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CHAPTER VIII. I.—THE NOVEL IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.

  II.—THE NOVEL OF LIFE AND MANNERS. 
 III.—OF SCOTCH LIFE. 
  IV.—OF IRISH LIFE. 
   V.—OF ENGLISH LIFE. 
  VI.—OF AMERICAN LIFE. 
 VII.—THE HISTORICAL NOVEL. VIII.—THE NOVEL OF PURPOSE. 
  IX.—THE NOVEL OF FANCY. 
   X.—USE AND ABUSE OF FICTION.

I.

Fiction has absorbed so much of the literary talent of the present century, and has attained so important a place in the lives and thoughts of the reading public, that, in this chapter, we will attempt a description of its varied forms, and an inquiry into its uses and abuses, rather than an extended criticism of individual writers. Allibone's “Dictionary of Authors” contains two thousand two hundred and fifty-seven names of writers of fiction, by far the greater number of which belong to the nineteenth century, and every year adds to the list.

There is no better example of the closeness of the connection between society and its literature than is supplied by the novel. Every change in the public taste has been followed by a corresponding variety of fiction, until it is difficult to enumerate all the schools into which novelists have divided themselves. During the present century, life has become far more complex and the reading public far more exacting, varied, and extended than ever before. Steam and electricity have brought distant countries into close communion, and have awakened a feeling of fellowship among the different nations of the civilised world which has greatly widened the horizon of human interests. The spread of education, the increase and distribution of wealth, together with the cheapness of printing, have largely increased the number and variety of those who seek entertainment from works of fiction. The novel-reader is no longer content with the description of scenes and characters among which his own life is passed. He wishes to be introduced to foreign countries, to past ages, and to societies and ranks apart from his own. He wishes also to find in fiction the reflection of his own tastes and the discussion of his own interests. He seeks psychology, or study of character, or the excitement of a complicated plot, or the details and events of sea-faring, criminal, or fashionable life. All of these different tastes the novelist has undertaken to gratify.

Under the extensive head of the novel of life and manners, the habits, modes of thought, and peculiarities of language of Scotland, Ireland, England, and the United States, with many sub-divisions of provinces and cities, have been studied and described. The novelist has extended his investigations into Eastern countries, and has portrayed the customs and institutions of Oriental life. He has taken his characters from historic times, and has recommended the past for the instruction or amusement of the present. The experience of the soldier and the sailor have taken their place among the incidents of fiction; the adventures and crimes of blacklegs and convicts have been drawn upon to gratify palates sated with the weak pabulum of the fashionable novel.

Fiction has not been confined to the study of manners and character, but has been extensively used to propagate opinions and to argue causes. Novels have been written in support of religious views, Catholic, High-Church, and Low-Church; political novels have supported the interests of Tory, Whig, anti-slavery, and civil service; philosophical novels have exposed the evils of society as at present constituted, and have built up impossible utopias. Besides the novel of purpose, there has been the novel of fancy, in which the imagination has been allowed to soar unchecked in the regions of the unreal and the supernatural.

With so great a variety of works of fiction, it is not surprising to find a corresponding variety of authorship. Lords and ladies, generals and colonels have entered the lists against police court reporters and female adventurers. The novel is no longer the exclusive work of a professional author. Amateurs have attempted it to pass the time which hung heavily on their hands; to put into form their dreams or experiences; to gratify a mere literary vanity. The needy nobleman has made profitable use of his name on the title-page of a novel purporting to give information concerning fashionable life. But the most remarkable characteristic of novel-writing has been the important part taken by women. They have adopted fiction as their special department of literature, and have shown their capacity for it by the production of novels which fully equal in number and almost equal in merit the works of their masculine rivals. On her own ground, George Eliot has no superior, while the writings of Miss Austen, of Miss Edgeworth, of Miss Ferrier, of Mrs. Stowe, not to mention many others, are to be ranked among the best works of fiction in any language. But while women have contributed their full share of novels, both as regards quantity and merit, they have also contributed much more than what we think their full share of worthless and immoral writing. Bad women will have literary capacity as well as bad men, but it is doubly shocking to find that the prurient thoughts, the indecent allusions, and immoral opinions which are often met with in the novels of the day proceed from that sex which ought to be the stronghold of modesty and virtue.

And this matter becomes very important when we consider the position which works of fiction have attained in the present century. In the days of Mrs. Behn, Mrs. Heywood, Fielding, or Smollett, coarseness of thought and language was so general that it naturally had a prominent place in novels. All persons who objected to licentious scenes and gross expressions in the reading of themselves or their children excluded works of fiction. As Miss Edgeworth said, most novels were filled with vice or folly, and as Miss Burney complained, no body of literary men were so numerous, or so little respectable as novelists. But, in the hands of such writers as Sir Walter Scott, as Miss Ferrier, as Miss Austen, as Dickens, as Thackeray, as Charles Kingsley, as Mr. Anthony Trollope, the novel has achieved for itself a position of respectability and dignity which seems to remain unimpaired, notwithstanding the efforts of many authors to destroy it. Works of fiction are to be found in every home, in the hands of parents, in the hands of young boys and girls. The word novel has been given so high a signification by the great names which are associated with it, that parental censorship has almost ceased. It is impossible that a form of literature to which so many and so great minds have been devoted, and which takes so prominent a place in the favor of the reading public, should not be without a powerful influence. Let us look more closely at the works of fiction of the nineteenth century, and then endeavor to determine how far their influence has been for good, and how far for evil.

 

II.

It is the especial province of the novel of life and manners to be as far as possible a truthful reflection of nature. And the more it approaches to this condition, the more realistic it is said to be. But the word realism is a vague term, and is constantly employed to express different ideas. As far as it applies to the novel, it usually signifies an author's fidelity to nature. But even with this definition, the term realism has no very definite meaning unless all persons agree as to what constitutes nature. There is a great difference in men according as they are looked at with the eye of a Raphael or of a Rembrandt. There has been a strong tendency among novelists of the present century who have written since Scott, to devote themselves more to the common characters and incidents of every-day life; to describe the world as it appears to the ordinary observer, who rarely associates with either heroes or villains, and has little experience of either the sublime or the marvellous. Such was the expressed object of Thackeray, and such is the general character of the works of George Eliot and of Mr. Anthony Trollope. This tendency has been carried to an extreme by some English novelists, and above all by the Frenchman, Emile Zola, who have not only thrown aside entirely the romantic element in their fictions, but have shown their ideas of realism to consist in the base and the ignoble, and have confined their studies to the vices and degradation of the human species.

An admirer of Thackeray and an admirer of Zola would consider the works of his favorite author to be realistic, and yet nature appears under very different aspects in the pages of the two novelists. But the partisans of Thackeray and those of Zola would probably unite in the opinion that Sir Walter Scott was not realistic; they would call him romantic, and claim that he painted ideal scenes and ideal characters. But among those who read and re-read the novels of Scott, by far the greater number believe that “The Wizard of the North” was true to nature, that Jeanie Deans and Rob Roy and Meg Merrilies were not impossible characters. There are many who enter into the scenes described by Scott with as much feeling of reality as is experienced by those who follow the career of a Pendennis, of a Duke of Omnium, or of a Nana. A novelist, then, is realistic or not realistic according to the views which he and his reader entertain of nature. To the optimist, to the youthful and romantic, “The Heart of Midlothian” and “Guy Mannering” will seem a truthful representation of life. The more worldly and practical will find their idea of reality in “The Mill on the Floss,” in “Vanity Fair,” in “The Prime Minister.” And finally those whose taste or lot has kept them “raking in the dirt of mankind" will think their view of truth best expressed by “L'Assommoir” or “Nana.”

