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multitudinous headings and sub-headings. cal love : the Rosaline to the Juliet he And, in pity, think of the unhasting, un- wedded first after all, that finely-develresting persistency with which he has kept oped Juliet, The Norman Conquest. pegging away at that ichtheosauric pro- More than once he has dwelt lovingly on gramme ever since ! One of the very the supreme interest and importance reasons he gave for printing that prospec. throughout history (Professor Freeman tus was, that the outline of the scheme will not let us talk of ancient and modern should remain, in case he should not live history) of this mid-Mediterranean island, to complete the system. There you have this old battle-field of decisive race-strugthe true spirit of the devotee of the Mag- gles. And now that Juliet is on the shelf, num Opus.
he turns once more to woo Rosaline. One need be very sure of one's self, The first two volumes issued by the Clarand sure of a steady independent income endon Press bring that history, I underto boot, even with genius, to deliberately stand, only to the eve of the struggle in embark on a Great Work. Gibbon was the Peloponnesian War. Let the clever singularly sure of himself and enjoyed a young man who dashes off his essay or his monetary competency. Bacon was equally epigram between tea and dinner, pause to sure of himself, and got money indepen- consider what Professor Freeman has still dently of his philosophy in one way or before him, and take off bis hat to this the other, especially, it has been said, the dauntless spirit. Nay, let him take off other. The worst of it is that a man may his hat, not to the veteran leader only, be as sure of himself as Gibbon or Bacon, but,-for research is a thing needful-10 and after all produce instead of a Decline the rank and file, whether they are marchand Fall of the Roman Empire or a No- ing to the glory of Gibbon or the grave of vum Organum, an abortive key to All Alison. The body of the most muddleMythologies or a monumental llistory of beaded may fill a trench over which some Europe to prove that Providence is on the day an historian of genius may pass to side of the Tories. Providence, whether victory. or not it is always on the side of the big And yet, and yet, the irresponsible battalions, is by no means always on the young man is sometimes tempted to hint side of the big books. It is a solemn that to-day it is not so much the magnum thing to sacrifice one's life, the only life as the maximus opus that our industrious of the sort one has, in manufacturing a workers seem bent upon producing. Mabook like Alison's History of Europe only caulay's historical essays, some learned to fill with its voluminous respectability men say, are wofully inaccurate. So conan undisturbed shelf in every second-hand scious was Macaulay himself of the imperbookshop in the kingdom. Really, upon fection of his essays that he pleaded that a rational calculation of the chances, it his hand had been forced by unauthorized seems wiser for a young man just to re- American publication or he would never joice in his youth, than to use it up in have republished them. Yet these essays preparing or projecting a monumental
are at least as full of life as ever, while History or a system of Synthetic Philoso- many an historical Magnum Opus is phy or a key to all the Mythologies, for stone-dead. One ventures to hope and all which things too, remember, God will believe that when the novelty of laying bring him to judgment.
open valuable historical sources has passed, Well, perhaps, if we are to have world. when the mass of new material has been histories and philosophic systems, the risk not only displayed but digested, the hismust be faced. It may be as in love so torian without sacrifice of science will in literature.
once more have some conscience for form. He either fears his fate too much, Great histories, great beyond all cavilling, Or his deserts are small,
bave been written which can be comfortaWho dares not put it to the touch bly packed into a Tauchnitz pocket-volTo gain or lose it all.
une or two. It is in truth a gallant sight to see Pro- In philosophy again, the largest of the fessor Freeman at his age, and alas ! with Platonic Dialogues is not much longer enfeebled health, attacking on so lordly a than a shilling story book; and Desscale so superb a subject as the llistory of cartes's Discourse can be read almost at a Sicily. It was, it seems, his first histori- sitting. And if Aristotle and Hegel bulk
large, it should be borne in nind that or two rare and remarkable exceptions, it most of the volumes are made up of lec- has not been by saying, Go to, we will tures, which in these days might be puh. write a Magnum Opus," that in this Jished journalistically, so to say, in Mind, sphere the most enduring books have been only in those days they had not a Mind of written. Flaubert—and I give the adthat kind.
