Infomotions, Inc.Studies new and old, / Courtney, W. L. (William Leonard), 1850-1928




Author: Courtney, W. L. (William Leonard), 1850-1928
Title: Studies new and old,
Publisher: London : Chapman and Hall, limited, 1888.
Tag(s): pascal; hobbes; demy; descartes; emerson; crown; numerous woodcuts; jacqueline pascal; south kensington
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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

RIVERSIDE 



Ex Libris 
ISAAC FOOT 



STUDIES 

NEW AND OLD 



W. L. COURTNEY, M.A., LL.D. 

FELLOW OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD 



LONDON : CHAPMAN AND HALL 

Limited 

1888 

[All RiglUs rcsa-vcd] 



SORORIS. 

* 



5g the same Author. 



THE METAPHYSICS OF JOHN STUART MILL. 1879. 

STUDIES IN PHILOSOPHY, ANCIENT AND MODERN. 

1881. 

CONSTRUCTIVE ETHICS, a Re^-iew of Modern Moral 
Philosophy in its Three Stages of Interpretation, Criticism, 
and Reconstruction. 1886. 



CONTENTS. 



HOBBES 

Studies in the Prophetic Nature — 

Carlyle's Political Doctrines 

Emerson, as Thinker and Writer 

Hawthorne's Eomances ... 

" EoBBRT Browning, Writer of Plays " 

Mr, Swinburne's Poetry 

Charles Eeade's Xovels 

A Eoyal Blue-Stocking : Descartes and the Princess 
Elizabeth 

Pascal the Sceptic 

Jacqueline Pascal 

The Service of Man and the Service of Christ 



31 
53 

77 
100 
124 
150 

172 
193 
211 
225 



The majority of the Essays which follow were 
published in the Fortnightly Review. The first and last 
appeared in the Edinhurgh Review, and the paper on 
' Jacqueline Pascal ' in Time. My thanks are due to the 
Editors for their kindness in allowing me to republish 
them. The paper on ' Descartes and the Princess Eliza- 
beth ' appears for the first time. 

Oxford, March 1SS8. 



STUDIES. NEW AND OLD. 



HOBBES. 

There exists a remarkable contrast, which has probably 
been often noticed, between the character of the specula- 
tions of Hobbes, and their historical fortune. He has been 
claimed by thinkers who believe themselves following in his 
footsteps as a radical freethinker, while in himself he was 
especially conservative and reactionary. The stoutest ad- 
vocate of the irresponsible and inviolable authority of an 
absolute sovereign has been accepted as a prototype by those 
whose interest it was to advance the claims of democratic 
equality. It was James Mill wlio began this remarkable 
reverence for a man whose conclusions, at all events in a 
political sphere, were diametrically opposed to his own ; 
and he was followed by Austin and Grote. Sir W. 
Molesworth in his magnificent edition of Hobbes's works, 
both English and Latin, tells us that Grote first suggested 
the undertaking; in order, seemingly, to secure by an 



7 



2 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

accessible edition greater effect for doctrines which their 
author intended as a panacea for projects of revolutionary 
reform.* No more curious homage has ever been rendered 
to a man by his theoretical opponents. Obvious though 
the contrast may appear, it is, however, more apparent 
than real. For of Hobbes, before all others, it may be 
said that his spirit was different from his iDerformance, 
that his political motive w^as one thing, and his intellectual 
temper and genius quite another. There can be no 
question that the native bent of his mind was radical and 
freethinking, which is proved among other evidences by 
his life-long struggle with ecclesiastical pretensions, and 
his heartfelt dislike of the Papacy. His philosophy again 
partook of that general revolt against authority on behalf 
of the individual which characterizes all the best thought 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; he has some 
points in connection with Bacon, and many with Descartes 
and Locke, and he carried on the war with scholasticism 
in the interest of a mechanical and atomistic system which 
is the philosophic mark of advanced heterodoxy. How- 
ever much Hobbes may have imposed on some of his later 
critics, he assuredly did not deceive his contemporaries, who 
were never weary of calling him materialist, free-thinker, 
and atheist. Even in his political theory, which contains 
the conservative elements of his creed, the conclusions do 
not follow" from the premisses with that logical rigour 

* " Georgio Grote— et quod pr^clpue laudi est, pro teqimli imiver- 
Boriim civium libertate ad versus optiniatiuni doniinatum propugnatori 
acerrinio et constantissimo." — Dedication in MoleswortL's edition, 
vol. i. 



HOBBES. 3 

which would prevent them from being interpreted in a 
wholly different light. The strong and autocratic govern- 
ment which it is his desire in the ' Leviathan ' to see 
firmly established, however absolute it may be, is yet 
shown to have sprung from something like popular choice, 
and that which has made can also unmake. From his own 
premisses a different conclusion might be drawn, as we 
can see by the political speculations of both Locke and 
Eousseau, the first of whom proved the right of the people 
to change their choice of sovereign, and the second justified 
the popular obliteration of the ancien regime. Indeed, 
Hobbes's own practice dealt a blow at his theory, for he 
found it not inconsistent with his principles to live under 
the protection of Cromwell and the Parliament. The 
c omplexion of his political theory was in reality due to 
his personal feelings, which were both timorous and 
worldly. Personal security (not self-realization or a desire 
for progressive welfare,) is therefore the aim of those 
who established an 'imperium,' and Hobbes affords an 
instance — almost a melancholy instance — of the extent 
to which political necessities and the accidents of personal 
disposition can interfere in the logical evolution of a 
philosophical system. He was a radical in the garb of 
a conservative, a freethinker enlisted in the service of 
reaction. 

The personality of Hubbes was neither pleasing nor 
attractive. He was prematurely born owing to the fright, 
his mother experienced at the news of the Spanish 
Armada of 1588, as he tells us himself: — 

B 2 



4 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

" Atque meti;m tantum concepit tunc mea mater, 
Ut pareret geminos, meque Metumque simul. 
Hinc est, ut credo, patrios quod abominor hostes, 
Pacem amo cum Musis, et faciles socios." * 

It is doubtful, however, whether Hobbes is right in 
saying that he is devoted to peace and agreeable 
companionship; a more vain and combative person 
rarely existed. In his youth, Aubrey f tells us, he 
was " unhealthy, and of an ill complexion (yellowish). 
From forty he grew healthier, and then he had a 
fresh ruddy complexion. His head was of a mallet 
form ; his face was not very great — ample forehead, 
yellowish reddish whiskers, which naturally turned up, 
below he was shaved close, except a little tip under his 
lip ; not but that nature would have afforded him a 
venerable beard, but being mostly of a cheerful and 
pleasant humour, he affected not at all austerity and 
gravity, and to look severe." His portraits (in the 
National Portrait Gallery, and in the rooms of the Royal 
Society at Burlington House) give the appearance of a 
somewhat stern but not unhandsome man. Far more 
unpleasing pictures than that of Aubrey are, however, 
to be found in the writings of Hobbes's contempo- 
raries.J He seems indeed to have been the terror of 
his age. 

* " Vita carmine expressa." — Molesw. vol. i. p. Ixxxvi. 

t 'Life of Mr. T. H. of Malmesburie.' 'Letters,' &e. of Aubrey, 
vol. ii. 

+ Cf., for instance, Hooke's description, Boyle's Works, vi. 
p. 486. 



HOBBES. 5 

" Here lies Tom Hobbes, the Bugbear of the Nation, 
Whose death hath friglitened Atheism out of fashion," 

was a scurrilous epitaph composed for liim. Amongst the 
crowd of pamphlets, serraous, treatises aimed at his doc- 
trines, there was an ingenious little book written by 
Thomas Tenison, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, 
which appeared in 1670, and was entitled ' The Creed of 
Mr. Hobbes, examined in a feigned conference between 
him and a student in divinity.' It proves, as well as any 
other, the general opinions held about the philosopher. 

" You have been represented to the world," says the 
student to Mr. Hobbes, whom he meets at Buxton-well,* 
" as a person very inconversible. and as an imperious 
dictator of the principles of vice, and impatient of all 
dispute and contradiction. It hath been said that you 
will be very angry with all men that will not presently 
submit to your dictates; and that for advancing the 
reputation of your own skill, you care not what unworthy 
reflections you cast on others. Monsieur Descartes hath 
written it to your confidant Mersennus, and it is now 
published to all the world, ' that he esteemed it the 
better for himself that he had not any commerce with 
you (je juge que le meilleur est que je n'aye point du 
tout de commerce avec luy) ; as also, that if you were of 
such an humour as he imagined, and had such designs as 
he believed you had, it Avould be impossible for him and 
you to have any communication without becoming enemies.' 
And your great friend. Monsieur Sorbiere, hath accused 
* ' The Creed of Mr. Hobbes,' p. 5. 



6 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

you of being too dogmatical ; and hath reported how you 
were censured for the vanity of dogmatizing, between his 
Majesty and himself, in his Majesty's Cabinet. You are 
thought, in dispute, to use the Scripture with irreverence." 

Tenison cannot, indeed, deny the excellence of his style. 

" He hath long ago published his errours in Theologie, 
in the English tongue, insinuating himself by the hand- 
someness of his style into the mindes of such whose 
Fancie leadeth their judgements; and to say truth of an 
Enemy, he may, with some reason, pretend to Mastery in 
that Language." 

Yet he cannot forbear to have a cut at Hobbes's 
personal timidity. 

"They (the Student and Mr. Hobbes) were interrupted 
by the disturbance arising from a little quarrel, in which 
some of the ruder people in the house were for a short 
time encrag^ed. At this Mr. Hobbes seem'd much con- 
cern'd, though he was at some distance from the persons. 
For a while he was not composed, but related it once or 
twice as to himself, with a low and careful tone, how 
Sextus Roscius was murdered after supper by the Balnese 
Palatinse. Of such general extent is that remark of 
Cicero, in relation to Epicurus the atheist, of whom he 
observed that he of all men dreaded most those things 
which he contemned, Death and the Gods." 

The system of Hobbes is then reduced into twelve 
Articles, "which sound harshly to those professing Chris- 
tianity," under the title of the Hobbist's creed : — 

" I believe that God is Almighty Matter ; that in him 



HOBBES. 7 

there are three Persons, he having been thrice represented 
on earth; that it is to be decided by the Civil Power 
whether he created all things else ; that Angels are not 
Incorporeal substances (those words implying a contra- 
diction) but preternatural impressions on the brain of 
man; that the Soul of Man is the temperament of his 
Body; that the very Liberty of Will, in that Soul, is 
Physically necessary ; that the prime Law of Nature in 
the Soul of Man is that of temporal Self-Love ; that the 
Law of the Civil Sovereign is the only obliging Rule of 
just and unjust; that the Books of the Old and New 
Testament are not made Canon and Law, but by the 
Civil Powers ; that whatsoever is written in the Books 
may lawfully be denied even upon Oath (after the laud- 
able doctrine and practice of the Gnosticks) in times of 
persecution when men shall be urged by the menaces of 
Authority; that Hell is a tolerable condition of life, for a 
few years upon earth, to begin at the General Resurrection ; 
and that Heaven is a blessed estate of good men, like 
that of Adam before his fall, beginning at the General 
Resurrection, to be from thenceforth eternal upon earth in 
the Holy Land." * 

There is caricature in all this, but not so extravagant 
as to prevent it from being a fair picture of Hobbes as 
he appeared to a contemporary divine. Fortunately, as 
Samuel Johnson had his Boswell and Goethe his Ecker- 
mann, so Hobbes had an indulgent biographer in Aubrey. 

Hobbes, like an elder philosopher with whose nominalism 
* ' Creed of Mr. Hobbes,' pp. 7, 8, 



8 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

he had something in common, Antisthenes the Cynic, 
was 6\pLiJ.a6i]'i* He took nothing away with him from his 
residence at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, except a dislike of the 
Puritans, who were strongly represented owing to the influ- 
ence of Dr. John Wilkinson, and a contempt for academic 
learning, which came out strongly in the controversies of 
liis later life. He was forty years of age before he ever saw 
the ' Elements ' of Euclid ; he was close on fifty before he 
became a philosopher. Although it is true, as Professor 
Robertson remarks in a recent monograph, that there are 
few thinkers who succeeded better than he did " in leaving 
not unsaid all that was in his mind," it is hardly fanciful 
to trace some of his mental peculiarities to this late 
acquisition of culture. Plato remarks in the ' Theoetetus,' f 
in reference to the same Antisthenes, who came so late to 
Socrates, that it is characteristic of such minds to ignore 
all that they cannot grasp "with teeth and hands"; and 
there can be no doubt that a certain excess of the practical 
instinct and a decided coarseness of mental fibre, com- 
bined, it is true, with great penetrative insight, marked 
much of the speculations of Hobbes. Deficient in his own 
nature of sympathetic affection, he cannot conceive of the 
possibility of innate altruistic feeling in humanity at large ; 
richly endowed with logical faculties, he would apply the 
most ricjorous loofic to the customs and conventionalities of 
mankind, and is unable to realize the value, for instance, 
of mixed political forms, or the expediency of disguising 
the form of sovereignty. For the same reason he probably 
* Plato, 'Soph.' 251, b. + ' Thetetet.' loo, e. 



HOBBES. 9 

has the clearest mind and the least ambiguous style of all 
philosophers. Grant him his premisses, and the conclusion 
seems inevitable ; if humanity is through and through 
reasonable, it looks as if it ought to adopt the standpoint 
of Hobbism. But then humanity is not wholly reasonable, 
but largely influenced by emotion and sentiment, and the 
groundwork on which the whole superstructure rests is 
only to be reached by the most wholesale elimination of 
complex sentiments, and the employment of abstract and 
unreal hypotheses. For the logic and the psychology of 
Hobbes depend on the fiction of a single individual devoid 
of all those relations to his fellows which actually consti- 
tute his individuality;* just as his political philosophy 
depends on the fiction of a social contract, which could 
only be possible to men living in a realized society and not 
in a state of ' nature,' prior to such realization. 

From 1608 to about 1687, we can trace a methodical 
advance in the mental culture of Hobbes. The impulses 
came mainly from foreign travel, for in all some twenty 
years were spent by Hobbes on the Continent. His first 
work, the translation of Thucydides, was published in 
1628, though written some time previously, and his earliest 
ambition seems to have been directed towards scholarship, 
just as his later efforts, in rhyme, when he was quite an 
old man, were devoted to versions of Homer's 'Otlyssey' 
and ' Iliad.' The more special intellectual training took 
place between the years 1628 and 1637. First came 
the discovery of the value of geometrical demonstration 
* ' De Corporc,' Part II. 



10 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

in 1629, the story of which, as told by Aubrey,* is too 
characteristic to be omitted. " He was forty years old 
before he looked on geometry, which happened accident- 
ally. Being in a gentleman's library in , Euclid's 

'Elements' lay open, and it was the forty-seventh pro- 
position, Lib. i. So he reads the proposition. ' By G — ,' 
says he, ' this is imjDossible ! ' So he reads the demonstra- 
tion, which referred him back to another, which he also 
read, ct sic deincqos, that at last he was demonstratively 
convinced of that truth. This made him in love with 
geometry." 

But it was not so much geometry in itself with which 
he fell in love, for no part of his theories was more 
successfully attacked by his contemporaries than his 
geometrical speculations, but the form of the reasoning 
and the manner of proof. As he says himself in his 
' Life,' he was " delectatus methodo illius, non tam ob 
theoremata ilia quam ob artem ratiocinandi." The next 
and most decisive step was the application of the idea 
of motion to physics. He graphically narrates the 
influence of the idea on his mind in the 'Vita carmine 
expressa,' — 

" Ast ego perpetuo naturam cogito rerum 

Sen rate, seu curru, sive ferebar eqno. 
Et niihi visa quidem est toto res unica iiumdo 

Vera, licet multis falsiHcata modis • * * * 
Phantasipe, nostri soboles cerebri, nihil extra ; 

Partibus iiiternis nil nisi Motus inest. 
Hinc est quod physicam quisquis vult discere, motus 

Quid possit, debet perdidicisse prius." 

* ' Life,' p. 606. 



HOBBES. 11 

It is thus that Hobbes advances through the idea of 
motion, aided by the geometrical form of reasoning, to the 
gradual evolution of a system of mechanical philosophy. 
Atoms and movement account for all the changing forms 
of the phenomenal world ; they also explain sensation, 
and unlock the secrets of intellectual growth. From 
physics and psychology the next step is easy and natural 
to sociology. For Hobbes, like the earliest philosophers, 
and unlike the modern, understood philosophy to mean a 
systematic view of the universe and a consistent explan- 
ation of all its various departments. Thus he had a 
catholic purpose before his mind, to present in one picture 
the various provinces of human thought as interpreted in 
accordance with one method and traced in their origin to 
the same set of principles. That philosophy only means 
psychology and morals, or in the last resort metaphysics, is 
an idea slowly developed through the eighteenth century, 
owing to the victorious advances of science. At the end 
of 1637 Hobbes has a comprehensive plan for future 
labours. The system is to begin with a treatise ' De 
Corpore,' to continue with the subject 'De Homine,' and 
to find its consummation in 'De Give.' Nature consists 
of 'bodies,' and bodies are either inanimate or animate, 
or again, organized aggregates of living men. The Avhole 
field is, however, to be traversed with the guiding clue of 
motion as acting on bodies, and according to the principles 
of mechanical atomism — a clue which is to distinguish for 
ever the modern philosophy from the misty logomachies of 
Aristotle and the Schoolmen. It is this masterly scheme 



12 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

which was thrown out of proportion by the pressing cir- 
cumstances of Hobbes's life. The Revolution and its 
necessities forced on the publication of the ' Leviathan,' 
and it was not till after fourteen years, when Hobbes was 
sixty-three, that the attempt was made to compose the 
'De Corpore,' which was originally designed to be the 
foundation of the structure. His fame rests principally 
on the 'Leviathan,' bub the main philosophical thought 
of Hobbes was the application of the idea of motion. 
Perhaps the ' Leviathan ' itself owes the paradoxical 
character of some of its doctrines to the fact that the 
original perspective was lost in this transposition of the 
order of topics, and Hobbes, by becoming an advocate 
of absolute sovereignty, throws into shadow his ethical 
egoism and his mechanical materialism. His own prin- 
ciples, however stringent and arbitrary, suffered him 
apparently to live under the Protectorate with an easy 
conscience, and with greater freedom than he afterwards 
enjoyed in the time of the Restoration. His last years 
were equally disturbed by the antagonism of the High 
Church party, and the bitter controversies with the 
Savilian professor, Wallis. 

The main points in Hobbes's political theory, as dis- 
played in the ' Leviathan,' are so well known that no long 
recapitulation is necessary. The theory itself rests on a 
series of assumptions, each of which may be contested, 
and culminates in a principle of autocratic supremacy, 
which the development of peoples and the progressive 
teaching of history seem little likely to endorse. The 



HOBBES. 13 

first assumption is the ante-social state, a state of nature 
which Kobbes asserts to be one of universal war, though 
Rousseau is equally positive in maintaining that it is 
a state of peace. The state of nature is one in which 
man, minus his historical qualities, has free play ; and as 
the historical qualities are exactly those which constitute, 
so far as we have any means of knowing, man's essential 
nature, his ante-social period is one about which it is 
impossible to argue. Experience and the growth of reason 
(Hobbes, despite his sensationalism, is as firm a believer 
in the power of reason as if he had lived in the eighteenth 
century) bring home the manifold inconveniences of a 
condition of perpetual war, and suggest certain articles of 
peace, also called laws of nature. The result is a second 
assumption, the formation of a social contract, a famous 
theory, traces of which can be found in the early political 
speculation of the Greeks, and which, despite its absolutely 
unhistorical character, was extensively popular among 
Hobbes's successors. The theory can be disproved on 
lines of both a 'jjosteriori and a priori argument : a 
posteriori, for no records or evidences can be found of the 
existence of such a primitive contact, and even if it 
existed it would rapidly have been dissolved by such 
phenomena as migration of races and foreign conquests ; 
a priori, because an hypothesis to be scientific must deal 
with causes and conditions which are capable of being 
reasoned about, and we have no right to postulate both 
the efficient agent and the productive agency, the cause 
and its method of working. A third assumption then 



li STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

follows, that men, having formed a contract, created or 
elected an absolute power to secure the fulfilment of its 
conditions. Hobbes, it is true, sometimes speaks as if 
the sovereign could obtain his authority not only by 
institution but by acquisition.* But his language as to 
the devolution of authority belongs more naturally to the 
former process than the latter. It is natural to suppose 
that if men give they can also take away. But such is 
not the view of Hobbes, who considers that such a trans- 
ference of authority would be a violation of the original 
compact. Why, again, men having attained to such a 
pitch of rationality as to form contractual relations with 
one another, should then proceed to tie their hands and 
treat themselves as though they were no longer rational, 
but had to be violently coerced — why, in short, the 
sovereignty so formed should be absolute, Hobbes never 
properly explains. For the paradoxical character of his 
speculation centres in this, that while citizens have duties 
to one another, the sovereign has no duties towards them ; 
they formed a contract with their fellow-men, but the 
monarch formed no contract at all. It is clear that in 
this Hobbes manifests too plainly his desire " to vindicate 
the absolute right of a cle facto monarch ; " f or, in other 
words, that the pressure of the revolution proved too 
much for the natural development of his thought. Locke 
and Rousseau, arguing from much the same premisses, 
drew a totally different conclusion. The ' generation of the 

* ' Leviathan,' ii. 17, end. 

+ Of. Green's ' Philosophical Works,' vol. ii. p. 3G9. 



HOBBES. 15 

Leviathan, or Mortal God,' is not quite so orderly and 
methodical as Hobbes desired to make it ; it would rather 
appear that he is first assumed to exist, and then a highly 
imaginative account is given of his oritrin. It is clear, as 
Professor Green remarks, that the 'jus civile ' cannot itself 
belong to the sovereign, who enables individuals to 
exercise it. The only right which can belong to the 
sovereign is the 'jus naturale ' (defined 'Leviathan,' i. 
14"), consisting in the superiority of his power, and this 
right must be measured by the inability of the subjects 
to resist. If they can resist, the right has disappeared. 
Nor did Hobbes himself fail speedily to endorse this 
argument by returning to England from France when 
the Protectorate was established, and treating the triumph 
of ' the rebels ' as an accomplished fact. 

There are some passages in the ' Nicholas Papers,' 
recently published by the Camden Society, which curiously 
illustrate this rapid transition of Hobbes from monarchy 
to the Commonwealth. The 'Leviathan' was published 
in Paris, where Hobbes had resided for several years, 
early in 1651. Hobbes appears to have gone to the 
Hague to present a copy of his book to Charles II., which 
the King refused to accept. Upon this Sir Edward 
Nicholas wrote to Sir Edward Hyde — 

'■ All honest men here who are lovers of monarchy are 
very glad that the K. hath at length banisht his court 
that father of atheists Mr, Hobbes, who it is said hath 
rendered all the Queen's court and very many of 
the D. of York's family atheists, and if he had been 



16 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

suffered would have done his best to poison the K.'s 
court." 

And shortly after — 

" I hear Lord Percy is much concerned in the forbidding 
Hobbes to come to court, and says it was you and other 
episcopal men that were the cause of it. But I hear that 
Wat Montagu and other Papists (to the shame of the 
true Protestants) were the chief cause that that great 
atheist was sent away. And I may tell you some say that 
the Marq. of Ormonde was very slow in signifying the 
King's command to Hobbes to forbear coming to court, 
which I am confident is not true, though several persons 
affirm it." 

Be this as it may, Hobbes, being thus pressed, returned 
to England, though it is inaccurate to say that he fled 
from the Hncrue, and he found in London a government 
quite as much to his taste and much more absolute than 
that of a fugitive sovereign. A month later Nicholas 
writes to Lord Hatton — 

"Mr. Hobbes is in London, much caressed, as one that 
hath by his writings justified the reasonableness and 
righteousness of their arms and actions." 

The ethical views of Hobbes are vitiated by assumptions 
and fallacies, as remarkable as those we have met with in 
his political theory. A fictitious appearance of clearness and 
logical rigour is gained by excluding from the scheme all 
but a few elementary principles, and by disregarding or re- 
fusing to admit complexity of constitutive elements. Man's 
actions, it is clear, are motived in countlessly different 



HOBBES. 17 

ways; but Hobbes will only allow of a single motive. 
Will would appear to be something distinct from desire, 
or at least to have relations with desire so intricate as 
to require careful analysis to disentangle, but with Hobbes 
it is only " the last appetite in deliberating." There are, 
in the last resort, elements of character — a sphere of person- 
ality and consciousness — which do not appear to be ex- 
hausted by an enumeration of 'feelings,' and which are 
involved in what we mean by self-determination ; but the 
psychology of Hobbes is too superficial to come in sight 
of them. The picture which Hobbes draws of humanity 
is indeed simple and easy to understand, either pathetic 
or ludicrous in its simplicity according to the tastes and 
predilections of the observer. All activity depends on 
endeavour, all endeavour is appetite, all appetite is for 
personal well-being. There is only a single motive in 
man, the desire for selfish gratification ; the only meaning 
of good and evil is what a man desires or avoids in the 
furtherance of his pleasure; the only standard of judgment 
is the opinion of the egoist. In a luminous paragraph 
in the ' Leviathan ' (i. 6) Hobbes lays the foundation 
of his ethics — so good an example of his manner of 
resolving a complex problem by refusing to see its com- 
plexity, that it is worth quoting and remembering : — 

" Whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or 
desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good, and 
the object of his hate and aversion, evil ; and of his 
contempt vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, 
evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the 



18 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

person that useth them; there being nothing simply and 
absokitely so ; nor any common rule of good and evil to be 
taken from the nature of the objects themselves." 

The solution of the moral problem is so astounding in 
its simplicity that it almost takes away one's breath. 
The relativity of the standard and the singleness of the 
motive are the remarkable points in the theory, and 
serve to distinguish the system of Hobbes as that which 
we now call Egoistic Hedonism. Good is my jjleasure, 
the only thing which makes me act is my desire for 
pleasure. I am the only judge of my own pleasure, 
therefore I am the only judge of good. There is at all 
events no obscurity in such a scheme, and it makes no 
excessive demands on men's capabilities. We are all so 
naturally moral, according to Hobbes, that it is doubtful 
whether any instruction or training is required. Certainly 
there is no room or possibility for the law of duty or a 
moral ideal. 

But directly we begin to analyze the scheme we 
find that each step can be contested. Is there only a 
single motive for human activity, and is such a single 
motive self-love ? Butler, in his ' Sermons on Human 
Nature/ pointed out that there were a certain set of 
activities Avhich could only be called instinctive and 
irreflective, and which he called ' propensions.' These 
rested simply on the objects proposed in each case ; 
hunger rested on food, curiosity rested on knowledge. 
It is only when the series of instinctive propensions were 
satisfied, that there could arise for the human being a 



HOBBES. i:) 

complex (and by no means simple) notion of self, as 
something for which he ought to work. Self-love clearly 
could not have been the earliest motive for activity, for 
its very existence depends on the prior existence of un- 
reflective instinctive activities. It is true that wlien the 
notion of self has been formed, it appears to absorb the 
whole field, but this again leads to considerations which 
are fatal to Hobbes's scheme. Self-love is a complex of 
different feelings, because it is based on the satisfaction 
of widely different instincts. Some of these instincts are 
extra-regarding impulses, they tend towards our fellow- 
men, and are based on the fact that a man's single person- 
ality can only be defined in terms of his relations to 
others. Thus sympathy is an extra-regarding iustinct, 
so too is the more active affection which we term bene- 
volence, so too are all the social interests and aptitudes 
of humanity. It follows that much more is included in 
the notion of pleasure than egoistic gratification, and self- 
love itself is found to include certain affectionate, bene- 
volent, philanthropic activities, the performance of which, 
however apparently altruistic, tends to heighten and vivify 
the consciousness of self. Thus, on all sides the scheme 
of Hobbes is found to be deficient in analysis, the picture 
drawn of humanity is discovered to be lacking in some of 
the prominent elements of nature. Man is not naturally 
an isolated and repellent atom; he is one element, one 
factor in a composite humanity. He can only be defined 
in relation to his fellows : he begins by having social 

instincts; he is, as Aristotle said, ttoXltlkuv (Siov. It is 

c 2 



20 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

tlie caricature of analysis to resolve pity and benevolence 
into selfishness; to define the first as the pain arising 
from the consideration that what has happened to another 
man may also happen to oneself, and to explain the 
second as the fear that we also may suffer. This is not 
logical simplicity but psycliological inanity. 

We must not, however, through detestation of the ethical 
results, blind ourselves to the historical value of Hobbes's 
psychology. It was vitiated by the gravest errors : it 
was based on the original fiction of a sinsfle individual 
who could be treated as though his nature was independent 
of his relations to his fellows; it rested on a mechanical 
and materialistic theory which could not but be fatal to 
the higher aspects of character. But though this may be 
the condemnation from an absolute standpoint, the relative 
standpoint will do justice to Hobbes. History tells us 
that individualism was in the air, and that a mechanical 
philosophy was the heritage from Bacon, as well as the 
product of the best contemporary intelligence on the 
Continent. The merit of Hobbes is that he in reality 
began that study of psychology which was the distinguish- 
ing mark of the line of English thinkers which succeeded 
him. He rendered Locke possible, who in turn led the 
way for Berkeley and Hume. From this point of view the 
judgment of Professor Croom Robertson may be thoroughly 
endorsed. " Hobbes signalized the fact of sense — or phe- 
nomenal experience — as itself a phenomenon to be ac- 
counted for in the way of science ; and though the fact 
of subjective representation may not thus have its philo- 



HOBBES. 21 

sophical import exliausted, nor is well coupled with the 
particular facts of physics, to recognize it as such a matter 
of inquiry is a very notable step. It is to proclaim that 
there is room and need for a science of psychology as 
well as of physics — that mind can be investigated by the 
same method and under like conditions as nature. Such 
a conception of psychological science has steadily made 
way in later times, and to Hobbes belongs the credit as 
early as any other, and more distinctly than any other, of 
having opened its path."* 

A consideration of this physiological treatment of sens- 
ation will lead us on to the general bases of Hobbes s 
philosophy. We have before remarked that Hobbes is a 
rationalist; he is so, however, only so far as rationalism 
Avas not yet clearly distinguished in the progress of con- 
troversy from sensatioualism. He believes, for instance, 
that the difference between science and experience is one 
mainly of reason; and that in similar fashion we dis- 
tinguish between reason and custom in politics, and reason 
and faith in theology. Yet all knowledge originates with 
sense, and all knowledge is only sense transformed. We 
pass beyond sense-experience by means which are still 
sensible, for the connectinsj brid(:je is found in languaj^e 
and the use of names. Thus the functions of sense are all- 
important for Hobbes, and its explanation one of the chief 

* Robertson's ' Hobbes,' p. 124. (IJIackwood's ' Philosophical 
Classics,' 1886.) Professor Robertson is also the author of the ex- 
cellent article on Hobbes in the ninth edition of the 'Encyclopa2diti 
Britannica.' 



22 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

duties of the philosopher. What, then, is sensation ? It 
is essentially ' movement.' The motion in external par- 
ticles is taken on by means of the nerves to the heart, 
and there is an answering movement or reaction from the 
internal organ. This reaction accounts for the fact that 
we refer our sensations outwards, and that they become for 
us the qualities of external bodies. We observe, on the 
one hand, that the whole explanation is physiological and 
mechanical ; on the other hand, that it is based on that 
idea of motion which, as we know, so powerfully impressed 
the imagination of Hobbes. There is, further, the neces- 
sary deduction that sense is mere seeming, rb boKelv, for it 
is only due to the mechanical interaction between external 
bodies and the living organism. We cannot argue from 
sensation in us to an actually objective quality in the 
body outside us ; we cannot say, for instance, that sugar is 
sweet (as though sweetness was an objective ingredient of 
the external body, sugar), but only that we have a sens- 
ation of sweetness. What is real is the movement of 
particles from outside to inside, and the answering move- 
ment from inside to outside. What is unreal is the sub- 
jective feeling, if it be taken, not as merely subjective, but 
as an objective quality. 

Difficulties, however, remain. If sense be seeming, how 
can we be sure even of this motion of particles, which is 
declared to be real ? For our perception of motion is, 
after all, sensation, and may be the subjective presentation 
of facts, which in their objective import are quite differ- 
ent. Again, motion is only realized by us by means of 



HOBBES, 23 

time, and time is by Hobbes himself, in the 'De Corpore,' 
declared to be a subjective phenomenon. Curiously 
enough, he attempts to derive time from motion. But 
lie has to add that it stands rather for the fact of succes- 
sion, or before-and-after in motion; which means that 
it is a prior fact of consciousness involved in the percep- 
tion of motion rather than in any wBjJ explicable from 
motion as an objective occurrence.* Further, if sensa- 
tion be seeming, and all sensible qualities only states of 
consciousness, how can we be sure, in default of any 
mental function superior to sense, of matter and particles 
— in a word, of an objective world ? And if we are not 
sure, what becomes of scientific materialism and the 
mechanical philosophy ? Thus Hobbes's system would 
end in scepticism. 

From another point of view, it requires to be explained 
by a deeper psychology. Hobbes notices that the distinc- 
tive mark of the human body amongst other bodies is that 
it knows that it knows ; in other words, that, besides sensa- 
tion, there is also the consciousness of sensation. " In seek- 
ing for the cause of sense, he sees the need of some other 
' sense ' to take note of sense by." f He tries to supply this 
need by bringing forward the phenomenon of memory. 
But this is at most only a substitute for an explanation, for 
the possibility of memory itself requires to be explained. 
How is it possible for a number of series of states of con- 
sciousness to be so far aware of themselves as a number or 
series, that they can remember any one or all ? Is it 
* Robertson's ' Hobbes,' p. 97. t ibid., p. 124. 



24 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

possible, unless there be something higher than such 
states, or at all events, some golden thread running 
through them and holding them all together? If so, 
what shall we call this synthetic capacity ? Shall we call 
it reason, or spirit, or soul, or the self? Whatever it be, 
the fact of its existence renders a purely sensationalistic 
psychology for ever impossible. For it cannot in its turn 
be deduced from sensation, but makes sensation possible. 
It is that which both knows and feels, and makes us aware 
of an external world. 

Here, however, we are anticipating a more modern 
metaphysics, and taking a different view of philosophy 
from that which Hobbes took. In his account of ultimate 
principles he clearly states his own view. Although 
powerfully influenced by Descartes, he is untouched by 
that deeper consideration of philosophical problems which 
Descartes describes in his ' Diseours ' and his ' Meditations,' 
and he is either quite unaware of, or discards, that ultimate 
basis of all reality, which took for the French thinker the 
form of " Je pense, done je suis." According to Hobbes, 
philosophy is ratiocination, and ratiocination is, in reality, 
reckoning, or adding and subtracting. It is computation 
iu the largest sense, deducing effects from causes, and 
inferring causes from effects. Only on one assumption is 
this possible. Philosophy must deal only with phenomena. 
It is not, so Hobbes tells us, of that kind which makes 
philosopher's stones, or is found in the metaphysic codes, 
but merely " the natural reason of man busily flying up 
and down among the creatures, and bringing back a true 



HOBBES. 25 

report of their order, causes, and effects." This being so, 
we can make a clean sweep of certain ultimate questions. 
We need not ask what God is, for He is not a phenomenon, 
and has no generation. Nor need we trouble ourselves 
about spirits, for they have no phenomenal aspects, nor 
are we concerned with matters of faith. The rest of the 
items of a properly scientific creed, such as we are familiar 
with in modern times, follow in due order. Causes can 
only be efficient and material. Formal causes and final 
causes are nonsense. The soul of man is not otherwise 
than corporeal ; ghosts and spirits, as spoken of in ordinary 
language, are but dream-images and purely phantasmal. 
And man is not a free agent ; there is no such thing as 
freedom of the will. Man himself is not a spiritual ego, 
but a natural 'body' whose sensations, impulses, volitions, 
and emotions are alike explicable by motions of particles. 
In all this, Hobbes is from one point of view an ancient, 
from another point of view a very modern, thinker. 
Ancient, because he makes mind depend on matter, which, 
after Berkeley and Kant, should be impossible for a 
philosopher ; but also modern, because language such as 
his is almost identical with that of contemporary systems 
of ' naturalism ' and the facile fiamers of ' mental and 
moral science.' Perhaps, hard driven by the mechanical 
philosophers and the modern Hobbists, we may be 
content to remark, in the last resort, with Lotze, how 
universal is the extent, and yet how completely subor- 
dinate is the significance of the mission which mechan- 
ism has to fulfil in the structure of the world. For the 



26 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

world of forms is one thing, and the world of values is 
another.* 

Hobbes's views on religion are too characteristic to be 
altogether omitted, although naturally they impressed his 
contemporaries more than they influenced succeeding 
thought. Hobbes's general position as a phenomenalist 
did not, as we have already seen, allow him much room for 
a treatment of super-sensual verities. " All the arguing of 
infinities," he impatiently remarks, " is but the ambition of 
schoolboys." But in his theory of human nature he has to 
allow a certain seed of religion as a factor, often trouble- 
some, but ineradicable, with which both philosopher and 
statesman have to deal. It is this which, in the method- 
ical form of intellectual inquisitiveness, leads men to form 
a conception of God as the first and eternal cause of all 
things ; but is equally productive, owing to men's fears 
and fancies, of all kinds of vain and foolish imaginings. 
Images of dreams are projected outwards and become 
spiritual and supernatural agents, and there is no more 
curious chapter in the 'Leviathan' than that in which 
Hobbes describes with exuberance of detail the mischievous 
delusions of ' the Gentiles.' t In order to correct such 
superstition, Hobbes bestows special care on a review of 
what is really meant by such things as spirits, angels, 
prophets, miracles, eternal life, hell, and salvation, though 
at times the reader cannot help entertaining some doubt 
as to Hobbes's seriousness. A more marvellous exegesis 

* Cf. Lotze, ' Microcosmus,' Introduction. 
t Cf. ' Leviathan,' part iv. 45. 



HOBBES. 27 

of Scripture than that which is attempted in the third 
part of the ' Leviathan ' was probably never penned, and 
its critics and opponents might well exclaim with Antonio : 

" ]\Iark you this, Bassanio, 
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." 

Two points, however, stand out with distinctness. In 
the first place, there can be no doubt that Hobbes recog- 
nizes that there is " a core of mystery in religion which 
faith only and not reason can touch." He treats it indeed 
with coarse humour, when he says that " it is with the 
mysteries of religion as with wholesome pills for the sick ; 
which swallowed whole have the virtue to cure; but chewed, 
are for the most part cast up again without effect." * 
But as Professor Robertson remarks, the idea is so distinc- 
tive of English thought, from William of Occam througli 
Bacon to Locke, that there can be no reasonable doubt 
tliat to Hobbes too " the core of mystery " remains. In 
the second place, Hobbes is persuaded that the whole 
department of religious thought should be under the 
control of the State. Tliis is his chief contest with the 
Episcopalians of his time, and is the motive of his attack 
on the Papacy as a spiritual ' Kingdom of Darkness.' He 
has seen how great was the evil of religious dissension 
and how fatal its power in dissolving the fabric of the 
Commonwealth : the only alternative to the supremacy of 
the Church was the autocratic power of the sovereign, 
who ought to be priest as well as king. How is the 
sovereign to get his laws obeyed if there is a rival power 
* Cf. ' Leviatliaii,' part iii. c. 32. 



28 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

dividing his subjects' allegiance ? Unless the State control 
the religious life, there will be a chance for the Papacy, 
and civil obedience will be at an end. Moreover, there is 
only one thing necessary for salvation, which is the con- 
fession that Jesus is the Christ ; a dogma which ought to 
be kept free from all the surrounding scaffolding of ecclesi- 
astical dogma invented by the Church doctors or largely 
borrowed from pagan philosophy. 

The later years of Hobbes's life exhibit the aged jahilo- 
sopher as engaged in ceaseless conflicts with outraged 
divines or incensed mathematicians, but do not throw any 
fresh light on the nature of his thought. His weakest 
side was his geometrical speculation, and it was that 
which he defended with the stoutest obstinacy against 
the superior knowledge of Ward, and Wilkins, and Wall is. 
So remarkable a figure as his was the natural butt of all 
those who were concerned with defending the older 
philosophy, or were outraged by his notorious secularism. 
In personal characteristics perhaps as unamiable a man as 
ever lived, devoid of sympathetic affection, untouched by 
the higher graces of character, intensely and narrowly 
practical, and of great personal timidity, he yet, in virtue 
of a comprehensive intellect, and an analytic power of 
uncommon keenness and edge, succeeded in leaving a 
conspicuous mark on the history not only of English, but 
of Continental thought. He accepts the practical scientific 
problem from Bacon, and hands on the psychological 
problem to Locke. He may almost be said to have 
originated moral philosophy in England, or at all events 



HOBBES. 20 

to have inspired, either by antagonism or direct influence, 
its most characteristic efforts and doctrines. In direct 
influence he hves again in much of the utiUtarianism of 
Hume, Hartley, Beiitham, Paley, and the elder and 
younger Mill ; his characteristic selfishness is reproduced 
on a wider scale in the universalistic hedonism of eighteenth 
and nineteenth century speculation. Antagonism to his 
position diverged in two directions : on the one hand, it 
produced the rationalism of the Cambridge Platonists — 
Henry More and Ralph Cud worth ; on the other, through 
Shaftesbury, it led to the moral-sense doctrines of 
Hutcheson. Indeed, the whole of the next two centuries 
was occupied in one way or another with Hobbes, and if 
any system can be called epoch-making, there is none 
which deserves the title better than his. Philosophy, as 
we now understand the term, is not perhaps so much 
indebted to him as to Descartes, from whom sprang the 
line of catholic thinkers, among whom occur the illustrious 
names of Spinoza, and Leibnitz, and Kant, But Hobbes 
did more than any one, with the possible exception of 
Bacon, to direct English thoufiht into its characteristic 
channels, and to put before it its especial problems. Its 
precision, its clearness, its narrowness, its scientific tend- 
ency, its practical character — all are there. In Hobbes 
are represented in embryo the specific develojjments which 
we meet with in Locke and Berkeley, Hume and Mill. 
His countrymen may well be proud of one who concentrates 
in his single personality their most characteristic defects 
and excellences. Add to this the merits of an admirable 



30 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

style, and we have the picture, not only of a thinker, but 
also of a writer and a man of letters. Above all others he 
succeeds in marrying words to thought, and lights up the 
most abstruse exposition with the brightest gleams of wit 
and fancy. " Vir probus et fama eruditionis domi forisque 
bene cognitus" is the simple inscription which designates 
his resting-place in Hault Hucknall. Perhaps a happier 
text for his grave was suggested by the humour of one 
of his friends during his lifetime, "This is the true Philo- 
sopher's Stone." 



31 



STUDIES IN THE PEOPHETIC NATUPE. 

CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 

When the inner history of a nation comes to be written 
it is a difficult yet necessary task to estimate, among the 
forces which have moulded its progress, the character and 
influence of Prophets. The records of most nations are 
adorned with the names of men of trul}^ prophetic nature, 
interpreters of strange, rare thoughts, revealers of sudden 
and unlooked-for depths in human jDersonalit}'-, sacri rates, 
who have cast new lights on the meaning of their times, 
and lifted up their voices in earnest denunciation or 
solemn warning. It is not indeed easy to probe such 
men, or weigh them in the critical balances; for it is the 
essence of their character to escape the logical dissecting- 
knife, and to triumph over ingenious analj^sis. Yet they 
all have much the same traits — a certain intolerance of 
their immediate surroundings, a certain visionariness of 
speculation, a retrograde and reactionaty impulse, a 
generous weariness as of those born out of due time. A 
Plato, in the Greek world, framing ideal aristocracies at a 
time when matters were ripe for a Macedonian despot; 
a Mahomet talking of the one God, when the Koreish, 



32 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

keepers of tlie Caabah, and all the official superintendents 
of the Idols were powerful in the land ; a Dante with 
his mystic visions and bitter indignation against the 
Florentine magistrates ; a Ruskin with all his grand 
devotion to earnestness and moral purpose in Art — names 
such as these flash out here and there in the annals of 
most nationalities. They are terrible talkers, with a 
magnificent power of oratory and affluence of style, some- 
times beating their wings against the bars of Destiny, 
and losing the self-mastery and control of genius in wild 
rhapsody and passionate rhetoric. And the irony of 
history generally puts them in contrast with some small, 
practical men of the world, who cannot understand their 
fervour and are inclined to laugh at their enthusiasms. 
Plato expounding his ideal polity before an astonished 
Dionysius of Syracuse, or Mahomet bursting into tears 
before his good, sensible uncle, Abu Thaleb, who begged 
him the while to be quiet, or Dante at the court of Delia 
Scala without power to be merry or to amuse^ undoubtedly 
appeared strange, half-insane characters to their audience : 
just as Ruskin, brought to the cesthetic bar for his manifold 
sins against High Art by Mr. Poynter,* is a spectacle 
which we know not whether to call sad or laughable. 
History is full of such contrasts. 

It will not be easy for the future historian of our time 
to put Carlyle into right perspective in a picture of the 
modern age. For he, too, is undoubtedly a Prophet in 

* ' Ten Lectures on Art,' by E. J. Poynter, 1879. See also ' Edin- 
burgh Review,' Jan. 1888. 



CAKLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 33 

the sens3 which has been described ; he lias the same 
kind of reactionary ardour, the same keen vision into the 
heart of things, the same apparent unintelHgibility, He 
lays the historian under the same obhgation to discover 
his real effect and influence, to find the underlying 
tendency , among much admu-able yet unnecessary verbiage. 
His true biographer will have the difficult task to weigh 
the exact value of that which, because it appeals to the 
imagination rather than to the judgment, is precisely the 
most imponderable quality that can be conceived. And 
perhaps his hardest toil will be expended over the 
practical, rather than the theoretical and ethical sides 
of Carlyle's philosophy, to see what issue in the shape 
of definite political theory came of all the study of German 
metaphysics, and the openly professed hatred of things 
as they are, which characterize the unique personality of 
the English Idealist. 

