Infomotions, Inc.Essays on books, by William Lyon Phelps. / Phelps, William Lyon, 1865-1943




Author: Phelps, William Lyon, 1865-1943
Title: Essays on books, by William Lyon Phelps.
Publisher: New York : Macmillan, 1922 [c1914]
Tag(s): literature; richardson; clarissa; pamela; jane austen; austen; essays; schiller; marlowe; jane; lady bradshaigh; novel
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ESSAYS ON 
BOOKS 



WILLIAM LYON PHELPS 



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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NBW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO • DALLAS 
ATLANTA • SAN FRANCISCO 

MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 

LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 

TORONTO 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 



BY 



WILLIAM LYON PHELPS 

M.A. (Harvard), Ph.D. (Tale) 

LAMPSON PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE AT YALE 

MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ARTS 

AND LETTERS 



"Ntia gorfe 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1922 

A a rights reserved 



\ 



Copyright, 1907, by The North American Review Publishing Company; 
Copyright, 1909, by The Forum Publishing Company; Copyright, 1910, 
by The Independent; Copyright, 1910, by The Review of Reviews 
Company; Copyright, 1912, 1913, by The Century Company; Copyright, 
1914, by The Yale Publishing Association, Inc. 

Copyright, 1914, 
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. 



Set up and electrotyped. Published October , 1914. 



Norbiaoti l^rtss 

J. 8. Gushing Co. — Berwick & 8mith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 



PREFACE 

Most of the essays in this volume have ap- 
peared in various periodicals — the Century Maga- 
zine, the North American Review, the Forum, the 
Nezv Englander, the Yale Review, and others. 
Some were written as introductions to limited edi- 
tions. The first essay was originally read at a 
joint meeting of the American Academy and the 
National Institute of Arts and Letters, at New 
York, in 191 2; the essay on Schiller was read at 
Yale University, on the one hundredth anniversary 
of the poet's death, in 1905. 

W. L. P. 

Seven Gables, Lake Huron, 
Tuesday, \j^July 1914. 



CONTENTS 



Realism and Reality in 


Fiction . 








PAGE 

I 


Richardson .... 








i6 


Jane Austen 












129 


Dickens .... 












178 


Carlyle's Love-Letters 












192 


Whittier . 












202 


Notes on Mark Twain 












211 


Marlowe . 












. 223 


The Poet Herrick . 












• 255 


Schopenhauer and Omar 










. 265 


Lessing as a Creative Critic 








. 277 


Schiller's Personality and Influence 




• 295 


Conversations with Paul 


Hei 


.'SE 








. 314 



vu 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

During those early years of his youth at Paris, 
which the melancholy but unrepentant George 
Moore insists he spent in riotous living, he was on 
one memorable occasion making a night of it at a 
ball in Montmartre. In the midst of the revelry 
a grey giant came placidly striding across the 
crowded room, looking, I suppose, something like 
Gulliver in Lilliput. It was the Russian novelist 
Turgenev. For a moment the young Irishman 
forgot the girls, and plunged into eager talk with 
the man from the North. Emile Zola had just 
astonished Paris with VAssommoir. In response 
to a leading question, Turgenev shook his head 
gravely and said : " What difference does it make 
whether a woman sweats in the middle of her back 
or under her arms? I want to know how she 
thinks, not how she feels." 

In this statement the great master of diagnosis 
indicated the true distinction between realism and 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

reality. A work of art may be conscientiously 
realistic, — few men have had a more importunate 
conscience than Zola, — and yet be untrue to life, 
or, at all events, untrue to life as a whole. Realism 
may degenerate into emphasis on sensational but 
relatively unimportant detail : reality deals with 
that mystery of mysteries, the human heart. 
Realism may degenerate into a creed ; and a formal 
creed in art is as unsatisfactory as a formal creed 
in religion, for it is an attempt to confine what 
by its very nature is boundless and infinite into 
a narrow and prescribed space. Your microscope 
may be accurate and powerful, but its strong 
regard is turned on only one thing at a time ; and 
no matter how enormously this thing may be en- 
larged, it remains only one thing out of the in- 
finite variety of God's universe. To describe one 
part of life by means of a perfectly accurate micro- 
scope is not to describe life any more than one can 
measure the Atlantic Ocean by means of a per- 
fectly accurate yardstick. Zola was an artist of 
extraordinary energy, sincerity, and honesty; 
but, after all, when he gazed upon a dunghill, he 
saw and described a dunghill. Rostand looked 
steadfastly at the same object, and beheld the 
vision of Chantecler. 

Suppose some foreign champion of realism 
should arrive in New York at dusk, spend the whole 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

night visiting the various circles of our metropolitan 
hell, and depart for Europe in the dawn. Suppose 
that he should make a strictly accurate narrative 
of all that he had seen. Well and good ; it would 
be realistic, it would be true. But suppose he 
should call his narrative America. Then we should 
assuredly protest. 

" You have not described America. Your picture 
lacks the most essential features." 

He would reply : 

"But isn't what I have said all true? I defy 
you to deny its truth. I defy you to point out 
errors or exaggerations. Everything that I de- 
scribed I saw with my own eyes." 

All this we admit, but we refuse to accept it 
as a picture of America. Here is the cardinal error 
of realism. It selects one aspect of life, — usually 
a physical aspect, for it is easy to arouse strained 
attention by physical detail, — and then insists 
that it has made a picture of life. Th^ modern 
Parisian society drama, for example, cannot pos- 
sibly be a true representation of French family 
and social life. Life is not only better than that ; 
it is surely less monotonous, more complex. You 
cannot play a great symphony on one instrument, 
least of all on the triangle. The plays of Bernstein, 
Bataille, Hervieu, Donnay, Capus, Guinon, and 
others, brilliant in technical execution as they often 

3 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

are, really follow a monotonous convention of 
theatrical art rather than life itself. As an English 
critic has said, "The Parisian dramatists are liv- 
ing in an atmosphere of half-truths and shams, 
grubbing in the divorce courts and living upon 
the maintenance of social intrigue just as comfort- 
ably as any bully upon the earnings of a prosti- 
tute." An admirable French critic, M. Henry 
Bordeaux, says of his contemporary playwrights, 
that they have ceased to represent men and women 
as they really are. This is not realism, he declares ; 
it is a new style of false romanticism, where men 
and women are represented as though they pos- 
sessed no moral sense — a romanticism sensual, 
worldly, and savage. Life is pictured as though 
there were no such things as daily tasks and daily 
duties. 

Shakespeare was an incorrigible romantic ; yet 
there is more reality in his compositions than in 
all the realism of his great contemporary, Ben 
Jonson. Confidently and defiantly, Jonson set 
forth his play Every Man in His Humour as a model 
of what other plays should be ; for, said he, it 
contains deeds and language such as men do use. 
So it does: but it falls far short of the reality 
reached by Shakespeare in that impossible tissue 
of absurd events which he carelessly called As You 
Like It. In his erudite and praiseworthy attempt 

4 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

to bring back the days of ancient Rome on the 
Elizabethan stage Jonson achieved a resurrection 
of the dead : Shakespeare, unembarrassed by 
learning and unhampered by a creed, achieved a 
resurrection of the Uving. Catiline and Sejanus 
talk like an old text; Brutus and Cassius talk 
like living men. For the letter killeth, but the 
spirit giveth life. 

The form, the style, the setting, and the scenery 
of a work of art may determine whether it belongs 
to realism or romanticism ; for realism and roman- 
ticism are affairs of time and space. Reality, 
however, by its very essence, is spiritual, and may 
be accompanied by a background that is contem- 
porary, ancient, or purely mythical. An opera 
of the Italian school, where, after a tragic scene, 
the tenor and soprano hold hands, trip together 
to the footlights, and produce fluent roulades, 
may be set in a drawing-room, with contemporary, 
realistic furniture. Compare La Traviata with 
the first act of Die Walkiire, and see the difference 
between realism and reality. In the wildly roman- 
tic and mythical setting, the passion of love is 
intensely real ; and as the storm ceases, the portal 
swings open, and the soft air of the moonlit spring 
night enters the room, the eternal reality of love 
makes its eternal appeal in a scene of almost intol- 
erable beauty. Even so carefully reaUstic an opera 

5 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

as Louise does not seem for the moment any more 
real than these lovers in the spring moonhght, deep 
in the heart of the whispering forest. 

A fixed creed, whether it be a creed of optimism, 
pessimism, realism, or romanticism, is a positive 
nuisance to an artist. Joseph Conrad, all of whose 
novels have the unmistakable air of reality, declares 
that the novelist should have no programme of any 
kind and no set rules. In a memorable phrase he 
cries, ''Liberty of the imagination should be the 
most precious possession of a novelist." Optimism 
may be an insult to the sufferings of humanity, 
but, says Mr. Conrad, pessimism is intellectual 
arrogance. He will have it that while the ultimate 
meaning of life — if there be one — is hidden from 
us, at all events this is a spectacular universe ; 
and a man who has doubled the Horn and sailed 
through a typhoon on what was unintentionally 
a submarine vessel may be pardoned for insisting 
on this point of view. It is indeed a spectacular 
universe, which has resisted all the attempts of 
realistic novelists to make it dull. However sad 
or gay life may be, it affords an interesting spec- 
tacle. Perhaps this is one reason why all works 
of art that possess reality never fail to draw and 
hold attention. 

Every critic ought to have a hospitable mind. 
His attitude toward art in general should be like 

6 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

that of an old-fashioned host at the door of a coun- 
try inn, ready to welcome all guests except crimi- 
nals. It is impossible to judge with any fairness 
a new poem, a new opera, a new picture, a new 
novel, if the critic have preconceived opinions as 
to what poetry, music, painting, and fiction should 
be. We are all such creatures of convention that 
the first impression made by reality in any form of 
art is sometimes a distinct shock, and we close the 
windows of our intelligence and draw the blinds 
that the fresh air and the new light may not enter 
in. Just as no form of art is so strange as life, so 
it may be the strangeness of reality in books, in 
pictures, and in music that makes our attitude one 
of resistance rather than of welcome. 

Shortly after the appearance of Wordsworth's 
Resolution and Independence, 

" There was a roaring in the wind all night, 
The rain came heavily and fell in floods," 

some one read aloud the poem to an intelligent 
woman. She burst into tears, but, recovering 
herself, said shamefacedly, "After all, it isn't 
poetry." When Pushkin, striking off the shackles 
of eighteenth-century conventions, published his 
first work, a Russian critic exclaimed, "For God's 
sake don't call this thing a poem !" These two 
poems seemed strange because they were so natural, 

7 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

so real, so true, just as a sincere person who speaks 
his mind in social intercourse is regarded as an 
eccentric. We follow conventions and not life. 
In operas the lover must be a tenor, as though the 
love of a man for a woman were something soft, 
something delicate, something emasculate, instead 
of being what it really is, the very essence of mascu- 
line virility. I suppose that on the operatic stage 
a lover with a bass voice would shock a good many 
people in the auditorium, but I should like to see 
the experiment tried. In Haydn's Creation, our 
first parents sing a bass and soprano duet very 
sweetly. But Verdi gave that seasoned old soldier 
Otello a tenor role, and even the fearless Wagner 
made his leading lovers all sing tenor except the 
Flying Dutchman, who can hardly be called human. 
In society dramas we have become so accustomed 
to conventional inflections, conventional gestures, 
conventional grimaces, that when an actor speaks 
and behaves exactly as he would were the situation 
real, instead of assumed, the effect is startUng. 
Virgin snow often looks blue, but it took courage 
to paint it blue, because people judge not by eye- 
sight, but by convention, and snow conventionally 
is assuredly white. In reading works of fiction 
we have become so accustomed to conventions 
that we hardly notice how often they contradict 
reality. In many novels I have read I have been 

8 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

introduced to respectable women with scarlet lips, 
whereas in life I never saw a really good woman 
with such labial curiosities. Conversations are 
conventionally unnatural. A trivial illustration 
will suffice. Some one in a group makes an attrac- 
tive proposition. "Agreed !" cried they all. Did 
you ever hear any one say "Agreed"? 

I suppose that all novels, no matter how osten- 
sibly objective, must really be subjective. Out of 
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 
Every artist feels the imperative need of self- 
expression. Milton used to sit in his arm-chair, 
waiting impatiently for his amanuensis, and cry, 
"I want to be milked." Even so dignified, so 
reticent, and so sober-minded a novelist as Joseph 
Conrad says, "The novelist does not describe the 
world: he simply describes his own world." Sid- 
ney's advice, "Look in thy heart, and write," is 
as applicable to the realistic novelist as it is to the 
lyric poet. We know now that the greatest novel- 
ist of our time, Tolstoi, wrote his autobiography 
in every one of his so-called works of fiction. The 
astonishing air of reality that they possess is owing 
largely to the fact not merely that they are true 
to life, but that they are the living truth. When 
an artist succeeds in getting the secrets of his 
inmost heart on the printed page, the book lives. 
This accounts for the extraordinary power of Dos- 

9 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

toevski, who simply turned himself inside out 
every time he wrote a novel. 

The only reality that we can consistently demand 
of a novel is that its characters and scenes shall 
make a permanent impression on our imagination. 
The object of all forms of art is to produce an illu- 
sion, and the illusion cannot be successful with ex- 
perienced readers unless it have the air of reality. 
The longer we live, the more difficult it is to deceive 
us : we smile at the scenes that used to draw our 
tears, we are left cold by the declamation that we 
once thought was passion, and we have supped so 
full with horrors that we are not easily frightened. 
We are simply bored as we see the novelist get out 
his little bag of tricks. But we never weary of 
the great figures in Fielding, in Jane Austen, in 
Dickens, in Thackeray, in Balzac, in Turgenev, 
for they have become an actual part of our mental 
life. And it is interesting to remember that while 
the ingenious situations and boisterous swash- 
bucklers of most romances fade like the flowers of 
the field. Cooper and Dumas are read by genera- 
tion after generation. Their heroes cannot die, 
because they have what Mrs. Browning called the 
''principle of life." 

The truly great novelist is not only in harmony 
with life ; his characters seem to move with the 
stars in their courses. "To be," said the phi- 

10 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

losopher Lotze, "is to be in relations." The 
moment a work of art ceases to be in relation with 
life, it ceases to be. All the great novelists are 
what I like to call sidereal novelists. They belong 
to the earth, like the procession of the seasons ; 
they are universal, like the stars. A commonplace 
producer of novels for the market describes a group 
of people that remains nothing but a group of 
people; they interest us perhaps momentarily, 
like an item in a newspaper ; but they do not 
interest us deeply, any more than we are really 
interested at this moment in what Brown and 
Jones are doing in Rochester or Louisville. They 
may be interesting to their author, for children 
are always interesting to their parents ; but to the 
ordinary reader they begin and end their fictional 
life as an isolated group. On the contrary, when 
we read a story Hke The Return of the Native, the 
book seems as inevitable as the approach of winter, 
as the setting of the sun. All its characters seem 
to share in the diurnal revolution of the earth, to 
have a fixed place in the order of the universe. We 
are considering only the fortunes of a little group 
of people living in a little corner of England, but 
they seem to be in intimate and necessary relation 
with the movement of the forces of the universe. 
The recent revival of the historical romance, 
which shot up in the nineties, flourished mightily 

II 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

at the end of the century, and has already faded, 
was a protest not against reality, but against 
realism. Realism in the eighties had become a 
doctrine, and we know how its fetters cramped 
Stevenson, He joyously and resolutely burst 
them, and gave us romance after romance, all of 
which except the Black Arrow showed a reality 
superior to realism. The year of his death, 1894, 
ushered in the romantic revival. Romanticism 
suddenly became a fashion that forced many new 
writers and some experts to mould their work in 
its form. A few specific illustrations must be given 
to prove this statement. Mr. Stanley Weyman 
really wanted to write a realistic novel, and actually 
wrote one, but the public would none of it : he 
therefore fed the mob with The House oj the Wolf, 
with A Gentleman from France, with Under the 
Red Robe. Enormously successful were these 
stirring tales. The air became full of obsolete 
oaths and the clash of steel — "God's bodikins ! 
man, I will spit you like a lark ! " To use a scholar's 
phrase, we began to revel in the glamour of a bogus 
antiquity. For want of a better term, I call all 
these romances the "Gramercy" books. Mr. 
Winston Churchill, now a popular disciple of the 
novel of manners, gained his reputation by RicJiard 
Carvel, with a picture of a duel facing the title- 
page. Perhaps the extent of the romantic craze 

12 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

is shown most clearly in the success attained by 
the thoroughly sophisticated Anthony Hope with 
The Prisoner of Zenda, by the author of Peter 
Stirling with Janice Meredith, and most of all by 
the strange Adventures of Captain Horn, a bloody 
story of buried treasure, actually written by our 
beloved humorist, Frank Stockton. Mr. Stockton 
had the temperament most fatal to romance, the 
bright gift of humorous burlesque ; the real Frank 
Stockton is seen in that original and joyful work, 
The Casting Away of Mrs. Leeks and Mrs. Aleshine. 
Yet the fact that he felt the necessity of writing 
Captain Horn, is good evidence of the tide. This 
romantic wave engulfed Europe as well as America, 
but so far as I can discover, the only work after 
the death of Stevenson that seems destined to 
remain, appeared in the epical historical romances 
of the Pole Sienkiewicz. Hundreds of the romances 
that the world was eagerly reading in 1900 are now 
forgotten like last year's almanac ; but they served 
a good purpose apart from temporary amusement 
to invalids, overtired business men, and the young. 
There was the sound of a mighty wind, and the 
close chambers of modern realism were cleansed 
by the fresh air. 

A new kind of realism, more closely related to 
reality, has taken the place of the receding romance. 
We now behold the "life" novel, the success of 

13 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

which is a curious demonstration of the falseness 
of recent prophets. We were told a short time 
ago that the long novel was extinct. The three- 
volume novel seemed very dead indeed, and the 
fickle public would read nothing but a short novel, 
and would not read that unless some one was 
swindled, seduced, or stabbed on the first page. 
Then suddenly appeared Joseph Vance, which its 
author called an ill-written autobiography, and it 
contained 280,000 words. It was devoured by a 
vast army of readers, who clamoured for more. Mr. 
Arnold Bennett, who had made a number of short 
flights without attracting much attention, pro- 
duced The Old Wives' Tale, giving the complete 
life-history of two sisters. Emboldened by the 
great and well-deserved success of this history, 
he launched a trilogy, of which two huge sections 
are already in the hands of a wide public. No 
details are omitted in these vast structures ; even 
a cold in the head is elaborately described. But 
thousands and thousands of people seem to have 
the time and the patience to read these volumes. 
Why? Because the story is in intimate relation 
with life. A gifted Frenchman appears on the 
scene with a novel in ten volumes, Jean Christophe, 
dealing with the Ufe of this hero from the cradle 
to the grave. This is being translated into all the 
languages of Europe, so intense is the curiosity of 

14 



REALISM AND REALITY IN FICTION 

the world regarding a particular book of life. 
Some may ask, Why should the world be burdened 
with this enormous mass of trivial detail in rather 
uneventful lives? The answer may he found in 
Fra Lippo Lippi's spirited defence of his art, 
which differed from the art of Fra Angelico in 
sticking close to reality : 

"For, don't you mark? we're made so that we love 
First when we see them painted, things we have passed 
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see." 

I find in the contemporary "life" novel a sin- 
cere, dignified, and successful effort to substitute 
reality for the former rather narrow realism ; for 
it is an attempt to represent life as a whole. 



IS 



II 

RICHARDSON 

Richardson was born somewhere in Derbyshire, 
in the year 1689. His father was a joiner, who 
originally intended that his son should enter the 
church — not a bad guess at the youth's talents 
for godly instruction. But financial embarrass- 
ments prohibited an expensive education : and 
when fifteen or sixteen years old, the diligent 
Samuel was compelled to earn his living at busi- 
ness. Like Shakespeare, he had only the book- 
training of the common school : he knew no lan- 
guage but his own : and although, as a printer, he 
had a bowing acquaintance with contemporary 
literature, he was never, to his bitter and lasting 
regret, either a learned or a well-read man. The 
Latin quotations in his books were prompted by 
his friends. 

At school, however, he learned something besides 
the three R's ; even at that tender age, the two 
things in which he chiefly excelled in later years 
— the manufacture of moral phrases and the knowl- 
edge of the hearts of women — are what he prac- 
tised and studied with unwearied assiduity. He 

16 



RICHARDSON 

was a childish anomaly — a wise and prudent prig. 
The boys called him ''Serious and Gravity," but 
when did Richardson care for the opinion of boys 
and men, so long as he had their sisters on his 
side? As Mrs. Barbauld says, "He was fond of 
two things, which boys have generally an aversion 
to, letter-writing, and the company of the other 
sex." The author of Treasure Island represented 
exactly the opposite type ; Stevenson was always 
a boy at heart, while Richardson, whatever he was 
in his teens, was never a boy. 

Surely if it were ever given to any man to know 
the windings of a woman's heart, it was to Richard- 
son, and he began training as a novelist in a way 
that may be earnestly recommended to all youth- 
ful literary aspirants. "I was not more than thir- 
teen, when three . . . young women, unknown to 
each other, having a high opinion of my taciturnity, 
revealed to me their love-secrets, in order to 
induce me to give them copies to write after, or 
correct, for answers to their lover's letters : nor 
did any one of them know that I was the secretary 
to the others. I have been directed to chide, and 
even repulse, when an offence was either taken or 
given, at the very time that the heart of the chider 
or repulser was open before me, overflowing with 
esteem and affection ; and the fair repulser, dread- 
ing to be taken at her word, directing this word, or 
c 17 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

that expression, to be softened or changed. One 
highly gratified with her lover's fervour, and vows 
of everlasting love, has said, when I asked her 
direction ; I cannot tell you what to write ; but 
(her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly ; 
all her fear was only, that she should incur slight 
for her kindness." 

Miss Clara Thomson remarks as follows on 
Richardson's early and unconscious training as a 
novelist: "It was this early experience that 
enabled him to describe with such astonishing 
accuracy the intricacies of feminine passion, and 
to realise the fallacy of the prejudice that requires 
a woman's affections to be passive till roused to 
activity by the declaration of a lover. He under- 
stood that . . . the ordinary heroine of the mascu- 
line dramatist or novelist is rather an exposition 
of what he thinks a woman should be, than an illus- 
tration of what she is." 

It is interesting to remember that the greatest 
living English novelist, Thomas Hardy, had early 
training similar to Richardson's. He acted as 
amanuensis for the village girls, when he was only 
a child, and though he did not compose, but only 
wrote their letters, his impressionable brain, receiv- 
ing so many warm outpourings of the feminine 
heart, reproduced them afterwards with the 
fidelity that Tess and Eustacia show. 

i8 



RICHARDSON 

When seventeen years old, Richardson was 
bound as an apprentice to John Wilde, of Stationers' 
Hall, a printer. He had hoped, in selecting this 
business, to devote all his spare hours to general 
reading ; but unfortunately he had no spare hours, 
Mr. Wilde soon discovered that he had a faithful 
and valuable apprentice ; and he forthwith deter- 
mined to use all the boy's energy and time to his 
master's profit ; rewarding him with well-merited 
praise, and calling him the pillar of his house. 
Hard-pressed as Richardson was, his insatiable 
passion for letter-writing became ungovernable ; 
and he carried on a full correspondence with a 
gentleman, his superior in rank and fortune. 
Richardson's similarity in deeds and maxims to 
Hogarth's faithful apprentice has naturally im- 
pressed many. His only diversion was letter- 
writing. He was careful never to write when by 
any possibility he could be serving his master, and 
the candle whose light flickered o'er his manuscript 
was bought by his own money. 

The young man's steadiness and industry met 
with their natural and edifying reward : graduat- 
ing from the apprentice school, he became a jour- 
neyman printer, and finally the foreman. In 
1 7 19 he opened business for himself, removing in 
1724 to Salisbury Court, now Salisbury Square, 
identified with Richardson from that day to this. 

19 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

There his warehouse and his city residence re- 
mained till his death. We need not follow further 
his fortunes as a printer. He became one of the 
best-known men of his class in London ; through 
the Speaker's influence, he printed the Journals of 
the House of Commons, and acquired a snug for- 
tune, which enabled him to have a pleasant country- 
house, and to indulge himself in another passion 
— hospitality — one of his noblest and most 
delightful characteristics. 

Miss Thomson has shown that on 23 November 
1721, Richardson was married to Martha Wilde, 
and that all the circumstances indicate that she 
was the daughter of his former master, the Dic- 
tionary of National Biography to the contrary 
notwithstanding. Could anything carry out more 
completely the parallel to Hogarth, or could we 
ever find a better model for the hero of a Sunday- 
school book ? The youth's father loses his fortune ; 
the boy leaves school, and becomes an apprentice ; 
by faithful and diligent toil, by a sober, righteous, 
and godly life, he rises steadily in fortune and repu- 
tation ; he becomes the independent head of a flour- 
ishing business ; and places the capstone in position 
by marrying his original employer's daughter ! 

Richardson was twice married, both times 
happily. His first wife died in 1731, and the next 
year he made his second matrimonial venture, 

20 



RICHARDSON 

marrying Elizabeth Leake, of Bath. She was then 
thirty-six years old. She survived her husband, 
dying in 1773. Richardson had just a dozen 
children, six by each wife. Martha Wilde bore 
him five sons and one daughter, and Elizabeth 
Leake presented him with five daughters and one 
son. The satisfaction that so exceedingly methodi- 
cal a man as Richardson must have obtained from 
so symmetrical branches of offspring was seriously 
impaired by the fact that they were so soon blighted 
by death. All the children of his first wife died 
practically in infancy, and of the second brood, 
a son and a daughter died not long after birth. 
This boy was the third that Richardson called 
Samuel, the mortality of the sons being equalled 
only by the immortality of the father — as if Fate 
had determined to reserve that name for only one 
individual. Four daughters survived him, cheer- 
ing his way in the Valley, and showing him constant 
devotion and love. A busy time they had, writing 
and copying his long letters, but they seemed in 
somewhat similar circumstances to exhibit more 
cheerfulness than the daughters of Milton. 

About 1755 Richardson's health became so shat- 
tered that he looked forward with quiet composure 
to advancing death. One by one his old friends 
passed away; in 1757 his eldest daughter Mary 
was married, the only one of his children wedded 

21 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

before his death. Patty and Sarah took husbands 
not long after their father's funeral, and Nancy, 
who constantly suffered from ill-health, survived 
them all, dying a spinster in 1803. Richardson 
loved his daughters, but they were always afraid 
of him, as is commonly the case where too much 
formality obtains between children and parents. 
His stiffness, arising partly from shyness, partly 
from self-consciousness, and partly from vanity, 
made it difficult for him ever to put any one, even 
his own children, entirely at ease in his presence. 
Furthermore, he solemnly believed that the 
pater -familias was the Head of the House ; and 
should never be treated by his womankind on terms 
of exact equality. 

In 1 761 his increasing infirmities showed that 
the last catastrophe was nigh. On the fourth of 
July in that year he died, and was buried in the 
centre aisle of St. Bride's church, London, close 
by his home in Salisbury Court. An epitaph on 
the floor above his dust sets forth his many virtues. 
The gallant cavalier poet, Lovelace, had been buried 
in the same church ; and his noble and dashing 
qualities had suggested to the novelist the name 
of his most famous hero, by merit raised to a bad 
eminence. 

Richardson's personal appearance, owing to our 
fortimate possession of a number of portraits, is 

22 



RICHARDSON 

as familiar to us as it was to his contemporaries. 
We have him in his habit as he lived. The best 
portrait of him was by the artist Highmore, whose 
daughter Susannah was one of Richardson's most 
intimate friends. This picture now hangs in Sta- 
tioners' Hall, off Ludgate Hill. It represents him 
standing, his right hand thrust within the breast 
of his coat, and his left hand holding an open book, 
presumably one of his own compositions. The 
inevitable quill is within easy reach, and it was 
with this inspired instrument that he sketched a 
portrait of himself, far more animated than even 
Highmore's talent could portray. In a letter to 
his favourite correspondent, Lady Bradshaigh, he 
thus gives a picture by which she is to recognise 
him in the Park. 

"Short; rather plump than emaciated . . . 
about five foot five inches : fair wig ; . . . one 
hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in 
it, which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat 
usually, that it may imperceptibly serve him as a 
support, when attacked by sudden tremors or 
startUngs, and dizziness, which too frequently 
attack him, but, thank God, not so often as for- 
merly : looking directly foreright, as passers-by 
would imagine ; but observing all that stirs on 
either hand of him without moving his short neck ; 
hardly ever turning back : of a light-brown com- 

23 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

plexion ; teeth not yet failing him ; smoothish 
faced and ruddy cheeked : at some times looking 
to be about sixty-five, at other times much younger : 
a regular even pace, stealing away ground, rather 
than seeming to rid it : a grey eye, too often over- 
clouded by mistinesses from the head : by chance 
lively; very lively it will be, if he have hope of 
seeing a lady whom he loves and honours : his eye 
always on the ladies." 

It was by no accident that the genius of Richard- 
son is most evident in his portrayal of women. 
They were his chosen companions and confidants ; 
though in the matter of confidences, Richardson 
felt that it was more blessed to receive than to give. 
He was not a ladies' man, though he knew them 
well, any more than he was a man-of-the-town, 
though he knew that well : he was something quite 
different — a woman's man. Were he living to-day 
he would be the hero of Women's Sewing Circles, 
of the W. C. T. U. and Foreign Missionary Bands, 
and the incense that would arise from the thousands 
of Women's Clubs may best be left to the imagi- 
nation. During the years of his fame, women 
clung to his coat-tails with passionate devotion. 
It is curious, by way of contrast, to remember 
that as the young wits of the seventeenth century 
loved to call themselves the Sons of old Ben Jonson, 
so the young women of the next century gloried 

24 



RICHARDSON 

in the appellation of Richardson's "Daughters": 
and the novelist loved to drink tea and talk senti- 
ment with them, even as Ben loved to sit in the 
tavern, tankard in hand, surrounded by his beloved 
Sons. This difference in hero-worshippers illus- 
trates sufficiently the contrast in temperament be- 
tween a robust nature like Jonson's and a deli- 
cate one like Richardson's. "My acquaintance 
lies chiefly among the ladies," he writes; "I care 
not who knows it." It was not merely because he 
understood them sympathetically that the women 
opened their hearts to the great novelist ; it was 
largely because of his goodness, his purity, his dis- 
cretion, and the absolute safety of even the closest 
and most confidential relations with the little man. 
He was no avantour ; secrets were safe. So re- 
splendent a genius united with a moral character 
so lofty was a rather unusual combination in the 
social conditions of eighteenth-century life ; and 
it drew the hearts of idolatrous women with irre- 
sistible power. They felt, too, that in Pamela and 
Clarissa he had glorified women, and had given 
a final and immortal answer to the gibes on female 
virtue and constancy, which were the staple of 
satirical literature and polite conversation. And 
yet Richardson accepted the worship of the fair 
without disguising his opinion that men were the 
lords of creation. A strong-minded woman, or 

25 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

what we call to-day, a "new" woman, Richardson 
would not have admitted to the circle of his 
"Daughters." Lady Bradshaigh, in her charming 
correspondence with him, said she disliked learned 
women. "I hate to hear Latin out of a woman's 
mouth. There is something in it to me, mascu- 
line." In a half-bantering way, Richardson gently 
rebuked her for this utterance, but it is evident 
that he thought the chief duty of a married woman 
was to please her husband, and attend to domestic 
affairs. Furthermore, he shocked his fair corre- 
spondent, as he does his admirers to-day, by theo- 
retically advocating polygamy. He declared that 
he would not openly support it as an institution, 
or practise it, because the laws of England forbade 
it, but in theory he argued with considerable 
warmth, that it was never forbidden by God, and 
that it was a natural and proper condition of 
life. "I do say," he writes to Lady Bradshaigh, 
"that the law of nature, and the first command 
(increase and multiply) , more than allow of it ; 
and the law of God nowhere forbids it." He 
continued to press similar arguments upon his 
horrified friend, who finally tried to close the con- 
troversy by writing to him, "I remember how 
you terrified poor Pamela with Mr. B.'s argument 
for polygamy. The dense take these polygamy 
notions ! " 

26 



RICHARDSON 

Richardson's shyness in company, previously 
spoken of, caused him, as well as his associates, 
many unhappy hours, and upon casual acquaint- 
ances produced a false impression of his character. 
No one knew this better than he, as is shown in 
a letter to Miss Mulso, dated 15 August 1755. 
" Never was there so bashful, so sheepish a creature 
as was, till advanced years, your paternal friend ; 
and what remained so long in the habit could hardly 
fail of showing itself in stiffness and shyness, on 
particular occasions, where frankness of heart 
would otherwise have shown forth to the advantage 
of general character." That Richardson was by 
nature both frank and sincere is fully shown in the 
long list of his letters. 

The constitutional seriousness of his mind was 
deepened by the frequent deaths in his family, 
and his health, never robust, and undermined by 
hard work, was sadly shaken by these misfortunes. 
He writes : 

"Thus have I lost six sons (all my sons) and two 
daughters, every one of which, to answer your 
question, I parted with with the utmost regret. 
Other heavy deprivations of friends, very near, 
and very dear, have I also suffered. I am very 
susceptible, I will venture to say, of impressions 
of this nature. A father, an honest, a worthy 
father, I lost by the accident of a broken thigh, 

27 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

snapped by a sudden jirk, endeavouring to recover 
a slip passing through his own yard. My father, 
whom I attended in every stage of his last illness, 
I long mourned for. Two brothers, very dear to 
me, I lost abroad. A friend, more valuable than 
most brothers, was taken from me. No less than 
eleven affecting deaths in two years ! My nerves 
were so affected with these repeated blows, that I 
have been forced, after trying the whole materia 
medica, and consulting many physicians, as the 
only palliative (not a remedy to be expected), to 
go into a regimen ; and, for seven years past have 
I forborne wine and flesh and fish ; and, at this 
time, I and all my family are in mourning for a 
good sister, with whom neither would I have 
parted, could I have had my choice. From these 
affecting dispensations, will you not allow me. 
Madam, to remind an unthinking world, immersed 
in pleasures, what a life this is that they are so 
fond of, and to arm them against the affecting 
changes of it?" 

It is certainly natural that a man, over whose 
family circle the King of Terrors so frequently 
presided, should have been both grave and didactic 
in temper ; and if careless readers criticise him for 
lacking the ease and gaiety of Fielding's disposition, 
it is well to remember the grim facts in the print- 
er's career. Nor can we withhold admiration for 

28 



RICHARDSON 

Richardson's constancy, self-control, and evenness 
of disposition, under misfortunes so crushing that 
many another man would have been changed into 
a misanthrope. His courage was neither showy 
nor spasmodic ; it was the highest courage human- 
ity can exhibit ; for the heaviest blows of circum- 
stance found and left him upright, composed, and 
calm. He faced the future, "breast and back as 
either should be." He feared only two realities: 
God, whom he adored, and Sin, which he hated. 

One of the noblest traits in his character was 
Generosity. As a master, he did not forget that 
he had been an apprentice ; he was encouraging 
and kind-hearted, and often gave financial assist- 
ance to the hands he employed. All sorts and con- 
ditions of men constantly wrote begging letters 
to him, and the number who were unostentatiously 
aided by him was remarkable. The poetaster, 
Aaron Hill, repeatedly shared his bounty; he 
never seemed to grow weary of this particular well- 
doing. The famous adventuress, Laetitia Pilking- 
ton, whose correspondence with Colley Gibber 
forms some of the most amusing portions of Mrs. 
Barbauld's volumes, was materially helped by 
Richardson. Here is an example of one of her 
letters to him: "I believe it will not greatly sur- 
prise you to hear that I am quite broke ; indeed, 
it was what I might naturally expect, having under- 

29 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

taken trade without any fund to carry it on ; and 
whether I had business or not, quarter-day came." 
The relations between this clever and corrupt 
woman and the pious, respectable printer make 
delightful reading. Each perfectly understood 
the other. In entreating Richardson to spare 
Clarissa from violation, she writes, "Consider, if 
this wounds both Mr. Cibber and me (who neither 
of us set up for immaculate chastity), what must 
it do with those who possess that inestimable 
treasure?" 

At every hour, in every season, the door of 
Richardson's house was open to all, either to 
entertain his friends or to relieve the needy. His 
hospitality knew no bounds, and we cannot be 
sure that his wife, on whom the burdens of house- 
hold management fell, always approved of his 
indiscriminate invitations. The worthy Thomas 
Edwards spent his last days in Richardson's house, 
and his dying hours were cheered by his friend's 
loving care. Innumerable women frequented the 
place, and wrote rapturous epistles of its delecta- 
ble atmosphere. A neighbour's house suffered by 
fire; Richardson immediately suggested that he 
move into his own first floor, and stay as long as 
he wished ; once hearing of a repentant Magdalen, 
he wrote: "Let her come to us; she shall do just 
what she can, and stay till she is otherwise provided 

30 



RICHARDSON 

for." This astonishing hospitality, always cour- 
teously and tactfully proffered, attracted wide 
attention. "I think I see you," a friend writes, 
"sitting at your door like an old patriarch, and 
inviting all who pass by to come in." A clear 
view of the domestic circle may be obtained by 
reading a letter written by a foreign visitor, Mr. 
Reich of Leipsic. 

"I arrived at London the eighth of August, and 
had not much difficulty in finding Mr. Richardson 
in this great city. He gave me a reception worthy 
of the author of Pamela, Clarissa, and Grandison ; 
that is, with the same heart which appears through- 
out his works. . . . Sunday following, I was 
with him at his country house, where his family 
was, with some ladies, acquaintances of his four 
daughters, who, with his lady, compose his family. 
It was there that I saw beauties without affection ; 
wit without vanity ; and thought myself trans- 
ported to an enchanted land. . . . 

"Everything I saw, everything I tasted, recalled 
to me the idea of the golden age. Here are to be 
seen no counterfeits, such as are the offsprings of 
vanity, and the delight of fools. A noble simplicity 
reigns throughout, and elevates the soul. . . . 
In the middle of the garden, over against the house, 
we came to a kind of grotto, where we rested 
ourselves. It was in this seat . . . that Pamela, 

31 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Clarissa, and Grandison received their birth; 
I kissed the ink-horn on the side of it. . . , Mr. 
Richardson observed to me, that the ladies in 
company were all his adopted daughters. ... It 
was necessary, at last, to quit that divine man. . . . 
He embraced me, and a mutual tenderness de- 
prived us of speech. He accompanied me with 
his eyes as far as he could : I shed tears." 

More intimate friends noticed at times a certain 
amount of irritability in Richardson's manners, 
but this was largely excusable on account of his 
constant ill-health. He suffered keenly from cruel 
nervous disorders, so that often he could not raise 
a glass to his lips, nor hold a pen, nor endure an- 
noyances with his customary cheerfulness. A man 
compelled to live on a rigid diet, omitting every- 
thing liquid and solid that the stomach craves, 
can easily be forgiven occasional petulance and a 
lack of boisterous joviality. His vanity is by no 
means pleasant to contemplate, and it is harder to 
forget ; but a man living in perpetual flattery will 
sooner or later come to agree with his worshippers. 
Furthermore, Richardson had, by his own efforts, 
reached fame and fortune from an obscure origin ; 
and when his praises resounded through all England 
and Europe, he would have been more than mortal 
if he had refrained from regarding his edifying 
career with considerable complacency. He was 

32 



RICHARDSON 

so admirable an illustration of his own maxims, 
that he could not help seeing it himself. 

All his biographers and critics have condemned 
his hostility to Fielding and Sterne, but although, 
in the case of the former, jealousy and pride fanned 
the flames of hatred, he inevitably would have 
despised both men had he never written a line. 
Sterne simply disgusted him ; and the natures 
of Fielding and Richardson were as wide asunder 
as the poles. Each had a thorough and wholly 
natural contempt for the other. The righteous 
indignation that Richardson felt toward the 
author of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones totally 
blinded him to the man's splendid genius ; and 
when we reflect that Fielding's books represented 
to Richardson exactly the vicious influence that 
he had spent his whole power and pains to fight, 
and that the success of Joseph Andrews was gained 
at his expense, we cease to wonder that the virtu- 
ous printer failed to see the bright side of his 
brilliant contemporary. Let him who has always 
rejoiced at a rival's success cast the first stone at 
Richardson. It was gall and wormwood to the 
good man to find even his friends admiring Field- 
ing. "The girls are certainly fond of Tom Jones,''^ 
cheerfully writes Lady Bradshaigh, and she was 
grieved that she could not persuade Richardson 
to read the book. He contented himself with 
D i3 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the epigram, "The virtues of Tom Jones are the 
vices of good men," which was well said, but only 
half true. What we must condemn is the fact 
that Richardson spoke with brutal harshness of 
his enemy to Fielding's own sister ; outraged 
vanity, jealousy, and zeal for moraHty, getting 
the better for once of his natural courtesy. She 
seems indeed to have accepted this opinion as 
final, and she probably devoutly wished that her 
talented brother had written a Pamela instead of a 
parody ; for she never wavered in her devotion to 
the printer. Some things are apparently thicker 
than blood. We smile at Richardson's calmly 
assigning Fielding's works to obhvion, and speak- 
ing of their popularity as only ephemeral ; but he 
forced himself to beHeve that such was the truth. 

In summing up his character, we find in his 
favour. Prudence, Honesty, Chastity, Generosity, 
Hospitality, Courage, and many of the fruits of 
the Spirit; against him we find Vanity, Jealousy, 
Formality, and occasional Irritability. This bal- 
ance sheet exhibits as creditable a moral showing, 
as did his accounts at Salisbury Court from the 
financial point of view. Let us take another look 
at his household, with the eyes of a frequent 
feminine visitor : 

"My first recollection of him is in his house in 
the centre of Salisbury-square, or Salisbury-court, 

34 



RICHARDSON 

as it was then called ; and of being admitted, as a 
playful child, into his study, where I have often 
seen Dr. Young, and others ; and where I was 
generally caressed, and rewarded with biscuits or 
bonbons of some kind or other, and sometimes 
with books, for which he, and some more of my 
friends, kindly encouraged a taste, even at that 
early age, which has adhered to me all my life 
long, and continues to be the solace of many a 
painful hour. . . . 

" The piety, order, decorum, and strict regularity, 
that prevailed in his family, were of infinite use to 
train the mind to good habits, and to depend upon 
its own resources. It has been one of the means, 
which, under the blessing of God, has enabled me 
to dispense with the enjoyment of what the world 
calls pleasures, such as are found in crowds ; and 
actually to relish and prefer the calm delights of 
retirement and books. As soon as Mrs. Richard- 
son arose, the beautiful Psalms in Smith's Devo- 
tions were read responsively in the nursery, by 
herself, and daughters, standing in a circle : only 
the two eldest were allowed to breakfast with her, 
and whatever company happened to be in the 
house, for they were seldom without. After 
breakfast the younger ones read to her in turns 
the Psalms, and lessons for the day. . . . These 
are childish and trifling anecdotes, and savour, 

35 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

perhaps you may think, too much of egotism. 
They certainly can be of no further use to you, 
than as they mark the extreme benevolence, con- 
descension, and kindness, of this exalted genius, 
toward young people ; for, in general society, I 
know that he has been accused of being of few 
words, and of a particularly reserved turn. He 
was, however, all his life-time, the patron and 
protector of the female sex. . . . Most of the 
ladies that resided much at his house acquired 
a certain degree of fastidiousness and delicate re- 
finement, which, though amiable in itself, rather dis- 
qualified them from appearing in general society, 
to the advantage that might have been expected, 
and rendered an intercourse with the world un- 
easy to themselves, giving a peculiar shiness and 
reserve to their whole address, of which habits 
his own daughters partook, in a degree that has 
been thought by some, a little to obscure those 
really valuable quaHfications and talents they 
undoubtedly possessed. Yet, this was supposed 
to be owing more to Mrs. Richardson than to 
him ; who, though a traiy good woman, had high 
and Harlowean. notions of parental authority, and 
kept the ladies in such order, and at such a dis- 
tance, that he often lamented, as I have been 
told by my mother, that they were not more 
open and conversable with him. . . . His benev- 

36 



RICHARDSON 

olence was unbounded, as his manner of diffus- 
ing it was delicate and refined." 

Surely no one can deny to Richardson the 
highest of all titles — a good man. 

If a man be known by the company he keeps, 
our knowledge of Richardson by this test would 
be too general to have any value, for he kept all 
kinds. It is often said, especially by those who 
have never read his books, that Richardson was 
a narrow-minded man, as if any great novelist 
who makes a universal appeal to human nature 
could possibly be narrow ! The real width of 
his sympathies is shown by the kaleidoscopic 
variety of character displayed by the guests at 
North End. From the pious author of Night 
Thoughts, to the irrepressible Weltkind Colley 
Gibber — these limits exhibit the generous size 
of Richardson's mantle of charity. Fielding he 
had every reason to hate ; and doubtless he hated 
him ; yet more in sorrow than in anger. It is 
sometimes remarked, that Richardson's attitude 
toward Fielding was hypocritical, for while affect- 
ing to despise Fielding's character, he allowed 
Gibber to enter within his gates. It should be 
remembered that he regarded the books of Field- 
ing as dangerously immoral in their influence ; 
while Gibber, though an unblushing sinner him- 

37 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

self, had laboured long, with powerful effect, 
toward the moral elevation of the stage. 

As it was the ungovernable passion for pen, ink, 
and paper that has preserved to us the thoughts 
of Pamela and Clarissa, so the story of Richard- 
son's friendships is simply the story of his corre- 
spondence. In letter-writing he practised what 
he preached, and as he himself remarked, he 
wrote so much, he scarcely had any time to read. 
One of his early correspondents was Aaron Hill, a 
well-known figure in the dynasty of Pope, who 
hated the reigning sovereign as only an unsuccess- 
ful man can hate the popular idol. He tried to 
persuade himself and others, that Posterity, the 
friend of all unrecognised Uterary merit, would 
judge aright between the author of the Dunciad 
and his victim ; and that to the men of the twen- 
tieth century. Pope would be a forgotten name, 
while the works of Aaron Hill would embellish 
every anthology. Meanwhile, this neglected genius 
had to live, as Posterity's name at the foot of a 
check has no commercial value ; and Richardson's 
cash must have been even more welcome to the 
struggling poet than his sympathy, and Richard- 
son was ever free with both. The printer even 
forgave Hill's surprising attempt to rewrite Clarissa 
more briefly, an undertaking which Hill jauntily 
began, and speedily abandoned, for, as Mrs. Bar- 

38 



RICHARDSON 

bauld sagely observes, "He soon found that he 
should take a great deal of pains only to spoil it, 
and the author found it still sooner than he did." 
The pangs of hterary failure in Hill's case were 
edged by his loss of health, and the final exit from 
the planet of this colossal bore was pathetic in 
the extreme. It is pleasant to remember that 
Richardson, who had nothing to gain from Hill's 
friendship, and much to lose, should have stood 
by him as faithfully as though the poor fellow 
were really all he claimed to be. 

