions by trade and avarice, trembles ather speech: "She sets her feet on my heart, crushes me, stuns me. Ah,what a woman! When she looks cold at me, it is worse than astomach-ache.... How she tripped down the steps, making them bright withher looks!" Everywhere passion, force, atrocity, conceal the uglinessand corruption. Attacked in her fortune by a respectable woman, Mme.Marneffe gets up an incomparable comedy, played with a great poet'seloquence and exaltation, and broken suddenly by the burst of laughterand coarse triviality of a porter's daughter on the stage. Style andaction are raised to the height of an epic. "When the words 'Hulot andtwo hundred thousand francs' were mentioned, Valérie gave a passinglook from between her two long eyelids, like the glare of a cannonthrough its smoke." A little further, caught in the act by one of herlovers, a Brazilian, and quite capable of killing her, she blenched foran instant; but recovering the same moment, she checked her tears. "Shecame to him, and looked so fiercely that her eyes glittered likedaggers." Danger roused and inspired her, and her excited nerves propelgenius and courage to her brain. To complete the picture of thisimpetuous nature, superior and unstable, Balzac at the last moment makesher repent. To proportion her fortune to her vice, he leads hertriumphantly through the ruin, death, or despair of twenty people, andshatters her in the supreme moment by a fall as terrible as her success.

Before such passion and logic, what is Becky Sharp? A calculatingplotter, cool in temperament, full of common-sense, an ex-governess,having parsimonious habits, a genuine woman of business, always proper,always active, unsexed, void of the voluptuous softness and diabolicaltransport which can give brilliancy to her character and charm to herprofession. She is not a prostitute, but a petticoated and heartlessbarrister. Nothing is more fit to inspire aversion. The author loses noopportunity of expressing his own; through two-thirds of the book hepursues her with sarcasms and misfortunes; he puts only false words,perfidious actions, revolting sentiments, in her mouth. From her comingon the stage, at the age of seventeen, treated with rare kindness by asimple-minded family, she lies from morning to night, and by coarseexpedients tries to fish there for a husband. The better to crush her,Thackeray himself sets forth all this baseness, these lies, andindecencies. Rebecca ever so gently presses the hand of fat Joseph: "Itwas an advance, and as such, perhaps some ladies of indisputablecorrectness and gentility will condemn the action as immodest; but, yousee, poor dear Rebecca had all this work to do for herself. If a personis too poor to keep a servant, though ever so elegant, he must sweep hisown rooms: if a dear girl has no dear mamma to settle matters with theyoung man, she must do it for herself."[291] Whilst Becky was agoverness at Sir Pitt Crawley's, she gains the friendship of her pupils,by reading to them the tales of Crébillon the younger, and of Voltaire.She writes to her friend Amelia: "The rector's wife paid me a score ofcompliments about the progress my pupils made, and thought, no doubt, totouch my heart--poor, simple, country soul! as if I cared a fig about mypupils."[292] This phrase is an imprudence hardly natural in so carefula person, and the author adds it gratuitously to her part, to make itodious. A little further Rebecca is grossly adulatory and mean to oldMiss Crawley; and her pompous periods, manifestly false, instead ofexciting admiration, raise disgust. She is selfish and lying to herhusband, and knowing that he is on the field of battle, busies herselfonly in getting together a little purse. Thackeray designedly dwells onthe contrast: the heavy dragoon "went through the various items of hislittle catalogue of effects, striving to see how they might be turnedinto money for his wife's benefit, in case any accident should befallhim. Faithful to his plan of economy, the captsin dressed himself in hisoldest and shabbiest uniform" to get killed in:


"And this famous dandy of Windsor and Hyde Park went off on hiscampaign... with something like a prayer on the lips for the woman hewas leaving. He took her up from the ground, and held her in his armsfor a minute, tight pressed against his strong beating heart.. His facewas purple and his eyes dim, as he put her down and left her.... AndRebecca, as we have said, wisely determined not to give way tounavailing sentimentality on her husband's departure.... 'What a frightI seem,' she said, examining herself in the glass, 'and how pale thispink makes one look.' So she divested herself of this pink raiment;...then she put her bouquet of the ball into a glass of water, and went tobed, and slept very comfortably."[293]


From these examples, judge of the rest. Thackeray's whole business is todegrade Rebecca Sharp. He convicts her of being harsh to her son,robbing tradesmen, deceiving everybody. And after all, he makes her adupe; whatever she does, comes to nothing. Compromised by the advanceswhich she has lavished on foolish Joseph, she momentarily expects anoffer of marriage. A letter comes, announcing that he has gone toScotland, and presents his compliments to Miss Rebecca. Three monthslater she secretly marries Captain Rawdon, a poor dolt. Sir PittCrawley, Rawdon's father, throws himself at her feet, with four thousanda year, and offers her his hand. In her consternation she weepsdespairingly. "Married, married, married already!" is her cry; and it isenough to pierce sensitive souls. Later, she tries to win hersister-in-law by passing for a good mother. "Why do you kiss me here?"asks her son; "you never kiss me at home." The consequence is, completediscredit; once more she is lost. The Marquis of Steyne, her lover,presents her to society, loads her with jewels, banknotes, and has herhusband appointed to some island in the East. The husband enters at thewrong moment, knocks my lord down, restores the diamonds, and drives heraway. Wandering on the Continent, she tries five or six times to growrich and appear honest. Always, at the moment of success, accidentbrings her to the ground. Thackeray sports with her as a child with aco*ckchafer, letting her hoist herself painfully to the top of theladder, in order to pluck her down by the foot and make her tumbledisgracefully. He ends by dragging her through taverns and greenrooms,and pointing his finger at her from a distance, as a gamester, adrunkard: is unwilling to touch her further. On the last page heinstalls her vulgarly in a small fortune, plundered by doubtful devices,and leaves her in bad odor, uselessly hypocritical, abandoned to theshadiest society. Beneath this storm of irony and contempt, the heroineis dwarfed, illusion is weakened, interest diminished, art attenuated,poetry disappears, and the character, more useful, has become less trueand beautiful.


Section II.--Portrait of Henry Esmond.--Historical Talent


Suppose that a happy chance lays aside these causes of weakness, andkeeps open these sources of talent. Amongst all these transformed novelsappears a single genuine one, elevated, touching, simple, original: thehistory of Henry Esmond. Thackeray has not written a less popular nor amore beautiful story.

This book comprises the fictitious memoirs of Colonel Esmond, acontemporary of Queen Anne, who, after a troubled life in Europe,retired with his wife to Virginia, and became a planter there. Esmondspeaks; and the necessity of adapting the tone to the charactersuppresses the satirical style, the reiterated irony, the bittersarcasm, the scenes contrived to ridicule folly, the events combined tocrush vice. Thenceforth we enter the real world; we let illusion guideus, we rejoice in a varied spectacle, easily unfolded, without moralintention. We are no more harassed by personal advice; we remain in ourplace, calm, sure, no actor's finger pointed at us to warn us at aninteresting moment that the piece is played on our account, and to do usgood. At the same time, and unconsciously, we are at ease. Quittingbitter satire, pure narration charms us; we take rest from hating. Weare like an army surgeon, who, after a day of fights and manœuvres,sits on a hillock and beholds the motion in the camp, the procession ofcarriages, and the distant horizon softened by the sombre tints ofevening.

On the other hand, the long reflections, which seem vulgar and out ofplace under the pen of the writer, become natural and interesting in themouth of the chief character in this novel. Esmond is an old man,writing for his children, and remarking upon his experience. He has aright to judge life; his maxims are suitable to his years: having passedinto sketches of manners, they lose their pedantic air; we hear themcomplacently, and perceive, as we turn the page, the calm and sad smilewhich has dictated them.

With the reflections we endure the details. Elsewhere, the minutedescriptions appear frequently puerile; we blamed the author fordwelling, with the preciseness of an English painter, on schooladventures, coach scenes, inn episodes; we thought that this intensestudiousness, unable, to grasp lofty themes of art, was compelled tostoop to microscopical observations and photographic details. Here,everything is changed. A writer of memoirs has a right to record hischildish impressions. His distant recollections, mutilated remnants of aforgotten life, have a peculiar charm; we accompany him back to infancy.A Latin lesson, a soldier's march, a ride behind someone, becomeimportant events embellished by distance; we enjoy his peaceful andfamiliar pleasure, and feel with him a vast sweetness in seeing oncemore, with so much ease and in so clear a light, the well-known phantomsof the past. Minute detail adds to the interest in adding to thenaturalness. Stories of campaign life, random opinions on the books andevents of the time, a hundred petty scenes, a thousand petty facts,manifestly useless, are on that very account illusory. We forget theauthor, we listen to the old Colonel, we find ourselves carried back ahundred years, and we have the extreme pleasure, so uncommon, ofbelieving in what we read.

Whilst the subject obviates the faults, or turns them into virtues, itoffers for these virtues the very finest theme. A powerful reflectionhas decomposed and reproduced the manners of the time with a mostastonishing fidelity. Thackeray knows Swift, Steele, Addison, St. John,Marlboro, as well as the most attentive and learned historian. Hedepicts their habits, household conversation, like Walter Scott himself;and, what Walter Scott could not do, he imitates their style so that weare deceived by it; and many of their authentic phrases, inwoven withthe text, cannot be distinguished from it. This perfect imitation is notlimited to a few select scenes, but pervades the whole volume. ColonelEsmond writes as people wrote in the year 1700. The feat, I was going tosay the genius, is as great as the attempt of Paul Louis Courier, inimitating successfully the style of ancient Greece. The style of Esmondhas the calmness, the exactness, the simplicity, the solidity of theclassics. Our modern temerities, our prodigal imagery, our jostledfigures, our habit of gesticulation, our striving for effect, all ourbad literary customs have disappeared. Thackeray must have gone back tothe primitive sense of words, discovered there forgotten shades ofmeaning, recomposed an obliterated state of intellect and a lost speciesof ideas, to make his copy approach so closely to the original. Theimagination of Dickens himself would have failed in this. To attempt andaccomplish this needed all the sagacity, calmness, and power ofknowledge and meditation.

But the masterpiece of the work is the character of Esmond. Thackerayhas endowed him with that tender kindliness, almost feminine, which heeverywhere extols above all other human virtues, and that self-masterywhich is the effect of habitual reflection. These are the finestqualities of his psychological armory; each by its contrast increasesthe value of the other. We see a hero, but original and new, English inhis cool resolution, modern by the delicacy and sensibility of hisheart.

Henry Esmond is a poor child, the supposed bastard of Lord Castlewood,brought up by his heirs. In the opening chapter we are touched by themodulated and noble emotion which we retain to the end of the work. LadyCastlewood, on her first visit to the castle, comes to him in the"book-room, or yellow gallery"; being informed by the house-keeper whothe little boy is, she blushes and walks back; the next instant, touchedby remorse, she returns:


"With a look of infinite pity and tenderness in her eyes, she took hishand again, placing her other fair hand on his head, and saying somewords to him, which were so kind, and said in a voice so sweet, that theboy, who had never looked upon so much beauty before, felt as if thetouch of a superior being or angel smote him down to the ground, andkissed the fair protecting hand as he knelt on one knee. To the verylast hour of his life, Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke andlooked, the rings on her fair hands, the very scent of her robe, thebeam of her eyes lighting up with surprise and kindness, her lipsblooming in a smile, the sun making a golden halo round herhair.[294]... There seemed, as the boy thought, in every look or gestureof this fair creature, an angelical softness and bright pity--in motionor repose she seemed gracious alike; the tone of her voice, though sheuttered words ever so trivial, gave him a pleasure that amounted almostto anguish. It cannot be called love, that a lad of twelve years of age,little more than a menial, felt for an exalted lady, his mistress; butit was worship."[295]


This noble and pure feeling is expanded by a series of devoted actions,related with extreme simplicity; in the least words, in the turn of aphrase, in a chance conversation, we perceive a great heart,passionately grateful, never tiring of doing a kindness, or a service,sympathizing, friendly, giving advice, defending the honor of the familyand the fortune of the children. Twice Esmond interposed between LordCastle wood and Mohun, the duellist; it was not his fault that themurderer's weapon did not reach his own breast. When Lord Castlewood onhis death-bed revealed that Esmond was not a bastard, but that the titleand fortune of Castlewood were lawfully his, the young man, without aword, burned the confession which would have rescued him from thepoverty and humiliation in which he had so long pined. Insulted by theLady Castlewood, sick of a wound received by his kinsman's side, accusedof ingratitude and cowardice, he persisted in his silence with thejustification in his hand: "And when the struggle was over in Harry'smind, a glow of righteous happiness filled it; and it was with gratefultears in his eyes that he returned thanks to God for that decision whichhe had been enabled to make."[296] Later, being in love, but sure not tomarry if his birth remained under a cloud in the eyes of the world,having repaid his benefactress, whose son he had saved, entreated by herto resume the name which belonged to him, he smiled sweetly, and gravelyreplied:


"'It was settled twelve years since, by my dear lord's bedside,' saysColonel Esmond. 'The children must know nothing of this. Frank and hisheirs after him must bear our name. 'Tis his rightfully; I have not evena proof of that marriage of my father and mother, though my poor lord,on His death-bed, told me that Father Holt had brought such a proof toCastlewood. I would not seek it when I was abroad. I went and looked atmy poor mother's grave in her convent. What matter to her now? No courtof law on earth, upon my mere word, would deprive my Lord Viscount andset me up. I am the head of the house, dear lady; but Frank is Viscountof Castlewood still. And rather than disturb him, I would turn monk, ordisappear in America.'

"As he spoke so to his dearest mistress, for whom he would have beenwilling to give up his life, or to make any sacrifice any day, the fondcreature flung herself down on her knees before him, and kissed both hishands in an outbreak of passionate love and gratitude, such as could notbut melt his heart, and make him feel very proud and thankful that Godhad given him the power to show his love for her, and to prove it bysome little sacrifice on his own part. To be able to bestow benefits orhappiness on those one loves is sure the greatest blessing conferredupon a man--and what wealth or name, or gratification of ambition orvanity, could compare with the pleasure Esmond now had of being able toconfer some kindness upon his best and dearest friends?

"'Dearest saint,' says he, 'purest soul, that has had so much to suffer,that has blest the poor lonely orphan with such a treasure of love. 'Tisfor me to kneel, not for you: 'tis for me to be thankful that I can makeyou happy. Hath my life any other aim? Blessed be God that I can serveyou!'"[297]


This noble tenderness seems still more touching when contrasted with thesurrounding circ*mstances. Esmond goes to the wars, serves a politicalparty, lives amidst dangers and bustle, judging revolutions and politicsfrom a lofty point of view; he becomes a man of experience, wellinformed, learned, far-sighted, capable of great enterprises, possessingprudence and courage, harassed by his own thoughts and griefs, ever sadand ever strong. He ends by accompanying to England the Pretender,half-brother of Queen Anne, and keeps him, disguised, at Castlewood,awaiting the moment when the queen, dying and won over to the Torycause, should declare him her heir. This young prince, a true Stuart,pays court to Lord Castlewood's daughter Beatrix, whom Esmond loves, andgets out at night to join her. Esmond, who waits for him, sees the crownlost and his house dishonored. His insulted honor and outraged lovebreak forth in a proud and terrible rage. Pale, with set teeth, hisbrain on fire by four sleepless nights of anxiety, he keeps his mindclear, and his voice calm; he explains to the prince with perfectetiquette, and with the respectful coldness of an official messenger,the folly which the prince has committed, and the villainy which theprince contemplated. The scene must be read to show how much superiorityand passion this calmness and bitterness imply:


"'What mean you, my lord?' says the Prince, and muttered something abouta _guet-à-pens_, which Esmond caught up.

"'The snare, Sir,' said he, 'was not of our laying; it is not we thatinvited you. We came to avenge, and not to compass, the dishonor of ourfamily.'

"'Dishonor! _Morbleu!_ there has been no dishonor,' says the Prince,turning scarlet, 'only a little harmless playing.'

"'That was meant to end seriously.'

"'I swear,' the Prince broke out impetuously, 'upon the honor of agentleman, my lords'--

"'That we arrived in time. No wrong hath been done, Frank,' says ColonelEsmond, turning round to young Castlewood, who stood at the door as thetalk was going on. 'See! here is a paper whereon his Majesty hathdeigned to commence some verses in honor, or dishonor, of Beatrix. Hereis "Madame" and "Flamme, Cruelle" and "Rebelle," and "Amour" and"Jour," in the Royal writing and spelling. Had the Gracious lover beenhappy, he had not passed his time in sighing.' In fact, and actually ashe was speaking, Esmond cast his eyes down towards the table, and saw apaper on which my young Prince had been scrawling a madrigal, that wasto finish his charmer on the morrow.

"'Sir,' says the Prince, burning with rage (he had assumed his Royalcoat unassisted by this time), 'did I come here to receive insults?'

"'To confer them, may it please your Majesty,' says the Colonel, with avery low bow, 'and the gentlemen of our family are come to thank you.'

"'_Malédiction!_' says the young man, tears starting into his eyes withhelpless rage and mortification. 'What will you with me, gentlemen?'

"'If your Majesty will please to enter the next apartment,' says Esmond,preserving his grave tone, 'I have some papers there which I wouldgladly submit to you, and by your permission I will lead the way;' andtaking the taper up, and backing before the Prince with very greatceremony, Mr. Esmond passed into the little Chaplain's room, throughwhich we had just entered into the house:--'Please to set a chair forhis Majesty, Frank,' says the Colonel to his companion, who wonderedalmost as much at this scene, and was as much puzzled by it, as theother actor in it. Then going to the crypt over the mantelpiece, theColonel opened it, and drew thence the papers which so long had lainthere.

"'Here, may it please your Majesty,' says he, 'is the Patent of Marquissent over by your Royal Father at St. Germain's to Viscount Castlewood,my father: here is the witnessed certificate of my father's marriage tomy mother, and of my birth and christening; I was christened of thatreligion of which your sainted sire gave all through life so shiningexample. These are my titles, dear Frank, and this what I do with them:here go Baptism and Marriage, and here the Marquisate and the AugustSign-Manual, with which your predecessor was pleased to honor our race.'And as Esmond spoke he set the papers burning in the brazier. 'You willplease, sir, to remember,' he continued, 'that our family hath ruineditself by fidelity to yours; that my grandfather spent his estate, andgave his blood and his son to die for your service; that my dear lord'sgrandfather (for lord you are now, Frank, by right and title too) diedfor the same cause; that my poor kinswoman, my father's second wife,after giving away her honor to your wicked perjured race, sent all herwealth to the King, and got in return that precious title that lies inashes, and this inestimable yard of blue riband. I lay this at yourfeet, and stamp upon it: I draw this sword, and break it and deny you;and had you completed the wrong you designed us, by Heaven I would havedriven it through your heart, and no more pardoned you than your fatherpardoned Monmouth.'"[298]


Two pages later he speaks thus of his marriage to Lady Castlewood:


"That happiness which hath subsequently crowned it, cannot be written inwords; 'tis of its nature sacred and secret, and not to be spoken of,though the heart be ever so full of thankfulness, save to Heaven and theOne ear alone--to one fond being, the truest and tenderest and purestwife ever man was blessed with. As I think of the immense happinesswhich was in store for me, and of the depth and intensity of that lovewhich, for so many years, hath blessed me, I own to a transport ofwonder and gratitude for such a boon--nay, am thankful to have beenendowed with a heart capable of feeling and knowing the immense beautyand value of the gift which God hath bestowed upon me. Sure, love,_vincit omnia_, is immeasurably above all ambition, more precious thanwealth, more noble than name. He knows not life who knows not that: hehath not felt the highest faculty of the soul who hath not enjoyed it.In the name of my wife I write the completion of hope, and the summit ofhappiness. To have such a love is the one blessing, in comparison withwhich all earthly joy is of no value; and to think of her, is to praiseGod."


A character capable of such contrasts is a lofty work; it is to beremembered that Thackeray has produced no other; we regret that moralintentions have perverted these fine literary faculties; and we deplorethat satire has robbed art of such talent.


Section III.--Literature the Definition of Man


Who is he; and what is the value of this literature of which he is oneof the princes? At bottom, like every literature, it is a definition ofman; and to judge it, we must compare it with man. We can do so now; wehave just studied a mind, Thackeray himself; we have considered hisfaculties, their connections, results, their different degrees; we havebefore our eyes a model of human nature. We have a right to judge of thecopy by the model, and to control the definition which his novels laydown by the definition which his character furnishes.

The two definitions are contrary, and his portrait is a criticism on histalent. We have seen that in him the same faculties produce thebeautiful and the ugly, force and weakness, success and failure; thatmoral reflection, after having provided him with every satirical power,debases him in art; that, after having spread over his contemporarynovels a tone of vulgarity and falseness, it raises his historical novelto the level of the finest productions; that the same constitution ofmind teaches him the sarcastic and violent, as well as the modulated andsimple style, the bitterness and harshness of hate with the effusion anddelicacy of love. The evil and the good, the beautiful and the ugly, therepulsive and the agreeable, are in him then but remoter effects, ofslight importance, born of changing circ*mstances, acquired andfortuitous qualities, not essential and primitive, different forms whichdifferent streams present in the same current. So it is with other men.Doubtless moral qualities are of the first rank; they are the motivepower of civilization, and constitute the nobleness of the individual;society exists by them alone, and by them alone man is great. But ifthey are the finest fruit of the human plant, they are not its root;they give us our value, but do not constitute our elements. Neither thevices nor the virtues of man are his nature; to praise or to blame himis not to know him; approbation or disapprobation does not define him;the names of good or bad tell us nothing of what he is. Put the robberCartouche in an Italian court of the fifteenth century: he would be agreat statesman. Transport this nobleman, stingy and narrow-minded, intoa shop; he will be an exemplary tradesman. This public man, ofinflexible probity, is in his drawing-room an intolerable coxcomb. Thisfather of a family, so humane, is an idiotic politician. Change a virtuein its circ*mstances, and it becomes a vice; change a vice in itscirc*mstances, and it becomes a virtue. Regard the same quality from twosides: on one it is a fault, on the other a merit. The essential man isfound concealed far below these moral badges; they only point out theuseful or noxious effect of our inner constitution; they do not revealour inner constitution. They are safety or advertising lights attachedto our names, to warn the passer-by to avoid or approach us; they arenot the explanatory chart of our being. Our true essence consists in thecauses of our good or bad qualities, and these causes are discovered inthe temperament, the species and degree of imagination, the amount andvelocity of attention, the magnitude and direction of primitivepassions. A character is a force, like gravity, or steam, capable, as itmay happen, of pernicious or profitable effects, and which must bedefined otherwise than by the amount of the weight it can lift or thehavoc it can cause. It is therefore to ignore man, to reduce him, asThackeray and English literature generally do, to an aggregate ofvirtues and vices; it is to lose sight in him of all but the exteriorand social side; it is to neglect the inner and natural element. We willfind the same fault in English criticism, always moral, neverpsychological, bent on exactly measuring the degree of human honesty,ignorant of the mechanism of our sentiments and faculties; we will findthe same fault in English religion, which is but an emotion or adiscipline; in their philosophy, destitute of metaphysics; and if weascend to the source, according to the rule which derives vices fromvirtues, and virtues from vices, we will see all these weaknessesderived from their native energy, their practical education, and thatkind of severe and religious poetic instinct which has in time past madethem Protestant and Puritan.


[Footnote 264: "Vanity Fair." Unless the original octavo edition ismentioned, the translator has always used the collected edition ofThackeray's works in small octavo, 1855-1868, 14 vols.]

[Footnote 265: "Vanity Fair," ch. XIX.]

[Footnote 266: "Vanity Fair," ch. IX.]

[Footnote 267: Thackeray, in his "Book of Snobs," says: "Their usualEnglish expression of intense gloom and subdued agony."]

[Footnote 268: "The Edinburgh Review."]

[Footnote 269: See the character of Amelia in "Vanity Fair," and ofColonel Newcome in the "Newcomes."]

[Footnote 270: "The Book of Snobs," ch. XVI; On Literary Snobs.]

[Footnote 271: Stendhal says: "L'esprit et le génie perdent vingt-cinqpour cent de leur valeur en abordant en Angleterre."]

[Footnote 272: These remarks are only to be found in the octavoedition of "Pendennis."--Tr.]

[Footnote 273: "The History of Samuel Titmarsh and the Great HoggartyDiamond," ch. XI.]

[Footnote 274: Ibid. ch. IX.]

[Footnote 275: "The Book of Snobs," ch. I., The Snob playfully dealt with.]

[Footnote 276: "Pendennis," ch. LIV.]

[Footnote 277: Ibid. ch. LII.]

[Footnote 278: Ibid. ch. LIII.]

[Footnote 279: Ibid. ch. V.]

[Footnote 280: "Pendennis," ch. XXI. This passage is only found in theoctavo edition.--Tr.]

[Footnote 281: Ibid. ch. XXI.]

[Footnote 282: Ibid. ch. XXI. These words are only found in the octavoedition.--Tr.]

[Footnote 283: Ibid. ch. LI.]

[Footnote 284: See, for example, in the "Great Hoggarty Diamond," thedeath of the little child. The "Book of Snobs" ends thus: "Fun is good.Truth is still better, and Love best of all."]

[Footnote 285: "The Book of Snobs," last chapter.]

[Footnote 286: "Vanity Fair," ch. XLVIII. This passage is only found inthe original octavo edition.--Tr.]

[Footnote 287: "Vanity Fair," ch. XLIX.]

[Footnote 288: "Pendennis," ch. LX.]

[Footnote 289: "The Book of Snobs," ch. VIII; Great City Snobs.]

[Footnote 290: "The Book of Snobs," ch. XXVI; On Some Country Snobs.]

[Footnote 291: "Vanity Fair," ch. IV.]

[Footnote 292: Ibid. ch. XI.]

[Footnote 293: "Vanity Fair," ch. XXX.]

[Footnote 294: "The History of Henry Esmond," bk. I. ch. I.]

[Footnote 295: Ibid. bk. I. ch. VII.]

[Footnote 296: Ibid. bk. II. ch. I.]

[Footnote 297: "The History of Henry Esmond," bk. III. ch. II.]

[Footnote 298: "The History of Henry Esmond," bk. III. ch. XIII.]


CHAPTER THIRD


CRITICISM AND HISTORY--MACAULAY


Section I.--His Position in England


I shall not here attempt to write the life of Lord Macaulay. It can onlybe related twenty years hence, when his friends shall have put togetherall their recollections of him. As to what is public now, it seems to meuseless to recall it: everyone knows that his father was an abolitionistand a philanthropist; that Macaulay passed through a most brilliant andcomplete classical education; that at twenty-five his essay on Miltonmade him famous; that at thirty he entered Parliament, and took hisstanding there amongst the first orators; that he went to India toreform the law, and that on his return he was appointed to high offices;that on one occasion his liberal opinions in religious matters lost himhis seat in Parliament; that he was re-elected amidst universalcongratulations; that he continued to be the most celebrated publicistand the most accomplished writer of the Whig party; and that on thisground, towards the close of his life, the gratitude of his party andthe public admiration made him a British peer. It will be a finebiography to write--a life of honor and happiness, devoted to nobleideas, and occupied by manly enterprises; literary in the first place,but sufficiently charged with action and immersed in business to furnishsubstance and solidity to his eloquence and style, to form the observerside by side with the artist, and the thinker side by side with thewriter. On the present occasion I will only describe the thinker andwriter: I leave the life, I take his works; and first his Essays.


Section II.--His Essays


His Essays are a collection of articles from reviews: I confess to afondness for books of this kind. In the first place we can throw downthe volume after a score of pages, begin at the end, or in the middle;we are not its slave, but its master; we can treat it like a newspaper:in fact, it is the journal of a mind. In the second place, it ismiscellaneous: in turning over a page, we pass from the Renaissance tothe nineteenth century, from England to India: this diversity surprisesand pleases. Lastly, involuntarily, the author is indiscreet; hedisplays himself to us, keeping back nothing; it is a familiarconversation, and no conversation is worth so much as that of England'sgreatest historian. We are pleased to mark the origin of this generousand powerful mind, to discover what faculties have nourished his talent,what researches have shaped his knowledge, what opinions he formed onphilosophy, religion, the state, literature; what he was, and what hehas become; what he wishes, and what he believes.

Seated in an arm-chair, with our feet on the fender, we see little bylittle, as we turn over the leaves of the book, an animated andthoughtful face arise before us; the countenance assumes expression andclearness; the different features are mutually explained and lightenedup; presently the author lives again for us, and before us; we perceivethe causes and birth of all his thoughts, we foresee what he is going tosay; his bearing and mode of speech are as familiar to us as those of aman whom we see every day; his opinions correct and affect our own; heenters partly into our thoughts and our life; he is two hundred leaguesaway, and his book stamps his image on us, as the reflected light paintson the horizon the object from which it is emitted. Such is the charm ofbooks which deal with all kinds of subjects, which give the author'sopinions on all sorts of things, which lead us in all directions of histhoughts, and make us, so to speak, walk around his mind.

Macaulay treats philosophy in the English fashion, as a practical man.He is a disciple of Bacon, and sets him above all philosophers; hedecides that genuine science dates from him; that the speculations ofold thinkers are only witticisms; that for two thousand years the humanmind was on a wrong tack; that only since Bacon it has discovered thegoal to which it must turn, and the method by which it must arrivethere. This goal is utility. The object of knowledge is not theory, butapplication. The object of mathematicians is not the satisfaction of anidle curiosity, but the invention of machines calculated to alleviatehuman labor, to increase the power of subduing nature, to render lifemore secure, commodious, and happy. The object of astronomy is not tofurnish matter for vast calculations and poetical cosmogonies, but tosubserve geography and to guide navigation. The object of anatomy andthe zoological sciences is not to suggest eloquent systems on the natureof organization, or to set before the eyes the orders of the animalkingdom by an ingenious classification, but to conduct the surgeon'shand and the physician's prognosis. The object of every research andevery study is to diminish pain, to augment comfort, to ameliorate thecondition of man; theoretical laws are serviceable only in theirpractical use; the labors of the laboratory and the cabinet receivetheir sanction and value only through the use made of them by workshopsand mills; the tree of knowledge must be estimated only by its fruits.If we wish to judge of a philosophy, we must observe its effects; itsworks are not its books, but its acts. The philosophy of the ancientsproduced fine writings, sublime phrases, infinite disputes, hollowdreams, systems displaced by systems, and left the world as ignorant, asunhappy, and as wicked as it found it. That of Bacon producedobservations, experiments, discoveries, machines, entire arts andindustries:


"It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguisheddiseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given newsecurities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; ithas spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown toour fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven toearth; it has lighted up the night with the splendor of the day; it hasextended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power ofthe human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilateddistance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendlyoffices, all despatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to thedepths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into thenoxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirlalong without horses, and the ocean in ships which run ten knots an houragainst the wind."[299]


The first was consumed in solving unsolvable enigmas, fabricatingportraits of an imaginary sage, mounting from hypothesis to hypothesis,tumbling from absurdity to absurdity; it despised what was practicable,promised what was impracticable; and because it disregarded the limitsof the human mind, ignored its power. The other, measuring our force andweakness, diverted us from roads that were closed to us, to start us onroads that were open to us; it recognized facts and laws, because itresigned itself to remain ignorant of their essence and principles; itrendered man more happy because it has not pretended to render himperfect; it discovered great truths and produced great effects, becauseit had the courage and good sense to study small things, and to keep fora long time to petty vulgar experiments; it has become glorious andpowerful, because it deigned to become humble and useful. Formerly,science furnished only vain pretensions and chimerical conceptions,whilst it held itself far aloof from practical existence, and styleditself the sovereign of man. Now, science possesses acquired truths, thehope of loftier discoveries, an ever-increasing authority, because ithas entered upon active existence, and has declared itself the servantof man. Let it keep to its new functions; let it not try to penetratethe region of the invisible; let it renounce what must remain unknown;it does not contain its own issue, it is but a medium; man was not madefor it, but science was made for man; it is like the thermometers andpiles which it constructs for its own experiments; its whole glory,merit, and office, is to be an instrument:


"We have sometimes thought that an amusing fiction might be written, inwhich a disciple of Epictetus and a disciple of Bacon should beintroduced as fellow-travellers. They come to a village where thesmall-pox has just begun to rage, and find houses shut up, intercoursesuspended, the sick abandoned, mothers weeping in terror over theirchildren. The Stoic assures the dismayed population that there isnothing bad in the small-pox, and that to a wise man disease, deformity,death, the loss of friends, are not evils. The Baconian takes out alancet and begins to vaccinate. They find a body of miners in greatdismay. An explosion of noisome vapours had just killed many of thosewho were at work; and the survivors are afraid to venture into thecavern. The Stoic assures them that such an accident is nothingbut a mere ἀποπροηγμένον. The Baconian, who has no such fineword at his command, contents himself with devising a safety-lamp.They find a shipwrecked merchant wringing his hands on the shore.His vessel, with an inestimable cargo, had just gone down, and heis reduced in a moment from opulence to beggary. The Stoic exhortshim not to seek happiness in things which lie without himself,and repeats the whole chapter of Epictetus, πρὸς τοὺς τὴν αποριανδεδοικότας. The Baconian constructs a diving-bell, goes downin it, and returns with the most precious effects from the wreck. Itwould be easy to multiply illustrations of the difference between thephilosophy of thorns and the philosophy of fruit, the philosophy ofwords and the philosophy of works."[300]


It is not for me to discuss these opinions; it is for the reader toblame or praise them, if he sees fit: I do not wish to criticisedoctrines, but to depict a man; and truly nothing could be more strikingthan this absolute scorn for speculation, and this absolute love for thepractical. Such a mind is entirely suitable to the national genius: inEngland a barometer is still called a philosophical instrument;philosophy is there a thing unknown. The English have moralists,psychologists, but no metaphysicians: if there is one--Hamilton, forinstance--he is a sceptic in metaphysics; he has only read the Germanphilosophers to refute them; he regards speculative philosophy as anextravagance of visionaries, and is compelled to apologize to hisreaders for the strangeness of his subject, when he tries to make themunderstand somewhat of Hegel's conceptions. The positive and practicalEnglish, excellent politicians, administrators, fighters, and workers,are no more suited than the ancient Romans for the abstractions ofsubtle dialectics and grand systems; and Cicero, too, once excusedhimself when he tried to expound to his audience of senators and publicmen the deep and audacious deductions of the Stoics.


Section III.--His Critical Method


The only part of philosophy which pleases men of this kind is morality,because like them it is wholly practical, and only attends to actions.Nothing else was studied at Rome, and everyone knows what place it holdsin English philosophy: Hutcheson, Price, Ferguson, Wollaston, AdamSmith, Bentham, Reid, and many others, have filled the last century withdissertations and discussions on the rule of duty and the faculty whichdiscovers our duty; and Macaulay's Essays are a new example of thisnational and dominant inclination: his biographies are less portraitsthan judgments. What strictly is the degree of uprightness anddishonesty of the personage he describes, that is the important questionfor him; he makes all other questions refer to it; he applies himselfthroughout only to justify, excuse, accuse, or condemn. If he speaks ofLord Clive, Warren Hastings, Sir William Temple, Addison, Milton, or anyother man, he devotes himself, first of all, to measure exactly thenumber and greatness of their faults and virtues; he interrupts himself,in the midst of a narration, to examine whether the action which he isrelating is just or unjust; he considers it as a legist and a moralist,according to positive and natural law; he takes into account the stateof public opinion, the examples which surrounded the accused, theprinciples he professed, the education he has received; he bases hisopinion on analogies drawn from ordinary life, from the history of allpeoples, the laws of all countries; he brings forward so many proofs,such certain facts, such conclusive reasonings, that the best advocatemight find a model in him, and when at last he pronounces judgment, wethink we are listening to the summing up of a judge. If he analyzes aliterature--that of the Restoration, for instance--he impanels beforethe reader a sort of jury to judge it. He makes it appear at the bar,and reads the indictment; he then presents the plea of the defenders,who try to excuse its levities and indecencies: at last he begins tospeak in his turn, and proves that the arguments set forth are notapplicable to the case in question; that the accused writers havelabored effectually and with premeditation to corrupt morals; that theynot only employed unbecoming words, but that they designedly, and withdeliberate intent, represented unbecoming things; that they always tookcare to conceal the hatefulness of vice, to render virtue ridiculous, tomake adultery fashionable and a necessary exploit of a man of taste;that this intention was all the more manifest from its being in thespirit of the times, and that they were pandering to a crime of theirage. If I dare employ, like Macaulay, religious comparisons, I shouldsay that this criticism was like the Last Judgment, in which thediversity of talents, characters, ranks, employments, will disappearbefore the consideration of virtue and vice, and where there will be nomore artists, but a judge of the righteous and the wicked.

In France, criticism has a freer gait; it is less subservient tomorality, and more akin to art. When we try to relate a life, or paintthe character of a man, we more readily consider him as a simple subjectof painting or science: we only think of displaying the various feelingsof his heart, the connection of his ideas and the necessity of hisactions; we do not judge him, we only wish to represent him to the eyes,and make him intelligible to the reason. We are spectators, and nothingmore. What matters it if Peter or Paul is a rascal? that is the businessof his contemporaries: they suffered from his vices, and ought to thinkonly of despising and condemning him. Now we are beyond his reach, andhatred has disappeared with danger. At this distance, and in thehistoric perspective, I see in him but a mental machine, provided withcertain springs, animated by a primary impulse, affected by variouscirc*mstances. I calculate the play of his motives; I feel with him theimpact of obstacles; I see beforehand the curve which his motion willtrace out; I feel for him neither aversion nor disgust; I have leftthese feelings on the threshold of history, and I taste the very deepand pure pleasure of seeing a soul act after a definite law, in a fixedgroove, with all the variety of human passions, with the succession andconstraint, which the inner structure of man imposes on the externaldevelopment of his passions.

In a country where men are so much occupied by morality, and so littleby philosophy, there is much religion. For lack of natural theology theyhave a positive theology, and demand from the Bible the metaphysics notsupplied by reason. Macaulay is a Protestant; and though a very candidand liberal man, he at times retains the English prejudices against theRoman-Catholic religion.[301] Popery in England always passes for animpious idolatry and for a degrading servitude. After two revolutions,Protestantism, allied to liberty, seemed to be the religion of liberty;and Roman-Catholicism, allied to despotism, seemed the religion ofdespotism: the two doctrines have both assumed the name of the causewhich they supported. To the first has been transferred the love andveneration which were felt for the rights which it defended; on thesecond has been poured the scorn and hatred which were felt for theslavery which it would have introduced: political passions have inflamedreligious beliefs; Protestantism has been confounded with the victoriousfatherland, Roman-Catholicism, with the conquered enemy; prejudicessurvive when the strife is ended, and to this day English Protestants donot feel for the doctrines of Roman Catholics the same good-will orimpartiality which French Roman Catholics feel for the doctrines ofProtestants.

But these English opinions are moderated in Macaulay by an ardent lovefor justice. He is a liberal, in the largest and best sense of the word.He demands that all citizens should be equal before the law, that men ofall sects should be declared capable to fill all public functions--thatRoman Catholics and Jews may, as well as Lutherans, Anglicans, andCalvinists, sit in Parliament. He refutes Mr. Gladstone and thepartisans of State religion with incomparable ardor and eloquence,abundance of proof, and force of argument; he clearly proves that theState is only a secular association, that its end is wholly temporal,that its single object is to protect the life, liberty, and property ofthe citizens; that in entrusting to it the defence of spiritualinterests, we overturn the order of things; and that to attribute to ita religious belief, is as though a man, walking with his feet, shouldalso confide to his feet the care of seeing and hearing. This questionhas often been discussed in France; it is so to this day; but no one hasbrought to it more common-sense, more practical reasoning, more palpablearguments. Macaulay withdraws the discussion from the region ofmetaphysics; he leads it back to the earth; he brings it home to allminds; he takes his proofs and examples from the best known facts ofordinary life; he addresses the shopkeeper, the citizen, the artist, thescholar, everyone; he connects the truth, which he asserts, with thefamiliar and intimate truths which no one can help admitting, and whichare believed with all the force of experience and habit; he carries offand conquers our belief by such solid reasons that his adversaries willthank him for convincing them; and if by chance a few amongst us haveneed of a lesson on tolerance, they had better look for it in Macaulay'sEssay on that subject.


Section IV--His Love of Political Liberty


This love of justice becomes a passion when political liberty is atstake; this is the sensitive point; and when we touch it, we touch thewriter to the quick. Macaulay loves it interestedly, because it is theonly guarantee of the properties, happiness, and life of individuals; heloves it from pride, because it is the honor of man: he loves it frompatriotism, because it is a legacy left by preceding generations;because for two hundred years a succession of upright and great men havedefended it against all attacks, and preserved it in all dangers;because it has made the power and glory of England; because in teachingthe citizens to will and to decide for themselves, it adds to theirdignity and intelligence; because in assuring internal peace andcontinuous progress, it guarantees the land against bloody revolutionsand silent decay. All these advantages are perpetually present to hiseyes; and whoever attacks the liberty, which forms their foundation,becomes at once his enemy. Macaulay cannot look calmly on the oppressionof man; every outrage on human will hurts him like a personal outrage.At every step bitter words escape him, and the stale adulation ofcourtiers, which he meets with, brings to his lips a sarcasm the moreviolent from being the more deserved. Pitt, he says, at college wroteLatin verses on the death of George I. In this piece "the Muses areearnestly entreated to weep over the urn of Cæsar: for Cæsar, says thepoet, loved the muses; Cæsar, who could not read a line of Pope, andwho loved nothing but punch and fat women."[302] Elsewhere, in thebiography of Miss Burney, he relates how the poor young lady, havingbecome celebrated by her two first novels, received as a reward, and asa great favor, a place of keeper of the robes of Queen Charlotte; how,worn out with watching, sick, nearly dying, she asked as a favor thepermission to depart; how "the sweet queen" was indignant at thisimpertinence, unable to understand that anyone could refuse to die inand for her service, or that a woman of letters should prefer health,life, and glory to the honor of folding her Majesty's dresses. But it iswhen Macaulay comes to the history of the Revolution that he hauls tojustice and vengeance those men who violated the rights of the public,who hated and betrayed the national cause, who outraged liberty. He doesnot speak as a historian, but as a contemporary; it seems as though hislife and his honor were at stake, that he pleaded for himself, that hewas a member of the Long Parliament, that he heard at the door themuskets and swords of the guards sent to arrest Pym and Hampden. M.Guizot has related the same history; but we recognize in his book thecalm judgment and impartial emotion of a philosopher. He does notcondemn the actions of Strafford or Charles; he explains them; he showsin Strafford the imperious character, the domineering genius, whichfeels itself born to command and to crush opposition, whom an invinciblebent rouses against the law or the right which restrains him, whooppresses from a sort of inner craving, and who is made to govern as asword is to strike. He shows in Charles the innate respect for royalty,the belief in divine right, the rooted conviction that everyremonstrance or demand is an insult to his crown, an outrage on hisrights, an impious and criminal sedition. Thenceforth we see in thestrife of king and parliament but the strife of two doctrines; we ceaseto take an interest in one or the other, to take an interest in both; weare spectators of a drama; we are no longer judges at a trial. But it isa trial which Macaulay conducts before us; he takes a side in it; hisaccount is the address of a public prosecutor before the court, the mostentrancing, the most acrimonious, the best reasoned, that was everwritten. He approves of the condemnation of Strafford; he honors andadmires Cromwell; he exalts the character of the Puritans; he praisesHampden to such a degree that he calls him the equal of Washington; hehas no words scornful and insulting enough for Laud; and what is moreterrible, each of his judgments is justified by as many quotations,authorities, historic precedents, arguments, conclusive proofs, as thevast erudition of Hallam, or the calm dialectics of Macintosh could haveassembled. Judge of this transport of passion and this withering logicby a single passage:


"For more than ten years the people had seen the rights which weretheirs by a double claim, by immemorial inheritance and by recentpurchase, infringed by the perfidious King who had recognized them. Atlength circ*mstances compelled Charles to summon another parliament:another chance was given to our fathers: were they to throw it away asthey had thrown away the former? Were they again to be cozened by _leRoi le veut?_ Were they again to advance their money on pledges whichhad been forfeited over and over again? Were they to lay a secondPetition of Right at the foot of the throne, to grant another lavish aidin exchange for another unmeaning ceremony, and then to take theirdeparture, till, after ten years more of fraud and oppression, theirprince should again require a supply and again repay it with a perjury?They were compelled to choose whether they would trust a tyrant, orconquer him. We think that they chose wisely and nobly.