But we would not be understood to mean that a novelist or a painter is realistic, because he represents nature as it appears to him, whether he look at it through a glass couleur de rose, or with the distorted eye of a cynic. He may describe the sublime, the ordinary, or the vile, as nature supplies examples of all three, and yet be realistic, so long as he presents any one of these conditions without exaggeration, and without too extended an application.

The writers who have devoted themselves to the novel of life and manners have all sought to be realistic, and the value of their work largely depends on the success which has attended their efforts in this direction. The enduring vitality of “Tom Jones” is due to Fielding's fidelity to nature, and it is safe to predict that no novel which fails in this respect can have more than an ephemeral reputation. Nothing could be more false than the views of contemporary life contained in a large part of the fiction of the present day, and the future historian who looks to the novel of the nineteenth century for information concerning morals and social habits will have to exercise a constant discrimination.

 

III.

Scottish life and manners have been made familiar to the world by a series of brilliant novelists, first among whom stands the greatest figure in the history of English fiction. Sir Walter Scott was qualified to an extraordinary degree for the great work he was destined to perform for his country and for the novel. His ancestry, the traditions among which he grew up, his in-born love of legendary lore, his vivid imagination and keenness of sympathy all fitted him to appreciate and to put into enduring form the latent romance which pervaded his beloved Scotland. His practical experience as a lawyer and as a sheriff, gave him a clear insight into the institutions of his country. Previous to the publication of “Waverley,” Scotland was a comparatively unknown land. Even Englishmen had little knowledge of its national habits, of its traditions, or its scenery. To Scotchmen, the history of their country was little more than a skeleton, till the magic wand of Scott it filled it with flesh and blood, and gave it new life and animation. “Up to the era of Sir Walter,” says an eminent Scotchman, “living people had some vague, general, indistinct notions about dead people mouldering away to nothing, centuries ago, in regular kirk-yards and chance burial-places, 'mang muirs and mosses many O,' somewhere or other in that difficultly distinguished and very debatable district called the Borders. All at once he touched their tombs with a divining-rod, and the turf streamed out ghosts, some in woodmen's dresses, most in warriors' mail; queer archers leapt forth, with yew bows and quivers, and giants stalked shaking spears! The gray chronicler smiled, and taking up his pen, wrote in lines of light the annals of the chivalrous and heroic days of auld feudal Scotland. The nation then, for the first time, knew the character of its ancestors; for these were not spectres—not they, indeed,—nor phantoms of the brain, but gaunt flesh and blood, or glad and glorious;—base-born cottage churls of the olden time, because Scottish, became familiar to the love of the nation's heart, and so to its pride did the high born lineage of palace kings. * * * We know now the character of our own people as it showed itself in war and peace—in palace, castle, hall, hut, hovel, and shieling—through centuries of advancing civilization.”

And it was not only to his countrymen that Scott made vivid and familiar the history of his native land. Since his genius described the Highland fastnesses, and peopled them with the chiefs and maidens of old, all the world feels at home in that land at once so small and so great. In Italy, in France in Germany, in America, Jeanie Deans and the Master of Ravenswood are household friends, and Scottish life and habits are known to tens of thousands who never leave their native town.

Besides making his country celebrated by his writings, Scott placed the novel on the firm foundation in public estimation which it has since retained. He redeemed its character from the disrepute into which it had fallen. He used it not only as a means of giving acute and healthful pleasure, but he made it the medium for moral and intellectual advancement. The purity of thought which pervades all his writings, the never-failing nobility of the views of life which he placed before his readers can have no other than an elevating influence.

Scott's literary success was due both to genius and to industry. Of his early precocity Mrs. Cockburn has left a remarkable instance.[203] “I last night supped in Mr. Walter Scott's. He has the most extraordinary genius of a boy I ever saw. He was reading a poem to his mother when I went in. I made him read on; it was the description of a shipwreck. His passion rose with the storm. He lifted his eyes and hands: 'There's the mast gone!' says he. 'Crash it goes! They will all perish!' After his agitation he turns to me: 'That is too melancholy,' says he. 'I had better read you something more amusing.' I preferred a little chat, and asked his opinion of Milton and other books he was reading, which he gave me wonderfully. One of his observations was: 'How strange it is that Adam, just new come into the world, should know every thing! That must be the poet's fancy,' says he. But when told he was created perfect by God, he instantly yielded. When taken to bed last night, he told his aunt he liked that lady. 'What lady?' says she. 'Why, Mrs. Cockburn, for I think she is a virtuoso,—like myself.' 'Dear Walter,' says Aunt Jenny, 'what is a virtuoso?' 'Don't ye know? Why, it's one who wishes and will know every thing.' Now, sir, you will think this a very silly story. Pray, what age do you suppose this boy to be? Name it, now, before I tell you. 'Why, twelve or fourteen.' No such thing; he is not quite six years old. He has a lame leg, for which he was a year at Bath, and has acquired the perfect English accent, which he has not lost since he came, and he reads like a Garrick. You will allow this an uncommon exotic.”

The vivid imagination and love of knowledge which Scott displayed from his earliest years were supplemented throughout his life by an assiduous self-cultivation. The great and varied body of legendary lore which he accumulated, together with his ever active and universal sympathy with mankind, made the chief elements in his fictions. There is no one respect in which the Waverley novels are pre-eminent. As regards plot, Scott has been frequently surpassed. While “Kenilworth,” the “Bride of Lammermoor,” and “Ivanhoe,” are well constructed, the plan of “Rob Roy” and “The Monastery” are lacking in sequence. Other novelists, too, have drawn character with quite as much power. But the Waverly novels have attained their supreme position in public estimation by a rare and well balanced union of different qualities. They contain beautiful examples of the sublime, and amusing examples of the ludicrous. They reflect nature in various phases, and always with picturesqueness, power, and truth. Of Scott's historical novels we shall speak elsewhere. Of those which relate especially to his own country, the most remarkable merit consists in the fidelity with which they have reflected the Scotch nationality. On this account they will always possess a value for the student of social history.

Of the estimation in which these novels have been held by the world, and the immense area over which their influence has extended, some idea may be formed from the fact that the actual profits which accrued from them to the author or to his estate shortly after his death, exceeded two millions of dollars. When we add to this sum the profits of the publishers, and when we consider the number of translations issued in Europe and the editions printed since Scott's death in Great Britain and America, we can realize how vast a sum the world has been glad to pay for the possession of these invaluable works.

Following the great Sir Walter in the description of Scottish life and manners, are many well-known writers. John Galt, in the “Annals of the Parish,” gave many humorous descriptions of national character. In Wilson's “Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,” in “The Ettrick Shepherd,” in the works of Scott's son-in-law, Lockhart, are scenes and characters still very familiar to novel readers. Jane Porter embodied rather ideal views of history in “Thaddeus of Warsaw,” and “The Scottish Chiefs.” The talents of Miss Ferrier, of Mrs. Oliphant, and of Mr. William Black have kept up the interest which the world has learned to take in every thing appertaining to the land which Sir Walter Scott taught it to know and love so well.[204]

[Footnote 203: Mrs. Cockburn to Rev. Dr. Douglas, 1777; Lockhart's “Life of Scott.”]