There was another struggling genius in London 
in those days who had all of Hill's energy, all of 
Hill's misfortunes of early neglect and bad health, 
but who finally forced from the age the recogni- 
tion he was bound to have, and whom Posterity has 
treated with constantly increasing favour. This 
was Samuel Johnson. When Richardson first met 
him, the future Doctor, Dictionary-maker, and heir 
to Pope's throne was more obscure than Hill, cursed 
by ill-health, and often too poor to secure a night's 
lodging except in jail. As Miss Thomson says, * ' The 
days of his fame were still to come, and Richardson's 
attitude toward him at first was that of a generous 
and successful man of letters to a younger aspirant 
for literary fame." Johnson's Rambler appeared in 
March 1750, and was by no means wildly popular. 
Richardson, however, greeted it with warm ap- 

39 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

probation, and Number 97, the issue for Tuesday, 
19 February 1751, appeared with the following 
introduction by Johnson : 

"The Reader is indebted for this Day's Enter- 
tainment, to an author from whom the Age has 
received greater Favours, who has enlarged the 
Knowledge of human Nature, and taught the 
Passions to move at the Command of Virtue." 

Richardson's soUtary contribution to the Rambler 
greatly extended its circulation for that one day. 
In 1756, Richardson gave even more tangible 
proof of his friendship by assisting financially 
the debt-embarrassed hero, or as Mrs. Barbauld 
remarks, "He had the honour to bail Dr. Johnson." 
In return for the six guineas advanced by the 
author of Clarissa to the author of the Dictionary, 
the following letter was written : 

"Dear Sir, 

I return you my sincerest thanks for the favour which 
you were pleased to do me two nights ago. 

Be pleased to accept of this little book, which is all that 
I have published this winter. The inflammation is come 
again into my eye, so that I can write very Uttle. 
I am 
Sir, 
Your most obliged 
and 
mpst humble Servant 
Sam Johnson 
Tuesday." 
40 



RICHARDSON 

Johnson brought Mrs. Williams, one of his house- 
hold menagerie, to call on Richardson at North 
End, and Miss Mulso wrote pleasantly of John- 
son's kindness to the poor creature. That a man 
of Johnson's sturdy sincerity and robust virility 
so highly admired and respected Richardson, is 
additional proof of the solid qualities in the char- 
acter of the novelist. 

The poet Young was for many years an intimate 
friend of Richardson, as we see by their corre- 
spondence, which began about 1750. Young's 
letters are as solemn as his verses, and are largely 
taken up with predicting his own speedy death, 
which, however, Richardson awaited in vain, as 
the aged poet survived him. Death seemed un- 
wilUng to take from the world a man who so viv- 
idly portrayed his terrors. Young's remarks on 
Richardson's novels, particularly Clarissa, form 
the most interesting and valuable part of the 
correspondence. 

It is small matter for wonder that Richardson 
tolerated the company of Colley Cibber, for no 
one can read the delightful autobiography of the 
latter without feeling the charm of the author's 
personaHty. Even his egregious vanity is irre- 
sistibly attractive, and his wonderful flow of 
spirits and vivacious cheerfulness must have 
made him a welcome visitor at many firesides. 

41 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Cibber went wild with excitement over the stories 
of Richardson, and such enthusiastic appreciation 
from the Laureate undoubtedly affected the vanity 
of the noveh'st. No reader of Stevenson's great 
essay, jEs Triplex, can possibly withhold his 
admiration from Colley Cibber, who, in his eigh- 
tieth year, laughed heartily at his success in baf- 
fling the approaches of Death. The unabashed 
old profligate celebrated the Christmas Day of 
his eightieth year by writing the following letter 
to the apostle of domestic virtue : 

"Sir, 

Though Death has been cooling his heels at my door 
these three weeks, I have not had time to see him. The 
daily conversation of my friends has kept me so agreeably 
alive, that I have not passed my time better a great while. 
If you have a mind to make one of us, I will order Death to 
come another day. To be serious, I long to see you, and 
hope you wiU take the first opportunity : and so with as 
merry a Christmas, as merry a new year, as your heart can 
hope for, I am, 

Your real Friend and Servant, 

C. Cibber." 

Who would have thought the old man to have 
had so much blood in him ? He lasted seven 
years longer, and was apparently in excellent 
health three hours before his death, which came 
finally without a warning ; as though weary of 
trying to frighten his victim by faces. Death had 
at last suddenly seized him from behind. 

42 



RICHARDSON 

Quite the opposite in temperament was the 
solemn sonneteer Thomas Edwards, the author 
of Canons of Criticism. His letters contain many 
interesting literary allusions, especially to the 
poems of Spenser, which he warmly admired. He 
was one of the early apostles of Spenser in the 
beginnings of the romantic movement in England, 
and is interesting also in connection with the 
revival of the Sonnet as a literary form. Since 
1660 practically no English sonnets were written 
until the fifth decade of the next century. Ed- 
wards, however, from 1748 to 1754, made the 
sonnet his chief form of poetical expression, and 
thus unconsciously earned for himself a much 
more important place in English literary history 
than he obtained by his learned Canons. He 
was a sad and lonely man, devout and deeply 
religious, and his friendship with the novelist was 
perhaps the brightest part of his life. He died, as 
has been mentioned, at Richardson's house. 

But while the novelist was admired and respected 
by many men of the day, his adorers were chiefly 
among women, and to them he naturally unlocked 
his heart. The letters to his feminine admirers 
show all sides of the novelist's character, and the 
reasons for his close intimacy with so many in- 
telligent women. The letters to and from Sara 
Fielding are particularly interesting; she was 

43 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

often entertained at his house, and, as has been 
seen, bore with meekness Richardson's wholesale 
condemnation of her brother. 

The most brilliant and clever woman whom 
Richardson knew was Lady Bradshaigh, and 
the frankness with which the two friends argued 
on all kinds of vital themes makes interesting 
reading. This correspondence began in a way 
that is rather remarkable. After perusing the 
first four volumes of Clarissa, this lady was horri- 
fied at the rumour that the story was to end tragi- 
cally ; she therefore, labouring under great excite- 
ment, wrote to Richardson under the assumed 
name of Belfour, beseeching him to spare his 
heroine and to answer her letter by printing a 
few lines in the Whitehall Evening Post. This 
being done, a correspondence began, which con- 
tinued for years ; but it was a long time before 
Richardson met his fair critic, or knew her real 
name. It was to her that Richardson wrote the 
famous pen-portrait of himself, that she might 
be able to recognise him while walking in the 
Park. With true feminine waywardness, she 
made the great man trace and retrace many steps 
before she granted him the pleasure of an inter- 
view ; and he finally obtained a clew to her name 
only by accident. They did not meet in mutual 
recognition until March 1750. 

44 



RICHARDSON 

Their intimacy had much of the excitement of 
an intrigue, without any of its guilt ; for though 
she treated the respectable printer with charming 
coquetry, she loved her husband dearly, and her 
spirited description of her home life and duties 
shows her to have been a womanly woman and a 
model wife. Her shrewd insight into Richard- 
son's peculiar characteristics is repeatedly evi- 
dent ; she knew he did not like to hear certain 
authors praised, even when he stoutly affirmed 
that he did. The long discussions the two friends 
had about subjects so abstract as polygamy, 
and so concrete as rakes, are well worth reading ; 
and her remark that rakes are often more popular 
than good men, not because of their wickedness, 
but because of their superior appearance in society, 
has more truth than unpopular good men will 
sometimes allow. 

When she first wrote to the novelist, she was 
about forty years old, and later she described her 
personal appearance as follows, in order that he 
might recognise the original should he happen to 
meet her on the street. "Middle-aged, middle- 
sized, a degree above plump, brown as an oak 
wainscot, a good deal of country red in her cheeks, 
altogether a plain woman, but nothing remarkably 
forbidding," a description that if we may judge by 
her portrait, rather underestimates her charms. 

45 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

The most beautiful letters that Richardson ever 
received came from a woman whom he never saw. 
This was Mts. Klopstock, the young wife of the 
famous German author of the Messiah. In the 
most naive and intimate language, its charm 
heightened by her imperfect English, this child 
of God told Richardson the whole story of her 
love for Klopstock, and the overwhelming happi- 
ness of her married life : 

"After having seen him two hours, I was obliged 
to pass the evening in company, which never had 
been so wearisome to me. I could not speak, I 
could not play, I thought I saw nothing but Klop- 
stock. I saw him the next day and the follow- 
ing, and we were very seriously friends. But the 
fourth day he departed. It was a strong hour, 
the hour of his departure ! He wrote soon after, 
and from that time on, our correspondence began 
to be a very diligent one. I sincerely believed 
my love to be friendship. I spoke with my friends 
of nothing but Klopstock, and showed his letters. 
They raillied at me, and said I was in love. I 
raillied them again and said that they must have 
a very friendshipless heart, if they had no idea of 
friendship to a man as well as to a woman. Thus 
it continued eight months, in which time my friends 
found as much love in Klopstock's letters as in 
me. I perceived it likewise, but I would not 

46 



RICHARDSON 

believe. At the last, Klopstock said plainly, that 
he loved ; and I startled as for a wrong thing. I 
answered, that it was no love, but friendship, as 
it was what I felt for him ; we had not seen one 
another enough to love (as if love must have 
more time than friendship !) . This was sincerely 
my meaning, and I had this meaning till Klop- 
stock came again to Hamburg. This he did a 
year after we had seen one another the first time. 
We saw, we were friends, we loved ; and we be- 
lieved that we loved ; and a short time after I 
could even tell Klopstock that I loved. [In two 
years they were married.] I am the happiest 
wife in the world. In some few months it will be 
four years that I am so happy, and still I dote 
upon Klopstock as if he was my bridegroom. 

" If you knew my husband, you would not 
wonder. . . . But I dare not to speak of my 
husband ; I am all raptures when I do it !" 

And in view of the tragic outcome of her hopes, 
can we find anywhere in the annals of domestic 
life a letter that makes so irresistible, because so 
unconscious, an appeal to our hearts ? 

" Have you not guessed that I, summing up 
all my happinesses, and not speaking of children, 
had none ? Yes, Sir, this has been my only wish 
ungratified for these four years. I have been 
more than once unhappy with disappointments, 

47 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

but yet, thanks, thanks to God ! I am in full 
hope to be mother in the month of November. 
The little preparations for my child and child-bed 
(and they are so dear to me !) have taken so much 
time, that I could not answer your letter. . . . 
My husband has been obliged to make a Uttle 
voyage alone to Copenhagen. He is yet absent 
— a cloud over my happiness ! He will soon 
return. . . . But what does that help? He is 
yet equally absent ! We write to each other every 
post. . . . But what are letters to presence ? — 
But I will speak no more of this little cloud ; I 
will only tell my happiness ! But I cannot tell 
how I rejoice ! A son of my dear Klopstock ! 
Oh, when shall I have him ! — It is long since 
that I have made the remark, that geniuses do 
not engender geniuses. No children at all, bad 
sons, or, at the most, lovely daughters, like you 
and Milton. But a daughter or a son, only with 
a good heart, without genius, I will nevertheless 
love dearly. . . . When I have my husband and 
my child, I will write you more (if God gives me 
health and life). You will think that I shall be 
not a mother only, but nurse also; though the 
latter (thank God ! that the former is not so too) 
is quite against fashion and good-breeding, and 
though nobody can think it possible to be always 
with the child at home !" 

48 



RICHARDSON 

The next letter Richardson received was by 
another hand, and began, "As perhaps you do 
not yet know that one of your fair correspondents, 
Mrs. Klopstock, died in a very dreadful manner 
in child-bed, I think myself obliged to acquaint 
you with this most melancholy accident." 

As we read the artless English of this young 

wife, the interval of one hundred and fifty years 

is nothing, and we stand by her grave as though 

it were freshly made. 

"Everywhere 
I see in the world the intellect of man, 
That sword, the energy his subtle spear, 
The knowledge which defends him like a shield — 
Everywhere ; but they make not up, I think, 
The marvel of a soul like thine, earth's flower 
She holds up to the softened gaze of God !" 

Maturity in years and experience seems to be 
as necessary to the successful novelist as it is 
superfluous to the poet. Defoe was fifty-eight 
when he wrote Robinson Crusoe, and it was his 
first important novel. Richardson had passed 
the half-century mark, not only with no prospect 
of a literary reputation, but without having made 
an attempt to secure one. He had spent his life 
printing the thoughts and language of other minds. 
In his fifty-first year, he turned for a moment 
his attention from the outside of literature to the 
inside. In 1739, the publishers Rivington and 
E 49 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Osborne requested him to compose a book of 
familiar letters. It was to be a kind of manual of 
epistolary etiquette, showing the proper forms 
for all circumstances and emergencies, seasoned 
with Richardson's inevitable homiletics. Could 
a respectable man possibly begin his Hterary 
career more humbly? Miss Thomson describes 
this little book, as it finally appeared, as follows : 
"The title-page sets forth its advantage in 'direct- 
ing not only the requisite style and forms to be 
observed in writing familiar letters, but how to think 
and act justly and prudently in the common con- 
cerns of human life.' This purpose is further 
emphasised in the preface, which tells us that the 
author has endeavoured to point out the duties 
of masters, servants, fathers, children, and young 
men entering the world. But especially — and 
this is characteristic of the future novelist — he 
has given much attention to the subject of court- 
ship. . . . Love is his predominant theme, but 
he treats it always as a passion to be sternly con- 
trolled and kept within bounds." This book, 
interrupted by the composition of Pamela, he 
completed later, and it was published anony- 
mously : not till after his death, if an Irish bull 
may be permitted, did Richardson allow his name 
to formally sanction it. That it fully accomplished 
its purpose is evident from its great popularity 

50 



RICHARDSON 

below stairs ; it was hungrily read by house-maids 
and footmen, and according to Mrs. Barbauld, 
it "not infrequently detained the eyes of the 
mistress." 

To-day, however, it is a forgotten work, and 
instead of being read by the class of people for 
whom it was designed, it is known only to students 
of fiction, and interests them only because it was 
the stalking-horse to Pamela. For it was while 
writing this useful but unpretentious book that a 
fortunate idea occurred to the author. Doubt- 
less surprised at his own readiness in invention, 
and facility in composition, Richardson conceived 
the plan of creating, with materials all ready at 
hand, an original work of art. "In the progress 
of it, writing two or three letters to instruct hand- 
some girls, who were obliged to go out to service, 
as we phrase it, how to avoid the snares that 
might be laid against their virtue ; the above 
story [see below] recurred to my thoughts : And 
hence sprung Pamela." 

As Richardson has given with such obliging 
fulness of detail the source and manner of com- 
position of his first novel, we cannot do better 
than transcribe his own words in full, from a letter 
to Aaron Hill. 

"I will now write to you your question — ■ 
Whether there was any original groundwork of 

51 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

fact, for the general foundation of Pamela's 
story. 

"About twenty-five years ago, a gentleman, 
with whom I was intimately acquainted (but 
who, alas ! is now no more !) met with such a 
story as that of Pamela, in one of the summer 
tours which he used to take ... he asked who 
was the owner of a fine house, . . . which he had 
passed by. ... It was a fine house, the land- 
lord said. The owner was Mr. B., a gentleman 
of large estate in more counties than one. That 
his and his lady's history engaged the attention 
of everyone who came that way, and put a stop 
to all other enquiries, though the house and gar- 
dens were well worth seeing, the lady, he said, 
was one of the greatest beauties in England; but 
the qualities of her mind had no equal : beneficent, 
prudent, and equally beloved and admired by 
high and low. That she had been taken at twelve 
years of age, for the sweetness of her manners and 
modesty, and for an understanding above her 
years, by Mr. B.'s mother, a truly worthy lady, 
to wait on her person. Her parents, ruined by 
suretiships, were remarkably honest and pious, 
and had instilled into their daughter's mind, the 
best principles. When their misfortunes hap- 
pened first, they attempted a little school, in their 
village, where they were much beloved, he teach- 

52 



RICHARDSON 

ing writing and the first rules of arithmetic to 
boys ; his wife, plain needle-work to girls, and 
to knit and spin ; but that it answered not : and, 
when the lady took their child, the industrious 
man earned his bread by day labour, and the 
lowest kind of husbandry. 

"That the girl, improving daily in beauty, 
modesty, and genteel and good behaviour, by the 
time she was fifteen, engaged the attention of 
her lady's son, a young gentleman of free prin- 
ciples, who, on her lady's death, attempted, by 
all manner of temptations and devices to seduce 
her. That she had recourse to as many innocent 
stratagems to escape the snares laid for her virtue ; 
once, however, in despair, having been near drown- 
ing; that, at last, her noble resistance, watchful- 
ness, and excellent qualities, subdued him, and 
he thought fit to make her his wife. That she 
behaved herself with so much dignity, sweetness, 
and humility, that she made herself beloved of 
everybody, and even by his relations, who, at 
first, despised her, and now had the blessings both 
of rich and poor, and the love of her husband. 

"The gentleman who told me this, added, that 
he had the curiosity to stay in the neighbourhood 
from Friday to Sunday, that he might see this 
happy couple at church, from which they never 
absented themselves; that, in short, he did see 

S3 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

them ; that her deportment was all sweetness, 
ease, and dignity mingled ; that he never saw a 
lovelier woman : that her husband was as fine a 
man, and seemed even proud of his choice : and 
that she attracted the respects of the persons of 
rank present, and had the blessings of the poor. 
— The relater of the story told me all this with 
transport. 

"This, Sir, was the foundation of Pamela's 
story ; but little did I think to make a story of it 
for the press. That was owing to this occasion. 

"Mr. Rivington and Mr. Osborne, whose names 
are on the title-page, had long been urging me to 
give them a little book (which, they said, they 
were often asked after) of familiar letters on the 
useful concerns in common life ; and, at last, I 
yielded to their importunity, and began to recol- 
lect such subjects as I thought would be useful in 
such a design, and formed several letters accord- 
ingly. And, among the rest, I thought of giving 
one or two as cautions to young folks circum- 
stanced as Pamela was. Little did I think, at 
first, of making one, much less two volumes of 
it. But, when I began to recollect what had, so 
many years before, been told me by my friend, 
I thought the story, if written in an easy and 
natural manner, suitably to the simplicity of it, 
might possibly introduce a new species of writing, 

54 



RICHARDSON 

that might possibly turn young people into a 
course of reading different from the pomp and 
parade of romance-writing, and dismissing the 
improbable and marvellous, with which novels 
generally abound, might tend to promote the 
cause of religion and virtue. I therefore gave 
way to enlargement and so Pamela became as 
you see her. But so little did I hope for the ap- 
probation of judges, that I had not the courage 
to send the two volumes to your ladies, until I 
found the books were well received by the public. 
"While I was writing the two volumes, my 
worthy-hearted wife, and the young lady who is 
with us, when I had read them some part of the 
story, which I had begun without their knowing 
it, used to come into my little closet every night, 
with — ' Have you any more of Pamela, Mr. R. ? 
We are come to hear a little more of Pamela,' &c. 
This encouraged me to prosecute it, which I did 
so diligently, through all my other business, that, 
by a memorandum on my copy, I began it Nov. lo, 
1739, and finished it Jan. 10, 1739-40. ... If 
justly low were my thoughts of this little history, 
you will wonder how it came by such an assum- 
ing and very impudent preface. It was thus : — 
The approbation of these two female friends, who 
were so kind as to give me prefaces for it, but 
which were much too long and circumstantial, 

55 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

as I thought, made me resolve myself on writing a 
preface : I, therefore, spirited by the good opinion 
of these four, and knowing that the judgments of 
nine parts of ten readers were but in hanging- 
sleeves, struck a bold stroke in the preface you 
see, having the umbrage of the editor's character 
to screen myself behind — And thus, Sir, all is 
out." 

With no author's name on the title-page, and 
unheralded by the puffery of publishers, Pamela 
appeared, in two modest volumes, in November 
1740. The surprisingly short time in which it 
was written — two months — is a sufficient illus- 
tration of Richardson's speed in composition. 
His genius, kindled so late in life, blazed with all 
the brilliance of youth ; and the fact that in sixty 
days so extraordinary a work, wholly original in 
method, could be begun and completed, makes us 
wonder at the long, silent, unillumined years of 
patient mechanical industry, which preceded his 
first essay at literature. The success of the book 
was instantaneous. Society women were com- 
pelled to read it, as it was "the book everyone 
was talking of." It formed the chief staple of 
conversation at all the popular resorts. Old 
and young, grave and gay, united in a shout of 
universal applause. The Reverend Dr. Slocock, 
of the old church of St. Saviour's, Southwark, 

56 



RICHARDSON 

publicly indorsed it from his pulpit. This gave 
the final seal of approval to all who had hoped, 
but hardly dared, to discuss a work of fiction in 
public. Anxious mothers then allowed their 
daughters to read the new book. Pope got the 
better for once of his habitual jealousy, and spoke 
highly of Pamela's powerful moral influence. We 
may give an illustration of the keen joy with which 
the happy denouement was greeted. "At Slough, 
near Windsor, the inhabitants used to gather 
around the village forge while the blacksmith 
read the story aloud. As soon as he came to the 
place where the fate of the heroine is decided by a 
happy marriage, his hearers were so excited that 
they cheered for joy, ran for the church keys, and 
rang the bells to give expression to their gladness." 
In publishing the book, Richardson had as- 
sumed to be only the editor ; but his authorship 
became known almost immediately. He was 
overwhelmed with letters of congratulation and 
enquiry. One enthusiast remarked, "If all other 
books were to be burnt, this book, next to the 
Bible, ought to be preserved." Another deter- 
mined to bring up his son in the paths of virtue 
by giving him Pamela just as soon as he should 
be able to read, "a choice of books for a youth," 
comments Mrs. Barbauld, "which we, at present, 
[1804] should be very much surprised at." 

57 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Aaron Hill related the following incident. A 
lively little boy, lying unnoticed in a room while 
Pamela was being read aloud, and apparently 
asleep, — "on a sudden we heard a succession of 
heart-heaving sobs, which, while he strove to con- 
ceal from our notice, his little sides swelled as if 
they would burst, with the throbbing restraint 
of his sorrow. I turned his innocent face to look 
towards me, but his eyes were quite lost in his 
tears ; which, running down from his cheeks in 
free currents, had formed two sincere little foun- 
tains on that part of the carpet he hung over." 

Nor were these things revealed only to babes ; 
they were not hidden, like an older gospel, from 
the wise and prudent. All sorts of confidential 
letters of enquiry proceeding from serious-minded 
men and women, followed hard upon the thunders 
of applause. The burden of these epistles is the 
familiar cry at the end of a startling tale. Is it 
true? Was there ever a Pamela in real life, and 
did Mr. Richardson have the honour of her ac- 
quaintance? People immediately began to point 
out among their contemporaries the original of 
the portrait, until Richardson finally gave the 
real source of the story in the long letter to Hill, 
quoted above. 

That Richardson did not draw Pamela from 
any person of his acquaintance, we learn from a 

58 



RICHARDSON 

letter to Thomas Edwards, in 1753. "I am 
charmed, my dear Mr. Edwards, with your sweet 
story of a second Pamela. Had I drawn mine 
from the very life, I should have made a much 
more perfect piece of my first favourite — first, I 
mean, as to time." In view of this statement, it 
is rather singular that Richardson accused Field- 
ing of having little or no invention, because his 
characters were all drawn from life. 

Pamela speedily went into a second edition, and 
by 1771 ten editions of this separate work had 
appeared. It was translated into French and 
Dutch, and it was dramatised in both English and 
Italian. Imitations naturally followed. A book 
purporting to be a genuine continuation, called 
Pamela in High Life, surreptitiously appeared. 
This unfortunately drove Richardson to the com- 
position and publication of an authentic sequel, giv- 
ing, in two additional volumes, the social triumphs 
of Pamela, as the amiable consort of Mr. B. 
Though these volumes are now necessarily included 
in every complete edition of the novel, they are, 
as some one has remarked, well worth skipping. 
Overloaded with moral platitudes, the only episode 
that approaches human interest is Mr. B.'s temp- 
tation to renew his vicious habits. For once, and 
with just the opposite intention, Richardson made 
vice more attractive than virtue. 

59 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

But a greater sequel, and one that pleased 
Richardson even less than the spurious book 
above mentioned, was Fielding's Joseph Andrews^ 
which appeared in 1742. For stirring up this 
particular enemy, even the best friends of Rich- 
ardson to-day must be thankful. With the keen 
eye of the humorist, Fielding saw clearly the 
vulnerable points in Richardson's armour, and 
had Mr, B. really been alive, even his complacency 
would have been ruffled by Fielding's Mr. Booby. 

Even in 1741 there had been published a parody 
on Richardson's style in the following work, which 
Richardson thought had been written by Field- 
ing. "An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela 
Andrews, in which the many notorious falsehoods 
and misrepresentations of a book called 'Pamela' 
are exposed and refuted, and all the matchless 
arts of that young politician set in a true and just 
light." It ridiculed the pretended virtuous motives 
of Pamela, her epistolary style, and Richardson's 
egotistical preface. 

Pamela has many striking defects, both in artistic 
and moral values. The frankly told scenes of 
attempted outrage are narrated with ill-concealed 
gusto. It is an interesting comment on the age, 
that what was then regarded as an ideal " Sunday- 
school" book would never be allowed to-day to 
enter the precincts of a sacred edifice. The spec- 

60 



RICHARDSON 

tacle of a man attempting a girl's virtue by every 
subtlety that art and nature can suggest, and the 
keen-witted girl, harmless as a dove, but wise as 
a serpent, checkmating him by marriage, does not, 
to our notions, wholly make for righteousness. 
At heart, however, Richardson was an uncom- 
promising realist, and his genius for detail did not 
allow him to omit any episode that he considered 
vital to the story. 

In our democratic days, many readers are in- 
censed with Pamela's agreeing even to marry 
Mr. B., and her gushing gratitude for his con- 
descension grates harshly on ears that love to 
hear the scream of the eagle. We should remem- 
ber, that though Mr. B. before his marriage was 
unquestionably a black-hearted villain, and that 
Richardson represents him as such, the social 
gulf that separated him from his hand-maid was 
enormous ; to an eighteenth-century mind, prac- 
tically impassable. He was the head of the house, 
and she one of the many humble servants. The 
question looked at from the standpoint of the 
housemaid is not — Did Pamela act rightly in 
expressing gratitude to a would-be ravisher for 
marrying her ? The question is — Would an 
eighteenth-century Pamela really have felt and 
expressed gratitude under similar circumstances? 
To this second and only admissible question, we 

6i 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

must unhesitatingly give an affirmative answer, 
which destroys at once all adverse criticism on 
Pamela's final attitude. If Richardson has repre- 
sented her emotions true to life, we cannot blame 
him for making her real. 

Nor do I share a common opinion that it would 
have been impossible for Pamela to feel anything 
but disgust toward her pursuing villain. Mrs. 
Barbauld says: *'Is it quite natural that a girl, 
who had such a genuine love for virtue, should 
feel her heart attracted to a man who was en- 
deavouring to destroy that virtue? Does not 
pious love to assimilate with pious, and pure with 
pure?" To this serious question we may reply 
that if love were a matter of judgment instead 
of instinct, thousands of marriages would never 
happen at all, and many wives would hate their 
husbands. Pamela unquestionably ought to hate 
Mr. B. and after she perceived his intentions ought 
never to think tenderly of him again. She does 
try to hate him. Why does she not succeed? 
Because she loves him. There lies the whole 
truth of the matter, and if we ask further. Why 
should So-and-So love So-and-So, we get at once 
into insuperable difficulties. Miss Thomson says, 
"No woman will forgive her for . . . the passion 
supposed to be aroused in her by her unworthy 
lover." Perhaps not; women find it hard to 

62 



RICHARDSON 

forgive other women for many things. But the 
fact remains, that thousands of dead and living 
women, wholly virtuous in character and conduct, 
have loved evil-minded men, and the growth of 
Pamela's passion has been sketched by Richard- 
son with consummate art. Depend upon it, he 
knew what he was about; and he has shown to 
those who see with their eyes and not with their 
prejudices, that the only reason why Pamela in 
her heart of hearts did not hate Mr. B. was be- 
cause in her heart of hearts she loved him. 

My objection to the book is not directed against 
its fidelity to life, but at its final moral applica- 
tion. The secondary title. Virtue Rewarded, has 
a false ring. Pamela is praised for her skill and 
perseverance in preserving her virtue ; she is re- 
warded by finally disposing of her person in mar- 
riage at the highest possible figure. The moral 
seems to be, that if comely girls will hold their 
would-be seducers at arm's length for a sufficiently 
long time, they may succeed in marrying the men, 
and incidentally securing worldly fortune and 
social position. Such a moral standard is not 
any too high ; and in so far, the novel is defective. 
No such accusation can be brought against that 
wonderful masterpiece, Clarissa. 

Yet Pamela, with all its defects, is a great book. 
The heroine is absolutely real, both in the tragic 

63 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

and comic scenes. An extraordinary fascination 
accompanies this girl; she is as attractive to-day 
as she was one hundred and sixty years ago, sim- 
ply because she is an incarnation of the eternal 
feminine. Many may wonder why she loved 
Mr. B. No one has ever wondered why Mr. B. 
loved her. Her girlish beauty, her demure man- 
ner, her charming prattling — even her vanity 
and self-righteousness combine to make her irre- 
sistible. Her vivacity is the lovely vivacity of 
youth in radiant health, joined to the pleasing 
consciousness of possessing both internal virtue 
and external charms. 

Mr. B. is unfortunately not so convincing. He 
is as impeccable in appearance and about as in- 
teresting as a well-executed fashion-plate. Mrs. 
Jewkes is a monster rather than a woman, but, it 
must be admitted, an impressive monster. Her 
horrid exterior, rum-soaked soul, and filthy speech 
are as loathsome as they were meant to be : and 
the contrast between the graceful Pamela and 
this unspeakable dragon is as striking as that 
between the white Andromeda and the hideous 
snake of the sea. Mr. Williams is by no means 
so great a character as Parson Adams, but he is 
an addition to our acquaintance, and supplies 
exactly the touch of jealousy needed to bring 
Pamela's affairs to a crisis. Goodman Andrews, 

64 



RICHARDSON 

the girl's father, is admirable if only we remember 
that he lived in the eighteenth and not in the 
twentieth century. Once more we must not ask, 
Do we approve ? but. Is he true to life ? As for 
Lady Davers, her manners are surely not Christ- 
like, and they lack, it must be confessed, some- 
thing of the repose that we love to associate with 
good-breeding; and Richardson has been con- 
demned for making her so cruel and so coarse. 
But I am inclined to think that high society in 
that age knew her only too well, and that her 
coarseness of speech was not natural vulgarity, 
but sprang from the assurance of her social posi- 
tion. One is often taken for the other, when we 
read the annals of fashionable society in the days 
before the French Revolution. 

In making a final estimate of this extraordinary 
book, let us remember that it is really the first 
analytical novel in the language ; that its style, 
plan, and aim were wholly original ; that it is a 
study of a section of real life that had been neg- 
lected; that it produced a powerful effect on 
English literature, founding a whole school of 
fiction, and spurred a rival to activity; that with 
painstaking and delicate art, its author presented 
one great character to the world, whom no reader 
of the book can by any chance forget; that the 
novel has been read with enthusiasm by judicious 
F 6s 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

readers in three centuries, and that it is impossi- 
ble to imagine any age when it will not be read and 
admired. Such a book is a great book, and was 
written by a great man. 

The first two volumes of Richardson's master- 
piece appeared in the month of November 1747, 
under the unassuming title, Clarissa; or, the history 
of a young lady. Published by the editor of Pamela. 
All three of Richardson's literary children, Pamela, 
who went out to service, Clarissa, whose cruel des- 
tiny flooded Europe with tears, and Sir Charles 
Grandison, the glass of fashion and the mould of 
form, were born in November, and gave the people 
of London something to think about besides the 
fog. The author's method of publishing his works 
had much the same effect on the public as the mod- 
ern style of issuing an exciting romance in the pages 
of a monthly magazine, each number of which is 
eagerly awaited by thousands of interested readers ; 
it resembled also the custom of Dickens and Thack- 
eray, of sending out their long novels in separate 
parts, printed once a month, the publication of the 
entire story often covering two years. We remem- 
ber, in the charming play, Rosemary, the intense 
eagerness with which the hero has seized the latest 
number of Dickens, how he cannot wait for his 
comfortable and bright library, but must stumble 

66 



RICHARDSON 

along with a lantern reading the fresh new pages on 
the lonely road in the night, and stirring up strange 
echoes with his shouts of laughter. Although the 
emotions they inspired were not comic, but deeply 
tragic, it was with the same fever of expectancy 
that the third and fourth volumes of Clarissa were 
opened, as they issued from the press in April 1748. 
The fifth, sixth, and seventh volumes, concluding 
the work, did not appear until December, and thus 
for over a year Richardson kept his readers on the 
rack, only to crush their hopes at the end. The 
excitement aroused among all classes by their 
anxiety as to the ultimate fate of the heroine may 
be partially understood by reading the letters ad- 
dressed to the author. They flowed in thick and 
fast, coming from every quarter, but commonly 
bearing the same burden, beseeching Richardson, 
some with tears, and some with curses, to spare 
Clarissa, and close the book with the jingle of wed- 
ding bells. "O what shall I feel," wrote a fair cor- 
respondent, "when I read — 'This day is published 
a continuation of The History of Miss Clarissa 
Harlowe ! ' I am ashamed to say how much I shall 
be affected." A gentleman wrote that he had 
three daughters ; that all three were reading the 
novel ; that if Clarissa died, all three daughters 
would die too. But the grim httle man, inexorable 
as fate, never swerved from the course his artistic 

67 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

instincts had shown ; deaf to hysterical entreaties, 
blind to the tears of lovely women, and weeping 
himself over his heroine's fate, he slew her. Cla- 
rissa Harlowe was a glorious sacrifice on the altar of 
art. 

Lady Bradshaigh's inability to conceal her grief 
and terror, as the tragedy deepened, was the cause 
of the beginning of one of the closest friendships 
in Richardson's life. In October 1748, she wrote, 
" I am pressed, Sir, by a multitude of your admirers, 
to plead in behalf of your amiable Clarissa ; having 
too much reason, from hints given in your four vol- 
umes, from a certain advertisement, and from your 
forbearing to write, after promising all endeavours 
should be used toward satisfying the discontented ; 
from all these, I say, I have but too much reason 
to apprehend a fatal catastrophe. I have heard 
that some of your advisers, who delight in horror, 
(detestable wretches !) insisted upon rapes, ruin, 
and destruction ; others, who feel for the virtuous 
in distress, (blessings forever attend them !) pleaded 
for the contrary. Could you be deaf to these, and 
comply with those ? Is it possible, that he who has 
the art to please in softness, in the most natural, 
easy, humorous, and sensible manner, can resolve 
to give joy only to the ill-natured reader, and heave 
the compassionate breast with tears for irremediable 
woes ? . . . Therefore, Sir, after you have brought 

68 



RICHARDSON 

the divine Clarissa to the very brink of destruction, 
let me intreat (may I say, insist upon) a turn, that 
will make your almost despairing readers half mad 
with joy. ... If you think, by the hints given, 
that the event is too generally guessed at, and for 
that reason think it too late to alter your scheme, 
I boldly assert — not at all ; write a little excuse 
to the reader, ' that you had a design of concluding 
so and so, but was given to understand it would 
disappoint so many of your readers, that, upon ma- 
ture deliberation and advice of friends, you had 
resolved on the contrary.' ... If you disappoint 
me, attend to my curse : — May the hatred of all 
the young, beautiful, and virtuous, for ever be your 
portion ! and may your eyes never behold anything 
but age and deformity ! may you meet with ap- 
plause only from envious old maids, surly bachelors, 
and tyrannical parents ! may you be doomed to the 
company of such ! and, after death, may their 
ugly souls haunt you ! " 

She continued to write in this strain, using all 
her resources of argument, flattery, warning, and 
downright entreaty ; if he would only comply, she 
promised to read the entire work at least once in 
two years so long as she lived ; if he persisted, she 
would never open the concluding volumes. "I am 
as mad as the poor injured Clarissa," she writes, 
after Richardson had sent her the fifth volume ; 

69 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

"and am afraid I cannot help hating you, if you 
alter not your scheme." She tries to read the book, 
and fails. "I have been some time thinking your 
history over, and I find I cannot read it. . . . You 
would not wonder at my infiexibleness, if you knew 
the joy I had promised myself from a happy catas- 
trophe. I cannot see my amiable Clarissa die ; it 
will hurt my heart, and durably. I know your man- 
ner, and I know my weakness — I cannot bear it." 
Richardson replied to her supplications at great 
length, showing, both on artistic and moral grounds, 
the necessity for a tragic close. In the following 
words, we see that his ideal in this painful story 
resembled that of the authors of Antigone and King 
Lear. "Nor can I go thro' some of the scenes my- 
self without being sensibly touched. (Did I not 
say that I was another Pygmalion ?) But yet I 
had to shew, for example sake, a young lady strug- 
gling nobly with the greatest difl&culties, and tri- 
umphing from the best motives, in the course of dis- 
tresses, the tenth part of which would have sunk 
even manly hearts ; yet tenderly educated, born to 
affluence, naturally meek, altho', where an exertion 
of spirit was necessary, manifesting herself to be a 
true heroine." Seldom has there been heard a 
better statement of a great artist's conscientious 
purpose. 
It was not only the gentle hearts of women that 
70 



RICHARDSON 

were shaken by the approach of Clarissa's awful 
doom; while the women found relief in tears, the 
men swore wildly. Colley Gibber's astonishing 
complacency for once deserted him, his impression- 
able nature seized and held by Richardson's power- 
ful grasp. Lastitia Pilkington wrote : " I passed two 
hours this morning with Mr. Gibber, whom I found 
in such real anxiety for Glarissa, as none but so 
perfect a master of nature could have excited. I 
had related to him, not only the catastrophe of the 
story, but also your truly religious and moral reason 
for it ; and, when he heard what a dreadful lot hers 
was to be, he lost all patience, threw down the book, 
and vowed he would not read another line. To 
express or paint his passion would require such 
masterly hands as yours, or his own : he shuddered ; 
nay, the tears stood in his eyes: — 'What! (said 
he) shall I, who have loved and revered the virtuous, 
the beautiful Glarissa, from the same motives I 
loved Mr. Richardson, bear to stand a patient spec- 
tator of her ruin, her final destruction ? No ! — My 
heart suffers as strongly for her as if word was 
brought me that his house was on fire, and himself, 
and his wife, and Httle ones, Hkely to perish in the 
flame.' ... In this manner did the dear gentle- 
man, I think I may almost say, rave ; for I never 
saw passion higher wrought than his. When I told 
him she must die, he said, ' G — d d — n him, if she 

71 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

should ; and that he should no longer believe Provi- 
dence or eternal Wisdom, or Goodness governed the 
world, if merit, innocence, and beauty were to be 
so destroyed : nay, (added he) my mind is so hurt 
with the thought of her being violated, that were 
I to see her in Heaven, sitting on the knees of the 
blessed Virgin, and crowned with glory, her suffer- 
ings would still make me feel horror, horror dis- 
tilled.'" Gibber adopted a comically sincere 
manner of showing his interest. "I have gone every 
evening to Ranelagh, in order to find a face or mien 
resembling Miss Harlowe, but to no purpose : the 
charmer is inimitable ; I cannot find her equal." 

Nor, essentially British as this novel is in sub- 
stance and in treatment, were its passionate ad- 
mirers confined to the circle of English readers. 
Diderot's almost frantic excitement while reading 
it is well known ; the Rev. J. Stinstra, who trans- 
lated the work into Dutch, wrote, "Multitudes of 
people earnestly beg the printing of the remaining 
parts may be expedited. Among them, a certain 
minister of the Gospel, who, when he had finished 
the first volume, complained that it was flat and 
tiresome ; after he had, at my intreaty, read the 
volumes through, confessed, 'That he doubted not, 
but that if very many parts of these letters were 
to be found in the Bible, they would be pointed out 
as manifest proofs of divine inspiration.'" , . . 

72 



RICHARDSON 

Such was the manner in which Clarissa afifected 
the men and women of the eighteenth century ; 
what is its effect to-day? Do we read the rhap- 
sodies and entreaties of Richardson's correspondents 
with silent amazement, with smiHng contemptuous 
superiority, or possibly with some degree of intel- 
lectual sympathy? When, after receiving the 
Castle of Otranto, Gray wrote to Walpole, "It en- 
gages our attention here, makes some of us cry a 
little, and all in general afraid to go to bed o'nights," 
we read his words "smiling as in scorn," for we find 
it impossible to take the Castle of Otranto seriously. 
The books that bring tears to the eyes of the chil- 
dren of one generation make the eyes of their chil- 
dren's children glisten with irrepressible laughter, 
or perchance make them heavy with sleep. Does 
Richardson, too, belong to the army of the obsolete ? 
Must we rummage 

"Those old odd corners of an empty heart 
For remnants of dim love the long disused, 
And dusty crumblings of romance" 

to learn the secret of his power over our ancestors ? 
Or, is he, indeed, alive to-day as well as yesterday, 
with something of his former strength and charm ? 
To this last question we must return an emphatic 
affirmative. Trevelyan, in his Life of Macaulay, 
narrates the following incident, which shows that 
the freshness and force of Clarissa's story were 

73 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

proportionally as effective in the nineteenth as in 
the eighteenth century : 

"The ordinary amusements with which, in the 
more settled parts of India, our countrymen beguile 
the rainy season, were wanting in a settlement that 
had only lately been reclaimed from the desert; 
. , . There were no books in the place except those 
that Macaulay had brought with him ; among 
which, most luckily, was 'Clarissa Harlowe.' 
Aided by the rain outside, he soon talked his fa- 
vourite romance into general favour. The reader 
will consent to put up with one or two slight inac- 
curacies in order to have the story told by Thack- 
eray. 

''I spoke to him about 'Clarissa.' 'Not read 
" Clarissa! " ' he cried out. 'If you have once read 
" Clarissa," and are infected by it, you can't leave 
it. When I was in India I passed one hot season in 
the Hills ; and there were the governor-general, and 
the secretary of government, and the commander- 
in-chief, and their wives. I had "Clarissa "with me ; 
and as soon as they began to read, the whole station 
was in a passion of excitement about Miss Harlowe, 
and her misfortunes, and her scoundrelly Lovelace. 
The governor's wife seized the book ; the secretary 
waited for it ; the chief-justice could not read it for 
tears.' He acted the whole scene : he paced up and 
down the Athenaeum library. I dare say he could 

74 



RICHARDSON 

have spoken pages of the book : of that book, and 
of what countless piles of others !" 

"An old Scotch doctor, a Jacobin and a free 
thinker, who could hardly be got to attend church 
by the positive orders of the governor-general, cried 
over the last volume until he was too ill to appear 
at dinner. The chief secretary — afterward as Sir 
William Macnaughten, the hero and victim of the 
darkest episode in our Indian history — declared 
that reading this copy of ' Clarissa ' under the inspi- 
ration of its owner's enthusiasm was nothing less 
than an epoch in his life. After the lapse of years, 
when Ootacamund had long enjoyed the advantage 
of a book-club and a circulating library, the tradi- 
tion of Macaulay and his novel still lingered on with 
a tenacity most unusual in the ever-shifting society 
of an Indian station." 

To those who have ears to hear, the narrative of 
Clarissa is as thrilling in its intensity and as power- 
ful in its accumulation of tragic suffering, as it was 
when fijst uttered. An American critic declared 
the other day that he attempted to reread Clarissa, 
and simply could not ; for he continually burst out 
cr}dng. Mr. Birrell quotes Napoleon as "a true 
Richardsonian," and says, "Clarissa Harlowe has a 
place not merely amongst English novels, but 
amongst English women." And as a final shot to 
the PhiHstines, he remarks, "There is nothing to be 

75 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

proud of, I can assure you, in not being able to 
read Clarissa Harlowe, or to appreciate the genius 
which created Lovelace." "Clarissa," said one of 
the best modern French critics, M. Joseph Texte, 
"is a truly living creation. . . . Hers is the first 
complete biography of a woman in modern fiction." 
It is needless to multiply instances which prove that 
whatever rank in fiction Clarissa may finally reach, 
it is assuredly not a forgotten or a neglected book. 
It produces upon the readers of to-day, all things 
considered, about the same effect that it produced 
in the eighteenth century. Some were thrilled, and 
others were bored. Horace Walpole remarked, 
"Richardson wrote those deplorably tedious lam- 
entations, 'Clarissa,' and 'Sir Charles Grandi- 
son,' which are pictures of high life as conceived 
by a book-seller, and romances as they would be 
spiritualised by a Methodist teacher." On the 
other hand, the brilliant and beautiful Lady Mary 
Wortley Montagu, every whit as sophisticated, 
blasee, and worldly minded as Walpole, said : "This 
Richardson is a strange fellow. I heartily despise 
him, and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works 
in a most scandalous manner." Enough has been 
said to show that Clarissa does not belong among 
literary curiosities ; and no one who weeps to-day 
over her fate need blush either for the impulses of 
his heart, or for the state of his literary taste. 

76 



RICHARDSON 

The manner in which we approach the story, even 
if reading it for the first time, is of course quite 
different from that of Colley Gibber, Lady Brads- 
haigh, and their contemporaries. For they read 
its pages with the feverish excitement of one who 
bends over the bedside of a dear friend, where life 
and death are trembling in the balance. To-day 
it is safe to assume that no intelHgent person reads 
Clarissa without already knowing the plot. What 
impresses us chiefly is not the skilful manner in 
which Richardson has managed the details of his 
story, keeping the reader's mind constantly fluctu- 
ating between hope and despair ; much might be 
said in praise of this skill, for, if only the first four 
volumes were extant, no one could say with absolute 
certitude what the outcome might be. What en- 
thralls us is the horrible, yet strangely fascinating 
approach of Clarissa's fate — seen dimly from afar 
and looming nearer by almost imperceptible degrees, 
our terror and pity heightened by the extraordinary 
slowness of its march. An absolute kidnapping 
and outrage at the very start, such as came so near 
a fatality for Harriet Byron, would not begin to be 
so impressive as to watch the gradual unfolding 
of this sincere tragedy. We see Clarissa, panoplied 
with virtue, graced with culture and high breeding, 
armed with keen intelligence, making nevertheless 
an unequal struggle, only because she does not at 

77 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the beginning realise that she is fighting for the 
highest stakes in Hfe. The impressiveness of this 
drama to us is the impressiveness of suspense — 
of a delayed catastrophe sure to arrive, like that of 
Hamlet^ rather than the shock of a surprise plot, 
where we greet the outcome with overwhelming 
amazement, as at the terrific climax of The Return 
of the Druses. 

