CHAPTER IX: THE VICTORIAN AGE, 1837-1900
History of the Period.—In the two periods of English history most remarkable for their accomplishment, the Elizabethan and the Victorian, the throne was occupied by women. Queen Victoria, the granddaughter of George III., ruled from 1837 to the beginning of 1901. Her long reign of sixty-three years may be said to close with the end of the nineteenth century.
For nearly fifty years after the battle of Waterloo (1815), England had no war of magnitude. In 1854 she joined France in a war against Russia to keep her from taking Constantinople. Tennyson's well-known poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, commemorates an incident in this bloody contest, which was successful in preventing Russia from dismembering Turkey.
When the Turks massacred the Christians in Bulgaria in 1876, Russia fought and conquered Turkey. England again intervened, this time after the war, in the Berlin Congress (1878). In return for her diplomatic services and for a guaranty to maintain the integrity of certain Turkish territory, England received from Turkey the island of Cyprus. As a result of this Congress, the principalities of Roumania, Servia, and Bulgaria were formed, but the Turk was allowed to remain in Europe. A later English prime minister, Lord Salisbury (1830-1903), referring to England's espousal of the Turkish cause, said that she had “backed the wrong horse.” The bloody war of 1912-1913 between Turkey and the allied armies of Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, and Greece was the result of this mistake.
An important part of England's history during this period centers around the expansion, protection, and development of her colonies in Asia, Australia, Africa, and America. England was then constantly agitated by the fear that Russia might grow strong enough to seize India or some other English colonial possessions.
A serious rebellion in India (1857) led England to take from the East India Company the government of that colony. “Empress of India" was later (1876) added to the titles of Queen Victoria. Had India not been an English colony, literature might not have had Kipling's fascinating Jungle Books and Hindu stories. England's protectorate over Egypt (1882) was assumed in order to strengthen her control over the newly completed Suez Canal (1869), which was needed for her communication with India and her Australian colonies.
The Boer war in South Africa (1899-1902)required the largest number of troops that England ever mustered into service in any of her wars. The final outcome of this desperate struggle was the further extension of her South African possessions.
In the nineteenth century, England's most notable political achievement was “her successful rule over colonies, ranging from India, with its 280,000,000 subjects, to Fanning Island with its population of thirty.” Her tactful guidance was for the must part directed toward enabling them to develop and to govern themselves. She had learned a valuable lesson from the American revolution.
Ireland, however, failed to secure her share of the benefits that usually resulted from English rule. She was neither regarded as a colony, like Australia, nor as an integral part of England. For the greater part of the century her condition was deplorable. The great prime minister, William E. Gladstone (1809-1898), tried to secure needed home rule for her, but did not succeed. Toward the end of the century, more liberal laws regarding the tenure of the land and more self-government afforded some relief from unjust conditions.
During the Victorian age the government of England became more democratic. Two reform bills (1867 and 1884) gave almost unrestricted suffrage to men. The extension of the franchise and the granting of local self-government to her counties (1888) made England one of the most democratic of all nations. Her monarch has less power than the president of the United States.
The Victorian age saw the rise of trades unions and the passing of many laws to improve the condition of the working classes. As the tariff protecting the home grower of wheat had raised the price of bread and caused much suffering to the poor, England not only repealed this duty (1846) but also became practically a free-trade country. The age won laurels in providing more educational facilities for all, in abridging class privileges, and in showing increasing recognition of human rights, without a bloody revolution such as took place in France. A rough indication of the amount of social and moral progress is the decrease in the number of convicts in England, from about 50,000 at the accession of Victoria to less than 6000 at her death.
An Age of Science and Invention.—In the extent and the variety of inventions, in their rapid improvement and utilization for human needs, and in general scientific progress, the sixty-three years of the Victorian age surpassed all the rest of historic time.
When Victoria ascended the throne, the stage coach was the common means of traveling; only two short pieces of railroad had been constructed; the electric telegraph had not been developed; few steamships had crossed the Atlantic. The modern use of the telephone would then have seemed as improbable as the wildest Arabian Nights' tale. Before her reign ended, the railroad, the telegraph, the steamship, and the telephone had wrought an almost magical change in travel and in communication.
The Victorian age introduced anaesthetics and antiseptic surgery, developed photography, the sciences of chemistry and physics, of biology and zooelogy, of botany and geology. The enthusiastic scientific worker appeared in every field, endeavoring to understand the laws of nature and to apply them in the service of man. Science also turned its attention to human progress and welfare. The new science of sociology had earnest students.
The Influence of Science on Literature.—The Victorian age was the first to set forth clearly the evolution hypothesis, which teaches the orderly development from simple to complex forms. While the idea of evolution had suggested itself to many naturalists, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was the first to gain a wide hearing for the theory. After years of careful study of nature, he published in 1859 The Origin of Species by Natural Selection, an epoch-making work, which had a far-reaching effect on the thought of the age.
The influence of his doctrine of evolution is especially apparent in Tennyson's poetry, in George Eliot's fiction, in religious thought, and in the change in viewing social problems. In his Synthetic Philosophy, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), philosopher and metaphysician, applied the doctrine of evolution not only to plants and animals but also to society, morality, and religion.
Two eminent scientists, John Tyndall (1820-1893) and Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), did much to popularize science and to cause the age to seek a broader education. Tyndall's Fragments of Science(1871) contains a fine lecture on the Scientific Use of the Imagination, in which he becomes almost poetic in his imaginative conception of evolution:—
“Not alone the more ignoble forms of animalcular
or animal life, not alone the nobler
forms of the horse and lion, not alone the exquisite
and wonderful mechanism of the human
body, but the human mind itself,—emotion,
intellect, will, and all their phenomena,—were
once latent in a fiery cloud... All our philosophy, all our poetry,
all our science, and all our art,—Plato, Shakespeare, Newton, and
Raphael,—are potential in the fires of the sun.”
Unlike Keats in his Lamia, Tyndall is firm in his belief that science will not clip the wings of imagination. In the same lecture he says:—
“How are we to lay hold of the physical basis of light, since, like
that of life itself, it lies entirely without the domain of the
senses? We are gifted with the power of imagination and by this
power we can lighten the darkness which surrounds the world of the
senses... Bounded and conditioned by cooeperant reason, imagination
becomes the mightiest instrument of the physical discoverer.
Newton's passage from a falling apple to a falling moon was at the
outset a leap of the imagination.”
Huxley was even a more brilliant interpreter of science to popular audiences. His so-called Lay Sermons (1870) are invigorating presentations of scientific and educational subjects. He awakened many to a sense of the importance of “knowing the laws of the physical world” and “the relations of cause and effect therein.” Nowhere is he more impressive than where he forces us to admit that we must all play the chess game of life against an opponent that never makes an error and never fails to count our mistakes against us.
“The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the
universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature.
The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his
play is always fair, just, and patient. But we also know, to our
cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest
allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest
stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which
the strong man shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is
checkmated—without haste, but without remorse.
* * * * *
“Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty
game. In other words, education is the instruction of the intellect
in the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things
and their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the
affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move
in harmony with those laws.”
We find the influence of science manifest in much of the general literature of the age, as well as in the special writings of the scientists. Science introduced to literature a new interest in humanity and impressed on writers what is known as the “growth idea.” Preceding literature, with the conspicuous exception of Shakespeare's work, had for the most part presented individuals whose character was already fixed. This age loved to show the growth of souls. George Eliot's novels are frequently Darwinian demonstrations of the various steps in the moral growth or the perversion of the individual. In Rabbi Ben Ezra, Browning thus expresses this new idea of the working of the Divine Power:—
“He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance.”
The Trend of Prose; Minor Prose Writers.—The prose of this age is remarkable for amount and variety. In addition to the work of the scientists, there are the essays and histories of Macaulay and Carlyle, the essays and varied prose of Newman, the art and social philosophy of Ruskin, the critical essays of Matthew Arnold and Swinburne.
One essayist, Walter Pater (1839-1894), an Oxford graduate and teacher, who kept himself aloof from contemporary thought, produced almost a new type of serious prose, distinguished for color, ornamentation, melody, and poetic thought. Even such prosaic objects as wood and brick were to his retrospective gaze “half mere soul-stuff, floated thither from who knows where.” His object was to charm his reader, to haunt him with vague suggestions rather than to make a logical appeal to him, or to add to his world of vivid fact, after the manner of Macaulay. A quotation from Pater's most brilliant essay,Leonardo Da Vinci, in the volume, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry (1873) will show some of the characteristics of his prose. This description of Da Vinci's masterpiece, the portrait of Mona Lisa, has added to the world-wide fame of that picture—
“Hers is the head upon which all 'the ends of the world are come,'
and the eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from
within upon the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange
thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a
moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women
of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into
which the soul with its maladies has passed!... She is older than
the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead
many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a
diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and
trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda,
was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of
Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and
flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has molded the
changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.”
The period from 1780 to 1837 had only two great writers of fiction,—Scott and Jane Austen; but the Victorian age saw the novel gain the ascendancy that the drama enjoyed in Elizabethan times.
In addition to the chief novelists,—Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, and Kipling,—there were many other writers who produced one or more excellent works of fiction. In this class are the Bronte sisters, especially Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) and Emily Bronte (1818-1848), the daughters of a clergyman, who lived in Haworth, Yorkshire. They had genius, but they were hampered by poverty, lack of sympathy, and peculiar environment. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847) is a thrilling story, which centers around the experiences of one of the great nineteenth-century heroines of fiction. This virile novel, an unusual compound of sensational romance and of intense realism, lives because the highly gifted author made it pulsate with her own life. Unlike Jane Eyre, Emily Bronte's powerful novel, Wuthering Heights (1847) is not pleasant reading. This romantic novel is really her imaginative interpretation of the Yorkshire life that she knew. If she had humanized Wuthering Heights, it could have been classed among the greatest novels of the Victorian age. She might have learned this art, had she not died at the age of thirty. “Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone,” wrote Charlotte Bronte of her sister Emily.
Among the other authors who deserve mention for one or more works of fiction are: Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873), a versatile writer whose best-known work is The Last Days of Pompeii; Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), whose Cranford (1853) is an inimitable picture of mid-nineteenth century life in a small Cheshire village; Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), whose Barchester Towers is a realistic study of life in a cathedral town; Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), who stirs the blood in Westward Ho! (1855), a tale of Elizabethan seamen; Charles Reade (1814-1884), author of The Cloister and the Hearth (1861), a careful and fascinating study of fifteenth-century life; R.D. Blackmore (1825-1900), whose Lorna Doone (1869) is a thrilling North Devonshire story of life and love in the latter part of the seventeenth century; J.M. Barrie (1860-), whose The Little Minister (1891) is a richly human, sympathetic, and humorous story, the scene of which is laid in Kirriemuir, a town about sixty miles north of Edinburgh. HisSentimental Tommy (1896), although not so widely popular, is an unusually original, semi-autobiographical story of imaginative boyhood. This entire chapter could be filled with merely the titles of Victorian novels, many of which possess some distinctive merit.
The changed character of the reading public furnished one reason for the unprecedented growth of fiction. The spread of education through public schools, newspapers, cheap magazines, and books caused a widespread habit of reading, which before this time was not common among the large numbers of the uneducated and the poor. The masses, however, did not care for uninteresting or abstruse works. The majority of books drawn from the circulating libraries were novels.
The scientific spirit of the age impelled the greatest novelists to try to paint actual life as it impressed them. Dickens chose the lower classes in London; Thackeray, the clubs and fashionable world; George Eliot, the country life near her birthplace in Warwickshire; Hardy, the people of his Wessex; Meredith, the cosmopolitan life of egotistical man; Kipling, the life of India both in jungle and camp, as well as the life of the great outer world. These writers of fiction all sought a realistic background, although some of them did not hesitate to use romantic touches to heighten the general effect. Stevenson was the chief writer of romances.
The Trend of Poetry: Minor Poets.—The Victorian age was dominated by two great poets,—Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson. Browning showed the influence of science in his tendency to analyze human motives and actions. In one line of Fra Lippo Lippi, he voices the new poetic attitude toward the world:—
“To find its meaning is my meat and drink.”
Browning advanced into new fields, while Tennyson was more content to make a beautiful poetic translation of much of the thought of the age. In his youth he wrote:—
“Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time.”
From merely reading Tennyson's verse, one could gauge quite accurately the trend of Victorian scientific thought.
The poetry of both Browning and Tennyson is so resonant with faith that they have been called great religious teachers. Rudyard Kipling, the poet of imperialistic England, of her “far-flung battle line,” attributes her “dominion over palm and pine” to faith in the “Lord God of Hosts.”
In the minor poets, there is often a different strain. Arnold is beset with doubt, and hears no “clear call,” such as Tennyson voices in Crossing the Bar. Swinburne, seeing the pessimistic side of the shield of evolution, exclaims:—
“Thou hast fed one rose with dust of many men.”
Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), Oxford tutor, traveler, and educational examiner, was a poet who struggled with the doubt of the age. He loved—
“To finger idly some old Gordian knot,
Unskilled to sunder, and too weak to cleave,
And with much toil attain to half-believe.”
His verse would be forgotten if it expressed only such an uncertain note; but his greatest poem thus records his belief in the value of life's struggle and gives a hint of final victory:—
“Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
“If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It maybe, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.”
Although he paid too little attention to the form of his verse, some of his poems have the vitality of an earnest, thoughtful sincerity.
Two poets, W. E. Henley (1849-1903) and Robert Bridges (1844-), although they do not possess Robert Browning's genius, yet have much of his capacity to inspire others with joy in “the mere living.” Henley, a cripple and a great sufferer, was a poet, critic, and London editor. His message is “the joy of life ”:—
”...the blackbird sings but a box-wood flute,
But I lose him best of all
For his song is all of the joy of life.”
His verse, which is elemental, full of enthusiasm and beauty, often reminds us of the work of the thirteenth-century lyrists.
Robert Bridges, an Oxford graduate, physician, critic, and poet, also had for his creed: “Life and joy are one.” His universe, like Shelley's, is an incarnation of the spirit of love:—
“Love can tell, and love alone,
Whence the million stars were strewn,
Why each atom knows its own,
How, in spite of woe and death,
Gay is life, and sweet is breath.”
He wishes for no happier day than the present one. Bridges has been called a classical poet because he often selects Greek and Roman subjects for his verse, and because he writes with a formality, purity, and precision of style. He is, however, most delightful in such volumes as Shorter Poems and New Poems. wherein he describes in a simple, artless manner English rural scenes and fireside joys. In 1913 he was appointed poet laureate, to succeed Alfred Austin.
John Davidson (1857-1909), a Scotch poet, who came to London and wrestled with poverty, produced much uneven work. In his best verse, there is often a pleasing combination of poetic beauty and vigorous movement. Lines like these from his Ballad of a Nun have been much admired:—
“On many a mountain's happy head
Dawn lightly laid her rosy hand.
The adventurous son took heaven by storm,
Clouds scattered largesses of rain.”
Davidson later became an offensively shrill preacher of materialism and lost his early charm. Some of the best of his poetry may be found in Fleet Street Ecologues.
Francis Thompson (1860-1907), a Catholic poet, who has been called a nineteenth-century Crashaw, passed much of his short life of suffering in London, where he was once reduced to selling matches on a street corner. His greatest poem, The Hound of Heaven (1893), is an impassioned lyrical rendering of the passage in the Psalms beginning: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” While fleeing down “the long savannahs of the blue,” the poet hears a Voice say:—
“Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”
William Watson (1858-), a London poet, looked to Milton, Wordsworth, and Arnold as his masters. Some of Watson's best verse, such as Wordsworth's Grave, is written in praise of dead poets. His early volume Epigrams (1884), containing one hundred poems of four lines each, shows his power of conveying poetic thought in brief space. One of these poems is called Shelley and Harriet Westbrook:—
“A star looked down from heaven and loved a flower,
Grown in earth's garden—loved it for an hour:
Let eyes that trace his orbit in the spheres
Refuse not, to a ruin'd rosebud, tears.”
Many expected to see Watson appointed poet-laureate to succeed Tennyson. Possibly mental trouble, which had temporarily affected him, influenced the choice; for Alfred Austin (1835-1913) received the laureateship in 1896. Like the Pre-Raphaelites, Watson disliked those whom he called a “phrase-tormenting fantastic chorus of poets.” His best verse shows depth of poetic thought, directness of expression, and a strong sense of moral values.
The Victorian age has provided poetry to suit almost all tastes. In striking contrast with those who wrestled with the eternal verities are such poets and essayists as Austin Dobson (1840-), long a clerk of the London Board of Trade, and Arthur Symons (1865-), a poet and discriminating prose critic. Austin Dobson, who is fond of eighteenth-century subjects, is at his best in graceful society verse. His poems show the touch of a highly skilled metrical artist who has been a careful student of French poetry. His ease of expression, freshness, and humor charm readers of his verse without making serious demands on their attention. His best poems are found in Vignettes in Rhyme (1873), At the Sign of the Lyre (1885), and Collected Poems (1913).
In choice of subject matter, Arthur Symons sometimes suggests the Cavalier poets. He has often squandered his powers in acting on his theory that it is one of the provinces of verse to record any momentary mood, irrespective of its value. His deftness of touch and acute poetic sensibility are evident in such short poems as Rain on the Down, Credo, A Roundel of Rest and The Last Memory.
The Pre-Raphaelite Movement.—In 1848 three artists, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), William Holman-Hunt (1827-1910), and John Everett Millais (1829-1896), formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Others soon joined the movement which was primarily artistic, not literary. Painting had become imitative. The uppermost question in the artist's mind was, “How would Raphael or some other authority have painted this picture?” The new school determined to paint things from a direct study of nature, without a thought of the way in which any one else would have painted them. They decided to assume the same independence as the Pre-Raphaelite artists, who expressed their individuality in their own way. Keats was the favorite author of the new school. The artists painted subjects suggested by his poems, and Rossetti thought him “the one true heir of Shakespeare.”
When the Pre-Raphaelite paintings were violently attacked, Ruskin examined them and decided that they conformed to the principles which he had already laid down in the first two volumes of Modern Painters (1843, 1846), so he wrote Pre-Raphaelitism (1851) as the champion of the new school. It has been humorously said that some of the painters of this school, before beginning a new picture, took an oath “to paint the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
The new movement in poetry followed this revolt in art. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the head of the literary Pre-Raphaelites, though born in London, was of Italian parentage in which there was a strain of English blood. His poem, The Blessed Damozel (first published in 1850), has had the greatest influence of any Pre-Raphaelite literary production. This poem was suggested by The Raven (1845), the work of the American, Edgar Allan Poe. Rossetti said:—
“I saw that Poe had done the utmost it was possible to do with the
grief of the lover an earth, and I determined to reverse the
conditions, and give utterance to the yearnings of the loved one in
His Blessed Damozel, wearing a white rose, “Mary's gift,” leaning out from the gold bar of heaven, watching with sad eyes, “deeper than the depth of waters stilled at even,” for the coming of her lover, has left a lasting impression on many readers. Simplicity, beauty, and pathos are the chief characteristics of this poem, which, like Bryant's Thanatopsis, was written by a youth of eighteen.
Painting was the chief work of Rossetti's life, but he wrote many other poems. Some of the most characteristic of these are the two semi-ballads, Sister Helen and The King's Tragedy, Rose Mary, Love's Nocturn, and Sonnets.
One of the earliest of these Sonnets, Mary's Girlhood, describes the child as:—
“An angel-watered lily, that near God
Grows and is quiet.”
His sister, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), the author of much religious verse, shows the unaffected naturalness of the new movement. This stanza from her Amor Mundi (Love of the World) is characteristic:—
“So they two went together in glowing August weather,
The honey-breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to doat on, her swift feet seemed to float on
The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.”
William Morris (1834-1896), Oxford graduate, decorator, manufacturer, printer, and poet, was born near London. He was fascinated by The Blessed Damozel, and his first and most poetical volume, The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems (1858), shows Rossetti's influence. The simplicity insisted on by the new school is evident in such lines as these from Two Red Roses across the Moon:—
“There was a lady lived in a hall,
Large in the eyes and slim and tall;
And ever she sung from noon to noon,
Two red roses across the moon.”
Morris later wrote a long series of narrative poems, called The Earthly Paradise (1868-1870) and an epic, Sigurd the Volsung (1876). He turned from Pre-Raphaelitism to become an earnest social reformer.
In literature, the Pre-Raphaelite movement disdained the old conventions and started a miniature romantic revival, which emphasized individuality, direct expression, and the use of simple words. Its influence soon became merged in that of the earlier and far greater romantic school.
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY, 1800-1859
Life.—A prominent figure in the social and political life of England during the first part of the century was Thomas Babington Macaulay, a man of brilliant intellectual powers, strict integrity of character, and enormous capacity for work. He loved England and gloried in her liberties and her commercial prosperity. He served her for many years in the House of Commons, and he bent his whole energy and splendid forensic talent in favor of the Reform Bill of 1832, which secured greater political liberty for England.
