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the particular history of his own language, in the at least endeavouring lo connect cause and effect. collection of authors of its own department ? ” in some way, without giving something like a reason These excellent and weighty words form part of
for the faith that is in you.' an introduction to a book which, in its own depart- The readers of the Author are, one and all, ment, that of pure criticism, promises to be the deeply interested in the elevation and maintenance book of the year-Mr. George Saintsbury's "Essays of the standard of criticism. The literature of every in English Literature, 1780–1860" (Percival and age, in fact, in great measure depends upon the Co.). This introduction is called “ The Kinds of standard set up by the critics. Where criticism is Criticism.” It is, in itself, a short Treatise on the low and ignorant of better things, unable even to Art of Criticism, and it should be printed separately appreciate effort in the true direction, the writers and placed in the hands of everyone who pretends sink with their judges. For true criticism, a point not to become a reviewer. It may be, as Mr. Andrew insisted by Mr. Saintsbury, does not destroy, but Lang suggests, that critics and reviewers have builds up: it does not deride; it instructs. Why is nothing to do with each other essentially, though it, for instance, that the modern taste for the best and accidentally the discharge of their functions may highest poetry is so much better than their taste for be combined in the same person. Yet even a the higher work in fiction or in the drama ? That reviewer can do himself no harm in learning the it is so is proved, first by the excellent critical work functions of a critic.
on poetry, which is given to the world in the How then shall the young man become a critic? magazines of the day; next by the Browning First, Mr. Saintsbury tells him, by reading ; by Societies, which show, if they show nothing else, wide and careful reading. Not that reading will an intense and widespread love for great verse. make a critic, but few are the critics who can be One reason lies, one is tempted to believe, in the made without it. “For my part,” says the author, ineffable incompetence of the ordinary reviews of “I should not dare to continue criticising so much fiction. The young writer finds no instruction in the as a circulating library novel”—but there are novels reviews which he reads. He never even looks for any; and novels—a man may do worse than criticise a he is content if he gets off without a contemptuous Meredith, and he, too, is “circulated "_" if I did jeer. He knows that he is making an essay towards not perpetually pay my respects to the classics of a fine Art, but he has no guides ; those who should many literatures.
In short, the critic, truly lead him are dumb; they do not even understand equipped, must start from a wide comparative that they have a fine Art to deal with ; his judges study of different languages and literatures. This is do not know the rules of the Art; they do not the first principle, the only road to criticism. If know that there are any rules ; nay, too often they we accept it, we understand at once the reason, cannot understand that there is any artistic work first, why there are so few critics, and secondly, at all to be reviewed. As a natural consequence why women are seldom good critics. For the the great mass of the fiction put forth is without different literatures must include Greek, Latin, form and void. Of the ordinary criticism as applied French, and should include German and Italian to fiction we will perhaps speak on a future occasion. as well, not to speak of the Hebrew literature, It is enough here to claim for criticism at its best which even Mr. Saintsbury's critic must be gener
its educational importance. ally content to have in translation. Very well, thus Mr. Saintsbury's views of the ordinary reviewer prepared the critic “must constantly refer back are stated with great clearness. “That a very his sensations of agreement and disagreement, of large amount of reviewing is determined by doubtliking and disliking, in the comparative fashion, less well-meaning incompetence, there is no doubt
Let Englishmen be compared with whatever. It is, on the whole, the most difficult Englishmen of other times to bring out this set of kind of newspaper writing, and it is, on the whole, differences, with foreigners of modern times to the most lightly assigned and the most irresponsibly bring out that, with Greeks and Romans to bring performed. I have heard of newspapers where the out the other. Let poets of old days be compared reviews depended almost wholly on the accident of with poets of new, classics with roinantics, rhymed some of the staff taking a holiday, or being laid up with unrhymed.
Compare, always com- for a time on the shelf, or being considered not up pare,' is the first axiom of criticism.'
to other work; of others—though this, I own, is After these rules follows another equally useful. scarcely credible--when the whole reviewing was “Always make sure, as far as you possibly can, farmed out to a manager, to be allotted to devils as that what you like and dislike is the literary, and good to him seemed; of many where the reviews not the extra-literary character, of the matter under were a sort of exercising ground on which novices examination."
were trained, broken down hacks turned out to And yet another. “Never be content without grass, and invalids allowed a little gentle exercise.