"The advocates of Charles, like the advocates of other malefactorsagainst whom overwhelming evidence is produced, generally decline allcontroversy about the facts, and content themselves with callingtestimony to character. He had so many private virtues! And had Jamesthe Second no private virtues? Was Oliver Cromwell, his bitterestenemies themselves being judges, destitute of private virtues? And what,after all, are the virtues ascribed to Charles? A religious zeal, notmore sincere than that of his son, and fully as weak and narrow-minded,and a few of the ordinary household decencies which half the tombstonesin England claim for those who lie beneath them. A good father! A goodhusband! Ample apologies indeed for fifteen years of persecution,tyranny, and falsehood!

"We charge him with having broken his coronation oath; and we are toldthat he kept his marriage vow! We accuse him of having given up hispeople to the merciless inflictions of the most hot-headed andhard-hearted of prelates; and the defence is, that he took his littleson on his knee and kissed him! We censure him for having violated thearticles of the Petition of Right, after having, for good and valuableconsideration, promised to observe them; and we are informed that he wasaccustomed to hear prayers at six o'clock in the morning! It is to suchconsiderations as these, together with his Vandyke dress, his handsomeface, and his peaked beard, that he owes, we verily believe, most of hispopularity with the present generation.

"For ourselves, we own that we do not understand the common phrase, agood man, but a bad king. We can as easily conceive a good man and anunnatural father, or a good man and a treacherous friend. We cannot, inestimating the character of an individual, leave out of ourconsideration his conduct in the most important of all human relations;and if in that relation we find him to have been selfish, cruel, anddeceitful, we shall take the liberty to call him a bad man, in spite ofall his temperance at table, and all his regularity at chapel."[303]


This is for the father; now the son will receive something. The readerwill perceive, by the furious invective, what excessive rancor thegovernment of the Stuarts left in the heart of a patriot, a Whig, aProtestant, and an Englishman:


"Then came those days, never to be recalled without a blush, the days ofservitude without loyalty and sensuality without love, of dwarfishtalents and gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrowminds, the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The Kingcringed to his rival that he might trample on his people, sank into aviceroy of France, and pocketed, with complacent infamy, her degradinginsults, and her more degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and thejests of buffoons, regulated the policy of the state. The government hadjust ability enough to deceive, and just religion enough to persecute.The principles of liberty were the scoff of every grinning courtier, andthe Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place,worship was paid to Charles and James, Belial and Moloch; and Englandpropitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best andbravest children. Crime succeeded to crime, and disgrace to disgrace,till the race accursed of God and man was a second time driven forth, towander on the face of the earth, and to be a by-word and a shaking ofthe head to the nations."[304]


This piece, with all the biblical metaphors, which has preservedsomething of the tone of Milton and the Puritan prophets, shows to whatan issue the various tendencies of this great mind were turning--whatwas its bent--how the practical spirit, science and historic talent, theunvaried presence of moral and religious ideas, love of country andjustice, concurred to make of Macaulay the historian of liberty.


Section V.--Characteristics of Macaulay's Style


In this his talent assisted him: for his opinions are akin to histalent.

What first strikes us in him is the extreme solidity of his mind. Heproves all that he says, with astonishing vigor and authority. We arealmost certain never to go astray in following him. If he cites awitness, he begins by measuring the veracity and intelligence of theauthors quoted, and by correcting the errors they may have committed,through negligence or partiality. If he pronounces a judgment, he relieson the most certain facts, the clearest principles, the simplest andmost logical deductions. If he develops an argument, he never loseshimself in a digression; he always has his goal before his eyes; headvances towards it by the surest and straightest road. If he rises togeneral considerations he mounts step by step through all the grades ofgeneralization, without omitting one; he feels his way every instant; heneither adds nor subtracts from facts; he desires at the cost of everyprecaution and research to arrive at the precise truth. He knows aninfinity of details of every kind; he owns a great number of philosophicideas of every species; but his erudition is as well-tempered as hisphilosophy, and both constitute a coin worthy of circulation amongst allthinking minds. We feel that he believes nothing without reason; that ifwe doubted one of the facts which he advances, or one of the views whichhe propounds, we should at once encounter a multitude of authenticdocuments and a serried phalanx of convincing arguments. In France andGermany we are too much accustomed to receive hypotheses for historiclaws, and doubtful anecdotes for attested events. We too often see wholesystems established, from day to day, according to the caprice of awriter; a sort of castles in the air, whose regular arrangementstimulates the appearance of genuine edifices, and which vanish at abreath, when we come to touch them. We have all made theories, in afireside discussion, in case of need, when for lack of argument werequired some fictitious reasoning, like those Chinese generals who, toterrify their enemies, placed amongst their troops formidable monstersof painted card-board. We have judged men at random, under theimpression of the moment, on a detached action, an isolated document;and we have dressed them up with vices or virtues, folly or genius,without controlling by logic or criticism the hazardous decisions towhich our precipitation had carried us. Thus we feel a deep satisfactionand a sort of internal peace, on leaving so many doctrines of ephemeralbloom in our books or reviews, to follow the steady gait of a guide soclear-sighted, reflective, instructed, able to lead us aright. Weunderstand why the English accuse the French of being frivolous, and theGermans of being chimerical. Macaulay brings to the moral sciences thatspirit of circ*mspection, that desire for certainty, and that instinctof truth, which make up the practical mind, and which from the time ofBacon have constituted the scientific merit and power of his nation. Ifart and beauty lose by this, truth and certainty are gained; and no one,for instance, would blame our author for inserting the followingdemonstration in the life of Addison:


"He (Pope) asked Addison's advice. Addison said that the poem as itstood was a delicious little thing, and entreated Pope not to run therisk of marring what was so excellent in trying to mend it. Popeafterwards declared that this insidious counsel first opened his eyes tothe baseness of him who gave it.

"Now there can be no doubt that Pope's plan was most ingenious, and thathe afterwards executed it with great skill and success. But does itnecessarily follow that Addison's advice was bad? And if Addison'sadvice was bad, does it necessarily follow that it was given from badmotives? If a friend were to ask us whether we would advise him to riskhis all in a lottery, of which the chances were ten to one against him,we should do our best to dissuade him from running such a risk. Even ifhe were so lucky as to get the thirty thousand pound prize, we shouldnot admit that we had counselled him ill; and we should certainly thinkit the height of injustice in him to accuse us of having been actuatedby malice. We think Addison's advice good advice. It rested on a soundprinciple, the result of long and wide experience. The general ruleundoubtedly is that when a successful work of the imagination has beenproduced, it should not be recast. We cannot, at this moment, call tomind a single instance in which this rule has been transgressed withhappy effect, except the instance of the 'Rape of the Lock.' Tassorecast his 'Jerusalem,' Akenside recast his 'Pleasures of theImagination' and his 'Epistle to Curio.' Pope himself, emboldened nodoubt by the success with which he had expanded and remodelled the 'Rapeof the Lock,' made the same experiment on the 'Dunciad.' All theseattempts failed. Who was to foresee that Pope would, once in his life,be able to do what he could not himself do twice, and what nobody elsehas ever done?

"Addison's advice was good. But had it been bad, why should we pronounceit dishonest? Scott tells us that one of his best friends predicted thefailure of Waverley. Herder adjured Goethe not to take so unpromising asubject as Faust. Hume tried to dissuade Robertson from writing the'History of Charles the Fifth.' Nay, Pope himself was one of those whoprophesied that Cato would never succeed on the stage, and advisedAddison to print it without risking a representation. But Scott, Goethe,Robertson, Addison, had the good sense and generosity to give theiradvisers credit for the best intentions. Pope's heart was not of thesame kind with theirs."[305]


What does the reader think of this dilemma, and this double series ofinductions? The demonstrations would not be more studied or rigorous, ifa physical law were in question.

This demonstrative talent was increased by his talent for development.Macaulay enlightens inattentive minds, as well as he convinces opposingminds; he manifests, as well as he persuades, and spreads as muchevidence over obscure questions as certitude over doubtful points. It isimpossible not to understand him; he approaches the subject under everyaspect, he turns it over on every side; it seems as though he addressedhimself to every spectator, and studied to make himself understood byevery individual; he calculates the scope of every mind, and seeks foreach a fit mode of exposition; he takes us all by the hand, and leads usalternately to the end which he has marked out beforehand. He sets outfrom the simplest facts, he descends to our level, he brings himselfeven with our mind; he spares us the pain of the slightest effort; thenhe leads us on, and smoothes the road throughout; we rise gradually,without perceiving the slope, and at the end we find ourselves at thetop, after having walked as easily as on the plain. When a subject isobscure, he is not content with a first explanation; he gives a second,then a third: he sheds light in abundance from all sides, he searchesfor it in all regions of history; and the wonderful thing is, that he isnever prolix. In reading him we find ourselves in our proper sphere; wefeel as though we could understand; we are annoyed to have takentwilight so long for day; we rejoice to see this abounding light risingand leaping forth in torrents; the exact style, the antithesis of ideas,the harmonious construction, the artfully balanced paragraphs, thevigorous summaries, the regular sequence of thoughts, the frequentcomparisons, the fine arrangement of the whole--not an idea or phrase ofhis writings in which the talent and the desire to explain, thecharacteristic of an orator, does not shine forth. Macaulay was a memberof Parliament, and spoke so well, we are told, that he was listened tofor the mere pleasure of listening. The habit of public speaking is,perhaps, the cause of this incomparable lucidity. To convince a greatassembly, we must address all the members; to rivet the attention ofabsentminded and weary men, we must save them from all fatigue; theymust take in too much in order to take in enough. Public speakingvulgarizes ideas; it drags truth from the height at which it dwells,with some thinkers, to bring it amongst the crowd: it reduces it to thelevel of ordinary minds, who, without this intervention, would only haveseen it from afar, and high above them. Thus, when great orators consentto write, they are the most powerful of writers; they make philosophypopular; they lift all minds a stage higher, and seem to enlarge humanintelligence. In the hands of Cicero, the dogmas of the Stoics and thedialectics of the Academicians lose their prickles. The subtle Greekarguments become united and easy; the hard problems of providence,immortality, highest good, become public property. Senators, men ofbusiness, lawyers, lovers of formulas and procedure, the massive andnarrow intelligence of publicists, comprehend the deductions ofChrysippus; and the book "De Officiis" has made the morality ofPanætius popular. In our days, M. Thiers, in his two great histories,has placed within reach of everybody the most involved questions ofstrategy and finance; if he would write a course of political economyfor street-porters, I am sure he would be understood; and pupils of thelower classes at school have been able to read M. Guizot's "History ofCivilization."

When, with the faculty for proof and explanation, a man feels the desireof proving, he arrives at vehemence. These serried and multipliedarguments which all tend to a single aim, these reiterated logicalpoints, returning every instant, one upon the other, to shake theopponent, give heat and passion to the style. Rarely was eloquence morecaptivating than Macaulay's. He has the oratorical afflatus; all hisphrases have a tone; we feel that he would govern minds, that he isirritated by resistance, that he fights as he discusses. In his booksthe discussion always seizes and carries away the reader; it advancesevenly, with accumulating force, straightforward, like those greatAmerican rivers, impetuous as a torrent and wide as a sea. Thisabundance of thought and style, this multitude of explanations, ideas,and facts, this vast aggregate of historical knowledge goes rolling on,urged forward by internal passion, sweeping away objections in itscourse, and adding to the dash of eloquence the irresistible force ofits mass and weight. We might say that the history of James II. is adiscourse in two volumes, spoken without stopping, and withnever-failing voice. We see the oppression and discontent begin,increase, widen, the partisans of James abandoning him one by one, theidea of revolution arise in all hearts, confirmed, fixed, thepreparations made, the event approaching, growing imminent, thensuddenly falling on the blind and unjust monarch, and sweeping away histhrone and dynasty, with the violence of a foreseen and fatal tempest.True eloquence is that which thus perfects argument by emotion, whichreproduces the unity of events by the unity of passion, which repeatsthe motion and the chain of facts by the motion and the chain of ideas.It is a genuine imitation of nature; more complete than pure analysis;it reanimates beings; its dash and vehemence form part of science and oftruth. Of whatever subject Macaulay treats, political economy, morality,philosophy, literature, history, he is impassioned for his subject. Thecurrent which bears away events, excites in him, as soon as he sees it,a current which bears forward his thought. He does not set forth hisopinion; he pleads it. He has that energetic, sustained, and vibratingtone which bows down opposition and conquers belief. His thought is anactive force; it is imposed on the hearer; it attacks him with suchsuperiority, falls upon him with such a train of proofs, such a manifestand legitimate authority, such a powerful impulse, that we never thinkof resisting it; and it masters the heart by its vehemence, whilst atthe same time it masters the reason by its evidence.

All these gifts are common to orators; they are found in differentproportions and degrees, in men like Cicero and Livy, Bourdaloue andBossuet, Fox and Burke. These fine and solid minds form a naturalfamily, and all have for their chief feature the habit and talent ofpassing from particular to general ideas, orderly and successively, aswe climb a ladder by setting our feet one after the other on everyround. The inconvenience of this art is the use of commonplace. They whopractise it do not depict objects with precision; they fall easily intovague rhetoric. They hold in their hands ready-made developments, a sortof portable scales, equally applicable on both sides of the same andevery question. They continue willingly in a middle region, amongst thetirades and arguments of the special pleader, with an indifferentknowledge of the human heart, and a fair number of amplifications onthat which is useful and just. In France and at Rome, amongst the Latinraces, especially in the seventeenth century, these men love to hoverabove the earth, amidst grand words or general considerations, in thestyle of the drawing-room and the academy. They do not descend to minorfacts, convincing details, circ*mstantial examples of every-day life.They are more inclined to plead than to prove. In this Macaulay isdistinguished from them. His principle is, that a special fact has morehold on the mind than a general reflection. He knows that, to give men aclear and vivid idea, they must be brought back to their personalexperience. He remarks[306] that, in order to make them realize a storm,the only method is to recall to them some storm which they havethemselves seen and heard, with which their memory is still charged, andwhich still re-echoes through all their senses. He practises, in hisstyle, the philosophy of Bacon and Locke. With him, as well as withthem, the origin of every idea is a sensation. Every complicatedargument, every entire conception, has certain particular facts for itsonly support. It is so for every structure of ideas, as well as for ascientific theory. Beneath long calculations, algebraical formulas,subtle deductions, written volumes which contain the combinations andelaborations of learned minds, there are two or three sensibleexperiences, two or three little facts on which we may lay our finger, aturn of the wheel in a machine, a scalpel-cut in a living body, anunlooked-for color in a liquid. These are decisive specimens. The wholesubstance of theory, the whole force of proof, is contained in this.Truth is here, as a nut in its shell: painful and ingenious discussionadds nothing thereto; it only extracts the nut. Thus, if we wouldrightly prove, we must before everything present these specimens, insistupon them, make them visible and tangible to the reader, as far as maybe done in words. This is difficult, for words are not things. The onlyresource of the writer is to employ words which bring things before theeyes. For this he must appeal to the reader's personal observation, setout from his experience, compare the unknown objects presented to himwith the known objects which he sees every day: place past events besidecontemporary events. Macaulay always has before his mind Englishimaginations, full of English images: I mean full of the detailed andpresent recollections of a London street, a dram-shop, a wretched alley,an afternoon in Hyde Park, a moist green landscape, a white ivy-coveredcountry-house, a clergyman in a white tie, a sailor in a sou'-wester. Hehas recourse to such recollections; he makes them still more precise bydescriptions and statistics; he notes colors and qualities; he has apassion for exactness; his descriptions are worthy both of a painter anda topographer; he writes like a man who sees a physical and sensibleobject, and who at the same time classifies and weighs it. We will seehim carry his figures even to moral or literary worth, assign to anaction, a virtue, a book, a talent, its compartment and its step in thescale, with such clearness and relief, that we could easily imagineourselves in a classified museum, not of stuffed skins, but of feeling,suffering, living animals.

Consider, for instance, these phrases, by which he tries to rendervisible to an English public, events in India:


"During that interval the business of a servant of the Company wassimply to wring out of the natives a hundred or two hundred thousandpounds as speedily as possible, that he might return home before hisconstitution had suffered from the heat, to marry a peer's daughter, tobuy rotten boroughs in Cornwall, and to give balls in St. James'sSquare.[307]... There was still a nabob of Bengal, who stood to theEnglish rulers of his country in the same relation in which Augustulusstood to Odoacer, or the last Merovingians to Charles Martel and Pepin.He lived at Moorshedabad, surrounded by princely magnificence. He wasapproached with outward marks of reverence, and his name was used inpublic instruments. But in the government of the country he had lessreal share than the youngest writer or cadet in the Company'sservice."[308]


Of Nuncomar, the native servant of the Company, he writes:


"Of his moral character it is difficult to give a notion to those whoare acquainted with human nature only as it appears in our island. Whatthe Italian is to the Englishman, what the Hindoo is to the Italian,what the Bengalee is to other Hindoos, that was Nuncomar to otherBengalees. The physical organization of the Bengalee is feeble, even toeffeminacy. He lives in a constant vapour bath. His pursuits aresedentary, his limbs delicate, his movements languid. During many ageshe has been trampled upon by men of bolder and more hardy breeds.Courage, independence, veracity, are qualities to which his constitutionand his situation are equally unfavorable. His mind bears a singularanalogy to his body. It is weak even to helplessness, for purposes ofmanly resistance; but its suppleness and its tact move the children ofsterner climates to admiration not unmingled with contempt. All thosearts which are the natural defence of the weak are more familiar to thissubtle race than to the Ionian of the time of Juvenal, or to the Jew ofthe dark ages. What the horns are to the buffalo, what the paw is to thetiger, what the sting is to the bee, what beauty, according to the oldGreek song, is to woman, deceit is to the Bengalee. Large promises,smooth excuses, elaborate tissues of circ*mstantial falsehood,chicanery, perjury, forgery, are the weapons, offensive and defensive,of the people of the Lower Ganges. All those millions do not furnish onesepoy to the armies of the Company. But as usurers, as money-changers,as sharp legal practitioners, no class of human beings can bear acomparison with them."[309]


It was such men and such affairs, which were to provide Burke with theamplest and most brilliant subject-matter for his eloquence; and whenMacaulay described the distinctive talent of the great orator, hedescribed his own:


"He (Burke) had, in the highest degree, that noble faculty whereby manis able to live in the past and in the future, in the distant and in theunreal. India and its inhabitants were not to him, as to mostEnglishmen, mere names and abstractions, but a real country and a realpeople. The burning sun, the strange vegetation of the palm and thecocoa-tree, the rice-field, the tank, the huge trees, older than theMogul empire, under which the village crowds assemble; the thatched roofof the peasant's hut; the rich tracery of the mosque where the imaumprays with his face to Mecca, the drums, and banners, and gaudy idols,the devotee swinging in the air, the graceful maiden, with the pitcheron her head, descending the steps to the river-side, the black faces,the long beards, the yellow streaks of sect, the turbans and the flowingrobes, the spears and the silver maces, the elephants with theircanopies of state, the gorgeous palanquin of the prince, and the closelitter of the noble lady, all those things were to him as the objectsamidst which his own life had been passed, as the objects which lay onthe road between Beaconsfield and St. James's Street. All India waspresent to the eye of his mind, from the halls where suitors laid goldand perfumes at the feet of sovereigns, to the wild moor where the gipsycamp was pitched, from the bazaar, humming like a bee-hive with thecrowd of buyers and sellers, to the jungle where the lonely couriershakes his bunch of iron rings to scare away the hyenas. He had just aslively an idea of the insurrection at Benares as of Lord George Gordon'sriots, and of the execution of Nuncomar as of the execution of Dr. Dodd.Oppression in Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in thestreets of London."[310]


Section VI.--His Rudeness and Humor


Other forms of his talent are more peculiarly English. Macaulay has arough touch; when he strikes, he knocks down. Béranger sings:


"_Chez nous, point.Point de ces coups de poingQui font tant d'honneur à l'Angleterre._"[311]


And a French reader would be astonished if he heard a great historiantreat an illustrious poet in this style:


"But in all those works in which Mr. Southey has completely abandonednarration, and has undertaken to argue moral and political questions,his failure has been complete and ignominious. On such occasions hiswritings are rescued from utter contempt and derision solely by thebeauty and purity of the English. We find, we confess, so great a charmin Mr. Southey's style that, even when he writes nonsense, we generallyread it with pleasure, except indeed when he tries to be droll. A moreinsufferable jester never existed. He very often attempts to behumorous, and yet we do not remember a single occasion on which he hassucceeded, further than to be quaintly and flippantly dull. In one ofhis works he tells us that Bishop Spratt was very properly so-called,inasmuch as he was a very small poet. And in the book now before us hecannot quote Francis Bugg, the renegade Quaker, without a remark on hisunsavoury name. A wise man might talk folly like this by his ownfireside; but that any human being, after having made such a joke shouldwrite it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the printer, andcorrect the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world, is enough tomake us ashamed of our species."[312]


We may imagine that Macaulay does not treat the dead better than theliving. Thus he speaks of Archbishop Laud:


"The severest punishment which the two Houses could have inflicted onhim would have been to set him at liberty and send him to Oxford. Therehe might have staid, tortured by his own diabolical temper, hungeringfor Puritans to pillory and mangle, plaguing the Cavaliers, for want ofsomebody else to plague, with his peevishness and absurdity, performinggrimaces and antics in the cathedral, continuing that incomparablediary, which we never see without forgetting the vices of his heart inthe imbecility of his intellect, minuting down his dreams, counting thedrops of blood which fell from his nose, watching the direction of thesalt, and listening for the note of the screech-owls. Contemptuous mercywas the only vengeance which it became the Parliament to take on such aridiculous old bigot."[313]


While he jests he remains grave, as do almost all the writers of hiscountry. Humor consists in saying extremely comical things in a solemntone, and in preserving a lofty style and ample phraseology, at the verymoment when the author is making all his hearers laugh. Such is thebeginning of an article on a new historian of Burleigh:


"The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to thatwhich Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag,and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large asbuckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and everycomponent part of it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as anordinary preface; the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinarybook: and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library. Wecannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which liesbefore us better than by saying that it consists of about two thousandclosely printed quarto pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inchescubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoir-du-pois. Such abook might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading byHilpah and Shalum. But unhappily the life of man is now threescore yearsand ten; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares todemand from us so large a portion of so short an existence."[314]


This comparison, borrowed from Swift, is a mockery in Swift's taste.Mathematics become in English hands an excellent means of raillery; andwe remember how the Dean, comparing Roman and English generosity bynumbers, overwhelmed Marlborough by a sum in addition. Humor employsagainst the people it attacks, positive facts, commercial arguments, oddcontrasts drawn from ordinary life. This surprises and perplexes thereader, without warning; he falls abruptly into some familiar andgrotesque detail; the shock is violent; he bursts out laughing withoutbeing much amused; the trigger is pulled so suddenly and so roughly thatit is like a knockdown blow. For instance, Macaulay is refuting thosewho would not print the indecent classical authors:


"We find it difficult to believe that, in a world so full of temptationsas this, any gentleman whose life would have been virtuous if he had notread Aristophanes and Juvenal will be made vicious by reading them. Aman who, exposed to all the influences of such a state of society asthat in which we live, is yet afraid of exposing himself to theinfluence of a few Greek or Latin verses, acts, we think, much like thefelon who begged the sheriffs to let him have an umbrella held over hishead from the door of Newgate to the gallows, because it was a drizzlingmorning, and he was apt to take cold."[315]


Irony, sarcasm, the bitterest kinds of pleasantry, are the rule withEnglishmen. They tear when they scratch. To be convinced of this, weshould compare French scandal, as Molière represents it in the"Misanthrope," with English scandal as Sheridan represents it, imitatingMolière and the "Misanthrope." Célimène pricks, but does not wound;Lady Sneerwell's friends wound, and leave bloody marks on all thereputations which they handle. The raillery, which I am about to give,is one of Macaulay's tenderest:


"They (the ministers) therefore gave the command to Lord Galway, anexperienced veteran, a man who was in war what Molière's doctors werein medicine, who thought it much more honorable to fail according torule, than to succeed by innovation, and who would have been very muchashamed of himself if he had taken Monjuich by means so strange as thosewhich Peterborough employed. This great commander conducted the campaignof 1707 in the most scientific manner. On the plain of Almanza heencountered the army of the Bourbons. He drew up his troops according tothe methods prescribed by the best writers, and in a few hours losteighteen thousand men, a hundred and twenty standards, all his baggageand all his artillery."[316]


These incivilities are all the stronger, because the ordinary tone isnoble and serious.

Hitherto we have seen only the reasoner, the scholar, the orator, andthe wit: there is still in Macaulay a poet; and if we had not read his"Lays of Ancient Rome," it would suffice to read a few of his periods,in which the imagination, long held in check by the severity of theproof, breaks out suddenly in splendid metaphors, and expands intomagnificent comparisons, worthy by their amplitude of being introducedinto an epic:


"Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law ofher nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of afoul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of herdisguise were forever excluded from participation in the blessings whichshe bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitiedand protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful andcelestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps,granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made themhappy in love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At timesshe takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses, shestings. But woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her! Andhappy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded andfrightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of herbeauty and her glory!"[317]


These noble words come from the heart; the fount is full, and though itflows, it never becomes dry. As soon as the writer speaks of a causewhich he loves, as soon as he sees Liberty rise before him, withHumanity and Justice, Poetry bursts forth spontaneously from his souland sets her crown on the brows of her noble sisters:


"The Reformation is an event long past. That volcano has spent its rage.The wide waste produced by its outbreak is forgotten. The landmarkswhich were swept away have been replaced. The ruined edifices have beenrepaired. The lava has covered with a rich incrustation the fields whichit once devastated, and, after having turned a beautiful and fruitfulgarden into a desert, has again turned the desert into a still morebeautiful and fruitful garden. The second great eruption is not yetover. The marks of its ravages are still all around us. The ashes arestill hot beneath our feet. In some directions, the deluge of fire stillcontinues to spread. Yet experience surely entitles us to believe thatthis explosion, like that which preceded it, will fertilize the soilwhich it has devastated. Already, in those parts which have sufferedmost severely, rich cultivation and secure dwellings have begun toappear amidst the waste. The more we read of the history of past ages,the more we observe the signs of our own times, the more do we feel ourhearts filled and swelled up by a good hope for the future destinies ofthe human race."[318]


I ought, perhaps, in concluding this analysis, to point out theimperfections caused by these high qualities; how ease, charm, a vein ofamiability, variety, simplicity, playfulness, are wanting in this manlyeloquence, this solid reasoning, and this glowing dialectic; why the artof writing and classical purity are not always found in this partisan,fighting from his platform; in short, why an Englishman is not aFrenchman or an Athenian. I prefer to transcribe another passage, thesolemnity and magnificence of which will give some idea of the grave andrich ornament, which Macaulay throws over his narrative, a sort ofpotent vegetation, flowers of brilliant purple, like those which arespread over every page of "Paradise Lost" and "Childe Harold." WarrenHastings had returned from India, and had just been placed on his trial:


[Illustration: Page from the Prayer-book of Juana of CastileFac-simile example of Book Illumination in the Sixteenth Century]


"On the thirteenth of February, 1788, the sittings of the Courtcommenced. There have been spectacles more dazzling to the eye, moregorgeous with jewellery and cloth of gold, more attractive to grown-upchildren, than that which was then exhibited at Westminster; but,perhaps, there never was a spectacle so well calculated to strike ahighly cultivated, a reflecting, an imaginative mind. All the variouskinds of interests which belong to the near and to the distant, to thepresent and to the past, were collected on one spot, and in one hour.All the talents and all the accomplishments which are developed byliberty and civilization were now displayed, with every advantage thatcould be derived both from co-operation and from contrast. Every step inthe proceedings carried the mind either backward, through many troubledcenturies, to the days when the foundations of our constitution werelaid; or far away, over boundless seas and deserts, to dusky nationsliving under strange stars, worshipping strange gods, and writingstrange characters from right to left. The High Court of Parliament wasto sit, according to forms handed down from the days of thePlantagenets, on an Englishman accused of exercising tyranny over thelord of the holy city of Benares, and over the ladies of the princelyhouse of Oude.

"The place was worthy of such a trial. It was the great Hall of WilliamRufus, the hall which had resounded with acclamations at theinauguration of thirty kings, the hall which had witnessed the justsentence of Bacon and the just absolution of Somers, the hall where theeloquence of Strafford had for a moment awed and melted a victoriousparty inflamed with just resentment, the hall where Charles hadconfronted the High Court of Justice with the placid courage which hashalf redeemed his fame. Neither military nor civil pomp was wanting. Theavenues were lined with grenadiers. The streets were kept clear bycavalry. The peers, robed in gold and ermine, were marshalled by theheralds under Garter King at-arms. The judges in their vestments ofstate attended to give advice on points of law. Near a hundred andseventy lords, three-fourths of the Upper House as the Upper House thenwas, walked in solemn order from their usual place of assembling to thetribunal. The junior baron present led the way, George Eliot LordHeathfield, recently ennobled for his memorable defence of Gibraltaragainst the fleets and armies of France and Spain. The long processionwas closed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of the realm, by thegreat dignitaries, and by the brothers and sons of the King. Last of allcame the Prince of Wales, conspicuous by his fine person and noblebearing. The gray old walls were hung with scarlet. The long gallerieswere crowded by an audience such as has rarely excited the fears or theemulation of an orator. There were gathered together, from all parts ofa great, free, enlightened, and prosperous empire, grace and femaleloveliness, wit and learning, the representatives of every science andof every art. There were seated round the Queen the fair-haired youngdaughters of the house of Brunswick. There the Ambassadors of greatKings and Commonwealths gazed with admiration on a spectacle which noother country in the world could present. There Siddons, in the prime ofher majestic beauty, looked with emotion on a scene surpassing all theimitations of the stage. There the historian of the Roman Empire thoughtof the days when Cicero pleaded the cause of Sicily against Verres, andwhen, before a senate which still retained some show of freedom, Tacitusthundered against the oppressor of Africa. There were seen, side byside, the greatest painter and the greatest scholar of the age. Thespectacle had allured Reynolds from that easel which has preserved to usthe thoughtful foreheads of so many writers and statesmen, and the sweetsmiles of so many noble matrons. It had induced Parr to suspend hislabors in that dark and profound mine from which he had extracted a vasttreasure of erudition, a treasure too often buried in the earth, toooften paraded with injudicious and inelegant ostentation, but stillprecious, massive, and splendid. There appeared the voluptuous charms ofher to whom the heir of the throne had in secret plighted his faith.There too was she, the beautiful mother of a beautiful race, the SaintCecilia whose delicate features, lighted up by love and music, art hasrescued from the common decay. There were the members of that brilliantsociety which quoted, criticised, and exchanged repartees, under therich peaco*ck-hangings of Mrs. Montague. And there the ladies whose lips,more persuasive than those of Fox himself, had carried the Westminsterelection against palace and treasury, shone round Georgiana, duch*ess ofDevonshire."[319]


This evocation of the national history, glory, and constitution forms apicture of a unique kind. The species of patriotism and poetry which itreveals is an abstract of Macaulay's talent; and the talent, like thepicture, is thoroughly English.


Section VII.--Estimate of Macaulay's Work


Thus prepared, he entered upon the history of England; and he chosetherefrom the period best suited to his political opinions, his style,his passion, his knowledge, the national taste, the sympathy of Europe.He related the establishment of the English constitution, andconcentrated all the rest of history about this unique event, "thefinest in the world," to the mind of an Englishman and a politician. Hebrought to this work a new method of great beauty, extreme power; itssuccess has been extraordinary. When the second volume appeared, 30,000copies were ordered beforehand. Let us try to describe this history, toconnect it with that method, and that method to that order of mind.

The history is universal and not broken. It comprehends events of everykind, and treats of them simultaneously. Some have related the historyof races, others of classes, others of governments, others ofsentiments, ideas, and manner; Macaulay has related all.


"I should very imperfectly execute the task which I have undertaken if Iwere merely to treat of battles and sieges, of the rise and fall ofadministrations, of intrigues in the palace, and of debates in theparliament. It will be my endeavor to relate the history of the peopleas well as the history of the government, to trace the progress ofuseful and ornamental arts, to describe the rise of religious sects andthe changes of literary taste, to portray the manners of successivegenerations, and not to pass by with neglect even the revolutions whichhave taken place in dress, furniture, repasts, and public amusem*nts. Ishall cheerfully bear the reproach of having descended below the dignityof history, if I can succeed in placing before the English of thenineteenth century a true picture of the life of their ancestors."[320]


He kept his word. He has omitted nothing, and passed nothing by. Hisportraits are mingled with his narrative. We find those of Danby,Nottingham, Shrewsbury, Howe, during the account of a session, betweentwo parliamentary divisions. Short, curious anecdotes, domestic details,the description of furniture, intersect without disjointing, the recordof a war. Quitting the narrative of important business, we gladly lookupon the Dutch tastes of William, the Chinese museum, the grottoes, themazes, aviaries, ponds, geometrical garden-beds, with which he defacedHampton Court. A political dissertation precedes or follows the relationof a battle; at other times the author is a tourist or a psychologistbefore becoming a politician or a tactician. He describes the Highlandsof Scotland, semi-papistical and semi-pagan, the seers wrapped in bulls'hides to await the moment of inspiration, Christians making libations ofmilk or beer to the demons of the place; pregnant women, girls ofeighteen, working a wretched patch of oats, whilst their husbands orfathers, athletic men, basked in the sun; robbery and barbarities lookedupon as honorable deeds; men stabbed from behind or burnt alive;repulsive food, coarse oats, and cakes made of the blood of a live cow,offered to guests as a mark of favor and politeness; infected hovelswhere men lay on the bare ground, and where they woke up half smothered,half blinded by the smoke, and half mad with the itch. The next instanthe stops to mark a change in the public taste, the horror thenexperienced on account of these brigands' retreats, this country of wildrocks and barren moors; the admiration now felt for this land of heroicwarriors, this country of grand mountains, seething waterfalls,picturesque defiles. He finds in the progress of physical welfare thecauses of this moral revolution, and concludes that, if we praisemountains and an uncivilized life, it is because we are satiated withsecurity. He is successively an economist, a literary man, a publicist,an artist, a historian, a biographer, a story-teller, even aphilosopher; by this diversity of parts he imitates the diversity ofhuman life, and presents to the eyes, heart, mind, all the faculties ofman, the complete history of the civilization of his country.

Others, like Hume, have tried, or are trying to do it. They set forthnow religious matters, a little further political events, then literarydetails, finally general considerations on the change of society andgovernment, believing that a collection of histories is history, andthat parts joined endwise are a body. Macaulay did not believe it and hedid well. Though English, he had the spirit of harmony. So manyaccumulated events form with him not a total, but a whole. Explanations,accounts, dissertations, anecdotes, illustrations, comparisons,allusions to modern events, everything is connected in his book. It isbecause everything is connected in his mind. He had a most livelyconsciousness of causes; and causes unite facts. By them scatteredevents are assembled into a single event; they unite them because theyproduce them, and the historian, who seeks them all out, cannot fail toperceive or to feel the unity which is their effect. Read, for instance,the voyage of James II to Ireland: no picture is more curious. Is it,however, nothing more than a curious picture? When the king arrived atCork there were no horses to be found. The country is a desert. No moreindustry, cultivation, civilization, since the English and Protestantcolonists were driven out, robbed and slain. James was received betweentwo hedges of half-naked Rapparees, armed with skeans, stakes, andhalf-pikes; under his horse's feet they spread by way of carpet therough frieze mantles, such as the brigands and shepherds wore. He wasoffered garlands of cabbage stalks for crowns of laurel. In a largedistrict he only found two carts. The palace of the lord-lieutenant inDublin was so ill-built that the rain drenched the rooms. The king leftfor Ulster; the French officers thought they were travelling "throughthe deserts of Arabia." The Count d'Avaux wrote to the French court thatto get one truss of hay they had to send five or six miles. AtCharlemont, with great difficulty, as a matter of favor, they obtained abag of oatmeal for the French legation. The superior officers lay indens which they would have thought too foul for their dogs. The Irishsoldiers were half-savage marauders, who could only shout, cut throats,and disband. Ill fed on potatoes and sour milk, they cast themselveslike starved men on the great flocks belonging to the Protestants. Theygreedily tore the flesh of oxen and sheep, and swallowed it half raw andhalf rotten. For lack of kettles, they cooked it in the skin. When Lentbegan, the plunderers generally ceased to devour, but continued todestroy. A peasant would kill a cow merely in order to get a pair ofbrogues. At times a band slaughtered fifty or sixty beasts, took theskins, and left the bodies to poison the air. The French ambassadorreckoned that in six weeks there had been slain 50,000 horned cattle,which were rotting on the ground. They counted the number of the sheepand lambs slain at 400,000. Cannot the result of the rebellion be seenbefore-hand? What could be expected of these gluttonous serfs, so stupidand savage? What could be drawn from a devastated land, peopled withrobbers? To what kind of discipline could these marauders and butchersbe subjected? What resistance will they make on the Boyne, when they seeWilliam's old regiments, the furious squadrons of French refugees, theenraged and insulted Protestants of Londonderry and Enniskillen, leapinto the river and run with uplifted swords against their muskets? Theywill flee, the king at their head; and the minute anecdotes scatteredamidst the account of receptions, voyages, and ceremonies, will haveannounced the victory of the Protestants. The history of manners is thusseen to be involved in the history of events; the one is the cause ofthe other, and the description explains the narrative.

It is not enough to see some causes; we must see a great many of them.Every event has a multitude. Is it enough for me, if I wish tounderstand the action of Marlborough or of James, to be reminded of adisposition or a quality which explains it? No; for, since it has for acause a whole situation and a whole character, I must see at one glanceand in abstract the whole character and situation which produced it.Genius concentrates. It is measured by the number of recollections andideas which it assembles in one point. That which Macaulay has assembledis enormous. I know no historian who has a surer, better furnished,better regulated memory. When he is relating the actions of a man or aparty, he sees in an instant all the events of his history, and allthe*maxims of his conduct; he has all the details present; he remembersthem every moment, and a great many of them. He has forgotten nothing;he runs through them as easily, as completely, as surely, as on the daywhen he enumerated or wrote them. No one has so well taught or knownhistory. He is as much steeped in it as his personages. The ardent Whigor Tory, experienced, trained to business, who rose and shook the House,had not more numerous, better arranged, more precise arguments. He didnot better know the strength and weakness of his cause; he was not morefamiliar with the intrigues, rancors, variation of parties, the chancesof the strife, individual and public interests. The great novelistspenetrate the soul of their characters, assume their feelings, ideas,language; it seems as if Balzac had been a commercial traveller, afemale doorkeeper, a courtesan, an old maid, a poet, and that he hadspent his life in being each of these personages: his existence ismultiplied, and his name is legion. With a different talent, Macaulayhas the same power: an incomparable advocate, he pleads an infinitenumber of causes; and he is master of each cause, as fully as hisclient. He has answers for all objections, explanations for allobscurities, reasons for all tribunals. He is ready at every moment, andon all parts of his case. It seems as if he had been Whig, Tory,Puritan, Member of the Privy Council, Ambassador. He is not a poet likeMichelet; he is not a philosopher like Guizot; but he possesses so wellall the oratorical powers, he accumulates and arranges so many facts, heholds them so closely in his hand, he manages them with so much ease andvigor, that he succeeds in recomposing the whole and harmonious woof ofhistory, not losing or separating one thread. The poet reanimates thedead; the philosopher formulates creative laws; the orator knows,expounds, and pleads causes. The poet resuscitates souls, thephilosopher composes a system, the orator redisposes chains ofarguments; but all three march towards the same end by different routes,and the orator, as well as his rivals, and by other means than hisrivals, reproduces in his work the unity and complexity of life.

A second feature of this history is clearness. It is popular; no oneexplains better, or so much, as Macaulay. It seems as if he were makinga wager with his reader, and said to him: Be as absent in mind, asstupid, as ignorant as you please; in vain you will be absent in mind,you shall listen to me; in vain you will be stupid, you shallunderstand; in vain you will be ignorant, you shall learn. I will repeatthe same idea in so many different forms, I will make it sensible bysuch familiar and precise examples, I will announce it so clearly at thebeginning, I will resumé it so carefully at the end, I will mark thedivisions so well, follow the order of ideas so exactly, I will displayso great a desire to enlighten and convince you, that you cannot helpbeing enlightened and convinced. He certainly thought thus when he waspreparing the following passage on the law which, for the first time,granted to Dissenters the liberty of exercising their worship:


"Of all the Acts that have ever been passed by Parliament, theToleration Act is perhaps that which most strikingly illustrates thepeculiar vices and the peculiar excellences of English legislation. Thescience of Politics bears in one respect a close analogy to the scienceof Mechanics. The mathematician can easily demonstrate that a certainpower, applied by means of a certain lever or of a certain system ofpulleys, will suffice to raise a certain weight. But his demonstrationproceeds on the supposition that the machinery is such as no load willbend or break. If the engineer, who has to lift a great mass of realgranite by the instrumentality of real timber and real hemp, shouldabsolutely rely on the propositions which he finds in treatises onDynamics, and should make no allowance for the imperfection of hismaterials, his whole apparatus of beams, wheels, and ropes would sooncome down in ruin, and, with all his geometrical skill, he would befound a far inferior builder to those painted barbarians who, thoughthey never heard of the parallelogram of forces, managed to pile upStonehenge. What the engineer is to the mathematician, the activestatesman is to the contemplative statesman. It is indeed most importantthat legislators and administrators should be versed in the philosophyof government, as it is most important that the architect who has to fixan obelisk on its pedestal, or to hang a tubular bridge over an estuary,should be versed in the philosophy of equilibrium and motion. But, as hewho has actually to build must bear in mind many things never noticed byD'Alembert and Euler, so must he who has actually to govern beperpetually guided by considerations to which no allusion can be foundin the writings of Adam Smith or Jeremy Bentham. The perfect law-giveris a just temper between the mere man of theory, who can see nothing butgeneral principles, and the mere man of business, who can see nothingbut particular circ*mstances. Of law-givers, in whom the speculativeelement has prevailed to the exclusion of the practical, the world hasduring the last eighty years been singularly fruitful. To their wisdomEurope and America have owed scores of abortive constitutions, scores ofconstitutions which have lived just long enough to make a miserablenoise, and have then gone off in convulsions. But in English legislationthe practical element has always predominated, and not seldom undulypredominated, over the speculative. To think nothing of symmetry andmuch of convenience; never to remove an anomaly merely because it is ananomaly; never to innovate except when some grievance is felt; never toinnovate except so far as to get rid of the grievance; never to lay downany proposition of wider extent than the particular case for which it isnecessary to provide; these are the rules which have, from the age ofJohn to the age of Victoria, generally guided the deliberations of ourtwo hundred and fifty Parliaments."[321]


Is the idea still obscure or doubtful? Does it still need proofs,illustrations? Do we wish for anything more? You answer, No; Macaulayanswers, Yes. After the general explanation comes the particular; afterthe theory, the application; after the theoretical demonstration, thepractical. We would fain stop; but he proceeds:


"The Toleration Act approaches very near to the idea of a great Englishlaw. To a jurist, versed in the theory of legislation, but notintimately acquainted with the temper of the sects and parties intowhich the nation was divided at the time of the Revolution, that Actwould seem to be a mere chaos of absurdities and contradictions. It willnot bear to be tried by sound general principles. Nay, it will not bearto be tried by any principle, sound or unsound. The sound principleundoubtedly is, that mere theological error ought not to be punished bythe civil magistrate. This principle the Toleration Act not only doesnot recognize, but positively disclaims. Not a single one of the cruellaws enacted against non-conformists by the Tudors or the Stuarts isrepealed. Persecution continues to be the general rule. Toleration isthe exception. Nor is this all. The freedom which is given to conscienceis given in the most capricious manner. A Quaker, by making adeclaration of faith in general terms, obtains the full benefit of theAct without signing one of the thirty-nine Articles. An Independentminister, who is perfectly willing to make the declaration required fromthe Quaker, but who has doubts about six or seven of the Articles,remains still subject to the penal laws. Howe is liable to punishment ifhe preaches before he has solemnly declared his assent to the Anglicandoctrine touching the Eucharist. Penn, who altogether rejects theEucharist, is at perfect liberty to preach without making anydeclaration whatever on the subject.