As for the characters in this novel, Clarissa has 
already been assigned her place in the world's gal- 
lery of immortal portraits. She is as essentially fem- 
inine as Pamela, there being precisely the difference 
between them that would have existed in real life — 
the difference of birth, breeding, and social position. 
She inherits from her family the terrible Harlowe 
pride, and much of the poignancy of the tragedy 
lies in the humiliation of so inflexible a soul. She is 

"A Spirit, yet a Woman too ! 
Her household motions Hght and free, 
And steps of virgin-hberty ; 
A countenance in which did meet 
Sweet records, promises as sweet ; 
A Creature not too bright or good 
For human nature's daily food ; 
***** 
The reason firm, the temperate will, 
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ; 
A perfect Woman, nobly planned, 
To warn, to comfort, and command; 
And yet a Spirit still, and bright 
With something of angelic light." 
78 



RICHARDSON 

Clarissa has been criticised for lacking passion; 
for worshipping at the shrine of the goddess Pro- 
priety. Profligates and prodigals do not enjoy a 
monopoly of passion ; for it burns fiercely in men and 
women of absolutely regular lives. Who would have 
dreamed of the individual passion of woman for man 
that glowed in the heart of the invalid Elizabeth 
Barrett, had Robert Browning never entered her 
sick-room ? Suppose Lovelace had crowned his ac- 
complishments with virtue, is it possible to place 
any limit to the devotion he would have received 
from Clarissa ? It was by no accident that Richard- 
son made his steadfast women, Pamela, Clarissa, 
Harriet, and Clementina, thrill with emotions un- 
known to the wayward and capricious Miss Howe 
and Charlotte Grandison. Clarissa's capacity for 
passion is not less because she loves duty and obedi- 
ence. It is the frightful struggle between the dig- 
nity of her personality and her desire to obey her 
father that appeals to us most keenly ; and the cruel 
choice of lovers, one, endowed with every grace and 
charm, but lacking virtue, and the other, oJGfensive 
as only a respectable boor can be, forms a dilemma 
with the prospect of happiness excluded. Were she 
less pure in heart, she might choose Lovelace ; were 
she less womanly, she might accept Solmes. We 
admire her because she will not have Lovelace ; we 
love her because she despises Solmes. 

79 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

From first to last she is always the same, in the 
most trying circumstances never acting in a way 
inconsistent with her personality. Apparently 
free, not seeing the meshes of her fate, then strug- 
gling wildly in its slimy folds, then with broken 
heart, her banner of virgin pride trailed in the 
dust, finally awaiting calmly the release of death, 
she is always the same Clarissa Harlowe, with the 
same integrity of soul. From the wreck of her 
earthly hopes and happiness she shines eternally 
serene, as through the cloud-rack gleams the even- 
ing star. 

Lovelace, while something of a stage villain, is 
the most convincing male character that Richard- 
son ever drew. Compare him with his predecessor 
Mr. B., whose name is as blank as his personal- 
ity ! Miss Thomson, by printing some extracts 
from Richardson's unpublished correspondence, 
shows that he drew Lovelace from life. On 26 
January 1747, writing to Aaron Hill, he says, "I am 
a good deal warped by the character of a gentleman 
I had in my eye, when I drew both him (Lovelace) 
and Mr. B. in Pamela. The best of that gentleman 
in the latter ; the worst of him for Lovelace, made 
still worse by mingling the worst of two other char- 
acters, that were as well known to me, of that gentle- 
man's acquaintance, and this made me say in my 
last that I aimed at an uncommon, though I suppose 

80 



RICHARDSON 

a not quite unnatural character." The good quali- 
ties must therefore have been supplied by Richard- 
son's imagination, for nothing throughout the story 
is more constantly insisted upon than the excellent 
side of the villain. In another unpubUshed letter of 
3 October 1 748, Richardson wrote : "Have you read 
Lovelace's bad and not his good ? Or does the ab- 
horrence which you have for that bad, make you 
forget that he has any good ? Is he not generous ? 
Is he not with respect to meum and tuum matters 
just? Is he not ingenious? Does he not on all 
occasions exalt the lady at his expense? Has he 
not therefore many sparks of goodness in his heart, 
though, with regard to the sex, he sticks at nothing ? " 
The good qualities in Lovelace were certainly not 
overlooked by Richardson's feminine readers. One 
lady remarked, Clarissa "should have laid aside 
all delicacy ; and if Lovelace had not asked her in 
the manner she wished, she ought to have asked him. 
In short, Lovelace is a charming young fellow, and 
I own I like him excessively." A correspondent 
writes, "You know I love to tell you everything I 
hear concerning your Clarissa, or otherwise I should 
not furnish you with more instances of what you 
have reason to say you too often meet with ; namely, 
the fondness most women have for the character of 
Lovelace." In the course of her prayers to Rich- 
ardson, to make the story end happily. Lady Brads- 

G 81 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

haigh writes, "I am very sensible of all the bad 
qualities you point out in the character of Lovelace : 
his villainies are hateful to my thoughts ; and I 
acknowledge your hero deserving of hate, contempt, 
and everything that you think he deserves, except 
the entire loss of Clarissa, and eternal misery ; one, 
I think, must be the consequence of the other. 
Sure you will think it worth your while to save his 
soul. Sir. I have many things yet to say in behalf 
of this savage. 'Lord!' you cry, 'how she loves 
to excuse this wicked man ! ' but pray be quiet. 
You say 'you are surprised and concerned that this 
character should meet with so much favour from 
the good and virtuous' ; but you may assure your- 
self the good and virtuous are utter enemies to all 
his wickedness, and are only pleased with the dis- 
tant view and hopes of his becoming the good, the 
virtuous, and the tender husband of Clarissa. . . . 
I agree with you in thinking it a pernicious notion, 
that reformed rakes make the best husbands. . . . 
A rake, reformed by time, age, or infirmities, gener- 
ally wants only the power of being what he was ; 
but a sensible man, who reforms in the prime of his 
days, and apparently from laudable motives, may, 
I think, be esteemed worthy, and one whom even 
Clarissa need not be ashamed to accept of, though 
not at his own appointed time, and by way of favour 
to her." 

82 



RICHARDSON 

Clarissa's dilemma between Lovelace and Solmes 
was sufficiently cruel. But if her choice had been 
determined by the majority of women who read the 
novel at that time, I fear that the former would have 
polled an enormous vote, for in affairs of the heart, 
it is natural to be guided by inclination rather than 
by principle. On this basis, it was Solmes, and not 
Lovelace, who was guilty of the unpardonable sin 
— the sin of being unattractive. Mrs. Barbauld, 
however, wisely sums up the question of a possible 
marriage with Lovelace in these final words, which 
represent precisely the author's unmistakable atti- 
tude. "That woman must have little delicacy, who 
does not feel that his crime has raised an eternal 
wall of separation between him and the victim of 
his treachery, whatever affection she might have 
previously entertained for him." 

It is indeed surprising that a character like Love- 
lace, who, compared with men of real life, or even 
with Don Juans of other great realistic novels, is at 
once seen to be impossible, should take so strong a 
hold upon our imagination. The whole is greater 
than the sum of its parts. Analyse him — he sim- 
ply will not do ; no such person ever lived. Read- 
ing his letters, we see his gay personality clearly, 
know him well, and never forget him. May not the 
real reason for this lie in the fact that while Clarissa 
is the heroine of a realistic novel of actual life, Love- 

83 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

lace is simply the hero of romance ? He is essen- 
tially a romantic character. Now in the great ro- 
mances, whether they be by Malory or Dumas, we 
do not ask that the persons in the story shall be like 
the men we meet on the street ; we ask only that 
they shall make a permanent impression on our 
imagination. And Lovelace, though figuring in a 
great realistic novel, carries ever with him the at- 
mosphere of romance. Thus, impossible in real 
life, he nevertheless lives ; and even French critics, 
to whom one instinctively turns to learn whether 
or not the portrait of a rake is correct, agree that 
Lovelace is an artistic triumph. M. Texte remarks, 
"He is one of the most living of all the characters 
in Richardson's gallery." 

The minor characters are many of them impos- 
sible to forget. Miss Howe, with her charming vi- 
vacity and sparkling personahty, throws sunshine 
over the earlier phases of the tragedy ; and sun- 
shine is needed to dispel the shadows of the grim 
family of Harlowes. Father, mother, sister, 
brother, each plainly individualised, yet all unmis- 
takably akin — there is surely the work of genius. 
Belford stands out bold and rugged in outline, 
faithful to the life. Curiously enough, the Rev. 
J. Stinstra thought Richardson was drawing his 
own portrait in Belford. He wrote, "Pardon me. 
Sir, but I was before of opinion, that you in your 

S4 



RICHARDSON 

Belford had drawn your own picture ; that you had 
seen the world, and loved it ; but afterwards es- 
caped out of its incitements. In this case, I should 
not have been ashamed of corresponding with you ; 
for, am I not a follower of that Saviour, which de- 
clared that there was joy in heaven on a repenting 
sinner?" Nor, among the lesser characters, can 
we forget the wretched creatures of the brothel, 
who set off by their abominable shamelessness the 
fair purity of the heroine. 

However salutary may have been the moral effect 
of Pamela on the age in which and for which it was 
written, we feel that in this particular respect it 
has now outlived its usefulness. In short, a keener 
moral sense and a juster appreciation of moral 
values make us repudiate it. There are many 
critics to-day who insist that Pamela is a more im- 
moral book than Tom Jones. I would not myself 
go so far as that, though I realise the danger at this 
moment of saying anything of any sort against the 
works of Fielding. But about Clarissa there cannot 
be two opinions. The call to virtue rings clear and 
true. As Diderot cried in his excitement: "Who 
would be Lovelace, with all his advantages ? Who 
would not be Clarissa, in spite of her misfortunes ? " 
The ethics of this remarkable book are sound, be- 
cause the reward of virtue is seen to lie not in the 
abundance of things which one may possess, but in 

85 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

character. We are purified by this spectacle of 
pain, and reaHse that while the things that are seen 
are temporal, the things that are not seen are eter- 
nal. It is a joint masterpiece of Morality and 
Art. 

Richardson's avowed aim in composing the story 
was a moral one. Discussing the Abbe Prevost's 
translation of Clarissa, he said, "He treats the story 
as a true one ; and says, in one place, that the Eng- 
lish editor has often sacrificed his story to moral 
instructions, warnings, &c., — the very motive with 
me, of the story's being written at all." In spite 
of himself, Richardson was an artist of the first 
class ; otherwise, instead of writing a great novel, 
he would merely have written a moral tale. And 
the moral of Clarissa is by no means negative ; it 
is not simply, as was Richardson's original purpose 
in composing Pamela, to warn attractive girls 
against rakes ; if that were all to be learned from 
the perusal of Clarissa, the mountain would have 
laboured only to bring forth a mouse. Nor, as Mrs. 
Barbauld remarks, is any moral teaching contained 
in the fact that Clarissa resisted the advances of 
Lovelace ; her virtue was so impregnable that she 
could laugh an assault to scorn. The moral is, as 
Mrs. Barbauld finely says, "that virtue is trium- 
phant in every situation ; that in circumstances the 
most painful and degrading, in a prison, in a brothel, 

86 



RICHARDSON 

in grief, in distraction, in despair, it is still lovely, 
still commanding, still the object of our veneration." 

As Pamela was named by its author. Virtue Re- 
warded, we may, as has often been said, call this 
masterpiece Virtue Triumphant. When Lady 
Bradshaigh insisted that eternal bliss in heaven 
was not so satisfying a reward (to her mind) for 
Clarissa, as a little earthly felicity, Richardson 
wisely responded, "Clarissa has the greatest of 
triumphs even in this world. The greatest, I will 
venture to say, even in and after the outrage, and 
because of the outrage, that ever woman had." 

Across the title-page of one of his most striking 
and powerful novels, Thomas Hardy wrote 

''a pure woman faithfully presented." 

But many shook their heads when Tess, over- 
whelmed by calamities, returned to her seducer, 
and Mr. Hardy was forced from his customary re- 
serve of the artist to the platform of the advocate 
in order to defend his heroine. Richardson never 
had to defend the purity of Clarissa, and no one can 
imagine any stress of grief or terror that would have 
placed her acquiescent in the power of Lovelace. 
Whatever the lovely Tess may have been, Clarissa 
is certainly "a pure woman faithfully presented." 

All discussions of the characters in this immortal 
book begin and end with the heroine. It is the suf- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

fering of the innocent, and not of the guilty, that 
inspires the deepest emotions of pity and fear. We 
may with justice put into the mouth of Clarissa the 
infinitely mournful words of Cordelia : 

We are not the first 

Who, with best meaning, have incurred the worst. 

In the month of November 1753, appeared, in 
both octavo and duodecimo form, the first four 
volumes of a work, which for some time many 
sentimental women had eagerly awaited. The 
title-pages read as follows : The History of Sir 
Charles Grandison, in a Series of Letters published 
from the Originals. By the Editor of Pamela and 
Clarissa. In the same November number of the 
Gentleman's Magazine which contained the first 
announcement of the issue of this novel, we find the 
following words, evidently inspired by Richardson 
himself, and containing in a condensed form his 
apology and purpose. "In this work, of which 4 
volumes only are published, the author has com- 
pleated a plan of which Pamela and Clarissa are 
parts. In Pamela he intended to exhibit the beauty 
and superiority of virtue in anunpoHshed mind, with 
the temporary reward which it frequently obtains, 
and to render the character of a Hbertine contemp- 
tible. His chief design in Clarissa was to shew the 

88 



RICHARDSON 

excellence of virtue, tho' in this life it should not be 
rewarded, and to represent the life of a Ubertine, 
with every adventitious advantage, as an object not 
only of detestation, but of horror. In Sir Charles 
Grandison, he proposed to display the superiority 
of virtue in yet another light; and by exhibiting 
the character and actions of a man of true honour, 
to shew that every natural and accidental advan- 
tage is improved by virtue and piety ; that these 
polish elegance, heighten dignity, and produce uni- 
versal love, esteem and veneration. How far this 
important design is effected, the world will soon be 
able to judge, as the last volumes, will be published 
in the beginning of the year." 

This promise was speedily fulfilled; in Decem- 
ber the fifth octavo and the fifth and sixth duo- 
decimo volumes appeared, and in March 1754, the 
publication of the whole work was completed by the 
issue of the sixth octavo and the seventh duodecimo 
volumes. 

We see by the important statement quoted above 
from the Gentleman's Magazine, that Richardson's 
aim in his last novel was to show the beauty of holi- 
ness in a more positive manner than he had before 
attempted. He had portrayed the allurements of 
vice in Mr. B. and in Lovelace, and the wisdom 
and glory of resistance in Pamela and Clarissa ; to 
crown his lifework A GOOD MAN was necessary, 

89 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

who should have all the natural advantages of the 
rake, combined with supreme moral excellence ; 
the whole building, fitly framed together, constitut- 
ing an ideal standard of human conduct. That 
seven stout volumes should be necessary to make 
clear this paragon merely illustrates Richardson's 
method. It would have saved some time had he 
not written at all, but merely referred enquirers to 
a few verses in the Gospel according to Matthew, 
where the same purpose is fairly well accomplished 
in considerably less space. But no doubt Richard- 
son knew that in his day — it may still be true — 
there are many persons who would rather read a 
novel, even in seven volumes, than a single chapter 
of the Bible. 

Although the little printer always followed his 
own instincts in the end, he was ever ready to listen 
to his multitudinous advisers. His shrewdness is 
never seen to better advantage than when he pre- 
tends to consider, with seriousness and deliberation, 
advice that he secretly knows is not worth the 
paper on which it is written. One of his friends, 
deceived by the courteous gravity with which Rich- 
ardson listened to every trivial suggestion, became 
alarmed lest in the multitude of counsellors he 
should lose his safety, so he inconsistently joined 
their number by advising the novelist to take no 
advice. "I wish you would take up a resolution 

90 



RICHARDSON 

(which perhaps may be new to you) of neither trust- 
ing others, nor distrusting yourself, too much. If 
you bundle up the opinions of bad Judges in your 
head, they will only be so much lumber in your 
way." 

Now although The History of Sir Charles Grandi- 
son was apparently written "by request," we may 
be sure that if he had not felt the spur to composi- 
tion in his own mind, he would not have constructed 
such a work merely to please his friends. That he 
was urged is, however, sufficiently clear. After 
the publication of Clarissa, letters began to flow in, 
beseeching him to add to his works the portrait of 
a good man. On 1 6 December 1749, Lady Brads- 
haigh wrote, "You are ever ready. Sir, to ac- 
knowledge an obligation upon my strongly soliciting 
you to resume your pen, yet will you not give me 
the least satisfaction, not a ghmmering of hope? 
Won't you. Sir? . . . I beheve there never was 
a fine character drawn without having its admirers 
(even amongst the most profligate) if not its imita- 
tors. And as I know with the good man you would 
connect the fine gentleman, it might, I hope, be 
thought worthy of imitation. It is a character we 
want, I am sorry to say it ; but few there are who 
deserve it. Do but try, Sir, what good you can do 
this way ; and let me have to brag, that I was in- 
strumental in persuading you to it." To this sup- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

plication, Richardson replied under date of 9 
January 1750, as follows : "Dear lady ! what shall 
I say ? To draw a character that the better half 
of the world, both as to number and worthiness, I 
mean the women, would not like ; after such a recep- 
tion too as Mr. Hickman has met with, after such 
kindness shewn to that of Lovelace." Yet, either 
at the very time of sending this half-negative an- 
swer, or, at all events, very shortly after, Richardson 
was busy with not only the plan, but the execution, 
of the work so ardently desired ; for by the month 
of March, portions of the manuscript were privately 
circulating among his intimate friends, like the 
"sugred sonnets" of Shakespeare. This throws a 
curious light on his letter to Mrs. Dewes, dated 20 
August 1750: "All together, time of life too ad- 
vanced, I fear I shall not be able to think of a new 
work. And then the task, as I have written to Mrs. 
Donnellan, is a very arduous one. To draw a man 
that good men would approve, and that young ladies, 
in such an age as this, will think amiable, — tell 
me, Madam, is not that an arduous task?" We 
cannot help smiling as we read these words, and we 
borrow the drunken porter's language to exclaim, 
"Faith, here's an equivocator." 

We even know with considerable accuracy just 
how far he had progressed, for in a letter to Lady 
Bradshaigh, dated 24 March 1750, he says, "But 

92 



RICHARDSON 

my Harriot ! — and do you, can you like the girl ? 
I have designed her to keep the middle course, be- 
tween Pamela and Clarissa ; and between Clarissa 
and Miss Howe ; or rather, to make her what I 
would have supposed Clarissa to be, had she not 
met with such persecutions at home, and with such 
a tormentor as Lovelace. She interests her readers 
so far, as to make them wish her to have a good 
man. 

"But who is the good man that you think you see 
at a little distance ? — In truth he has not peeped 
out yet." Richardson continued to favour his 
friends by sending them portions of the manuscript, 
and every morning, in his beloved grotto at North 
End, he read what he had written to a select circle. 
On 27 May 1750, Colley Cibber wrote, labouring 
under great excitement: "I have just finished the 
sheets you favoured me with ; but never found so 
strong a proof of your sly ill-nature, as to have hung 
me up upon tenters, till I see you again. Z — ds ! 
I have not patience till I know what's become of 
her. — Why, you ! I don't know what to call you ! 
— Ah ! Ah ! you may laugh if you please : but how 
will you be able to look me in the face, if the lady 
should never be able to shew hers again ? What 
piteous, d — d, disgraceful, pickle have you plunged 
her in ? For God's sake send me the sequel ; or — I 
don't know what to say ! — After all, there is one 

93 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

hint in your narration, that convinces me, Greville, 
though he was seen to hght from his chair at home, 
must be the man that has had the good or bad dis- 
posal of her. My girls are all on fire and fright to 
know what can possibly become of her. — Take 
care ! — If you have betrayed her into any shock- 
ing company, you will be as accountable for it, as if 
you were yourself the monster that took delight in 
her calamity. Upon my soul I am so choaked with 
suspense, that I won't tell you a word of the vast 
delight some had in Miss Byron's company, till 
you have repeated it, by letting me see her again 
without the least blemish upon her mind, or person ; 
though, 'till you brought her to this plunge, I could 
have kissed you for every character that was so 
busy about her. But — O Lord ! send me some 
more, and quickly, as you hope ever to see, or hear 
again, from Your deUghtfully uneasy 

Friend and Servant, 
C. Gibber." 

Three years later, under date of 6 June 1753, 
Gibber sent a particularly characteristic note, show- 
ing his unabated interest in the outcome of the novel. 

"Sir, The dehcious meal I made of Miss Byron 
on Sunday last, has given me an Appetite for 
another sUce of her off from the spit, before she is 
served up to the PubHck table; if about 5 oclock 

94 



RICHARDSON 

tomorrow afternoon, will not be inconvenient Mrs 
Brown, & I will come, and nibble upon a bit more of 
her : But pray let your whole family, with Mrs 
Richardson at the head of them, come in for their 
share." 

When Richardson essayed to write Grandison, he 
was at a double disadvantage. He chose a hero, 
instead of a heroine : and he forsook the familiar 
fields of low and middle-class life, and ventured into 
the strange domain of aristocratic society. He 
felt like Samson shorn of his strength ; and the 
chief criticisms that are to-day leveled against 
this work, were made in advance by the author 
himself. In one of his many letters on this 
subject, he says, "How shall a man obscurely situ- 
ated, never delighting in public entertainments, nor 
in his youth able to frequent them, from narrowness 
of fortune, had he had a taste for them ; one of the 
most attentive of men to the calls of his business ; 
his situation for many years producing little but 
prospects of a numerous family ; a business that sel- 
dom called him abroad, where he might in the course 
of it, see and know a little of the world, as some em- 
ployments give opportunities to do ; naturally shy 
and sheepish, and wanting more encouragement by 
smiles, to draw him out, than any body thought it 
worth their while to give him ; and blest, (in this he 
will say blest), with a mind that set him above a 

95 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

sought-for dependence, and making an absolute 
reliance on Providence and his own endeavours. 
How, I say, shall such a man pretend to describe 
and enter into characters in upper life ? How shall 
such a one draw scenes of busy and yet elegant 
trifling ? 

"Miss M. is of opinion, that no man can be drawn, 
that will appear to so much advantage as Harriot : 
I own that a good woman is my favourite character ; 
and that I can do twenty agreeable things for her, 
none of which would appear in a striking Hght in 
a man. Softness of heart, gentleness of manners, 
tears, beauty, will allow of pathetic scenes in the 
story of the one, which cannot have place in that 
of the other." Richardson certainly understood 
both his powers and his limitations. 

The question of how Sir Charles should act in af- 
fairs of honour gave Richardson not a little trouble, 
and he doubtless anticipated the smiles of twentieth- 
century critics. It was proper that Colonel Morden 
should fight Lovelace, for the Colonel was only an 
admirable, not an ideal character ; but in the case 
of Grandison, it would never do to have him engage 
in duels, nor would his refusal to fight free him from 
the imputation of cowardice. Richardson held 
very positive views concerning the vice of duelling, 
and yet his ideal man must be ideally brave. Dr. 
Delany, writing in 1751, said, ''I think you have 

96 



RICHARDSON 

many difficulties to encounter for your fine gentle- 
man, an epithet not often understood ; as little 
known. And no part more difficult than to make 
him brave, and avoid duelling, that reigning curse. 
Some vanity you must give him, of shewing his 
bravery, that he may dare to refuse that wicked, 
mean, fashionable vice. A proper fortitude of mind, 
and command of his passions, will prevent his giving 
a challenge ; and (a greater security than all) his 
christian virtue. But how to ward off a challenge, 
and preserve his character, is a task only to be un- 
dertaken by the author of Clarissa." How Rich- 
ardson cut this Gordian knot we all know. Per- 
haps there was no better way. 

The stock criticism that in creating Grandison, 
Richardson made, not a real man, but merely a 
pattern of all the virtues, was also foreseen by the 
novehst, and he did his best to overcome the diffi- 
culty. Writing to Miss Mulso, ii July 1751, he 
says, ''Well, but, after all, I shall want a few un- 
premeditated faults, were I to proceed, to sprinkle 
into this man's character, lest I should draw a. fault- 
less monster. ... I would not make him guilty 
of too great refinements : I would draw him as a 
mortal. He should have all the human passions 
to struggle with ; and those he cannot conquer he 
shall endeavour to make subservient to the cause of 
virtue." And, in response to Miss Mulso's fear 
H 97 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

that the ladies will think Grandison "too wise" to 
be attractive, Richardson playfully wrote, "Dear, 
dear girls, help me to a few monkey-tricks to throw 
into his character, in order to shield him from con- 
tempt for his wisdom." 

Perhaps the most amusing advice which Richard- 
son received came from the Rev. Mr. Skelton, who 
insisted that in the same novel with the Good Man 
there should appear a Bad Woman. "I hope you 
intend to give us a bad woman, expensive, imperi- 
ous, lewd, and at last a drammer. This is a fruit- 
ful and a necessary subject, which will strike, and 
entertain to a miracle. You are so safe already with 
the sex, that nothing you can say of a bad woman 
will hinder your being a favourite, especially if now 
and then, when your she-devil is most a devil, you 
take occasion to remark how unlike she is to the 
most beautiful, or modest, or gentle, or polite part 
of the creation." It is quite possible that this rev- 
erend gentleman is responsible for the impossible 
character of Emily's mother, for Richardson always 
regarded the advice of the clergy as ha\'ing great 
weight. At any rate, a year later, when Richard- 
son informed him that the bad woman had been in- 
cluded, this apostle of Christianity in rehgion and 
NaturaHsm in art wrote, "I am glad you have a bad 
woman, but sorry she does not shew herself. Is this 
natural? Did you ever know a bad woman that 

98 



RICHARDSON 

did not make a figure in her way ? No, no ; the 
devil always takes care that his confessors of that 
sex canonize themselves." How wide the experi- 
ence of the Rev. Mr. Skelton had been we can only 
conjecture. 

In view of the ultimate pubhcation of Sir Charles 
Grandison in seven volumes, it is interesting to note 
that Richardson originally planned to make it a 
short story, to call it The Good Man, and not to 
have it published until after his death. "I have no 
thoughts," he writes to Lady Bradshaigh, "were 
I to finish this new piece, of having it pubhshed in 
my life-time. The success of a writer's work is 
better insured, when the world knows they can be 
troubled with no more of his." A curious remark 
to come from the author of Pamela I What he really 
feared was that Grandison was not up to the stand- 
ard of his previous works, a fear, on the whole, well 
grounded. He never recovered from the wonder 
aroused in his heart by the amazing success of 
Pamela and Clarissa; and he could not bear the 
thought that readers might say his genius was de- 
clining. No doubt this was one reason why he 
allowed such a variety of persons to read the manu- 
script. Writing to Lady Bradshaigh, 24 February 
1753, he exclaims: "Think you. Madam, that all 
these honours done to my Clarissa, (nor hasPamela, 
the poor Pamela, been neglected by them), do not 

99 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

give me apprehensions for my new piece? indeed 
they do. A man of my time of life and infirmities 
should know when to give over. There would have 
perhaps been a greater assurance of a favourable 
reception, had I, as I once intended, left to executors 
the disposal of the piece." 

He was frightened also by the length of the book. 
On 21 June 1752, he writes, "The good man, alas ! 
I knew not what the task was which I undertook. 
He is grown under my hands from a thin gentleman, 
as I designed him, to a gigantic bulk." Again, two 
months later : "I hope I am in the last volume. It 
is run into prodigious length. When I can get to 
an end, I will revise, in hopes to shorten." Three 
months after this : "I am now going over it again, 
to see what I can omit : this is the worst of all my 
tasks, and what I most dreaded. Vast is the fabric ; 
and here I am under a kind of necessity to grasp 
it all, as I may say ; to cut off, to connect ; to re- 
scind again, and reconnect. Is it not monstrous, 
that I am forced to commit acts of violence, in or- 
der to bring it into seven twelve volumes, which I 
am determined it shall not exceed, let what will 
happen?" This resolution he kept. 

Much against his will, he had to rush it through 
the press. Some scoundrelly booksellers in Dublin, 
by bribing the compositors, secured many of the 
sheets before the day of publication in London, and 

100 



RICHARDSON 

issued a pirated edition in a mangled shape. The 
honest man was righteously angry, and sent out a 
full account of this treachery. But the mischief 
was irreparable ; he obtained no satisfaction, and 
his own copies sent to Ireland for sale, were driven 
from the market by the low price of the surreptitious 
edition. The composition of Joseph Andrews, and 
the piracy of Sir Charles Grandison were the two 
injuries that Richardson never forgave. Had he 
possessed a keener sense of humour, he might have 
enjoyed the fun in Fielding's parody, and enjoyed 
also the oddity of having a work, wherein was set 
forth the ideal combination of virtues, stolen by a 
gang of rascally printers. 

Sir Charles Grandison, in spite of its many ad- 
mirable qualities, is on the whole inferior to Rich- 
ardson's other books. Its inferiority to Clarissa is 
apparent. Many critics, on the other hand, rank it 
above Pamela, and a very pretty quarrel is still on, 
in the endeavour to decide, not which one of Rich- 
ardson's books is the best, but which is the worst. 
The false morality of Pamela has bUnded many 
readers to the extraordinary power and charm of the 
story. If we omit the last two volumes of Pamela, 
which are not an integral part of the work and were 
added later by an unfortunate decision of the 
author, we shall surely find reasons enough to place 
it above Grandison in literary merit. Character- 

lOI 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

drawing, with all that expression includes, keenness 
of interest in the succession of events, freshness 
and force of epistolary style — in all these respects 
Pamela is distinctly superior. The hero of Grandi- 
son is so little less than the angels that he is a little 
more that human, and does not therefore strongly 
appeal to us ; as for the two women, we sympathise 
with both too deeply, to be wholly moved by the 
misfortunes of either. But the great blot on Rich- 
ardson's last novel is, apart from Clementina 
herself, the vast deserts of talk indulged in by her 
father, mother, three brothers, uncle, aunt, cousin, 
lover, governess, maid, and attendant father Con- 
fessor. This, on Richardson's part, was a httle 
more than kin, and less than kind. To be sure, 
with an unconscious humour appreciated by all 
modern readers, Richardson has properly grouped 
his characters in his list of Dramatis Personce; 
he calls them, with a felicity of expression that we 
cannot but admire, MEN, WOMEN, and ITAL- 
IANS. This impossible Italian menagerie is an 
affliction that the patient reader — and Richardson 
has no readers that are otherwise — should have 
been spared. The roll-call of this family strikes ter- 
ror to the heart of one who has read the book, as he 
remembers the flood of talk in which he was so often 
engulfed. Their capacity to bore simply cannot be 
overestimated ; it was doubtless their conversation, 

I02 



RICHARDSON 

rather than the loss of Sir Charles, that drove 
Clementina to madness. The "general" is an un- 
mitigated ass ; and how eagerly we long to have the 
Chevalier Grandison for once forget his resolution 
on duelling, and drive the cold steel through this 
preposterous cad. Poor Jeronymo we dismiss 
rather in sorrow than in anger ; he is not so intol- 
erable as the general, and yet it is with mixed feel- 
ings that we watch by his bedside. His recovery 
will mean more talk. We can only say to him in the 
language of the old play 

" Go by, Jeronymo ; go by." 

While Richardson was condensing his novel, in 
order to contract it into seven volumes, we can but 
wonder at the opportunities he neglected. It is 
the only novel he wrote that is really too long ; for 
while all attempts at condensing Clarissa — from 
Aaron Hill to Mrs. Humphry Ward — have proved 
failures, Sir Charles Grandison might easily be im- 
proved not only by omitting most of the scenes in 
Italy, but by omitting the entire last volume. Yet 
it is possible that the fault may lie with us, and that 
we have failed to grasp the full artistic design of this 
monumental work. For Richardson certainly un- 
derstood his purpose better than we do, and in the 
Preface he wrote, regarding the immense number of 
letters in these seven volumes : " As many, however, 
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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

as could be spared, have been omitted. There is 
not one episode in the whole, nor, after SIR 
CHARLES GRANDISON is introduced, one letter 
inserted but what tends to illustrate the principal 
design." 

In spite of serious faults, Sir Charles Grandison is 
a great novel. In many places the plot is managed 
with consummate skill, and with a sure eye for dra- 
matic efifect. Nothing could be better than the 
first appearance of the hero. Impatient as we are to 
see him, he enters the stage at precisely the right 
instant of time. We can scarcely repress an in- 
stinct to cheer. This skilful introduction of Sir 
Charles was no lucky accident ; it had been care- 
fully studied by the author. Writing to Lady 
Bradshaigh, who, in reading the manuscript, had 
enquired when the hero was to appear, he said, "He 
must not appear till, as at a royal cavalcade, the 
drums, trumpets, fifes and tabrets, and many a fine 
fellow, have preceeded him, and set the spectators 
agog, as I may call it. Then must he be seen to 
enter with an eclat ; while the mob shall be ready 
to cry out huzza, boys !" 

Furthermore, Richardson's management of the 
plot shows great skill in holding the reader in sus- 
pense. It is as impossible for us to teU how the 
story will end, as it was for Sir Charles himself to 
know which of the two women he would ultimately 

104 



RICHARDSON 

marry. Harriet Byron's agony of doubt, with the 
hope deferred that maketh the heart sick, forms one 
of the most convincing successions of scenes in fic- 
tion. Richardson had obtained an immense ad- 
vantage in holding the interest of the readers of 
Grandison by his treatment of Clarissa ; for the ruth- 
less ending of that story filled every one who followed 
Miss Byron's misfortunes with the keenest alarm. 
They knew that the author was fully capable of 
blasting her hopes and theirs, and they could only 
wait, and not forecast, the outcome. Had Rich- 
ardson ended Clarissa happily, no one would have 
read Grandison with much anxiety for Harriet. 
Herein lies something of the power of the writer of 
tragedies; we follow the fate of Mr, Hardy's 
heroines with the sharpest apprehension, while the 
wildest adventures of mere romantic heroes do not 
disturb our inward calm. 

Sir Charles himself cannot be dismissed as a mere 
prig. He is richly dressed, has elaborate manners, 
enjoys high social rank, but is a man for all that. 
The fact that he actually loved two excellent women, 
and that he would probably have succeeded in be- 
ing happy with either, gave great trouble to Rich- 
ardson's feminine admirers. Lady Bradshaigh 
bounced off her chair as she read this part of the 
story. But the situation was really by no means 
impossible. It would have been perfectly true to 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

life, though it would have killed this or any other 
novel, had the hero met a third woman, of equal 
charm of person and character, and ultimately 
married her. Such utterly unromantic facts con- 
stantly happen, and Richardson was endeavouring 
to show that even the passion of love, in an ideal 
man, may be partially guided by reason and good 
judgment — nay, that in time, it may be wholly 
controlled. But Sir Charles is no iceberg; and 
the difference — not fully understood by himself — 
between his pity for Clementina, and his love for 
Harriet, is wonderfully well portrayed by Richard- 
son. Had Sir Charles never met Miss Byron, and 
also had he succeeded in his treaty with the Italian 
family, he would never have imagined that he could 
love any one but Clementina, and would have been 
wholly happy with her. That marriage apparently 
proving hopeless, his passionate love for Harriet 
is not only possible, it is natural ; and his proposal 
even then to marry Clementina came simply from 
his extraordinarily nice sense of honour, the struggle 
that it cost him being terrible in its intensity. For 
as lookers-on often see points in the game hidden 
from the players, it is evident to the reader that in 
his second ItaHan journey, and even while treating 
with the family of Clementina, Harriet Byron pos- 
sesses the hero's heart. The relation of Sir Charles 
to these two women, in spite of the adverse criticism 

io6 



RICHARDSON 

it has aroused, seems to be only an exhibition of 
Richardson's skill, and his knowledge of human 
nature. 

The madness of Clementina, though a little too 
fully elaborated, is deeply affecting. In a time 
when the authority of the classics was greater than 
it is to-day, Thomas Warton said : 'T know not 
whether even the madness of Lear is wrought up 
and expressed by so many little strokes of nature 
and passion. It is absolute pedantry to prefer and 
compare the madness of Orestes, in Euripides, to 
this of Clementina." 

It is curious, that as it was the composition of a 
Complete-Letter-Writer that led Richardson to 
write Pamela, so, one of the minor objects of his last 
novel was to furnish for the unsophisticated a man- 
ual of etiquette. In the same number of the Gentle- 
man's Magazine that contained the first announce- 
ment of the appearance of Sir Charles Grandison, 
there was a letter to Mr. Urban, defending the 
length and minuteness of incident in the work. 
The writer then adds : "All the recesses of the hu- 
man heart are explor'd, and its whole texture un- 
folded. Such a knowledge of the polite world, of 
men and manners, may be acquired from an atten- 
tive perusal of this work as may in a great measure 
supply the place of the tutor and the boarding 
school. Young persons may learn how to act in all 

107 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the important conjunctures, and how to behave 
gracefully, properly, and politely, in all the com- 
mon occurrences of life." The fact that Richard- 
son could not shake himself wholly free from the 
manual-of-etiquette style in which he began his 
literary career, accounts not only for many of the 
stilted conversations that disfigure his works, but 
goes far toward explaining why the character of 
Sir Charles is so offensive to many readers. A 
hero who is to set styles in language and in dress 
must never forget himself ; and a man who never 
forgets himself cannot be wholly admirable. 

Sir Charles Grandison, although many of its pages 
are aglow with the fire of genius, does not reach, 
either in art or in moral instruction, the highest 
success. Its artistic defects are manifest; and 
its failure as an edifying work may be summed up 
by saying that it called the righteous, and not the 
sinners, to repentance. Richardson himself felt 
this, for discussing this very book, he said : " Good 
people may approve the morality of my writings. 
But good people want not such for themselves; 
and what bad ones have they converted?" The 
difficulty is, of course, that Sir Charles, instead of 
converting, only irritates the ungodly. 

There was one fair saint who saw no fleck of fail- 
ure in the work. The lovely Frau Klopstock wrote : 
"You have since written the manly Clarissa, with- 

io8 



RICHARDSON 

out my prayer : oh you have done it, to the great 
joy and thanks of all your happy readers. Now 
you can write no more, you must write the history 
of an Angel." Had Richardson elected to under- 
take this task, he could have found no better sub- 
ject than the beautiful woman who suggested it. 

Romances had been more or less common and 
popular in England since the time of Malory's 
wonderful Morte Darthur, printed by Caxton in 
1485. But the English novel was not born imtil 
the eighteenth century — that century of begin- 
nings ; and its father was no less a personage than 
Daniel Defoe. It is true that the structure of his 
works is singularly bare and crude. He had no 
conception of the proper handling of a plot. All 
that is implied by the expression "evolution of a 
story," so beautifully exemplified in The Scarlet 
Letter, is conspicuous in Defoe mainly by its ab- 
sence. Events in Defoe's novels succeed one 
another merely in chronological order, like the 
pages of a diary. But he was the first man in Eng- 
land to write a genuine realistic novel, showing, in 
the form of a story, the development of a charac- 
ter taken from actual contemporary life. If Moll 
Flanders (1722) is not in every respect as properly 
classed by the term "realistic novel" as is Esther 
Waters (1894), what terminology can be invented 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

to place it more accurately? Defoe might hon- 
estly have adapted Joseph Hall's saying, and cried, 

" I first adventure : follow me who list, 
And be the second English novelist." 

We cannot, therefore, concur with a common 
opinion that the first man in England to write 
novels was Samuel Richardson. He was the sec- 
ond, not the first ; but of the modern analytical 
novel, he was the true progenitor. Defoe's method 
was realistic, but not psychological. Richardson, 
on the other hand, studied and portrayed with 
tireless assiduity the secrets of the soul. For al- 
though his avowed object was didactic, no sooner 
did he begin to write than he became absorbed 
in the faithful delineation of human hearts. 

Richardson was wise in selecting the epistolary 
style, for at that once great art — now lost — he 
was a master hand. He, like many others in eigh- 
teenth-century times, wrote private letters with 
the same care that manuscript was prepared for 
the press. He made copies of his correspondence 
— both letters sent and received ; they circulated 
among his intimate friends, and were enjoyed in 
concert, as an evening party enjoys a good book 
read aloud. The hurry and worry of more modern 
times, and, above all, cheap postage, have quite 
destroyed that once fine art. 

no 



RICHARDSON 

Richardson knew also the value of the epis- 
tolary method for soul-revelation. The minds and 
heart-s of all his prominent characters were to be 
laid absolutely bare before the reader, and there is no 
instrument like a confidential letter for this process 
of vivisection. We do not need the authority of 
Schopenhauer to be told that a letter is the surest 
key to the writer's personality ; for in a long letter it 
is more difficult to conceal one's actual sentiments, 
than by the tone of the voice or the expression of 

the features. 

"There's no art 
To find the mind's construction in the face." 

It is not quite true to say, with Mrs. Barbauld, 
that Richardson invented the manner of writing 
stories in letters ; and yet he may fairly be called 
the originator of the epistolary novel. No one 
had ever used this style with anything like the 
effect attained by Richardson. As M. Texte re- 
marks, in Richardson "the epistolary novel has 
really become what it should be, a form of the ana- 
lytical novel. If it is not this, it is nothing, and the 
originality of Richardson consists in the very fact 
that he made it such." He adopted this method, 
of course, not altogether by conscious choice, but 
partly by accident and necessity. If he had not 
begun the Complete-Letter- Writer, he might never 
have begun Pamela; and, although no gulf among 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

books is wider than the gulf separating etiquette- 
manuals from realistic novels, Richardson found the 
crossing easy and natural. 

At the outset of his literary career, Richardson 
was certainly not a conscious artist; that was to 
come with the extraordinary development of his 
unsuspected powers. How surprisingly different 
in the attitude towards his art is the Preface to 
Pamela from the Preface to Clarissa ! In the 
latter, he says, "All the letters are written while 
the hearts of the writers must be supposed to be 
wholly engaged in their subjects (the events at 
the time generally dubious) : so that they abound 
not only with critical situations, but with what 
may be called instantaneous descriptions and 
reflections (proper to be brought home to the 
breast of the youthful reader ;) as also with affect- 
ing conversations ; many of them written in the 
dialogue or dramatic way." The man who penned 
those words had become a self-conscious artist ; 
and his excitement while in the fever of composi- 
tion reminds one of the well-known anecdotes of 
later novehsts. He wept bitterly over Clarissa's 
fate, as Thackeray sobbed at the exit of Colonel 
Newcome, and as Hawthorne's voice involuntarily 
rose and fell while reading to his wife the final 
declaration of Dimmesdale. 

It was the combination of the Philistine and the 

112 



RICHARDSON 

Artist in this man that partly explains the variety 
of persons whom he impressed. That Lady 
Montagu, and the maid curling her mistress's hair, 
should have each sobbed over Clarissa is a sig- 
nificant fact. Horace Walpole saw in him only the 
didactic Philistine, and therefore despised him ; 
Dr. Young and Thomas Edwards saw in him only 
the didactic Philistine, and therefore admired 
him ; Colley Gibber and Diderot saw in him the 
great Artist, and worshipped him. Richardson's 
personality was a singular union of qualities usually 
contrary, and much in his writing and in its effect 
can be explained only by keeping in mind the 
double nature of the man. 

For it is beyond dispute that this solemn pater- 
familias, drinking tea with sentimental women, 
and apparently foreordained to be a milksop, was 
in actuality one of the most stern and uncompro- 
mising realists that ever handled a pen. Once at 
his desk, all tincture of squeamishness vanished. 
His reaHsm was bolder and more honest than Field- 
ing's and shrank from nothing that might lend 
additional power to the scene, or that might 
deepen the shades of character. He refused abso- 
lutely to follow advice that conflicted with his aim 
and method. He knew his work was original in 
design, plan, and treatment, and he fully trusted 
only the instincts of his own heart. A friend wrote, 
1 113 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

speaking of the critics who wished him to introduce 
changes, "Another defect in those that are called 
the best judges is, that they generally go by rules 
of art; whereas yours is absolutely a work of 
nature. One might, for instance, as well judge of 
the beauties of a prospect by the rules of architec- 
ture, as of your Clarissa by the laws of novels and 
romances. A piece quite of a new kind must have 
new rules, if any ; but the best of all is, following 
nature and common sense. Nature, I think, 
you have followed more variously, and at the 
same time more closely, than anyone I know. 
For Heaven's sake, let not those sworn enemies of 
all good works (the critics) destroy the beauties 
you have created." 

Richardson's Reahsm, where it does not conflict 
with his didacticism, is indeed absolute. In begin- 
ning his career as a novelist, he forsook everything 
that was generally understood by the term Fiction. 
Romantic adventures, supernatural machinery, 
remote countries, the characters and customs of 
chivalry, and the splendour of historical setting, 
he resolutely brushed aside. He took his own 
country, his own time ; and instead of selecting 
for protagonist a princess, he selected a housemaid. 
This is Realism, as distinguished from Romanti- 
cism ; and though there was a moral basis to his • 
story, the realistic method was as uncompromising 

114 



RICHARDSON 

as Zola's. Richardson often received such advice 
as the following, and what he thought of it, his 
novels sufficiently show. "I am glad to hear your 
work is what you call long. I am excessively 
impatient to see it. And shall certainly think it 
too short, as I did Clarissa, although it should 
run out into seven folios. The wotld will think 
so too, if it is suihciently larded with facts, inci- 
dents, adventures, &c. The generality of readers 
are more taken with the driest narrative of facts, 
if they are facts of importance, than with the 
purest sentiments, and the noblest lessons of 
morality. Now, though you write above the taste 
of the many, yet ought it not to be, nay, is it not, 
your chief design, to benefit the many ? But how 
can you cure their mental maladies, if you do not 
so wrap up your physic as to make it pass their 
palates? . . . Therefore stuff your works with 
adventures, and wedge in events by way of prim- 
ings." 

A good motto for Richardson's novels may be 
found in what he said just before the appearance 
of Grandison. "I think the characters, the senti- 
ments, are all different from any of those in my 
two former pieces, though the subjects are still 
love and nonsense, men and women." Love and 
nonsense, men and women — the phrase indicates 
fully the subject-matter and the exclusive aim of 

"5 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the avowed realist. " Sir," said Dr. Johnson, 
" there is more knowledge of the heart in one let- 
ter of Richardson's, than in all ' Tom Jones.' " 
Erskine : " Surely, sir, Richardson is very tedious." 
Johnson : ''Why, sir, if you were to read Richard- 
son for the story, your impatience would be so 
much fretted that you would hang yourself." The 
Doctor's remarks, as usual, are worth serious 
reflection. Fielding was a novelist of manners; 
in that sense a realist. But Richardson was an 
analyst, a psychologist, and he cared nothing for the 
course of the story so long, as with infinite patience, 
he followed accurately the windings of the heart. 
In this respect, Clarissa is like Anna Karenina. 
The abundance of detail destroys the artistic 
contour of the story, but it represents what these 
two men endeavoured to represent — Hfe. 