He was not a theorizer, but a practical man of affairs. Notwithstanding the fact that his political opinions were ready made for him by the Whig party, his career in the House was never “inconsistent with rectitude of intention and independence of spirit.” He voted conscientiously for measures, although he personally sacrificed hundreds of pounds by so doing.
He was a remarkable talker. A single speech of his has been known to change an entire vote in Parliament. Unlike Coleridge, he did not indulge in monologue, but showed to finest advantage in debate. His power of memory was wonderful. He often startled an opponent by quoting from a given chapter and page of a book. He repeated long passages from Paradise Lost; and it is said he could have restored it complete, had it all been lost.
His disposition was sweet and his life altogether fortunate. His biographer says of him: “Descended from Scotch Presbyterians —ministers many of them—on his father's side, and from a Quaker family on his mother's, he probably united as many guaranties of 'good birth,' in the moral sense of the word, as could be found in these islands at the beginning of the century.”
He was born at Rothley Temple, Leicestershire, in 1800. He was prepared for college at good private schools, and sent to Cambridge when he was eighteen. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1825; but, in the following year, he determined to adopt literature as a profession, owing to the welcome given to his Essay on Milton. As he had written epics, histories, and metrical romances prior to the age of ten, his choice of a profession was neither hasty nor unexpected.
He continued from this time to write for the Edinburgh Review, but literature was not the only field of his activity. He had a seat in Parliament, and he held several positions under the Government. He was never unemployed. Many of his Essays were written before breakfast; while the other members of the household were asleep.
He was a voracious reader. If he walked in the country or in London, he always carried a book to read. He spent some years in the government's service in India. On the long voyage over, he read incessantly, and on the return trip he studied the German language.
He was beyond the age of forty when he found the leisure to begin his History of England. He worked uninterruptedly, but broke down early, dying at the age of fifty-nine.
With his large, fine physique, his sturdy common sense, his interest in practical matters, and his satisfaction in the physical improvements of the people, Macaulay was a fine specimen of the English gentleman.
Essays and Poetry.—Like De Quincey, Macaulay was a frequent contributor to periodicals. He wrote graphic essays on men of action and historical periods. The essays most worthy of mention in this class are Sir William Temple, Lord Clive, Warren Hastings, and William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Some of his essays on English writers and literary subjects are still classic. Among these are Milton, Dryden, Addison, Southey's Edition of Pilgrim's Progress, Croker's Edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, and the biographical essays on Bunyan, Goldsmith, and Johnson, contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Although they may lack deep spiritual insight into the fundamental principles of life and literary criticism, these essays are still deservedly read by most students of English history and literature.
Gosse says: “The most restive of juvenile minds, if induced to enter one of Macaulay's essays, is almost certain to reappear at the other end of it gratified, and, to an appreciable extent, cultivated.” TheseEssays have developed a taste for general reading in many who could not have been induced to begin with anything dry or hard. Many who have read Boswell's Life of Johnson during the past fifty years say that Macaulay first turned their attention to that fascinating work. In the following quotation from an essay on that great biography, we may note his love for interesting concrete statements, presented in a vigorous and clear style:—
“Johnson grown old, Johnson in the fullness of his fame and in the
enjoyment of a competent fortune, is better known to us than any
other man in history. Everything about him, his chat, his wig, his
figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus's dance, his rolling
walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked
his approbation of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for fish
sauce and veal pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea,
his trick of touching the posts as he walked ... all are as familiar
to us as the objects by which we have been surrounded from
Macaulay wrote some stirring ballad poetry, known as Lays of Ancient Rome, which gives a good picture of the proud Roman Republic in its valorous days. These ballads have something of Scott's healthy, manly ring. They contain rhetorical and martial stanzas, which are the delight of many boys; but they lack the spirituality and beauty that are necessary for great poetry.
History of England.—Macaulay had for some time wondered why some one should not do for real history what Scott had done for imaginary history. Macaulay accordingly proposed to himself the task of writing a history that should be more accurate than Hume's and possess something of the interest of Scott's historical romances. In 1848 appeared the first two volumes of The History of England from the Accession of James II. Macaulay had the satisfaction of seeing his work, in sales and popular appreciation, surpass the novels. He intended to trace the development of English liberty from James II. to the death of George III.; but his minute method of treatment allowed him to unfold only sixteen years (from 1685 to 1701) of that period, so important in the constitutional and religious history of England.
Macaulay's pages are not a graveyard for the dry bones of history. The human beings that figure in his chapters have been restored to life by his touch. We see Charles II. “before the dew was off in St. James's Park striding among the trees, playing with his spaniels, and flinging corn to his ducks.” We gaze for a moment with the English courtiers at William III.:—
“They observed that the king spoke in a somewhat imperious tone,
even to the wife to whom he owed so much, and whom he sincerely
loved and esteemed. They were amused and shocked to see him,
when the Princess Anne dined with him, and when the first green peas
of the year were put on the table, devour the whole dish without
offering a spoonful to her Royal Highness, and they pronounced that
this great soldier and politician was no better than a low Dutch
Parts of the History are masterpieces of the narrator's art. A trained novelist, unhampered by historical facts, could scarcely have surpassed the last part of Macaulay's eighth chapter in relating the trial of the seven Bishops. Our blood tingles to the tips of our fingers as we read in the fifth chapter the story of Monmouth's rebellion and of the Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys.
Macaulay shirked no labor in preparing himself to write the History. He read thousands of pages of authorities and he personally visited the great battlefields in order to give accurate descriptions. Notwithstanding such preparation, the value of his History is impaired, not only because he sometimes displays partisanship, but also because he fails to appreciate the significance of underlying social movements. He does not adopt the modern idea that history is a record of social growth, moral as well as physical. While a graphic picture of the exterior aspects of society is presented, we are given no profound insight into the interior movements of a great constitutional epoch. We may say of both Gibbon and Macaulay that they are too often mere surveyors, rather than geologists, of the historic field. The popularity of the History is not injured by this method.
Macaulay's grasp of fact never weakens, his love of manly courage never relaxes, his joy in bygone time never fails, his zeal for the free institutions of England never falters, and his style is never dull.
General Characteristics.—The chief quality of Macaulay's style is its clearness. Contemporaries said that the printers' readers never had to read his sentences a second time to understand them. This clearness is attained, first, by the structure of his sentences. He avoids entangling clauses, obscure references in his pronouns, and long sentences whenever they are in danger of becoming involved and causing the reader to lose his way. In the second place, if the idea is a difficult one or not likely to be apprehended at its full worth, Macaulay repeats his meaning from a different point of view and throws additional light on the subject by varied illustrations.
In the third place, his works abound in concrete ideas, which are more readily grasped than abstract ones. He is not content to write: “The smallest actual good is better than the most magnificent promise of impossibilities:” but he gives the concrete equivalent: “An acre in Middlesex is worth a principality in Utopia.”
It is possible for style to be both clear and lifeless, but his style is as energetic as it is clear. In narration he takes high rank. His erudition, displayed in the vast stores of fact that his memory retained for effective service in every direction, is worthy of special mention.
While his excellences may serve as a model, he has faults that admirers would do well to avoid. His fondness for contrast often leads him to make one picture too bright and the other too dark. His love of antithesis has the merit of arousing attention in his readers and of crystallizing some thoughts into enduring epigrammatic form; but he is often led to sacrifice exact truth in order to obtain fine contrasts, as in the following:—
“The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the
bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”
Macaulay is more the apostle of the material than of the spiritual. He lacked sympathy with theories and aspirations that could not accomplish immediate practical results. While his vigorous, easily-read pages exert a healthy fascination, they are not illumined with the spiritual glow that sheds luster on the pages of the great Victorian moral teachers, like Carlyle and Ruskin. He has, however, had more influence on the prose style of the last half of the nineteenth century than any other writer. Many continue to find in him their most effective teacher of a clear, energetic form of expression.
JOHN HENRY, CARDINAL NEWMAN, 1801-1890
Life.—Newman, who was born in London the year after Macaulay, represents a different aspect of English thought. Macaulay was thrilled in contemplating the great material growth and energy of the nation. Newman's interest was centered in the development of the spiritual life.
This son of a practical London banker was writing verses at nine, a mock drama at twelve, and at fourteen, “he broke out into periodicals, The Spy and Anti-Spy, intended to answer one another.” Of his tendency toward mysticism in youth, he wrote:—
“I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true; my imagination ran on
unknown influences, on magical powers and influences. I thought life
might be a dream, or I an angel, and all this world a deception, my
fellow angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and
deceiving me with the semblance of a material world.”
In his youth he imitated the style of Addison, Johnson, and Gibbon. Few boys of his generation had as much practice in writing English prose. At the age of fifteen years and ten months he entered Trinity College, Oxford, from which he was graduated at nineteen. Two years later he won an Oxford fellowship, and in 1824 he became a clergyman of the Church of England.
The rest of his life belongs mainly to theological history. He became one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement (1833-1841) toward stricter High-Church principles, as opposed to liberalism, and in 1845 he joined the Catholic Church. He was rector of the new Catholic University at Dublin from 1854 to 1858. In 1879 he was made a cardinal. Most of his later life was spent at Edgbaston (near Birmingham) at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.
Works and General Characteristics.—Newman was a voluminous writer. An edition of his works in thirty-six volumes was issued during his lifetime. Most of these properly belong to the history of theological thought. His Apologia pro Vita Sua, which he wrote in reply to an attack by Charles Kingsley, an Episcopal clergyman, is really, as its sub-title indicates, A History of His Religious Opinions. This intimate, sympathetic account of his religious experiences won him many friends. He wrote two novels: Loss and Gain (1848), which gives an excellent picture of Oxford society during the last days of the Oxford Movement, and Callista (1852), a vivid story of an early Christian martyr in Africa. His best-known hymn, Lead kindly Light, remains a favorite with all Christian denominations. The Dream of Gerontius(1865) is a poem that has been called “the happiest effort to represent the unseen world that has been made since the time of Dante.”
Those who are not interested in Newman's Episcopal or Catholic sermons or in his great theological treatises will find some of his best prose in the work known as The Idea of a University. This volume, containing 521 pages, is composed of discussions, lectures, and essays, prepared while he was rector of the University at Dublin.
Newman's prose is worthy of close study for the following reasons:—
(1) His style is a clear, transparent medium for the presentation of thought. He molded his sentences with the care of an artist. He said:—
“I have been obliged to take great pains with everything I have ever
written, and I often write chapters over and over again, besides
innumerable corrections and interlinear additions.”
His definition of style is “a thinking out into language,” not an ornamental “addition from without.” He employs his characteristic irony in ridiculing those who think that “one man could do the thought andanother the style”:—
“We read in Persian travels of the way in which young gentlemen
go to work in the East, when they would engage in correspondence
with those who inspire them with hope or fear. They cannot write one
sentence themselves; so they betake themselves to the professional
letter writer... The man of thought comes to the man of words; and
the man of words duly instructed in the thought, dips the pen of
desire into the ink of devotedness, and proceeds to spread it over
the page of desolation. Then the nightingale of affection is heard
to warble to the rose of loveliness, while the breeze of anxiety
plays around the brow of expectation. This is what the Easterns are
said to consider fine writing;
and it seems pretty much the idea of the school of critics to whom I
have been referring.”
It was a pleasure to him to “think out” expressions like the following:—
“Ten thousand difficulties do not make a doubt.”
“Calculation never made a hero.”
“Here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have
(2) Like Macaulay, Newman excelled in the use of the concrete. In his Historical Sketches, he imagines the agent of a London company sent to inspect Attica:—
“He would report that the climate was mild; the hills were
limestone; there was plenty of good marble; more pasture land than
at first survey might have been expected, sufficient certainly for
sheep and goats; fisheries productive; silver mines once, but long
since worked out; figs fair; oil first rate; olives in profusion...
He would not tell how that same delicate and brilliant atmosphere
freshened up the pale olive till the olive forgot its monotony, and
its cheek glowed like the arbutus or the beech of the Umbrian
A general statement about superseding “the operation of the laws of the universe in a multitude of ways” does not satisfy him. He specifies in those ways when he records his belief that saints have “raised the dead to life, crossed the sea without vessels, multiplied grain and bread, cured incurable diseases.”
(3) He modestly called himself a rhetorician, but he possessed also the qualities of an acute thinker. He displayed unusual sagacity in detecting the value of different arguments in persuasion. He could arrange in proper proportion the most complex tangle of facts, so as to make one clear impression. Such power made him one of the great Victorian masters of argumentative prose.
THOMAS CARLYLE, 1795-1881
Life.—Thomas Carlyle, who became one of the great tonic forces of the nineteenth century, was also most interested in spiritual growth. He specially emphasized the gospel of work as the only agency that could develop the atmosphere necessary for such growth, and, though deeply religious, he cared little for any special faith or creed.
The son of a Scotch stone mason, Thomas Carlyle was born in 1795 at Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. At the age of fourteen, the boy was ready for the University of Edinburgh, and he walked the eighty miles between it and his home. After he was graduated, he felt that he could not enter the ministry, as his parents wished. He therefore taught while he was considering what vocation to follow.
In 1821 he met Jane Welsh, a brilliant and beautiful girl, descended on her father's side from John Knox and on her mother's from William Wallace. With the spirit of Wallace, she climbed in her girlhood up to places that a boy would have considered perilous. When she was forbidden to take up such a masculine study as Latin, she promptly learned to decline a Latin noun. Carlyle had much trouble in winning her; but she finally consented to be his wife, and they were married in 1826. In 1828 they went to live for six lonely years on her farm at Craigenputtock, sixteen miles north of Dumfries, where it was so quiet that Mrs. Carlyle said she could hear the sheep nibbling the grass a quarter of a mile away. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited them here and formed a lifelong friendship with Carlyle. It was here that Carlyle fought the intense spiritual battle of his early life, here that he wrote his first great work, Sartor Resartus, which his wife pronounced “a work of genius, dear.”
It would be difficult to overestimate the beneficent influence which Mrs. Carlyle exerted over her husband in those trying days of poverty and spiritual stress. When her private correspondence was inadvisedly published after his death, she unwittingly became her husband's Boswell. For many years after the appearance of her letters, his personality and treatment of her were more discussed than his writings. Her references to marital unhappiness were for awhile given undue prominence; but with the passing of time there came a recognition of the fact that she was almost as brilliant a writer as her husband, that, like him, she was frequently ill, and that in expressing things in a striking way, she sometimes exercised his prerogative of exaggeration. “Carlyle has to take a journey always after writing a book,” she declared, “and then gets so weary with knocking about that he has to write another book to recover from it.” She once said that living with him was as bad as keeping a lunatic asylum.
Unfortunately, his early privations had caused him to have chronic indigestion. He thought that the worst punishment he could suggest for Satan would be to compel him to “try to digest for all eternity with my stomach.” This disorder rendered Carlyle peculiarly irascible and explosive. His wife's quick temper sometimes took fire at his querulousness; but her many actions, which spoke much louder than her words, showed how deeply she loved him and how proud she was of his genius. After their removal to London, she would quietly buy the neighbors' crowing roosters, which kept him awake, and she prepared food that would best suit his disordered digestion. She complained of his seeming lack of appreciation. “You don't want to be praised for doing your duty,” he said. “I did, though,” she wrote.
Carlyle's lack of restraint was most evident in little things. A German who came from Weimar to see him was unfortunately admitted during a period of stress in writing. A minute later the German was seen rapidly descending the stairs and leaving the house. Carlyle immediately hurried to the room where his wife was receiving a visitor, and tragically asked what he had done to cause the Almighty to send a German all the way from Weimar to wrench off the handles of his cupboard doors. Carlyle did not then appear to realize that the frightened German had mistaken the locked cupboard doors for the exit from the room. On the other hand, when the great political economist, John Stuart Mill, was responsible for the loss of the borrowed manuscript of the first volume of The French Revolution, Carlyle said to his wife: “Well, Mill, poor fellow, is terribly cut up; we must endeavor to hide from him how very serious the business is to us.” To rewrite this volume cost Carlyle a year's exhausting labor.
In 1834 Carlyle went to London, where he lived for the rest of his life in Cheyne Row, Chelsea. The publication of The French Revolution in 1837 made him famous. Other works of his soon appeared, to add to his fame. His essays, collected and published in 1839 under the title, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, contained his sympathetic Essay on Burns, which no subsequent writer has surpassed.Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations (1845) permanently raised England's estimation of that warrior statesman.
Carlyle's writings, his lectures on such subjects as Heroes and Hero Worship (1841), and his oracular criticism on government and life made him as conspicuous a figure as Dr. Samuel Johnson had been in the previous century. Carlyle's last great work, History of Friedrich II., was fortunately finished in 1865, the year before his great misfortune.
In the latter part of 1865 the students of the University of Edinburgh elected Carlyle Lord Rector of that institution because they considered him the man most worthy to receive such high honor. In the spring of 1866, he went to Edinburgh to deliver his inaugural address. Before he returned, he received a telegram stating that his wife had died of heart failure while she was taking a drive in London. The blow was a crushing one. The epitaph that he placed on her monument shows his final realization of her worth and of his irreparable loss. He said truly that the light of his life had gone out.
During his remaining years, he produced little of value except his Reminiscences, a considerable part of which had been written long before. Honors, however, came to him until the last. The Prussian Order of Merit was conferred on him in 1874. The English government offered him the Grand Cross of Bath and a pension, both of which he declined. On his eightieth birthday, more than a hundred of the most distinguished men of the English-speaking race joined in giving him a gold medallion portrait. When he died in 1881, an offer of interment in Westminster Abbey was declined and he was laid beside his parents in the graveyard at Ecclefechan.
Sartor Resartus.—Like Coleridge, Carlyle was a student of German philosophy and literature. His earliest work was The Life of Friedrich Schiller (1823-1825), which won for him the appreciation and friendship of the German poet, Goethe.
Carlyle's first great original work, the one in which he best delivers his message to humanity, is Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Patched). This first appeared serially in Fraser's Magazine in 1833-1834. He feigned that he was merely editing a treatise on The Philosophy of Clothes, the work of a German professor, Diogenes Teufelsdroeckh. This professor is really Carlyle himself; but the disguise gave him an excuse for writing in a strange style and for beginning many of his nouns with capitals, after the German fashion.
When Sartor Resartus first appeared, Mrs. Carlyle remarked that it was “completely understood and appreciated only by women and mad people.” This work did not for some years receive sufficient attention in England to justify publication in book form. The case was different in America, where the first edition with a preface by Emerson was published in 1836, two years before the appearance of the English edition. In the year of Carlyle's death, a cheap London edition of 30,000 copies was sold in a few weeks.
Carlyle calls Sartor Resartus a “Philosophy of Clothes.” He uses the term “Clothes” symbolically to signify the outward expression of the spiritual. He calls Nature “the Living Garment of God.” He teaches us to regard these vestments only as semblances and to look beyond them to the inner spirit, which is the reality. The century's material progress, which was such a cause of pride to Macaulay, was to Carlyle only a semblance, not a sign of real spiritual growth. He says of the utilitarian philosophy, which he hated intensely:—
“It spreads like a sort of Dog-madness; till the whole World-kennel
will be rabid.”
The majority of readers cared nothing for the symbolism of Sartor Resartus; but they responded to its effective presentation of the gospel of work and faced the duties of life with increased energy. Carlyle seemed to stand before them saying:—
“Do the Duty which lies nearest thee, which thou knowest to be a
Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer... The
Situation that has not its Duty, its Ideal was never yet occupied by
man. Yes here, in this poor miserable, hampered, despicable Actual,
wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is thy Ideal: work
it out therefrom; and working, believe, live, be free. Fool! the
Ideal is in thyself, the impediment too is in thyself: thy Condition
is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of ...”
The French Revolution.—In 1837 when Carlyle finished the third volume of his historic masterpiece, The French Revolution, he handed the manuscript to his wife for her criticism, saying: “This I could tell the world: 'You have not had for a hundred years any book that comes more direct and flamingly from the heart of a living man.'“ His Scotch blood boiled over the injustice to the French peasants. His temperature begins to rise when he refers to the old law authorizing a French hunter, if a nobleman, “to kill not more than two serfs.”
Carlyle brings before us a vast stage where the actors in the French Revolution appear: in the background, “five full-grown millions of gaunt figures with their hungry faces”; in the foreground, one young mother of seven children, “looking sixty years of age, although she is not yet twenty-eight,” and trying to respond to the call for seven different kinds of taxes; and, also in the foreground, “a perfumed Seigneur,” taking part of the children's dinner. The scene changes; the great individual actors in the Revolution enter: the tocsin clangs; the stage is reddened with human blood and wreathed in flames. We feel that we are actually witnessing that great historic tragedy.
Carlyle had something of Shakespeare's dramatic imagination, which pierced to the heart of men and movements. More detailed and scholarly histories of this time have been written; but no other historian has equaled Carlyle in presenting the French Revolution as a human tragedy that seems to be acted before our very eyes.
He did not attempt to write a complete history of the time. He used the dramatist's legitimate privilege of selection. From a mass of material that would have bewildered a writer of less ability, he chose to present on the center of the stage the most significant actors and picturesque incidents.