"These are some of the obvious faults which must strike every person whoexamines the Toleration Act by that standard of just reason which is thesame in all countries and in all ages. But these very faults may perhapsappear to be merits, when we take into consideration the passions andprejudices of those for whom the Toleration Act was framed. This law,abounding with contradictions which every smatterer in politicalphilosophy can detect, did what a law framed by the utmost skill of thegreatest masters of political philosophy might have failed to do. Thatthe provisions which have been recapitulated are cumbrous, puerile,inconsistent with each other, inconsistent with the true theory ofreligious liberty, must be acknowledged. All that can be said in theirdefence is this: that they removed a vast mass of evil, without shockinga vast mass of prejudice; that they put an end, at once and forever,without one division in either House of Parliament, without one riot inthe streets, with scarcely one audible murmur even from the classes mostdeeply tainted with bigotry, to a persecution which had raged duringfour generations, which had broken innumerable hearts, which had madeinnumerable firesides desolate, which had filled the prisons with men ofwhom the world was not worthy, which had driven thousands of thosehonest, diligent and god-fearing yeomen and artisans, who are the truestrength of a nation, to seek a refuge beyond the ocean among thewigwams of red Indians and the lairs of panthers. Such a defence,however weak it may appear to some shallow speculators, will probably bethought complete by statesmen."[322]


What I find complete in this, is the art of developing. This antithesisof ideas, sustained by the antithesis of words, the symmetrical periods,the expressions designedly repeated to attract attention, the exhaustionof proof, set before our eyes the special-pleader's and oratoricaltalent, which we just before encountered in the art of pleading allcauses, of employing an infinite number of methods, of mastering themall and always, during every incident of the lawsuit. The finalmanifestation of a mind of this sort is the faults into which its talentdraws it. By dint of development, he protracts. More than once hisexplications are commonplace. He proves what all allow. He makes clearwhat is already clear. In one of his works there is a passage on thenecessity of reactions which reads like the verbosity of a cleverschoolboy. Other passages, excellent and novel, can only be read withpleasure once. On the second reading they appear too true; we have seenit all at a glance, and are wearied. I have omitted one-third of thepassage on the Act of Toleration, and acute minds will think that Iought to have omitted another third.

The last feature, the most singular, the least English of this history,is, that it is interesting. Macaulay wrote, in the "Edinburgh Review,"several volumes of essays; and everyone knows that the first merit of areviewer or a journalist is to make himself readable. A thick volumenaturally bores us; it is not thick for nothing; its bulk demands at theoutset the attention of him who opens it. The solid binding, the tableof contents, the preface, the substantial chapters, drawn up likesoldiers in battle-array, all bid us take an arm-chair, put on adressing-gown, place our feet on the fender, and study; we owe no lessto the grave man who presents himself to us, armed with 600 pages oftext and three years of reflection. But a newspaper which we glance atin a club, a review which we finger in a drawing-room in the evening,before sitting down to dinner, must needs attract the eyes, overcomeabsence of mind, conquer readers. Macaulay attained, through practice,this gift of readableness, and he retains in his history the habitswhich he acquired in periodicals. He employs every means of keeping upattention, good or indifferent, worthy or unworthy of his great talent;amongst others, allusion to actual circ*mstances. You may have heard thesaying of an editor, to whom Pierre Leroux offered an article on God,"God! there is no actuality about it!" Macaulay profits by this remark.He never forgets the actual. If he mentions a regiment, he points out ina few lines the splendid deeds which it has done since its formation upto our own day; thus the officers of this regiment, encamped in theCrimea, stationed at Malta, or at Calcutta, are obliged to read hishistory. He relates the reception of Schomberg in the House: who isinterested in Schomberg? Forthwith he adds that Wellington, a hundredyears later, was received, under like circ*mstances, with a ceremonycopied from the first: what Englishman is not interested in Wellington?He relates the siege of Londonderry, he points out the spot which theancient bastions occupy in the present town, the field which was coveredby the Irish camp, the well at which the besiegers drank: what citizenof Londonderry can help buying his book? Whatever town he comes upon, henotes the changes which it has undergone, the new streets added, thebuildings repaired or constructed, the increase of commerce, theintroduction of new industries: hence all the aldermen and merchants areconstrained to subscribe to his work. Elsewhere we find an anecdote ofan actor and actress: as the superlative degree is interesting, hebegins by saying that William Mountford was the most agreeable comedian,that Anne Bracegirdle was the most popular actress of the time. If heintroduces a statesman, he always announces him by some great word: hewas the most insinuating, or the most equitable, or the best informed,or the most inveterately debauched, of all the politicians of the day.But Macaulay's great qualities serve him as well in this matter as hisliterary machinery: a little too manifest, a little too copious, alittle too coarse. The astonishing number of details, the medley ofpsychological and moral dissertations, descriptions, relations,opinions, pleadings, portraits, beyond all, good composition and thecontinuous stream of eloquence, seize and retain the attention to theend. We have hard work to finish a volume of Lingard or Robertson; weshould have hard work not to finish a volume of Macaulay.

Here is a detached narrative which shows very well, and in the abstract,the means of interesting which he employs, and the great interest whichhe excites. The subject is the Massacre of Glencoe. Macaulay begins bydescribing the spot like a traveller who has seen it, and points it outto the bands of tourists and dilettanti, historians and antiquarians,who every year start from London:


"Mac Ian dwelt in the mouth of a ravine situated not far from thesouthern shore of Loch Leven, an arm of the sea which deeply indents thewestern coast of Scotland, and separates Argyleshire fromInverness-shire. Near his house were two or three small hamletsinhabited by his tribe. The whole population which he governed was notsupposed to exceed two hundred souls. In the neighbourhood of the littlecluster of villages was some copsewood and some pasture land: but alittle further up the defile no sign of population or of fruitfulnesswas to be seen. In the Gaelic tongue, Glencoe signifies the Glen ofWeeping: and, in truth, that pass is the most dreary and melancholy ofall the Scottish passes, the very Valley of the Shadow of Death. Mistsand storms brood over it through the greater part of the finest summer;and even on those rare days when the sun is bright, and when there is nocloud in the sky, the impression made by the landscape is sad and awful.The path lies along a stream which issues from the most sullen andgloomy of mountain pools. Huge precipices of naked stone frown on bothsides. Even in July the streaks of snow may often be discerned in therifts near the summits. All down the sides of the crags heaps of ruinmark the headlong paths of the torrents. Mile after mile the travellerlooks in vain for the smoke of one hut, or for one human form wrapped ina plaid, and listens in vain for the bark of a shepherd's dog, or thebleat of a lamb. Mile after mile the only sound that indicates life isthe faint cry of a bird of prey from some stormbeaten pinnacle of rock.The progress of civilization, which has turned so many wastes intofields yellow with harvests or gay with apple blossoms, has only madeGlencoe more desolate. All the science and industry of a peaceful agecan extract nothing valuable from that wilderness: but, in an age ofviolence and rapine, the wilderness itself was valued on account of theshelter which it afforded to the plunderer and his plunder."[323]


The description, though very beautiful, is written for effect. The finalantithesis explains it; the author has made it in order to show that theMacdonalds were the greatest brigands of the country.

The Master of Stair, who represented William III in Scotland, relying onthe fact that Mac Ian had not taken the oath of allegiance on theappointed day, determined to destroy the chief and his clan. He was noturged by hereditary hate nor by private interest; he was a man of taste,polished and amiable. He did this crime out of humanity, persuaded thatthere was no other way of pacifying the Highlands. Thereupon Macaulayinserts a dissertation of four pages, very well written, full ofinterest and knowledge, whose diversity affords us rest, which leads usover all kinds of historical examples, and moral lessons:


"We daily see men do for their party, for their sect, for their country,for their favorite schemes of political and social reform, what theywould not do to enrich or to avenge themselves. At a temptation directlyaddressed to our private cupidity or to our private animosity, whatevervirtue we have takes the alarm. But virtue itself may contribute to thefall of him who imagines that it is in his power, by violating somegeneral rule of morality, to confer an important benefit on a church, ona commonwealth, on mankind. He silences the remonstrances of conscience,and hardens his heart against the most touching spectacles of misery, byrepeating to himself that his intentions are pure, that his objects arenoble, that he is doing a little evil for the sake of a great good. Bydegrees he comes altogether to forget the turpitude of the means in theexcellence of the end, and at length perpetrates without one internaltwinge acts which would shock a buccaneer. There is no reason to believethat Dominic would, for the best archbishopric in Christendom, haveincited ferocious marauders to plunder and slaughter a peaceful andindustrious population, that Edward Digby would, for a dukedom, haveblown a large assembly of people into the air, or that Robespierre wouldhave murdered for hire one of the thousands whom he murdered fromphilanthropy."[324]


Do we not recognize here the Englishman brought up on psychological andmoral essays and sermons, who involuntarily and every instant spreadsone over the paper? This species of literature is unknown in Frenchlecture-rooms and reviews; this is why it is unknown in Frenchhistories. When we wish to enter English history, we have only to stepdown from the pulpit and the newspaper.

I do not transcribe the sequel of the explanation, the examples of JamesV, Sixtus V, and so many others, whom Macaulay cites to find precedentsfor the Master of Stair. Then follows a very circ*mstantial and verysolid discussion, to prove that William III was not responsible for themassacre. It is clear that Macaulay's object, here as elsewhere, is lessto draw a picture than to suggest a judgment. He desires that we shouldhave an opinion on the morality of the act, that we should attribute itto its real authors, that each should bear exactly his own share, and nomore. A little further, when the question of the punishment of the crimearises, and William, having severely chastised the executioners,contents himself with recalling the Master of Stair, Macaulay writes adissertation of several pages to consider this injustice and to blamethe king. Here, as elsewhere, he is still an orator and a moralist;nothing has more power to interest an English reader. Happily for us, heat length becomes once more a narrator; the petty details which he thenselects fix the attention, and place the scene before our eyes:


"The sight of the red coats approaching caused some anxiety among thepopulation of the valley. John, the eldest son of the Chief, came,accompanied by twenty clansmen, to meet the strangers, and asked whatthis visit meant. Lieutenant Lindsay answered that the soldiers came asfriends, and wanted nothing but quarters. They were kindly received, andwere lodged under the thatched roofs of the little community. Glenlyonand several of his men were taken into the house of a tacksman who wasnamed from the cluster of cabins over which he exercised authority,Inverriggen. Lindsay was accommodated nearer to the abode of the oldchief. Auchintriater, one of the principal men of the clan, who governedthe small hamlet of Auchnaion, found room there for a party commanded bya sergeant named Barbour. Provisions were liberally supplied. There wasno want of beef, which had probably fattened in distant pastures: norwas any payment demanded: for in hospitality, as in thievery, the Gaelicmarauders rivalled the Bedouins. During twelve days the soldiers livedfamiliarly with the people of the glen. Old Mac Ian, who had before feltmany misgivings as to the relation in which he stood to the government,seems to have been pleased with the visit. The officers passed much oftheir time with him and his family. The long evenings were cheerfullyspent by the peat fire, with the help of some packs of cards which hadfound their way to that remote corner of the world, and of some Frenchbrandy which was probably part of James's farewell gift to his Highlandsupporters. Glenlyon appeared to be warmly attached to his niece and herhusband Alexander. Every day he came to their house to take his morningdraught. Meanwhile he observed with minute attention all the avenues bywhich, when the signal for the slaughter should be given, the Macdonaldsmight attempt to escape to the hills; and he reported the result of hisobservations to Hamilton....

"The night was rough. Hamilton and his troops made slow progress, andwere long after their time. While they were contending with the wind andsnow, Glenlyon was supping and playing at cards with those whom he meantto butcher before daybreak. He and Lieutenant Lindsay had engagedthemselves to dine with the old Chief on the morrow.

"Late in the evening a vague suspicion that some evil was intendedcrossed the mind of the Chief's eldest son. The soldiers were evidentlyin a restless state; and some of them uttered strange exclamations. Twomen, it is said, were overheard whispering: 'I do not like this job,'one of them muttered; 'I should be glad to fight the Macdonalds. But tokill men in their beds--We must do as we are bid,' answered anothervoice. 'If there is anything wrong, our officers must answer for it.'John Macdonald was so uneasy, that, soon after midnight, he went toGlenlyon's quarters. Glenlyon and his men were all up, and seemed to begetting their arms ready for action. John, much alarmed, asked whatthese preparations meant. Glenlyon was profuse of friendly assurances.'Some of Glengarry's people have been harrying the country. We aregetting ready to march against them. You are quite safe. Do you thinkthat, if you were in any danger, I should not have given a hint to yourbrother Sandy and his wife?' John's suspicions were quieted. He returnedto his house, and lay down to rest."[325]


On the next day, at five in the morning, the old chieftain wasassassinated: his men shot in their beds or by the fireside. Women werebutchered; a boy twelve years old, who begged his life on his knees, wasslain; they who fled half-naked, women and children, died of cold andhunger in the snow.

These precise details, these soldiers' conversations, this picture ofevenings by the fireside, give to history the animation and life of anovel. And still the historian remains an orator: for he has chosen allthese facts to exhibit the perfidy of the assassins and the horriblenature of the massacre; and he will make use of them later on, todemand, with all the power and passion of logic, the punishment of thecriminals.


Section VIII.--Comparison of Macaulay with French Historians


Thus this History, whose qualities seem so little English, bearsthroughout the mark of genuine English talent. Universal, connected, itembraces all the facts in its vast, undivided, and unbroken woof.Developed, abundant, it enlightens obscure facts, and opens up to themost ignorant the most complicated questions. Interesting, varied, itattracts and preserves the attention. It has life, clearness, unity,qualities which appear to be wholly French. It seems as if the authorwere a popularizer like Thiers, a philosopher like Guizot, an artistlike Thierry. The truth is, that he is an orator, and that after thefashion of his country; but, as he possesses in the highest degree theoratorical faculties, and possesses them with a national tendency andinstincts, he seems to supplement through them the faculties which hehas not. He is not genuinely philosophical; the mediocrity of hisearlier chapters on the ancient history of England proves thissufficiently; but his force of reasoning, his habits of classificationand order, bestow unity upon his History. He is not a genuine artist;when he draws a picture, he is always thinking of proving something; heinserts dissertations in the most interesting and affecting places; hehas neither charm, lightness, vivacity, nor _finesse_, but a marvellousmemory, vast knowledge, an ardent, political passion, a great legaltalent for expounding and pleading every cause, a precise knowledge ofprecise and petty facts which rivet the attention, charm, diversify,animate, and warm a narrative. He is not simply a popularizer; he is tooardent, too eager to prove, to conquer belief, to beat down his foes, tohave only the limpid talent of a man who explains and expounds, with noother end than to explain and expound, which spreads light throughout,and never spreads heat; but he is so well provided with details andreasons, so anxious to convince, so rich in his expositions, that hecannot fail to be popular. By this breadth of knowledge, this power ofreasoning and passion, he has produced one of the finest books of theage, whilst manifesting the genius of his nation. This solidity, thisenergy, this deep political passion, these moral prepossessions, theseoratorical habits, this limited philosophical power, this somewhatuniform style, without flexibility or sweetness, this eternal gravity,this geometrical progress to a settled end, announce in him the Englishmind. But if he is English to the French, he is not so to his nation.The animation, interest, clearness, unity of his narrative, astonishthem. They think him brilliant, rapid, bold; it is, they say, a Frenchmind. Doubtless he is so, in many respects: if he understands Racinebadly, he admires Pascal and Bossuet; his friends say that he used dailyto read Mme de Sévigné. Nay more, by the structure of his mind, byhis eloquence and rhetoric, he is Latin; so that the inner structure ofhis talent places him amongst the classics; it is only by his livelyappreciation, of special, complex, and sensible facts, by his energy andfierceness, by the rather heavy richness of his imagination, by thedepth of his coloring, that he belongs to his race. Like Addison andBurke, he resembles a strange graft, fed and transformed by the sap ofthe national stock. At all events, this judgment is the strongest markof the difference between the two nations. To reach the Englishintellect, a Frenchman must make two voyages. When he has crossed thefirst interval, which is wide, he comes upon Macaulay. Let himre-embark; he must accomplish a second passage, just as long, to arriveat Carlyle for instance--a mind fundamentally Germanic, on the genuineEnglish soil.


[Footnote 299: Macaulay's Works, ed. Lady Trevelyan, 8 vols. 1866;"Essay on Bacon," VI. 222.]

[Footnote 300: Macaulay's Works; "Essay on Bacon," VI. 223.]

[Footnote 301: "Charles himself, and his creature Laud, while theyabjured the innocent badges of Popery, retained all its worst vices--acomplete subjection of reason to authority, a weak preference of form tosubstance, a childish passion for mummeries, an idolatrous venerationfor the priestly character, and, above all, a mercilessintolerance."--Macaulay, V. 24; Milton.

"It is difficult to relate without a pitying smile, that in the sacrificeof the mass, Loyola saw transubstantiation take place, and that, as hestood praying on the steps of the Church of St. Dominic, he saw theTrinity in Unity, and wept aloud with joy and wonder."--Macaulay, VI.468; Ranke, "History of the Popes."]

[Footnote 302: Macaulay, VI. 39; An Essay on William Pitt, Earl ofChatham.]

[Footnote 303: Macaulay, V. 27; Milton.]

[Footnote 304: Macaulay, V. 35; Milton.]

[Footnote 305: Macaulay, VII. 109; "Life and Writings of Addison."]

[Footnote 306: See in his "Essay on the Life and Writings of Addison"(VII. 78) Macaulay's observations on the "Campaign."]

[Footnote 307: Macaulay, VI. 549; "Warren Hastings."]

[Footnote 308: Ibid. 553.]

[Footnote 309: Macaulay, VI. 555; "Warren Hastings."]

[Footnote 310: Ibid. VI. 619; "Warren Hastings."]

[Footnote 311: Béranger, "Chansons," 2 vols. 1853; Les Boxeurs, ouL'Anglomane.]

[Footnote 312: Macaulay, V. 333; "Southey's Colloquies on Society."]

[Footnote 313: Macaulay, V. 204; "Hallam's Constitutional History."]

[Footnote 314: Ibid. 587; "Burleigh and his Times."]

[Footnote 315: Macaulay, VI. 491; "Comic Dramatists of the Restoration."]

[Footnote 316: Ibid. V. 672; "Lord Mahon's War of the Succession inSpain."]

[Footnote 317: Macaulay, V. 31; "Milton."]

[Footnote 318: Ibid. 595; "Burleigh and his Times."]

[Footnote 319: Macaulay, VI. 628; "Warren Hastings."]

[Footnote 320: Macaulay, I. 2; "History of England before theRestoration," ch. I.]

[Footnote 321: Macaulay, II. 463, "History of England," ch. XI.]

[Footnote 322: Macaulay, II. 465, "History of England," ch. XI.]

[Footnote 323: Macaulay, III. 513, "History of England," ch. XVIII.]

[Footnote 324: Macaulay, III. 519, "History of England," ch. XVIII.]

[Footnote 325: Macaulay, III. 526, "History of England," ch. XVIII.]


CHAPTER FOURTH


PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY--CARLYLE


When we ask Englishmen, especially those under forty, who amongst themare the great thinkers, they first mention Carlyle; but at the same timethey advise us not to read him, warning us that we will not understandhim at all. Then, of course, we hasten to get the twenty volumes ofCarlyle--criticism, history, pamphlets, fantasies, philosophy; we readthem with very strange emotions, contradicting every morning our opinionof the night before. We discover at last that we are in presence of astrange animal, a relic of a lost family, a sort of mastodon, who hasstrayed in a world not made for him. We rejoice in this zoological goodluck, and dissect him with minute curiosity, telling ourselves that weshall probably never find another like him.


Part I.--Style and Mind


Section I.--Carlyle's Obscurity and Crudeness


We are at first put out. All is new here--ideas, style, tone, the shapeof the phrases, and the very vocabulary. He takes everything in acontrary meaning, does violence to everything, to expressions as well asto things. With him paradoxes are set down for principles; common-sensetakes the form of absurdity. We are, as it were, carried into an unknownworld, whose inhabitants walk head downwards, feet in the air, dressedin motley, as great lords and maniacs, with contortions, jerks, andcries; we are grievously stunned by these extravagant and discordantsounds; we want to stop our ears, we have a headache, we are obligedto decipher a new language. We see upon the table volumes whichought to be as clear as possible--"The History of the FrenchRevolution," for instance; and there we read these headings to thechapters: "Realized Ideals--Viaticum--Astræa Redux--Petition inHieroglyphs--Windbags--Mercury de Brézé--Broglie the War-God." We askourselves what connection there can be between these riddles and suchsimple events as we all know. We then perceive that Carlyle alwaysspeaks in riddles. "Logic-choppers" is the name he gives to the analystsof the eighteenth century; "Beaver science" is his word for thecatalogues and classifications of our modern men of science;"Transcendental moonshine" signifies the philosophical and sentimentaldreams imported from Germany. The religion of the "rotary calabash"means external and mechanical religion.[326] He cannot be contented witha simple expression; he employs figures at every step; he embodies allhis ideas; he must touch forms. We see that he is besieged and hauntedby brilliant or gloomy visions; every thought with him is a shock; astream of misty passion comes bubbling into his overflowing brain, andthe torrent of images breaks forth and rolls on amidst every kind of mudand magnificence. He cannot reason, he must paint. If he wants toexplain the embarrassment of a young man obliged to choose a careeramongst the lusts and doubts of the age, in which we live, he tells youof


"A world all rocking and plunging, like that old Roman one when themeasure of its iniquities was full; the abysses, and subterranean andsupernal deluges, plainly broken loose; in the wild dim-lighted chaosall stars of Heaven gone out. No star of Heaven visible, hardly now toany man; the pestiferous fogs and foul exhalations grown continual,have, except on the highest mountain-tops, blotted out all stars:will-o'-wisps, of various course and colour, take the place of stars.Over the wild surging chaos, in the leaden air, are only sudden glaresof revolutionary lightning; then mere darkness, with philanthropisticphosphorescences, empty meteoric lights; here and there anecclesiastical luminary still hovering, hanging on to its old quakingfixtures, pretending still to be a Moon or Sun--though visibly it is buta Chinese Lantern made of paper mainly, with candle-end foully dying inthe heart of it."[327]


Imagine a volume, twenty volumes, made up of such pictures, united byexclamations and apostrophes; even history--that of the FrenchRevolution--is like a delirium. Carlyle is a Puritan seer, before whoseeyes pass scaffolds, orgies, massacres, battles, and who, beset byfurious or bloody phantoms, prophesies, encourages, or curses. If we donot throw down the book from anger or weariness, we will become dazed;our ideas leave us, nightmare seizes us, a medley of grinning andferocious figures whirl about in our head; we hear the howls ofinsurrection, cries of war; we are sick; we are like those hearers ofthe Covenanters whom the preaching filled with disgust or enthusiasm,and who broke the head of their prophet, if they did not take him fortheir leader.

These violent outbursts will seem to us still more violent if we markthe breadth of the field which they traverse. From the sublime to theignoble, from the pathetic to the grotesque, is but a step with Carlyle.At one and the same time he touches the two extremes. His adorations endin sarcasms. The Universe is for him an oracle and a temple, as well asa kitchen and a stable. He moves freely about, and is at his ease inmysticism, as well as in brutality. Speaking of the setting sun at theNorth Cape, he writes:


"Silence as of death; for Midnight, even in the Arctic latitudes, hasits character: nothing but the granite cliffs ruddy-tinged, thepeaceable gurgle of that slow-heaving Polar Ocean, over which in theutmost North the great Sun hangs low and lazy, as if fie too wereslumbering. Yet is his cloud-couch wrought of crimson and cloth-of-gold;yet does his light stream over the mirror of waters, like a tremulousfire-pillar, shooting downwards to the abyss, and hide itself under myfeet. In such moments, Solitude also is invaluable; for who would speak,or be looked on, when behind him lies all Europe and Africa, fastasleep, except the watchmen; and before him the silent Immensity, andPalace of the Eternal, whereof our Sun is but a porch-lamp?"[328]


Such splendors he sees whenever he is face to face with nature. No onehas contemplated with a more powerful emotion the silent stars whichroll eternally in the pale firmament and envelop our little world. Noone has contemplated with more of religious awe the infinite obscurityin which our slender thought appears for an instant like a gleam, and byour side the gloomy abyss in which the hot frenzy of life is to beextinguished. His eyes are habitually fixed on this vast Darkness, andhe paints with a shudder of veneration and hope the effort whichreligions have made to pierce it:


"In the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little Kirk; the Deadall slumbering round it, under their white memorial stones, 'in hope ofa happy resurrection';--dull wert thou, O Reader, if never in any hour(say of moaning midnight, when such Kirk hung spectral in the sky, andBeing was as if swallowed up of Darkness) it spoke to thee--thingsunspeakable, that went to thy soul's soul. Strong was he that had aChurch, what we can call a Church: he stood thereby, though 'in thecentre of Immensities, in the conflux of Eternities,' yet manliketowards God and man: the vague shoreless Universe had become for him afirm city, and dwelling which he knew."[329]


Rembrandt alone has beheld these sombre visions drowned in shade,traversed by mystic rays: look, for example, at the church which he haspainted; glance at the mysterious floating apparition, full of radiantforms, which he has set in the summit of the heavens, above the stormynight and the terror which shakes mortality.[330] The two imaginationshave the same painful grandeur, the same scintillations, the same agony,and both sink with like facility into triviality and crudeness. Noulcer, no filth, is repulsive enough to disgust Carlyle. On occasion hewill compare the politician who seeks popularity to "the dog that wasdrowned last summer, and that floats up and down the Thames with ebb andflood.... You get to know him by sight... with a painful oppression ofnose.... Daily you may see him,... and daily the odour of him is gettingmore intolerable."[331] Absurdities, incongruities, abound in his style.When the frivolous Cardinal de Loménie proposed to convoke a PlenaryCourt, he compares him to "trained canary birds, that would flycheerfully with lighted matches and fire cannon; fire whole powdermagazines."[332] At need, he turns to funny images. He ends a dithyrambwith a caricature: he bespatters magnificence with eccentric and coarselanguage: he couples poetry with puns:


"The Genius of England no longer soars Sunward, world defiant, like anEagle through the storms, 'mewing her mighty youth,' as John Milton sawher do: the Genius of England, much liker a greedy Ostrich intent onprovender and a whole skin mainly, stands with its other extremitySunward; with its Ostrich-head stuck into the readiest bush, of oldChurch-tippets, King-cloaks, or what other 'sheltering Fallacy' theremay be, and so awaits the issue. The issue has been slow; but it is nowseen to have been inevitable. No Ostrich, intent on gross terreneprovender, and sticking its head into Fallacies, but will be awakenedone day--in a terrible _à-posteriori_ manner, if not otherwise?"[333]


With such buffoonery he concludes his best book, never quitting his toneof gravity and gloom, in the midst of anathemas and prophecies. He needsthese great shocks. He cannot remain quiet, or stick to one literaryprovince at a time. He leaps in unimpeded jerks from one end of thefield of ideas to the other; he confounds all styles, jumbles all forms,heaps together pagan allusions, Bible reminiscences, Germanabstractions, technical terms, poetry, slang, mathematics, physiology,archaic words, neologies. There is nothing he does not tread down andravage. The symmetrical constructions of human art and thought,dispersed and upset, are piled under his hands into a vast mass ofshapeless ruins, from the top of which he gesticulates and fights, likea conquering savage.


Section II.--The Humor of Carlyle


This kind of mind produces humor, a word untranslatable in French,because in France they have not the idea. Humor is a species of talentwhich amuses Germans, Northmen; it suits their mind, as beer and brandysuit their palate. For men of another race it is disagreeable; theyoften find it too harsh and bitter. Amongst other things, this talentembraces a taste for contrasts. Swift jokes with the serious mien of anecclesiastic, performing religious rites, and develops the mostgrotesque absurdities, like a convinced man. Hamlet, shaken with terrorand despair, bristles with buffooneries. Heine mocks his own emotions,even whilst he displays them. These men love travesties, put a solemngarb over comic ideas, a clown's jacket over grave ones. Another featureof humor is that the author forgets the public for whom he writes. Hetells us that he does not care for us, that he needs neither to beunderstood nor approved, that he thinks and amuses himself by himself,and that if his taste and ideas displease us we have only to takeourselves off. He wishes to be refined and original at his ease; he isat home in his book, and with closed doors, he gets into his slippers,dressing-gown, often with his feet in the air, sometimes without ashirt. Carlyle has a style of his own, and marks his idea in his ownfashion; it is our business to understand it. He alludes to a saying ofGoethe, or Shakespeare, or to an anecdote which strikes him at themoment; so much the worse for us if we do not know it. He shouts whenthe fancy takes him; the worse for us if our ears do not like it. Hewrites on the caprice of his imagination, with all the starts ofinvention; the worse for us if our mind goes at a different pace. Hecatches on the wing all the shades, all the oddities of his conception;the worse for us if ours cannot reach them. A last feature of humor isthe irruption of violent joviality, buried under a heap of sadness.Absurd incongruity appears unexpected. Physical nature, hidden andoppressed under habits of melancholic reflection, is laid bare for aninstant. We see a grimace, a clown's gesture, then everything resumesits wonted gravity. Add lastly the unforeseen flashes of imagination.The humorist covers a poet; suddenly, in the monotonous mist of prose,at the end of an argument, a vista opens up; beautiful or ugly, itmatters not; it is enough that it strikes our eyes. These inequalitiesfairly paint the solitary, energetic, imaginative German, a lover ofviolent contrasts, based on personal and gloomy reflection, with suddenup-wellings of physical instinct, so different from the Latin andclassical races, races of orators or artists, where they never write butwith an eye to the public, where they relish only consequent ideas, areonly happy in the spectacle of harmonious forms, where the fancy isregulated, and voluptuousness appears natural. Carlyle is profoundlyGerman, nearer to the primitive stock than any of his contemporaries,strange and unexampled in his fancies and his pleasantries; he callshimself "a bemired aurochs or urus of the German woods,... the poorwood-ox so bemired in the forests."[334] For instance, his first book,"Sartor Resartus," which is a clothes-philosophy, contains, _à propos_of aprons and breeches, metaphysics, politics, psychology. Man,according to him, is a dressed animal. Society has clothes for itsfoundation. "How, without Clothes, could we possess the master-organ,soul's seat, and true pineal gland of the Body social: I mean aPURSE:"[335]


"To the eye of vulgar Logic," says he, "what is man? An omnivorous Bipedthat wears Breeches. To the eye of Pure Reason what is he? A Soul, aSpirit, and divine Apparition. Round his mysterious Me, there lies,under all those wool-rags, a Garment of Flesh (or of Senses) contexturedin the Loom of Heaven; whereby he is revealed to his like, and dwellswith them in UNION and DIVISION; and sees and fashions for himself aUniverse, with azure Starry Spaces, and long Thousands of Years.Deep-hidden is he under that strange Garment; amid Sounds and Coloursand Forms, as it were, swathed-in, and inextricably over-shrouded: yetit is skywoven, and worthy of a God."[336]


The paradox continues, at once eccentric and mystical, hiding theoriesunder follies, mixing together fierce ironies, tender pastorals,love-stories, explosions of rage, and carnival pictures. He says well:


"Perhaps the most remarkable incident in Modern History is not the Dietof Worms, still less the battle of Austerlitz, Wagram, Waterloo,Peterloo, or any other Battle; but an incident passed carelessly over bymost Historians, and treated with some degree of ridicule by others:namely, George Fox's making to himself a suit of Leather."[337]


For, thus clothed for the rest of his life, lodging in a tree and eatingwild berries, man could remain idle and invent Puritanism, that is,conscience-worship, at his leisure. This is how Carlyle treats the ideaswhich are dearest to him. He jests in connection with the doctrine,which was to employ his life and occupy his whole soul.

Should we like an abstract of his politics, and his opinion about hiscountry? He proves that in the modern transformation of religions twoprincipal sects have risen, especially in England; the one of "PoorSlaves" the other of Dandies. Of the first he says:


"Something Monastic there appears to be in their Constitution: we findthem bound by the two Monastic Vows, of Poverty and Obedience; whichVows, especially the former, it is said, they observe with greatstrictness; nay, as I have understood it, they are pledged, and be it byany solemn Nazarene ordination or not, irrevocably consecrated thereto,even _before_ birth. That the third Monastic Vow, of Chastity, isrigidly enforced among them, I find no ground to conjecture.

"Furthermore, they appear to imitate the Dandiacal Sect in their grandprinciple of wearing a peculiar Costume.... Their raiment consists ofinnumerable skirts, lappets, and irregular wings, of all cloths and ofall colours; through the labyrinthic intricacies of which their bodiesare introduced by some unknown process. It is fastened together by amultiplex combination of buttons, thrums, and skewers; to whichfrequently is added a girdle of leather, of hempen or even of strawrope, round the loins. To straw rope, indeed, they seem partial, andoften wear it by way of sandals....

"One might fancy them worshippers of Hertha, or the Earth: for they digand affectionately work continually in her bosom; or else, shut up inprivate Oratories, meditate and manipulate the substances derived fromher; seldom looking-up towards the Heavenly Luminaries, and then withcomparative indifference. Like the Druids, on the other hand, they livein dark dwellings; often even breaking their glass-windows, where theyfind such, and stuffing them up with pieces of raiment, or other opaquesubstances, till the fit obscurity is restored....

"In respect of diet they have also their observances. All Poor Slavesare Rhizophagous (or Root-eaters); a few are Ichthyophagous, and useSalted Herrings; other animal food they abstain from; except indeed,with perhaps some strange inverted fragment of a Brahminical feeling,such animals as die a natural death. Their universal sustenance is theroot named Potato, cooked by fire alone.... In all their ReligiousSolemnities, Potheen is said to be an indispensable requisite, andlargely consumed."[338]


Of the other sect he says:


"A certain touch of Manicheism, not indeed in the Gnostic shape, isdiscernible enough: also (for human error walks in a cycle, andreappears at intervals) a not-inconsiderable resemblance to thatSuperstition of the Athos Monks, who by fasting from all nourishment,and looking intensely for a length of time into their own navels, cameto discern therein the true Apocalypse of Nature, and Heaven Unveiled.To my own surmise, it appears as if this Dandiacal Sect were but a newmodification, adapted to the new time, of that primeval Superstition,_Self-worship._...

"They affect great purity and separatism; distinguish themselves by aparticular costume (whereof some notices were given in the earlier partof this Volume); likewise, so far as possible, by a particular speech(apparently some broken _Lingua-franca_, or English-French); and, on thewhole, strive to maintain a true Nazarene deportment, and keepthemselves unspotted from the world."

"They have their Temples, whereof the chief, as the Jewish Temple did,stands in their metropolis; and is named _Almack's_, a word of uncertainetymology. They worship principally by night; and have their Highpriestsand Highpriestesses, who, however, do not continue for life. The rites,by some supposed to be of the Menadic sort, or perhaps with an Elusinianor Cabiric character, are held strictly secret. Nor are Sacred Bookswanting to the Sect; these they call _Fashionable Novels_: however, theCanon is not completed, and some are canonical, and others not...."[339]


Their chief articles of faith are:


"1. Coats should have nothing of the triangle about them; at the sametime, wrinkles behind should be carefully avoided.

"2. The collar is a very important point: it should be low behind, andslightly rolled.

"3. No licence of fashion can allow a man of delicate taste to adopt theposterial luxuriance of a Hottentot.

"4. There is safety in a swallow-tail.

"5. The good sense of a gentleman is nowhere more finely developed thanin his rings.

"6. It is permitted to mankind, under certain restrictions, to wearwhite waistcoats.

"7. The trousers must be exceedingly tight across the hips.

"All which Propositions I, for the present, content myself with modestlybut peremptorily and irrevocably denying."[340]


This premised, he draws conclusions:


"I might call them two boundless and indeed unexampled Electric Machines(turned by the 'Machinery of Society'), with batteries of oppositequality; Drudgism the Negative, Dandyism the Positive: one attractshourly towards it and appropriates all the Positive Electricity of thenation (namely, the Money thereof); the other is equally busy with theNegative (that is to say the Hunger), which is equally potent. Hithertoyou see only partial, transient sparkles and sputters: but wait alittle, till the entire nation is in an electric state; till your wholevital Electricity, no longer healthfully Neutral, is cut into twoisolated portions of Positive and Negative (of Money and of Hunger); andstands there bottled-up in two World-Batteries! The stirring of achild's finger brings the two together; and then--What then? The Earthis but shivered into impalpable smoke by that Doom's thunder-peal: theSun misses one of his Planets in Space, and thenceforth there are noeclipses of the Moon. Or better still, I might liken----"[341]


He stops suddenly, and leaves you to your conjectures. This bitterpleasantry is that of an enraged or despairing man, who designedly, andsimply by reason of the violence of his passion, would restrain it andforce himself to laugh; but whom a sudden shudder at the end revealsjust as he is. In one place Carlyle says that there is, at the bottom ofthe English character, underneath all its habits of calculation andcoolness, an inextinguishable furnace:


"Deep hidden it lies, far down in the centre, like genial central fire,with stratum after stratum of arrangement, traditionary method, composedproductiveness, all built above it, vivified and rendered fertile by it:justice, clearness, silence, perseverance unhasting, unrestingdiligence, hatred of disorder, hatred of injustice, which is the worstdisorder, characterise this people: the inward fire we say, as all suchfires would be, is hidden in the centre. Deep hidden, but awakenable,but immeasurable; let no man awaken it."


It is a fire of extraordinary fierceness, as the rage of devotedBerserkirs, who, once rushing to the heat of the battle, felt no moretheir wounds, and lived, fought, and killed, pierced with strokes, theleast of which would have been mortal to an ordinary man. It is thisdestructive frenzy, this rousing of inward unknown powers, thisloosening of a ferocity, enthusiasm, and imagination disordered and notto be bridled, which appeared in these men at the Renaissance and theReformation, and a remnant of which still endures in Carlyle. Here is avestige of it, in a passage almost worthy of Swift, which is theabstract of his customary emotions, and at the same time his conclusionon the age in which we live:


"Supposing swine (I mean four-footed swine), of sensibility and superiorlogical parts, had attained such culture; and could, after survey andreflection, jot down for us their notion of the Universe, and of theirinterests and duties there--might it not well interest a discerningpublic, perhaps in unexpected ways, and give a stimulus to thelanguishing book-trade? The votes of all creatures, it is understood atpresent, ought to be had; that you may 'legislate' for them with betterinsight. 'How can you govern a thing,' say many, 'without first askingits vote?' Unless, indeed, you already chance to know its vote--and evensomething more, namely, what you are to think of its vote; what _it_wants by its vote; and, still more important, what Nature wants--whichlatter, at the end of the account--the only thing that will begot!----Pig Propositions, in a rough form, are somewhat as follows:

"1. The Universe, so far as sane conjecture can go, is an immeasurableSwine's-trough, consisting of solid and liquid, and of other contrastsand kinds;--especially consisting of attainable and unattainable, thelatter in immensely greater quantities for most pigs.

"2. Moral evil is unattainability of Pig's-wash; moral good, attainabilityof ditto.

"3. 'What is Paradise, or the State of Innocence?' Paradise, called alsoState of Innocence, Age of Gold, and other names, _was_ (according toPigs of weak judgment) unlimited attainability of Pig's-wash; perfectfulfilment of one's wishes, so that the Pig's imagination could notoutrun reality; a fable and an impossibility, as Pigs of sense now see.

"4. 'Define the Whole Duty of Pigs.' It is the mission of universalPighood, and the duty of all Pigs, at all times, to diminish thequantity of unattainable and increase that of attainable. All knowledgeand device and effort ought to be directed thither and thither only: Pigscience, Pig enthusiasm and Devotion have this one aim. It is the WholeDuty of Pigs.

"5. Pig Poetry ought to consist of universal recognition of theexcellence of Pig's-wash and ground barley, and the felicity of Pigswhose trough is in order, and who have had enough: Hrumph!

"6. The Pig knows the weather; he ought to look out what kind of weatherit will be.

"7. 'Who made the Pig?' Unknown;--perhaps the Pork-butcher.

"8. 'Have you Law and Justice in Pigdom?' Pigs of observation havediscerned that there is, or was once supposed to be, a thing calledJustice. Undeniably at least there is a sentiment in Pig-nature calledindignation, revenge, etc., which, if one Pig provoke another, comes outin a more or less destructive manner: hence laws are necessary, amazingquantities of laws. For quarrelling is attended with loss of blood, oflife, at any rate with frightful effusion of the general stock ofHog's-wash, and ruin (temporary ruin) to large Sections of the universalSwine's trough: wherefore let justice be observed, that so quarrellingbe avoided.

"9. 'What is justice?' Your own share of the general Swine's-trough; notany portion of my share.

"10. 'But what is "my" share?' Ah! there, in fact, lies the granddifficulty; upon which Pig science, meditating this long while, cansettle absolutely nothing. My share--hrumph!--my share is, on the whole,whatever I can contrive to get without being hanged or sent to thehulks."[342]


Such is the mire in which he plunges modern life, and, beyond allothers, English life; drowning at the same time, and in the same filth,the positive mind, the love of comfort, industrial science, Church,State, philosophy, and law. This cynical catechism thrown in amidstfurious declamations, gives, I think, the dominant note of this strangemind: it is this mad tension which constitutes his talent; whichproduces and explains his images and incongruities, his laughter and hisrages. There is an English expression which cannot be translated intoFrench, but which depicts this condition, and illustrates the wholephysical constitution of the race: His blood is up. In fact, the coldand phlegmatic temperature covers the surface; but when the roused bloodhas swept through the veins, the fevered animal can only be glutted bydevastation, and be satiated by excess.


Section III.--Perception of the Real and the Sublime


It seems as though a soul so violent, so enthusiastic, so savage, soabandoned to imaginative follies, so entirely without taste, order, andmeasure, would be capable only of rambling, and expending itself inhallucinations, full of sorrow and danger. In fact, many of those whohad this temperament, and who were his genuine forefathers--the Norsepirates, the poets of the sixteenth century, the Puritans of theseventeenth--were madmen, hurting others and themselves, bent ondevastating things and ideas, destroying the public security and theirown heart. Two entirely English barriers have restrained and directedCarlyle: the sentiment of actuality, which is the positive spirit, andof the sublime, which makes the religious spirit; the first turned himto real things, the other furnished him with the interpretation of realthings: instead of being sickly and visionary, he became a philosopherand a historian.


Section IV.--His Passion for Actuality


We must read his history of Cromwell to understand how far thissentiment of actuality penetrates him; with what knowledge it endowshim; how he rectifies dates and texts; how he verifies traditions andgenealogies; how he visits places, examines the trees, looks at thebrooks, knows the agriculture, prices, the whole domestic and ruraleconomy, all the political and literary circ*mstances; with whatminuteness, precision, and vehemence he reconstructs before his eyes andbefore ours the external picture of objects and affairs, the internalpicture of ideas and emotions. And it is not simply on his partconscience, habit, or prudence, but need and passion. In this greatobscure void of the past, his eyes fix upon the rare luminous points ason a treasure. The black sea of oblivion has swallowed up the rest: themillion thoughts and actions of so many million beings have disappeared,and no power will make them rise again to the light. These few pointssubsist alone, like the summits of the highest rocks of a submergedcontinent. With what ardor, what deep feeling for the destroyed worlds,of which these rocks are the remains, does the historian lay upon themhis eager hands, to discover from their nature and structure somerevelation of the great drowned regions, which no eye shall ever seeagain! A number, a trifling detail about expense, a petty phrase ofbarbarous Latin, is priceless in the sight of Carlyle. I should like youto read the commentary with which he surrounds the chronicle of the monkJocelin of Brakelond,[343] to show you the impression which a provedfact produces on such a soul; all the attention and emotion that an oldbarbarous word, a bill from the kitchen summons up:


"Behold, therefore, this England of the year 1200 was no chimericalvacuity or dreamland, peopled with mere vaporous Fantasms, Rymer'sFœdera, and Doctrines of the Constitution; but a green solid place,that grew corn and several other things. The sun shone on it; thevicissitude of seasons and human fortunes. Cloth was woven and worn;ditches were dug, furrow-fields ploughed, and houses built. Day by dayall men and cattle rose to labour, and night by night returned homeweary, to their several lairs.... The _Dominus Rex_, at departing, gaveus 'thirteen _sterlingii_,' one shilling and one penny, to say a massfor him.... For king Lackland _was_ there, verily he.... There, we say,is the grand peculiarity; the immeasurable one; distinguishing to areally infinite degree, the poorest historical Fact from all Fictionwhatsoever. 'Fiction,' 'Imagination, Imaginative poetry,' etc., etc.,except as the vehicle for truth, or is fact of some sort... what isit?[344]... And yet these grim old walls are not a dilettantism anddubiety; they are an earnest fact. It was a most real and seriouspurpose they were built for! Yes, another world it was, when these blackruins, white in their new mortar and fresh chiselling, first saw the sunas walls, long ago.... Their architecture, belfries, land-carucates?Yes--and that is but a small item of the matter. Does it never give theepause, this other strange item of it, that men then had a _soul_--not byhearsay alone, and as a figure of speech; but as a truth that they_knew_ and practically went upon!"[345]


And then he tries to resuscitate this soul before our eyes; for this ishis special feature, the special feature of every historian who has thesentiment of actuality, to understand that parchments, walls, dress,bodies themselves, are only cloaks and documents; that the true fact isthe inner feeling of men who have lived, that the only important fact isthe state and structure of their soul, that the first and sole businessis to reach that inner feeling, for that all else diverges from it. Wemust tell ourselves this fact over and over again; history is but thehistory of the heart; we have to search out the feelings of pastgenerations, and nothing else. This is what Carlyle perceives; man isbefore him, risen from the dead; he penetrates within him, sees that hefeels, suffers, and wills, in that special and individual manner, nowabsolutely lost and extinguished, in which he did feel, suffer, andwill. And he looks upon this sight, not coldly, like a man who only halfsees things in a gray mist, indistinctly and uncertain, but with all theforce of his heart and sympathy, like a convinced spectator, for whompast things, once proved, are as present and visible as the corporealobjects which his hand handles and touches, at the very moment. He feelsthis fact so clearly that he bases upon it all his philosophy ofhistory. In his opinion, great men, kings, writers, prophets, and poets,are only great in this sense: "It is the property of the hero, in everytime, in every place, in every situation, that he comes back to reality;that he stands upon things and not shows of things."[346] The great mandiscovers some unknown or neglected fact, proclaims it; men hear him,follow him; and this is the whole of history. And not only does hediscover and proclaim it, but he believes and sees it. He believes it,not as hearsay or conjecture, like a truth simply probable and handeddown; he sees it personally, face to face with absolute and indomitablefaith; he deserts opinion for conviction, tradition for intuition.Carlyle is so steeped in his process, that he imputes it to all greatmen. And he is not wrong, for there is none more potent. Wherever hepenetrates with this lamp, he carries a light not known before. Hepierces mountains of paper erudition, and enters into the hearts of men.Everywhere he goes beyond political and conventional history. He divinescharacters, comprehends the spirit of extinguished ages, feels, betterthan any Englishman, better than Macaulay himself, the great revolutionsof the soul. He is almost German in his power of imagination, hisantiquarian perspicacity, his broad general views, and yet he is nodealer in guesses. The national common-sense and the energetic cravingfor profound belief retain him on the limits of supposition; when hedoes guess, he gives it for what it is worth. He has no taste forhazardous history. He rejects hearsay and legends; he accepts onlypartially, and under reserve, the Germanic etymologies and hypotheses.He wishes to draw from history a positive and active law for himself andus. He expels and tears away from it all the doubtful and agreeableadditions which scientific curiosity and romantic imaginationaccumulate. He puts aside this parasitic growth to seize the useful andsolid wood. And when he has seized it, he drags it so energeticallybefore us, in order to make us touch it, he handles it in so violent amanner, he places it under such a glaring light, he illuminates it bysuch coarse contrasts of extraordinary images, that we are infected, andin spite of ourselves reach the intensity of his belief and vision.