herents of the theory I deprecate the full In his heart, let himn confess it, the lit- benefit of his name as I pass—Flaubert erary critic feels dislike and distrust of marvelled that Ste. Beuve should be conbulk and big pretensions. He feels as tent to go on writing for the newspapers, Heine did when he was attempting to ex- when he was not in want of food and plain to Frenchmen what the German might write books. Yet books, big philosophers were really driving at. books, have been written and printed too,
of less enduring valuo than the Causeries. Distinguished German philosophers [he Heine just wrote off a description of a wrote], who may accidentally cast a glance over these pages will superciliously shrug walking-tour, and the Reisebilder are imtheir shoulders at the meagreness and incom
mortal. In writing The Compleat Angler, pleteness of all which I here offer. But they Walton said he did but make “ a recrewill be kind enough to bear in mind that the ation of a recreation.” Addison and little which I say is expressed clearly and in. Steele wrote papers to amuse the town, telligibly, whereas their own works, although and Sir Roger de Coverley has outlived very profound,-unfathomably profound-very deep,--stupendously deep--are in the Cato. Mat Prior has considerably more same degree unintelligible. Of what benefit life in him than Robert Montgomery, the to the people is the grain locked away in great efficient elixir of Macaulay notwithstandgranaries, to which they have no key? The masses are famishing for knowledge, and will ing; and it is not by his Solomon, a Poem thank me for the portion of intellectual brend, in Three Books, that Mat Prior lives. small though it be, which I honestly share Montaigne carries bis years at least as well with them. . . I am not one of the seven as Montesquieu. And certain stray pahundred wise men of Germany. I stand with dom. And if a truth slips through, and if zine by a clerk of the India House, the great masses at the portals of their wis. pers written out of office hours for a magathis truth falls in my way, then I write it with whether or not it be fair to say that they pretty letters on paper, and give it to the com. have already outlived Mr. Spencer's Synpositor, who sets it in leaden type and gives thetic Philosophy, have at least outlived it to the printer ; the printer prints it, and the more ambitious works of two other then it belongs to the whole world.
distinguished servants of John Company, Many have felt like Heine who have the Mills, father and son, with their not had his wit to express their feelings. Analyses of the Phenomena of the Human Even in the case of so English a philoso- Mind and their Systems of Logic Ratioci. pher as Lord Bacon, they remember that native and Inductive. James I. who, if a fool, was at least ac- What could be more unpremeditated knowledged to be the wisest fool in Chris- than the way in which that almost nametendom, compared the Novum Organum less throng of singers poured forth their to the peace which passeth understanding. songs, who made, as was prettily said of Not James nor anybody else, wise or fool. Elizabethan England, a nest of singing ish, ever said anything of that kind about birds? In those brave days their fashion the Essays, those wonderful short Essays, was to throw off, or affect to throw off, As Bacon said of them in his own day, so their tuneful trifles without a thought of have they been ever since,“ of all his publication. For publication they medi, other works, the most current, for that it tated, or affected to meditate, some Magseems, they come home to men's business num Opus to come later to justify them. and bosoms."