Carlyle's “Real Kings.”—Carlyle believed that “universal history, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the history of the great men who have worked here.” In accordance with this belief, he studied, not the slow growth of the people, but the lives of the world's great geniuses.
In his course of lectures entitled Heroes and Hero Worship (1841), he considers The Hero as Prophet, The Hero as Poet, The Hero as Priest, and The Hero as King, and shows how history has been molded by men like Mohammed, Shakespeare, Luther, and Napoleon. It is such men as these whom Carlyle calls “kings,” beside whom “emperors,” “popes,” and “potentates” are as nothing. He believed that there was always living some man worthy to be the “real king” over men, and such a kingship was Carlyle's ideal of government.
Oliver Cromwell was one of these “real kings.” In the work entitled Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations, Carlyle was the first to present the character of the Protector in its full strength and greatness and to demonstrate once for all that he was a hero whose memory all Englishmen should honor.
The Life of John Sterling (1851) is a fair, true, and touching biography of Carlyle's most intimate friend, the man who had introduced him to Jane Welsh. After reading this book, George Eliot said she wished that more men of genius would write biographies.
Carlyle's next attempt at biography grew into the massive History of Friedrich II. (1858-1865), which includes a survey of European history in that dreary century which preceded the French Revolution. “Friedrich is by no means one of the perfect demigods.” He is “to the last a questionable hero.” However, “in his way he is a Reality,” one feels “that he always means what he speaks; grounds his actions, too, on what he recognizes for the truth; and, in short, has nothing of the Hypocrite or Phantasm.” Despite his tyranny and his bloody career, he, therefore, is another of Carlyle's “real kings.” While this work is a history of modern Europe, Friedrich is always the central figure. He gives to these six volumes a human note, a glowing interest of personal adventure, and a oneness that are remarkable in so vast a work.
General Characteristics.—Carlyle's writings must be classed among the great social and democratic influences of the nineteenth century, in spite of the fact that he did not believe in pure democracy. It was his favorite theory that a great man, like Oliver Cromwell, could govern better than the unintelligent multitude. However much he rebelled against democracy in government, his sympathies were with the toiling masses. His work entitled Past and Present (1843) suggests the organization of labor and introduces such modern expressions as “a fair day's wages for a fair day's work.” In Sartor Resartus, he specially honors “the toilworn Craftsman, that with earthmade implement laboriously conquers the Earth and makes her Man's.”
Carlyle had a large fund of incisive wit and humor, which often appear in picturesque setting, as when he said to a physician: “A man might as well pour his sorrows into the long hairy ear of a jackass.” As the satiric censor of his time, Carlyle found frequent occasion for caustic wit. He lashed the age for its love of the “swine's trough,” of “Pig-science, Pig-enthusiasm and devotion.” Although his intentions were good, his satire was not always just or discriminating, and he was in consequence bitterly criticized. The following Dutch parable is in some respects specially applicable to Carlyle:—
“There was a man once,—a satirist. In the natural course of time
his friends slew him and he died. And the people came and stood
about his corpse. 'He treated the whole round world as his
football,' they said indignantly, 'and he kicked it.' The dead man
opened one eye. 'But always toward the goal,' he said.”
This goal toward which Carlyle struggled to drive humanity was the goal of moral achievement. Young people on both sides of the Atlantic responded vigorously to his appeals. The scientist John Tyndall said to his students:—
“The reading of the works of two men has placed me here to-day.
These men are the English Carlyle and the American Emerson.
I must ever remember with gratitude that through three long, cold
German winters, Carlyle placed me in my tub, even when ice was on
its surface, at five o'clock every morning ... determined, whether
victor or vanquished, not to shrink from difficulty... They told me
what I ought to do in a way that caused me to do it, and all my
consequent intellectual action is to be traced to this purely moral
force... They called out. 'Act!' I hearkened to the summons.”
Huxley aptly defined Carlyle as a “great tonic,—a source of intellectual invigoration and moral stimulus.”
Carlyle is not only a “great Awakener” but also a great literary artist. His style is vivid, forceful, and often poetic. He loves to present his ideas with such picturesqueness that the corresponding images develop clearly in the reader's mind. Impressive epithets and phrases abound. His metaphors are frequent and forceful. Mirabeau's face is pictured as “rough-hewn, seamed, carbuncled.” In describing Daniel Webster, Carlyle speaks of “the tanned complexion, that amorphous crag-like face; the dull black eyes under their precipice of brows, like dull anthracite furnaces needing only to be blown, the mastiff-mouth, accurately closed.” He formed many new compound words after the German fashion, such as “mischief-joy”; and when he pleased, he coined new words, like “dandiacal” and “croakery.”
His frequent exclamations and inversions make his style seem choppy, like a wave-tossed sea; but his sentences are so full of vigor that they almost call aloud from the printed page. His style was not an imitation of the German, but a characteristic form of expression, natural to him and to his father.
The gift of verse was denied him, but he is one of the great prose poets of the nineteenth century. Much of Sartor Resartus is highly poetic and parts of The French Revolution resemble a dramatic poem.
JOHN RUSKlN, 1819-1900
Life.—The most famous disciple of Carlyle is John Ruskin, the only child of wealthy parents, who was born in London in 1819. When he was four years old the family moved to Herne Hill, a suburb south of London, where his intense love of nature developed as he looked over open fields, “animate with cow and buttercup,” “over softly wreathing distances of domestic wood,” to the distant hills. His entertaining autobiography, Praeterita (1885-1889), relates how he was reared:—
“I had never heard my father's or mother's voice once raised in any
question with each other ... I had never heard a servant scolded ...
I obeyed word or lifted finger, of father or mother, simply as a
ship her helm ...nothing was ever promised me that was not given;
nothing ever threatened me that was not inflicted, and nothing ever
told me that was not true... Peace, obedience, faith; these three
for chief good; next to these, the habit of fixed attention with
both eyes and mind.”
He grew up a solitary child without playmates. This solitude was relieved when his parents took him on occasional trips through England, Switzerland, and Italy. In Praeterita he tells in an inimitable way how the most portentious interruption to his solitude came in 1836, when his father's Spanish partner came with his four beautiful daughters to visit Herne Hill. These were the first girls in his own station to whom he had spoken. “Virtually convent-bred more closely than the maids themselves,” says Ruskin, “I was thrown, bound hand and foot, in my unaccomplished simplicity, into the fiery furnace.” In four days he had fallen so desperately in love with the oldest, Clotilde Adele Domecq, a “graceful blonde” of fifteen, that he was more than four years in recovering his equilibrium. She laughed at his protestations of love; but she repeatedly visited his parents, and he did not give up hope until 1840, when she married a French baron. His biographer says that the resulting “emotional strain doubtless was contributory to his breakdown at Oxford” and to his enforced absence for a recuperative trip on the continent.
His feminine attachments usually showed some definite results in his writing. Miss Domecq's influence during the long period of his devotion inspired him to produce much verse, which received such high praise that his father desired him to become a poet. Although some of Ruskin's verse was good, he finally had the penetration to see that it ranked decidedly below the greatest, and he later laid down the dictum: “with second-rate poetry in quality no one ought to be allowed to trouble mankind.” In 1886, he had the humor to allude as follows to Miss Domecq and her influence on his rimes, ”...her sisters called her Clotilde, after the queen-saint, and I, Adele, because it rimed to shell, spell, and knell.”
Before he was graduated from Oxford in 1842, he wrote the beautiful altruistic story, The King of the Golden River (1841) for Euphemia Gray, the young girl unhappily chosen by his mother to become his wife. He married her in 1848, but was divorced from her in 1854. In 1855 she was married to the Pre-Raphaelite artist, John Millais.
Another attachment led to his writing some of the finest parts of his most popular work, Sesame and Lilies (1864). “I wrote Lilies,” he says, “to please one girl.” He is here referring to Rose La Touche, a bright, ardent, religious enthusiast, to whom he began to teach drawing when she was ten years old. His affection for her grew so strong that he finally asked her to become his wife. He was then a man of forty while she was scarcely grown. Her religious scruples kept her from definitely accepting him, because his belief was not sufficiently orthodox. The attachment, however, continued until her early death. She was in some respects a remarkable character, and he seems to have had her in mind when he wrote in Sesame and Lilies the “pearly" passage about Shakespeare's heroines.
Although Ruskin's wealth relieved him from earning a living, he was rarely idle. He studied, sketched, arranged collections of minerals, prepared Turner's pictures for the National Gallery, became professor of art at Oxford University, and wrote and lectured on art and social subjects. His later activities, before his health gave way, were in many respects similar to those of a twentieth-century social-service worker. The realization of the misery that overwhelmed so much of human life caused him to turn from art to consider remedies for the evils that developed as the competitive industries of the nation expanded. He endeavored to improve the condition of the working classes in such ways as building sanitary tenements, establishing a tea shop, and forming an altruistic association, known as St. George's Guild. Nearly all his inheritance of L180,000 was expended in such activities. The royalties coming from the sale of his books supported him in old age.
Ruskin suffered from periods of mental depression during his last years, which were spent at Brantwood on Coniston Water in the Lake District. He died in 1900 at the age of eighty-one and was buried in the cemetery at Coniston.
Art Works.—Ruskin published the first volume of Modern Painters in 1843, the year after he was graduated from Oxford, and the fifth and last volume, seventeen years later, in 1860. Many of his views changed during this period; but he honestly declared them and left to his readers the task of reconciling the divergent ideas in Modern Painters. The purpose of this book was, in his own words, “to declare the perfectness and eternal beauty of the work of God; and test all works of man by concurrence with, or subjection to that.”
Modern Painters contains painstaking descriptions of God's handiwork in cloud formation, mountain structure, tree architecture, and water forms. In transferring these aspects of nature to canvas, Ruskin shows the superiority of modern to ancient painting. He emphasizes the moral basis of true beauty, and the necessity of right living as a foundation for the highest type of art. Perhaps Modern Paintersachieved its greatest success in freeing men from the bondage of a conventional criticism that was stifling art, in sending them direct to nature as a guide, and in developing a love for her varied manifestations of beauty.
Two of Ruskin's works on architecture, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) and The Stones of Venice (1851-1853), had a decided effect on British taste in building. The three volumes of the The Stones of Venice give a history of the Venetians and of their Gothic architecture. He aims to show that the beauty of such buildings as St. Mark's Cathedral and the Doges' Palace is due to the virtue and patriotism of the people, the nobility of the designers, and the joy of the individual workmen, whose chisels made the very stones of Venice tell beautiful stories.
The most important of his many other writings on art is the volume entitled Lectures on Art, Delivered before the University of Oxford, 1870. In his famous Inaugural of this series, he thus states what he considers the central truth of his teaching: “The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues.”
Social Works.—By turning from the criticism of art to consider the cause of humanity, Ruskin shows the influence of the ethical and social forces of the age. In middle life he was overwhelmed with the amount of human misery and he determined to do his best to relieve it. He wrote:—
“I simply cannot paint, nor read, nor look at minerals, nor do
anything else that I like, and the very light of the morning sky,
when there is any—which is seldom, nowadays, near London—has
become hateful to me, because of the misery that I know of, and see
signs of, where I know it not, which no imagination can interpret
After 1860 his main efforts with both pen and purse were devoted to improving the condition of his fellow men. His attempts to provide a remedy led him to write Unto this Last (1860), his first and most complete work on political economy, Munera Pulveris (1863), Time and Tide by Weare and Tyne (1868), Fors Clavigera (1871-1884), which is a long series of letters to workingmen, and a number of other works, that also present his views on social questions.
He abhorred the old political economy, which he defined as “the professed and organized pursuit of money.” Instead of considering merely the question of the production and distribution of articles, his interest lay in the causes necessary to produce healthy, happy workmen. It seemed to him that the manufacture “of souls” ought to be “exceedingly lucrative.” This statement and his maxim, “There is no wealth but life,” were called “unscientific.” In his fine book of essays, entitled Sesame and Lilies (1864), he actually had printed in red those pathetic pages describing how an old cobbler and his son worked night and day to try to keep a little home of one room, until the father died from exhaustion and the son had a film come over his eyes.
John Ruskin, social reformer, has an important place in the social movement of the nineteenth century. Many of his theories, which were considered revolutionary, have since become the commonplace expressions of twentieth-century social economists.
General Characteristics.—Ruskin was a champion of the Pre-Raphaelite school of art. He used his powerful influence to free art from its conventional fetters and to send people direct to nature for careful loving study of her beautiful forms. His chief strength lies in his moral enthusiasm and his love of the beautiful in nature. Like his master, Carlyle, Ruskin is a great ethical teacher; but he aimed at more definite results in the reformation of art and of social life. He moralized art and humanized political economy.
Some of his art criticisms and social theories are fanciful, narrow, and sometimes even absurd. He did not seem to recognize with sufficient clearness the fact that immoral individuals might produce great works of art; but no one can successfully assail his main contention that there must be a connection between great art and the moral condition of a people. His rejection of railroads and steam machinery as necessary factors in modern civilization caused many to pay little attention to any of his social theories. Much of the gospel that he preached has, however, been accepted by the twentieth century. He was in advance of his time when he said in 1870 that the object of his art professorship would be accomplished if “the English nation could be made to understand that the beauty which is indeed to be a joy forever must be a joy for all.”
At the age of fifty-eight, he thus summed up the principal work of his life:—
“Modern Painters taught the claim of all lower nature on the
hearts of men; of the rock, and wave, and herb, as a part of their
necessary spirit life... The Stories of Venice taught the laws of
constructive Art, and the dependence of all human work or edifice,
for its beauty, on the happy life of the workman. Under this Last
taught the laws of that life itself and its dependence on the Sun of
Justice; the Inaugural Oxford Lectures, the necessity that it
should be led, and the gracious laws of beauty and labor recognized,
by the upper, no less than the lower classes of England; and,
lastly, Fors Clavigera has declared the relation of these to each
other, and the only possible conditions of peace and honor, for low
and high, rich and poor...”
Ruskin has written remarkable descriptive prose. A severe English critic, George Saintsbury, says of Ruskin's works ”...they will he found to contain the very finest prose (without exception and beyond comparison) which has been written in English during the last half of the nineteenth century... The Stones of Venice ... is the book of descriptive prose in English, and all others toil after it in vain.”
Ruskin could be severely plain in expression, but much of his earlier prose is ornate and almost poetic. The following description of the Rhone deserves to be ranked with the painter's art:—
“There were pieces of wave that danced all day as if Perdita were
looking on to learn; there were little streams that skipped like
lambs and leaped like chamois; there were pools that shook the
sunshine all through them, and were rippled in layers of overlaid
ripples, like crystal sand; here were currents that twisted the
light into golden braids, and inlaid the threads with turquoise
enamel; there were strips of stream that had certainly above the
lake been mill streams, and were busily looking for mills to turn
CHARLES DICKENS, 1812-1870
Life.—The first of the great Victorian novelists to make his mark was Charles Dickens. This great portrayer of child life had a sad painful childhood. He was born in 1812 at Landport, a district of the city of Portsmouth, Hampshire, where his father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. John Dickens, the prototype of Mr. Micawber, was a kind, well-intentioned man, who knew far better how to harangue his large household of children than how to supply it with the necessities of life. He moved from place to place, sinking deeper into poverty and landing finally in a debtors' prison.
The dreams of a fine education and a brilliant career, which the future novelist had fondly cherished in his precocious little brain, had to be abandoned. At the age of eleven the delicate child was called upon to do his part toward maintaining the family. He was engaged, at six-pence a week, to paste labels on blacking bottles. He was poorly clothed, ill fed, forced to live in the cheapest place to be found, and to associate with the roughest kind of companions. This experience was so bitter and galling to the sensitive boy that years after, when he was a successful, happy man, he could not look back upon it without tears in his eyes. Owing to a rupture between his employer and the elder Mr. Dickens, Charles was removed from this place and sent to school. At fifteen, however, he had to seek work again. This time he was employed in an attorney's office at Gray's Inn.
It was impossible, of course, for this ambitious boy to realize that he was receiving an education in the dirty streets, the warehouses, the tenements, and the prisons. Yet, for his peculiar bent of mind, these furnished far richer stores of learning than either school or college could have given. He had marvelous powers of observation. He noted everything, from the saucy street waif to the sorrowful prison child, from the poor little drudge to the brutal schoolmaster, and he transplanted them from life to fiction, in such characters as Sam Weller, Little Dorrit, the Marchioness, Mr. Squeers, and a hundred others.
While in the attorney's office, Dickens began to study shorthand, in order to become a reporter. This was the beginning of his success. His reports were accurate and racy, even when they happened to be written in the pouring rain, in a shaking stagecoach, or by the light of a lantern. They were also promptly handed in at the office, despite the fact that the stages sometimes broke down and left their passengers to plod on foot through the miry roads leading into London. These reports and newspaper articles soon attracted attention; and Dickens received an offer for a series of humorous sketches, which grew into the famous Pickwick Papers, and earned L20,000 for the astonished publishers. He was able to make his own terms for his future novels. Fame came to him almost at a bound. He was loved and toasted in England and America before he had reached the age of thirty. When, late in life, he made lecture tours through his own country, or through Scotland or America, they were like triumphal marches.
In his prime Dickens was an energetic, high-spirited, fun-loving man. He made a charming host, and was never happier than when engineering theatrical entertainments at his delightful home, Gads Hill. He was esteemed by all the literary men of London, and idolized by his children and friends. As his strong personality was communicated to his audiences and his readers, his death in 1870 was felt as a personal loss throughout the English-speaking world.
Works.—Pickwick Papers (1836-1837), Dickens's first long story, is one of his best. Mr. Pickwick, with his genial nature, his simple philosophy, and his droll adventures, and Sam Weller, with his ready wit, his acute observations, and his almost limitless resources, are amusing from start to finish. The book is brimful of its author's high spirits. It has no closely knit plot, but merely a succession of comical incidents, and vivid caricatures of Mr. Pickwick and his friends. Yet the fun is so good-natured and infectious, and the looseness of design is so frankly declared that the book possesses a certain unity arising from its general atmosphere of frolic and jollity.
Oliver Twist (1837-1838) is a powerful story, differing widely from Pickwick Papers. While the earlier work is delightful chiefly for its humor, Oliver Twist is strong in its pictures of passion and crime. Bill Sykes the murderer, Fagin the Jew, who teaches the boys deftness of hand in stealing, and poor Nancy, are drawn with such power that they seem to be still actually living in some of London's dark alleys. Little Oliver, born in the poor-house, clothed by charity, taught by the evil genius of the streets, starved in body and soul, is one of the many pathetic portraits of children drawn with a sure and loving hand by Dickens. There are some improbable features about the plot and some overwrought sentimental scenes in this story. Dickens reveled in the romantic and found it in robbers' dens, in bare poverty, in red-handed crime. The touching pathos and thrilling adventures of Oliver Twist make a strong appeal to the reader's emotions.
With the prodigality of a fertile genius, Dickens presented his expectant and enthusiastic public with a new novel on an average of once a year for fourteen years; and, even after that, his productivity did not fall off materially. The best and most representative of these works are Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), Barnaby Rudge (1841), Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844), Dombey and Son (1846-1848), David Copperfield (1849-1850), Bleak House (1852-1853), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Our Mutual Friend (1864).
Of these, David Copperfield is at once Dickens's favorite work and the one which the world acclaims as his masterpiece. The novel is in part an autobiography. Some incidents are taken directly from Dickens's early experiences and into many more of David's childish sorrows, boyish dreams, and manly purposes, Dickens has breathed the breath of his own life. David Copperfield is thus a vitally interesting and living character. The book contains many of Dickens's most human men and women. Petted Little Em'ly with her pathetic tragedy is handled with deep sympathy and true artistic delicacy. Peggotty and Mrs. Steerforth are admirably drawn and contrasted. Mrs. Gummidge's thoughtful care of Peggotty exhibits Dickens's fine perception of the self-sacrificing spirit among the very poor. Uriah Heep remains the type of the humble sycophant, and Mr. Micawber, the representative of the man of big words and pompous manners. These various characters and separate life histories are bound in same way to the central story of David. General Characteristics.—England has produced no more popular novelist than Charles Dickens. His novels offer sound and healthy entertainment, hearty laughter, a wide range of emotions, and a wonderful array of personalities. He presents the universal physical experiences of life that are understood by all men, and irradiates this life with emotion and romance. He keeps his readers in an active state of feeling. They laugh at the broad humor in Sam Weller's jokes; they chuckle over the sly exposure of Mr. Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit ; they weep in Dombey and Son over poor Paul crammed with grown-up learning when he wanted to be just a child; they rejoice over David Copperfield's escape from his stepfather into the loving arms of whimsical, clever Aunt Betsey Trotwood; they shiver with horror in Our Mutual Friend during the search for floating corpses on the dark river; and they feel more kindly toward the whole world after reading A Christmas Carol and taking Tiny Tim into their hearts.
Dickens excels in the portrayal of humanity born and reared in poverty and disease. He grasps the hand of these unfortunates in a brother's clasp. He says in effect “I present to you my friends, the beggar, the thief, the outcast. They are men worth knowing.” He does not probe philosophically into complex causes of poverty and crime. His social creed was well formulated by Dowden in these words: “Banish from earth some few monsters of selfishness, malignity, and hypocrisy, set to rights a few obvious imperfections in the machinery of society, inspire all men with a cheery benevolence, and everything will go well with this excellent world of ours.”
