CHAPTER XI. PERIOD IX. THE VICTORIAN PERIOD, ABOUT 1830 TO 1901
GENERAL CONDITIONS. The last completed period of English literature, almost coincident in extent with the reign of the queen whose name it bears (Victoria, queen 1837-1901), stands nearly beside The Elizabethan period in the significance and interest of its work. The Elizabethan literature to be sure, in its imaginative and spiritual enthusiasm, is the expression of a period more profoundly great than the Victorian; but the Victorian literature speaks for an age which witnessed incomparably greater changes than any that had gone before in all the conditions of life—material comforts, scientific knowledge, and, absolutely speaking, in intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. Moreover, to twentieth century students the Victorian literature makes a specially strong appeal because it is in part the literature of our own time and its ideas and point of view are in large measure ours. We must begin by glancing briefly at some of the general determining changes and conditions to which reference has just been made, and we may naturally begin with the merely material ones.
Before the accession of Queen Victoria the 'industrial revolution,' the vast development of manufacturing made possible in the latter part of the eighteenth century by the introduction of coal and the steam engine, had rendered England the richest nation in the world, and the movement continued with steadily accelerating momentum throughout the period. Hand in hand with it went the increase of population from less than thirteen millions in England in 1825 to nearly three times as many at the end of the period. The introduction of the steam railway and the steamship, at the beginning of the period, in place of the lumbering stagecoach and the sailing vessel, broke up the old stagnant and stationary habits of life and increased the amount of travel at least a thousand times. The discovery of the electric telegraph in 1844 brought almost every important part of Europe, and eventually of the world, nearer to every town dweller than the nearest county had been in the eighteenth century; and the development of the modern newspaper out of the few feeble sheets of 1825 (dailies and weeklies in London, only weeklies elsewhere), carried full accounts of the doings of the whole world, in place of long-delayed fragmentary rumors, to every door within a few hours. No less striking was the progress in public health and the increase in human happiness due to the enormous advance in the sciences of medicine, surgery, and hygiene. Indeed these sciences in their modern form virtually began with the discovery of the facts of bacteriology about 1860, and the use of antiseptics fifteen years later, and not much earlier began the effective opposition to the frightful epidemics which had formerly been supposed to be dependent only on the will of Providence.
Political and social progress, though less astonishing, was substantial. In 1830 England, nominally a monarchy, was in reality a plutocracy of about a hundred thousand men—landed nobles, gentry, and wealthy merchants—whose privileges dated back to fifteenth century conditions. The first Reform Bill, of 1832, forced on Parliament by popular pressure, extended the right of voting to men of the 'middle class,' and the subsequent bills of 1867 and 1885 made it universal for men. Meanwhile the House of Commons slowly asserted itself against the hereditary House of Lords, and thus England became perhaps the most truly democratic of the great nations of the world. At the beginning of the period the social condition of the great body of the population was extremely bad. Laborers in factories and mines and on farms were largely in a state of virtual though not nominal slavery, living, many of them, in unspeakable moral and physical conditions. Little by little improvement came, partly by the passage of laws, partly by the growth of trades-unions. The substitution in the middle of the century of free-trade for protection through the passage of the 'Corn-Laws' afforded much relief by lowering the price of food. Socialism, taking shape as a definite movement in the middle of the century, became one to be reckoned with before its close, though the majority of the more well-to-do classes failed to understand even then the growing necessity for far-reaching economic and social changes. Humanitarian consciousness, however, gained greatly during the period. The middle and upper classes awoke to some extent to their duty to the poor, and sympathetic benevolent effort, both organized and informal, increased very largely in amount and intelligence. Popular education, too, which in 1830 had no connection with the State and was in every respect very incomplete, was developed and finally made compulsory as regards the rudiments.
Still more permanently significant, perhaps, was the transformation of the former conceptions of the nature and meaning of the world and life, through the discoveries of science. Geology and astronomy now gradually compelled all thinking people to realize the unthinkable duration of the cosmic processes and the comparative littleness of our earth in the vast extent of the universe. Absolutely revolutionary for almost all lines if thought was the gradual adoption by almost all thinkers of the theory of Evolution, which, partly formulated by Lamarck early in the century, received definite statement in 1859 in Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species.' The great modification in the externals of religious belief thus brought about was confirmed also by the growth of the science of historical criticism.
This movement of religious change was met in its early stages by the very interesting reactionary 'Oxford' or 'Tractarian' Movement, which asserted the supreme authority of the Church and its traditional doctrines. The most important figure in this movement, who connects it definitely with literature, was John Henry Newman (1801-90), author of the hymn 'Lead, Kindly Light,' a man of winning personality and great literary skill. For fifteen years, as vicar of the Oxford University Church, Newman was a great spiritual force in the English communion, but the series of 'Tracts for the Times' to which he largely contributed, ending in 1841 in the famous Tract 90, tell the story of his gradual progress toward Rome. Thereafter as an avowed Roman Catholic and head of a monastic establishment Newman showed himself a formidable controversialist, especially in a literary encounter with the clergyman-novelist Charles Kingsley which led to Newman's famous 'Apologia pro Vita Sua' (Apology for My Life), one of the secondary literary masterpieces of the century. His services to the Catholic Church were recognized in 1879 by his appointment as a Cardinal. More than one of the influences thus hastily surveyed combine in creating the moral, social, and intellectual strenuousness which is one of the main marks of the literature of the period. More conspicuously than ever before the majority of the great writers, not least the poets and novelists, were impelled not merely by the emotional or dramatic creative impulse but by the sense of a message for their age which should broaden the vision and elevate the ideals of the masses of their fellows. The literature of the period, therefore, lacks the disinterested and joyous spontaneity of, for example, the Elizabethan period, and its mood is far more complex than that of the partly socially-minded pseudo-classicists.
While all the new influences were manifesting themselves in Victorian literature they did not, of course, supersede the great general inherited tendencies. This literature is in the main romantic. On the social side this should be evident; the Victorian social humanitarianism is merely the developed form of the eighteenth century romantic democratic impulse. On the esthetic side the romantic traits are also present, though not so aggressively as in the previous period; with romantic vigor the Victorian literature often combines exquisite classical finish; indeed, it is so eclectic and composite that all the definite older terms take on new and less sharply contrasting meanings when applied to it.
So long a period naturally falls into sub-divisions; during its middle part in particular, progress and triumphant romanticism, not yet largely attacked by scientific scepticism, had created a prevailing atmosphere of somewhat passive sentiment and optimism both in society and in literature which has given to the adjective 'mid-Victorian' a very definite denotation. The adjective and its period are commonly spoken of with contempt in our own day by those persons who pride themselves on their complete sophistication and superiority to all intellectual and emotional weakness. But during the 'mid-Victorian' years, there was also a comparative healthiness in the lives of the well-to-do classes and in literature which had never before been equalled and which may finally prove no less praiseworthy than the rather self-conscious freedom and unrestraint of the early twentieth century.
The most important literature of the whole period falls under the three heads of essays, poetry, and prose fiction, which we may best consider in that order.
LORD MACAULAY. The first great figure, chronologically, in the period, and one of the most clearly-defined and striking personalities in English literature, is Thomas Babington Macaulay, [Footnote: The details of Macaulay's life are known from the; famous biography of him by his nephew, Sir George Trevelyan.] who represents in the fullest degree the Victorian vigor and delight in material progress, but is quite untouched by the Victorian spiritual striving. The descendant of Scottish ministers and English Quakers, Macaulay was born in 1800. His father was a tireless and devoted member of the group of London anti-slavery workers (Claphamites), and was Secretary of the company which conducted Sierra Leone (the African state for enfranchised negroes); he had also made a private fortune in African trade. From his very babyhood the son displayed almost incredible intellectual precocity and power of memory. His voracious reading began at the age of three, when he 'for the most part lay on the rug before the fire, with his book on the floor, and a piece of bread-and-butter in his hand.' Once, in his fifth year, when a servant had spilled an urn of hot coffee over his legs, he replied to the distressed inquiries of the lady of the house, 'Thank you, madam, the agony is abated.' From the first it seems to have been almost impossible for him to forget anything which had ever found lodgment in, or even passed through, his mind. His childish production of both verse and prose was immense. These qualities and accomplishments, however, did not make him a prig. Both as child and as man, though he was aggressive and showed the prejudices of his class, he was essentially natural and unaffected; and as man he was one of the most cordial and affectionate of companions, lavish of his time with his friends, and one of the most interesting of conversationalists. As he grew toward maturity he proved unique in his manner, as well as in his power, of reading. It is said that he read books faster than other people skimmed them, and skimmed them as fast as any one else could turn the leaves, this, however, without superficiality. One of the habits of his middle life was to walk through London, even the most crowded parts, 'as fast as other people walked, and reading a book a great deal faster than anybody else could read.' His remarkable endowments, however, were largely counterbalanced by his deficiency in the spiritual sense. This appears most seriously in his writings, but it shows itself also in his personal tastes. For Nature he cared little; like Dr. Johnson he 'found London the place for him.' One occasion when he remarked on the playing of 'God save the Queen' is said to have been the only one when he ever appeared to distinguish one tune from another. Even on the material side of life he had limitations very unusual in an English gentleman. Except for walking, which might almost be called a main occupation with him, he neither practised nor cared for any form of athletic exercise, 'could neither swim nor row nor drive nor skate nor shoot,' nor scarcely ride.
From private schools Macaulay proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he remained through the seven years required for the Master's degree. In spite of his aversion for mathematics, he finally won a 'lay' fellowship, which did not involve residence at the University nor any other obligation, but which almost sufficed for his support during the seven years of its duration. At this time his father failed in his business, and during several years Macaulay was largely occupied with the heavy task of reestablishing it and paying the creditors. In college he had begun to write in prose and verse for the public literary magazines, and in 1825 appeared his essay on Milton, the first of the nearly forty literary, historical, and biographical essays which during the next thirty years or more he contributed to 'The Edinburgh Review.' He also nominally studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1826, but he took no interest in the profession. In 1828 he was made a Commissioner of Bankruptcy and in 1830 he attained the immediate object of his ambition by receiving from a nobleman who controlled it a seat in Parliament. Here he at once distinguished himself as orator and worker. Heart and soul a Liberal, he took a prominent part in the passage of the first Reform Bill, of 1832, living at the same time a busy social life in titled society. The Ministry rewarded his services with a position on the Board of Control, which represented the government in its relations with the East India Company, and in 1834, in order to earn the fortune which seemed to him essential to his continuance in the unremunerative career of public life, he accepted the position of legal adviser to the Supreme Council of India, which carried with it a seat in that Council and a salary of L10,000 a year. During the three months voyage to India he 'devoured' and in many cases copiously annotated a vast number of books in 'Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and English; folios, quartos, octavos, and duodecimos.' Under the pressure of actual necessity he now mastered the law, and the most important parts of the astonishing mass of work that he performed during his three and a half years in India consisted in redrafting the penal code and in helping to organize education.
Soon after his return to England he was elected to Parliament as member for Edinburgh, and for two years he was in the Cabinet. Somewhat later the publication of his 'Lays of Ancient Rome' and of his collected essays brought him immense fame as a writer, and in 1847 his defeat at Edinburgh for reelection to Parliament gave him time for concentrated labor on the 'History of England' which he had already begun as his crowning work. To it he thenceforth devoted most of his energies, reading and sifting the whole mass of available source-material and visiting the scenes of the chief historical events. The popular success of the five volumes which he succeeded in preparing and published at intervals was enormous. In 1852 he was reelected to Parliament at Edinburgh, but ill-health resulting from his long-continued excessive expenditure of energy warned him that he had not long to live. He was made a baron in 1857 and died in 1859, deeply mourned both because of his manly character and because with him perished mostly unrecorded a knowledge of the facts of English history more minute, probably, than that of any one else who has ever lived.
Macaulay never married, but, warm-hearted as he was, always lived largely in his affection for his sisters and for the children of one of them, Lady Trevelyan. In his public life he displayed as an individual a fearless and admirable devotion to principle, modified somewhat by the practical politician's devotion to party. From every point of view, his character was remarkable, though bounded by his very definite limitations.
Least noteworthy among Macaulay's works are his poems, of which the 'Lays of Ancient Rome' are chief. Here his purpose is to embody his conception of the heroic historical ballads which must have been current among the early Romans as among the medieval English—to recreate these ballads for modern readers. For this sort of verse Macaulay's temperament was precisely adapted, and the 'Lays' present the simple characters, scenes, and ideals of the early Roman republican period with a sympathetic vividness and in stirring rhythms which give them an unlimited appeal to boys. None the less the 'Lays' really make nothing else so clear as that in the true sense of the word Macaulay was not at all a poet. They show absolutely nothing of the finer feeling which adds so much, for example, to the descriptions in Scott's somewhat similar romances, and they are separated by all the breadth of the world from the realm of delicate sensation and imagination to which Spenser and Keats and all the genuine poets are native-born.
The power of Macaulay's prose works, as no critic has failed to note, rests on his genius as an orator. For oratory he was rarely endowed. The composition of a speech was for him a matter of a few hours; with almost preternatural mental activity he organized and sifted the material, commonly as he paced up and down his garden or his room; then, the whole ready, nearly verbatim, in his mind, he would pass to the House of Commons to hold his colleagues spell-bound during several hours of fervid eloquence. Gladstone testified that the announcement of Macaulay's intention to speak was 'like a trumpet call to fill the benches.' The great qualities, then, of his essays and his 'History' are those which give success to the best sort of popular oratory—dramatic vividness and clearness, positiveness, and vigorous, movement and interest. He realizes characters and situations, on the external side, completely, and conveys his impression to his readers with scarcely any diminution of force. Of expository structure he is almost as great a master as Burke, though in his essays and 'History' the more concrete nature of his material makes him prevailingly a narrator. He sees and presents his subjects as wholes, enlivening them with realistic details and pictures, but keeping the subordinate parts subordinate and disposing of the less important events in rapid summaries. Of clear and trenchant, though metallic, narrative and expository style he is a master. His sentences, whether long or short, are always lucid; he knows the full value of a short sentence suddenly snapped out after a prolonged period; and no other writer has ever made such' frequent and striking (though somewhat monotonous) use of deliberate oratorical balance of clauses and strong antithesis, or more illuminating use of vivid resumes. The best of his essays, like those on the Earl of Chatham and on the two men who won India for England, Clive and Warren Hastings, are models of the comparatively brief comprehensive dissertation of the form employed by Johnson in his 'Lives of the Poets.'