The influence of the thoughts of Carlyle over the 
modern intelligence already threatens to be an evanescent 
one. Whether this be accepted by utilitarians as the best 
criticism on the pretensions of the system, or whether it 
be capable of an historical explanation, the fact remains, 
that the young men, for instance, in our universities, are 
not in the habit of reading Carlyle in the present day 
with a tithe of the same fervour which he excited amonof 
the generation which preceded them. The case stands 
with him very much as it does with Coleridge. At a 
time when English philosophy was, if remarkable for 
anything, chiefly remarkable for a sort of sublimated 



34 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

common-sense, it was a striking and paradoxical thing 
that Coleridge and Cariyle should so highly extol the 
German philosophy in comparison with that of native 
growth. But one of the latest phases of thought in 
England is the recrudescence of Kant and the Germans ; 
and whether by means of a translation or manifold com- 
mentaries, the modern philosophical student can quote his 
Critique of Pure Reason, or enunciate his fervid belief in 
the Identity of Being and not-Being, with a facile versa- 
tility quite unknown to his English forefather. Thus 
Othello's occupation's gone : the so-called Hegelian school 
now takes the place once filled by Coleridge and Cariyle ; 
and Idealism, learnt inKonigsberg and Jena, is substituted 
for that imitation of an imitation, which was professed 
by the admirers of Herr Teufelsdrockh in the first half of 
the present century. Yet, though our Idealism be not 
precisely the Idealism of Cariyle, " it is not right to lay 
hands on our father Parmenides." The time has hardly 
yet come for our modern Idealists, after the reform 
of our philosophy, to proceed to reform our political 
theories also. Meanwhile it may not be unprofitable to 
see what were the deductions in the sphere of politics, 
which seemed to the mind of Cariyle to flow from the 
position which he assumed in philosophy ; for, since they 
appear to follow with considerable consistency from his 
logical assumptions, it may yet be in the power of some 
student fond of rash generalizations, to state that the 
present autocracy in Germany is not a little due to the 
speculations of Kant and Hegel. 



CAKLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 35 

The sequence of thought in Carlyle's ' Chartism ' and 
' Latter-Day Pamphlets' has, as the first link in the chain, 
some one of his philosophical essays, for instance^ the 
essay on Novalis. The year in which ' Novalis ' was 
published is 1829, the year of the production of ' Signs of 
the Times,' in which an Age of Mechanism is portrayed 
in all its ugly colours, and the necessity is enforced of 
some Dynamics in our treatment of social phenomena. 
To understand Novalis, says Carlyle, it is necessary to 
understand Fichte, Kantism, and German metaphysics 
generally. The points which strike him in German philo- 
sophy are, briefly, its views on the subject of Matter, its 
transcendental character, its ascent beyond the region of 
the senses, its criticism on the limited functions of the 
Understanding, and its belief in the majesty of Reason. 
For the profound and vital distinction between Reason and 
Understanding, drawn by German thinkers, was wholly new 
to the English intelligence, which was in the habit of 
confounding the two in the general intellectual faculties of 
man. That Understanding had a limited function, that it 
was bound by what Kant called its Categories, while it was 
the essence of Reason to soar beyond the limitations of 
the Understanding, to comprehend or seek to compre- 
hend the Absolute, the Whole, rather than the Relative 
and the Partial, — these were hard sayings for English 
ears, whether uttered by a Coleridge or a Carlyle. If 
accepted, they might help to solve some of the difficulties 
of Theology, to soften the hard lines of a scientific treat- 
ment of man and the universe, as well as to cast new 

D 2 



35 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

lights on some of the controverted problems of psychology. 
Even in the sphere of politics, they might admit of some 
forcible deductions. For the political counterpart of a 
metaphysical majesty of Reason was a powerful, autocratic 
Government ; which, composed of the best and wisest 
of the population, should govern the nation, responsible 
only to itself. It too, like Reason in its relations with 
the Understanding, might arrange, to the peace and satis- 
faction of all, the limited and partial antagonisms of 
different classes and social interests. Such, at all events, 
was the deduction of Carlyle, as indeed it, or something 
like it, had been the conclusion of the Idealist Plato many 
ages before. Democracy is the ideal polity of an analytic 
and equalizing science ; but the metaphysical ideal is an 
Aristocracy, sage, autocratic and irresponsible, an Aris- 
tocracy which should not be confined to birth, but be the 
sacred privilege of worth, in whatever class worth may 
be found. In the social speculations of Carlyle, it is not 
therefore surprising to find that the prominent idea is a 
Rule of Real Rulers — added to which is found the so- 
called Gospel of Work. For Work is the only criterion 
of Worth, while Worth is the one indispensable character- 
istic of the Real Ruler, 

There is no want of iteration in Carlyle's treatment of 
both of these theses. If the reader takes up the Essays 
on ' Chartism,' he will see the Gospel of Labour expounded 
on every other page. If he studies the ' Latter-Day 
Pamphlets,' the necessity of some powerful government 
is found to be the one panacea for all the woes of England, 



CARLYLES POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 37 

" Work is the mission of man on this earth. A day is 
ever struggling forward, a day will arrive in some approxi- 
mate degree, when he wdio has no work to do, by what- 
ever name he may be named, wall not find it good to 
show himself in our quarter of the solar system, but may 
go and look out elsewhere if there be any idle planet 
discoverable." * There is so much truth in this doctrine 
that one may well be pardoned for asking whether it 
has not been pressed to an one-sided extreme. The 
Gospel of Labour is, indeed, common to all prophets ; 
as much the doctrine of Ruskin as of Carlyle. And yet, 
when one looks at the present condition of England in 
this day, with all its manifold activities and commercial 
labours, when one sees men everywhere toiling to raise 
themselves from the hopeless ruck of the average, eating 
the bread of carefulness with the one view of becoming 
richer than their neighbours, it may well be doubted 
whether, except as preached to landed proprietors, it is 
a Gospel at all. What is to be the ultimate test of a 
man's value in this world — what he has made foi' him- 
self or what he has made Imn&dfl The essential graces 
of human character — a man's nobleness and culture and 
purity and self-control — are these all to be sacrificed to 
his powers of endurance ? The mere suggestion of the 
necessity of self-culture is often regarded as a dangerously 
selfish, hedonistic doctrine. If the tendency of commercial 

* 'Cliartism,' Essaj's, vol. v. p. 342. (Carlyle's collected works, 
library' edition, in thirty volumes. Chapman and Hall, 1869. My 
references throughout are to this edition.) Cf. too ' Past and Present,* 
vol. xiii. p. 196. 



38 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

England be to obliterate it, this is enough to prove that 
quite as true a Gospel may be found in the recommend- 
ation to make some pause in the ceaseless whirl of unrest, 
lest a man's personality be wholly swept away. If this 
be Epicureanism, then Epicurus has some message to the 
present generation as well as Zeno. 

But there are many passages in Carlyle which limit the 
application of the Gospel of Labour ; and it is unfair to visit 
upon the original preacher the conclusions and deductions 
of over zealous disciples,* The other doctrine is one 
of far greater importance in Carlyle, and one which is of 
peculiar interest in the contemporary state of politics in 
England. That the government of England is in the 
hands of Rulers that are no Rulers; that the result is 
Chartism and other anarchical outbreaks ; and that the 
one remedy is to be found in a real aristocracy, not of 
privilege but of fact — this is the central dogma of Carlyle's 
politics. It runs through all his ' Lectures on Heroes ' ; 
it finds expression in the wish for " Dynamical Forces in 
society " in the ' Signs of the Times ' ; it is repeated again 
and again in ' Past and Present ' ; and it forms the dominant 
keynote in the * Latter-Day Pamphlets.' Here is one out 
of many enunciations of the doctrine, where Carlyle puts a 
speech to the Proletariate in the mouth of an ideal Prime 
Minister.f " Industrial Colonels, Workmasters, Task- 

* As e.g. Mr. Froude, ' Siding at a Railway Station,' ' Eraser's 
Magazine ' (November, 1879). 

t ' Latter-Day Pamphlets ' (vol. xix.), p. 52. Perhaps a better 
expression is to be found at the beginning of the sixth lecture on 
Heroes and Hero- Worship. 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 39 

masters, Lite-Co tnmanders, equitable as Rhadamanthus, 
and inflexible as he ; such, I perceive, you do need ; and 
such, you being once put under law as soldiers are, will be 
discoverable for you. I perceive with, boundless alarm, 
that I shall have to set about discovering such, — since I 
am at the top of affairs, with all men looking at me. 
Alas, it is my new task in this new Era ; and God knows, 
I too little other than a red-tape Talking Machine and 
unhappy bag of Parliamentary Eloquence hitherto, am 
far behind with it ! But street barricades rise everywhere ; 
the hour of fate has come." In contrast with this, Carlyle 
thus delivers himself on such Rulers as we do possess * 
— "Till the time of James the First, I find that real 
heroic merit more or less was actually the origin of 
peerages ; never till towards the end of that bad reign 
were peerages bargained for, or bestowed on men palpably 
of no Avorth except their money or connection. But the 
evil practice, once begun, spread rapidly, and now the 
Peerage-book is what we see — a thing miraculous in the 
other extreme. Our menagerie of live peers in Parliament 
is like that of our Brazen Statues in the market-place ; 
the selection seemingly is made much in the same way 
and with the same degree of felicity and successful 
accuracy in choice. Our one steady regulated supply is the 
class definable as Supreme Stump-Orators in the Lawyer 
department : the class called Chancellor flows by some- 
thing like fixed conduits towards the Peerage ; the rest, 
like our Brazen Statues, come by popular rule of thumb." 

* 'Latter-Day Pamplilets' (vol. xix.), p. 3-41. 



40 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

It has been already observed that this doctrine of Real 
Rulers is the proper political outcome of an idealistic 
philosophy, which demands that Government should be 
the outward and visible form of the inward spirit of 
wisdom and reason — a demand which is best satisfied by 
an Aristocracy or an Oligarchy. It involves the fierce 
dislike of Democracy and Popular Suffrage, which runs 
through all Carlyle's writings, and is synonymous with the 
belief in the virtues _^of Hero-Worship. It is curiously 
connected also with an ignorance or dislike of physiological 
and sociological laws — a truly Idealistic trait — which finds 
ene expression in the essay termed ' Shooting Niagara, and 
After,' published as late as 1876* For the Hero in 
Carlyle is a wholly exceptional and fortuitous j)ersonage, 
whose origin and cast of thought can be in no Avay ex- 
plained by reference to the laws of heredity or the general 
contemporaneous condition of society. He is with us one 
moment and gone the next ; " no man can tell whence he 
cometh or whither he goeth." On what does the Hero's 
influence depend ? It has ultimately to be resolved into 
superiority of material force ; and hence a Napoleon must 
be included in the ranks, with whatever damage to morality 
may thence ensue. Csesar, in the later times of the Roman 
Republic, would be a Real Ruler after Carlyle's own 
heart, as, indeed, he is represented by his latest biographer, 
Mr. Froude. Even Cromwell, one of the prime favourites 
of Carlyle, found that no other solution of the parlia- 
mentary problem was possible except the dissolution of 
* ' Shootini^- Niagara,' &c. ' Essays,' vol. vi. p. 387. 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 41 

parliament after parliament in the later years of 
his life. Experience tells us that a power of this sort is 
divided by a thin and wavering line from a despotism 
and tyranny, which themselves provoke dangerous re- 
actions. Even "an Anarchy ijIus a Street Constable," 
or " a Chaos with Ballot Boxes " is better than that. A 
free development of a nation's resources, even though 
conducted by universal suffrage and a democratic organiz- 
ation, offers greater guarantees of stability and order than 
the Hero full-blown into " a Saviour of Society." 

A strange irony of fate has ordained that the one states- 
man in our day who lias attempted to give application to 
doctrines similar to those of Carlyle should be Lord 
Beaconsfield ; indeed, for purposes of instructive compari- 
son, ' Sybil ' should be read side by side with ' Chartism,' and 
' Coningsby ' with ' Latter-Day Pamphlets.' In both writers 
there is much the same view of the only social panacea, if 
we leave subordinate considerations aside and look at 
the main issue. There is the same view of the anarchy 
into which England was thrown by the Reform Bill of 
1832 ; there is the same belief in the saving power of a 
new Aristocracy ; there is the same radical distrust of 
Parliament. If we make all due deduction for the differ- 
ences of style, the following passage from ' Sybil ' might 
have bad Carlyle as its author : — " The House of Parlia- 
ment has been irremediabl}' degraded into the decaying 
position of a mere court of registry, possessing great 
privileges on condition that it never exercises them ; while 
tlic oilier Chamber, that at the first blush, and to the 



42 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

superficial, exhibits symptoms of almost unnatural vitality, 
assumes on a more studious inspection, somewhat of the 
character of a select vestry, fulfilling municij)al rather than 
imperial offices. — The Reform Act has not furnished us 
with abler administrators or a more illustrious Senate." 
That is quite in the tone of the ' Latter-Day Pamphlets/ 
which were published in 1850, while 'Sybil' was written 
in 1845. There is, of course, more plausibility, more 
sonorous superficiality about Lord Beaconsfi eld's treatment 
of Chartism. ' Sybil ' is full of such sentences as that " the 
mind of England is with the people," and "the future 
princij^le of English politics will seek to ensure equality, 
not by levelling the Few, but by elevating the Many." 
There is more of that appearance of sympathy with the 
lowest orders of the State, which one who would unite the 
rising nobility with the People, and be himself an old 
Tory and a Demagogue by turns, must of necessity adopt. 
Yet even in the dislike of Politics to which Carlyle some- 
times gives expression (c. g. " well withdrawn from the 
raging inanities of politics," ' Shooting Niagara,' p. 381) 
there is a curious echo of Coningsby's advice to Vere to 
hold himself aloof from political parties which are only 
factions. And when we turn from the novelist to the 
Prime Minister, when we think of all the history of Lord 
Beaconsfield, with his systematic disregard for Parliament, 
his high-handedness, his real rule over his Cabinet, and 
survey the picture of the one aged statesman who was 
a bulwark for England against "a despotism ending in 
a democracy, or a democracy ending in a despotism," it 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 43 

looks almost like the parody and caricature of Carlyle's 
earnest convictions of England's necessity for Heroes. 
This is the man whom Carlyle in ' Shooting Niagara ' 
called " that clever, conscious juggler whom they call 
Dizzy," " a superlative Hebrew conjuror," and other choice 
epithets. Truly the whirligig of Time brings round its 
revenges. 

The courses of modern history have, in truth, taught us 
to be on our guard against hero-statesmen. It is with 
them as with the Greek tyrants of old, that, borne into 
power by a great wave of popular feeling, their subsequent 
efforts are often directed to repress the national energies to 
which they owed their rise.* We can hardly help think- 
ing of a Prince Bismarck — who in many points resembles 
a Carlylese Hero — with his autocracy, his cynical indiffer- 
ence, his parliamentary gagging bills, his protective 
policies. The alliance between Germany and Austria f 
is just such a stroke of policy as a " Real Ruler " delights 
in, as may be seen from the fulsome adulation of it in 
the mouth of that modern Elizabethan minister, Lord 
Salisbury. It is just such a stroke of policy also as inde- 
finitely postpones the democratic combination of nations, 
and is, sooner or later, a severe blow to the democratic 
ideal of Commerce and Peace. It is no good news of 
great joy to France, at all events, who is immediately 
threatened : nor yet to Russia, who is driven to seek 
fresh allies; nor yet to Austria herself, who may possibly 

* Mr. Gladstone's career conveys different lessons on wliicli in his 
lifetime it is not wise to enlarge. f Written in 1879. 



44 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

find the fate of the eai'thenware pot floating with the 
vessel of brass ; nor yet to England, above all, who is 
tossed like a shuttlecock from her old connections with 
France to a combination with despotic empires, and 
whose commercial expansion may be severely impaired 
by protective Bismarckian policies. The last point has a 
peculiar importance in this reference, for it discloses a 
manifestly weak spot in Carlyle's Real Rulers. They are, 
in his language, to be Industrial Captains. Modern 
experience tends to show that whatever else a real ruler 
may be, he will not be an Industrial Captain. How can 
he be ? The real ruler of Carlyle is a man who laughs to 
scorn Political Economy and McCroudies and other Pro- 
fessors of the Dismal Science ; in practice, therefore, he 
must hold such an industrial principle as Free Trade with 
a singularly weak, vacillating, impotent grasp. Industrial 
Captain ? Nay, rather a Protectionist, as befits a man of 
strong intuitive dislike of democratic forces — an advocate 
of Reciprocity, such as, hesitatingly, timidly, with many 
an anxious look backward and forward, some of our 
Conservative Ministers seem promising to be. 

Possibly we should look for our statesman-hero not in 
England or Germany, but in France. Gambetta appeared 
at one time perhaps the sincerest first minister of a demo- 
cracy whom we have had since the time of Pericles. He 
was the veritable enfant de la B^puUique, borne on a great 
democratic wave to supreme power, the champion of France 
when she was crushed inwardly by the deadening influence 
of the Napoleonic dynasty, and crushed outwardly by the 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 45 

overmastering mechanical superiority of the German army. 
He always believed in the republican instincts of France, 
and she rewarded him by making him the chief depositary 
of her power. He was a genuine child of the modern age, 
though it is doubtful whether the future will reserve a 
niche in her temple for his honour. Yet Liberalism in 
France in his days wore a strange air. What is the 
Ideal of Liberalism ? Freedom, assuredly, that every 
man should have personal freedom from t3^ranny in his 
thoughts, his opinions, and his form of faith. Was the 
Jules Ferry Bill conceived in the Liberal spirit ? Is 
Liberalism also to persecute ? It may be said, indeed, 
that if Liberalism is to be triumphant, it must be organ- 
ized and it must be scientific; and science in the hands of 
a Paul Bert naturally hated Jesuitism, and organization 
in the hands of a Gambetta meant a certain individual 
repression. And yet English Liberalism giving academic 
rights to Roman Catholicism, and French Liberalism 
putting down Jesuitism with a strong hand, form a curious 
and striking contrast. 

It is characteristic of all great men of prophetic nature 
that we should have to fix their position rather negatively 
than positively, more by their dislikes than by tlieir 
likings. Certainly in Carlyle's case the record of his 
dislikes forms a long series of indictments. There is his 
dislike of Parliament, his dislike of Statistics, his dislike 
of Political Economy, his dislike of Parliamentary Radical- 
ism, his dislike of Popular Oratory, his dislike of Philan- 
thropy towards criminals, his dislike, keenest and fiercest 



46 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

of all, of Democracy and Universal Suffrage* We 
have left ourselves but little space to refer to all 
these. But it is the less necessary to investigate the 
details of Carlyle's criticisms, inasmuch as they all flow 
from the central doctrine which we have been examin- 
ing. Given the rule of genuine leaders, and the very 
conditions of their appointment require them to resist 
all those cherished charters of popular liberty, to which 
a Democracy or a Republic look for their ultimate 
establishment. 

A growing disbelief in the efficiency of Parliaments is 
common to many theoretic politicians, who are by no 
means agreed on other points. We have already found it 
both as a theoretical and practical principle in the case of 
Lord Beaconsfield ; and Mr. Kebbel once pointed out t 
that even Mr. Gladstone has given expression to discontent 
in this matter. It is not difficult to understand how such 
a feeling has grown. Every year sees the House with 

* The following are some passages on these points, taken from 
'Chartism' (Essays, vol. v.), 'Latter-Day Pamphlets' (vol. xix.), 
'Shooting Niagara, and After' (Essays, vol. vi.), 'Past and Present' 
(vol. xiii.). 

Parliaments.— 'Chartism,' pp. 328-9, 381-2, 395-6; 'Latter-Day 
Pamphlets,' 113, 134-5,237-40, 273; 'Shooting Niagara,' 347,389. 
Statistics. — ' Chartism,' 332 — 337. Political Economy. — ' Chart- 
ism,' 383, 409 ; ' Latter-Day Pamphlets,' 53-4, 182. Parliamentary 
Eadicalism. — ' Chartism,' 404-5. Popular Oratory. — 'Latter-Day 
Pamphlets,' 209—256. Philanthropy. — ' Latter-Day Pamphlets,' 60, 
61, 73—79, 82, 92—94. Democracy.—' Chartism,' 371—373 ; ' Latter- 
Day Pamphlets,' 18—29, 144, 158, 320—330; /Past and Present,' 
269—274. 

f 'Nineteenth Century,' September, 1879. 



CAELYLES POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 47 

more work to do and less ability to get through it. Every 
3^ear sees the personnel of Parliament steadily declin- 
ing, and the benches filled with what Lord 'Sherbrooke 
once called a ploutocracy and gerontocracy, and what 
more modern critics would call an ochlocracy, to the 
exclusion of more intellectual elements. And when to 
this we have to add that such multiform activities in 
matters of expenditure, of legislation, of foreign, domestic, 
and colonial policy, are subject to total interruption and 
obstruction by the fanaticism of individual members, it 
can be readily understood that dissatisfaction with the 
Sfreat Council of the Realm should be both felt and 
expressed. But it is one thing to reform and quite 
another thing to abrogate. Let us listen to the drastic 
remedies of Carlyle : " What England wants and will 
require to have, or sink in nameless anarchies, is not a 
Reformed Parliament — but a Reformed Executive, or 
Sovereign Body of Rulers and Administrators. Not a 
better Talking-Apparatus, the best conceivable Talking- 
Apparatus would do very little for us at present ; — but an 
infinitely better Acting-Apparatus, the benefits of which 
would be invaluable now and henceforth. The practical 
question puts itself with ever-increasing stringency to all 
English minds ; can we by no industry, energy, utmost 
expenditure of human ingenuity and passionate invocation 
of the Heavens and the Earth, get to attain some twelve 
or ten or six men to manage the affairs of the nation in 
Downing Street, and the chief posts elsewhere, who are 
abler for the work than those we have been used to this 



48 STUDIES, NEW AXD OLD. 

long while?"* The remedy proposed, then, is not a 
reform of Parliament, but a great extension of power in 
Downing Street. And he makes an explicit proposal : 
" The proposal is in short that the Queen shall have power 
of nominating the half-dozen or half-score officers of the 
Administration, whose presence is thought necessary in 
Parliament, to official seats there, without reference to any 
constituency but her own only, which of course will mean 
her Prime Minister's. The soul of the project is that 
the Crown also have power to elect a few members to 
Parliament." t 

This is the point in which Carlyle comes nearest to 
Bolingbroke and farthest from the position of Burke. The 
desire of Bolingbroke in his ' Patriot King ' was to further, 
in exactly these powers of appointing ministers, the general 
influences of monarchy. Burke's ' Present Discontents ' is 
an answer to claims of this sort. His Conservatism will 
not admit of any changes which disturb organically the 
English constitution — the inheritance, as that constitution 
js, of past ages of struggle, and the chosen vehicle for the 
expression of the public will. Tn other points there is 
much in Burke to remind us of Carlyle. He, too, pins his 
faith on a gov-ernment by aristocracy. He, too, has a 
scorn for the sceptical and destructive philosophers of the 
eighteenth century. His denunciation of these atheists 
and infidels who are "the outlaws of the constitution, not 
of this country, but of the human race," may be paralleled 
by Carlyle's feeling that the " last Sceptical Century " was 
* 'Latter-Day Pamphlets,' pp. 113, 114. t Ihkl., p. 138. 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTEINES. 49 

a hideous monstrosity, with its tendency to convert the 
world into a steam-engine. But Burke had a dehcate 
and profound sense of the bond of sympathetic union which 
unites a national constitution with all the various inter- 
acting elements of a society, and this is absent in Carlyle. 
So, too, Burke was possessed of a trust in the people 
which Carlyle could never feel. We could never imagine 
Carlyle saying, as Burke did, that "in all disputes between 
the people and their rulers, the presumption is at least 
upon a par in favour of the people ; " or that " he could 
scarcely conceive any choice the people could make to be 
so very mischievous, as the existence of any human force 
capable of resisting it." Very different in spirit is Carlyle's 
bitter hostility to Democracy. Democracy is to him, by 
the nature of it, a self-cancelling business; and gives in 
the long-run a net result of zero. " Democracy never yet, 
that we heard of, was able to accomplish much work 
beyond that same cancelling of itself." "It is, take it 
where you will in our Europe, but a regulated method 
of rebellion and abrogation." It is the consummation of 
No-governinent and Laissez-faire. A Chaos with ballot- 
boxes : Anarchy ijIus a street constable. " Not towards 
this impossibility, self-government ' of a multitude by a 
multitude : ' but towards some possibility, government by 
the wisest, does bewildered Europe struggle." * 

It would not be easy to see more clearly than by such 
passages as these, how great is the chasm which divides 
Carlyle from a child of the modern age. Carlyle is fond 
* 'Cliartisiu,' pp. 372, 373. 



50 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

of speaking of the Eternal Silences and the Immensities, 
the real, secret nature of Things, and the law of the 
Universe. These he believes to be on his side — on the 
side of the Real Ptuler, of the aristocracy of fact, of the 
government by the wisest. Yet it is at least conceivable 
that one, who knows and feels the forces of the age and the 
tendency of the time, should speak of a great Democratic 
future as that which the Eternal Silences and Immensities 
ordain. Such an one may know that the experiment 
which has to be tried is a new one, fraught with dangers 
and difficulties apparently insuperable ; he feels the 
possibility of peril, but he knows the inexorableness of 
Time. Go into the Future he must ; try that exj)eriment 
he will — hecause the secret nature of things points onward 
to Democracy, to Universal Suffrage, to the government 
of a nation by itself, as an imminent and inevitable 
Future. It is not only the advocate of an oligarchy who 
• can boast the Eternal Silences on his side. 

Yet even so, in Carlyle's treatment of this and of 
kindred themes, there is a quality wholly unique and 
incommunicable. He is the veritable Vox clamantis e 
descrto ; his fervid imagination can convert what to the 
grosser eye are vacant ideals into concrete, tangible fact ; 
his masterful grasp of the problem, combined with the 
range and sweep of his passionate, hysterical oratory, can 
carry even a man of sober judgment off his legs. It is so 
rare — the union of flashing, blinding eloquence Avith the 
strict and consistent treatment of the subject, so wholly 
overmastering the magnificent, declamatory denunciation 



CARLYLE'S POLITICAL DOCTRINES. 51 

mixed with the tender, Avistful pltifulness. And there is 
the dramatic gift, the irony, the wonderful humour, the 
picturesqueness and pertinency of epithet. " Nature, 
when her scorn of a slave is divinest, and blazes like the 
blindinor lightning: against his slavehood, often enough 
flings him a bag of money, silently saying : ' That ! away ; 
thy doom is that.' " What splendid energy of utterance ! 
Or the comparison of the British statues "rusting in the 
sooty rain, black and dismal," to a set of " grisly under- 
takers come to bury the dead spiritualisms of mankind." 
Or the image of the Utilitarians, Political Economists, 
and Democrats, " sitting as apes with their wretched 
blinking eyes, squatted round a fire which they cannot 
feed with new wood, — which they say Avill last for ever 
without new wood, — or, alas, which they say is going out 
for ever." 

Who can resist such incisive imagery as this ? Or, to 
take but one other instance, — all having been taken at 
random within the compass of some fifty chance pages in 
the ' Latter-Day Pamphlets ' — the lesson of ennui, which 
he draws out in the concluding pages, with its definition — 
" the painful cry of an impassioned heroism." The atmo- 
sphere which Carlyle makes us breathe is always healthy, 
stimulating, invigorating; it fills the lungs and the chest 
witli all the life and power of a veritable inspiration ; it 
braces the muscles with the energy of hope and cliecrful 
resolution. He, too, like any republican politician, sees 
the hollowness of a policy of ImperiaUsm. "What con- 
cern," he asks, " lias the British nation with foreign 

E 2 



52 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

nations and their enterj)rises ? Any concern at all, 
except that of handsomely keeping apart from them ? " * 

And again : " The irrestigc of England on the Con- 
tinent, I am told, is much decayed of late : which is a 
lamentable thing to various editors; to me not. Prestige, 
prsestigium, magical illusion — I never understood that 
jioor England had in her good days, or cared to have, any 
prestige on the Continent, or elsewhere. The word was 
Napoleonic, expressive enough of a Grand-Napoleonic 
fact : better leave it on its own side of the Channel ; not 
wanted here ! " f 

And if in some parts of his political theory we find 
that the magnificent Idealist needs to be confronted with 
the diminutive personage of practice and experience ; if 
we require to supplement the ' Latter-Day Pamphlets ' — 
say, with Bagehot on the 'English Constitution,' or Mill 
on ' Representative Government ' — we are but true to the 
irony of history. Prophets, in the wise arrangements of 
Nature, always find effective contrast in the presence of 
Empiricists. J 

* ' Latter-Day Pamphlets,' p. 174. 

j- 'Shooting Niagara,' p. 377. For other corrections of Carlyle's 
Conservatism, see ' Past and Present,' pp. 203 — 205. 

X The recent changes in the political world and the curious 
disruption of political parties have apparently' disguised some of the 
principles laid down in the preceding essay. But the essential 
divergence between the party of Progress and the party of Reaction 
cannot be permanently obliterated. 



53 



STUDIES IN THE PROPHETIC NATURE. 

EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 

Ix the last essay we have ah-eady seen that the term 
' prophet ' or ' seer ' conveniently designates a particular 
kind of literary man, whom it would be hard to de- 
scribe in any other way. The essential characteristic of 
the species is the imj^ossibility of defining it by positive 
affirmations. The prophet in literature has nothing 
positive about him except his name. He can only be 
negatively indicated by showing that he is not a series 
of other characters, like, yet unlike. And hence it is hard 
to discover his exact place in the economy of nature. He 
is not a philosopher, though he is like one ; for though 
he dabbles in philosophic opinions, and may even be a 
historian of philosophy, he does not possess a reasoned 
system of his own, and many of his opinions are not 
mutually consistent. Nor is he a poet, though he has 
many 2:)oetic traits ; for as a rule, though he can feel, he 
cannot sing; he possesses imagination, but lacks the sacred 
fire. Is he then a preacher, an anointed priest of the 
Lord ? Yes and no. He is eminently hortatory ; the 



54 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

whole cast of his mind is didactic, authoritative, dogmatic ; 
but he is consumed with fiery indignation against his 
fellow-preachers, whom he accuses of taioting the sincere 
milk of the word. Still less is he the cultivated litterateur, 
for though he cares for style, it is only as strictly subordi- 
nate to the sermonic qualities of his writings — to give 
wings to his exalted moods, and press home his ethical 
lesson. He never delivers a purely literary verdict, but 
under the fatal dominion of the ^sopian manner, abruptly 
ends his criticism with a " here begiuneth the moral." 
He resents the imputation of being the child of the age ; 
he dislikes science ; he loathes utilitarianism ; he combines 
a belief in freedom of the will with some stern admiration 
of a presiding fate ; he is a firm advocate of the moral 
sentiment ; he is fond of teleologic interpretation ; he has 
two or three capital thoughts which he is never weary of 
emphasizing; he worships a God whom he is unable to 
expound to any one else. He is above all things holy, 
which being analyzed into its elements would appear to 
signify that he is a mystical and spiritualist thinker, full 
of a graceful emotion and an engaging romance. What 
useful office can such a man fulfil ? He can inspire, he 
can communicate an impulse. Like the guiding hand over 
some complicated machinery, like the leader in a cotillon, 
like the general' on the dawn of a day of battle, he can 
give the word of command. 

If this be true in different measure of the Isaiahs, 
the Swedenborgs, the Carlyles, and the E-uskins of our 
humanity, the difficulty of estimation is greater when we 



EMERSOX, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 55 

come oa a possibly second-rate prophet, with regard to 
whom there is some doubt whether he succeeded in catch- 
ing the prophetic mantle as it fell. For then all our 
negative definitions return with greater force, and it is 
doubtful whether anything is left except the sound of some 
hollow, ineffectual voice and the gestures of some invisible 
jDhantom. Hence the curiously different estimates which 
have been held about Emerson, from the glowinj; and 
somewhat indiscriminating enthusiasm of Dr, Oliver 
Wendell Holmes, and Mr. Moncure D. Conway, to the 
appreciative but critical estimate of Mr, Morley, and the 
cold and ambiguous compliments of Mr. Matthew Arnold. 
For Emerson is always giving the impression of a just 
balked ascendancy, a narrowly intercepted splendour ; fine 
and almost imperceptible lines seem to divide him from 
the highest and the best. He is always highly commended 
but rarely in the first class. Proxime acccssU is the fit 
epitaph for his tombstone. 

However little the prophet may feel himself the result 
of antecedent conditions, however strong may be his belief 
in the freedom of the will and the ascendancy of the 
personal initiative, science obtains her revenge on him by 
resolving him into his circumstances, and his forefathers. 
When it is said that a great man lays the burden on his 
contemporaries of understanding him, the phrase is in 
reality full of gentle irony. For it is just what con- 
temporaries are debarred from doing : being too near the 
object, they cannot get the right perspective; or, rather, 
for the very reason that they are his contemporaries, they 



58 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

are too full of the subtle influence of personality which a 
great man inevitably exhales. In the presence of a great 
man we irresistibly believe in the freedom of the will. It 
is only when we study long jDeriods of time that we gain 
the scientific attitude, and are able to mark the courses 
and lines of fate and destiny which have moulded the limbs 
of the hero. Perhaps we are too near Emerson; perhaps 
the difficulty of estimation is the most decisive proof of 
his greatness. But, meanwhile, it is not without interest 
to see how certain predisj)osing forces found their proper 
issue in his person and character, and prefigured, as Leib- 
nitz said of the veins of the marble, the form of the statue. 
Nothing, for instance, seems clearer than that he was 
bound to preach. Emerson calls himself " an incorrigible 
spouting Yankee," and the remark, though of course ex- 
aggerated, contains substantial justice. He came of an 
ancestry who were preachers. The first of the line, the 
Reverend Joseph Emerson, was minister of the town of 
Mendon, INIassachusetts. Peter Bulkeley, minister of 
Concord, was one of his forefathers. Edward Emerson, 
son of Joseph, was deacon, at all events, of the first church 
in Newbury. William Emerson, Waldo's grandfather, was 
pastor of the church at Concord, and a notable patriot 
at the outbreak of the Revolutionary war. William, his 
father, preached in Harvard and in Boston, and appears to 
have been a liberal and enlightened theologian as well as a 
man of attractive personal appearance, and possessed of a 
melodious voice. Besides, Ralph Waldo Emerson spent 
much time in the family of Dr. Ezra Ripley, whom his 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 57 

grandmother married as lier second husband. Here was 
certainly, as Dr. Hohnes has said, "an inheritance of 
theoloo'ical instincts." It is true that he tried himself to 
be a minister, and failed, owing to a want of sympathy 
with his congregation on the subject of the Eucharist ; but 
though the ostensible title was wanting, the spirit and the 
instincts remained. He adopted the profession of lecturing, 
an object of ambition about which, as he told Carlyle, he 
felt very strongly ; and he brought to the task not only a 
captivating manner and a voice of singular sweetness, but 
all the force and aptitude of a forensic and didactic cast of 
mind. Hence, though on a superficial view he appears 
to oppose the clerical faction by a certain Socratic quality 
of inquiry, a dangerous leaning to Pantheism, and by being, 
as he himself says, "an iconoclast and an unsettler always," 
he will be found at bottom not untrue to the traditions of 
his lineage. 

In their effects on literary style there is much in common 
between the lecturing-desk and the pulpit, and whatever 
of unchastened expression or irritating phrase may be found 
in Emerson's prose may generally be traced to this source. 
The speaker or lecturer is never chary of his sentences ; to 
produce his picture he adds stroke on stroke through 
excess of caution lest he should fail to jiroduce his effect. 
Thus there is a diffuseness, an unnecessary repetition, an 
over-elaboration of a thought. The eye in looking over a 
printed page gathers in a moment the thought of the 
writer, and is quick to anticipate the sequences and de- 
ductions, but the ear of the listener is not equally helped, 



58 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

and has therefore to be given time by phrase after phrase 
to apprehend the steps of an argument. Just as dictation, 
in the case of a writer, is supposed to have a bad effect 
on his style, because it rephices conciseness and grij) by 
wordiness and reiteration, so the lecture, when printed in 
the form of an essay, irritates us by the slowness of its 
march and its want of adaptation to the rapid sweep of 
vision. Moreover, it is difficult for either lecturer or 
speaker to deliver his thoughts paragraphically, and the 
paragraph is the keystone of literary form. When we read 
some of Emerson's writing, the paragraphs into which it 
is divided seem more or less accidental, not essential to 
the movement of the thought, as though they were thus 
divided arbitrarily after the lecture had been written down, 
to convert it into the form of an essay. Another effect, 
due to the same cause, is the jerkiness and want of 
cohesion between the sentences. Emerson says himself of 
his own writing, in a letter to Carlyle, that "each sentence 
is an infinitely repellent particle." There is no smooth- 
ness in the progress, but rather an uneasy jolt over difScult 
boulders. Even in the best of his essays this tends to 
spoil the effect, for, apart from the constant irritation 
produced by the want of continuity, we are reminded too 
inconveniently of the mechanical part of reading, and are 
inclined to make much of the difficulty which is sometimes 
found in apprehending Emerson's meaning. In the case 
of a lecture the voice supplies the links which connect the 
sentences ; the intonation, the emphasis, the rate at which 
the words are spoken combine to stiggest the intention of 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AJ^D WRITER. 59 

the speaker. There are probably many lectures which 
seem perfectly plain when listened to, which yet are not 
without obscurity when read. For there is so much in a 
man's personality and presence, such electric force in his 
eloquence or his gesture, that we think, as it were, with 
him in obedience to his voice, and criticism only awakes 
when the voice has ceased. 

The effects on the thought of a man who habitually 
lectures, are no less visible. He learns througli constant 
necessity of exhortation a certain windiness, an intellectual 
emptiness, an everlasting appeal to emotion and feeling. 
He is not prodigal of his ideas, but acquires a prudential 
economy, beating a thought very thin, as it were, to make 
it go a long way. The constant appeal to feeling seems 
to starve the possibility of thought ; there must always 
be a lowering of sentiment to the mass of the auditor^'', 
because while in the possession of ideas one man is strongly 
distinguished from another, we all meet on a commoner 
platform in feeling and emotion. There is also the 
necessity of the moral. " The lessons which can be drawn," 
in pulpit phrase, form always the conclusion of the lecture, 
to the undoubted edification of the masses and the dis- 
traction and ennui of the thoughtful. For a cultured man 
can draw his own moral, and feels it more or less of an 
insult to his intelligence when commonplace deductions 
are drawn in a commonplace way. In the days of our 
childhood we had an irresistible inclination to shut the 
book when the fatal paragraph, "And now, my dear 
children," began. Not less strong is the temptation which 



CO STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

assails us to forget the excellence of the criticism as soon 
as Emerson clears his throat and in a hollower voice com- 
mences the final edification. In the lectures on " Represent- 
ative men " there is much that is delicate in interpretation 
and suggestive in criticism ; but we are simply irritated 
when we are told that the lesson of Montaigne's life is that 
a man who ignores "the moral sentiment which never 
forfeits its supremacy," is doomed to be a sceptic ; that a 
man like Swedenborg, who immolates his genius and fame 
at the shrine of conscience, will probably go mad ; that 
the defect of Shakespeare is that, instead of being that 
combination of poet and priest "which the world still 
wants," he was only poet, and ignored the priestly func- 
tions; and that Plato failed because "he tried to swallow 
the whole world and found it too great a morsel." The 
better the literary criticism tlie less does it require the 
moralizing conclusion. Audiences only want to hear 
the secret why some great man was not otherwise than 
he was. Wise men know that humanity is a diamond 
of many facets. Perhaps even Emerson's optimism is 
explained by these considerations. " There is," he tells us 
in ' The Young American,' " a sublime and friendly destiny 
by which the human race is guided — the race never dying, 
the individual never spared — to results affecting masses 
and aires. That genius has infused itself into nature. It 
indicates itself by a small excels of good; a small balance 
in brute facts always favourable to the side of reason. It 
works for masses, labours for the general, never for the 
individual." This is very good hearing when one belongs 



EMEKSOX, AS THINKEK AND WRITER. 61 

to a mass or comiDany, listening to a lecture. But the 
solitary reader or thinker, who has not round him the 
general and diffusive sympathy of a crowd, is not equally 
satisfied. He is told that nature does not care for the 
individual, and in moments of solitude his individuality is 
borne in upon him with indefeasible claims. Optimism or 
meliorism may be the natural attitude of an audience, but 
pessimism is too often the creed of the solitary thinker. 
Emerson, with his lecturing instincts, his aptitude for the 
secular pulpit and the posture of exhortation, becomes 
naturally optimistic, and believes in the evolution of the 
better. Carlyle, with his solitude, and his nerves, and his 
bad digestion, is more of the pessimist. It is an interesting 
speculation to reflect that Carlyle, if he had lectured 
oftener, might have lightened some of the darker elements 
of his creed, especially as the physical exertion involved in 
lecturing is undoubtedly a stimulant for imperfect powers 
of assimilation. 

On the other hand, that quality in Emerson which 
communicates impulse and inspiration is equally due to 
the ancestry of preachers and the habits of a lecturer. 
There is a freshness, a vitality, a breezy force of life and 
spirits, which not only animate the writer's style, but add 
wings to the reader's thoughts. Socrates, long ago, found 
that the best way of getting hold of men was to talk with 
them. The living intercourse between men's minds was 
thus promoted by " the lively and animated word," which 
went from one to the other, and got better as it went. 
Emerson, who was in some respects a true disciple of 



62 STUDIES, NEW AXD OLD. 

Socrates, himself knew the secret of " sowing and planting 
knowledge " by oral communication. No one has better 
single thoughts or phrases. No one can, in a word or two, 
draw a better or fresher picture of nature, not as though it 
were a mere matter of canvas and oil-paints, bvit as a living 
and working agency, carrying on its thousand offices 
through a thousand different lines of activity. " The world 
is new, untried. Do not believe the past. I give you the 
universe a virgin to-day." " Truth is such a fly-away, such 
a sly-boots, so untransportable and unbarrelable a com- 
modity, that it is as bad to catch as light." " Men have 
come to speak of the Divine revelation as something long 
aofo cjiven and done, as if God were dead." " It is God iu 
us which checks the language of petition by a grander 
thought." " A good reader can nestle into Plato's brain 
and think from thence ; but not in Shakespeare's. We are 
still out of doors." The words seem alive, as though they 
were not so much the cold abstract results of thought as 
themselves furnished with hands, and feet, and wino-s. 
They are all fresh coined in the mint of nature ; in 
Emerson's beautiful phrase, " one with the blowing clover 
and the falling rain." 

Besides the lecturing or moralizing vein, there was in 
Emerson a distinct vein of philosophical culture. He was 
born a preacher, and he educated himself by the most 
promiscuous reading into a kind of philosopher. The 
form of philosophy which had the most attraction for 
his mind was that which is known as the Transcendental, 
or the Absolute, which tends to regard the totality of things, 



EMEESON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 63 

the central point of unity, rather than the endless multipli- 
city and diversity of nature. Emerson loved to trace 
analogies, to study resemblances, to find everywhere the 
type, the law, the energizing form, and to discover in the 
natural world the analogue of the spiritual and mental. 
Every mind has its instinctive affinities, and in philosophy 
some men are born idealists, as others are born to be 
empirics and realists. This is why — despite the verdict of 
Lotze — the problems of psychology lie deeper than the 
problems of metaphysics, for before the metaphysical 
structure was created, the obscurer laws existed which 
ordained the underlying psychological tendency. Emer- 
son's favourite reading showed his natural aptitudes, for 
he is most indebted in sympathetic as well as in scholarly 
relation to Berkeley, to Kant, to Coleridge, to Wordsworth, 
and to Goethe. With them he will study the wholes of 
things, and not be distracted with particularity and detail. 
" Im Ganzen, Resolut zu leben," he might be said to have 
assumed as his motto. The masterly philosophical analysis 
of Berkeley appears in the earliest of his published works, 
'Nature,' which bears the date of 1836. That we see all 
things in God was a discovery of Malebranche ; that 
natural objects exist as a sort of divine visual language 
addressed by the Creator to his cliildren, was one of the 
earliest deductions which Berkeley drew from his ' Essay 
on Vision.' And so Emerson prefixes to his essay certain 
lines which inculcate the same lesson : — 

*' The eye reads omens where it goes, 
And speaks all languages the rose." 