He goes beyond, or rather is carried beyond this. The facts seized uponby this vehement imagination are melted in it as in a fire. Beneath thisfury of conception, everything wavers. Ideas, changed intohallucinations, lose their solidity, realities are like dreams; theworld, appearing in a nightmare, seems no more than a nightmare; theattestation of the bodily senses loses its weight before inner visionsas lucid as itself. Man finds no longer a difference between his dreamsand his perceptions. Mysticism enters like smoke within the over-heatedwalls of a collapsing imagination. It was thus that it once penetratedinto the ecstasies of ascetic Hindoos, and into the philosophy of ourfirst two centuries. Throughout, the same state of the imagination hasproduced the same teaching. The Puritans, Carlyle's true ancestors, wereinclined to it. Shakespeare reached it by the prodigious tension of hispoetic dreams, and Carlyle ceaselessly repeats after him that "we aresuch stuff as dreams are made of." This real world, these events soharshly followed up, circ*mscribed, and handled, are to him onlyapparitions; the universe is divine. "Thy daily life is girt withwonder, and based on wonder; thy very blankets and breeches aremiracles.... The unspeakable divine significance, full of splendour, andwonder, and terror, lies in the being of every man and of everything;the presence of God who made every man and thing."


"Atheistic science babbles poorly of it, with scientific nomenclatures,experiments, and what-not, as if it were a poor dead thing, to bebottled up in Leyden jars, and sold over counters: but the natural senseof man, in all times, if he will honestly apply his sense, proclaims itto be a living thing--ah, an unspeakable, godlike thing; towards whichthe best attitude for us, after never so much science, is awe, devoutprostration and humility of soul: worship, if not in words, then insilence."[347]


In fact, this is the ordinary position of Carlyle. It ends in wonder.Beyond and beneath objects, he perceives as it were an abyss, and isinterrupted by shudderings. A score of times, a hundred times in the"History of the French Revolution," we have him suspending hisnarrative, and falling into a reverie. The immensity of the black nightin which the human apparitions rise for an instant, the fatality of thecrime which, once committed, remains attached to the chain of events asby a link of iron, the mysterious conduct which impels these floatingmasses to an unknown but inevitable end, are the great and sinisterimages which haunt him. He dreams anxiously of this focus of existence,of which we are only the reflection. He walks fearfully amongst thispeople of shadows, and tells himself that he too is a shadow. He istroubled by the thought that these human phantoms have their substanceelsewhere, and will answer to eternity for their short passage. Heexclaims and trembles at the idea of this motionless world, of whichours is but the mutable figure. He divines in it something august andterrible. For he shapes it, and he shapes our world according to his ownmind; he defines it by the emotions which he draws from it, and figuresit by the impressions which he receives from it. A moving chaos ofsplendid visions, of infinite perspectives, stirs and boils within himat the least event which he touches; ideas abound, violent, mutuallyjostling, driven from all sides of the horizon amidst darkness andflashes of lightning; his thought is a tempest, and he attributes to theuniverse the magnificence, the obscurities, and the terrors of atempest. Such a conception is the true source of religious and moralsentiment. The man who is penetrated by them passes his life, like aPuritan, in veneration and fear. Carlyle passes his in expressing andimpressing veneration and fear, and all his books are preachings.


Section V.--His Mode of Thought


Here truly is a strange mind, and one which makes us reflect. Nothing ismore calculated to manifest truths than these eccentric beings. It willnot be time misspent to discover the true position of this mind, and toexplain for what reasons, and in what measure, he must fail to possess,or must attain to, beauty and truth.

As soon as we wish to begin to think, we have before us a whole anddistinct object--that is, an aggregate of details connected amongstthemselves, and separated from their surroundings. Whatever the object,tree, animal, sentiment, event, it is always the same; it always hasparts, and these parts always form a whole: this group, more or lessvast, comprises others, and is comprised in others, so that the smallestportion of the universe is, like the entire universe, a group. Thus thewhole employment of human thought is to reproduce groups. According as amind is fit for this or not, it is capable or incapable. According as itcan reproduce great or small groups, it is great or small. According asit can produce complete groups, or only some of their parts, it iscomplete or partial.

What is it, then, to reproduce a group? It is first to separatetherefrom all the parts, then to arrange them in ranks according totheir resemblances, then to form these ranks into families, lastly tocombine the whole under some general and dominant mark; in short, toimitate the hierarchical classifications of science. But the task is notended there: this hierarchy is not an artificial and externalarrangement, but a natural and internal necessity. Things are not dead,but living; there is in them a force which produces and organizes thisgroup, which binds together the details and the whole, which repeats thetype in all its parts. It is this force which the mind must reproduce initself, with all its effects; it must perceive it by rebound andsympathy: this force must engender in the mind the entire group, andmust be developed within it as without it: the series of internal ideasmust imitate the series of external; the emotion must follow theconception, vision must complete analysis; the mind must become, likenature, creative. Then only can we say: We know.

All minds take one or other of these routes, and are divided by theminto two great classes, corresponding to opposite temperaments. In thefirst are the plain men of science, the popularizes, orators,writers--in general, the classical ages and the Latin races; in thesecond are the poets, prophets, commonly the inventors--in general, theromantic ages and the Germanic races. The first proceed gradually fromone idea to the next: they are methodical and cautious; they speak forthe world at large, and prove what they say; they divide the field whichthey would traverse into preliminary Sections, in order to exhaust theirsubject; they march on straight and level roads, so as to be sure neverto fall; they proceed by transitions, enumerations, summaries; theyadvance from general to still more general conclusions; they form theexact and complete classification of a group. When they go beyond simpleanalysis, their whole talent consists in eloquently pleading a thesis.Amongst the contemporaries of Carlyle, Macaulay is the most completemodel of this species of mind. The others, after having violently andconfusedly rummaged amongst the details of a group, rush with a suddenspring into the mother-notion. They see it then in its entirety; theyperceive the powers which organize it; they reproduce it by divination;they depict it, abridged by the most expressive and strangest words;they are not capable of decomposing it into regular series, they alwaysperceive in a lump. They think only sudden concentrations of vehementideas. They have a vision of distant effects or living actions; they arerevealers or poets. Michelet, amongst the French, is the best example ofthis form of intellect, and Carlyle is an English Michelet.

He knows it, and argues plausibly that genius is an intuition, aninsight: "Our Professor's method is not, in any case, that of commonschool Logic, where the truths all stand in a row, each holding by theskirts of the other; but at best that of practical Reason, proceeding bylarge Intuition over whole systematic groups and kingdoms; whereby wemight say, a noble complexity, almost like that of Nature, reigns in hisPhilosophy, or spiritual Picture of Nature: a mighty maze, yet, as faithwhispers, not without a plan."[348] Doubtless, but disadvantages,nevertheless, are not wanting; and, in the first place, obscurity andbarbarism. In order to understand him, we must study laboriously, orelse have precisely the same kind of mind as he. But few men are criticsby profession, or natural seers; in general, an author writes to beunderstood, and it is annoying to end in enigmas. On the other hand,this visionary process is hazardous: when we wish to leap immediatelyinto the inner and generative idea, we run the risk of falling short;the gradual progress is slower, but more sure. The methodical people, somuch ridiculed by Carlyle, have at least the advantage over him in beingable to verify all their steps. Moreover, these vehement divinations andassertions are very often void of proof. Carlyle leaves the reader tosearch for them: the reader at times does not search for them, andrefuses to believe the soothsayer on his word. Consider, again, thataffectation infallibly enters into this style. It must assuredly beinevitable, since Shakespeare is full of it. The simple writer, prosaicand rational, can always reason and stick to his prose; his inspirationhas no gaps, and demands no efforts. On the contrary, prophecy is aviolent condition which does not sustain itself. When it fails, it isreplaced by grand gesticulation. Carlyle gets up the steam in order tocontinue glowing. He struggles hard; and this forced, perpetual epilepsyis a most shocking spectacle. We cannot endure a man who wanders,repeats himself, returns to oddities and exaggerations which he hadalready employed; makes a jargon of them, declaims, exclaims, and makesit a point, like a wretched bombastic comedian, to upset our nerves.Finally, when this species of mind coincides in a lofty mind with thehabits of a gloomy preacher, it results in objectionable manners. Manywill find Carlyle presumptuous, coarse; they will suspect from histheories, and also from his way of speaking, that he looks upon himselfas a great man, neglected, of the race of heroes; that, in his opinion,the human race ought to put themselves in his hands, and trust him withtheir business. Certainly he lectures us, and with contempt. He despiseshis epoch; he has a sulky, sour tone; he keeps purposely on stilts. Hedisdains objections. In his eyes, opponents are not up to his form. Heabuses his predecessors: when he speaks of Cromwell's biographers, hetakes the tone of a man of genius astray amongst pedants. He has thesuperior smile, the resigned condescension of a hero who feels himself amartyr, and he only quits it, to shout at the top of his voice, like anill-bred plebeian.

All this is redeemed, and more, by rare merits. He speaks truly: mindslike his are the most fertile. They are almost the only ones which makediscoveries. Pure classifiers do not invent: they are too dry. "To knowa thing, what we can call knowing, a man must first _love_ the thing,sympathize with it. Fantasy is the organ of the Godlike, theunderstanding is indeed thy window; too clear thou canst not make it;but fantasy is thy eye, with its color-giving retina, healthy ordiseased." In more simple language, this means that every object,animate or inanimate, is gifted with powers which constitute its natureand produce its development; that, in order to know it, we must recreateit in ourselves, with the train of its potentialities, and that we onlyknow it entirely by inwardly perceiving all its tendencies, and inwardlyseeing all its effects. And verily this process, which is the imitationof nature, is the only one by which we can penetrate nature; Shakespearehad it as an instinct, and Goethe as a method. There is none so powerfulor delicate, so fitted to the complexity of things and to the structureof our mind. There is none more proper to renew our ideas, to withdrawus from formulas, to deliver us from the prejudices with which educationinvolves us, to overthrow the barriers in which our surroundings encloseus. It is by this that Carlyle escaped from conventional English ideas,penetrated into the philosophy and science of Germany, to think outagain, in his own manner, the Germanic discoveries, and to give anoriginal theory of man and of the universe.


Part II--Vocation


It is from Germany that Carlyle has drawn his greatest ideas. He studiedthere, he knows perfectly its literature and language, he sets thisliterature in the highest rank: he translated "Wilhelm Meister," hewrote upon the German writers a long series of critical articles, he hasjust written a life of Frederick the Great. He is the best accreditedand most original of the interpreters who have introduced the Germanmind into England. This is no small thing to do, for it is in such awork that every thinking person is now laboring.


Section I.--The Appearance and Development of Original Minds


From 1780-1830 Germany has produced all the ideas of our historic age;and for half a century still, perhaps for a whole century, our greatwork will be to think them out again. The thoughts which have been bornand have blossomed in a country, never fail to propagate themselves inneighboring countries, and to be engrafted there for a season. Thatwhich is happening to us has happened twenty times already in the world;the growth of the mind has always been the same, and we may, with someassurance, foresee for the future what we observe in the past. Atcertain times appears an original form of mind, which produces aphilosophy, a literature, an art, a science, and which, having renewedthe form of man's thought, slowly and infallibly renews all histhoughts. All minds, which seek and find, are in the current; they onlyadvance through it: if they oppose it, they are checked; if theydeviate, they are slackened; if they assist it, they are carried beyondthe rest. And the movement goes on so long as there remains anything tobe discovered. When art has given all its works, philosophy all itstheories, science all its discoveries, it stops; another form of mindtakes the sway, or man ceases to think. Thus at the Renaissance appearedthe artistic and poetic genius, which, born in Italy and carried intoSpain, was there extinguished, after a century and a half, in theuniversal extinction, and which, with other characteristics,transplanted into France and England, ended after a hundred years in therefinements of mannerists and the follies of sectarians, having producedthe Reformation, confirmed free thought, and founded science. Thus withDryden in England, and with Malherbe in France, was born the oratoricaland classical spirit, which, having produced the literature of theseventeenth century and the philosophy of the eighteenth, dried up underthe successors of Voltaire and Pope, and died after two hundred years,having polished Europe and raised the French Revolution. Thus at the endof the last century arose the philosophic German genus, which, havingengendered a new metaphysics, theology, poetry, literature, linguisticscience, an exegesis, erudition, descends now into the sciences andcontinues its evolution. No more original spirit, more universal, morefertile in consequences of every scope and species, more capable oftransforming and reforming everything, has appeared for three hundredyears. It is of the same order as that of the Renaissance and of theClassical Age. It, like them, connects itself with the great works ofcontemporary intelligence, appears in all civilized lands, is propagatedwith the same inward qualities, but under different forms. It, likethem, is one of the epochs of the world's history. It is encountered inthe same civilization and in the same races. We may then conjecture,without too much rashness, that it will have a like duration anddestiny. We thus succeed in fixing, with some precision, our place inthe endless stream of events and things. We know that we are almost inthe midst of one of the partial currents which compose it. We canperceive the form of mind which directs it, and seek beforehand theideas to which it conducts us.


Section II.--Characteristics of the German Form of Mind


Wherein consists this form? In the power of discovering general ideas.No nation and no age has possessed it in so high a degree as theGermans. This is their governing faculty; it is by this power that theyhave produced all that they have done. This gift is properly that ofcomprehension (_Begreifen_). By it we find the aggregate conceptions(_Begriffe_); we reduce under one ruling idea all the scattered parts ofa subject; we perceive, under the divisions of a group, the common bondwhich unites them; we conciliate objections; we bring down apparentcontrasts to a profound unity. It is the pre-eminent philosophicalfaculty; and, in fact, it is the philosophical faculty which hasimpressed its seal on all their works. By it, they vivified dry studies,which seemed only fit to occupy pedants of the academy or seminary. Byit, they divined the involuntary and primitive logic which created andorganized languages, the great ideas which are hidden at the bottom ofevery work of art, the secret poetic emotions and vague metaphysicalintuitions which engendered religions and myths. By it, they perceivedthe spirit of ages, civilizations, and races, and transformed into asystem of laws the history which was but a heap of facts. By it, theyrediscovered or renewed the sense of dogmas, connected God with theworld, man with nature, spirit with matter, perceived the successivechain and the original necessity of the forms, whereof the aggregate isthe universe. By it, they created a science of linguistics, a mythology,a criticism, an aesthetics, an exegesis, a history, a theology andmetaphysics, so new that they continued long incomprehensible, and couldonly be expressed by a special language. And this bent was so dominantthat it subjected to its empire even art and poetry. The poets by ithave become erudite, philosophical; they constructed their dramas,epics, and odes, after prearranged theories, and in order to manifestgeneral ideas. They rendered moral theses, historical periods, sensible;they created and applied aesthetics; they had no artlessness, or madetheir artlessness an instrument of reflection; they loved not theircharacters for themselves, they ended by transforming them into symbols;their philosophical ideas broke, every instant, out of the poetic shapein which they tried to enclose them; they have been all critics,[349]bent on constructing or reconstructing, possessing erudition and method,attracted to imagination by art and study, incapable of producing livingbeings unless by science and artifice, really systematical men, who, toexpress their abstract conceptions, employed, in place of formulas, theactions of personages and the music of verse.


Section III.--German Aptitude for General Ideas


From this aptitude to conceive the aggregate, one sole idea could beproduced--the idea of aggregates. In fact, all the ideas worked out forfifty years in Germany are reduced to one only, that of development(_Entwickelung_), which consists in representing all the parts of agroup as jointly responsible and complemental, so that each necessitatesthe rest, and that, all combined, they manifest, by their succession andtheir contrasts, the inner quality which assembles and produces them. Ascore of systems, a hundred dreams, a hundred thousand metaphors, havevariously figured or disfigured this fundamental idea. Despoiled of itstrappings, it merely affirms the mutual dependence which unites theterm, of a series, and attaches them all to some abstract propertywithin them. If we apply it to Nature, we come to consider the world asa scale of forms, and, as it were, a succession of conditions, having inthemselves the reason for their succession and for their existence,containing in their nature the necessity for their decay and theirlimitation, composing by their union an invisible whole, which,sufficing for itself, exhausting all possibilities, and connecting allthings, from time and space to existence and thought, resembles by itsharmony and its magnificence some omnipotent and immortal god. If weapply it to man, we come to consider sentiments and thoughts as naturaland necessary products, linked amongst themselves like thetransformations of an animal or plant; which leads us to conceivereligions, philosophies, literatures, all human conceptions andemotions, as necessary series of a state of mind which carries them awayon its passage, which, if it returns, brings them back, and which, if wecan reproduce it, gives us in consequence the means of reproducing themat will. These are the two doctrines which run through the writings ofthe two chief thinkers of the century, Hegel and Goethe. They have usedthem throughout as a method: Hegel to grasp the formula of everything,Goethe to obtain the vision of everything; they steeped themselvestherein so thoroughly that they have drawn thence their inner andhabitual sentiments, their morality and their conduct. We may considerthem to be the two philosophical legacies which modern Germany has leftto the human race.


Section IV.--Faults of the German Form of Thought


But these legacies have not been unmixed, and this passion for aggregateviews has marred its proper work by its excess. It is rarely that themind can grasp aggregates: we are imprisoned in too narrow a corner oftime and space: our senses perceive only the surface of things; ourinstruments have but a small scope; we have only been experimentalizingfor three centuries; our memory is short, and the documents by which wedive into the past are only doubtful lights, scattered over an immenseregion, which they show by glimpses without illuminating them. To bindtogether the small fragments which we are able to attain, we havegenerally to guess the causes, or to employ general ideas so vast thatthey might suit all facts; we must have recourse either to hypothesis orabstraction, invent arbitrary explanations, or be lost in vague ones.These, in fact, are the two vices which have corrupted German thought.Conjecture and formula have abounded. Systems have multiplied, someabove the others, and broken out into an inextricable growth, into whichno stranger dare enter, having found that every morning brought a newbudding, and that the definitive discovery proclaimed over-night wasabout to be choked by another infallible discovery, capable at most oflasting till the morning after. The public of Europe was astonished tosee so much imagination and so little common-sense, pretensions soambitious and theories so hollow, such an invasion of chimericalexistences and such an overflow of useless abstractions, so strange alack of discernment and so great a luxuriance of irrationality. The factwas, that folly and genius flowed from the same source; a like faculty,excessive and all-powerful, produced discoveries and errors. If to-daywe behold the workshop of human ideas, overcharged as it is andencumbered by its works, we may compare it to some blast-furnace, amonstrous machine which day and night has flamed unwearyingly, halfdarkened by choking vapors, and in which the raw ore, piled heaps onheaps, has descended, bubbling in glowing streams, into the channels inwhich it has become hard. No other furnace could have melted theshapeless mass, crusted over with the primitive scoriæ; this obstinateelaboration and this intense heat were necessary to overcome it. Now theheavy castings burden the earth; their weight discourages the handswhich touch them; if we would turn them to some use, they defy us orbreak: as they are, they are of no use; and yet as they are, they arethe material for every tool, and the instrument of every work; it is ourbusiness to cast them over again. Every mind must carry them back to theforge, purify them, temper them, recast them, and extract the pure metalfrom the rough mass.


Section V.--How Ideas are Reshaped


But every mind will re-forge them according to its own inner warmth; forevery nation has its original genius, in which it moulds the ideaselsewhere derived. Thus Spain, in the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, renewed in a different spirit Italian painting and poetry.Thus the Puritans and Jansenists thought out in new shapes primitiveProtestantism; thus the French of the eighteenth century widened and putforth the liberal ideas which the English had applied or proposed inreligion and politics. It is so in the present day. The French cannot atonce reach, like the Germans, lofty aggregate conceptions. They can onlymarch step by step, starting from concrete ideas, rising gradually toabstract ideas, after the progressive methods and gradual analysis ofCondillac and Descartes. But this slower route leads almost as far asthe other; and, in addition, it avoids many wrong steps. It is by thisroute that we succeed in correcting and comprehending the views of Hegeland Goethe; and if we look around us, at the ideas which are gainingground, we find that we are already arriving thither. Positivism, basedon all modern experience, and freed since the death of its founder fromhis social and religious fancies, has assumed a new life, by reducingitself to noting the connection of natural groups and the chain ofestablished sciences. On the other hand, history, novels, and criticism,sharpened by the refinements of Parisian culture, have made usacquainted with the laws of human events; nature has been shown to be anorder of facts, man a continuation of nature; and we have seen asuperior mind, the most delicate, the most lofty of our own time,resuming and modifying the German divinations, expounding in the Frenchmanner everything which the science of myth, religion, and language hadstored up, beyond the Rhine, during the last sixty years.[350]


Section VI.--Growth of German Ideas in England


The growth in England is more difficult; for the aptitude for generalideas is less, and the mistrust of general ideas is greater: they rejectat once all that remotely or nearly seems capable of injuring practicalmorality or established dogma. The positive spirit seems as if it mustexclude all German ideas; and yet it is the positive spirit whichintroduces them. Thus theologians,[351] having desired to represent tothemselves with entire clearness and certitude the characters of the NewTestament, have suppressed the halo and mist in which distance envelopedthem; they have figured them with their garments, gestures, accent, allthe shades of emotion of their style, with the species of imaginationwhich their age has imposed, amidst the scenery which they have lookedupon, amongst the mains of former ages before which they have spoken,with all the circ*mstances, physical or moral, which learning and travelcan render sensible, with all the comparisons which modern physiologyand psychology could suggest; they have given us their precise anddemonstrated, colored and graphic, idea; they have seen thesepersonages, not through ideas and as myths, but face to face, and asmen. They have applied Macaulay's art to exegesis; and if the entireGerman erudition could pass unmutilated through this crucible, itssolidity, as well as its value, would be doubled.

But there is another wholly Germanic route by which German ideas maybecome English. This is the road which Carlyle has taken; by this,religion and poetry in the two countries are alike; by it, the twonations are sisters. The sentiment of internal things (insight) is inthe race, and this sentiment is a sort of philosophical divination. Atneed, the heart takes the place of the brain. The inspired, impassionedman penetrates into things; perceives the cause by the shock which hefeels from it; he embraces aggregates by the lucidity and velocity ofhis creative imagination; he discovers the unity of a group by the unityof the emotion which he receives from it. For as soon as we create, wefeel within ourselves the force which acts in the objects of ourthought; our sympathy reveals to us their sense and connection;intuition is a finished and living analysis; poets and prophets,Shakespeare and Dante, St. Paul and Luther, have been systematictheorists, without wishing it, and their visions comprise generalconceptions of man and the universe. Carlyle's mysticism is a power ofthe same kind. He translates, into a poetic and religious style, Germanphilosophy. He speaks, like Fichte, of the divine idea of the world, thereality which lies at the bottom of every apparition. He speaks, likeGoethe, of the spirit which eternally weaves the living robe ofDivinity. He borrows their metaphors, only he takes them literally. Heconsiders the god, which they consider as a form or a law, as amysterious and' sublime being. He conceives by exaltation, by painfulreverie, by a confused sentiment of the interweaving of existences, thatunity of nature which they arrive at by dint of reasonings andabstractions. Here is a last route, steep doubtless, and littlefrequented, for reaching the summits from which German thought at firstissued forth. Methodical analysis added to the co-ordination of thepositive sciences; French criticism, refined by literary taste andworldly observation; English criticism, supported by practicalcommon-sense and positive intuition; lastly, in a niche apart,sympathetic and poetic imagination; these are the four routes by whichthe human mind is now proceeding to reconquer the sublime heights towhich it believed itself carried, and which it has lost. These routesall conduct to the same summit, but with different prospects. That bywhich Carlyle has advanced, being the lengthiest, has led him to thestrangest perspective. I will let him speak for himself; he will tellthe reader what he has seen.


Part III.--Philosophy, Morality, and Criticism


"However it may be with Metaphysics, and other abstract Scienceoriginating in the Head (_Verstand_) alone, no Life-Philosophy(_Lebens-philosophie_), such as this of Clothes pretends to be, whichoriginates equally in the Character (_Gemüth_), and equally speaksthereto, can attain its significance till the Character itself is knownand seen."[352]


Carlyle has related, under the name of Teufelsdroeckh, all thesuccession of emotions which lead to this Life-Philosophy. They arethose of a modern Puritan; the same doubts, despairs, inner conflicts,exaltations, and pangs, by which the old Puritans arrived at faith: itis their faith under other forms. With him, as with them, the spiritualand inner man frees himself from the exterior and carnal; perceives dutyamidst the solicitations of pleasure; discovers God through theappearances of nature; and, beyond the world and the instincts of sense,sees a supernatural world and instinct.


Section I.--Carlyle's Metaphysics


The specialty of Carlyle, as of every mystic, is to see a double meaningin everything. For him texts and objects are capable of twointerpretations: the one gross, open to all, serviceable for ordinarylife; the other sublime, open to a few, serviceable to a higher life.Carlyle says:


"To the eye of vulgar Logic, what is man? An omnivorous Biped that wearsBreeches. To the eye of Pure Reason what is he? A Soul, a Spirit, anddivine Apparition. Round his mysterious Me, there lies, under all thosewool-rags, a Garment of Flesh (or of Senses), contextured in the Loom ofHeaven.... Deep-hidden is he under that strange Garment; amid Sounds andColours and Forms, as it were, swathed-in, and inextricablyover-shrouded: yet it is skywoven, and worthy of a God."[353]

"For Matter, were it never so despicable, is Spirit, the manifestationof Spirit: were it never so honourable, can it be more? The thingVisible, nay, the thing Imagined, the thing in any way conceived asVisible, what is it but a Garment, a Clothing of the higher, celestial,Invisible, 'unimaginable, formless, dark with excess of bright?'"[354]

"All visible things are emblems; what thou seest is not there on its ownaccount; strictly taken, is not there at all: Matter exists onlyspiritually, and to represent some Idea, and _body_ it forth."[355]


Language, poetry, arts, church, state, are only symbols:


"In the Symbol proper, what we can call a Symbol, there is ever, more orless distinctly and directly, some embodiment and revelation of theInfinite; the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to standvisible, and as it were, attainable there. By Symbols, accordingly, isman guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched. He everywhere findshimself encompassed with Symbols, recognised as such or not recognised:the Universe is but one vast Symbol of God; nay, if thou wilt have it,what is man himself but a Symbol of God; is not all that he doessymbolical; a revelation to Sense of the mystic god-given force that isin him?"[356]


Let us rise higher still and regard Time and Space, those two abysseswhich it seems nothing could fill up or destroy, and over which hoverour life and our universe. "They are but forms of our thought.... Thereis neither Time nor Space; they are but two grand fundamental,world-enveloping appearances, SPACE and TIME. These as spun and wovenfor us from before Birth itself, to clothe our celestial Me for dwellinghere, and yet to blind it--lie all-embracing, as the universal canvas,or warp and woof, whereby all minor illusions, in this Phantasm andExistence, weave and paint themselves."[357] Our root is in eternity; weseem to be born to die, but actually, _we are._


"Know of a truth that only the Time-shadows have perished, or areperishable; that the real Being of whatever was, and whatever is, andwhatever will be, is even now and for ever.... Are we not Spirits, thatare shaped into a body, into an appearance; and that fade away againinto air and Invisibility?"[358] "O Heaven, it is mysterious, it isawful, to consider that we not only carry each a future Ghost withinhim; but are, in very deed, Ghosts! These Limbs, whence had we them;this stormy Force; this life-blood with its burning Passion? They aredust and shadow; a Shadow-system gathered round our Me; wherein, throughsome moments or years, the Divine Essence is to be revealed in theFlesh.

"And again, do we not squeak and gibber (in our discordant,screech-owlish debatings and recriminatings); and glide bodeful, andfeeble, and fearful; or uproar (_poltern_), and revel in our mad Danceof the Dead--till the scent of the morning air summons us to our stillHome; and dreamy Night becomes awake and Day?"[359]


What is there, then, beneath all these empty appearances? What is thismotionless existence, whereof nature is but the "changing and livingrobe"? None knows; if the heart divines it, the mind perceives it not."Creation, says one, lies before us like a glorious rainbow; but the sunthat made it lies behind us, hidden from us." We have only the sentimentthereof, not the idea. We feel that this universe is beautiful andterrible, but its essence will remain ever unnamed. We have only to fallon our knees before this veiled face; wonder and adoration are our trueattitude:


"The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (andworship), were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carriedthe whole _Mécanique Céleste_ and _Hegel's Philosophy_, and theepitome of all Laboratories and Observatories, with their results, inhis single head--is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is noEye. Let those who have Eyes look through him, then he may be useful.

"Thou wilt have no Mystery and Mysticism; wilt walk through thy world bythe sunshine of what thou callest Truth, or even by the handlamp ofwhat I call Attorney-Logic: and 'explain' all, 'account' for all, orbelieve nothing of it. Nay, thou wilt attempt laughter; who sorecognises the unfathomable, all-pervading domain of Mystery, which iseverywhere under our feet and among our hands; to whom the Universe isan oracle and Temple, as well as a Kitchen and Cattle-stall--he shall bea delirious Mystic; to him thou, with sniffing charity, wiltprotrusively proffer thy Hand-lamp, and shriek, as one injured, when hekicks his foot through it."[360]

"We speak of the Volume of Nature; and truly a Volume it is--whoseAuthor and Writer is God. To read it! Dost thou, does man, so much aswell know the Alphabet thereof? With its Words, Sentences, and granddescriptive Pages, poetical and philosophical, spread out through SolarSystems, and Thousands of Years, we shall not try thee. It is a Volumewritten in celestial hieroglyphs, in the true Sacred-writing; of whicheven Prophets are happy that they can read here a line and there a line.As for your Institutes, and Academies of Science, they strive bravely,and from amid the thick-crowded, inextricably intertwisted hieroglyphicwriting, pick out, by dexterous combination, some Letters in the vulgarCharacter and therefrom put together this and the other economic Recipe,of high avail in Practice."[361]


Do we believe, perhaps,


"That Nature is more than some boundless Volume of such Recipes, orhuge, well-nigh inexhaustible Domestic-Cookery Book, of which the wholesecret will in this manner one day evolve itself?..."[362]

"And what is that Science, which the scientific head alone, were itscrewed off, and (like the Doctor's in the Arabian tale) set in a basin,to keep it alive, could prosecute without shadow of a heart, but oneother of the mechanical and menial handicrafts, for which the ScientificHead (having a soul in it) is too noble an organ? I mean that Thought,without Reverence, is barren, perhaps poisonous."[363]


Let the scales drop from our eyes, and let us look:


"Then sawest thou that this fair-Universe, were it in the meanestprovince thereof, is in very deed the star-domed City of God; thatthrough every star, through every grass-blade, and most through everyLiving Soul, the glory of a present God still beams."[364]

"Generation after generation takes to itself the form of a Body; andforth-issuing from Cimmerian Night, on Heaven's mission appears. WhatForce and Fire is in each he expends: one grinding in the mill ofIndustry; one, hunter-like, climbing the giddy Alpine heights ofScience; one, madly dashed in pieces on the rocks of Strife, in war withhis fellow:--and then the Heaven-sent is recalled; his earthly Vesturefalls away, and soon even to Sense becomes a vanished Shadow. Thus, likesome wild-flaming, wild-thundering train of Heaven's Artillery, doesthis mysterious MANKIND thunder and flame, in long-drawn,quick-succeeding grandeur, through the unknown Deep. Thus, like aGod-created, fire-breathing Spirit-ho§t, we emerge from the Inane;haste stormfully across the astonished Earth, then plunge again into theInane.... But whence?--O Heaven, whither? Sense knows not; Faith knowsnot; only that it is through Mystery to Mystery, from God and toGod."[365]

Section II.--His Transposition of German Metaphysics into EnglishPuritanism


This vehement religious poetry, charged as it is with memories of Miltonand Shakespeare, is but an English transcription of German ideas. Thereis a fixed rule for transposing--that is, for converting into oneanother the ideas of a positivist, a pantheist, a spiritualist, amystic, a poet, a head given to images, and a head given to formulas. Wemay mark all the steps which lead simple philosophical conception to itsextreme and violent state. Take the world as science shows it; it is aregular group or series, which has a law; according to science, it isnothing more. As from the law we deduce the series, we may say that thelaw engenders it, and consider this law as a force. If we are an artist,we will seize in the aggregate the force, the series of effects, and thefine regular manner in which force produces the series. To my mind, thissympathetic representation is of all the most exact and complete:knowledge is limited, as long as it does not arrive at this, and it iscomplete when it has arrived there. But beyond, there commence thephantoms which the mind creates, and by which it dupes itself. If wehave a little imagination, we will make of this force a distinctexistence, situated beyond the reach of experience, spiritual, theprinciple and the substance of concrete things. That is a metaphysicalexistence. Let us add one degree to our imagination and enthusiasm, andwe will say that this spirit, situated beyond time and space, ismanifested through these: that it subsists and animates everything, thatwe have in it motion, existence, and life. When carried to the limits ofvision and ecstasy, we will declare that this principle is the onlyreality, that the rest is but appearance: thenceforth we are deprived ofall the means of defining it; we can affirm nothing of it, but that itis the source of things, and that nothing can be affirmed of it; weconsider it as a grand unfathomable abyss; we seek, in order to come atit, a path other than that of clear ideas; we extol sentiment,exaltation. If we have a gloomy temperament, we seek it, like thesectarians, painfully, amongst prostrations and agonies. By this scaleof transformations, the general idea becomes a poetical, then aphilosophical, then a mystical existence; and German metaphysics,concentrated and heated, is changed into English Puritanism.


Section III.--Conception of God and Duty


What distinguishes this mysticism from others, is its practicality. ThePuritan is troubled not only about what he ought to believe, but aboutwhat he ought to do; he craves an answer to his doubts, but especially arule for his conduct; he is tormented by the notion of his ignorance, aswell as by the horror of his vices; he seeks God, but duty also. In hiseyes the two are but one; moral sense is the promoter and guide ofphilosophy:


"Is there no God, then: but at best an absentee God, sitting idle, eversince the first Sabbath, at the outside of his Universe, and _see_ing itgo? Has the word Duty no meaning; is what we call Duty no divineMessenger and Guide, but a false earthly Fantasm, made-up of Desire andFear, of emanations from the gallows and from Dr. Graham'sCelestial-Bed? Happiness of an approving Conscience! Did not Paul ofTarsus, whom admiring men have since named Saint, feel that _he_ was the'chief of sinners;' and Nero of Rome, jocund in spirit (_wohlgemuth_),spend much of his time in fiddling? Foolish Word-monger andMotive-grinder, who in thy Logic-mill hast an earthly mechanism for theGodlike itself, and wouldst fain grind me out Virtue from the husks ofpleasure--I tell thee, Nay!"[366]


There is an instinct within us which says Nay. We discover within ussomething higher than love of happiness--the love of sacrifice. That isthe divine part of our soul. We perceive in it and by it the God, whootherwise would continue ever unknown. By it we penetrate an unknown andsublime world. There is an extraordinary state of the soul, by which itleaves selfishness, renounces pleasure, cares no more for itself, adorespain, comprehends holiness.[367]

This obscure beyond, which the senses cannot reach, the reason cannotdefine, which the imagination figures as a king and a person; this isholiness, this is the sublime. "The hero is he who lives in the inwardsphere of things, in the True, Divine, Eternal, which exists always,unseen to most under the Temporary, Trivial; his being is in that....His life is a piece of the everlasting heart of nature itself."[368]Virtue is a revelation, heroism is a light, conscience a philosophy; andwe shall express in the abstract this moral mysticism, by saying thatGod, for Carlyle, is a mystery whose only name is the Ideal.


Section IV.--Conception of Christianity


This faculty for perceiving the inner sense of things and thisdisposition to search out the moral sense of things, have produced inhim all his doctrines, and first his Christianity. This Christianity isvery broad: Carlyle takes religion in the German manner: after asymbolical fashion. This is why he is called a Pantheist, which in plainlanguage means a madman, or a rogue. In England, too, he is exorcised.His friend Sterling sent him long dissertations, to bring him back to apersonal God. Every moment he wounds to the quick the theologians, whomake of the prime cause an architect or an administrator. He shocks themstill more when he touches upon dogma; he considers Christianity as amyth, of which the essence is the Worship of Sorrow:


"Knowest thou that '_Worship of sorrow_'? The Temple thereof foundedsome eighteen centuries ago, now lies in ruins, overgrown with jungle,the habitation of doleful creatures: nevertheless, venture forward; in alow crypt, arched out of falling fragments, thou findest the Altar stillthere, and its sacred Lamp perennially burning."[369]


But its guardians know it no more. A frippery of conventional adornmentshides it from the eyes of men. The Protestant Church in the nineteenthcentury, like the Catholic Church in the sixteenth, needs a reformation.We want a new Luther:


"For if Government is, so to speak, the outward SKIN of the BodyPolitic, holding the whole together and protecting it; and if all yourCraft-Guilds and Associations for Industry, of hand or of head, are theFleshly Clothes, the muscular and osseous Tissues (lying _under_ suchSKIN), whereby Society stands and works;--then is Religion the inmostPericardial and Nervous Tissue which ministers Life and warm Circulationto the whole...

"Meanwhile, in our era of the World, those same Church Clothes have gonesorrowfully out-at-elbows: nay, far worse, many of them have become merehollow Shapes, or Masks, under which no living Figure or Spirit anylonger dwells; but only spiders and unclean beetles, in horridaccumulation, drive their trade; and the mask still glares on you withits glass-eyes, in ghastly affectation of Life--some generation and halfafter Religion has quite withdrawn from it, and in unnoticed nooks isweaving for herself new Vestures, wherewith to reappear and bless us, orour sons or grandsons."[370]


Christianity, once reduced to the sentiment of abnegation, otherreligions resume, in consequence, dignity and importance. They are, likeChristianity, forms of universal religion. "They have all had a truth inthem, or men would not have taken them up."[371] They are no quack'simposture or poet's dream. They are an existence, more or less troubledby the mystery august and infinite, which is at the bottom of theuniverse:


"Canopus shining down over the desert, with its blue diamond brightness(that wild blue spirit-like brightness, far brighter than we everwitness here), would pierce into the heart of the wild Ishmaelitish man,whom it was guiding through the solitary waste there. To his wild heart,with all feelings in it, with no _speech_ for any feeling, it might seema little eye, that Canopus, glancing-out on him from the great deepEternity; revealing the inner Splendour to him."[372]


"Grand Lamaism," Popery itself, interpret after their fashion thesentiment of the divine; therefore Popery itself is to be respected."While a pious life remains capable of being led by it,... let it lastas long as it can."[373] What matters if people call it idolatry?


"Idol is _Eidolon_, a thing seen, a symbol. It is not God, but a symbolof God.... Is not all worship whatsoever a worship by Symbols, by_eidola_, or things seen?... The most rigorous Puritan has hisConfession of Faith, and intellectual Representation of Divine things,and worships thereby.... All creeds, liturgies, religious forms,conceptions that fitly invest religious feelings, are in this sense_eidola_, things seen. All worship whatsoever must proceed by Symbols,by Idols:--we may say, all Idolatry is comparative, and the worstIdolatry is only more idolatrous."[374]


The only detestable idolatry is that from which the sentiment hasdeparted, which consists only in ceremonies learned by rote, inmechanical repetition of prayers, in decent profession of formulas notunderstood. The deep veneration of a monk of the twelfth century,prostrated before the relics of St. Edmund, was worth more than theconventional piety and cold philosophical religion of a Protestant ofto-day. Whatever the worship, it is the sentiment which gives it itswhole value. And this sentiment is that of morality:


"The one end, essence, and use of all religion, past, present, and tocome, was this only: To keep that same Moral Conscience, or Inner Lightof ours, alive and shining.... All religion was here to remind us,better or worse, of what we already know better or worse, of the quite_infinite_ difference there is between a Good man and a Bad; to bid uslove infinitely the one, abhor and avoid infinitely the other--striveinfinitely to _be_ the one, and not to be the other. 'All religionissues in due Practical Hero-worship.'"[375]

"All true Work is religion; and whatsoever religion is not Work may goand dwell among the Brahmins, Antinomians, Spinning Dervishes, or whereit will; with me it shall have no harbour."[376]


Though it has "no harbour" with Carlyle, it has elsewhere. We touch herethe English and narrow feature of this German and broad conception.There are many religions which are not moral; there are more still whichare not practical. Carlyle would reduce the heart of man to the Englishsentiment of duty, and his imagination to the English sentiment ofrespect. The half of human poetry escapes his grasp. For if a part ofourselves raises us to abnegation and virtue, another part leads us toenjoyment and pleasure. Man is pagan as well as Christian; nature hastwo faces: several races, India, Greece, Italy, have only comprehendedthe second, and have had for religions merely the adoration ofoverflowing force and the ecstasy of grand imagination; or otherwise theadmiration of harmonious form, with the culture of pleasure, beauty, andhappiness.