[Footnote 204: Other novelists belonging especially in Scotland and of considerable reputation, are Maria Porter, Elizabeth Hamilton, A. Cunningham, Mrs. Johnstone, Hogg, Picken, Moir, Sir T.D. Lauder, Hugh Miller, George MacDonald.]

 

IV.

First among the contributors to the novel of Irish life and manners may be mentioned Maria Edgeworth, by whose successful labors Scott was first inspired to undertake his own. In Miss Edgeworth's works, Ireland found a true exposition of her wrongs and her virtues; and also of her follies and errors. The evils of absenteeism were powerfully illustrated in the novel of the same name. In “Castle Rackrent,” the trials and difficulties of landlord and tenant were described with genuine sympathy and dramatic force. The peculiarities of Irish temper and character have been studied by Miss Edgeworth with a fidelity which has given her novels the same national stamp and value which belong to those of Scott. Like him, too, she did much to raise fiction in character, scope, and influence. Whether describing Irish, English, or fashionable life, she is always true to nature, always pure and elevated in tone. Her works are neither marred by the coarseness of the past, nor by the false delicacy of the present. She studiously avoids error and exaggeration in every form. Sentimentality and mock heroism have no place in her pages. While she is wanting in poetry, she is singularly rich in the scenes and characters of every-day life, and her novels are marked by a common-sense knowledge of the world which never degenerates into commonplace.

Miss Edgeworth has been ably followed by several students of Irish life. William Carleton's “Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry,” the novels of Samuel Lover and of John Banim are still well known. Thomas Crofton Croker, with whose amusing description of the “Last of the Irish Sarpints,” the reader is probably familiar, has studied his countrymen's superstitions and peculiarities with great success. Charles James Lever has long retained a well-deserved popularity by the production of about thirty jovial dashing novels, among which the most celebrated is “Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon.”[205]

[Footnote 205: Among other novelists of Irish life and manners may be mentioned Lady Morgan, Mrs. S.C. Hall, Gerald Griffin, T.C. Grattan, Justin MacCarthy, and others.]

 

V.

Novels relating particularly to English life and manners have been greater in number and more varied in character than those of any other country. A large volume would be necessary to do any critical justice to the many distinguished writers whom we can only briefly notice here. The most considerable subdivision of the English novel has been that occupied with the study of domestic life,—a department for which women are particularly fitted, and in which they have been eminently successful.

Mrs. Opie's “Simple Tales,” “Tales of Real Life,” and “Tales of the Heart,” although displaying no great talent in construction or style, excel in a natural pathos and a delicacy of sentiment which have made them popular for many years. Miss Edgeworth brought to the study of English life the same practical views and library talents which we have seen in her Irish novels. Her children's stories, “Frank,” “Harry and Lucy,” and “Rosamund” were among the first contributions to juvenile fiction. “Helen,” in which she exposed the evils of untruthfulness, is a good example of the success with which this admirable woman could combine entertainment and moral elevation. Jane Austen's name has long been linked with that of Miss Edgeworth, as the two most powerful female novelists of the earlier part of the century. In “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Mansfield Park,” “Sense and Sensibility,” she described the country gentry and middle classes of society. She depended neither on exciting scenes, nor on highly wrought effects of human passion for the interest of her stories, but studied every-day life and ordinary people with a sympathy and power of observation which imparted a deep interest to all her works. Miss Ferrier's novels, “Inheritance” and “Marriage,” were greatly admired by Scott, and now, some sixty years later, are still widely read, and receive the honor of both cheap and expensive editions. Miss Ferrier's skill in the construction of a plot, her natural studies of character and the liveliness of her descriptions have kept her works popular, notwithstanding great changes in the public taste. Mrs. Trollope, the mother of a more celebrated son, contributed largely to the English domestic novel. The pathetic story of the lives of the Bronte sisters, supplied by Mrs. Gaskell, has deepened the interest excited by the early popularity of “Jane Eyre.” Charlotte was the most talented of the family, and won a widespread admiration by her knowledge of life, her freshness, her vigor, and her innocent disregard of conventionality. Mrs. Gaskell described the life and trials of the manufacturing classes with great ability in “Mary Barton” and other novels. Miss Yonge, author of the “Heir of Redclyffe,” Mrs. Henry Wood, author of “East Lynne,” and Mrs. Lynn Linton have added largely to this department of fiction. The Baroness Tautphoeus described English and German life in the particularly fascinating novels, “Quits,” “At Odds,” and “The Initials.” Miss Thackeray has made good use of talents inherited from her father. Mary R. Mitford and Mrs. Alexander have written many entertaining and popular novels. Miss Mulock began a long list of successful works with “The Ogilvies” and “John Halifax.”

But by far the greatest female novelist who has devoted her talents to the English domestic novel, and by far the greatest female writer in the language is undeniably George Eliot. Women almost invariably leave the stamp of their sex upon their work. But George Eliot took and held a man's position in literature from the outset of her career. It was not that she was unfeminine. She brought to her work a woman's sympathy and a woman's attention to detail. But in breadth of conception, in comprehensiveness of thought, her mind was essentially masculine. Her appreciation of varieties and shades of character was almost Shakespearian. She could describe the self-indulgence of a Hetty Sorrel leading to cruelty, and that of a Tito leading to treachery, with perfect distinctness. She could enter into the generous aspirations of a Savonarola, and the selfish desires of a Grandcourt, with equal perspicuity. Her readers do not feel less familiar with the dull barrenness of Casaubon than with the pregnant vivacity of Mrs. Poyser. In the study of the inward workings of the human mind, George Eliot is unsurpassed by any novelist. Thackeray alone can dispute her pre-eminence in this respect. However much the reader may recoil from the horror of Little Hetty's crime, he cannot deny that it follows as a natural consequence. Although Dorothea's marriages are extremely disappointing, the train of thought which led her to enter into them is traced with unerring clearness.

An obstacle to the popularity of George Eliot's novels lies in the slowness of their movement. The author's soliloquies, comments, and reflections, which are so much valued by her especial admirers, constantly interrupt the course of the narrative, and prove cumbersome to such readers as enjoy a rapid, flowing story. But without these interruptions, how much of George Eliot's best wisdom would be lost! How many significant phrases would be lost from familiar language! The commentaries of the authoress herself on the incidents of her tale give her works a value which inclines us to take up her volumes again and again, long after the stories themselves have become familiar. We never weary of such sentences as the following from “Adam Bede”: “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope.” Not less beautiful and concentrated are those few words on woman's love in “Middlemarch”:—“Those childlike caresses which are the bent of every sweet woman, who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate of her bald doll, creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the wealth of her own love.”

A faculty which George Eliot possessed in common with Dickens and Thackeray was that of making very ordinary people interesting. And this is a talent characteristic of the best minds which have contributed to fiction or the drama. Shakespeare possessed it in a high degree, and the best creations of Scott are ordinary, unheroic persons. The faculty arises from superior powers of observation. Some people will take a walk through a picturesque country or a crowded city without having seen any thing worthy of remark. Others will pass over the same ground, and return overflowing with description. In the same manner, the great number of men and women pass through life finding every thing commonplace, and the observing sympathy of a Thackeray, a Miss Austen, or a George Eliot is necessary to light up the unnoticed figures which throng the path. George Eliot is particularly happy in drawing a really ordinary person, especially when a little pretension is added. She must have written Mr. Brooke's opinion of women with true enjoyment: “There is a lightness about the feminine mind—a touch and go—music, the fine arts, that kind of thing—they should study those up to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know.” But though Mrs. Poyser be humble, she is far from ordinary. “Some folks' tongues,” she says, “are like the clocks as run on strikin', not to tell you the time o' the day, but because there's summat wrong i' their own inside.”