64 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

For ill nature man does not feel himself alone and un- 
acknowledged, " The fields and woods nod to me and I 
to them. The waving of the boughs is new to me and old. 
It takes me by surprise and yet is not unknown. Its 
•effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion 
coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or 
doing right." Idealism is the natural belief of a thinking 
being. " It is the uniform effect of culture in the human 
mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of a particular 
phenomenon, as of heat, water, azote, but to lead us to 
regard nature as phenomenon, not as substance, to attribute 
necessary existence to spirit, to esteem nature as an 
accident and an effect." Idealism, in point of fact, is 
taught in many ways — by the changing phenomena of 
motion ; by poetry, which everywhere grasps at ideal 
affinities between events ; by philosophy, by ethics and 
religion ; yet idealism is not enough to satisfy the intel- 
lectual craving for a system. It is too negative, too coldly 
individualistic, tending to make everyone who espouses it 
believe that the world is born afresh with the birth of 
every consciousness. " It leaves God out of me," says 
Emerson, by which he means that there is also needed 
some absolute ontological principle to be the fountain-head 
alike of nature and the individual consciousness. Idealism 
must become absolute idealism or transcendentalism — that 
is, it must with Hegel believe in the absolute spirit of 
universal self-consciousness, which is none other than God. 
So only can the human mind rest in the discovery of a 
primal unity and absolute first cause. " Three problems 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 65 

are put by nature to the mind : What is matter ? ^vhence 
is it ? and whereto ? The first of these questions only 
the ideal theory answers. Idealism says : matter is a 
phenomenon, not a substance. But when, following the 
invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire whence is 
matter, and whereto ? many truths arise to us out of the 
recesses of consciousness. We learn that the highest is 
present to the soul of man; that the dread universal 
essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, 
but all in one, and each entirely is that for which all 
things exist, and that by which they are ; that spirit 
creates ; that behind nature, and throughout nature, spirit 
is present, one and not compound. It does not act upon 
us from Avithout, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, 
or through ourselves : therefore, that spirit, that is the 
Suprenje Being, does not build up nature around us, but 
puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth 
new branches and leaves through the pores of the old." 
Thus nature, the individual consciousness, and the 
universal consciousness, or God, form a sort of Trinity in 
Emerson's creed ; they are the three elements of which 
things consist — the three ' moments,' as the Germans 
would say, in his system. Whether the proper relations 
of the three are always duly preserved by Emerson is 
another question. Sometimes the individual consciousness 
appears to be unduly exaggerated in importance — when, 
for instance, a man is told " to plant himself indomitably 
upon his instincts," being assured that by this self-reliance 
he will gain, nut only culture, but even his God. At other 



(36 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

times nature is not always kept in the subordinate position 
of " something that is not built up around us, but through 
•us," when in the ' Method of Nature ' Emerson tells us that 
nature has no end, not even the creation of man, as 
though nature were some great impersonal power, which 
was the ultimate ground and substance of all life. But 
then no idealist philosopher is absolutely consistent. Just 
as a consistent sensationalism, according to the late Pro- 
fessor Green, ought to be speechless, so a consistent idealism 
would be a kind of monomania. Nor is consistency an 
especial attribute of Emerson's thought. Not only is there 
the contradiction between the assertion in the ' Method of 
Nature,' that man is not the end of nature, and the more 
usual assertion that nature only exists in strict subordin- 
ation for man, as something " which is built up through 
us ; " but we have the two rival and contradictory theories 
that there is an interdependence of all things in nature, 
and that everything is self-existent, sharing the self- 
existence of the Deity (' Transcendentalist '). Moreover, 
the mysticism constantly found in Emerson's thought is not 
easy to bring into correspondence with that literal adher- 
ence to fact which, by the example of Napoleon, he 
recommends in ' Literary Ethics.' 

His philosophical sympathies had their natural effects 
upon the mode and character of his thought. So far as 
science was concerned, the customary attitude of his mind 
was one of antagonism. " The savants are chatty and vain, 
but hold them hard to principle and definition, and they 
become mute and near-si<jhted. What is motion ? What 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 67 

is beauty ? What is matter ? What is force ? What is 
life ? Push them hard and they will not be loquacious." 
He does not admire the scientists, the microscopic observers, 
the ' learned men ' who 

•'* Love not the flower they pluck and know it not, 
And all their botany is Latin names ; " 

and everywhere contrasts them with the sons of nature, 
the poets who " see the flower and the bud with a poet's 
curiosity and awe." Two influences, however, served to 
modify this antagonism. In the first place Emerson fully 
accepted that parallelism or identification of natural and 
spiritual law which, in our incurious age, has served to lift 
into sudden popularity Professor Drummond's work on 
the same subject. Both Emerson and the learned Pro- 
fessor probably derived it from the first volume of Sweden- 
borg's ' Animal Kingdom.' " One might sw^ear," says 
Swedenborg, " that the j^hysical world was purely sym- 
bolical of the spiritual world ; insomuch that if we choose 
to express any natural truth in physical and definite vocal 
terms, and to convert these terms only into the corre- 
sponding and sjDiritual terms, we shall by this means elicit 
a spiritual truth, or theological dogma, in place of the 
physical truth or precept." In the second place, as time 
went on, Emerson began to see that the future religion, 
whatever it might be, must be based on science, ethical 
and physical ; and hence he feels more attracted to it, 
perhaps owing to genial intercourse with Agassiz. " The 
religion which is to guide and fulfil the present and 

F 2 



63 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

coming ages must be intellectual. The scientific mind 
must have a faith which is science. There will be a new 
church founded on moral science, at first cold and naked, 
a babe in a manger again — the algebra and mathematics 
of ethical law, the church of men to come, without shawms, 
or psalteiy, or sackbut ; but it will have heaven and earth 
for its beams and rafters, science for symbol and illustra- 
tion ; it will fast enough gather beauty, music, pictures, 
poetry." (' Worship.') 

Towards utilitarianism, however, of every kind, whether 
applied to ethical determination or to nature, Emerson 
always preserved a repellent attitude. Everything has 
two uses, the first of which, being the most practical, is 
the basest ; the second, which is the symbolic or suggest- 
ive use, is the only one which is worthy of the poet or tlie 
philosopher. Far more, perhaps, than any other thinker 
— certainly more than any modern philosopher, with the 
possible exception of Dr. Martineau — Emerson believed in 
instinct, or intuition, or the individual moral sense, which 
is to make use indeed of experience, but which is above 
and higher than experience. Throughout we are told to 
consult perpetually the sacred shrine within us, which is 
to lead us to all truth, to believe in it as the highest 
oracle, to confide in its revelations despite all the sugges- 
tions of sense or the understanding. The American 
scholar is told to plant himself indomitably on his 
instincts and there abide, and the huge world will come 
round to him. The Transcendentalist is said to be right 
when he leans entirely on his character and ' eats angels' 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 69 

food.' This is only another form of the authoritative 
individual conscience uninformed and uninformable, un- 
cultured and incapable of culture, which has often so 
disastrously betrayed its disciples. In this as well as in 
other points we see Emerson's natural leanings to 
mysticism, his sympathies with Jacobi and Swedenborg 
and the exalted moods of Plato. For the path to mys- 
ticism has always lain through three stages : first, an 
undiscriminating and devoted belief in the authority of 
the individual instinct, intuition, conscience ; then the 
acceptance of another sjiirit in all respects similar to the 
individual, but larger, omnipresent and omnipotent ; 
finally, the discovery that the only end of life for the 
individual is the absorption of his sjiirit in the larger 
spirit, the " swooning into Godhead " of Plotinus the 
Alexandrian. Thus the scholar can only be great by 
being passive to the superincumbent spirit. He need not 
be afraid to be too ascetic, for fear of not publishing his 
thoughts, for " thought is all light and publishes itself to 
the universe. It will speak thougli you were dumb by its 
own miraculous organ." From this point of view a dis- 
tinction is made between Reason and Understandinof, the 
latter being the organ of science, the former being the 
same as instinct and intuition, and therefore the organ of 
faith. Thus, in the ' Divinity College Address,' Christ's 
sayings are declared to be a doctrine of the reason, not 
therefore to be apprehended by the common understand- 
ing, which in consequence perverted tliem and made him a 
miracle-working God, Whether anything is really gained 



70 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

by this division of the functions of the mind against one 
another, so that each higher activity seems the antithesis 
of the lower, and Understanding opposes Sense and is 
itself the opposite of Reason, Emerson does not prove to 
us; but this is the heritage we have received fi'om the 
German school of idealism. In the curious essay called 
the ' Over-soul,' we have the most explicit declarations of 
Emerson's mysticism. The ' Over-soul ' is that unity within 
Avhich each man's particular being is contained and made 
one with all other, the common heart, the overpowering 
I'eality. It is the perceiver and revealer of truth, working 
by means of personal instinct and genius. Hence it comes 
that " men are wiser than they know," a favourite doctrine 
with Emerson. Tljese revelations are always perceptions 
of the absokite law. They do not answer the questions 
which the understanding asks. They do not tell us, for 
instance, whether the soul is immortal or no, but they 
assure us that truth, justice, love, and beauty have nothing 
to do with the idea of duration. (" The moment the 
doctrine of immortality is separately taught man is already 
fallen.") The same omniscience flows into the intellect 
and makes what we call genius. It only acts by entire 
possession ; it is the consciousness that the Highest dwells 
with a man. " The soul gives itself alone, original and 
pure to the Lonely, Original, and Pure, who on that con- 
dition gladly inhabits, leads and speaks through it." Most 
men, as Plato would say, have not the eyes to see uni- 
versals and entities, and cannot move with freedom in 
this region of abstraction and symbolism, but it may be 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 71 

suspected that to most readers the following passage comes 
perilously near the borders of inspired nonsense. " Of a 
purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example ; I 
mean we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his 
character and eaten angels' food ; who, trusting to his 
sentiments, found life made of miracles, who, working for 
universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how, 
clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how ; and 
yet it was done by his own hands." That Emerson was 
the sanest of the Transcendental faction who wrote in 
' The Dial ' and complained of being misunderstood, only 
proves how deficient in self-control the Transcendentalists 
of Boston must have been. 

Emerson's poetry will be interpreted differently accord- 
ing to the estimation held of the value of form in poetical 
composition. If it be held, as it surely must, that no 
artist can be regardless of form without forfeiting many 
chaplets from his poetic crown, then Emerson's laurels 
will present a peculiarly bare and disordered appearance. 
He redeems his reputation, it is true, by many happy 
touches and graceful thoughts, but the structural instinct — 
the natural tendency to obey laws of metre and rhythm — 
seems entirely wanting. There are many poets who run 
so easily in their self-imposed harness, that only criticism 
can detect the strict rules in accordance with which the 
work has been constructed. There are other poets on 
a lower scale, of whom we have abundant examples in 
contemporary literature, who obey the laws of their com- 
position with such surprising dexterity that, though the 



72 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

artifice is revealed, they almost succeed in concealing 
their want of inspiration. Emerson is certainly not 
artificial, but then he is not naturally artistic in his 
poems. They are formless, without end, beginning, or 
middle; inchoate, unhewn, unpolished ; only just emerg- 
ing from the quarry of nature. From nature they 
assuredly come ; but they know nothing of the art which 
adds to nature, nor yet of that higher art which nature 
makes. They are written in the octosyllabic metre — 
" the normal respiratory measure," as Dr. Holmes calls it 
— which is easy and slipshod and diffuse, and which knows 
vo reason why it should ever commence, and having com- 
menced why it should ever stop. 

" Burly, dozing liumble-hee, 
Where thou art is clime for me ; 
I will follow thee alone, 
Thou animated torrid zone ! 
Zigzag steerer, desert cheerer, 
Let me chase thy waving lines ; 
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer, 
Singing over shrubs and vines." 

This zigzag-steering, desert-cheering, animated torrid zone 
is only fit for the monotonous chant of the National school- 
room. Emerson told Carlyle, in a burst of honest self- 
depreciation, that he was no poet, but only belonged " to 
a low department of literature, the reporters, suburban 
men." 

It is, of course, not always that Emerson is at this low 
level. But the extraordinary thing is that he is nearly 
always unmusical; he seems born without an ear. In 



EMERSOX, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 73 

many of his finer poems lines occur which are almost 
bewildering in their absence of rhythm, or even of feet. 
In the striking lines which he prefixes to his essay on 
* Nature,' he writes — 

"And striving to be man, the worm 
Mounts through all the spires of form," 

without, seemingly, discovering that the last line is 
deficient in a syllable. He makes ' feeble ' rhyme with 
' people,' and ' Lord ' rhyme with ' abroad ' ; and ' wood- 
pecker' finds its echo in the excruciating sound of 'surly 
bear.' Dr. Holmes, who is on the whole a stout champion 
of Emersonian verse, quotes other instances of this un- 
musical defect, for instance : — 

" Oh, Avhat is heaven but the fellowship 
Of minds that each can stand against the world 
Btj its own meek and incorruptible loill 1 " 

In its symbolic and abstract tendency, also, the poetry 
of Emerson lays itself open to criticism. This was the 
point on which Mr. Matthew Arnold insisted in his 'Dis- 
courses in America,' It was natural enough tliat Emerson, 
with his love of the universal, of the type, of the under- 
lying law, which meets us everywhere in his prose, should 
also couch his poetic thought in abstractions. But it is a 
question whether the love of the sensuously concrete be 
not an essential quality of the poet. It may be true that 
Emerson's verse differs from that of his contemporaries as 
algebra from arithmetic ; it still remains open for us to 
assert that poetry should not deal with algebraic symbols. 

Yet there is some truth in one of Emerson's remarks to 



74 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

]\liss Peabody, " I am not a great poet, but whatever is of 
me is a poet." For he is full of noble thoughts, and of 
some noble and memorable lines : — 

" Oat from the heart of nature rolled 
The burdens of the Bible old ; 
Tlie hand that rounded Peter's dome, 
Ami groined the aisles of Christian Pome, 
Wrought in a sad sincerity ; 
Himself from God he could not free ; 
He huilded better than he knew, 
The conscious stone to beauty grew." 

The whole of the poem from which these lines are 
taken, entitled, ' The Problem,' is stately, sonorous, and 
dignified — a head and shoulders above the usual stature 
of Emerson's muse. So, too, the poem called ' May-Day,' 
and that entitled ' Woodnotes ' are full of a wild and way- 
Avard grace : — 

" Thou canst not Avave thy staff in air, 
Or dip thy paddle in the lake, 
But it carves the bow of beauty there, 
And the ripples in rhyme the oar forsake." 

Emerson is generally at his best when he is describing 
nature ; and in poems like ' The Snowstorm,' ' Monadnoc/ 
' Musketaquid,' ' The Adirondacs,' names redolent of the 
New England in which his heart was centred, he is full 
of the gracious and imaginative enthusiasm of the poet. 
Here and there he touches the soul with something like 
an inspiration : " Heartily know, when half-gods go, the 
gods arrive ; " " Himself from God he could not free ; " 
" And fired the shot heard round the world " (Concord 
Hymn) ; " Music pours on mortals its beautiful disdain " — 



EMERSON, AS THINKER AND WRITER. 75 

in sucli lines, to whicli more might be added, we feel the 
sudden gloAV of the divine fire. And in two of his poems, 
' Blight,' and ' Days,' there is an innate feeling for structural 
dignity which might well have converted the careless lines 
into a noble sonnet. But the unmusical ear is the saddest 
of defects : " like a hoarse voice in a beautiful person, it is 
a kind of warning." 

Emerson's fame will probably be independent of any 
single contribution to the world's literature. For his 
merit does not appear to consist either in his rhetoric, or 
his philosophy, or his poetry, but rather in the genial 
spirit of the man, and in the generous and wholesome 
influence which he diffuses around him, like some bracing 
and exhilarating atmosphere. In a different sense from 
that of the sermon or the ethical homily, it ' does one 
good ' to read him ; for he braces the sinews and sets the 
blood coursing more freely through the veins. In this 
respect he stands at the opposite pole to Carlyle, who 
supplies the malodorous and distasteful medicine, while 
Emerson gives the tonic of blithe air and happy sunshine. 
His spirits are so unfailing, his mental attitude is so sane 
and manlike, that he cannot even bear that one should 
mention his maladies, lest he become the querulous vale- 
tudinarian. " I beseech you by all angels to hold your 
peace and not pollute the morning, to wliich all the house- 
mates bring serene and pleasant thoughts, by corruption 
and groans. Come out of the azure. Love the day." The 
distemper known as ' blue devils ' did not apparently 
haunt Emerson. "All my hurts my garden spade can 



73 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Leal," he says ; albeit that his son, when he saw him 
digging, is rej)orted to have told him to beware lest he 
should ' dig his leg.' There remains, however, a certain 
desultoriness which will probably prevent Emerson's work 
from becoming anything more than inspiring and sug- 
gestive. Perhaps this is the inevitable accompaniment of 
one who embraces a transcendental creed, like the shadow 
which lies across the valley of him who walks on the 
heights. Perhaps it is the especial drawback of the modern 
American mind, which seems to rejoice in impressions and 
effects and sym23honies as though tliey were the same as 
honest and full-blooded work. So Emerson himself thought 
when he asserted that the true dignity of the scholar was 
not realized in America. " The mark of American merit 
in painting, in sculpture, in poetry, in fiction, in eloquence, 
seems to be a certain grace without grandeur, and itself not 
new but derivative; a vase of fair outline, but empty, which 
whoso sees may fill with what wit and character is in him, 
but which does not, like the charged cloud, overflow with 
terrible beauty and emit lightnings on all beliolders." The 
grace of Emerson no one can deny, though even this is 
inferior to the literary finish and elegance of Hawthorne ; 
but that he was not new but derivative, let his spiritual 
exemplars testify, who were Plato and Coleridge, Sweden- 
bora- and Wordsworth. 



77 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 

" Nevertheless it involved a cliann, on which, a devoted epicure of 
jnv own emotions, I resolved to pause and enjoy the moral 
sillabub until quite dissolved away." — Huwthoriue' s BUthedale 
Rommice. 

The sentence of Emerson on the character of the Ameri- 
can genius, that " it has a certain grace without grandeur, 
and is itself not new but derivative," is only partially true 
as applied to Hawthorne. For the special qualities which 
distinguish his writings form an almost unique phenomenon 
in literature, partly owing to their impalpable and im- 
ponderable charm, partly because of the ' complete fusion 
which they exhibit of somewhat contradictory ingredients. 
For Hawthorne is conspicuously American, and yet he is 
by no means ' provincial ' ; he is a Puritan, and yet an 
artist; a moralist, and yet not devoid of a refined and 
exquisite cynicism. An American assuredly, for he wrote 
' Our Old Home ' ; and born of a stock of Puritans and 
Calvinists, because his stories are full of the problems of 
sin and evil, and overweighted by the obstinately recurrent 
feeling of something like an original doom ; and yet, by 
virtue of his higher efforts, a poetic genius, a consummate 



78 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

artist, a co=;mopolitan writer. Of the three main elements 
of his nature there is only one which, so far as we know, 
was individually his own. His inquisitorial habits, and his 
predilection for ■' cases of conscience,' were his heritage from 
the Judge Hawthorne who condemned the Salom witches ; 
his idealistic dreaminess, and his questionings of sense and 
outward things, we can attribute perhaps more doubtfully 
to the influence of Emerson and the Transcendental ists. 
There remains his aesthetic taste, his " squeamish love of 
the beautiful," and his general artistic sense, which we 
cannot father on either ancestors or contemporaries, but 
without which he would have remained as much 'provincial' 
as Alcott, and Channing, and Thoreau. But this individual 
element cannot be torn out from its intimate relationshij) 
with New England characteristics. The fibres which 
connect Hawthorne with his native soil and his grim old 
forefathers are too close and intricate for such rude surgery ; 
and it is the manner in which his supreme artistic genius 
is interpenetrated by Puritanical moods and transcendental 
dreams which gives it its unique importance in modern 
literature. 

The prefaces which Hawthorne j)re fixes to his books 
are all charming and generally irrelevant. None, however, 
is more charming or more irrelevant than the chapter ou 
the Custom House which opens the romance of ' The 
Scarlet Letter.' In it he refers to his ancestry — those 
grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned pro- 
genitors, who made Salem famous or infamous with their 
martial swords and still more martial Bibles. They had 



HAWTHORNE'S KOMANCES. T9 

the Puritanic traits, both good and evil : they were soldiers, 
legislators, judges and rulers in the Church, and they were 
bitter persecutors of witches and Quakers. Hawthorne 
pictures them as undergoing a dreary retribution for their 
cruelties in having so degenerate an offspring as himself, a 
writer of story-books, who, from their point of view, might 
as well have been a fiddler. " Yet," he remarks, " let 
them scorn me as they will, strong traits of their nature 
have intertwined themselves with mine." In this, as often 
in his self-criticism, Hawthorne was entirely in the right. 
He is haunted by the same problems, though to him they 
are matters for his imagination rather than for his faith ; 
to him, too, as well as to them, the dreary consciousness of 
sin weighs like an ancestral and immitigable burden on 
men's souls. The point of view is, however, changed by 
his artistic instinct. No longer are present sin and luture 
damnation. Divine predestination to evil and human re- 
sponsibility for transgression, facts of awful moral import, 
which are to colour the practice and darken the sympathies 
of every individual soul ; but only psychological problems, 
fullof speculative interest, themes for imaginative treat- 
ment, colours merely of sombre hue which the artist keeps 
on his palette, whereby to heighten the effect of his 
dramatic pictures. It is as though a man in middle age 
were to meet again in dream the bogeys which haunted his 
childish nightmares, and change them from tyrannical 
masters into servile sprites and obedient Ariels. So purely 
as playthings for his art does Hawthorne treat the witches' 
sabbaths and the midnight frolics in the forest, and all the 



80 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

kindred notions of daemonic possession. Nay, lie extends 
the same treatment even to hereditary curses and legend- 
ary sins, to mesmeric influences and occult phenomena of 
magic. Like the Mother Rigby of his tale, he lets his 
familiar Dickon light his pipe, and constructs one or two 
imaginary Feathertops to delude the too seriously practical 
or too crudely realistic portion of his audience. Only the 
thing is managed so gracefully that we are willingly 
deluded ; the artistic touch is so sure and so fine, that we 
feel a delicate aesthetic relish in such funereal themes. It 
is not, as he says, " the devil himself who gets into his 
inkstand," when he fills his pen, but rather a humorous 
Mephistopheles with a poetic taste for the graceful and the 
picturesque. 

To this we have to add "a seemingly real belief in philo- 
sophical idealism — perhaps due to contact with Emerson 
and Alcott : that the so-called facts which surround us are 
not real but phenomenal ; that man's life is but a dream ; 
that our truest life is not the external one, but the internal 
warmth of emotion and feelingr which gives us an instinctive 
insight into truth ; these things seem to have been part of 
Emerson's creed. " Indeed we are but shadows: Ave are 
not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real 
about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream till the 
heart be touched. That touch creates us, then we begin 
to be, thereby we are beings of reality and inheritors of 
eternity." Such a sentence seems obviously to bear the 
Emersonian impress. The same sentiment is more comically 
expressed in the following sentences, which relate to Haw- 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 81 

thorne's life in the Brook Farm experiment. " It already 
looks like a dream behind me. The real Me was never 
an associate of the community ; there has been a spectral 
Appearance there, sounding the horn at daybreak, and 
milking the cows and hoeing potatoes, and raking hay, 
toiling in the sun, and doing me the honour to assume my 
name. But the spectre was not myself. Nevertheless, it 
is somewhat remarkable that my hands have, during the 
past summer, grown very brown and rough, insomuch that 
many people persist in believing that I, after all, was the 
aforesaid spectral horn-sounder, cow-milker, potato-hoer, 
and hay-raker. But such people do not know a reality 
from a shadow." No, indeed, for Hawthorne's real self 
was not at Brook Farm, except in the shape of Miles 
Coverdale ; nor was he real, save when he haunted the 
region which divides the natural from the supernatural, 
the tliin borderland which separates the dream life from 
the actual and the palpable. It can easily be seen how 
such idealistic tendencies increased the effect of his 
writings. It gave his characters some of the effect of 
disembodied creations, with regard to whom we have not 
to apply the usual canons of credibility. It rendered 
his Donatello a plausible fancy, and bestowed a kind of 
verisimilitude on such ' moonshiny ' romances as ' Trans- 
formation.' 

" The cursed habits of solitude," to which Hawthorne 
refers, the dislike of conversation and society, the shyness 
of his ordinary demeanour and his customary self-con- 
centration were doubtless answerable for many of the 



82 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

characteristics of his writing. Here, for instance, is a 
picture of tlie man as drawn by his friend G. W. Curtis, 
which will explain much of his idiosyncrasy : — 

" During Hawthorne's first year of residence in Concord, I 
had driven up with some friends to an aesthetic tea at Mr. 
Emerson's. It Avas in the winter, and a great wood fire blazed 
upon the hospitable hearth. There were various men and 
women of note assembled, and I, Avho hstened attentively to 
all the fine things that were said, was for some time scarcely 
aAvare of a man, who sat upon the edge of the circle, a httle 
Avithdrawn, his head slightly thrown forward upon his breast, 
and his black eyes clearly burning under his black brow. As I 
drifted down the stream of talk, this person, Avho sat silent as 
a shadow, looked to me as Webster might have looked had he 
been a poet — a kind of poetic Webster. He rose and Avalked 
to the window, and stood there quietly for a long time Avatchiug 
the dead white landscape. No appeal was made to him ; no- 
body looked after him ; the conversation flowed steadily on, as 
if every one understood that his silence was to be respected. It 
was the same thing at table. In vain the silent man imbibed 
aesthetic tea. Whatever fancies it inspired did not flower at 
his lips. But there was a light in his eye Avhich assured me that 
nothing was lost. So supreme Avas his silence that it presently 
engrossed me to the exclusion of everything else. There was 
very brilliant discourse, but this silence Avas much more poetic 
and fascinatiug. Fine things Avere said by the philosophers, 
but much finer things Avere implied by the dumbness of this 
gentleman Avith heavy brows and black hair. When he 
l^resently rose and Avent, Emerson, Avith the sIoav, AAdse smile 
that breaks over his face like day over the sky, said, ' HaAvthorne 
rides Avell his horse of the night.' " 

The happily descriptive remark of Ennerson, though it 
accentuates the crepuscular habit of mind, equally explains 
two other mental traits of Hawthorne, the tendency to 
abstraction and the jDOAver of introspection. Surely but 
foAv Avriters have had such a genius for self-criticism as 
Hawthorne. Psychological analysis was, indeed, a familiar 



HAWTHOENE'S ROMANCES. 83 

sport for Lis mind, and formed the modern substitute for 
the ancient inquisitorial instincts of his progenitors. 
He was so cool, so disengaged, so purely negative towards 
his creations, that he could not only analyze the prejudices 
and intuitions of others, but subject himself to the same 
process. He exactly hits the point, when he calls 
'Transformation' a moonshiny romance; he is equally 
felicitous in what he says in the preface to ' Twice-Told 
•Tales' as to the quality of his shorter stories. "The 
book, if you would see anything in it, requires to be read 
in the clear, brown, twilight atmosphere in which it was 
written ; if opened in the sunshine, it is apt to look 
exceedingly like a volume of blank pages." In Miles 
Coverdale in the ' Blithedale Romance,' he left what 
appears to be a picture of himself in the midst of the 
Brook Farm enthusiasts. Certainly Hawthorne had no 
jDarticular business to be amongst the sentimental young- 
ladies, heavy-footed disciples of Socialism, staid devotees 
of the rights of equal division of property, and calm 
philosophic thinkers, who together constituted that most 
picturesque and most visionary of modern Arcadias. 
Miles Coverdale, too, is not especially enthusiastic. " As 
HoUingsworth once told me, I lack a purpose. How 
strange ! He was ruined morally by an overplus of the 
same ingredient, the want of which I occasionally suspect 
has rendered my life all an emptiness." Or again, " No 
sagacious man will long retain his sagacity, if he lives 
expressly among reformers, without periodical return to 
the settled system of things to correct himself by a new 



84 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

observation from the old standpoint." One can see tliat 
Hawtliome clearly recognized how little sympathy is to 
be got out of mental analysis, and how for a cool and 
somewhat self-interested common-sense falls short of being 
the stuff of which great historical movements are made. 
Coverdale, however, if a critic, is at least an amiable one 
and represents Hawtliorne at his best. Hawthorne at his 
worst is represented, possibly, by the darker phantom of 
Gervayse Hastings in the short story called the 'Christmas 
Banquet ' — a man whose cold curiosity in the region of 
emotion has left him absolutely incapable of experiencing 
it in his own person. Be this as it may, Hawthorne 
possesses in singular measure the power of dividing his 
mind into two departments, one of which adopts the 
position of critic towards the other. He reminds one of 
the Doppdgdngcr in Schumann's song, where a man is 
watching with intense interest a figure on the opposite side 
of the street. It has the same tricks as he is conscious of 
possessing, and exercises the peculiar fascination over him 
of a sort of objective presentation of his own most intimate 
qualities. The figure suddenly turns and he sees the 
face : with a shriek, he recognizes that it is his own. 

The other characteristic, the tendency to abstraction 
which so solitary a mind inevitably possesses, manifests 
itself partly in the bloodlessness of the personages whom 
he depicts, partly in the love of allegory, partly again in 
the eerie quality of his romances. It is the gift of the 
higher forms of literature to possess a distinct atmosphere 
of their own, the influence of which we instinctively 



HAWTHORNE'S KOMAXCES. 85 

recognize as we read. There is the atmosphere, for 
instance, which surrounds Mr. Morris's ' Earthly Paradise,' 
the heavy, sensuous air of some island of the Sirens where 
reigns the indolent and delicious passivity of an eternity 
of the lotus-flower. Or there is the eager and nipping 
air which surrounds much of the work of Carlyle, an air 
which bites shrewdly and which can only be inhaled in 
gasps. Or there is the quiet, summerlike, peaceful atmo- 
sphere wliich Emerson distils, the air of complacent 
optimism, when we feel that it is good to have been born, 
and that all things work together for good to those who 
love God. Far otherwise is the atmosphere which sur- 
rounds the work of Hawthorne, and no one who has once 
breathed it can forget its peculiar quality. In whatever 
time, place, or circumstance his tales are perused, instantly 
there rises the suggestion of a chilly and spectral air, the 
air of some gleaming moonlight, when all the shadows 
seem to have gathered an added intensity, when ordinary 
flesh and blood has lost colour, and to both eye and ear 
are borne ever and anon the visions of flying wraiths, and 
the echoes of a supernatural melody. The touch of the 
artist here is incommunicable and indescribable, and is 
the uni(|ue possession of his singular genius. The 
machinery by which the effect is worked differs, but the 
result is the same. Sometimes it is witchcraft, together 
Avith all the gloomy terrors of the forest at midnight, as 
when young Goodman Brown feels himself impelled to 
desert the common paths of rectitude and join the witches' 
revel. Sometimes it is an inherited curse, as when Judge 



8G STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Pyncheon, in the ' House of the Seven Gables,' dies in the 
same chair as his blood-stained ancestor, and the author 
bids us watch for hours at his side while he taunts him 
with all his unfalfilled engagements. Sometimes it is 
the consciousness of sin, as when Arthur Dimraesdale, in 
* The Scarlet Letter,' places himself on the scaffold Avhere 
the partner of his guilt had been pilloried and stands in 
the place of shame throughout the summer night. Some- 
times it is merely the consciousness of the secrecy of the 
human heart, as when Mr. Hooper scares his congregation 
by appearing before them with a black veil over his face. 
Sometimes, again, it is the morbid fancy of the highest 
and most exquisite boauty as s^^ringing from a being 
nurtured by the most virulent poisons, as in that short 
masterpiece entitled ' Rappaccini's Daughter.' Or, once 
more, it is the violent conjunction and contrast of opposite 
and discordant emotions, as when Miriam and Donatello 
in ' Transformation,' in the intoxication of a crime com- 
mitted in common, walk feverishly and happily ecstatic 
through the blood-stained streets of Rome. However 
managed, the supernatural effect is the same. Super- 
natural, indeed, is not the right wovd to employ : for the 
essence of Hawthorne's art is to make it seem supremely 
natural, as though by some magic touch the extraordinary 
could become ordinary, or as though the realities of the 
world were but the shadows of those deeper truths which 
are wrongly named fantastic and imaginary. The fascin- 
ation of the mystical may be difficult to analyze : certainly, 
if it ever touches the maririn of the vulvar or the 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 87 

ridiculous, it bacomes repulsiv^e : but when it is kept in 
control by an exquisite artistic sense, it affects us with a 
strange and almost immeasurable force. But if there is 
one writer more than another who makes us dispute the 
obstinate reality of the things of our work-a-day life, 
who teaches us to be sceptical of such ordinary foundations 
of a materialistic creed as matter and time and space, it 
is Hawthorne, with his romantic idealism, who in this 
respect, though from quite another side and animated by 
a different motive, preaches the same lesson as his com- 
patriot Emerson, and helps us to banish the vulgar forms 
of realism, as possible modes of art. 

Meanwhile the characters iii such tales undoubtedly 
suffer, and sometimes the tales themselves become too 
obviously, didactic or allegorical. " Instead of passion," 
Hawthorne with rare frankness confesses, " there is senti- 
ment ; and even in what purport to be pictures of actual 
life we have allegory, not always so warmly dressed in its 
habiliments of flesh and blood as to be taken into the 
reader's mind without a shiver. Whether from lack of 
power, or an unconquerable reserve, the author's touches 
have often an effect of tameness ; the merriest man can 
hardly contrive to laugh at his broadest humour; the 
tenderest woman, one would suppose, will hardly shed 
warm tears at his deepest pathos." Though overstated, 
there is an element of truth in this self-criticism ; yet those 
who think that Hawthorne was always cold and impassive 
should remember the passage in the ' English Notebooks ' 
(September 14 1885), whore he says he wonders at 



83 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Thackeray's coolness in respect to his own pathos, and 
compares it with his own emotion when he read the last 
scene of' The Scarlet Letter' to his Avifejust after writinof 
it — tried to read it rather, for his voice swelled and 
heaved, as if he were tossed up and down on an ocean 
as it subsides after a storm. As to the fondness for 
allegory, Edgar Poe declares in a contemporary criticism 
that he is infinitely too fond of it, and that he can never 
hope for popularity so long as he persists in it. " Indeed, 
his spirit of metaphor run mad is clearly imbibed from 
the phalanstery atmospliere in which he has been so long 
struggling for truth. Let him menel his pen, get a bottle 
of visible ink, come out from the Old Manse, cut Mr. 
Alcott, hang (if possible) the .editor of the ' Dial,' and 
throw out of the window to the pigs all his odd numbers 
of the ' North-Ameiican Review.' " This is of course 
pitched in a tone of absurd exaggeration. The truth 
is, however, that the love of abstraction and allegory was 
a mood against wliich Hawthorne was often struggling, 
and as he himself says, making attempts to open an 
intercourse with the world. The result is that a pro- 
gressive tendency from the abstract to the concrete can 
be traced through much of his work, and that his last 
work, ' Transformation,' so little represents the culmina- 
tion of his powers that it is in certain aspects a distinct 
retrogression. 

It appears that during or immediately after his college- 
days at Bowdoin, Hawthorne published anonymously a 
slight romance with the motto from Southey, " Wilt thou 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 80 

cro with me ? " He was afterwards discjusted with this 
early work, and never acknowledged its authorship. But 
it possessed in a crude form many of the subsequent 
qualities of his style. It was a dim dreamy tale, full of 
the weird and the uncanny, and its characters were not so 
mucli persons as embodied passions, emotions, spiritual 
speculations. Here at the outset of his career, we find 
both allegory and abstract characterization. It is the same 
with many of his earlier tales. He appears, if not anxious 
to express a moral, at least unable to give his creations 
anything but the most shadowy and ausemic personality. 
They move across the pages with a stilted imitation of life, 
they are endowed with names as though they were really 
persons, but we instinctively feel that they have not the 
same flesh and bone as ourselves, and that they draw their 
breath from airs which never enter our lungs. Enormous 
is the interval which separates the best of the shorter tales 
from 'The Scarlet Letter' with its clear enunciation of 
practical moral problems and its terrible revelation of the 
ano"uisli of a burdened conscience. After 'The Scarlet 
Letter ' was published, we are told that Hawthorne received 
many confessions from men and women who had either com- 
mitted or fancied that they had committed some great sin, 
a sufficient proof of the reality and concreteness of its 
main theme. A Quaker once wrote to the author to tell 
him that he knew him better than his best friend. Yet 
there was truth in Hawthorne's comment that his corre- 
spondent considerably over-estimated tlie extent of his 
intimacy with him. For, indesd, even in ' The Scarlet 



90 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Letter' there is much, as Mr. Henry James remarks, of 
"spheres and influences." Arthur Dimmesdale is real 
enough, but what are we to say of Roger Chilling worth, 
the atjOTieved husband, who exercises so great an influence 
over the d&noncmcnt of the tale, and yet hovers only on 
the verge of actuality as an impalpable and ghostly 
Nemesis ? Hawthorne is fond of making;; the trasjic action 
of his characters depend on such shadowy personalities, 
and Chillingworth plays an identical part with the mys- 
terious figure of the catacombs who persecutes Miriam in 
' Transformation,' and Professor Westervelt who wields 
such an occult power over Zenobia in the ' Blithedale 
Romance.' Hester Pr3aine herself does not affect us like 
a woman who has loved and suffered for her love, because 
Hawthorne intentionally separates the present conjuncture, 
which it is his object to analyze, from the past whence it 
sprang, and which alone could give it causal justification. 
The effect on the mind is like that of Stesichorus' Helen, 
who did not go to Troy at all, but only went there in the 
shape of a pale and bodiless phantom. The triumph of 
this fanciful semi-morbid psychology is the elfin child, little 
Pearl, veritably a triumph, for she is so clearly the off- 
spring of an immoral alliance, but for that very reason she 
is hardly a child at all, but the embodied moral of a whole- 
some sermon. Yet even here how wonderfully sure is the 
artistic touch of Hawthorne ! What a morbid piece of 
imagination it is to make the child so fond of the letter of 
shame that she will not go to her mother unless she is 
wearing it on her bosom ! How morbid and yet how 



HAWTHOEXE'S ROMANCES. 91 

striking ! Hawthorne is full of such touches,, sometimes 
insisting on them with an almost painful emphasis, but 
rarely exceeding the artistic requirements of his picture, 

A year after the publication of ' The Scarlet Letter,' 
Hawthorne has added to the concreteness of his personages 
in ' The House of the Seven Gables.' The shadowy 
Chillingworth has now become a firm- set, tyrannical reality 
in the shape of Judge Pyncheon ; and the author has found 
a way of making his female characters more actual by the 
contrast between an elder and a younger, the younger to 
be the essence of sweetness and tenderness, and the elder 
to have harder lineaments, produced either by age or 
mental strength. Phcebe Pyncheon, too, has, besides her 
tenderness, a beneficent store of practical activity, and 
poor old Hephzibah commences her troubles by a crisis of 
pathetic reality when she degrades her lineage by opening 
a shop. Holgrave is thrown in to add to this effect as the 
representative of the pushing, indefatigable Yankee, who 
has nothing but his wits to make his way with in the 
world. Clifford remains as the representative of the 
shadows, and there is a half-intimated background of 
ancestral feud and mesmeric influence to keep the story 
within the limits prescribed by the author's peculiar 
genius. In the ' Blithedale Romance ' we move to yet 
newer ground. Here is a basis of actual fact in the ex*- 
periences of Hawthorne in the Brook Farm community, 
and Blithedale becomes no imaginary region, but a pheno- 
menon which history has recognized. Of all the novels, 
this, though perhaps slightest in texture, has most of 



92 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

sunniness, most of humorous enjoyment, as though for 
once the haunting devil had, for some two hundred pages 
at least, left Hawthorne's elbow. Coverdale is concrete 
enough ; so, too, in ample measure is Hollingsworth ; so, 
too, above all, is Zenobia. The same expedient is used 
for contrasting an older stronger woman with a younger 
weaker one ; and, indeed, the relations of Zenobia to 
Priscilla are afterwards repeated in those of Miriam to 
Hilda in ' Transformation.' But there can be no question 
that of all the female characters Zenobia is the one that 
has the firmest outlines and the most insistent personalit3% 
In all dramatic characterization, it is women especially who 
suffer by being made too shadowy and bloodless. All 
their modes of self-manifestation, all the outlets of their 
influence, are so essentially bound up with their corporeal 
organization, the whole impress of their personality, at 
least to a masculine imagination, is so intimately connected 
with their bodily form and feature, that if they fail to be 
flesh and blood, we begin to be sceptical of their actuality. 
As has been already noticed, some of Hawthorne's women 
seem to shrink from crossing the borders of shadowland ; 
but Zenobia at least is imperiously human in her sensuous 
beauty, in her passionate attachment, in her terrible 
despair. Rarely has Hawthorne allowed himself such 
fouches as those by which he conveys to his reader the 
idea of the Blithedale heroine. See how she affects Miles 
Coverdale : " Zenobia was truly a mignificent woman. 
The homel}'^ simplicity of her dress could not conceal, nor 
scarcely diminish, the queenliness of her presence. — I know 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 93 

not well how to express, that the native glow of colouring 
in her cheeks, and even the flesh-warmth over her round 
arms and wliat "was visible of her full bust, in a word, her 
womanliness incarnated, compelled me sometimes to close 
my eyes, as if it were not quite the privilege of modesty 
to gaze at her." When we turn to ' Transformation,' we 
are struck by many differences in relation to the earlier 
romances. The scene, to begin wdth, is changed, and New 
England has been deserted for Italy. It is a curious proof 
of the many invisible ties which serve to connect Haw- 
thorne with his native country that -with the loss of the 
familiar background of Salem and Concord and the forest, 
there appears to be a corresponding loss of power. The 
many allusions to Italian scenery and the descriptions of 
notorious spots in Rome, however admirably they may 
fulfil the purposes of a superior guide-book, and however 
graceful they may be in themselves, hardly make up for 
the deficiency of the natural local colours. Sometimes 
they strike the reader as irritating interruptions, and 
indeed the story itself, as Mr, Hemy James has remarked, 
has a tendency to lose itself in byways and straggle almost 
painfully in inconsecutive paragraphs. The characters 
again have become more shadowy. Miriam is not wholly 
a satisfactory creation, owing to the intentional obscurity 
in which the author has left both her past and her future ; 
Kenyon is not especially life-like ; and Donatello, though 
at times he strikes one as a happy fiction of poesy, at other 
times obtrudes too much his alien nature. The novel, 
lastly, has an obvious purpose, and the lesson of the 



91 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

educative power of sin, whether it be considered as a 
moral one or no, interferes to some extent with the artistic 
character of the Avork. Yet such criticisms do not touch 
the main vahie of the book, and it is hardly matter for 
surprise that to many readers ' Transformation ' appears 
as Hawthorne's masterpiece. The genius for style is as 
clearly there — perhaps more clearly there — than in his 
other works, and the impalpable charm of distinction and 
refinement rests on many pages of admirable writing. 
Still, we are not altogether surprised to find that the next 
step carries the author wholly back to the abstract and the 
allegorical; and however little we may have a right to 
judge the unfinished 'Septimius Felton,' it is easy to see 
that it would under no circumstances have reached the 
level of former productions. 

Dramatist or no dramatist, there can be no question 
that Hawthorne was a consummate artist. His characters 
may often be wanting in opaqueness and solidity, but 
nothing can interfere with the extraordinary felicity and 
power of his scenes. The personages do not always stand 
out with distinctness, but the management of the incidents, 
the grouping of the accessories, the natural background of 
colour and tone and scenery, and all the ' staging,' so to 
speak, of the piece are alike admirable. Further than 
this, the insight into emotion and the perception of the 
contrasts of passion, though they often appear arbitrary and 
unnatural, strike the imagination with rare force and 
mastery. It will be better to select some of the finest 
passages for comparison, in order to observe the manner 



HAWTHORNE'S EOMANCES. Co 

in which Hawthorne produces his effects. Take the scene 
in 'The Scarlet Letter' in which Arthur Dimmesdale 
returns fioni his interview with Hester Prynne in the 
forest. The minister, after meeting once more the com- 
panion of his ancient sin, finds that his moral nature is 
temporarily perverted. He longs to utter to his deacon 
blasphemous suggestions about the communion supper. 
He is on the point of whispering to an elderly dame who 
has lost her husband and children some argument against 
the immortality of the soul. He is tempted to make some 
impure remark and give some wicked look to one of the 
l^urest maidens in his flock, and to join a drunken seaman 
in a volley of " good, round, solid, satisfactory and heaven- 
defying oaths." There is a horrible truth in this wonder- 
ful scene. Hawthorne has merely analyzed the power of 
mental reaction after some unusual strain of feeling and 
excitement — a common experience, but one which his 
genius has transfigured with unearthlj'- light. Or, again, 
there is the long chapter in the 'House of the Seven Gables,' 
where Judge Pyncheon is described as lying dead in his 
chair. Here the effect is due to the contrast between the 
cold lifeless corpse, rigid on its chair, and the string of 
humorous taunts conveyed in the enumeration of the 
Judge's manifjld worldly engagements for the day. Take 
another scene. In the ' Blithedale Romance,' Hollings- 
worth, Coverdale and Foster drag the midnight river for 
the body of Zenobia, who has committed suicide. What 
is it that makes the scene so powerfully tragic ? It is 
partly the presence of Silas Foster with his utterly coarse 



'JG STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

and rustic imaginings, as an effectual contrast to the 
spiritual agony of the other characters. " It puts me in 
mind of my young days," remarked Silas, " when I used to 
steal out of bed to go bobbing for hornpouts and eels. 
Heigh-ho ! Well ; life and death together make sad work 
for us all ! Then I was a boy, bobbing for fish ; and now 
I'm getting to be an old fellow, and here I be, groping for 
a dead body ! I tell you what, lads, if I thought anything 
had really happened to Zenobia, I should feel kind o' 
sorrowful." What a wonderful touch that is ! Hawthorne 
knows the value of sudden contrasts of the humorous and 
the grave, and when Zenobia's body is found, he does not 
hesitate to suggest that if she had only known the ugly 
circumstances of death and how ill it became her, she 
would no more have committed the dreadful act than have 
exhibited herself to a public assembly in a badly-fitting 
garment. Another powerful scene has before been re- 
ferred to. It is that of the murder of the tormentor of 
Miriam by Donatello in ' Transformation.' Here the 
strength of the situation is not dependent on the realism 
by which the act itself is described, but, as usual in Haw- 
thorne, on the indication of the after-effects. The sense 
of a sin in which both have participated leads at first to 
an ecstasy of joy. Miriam and Donatello go hand in hand 
as though the murder had not only made them irrevocably 
one, but enduringly happy. Perhaps, after all, the finest 
single scene of all is the night-vigil of the hero of ' The 
Scarlet Letter ' on the scaffold ; but in that the effect 
depends more on the imaginative vividness with which the 



HAWTHOENES ROMANCES. 97 

picture is drawn than on the subtle suggestions of contrasted 
feelings, on which Hawthorne principally relies. 