Section V.--Carlyle's Criticism


His criticism of literary works is of the same character and violence,and has the same scope and the same limits, the same principle and thesame conclusions, as his criticism of religious works. Carlyle hasintroduced the great ideas of Hegel and Goethe, and has confined themunder the narrow discipline of Puritan sentiment.[377] He considers thepoet, the writer, the artist, as an interpreter of "The Divine Idea ofthe World, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance;" as a revealerof the infinite, as representing his century, his nation, his age: werecognize here all the German formulas. They signify that the artistdetects and expresses better than anyone, the salient and durablefeatures of the world which surrounds him, so that we might draw fromhis work a theory of man and of nature, together with a picture of hisrace and of his time. This discovery has renewed criticism. Carlyle owesto it his finest views, his lessons on Shakespeare and Dante, hisstudies on Goethe, Dr. Johnson, Burns, and Rousseau. Thus, by a naturalenthusiasm, he becomes the herald of German literature; he makes himselfthe apostle of Goethe; he has praised him with a neophyte's fervor, tothe extent of lacking on this subject skill and perspicacity; he callshim a Hero, presents his life as an example to all the men of ourcentury; he will not see his paganism, manifest as it is, and sorepellent to a Puritan. Through the same causes, he has made ofJean-Paul Richter, an affected clown, and an extravagant humorist: "agiant," a sort of prophet; he has heaped eulogy on Novalis and themystic dreamers; he has set the democrat Burns above Byron; he hasexalted Dr. Johnson, that honest pedant, the most grotesque of literarybehemoths. His principle is, that in a work of the mind, form is little:the basis alone is important. As soon as a man has a profound sentiment,a strong conviction, his book is beautiful. A writing, be it what itwill, only manifests the soul: if the soul is serious, if it isintimately and habitually shaken by the grave thoughts which ought topreoccupy a soul; if it loves what is good, is devoted, endeavors withits whole effort, without any mental reservation of interest orself-love, to publish the truth which strikes it, it has reached itsgoal. We have nothing to do with the talent; we need not to be pleasedby beautiful forms; our sole object is to find ourselves face to facewith the sublime; the whole destiny of man is to perceive heroism;poetry and art have no other employment or merit. We see how far andwith what excess Carlyle possesses the Germanic sentiment, why he lovesthe mystics, humorists, prophets, illiterate writers, and men ofaction, spontaneous poets, all who violate regular beauty throughignorance, brutality, folly, or deliberately. He goes so far as toexcuse the rhetoric of Dr. Johnson because Johnson was loyal andsincere; he does not distinguish in him the literary man from thepractical; he avoids seeing the classic declaimer, a strange compound ofScaliger, Boileau, and La Harpe, majestically decked out in theCiceronian gown, in order to see only a man of faith and conviction.Such a habit prevents a man seeing one-half of things. Carlyle speakswith scornful indifference[378] of modern dilettanteism, seems todespise painters, admits no sensible beauty. Wholly on the side of theauthors, he neglects the artists; for the source of art is the sentimentof form; and the greatest artists, the Italians, the Greeks, did notknow, like their priests and poets, any beauty beyond that ofvoluptuousness and force. Thence also it comes that he has no taste forFrench literature. The exact order, the fine proportions, the perpetualregard for the agreeable and proper, the harmonious structure of clearand consecutive ideas, the delicate picture of society, the perfectionof style--nothing which moves us has attraction for him. His mode ofcomprehending life is too far removed from ours. In vain he tries tounderstand Voltaire, all he can do is to slander him:


"We find no heroism of character in him, from first to last; nay, thereis not, that we know of, one great thought in all his six-and-thirtyquartos.... He sees but a little way into Nature; the mighty All, in itsbeauty and infinite mysterious grandeur, humbling the small _me_ intonothingness, has never even for moments been revealed to him; only thisand that other atom of it, and the differences and discrepancies ofthese two, has he looked into and noted down. His theory of the world,his picture of man and man's life is little; for a poet and philosopher,even pitiful. 'The Divine idea, that which lies at the bottom ofappearances,' was never more invisible to any man. He reads history, notwith the eyes of a devout seer, or even of a critic, but through a pairof mere anticatholic spectacles. It is not a mighty drama enacted on thetheatre of Infinitude, with suns for lamps and Eternity as abackground,... but a poor wearisome debating-club dispute, spun throughten centuries, between the _Encyclopédie_ and the _Sorbonne._... God'sUniverse is a larger patrimony of St. Peter, from which it were well andpleasant to hunt out the Pope.... The still higher praise of having hada right or noble aim cannot be conceded him without many limitations,and may, plausibly enough, be altogether denied.... The force necessaryfor him was nowise a great and noble one; but small, in some respects amean one, to be nimbly and seasonably put into use. The Ephesian temple,which it had employed many wise heads and strong arms for a lifetime tobuild, could be _un_built by one madman, in a single hour."[379]


These are big words; we will not employ the like. I will simply say,that if a man were to judge Carlyle, as a Frenchman, as he judgesVoltaire as an Englishman, he would draw a different picture of Carlylefrom that which I am trying here to draw.


Section VI.--The Future of Criticism


This trade of calumny was in vogue fifty years ago: in fifty more itwill probably have altogether ceased. The French are beginning tocomprehend the gravity of the Puritans; perhaps the English will end bycomprehending the gayety of Voltaire: the first are laboring toappreciate Shakespeare; the second will doubtless attempt to appreciateRacine. Goethe, the master of all modern minds, knew well how toappreciate both.[380] The critic must add to his natural and nationalsoul five or six artificial and acquired souls, and his flexiblesympathy must introduce him to extinct or foreign sentiments. The bestfruit of criticism is to detach ourselves from ourselves, to constrainus to make allowance for the surroundings in which we live, to teach usto distinguish objects themselves through the transient appearances,with which our character and our age never fail to clothe them. Eachperson regards them through glasses of diverse focus and hue, and no onecan reach the truth save by taking into account the form and tint whichhis glasses give to the objects which he sees. Hitherto we have beenwrangling and pommelling one another--this man declaring that things aregreen, another that they are yellow; others, again, that they are red;each accusing his neighbor of seeing wrong, and being disingenuous. Now,at last, we are learning moral optics; we are finding that the color isnot in the objects, but in ourselves; we pardon our neighbors for seeingdifferently from us; we recognize that they may see red what to usappears blue, green what to us appears yellow; we can even define thekind of glasses which produces yellow; and the kind which producesgreen, divine their effects from their nature, predict to people thetint under which the object we are about to present to them will appear,construct beforehand the system of every mind, and perhaps one day freeourselves from every system. "As a poet," said Goethe, "I am apolytheist; as a naturalist, a pantheist; as a moral man, a deist; andin order to express my mind, I need all these forms." In fact, all theseglasses are serviceable, for they all show us some new aspect of things.The important point is to have not one, but several, to employ each atthe suitable moment: not to mind the particular color of these glasses,but to know that behind these million moving poetical tints, optics onlyprove transformations, governed by a law.


Part IV.--Conception of History


Section I.--Great Men


"Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in thisworld, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here.They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns,and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of mencontrived to do, or to attain; all things that we see standingaccomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, thepractical realisation and embodiment of Thoughts that dwelt in the GreatMen sent into the world; the soul of the whole world's history, it mayjustly be considered, were the history of these."[381]


Whatever they be, poets, reformers, writers, men of action, revealers,he gives them all a mystical character;


"Such a man is what we call an original man; he comes to us atfirst-hand. A messenger he, sent from the Infinite Unknown with tidingsto us.... Direct from the Inner Fact of things;--he lives, and has tolive, in daily communion with that. Hearsays cannot hide it from him; heis blind, homeless, miserable, following hearsays; it glares in uponhim.... It is from the heart of the world that he comes; he is portionof the primal reality of things."[382]


In vain the ignorance of his age and his own imperfections mar thepurity of his original vision; he ever attains some immutable andlife-giving truth; for this truth he is listened to, and by this truthhe is powerful. That which he has discovered is immortal andefficacious:


"The works of a man, bury them under what guano-mountains and obsceneowl-droppings you will, do not perish, cannot perish. What of Heroism,what of Eternal Light was in a Man and his Life, is with very greatexactness added to the Eternities; remains forever a new divine portionof the Sum of things."[383]

"No nobler feeling than this, of admiration for one higher than himself,dwells in the breast of man. It is to this hour, and at all hours, thevivifying influence in man's life. Religion, I find, stands upon it ...What, therefore, is loyalty proper, the life-breath of all society, butan effluence of Hero-worship, submissive admiration for the truly great?Society is founded on Hero-worship."[384]


This feeling is the deepest part of man. It exists even in thislevelling and destructive age: "I seem to see in this indestructibilityof Hero-worship the everlasting adamant, lower than which the confusedwreck of revolutionary things cannot fall."[385]


Section II.--Wherein Carlyle is Original


We have here a German theory, but transformed, made precise, thickenedafter the English manner. The Germans said that every nation, period,civilization, has its idea; that is, its chief feature, from which therest were derived; so that philosophy, religion, arts, and morals, allthe elements of thought and action, could be deduced from some originaland fundamental quality, from which all proceeded and in which allended. Where Hegel proposed an idea, Carlyle proposes a heroicsentiment. It is more palpable and moral. To complete his escape fromthe vague, he considers this sentiment in a hero. He must give toabstractions a body and soul; he is not at ease in pure conceptions, andwishes to touch a real being.

But this being, as he conceives it, is an abstract of the rest. Foraccording to him, the hero contains and represents the civilization inwhich he is comprised; he has discovered, proclaimed or practised anoriginal conception, and in this his age has followed him. The knowledgeof a heroic sentiment, thus gives us a knowledge of a whole age. By thismethod Carlyle has emerged beyond biography. He has rediscovered thegrand views of his masters. He has felt, like them, that a civilization,vast and dispersed as it is over time and space, forms an indivisiblewhole. He has combined, in a system of hero-worship, the scatteredfragments which Hegel united by a law. He has derived from a commonsentiment the events which the Germans derived from a common definition.He has comprehended the deep and distant connection of things, such asbind a great man to his time, such as connect the works of accomplishedthought with the stutterings of infant thought, such as link the wiseinventions of modern constitutions to the disorderly furies of primitivebarbarism:


"Silent, with closed lips, as I fancy them, unconscious that they werespecially brave; defying the wild ocean with its monsters, and all menand things;--progenitors of our own Blakes and Nelsons. ... Hrolf orRollo, Duke of Normandy, the wild Sea-king, has a share in governingEngland at this hour."[386]

"No wild Saint Dominies and Thebaïd Eremites, there had been nomelodious Dante; rough Practical Endeavour, Scandinavian and other, fromOdin to Walter Raleigh, from Ulfila to Cranmer, enabled Shakespeare tospeak. Nay, the finished Poet, I remark sometimes, is a symptom that hisepoch itself has reached perfection and is finished; that before longthere will be a new epoch, new Reformers needed."[387]


His great poetical or practical works only publish or apply thisdominant idea; the historian makes use of it to rediscover the primitivesentiment which engenders them, and to form the segregate conceptionwhich unites them.


[Illustration: Christ Crowned with ThornsFac-simile example of Printing and Engraving in the Sixteenth Century.]


Section III.--In What Genuine History Consists


Hence, a new fashion of writing history. Since the heroic sentiment isthe cause of the other sentiments, it is to this the historian mustdevote himself. Since it is the source of civilization, the mover ofrevolutions, the master and regenerator of human life, it is in thisthat he must observe civilization, revolutions and human life. Since itis the spring of every movement, it is by this that we shall understandevery movement. Let the metaphysicians draw up deductions and formulas,or the politicians expound situations and constitutions. Man is not aninert being, moulded by a constitution, nor a lifeless being expressedby formula; he is an active and living soul, capable of acting,discovering, creating, devoting himself, and before all, of daring;genuine history is an epic of heroism. This idea is, in my opinion,brilliant and luminous. For men have not done great things without greatemotions. The first and sovereign motive of an extraordinary revolutionis an extraordinary sentiment. Then we see appear and swell a lofty andall-powerful passion, which has burst the old dykes, and hurled thecurrent of things into a new bed. All starts from this, and it is thiswhich we must observe. Let us leave metaphysical formulas and politicalconsiderations, and regard the inner state of every mind. Let us quitbare narrative, forget abstract explanations, and study impassionedsouls. A revolution is only the birth of a great sentiment. What is thissentiment, how is it bound to others, what is its degree, source,effect, how does it transform the imagination, understanding, commoninclinations; what passions feed it, what proportion of folly and reasondoes it embrace--these are the main questions. If anyone wishes torepresent to me the history of Buddhism, he must show me the calmdespair of the ascetics who, deadened by the contemplation of theinfinite void, and by the expectation of final annihilation, attain intheir monotonous quietude the sentiment of universal fraternity. Ifanyone wishes to represent to me the history of Christianity, he mustshow me the soul of a Saint John or Saint Paul, the sudden renewal ofthe conscience, the faith in visible things, the transformation of asoul penetrated by the presence of a paternal God, the irruption oftenderness, generosity, abnegation, trust, and hope, which rescued thewretches oppressed under the Roman tyranny and decline. To explain arevolution is to write a partial psychology; the analysis of critics andthe divination of artists are the only instruments which can attain toit: if we would have it precise and profound we must ask it of thosewho, through their profession or their genius, possess a knowledge ofthe soul--Shakespeare, Saint-Simon, Balzac, Stendhal. This is why wemay occasionally ask it of Carlyle. And there is a history which we mayask of him in preference to all others, that of the Revolution which hadconscience for its source, which set God in the councils of the state,which imposed strict duty, which provoked severe heroism. The besthistorian of Puritanism is a Puritan.


Section IV.--Carlyle's History of Cromwell


The history of Cromwell, Carlyle's masterpiece, is but a collection ofletters and speeches, commented on and united by a continuous narrative.The impression which they leave is extraordinary. Grave constitutionalhistories hang heavy after this compilation. The author wished to makeus comprehend a soul: the soul of Cromwell, the greatest of thePuritans, their chief, their abstract, their hero, and their model. Hisnarrative resembles that of an eye-witness. A covenanter who should havecollected letters, scraps of newspapers, and daily added reflections,interpretations, notes, and anecdotes, might have written just such abook. At last we are face to face with Cromwell. We have his words, wecan hear his tone of voice; we seize, around each action, thecirc*mstances which produced it: we see him in his tent, in council,with the proper background, with his face and costume: every detail, themost minute, is here. And the sincerity is as great as the sympathy; thebiographer confesses his ignorance, the lack of documents, theuncertainty; he is perfectly loyal, though a poet and a sectarian. Withhim we simultaneously restrain and give free play to our conjectures;and we feel at every step, amidst our affirmations and our reservations,that we are firmly planting our feet upon the truth. Would that allhistory were like this, a selection of texts provided with a commentary!I would exchange, for such a history, all the regular arguments, all thebeautiful, colorless narrations of Robertson and Hume. I can verify thejudgment of the author whilst reading this; I no more think after him,but for myself; the historian does not obtrude himself between me andhis subject. I see a fact, and not an account of a'fact; the oratoricaland personal envelope, with which a narrative covers the truth,disappears; I can touch the truth itself. And this Cromwell, with hisPuritans, comes forth from the test, recreated and renewed. We divinedpretty well already that he was not a mere man of ambition, a hypocrite,but we took him for a fanatic and hateful disputant. We consider thesePuritans as gloomy madmen, shallow brains, and full of scruples. Let usquit our French and modern ideas, and enter into these souls: we shallfind there something else than hypochondria, namely, a grandsentiment--am I a just man? And if God, who is perfect justice, were tojudge me at this moment, what sentence would he pass upon me?--Such isthe original idea of the Puritans, and through them came the Revolutioninto England. The feeling of the difference there is between good andevil, filled for them all time and space, and became incarnate, andexpressed for them, by such words as Heaven and Hell. They were struckby the idea of duty. They examined themselves by this light, severelyand without intermission; they conceived the sublime model of infallibleand complete virtue; they were imbued therewith; they drowned in thisabsorbing thought all worldly prejudices and all inclinations of thesenses; they conceived a horror even of imperceptible faults, which anhonest mind will excuse in itself; they exacted from themselves absoluteand continuous perfection, and they entered into life with a fixedresolve to suffer and do all, rather than deviate one step. We laugh ata revolution about surplices and chasubles; there was a sentiment of thedivine, underneath all these disputes about vestments. These poor folk,shopkeepers and farmers, believed, with all their heart, in a sublimeand terrible God, and the manner how to worship Him was not a triflingthing for them:


"Suppose now it were some matter of vital concernment, some transcendentmatter (as Divine worship is), about which your whole soul, struck dumbwith its excess of feeling, knew not how to _form_ itself into utteranceat all, and preferred formless silence to any utterance therepossible--what should we say of a man coming forward to represent orutter it for you in the way of upholsterer-mummery? Such a man--let himdepart swiftly, if he love himself! You have lost your only son; aremute, struck down, without even tears: an importunate man importunatelyoffers to celebrate Funeral Games for him in the manner of theGreeks."[388]


This has caused the Revolution, and not the Writ of Ship-money, or anyother political vexation. "You may take my purse,... but the Self ismine and God my Maker's."[389] And the same sentiment which made themrebels, made them conquerors. Men could not understand how disciplinecould exist in an army in which an inspired corporal would reproach alukewarm general. They thought it strange that generals, who sought theLord with tears, had learned administration and strategy in the Bible.They wondered that madmen could be men of business. The truth is, thatthey were not madmen, but men of business. The whole difference betweenthem and practical men whom we know, is that they had a conscience; thisconscience was their flame; mysticism and dreams were but the smoke.They sought the true, the just; and their long prayers, their nasalpreaching, their quotations from the Bible, their tears, their anguish,only mark the sincerity and ardor with which they applied themselves tothe search. They read their duty in themselves; the Bible only aidedthem. At need they did violence to it, when they wished to verify bytexts the suggestions of their own hearts. It was this sentiment of dutywhich united, inspired, and sustained them, which made their discipline,courage, and boldness; which raised to ancient heroism Hutchinson,Milton, and Cromwell; which instigated all decisive deeds, grandresolves, marvellous successes, the declaration of war, the trial of theking, the purge of Parliament, the humiliation of Europe, the protectionof Protestantism, the sway of the seas. These men are the true heroes ofEngland; they display, in high relief, the original characteristics andnoblest features of England--practical piety, the rule of conscience,manly resolution, indomitable energy. They founded England, in spite ofthe corruption of the Stuarts and the relaxation of modern manners, bythe exercise of duty, by the practice of justice, by obstinate toil, byvindication of right, by resistance to oppression, by the conquest ofliberty, by the repression of vice. They founded Scotland, they foundedthe United States; at this day they are, by their descendants, foundingAustralia and colonizing the world. Carlyle is so much their brotherthat he excuses or admires their excesses--the execution of the king,the mutilation of Parliament, their intolerance, inquisition, thedespotism of Cromwell, the theocracy of Knox. He sets them before us asmodels, and judges both past and present by them alone.


Section V.--His History of the French Revolution


Hence, he saw nothing but evil in the French Revolution. He judges it asunjustly as he judges Voltaire, and for the same reasons. He understandsour manner of acting no better than our manner of thinking. He looks forPuritan sentiment; and, as he does not find it, he condemns us. The ideaof duty, the religious spirit, self-government, the authority of anaustere conscience, can alone, in his opinion, reform a corrupt society;and none of all these are to be met with in French society. Thephilosophy which has produced and guided the Revolution was simplydestructive, proclaiming no other gospel but "that a lie cannot bebelieved! Philosophy knows only this: Her other relief is mainly that inspiritual, supra-sensual matters, no belief is possible." The theory ofthe Rights of Man, borrowed from Rousseau, is only a logical game, apedantry almost as opportune as a "Theory of Irregular Verbs." Themanners in vogue were the epicurism of Faublas. The morality in voguewas the promise of universal happiness. Incredulity, hollow rant,sensuality, were the mainsprings of this reformation. Men let loosetheir instincts and overturned the barriers. They replaced corruptauthority by unchecked anarchy. In what could a jacquerie of brutalizedpeasants, impelled by ecclesiastical arguments, end?


"For ourselves, we answer that French Revolution means here the openviolent Rebellion, and Victory, of disimprisoned Anarchy againstcorrupt, worn-out Authority....[390]

"So thousandfold complex a Society, ready to burst up from its infinitedepths; and these men its rulers and healers, without life-rule forthemselves--other life-rule than a Gospel according to Jean Jacques! Tothe wisest of them, what we must call the wisest, man is properly anaccident under the sky. Man is without duty round him, except it be tomake the Constitution. He is without Heaven above him, or Hell beneathhim; he has no God in the world.

"While hollow languor and vacuity is the lot of the upper, and want andstagnation of the lower, and universal misery is very certain, whatother thing is certain?... What will remain? The five unsatiated senseswill remain, the sixth insatiable sense (of vanity); the whole_dœmoniac_ nature of man will remain.

"Man is not what we call a happy animal; his appetite for sweet victualis too enormous.... (He cannot subsist) except by girding himselftogether for continual endeavour and endurance."[391]


But set the good beside the evil; put down virtues beside vices. Thesesceptics believed in demonstrated truth, and would have her alone formistress. These logicians founded society only on justice, and riskedtheir lives rather than renounce an established theorem. Theseepicureans embraced in their sympathies entire humanity. These furiousmen, these workmen, these hungry, threadbare peasants, fought on thefrontiers for humanitarian interests and abstract principles. Generosityand enthusiasm abounded in France, as well as in England; acknowledgethem under a form which is not English. These men were devoted toabstract truth, as the Puritan to divine truth; they followedphilosophy, as the Puritans followed religion; they had for their aimuniversal salvation, as the Puritans had individual salvation. Theyfought against evil in society, as the Puritans fought it in the soul.They were generous, as the Puritans were virtuous. They had, like them,a heroism, but sympathetic, sociable, ready to proselytize, whichreformed Europe, whilst the English one only served England.


Section VI.--His Opinion of Modern England


This exaggerated Puritanism, which revolted Carlyle against the FrenchRevolution, revolts him against modern England:


"We have forgotten God;--in the most modern dialect and very truth ofthe matter, we have taken up the Fact of this Universe as it is _not._We have quietly closed our eyes to the eternal Substance of things,and opened them only to the Shows and Shams of things. We quietlybelieve this Universe to be intrinsically a great unintelligiblePERHAPS; extrinsically, clear enough, it is a great, most extensiveCattlefold and Workhouse, with most extensive Kitchen-ranges,Dining-tables--whereat he is wise who can find a place! All the Truth ofthis Universe is uncertain; only the profit and loss of it, the puddingand praise of it, are and remain very visible to the practical man.

"There is no longer any God for us! God's Laws are become aGreatest-Happiness Principle, a Parliamentary Expediency; the Heavensoverarch, us only as an Astronomical Timekeeper; a butt forHerschel-telescopes to shoot science at, to shoot sentimentalities at:in our and old Jonson's dialect, man has lost the _soul_ out of him; andnow, after the due period--begins to find the want of it! This is verilythe plague-spot; centre of the universal Social Gangrene, threateningall modern things with frightful death. To him that will consider it,here is the stem, with its roots and taproot, with its worldwideupas-boughs and accursed poison-exudations, under which the world lieswrithing in atrophy and agony. You touch the focal-centre of all ourdisease, of our frightful nosology of diseases, when you lay your handon this. There is no religion: there is no God; man has lost his soul,and vainly seeks antiseptic salt. Vainly: in killing Kings, in passingReform bills, in French Revolutions, Manchester Insurrections, is foundno remedy. The foul elephantine leprosy, alleviated for an hour,reappears in new force and desperateness next hour."[392]


Since the return of the Stuarts, we are utilitarians or sceptics. Webelieve only in observation, statistics, gross and concrete truth; orelse we doubt, half believe, on hearsay, with reserve. We have no moralconvictions, and we have only floating convictions. We have lost themainspring of action; we no longer set duty in the midst of our resolve,as the sole and undisturbed foundation of life; we are caught by allkinds of little experimental and positive receipts, and we amuseourselves with all kinds of pretty pleasures, well chosen and arranged.We are egotists or dilettanti. We no longer look on life as an augusttemple, but as a machine for solid profits, or as a hall for refinedamusem*nts. We have our rich men, our manufacturers, our bankers, whopreach the gospel of gold; we have gentlemen, dandies, lords, who preachthe gospel of manners. We overwork ourselves to heap up guineas, or elsewe make ourselves insipid to attain an elegant dignity. Our hell is nolonger, as under Cromwell, the dread of being found guilty before thejust Judge, but the dread of making a bad speculation, or oftransgressing etiquette. We have for our aristocracy greedy shopkeepers,who reduce life to a calculation of cost and sale-prices; and idleamateurs, whose great business in life is to preserve the game on theirestates. We are no longer governed. Our government has no other ambitionthan to preserve the public peace, and to get in the taxes. Ourconstitution lays it down as a principle that, in order to discover thetrue and the good, we have only to make two million imbeciles vote. OurParliament is a great word-mill, where plotters out-bawl each other forthe sake of making a noise.[393]

Under this thin cloak of conventionalities and phrases, ominously growlsthe irresistible democracy. England perishes if she ever ceases to beable to sell a yard of cotton at a farthing less than others. At theleast check in the manufactures, 1,500,000 workmen,[394] without work,live upon public charity. The formidable masses, given up to the hazardsof industry, urged by lust, impelled by hunger, oscillate between thefragile cracking barriers; we are nearing the final breaking-up, whichwill be open anarchy, and the democracy will heave amidst the ruins,until the sentiment of the divine and of duty has rallied them aroundthe worship of heroism; until it has discovered the means of calling topower the most virtuous and the most capable;[395] until it has givenits guidance into their hands, instead of making them subject to itscaprices; until it has recognized and reverenced its Luther and itsCromwell, its priest and its king.


Section VII.--The Dangers of Enthusiasm.--Comparison of Carlyle andMacaulay


Nowadays, doubtless, in the whole civilized world, democracy is swellingor overflowing, and all the channels in which it flows are fragile ortemporary. But it is a strange offer to present for its issue thefanaticism and tyranny of the Puritans. The society and spirit whichCarlyle proposes, as models for human nature, lasted but an hour, andcould not last longer. The asceticism of the Republic produced thedebauchery of the Restoration; Harrison preceded Rochester, men likeBunyan raised up men like Hobbes; and the sectaries, in instituting thedespotism of enthusiasm, established by reaction the authority of thepositive mind, and the worship of gross pleasure. Exaltation is notstable, and it cannot be exacted from man without injustice and danger.The sympathetic generosity of the French Revolution ended in thecynicism of the Directory and the slaughters of the empire. Thechivalric and poetic piety of the great Spanish monarchy emptied Spainof men and of thought. The primacy of genius, taste, and intellect inItaly, reduced her at the end of a century to voluptuous sloth andpolitical slavery. "What makes the angel makes the beast;" and perfectheroism, like all excesses, ends in stupor. Human nature has itsexplosions, but with intervals: mysticism is serviceable but when it isshort. Violent circ*mstances produce extreme conditions; great evils arenecessary in order to raise great men, and you are obliged to look forshipwrecks when you wish to behold rescuers. If enthusiasm is beautiful,its results and its originating circ*mstances are sad; it is but acrisis, and a healthy state is better. In this respect, Carlyle himselfmay serve for a proof. There is, perhaps, less genius in Macaulay thanin Carlyle; but when we have fed for some time on this exaggerated anddemoniacal style, this marvellous and sickly philosophy, this contortedand prophetic history, these sinister and furious politics, we gladlyreturn to the continuous eloquence, to the vigorous reasoning, to themoderate prognostications, to the demonstrated theories, of the generousand solid mind which Europe has just lost, who brought honor to England,and whose place none can fill.


[Footnote 326: Because the Kalmucks put written prayers into a calabashturned by the wind, which in their opinion produces a perpetual adoration.In the same way are the prayer-mills of Thibet used.]

[Footnote 327: The "Life of John Sterling," ch. V; "A Profession."]

[Footnote 328: "Sartor Resartus," 1868, bk. II. ch. VIII; Centre ofIndifference.]

[Footnote 329: "History of the French Révolution," bk. I. ch. II; RealisedIdeals.]

[Footnote 330: In the "Adoration of the Magi."]

[Footnote 331: "Latter-Day Pamphlets," 1850; Stump Orator, 35.]

[Footnote 332: "The French Revolution," I. bk. III. ch. VII; Internecine.]

[Footnote 333: "Cromwell's Letters and Speeches," III. X; the end.]

[Footnote 334: "Life of Sterling."]

[Footnote 335: "Sartor Resartus," bk. I. ch. X; Pure Reason.]

[Footnote 336: Ibid.]

[Footnote 337: Ibid. bk. III. ch. I; Incident in Modern History.]

[Footnote 338: "Sailor Resartus," bk. III. ch. X; The Dandiacal Body.]

[Footnote 339: "Sartor Resartus," bk. III. ch. X; The Dandiacal Body.]

[Footnote 340: Ibid.]

[Footnote 341: Ibid.]

[Footnote 342: "Latter-Day Pamphlets," 1850; Jesuitism, 28.]

[Footnote 343: In "Past and Present," bk. II.]

[Footnote 344: Ibid. ch. I; Jocelin of Brakelond.]

[Footnote 345: Ibid. ch. II; St. Edmondsbury.]

[Footnote 346: "Lectures on Heroes," 1868.]

[Footnote 347: "Lectures on Heroes," I: The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 348: "Sartor Resartus," bk. I, ch, VIII; The World out ofClothes.]

[Footnote 349: Goethe, the greatest of them all.]

[Footnote 350: M. Renan.]

[Footnote 351: In particular, Stanley and Jowett.]

[Footnote 352: "Sartor Resartus," bk. I. ch. XI; Prospective.]

[Footnote 353: Ibid. bk. I. ch. X; Pure Reason.]

[Footnote 354: Ibid.]

[Footnote 355: Ibid. bk. I. ch. XI; Prospective.]

[Footnote 356: "Sartor Resartus," bk. III. ch. III; Symbols.]

[Footnote 357: Ibid. bk. III. ch. VIII; Natural Supernaturalism.]

[Footnote 358: Ibid.]

[Footnote 359: Ibid.]

[Footnote 360: "Sartor Resartus," bk. I. ch. X; Pure Reason.]

[Footnote 361: Ibid. bk. III. ch. VIII; Natural Supernaturalism.]

[Footnote 362: Ibid.]

[Footnote 363: "Sartor Resartus," bk. I. ch. X; Pre Reason.]

[Footnote 364: Ibid. bk. III. ch. VIII; Natural Supernaturalism.]

[Footnote 365: Ibid.]

[Footnote 366: "Sartor Resartus," bk. II. ch. VII; The Everlasting No.]

[Footnote 367: "Only this I know: If what thou namest Happiness be ourtrue aim, then are we all astray. With Stupidity and sound Digestionman may front much. But what, in these dull, unimaginative days, arethe terrors of Conscience to the diseases of the Liver! Not on Morality,but on Cookery, let us build our stronghold: there brandishing ourfrying-pan, as censer, let us offer sweet incense to the Devil, andlive at ease on the fat things he has provided for his Elect!"--"SartorResartus," bk. II. ch. VII.]

[Footnote 368: "Lectures on Heroes."]

[Footnote 369: "Sartor Resartus," bk. II. ch. IX; The Everlasting Yea.]

[Footnote 370: Ibid. bk. III. ch. II; Church Clothes.]

[Footnote 371: "Lectures on Heroes," I; The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 372: "Lectures on Heroes," I; The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 373: Ibid, IV; The Hero as Priest.]

[Footnote 374: Ibid.]

[Footnote 375: "Past and Present," bk. III. ch. XV; Morrison Again.]

[Footnote 376: Ibid. bk. III. ch. XII; Reward.]

[Footnote 377: "Lectures on Heroes;" Miscellanies, passim.]

[Footnote 378: "Life of Sterling."]

[Footnote 379: "Critical and Miscellaneous Essays," 4 vols.; II.Voltaire.]

[Footnote 380: See this double praise in "Wilhelm Meister."]

[Footnote 381: "Lectures on Heroes," I; The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 382: Ibid. II; The Hero as Prophet.]

[Footnote 383: "Cromwell's Letters and Speeches," III. part X;Death of the Protector.]

[Footnote 384: "Lectures on Heroes," I; The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 385: Ibid.]

[Footnote 386: "Lectures on Heroes," I; The Hero as Divinity.]

[Footnote 387: Ibid. IV; The Hero as Priest.]

[Footnote 388: "Lectures on Heroes," VI; The Hero as King.]

[Footnote 389: Ibid.]

[Footnote 390: "The French Revolution," I. bk. VI. ch. I; Make theConstitution.]

[Footnote 391: Ibid.]

[Footnote 392: "Past and Present," bk. III. ch. I; Phenomena.]

[Footnote 393: "It is his effort and desire to teach this and the otherthinking British man that said finale, the advent namely of actual openAnarchy, cannot be distant, now when virtual disguised Anarchy,long-continued, and waxing daily, has got to such a height; and that theone method of staving off the fatal consummation, and steering towardsthe Continents of the Future, lies not in the direction of reformingParliament, but of what he calls reforming Downing Street; a thinginfinitely urgent to be begun, and to be strenuously carried on. To finda Parliament more and more the express image of the People, could,unless the people chanced to be wise as well as miserable, give him nosatisfaction. Not this at all; but to find some sort of King, made inthe image of God, who could a little achieve for the People, if nottheir spoken wishes, yet their dumb wants, and what they would at lastfind to have been their instinctive will--which is a far differentmatter usually, in this babbling world of ours."--Parliaments, in"Latter-Day Pamphlets."

"A king or leader, then, in all bodies of men, there must be; be theirwork what it may, there is one man here who by character, faculty,position, is fittest of all to do it.

"He who is to be my ruler, whose will is to be higher than my will, waschosen for me in Heaven. Neither, except in such obedience to theHeaven-chosen, is freedom so much as conceivable."]

[Footnote 394: Official Report, 1842.]

[Footnote 395: "Latter-Day Pamphlets;" Parliaments.]


CHAPTER FIFTH


PHILOSOPHY--STUART MILL


Section I.--Lack of General Ideas


When at Oxford, some years ago, during the meeting of the BritishAssociation, I met, amongst the few students still in residence, a youngEnglishman, a man of intelligence, with whom I became intimate.[396] Hetook me in the evening to the New Museum, well filled with specimens.Here short lectures were delivered, new models of machinery were set towork; ladies were present and took an interest in the experiments; onthe last day, full of enthusiasm, "God Save the Queen" was sung. Iadmired this zeal, this solidity of mind, this organization of science,these voluntary subscriptions, this aptitude for association and forlabor, this great machine pushed on by so many arms, and so well fittedto accumulate, criticise, and classify facts. But yet in this abundance,there was a void; when I read the Transactions, I thought I was presentat a congress of heads of manufactories. All these learned men verifieddetails and exchanged recipes. It was as though I listened to foremen,busy in communicating their processes for tanning leather, or dyeingcotton: general ideas were wanting. I used to regret this to my friend;and in the evening, by his lamp, amidst that great silence in which theuniversity town lay wrapped, we both tried to discover its reasons.


Section II.--Why Metaphysics are Lacking


One day I said to him: You lack philosophy--I mean, what the Germanscall metaphysics. You have learned men, but you have no thinkers. YourGod impedes you. He is the Supreme Cause, and you dare not reason oncauses, out of respect for him. He is the most important personage inEngland, and I see clearly that he merits his position; for he formspart of your constitution, he is the guardian of your morality, hejudges in final appeal on all questions whatsoever, he replaces withadvantage the prefects and gendarmes with whom the nations on theContinent are still encumbered. Yet, this high rank has theinconvenience of all official positions; it produces a cant, prejudices,intolerance, and courtiers. Here, close by us, is poor Mr. Max Müller,who, in order to acclimatize the study of Sanscrit, was compelled todiscover in the Vedas the worship of a moral God, that is to say, thereligion of Paley and Addison. Some time ago, in London, I read aproclamation of the Queen, forbidding people to play cards, even intheir own houses, on Sundays.[397] It seems that, if I were robbed, Icould not bring my thief to justice without taking a preliminaryreligious oath; for the judge has been known to send a complainant awaywho refused to take the oath, deny him justice, and insult him into thebargain. Every year, when we read the Queen's speech in your papers, wefind there the compulsory mention of Divine Providence, which comes inmechanically, like the invocation to the immortal gods on the fourthpage of a rhetorical declamation; and you remember that once, the piousphrase having been omitted, a second communication was made toParliament for the express purpose of supplying it. All these cavillingsand pedantries indicate to my mind a celestial monarchy; naturally itresembles all others; I mean that it relies more willingly on traditionand custom than on examination and reason. A monarchy never invited mento verify its credentials. As yours is, however, useful, well adapted toyou, and moral, you are not revolted by it; you submit to it withoutdifficulty, you are, at heart, attached to it; you would fear, intouching it, to disturb the constitution and morality. You leave it inthe clouds, amidst public homage. You fall back upon yourselves, confineyourselves to matters of fact, to minute disSections, to experiments inthe laboratory. You go culling plants and collecting shells. Science isdeprived of its head; but all is for the best, for practical life isimproved, and dogma remains intact.


Section III.--Mill's Philosophical Method


You are truly French, he answered; you ignore facts, and all at oncefind yourself settled in a theory. I assure you that there are thinkersamongst us, and not far from hence, at Christ Church, for instance. Oneof them, the professor of Greek, has spoken so deeply on inspiration,the creation and final causes, that he is out of favor. Look at thislittle collection which has recently appeared, "Essays and Reviews;"your philosophic freedom of the last century, the latest conclusions ofgeology and cosmogony, the boldness of German exegesis, are here inabstract. Some things are wanting, amongst others the waggeries ofVoltaire, the misty jargon of Germany, and the prosaic coarseness ofComte; to my mind, the loss is small. Wait twenty years, and you willfind in London the ideas of Paris and Berlin.--But they will still bethe ideas of Paris and Berlin. Whom have you that is original?--StuartMill.--Who is he?--A political writer. His little book "On Liberty" isas admirable as Rousseau's "Contrat Social" is bad.--That is a boldassertion.--No, for Mill decides as strongly for the independence of theindividual as Rousseau for the despotism of the State.--Very well, butthat is not enough to make a philosopher. What besides is he?--Aneconomist who goes beyond his science, and subordinates production toman, instead of man to production.--Well, but this is not enough to makea philosopher. Is he anything else?--A logician.--Very good; but of whatschool?--Of his own. I told you he was original.--Is he Hegelian?--By nomeans; he is too fond of facts and proofs.--Does he followPort-Royal?--Still less; he is too well acquainted with modernsciences.--Does he imitate Condillac?--Certainly not; Condillac has onlytaught him to write well.--Who, then, are his friends?--Locke and Comtein the first rank; then Hume and Newton.--Is he a system-monger, aspeculative reformer?--He has too much sense for that; he only arrangesthe best theories, and explains the best methods. He does notattitudinize majestically in the character of a restorer of science; hedoes not declare, like your Germans, that his book will open up a newera for humanity. He proceeds gradually, somewhat slowly, oftencreepingly, through a multitude of particular facts. He excels in givingprecision to an idea, in disentangling a principle, in discovering itamongst a number of different facts; in refuting, distinguishing,arguing. He has the astuteness, patience, method, and sagacity of alawyer.--Very well, you admit that I was right. A lawyer, an ally ofLocke, Newton, Comte, and Hume; we have here only English philosophy;but no matter. Has he reached a grand conception of theuniverse?--Yes.--Has he an individual and complete idea of nature andthe mind?--Yes.--Has he combined the operations and discoveries of theintellect under a single principle which puts them all in a newlight?--Yes; but we have to discover this principle.--That is yourbusiness, and I hope you will undertake it.--But I shall fall intoabstract generalities.--There is no harm in that?--But this closereasoning will be like a quick-set hedge. We will prick our fingers withit.--But three men out of four would cast aside such speculations asidle.--So much the worse for them. For in what does the life of a nationor a century consist, except in the formation of such theories? We arenot thoroughly men unless so engaged. If some dweller in another planetwere to come down here to ask us the nature of our race, we should haveto show him the five or six great ideas which we have formed of the mindand the world. That alone would give him the measure of ourintelligence. Expound to me your theory, and I shall go away betterinstructed than after having seen the masses of brick, which you callLondon and Manchester.


Part I.--Experience


Section I.--The Object of Logic


Let us begin, then, at the beginning, like logicians. Mill has writtenon logic. What is logic? It is a science. What is its object? Thesciences; for, suppose that you have traversed the universe, and thatyou know it thoroughly: stars, earth, sun, heat, gravity, chemicalaffinities, the species of minerals, geological revolutions, plants,animals, human events, all that classifications and theories explain andembrace, there still remain these classifications and theories to belearnt. Not only is there an order of beings, but also an order of thethoughts which represent them; not only plants and animals, but alsobotany and zoology; not only lines, surfaces, volumes, and numbers, butalso geometry and arithmetic. Sciences, then, are as real things asfacts themselves, and therefore, as well as facts, become the subject ofstudy. We can analyze them as we analyze facts, investigate theirelements, composition, order, relations, and object. There is,therefore, a science of sciences; this science is called logic, and isthe subject of Mill's work. It is no part of logic to analyze theoperations of the mind, memory, the association of ideas, externalperception, etc.; that is the business of psychology. We do not discussthe value of such operations, the veracity of our consciousness, theabsolute certainty of our elementary knowledge; this belongs tometaphysics. We suppose our faculties to be at work, and we admit theirprimary discoveries. We take the instrument as nature has provided it,and we trust to its accuracy. We leave to others the task of taking itsmechanism to pieces, and the curiosity which criticises its results.Setting out from its primitive operations, we inquire how they are addedto each other; how they are combined; how one is convertible intoanother; how, by dint of additions, combinations, and transformations,they finally compose a system of connected and developed truths. Weconstruct a theory of science, as others construct theories ofvegetation, of the mind, or of numbers. Such is the idea of logic; andit is plain that it has, as other sciences, a real subject-matter, itsdistinct province, its manifest importance, its special method, and acertain future


Section II.--Discussion of Ideas


Having premised so much, we observe that all these sciences which formthe subject of logic are but collections of propositions, and that eachproposition merely connects or separates a subject and an attribute,that is, two names, a quality and a substance; that is to say, a thingand another thing. We must then ask what we understand by a thing, whatwe indicate by a name; in other words, what it is we recognize inobjects, what we connect or separate, what is the subject-matter of allour propositions and all our science. There is a point in which all ourseveral items of knowledge resemble one another. There is a commonelement which, continually repeated, constitutes all our ideas. Thereis, as it were, a minute primitive crystal which, indefinitely andvariously repeating itself, forms the whole mass, and which, once known,teaches us beforehand the laws and composition of the complex bodieswhich it has formed.

Now, when we attentively consider the idea which we form of anything,what do we find in it? Take first, substances: that is to say, Bodiesand Minds.[398] This table is brown, long, wide, three feet high,judging by the eye: that is, it forms a little spot in the field ofvision; in other words, it produces a certain sensation on the opticnerve. It weighs ten pounds: that is, it would require to lift it aneffort less than for a weight of eleven pounds, and greater than for aweight of nine pounds; in other words, it produces a certain muscularsensation. It is hard and square, which means that, if first pushed, andthen run over by the hand, it will excite two distinct kinds of muscularsensations. And so on. When I examine closely what I know of it, I findthat I know nothing else except the impressions it makes upon me. Ouridea of a body comprises nothing else than this: we know nothing of itbut the sensations it excites in us; we determine it by the nature,number, and order of these sensations; we know nothing of its innernature, nor whether it has one; we simply affirm that it is the unknowncause of these sensations. When we say that a body has existed in theabsence of our sensations we mean simply that if, during that time, wehad been within reach of it, we should have had sensations which we havenot had. We never define it save by our present or past, future orpossible, complex or simple impressions. This is so true, thatphilosophers like Berkeley have maintained, with some show of truth,that matter is a creature of the imagination, and that the wholeuniverse of sense is reducible to an order of sensations. It is at leastso, as far as our knowledge is concerned; and the judgments whichcompose our sciences have reference only to the impressions by whichthings are manifested to us.

So, again, with the mind. We may well admit that there is in us a soul,an "ego," a subject or recipient of our sensations, and of our othermodes of being, distinct from those sensations and modes of existence;but we know nothing of it. Mr. Mill says:


"For, as our conception of a body is that of an unknown exciting causeof sensations, so our conception of a mind is that of an unknownrecipient, or percipient, of them; and not of them alone, but of all ourother feelings. As body is the mysterious something which excites themind to feel, so mind is the mysterious something which feels, andthinks. It is unnecessary to give in the case of mind, as we gave in thecase of matter, a particular statement of the sceptical system by whichits existence as a Thing in itself, distinct from the series of what aredenominated its states, is called in question. But it is necessary toremark, that on the inmost nature of the thinking principle, as well ason the inmost nature of matter, we are, and with our faculties mustalways remain, entirely in the dark. All which we are aware of, even inour own minds, is a certain 'thread of consciousness'; a series offeelings, that is, of sensations, thoughts, emotions, and volitions,more or less numerous and complicated."[399]


We have no clearer idea of mind than of matter; we can say nothing moreabout it than about matter. So that substances, of whatever kind, bodiesor minds, within or without us, are never for us more than tissues, moreor less complex, more or less regular, of which our impressions andmodes of being form all the threads.