So long as George Eliot confined herself to her own sphere of action, she exhibited the same remarkable powers. But even her great name could not command admiration for “The Spanish Gypsy.” Her limitations clearly appeared in “Daniel Deronda.” When describing the characters and intercourse of Grandcourt and Gwendolen, when dealing with every thing English in that variously estimated work, she remained the great author of “Adam Bede” and “Silas Marner.” But in undertaking the discussion of the religion and social position of the Jews, she mistook her own talents, and created in Daniel Deronda, an indefinite combination of virtues unworthy of her genius.

We have now noticed fifteen women, from Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen to George Eliot, who have contributed to the single department of fiction concerned with English domestic life. Many other names almost equally deserving and equally celebrated might be added to the list. The enduring popularity of their works is sufficient commentary on the success with which woman's talent has been directed toward fiction. Not only have the productions of these writers a high literary value, but their widespread circulation has afforded a really healthful amusement to tens of thousands, and their influence has been uniformly for good.[206]

The novels of English domestic life written by men have been little more numerous or able, but much more extended in scope. “Tremaine” and “De Vere,” of R. Plumer Ward, contain clever sketches of character, but the narrative is loaded down with political and philosophical disquisitions. Theodore Hook's stories were as unequal as his life. Almost all bear the marks of haste and carelessness, and yet very few are without some portion of that pointed wit and delicate humor which delineated Jack Brag, or described Mr. Abberley's dinner party in the “Man of Many Friends.” Richard Harris Barham is well known as the author of the witty “Ingoldsby Legends,” and Samuel Warren as the author of “Ten Thousand a Year.” Charles Kingsley described the life and grievances of mechanics in “Alton Locke.” Charles Reade began a long series of popular novels with “Peg Woffington” and “Christie Johnstone.” His best work is “Never Too Late to Mend,” in which he criticized prison discipline, and described the striking scenes of the Australian gold-fields. Few novels of the present day contain a more interesting story or more lifelike delineations of character. Wilkie Collins' greatest power lies in the construction of his plot; the “Moonstone” and the “Woman in White,” are among the most absorbing narratives in the whole range of fiction. His studies of the morbid workings of the mind are often striking, but with the exception of Count Fosco and a few others, his characters are not strongly marked. Thomas Hughes accomplished a truly noble work in the composition of “Tom Brown's School Days” and “Tom Brown at Oxford,”—books which have found their way to every boy's heart, and have appealed to all that was most healthful and manly there. The novels of Benjamin d'Israeli are chiefly interesting in their relation to the character of their illustrious author. As works of art they are faulty in construction, exaggerated in description, and unnatural in effect. “Vivian Gray” and “Lothair” cannot pretend to be truthful studies of English life, nor would their author, probably, have represented them as such. But so much of the great statesman's power was instilled into his novels that they have a certain interest even for those who are most alive to their faults. They are the conceptions of a very rich imagination, and contain many pictures which, if untrue to nature, are still extremely vivid. D'Israeli's chief literary, and perhaps also his chief political characteristic, was a constant endeavor to make striking effects. The reader may be sure to find nothing commonplace in his writings. Every scene and every character is painted in the brightest of colors. If the background be sombre, it will simply throw out more brilliantly the figures in the foreground. It is said that most men have a favorite word. That of d'Israeli was “wondrous.” He took his reader into wondrous baronial halls, filled with wondrous gems, with wondrous tapestries, with wondrous paintings, and introduced him to wondrous dukes and duchesses, looking out from wondrous dark orbs, and breathing through almond-shaped nostrils. He loved to bring the royal family on the scene, and to trace the awe-inspiring effect of their august presence. When we open a novel of d'Israeli's we are certain of moving in a brilliant society, although one belonging to a yet undiscovered world. Women whose political influence changes the map of Europe, irresistible Catholic priests are mingled with impudent adventurers and professional toad-eaters. And over every thing is cast, by d'Israeli's Eastern imagination, a glamour of unlimited wealth, of numberless coronets, and of soaring ambitions. The political career of the Earl of Beaconsfield is one of the most remarkable in history, and even his opponents cannot withhold admiration from the great abilities and undaunted resolution which brought that career to its triumphant close. But the novels of the Earl of Beaconsfield have little value beyond their reflection of his dreams and his ambition.

Among the most famous writers of fiction of the nineteenth century will always be mentioned the name of Sir Bulwer Lytton. More than any other writer, he studied and developed the novel as a form of literature. Almost every novelist has taken some special field and has confined himself to that. Dickens, George Eliot, Thackeray made occasional incursions on historic ground, but still their chief work was expended upon the novel of life and manners. Lytton attempted, and successfully, every department of fiction. In “Zanoni,” he gave to the world a novel of fancy; in “Pelham” and “The Disowned,” fashionable novels: in “Paul Clifford,” a criminal novel; in “Rienzi,” “Harold,” “The Last of the Barons,” historical novels; in “What Will He Do With It?” a novel of familiar life. And he brought to each variety of fiction the same artistic sense, the same knowledge of the world, and keen observation. To describe English life in all its phases, he was particularly fitted. Born in a high rank, he was perfectly at home in his descriptions of the upper classes, and never slow in exposing their vices. His studies of men took so universal a form that he became familiar even with the slang terms of pickpockets and house-breakers. “What Will He Do With It?” combines examples of the heroic, the humorous, the pathetic, and the villainous, and affords, perhaps, the best general view of the author's varied talents. Sir Bulwer Lytton is one of the most voluminous writers of a very prolific class, and yet he has never repeated himself. Mr. Anthony Trollope and several other novelists have shown how fallacious is the idea that the imagination is a fickle mistress to be courted and waited for. They have proved that she can be made to settle down and accustomed by habit to working at stated hours and for regular periods. But Bulwer Lytton not only forced his imagination to continuous labor, but he was able to insure an unending novelty of conception. In each one of his novels we are introduced to an entirely new set of characters inhabiting quite unfamiliar scenes.

With a few exceptions, Mr. Anthony Trollope has confined himself to the novel of English social life, but that mine he has worked with wonderful assiduity and success. In “The Warden,” in “Barchester Towers,” are studies of clerical character for which this writer has won a special reputation. “The Small House at Allington” is a love story of particular fascination. Few writers have described the manifestations of love in the acts and thoughts of a modest, sweet girl as delicately as Mr. Trollope has done in the case of the deserted Lily. Her rejection of a second suitor is felt by the reader to be the inevitable consequence of so pure a passion, and the treachery of Crosbie is traced through its various gradations with true fidelity to nature. “Phineas Finn” is an excellent example of a parliamentary novel. That work and its companions, “Phineas Redux,” “The Prime Minister,” and “The Duke's Children,” keep up our acquaintance with the family and connections of Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, than which few groups of fictitious characters are more continuously interesting. Mr. Trollope's novels will have a special value for the future student of English social life in the nineteenth century. The race-course, the hunting field, the country seat, Piccadilly, Hyde Park, the life of clubs and parliament, are described by him with photographic minuteness. And the novel-reader of to-day derives a constant pleasure from his books, notwithstanding the fact that the monotony of modern life is somewhat too closely reflected in them.