The ProHxity of Richardson's novels is insepa- 
rable from their subject and manner of composition. 
They are, in truth, works of prodigious length. 
To have read Clarissa entirely through is in itself 
an achievement, like having climbed the Matter- 
horn. Richardson was fully conscious of the 
immense mass of words he had written, and knew 
that it would lose him many readers. "Every 
reader must judge for him or herself, as to the 
supposed prolixity," he said, "I am contented that 
he or she should." Sometimes he seems to suspect 

ii6 



RICHARDSON 

the yawns of future generations. "Have I not 
written a monstrous quantity ; nineteen or twenty 
close written volumes?" His method of composi- 
tion necessitated this, for instead of filling up a 
framework, he wrote one letter, without knowing 
what he would say in the next. I frankly confess 
I admire his courage and lack of amenity in launch- 
ing such leviathans. In a day when we are greeted 
by so-called dramatic stories, whose sole claim to 
popularity Hes in their abihty to furnish enough 
fighting to keep the reader breathless, it is refresh- 
ing by way of contrast to see Richardson writing 
"the history of a young lady" in seven volumes. 
The same unflinching courage that made him lead 
his readers into a brothel, made him persevere 
through a tremendously long journey. He feared 
the charge of Indelicacy as little as the complaint 
of Tediousness. He set out to accompHsh a certain 
result in his own way. 

All EngHsh novehsts who have lived since 1748 
have learned something from Richardson. Jane 
Austen, though her keen sense of humour and 
hatred of cant made her see plainly his faults, 
studied him and his methods with the utmost zeal. 
Her astonishing power in representing the man- 
ners and conversations of actual people was largely 
developed by Richardson. What is true of her 
is true of all the great masters of English fiction. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

The honest printer made an impression on the 
history of the novel far deeper and more lasting 
than his best fonts of type could produce. 

Nothing is more interesting or instructive to 
the student of literary development than to notice 
how often the mightiest influences in hterature are 
unconscious in their origin. The whole EngHsh 
Romantic movement, which shaped the Hterature 
of the nineteenth century, and which reached its 
first climax in Sir Walter Scott, began with a 
total absence of conscious aim and method. Such 
is the case also in the history of the sentimental 
novel in England. When, a half-century old, 
Samuel Richardson turned from his Complete- 
Letter-Writer to construct the history of Pamela, 
nothing could have been farther from his thoughts 
than the results that were finally accomphshed 
from so unpretentious a beginning. The success of 
his novel astonished him, but to its far-reaching 
consequences he was naturally blind. A temporary 
fad must pass entirely away before we can see what, 
if any, its results are to be. And Pamela was 
distinctly a fad. In the Geyitleman' s Magazine 
for January 1741, we read, "Several encomiums on 
a Series of Familiar Letters, published hut last 
month, entitled Pamela or Virtue Rewarded, came 
too late for this Magazine, and we believe there will 

118 



RICHARDSON 

be little Occasion for inserting them in our next, 
because a Second Edition will then come out to sup- 
ply the Demands in the Country, it being Judged in 
Town as great a sign of Want of Curiosity not to 
have read Pamela, as not to have seen the French 
and Italian Dancers." Such was the manner in 
which fashionable society took up the fortunes of 
the fictitious housemaid ; and when other literary- 
sensations appeared, Pamela was neglected by this 
class of readers. But Richardson, in this book, and 
in the two others which succeeded it, made an 
appeal to, and an impression on the emotional 
side of humanity which was by no means to pass 
away. The Sentimental Novel had been created 
and was to appear in a variety of forms, growing 
side by side with the ever increasing Romantic 
movement. Lady Bradshaigh, in a characteristic 
postscript to a letter of Harriet Byron proportions, 
written 9 January 1750, begged to know the proper 
meaning of the new expression sentimental. "Pray, 
Sir, give me leave to ask you (I forgot it before) 
what, in your opinion, is the meaning of the word 
sentimental^ so much in vogue amongst the polite, 
both in town and country ? In letters and common 
conversation, I have asked several who make use 
of it, and have generally received for answer, it 
is — it is — sentimental. Everything clever and 
agreeable is comprehended in that word ; but am 
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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

convinced a wrong interpretation is given, because 
it is impossible everything clever and agreeable 
can be so common as this word. I am frequently 
astonished to hear such a one is a sentimental 
man ; we were a sentimental party ; I have been 
taking a sentimental walk. And that I might be 
reckoned a little in the fashion, and, as I thought, 
show them the proper use of the word, about six 
weeks ago, I declared I had just received a senti- 
mental letter. Having often laughed at the word, 
and found fault with the application of it, and this 
being the first time I ventured to make use of it, 
I was loudly congratulated upon the occasion : 
but I should be glad to know your interpretation 
of.it." 

And so should we. But Richardson doubtless 
discovered his own inability to define a word with 
such various connotation, or he never would have 
been guilty of neglecting a lady's postscript. 

The first and most striking evidence of Richard- 
son's influence upon English fiction appeared in a 
way that must have made him momentarily regret 
that he had ever written at all. Although Joseph 
Andrews is certainly not a sentimental novel, it 
must be classed among the results of Pamela; 
and Richardson was willing to believe that the 
great popularity of his rival was really due to 
himself — that he was the unwilHng father of Field- 

120 



RICHARDSON 

ing's good fortune. " The Pamela," he said, 
"which he abused in his Shamela," [showing that 
Richardson believed Fielding to have been the 
author of "Conny Keyber's" parody] "taught 
him how to write to please, tho' his manners are 
so different. Before his Joseph Andrews (hints 
and names taken from that story, with a lewd and 
ungenerous engraftment) the poor man wrote 
without being read." 

But Richardson was responsible for something 
else than Fielding, so curiously does Divinity 
shape our ends. As it was the philosophy of the 
devout Berkeley that brought into being the writ- 
ings of the great sceptic Hume, so the novels of 
the prim printer were immensely influential in 
producing Tristram Shandy and The Sentimental 
Journey, the latter of which Richardson was for- 
tunate enough not to live to see. The famous 
starling was meant to appeal, and did appeal to 
a generation that had read Clarissa with swimming 
eyes. Those were golden days for the sentimental 
writers, for before the tears on the faces of Sterne's 
readers were fairly dried, appeared Mackenzie's 
Man of Feeling (1771), and the lachrymose foun- 
tains flowed afresh. English literature at that 
period was simply moist, and though we call many 
of those books, like the Man of Feeling, and the 
Fool of Quality, dry, it is, under the circumstances, 

121 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

hardly a happy appellation. More than that, 
Richardson's sentiment prepared English readers 
for Ossian, the mighty influence of which on nations 
and individuals is one of the most striking facts 
in literary history. Nay, the influence of the 
didactic printer may be worked out even in such 
extraordinary religious movements as the Wesleyan 
revival, which found the fields white for the har- 
vest. The river of Sentiment, rising from the not 
too clear well in Pamela, became a veritable flood, 
overrunning with resistless force not only England, 
but France and Germany as well. 

The direct influence of Richardson in Germany 
was exceedingly great. We have seen how emo- 
tional women Hke Frau Klopstock devoured his 
novels. Klopstock himself wrote an ode on 
Clarissa's Death, and the novel was translated in 
eight volumes by Dr. Haller, Vice-Chancellor of 
the University of Gottingen. Gellert, the pro- 
fessor of rhetoric at Leipsic, translated Pamela 
and Sir Charles Grandison, and he remarked, 
''I have formerly wept away some of the most 
remarkable hours of my Hfe, in a sort of delicious 
misery, over the seventh volume of Clarissa and 
the fifth of Gra7idison." In a sort of delicious 
misery — the words should not be forgotten, for 
they precisely express the sensation aroused and 
enjoyed by contemporary readers of Richardson, 

122 



RICHARDSON 

and of the sentimental literature that followed in 
his wake of tears. "Immortal is Homer," shouted 
this German scholar, "but among Christians 
the British Richardson is more immortal still," 
a delightful expression ; for the writer's enthusiasm 
must make us forgive the comparative of such an 
adjective. A number of German novelists essayed 
stories in the Richardsonian manner, but it was not 
only in the third and fourth rate writers that the 
influence of the Englishman may be seen. Wie- 
land, who had read Pamela in French, was charmed, 
and after the perusal of Grandison, he turned the 
fortunes of Clementina into a play, and thought 
of composing a book which should be called Letters 
from Charles Grandison to his pupil Emily Jervois. 
We can only imagine the gush of sentiment flowing 
from a volume with such a title. 

Lessing was profoundly influenced by Richard- 
son, for, in his hatred of the French domination of 
the theatre, he greeted everything English with 
enthusiasm. Those who have attentively read 
Lessing's prose play Miss Sara Sampson may 
easily detect the influence of our English novelist. 
Richardson was even parodied in Germany, and 
Grandison der Zweite (i 760-1 762) is proof that 
there were readers enough and to spare of the 
struggles of Sir Charles. An edition of Grandison 
der Zweite appeared so late as 1803. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

In Wilhelm Meister, in a discussion that arose 
upon the novel and the drama, we find the follow- 
ing words: ''But in the novel, it is chiefly senti- 
ments and events that are exhibited ; in the drama, 
it is characters and deeds. The novel must go 
slowly forward ; and the sentiments of the hero, by 
some means or other, must restrain the tendency 
of the whole to unfold itself and to conclude. , . . 
The novel-hero must be suffering, at least he must 
not in a high degree be active ; in the dramatic 
one, we look for activity and deeds. Grandison, 
Clarissa, Pamela, the Vicar of Wakefield, Tom 
Jones himself, are, if not suffering, at least retard- 
ing personages ; and the incidents are all, in some 
sort, modelled by their sentiments." Even had 
Goethe not named the characters of Richardson 
in this passage, there could have been no doubt 
concerning the novels he had chiefly in mind. And 
the immense contribution that Goethe made to the 
Sentimental movement in his Sorrows of Werther 
(1774) was in a large measure the indirect result 
of the writings of Richardson. For while Goethe 
was more directly affected by Rousseau's Nouvelle 
Heloise (1760), Rousseau might never have written 
his book at all had it not been for the appearance 
of Clarissa. Mr. Birrell remarks, "Without Cla- 
rissa there would have been no Nouvelle Heloise, 
and had there been no Nouvelle Helotse, everyone 

124 



RICHARDSON 

of us would have been somewhat different from 
what we are." 

This remark leads us to dwell lastly on Richard- 
son's influence in France. It is a curious fact that 
Frenchmen — the exact opposite of Richardson in 
the respective emphasis they place on Art and 
Morality — should have been even more profoundly 
influenced by the puritanical printer than the men 
and women of his own nation. The influence of 
Richardson in France has received so adequate 
treatment by M. Joseph Texte, in his admirable 
work, Jean-Jacques Rousseau et le cosmopolitisme 
litieraire, that it may be discussed here only briefly. 
M. Texte remarks, "It has been truly said that 
Clarissa Harlowe is to La Nouvelle Heloise what 
Rousseau's novel is to Werther: the three works 
are inseparably connected, because the bond be- 
tween them is one of heredity." In 1742, Des- 
fontaines greeted Pamela with dehght, pointed out 
its striking originality in subject and treatment, 
and declared that it would be a good pattern for 
French writers. This started a fierce controversy, 
and M. Texte suggests that it was out of resentment 
that Desfontaines translated Joseph Andrews. 
But the French public would not Hsten to Fielding, 
insisting that he was unworthy to be mentioned 
in the same breath with his intended victim. 
On 26 July 1742, Crebillon wrote to Chesterfield, 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

"But for Pamela, we should not know here what 
to read or to say." Sequels, imitations, dramatisa- 
tions, and parodies appeared in French ; Richard- 
son's waiting maid was the reigning sensation, and 
continued to enjoy an extraordinary vogue until 
the appearance of Prevost's translation of Clarissa 
— curious, indeed, the relations between Richard- 
son and the author] of Manon Lescaut 1 Clarissa 
aroused the most intense interest, and it was every- 
where mightily cried up. Prevost's translations 
were not either accurate or fully complete, for the 
author of Manon Lescaut found the realism of 
Richardson too uncompromising ; he omitted some 
of the most powerful passages in Clarissa, and 
softened many others. Yet, in spite of this 
treatment, he regarded his author with reveren- 
tial admiration. 

The death of Richardson was the signal for the 
wildest eulogies from French critics. As M. 
Texte says, "Popular enthusiasm rose to frenzy." 
In twenty-four hours Diderot composed his famous 
eulogy, which, among utterances that can only be 
called rhapsodical, contained much valuable criti- 
cism. As an example of his enthusiasm, we may 
quote: "O Richardson! Richardson! first of men 
in my eyes, you shall be my reading on all occa- 
sions. ... I will sell my books, but I will keep 
you : you shall remain on the same shelf with 

126 



RICHARDSON 

Moses, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles ; and I 
will read you by turns." And as an example of 
his insight: "You may think what you please of 
the details, but to me they will be interesting, if 
they be natural, if they display the passions, if 
they disclose characters. You say they are 
common, they are what we see every day. You 
are mistaken ; they are what pass before your eyes 
every day, without being seen by you." And, the 
emotion aroused by reading him is significantly 
described by Diderot exactly as we have found it 
affected the Professor Gellert. "11 m'a laisse une 
melancholic, qui me plait & qui dure." 

While all the French people were still talking 
about Clarissa, in 1756 Rousseau began the com- 
position of La Nouvelle Helotse. Richardson's 
story had simply inspired him ; he said that no 
novel that had ever been written in any language 
was comparable to Clarissa. Everyone noticed 
the similarity of the two works, and the source of 
Rousseau's book — which was also written in letters 
— was immediately pointed out. In 1761 La 
Nouvelle Helotse appeared in an English translation, 
and was read by Richardson during the last year 
of his life. He heartily disapproved of it, as he 
would of many other books that sprang from the 
seed he had sown, had he lived to see them flourish. 
Fielding, Sterne, Rousseau — an extraordinary 

127 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

result of the printer's didactic efforts ! Little did 
he dream that through the works of Rousseau the 
stream of his influence would continue to widen 
and deepen until it reached the awful cataract of 
the French Revolution. For that the quiet, God- 
fearing, conservative, conventional, law-abiding 
Richardson was one of the men who helped uncon- 
sciously but powerfully to bring about the greatest 
political upheaval of modern times, is a fact no 
less extraordinary than true. 

Finally, from a great French artist in prose and 
verse, Richardson's Clarissa received the highest 
of all compliments. For Alfred de Musset called 
it le premier roman du monde. 



128 



Ill 

JANE AUSTEN 

Wednesday, the twelfth of September 1900, 
was a beautiful day. The sun shone brilliantly, 
and the air had quality. Early in the morning 
we said farewell to Salisbury's tall and crooked 
spire, and after a lunch at high noon we visited the 
splendid old Norman Abbey church at Romsey. 
During the afternoon our bicycles carried us over 
an excellent road fringed with beautiful trees, and 
at Hursley we entered the sacred edifice where 
saintly John Keble held forth the Word of Life. 
We did homage at his grave in the churchyard, 
and gazed without emotion at the house of Richard 
Cromwell. Over the downs we pedalled merrily, 
and late in the afternoon, under the level rays of 
the September sun, we entered the ancient capital 
of England, the cheerful city of Winchester. Deep 
in the evening we saw the massive grey Cathedral 
glorified by the moon. 

Hampshire rolled into the sunshine again on 
Thursday morning, and we visited the great Gothic 
church. The disappointment felt by most pil- 
grims at the rather forbidding exterior gave place 
K 129 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

to solemn rapture as we stepped within the portal. 
The vault of the immense nave, the forest of 
columns, the Norman transepts, all seen through 
the dim religious light, made one realise that a 
mediaeval cathedral is the symbol of generations 
of human aspiration. It is a lapidary prayer. 
We visited the tomb of Joseph Warton, who led 
the eighteenth-century revolt against Pope Alex- 
ander, once thought to be infallible, we saw the 
grave of the gentle author of the Com pleat Angler, 
and then we paused reverently by the last resting- 
place of Jane Austen. Hither she was borne on 
24 July 1 81 7, followed only by members of her 
family, who loved her for the purity and sweetness 
of her character. 

In the afternoon we sped northward to Steven- 
ton, the village made famous by her birth. The 
town is so small and otherwise insignificant as to 
have no railway station, and to be forgotten by 
many mapmakers. It is indeed unknown to most 
Hampshire farmers, as we shortly discovered ; 
for we dismounted and mounted our wheels many 
times, with enquiries that proved fruitless. We 
finally, however, reached the object of our quest. 
A small, mean, dirty village is Steventon to-day, 
graced only by beautiful hedgerows. The house 
where Jane Austen lived has long since disap- 
peared, an instance — if any were needed — of how 

130 



JANE AUSTEN 

much more transient are the houses built with 
hands than those created by the imagination. 
Part of the site is marked by an old pump, which 
gives Httle idea of the well of inspiration used 
by the noveHst. The present rectory is on a knoll 
of turf, commanding a pleasant view, but having 
little interest for the pilgrim ; so we wended our 
way to the old church, where Jane heard her 
father preach and pray. In the autumnal twi- 
light we pedalled on to Basingstoke, over a much 
better road than the Austens saw in their fre- 
quent journeys; and the Feathers being "full 
up," we slept peacefully under the aegis of the 
Red Lion, who roared as gently as a sucking 
dove. 

Jane Austen was born at Steventon, in the 
northern part of the county of Hampshire, on 
i6 December 1775. Her father was the Rev. 
George Austen, an Oxford man, who had re- 
ceived the neighbouring rectories of Deane and 
Steventon in 1764, the year of his marriage to 
Cassandra Leigh. Instead of bringing woe and 
death in her train, Cassandra brought the parson 
conjugal bliss and seven children, to one of whom 
she gave her own name, in defiance of augury. 
It is not true, as stated in the Dictionary oj 
National Biography, that Jane was ''the youngest 
of seven children," and the Dictionary's further 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

statement, that her brother Charles died in 1832, 
at the age of seventy-three, would place his birth 
before the marriage of his parents. The Dic- 
tionary article on Jane Austen is brief, unsym- 
pathetic, and inaccurate. The oldest son, James, 
was born at Deane in 1765. At Oxford he had a 
high reputation among the undergraduates for his 
skill in composition and his knowledge of Eng- 
lish literature. It is to this young Oxonian that 
the world owes a debt of gratitude ; for on his 
return to the rectory, his mind fuirof his favourite 
books, he took charge of the reading of his two 
younger sisters, and guided them at their most 
docile age into the green pastures of literature. 
Edward was the second son ; he was born at 
Deane in 1768, but at an early age left the family 
circle, being adopted by his cousin, Thomas Knight, 
who owned estates at Godmersham Park, Kent, 
and Chawton in Hampshire. He came into the 
inheritance in 1794, and in 1812 changed his 
name to Knight. This adoption was a fortunate 
thing not only for him, but for the whole family; 
for after some years he was able to give his widowed 
mother and sisters a home, and was especially 
kind and helpful to Jane. The next arrival in the 
family was the third son, Henry Thomas, born in 
Deane in 1771. He Hved a life of active useless- 
ness. Brilliant, witty, and charming in conversa- 

132 



JANE AUSTEN 

tion, eternally hopeful and enthusiastic, he went 
through life with innocent gaiety, and with a con- 
stantly increasing sense toward the end that he 
might have reached distinction had he concen- 
trated his energies. We should not forget, however, 
that he did help Jane in some details of her busi- 
ness dealings with her publishers, and that she 
highly valued his criticisms. He died in 1850. 

The dearest member of the family to Jane, and 
the most intimate friend she had in the world, 
was her sister Cassandra, three years her senior. 
Two girls of about the same age against five brothers 
would naturally form an offensive and defensive 
alliance ; and between these two sisters as they 
grew from childhood into maturity ripened a mar- 
vellous friendship, where each took delight in the 
other's gifts and pleasures. They were all in all 
to each other ; they were never married, and they 
remained in the diminishing family circle while 
the brothers struck out into the world. It was to 
Cassandra that Jane wrote nearly all of the letters 
that have come down to us ; and the very absence 
of literary style in these documents and their 
meagreness of information about Jane's literary 
career is a substantial proof of the intimacy of 
the two women. It was in Cassandra's arms that 
Jane died ; and how terribly the survivor suffered 
we shall never know, for she thought it to be her 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

duty to control the outward expression of her 
grief. She was indeed a woman of extraordinary 
independence and self-reliance, who loved her 
younger and more impulsive sister with an afiFec- 
tion unknown to many more demonstrative indi- 
viduals. She died in 1845. 

The fifth child was Francis, born in 1773. In 
striking contrast to the serene and tranquil life 
of his sisters, this resolute and ambitious man 
lived in the very whirlwind of action. His career 
affords a striking illustration of the truth that 
those who seek death do not find it ; for he served 
in the navy during England's most stirring period 
of warfare on the sea. In the midst of death he 
found life, for while the other members of the 
family, all but one of whom dwelt in peace and 
apparent security, passed away, he rose steadily 
in the service, and lived to be ninety-two years old. 
He was a religious man, and was known as "the 
ofificer who kneeled at church." Most remarkable 
of all for a sailor, no one ever heard him swear. 
His long years of service in the navy were crowned 
with success, for he rose to the highest rank ob- 
tainable, being at the time of his death the Senior 
Admiral of the Fleet. 

The youngest child in the family was Charles, 
who was born in 1778. He also entered the 
navy, and frequently smelt gunpowder. He sur- 

134 



JANE AUSTEN 

vived all the perils of action, however, and rose 
to be an Admiral. While on a steam-sloop in 
Eastern waters, he died of cholera in 1852. He 
was beloved by both officers and sailors, one of 
whom said, "I know that I cried bitterly when 
I found he was dead." 

Readers of her novels have often wondered 
why Jane Austen, who lived in wars and rumours 
of wars, showed apparently so little interest in the 
momentous events of her time. As a matter of 
fact she took her part in those world-combats 
vicariously, and the welfare of her brothers was 
more interesting to her than the fate of Napoleon. 
The sea-faring men in her books supply the evi- 
dence of her knowledge of the navy, though, true 
to her primal principle of art, she did not let them 
escape beyond the boundaries of her personal 
experience. 

Jane Austen has been regarded by many as a 
prim, prudish old maid, and yet she loved to drink 
wine and play cards, she loved to dance, and she 
delighted in the theatre. The very smallness of 
Steventon brought its inhabitants together in so- 
cial intercourse ; and in a house where a genial 
father and mother presided over seven children, 
and where there were often dances and social 
gatherings several times a week, we need not 
waste any pity on her desolate and lonely youth. 

135 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

She was so fond of society that had she lived in 
a large city, among brilliant men and women, 
she might never have written a book. In her four 
residences, Steventon, Bath, Southampton, and 
Chawton, she saw many phases of humanity; 
and had good opportunities for observation, since 
the main traits in human nature are always the 
same. We need not regret, therefore, that the 
geographical limits of her bodily life were so cir- 
cumscribed. She could have lived in a nutshell, 
and counted herself a monarch of infinite space, for 
she had no bad dreams like those of Hamlet. 
It has been well said that the happiest person is 
he who thinks the most interesting thoughts ; 
and keen was the enjoyment that this quiet woman 
got out of life. 

As a child she began to scribble, regretting in 
later life that she had not read more and written 
less. She composed "The Mystery: an Unfin- 
ished Comedy," and dedicated it to her father 
with mock gravity. Even then she loved bur- 
lesque, and she delighted in laughing at the two 
great schools in literature so prominent in her 
childhood, the school of impossible romance and 
the school of absurd sentimentality. She saw 
clearly the ridiculous side of the sentimental 
books that followed in the wake of Richardson 
and Sterne, and the absurdity of the Gothic ro- 

136 



JANE AUSTEN 

mances that pursued hard upon the Castle of 
Otranto. She did not know then that she was to 
write an immortal burlesque, wherein both these 
tendencies were treated with genial contempt; 
but her attitude of mind did not change as she 
grew older, and before she was twenty-one, she 
had begun the composition of one of the greatest 
novels in all literature, Pride and Prejudice. She 
was surely in the vein ; for upon the completion 
of this work, she immediately began Sense and 
Sensibility, and during her residence in Steven- 
ton she also composed Northanger Abbey. These 
three books constitute sufficient proof of the man- 
ner in which genius finds its own en\'ironment. 

Jane Austen had visited Bath before the com- 
position of the last-named work, and thither the 
whole family moved in the spring of 1801, begin- 
ning the century under as different surround- 
ings from the old home as can well be imagined. 
Steventon was a small village, Bath a city alive 
with social excitement. Here she was too much 
occupied in living to do much writing, though it 
is possible that she began her unfinished story, 
The Watsons, during this period. A visit to 
Lyme in 1804 gave her unconsciously the mate- 
rial which she afterwards alchemised into the 
pure gold of Persuasion. Her father died in 
February 1805, at Bath, and the fortunes of the 
137 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

family underwent a change for the worse. They 
were, however, by no means destitute, nor did 
they ever know the pangs of poverty. Before 
the end of this year they moved to Southampton, 
and lived in a comfortable old house in Castle 
Square. Here they stayed four years. 

As her nephew says, neither Bath nor South- 
ampton can be regarded as homes of Jane Aus- 
ten ; " she was only a sojourner in a strange 
land." In 1809, however, they had the pleasure 
of once more finding an abiding-place. As has 
been said, Edward Austen, who became Edward 
Knight, inherited two residences, one at God- 
mersham Park, in Kent, the other at Chawton in 
Hampshire. He now gave his mother the choice 
of two dwellings, each house being near his prop- 
erty in these two respective counties. Perhaps 
owing to her long residence in Hampshire, she 
chose the cottage at Chawton, which stood in the 
village "about a mile from Alton, on the right- 
hand side, just where the road to Winchester 
branches off from that to Gosport. It was so 
close to the road that the front door opened upon 
it ; while a very narrow enclosure, paled in on each 
side, protected the building from danger of col- 
lision with any runaway vehicle. ... It had 
been originally built for an inn, for which purpose 
it was certainly well situated. . . . Trees were 

138 



JANE AUSTEN 

planted each side to form a shrubbery walk, 
carried round the enclosure, which gave a suflS- 
cient space for ladies' exercise. There was a 
pleasant irregular mixture of hedgerow and gravel 
walk and orchard, and long grass for mowing, 
arising from two or three little enclosures hav- 
ing been thrown together. The house itself 
was quite as good as the generality of parsonage 
houses then were, and much in the same style; 
and was capable of receiving other members 
of the family as frequent visitors. It was suffi- 
ciently well furnished ; everything inside and 
out was kept in good repair, and it was altogether 
a comfortable and ladylike estabhshment, though 
the means which supported it were not large." 

In this unpretentious cottage, with no separate 
study, but writing in the family sitting-room 
amidst the general conversation, Jane Austen 
not only arranged for the press her three earlier 
novels, but composed three masterpieces, Mans- 
field Park, Emma, and Persuasion. She had 
the pleasant excitement of the publication of 
her books, of reading them aloud to the family 
in manuscript, of receiving and examining bundles 
of proof, of actually handling money earned by 
her pen, and of observing the faint dawn of her 
reputation. This made her peaceful environment 
more than interesting, and we may be sure that 

139 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the days passed swiftly. Up to this time her sole 
reward for her labour had been the glow of compo- 
sition and the satisfaction of knowing that she had 
done good work; the harvest was late, but she 
now began to reap it. Unfortunately the time 
was short. It is one of the apparent perversities 
of the stupidity of Destiny, that the only member 
of the family who possessed genius should have 
died so young. Jane Austen is the kind of person 
who ought to live forever. 

In the spring of the year 1816 her health be- 
gan to fail. This is said to have been caused by 
worry over some family misfortunes; but may it 
not have been owing to the consuming flame of 
genius ? It is impossible that she could have writ- 
ten such masterpieces without feeling that virtue 
had gone out of her. The joy of artistic creation 
is probably one of the greatest joys known to the 
sons and daughters of men ; but the bodily frame 
pays dearly for it, and the toil of making a good 
book surpasses in intensity of labour almost all 
other forms of human exertion. Whatever 
was the cause, the fact was that her life began 
to decay at precisely the time when her mind 
began to reach its greatest brilliancy. Her cheer- 
ful letters showed faint signs of an impending 
disaster. She wrote to her brother Charles, "I 
live upstairs for the present, and am coddled. I 

140 



JANE AUSTEN 

am the only one of the party who has been so 
silly, but a weak body must excuse weak nerves." 
The malady began to gain ground, and she had to 
walk shorter distances, and then cease walking 
altogether. Soon she was obliged to lie down a 
good part of the day, when she wished ardently to 
be at work ; and there being only one sofa in the 
general sitting-room she refused to use it except 
in the absence of her mother, who had passed 
seventy years. She tried to persuade her friends 
that she was getting well. In January 1817, she 
wrote, "I have certainly gained strength through 
the winter, and am not far from being well ; and 
I think I understand my own case now so much 
better than I did, as to be able by care to keep ofif 
any serious return of illness." It was not to be. 
The last date found on her manuscript is the 
seventeenth of March 1817. Her nephew says, 
"And here I cannot do better than quote the words 
of the niece to whose private records of her aunt's 
life and character I have been so often indebted : 
'I do not know how early the alarming symptoms 
of her malady came on. It was in the following 
March that I had the first idea of her being se- 
riously ill. It had been settled that about the 
end of that month or the beginning of April I 
should spend a few days at Chawton, in the absence 
of my father and mother, who were just then en- 

141 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

gaged with Mrs. Leigh Perrot in arranging her 
late husband's affairs ; but Aunt Jane became too 
ill to have me in the house, and so I went instead 
to my sister Mrs. Lefroy at Wyards'. The next 
day we walked over to Chawton to make inquiries 
after our aunt. She was then keeping her room, 
but said she would see us, and we went up to her. 
She was in her dressing-gown, and was sitting 
quite like an invalid in an arm-chair, but she got 
up and kindly greeted us, and then, pointing 
to seats which had been arranged for us by the 
fire, she said, "There is a chair for the married 
lady, and a little stool for you, Caroline." 
It is strange, but those trifling words were 
the last of hers that I can remember, for I re- 
tain no recollection of what was said by anyone 
in the conversation that ensued. I was struck by 
the alteration in herself. She was very pale, her 
voice was weak and low, and there was about her 
a general appearance of debility and suffering ; 
but I have been told that she never had much 
acute pain. She was not equal to the exertion of 
talking to us, and our visit to the sick-room was a 
very short one, Aunt Cassandra soon taking us 
away. I do not suppose we stayed a quarter of an 
hour; and I never saw Aunt Jane again.'" 

In the month of May 1817, the family decided 
that she must be taken to Winchester, in order to 

142 



JANE AUSTEN 

get the benefit of daily skilled medical advice. 
Thither she went with the faithful Cassandra, 
and the two sisters took lodgings in a pleasant 
house on College Street, near the great cathedral. 
From these rooms she wrote in a trembling and 
uncertain hand the following letter, in which she 
tried to give a playful tone to her illness. The 
letter bears date of the 27 May. 

"There is no better way, my dearest E., of 
thanking you for your affectionate concern for 
me during my illness than by telling you myself, 
as soon as possible, that I continue to get better. 
I will not boast of my handwriting ; neither that 
nor my face have yet recovered their proper 
beauty, but in other respects I gain strength very 
fast. I am now out of bed from nine in the 
morning to ten at night : upon the sofa it is true, 
but I eat my meals with Aunt Cassandra in a 
rational way, and can employ myself, and walk 
from one room to another. Mr. Lyford says he 
will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a 
memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, 
and have no doubt of redress from that pious, 
learned, and disinterested body. Our lodgings 
are very comfortable. We have a neat little 
drawing-room with a bow window overlooking 
Dr. Gabell's garden. Thanks to the kindness 
of your father and mother in sending me their 

143 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

carriage, my journey hither on Saturday was 
performed with very Httle fatigue, and had it 
been a fine day, I think I should have felt none ; 
but it distressed me to see Uncle Henry and Wm. 
Knight, who kindly attended us on horseback, 
riding in the rain almost the whole way. We ex- 
pect a visit from them to-morrow, and hope they 
will stay the night; and on Thursday, which is 
a confirmation and a holiday, we are to get Charles 
out to breakfast. We have had but one visit 
from him, poor fellow, as he is in sick-room, but 
he hopes to be out to-night. We see Mrs. Heath- 
cote every day, and William is to call upon us soon. 
God bless you, my dear E. If ever you are ill, 
may you be as tenderly nursed as I have been. 
May the same blessed alleviations of anxious, 
sympathising friends be yours : and may you 
possess, as I dare say you will, the greatest bless- 
ing of all in the consciousness of not being unwor- 
thy of their love. I could not feel this, 

"Your very affecte Aunt, 
"J. A." 

She added later: "I will only say further 
that my dearest sister, my tender, watchful, in- 
defatigable nurse, has not been made ill by her 
exertions. As to what I owe her, and the anxious 
affection of all my beloved family on this occa- 

144 



JANE AUSTEN 

sion, I can only cry over it, and pray God to 
bless them more and more." 

Thus, with only temporary alleviations, she 
grew gradually weaker, and died on the morn- 
ing of 1 8 July 1817. Shortly before she be- 
came unconscious, she was asked if there were 
anything she wished. She replied, "Nothing 
but death." 

What are the qualities that place the novels of 
Jane Austen so far above those of all her contem- 
poraries except Scott, and that class her so distinctly 
above a writer like Charlotte Bronte? 

That much-abused phrase, "Art for art's sake," 
so often heard in the mouths of hypocritical 
and unclean authors, is strictly applicable to 
the aims and ideals of Jane Austen. She is one 
of the supreme literary artists of the world, like 
the Russian Turgenev. She made no compro- 
mises, and never wrote a line to please anybody 
but herself. That is precisely why she pleases all 
readers of taste and intelligence. Coming before 
the days when the advertising of new novels had 
become as purely a commercial enterprise as the 
exploitation of breakfast foods, she knew noth- 
ing of the ways of publishers, nor did she under- 
stand how it was possible for an author to write 
for the market. Far from the madding crowd 
I. 145 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

she wrought her books in the peaceful tranquil- 
lity of an affectionate family circle, and she re- 
fused to search for material either in huge libraries 
or in remote corners of the earth. Many novelists 
of to-day work up a new story exactly as a haggard 
student prepares a doctor's thesis, by collecting an 
immense amount of historical fact. Jane Austen 
never worked up material, for she found it all on 
the sensitive plates of her own delicate mind. 
There are those who think the flawless perfection 
of her books was a kind of accident; that she 
wrote them without in the least realising the mag- 
nitude of her success. That she did not anticipate 
the prodigious fame that her novels have won in 
the twentieth century is probably true ; but that a 
woman of so consummate genius and good sense 
did not know that she had done truly great work 
is simply impossible. She knew exactly what she 
was about; she understood her powers and in 
exactly what field of art they could find full play. 
To a man high in station who suggested that she 
portray "the habits of life, and character, and 
enthusiasm of a clergyman who should pass his 
time between the metropolis and the country," 
she replied, "I am quite honoured by your think- 
ing me capable of drawing such a clergyman as 
you gave the sketch of in your note of Nov. i6th. 
But I assure you I am not. The comic part of 

146 



JANE AUSTEN 

the character I might be equal to, but not the 
good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man's 
conversation must at times be on subjects of 
science, and philosophy, of which I know nothing ; 
or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations 
and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows 
only her own mother tongue, and has read little 
in that, would be totally without the power of 
giving. A classical education, or at any rate a 
very extensive acquaintance with English liter- 
ature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite 
indispensable for the person who would do any 
justice to your clergyman ; and I think I may 
boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the 
most unlearned and uninformed female who ever 
dared to be an authoress." Not discouraged by 
this, as he should have been, her fatuous corre- 
spondent proposed that she write "an historical 
romance illustrative of the august House of Co- 
bourg" — (what a pity that Anthony Hope was 
unborn !) to which happy suggestion he received 
the following reply from the author of Northanger 
Abbey, dated i April 1816 : 

"You are very kind in your hints as to the sort 
of composition which might recommend me at 
present, and I am fully sensible that an historical 
romance, founded on the House of Saxe Co- 
bourg, might be much more to the purpose of 

147 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

profit or popularity than such pictures of domes- 
tic Hfe in country villages as I deal in. But I 
could no more write a romance than an epic poem. 
I could not sit seriously down to write a serious 
romance under any other motive than to save my 
life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep 
it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at 
other people, I am sure I should be hung before I 
had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep 
to my own style and go on in my own way ; and 
though I may never succeed again in that, I am 
convinced that I should totally fail in any other." 

In another connection she described her work 
as follows: ''The little bit (two inches wide) of 
ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as pro- 
duces little effect after much labour." The very 
last word to describe the perfection of her art 
would be the word accident. 

Not only did she write without any pretence 
to knowledge and experience unpossessed, but she 
worked with faithful devotion through years of 
obscurity. She began the composition of her 
famous novels in 1796 ; it was not until 181 1 that 
any of her work found a publisher. If this be 
not "art for art's sake," one must despair of 
finding it anywhere. 

Not only is the structure of her stories superb 
in outline, not only is her style so perfect that it 

148 



JANE AUSTEN 

seems to the unskilful no style at all, but her 
characters have an amazing vitality. Not a sin- 
gle one of them passes through an extraordinary 
adventure ; hence we are interested in them not 
for what they do and suffer, but wholly for what 
they are. No persons in the whole realm of fic- 
tion are more alive than Elizabeth Bennet, or 
the adorable heroine of Persuasion. To read 
Jane Austen's books is to add to our circle of 
acquaintances men and women whom it is most 
desirable to know, and whose presence in our 
mental world adds to the pleasure of life. They 
are so real that the mere mention of their names 
brings a clear image of their faces before our con- 
sciousness, along with a glow of reminiscent delight. 
Her books are truly great, then, because they 
have in them what Mrs. Browning called the 
"principle of life." Their apparently simple 
and transparently clear style contains treasures 
inexhaustible ; for no one reads any of her stories 
only once. With every fresh reading comes the 
old pleasure, heightened in intensity ; to read her 
novels is simply to live, to live in a world of stead- 
ily increasing interest and charm. It would be 
possible to give in detail a critical estimation of 
the value of her books; to dwell on the elements 
in her English style, to examine minutely the con- 
struction of her plots, and to analyse microscop- 

149 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

ically her dramatis personm. But it is needless ; the 
reason why Jane Austen has outUved thousands of 
novelists who have been greeted with wild acclaim, 
is simply because she succeeded in producing to a 
marvellous degree the illusion that is the essence 
of great Art, the pleasing illusion that we are gaz- 
ing not on the image, but on the reality. 

Her fame was slow in growth, but no slower 
than might have been expected, and we should 
not blame previous generations for not seeing 
instantly what we have the advantage of seeing 
with a proper background. She Hved only six 
years after the publication of her first book ; and 
during that brief time she enjoyed fully as much 
reputation as could reasonably have been antici- 
pated. Some of her novels went almost immedi- 
ately into second editions ; and her pleasure at 
praise from good sources was like all her emo- 
tions, genuine, frank, and unashamed. She was 
glad to have her books widely read and appre- 
ciated, as any sensible person would be ; and her 
delight in receiving a sum of money from the 
publisher — the tangible mark of success — was 
charming in its unaffected demonstration. Those 
worthy writers who receive a semi-annual copy- 
right statement of two dollars and seventy-five 
cents for their learned productions can perhaps 
understand her enthusiasm. 
150 



JANE AUSTEN 

She has never lacked discriminating admirers. 
The Quarterly Review for October 1815, con- 
tained an article on Emma, from the pen of Walter 
Scott; Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were 
reviewed in the same periodical for January 1821, 
by Archbishop Whately. The latter writer com- 
pared her to Shakespeare — we cannot ask more 
than that. Walter Scott said in his diary, 14 
March 1826: "Read again, for the third time at 
least, Miss Austen's finely written novel of Pride 
and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for 
describing the involvements and feelings and char- 
acters of ordinary life, which is to me the most 
wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-Wow 
strain I can do myself like any now going ; but the 
exquisite touch which renders ordinary common- 
place things and characters interesting from the 
truth of the description and the sentiment is de- 
nied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature 
died so early!" Trevelyan, in his Lije of Ma- 
caulay, says, "But, amidst the infinite variety of 
lighter literature with which he beguiled his leisure, 
Pride and Prejudice, and the five sister novels, 
remained without a rival in his affections. He 
never for a moment wavered in his allegiance to 
Miss Austen. In 1858 he notes in his journal : 
*If I could get materials, I really would write a 
short life of that wonderful woman, and raise a little 

151 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

money to put up a monument to her in Winchester 
Cathedral.'" After the publication of the Memoir 
by her nephew in 1870, which came at the psycho- 
logical moment, the books and articles on Jane 
Austen began to bloom in every direction. About 
1890, what was called a "revival" took place; 
it was really nothing but the cumulative growth of 
her fame. Many new editions appeared ; and an 
instance of how she was regarded as a master of 
style may be seen in the fact that for some years 
every Harvard Freshman was required to read one 
of her books for rhetorical purposes. She has had 
sufficient vitality to survive even such treatment. 

Sense and Sensibility was the first of the novels 
to be honoured by publication. It appeared in 
181 1. It may be considered as her first work, 
for she had written a draft called Elinor and 
Marianne, which is undoubtedly the first form of 
the later novel. This was made originally in Let- 
ters ; an interesting fact, because it affords un- 
mistakable evidence of her debt to Richardson. 
She learned more of the art of writing from Rich- 
ardson than from any other master ; it is said 
that she could repeat pages of Sir Charles Grandi- 
son by heart. There is no doubt that Richardson's 
power of analysis, and his uncompromising reahsm, 
made a profound impression on her mind. She 

152 



JANE AUSTEN 

had too keen a sense of humour not to perceive his 
errors ; but she remained all her life long an ardent 
admirer of his genius. After the family had re- 
moved to Chawton, Jane Austen revised and pre- 
pared for publication her earlier works ; and we 
shall never know how far the press copy differed 
from the manuscript she had written at Steventon 
in her girlhood. Her nephew tells us that Sense 
and Sensibility was begun at Steventon in No- 
vember 1797, immediately after the comple- 
tion of Pride and Prejudice; even thus early 
she had rejected the epistolary form and had 
composed it on its present plan. Then the work 
remained in manuscript until 181 1, as the rejec- 
tion of Pride and Prejudice, and the unwillingness 
of the Bath publisher to risk his money on North- 
anger Abbey — both of which works she must have 
thought superior to Sense and Sensibility — did 
not give her sufficient courage to make further 
overtures. During the spring of 181 1, however, 
Jane Austen was in London, and with the assist- 
ance of her brother, the publication of her first 
novel became an assured fact. It is, of course, 
possible that it was printed at its author's expense, 
though we do not know. With what affection she 
regarded the children of her brain may be seen in 
a letter she wrote from London to her sister Cas- 
sandra, 25 April 181 1. "No, indeed, I am never 
153 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

too busy to think of S. and S. I can no more for- 
get it than a mother can forget her sucking child ; 
and I am much obliged to you for your enquiries. 
I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only 
brings us to Willoughby's first appearance. Mrs. 
K. regrets in the most flattering manner that she 
must wait till May, but I have scarcely a hope of 
its being out in June. Henry does not neglect it ; 
he has hurried the printer, and says he will see 
him again to-day. It will not stand still during 
his absence, it will be sent to Eliza." Then fol- 
lows in the same letter a passage which seems 
to indicate that Cassandra had thought the in- 
comes of the characters in the novel needed re- 
adjustment. "The incomes Tem.a.m as they were, 
but I will get them altered if I can. I am very 
much gratified by Mrs. K.'s interest in it; . . . 
I think she will like my Elinor ; but cannot build 
on anything else." In this same anxious period 
of suspense, another novel had appeared, which 
had awakened great interest and considerable 
alarm in the breast of the modest author of Sense 
and Sensibility, for she writes, "We have tried 
to get 'Self-Control,' but in vain. I should like 
to know what her estimate is, but am always half 
afraid of finding a clever novel too clever, and 
of finding my own story and my own people all 
forestalled." 

154 



JANE AUSTEN 

She was delighted to receive from the pub- 
lisher, Mr. Egerton, one hundred and fifty pounds ! 
The book, therefore, was moderately successful, 
and its author had in her hands the visible proof 
thereof. She made no scruple whatever of show- 
ing her pleasure at the receipt of money earned 
in this manner ; and we can easily understand her 
feelings, after she had waited so many years to 
see her writings in print. Writing in 1814 about 
Mansfield Park, she said, "People are more ready 
to borrow and praise than to buy, which I cannot 
wonder at ; but though I like praise as well as 
anybody, I like what Edward calls 'Pewter,^ too." 

Sense and Sensibility is on the whole the poor- 
est of Jane Austen's completed novels. The con- 
trast between the two sisters is of course interest- 
ing ; but they are less individual than the persons 
in the other tales. The very fact that Elinor 
stands for Sense and Marianne for Sensibility 
militates against the complexity of their person- 
alities ; and the three leading men are less satis- 
factory than her other heroes. The book is the 
least original of all her works ; and in places 
sounds as if it were written under the shadow 
of Richardson's influence. There is of course 
the same contrast between first impressions and 
the final reality that appears elsewhere ; there 
is the same endeavour to show that those who 

155 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

have the most ease of manner are not neces- 
sarily of the most solid worth. There is in ad- 
dition the touch of burlesque in the character of 
Marianne, where Jane Austen is laughing at the 
sentimentalists ; but while all these characteristics 
are typical of her art, they appear with less subtlety 
than in the other novels, indeed one might say there 
is now and then a suggestion of crudity. Edward 
Ferrars is spineless, Willoughby is a stage villain, 
and Colonel Brandon is depressing. On the whole, 
if we had to part with any one of Jane Austen's 
works, I imagine that Sense and Sensibility is the 
one that we should most wilb'ngly let die. 

Pride and Prejudice has a curious history. She 
began its composition before she was twenty-one 
years old, in October 1796, and finished it in less 
than a year, during the month of August 1797. 
Her father — who unfortunately did not live to 
see a line of his daughter's in print — was so cap- 
tivated by this story that he immediately set 
about finding a publisher. On the first of Novem- 
ber 1797, he wrote the following letter to Cadell: 

"Sir, — I have in my possession a manuscript novel, 
comprising 3 vols., about the length of Miss Burney's 
'Evelina.' As I am well aware of what consequence it is 
that a work of this sort sh*^ make its first appearance under 
a respectable name, I apply to you. I shall be much 
obliged therefore if you will inform me whether you choose 

156 



JANE AUSTEN 

to be concerned in it, what will be the expense of publish- 
ing it at the author's risk, and what you will venture to 
advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is approved 
of. Should you give any encouragement, I will send you 
the work." 