It is needless to hold up Hawthorne to obloquy, as Mr. 

Hutton has done, for not seeing the rights and wrongs of 

slave emancipation. It was reprehensible, no doubt, for 

our author to have suggested that a noble movement had 

some of " the mistiness of a philanthropic theory." But it 

must be remembered that Hawthorne was a Democrat, not 

a Republican, and that he had a warm attachment for 

General Pierce, who had identified himself with the party 

who desired above all things to preserve the Union. The 

real defence, however, is that it was impossible for a man 

of Hawthorne's organization to feel any deep interest in 

contemporary politics. He had an instinctive dislike of 

politicians and philanthropists. "I detest," he writes in 

the first volume of his American Note-books, " all offices — 

all, at least, that are held upon a political tenure, and I 

want nothing to do with politicians. Their hearts wither 

away and die out of their bodies. Their consciences are 

turned to india-rubber, or to some substance as black as 

that, and which will stretch as much. One thing, if no 

more, I have gained by my Custom-house experience — to 

know a politician. It is a knowledge which no previous 

thought or power of sympathy could have taught me ; 

because the animal, or the machine rather, is not in 

nature." Or again, on the subject of philanthropists, in 

reference to Hollings worth : — 

"They have no heart, uo sympathy, no reason, no conscience. 
They will keep no friend, unless he make himself the mirror of 

u 



ys STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

tlieir purpose : tliey will smite and slay you, and trample your 
dead corpse underfoot, all the more readily if you take the first 
step with them, and cannot take the second and the third, and 
every other step of their terribly straight path. They have an 
idol, to which they consecrate themselves high-priest and deem 
it holy work to offer sacrifices of whatever is most precious, and 
never once seem to suspect, so cunning has the devil been with 
them, that this false deity, in whose iron features, immitigable 
to all the rest of mankind, they see only benignity and love, is 
but a spectrum of the very priest himself, projected upon the 
surrounding darkness." 

It is on this side, iDerhajas, that we can see more clearly 
than on any other what his French critic, in the ' Revue 
des Deux Mondes,' M. Eniile Montegut, means by calling 
Hawthorne " un roniancier pessitniste." He certainly had 
his pessimistic moments. " Let us acknowledge it wiser, 
if not more sagacious, to follow out one's day-dream to its 
natural consummation, although, if the vision have been 
worth the having, it is certain never to be consummated 
otherwise than by a failure." Or again, " We contemplated 
our existence as hopefully as if the soil beneath our feet 
had not been fathom-deep Avith the dust of deluded genera- 
tions, on every one of which, as on ourselves, the world 
had imposed itself as a hitherto unwedded bride ; " a 
noticeable passage, because seemingly framed in reference 
to Emerson's optimism, wdio had told 'the American scholar ' 
that he gave him "the universe a virgin to-day." But in 
reality Hawthorne had too much humour to be either a 
Leopardi or a Schopenhauer, His inquisitorial coldness, 
and his perfectly neutral analysis of character give him a 
certain airy scepticism and a kind of cynical aloofness ; but 
such a temper stands at the opposite pole to pessimism, 



HAWTHORNE'S ROMANCES. 99 

which is dogmatically and savagely in earnest. He de- 
scribas himself with felicitous exactness in the attitude of 
Miles Coverdale. He was a devoted epicure of emotions, 
and on such moods as robbed the actual world of its 
solidity he was resolved to pause, and enjoy the moral 
sillabub until quite dissolved away. 



n 2 



100 



"EGBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF 
PLAYS." 

"And Robert Browning, you writer of plays, 
Here's a subject made to your hand 1 " 

Dramatic Romances (^A Light Wotnan), vol. iv. 

In an early volume of his collected poems Mr. Browning 
asserts that " their contents are always dramatic in prin- 
ciple, and so many utterances of so many imaginary 
persons." Dramatic in principle they undoubtedly are ; 
such strictly lyrical and undramatic pieces as ' Christmas 
Eve ' and ' Easter Day ' are exceptions to the general rule, 
which cannot be recalled without a moment's thought. 
How clearly in the author's own conception dramatic 
power is the quality characteristic of his poetic genius, 
may be gathered from his fondness for such titles as 
' Dramatis Personse/ ' Dramatic Idylls,' ' Men and Women,' 
' Dramatic Romances,' and so forth. But the dramatic 
spirit is one thing, and the power of composing a drama 
is another. No one would deny that Browning is a 
dramatist of a high order, and yet many would doubt 
whether he is what, for purposes of convenient distinction, 
may be called a 'practical' dramatist. ' The King and the 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 101 

Book ' is quite enough evidence of the possession of the 
first attribute ; it is above all a study of character, in its 
contrasts between Guido and Pompilia, Caponsacehi and 
Pope Innocent ; the whole treatment and setting are 
dramatic in the highest degree (as, e.g., in 'Half-Rome,' 
'Other Half-Rome,' and the 'Tertium Quid'), being 
throughout occupied with the vigorous presentment of 
character in active and generally malevolent manifesta- 
tions. But when the reader turns from this voluminous 
poem to one of the professed dramas — say to ' Pippa 
Passes ' or ' Colombo's Birthday ' — he is struck with the 
unreality and impracticability of the play, and the doubt 
crosses his mind whether Browning can be said to have 
the dramatic capacity in the limited sense. It is worth 
considering in what sense such a distinction can be main- 
tained, and to what extent it can be said that Browning 
possesses the first gift without the second. 

Browning is a dramatist for the one and sufficient 
reason that he is, above all, the student of humanity. 
Humanity he draws with a loving and patient hand, but 
on the one condition that it shall be humanity in active 
and passionate exercise. Not for him, the beauty of 
repose ; the still quiet lights of meditation, removed from 
the slough and welter of actual struggle, make no appeal ; 
the apathetic calm of a normal human being, exer- 
cised on daily uninteresting tasks, is to him well-nigh 
incomprehensible ; storms and thunder, wind and light- 
ning, passion and fury, and masterful strength, something 
on which ho can set the seal of his own rugged, eloquent, 



102 STUDIES, NEW AXD OLD. 

amorphous verse; something which he can probe and 
analyze and wrap up in the twists and turns of his most 
idiomatic, most ungrammatical style — these are the sub- 
jects which he loves to handle. And so those whose eyes 
are dazzled by this excess of light, or who lose their breath 
in this whirl of hurrying ideas, call him unintelligible ; 
while those quiet souls who look for form and measure 
and control in verse deny that such uncouth and turgid 
lines are poetry at all. That Browning should have 
essayed two transcripts from Euripides is a fact not with- 
out significance for the critic, for he has thereby opened 
to us the secrets of his own dramatic aptitudes. For with 
him, as with Euripides, the humanity he j)aints is not the 
dignified, selfish man of Tennyson or Sophocles, with views 
on 'the decorous' or 'the befitting,' and a conventional 
regard for respectable deportment, whether towards himself 
or to his gods ; but the wilder, less commonplace, more 
developed human being, who hates with a will, and loves 
with a will, regardless of consequence, who cannot deceive 
himself as to his own motives and despises external 
morality, a humanity which dares and sins and suffers, 
and makes a mock, if need be, of gods and heaven. 

It is Browning, more than any one else, who makes us 
realize the volcano of dangerous forces which simmers 
beneath the smiling commonplaces of ordinary life and 
established social usage. Humanity with him is not the 
sententious and balanced hero of classicalism, nor the 
feverish melodramatic ideahst of romantic literature. 
The times of Corneille and Racine for him are done with 



"ROBEKT BROW^■IXG, WRITER OF PLAYS." 103 

and gone ; even the imaginative flights of Walter Scott 
and Victor Hugo have become 'somewhat musty.' He 
lives in an age of positivism ; the mighty shades of 
Honore de Balzac and George Sand will not disavow their 
poetic disciple, for he works with the same analytic tools, 
and digs deep in the same mine of psychological study. 
The duty of man is to work out his vein thoroughly and 
to the full. Is he in love ? Then he must love surpass- 
ingly, absorbingly, recklessly, as in ' Cristina,' or 'Evelyn 
Hope,' or 'The Last Ride together.' Is he conscious that 
he is hampered by circumstance and friends from reaching 
his goal ? Then he must drive through the crust of fate 
and over-ride his circumstances and his friends at all 
hazards, as in ' Waring,' or ' The Flight of the Duchess.' 
Is he aiming at some end, dark and unlovely, an end 
which no one else can sympathize with, some "round 
squat turret, without a counterpart in the whole world" ? 
Then he must press on through falsehood and squalor and 
dismay, though all his companions fall off one by one, as 
in ' Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.' Is he a poet 
with all the yearnings and isolation and disappointments 
of a poet's career ? Then he must carry out the poetic 
task through succeeding cycles of egotism and altruism, 
as in ' Sordello.' Is he mad for revenge on some foe who 
has wronged him ? Then in God's name let him wreak 
his vengeance to the full, and draw his moral lesson after- 
wards, as in 'Before and After.' Is he bent on some task 
of moral healing and regeneration ? Then let him stand 
for hours over the mnn he longs to save ; let him urge 



104 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

and jdIj him with every drug and potion known in the 
moral pharmacopoeia, till his sweat be like drops of blood, 
as in that magnificent dramatic l3a'ic of ' Sanl.' If drama 
be the vivid portraiture of a masterful humanity — madly 
tender, madly loassionate, recklessly dying — then Browning 
indeed possesses the dramatic quality. 

But from this to the power of dramatic manipulation is 
a long step. If we take any of the poems, almost at 
haphazard, we notice a certain idiosyncratic way of treat- 
ing the circumstances of the case, a certain mannerism of 
expression in the thoughts, a certain eccentricity in pre- 
senting the motives of hero and heroine, without which 
the poet appears unable to work. Now it is a modern 
sentiment in an ancient setting, a widely liberal view jDut 
in the mouth of a narrowly religious character, as, for 
instance, in ' Master Hugues of Saxe Gotha,' or the 
' Death in the Desert,' or perhaps ' Saul.' Now it is the 
seeming impossibility to get away from his own poetic 
character, as in ' Waring ' or ' Sordello.' In the last most 
enigmatical poem, which always possesses a melancholy 
interest — as the bottom of each page seems to mark the 
successive grave-stones of earnest readers, who could get 
thus far and no farther — we have an exj^licit connection 
traced in the longj digression at the end of the third book 
between the poet himself and the character he is depict- 
ing. But all this is not unreasonable in lyrical romances, 
whatever dramatic title the author chooses to give them. 
It is in the dramas themselves that the real characteristics 
of Browning's dramatic presentation should properly be 



"ROBEET BROWXIXG, WRITER OF PLAYS." 105 

studied. In these a distinction may be drawn between a 
poem like ' Pippa Passes,' which, though regularly divided 
into acts, is really unactable, and such pieces as * The 
Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' ' Strafford,' and ' The Return of 
the Druses,' which are dramas in the formal sense of the 
term.* Midway between these two extremes lie tlie 
dramatic sketches entitled ' In a Balcony,' ' A Soul's 
Tragedy,' and ' Colombo's Birthday,' while ' King Victor 
and King Charles,' and ' Luria ' approach to, though they 
do not quite reach, the formal requirements of the drama. 
In each of these intermediate plays there is such a small- 
ness of interest, such a slenderness of plot, and so limited 
an interaction of character, that it would be hard to 
conceive of any theatrical audience, except possibly those 
which could in Germany bear ' Nathan der Weise ' on 
the stage, listening to them with any attention or pleasure. 
The essence of di'ama is, of course, play of character, 
either the crossing or recrossing of different lines of 
interest as a number of characters work out the j)lot, or 
the evolution of a single character through the influence 
or antagonism of others. If a single character, sloAvly 
developing, be rej^resented in a series of monologues, it 
is doubtless interesting as a psychological study, but it 
is not a drama. The contrast of character is essential, a 
condition which carries with it the necessity of consistency 
in portraiture. Now, to Browning also the drama is an 
interaction of characters, but the interaction is one winch 

* I find it impossible to call ' The Ring and the Book ' a drama 
in this limited sense. 



106 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

lie interprets in his own way. The characters are different 
mouthpieces of the poet himself, different shadows of his 
one personality, all alike affecting the same turns of 
expression and thought ; and the contrast, such as it is, 
is between the various shifting phases and feeling of his 
own richly endowed mind. In a play of Browning, the 
hero, naturally enough, talks like Browning; bu^t so too 
does the heroine, so does the villain, so do the populace. 
Contrast there certainly is, but not contrast in the ordinary 
sense. There is none of that impersonal touch which we 
have in Shakespeare, and which makes one know Shake- 
speare's characters, while what Shakespeare's own character 
may be remains a mystery. Browning is too personal, too 
'subjective,' too instinct with himself; he cannot project 
himself outward, so to speak, in his creations ; he cannot 
forget himself by means of a wide human sympathy. 
Dramatic creator in this sense he certainly is not; in his 
noblest creations are to be found fragments of a mind, all 
bearing a single stamp ; in his best characters he remains 
himself. 

But then, such is the artist's gift, this is forgotten over 
and over again owing to the singularly rich and versatile 
endowments of Browning's mind. In the mouth of his 
picturesque and interesting heroes — especially if the plays 
be read singly and after some interval — the strained and 
intricate language in which Browninij delicjhts does not 
at once appear inappropriate. And there are many 
passages in Browning's dramatic writing (which contrasts 
most favourably with the rest of his work in this respect) 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 107 

where the language is powerfully clear and simple, and 
in these the absence of any real characterization remains 
unsuspected. But Browning cannot be either clear or 
simple for more than a few moments, and directly the 
style becomes idiosyncratic, we know with whom we have 
to deal. Listen to the retainer's talk in ' The Blot on the 
'Scutcheon.' 

" Our master takes his hand, 
Richard and his white staff are on the move, 
Back fall our people — 'tsh — there's Timothy 
Sure to get tangled in his ribbon ties, 
And Peter's cursed rosette's a-coming off ! " 

Nothing could be better or more life-like ; but now — 

" I don't see wherefore Eichard and his troop 
Of silk and silv^er varlets there, should find 
Their perfumed selves so indispensable 
On higli days." 

Their perfumed selves so indispensable ! It reminds 
one of Hamlet's waterfly, Osric, rather than of Tresham's 
retainers. Or let us take another instance, how a by- 
stander — one of the populace be it remembered — is able 
to describe Ogniben's demeanour and language in ' A Soul's 
Tragedy ' : — 

" Here are you Avho, I make sure, glory exceedingly in know- 
ing the noble nature of the soul, its divine impulses, and so 
forth; and with such a knowledge you stand, as it were, armed 
to encounter the natural doubts and fears as to tliat same in- 
herent nobility, that are apt to waylay us, tlie Aveaker ones, in 
the road of life. And Avhen we look eagerly to see them fall 
before you, lo, round you Avheel, only the left hand gets the 
blow; one proof of the soul's nobility destroys simply another 
proof, quite as good, of the same. Our gaping friend, the burgess 



108 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

yonder, does not want the other kind of kingship, tliat consorts 
in understanding better than his fellows this and similar points 
of human nature, nor to roll under his tongue this sweeter 
morsel still, — the feeling that through immense philosophy, he 
does not feel, he rather thinks, above you and me ! " And so 
chatting they glided off arm in arm. 

Roll under his tongue this sweeter morsel still ! Fancy 

a b3'-stander, one of the populace, calling such talk as this 

'chatting'! Or once more, listen to Phene in 'Pippa 

Passes,' — Phene, the young Greek girl, a daughter of the 

old hog, Natalia, " white and quiet as an apparition, and 

fourteen years old at farthest," as the student describes 

her : — 

" Even you perhaps 
Cannot take up, now you have once let fall, 
The music's life, and me along with that, 
No, or you would ! We'll stay then, as we are 
Above the world." 

" What rises is myself, 
ISI'ot me the shame and suffering : but they sink, 
Are left, I rise above them." 

" Yet your friends, speaking of you, used that smile, 
That hateful smirk of boundless self-conceit 
AVliich seems to take possession of the world 
And make of God a tame confederate, 
Purveyor to their appetites." 

Fine lines, assuredly, but as little appropriate to Phene 
as they would be to Pippa herself, for all that she is the 
heroine. 

The dramatic presentation of character requires more 
than skilful and striking speeches, with a faintly outlined 
background of difficult and dangerous circumstances. 
Action is needed, the pressure of other minds, the alter- 



"EGBERT BROWNING, WRITER GF PLAYS." 109 

nate yielding and conquering of a human unit, battling 
with an overmastering fate in a series of impressive scenes, 
or at least the gathering up of many threads of separate 
interests in the supreme interest of the hero. The best 
instance in Browning of this conception of a drama is, 
curiously enough, in ' Pippa Passes,' the least dramatic in 
form of all his plays. Here we have four separate 
romances, Ottima and Sebald, Phene and Jules, Luigi and 
his mother, Monsignor and Ugo (to say nothing of Blu- 
phocks and the Austrian police), strung on the single 
thread of Pippa's New Year's Day. Pippa is the ' better 
mind ' of all these sinning and struggling personalities : it 
is her passing, the sound of her voice and the melody of 
her songs, which mark in each successive case the highest 
point in the dramatic situation. The blithe girl from the 
silk-mills brings to each their redemption, and on her 
depends, and from her dates, their possible amelioration. 
Here are the true elements of a drama with the fine moral 
of the endless powers of good Avhich a frank and simple 
nature possesses, wave after wave of blessing thrown off in 
widening circles from the single worthy character in the 
play. Yet ' Pippa Passes ' remains, owing to the capricious- 
ness of its form, a poem to be read in the study rather 
than a play to be seen on the stage. In other dramas no 
attempt even at action is made. ' Luria ' affords a notable 
example. Luria, the Moor, is a fine open character : he is 
the true man, the honest and gallant soldier; round him 
are all the tricks and arts of Florence, plot and counter- 
plot, suspicion and intrigue, on one side Domizia, and on 



110 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

tlie other, Braccio. In him, therefore, the reader looks to 
see that spectacle for gods and men, the good man strug- 
gling with fate. But in all the scenes which represent 
the development of the catastrojihe there is no movement, 
no scenic interest, no picture for the eye. There is indeed 
much admirable writing, and many lines which send the 
blood up to the cheek, without which Browning would not 
be Browning. But in all five acts there is absolutely no 
dramatic situation, unless Luria poisoning himself in the 
solitude of his own tent may be said to be one. The 
matter is best seen in a couple of contrasts. The character 
of the plain soldier, struggling with a world of deception, 
is in some respects comparable wdth that of Harold in 
Tennyson's drama. The position of a successful captain, 
tempted to turn his arras against the city whose soldiers 
he leads, reminds one of Coriolanus. But where in Brown- 
ing's play is the interest of Coriolanus' mother and wife ? 
Shall it be found in Domizia, who remains, it must be 
confessed, somewhat of an enigma, with her change from 
feminine vindictiveness to masculine largemindedness ? 
Or in the wearisome astuteness of Braccio, who fails in 
the attempt to pull the wires of a Florentine jury, moved 
to forgiveness by the sudden pleading of Luria's adversary, 
Tiburzio ? And though indeed in Tennyson we miss the 
sure Shakespearian touch, there is not in him the same 
austerity of formal dialogue which we find in Browning. 
He knows that to understand a sohlier's character we want 
to have some of the crash of battle in our ears. Nothing 
could be finer in its way than the rapid descriptive touches 



•'ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." Ill 

of the battle of Senlac in ' Harold,' conveyed in tlie scene 
between Edith and Stigand, where, breaking the quick 
interchange of question and answer, are heard the Norman 
and Endish war-cries, and the monotonous chanting of the 
monks of Waltham. But such appeal to the eye as well 
as ear Browning will have none of. 

The same limited range of interest is found in ' King 
Victor and King Charles,' where the main point is presum- 
ably the contrast between the old king and the young king, 
the father and the son. Victor resigns the crown to Charles, 
but cannot be content to live in retirement, and plots to 
return. He is foiled, partly by the somewhat sudden 
change in D'Ormea, the minister, partly by death. The 
sole interest is the contrast of the two kings. Polyxena, 
Charles's wife, is described in Browning's introduction as 
possessed of " a noble and right woman's manliness," but 
in the play she is a mere sketch of a character, as far as 
dramatic purposes are concerned. D'Ormea is first a rascal 
and then becomes better advised, but no subtle links are 
indicated to connect the early rascality with the subsequent 
rectitude, any more than they are indicated in the case of 
Domizia in ' Luria.' Throughout the play nothing of the 
nature of a ' situation ' occurs. It is a literary drama at 
most, and perhaps even so scarcely a good one of its kind. 
To speak plainly, it is too dull and uninteresting. Nor is 
it the case that Browning is avowedly only writing dramas 
for the study, or that he is insensible to the legitimate 
scenic effects of a play."^ A purely literary drama always 

* ' A Blot on tlie 'Scutcheon ' was brought out at Drury Lane on 



112 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

strikes one as somewhat incongruous, and it is no less than 
a national misfortune that of the three contemporary poets, 
Swinburne, Browning, and Tennyson, only the last should 
even care to have his dramas presented on the stage. The 
result is only too obvious. The 'practical playwrights/ 
in whose hands the matter is left, being perhaps weakest 
on the literary side, either borrow their literary matter 
wholesale, or entirely throw overboard the literary ele- 
ments of drama for the sake of scenic. But in ' Strafford,' 
at all events, Browning gives us a composition in which 
there are scenes strongly appealing to the eye. The 
scene at the end of Act III., where Strafford, amidst 
an excited crowd of his own adherents and the Presby- 
terian partisans, reaches the doors of the House of Lords, 
through which we catch glimpses of Hampden and 
Pym at the bar, possesses the elements of truly pictorial 
drama. Here too are lines of wonderful grace and beauty ; 
one of them, put into Strafford's mouth, and ending Act II,, 
haunts the memory with its perfect melody : — 

" Niglit lias its first, supreme, forsaken star." 
Nor could there well be a more pathetic touch than 
where, in the midst of Strafford's anxious debating with 
Balfour and Charles as to his own escape, and the move- 
ment towards the door, there occurs the sudden reminis- 
cence of the two children in the next room : — ■ 

" Now ' but tread softly — children are at play 
In the next room. Precede : I follow." 

Feb. 11, 1843, and failed. It was represented also on March 8th, 
1888. Macready acted in 'Strafford,' but with limited success. 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 113 

At the close of the drama, however, which surely might 

have been made so fine, Browning seems designedly to 

shrink from the natural scenic catastrophe. All that Ave 

have is a couple of contrasted speeches from Strafford and 

Pym, and the curtain falls, not on the properly dramatic 

interest of Strafford's own personality, but on an historical 

interest, the prophecy of the next death which England's 

salvation may entail. "England, I am thine own," 

says Pym. 

" dost thou exact 
That service ] I obey tliee to the end." 

This is a characteristic instance of the predominance of 
the literary and historic interest over the dramatic ; for 
we observe that the feeling left on the mind is not the 
pathos of Strafford's loyalty and its melancholy issue, but 
the external and superfluous interest that Pym and his 
fellows may have next time to strike at a nobler 
prey.* 

In the choice of subjects for drama, one of Browning's 
least pleasing characteristics is discovered. It can hardly 
be denied that there appears in his poems, over and over 
again, a deliberate preference for the irregular and un- 
healthy phenomena of human nature and life. Here and 
there Browning is a naturalist, according to the most 
rigorous standard of M. Zola. He seems to lay more stress 
on passion than love, on hypocrisy than truth, on disease 
than health, on vice than virtue. It is not the moral 

* In later editions, Mr. Browning Iius ended witli !i line in 
Stratford's month, " God, I shall die tirst— I shall die first ! " 

I 



114 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Puritan alone who would so judge hira. Undoubtedly 
the dramatic elements in life are, more often than not, 
concerned with the abnormal relations of mankind to one 
another ; this is one of the reasons why the professed 
moralist is usually intolerant of dramatic art. But it is 
not the moral point of view but the artistic which is here 
of importance, and if Browning is to be condemned for 
' realism ' it must be because it is inartistic, not because 
it paints immoral relations. That excessive stress on the 
ugly and the morbid is inartistic, surely needs no demon- 
stration. The case stands just as if we were judging a 
landscape or a portrait. A successful picture is one in 
which lifelike detail is strictly subordinated to general 
effect of light, tone, and colour. A successful drama is one 
in which plot and counterplot, intrigue and passion, are 
subordinated to those general relations of life which we 
call human and natural. Life is not all meanness or vice, 
any more than a cornfield is all pre-Raphaelite poppies, or 
a human face all photograjjhic moles and wrinkles. Now 
a dramatic writer who lays emphatic stress on the morbid 
phases of life is guilty of this kind of inartistic realism : 
he is painting not on the broad lines of a general effect 
which is what we see and feel to be ' natural,' but isolatinsf 
one or two ugly particulars, so that the true perspective is 
distorted. It is to this realistic level that Browninsr 
sometimes descends. An almost inexplicable love of the 
irregular and unhealthy spoils some of his best effects. In 
one of the finest of liis shorter plays, the ' Blot on the 
'Scutcheon,' the whole interest turns on the immoral 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 115 

relations of the hero and heroine. What makes the drama 
is the fact that Mildred and Mertoun, who are about to be 
formally married, have in reality consummated their union 
before. Perhaps so far the situation is not dramatically 
illescitimate ; but when we find that these two characters 
began their clandestine meetings when they were almost 
children, that they are not the characters of mingled good- 
ness and badness which experience in such matters might 
create, but represented as living models of purity (" a depth 
of purity immovable," is the expression of Tresham, the 
murderer of the youthful gallant), it is impossible to avoid 
the criticism that such a situation, ending as it does in a 
triple death, is almost grotesquely abnormal. In ' Pippa 
Passes' we have even stronger indications of the same 
characteristic trait. Ottima and Sebald have purcliased 
their guilty meetings by the murder of Ottima's husband. 
Phene, who becomes by the devices of jealous fellow- 
students Jules's wife, is a young Greek girl, a daughter of 
that hag, Natalia, so she swears, Avho " helps us to models 
at three lire an hour ; " Monsignor is a vicious hypocrite ; 
Ugo, a blood-stained accomplice in crime ; Bluphocks is 
so repulsive a monstrosity that the poet has in his own 
defence to quote the apologetic text that "he maketh his 
sun to rise on the evil and on the good." Nor in the other 
dramas is there any lack of suggestion of the same un- 
healthy background, even where vice does not form the 
main interest. There is the usual hint of the baseness 
and meanness of humanit}'- in ' The Druses ' in the plots of 
the Prefect and the Chapter ; in ' Colombe's Birthday ' in 

I 2 



116 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

the Courtiers, in ' A Soul's Tragedy ' in the character of 
Chiappino : sometimes a repulsive touch mars a pretty- 
picture of love. When Anael is describing the growing 
relations between herself and Djabal — 

" Oh, my happiness 
Rounds to the full, whether I choose or no ! 
His eyes met mine, he was about to speak, 
His hand grew damp," 

IS it not a wilful realism to add that unpleasant fact of a 
' damp hand/ which physiologists tell us is the external 
counterpart and sign of strong emotion ? 

The reason for this love of the unnatural and the morbid 
is not far to seek. Browning is a student of the shady 
side of life because he is so disposed to keen psychological 
analysis, and it is obvious how dependent psychology is 
on the study of pathological states. But the relation of 
psychology to drama is like tliat of anatomy to the 
statuary's art; it is a necessary propaedeutic. To bring 
josychological analysis in its raw and crude state into 
drama, is to introduce a page, say of Herbert Spencer, 
into one of Shelley's lyrics ; for a piece of artistic work is 
eminently synthetic — the putting together and reconstruc- 
tion of elements elsewhere disentangled. Analysis must 
precede but not form part of the completed work, just as 
the scaffolding must not be built into the finished house. 
It is indeed the very crown and perfection of Art that it 
should apj)ear so independent of, and yet so necessarily 
involve, previous analytic study. How much psychological 
analysis — whether conscious or unconscious — must have 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 117 

preceded the creation of a Macbeth, or an Othello, or, 
above all, a Hamlet ! Even in the last-mentioned character, 
where there is most of the mental disentanglement of 
motives and desires in monologues and soliloquies, the 
psychology is strictly subordinated to the drama. Why 
else should we have so many commentaries on Hamlet, so 
many monograjjhs to prove exactly what his character was 
or was not ? But Browning's characters need no com- 
mentary. The poet himself is, in the Si3eeches which he 
puts into their mouths, the most unwearied and exhaustive 
of commentators. Luria takes eighty lines of patient self- 
analysis to reveal himself to the audience in Act IV. 
before he drinks the fatal phial. King Victor, when he 
returns to the palace he had bequeathed to his son 
Charles, explains himself in a speech of eighty-two lines. 
When Constance is expounding to Norbert (in ' In a 
Balcony') the mental condition of the Queen, her analysis 
extends over fifty-three lines in one speech and sixty-one 
in a second. Djabal and Anael, in one of their most 
critical meetings (in ' The Druses '), when Anael is trying 
to get rid of her worldly leanings towards Loys, and Djabal 
is in the throes of conscious hypocrisy, commence their 
interview with fifty-four lines of commentary on their own 
motives, conveyed in two asides to the audience. Let any 
actor or actress imagine how he or she is to represent a 
lovers' meeting which commences in so inauspicious a 
fashion ! In all this there is too much of the art which 
adds to nature and too little of the higher art which 
nature makes. 



118 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Nor is Browning's analysis of such a kind that he who 
runs may read. On the contrary, it is most intricate and 
involved, sounding the depths of human passion and 
measuring the windings of the human intellect in language 
which sufficiently taxes the understanding when read in 
the study, and which is often simply incomprehensible 
when listened to for the first time. There is no such an 
explorer of the human mind as Browning ; he is, above 
all, the mental philosopher, the acute psychologist, the 
unflinching vivisector, the literary surgeon who wields the 
knife over the quivering nerves and flesh of humanity. 
And hence the character of which Browning is conspicu- 
ously fond is the philosophic student of life, like Ogniben 
in ' A Soul's Tragedy,' or Melchior in ' Colombe's Birthday,' 
or D'Ormea in ' King Victor and King Charles.' Browning 
has in these matters the true instincts of a metaphysician, 
but the metaphysical instinct does not always lead to the 
best or the truest dramatic portraiture. Hence it is rarely 
possible to feel quite at home with Browning's heroes ; 
the reason probably being that there are certain stages 
of the ideal, at which all dramatic treatment becomes 
absurd, the material means of the theatre being inadequate 
to its representation. 

In the delineation of character it is curious to observe 
how much more important and interesting the male 
characters are made than the female. It is over his- 
Chiappinos, his Straffords, his Victors, his Lurias, his 
Djalmls, that Browning spends most care and elaboration. 
There are few good acting parts for women in his dramas. 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 119 

If we take twelve of his female characters, we shall find 
that six (Eulalia, Polyxena, Gwendolen, Colombe, Pippa, 
and Lady Carlyle) are all more or less mere sketches of 
character, three (Ottima, Phene, and Domizia) have some 
moral taint, and only three are carefully drawn and inter- 
esting characters, viz, Constance, Mildred, and Anael. Of 
these three, the first appears in the scene ' In a Balcony,' 
which, splendidly written as it is, can hardly be called 
actable, owing to the slenderness of treatment; * the second 
is the principal figure in the ' Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' who 
has entered on an intrigue with the hero before the action 
of the play commences ; the third, Anael, though she 
commits murder and suicide, is undoubtedly a true, 
womanly, and dramatic creation. It would be difficult to 
say what is Browning's view as to the key-note of a 
Avoman's character. If one may judge from Constance 
and Colombe and Anael, it would appear to be self- 
sacrifice — the endless giving up of herself to the man. 
The same lesson is brought out in a somewhat unpleasing 
way in other passages. A moral which Browning seems 
rather fond of in describing the relations of man to woman 
is that the man is capable of loving many women (witness 
'Any Wife to Any Husband,' 'James Lee's Wife,' ' Fifine 
at the Fair '), while the woman can only surrender herself 
to the one particular man. It would be interesting to 
know what some of the ladies who study Browning think 
of this very masculine moral. 

* ' In a Balcony ' lias been acted recently in St. George's Ilall wilh 
Miss Alma Murray in the title role. 



123 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

However slightly the women may be drawn, the male 
characters are almost uniformly psychological studies of 
great care and detail. This is true not only of the large 
and more obtrusive personalities, but also of the subordin- 
ate. Chiappino, for instance, who appears in the slight 
sketch called ' A Soul's Tragedy,' is a study of the demoraliz- 
ation of an enlightened but selfish democrat. Tresham, 
in the ' Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' is a type of the aristocrat, 
narrow-minded, but gallant, jealous of his family's honour. 
Prince Berthold, in ' Colombe's Birthday,' is the cold and 
scheming man of ambition, who takes love as he takes 
everything else, as an instrument solely of successful 
progress. In ' Luria ' we have the outlines of a contrast on 
the one hand between two soldier-characters, the simple 
Moor and the more subtle Florentine who preceded him 
in the command, and on the other hand between two 
Florentines, Puccio, who though subtle is generovis, and 
Braccio, who is subtle and heartless. King Victor is one 
of the best creations of all — the prince who, full of fire, 
audacity, and dissimulation, thinks, and falsely thinks, 
that a life spent in battle and dii^lomatic scheming can 
suddenly be changed to one of rural simplicity and 
retirement. 

In such characters as Strafford and Djabal the psycho- 
logy is deeper and the analysis more careful. Nothing 
can be more pathetically tragic than the spectacle of a 
man who, like King Charles's minister, attempts to benefit 
his country by measures which his country's destiny has 
condemned. Contradictory motives are struggling for the 



"EGBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 121 

mastery, early friendship battling with a subsequent duty, 
old associations with affectionate loyalty. On the one side 
are Pyra and Hampden, ranged with all the new-born 
forces of a country waking to the consciousness of its 
freedom. On the other an almost strained sense of de- 
votion to a worthless and fickle monarch in the midst 
of a corrupt and intriguing court, backed by the doubtful 
tenderness of a Lady Carlyle. The drama works up to its 
close with the great problem of Strafford's duty left un- 
solved. There is no absolute duty, no absolute standard 
of judgment ; to be on Pym's side is to forecast the issues 
of a doubtful future ; to be on Charles's side is to listen 
to voices that seem nearer and dearer — love, loyalty, and 
conscience. Here is a situation of truly dramatic interest. 
We feel the contrast in the two final speeches, and balance 
alternate sympathy with each. " Have I done well ? " says 

Pym. 

" Speak, England ! whose sole sake 
I still have laboured for, with disregard 
To my own heart." 

And Strafford answers : — 

" I have loved England too ; we'll meet then, Pym ! 
As well die now ! Youth is tlie only time 
To think and to decide on a great course : 
Manhood with action follows : but 'tis dreary 
To have to alter our whole life in age — ■ 
The time past, the strengtli gone ! as well die now. 
"When we meet, Pym, I'tl be set right, not now i " 

Noble and true speeches, to both of Avhich in chorus 
fashion we would fain assent. We would suffer with 
Strafford and share the aspirations of Pym. 



122 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

But ' Sti'afford ' is not so fine a drama as ' The Druses,' 
nor is the character of its hero equal in subtlety to the 
character of Djabal, Djabal is a hypocrite and a hero by 
turns ; he half believes in his mission to lead his people 
home, and yet knows that his prophetic garb is an im- 
posture. Sometimes the nakedness of his deceit stands 
revealed, sometimes his right to command is based on the 
true feeling that he is intellectually superior to his tribe. 
Must not a people be deceived by some Platonic ' noble 
lie ' for their good ? Is not his claim to be Hakeem the 
one chance which the Druses have to regain the cedars of 
Lebanon? Is not he at heart unselfish, statesmanlike, 
patriotic ? And the touchstone of all his sophisms is a 
woman's devotion : — 

" I with my Arab instinct, tliwarted ever 
By my Frank policy, — and Avith, in turn, 
]\Iy Frank brain thwarted by my Arab heart — 
Wliile these remained in equipoise, I lived 
Nothing : had either been predominant. 
As a Frank schemer or an Arab mystic, 
I liad been something : now each lias destroyed 
The other, and behold from out their crash, 
A third and better nature rises up, 
My mere man's nature ! " 

Anael at least must know the truth, Anael, who is 
trying all the while to make herself love him for no other 
reason than because he is her country's prophet, who is 
seeking to drown her girl-like leanings towards Leys in the 
blood of the Prefect, who is desiring to rise on the stepping- 
stones of her dead love to the higher levels of godhead. 
Anael is perhaps the one thoroughly admirable and life- 



"ROBERT BROWNING, WRITER OF PLAYS." 123 

like woman's character in Browning's drama, and perhaps 
it would be hardly unjust to add that ' The Return of the 
Druses ' is the one magnificently elaborated play, magnifi- 
cent alike in the scenic display of its acts, the evolution of 
its characters, and the force and eloquence of its literature. 
There could hardly be a more interesting spectacle for a 
generation which despairs of its contemporar}' dramatists 
than a representation of 'The Druses.' When Shakespeare 
runs its thousand and one nights, perhaps Browning's 
drama — literary, academic, impracticable, and " caviare 
to the general" — may yet be found to have "its first, 
supreme, forsaken star." 



124 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 

The strong side of a nation's character, some French 
critic has observed, is often the weak side of its poetry. 
The remark has essential justice, though in a perverted 
form ; for the truth woukl seem to be, that when the 
strong side of national character is not represented in its 
poetic art, then we may be sure that such poetry as may 
be produced is not conspicuously national. On the other 
hand, it is very rare that there is such complete accord- 
ance between character and artistic product as can assure 
us that the one is the effect of which the other is the 
cause. Whenever such union is realized there is what the 
Germans call a genuine art-epoch. History teaches us 
that such periods are short-lived, and whatever causes 
philosophers of aesthetics may assign, one thing is clear, 
that it is only in times of greatly superabundant energy 
that the national forces issue in artistic creation. The 
sudden brilliance of Greek art, the cajmcious activities of 
mediaeval Italy, the glow and glory of Elizabethan litera- 
ture, all tell the same tale. When art is recommended or 
defended ' for art's sake,' there is the beginning of the end. 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 125 

If it be not the spontaneous overflow of a restless power, 
which neither asks the reason of its exercise, nor craves 
the acknowledgment of a specific end, then it may be 
'precious,' or 'thankworthy,' or 'divine'; it may exhaust 
all the adjectives of an enthusiast's vocabulary, but it is 
not national. 

The modern poetry of England has a curiously artificial 
air when judged by this standard. Once, and once only, 
in the history of English literature was a strongly-marked 
national character wedded to a perfect artistic expres- 
sion. The bride was the drama : she had as weddinsc 
guests men like Raleigh, Sidney, Bacon, and Essex; while 
the high-priests and grooms of the marriage ceremony 
were Marlowe and Shakespeare, Jonson and Fletcher, 
Webster and Ford. In a modern day the leading poets 
have characteristics which, so far from being representa- 
tively English, are in reality alien and exotic. Nowhere 
do the forensic and rhetorical tendencies of Englishmen, 
their measured activities, their unmeasured emotions, the 
majestic poise and balance of their diction, the illimitable 
wealth of their language find better artistic expression 
than in the drama. But our modern poets are not con- 
spicuously successful in drama. The strong side of modern 
English life is its science, its practicalness, its sanity. But 
the poets are not run in this mould ; they are over- 
thoughtful, as Browning — a gift or defect which is not 
English but German; they are over-refined and pretty, 
as Tennyson — a characteristic which he shares with the 
Italians; they are over-sensuous, as Swinburne — not in 



126 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

this instance alone reminding us of his French models. 
It is not in any spirit of disrespect that such judgment is 
passed. One can but judge a literature by its own highest 
realization in history, aiid if such standard makes us speak 
lightly of honoured names, the fault is not ours nor theirs, 
but the solitary and cruel pre-eminence of Shakespeare. 

Poetic art has possibly other functions than to be 
national. It is above all things cosmopolitan and catholic. 
And even though its more modern forms may hardly lay 
claim to such vague though unlimited empire, they may 
at least make apology that no art can be representative of 
materialism. In this our modern poets are undoubtedly 
right. A few years ago the attempt to make science speak 
the language of common human emotion and feeling Avas 
made in her later novels by George Eliot. A more definite 
effort to idealize the philosophy of Herbert Spencer in 
rhythmical verse, to find the poetic equivalents for ' en- 
vironment ' and ' social medium,' and ' change from homo- 
geneity to heterogeneity,' bore the name of that talented 
agnostic. Miss Bevington. Such efforts are not supremely 
happy, and so far as materialism has conquered or is con- 
quering the national tone and temper, poets are right to 
disregard the current philosophy and abandon themselves 
to their own fine careless rapture. But there are certain 
rigid tests to which the creations of every artist become 
liable, even though the touchstone of ready correspondence 
with social medium be abandoned. Is the thought of the 
artist independent of language and expression ? If not, he 
may be full of musical voices, but he is a singer and not a 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 127 

poet. Is he a master builder ? is his genius original, 
creative, architectonic ? If not, whatever may be his 
individual brilliancies, however rich may be his decorative 
imagery, he remains only an amateur, not an artist. Of 
the three poets recently named, there is no doubt that 
Browning, by his profound thoughtfulness, and Tennyson, 
by his lyrical sweetness, have won their way to an acknow- 
ledged eminence. The question, however, may be held to 
be still open with regard to the third. 

There is much in the development of Mr. Swinburne's 
genius which throws light upon the position which he 
holds amongst his contemporaries. His earliest work was 
IDublished in 1861, containing two plays, 'The Queen 
Mother ' and ' Rosamond,' both of which bear obvious 
traces of juvenile immaturity. Neither of them, however, 
are without interest, froai the evidence they furnish of 
early poetic influences. In ' Rosamond ' there are touches 
here and there of Browning, whose peculiar characteristics 
are singularly alien to the more mature stage of Swin- 
burne, but still leg-ve marks of their power in that most 
discerning criticism on Browning which is to be found in 
the opening pages of the much later study on Chapman. 
Bouchard, for instance, in the play often talks the lan- 
guage of Browning, and single lines occur which, trans- 
planted from their context, would never be supposed to 

belong to Swinburne. 

" So his tooth 
Bites hard in France and strikes tlie brown grape hot, 
Makes the wine leap, no skin-room leaves for white." 

"Beaten and blown i' the (histy face of the air." 



128 STUDIES, IsEW AND OLD. 

" Beincj no such sinewed ape, 
Blunder of brawn, and jolted muscle-work." 

Such expressions convey the distinct flavour of Brown- 
ing's verse. ' The Queen Mother,' on the other hand, is 
formed on a different model. It is by no means a success- 
ful drama, some of the incidents — for instance, the scene 
in which Catherine poisons her clown — being brought into 
harsh and unnecessary relief. But here and there the 
style is copied from Shakespeare. 

" The sea's yellow and distempered foam." 

" Towers and popular streets 
Should in the middle green smother and drown, 
And havoc die with fulness." 

" She is all white to the dead hair, who was, 
So full of gracious rose the air took colour, 
Turned to a kiss against her face." — 

Lines such as these have more than a distant echo of 
Elizabethan verse. In this stage the poet, it is clear, is 
only looking for such models as might satisfy his aspira- 
tion, and making those preliminary essays, without which 
the yet-undeveloped wings cannot learn to soar in their 
own proper air. Then came the happy inspiration, born 
of a long training in classical languages, which produced 
a Greek play worthy to rank with the most successful 
specimens of this kind of work in our literature. For 
there is hardly anything like ' Atalanta in Calydon' in our 
modern verse. Its hard, clear outline, like that of some 
Greek temple in the pure Attic sky; its wonderful rich- 
ness and variety of music, together with its strong grasp 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 129 

of the central situation of Hellenic tragedy, tlie irony of 
a human being in the toils of a relentless fate ; its rhymed 
choruses, combining the melodiousness of modern verse 
with the reticent music of the Dorian lyre — all these 
characteristics make ' Atalanta in Calydon' an unique and 
almost faultless work of art. The third venture was of a 
different kind. If we omit for the present ' Chastelard,' 
to which we shall return later, two years after 'Atalanta,' 
in 1866, Mr. Swinburne published the notorious ' Poems 
and Ballads.' The volume produced a keen literary war- 
fare between the poet's champions and detractors. Mr. 
W, M. Bossetti was the author of a criticism on the book : 
and finally Mr. Swinburne himself in certain ' Notes ' felt 
obliged to protect his own offspring against the maledic- 
tions of outraged propriety. 