Every student of the science of society, however, owes a debt to Dickens. He did what no science or knowledge or logic can do alone. He reached the heart, awoke the conscience, and pierced the obtuseness of the public. He aroused its protests because his genius painted prisons and hovels and dens of vice so vividly that his readers actually suffered from the scenes thus presented and wanted such horrors abolished.
Dickens's infectious humor is a remarkable and an unfailing quality of his works. It pervades entire chapters, colors complete incidents, and displays the temper of the optimist through the darkest pictures of human suffering.
A hypocrite is an abomination to Dickens. Speaking of Mr. Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens says: “Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there.” His humor can be fully appreciated only by reading long passages, such as the scene of Mr. Pickwick's trial, the descriptions of Mr. Micawber and of Miss Betsey Trotwood, or the chapter on Podsnappery in Our Mutual Friend. Dickens's humor has an exuberant richness, which converts men and women into entertaining figures of comedy.
Closely allied to his fund of humor is his capacity for pathos, especially manifest in his treatment of childhood. Dickens has a large gallery of children's portraits, fondly and sympathetically executed. David Copperfield, enduring Mr. Murdstone's cruel neglect, Florence Dombey pining for her father's love, the Marchioness starving upon cold potatoes, Tom and Louise Gradgrind, stuffed with facts and allowed no innocent amusement, and the waifs of Tom's-All-Alone dying from abject poverty and disease, are only a few of the sad-eyed children peering from the pages of Dickens and yearning for love and understanding. He wrings the heart; but, happily, his books have improved the conditions of children, not only in public asylums, factories, and courts, but also in schools and homes.
Dickens's chief faults arise from an excess of sensibility and humor. His soft heart and romantic spirit lead him to exaggerate. In such passages as the death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop and the interviews between Dora and David in David Copperfield, Dickens becomes mawkish and sentimental. While his power of portraiture is amazing, he often overleaps the line of character drawing and makes side-splitting caricatures of his men and women. They are remembered too often by a limp or a mannerism of speech, or by some other little peculiarity, instead of by their human weaknesses and accomplishments.
Dickens is not a master in the artistic construction of his plots. The majority of his readers do not, however, notice this failing because he keeps them in such a delightful state of interest and suspense by the sprightliness with which he tells a story.
He was a very rapid writer, and his English is consequently often careless in structure and in grammar. As he was not a man of books, he never acquired that half-unconscious knowledge of fine phrasing which comes to the careful student of literature. No novelist has, however, told more graphically such appealing stories of helpless childhood and of the poor and the outcast.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY, 1811-1863
Life.—Though nearly a year older than Dickens, Thackeray made his way to popularity much more slowly. These two men, who became friends and generous rivals, were very different in character and disposition. Instead of possessing the self-confidence, energy, and industry that brought Dickens fame in his youth, Thackeray had to contend with a somewhat shy and vacillating temperament, with extreme modesty, and with a constitutional aversion to work.
Born in Calcutta in 1811, he was sent to England to be educated. He passed through Charter House and went one year to Cambridge. He was remembered by his school friends for his skill in caricature sketching. He hoped to make painting a profession and went to Paris to study; but he never attained correctness in drawing, and when he offered to illustrate the works of Dickens, the offer was declined. Thackeray certainly added to the charm of his own writings by his droll and delightful illustrations.
When Thackeray came of age in 1832, he inherited a small fortune, which he soon lost in an Indian bank and in newspaper investments. He was then forced to overcome his idle, procrastinating habits. He became a literary hack, and contributed humorous articles to such magazines as Fraser and Punch. While his pen was causing mirth and laughter in England, his heart was torn by suffering. His wife, whom he had married in 1837, became insane. He nursed her patiently with the vain hope that she could recover; but he finally abandoned hope and put her in the care of a conscientious attendant. His home was consequently lonely, and the club was his only recourse. Here, his broad shoulders and kindly face were always greeted with pleasure; for his affable manners and his sparkling humor, which concealed an aching heart, made him a charming companion.
It is pleasant to know that the later years of his life were happier. They were cheered by the presence of his daughters, and were free from financial worries. He had the satisfaction of knowing that, through the sales of his book; and the returns from his lectures, he had recovered his lost fortune.
Novels.—Vanity Fair (1847-1848) is Thackeray's masterpiece. For the lifelikeness of its characters, it is one of the most remarkable creations in fiction. Thackeray called this work “A Novel without a Hero.” He might have added “and without a heroine”; for neither clever Becky Sharp nor beautiful Amelia Sedley satisfies the requirements for a heroine. No perfect characters appear in the book, but it is enlivened with an abundance of genuine human nature. Few people go through life without meeting a George Osborne, a Mrs. Bute Crawley, or a Mrs. Sedley. Even a penurious, ridiculous, old Sir Pitt Crawley is sometimes seen. The greatest stroke of genius in the book, however, is the masterly portrayal of the artful, scheming Becky Sharp, who alternately commands respect for her shrewdness and repels by her moral depravity.
In Vanity Fair certain classes of society are satirized. Their intrigues, frivolities, and caprices are mercilessly dealt with. Thackeray probes almost every weakness, vanity, or ambition that leads humanity to strive for a place in society, to long for a bow from a lord, and to stint in private in order to shine in public. He uncovers the great social farce of life, which is acted with such solemn gravity by the snobs, the hypocrites, and the other superficial dramatis personae. Amid these satirized frivolities there appear occasional touches of true pathos and deep human tragedy, which are strangely effective in their unsympathetic surroundings.
Thackeray gives in Henry Esmond (1852) an enduring picture of high life in the eighteenth century. This work is one of the great historical novels in our language. The time of queen Anne is reconstructed with remarkable skill. The social etiquette, the ideals of honor, the life and spirit of that bygone day, reappear with a powerful vividness. Thackeray even went so far as to disguise his own natural, graceful style, and to imitate eighteenth-century prose. Henry Esmond is a dangerous rival of Vanity Fair. The earlier work has a freshness of humor and a spontaneity of manner that are not so apparent in Henry Esmond. On the other hand, Esmond has a superior plot and possesses a true hero.
In The Newcomes (1854-1855), Thackeray exhibits again his incisive power of delineating character. This book would continue to live if for nothing except the simple-hearted, courtly Colonel Newcome. Few scenes in English fiction are more affecting than those connected with his death. The accompanying lines will show what a simple pathos Thackeray could command:—
“At the usual evening hour the chapel bell begin to toll, and
Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed feebly beat time—and just
as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face,
and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, 'Adsum '—and
fell back. It was the word we used at school when names were called;
and, lo! he whose heart was as that of a little child had answered
to his name, and stood in the presence of the Master!”
The History of Pendennis (1849) and The Virginians (1857-1859) are both popular novels and take rank inferior only to the author's three greatest works. The Virginians is a sequel to Esmond, and carries the Castlewood family through adventures in the New World.
Essays.—Thackeray will live in English literature as an essayist as well as a novelist. The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century (1853) and The Four Georges (1860) are among the most delightful essays of the age. The author of Henry Esmond knew Swift, Addison, Fielding, and Smollett, almost as one knows the mental peculiarities of an intimate friend. In The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century, Thackeray writes of their conversations, foibles, and strong points of character, in a most easy and entertaining way. There is a constant charm about his manner, which, without effort or display of learning, brings the authors vividly before the reader. In addition to this presentation of character, the essays contain appreciative literary criticism. The essence of the humor in these eighteenth-century writers is distilled in its purest, most delicate flavor, by this nineteenth-century member of their brotherhood.
The Four Georges deals with England's crowned heads in a satiric vein, which caused much comment among Thackeray's contemporaries. The satire is, however, mild and subdued, never venomous. For example, he says in the essay on George III.:—
“King George's household was a model of an English gentleman's
household. It was early; it was kindly; it was charitable; it was
frugal; it was orderly; it must have been stupid to a degree which I
shudder now to contemplate. No wonder all the princes ran away from
the lap of that dreary domestic virtue. It always rose, rode, dined,
at stated intervals. Day after day was the same. At the same hour at
night the King kissed his daughters' jolly cheeks; the Princesses
kissed their mother's hand; and Madame Thielke brought the royal
General Characteristics.—Dickens and Thackeray have left graphic pictures of a large portion of contemporary London life. Dickens presents interesting pictures of the vagabonds, the outcasts, and the merchants, and Thackeray portrays the suave, polite leisure class and its dependents.
Thackeray is an uncompromising realist and a satirist. He insisted upon picturing life as he believed that it existed in London society; and, to his satiric eye, that life was composed chiefly of the small vanities, the little passions, and the petty quarrels of commonplace people, whose main objects were money and title. He could conceive noble men and women, as is proved by Esmond, Lady Castlewood, and Colonel Newcome; but such characters are as rare in Thackeray as he believed they were in real life. The following passage upon mankind's fickleness is a good specimen of his satiric vein in dealing with human weakness:—
“There are no better satires than letters. Take a bundle of your
dear friend's letters of ten years back—your dear friend whom you
hate now. Look at a pile of your sister's! How you clung to each
other until you quarreled about the twenty-pound legacy!... Vows,
love promises, confidence, gratitude,—how queerly they read after a
while!...The best ink for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded
utterly in a couple of days, and left the paper clean and blank, so
that you might write on it to somebody else.”
The phases of life that he describes have had no more subtle interpreter. He does not label his characters with external marks, but enters into communion with their souls. His analytic method of laying bare their motives and actions is strictly modern. His great master, Fielding, would have been baffled by such a complex personality as Becky Sharp. Amid the throng of Thackeray's men and women, there are but few who are not genuine flesh and blood.
The art of describing the pathetic is unfailing in Thackeray. He never jars upon the most sensitive feelings nor wearies them by too long a treatment. With a few simple but powerful expressions he succeeds in arousing intense emotions of pity or sorrow. He has been wrongly called a cynic; for no man can be a cynic who shows Thackeray's tenderness in the treatment of pathos.
Thackeray is master of a graceful, simple prose style. In its ease and purity, it most resembles that of Swift, Addison, or Goldsmith. Thackeray writes as a cultured, ideal, old gentleman may be imagined to talk to the young people, while he sits in his comfortable armchair in a corner by the fireplace. The charm of freshness, quaintness, and colloquial familiarity is seldom absent from the delightfully natural pages of Thackeray.
GEORGE ELIOT, 1819-1880
Life.—Mary Ann Evans, known to her family as Marian and to her readers as George Eliot, was born in 1819, at South Farm, in Arbury, Warwickshire, about twenty-two miles north of Stratford-on-Avon. A few months later, the family moved to a spacious ivy-covered farmhouse at Griff, some two miles east, where the future novelist lived until she was twenty-two.
She was a thoughtful, precocious child. She lived largely within herself, passed much time in reverie, and pondered upon deep problems. She easily outstripped her schoolmates in all mental accomplishments, and, from the first, gave evidence of a clear, strong intellect.
The death of her mother and the marriage of a sister left the entire care of the house and dairy to Marian before she was seventeen years old. Her labors were quite heavy for the neat six years. At the end of that time, she and her father moved to Foleshill, near Coventry, where she had ample leisure to pursue her studies and music. At Foleshill, she came under the influence of free-thinking friends and became an agnostic, which she remained through the rest of her life. This home was again broken up in 1849 by the death of her father. Through the advice of friends she sought comfort in travel on the continent.
Upon her return, she settled in London as assistant editor of the Westminster Review. By this time she had become familiar with five languages, had translated abstruse metaphysical books from the German into English, and had so thoroughly equipped her naturally strong intellect that she was sought after in London by such men as Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes. A deep attachment sprang up between Mr. Lewes and Miss Evans, and they formed an alliance that lasted until his death.
George Eliot's early literary labors were mainly critical and scientific, being governed by the circle in which she moved. When she came under the influence of Mr. Lewes, she was induced to attempt creative work. Her novels, published under the pen name of George Eliot, quickly became popular. Despite this success, it is doubtful whether she would have possessed sufficient self-reliance to continue her work without Mr. Lewes's encouragement and protecting love, which shielded her from contact with publishers and from a knowledge of harsh criticisms.
Their companionship was so congenial that her friends were astonished when she formed another attachment after his death in 1878, and married Mr. Cross. Her husband said that her affectionate nature required some deep love to which to cling. She had never been very robust, and, during her later years, she was extremely frail. She died in 1880.
Works.—George Eliot was fast approaching forty when she found the branch of literature in which she was to achieve fame. Her first volume of stories, Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), showed decisively that she was master of fiction writing. Three novels followed rapidly, Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). Her mind was stored with memories of the Midland counties, where her young life was spent; and these four books present with a powerful realism this rich rural district and its quaint inhabitants, who seem flushed with the warmth of real life.
Adam Bede is the freshest, healthiest, and most delightful of her books. This story leaves upon the memory a charming picture of peace and contentment, with its clearly drawn and interesting characters, its ideal dairy, the fertile stretches of meadow lands, the squire's birthday party, the harvest supper, and the sweet Methodist woman preaching on the green.
The Mill on the Floss also gives a fine picture of village life. This novel is one of George Eliot's most earnest productions. She exhibits one side of her own intense, brooding girlhood, in the passionate heroine, Maggie Tulliver. There is in this tragic story a wonderfully subtle revelation of a young nature, which is morbid, ambitious, quick of intellect, and strong of will, and which has no hand firm enough to serve as guide at the critical period of her life.
Silas Marner, artistically considered, is George Eliot's masterpiece. In addition to the ruddy glow of life in the characters, there is an idyllic beauty about the pastoral setting, and a poetic, half mystic charm about the weaver's manner of connecting his gold with his bright-haired Eppie. The slight plot is well planned and rounded, and the narrative is remarkable for ease and simplicity.
Romola (1863) is a much bolder flight. It is an attempt to present Florence of the fifteenth century, to contrast Savonarola's ardent Christianity with the Greek aestheticism of the Medicis, and to show the influence of the time upon two widely different characters, Romola and Tito Melema. This novel is the greatest intellectual achievement of its author; but it has neither the warmth of life, nor the vigor of her English stories. Though no pains is spared to delineate Romola, Tito, and the inspiring monk, Savonarola, yet they do not possess the genuineness and reality that are felt in her Warwickshire characters.
Middlemarch (1871-1872) and Daniel Deronda (1876) marked the decline of George Eliot's powers. Although she still possessed the ability to handle dialogue, to analyze subtle complex characters, and to attain a philosophical grasp of the problems of existence, yet her weakening powers were shown in the length of tedious passages, in an undue prominence of ethical purpose, in the more studied and, on the whole, duller characters, and in the prolixity of style.
George Eliot's poetry does not bear comparison with her prose. The Spanish Gypsy (1868) is her most ambitious poem, and it contains some fine dramatic passages. Her most beautiful poem is the hymn beginning:—
“Oh, may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence!”
There is a strain of noble thought and lofty feeling in her poems, and she rises easily to the necessary passion and fervor of verse; but her expression is hampered by the metrical form.
General Characteristics.—George Eliot is more strictly modern in spirit than either of the other two great contemporary novelists. This spirit is exhibited chiefly in her ethical purpose, her scientific sympathies, and her minute dissection of character.
Her writings manifest her desire to benefit human beings by convincing them that nature's laws are inexorable, and that an infraction of the moral law will be punished as surely as disobedience to physical laws. She strives to arouse people to a knowledge of hereditary influences, and to show how every deed brings its own results, and works, directly or indirectly, toward the salvation or ruin of the doer. She throws her whole strength into an attempt to prove that joy is to be found only in strict attendance upon duty and in self-renunciation. In order to carry home these serious lessons of life, she deals with powerful human tragedies, which impart a somberness of tone to all her novels. In her early works she treats these problems with artistic beauty; but in her later books she often forgets the artist in the moralist, and uses a character to preach a sermon.
The analytical tendency is pronounced in George Eliot's works, which exhibit an exhaustive study of the feelings, the thoughts, the dreams, and purposes of the characters. They become known more through description than through action.
A striking characteristic of her men and women is their power to grow. They do not appear ready-made and finished at the beginning of a story, but, like real human beings amid the struggles of life, they change for the better or the worse. Tito Melema in Romola is an example of her skill in evolving character. At the outset, he is a beautiful Greek boy with a keen zest for pleasure. His selfishness, however, which betrays itself first in ingratitude to his benefactor, leads step by step to his complete moral degradation. The consequences of his deeds entangle him finally in such a network of lies that he is forced to betray “every trust that was reposed in him, that he might keep himself safe.”
George Eliot occasionally brightens the seriousness of her works with humor. Her stories are not permeated with joyousness, like those of Dickens, nor do they ripple with quiet amusement, like the novels of Thackeray; but she puts witty and aphoristic sayings into the conversations of the characters. The scene at the “Rainbow” inn is bristling with mother wit. Mr. Macey observes:—
“'There's allays two 'pinions; there's the 'pinion a man has of
himsen, and there's the 'pinion other folks have on him. There'd be
two 'pinions about a cracked bell if the bell could hear
Great precision and scholarlike correctness mark the style of George Eliot. Her vocabulary, though large, is too full of abstract and scientific terms to permit of great flexibility and idiomatic purity of English. She is master of powerful figures of speech, original, epigrammatic turns of expression, and, sometimes, of a stirring eloquence.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, 1850-1894
Life.—By preferring romantic incident to the portrayal of character, Stevenson differed from his great Victorian predecessors in the field of fiction. He was born in 1850 in the romantic city of Edinburgh, which he has described so well in his Picturesque Notes on Edinburgh. Being an invalid from early childhood, he was not sent regularly to school; yet he was ready at the age of seventeen to enter Edinburgh University. He says of himself that in college he neglected all the studies that did not appeal to him, to read with avidity English poetry and fiction, Scottish legend and history. During his summer vacations he worked at lighthouse engineering. The out-of-door life was just what he liked; but the office work was irksome to him. When finally he made his dislike known, his father, although bitterly disappointed at his son's aversion to the calling followed by two generations of Stevensons, nevertheless consented to a change; and they compromised on the law. In 1875 Stevenson succeeded in gaining admission to the bar; but he soon realized that he would never feel at home in this profession. Moreover, he had always wanted to be a writer. He says:—
“All through my boyhood and youth...
I was always busy on my own private end,
which was to learn to write. I kept always
two books in my pocket, one to read, one
to write in. As I walked, my mind was busy
fitting what I saw with appropriate words.
...Thus I lived with words. And what I
thus wrote was for no ulterior use; it was
written consciously for practice.”
The next year, therefore, he decided to devote himself entirely to literature.
He was by heredity predisposed to weak lungs. For the greater part of his life he moved from place to place, searching for some location that would improve his health and allow him to write. He lived for a while in Switzerland, in the south of France, in the south of England, in the Adirondack Mountains, and in California. In 1880 he married in California, Mrs. Fanny Osbourne, of whom he wrote:—
“Steel-true and blade-straight,
The great artificer made my mate.”
By a former marriage she had a son, who, at the age of thirteen, inspired Stevenson to write that exciting romance of adventure, Treasure Island, published in book form in 1883. This and the remarkable story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), made him so famous that when he visited New York in 1887, a newspaper there offered him $10,000 for a weekly article during the year.
He preferred to accept an offer of $3500 for twelve monthly articles for a magazine.
The most romantic part of his life began in 1888, when he chartered a yacht in San Francisco for a cruise among the South Sea Islands. He had the enthusiasm of a boy for this trip, which was planned to benefit his health. Almost as many adventures befell him as Robinson Crusoe. At one time Stevenson became so ill that he was left with his wife on one of the Society Islands while the yacht sailed away for repairs. Before the boat returned, both his food and money were exhausted, and he and Mrs. Stevenson were forced to live on the bounty of the natives, who adopted him into one of their tribes and gave him the name of Tusitala.
He wandered for three and a half years among the islands of the Southern Pacific, visiting Australia twice. On one trip he called at thirty-three small coral islands, and wrote, “Hackney cabs have more variety than atolls.”
He finally selected for his residence the island of Samoa, where he spent the last three and a half years of his life. He died suddenly in his forty-fifth year, and was buried on the summit of a Samoan mountain near his home.
In 1893 he wrote to George Meredith:—
“In fourteen years I have not had a day's real health; I have
wakened sick and gone to bed weary; and I have done my work
unflinchingly. I have written in bed, and written out of it, written
in sickness, written torn by coughing, written when my head swam for
Many have found in Stevenson's life an inspiration to overcome obstacles, to cease complaining, and to bear a message of good cheer. These lines from his volume of poems called Underwoods (1887), are especially characteristic:—
“If I have faltered more or less
In my great task of happiness;
If I have moved among my race
And shown no glorious morning face;
If beams from happy human eyes
Have moved me not; if morning skies,
Books, and my food, and summer rain
Knocked on my sullen heart in vain:—
Lord, thy most pointed pleasure take
And stab my spirit broad awake.”