Macaulay, however, manifests the, defects even of his virtues. His positiveness, fascinating and effective as it is for an uncritical reader, carries with it extreme self-confidence and dogmatism, which render him violently intolerant of any interpretations of characters and events except those that he has formed, and formed sometimes hastily and with prejudice. The very clearness and brilliancy of his style are often obtained at the expense of real truth; for the force of his sweeping statements and his balanced antitheses often requires much heightening or even distortion of the facts; in making each event and each character stand out in the plainest outline he has often stripped it of its background of qualifying circumstances. These specific limitations, it will be evident, are outgrowths of his great underlying deficiency—the deficiency in spiritual feeling and insight. Macaulay is a masterly limner of the external side of life, but he is scarcely conscious of the interior world in which the finer spirits live and work out their destinies. Carlyle's description of his appearance is significant: 'I noticed the homely Norse features that you find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself, “Well, any one can see that you are an honest, good sort of fellow, made out of oatmeal.” Macaulay's eminently clear, rapid, and practical mind comprehended fully and respected whatever could be seen and understood by the intellect; things of more subtle nature he generally disbelieved in or dismissed with contempt. In dealing with complex or subtle characters he cannot reveal the deeper spiritual motives from which their action sprang; and in his view of history he does not include the underlying and controlling spiritual forces. Macaulay was the most brilliant of those whom the Germans have named Philistines, the people for whom life consists of material things; specifically he was the representative of the great body of middle-class early-Victorian liberals, enthusiastically convinced that in the triumphs of the Liberal party, of democracy, and of mechanical invention, the millennium was being rapidly realized. Macaulay wrote a fatal indictment of himself when in praising Bacon as the father of modern science he depreciated Plato, the idealist. Plato's philosophy, said Macaulay, 'began in words and ended in words,' and he added that 'an acre in Middlesex is better than a peerage in Utopia.' In his literary and personal essays, therefore, such as the famous ones on Milton and Bacon, which belong early in his career, all his immense reading did not suffice to produce sympathetic and sensitive judgments; there is often more pretentiousness of style than significance of interpretation. In later life he himself frankly expressed regret that he had ever written these essays.
Macaulay's 'History of England' shows to some degree the same faults as the essays, but here they are largely corrected by the enormous labor which he devoted to the work. His avowed purpose was to combine with scientific accuracy the vivid picturesqueness of fiction, and to 'supersede the last fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies.' His method was that of an unprecedented fulness of details which produces a crowded pageant of events and characters extremely minute but marvelously lifelike. After three introductory chapters which sketch the history of England down to the death of Charles II, more than four large volumes are occupied with the following seventeen years; and yet Macaulay had intended to continue to the death of George IV, nearly a hundred and thirty years later. For absolute truthfulness of detail the 'History' cannot always be depended on, but to the general reader its great literary merits are likely to seem full compensation for its inaccuracies.
THOMAS CARLYLE. The intense spiritual striving which was so foreign to Macaulay's practical nature first appears among the Victorians in the Scotsman Thomas Carlyle, a social and religious prophet, lay-preacher, and prose-poet, one of the most eccentric but one of the most stimulating of all English writers. The descendant of a warlike Scottish Border clan and the son of a stone-mason who is described as 'an awful fighter,' Carlyle was born in 1795 in the village of Ecclefechan, just across the line from England, and not far from Burns' county of Ayr. His fierce, intolerant, melancholy, and inwardly sensitive spirit, together with his poverty, rendered him miserable throughout his school days, though he secured, through his father's sympathy, a sound elementary education. He tramped on foot the ninety miles from Ecclefechan to Edinburgh University, and remained there for four years; but among the subjects of study he cared only for mathematics, and he left at the age of seventeen without receiving a degree. From this time for many years his life was a painful struggle, a struggle to earn his living, to make a place in the world, and to find himself in the midst of his spiritual doubts and the physical distress caused by lifelong dyspepsia and insomnia. For some years and in various places he taught school and received private pupils, for very meager wages, latterly in Edinburgh, where he also did literary hack-work. He had planned at first to be a minister, but the unorthodoxy of his opinions rendered this impossible; and he also studied law only to abandon it. One of the most important forces in this period of his slow preparation was his study of German and his absorption of the idealistic philosophy of Kant, Schelling, and Fichte, of the broad philosophic influence of Goethe, and the subtile influence of Richter. A direct result was his later very fruitful continuation of Coleridge's work in turning the attention of Englishmen to German thought and literature. In 1821 he passed through a sudden spiritual crisis, when as he was traversing Leith Walk in Edinburgh his then despairing view of the Universe as a soulless but hostile mechanism all at once gave way to a mood of courageous self-assertion. He afterward looked on this experience as a spiritual new birth, and describes it under assumed names at the end of the great chapter in 'Sartor Resartus' on 'The Everlasting No.'
In 1825 his first important work, a 'Life of Schiller,' was published, and in 1826 he was married to Miss Jane Welsh. She was a brilliant but quiet woman, of social station higher than his; for some years he had been acting as counselor in her reading and intellectual development. No marriage in English Literature has been more discussed, a result, primarily, of the publication by Carlyle's friend and literary executor, the historian J. A. Froude, of Carlyle's autobiographical Reminiscences and Letters. After Mrs. Carlyle's death Carlyle blamed himself bitterly for inconsiderateness toward her, and it is certain that his erratic and irritable temper, partly exasperated by long disappointment and by constant physical misery, that his peasant-bred lack of delicacy, and his absorption in his work, made a perpetual and vexatious strain on Mrs. Carlyle's forbearance throughout the forty years of their life together. The evidence, however, does not show that the marriage was on the whole really unfortunate or indeed that it was not mainly a happy one.
For six years beginning in 1828 the Carlyles lived on (though they did not themselves carry on) the lonely farm of Craigenputtock, the property of Mrs. Carlyle. This was for both of them a period of external hardship, and they were chiefly dependent on the scanty income from Carlyle's laborious work on periodical essays (among which was the fine-spirited one on Burns). Here Carlyle also wrote the first of his chief works, 'Sartor Resartus,' for which, in 1833-4, he finally secured publication, in 'Fraser's Magazine,' to the astonishment and indignation of most of the readers. The title means 'The Tailor Retailored,' and the book purports to be an account of the life of a certain mysterious German, Professor Teufelsdrockh (pronounced Toyfelsdreck) and of a book of his on The Philosophy of Clothes. Of course this is allegorical, and Teufelsdrockh is really Carlyle, who, sheltering himself under the disguise, and accepting only editorial responsibility, is enabled to narrate his own spiritual struggles and to enunciate his deepest convictions, sometimes, when they are likely to offend his readers, with a pretense of disapproval. The Clothes metaphor (borrowed from Swift) sets forth the central mystical or spiritual principle toward which German philosophy had helped Carlyle, the idea, namely, that all material things, including all the customs and forms of society, such as government and formalized religion, are merely the comparatively insignificant garments of the spiritual reality and the spiritual life on which men should center their attention. Even Time and Space and the whole material world are only the shadows of the true Reality, the spiritual Being that cannot perish. Carlyle has learned to repudiate, and he would have others repudiate, 'The Everlasting No,' the materialistic attitude of unfaith in God and the spiritual world, and he proclaims 'The Everlasting Yea,' wherein are affirmed, the significance of life as a means of developing character and the necessity of accepting life and its requirements with manly self-reliance and moral energy. 'Seek not Happiness,' Carlyle cries, 'but Blessedness. Love not pleasure; love God.'
This is the central purport of the book. In the second place and as a natural corollary Carlyle vigorously denounces, throughout, all shams and hypocrisies, the results of inert or dishonest adherence to outgrown ideas or customs. He attacks, for instance, all empty ostentation; war, as both foolish and wicked; and the existing condition of society with its terrible contrast between the rich and the poor.
Again, he urges still a third of the doctrines which were to prove most characteristic of him, that Gospel of Work which had been proclaimed so forcibly, from different premises, five hundred years before by those other uncompromising Puritans, the authors of 'Piers Plowman.' In courageous work, Carlyle declares, work whether physical or mental, lies the way of salvation not only for pampered idlers but for sincere souls who are perplexed and wearied with over-much meditation on the mysteries of the universe, 'Be no, longer a Chaos,' he urges, 'but a World, or even Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal, fraction of a Product, produce it, in God's name! 'Tis the utmost thou hast in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.'
It will probably now be evident that the mainspring of the undeniable and volcanic power of 'Sartor Resartus' (and the same is true of Carlyle's other chief works) is a tremendous moral conviction and fervor. Carlyle is eccentric and perverse—more so in 'Sartor Resartus' than elsewhere—but he is on fire with his message and he is as confident as any Hebrew prophet that it is the message most necessary for his generation. One may like him or be repelled by him, but a careful reader cannot remain unmoved by his personality and his ideas.
One of his most striking eccentricities is the remarkable style which he deliberately invented for 'Sartor Resartus' and used thenceforth in all his writings (though not always in so extreme a form). Some of the specific peculiarities of this style are taken over, with exaggeration, from German usage; some are Biblical or other archaisms; others spring mainly from Carlyle's own amazing mind. His purpose in employing, in the denunciation of shams and insincerities, a form itself so far removed from directness and simplicity was in part, evidently, to shock people into attention; but after all, the style expresses appropriately his genuine sense of the incoherence and irony of life, his belief that truth can be attained only by agonizing effort, and his contempt for intellectual and spiritual commonplaceness.
In 1834 Carlyle moved to London, to a house in Cheyne (pronounced Cheeny) Row, Chelsea, where he lived for his remaining nearly fifty years. Though he continued henceforth in large part to reiterate the ideas of 'Sartor Resartus,' he now turned from biography, essays, and literary criticism to history, and first published 'The French Revolution.' He had almost decided in despair to abandon literature, and had staked his fortune on this work; but when the first volume was accidentally destroyed in manuscript he proceeded with fine courage to rewrite it, and he published the whole book in 1837. It brought him the recognition which he sought. Like 'Sartor Resartus' it has much subjective coloring, which here results in exaggeration of characters and situations, and much fantasy and grotesqueness of expression; but as a dramatic and pictorial vilification of a great historic movement it was and remains unique, and on the whole no history is more brilliantly enlightening and profoundly instructive. Here, as in most of his later works, Carlyle throws the emphasis on the power of great personalities. During the next years he took advantage of his success by giving courses of lectures on literature and history, though he disliked the task and felt himself unqualified as a speaker. Of these courses the most important was that on 'Heroes and Hero-Worship,' in which he clearly stated the doctrine on which thereafter he laid increasing stress, that the strength of humanity is in its strong men, the natural leaders, equipped to rule by power of intellect, of spirit, and of executive force. Control by them is government by the fit, whereas modern democracy is government by the unfit. Carlyle called democracy 'mobocracy' and considered it a mere bad piece of social and political machinery, or, in his own phrase, a mere 'Morrison's pill,' foolishly expected to cure all evils at one gulp. Later on Carlyle came to express this view, like all his others, with much violence, but it is worthy of serious consideration, not least in twentieth century America.
Of Carlyle's numerous later works the most important are 'Past and Present,' in which he contrasts the efficiency of certain strong men of medieval Europe with the restlessness and uncertainty of contemporary democracy and humanitarianism and attacks modern political economy; 'Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches,' which revolutionized the general opinion of Cromwell, revealing him as a true hero or strong man instead of a hypocritical fanatic; and 'The History of Frederick the Great,' an enormous work which occupied Carlyle for fourteen years and involved thorough personal examination of the scenes of Frederick's life and battles. During his last fifteen years Carlyle wrote little of importance, and the violence of his denunciation of modern life grew shrill and hysterical. That society was sadly wrong he was convinced, but he propounded no definite plan for its regeneration. He had become, however, a much venerated as well as a picturesque figure; and he exerted a powerful and constructive influence, not only directly, but indirectly through the preaching of his doctrines, in the main or in part, by the younger essayists and the chief Victorian poets and novelists, and in America by Emerson, with whom he maintained an almost lifelong friendship and correspondence. Carlyle died in 1881.
Carlyle was a strange combination of greatness and narrowness. Like Macaulay, he was exasperatingly blind and bigoted in regard to the things in which he had no personal interest, though the spheres of their respective enthusiasms and antipathies were altogether different. Carlyle viewed pleasure and merely esthetic art with the contempt of the Scottish Covenanting fanatics, refusing even to read poetry like that of Keats; and his insistence on moral meanings led him to equal intolerance of such story-tellers as Scott. In his hostility to the materialistic tendencies so often deduced from modern science he dismissed Darwin's 'Origin of Species' with the exclamation that it showed up the capricious stupidity of mankind and that he never could read a page of it or would waste the least thought upon it. He mocked at the anti-slavery movement in both America and the English possessions, holding that the negroes were an inferior race probably better off while producing something under white masters than if left free in their own ignorance and sloth. Though his obstinacy was a part of his national temperament, and his physical and mental irritability in part a result of his ill-health, any candid estimate of his life cannot altogether overlook them. On the whole, however, there is no greater ethical, moral, and spiritual force in English Literature than Carlyle, and so much of his thought has passed into the common possession of all thinking persons to-day that we are all often his debtors when we are least conscious of it.
JOHN RUSKIN. Among the other great Victorian writers the most obvious disciple of Carlyle in his opposition to the materialism of modern life is John Ruskin. But Ruskin is much more than any man's disciple; and he also contrasts strongly with Carlyle, first because a large part of his life was devoted to the study of Art—he is the single great art-critic in English Literature—and also because he is one of the great preachers of that nineteenth century humanitarianism at which Carlyle was wont to sneer.
Ruskin's parents were Scotch, but his father, a man of artistic tastes, was established as a wine-merchant in London and had amassed a fortune before the boy's birth in 1819. The atmosphere of the household was sternly Puritan, and Ruskin was brought up under rigid discipline, especially by his mother, who gave him most of his early education. He read, wrote, and drew precociously; his knowledge of the Bible, in which his mother's training was relentlessly thorough, of Scott, Pope, and Homer, dates from his fifth or sixth year. For many years during his boyhood he accompanied his parents on long annual driving trips through Great Britain and parts of Europe, especially the Alps. By these experiences his inborn passion for the beautiful and the grand in Nature and Art was early developed. During seven years he was at Oxford, where his mother lived with him and watched over him; until her death in his fifty-second year she always continued to treat him like a child, an attitude to which, habit and affection led him to submit with a matter-of-course docility that his usual wilfulness and his later fame render at first sight astonishing. At Oxford, as throughout his life, he showed himself brilliant but not a close or careful student, and he was at that time theologically too rigid a Puritan to be interested in the Oxford Movement, then in its most intense stage.