The works of no writer in the English language, except those of Scott, have attained so immediate a reputation and have won so wide-spread a popularity as the novels of Charles Dickens. “In less than six months from the appearance of the first number of the 'Pickwick Papers,'“ said the London Quarterly Review in 1837, “the whole reading public were talking about them, the names of Winkle, Warden, Weller, Snodgrass, Dodson and Fogg, had become familiar in our mouths as household terms; and Mr. Dickens was the grand object of interest to the whole tribe of 'Leo-hunters,' male and female, of the metropolis. Nay, Pickwick chintzes figured in linen-drapers' windows, and Weller corduroys in breeches-makers' advertisements; Boz cabs might be seen rattling through the streets; and the portrait of the author of 'Pelham' or 'Crichton' was scraped down or pasted over to make room for that of the new popular favourite in the omnibuses.” For forty years the writings of this great novelist have held their place in the public esteem without any sensible diminution. Hundreds of thousands, old and young, in Great Britain, in America, in every country of Europe, have followed the fortunes of Nicholas Nickleby, of David Copperfield, of Oliver Twist, and of numberless other celebrated characters with unflagging interest. Perhaps Dickens' most remarkable achievement lay in the number of his creations, and in the distinctness with which he could impress them on the memory of his readers. Of the great host of figures who throng his scenes, how many we remember! Their names remain stamped on our minds, and some of their characteristic phrases, like Micawber's “Something will turn up,” or Tapley's “There's some credit in being jolly here,” have passed into current phrases. Dickens' great object was to celebrate the virtues of the humbler ranks of life, and to expose the acts of injustice or tyranny to which they are subjected. This he did in a spirit of the truest philanthropy and most universal benevolence. The helpless victims of oppression, like little Oliver Twist, or the inmates of Dotheboys Hall, found in him an effective champion. Never has hypocrisy, the besetting vice of this age, been so mercilessly exposed as in the works of Dickens. It is not only in such a character as Pecksniff that its ugliness is revealed, but wherever pretence hides guilt behind a sanctimonious countenance, the mask is surely torn off. Dickens hated hypocrisy as Thackeray hated snobbism. And both, in their zeal, occasionally saw the hypocrite or the snob where he did not exist. Dealing, as Dickens did, so exclusively with common and low-born characters, it is remarkable that his books so rarely leave any impression of vulgarity behind them. And this result is due to the author's love of truth and detestation of all pretence. There can be no vulgarity without pretension. A great many novels of the day are extremely vulgar, because they describe ill-bred people and represent them to the reader as ladies and gentlemen. But Dickens' shopkeeper or street-sweeper makes no pretence to gentility, and therefore is as far from being vulgar as the man who has never known what it was to be any thing but a gentleman. The faults, like the merits, of Dickens' work resulted from the exuberance and power of his imagination. The same vividness of conception which gives such life to his description of a thunderstorm or of a quiet family scene, sometimes betrayed him into exaggeration and caricature. And yet when we consider the number and variety of the figures conjured up by his creative mind, from Paul Dombey to the Jew, Fagin, it is extraordinary that to so few this criticism will apply.

Dickens' vast popularity resulted only in part from the artistic merit of his works. The breadth of his canvas, his intense realization of fictitious scenes, and his extraordinary descriptive power are qualities enough to win for him his eminent position in fiction. But the affection felt for Dickens as a man, which has made him occupy so much the hearts as well as the minds of the reading public, was attracted by qualities apart from those which excited admiration for the author. Dickens was essentially a national writer in the variety of the characters with whom he brought his readers into communion. He was essentially popular, from the fact that he dealt with the masses and not with any particular class. He was essentially English, in that he was the apostle of home. No novelist who has treated domestic life has so thoroughly caught its spirit, and has so sympathetically traced its joys and sorrows, its trials and recompenses. Family life has been for more than two centuries gradually supplanting the life of the camp and the court. It is in the domestic circle that men now find the interest which was formerly sought in adventure or publicity. Not only in the Christmas stories, especially devoted to the celebration of home, but through all his great fictions Dickens made domestic life his chief study. And he is, above all others, the favorite household novelist. While he lived, each new work of his was welcomed alike by parent and child, and when he died, there were few homes where books ever came that the loss of a friend was not felt.

Scott, Dickens, almost all the great English novelists described heroes and heroines. They made their chief character an embodiment of virtue or strength, and strove to win for him the admiration of the reader. Even Tom Jones was a hero to Fielding, and Roderick Random to Smollett. But Thackeray said to himself as he looked out on the world, that humanity was not made up of heroes and villains. He had never met with the truly heroic, nor with the utterly depraved. It seemed to him that human nature lay between the two extremes. In “Vanity Fair,” in “Pendennis” and in “The Newcomes” he resolved to describe man as he was, with virtues and failings, with occasional glimpses of the noble, and more common exhibitions of the mean and the little. Young men were to appear in his pages with their weakness and selfishness; young girls with their silliness and affectation. Thackeray, in a word, was to be more realistic than his predecessors in fiction had dared to be. He was to show his readers what they really were, and not what they would wish to be.

But in Thackeray's novels is evident the difficulty of establishing any generally accepted standard of realism. If this quality consists in representing a character as speaking and acting just as we should expect such a character to speak and act, Thackeray succeeded as perhaps no novelist, except Fielding, had done before him. Becky Sharp, Sir Pitt Crawley, Pendennis, Clive Newcome, all use such words as the reader would expect from them. Their actions are the natural results of the trains of thought into which the author has given us an insight. When the old reprobate, Lord Steyne, discovers that Becky Sharp had appropriated to herself the money which he had given her to restore poor Miss Briggs' stolen property, he is not indignant at the deception. The admiration of the noble rogue is only increased for the woman who has shown herself to be possessed of a more astute roguery than his own:—

    “What an accomplished little devil it is!” thought he. “What a 
    splendid actress and manager! She had almost got a second supply 
    out of me the other day with her coaxing ways. She beats all the 
    women I have ever seen in the course of all my well-spent life! 
    They are babies compared to her. I am a green-horn myself and a 
    fool in her hands—an old fool. She is unsurpassable in lies.” His 
    lordship's admiration for Becky rose immeasurably at this proof of 
    her cleverness. Getting the money was nothing—but getting double 
    the sum she wanted and paying nobody—it was a magnificent stroke.

In his delineation of character, in the perfect naturalness with which all his personages act out their respective parts, no novelist is more realistic than Thackeray. But realism has a broader application. A novelist who takes every-day life for his subject has not only to give the stamp of nature to all his scenes and individuals, but he must so write, that at the end of his book the reader will have the impression that real life, with its due apportionment of good and evil, of happiness and grief, has been placed before him. Some readers will receive that impression from Thackeray's novels; but they will be those who think that the evil and the unhappiness predominate. So thought the author himself. But the world in general think differently, and agree to look upon Thackeray as a satirist.