Of common mistakes on the subject held converse on matters celestial and terrestrial which are not merely silly crazes, such as the log with the imaginative poet-painter. On one occasion, rolling craze and the five-pound note craze, and the Blake said, speaking of these visits, “He came to like; the worst known to him, though it is shared ask a favour of me ; said he had committed an by some who should know better, is that a specialist error in ‘ Paradise Lost,' which he wanted me to is the best reviewer. I do not say that he is always correct in a poem or picture. But I declined ; I the worst, but that is about as far as my charity, said I had my own duties to perform.” Other informed by much experience, can go."
remarks made by Milton during these visitations The present writer has also heard of newspapers have not been recorded by Blake, but a student of when the books are all bundled off together to one both poets may be forgiven for fancying that Milton man, who turns them off in little paragraphs of would have been justified in asking Blake in what half-a-dozen lines each at eighteenpence a book. moment of forgetfulness he had written in “ The And yet authors and publishers are such fools as Keys of the Gates of Paradise," the linesto send their books to such a paper and to expose
"On the shadows of the moon themselves to such treatment.
Climbing through night's highest noon," For one thing, let us take comfort. Books are abused by many reviewers for many reasons. They
lines so closely akin toare never abused— Mr. Saintsbury maintains—for
“ To behold the wandering moon the good things in them.
Riding near her highest noon," This brief resumé of a highly important and op- which form one of the many beauties of “Il portune paper must not be supposed to be tendered Penseroso "; or why, when penning “King Edward as an adequate criticism. It is tendered as an III," he had put into the mouth of his bishop the introduction and as an invitation. The former is wordslikely to make readers of the Author uneasy on the
the arts of peace are great, subject of criticism-perhaps to awaken their con
And no less glorious than those of war," sciences as to their own sins, because we have thereby making him echo sentiments to be found reviewers, if not critics among us: the latter as in a celebrated sonnet addressed to the Lord an invitation to get the book for themselves and General Cromwell, May, 1652, in which the writer to read carefully point by point what a good critic declares thatshould be.
“ Peace hath her victories
No less renowned than War." *
Landor occasionally complained of the manner in ON SOME PARALLEL PASSAGES.
which his poems were treated, and certainly in one
remarkable instance two brother bards attempted T has for many years been to me a source of to beautify their work with a sea-shell stolen from
wonder that the many annotators of the text his grottos; a shell which lost all its murmurous
of Shelley's poems should not have noticed melody and glimmering beauty in their hands, and that in the fifth song of “St. Irvyne” the poet justified his remarks upon their action. But Landor appropriates, with the alteration of but two insig- was himself on one occasion a defaulter. The nificant words, a complete line from Beattie's reader of his poem “The Phoceans," a poem “Minstrel,” viz. :
published with others in 1802, will find the follow“O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave.”
“ In his own image the Creator made, This line, familiar to all readers of poetry, Shelley
His own pure sunbeam quicken'd thee, O man ! transferred bodily to the song above mentioned,
Thou breathing dial! since thy day began
The present hour was always markt with shade!” where it appears as — “Ah! when shall day dawn on the night of the grave.”
* Were Landor alive, not the least delightful of his A new edition of Shelley's poems is daily expected, “Imaginary Conversations” would be a dialogue between annotated by one of his ablest biographers, and it
these two great poets. We learn from that priceless book,
Forster's "Life of Landor," that the old lion in his declining may be that this edition will contain a note on this
days, “picked up some of the writings of Blake, and was passage, but no such note is to be found in any strangely fascinated by them,” and had this conversation existing edition.
been added to the long list of treasures received from the Readers of Mr. W. M. Rossetti's exhaustive same hand, the anachronism of making the dead and living memoir of Blake will doubtless remember that
poet meet would have been as justifiable as was that which
was justified for all time in the poem wherein Landor made Milton frequently appeared in Blake's visions, and Laertes and Homer meet, and bade Homer sing once more.
and if he turns to Wordsworth’s “An Evening
.... they make sport of us, Walk," written 1789, published 1793, he will Treating us much as boys treat cockroaches find the same imagery,
They prick us just to see what we will do.”