His career as a writer began immediately after he left the University. It falls naturally into two parts, the first of about twenty years, when he was concerned almost altogether with Art, chiefly Painting and Architecture; and the second somewhat longer, when he was intensely absorbed in the problems of society and strenuously working as a social reformer. From the outset, however, he was actuated by an ardent didactic purpose; he wrote of Art in order to awake men's spiritual natures to a joyful delight in the Beautiful and thus to lead, them to God, its Author.
The particular external direction of Ruskin's work in Art was given, as usual, more or less by accident. His own practice in water-color drawing led him as a mere youth to a devoted admiration for the landscape paintings of the contemporary artist J.M.W. Turner. Turner, a romantic revolutionist against the eighteenth century theory of the grand style, was then little appreciated; and when Ruskin left the University he began, with characteristic enthusiasm, an article on 'Modern Painters,' designed to demonstrate Turner's superiority to all possible rivals. Even the first part of this work expanded itself into a volume, published in 1843, when Ruskin was only twenty-four; and at intervals during the next seventeen years he issued four additional volumes, the result of prolonged study both of Nature and of almost all the great paintings in Europe. The completed book is a discursive treatise, the various volumes necessarily written from more or less different view-points, on many of the main aspects, general and technical, of all art, literary as well as pictorial. For Ruskin held, and brilliantly demonstrated, that the underlying principles of all the Fine Arts are identical, and 'Modern Painters' contains some of the most famous and suggestive passages of general literary criticism ever written, for example those on The Pathetic Fallacy and The Grand Style. Still further, to Ruskin morality and religion are inseparable from Art, so that he deals searchingly, if incidentally, with those subjects as well. Among his fundamental principles are the ideas that a beneficent God has created the world and its beauty directly for man's use and pleasure; that all true art and all true life are service of God and should be filled with a spirit of reverence; that art should reveal truth; and that really great and good art can spring only from noble natures and a sound national life. The style of the book is as notable as the substance. It is eloquent with Ruskin's enthusiastic admiration for Beauty and with his magnificent romantic rhetoric (largely the result, according to his own testimony, of his mother's exacting drill in the Bible), which here and elsewhere make him one of the greatest of all masters of gorgeous description and of fervid exhortation. The book displays fully, too, another of his chief traits, an intolerant dogmatism, violently contemptuous of any judgments but his own. On the religious side, especially, Ruskin's Protestantism is narrow, and even bigoted, but it softens as the book proceeds (and decidedly more in his later years). With all its faults, 'Modern Painters' is probably the greatest book ever written on Art and is an immense storehouse, of noble material, and suggestion.
In the intervals of this work Ruskin published others less comprehensive, two of which are of the first importance. 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture' argues that great art, as the supreme expression of life, is the result of seven moral and religious principles, Sacrifice, Truth, Power, and the like. 'The Stones of Venice' is an, impassioned exposition of the beauty of Venetian Gothic architecture, and here as always Ruskin expresses his vehement preference for the Gothic art of the Middle Ages as contrasted with the less original and as it seems to him less sincere style of the Renaissance.
The publication of the last volume of 'Modern Painters' in 1860 roughly marks the end of Ruskin's first period. Several influences had by this time begun to sadden him. More than ten years before, with his usual filial meekness, he had obeyed his parents in marrying a lady who proved uncongenial and who after a few years was divorced from him. Meanwhile acquaintance with Carlyle had combined with experience to convince him of the comparative ineffectualness of mere art-criticism as a social and religious force. He had come to feel with increasing indignation that the modern industrial system, the materialistic political economy founded on it, and the whole modern organization of society reduce the mass of men to a state of intellectual, social, and religious squalor and blindness, and that while they continue in this condition it is of little use to talk to them about Beauty. He believed that some of the first steps in the necessary redemptive process must be the education of the poor and a return to what he conceived (certainly with much exaggeration) to have been the conditions of medieval labor, when each craftsman was not a mere machine but an intelligent and original artistic creator; but the underlying essential was to free industry from the spirit of selfish money-getting and permeate it with Christian sympathy and respect for man as man. The ugliness of modern life in its wretched city tenements and its hideous factories Ruskin would have utterly destroyed, substituting such a beautiful background (attractive homes and surroundings) as would help to develop spiritual beauty. With his customary vigor Ruskin proceeded henceforth to devote himself to the enunciation, and so far as possible the realization of these beliefs, first by delivering lectures and writing books. He was met, like all reformers, with a storm of protest, but most of his ideas gradually became the accepted principles of social theory. Among his works dealing with these subjects may be named 'Unto This Last,' 'Munera Pulveris' (The Rewards of the Dust—an attack on materialistic political economy), and 'Fors Clavigera' (Fortune the Key-Bearer), the latter a series of letters to workingmen extending over many years. To 1865 belongs his most widely-read book, 'Sesame and Lilies,' three lectures on the spiritual meaning of great literature in contrast to materialism, the glory of womanhood, and the mysterious significance of life.
From the death of his mother in 1871 Ruskin began to devote his large inherited fortune to 'St. George's Guild,' a series of industrial and social experiments in which with lavish generosity he attempted to put his theories into practical operation. All these experiments, as regards direct results, ended in failure, though their general influence was great. Among other movements now everywhere taken for granted 'social settlements' are a result of his efforts.
All this activity had not caused Ruskin altogether to abandon the teaching of art to the members of the more well-to-do classes, and beginning in 1870 he held for three or four triennial terms the newly-established professorship of Art at Oxford and gave to it much hard labor. But this interest was now clearly secondary in his mind.
Ruskin's temper was always romantically high-strung, excitable, and irritable. His intense moral fervor, his multifarious activities, and his disappointments were also constant strains on his nervous force. In 1872, further, he was rejected in marriage by a young girl for whom he had formed a deep attachment and who on her death-bed, three years later, refused, with strange cruelty, to see him. In 1878 his health temporarily failed, and a few years later he retired to the home, 'Brantwood,' at Coniston in the Lake Region, which he had bought on the death of his mother. Here his mind gradually gave way, but intermittently, so that he was still able to compose 'Praterita' (The Past), a delightful autobiography. He died in 1900.
Ruskin, like Carlyle, was a strange compound of genius, nobility, and unreasonableness, but as time goes on his dogmatism and violence may well be more and more forgotten, while his idealism, his penetrating interpretation of art and life, his fruitful work for a more tolerable social order, and his magnificent mastery of style and description assure him a permanent place in the history of English literature and of civilization.
MATTHEW ARNOLD. Contemporary with Carlyle and Ruskin and fully worthy to rank with them stands still a third great preacher of social and spiritual regeneration, Matthew Arnold, whose personality and message, however, were very different from theirs and who was also one of the chief Victorian poets. Arnold was born in 1822, the son—and this is decidedly significant—of the Dr. Thomas Arnold who later became the famous headmaster of Rugby School and did more than any other man of the century to elevate the tone of English school life. Matthew Arnold proceeded from Rugby to Oxford (Balliol College), where he took the prize for original poetry and distinguished himself as a student. This was the period of the Oxford Movement, and Arnold was much impressed by Newman's fervor and charm, but was already too rationalistic in thought to sympathize with his views. After graduation Arnold taught Greek for a short time at Rugby and then became private secretary to Lord Lansdoune, who was minister of public instruction. Four years later, in 1851, Arnold was appointed an inspector of schools, a position which he held almost to the end of his life and in which he labored very hard and faithfully, partly at the expense of his creative work. His life was marked by few striking outward events. His marriage and home were happy. Up to 1867 his literary production consisted chiefly of poetry, very carefully composed and very limited in amount, and for two five-year terms, from 1857 to 1867, he held the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford. At the expiration of his second term he did not seek for reappointment, because he did not care to arouse the opposition of Gladstone—then a power in public affairs—and stir up religious controversy. His retirement from this position virtually marks the very distinct change from the first to the second main period of his career. For with deliberate self-sacrifice he now turned from poetry to prose essays, because he felt that through the latter medium he could render what seemed to him a more necessary public service. With characteristic self-confidence, and obeying his inherited tendency to didacticism, he appointed himself, in effect, a critic of English national life, beliefs, and taste, and set out to instruct the public in matters of literature, social relations, politics and religion. In many essays, published separately or in periodicals, he persevered in this task until his death in 1888.
As a poet Arnold is generally admitted to rank among the Victorians next after Tennyson and Browning. The criticism, partly true, that he was not designed by Nature to be a poet but made himself one by hard work rests on his intensely, and at the outset coldly, intellectual and moral temperament. He himself, in modified Puritan spirit, defined poetry as a criticism of life; his mind was philosophic; and in his own verse, inspired by Greek poetry, by Goethe and Wordsworth, he realized his definition. In his work, therefore, delicate melody and sensuous beauty were at first much less conspicuous than a high moral sense, though after the first the elements of external beauty greatly developed, often to the finest effect. In form and spirit his poetry is one of the very best later reflections of that of Greece, dominated by thought, dignified, and polished with the utmost care. 'Sohrab and Rustum,' his most ambitious and greatest single poem, is a very close and admirable imitation of 'The Iliad.' Yet, as the almost intolerable pathos of 'Sohrab and Rustum' witnesses, Arnold is not by any means deficient, any more than the Greek poets were, in emotion. He affords, in fact, a striking example of classical form and spirit united with the deep, self-conscious, meditative feeling of modern Romanticism.
In substance Arnold's poetry is the expression of his long and tragic spiritual struggle. To him religion, understood as a reverent devotion to Divine things, was the most important element in life, and his love of pure truth was absolute; but he held that modern knowledge had entirely disproved the whole dogmatic and doctrinal scheme of historic Christianity and that a new spiritual revelation was necessary. To his Romantic nature, however, mere knowledge and mere modern science, which their followers were so confidently exalting, appeared by no means adequate to the purpose; rather they seemed to him largely futile, because they did not stimulate the emotions and so minister to the spiritual life. Further, the restless stirrings of his age, beginning to arouse itself from the social lethargy of centuries, appeared to him pitifully unintelligent and devoid of results. He found all modern life, as he says in 'The Scholar-Gypsy,' a 'strange disease,' in which men hurry wildly about in a mad activity which they mistake for achievement. In Romantic melancholy he looked wistfully back by contrast to periods when 'life was fresh and young' and could express itself vigorously and with no torturing introspection. The exaggerated pessimism in this part of his outcry is explained by his own statement, that he lived in a transition time, when the old faith was (as he held) dead, and the new one (partly realized in our own generation) as yet 'powerless to be born.' Arnold's poetry, therefore, is to be viewed as largely the expression, monotonous but often poignantly beautiful, of a temporary mood of questioning protest. But if his conclusion is not positive, it is at least not weakly despairing. Each man, he insists, should diligently preserve and guard in intellectual and moral integrity the fortress of his own soul, into which, when necessary, he can retire in serene and stoical resignation, determined to endure and to 'see life steadily and see it whole.' Unless the man himself proves traitor, the littlenesses of life are powerless to conquer him. In fact, the invincible courage of the thoroughly disciplined spirit in the midst of doubt and external discouragement has never been, more nobly expressed than by Arnold in such poems as 'Palladium' and (from a different point of view) 'The Last Word.'
There is a striking contrast (largely expressing an actual change of spirit and point of view) between the manner of Arnold's poetry and that of his prose. In the latter he entirely abandons the querulous note and assumes instead a tone of easy assurance, jaunty and delightfully satirical. Increasing maturity had taught him that merely to sit regarding the past was useless and that he himself had a definite doctrine, worthy of being preached with all aggressiveness. We have already said that his essays fall into four classes, literary, social, religious, and political, though they cannot always be sharply distinguished. As a literary critic he is uneven, and, as elsewhere, sometimes superficial, but his fine appreciation and generally clear vision make him refreshingly stimulating. His point of view is unusually broad, his chief general purpose being to free English taste from its insularity, to give it sympathetic acquaintance with the peculiar excellences of other literatures. Some of his essays, like those on 'The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,' 'Wordsworth,' and 'Byron,' are among the best in English, while his 'Essays on Translating Homer' present the most famous existing interpretation of the spirit and style of the great Greek epics.
In his social essays, of which the most important form the volume entitled 'Culture and Anarchy,' he continues in his own way the attacks of Carlyle and Ruskin. Contemporary English life seems to him a moral chaos of physical misery and of the selfish, unenlightened, violent expression of untrained wills. He too looks with pitying contempt on the material achievements of science and the Liberal party as being mere 'machinery,' means to an end, which men mistakenly worship as though it possessed a real value in itself. He divides English society into three classes: 1. The Aristocracy, whom he nick-names 'The Barbarians,' because, like the Germanic tribes who overthrew the Roman Empire, they vigorously assert their own privileges and live in the external life rather than in the life of the spirit. 2. The Middle Class, which includes the bulk of the nation. For them he borrows from German criticism the name 'Philistines,' enemies of the chosen people, and he finds their prevailing traits to be intellectual and spiritual narrowness and a fatal and superficial satisfaction with mere activity and material prosperity. 3. 'The Populace,' the 'vast raw and half-developed residuum.' For them Arnold had sincere theoretical sympathy (though his temperament made it impossible for him to enter into the same sort of personal sympathy with them as did Ruskin); but their whole environment and conception of life seemed to him hideous. With his usual uncomplimentary frankness Arnold summarily described the three groups as 'a materialized upper class, a vulgarized middle class, and a brutalized lower class.'
For the cure of these evils Arnold's proposed remedy was Culture, which he defined as a knowledge of the best that has been thought and done in the world and a desire to make the best ideas prevail. Evidently this Culture is not a mere knowledge of books, unrelated to the rest of life. It has indeed for its basis a very wide range of knowledge, acquired by intellectual processes, but this knowledge alone Arnold readily admitted to be 'machinery.' The real purpose and main part of Culture is the training, broadening, and refining of the whole spirit, including the emotions as well as the intellect, into sympathy with all the highest ideals, and therefore into inward peace and satisfaction. Thus Culture is not indolently selfish, but is forever exerting itself to 'make the best ideas'—which Arnold also defined as 'reason and the will, of God'—'prevail.'