This is still more evident in the case of attributes than of substances.When I say that snow is white, I mean that, when snow is presented to mysight, I have the sensation of whiteness. When I say that fire is hot, Imean that, when near the fire, I have the sensation of heat. We call amind devout, superstitious, meditative, or gay, simply meaning that theideas, the emotions, the volitions, designated by these words, recurfrequently in the series of its modes of being.[400] When we say thatbodies are heavy, divisible, movable, we mean simply that, left tothemselves, they will fall; when cut, they will separate; or, whenpushed, they will move: that is, under such and such circ*mstances theywill produce such and such a sensation in our muscles, or our sight. Anattribute always designates a mode of our being, or a series of ourmodes of being. In vain we disguise these modes by grouping, concealingthem under abstract words, dividing and transforming them, so that weare frequently puzzled to recognize them: whenever we pierce to thebasis of our words and ideas, we find them and nothing but them. Millsays:


"Take the following example: A generous person is worthy of honour. Whowould expect to recognize here a case of coexistence between phenomena?But so it is. The attribute which causes a person to be termed generousis ascribed to him on the ground of states of his mind, and particularsof his conduct; both are phenomena; the former are facts of internalconsciousness, the latter, so far as distinct from the former, arephysical facts, or perceptions of the senses. Worthy of honour, admitsof a similar analysis. Honour, as here used, means a state of approvingand admiring emotion, followed on occasion by corresponding outwardacts. 'Worthy of honour' connotes all this, together with an approval ofthe act of showing honour. All these are phenomena; states of internalconsciousness, accompanied or followed by physical facts. When we say, Agenerous person is worthy of honour, we affirm coexistence between thetwo complicated phenomena connoted by the two terms respectively. Weaffirm, that wherever and whenever the inward feelings and outward factsimplied in the word generosity have place, then and there the existenceand manifestation of an inward feeling, honour, would be followed in ourminds by another inward feeling, approval."[401]


In vain we turn about as we please, we remain still in the same circle.Whether the object be an attribute or a substance, complex or abstract,compound or simple, its material is to us always the same; it is made uponly of our modes of being. Our mind is to nature what a thermometer isto a boiler: we define the properties of nature by the impressions ofour mind, as we indicate the conditions of the boiling water by thechanges of the thermometer. Of both we know but condition and changes;both are made up of isolated and transient facts; a thing is for us butan aggregate of phenomena. These are the sole elements of our knowledge:consequently the whole effort of science will be to link facts to facts.


Section III.--The Two Corner-Stones of Logic


This brief phrase is the abstract of the whole system. Let us master it,for it explains all Mill's theories. He has defined and restatedeverything, from this starting-point. In all forms and all degrees ofknowledge, he has recognized only the knowledge of facts, and of theirrelations.

Now we know that logic has two corner-stones: the Theories of Definitionand of Proof. From the days of Aristotle logicians have spent their timein polishing them. They have only dared to touch them respectfully, asif they were sacred. At most, from time to time, some innovator venturedto turn them over cautiously, to put them in a better light. Millshapes, cuts, turns them over, and replaces them both in a similarmanner and by the same means.


Section IV.--Theory of Definitions


I am quite aware that nowadays men laugh at those who reason ondefinitions; the laughers deserve to be laughed at. There is no theorymore fertile in universal and important results; it is the root by whichthe whole tree of human science grows and lives. For to define things isto mark out their nature. To introduce a new idea of definition is tointroduce a new idea of the nature of things; it is to tell us whatbeings are, of what they are composed, into what elements they arecapable of being resolved. In this lies the merit of these dryspeculations; the philosopher seems occupied with arranging mereformulas; the fact is, that in them he encloses the universe.

Take, say logicians, an animal, a plant, a feeling, a geometricalfigure, an object or group of objects of any kind. Doubtless the objecthas its properties, but it has also its essence. It is manifested to theouter world by an indefinite number of effects and qualities; but allthese modes of being are the results or products of its inner nature.There is within it a certain hidden substratum which alone is primitiveand important, without which it can neither exist nor be conceived, andwhich constitutes its being and our notion of it.[402] They call thepropositions which denote this essence definitions, and assert that thebest part of our knowledge consists of such propositions.

On the other hand, Mill says that these kinds of propositions teach usnothing; they show the mere sense of a word, and are purely verbal.[403]What do I learn by being told that man is a rational animal, or that atriangle is a space contained by three lines? The first part of such aphrase expresses, by an abbreviative word, what the second partexpresses in a developed phrase. You tell me the same thing twice over;you put the same fact into two different expressions; you do not add onefact to another, but you go from one fact to its equivalent. Yourproposition is not instructive. You might collect a million such, mymind would remain entirely void; I should have read a dictionary, butnot have acquired a single piece of knowledge. Instead of saying thatessential propositions are important, and those relating to qualitiesmerely accessory, you ought to say that the first are accessory, and thesecond important. I learn nothing by being told that a circle is afigure formed by the revolution of a straight line about one of itspoints as centre; I do learn something when told that the chords whichsubtend equal arcs in the circle are themselves equal, or that threegiven points determine the circumference. What we call the nature of abeing is the connected system of facts which constitutes that being. Thenature of a carnivorous mammal consists in the fact that the property ofgiving milk, and all its implied peculiarities of structure, arecombined with the possession of sharp teeth, instincts of prey, and thecorresponding faculties. Such are the elements which compose its nature.They are facts linked together as mesh to mesh in a net. We perceive afew of them; and we know that beyond our present knowledge and ourfuture experience, the network extends to infinity its interwoven andmanifold threads. The essence or nature of a being is the indefinite sumof its properties. Mill says:


"The definition, they say, unfolds the nature of the thing: but nodefinition can unfold its whole nature; and every proposition in whichany quality whatever is predicated of the thing, unfolds some part ofits nature. The true state of the case we take to be this: Alldefinitions are of names, and of names only; but in some definitions itis clearly apparent, that nothing is intended except to explain themeaning of the word; while in others, besides explaining the meaning ofthe word, it is intended to be implied that there exists a thing,corresponding to the word."[404]


Abandon, then, the vain hope of eliminating from properties someprimitive and mysterious being, the source and abstract of the whole;leave entities to Duns Scotus; do not fancy that, by probing your ideasin the German fashion, by classifying objects according to genera andspecies like the schoolmen, by reviving the nominalism of the MiddleAges or the riddles of Hegelian metaphysics, you will ever supply thewant of experience. There are no definitions of things; if there aredefinitions, they only define names. No phrase can tell me what a horseis; but there are phrases which will inform me what is meant by thesefive letters. No phrase can exhaust the inexhaustible sum of qualitieswhich make up a being; but several phrases may point out the factscorresponding to a word. In this case definition is possible, because wecan always make an analysis, which will enable us to pass from theabstract and summary term to the attributes which it represents, andfrom these attributes to the inner or concrete feelings which constitutetheir foundation. From the term "dog" it enables us to rise to theattributes "mammiferous, carnivorous," and others which it represents;and from these attributes to the sensations of sight, of touch, of thedissecting knife, on which they are founded. It reduces the compound tothe simple, the derived to the primitive. It brings back our knowledgeto its origin. It transforms words into facts. If some definitions, suchas those of geometry, seem capable of giving rise to long sequences ofnew truths,[405] it is because, in addition to the explanation of aword, they contain the affirmation of a thing. In the definition of atriangle there are two distinct propositions--the one stating that"there may exist a figure bounded by three straight lines"; the other,that "such a figure may be termed a triangle." The first is a postulate,the second a definition. The first is hidden, the second evident; thefirst may be true or false, the second can be neither. The first is thesource of all possible theorems as to triangles, the second only resumesin a word the facts contained in the other. The first is a truth, thesecond is a convention; the first is a part of science, the second anexpedient of language. The first expresses a possible relation betweenthree straight lines, the second gives a name to this relation. Thefirst alone is fruitful, because it alone conforms to the nature ofevery fruitful proposition, and connects two facts. Let us, then,understand exactly the nature of our knowledge: it relates either towords or to things, or to both at once. If it is a matter of words, asin the definition of names, it attempts to refer words to our primitivefeelings: that is to say, to the facts which form their elements. If itrelates to beings, as in propositions about things, its whole effort isto link fact to fact, in order to connect the finite number of knownproperties with the infinite number to be known. If both are involved,as in the definitions of names which conceal a proposition relating tothings, it attempts to do both. Everywhere its operation is the same.The whole matter, in any case, is to understand each other--that is, torevert to facts, or to learn--that is, to add facts to facts.


Section V.--Theory of Proof


The first rampart is destroyed; our adversaries take refuge behind thesecond--the Theory of Proof. This theory has passed for two thousandyears for a substantiated, definite, unassailable truth. Many havedeemed it useless, but no one has dared to call it false. On all sidesit has been considered as an established theorem. Let us examine itclosely and attentively. What is a proof? According to logicians, it isa syllogism. And what is a syllogism? A group of three propositions ofthis kind: "All men are mortal; Prince Albert is a man; therefore PrinceAlbert is mortal." Here we have the type of a proof, and every completeproof is conformable to this type. Now what is there, according tologicians, in this proof? A general proposition concerning all men,which gives rise to a particular proposition concerning a certain man.From the first we pass to the second, because the second is contained inthe first; from the general to the particular, because the particular iscomprised in the general. The second is but an instance of the first;its truth is contained beforehand in that of the first, and this is whyit is a truth. In fact, as soon as the conclusion is no longer containedin the premises, the reasoning is false, and all the complicated rulesof the Middle Ages have been reduced by the Port-Royalists to thissingle rule, "The conclusion must be contained in the premises." Thusthe entire process of the human mind in its reasonings, consists inrecognizing in individuals what is known of a whole class; in affirmingin detail what has been established for the aggregate; in laying down asecond time, and piecemeal, what has been laid down once for all atfirst.

By no means, replies Mill; for if it were so, our reasoning would begood for nothing. It would not be a progress, but a repetition. When Ihave affirmed that all men are mortal, I have affirmed implicitly thatPrince Albert is mortal. In speaking of the whole class, that is to say,of all the individuals of the class, I have spoken of each individual,and therefore of Prince Albert, who is one of them. I say nothing new,then, when I now mention him expressly. My conclusion teaches menothing; it adds nothing to my positive knowledge; it only puts inanother shape a knowledge which I already possessed. It is not fruitful,but purely verbal. If, then, reasoning be what logicians represent it,it is not instructive. I know as much of the subject at the beginning ofmy reasoning as at the end. I have transformed words into other words; Ihave been moving, without gaining ground. Now this cannot be the case;for, in fact, reasoning does teach us new truths. I learn a new truthwhen I discover that Prince Albert is mortal, and I discover it by dintof reasoning; for, since he is still alive, I cannot have learnt it bydirect observation. Thus logicians are mistaken; and beyond thescholastic theory of syllogism, which reduces reasoning to substitutionsof words, we must look for a positive theory of proof, which shallexplain how it is that, by the process of reasoning, we discover facts.

For this purpose, it is sufficient to observe that general propositionsare not the true proof of particular propositions. They seem so, but arenot. It is not from the mortality of all men that I conclude PrinceAlbert to be mortal; the premises are elsewhere, and in the background.The general proposition is but a memento^ a sort of abbreviativeregister, to which I have consigned the fruit of my experience. Thismemento may be regarded as a notebook, to which we refer to refresh ourmemory; but it is not from the book that we draw our knowledge, but fromthe objects which we have seen. My memento is valuable, only for thefacts which it recalls. My general proposition has no value, except forthe particular facts which it sums up.


"The mortality of John, Thomas, and company, is, after all, the wholeevidence we have for the mortality of the Duke of Wellington. Not oneiota is added to the proof by interpolating a general proposition. Sincethe individual cases are all the evidence we can possess, evidence whichno logical form into which we choose to throw it can make greater thanit is; and since that evidence is either sufficient in itself, or, ifinsufficient for the one purpose, cannot be sufficient for the other; Iam unable to see why we should be forbidden to take the shortest cutfrom these sufficient premisses to the conclusion, and constrained totravel the 'high priori road' by the arbitrary fiat of logicians."[406]


"The true reason which makes us believe that Prince Albert will die is,that his ancestors, and our ancestors, and all the other persons whowere their contemporaries, are dead. These facts are the true premisesof our reasoning." It is from them that we have drawn the generalproposition; they have taught us its scope and truth; it confines itselfto mentioning them in a shorter form; it receives its whole substancefrom them; they act by it and through it, to lead us to the conclusionto which it seems to give rise. It is only their representative, and onoccasion they do without it. Children, ignorant people, animals, knowthat the sun will rise, that water will drown them, that fire will burnthem, without employing this general proposition. They reason, and wereason, too, not from the general to the particular, but from particularto particular:


"All inference is from particulars to particulars; general propositionsare merely registers of such inferences already made, and short formulæfor making more: The major premiss of a syllogism, consequently, is aformula of this description: and the conclusion is not an inferencedrawn from the formula, but an inference drawn according to the formula:the real logical antecedent, or premisses, being the particular factsfrom which the general proposition was collected by induction. Thosefacts, and the individual instances which supplied them, may have beenforgotten; but a record remains, not indeed descriptive of the factsthemselves, but showing how those cases may be distinguished respectingwhich the facts, when known, were considered to warrant a giveninference. According to the indications of this record we draw ourconclusion; which is to all intents and purposes, a conclusion from theforgotten facts. For this it is essential that we should read the recordcorrectly: and the rules of the syllogism are a set of precautions toensure our doing so."[407]

"If we had sufficiently capacious memories, and a sufficient power ofmaintaining order among a huge mass of details, the reasoning could goon without any general propositions; they are mere formulae forinferring particulars from particulars."[408]


Here, as before, logicians are mistaken: they gave the highest place toverbal operations, and left the really fruitful operations in thebackground. They gave the preference to words over facts. Theyperpetuated the nominalism of the Middle Ages. They mistook theexplanation of names for the nature of things, and the transformation ofideas for the progress of the mind. It is for us to overturn this orderin logic, as we have overturned it in science, to exalt particular andinstructive facts, and to give them in our theories that superiority andimportance which our practice has conferred upon them for threecenturies past.


Section VI.--Theory of Axioms


There remains a kind of philosophical fortress in which the Idealistshave taken refuge. At the origin of all proof are Axioms, from which allproofs are derived. Two straight lines cannot enclose a space; twothings, equal to a third, are equal to one another; if equals be addedto equals, the wholes are equal. These are instructive propositions, forthey express, not the meanings of words, but the relations of things.And, moreover, they are fertile propositions; for arithmetic, algebra,and geometry are all the result of their truth. On the other hand, theyare not the work of experience, for we need not actually see with oureyes two straight lines in order to know that they cannot enclose aspace; it is enough for us to refer to the inner mental conception whichwe have of them: the evidence of our senses is not needed for thispurpose; our belief arises wholly, with its full force, from the simplecomparison of our ideas. Moreover, experience follows these two linesonly to a limited distance, ten, a hundred, a thousand feet; and theaxiom is true for a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million miles, andfor an unlimited distance. Thus, beyond the point at which experienceceases, it is no longer experience which establishes the axiom. Finally,the axiom is a necessary truth; that is to say, the contrary isinconceivable. We cannot imagine a space enclosed by two straight lines:as soon as we imagine the space enclosed, the two lines cease to bestraight; and as soon as we imagine the two lines to be straight, thespace ceases to be enclosed. In the assertion of axioms, the constituentideas are irresistibly drawn together. In the negation of axioms, theconstituent ideas inevitably repel each other. Now this does not happenwith truths of experience: they state an accidental relation, not anecessary connection; they lay down that two facts are connected, andnot that they must be connected; they show us that bodies are heavy, notthat they must be heavy. Thus, axioms are not, and cannot be the resultsof experience. They are not so, because we can form them mentallywithout the aid of experience; they cannot be so, because the nature andscope of their truths lie beyond the limits of experience. They haveanother and a deeper source. They have a wider scope, and they come fromelsewhere.

Not so, answers Mill. Here again you reason like a schoolman; you forgetthe facts concealed behind your conceptions; for examine your firstargument. Doubtless you can discover, without making use of your eyes,and by purely mental contemplation, that two straight lines cannotenclose a space; but this contemplation is but a displaced experiment.Imaginary lines here replace real lines: you construct the figure inyour mind instead of on paper: your imagination fulfils the office of adiagram on paper: you trust to it as you trust to the diagram, and it isas good as the other; for in regard to figures and lines the imaginationexactly reproduces the sensation. What you have seen with your eyesopen, you will see again exactly the same a minute afterwards with youreyes closed; and you can study geometrical properties, transferred tothe field of mental vision, as accurately as if they existed in thefield of actual sight. There are, therefore, experiments of the brain asthere are ocular ones; and it is after just such an experiment that youdeny to two straight lines, indefinitely prolonged, the property ofenclosing a space. You need not, for this purpose, pursue them toinfinity: you need only transfer yourself in imagination to the pointwhere they converge, and there you have the impression of a bent line,that is of one which ceases to be straight.[409] Your presence there, inimagination, takes the place of an actual presence; you can affirm by itwhat you affirmed by your actual presence, and as positively. The firstis only the second in a more commodious form, with greater flexibilityand scope. It is like using a telescope instead of the naked eye; therevelations of the telescope are propositions of experience; so arethose of the imagination. As to the argument which distinguishes axiomsfrom propositions of experience under the pretext that the contraries ofthe latter are conceivable, while the contraries of axioms areinconceivable, it is nugatory, for this distinction does not exist.Nothing prevents the contraries of certain propositions of experiencefrom being conceivable, and the contraries of others inconceivable. Thatdepends on the constitution of our minds. It may be that in some casesthe mind may contradict its experience, and in others not. It ispossible that in certain cases our conceptions may differ from ourperceptions, and sometimes not. It may be that, in certain cases,external sight is opposed to internal, and in certain others not. Now,we have already seen that in the case of figures, the internal sightexactly reproduces the external. Therefore, in axioms of figures, themental sight cannot be opposed to the actual; imagination cannotcontradict sensation. In other words, the contraries of such axioms willbe inconceivable. Thus axioms, although their contraries areinconceivable, are experiments of a certain class, and it is becausethey are so that their contraries are inconceivable. At every pointthere results this conclusion, which is the abstract of the system:every instructive or fruitful proposition is derived from experience,and is simply a connecting together of facts.


Section VII.--Theory of Induction


Hence it follows that Induction is the only key to nature. This theoryis Mill's masterpiece. Only so thorough-going a partisan of experiencecould have constructed the theory of Induction.

What, then, is Induction?


"Induction is that operation of the mind by which we infer that what weknow to be true in a particular case or cases, will be true in all caseswhich resemble the former in certain assignable respects. In otherwords, Induction is the process by which we conclude that what is trueof certain individuals of a class is true of the whole class, or thatwhat is true at certain times will be true in similar circ*mstances atall times."[410]


This is the reasoning by which, having observed that Peter, John, and agreater or less number of men have died, we conclude that all men willdie. In short, induction connects "mortality" with the quality of "man";that is to say, connects two general facts ordinarily successive, andasserts that the first is the Cause of the second.

This amounts to saying that the course of nature is uniform. Butinduction does not set out from this axiom, it leads up to it; we do notfind it at the beginning, but at the end of our researches.[411]Fundamentally, experience presupposes nothing beyond itself. No _àpriori_ principle comes to authorize or guide her. We observe that thisstone has fallen, that this hot coal has burnt us, that this man hasdied, and we have no other means of induction except the addition andcomparison of these little isolated and transient facts. We learn bysimple practical experience that the sun gives light, that bodies fall,that water quenches thirst, and we have no other means of extending orcriticising these inductions than by other like inductions. Everyobservation and every induction draws its value from itself, and fromsimilar ones. It is always experience which judges of experience, andinduction of induction. The body of our truths has not, then, a souldistinct from it, and vivifying it; it subsists by the harmony of allits parts taken as a whole, and by the vitality of each part takenseparately.


"Why is it that, with exactly the same amount of evidence, both negativeand positive, we did not reject the assertion that there are blackswans, while we should refuse credence to any testimony which assertedthat there were men wearing their heads underneath their shoulders? Thefirst assertion was more credible than the latter. But why morecredible? So long as neither phenomenon had been actually witnessed,what reason was there for finding the one harder to be believed than theother? Apparently because there is less constancy in the colours ofanimals than in the general structure of their internal anatomy. But howdo we know this? Doubtless from experience. It appears, then, that weneed experience to inform us in what degree, and in what cases, or sortsof cases, experience is to be relied on. Experience must be consulted inorder to learn from it under what circ*mstances arguments from it willbe valid. We have no ulterior test to which we subject experience ingeneral; but we make experience its own test. Experience testifies, thatamong the uniformities which it exhibits, or seems to exhibit, some aremore to be relied on than others; and uniformity, therefore, may bepresumed, from any given number of instances, with a greater degree ofassurance, in proportion as the case belongs to a class in which theuniformities have hitherto been found more uniform."[412]


Experience is the only test, and it is to be found everywhere.

Let us then consider how, without any help but that of experience, wecan form general propositions, especially the most numerous andimportant of all, those which connect two successive events, by sayingthat the first is the cause of the second.

Cause is a great word; let us examine it. It carries in itself a wholephilosophy. From the idea we have of Cause depend all our notions ofnature. To give a new idea of Causation is to transform human thought;and we shall see how Mill, like Hume and Comte, but better than they,has put this idea into a new shape.

What is a cause? When Mill says that the contact of iron with moist airproduces rust, or that heat dilates bodies, he does not speak of themysterious bond by which metaphysicians connect cause and effect. Hedoes not busy himself with the intimate force and generative virtuewhich certain philosophers insert between the thing producing and theproduct. Mill says:


"The only notion of a cause, which the theory of induction requires, issuch a notion as can be gained from experience. The Law of Causation,the recognition of which is the main pillar of inductive science, is butthe familiar truth, that invariability of succession is found byobservation to obtain between every fact in nature and some other factwhich has preceded it; independently of all consideration respecting theulterior mode of production of phenomena, and of every other questionregarding the nature of 'Things in themselves.'"[413]


No other foundation underlies these two expressions. We mean simply,that everywhere, always, the contact of iron with the moist air will befollowed by the appearance of rust; the application of heat by thedilatation of bodies: "The real cause is the whole of theseantecedents."[414] "There is no scientific foundation for distinguishingbetween the cause of a phenomenon and the conditions of itshappening.... The distinction drawn between the patient and the agent ispurely verbal. The cause, then, philosophically speaking, is the sumtotal of the conditions, positive and negative, taken together; thewhole of the contingencies of every description, which being realized,the consequent invariably follows."[415] Much argument has been expendedon the word necessary: "If there be any meaning which confessedlybelongs to the term necessity, it is _unconditionalness._ That which isnecessary, that which must be, means that which will be, whateversupposition we may make in regard to all other things."[416] This is allwe mean, when we assert that the notion of cause includes the notion ofnecessity. We mean that the antecedent is sufficient and complete, thatthere is no need to suppose any additional antecedent, that it containsall requisite conditions, and that no other condition need exist. Tofollow unconditionally, then, is the whole notion of cause and effect.We have none else. Philosophers are mistaken when they discover in ourwill a different type of causation, and declare it an example ofefficient cause in act and in exercise. We sec nothing of the kind, butthere, as elsewhere, we find only continuous successions. We do not seea fact engendering another fact, but a fact accompanying another. "Ourwill," says Mill, "produces our bodily actions as cold produces ice, oras a spark produces an explosion of gunpowder." There is here, aselsewhere, an antecedent, the resolution or state of mind, and aconsequent, the effort or physical sensation. Experience connects them,and enables us to foresee that the effort will follow the resolution, asit enables us to foresee that the explosion of gunpowder will follow thecontact of the spark. Let us then have done with all these psychologicalillusions, and seek only, under the names of cause and effect, forphenomena which form pairs without exception or condition.

Now, to establish these connections of phenomena, Mill discovers fourmethods, and only four--namely, the Methods of Agreement,[417] ofDifference,[418] of Residues,[419] and of Concomitant Variations.[420]These are the only ways by which we can penetrate into nature. There areno other, and these are everywhere. And they all employ the sameartifice, that is to say, elimination; for, in fact, induction isnothing else. You have two groups, one of antecedents, the other ofconsequents, each of them containing more or fewer elements, ten, forexample. To what antecedent is each consequent joined? Is the firstconsequent joined to the first antecedent, or to the third, or sixth?The whole difficulty and the only possible solution lie there. Toresolve the difficulty, and to effect the solution, we must eliminate,that is, exclude those antecedents which are not connected with theconsequent we are considering.[421] But as we cannot exclude themeffectually, and as in nature the pair of phenomena we are seeking isalways surrounded with circ*mstances, we collect collect various cases,which by their diversity enable the mind to lop off these circ*mstances,and to discover the pair of phenomena distinctly. In short, we can onlyperform induction by discovering pairs of phenomena; we form these onlyby isolation; we isolate only by means of comparisons.


Section VIII.--Applications of the Theory of Induction


These are the rules; an example will make them clearer. We will show youthe methods in exercise; here is an example which combines nearly thewhole of them, namely, Dr. Well's theory of dew. I will give it to youin Mill's own words, which are so clear that you must have the pleasureof pondering over them: "We must separate dew from rain and the moistureof fogs, and limit the application of the term to what is really meant,which is, the spontaneous appearance of moisture on substances exposedin the open air when no rain or visible wet is falling."[422] What isthe cause of the phenomena we have thus defined, and how was that causediscovered?


"'Now, here we have analogous phenomena, in the moisture which bedews acold metal or stone when we breathe upon it; that which appears on aglass of water fresh from the well in hot weather; that which appears onthe inside of windows when sudden rain or hail chills the external air;that which runs down our walls when, after a long frost, a warm moistthaw comes on.' Comparing these cases, we find that they all contain thephenomenon which was proposed as the subject of investigation. Now 'allthese instances agree in one point: the coldness of the object dewed, incomparison with the air in contact with it.' But there still remains themost important case of all, that of nocturnal dew: does the samecirc*mstance exist in this case? 'Is it a fact that the object dewed iscolder than the air? Certainly not, one would at first be inclined tosay; for what is to make it so? But ... the experiment is easy; we haveonly to lay a thermometer in contact with the dewed substance, and hangone at a little distance above it, out of reach of its influence. Theexperiment has been therefore made; the question has been asked, and theanswer has been invariably in the affirmative. Whenever an objectcontracts dew, it is colder than the air.'

"Here then is a complete application of the Method of Agreement,establishing the fact of an invariable connection between the depositionof dew on a surface, and the coldness of that surface, compared with theexternal air. But which of these is cause, and which effect? or are theyboth effects of something else? On this subject the Method of Agreementcan afford us no light: we must call in a more potent method. 'We mustcollect more facts, or, which comes to the same thing, vary thecirc*mstances; since every instance in which the circ*mstances differ isa fresh fact: and especially, we must note the contrary or negativecases, i.e., where no dew is produced': for a comparison betweeninstances of dew and instances of no dew, is the condition necessary tobring the Method of Difference into play.

"'Now, first, no dew is produced on the surface of polished metals, butit is very copiously on glass, both exposed with their faces upwards,and in some cases the under side of a horizontal plate of glass is alsodewed.' Here is an instance in which the effect is produced, and anotherinstance in which it is not produced; but we cannot yet pronounce, asthe canon of the Method of Difference requires, that the latter instanceagrees with the former in all its circ*mstances except one: for thedifferences between glass and polished metals are manifold, and the onlything we can as yet be sure of is, that the cause of dew will be foundamong the circ*mstances by which the former substance is distinguishedfrom the latter."


To detect this particular circ*mstance of difference, we have but onepracticable method, that of Concomitant Variations:


"'In the cases of polished metal and polished glass, the contrast showsevidently that the substance has much to do with the phenomenon;therefore let the substance alone be diversified as much as possible, byexposing polished surfaces of various kinds. This done, a scale ofintensity becomes obvious. Those polished substances are found to bemost strongly dewed which conduct heat worst, while those which conductwell resist dew most effectually....'

"The conclusion obtained is, that _cœteris paribus_ the deposition ofdew is in some proportion to the power which the body possesses ofresisting the passage of heat; and that this, therefore (or somethingconnected with this), must be at least one of the causes which assist inproducing the deposition of dew on the surface.

"'But if we expose rough surfaces instead of polished, we sometimes findthis law interfered with. Thus, roughened iron, especially if paintedover or blackened, becomes dewed sooner than varnished paper: the kindof surface, therefore, has a great influence. Expose, then, the samematerial in very diversified states as to surface' (that is, employ theMethod of Difference to ascertain concomitance of variations),' andanother scale of intensity becomes at once apparent; those surfaceswhich part with their heat most readily by radiation, are found tocontract dew most copiously....'

"The conclusion obtained by this new application of the method is, that_cœteris paribus_ the deposition of dew is also in some proportion tothe power of radiating heat; and that the quality of doing thisabundantly (or some cause on which that quality depends) is another ofthe causes which promote the deposition of dew on the substance.

"'Again, the influence ascertained to exist of substance and surface,leads us to consider that of texture; and here, again, we are presentedon trial with remarkable differences, and with a third scale ofintensity, pointing out substances of a close firm texture, such asstones, metals, etc., as unfavourable, but those of a loose one, ascloth, velvet, wool, eiderdown, cotton, etc., as eminently favourable tothe contraction of dew.' The Method of Concomitant Variations is here,for the third time, had recourse to; and, as before, from necessity,since the texture of no substance is absolutely firm or absolutelyloose. Looseness of texture, therefore, or something which is the causeof that quality, is another circ*mstance which promotes the depositionof dew; but this third cause resolves itself into the first, viz., thequality of resisting the passage of heat: for substances of loosetexture 'are precisely those which are best adapted for clothing, or forimpeding the free passage of heat from the skin into the air, so as toallow their outer surfaces to be very cold, while they remain warmwithin....'

"It thus appears that the instances in which much dew is deposited,which are very various, agree in this, and, so far as we are able toobserve, in this only, that they either radiate heat rapidly or conductit slowly: qualities between which there is no other circ*mstance ofa*greement than that by virtue of either, the body tends to lose heatfrom the surface more rapidly than it can be restored from within. Theinstances, on the contrary, in which no dew, or but a small quantity ofit, is formed, and which are also extremely various, agree (so far as wecan observe) in nothing except in not having this same property....

"This doubt we are now able to resolve. We have found that in every suchinstance, the substance must be one which, by its own properties orlaws, would, if exposed in the night, become colder than the surroundingair. The coldness, therefore, being accounted for independently of thedew, while it is proved that there is a connection between the two, itmust be the dew which depends on the coldness; or, in other words, thecoldness is the cause of the dew.

"This law of causation, already so amply established, admits, however,of efficient additional corroboration in no less than three ways. First,by deduction from the known laws of aqueous vapour when diffused throughair or any other gas, and though we have not yet come to the DeductiveMethod, we will not omit what is necessary to render this speculationcomplete. It is known, by direct experiment, that only a limitedquantity of water can remain suspended in the state of vapour at eachdegree of temperature, and that this maximum grows less and less, as thetemperature diminishes. From this it follows deductively, that if thereis already as much vapour suspended as the air will contain at itsexisting temperature, any lowering of that temperature will cause aportion of the vapour to be condensed, and become water. But, again, weknow deductively, from the laws of heat, that the contact of the airwith a body colder than itself, will necessarily lower the temperatureof the stratum of air immediately applied to its surface; and willtherefore cause it to part with a portion of its water, whichaccordingly will, by the ordinary laws of gravitation or cohesion,attach itself to the surface of the body, thereby constituting dew. Thisdeductive proof, it will have been seen, has the advantage of proving atonce causation as well as coexistence; and it has the additionaladvantage that it also accounts for the exceptions to the occurrence ofthe phenomenon, the cases in which, although the body is colder than theair, yet no dew is deposited, by showing that this will necessarily bethe case when the air is so under-supplied with aqueous vapour,comparatively to its temperature, that even when somewhat cooled by thecontact of the colder body, it can still continue to hold in suspensionall the vapour which was previously suspended in it: thus, in a very drysummer there are no dews, in a very dry winter no hoar frost....

"The second corroboration of the theory is by direct experiment,according to the canon of the Method of Difference. We can, by coolingthe surface of any body, find in all cases some temperature (more orless inferior to that of the surrounding air, according to itshygrometric condition) at which dew will begin to be deposited. Here,too, therefore, the causation is directly proved. We can, it is true,accomplish this only on a small scale; but we have ample reason toconclude that the same operation, if conducted in Nature's greatlaboratory, would equally produce the effect.

"And, finally, even on that great scale we are able to verify theresult. The case is one of those rare cases, as we have shown them tobe, in which nature works the experiment for us in the same manner inwhich we ourselves perform it; introducing into the previous state ofthings a single and perfectly definite new circ*mstance, and manifestingthe effect so rapidly that there is not time for any other materialchange in the pre-existing circ*mstances. 'It is observed that dew isnever copiously deposited in situations much screened from the open sky,and not at all in a cloudy night; but if the clouds withdraw even for afew minutes, and leave a clear opening, a deposition of dew presentlybegins, and goes on increasing.... Dew formed in clear intervals willoften even evaporate again when the sky becomes thickly overcast.' Theproof, therefore, is complete, that the presence or absence of anuninterrupted communication with the sky causes the deposition ornon-deposition of dew. Now, since a clear sky is nothing but the absenceof clouds, and it is a known property of clouds, as of all other bodiesbetween which and any given object nothing intervenes but an elasticfluid, that they tend to raise or keep up the superficial temperature ofthe object by radiating heat to it, we see at once that thedisappearance of clouds will cause the surface to cool; so that Nature,in this case, produces a change in the antecedent by definite and knownmeans, and the consequent follows accordingly: a natural experimentwhich satisfies the requisitions of the Method of Difference."


Section IX.--The Province and Method of Deduction


These four are not all the scientific methods, but they lead up to therest. They are all linked together, and no one has shown theirconnection better than Mill. In many cases these processes of isolationare powerless; namely, in those in which the effect, being produced by aconcourse of causes, cannot be reduced into its elements. Methods ofisolation are then impracticable. We cannot eliminate, and consequentlywe cannot perform induction. This serious difficulty presents itself inalmost all cases of motion, for almost every movement is the effect of aconcurrence of forces; and the respective effects of the various forcesare found so mixed up in it that we cannot separate them withoutdestroying it, so that it seems impossible to tell what part each forcehas in the production of the movement. Take a body acted upon by twoforces whose directions form an angle: it moves along the diagonal; eachpart, each moment, each position, each element of its movement, is thecombined effect of the two impelling forces. The two effects are socommingled that we cannot isolate either of them, and refer it to itssource. In order to perceive each effect separately, we should have toconsider the movements apart, that is, to suppress the actual movement,and to replace it by others. Neither the Method of Agreement, nor ofDifference, nor of Residues, nor of Concomitant Variations, which areall decomposing and eliminative, can avail against a phenomenon which byits nature excludes all elimination and decomposition. We must,therefore, evade the obstacle; and it is here that the last key ofnature appears, the Method of Deduction. We quit the study of the actualphenomenon to observe other and simpler cases; we establish their laws,and we connect each with its cause by the ordinary methods of induction.Then, assuming the concurrence of two or of several of these causes, weconclude from their known laws what will be their total effect. We nextsatisfy ourselves as to whether the actual movement exactly coincideswith the movement foretold; and if this is so, we attribute it to thecauses from which we have deduced it. Thus, in order to discover thecauses of the planetary motions, we seek by simple induction the laws oftwo causes: first, the force of primitive impulsion in the direction ofthe tangent; next, an accelerative attracting force. From theseinductive laws we deduce by calculation the motion of a body submittedto their combined influence; and satisfying ourselves that the planetarymotions observed coincide exactly with the predicted movements, weconclude that the two forces in question are actually the causes of theplanetary motions. "To the Deductive Method," says Mill, "the human mindis indebted for its most conspicuous triumphs in the investigation ofnature. To it we owe all the theories by which vast and complicatedphenomena are embraced under a few simple laws." Our deviations haveled us further than the direct path; we have derived efficiency fromimperfection.


Section X.--Comparison of the Methods of Induction and Deduction


If we now compare the two methods, their aptness, function, andprovinces, we shall find, as in an abstract, the history, divisions,hopes, and limits of human science. The first appears at the beginning,the second at the end. The first, necessarily, gained ascendancy inBacon's time,[423] and now begins to lose it; the second, necessarily,lost ascendancy in Bacon's time, and now begins to regain it. So thatscience, after having passed from the deductive to the experimentalstate, is now passing from the experimental to the deductive. Inductionhas for its province phenomena which are capable of being decomposed',and on which we can experiment. Deduction has for its provinceindecomposable phenomena, or those on which we cannot experiment. Thefirst is efficacious in physics, chemistry, zoology, and botany, in theearlier stages of every science, and also whenever phenomena are butslightly complicated, within our reach, capable of being modified bymeans at our disposal. The second is efficacious in astronomy, in thehigher branches of physics, in physiology, history, in the higher gradesof every science, whenever phenomena are very complicated, as in animaland social life, or lie beyond our reach, as the motions of the heavenlybodies and the changes of the atmosphere. When the proper method is notemployed, science is at a stand-still: when it is employed, scienceprogresses. Here lies the whole secret of its past and its present. Ifthe physical sciences remained stationary till the time of Bacon, it isbecause men used deduction when they should have used induction. Ifphysiology and the moral sciences are now making slow progress, it isbecause we employ induction when deduction should be used. It is bydeduction, and according to physical and chemical laws, that we shall beenabled to explain physiological phenomena. It is by deduction, andaccording to mental laws, that we shall be enabled to explain historicalphenomena.[424] And that which has become the instrument of these twosciences, it is the object of all the others to employ. All tend tobecome deductive, and aim at being summed up in certain generalpropositions, from which the rest may be deduced. The less numerousthese propositions are, the more science advances. The fewersuppositions and postulates a science requires, the more perfect it isbecome. Such a reduction is its final condition. Astronomy, acoustics,optics, present its models; we shall know nature when we shall havededuced her millions of facts from two or three laws.

I venture to say that the theory which you have just heard is perfect. Ihave omitted several of its characteristics, but you have seen enough torecognize that induction has nowhere been explained in so complete andprecise a manner, with such an abundance of fine and just distinctions,with such extensive and exact applications, with such a knowledge of thepractical methods and ascertained results of science, with so completean exclusion of metaphysical principles and arbitrary suppositions, andin a spirit more in conformity with the rigorous procedure of modernexperimental science. You asked me just now, what Englishmen haveeffected in philosophy; I answer, the theory of Induction. Mill is thelast of that great line of philosophers, which begins at Bacon, andwhich, through Hobbes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Herschel, is continued downto our own times. They have carried our national spirit into philosophy;they have been positive and practical; they have not soared above facts;they have not attempted out-of-the-way paths; they have cleared thehuman mind of its illusions, presumptions, and fancies. They haveemployed it in the only direction in which it can act; they only wishedto mark out and light up the already well-trodden ways of theprogressive sciences. They have not been willing to spend their laborvainly in other than explored and verified paths; they have aided in thegreat modern work, the discovery of applicable laws; they havecontributed, as men of special attainments do, to the increase of man'spower. Can you find many philosophers who have done as much?


Section XI.--Limits of Our Knowledge


You will tell me that our philosopher has clipped his wings, in order tostrengthen his legs. Certainly; and he has acted wisely. Experiencelimits the career which it opens to us; it has given us our goal, butalso our boundaries. We have only to observe the elements of which ourexperience is composed, and the facts from which it sets out, tounderstand that its range is limited. Its nature and its method confineits progress to a few steps. And, in the first place,[425] the ultimatelaws of nature cannot be less numerous than the several distinct speciesof our sensations. We can easily reduce a movement to another movement,but not the sensation of heat to that of smell, or of color, or ofsound, nor either of these to a movement. We can easily connect togetherphenomena of different degrees, but not phenomena differing in species.We find distinct sensations at the bottom of all our knowledge, assimple indecomposable elements, separated absolutely one from another,absolutely incapable of being reduced one to another. Let experience dowhat she will, she cannot suppress these diversities which constituteher foundation. On the other hand, experience, do what she will, cannotescape from the conditions under which she acts. Whatever be herprovince, it is bounded by time and space; the fact which she observesis limited and influenced by an infinite number of other facts to whichshe cannot attain. She is obliged to suppose or recognize someprimordial condition from whence she starts, and which she does notexplain.[426] Every problem has its accidental or arbitrary data: wededuce the rest from these, but there is nothing from which these can bededuced. The sun, the earth, the planets, the initial impulse of theheavenly bodies, the primitive chemical properties of substances, aresuch data.[427] If we possessed them all we could explain everything bythem, but we could not explain these themselves. Mill says:


"Why these particular natural agents existed originally and no others,or why they are commingled in such and such proportions, and distributedin such and such a manner throughout space, is a question we cannotanswer. More than this: we can discover nothing regular in thedistribution itself; we can reduce it to no uniformity, to no law. Thereare no means by which, from the distribution of these causes, or agents,in one part of space, we could conjecture whether a similar distributionprevails in another."[428]


And astronomy, which just now afforded us the model of a perfectscience, now affords us an example of a limited science. We can predictthe numberless positions of all the planetary bodies; but we are obligedto assume, beside the primitive impulse and its amount, not only theforce of attraction and its law, but also the masses and distances ofall the bodies in question. We understand millions of facts, but it isby means of a hundred facts which we do not comprehend; we arrive atnecessary results, but it is only by means of accidental antecedents; sothat if the theory of our universe were completed there would stillremain two great voids: one at the commencement of the physical world,the other at the beginning of the moral world; the one comprising theelements of being, the other embracing the elements of experience; onecontaining primary sensations, the other primitive agents. "Ourknowledge," says Royer-Collard, "consists in tracing ignorance as farback as possible."

Can we at least affirm that these irreducible data are so only inappearance, and in relation to our mind? Can we say that they havecauses, like the derived facts of which they are the causes? Can weconclude that every event, always and everywhere, happens according tolaws, and that this little world of ours, so well-regulated, is a sortof epitome of the universe? Can we by aid of the axioms, quit our narrowconfines, and affirm anything of the universe? In no wise; and it ishere that Mill pushes his principles to their furthest consequences: forthe law which attributes a cause to every event, has to him no otherfoundation, worth, or scope, than what it derives from experience. Ithas no inherent necessity; it draws its whole authority from the greatnumber of cases in which we have recognized it to be true; it only sumsup a mass of observations; it unites two data, which, considered inthemselves, have no intimate connection; it joins antecedents generallyto consequents generally, just as the law of gravitation joins aparticular antecedent to a particular consequent; it determines acouple, as do all experimental laws, and shares in their uncertainty andin their restrictions. Listen to this bold assertion:


"I am convinced that anyone accustomed to abstraction and analysis, whowill fairly exert his faculties for the purpose, will, when hisimagination has once learnt to entertain the notion, find no difficultyin conceiving that in some one, for instance, of the many firmamentsinto which sidereal astronomy now divides the universe, events maysucceed one another at random, without any fixed law; nor can anythingin our experience, or in our mental nature, constitute a sufficient, orindeed any, reason for believing that this is nowhere the case. Thegrounds, therefore, which warrant us in rejecting such a suppositionwith respect to any of the phenomena of which we have experience, mustbe sought elsewhere than in any supposed necessity of our intellectualfaculties."[429]


Practically, we may trust in so well-established a law; but


"In distant parts of the stellar regions, where the phenomena may beentirely unlike those with which we are acquainted, it would be folly toaffirm confidently that this general law prevails, any more than thosespecial ones which we have found to hold universally on our own planet.The uniformity in the succession of events, otherwise called the law ofcausation, must be received not as a law of the universe, but of thatportion of it only which is within the range of our means of sureobservation, with a reasonable degree of extension to adjacent cases. Toextend it further is to make a supposition without evidence, and towhich, in the absence of any ground from experience for estimating itsdegree of probability, it would be idle to attempt to assign any."[430]


We are, then, irrevocably driven back from the infinite: our facultiesand our assertions cannot attain to it; we remain confined in a smallcircle; our mind reaches not beyond its experience; we can establish nouniversal and necessary connection between facts; such a connectionprobably does not even exist. Mill stops here; but certainly, bycarrying out his idea to its full extent, we should arrive at theconception of the world as a mere collection of facts; no internalnecessity would induce their connection or their existence; they wouldbe simple, arbitrary, accidentally-existing facts. Sometimes, as in oursystem, they would be found assembled in such a manner as to give riseto regular recurrences; sometimes they would be so assembled thatnothing of the sort would occur. Chance, as Democritus taught, would beat the foundation of all things. Laws would be the result of chance, andsometimes we should find them, sometimes not. It would be withexistences as with numbers--decimal fractions, for instance, which,according to the chance of their two primitive factors, sometimes recurregularly, and sometimes not. This is certainly an original and loftyconception. It is the final consequence of the primitive and dominantidea, which we have discovered at the beginning of the system, which hastransformed the theories of Definition, of Propositions, and of theSyllogism; which has reduced axioms to experimental truths; which hasdeveloped and perfected the theory of induction; which has establishedthe goal, the limits, the province, and the methods of science; whicheverywhere, in nature and in science, has suppressed interiorconnections; which has replaced the necessary by the accidental; causeby antecedent; and which consists in affirming that every assertionwhich is not merely verbal forms in effect a couple, that is to say,joins together two facts which were separate by their nature.