Works.—Stevenson wrote entertaining travels, such as An Inland Voyage (1878), the record of a canoe journey from Antwerp to Pontoise, Travels with a Donkey through the Cevennes (1879), and In the South Seas (published in book form in 1896). Early in life he wrote many essays, the best of which are included in the volumes, Virginibus Puerisque (To Girls and Boys, 1881) and Familiar Studies of Men and Books (1882). Valuable papers presenting his views of the technique of writing may be found in the volumes called Memories and Portraits (1887) and Essays in the Art of Writing (collected after his death). There is a happy blending of style, humor, and thought in many of these essays. Perhaps the most unusual and original of all is Child's Play ( Virginibus Puerisque). This is a psychological study, which reveals one of his strongest characteristics, the power of vividly recalling the events and feelings of childhood.
“When my cousin and I took our porridge of a morning, we had a
device to enliven the course of the meal. He ate his with sugar, and
explained it to be a country continually buried under snow. I took
mine with milk, and explained it to be a country suffering gradual
inundation. You can imagine us exchanging bulletins; how here was an
island still unsubmerged, here a valley not yet covered with
snow; ...and how, in fine, the food was of altogether secondary
importance, and might even have been nauseous, so long as we
seasoned it with these dreams.”
The simplicity and apparent artlessness of his A Child's Garden of Verse (1885) have caused many critics to neglect these poems; but the verdict of young children is almost unanimous against such neglect. These songs
“Lead onward into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five,
And all the playthings come alive.”
It is quite possible that the verses in this little volume may in the coming years appeal to more human beings than all the remainder of Stevenson's work. He and his American contemporary, Eugene Field (1850-1895), had the peculiar genius to delight children with a type of verse in which only a very few poets have excelled.
Boys and young men love Stevenson best for his short stories and romances. After a careful study of Poe and Hawthorne, the American short story masters, Stevenson made the English impressionistic short story a more artistic creation. Some of the best of his short stories are Will o' the Mill (1878), The Sire de Maletroit's Door (1878), and Markheim (1885). His best-known single production, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is really a short story that presents a remarkable psychological study of dual personality.
The short stories served as an apprenticeship for the longer romances, of which Treasure Island is the best constructed and the most interesting. Among a number of other romances, the four which deal with eighteenth-century Scottish history are the best: Kidnapped (1886), The Master of Ballantrae (1889), David Balfour (Catriona, 1893), and the unfinished Weir of Hermiston, published two years after his death.
General Characteristics.—Unlike the majority of the Victorian writers of fiction, Stevenson preferred the field of romance and adventure. It is natural to compare him with Scott, who showed a far wider range, both in subject matter and in the portrayal of human beings. Stevenson, however, surpassed Scott in swift delineation of incident, in pictorial vividness, and in literary form. Scott dashed off some of his long romances in six weeks; while Stevenson said that his printer's copy was sometimes the result of ten times that amount of writing. The year before he died, he spent three weeks in writing twenty-four pages.
Stevenson's romances are remarkable for artistic style, clearness of visual image, and boyish love of adventure. He made little attempt to portray more than the masculine half of the human race. His simple verses possess rare power to charm children. The most evident quality of all his prose is its artistic finish.
GEORGE MEREDITH, 1828-1909
Life.—George Meredith was the only child of a Welsh father and an Irish mother. He was born in 1828 over his grandfather's tailor shop in Portsmouth, Hampshire. The father proved incompetent in handling the excellent tailoring business to which he fell heir; and he soon abandoned his son. The mother died when the boy was five years old, and he was then cared for by relatives. When he was fourteen, he was sent to school in Germany for two years; but he did not consider his schooling of much benefit to him and he was forced to educate himself for his life's work.
On his return to England, he was articled to a London solicitor; but by the age of twenty-one, Meredith had abandoned the law and had begun the literary life which was to receive his undivided attention for nearly sixty years. The struggle was at first extremely hard. Some days, indeed, he is said to have lived on a single bowl of porridge.
While following his work as a novelist, he tried writing for periodicals, served as a newspaper correspondent, and later became a literary adviser for a large London publishing firm. In this capacity, he proved a sympathetic friend to many a struggling young author. Thomas Hardy says that he received from Meredith's praise sufficient encouragement to persevere in the field of literature.
Meredith's marriage in 1849 was unhappy and resulted in a separation. Three years after his wife's death, which occurred in 1861, he married a congenial helpmate and went to live in Flint Cottage, near Burford Bridge, Surrey, where most of his remaining years were spent.
Not until late in life were the returns from his writings sufficient to relieve him from unceasing daily toil at his desk. He was widely hailed as a literary master and recognized as a force in fiction before he attained financial independence. After the death of Tennyson, Meredith was elected president of the Society of British Authors. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, his reply to the Who's Who query about his recreations was, “a great reader, especially of French literature; has in his time been a great walker.” During his last sixteen years of life, he suffered from partial paralysis and was compelled to abandon these long walks, which had been a source both of recreation and of health.
He died in 1909 at the age of eighty-one and was laid beside his wife in the Dorking cemetery. The following words from his novel, Vittoria, are on his tombstone: “Life is but a little holding, lent to do a mighty labor.”
Poetry.—During his long career, Meredith wrote much verse, which was collected in 1912 in a volume of 578 pages.
The quality of his poetry is very uneven. In such exquisite poems as Love in the Valley, The Lark Ascending, and Melanthus, the fancy and melody are artistically intertwined. Many have admired the felicity of the description and the romance of the sentiment in this stanza from Love in the Valley:—
“Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow,
Swift as the swallow along the river's light
Circleting the surface to meet his mirrored winglets,
Fleeter she seems in her stay than in her flight.
Shy as the squirrel that leaps among the pine-tops,
Wayward as the swallow overhead at set of sun,
She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer,
Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won!”
Some of his songs are pure music, and an occasional descriptive passage in his verse shows the deftness of touch of a skilled lyrical poet. Such poems as Jump-to-Glory Jane, Juggling Jerry, The Beggar's Soliloquy, and The Old Chartist, are character sketches of humble folk and show genuine pathos and humor. In his poetry, Meredith is, however, more often the moralist and philosopher than the singer and simple narrator. He treats of love, life, and death as metaphysical problems. He ponders over the duties of mankind and the greatest sources of human strength and courage. He roams through a region that seems timeless and spaceless. He “neighbors the invisible.” The obscurities in many of these poems are due to the abstract nature of the subject matter, to excessive condensation of thought, to frequent omission of connecting words, and to an abundance of figurative language.
Novels.—Meredith's novels comprise the largest and most noteworthy part of his writings. His most important works of fiction are The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859), The Egoist (1879), and Diana of the Crossways (1885). The Ordeal of Richard Feverel is the story of a beautiful first love. The courtship of Richard and Lucy, amid scenes that inspire poetic descriptions, is in itself a true prose lyric. Their parting interview is one of the most powerfully handled chapters to be found in English novels. It is heart-rending in its emotional intensity and almost faultless in expression. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, like most of Meredith's works, contains more than a love story. Many chapters of high-class comedy and epigrammatical wit serve to explode a fallacious educational theory.
The Egoist has for its special aim the portrayal and exposure of masculine egotism. This was a favorite subject with Meredith and it recurs frequently in his novels. The plot of The Egoist is slight. The interest is centered on the awakening of Clara Middleton and Laetitia Dale to the superlative selfishness of Sir Willoughby's egotism.
Scintillating repartee, covert side-thrusts, shrewd observations, subtle innuendoes, are all used to assist in the revelation of this egotism. One fair April morning, after his return to England from a three years' absence, Sir Willoughby met Laetitia Dale, an early sweetheart whom he no longer loved.
“He sprang out of the carriage and seized her hand. 'Laetitia
Dale!' he said. He panted. 'Your name is sweet English music!
And you are well?' The anxious question permitted him to read deep
in her eyes. He found the man he sought there, squeezed him
passionately, and let her go.”
The delicate irony of this passage is a mild example of the rich vein of humor running through this work. The Egoist is the most Meredithian of the author's novels, and it displays most exuberantly his comic spirit, intent upon photographing mankind's follies. This book has been called “a comedy in narrative.”
Diana, the heroine of Diana of the Crossways, is the queen of Meredith's heroines. She is intellectual, warm-hearted, and courageous. She thinks and talks brilliantly; but when she acts, she is often carried away by the momentary impulse. She therefore keeps the reader alternately scolding and forgiving her. Her betrayal of a state secret, which cannot be condoned, remains the one flaw in the plot. With this exception, the story is absorbing. The men and women belong to the world of culture. Among them are some of Meredith's most interesting characters, notably Redworth, the noblest man in any of the novels. The scene of the story is in London's highest political circle and the discussions sparkle with cleverness.
Evan Harrington (1861), the story of a young tailor, is one of the lightest and brightest of Meredith's novels. It presents in the author's most inimitable manner a comic picture of the struggle for social position. In two of the characters, Great Mel and Mrs. Mel, are found the pen portraits of Meredith's grandparents. Rhoda Fleming (1865) is in its style the simplest of his novels. The humble tragedy is related in the plain speech of the people, without the Gaelic wit usually characteristic of Meredith.
The first half of The Adventures of Harry Richmond has been called by some critics Meredith's best piece of writing, but the last half shows less power.
Meredith grew more introspective in his later years, as is shown in such long, analytical novels as, One of Our Conquerors (1891), Lord Ormont and His Aminta (1894), and The Amazing Marriage(1895).
General Characteristics.-Meredith's novels afford him various opportunities for an exposition of his views on education, divorce, personal liberty, conventional narrow-mindedness, egotism, sentimentalism, and obedience to law. His own personality creeps into the stories when he has some favorite sermon to preach; and he sometimes taxes the reader's patience by unduly delaying the narrative or even directing its course in order to accentuate the moral issue.
The chief excellences of his novels lie in the strong and subtle character portrayal, in the brilliant conversations, in the power with which intense scenes are presented, and in the well-nigh omnipresent humor.
Meredith's humor frequently arises from his keen intellectual perception of the paradoxes in life. One of his egotistical lovers, talking to the object of his undying affections, “could pledge himself to eternity, but shrank from being bound to eleven o'clock on the morrow morning.” Meredith does not fly into a passion, like Carlyle, because society is sentimental and shallow and loves to pose. He proceeds in the coolest manner to draw with unusual distinctness the shallow dilettante, the sentimentalist, the egotist, and the hypocrite. By placing these characters in the midst of men and women actuated by simple and genuine motives, he develops situations that seem especially humorous to readers who are alert to detect incongruity. This veiled humor, which has been aptly styled “the laughter of the mind,” gives to Meredith's works their most distinctive flavor.
His prose style is epigrammatic, rich in figures, subtle, sometimes tortuous and even obscure. He abhors the trite and obvious, and, in escaping them to indulge in witty riddles, fanciful expressions, and difficult allusions, he imperils his clearness. In the presence of genuine emotion, he is always as simple in style as he is serious in attitude; but there are times when he seems to revel in the extravagant and grotesque.
Meredith is the novelist of men and women in the world of learning, of letters, and of politics; he is the satirist of social shams; and he is the sparkling epigrammatist; but he is also the optimist with the sane and vigorous message for his generation, and the realist who keeps a genuine rainbow of idealism in his sky.
THOMAS HARDY, 1840-
Life.—The subtle, comic aspects of cosmopolitan life, which were such a fascination to Meredith, did not appeal to that somber realist, Thomas Hardy, whose genius enabled him to paint impressive pictures of the retired elemental life of Wessex. Hardy was born in 1840 in the little village of Bockhampton, Dorsetshire, a few miles out of Dorchester. He received his early education at the local schools, attended evening classes at King's College, London, and studied Gothic architecture under Sir Arthur Blomfield. The boy was articled at the early age of sixteen to an ecclesiastical architect and, like the hero in his novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, made drawings and measurements of old churches in rural England and planned their remodeling. He won medals and prizes in this profession before he turned from it to authorship. His first published work, How I Built Myself a House, was an outgrowth of some early experiences as an architect.
Hardy married Miss Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874 and went to live at Sturminster Newton. Later he spent some time in London; but he returned finally to his birthplace, the land of his novels, and built himself a home at Max Gate, Dorchester, in 1885. His life has been a retired one. He always shunned publicity, but he was happy to receive in 1910 the freedom of his native town, an honor bestowed upon him as a mark of love and pride.
Works.—Thomas Hardy is one of the greatest realists in modern England, and also one of the most uncompromising pessimists. His characters are developed with consummate skill, but usually their progression is toward failure or death. These men and women are largely rustics who subsist by means of humble toil, such as tending sheep or cutting furze. The orbit of their lives is narrow. The people are simple, primitive, superstitious. They are only half articulate in the expression of their emotions. In Far From the Madding Crowd, for example, Gabriel Oak wished to have Bathsheba know “his impressions; but he would as soon have thought of carrying an odor in a net as of attempting to convey the intangibilities of his feelings in the coarse meshes of language. So he remained silent.” On the other hand, the speech is sometimes racy, witty, and flavored by the daily occupation of the speaker.
The scenes usually selected for Hardy's stories are from his own county and those immediately adjacent, to which section of country he has given the name of Wessex. He knows it so intimately and paints it so vividly that its moors, barrows, and villages are as much a part of the stories as the people dwelling there. In fact, Egdon Heath has been called the principal character in the novel, The Return of the Native(1878). The upland with its shepherd's hut, the sheep-shearing barn, the harvest storm, the hollow of ferns, and the churchyard with its dripping water spout are part of the wonderful landscape in Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) This is the finest artistic product of Hardy's genius. It contains strongly-drawn characters, dramatic incidents, a most interesting story, and some homely native humor. The heroine, Bathsheba, is one of the brainiest and most independent of all Hardy's women. She has grave faults; but the tragic experiences through which she passes soften her and finally mold her into a lovable woman. Steady, resourceful, dumb Gabriel Oak and clever, fencing Sergeant Troy are delightful foils to each other, and are every inch human.
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and The Woodlanders (1886-1887) deserve mention with Far from the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native as comprising the best four novels of the so-called Wessex stories.
Hardy's later works exhibit an increasing absorption in ethical and religious problems. Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1892) is one of Hardy's most powerful novels. It has for its heroine a strong, sweet, appealing woman, whose loving character and tragic fate are presented with fearless vigor and deep sympathetic insight. The personal intensity of the author, which is felt to pervade this book, is present again in Jude the Obscure (1895), that record of an aspiring soul, struggling against hopeless odds, heavy incumbrances, and sordid realities.
General Characteristics.—Hardy's novels leave a sense of gloom upon the reader. He explains his view of modern life “as a thing to be put up with, replacing the zest for existence which was so intense in early civilization.” His pessimistic philosophy strikes at the core of life and human endeavor. Sorrow appears in his work, not as a punishment for crime, but as an unavoidable result of human life and its inevitable mistakes. Events, sometimes comic but generally tragic, play upon the weaknesses of his characters and bring about entanglements, misunderstandings, and suffering far in excess of the deserts of these well-intentioned people. No escape is suggested. Resignation to misfits, mistakes, and misfortune is what remains.
Hardy is one of the great Victorian story-tellers. His personality is never obtruded on his readers. His humor is not grafted on his scenes, but is a natural outgrowth of his rustic gatherings and conversations. He relates a straightforward tale, and makes his characters act and speak for themselves. He selects the human nature, the rural scene, and the moral issue upon which his whole being can be centered. The result is a certainty of design, a somberness of atmosphere, and an intensity of feeling, such as are found in elegiac poetry. Natural laws, physical nature, and human life are engaged in an uneven struggle, and the result is usually unsatisfactory for human life. The novels are pitilessly sad, but they are nevertheless products of a genuine artist in temperament and technique. His novels show almost as much unity of plot and mood as many of the greatest short stories.
MATTHEW ARNOLD, 1822-1888
Life.—Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, A.C. Swinburne, and the much younger Rudyard Kipling are the most noted among a large number of Victorian poets. All of these, with the exception of the two greatest, Browning and Tennyson, also wrote prose.
Matthew Arnold was born in 1822, at Laleham, Middlesex. His father, Dr. Thomas Arnold, was the eminent head master of Rugby School, and the author of History of Rome, Lectures on Modern History, and Sermons. Under the guidance of such a father, Matthew Arnold enjoyed unusual educational advantages. In 1837 he entered Rugby, and from there went to Baliol College, Oxford. He was so ambitious and studious that he won two prizes at Oxford, was graduated with honors, and, a year later, was elected fellow of Oriel College. Arnold's name, like Thomas Gray's, is associated with university life.
From 1847 to 1851, Arnold was private secretary to Lord Lansdowne. In 1851 he married the daughter of Justice Wightman. After relinquishing his secretaryship, Arnold accepted a position that took him again into educational fields. He was made lay inspector of schools, a position which he held to within two years of his death. This office called for much study in methods of education, and he visited the continent three times to investigate the systems in use there. In addition, he held the chair of poetry at Oxford for ten years, between 1857 and 1867. One of the most scholarly courses of lectures that he delivered there was On Translating Homer. From this time until his death, in 1888, he was a distinguished figure in English educational and literary circles.
Poetical Works.—Matthew Arnold's poetry belongs to the middle of the century, that season of doubt, perplexity, and unrest, when the strife between the church and science was bitterest and each threatened to overthrow the other. In his home, Arnold was taught a devout faith in revealed religion, and at college he was thrown upon a world of inquiring doubt. Both influences were strong. His feelings yearned after the early faith, and his intellect sternly demanded scientific proof and explanation. He was, therefore, torn by a conflict between his emotions and reason, and he was thus eminently fitted to be the poetic exponent of what he calls—
”...this strange disease of modern life,
With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
Its heads o'ertaxed, its palsied hearts.”
Arnold felt that there were too much hurry and excitement in the age. In the midst of opposing factions, theories, and beliefs, he cries out for rest and peace. We rush from shadow to shadow—
“And never once possess our soul
Before we die.”
Again, in the Stanzas in Memory of the Author of “Obermann”, he voices the unrest of the age—
“What shelter to grow ripe is ours?
What leisure to grow wise?
Like children bathing on the shore,
Buried a wave beneath,
The second wave succeeds, before
We have had time to breathe.”
But Arnold is not the seer to tell us how to enter the vale of rest, how to answer the voice of doubt. He passes through life a lonely figure—
“Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born.” 
The only creed that he offers humanity is one born of the scientific temper, a creed of stoical endurance and unswerving allegiance to the voice of duty. Many readers miss in Arnold the solace that they find in Wordsworth and the tonic faith that is omnipresent in Browning. Arnold himself was not wholly satisfied with his creed; but his cool reason refused him the solace of an unquestioning faith. Arnold has been called “the poet of the Universities,” because of the reflective scholarly thought in his verse. It breathes the atmosphere of books and of the study. Such poetry cannot appeal to the masses. It is for the thinker.
The style of verse that lends itself best to Arnold's genius is the elegiac lyric. The Scholar Gypsy and its companion piece Thyrsis, Memorial Verses, Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse, and Stanzas in Memory of the Author of “Obermann” are some of his best elegies.
Sohrab and Rustam and Balder Dead are Arnold's finest narrative poems. They are stately, dignified recitals of the deeds of heroes and gods. The series of poems entitled Switzerland and Dover Beach are among Arnold's most beautiful lyrics. A fine description of the surf is contained in the last-named poem:—
“Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.”
Neither the movement of the narrative nor the lightness of the lyric is wholly congenial to Arnold's introspective melancholy muse.
Prose Works.—Although Arnold's first works were in poetry, he won recognition as a prose writer before he was widely known as a poet. His works in prose comprise such subjects as literary criticism, education, theology, and social ethics. As a critic of literature, he surpasses all his great contemporaries. Neither Macaulay nor Carlyle possessed the critical acumen, the taste, ana the cultivated judgment of literary works, in such fullness as Matthew Arnold.
His greatest contributions to critical literature are the various magazine articles that were collected in the two volumes entitled Essays in Criticism (1865-1888). In these essays Arnold displays great breadth of culture and fairness of mind. He rises superior to the narrow provincialism and racial prejudices that he deprecates in other criticisms of literature. He gives the same sympathetic consideration to the German Heine and the Frenchman Joubert as to Wordsworth. Arnold further insists that Frenchmen should study English literature for its serious ethical spirit, and that Englishmen would be benefited by a study of the lightness, precision, and polished form of French literature.
Arnold's object in all his criticism is to discover the best in both prose and poetry, and his method of attaining this object is another illustration of his scholarship and mental reach. He says in his Introduction to Ward's English Poets:—
“Indeed, there can be no more useful help for discovering what
poetry belongs to the class of the truly excellent, and can
therefore do us most good, than to have always in one's mind lines
and expressions of the great masters, and to apply them as a
touchstone to other poetry.”
When Arnold seeks to determine an author's true place in literature, his keen critical eye seems to see at a glance all the world's great writers, and to compare them with the man under discussion. In order to ascertain Wordsworth's literary stature, for example, Arnold measures the height of Wordsworth by that of Homer, of Dante, of Shakespeare, and of Milton.