Arnold felt strongly that a main obstacle to Culture was religious narrowness. He held that the English people had been too much occupied with the 'Hebraic' ideal of the Old Testament, the interest in morality or right conduct, and though he agreed that this properly makes three quarters of life, he insisted that it should be joined with the Hellenic (Greek) ideal of a perfectly rounded nature. He found the essence of Hellenism expressed in a phrase which he took from Swift, 'Sweetness and Light,' interpreting Sweetness to mean the love of Beauty, material and spiritual, and Light, unbiased intelligence; and he urged that these forces be allowed to have the freest play. He vigorously attacked the Dissenting denominations, because he believed them to be a conspicuous embodiment of Philistine lack of Sweetness and Light, with an unlovely insistence on unimportant external details and a fatal blindness to the meaning of real beauty and real spirituality. Though he himself was without a theological creed, he was, and held that every Englishman should be, a devoted adherent of the English Church, as a beautiful, dignified, and national expression of essential religion, and therefore a very important influence for Culture.
Toward democracy Arnold took, not Carlyle's attitude of definite opposition, but one of questioning scrutiny. He found that one actual tendency of modern democracy was to 'let people do as they liked,' which, given the crude violence of the Populace, naturally resulted in lawlessness and therefore threatened anarchy. Culture, on the other hand, includes the strict discipline of the will and the sacrifice of one's own impulses for the good of all, which means respect for Law and devotion to the State. Existing democracy, therefore, he attacked with unsparing irony, but he did not condemn its principle. One critic has said that 'his ideal of a State can best be described as an Educated Democracy, working by Collectivism in Government, Religion and Social Order.' But in his own writings he scarcely gives expression to so definite a conception.
Arnold's doctrine, of course, was not perfectly comprehensive nor free from prejudices; but none could be essentially more useful for his generation or ours. We may readily grant that it is, in one sense or another, a doctrine for chosen spirits, but if history makes anything clear it is that chosen spirits are the necessary instruments of all progress and therefore the chief hope of society.
The differences between Arnold's teaching and that of his two great contemporaries are probably now clear. All three are occupied with the pressing necessity of regenerating society. Carlyle would accomplish this end by means of great individual characters inspired by confidence in the spiritual life and dominating their times by moral strength; Ruskin would accomplish it by humanizing social conditions and spiritualizing and refining all men's natures through devotion to the principles of moral Right and esthetic Beauty; Arnold would leaven the crude mass of society, so far as possible, by permeating it with all the myriad influences of spiritual, moral, and esthetic culture. All three, of course, like every enlightened reformer, are aiming at ideal conditions which can be actually realized only in the distant future.
Arnold's style is one of the most charming features of his work. Clear, direct, and elegant, it reflects most attractively his own high breeding; but it is also eminently forceful, and marked by very skilful emphasis and reiteration. One of his favorite devices is a pretense of great humility, which is only a shelter from which he shoots forth incessant and pitiless volleys of ironical raillery, light and innocent in appearance, but irresistible in aim and penetrating power. He has none of the gorgeousness of Ruskin or the titanic strength of Carlyle, but he can be finely eloquent, and he is certainly one of the masters of polished effectiveness.
ALFRED TENNYSON. In poetry, apart from the drama, the Victorian period is the greatest in English literature. Its most representative, though not its greatest, poet is Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson, the fourth of a large family of children, was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1809. That year, as it happened, is distinguished by the birth of a large number of eminent men, among them Gladstone, Darwin, and Lincoln. Tennyson's father was a clergyman, holding his appointments from a member of the landed gentry; his mother was peculiarly gentle and benevolent. From childhood the poet, though physically strong, was moody and given to solitary dreaming; from early childhood also he composed poetry, and when he was seventeen he and one of his elder brothers brought out a volume of verse, immature, but of distinct poetic feeling and promise. The next year they entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where Tennyson, too reserved for public prominence, nevertheless developed greatly through association with a gifted group of students. Called home by the fatal illness of his father shortly before his four year's were completed, he decided, as Milton had done, and as Browning was even then doing, to devote himself to his art; but, like Milton, he equipped himself, now and throughout his life, by hard and systematic study of many of the chief branches of knowledge, including the sciences. His next twenty years were filled with difficulty and sorrow. Two volumes of poems which he published in 1830 and 1832 were greeted by the critics with their usual harshness, which deeply wounded his sensitive spirit and checked his further publication for ten years; though the second of these volumes contains some pieces which, in their later, revised, form, are among his chief lyric triumphs. In 1833 his warm friend Arthur Hallam, a young man of extraordinary promise, who was engaged, moreover, to one of Tennyson's sisters, died suddenly without warning. Tennyson's grief, at first overwhelming, was long a main factor in his life and during many years found slow artistic expression in 'In Memoriam' and other poems. A few years later came another deep sorrow. Tennyson formed an engagement of marriage with Miss Emily Sellwood, but his lack of worldly prospects led her relatives to cancel it.
Tennyson now spent much of his time in London, on terms of friendship with many literary men, including Carlyle, who almost made an exception in his favor from his general fanatical contempt for poetry. In 1842 Tennyson published two volumes of poems, including the earlier ones revised; he here won an undoubted popular success and was accepted by the best judges as the chief living productive English poet. Disaster followed in the shape of an unfortunate financial venture which for a time reduced his family to serious straits and drove him with shattered nerves to a sanitarium. Soon, however, he received from the government as a recognition of his poetic achievement a permanent annual pension of two hundred pounds, and in 1847 he published the strange but delightful 'Princess.' The year 1850 marked the decisive turning point of his career. He was enabled to renew his engagement and be married; the publication of 'In Memoriam' established him permanently in a position of such popularity as few living poets have ever enjoyed; and on the death of Wordsworth he was appointed Poet Laureate.
The prosperity of the remaining half of his life was a full recompense for his earlier struggles, though it is marked by few notable external events. Always a lover of the sea, he soon took up his residence in the Isle of Wight. His production of poetry was steady, and its variety great. The largest of all his single achievements was the famous series of 'Idylls of the King,' which formed a part of his occupation for many years. In much of his later work there is a marked change from his earlier elaborate decorativeness to a style of vigorous strength. At the age of sixty-five, fearful that he had not yet done enough to insure his fame, he gave a remarkable demonstration of poetic vitality by striking out into the to him new field of poetic drama. His important works here are the three tragedies in which he aimed to complete the series of Shakspere's chronicle-history plays; but he lacked the power of dramatic action, and the result is rather three fine poems than successful plays. In 1883, after having twice refused a baronetcy, he, to the regret of his more democratic friends, accepted a peerage (barony). Tennyson disliked external show, but he was always intensely loyal to the institutions of England, he felt that literature was being honored in his person, and he was willing to secure a position of honor for his son, who had long rendered him devoted service. He died quietly in 1892, at the age of eighty-three, and was buried in Westminster Abbey beside Browning, who had found a resting-place there three years earlier. His personal character, despite some youthful morbidness, was unusually delightful, marked by courage, honesty, sympathy, and straightforward manliness. He had a fine voice and took undisguised pleasure in reading his poems aloud. The chief traits of his poetry in form and substance may be suggested in a brief summary.
1. Most characteristic, perhaps, is his exquisite artistry (in which he learned much from Keats). His appreciation for sensuous beauty, especially color, is acute; his command of poetic phraseology is unsurpassed; he suggests shades of, feeling and elusive aspiration with, marvelously subtile power; his descriptions are magnificently beautiful, often with much detail; and his melody is often the perfection of sweetness. Add the truth and tenderness of his emotion, and it results that he is one of the finest and most moving of lyric poets. Nor is all this beauty vague and unsubstantial. Not only was he the most careful of English poets, revising his works with almost unprecedented pains, but his scientific habit of mind insists on the greatest accuracy; in his allusions to Nature he often introduces scientific facts in a way thitherto unparalleled, and sometimes even only doubtfully poetic. The influence of the classic literatures on his style and expression was great; no poet combines more harmoniously classic perfection and romantic feeling.
2. The variety of his poetic forms is probably greater than that of any other English poet. In summary catalogue may be named: lyrics, both delicate and stirring; ballads; romantic dreams and fancies; descriptive poems; sentimental reveries, and idyls; long narratives, in which he displays perfect narrative skill; delightfully realistic character-sketches, some of them in dialect; dramas; and meditative poems, long and short, on religious, ethical, and social questions. In almost all these forms he has produced numerous masterpieces.
3. His chief deficiency is in the dramatic quality. No one can present more finely than he moods (often carefully set in a harmoniously appropriate background of external nature) or characters in stationary position; and there is splendid spirit in his narrative passages of vigorous action. Nevertheless his genius and the atmosphere of his poems are generally dreamy, romantic, and aloof from actual life. A brilliant critic [Footnote: Professor Lewis E. Gates in a notable essay, 'Studies and Appreciations,' p. 71.] has caustically observed that he 'withdraws from the turmoil of the real universe into the fortress of his own mind, and beats the enemy in toy battles with toy soldiers.' He never succeeded in presenting to the satisfaction of most good critics a vigorous man in vigorous action.
4. The ideas of his poetry are noble and on the whole clear. He was an independent thinker, though not an innovator, a conservative liberal, and was so widely popular because he expressed in frank but reverent fashion the moderately advanced convictions of his time. His social ideals, in which he is intensely interested, are those of Victorian humanitarianism. He hopes ardently for a steady amelioration of the condition of the masses, proceeding toward a time when all men shall have real opportunity for full development; and freedom is one of his chief watchwords. But with typical English conservatism he believes that progress must be gradual, and that it should be controlled by order, loyalty, and reverence. Like a true Englishman, also, he is sure that the institutions of England are the best in the world, so that he is a strong supporter of the monarchy and the hereditary aristocracy. In religion, his inherited belief, rooted in his deepest fibers, early found itself confronted by the discoveries of modern science, which at first seemed to him to proclaim that the universe is much what it seemed to the young Carlyle, a remorseless monster, 'red in tooth and claw,' scarcely thinkable as the work of a Christian God who cares for man. Tennyson was too sincere to evade the issue, and after years of inner struggle he arrived at a positive faith in the central principles of Christianity, broadly interpreted, though it was avowedly a faith based on instinct and emotional need rather than on unassailable reasoning. His somewhat timid disposition, moreover, never allowed him to enunciate his conclusions with anything like the buoyant aggressiveness of his contemporary, Robert Browning. How greatly science had influenced his point of view appears in the conception which is central in his later poetry, namely that the forces of the universe are governed by unchanging Law, through which God works. The best final expression of his spirit is the lyric 'Crossing the Bar,' which every one knows and which at his own request is printed last in all editions of his works.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING AND ROBERT BROWNING. Robert Browning, Tennyson's chief poetic contemporary, stands in striking artistic contrast to Tennyson—a contrast which perhaps serves to enhance the reputation of both. Browning's life, if not his poetry, must naturally be considered in connection with that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with whom he was united in what appears the most ideal marriage of two important writers in the history of literature.
Elizabeth Barrett, the daughter of a country gentleman of Herefordshire (the region of the Malvern Hills and of 'Piers Plowman'), was born in 1806. She was naturally both healthy and intellectually precocious; the writing of verse and outdoor life divided all her early life, and at seventeen she published, a volume of immature poems. At fifteen, however, her health was impaired by an accident which happened as she was saddling her pony, and at thirty, after a removal of the family to London, it completely failed. From that time on for ten years she was an invalid, confined often to her bed and generally to her chamber, sometimes apparently at the point of death. Nevertheless she kept on with persistent courage and energy at her study and writing. The appearance of her poems in two volumes in 1844 gave her a place among the chief living poets and led to her acquaintance with Browning.
Browning was born in a London suburb in 1812 (the same year with Dickens), of very mixed ancestry, which may partly explain the very diverse traits in his nature and poetry. His father, a man of artistic and cultured tastes, held a subordinate though honorable position in the Bank of England. The son inherited a strong instinct for all the fine arts, and though he composed verses before he could write, seemed for years more likely to become a musician than a poet. His formal schooling was irregular, but he early began to acquire from his father's large and strangely-assorted library the vast fund of information which astonishes the reader of his poetry, and he too lived a healthy out-of-door life. His parents being Dissenters, the universities were not open to him, and when he was seventeen his father somewhat reluctantly consented to his own unhesitating choice of poetry as a profession. For seventeen years more he continued in his father's home, living a normal life among his friends, writing continuously, and gradually acquiring a reputation among some good critics, but making very little impression on the public. Some of his best short poems date from these years, such as 'My Last Duchess' and 'The Bishop Orders His Tomb'; but his chief effort went into a series of seven or eight poetic dramas, of which 'Pippa Passes' is best known and least dramatic. They are noble poetry, but display in marked degree the psychological subtilety which in part of his poetry demands unusually close attention from the reader.
In one of the pieces in her volumes of 1844 Elizabeth Barrett mentioned Browning, among other poets, with generous praise. This led to a correspondence between the two, and soon to a courtship, in which Browning's earnestness finally overcame Miss Barrett's scrupulous hesitation to lay upon him (as she felt) the burden of her invalidism. Indeed her invalidism at last helped to turn the scales in Browning's favor, for the physicians had declared that Miss Barrett's life depended on removal to a warmer climate, but to this her father, a well-intentioned but strangely selfish man, absolutely refused to consent. The record of the courtship is given in Mrs. Browning's 'Sonnets from the Portuguese' (a whimsical title, suggested by Mrs. Browning's childhood nickname, 'The Little Portuguese'), which is one of the finest of English sonnet-sequences. The marriage, necessarily clandestine, took place in 1846; Mrs. Browning's father thenceforth treated her as one dead, but the removal from her morbid surroundings largely restored her health for the remaining fifteen years of her life. During these fifteen years the two poets resided chiefly in various cities of Italy, with a nominal home in Florence, and Mrs. Browning had an inherited income which sufficed for their support until their poetry became profitable. Their chief works during this period were Mrs. Browning's 'Aurora Leigh' (1856), a long 'poetic novel' in blank verse dealing with the relative claims of Art and Social Service and with woman's place in the world; and Browning's most important single publication, his two volumes of 'Men and Women' (1855), containing fifty poems, many of them among his very best.