But they would show these trifles to their It is not, however, in the sphere of friends; and these friends would perphilosophy or history or science, but in suade them to publish, or bold, bad men the sphere of literature proper, literature would take the bull by the horns and send as a pure art, that the theory of the Mag- the poems to the printer themselves. num Opus and the exhortations and pro- "Courteous Reader," writes W. Percy tests founded thereon are so absurd, fly so by way of preface to his Cycle of Sonnets directly, as it seems to me, in the face of to the Fairest Cælia,
" Whereas I was the facts of literary history. With one fully determined to have concealed my Sonnets as things privy to myself, yet, of theatrical work which came to his hand. courtesy having lent them to some they Glorious as the work is, it was work done as were secretly committed to the Press and a back-playwright. All the little evidence almost finished before it came to my we have points to that, all cxcept Mr. knowledge. Wherefore, making as they Donelly's : his position at the theatre ; the say, Virtue of Necessity, I did deem it sneers of the University wits; the traces of most convenient to prepose my epistle, his manner of work, first his furbishing up only to beseech you to account of them as of stock pieces, then his gradually transof toys and amorous devices ; and ere forming them by his genius, as occasion long, I will impart unto the World an- offered and as he felt, his genius firm under other Poem, which shall be both more him ; and finally, for crowning proof, his fruitful and ponderous. In the mean- placid early retirement, leaving a body of while I commit these as a pledge to your actors to complete the famous first folio indifferent censure. W. Percy. London without his assistance or direction. Not,
You see the indiscreet friend mind you, that Shakespeare was not keenly served the bashful Elizabethan the same and fully alive to the omnipotence of his turn that the American pirate served the genius ; you have but to turn to the Sonbashful Macaulay. These Elizabethan toys nets to recognize serene pride of genius and amorous devices are as fresh to-day and a sense of triumphant achievement. as three centuries ago, and thanks to Dr. But the set production of Magna Opera Grosart, Mr. Arber, and Mr. Arthur Bul- was, it would seem, the very last of his len, are still ministering to our exceeding thoughts. great enjoyment. Whether W. Percy Certainly it was the very last of Scott's ever imparted to the world his more thoughts, when he poured forth the fruitful and ponderous poem I am not Waverley Novels in anonymous profu Elizabethan scholar enough to say.
At sion. If ever there was a man free from least I never heard of it. If he did, I all tinge of the superstition of the Magdare swear it is not without reasons that num Opus that man was Walter Scott. the Sonnets to Celia, which are not by Unless we had the convincing evidence of any means the happiest examples of Eliza- Lockhart's book and Scott's own letters bethan sonneteering, are still afloat, while and prefaces to prove it, it would be unthe ponderous poem has gone to the bot- imaginable that this Wizard of Romance tom,
should have flung forth his wonders with Lest such promises of a Magnum Opus so unpremeditated prodigality and held by to follow should be accounted the mere them and the faine of them so lightly. coxcombry of conventional mock-mod- To remember the frank, unaffected, manly esty, let me remind you, that in just such modesty of this man, who justly enjoyed wise did Prior excuse himself for dedicat- in his lifetime unrivalled literary prestige ; ing his light occasional verse to his Me to think of the nonchalance of this giant, cænas Lord Dorset. "I humbly hope of the simplicity of spirit in which he that as I may hereafter bind up my fuller poured out bis immortal tales ; and then sheaf and lay some pieces of a very differ- to think of the punctilios and pretensions ent Nature (the product of my severer
and professions and protestations of the Studies) at your Lordship’s Feet, I shall novelists of the hour is matter for tears engage your more serious reflection,” and laughter. etc. Now Prior kept this promise. He Scott with characteristic modesty had achieved bis Magnum Opus, the product consulted James Ballantyne as to his of his severer studies, a piece of a very hopes of him as a novelist. James's hopes different nature from Paulo Furganti and were not high. Scott saw it at a glance ; Hans Carvel. It was Solomon, a Poem but all he said was that he did not see in Three Books. We hope it engaged why he should not succeed as well as other his Lordship's more serious reflections. people.—that is, remember, as well as At least it seems worthy to engage our ** Monk” Lewis and Mrs. Radcliffe and serious reflection in connection with the Jane Porter. “ The Edinbro' faith now present discussion.