Lear, it will be remembered, exclaimed“ Alas! the idle tale of man is found Depicted in the dial's moral round;
"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods ; Hope with reflection blends her social rays
They kill us for their sport.” To gild the golden tablet of his days;
A much more grim reflection upon “the unjust Yet still, the sport of some malignant power, He knows but from its shade the present hour."
justice of omnipotence."
RICHARD W. COLLES. Landor's version is undeniably the finer both in composition and sentiment.
Blanco White's sonnet, "Mysterious Night," first printed in 1828, has recently been paraphrased in one of Walt Whitman's prose poems.
In his Night on the Prairies," he says
BALZAC AND HIS ENGLISH “I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the
CRITICS, not-day exhibited, I was thinking the globe enough till there sprang out so HE primacy of Balzac in French fiction has noiseless around me myriads of other globes.
at length been acknowledged by English
speaking critics. The recognition of his And he adds after quiet contemplation of the stars
universal supremacy is approaching, but it seems “O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day
that it will be long before his proper place as a cannot,
philosopher and a seer of rare inspiration will be I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.” allowed him. It is, however, an encouraging sign The “rawest as well as the ripest student” of that his critics agree on one point, that any attempt English literature will at once recognise in these
at general criticism of his whole work and especially lines the sentiments expressed in White's solitary review must be but the slightest sketch.
of La Comédie Humaine, is futile, and that any
Each sonnet of which the concluding lines are
new attempt confirms the opinion that we must “Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed confine ourselves to commentary alone. Within thy beams, Sun ! or who could find,
It is well for us that Balzac counts among his Whilst flow'r and leaf and insect stood revealed, That to such countless orbs thou mad'st us blind!
critics some of the most eminent living writers of Why do we then shun Death with anxious strife? English. I cannot, however, consider the clever If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life ?”
essays of Mr. Henry James and Mr. Leslie Stephen In that glorious poem, Charles Wells's “ Joseph
nor yet of the gifted author of a recent article in and his Brethren,” which owes its rescue from “ the fidelity. Mr. W. S. Lilly unfortunately spoils an
the 'Quarterly, as representing him with great waste-paper basket of forgetfulness,” to the energetic otherwise appreciative notice by a most irrelevant action of Mr. Swinburne, will be found lines bearing inquiry into Balzac's interior religion. Mr. Parsons a perilous resemblance to familiar verses by Wordsworth, viz.
has written a very trustworthy general review in the
Atlantic Monthly, careful and accurate, and free “ To me a simple flower is cloth'd with thoughts
from obtrusive originality. Mr. Thomas Hake That lead the mind to Heaven.”
has a trustworthy article, “ A Realist at Work,” in
Belgravia. Of more particular articles Mr. Philip words which at once recall the concluding lines of Kent's Balzac's views of the Artistic Temperathe great “Ode"
ment,” is excellent, and Mr. George Moore's “ To me the meanest flower that blows can give
“Some of Balzac's Minor Pieces,” if a little disThoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” connected, is interesting and enthusiastic. The
criticisms which I know in English are usually to Wells's drama did not appear until twenty years be relied on for justice of criticism, in inverse ratio after the publication of Wordsworth's "Ode." to the cleverness with which they are written. It
At the risk of multiplying examples ad nauseam is a remarkable tribute to the breadth and depth I may add that in Mr. Alfred Austin's “Tower of of Balzac's intellect that his critics can always find Babel,” Act ii, scene 1, a philosopher named Sidon predominant in his works those traits which they gives expression to sentiments closely resembling are individually disposed to notice. In this he is those of King Lear. The gods say Sidon deals like the Bible, to which every sect which has arisen hardly with men
since the canon was formed appeals for confirmation VOL 1
of its peculiar doctrines. On these controverted the actor he so often brings to the stake is the points I believe his critics misrepresent him most. perfect wise man. But, on the other hand, it has
Mr. Leslie Stephen denies that Balzac possessed been more truly said that Balzac is so moral as to a knowledge of the human heart, on the ground be sometimes untrue. In this cross fire of criticism that such knowledge does not exist. He considers one position has not, I think, been taken, that the individuality so strong in every man that it prevents object Balzac set before him was itself immoral, a writer from embodying feeling outside his own that a detailed history of contemporary society is potential experience. He explains Balzac's thou- a story too horrible to be told. On this point he sand creations as the reflection of the thousand might possibly be held to fail as a moralist. Perfect facets of his many-sided self. On the other hand, attainment of an end in view is recognized as so an evident altruist writing lately in Lippincott's high an excellence in art, and Balzac has achieved Magazine, considers that there is no such thing as so much that the morality of his aim is little individuality, and implies that Mr. Leslie Stephen questioned The historical nature of his work is lacked experience because he recognizes it.