Part II.--Abstraction


Section I.--Agreement of this Philosophy with the English Mind


An abyss of chance and an abyss of ignorance. The prospect is gloomy: nomatter, if it be true. At all events, this theory of science is a theoryof English science. Rarely, I grant you, has a thinker better summed upin his teaching the practice of his country; seldom has a man betterrepresented, by his negations and his discoveries, the limits and scopeof his race. The operations, of which he constructs science, are thosein which the English excel all others, and those which he excludes fromscience are precisely those in which the English are deficient, morethan any other nation. He has described the English mind, whilst hethought to describe the human mind. That is his glory, but it is alsohis weakness. There is in your idea of knowledge a flaw, of which theincessant repetition ends by creating the gulf of chance, from which,according to him, all things arise, and the gulf of ignorance, at whosebrink, according to him, our knowledge ends. And see what comes of it.By cutting away from science the knowledge of first causes, that is, ofdivine things, you reduce men to become sceptical, positive,utilitarian, if they are cool-headed; or mystical, enthusiastic,methodistical, if they have lively imaginations. In this huge unknownvoid, which you place beyond our little world, passionate men and uneasyconsciences find room for all their dreams; and men of cold judgment,despairing of arriving at any certain knowledge, have nothing left butto sink down to the search for practical means which may serve for theamelioration of our condition. It seems to me that these twodispositions are most frequently met with in an English mind. Thereligious and the positive spirit dwell there side by side, butseparate. This produces an odd medley, and I confess that I prefer theway in which the Germans have reconciled science with faith.--But theirphilosophy is but badly written poetry.--Perhaps so.--But what they callreason, or intuition of principles, is only the faculty of building uphypotheses.--Perhaps so.--But the systems which they have constructedhave not held their ground before experience.--I do not defend what theyhave done.--But their absolute, their subject, their object, and therest, are but big words.--I do not defend their style.--What, then, doyou defend?--Their idea of Causation.--You believe with them that causesare discovered by a revelation of the reason?--By no means.--You believewith us that our knowledge of causes is based on simpleexperience?--Still less.--You think, then, that there is a faculty,other than experience and reason, capable of discoveringcauses?--Yes.--You think there is an intermediate course betweenintuition and observation, capable of arriving at principles, as it isaffirmed that the first is, capable of arriving at truths, as we findthat the second is?--Yes.--What is it? Abstraction. Let us return toyour original idea; I will endeavor to show in what I think itincomplete, and how you seem to me to mutilate the human mind. But myargument will be the formal one of an advocate, and requires to bestated at length.


Section II.--The Nature of Abstraction


Your starting-point is good: man, in fact, does not know anything ofsubstances; he knows neither minds nor bodies; he perceives onlytransient, isolated, internal conditions; he makes use of these toaffirm and name exterior states, positions, movements, changes, andavails himself of them for nothing else. He can only attain to facts,whether within or without, sometimes transient, when his impression isnot repeated; sometimes permanent, when his impression, many timesrepeated, makes him suppose that it will be repeated as often as hewishes to experience it. He only grasps colors, sounds, resistances,movements: sometimes momentary and variable, sometimes like one another,and renewed. To group these facts more advantageously, he supposes, byan artifice of language, qualities and properties. We go even furtherthan you: we think that there are neither minds nor bodies, but simplygroups of present or possible movements or thoughts. We believe thatthere are no substances, but only systems of facts. We regard the ideaof substance as a psychological illusion. We consider substance, force,and all the modern metaphysical existences, as the remains of scholasticentities. We think that there exists nothing but facts and laws, thatis, events and the relations between them; and we recognize, with you,that all knowledge consists, first of all, in connecting or adding factto fact. But when this is done, a new operation begins, the most fertileof all, which consists in reducing these complex into simple facts. Asplendid faculty appears, the source of language, the interpreter ofnature, the parent of religions and philosophies, the only genuinedistinction, which according to its degree, separates man from thebrute, and great from little men. I mean Abstraction, which is the powerof isolating the elements of facts, and of considering them one by one.My eyes follow the outline of a square, and abstraction isolates its twoconstituent properties, the equality of its sides and angles. My fingerstouch the surface of a cylinder, and abstraction isolates its twogenerative elements, the idea of a rectangle, and of the revolution ofthis rectangle about one of its sides as an axis. A hundred thousandexperiments develop for me, by an infinite number of details, the seriesof physiological operations which constitute life; and abstractionisolates the law of this series, which is a round of constant loss andcontinual reparation. Twelve hundred pages teach me Mill's opinion onthe various facts of science, and abstraction isolates his fundamentalidea, namely, that the only fertile propositions are those which connecta fact with another not contained in the first. Everywhere the case isthe same. A fact, or a series of facts, can always be resolved into itscomponents. It is this resolution which forms our problem, when we askwhat is the nature of an object. It is these components we look for whenwe wish to penetrate into the inner nature of a being. These wedesignate under the names of forces, causes, laws, essences, primitiveproperties. They are not new facts added to the first, but an essence orextract from them; they are contained in the first, they have noexistence apart from the facts themselves. When we discover them, we donot pass from one fact to another, but from one to another aspect of thesame fact; from the whole to a part, from the compound to thecomponents. We only see the same thing under two forms; first, as awhole, then as divided: we only translate the same idea from onelanguage into another, from the language of the senses into abstractlanguage, just as we express a curve by an equation, or a cube as afunction of its side. It signifies little whether this translation bedifficult or not; or that we generally need the accumulation orcomparison of a vast number of facts to arrive at it, and whether ourmind may not often succumb before accomplishing it. However this may be,in this operation, which is evidently fertile, instead of proceedingfrom one fact to another, we go from the same to the same; instead ofadding experiment to experiment, we set aside some portion of the first;instead of advancing, we pause to examine the ground we stand on. Thereare, thus, fruitful judgments, which, however, are not the results ofexperience: there are essential propositions, which, however, are notmerely verbal: there is, thus, an operation, differing from experience,which acts by cutting down, instead of by addition; which, instead ofacquiring, devotes itself to acquired data; and which, going furtherthan observation, opening a new field to the sciences, defines theirnature, determines their progress, completes their resources, and marksout their end.

This is the great omission of your system. Abstraction is left in thebackground, barely mentioned, concealed by the other operations of themind, treated as an appendage of Experience; we have but to re-establish*t in the general theory, in order to reform the particular theories inwhich it is absent.


Section III.--Definitions Explain the Abstract Generating Elementsof Things


To begin with Definitions. Mill teaches that there is no definition ofthings, and that when you define a sphere as the solid generated by therevolution of a semicircle about its diameter, you only define a name.Doubtless you tell me by this the meaning of a name, but you also teachme a good deal more. You state that all the properties of every sphereare derived from this generating formula; you reduce an infinitelycomplex system of facts to two elements; you transform sensible intoabstract data; you express the essence of the sphere, that is to say,the inner and primordial cause of all its properties. Such is the natureof every true definition; it is not content with explaining a name, itis not a mere description; it does not simply indicate a distinctiveproperty; it does not limit itself to that ticketing of an object whichwill cause it to be distinguished from all others. There are, besidesits definition, several other ways of causing the object to berecognized; there are other properties belonging to it exclusively: wemight describe a sphere by saying that, of all bodies having an equalsurface, it occupies the most space; or in many other ways. But suchdescriptions are not definitions; they lay down a characteristic andderived property, not a generating and primitive one; they do not reducethe thing to its factors, and reconstruct it before our eyes; they donot show its inner nature and its irreducible elements. A definition isa proposition which marks in an object that quality from which itsothers are derived, but which is not derived from others. Such aproposition is not verbal, for it teaches the quality of a thing. It isnot the affirmation of an ordinary quality, for it reveals to us thequality which is the source of the rest. It is an assertion of anextraordinary kind, the most fertile and valuable of all, which sums upa whole science, and in which it is the aim of every science to besummed up. There is a definition in every science, and one for eachobject. We do not, in every case, possess it, but we search for iteverywhere. We have arrived at defining the planetary motion by thetangential force and attraction which compose it; we can alreadypartially define a chemical body by the notion of equivalent, and aliving body by the notion of type. We are striving to transform everygroup of phenomena into certain laws, forces, or abstract notions. Weendeavor to attain in every object the generating elements, as we doattain them in the sphere, the cylinder, the circle, the cone, and inall mathematical loci. We reduce natural bodies to two or three kinds ofmovement--attraction, vibration, polarization--as we reduce geometricalbodies to two or three kinds of elements--the point, the movement, theline; and we consider our science partial or complete, provisional ordefinite, according as this reduction is approximate or absolute,imperfect or complete.


Section IV.--The Basis of Proof in Syllogism is an Abstract Law


The same alteration is required in the Theory of Proof. According toMill, we do not prove that Prince Albert will die by premising that allmen are mortal, for that would be asserting the same thing twice over;but from the facts that John, Peter, and others, in short, all men ofwhom we have ever heard, have died.--I reply that the real source of ourinference lies neither in the mortality of John, Peter, and company, norin the mortality of all men, but elsewhere. We prove a fact, saysAristotle,[431] by showing its cause. We shall therefore prove themortality of Prince Albert, by showing the cause which produces hisdeath. And why will he die? Because the human body, being an unstablechemical compound, must in time be resolved; in other words, becausemortality is added to the quality of man. Here is the cause and theproof. It is this abstract law which, present in nature, will cause thedeath of the prince, and which, being present to my mind, shows me thathe will die. It is this abstract proposition which is demonstrative; itis neither the particular nor the general propositions. In fact theabstract proposition proves the others. If John, Peter, and others, aredead, it is because mortality is added to the quality of man. If all menare dead, or will die, it is still because mortality is added to thequality, of man. Here, again, the part played by Abstraction has beenoverlooked. Mill has confounded it with Experience: he has notdistinguished the proof from the materials of the proof, the abstractlaw from the finite or indefinite number of its applications. Theapplications contain the law and the proof, but are themselves neitherlaw nor proof. The examples of Peter, John, and others, contain thecause, but they are not the cause. It is not sufficient to add up thecases, we must extract from them the law. It is not enough toexperimentalize, we must abstract. This is the great scientificoperation. Syllogism does not proceed from the particular to theparticular, as Mill says, nor from the general to the particular, as theordinary logicians teach, but from the abstract to the concrete; that isto say, from cause to effect. It is on this ground that it forms part ofscience, the links of which it makes and marks out; it connectsprinciples with effects; it brings together definitions and phenomena.It diffuses through the whole range of science that Abstraction whichdefinition has carried to its summit.


Section V.--Axioms are Relations between Abstract Truths


Abstraction explains also axioms. According to Mill, if we know thatwhen equal magnitudes are added to equal magnitudes the wholes areequal, or that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, it is byexternal ocular experiment, or by an internal experiment, by the aid ofimagination. Doubtless we may thus arrive at the conclusion that twostraight lines cannot enclose a space, but we might recognize it also inanother manner. We might represent a straight line in imagination, andwe may also form a conception of it by reason. We may either study itsform or its definition. We can observe it in itself, or in itsgenerating elements. I can represent to myself a line ready drawn, but Ican also resolve it into its elements. I can go back to its formation,and discover the abstract elements which produce it, as I have watchedthe formation of the cylinder and discover the revolution of therectangle which generated it. It will not do to say that a straight lineis the shortest from one point to another, for that is a derivedproperty; but I may say that it is the line described by a point,tending to approach towards another point, and towards that point only:which amounts to saying that two points suffice to determine a straightline; in other words, that two straight lines, having two points incommon, coincide in their entire length; from which we see that if twostraight lines approach to enclose a space, they would form but onestraight line, and enclose nothing at all. Here is a second method ofarriving at a knowledge of the axiom, and it is clear that it differsmuch from the first. In the first we verify; in the second we deduce it.In the first we find by experience that it is true; in the second weprove it to be true. In the first we admit the truth; in the second weexplain it. In the first we merely remark that the contrary of the axiomis inconceivable; in the second we discover, in addition, that thecontrary of the axiom is contradictory. Having given the definition ofthe straight line, we find that the axiom that two straight lines cannotenclose a space is comprised in it, and may be derived from it, as aconsequent from a principle. In fact, it is nothing more than anidentical proposition, which means that the subject contains itsattribute; it does not connect two separate terms, irreducible one tothe other; it unites two terms, of which the second is a part of thefirst. It is a simple analysis, and so are all axioms. We have only todecompose them, in order to see that they do not proceed from one objectto a different one, but are concerned with one object only. We have butto resolve the notions of equality, cause, substance, time, and spaceinto their abstracts, in order to demonstrate the axioms of equality,substance, cause, time, and space. There is but one axiom, that ofidentity. The others are only its applications or its consequences. Whenthis is admitted, we at once see that the range of our mind is altered.We are no longer merely capable of relative and limited knowledge, butalso of absolute and infinite knowledge; we possess in axioms factswhich not only accompany one another, but one of which includes theother. If, as Mill says, they merely accompanied one another, we shouldbe obliged to conclude with him, that perhaps this might not always bethe case. We should not see the inner necessity for their connection,and should only admit it as far as our experience went; we should saythat, the two facts being isolated in their nature, circ*mstances mightarise in which they would be separate; we should affirm the truth ofaxioms only in reference to our world and mind. If, on the contrary, thetwo facts are such that the first contains the second, we shouldestablish on this very ground the necessity of their connection;wheresoever the first may be found, it will carry the second with it,since the second is a part of it, and cannot be separated from it.Nothing can exist between them and divide them, for they are but onething under different aspects. Their connection is therefore absoluteand universal; and we possess truths which admit neither doubt norlimitation, nor condition, nor restriction. Abstraction restores toaxioms their value, whilst it shows their origin; and we restore toscience her dispossessed dominion, by restoring to the mind the facultyof which it had been deprived.


Section VI.--The Methods of Induction


Induction remains to be considered: which seems to be the triumph ofpure experience, while it is in reality, the triumph of abstraction.When I discover, by induction, that cold produces dew, or that thepassage from the liquid to the solid state produces crystallization, Iestablish a connection between two abstract facts. Neither cold, nordew, nor the passage from the liquid to the solid state, norcrystallization, exist in themselves. They are parts of phenomena,extracts from complex cases, simple elements included in compoundaggregates. I withdraw and isolate them; I isolate dew in general fromall local, temporary, special dews which I observe; I isolate cold ingeneral from all special, various distinct colds, which may be producedby all varieties of texture, all diversities of substance, allinequalities of temperature, all complications of circ*mstances. I joinan abstract antecedent to an abstract consequent, and I connect them, asMill himself shows, by subtractions, suppressions, eliminations; I expelfrom the two groups, containing them, all the proximate circ*mstances; Idiscover the couple under the surroundings which obscure it; I detach,by a series of comparisons and experiments, all the subsidiaryaccidental circ*mstances which have clung to it, and thus I end bylaying it bare. I seem to be considering twenty different cases, and inreality I only consider one; I appear to proceed by addition, and infact I am performing subtraction. All the methods of Induction,therefore, are methods of Abstraction, and all the work of Induction isthe connection of abstract facts.


Section VII.--Experience and Abstraction


We see now the two great moving powers of science, and the two greatmanifestations of nature. There are two operations, experience andabstraction; there are two kingdoms, that of complex facts, and that ofsimple elements. The first is the effect, the second the cause. Thefirst is contained in the second, and is deduced from it, as aconsequent from its principle. The two are equivalent: they are one andthe same thing considered under two aspects. This magnificent movinguniverse, this tumultuous chaos of mutually dependent events, thisincessant life, infinitely varied and multiplied, may be all reduced toa few elements and their relations. Our whole efforts result in passingfrom one to the other, from the complex to the simple, from facts tolaws, from experiences to formulas. And the reason of this is evident;for this fact, which I perceive by the senses or the consciousness, isbut a fragment, arbitrarily severed by my senses or my consciousness,from the infinite and continuous woof of existence. If they weredifferently constituted, they would intercept other fragments; it is thechance of their structure which determines what is actually perceived.They are like open compasses, which might be more or less extended; andthe area of the circle which they describe is not natural, butartificial. It is so in two ways, both externally and internally. For,when I consider an event, I isolate it artificially from its naturalsurroundings, and I compose it artificially of elements which do notform a natural group. When I see a falling stone, I separate the fallfrom the anterior circ*mstances which are really connected with it; andI put together the fall, the form, the structure, the color, the sound,and twenty other circ*mstances which are really not connected with it. Afact, then, is an arbitrary aggregate, and at the same time an arbitrarysevering;[432] that is to say, a factitious group, which separatesthings connected, and connects things that are separate. Thus, so longas we only regard nature by observation, we do not see it as it is: wehave only a provisional and illusory idea of it. Nature is, in reality,a tapestry, of which we only see the reverse; this is why we try to turnit. We strive to discover laws; that is, the natural groups which arereally distinct from their surroundings, and composed of elements reallyconnected. We discover couples; that is to say, real compounds and realconnections. We pass from the accidental to the necessary, from therelative to the absolute, from the appearance to the reality; and havingfound these first couples, we practice upon them the same operation aswe did upon facts, for, though in a less degree, they are of the samenature. Though more abstract, they are still complex. They may bedecomposed and explained. There is some ulterior reason for theirexistence. There is some cause or other which constructs and unitesthem. In their case, as well as for facts, we can search for generatingelements into which they may be resolved, and from which they may bededuced. And this operation may be continued until we have arrived atelements wholly simple; that is to say, such that their decompositionwould involve a contradiction. Whether we can find them or not, theyexist; the axiom of causation would be falsified if they were absent.There are, then, indecomposable elements, from which are derived moregeneral laws; and from these, again, more special laws; and from thesethe facts which we observe; just as in geometry there are two or threeprimitive notions, from which are deduced the properties of lines, andfrom these the properties of surfaces, solids, and the numberless formswhich nature can produce, or the mind imagine. We can now comprehend thevalue and meaning of that axiom of causation which governs all things,and which Mill has mutilated. There is an inner constraining force whichgives rise to every event, which unites every compound, which engendersevery actual fact. This signifies, on the one hand, that there is areason for everything; that every fact has its law; that every compoundcan be reduced to simple elements; that every product implies factors;that every quality and every being must be reducible from some superiorand anterior term. And it signifies, on the other hand, that the productis equivalent to the factors, that both are but the same thing underdifferent aspects; that the cause does not differ in nature from theeffect; that the generating powers are but elementary properties; thatthe active force, by which we represent Nature to our minds, is but thelogical necessity which mutually transforms the compound and the simple,the fact and the law. Thus we determine beforehand the limits of everyscience; and we possess the potent formula, which, establishing theinvincible connection and the spontaneous production of existences,places in Nature the moving spring of Nature, whilst it drives home andfixes in the heart of every living thing the iron fangs of necessity.


Section VIII.--Idea and Limits of Metaphysics


Can we arrive at a knowledge of these primary elements? For my part, Ithink we can; and the reason is, that, being abstractions, they are notbeyond the region of facts, but are comprised in them, so that we haveonly to extract them from the facts. Besides, being the most abstract,that is, the most general of all things, there are no facts which do notcomprise them, and from which we cannot extract them. However limitedour experience may be, we can arrive at these primary notions; and it isfrom this observation that the modern German metaphysicians havestarted, in attempting their vast constructions. They understood thatthere are simple notions, that is to say, indecomposable abstract facts,that the combinations of these engender all others, and that the lawsfor their mutual union or contrarieties, are the primary laws of theuniverse. They tried to attain to these ideas, and to evolve, by purereason, the world as observation shows it to us. They have partlyfailed; and their gigantic edifice, factitious and fragile, hangs inruins, reminding one of those temporary scaffoldings which only serve tomark out the plan of a future building. The reason is, that with a highnotion of our powers, they had no exact view of their limits. For we areoutflanked on all sides by the infinity of time and space; we findourselves thrown in the midst of this monstrous universe like a shell onthe beach, or an ant at the foot of a steep slope. Here Mill is right.Chance is at the end of all our knowledge, as on the threshold of allour postulates: we vainly try to rise, and that by conjecture, to aninitial state; but this state depends on the preceding one, whichdepends on another, and so on; and thus we are forced to accept it as apure postulate, and to give up the hope of deducing it, though we knowthat it ought to be deduced. It is so in all sciences, in geology,natural history, physics, chemistry, psychology, history, and theprimitive accidental fact extends its effects into all parts of thesphere in which it is comprised. If it had been otherwise, we shouldhave neither the same planets, nor the same chemical compounds, nor thesame vegetables, nor the same animals, nor the same races of men, nor,perhaps, any of these kinds of beings. If an ant were taken into anothercountry, it would see neither the same trees, nor insects, nordispositions of the soil, nor changes of the atmosphere, nor, perhaps,any of these forms of existence. There is, then, in every fact and inevery object, an accidental and local part, a vast portion, which, likethe rest, depends on primitive laws, but not directly, only through aninfinite circuit of consequences in such a way that between it and theprimitive laws there is an infinite hiatus, which can only be bridgedover by an infinite series of deductions.

Such is the inexplicable part of phenomena, and this is what the Germanmetaphysicians tried to explain. They wished to deduce from theirelementary theorems the form of the planetary system, the various lawsof physics and chemistry, the main types of life, the progress of humancivilizations and thought. They contorted their universal formulae withthe view of deriving from them particular cases; they took indirect andremote consequences as direct and proximate ones; they omitted orsuppressed the great work which is interposed between the first laws andthe final consequences; they discarded Chance from their construction,as a basis unworthy of science; and the void so left, badly filled up bydeceptive materials, caused the whole edifice to fall to ruins.

Does this amount to saying, that in the facts with which this littlecorner of the universe furnishes us, everything is local? By no means.If an ant were capable of making experiments, it might attain to theidea of a physical law, a living form, a representative sensation, anabstract thought; for a foot of ground, on which there is a thinkingbrain, includes all these. Therefore, however limited be the field ofthe mind, it contains general facts; that is, facts spread over veryvast external territories, into which its limitation prevents it frompenetrating. If the ant were capable of reasoning, it might constructarithmetic, algebra, geometry, mechanics; for a movement of half an inchcontains in the abstract, time, space, number, and force: all thematerials of mathematics: therefore, however limited the field of amind's researches be, it includes universal data; that is, facts spreadover the whole region of time and space. Again, if the ant were aphilosopher, it might evolve the ideas of existence, of nothingness, andall the materials of metaphysics; for any phenomenon, interior orexterior, suffices to present these materials: therefore, howeverlimited the field of a mind be, it contains absolute truths; that is,such that there is no object from which they could be absent. And thismust necessarily be so; for the more general a fact is, the fewerobjects need we examine to meet with it. If it is universal, we meetwith it everywhere; if it is absolute, we cannot escape meeting it. Thisis why, in spite of the narrowness of our experience, metaphysics, Imean the search for first causes, is possible, but on condition that weremain at a great height, that we do not descend into details, that weconsider only the most simple elements of existence, and the mostgeneral tendencies of nature. If anyone were to collect the three orfour great ideas in which our sciences result, and the three or fourkinds of existence which make up our universe; if he were to comparethose two strange quantities which we call duration and extension, thoseprincipal forms or determinations of quantity which we call physicallaws, chemical types, and living species, and that marvellousrepresentative power, the Mind, which, without falling into quantity,reproduces the other two and itself; if he discovered among these threeterms--the pure quantity, the determined quantity, and the suppressedquantity[433]--such an order that the first must require the second, andthe second the third; if he thus established that the pure quantity isthe necessary commencement of Nature, and that Thought is the extremeterm at which Nature is wholly suspended; if, again, isolating theelements of these data, he showed that they must be combined just asthey are combined, and not otherwise: if he proved, moreover, that thereare no other elements, and that there can be no other, he would havesketched out a system of metaphysics without encroaching on the positivesciences, and have attained the source, without being obliged to descendto trace the various streams.

In my opinion, these two great operations, Experience as you havedescribed it, and Abstraction, as I have tried to define it, comprise inthemselves all the resources of the human mind, the one in itspractical, the other in its speculative direction. The first leads us toconsider nature as an assemblage of facts, the second as a system oflaws: the exclusive employment of the first is English; that of thesecond, German. If there is a place between these two nations, it isours. We have extended the English ideas in the eighteenth century; andnow we can, in the nineteenth, add precision to German ideas. Ourbusiness is to restrain, to correct, to complete the two types of mind,one by the other, to combine them together, to express their ideas in astyle generally understood, and thus to produce from them the universalmind.


Section IX.--A Morning in Oxford


We went out. As it ever happens in similar circ*mstances, each hadcaused the other to reflect, and neither had convinced the other. Butour reflections were short: in the presence of a lovely August morning,all arguments fall to the ground. The old walls, the rain-worn stones,smiled in the rising sun. A fresh light rested on their embrasures, onthe keystones of the cloisters, on the glossy ivy leaves. Roses andhoneysuckles climbed the walls, and their flowers quivered and sparkledin the light breeze. The fountains murmured in the vast lonely courts.The beautiful town stood out from the morning's mist, as adorned andtranquil as a fairy palace, and its robe of soft rosy vapor wasindented, as an embroidery of the Renaissance, by a border of towers,cloisters, and palaces, each enclosed in verdure and decked withflowers. The architecture of all ages had mingled their arches,trefoils, statues, and columns; time had softened their tints; the sununited them in its light, and the old city seemed a shrine to whichevery age and every genius had successively added a jewel. Beyond this,the river rolled its broad sheets of silver: the mowers stood up to theknee in the high grass of the meadows. Myriads of buttercups andmeadow-sweets; grasses, bending under the weight of their gray heads,plants sated with the dew of the night, swarmed in the rich soil. Wordscannot express this freshness of tints, this luxuriance of vegetation.The more the long line of shape receded, the more brilliant and full oflife the flowers appeared. On seeing them, virgin and timid in theirgilded veil, I thought of the blushing cheeks and fine modest eyes of ayoung girl who puts on for the first time her necklace of jewels.Around, as though to guard them, enormous trees, four centuries old,extended in regular lines; and I found in them a new trace of thatpractical good sense which has effected revolutions without committingravages; which, while reforming in all directions, has destroyednothing; which has preserved both its trees and its constitution, whichhas lopped off the dead branches without levelling the trunk; whichalone, in our days, among all nations, is in the enjoyment not only ofthe present, but of the past.


[Footnote 396: M. Taine has published this "Study on Mill" separately,and preceded it by the following note, as a preface:--"When this Studyfirst appeared, Mr. Mill did me the honor to write to me that it wouldnot be possible to give in a few pages a more exact and complete notionof the contents of his work, considered as a body of philosophicalteaching. 'But,' he added, 'I think you are wrong in regarding the viewsI adopt as especially English. They were so in the first half of theeighteenth century, from the time of Locke to that of the reactionagainst Hume. This reaction, beginning in Scotland, assumed long ago theGerman form, find ended by prevailing universally. When I wrote my book,I stood almost alone in my opinions; and though they have met with adegree of sympathy which I by no means expected, we may still count inEngland twenty à priori and spiritualist philosophers for everypartisan of the doctrine of Experience.'

"This remark is very true. I myself could have made it, having beenbrought up in the doctrines of Scottish philosophy and the writings ofReid. I simply answer, that there are philosophers whom we do not count,and that all such, whether English or not, spiritualist or not, may beneglected without much harm. Once in a half-century, or perhaps in acentury, or two centuries, some thinker appears; Bacon and Hume inEngland, Descartes and Condillac in France, Kant and Hegel in Germany.At other times the stage is unoccupied, or ordinary men come forward,and offer the public that which the public likes--Sensualists orIdealists, according to the tendency of the day, with sufficientinstruction and skill to play leading parts, and enough capacity toreset old airs, well drilled in the works of their predecessors, butdestitute of real invention--simple executant musicians, who stand inthe place of composers. In Europe, at present, the stage is a blank. TheGermans adapt and alter effete French materialism. The French listenfrom habit, but somewhat wearily and distractedly, to the scraps ofmelody and eloquent commonplace which their instructors have repeated tothem for the last thirty years. In this deep silence, and from amongthese dull mediocrities, a master comes forward to speak. Nothing of thesort has been seen since Hegel."]

[Footnote 397: This law has been abrogated by an Act of Parliament.--Tr.]

[Footnote 398: "It is certain, then, that a part of our notion of a bodyconsists of the notion of a number of sensations of our own, or of othersentient beings, habitually occurring simultaneously. My conception ofthe table at which I am writing is compounded of its visible form andsize, which are complex sensations of sight; its tangible form and size,which are complex sensations of our organs of touch and of our muscles;its weight, which is also a sensation of touch and of the muscles; itscolour, which is a sensation of sight; its hardness, which is asensation of the muscles; its composition, which is another word for allthe varieties of sensation which we receive, under variouscirc*mstances, from the wood of which it is made, and so forth. All, ormost of these various sensations, frequently arc, and, as we learn byexperience, always might be, experienced simultaneously, or in manydifferent orders of succession, at our own choice: and hence the thoughtof any one of them makes us think of the others, and the whole becomesmentally amalgamated into one mixed state of consciousness, which, inthe language of Locke and Hartley, is termed a Complex Idea."--Mill's"System of Logic," 4th ed. 2 vols. I. 62.]

[Footnote 399: Mill's "Logic," I. 68.]

[Footnote 400: "Every attribute of a mind consists either in beingitself affected in a certain way, or affecting other minds in acertain way. Considered in itself, we can predicate nothing of it butthe series of its own feelings. When we say of any mind, that it isdevout, or superstitious, or meditative, or cheerful, we mean that theideas, emotions, or volitions implied in those words, form a frequentlyrecurring part of the series of feelings, or states of consciousness,which fill up the sentient existence of that mind.

"In addition, however, to those attributes of a mind which are groundedon its own states of feeling, attributes may also be ascribed to it, inthe same manner as to a body, grounded on the feelings which it excitesin other minds. A mind does not, indeed, like a body, excite sensations,but it may excite thoughts or emotions. The most important example ofattributes ascribed on this ground, is the employment of terms expressiveof approbation or blame. When, for example, we say of any character, or(in other words) of any mind, that it is admirable, we mean that thecontemplation of it excites the sentiment of admiration; and, indeed,somewhat more, for the word implies that we not only feel admiration,but approve that sentiment in ourselves. In some cases, under thesemblance of a single attribute, two are really predicated: one of them,a state of the mind itself; the other, a state with which other mindsare affected by thinking of it. As when we say of anyone that he isgenerous. The word generosity expresses a certain state of mind, butbeing a term of praise, it also expresses that this state of mindexcites in us another mental state, called approbation. The assertionmade, therefore, is twofold, and of the following purport: Certainfeelings form habitually a part of this person's sentient existence;and the idea of those feelings of his, excites the sentiment ofapprobation in ourselves or others."--Mill's "Logic," 80.]

[Footnote 401: Mill's "Logic," 110.]

[Footnote 402: "According to idealist logicians, this being is arrivedat by examining our notion of it; and the idea, on analysis, reveals theessence. According to the classifying school, we arrive at the being byplacing the object in its group, and the notion is defined by statingthe genus and the difference. Both agree in believing that we are capableof grasping the essence."--Mill's "Logic," I. 127.]

[Footnote 403: "An essential proposition, then, is one which is purelyverbal; which asserts of a thing under a particular name, only what isasserted of it in the fact of calling it by that name; and which,therefore, either gives no information, or gives it respecting the name,not the thing. Non-essential or accidental propositions, on thecontrary, may be called Real Propositions, in opposition to Verbal. Theypredicate of a thing, some fact not involved in the signification of thename by which the proposition speaks of it; some attribute not connotedby that name."--Mill's "Logic," I. 127.]

[Footnote 404: Mill's "Logic," I. 162.]

[Footnote 405: "The definition above given of a triangle obviouslycomprises not one, but two propositions, perfectly distinguishable.The one is, 'There may exist a figure bounded by three straight linesthe other. 'And this figure may be termed a triangle.' The former ofthese propositions is not a definition at all; the latter is a merenominal definition, or explanation of the use and application of a term.The first is susceptible of truth or falsehoods, and may therefore bemade the foundation of a train of reasoning. The latter can neither betrue nor false; the only character it is susceptible of is that ofconformity to the ordinary usage of language."--Mill's "Logic," I. 162.]

[Footnote 406: Mill's "Logic," I. 211.]

[Footnote 407: Mill's "Logic," I. 218.]

[Footnote 408: Ibid. I. 240.]

[Footnote 409: "For though, in order actually to see that two givenlines never meet, it would be necessary to follow them to infinity; yet,without doing so, we may know that if they ever do meet, or if, afterdiverging from one another, they begin again to approach, this must takeplace not at an infinite, but at a finite distance. Supposing,therefore, such to be the case, we can transport ourselves thither inimagination, and can frame a mental image of the appearance which one orboth of the lines must present at that point, which we may rely on asbeing precisely similar to the reality. Now, whether we fix ourcontemplation upon this imaginary picture, or call to mind thegeneralizations we have had occasion to make from former ocularobservation, we learn by the evidence of experience, that a line which,after diverging from another straight line, begins to approach to it,produces the impression on our senses which we describe by theexpression 'a bent line,' not by the expression 'a straightline.'"--Mill's "Logic," I. 364.]

[Footnote 410: Mill's "Logic," I. 315.]

[Footnote 411: "We must first observe, that there is a principle impliedin the very statement of what Induction is; an assumption with regardto the course of nature and the order of the universe; namely, that thereare such things in nature as parallel cases; that what happens once,will, under a sufficient degree of similarity of circ*mstances, happenagain, and not only again, but as often as the same circ*mstances recur.This, I say, is an assumption, involved in every case of induction. And,if we consult the actual course of nature, we find that the assumption iswarranted. The universe, so far as known to us, is so constituted, thatwhatever is true in any one case, is true in all cases of a certaindescription; the only difficulty is, to find what description."--Mill's"Logic," I. 337.]

[Footnote 412: Mill's "Logic," I. 351.]

[Footnote 413: Mill's "Logic," I. 359.]

[Footnote 414: Ibid. I. 360.]

[Footnote 415: Ibid. I. 365.]

[Footnote 416: Mill's "Logic." I. 372.]

[Footnote 417: "If we take fifty crucibles of molten matter and let themcool, and fifty solutions and let them evaporate, all will crystallize.Sulphur, sugar, alum, salt--substances, temperatures, circ*mstances--allare as different as they can be. We find one, and only one, commonfact--the change from the liquid to the solid state--and conclude,therefore, that this change is the invariable antecedent ofcrystallization. Here we have an example of the Method of Agreement. Itscanon is:--

"'I. If two or more instances of the phenomenon under investigationhave only one circ*mstance in common, the circ*mstance in which aloneall the instances agree, is the cause (or effect) of the givenphenomenon.'"--Ibid. I. 422.]

[Footnote 418: "A bird in the air breathes; plunged into carbonic acidgas, it ceases to breathe. In other words, in the second case,suffocation ensues. In other respects the two cases are as similar aspossible, since we have the same bird in both, and they take place inimmediate succession. They differ only in the circ*mstance of immersionin carbonic acid gas being substituted for immersion in the atmosphere,and we conclude that this circ*mstance is invariably followed bysuffocation. The Method of Difference is here employed. Its canon is:--

"'II. If an instance in which the phenomenon under investigation occurs,and an instance in which it does not occur, have every circ*mstance incommon save one, that one occurring only in the former; the circ*mstancein which alone the two instances differ, is the effect, or the cause, ora necessary part of the cause, of the phenomenon.'"--Ibid. I. 423.]

[Footnote 419: ("A combination of these methods is sometimes employed,and is termed the Indirect Method of Difference, or the Joint Method ofa*greement and Difference. It is, in fact, a double employment of theMethod of Agreement, first applying that method to instances in whichthe phenomenon in question occurs, and then to instances in which itdoes not occur. The following is its canon:--

"'III. If two or more instances in which the phenomenon occurs haveonly one circ*mstance in common, while two or more instances in whichit does not occur have nothing in common, save the absence of thatcirc*mstance; the circ*mstance in which alone the two sets of instancesdiffer, is the effect, or the cause, or a necessary partof the cause, of the phenomenon.'")--Mill's "Logic," I. 429.

"If we take two groups--one of antecedents and one of consequents--andcan succeed in connecting by previous investigations all the antecedentsbut one to their respective consequents, and all the consequents but oneto their respective antecedents, we conclude that the remainingantecedent is connected to the remaining consequent. For example,scientific men had calculated what ought to be the velocity of soundaccording to the laws of the propagation of sonorous waves, but foundthat a sound actually travelled quicker than their calculations hadindicated. This surplus, or residue of speed, was a consequent for whichan antecedent had to be found. Laplace discovered the antecedent in theheat developed by the condensation of each sonorous wave, and this newelement, when introduced into the calculation, rendered it perfectlyaccurate. This is an example of the Method of Residues, the canon ofwhich is as follows:--

"'IV. Subduct from any phenomenon such part as is known by previousinductions to be the effect of certain antecedents, and the residue ofthe phenomenon is the effect of the remaining antecedents.'"--Mill's"Logic," I. 431.]

[Footnote 420: "Let us take two facts--as the presence of the earth andthe oscillation of the pendulum; or, again, the presence of the moon andthe flow of the tide. To connect these phenomena directly, we shouldhave to suppress the first of them, and see if this suppression wouldoccasion the stoppage of the second. Now, in both instances, suchsuppression is impossible. So we employ an indirect means of connectingthe phenomena. We observe that all the variations of the one correspondto certain variations of the other; that all the oscillations of thependulum correspond to certain different positions of the earth; thatall states of the tide correspond to positions of the moon. From this weconclude that the second fact is the antecedent of the first. These areexamples of the Method of Concomitant Variations. Its canon is:--

"'V. Whatever phenomenon varies in any manner whenever another phenomenonvaries in some particular manner, is either a cause or an effect of thatphenomenon, or is connected with it through some fact ofcausation.'"--Mill's "Logic," I. 435.]

[Footnote 421: "The Method of Agreement," says Mill ("Logic," I. 4-14),"stands on the ground that whatever can be eliminated, is not connectedwith the phenomenon by any law. The Method of Difference has for itsfoundation, that whatever cannot be eliminated, is connected with thephenomenon by a law." The Method of Residues is a case of the Method ofDifferences. The Method of Concomitant Variations is another case of thesame method; with this distinction, that it is applied, not to thephenomena, but to their variations.]

[Footnote 422: This quotation, and all the others in this paragraph, aretaken from Mill's "Logic," I. 451-9. Mr. Mill quotes from Sir JohnHerschel's "Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy."]

[Footnote 423: Mill's "Logic," I. 526.]

[Footnote 424: See chapter 9, book VI. V. 2, 478, on The Physical orConcrete Deductive Method as applied to Sociology; and chapter 13, bookIII, for explanations, after Liebig, of Decomposition, Respiration, theAction of Poisons, etc. A whole book is devoted to the logic of themoral sciences; I know no better treatise on the subject.]

[Footnote 425: Mill's "Logic," II. 4.]

[Footnote 426: "There exists in nature a number of Permanent Causes,which have subsisted ever since the human race has been in existence,and for an indefinite and probably an enormous length of time previous.The sun, the earth, and planets, with their various constituents, air,water, and the other distinguishable substances, whether simple orcompound, of which nature is made up, are such Permanent Causes. Theyhave existed, and the effects or consequences which they were fittedto produce have taken place (as often as the other conditions of theproduction met), from the very beginning of our experience. But we cangive no account of the origin of the Permanent Causes themselves."--Mill's"Logic," I. 378.]

[Footnote 427: "The resolution of the laws of the heavenly motionsestablished the previously unknown ultimate property of a mutualattraction between all bodies: the resolution, so far as it has yetproceeded, of the laws of crystallization, or chemical composition,electricity, magnetism, etc., points to various polarities, ultimatelyinherent in the particles of which bodies are composed; the comparativeatomic weights of different kinds of bodies were ascertained byresolving, into more general laws, the uniformities observed in theproportions in which substances combine with one another; and so forth.Thus, although every resolution of a complex uniformity into simpler andmore elementary laws has an apparent tendency to diminish the number ofthe ultimate properties, and really does remove many properties from thelist; yet (since the result of this simplifying process is to trace upan ever greater variety of different effects to the same agents), thefurther we advance in this direction, the greater number of distinctproperties we are forced to recognize in one and the same object; thecoexistences of which properties must accordingly be ranked among theultimate generalities of nature."--Mill's "Logic," II. 108.]

[Footnote 428: Ibid. I. 378.]

[Footnote 429: Mill's "Logic," II. 95.]

[Footnote 430: Mill's "Logic," II. 104.]

[Footnote 431: See the Posterior Analytics, which are much superior tothe Prior--δί αίνίων κα ηρότέρων.]

[Footnote 432: An eminent student of Physical Science said to me: "A factis a superposition of laws."]

[Footnote 433: Die aufgehobene Quantität.]


CHAPTER SIXTH


POETRY--TENNYSON


Section I.--His Talent and Work


When Tennyson published his first poems, the critics found fault withthem. He held his peace; for ten years no one saw his name in a review,nor even in a publisher's catalogue. But when he appeared again beforethe public, his books had made their way alone and under the surface,and he passed at once for the greatest poet of his country and his time.

Men were surprised, and with a pleasing surprise. The potent generationof poets who had just died out, had passed like a whirlwind. Like theirforerunners of the sixteenth century, they had carried away and hurriedeverything to its extreme. Some had culled gigantic legends, piled updreams, ransacked the East, Greece, Arabia, the Middle Ages, andoverloaded the human imagination with hues and fancies from every clime.Others had buried themselves in metaphysics and moral philosophy, hadmused indefatigably on the condition of man, and spent their lives onthe sublime and the monotonous. Others, making a medley of crime andheroism, had conducted, through darkness and flashes of lightning, atrain of contorted and terrible figures, desperate with remorse,relieved by their grandeur. Men wanted to rest after so many efforts andso much excess. On the going out of the imaginative, sentimental andSatanic school, Tennyson appeared exquisite. All the forms and ideaswhich had pleased them were found in him, but purified, modulated, setin a splendid style. He completed an age; he enjoyed that which hadagitated others; his poetry was like the lovely evenings in summer: theoutlines of the landscape are then the same as in the daytime; but thesplendor of the dazzling celestial arch is dulled; the reinvigoratedflowers lift themselves up, and the calm sun, on the horizon,harmoniously casts a network of crimson rays over the woods and meadowswhich it just before burned by its brightness.


Section II.--Portraits of Women


What first attracted people were Tennyson's portraits of women: Adeline,Eleanore, Lilian, the May Queen, were keepsake characters, from the handof a lover and an artist. The keepsake is gilt-edged, embossed withflowers and decorations, richly got up, soft, full of delicate faces,always elegant and always correct, which we might take to be sketched atrandom, and which are yet drawn carefully, on white vellum, slightlytouched by their outline, all selected to rest and occupy the soft,white hands of a young bride or a girl. I have translated many ideas andmany styles, but I shall not attempt to translate one of theseportraits. Each word of them is like a tint, curiously deepened orshaded by the neighboring tint, with all the boldness and results of thehappiest refinement. The least alteration would obscure all. And therean art so just, so consummate, is necessary to paint the charmingprettinesses, the sudden hauteurs, the half blushes, the imperceptibleand fleeting caprices of feminine beauty. He opposes, harmonizes them,makes of them, as it were, a gallery. Here is the frolicsome child, thelittle fluttering fairy, who clasps her tiny hands, who,


"So innocent-arch, so cunning-simple,From beneath her gather'd wimpleGlancing with black-beaded eyes,Till the lightning laughters dimpleThe baby-roses in her cheeks;Then away she flies."[434]


Then the pensive fair, who dreams, with large open blue eyes:


"Whence that aery bloom of thine,Like a lily which the sunLooks thro' in his sad decline,And a rose-bush leans upon,Thou that faintly smilest still,As a Naiad in a well,Looking at the set of day."[435]


Anew "the ever-varying Madeline," now smiling, then frowning, thenjoyful again, then angry, then uncertain between the two:


"Frowns perfect-sweet along the browLight-glooming over eyes divine,Like little clouds sun-fringed."[436]


The poet returned well pleased to all things, refined and exquisite. Hecaressed them so carefully that his verses appeared at timesfar-fetched, affected, almost euphuistic. He gave them too muchadornment and polishing; he seemed like an epicurean in style, as wellas in beauty. He looked for pretty rustic scenes, touching remembrances,curious or pure sentiments. He made them into elegies, pastorals, andidyls. He wrote in every accent, and delighted in entering into thefeelings of all ages. He wrote of St. Agnes, St. Simeon Stylites,Ulysses, Œnone, Sir Galahad, Lady Clare, Fatima, the Sleeping Beauty.He imitated, alternately, Homer and Chaucer, Theocritus and Spenser, theold English poets and the old Arabian poets. He gave life successivelyto the little real events of English life, and the great fantasticadventures of extinguished chivalry. He was like those musicians who usetheir bow in the service of all masters. He strayed through nature andhistory, with no foregone conclusions, without fierce passion, bent onfeeling, relishing, culling from all parts, in the flower-stand of thedrawing-room and in the rustic hedgerows, the rare or wild flowers whosescent or beauty could charm or amuse him. Men entered into his pleasure;smelt the grateful bouquets which he knew so well how to put together;preferred those which he took from the country; found that his talentwas nowhere more at ease. They admired the minute observation andrefined sentiment which knew how to grasp and interpret the fleetingaspects of things. In the "Dying Swan" they forgot that the subject wasalmost threadbare, and the interest somewhat slight, that they mightappreciate such verses as this:


"Some blue peaks in the distance rose,And white against the cold-white sky,Shone out their crowning snows.One willow over the river wept,And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;Above in the wind was the swallow,Chasing itself at its own wild will,And far thro' the marish green and stillThe tangled water-courses slept,Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow."[437]


But these melancholy pictures did not display him entirely; menaccompanied him to the land of the sun, toward the soft voluptuousnessof southern seas; they returned, with an involuntary fascination, to theverses in which he depicts the companions of Ulysses, who, slumbering inthe land of the Lotos-eaters, happy dreamers like himself, forgot theircountry, and renounced action:


"A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;And some thro' wavering lights and shadows broke,Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.They saw the gleaming river seaward flowFrom the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,Stood sun-set flush'd: and, dew'd with showery drops,Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse....

