Imágenes de páginas

the scale. Romola is preëmivently a time, if there had been more of the study of the human conscience in an his- breath of the Florentine streets, inore torical setting which is studied almost of the faculty of optical evocation, a as much, and few passages in Mr. Cross's greater saturation of the senses with the volumes are more interesting than those elements of the adorable little city. The relating to the production of this mag. difficulty with the book, for the most nificent romance. George Eliot took part, is that it is not Italian ; it has alall her work with a noble seriousness, ways seemed to me the most Germanic but into none of it did she throw herself of the author's productions. I cannot with more passion. It drained from her imagine a German writing in the way as much as she gave to it, and none of of a novel) anything half so good; but her writing ploughed into her, to use if I could imagine it, I should suppose her biographer’s expression, so deeply. Romola to be very much the sort of picShe told him that she began it as a young

ture he would achieve the sort of mewoman, and finished it as an old one. dium through which he would show us More than any of her novels, it was how, by the Arno-side, the fifteenth cenevolved, as I have said, from her moral tury came to an end. One of the sources consciousness -a moral consciousness of interest in the book is that, more encircled by a prodigious amount of lit- than any of its companions, it indicates erary research. Her literary ideal wa how much George Eliot proceeded by at all times of the highest, but in the reflection and research ; how little impreparation of Romola it placed her un- portant, comparatively, she thought that der a control absolutely religious. She same breath of the streets. It carries to read innumerable books, some of them a maximum the in-door quality. bearing only remotely on her subject, The most definite impression proand consulted without stint contempora- duced, perhaps, by Mr. Cross's volumes ry records and documents. She neglect- (by the second and third) is that of simed nothing that would enable her to live, ple success success which had been intellectually, in the period she had un- the result of no external accidents (undertaken to describe. We know, for less her union with Lewes be so denomthe most part, I think, the result. Ro- inated), but was involved in the very mola is on the whole the finest thing she faculties nature had given her. All the wrote, but its defects are almost on the elements of an eventual happy fortune scale of its beauties. The great defect met in her constitution.

The great is that, except in the person of Tito Me foundation, to begin with, was there lema, it does not seem positively to live. the magnificent mind, vigorous, lumiIt is overladen with learning, it smells nous, and eminently sane. To her inof the lamp, it tastes just perceptibly tellectual vigor, her immense facility, of pedantry. In spite of its incomplete her exemption from cerebral lassitude, animation, however, it assuredly will her letters and journals bear the most survive in men's remembrance, for the copious testimony. Her daily stint of finest pages in it belong to the finest arduous reading and writing was of the part of our literature. It is on the largest. Her ability, as one may exwhole a failure, but such a failure as press it in the most general way, was only a great talent can produce ; and one astonishing, and it belonged to every may say of it that there are many great season of her long and fruitful career. "hits" far less interesting than such a Her passion for study encountered no mistake. A twentieth part of the eru- impediment, but was able to make everydition would have sufficed, would have thing feed and support it. The extent given us the feeling and color of the and variety of her knowledge is by itself a résumé of an existence which tri- had found the most devoted of careumphed wherever it wished. Add to takers, the most jealous of ministers, a this an immense special talent, which, as companion through whom all business soon as it tries its wings, is found to be was transacted. The one drawback of capable of the highest, longest flights, this relation was that, considering what and brings back great material rewards. she attempted, it limited her experience George Eliot of course had drawbacks too much to itself, but for the rest it and difficulties, physical infirmities, con- helped her in a hundred ways; it saved stant liabilities to headache, dyspepsia, her nerves, it fortified her privacy, it and other illness, to deep depression, to protected her leisure, it diminished the despair about her work; but these jolts friction of living. His admiration of of the chariot were small in proportion her work was of the largest, though not to the impetus acquired, and were hard- always, I think, truly discriminating, ly greater than was necessary for re- and he surrounded her with a sort of minding her of the secret of all ambi- temperate zone of independence — indetious workers in the field of art that pendence of everything except him and effort, effort, always effort, is the only her own standards. Nervous, sensitive, key of success. Her great furtherance delicate in every way in which genius was that, intensely intellectual being as is delicate (except, indeed, that she had she was, the life of affection and emo- a robust reason), it was a great thing tion was also widely open to her. She for her to have accident made rare and had all the initiation of knowledge and exposure mitigated; and to this result none of its dryness, all the advantages Lewes, as the administrator of her fame, of judgment and all the luxuries of feel- admirably contributed. He filtered the ing. She had an imagination which stream, and gave her only the clearer enabled her to sit at home with book water. The accident of reading reviews and

pen, and yet enter into the life of of one's productions, especially when other generations; project herself into they are bad, is, for the artist of our Warwickshire ale-houses and Florentine day, one of the most frequent; and Mr. symposia, reconstitute conditions utterly Lewes, by keeping these things out of different from her own. Toward the her way, enabled her to achieve what end she triumphed over the great im- was perhaps the highest form of her possible ; she reconciled the greatest sen