The father's suspense was of short duration, 
for the next post brought a summary declination. 
The publisher did not even care to look at the 
manuscript, or to consider the question of print- 
ing it at the author's expense, probably thinking, 
as someone has suggested, that it was a feeble 
imitation of Miss Burney. Here indeed was a 
case of pride and prejudice. Paternal pride 
and publisher's prejudice kept this work in manu- 
script until 1813. It is fortunate that the young 
girl knew the value of her work, and preserved 
it — for we have instances in literature where 
proud and angry authors have committed literary 
infanticide. In January 1813 this novel — which 
had been originally christened "First Impres- 
sions" — was published at London by Egerton, 
in three small volumes, printed in large, heavy 
type. On the title-pages of Sense and Sensibility 
ran the legend, "By a Lady" — for Jane Austen 
would not permit her name to appear with any 
of her publications; it was perhaps thought in- 
consistent with feminine modesty. The title- 
pages of the second work are as follows: "Pride 

IS7 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

AND Prejudice : A Novel. In Three Volumes. 
By the Author of 'Sense and Sensibility.' Lon- 
don : Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, 
Whitehall, 1813." On 29 January she wrote 
to her sister: "I want to tell you that I have 
got my own darling child from London. On 
Wednesday I received one copy sent down by 
Falkener, with three lines from Henry to say that 
he had given another to Charles, and sent a third 
by the coach to Godmersham. . . . Mrs. B. 
dined with us on the very day of the book's com- 
ing; and in the evening we fairly set at it, and 
read half the first volume to her, prefacing that 
having intelligence from Henry that such a work 
would soon appear, we had desired him to send 
it whenever it came out, and I believe it passed 
with her unsuspected. She was amused, poor 
soul ! That she could not help, you know, with 
two such people to lead the way; but she really 
does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess 
that I think her as delightful a creature as ever 
appeared in print ; and how I shall be able to 
tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do 
not know. There are a few tj-pical errors; and 
a 'said he,' or a 'said she,' would sometimes make 
the dialogue more immediately clear; but *I do 
not write for such dull elves' as have not a great 
deal of ingenuity themselves. The second volume 
158 



JANE AUSTEN 

is shorter than I could wish ; but the difference 
is not so much in reality as in look, there being a 
larger proportion of narrative in that part. I 
have lop't and crop't so successfully, however, 
that I imagine it must be rather shorter than 
Sense and Sensibility altogether." The second 
volume contained 239 pages, while the first had 
307, and the last 323, which accounts for her 
fears about the shortness of the middle one. The 
fact that she speaks of her condensation is ab- 
solute proof that the novel as it was published 
is by no means the same in style as that written 
in her girlhood. It was undoubtedly thoroughly 
revised. She wrote shortly after, " I am quite 
vain enough and well satisfied enough. The 
work is rather too fight and bright and sparkling. 
It wants shade ; it wants to be stretched out here 
and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could 
be had ; if not, of solemn, specious nonsense, about 
something unconnected with the story. . . . Her 
liking Darcy and Elizabeth is enough. She might 
hate all the others, if she would." This letter is 
interesting, as showing how perfectly she under- 
stood her art, and how she refused to tolerate 
long didactic disquisitions in the middle of a 
story. It is pleasant to observe, also, that she 
fully realised what a charming girl Elizabeth 
Bennet was. 

159 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Pride and Prejudice was a successful novel, for 
it went into a second edition the same year. We 
can fix the date of the second edition with even 
more exactitude, for she had written a letter to 
Cassandra on the 3d of November 1813 ; then, on 
the 6th of the same month she writes: "Since I 
wrote last, my 2nd edit, has stared me in the 
face. Mary tells me that Eliza means to buy 
it. I wish she may. ... I cannot help hop- 
ing that many will feel themselves obHged to 
buy it. I shall not mind imagining it a disa- 
greeable duty to them, so as they do it. Mary 
heard before she left home that it was very much 
admired at Cheltenham." I have a beautiful copy 
of this second edition in three neat volumes be- 
fore me as I write. One winter day in 1904, as 
I was prowling around old book-shops in Munich, 
I had the rare fortune to find these three vol- 
umes tucked away among various curiosities in 
various languages. I enquired the price — it was 
one mark the volume, seventy-five cents for the 
whole work! 

Pride and Prejudice is Miss Austen's master- 
piece, and one of the few great novels of the world. 
Its literary style is not perhaps equal in finish to 
that shown in Mansjield Park or Persuasion; 
but Elizabeth Bennet is her author's greatest 
creation, and of all the dehghtful characters in 
160 



JANE AUSTEN 

her works, Elizabeth is the one we should most 
like to meet. She has the double charm of girl- 
hood and womanhood ; and to know her is in- 
deed a liberal education. She has no particular 
accomplishments, and is second to one of her 
sisters in beauty ; it is her personality that counts 
with us, as it did with her proud lover. Mr. 
Darcy, in spite of his stiffness and hauteur, is a 
real man, an enormous improvement on Colonel 
Brandon. He exhibits the exact difference be- 
tween pride and conceit that Miss Austen wished 
to portray. The whole Bennet family are im- 
possible to forget, in their likeness and in their 
individuality; and there is so astonishing a sense 
of reality in the characters and action of this 
work, that when Elizabeth hurries into the break- 
fast-room of her critics "with weary ancles, dirty 
stockings, and a face glowing with warmth of ex- 
ercise," no corporeal appearance could be more 
vivid to our eyes, and we actually tremble for the 
impression her dirty stockings and petticoat will 
make on the fastidious folk around the table. 
Jane Austen is fully as conscientious an artist 
and fully as courageous and firm in her realism 
as was Flaubert; and she is greater than the 
author of Madame Bovary, for she arouses even 
more intense interest without using physical 
stimulants to awaken it. 

M i6i 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Miss Austen's nephew tells us that Northanger 
Abbey was composed in 1798, when its author 
was only twenty-two. It was during the sojourn 
of the family in Bath that the book was prepared 
for publication. It seemed at first to have a 
better chance to appear in type than Pride and 
Prejudice; for in 1803 it was actually sold to a 
Bath publishing house, for a consideration of 
ten pounds. The publisher either did not have 
time to examine it, or after examination he re- 
pented of his bargain ; for he laid it away in a 
drawer, where it remained undisturbed for years. 
It was not published until after its author had 
ceased to live, finally appearing with Persuasion 
and a brief Memoir — four volumes all together — 
in 18 18. The family neatly revenged themselves 
on this publisher's delay; for years later, when 
they were living at Chawton, the same publisher, 
Mr. Bull, was offered his ten pounds back for 
the surrender of the manuscript, which proposi- 
tion he accepted with surprise and pleasure. After 
the precious papers were received, he was informed 
that the dust-covered pages were written by the 
author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and 
Prejudice I 

■Northanger Abbey bears the marks of youth. 
It is a burlesque, and has the virtues and defects 
of that species. As an example of what Jane 

162 



JANE AUSTEN 

thought of the Mysteries of Udolpho, and of the 
whole school of blood and thunder, it is highly- 
important; it contains also many remarks on 
novels and novel-reading which are valuable as 
showing how Jane Austen regarded her art. But 
it is not equal to such a work as Mansfield Park; 
it lacks variety and subtlety. The narration of 
the heroine's finding the washing-bill in the old 
Abbey is pure fun, youthful mirth, and the de- 
scription of the face and figure of the young girl 
is no more nor less than satire on the popular 
heroines of the day. Historically, however, the 
book is of the deepest significance; for it marks 
a turning-point in the history of the English novel, 
and it tells us more of its author's personal views 
than all the rest of her tales put together. It is 
more subjective ; in the fifth chapter there is 
an almost passionate defence of the novel against 
its detractors, who regarded such writing as merely 
superficial and lacking in serious artistic purpose; 
while in the sixth chapter. Sir Charles Grandison 
is favourably compared with the romances of 
Mrs. Radcliffe and her ilk. Such a work, written 
in the very bloom of youth, is conclusive evidence 
of the self-conscious purpose of its author; it 
proves that she knew exactly what she wanted ; 
that her purpose in art was definite, and unalter- 
able. In Northanger Abbey she showed how novels 

163 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

ought not to be written ; her other books are 
illustrations of what she conceived to be the true 
theory. 

Visitors to Bath have always loved this story, 
as it deals with places that shine bright in the 
memory; she returned to these familiar scenes in 
Persuasion, a far greater work, and it was fitting 
that her two Bath guide-books should have ap- 
peared together. Miss Austen had been at least 
twice in this gay city before the family moved 
thither ; which gave her the necessary experience, 
and proves that here, as elsewhere, she kept within 
the limits of her actual knowledge. 

Of Lady Susan and The Watsons, little need be 
said, and it is probable that Jane Austen would 
have forbidden their publication. They appeared 
together with the second edition of Mr. Austen- 
Leigh's Memoir, in 187 1. No one knows exactly 
when they were written ; the fact that Lady Susan 
is in the form of letters, as was the first draft of 
Sense and Sensibility, seems to set the date of its 
composition before that of Pride and Prejudice, at 
the very beginning of her career. This opinion 
is shared by Mr. Oscar Fay Adams, whose Story 
of Jane Austen^ s Life is a model of its kind. Lady 
Susan has flashes of great brilliance, but really 
adds little to its writer's fame. She was evidently 
164 



JANE AUSTEN 

dissatisfied with it, for she left it in her portfoHo ; 
it is the raw material of literature, rather than the 
finished product. 

The date of the composition of the unfinished 
fragment. The Watsons, can be guessed with 
more evidence. The water-marks of the years 
1803 and 1804 were found on the manuscript, 
after a careful examination ; this makes it of 
course certain that it was not composed before 
those dates, but leaves us in the dark as to its 
exact time. The most probable supposition seems 
to be that she worked at it while living in Bath, 
but subsequently lost interest, and was content 
to leave it in obscurity. It contains some thor- 
oughly mature characterisation, together with 
some fine strokes of style ; but it wholly lacks the 
peculiar brightness of such a book as Pride and 
Prejudice. 

We come now to the three great novels whose 
inception and composition seem to date wholly 
after the year 1809, when the family moved to 
Chawton Cottage. Mansfield Park was published 
in 1814. On 5 March of that year, writing a 
letter to Cassandra, in which she states without 
comment that she has read the Corsair, she re- 
marks, "Henry has this moment said that he 
likes my M. P. better and better; he is in the 
third volume. I believe now he has changed his 
165 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

mind as to foreseeing the end ; he said yesterday, 
at least, that he defied anybody to say whether 
H. C. [Henry Crawford] would be reformed, or 
would forget Fanny in a fortnight." On the 
ninth of March she writes again: "Henry has 
finished Mansfield Park, and his approbation has 
not lessened. He found the last half of the last 
volume extremely interesting.'" Later, on 13 June : 
"Mr. Cooke says 'it is the most sensible novel 
he ever read,' and the manner in which I treat 
the clergy delights them very much." The book, 
it is pleasant to note, had an immediate success ; 
for writing to her niece Fanny on 18 November 
of the same year, she says: "You will be glad to 
hear that the first edition of M. P. is all sold. 
Your uncle Henry is rather wanting me to come 
to town to settle about a second edition, but as 
I could not very conveniently leave home now, 
I have written him my will and pleasure, and 
unless he still urges it, shall not go. I am very 
greedy and want to make the most of it, but as 
you are much above caring about money I shall 
not plague you with any particulars. The pleas- 
ures of vanity are more within your comprehension, 
and you will enter into mine at receiving the 
praise which every now and then comes to me 
through some channel or other." To the same 
niece on 30 November: "Thank you, but it is 

166 



JANE AUSTEN 

not settled yet whether I do hazard a second 
edition. We are to see Egerton to-day, when it 
will probably be determined." The second edition 
actually appeared in 1816. 

Next to Pride and Prejudice, this novel is per- 
haps Jane Austen's greatest work. It contains 
an immense variety of characters, none of whom 
is badly drawn. Fanny Price, Henry Crawford 
and his brilliant sister, Mrs. Norris, Sir Thomas 
Bertram, his wife, and sons and daughters, Fanny's 
father, mother, and family, the Rev. Dr. Grant 
and his wife, Mr. Rushworth, — these are all 
strikingly individual. Fanny is in some respects 
the loveHest of Miss Austen's heroines, and we 
suffer with her silent love, as she lets concealment, 
like a worm i' the bud, prey on her damask cheek. 
The contrasts in characters and scenes in this 
narrative are truly dramatic. As someone has 
said, even Zola has not excelled the picture of 
sordid misery presented in the Price menage, 
made positively terrible to Fanny by the remem- 
brance of the luxury she had quitted. Henry 
Crawford comes dangerously near being a hero 
of romance, and it must be admitted that Miss 
Austen could not draw men as she sketched women. 
He is, however, far more real than the Willoughby 
of Sense and Sensibility, and his fascination for 
certain kinds of women is perfectly comprehensible, 

167 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

just as we easily understand why his sister outshone 
for a time the less conspicuous charm of Fanny. 
Edmund, like all of Jane Austen's good men, is 
inclined to be priggish ; but he is not lacking in 
reality. Dr. Grant was probably known only 
too well at the Steventon parsonage ; but after 
' all, while somewhat selfish, and decidedly glutton- 
ous, he is not made contemptible. Mrs. Norris 
is one of the best drawn characters in the story ; 
she is indeed so offensively real, that she gets on 
a reader's nerves, and we realise how formidable 
she must have been to a creature like Fanny. 
Sin and disgrace enter into this powerful novel 
more than into any other of Miss Austen's works ; 
but it is the character of the sinner, and not the 
details of the sin, that the author analyses. She 
was interested not in the sensations of sin, but 
wholly in the processes of mind that lead up to it ; 
being a true psychologist. Of all Miss Austen's 
masterpieces, Mansfield Park is the richest in its 
display of artistic resources. 

Emma, bearing on its three title-pages the date 
1816, had been advertised to appear in the preced- 
ing December. Since the publication of Mans- 
field Park, early in 1814, Miss Austen steadily 
worked on this story, and was far advanced with 
it by the spring of 181 5. The dedication of Emma 

168 



JANE AUSTEN 

and the circumstances that led to it are interest- 
ing, and prove, that although the author's name 
never appeared with her books, her identity was 
fairly well known. During the autumn of 1815 
her brother Henry fell seriously ill, and Jane went 
to London to take care of him. One of the Prince 
Regent's physicians was in constant attendance, 
and he knew that the quiet woman who seemed 
anxious only for her brother's recovery was the 
great novelist. He gave her deep pleasure by the 
information that the Prince was an assiduous 
reader of her books ; that a full set reposed in 
every one of the royal residences ; that the Prince 
had been informed that Miss Austen was in Lon- 
don, etc., etc. His Royal Highness immediately 
requested Mr. Clarke, the librarian of Carlton 
House, not only to invite the lady to visit the 
palace and view the Prince's library and other 
rooms, but to inform her that if she were writing 
another novel, she might dedicate it to him. The 
following correspondence immediately took place — 

"Nov. IS, 1815. 
" Sir, — I must take the liberty of asking you a ques- 
tion. Among the many flattering attentions which I re- 
ceived from you at Carlton House on Monday last was the 
information of my being at liberty to dedicate any future 
work to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, without the 
necessity of any solicitation on my part. Such, at least, I 
believed to be your words ; but as I am very anxious to be 

169 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

quite certain of what was intended, I entreat you to have 
the goodness to inform me how such a permission is to be 
understood, and whether it is incumbent on me to show 
my sense of the honour by inscribing the work now in the 
press to His Royal Highness; I should be equally con- 
cerned to appear either presximptuous or ungrateful." 

To which communication she received the fol- 
lowing reply : 

"Carlton House, Nov. i6, 1815. 

"Dear Madam, — It is certainly not incumbent on you 
to dedicate your work now in the press to His Royal High- 
ness ; but if you wish to do the Regent that honour either 
now or at any future period I am happy to send you that 
permission, which need not require any more trouble or 
soUcitation on your part." 

Mr. Clarke added that every novel she wrote 
increased his opinion of her powers, and that 
Mansfield Park had reflected the highest honour 
on her genius and her principles. 

Shortly after, in response to another letter 
from the royal librarian, she wrote in the fol- 
lowing interesting vein : 

"Dec. II. 
" Dear Sir, — My Emma is now so near publication 
that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten 
your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton 
House, and that I have Mr. Murray's promise of its being 
sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three days 
previous to the work being really out. I must make use of 
this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high 
praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to 

170 



JANE AUSTEN 

wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond 
their merits. My greatest anxiety at present is that this 
fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the 
others. But on this point I will do myself the justice to 
declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its success, I 
am strongly haunted with the idea that to those readers 
who have preferred Pride and PreJ2idice it wUl appear in- 
ferior in wit, and to those who have preferred Mansfield 
Park inferior in good sense." 

Emma is unique among Jane Austen's works in 
that the reader's attention is almost entirely con- 
centrated upon one character. In this respect it 
differs most widely of all from Mansfield Park, 
where the interest is more generally diffused than 
in any other of her stories. She felt deep misgiv- 
ings as to the popular and critical reception of 
Emma, as the letter printed immediately above 
sufficiently shows ; but while, for one reason or 
another, the majority of her admirers do actually 
prefer both Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield 
Park to this later production, she need have felt 
no fear that its publication would lower her rep- 
utation. On the contrary, there are many who 
place Emma first in the list of the author's novels. 
This "sturdy young patrician," as somebody has 
called her, is at least refreshingly assertive and 
self-reliant, most of all when she is in the wrong, 
thereby differing from Fanny Price, who hardly 
dared call her soul her own. What a powerful 

171 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

contrast between this heroine and the one whom 
she followed into the world, and what an illustra- 
tion of creative power to make both girls so re- 
markably attractive ! Emma has more actual 
faults than any other of Miss Austen's persons 
who are intended to gain the reader's sympathy. 
She is something of a snob, understands perfectly 
the privileges of her social rank, and means to 
have others understand them as well. She thinks 
she understands human nature, and delights to 
act in the role of match-maker, in which capacity 
she is a failure. Best of all, she is ignorant of her 
own heart, as the most charming heroines in fiction 
are wont to be. She does not realise that she loves 
Knightley until the spark of jealousy sets her soul 
aflame. The curious thing is, that before we finish 
the book we actually like her all the better for her 
faults, and for her numerous mistakes; her heart 
is pure, sound, and good, and her sense of prin- 
ciple is as deeply rooted as the Rock of Gibraltar. 
She is, however, a snob ; and this is the only in- 
stance in fiction that I can remember at this 
moment where a snob is not only attractive, but 
lovable. 

The plot of the story, that which critics used 
to call the "fable," is not so well ordered or so 
convincing as in Mansfield Park. It by no means 
gives the sense of the inevitable that we feel in 

172 



JANE AUSTEN 

reading Pride and Prejudice. The suspicion crosses 
our mind at times that the author is about to ar- 
range a surprise for us, though we do not know 
what it is to be. We are dazzled at the skill, 
brilliancy, and cleverness displayed, and we ad- 
mire the genius which is so constantly in evidence ; 
but in some of the other stories we have no thought 
of admiring skill or genius, for we feel that it is 
not art, but life. In other words, the dramatic 
illusion is not so perfect in Emma; the novel is 
simply a wonderful tour de force. 

Emma was the last production that Jane Austen 
saw in type, for her life was drawing to a close. 
How active her pen was in these last days may 
be seen by the fact that while she was revising the 
proof-sheets of Emma she was busily engaged on 
a new book. As early as 13 March 1816, she 
writes to her niece Fanny, "I will answer your 
kind questions more than you expect. Miss 
Catherine is put upon the shelf for the present, 
and I do not know that she will ever come out; 
but I have a something ready for publication, 
which may, perhaps, appear about a twelvemonth 
hence. It is short — about the length of Catherine. 
This is for yourself alone. Neither Mr. Salusbury 
nor Mr. Wildman is to know of it." Mr. Oscar 
Fay Adams says : " Mr. Austen-Leigh in his bi- 
ography makes no mention of Catherine; and I 

173 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

am not aware that this reference to it appears to 
have been noticed by any writer upon Jane Austen. 
Its author probably never subjected it to revision, 
from the feeling that it was not up to the level of 
her other work, and took care that it should not 
be published. ... I am led to wish that this 
and not Lady Susan had fallen into her nephew's 
hands." Is not the explanation of the Catherine 
mystery really a very simple one ? It has oc- 
curred to me only this moment at my desk, but 
it seems convincing. The reference must be to 
Northanger Abbey, whose heroine is Catherine. 
It is certain that Jane Austen thought of publish- 
ing this book before her death, and certain also 
that she did not. The novel also is short, "about 
the length" of Persuasion. This covers every 
difficulty, including the supposed total disappear- 
ance of another book. 

On 28 March she writes to the same correspond- 
ent : " Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry 
acquainted with my having another ready for 
publication. I could not say No when he asked 
me, but he knows nothing more of it. You will 
not like it, so you need not be impatient. You 
may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost 
too 'good for me." She had already remarked in 
the same letter, " Pictures of perfection, as you 
know, make me sick and wicked," a statement 

174 



JANE AUSTEN 

that throws a flood of light on the creation of such 
characters as Emma, and indeed on her whole 
method of composition. 

She finished Persuasion in August 1816, in the 
form in which we have it now ; but she thought 
she had finished the book on the 18 July, for she 
wrote at the end of the manuscript, " Finis," and 
then added that date. The more she thought 
about the conclusion, however, the less she liked 
it; and in spite of failing health, she determined 
to have nothing published of which she could not 
approve. She therefore struck out Chapter X, 
and wrote in its place two others, which bring 
about the denouement in a totally different fashion. 
Curious readers may compare the condemned 
chapter, which appears in Mr. Austen-Leigh's 
Memoir, with the book as it stands ; and they 
will see that the flame of genius burned brightly 
to the last, for the substitution is a marked im- 
provement on the first version. It affords, also, as 
has been said, an illustration of her conscientious 
devotion to her art. 

She probably spent the rest of the year 1816 
in revising and correcting the whole work ; and 
on 27 January she began the composition of a 
story, which she wrote at steadily, completing 
twelve chapters, under enormous difficulties of 
disease, by 17 March, when she was forced to lay 

175 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

aside all thoughts of book-making. No title was 
ever given to this narrative, nor does anyone 
know what course the plot was to follow ; but we 
are assured by her nephew that in the draft which 
remains there is no evidence of failing strength. 

Persuasion was not published until 1818, when, 
as has been said, it appeared with Northanger 
Abbey and a Memoir, in four volumes. It thus 
has a melancholy interest for us, as being the last 
work of art that she completed. It is one of the 
miniature masterpieces in the English language, 
and its scenes at Bath and at Lyme are indelibly 
impressed on the reader's mind. The character 
of Anne Elliott, while completely lacking the 
self-assertion of Emma, was, we may be sure, a 
pretty close approximation to what Jane Austen 
thought a woman should be. There is no moral 
teaching in this book, any more than in her other 
works of fiction, but the ethical element is strong, 
and the virtues of constancy, purity, and modesty 
stand out in bold relief. In some respects Anne 
Elliott is the most spiritual of all Miss Austen's 
heroines ; she has a great soul, and we do not 
wonder that Captain Wentworth found it difficult 
to forget her. In her gentleness, purity, and 
sweetness she reminds us of the best of all Russian 
heroines, Turgenev's Lisa; and like Lisa, when 
she gave her heart, she gave it once and for all. 

176 



JANE AUSTEN 

Let no one believe that Jane Austen's men and 
women are deficient in passion because they be- 
have with decency : to those who have the power 
to see and interpret, there is a depth of passion in 
her characters that far surpasses the emotional 
power displayed in many novels where the lovers 
seem to forget the meaning of such words as hon- 
our, virtue, and fidelity. To say that Elizabeth 
Bennet, Darcy, Knightley, Captain Wentworth, 
Fanny Price, and Anne Elliott lack passion, be- 
cause we know that not one of them would have 
sacrificed a principle for its enjoyment, is to make 
the old error of assuming that only those persons 
have passions who are unable to control them. 



177 



IV 

DICKENS 

On the last page of one of Mr. Arnold Bennett's 
realistic romances, two men are discussing the 
character of the hero, and, as might be expected, 
from totally different points of view. His jealous 
enemy petulantly enquires: "What has he ever 
done? He never did a day's work in his life." 
To which the other responds, *'He is engaged in 
the great work of cheering us all up." 

Such work in the world is needed, and is in 
truth of enormous importance. When it is suc- 
cessfully accomplished, its reward should be cor- 
respondingly great ; when a supreme genius de- 
votes all his powers throughout his entire career to 
this single aim, the result is of incalculable ben- 
efit to humanity. The birth of Charles Dickens 
in 1812 was one of the best things that happened 
in the nineteenth century; and if the death of a 
comedian can eclipse the gaiety of nations, the 
death of Dickens in 1870 took away the world's 
chief benefactor. Fortunately, when a great writer 
dies, he does not cease to live, and the sum of happi- 

178 



DICKENS 

ness that he bequeaths accumulates at compound 
interest through all time to come. 

Now, the great work in which Dickens was 
engaged was the work of cheering us all up. For 
the principal aim of his life was not, like that of 
Flaubert, to write his language well ; nor was it, 
like that of Stevenson, to protest against one form 
of fiction by writing another; nor, like that of 
Jane Austen and Tolstoi, to tell the exact truth 
about humanity. We may not all agree as to 
whether Dickens was a realist or a romanticist, 
as to whether his portraits are accurate or cari- 
catures, as to whether his style was fundamentally 
good or fundamentally bad ; but we are virtually 
agreed that his novels, from Pickwick Papers to 
Our Mutual Friend, have been, are, and will be, a 
prodigious and permanent contribution to the 
happiness of men, women, and children all over 
the world. He loved humanity, and I do not 
suppose there ever was a writer more beloved than 
he. The supreme glory of being an artist lies in 
the grateful homage of human hearts. We admire 
our discoverers, our geographers, our inventors ; 
we pay them the tribute of respect. We realise 
the value of men who throw bridges across vast 
chasms, who enable us to talk with friends hundreds 
of miles away — men who conquer like gods the 
elements of earth, water, and air. We cannot get 
179 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

along without them any more than we can get 
along without food and clothing. Even more 
highly do we value those who dwell day and night 
in laboratories, spending years in patient search 
after the spirit of evil represented by a microbe ; 
for the result of their lonely toil is that sickness 
and physical pain are diminished. The anguish 
departs, the blind see, and the lame walk. Strictly 
speaking, these scientists are perhaps the most 
useful members of society. But the first place 
in our hearts is held not by those who make new 
machinery or by those who arrest the progress of 
disease, but by those who in a certain sense are 
not useful at all. Those who give us ideas rather 
than facts, those who enrich our imagination and 
our memory, those who ravish our hearts with 
harmonies, who thrill us with a rag of canvas 
and a block of stone, who mist our eyes with 
mirth and with sympathy by purely imaginary 
persons in imaginary situations in printed type — 
those are the ones we love. For although man 
cannot live without bread, he cannot live by bread 
alone. 

Mr. Kipling has neither affection nor admira- 
tion for our country, and we are all keenly aware 
of the fact ; yet when he lay close to death in New 
York, the bulletins from his bed preceded in im- 
portance all other news in every town in the United 

i8o 



DICKENS 

States, and thousands who had never seen him 
talked of his illness with a lump in the throat. 
Some years ago, an enterprising German news- 
paper sent out a vast number of blanks to be filled 
in with the names of the ten men whose lives were 
considered most important to the welfare of Ger- 
many. After the Kaiser and the Chancellor, Ger- 
hart Hauptmann stood first on the list, while 
Koch and Roentgen trailed in the rear. 

To realise the true greatness of Dickens, one 
need only think for a moment what English fiction 
would be without him. If not the highest, he at 
all events fills the biggest place. Of the dozen 
British novelists who hold permanent positions, 
he would be the last one we could spare. For, 
looking at him from many points of view, he seems 
the most original writer of them all. In his char- 
acters and in his style, he resembled none of his 
predecessors. If we lost Scott, we should still 
have Stevenson, and vice versa ; if we lost Fielding, 
we should still have Thackeray ; if we lost Jane 
Austen, we should still have George Eliot. But 
if we lost Dickens, to whom should we go? The 
loss would make a blank appalling to contemplate. 
Smollett? Put Smollett in Dickens's place, and 
see what becomes of Smollett. Of all the careless, 
ill-considered commonplaces of criticism, the state- 
ment that Dickens resembles Smollett is one of 

i8i 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the most absurd. In nearly all vital things Dickens 
was the exact opposite of Smollett. Those who 
say that there is a family likeness between Smollett 
and Dickens have either never seen Smollett in a 
strong light or else they have forgotten him. And 
it is surprising how easy it is to forget Smollett, 
although he was a man of genius. 

I say that in nearly all vital things Dickens is 
the exact opposite of Smollett. The personality 
of a writer is the thing that counts, and even the 
most objective writers cannot as a rule conceal 
their personality. In fact, the only one I have 
ever read who has really hidden himself is Shake- 
speare — one of the numerous miracles displayed 
in his works. The personality of Smollett, his 
way of thinking, his attitude toward life, and his 
attitude toward the children of his imagination, 
are in striking contrast to Dickens. Of all the 
great British novelists, Smollett is the most heart- 
less, while the bigness of Dickens's heart — its 
throbbing love and sympathy — is the most ob- 
vious and salient characteristic of his books. The 
moral attitude of a writer, his grasp of the religious 
and moral basis of life, is of the highest importance, 
for out of that flows the stream of his work, and 
its quality and flavour are largely determined by 
it. Now, there is no English novelist of high 
rank whose books betray so Httle of religion and 

182 



DICKENS 

morality as Smollett's, and none who shows more 
than Dickens. In Roderick Random and in Pere- 
grine Pickle, God, Christianity, and the future life 
are as though they were not. The light of humour 
and the light of intellect are there, but there is no 
spiritual radiance. On the other hand, Dickens 
was so obsessed by religious and moral forces that 
his novels, like those of Dostoevski, are really a 
commentary on the four gospels : his characters 
concrete illustrations of ethical ideas ; while the 
whole vast panorama is illumined by the splendour 
of the other world. Take Christianity and im- 
mortality out of Dickens, and his fire straightway 
becomes ashes. You cannot take these ideas out 
of Smollett, because he never put them in. I do 
not of course mean to say that Smollett was an 
immoral writer. He was not nearly so immoral as 
Sterne, although he was a physician and Sterne a 
minister of the gospel. 

The moral grasp of a novelist is shown most 
clearly in his attitude toward his characters. 
Tolstoi said that an artist need not write a book 
with a moral purpose, least of all with the main 
object of enforcing some particular truth that 
might be dear to him ; but his attitude toward 
his own characters should always be absolutely 
clear. He went on to say that this deficiency — 
the inabihty to distinguish between what is right 

183 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

and what is wrong, irrespective of creed — is the 
most glaring deficiency in the works of Guy de 
Maupassant. That this brilliant Frenchman orig- 
inally possessed some moral force is clearly evi- 
dent in the first and greatest of his novels, Une vie; 
that he ultimately lost it, just as one may lose the 
sense of hearing or of sight, is equally evident in 
his later books, like Notre coeur and Fort comme la 
mort. Now, the attitude of Dickens toward his 
characters, though sometimes unnecessarily evi- 
dent, was always correct. It is shown not only 
in a general, but in a particular and peculiarly 
charming manner — I mean in the way his char- 
acters develop. For some of the best of his char- 
acters are not at all fixed types. The Pickwick 
of the earlier chapters is different from the Pick- 
wick at the end of the book. And the great 
beauty of this projection is that Pickwick does 
not change; he develops. He seems at first an 
object meant primarily to arouse laughter, at 
times the butt of the company, of the reader, and 
of the author ; but when we finish the last chapter, 
we realise that Mr. Pickwick is a noble-minded 
gentleman, whom we love, honour, and respect. 
A remarkable instance of this same method of 
development in character is seen in the case of 
Dick Swiveller. In the early stages of our ac- 
quaintance with this never-to-be-forgotten per- 

184 



DICKENS 

sonage, he impresses us as little more than an 
idle loafer ; but Dickens, looking on this young 
man, loved him, and raised him to the very heights 
of chivalry. For, with conditions and circum- 
stances considerably altered, the attitude of Mr. 
Richard Swiveller to the wretched little drudge 
was as full of noble courtesy as that of Lohengrin 
to Elsa. 

The mind, heart, and soul of Dickens were 
ablaze with faith — faith in God and faith in 
humanity. This is one of the reasons why he 
succeeded so well in the great work of cheering 
us all up. Faith was the furnace that warmed 
every room in the great structures he built. A 
man without faith may have many excellent quali- 
ties, he may be a great artist, or become an im- 
mortal writer ; but he is not our refuge and strength, 
a very present help in trouble. Dickens, however, 
had sufficient faith to inspire himself and countless 
thousands who came within the circle of his in- 
fluence, for he really believed in ultimate good. 
Like Browning he 

"Never doubted clouds would break; 
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would 
triumph ; " 

and he naturally wrote his novels from that point 
of view, for he interpreted the significance of life 
in just that way. Perhaps the most glaring con- 

i8S 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

trast between the work of Dickens and that of 
much contemporary literature in 191 2 is the 
presence and absence of the central fire of faith. 
A large number of brilliantly written novels and 
dramas in our time betray not merely weariness, 
gloom, and heartsickness, but, above all, bewilder- 
ment and uncertainty. There is not only no help- 
ful philosophy of life : there is no philosophy of 
life at all. Thence comes the depressing monotony 
that hangs over modern Continental literature 
like a cloud — the monotony of a ship whose 
steering-gear is broken, driven hither and thither 
by every gust, and at the mercy of the storm's 
caprice. This atmosphere of monotonous restless- 
ness is well exhibited in a recent French play, 
with the significant title, Les marionettes. The 
only good character in the drama finally speaks 
out his mind, expressing as well the sentiments of 
the spectators : "L'air qu'on y respire est mauvais 
. . . oui, j'ai besoin de calme, de solitude . . . 
et je serais heureux surtout d'entendre parler 
d'autre chose que d'amour." 

Dickens's characters are not marionettes. His 
pages are charged with the tremendous vitality of 
their author's mind. Life was inexpressibly sweet 
to him, and he had a veritable zest for it. He loved 
the streets of London because they were filled 
with crowds of men, women, and children. His 

186 



DICKENS 

zest for life is shown in the way he describes a 
frosty winter morning, the pleasant excitement 
of the departure of a coach, and the naive delight 
he takes in the enormous meals his characters 
devour. He fills the hungry with good things. 
It would be interesting sometime to write a critical 
essay on various authors from the strictly culinary 
point of view. Some novelists never give us any- 
thing to eat and drink, others give us too much. 
The delicate reserve, austerity, and shyness char- 
acteristic of Hawthorne both as an artist and as a 
man appear in a great variety of ways, and appear 
specifically in the fact that he seldom places his 
characters about the dinner-table, and when he 
does, the food lacks both variety and abundance. 
In Dickens, there is a vast amount of beef, mutton, 
vegetables, pudding, and beer. No sooner do 
two characters meet on the street, than they ad- 
journ to a restaurant, where every article in the 
long bill of fare is portrayed with realistic relish. 
Dickens discusses gravy as a Frenchman discusses 
love or a pedant an old text. Think of the stu- 
pendous meals consumed by Homeric heroes, 
with their ''rage of hunger," and then read the 
Faerie Queene, where no meals are served except 
to one of the seven deadly sins ! No dyspeptic 
should ever read Dickens, for the vicarious diet 
of the characters might kill him. 
187 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Every child in England and America to-day 
should be grateful to Dickens, for the present 
happy condition of children is due in no small 
degree to his unremitting efforts in their behalf. 
Under the Puritan regime, there was no place for 
children, while to-day we have gone so far in the 
other direction that many households revolve 
about the nursery, and the caprices of the child 
are carefully studied and gratified by doting par- 
ents. This is the golden age for children, and I 
suppose they are making the most of it, and will 
continue to do so, while the kindergarten and 
nature-study take the place of discipline. But 
in Dickens's boyhood the influence of the Puritan 
autocracy of maturity had by no means passed 
away. Our novelist must have suffered continual 
mortification as a child to write about the bad 
manners of elders toward children with such mor- 
dant bitterness. What he emphasised was not 
so much the material discomfort constantly suf- 
fered by children as the daily insults to their 
dignity. They were repressed, they were beaten, 
they were starved ; but worse than that, they 
were treated with a grinning condescension more 
odious than deliberate insult. Dickens, with all 
the force of his genius, insisted on the inherent dig- 
nity of childhood. I confess I cannot read with- 
out squirming those passages in Great Expecta- 



DICKENS 

tions where every visitor greeted the small boy by 
ruffling his hair; and I think most of us can re- 
member without any difficulty and with a flush of 
joy those extremely rare cases in our own child- 
hood when some grown-up visitor treated us with 
real, instead of with mock, respect. It is perhaps 
the final test of a gentleman — his attitude toward 
children. 

Dickens's novels are unequal in value, but, un- 
Hke many writers, he had no single great period 
and no prolonged lack of inspiration. Pickwick 
Papers and Oliver Twist, which came very early in 
his career, are great books, but so indubitably are 
Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend which 
came very late. Indeed, I think, with the single 
exception of David Copperfield, Great Expectations 
is his finest work. And yet it followed hard upon 
the only two novels of his that I dislike, Little 
Dorrit, and A Tale of Two Cities. As for Little 
Dorrit, it is not too much of a good thing so much 
as it is too much of a bad thing; and as for the 
much-praised Tale of Two Cities, it rings to my 
ears false from first to last. His genius was not 
fitted for historical romance, any more than it 
was for the writing of history, as his Child's History 
of England abundantly demonstrates. Indeed, I 
think that the Tale of Two Cities is as inferior to 
David Copperfield as — to refer to that splendid 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

reincarnation of Dickens in our own day, long life 
to him! — An Affair oj Dishonour is to Joseph 
Vance. All we can say of these two historical 
romances is that they are better than most con- 
temporary attempts in the same direction. But 
of genius we always expect works of genius, which 
is sometimes very hard on the genius. 

Two things constantly said of Dickens seem to 
me in the last analysis untrue — that he was pri- 
marily a caricaturist and that he was careless as 
an artist. A caricaturist is not by nature original: 
he must have a model ; otherwise he cannot work, 
and the point of his caricature is lost. Now, 
Dickens was profoundly and in the highest sense 
an original writer ; his creation of character had 
that originality possessed only by genius. Sam 
Weller, Dick Swiveller, Ham, Steerforth, Tom 
Pinch, Mr. Boffin, to select out of what an aston- 
ishing number and variety ! are not caricatures ; 
they are original creations, imperishable additions 
to our literary acquaintances. And if one really 
doubts that Dickens was a serious and sincere 
artist, one should read again that chapter in David 
Copperfield where the profound conviction of his 
life was expressed, namely, that the one sure road 
to failure is to belittle one's own calling and eflforts, 
and to take one's chosen work in the world in a 
flippant or ironical way. I am sure that many 

190 



DICKENS 

readers cannot see those words staring at them 
from the page without a wave of shame. 

Some years ago I organised among my under- 
graduate students a Faerie Queene Club. The 
sole requirement for active membership was that 
the candidate should have read every word of 
that vast poem. One of the youths, writing an 
essay on his sensations after concluding his task, 
said, "The Faerie Queene is so great that it is 
absurd to attempt to measure its greatness ; we 
can only measure ourselves by it." The remark 
betrayed healthy modesty and true insight, and 
the boy who said it has already achieved literary 
distinction. I am glad to adapt his words to 
Dickens. He is so great that we can only measure 
ourselves by him. There are many who fancy 
they have outgrown Dickens ; but I suspect that 
they would change their minds if only they would 
read him. Those who think they have outgrown 
him really need him the most ; just as no one needs 
faith so much as those who have lost it. They 
need to be cheered up. And Dickens was engaged 
in the great work of cheering us all up. 



191 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

Time has dealt ironically with the man who re- 
quested that no biography of him should be 
written. From earliest youth to extreme old age 
he resented the intrusion of curious eyes within 
his own four walls. Writing to Miss Welsh, 12 
October 1823, discoursing eloquently on the thought 
that after death our friends will remember us with 
love alone, and all our faults be forgotten, he ex- 
claims, "The idea that all my deformities shall be 
hid beneath the grass that covers me, and I shall 
live like a stainless being in the hearts of those that 
loved me, often of itself almost reconciles me to the 
inexorable law of fate." What a motto this sen- 
tence would have been for Froude to have placed 
on the title-page of his biography! And we know 
that Froude had read these very words in Carlyle's 
own manuscript. The "stainless being" has had 
his "deformities" subjected to a ruthless search- 
light. The idlest vagaries of his dreams and the 
most hasty imprecations of transient irritation 
have received the permanent mould of cold t}^e. 
His best friend and most ardent disciple, in an 
192 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

eager and honest efifort to tell the whole truth 
about him, laboriously constructed a colossal myth. 
Let us hope that Browning was right when he said 
that in the next world we shall enjoy some better 
means of communication than words. For lan- 
guage, even when used with the excellent combina- 
tion of sincerity and literary skill, often produces 
an effect the exact opposite of its maker's inten- 
tion. But as clouds and fogs obscure a mountain 
only for a time, and are powerless to lessen its real 
proportions, so misrepresentation can never destroy 
a great man. Truth lives in an atmosphere of 
falsehood as mountains live serenely amid clouds. 
And the final truth is that Carlyle's character was 
as noble as his genius was lofty. 

Just as the love-letters of the Brownings form 
one of the greatest of the world's love stories, and 
raise one's opinion of the possible nobleness of 
human nature, so the letters between Carlyle and 
Jane Welsh would be intensely interesting had 
neither writer attained other fame. It is like a 
novel or a great drama : the man loved the woman 
from the first moment, and after a siege of five 
years, captured her. At the last it was an uncon- 
ditional surrender ; but a spectator who did not 
know the end would never believe in a victorious 
outcome. Few better opportunities have ever been 
given the world to study the intricate workings of a 
o 193 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

woman's heart. The man in this particular ele- 
ment is the constant, the known quantity : there 
was not a day in these five years, even when union 
seemed farther away than a star, that he did not 
love her ; and with the boldness, not of professional 
art, but of naked sincerity, he told her so again 
and again. But the woman — she passed through 
every conceivable phase in her mental and emo- 
tional attitude toward her correspondent. To his 
intense mortification, she addressed him first as 
Mr. Carslisle: and when remonstrated with, did it a 
second time. Indifference can go no farther than 
that. Then she gradually became aware of his 
extraordinary mental power, and responded to it 
with unwilling admiration. Naturally enough, 
she found his letters intellectually stimulating, as 
who would not ? And being at this time eaten up 
with ambition herself, she felt that he could aid 
her immensely toward realising her vain dreams 
of literary fame. So while opening her mind to 
his influence, she kept the door of her heart firmly 
closed. Soon she began to see that, mentally, he 
was enormously her superior : she saw this with a 
mortification that changed into respect; for it is 
the simple truth to say that even in the days of 
his greatest fame no one beHeved in Carlyle's 
genius more impHcitly than did Jane Welsh in the 
dark hours of his obscurity. Whatever she was, 
194 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

she was no fool : she saw clearly that the obscure 
peasant's son who made love to her was one of the 
elect of all the earth. Then she discovered, that 
while she wanted fame only, he wanted to be 
worthy of it ; and it dawned upon her that the dis- 
tance that separated them morally was greater 
than the distance between their minds. So the 
base of her fancied social superiority, from which 
she had somewhat contemptuously regarded her 
clumsy admirer, began to shift : from looking down, 
she found herself looking up : and for the rest of 
her life, whenever she looked at Carlyle, she looked 
in no other direction than that. In a woman, the 
desire to be good is strong, and survives even in 
the presence of evil ; Jane Welsh's spirit of pride 
and mockery was quelled by the simple moral 
grandeur of her lover. She told him that she loved 
him, but was not in love with him; she knew the 
difference well enough, for she had been passion- 
ately in love with Irving, and had suffered keenly. 
She had reached the stage where she would not 
marry Carlyle, but promised to marry nobody 
else ; and Carlyle pretended to be content with 
that. Then came a crisis ; she was forced to face 
the possibility of losing him forever ; and the awful 
blank revealed to her the actual state of her heart, 
and she found she was really in love. Carlyle had 
won her without once yielding to her caprices, 
195 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

without one touch of serviHty, and without the 
least bhndness to her defects : an amusing part of 
the correspondence is his complete frankness about 
her many faults. They both agreed on marriage 
finally because they felt that while they probably 
would not be entirely happy together, they would 
assuredly be miserable separate. Never was a 
marriage entered upon with more misgivings on 
both sides — and yet there is not the slightest 
doubt that the love of both was passionate and 
sincere. He had loved her steadily : she had 
swung around the complete circle of emotion, and 
had finally been drawn indissolubly to him by his 
rock-like constancy. It is Donne's great figure of 
the compasses, only in this instance the man is the 
fijced foot. 

"If they be two, they are two so 
As stiff twin compasses are two ; 
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show 
To move, but doth, if th' other do. 

And though it in the centre sit, 
Yet, when the other far doth roam, 
It leans, and hearkens after it. 
And grows erect, as that comes home." 

In truth his firmness "made her circle just." 

The world's thanks are due to the editor of these 
two volumes for his courage and wisdom in print- 
ing all the letters, for his pains taken to ensure 

196 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

complete accuracy, for the excellent notes, which 
are always clear and helpful, for the adequate illus- 
trations, and for the extremely valuable appendices. 
These contain the original poems that passed 
between the two, and incidentally give for the 
first time the credit of the authorship of the best 
one to Carlyle : it is the one example that has 
always been cited to prove that Mrs. Carlyle had 
some genuine literary talent, and thus disappears 
the last spark of her purely literary fame. Froude 
receives a few hard knocks in the Introduction and 
Notes, but we are glad to see that these volumes 
are not intended as a controversial document; 
interesting as this melancholy fight may be to the 
members of the two families, the world has almost 
ceased to take any interest in it, and will soon for- 
get it entirely; for even the proverbial door-nail 
is not so dead as an extinct literary controversy. 
The value of this correspondence lies in its wonder- 
ful revelation of the hearts of a great man and an 
interesting woman ; and in the light that it throws 
on the early growth and development of Thomas 
Carlyle. No one can fully understand his position 
in the history of literature without reading these 
volumes. 