accepted at the outset, but there are very few The fact that Balzac has been largely introduced critics who do not forget it in the course of their into England by the school which claims him as arguments. To keep this steadily in view is their founder--the realistic school divided between essential to rendering him justice, and to obtaining M. Zola and M. Bourget-is misleading. He is a full appreciation of his marvellous work. It is accredited with the philosophy, as well as the noticeable that he calls the subdivisions of the method, of his followers. He is deprived of one scenes not romans” or “contes,” but “études.” of his strongest claims to supremacy in his art, the The truth of his characters has been attacked, union of idealism in conception with extraordinary contemporaries adverse to him confirm it, and it realism in expression.
would not be difficult to surpass his most terrible Sheer realism is incompatible with art; it must examples of iniquity by quoting actual events logically lead to the gross bad taste which disfigures occurring daily in London. It is quite true that M. Zola's powerful work, the monotonous vivisection the abnormal is not the ideal. But considering that of M. Bourget, or the intolerable dulness of their romance deals with the less rather than the more lesser pupils.
usual event—with the marriage or murder of its Literature is limited in its possible subjects; to heroes rather than with their downsitting and uppass these limitations is to fail as M. Zola has rising. And considering the greater effect that failed, by excess in one direction, and less gifted dramatic situations leave upon the mind and followers of Mr. Henry James may fail in another. memory, it will be found that the proportion borne
The idealist, misled by Balzac's minuteness, pre- by the abnormal in La Comédie Humaine is none judges that his philosophy is materialistic. The too great for artistic effect, and establishes no realist has an evident undercurrent of distrust for presumption that Balzac misunderstood the nature the idealism which to him is antipathetic and of the ideal. spiritualises his master's creations. The optimist There is a tendency among brilliant critics to objects to La Comédie Humaine as a wicked criticise adversely separate studies of the Comédie parody of the world he reveres. Mr. Leslie Stephen Humaine, and to apply their criticism to the whole. has said, “ We don't often catch sight in his pages In this way Balzac is censured for long and elabcof God frowning or the devil grinning; his world rate details concerning characters of minor imporseems to be pretty well forgotten by the one, and tance. There is truth in the censure; no doubt its inhabitants quite able to dispense with the the artistic value of some of the studies is lessened services of the other.” The same may be said with by digressions, but it must be remembered that the equal truth of English society at the present time, minor character so minutely described in one is for even if the morality of romantic fiction requires usually destined to be the hero of another. To it, in actual life at least, a god has no to appreciate this arrangement the studies should be advertise, and a devil is too discreet to display his read in their internal chronological order, beginning tail. The immorality ascribed to Balzac is in with “Le Martyr Calviniste,” and ending with reality that subtlest and most powerful form of “Comédians sans le savoir.” It is impossible to morality which teaches by suggestion without di- criticise one study rightly without a knowledge of dacticism. It is strange that his Christian critics the rest. should be shocked because he represents evil as To discuss the morality of Balzac in detail would apparently getting the best of the bargain of life, require a volume. Mr. Swinburne alone, in a note and the children of this world, in their generation, to his Essay on William Blake, fully appreciates his wiser than the children of Light. It is also strange power as a “master of morals.” I believe that he that idealists should accuse him of realism when exercises this power at least equally with Shakes
peare, not by interpretation, but as a pure artist by reverence in his writing for both the throne and the implication; this question the high authority of Church; no word is found disrespectful to religion Mr. Swinburne has decided to the contrary. or the family. If the philosophy of Louis Lambert