Even thus early there are supplied for the critic's 
guidance important data in forming an estimate of Mr. 
Swinburne. Two points have been placed in clear and 
conspicuous relief — the linguistic skill and the sensualistic 
interest. ' Atalantai in Calydon ' is only one evidence out 
of many of Mr. Swinburne's extraordinary proficiency in 
languages not his own. The instinct which enables a man 
to transplant himself into conditions of thought and exist- 
ence which are not those into which he has been born, has 
its drawbacks as well as its advantages. To Mr. Swin- 
burne nothing seems to have been so easy as to feel, so to 
speak, in another language. He was, it would appear, a 
natural scholar, and the Greek tongue, which he could bend 
so easily to purposes of his own, was the sister of that 



130 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

modern French poetry whose turns and phrases from 
Ronsard down to Victor Hugo he has so exhaustively 
explored. But a training in languages gives rather facility 
of expression than the penetrative insight of thought. The 
fatal ease with which the ideas of another age and another 
country are acquired, however much it may improve style 
and chasten expression, leaves the student without the 
power of appreciating or interpreting the insistent prob- 
lems which vex the soul of his contemporaries. It is the 
weakness of classicalism that it yields no philosophy of 
life ; and if the student be brought to say his word to his 
own age, it either wears a curiously old-world air, or else is 
couched in the language of frivolous cynicism. To such 
a man there is no such thing as modern thought. He has 
the trick of the old manner which knows nothing of 
modern burdens, or else he turns in daily practice to 
epicurean principles. For there is nothing in the ancient 
thought which can help the modern inquirer in his 
struggle to keep alive the soul of man amidst the impos- 
ing mechanisms of science, and if it suggests a philosophy, 
it is often the contemptuous advice to get the full sensa- 
tional equivalent out of each minute as it flies. In Mr. 
Swinburne, at all events, the alternative takes a clearly 
accentuated form : linguistic culture on the one hand, a 
culture which makes the verses throb with the fire and 
fervour of the Hellenic spirit ; and for practical moral 
in daily life nothing but the undisguised sensualism of 
' Poems and Ballads.' 

It is not right perhaps to condemn with such a short 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 131 

and easy method the Cyrenaic mood of ' Poems and 
Ballads.' Certainly it is not intended to deny their poetic 
graces. The sumptuous imagery, the affluence and variety 
of music, the curious felicities of diction remain unim- 
paired, however much the spirit may be criticized. But 
Mr. Swinburne must not be judged as a lesser poet might 
be, in whose case we might thankfully acknowledge the 
brilliancy of style and fervour of poetic flow. In his case 
the severer canons of criticism have to be applied as to 
one who in mould and stature claims to be in the first 
rank of poetry. We desire to know whether he is an 
artist or a stylist, a poet or an amateur. Shall we say 
that with him the expression is sought for its own sake ; 
or shall we say that he is in the true sense original and 
creative ? The criterion, so far at all events, is easy, for 
if he be veritably creative he can be so, not in virtue of 
certain powers of wearing the garment of his poetic fore- 
fathers, nor in virtue of a musical utterance which can 
make our rhetorical mother tongue sing with all the airs 
and graces of southern languor, but either because he has 
grappled directly and sincerely with thoughts which are 
lifted above the common level of our ordinary intellectual 
moods, or because he has interpreted with more passionate 
intensity the experience of the men and women of our 
contemporary age. 

It is quite clear that ]\[r. Swinburne is not, at all events 
in his earlier work, a philosoijher. No such excuse can be 
given for ' Poems and Ballads ' as that we are here pre- 
sented with a sensationalism which is the natural and 

K 2 



132 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

inevitable outcome of a particular theory of the world, as 
a phantasmagoria of passing effects. History, it is true, 
gives us a sensationalism so based in the doctrines of 
Aristippus the Cyrenaic, and modelled on a Heracleitean 
doctrine of universal flux ; and Mr. Pater in a recent 
book has once again revealed the dependence of his 
peculiar aesthetic theories on an avowed acceptance of the 
dogmatic standpoint of the old Ephesian thinker. But if 
sensationalism be not founded on a philosophic theory, it 
must be defended as a loyal acknowledgment of concrete 
facts of experience, as the unimpaired reflection of the 
simplest data which go to form both our beliefs and our 
practice. Can, however, Mr. Swinburne's sensationalism 
be accounted for on such a ground ? Is it experience, or 
morbid fancy, that dictates such poems as those on an 
extinct type of Roman lust, or a love fragment of Sappho, 
or on the statue of the fTermaphrodite in the Louvre ? If 
nothing else stood in the way, at least the strained and 
artificial expression would serve to show that we have here 
not the creative melody of one who, like Shelley, was 
nourished on musical thoughts, but rather the recondite 
ravings of an artificer of impotent emotions. 

Will it be said that the connection thus traced between 
such different studies as ' Atalanta ' and ' Poems and 
Ballads ' is forced and arbitrary ? It can be so only if we 
forget the principles of a deeper criticism. Its task should 
be to exhibit all the different phases of activity as they 
spring from one common soil, to retrace the various 
branches of artistic workmanship to the single root of the 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 133 

artist's own personality. The problem which the early 
years of Mr. Swinburne put before us is the contrast 
between classical studies (wherein should be, as we think, 
all the calm dignity and confident repose of Greek 
Sophrosyne) and the perfervid glow and hurry of sensual 
imaGfination. One susfofested solution is the fact that 
studies in the antique afford a poor discipline in life 
problems ; another might be the real absurdity of the 
attempt to write Greek plays in a modern tongue. Take 
the acknowledged successes in this department of literature : 
Matthew Arnold's ' Merope,' Goethe's ' Iphigeneia at Tauris,' 
Milton's ' Samson Agonistes/ Mr. Swinburne's ' Atalanta in 
Calydon.' Keats' ' Hyperion ' being only a fine torso hardly 
comes into the question, and Mr. Bridges' ' Prometheus tlie 
Fire Giver ' has not yet attained the dignity of a classic. 
Arnold's ' Merope,' however, full of classical grace and 
insight, is stricken with the mortal palsy of dulness. 
Goethe's ' Iphigeneia ' is only as good as Euripides' play on 
the same subject, because it is modern in conception, and 
deals with essentially modern problems in ethics ; dramatic- 
ally, especially in the dvayviapicn'i between Iphigeneia and 
Orestes, it is immeasurably inferior. Milton's ' Samson 
Agonistes ' is successful, according to the unanimous 
verdict of competent critics ; but why ? Because it is not 
a transcript from the Greek, but while the treatment is 
Greek, it takes its subject from a cycle of legendary history 
which stands in the same relation to Milton's readers as 
the heroic myths stood to a Greek audience. What is the 
fault of Mr. Swinburne's ' Atalanta ' ? However perfect in 



134 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

execution and flawless in workmanship, however musical 
in its range of poetic voices and rhythms, however full of the 
old Greek idea of resistless destiny, it has a defect whether 
viewed from the ancient or the modern side. From the 
modern standpoint it fails because it is too remote from 
that sum of common interests and difficulties which it is 
alike the task and the privilege of modern poets to 
interpret; and from the ancient standpoint, it fails, be- 
cause it connects the powerlessness of man before destiny, 
not with reverential submission and quiet self-restraint, 
but with a noisy intolerance and an almost frantic atheism. 
When the poet has not before him a Greek model, on what 
line of thoughts is his poetical contemplation to run ? The 
charm of the Hellenic world being for him its aesthetic 
fascination, and not its essential spirit of sobriety, moder- 
ation, and self-control, the poet throws the reins on the 
neck of a fiery imagination ; the sage remark of Socrates in 
' The E-epublic ' (that the true love must have no taint of 
vice or madness) will soon be forgotten ; sesthesis will lead 
to acrasia, and art will pander to incontinence. And so 
the chaste Atalanta has for her unruly sisters Faustina 
Imperatrix, and " the splendid and sterile Dolores, our 
Lady of Pain." 

The most decisive advance on the conceptions with 
which Swinburne was occupied in his earlier studies is 
found in two works bearing the dates of 1871 and 1874. 
In those years were produced ' Songs before Sunrise ' and 
the tragedy of ' Both well,' the first being a glorification of 
the jirinciples of Pantheism and Republicanism, and the 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 135 

second a serious dramatic study on lines not too far re- 
moved from contemporary interests. If the first of these 
works exhibits Swinburne as attempting to lay the founda- 
tions of a creed, the second is the best answer to that easy 
criticism which complained of the want of serious purpose 
and the absence of hard work in the writings of the poet. 
To estimate these works aright is a matter of considerable 
importance, for here, if anywhere, is to be found the high- 
water mark of Swinburne's genius, the most virile and 
statuesque productions which are associated with his name. 
' Songs before Sunrise ' is an interesting book from two 
points of view. In the first place it contains the specu- 
lative foundation for the reckless sensualism of ' Poems and 
Ballads,' and in the second place it adopts a definite 
political programme in relation to the great revolutionary 
movements of modern society. Whether, however, in 
either of these aspects the book is a successful one is 
another matter. The psychology of Mr. Swinburne is 
very simple, so simple, indeed, that we are hardly pre- 
pared for the superabundant rhetoric with which he adorns 
so elementary a scheme. Appetite and desire are the 
only motive impulses of humanity. It is true that the 
human being is sometimes acted on by reason, by defer- 
ence to established custom, by conscience. But these, we 
are told, are blind guides, because not only in themselves 
the pale and colourless reproductions of what in sensation 
is positive and definite, but also because they have been 
connected, as history shows, with all sorts of tyranny, 
superstition, and wrong. The simple human being, with 



136 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

primary desires and strong, ineradicable appetites, is the 
only version of humanity whom Mr. Swinburne would 
admire. Two elemental princiiDles (whom the poet, as his 
custom is, envisages as goddesses) are provided for the 
adoration of true believers. One of these is Earth, " The 
ghost of God, the mother uncreated," whose connection 
with natural impulses is too obvious to require illustration. 
The other, in a highly mystical poem, is called " liertha," 
and is apparently an embodiment of Heraclitus' doctrine 
of the identity of contraries, the old Ephesian philosopher 
here as elsewhere serving as the name to swear by, to all 
who espouse a sensationalistic creed. Such a restoration 
of the human being to his primitive and inalienable birth- 
rights naturally involves the doctrine of freedom, a freedom 
which is very like the license claimed by the animals in 
the Platonic version of Democracy, who refuse to get off 
the pavements in the streets, as a proof of the universal 
equality and brotherhood professed by the State. Freedom 
and liberty are indeed the watchwords of Mr. Swinburne's 
pyrotechnical triumphs. They blaze in the midst of a 
coruscation of rhetorical verbiage and metrical effects 
which it would be difficult to parallel in any other English 
poetry. Curiously enough, the volume is dedicated to 
Mazzini, whose constant doctrine was that there could be 
no rights without duties. In Mr. Swinburne, however, 
freedom, the right to enjoy, appears to involve no duties, 
whether of self-denial or of self-perfection. At most there 
is the duty of self-realization in the narrowest and most 
limited sense of the word self, which confines its activities 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 137 

to pleasure and passion. Nor is Swinburne's political 
propaganda less theatrical and meretricious. Here the 
sacred name of Shelley is invoked, as though his example 
consecrated all revolutions and every attempt to upset 
existing religions. Possibly no serious comparison with 
Shelle}'- is intended ; if it be, the issue is doubly disastrous 
to the younger poet. The conditions of the revolutionary 
programme, to begin with, are different. There is no 
longer any talk about the beheading of kings, or the 
downfall of dynasties, or the wild upheaval of chaotic 
disorder. Language of this sort strikes one as thrasonical 
and insane, for the modern revolutionary creed is confined 
to certain practical issues, especially the organization of 
labour against capital, and the confiscation of property. 
Shelley, too, was, of course, an atheist, but in attacking 
the prevalent superstitions of the world he is at once more 
graceful and more plain-spoken than the younger apostle. 
He would not, for instance, have employed biblical phrase- 
ology in an attack on the Bible, nor would he have made 
use of the Litanies of the Prayer Book in an assault upon 
all forms of worship. As a mere question of taste, Swin- 
burne's poems entitled ' Before a Crucifix,' ' Blessed among 
Women,' and 'The Hymn of Man' are as revolting as they 
are essentially ludicrous. No one, of course, desires to object 
to Mr. Swinburne's profession of Pantheism so long as it 
is reasonably argued and coherently deduced from logical 
principles, but a wild dithyramb in favour of Atheism, 
couched in terms which are actually borrowed from the 
books of Christianity, is neither rational, humorous, nor 



138 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

artistically tolerable. When Mr. Swinburne is content to 
be simply poetic, as in some of his apostrophes to Italy 
and to Greece, there let us accord him all the praise that 
is his due. But his so-called philosophical foundation is 
too narrow, too rhetorical, too full of feminine hysteria. 

Fortunately, Mr. Swinburne has provided us with better 
materials for estimating his poetic maturity. The drama of 
' Bothwell ' is the second in a noble trilogy on the character 
and fortunes of Mary Queen of Scots. If it be right to 
depreciate the value of Mr. Swinburne's ancient studies, 
the poet himself has testified to the greatness of the 
change which came over him when, after 'Atalanta in 
Calydon,' he composed ' Bothwell.' In two ways his ad- 
vance is a conspicuous one. Not only do we get the more 
manly and catholic study involved in a change to drama 
from a subjective and not entirely healthy exercise of the 
erotic imagination, but, instead of the pale ghosts of the 
Hellenic world, we have before us the substantial flesh and 
blood of those characters who, whether by their vices or 
their virtues, helped to build up the fabric of our nation. 
' Chastelard,' the first of the trilogy, belongs, indeed, to the 
earlier period. There is no firmness in the characteriz- 
ation, no grasp of the dramatic elements of a situation : 
and the same insistence on the sensual and passionate 
aspects of love appears which is to be found in the juvenile 
drama of ' Rosamond.' In ' Bothwell,' however, a great deal 
of this is changed. Queen Mary is no longer exhibited as 
a baneful and criminal Eros luring men to destruction, 
but as herself brought under the subjection of a stronger 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 139 

will and a more brutal resolve. Moreover, there are so 
many traces in the drama of careful and conscientious use 
of authorities that we are almost dazed by the series of 
historic scenes and the introduction of countless historic 
personages. If the critic said in his haste that Mr. Swin- 
burne was deficient in seriousness and study, with the 
drama of ' Both well ' before him he must recant his error. 
Nor can it be said that there is any want of clear and 
definite characterization, at all events in the principal parts. 
The successive changes in Mary's character, from the time 
of the murder of Rizzio, through the domination of Bothwell 
and the complicity in the destruction of Darnley at Kirk- 
o' -field, down to the final surrender of herself to Elizabeth 
in view of a possible future revenge, are traced with a 
conscientious fidelity to nature which is the best gift of 
the dramatist. The character of Bothwell himself is clear 
in outline and consistent in details. His warlike prowess, 
his brutal frankness, his innate strength of resolve, his 
power of at once subduing the Queen of Scots and yet 
binding her to himself with stronger chains than she had 
ever worn in all her previous amours, throw the whole 
savage personality out in conspicuous relief from the 
multitude of subordinate characters. Moreover, there is 
good dramatic use of materials, witness the fine scene 
when Mary and Darnley have their last interview at Kirk- 
o'-field. Here most of the incidents are historical, espe- 
cially the terrible words of Mary : " 'Twas just this time 
last year David was slain ; " and Darnley 's application to 
his own case of the words of the Psalmist, " the deadly 



140 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Scripture," wherein he complains that it was not an open 
enemy that had done him this dishonour, but his own 
familiar friend with whom he had so often taken sweet 
counsel. 

On the other hand, the drama suffers from all the 
inherent defects of so-called ' literary ' dramatic writing. 
It is much too long and diffuse, and too complicated in 
historic characters and historic detail. The list of ' Dra- 
matis Personse' is enough to appal the stoutest heart; 
for sixty-three personages struggle and writhe on Mr. 
Swinburne's st;ige. Five hundred and thirty-two pages 
of close print are required to evolve the tragic incidents of 
the play ; and after all, the fifth act is not properly the 
close of a completed dramatic evolution, but the prelude 
for the ' Mary Stuart ' which ensues. The fourth act is 
undoubtedly the best, for the reason especially that it 
includes the famous sermon of John Knox ; but the third 
and second acts are very tedious, being devoid of that 
power of artistic selectiveness which enables a dramatist 
to concentrate his action on two or three salient jDoints. 
The fifth act falls absolutely flat after the grandeur of the 
fourth, the only excuse being the necessary preparation of 
ground for the ensuing play. In these and other points, 
it may be regretted that Mr. Swinburne should not have 
attempted to write professedly for the stage, in which case 
he might have learnt that pregnant conciseness, both in 
incident and characterization, without which no practical 
dramatist can wan the ear of a busy and somewhat 
impatient audience. 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 141 

' Mary Stuart,' the concluding part of the trilogy, is by 
DO means so fine or so powerfully written as its prede- 
cessor, though it undoubtedly adds somewhat to the great 
dramatic and poetic achievement of its author, the dis- 
covery, namely, of the true character of the Queen of 
Scots. For here was a personality which, in its subtlety 
and weakness, essentially suited the forcible yet narrow 
capacities of Mr. Swinburne's poetic genius. Mary Stuart 
he may claim to have thoroughly understood, because the 
hysterical, passionate, subjective nature of that strange 
woman struck certain answering chords in her biographer's 
temperament. 

" She sliall be a world's wonder to all time, 
A deadly glory watched of marvelling men, 
Not without praise, not without noble tears, 
And if without what she would never have, 
"Who had it never, pity, — yet from none 
Quite without reverence and some kind of love 
Eor that which was so royal." 

But it is to Mr. Swinburne's credit that he has almost 
made live before our eyes two other personalities with 
whom he has little or nothing in common — the bi'utal 
Bothwell and the puritanical Knox, both intense, arrogant, 
and impetuous forces, devoid possibly of spiritual interest, 
yet instinct with natural and imperious fire. And the 
character of Mary Beaton, though its importance is pro- 
bably unhistorical, is full of interest, and has a noticeable 
influence on the development of the tragedy in serving 
as a link to connect the three dramas together. In such 
characterizations the dramatist must have his due. 



142 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

A happy specimen of Mr. Swinburne's later manner is 
furnished by the Greek tragedy called ' Erechtheus,' in 
many respects one of the most completely enjoyable 
poems which the author has produced. Full of musical 
sound, and furnished with many magnificent lines, 
'Erechtheus' is perhaps superior to 'Atalanta' in that 
it has more breadth and stateliness of action, and exhibits 
a more perfectly Hellenic repose. It has less sweetness 
but more majesty, and frantic declamation against the 
gods is conspicuously absent. What it loses in graceful 
juvenility it gains in maturity of grasp and virile self- 
control. The legend which Mr. Swinburne follows groups 
together the two events of Chthonia's sacrifice and Euraol- 
jDus' defeat as contemporaneous incidents, instead of ex- 
hibiting the immolation of the daughter as the recompense 
required by Poseidon for the death of his son. He is thus 
enabled to bring into prominence the character of Erech- 
theus's wife, Praxithea, who has on one and the same day 
to bear the loss of daughter and of husband, and yet, 
throucfh her noble devotion to the cause of Athens, for 
whom no sacrifices are too costly, is still able to say with 
peaceful resignation, " I praise the gods for Athens." In 
other respects, Mr. Swinburne's arrangement leads to some 
awkwardness of construction. For two messengers have 
successively to present themselves, the first with tidings 
of how Chthonia met her death, " with light in all her 
face as of a bride ; " and the second with the story of 
the great battle, in which Erechtheus drives his spear 
" through the red huart's root " of Eumolpus, and himself 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 143 

falls smitten by a " sheer shaft of lightning writhen." 
The intimate connection between the two events is left 
for the reader to surmise, where a clear statement of cause 
and effect might have led to a better dramatic develop- 
ment. But the chorus which divides the speeches of the 
two messengers is in Mr. Swinburne's finest style. The 
verse heaves and pants with the furious riot of the battle- 
scene which the Chorus are imagining, and eye and ear 
alike are dazed with the wonderful affluence of the 
diction : — 

" From the roots of the hills to the plain's dim verge, and 

the dark, loud shore, 
Air shudders with shrill spears crossing, and hurtling of 

wlieels that roar. 
As the grinding of teeth in the jaws of a lion that foam as 

they gnash, 
Is the shriek of the axles that loosen, tlie shock of the poles 

that crash. 
The dense manes darken and glitter, the mouths of the 

mad steeds champ, 
Their heads flash blind through the battle, and death's foot 

rings in their tramp." 

So the picture goes on for three pages, rich in wild 
hyperbole of effective imagery, as is Mr. Swinburne's 
wont. There appears to be something very congenial to 
the author's temperament in such a worship of " Mother 
Earth " as the autochthonous inhabitants of Attica pro- 
fessed. In reality Chthon is the divinity, who protects 
her children against the sea's offspring, Eumolj^us, rather 
than the Athena, who appears, as Greek tragic custom 
demands, at the end of the play, when the " dignus vindico 
nodus " has been reached. To celestial gods the poet is 



144 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

disinclined to do homage ; to the bountiful mother of all 
being', the material element from which thinors receive 
their frame, which contains in itself, as Professor Tyndall 
once declared, " the promise and potency of all terrestrial 
life " — to such a dark negation of all spiritual force, Mr. 
Swinburne here, as elsewhere, pays his tribute of enthusi- 
astic devotion. This is the link which connects the poet 
with an age of materialistic science. There remains, how- 
ever, even in ' Erechtheus,' that sense of unreality and 
fruitless ingenuity to which all such adaptations from the 
classics must, in the nature of things, be exposed. Here, 
for instance, are some lines put in the mouth of the 
blameless Chthonia, when she first appears on the 
scene : — 

" Forth of the fine-spun folds of veils that hide 
jNIy virgin chamber toward the full-faced sun, 
I set my foot not moved of mine own Avill, 
Unmaidenlike, nor with unprompted speed 
Turn eyes too broad or dog-like unabashed " 

Faultlessly Greek, but absolutely fatuous. Did not Mr, 
Lowell once write an ingenious caricature of such Hel- 
lenism in a crnxoixvdLa, commencing, " Foolish who bites 
off nose, his face to spite " ? 

Mr. Swinburne's later contributions have not added 
much to the promise or the realization of his poetic 
powers, albeit that his admirers are fond of bringing them 
in evidence that he has outlived the errors of his youth. 
Doubtless they are more restrained in expression ; they 
do not exhibit so much exuberance of emotional riot. 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 145 

■while at the same time they prove that the musical gift 
has not waned with the passing years. "Boy jjoet" Mr. 
Swinburne can no longer claim to be, and our judgment 
must perforce be harder on anything which reminds us of 
juvenile rhodomontade and bombast. Yet if we ask what 
new ideas the years which bring the philosophic mind 
have contributed, what thoughts of clearer or deeper 
insight have enriched our common heritage, the answer 
reveals the infertility of the soil from which we expect a 
second harvest. Two subjects inspire all the later work 
of Mr. Swinburne — the sea and babies. The worship of 
the baby, as practised by its latest devotee, is not perhaps 
an inspiring spectacle. But the praise of the sea is even 
more significant, for it is nothing if not sensuous ; it is the 
conscious ecstasy of the wash of waves over the naked body 
of the swimmer, the delirium of solitary exposure to the 
blind fury of elemental strength. When a strong man, 
like Byron or Shakespeare, praises the sea, he describes it 
as its master. The poems of Mr. Swinburne on the same 
subject reveal the attitude of the slave, or rather the 
passionate, submissive joys of some creature of a tyrant's 
whims. Is there any later thought to be culled from his 
verse ? If so, possibly it may be found in the wonderful 
verses which exhibit his antagonism to the House of 
Lords in the ' Midsummer Holiday.' But a caricaturist 
of Mr. Swinburne's versification could not possibly outdo 
in extravagance of diction these most characteristic odes. 
No parody or burlesque could do its subject such perfect 
j>istice. 



146 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Mr. Swinburne's prose criticisms in Lis ' Essays and 
Studies' afford convenient material for a summary of 
the chief points in his literary character. That his prose 
style is a good one few would be prepared to admit ; it 
has too much artificial and meretricious brilliancy. Nor 
is his critical instinct wholly trustworthy or admirable, 
for it is too petulant, and suggests too few ideas. There 
is a sentence in one of the essays which serves exactly 
to represent the ordinary reader's feelings in this matter. 
"We do not always want," says Mr. Swinburne, in uncon- 
scious self-criticism, " to bathe our spirit in overflowing 
waters or flaming fires of imagination : pathos, and passion, 
and aspiration, and desire are not the only springs we seek 
for song." Yet if we take the essays in hand, just as 
when we read the poems, we are always being bathed in 
overflowing waters and flaming fires. There is no repose 
of spirit, no beauty of calm, we never find ourselves saying 
it is good for us to be here. Sympathy is a precious 
quality for the critic, and the faculty for praise sometimes 
argues a richly-endowed nature. Yet the constant use of 
superlatives in discussing poetic work does not help our 
judgment or impress our minds. Reading each essay by 
itself, Ave might suppose that Mr. Swinburne is in turn 
introducing us to the greatest poet of the age. Rossetti, 
Morris, Matthew Arnold, Coleridge, Shelley — each is the 
most magnificent artist that ever lived to confound the 
Philistine. It is true tliat Matthew Aruold, who has 
more sanity and less poetry than Mr. Swinburne, only 
affects liiui on his classical side, and not on that by which 



ME. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 147 

he has most influence on his generation ; but that is 
expHcable by antecedent considerations. Only Words- 
worth, as the chosen poet of Phihstinism, is left out in 
the cold. Even Byron gets bespattered with some frothy 
praise, though subsequently Mr. Swinburne has seen fit 
to qualify his judgments. But the most servile adulation 
is of course reserved for Victor Hugo, " the master," as he 
is usually styled, in whose presence Mr. Swinburne always 
takes the shoes from off his feet, and crawls in prostrate 
reverential awe. Within the limits of his Pantheon there 
is no such ecstatic worshipper as this most intolerant of 
atheists, for his nature is essentially yielding and receptive, 
with stormy gusts of passion and indiscriminating im- 
pulses of emotion. There is no strong masculine formative 
quality about him, which explains why he uses so many 
adjectives and suggests so few thoughts. Is there any- 
thing in the philosophy of ' Songs before Sunrise ' to 
compare with the long soliloquy of Empedocles in Matthew 
Arnold's poem ? Is there any thoughtfulness of character- 
ization in his dramas which can be put by the side of 
Browning's ' Djabal,' or ' Anael,' or ' Strafford ' ? More- 
over, there is an entire absence of humour — a serious 
defect in any poet claiming to be intellectual. For 
clumsiness of irony it would be difficult to beat the pages 
(pp. 29, 30) in ' Essays and Studies,' in which he com- 
ments on the action of the Belgian Government towards 
Hugo. The power of satire depends largely on terseness, 
as wit depends on brevity, and Swinburne's periods are far 
too prolix to be effective. There remain the indubitably 



148 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

picturesque qualities of his style, the wealth and fluency 
of rhetoric, and the unique command of music. Some- 
times the result is marred by alliterative tricks ; at other 
times it is heightened by the graceful touches of classical 
culture. Here, for instance, on two successive pages of 
one of Mr. Swinburne's essays, are passages which illus- 
trate this contrast. He is describing one of Hugo's 
heroines : — 

" But now we have her from the hands of a poet as Avell as 
student, new blown and actual as a gathered flower, in warm 
bloom of blood and breath, clothed with hve colour, fair with 
significant flesh, passionately palpable." 

The force of tawdry alliteration could no farther go ; but 
on the next page is a fine passage, instinct with the life 
and spirit of Greek tragic verse : — 

" We seem to hear about her the beat and clash of the terrible 
timbrels, the music that ^schylus set to verse, the music that 
made mad, the upper notes of the psalm shrill and strong as a 
sea-wind, the ' bull-voiced ' bellowing under-song of those dread 
choristers from somewhere out of sight, the tempest of tam- 
bourines giving back thunder to the thunder, the fury of 
Divine lust that thickened with human blood the hill-streams 
of Citha3ron." 

Perhaps some of Swinburne's best studies are on Eliza- 
bethan dramatists, John Ford, for instance, in 'Essays and 
Studies,' or the criticism on George Chapman. It is in 
the latter that some of the most discriminating remarks 
occur which have perhaps ever been made on Browning. 
The obscurity which arises from wealth of ideas is most 
carefully distinguished from that which is due to con- 
fusion of thought, a distinction which ought to be always 



MR. SWINBURNE'S POETRY. 149 

present to the student of our modern poet of enigmas. 
But the total impression left on us by Swinburne's prose 
is the same as that of bis verse. Brilliantly gifted, pro- 
fusely voluble, passionately rhetorical, it puts before us 
too often phrases instead of thoughts, verbal contortions 
instead of conceptions. It errs in point of taste, not rarely 
nor unwittingly. Professional poet of regicides, official 
mouthpiece of democratic atheism, self-chosen champion 
of a creed of glorified sensationalism, Mr. Swinburne is, 
however artistic, yet not an artist, and however cultured, 
yet still an amateur : for he is not creative, not original in 
the best and largest sense of the word, because not instinct 
with illuminating ideas. There clings to him too much of 
the feminine quality. Like the Mary of his own trilogy, 
he has fallen under many fascinations, he has been the 
victim of constant amours. Landor was his Chastelard, 
Hugo is certainly his Bothwell. Will the sombre tragedy 
end by leaving him in the hands of some hard-headed 
Philistine Elizabeth ? * 

* Mr. Swinburne's new volume Locrine daserves a separate study. 



150 



CHAELES EEADE'S NOVELS. 

In the most unpicturesque portion of the most pictur- 
esque college in Oxford are the rooms which used to be 
occupied by Charles Reade. The name 'Dr. Reade' is 
still painted over the door, and, though there is alteration 
in the sitting-room, the long looking-glasses, for which, 
both here and at Albert Gate, the eccentric fellow of 
Magdalen College had an especial fondness, still adorn 
the walls.* In Magdalen College, however, the memorials 
of Charles Reade are very few. He was nominated for a 
demyship — it was the time when election depended on 
nomination — owing to the illness of some favoured protege, 
whose patron thereupon discovered originality and excel- 
lence in young Reade's essay. He was elected Vinerian 
Scholar in 1835, and obtained a third-class in Literis 
Humanioribus in the same year. In 1844 and 1849 he 
was Bursar of his college, while in 1851 he became Vice- 
President, and wrote the Latin record of his year of office 
in the neatest of hand-^vriting and with the most Tacitean 
terseness. In after years, when his home was in Bolton 
Row or at Albert Gate, his visits to Oxford were made 
* There has been some change since the above was first written. 



CHARLES KEADE'S NOVELS. 151 

generally in the Long Vacation, and the company he 
entertained was that of Bohemian artists rather than 
Oxford fellows. There is, indeed, very little trace of 
Oxford in Charles Reade ; he exercised no influence on 
the university, while the effect of an academic training 
on him appears more in the characteristics of some of his 
heroes than in the moulding of his own style and work- 
manship. Robert Penfold, in ' Foul Play,' being an Oxford 
man, had, we are told, learnt to be versatile and thorough, 
and there was an indefinable air of Eton and Oxford in 
Alfred Hardie, which often helped him in the vicissitudes 
of ' Hard Cash.' But the author of these creations was 
himself dramatist, journalist, novelist, Bohemian — any- 
thing but an Oxford man of the approved academic type. 

Like many other artists and men of genius, Charles 
Reade for some time mistook the real bent of his powers. 
His earliest efforts were dramatic rather than literary, and, 
indeed, throughout all his life, just as George Eliot wished 
to be considered a poet, so did his ambition incline to be 
considered as writer of plays rather than of novels. It 
was with a play that he first assailed the close theatrical 
pi"ofession at the Haymarket : it was on the production of 
plays that he wasted the money he made in writing 
novels ; it was at a play-house (Drury Lane, when ' Free- 
dom' was brought out in August, 1888) that he made his 
last appearance in public before his fatal journey to 
Cannes. Yet of all his productions in this department 
only two, ' It is Never too Late to Mend,' and ' Drink,' 
obtained a real success. The other well-known plays. 



152 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

' The Scuttled Ship,' ' Masks and Faces,' and ' Two Loves 
and a Life,' were produced in collaboration with Tom 
Taylor and Dion Boucicault, Tiie mistake here is 
common and easily explicable. Charles Reade had many 
of the instincts of the dramatist ; in his presentation of 
character, in his love of 'situation,' in his choice of con- 
trasted scenes, in the very rapidity and picturesqueness of 
his style he showed true dramatic aptitude. But the 
successful playwright, at all events in our contemporary 
age, excels more in scenic construction than iu literary 
workmanship, and has a keen aj^preciation of the public 
taste for stage-carpentry rather than the development of 
character. 

As a novelist, Charles Reade is not unworthy to be 
ranked with literary giants such as Thackeray, and 
Dickens, and George Eliot. He cannot justly be com- 
pared with any of them, for his gifts were dissimilar. He 
was not an artist like Thackeray ; he had not the undeni- 
able genius and prodigality of power which is found 
in Dickens ; nor had he the gift of keen analysis or the 
profound thoughtfulness of George Eliot. Here and 
there he has the note of Dickens, witness the magnificent 
funeral scene of Edward Josephs in ' Never too Late to 
Mend ' (chap, xxvii.) ; but he has more points of com- 
parison with writers for whom he had a great admiration, 
though they were in many respects his inferiors, such as 
Wilkie Collins, Bulwer Lytton, and Miss Braddon. With 
them he shares his love of intricate j^lots, his diligent study 
of police intelligence, his portraiture of the conventional 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 153 

villain, his power of exciting interest in his tales ; but he 
has also gifts which they either do not possess, or possess 
in inferior forms. Nothing is more remarkable than the 
laboriousness with which he accumulates his materials. 
His knowledge is accurate and extensive in such different 
subjects, for instance, as prison-life, lunatic asylums, 
criminal procedure, trades unions, theory of banking, the 
life and learning of the middle ages, contemporary science. 
As a writer, he possesses k gout de la r^aliUy the instinct 
of life ; while the animation of his style, the plentiful 
invention of incidents, the enormous interest in con- 
temporary events, the implicit belief in the virtues of 
the Anglo-Saxon character, are points which serve to 
distinguish him among the novelists of his age. His 
respect for newspapers, as compared with books, his 
distrust of the ordinary regimen of doctors, his distaste 
for poets, with the exception of Sir Walter Scott, his love 
of Cremona fiddles, his fondness for Americans, and his 
dislike of Carlyle, are nuances which affect only his 
personal character. 

Mr. Reade has left a picture of himself in the character 
of Rolfe in ' A Terrible Temptation.' His studio at Albert 
Gate is first described : — 

" The room was large in itself, and multiplied tenfold by 
great mirrors from floor to ceiling, with no frames but a narrow 
oak beading. Opposite, on entering, was a bay window, all 
plate-glass, the central panes of which opened, like doors, u])on 
a pretty little garden that glowed with colour, and was backed 
by fine trees belonging to the nation ; for tliis garden ran iij) to 

the wall of Hyde Park Not a sound of London could be 

heard. 



154 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

"So far the room was romantic; but there was a prosaic 
corner to shock those who fancy that fiction is the spontaneous 
overflow of a poetic fountain fed by nature only. Between the 
fireplace and the window, and within a foot or two of the wall, 
stood a gigantic writing-table, with the signs of hard labour on 
it, and of severe system ; three plated buckets, each containing 
three pints full of letters to be answered, other letters to be 
pasted into a classified guard-book, loose notes to be pasted into 
various books and classified, five things like bankers' bill-books, 
into whose several compartments MS. notes and newspaper 
cuttings were thrown, as a preliminary towards classification in 
books. Underneath the table was a formidable array of note- 
books, standing upright and labelled on their backs. There 
were about twenty large folios of classified facts, ideas, and 
pictures. Then there was a collection of solid quartos, and of 
smaller folio guard-books called indexes. There was ' Index 
rerum et jourualium,' * Index rerum et librorum,' ' Index rerum 
et hominum,' and a lot more ; indeed so many, that by way of 
climax, there was a fat folio ledger entitled, * Index ad Indices.' 

" By the side of the table were six or seven thick paste-board 
cards, each about the size of a large portfolio, and on these the 
author's notes and extracts were collected from all his repertories 
into something like a focus for a present purpose. He was writ- 
ing a novel based on fact ; facts, incidents, living dialogue, 
pictures, reflections, situations, were all on these cards to choose 
from, and arranged in headed columns ; and some portions of 
the work he was writing on this basis of imagination and 
drudgery lay on the table in two forms — his own writing and 
his secretary's copy thereof, the latter corrected for the press. 
This copy was half margin, and so provided for additions and 
improvements ; but for one addition there Avere ten excisions, 
great and small." 

The author himself is then sketched : — 

" The author, Avho had dashed into the garden for a moment's 
recreation, came to the window. He looked neither like a poet 
nor a drudge, but a great fat country farmer." (This was a 
generous libel.) " He was rather tall, smallish head, common- 
place features, mild brown eye, not very bright, short beard, 
and wore a suit of tweed all one colour. Such looked the 
Avriter of romances founded on fact. He rolled up to the 
window, for, if he looked like a farmer, he walked like a sailor. 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 155 

and surveyed the two women with a mild, inoffensive, ox -like 
gaze." 

It is necessary to lay stress on this description of the 
writer, and of his mode of w^orking, for it leads at once to 
the capital characteristic of Reade. Every artist, if he is 
worthy of the name, raises a problem in art. In Keade's 
case, the problem affects the proper balance which should 
be maintained between ' materials ' and ' imagination.' 
It is claimed as the especial glory of the French ' ecole 
naturaliste,' that the writer amasses an enormous amount 
of data to one chapter of literary work. And in the same 
breath, a slur is cast upon the English school of novelists 
because they trust too much to the imagination in a 
commonplace routine of subjects, and have no taste or 
industry for the collection of materials, gained by down- 
right hard study and unwearied personal experience. Now 
here was a man who rejoiced above all in the classification 
of data, preparatory to his novel-writing. All his principal 
novels are witnesses to his laboriousness. It is enough to 
mention the names of ' Hard Cash,' ' It is Never too Late 
to Mend,' ' Put Yourself in his Place,' and ' The Cloister 
and the Hearth.' Reade himself delivers no uncertain 
sound in one of his letters addressed to the ' Daily Globe,' 
Toronto. Mr. Goldwin Smith, in true professorial style, 
had criticized Reade's work. This is how Reade answers 
him : — 

"He now carries the same system, the criticaster's, into a 
matter of more general importance. He says that I found my 
fictions on fact, and so tell lies : and that the chiefs of lictiou 
did not found fiction on fact, and so only told truths. Now 



156 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

"wliere does he discover that the chiefs of fiction did not found 
their figments upon facts'? It could be proved in a court of 
law that Shakespeare founded his fiction on fact, wherever he 
could get hold of fact. Fact is that writer's idol. As for 
Scott, he is one mass of facts. Daniel Defoe came to his work 
armed with facts from three main sources and wrote a volume 
beyond praise. His rich storehouse of rare facts exhausted, 
he still went on, peopled his island and produced a mediocre 
volume, such as anybody could write in this age of ours. He 
tried my anonymuncule's theory: he took the field armed 
with his imagination only, unadulterated by facts. What was 
the result 1 He produced the second part of ' Eobinson Crusoe,' 
which the public read for its title, and promptly damned upon 
its merits ; it has literally disappeared from literature." 

The true question is here somewhat obscured, owing 
to the characteristic impetuosity of Reade's style. There 
is no real antithesis between writing on a basis of facts 
and writing by the pure light of the imagination, for 
no writer, however imaginative, can construct his work 
in the airy void. But it is a question whether, as in 
the case of Reade himself, the mass of detail, every part of 
which can be verified as so much real fact, does not, 
in some of his books, overpower and overwhelm the 
imaginative framework. Compare and contrast ' Christie 
Johnstone,' written in 1850 or 1851, with 'The Wander- 
ing Heir,' which was produced in the Christmas number 
of the 'Graphic' in 1872. The first work is written 
before the enormous appetite for facts and ' materials ' 
had overtaken Reade, and while yet his imagination could 
play round the scenes of his early manhood. In the 
second work there is chapter and verse for every state- 
ment and every incident in the text, as the author is 
at pains to show in his elaborate defence of himself 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 157 

against the charge of plagiarism from Swift, Is not the 
first the more successful story from the artistic point of 
view ? And is not " the invention of equal power with 
the facts," exactly that which is wanting in the second ? 
Doubtless the circulation of 'The Wandering Heir' was 
extensive ; but if Charles Reade had not written ' Christie 
Johnstone,' and that charming dramatic study, ' Peg 
Woffington,' he could not have won the suffrages of the 
public, which afterwards made his ' Wandering Heir ' so 
salable a commodity. 

A better instance is furnished by the well-known ' It is 
Never too Late to Mend,' as compared with ' Griffith 
Gaunt.' There can be little doubt that ' Griffith Gaunt ' 
is Reade's masterpiece. So, at least, the author thought. 
" The whole credit and discredit of ' Griffith Gaunt,' my 
masterpiece, belongs to me, its sole author and original 
vendor," he says, in a letter published in ' Readiana.' 
Messrs. Chatto and Windus, who produced the popular 
edition of Reade's works, could probably testify that 
there is no novel which commands so good a sale in 
America and the colonies, as well as in England. Now 
the chief merit of 'Griffith Gaunt' lies in the masterly 
delineation of character in the three chief personages, 
Catherine Gaunt, Mercy Vint, and the hero himself. 
Catherine is the embodiment of haughty pride, passionate 
haste, and religious devotion. Mercy is the incarnation 
of sweetness, humility, and tenderness. Griffith Gaunt is 
the brave, lusty English gentleman, mad in anger, mad in 
jealousy, sensitive, capricious, generous in turns, at the 



158 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

bidding of his rapid and changing moods. No better 
Othello in English dress has ever been drawn by a truly 
Shakesperian artist, in dashes of lurid colour with a pen 
of eloquent fire. ' It is Never too Late to Mend ' is con- 
structed on a very different plan. No book could well be 
more interesting, but what one remembers is not the 
characters, but the incidents; not the story as a whole, 
but the purpurci panni — the graphic scenes and pictur- 
esque descriptions. What the author says of ' Uncle 
Tom's Cabin ' is eminently true of his own work : " It is 
written in many places with art; in all with red ink and 
the biceps muscle." But the book itself falls into two 
distinct divisions in accordance with the two different sets 
of materials, which the author has classified and tabulated 
for his purpose. The first half is full of the iniquities of 
the prison system ; the second is equally full of Australia. 
What are the characters compared with the accurate 
details ? What does one care for George Fielding, or 
Robinson, or Susan, compared with the patches of bright 
colour here and there — Fielding's farewell to his farm, 
Robinson's curse, the gold diggers listening to the skylark, 
Joseph's funeral ? Mr. Eden himself serves only as the 
most elaborate specimen of a character we are always 
finding in Reade, the hero of unfailing ingenuity and 
resource. He is a type and not a man, just as the other 
personages are mere pegs on which are hung the author's 
delineations of orold-findin<T in Australia, or his denuncia- 
tions of the iniquity of prison confinement in separate cells. 
Character and construction form the merit of ' Griffith 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 159 

Gaunt ' ; facts, materials, data, are the chief ingredients 
of the other story. In other words, ' Griffith Gaunt,' 
which is not overpowered with materials, is a work of 
art, while ' Never too Late to Mend ' moves heavily 
under the weight of those facts which its author made it 
his boast to collect. It is a highly descriptive, intensely 
interesting, but somewhat amorphous collection of jji(}ccs de 
cGnviciion. The same criticism applies to ' Put Yourself 
in his Place.' Here the didactic tendency is still more 
obvious, for Reade's object is to expose the heartless 
cruelty of Trades' Unions. The characters suffer in con- 
sequence, with the possible exception of Dr. Amboyne. 
But the crucial test is afforded by ' The Cloister and the 
Hearth.' If a man can read it through in a sitting, as he 
can ' Griffith Gaunt/ if he is carried through it with the 
same rapt attention, the same suspension of the critical 
faculty which he experiences when dealing with a work 
of real artistic construction, then to such a man, at all 
events, the invention in the book is of equal power with 
the facts. But if he takes it in such draughts as he is 
able to stand, being incapable of assimilating it in its 
entirety, if he feels now and again as if he were labori- 
ously getting up a learned work on the Middle Ages, as 
is the case, it may be suspected, with most readers, then 
the natural conclusion is that the ' Cloister and the 
Hearth,' though a work of great learning and industry, 
and containing in the fortunes of Gerard and Margaret a 
love-story of almost idyllic sweetness, is yet not wholly a 
work of art. " Here," one may say (Mr. Walter Besant has 



160 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

actually said it), " is Erasmus, here is Froissart, here is 
Deschamps, here is Coquillart, here is Gringoire, here is 
Villon, here is Luther;" and just for that reason is it 
imperfect. The scholar's learning is staring out of the 
holes in the artistic armour; it smells too much of the 
academic oil. 

One of the effects of this partial failure in artistic con- 
struction is seen in the monotony of some of Charles 
Reade's types. The main character in his fiction is 
always the Resourceful Hero. We can pursue the cha- 
racter through most of Reade's work. He is not, as the 
author on more than one occasion takes pains to tell us, a 
Carlylese hero ; he has some regard for human life, and 
he is usually an affectionate, warm-hearted Christian. 
But wherever he is, and whatever problem besets him, 
he is sure to come through it triumphantly. To this class 
belongs Robert Penfold, in ' Foul Play,' on his desert 
island, with the problem before him how to diffuse intel- 
ligence from a fixed point over thousands of miles. Henry 
Little, in ' Put Yourself in his Place,' is of the same fra- 
ternity, full of inventive skill in order to wage successful 
war single-handed against the Trades' Unions. So, too, is 
Alfred Hardie a hero of resource in ' Hard Cash,' a young 
man of culture and intelligence, with " an indefinable air 
of Eton and Oxford about him," condemned to struggle 
against the iniquities of a private lunatic asylum and an 
unnatural father. Robinson, the converted convict in 
* Never too Late to Mend,' shows similar skill and invent- 
iveness in conquering difficulties, whether the difficulties 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 161 

are the material hardships of Austrahan gold-digging, or 
the more impalpable temptations of his own past life. 
To these may perhaps be added Gerard and Den3's, in 
'The Cloister and the Hearth,' and Mr. Rolfe in the 
' Terrible Temptation.' 