It is an extraordinary fact that Mr. Craig's 
book should have appeared synchronously with the 
Love-Letters, for his conclusions are apparently 

197 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

based on a knowledge of their contents. His work 
is properly called, The Making of Carlyle ; but it 
might equally well be entitled, A Commentary on 
the Love-Letters. All things considered, it is per- 
haps the fairest and most accurate account of the 
early years of Carlyle's life that has ever been 
published, which is certainly saying a good deal. 
Mr. Craig is no advocate for anybody or anything ; 
he is interested in Carlyle, and a devout believer 
in his genius, or he would not take the trouble to 
write so big a book about him ; but the contro- 
versies that have risen over his grave cause sorrow 
rather than anger. His references to the Love- 
Letters are especially interesting, now that we can 
verify his conclusions by the actual published 
originals. He says: "With her he kept up an 
incessant correspondence which has never yet 
been published, if indeed in its entirety it exists." 
Again : " Probably all the letters will be published 
some day, not improbably by Carlyle's represent- 
atives under pressure of circumstance." This is 
not a bad guess. 

Mr. Craig traces Carlyle's life, both in its ex- 
ternal facts and in its mental development, from 
his birth in 1795 to the year of the publication of 
the French Revolution, which made him a famous 
man, and marked the end of his terrible struggle 
for recognition. The bitter years of obscurity are 

198 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

perhaps the most interesting to study, for they 
contain the whole of the fight. It was during 
these years also that his greatest book was written, 
for Mr. Craig rightly judges that Sartor Resartus is 
Carlyle's masterpiece, as well as his spiritual auto- 
biography. ^^ Sartor had proved that in Carlyle 
lay the most original thinking force in literary 
Britain." This sentence will probably find more 
favourable judgment than the following, " Sartor, 
however, is a book of the Ages, ranking alongside 
Job or Faust, a book the world does not receive 
the like of every century or every millennium," 

Several important facts that have been hitherto 
unnoticed or unstressed are made clear in this 
volume. " Carlyle never suffered extreme poverty, 
and never in all his life did he live in very disagree- 
able situations. . . . Few men have defied and 
toiled and struggled and risen so comfortably, 
sunnily, well-housed and circumstanced as Thomas 
Carlyle." This statement will surprise many, but 
it is abundantly proved. Carlyle's ill-health was 
actual, not imaginary ; but the worst trait in his 
nature was his daily substitution of the mountain 
for the mole-hill. Many authors have suffered far 
greater hardships than he, without making one- 
tenth of the pother ; and marriage, which cures 
many a man of this vice of complaint, only added 
to Carlyle's; for his wife's gift in this direction 

199 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

was even greater than his own. The modest style 
of living of the young couple was not forced upon 
them by Carlyle's pride, but by necessity ; Jane 
Welsh had no money, and was no heiress ; she was 
even poorer than he. This fact, the ignorance of 
which has caused all kinds of abuse to be heaped 
on Carlyle's head, is now clear. Again, their going 
to Craigenputtock, so pathetically described by 
Froude, was in reality the wisest and best thing 
to do, and no blame can be given to the husband. 
It is true furthermore that Jane Welsh's original 
love affair with Irving had a powerful influence 
upon the steps leading up to the marriage with 
Carlyle ; indeed, at the last Miss Welsh sought 
the marriage rather than accepted it. It is certain 
that Carlyle could have endured separation better 
than she. Again, owing to Froude's unfortunate 
although unintentional misrepresentations, the 
world has believed that Carlyle destroyed both 
his wife's health and his wife's religious belief, 
after their marriage; a terrible accusation, which 
is false. It is proved to be false by the Love-Letters. 
Miss Welsh suffered from ill-health and racking 
headaches years before she married Carlyle, and 
during the whole period of their courtship ; her 
health surely was not broken down by housekeep- 
ing. Nor did she at any time during the five years 
of their acquaintance before marriage have any 
200 



CARLYLE'S LOVE-LETTERS 

Christian belief. Carlyle, though he had made 
his peace with orthodoxy, was much nearer Chris- 
tianity than she ; and his religious influence on her 
was never destructive. We now know also that 
the real origin of Carlyle's peculiar style is seen in 
his Letters. It has been often assumed that Carlyle 
originally wrote in the conventional way, as his 
publications before Sartor show : and that later he 
deliberately adopted the style known as Carlylese. 
This was true in the case of Walt Whitman, whose 
curious style was a deliberate after-thought; but 
Mr. Craig shows that the Carlylese is in his early 
letters, and that the conventional style was a 
mask, which he threw ofif in Sartor, and never 
wore again. 



20X 



VI 

WHITTIER 

Tuesday, 17 December 1907, marked the one 
hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Green- 
leaf Whittier. It is probable that his great fame 
was never greater than it is to-day ; it also seems 
evident that he is a permanent figure in America, 
and that his poetry forms a permanent contribu- 
tion to English literature. Just why this unedu- 
cated farmer should have become a major poet, 
while so many clever verse-experts of higher 
aesthetic temperament remain distinctly " minor," 
constitutes an interesting literary problem. 

Whittier was born at East Haverhill, Massachu- 
setts, of old Yankee stock. His father was poor, 
and the boy had to work on the farm. His school 
education was exceedingly scanty, and he was 
obliged to support himself during term-time by 
manual labour. Later he taught at the Academy, 
a (to him) detestable job ; then he became a jour- 
nalist in various towns in New England and the 
East. He fell in love with a Hartford girl, offered 
his heart and hand, and was rejected. He planned 
a journey in the Far West, which ill-health caused 
202 



WHITTIER 

him to abandon ; the same unpleasant reason 
forced him to give up a political career, for which 
his soul burned with ambition. Under Garrison's 
influence, he became an anti-slavery man, devoting 
many of the best years of his life to this unpopular 
cause ; his wisdom, moderation, and calmness in 
the conflict finally bringing him sharp rebukes from 
the leader, to whom such qualities were incompre- 
hensible. After the war, he lived in contented 
seclusion, and died at Hampton Falls, New Hamp- 
shire, on the seventh of September 1892, having 
nearly attained the age of eighty-five years. 

He was essentially a lonely man. Romantic by 
temperament, susceptible to feminine charms, and 
exactly constituted for the happiness of love and 
domestic life, he was doomed to austere celibacy. 
Filled with curiosity for distant places, and having 
as contemporaries Irving, who spent over twenty 
years of his life in Europe ; Cooper, who, besides 
his voyages, lived abroad seven successive years; 
Bryant, who made six excursions to the Old World ; 
Longfellow, who knew Europe perhaps better 
than his native land — Whittier's travels were 
bounded on the north by the limits of New Eng- 
land, on the east by the neighbouring shore, on 
the south by Washington, and on the west by 
Harrisburg. Brought up a Quaker, he was cut ofif 
from the cheerful human activities of New England 

203 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

churches, the most prominent feature of village 
social life. The curse of constant headaches and 
chronic insomnia made him almost a prisoner, or, 
as Barrett Wendell phrases it, he was ''generally- 
troubled by that sort of robust poor health which 
frequently accompanies total abstinence." But 
with all these discouragements, privations, and en- 
forced renunciations, he seems to have preserved 
the temperament of a beautiful child. 

Whittier wrote poetry from earliest youth up to 
the last moments of his life, his excellent poem to 
Oliver Wendell Holmes appearing about a week 
before his death. His successive volumes were the 
chief events in his existence. Now, if we could 
borrow a word from the science of Mathematics, 
we might roughly divide poetry into two classes, 
— Pure and Applied. Pure poetry would be poetry 
entirely sufficient unto itself ; it gives pleasure 
merely ; its final aim is Beauty. Poets of high 
distinction who have successfully endeavoured to 
compose pure poetry are John Keats and Edgar 
Allan Poe. Applied poetry would include instances 
where the poet's art is applied to some moral aim, 
as the religious elevation of humanity, or something 
still riore specific, like the abolition of slavery. 
Most of Whittier's productions come under the 
head of Applied Poetry. He makes no claim to be 
either Poeta or Vates. He says : 

204 



WHITTIER 

" Of mystic beauty, dreamy grace, 

No rounded art the lack supplies ; 
Unskilled the subtle lines to trace, 
Or softer shades of Nature's face, 

I view her common forms with unanointed eyes. 

Nor mine the seerlike power to show 

The secrets of the heart and mind; 
To drop the plummet-Une below 
Our common world of joy and woe, 

A more intense despair or brighter hope to find. 

Yet here at least an earnest sense 

Of human right and weal is shown ; 
A hate of tyranny intense. 
And hearty in its vehemence. 

As if my brother's pain and sorrow were my own." 

Whittier would seem to illustrate Tolstoi's definition 
of art ; if I understand the Russian apostle, he 
maintains that Poetry, Fiction, and Drama should 
be v^ritten wholly under the impulse of the religious 
consciousness. For this reason he despised Shake- 
speare, and regarded his own tracts as greater than 
Anna Karenina. Whittier 's poetic creed would 
surely have pleased him. 

To the sensation-seeker, Whittier's poems seem 
to lack many of the qualities that have brought 
permanent fame to other writers. The eternal 
and predominant theme of poetry — Love-Passion 
— is conspicuous by its almost complete absence ; 
we search in vain for the salt of humour ; there is 

205 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

very little internal struggle; for, while Whittier's 
religious faith was weak in dogma, it was strong 
in assurance ; the swift march of his narrative is 
often delayed by didactic impedimenta; and his 
imagination seldom soars to a thrilling height. 
Yet he unquestionably belongs to the glorious 
company of true poets. 

In the first place, he had something which is the 
real foundation of Art, as it is of Character — 
absolute Sincerity. Both the man and the poet 
were simply incapable of deliberate falsehood. His 
best poems are transparent like a mountain lake. 
The pure in heart shall see God ; and they see many 
lowly things as well, for their eyes are clairvoyant, 
unclouded by selfish desire. No taint of self-pity 
mars — as it does in Byron — Whittier's poems of 
Nature. He could not interpret Nature like 
Wordsworth, but he could accurately portray in 
verse the things that he saw, a rare gift. His pictures 
of the New England winter landscape are too 
familiar to quote ; but he is something more than 
a snow-poet. The very Genius of Summer is in 
these lines : 

" Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold, 
That tawny Incas for their gardens wrought, 
Heavy with sunshine droops the golden-rod, 
And the red pennons of the cardinal-flowers 
Hang motionless upon their upright staves. 
The sky is hot and hazy, and the wind, 
206 



WHITTIER 

Wing-weary with its long flight from the south, 
Unfelt ; yet, closely scanned, yon maple leaf 
With faintest motion, as one stirs in dreams, 
Confesses it. The locust by the wall 
Stabs the moon-silence with his sharp alarm. 
A single hay-cart down the dusty road 
Creaks slowly, with its driver fast asleep 
On the load's top. Against the neighbouring hUl, 
Huddled along the stone wall's shady side, 
The sheep show white, as if a snow-drift still 
Defied the dog-star. Through the open door 
A drowsy smell of flowers — grey heliotrope, 
And white sweet-clover, and shy mignonette — 
Comes faintly in, and silent chorus lends 
To the pervading symphony of peace." 

Such passages class Whittier among our foremost 
American poets of nature ; and they prove that in 
fidelity to detail he was as sincere artistically as 
he was morally in his attacks upon slavery. 

Again, if Hawthorne was, as has been happily 
said, the Ghost of New England, Whittier was its 
Soul. The rocky hillsides of the North Shore had 
complete dominion over his heart. And (whether 
we like it or not) New England, though narrow 
geographically, has always held the intellectual 
and moral hegemony of America. There was a 
vast difference between the Yankee farmer and a 
European peasant. The former owned the land 
that he tilled, as his fathers had before him. The 
Yankee farmers were often poor, often uncultured : 
but they were never servile ; they were kings, 
207 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

recognising no superior but God. Whittier knew 
the Massachusetts farmer's life as well as any man 
who ever lived : and no one has ever expressed it 
better than he. His poetic realism is both external 
and internal. He gives us naively all the details 
of the farm, together with the spirit of the New 
England home. Busy men in city offices, who had 
been born and bred in the country, read Snow- 
Bound in a golden glow of reminiscence. The pic- 
ture is simply final in its perfection, without and 
within. Not only is it perfect in outline, but 
perfect in its expression of the castlelike security 
and proud independence of the Home. The right 
word to describe the inner meaning of this poem 
is unfortunately not in the English language, and 
it is rather curious that we must seek it in the 
French. The French, as has been wearisomely 
pointed out, have no word for home ; but we have 
no word that exactly expresses the significance of 
foyer. It is, however, the real basis of Whittier's 
greatest poem. 

Finally, in the wide field of Religious Poetry, 
Whittier achieved true greatness. Someone has 
said that the Puritans represented the Old Testa- 
ment, and the Quakers the New. Surely, no 
religious sect in the world has ever had a finer his- 
tory in virtues of omission and commission than 
the Society of Friends. Whittier is primarily a 
208 



WHITTIER 

Christian poet, a child of faith. He fulfils one of 
the highest functions of the poet — he not only 
inspires us in the midst of the daily work and 
drudgery, but he comforts and sustains weary and 
sore hearts. He followed the gleam. Like that 
old Churchman, George Herbert, Whittier's intense 
piety did not restrict one iota the bounds of his 
immense charity. The same spirit that kept him 
from hating the slaveholders made him a genuine 
admirer of men whose religious principles he could 
not follow. His poem. The Eternal Goodness, em- 
braces a larger number of true Christians than the 
Apostles' Creed. On the more positive side, it is 
pleasant to note his manly, sturdy defence of his 
sect in the verses called The Meeting. I have 
always believed that this particular poem was in- 
spired by Browning's Christmas Eve. The definite 
attitude toward religious worship taken by both 
poets is precisely similar. They both cheerfully 
recognise the ignorance and uncouthness of the 
pious band ; but there each chose to abide, for 
there each thought he found the largest measure of 
sincerity. 

It is a splendid tribute to the essential goodness 
of popular taste that Whittier has triumphed and 
will triumph over all the modern sensational poets 
who delight in clever paradoxes, affected forms of 
speech, and in mentioning the unmentionable. The 
p 209 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

" Complete Poetical Works" of Whittier are aglow 
with the divine fire of a great Personality — a per- 
sonality whose influence makes for everything that 
is best in civilisation, and which had to so high a 
degree the childlike simplicity of the Kingdom of 
Heaven. 



2IO 



VII 

NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

One does not naturally associate the names of 
Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) and Mark Twain, 
yet there is a curious parallel between a section of 
the Religio Medici (1642) and Some Rambling Notes 
of an Idle Excursion, by our American humorist. 
The latter sketch gives an amusing dialogue be- 
tween a profane old sea-captain, Hurricane Jones, 
and a well-known New England clergyman, who 
figures in the story as " Peters." The captain did 
not know that Peters was a minister, so he under- 
took to explain the Bible miracles to his passenger, 
and " wove a glittering streak of profanity through 
his garrulous fabric that was refreshing to a spirit 
weary of the dull neutralities of undecorated 
speech." In particular the captain gave a delight- 
ful exegesis of the discomfiture of the prophets of 
Baal by Elijah. The fact that the captain called 
Elijah "Isaac" is merely an unimportant detail, 
and does not in any way vitiate the value of his 
interesting commentary. 

" Well, the prophets of Baal prayed along the best they 
knew how all the afternoon, and never raised a spark. At 

211 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

last, about sundown, they were all tuckered out, and they 
owned up and quit. 

"What does Isaac do, now? He steps up and says to 
some friends of his, there, 'Pour four barrels of water on 
the altar ! ' Everybody was astonished, for the other side 
had prayed at it dry, you know, and got whitewashed. 
They poured it on. Says he, 'Heave on four more barrels.' 
Then he says, 'Heave on four more.' Twelve barrels, you 
see, altogether. The water ran all over the altar, and all 
down the sides, and filled up a trench around it that would 
hold a couple of hogsheads, — ' measures,' it says ; I reckon 
it means about a hogshead. Some of the people were 
going to put on their things and go, for they allowed he was 
crazy. They didn't know Isaac. Isaac knelt down and 
began to pray ; he strung along, and strung along, about 
the heathen in distant lands, and about the sister churches, 
and about the State and the country at large, and about 
those that's in authority in the Government, and all the 
usual program, you know, till everybody had got tired and 
gone to thinking about something else, and then all of a 
sudden, when nobody was noticing, he outs with a match 
and rakes it on the under side of his leg, and pff ! up 
the whole thing blazes like a house afire ! Twelve barrels 
of water? Petroleum, sir. Petroleum! That's what it 
was ! " 

" Petroleum, captain ? " 

"Yes, sir; the country was fuU of it. Isaac knew all 
about that. You read the Bible. Don't you worry about 
the tough places. They ain't tough when you come to 
think them out and throw light on them. There ain't a 
thing in the Bible but what is true ; all you want is to go 
prayerfully to work and sipher out how't was done." 

Now in the nineteenth section of Browne's 
Religio Medici, the author is talking gravely of his 

212 



NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

religious doubts and thinks that they are whispered 
in the ears of believers by no less a personage than 
the devil. 

" For our endeavours are not only to combat with doubts, 
but always to dispute with the Devil : the villany of that 
Spirit takes a hint of Infidelity from our Studies, and by 
demonstrating a naturality in one way, makes us mistrust 
a miracle in another. Thus having perused the Archidoxes 
and read the secret Sympathies of things, he would disswade 
my belief from the miracle of the Brazen Serpent, make me 
conceit that Image worked by Sympathy, and was but an 
Egyptian trick to cure their Diseases without a miracle. 
Again, having seen some experiments of Bitumen, and hav- 
ing read far more of Naptha, he whispered to my curiosity 
the fire of the Altar might be natural ; and bid me mistrust 
a miracle in Elias, when he entrenched the Altar round with 
Water ; for that inflamable substance yields not easily unto 
Water, but flames in the Arms of its Antagonist." 

Having observed this interesting parallel, I 
wrote to Mark Twain on the subject. I imme- 
diately received this characteristic reply : 

New York, April 24, igoi. 
I was not aware that old Sir Thomas had anticipated 
that story, and I am much obliged to you for furnishing me 
the paragraph. It is curious that the same idea should 
have entered two heads so unlike as the head of that wise 
old philosopher and that of Captain Ned Wakeman, a 
splendidly uncultured old saUor, but in his own opinion a 
thinker by divine right. He was an old friend of mine of 
many years' standing ; I made two or three voyages with 
him, and found him a darling in many ways. The petro- 
leum story was not told to me ; he told it to Joe Twicbell, 

213 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

who ran across him by accident on a sea voyage where I 
think the two were the only passengers. A delicious pair, 
and admirably mated, they took to each other at once and 
became as thick as thieves. Joe was passing under a ficti- 
tious name, and old Wakeman didn't suspect that he was a 
parson ; so he gave his profanity full swing, and he was a 
master of that great art. You probably know Twichell, 
and will know that that is a kind of refreshment which he is 
very capable of enjoying. Sincerely yours, 

S. L. Clemens. 

Mark Twain's first book, The Celebrated Jumping 
Frog of Calaveras County, was published on the 
first of May 1867. On the very day of its appear- 
ance in print, the author wrote a highly interesting 
letter to his friend, Bret Harte, in which he com- 
ments on the new publication, and announces his 
departure for the Old World. This was the voyage 
that made him famous, for it resulted in the com- 
position of Innocents Abroad, the work that gave 
him the world-wide reputation that he was to 
enjoy for forty years. The year 1867 marks also 
the date of Bret Harte's first book, Condensed 
Novels; his great contribution to literature, The 
Luck of Roaring Camp, had not yet appeared. 
It is interesting to note the signature, " Mark," 
for in later years he almost invariably signed 
his epistles with his own name. It was only a 
short time before this that he had adopted the 
pseudonym. 

214 



NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

Westminster Hotel, May i, 1867. 

Dear Bret — I take my pen in hand to inform you 
that I am well and hope these few line [sic] will find you 
enjoying the same God's blessing. 

The book is out, and is handsome. It is full of damnable 
errors of grammar and deadly inconsistencies of spelling in 
the Frog sketch because I was away and did not read the 
proofs — but be a friend and say nothing about these 
things. When my hurry is over I will send you an auto- 
graph copy to pisen the children with. 

I am to lecture in Cooper Institute next Monday night. 
Pray for me. 

We sail for the Holy Land June 8. Try and write me 
(to this hotel), and it will be forwarded to Paris, where we 
remain 10 to 15 days. 

Regards and best wishes to Mrs. Bret and the family. 

Truly Yr Friend 

Mark.^ 

On a memorable afternoon at Florence, the 
fourteenth of April 1904, I had an hour's conver- 
sation with him and his daughter Jean. Her 
sudden death five years later was the last terrible 
shock that Mark Twain had to endure in the 
steady tragedy of his old age. She acted as her 
father's secretary, and during the last year of his 
life, she, and his biographer, Mr. Paine, made up 
the little family circle at Redding. In a letter that 
I received from Mark Twain only a few weeks 

1 This autograph letter, j^ellow with years, was kindly given 
to me in 1908, by Bret Harte's sister, Mrs. Wyman, of Oakland, 
California. 

215 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

before his death, he said of Jean, " I shall not have 
so dear and sweet a secretary again." 

When I entered the room in Florence where he 
and his daughter were sitting, I found him absorbed 
in reading the latest news of the Japanese-Russian 
war, and it was with difficulty that I could induce 
him to talk on any other theme. He was a tre- 
mendous partisan of the Japanese, and rejoiced 
greatly in their victories. "The real reason," said 
he dryly, " why the Russians are getting licked is 
because of their niggardly policy. Look at General 
Kurapotkin ! I read in the papers that he has 
taken out with him only eighty holy images ! Just 
like the Russians ! They never make adequate 
preparation for battle. Why, eighty ikons are not 
half enough; they ought to have two or three for 
every private soldier if they expect to beat those 
clever Japs. But that's just the way the Russians 
do business; they are economical with their holy 
images when they ought to order them out by the 
carload." I remarked that I had just read in the 
New York Sun a poem by Miss Edith Thomas, in 
which she hotly defended the Russians because they 
were Christians, and earnestly hoped that they 
would triumph over the heathen Japanese. He 
impatiently replied, "Edith doesn't know what 
she's talking about." 

I finally persuaded him to talk a little about 
216 



NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

himself. I asked him which of all his works he 
thought was the best. In Yankee fashion he asked 
which I put first, and I said Huckleberry Finn. 
After a moment's hesitation he remarked: "That 
is undoubtedly my best book." Then I asked if, 
leaving aside the pleasure of artistic creation, it 
was not a source of great happiness to him to think 
that from a river pilot on the Mississippi he had 
risen to be an honoured and welcome guest at 
royal courts, and that this change in his circum- 
stances had been wrought not by the accidental 
acquisition of a great fortune or by success in war, 
but wholly by the power of his own mind. (For 
from this point of view Mark Twain's career is 
unique in the history of America.) He drawled 
out very slowly : "I do look back on my life with 
considerable satisfaction." 

The truth about his selection of the name Mark 
Twain has appeared in print before, but nine out of 
every ten times it is stated falsely, and has so been 
published since his death. He did not adopt the 
pen name directly from his experience on the river. 
On this occasion he said : 

"There was a man, Captain Isaiah Sellers, who furnished 
river news for the New Orleans Picayune, still one of the 
best papers in the South. He used to sign his articles, 
Mark Twain. He died in 1863 — I liked the name, and 
stole it. I think I have done him no wrong, for I seem to 
have made this name somewhat generally known." 

217 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

I had seen Mark Twain many times since 1876, 
but this was the first occasion when he looked Uke 
an old man. He was tormented with anxiety 
about his wife's health, for he knew her illness was 
fatal. The muscles in his right cheek were beyond 
his control, twitching constantly during the hour 
I spent with him, and there was something wrong 
with his right eye. He had not, however, cut 
short his allowance of tobacco, for he smoked 
three cigars during the conversation. 

If necessity is the mother of invention, misfor- 
tune is the mother of literature. When Nathaniel 
Hawthorne was ejected from the Custom-House at 
Salem, he went home in a despondent frame of 
mind, only to be greeted by his wonderful wife's 
pertinent remark, "Now you can write your 
book." He responded to this stimulus by writing 
the best book ever written in the Western Hemi- 
sphere, The Scarlet Letter. We learn from a famous 
chapter in Roughing It that if Samuel L. Clemens 
had not gone to help a sick friend, or if his partner 
had received the note he left for him before start- 
ing on this charitable expedition, Samuel L. 
Clemens would have been a millionnaire. This 
episode has since his death been printed in a list 
of the misfortunes that marked his romantic and 
tragic career. But if at that time Mr. Clemens 
218 



NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

had become a millionnaire, and he missed it by the 
narrowest possible margin, he never would have 
become Mark Twain. He struggled against his 
destiny with all the physical and mental force he 
possessed. He tried to make a living by every 
means except literature, and nothing but steady 
misfortune and dire necessity made him walk in 
the foreordained path. Mark Twain always re- 
garded himself as the plaything of chance ; profess- 
ing no belief in God, he never thanked Him for his 
amazing successes, nor rebelled against Him for 
his sufferings. But if ever there was a man whose 
times were in His hand, that man was Mark Twain. 
Mark Twain was a greater artist than he was 
humorist ; a greater humorist than he was philoso- 
pher; a greater philosopher than he was thinker. 
Goethe's well-known remark about Byron, "The 
moment he thinks, he is a child," would in some 
respects be applicable to Mark Twain. The least 
valuable part of his work is found among his efforts 
to rewrite history, his critical essays on men and 
on institutions, and his contributions to intro- 
spective thought. His long book on Joan of Arc 
is valuable only for its style ; his short book on the 
Shakespeare-Bacon controversy shows appalling ig- 
norance ; his defence of Harriet Shelley is praise- 
worthy only in its chivalry ; his attack on Fenimore 
Cooper is of no consequence except as a humorous 
219 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

document; his laboured volume on Christian 
Science has little significance ; and when his post- 
humous essay on the "Meaning of Life" is pub- 
lished, as I am afraid it will be before long, it will 
surprise and depress more readers than it will 
convince. 

As a philosopher, Mark Twain was a pessimist 
as to the value of the individual life and an opti- 
mist concerning human progress. He agreed with 
Schopenhauer that non-existence was preferable to 
existence ; that sorrow was out of all proportion 
to happiness. On the other hand, he had nothing 
of Carlyle's peculiar pessimism, who regarded the 
human soul as something noble and divine, but 
insisted that modern progress was entirely in the 
wrong direction, and that things in general were 
steadily growing worse. Carlyle believed in God 
and man, but he hated democracy as a political 
principle; Mark Twain apparently believed in 
neither God nor man, but his faith in democracy 
was so great that he almost made a religion out of it. 
He was never tired of exposing the tyranny of 
superstition and of unmasking the romantic 
splendour of mediaeval life. 

Mark Twain was one of the foremost humorists 
of modern times ; and there are not wanting good 
critics who already dare to place him with Rabelais, 
Cervantes, and Moliere. Others would regard 

220 



NOTES ON MARK TWAIN 

such an estimate as mere hyperbole, born of 
transient enthusiasm. But we all know now that 
he was more than a funmaker ; we know that his 
humour, while purely American, had the note of 
universality. He tested historical institutions, the 
social life of past ages, political and religious 
creeds, and the future abode of the saints by the 
practical touchstone of humour. Nothing sharpens 
the eyes of a traveller more than a sense of humour ; 
nothing enables him better to make the subse- 
quent story of his journey pictorially impressive. 
The Innocents Abroad is a great book, because it 
represents the wonders of Europe as seen by an 
unawed Philistine with no background ; he has 
his limitations, but at any rate his opinions of 
things are formed after he sees them, and not 
before. He looks with his own eyes, not through 
the coloured spectacles of convention. Roughing 
It is a still greater book, because in the writing 
of that no background was necessary, no limita- 
tions are felt ; we know that his testimony is true. 
The humour of Mark Twain is American in its 
point of view, in its love of the incongruous, in 
its fondness for colossal exaggeration ; but it is 
universal in that it deals not with passing phenom- 
ena, or with matters of temporary interest, but 
with essential and permanent aspects of human 
nature. 

221 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

As an artist Mark Twain already seems great. 
The funniest man in the world, he was at the 
same time a profoundly serious artist, a faithful 
servant of his literary ideals. The environment, 
the characterisation, and the humanity in Tom 
Sawyer remind us of the great novelists, whose 
characters remain in our memory as sharply defined 
individuals simply because they have the touch 
of nature that makes the whole world kin. In 
other words, Tom Sawyer resembles the master- 
pieces of fiction in being intensely local and at 
the same time universal. Tom Sawyer is a definite 
personality; but he is also eternal boyhood. In 
Huckleberry Finn we have three characters who 
are so different that they live in different worlds, 
and really speak different languages, Tom, Huck, 
and Jim ; we have an amazingly clear presentation 
of life in the days of slavery ; we have a marvel- 
lous moving picture of the Father of Waters ; but, 
above aU, we have a vital drama of humanity, in 
its nobility and baseness, its strength and weak- 
ness, its love of truth and its love of fraud, its 
utter pathos and its side-splitting mirth. Like 
nearly all faithful pictures of the world, it is a vast 
tragi-comedy. What does it matter if our great 
American had his limitations and his excrescences ? 
To borrow his own phrase, ''There is that about 
the sun that makes us forget his spots." 

222 



vm 

MARLOWE 1 

Biographical accounts of Marlowe resemble 
those of all other Elizabethan dramatists in con- 
taining two grains of fact in a bushel of conjecture. 
Had Ben Jonson's library not been burned, or had 
Thomas Heywood spent the time on his projected 
Lives of the Poets that he squandered on the Hier- 
archy of the Blessed Angels, we should probably 
know for certain many things that remain shrouded 
in complete darkness. Nothing in literary history 
is more depressing to contemplate than the mis- 
directed energy of Shakespeare's contemporaries; 
they produced huge folios on impossible themes. 
Had any one of them spent a half-holiday, in their 
busy years of quill-driving, in narrating the simple 
facts of Shakespeare's career, those few sheets 
would have outweighed in interest for us tons of 
the controversial, scholastic, and theological stuff 
that they built with so much toil. Heywood's alert 
and inquisitive mind seems to have had some notion 
of the future importance of such a book, for he 

^ Introduction to Christopher Marlowe in Masterpieces of Eng- 
lish Drama. Copyright, 191 2, by American Book Company. 
Used by kind permission of the publishers. 

223 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

said positively that it was his intention to produce 
a biographical history of the poets, ancient and 
modern, including all his contemporaries. But 
although he wrote over two hundred plays, and 
scores of other volumes, this particular one became 
valuable only as a paving-stone in an oft-mentioned 
place. 

Of the actual facts in Marlowe's life we know 
little except that he was born in Canterbury in 
February 1564, that he studied at Cambridge Uni- 
versity (if the "Marlin" and "Chrof. Marlen" on 
the books there be the dramatist), and that he was 
killed by a person named Francis Archer, and buried 
at Deptford, i June 1593. Nothing whatever is 
known of his personal appearance. We cannot 
even prove that he wrote Tamburlaine; the external 
evidence is astonishingly small. We have to as- 
sume it on the basis of a variety of contemporary 
references. We do not know whether or not he 
wrote any part of the early historical plays usually 
included in Shakespeare's works. We can form 
no idea of how many interpolations there may 
have been in the four plays on which his fame as 
a dramatist rests. Nor do we know for certain 
when a single one of these four dramas was com- 
posed or first acted ; so that all the vast theories 
that have been erected on their chronological place 
in the Elizabethan drama rest upon guess-work. 
224 



MARLOWE 

Besides the four chief plays, two others bearing 
Marlowe's name may receive passing mention, 
though as pieces of literature they are unimportant. 
On 3 January 1593, while Marlowe was still 
living, The Massacre at Paris was put on the 
boards; this was published somewhat later, but 
there being no date on the title-page of what is 
apparently the earliest edition, the year of its 
first appearance in print is not known. This title- 
page, however, bears the legend, " Written by 
Christopher Marlowe." That is the only line in 
the whole volume of any real interest. Another 
play, The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage, was 
published in quarto form so early as 1594, and on 
the title-page appeared "Written by Christopher 
Marlowe and Thomas Nashe, Gent." This drama 
contains some verses here and there that seem 
like faint echoes of the mighty line ; but it also 
includes gems of poetry such as 

" Gentle Achates, reach the tinder-box," 

which we may hope supplied some of the fire lack- 
ing in the verse. 

Marlowe wrote narrative and lyric poetry as well 
as dramatic. His translations from the Latin are 
worthless ; but his splendid fragment, Hero and 
Leander (entered on the Stationers' Books, 28 
September 1593, and published in 1598) in- 

Q 22$ 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

dicates a high order of creative genius. It is 
one of the most notable expressions of the Pagan 
Renaissance in England. The dramatist Chap- 
man completed it, and although his part of the 
work is much finer than ordinary post mortem 
conclusions, it naturally suffers by comparison 
with the early portion. Out of the thousands of 
beautiful lyrical poems produced by the Eliza- 
bethans, Marlowe's exquisite Passionate Shepherd 
to His Love, commencing, 

" Come live with me, and be my love," 

is one of the very best, and many readers from that 
time to this have known it by heart. The thrilling 
music of those spacious times is enchantingly 
heard in the splendid line, 

"Melodious birds sing madrigals." 

Although the author of Tamburlaine the Great * 
must apparently share with Thomas Kyd some of 
the glory of discovering the possibihties of dra- 
matic blank verse and of founding the English 
romantic drama, still the appearance of this play 
is one of the most important events in the literary 
history of the English-speaking race. It is not 
going too far to say that " it worked a revolution 
in English dramatic art." The irrepressible con- 

^The first and second parts were each pubHshed in 1590. 
226 



MARLOWE 

flict between the rules of the classicists and the 
freedom of the romanticists was permanently 
settled by Tamburlaine. He conquered the Eliza- 
bethan stage as in real life he conquered the 
world. The authority of Seneca, the learning of 
Sir Philip Sidney and his friends, the precedent of 
Gorboduc, were all overthrown by the colossal 
figure of the barbarian chieftain and the glorious 
poetry he uttered. At one blow the shackles of 
pseudo-classicism and vain pedantry were struck 
off ; it took a Samson to do it, but he was at home. 
It is within the limits of truth to say that the 
course of Elizabethan drama, the greatest part of 
the greatest period of the greatest literature of the 
world, was determined more by Tamburlaine than 
by any other single cause. And, unlike most 
literary beginnings, which are unconscious, the 
author of Tamburlaine was himself aware of the 
importance of his achievement — he knew what 
he was about. Like Milton in the Preface to Para- 
dise Lost, like Jonson in the Prologue to Every 
Man in his Humour, like Victor Hugo in Cromwell 
and Hernani, the poet appeared with a definite pro- 
gramme. Shakespeare was no innovator ; he was 
content to do everything better than anybody else, 
and let his creations speak for themselves. Not 
so the maker of Tamburlaine. His prologue is a 
shout of defiance. 

227 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

"From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits, 
And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay, 
We'll lead you to the stately tent of war, 
Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine 
Threatening the world with high astounding terms, 
And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword. 
View but his picture in this tragic glass, 
And then applaud his fortune as you please." 

Here is a definite and uncompromising attack 
on rime as a vehicle of dramatic expression : a 
crack of the whip at professional buffoonery, so 
dear to Elizabethan spectators, and so despised by 
the poets ; and a contemptuous blow in the face 
to the public, whose attitude toward the piece is 
utterly indifferent to the author, for it was written 
to please no one but himself. 

Courage and conviction, backed by genius, had 
their natural reward. The first matinee of Tam- 
burlaine was an epoch-making day. The character 
of the Scourge of God, as portrayed by the great 
actor Edward Alleyn, himself a man of colossal 
size and great histrionic ability, fairly dazzled the 
Elizabethans. We must always remember that 
people then went to the theatre not to see, but to 
hear ; stage scenery and settings were scanty ; the 
play was the thing. Mouthed in sonorous Eliza- 
bethan fashion, this new and magnificent blank 
verse charmed and electrified the Elizabethans like 
marvellous music. 

228 



MARLOWE 

Blank verse had been introduced into English 
poetry by the Earl of Surrey, who, about the 
middle of the sixteenth century, translated two 
books of the ^neid in this measure. But Surrey's 
style was naturally rough and halting; and a 
perusal of his work gives little idea of what possi- 
bilities lay in this instrument. The stiff Senecan 
tragedy Gorhoduc (acted about 1561) was written 
in blank verse of monotonous rigidity; it chilled 
rather than charmed. The playwrights who im- 
mediately preceded Marlowe failed in the one 
thing in which he most emphatically succeeded ; 
namely, expression. They could conceive dramatic 
situations, but the language accompanying the 
supreme moment was usually entirely inadequate, 
and often pitiably weak. Marlowe's characters 
and events required a " great and thundering 
speech"; and, needless to say, it was plentifully 
supplied. It thundered indeed so loudly that some 
contemporaries laughed it to scorn, but their 
laughter has the discordant tone of envy rather 
than the ring of sincerity. In the Preface to 
Greene's Menaphon, Nash remarked, "Idiot arts- 
masters, that intrude themselves to our ears as the 
alchemists of eloquence; who (mounted on the 
stage of arrogance) think to outbrave better pens 
with the swelling bombast of a bragging blank 
verse." And again, he alludes to what he calls 

229 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

" the spacious volubility of a drumming decasylla- 
bon." Greene, who sneered at Marlowe as a 
" cobbler's eldest son," said with swelling blank 
verse we should not dare " God out of heaven with 
that atheist Tamburlan.'' Ben Jonson said the 
play had nothing in it " but the scenical strutting 
and furious vociferation to warrant [it] to the 
ignorant gapers." 

Tamhurlaine was peculiarly Elizabethan in tone, 
and it is not at all surprising to find that in Resto- 
ration days it had passed almost into oblivion, 
Charles Saunders, in a Preface to the play Tamer- 
lane in 1681, wrote: "It hath been told me there 
is a Cockpit play going under the name of The 
Scythian Shepherd, or Tamhurlaine the Great, which 
how good it is, any one may judge by its obscurity, 
being a thing not a bookseller in London, or scarce 
the players themselves who acted it formerly, 
could call to remembrance." 

Tamhurlaine was a real character in history, 
whose actual achievements sound like a wild 
romance. Timur, called Timur Lenk (that is, 
Timur the Lame), Tamerlane, or Tamhurlaine, was 
an Asiatic Napoleon of the fourteenth century. 
He was born in 1333 in Central Asia, and for some 
time was merely the chief of a petty tribe. But he 
finally overran and subdued an enormous stretch 
of territory, extending from the Chinese Wall to 

230 



MARLOWE 

the Mediterranean Sea, and from Siberia to the 
Ganges. His cruelty was as notable as his genius, 
though not so uncommon. He is said to have 
built a pyramid constructed entirely of the heads 
of his foes. He died in 1405, and his empire went 
to pieces. In 1543, a Spanish biography of him 
appeared at Seville, composed by Pedro Mexia. 
This book had great vogue, and was translated 
into various European languages. The Enghsh 
version was printed in 1571, and it is extremely 
probable that it is the chief source of the drama 
Tamburlaine. The details are largely the same; 
the cage, the crumbs of bread, the scraps of meat, 
and the title, Scourge of God, are all in the original. 
It is difficult to speak calmly of this tremendous 
ten-act tragedy. If its author exceeded all bounds 
of restraint, the critics from that day to this have 
unconsciously followed his example. To some it is 
wisdom, to others foolishness ; but both those who 
condemn and those who praise have drawn heavily 
on their stock of adjectives. Lamb did not take it 
seriously ; but Swinburne in writing of it had one 
of his frequent fits of ecstasy. The play, of course, 
shows no regard for dramatic structure. There is 
no development, either of plot or of character ; 
there might as well have been a hundred acts as 
ten. As some one has said of Hauptmann, the 
play does not end, it quits. 

231 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

But the salient virtue of this drama, apart from 
its superb diction, is that we have, for the first 
time in English tragedy, one grand, consistent, un- 
forgettable character. We do not ask of romantic 
heroes, either in Cooper or in Shakespeare, that 
they shall resemble actual life. All we demand is 
that they make a permanent impression on the 
imagination. This Tamburlaine assuredly does. 
No one who has ever once read the play can by 
any possibility forget the protagonist. He is the 
incarnation of the spirit of aspiration — the spirit 
of Marlowe, and the spirit of the Elizabethan age. 
He revels in the intoxication of boundless power. 
His swelling confidence hypnotises his friends, and 
paralyses his enemies. His most bitter foes feel 
the resistless fascination of the man. Some of the 
best things said about him are uttered by his an- 
tagonists. Tamburlaine trusts no earthly or divine 
agent; his God is himself. 

His passionate love for Zenocrate is perfectly 
natural, and not in the least inconsistent. His wild 
pagan nature has its one ideal side — Beauty. Of 
beauty in the abstract he speaks in language too 
familiar to quote, but which Shelley or Keats 
might have envied. Now beauty in the concrete, 
beauty incarnate, appears in the fair person of 
Zenocrate, and the strong man worships. Their 
marriage is an ideal union, strength and beauty; 

232 



MARLOWE 

and it is easy to understand how Zenocrate falls 
under the spell of the man's dominant power, and 
returns his love with constant devotion. 

There is no real humour in the drama, but there 
is terrible irony. Tamburlaine treats his victims 
as the cat handles the mouse. His mock courtesy 
is more awful than his positive cruelty. But there 
is a far deeper irony than this, and it is here that 
the drama ceases to be merely a resplendent ro- 
mance; at this point it reaches the very basis of 
human tragedy, for it represents nothing less than 
the irony of life. So far as I know, this appears 
here for the first time in English drama. Some 
one has defined happiness as " freedom from limi- 
tations." Tamburlaine, drunken with success, 
believes that he has attained this liberty. The 
death of Zenocrate bewilders as much as it grieves 
him. And finally he, too, must yield to a foe 
stronger than himself. The advance of death is a 
tremendous shock to his aspiring heart ; and he 
realises, as other conquerors have realised, that 
instead of controlling fate, he is its plaything. 
Death is the only " check to egotism." 

The passion of this play sweeps the reader along 
with it now, much as it did in the sixteenth cen- 
tury. Some one has compared the perusal of it to 
a debauch of mental passion, leaving the reader 
weak and exhausted. It was written hot from 

233 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

the brain, and is evidently full of those magnificent 
impromptus so frequent in Shakespeare. The late 
Richard Holt Hutton used to speak of the " sud- 
den solemnising power" of Browning — how after 
a long pedestrian passage, suddenly, without any 
approach to it, without any warning or premonition 
to the reader, the great poet irresistibly carries us 
off into the ether. Such power is also peculiarly 
characteristic of the author of Tamburlaine. In 
the midst of sheer nonsense or vain bombast 
comes a passage that salutes our ears with strains 
divine. 

In Elizabethan times, England knew France, 
Italy, and Spain very well. But Germany was an 
undiscovered country.^ The Enghsh of 1540 and 
the English of 1590 looked at Germany from widely 
different view-points. In the early part of the 
century, the great German name was Luther, and 
the word Germany signified Protestantism. Then 
as the influence of the Renaissance grew and pre- 
vailed (and it should never be forgotten that the 
Renaissance was pagan, both in spirit and in 
power) and as England grew in military greatness 
and began to triumph on land and sea, Germany 
rather lost its religious significance, and assumed 

* The next few paragraphs owe much to Professor C. H. Her- 
ford's admirable book, Studies in the Literary Relations of Eng- 
land and Germany (1886). This is a model of what such a work 
should be. 

234 



MARLOWE 

a new and literary interest unlike anything it had 
possessed before. 

In the latter part of the century, the word that 
Germany expressed in England was mystery; 
partly because it was so little known, partly be- 
cause it had produced famous physicians who had 
become already legendary figures, — Paracelsus, 
Faust, and others. To the Elizabethan dramatists 
Germany came to be necessarily associated with 
magic. For news of alchemy, astrology, sorcery, 
and all specimens of the black art, Englishmen 
naturally looked toward Germany. A twilight air 
of mystery enveloped the region of the Rhine. 

Meanwhile England in a certain degree lost the 
respect she had entertained for German Protes- 
tantism, for England was now the great champion 
of the Reform ; and in civilisation, colonial reach, 
political, naval, and military power England felt 
herself to be the superior to her Teutonic neigh- 
bour. Travellers, statesmen, and serious students 
rather neglected Germany, and devoted themselves 
to France and Italy, where they thought to learn 
something. Thus actual political events in Ger- 
many do not appear in the Elizabethan drama with 
anything like the frequency of French. 

The literary interest taken in Germany was of a 
different order, and proved to be fruitful. Strange 
and startling tales came over the North Sea. 

235 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

These were often made into " news-sheets" by en- 
terprising journalists, and in this fashion hawked 
about the streets of London. Fantastic enough 
some of these sounded. Mr. Herford gives a 
number of illustrations : 

A Bloody Tragedy Acted by Five Jesuits on 
Sixteen Young German Frows. 1607. 

Account of Executions of Two Hundred and Fifty 
Witches. 

Strange Sight of the Sun and the Elements at 
Basel. 1566-67. 

History of a Fasting Girl. 

True Discourse of One Stubbe Peter, a Most 
Wicked Sorcerer, who in Likeness of a Wolf Com- 
mitted Many Murders. 1590. 

These are fair examples, and we see that they 
are somewhat similar to the subjects of exploit in 
yellow journalism of the twentieth century. 

But the single greatest contribution that Ger- 
many made to literary England at this time — 
how great no one then dreamed — was the legend 
of Faust. Dr. John Faust was a real person, who 
flourished in the same century as Marlowe. He 
was a rather cheap medical quack, who lived about 
1530. Strange stories grew about him, and after 
his death they rolled along with the cumulative 
power of a snow-ball. 

The relation between Marlowe's play, The 
236 



MARLOWE 

Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, and its original 
source, is full of unsolved and apparently insolu- 
ble problems. The drama was not entered on the 
Stationers' Books till 1601, and the first known 
edition is dated 1604, with the inscription on the 
title-page: "Written by Ch. Marl." But this 
was eleven years after Marlowe's death. Now 
the story of Faust had not appeared in book form 
until 1587, when was published in Germany the 
so-called Faustbuch, which seems to be the source 
of Marlowe's play. The first known edition of an 
English translation is in 1592, although that date 
on the title-page may mean 1591. It is assumed 
that Marlowe's play was acted in 1588 or 1589; 
but, as a matter of fact, nobody knows. It is also 
assumed that Marlowe knew no German, and there- 
fore founded his play on the English translation of 
the Faustbuch ; and in order to account for this 
many scholars further assume that there was an 
earlier edition of the English translation, and that 
this earlier edition appeared shortly after 1587 and 
is now lost. If we possessed this unknown book, 
and possessed also some definite knowledge as to the 
first performance of the English play, we should be 
within the limits of knowledge instead of in the fog of 
conjecture. The "earliest known reference" to the 
presentation of the play occurs in Henslowe, by 
which we learn that it was acted 30 September 1594. 

237 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

But whether the date of the composition of Mar- 
lowe's Faustus be 1589 or 1592, he has the immense 
credit of having produced the first play in any lan- 
guage on this immortal theme ; and the short time 
(whatever theory we adopt) that intervened be- 
tween the appearance of the Fausthuch in Germany 
and the play in England is nothing less than re- 
markable. Marlowe must have instantly perceived 
the splendid dramatic possibilities of the story, for 
he made out of them, notwithstanding all the crudi- 
ties and blemishes, a dramatic masterpiece. 