One study by Balzac is so well known and has is incompatible with Christian Philosophy, which been so much criticised that I may perhaps notice I am not prepared to maintain, it is purely specua very common misapprehension concerning it. lative, and has not the evidential value of distinct The blind devotion of Père Goriot is almost always purpose. regarded as ignoble, and Père Goriot as a libel on As a race devoted to licence in politics and the heroic character of King Lear. But the short religion, we may regret the lack of it in so compreaccount of his life before the drama begins, gives hensivea mind as Balzac's; but by isolating passages a clue not sufficiently considered. Père Goriot is in his writing and reading in our own meanings at a man of vile character; he has practised the most variance with his expressed purpose, we shall neither despicable trade; he has grown rich by usurious do justice to their artistic merit nor arrive at a corn-dealing in time of famine. He has fattened true knowledge of their philosophy. on the starvation of the poor. He is not a Jew
WILLIAM WILSON. spoiling the Egyptians, but a Frenchman of the people preying on the keen hunger of his own brothers. He has no religion, no education, no morality. But in him is one—instinct perhaps- TARSTOW, DENVER AND COMnot wholly evil, his utter devotion to his daughters. (If this had been Shakespeare's work this point
PANY, LIMITED. would long ago have been seized on and HE author is getting on.
Here we have belauded as a touch of nature ” of extraordinary
before us the most practical realisation of beauty.) Le Père Goriot's nature is too contracted,
our statements that literary property is too frozen into its separate cells by long habit, for real, and should meet with the same business-like the good to leaven it perceptibly. He is a low treatment that other forms of property meet with type of nature incapable of rising (as all nature as a matter of course. For is not Tarstow, Denver is incapable) above its own sphere, but the one and Company, Limited, a business-like affair with good quality does raise him to the extreme bounds a business-like prospectus, and a capital of of his sphere, and he dies by so cruel a martyrdom £10,000 to be divided in orthodox manner into that we are ready to forget his infamous greed. Deferred, Preferred, and Founders' Shares, and He is a character with one talent, and he uses it. are not its objects the publication of the works of Père Goriot is not likely to attract the optimist; one novelist and the arrangement of a literary however, there is nature and idealism in the sketch syndicate for the supply to newspapers and magaof him all the same.
zines of novels and other material ? A certain "snobbishness” and want of taste has When we look back upon our own earlier circubeen charged against Balzac, because his leaders lars and remember how hopeless, in days gone by, of society are guilty of impertinences and want of it would have seemed to us to attempt to persuade refined feeling. The usually adverse Sainte Beuve anyone that there might be as much money in a testifies that these characters are extraordinarily good novel as in a good pill, and that the business like contemporary life at the time, and then Balzac treatment of each might, with advantage, be made does not necessarily approve of what he describes. more similar ; when we recall our own interest in In many of the cases specially noticed, his critics a syndicate for the supply of newspapers, and our are deceived by his power of concealment. It is own idea-still present to us-of some profitto fall into the error of which he is accused, to sharing scheme for the benefit of our members, it imagine that perfection in etiquette or a prominent seems almost cantankerous to reflect upon Tarstow, position in society ensure perfect gentleness of Denver and Company, Limited, in terms of anything mind.
short of praise. Lastly, the monarchism and Catholicism of Balzac Yet, from the perusal of the prospectus, we are are said to be mere affectations. Passages are constrained to prophesy badly for the future of this quoted to prove this. The Abbé, tutor to de Marsay concern. in “Ferragus,” is even regarded as a type of The following are the chief advantages offered Balzac's priest. Even that most brilliant and to the shareholders :convincing of critics, Mr. Henry James, cannot (1) The copyrights of the “J.E.M.” guidemake us consider this quite fair. Balzac has
books. explicitly declared that he wrote as a monarchist (2) The profits of a syndicate for the supply of and a Catholic. There are strong expressions of novels and other literary matter by well