Mrs. Browning was passionately interested in the Italian struggle for independence against Austrian tyranny, and her sudden death in 1861 seems to have been hastened by that of the Italian statesman Cavour. Browning, at first inconsolable, soon returned with his son to London, where he again made his home, for the rest of his life. Henceforth he published much poetry, for the most part long pieces of subtile psychological and spiritual analysis. In 1868-9 he brought out his characteristic masterpiece, 'The Ring and the Book,' a huge psychological epic, which proved the tardy turning point in his reputation. People might not understand the poem, but they could not disregard it, the author became famous, almost popular, and a Browning cult arose, marked by the spread of Browning societies in both England and America. Browning enjoyed his success for twenty years and died quietly in 1889 at the home of his son in Venice.
Browning earnestly reciprocated his wife's loyal devotion and seemed really to believe, as he often insisted, that her poetry was of a higher order than his own. Her achievement, indeed, was generally overestimated, in her own day and later, but it is now recognized that she is scarcely a really great artist. Her intense emotion, her fine Christian idealism, and her very wide reading give her real power; her womanly tenderness is admirable; and the breadth of her interests and sometimes the clearness of her judgment are notable; but her secluded life of ill-health rendered her often sentimental, high-strung, and even hysterical. She has in her the impulses and material of great poetry, but circumstances and her temperament combined to deny her the patient self-discipline necessary for the best results. She writes vehemently to assert the often-neglected rights of women and children or to denounce negro slavery and all oppression; and sometimes, as when in 'The Cry of the Children' she revealed the hideousness of child-labor in the factories, she is genuine and irresistible; but more frequently she produces highly romantic or mystical imaginary narrations (often in medieval settings). She not seldom mistakes enthusiasm or indignation for artistic inspiration, and she is repeatedly and inexcusably careless in meter and rime. Perhaps her most satisfactory poems, aside from those above mentioned, are 'The Vision of Poets' and 'The Rime of the Duchess May.'
In considering the poetry of Robert Browning the inevitable first general point is the nearly complete contrast with Tennyson. For the melody and exquisite beauty of phrase and description which make so large a part of Tennyson's charm, Browning cares very little; his chief merits as an artist lie mostly where Tennyson is least strong; and he is a much more independent and original thinker than Tennyson. This will become more evident in a survey of his main characteristics.
1. Browning is the most thoroughly vigorous and dramatic of all great poets who employ other forms than the actual drama. Of his hundreds of poems the great majority set before the reader a glimpse of actual life and human personalities—an action, a situation, characters, or a character—in the clearest and most vivid possible way. Sometimes the poem is a ringing narration of a fine exploit, like 'How They Brought the Good News'; sometimes it is quieter and more reflective. Whatever the style, however, in the great majority of cases Browning employs the form which without having actually invented it he developed into an instrument of thitherto unsuspected power, namely the dramatic monolog in which a character discusses his situation or life or some central part or incident, of it, under circumstances which reveal with wonderful completeness its significance and his own essential character. To portray and interpret life in this way, to give his readers a sudden vivid understanding of its main forces and conditions in representative moments, may be called the first obvious purpose, or perhaps rather instinct, of Browning and his poetry. The dramatic economy of space which he generally attains in his monologs is marvelous. In 'My Last Duchess' sixty lines suffice to etch into our memories with incredible completeness and clearness two striking characters, an interesting situation, and the whole of a life's tragedy.
2. Despite his power over external details it is in the human characters, as the really significant and permanent elements of life, that Browning is chiefly interested; indeed he once declared directly that the only thing that seemed to him worth while was the study of souls. The number and range of characters that he has portrayed are unprecedented, and so are the keenness, intenseness, and subtilety of the analysis. Andrea del Sarto, Fra Lippo Lippi, Cleon, Karshish, Balaustion, and many scores of others, make of his poems a great gallery of portraits unsurpassed in interest by those of any author whatever except Shakspere. It is little qualification of his achievement to add that all his persons are somewhat colored by his own personality and point of view, or that in his later poetry he often splits hairs very ingeniously in his effort to understand and present sympathetically the motives of all characters, even the worst. These are merely some of the secondary aspects of his peculiar genius. Browning's favorite heroes and heroines, it should be added, are men and women much like himself, of strong will and decisive power of action, able to take the lead vigorously and unconventionally and to play controlling parts in the drama of life.
3. The frequent comparative difficulty of Browning's poetry arises in large part first from the subtilety of his thought and second from the obscurity of his subject-matter and his fondness for out-of-the-way characters. It is increased by his disregard of the difference between his own extraordinary mental power and agility on the one hand and on the other the capacity of the average person, a disregard which leads him to take much for granted that most readers are obliged to study out with no small amount of labor. Moreover Browning was hasty in composition, corrected his work little, if at all, and was downright careless in such details as sentence structure. But the difficulty arising from these various eccentricities occurs chiefly in his longer poems, and often serves mainly as a mental stimulus. Equally striking, perhaps, is his frequent grotesqueness in choice of subject and in treatment, which seems to result chiefly from his wish to portray the world as it actually is, keeping in close touch with genuine everyday reality; partly also from his instinct to break away from placid and fiberless conventionality.
4. Browning is decidedly one of those who hold the poet to be a teacher, and much, indeed most, of his poetry is occupied rather directly with the questions of religion and the deeper meanings of life. Taken all together, that is, his poetry constitutes a very extended statement of his philosophy of life. The foundation of his whole theory is a confident and aggressive optimism. He believes, partly on the basis of intellectual reasoning, but mainly on what seems to him the convincing testimony of instinct, that the universe is controlled by a loving God, who has made life primarily a thing of happiness for man. Man should accept life with gratitude and enjoy to the full all its possibilities. Evil exists only to demonstrate the value of Good and to develop character, which can be produced only by hard and sincere struggle. Unlike Tennyson, therefore, Browning has full confidence in present reality—he believes that life on earth is predominantly good. Nevertheless earthly life is evidently incomplete in itself, and the central law of existence is Progress, which gives assurance of a future life where man may develop the spiritual nature which on earth seems to have its beginning and distinguishes man from the brutes. This future life, however, is probably not one but many, a long succession of lives, the earlier ones not so very different, perhaps, from the present one on earth; and even the worst souls, commencing the next life, perhaps, as a result of their failure here, at a spiritual stage lower than the present one, must ultimately pass through all stages of the spiritual process, and come to stand with all the others near the perfection of God himself. This whole theory, which, because later thought has largely adopted it from Browning, seems much less original to-day than when he first propounded it, is stated and reiterated in his poems with a dynamic idealizing power which, whether or not one assents to it in details, renders it magnificently stimulating. It is rather fully expressed as a whole, in two of Browning's best known and finest poems, 'Rabbi ben Ezra,' and 'Abt Vogler.' Some critics, it should be added, however, feel that Browning is too often and too insistently a teacher in his poetry and that his art would have gained if he had introduced his philosophy much more incidentally.
5. In his social theory Browning differs not only from Tennyson but from the prevailing thought of his age, differs in that his emphasis is individualistic. Like all the other Victorians he dwells on the importance of individual devotion to the service of others, but he believes that the chief results of such effort must be in the development of the individual's character, not greatly in the actual betterment of the world. The world, indeed, as it appears to him, is a place of probation and we cannot expect ever to make it over very radically; the important thing is that the individual soul shall use it to help him on his 'lone way' to heaven. Browning, accordingly, takes almost no interest in the specific social and political questions of his day, a fact which certainly will not operate against the permanence of his fame. More detrimental, no doubt, aside from the actual faults which we have mentioned, will be his rather extravagant Romanticism—the vehemence of his passion and his insistence on the supreme value of emotion. With these characteristics classically minded critics have always been highly impatient, and they will no doubt prevent him from ultimately taking a place beside Shakspere and the serene Milton; but they will not seriously interfere, we may be certain, with his recognition as one of the very great English poets.
ROSSETTI AND THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT. Many of the secondary Victorian poets must here be passed by, but several of them are too important to be dismissed without at least brief notice. The middle of the century is marked by a new Romantic impulse, the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, which begins with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti was born in London in 1828. His father was an Italian, a liberal refugee from the outrageous government of Naples, and his mother was also half Italian. The household, though poor, was a center for other Italian exiles, but this early and tempestuous political atmosphere created in the poet, by reaction, a lifelong aversion for politics. His desultory education was mostly in the lines of painting and the Italian and English poets. His own practice in poetry began as early as is usual with poets, and before he was nineteen, by a special inspiration, he wrote his best and most famous poem, 'The Blessed Damosel.' In the school of the Royal Academy of Painting, in 1848, he met William Holman Hunt and John E. Millais, and the three formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, in which Rossetti, whose disposition throughout his life was extremely self-assertive, or even domineering, took the lead. The purpose of the Brotherhood was to restore to painting and literature the qualities which the three enthusiasts found in the fifteenth century Italian painters, those who just preceded Raphael. Rossetti and his friends did not decry the noble idealism of Raphael himself, but they felt that in trying to follow his grand style the art of their own time had become too abstract and conventional. They wished to renew emphasis on serious emotion, imagination, individuality, and fidelity to truth; and in doing so they gave special attention to elaboration of details in a fashion distinctly reminiscent of medievalism. Their work had much, also, of medieval mysticism and symbolism. Besides painting pictures they published a very short-lived periodical, 'The Germ,' containing both literary material and drawings. Ruskin, now arriving at fame and influence, wrote vigorously in their favor, and though the Brotherhood did not last long as an organization, it has exerted a great influence on subsequent painting.
Rossetti's impulses were generous, but his habits were eccentric and selfish, and his life unfortunate. His engagement with Miss Eleanor Siddal, a milliner's apprentice (whose face appears in many of his pictures), was prolonged by his lack of means for nine years; further, he was an agnostic, while she held a simple religious faith, and she was carrying on a losing struggle with tuberculosis. Sixteen months after their marriage she died, and on a morbid impulse of remorse for inconsiderateness in his treatment of her Rossetti buried his poems, still unpublished, in her coffin. After some years, however, he was persuaded to disinter and publish them. Meanwhile he had formed friendships with the slightly younger artists William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and they established a company for the manufacture of furniture and other articles, to be made beautiful as well as useful, and thus to aid in spreading the esthetic sense among the English people. After some years Rossetti and Burne-Jones withdrew from the enterprise, leaving it to Morris. Rossetti continued all his life to produce both poetry and paintings. His pictures are among the best and most gorgeous products of recent romantic art—'Dante's Dream,' 'Beata Beatrix,' 'The Blessed Damosel,' and many others. During his later years he earned a large income, and he lived in a large house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea (near Carlyle), where for a while, as long as his irregular habits permitted, the novelist George Meredith and the poet Swinburne were also inmates. He gradually grew more morbid, and became a rather pitiful victim of insomnia, the drug chloral, and spiritualistic delusions about his wife. He died in 1882.
Rossetti's poetry is absolutely unlike that of any other English poet, and the difference is clearly due in large part to his Italian race and his painter's instinct. He has, in the didactic sense, absolutely no religious, moral, or social interests; he is an artist almost purely for art's sake, writing to give beautiful embodiment to moods, experiences, and striking moments. If it is true of Tennyson, however, that he stands aloof from actual life, this is far truer of Rossetti. His world is a vague and languid region of enchantment, full of whispering winds, indistinct forms of personified abstractions, and the murmur of hidden streams; its landscape sometimes bright, sometimes shadowy, but always delicate, exquisitely arranged for luxurious decorative effect. In his ballad-romances, to be sure, such as, 'The King's Tragedy,' there is much dramatic vigor; yet there is still more of medieval weirdness. Rossetti, like Dante, has much of spiritual mysticism, and his interest centers in the inner rather than the outer life; but his method, that of a painter and a southern Italian, is always highly sensuous. His melody is superb and depends partly on a highly Latinized vocabulary, archaic pronunciations, and a delicate genius in sound-modulation, the effect being heightened also by frequent alliteration and masterly use of refrains. 'Sister Helen,' obviously influenced by the popular ballad 'Edward, Edward,' derives much of its tremendous tragic power from the refrain, and in the use of this device is perhaps the most effective poem in the world. Rossetti is especially facile also with the sonnet. His sonnet sequence, 'The House of Life,' one of the most notable in English, exalts earthly Love as the central force in the world and in rather fragmentary fashion traces the tragic influence of Change in both life and love.
WILLIAM MORRIS. William Morris, a man of remarkable versatility and tremendous energy, which expressed themselves in poetry and many other ways, was the son of a prosperous banker, and was born in London in 1834. At Oxford in 1853-55 he became interested in medieval life and art, was stimulated by the poetry of Mrs. Browning and Tennyson, became a friend of Burne-Jones, wrote verse and prose, and was a member of a group called 'The Brotherhood,' while a little later published for a year a monthly magazine not unlike 'The Germ.' He apprenticed himself to an architect, but at the same time also practised several decorative arts, such as woodcarving, illuminating manuscripts, and designing furniture, stained glass and embroidery. Together with Burne-Jones, moreover, he became an enthusiastic pupil of Rossetti in painting. His first volume of verse, 'The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems,' put forth in 1858, shows the influence of Rossetti and Pre-Raphaelitism, but it mainly gives vivid presentation to the spirit of fourteenth-century French chivalry. In 1861 came the foundation of the decorative-art firm of Morris and Co. (above, p. 337), which after some years grew into a large business, continued to be Morris' main occupation to the end of his life, and has exercised a great influence, both in England and elsewhere, on the beautifying of the surroundings of domestic life.
Meanwhile Morris had turned to the writing of long narrative poems, which he composed with remarkable fluency. The most important is the series of versions of Greek and Norse myths and legends which appeared in 1868-70 as 'The Earthly Paradise.' Shortly after this he became especially interested in Icelandic literature and published versions of some of its stories; notably one of the Siegfried tale, 'Sigurd the Volsung.' In the decade from 1880 to 1890 he devoted most of his energy to work for the Socialist party, of which he became a leader. His ideals were largely identical with those of Ruskin; in particular he wished to restore (or create) in the lives of workingmen conditions which should make of each of them an independent artist. The practical result of his experience was bitter disappointment, he was deposed from his leadership, finally abandoned the party, and returned to art and literature. He now published a succession of prose romances largely inspired by the Icelandic sagas and composed in a strange half-archaic style. He also established the 'Kelmscott Press,' which he made famous for its production of elaborate artistic editions of great books. He died in 1896.