It is not at all fair to Marlowe to compare the im- 
perfect text of his hastily composed Faustus with the 
Faust of Goethe. The former was written by a 
young man with scarcely any literary background. 
Goethe had all the leisure of ease and mature years, 
with two centuries of culture behind him. After all, 
Marlowe's character of Faustus is essentially child- 
ish ; he longs for magic power, like a boy who has 
read the Arabian Nights. Goethe's hero longs for 
life, which he has missed, life with all its variety of 
experience. And into his mouth Goethe put the 
thoughts of one of the greatest literary geniuses that 
the world has seen since the death of Shakespeare. 
The qualities that win our admiration and respect 
for Marlowe's drama are the thrilling intensity of 
the climax, which in other hands might have been 
absurd, the wonderful height of pure poetry reached 

238 



MARLOWE 

in certain passages, and the extraordinary concep- 
tion of Mephistopheles. As a boy in Canterbury, 
Marlowe had in all probability seen frequent repre- 
sentations of the devil on the local stage, for the 
mysteries and moralities were not extinct ; he was 
of course familiar with the devil of Puritan imagina- 
tion, and of the conception of hell as a definite place 
of fire. But instead of making Mephistopheles a 
grotesque bugaboo, compounded of mirth and 
horror, he made him a spirit of sombre melancholy, 
tortured with the eternal memory of his lost estate. 
And the geography of hell shows that Marlowe was 
at least two hundred years in advance of his time. 

"Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed 
In one self place : for where we are is hell, 
And where hell is there must we ever be." 

The fact that the miracles of one age are the 
commonplaces of another is curiously proved in 
this drama. The Duchess, on being requested to 
demand an illustration of the supernatural power 
of Faustus, asks what to Elizabethan minds was an 
impossible thing, — grapes in January. Mephisto 
is gone only for a moment, and returns with the de- 
sired fruit, and in reply to the Duke's amazed en- 
quiry, Faustus explains that although it is winter 
here it is summer in certain parts of the world, and 
" by means of a swift spirit " the grapes are brought. 
Both the swift spirit and the eating of grapes in 

239 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

January are now so familiar to us as to excite no 
comment. 

The final awful soliloquy of Faustus and the 
terrific climax of the play raise a rather interesting 
question in art. Marlowe's reputation in his own 
time was that of an atheist, and it is highly probable 
that he was a defiant unbeliever. But no Puritan 
sermon could have exceeded in religious force and 
effect the depiction of Faustus's fearful struggles 
with conscience, and the unspeakable horror of his 
departure. Now, either Marlowe, like Greene, 
felt occasional pangs of remorse (of which, however, 
there is no other evidence than this play) and the 
last soliloquy came from his own terror-stricken 
heart, or his artistic temperament was so com- 
pletely ascendant that he was able to treat this 
sinner's dissolution with precisely the same artistic 
aloofness with which we should describe the suffer- 
ings of Prometheus. Such an attitude toward the 
Christian religion at that time is, to say the least, 
unusual ; and it would require two things, the most 
absolute and assured unbelief, and an extraordinary 
power of artistic ventriloquism. 

The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta 
was licensed for the press on 17 May 1594, 
but the earliest known edition is a quarto of 1633, 
forty years after Marlowe's death. On the title- 
page appears " Written by Christopher Mario." In 

240 



MARLOWE 

spite of many hypotheses and conjectures, no one 
knows when it was written nor when it was first 
acted. We know that Alleyn added greatly to his 
renown by his wonderful portrayal of Barabas ; on 
the stage this Jew was largely a comic character, and 
wore a huge false nose. The source of this drama is 
unknown ; there seems to have been an earlier play 
on a similar subject ; but as the play is lost, all con- 
jectures built on it are of no moment. This is un- 
doubtedly Marlowe's best acting play, as Faustus 
is perhaps his literary masterpiece. The plot is 
wildly improbable, like most of the works of Shake- 
speare ; but it is steadily interesting, and crowded 
with action. The critics seem mostly to have de- 
cided that the first two acts are fine, and the last 
three indicate a sad falling off. With this judg- 
ment I find it impossible to agree. The interest 
in the story is maintained steadily to the powerful 
and unexpected conclusion ; and the climax is 
of that kind that has particularly delighted spec- 
tators in all ages of theatrical history, for 'tis sport 
to see the engineer hoist with his own petard. 

With reference to the Hterary value of The Jew oj 
Malta, much wordy war has been waged. Swin- 
burne says, " Only Milton has surpassed the open- 
ing soHloquy." This is exaggerative, for Shake- 
speare has surpassed it fifty times, as have other 
English poets, including Marlowe himself. It 
R 241 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

does not compare for an instant with several pas- 
sages in Tamburlaine, nor with the apostrophe to 
Helen in Faustus. Indeed, I think that the Jew's 
soliloquy at the beginning of the second act is 
poetically superior. 

This drama historically has its place in the 
Tragedy of Blood school that runs like a red stream 
through the entire course of Elizabethan drama. 
The Tragedy of Blood began with Kyd's Spanish 
Tragedy, and Titus Andronicus, powerfully affected 
Marlowe and Chapman, reached a climax in 
Webster, and an anti-climax in Ford. Not only do 
the majority of the dramatis personcB die violently 
in the works of this school, but there is usually 
a hired assassin who believes in crime for crime's 
sake. He takes a joyous and artistic delight in 
deeds of the most revolting nature. The scoundrel 
Aaron, in Titus Andronicus, is typical of this stock 
figure : 

"Even now I curse the day — and yet I think 
Few come within the compass of my curse — 
Wherein I did not some notorious ill : 
As kill a man, or else devise his death ; 
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it ; 
Accuse some innocent, and forswear myself: 
Set deadly enmity between two friends : 
Make poor men's cattle break their necks : 
Set fire on barns and haystacks in the night. 
And bid the owners quench them with their tears : 
Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves, 
242 



MARLOWE 

And set them upright at their dear friends' doors, 
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot : 
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees, 
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters, 
'Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.' 
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things 
As willingly as one would kill a fly : 
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed, 
But that I cannot do ten thousand more." 

Now Ithamore, in The Jew of Malta, fills this 
role acceptably ; for Barabas, to test him, describes 
some of the playful avocations of his own leisure 
moments : 

"As for myself, I walk abroad o' nights 
And lull sick people groaning under walls : 
Sometimes I go about and poison wells." 

To which virtuous sentiments Ithamore cheer- 
fully replies : 

"One time I was an ostler in an inn. 
And in the night-time secretly would I steal 
To travellers' chambers, and there cut their throats." 

The fact is, that the theatrical villain of the 
Tragedy of Blood had the same zest in crime that 
the small boy of all time has in the perpetration of 
practical jokes on respectable citizens. 

Marlowe in this play did not scruple to appeal 
to the popular prejudice against Jews by repre- 
senting Barabas as a hellish monster ; but just as 

243 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Milton made a hero out of Satan, so Marlowe 
created a Jew of such colossal force, both in cun- 
ning and in courage, that one feels admiration for 
his vast ambition and tremendous power, without 
any sympathy. But Marlowe apparently does 
not love the Christians any more than the Jews; 
they too are represented as devoid of truth, honour, 
and probity. The only decent people in the play 
are the heathen, whether Marlowe intended them 
to be so or not. 

A comparison of The Jew of Malta with The Mer- 
chant of Venice is even more damaging to Marlowe's 
reputation than the comparison of Faustus with 
Goethe's masterpiece ; for Shakespeare wrote his 
play under conditions precisely similar to Marlowe's, 
and not far from the same time. The fundamental 
difiference in the result is that whereas Barabas is 
an impossible monster, Shylock is wonderfully 
human. I do not beheve for a moment that Shake- 
speare sympathised with Shylock, or meant his 
audience to do so. I feel certain that the downfall 
of the man was greeted with tremendous applause. 
But none the less, he is a real character, a sharply 
defined individual, not a racial caricature ; and 
Shakespeare allows him to speak cleverly and 
powerfully in his own defence, in the method later 
adopted by Browning. Where Shakespeare excels 
Marlowe is in his vastly superior power of psy- 

244 



MARLOWE 

chological analysis, to say nothing of the glorious 
poetry of the conclusion, which ends in beautiful 
moonlight and harmonious laughter in Portia's 
gardens. Shakespeare had one artistic virtue 
simply unknown to Marlowe — moderation. In 
the felicitous words of William Watson : 

"Your Marlowe's page I close, my Shakespeare's ope. 
How welcome — after gong and cymbal's din — 
The continuity, the long slow slope 
And vast curves of the gradual violin !" 

Marlowe's influence on Shakespeare was in all 
probability very great ; but it is interesting to cite 
a single famous passage from the latter poet, 
where it is easy to see which are the lines written 
in the Marlowesque and which those in the true 
Shakespearian manner. There can be no doubt 
which is the greater. 

"Where should Othello go ? 
Now, how dost thou look now ? O ill-starr'd wench ! 
Pale as thy smock ! when we shall meet at compt. 
This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven, 
And fiends wiU snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl ? 
Even like thy chastity. — 
O cursed, cursed slave ! — Whip me, ye devils, 
From the possession of this heavenly sight ! 
Blow me about in winds ! roast me in sulphur ! 
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire !" 

There are certain striking similarities in the 
three plays, Tamburlaine, Faustus, and The Jew 

245 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

oj Malta. In all three, the emphasis is laid on 
one character ; the others are merely sketched in. 
Concentration on a single hero was the aim, con- 
scious or unconscious, of the dramatist. And in 
each instance, this hero is the personification of 
some mad, devouring ambition. The living breath 
of aspiration vitalises not only this chief character, 
but sets the whole play aglow with poetic fire. In 
Tamburlaine, the desire is for earthly power : he 
will bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and 
the petty men must walk under his huge legs, and 
peep about to find themselves dishonourable graves. 
The critics have generally agreed that the splendid 
speech of Tamburlaine : 

"Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend 
The wondrous architecture of the world," 

ends in a lamentable anti-climax : 

"Until we reach the ripest fruit of all, 
That perfect bliss and sole felicity, 
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown." 

But Tamburlaine did not think so ; nor, I am con- 
vinced, did the poet. The critics seem to be com- 
pletely mistaken here ; for they approve of the 
early part of the speech, with which modern thought 
would sympathise, and condemn the conclusion, 
because it grates harshly on latter-day ears. But 
in the days of Queen Elizabeth and Philip II, 

246 



MARLOWE 

when royalty was surrounded with the panoply of 
supreme majesty, was it not brave to be a king ? 
A god was not so glorious as a king. 

As in Tamhurlaine the ambition is for earthly 
power, so in Faustus the summum bonum is magic 
— the control of time and space. In The Jew of 
Malta, it is wealth, and the power that wealth 
brings : he does not wish to be merely a rich man : 

"Fie; what a trouble 'tis to count this trash," 

He will not rest until he has everything, until 
he sways empires with his wealth. The richest 
merchants must be beggars in comparison with 
him. 

It is a different Marlowe that we see in Ed- 
ward II ; and although the play has been extrava- 
gantly praised, I believe it to be poetically markedly 
inferior to the other three. It is universally as- 
sumed to have been Marlowe's last dramatic work ; 
but the fact is, no one knows anything definite 
about this important matter. We do not know 
when it was written, nor when it was first put on 
the stage. It was licensed for printing 6 July 
1593, about a month after Marlowe was slain; 
but the first known edition is the quarto of 1594, 
The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of 
Edward the Second, King of England: with the 
Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer. And the title- 

247 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

page further informs us that it was "written by 
Chri. Marlow Gent." 

In this drama the interest is not concentrated 
on one character, as it was in the others : the King, 
the Queen, Mortimer, and Gaveston all stand out 
sharply, and lesser persons are not crudely set 
forth. But it deals with a single elemental passion, 
as did Tamhurlaine, Fausius, and The Jew: this 
passion is friendship. In order to understand it, 
one must look upon the passion of friendship from 
the Elizabethan point of view, which in this matter 
differs very largely from our own. Compared to 
the friendships of the Elizabethan giants, our best 
college friendships to-day are pale. The English 
language has never exceeded in passion the lines of 
Shakespeare's sonnets ; and most of the best ones 
were written to a man, which, when first discovered 
by very young students, invariably causes a pain- 
ful shock. Not infrequently Elizabethans valued 
their friends higher than their wives, or any of the 
ties of blood. If one doubts this, he has only to 
read the words of Melantius, in The Maid's Tragedy. 

As Tamburlaine lost his life in the passion for 
earthly power, as Faustus lost his soul in the pas- 
sion for forbidden magic, as the Jew died a horrible 
death in the pursuit of wealth, so Edward loses his 
character, his position, his influence, his queen, 
and finally his life, in the vain passion of friend- 

248 



MARLOWE 

ship. For Marlowe shows the same terrible irony 
here that we have found in his other works ; the 
King, who longs for Gaveston's friendship, believ- 
ing that in this one instance he is beloved as a man 
rather than as a King, is cruelly deceived ; Gaves- 
ton's love is founded wholly on selfishness. The 
heart-hunger of royal personages, who so seldom 
hear the language of frankness and sincerity, has 
been repeatedly used as a motive in literature; 
we have only to remember Browning's In a Balcony 
and Daudet's Kings in Exile. Marlowe has em- 
ployed it here with great power and with a closer 
approach to humanity than in any other drama 
ascribed to him. From the modern point of view, 
this weak king seems idiotic ; but one must under- 
stand Elizabethan ideas of friendship before he 
can understand that Friendship was a terrible 
passion, elevating and degrading like other passions ; 
and that just as kings have been ruined by wine 
and by women, so in the sixteenth century it was 
quite possible to be ruined by a friend. 

King Edward is indeed a pathetic figure in Mar- 
lowe's drama, as he was in history, from the con- 
temporary chronicles of which the dramatist 
probably drew his material ; and it is rather strange 
to find Marlowe, who delighted in representing in 
his other protagonists the very superlative of will- 
power, selecting here for portrayal a man damned 

249 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

with indecision. It can best be accounted for by 
remembering what has already been so emphasised, 
that the King's passion was too strong for his 
character. His death is horrible and his last 
speeches are full of pathos, especially the oft-quoted 
one in which he compares his present squalor with 
his former splendour, and wishes his wife to 
remember the contrast. But Charles Lamb's 
comment on this passage, which practically all 
editors of Marlowe quote as though it were Holy 
Writ, is the merest fustian and nonsense: "The 
death-scene of Marlowe's king moves pity and 
terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with 
which I am acquainted." Twenty superior scenes 
might be cited, but we need think for the moment 
only of Lear's whisper : 

"Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little." 

Lamb deserves the homage of all students of the 
Elizabethan drama for his incomparable services 
in making that drama known ; but his hyperbole 
of criticism is as absurd in this instance as his 
ridiculous comparison of the death of Calantha in 
the Broken Heart with Calvary and the Cross. 
The time has come for a protest. 

Edward II belongs to the group of Chronicle- 
histories in English dramatic literature ; it was one 
of the first, and ranks deservedly high. Had 

250 



MARLOWE 

Marlowe lived to middle age he might have done 
splendid work in this field ; but at his best, and if 
he had lived to be a hundred, he could never have 
written a play like Henry IV, for the simple reason 
that he has given not the slightest indication of 
possessing a sense of humour. And the absence of 
this is not merely a positive loss, — it destroys, as 
Mr. Saintsbury has pointed out, the power of self- 
criticism. Marlowe had no check on his own work ; 
like Victor Hugo and Wordsworth, he could not 
always tell when he was sublime and when he was 
something very different. Yet self-control, which 
was apparently lacking in Marlowe's own life and 
character, might have prevented his muse from soar- 
ing to the vertiginous heights reached in Tamburlaine 
and Faustus. The real glory of Marlowe as a poet is 
his boundless aspiration ; we may grant that 
Edward II shows a commendable absence of the 
rant and bluster that sometimes disfigure his 
other plays ; still it unfortunately exhibits also an 
absence of his supreme gifts as a poet. Other men 
could have written Edward II ; but no one but 
Marlowe could have written Faustus. Therefore, 
if I had to give up any one of his four great dramas, 
I would most willingly spare the history of the 
forlorn king. 

Marlowe's reticence in all his plays on the sub- 
ject of the love between men and women is as 

251 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

notable as was Stevenson's, and more difi&cult to 
explain. So far as we can guess, this topic, which 
has been the mainspring of the drama among all 
nations, did not interest him. Possibly he was so 
masculine in temperament that men's ambitions 
and powers were enough to draw all his intellectual 
attention. Perhaps in his short life he had never 
met a good woman. He has certainly created not 
a single feminine character that interests us deeply, 
or who seems in any complex way true to life. Sin 
is the basis of his dramas ; he has drawn no remark- 
able women, and created no good men. 

In summing up his great contributions to the 
development of English drama, we find that more 
than any other one man he established blank verse 
as the medium of expression, and splendidly illus- 
trated its fitness : he set the pace for dramatic 
passion : he freed England from the tyranny of 
pseudo-classic domination, and made the drama 
of our race romantic and free. Had there been 
no Marlowe, no one can tell what the Elizabethan 
stage would have been ; but it probably would 
not have been what it is, the chief glory of English 
literature, and the wonder of the whole world. 
Marlowe is not the morning star ; he is the sunrise. 

We hear in his plays the voice of Elizabethan 
England ; he represents its overweening pride , 
the enthusiasm of discovery and conquest, the 

252 



MARLOWE 

shout of success, the sky-piercing ambition 
which dared God out of heaven, the limitless aspi- 
ration of passion and of intellect, and the inflexible 
power of an abnormally developed will. In the 
twentieth century, whether for good or for evil, 
we are much closer to the Elizabethans in temper- 
ament than any of the generations that stand 
between. Marlowe is a writer whom we can 
perfectly understand, even while we secretly realise 
the folly of such spiritual leadership. As a 
deeply thoughtful writer ^ of to-day has remarked : 
"It is by their will that we recognise the Eliza- 
bethans, by the will that drove them over the seas 
of passion, as well as over the seas that ebb and 
flow with the salt tides. It is by their thoughts, 
so much higher than their emotions, that we know 
the men of the eighteenth century ; and by their 
quick sensibility to the sting of life, the men of the 
nineteenth. . . . For, from a sensitive correspond- 
ence with environment our race has passed into 
another stage; it is marked now by a passionate 
desire for the mastery of life — a desire, spirit- 
ualised in the highest lives, materialised in the 
lowest, so to mould environment that the lives to 
come may be shaped to our will. It is this which 
accounts for the curious likeness in our to-day with 

^ Miss M. P. Willcocks, in her admirable novel, The Wingless 
Victory. 

253 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

that of the Elizabethans ; their spirit was the un- 
tamed will, but our will moves in other paths than 
theirs, paths beaten for our treading by the ages 
between." 

Such words as these are well worth reflection, 
for they contain profound wisdom. Tamburlaine, 
Faustus, and Barabas — probably Marlowe him- 
self — were nothing more nor less than Nietzsche's 
Superman ; and we know very well what he is and 
what he wants. But his influence is already on the 
wane ; for he is not only no God, he knows less of 
the meaning of life than a little child. 



254 



IX 

THE POET HERRICK 

" What mighty epics have been wrecked by time 
Since Herrick launched his cockleshells of rhyme ! " 

Robert Herrick died in 1674, and the first 
biography of the man appeared in 1910. The 
reason why no "Life" of Herrick was published 
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was 
because nobody cared anything about him ; the 
reason for the absence of such a work in the nine- 
teenth century is because there was so little to say. 
Now the appearance of the first biography of a 
well-known poet more than two hundred years after 
his death is a literary event of some consequence, 
and calls for more than a passing comment. I open 
the beautiful volume with keen anticipation, 
read it with steady attention, and close it with dis- 
appointment. It is written with considerable skill, 
contains much good and sound literary criticism, 
indicates clearly the relation of Herrick's lyrics 
to the production of his predecessors, and properly 
appraises his historical significance. But Profes- 
sor Moorman's Life of Herrick resembles the many 
lives of Shakespeare in the disparity between the 
slenderness of fact and the fatness of the book. 

255 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

This history of Robert Herrick covers over three 
hundred pages, and the known events of his life 
could be printed in about the same number of 
words. That such a work should be undertaken, 
however, is proof — if any were needed— of the 
permanence of the poet's fame. That a biography 
should appear within three years of a man's death 
is a sign that he has made some noise in the world, 
but it is no indication of how long the echoes will 
resound. But that the first biography of a seven- 
teenth century poet should appear in the twentieth 
century looks like immortality. 

About all that we really know of Robert Herrick 
is this : his father's name was Nicholas, who 
married Julian Stone 8 December 1582. The 
poet was born in Cheapside, London, in August 
1 591. The next year his father fell from a window 
and was killed. On 25 September 1607, the boy 
was apprenticed to his uncle. Sir William Herrick, 
a goldsmith. Professor Moorman publishes the 
full text of the indenture, which is interesting. 
In 16 13 the young man entered Cambridge, and 
took his B.A. in 1617, and his M.A. in 1620. 
Whether he remained in residence from 161 7 to 
1620 is unknown. Where he was, and how he 
spent the years between 161 7 and 1629, is unknown ; 
part of the time he must have been in London, for 
his poems show an intimate friendship with Ben 

256 



THE POET HERRICK 

Jonson. In 1629 he was appointed to the living 
of Dean Prior, in Devonshire, and became a country- 
parson. In 1647 he was ejected from this position 
by the Puritans, and made his way to London. 
There he published in 1648 the single volume of 
his poems, H es per ides ; a separate title-page in 
the same book, prefacing the Noble Numbers^ has 
the date 1647. Where and how he lived between 
1647 and 1662 is unknown, except that for a part 
of the time he seems to have been in Westminster. 
In 1662 he returned to Dean Prior, having been 
reinstated by the crown. The last twelve years 
of his life are shrouded in absolute silence. He was 
buried at Dean Prior, 15 October 1674. No stone 
is left to mark the spot. 

We have a portrait of him, engraved by William 
Marshall. It looks more like a bartender than a 
poet. Let us hope it is a caricature, for we know 
what Milton thought of the same artist's present- 
ment of himself. Although Herrick prophesied 
immortality for his poems over and over again, 
the little volume of 1648 attracted no attention, 
and made absolutely no impression either on con- 
temporary men of letters or on the public. 
Whether presumptive readers were terrified by the 
frontispiece-portrait, or whether the poems were 
choked by the excitement of the political revolution, 
we do not know ; no second edition was called for, 
s 257 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

and none appeared until 1823! Our ignorance 
of Herrick's career is matched only by the puzzle 
of his character. There are over twelve hundred 
poems in his book which bafSe all attempts at 
chronological arrangement. Scholars have made 
all sorts of guesses at the dates of their composition, 
editors have "assigned" this and that poem to 
this and that period, and we remain in ignorance. 
Seldom has there ever lived a poet who prattled so 
much about himself ; he has no reserve ; he is very 
confidential, very garrulous ; yet the fundamental 
traits in his character remain unknown ; pleasant 
subjects for speculation, like metaphysics, because 
incapable of proof. Dr. Grosart said he was an 
earnest Christian ; Mr. Gosse says he was a pagan ; 
and Mr. Saintsbury says that, whatever he was, he 
was not a pagan. He talks constantly about 
various fair women, and nobody knows whether 
these girls existed in life or only in his imagination. 
Following the custom of his time, he wrote poems 
of deep piety, poems of licentious abandonment, 
and poems of unspeakable filth. Seldom has a 
poet written more charmingly of the rural beauty of 
country life, of fresh fields and wild flowers ; and 
yet his real love of the country may be reasonably 
doubted, for he speaks of Devonshire with loath- 
ing, and seems to have longed passionately for 
London. At the beginning of the Hesperides we 

258 



THE POET HERRICK 

find "The Argument of his Book," which is cer- 
tainly a good overture to the music it contains : 

" I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers. 
Of April, May, of June, and July flowers ; 
I sing of May poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes, 
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes ; 
I write of youth, of love, and have access 
By these to sing of cleanly wantonness ; 
I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece 
Of balm, of oil, of spice and ambergris ; 
I sing of times transshifting, and I write 
How roses first came red and lilies white ; 
I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing 
The Court of Mab, and of the fairy king; 
I write of hell ; I sing (and ever shall) 
Of heaven, and hope to have it after all." 

But later on we find poems like these : 

" More discontents I never had 
Since I was born than here. 
Where I have been and still am sad, 
In this dull Devonshire." 

The second poem in the Nohle Numbers reads : 

" For those my unbaptized rhymes, 
Writ in my wild unhallowed times ; 
For every sentence, clause, and word, 
That's not inlaid with thee, my Lord, 
Forgive me, God, and blot each line 
Out of my book that is not thine." 

And yet in the same volume he published many 
poems that are not only cynically anti-religious 

259 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

in spirit, but almost inconceivably coarse. A 
professional clergyman and country parson, he 
often writes like a profligate. Then at the end of 
the Hesperides he put this couplet : 

" To his book's end this last hne he'd have placed : 
Jocund his muse was, but his hfe was chaste." 

Were the last line original, we might form some 
true notion from it, but, unfortunately, it is a trans- 
lation from Ovid ! 

The only way to approach an understanding of 
the man and his philosophy of life is to remember, 
first, last, and all the time, that he was a lyric poet. 
Lyrical poetry does not betray the character of 
its author, it simply reveals his moods. Every 
individual has all kinds of moods, some religious, 
some worldly ; some prudent, some reckless ; 
some showing a love of retirement, some showing 
a love of crowded streets ; some ascetic, some sen- 
sual. It is not in the least inconceivable that the 
same man should at times have felt like the country 
Herrick, again like the city Herrick, again like the 
parson Herrick, again like the lover Herrick, and 
again like the Herrick of the Epigrams, though a 
modern writer would never dare to print such 
thoughts. With all the conscious art of the trained 
literary expert, Herrick thinks out loud with the 
artlessness of a child. With one exception Herrick 

260 



THE POET HERRICK 

almost never alludes to contemporary literature, 
and he seems to have been quite deaf to its voice. 
The two Englishmen who most strongly influ- 
enced the lyric poetry of the seventeenth century 
were the Rev. Dr. Donne and Ben Jonson. The 
author of the Hesperides belonged to the tribe of 
Ben, and owed more to him than to any other 
British poet ; like his master, he loved the Latin 
classics, and knew them well. Out of the whole 
range of the world's literature we find that the two 
writers to whom in spirit and in form Herrick was 
most closely akin were Horace and Jonson. He had 
in large measure their devotion to art, their intense 
power of taking pains, their hatred of careless and 
slovenly work. Even the slightest poems in the 
Hesperides show the fastidious and conscientious 
artist. Then, in spite of the Nohle Numbers, the 
great majority of Herrick's verses breathe the spirit 
of Horace — the love of this world and the celebra- 
tion of its delights, all the more precious because so 
transitory. The influence of Jonson both in thought 
and in metre is evident everywhere. One of the 
most celebrated of Herrick's poems is directly imi- 
tative of Ben Jonson, who in turn borrowed his 
lines from the Latin. In Jonson's Silent Woman 
we find the graceful lyric : 

" Still to be neat, still to be drest 
As you were going to a feast, 
261 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Still to be pou'dred, still perfum'd : 
Lady, it is to be presum'd, 
Though art's hid causes are not found, 
AH is not sweet, all is not sound. 

Give me a looke, give me a face, 

That makes simplicitie a grace ; 

Robes loosely flowing, haire as free : 

Such sweet neglect more taketh me 

Than all th' adulteries of art. 

They strike mine eyes, but not my heart." 

Number 83 of the Hesperides reads : 

" A sweet disorder in the dress 
Kindles in clothes a wantonness ; 
A lawn about the shoulders thrown 
Into a fine distraction ; 
An erring lace which here and there 
Enthrals the crimson stomacher ; 
A cuff neglectful, and thereby 
Ribbons to flow confusedly. 
A winning wave, deserving note, 
In the tempestuous petticoat ; 
A careless shoestring, in whose tie 
I see a wild civility — 
Do more bewitch me than when art 
Is too precise in every part." 

This poetic idea is not exactly in harmony with the 
advice recently given to the students at a college 
for women : — " Girls, stand up straight, don't look 
at the boys, and keep your shoestrings tied." 

It is interesting to observe once more that in all 
forms of art little depends on the subject and much 
on the treatment. Herrick was not a deep thinker, 

262 



THE POET HERRICK 

and only rarely touched on great subjects ; in read- 
ing him we do not wrestle with challenging ideas, 
we simply walk happily and aimlessly in a sunlit 
garden. The perfume of flowers exhales from his 
old pages, and many of his poems are as perfect in 
form and beauty as the flowers themselves. He talks 
intimately about the little things in life, but his art 
is so exquisite that his slender volume has outlived 
tons of formidable folios. A great theme in itself 
has never made a book live ; but often a good style 
has defied death. Swinburne, who knew poetry 
when he saw it, said that Herrick was the greatest 
writer of songs in the English language. We can- 
not forget him, either in a light or in a serious mood. 
From the Nohle Numbers: 

To Keep a True Lent 

" Is this a fast, to keep 
The larder lean 
And clean 
From fat of veals and sheep ? 

Is it to quit the dish 
Of flesh, yet still 
To fill 
The platter high with fish ? 

Is it to fast an hour, 
Or ragg'd to go, 
Or show 
A downcast look and sour ? 
263 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

No ; 'tis a fast to dole 
Thy sheaf of wheat, 
And meat, 
Unto the hungry soul. 

It is to fast from strife, 
From old debate 
And hate ; 
To circumcise thy life. 

To show a heart grief -rent ; 
To starve thy sin, 
Not bin ; 
And that's to keep thy Lent." 

From the Hesperides : 

To Primroses, Filled with Morning Dew 

" Why do ye weep, sweet babes ? can tears 
Speak grief in you, 
Who were but born 
Just as the modest morn 
Teem'd her refreshing dew ? 
Alas ! you have not known that shower 
That mars a flower. 
Nor felt th' unkind 
Breath of a blasting wind, 
Nor are ye worn with years 

Or warp'd as we 
Who think it strange to see 
Such pretty flowers, like to orphans young, 
To speak by tears before ye have a tongue." 

The first of these poems is as eternally true in 
the sphere of morals as is the second in the domain 

of art. 

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X 

SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

The intellectual delight I find in reading Scho- 
penhauer is caused partly by the splendid consist- 
ency of his pessimism. One does not often meet 
a writer who has the courage and the candour 
seriously to elaborate a whole system of thought, 
logically leading up to the conclusion that the world 
is worse than nothing. Jonathan Swift was a 
consistent pessimist, both in his writings and in his 
conduct ; he regularly kept his birthday as a day 
of fasting and mourning ; but Swift left no phil- 
osophical system. Carlyle often spoke like a 
pessimist, but his pessimism was not inseparably 
connected with the order of the world : it sprang 
simply from a belief that the tendencies of the 
age were bad. Many writers are pessimists — or 
think they are — in times of special misfortune, 
or when absorbed in a morbid train of thought. 
Lyrical poetry is often pessimistic, because it is so 
often the outcome of a melancholy mood, or the 
expression of unsatisfied desire. In a general 
reading of Shakespeare's plays, we should not class 
him among the pessimists : but some of his sonnets 

265 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

are steeped in pessimism. Perhaps there is no one 
who has not at some time, for a long or short inter- 
val, been a pessimist ; who has not deeply felt 
what the Germans call Weltschmerz; but the pecul- 
iar mark of Schopenhauer is that he is a pessimist 
in cold blood. His system is indeed just the reverse 
of that of Carlyle, who denounced the age and the 
men of the age, but who believed in a beneficent 
order of the universe and in the divine potentiality 
of human nature : it is altogether different from 
the pessimism of the Book of Ecclesiastes, empha- 
sising the vanity and suffering of life, but finding 
one key to the mystery in fearing God and keeping 
His commandments. Schopenhauer's pessimism 
is coldly philosophical, one might almost say 
mathematical. Except in places where he flings 
mud at the professors of philosophy, his book 
nowhere sounds like the tone of a soured or disap- 
pointed man ; the writer is in mental equipoise, in 
perfect possession of his wits. It took him four 
years — from the age of twenty-six to the age of 
thirty — to complete his work for the press, and 
he wrote only during the first three hours of the 
morning, when the cream of his rich mind rose 
to the top. We can easily imagine him seated 
before a warm fire, with his dressing-gown and 
slippers on, placidly writing off his theory that the 
world is a mirror of hell ; that life and suffering 

266 



SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

are identical ; that consciousness is the cardinal 
error of nature ; that human existence is a tragedy, 
with the dignity of tragedy taken away. His 
temperament may be accurately described in the 
words of a biographer of John Randolph, "His 
was a nature that would have made a hell for itself 
even if fate had put a heaven around it." The 
relative goodness and badness of men does not 
affect Schopenhauer's pessimism. He would say 
that human character has little enough good in it, 
but even if it had ten times the amount it possesses, 
it could attain to no more happiness. Man is so 
constituted as to make worldly existence constant 
pain ; we are but the manifestation of a blind Will, 
which multiplies itself in millions of forms, each 
one transient, expiating the error of its existence 
by death. It is far better not to be ; before our 
sad eyes stands only the nothingness from which 
we sprang into the light ; and this nothingness is 
the only goal of the highest human endeavour. 
Schopenhauer has, of course, a practical philoso- 
phy, an ethical solution : it is the complete denial 
of the will to live. The only way of salvation is to 
escape from one's tormenting and tormented self; 
in asceticism one will find, not indeed happiness, 
but a calm contemplation of the world-tragedy, 
and the only worthy preparation for the paradise 
of annihilation. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

It is interesting to compare and to contrast 
Schopenhauer's dramatic system with the philos- 
ophy and advice of Omar Khayyam, the astron- 
omer-poet of Persia. The sick World is the 
patient ; and these two learned doctors agree in 
the diagnosis, and differ as to the remedy. Both 
men were greater in literature than in either science 
or philosophy. Schopenhauer's sincere and noble 
style, so musical, so melancholy, with its flexibility 
of movement and brilliancy of illustration, with 
its sparkling wit and its solemn earnestness, has 
placed him forever among the few great prose 
writers of Germany. It is indeed his literary genius 
that accounts primarily for his prodigious influence 
on so many native and foreign authors — an influ- 
ence that began shortly before his death in i860, 
and which shows to-day no sign of diminishing 
power. The Persian, after a sleep of many cen- 
turies, had a glorious reincarnation in Edward 
Fitzgerald. The English poet draped old Omar in 
a garment of such radiant beauty as to make the 
ideas in the Ruhdiydt seem infinitely more stately 
and imposing than they appear when stripped of 
all adornment.^ Both Schopenhauer and Omar 

* This may easily be seen by comparing Fitzgerald's with a 
literal prose translation, in Nathan Haskell Dole's admirable 
variorum edition of the Ruhdiydt; one of the most important of 
the vast number of services that Mr. Dole has rendered to Eng- 
lish students of various foreign literatures. 

268 



SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

are fatalists, believing in the despotism of destiny, 
both believe that the soul of man is ultimately 
lost in death's dateless night. Yet their ethical 
solutions of the eternal problem are contrary. 
Schopenhauer says, " You must escape from your- 
self by asceticism." Omar says, " You must escape 
from yourself by plunging into pleasure." 

Both Schopenhauer and Omar were able to lead 
independent intellectual lives ; each had a sufficient 
income, which left him free to devote his whole 
time to thought. This was probably one cause 
of their pessimism. As many a man is an atheist 
with a brilliant book in his hand, and a theist in 
activity, so men are pessimists in solitary hours 
when they contemplate the stage of life, and behold 
what looks like a great tragedy : when one leaves 
the auditorium for the stage, when one plays one's 
part actively with others, pessimism sometimes 
vanishes, and life becomes significant and impor- 
tant. For pessimism is not begotten of pain, but 
of the awful fear that the world has no meaning. 

Schopenhauer's life was singularly uneventful : 
Omar's existence was flavoured with romance. 
When a youth, he agreed with his two most inti- 
mate friends, that whichever of them became rich 
should divide his property equally with the others. 
One of them rose to be Vizier, and Omar, in a pleas- 
ant and quite natural inconsistency with his teach- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

ing, asked simply for a competence, that he might 
devote his life to intellectual pursuits. Strange to 
say, his friend was willing to divide up ; and Omar 
became a devotee of science and philosophy, giving 
special attention to astronomy. The pleasure he 
found in study did not diminish his zeal for theoreti- 
cal debauchery. His summum honum is wine and 
women, while he may have taken care to avoid both. 
Schopenhauer solemnly preaches asceticism, but 
was a saint only at his desk. He showed the steep 
and thorny way to heaven, but recked not his own 
rede. Now the instinct of humanity is correct in 
testing the value of a doctrine by the practice of the 
man who utters it. As Emerson remarked, " What 
you are thunders so loud I cannot hear what you 
say." A physician cannot speak impressively 
against tobacco with a cigar in his mouth. 

The three questions which every thoughtful man 
asks, What am I ? Why am I ? Whither am I 
going? were ones to which Omar could find no 
answer. His philosophy, which has been, is now, 
and perhaps always will be popular, amounts simply 
to this : We find ourselves in a world full of beauty 
and physical delight, but which is an enigma. By 
the highest part of our nature, we are driven to 
questionings which lead us into the darkness and 
leave us there. Of our origin, of our destiny we 
know absolutely nothing : the past and the future 

270 



SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

are blank : but we do know that our present life 
is short : that we have opportunities for positive 
pleasure of the senses : to postpone this is to lose 
it. The wise man will grasp pleasure while he has 
the power, instead of laying up treasures in a 
mythical heaven. 

To an austere mind whose religious faith has 
never been shaken, such a doctrine as Omar's seems 
unworthy of so profound a scholar : one must have 
tasted the bitterness of scepticism before one can 
have much charity for the Persian poet. 

Schopenhauer in prose, and Omar in verse, are 
in melancholy agreement in their estimate of the 
significance of the individual life. Listen to the 
German : 

It is really incredible how meaningless and void of sig- 
nificance, when looked at from without, how dull and unen- 
lightened by intellect when felt from within, is the course 
of the life of the great majority of men. Every individual, 
every human being and his course of life, is but another short 
dream of the endless spirit of nature, of the persistent will 
to Hve: is only another fleeting form, which it carelessly 
sketches on its infinite page, space and time. And yet, and 
here lies the serious side of life, every one of these fleeting 
forms, these empty fancies, must be paid for by the whole 
will to live, in all its activity, with many and deep suffer- 
ings, and finally with a bitter death, long feared and coming 
at last. This is why the sight of a corpse makes us suddenly 
so serious.^ 

1 Citations from Schopenhauer are from Lord Haldane's 
translation. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

The voice of the Persian : 

" 'Tis but a tent, where takes his one day's rest 
A Sultan to the realm of death addrest : 
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash 
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest. 

And fear not lest Existence closing your 
Account, and mine, should know the like no more : 
The Eternal Saki from that bowl has poured 
Millions of bubbles like us, and will pour." 

Both men are fatalists : each believes in some 
force which is the ground of the world of things, 
and which works itself out regardless of the human 
race : deaf to all human cries of pain : inevitable 
and inexorable : of which man is but the plaything. 
Fatalism rules the world and the actions of men, 
and the sooner we recognise this truth, the better 
for our peace of mind. 

Schopenhauer says : 

It holds good of inward as of outward circumstances 
that there is for us no consolation so effective as the com- 
plete certainty of unalterable necessity. No evil that 
befalls us pains us so much as the thought of the cir- 
cumstances by which it might have been warded off. 
Therefore nothing comforts us so effectually as the con- 
sideration of what has happened from the standpoint of 
necessity, from which all accidents appear as tools in the 
hand of an over-ruling fate, and we therefore recognise the 
evil that has come to us as inevitably produced by the 
conflict of inner and outer circumstances : in other words, 
fatalism. 

272 



SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

Omar calls us a moving row of shadow-shapes, 
impotent pieces on the chequer-board ; and there 
is no use looking to the sky for help, for the sky is 
as impotent as we. 

We find then our two philosophers in complete 
agreement as to the insignificance of man and the 
hopelessness of his future : there remains, however, 
this question. The two doctors have both con- 
demned us : our case is indeed hopeless : but what 
are we going to do? Although of no importance 
to our neighbours, and of no interest to God, still, 
here we are : and here we must stay until merciful 
annihilation relieves us. What shall we do to make 
ourselves as comfortable as possible ? Now to this 
question, which surely has some value to us, Scho- 
penhauer and Omar give precisely opposite answers. 

Schopenhauer says the problem is to escape from 
personality, from selfhood, from the domination 
of will : and strangely enough he makes this retreat 
possible only through the intellect, by means of 
that very consciousness which he has declared to 
be the mistake of our being. Men of genius are 
freed at intervals from the will, because of the high 
order of their intellect, which permits them to be 
lost in aesthetic contemplation of the Universals, 
the Platonic Ideas: to attain to this state of 
blessedness, all willing and striving for pleasure 
must be absolutely abandoned, for it is only as one 
T 273 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

contemplates one's self in the third person that 
one finds any respite from sufifering. The wise 
man will cut off everything that connects him with 
the world, will resolutely sacrifice the longing for 
happiness, and, by the examples of saints and 
martyrs, will endeavour to become as unworldly 
and as impersonal as they. This is the gospel 
according to Schopenhauer : this is the only way 
to overcome the world. 

Omar does not only dislike this remedy, he spe- 
cifically condemns it. He wishes indeed to escape 
from self, but in a quite different sense : we must 
escape from self-introspection, from philosophical 
meditation, from the subjective life. The shortest 
route to this refuge is the alcoholic one, which he 
earnestly recommends. Increase of knowledge 
increaseth sorrow. Why throw away the short 
time we have in ascetic negation ? The positive 
pleasures of life are within our reach. To see the 
total difference in the practical philosophy of our 
two guides, let us compare their eloquence. 

From Schopenhauer : 

True salvation, deliverance from life and suflfering, can- 
not even be imagined without complete denial of the will. 
... If we turn our glance from our own needy and em- 
barrassed condition to those who have overcome the world, 
in whom the will, having attained to perfect self-knowledge, 
found itself again in all, and then freely denied itself and 
who then merely wait to see the last trace of it vanish with 

274 



SCHOPENHAUER AND OMAR 

the body which it animates : then, instead of the restless 
striving and effort, instead of the constant transition from 
wish to fruition, and from joy to sorrow, instead of the 
never-satisfied and never-dying hope which constitutes the 
life of the man who wills, we shall see that peace which is 
above all reason, that perfect calm of the spirit, that deep 
rest, that inviolable confidence and serenity, the mere re- 
flection of which in the countenance, as Raphael and Cor- 
reggio have represented it, is an entire and certain gospel": 
only knowledge remains, the will has vanished. 

From Omar : 

" You know, my friends, with what a brave carouse 
I made a second marriage in my house : 
Divorced old barren Reason from my bed, 
And took the daughter of the Vine to spouse. 

Come, fill the cup and in the fire of spring 
Your winter-garment of repentance fling : 
The bird of time has but a little way 
To flutter — and the bird is on the wing." 

The German's wslj of salvation is from the will 
to the intellect : the Persian's from the intellect 
to the will. 

Goethe permitted Faust to try both systems, 
and to find salvation in neither ; and for our edi- 
fication there are many people walking in each way 
at this moment, whose experiment we may observe. 
Faust discovered that asceticism and sensuality 
both led to misery ; that the only course which 
brought true happiness was faith in God and active 
devotion to man, which is the teaching of Chris- 
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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

tianity. Schopenhauer's philosophy is perhaps 
greater and grander than Omar's, but while they 
both interest us, neither can save us. Absolute 
pessimism cannot lead to a rational or noble way 
of life : and there is hardly more virtue in asceticism 
than there is in pleasure. 



276 



XI 

LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

Germany did not become a world-power in 
literature until after 1750. This is a remarkable 
fact, in view of what had been going on for centuries 
in Italy, France, Spain, and England. So far as 
a nation can owe a whole literature to one man, 
Germany owes hers to Lessing. 

The realistic picture of depravity which Paul 
drew in the first part of his letter to the Romans 
would fairly represent the condition of Germany 
at the close of the Thirty Years' War. The civil- 
isation of the Fatherland relapsed fully two 
centuries. There was nothing remotely resembling 
a national spirit. The unscrupulous selfishness 
of the petty princes, who had cynically abandoned 
even the semblance of virtue, had its harsh counter- 
part in the condition of the common people, where 
ignorance was linked with despair. With political 
and social affairs on such a level, the standard of 
literature was flat. For if literature is the Ufe of 
history, how can we have activity in the former 
when the latter is dead ? How can the spirit of 
healthy and vigorous life breathe out of decay? 

277 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

There was no literature, because there was no 
soil from which literature might spring. War 
had smitten the earth with a curse, and Germany 
was the abomination of desolation. 

In the first half of the eighteenth century, 
German literature got a false start. The best men 
of letters seemed to believe that the only way to 
accomplish successful results was to follow the 
French. Even the mother tongue was despised, 
her most cultivated sons speaking a language that 
sounded more polite. Everything that could act 
as a check on creative activity was in full opera- 
tion. Art was tongue-tied by authority. Pedants 
had made a beaten path, which must be followed 
by aspirants to literary fame. Gottsched, the 
literary autocrat, professing himself to be wise, 
became a fool. With the perversity of all scholars 
whose learning exceeds their wisdom, Gottsched 
attempted to force a native literature into a for- 
eign mould ; and he was worshipped as an oracle. 
It was the dark hour before the dawn. 

Lessing has been well called the Luther of Ger- 
man drama. As the great Protestant released 
men from the bondage of forms and ceremonies, 
so Lessing, by rebelling against the tyranny of 
French rules of art, showed his countrymen, both 
by precept and by practice, what a national 
drama should be. Luther attacked Rome : Les- 

278 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

sing attacked Paris. The criticisms of poetry and 
painting in the Laokoon, and the dramatic theories 
expounded and developed in the Hamhurgische 
Dramaturgie opened up far vistas of thought and 
imagination, and roused to life all the sleeping 
energies of the German mind. These books 
made epochs. The Laokoon revealed the beauty of 
Greek art and literature in their simple grandeur ; 
the Dramaturgie struck off forever the shackles 
with which the French had bound poetry and the 
drama. These works prepared the way for that 
great burst of splendour which brightened the 
whole world. 