As such, he ranks in English literature second only to Swift. To the great Dean, man was a lump of deformity and disease. He saw in humanity little besides its vice, and painted his species in colors under which few men have been willing to recognize a portrait. Thackeray's genial disposition naturally made him far less bitter than Swift. He neither saw nor portrayed the monstrous vice which excited the hatred of the satirist of the eighteenth century. To Thackeray, men were weak rather than bad, selfish rather than vicious. George Osborne braves the consequences of marrying poor Amelia Sedley, and yet prefers his own pleasure to that of his wife. Rawdon Crawley is ignorant, rude, and unprincipled, but yet is loving and faithful to Rebecca. Weakness, pettiness, self-deception were the main objects of Thackeray's satire. Where are the absurdities of youthful woman-worship held up to such derision as in Pendennis' love for Miss Costigan!

    Pen tried to engage her in conversation about poetry and about her 
    profession. He asked her what she thought about Ophelia's madness, 
    and whether she was in love with Hamlet or not? “In love with such 
    a little ojus creature as that stunted manager of a Bingley?” She 
    bristled with indignation at the thought. Pen explained that it was 
    not of her he spoke, but of Ophelia of the play. “Oh, indeed, if no 
    offense was meant none was taken: but as for Bingley, indeed, she 
    did not value him—not that glass of punch.” Pen next tried her on 
    Kotzebue. “Kotzebue? who was he?” “The author of the play in which 
    she had been performing so admirably.” “She did not know that, the 
    man's name at the beginning of the book was Thompson,” she said. 
    Pen laughed at her adorable simplicity.... “How beautiful she is,” 
    thought Pen, cantering homewards. “How simple and how tender! How 
    charming it is to see a woman of her genius busying herself with 
    the humble affairs of domestic life, cooking dishes to make her old 
    father comfortable, and brewing him drink! How rude it was of me to 
    begin to talk of professional matters, and how well she turned the 
    conversation! ... Pendennis, Pendennis,—how she spoke the word! 
    Emily! Emily! how good, how noble, how beautiful, how perfect she 
    is!”[207]

Thackeray's satire is all the more powerful in that it is directed against foibles more than against vices. Many a reader who will reject Swift's portrait of man as a libel, cannot but feel a twinge at Thackeray's delicate pencillings. After dwelling on the worldliness, the hypocrisy, the self-seeking of the inmates of Queen's Crawley, how softly but how terribly he scourges them! “These honest folks at the Hall, whose simplicity and sweet rural purity surely show the advantage of a country life over a town one.” His praise is the severest cut of all. “Dear Rebecca,” “the dear creature,” and we wince for Becky. “What a dignity it gives an old lady, that balance at the banker's! How tenderly we look at her faults, if she be a relative.” “These money transactions, these speculations in life and death—these silent battles for reversionary spoil—make brothers very loving toward each other in Vanity Fair.”

Thackeray is the novelist whose works depend in the least degree on narrative interest. The characters are so clearly drawn and so interesting, the manner of Thackeray's writing is so uniformly entertaining, that his books can always be opened at random and read with pleasure. “Henry Esmond” is the only novel in which the plot is carefully constructed. The others are a string of consecutive chapters, each one of which possesses its individual interest.[208]

The novel of English life and manners includes many subdivisions. Among the writings of Miss Edgeworth, Miss Ferrier, Bulwer Lytton, Mr. Anthony Trollope, and others, are novels which deal to a greater or less extent with fashionable life. A number of novelists, principally female, have confined their studies to the aristocratic classes.[209] But the so called fashionable novel is most often the composition of adventurers whose catch-penny productions aim at affording, to the middle or lower ranks, information concerning the habits of the aristocracy. It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that fashionable life in these novels is such as it might appear to an imaginative kitchen-maid whose idea of up-stairs existence is founded on the gossip of servants. When written by persons conversant with their subject, the fashionable novel forms a legitimate subdivision of the novel of life and manners. But it is most often a noxious weed. Its cultivators constantly make up for lack of talent by the excitement of immoral scenes, and give to their audience of sempstresses and grooms a most degraded view of aristocratic life. Even when harmless in matter, its rank luxuriance fills up space much better occupied by the flowers of literature.

The eminent criminal novel is taken as a tonic by minds satiated with the vapidity of fashionable fiction. From Lytton's “Paul Clifford,” and Ainsworth's “Jack Sheppard,” down to “Merciless Ben, the Hair-Lifter,” criminal narrative has been occupied with endowing burglars and murderers with the graces of gentlemen and the moral worth of Christian missionaries. In its celebration of successful crime, and its representation under a heroic aspect of villains and blacklegs, no species of fiction is more false to nature or more injurious to youthful readers.

To such writers as George A. Lawrence and “Ouida” the world is indebted for the “Muscular Novel,” which combines all the worst elements of both fashionable and criminal narrative. In “Guy Livingstone,” “Strathmore,” and a hundred similar fictions, the reader is introduced to men of extraordinary physical development, whose strength is proof against the wildest dissipation; to women of extraordinary beauty, whose charms are enhanced in proportion to their coarseness and lack of modesty. Jack Sheppard, reposing on a velvet couch, smoking a perfumed cigarette, and worshipped by two or three ornaments of the demi-monde, is the type most admired by the muscular novelist. Lawrence and “Ouida” have brought to their work a literary power which has given them considerable notoriety; and has placed them at the head of their particular school; but it is a school whose distinctive characteristics consist in extravagance, unhealthiness of tone, and falseness to nature.

English military life has been ably described by such writers as E. Napier, G.R. Gleig, W.H. Maxwell, and James Grant. But as a maritime nation, England has been much more prolific of naval novelists. At the head of these stands Captain Marryat, who has celebrated the pleasures and described the incidents of sea-faring life in about thirty jovial, dashing books. Among the great number of odd and entertaining characters sketched by his hand, “Peter Simple” and “Midshipman Easy" are perhaps the most interesting. Marryat's narratives are not carefully constructed, but flow on gracefully and easily, enlivened by an inexhaustible fund of humor, and enriched by an endless succession of bright or exciting scenes. The names of Captain Glassock, Howard, Trelawney, Captain Chamier, Michael Scott, and the author of the “Wreck of the Grosvenor,” are among those most prominently associated with the marine novel. These writers have not only dealt with the adventures of a sailor's life and the peculiarities of a sailor's character, but have studied the influence of the sea on the human mind.

Through the great interest felt by Englishmen in the manners and customs of Eastern nations, Oriental novels have become a recognized department of English fiction. In the eighteenth century, Johnson, in “Rasselas,” and Beckford, in “Vathek,” had drawn on the romantic features of Eastern life. In the present century successful attempts have been made to study Oriental character through the medium of the realistic novel. Hope, in “Anastasius,” described the vices and degradation of Turkey and Greece in the person of his hero. In James Morier's “Hajji Baba of Ispahan” and “Ayesha,” are vivid delineations of Eastern character and highly humorous sketches of Persian life. James Baillie Fraser, in “The Kuzzilbash,” and Miss Pardoe in a number of tales, have still further enriched the department of Oriental fiction.

[Footnote 206: Other women who have contributed to the English domestic novel—. Mary K. Mitford, Mrs. Crowe, Mrs. Marsh, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Miss Kavanaugh, Geraldine Jewsbury, Mrs. Alexander, S. Bunbury, C. Sinclair, A. Strickland, M.C. Clarke, L.S. Costello, C. Crowe, A.H. Drury, G. Ellis, M. Howitt, Mrs. Hubback, Hon. Mrs. Norton, M.A. Power, E. Sewell, Mrs. Marquoid, Hesba Stretton, Florence Marryat, Elizabeth Wetherell, Sarah Tytler, C.C. Fraser-Tytler, C. Craik, Hon. Mrs. Chetwind, M.M. Grant, A.E. Bray, and others.]