is," wrote Scott to Mr. Morritt, one of Pass to the supreme name not only in the very few to whom from the first be Elizabethan but in all literature. Shake- entrusted the secret of the authorship, speare simply did with all his might the "that Waverley is written by Jeffrey,
having been composed to lighten the moor in the midst of intense physical suftedium of his late Transatlantic voyage. fering, the affectionate Laidlaw beseechSo you see the unknown infant is like to ing Scott to stop dictating, when his audicome to preferment. In truth I am not ble suffering filled every pause. “Nay, sure it would be considered quite deco- Willie,' was the answer,
only see the rous for me, as a Clerk of Session, to write doors are fast. I would fain keep all the novels. Judges being monks, Clerks are cry as well as all the wool to ourselves." a sort of lay brethren from whom come
are among these kingly solemnity of walk and conduct may be names, let me be candid and make a presexpected. So whatever I may do of this ent of one to the enemy. For one, and kind, I shall whistle down the wind to one of the mightiest, of the lords of Engprey on fortune.”
And the preface to lish poetic literature the set production of the third edition of Waverley was in just a Magnum Opus was the first and last the same strain of unaffected modesty. thought. Milton's was a life dedicated And if this was before the new success or from the beginning. By the age of in the early days of it, you may see how twenty-three, as appears from a letter to a lasting his mood was by reading the pref- Cambridge friend enclosing the second aces in the collected edition of 1829–30, sonnet, he was cherishing a long-formed long after his literary empire, all unsolic- resolve to devote his life to some great ited, had been universally acknowledged. work. This was his apology for standing Read, for example, the preface to Ivanhoe, aloof from the ordinary money getting the novel which had been received with a pursuits of early inanhood.
This was perfect acclaim of applause. Never was his excuse for his late spring, which still there less blowing of the trumpet and the no bud nor blossom showed, as the sonnet new moon to accompany the birth of mas- phrased it. With this aspiration he enterpieces. Scott was simply filled full to couraged himself, when he became the lips with romance, and when his hour thing suspicious of himself and did take came he just let himself go. You remem- notice of a certain belatedness in him.' ber the anecdote in Lockhart, of the hand His deliberate aim was self-cultivation and ceaselessly writing which so bothered self-devotion to the accomplishment of Menzies in his cups ? “I have been some great thing. Very early he found watching it,-it fascinates my eye,-it and took poetry to be his vocation. At never stops,-page after page is finished twenty eight he wrote the famous letter and thrown on a heap of MS., and still it to bis friend Diodati.
" What am I goes on unwearied ; and so it will be till thinking of? Why, with God's help, of candles are brought in, and God knows immortality! Forgive the word, I only how long after that. It is the same every whisper it in your ear! Yes, I am plumnight, I can't stand the sight of it, when ing my wings for a flight.” He wrote so I am not at my books." Some stupid, at the end of the Horton period, when dogged, engrossing clerk, probably,” ex- the minor poems had already been given claimed some giddy youth in the com- to the world and he had already done pany. “No, boys," answered their enough, you might bave thought, for one host; “I well know what hand it ism'tis life's fame. Tho following year we find Walter Scott's.” And when it came to him casting his thoughts, as so many of still more rapid dictation, Scott preferred our greatest poets have done, on the leJohn Ballantyne as an amanuensis to gend of Arthur for the subject of his Willie Laidlaw, because his pen was the great poem. Then in 1641, being thirtyfaster and also because he kept it to the two years of age, he publicly uttered his paper without interruption, though with apologia and confessed his aspirations. mang an arch twinkle in his eyes and now and then an audible smack of his None hath by more studious ways endeav. lips. Whereas Ladlaw entered with such ored, and with more unwearied spirit none
shall—that I dare almost aver of myself, as far keen zest into the interest of the story as as life and full license will extend. Neither it flowed from the author's lips, that he do I think it shame to covenant with any could not forbear interrupting with his knowing reader that for some few years yet “Gude keep us a'! the like o' that—eh, ment of what I am now indebted, as being a
may go on trust with him toward the pay. sirs, eh, sirs !” Thus was composed no
work not to be raised from the heat of youth, less a work than the Bride of Lammer- or the vapors of wine, like that which flows at
waste from the pen of some vulgar annorist, or who has sometimes been regarded, who the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, nor regarded bimself as a victiın sacrificed to Memory and her siren daughters, but by de journalistic task-work, the man whose vout prayer to that Etertal Spirit, who can
life suggested the remarks in the Daily enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and News with which I started, Theophile sends out his seraphim with the hallowed fire Gautier. What are the odds, if Gautier of his altar to touch and purify the life of had been free from the obligation to turn whom he pleases. To this must be added in. dustrious, select reading, steady observation,
out a weekly dramatic feuilleton, that he insight into all seemly and generous acts and would have given the world any better affairs. Till which in some measure be com. poetry than Emaux et Camées ? Are not passed at mine own peril and cost, I refuse the chances rather that, without the pressnot to sustain this expectation, from as many as are not loth to hazard so much credulity
ure of daily needs, we should have had upon the best pledges that I can give them.