Morris' shorter poems are strikingly dramatic and picturesque, and his longer narrations are remarkably facile and often highly pleasing. His facility, however, is his undoing. He sometimes wrote as much as eight hundred lines in a day, and he once declared: 'If a chap can't compose an epic poem while he's weaving tapestry, he had better shut up; he'll never do any good at all.' In reading his work one always feels that there is the material of greatness, but perhaps nothing that he wrote is strictly great. His prose will certainly prove less permanent than his verse.
SWINBURNE. A younger disciple of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement but also a strongly original artist was Algernon Charles Swinburne. Born in 1837 into a wealthy family, the son of an admiral, he devoted himself throughout his life wholly to poetry, and his career was almost altogether devoid of external incident. After passing through Eton and Oxford he began as author at twenty-three by publishing two plays imitative of Shakspere. Five years later he put forth 'Atalanta in Calydon,' a tragedy not only drawn from Greek heroic legend, but composed in the ancient Greek manner, with long dialogs and choruses. These two volumes express the two intensely vigorous forces which were strangely combined in his nature; for while no man has ever been a more violent romanticist than Swinburne, yet, as one critic has said, 'All the romantic riot in his blood clamored for Greek severity and Greek restraint.' During the next fifteen years he was partly occupied with a huge poetic trilogy in blank verse on Mary Queen of Scots, and from time to time he wrote other dramas and much prose criticism, the latter largely in praise of the Elizabethan dramatists and always wildly extravagant in tone. He produced also some long narrative poems, of which the chief is 'Tristram of Lyonesse.' His chief importance, however, is as a lyric poet, and his lyric production was large. His earlier poems in this category are for the most part highly objectionable in substance or sentiment, but he gradually worked into a better vein. He was a friend of George Meredith, Burne-Jones, Morris, Rossetti (to whom he loyally devoted himself for years), and the painter Whistler. He died in 1909.
Swinburne carried his radicalism into all lines. Though an ardently patriotic Englishman, he was an extreme republican; and many of his poems are dedicated to the cause of Italian independence or to liberty in general. The significance of his thought, however, is less than that of any other English poet who can in any sense be called great; his poetry is notable chiefly for its artistry, especially for its magnificent melody. Indeed, it has been cleverly said that he offers us an elaborate service of gold and silver, but with little on it except salt and pepper. In his case, however, the mere external beauty and power often seem their own complete and satisfying justification. His command of different meters is marvelous; he uses twice as many as Browning, who is perhaps second to him in this respect, and his most characteristic ones are those of gloriously rapid anapestic lines with complicated rime-schemes. Others of his distinctive traits are lavish alliteration, rich sensuousness, grandiose vagueness of thought and expression, a great sweep of imagination, and a corresponding love of vastness and desolation. He makes much decorative use of Biblical imagery and of vague abstract personifications—in general creates an atmosphere similar to that of Rossetti. Somewhat as in the case of Morris, his fluency is almost fatal—he sometimes pours out his melodious but vague emotion in forgetfulness of all proportion and restraint. From the intellectual and spiritual point of view he is nearly negligible, but as a musician in words he has no superior, not even Shelley.
OTHER VICTORIA POETS. Among the other Victorian poets, three, at least, must be mentioned. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), tutor at Oxford and later examiner in the government education office, expresses the spiritual doubt and struggle of the period in noble poems similar to those of Matthew Arnold, whose fine elegy 'Thyrsis' commemorates him. Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), Irish by birth, an eccentric though kind-hearted recluse, and a friend of Tennyson, is known solely for his masterly paraphrase (1859) of some of the Quatrains of the skeptical eleventh-century Persian astronomer-poet Omar Khayyam. The similarity of temper between the medieval oriental scholar and the questioning phase of the Victorian period is striking (though the spirit of Fitzgerald's verse is no doubt as much his own as Omar's), and no poetry is more poignantly beautiful than the best of this. Christina Rossetti (1830-94), the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, lived in London with her mother in the greatest seclusion, occupied with an ascetic devotion to the English Church, with her poetry, and with the composition, secondarily, of prose articles and short stories. Her poetry is limited almost entirely to the lyrical expression of her spiritual experiences, much of it is explicitly religious, and all of it is religious in feeling. It is tinged with the Pre-Raphaelite mystic medievalism; and a quiet and most affecting sadness is its dominant trait; but the power and beauty of a certain small part of it perhaps entitle her to be called the chief of English poetesses.
THE NOVEL. THE EARLIER SECONDARY NOVELISTS. To Scott's position of unquestioned supremacy among romancers and novelists Charles Dickens succeeded almost immediately on Scott's death, but certain secondary early Victorian novelists may be considered before him. In the lives of two of these, Bulwer-Lytton and Benjamin Disraeli, there are interesting parallels. Both were prominent in politics, both began writing as young men before the commencement of the Victorian period, and both ended their literary work only fifty years later. Edward Bulwer, later created Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and finally raised to the peerage as Lord Lytton (1803-1873), was almost incredibly fluent and versatile. Much of his life a member of Parliament and for a while of the government, he was a vigorous pamphleteer. His sixty or more really literary works are of great variety; perhaps the best known of them are his second novel, the trifling 'Pelham' (1828), which inaugurated a class of so-called 'dandy' novels, giving sympathetic presentation to the more frivolous social life of the 'upper' class, and the historical romances 'The Last Days of Pompeii' (1834) and 'Harold' (1843). In spite of his real ability, Bulwer was a poser and sentimentalist, characteristics for which he was vigorously ridiculed by Thackeray. Benjamin Disraeli, [Footnote: The second syllable is pronounced like the word 'rail' and has the accent, so that the whole name is Disraily.] later Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), a much less prolific writer, was by birth a Jew. His immature earliest novel, 'Vivian Grey' (1826), deals, somewhat more sensibly, with the same social class as Bulwer's 'Pelham.' In his novels of this period, as in his dress and manner, he deliberately attitudinized, a fact which in part reflected a certain shallowness of character, in part was a device to attract attention for the sake of his political ambition. After winning his way into Parliament he wrote in 1844-7 three political novels,' Coningsby,' 'Sybil,' and 'Tancred,' which set forth his Tory creed of opposition to the dominance of middle-class Liberalism. For twenty-five years after this he was absorbed in the leadership of his party, and he at last became Prime Minister. In later life he so far returned to literature as to write two additional novels.
Vastly different was the life and work of Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). Miss Bronte, a product and embodiment of the strictest religious sense of duty, somewhat tempered by the liberalizing tendency of the time, was the daughter of the rector of a small and bleak Yorkshire village, Haworth, where she was brought up in poverty. The two of her sisters who reached maturity, Emily and Anne, both still more short-lived than she, also wrote novels, and Emily produced some lyrics which strikingly express the stern, defiant will that characterized all the children of the family. Their lives were pitifully bare, hard, and morbid, scarcely varied or enlivened except by a year which Charlotte and Emily spent when Charlotte was twenty-six in a private school in Brussels, followed on Charlotte's part by a return to the same school for a year as teacher. In 1847 Charlotte's novel 'Jane Eyre' (pronounced like the word 'air') won a great success. Her three later novels are less significant. In 1854 she was married to one of her father's curates, a Mr. Nicholls, a sincere but narrow-minded man. She was happy in the marriage, but died within a few months, worn out by the unremitting physical and moral strain of forty years.
The significance of 'Jane Eyre' can be suggested by calling it the last striking expression of extravagant Romanticism, partly Byronic, but grafted on the stern Bronte moral sense. One of its two main theses is the assertion of the supreme authority of religious duty, but it vehemently insists also on the right of the individual conscience to judge of duty for itself, in spite of conventional opinion, and, difficult as this may be to understand to-day, it was denounced at the time as irreligious. The Romanticism appears further in the volcanic but sometimes melodramatic power of the love story, where the heroine is a somewhat idealized double of the authoress and where the imperfect portrayal of the hero reflects the limitations of Miss Bronte's own experience.
Miss Bronte is the subject of one of the most delightfully sympathetic of all biographies, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. Mrs. Gaskell was authoress also of many stories, long and short, of which the best known is 'Cranford' (1853), a charming portrayal of the quaint life of a secluded village.
CHARLES DICKENS. [Footnote: The life of Dickens by his friend John Forster is another of the most famous English biographies.] The most popular of all English novelists, Charles Dickens, was born in 1812, the son of an unpractical and improvident government navy clerk whom, with questionable taste, he later caricatured in 'David Copperfield' as Mr. Micawber. The future novelist's schooling was slight and irregular, but as a boy he read much fiction, especially seventeenth and eighteenth century authors, whose influence is apparent in the picaresque lack of structure of his own works. From childhood also he showed the passion for the drama and the theater which resulted from the excitably dramatic quality of his own temperament and which always continued to be the second moving force of his life. When he was ten years old his father was imprisoned for debt (like Micawber, in the Marshalsea prison), and he was put to work in the cellar of a London shoe-blacking factory. On his proud and sensitive disposition this humiliation, though it lasted only a few months, inflicted a wound which never thoroughly healed; years after he was famous he would cross the street to avoid the smell from an altogether different blacking factory, with its reminder 'of what he once was.' To this experience, also, may evidently be traced no small part of the intense sympathy with the oppressed poor, especially with helpless children, which is so prominent in his novels. Obliged from the age of fifteen to earn his own living, for the most part, he was for a while a clerk in a London lawyer's office, where he observed all sorts and conditions of people with characteristic keenness. Still more valuable was his five or six years' experience in the very congenial and very active work of a newspaper reporter, where his special department was political affairs. This led up naturally to his permanent work. The successful series of lively 'Sketches by Boz' dealing with people and scenes about London was preliminary to 'The Pickwick Papers,' which made the author famous at the age of twenty-four.
During the remaining thirty-three years of his life Dickens produced novels at the rate of rather more than one in two years. He composed slowly and carefully but did not revise greatly, and generally published by monthly installments in periodicals which, latterly, he himself established and edited. Next after 'The Pickwick Papers' came 'Oliver Twist,' and 'David Copperfield' ten years later. Of the others, 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' 'Dombey and Son,' 'Bleak House,' and 'A Tale of Two Cities,' are among the best. For some years Dickens also published an annual Christmas story, of which the first two, 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The Chimes,' rank highest.
His exuberant physical energy gave to his life more external variety than is common with authors. At the age of thirty he made a visit to the United States and travelled as far as to the then extreme western town of St. Louis, everywhere received and entertained with the most extravagant enthusiasm. Even before his return to England, however, he excited a reaction, by his abundantly justified but untactful condemnation of American piracy of English books; and this reaction was confirmed by his subsequent caricature of American life in 'American Notes' and 'Martin Chuzzlewit.' For a number of years during the middle part of his career Dickens devoted a vast amount of energy to managing and taking the chief part in a company of amateur actors, who performed at times in various cities. Later on he substituted for this several prolonged series of semi-dramatic public readings from his works, an effort which drew heavily on his vitality and shortened his life, but which intoxicated him with its enormous success. One of these series was delivered in America, where, of course, the former ill-feeling had long before worn away.
Dickens lived during the greater part of his life in London, but in his later years near Rochester, at Gadshill, the scene of Falstaff's exploit. He made long sojourns also on the Continent. Much social and outdoor life was necessary to him; he had a theory that he ought to spend as much time out of doors as in the house. He married early and had a large family of children, but pathetically enough for one whose emotions centered so largely about the home, his own marriage was not well-judged; and after more than twenty years he and his wife (the Dora Spenlow of 'David Copperfield') separated, though with mutual respect. He died in 1870 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in the rather ostentatiously unpretentious way which, with his deep-seated dislike for aristocratic conventions, he had carefully prescribed in his will.
Dickens' popularity, in his own day and since, is due chiefly: (1) to his intense human sympathy; (2) to his unsurpassed emotional and dramatic power; and (3) to his aggressive humanitarian zeal for the reform of all evils and abuses, whether they weigh upon the oppressed classes or upon helpless individuals. Himself sprung from the lower middle class, and thoroughly acquainted with the life of the poor and apparently of sufferers in all ranks, he is one of the most moving spokesmen whom they have ever had. The pathos and tragedy of their experiences—aged and honest toilers subjected to pitiless task-masters or to the yoke of social injustice; lonely women uncomplainingly sacrificing their lives for unworthy men; sad-faced children, the victims of circumstances, of cold-blooded parents, or of the worst criminals—these things play a large part in almost all of Dickens' books. In almost all, moreover, there is present, more or less in the foreground, a definite humanitarian aim, an attack on some time-consecrated evil—the poor-house system, the cruelties practised in private schools, or the miscarriage of justice in the Court of Chancery. In dramatic vividness his great scenes are masterly, for example the storm in 'David Copperfield,' the pursuit and discovery of Lady Dedlock in 'Bleak House,' and the interview between Mrs. Dombey and James Carker in 'Dombey and Son.'
Dickens' magnificent emotional power is not balanced, however, by a corresponding intellectual quality; in his work, as in his temperament and bearing, emotion is always in danger of running to excess. One of his great elements of strength is his sense of humor, which has created an almost unlimited number of delightful scenes and characters; but it very generally becomes riotous and so ends in sheer farce and caricature, as the names of many of the characters suggest at the outset. Indeed Dickens has been rightly designated a grotesque novelist—the greatest of all grotesque novelists. Similarly his pathos is often exaggerated until it passes into mawkish sentimentality, so that his humbly-bred heroines, for example, are made to act and talk with all the poise and certainty which can really spring only from wide experience and broad education. Dickens' zeal for reform, also, sometimes outruns his judgment or knowledge and leads him to assault evils that had actually been abolished long before he wrote.
No other English author has approached Dickens in the number of characters whom he has created; his twenty novels present literally thousands of persons, almost all thoroughly human, except for the limitations that we have already noted. Their range is of course very great, though it never extends successfully into the 'upper' social classes. For Dickens was violently prejudiced against the nobility and against all persons of high social standing, and when he attempted to introduce them created only pitifully wooden automatons. For the actual English gentleman we must pass by his Sir Leicester Dedlocks and his Mr. Veneerings to novelists of a very different viewpoint, such as Thackeray and Meredith.