[Footnote 207: “Pendennis,” Chap. v.]

[Footnote 208: Many other well-known writers have contributed to the English domestic novel: Thomas Love Peacock, H. Coke, Samuel Philips, Angus B. Reach, Albert Smith, R. Cobbold, Edmund Yates, Thomas A. Trollope, Thomas Hardy, James Payn, George Augustus Sala, William Thornbury, the author of “The Bachelor of the Albany,” Mortimer Collins, G.H. Lewes, Shirley Brooks, Douglas Jerrold, C. Crowley, T. de Quincey, S.W. Fullom, J. Hannay, W. Howitt, C. Mackay, G.J. Whyte-Melville, T. Miller, L. Ritchie, F.E. Smedley, J.A. St. John, M.F. Tupper, F.M. Whitly, F. Williams, C.L. Wraxall, and others.]

[Footnote 209: T.H. Lister, Marquis of Normanby, Lady Caroline Lamb, Countess of Morley, Lady Charlotte Bury, Lady Dacre, Mrs. Gore, Lady Blessington.]

 

VI.

James Fenimore Cooper said in regard to the materials for American fiction: “There is a familiarity of the subject, a scarcity of events, and a poverty in the accompaniments that drive an author from the undertaking in despair.” But the truth of this statement has been greatly modified, if not quite refuted, by the work of that great novelist and of several others who have succeeded him. It is true that American life presents less salient characteristics than that of Europe; that class distinctions are less marked; and that the energies of the nation are still so much confined to strictly utilitarian objects, that life moves along with unpicturesque sameness and evenness. But mankind remains equally complicated and equally interesting under whatever circumstances it may be placed. The vast extent of American territory and the infinite variety of its inhabitants afford material to the novelist which yet remains almost untouched. New England, New York, the Southern States, and, above all, the Great West, are rich in special customs, traditions, and habits of thought with which fiction has only begun to concern itself. The visitor to Washington cannot fail to be struck by the variety of men who jostle each other in that cosmopolitan city. The New England farmer, the New York banker, the Southern planter, the Western herder or grain merchant, the California mine-owner, the negro, and perhaps a stray visiting Indian chief, represent widely differing and highly interesting forms of life and opinion. Whenever native genius has cast aside foreign influence and has found inspiration in American traditions and institutions, the extent and richness of its literary material have been made manifest.

The earliest examples of fiction in the United States were tentative and lacking in originality. At the close of the eighteenth century, Charles Brockden Brown began the career of the first American novelist with “Wieland.” His pecuniary necessities and the slight encouragement offered at that time to American authors made it impossible for him to afford the time and care essential to artistic finish. His novels are of an imaginative and psychological character, often interesting in parts from the intense mental excitement which they describe. They were much admired by the English novelist Godwin, whose works they resemble in intensity of conception and faultiness of execution. A novel called “Charlotte Temple,” by Susanna Rowson, obtained a wide circulation in the beginning of the present century, due much more to its foundation on a notorious scandal than to its own literary merit. “Modern Chivalry; or the Adventures of Captain Farrago and Teague O'Reagan, his Servant”—a poor imitation of “Don Quixote”—as a satire directed against the Democratic party by H.H. Brackenridge. R.H. Dana's “Tom Thornton” and “Paul Felton” have little claim to attention beyond the excitement of their rather sensational stories.

But with the publication of “The Spy,” Cooper opened a thoroughly national vein, and began a literary career which showed how little native genius need rely on foreign influence or on foreign subjects. He described the stirring events and the moral heroism of the American Revolution with patriotic sympathy and original literary power. He touched the romantic chords of that great struggle with a delicacy which met with a world-wide response. Not only did Americans feel that in Cooper's novels the picturesque and characteristic features of their country were delineated by a master-hand, but in almost every European land, translations of “The Spy,” “The Pioneers,” or “The Pathfinder,” testified to the universal interest excited by the examples of simplicity, endurance, and sagacity which formed the subjects of Cooper's pen. In “The Pioneers,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Prairie,” “The Pathfinder,” and “The Deer-slayer” figures the character of Leatherstocking, than whom no fictitious personage has a greater claim to interest. His bravery, resolution, and woodland skill make him a type of the hardy race who pushed westward the reign of civilization. The scenes among which he lived, the primeval forest, the great inland lakes, the hunter's camp, and Indian wigwam were described by Cooper with a fidelity and picturesqueness which will always give to his works a national value. Now that farms and manufacturing towns cover what a century ago was a trackless wilderness, where backwoodsmen and Indians shot bear and deer, it would be almost impossible for us to realize the previous condition of our now populous country were it not for the novels of Cooper. And this great writer not only described the wild aspect of American scenery and the hardly less wild features of pioneer character. He painted with equal skill the life of the American sailor, at a time when that life had an interest and excitement it no longer possesses. Long Tom Coffin, Tom Tiller, Bob Yarn, belonged to a period when the United Stales was a maritime country, before American enterprise and industry were shut off from the sea by legislative imbecility. No marine novelist has given a more life-like impression of a ship than Cooper, and none have excelled him in descriptions of the sea and in studies of those peculiar forms of human nature produced by life on the ocean. So long as Cooper confined himself to purely national subjects, his success was brilliant and continuous; but many of his works show the effect of misdirected talent, and have fallen into neglect.

The “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “Rip Van Winkle” are the specimens of American fiction most intimately associated with New York. In these stories the traditions and scenery of the Hudson River were treated by Washington Irving with all the richness of imagination and delicacy of expression of which he had so great a store. Some part of that romantic interest afforded to the traveller by the castles of the Rhine, has been imparted to the Hudson by the exquisite pages of the “Sketch Book.” The stories of Nathaniel P. Willis and some of the novels of Bayard Taylor and of J.G. Holland also belong especially to New York.

At the head of New England, and, indeed, of American writers of fiction, stands Nathaniel Hawthorne. His three great works, “The Scarlet Letter,” “The House of the Seven Gables,” and “The Blithedale Romance,” are the finest specimens of imaginative writing which American genius has yet produced. The interest of Hawthorne's novels lies almost entirely in their subtle and astute studies of the hidden workings of the human mind. His fictions are remarkable for their want of action. “The Scarlet Letter” can hardly be said to have a plot. The series of chapters which intervene between the exhibition of Hester Prynne on the scaffold and the voluntary self-exposure there of the Puritan minister, simply represent gradual changes from the first to the last situation of the principal characters. But narrative excitement was never Hawthorne's object, and the want of it is never felt by his reader. Each scene is an appropriate sequel to the last, and a natural introduction to the next. Each chapter has its special interest,—the analysis of a condition of mind, a dramatic situation, or a highly finished domestic picture. It is in the delineation of character and the study of human motives that Hawthorne's chief excellence as a novelist consists. Nothing can exceed the penetration and vividness with which such persons as Zenobia, in “The Blithedale Romance,” and Holgrave, in “The House of the Seven Gables,” are described. The homeward walk of the fallen young minister, in “The Scarlet Letter,” when he had resolved to desert his flock and to connect himself again with Hester Prynne, is an unsurpassed delineation of sudden moral degeneration. There is nothing of modern realism in Hawthorne's novels, and yet they leave a realistic impression behind them. The greater number of his characters appear to us rather as representatives of certain mental conditions then as real flesh and blood. Neither in the dialogue, nor in what may be called the “properties” of his writing did Hawthorne strive at realistic effects. Still, when the reader lays down “The Scarlet Letter,” or “The House of the Seven Gables,” he insensibly feels himself embued with the spirit and atmosphere of Puritan New England. Hawthorne was so intensely a New Englander in his sympathies, prejudices, and habits of mind, that his writings were always colored by the thought and sentiment of his native land. In “The Scarlet Letter,” there is little evidence of the use of historical researches, and yet in that volume, colonial life has been made real and actual to us by the very intensity of the author's national feeling.