Side by side with the resourceful hero is generally found 
the aiding and abetting Doctor. Ordinary doctors are not, 
as a rule, very civilly treated by Charles Reade. He calls 
them " the most venal class upon the earth " in the pages 
of 'Hard Cash,' and Doctors Wycherley and Osmond, 
Mosely and Donkyn are held up to public reprobation as 
grasping, incomjjetent, and gullible. But to serve as 
contrast to the commonplace doctor, appears the rare and 
exceptional doctor, who is a judge of character as well as 
of drugs, and who has a decided objection to blood-letting. 
Thus Doctor Suaby is the best friend of Sir Charles 
Basse tt in a 'Terrible Temptation'; Dr. Amboyne is 
always at the right hand of Henry Little in ' Pat Yourself 
in his Place,' and Dr. Aberford in ' Christie Johnstone ' is 
the only man who sees through the jaded epicurean, Lord 
Ipsden. But the best representative of the class is Dr. 
Sampson in ' Hard Cash,' who is so staunch an ally to 
Alfred Hardie. The scenes in which Dr. Sampson figures 
are some of the best which Reade ever wrote, just as the 
crotchety, warm-hearted, rough-tongued old quack, with 
his everlasting " Chronothairmal therey," is one of the 
few genuinely humorous characters in Reade's gallery of 
portraits. Mr. John Coleman has told us that Dr. Sampson 
was Dr. Dickson, and that the novelist had, in his usual 



162 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

precise way, classified and tabulated the characteristics of 
his friend under the head of Dickybirdiana, Tabulation 
is here, as elsewhere, Reade's invincible hobby. When he 
was at Oxford, he sometimes used to busy himself with 
the intricacies of Oxford aquatics, going so far as to 
classify the various expressions used by boating men, and 
even the terms of endearment with which they used to 
welcome their athletic friends. The result was the scene 
at Henley Regatta in which Edward Dodd and Alfred 
Hardie appear. Naturally enough, this mechanical way 
of getting up a subject sometimes played the author false. 
It is incongruous enough to boating men to find Mr, 
Edward Dodd, who ought to have been in hard training, 
smoking a cigar on Henley Bridge, just as the same 
authorities would hardly endorse the description given by 
Reade of the Oxford stroke (" the true Oxford stroke is 
slow in the water but swift in the air"), which he com- 
municated to the ' Observer ' in 1872. Nor is it quite 
comprehensible why Mr. Angelo, the athletic curate in 
' A Terrible Temptation,' should be represented as having 
won " the 200 yards race " at Oxford. 

The villain is an equally typical personage in these 
novels. He always employs the same arts. He intercepts 
letters at the post office, he tampers with corruptible 
officials, and hires unconscientious villains. This is the 
procedure of Meadows in 'Never too Late to Mend'; of 
Coventry in ' Put Yourself in his Place ' ; of Woodlaw in 
'Foul Play '; of Richard Bassett in 'A Terrible Tempta- 
tion ' ; of Richard Hardie in ' Hard Cash.' Pomander in 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 163 

' Peg Woffington,' RicliarJ Annesley in ' The Wandering 
Heir,' and Ghysbrecht van Swieten in 'The Cloister and 
the Hearth,' belong to the same conventional category. 
In these matters, some of Charles Reade's affinity to 
transpontine melodrama appears. There must be a villain 
on the stage to counterbalance the innocent charms of the 
heroine, and to bring out in clearer relief the many virtues 
of the hero. He must wind in and out of the various 
scenes for four acts in order to be brought up for condign 
punishment in the fifth, and receive the indignant hisses 
of the gallery when he is called before the curtain. More- 
over, Charles Reade's villain has, usually, a feebler villain 
behind him to serve as catspaw. Thus Meadows employs 
the base arts of Crawley, and Hardie and Skinner are first 
villain and second villain respectively in ' Hard Cash.' 
The catspaw of Woodlaw is Wylie, the creature of Richard 
Bassett is the unscrupulous attorney, Wheeler. 

The parson is another favourite character. The highest 
representative of this class is Francis Eden in ' Never too 
Late to Mend.' He is the ideally good man, who unites 
in a marvellous compound the subtlety of the resourceful 
hero and the sweet reasonableness of the saint. He is 
never at fault in the judgment of character, never devoid 
of plans in the hour of danger; buffeted by adverse fate, 
he always proves ultimately superior to circumstances, and 
leaves behind him a rich heritage of noble acts, and grate- 
ful and devoted friends. So too is Robert Penfuld, at once 
a martyr and a saint, only inferior to Francis Eden in that 
he is a victim to the delicious weaknesses of love-making. 

M 2 



164 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Sometimes the contrast is indicated between the true 
priest and the hollow semblance clad in priestly guise. 
Thus Eden, the saint, is contrasted with Mr. Jones, the 
essence of commonplace. Brother Francis, the genuine, 
the practical, the true-hearted, is contrasted with Brother 
Leonard, the emotional, the weak-kneed ; while the 
counterpart to the good-looking Angelo, who is so much 
in love with Lady Bassett, is furnished by Rolfe, who for 
the nonce discharges ecclesiastical functions. 

Charles Reade's female characters require a more careful 
scrutiny. It is quite clear, from numerous references in 
his novels, that he thought he was giving a better repre- 
sentation of female character than his contemporaries, and 
we know from other sources that he employed his usual 
system of tabulation with such zeal in this case that he 
even classified and arranged the ejaculations which women 
use. One of his admirers has gone so far as to say that he 
invented the 'true woman'; at all events, he arranged 
two parallel columns of facts, labelled respectively, Temina 
Fict'^,' and 'Femina Vera.' Nor is it untrue to add that 
among Charles Beade's gallery of portraits, some of the 
best and most life-like are his Avomen. His female cha- 
racters run mainly into three types. There is the strong 
natural girl, like Christie Johnstone, or Jael Dence, or 
Philippa Chester, or Maiy Wells. Tliere is the class of 
domestic innocents — sweet, simple, lovable girls, without 
much strength, except when love transports them out of 
themselves — like Julia Dodd, Grace Carden, Susan Merton, 
Margaret Brandt, Mercy Vint, Isabel Vane, and Lady 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 165 

Bassett. The third type is the passionate woman, the 
courtesan actual or potential, sometimes dangerous, cruel, 
and revengeful to the bitter end, like Mrs. Ryder and 
Mrs. Archbokl, sometimes reformed and helpful, like 
Khoda Somerset. Of these classes, the third is most 
conventional and stagey. According to Reade's own 
statement, he copied Rhoda Somerset from the pages of 
the 'Times.' "It was you," he says to the editor 
(' Readiana,' p. 322), '' who first introduced her, ponies 
and all, to the public in an admirable letter, headed 
' Anonyma.' " But in the novel she plays no distinguished 
part, and is converted to a moral life with a rapidity and 
a nonchalance which reminds one of the ' Formosa ' in 
Dion Boucicault's laughable play. Mrs. Archbold and 
Mrs. Ryder are both from the same mould, easily enam- 
oured, madly passionate, bitterly revengeful, fulfilling the 
same role as the wicked washerwoman who works such woe 
to Gervaise and the mason in Reade's dramatic version of 
' L'Assommoir.' Far better and more life-like are those 
heroines whom Reade loves to , trace, the natural, strong- 
minded, warm-hearted characters, fresh with the bloom of 
wild roses, and with the scent of new-mown hay. These 
are often put into contrast with the artificial ladies of 
polished life, very much to the disadvantage of the latter. 
Thus Jael Dence is placed side by side with Grace Garden, 
Christie Johnstone with Lady Barbara Sinclair, Mercy 
Vint with Catherine Gaunt, Mary Wells with Lady 
Bassett. So, too, the process of conversion from arti- 
ficiality to naturalness is exhibited in a single character, 



166 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

when Helen RolLston, in 'Foul Play,' is changed into a 
true-hearted girl by the beneficial discipline of an island 
life, and Peg Woffington leaves the mimic passions of the 
stage owing to the influence of Mabel Vane. The simple 
innocents like Susan Merton and Grace Garden and Julia 
Dodd are less attractive, perhaps because the purity of 
their hearts renders characteiization almost impossible. 
But if one has to select two heroines from Charles 
Reade's gallery, let the verdict be given for Ghristie 
Johnstone and Margaret Brandt. While the latter repre- 
sents the class of ingenues at the very best, the former is 
the truest girl whom Reade has drawn. If all else be for- 
gotten, the strong and tender fisher-ghd of Newhaven, 
with her Dutch cap, and cotton jacket, and kilted petti- 
coat, white as milk and supple as a young ash tree, lingers 
in the memory like a breath from her own native sea. 

It is necessary to remember how many different subjects 
Charles Reade has illustrated in order to appreciate the 
versatility of his genius and the extent of his studies. 
To understand his method the reader can consult the 
preface to ' Hard Gash,' or to ' A Simpleton,' or go through 
the formidable list of authorities quoted in the Appendix 
to ' The Wandering Heir.' He studied Blue-books and 
journals with the unremitting laboriousness and attention 
which a student gives to some recondite subject of research. 
Newspapers, above all, suggested topics to his pen. " For 
eighteen years," he says to the editor of the 'Times,' "the 
journal you conduct so ably has been my preceptor and 
the main source of my works; at all events of the most 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 167 

approved. A noble passage in the ' Times ' of September 
7 or 8, 1853, touched my heart, inflamed my imagination, 
and was the germ of my first important work, ' It is Never 
too Late to Mend.' Some years later you put forth an 
able and eloquent leader on private asylums, and detailed 
the sufferings there inflicted on persons known to you. 
This took root in me, and brought forth its fruit in the 
second volume of ' Hard Cash.' Later still your hearty 
and able but temperate leaders on trades unions and trade 
outrages incited me to an ample study of that great sub- 
ject, so fit for fiction of the higher order, though not 
adapted to the narrow minds of bread-and-butter misses, 
nor of the criticasters who echo those young ladies' idea of 
fiction and its limits, and thus ' Put Yourself in his Place ' 
was written. Of 'A Terrible Temptation' the leading 
idea came to me from the ' Times,' viz., from the report 
of a certain trial, with the comments of counsel, and the 
remarkable judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Byles." A 
man who worked in a fashion so characteristic, as he him- 
self says, of Shakespeare and Daniel Defoe and Sir Walter 
Scott, would be sure, sooner or later, to have his authorities 
discovered, and to be thereupon accused of plagiarism. It 
is quite true that the leading ideas of his novels were 
borrowed from alien sources, sometimes from his promis- 
cuous reading in the French drama. Thus 'Hai'd Cash* 
appears to owe something to IMacquet's ' Le Pauvre de 
Paris,' and ' A Double Marriage ' to the same author's 
'Chateau Grantier.' 'Foul Play' has some similarity to 
'Le Portefeuille Rouge,' and the play of 'Drink' was an 



168 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

acknowledged adaptation from Zola's ' L'Assommoir.' But 
originality is a hard matter to define, and is at best a 
doubtful virtue. The charge of plagiarism Keade meets 
in the Preface to 'A Simpleton' in the following cha- 
racteristic fashion : — 

" It has lately been objected to me, in studiously courteous 
terms, of course, that I borrow from other books, and am a 
Plagiarist. To this I reply that I borrow facts from every 
accessible source, and am not a Plagiarist. The Plagiarist is 
one who borrows from a homogeneous 'work : for such a man 
borrows not ideas only, but their treatment. He who borrows 
only from heterogeneous works is not a Plagiarist. All fiction 
worth a button is founded on facts ; aud it does not matter one 
straw whether the facts are taken from personal experience, 
hearsay, or printed books ; only those books must not be works 
of fiction. To those who have science enough to appreciate the 
above distinction, I am very willing to admit that in all my 
tales I use a vast deal of heterogeneous material, which in a life 
of study I have gathered from men, journals, blue-books, histories, 
biographies, law reports, &c. I rarely write a novel without 
milking about two hundred heterogeneous cows into my pail, 
and ' A Simpleton ' is no exception to my general method : that 
method is the true method and the best, and if on tliat method 
I do not write prime novels, it is the fault of the man, and not 
of the method." 

Then follow the various sources from which the different 
parts of the novel were derived, the South African incidents 
alone being indebted to thirteen different authorities. If 
we remember that thisdihgence has been bestowed mainly 
on subjects of deep national importance, Charles Reade 
must be considered a public benefactor, even if he had not 
written a line of romance. Only a short time ago the 
' Lancet ' and the ' British Medical Journal ' were bringing 
against private lunatic asylums the very accusations which 



CHARLES READE'S NOVELS. 169 

were urged in ' Hard Cash ' and ' A Terrible Temptation, 
that they did not attempt to cure an insane patient, and 
that it was very difficult to procure the release of a sane 
one. " I am a painstaking man," Reade says very truly of 
himself, " and I owe my success to it." 

Another sentence of personal criticism is equally just, 
and serves to illustrate, not only his own nature, but also 
the merits and defects of his literary style. " I bear an 
indifferent character," he says to the editor of a Toronto 
paper, " for temper and moderation." Any one who reads 
through the correspondence published in the volume 
entitled ' E,eadiana ' can bear am]3le testimony to the truth 
of this assertion. And if stress be laid on the least suc- 
cessful points in his style of narrative, it too will be found 
wanting in temper and moderation. It is too rapid, too 
terse, too jerky, but for these very reasons it sometimes is 
able to call up a picture in a series of lightning flashes. 
Moreover, it has the merits of constant animation and live- 
liness, and, though often wanting in polish, it, like the best 
of Reade's characters, is racy of the soil. Especially when 
dealing with the sea it gains force, picturesqueness, and 
variety, and no better sample can be found than the gallant 
fight with the pirate ships with which Dodd's career opens 
in 'Hard Cash.' But for pure, simple pathos, there is 
nothing truer and finer than the scene in ' Never too Late 
to Mend,' where the gold-diggers on Sunday morning 
gather round to listen to the skylark : — 

"Like most sinp;ers, he kept tliem waiting; a bit. But, at 
last, just at noou, when the mistress of the house had warranted 



170 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

him to sing, the little feathered exile began as it -were to tune 
his pipes. The savage men gatliered round his cage that 
moment, and amidst a dead stilhiess the bird uttered some very 
uncertain chirps, but aft(!r a -while he seemed to revive his 
memories, and call his ancient cadences back to him one by one, 
and string them soito voce. 

" And then the same sun that had warmed his little heart at 
home came glowing down on him here, and he gave music back 
for it more and more, till at last, amidst breatliless silence and 
glistening eyes of the rougli diggers hanging on his voice, out 
burst in that distant land his English song. 

" It swelled his little throat and gushed from him with 
thrilling force and plenty, and every time he checked his song 
to think of his theme, the green meadows, the quiet stealing 
streams, the clover he first soared from and the spring he sang 
so well, a loud sigh from many a rough bosom, many a wild 
and wicked heart, told how tight the listeners had held their 
breath to hear him ; and when he swelled with song again, and 
poured with all his soul the green meadows, the quiet brooks, 
the honey clover and the English spring, the rugged mouths 
opened and so stayed, and the shaggy lips trembled, and more 
than one drop trickled from fierce unbridled hearts down bronzed 
and rugged cheeks. 

" Dulce domum. 

" And these shaggy men, full of oaths and strife and cupidity, 
had once been white-headed boys and had strolled about the 
English fields with little sisters and little brothers, and seen the 
lark rise and heard him sing this very song. The little playmates 
lay in the churchyard, and they were full of oaths and drink 
and lust and remorses, but no note was changed in this immortal 
song. And so for a moment or two, years of vice rolled away 
like a dark cloud from the memory, and the past shone out in 
the song-shine ; they came back, bright as the immortal notes 
that liglited them, those faded pictures, and those fleeted days ; 
the cottage, the old mother's tears, when he left her without one 
grain of sorrow ; the village church and its simple chimes ; the 
clover-field hard by in which he lay and gambolled, while the 
lark praised God overhead ; the chubby playmates that never 
grew to be wicked, the sweet hours of youth — and innocence — 
and home." 

A strain of health and manliness runs through all 
Reade's work : it is not all meat for babes, but it is always 



CHARLES READES NOVELS. 171 

on the side of morality. No more unfair charge was ever 
uttered than that which denounced ' Griffith Gaunt ' and 'A 
Terrible Temptation ' as indecent books. Reade is never 
afraid to handle themes which to delicate susceptibilities 
may savour of indelicacy ; but it is only the prurient prude 
who could condemn his manner of treatment. For his 
own part, he is an enthusiastic defender of Faith and 
Religion : the " last words to mankind " which he had 
placed on his tombstone breathe a spirit of the simplest 
Christianity. A vigorous writer, a clear-headed thinker, 
untroubled by metaphysical mirage or philosophic doubt, 
with a rare eye for picturesque effects and a rare appreci- 
ation for the subtler details of character, Charles Reade 
was almost, if not quite, a genius, and only just failed in 
being an artist. By the side of his beloved friend, Mrs. 
Seymour, in Willesden Churchyard, lie his mortal remains. 
But his name will live long in the memory of English- 
speaking races. 



172 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 

DESCARTES AXD THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH. 

•' Les femmes ne savent jamais qu'a demi, et le peu 
qu'elles savent les rend communement fieres, dedaigneiises, 
causeuses, et degoiitees des choses solides." So wrote 
Madame de Maintenon to the ladies of the house of St. 
Cyr, echoing some sentiments which are to be found in the 
treatise on ' L'Education des Filles.' " Une femrae curieuse," 
says Fenelon, " qui se pique de savoir beaucoup, se flatte 
d'etre un genie superieur, et meprise les amusements et 
les vanites des autres femmes. Elle se croit solide en tout 
et rien ne la guerit de son entetement." "Retenez," he 
proceeds, " leur esprit le jdIus que vous pourrez dans les 
bornes communes : apprenez-leur qu'il doit y avoir pour 
leur sexe un pudeur sur la science presque aussi delicate 
que celle qu'inspire I'horreur du vice." From which it 
may be gathered that Madame de Maintenon and the 
pious archbishop of Cambrai were on this point quite in 
accord with Moliere and his ' Precieuses Ridicules ' and 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKIXG. 173 

* Femmes Savantes.' But the seventeenth century was full 
of noble women, who were sometimes ' femmes savantes,' 
and even ' femmes philosophes,' without danger to their 
womanhood. Among the most distinguished of the latter 
class was the Princess Palatine, Elizabeth, who enjoyed 
the friendship of Descartes. 

She came of a notorious family. Her father was the 
unhappy Frederick V., Elector Palatine and King of 
Bohemia, who lost his crown at the battle of Prague. 
Her mother, a proud and capricious woman, who appears 
to have had but little liking for her learned daughter, was 
Elizabeth Stuart, sister of Charles I. of England.' Several 
of her brothers obtained a distinction more frequently 
melancholy than they deserved. Rupert, with his heart 
in reality set on physics and chemistry, was called to be 
a cavalry officer in the service of his uncle, whose cause 
he so brilliantly endangered by his reckless hardihood. 
Maurice diappeared in America. Edward became a con- 
vert to Catholicism ; and Philip was banished from his 
home for murdering in the public streets a French gentle- 
man, M. D'Epinay, for whom his mother entertained a 
somewhat compromising affection. Nor were the sisters 
much less remarkable. Louise Hollandine, the favourite 
of the dethroned queen, became abbess of Maubuisson, 
after joining the Catholic faith. Sophia Avas the first 
Electress of Hanover, and mother of George I. of England. 
Each, moreover, had a distinguished man to be her friend. 
Louise Hollandine was an artist, and the pupil of the 
painter Honthorst. Sophia was the Egeria of Leibnitz, at 



174 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

whose suggestion he wrote his ' Theodicee.' And the 
Princess Elizabeth, the most charming and the most lovable 
of the three, after refusing the hand and throne of Wlad- 
islas, King of Poland, devoted herself to philosophy, and 
became the firm friend of Descartes. 

A curious chapter in the history of philosophy might 
be written on the friendships of philosophers, whose most 
amiable side is frequently to be found in their relationship 
with women. Descartes, who was not above the weak- 
nesses of his sex, after a singular but mysterious episode 
in Amsterdam, when, in 1635, he allied himself with 
a lady catled H^lene, and had a daughter called Francine, 
w^as fortunate enough to make two royal friendships, the 
first with Elizabeth, the second with Christina, Queen 
of Sweden. But the first was incomparably the truer 
and the better friendship, and the one which most enlisted 
the heart of the philosopher. Elizabeth became his pupil, 
and nothing is too good for him to say of the young 
student. 

In IG^-i, when Elizabeth was about twenty-five and 
Descartes forty-eight years of age, he dedicated to her his 
' Principles ' with an effusive gratitude and admiration, 
couched in language of more than courtly compliment. 
" Madame," he says in the letter which he wrote on this 
occasion, " the greatest advantage which I have derived 
from the writings which I have hitherto published has 
been the opportunity of your Highness' acquaintance and 
conversation, which have given me the happiness to 
remark in you qualities so rare and so estimable that 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 175 

I believe it to be a public service to propose tliem as an 
example for posterity. Flattery would be as much out 
of place as an idle description of what I do not certainly 
know, especially in the first pages of a book in which my 
task is to set forth the principles of all tlj,e truths which 
the human spirit can discover. And the generous modesty 
which is reflected in all your Highness' actions assures me 
that the frank words of a man, who only writes what he 
believes, will be more agreeable to you than the ornate 
and polished praises of those who have studied the art 
of compliment. For this reason I will put nothing in this 
letter except what experience and reason have rendered 
certain. I will write here as much in the spirit of a philo- 
sopher as in the rest of my book Two things 

are , necessary for wisdom, viz. that the understanding 
should know all that is good, and that the will should be 
always disposed to follow it. But only the will can bg 
common to all men, whilst of understanding some have 
a greater share than others. But although those who are 
to some extent deficient in intelligence can yet be per- 
fectly wise so far as their nature permits, and render them- 
selves acceptable to God by their virtue, if only they have 
a firm will to do all the good they know, and to take all 
diligence to learn what they do not know ; yet those who, 
besides a constant wish for well-doing, and an earnest 
desire for self-instruction, have also a clear intelligence, 
undoubtedly attain to a higher pitch of wisdom than others. 
In your Highness I find all these three things united. 



176 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

You have so far cared for your self-instruction that neither 
the distractions of the court nor the usual education 
of princesses, which is so adverse to literary knowledge, 
have been able to hinder you from the diligent study 
of all that is best in the sciences; and you have proved 
the quality of your intelligence in the rapidity with which 
you have mastered them. For myself, I have a proof 
of this in the fact that no one whom I have ever met 
has had so extensive and so excellent a knowledge of all 
my writings as yourself. For there are many who find 
them very obscure, even among the most learned and the 
cleverest ; and I remark that in nearly every case neither 
the mathematician can understand metaphysics, nor the 
metaphysician mathematics. You, on the contrary, are 
the sole person whom I have met to whom both subjects 
are equally easy ; and this gives me good reason to con- 
sider your intelligence as quite incomparable. But that 
which most amazes me is this. So perfect and so wide 
a knowledge of the sciences is not in this case the pos- 
session of some old doctor trained by many years of culture, 
but belongs to a princess still young, whose face is more 
that which the poets give to the Graces than that which 
they attribute to the Muses or the learned Minerva. 
Finally, I remark in your Highness not only the highest 
intelligence and the most excellent wisdom, but also a will 
and a character in which magnanimity and tenderness are 
united with such a temperament that although fortune 
has done her best by constant attacks to embitter you, she 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 177 

lias never been able in the least degree either to irritate or 
to overcome." * 

This is indeed a remarkable tribute on the part of the 
philosopher to one so much younger than himself. But it 
is by no means a solitary instance. Here is another passage 
which almost errs on the side of fulsome and clumsy adula- 
tion. Its date is probably May, 1643, and it refers to 
some letter in which Elizabeth had asked for an explan- 
ation of the manner in which body and soul were united. 
" The favour which your Highness has done me in making 
me receive your commands in writing is greater than I 
should have dared to hope for; and it suits my defects 
better than that which I should have passionately desired, 
viz. to hear them from youi-- lips, if I had been admitted to 
do you reverence and to offer you my humble services 
wlien I was last in the Hague. I should have had too 
many wonders to admire at once ; and when I heard words 
more than human issuing from a form such as artists give 
to angels, I should have been ravished with joy as those 
must be who have left earth and are just entered into 
heaven. I sliould have been less able to answer your 
Highness, who must already have doubtless remarked this 
defect in me when I have had the honour of conversing 
with you. It is your clemency which has wished to alle- 
viate this inability of mine, by leaving the traces of your 
thoughts on paper, where, reading them over and over 
again, and accustoming myself to consider them, I am 

* Descartes (Cousin's edition), vol. iii. pp. 3 — 8. All my re- 
ferences are to the edition of Cousin in eleven volumes. 1824-G. 

N 



178 STUDIES, KE\y AXD OLD. 

indeed less astonished, but feel still greater admiration 
when I discover that they are not only ingenious at first 
sight, but more judicious and solid the more one examines 
them." * 

Descartes is undoubtedly in earnest with all this praise ; 
but it is a little difficult to determine whether it is genuine 
scientific admiration for Elizabeth's cleverness, or the 
natural gallantry of a man of heart and a Frenchman. 
When he writes to her sister Louise, who was a much 
Aveaker character in every respect, he is as comj)limentary 
as before. " The letter which I have had the honour of 
receivincf from Berlin makes me understand how much I 
owe your Highness; and considering that those which I 
write and receive pass through such worthy hands as yours, 
it seems to me that your sister is like the sovereign 
Divinity, who employs the good offices of angels to receive 
the homage of inferior men, and to communicate to them 
her commands. Since my religion does not prevent me 
from invoking angels, I beg you to be gracious enough to 
accept my thanks."t There is in such language some grace 
of expression, some philosophic pride, and perhaps a shade 
of irony. But Elizabeth was indeed worthy not only of 
admiration, but of love. She was young and beautiful; 
so much of a Protestant that she refused to leave the 
religion of her family even to become the bride of a king ; 
so much of a genius that at the age of nineteen she read 
the ' Discourse,' and the ' Essays,' and the ' Meditations ' of 
Descartes with tlie keenest interest. In her childhood, 
* Cousin, vol. ix. p. 124. t Ihid. p. 402. 



A EOYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 1T9 

under the care of lier grandmother, Juliana, the daughter 
of the great Prince of Orange, she had stored her mind 
with noble histories and heroic actions. Like all the 
Stuarts, she was full of the unconscious dignity of royalty. 
She learnt languages as easily as she mastered sciences. 
Throuo'hout all her life she was tender, affectionate, and 
unfortunate. She was by no means the favourite of her 
mother, who preferred Louise ; she loved her brothers, and 
saw them one by one alienated in different ways from her 
side ; she witnessed the ruin of her Uncle Charles in 
England, the loss of her closest relations, the death of 
Kupert, the perversion of Edward, the disgrace and banish- 
ment of Philip : over all her race rested the evil star of 
failure and disappointment, while her one solace was 
the friendship of Descartes and philosophic self-culture. 
Here at least she was supreme, and Cartesianism has 
no brighter page than the tale of this fair young pupil's 
devotion. 

So keen was she in the pursuit of the intellectual life 
that she at first tried to cement a friendship with a woman 
eleven years older than herself, who was in every respect 
the antithesis to her fresh and acute intelligence. Anna 
Maria von Schurmann was in 1640 the learned lady of 
Holland. She was the 'star of Utrecht/ 'the tenth of the 
Muses,' 'quarta Charis, decima est Musarum, mascula 
Pallas,' — celebrated by poets, worshipped by the learned 
of every country, the glory of that scholastic pedant Voetius. 
She read Seneca, Virgil, and Homer, studied the Bible 
in the original dialects, and in 1641 published a work iu 



180 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Latin in defence of the intellectual cultivation of women. 
All the prigs of the time were on their bended knees 
before her, and commemorated their devotion in the 
strangest of Latin verse, boastingr of their intellectual 
commerce with her in lines of scholarly coarseness. 

" Succuba nemo fuit, nemo fait incubus, insons 
Yirginitas, insons flamma tliorusque fuit." 

For this divine Schurmann was indeed sexless. 

" Scliurmania sexum 
Egregio vincit corpore, mente viros."* 

She was above all a scholastic, versed in Aristotle, 
Augustine, Thomas, one who would naturally regard 
with suspicion the new philosophy of Cartesianism. An 
incident occurred which fanned the flame of suspicion 
into active dislike. Descartes came to see her at Utrecht, 
and found her immersed in a study of the Bible in the 
original Hebrew. The philosopher was astonished that a 
person of such merit should waste so much time over " une 
chose de si peu d' importance," and when Mdlle. Schur- 
mann protested that it was rather a matter of capital 
importance, Descartes answered that he had himself tried 
to read the first chapter of Genesis, but that he had failed 
to find anything which he could understand clearly and 
distinctly (claH ct distincU). As therefore he could not 
understand Moses, who instead of giving him any new 
light only served to confuse him still further, he had 
determined to renounce the study. Naturally the gifted 

* Fouclier de Careil. ' Descartes et la Princesse-Palatine,' p. 34. 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKIXG. 181 

lady was much alarmed at this candour ; she took a violent 
dislike to Descartes, and made an entry into her diary in 
which she thanked God that He had alienated her heart 
from " this profane man." * The antijmthy was mutual, 
for Descartes also has a note about the theological student. 
" This Voetius (her teacher) has also spoilt Mdlle. von 
Schurmann ; for albeit that she had an excellent taste for 
poetry, painting, and other refinements of the kind, he 
has now for five or six years possessed her so entirely that 
she only occupies herself with theological controversies, 
and has lost the conversation of all honest men." The 
Princess Elizabeth, as has been already said, was a friend 
of Mdlle. Schurmann : it was necessary therefore that she 
should be warned against the dang^erous seductions of 
Descartes. " It is quite true," she says in a letter to 
Elizabeth, " that I have a profound esteem for the scholastic 
doctors," and she then gives the reason in the followincr 
passage, which contains an unmistakable reference to 
Descartes. " For them it has been sufficient glory to allow 
themselves to be guided by those two great stars of divine 
and human science. Saint Augustine and Aristotle, whose 
glory can never be obscured, lioivevcr much of fog and 
chaotic error men have striven to oppose to their hrilHctnt 
light." But though Descartes had undoubtedly earned the 
dislike of the orthodox theologians, Elizabeth is too little 
of a scholastic to be offended with the new culture. Des- 
cartes is introduced into the court of the Bohemian Queen, 

* " Beinfaits da Seigneur: Dieii a eloign^ nion coeur do riioiume 
profane." Fouclicr dn Careil, p. 62. 



182 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

and wliile the mother receives him with poUteness, the 
daughter accepts hitn as her teacher and her friend. 
Henceforth no alliance with Schurmann is possible ; the 
companionship is broken off, only to be resumed again 
after Descartes' death. Baillet in his life of Descartes tells 
us that no sooner had she read the essays of Descartes than 
she conceived so strong a passion for his teaching that she 
counted as nothing all she had previously learnt, and 
desired only to build anew on more solid foundations. And 
Sorbiere (in his Sorberiana), who was a friend of Gassendi, 
and therefore not disposed towards Cartesianism, cannot 
refrain from a burst of admiration for the princess. 
" Wonders are told of this rare person : to a knowledge 
of language she adds that of the sciences; she will not 
amuse herself with scholastic nonsense, but desires to know 
things clearly; she has a keen intelligence and a solid 
judgment, likes to make dissections and experiments, has 
at her court a minister who is held to be a Socinian, seems 
to be about twenty years of age, and has the beauty of a 
veritable heroine." 

But Elizabeth is by no means an unintelligent disciple 
of her great master. After reading the earlier works, 
the ' Discours ' and the ' Meditations Metaphysiques,' she 
puts her finger on one of the weak points. Nothing in 
all the celebrated objections made to the Cartesian system 
by such masters as Hobbes and Gassendi, Craterus and 
Arnauld, so effectively struck the point whence subsequent 
philosophy was to proceed, either in the way of explanation 
or of transformation, as the simple question propounded by 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 183 

the princess : " ce qu'il faut penser de I'lmion de I'ame avec 
le corps." For it was exactly that which Cartesianism 
could not answer. The soul was one thing, with its special 
attribute, thought, or self-consciousness ; the body another, 
with its attribute peculiar to itself, viz. extension. But 
the more each of the two opposed terms was kept in its 
exclusive isolation, with definitions intended to preserve 
the essence in each case absolutely distinct, the more 
difficult was it to realize how the two thinfrs could be con- 

O 

joined to make one human being. If soul was all thought, 
and the body all matter, how could soul move body by its 
volitions, how could body move soul by its sensations ? 
Man was obviously one, and yet his component parts were 
two irreconcilable entities. Moreover, Descartes had 
found the seat of the soul, and declared it to be the 
conarion or pineal gland in the brain. If this were truly 
local, must not such a locality be a part of space ; must 
not the soul be itself extended ? And if extended, what 
becomes of the special characteristic which was to dis- 
tinguish soul from matter ? Is the soul material, or is the 
body itself spiritually discerned ? Such were the difficulties 
which led to the speculations of Geulincx and Malebranche, 
and were finally absorbed in the pantheistic system of 
Spinoza. When Descartes has such a problem put before 
Inm he knows not what to say. In two letters to the 
princess * he fences and evades the point, now falling back 
on compliments, now making a distinction between the 
understanding, the imagination, and the senses. But of 
* CoLiain, vol. ix. i^p. 123, 129. 



184 STUDIES, NEW AXD OLD. 

real answer there is none. Nor could there be, till Car- 
tesianism became either Occasionalism or Spinozism, In- 
cidentally, however, he makes the curious remark that 
metaphysics should have only one hour a year given to it, 
while mathematics should be studied for one hour a day, 
and the practical science of life — the verdict, that is to say, 
of the senses and the lessons of experience — should get the 
rest of our working life. This is a strange commentary 
on his early writings, but perhaps Descartes felt that in 
writing to a woman he should warn her off the congenial 
ground of mysticism and schwdrmcrci. 

In 1644 Descartes, who had now written his ' Principles,' 
dedicated the work to the Princess Elizabeth, with the 
lavish and magnificent encomium which has before been 
quoted. Perhaps it was not the best gift he could have 
chosen^for her, for of all Descartes' writings his physical 
theories and the automatism of animals seem to have 
interested her least. What she cared for was his psycho- 
logy, and what she desired him to accomplish was a 
compendium of ethical doctrine. For in the succeeding 
years, 1645 — 1648, misfortune after misfortune invaded 
her ill-starred life. Disliked, as Ave have seen, by her 
mother, and abandoned by her sister Louise and her 
brother Edward, both of whom had abjured the Protestant 
faith, she had the additional misery of suffering under an 
unjust charge. Her younger brother Philip had conceived 
a great animosity to the Marquis d'Epinay, who was 
rumoured to be too close a favourite of the queen-mother. 
In a public brawl in the streets Philip had assassinated 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 185 

the Frenchman, and was banished for life. Ehzabeth was 
suspected of compUcity in this murder, and forced to leave 
the court and migrate to Berlin to the Elector of Brande- 
buro-.* Nor were foreign troubles wanting to complete 
the princess' dejection. She saw the Stuart cause irre- 
trievably ruined in England, involving with it the loss of 
the gallant Rupert and the execution of her unhappy 
uncle, Charles I. Her health gave way, and she tried in 
vain to recover it at the waters of Spa and elsewhere. In 
such circumstances mathematics and metaphysics had but 
little strength to console. She wanted a theory of life, 
she desired to know where happiness was to be found, or 
if not happiness, at least contentment. And she turned to 
Descartes as to a friend, whose philosophical intellect 
might counsel her how best to bear her destiny. 

Descartes did not fail to answer the appeal. First he 
tells her to try and look at the bright side of things, 
quoting his own example. " You ought," he says, " to un- 
burden your spirit of all sad thoughts and even of all 
serious meditations on the sciences, and try to imitate 
those who passively watch the verdure of a wood, the 
colours of a flower, the flight of a bird. I know that it 
is not so much the theory as the practice which is difficult 
here ; but I may quote my own case. I was born of a 
mother who died shortly after my birth of a disease of 

* The details of the murder of D'Epinay are most obscure. 
Elizabeth was probably entirely innocent, despite the insinuations 
of Baillet. See Kuno Fischer's ' Descartes ' (P^ig. edition), p. 221, 
and Foucher de Careil, ' Descartes et la Princesse,' p. 53. 



186 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

tlie lungs, and I inherited from her a dry cough and a 
sallow complexion, which made all my doctors condemn 
me to an early death. But the inclination which I have 
always had to look at the bright side of things, and to 
make my principal contentment depend on myself alone > 
has gradually cured my indisposition." * Then in a suc- 
ceeding letter he sends her to Seneca, and recommends 
her to read the ' De Yita Beata.' She found but little 
help in this, however, and he himself acknowledges that 
the Roman Stoic had no jDarticular lessons for him. He 
proceeds to formulate a theory of his own, first of all 
referring her to the three moral rules which he had laid 
down in the ' Discours de la Methode.' To be happy 
requires three things : a man should try to make the best 
use he can of his intelligence \ he should have a firm 
resolution to carry out all that his reason counsels ; and 
thirdly, he should cease to desire what is out of his own 
power.t A true theory of morals should seek to harmonize 
the tenets of the Stoics, the Epicurean and the Aristotelian 
schools ; X while the ultimate principles on which Ethics 
depend are God, the soul, and the immensity of the universe. 
For only by discerning how small a fraction of the world 
is man, do we learn tlie Issson of not opposing our interests 
to the whole to which we belong, and the knowledge of 
our littleuess brings with it not only the duty of resigna- 
tion but of content.^ The result of these letters is that 
Descartes seriously undertakes a work on Ethics, and the 

* Cousin, vol. ix. p. 203. t Ihid. pp. 212, 213. 

X Ihid. pp. 220-1. § Ibid. pp. 230-3. 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKING. 187 

treatise on ' Les Passions de I'Ame ' has the sorrows of 
Elizabeth for its proximate cause and its inspiration. 

The letter which Descartes wrote on the death of 
Charles I. should not be omitted. He knew how much the 
tender heart of his j^upil must liave suffered on hearing of 
the tragic fate of her uncle, and he takes wp his pen to offer 
such condolence as is in his power. " Amongst the many 
sad pieces of intelligence which I have received from 
diverse quarters at once, that which has most touched me 
has been the illness of your Highness, and although I have 
also learnt your recovery, it cannot efface from my sj)irit 
the traces of the suffering it has caused. Your inclination 
to write poetry in your illness reminds me of Socrates, of 
whom Plato narrates a similar trait, when in jorism. And 
I believe that this poetic humour comes from a great 
agitation in the animal spirits" (' esprits animaux ' — a 
famous physiological theory of Descartes) " which entirely 
upsets the imagination of the weak-headed, but only 
enkindles the strong and disposes them to poetry ; and I 
take this tendency to be the mark of a spirit of uncommon 
strength and elevation. Did I not know that yours was 
such, I should have feared in your case a terrible affliction, 
when you heard the tragic conclusion of the tragedies of 
England. But I assure myself that your Highness is no 
tiro in misfortune ; you have lately been in great peril of 
your life, and experience has taught you to bear without 
surprise or despair the death of one of your nearest rela- 
tions. I grant that this violent death seems to be more 
awful than one endured in a bed of sickness ; yet, viewed 



188 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

aright, it is more glorious, more happy, more precious. It 
is surely matter for glory -to die in circumstances which 
call forth universal pity, praise, and regret from all who 
have any fellow-feeling or sympathy. Assuredly, without 
this ordeal, the clemency and the other virtues of the king 
would never have been so much noticed and esteemed as 
they are now, and will be hereafter by all those who shall 
read his history. I am sure that his conscience has given 
him more satisfaction during the last moments of his life 
than his indignation — the sole infirmity which was re- 
marked in him — could have given him trouble. As for 
the pain of dying, I make no account of that ; for it was 
so short that, if his murderers could have made use of fever, 
or some other of those maladies by which nature cuts us 
off, they would justly have been considered more cruel than 
they were when they killed him with the axe. I dare not 
linger any longer on so tragic a theme. I will only add 
that it is better to be delivered once for all from a false 
hope than to be vainly beguiled."* 

Did, however, Ehzabeth get from the kindly philosopher 
all that her spirit needed ? It may be doubted whether 
she found balm in such a Gilead. It is hard to tell a 
woman to live the life of reason ; it is harder still for a 
woman to acknowledge that the only good in life is the 
possession of understanding. Her nature demands some 
emotional satisfaction which is not attained by the j)hilo- 
sophical discovery that " all our appetites are desires, and 
all our passions are thoughts." In the colourless region 

* Cousin, vol. X. pp. 297-9. 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKIXG. 189 

of the intellectual life she does not recognize her own 
warm, richly-hued, imaginative existence. The art of 
happiness, the supremacy of reason, the nonentities of 
desire fall upon her ears like idle words when she sets 
them in contrast with the beating heart and inconsistent 
impulses of her own sensitive humanity. Was love in 
reality that which Descartes described it in his famous 
letter to Chanut, the French ambassador at the court of 
Sweden ? * Could it be trained so as to be wholly intel- 
lectual, its passionate forms being merely a survival, an 
evidence of an immature age ? After Descartes' death, 
Elizabeth had another sort of answer given to her life- 
problems. From Jean de Labadie, from George Fox and 
William Penn she learnt that the end of life was not 
happiness, but the love of sacrifice. 

The closing years of Elizabeth's life form a remarkable 
sequel to her philosophical enlightenment. In 1643, after 
many hesitations, Descartes accepted the invitation of the 
Queen of Sweden to come to her court. One of his principal 
reasons seems to have been the desire to make Christina and 
Elizabeth friends, and so to enlist on behalf of the unfor- 
tunate Princess Palatine the powerful help of the Swedish 
court. But Descartes, despite his psychology, did not know 
much of the feminine mind. Christina transferred Des- 
cartes to Stockholm, but utterly ignored Descartes' female 
friend. She would brook no rival allegiance on the part of 
the philosopher, and the letters of Elizabeth remained 

* Cousin, vol. X. p. 3. This was the letter which so pleased Queen 
Christina, and led to Descartes' fatal visit to Sweden. 



190 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

unanswered. In 1650 Descartes succumbed to the inclement 
air of Sweden, and seventeen years afterwards Elizabeth 
found an asylum in the Lutheran abbey of Herforden in 
Westphalia. There, as abbess, she offered a home to all 
who were persecuted for righteousness' sake, and her old 
friend, Anna von Schurmann, brought with her Jean de 
Labadie and his sect, succeeded afterwards by William 
Penn and his Quakers. It is singular to find that in her 
old age Elizabeth returns to the friend of her youth, and 
Schurmann is not slow to profit by the removal of that 
" profane man," Descartes. 

In truth the j^i'l^^ess herself became somewhat of a 
mystic. William Penn gained an extraordinary influence 
over her mind, and after one of his discourses at Herforden, 
she advanced to meet him, faltering out a few words of 
thanks. " Will you never come back here ? I pray you 
to return." Penn answered, " We are under the commands 
of God : we are in His hands, and cannot make any sure 
promises." Then the princess bade him farewell. " Re- 
member me," she said, "though I live so far from you, 
and though you will never see me again. I thank you 
for the sweet hours you have made me pass ; and I know 
and am persuaded that though my position exposes me to 
many temptations, my soul is strongly inclined towards 
good." Penn fell on his knees and prayed God to bless 
and preserve his protectress and his friend.* The intimacy 
thus formed was kept up by many letters which passed on 
both sides. 

* Foucher de Careil, p. 72. 



A ROYAL BLUE-STOCKIXG. 191 

But was the memory of Descartes obliterated in these 
new interests of the abbess of Herforden ? We know that 
Descartes never forgot his old pupil. In the last letter 
which he wrote to her from Sweden, not many months 
before his death, he says, " One of the first things which 
I esteem to be my duty is to renew my offers of humble 
service to your Highness. Change of air and country can 
never change or diminish aught of my devotion and my 
zeal." With this we are fortunately able to compare the 
last letter of Elizabeth, which was written to her sister, 
the abbess of Maubuisson, thirty years after Descartes' 
death : — " I live still, my dear sister, but it is only to prepare 
myself for death. The doctors can make nothing further 
of my illness, therefore I make no further use of their 
medicines. But they agree that it proceeds from a lack 
of natural heat and of vital spirits which they know not 
how to supply, with all their science. My attendant has 
told my people that I ought to put my affairs in order for 
fear of being suriDrised, which means that for me this world 
is over. Nothing remains for me at this hour but to 
prepare to give up to God a soul washed in the blood of 
my Saviour. I know it to be stained with many sins — 
especially this, that I have preferred the creature to the 
Creator, and have lived for my own glory, which is a kind 
of idolatry. Tins it is which makes me suffer the pains 
which I feel every day with joy, knowing that it is just 
that this body should suffer for the sins which it has made 
me commit. To take up the cross is my appointed task, 
to follow it for its glory alone, renouncing myself and 



192 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

submitting myself entirely to its will. . . . Adieu, my 
dear sister ; I hope that we shall see one another again in 
another world, and that God will prepare us so well in 
this transitory life that hereafter we shall see His face for 



evermore. 



-5f 



Certainly Elizabeth had learnt something more than 
Descartes had taught her. There is in this letter a note 
of renunciation Avhich goes beyond the limits of his philo- 
sophy. But as Descartes had not forgotten her, neither 
has she wholly forgotten him. Not only, as Baillet has 
told us, did she make her abbey a sort of Cartesian 
academy, bringing there her love of science and her taste 
for philosophy, but she lets fall an expression in this 
letter which suddenly transports us to the Hague. It 
may be that in her self-styled preference of the creature 
to the Creator she may be thinking of some of her earlier 
studies, but when she talks of " vital spirits," we hear once 
more the technical lanwuao-e of Descartes. 