Another essential quality of the critical mind that Arnold possessed is “sweet reasonableness.” His judgments of men are marked by a moderation of tune. His strong predilections are sometimes shown, but they are more often restrained by a clear, honest intellect. Arnold's calm, measured criticisms are not marred by such stout partisanship as Macaulay shows for the Whigs, by the hero worship that Carlyle expresses, or by the exaggerated praise and blame that Ruskin sometimes bestows. On the other hand, Arnold loses what these men gain; for while his intellect is less biased than theirs, it is also less colored and less warmed by the glow of feeling.
The analytical quality of Arnold's mind shows the spirit of the age. His subjects are minutely classified and defined. Facts seem to divide naturally into brigades, regiments, and battalions of marching order. His literary criticisms note subtleties of style, delicate shadings in expression, and many technical excellences and errors that Carlyle would have passed over unheeded. In addition to the Essays in Criticism, the other works of Arnold that possess his fine critical dualities in highest degree are On Translating Homer (1861) and The Study of Celtic Literature (1867).
General Characteristics.—The impression that Arnold has left upon literature is mainly that of a keen, brilliant intellect. In his poetry there is more emotion than in his prose; but even in his poetry there is no passion or fire. The sadness, the loneliness, the unrest of life, and the irreconcilable conflict between faith and doubt are most often the subjects of his verse. His range is narrow, but within it he attains a pure, noble beauty. His introspective, analytical poetry is distinguished by a “majesty of grief,” depth of thought, calm, classic repose, and a dignified simplicity.
In prose, Arnold attains highest rank as a critic of literature. His culture, the breadth of his literary sympathies, his scientific analyses, and his lucid literary style make his critical works the greatest of his age. He has a light, rather fanciful, humor, which gives snap and spice to his style. He is also a master of irony, which is galling to an opponent. He himself never loses his suavity or good breeding. Arnold's prose style is as far removed from Carlyle's as the calm simplicity of the Greeks is from the powerful passion of the Vikings. The ornament and poetic richness of Ruskin's style are also missing in Arnold's. His style has a classic purity and refinement. He has a terseness, a crystalline clearness, and a precision that have been excelled in the works of few even of the greatest masters of English prose.
ROBERT BROWNING, 1812-1889
Life.—The long and peaceful lives of Browning and Tennyson, the two most eminent poets of the Victorian age, are in marked contrast to the short and troubled careers of Byron, Shelley, and Keats.
Robert Browning's life was uneventful but happy. He inherited a magnificent physique and constitution from his father, who never knew a day's illness. With such health, Robert Browning felt a keen relish for physical existence and a robust joyousness in all kinds of activity. Late in life he wrote, in the poem At the Mermaid:—
“Have you found your life distasteful?
My life did, and does, smack sweet.
* * * * *
I find earth not gray but rosy,
Heaven not grim but fair of hue.
Do I stoop? I pluck a posy.
Do I stand and stare? All's blue.”
Again, in Saul, he burst forth with the lines:—
“How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy?”
These lines, vibrant with life and joy, could not have been written by a man of failing vitality or physical weakness.
Robert Browning was born in 1812 at Camberwell, whose slopes overlook the smoky chimneys of London. In this beautiful suburb he spent his early years in the companionship of a brother and a sister. A highly gifted father and a musical mother assisted intelligently in the development of their children. Browning's education was conducted mainly under his father's eye. The boy attended neither a large school nor a college. After he had passed from the hands of tutors, he spent some time in travel, and was wont to call Italy his university. Although his training was received in an irregular way, his scholarship cannot be doubted by the student of his poetry.
He early determined to devote his life to poetry, and his father wisely refrained from interfering with his son's ambitions.
Romantic Marriage with Elizabeth Barrett Barrett,—Her Poetry.—In 1845, after Browning had published some ten volumes of verse, among which were Paracelsus (1835), Pippa Passes (1841), andDramatic Lyrics (1842), he met Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (1806-1861), whose poetic reputation was then greater than his own. The publication in 1898 of The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett disclosed an unusual romance. When he first met her, she was an invalid in her father's London house, passing a large part of her time on the couch, scarcely able to see all the members of her own family at the same time. His magnetic influence helped her to make more frequent journeys from the sofa to an armchair, then to walk across the room, and soon to take drives.
Her father, who might have sat for the original of Meredith's “Egoist,” had decided that his daughter should be an invalid and remain with him for life. When Browning proposed to Miss Barrett that he should ask her father for her hand, she replied that such a step would only make matters worse. “He would rather see me dead at his feet than yield the point,” she said. In 1846 Miss Barrett, accompanied by her faithful maid, drove to a church and was married to Browning. The bride returned home; but Browning did not see her for a week because he would not indulge in the deception of asking for “Miss Barrett.” Seven days after the marriage, they quietly left for Italy, where Mrs. Browning passed nearly all her remaining years. She repeatedly wrote to her father, telling him of her transformed health and happy marriage, but he never answered her.
Before Miss Barrett met Browning, the woes of the factory children had moved her to write The Cry of the Children. After Edgar Allan Poe had read its closing lines:—
”...the child's sob in the silence curses deeper
Than the strong man in his wrath,”
he said that she had depicted “a horror, sublime in its simplicity, of which Dante himself might have been proud.”
Her best work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, written after Browning had won her affection, is a series of love lyrics, strong, tender, unaffected, true, from the depth of a woman's heart. Sympathetic readers, who know the story of her early life and love, are every year realizing that there is nothing else in English literature that could exactly fill their place. Browning called them “the finest sonnets written in any language since Shakespeare's.” Those who like the simple music of the heart strings will find it in lines like these:—
“I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight,
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”
After fifteen years of happy married life, she died in 1861, and was buried in Florence. When thinking of her, Browning wrote his poem Prospice (1861) welcoming death as—
”...a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest.”
His Later Years.—Soon after his wife's death, he began his long poem of over twenty thousand lines, The Ring and the Book. He continued to write verse to the year of his death.
In 1881 the Browning Society was founded for the study and discussion of his works,—a most unusual honor for a poet during his lifetime. The leading universities gave him honorary degrees, he was elected life-governor of London University, and was tendered the rectorship of the Universities of Glasgow and St. Andrew's and the presidency of the Wordsworth Society.
During the latter part of his life, he divided most of his time between London and Italy. When he died, in 1889, he was living with his son, Robert Barrett Browning, in the Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice. Over his grave in Westminster Abbey was chanted Mrs. Browning's touching lyric:—
“He giveth his beloved, sleep.”
Dramatic Monologues.—Browning was a poet of great productivity. From the publication of Pauline in 1833 to Asolando in 1889, there were only short pauses between the appearances of his works. Unlike Tennyson, Browning could not stop to revise and recast; but he constantly sought expression, in narratives, dramas, lyrics, and monologues, for new thoughts and feelings.
The study of the human soul held an unfailing charm for Browning. He analyzes with marked keenness and subtlety the experiences of the soul, its sickening failures, and its eager strivings amid complex, puzzling conditions. In nearly all his poems, whether narrative, lyric, or dramatic, the chief interest centers about some “incidents in the development of a soul.”
The poetic form that he found best adapted to “the development of a soul” was the dramatic monologue, of which he is one of the greatest masters. Requiring but one speaker, this form narrows the interest either to the speaker or to the one described by him. Most of his best monologues are to be found in the volumes known as Dramatic Lyrics (1842), Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845), Men and Women (1855), Dramatis Personae (1864).
My Last Duchess, Andrea del Sarto, Saul, Abt Vogler, and The Last Ride Together are a few of his strong representative monologues. The speaker in My Last Duchess is the widowed duke, who is describing the portrait of his lost wife. In his blind conceit, he is utterly unconscious that he is exhibiting clearly his own coldly selfish nature and his wife's sweet, sunny disposition. The chief power of the poem lies in the astonishing ease with which he is made to reveal his own character.
The interest in Andrea del Sarto is in the mental conflict of this “faultless painter.” He wishes, on the one hand, to please his wife with popular pictures, and yet he yearns for higher ideals of his art. He says:—
“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?”
As he sits in the twilight, holding his wife's hand, and talking in a half-musing way, it is readily seen that his love for this beautiful but soulless woman has caused many of his failures and sorrows in the past, and will continue to arouse conflicts of soul in the future.
Abt Vogler, one of Browning's noblest and most melodious poems, voices the exquisite raptures of a musician's soul:—
“But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason and welcome: 'tis we musicians know.”
The beautiful song of David in the poem entitled Saul shows a wonderful sympathy with the old Hebrew prophecies. Cleon expresses the views of an early Greek upon the teachings of Christ and St. Paul.The Soliloquy of a Spanish Cloister describes the development of a coarse, jealous nature in monastic life. The Last Ride Together is one of Browning's many passionate poems on the ennobling power of love. That remarkable, grotesque poem, Caliban upon Setebos, transcends human fields altogether, and displays the brutelike theology of a fiend.
In these monologues, Browning interprets characters of varying faiths, nationalities, stations, and historic periods. He shows a wide range of knowledge and sympathy. One type, however, which he rarely presents, is the simple, commonplace man or woman. Browning excels in the portrayal of unusual, intricate, and difficult characters that have complicated problems to face, weaknesses to overcome, or lofty ambitions to attain.
The Ring and the Book.—When Browning was asked what he would advise a student of his poetry to read first, he replied: “The Ring and the Book, of course.” He worked on this masterly study of human souls for many years in the decade in which his wife died. This poem (1868), which has been facetiously called “a Roman murder story,” was suggested to him by a “square old yellow book,” which he purchased for a few cents at Florence in 1860. This manuscript, dated 1698, gives an account of the trial of Guido Franceschini for the murder of his wife. Out of this “mere ring metal,” Browning fashioned his “Ring,” a poem twice the length of Paradise Lost.
The subject of the story is an innocent girl, Pompilia, who, under the protection of a noble priest, flees from her brutal husband and seeks the home of her foster parents. Her husband wrathfully pursues her and kills both her and her parents. While this is but the barest outline, yet the story in its complete form is very simple. As is usual with Browning, the chief stress is laid upon the character portrayal.
He adopted the bold and unique plan of having different classes of people in Rome and the various actors in the tragedy tell the story from their own point of view and thus reveal their own bias and characteristics. Each relation makes the story seem largely new. Browning shows that all this testimony is necessary to establish a complete circle of evidence in regard to the central truth of the tragedy. The poem thus becomes a remarkable analytic study of the psychology of human minds.
The four important characters,—Guido, the husband; Caponsacchi, the priest; Pompilia, the girl-wife; and the Pope,—stand out in strong relief. The greatest development of character is seen in Guido, who starts with a defiant spirit of certain victory, but gradually becomes more subdued and abject, when he finds that he is to be killed, and finally shrieks in agony for the help of his victim, Pompilia. In Caponsacchi there is the inward questioning of the right and the wrong. He is a strongly-drawn character, full of passion and noble desires. Pompilia, who has an intuitive knowledge of the right, is one of Browning's sweetest and purest women. From descriptions of Mrs. Browning, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne gave, we may conclude that she furnished the suggestion for many of Pompilia's characteristics. The Pope, with his calm, wise judgment and his lofty philosophy, is probably the greatest product of Browning's intellect.
The books containing the monologues of these characters take first place among Browning's writings and occupy a high position in the century's work. They have a striking originality, intensity, vigor, and imaginative richness. The remaining books are incomparably inferior, and are marked at times by mere acuteness of reason and thoroughness of legal knowledge.
A Dramatic Poet.—Although Browning's genius is strongly dramatic, his best work is not found in the field of the drama. Strafford (1837), A Blot in the 'Scutcheon (1843), and Colombe's Birthday (1844) have been staged successfully, but they cannot be called great acting plays. The action is slight, the characters are complex, the soliloquies are lengthy, and the climaxes are too often wholly dependent upon emotional intensity rather than upon great or exciting deeds. The strongest interest of these dramas lies in their psychological subtlety, which is more enjoyable in the study than in the theater.
Browning's dramatic power is well exhibited in poems like In a Balcony or Pippa Passes, in which powerful individual scenes are presented without all the accompanying details of a complete drama. The great force of such scenes lies in his manner of treating moments of severe trial. He selects such a moment, focuses his whole attention upon it, and makes the deed committed stand forth as an explanation of all the past emotions and as a prophecy of all future acts. In a Balcony shows the lives of three characters converging toward a crisis. The hero of this drama thus expresses his theory of life's struggles in the development of the soul:—
”...I count life just stuff
To try the soul's strength on, educe the man.”
Pippa Passes is one of Browning's most artistic presentations of such dramatic scenes. The little silk weaver, Pippa, rises on the morning of her one holiday in the year, with the intention of enjoying in fancy the pleasures “of the Happiest Four in our Asolo,” not knowing, in her innocence, of their misery and guilt. She wanders from house to house, singing her pure, significant refrains, and, in each case, her songs arrest the attention of the hearer at a critical moment. She thus becomes unconsciously a means of salvation. The first scene is the most intense. She approaches the home of the lovers, Sebald and Ottima, after the murder of Ottima's husband. As Sebald begins to reflect on the murder, there comes this song of Pippa's, like the knocking at the gate in Macbeth, to loose the floodgates of remorse:—
His Optimistic Philosophy.—It has been seen that the Victorian age, as presented by Matthew Arnold, was a period of doubt and negation. Browning, however, was not overcome by this wave of doubt. Although he recognized fully the difficulties of religious faith in an age just awakening to scientific inquiry, yet he retained a strong, fearless trust in God and in immortality.
Browning's reason demanded this belief. In this earthly life he saw the evil overcome the good, and beheld injustice, defeat, and despair follow the noblest efforts. If there exists no compensation for these things, he says that life is a cheat, the moral nature a lie, and God a fiend. In Asolando, Browning thus presents his attitude toward life:—
“One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, tho' right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.”
There is no hesitancy in this philosophy of Browning's. With it, he does not fear to face all the problems and mysteries of existence. No other poet strikes such a resonant, hopeful note as he. His Rabbi Ben Ezra is more a song of triumphant faith than anything written since the Puritan days:—
“Our times are in His hand
Who saith, 'A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!'
* * * * *
“Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.”
General Characteristics.—Browning is a poet of striking originality and impelling force. His writings are the spontaneous outpourings of a rich, full nature, whose main fabric is intellect, but intellect illumined with the glittering light of spiritual hopefulness and flushed with the glow of deep human passion.
The subject of his greatest poetry is the human soul. While he possesses a large portion of dramatic suggestiveness, he nevertheless does not excel in setting off character against character in movement and speech, but rather in a minute, penetrating analysis, by which he insinuates himself into the thoughts and sensations of his characters, and views life through their eyes.
He is a pronounced realist. His verse deals not only with the beautiful and the romantic, but also with the prosaic and the ugly, if they furnish true pictures for the panorama of real life. The unconventionality and realism of his poetic art will be made manifest by merely reading through the titles of his numerous works.
Browning did not write to amuse and entertain, but to stimulate thought and to “sting” the conscience to activity. The meaning of his verse is, therefore, the matter of paramount importance, far overshadowing the form of expression. In the haste and carelessness with which he wrote many of his difficult abstruse poems, he laid himself open to the charge of obscurity.
His style has a strikingly individual stamp, which is marked far more by strength than by beauty. The bare and rugged style of his verse is often made profoundly impressive by its strenuous earnestness, its burning intensity, which seems to necessitate the broken lines and halting, interrupted rhythm. The following utterance of Caponsacchi, as he stands before his judges, will show the intensity and ruggedness of Browning's blank verse:—
“Sirs, how should I lie quiet in my grave
Unless you suffer me wring, drop by drop,
My brain dry, make a riddance of the drench
Of minutes with a memory in each?”
His lines are often harsh and dissonant. Even in the noble poem Rabbi Ben Ezra, this jolting line appears:—
“Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?”
and in Sordello, Browning writes:—
“The Troubadour who sung
Hundreds of songs, forgot, its trick his tongue,
Its craft his brain.”
No careful artist tolerates such ugly, rasping inversions.
In spite of these inharmonious tendencies in Browning, his poetry at times shows a lyric lightness, such as is heard in these lines:—
“Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
His verse often swells and falls with a wavelike rhythm as in Saul or in these lines in Abt Vogler:—
“There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the broken arc; in the heaven, a perfect round.”
While, therefore, Browning's poetry is sometimes harsh, faulty, and obscure, at times his melodies can be rhythmically simple and beautiful. He is one of the subtlest analysts of the human mind, the most original and impassioned poet of his age, and one of the most hopeful, inspiring, and uplifting teachers of modern times.
ALFRED TENNYSON, 1809-1892
Life.—Alfred Tennyson, one of the twelve children of the rector of Somersby, Lincolnshire, was born in that hamlet in 1809, a year memorable, both in England and America for the birth of such men as Charles Darwin, William E. Gladstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, and Abraham Lincoln.
Visitors to the Somersby rectory, in which Tennyson was born, note that it fits the description of the home in his fine lyric, The Palace of Art:—
”...an English home,—gray twilight pour'd
On dewy pastures, dewy trees,
Softer than sleep—all things in order stored,
A haunt of ancient peace.”
His mother, one of the beauties of Lincolnshire, had twenty-five offers of marriage. Of her Tennyson said in The Princess:—
With such a mother! faith in womankind
Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
Comes easy to him, and tho' he trip and fall,
He shall not blind his soul with clay.”
It is probable that Tennyson holds the record among English poets of his class for the quantity of youthful verse produced. At the age of eight, he was writing blank verse in praise of flowers; at twelve, he began an epic which extended to six thousand lines.
In 1828 he entered Cambridge University; but in 1831 his father's sickness and death made it impossible for him to return to take his degree. Before leaving Cambridge, Tennyson had found a firm friend in a young college mate of great promise, Arthur Henry Hallam, who became engaged to the poet's sister, Emily Tennyson. Hallam's sudden death in 1832 was a profound shock to Tennyson and had far-reaching effects on his poetic development. For a long time he lived in comparative retirement, endeavoring to perfect himself in the poetic art.
His golden year was 1850, the year of the publication of In Memoriam, of his selection as poet laureate, to succeed Wordsworth, and of his marriage to Emily Sellwood. He had been in love with her for fourteen years, but insufficient income had hitherto prevented marriage.
In 1855 Oxford honored him by bestowing on him the degree of D.C.L. The students gave him an ovation and they properly honored his greatest poem, In Memoriam by mentioning it first in their loud calls; but they also paid their respects to his May Queen, asking in chorus: “Did they wake and call you early, call you early, Alfred dear?”
The rest of his life was outwardly uneventful. He became the most popular poet of his age. Schools and colleges had pupils translate his poems into Latin and Greek verse. Of Enoch Arden (1864), at that time his most popular narrative poem, sixty thousand copies were sold almost as as soon as it was printed. He made sufficient money to be able to maintain two beautiful residences, a winter home at Farringford on the Isle of Wight, and a summer residence at Aldworth in Sussex. In 1884 he was raised to the peerage, with the title of Baron of Aldworth and Farringford. He died in 1892, at the age of eighty-three, and was buried beside Robert Browning in Westminster Abbey.
Early Verse.—Tennyson published a small volume of poems in 1830, the year before he left college, and another volume in 1832. Although these contained some good poems, he was too often content to toy with verse that had exquisite melody and but little meaning. The “Airy, fairy Lilian” and “Sweet, pale Margaret” type of verse had charmed him overmuch. The volumes of 1830 and 1832 were severely criticized. Blackwood's Magazine called same of the lyrics “drivel,” and Carlyle characterized the aesthetic verse as “lollipops.” This adverse criticism and the shock from Hallam's death caused him to remain silent for nearly ten years. His son and biographer says that his father during this period “profited by friendly and unfriendly criticism, and in silence, obscurity, and solitude, perfected his art.”
In his thirty-third year (1842), Tennyson broke his long silence by publishing two volumes of verse, containing such favorites as The Poet, The Lady of Shalott, The Palace of Art, The Lotos Eaters, A Dream of Fair Women, Morte d'Arthur, Oenone, The Miller's Daughter, The Gardener's Daughter, Dora, Ulysses, Locksley Hall, The Two Voices, and Sir Galahad.
Unsparing revision of numbers of these poems that had been published before, entitles them to be classed as new work. Some critics think that Tennyson never surpassed these 1842 volumes. His verse shows the influence of Keats, of whom Tennyson said: “There is something of the innermost soul of poetry in almost everything that he wrote.”
One of Tennyson's most distinctive qualities, his art in painting beautiful word-pictures, is seen at its best in stanzas from The Palace of Art. His mastery over melody and the technique of verse is evident in such lyrics as Sir Galahad, and The Lotos Eaters. When the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, read from Ulysses the passage beginning:—
“I am a part of all that I have met,”
he gave Tennyson a much-needed annual pension of L200.
These volumes show that he was coming into touch with the thought of the age. Locksley Hall communicates the thrill which he felt from the new possibilities of science:—
“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.
* * * * *
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time.”
Hallam's death had also developed in him the human note, resonant in the lyric, Break, break, break:—
“But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still.”
The Princess, In Memoriam, and Maud.—Tennyson had produced only short poems in his 1842 volumes, but his next three efforts, The Princess (1847), In Memoriam (1850), and Maud (1855), are of considerable length.