an inaccessibility to the newssibility with the highest serenity. She paper. “ It is remarkable to me," she succeeded in guarding her pursuits from writes in 1876, “that I have entirely intrusion ; in carrying out her habits ; in lost my personal melancholy. I often, sacrificing her work as little as possible; of course, have melancholy thoughts in leading, in the midst of a society united about the destinies of my fellow creain conspiracies to interrupt and demor- tures, but I am never in that mood of alize, an independent, strenuously per- sadness which used to be my frequent sonal life. People who had the honor visitant even in the midst of external of penetrating into the sequestered pre- happiness." Her later years, colored by cinct of the Priory the house in Lon- this accumulated wisdom, when she had don, in which she lived from 1863 to taken her final form before the world, 1880 — remember well a kind of sanc- and had come to be regarded more and tity in the place, an atmosphere of still- more as a teacher and philosopher, are ness and concentration, something that full of suggestion to the critic, but I suggested a literary temple.

have exhausted my limited space. There It was part of the good fortune of is a certain coldness in them, perhaps which I speak that in Mr. Lewes she the coldness that results from most


of one's opinons being formed, one's never met George Henry Lewes, or nevmind made up, on many great subjects ; er cast her lot with his. It is safe to from the degree, in a word, to which say that, in one way or anoiher, in the * culture” had taken the place of the long run, her novels would have got more primitive processes of experience. themselves written, and it is possible

“Ah, les livres, ils nous débordent, they would have been more natural, as ils nous étouffent nous périssons par one may call it, more familiarly and les livres !” That cry of a distinguished casually human. Would her developFrench novelist (there is no harm in ment have been less systematic, more mentioning M. Alphonse Daudet), which irresponsible, more personal, and should fell upon the ear of the present writer we have had more of Adam Bede and some time ago, represents as little as Silas Marner, and less of Romola and possible the emotion of George Eliot, Middlemarch? The question, after all, confronted with literatures and sciences. cannot be answered, and I do not push M. Alphonse Daudet went on to say it, being myself very grateful for Midthat, to his mind, the personal impres- dlemarch and Romola. It is as George sion, the effort of direct observation, Eliot does actually present herself that was the most precious source of infor- we must judge her - a condition that mation for the novelist; that nothing will not prevent her from striking us as could take its place ; that the effect of one of the noblest, most beautiful minds books was constantly to check and per- of our time. This impression bears the vert this effort; that a second-hand, third- reader company throughout these letters band, tenth-hand, impression was con- and notes. It is impossible not to feel, stantly tending to substitute itself for a as we close them, that she was an adfresh perception ; that we were ending mirable being. They are less brilliant, by seeing everything through literature less entertaining, than we might have instead of through our own senses ; and hoped; they contain fewer “good things," that, in short, literature was rapidly kill- and have even a certain grayness of ing literature. This view has immense tone, something measured and subdued, truth on its side, but the case would be as of a person talking without ever raistoo simple if, on one side or the other, ing her voice. But there rises from there were only one way of finding out. them a kind of fragrance of moral elevaThe effort of the novelist is to find out, tion; a love of justice, truth, and light; a to know, or at least to see and no one, large, generous way of looking at things; in the nature of things, can afford to and a constant effort to hold high the be less indifferent to side-lights. Books torch in the dusky spaces of man's conare themselves, unfortunately, an expres- science. That is how we see her during sion of human passions. George Eliot the latter years of her life : frail, delihad no doubts, at any rate; if impres- cate, shivering a little, much fatigued sionism, before she laid down her pen, and considerably spent, but still meditathad already begun to be talked about, ing on what could be acquired and imit would have made no difference with parted; still living, in the intelligence, a her — she would have had no desire to freer, larger life than probably had ever pass for an impressionist.

been the portion of any woman. To her There is one question we cannot help own sex her memory, her example, will asking ourselves as we close this rec- remain of the highest value; those of ord of her life; it is impossible not to them for whom the “ development” of let our imagination wander in the di- woman is the hope of the future ought rection of what turn her mind or her to erect a monument to George Eliot. fortune might have taken if she had She helped on the cause more than any one, in proving how few limitations are resemble the productions, say, of Alexof necessity implied in the feminine or- ander Dumas. What is remarkable, exganism. She went so far that such a traordinary - and the process remains distance seems enough, and in her effort inscrutable and mysterious — is that this she sacrificed no tenderness, no grace. quiet, anxious, sedentary, serious, invaThere is much talk to-day about things lidical English lady, without animal being “open to women ;” but George spirits, without adventures, without exEliot showed that there is nothing that travagance, assumption, or bravado, is closed. If we criticise her novels, we should have made us believe that nothmust remember that her nature came ing in the world was alien to her; should first and her work afterwards, and that have produced such rich, deep, masterly it is not remarkable that they should not pictures of the multifold life of man.