Dickens' inexhaustible fertility in characters and scenes is a main cause of the rather extravagant lack of unity which is another conspicuous feature of his books. He usually made a good preliminary general plan and proceeded on the whole with firm movement and strong suspense. But he always introduces many characters and sub-actions not necessary to the main story, and develops them quite beyond their real artistic importance. Not without influence here was the necessity of filling a specified number of serial instalments, each of a definite number of pages, and each requiring a striking situation at the end. Moreover, Dickens often follows the eighteenth-century picaresque habit of tracing the histories of his heroes from birth to marriage. In most respects, however, Dickens' art improved as he proceeded. The love element, it should be noted, as what we have already said implies, plays a smaller part than usual among the various aspects of life which his books present.
Not least striking among Dickens' traits is his power of description. His observation is very quick and keen, though not fine; his sense for the characteristic features, whether of scenes in Nature or of human personality and appearance, is unerring; and he has never had a superior in picturing and conveying the atmosphere both of interiors and of all kinds of scenes of human life. London, where most of his novels are wholly or chiefly located, has in him its chief and most comprehensive portrayer.
Worthy of special praise, lastly, is the moral soundness of all Dickens' work, praise which is not seriously affected by present-day sneers at his 'middle-class' and 'mid-Victorian' point of view. Dickens' books, however, like his character, are destitute of the deeper spiritual quality, of poetic and philosophic idealism. His stories are all admirable demonstrations of the power and beauty of the nobler practical virtues, of kindness, courage, humility, and all the other forms of unselfishness; but for the underlying mysteries of life and the higher meanings of art his positive and self-formed mind had very little feeling. From first to last he speaks authentically for the common heart of humanity, but he is not one of the rarer spirits, like Spenser or George Eliot or Meredith, who transport us into the realm of the less tangible realities. All his limitations, indeed, have become more conspicuous as time has passed; and critical judgment has already definitely excluded him from the select ranks of the truly greatest authors.
WILLIAM M. THACKERAY. Dickens' chief rival for fame during his later lifetime and afterward was Thackeray, who presents a strong contrast with him, both as man and as writer.
Thackeray, the son of an East India Company official, was born at Calcutta in 1811. His father died while he was a child and he was taken to England for his education; he was a student in the Charterhouse School and then for a year at Cambridge. Next, on the Continent, he studied drawing, and though his unmethodical and somewhat idle habits prevented him from ever really mastering the technique of the art, his real knack for it enabled him later on to illustrate his own books in a semi-grotesque but effective fashion. Desultory study of the law was interrupted when he came of age by the inheritance of a comfortable fortune, which he managed to lose within a year or two by gambling, speculations, and an unsuccessful effort at carrying on a newspaper. Real application to newspaper and magazine writing secured him after four years a place on 'Eraser's Magazine,' and he was married. Not long after, his wife became insane, but his warm affection for his daughters gave him throughout his life genuine domestic happiness.
For ten years Thackeray's production was mainly in the line of satirical humorous and picaresque fiction, none of it of the first rank. During this period he chiefly attacked current vices, snobbishness, and sentimentality, which latter quality, Thackeray's special aversion, he found rampant in contemporary life and literature, including the novels of Dickens. The appearance of his masterpiece, 'Vanity Fair' (the allegorical title taken from a famous incident in 'Pilgrim's Progress'), in 'Fraser's Magazine' in 1847-8 (the year before Dickens' 'David Copperfield') brought him sudden fame and made him a social lion. Within the next ten years he produced his other important novels, of which the best are 'Pendennis,' 'Henry Esmond,' and 'The Newcomes,' and also his charming essays (first delivered as lectures) on the eighteenth century in England, namely 'English Humorists,' and 'The Four Georges.' All his novels except 'Henry Esmond' were published serially, and he generally delayed composing each instalment until the latest possible moment, working reluctantly except under the stress of immediate compulsion. He was for three years, at its commencement, editor of 'The Cornhill Magazine.' He died in 1863 at the age of fifty-two, of heart failure.
The great contrast between Dickens and Thackeray results chiefly from the predominance in Thackeray of the critical intellectual quality and of the somewhat fastidious instinct of the man of society and of the world which Dickens so conspicuously lacked. As a man Thackeray was at home and at ease only among people of formal good breeding; he shrank from direct contact with the common people; in spite of his assaults on the frivolity and vice of fashionable society, he was fond of it; his spirit was very keenly analytical; and he would have been chagrined by nothing more than by seeming to allow his emotion to get the better of his judgment. His novels seem to many readers cynical, because he scrutinizes almost every character and every group with impartial vigor, dragging forth every fault and every weakness into the light. On the title page of 'Vanity Fair' he proclaims that it is a novel without a hero; and here, as in some of his lesser works, most of the characters are either altogether bad or worthless and the others very largely weak or absurd, so that the impression of human life which the reader apparently ought to carry away is that of a hopeless chaos of selfishness, hypocrisy, and futility. One word, which has often been applied to Thackeray, best expresses his attitude—disillusionment. The last sentences of 'Vanity Fair' are characteristic: 'Oh! Vanitas Vanitatum! which, of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?—Come, children, let us shut the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.'
Yet in reality Thackeray is not a cynic and the permanent impression left by his books is not pessimistic. Beneath his somewhat ostentatious manner of the man of the world were hidden a heart and a human sympathy as warm as ever belonged to any man. However he may ridicule his heroes and his heroines (and there really are a hero and heroine in 'Vanity Fair'), he really feels deeply for them, and he is repeatedly unable to refrain from the expression of his feeling. Nothing is more truly characteristic of him than the famous incident of his rushing in tears from the room in which he had been writing of the death of Colonel Newcome with the exclamation, 'I have killed the Colonel!' In his books as clearly as in those of the most explicit moralizer the reader finds the lessons that simple courage, honesty, kindliness, and unselfishness are far better than external show, and that in spite of all its brilliant interest a career of unprincipled self-seeking like that of Becky Sharp is morally squalid. Thackeray steadily refuses to falsify life as he sees it in the interest of any deliberate theory, but he is too genuine an artist not to be true to the moral principles which form so large a part of the substratum of all life.
Thackeray avowedly took Fielding as his model, and though his spirit and manner are decidedly finer than Fielding's, the general resemblance between them is often close. Fielding's influence shows partly in the humorous tone which, in one degree or another, Thackeray preserves wherever it is possible, and in the general refusal to take his art, on the surface, with entire seriousness. He insists, for instance, on his right to manage his story, and conduct the reader, as he pleases, without deferring to his readers' tastes or prejudices. Fielding's influence shows also in the free-and-easy picaresque structure of his plots; though this results also in part from his desultory method of composition. Thackeray's great fault is prolixity; he sometimes wanders on through rather uninspired page after page where the reader longs for severe compression. But when the story reaches dramatic moments there is ample compensation; no novelist has more magnificent power in dramatic scenes, such, for instance, as in the climactic series in 'Vanity Fair.' This power is based largely on an absolute knowledge of character: in spite of a delight in somewhat fanciful exaggeration of the ludicrous, Thackeray when he chooses portrays human nature with absolute finality.
'Henry Esmond' should be spoken of by itself as a special and unique achievement. It is a historical novel dealing with the early eighteenth century, and in preparing for it Thackeray read and assimilated most of the literature of the period, with the result that he succeeded in reproducing the 'Augustan' spirit and even its literary style with an approach to perfection that has never been rivaled. On other grounds as well the book ranks almost if not quite beside 'Vanity Pair.' Henry Esmond himself is Thackeray's most thoroughly wise and good character, and Beatrix is as real and complex a woman as even Becky Sharp.
GEORGE ELIOT. The perspective of time has made it clear that among the Victorian novelists, as among the poets, three definitely surpass the others. With Dickens and Thackeray is to be ranked only 'George Eliot' (Mary Anne Evans).
George Eliot was born in 1819 in the central county of Warwick from which Shakspere had sprung two centuries and a half before. Her father, a manager of estates for various members of the landed gentry, was to a large extent the original both of her Adam Bede and of Caleb Garth in 'Middlemarch,' while her own childish life is partly reproduced in the experiences of Maggie in 'The Mill on the Floss.' Endowed with one of the strongest minds that any woman has ever possessed, from her very infancy she studied and read widely. Her nature, however, was not one-sided; all her life she was passionately fond of music; and from the death of her mother in her eighteenth year she demonstrated her practical capacity in the management of her father's household. Circumstances. combined with her unusual ability to make her entire life one of too high pressure, and her first struggle was religious. She was brought up a Methodist, and during her girlhood was fervently evangelical, in the manner of Dinah Morris in 'Adam Bede'; but moving to Coventry she fell under the influence of some rationalistic acquaintances who led her to adopt the scientific Positivism of the French philosopher Comte. Her first literary work, growing out of the same interest, was the formidable one of translating the 'Life of Jesus' of the German professor Strauss. Some years of conscientious nursing of her father, terminated by his death, were followed by one in Geneva, nominally a year of vacation, but she spent it largely in the study of experimental physics. On her return to England she became a contributor and soon assistant editor of the liberal periodical 'The Westminster Review.' This connection was most important in its personal results; it brought her into contact with a versatile man of letters, George Henry Lewes, [Footnote: Pronounced in two syllables.] and in 1854 they were united as man and wife. Mr. Lewes had been unhappily married years before to a woman who was still alive, and English law did not permit the divorce which he would have secured in America. Consequently the new union was not a legal marriage, and English public opinion was severe in its condemnation. In the actual result the sympathetic companionship of Mr. Lewes was of the greatest value to George Eliot and brought her much happiness; yet she evidently felt keenly the equivocal social position, and it was probably in large part the cause of the increasing sadness of her later years.
She was already thirty-six when in 1856 she entered on creative authorship with the three 'Scenes from Clerical Life.' The pseudonym which she adopted for these and her later stories originated in no more substantial reason than her fondness for 'Eliot' and the fact that Mr. Lewes' first name was 'George.' 'Adam Bede' in 1859 completely established her reputation, and her six or seven other books followed as rapidly as increasingly laborious workmanship permitted. 'Romola.' [Footnote: Accented on the first syllable.] in 1863, a powerful but perhaps over-substantial historical novel, was the outcome partly of residence in Florence. Not content with prose, she attempted poetry also, but she altogether lacked the poet's delicacy of both imagination and expression. The death of Mr. Lewes in 1878 was a severe blow to her, since she was always greatly dependent on personal sympathy; and after a year and a half, to the surprise of every one, she married Mr. John W. Cross, a banker much younger than herself. But her own death followed within a few months in 1880.
George Eliot's literary work combines in an interesting way the same distinct and even strangely contrasting elements as her life, and in her writings their relative proportions alter rather markedly during the course of her career. One of the most attractive qualities, especially in her earlier books, is her warm and unaffected human sympathy, which is temperamental, but greatly enlarged by her own early experience. The aspiration, pathos and tragedy of life, especially among the lower and middle classes in the country and the small towns, can scarcely be interpreted with more feeling, tenderness, or power than in her pages. But her sympathy does not blind her to the world of comedy; figures like Mrs. Poyser in 'Adam Bede' are delightful. Even from the beginning, however, the really controlling forces in George Eliot's work were intellectual and moral. She started out with the determination to render the facts of life with minute and conscientious accuracy, an accuracy more complete than that of Mrs. Gaskell, who was in large degree her model; and as a result her books, from the beginning, are masterpieces of the best sort of realism. The characters, life, and backgrounds of many of them are taken from her own Warwickshire acquaintances and country, and for the others she made the most painstaking study. More fundamental than her sympathy, indeed, perhaps even from the outset, is her instinct for scientific analysis. Like a biologist or a botanist, and with much more deliberate effort than most of her fellow-craftsmen, she traces and scrutinizes all the acts and motives of her characters until she reaches and reveals their absolute inmost truth. This objective scientific method has a tendency to become sternly judicial, and in extreme cases she even seems to be using her weak or imperfect characters as deterrent examples. Inevitably, with her disposition, the scientific tendency grew upon her. Beginning with 'Middlemarch' (1872), which is perhaps her masterpiece, it seems to some critics decidedly too preponderant, giving to her novels too much the atmosphere of psychological text-books; and along with it goes much introduction of the actual facts of nineteenth century science. Her really primary instinct, however, is the moral one. The supremacy of moral law may fairly be called the general theme of all her works; to demonstrating it her scientific method is really in the main auxiliary; and in spite of her accuracy it makes of her more an idealist than a realist. With unswerving logic she traces the sequence of act and consequence, showing how apparently trifling words and deeds reveal the springs of character and how careless choices and seemingly insignificant self-indulgences may altogether determine the issues of life. The couplet from Aeschylus which she prefixed to one of the chapters of 'Felix Holt' might stand at the outset of all her work:
'Tis law as steadfast as the throne of Zeus—
Our days are heritors of days gone by.
Her conviction, or at least her purpose, is optimistic, to show that by honest effort the sincere and high-minded man or woman may win happiness in the face of all difficulties and disappointments; but her own actual judgment of life was somber, not altogether different from that which Carlyle repudiated in 'The Everlasting Yea'; so that the final effect of her books, though stimulating, is subdued rather than cheerful.
In technique her very hard work generally assured mastery. Her novels are firmly knit and well-proportioned, and have the inevitable movement of life itself; while her great scenes equal those of Thackeray in dramatic power and, at their best, in reserve and suggestiveness. Perhaps her chief technical faults are tendencies to prolixity and too much expository analysis of characters and motives.
SECONDARY MIDDLE AND LATER VICTORIAN NOVELISTS. Several of the other novelists of the mid-century and later produced work which in a period of less prolific and less highly developed art would have secured them high distinction. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) spent most of his life, by his own self-renouncing choice, as curate and rector of the little Hampshire parish of Eversley, though for some years he also held the professorship of history at Cambridge. An aggressive Protestant, he drifted in his later years into the controversy with Cardinal Newman which opened the way for Newman's 'Apologia.' From the outset, Kingsley was an enthusiastic worker with F. D. Maurice in the Christian Socialist movement which aimed at the betterment of the conditions of life among the working classes. 'Alton Locke' and 'Yeast,' published in 1849, were powerful but reasonable and very influential expressions of his convictions—fervid arguments in the form of fiction against existing social injustices. His most famous books are 'Hypatia' (1853), a novel dealing with the Church in its conflict with Greek philosophy in fifth-century Alexandria, and 'Westward Ho!' (1855) which presents with sympathetic largeness of manner the adventurous side of Elizabethan life. His brief 'Andromeda' is one of the best English poems in the classical dactylic hexameter.