The Princess: A Medley, as Tennyson rightly called it, contains 3223 lines of blank verse. This poem, which is really a discussion of the woman question, relates in a half humorous way the story of a princess who broke off her engagement to a prince, founded a college for women, and determined to elevate her life to making them equal to men. The poem abounds in beautiful imagery and exquisite melody; but the solution of the question by the marriage of the princess has not completely satisfied modern thought. The finest parts of the poem are its artistic songs.
In Memoriam, an elegy in memory of Arthur Henry Hallam, was begun at Somersby in 1833, the year of Hallam's death, and added to at intervals for nearly sixteen years. When Tennyson first began the short lyrics to express his grief, he did not intend to publish them; but in 1850 he gave them to the world as one long poem of 725 four-line stanzas.
In Memoriam was directly responsible for Tennyson's appointment as poet-laureate. Queen Victoria declared that she received more comfort from it than from any other book except the Bible. The first stanza of the poem (quoted on page 9) has proved as much of a moral stimulus as any single utterance of Carlyle or of Browning.
This work is one of the three great elegies of a literature that stands first in elegiac poetry. Milton's Lycidas has more of a massive commanding power, and Shelley's Adonais rises at times to poetic heights that Tennyson did not reach; but neither Lycidas nor Adonais equals In Memoriam in tracing every shadow of bereavement, from the first feeling of despair until the mourner can realize that—
”...the song of woe
Is after all an earthly song,”
and can express his unassailable faith in—
“One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event
To which the whole creation moves.”
With this hopeful assurance closes Tennyson's most noble and beautiful poem.
Maud, a lyrical melodrama, paints the changing emotions of a lover who passes from morbid gloom to ecstasy. Then, in a moment of anger, he murders Maud's brother. Despair, insanity, and recovery follow, but he sees Maud's face no more. While the poem as a whole is not a masterpiece, it contains some of Tennyson's finest lyrics. The eleven stanzas of the lover's song to Maud, the—
“Queen Rose of the rosebud garden of girls,”
are such an exquisite blending of woodbine spice and musk of rose, of star and daffodil sky, of music of flute and song of bird, of the soul of the rose with the passion of the lover, of meadows and violets,—that we easily understand why Tennyson loved to read these lines.
The Idylls of the King.—In 1859 Tennyson published Lancelot and Elaine, one of a series of twelve Idylls, the last of which appeared in 1855. Together these form an epic on the subject of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Tennyson relied mainly on Malory's Morte d'Arthur for the characters and the stories.
These Idylls show the struggle to maintain noble ideals. Arthur relates how he collected—
“In that fair order of my Table Round,
A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
And be the fair beginning of a time.”
He made his knights swear to uphold the ideals of his court—
“To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honor his own word as if his God's,
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,
To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
And warship her by years of noble deeds
Until they won her.”
The twelve Idylls have as a background those different seasons of the year that accord with the special mood of the story. In Gareth and Lynette, the most interesting of the Idylls, the young hero leaves his home in spring, when the earth is joyous with birds and flowers. In the last and most nobly poetic of the series, The Passing of Arthur, the time is winter, when the knights seem to be clothed with their own frosty breath.
Sin creeps into King Arthur's realm and disrupts the order of the “Table Round.” He receives his mortal wound, and passes to rule in a kindlier realm that welcomed him as “a king returning from the wars.”
Although the Idylls of the King are uneven in quality and sometimes marred by overprofusion of ornament and by deficiency of dramatic skill, their limpid style, many fine passages of poetry, appealing stories, and high ideals have exerted a wider influence than any other of Tennyson's poems.
Later Poetry.—Tennyson continued to write poetry until almost the time of his death; but with the exception of his short swan song, Crossing the Bar, he did not surpass his earlier efforts. His Locksley Hall Sixty Year After (1886) voices the disappointments of the Victorian age and presents vigorous social philosophy. Some of his later verse, like The Northern Farmer and The Children's Hospital, are in closer touch with life than many of his earlier poems.
He wrote also several historical dramas, the best of which is Becket (1884); but his genius was essentially lyrical, not dramatic. Crossing the Bar, written in his eighty-first year, is not only the finest product of his later years, but also one of the very best of Victorian lyrics.
General Characteristics.—Tennyson is a poetic interpreter of the thought of the Victorian age. Huxley called him “the first poet since Lucretius who understood the drift of science.” In these four lines from The Princess, Tennyson gives the evolutionary history of the world, from nebula to man:—
“This world was once a fluid haze of light.
Till toward the center set the starry tides,
And eddied into suns, that wheeling cast
The planets: then the monster, then the man.”
Tennyson's poetry of nature is based on almost scientific observation of natural phenomena. Unlike Wordsworth, Tennyson does not regard nature as a manifestation of the divine spirit of love. He sees her more from the new scientific point of view, as “red in tooth and claw with rapine.” The hero of Maud says:—
“For nature is one with rapine, a harm no preacher can heal;
The Mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow spear'd by the
And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of plunder and
The constant warfare implied in the evolutionary theory of the survival of the fittest did not keep Tennyson from also presenting nature in her gentler aspects. In Maud, the lover sings—
”...whenever a March-wind sighs,
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,”
and he tells how “the soul of the rose” passed into his blood, and how the sympathetic passion-flower dropped “a splendid tear.” As beautiful as is much of Tennyson's nature poetry, he has not Wordsworth's power to invest it with “the light of setting suns,” or to cause it to awaken “thoughts that do lie too deep for tears.”
The conflict between science and religion, the doubts and the sense of world-pain are mirrored in Tennyson's verse. The Two Voices begins:—
“A still small voice spoke unto me,
Thou art so full of misery
Were it not better not to be?”
His poetry is, however, a great tonic to religious faith. The closing lines of In Memoriam and Crossing the Bar show how triumphantly he met all the doubts and the skepticism of the age.
Like Milton, Tennyson received much of his inspiration from books, especially from the classical writers; but this characteristic was more than counterbalanced by his acute observation and responsiveness to the thought of the age. Locksley Hall Sixty Years After shows that he was keenly alive to the social movements of the time.
Tennyson said that the scenes in his poems were so vividly conceived that he could have drawn them if he had been an artist. A twentieth century critic says that Tennyson is almost the inventor of such pictorial lyrics as A Dream of Fair Women and The Palace of Art.
The artistic finish of Tennyson's verse is one of its great charms. He said to a friend: “It matters little what we say; it is how we say it—though the fools don't knew it.” His poetry has, however, often been criticized for lack of depth. The variety in his subject matter, mode of expression, and rhythm renders his verse far more enjoyable than that of the formal age of Pope.
Tennyson's extraordinary popularity in his own time was largely due to the fact that he voiced so clearly and attractively the thought of the age. As another epoch ushers in different interests, they will naturally be uppermost in the mind of the new generation. We no longer feel the intense interest of the Victorians in the supposed conflict between science and religion. Their theory of evolution has been modified and has lost the force of novelty. Theories of government and social ideals have also undergone a gradual change. For these reasons much of Tennyson's verse has ceased to have its former wide appeal.
Tennyson has, however, left sufficient work of abiding value, both for its exquisite form and for its thought, to entitle him to be ranked as a great poet. We cannot imagine a time when Crossing the Bar, The Passing of Arthur, and the central thought of In Memoriam —
“'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all,”
will no longer interest readers. To Tennyson belong—
“Jewels five words long
That on the stretch'd forefinger of all Time
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE, 1837-1909
Life.—Swinburne was born in London in 1837. His father was an admiral in the English navy, and his mother, the daughter of an earl. The boy passed his summers in Northumberland and his winters in the Isle of Wight. He thus acquired that fondness for the sea, so noticeable in his poetry. His early experiences are traceable in lines like these:—
“Our bosom-belted billowy-blossoming hills,
Whose hearts break out in laughter like the sea.”
He went to Oxford for three years, but left without taking his degree. The story is current that he knew more Greek than his teachers but that he failed in an examination on the Scriptures. He sought to complete his education by wide reading and by travel, especially in France and Italy.
When he was twenty-five, he went to live for a short time at 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, in the western part of London, in the same house with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and George Meredith. Swinburne admired Rossetti's poetry and was much impressed with the Pre-Raphaelite virtues of simplicity and directness.
Swinburne never married. His deafness caused him to pass much of his long life in comparative retirement. His last thirty years were spent with his friend, the critic and poet, Theodore Watts-Dunton, at Putney on the Thames, a few miles southwest of London. Swinburne died in 1909 and was buried at Bonchurch in the Isle of Wight.
Works.—In 1864 England was enchanted with the melody of the choruses in his Atalanta in Calydon, a dramatic poem in the old Greek form. Lines like the following from the chorus, The Youth of the Year, show the quality for which his verse is most famous:—
“When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain.”
The first series of his Poems and Ballads (1866) contains The Garden of Proserpine, one of his best known poems. Proserpine “forgets the earth her mother” and goes to her “bloomless” garden:—
“And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
And flowers are put to scorn.”
Many volumes came in rapid succession from his pen. In 1904 his poems were collected in six octavo volumes containing 2357 pages. This collection includes the long narrative poems, Tristram of Lyonesseand The Tale of Balen, a faithful retelling of famous medieval stories. He, however, had more ability as a writer of lyrics than of narrative verse.
His poetic dramas fill five additional volumes. Chastelard (1865), one of the three dramas relating to Mary Queen of Scots, is the best of his plays. He had, however, neither the power to draw character nor the repression of speech necessary for a great dramatist. The best parts of his plays are really lyrical verse.
Many critics think that Swinburne's reputation would be as great as it now is, if he had ceased to write verse in 1866, at the age of twenty-nine, after producing Atalanta in Calydon and the first series of hisPoems and Ballads. Although his interests widened and his poetic range increased, much of his work during his last forty years is a repetition of earlier successes. His Songs before Sunrise, however (1871), and the next two volumes of Poems and Ballads (1878 and 1889) contain some poems that rank among his best.
Later in life he wrote a large amount of prose criticism, much of which deals with the Elizabethan dramatists. His A Study of Shakespeare (1880) and his shorter Shakespeare (1905) are especially suggestive. In spite of the fact that the reader must make constant allowance for his habit of using superlatives, he was an able critic.
General Characteristics.—Swinburne's poetry suffers from his tendency to drown his ideas in a sea of words.
Sometimes we gain no more definite ideas from reading many lines of his verse than from hearing music without words. Much of his poetry was suggested by wide reading, not by close personal contact with life. His verse sometimes offends from disregarding moral proprieties and from so expressing his atheism as to wound the feelings of religious people. His idea of a Supreme Power was colored by the old Grecian belief in Fate. In exact opposition to Wordsworth, Swinburne's youthful poems show that he regarded Nature as the incarnation of a Power malevolent to man. He lacked the optimism of Browning and the faith of Tennyson. The mantle of Byron and Shelley fell on Swinburne as the poet of revolt against what seemed to be religious or political tyranny.
After Tennyson's death, in 1892, Swinburne was the greatest living English poet; but, even if his verse had not offended Queen Victoria for the foregoing reasons, she would not have appointed him poet-laureate after the misery of the Russians had moved him in 1890 to write, referring to the Czar:—
“Night hath naught but one red star—Tyrannicide.
“God or man, be swift; hope sickens with delay:
Smite and send him howling down his father's way.”
Swinburne's crowning glory is his unquestioned mastery, unsurpassed by any poet since Milton, of the technique of varied melodious verse. This quality is evident, no matter whether he is describing the laughter of a child:—
“Sweeter far than all things heard,
Hand of harper, tone of bird,
Sound of woods at sundawn stirr'd,
Welling water's winsome ward,
Wind in warm wan weather,”
or expressing his fierce hatred for any condition or place where—
”...a curse was or a chain
A throne for torment or a crown for bane
Rose, moulded out of poor men's molten pain,”
or singing the song of a lover—
“If love were what the rose is,
And I were like the leaf,
Our lives would grow together
In sad or singing weather,
Blown fields or flowerful closes,
Green pleasure or grey grief;
If love were what the rose is,
And I were like the leaf;”
or voicing his early creed—
“That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea,”
or chanting in far nobler strains the Anglo-Saxon belief in the molding power of an infinite presence—
“I am in thee to save thee,
As my soul in thee saith,
Give thou as I gave thee,
Thy life-blood and breath,
Green leaves of thy labor, white flowers of thy thought, and red
fruit of thy death.”
RUDYARD KIPLING, 1865-
Life.—Rudyard Kipling, the youngest of the great Victorians, was born in Bombay, India, in 1865. His parents were people of culture and artistic training, the father, John Lockwood Kipling, being a recognized authority on Indian art. Like most English children born in India, Kipling, when very small, was sent to England to escape the fatal Indian heat. Afterwards in the story Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Kipling told the tragic experience of two Anglo-Indian children when separated from their parents. If it is true that this story is largely autobiographical, the separation must have been a trying ordeal in Kipling's childhood. Later he spent several years at Westward Ho, Devonshire, in a school conducted mainly for the sons of Indian officials. Stalky and Co., a broadly humorous book of schoolboy life, gives the Kipling of this period, in the character of the “egregious Beetle.”
When only seventeen, he returned to India and immediately began journalistic work. For seven years, first at Lahore and later at Allahabad, he was busy with the usual hackwork of a small newspaper. During these impressionable years, from seventeen to twenty-four, he gained his intimate knowledge of the strangely-colored, many-sided Indian life. His first stories and poems, often written in hot haste, to fill the urgent need of more copy, appeared as waifs and strays in the papers for which he wrote. A collection of verse, Departmental Ditties, published at Lahore in 1886, was well received; and it was quickly followed by several volumes of short stories. His ability thus gained early recognition in India.
At the age of twenty-four, he left India for London. Here his books found a publisher almost at once, and he was hailed as a new literary genius. His work became so popular that he was able to devote his whole time to writing. It is doubtful whether any writer since Dickens has received such quick and enthusiastic recognition from all classes of the English-speaking race. Even the street-car conductors were heard quoting him.
In 1892 he married Miss Caroline Balestier, an American, and afterwards lived for four years at Brattleboro, Vermont. Later he settled in Sussex, England, whence he has made long journeys to South Africa, Canada, and Egypt, amassing more knowledge of the English “around the Seven Seas.”
Probably the most remarkable feature of Kipling's career is the early age at which his genius developed. Before he left India he had published one book of verse and seven prose collections. By the time he was thirty, he had written The Jungle Books, most of his best short stories, and some of his finest verse.
Prose.—As a master of the modern short story, Kipling stands unsurpassed. His journalistic work helped him to acquire a direct, concentrated style of narrative, to find interest in an astonishing variety of subjects, and to seize on the right details for vivid presentation. He was fortunate in discovering in India a new literary field, in which his genius appears at its best. Some of his early tales of Indian life are marred by crudeness and by lack of feeling; but these faults decreased as he matured.
Kipling's stories depend for their interest on incident, not on analysis. He embodies romantic adventure and action in masterpieces as different as the terrible tragedy of The Man Who would be King (1888), the tender love story of Without Benefit of Clergy (1890), and the mystic dream-land of The Brushwood Boy (1895). He specially enjoyed portraying the English soldier. Perhaps his best-known characters are the privates Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd, whom we meet in such tales of mingled comedy and tragedy as With the Main Guard (1888), On Greenhow Hill (1891), The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney (1891), The Courting of Dinah Shadd (1981).
When Kipling traveled to new lands, he wrote stories of America, Africa, and the deep sea; but his later tales show an unfortunate increase in the use of technical terms and a lessening of his former dash and spontaneity. There are, however, readers who prefer such a delicate, subtle, story as They (1905), to his earlier masterpieces of strenuous action.
In The Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895), Kipling has accomplished the greatest of feats,—an original creation. From the moment the little brown baby, Mowgli, crawls into Mother Wolf's cave away from Shere Khan, the tiger, until the time for him to graduate from the jungle, we follow him under the spell of a fascination different from any that we have known before. The animals of the jungle have real personalities, from the chattering Bandar-log to the lumbering kindly Baloo. With all their intense individuality, they remain animals, each one true to his kind, hating or loving men, thinking mainly through their instincts, and surpassing human schoolmasters in teaching Mowgli the great laws of the jungle,—that obedience is “the head and the hoof of the Law,” that nothing was ever yet lost by silence, that, in the jungle, life and food depend on keeping one's temper, that no one shall kill for the pleasure of killing.
Above all stands the character of Mowgli, the wolf-adopted man-cub, human and yet brother to the animals. With a touch of genius, Kipling revealed the kinship between Mowgli and the denizens of the jungle. Kipling's eyes could see both the harsh realism of animal existence and the genuine idealism of Mother Wolf and the Pack and the Jungle-law.
Just So Stories (1902), written primarily for children, but entertaining to all, is a collection of romantic stories, mostly of animals, illustrated by Kipling himself. One of the best of these tales is The Cat that Walked by Himself, which has distinct ethical value in showing how the cat through service won his place by the fireside.
Though Kipling has written four novels, only two, The Light that Failed (1891) and Kim (1901), can compare with his best short stories. The Light that Failed, the tragedy of an artist who becomes blind, proves that Kipling was able to handle a long plot sufficiently well to sustain interest. Kim is an attempt to present as a more completed whole that India of which the stories give only glimpses. On the slenderest thread of plot is strung a bewildering array of scenes, characters, and incidents. His intimate knowledge of India and his photographic power of description are here used with remarkable picturesque effect.
Verse.—Kipling's poetry has many of the same qualities as his prose,—originality, force, love of action. In Barrack Room Ballads (1892), the soldier is again celebrated in vigorous songs with swinging choruses. Mandalay, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, Danny Deever, show what spirited verse can be fashioned from a common ballad meter and a bold use of dialect.
“So 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
You're a pore benighted 'eathen, but a first class fightin' man;
An' 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your 'ayrick 'ead of 'air—
You big black boundin' beggar—for you broke a British square!”
Much of his verse is political. His opinion of questions at issue is sometimes given with much heat, but always with sincerity and true patriotism. The best known of his patriotic songs, and perhaps his noblest poetic effort, The Recessional (1897), was inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of Victoria's reign. The Truce of the Bear (1898) is a warning against Russia. The Native-Born is a toast to the colonies in every clime.
Kipling's verse breaks with many of the accepted standards of English verse. He does not aim at such pure beauty of form as we find in Tennyson. He can handle skillfully many kinds of meter, as is shown inThe Song of the English, The Ballad of East and West, The Song of the Banjo, and many sea lyrics. Yet he uses mostly the common measures, attaining with these a free swing, a fitting of sound to sense, that are irresistible to the many—
“Common tunes that make you choke and blow your nose,
Vulgar tunes that bring the laugh that brings the groan—
I can rip your very heart-strings out with those.”
Some of his later work shows increasing seriousness of tone. The Recessional and the Hymn before Action are elevated in thought and expression. The bigness of L'Envoi shows poetic power capable of higher flights:—
“And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They
General Characteristics.—Kipling has carried to their highest development the principles of the Bret Harte School of short story writers. His style possesses those qualities necessary for telling a short tale,—directness, force, suggestiveness. Rarely has any writer so mastered the technique, the craftsmanship of this particular literary form. He has the gift of force and dramatic power, rather than of beauty and delicacy.
He excels in suggestive vivid description, and he draws wonderful pictures of all out-of-doors, especially of the sea; but nature remains merely the background for the human figures. Much of his vividness lies in the use of specific words. If he should employ the phraseology of his jungle laws to frame the first commandment for writers, it would be: “Seven times never be vague.” Few authors have at the very beginning of their career more implicitly heeded such a commandment, obedience to which is evident in the following description from The Courting of Dinah Shadd:—
“Over our heads burned the wonderful Indian stars, which are not
all pricked in on one plane, but preserving an orderly perspective,
draw the eye through the velvet darkness of the void up to the
barred doors of heaven itself. The earth was a grey shadow more
unreal than the sky. We could hear her breathing lightly in the
pauses between the howling of the jackals, the movement of the wind
in the tamarisks, and the fitful mutter of musketry-fire leagues
away to the left. A native woman from some unseen hut began to sing,
the mail train thundered past on its way to Delhi, and a roosting
crow cawed drowsily.”
Abundant and vivid use of metaphors serves to render his concreteness more varied and impressive. We find these in such expressions as “the velvet darkness,” “the kiss of the rain,” “the tree-road.” His celestial artists splash at a ten-league canvas “with brushes of comet's hair.” Five words from Mulvaney explain why he does not wish to leave his tent: “'Tis rainin' intrenchin' tools outside.”
Kipling's spirit is essentially masculine. He prefers to write of men, work, and battle, rather than of women and love. Since his interest is mainly in action, he shows small ability in character drawing. His people are clear-cut and alive, but we do not see them grow and develop as do George Eliot's characters.
Above all, he stands as the interpreter of the ideals and the interests of the Anglo-Saxons of his time. Those tendencies of the age, which seem to others so dangerously materialistic, are the very causes of his zest in life. In an age of machinery, he writes of the romance of steam, the soul of an engine, the flight of an airship.
His is a work-a-day world; but in work well done, in obedience to the established law, and in courage, he sees the proving of manhood, the test of the true gentleman—
“Who had done his work and held his peace and had no fear to die.”