Henry James.



to his course of life. The first thing to

be done was to study systematically the A RECORD OF ANTIPATHIES. whole subject of antipathies. Then, if

any further occasion offered itself, he In thinking the whole matter over,

would be ready to take advantage of it. Dr. Butts felt convinced that, with care The resources of the Public Library of and patience and watching his opportu- the place and his own private collection nity, he should get at the secret, which were put in requisition to furnish him so far had yielded nothing but a single the singular and widely scattered facts word. It might be asked why he was of which he was in search. so anxious to learn what, from all ap- It is not every reader who will care pearances, the young stranger was un- to follow Dr. Butts in his study of the willing to explain. He may have been natural history of antipathies. The stoto some extent infected by the gener- ries told about them are, however, very al curiosity of the persons around him, curious ; and if some of them may be in which good Mrs. Butts shared, and questioned, there is no doubt that many which she had helped to intensify by 'of the strangest are true, and conserevealing the word dropped by Paolo. quently take away from the improbabilBut this was not really his chief motive. ity of others which we are disposed to He could not look upon this young man,

doubt. living a life of unwholesome solitude, But in the first place, what do we without a natural desire to do all that mean by an antipathy? It is an averhis science and his knowledge of human sion to some object, which may vary in nature could help him to do towards degree from mere dislike to mortal horbringing him into healthy relations with

What the cause of this aversion is the world about him. Still, he would we cannot say. It acts sometimes through not intrude upon him in any way. He the senses, sometimes through the imwould only make certain general inves- agination, sometimes through an untigations, which might prove serviceable known channel. The relations which in case circumstances should give him exist between the human being and all the right to counsel the young man as that surrounds him vary in consequence of some adjustment peculiar to each in- and far more awkward than this is the dividual. The brute fact is expressed case mentioned in an ancient collection, in the phrase “One man's meat is an- where the subject of the antipathy faintother man's poisou."


ed at the sight of any object of a red In studying the history of antipathies color. There are sounds, also, which the doctor began with those referable to have strange effects on some individ the sense of taste, which are among the uals. Among the obnoxious noises are most common. In any collection of a the crumpling of silk stuffs, the sound hundred persons there will be found of sweeping, the croaking of frogs. The those who cannot make use of certain effects in different cases have been articles of food generally acceptable. spasms, a sense of strangling, profuse This may be from the disgust they oc- sweating, — all showing a profound discasion or the effects they have been turbance of the nervous system. found to produce. Every one knows in- All these effects were produced by dividuals who cannot venture on honey, impressions on the organs of sense, or cheese, or veal, with impunity. Car- seemingly by direct agency on certain lyle, for example, complains of having nerve centres. But there is another seveal set before him, -a meat he could ries of cases in which the imagination not endure. There is a whole family plays a larger part in the phenomena. connection in New England, and that Two notable examples are afforded in a very famous one, to many of whose the lives of two very distinguished permembers, in different generations, all sonages. Peter the Great was frightthe products of the dairy are the sub- ened, when an infant, by falling from a jects of a congenital antipathy. Mon- bridge into the water. Long afterward, taigne says there are persons who dread when he had reached manbood, this the smell of apples more than they would hardy and resolute man was so affected dread being exposed to a fire of musket- by the sound of wheels rattling over a ry. The readers of the charming story bridge that he had to discipline himself “A Week in a French Country House," by listening to the sound, in spite of his will remember poor Monsieur Jacques's dread of it, in order to overcome his anpiteous cry in the night: “Ursula, art tipathy. The story told by Abbé Boithou asleep? Oh, Ursula, thou sleepest, leau of Pascal is very similar to that but I cannot close my eyes. Dearest related of Peter. As he was driving in Ursula, there is such a dreadful smell! his coach and four over the bridge of Oh, Ursula, it is such a smell! I do Neuilly, his horses took fright and ran 80 wish thou couldst smell it! Good- away, and the leaders broke from their night, my angel! - Dearest! I have harness and sprang into the river, leavfound them!... They are apples !” ing the wheel-horses and the carriage The smell of roses, of peonies, of lilies, on the bridge. Ever after this fright it has been known to cause faintness. is said that Pascal had the terrifying The sight of various objects has had sin- sense that he was just on the edge of an, gular effects on some persons. A boar's abyss, ready to fall over. head was a favorite dish at the table of What strange early impression was it great people in Marshal d'Albret's time; which led a certain lady always to shriek yet he used to faint at the sight of one. aloud if she ventured to enter a church, It is not uncommon to meet with per- as it is recorded? The old and simple sons who faint at the sight of blood. way of accounting for it would be the One of the most inveterately pugnacious scriptural one, that it was an unclean of Dr. Butts's college-mates confessed spirit who dwelt in her, and who, when that he had this infirmity. Stranger she entered the holy place and brought

« AnteriorContinuar »