* Foucher de Careil, p. 75. The letter is in the Britisli Museum. 



193 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 

No book, probably, has had so curious a literary history 

as Pascal's ' Pensees,' and, perhaps for that reason, no book 

has been so differently interpreted. For more than a 

century and a half, from the first edition in 1670 to the 

celebrated ' Rapport ' of Victor Cousin, it was naturally 

considered to be the literary expression of the dominant 

convictions of Port Royal. It was subsequently discovered 

that it was only the mouthpiece of such mediocre thinkers 

as Etienne Perier and the Due de Roannez, issued, perhaps, 

under the authority of Antoine Arnauld and Nicole. By 

a curious freak of fortune it was taken up by Condorcet 

and Voltaire in 1776 and 1778, but it is only since Cousin 

first restored the text of the genuine Pascal, which les 

Messieurs de Port Royal had mutilated, transposed, and 

re-written, that such editions as those of Faugere in 18-ii 

and Havet in 1852 have become possible. And what sort 

of Pascal has the genuine text revealed ? a fanatic, as 

Voltaire supposed ? or a Catholic, as M. I'Abbe ]\Iaynard 

has laboriously undertaken to prove in the two volumes he 

issued in 1850 ? Is he a disguised Protestant, as M. Vinet 

and perhaps also Mr. Charles Beard seem inclined to think, 

o 



19-4 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

or was M. Victor Cousin right when he summarily declared 
him to be a sceptic ? The controversy is by no means yet 
extinguished, for Pascal's name is equally cherished by 
literature and theology, and it is not often that a man has 
left behind him two works so diametrically opposed in 
spirit and in form as the ' Provincial Letters ' and the 
' Thoughts.' If the first was one of the earliest and most 
perfect achievements of French prose-writing, the second 
was only a somewhat heterogeneous mass of disjointed 
aphorisms ; while the ' Letters ' derive half their glory 
from their noble vindication of the rights of reason 
against ecclesiastical dogmatism, the ' Thoughts ' are the 
gloomy record of a mind which was prepared to throw 
overboard every kind of knowledge at the bidding of 
authority, and to retain as elements of chief value the 
three qualities of ' pyrrhonien,' ' geometre,' and ' Chretien 
soumis,' " II faut avoir," says Pascal, " ces trois qualites, 
pyrrhonien, geometre, Chretien soumis ; et elles s'accordent, 
et se temperent, en doutant ou il faut, en assurant oii il 
faut, en se soumettant ou il faut." 

With the true text of the ' Pensees ' before us, and with 
Cousin's report to the Academy in our hands, it is difficult 
to overlook the obvious scepticism of Pascal — scepticism, 
be it understood, in philosophy, not in religion. Sceptic 
he appears at almost every page, and all the more savagely 
sceptic because he thought that this was the only portal to 
a belief in Revelation. He j)i'obab]y had not studied 
much philosophy, certainly not so much as either Arnauld 
or Nicole, for his talents lay rather in the direction of 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 195 

geometry and science, but he does not hesitate to express 

his opinion of all philosophy. " Se moquer de la philosophie, 

c'est vraiment philosopher ; " such is his decisive phrase. 

Descartes, whom Arnauld especially had introduced into 

Port Royal, he cannot away with. " Je ne puis pardonner 

a Descartes." " Descartes. II faut dire en gros cela se 

fait pas figure et mouvement, car cela est vrai. Mais de dire 

quels, et composer la machine, cela est ridicule ; car cela est 

inutile, et incertain, et penible. Et quand cela seroit vrai, 

nous n'estimons pas que toute la philosophie vaille une 

heure de peine." The only true philosophy is the negation 

of all philosophy, and therefore the only true philosophical 

system is Pyrrhonism. " Le pyrrhonisme est le vrai ; car, 

apres tout, les hommes, avant Jesus-Christ, ne savoient oil 

ils en etoient, ni s'ils etoient grands ou petits." " Toute 

la dignite de I'homme est en la pensee. Mais qu'est-ce 

que cette pensee ? Qu'elle est sotte ! " " Connaissez-donc, 

superbe, quel paradoxe vous etes a vous-meme. Humiliez- 

vous, raison impuissante ; taisez-vous, nature imbecile ! " 

" La belle chose de crier a un homme, qui ne se connoit 

pas, qu'il aille de lui-merae a Dieu ! et la belle chose de le 

dire a un homme qui se connoit ! " " Mon Dieu, que ce sont 

des sots discours ! ' Dieu auroit-il fait le monde pour le 

damner ? demanderoit-il tant de gens si foibles ? ' etc. 

Pyrrhonisme est le remede a ce mal, et rabattra cette 

vanite." The one philosopher whom Pascal thoroughly 

knew was Montaigne the sceptic, and though he ventures 

to criticize him here and there, his influence is visible at 

every page. And it is not only thoughts which Pascal 

o 2 



196 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

borrows from Montaigne, he uses his expressions. Here is 
a short list of words and phrases, taken from Montaigne's 
vocabulary, which are found in the ' Pensees.' Montaigne 
had written, "Le seul moyen que je prends pour rahattre 
cette frenesie." Pascal uses the word in the sentence 
quoted above : " Pyrrhonisme rabattra cette vanite." 
Pascal says, " Les enfants qui s'effrayent du visage qu'ils 
ont harhoiiille ; " and Montaigne, " Les enfants qui s'effray- 
ent de ce meme visage qu'ils ont bai'bouille." "Le noeud 
de notre condition prend des replis," in Pascal, is taken 
bodily from Montaigne's " Ce devi'oit etre un noeud prenant 
ses replis." The expression "avoir des prises " is common 
to the two writers. Montaigne had written, "Si les prises 
humaines etaient assez capables pour saisir la vei it^ ; " 
and Pascal repeats, " Voyons si elle a quelques forces et 
quelques prises capables de saisir la verite." Other 
characteristic phrases are used by both : for instance, 
the verb 'couvrir,' in the sense of ' conceal ' ; ' gagner sur 
moi, sur lui,' in the sense of ' induce ' ; ' rapporter a,' in 
the sense of ' avoir rapport a ' ; ' tendu,' in the sense of 
' prolonged ' ; and ' transi,' in the sense of ' transported/ 
Here, too, is a curious instance. Pascal wrote, " Un corps 
qui nous aggrave et nous abaisse vers la terre ; " apparently 

quoting Horace : " Corpus animum proigravat 

atque affligit," but only doing so in the form in which 
Montaigne quotes him : " Corruptibile corpus aggravat 
animam." * But perhaps the most significant case is the 

* Perhaps, however, l)oth writers were quoting from the 'Book of 
Wisdom' in tlie Latin version (Lib. Sap. ix. 15). 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 197 

employment of the word ' abetir,' in Pascal's celebrated 
aro-ument of ' takino^ the odds ' as to the existence or 
non-existence of God : " Cela vous fera croire et vous 
abetira." Montaigne had already said, " II faut nous 
abestir pour nous assagir." 

The argument itself, from which these last words are 
taken, is so astounding, both in conception and expression, 
that to most religious minds it has appeared little short of 
profane. Yet it is, after all, perfectly consistent with the 
attitude of a man who starts with the belief that all 
human reason and natural understanding are, owing to the 
Fall, incurably diseased and unprofitable. It is certainly 
rather more daring in expression, but also more logical 
than the lauQ-uaofe which a Jesuit or a Calvinist would 
allow himself, and the hunieur houillante which liis sister 
Jacqueline found in Pascal, explains much of the pas- 
sionate intensity of the phrases. If human reason be 
corrupt at its core, there can be of course no natural 
theology, and no rational proof of God's existence. Pascal 
is very explicit on this point. " I shall not attempt," he 
says, " to prove by natural reasons either the existence of 
God or the immortality of the soul, or anything else of 
the like character ; not only because I should not feel 
myself capable of finding anything in nature whereby 
to convince hardened Atheists, but also because such 
knowledge, without Jesus Christ, is useless and sterile. 
It is remarkable," he proceeds, "that no canonical author 
has ever made use of nature to prove God. They must 
have been cleverer than the cleverest men who have 



19S STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

succeeded them, for the latter have all made this attempt." 
" Eh quoi ! ne dites-vous pas vous-meme que le ciel et les 
oiseaux prouvent Dieu ? Non, Et voire religion ne le 
dit-elle pas ? Non. Car encore que cela est vrai en un 
sens pour quelques ames a qui Dieu donne cette lumiere, 
neanmoins cela est faux a I'egard de la plupart." It is 
perhaps a little astonishing that Pascal should have read 
his Bible to such little effect. The Psalmist, at all events, 
thought that the heavens were telling the glory of God, 
and St. Paul declared in his Epistle to the Romans, that 
God had made Himself known by His works since the 
creation of the world. But Pascal was more versed in St. 
Augustine and Jansen than in the Scriptures. To him 
there was no natural proof of God, for, without God's special 
grace, man's understanding and will were alike incapable. 
Hence, so far as reason was concerned, there was no 
greater likelihood of God's existence than of his non- 
existence ; "the odds," as he says, "were even." But if 
the question be one not of reason, but of interest, there 
was a clear preponderance of advantage on the 'side of 
belief. Even if God did not exist, there could be no 
harm in believing Him to exist ; but if He did exist, how 
perilous in the future might be disbelief ! It might make 
all the difference between happiness and damnation. On 
the ground of self-interest, therefore, as reason was neutral, 
it was clearly better to believe. " Et ainsi notre proposition 
est dans une force infinie, quand il y a le fini a hasarder a 
un jeu oil il y a pareils hasards de gain que de perte, et 
I'infini a gagner. Cela est demonstratif : si les hommes 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 199 

sont capables de quelques verites, celle-la Test." " Je le 
confesse," answers Pascal's imaginary interlocutor, "je 
I'avoue ; mais encore n'y a-t-il point moyen de voir le 
dessous du jeu ? Oui, I'Ecriture. Mais j'ai les mains 
liees et la bouche muette ; on me force a parier, et je ne 
suis pas en liberte ; je suis fais d'une telle sorte que je ne 
puis croire. Que voulez vous done que je fasse ? " Pascal 
can only reply that he must do as others in the like dif- 
ficulty have done, take sacred water and have masses said. 
" Naturellement meme cela vous fera croire et vous abetira. 
Mais c'est ce que je crains. Et pourquoi ? qu'avez-vous 
a perdre ? " Such is this appalling argument in all its 
naked appeal to expediency. It has often been doubted 
whether all the hermit's excessive anxiety about his own 
soul was not a rather coarse form of selfishness. Here, at 
all events, a selfish system is reinforced by the appropriate 
arguments of a more than cool self-love. Meanwhile, 
however consistent Pascal's treatment of these questions 
may be with his Jansenism and his devotion to Montaigne, 
there occur obvious difficulties in comprehending his 
scheme. If there is no natural light of reason in men, 
if all purely human understanding and virtue are alike 
vitiated according to the doctrine of original sin, why 
write a book on Christian evidences at all ? Yet that 
such was the intention of the ' Pensees ' is open to no 
doubt. The miracle performed on Marguerite Perier, 
Pascal's niece, the so-called miracle of the Holy Thorn, 
inspired Pascal with the idea of writing a work which 
should convince the world of the truth of Christianitv. 



200 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

If the world could not apart from the grace of God, which 
was ex liypothcsi absent, have any natural understanding, 
the value of Pascal's 'Pensees' would be infinitesimal. 
Or again, how could, on Pascal's own showing, a revelation 
of God to men be possible ? " Parlous suivant les lumieres 
naturelles. S'il y a un Dieu, il est infiniment incompre- 
hensible, puisque n'ayant ni parties ni bornes, il n'a nul 
rapport a nous." But if God has no relation to men how 
can He reveal Himself to men ? Either the Revelation 
is a fact, and then God must have some relation to men's 
faculties, or else it is not a fact, and then the whole of 
Pascal's reconstruction of Christianity on the foundation 
of philosophical scepticism falls to the ground. But it 
is useless to argue with Pascal in the mood in which he 
wrote the ' Pensees.' It is more instructive to see how 
wide is the interval which separates the writer of these 
Thoughts from the immortal author of the 'Provincial 
Letters.' Could the aim of the earlier work be better 
described than as the defence of Reason against eccle- 
siastical pretensions ? What meant the scathing ridicule 
of " le pouvoir prochain " and " la grace suffisante " except 
to discredit that system of authoritative belief which 
was supported by the Jesuits ? What doctrine could the 
advocate of Port Royal find more damaging to morality 
that ' probabilism ' and casuistry ? Yet here is Pascal 
himself urging arguments of probabilism, and fighting the 
battle of those very Jesuits on whom he had before poured 
the righteous vials of his wrath. May a man use his 
private judgment, and decide by the light of the common 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 201 

understanding, whether truth be on this side or that ? 
No ; he must lower the colours of reason before authority : 
" pour nous assagir, il faut nous abestir," with a sure 
confidence that we have, as Pascal says, '' nothing to 
lose." There was a bishop of Avranches, one Huet, who 
adopts the precise attitude of Pascal, both in his attack 
on Cartesianism and in his recommendation of sceptic- 
ism ; but he was the friend of the Jesuits, served them 
all his life, and died in their communion. He was the 
author of a ' Censure de la Philosophie Cartesienne,' and 
of a 'Traits Philosophique de la Foiblesse de I'Esprit 
Humain,' in which he declares, after the manner of 
Pascal's "le pyrrhonisme c'est le vrai," that " les sceptiques 
sont les seuls qui meritent le nom de philosophes." And 
Cousin has remarked that while none of the great writers 
of the seventeenth century ever mention Pascal's ' Pensees,' 
a warm recommendation comes from the school of La 
Rochefoucauld. Madame de Lafayette, who speaks as the 
secretary of the author of the ' Maximes,' declared, " C'est 
mdchant sigue pour ceux qui ne gouteront pas ce livre." 
Huet and La Rochefoucauld, the Jesuits and the egoists, 
such are Pascal's new-found allies. It is not surprising 
that Nicole, the moralist of Port Royal, though he warmly 
co-operated in the ' Provincial Letters,' could not conceal 
his dislike for the ' Thouffhts,' and that Arnauld, the Port 
Royalist philosopher, ''Arnauld, le grand Arnauld," as 
Boileau describes him, should have done his best to 
erase from Pascal's posthumous work its sceptical tenden- 
cies. Speaking of Pascal's remarks on justice, which were 



202 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

conceived in the spirit of Montaigne, he says in a letter to 
M. Perier, " Pour vous parler francheraent, je crois que cet 
endroit est insoutenable." A modern reader, who is not 
too much Winded by the well-merited glory of the ' Pro- 
vincial Letters,' finds more passages than one which are 
' insoutenables.' 

If Pascal be compared with the other heroes of Port 
Royal, who were either his contemporaries or immediate 
predecessors — St. Cyran, Singlin, Arnauld, Nicole, de Sa(}i 
— it will be seen how different from theirs are both his 
character and his position. Singlin and de Sa^i were the 
great confessors of Port Royal, men whose sweetness and 
sincerity made them noble, but who had towards culture 
and enlightenment either a neutral or a repellent attitude. 
De Saqi and Pascal were indeed united in one point, a 
common dislike to Descartes, but were alike in little else. 
According to de Saqi, Descartes was in relation to Aristotle 
as a robber who killed another robber and took off his 
spoils, and perhaps it was in some measure due to de Sagi, 
whose task it was to teach Pascal " mepriser les sciences," 
that his pupil wrote, " Je ne puis pardonner a Descartes." 
But Pascal, whose early training in science distinguished 
him from these clerics, outran them also in dogmatic zeal 
and polemical ability. Arnauld and Nicole, on the other 
hand, were men of much broader judgment and tolerant 
good sense than the author of the ' Pensees.' Both were 
opposed to him on the capital question of signing the 
formulary, desiring for the sake of peace to acquiesce in 
the wishes of their ecclesiastical superiors, while Pascal 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 203 

and his sister Jacqueline were for obstinate refusal. Both 
Nicole and Arnauld again, were imbued with Cartesianisra ; 
the Port Royal Logic which they wrote in common being 
a practical exposition of some of the principles of Descartes. 
And in the matter of scepticism and the Pyrrhonists, they 
were equally decided in their opposition to Pascal and 
Montaigne. " Le pyrrhonisme," wrote Nicole, " n'est pas 
une secte de gens qui soient persuades de ce qu'ils disent, 
mais c'est une secte de menteurs." Neither Nicole nor 
Arnauld were, in fact, fanatics ; and Nicole, who had never 
come under the influence of St. Cyran, even went so far as 
to substitute a theory of general grace for the special and 
peculiar grace of the Jansenists. Here Arnauld could not 
follow. In anything which touched on the authority of 
Jansen he was unalterably firm in his attachment to his 
master, the great St. Cyran. If there was one man who 
ruined Port Royal from the point of view of the world 
it was St. Cyran. Without him Port Royal would not 
have been famous, but it would have been safe. It was 
he who, owing to his friendship with Cornelius Jansen, 
forced upon the Cistercian monastery the doctrines of the 
' Augustinus,' which afterwards led to the expulsion of 
Arnauld from the Sorbonne, and formed the immediate 
occasion for the ' Provincial Letters.' St. Cyran was at 
once a theologian and a great ruler of men. He wrote 
books which were the talk of his age, and Richelieu once 
pointed him out as "the most learned man in Europe." 
With his rare force of character he had also the power 
both to select the right men for his purpose and mould 



204 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

them as he would. It was he who saw the value of those 
two great engines of influence, education and the con- 
fessional; for he was the real author of the Port Royal 
schools, and through the mouth of Singlin and de Sagi, he 
ruled over the consciences of the sisters and the penitents, 
even from the depths of his prison at Vincennes. His 
was the power and range of a great intellectual character, 
while Pascal's strength lay rather in the narrow intensity 
of his emotions. 

The key-note to Pascal's character is seen by his sister, 
when she refers to his humeur bouillante. It was the 
passionate keenness of his disposition which explains at 
once his success and his failure. In the earlier stage 
of his life, when he was full of scientific tastes and pre- 
dilections, there was nothing which he took up which he 
did not carry out with singular neatness and precision. 
Without the assistance of Euclid, he worked out for him- 
self Euclid's propositions. His experiments on the Puy 
de Dome formed the exact proof that was wanting to 
establish the fact of atmospheric pressure. He astonishes 
his age by inventing a calculating machine, and distances 
all other competitors in the rapidity and completeness of 
his theory of the Cycloid. When he turns from science 
to literature, there is the same originality, the same trium- 
phant and rapid footstep, the same brilliance of result. 
He has not got the constructive and comprehensive mind 
of Descartes nor the erudition of Arnauld ; but though 
ho is the author of no system, his ' Provincial Letters,' 
both in the exquisite raillery of the earlier ones and the 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 205 

passionate rhetoric of the later, mark an era in the history 
of French prose and world-hterature. But this intensity 
and keenness of character equally account for other traits 
in Pascal, which are not so amiable or so helpful to the 
■world. They explain his sudden changes of life, his 
narrow enthusiasms his wild fanaticism, his almost splendid 
wrong-headedness. There is some doubt whether Descartes 
suggested to Pascal the experiment on the Puy de Dome 
in 1648, or whether the idea was wholly Pascal's own. 
But when a letter from Descartes is shown to Pascal by 
Carcavi the mathematician, claiming the originality of the 
idea, Pascal is outraged, affects first to despise the letter, 
and then angrily denies its truth. Yet both Baillet and 
Montucla, the first in his life of Descartes, the second in 
his ' Histoire des Mathematiques,' appear to prove that 
Pascal was anything but just to his predecessor. When 
in 1646 his father brings him into contact for the first 
time with Port Royalist teachers, it is Pascal whose young 
religious ardour serves to convert not only himself but his 
sister Jacqueline also. Jacqueline, indeed, affords many 
points of similarity with her brother; she has the same 
ardent zeal, the same inflexible devotion to that cause which 
she has once espoused. But this passionate sensibility to 
new ideas perhaps is more often found in women than in 
men, and in Pascal himself the gusty violence of his tem- 
perament often strikes one as feminine. Yet Jacqueline 
is, at all events, more consistent than her brother. When 
once she is converted through her brother's instrumentality, 
she does not waver again, but carries thiough her decision 



206 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

to join the nuns even in the teeth of the opposition of 
both her father Etienne and her brother Blaise. But she 
has to bewail the comparative changeableness of the very 
man who first led her to become dead to the world, and 
when Pascal finally joined Port Royal in 1654, she had 
already been for some years an inhabitant of the monastery. 
From 1652 to nearly the end of 1654, there is an interval 
of some two years and a half, during which Blaise Pascal 
has apparently forgotten his religious fervour, and has after 
the death of his father become master of his own fortunes 
and entered the gay world of Paris. How was that in- 
terval spent ? It is difficult to say. He was certainly 
known in the salons of the capital, and probably figured 
in the assemblies of Madame de Sablt^, Madame de Lafay- 
ette, and Madame de Longueville ; and to the Port Royal 
ascetics he appeared indubitably as a worldling. Once 
launched in the gaieties of Paris, his keen ardour probably 
led him to satisfy his curiosity in amusements which might 
be indiscreet and were certainly unedifying. We are not 
without positive evidence on this point. To this period 
belongs that curious fragment which Cousin discovered, the 
' Discours sur les Passions de I'Amour,' and though it is 
hard to imagine Pascal in love, yet Faugere has not hesi- 
tated to suggest that the object of his affection was the 
sister of his friend the Due de Roannez. A somewhat 
dubious confirmation of Pascal's weaknesses is furnished 
by the memoirs of Flechier cited by M. Gonod. It appears 
that a certain lady, " qui etait la Sapho du pays," was to 
be found at Clermont, and that " M. Pascal, qui s'est 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC. 207 

(lepuis acquis tant de reputation, et un autre savant, etaient 
continuellement aupres de cette belle savante." But per- 
haps it is more charitable to suppose that this amorous per- 
sonage is not the same as our hero of the huineur houillante. 
Then succeeds that memorable change, called by his 
historians his second conversion, in the latter part of 1654, 
from which date Pascal is for ever lost to science and to 
the world, and for ever won for theology and the Church. 
It is prefaced by two events: first the accident at the 
Pont de Neuilly, when Pascal, driving in a carriage, sees 
his horses precipitated into the river while he is himself 
preserved through the providential breaking of the traces ; 
second, the experiences of the night of Monday, November 
23rd, 1654. After Pascal's death a servant discovered in 
his waistcoat a little parcel which had been evidently 
worn, stitched up in his clothes, from day to day. The 
parcel contained two copies, one on parchment, the other 
written on paper, of a marvellous document relating a 
vision or series of visions which had happened to him from 
10.80 P.M. to 12.30 P.M. on the night in question. The 
document begins with the mysterious word ' Feu,' and 
contains the following significant phrases among many 
others which are of highly mystical import : " Dieu 
d' Abraham, Dieu d'Isaac, Dieu de Jacob : non des philoso- 
phes et des savans. Certitude, certitude, sentimens, vue, 
joie, paix. Oubli du monde, etde tout hormis Dieu. Recon- 
ciliation totale et douce. Soumission totale a Jesus Christ 
et a mon Directeur." This is the so-called ' amulet ' of 
Pascal. Amulet it was not, but rather the record of some 



208 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

singular and awful experiences which Pascal wished for 
ever to remember. Whatever view we may take of it, 
it is certain that it marks the turning-point in his life. 
Henceforth, the adieux had been said to the society of 
Paris, and to the love of science, and the new life begins 
at Port Royal ; the new life of monkish seclusion and 
fanatical austerity. To the God, not of philosophers 
and scientists, but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the 
penitent turns. And he carries even into the changed 
conditions the wonted eagerness, the same passionate zeal, 
the old humeur Tjouillante. He will outdo all others in 
the ardour of his converted zeal. Arnauld might study 
Descartes, but for himself he could not forgive him. De 
Sa^i might turn aside from knowledge and philosophy; 
Pascal will trample them under his feet. Let others make 
terms if they will with the Jesuits, he will expose all their 
casuistical chicanery and perverted morals. Nicole might 
wish the Formulary to be signed, but Pascal and Jacque- 
line will stand out alone. Pascal himself fainted away at 
the idea of any proposed compromise with the enemies 
of Jansenism ; and poor Jacqueline, signing at last the 
detested document with grave doubts and fears, dies shortly 
after of a broken heart. No one shall exceed Pascal as a 
zealot and a fanatic. His stormy vehemence of sacrifice 
shall include the sacrifice alike of philosophy and of 
himself. 

Earely, indeed, has there been such a zealot. The * Pen- 
sees ' remain as the chief witness of the fact. But there 
are other evidences beside. His sister had to expostulate 



PASCAL, THE SCEPTIC, 209 

with him on his neglect of his ablutions and to remind 
him that godliness did not necessarily mean uncleanness. 
When he was dying he wanted to be carried to the Hos- 
pital of the Incurables to die among the poor. After he 
was dead, it was found that he carried an iron girdle with 
spikes which he was in the habit of pressing to his side 
when he felt anything which his sensitive mind could call 
a temptation. And mark the almost savage fanaticism 
towards the ordmary feelings of humanity. See how he 
speaks of comedy in the very age which saw the triumphs 
of Moliere. " Tous les grands divertissements sont danger- 
eux pour la vie chretienne ; mais entre tous ceux que le 
monde a inventes, il n'y en a point qui soit plus a craindre 
que la comedie. C'est une representation si naturelle et 
si delicate des passions, qu'elle les emeut et les fait naitre 
dans notre coeur, et surtout celle de I'amour." How far 
we seem to be from Aristotle's appreciation of tragedy ! 
how far, indeed, from Pascal's own discourse on love ! But 
worse remains. He tells his married sister, Gilberte 
Perier, that she ought not to caress her own children 
or suffer them to caress her. When the question was 
raised of marrying one of his nieces, he even ventures to 
say that " the married state is no better than paganism in 
the eyes of God ; to contrive this poor child's marriage is 
a kind of homicide, nay, Deicide, in her person." He will 
try even to exclude all human affection. " Le vrai et 
unique vertu," he cries, " est done de se hair. II est 
injuste qu'on s'attache a moi, quoi-qu'on le fasse avec 
plaisir et volontairement. Je trompcrois ceux a ([ui j'en 



210 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

ferois naitre le desir ; car je ne suis la fin de personne, et 
n'ai pas de quoi les satisfaire." 

Yet the great heart of humanity is greater than that of 
Pascal ; and, despite his disavowal, it can find in him 
something to love. Vigour, enthusiasm, devotion, such 
qualities we can admire ; but there is enough in him of 
the common warmth of human feeling even to win our 
tears. Madame Perier tells us that as he was returnino- 
one day from mass at St. Sulpice, he was met by a young 
girl about fifteen years of age and very beautiful, who 
asked an alms. He was touched to see the girl exposed 
to such obvious danger, and asked her who she was. 
Having learnt that her father was dead and that her 
mother had been taken to the Hotel Dieu that very day, 
he thought that God had sent her to him as soon as she 
was in want ; so without delay he took her to the seminary 
and put her into the hands of a good priest, to whom he 
gave money, and whom he begged to take care of her and 
to place her in some situation where, on account of her 
youth, she might have good advice and be safe. And to 
assist him in his care, he said that he would send next day 
a woman to buy clothes for her, and all that might be 
necessary to enable her to go to service. The ecclesiastic 
wished to know the name of him Avho was doing this 
charitable act : " for," said he, " I think it is so noble that 
I cannot suffer it to remain in obscurity." Such an act is 
worth a good many ' Pensees.' 



211 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 

The seventeenth century in France, whicli was at least 
as conspicuous in its religious as in its social and literary 
history, possessed almost as many remarkable women as 
men. In two great families, the members of which devoted 
themselves to the cause of religion as it was understood 
by Port Royal, the family of the Arnaulds and the family 
of the Pascals, it is a question whether the female repre- 
sentatives did not even outshine the male in intrepidity, 
in self-sacrifice, and in their masterful influence over others. 
Antoine Arnauld has a great name, but la Mere Angelique 
perhaps a greater in the annals of Port Royal. Agnes 
Arnauld has in some respects a stronger character than 
Le Maitre. And though the world has agreed only to 
think of Blaise Pascal in connection with the family to 
which he belonged, there are some historians to whom the 
elder sister, Gilberte, and the younger sister, Jacqueline, 
appeal with more persuasive force, the one for her gentle 
lovableness as mother and head of the family, and the 
second for her strength, her self-control, and the simple 

consistency of her life. Jacqueline is indeed almost an 

r 2 



212 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

ideal figure. Born with undeniable literary genius, which 
time and circumstances did not permit her to cultivate, 
she early made sacrifice of her beauty, her social grace, 
and her intellectual power by entering a conventual life 
at the age of twenty-six. Ten years afterwards she died 
of a broken heart, because she had set her signature 
to a document which her superiors had forced on her, 
but which her inmost conscience did not accept as true. 
Simple enough is the outline of her life's history ; but full 
of a certain pathetic charm which deepens into tragedy, 
as the bright, engaging child becomes the passionately 
devoted nun, and then is swept along the current in the 
internecine conflict between Jansenist and Jesuit. " II 
ne faut pas croire, comme dit un grand Saint, que le soleil 
ne luise que dans votre cellule," says Lancelot ; and even 
those who, like Mr. Cotter Morison in a recent work,* are 
shocked at the fatal issues of religious devotion, cannot 
but acknowledge that faith and obedience and self-sacrifice 
add somehow to the total value of life, and that it is better 
for the rest of humanity that such women as Jacqueline 
have been born. 

Like her brother, Jacqueline Pascal showed early signs 
of genius. Born in 1625, we find her at the age of eleven 
writing a comedy with the daughters of Madame Saiutot, 
in which the children themselves acted to a wondering 
audience of friends. Then her early precocity in verse- 
making brings her even into the presence of royalty. In 
1638 she is presented to the queen, to whom she recites 
* See succeeding eisay. 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 213 

a sonnet composed by herself, and when some of the ladies 
of the court showed a natural scepticism as to her origin- 
ality, she triumphantly produces two impromptu sets of 
verses, — one to Mademoiselle de Montpeasier, and the 
other to Madame de Hautefort. Then once again her 
histrionic powers are brought into requisition, and she acts 
in Scudery's 'Amour Tyrannique' together with other 
children before Richelieu. The great minister is so much 
taken with the girl's simplicity of manner and her un- 
doubted cleverness, that at her request he receives again 
into favour her father, Etienne Pascal, who had incurred 
his sovereign displeasure. Her last literary and artistic 
success is won at Rouen in 1640, when she gains the prize 
at a verse competition on the subject of the Immaculate 
Conception. On this occasion Corneille interested himself 
in her success, and composed for her a few lines of thanks 
to the President of the Court and the Judges who had 
awarded her the prize. 

Throughout this period, in which there was doubtless 
enough to turn the head of any ordinary girl, Jacqueline 
preserved her childish simplicity. She amused herself 
principally with her dolls, and her elder sister, Giiberte, 
notes the fact in her short biography of Jacqueline. " She 
received the prize (at Rouen) with admirable indifference ; 
she was even so simple that, although she was fifteen 
years of age, she had always her dolls about her, which 
she dressed and undressed with as much pleasure as if she 
had been only ten. Indeed, we reproached her with her 
childishness, so that she was obliged to give it up, though 



214 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

it cost her some distress, for she loved this amusement of 
dolls more than the greatest social entertainments of the 
town, at which she received so much applause. Fame 
and popularity were alike indifferent to her; indeed, I 
have never seen any one less impressed by them." But if 
we turn to the compositions of this period, we must make 
some allowance for the partiality of her critics and bio- 
graphers. The sonnet to the queen is a somewhat frigid 
piece of formal compliment, and a subsequent epigram 
narrates how " the invincible son of an invincible father," 
even though he is yet in his mother's womb, is more valiant 
than Mars, and makes all the enemies of France tremble, 

" Get invincible enfant d'un invincible pere 

Deja noiis fait tout esperer : 
Et quoiqu'il soit encore au ventre da sa mere, 

II se fait craindre et desirer. 
II sera plus vaillant que le dieu de la guerre, 
Puisqu' avant que son ceil ait vu le firmament, 

S'il remue un peu seulement, 
C'est a nos enneniis un tiemblement de terre." * 

Jacqueline, however, was only thirteen when she wrote 

this. Here is an ode in a lighter vein, written at the same 

age, which appears less formal than the complimentary 

ejoigram. 

Stances faites sur-le-Champ. 

Juillei 1638. 
" Un jour, dans le profond d'un bois, 
Je fus surprise d'une voix : 
C'etoit la bergere Sylvie 
Qui parloit a son cber amant, 
Et lui dit pour tout compliment : 
Je vous aims bien plus, sans doute, que ma vie. 

* Cousin's 'Jacqueline Pascal,' p. 84. 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 215 

*' Lors j'eiitendis ce bel amant 
Lui repondre amoureusement : 
De plaisir mon ame est ravie ; 
Je me meurs, viens a mon seconrs, 
Et pour me gucrir dis toujours : 
Je vous aime bieii plus, sans doute, que ma vie. 

" Vivez, 6 bienheureux amants, 
Dans ces parfaits contentements. 
Malgre la rage de I'envie ; 
Et que ce mutual discours 
Soit ordinaire a vos amours : 
Je vous aime bien plus, sans doute, que la vie." * 

Her verses which gained the prize at Rouen are hardly 
worth quoting in full. They were probably composed 
under the guidance, certainly at the suggestion, of Cor- 
neille ; and they bear a strong resemblance to the poem 
with which the poet won the prize in 1633. Just as his 
composition draws out a parallel between Eve and Mary, 
so the poem of Jacqueline contrasts and compares Mary 
with the ark of the covenant. The immaculate character 
of the conception is then proved as follows, — 

" Si done une arche simple et bien moins necessaire 
Ne sauroit habiter dans un profane lieu, 
Comment penserez-vous que cette saiiite mere, 
Etant un temple impur, iut le temple de Dieu ] " 

But now the time was come when all literary interests 
were to bs sacrificed on the altar of religion. In 1646 the 
family of the Pascals fell under the influence of two gentle- 
men who were learned in the writings of the Jansenists, 
and from that time Jacqueline knows no other tasks but 
those imposed on her by the leaders of the monastery of 

* Cousin ' Jacq. Pascal,' p. 87. 



216 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

Port Royal. Blaise Pascal was at the same time ' con- 
verted ' ; but whereas he fell away again and at Paris 
incurred some well-deserved suspicion of worldliness, so 
that a second conversion became necessary, his sister 
Jacqueline, when once she had submitted herself to la 
Mere Angelique and Singlin, never wavered in the path 
of devotion. Some years indeed elapsed before she took 
the veil, but that was not her fault ; it was due to the 
resistance, first, of her father, and then of her brother. 
Her father, very naturally, did not wish to be deprived of 
her bright and winning companionship, and now that the 
older sister Gilberte was married to M. Perier, begged her 
to defer all thoughts of entering Port Poyal until he died. 
She consented with reluctance, and kept up a secret cor- 
respondence with the directors of the monastery. Then, 
more and more, the ascendancy of Port Royal was estab- 
lished in her mind. She asked Mother Agnes whether 
she might continue to write poetry, and received the stern 
reply, " C'est un talent dont Dieu ne vous demandera point 
compte : il faut I'ensevelir ; " God will not require an account 
of your poetic talents : you must bury them. Her whole 
manner of life was changed. She lived almost entirely 
in her own room, without a fire ; she practised abstinence 
from food and other forms of self-mortification ; she occu- 
pied herself with good works amongst the poor, and spent 
half the night in study and prayer. Her relations only 
saw her at meal-time, and knew ver}'^ little how her time 
was passed. " Her night-watches," says Madame Perier, 
" were extraordinary, and though we never knew for 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 217 

certain, we guessed how long they were, by the amount 
of candles she burnt and other similar evidences." 

There could be only one issue to such a life, and that 
her friends began to realize. Her father gradually came 
to see that his daughter desired to withdraw herself 
entirely from the world, and made her a promise that 
he would entertain no projects for her marriage. He 
died, however, in 1651, and the only obstacle to her inten- 
tions was apparently removed, when her brother suddenly 
took alarm and made strong representations to induce her 
to live with him. Thereupon she wrote a letter to him, 
full of grave dignity and resolution, in which, despite the 
tender expressions, it was easy to see that her mind was 
made up. The letter is so good an example of her literary 
power that some sentences in it may be here reproduced. 
She needs, she tells him, her brother's consent in order 
that she may take the vows with peace and joy. 

" It is for this reason that I address myself to you, as in some 
sort the master of my future fate, and I siiy to you, Do not take 
away from me that wliicli you cannot give. For albeit that God 
made use of you to procure for me progress in the first move- 
ments of His grace, you know Avell that from Him alone proceed 
all your love for, and your joy in, what is good ; and that thus 
you are quite ahle to disturb my joy, but not to restore it to me, 
if once I lose it by your fault. You ought to know and, to 
some extent, to feel my tenderness by your own ; and to be able 
to judge whether I am strong enough to bear the trial of the grief 
which I shall suffer. Do not reduce me to the necessity of either 
putting off what I have so long and so ardently desired, and thus 
exposing myself to the chance of losing my vocation ; or else of 
doing poorly and Avith a languor, which would partake of ingra- 
titude, an action which ought to be all fervour and joy and 
charity. Do not oblige me to regard you as the obstacle of my 
hap[»inoss, if you succeed in putting oil' the execution of my 



218 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

design, or else as the author of my calamities, if I accomplish 
it languidly and reluctantly." * 

Blaise Pascal withdrew his opposition, though in some- 
what sullen fashion, and raised fresh difficulties about Jac- 
queline's dowry, which were only got over by the unselfish- 
ness of Singlin and Ang^lique. In the name of Port Royal 
they agreed to receive the girl without any dowry at all, 
and in 1653 Jacqueline formally took the veil. It must 
be remembered throughout this incident that Blaise had 
not yet felt any leanings towards the life of Port Royal ; 
and that his position in Paris probably entailed upon him 
a considerable expenditure, towards which his sister's share 
of property would have been a welcome contribution. 

The change in Blaise Pascal came two years later, in 
1654. His biographers relate how he was miraculously 
preserved from destruction in a carriage accident on the 
Pont de Neuilly, and how he passed through a night of 
marvel and ecstasy on November 23rd between the hours 
of half-past ten and twelve. But Jacqueline's letters for 
some time previously show how earnestly she longed and 
prayed for her brother's conversion. " I implore you," she 
says in a letter to her brother-in-law, M. Porier, " to pray 
that God may deign to make use of this affliction 
(Gilberte's illness) to restore my brother to his senses 
and to open his eyes to the vanity of all worldly things." 
The nature of Pascal's worldliness remains a mystery : but 
to his sister at all events he was in the outer court of the 
Gentiles. She speaks of the ' horribles attaches ' which 

* Cousiu, ' Jacqueline Pascal;' p. 167. 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 219 

he must have had to enable him to resist the movements 
of God's grace ; and tells him that he ought for some 
time to be " importune de la senteur du bourbier que 
vous aviez embrasse avec tant d'empressement." Her joy, 
therefore, was proportionately great when he showed signs 
of repentance. In a hurried letter to her sister she says, — 

*' All that I can tell you at present is that, through the mercy 
of God, he lias a great desire to give hiniself up to Hiru. 
Although he feels in worse health than he lias felt for a long 
time, he is not thereby deterred from carrying out his plans, 
which proves that his former reasons were nothing but pretexts. 
I remark in him a humility and a submissiveness, even towards 
me, which astonishes me, and, in fine, I have nothing further to 
tell you beside the fact that it is obviously not his natural spirit 
which acts in him." * 

Certainly Jacqueline had not been recently accustomed to 
find her brother either humble or submissive ; she had 
rather had occasion to remark on that * humeur bouil- 
lante' which with admirable truth she imputes to him, 
and which explains so much in him that is petulant and 
capricious. 

Four years after her entry into Port Royal occurred the 
celebrated miracle of the Holy Thorn, which forms such 
a curiously well-authenticated marvel. Marguerite Perier, 
daughter of Gilberte, and niece of Jacqueline Pascal, had 
been suffering for three years and a half from what is 
known as lachrymal fistula, a large swelling in the corner 
of the eye, which was not only very painful in itself, but 
from its foetid odour caused the separation of the chill 
from her companions. At a certain festival the eye was 

* Ihid. p. 242. 



220 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

touched by a precious relic, a thorn from Christ's crown, 
and in a very short time afterwards the swelling dis- 
appeared, and the child was perfectly cured. The nuns 
of the community of Port Royal were by no means 
anxious that the wonder should get abroad for fear of 
their persistent enemies, the Jesuits ; while, on the other 
hand, it was clearly the interest of those who hated the 
monastery to minimize the importance of the cure. But 
the miracle could not be hid, and it became the talk of 
Paris and of France. It is supposed that Hume wrote his 
well-known 'Essay on Miracles' in connection with this 
and other wonders which were subsequently bruited abroad 
among the persecuted Jansenists. Very likely the cure 
may be explained on natural grounds ; for a sudden pres- 
sure on the diseased part, conjoined with considerable 
excitement in the mind of the patient, might have the 
same effect as the cautery which the physician, M. 
d'AleuQai, had determined to try. But it could hardly 
be supposed that either Pascal or his sister would accept 
this interpretation of the incident. To Pascal it seemed 
a veritable sign of God's interference on behalf of the 
Port Royalists, and a triumphant vindication of their 
position as against their adversaries, of which he deter- 
mined to make use in the controversial work which is 
known as the ' Pensees.' To Jacqueline it was the 
occasion of a new outburst of the old poetic ardour, and 
though Port Royal might condemn such gifts when 
exercised on worldly matters, they were more indulgent 
to their use in publishing their own triumph. Accordingly 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 221 

Jacqueline produced a set of stanzas on the subject of the 
miracle, which M, Cousin thinks are equal to the 'Imita- 
tion ' of Corneille. The verses are very unequal in merit, 
but they commence in a lofty strain, well worthy of 
Jacqueline's youthful promise. 

" Invisible soiitien de I'esprit languissant, 
Secret consolateiu' de I'anie qui t'honore, 
Espoir de I'afflige, jnge de rinnocent, 
Dieu cache sous ce voile ou I'Eglise t'adore, 
Jesus, de ton autel jette les yeux sur moi; 
Eais-en sortir ce feu qui change tout en soi ; 
Qii'il vienne heureusenient s'allumer dans men ame, 
Afin que cet esprit, qui forma I'univers, 
Montre, en rejaillissant de mon coeur dans mes vers, 
Qu'il donne encore aux siens une langue de flamme ! " * 

But the high tone of exultation was soon to be changed 
into one of doubt and sorrow. " La Soeur de Sainte- 
Euphemie," as she was named in the monastery, was called 
upon with the other nuns to sign the formulary, imposed on 
all religious bodies by the authority of the pope and the good 
pleasure of the king. This formulary was a document 
expressly framed against Port Koyal by the Jesuits, and 
contained an indictment of certain propositions, said to 
be found in Jansen's ' Augustinus,' which was the sacred 
book of Port Royal. Notwithstanding the obvious inten- 
tions of the Jesuits, it was deemed advisable by some of 
the guiding spirits of the monastery, notably by Arnauld 
and Nicole, to affix their signatures with some reservations, 
more apparent than real. Such a course of action could 
not commend itself to the clear intelligence of Pascal, 
* Cousin, 'J;.cri. Pascal,' p. 283. 



222 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

who fainted away when he found that the cause so dear to 
him was being deserted by its champions. Nor yet did 
Jacqueline fail to see clearly the issues that were involved. 
As a last testimony to her faith she poured out her whole 
soul in a letter which she sent to Arnauld. The sentences 
still have in them the very traces of her tears. 

" I can no longer hide the grief which pierces to the very 
bottom of my heart when I see the only persons, to whom it 
seemed that God had intrusted His truth, so faithless, if I may 
venture to say so, as not to dare to incur suffering, even if death 
Avere the penalty for a noble confession. I know the respect 
which is due to the first powers of the Church ; I would die to 
preserve it inviolate with as good a heart as I am ready to die, 
God helping me, for the confession of my faith, in the present 
crisis ; bi;t I see nothing easier than to unite the two. What 
hinders eveiy Churchman who knows the truth from answering, 
when the formulary is ofiered for his signature, ' I know the 
reverence which I owe to the bishops, but my conscience does 
not permit me to testify by my signature that a thing is in a 
book, where I have not seen it"? After that he can wait in 
patience for whatever may happen. What are we afraid of? 
Banishment for the seculars, dispersion for the nuns, the seizure 
of our goods, prison, and death, if you will ! But is not all 
this our glory, and ought it not to be our joy 1 Let us either 
renounce the Gospel, or let irs follow the precepts of the Gospel 
and reckon orrrselves happy to suffer somewhat for justice' sake. 

"But perhaps they will cut us off from the Church'? But 
who does not know that rro one can be cut off against his OAvn 
will, and that since the spirit of Jesus Christ is the only bond 
wdrich unites His members to Himself and to one another, we 
cair be deprived of the outward signs, but never of the effects of 
that union, so long as we preserve charity, without which no 
one is a living member of His holy body 1 , . . 

" I know well that men say that it is not for women to defend 
the truth ; although they might say that since, by a sad conjunc- 
ture and the confusion of the times in which Ave live, bishops 
have but the courage of Avomen, Avomen ought to have the courage 
of bishops. But if it is not our part to defend the truth, it is 
at least ours to die for the truth. . . . Let us pray God to 



JACQUELINE PASCAL. 223 

liumiliate and to strengthen us, for Immility without strength, 
and strength without liumility are equally hurtful. Now more 
than ever is the time to remind ourselves that the timid are 
ranked with perjurers and sinners. If they are content with 
our position, well and good ; for myself, if the matter depends 
on me, I will never do anything more. For the rest, let come 
what will — prison, death, dispersion, poverty; all this seems to 
me but nothing in comparison with the anguish in which I 
should pass the remainder of my days, if I had been so unhappy 
as to make terms with death, when there was so noble an oppor- 
tunity of rendering to God the vows of fidelity which my lips 
have uttered." * 

The authority, however, of Arnauld was too great for 
her, and the formulary was signed. But though Jacque- 
line's signature was given, owing to that spirit of obedience 
which was one of her strongest characteristics, it was written 
with her heart's blood. A few months after she died, in 
October 1661, of a broken heart at the age of thirty-six. 