Underlying all his thought is a deep belief in the “God of our fathers,” a God just to punish or reward, whom the English have reverenced through all their history. Linked with this faith is an intense feeling of patriotism toward that larger England of his imperialistic vision.
These qualities justly brought Kipling the 1907 Nobel prize for idealism in literature. He is truly the idealist of a practical age, teaching the romance, the joy, the vision in the common facts and virtues of present-day life.
The history and literature of the Victorian age show the influence of science. Darwin's conception of evolution affected all fields of thought. The tendency toward analysis and dissection is a result of scientific influence.
In describing the prose of the Victorian age, we have considered the work of thirteen writers; namely, Macaulay, the brilliant essayist and historian of the material advancement of England; Newman, essayist and theologian, who is noted for clear style, acute thought, and argumentative power; Carlyle, who awoke in his generation a desire for greater achievement, and who championed the spiritual interpretation of life in philosophy and history; Ruskin, the apostle of the beautiful and of more ideal relations in social life; the essayist Pater, whose prose is tinged with poetic color and mystic thought; Arnold, the great analytical critic; Dickens, educational and social reformer, whose novels deal chiefly with the lower classes; Thackeray, whose fiction is not surpassed in keen, satiric analysis of the upper classes of society; George Eliot, whose realistic stories of middle-class life show the influence of science in her conception of character as an orderly ethical growth; Stevenson, an artist in style, writer of romances, essays, and poems for children; Meredith, subtle novelist, distinguished for his comic spirit and portrayal of male egotism; Hardy, realistic novelist of the lowly life of Wessex; Kipling, whose Jungle Books are an original creation, and whose short stories surpass those of all other contemporaries.
In poetry, the age is best represented by five men; namely, Arnold, who voices the feeling of doubt and unrest; Browning, who, by his optimistic philosophy, leads to impregnable heights of faith, who analyzes emotions and notes the development of souls as they struggle against opposition from within and without, until they reach moments of supreme victory or defeat; Tennyson, whose careful art mirrors in beautiful verse much of the thought of the age, the influence of science, the unrest, the desire to know the problems of the future, as well as to steal occasional glances at beauty for its own sake; Swinburne, the greatest artist since Milton in the technique of verse; and Kipling, the poet of imperialistic England, whose ballads sing of her soldiers and sailors, and whose lyrics proclaim the Anglo-Saxon faith and joy in working.
REFERENCES FOR FURTHER STUDY
Walker's Essentials in English History, Cheney's A Short History of England, McCarthy's History of Our Own Times, Cheney's Industrial and Social History of England, Traill's Social England, VI.
The Cambridge History of English Literature.
Walker's The Literature of the Victorian Era.
Magnus's English Literature in the Nineteenth Century.
Saintsbury's A History of English Literature in the Nineteenth Century.
Kennedy's English Literature, 1880-1905.
Walker's Greater Victorian Poets.
Brownell's Victorian Prose Masters.
Payne's The Greater English Poets of the Nineteenth Century.
Brooke's Four Victorian Poets (Rossetti, Arnold, Morris).
Perry's A Study of Prose Fiction.
Benson's Rossetti. (E.M.L.)
Noyes's William Morris. (E.M.L.)
Trevelyan's Life and Letters of Macaulay. Morrison's Macaulay. (E.M.L.)
Minto's English Prose Literature (Macaulay and Carlyle).
Ward's The Life of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, 2 vols.
Newman's Letters and Correspondence, with a Brief Autobiography.
Froude's Thomas Carlyle, 2 vols. Nichol's Carlyle. (E.M.L.)
Garnett's Thomas Carlyle. (G.W.)
Froude's Jane Welsh Carlyle, 2 vols.
T. and A. Carlyle's New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle.
Cook's The Life of John Ruskin, 2 vols.
Ruskin's Praeterita, Scenes and Thoughts of My Past Life.
Benson's Ruskin: A Study in Personality.
Earland's Ruskin and his Circle.
Harrison's John Ruskin. (E.M.L.)
Birrell's Life of Charlotte Bronte.
Foster's Life of Dickens (abridged and revised by Gissing).
Kitton's Dickens, his Life, Writings, and Personality.
Gissing's Charles Dickens: A Critical Study.
Chesterton's Charles Dickens. Hughes's Dickens as an Educator.
Philip's A Dickens Dictionary.
Melville's William Makepeace Thackeray, 2 vols.
Trollope's Thackeray. (E.M.L.)
Merivale and Marzials's Life of Thackeray. (G.W.)
Mudge and Sears's A Thackeray Dictionary.
Cross's George Eliot's Life as Related in her Letters and Journals.
Browning's Life of George Eliot. (G.W.) Stephens's George Eliot. (E.M.L.)
Cook's George Eliot: A Critical Study of her Life, Writings, and Philosophy.
Olcott's George Eliot: Scenes and People in Her Novels.
Hamilton's Robert Louis Stevenson.
Balfour's The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson, 2 vols.
The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Sidney Colvin.
Raleigh's Robert Louis Stevenson. Hamerton's Stevensoniana.
Japp's Robert Louis Stevenson.
Hamerton's George Meredith: His Life and Art in Anecdote and Criticism.
Letters of George Meredith, 2 vols.
Sturge Henderson's George Meredith.
Bailey's The Novels of George Meredith: A Study.
Trevelyan's The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith.
Beach's The Comic Spirit in George Meredith.
Lionel Johnson's The Art of Thomas Hardy.
Macdonell's Thomas Hardy.
Abercrombie's Thomas Hardy: A Critical Study.
Saxelby's Thomas Hardy Dictionary.
Phelps's Essays on Modern Novelists (Hardy, Kipling, Stevenson).
Benson's Walter Pater. (E.M.L.)
Paul's Matthew Arnold. (E.M.L.)
Saintsbury's Matthew Arnold.
Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett.
Griffin and Minchin's The Life of Robert Browning.
Chesterton's Robert Browning. (E.M.L.)
Sharp's Life of Browning. (G.W.)
Symons's An Introduction to the Study of Browning.
Foster's The Message of Robert Browning.
Orr's A Handbook to the works of Robert Browning.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, A Memoir, by his son.
Benson's Alfred Tennyson (the best brief work).
Lyall's Tennyson. (E.M.L.)
Brooke's Tennyson: His Art and Relation to Modern Life.
Van Dyke's The Poetry of Tennyson.
Gordon's The Social Ideals of Alfred Tennyson.
Lackyer's Tennyson as a Student and Poet of Nature.
Luce's Handbook to the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Thomas's Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study.
Knowles's Kipling Primer.
Le Galliene's Rudyard Kipling, A Criticism.
Clemens's A Ken of Kipling.
Young's Dictionary of the Characters and Scenes in the Stories and Poems of Rudyard Kipling.
Canby's The Short Story in English (Kipling).
Cooper's Some English Story Tellers (Kipling).
Leeb-Lundberg's Word Formation in Kipling (excellent).
SUGGESTED READINGS WITH QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
The Pre-Raphaelites.—Read Rossetti's The Blessed Damozel, Sister Helen, The King's Tragedy, Love's Nocturne, and Mary's Girlhood. All of these are given in Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Selections may be found in Bronson, IV., Century, Oxford Book of Victorian verse, and Manly, I. Selections from Christina Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite verse are given in all except Page.
From William Morris, read Two Red Roses Across the Moon, The Defence of Guenevere (Page's British Poets), and the selections from The Earthly Paradise in either Page, Century, Bronson, IV., or Manly, I.
What part did Ruskin play in this new movement? Point out the simplest, the most affecting, and the most pleasing stanza in The Blessed Damozel. What Pre-Raphaelite qualities in this poem have made it such a favorite? What are the chief characteristics of Rossetti's other verse? Note specially Miss Rossetti's religious verse.
What Pre-Raphaelite qualities do Morris's Two Red Roses across the Moon (1858) and The Defence of Guenevere (1858) show? Compare this early verse with the selections from The Earthly Paradise(1868-1870).
Macaulay.—Read either the Essay on Milton or the Essay on Addison (Eclectic English Classics or Gateway Series) or the selections in Craik, V., Manly, II., Century, or Dickinson and Roe'sNineteenth Century Prose.
Read History of England, Chap. IX., or the selections in Craik V., or Century, or Manly, II.
What are some of the qualities that cause Macaulay's writings to outstrip in popularity other works of a similar nature? What qualities in his style may be commended to young writers? What are his special defects? Contrast his narrative style in Chap. IX. of the History with Carlyle's in The French Revolution, Vol. I., Book V., Chap. VI.
Newman.—The best volume of selections is edited by Lewis E. Gates (228 pages, 75 cents). Dickinson and Roe's Nineteenth Century English Prose contains Newman's essay on Literature. Selections are given in Craik V., Century, and Manly, II.
Compare his style with Macaulay's and note the resemblance and the difference. Why did Newman call himself a rhetorician? What qualities does he add to those of a rhetorician? Select passages that show his special clearness, concreteness, also his rhetorical and argumentative power.
Carlyle.—Read the Essay on Robert Burns (Eclectic English Classics or Gateway Series); Sartor Resartus, Book III., Chap. VI. (Everyman's Library); The French Revolution, Vol. I., Book V., Chap. VI. (Everyman's Library). Selections may be found in Craik, V., Century, Manly, II., and Evans's Carlyle (Masters of Literature).
What marked difference in manner of treatment is shown in Macaulay's Milton or Addison and Carlyle's Burns? What was Carlyle's message in Sartor Resartus? What did Huxley and Tyndale say of his influence? What are the most noteworthy qualities of The French Revolution? What are the chief characteristics of Carlyle's style?
Ruskin.—In Vol. I., Part II., of Modern Painters, read the first part of Chap. I. of Sec. III., Chap. I. of Sec. IV., and Chap. I. of Sec. V., and note Ruskin's surprising accuracy of knowledge in dealing with aspects of the natural world. The Stones of Venice, Vol. III., Chap. IV., states Ruskin's theory of art and its close relation to morality. Excellent selections from the various works of Ruskin will be found in An Introduction to the Writings of John Ruskin, by Vida D. Scudder. Selections are also given in Century, Manly, II., Riverside Literature Series, and Bronson's English Essays (Modern Painters and Fors Clavigera). Sesame and lilies, The King of the Golden River, and The Stones of Venice are published in Everyman's Library.
What was the message of Modern Painters? of The Stones of Venice? of Fors Clavigera? Why is Ruskin called a disciple of Carlyle? Select a passage from Ruskin's descriptive prose and indicate its chief qualities.
Bronte, Bulwer Lytton, Gaskell, Trollope, Kingsley, Reade, Blackmore, and Barrie.—Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), Last Days of Pompeii (Lytton), Cranford (Gaskell),Barchester Towers (Trollope), Westward Ho! (Kingsley), The Cloister and the Hearth (Reade), and Lorna Doone (Blackmore) are all published in Everyman's Library. Barrie's The Little Minister is included in Burt's Home Library. The works of the Bronte sisters will be much more appreciated if Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte (Everyman's Library) is read first. The novels by the Bronte sisters, Mrs. Gaskell, Trollope, and Barrie record their impressions of contemporary life. The other novels are historical. Lytton gives a vivid account of the last days of Pompeii. Kingsley thrills with his story of the sailors of Elizabeth's time. Reade, who studied libraries to insure the accuracy of The Cloister and the Hearth, portrays vividly the oncoming of the Renaissance in he fifteenth century. Blackmore's great story, which records some incidents of the Monmouth rebellion (1685), is written more to interest than to throw light on history.
Dickens.—The first works of Dickens to be read are Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol, and David Copperfield. These are all published in Everyman's Library. Craik, V., gives “Mr. Pickwick on the Ice,” “Christmas at the Cratchit's,” and two scenes from David Copperfield.
Select passages that show (a) humor, (b) pathos, (c) sympathy with children, (d) optimism. Describe some one of the characters. Can you instance a case here a mannerism is made to take the place of other characterization? Is Dickens a master of plot? of style?
Thackeray.—Read Henry Esmond (Eclectic English Classics) and The English Humorists of the Fifteenth Century (Macmillan's Pocket Classics). Craik, V., and Manly, II. give selections.
Contrast the manner of treatment in Thackeray's historical novel, Henry Esmond, and in Scott's historical romance, Ivanhoe. Thackeray says: “The best humor is that which contains most humanity—that which is flavored throughout with tenderness and kindness.” Would this serve as a definition of Thackeray's own style of humor? State definitely how he differs from Dickens in portraying character. Compare Thackeray's English Humorists with Macaulay's Milton and Carlyle's Burns. Which essay leaves the most definite ideas? Which is the most interesting? Which has the most atmosphere? How should you characterize Thackeray's style?
George Eliot.—Read Silas Marner (Eclectic English Classics or Gateway Series), or selections in Craik, V., or Manly, II. In what does the chief strength of Silas Marner consist,—in the plot, the characters, or the description? Does the ethical purpose of this novel grow naturally out of the story? Is the inner life or only the outward appearance of the characters revealed? Wherein do they show growth?
Stevenson.—Read Treasure Island (Eclectic English Classics or Gateway Series), Inland Voyage, and Travels with a Donkey (Gateway Series). From the essays read Child's Play, Aes Triplex (both in Virginibus Puerisque). Some of the essays and best short stories (including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) are given in Canby and Pierce's Selections from Robert Louis Stevenson. From the volume of poems called Underwoods, read The Celestial Surgeon and Requiem. A Child's Garden of Verse may be read entire in an hour.
Compare Treasure Island with Robinson Crusoe. What are the chief characteristics of An Inland Voyage and Travels with a Donkey? Why is he called a romantic writer? As an essayist, compare him with Thackeray. What are the special qualities of his style?
George Meredith.—The Egoist is Meredith's most representative novel. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and Diana of the Crossways are also masterpieces. From the Poems read Love in the Valley, The Lark Ascending, Melanthus, Jump-to-Glory Jane.
What is the central purpose of The Egoist? Select specially Meredithian passages which show his general characteristics. Can you find any other author whose humor resembles Meredith's? Would he naturally be more popular with men or with women?
Hardy.—Hardy's most enjoyable novel is Far from the Madding Crowd. The Return of the Native is one of his strongest works.
What are some of the most striking differences between him and Meredith? Which one is naturally the better story-teller? Where are the scenes of most of Hardy's novels laid? What is his theory of life?
Arnold.—Read Dover Beach, Memorial Verses, Stanzas in Memory of the Author of “Obermann” and Sohrab and Rustum (Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, Bronson, IV., Manly, I.).
Is Arnold the poet of fancy or of reflection? How does his poetry show one phase of nineteenth-century thought?
Arnold's Essays, Literary and Critical are published in Everyman's Library. The best volume of selections from the prose writings of Arnold is the one edited by Lewis E. Gates (348 pages, 75 cents). Good selections are given in Craik, V., Manly, I. (Sweetness and light), Century (The Study of Poetry). Arnold's Introduction to Ward, I., is well worth reading.
What quality specially marks Arnold's criticism? Compare him as a critic with Coleridge, Macaulay, Carlyle, and Thackeray. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a style like Arnold's?
Pater.—Read the essay, Leonardo da Vinci (Dickinson and Roe's Nineteenth Century Prose, pp. 338-368), from Pater's “golden book,” The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Literature. E.E. Hale'sSelections from Walter Pater (268 pages, 75 cents) gives representative selections. Manly, II., and Century give the essay on Style.
What are the chief characteristics of Pater's style? Compare it with Macaulay's, Newman's, Ruskin's, and Matthew Arnold's. Has Pater a message? Does he show the spirit of the time?
The Brownings.—From Elizabeth Barrett Browning, read Cowper's Grave, the Cry of the Children, and from her Sonnets from the Portuguese, Nos. I., III., VI., X., XVIII., XX., XXVI., XXVIII., XLI., XLIII.
Mrs. Browning's verse comes from the heart and should be felt rather than criticized. Fresh interest may, however, by given to a study of her Sonnets from the Portuguese, by comparing them with any other series of love sonnets, excepting Shakespeare's.
Robert Browning's shorter poems are best for the beginner, who should read Rabbi Ben Ezra, Abt Vogler, Home Thoughts from Abroad, Prospice, Saul, The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Baker's Browning's Shorter Poems (Macmillan's Pocket Classics) contains a very good collection of his shorter poems. Representative selections from Browning's poems are given in Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, Bronson, IV., Manly, I., and Century.
Browning's masterpiece, The Ring and the Book (Oxford Edition, Oxford University Press) would be apt to repel beginners. This should be studied only after a previous acquaintance with his shorter poems.
Define Browning's creed as found in Rabbi Ben Ezra. Is he an ethical teacher? Is there any similarity between his teaching and Carlyle's? What most interests Browning,—word-painting, narration, action, psychological analysis, or technique of verse? See whether a comparison of his Prospice with Tennyson's Crossing the Bar does not help you to understand Browning's peculiar cast of mind. What qualities in Browning entitle him to be ranked as a great poet?
Tennyson.—From his 1842 volume, read the poems mentioned on page 556. From The Princess, read the lyrical songs; from In Memoriam, the parts numbered XLI., LIV., LVII., and CXXXI.; fromMaud, the eleven stanzas beginning: “Come into the garden, Maud”; from The Idylls of the King, read Gareth and Lynette, Lancelot and Elaine, The Passing of Arthur (Van Dyke's edition in Gateway Series); from his later poems, The Higher Pantheism, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, and Crossing the Bar.
The best single volume edition of Tennyson's works is published in Macmillan's Globe Poets. Selections are given in Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, Bronson, IV., Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, Manly, I., and Century.
In The Palace of Art, study carefully the stanzas from XIV. to XXIII., which are illustrative of Tennyson's characteristic style of description. Compare Locksley Hall with Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, and note the difference in thought and metrical form. Does the later poem show a gain over the earlier? Compare Tennyson's nature poetry with that of Keats and Wordsworth. To what is chiefly due the pleasure in reading Tennyson's poetry: to the imagery, form, thought? What idea of his faith do you gain from In Memoriam and The Passing of Arthur? In what is Tennyson the poetic exponent of the age? Is it probable that Tennyson's popularity will increase or wane? Select some of his verse that you think will be as popular a hundred years hence as now.
Swinburne.—Read A Song in Time of Order, The Youth of the Year (Atlanta in Calydon), A Match, The Garden of Proserpine, Hertha, By the North Sea, The Hymn of Man, The Roundel, A Child's Laughter.
The most of the above are given in Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, Bronson, IV., Manly, I., Century, Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.
Compare both the metrical skill and poetic ideas of Swinburne and Tennyson. Can you find any poet who surpasses Swinburne in the technique of verse? What are his chief excellencies and faults?
Kipling.—Read The Jungle Books. The following are among the best of his short stories: The Man Who Would be King, The Brushwood Boy, The Courting of Dinah Shadd, Drums of the Fore and Aft, Without Benefit of Clergy, On Greenhow Hill.
From his poems read Mandalay, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, Danny Deever, The 'Eathen, Ballad of East and West, Recessional, The White Man's Burden ; also Song of the Banjo, and L'Envoi from Seven Seas, published by Doubleday, Page and Company.
Why is The Jungle Book called an original creation? What are the most distinctive dualities of Kipling's short stories? Point out in what respects they show the methods of the journalist. How does Kipling sustain the interest? What limitations do you notice? What is specially remarkable about his style? What are the principal characteristics of his verse? What subjects appeal to him? Why is his verse so popular?
Minor Poets.—Read the selections from Clough, Henley, Bridges, Davidson, Thompson, Watson, Dobson and Symons in either The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse or Stevenson's The Home Book of Verse. The Poetical Works of Robert Bridges is inexpensively published by the Oxford University Press. Dobson's verse has been gathered into the single volume Collected Poems (1913).
What are the chief characteristics of each of the above authors? Do these minor versifiers fill a want not fully supplied by the great poets?
FOOTNOTES TO CHAPTER IX:
[Footnote 1: A Liberal Education and Where to Find It (Lay Sermons).]
[Footnote 2: For suggested readings in Pater, see p. 584.]
[Footnote 3: Pp. 225-364 of the Oxford University Press edition of his Poetical Works.]
[Footnote 4: Printed by permission of The Macmillan Company.]
[Footnote 5: Given in Stevenson's Home Book of Verse and The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.]
[Footnote 6: History of England, Vol. III, Chap. XI.]
[Footnote 7: Morison's Life of Macaulay, p. 139.]
[Footnote 8: The Idea of a University (Literature: A Lecture).]
[Footnote 9: For Claviers, Letter I.]
[Footnote 10: Praeterita, Vol. II., Chap. V.]
[Footnote 11: Silas Marner, Chap. VI.]
[Footnote 12: The Scholar Gypsy.]
[Footnote 13: A Southern Light.]
[Footnote 14: The Grande Chartreuse.]
[Footnote 15: Home Thoughts from Abroad.]
[Footnote 16: A.C. Benson's Alfred Tennyson, p. 157.]
[Footnote 17 &18: Printed by permission of Rudyard Kipling and Doubleday, Page and Company.]
[Footnote 19: For full titles, see p. 6.]