Charles Reade (1814-1884), a man of dramatic disposition somewhat similar to that of Dickens (though Reade had a University education and was admitted to the bar), divided his interest and fiery energies between the drama and the novel. But while his plays were of such doubtful quality that he generally had to pay for having them acted, his novels were often strong and successful. Personally he was fervently evangelical, and like Dickens he was often inspired to write by indignation at social wrongs. His 'Hard Cash' (1863), which attacks private insane asylums, is powerful; but his most important work is 'The Cloister and the Hearth' (1861), one of the most informing and vivid of all historical novels, with the father of Erasmus for its hero. No novelist can, be more thrilling and picturesque than Reade, but he lacks restraint and is often highly sensational and melodramatic.
Altogether different is the method of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) in his fifty novels. Trollope, long a traveling employe in the post-office service, was a man of very assertive and somewhat commonplace nature. Partly a disciple of Thackeray, he went beyond Thackeray's example in the refusal to take his art altogether seriously as an art; rather, he treated it as a form of business, sneering at the idea of special inspiration, and holding himself rigidly to a mechanical schedule of composition—a definite and unvarying number of pages in a specified number of hours on each of his working days. The result is not so disastrous as might have been expected; his novels have no small degree of truth and interest. The most notable are the half dozen which deal with ecclesiastical life in his imaginary county of Barsetshire, beginning with 'The Warden' and 'Barchester Towers.' His 'Autobiography' furnishes in some of its chapters one of the noteworthy existing discussions of the writer's art by a member of the profession.
Richard Blackmore (1825-1900), first a lawyer, later manager of a market-garden, was the author of numerous novels, but will be remembered only for 'Lorna Doone' (1869), a charming reproduction of Devonshire country life assigned to the romantic setting of the time of James II. Its simple-minded and gigantic hero John Ridd is certainly one of the permanent figures of English fiction.
Joseph H. Shorthouse (1834-1903), a Birmingham chemical manufacturer, but a man of very fine nature, is likewise to be mentioned for a single book, 'John Inglesant' (1881). Located in the middle of the seventeenth century, when the strife of religious and political parties afforded material especially available for the author's purpose, this is a spiritual romance, a High Churchman's assertion of the supremacy of the inner over the outer life. From this point of view it is one of the most significant of English novels, and though much of it is philosophical and though it is not free from technical faults, parts of it attain the extreme limit of absorbing narrative interest.
Walter Pater (1839-1894), an Oxford Fellow, also represents distinctly the spirit of unworldliness, which in his case led to a personal aloofness from active life. He was the master of a delicately-finished, somewhat over-fastidious, style, which he employed in essays on the Renaissance and other historical and artistic topics and in a spiritual romance, 'Marius the Epicurean' (1885). No less noteworthy than 'John Inglesant,' and better constructed, this latter is placed in the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, but its atmosphere is only in part historically authentic.
GEORGE MEREDITH (1828-1910). Except for a lack of the elements which make for popularity, George Meredith would hold an unquestioned place in the highest rank of novelists. In time he is partly contemporary with George Eliot, as he began to publish a little earlier than she. But he long outlived her and continued to write to the end of his life; and his recognition was long delayed; so that he may properly be placed in the group of later Victorian novelists. His long life was devoid of external incident; he was long a newspaper writer and afterward literary reader for a publishing house; he spent his later years quietly in Surrey, enjoying the friendship of Swinburne and other men of letters.
Among novelists he occupies something the same place which Browning, a person of very different temperament and ideas, holds among poets. He writes only for intelligent and thoughtful people and aims to interpret the deeper things of life and character, not disregarding dramatic external incident, but using it as only one of the means to his main purpose. His style is brilliant, epigrammatic, and subtile; and he prefers to imply many things rather than to state them directly. All this makes large, perhaps sometimes too large, demands on the reader's attention, but there is, of course, corresponding stimulation. Meredith's general attitude toward life is the fine one of serene philosophic confidence, the attitude in general of men like Shakspere and Goethe. He despises sentimentality, admires chiefly the qualities of quiet strength and good breeding which are exemplified among the best members of the English aristocracy; and in all his interpretation is very largely influenced by modern science. His virile courage and optimism are as pronounced as those of Browning; he wrote a noteworthy 'Essay on Comedy' and oftentimes insists on emphasizing the comic rather than the tragic aspect of things, though he can also be powerful in tragedy; and his enthusiasms for the beauty of the world and for the romance of youthful love are delightful. He may perhaps best be approached through 'Evan Harrington' (1861) and 'The Ordeal of Richard Feverel' (1859). 'The Egoist' (1879) and 'Diana of the Crossways' (1885) are among his other strongest books. In his earlier years he wrote a considerable body of verse, which shows much the same qualities as his prose. Some of it is rugged in form, but other parts magnificently dramatic, and some few poems, like the unique and superb 'Love in the Valley,' charmingly beautiful.
THOMAS HARDY. In Thomas Hardy (born 1840) the pessimistic interpretation of modern science is expressed frankly and fully, with much the same pitiless consistency that distinguishes contemporary European writers such as Zola. Mr. Hardy early turned to literature from architecture and he has lived a secluded life in southern England, the ancient Wessex, which he makes the scene of all his novels. His knowledge of life is sure and his technique in all respects masterly. He has preferred to deal chiefly with persons in the middle and poorer classes of society because, like Wordsworth, though with very different emphasis, he feels that in their experiences the real facts of life stand out most truly. His deliberate theory is a sheer fatalism—that human character and action are the inevitable result of laws of heredity and environment over which man has no control. 'The Return of the Native' (1878) and 'Far from the Madding Crowd' (1874) are among his best novels, though the sensational frankness of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' (1891) has given it greater reputation.
STEVENSON. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), the first of the rather prominent group of recent Scotch writers of fiction, is as different as possible from Hardy. Destined for the career of civil engineer and lighthouse builder in which his father and grandfather were distinguished, he proved unfitted for it by lack both of inclination and of health, and the profession of law for which he later prepared himself was no more congenial. From boyhood he, like Scott, studied human nature with keen delight in rambles about the country, and unlike Scott he was incessantly practising writing merely for the perfection of his style. As an author he won his place rather slowly; and his whole mature life was a wonderfully courageous and persistent struggle against the sickness which generally prevented him from working more than two or three hours a day and often kept him for months in bed unable even to speak. A trip to California in an emigrant train in 1879-1880 brought him to death's door but accomplished its purpose, his marriage to an American lady, Mrs. Osbourne, whom he had previously met in artist circles in France. He first secured a popular success with the boys' pirate story, 'Treasure Island,' in 1882. 'A Child's Garden of Verses' (1885) was at once accepted as one of the most irresistibly sympathetic of children's classics; and 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1886), a unique and astonishingly powerful moral lesson in the form of a thrilling little romance which strangely anticipates the later discoveries of psychology, made in its different way a still stronger impression. Stevenson produced, considering his disabilities, a remarkably large amount of work—essays, short stories, and romances—but the only others of his books which need here be mentioned are the four romances of Scotch life in the eighteenth century which belong to his later years; of these 'The Master of Ballantrae' and the fragmentary 'Weir of Hermiston' are the best. His letters, also, which, like his widely-circulated prayers, reveal his charming and heroic personality, are among the most interesting in the history of English Literature. His bodily weakness, especially tuberculosis, which had kept him wandering from one resort to another, at last drove him altogether from Europe to the South Seas. He finally settled in Samoa, where for the last half dozen years of his life he was busy not only with clearing his land, building his house, and writing, but with energetic efforts to serve the natives, then involved in broils among themselves and with England, Germany, and the United States. His death came suddenly when he was only forty-four years old, and the Samoans, who ardently appreciated what he had done for them, buried him high up on a mountain overlooking both his home and the sea.
Stevenson, in the midst of an age perhaps too intensely occupied with the deeper questions, stood for a return to the mere spirit of romance, and for occasional reading he furnishes delightful recreation. In the last analysis, however, his general lack of serious significance condemns him at most to a secondary position. At his best his narrative technique (as in 'The Master of Ballantrae') is perfect; his portrayal of men (he almost never attempted women) is equally certain; his style has no superior in English; and his delicate sensibility and keenness of observation render him a master of description. But in his attitude toward life he never reached full maturity (perhaps because of the supreme effort of will necessary for the maintenance of his cheerfulness); not only did he retain to the end a boyish zest for mere adventure, but it is sometimes adventure of a melodramatic and unnecessarily disagreeable kind, and in his novels and short stories he offers virtually no interpretation of the world. No recent English prose writer has exercised a wider influence than he, but none is likely to suffer as time goes on a greater diminution of reputation.
RUDYARD KIPLING. The name which naturally closes the list of Victorian writers is that of Rudyard Kipling, though he belongs, perhaps, as much to the twentieth century as to the one preceding. The son of a professor of architecture and sculpture in the University of Bombay, India, he was born in that city in 1865. Educated in England in the United Services College (for officers in the army and navy), he returned at the age of seventeen to India, where he first did strenuous editorial work on newspapers in Lahore, in the extreme northwestern part of the country. He secured his intimate knowledge of the English army by living, through the permission of the commanding general, with the army on the frontiers. His instinct for story-telling in verse and prose had showed itself from his boyhood, but his first significant appearance in print was in 1886, with a volume of poems later included among the 'Departmental Ditties.' 'Plain Tales from the Hills' in prose, and other works, followed in rapid succession and won him enthusiastic recognition. In 1890 he removed to the United States, where he married and remained for seven years. Since then he has lived in England, with an interval in South Africa. He wrote prolifically during the '90's; since then both the amount of his production and its quality have fallen off.
Kipling is the representative of the vigorous life of action as led by manly and efficient men, and of the spirit of English imperialism. His poem “The White Man's Burden” sums up his imperialism—the creed that it is the duty of the higher races to civilize the lower ones with a strong hand; and he never doubts that the greater part of this obligation rests at present upon England—a theory, certainly, to which history lends much support. Kipling is endowed with the keenest power of observation, with the most genuine and most democratic human sympathies, and with splendid dramatic force. Consequently he has made a unique contribution to literature in his portrayals, in both prose and verse, of the English common soldier and of English army life on the frontiers of the Empire. On the other hand his verse is generally altogether devoid of the finer qualities of poetry. 'Danny Deever,' 'Pharaoh and the Sergeant,' 'Fuzzy Wuzzy,' 'The Ballad of East and West,' 'The Last Chantey,' 'Mulholland's Contract,' and many others, are splendidly stirring, but their colloquialism and general realism put them on a very different level from the work of the great masters who express the deeper truths in forms of permanent beauty. At times, however, Kipling too gives voice to religious feelings, of a simple sort, in an impressive fashion, as in 'McAndrews' Hymn,' 'The Recessional,' and 'When earth's last picture is painted.' His sweeping rhythms and his grandiose forms of expression, suggestive of the vast spaces of ocean and plain and of inter-stellar space with which he delights to deal, have been very widely copied by minor verse-writers. His very vivid and active imagination enables him not only to humanize animal life with remarkable success, as in the prose 'Jungle-Books,' but to range finely in the realms of the mysterious, as in the short stories 'They' and 'The Brushwood Boy.' Of short-stories he is the most powerful recent writer, as witness 'The Man Who Would Be King,' 'The Man Who Was,' 'Without Benefit of Clergy,' and 'Wee Willie Winkie'; though with all the frankness of modern realism he sometimes leads us into scenes of extreme physical horror. With longer stories he is generally less successful; 'Kim,' however, has much power.
THE HISTORIANS. The present book, as a brief sketch of English Literature rather strictly defined, has necessarily disregarded the scientists, economists, and philosophers whose writings did much to mold the course of thought during the Victorian period. Among the numerous prominent historians, however, two must be mentioned for the brilliant literary quality of their work. James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) was a disciple of Carlyle, from whom he took the idea of making history center around its great men and of giving to it the vivid effectiveness of the drama. With Froude too this results in exaggeration, and further he is sadly inaccurate, but his books are splendidly fascinating. His great 'History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Armada' is his longest work; his 'Sketch' of Julius Casar is certainly one of the most interesting books of biography and history ever written. John Richard Green (1837-1883), who was a devoted clergyman before he became a historian, struggled all his life against the ill-health which finally cut short his career. His 'History of the English People' is an admirable representative of the modern historical spirit, which treats general social conditions as more important than mere external events; but as a narrative it vies in interest with the very different one of Macaulay. Very honorable mention should be made also of W. E. H. Lecky, who belongs to the conscientiously scientific historical school. His 'History of Rationalism in Europe,' for example, is a very fine monument of the most thorough research and most effective statement; but to a mature mind its interest is equally conspicuous.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Beginning as early as the latter part of the eighteenth century literary production, thanks largely to the tremendous increase of education and of newspapers and magazines, has steadily grown, until now it has reached bewildering volume and complexity, in which the old principles are partly merged together and the new tendencies, for contemporary observers, at least, scarcely stand out with decisive distinctness. Most significant to-day, perhaps, are the spirit of independence, now carried in some respects beyond the farthest previous Romantic limits, and the realistic impulse, in which the former impulses of democracy and humanitarianism play a large part. Facts not to be disregarded are the steady advance of the short story, beginning early in the Victorian period or before, to a position of almost chief prominence with the novel; and the rise of American literature to a position approaching equality with that of England. Of single authors none have yet certainly achieved places of the first rank, but two or three may be named. Mr. William De Morgan, by profession a manufacturer of artistic pottery, has astonished the world by beginning to publish at the age of sixty-five a series of novels which show no small amount of Thackeray's power combined with too large a share of Thackeray's diffuseness. Mr. Alfred Noyes (born 1880) is a refreshingly true lyric poet and balladist, and Mr. John Masefield has daringly enlarged the field of poetry by frank but very sincere treatment of extremely realistic subjects. But none of these authors can yet be termed great. About the future it is useless to prophesy, but the horrible war of 1914 is certain to exert for many years a controlling influence on the thought and literature of both England and the whole world, an influence which, it may be hoped, will ultimately prove stimulating and renovating.
Whatever may be true of the future, the record of the past is complete. No intelligent person can give even hasty study to the fourteen existing centuries of English Literature without being deeply impressed by its range and power, or without coming to realize that it stands conspicuous as one of the noblest and fullest achievements of the human race.