Was such a life wasted ? The question will probably be 
answered differently, according to our predilections and 
our sympathies. To some it will appear that talents, 
which would at least have made their possessor shine in 
literary society, if not win for herself a permanent niche 
in the temple of fame, were ignobly thrown away by being 
brought under the chilling austerities of the Church. To 
Mr. Cotter Morison her life seems to prove that Chris- 
tianity has no consolatory force ; f but there he is clearly 
wrong. Her letters are constantly full of the joy which 
she finds in believing. Whatever others might say, 
Jacqueline herself thought that she had chosen the better 

* Cousin, ' Jacq. Pascal,' jip. 320-7. 
t Cf. p. 231 et foil, in the following article. 



224 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

part, which could never be talcen away from her. And indeed 
to some extent she was right. For the progress of the 
world has depended as much on the character and spirit 
of men, as on the results of their labours ; and because 
sweet lovableness and gentle self-sacrificing obedience 
are an inestimable treasure, there are many who might 
echo the words of Pascal, when they told him that 
Jacqueline was dead. "God give us grace," he said, "to 
die as good a death : " " Dieu nous fasse la grace d'aussi 
bien mourir ! " 



225 



THE SERVICE OF MAN, AND THE 
SERVICE OF CHRIST.* 

That the present sceptical age is a transitional one, and 
that scepticism is the bridge or stepping-stone which 
serves to connect a constructive era which is past with one 
which is only just dawning, are truths which have become 
by this time the moralizing commonplaces of journalism. 
It is, perhaps, a more interesting question whether we are 
not reaching the end of the sceptical period, and already 
discerning; tbrouo;h the mists the lineaments of the new 
creed. If we are to believe the apostles of the new gospel, 
the constructive elements are furnished by science alone ; 
for that which has disintegrated the past is the sole agent 
which can rear the edifice of the future. Already, so we 
are told, we can see the lines on which the structure is 
proceeding ; so far as knowledge is concerned, we are to 
have the methods and disciplines of the sciences, Avhile 
morality and society are to be moulded according to the 

* 1. ' The Service of Man.' By James Cotter ^Morison. 

2. ' Natural Causes and Supernatural Seeniiiigs.' By Henry 
Maudsley, M.D. 

Q 



226 STUDIES, KEW AND OLD. 

designs of M. Comte. Faith, religion, and worship may 
perhaps be neglected as unessential factors, or, if retained, 
they must be transformed into a religion of humanity, or 
possibly — if the founder of Positivism is to be believed — 
into a worship of woman. A social revolution is doubtless 
impending, and it may be more than one ; but that is the 
fault of those who cling to the ancient methods, and who 
essay the vain task of pouring the new wine into old 
bottles. ]\[eanwhile the age has still many of the features 
of traditional periods in its doubts, its inconsistencies, and 
its irreconcilable faiths and practices. It certainly would 
not be difficult to point out essential contradictions in the 
contemporary age. That the century should be at once 
highly credulous and highly sceptical; that Positivism 
should co-exist with sjijiritualistic seances ; that a recru- 
descence of so-called Buddhism should accompany the 
cultivation of the exact rciences; and that palmistry and 
the Psychical Society should flourish alongside of doctrines 
of evolution,— these facts are assuredly a remarkable 
te^tiInony to the Hegelian doctrine of the reconciliation 
of Oppoi-ites. Does not Mr. Cotter Morison himself show 
that he is not untainted by the vice of the age, when he 
admires the saints, but decries the ages of faith, and 
Avhen he criticizes the logic and history of religion by 
means of methods the reverse of logical and a criticism 
which is largely unhistorical ? 

The two books which form the subject of this article 
are eminently characteristic of our time. Though the 
treatment in each case is absolutely dissimilar, the result 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 227 

aimeil at is the same, the limitation of knowledge 
and faith to the religion of the phenomenal and the 
contingent. While the * Service of Man ' attacks Chris- 
tianity from the point of view of Positivism, the work of 
Dr. Maudsley attacks the belief in the supernatural from 
the standpoint of mental pathology. How is the belief in 
the supernatural to be explained ? It can be reduced to 
the three following causes : — 1. The natural defects and 
errors of human observation and reasoning. 2. The 
prolific activity of the imagination. 3. The diseases of 
mind as shown in hallucinations, mania, and ecstasy. 
Naturally, as might be expected from an accomplished 
practitioner in cases of mental disease, great stress is laid 
on the third set of causes. But we must protest at the 
outset against any treatment of such a subject which tends 
to substitute pathology for psychology. The attempt to 
explain sanity by insanity is on a par with the curious 
fallacy of trying to explain reason by means of instinct, 
man's nature by means of the animal nature, consciousness 
by means of unconscious states. We know a great deal 
more what we are than what animals may or may not be, 
just as we can only throw light on instinctive movements 
by our knowledge of reasoned and voluntary movements. 
It is the better known which throws light on the less 
known, and not vice versa. Dr. Maudsley himself suggests 
a curiously instructive moral to his whole inquiry. For 
it appears that such ' illusions' as breed the belief in the 
supernatural are somehow part and parcel of that evolu- 
tionary nisus which carries on the tale of human develop 

Q 2 



228 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

nient. It follows, then, tliat the process of disillusion is 
the beginning of decay, and that books like that of Dr. 
Maudsley are a sign that our evolutionary nisiis is over. 
Such, we are told, is possibly " the transcendent irony of 
fate that the complete accomplishment of disillusion shall 
be the c^.ose of development and the beginning of degener- 
ation." * Judged, however, as literary works, there can 
be no question that by far the more important of the two 
books is the ' Service of Man.' Mr. Morison has a literary 
style of much merit, and a power of grave and sustained 
eloquence; Dr. Maudsley appears to us to possess neither 
the one quality nor the other. 

The ' Service of Man ' has been declared to be one of 
the most powerful attacks which have ever been published 
on the Christian religion. It has been received on bended 
knees, as a new evangel, by a critic who is so far justified 
in her attitude since Mr. Morison has accepted her as a 
competent authority in historical matters. To others, on 
the contrary, it appears to fall so far short of a damaging 
onslaught as to fail even in being a valuable work. It is 
easy, indeed, to imagine a far more effective criticism on the 
Christian religion made on Positivist lines. The meta- 
physical structure on which many of the Christian dogmas 
rest might be subjected to a more searching inquiry ; but 
Mr. Morison's philosophy is hardly his strong point. Or 
fault might be found with modern Christianity in relation 
to some of the higher moral ideas. For instance, it might 
be plausibly objected against Christian teachers that they 
* 'Xatural Causes,' &c., p. 367. 



THE SERVICE OF MAX. 229 

have never strenuously preached against war. Dr. Mozley, 
if we remember right, has pubHshed a sermon in which he 
defends war, not as of historical value, but as of an absolute 
ethical value. Wordsworth himself, desjiite his lofty 
spiritualistic creed, is not immaculate in this respect, and 
has ventured to put his name to these stupendous lines : — 

" God's most perfect instrument 
In working out a pure intent 
Is man arrayed for mutual slaughter ; 
Yea, Carnage is God's daughter." 

It would be difficult to imagine anything more shocking 
and more immoral than this. Or, agam, it mirrht be uro^ed 
that Christian teachers have never taken up the cause of 
the animal world, and have been in this respect below the 
level of the highest thought of the age. When have we 
heard from the pulpit what we have certainly read in the 
magazines — a protest against fashionable sport ? This is 
perhaps the more curious because many clergymen have 
espoused the cause of anti-vivisection, presumably because 
they hate science more than they love animals. Vivi- 
section might perhaps be defended even on moral grounds ; 
but how can morality palliate pheasant battues ? But 
Mr. Morison will not go on obvious issues. He prefers 
the pyrotechnic method of paradox to the steady beacon- 
lights of reason. He will dazzle and startle, even though 
he fails to convince. Were there ever more paradoxical 
theses maintained in any serious argument than the 
assertions that Christianity has been little or no consolation 
to men's minds, and that it has been on the whole rather 



230 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

prejudicial than beneficial to morality? Let us, however, 
put Mr. Morison's arguments in his own words, as he 
summarizes them on p. 241. 

" The results of tlie j)revious inquiry would seem to be 
as follows : — 

1. That a widespread tendency exists in this, and still 
more in other countries, to give up a belief in Christianity ; 
and that the scepticism of the present day is very far 
more serious and scientific than was the deism of the last 
century. 

2. That the sujDposed consolations of Christianity have 
been much exaggerated ; and that it may be questioned 
whether that religion does not often produce as much 
anxiety and mental distress as it does of joj^, gladness, 
and content. 

3. That by the great doctrine of forgiveness of sins 
consequent on repentance, even in the last moment of 
life, Christianity often favours spirituality and salvation 
at the expense of morals. 

4. Tliat the morality of the Ages of Faith was very low ; 
and that the further we go back into times when belief 
was strongest, the worse it is found to be. 

5. That Christianity has a very limited influence on the 
world at large, but a most jDowerful effect on certain high- 
toned natures, who, by becoming true saints, produce an 
immense impression on public opinion, and give that 
religion much of the honour which it enjoys. 

6. That although the self-devotion of saints is not only 
beyond question, but supremely beautiful and attractive. 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 231 

yet, as a means of relieving human suffering and serving 
man in the widest sense, it is not to be compared for 
efficiency with science." 

We are not immediately concerned with the first point, 
that being a question which affects the professed defenders 
of Christianity; although there are certain considerations, 
such as the exact meaning of Christian faith, Avhich may 
have to be estimated. The other arguments move on the 
wider ground of logical and historical criticism, which is 
common to all intelligence. 

Is Christianity a consolation or the reverse? According 
to Mr. Morison it cannot be called consolatory. The proof 
is furnished by certain extracts which he quotes from the 
outpourings of sensitive hearts like Jacqueline Pascal, or 
the fanatical antinomianism of Scotch Calvinists. In one 
sense the question itself is absurd ; in another it is 
impossible to answer. For Christianity, like every religion, 
has strongly emotional elements, and when we deal with 
the sphere and range of emotional feelings and experiences, 
it is impossible to form a comparative estimate of pleasures 
and pains. Is the poetic nature a happy one ? Is imagin- 
ation a blessing or a curse to men ? Is it happier to be 
apathetic or sensitive ? Who can say ? But a practical 
verdict can be gained on these matters by the discovery 
that no man would willingly relinquish his higher 
emotional capacities, however painful may be their exer- 
cise or their consequences. And if religious feelings have 
the same emotional ardour, they too involve the same 
alternations of joy and woe. But, further, it is obvious 



232 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

that we cannot take emotional language as a strictly 
scientific expression of the facts, there being no logical 
equivalent for the elevations and dejiressions of the heart. 
Who is not aware of a sort of conscious hyperbole in the 
manner in which lie speaks of his own moods ? Who, 
with the exception of Mr. Morison, feels any difficulty in 
understanding Paul's references to himself as the greatest 
of all sinners ? 

Mr. Morison's examples are not wholly fair or unex- 
ceptionable. He quotes, for instance, from Bunyan's 
' Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners,' a passage 
which refers to a period Icforc the author had been, in the 
language of theology, ' converted.' Bunyan is detailing 
not his tribulations as a Christian, but the considerations 
which led him to throw himself upon the grace of God in 
order to become one. And Jacqueline Pascal is not a 
good instance to select of the ' mental distress ' which ftiith 
can cause. In the very narrative of Madame Porier, from 
which Mr. Morison quotes her determination to join the 
Port Boyal communion, it appears that when the resolution 
was once made it was not she, but her sister and her 
brother who were full of distress. 

" On the eve of that day she begged me to speak about it to 
my brother, to avoid taking him by surprise. . . . He was 
much touched, and retired very sad to his room without seeing 
my sister. ... I could not sleep. At seven the next morning, 
as I saw that Jacqueline did not rise, I thought that she also 
had not slept, but I found lier fast asleep. The noise I made 
awakened her, and she asked me the time. I told her, and 
inquired how she felt, and if she had slept well. She replied 
she was well, and had had a good night. Then she arose, 
dressed herself, and went away ; doing this, as all things, with 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 233 

a tranquillity and composure of soul Avliich cannot be conceived 
(faisant cette action, comme toutes les autres, dans une tran- 
quillite et une egalite d'ame inconcevables)." * 

Numerous passages could be quoted from Jacqueline's 
memoirs which bear quite a different signification from 
that which Mr. Morison would impute to her religious 
mind. In 1638 she caught the small-pox, which spoilt 
her beauty. This is how she speaks of it in a poem : — 

" Oh que mon coeur se sent heureux 
Quand au miroir je vois les creux 
Et les marques de ma verole ! 
Je les prends pour sacres temoins, 
Suivant votre sainte parole, 
Que je ne suis de ceux que vous aimez le moins. 

" Je les prends, dis-je, 6 souverain ! 
Pour un cachet dont votre iwain 
Youlut marquer mon innocence ; 
Et cette consolation 
Me fait avoir le connaissance 
Qu'il ne faut s'affliger de cette affliction." t 

Would the ' Service of Man ' have enabled a young and 
beautiful girl to be thus consoled ? Or, again, observe the 
manner in which she strengthens and confirms a young 
aspirant to the religious life. 

" Je loue Dieu, ma chke demoiselle, de la perseverance qu'il 
vous donne ; car jiV. sals jjar experience qu II n'y a point de 2^Ius 
grand honheur en la terre que celui oh voits agpirez, et j'espero 
que vous croirez cette verity si Dieu vous fait jamais la grace 
d'en gouter." 

This does not look as if she had found Christianity a 

* 'Service of Man,' pp. 68, 09; Cousin, 'Jacqueline Pascal,' pp. 
74, 75. 

t Cousin, 'Jacqueline Pascal,' pp. 91, 92. 



234 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

broken reed, any more than the following passage from 
the same letter : — 

"Mais ne craignez point; car saint Eenoit nous assure qu' 
encore que la voie etroite paraisse difficile a I'entree, I'amour de 
Dieu Vadoucit hientot et la rend si spacieuse, qu'au lieu que 
d'abord a peine peut-on y entrer, on vient ensuite a y courir avec 
line facilite sans aucune comparaison plus grande que dans la 
voie large du siecle, parceque Dieu nous soutient et nous porte 
dans sa voie, au lieu que dans I'autre sa main toute-puissante 
s'appesantit toujours sur nous de plus en plus." * 

And as Mr. Morison seems fond of quoting from the 
seventeenth century, let us add the following passage from 
a letter which M. Singlin, one of the chief spiritual 
directors of Port Royal, wrote in 1661 : — 

" For several days I have heen struck with a thought : it is 
that of our impertinence in desiring one thing, fearing another, 
wishing something would happen or not happen, just as if the 
sovereign wisdom and justice did not see all things alike, and as 
if we could contribute valuable suggestions to the rule of perfect 
justice ! We have but to say that His holy will be done in all 
things, to consult Him in order to know it, to submit ourselves 
to all events, only fearing to intrude our will on His." 

Surely the Christian religion had some consolatory 
power for M. Singlin ! 

In dealing with the relation between Christianity and 
morality, as discussed by Mr. Morison, there are several 
points to be distinguished. Mr. Morison takes us back to 
the ages of faith, and quotes — Ave will not say with relish, 
but at all events with unnecessary profusion — instance 
after instance of Christians living immoral lives and doing 
immoral acts. It is not quite clear what is the exact con- 

* Cousin, ' Jacr|ueliue Pascal,' pp. 294-96. 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 235 

elusion we are expected to draw. If the contention be 
that Christianity has been prejudicial to morality, then it 
must be proved that there is some causal relation between 
embracinof the Christian creed and doincj immoral acts. 
But this is, of course, absurd ; at all events, it could hardly 
be said that Mr. Morison has proved it. It remains, then, 
to affirm that immorality has co-existed with Christianity, 
— a fact which would probably be at once conceded — just 
as immorality has co-existed with free trade, with the 
emancipation of the negro, with the Education Acts, with 
the extension of the suffrage, nay, even with the promul- 
gation of the doctrines of Positivism. But it is perhaps 
urged that we can, at all events, apply the method of 
' concomitant variations,' and that if we find that the more 
Christian the ao'e the greater is the number of immoral 
clergymen, we can draw the conclusion which Mr. Morison 
desires. To this, however, there is a twofold answer. In 
the first place, the assumption is that the so-called ages of 
faith represent a purer stage of Christianity, and this is 
an assumption which would only be made by extreme up- 
holders of ecclesiastical pretensions. To many minds the 
view that Christianity may develop without ceasing to be 
divine, and that therefore we might antecedently expect a 
correspondence between the characteristics of the age and 
the quality of Christian faith and practice, is one which is 
not only true in itself, but serves to explain the phenomena 
on which Mr. Morison dilates. In the second place, Mr. 
Morison is surely enough of a logician to know that no 
argument at all can be founded on an enumeration of 



236 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

immoral clerics, unless we know what proportion the 
immoral clerics bear to the moral ones and to the total 
number of professedly Christian teachers. To say, for 
instance, that France furnishes more suicides than Belgium, 
is valueless, from a moral point of view, without consider- 
ation of the relative population of each country. To say, 
because more murders are committed in modern England 
than in the preceding ages, that tlierefore modern 
England is more immoral than she used to be, is to 
forget that we must take into account the proportion 
of the murderers to the general population. All argu- 
ments touching the moral condition of an age or a people, 
which are founded on statistics, are especially dangerous, 
because statistics cannot show the crimes which were 
committed and never found out, nor the crimes which 
were meditated and never carried into practice. Such 
considerations are, of course, truisms ; but it is necessary 
to lay stress on them when we are brought face to face 
with a long and disgusting catalogue of clerical offences, 
and are asked to condemn Christianity on this ground. 
What sane man would conclude from George Eliot's well- 
known story in ' Scenes of Clerical Life,' that, because the 
clerical hero had once committed adultery, therefore 
religion had been in his case prejudicial to his morality? 
And what professed theologian would venture to assert 
that Christianity in all cases expels the passions ? 

We come, however, to a more serious count in Mr. 
Morison's indictment. Christianity, it appears, has given 
but a lukewarm support to morality, nay, has even largely 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 237 

tliwarted the growth of moral ideas by certain dogmas of 
its own which are found to be inconsistent with a properly 
ethical culture. It may safely be presumed that here we 
touch on the vital point of Mr. Morison's argument. It 
may or may not be the case that Christianity includes a 
large proportion of immoral characters within its fold ; 
still it can hardly be proved that it exerts an influence 
prejudicial to the interests of society, unless it is shown 
that by virtue of certain essential characteristics it does 
and must damage and weaken morality at large. Here 
Mr. Morison's arguments seem to be three in number. 
Christianity holds up too exalted an ideal before men's 
eyes, and therefore weakens their efforts by the discourage- 
ment it entails. Christianity exaggerates the importance 
of ' conversion,' and correspondingly depreciates the value 
of a moral life. And, finally, Christianity, magnifying 
spirituality at the expense of righteousness, can never be 
as useful to the world as Science, The first is a curious 
criticism ; indeed it might, from a different point of view, 
be mistaken for a compliment. For if Mr. Morison is 
going to limit men's efforts to what is practicable, ho runs 
counter to the experience of many wise men in the past, 
and nullifies much of the teaching of history. " Man 
rises," it has been finely said, "by what he cannot sur- 
mount." Is it or is it not tlie fact that a high ideal in 
every line of life improves men's practice ? Is it not 
especially the case in morality that sublimity of aim is 
found to be the very nerve and sinew of all effort ? If 
not, then it is difficult to explain the value of ambition • 



238 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

it becomes necessary to alter our educational methods ; 
and it is impossible to explain the course of evolution. To 
which may be added the consideration that few higher 
ideals can be propounded than the service of humanity, or 
any which is further removed from the narrow bounds of 
men's ordinary aspirations and daily lives. Humanity is 
indeed an ideal ; and it is far more practicable for men to 
serve their class, or their family, or themselves. What an 
excuse for selfish isolation is furnished by the advice to 
work for what is practicable ! And with what undeniable 
logic shall we all become hedonists ! Perhaps, however, 
we do Mr. Morison an injustice by pressing this point, 
which he only seems to mention incidentally. The other 
points are the main matter, and require the more careful 
attention. 

Mr. Morison quotes Paley to the effect that the primary 
object of the Gos23el was not to preach morality; and, 
however strange an instance Paley may seem to be of 
characteristic theologians (being a theological utilitarian 
of an extremely narrow type), yet the intention of Mr. 
Morison is clear. He means to lay stress on the fact that 
the Church preaches repentance, conversion, reconciliation 
with God, rather than the necessity of good works through- 
out a lifetime. Or, if we put the matter in a rather 
different form, the doctrine of grace is declared to be 
antithetical to the notion of a morality dependent on habit 
and improvable by education. Or again, some doubts are 
thrown on the reality of such conditions as are indicated in 
the theological terms ' faith,' ' atonement,' and ' turning 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 239 

to God.' But the general attitude of Mr. Morison in these 
matters is perhaps best summarized in the statement that 
morahty, being a doctrine of the effects of actions, is 
thwarted by the Christian insistence on spirituahty in 
motive, temper, and character. With regard to some of 
these points some immediate concessions must be made 
to Mr. Morison, No doubt, a one-sided doctrine of grace 
and faith is opposed to any theory which attaches a proper 
vahie to the habitual performance of good acts. No doubt, 
there is some absurdity in the position that a man of evil 
life can atone for all the immorality of the past by a 
single act of professed ' turning to God ' on his death-bed. 
And when the theologian tells us that " apart from the 
grace of God there is no reason why the greatest saint 
should not become the greatest sinner," and vice versa, the 
common consciousness of mankind revolts from the obvious 
extravagance of the words. That there is, however, a real 
and definite meaning to be attached to ' faith ' and ' grace ' 
and that ' conversion to God ' corresponds to a movement 
of heart and mind which is not chimerical but rational, 
few thoughtful men would be prepared to deny. It is a 
point to which we shall return shortly. Meanwhile it is 
important to consider what kind and species of Christianity 
Mr. Morison is criticizing, and whether even theologians, 
usually considered extreme, would assent to Mr. Morison's 
expression of their views. Mr. Morison is of course awai*e 
that the old antithesis between ' faith ' and ' works ' is 
one which has been considerably fought over. He seems 
to be unaware that the most accredited mouthpieces of 



240 STUDIES, NEAV AND OLD. 

Christianity have found it necessary to lay equal stress on 
both members of the antithesis. " Do men gather grapes of 
thorns or figs of thistles ? A good tree cannot bring forth 
evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 
Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Such 
sentences from the Sermon on the Mount seem to dissipate 
many of Mr. Morison's assertions. According to Mr. 
Morison, Plato's o/xoicoo-i? rw 06w is by theologians used to 
the exclusion of ordinary moral duties. It is enough that 
a man should ' turn to God ' to excuse him from the 
performance of good actions. Indeed, the making of God 
' all in all ' apparently excludes the reign of justice and 
brotherly kindness on earth. But is this the fact ? Is it 
true that Christianity has ever taught such a monstrous 
doctrine ? It is true that Christianity, bowing down 
before the awful name of God, has considered its Divinity 
to be the summary and compendium of all goodness and 
truth, but not that it has propounded its Divinity as the 
substitute for all goodness and truth. But, Mr. Morison 
might argue, you forget the Calvinists. Possibly an 
Antinomian sect of the Calvinists has taught something: 
of the sort, or at all events this might be a deduction from 
some of their exaggerated predestinationism. Doubtless 
the Bev. Thomas Boston was such a narrow Scotch 
Calvinist ; but are we forced to accept him as a represent- 
ative Christian theologian ? Let us turn to Calvin himself 
and see what he has to say on the matter. Does a man 
who turns to God exempt himself from the necessity of 
conforming to moral laws ? No, says Calvin : — 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 241 

" Praeterea non sola vindictaj formidine se coercet a peccando, 
sed quia Deum loco patris amat et reveretur, loco domini 
observat et colit, etiamsL nulli essent inferi, solam tanien offen- 
sionem horret. En quid sit pura germanaque religio, nempe 
fides cum serio Dei timore conjuncta ; ut timor et voluutariam 
reverentiani in se contineat, et sec.um traliat legithmmi ctdtum 
qualis in lege lynescrlhitur.'^ (Joan. Calvini Institut. lib. i. 
cap. ii. 2.) 

Does a man by sacrificing his own will to God, thereby 
release himself from duty ? Not according to Calvin : — 

" I^arn si turn illidemum exbibomus quani decet reverentiani, 
dum voluntatem ejus nostrse pia^ferimus, sequiter non aliam esse 
legitimum ejus cidtum quam jusfifice, sanctitatis, puritatis ohser- 
vationem.'''' {Ibid. lib. ii. cap. viii. 2.) 

Is the worship of God the worship of some arbitrary 
force, removed from the world in which we live, and is 
religion divorced from the teaching of experience, of 
rature, of science? Listen once again to Calvin: — 

" Ad hsec quia ultimus beatte finis in Dei cognitione positus 
est : ne cui prseclusus esset ad felicitatem aditus, non solum 
hominum mentibus indidit illud quod diximus religionis semen, 
sed ita se patefacit in toto mundi opificio, ac se quotidie palam 
affevt, ut aperire oculos nequeant quin aspicere eum cogantur." 
{Ibid. lib. i. cap. v. 1.) 

Perhaps Mr. Morison Avould be surprised to find how 
humane a theologian Calvin really is. Certainly the Rev. 
Thomas Boston would appear to be a very degenerate 
disciple of the man who is assumed to be his teachei-. 
But, we may be told, God, according to the theologians, 
created man and the world for His own glory, and no other 
end of action is possible to God tlian the realization of His 
glory — an end which militates against the reasonable 



242 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

service of humanity. Now, Jonathan Edwards, a cele- 
brated Calvinistic philosopher, wrote a dissertation on this 
very point, — ' A Dissertation concerning the End for which 
God created the World,' — and the importance of the subject 
may perhaps excuse a somewhat long quotation : — 

"JSTow God's internal glory is either in His understanding or 
will. The glory of fuhiess of His understanding is His know- 
ledge. Tlie internal glory and fulness of God, having its special 
seat in His will, is His holiness and liappiness. The whole of 
God's internal good or glory is in these three things, viz. His 
infinite knowledge. His infinite virtue or holiness, and His 
infinite joy and liappiness. Indeed, there are a great many 
attributes in God, according to our Avay of conceiving them : 
but all may be reduced to these ; or to their degree, circum- 
stances, and relations. "We have no conception of God's power, 
different from the degree of these things, with a certain relation 
of them to effects. God's infinity is not properly a distinct 
kind of good, but only expresses the degree of good there is in 
Him. So God's eternity is not a distinct good, but is the 
duration of good. His immutability is still the same good, 
with a negation of change. So that, as I said, the fnlness of 
the Godhead is the fulness of His understanding, consisting in 
His knowledge ; and the fulness of His will consisting in His 
virtue and happiness. 

" And therefore the external glory of God consists in the 
communication of these. The commuiucation of His knowledge 
is chiefly in giving the knowledge of Himself; for this is the 
knowledge in which the fulness of God's understanding chiefly 
consists. 



" Thus it is easy to conceive how God should seek the good 
of the creature, consisting in the creature's knowledge and holi- 
ness, and even his happiness, from a supreme regard to Himself; 
as his hap]uness ai'ises from that which is an image and partici- 
pation of God's own beauty ; and consists in the creature's exer- 
cising a supreme regard to God, and complaisance in Him ; in 
beholding God's glory, in esteeming and loving it, and rejoicing 
in it, and in his exercising and testifying love and supreme 
respect to God, which is the same thing with the creature's 



THE SERVICE OF MAX. 243 

exalting God as his chief good, and making Him his supreme 
end. 

"And thou^di. the emanation of God's fulness, intended in 
the creation, is to the creature as its object ; and though the 
creature is the subject of the fulness communicated, which is 
the creature's good ; yet it does not necessarily folloAv that even 
in so doing God did not make Himself his end. It comes to 
the same thing. God's respect to the creature's good and His 
respect to Himself is not a divided respect ; but both are imited 
in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in 
union with Himself. The creature is no further happy with 
this happiness Avhich God makes his ultimate end, than he 
becomes one with God. The more happiness, the greater union : 
when the happiness is perfect, the union is perfect. And as the 
happiness Avill be increasing to eternity, the union will become 
more and more strict and perfect ; nearer and more like to that 
between God the Father and God the Son, who are so united 
that their interest is perfectly one. If the happiness of the 
creature be considered in the whole of the creature's eternal 
duration, with all the iniinitj^ of its progress, and infinite in- 
crease of nearness and union to God ; in this view, the creature 
must be looked upon as united to God in an infinite strictness. 
(' Dissertation,' &c., chap. ii. sect, vii.) 

This extract may not coutain very good metaphysics ; 
but it is at all events very good morality, and is quite 
sufficient to disprove the assertion that the tendency even 
of an extreme school of Christian doctrine is to degrade 
the ordinary moral conceptions. 

Is it not clear that what Mr. Morison is attacking is not 
Christianity, but Antinomianisra ? Every body of doctrine, 
every synthetic theory uf life and knowledge, might be 
treated in the same way, and with equal unfairness. Shall 
we see how the case stands with M. Comte and Positivism 
itself ? In the first place, we notice with pain that Posi- 
tivism, despite its lofty teaching as to the necessity of 
fraternal love, has exhibited a n;elancholy story of jealousy, 

R 2 



244 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

quarrels and dissension. It has not prevented a serious 
division of Positivists into rival camps, each of which 
claims to contain and preach the pure milk of the word. 
In the second place, it may or may not promulgate an 
exalted moral code ; but when we turn to the private life 
of its earliest teachers (where, if anywhere, we ought to 
find its influence at its purest and best) we find that one 
of its spiritual fathers, to whom Comte himself professes 
his obligations,* the illustrious Saint-Simon, not only 
attempted his own life, but went through a curious course 
of experiences within and without the limits of the moral 
law, tried marriage and divorce, alternated asceticism with 
voluptuous revelry, and exhausted many of the dissipations 
of the gaming-table and the racecourse. So, too, M. Comte 
himself married, and then divorced, Caroline Massin, 
maligned his old friend M. Poinsot, went through an oragc 
c4relral at a private asylum, spat venom at the honoured 
name of Sir John Herschel because he dared to criticize 
him, formed a romantic attachment to the wife of a man 
sentenced to the galleys, and erected her, together with 
his mother and his cook, on a joint pedestal of fame as 
forming " a virtuous ensemhle of three admirable feminine 
types." Not only so, but this contemner of the gods 
ventures to build for his divine Clotilde an altar in his 
room, at which to offer prayer ; he makes a pilgrimage to 
her tomb each week, and dedicates to her a commemora- 
tive anniversary.f We pass from this sad picture of the 

* 'CEnvres choisios de C. H. de Saint-Simon.' xxsviii. 0. 
t 'Politique Positive,' pref. pp. 12, 13. Cf. Martineau, 'Types of 
Ethical Theory,' i. 396. 



THE SERVICE OF MAX. 245 

regenerator of humanity to the system itself. Here we 
discover that, despite energetic attacks on the anthrojDO- 
morphism of earlier religion, the explicit recommendation 
is given to systematic worship of actual men and women. 
We discover that the overthrow of the theological stances 
of human life and thought ends by instituting an organized 
priesthood, a breviary of services and fe,tt&, and even an 
appointed day for cursing in public all reactionary wrong- 
doers. We discover that, however earnest may be the 
denunciation of metaphysical abstractions, we are to accept 
in the sequel a metaphysical abstraction called ' Humanity.' 
Nay, we are to offer it worship, and thus apparently to 
oftend against the first princij^le of Positivism by becoming 
victims of abstract ideas. We are to abolish the Bleu 
supreme, but to retain a Grand Etre. We are to cease to 
be " slaves of God " and we are to become " servants of 
humanity." And finally, despite the intellectual organization 
and classification of the sciences, our discipline must con- 
clude by recognizing that the heart is to have the primacy 
over the head ; and social progress itself must depend on 
natures in which the emotional impulses are most intense 
and generous, that is, women and the lyroUtariat* May 
we not conclude from all this, according to the lines of Mr. 
Morison's argument, that " the morality of the earliest 
age " of Positivism " was very low " ; that " by the great 
doctrine " of the worship of humanity. Positivism " favours '' 
metaphysical and theological abstractions " at the expense 
of science " ; that by the example of M. Comte " it may be 
* 'Pol. Pos.' pref. 3, 4. 'C.it6o!iisiui Pos.' prjf. xvii. 



246 STUDIES, KEW AND OLD. 

questioned whether the s\'stem does not produce" as much 
bitterness, envy, and selfishness, as it does altruism and 
fraternal affection ; and finally, that Positivism " has a 
very limited influence on the world at large " ? How 
unfair such a treatment of a great synthetic theory Avould 
be ! How shallow would be thought the critic who should 
venture to rely only on such arguments as these to dis- 
prove the Philosophic Positive ! But is the treatment 
less unfair, is the criticism less shallow, wdiich accumulates 
certain extreme dogmas held possibly by antinomian sects, 
calls them by the name of Cijristianity, and then holds 
this poor thing of shreds and patches up to ridicule ? 
Apparently Mr. Morison does not care to approach the 
writings of the evangelists. Apparently he lias not 
heard of the "law of love," which is the first Christian 
commandment, and which makes all men members one of 
another. On idle ears has fallen the question : " He that 
loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he 
love God whom he hath not seen ? " Nor does the critic 
seem ever to have appreciated the divine moral : " Inas- 
much as ye did it not to one of the least of tliese My 
brethren, ye did it not to Me." 

Apart, however, from all misquotation or perversion of 
Christian doctrine, there is one underlying principle in Mr. 
Morison's criticism. When he attempts to draw a sharp 
antithesis between Christianity and morality, he means to 
set in essential contrast a theory wliich insists on the 
results of action with one which la^-s stress on motive, 
principle, and character. It is an old controversy in ethics 



THE SERVICE OF MAX. 247 

between systems which have been called ' intuitionist ' and 
s_ystems which are empirical and utilitarian ; and the only 
novelty in Mr. Morison's treatment of the controversy is 
that he, by implication, seeks to deny to his opponents' 
doctrine the title of moral, on the ground that it is 
theological. When, for instance, the histories of Agnes 
Jones, Margaret Hallahan, and Dora Pattison are referred 
to as proving that science deals more effectively with 
suffering and disease thaii any Christian faith, the con- 
clusion we are meant to draw is clearly that science, 
because it arrives at more successful results, is therefore 
more of a moral agent than the Christian faith, which 
only tries to improve men's characters. And in this 
matter Mr. Morison puts himself on aline with philosophers 
like Bentham, James Mill (though hardly J. S. Mill), and 
Mr. Herbert Spencer. If, indeed, ethics be a science dealing 
with human conduct, just in the same manner as biology 
deals with the conditions of organic vitality and physics 
deals with the laws and constitution of the natural world, 
then it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the good 
means the generally useful, the socially healthy, and the 
universally pleasant. But there are at least two con- 
siderations which make one pause. There is the awkward 
element of conscience, on which these empirical moralists 
have expended so much elaborate explanation, but Avhich 
is ever reasserting its jtrimary f)r(e and authority as the 
inexplicable surd of the empirical equation. For, whatever 
be its origin or its history, conscience, at all events, is the 
judge of character, motive, and principle, rather than of 



248 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

the results or effects of action. And there is also that 
which follows conscience as its inevitable shadow, the sense 
of moral obligation violated, or that internal sanction of 
haunting remorse, which we mean when we speak of sin. 

Is there, or is there not, such a thing as sin in the 
world ? Or is it only the phantasmal exaggeration of error 
and mistake ? For if sin be real, then also remorse is the 
awful sense of a duty transgressed, and responsibility is 
the consciousness that we live under the dominion of a 
moral law, the characters of Avhich are written on the 
tables of the heart by the finger of God. It is the incom- 
parable power which the Christian religion has of giving 
a new and transcendent vitality to these truths, which 
makes Mr. Morison so inconsistently admire Sister ])ora 
and Mother Margaret, and which makes us feel that, of all 
intuitionist systems of morals, Christianity is essentially 
the strongest. Its task is, as we understand it, not indeed 
to ignore the results of action, which are patent enough to 
all who have eyes to see, but to transfer the judgment 
from the outer to the inner, to lift the veil of a man's 
outer self, and reveal the deep and abiding scorings of his 
personality. What, indeed, is the Sermon on the Mount 
but one long exposition of the text that " God seeth the 
heart " ? And how shall ethics preserve its jsaramount 
distinction among the disciplines and sciences of men, 
unless its chief problem be recognized to be, not so much 
the elucidation of ' the good,' towards which so many 
sciences make just and proper contributions, but rather 
the meaning of ' rio-ht ' ? Mr. Morison himself will not 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 243 

blink the issue. For in his concluding pnges he explicitly 
denies the fact of moral responsibility in any sense in which 
it is supposed to attach to all men impartially. Mr. 
Herbert Spencer has already in his ' Data of Ethics ' 
declared that the sense of duty is transitory, and will 
disappear as fast as moralization advances. Now listen to 
Mr. Cotter Morison : — 

" The soover the idea of vioral resjjonsihility is got rid of, the 
better it will he for society and moral education. The sooner it 
is perceived that bad men will be bad, do what we will — though, 
of course, they may be made less bad — the sooner shall we come 
to the conclusion that the welfare of society demands the sup- 
pression or elimination of bad men, and the careful cultivation 
of the good only. . . . What do we gain by this fine language 
as to moral responsibility ] The right to blame, and so fortli. 
Bad men are not touched by it. The bad man has no conscience : 
he acts after l)is malignant nature. . . . Nothing is gained by 
disguising the fact that there is no remedy for a bad heart, and 
no substitute for a good one." * 

This is plain language, at all events, perhajDS somewhat 
truculent and even repulsive, but written so clearly that 
he who runs may read. The following sentence is still 
more characteristic : " Remorse is the note of tender and 
passionate, lut ill-governed natures." f Ill-governed ? Yes, 
for he who feels it knows that he has let his lower nature 
override his higher. But not, in Mr. Morison's sense, 
because conscience is a figment, and duty a name ; for 
remorse is the cloud which testifies to the reality of the sun, 
the darkness which Avould not be felt, did not we know 
that there was light. 

* ' Service of Man,' pp. 293-5. t Ihid. p. 302. 



250 STUDIES, XEW AND OLD. 

What, after all, is it that j\[r. Morison is attacking ? Is 
it Christianity, that is, a system of authoritative dogmas, 
formulated by councils, systematized and hardened during 
the Middle Ages, and lasting to the present day as a 
survival of a barbaric era ? or is it Christ Himself, the 
incarnation of the religious principle, the example of a 
divine life ? If the former is the object of the onslaught, 
then we may understand the critic's position to mean that 
a vast superstructure has been reared on the simple ground- 
plan traced by Christ and His apostles, which has been 
so little a fulfilment of the original design that it has 
effectually obscured and vitiated it. In that case, every 
effort to detach what is human and misleading, every 
attack on outlying buttress and offending bastion, but 
serves to bring out in purer outline the simjDle form of 
original and primitive Christianity. In that case, too, 
when Mr. Morison takes us back to the so-called " ages of 
faith," it would be better to take us back still further, not 
to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but to the first. 
But if this is not a true statement of Mr. Morison's position, 
and if the real objective is not Christianity, but Christ, 
then we open a far graver question. For now the point 
is whether religion itself is a necessity for man, whether 
the figure of Christ is not a travesty of man's highest 
nature, for which the modern age ought to substitute the 
economist and the enlightened politician. 

Is religion a necessity or not ? This is to some extent 
a question of ethics, to a still larger extent a question 
of mental philosophy. Metaphysical, undoubtedly, the 



THE SERVICE OF MAX. 251 

inquiry must be ; it must depend on certain broad postu- 
lates and suppositions which Mr. Morison would hardly 
be prepared to grant. Mr. Morison does not often handle 
metaphysics in the ' Service of Man,' and when he does, 
the attempt is disasti'ous. Here is the way in which with 
light hand he destroys the philosophy of the late Professor 
Green. 

" 'Can the knowledge of nature,' asks Professor Green, 'be 
itself a part of nature, in that sense of nature in which it is said 
to be an object of knowledge 1' It is not easy to see why the 
subject which cognizes the object should be less nature than the 
object cognized. The image of an ohject in tlie mirror whidi 
reflects is as much nature as the object reflected." * 

To which the answer is that the consciousness of which 
Professor Green is speaking is not regarded by him as a 
mirror. Mr. Morison must have read Green to very little 
purpose, if he thinks that the notion of a 2y<^<'Ssive register 
of impressions suits the philosopher's idea of self. When 
a metaphysician says that the consciousness which makes 
us men makes us also independent of time and develop- 
ment, he is speaking of a mind which actively/ transforms 
its fleeting impressions into a concatenated body of know- 
ledge. It is just because no intelligible theory of know- 
ledge can be constructed on the 'supposition that the mind 
is a passive mirror, that Professor Green and those who 
think with him are strenuous in asserting the activity and 
independence of the consciousness. The human mind 
even as interpreted by Mr. Herbert Spencer is not merely 
a mirror. Biology asserts just as strongly as metaphysics 
* ' Service of .Alan,' p. 278. 



2 52 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

that by means of inherited aptitudes and transmitted 
intelligence a man's mind does not passively reflect, but' 
actively transforms, the impressions it receives. The 
further question remains whether the mind is, in its 
essential activity, sui generis and independent, or only a 
part of nature in the widest sense. Idealism asserts the 
first, and materialism the second. 

" But," says Mr, Morison, " it is not necessary for the 
purpose in hand to make a flight into the fine aether of 
Kantian metaphysics." Yet, if we are arguing on the 
essential nature of the human intelligence, whether we 
like it or no, that is exactly what we must do. In dealing 
with the highest forms which the mind of man assumes, 
in asking ourselves if there is within the human capacity 
a determined effort to win the infinite — whether we seek 
to prove or disprove — in either case our arguments must 
be metaphysical. But within the limits of the present 
essay it is obviously impossible to do more than indicate 
the lines of such an inquiry. 

When we seek to determine whether religion is a 
necessity or no, we must attempt to see how far the nature 
of knowledge on the one hand, and the nature of morality 
on the other, inevitably lead to some such culmination as 
that which religion suggests and satisfies. An analysis of 
knowledge reveals the truth that, except on the assump- 
tion of an active intelligence, we can neither understand 
nature nor ourselves. The understanding makes nature, 
says Kant. That the world arises in consciousness, is the 
admission even of Mr. G. H. Lewes. If thought, then, is 



THE SERVICE OF MAN. 253 

the one indispensable element, if nothing exists except to 
thouo-ht, and without consciousness there is no world, 
then it is equally clear that thought itself leads us from 
the finite to the infinite. Is this denied ? Then how do 
we know ourselves to be finite, unless, in some real sense, 
we are also infinite ? We cannot be conscious of limita- 
tions, if we could not somehow overpass the limitations. 
The man who has always been a slave knows not freedom ; 
the animal who lives at the mercy of successive impres- 
sions knows neither regret nor heart-hunger. Even the 
consciousness that knowledge is relative, being dependent 
on an interaction between subject and object, just because 
it can hold equally both terms of the antithesis, must in 
itself be able to transcend and unite them. Thus from the 
finite and the relative, from the opposition between subject 
and object, we rise to the meeting-point between being 
and thinking — we rise, in other words, to the infinite, 
which is at once subject and object, the identity of being 
and thinking. And this, phrase it as we may, is God. 

So too if we start from the side of morality. Here the 
essential antithesis and conflict is between will and desires, 
between a higher and a lower nature, between reason and 
the blind unthinking passions. The whole meaning of 
morality is the effort to overcome this opposition, to make 
life a harmony instead of a discord. And the problem 
here is, as it is also in the intellectual department, to give 
equal weight to both members of the antithesis, and 
finally to transcend them. We have, for instance, to see 
that the emotional elements in human nature receive 



254 STUDIES, NEW AND OLD. 

their due satisfaction, but at the same time we must seek 
to raise them. We have to elevate the partial and limited 
ends of the desires into universal ones, to rationalize the 
whole nature by bringing every part of it into direct 
relation with some central unity. On the one hand the 
will, on the other the desires, must be equally rationalized, 
unified, lifted into an atmosphere which is above the scene 
of their partial and endless conflicts. This morality ly 
itself can never do; it can only be done by religion. 
Religion is tlie perfect solution of that problem, which 
morality only partially solves. For the effort of mind by 
which the human being " feels himself at one with God," 
and lifts himself into a sort of potential infinity, is already 
religion. Is such a mental effort denounced as vague and 
mystical ? It is rather the essence and final term of the 
moral life. By whatever name known, whether as an act 
of faith, or grace, or self-surrender, it is that which the 
theologians mean when they speak of •' conversion.' He 
who has striven thus upwards is the spiritual character, 
the religious man. He at all events comprehends what to 
Mr. Morison is too hard a saying. It becomes not an 
impossible ideal, but the only moral ideal, "to be perfect 
even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." 



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LITTLE DORRIT ... 
OUR MUTLFAL FRIEND 
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OLD CURIOSITY SHOP 

A CHILD'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND 4 

EDWIN DROOD and OTHER STORIES 8 

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J. 


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4 





4 





4 





4 





4 





4 





4 





3 


6 


3 


6 


3 


6 


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