to go without many of the very delightful volumes we now have from his
and And again in that famous and often have got nothing whatever in their place? quoted passage :
Any way, the story goes, and it is an odd Perceiving that some trifles which I had in story when you come to think of it, that memory, composed at under twenty or there- the young Theo in early manhood had to abouts, met with acceptance I began to be shut up in his bedroom by his mother, assent to them (my Italian friends) and divers to write Mlle. de Maupin ! of my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting, which now grows daily in Milton's own case to take their stand
Some bold spirits have not feared even upon me, that by labor and intent study, which I take to be my portion in this life. against the superstition of the Magnum joined with the strong propensity of nature, Opus. They would that he had dwelt I might perhaps leave something so written all his life amid the glades of Horton and to aftertimes as they should not willingly let it die.
gone on giving them the magic of the
minor poems. They lament the sacrifice And the accomplishment of this noble of the poet of Comus and Lycidas to the vow, the end of this nobly dedicated life, poet of the Paradise Lost. They regret was the sublime Puritan Epic, Paradise that many priceless trinkets and much Lost.
matchless filigree work, which would bare There, I hope that I have given away a lent adornment and pleasantness to their handsome enough present in Milton. Yet daily living, must have been melted down really I am making no concession at all. to make that cold colossal statue. Milton did say to himself, Go to, I will fact at least, no doubt, that dozens have write a Great Work,” but thercin he only Lycidas by heart, for every reader who followed “the strong propensity of na- gets beyond the first book of the great
He did precisely what he had it Epic. The readers indeed of the twelve in him to do. He, if ever any man, had books of Paradise Lost are probably as the call from within. Such call when select a band as the readers of the twelve vonchsafed let all men follow. All my cantos of the Faerie Queene, another of protest is against the call from without the Magna Opera of our poetic literature. Conceive, if you can, Milton turned aside Edgar Poe, who of course dearly loved a from his high and almost holy purpose, paradox, and had besides a theory of his by the allurements of journalism or the own about poetry to support, went so far needs of the passing hour. Why, a civil as to maintain that Paradise Lost was war failed to turn him aside, and, a closer only to be enjoyed by being regarded as affliction still, his own total blindness. a series of minor poems ! Neithər the Protectorate and political em- Finally, let not the advocates of the ployment, nor the Restoration and politi. Magnum Opus pretend that, at worst, cal disgrace, could make him forget his these admonitions of theirs have a bracing call. It is a flattering but mistaken and effect and can do no harm. They may misleading notion, that the gentlemen do a great deal of harm. There are inwho do political squibs and literary causerie stances to cite where the harm has been for the newspapers could, by simply taking done. If Milton is the saint of the true thought, add several thousand cubits to religion of the Magnum Opus, the supertheir stature and write a Paradise Lost. stition does not want for martyrs.
Mark Take, just by way of example, the man Pattison was a martyr to a mistaken de
It is a