"There is sweet music here that softer fallsThan petal from blown roses on the grass,Or night-dews on still waters between wallsOf shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes;Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.Here are cool mosses deep,And thro' the moss the ivies creep,And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep....

"Lo! in the middle of the wood,The folded leaf is woo'd from out the budWith winds upon the branch, and thereGrows green and broad, and takes no care,Sun-steep'd at noon, and in the moonNightly dew-fed; and turning yellowFalls, and floats adown the air.Lo! sweeten'd with the summer light,The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,Drops in a silent autumn night.All its allotted length of days,The flower ripens in its place,Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil....

"But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly),With half-dropt eyelids still,Beneath a heaven dark and holy,To watch the long bright river drawing slowlyHis waters from the purple hill--To hear the dewy echoes callingFrom cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine--To watch the emerald-colour'd water fallingThro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine."[438]


Section III.--Wherein Tennyson is at One with Nature


Was this charming dreamer simply a dilettante? Men liked to consider himso; he seemed too happy to admit violent passions. Fame came to himeasily and quickly, at the age of thirty. The Queen had justified thepublic favor by creating him Poet-Laureate. A great writer declared hima more genuine poet than Lord Byron, and maintained that nothing soperfect had been seen since Shakespeare. The student, at Oxford, putTennyson's works between an annotated Euripides and a handbook ofscholastic philosophy. Young ladies found him amongst their marriagepresents. He was said to be rich, venerated by his family, admired byhis friends, amiable, without affectation, even unsophisticated. Helived in the country, chiefly in the Isle of Wight, amongst books andflowers, free from the annoyances, rivalries, and burdens of society,and his life was easily imagined to be a beautiful dream, as sweet asthose which he had pictured.

Yet the men who looked closer saw that there was a fire of passion underthis smooth surface. A genuine poetic temperament never fails in this.It feels too acutely to be at peace. When we quiver at the least touch,we shake and tremble under great shocks. Already, here and there, in hispictures of country and love, a brilliant verse broke with its glowingcolor through the calm and correct outline. He had felt that strangegrowth of unknown powers which suddenly arrest a man with fixed gazebefore revealed beauty. The specialty of the poet is to be ever young,forever virgin. For us, the vulgar things are threadbare; sixtycenturies of civilization have worn out their primitive freshness;things have become commonplace; we perceive them only through a veil ofready-made phrases; we employ them, we no longer comprehend them; we seein them no longer magnificent flowers, but good vegetables; theluxuriant primeval forest is to us nothing but a well-planned, and toowell-known, kitchen garden. On the other hand, the poet, in presence ofthis world, is as the first man, on the first day. In a moment ourphrases, our reasonings, all the trappings of memory and prejudice,vanish from his mind; things seem new to him; he is astonished andravished; a headlong stream of sensations oppresses him; it is theall-potent sap of human invention, which, checked in us, begins to flowin him. Fools call him mad, but in truth he is a seer: for we may indeedbe sluggish, but nature is always full of life; the rising sun is asbeautiful as on the first dawn; the streaming floods, the teemingflowers, the trembling passions, the forces which hurl onward the stormywhirlwind of existence, aspire and strive with the same energy as attheir birth; the immortal heart of nature beats yet, heaving its coarsetrappings, and its beatings work in the poet's heart when they no longerecho in our own. Tennyson felt this not indeed always; but twice: orthrice, at least, he has dared to make it heard. We have found anew thefree action of full emotion, and recognized the voice of a man in theseverses of "Locksley Hall":


"Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, 'My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee.'

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn'd--her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs--All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes--

Saying, 'I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong;'Saying, 'Dost thou love me, cousin?' weeping, 'I have loved theelong.'

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords withmight;Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.

Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fulness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,And our spirits rushed together at the touching of the lips.

O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!

Is it well to wish thee happy?--having known me--to declineOn a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be: thou shalt lower to his level day by day,What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay.

As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.

What is this? his eyes are heavy: think not they are glazed with wine.Go to him: it is thy duty: kiss him: take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.

He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understand--Better thou wert dead before me, tho' I slew thee with my hand!"[439]


This is very frank and strong. "Maud" appeared, and was still more so.In it the rapture broke forth with all its inequalities, familiarities,freedom, violence. The correct, measured poet betrayed himself, for heseemed to think and weep aloud. This book is the diary of a gloomy youngman, soured by great family misfortunes, by long solitary meditations,who gradually became enamoured, dared to speak, found himself loved. Hedoes not sing, but speaks; they are the hazarded, reckless words ofordinary conversation; details of every-day life; the description of atoilet, a political dinner, a service and sermon in a village church.The prose of Dickens and Thackeray did not more firmly grasp real andactual manners. And by its side, most splendid poetry abounded andblossomed, as in fact it blossoms and abounds in the midst of ourcommonplaces. The smile of a richly dressed girl, a sunbeam on a stormysea, or on a spray of roses, throws all at once these suddenilluminations into impassioned souls. What verses are these, in which herepresents himself in his dark little garden:


"A million emeralds break from the ruby-budded limeIn the little grove where I sit--ah, wherefore cannot I beLike things of the season gay, like the bountiful season bland,When the far-off sail is blown by the breeze of a softer clime,Half lost in the liquid azure bloom of a crescent of sea,The silent sapphire-spangled marriage ring of the land?"[440]


What a holiday in his heart when he is loved! What madness in thesecries, that intoxication, that tenderness, which would pour itself onall, and summon all to the spectacle and the participation of hishappiness! How all is transfigured in his eyes; and how constantly he ishimself transfigured! Gayety, then ecstasy, then archness, then satire,then disclosures, all ready movements, all sudden changes, like acrackling and flaming fire, renewing every moment its shape and color:how rich is the soul, and how it can live a hundred years in a day! Thehero of the poem, surprised and insulted by the brother of Maud, killshim in a duel, and loses her whom he loved. He flees; he is seenwandering in London. What a gloomy contrast is that of the great busycareless town, and a solitary man haunted by true grief! We follow himdown the noisy thoroughfares, through the yellow fog, under the wan sunwhich rises above the river like a "dull red ball," and we hear theheart full of anguish, deep sobs, insensate agitation of a soul whichwould, but cannot, tear itself from its memories. Despair grows, and inthe end the reverie becomes a vision:


"Dead, long dead,Long dead!And my heart is a handful of dust,And the wheels go over my head,And my bones are shaken with pain,For into a shallow grave they are thrust,Only a yard beneath the street,And the hoofs of the horses beat, beat,The hoofs of the horses beat,Beat into my scalp and my brain,With never an end to the stream of passing feet,Driving, hurrying, marrying, burying,Clamour and rumble, and ringing and clatter....[441]O me! why have they not buried me deep enough?Is it kind to have made me a grave so rough,Me, that was never a quiet sleeper?Maybe still I am but half-dead;Then I cannot be wholly dumb;I will cry to the steps above my head,And somebody, surely, some kind heart will comeTo bury me, bury meDeeper, ever so little deeper."[442]


However, he revives, and gradually rises again. War breaks out, aliberal and generous war, the war against Russia; and the big, manlyheart, wounded by deep love, is healed by action and courage:


"And I stood on a giant deck and mix'd my breathWith a loyal people shouting a battle-cry....Yet God's just wrath shall be wreak'd on a giant liar;And many a darkness into the light shall leap,And shine in the sudden making of splendid names,And noble thought be freer under the sun,And the heart of a people beat with one desire;For the peace, that I deem'd no peace, is over and done,And now by the side of the Black and the Baltic deep,And deathful-grinning mouths of the fortress, flamesThe blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire."[443]


This explosion of feeling was the only one; Tennyson has not againencountered it. In spite of the moral close, men said of "Maud" that hewas imitating Byron; they cried out against these bitter declamations;they thought that they perceived the rebellious accent of the Satanicschool; they blamed this uneven, obscure, excessive style; they wereshocked at these crudities and incongruities; they called on the poet toreturn to his first well-proportioned style. He was discouraged, leftthe storm-clouds, and returned to the azure sky. He was right; he isbetter there than anywhere else. A fine soul may be transported, attainat times to the fire of the most violent and the strongest beings:personal memories, they say, had furnished the matter of "Maud" and of"Locksley Hall"; with a woman's delicacy, he had the nerves of a woman.The fit over, he fell again into his "golden languors," into his calmreverie. After "Locksley Hall" he wrote the "Princess"; after "Maud" the"Idylls of the King."


Section IV.--In Memoriam.--The Princess


The great task of an artist is to find subjects which suit his talent.Tennyson has not always succeeded in this. His long poem, "In Memoriam,"written in praise and memory of a friend who died young, is cold,monotonous, and too prettily arranged. He goes into mourning; but, likea correct gentleman, with brand new gloves, wipes away his tears with acambric handkerchief, and displays throughout the religious service,which ends the ceremony, all the compunction of a respectful andwell-trained layman. He was to find his subjects elsewhere. To bepoetically happy is the object of a dilettante-artist. For this, manythings are necessary. First of all, that the place, the events, and thecharacters shall not exist. Realities are coarse, and always, in somesense, ugly; at least they are heavy; we do not treat them as we shouldlike, they oppress the fancy; at bottom there is nothing truly sweet andbeautiful in our life but our dreams. We are ill at ease whilst weremain glued to earth, hobbling along on our two feet, which drag uswretchedly here and there in the place which impounds us. We need tolive in another world, to hover in the wide-air kingdom, to buildpalaces in the clouds, to see them rise and crumble, to follow in a hazydistance the whims of their moving architecture, and the turns of theirgolden volutes. In this fantastic world, again, all must be pleasant andbeautiful, the heart and senses must enjoy it, objects must be smilingor picturesque, sentiments delicate or lofty; no crudity, incongruity,brutality, savageness, must come to sully with its excess the modulatedharmony of this ideal perfection. This leads the poet to the legends ofchivalry. Here is the fantastic world, splendid to the sight, noble andspecially pure, in which love, war, adventures, generosity, courtesy,all spectacles and all virtues which suit the instincts of our Europeanraces, are assembled, to furnish them with the epic which they love, andthe model which suits them.

The "Princess" is a fairy tale, as sentimental as those of Shakespeare.Tennyson here thought and felt like a young knight of the Renaissance.The mark of this kind of mind is a superabundance, as it were, asuperfluity of sap. In the characters of the "Princess," as in those of"As You Like It," there is an over-fulness of fancy and emotion. Theyhave recourse, to express their thought, to all ages and lands; theycarry speech to the most reckless rashness; they clothe and burden everyidea with a sparkling image, which drags and glitters around it, like abrocade clustered with jewels. Their nature is over-rich; at every shockthere is in them a sort of rustle of joy, anger, desire; they live morethan we, more warmly and more quickly. They are ever in excess, refined,ready to weep, laugh, adore, jest, inclined to mingle adoration andjests, urged by a nervous rapture to opposite extremes. They sally inthe poetic field with impetuous and ever-changing caprice and joy. Tosatisfy the subtlety and superabundance of their invention, they needfairy-tales and masquerades. In fact, the "Princess" is both. Thebeautiful Ida, daughter of King Gama, who is monarch of the South (thiscountry is not to be found on the map), was affianced in her childhoodto a beautiful prince of the North. When the time appointed has arrived,she is claimed. She, proud and bred on learned arguments, has becomeirritated against the rule of men, and in order to liberate women hasfounded a university on the frontiers, which is to raise her sex, and tobe the colony of future equality. The prince sets out with Cyril andFlorian, two friends, obtains permission from good King Gama, and,disguised as a girl, gets admission to the maiden precincts, which noman may enter on pain of death. There is a charming and sportive gracein this picture of a university for girls. The poet gambols with beauty;no badinage could be more romantic or tender. We smile to hear longlearned words come from these rosy lips:


"There sat along the forms, like morning dovesThat sun their milky bosoms on the thatch,A patient range of pupils."[444]


They listen to historic dissertations and promises of a socialrevolution, in "Academic silks, in hue the lilac, with a silken hood toeach, and zoned with gold,... as rich as moth from dusk cocoons."Amongst these girls was Melissa, a child--


"A rosy blonde, and in a college gownThat clad her like an April daffodilly(Her mother's colour), with her lips apart,And all her thoughts as fair within her eyes,As bottom agates seem to wave and floatIn crystal currents of clear morning seas."[445]


The site of this university for girls enhances the magic of the scene.The words "College" and "Faculty" bring before the mind of Frenchmenonly wretched and dirty buildings, which we might mistake for barracksor boarding-houses. Here, as in an English university, flowers creep upthe porches, vines cling round the bases of the monuments, roses strewthe alleys with their petals; the laurel thickets grow around the gates,the courts pile up their marble architecture, bossed with sculpturedfriezes, varied with urns from which droop the green pendage of theplants. "The Muses and the Graces, group'd in threes, enring'd abillowing fountain in the midst." After the lecture, some girls, in thedeep meadow grass, "smoothed a petted peaco*ck down"; others,


"Leaning there on those balusters, highAbove the empurpled champaign, drank the galeThat blown about the foliage underneath,And sated with the innumerable roseBeat balm upon our eyelids."[446]


At every gesture, every attitude, we recognize young English girls; itis their brightness, their freshness, their innocence.

And here and there, too, we perceive the deep expression of theirlarge dreamy eyes:


"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,Tears from the depth of some divine despairRise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,And thinking of the days that are no more....

"Dear as remember'd kisses after death,And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign’dOn lips that are for others; deep as love,Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;O Death in Life, the days that are no more."[447]


This is an exquisite and strange voluptuousness, a reverie full ofdelight, and full, too, of anguish, the shudder of delicate andmelancholy passion which we have already found in "Winter's Tale" or in"Twelfth Night."

The three friends have gone forth with the princess and her train, allon horseback, and pause "near a coppice-feather'd chasm,"


"till the SunGrew broader toward his death and fell, and allThe rosy heights came out above the lawns."


Cyril, heated by wine, begins to troll a careless tavern catch, andbetrays the secret. Ida, indignant, turns to leave; her foot slips, andshe falls into the river; the prince saves her, and wishes to flee. Buthe is seized by the Proctors and brought before the throne, where thehaughty maiden stands ready to pronounce sentence. At this moment


"... There roseA hubbub in the court of half the maidsGather'd together: from the illumined hallLong lanes of splendour slanted o'er a pressOf snowy shoulders, thick as herded ewes,And rainbow robes, and gems and gemlike eyes,And gold and golden heads; they to and froFluctuated, as flowers in storm, some red, some pale,All open-mouth'd, all gazing to the light,Some crying there was an army in the land,And some that men were in the very walls,And some they cared not; till a clamour grewAs of a new-world Babel, woman-built,And worse-confounded: high above them stoodThe placid marble Muses, looking peace."[448]


The father of the prince has come with his army to deliver him, and hasseized King Gama as a hostage. The princess is obliged to release theyoung man. With distended nostrils, waving hair, a tempest raging in herheart, she thanks him with bitter irony. She trembles with woundedpride; she stammers, hesitates; she tries to constrain herself in orderthe better to insult him, and suddenly breaks out:


"'You have done well and like a gentleman,And like a prince: you have our thanks for all:And you look well too in your woman's dress:Well have you done and like a gentleman.You saved our life: we owe you bitter thanks:Better have died and spilt our bones in the flood--Then men had said--but now--What hinders meTo take such bloody vengeance on you both?--Yet since our father--Wasps in our good hive,You would-be quenchers of the light to be,Barbarians, grosser than your native bears--O would I had his sceptre for one hour!You that have dared to break our bound, and gull'dOur servants, wronged and lied and thwarted us--_I_ wed with thee! _I_ bound by precontractYour bride, your bondslave! not tho' all the goldThat veins the world were pack'd to make your crown,And every spoken tongue should lord you. Sir,Your falsehood and yourself are hateful to us:I trample on your offers and on you:Begone: we will not look upon you more.Here, push them out at gates.'"[449]


How is this fierce heart to be softened, fevered with feminine anger,embitterbed by disappointment and insult, excited by long dreams ofpower and ascendancy, and rendered more savage by its virginity! But howanger becomes her, and how lovely she is! And how this fire ofsentiment, this lofty declaration of independence, this chimericalambition for reforming the future, reveal the generosity and pride of ayoung heart, enamoured of the beautiful! It is agreed that the quarrelshall be settled by a combat of fifty men against fifty other men. Theprince is conquered, and Ida sees him bleeding on the sand. Slowly,gradually, in spite of herself, she yields, receives the wounded in herpalace, and comes to the bedside of the dying prince. Before hisweakness and his wild delirium pity expands, then tenderness, then love:


"From all a closer interest flourish'd upTenderness touch by touch, and last, to these,Love, like an Alpine harebell hung with tearsBy some cold morning glacier; frail at firstAnd feeble, all unconscious of itself,But such as gather'd colour day by day."[450]


One evening he returns to consciousness, exhausted, his eyes stilltroubled by gloomy visions; he sees Ida before him, hovering like adream, painfully opens his pale lips, and "utter'd whisperingly":


"'If you be, what I think you, some sweet dream,I would but ask you to fulfil yourself:But if you be that Ida whom I knew,I ask you nothing: only, if a dream,Sweet dream be perfect. I shall die to-night.Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die.'... She turned; she paused;

She stoop'd; and out of languor leapt a cry;Leapt fiery Passion from the brinks of death;And I believe that in the living worldMy spirit closed with Ida's at the lips;Till back I fell, and from mine arms she roseGlowing all over noble shame; and allHer falser self slipt from her like a robe,And left her woman, lovelier in her moodThan in her mould that other, when she cameFrom barren deeps to conquer all with love;And down the streaming crystal dropt; and sheFar-fleeted by the purple island-sides,Naked, a double light in air and wave."[451]


This is the accent of the Renaissance, as it left the heart of Spenserand Shakespeare; they had this voluptuous adoration of form and soul,and this divine sentiment of beauty.


Section V.--The Idylls of the King


There is another chivalry, which inaugurates the Middle Ages, as thiscloses it; sung by children, as this by youths; and restored in the"Idylls of the King," as this in the "Princess." It is the legend ofArthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. With admirable heart,Tennyson has modernized the feelings and the language; this pliant soultakes all tones, in order to give itself all pleasures. This time he hasbecome epic, antique and ingenuous, like Homer, and like the old_trouvères_ of the _chansons de Geste._ It is pleasant to quit ourlearned civilization, to rise again to the primitive age and manners, tolisten to the peaceful discourse which flows copiously and slowly, as ariver in a smooth channel. The distinguishing mark of the ancient epicis clearness and calm. The ideas were new-born; man was happy and in hisinfancy. He had not had time to refine, to cut down and adorn histhoughts; he showed them bare. He was not yet pricked by manifold lusts;he thought at leisure. Every idea interested him; he unfolded itcuriously, and explained it. His speech never jerks; he goes step bystep, from one object to another, and every object seems lovely to him:he pauses, observes, and takes pleasure in observing. This simplicityand peace are strange and charming; we abandon ourselves, it is wellwith us; we do not desire to go more quickly; we fancy we would gladlyremain thus, and forever. For primitive thought is wholesome thought; wehave but marred it by grafting and cultivation; we return to it as ourfamiliar element, to find contentment and repose.

But of all epics, this of the Round Table is distinguished by purity.Arthur, the irreproachable king, has assembled


"A glorious company, the flower of men,To serve as model for the mighty world,And be the fair beginning of a time.I made them lay their hands in mine and swearTo reverence the King, as if he wereTheir conscience, and their conscience as their King,...To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,To love one maiden only, cleave to her,And worship her by years of noble deeds."[452]


There is a sort of refined pleasure in having to do with such a world;for there is none in which purer or more touching fruits could grow. Iwill show one--"Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat"--who, having seenLancelot once, loves him when he has departed, and for her whole life.She keeps the shield, which he has left in a tower, and every day goesup to look at it, counting "every dint a sword had beaten in it, andevery scratch a lance had made upon it," and living on her dreams. He iswounded: she goes to tend and heal him:


"She murmur'd, 'vain, in vain: it cannot be.He will not love me: how then? must I die?'Then as a little helpless innocent bird,That has but one plain passage of few notes,Will sing the simple passage o'er and o'erFor all an April morning, till the earWearies to hear it, so the simple maidWent half the night repeating, 'must I die?'"[453]


At last she confesses her secret; but with what modesty and spirit! Hecannot marry her; he is tied to another. She droops and fades; herfather and brothers try to console her, but she will pot be consoled.She is told that Lancelot has sinned with the queen; she does notbelieve it:


"At last she said, 'Sweet brothers, yester nightI seem'd a curious little maid again,As happy as when we dwelt among the woods,And when you used to take me with the floodUp the great river in the boatman's boat.Only you would not pass beyond the capeThat hast the poplar on it; there you fixtYour limit, oft returning with the tide.And yet I cried because you would not passBeyond it, and far up the shining floodUntil we found the palace of the King.... Now shall I have my will.'"[454]


She dies, and her father and brothers did what she had asked them to do:


"But when the next sun brake from underground,Then, those two brethren slowly with bent browsAccompanying, the sad chariot-bierPast like a shadow thro' the field, that shoneFull summer, to that stream whereon the barge,Pall'd all its length in blackest samite, lay.There sat the lifelong creature of the house,Loyal, the dumb old servitor, on deck,Winking his eyes, and twisted all his face.So those two brethren from the chariot tookAnd on the black decks laid her in her bed,Set in her hand a lily, o'er her hungThe silken case with braided blazoningsAnd kiss'd her quiet brows, and saying to her:'Sister, farewell for ever,' and again'Farewell, sweet sister,' parted all in tears.Then rose the dumb old servitor, and the deadSteer'd by the dumb went upward with the flood--In her right hand the lily, in her leftThe letter--all her bright hair streaming down--And all the coverlid was cloth of goldDrawn to her waist, and she herself in whiteAll but her face, and that clear-featured faceWas lovely, for she did not seem as deadBut fast asleep, and lay as tho' she smiled."[455]


Thus they arrive at Court in great silence, and King Arthur read theletter before all his knights and weeping ladies:


"Most noble lord, Sir Lancelot of the Lake,I, sometime call'd the maid of Astolat,Come, for you left me taking no farewell,Hither, to take my last farewell of you.I loved you, and my love had no return,And therefore my true love has been my death.And therefore to our lady Guinevere,And to all other ladies, I make moan.Pray for my soul, and yield me burial.Pray for my soul thou too, Sir Lancelot,As thou art a knight peerless."[456]


Nothing more: she ends with this word, full of so sad a regret and sotender an admiration: we could hardly find anything more simple or moredelicate.

It seems as if an archaeologist might reproduce all styles except thegrand, and Tennyson has reproduced all, even the grand. It is the nightof the final battle; all day the tumult of the mighty fray "roll'd amongthe mountains by the winter sea"; Arthur's knights had fallen "man byman"; he himself had fallen, "deeply smitten through the helm," and SirBedivere, the last of all his knights, bore him to a place hard by,


"A chapel nigh the field,A broken chancel with a broken cross,That stood on a dark strait of barren land.On one side lay the Ocean, and on oneLay a great water, and the moon was full."[457]


Arthur, feeling himself about to die, bids him to take his swordExcalibur "and fling him far into the middle meer"; for he had receivedit from the sea-nymphs, and after him no mortal must handle it. TwiceSir Bedivere went to obey the king: twice he paused, and came backpretending that he had flung away the sword; for his eyes were dazzledby the wondrous diamond setting which clustered and shone about thehaft. The third time he throws it:


"The great brandMade lightnings in the splendour of the moon,And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch,Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,Seen where the moving isles of winter shockBy night, with noises of the northern sea.So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur:But ere he dipt the surface, rose an armClothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd himThree times, and drew him under in the meer."[458]


Then Arthur, rising painfully and scarce able to breathe, bids SirBedivere take him on his shoulders and "bear me to the margin. Quick,quick! I fear it is too late, and I shall die." They arrive thus,through "icy caves and barren chasms," to the shores of a lake, wherethey saw "the long glories of the winter moon":


"They saw then how there hove a dusky bargeDark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,Beneath them; and descending they were wareThat all the decks were dense with stately formsBlack-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by theseThree Queens with crowns of gold--and from them roseA cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,And, as it were one voice, an agonyOf lamentation, like a wind, that shrillsAll night in a waste land, where no one comesOr hath come, since the making of the world.Then murmur'd Arthur: 'Place me in the barge,'And to the barge they came. There those three QueensPut forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.But she, that rose the tallest of them allAnd fairest, laid his head upon her lap,And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his handsAnd call'd him by his name, complaining loud...."[459]


Before the barge drifts away, King Arthur, raising his slow voice,consoles Sir Bedivere, standing in sorrow on the shore, and pronouncesthis heroic and solemn farewell:


"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,And God fulfils himself in many ways,Lest one good custom should corrupt the world....If thou shouldst never see my face again,Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayerThan this world dreams of....For so the whole round earth is every wayBound by gold chains about the feet of God.But now farewell. I am going a long wayWith these thou seest--if indeed I go--(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)To the island-valley of Avilion;Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it liesDeep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawnsAnd bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."[460]


Nothing, I think, calmer and more imposing, has been seen since Goethe.

How, in a few words, shall we assemble all the features of so manifold atalent? Tennyson is a born poet, that is, a builder of airy palaces andimaginary castles. But the individual passion and absorbingpreoccupations which generally guide the hands of such men are wantingto him; he found in himself no plan of a new edifice; he lias builtafter all the rest; he has simply chosen amongst all forms the mostelegant, ornate, exquisite. Of their beauties he has taken but theflower. At most, now and then, he has here and there amused himself bydesigning some genuinely English and modern cottage. If in this choiceof architecture, adopted or restored, we look for a trace of him, weshall find it, here and there, in some more finely sculptured frieze, insome more delicate and graceful sculptured rose-work; but we only findit marked and sensible in the purity and elevation of the moral emotionwhich we carry away with us when we quit his gallery of art.


Section VI.--Comparison of English and French Society


The favorite poet of a nation, it seems, is he whose works a man,setting out on a journey, prefers to put into his pocket. Nowadays itwould be Tennyson in England, and Alfred de Musset in France. The twopublics differ: so do their modes of life, their reading, and theirpleasures. Let us try to describe them; we shall better understand theflowers if we see them in the garden.

Here we are at Newhaven, or at Dover, and we glide over the railslooking on either side. On both sides fly past country houses; theyexist everywhere in England, on the margin of lakes, on the edge of thebays, on the summit of the hills, in every picturesque point of view.They are the chosen abodes; London is but a business-place; men of theworld live, amuse themselves, visit each other, in the country. Howwell-ordered and pretty is this house! If near it there was some oldedifice, abbey, or castle, it has been preserved. The new building hasbeen suited to the old; even if detached and modern, it does not lackstyle; gable-ends, mullions, broad-windows, turrets perched at everycorner, have a Gothic air in spite of their newness. Even this cottage,though not very large, suited to people with a moderate income, ispleasant to see with its pointed roofs, its porch, its bright brownbricks, all covered with ivy. Doubtless grandeur is generally wanting;in these days the men who mould opinion are no longer great lords, butrich gentlemen, well brought up, and landholders; it is pleasantnesswhich appeals to them. But how they understand the word! All round thehouse is turf, fresh and smooth as velvet, rolled every morning. Infront, great rhododendrons form a bright thicket, in which murmur swarmsof bees; festoons of exotics creep and curve over the short grass;honey-suckles clamber up the trees; hundreds of roses, drooping over thewindows, shed their rain of petals on the paths. Fine elms, yew-trees,great oaks, jealously tended, everywhere combine their leafa*ge or reartheir heads. Trees have been brought from Australia and China to adornthe thickets with the elegance or the singularity of their foreignshapes; the copper-beech stretches over the delicate verdure of themeadows the shadow of its dark metallic-hued foliage. How delicious isthe freshness of this verdure! How it glistens, and how it abounds inwild flowers brightened by the sun! What care, what cleanliness, howeverything is arranged, kept up, refined, for the comfort of the sensesand the pleasure of the eyes! If there is a slope, streamlets have beendevised with little islets in the glen, peopled with tufts of roses;ducks of select breed swim in the pools, where the water-lilies displaytheir satin stars. Fat oxen lie in the grass, sheep as white as if freshfrom the washing, all kinds of happy and model animals, fit to delightthe eyes of an amateur and a master. We return to the house, and beforeentering I look upon the view; decidedly the love of Englishmen for thecountry is innate; how pleasant it will be from that parlor window tolook upon the setting sun, and the broad network of sunlight spreadacross the woods! And how cunningly they have disposed the house, sothat the landscape may be seen at distance between the hills, and athand between the trees! We enter. How nicely everything is got up, andhow commodious. The smallest wants have been forestalled, and providedfor; there is nothing which is not correct and perfect; we imagine thateverything in the house has received a prize, or at least an honorablemention, at some industrial exhibition. And the attendance of theservants is as good as everything else; cleanliness is not morescrupulous in Holland; Englishmen have, in proportion, three times asmany servants as Frenchmen; not too many for the minute details of theservice. The domestic machine acts without interruption, without shock,without hinderance; every wheel has its movement and its place, and thecomfort which it dispenses falls like honey in the mouth, as clear andas exquisite as the sugar of a model refinery when quite purified.

We converse with our host. We very soon find that his mind and soul havealways been well balanced. When he left college he found his careershaped out for him; no need for him to revolt against the Church, whichis half rational; nor against the Constitution, which is nobly liberal:the faith and law presented to him are good, useful, moral, liberalenough to maintain and employ all diversities of sincere minds. Hebecame attached to them, he loves them, he has received from them thewhole system of his practical and speculative ideas; he does not waver,he no longer doubts, he knows what he ought to believe and to do. He isnot carried away by theories, dulled by sloth, checked bycontradictions. Elsewhere youth is like water, stagnant or running towaste; here there is a fine old channel which receives and directs to auseful and sure end the whole stream of its activities and passions. Heacts, works, rules. He is married, has tenants, is a magistrate, becomesa politician. He improves and rules his parish, his estate, and hisfamily. He founds societies, speaks at meetings, superintends schools,dispenses justice, introduces improvements; he employs his reading, histravels, his connections, his fortune, and his rank, to lead hisneighbors and dependents, amicably, to some work which profitsthemselves and the public. He is influential and respected. He has thepleasures of self-esteem and the satisfaction of conscience. He knowsthat he has authority, and that he uses it loyally, for the good ofothers. And this healthy state of mind is supported by a wholesome life.His mind is beyond doubt, cultivated and occupied; he is well informed,knows several languages, has travelled, is fond of all preciseinformation; he is kept by his newspapers conversant with all new ideasand discoveries. But, at the same time, he loves and practises allbodily exercises. He rides, takes long walks, hunts, yachts, examinesfor himself all the details of breeding and agriculture; he lives in theopen air, he withstands the encroachments of a sedentary life, whichalways elsewhere leads the modern man to agitation of the brain,weakness of the muscles, and excitement of the nerves. Such is thiselegant and common-sense society, refined in comfort, regular inconduct, whose dilettante tastes and moral principles confine it withina sort of flowery border, and prevent it from having its attentiondiverted.

Does any poet suit such a society better than Tennyson? Without being apedant, he is moral; he may be read in the family circle by night; hedoes not rebel against society and life; he speaks of God and the soul,nobly, tenderly, without ecclesiastical prejudice; there is no need toreproach him like Lord Byron; he has no violent and abrupt words,extravagant and scandalous sentiments; he will pervert nobody. We shallnot be troubled when we close the book; we may listen when we quit him,without being shocked by the contrast, to the grave voice of the masterof the house, who reads evening prayers before the kneeling servants.And yet, when we quit him, we keep a smile of pleasure on our lips. Thetraveller, the lover of archaeology, has been pleased by the imitationsof foreign and antique sentiments. The sportsman, the lover of thecountry, has relished the little country scenes and the rich ruralpictures. The ladies have been charmed by his portraits of women; theyare so exquisite and pure! He has laid such delicate blushes on thoselovely cheeks! He has depicted so well the changing expression of thoseproud or candid eyes! They like him because they feel that he likesthem. He even honors them, and rises in his nobility to the height oftheir purity. Young girls weep in listening to him; certainly when, alittle while ago, we heard the legend of Elaine or Enid read, we saw thefair heads drooping under the flowers which adorned them, and whiteshoulders heaving with furtive emotion. And how delicate was thisemotion! He has not rudely trenched upon truth and passion. He has risento the height of noble and tender sentiments. He has gleaned from allnature and all history what was most lofty and amiable. He has chosenhis ideas, chiselled his words, equalled by his artifices, successes,and versatility of style, the pleasantness and perfection of socialelegance in the midst of which we read him. His poetry is like one ofthose gilt and painted stands in which flowers of the country andexotics mingle in artful harmony their stalks and foliage, theirclusters and cups, their scents and hues. It seems made expressly forthese wealthy, cultivated, free business men, heirs of the ancientnobility, new leaders of a new England. It is part of their luxury aswell as of their morality; it is an eloquent confirmation of theirprinciples, and a precious article of their drawing-room furniture.

We return to Calais, and travel towards Paris, without pausing on theroad. There are on the way plenty of noblemen's castles, and houses ofrich men of business. But we do not find amongst them, as in England,the thinking elegant world, which, by the refinement of its taste andthe superiority of its mind, becomes the guide of the nation and thearbiter of the beautiful. There are two peoples in France: the provincesand Paris; the one dining, sleeping, yawning, listening; the otherthinking, daring, watching, and speaking: the first drawn by the second,as a snail by a butterfly, alternately amused and disturbed by the whimsand the audacity of its guide. It is this guide we must look upon! Letus enter Paris! What a strange spectacle! It is evening, the streets areaflame, a luminous dust covers the busy noisy crowd, which jostles,elbows, crushes, and swarms near the theatres, behind the windows of thecafés. Have you remarked how all these faces are wrinkled, frowning orpale; how anxious are their looks, how nervous their gestures? A violentbrightness falls on these shining heads; most are bald before thirty. Tofind pleasure here, they must have plenty of excitement: the dust of theboulevard settles on the ice which they are eating; the smell of the gasand the steam of the pavement, the perspiration left on the walls driedup by the fever of a Parisian day, "the human air full of impurerattle"--this is what they cheerfully breathe. They are crammed roundtheir little marble tables, persecuted by the glaring light, the shoutsof the waiters, the jumble of mixed talk, the monotonous motion ofgloomy walkers, the flutter of loitering courtesans moving aboutanxiously in the dark. Doubtless their homes are not pleasant, or theywould not change them for these bagmen's delights. We climb four flightsof stairs, and find ourselves in a polished, gilded room, adorned withstuccoed ornaments, plaster statuettes, new furniture of old oak, withevery kind of pretty knick-knack on the mantle-pieces and the whatnots."It makes a good show;" you can give a good reception to envious friendsand people of standing. It is an advertisem*nt, nothing more; we passhalf an hour there agreeably, and that is all. You will never make morethan a house of call out of these rooms; they are low in the ceiling,close, inconvenient, rented by the year, dirty in six months, serving todisplay a fictitious luxury. All the enjoyments of these people arefactitious, and, as it were, snatched hurriedly; they have in themsomething unhealthy and irritating. They are like the cookery of theirrestaurants, the splendor of their cafés, the gayety of their theatres.They want them too quick, too pungent, too manifold. They have notcultivated them patiently, and culled them moderately; they have forcedthem on an artificial and heating soil; they grasp them in haste. Theyare refined and greedy; they need every day a stock of word-paintings,broad anecdotes, biting railleries, new truths, varied ideas. They soonget bored, and cannot endure tedium. They amuse themselves with alltheir might, and find that they are hardly amused. They exaggerate theirwork and their expense, their wants and their efforts. The accumulationof sensations and fatigue stretches their nervous machine to excess, andtheir polish of social gayety chips off twenty times a day, displayingan inner ground of suffering and ardor.

But how quick-witted they are, and how unfettered is their mind! Howthis incessant rubbing has sharpened them! How ready they are to graspand comprehend everything! How apt this studied and manifold culture hasmade them to feel and relish tendernesses and sadnesses unknown to theirfathers, deep feelings, strange and sublime, which hitherto seemedforeign to their race! This great city is cosmopolitan; here all ideasmay be born; no barrier checks the mind: the vast field of thought opensbefore them without a beaten or prescribed track. Use neither hindersnor guides them; an official Government and Church rid them of the careof leading the nation: the two powers are submitted to, as we submit tothe beadle or the policeman, patiently and with chaff; they are lookedupon as a play. In short, the world here seems but a melodrama, asubject of criticism and argument. And be sure that criticism andargument have full scope. An Englishman entering on life, finds to allgreat questions an answer ready made. A Frenchman entering on life,finds to all great questions simply suggested doubts. In this conflictof opinions he must create a faith for himself, and, being mostly unableto do it, he remains open to every uncertainty, and therefore to everycuriosity and to every pain. In this gulf, which is like a vast sea,dreams, theories, fancies, intemperate, poetic and sickly desires,collect and chase each other like clouds. If in this tumult of movingforms we seek some solid work to prepare a foundation for futureopinions, we find only the slowly-rising edifices of the sciences, whichhere and there obscurely, like submarine polypes, construct ofimperceptible coral the basis on which the belief of the human race isto rest.

Such is the world for which Alfred de Musset wrote: in Paris he must beread. Read? We all know him by heart. He is dead, and it seems as if wedaily hear him speak. A conversation among artists, as they jest in astudio, a beautiful young girl leaning over her box at the theatre, astreet washed by the rain, making the black pavement shine, a freshsmiling morning in the woods of Fontainebleau, everything brings himbefore us, as if he were alive again. Was there ever a more vibratingand genuine accent? This man, at least, never lied. He only said what hefelt, and he has said it as he felt it. He thought aloud. He made theconfession of every man. He was not admired, but loved; he was more thana poet, he was a man. Everyone found in him his own feelings, the mosttransient, the most familiar; he did not restrict himself, he gavehimself to all; he possessed the last virtues which remain to us,generosity and sincerity. And he had the most precious gift which canseduce an old civilization, youth. As he said, "that hot youth, a treewith a rough bark, which covers all with its shadow, prospect and path."With that fire did he hurl onward love, jealousy, the thirst ofpleasure, all the impetuous passions which rise with virgin blood fromthe depths of a young heart, and how did he make them clash together!Has anyone felt them more deeply? He was too full of them, he gavehimself up to them, was intoxicated with them. He rushed through life,like an eager racehorse in the country, whom the scent of plants and thesplendid novelty of the vast heavens urge, headlong, in its mad career,which shatters all before him, and himself as well. He desired too much;he wished, strongly and greedily, to enjoy life in one draught,thoroughly; he did not glean or enjoy it; he tore it off like a bunch ofgrapes, pressed it, crushed it, twisted it, and he remains with stainedhands as thirsty as before.[461] Then broke forth sobs which found anecho in all hearts. What! so young, and already so wearied! So manyprecious gifts, so fine a mind, so delicate a tact, so rich and varied afancy, so precocious a glory, such a sudden blossom of beauty andgenius, and yet anguish, disgust, tears, and cries! What a mixture! Withthe same attitude he adores and curses. Eternal illusion, invincibleexperience, keep side by side in him to fight and tear him. He becameold, and remained young; he is a poet, and he is a sceptic. The Muse andher peaceful beauty, Nature and her immortal freshness, Love and hishappy smile, all the swarm of divine visions barely passed before hiseyes, when we see approaching with curses, and sarcasms, all thespectres of debauchery and death. He is as a man in a festive scene, whodrinks from a chased cup, standing up, in front, amidst applause andtriumphal music, his eyes laughing, his heart full of joy, heated andexcited by the generous wine he quaffed, whom suddenly we see growingpale; there was poison in the cup; he falls, and the death-rattle is inhis throat; his convulsed feet beat upon the silken carpet, and all theterrified guests look on. This is what we felt on the day when the mostbeloved, the most brilliant amongst us, suddenly quivered from an unseenattack, and was struck down, being hardly able to breathe, amid thelying splendors and gayeties of our banquet.

Well! such as he was, we love him forever: we cannot listen to another;beside him, all seem cold or false. We leave at midnight the theatre inwhich he had heard Malibran, and we enter the gloomy Rue des Moulins,where, on a hired bed, his Rolla came to sleep and die. The lamps castflickering rays on the slippery pavement. Restless shadows march pastthe doors, and trail along their dress of draggled silk to meet thepassers-by. The windows are fastened; here and there a light piercesthrough a half-closed shutter, and shows a dead dahlia on the edge of awindow-sill. To-morrow an organ will grind before these panes, and thewan clouds will leave their droppings on these dirty walls. From thiswretched place came the most impassioned of his poems! These vilenessesand vulgarities of the stews and the lodging-house caused this divineeloquence to flow! it was these which at such a moment gathered in thisbruised heart all the splendors of nature and history, to make themspring up in sparkling jets, and shine under the most glowing poetic sunthat ever rose! We feel pity; we think of that other poet, away there inthe Isle of Wight, who amuses himself by dressing up lost epics. Howhappy he is amongst his fine books, his friends, his honeysuckles androses! No matter. De Musset, in this wretched abode of filth and misery,rose higher. From the heights of his doubt and despair, he saw theinfinite, as we see the sea from a storm-beaten promontory. Religions,their glory and their decay, the human race, its pangs and its destiny,all that is sublime in the world, appeared there to him in a flash oflightning. He felt, at least this once in his life, the inner tempest ofdeep sensations, giant-dreams, and intense voluptuousness, the desire ofwhich enabled him to live, the lack of which forced him to die. He wasno mere dilettante; he was not content to taste and enjoy; he left hismark on human thought; he told the world what was man, love, truth,happiness. He suffered, but he imagined: he fainted, but he created. Hetore from his entrails with despair the idea which he had conceived, andshowed it to the eyes of all, bloody but alive. That is harder andlovelier than to go fondling and gazing upon the ideas of others. Thereis in the world but one work worthy of a man: the production of a truth,to which we devote ourselves, and in which we believe. The people whohave listened to Tennyson are better than our aristocracy of townsfolkand bohemians; but I prefer Alfred de Musset to Tennyson.


[Footnote 434: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "Lilian," 5.]

[Footnote 435: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "Adeline," 33.]

[Footnote 436: Ibid. "Madeline," 15.]

[Footnote 437: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "The Dying Swan,"45.]

[Footnote 438: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "The Lotus-Eaters,"140.]

[Footnote 439: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "Locksley Hall,"266.]

[Footnote 440: Tennyson's "Maud," 1856, IV. 1, 15.]

[Footnote 441: Tennyson's "Maud," 1856, XXVII. 1.]

[Footnote 442: Ibid. XXVII. 11, 105.]

[Footnote 443: Ibid, XXVIII. 3 and 4, 108.]

[Footnote 444: "The Princess, a Medley," 12th ed. 1864, II. 34.]

[Footnote 445: Ibid. II. 46.]

[Footnote 446: Ibid. III. 60.]

[Footnote 447: "The Princess, a Medley," 12th ed. 1864, V. 76.]

[Footnote 448: "The Princess, a Medley," 12th ed. 1864, IV. 99.]

[Footnote 449: Ibid. IV. 102.]

[Footnote 450: "The Princess, a Medley," V. 163.]

[Footnote 451: Ibid. V. 165.]

[Footnote 452: "Idylls of the King," 1864; Guinevere, 249.]

[Footnote 453: Ibid.; Elaine, 193.]

[Footnote 454: Ibid.; Elaine, 201.]

[Footnote 455: "Idylls of the King," 1864, 206.]

[Footnote 456: Ibid. 213.]

[Footnote 457: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "Morte d'Arthur,"189.]

[Footnote 458: Ibid. 194.]

[Footnote 459: Poems by Alfred Tennyson, 7th ed. 1851; "Morte d'Arthur,"196.]

[Footnote 460: Ibid. 197.]

[Footnote 461: "O médiocrité! celui qui pour tout bienT'apporte à ce tripot dégoûtant de la vieEst bien poltron au jeu s'il ne dit: Tout ou rien."]

INDEX


The Roman Numerals Refer to the Volumes.--The Arabic Figures to the Pagesof Each Volume.


Abelard, I. 158, 160Addi