It is not easy to exaggerate the difficulties with 
which Lessing had to contend. As Mr. Lowell 
said, "He began his career at a period when we 
cannot say that German literature was at its low- 
est ebb, only because there had not yet been any 
flood-tide." Lessing saw that before he could 
build, the French superstructure must be ruth- 
lessly destroyed. To attack Gottsched and his 
followers was to attack the Supreme Court, but 
Lessing did not hesitate. In addition to the great 
obstacle formed by the consensus of men of letters, 
Lessing felt the chill of penury, which in other 
men has repressed the noble rage. His life was a 
constant struggle with poverty. The King, who 
professed friendship for authors as ardently as 

279 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

politicians profess love for the workingman, was 
strangely blind to the new literary movement. 
Frederic saw no potential energy in German litera- 
ture. The French and Italian theatres at Berlin 
were handsomely supported by the crown; the 
German theatre was a booth on the street. The 
King was an enthusiastic student of French litera- 
ture ; he even attempted to add to it ; he wor- 
shipped Voltaire while hating him; but he did 
nothing for Lessing. 

Lessing's nature shows the rare union of two 
elements — he had all the fiery zeal of the reformer 
with the deep insight of a thoroughly disciplined 
mind. He seems to have seen clearly the actual 
possibilities of the future; and he never faltered 
in his purpose to make it the present. Added to 
his natural wisdom and strong common-sense, 
he was a sound scholar, especially in the literature 
and art of the ancients. With the rich material 
of Greek literature at his full command, he deter- 
mined to lay a foundation for the German classical 
movement. He recognised what no other man of 
his time had seen, that the French, who claimed 
to be in apostolic succession from Aristotle, were 
really out of harmony with the spirit of the master. 
They were enclosed in self-made walls, and could 
not see anything beyond those narrow limits. 
They abhorred Shakespeare as the Greeks abhorred 

280 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

the barbarians. But Lessing was convinced not 
merely that Shakespeare was greater than the 
French dramatists, but that he was in spirit a 
truer follower of Aristotle. To Lessing belongs 
primarily the honour of making Shakespeare a 
famihar name in Germany. Weisse had trans- 
lated some of Shakespeare's plays; and later 
Wieland made translations, and Augustus Schlegel 
in his Vienna lectures interpreted the glories of 
the great Englishman ; but Lessing introduced 
Shakespeare to the popular heart. Gottsched 
declared that the way to produce a work of genius 
was to follow the rules. Lessing studied what 
genius had done, to discover the principle of suc- 
cess. He wrote one sentence that gives the key 
to his critical work. "Much would in theory ap- 
pear unanswerable, if the achievements of genius 
had not proved the contrary." 

Lessing determined to make his countrymen 
understand that German drama could not walk 
naturally on French stilts. By regarding French 
tragedy as the only model, the way to a knowledge 
and appreciation of Shakespeare was hopelessly 
closed : and the free spirit of Shakespeare was 
needed in Germany as the very breath of life. 
Lessing showed that there could be a great Ger- 
man literature; he showed it in two ways. He 
proved it in theory by his unanswerable criticisms, 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

and he proved it in practice by composing two 
masterpieces of dramatic construction, Minna von 
Barnhelm and Emilia Galotti. 

Minna von Barnhelm was the first German 
comedy of any importance ; though I do not 
agree with the common statement that it is the 
best in the language. It is, however, Lessing's 
greatest play, and is to-day on the German stage 
more popular than ever. It seems to survive all 
changes in taste, to delight every generation. For 
technically it is almost flawless ; and its characters 
move and speak with the authority of flesh and 
blood. The development of the plot is the despair 
of many dramatists. The scenes succeed each 
other in logical order, and the unity of the piece 
as a work of art — the only unity for which Lessing 
had any reverence — is sustained. Its humour is 
irresistible, but is like its author in being robust 
rather than delicate and subtile. Lessing's ob- 
servations during the Seven Years' War gave him 
abundance of material for Minna, and the play 
came at the right moment to awaken popular 
enthusiasm. 

Emilia Galotti is a tragedy full of native power 
and occasionally rising to a high pitch of dramatic 
intensity, as in the dialogue between Claudia and 
Marinelli in the third act, where the words are 
repeated with cumulative effect, Der Name Mari- 

282 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

nelli war das letzte Wort des sterbenden Graf en I Like 
Minna, the play is well constructed, but it is not 
so great in tragedy as the other is in humour. The 
character of the heroine is not naturally consist- 
ent ; and the gravest dramatic fault is committed 
in there being no sufficient cause to bring about the 
climax. Yet with all its defects, Emilia Galotti 
has the stamp of genius, and I have seen it rouse a 
German audience to enthusiasm. It revolutionised 
German tragedy, and by indicating correct methods 
of dramatic composition, it became an inspiration 
for greater plays that followed. For the first time, 
the German people possessed a fine tragedy in 
their own tongue. No one will question the truth 
of Kuno Fischer's statement, that Emilia Galotti 
was die Geburt der modernen deutschen Tragodie. 

But Lessing was not a creative genius of the 
first order. His dramatic pieces all smell of the 
lamp. His plays are constructed rather than 
created. How totally different, in this respect, is 
Emilia Galotti from Macbeth! And Lessing's other 
dramas are not ideal. In Miss Sara Sampson he 
showed that the playwright need not confine him- 
self to court scenes and noble personages, — an 
opinion which it is needless to say was current 
at that time. This play was once popular in 
Germany; but it is too close an imitation of 
English melodrama ; it is characterised by the 

283 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

English love of cheap moralising and is lachrymose 
enough to satisfy the most sentimental reader; 
it is also artificial, sags heavily in places, while 
some scenes are positively dull. The character 
Marwood is apparently from the original Mill- 
wood in the English play George Barnwell, a 
play that once had a fabulous reputation, but 
which one reads nowadays with a yawn and a 
smile. . . . Lessing's great work, Nathan der 
Weise, though cast in a dramatic form, and though 
still produced on the German stage, is a philo- 
sophical poem rather than a drama, and does not 
strictly fall under the present subject of discussion. 
It expresses the religious tolerance as well as the 
reverence of its author, being written immediately 
after Lessing's bitter controversies with Pastor 
Goeze and others. 

The chief reason why Lessing's plays are so un- 
satisfactory is because he was no poet. Many of 
his admirers would make him one, but the effort 
is vain. His nature was of too logical a cast, too 
strongly marked by shrewd common-sense, to 
vibrate sympathetically to poetic inspiration. 
The phases of human nature reflected in his dramas 
we often recognise as true pictures ; but there are 
elements of character he never reflects at all. He 
strikes the chords with a firm and true touch, but 
he does not sound the deepest notes. In his 

284 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

hatred of obscurity he perhaps failed to appreciate 
the power of mystery. If his characters are sad, 
we always know why ; if they are passionate, the 
cause is as plain as the result. Lessing's plays 
do not probe deeply into the mystery of life. A 
nameless melancholy, a heart-consuming yet vague 
passion, such as is portrayed in Faust, was appar- 
ently beyond the range of Lessing's powers. 

But Lessing the critic is a greater man than 
Lessing the playwright. The latter arouses our 
admiration but rarely our enthusiasm ; the former 
keeps us in perpetual surprise by the penetration 
of his thought and the charm of his style. The 
world has seen better dramas than Lessing's best ; 
but I should hesitate to name his superior as a 
critic. May we not explain his inferiority as a 
dramatist in the same manner in which he accounted 
for Shakespeare's mediocrity as an actor ? " Wenn 
Shakespeare nicht ein eben so grosser Schauspieler 
in der Ausiibung gewesen ist, als er ein dramatischer 
Dichter war, so hat er doch wenigstens eben so gut 
gewusst, was zu der Kunst des einen, als was zu 
der Kunst des andern gehort. Ja, vielleicht hatte 
er uber die Kunst des erstern um so viel tiefer 
nachgedacht, weil er so viel weniger Genie dazu 
hatte," and then he comments upon the excellent 
wisdom of Hamlet's speech to the players. A 
similar thought may be applied to Lessing; per- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

haps his reflections on the playwright's art were 
the more profound, because he had so much less 
genius for it than for dramatic criticism. In 
battles of logic, he marshals his arguments with 
the skill of an experienced general. He uses the 
same plan that the great Theban introduced into 
military tactics : he selects a weak point in the 
array of the antagonist, and by concentrating the 
mass of his strength at that place, the whole line 
of his enemy appears in confusion. The orderly 
ranks of his sentences move like an army in the 
sunshine, all bristling with the keen and polished 
weapons of his wit and satire. 

The Laokoon, in which Lessing showed that the 
laws governing poetry and painting are not iden- 
tical, was the work which first revealed its author's 
critical genius. In the course of his reasoning, 
he made clear the superiority of Greek literature 
over the Latin. Men turned anew to Homer and 
Sophocles, and read the great poets in the strong 
light of Lessing's mind. The effect produced on 
German literature was incalculable. Descriptive 
poetry had been the most common and the most 
admired : it scarcely survived the Laokoon. 

But the Hamhurgische Dramaturgie — the dra- 
matic papers written for the Hamburg theatre — 
is the most important .critical work of Lessing's ; 
and it may not be impertinent to review briefly 

286 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

the circumstances which called it into existence. 
Before the opening of the great play-house at 
Hamburg in 1767 there were no standard German 
theatres ; the performances were given by strolling 
players, who travelled from town to town, and 
played wherever they saw an opportunity to win 
the daily bread. The nature of the pieces they pre- 
sented and their methods of acting were necessarily 
determined by the prospect of pecuniary reward. 
Owing to the adulation of the French by the cul- 
tured classes, the common people had been accus- 
tomed to nothing but horse-play and clown filth. 
The tireless though misguided efforts of Gottsched 
had slightly raised the ideal, and for this German 
literature surely owes him something; but the 
popular idea of a good play was exceedingly low. 
Some of the leading citizens of Hamburg de- 
termined to have in that city a national theatre, 
where a stock company of first-rate players should 
present only plays combining dramatic excellence 
with high moral tone. An invitation was sent 
to Lessing to act as theatrical critic; they seem 
also to have expected that he would write plays 
for special production. In the spring of 1767 
the theatre was opened, but before two years had 
passed the project was abandoned, owing to jeal- 
ousies among the actors and to popular disapproval 
of the severity of the moral tone. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Thus in one sense the attempt to support a 
standard theatre at Hamburg was a disheartening 
failure. But from a broader view it was a per- 
manent blessing to the Hterature of Europe. It 
brought into existence the Hamhurgische Drama- 
turgie. Lessing began these papers with criticisms 
of the acting as well as of the plays; but after a 
number of visits from irate actresses, he abandoned 
this part of his task. Lessing had in view two great 
objects. He meant to destroy utterly the suprem- 
acy of the French drama and to prove that their 
rules were not, as they had claimed, the rules of the 
ancients; and in the second place to create a German 
drama by expounding in the most liberal manner 
the true Greek ideals. He was eminently fitted for 
this great undertaking. His learning and command 
of it were phenomenal, and constantly surprised his 
contemporaries ; his dramatic experience had been 
wide and varied, and the critical bent of his mind 
had been trained to perfection by his studies in the 
history and theory of aesthetics. 

His attack on the French theatre was fierce 
and unsparing. The general worship of the 
French provoked him to the highest degree ; but 
it was an inspiration. No man ever enjoyed a 
literary fight more than Lessing. Voltaire, in his 
capacity as a playwright, was a shining target for 
Lessing's shafts of wit; and his plays were high 

288 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

in fashion. To an acute and hostile critic they 
presented many vubierable points; and Lessing 
seldom missed. His famous comparison in his 
eleventh paper between the Ghost in Hamlet and 
the Ghost in Semiramis was a master stroke, and 
was enough to ruin the reputation of Voltaire's 
play. The genius resplendent in the comedies of 
Moliere Lessing fully recognised. Upon Corneille, 
however, he made many vigorous charges. He 
proved that stickler for artistic rules to be a truant 
from Aristotle. Lessing accepted the Greek theory 
that the aim of tragedy is to excite pity (Mitleid) 
and fear (Schauder) ; and he showed that the fear 
is not for the characters, but for ourselves. The 
French had substituted terror for both of these 
emotions ; and Corneille had so far misinterpreted 
Aristotle and misunderstood his theory of the 
drama as to imagine that either of these emotions 
by itself was sufficient for a tragedy. 

Lessing's destructive criticism was effective 
even beyond his hopes : it destroyed Gallic in- 
fluence on the German stage. Schlegel, in his 
Vienna lectures, made a passing allusion in 1808 
which shows how completely the work had been 
done. " When the Dramaturgie was published, 
we Germans had scarcely any but French tragedies 
on our stages, and the extravagant predilection 
for them as classical models had not then been 
V 289 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

combated. At present the national taste has 
declared itself so decidedly against them, that we 
have nothing to fear from that quarter." 

But the essential aim of Lessing's criticisms was 
not to tear down, but to build up ; it was well 
worth while to clear the ground of rubbish; but 
only that a good superstructure might be built on 
the right foundation. Lessing's work was not 
half done when he had revealed the mistakes of 
the French ; he then developed his own theories 
of dramatic art, based on a free interpretation of 
Aristotle. In his discussions of the three unities 
— which will never trouble us any more — he 
exhibited his common-sense as well as his pro- 
found learning. These unities had been a stum- 
bling-block to the French. They insisted that by 
the unity of time was meant a day of twenty-four 
hours; and that the unity of place required that 
the spot where the drama opened must suffer no 
change till the final curtain. Corneille had racked 
his brains over the unity of time until he made the 
discovery that the dramatic day should last thirty 
hours; a rather arbitrary limit, adopted for per- 
sonal convenience. Lessing insisted that Aris- 
totle never intended to lay down hard and fast 
lines for the unities of time and place. They were 
observed in the Greek drama, owing to the presence 
of the Chorus, which could not be well conceived 

290 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

to appear at times far apart or in distant places; 
but that the master meant to make an absolute 
dictum for all time to come, Lessing declared was 
absurd. The only unity necessarily required in 
every dramatic piece was the unity of action, 
which means simply logical unity; the scenes 
must succeed each other in an orderly fashion, 
and every event must follow the law of causation. 
By clearing up this subject, Lessing laid a broad 
foundation for the German theatre. 

Lessing's discussion of the great question, 
Should there be an ethical purpose in the drama ? 
shows how truly philosophical was his conception 
of dramatic art. Few who seriously reflect on 
the subject to-day will maintain that a tragedy 
ought to teach a direct moral lesson ; but in Les- 
sing's time contemporary thought gave to this 
question an unhesitating affirmative. The moral 
hitched on to the end of tragedies was regarded 
as the raison d'etre of the whole play. Voltaire 
boasted that in his Semiramis horrible deeds were 
punished in extraordinary ways. Lessing proved 
such an idea to be a fundamental error. He argued 
that the effect was more powerful when crime and 
punishment were bound up together in a natural 
chain of events. His view of the working of 
natural law in the drama is of course in harmony 
with our modern spirit. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Lessing's idea of the relation between the drama 
and historical truth was far ahead of his time ; it 
fairly staggered the German literary public. Many 
had expressed the opinion — many still express it 
— that the poet in his representation of past events 
must strictly follow history. Lessing showed that 
there was no reasonable ground for such a notion ; 
the dramatist might be faithful to history in his 
characters, otherwise there would be no assignable 
reason for their appellation. But in minor matters 
the poet must be free to arrange the details of his 
plot, so long as they are consistent and have the 
appearance of truth. He wisely remarked, " Er 
braucht eine Geschichte nicht darum, weil sie 
geschehen ist, sondern darum, weil sie so geschehen 
ist, dass er sie schwerlich zu seinem gegenwartigen 
Zwecke besser erdichten konnte." Lessing also 
strongly combated the theory that one aim of the 
drama was to preserve the memory of great men, 
showing the narrowness of such a conception, and 
its cramping effect on the production of plays. 
'' Die Absicht der Tragodie ist weit philosophischer 
als die Absicht der Geschichte: und es heisst sie 
von ihrer wahren Wiirde herabsetzen, wenn man 
sie zu einem blossen Panegyrikus beriihmter 
Manner macht, oder sie gar den Nationalstolz zu 
nahren missbraucht." He concluded this subject 
with the remark that poetic truth is of more im- 

292 



LESSING AS A CREATIVE CRITIC 

portance than historical truth in giving us a knowl- 
edge of human nature ; in the works of the great 
masters of tragedy we see reflected more clearly 
than anywhere else the character of man. 

Lessing's influence on English literature has not 
been notable. We did not need him so acutely. 
It was through the Dramaturgie that he began to 
impress literary Europe, but he was not well 
known in England before 1830. His influence on 
English drama in the nineteenth century might 
have been great had there been anything to in- 
fluence. But there was no real dramatic move- 
ment in England until the close of the century; 
and by that time Lessing's ideas had become 
largely axiomatic. But the English-speaking 
people ought to feel a special interest in the life 
and work of Lessing; he was greatly influenced 
by English models ; and his criticisms of Shake- 
speare are not the least valuable part of his writings. 

Lessing's style was like the man : straightfor- 
ward, virile, combative, sometimes sarcastic, yet 
always betraying great depths of sympathy. 
Every line he wrote has the ring of sincerity. In 
a letter to his father he said, "If I write at all, it 
is not possible for me to write otherwise than as 
I think and feel." These heartening words are 
the echo of his life. To Lessing the pursuit of 
truth was not a duty ; it was a passion. Narrow- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

ness and intolerance were hateful to him, and 
insincerity was the unpardonable sin. He loved 
truth because he could not help loving it, and it 
made his blood boil to see truth distorted and used 
to advertise false ideas. He had that freedom 
from prejudice which characterises every great 
critic. But he was preeminently a man of strong 
convictions. 



294 



xn 

SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY AND 
INFLUENCE 

Schiller was born at Marbach on the tenth of 
November 1759, the birthday of Martin Luther 
and the birthyear of Robert Burns. It is one of 
nature's rare felicities that Burns and Schiller 
should have entered the world together, since 
each was destined to enrich lyrical poetry and 
to stand forever as a fiery advocate of the claims 
of the heart against the conventions of society. 
Friedrich was intended by his parents for the 
ministry, but as he developed he passed through 
the intellectual struggle eternally symptomatic 
of youth, which resulted for him in the complete 
rout of theological dogma and the abandonment 
of clerical ambition. In January 1773, he was 
sent to the military school at Castle Solitude, 
founded and controlled by the capricious Duke of 
Wiirtemberg. To boys of independence this in- 
stitution resembled a jail rather than an academy ; 
the rigour of its discipline seemed galling in its 
pettiness, and its curriculum dull and harsh. Its 
unintentional effect on the boy's theories of politi- 
cal and social liberty was profound and permanent. 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

His personal appearance was as unconventional 
as his ideas. He was rough, uncouth, unrein, 
his very hair a flag of revolt, so that many times 
when he appeared at the breakfast table the boys 
exclaimed, "Aber, Fritz, wie siehst du wieder 
aus?" 

"Stung by the splendour of a sudden thought," 
he would often leap up in the middle of the night 
to read and write. Stumbling clumsily over 
furniture, he would arouse his sleeping school- 
mates and add more to his knowledge than to his 
popularity. Most of the boys regarded him as a 
freak, but he naturally had a few dear and intimate 
friends. He was a sentimental, morbid young 
German, and he wrote: " I am not yet twenty-one 
years old, but I can tell you frankly that the world 
has no further charm for me. . . . The nearer 
I come to the age of maturity, the more I could 
wish that I had died in childhood." He never 
had anything of Goethe's repose. One of his 
schoolmates said, "Sein Geist rastete nie — stand 
nie still — sondern suchte immer vorwarts zu 
schreiten." Thoroughly characteristic even then 
was his fierce rebellion against the ruling powers. 
As Professor Chuquet says: "Charles Moor 
est plus tragique que Goetz : I'un combat les 
eveques et les princes : I'autre combat I'ordre 
social tout en tier." 

296 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

His reading at school and in his early years in- 
fluenced him deeply, the books that produced the 
greatest effect being Werther, Gotz, Ossian, Klop- 
stock, Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Rousseau. In 
Schiller's literary activity, as in that of every other 
influential writer since 1775, we can trace many 
things back to Jean Jacques, who is perhaps the 
source of more literary, political, and social move- 
ments than any other writer of modern times. 

While he was at school he secretly wrote his first 
play, The Robbers. After leaving the academy 
he borrowed money and published the work at his 
own, or rather at his friend's expense, in the spring 
of 1 781. Many things in this play seem absurd 
to-day, and one must not forget the remark of 
the German prince to Goethe: "If I had been 
God and about to create the world, and had I 
foreseen that Schiller would write The Robbers 
in it, I would not have created it." Still the 
appearance of this drama is one of the events in 
the history of literature. It was a genuine erup- 
tion of the Sturm und Drang, and in its wild pas- 
sion it expressed and relieved the overcharged 
heart of Germany. Kuno Fischer said, "Sein 
erstes Selbstbekenntnis sind Die Rduber, sein 
letztes Die Kiinstler.^' The difference between the 
two is really more a difference of intellectual de- 
velopment than any actual change. The words 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

in Schiller's Kunstler, beginning " Mich halt kein 
Band, " reveal the same man who wrote Die Rduher. 

When Schiller left the academy in 1780, he was 
not much better off. He received an appointment 
as surgeon to a regiment of soldiers at Stuttgart, 
and was compelled to wear a military uniform, 
which seemed to him as degrading as a livery 
Having endured this hateful routine till he could 
stand it no longer, he fled with a helpful friend to 
Mannheim. This was in September 1782. Pro- 
fessor A. H. Palmer has pointed out that from this 
time on Schiller was generally dependent on others 
for the necessary resources. It has become a 
commonplace to say that Goethe was selfish and 
Schiller unselfish; but with due regard to Schiller's 
noble altruism, he, like many idealists and reformers, 
was chronically unable to pay his bills. His was 
the particular kind of genius that required support. 

In the spring of 1784 appeared Schiller's second 
notable play, Kahale und Liehe. This was another 
plea for the individual against the hypocrisy and 
tyranny of social convention, Kuno Fischer will 
have it that the young lover is Schiller himself. 
"Ferdinand ist des Dichters Spiegelbild." The 
last scene of this tragedy on the stage to-day is 
sometimes greeted with unrestrained guffaws. 
Lemonade as a beverage has its merits, but it lacks 
dignity. 

298 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

Sentimental tragedy, of course, came from Eng- 
land, making its first important appearance there 
in 1732 in the play George Barnwell. This stream 
of sentimentality was enormously swollen by the 
novels of Richardson and by the genius of Rousseau, 
and in Germany is not yet dry. Lessing, in his 
play, Miss Sara Sampson (1755), shows the direct 
influence of England ; and Schiller learned much 
from Lessing. 

In 1787 appeared Don Carlos, which made the 
poet's reputation far more secure than the wild 
excrescences of Die Rauber and Kabale und Liehe. 
Here again Schiller reincarnated himself. All the 
despair, romantic passion, and vain longings of 
the prince are Schiller's own, as any one may see 
by reading the dramatist's letters of this period. 
The fact that the friend of Carlos cheerfully dies 
for him perhaps adds to the reality of the portrait. 
With all its serious faults in technique, Don Carlos 
is a noble dramatic poem and one of the imperish- 
able glories of German literature. Nor is it in- 
effective on the modern stage. 

In 1 791 Schiller's health broke down, and the 
great works of the next fourteen years were written 
under circumstances of cruel pain and physical 
weakness, while the mind and heart of the poet 
remained as bold and exalted as ever, betraying 
no trace of the malady that was steadily destroy- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

ing his vitality. We echo the cry of Carlyle: 
"O Schiller, what secret hadst thou for creating 
such things as Max and Thekla, when thy body 
was wasting with disease?" The Wallenstein 
trilogy with its superb prologue certainly shows 
no trace of decay. Wallenstein^ s Camp, which 
exhibits on nearly every page the influence of 
Goethe, was performed at Weimar in October 1798, 
the Piccolomini on 30 January 1799, and W alien- 
stein's Death on 20 April. These reestablished 
Schiller's position on the German stage, and on 
the flood-tide of his genius he produced Maria 
Stuart in 1800, and the Maid oj Orleans in 1801. 
Actresses in many nations are still speaking the 
lines of his Queen of Scots, and I regard his Joan 
of Arc as the most purely charming of all his crea- 
tions. I dissent from the common verdict that 
Joan's falling in love with the Englishman is a 
fatal error; I particularly admire this episode, 
because it gives to the Inspired Maid the irresisti- 
ble touch of nature. Her love for the Englishman 
is more surely divine than her visions of angels. 
Could anything be more characteristic of the 
difference between the French and the German 
temperament in general, and between that of 
Voltaire and Schiller in particular, than their re- 
spective treatment of this wonderful historical 
figure ? 

300 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

In 1803 appeared his classic drama The Bride of 
Messina, which exhibits his passion for the study 
of Greek aesthetics and his powers in sustained 
poetry, which to be sure is at times dangerously 
near declamation. In 1804 came his last and 
perennially popular work, William Tell. The 
local colour of this astonishing play is so accurate 
that it seems hardly conceivable that Schiller was 
not personally familiar with the scenes he por- 
trayed; yet they were the results of his reading 
and particularly of his conversations with Goethe. 
Twenty-eight years later Goethe said to Ecker- 
mann, "Was in seinem Tell von Schweizer Lokali- 
tat ist, habe ich ihm alles erzahlt." It is fitting 
and natural that Schiller's last drama should be 
the incarnation of the spirit of Liberty. 

Schiller died in his house at Weimar on the 
afternoon of the ninth of May 1805. No one dared 
tell Goethe until the next day, when he enquired, 
"Schiller was very ill yesterday, was he not?" 
The messenger wept and Goethe knew the truth. 

Schiller had first arrived at the village of Weimar, 
the intellectual capital of Germany, on 21 July 
1787. He was introduced to Goethe on 7 Sep- 
tember 1788, and for some time neither man sus- 
pected the intimacy that was to crown the later 
years. Their first impressions were mutually un- 
pleasant, for in truth they were as unlike as Tur- 

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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

genev and Tolstoi. But their friendship was one 
of the best things that ever happened to both men, 
one of the best things that ever happened to Ger- 
man literature, and one of the most beautiful things 
to contemplate in the history of humanity. It is 
impressive to stand in front of the theatre at 
Weimar, to gaze at the splendid statue of the two 
friends, and then to visit the crypt and see the two 
coffins side by side that hold the remains of the 
mighty dead. Lovely and pleasant were they in 
their lives, and in death they are not divided. . . . 
One August afternoon I stood by the old stone 
table in the garden at Jena, where Goethe and 
Schiller used to sit and talk together, and I read 
the inscription, taken from the words spoken to 
Eckermann at this place on the eighth of October 
1827: '* Sie wissen wohl kaum, an welcher 
merkwiirdigen S telle wir uns eigentlich befinden. 
Hier hat Schiller gewohnt. In dieser Laube, 
auf diesen jetzt fast zusammengebrochenen Banken 
haben wir oft an diesem alten Steintisch gesessen 
und manches gute und grosse Wort miteinander 
gewechselt. . . . Das geht alles hin und voriiber : 
ich bin auch nicht mehr der ich gewesen." 

The comparison between Schiller and Goethe 
is a well-worn theme. Everyone reahses now 
that Schiller was national, and Goethe universal. 
Perhaps the difference between the two may be 

.^02 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

more definitely expressed by saying that Goethe 
had the literary temperament and Schiller the 
rhetorical. Schiller was ardent, noble, striving : 
Goethe wise, profound, and calm. The latter called 
himself a Weltkind, and to Schiller's passionate talk 
on art and ethics, I seem to hear Goethe say : 

" Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie : 
Und griin des Lebens goldner Baum." 

Schiller had the defects of his qualities, as is 
true of every man, and to-day among the young 
decadents of Germany it is as fashionable to despise 
Schiller as it is the rule to despise Longfellow among 
the literary young aspirants in America. In Otto 
Ernst's brilliant play, Jugend von Heute, one of 
the keenest and most delightful of all stingless 
satires, we are introduced to a charming family 
table where the honest pater-familias listens with 
horror to the conversation between his son, fresh 
from the university, and the two youthful poseurs 
he has brought home with him, who calmly declare 
that Schiller is no longer read by intelligent people. 

Although Schiller received from English litera- 
ture much more than he gave to it, his influence 
on our literature both in England and in America 
was wide and deep. At the end of the eighteenth 
and during the first years of the nineteenth cen- 
tury Schiller as a dramatist was completely over- 
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ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

shadowed amongst English-speaking people by 
the resounding fame of Kotzebue, who turned out 
later to be only a sham giant. Kotzebue was 
called the " German Shakespeare," and his dramas 
were read and acted on both sides of the Atlantic, 
producing veritable thrills. In the United States, 
between 1793 and 1814, appeared nine translations 
of Schiller, two of Lessing, and over fifty of Kot- 
zebue ! The New York theatrical manager. Dun- 
lap, was so excited by the success of a play of 
Kotzebue's, that he learned German, made trans- 
lations, and brought out both Kotzebue and Schiller 
on the American stage. Dunlap was a highly in- 
telligent and gifted man, who did his best to give 
American audiences real literature on the stage. 
He actually took more interest in dramatic poetry 
than in stage spectacles. 

And Schiller, though lacking the popularity of 
Kotzebue, was by no means unknown to English 
and American readers during these years. English 
versions of TJie Robbers appeared at London in 
1792, at Philadelphia 1793, at Baltimore 1802; 
Fiesko, London 1796, Baltimore 1802 ; Kabale und 
Liebe, London 1795, 1796, 1797, Baltimore 1802; 
Don Carlos, London 1798; W aliens kin, 1800; 
Piccolomini, 1805; and Maria Stuart, 1801. In 
the Preface to the EngHsh translation of Don 
Carlos, 1798, we find, **The comparison which has 

304 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

been made between him and our own Shakespeare 
is, perhaps, not too highly exaggerated." A copy 
of the second edition, which appeared the same 
year, has bound up with it (in the Hbrary of Yale 
University) a translation of Kotzebue's Sacrifice 
oj Love, 1799; in the Preface German literature is 
declared to be superior to contemporary English 
literature (as it certainly was) ; and then we find 
the familiar worship of Kotzebue. He is ''Shake- 
speare without his quibbles, his negligences, his 
incongruities, his violations of the most indispen- 
sable probabilities." 

In 1796 Coleridge planned to translate all the 
works of Schiller; on 16 September 1798, in com- 
pany with Wordsworth, he sailed for Germany, 
and remained there over nine months. On 30 
September 1799, in England, he received the 
manuscript of Piccolomini, which differed some- 
what from the now standard text. At first he was 
impressed not at all favourably. He called it a 
"dull, heavy play," and spoke of his unutterable 
disgust in translating it. His translation was not 
popular, and Carlyle could not find a copy in 1823- 
1824 when writing his Life of Schiller. Scott, how- 
ever, said that Coleridge's translation was greater 
than the original, an opinion which has been sup- 
ported by some English critics of to-day. 

The Preface to a translation of The Robbers, 
X 305 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

which appeared in 1795, advertises the work by 
saying, "A distinguishing feature of this piece is a 
certain wildness of fancy." This was in the flood- 
tide of English Romanticism, when the surest road 
to popularity was "wildness." 

Schiller was the first German dramatic poet to 
appear from the American press, with the notable 
exception of Lessing. Miss Sara Sampson was 
pubhshed in EngHsh at Philadelphia in 1789, 
and in 1793 appeared The Robbers. The first 
appearance of Kotzebue in America was as late 
as 1799; and Scott's translation of Goethe's Gotz 
came in 1814. Schiller' s rom?ince, DerGeisterseher, 
was pubhshed in EngHsh at London in 1795 and 
at New York in 1796, and apparently influenced 
the American novelist, Charles Brockden Brown, 
in his story Wieland (1798), which some one has 
called the first important original fiction written 
in the United States. 

One of the earliest significant critical essays on 
German literature that appeared anywhere in 
Enghsh was a long article in the North American 
Review for April 1823, two years before Carlyle's 
Life of Schiller was pubHshed at London. This 
was a review of Doring's Schillers Leben, and 
developed into a lengthy, thoughtful essay on 
Schiller and German literature. Carlyle's book, 
of course, exerted a powerful influence, and he 

306 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

was one of the elect few that could not be deceived 
by the glamour of Kotzebue. Discussing Kahale 
und Liebe, he said, "The same primary conception 
has been tortured into a thousand shapes, and 
tricked out with a thousand petty devices and 
meretricious ornaments, by the Kotzebues, and 
other 'intellectual Jacobins,' whose productions 
have brought what we falsely call the 'German 
theatre' into such deserved contempt in England." 
Carlyle's general summary of Schiller is still ac- 
cepted by all except idolaters or calumniators of 
the poet: "Sometimes we suspect that it is the 
very grandeur of his general powers, which prevents 
us from exclusively admiring his poetic genius. 
We are not lulled by the syren song of poetry, 
because her melodies are blended with the clearer, 
manlier tones of serious reason, and of honest 
though exalted feeling." 

One of the most important books that was both 
a result and a cause of the influence of German 
literature on English was A Historic Survey of 
German Poetry, in three volumes, by William 
Taylor of Norwich, published at London in 1830. 
The Preface is dated May 1828, and he mentions 
there that he has been for a long time engaged 
in the task of translating German poetry. The 
work devotes 124 pages to Kotzebue, 75 to Schiller, 
and 138 to Goethe, who was yet alive, or, as Taylor 

307 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

states it, "He continues to reside there (Weimar) 
a bachelor, in dignified affluence." Taylor did 
not share De Quincey's low estimate of Goethe's 
powers, and Carlyle's exposure of Kotzebue had, 
alas, not convinced him. He said, however, that 
Schiller's historical tragedies were equal to those 
of Shakespeare, and of William Tell he remarked, 
"Indeed it may be doubted whether any gothic 
tragedy (we do not except Macbeth or the Con- 
spiracy of Venice) is equal to this Tell for majesty 
of topic, for compass of plan, for incessancy of in- 
terest, for depth of pathos, for variety of character, 
for domesticity of costume, for truth of nature, and 
for historic fidelity." 

In the Encyclopcedia Britannica, De Quincey 
said of Schiller, "For us who are aliens to Ger- 
many, Schiller is the representative of the German 
intellect in its highest form; and to him, at all 
events, whether first or second, it is certainly due 
that the German intellect has become a known 
power, and a power of growing magnitude for the 
great commonwealth of Christendom." Such tes- 
timony at that time is historically interesting. 

The first American edition of Carlyle's Life of 
Schiller appeared in 1833. In the July number 
of the Christian Examiner, 1834, Dr. F. H. Hedge 
reviewed the book, and this led to a number of 
articles on Schiller, Goethe, and German litera- 

308 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

ture in general. But the most important single 
work was probably George Ripley's Specimens oj 
Foreign Standard Literature, nine volumes, Boston, 
1838-1842. This collection, of course, contained 
selections from Schiller's lyrics and dramas. In 
1856 Dr. Hedge said that in America Schiller was 
the best known, ''or least misunderstood," of all 
German writers. 

Longfellow had an exalted opinion of Schiller, 
as one might expect. He called him "by far the 
greatest tragic poet of Germany," and admired 
the "moral elevation" of his works. It is gener- 
ally believed that the Building of the Ship was 
influenced by the Song of the Bell. The poet 
Bryant delivered an address at the great Schiller 
festival in New York, on the one hundredth anni- 
versary of the poet's birth, 1859. In this he spoke 
particularly of Schiller as the poet of freedom. 
This address was translated into German and pub- 
lished in the Schiller Denkmal, Berlin, i860, which 
included a collection of centenary addresses made 
in all parts of the world. It would indeed be diffi- 
cult to exaggerate the range of Schiller's influence 
on world literature and world politics.^ 

* For his influence on French literature, see Von Rossel, His- 
toire des Relations Litter aires enlre La France et L'Allemagne, 
1897; Suepfle, Geschichte des deutschen KuUureinflusses auf 
Frankreich, 1S86; Sachs, Schillers Beziehungen zur franzosischen 
und englischen Liter atiir, 1861. The best Life of Schiller in Eng- 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

Schiller's personality was particularly charm- 
ing, in its frankness, honesty, noble ideality; 
there was a combination of Spartan simplicity 
with singular sweetness that endeared him to those 
who knew him well. When he was a boy at 
school, he wrote of himself, "You will hear that 
I am obstinate, passionate, and impatient ; but 
you will also hear of my sincerity, my fidelity, 
and my good heart." Madame de Stael gave 
excellent testimony to the moral worth and per- 
sonal charm of Schiller. She arrived at Weimar 
in December 1803, and her coming was awaited 
by both Goethe and Schiller with terror; they 
looked for a combination of the blue stocking and 
the new woman, and were fearful of boredom. 
Goethe was at Jena, and was so afraid of her that 
he did not dare to return to Weimar. Schiller 
wrote that God had sent this woman to torment 
him ! But familiarity bred just the opposite of 
contempt. 

Professor W. H. Carruth says, in an admirable 
article on Schiller's religion, "He believed stead- 

lish is by Professor Calvin Thomas, of Columbia, 1901 ; and all 
students are grateful to Professor Learned of the University of 
Pennsylvania for the work done under his direction, which 
has contributed immensely to our knowledge of the influence of 
German literature on early American writers. For example, see 
Translations of German Poetry in American Magazines (1741- 
1810), by Dr. E. Z. Davis. 

310 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

fastly, with no more hesitation and intermission 
than many a patriarch and saint in one God, All- 
Wise, All-Knowing, Loving Power, immanent in 
the Universe and especially in man. . . . Schiller 
had a true feeling in his youth when he believed 
himself called to preach. . . . Everyone . . . 
was impressed with this sense of his priestly and 
prophetic character, using the words in their best 
sense." 

The great English scholar of the seventeenth 
century, John Selden, wrote in Greek in every 
book in his library the words, "Above all. Liberty." 
These eloquent words might have been placed on 
the title-page of each book that Schiller produced. 
The mainspring of his life, the central theme in 
every drama from The Robbers to William Tell, is 
Liberty. He was an ardent individualist, and 
nearly all his works as well as his own life illustrate 
the combat between the individual and the social 
order. No writer has perhaps ever stood more 
consistently for intellectual freedom. In 1827 
Goethe remarked to Eckermann : ''Durch alle 
Werke Schillers geht die Idee von Freiheit, und 
diese Idee nahm eine andere Gestalt an, sowie 
Schiller in seiner Cultur weiter ging und selbst 
ein andrer wurde. In seiner Jugend war es die 
physische Freiheit, die ihm zu schaflfen machte 
und die in seine Dichtungen iiberging, in seinem 

311 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

spatern Leben die ideelle." Goethe also said that 
Schiller, in his love for the Ideal, had no rival in 
German literature, nor in the literature of the 
world. The man most similar to him in this 
respect, said Goethe, was Byron, and Goethe ex- 
pressed the wish that Schiller might have lived long 
enough to read the poetry of the Englishman. 

Schiller had an aspiring soul ; there was, as 
Goethe once remarked, not a trace of the common 
or the vulgar in his mind. He longed ever for 
greater heights, and the fiery energy of his soul 
consumed his physical vitality. His body simply 
could not stand the imperious demands of his 
genius. To him the tragedy of life was the sad 
disparity between the spiritual ambition, the long- 
ing of the lonely heart, and the limitations of the 
flesh. He expressed all this in his fine poem, Das 
Ideal und das Leben. 

We Americans ought to love Schiller, for the 
salient qualities of his soul — energy, courage, 
virility — are the characteristics that we like to 
think belong to the American temperament. And 
we can learn much from the life and works of 
Schiller — simplicity, honesty, fearlessness before 
the tyranny of convention, purity of motive. 
To the strong and reverent man — in whose char- 
acter dwells a combination of Faith and Energy — 
the heavenly vision is never absent. In Schiller's 

312 



SCHILLER'S PERSONALITY 

beautiful poem on Columbus, a poem that rouses 
the heart like the sound of a trumpet, Schiller 
has given us the essence of his soul. 

" Steure, mutiger Segler ! Es mag der Witz dich verhohnen 
Und der Schiffer am Steu'r senken die lassige Hand — 
Immer, immer nach West ! Dort muss die Kiiste sich zeigen, 
Liegt sie doch deutlich und liegt schimmernd vor deinem 

Verstand. 
Traue dem leitenden Gott und folge dem schweigenden 

Weltmeer ! 
War' sie noch nicht, sie stieg' jetzt aus dem Fluten empor. 
Mit dem Genius steht die Natur in ewigem Bunde : 
Was der eine verspricht, leistet die andre gewiss." 



313 



xm 

CONVERSATIONS WITH PAUL HEYSE 

Paul Heyse died on the second of April 19 14, 
at his home in Munich, having reached the age of 
eighty-four years. His literary career began in 
1850, and he wrote steadily to his last hour; his 
publications covered an immense range — novels, 
short stories, poems, plays, with a great number of 
essays in philosophy and criticism. The King 
of Bavaria in 1854 offered him a home in Munich, 
with a pension of five hundred dollars a year, 
so that nearly the whole active life of this Berliner 
was identified with the intellectual centre of South 
Germany. In 19 10 he received the Nobel Prize. 

When I was a very young man, I came across 
an old paper-cover translation of Heyse's long 
novel, The Children of the World. I read it with 
such deUght that I remember my first waking 
thoughts every day were full of happy anticipation. 
I lived with that group of characters, and whenever 
I open the book now, I find their charm as potent 
as ever. My hope of sometime seeing and talking 
with the man who had given me so much pleasure 
was satisfied in 1904. 

314 



CONVERSATIONS WITH PAUL HEYSE 

It was Sunday, the fifth of June, and a bright, 
warm afternoon, when I walked along the Luisen- 
strasse in Munich, and stopped at Number 22. 
Almost before I knew it, I was talking intimately 
with the famous novelist. He was then seventy- 
four, but remarkably vigorous and fresh-faced, 
an abundant shower of dark hair falling on his 
neck and shoulders, and his full beard sHghtly 
grizzled. He was immensely interested in the 
criticisms of his play, Maria von Magdala, which 
Mrs. Fiske had been presenting with great success 
in America. He told me with ardent satisfaction 
of the large cash royalties that had steadily poured 
in from across the sea. He wished to know in- 
finite detail about Mrs. Fiske. "She is a most 
beautiful woman, is she not?" asked the old man, 
eagerly. "On the contrary," said I, "she is 
decidedly lacking in physical charm, both in face 
and figure." This seemed a cruel disappointment 
to him, as he had evidently pictured a superbly 
handsome creature as the incarnation of his work. 
I explained to him that so soon as Mrs. Fiske had 
spoken a dozen lines on the stage, no one knew or 
cared whether she were beautiful or not; her 
personality was so impressive, so compelling, that 
she drew irresistibly the most intense sympathy ; 
that this seemed to me her greatest triumph, by 
sheer brains and art to produce the illusion of a 
315 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

lovely, suffering woman. But Heyse was not satis- 
fied. " Man hat mir gesagt, dass sie sehr schon ist." 
Several other visitors entered, and Heyse, forget- 
ting he was a dramatist, and remembering only 
that he was a doctor of philosophy, plunged into 
an excited discussion about the work of Professor 
Justi, of the University of Bonn. Not being par- 
ticularly interested, I have forgotten everything 
he said about this philosopher and art-critic. I 
waited patiently for a change in the weather. 

It came. The conversation suddenly shifted 
to American literature. "Who is your greatest 
living writer?" I knew that Heyse was a grave, 
serious, melancholy man, but I boldly answered, 
"Mark Twain." Heyse shook his head, more in 
sorrow than in anger. "I have always heard of 
Mark Twain's humour — that he was the funniest 
man on earth. I therefore read with the most 
conscientious attention every word of Huckleberry 
Finn. I never laughed once. I found absolutely 
not a funny thing in the book." 

Before going, I asked him to write his name in 
my copy of Kinder der Welt. He comphed most 
graciously, though he was surprised, and not over- 
pleased to learn of my enthusiasm for this particular 
novel. He gave me a really affectionate farewell, 
and asked me with the most charming courtesy to 
come and see him whenever I should be in Munich. 

316 



CONVERSATIONS WITH PAUL HEYSE 

On the twenty-first of January 191 2, a glorious 
winter day, I went to see him again, and literally 
sat at his feet. He was over eighty years old ; he 
occupied a huge carved chair in the centre of his 
library ; the winter sunlight streamed through the 
windows, crowning his noble head with gold. The 
walls of the room were entirely lined with books, 
and he made such an impressive picture in these 
surroundings, that for a time I hardly heard a 
word he said, so absorbed was I by the dignity 
and beauty of the scene. 

I took a little chair, directly in front of him, 
looking up with real reverence into his face. "I 
have lived in this same house nearly sixty years. 
When I first came here, everyone said, 'Why do 
you five in the country, so far from the city ? ' But 
you see the city has come to me, and now I am in 
the very heart of Munich. I love this house and 
this street, for I have known no other home since 
I came to Bavaria." Once more I told him of 
my youthful enthusiasm for The Children of the 
World. He said with the utmost sincerity : "I 
never read any of my own works. I have forgot- 
ten practically everything in the book you admire. 
But I do remember that it does not express my 
real attitude towards life, only a certain viewpoint. 
Everyone who reads that story ought also to read 
my Merlin, as it supplies exactly the proper anti- 
317 



ESSAYS ON BOOKS 

dote. The fact is, I read no novels at all, and 
have not for years. My reading is entirely con- 
fined to works on philosophy and metaphysics, 
which have been the real passion of my life." He 
mentioned, however, a number of the young poets, 
novelists, and dramatists of to-day, without a 
single jealous or disparaging word. "I have not 
time to read much of these young fellows, but 
from all appearances, I think the outlook for 
German literature in the next generation exceed- 
ingly bright. The air is full of signs of promise. 
For me — ach, ich bin alter Herr!" He said this 
with indescribable charm. 

I reminded him that on the coming Wednesday 
night a new play of his was to have its first perform- 
ance at the Residenz Theatre. I told him how 
keenly I enjoyed Uraufuhrungen in Munich, and 
remarked that of course he would be present. ^'' Aher 
nein ! I never under any circumstances attend the 
first performances of my plays. It is too painful. 
How can I be sure, no matter how intelligent the 
actors may be, that they will interpret correctly 
my real meaning in my characters and dialogue? 
And to be in the least misinterpreted is as distress- 
ing to me as a typographical error in one of my 
printed works. When I take up a new book of 
mine, fresh from the press, and find a single typo- 
graphical error, I lie awake all night." 

318 



CONVERSATIONS WITH PAUL HEYSE 

Then the conversation turned to religion. "Now 
that I am an old man, I have changed somewhat my 
views about religion. I used to think that perhaps 
we could get along without it. Now I know that 
humanity can never exist without religion, and that 
there is absolutely no substitute for it. How are 
the poor and the sick to Uve without the hope and 
comfort of faith in God ? Suppose a poor seam- 
stress has consumption, who would wish to take 
away from her the only hope she has — her belief 
in rehgion ? Science and Monism can never fill 
any place in the human heart. Religion alone can 
satisfy human longings and human aspiration." 

When I rose to go, he accompanied me to the 
door. I was deeply affected, as I knew I should see 
his face no more. He seemed to read my mind, for 
he said very affectionately, but very gravely, 
"Wenn Sie in Amerika wieder sind, denken Sie an 



319 



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