New England fiction includes a number of other celebrated and honored names. Catherine M. Sedgwick began her literary career with “Hope Leslie,” a story founded on the early history of Massachusetts, which was followed by “Redwood” and “The Linwoods, or Sixty Years Since in America.” Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes studied New England village life in “Elsie Venner,” and Sylvester Judd that of the Maine backwoods in “Margaret.” Mr. T.W. Higginson has written “Malbone.” Mr. W.D. Howells, Rev. Edward Everett Hale, and Miss E.S. Phelps are still adding to their reputations.

Among the novels relating to life in the Southern States, “Uncle Tom's Cabin” is the most prominent. The circulation and fame of this book have been the most remarkable phenomenon in the annals of literature. Within a year, more than two hundred thousand copies were sold in the United States, and fully a million in England. Thirteen different translations were issued in Germany, four in France, and two in Russia; the Magyar language boasted three separate versions; the Wallachian, two; the Welsh, two; and the Dutch, two; while the Armenian, Arabic, Romaic, and all the European languages had at least one version. The book was dramatized in not less than twenty different forms, and was acted all over Europe. In France, and still more in England, all other books and all other subjects became, for the time, secondary to “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” This extraordinary popularity was chiefly due to the importance and novelty of the subject treated. Mrs. Stowe imparted a considerable narrative interest to her work, and gave to her characters a very life-like effect. Her pathetic and humorous scenes are natural and well arranged. The peculiarities of negro life and habits of thought are placed before the reader with genuine sympathy and truth. Uncle Tom and Topsy are fine and original creations. But taken simply as a novel, “Uncle Tom's Cabin” is not more remarkable than a hundred others, and cannot compete with such works as “Tom Jones,” “Adam Bede,” or “David Copperfield.” Mrs. Stowe's extraordinary success was fully deserved, but it resulted less from the literary excellence of her work, than from the fact that when one great subject rose pre-eminent in the public mind, she was able to embody it in a popular and easily comprehended form. Gilmore Simms and John P. Kennedy have contributed largely to the novel of Southern life. Mr. G.W. Cable is now studying Louisiana characters, and Judge Tourgee the general condition of the South since the war.

Novels descriptive of Western life have been written by Charles Fenno Hoffman, James Hall, Timothy Flint, Thomas, and O'Connell. But none of these writers have given such original sketches of character, or have so graphically portrayed the spirit of life in the far West as Mr. Bret Harte. “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and the other stories of this talented writer have opened a vein of romance where it was least expected.

American fiction has been exceptionally rich in stories adapted to the juvenile mind, among which the most prominent are Mrs. Whitney's “Faith Gartney's Girlhood,” Miss Alcott's “Little Women,” and Mr. T.B. Aldrich's “Story of a Bad Boy.” Edgar Allan Poe's “Tales of the Grotesque and the Arabesque,” are remarkable for intensity and vividness of conception, combined with a circumstantial invention almost equal to that of Defoe. Mrs. Burnett and Mr. J.W. De Forest are still writing excellent novels of American life; and Mr. Henry James, Jr., is studying that peculiar form of human nature known as the American in Europe.[210]

[Footnote 210: Other American writers of fiction:—R.B. Kimball, Herman Melville, Dr. R. Bird, John Neal, H.W. Longfellow, Washington Allston, Maria S. Cummins, W.G. Simms, Theodore Winthrop, Mary J. Holmes, Mrs. Terhune, Augusta Evans Wilson, Catherine Sedgwick Valerio.]

 

VII.

The historical novel is obviously a subdivision of the novel of life and manners. But, dealing as it does with remote ages, with forgotten opinions and long-disused customs, it has to reconstruct where the novel of contemporary life has only to illustrate. Strict historical accuracy can hardly be expected in fiction concerned with the past. The details of life, always difficult to seize, are almost beyond the reach of the novelist who deals with a subject with which he has had no personal experience. A certain amount of accuracy concerning dress, customs, peculiarities of opinion and language are necessary to give to a historical novel the effect of verisimilitude. But what is chiefly requisite in such a work is that the general spirit of the period treated should be successfully caught; that the reader should find himself occupied with a train of associations and sympathies which insensibly withdraws his thoughts from their ordinary channels, and occupies them with the beliefs, opinions, and aspirations of a totally different state of society.

Such is the special merit of Scott's historical novels. Many inaccuracies of fact might be pointed out in them. His study of the character of James I, in “The Fortunes of Nigel,” is in several respects entirely mistaken. His description of a euphuist in “The Monastery” bears no resemblance whatever to the followers of John Lyly. In “The Talisman” and in “Ivanhoe,” of which the scenes are laid in the time of Richard Coeur de Lion, the reader recognises little realism of language. But as Scott's historical novels deal with periods extending from that of the crusades down to the Pretender's attempt in 1745, an intimate knowledge of the innumerable social changes and peculiarities is not to be expected.

It is, indeed, to be doubted that a novelist can so reproduce a distant epoch as to satisfy the ideas of careful historical students. He can, however, make familiar to his readers the general spirit of a time. And, in this, Scott was eminently successful. “Kenilworth” gives a vivid picture of the gay picturesqueness of Elizabeth's age. “Woodstock” contains a fine contrast between the Cavalier and the Puritan character. “Quentin Durward” affords a lasting impression of the times of Louis XI and Charles the Bold. Scott's strong national feeling and his intense sympathy with the traditions of his native land naturally gave to his Scotch fictions a particular historical value. “The Legend of Montrose,” describing the civil war in the sixteenth century; “Old Mortality,” dealing with the rebellion of the Covenanters; and “Waverley,” occupied with the Pretender's troubles in the middle of the eighteenth century, threw into bold relief widely differing periods of Scotch history. Its is, indeed, extraordinary that one mind should have been able to seize so many and so varied historical conditions as are treated in the Waverley novels. Of these works, about fourteen deal with entirely distinct epochs, each one of which is given its individual character and obtains its appropriate treatment.[211]

Bulwer Lytton's “Last Days of Pompeii,” and “Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings,” are both powerful, ingenious, and interesting narratives, and they give as definite an idea, perhaps, of the times of which they treat as is possible after so long a lapse of time. “Rienzi” leaves a greater impression of verisimilitude. “The Last of the Barons” is somewhat clogged by its superabundance of historic incident, but still affords a striking view of declining feudalism. In the “Tale of Two Cities” and “Barnaby Rudge,” Dickens described the sanguinary scenes of the French Revolution and the Lord Gordon Riots with his never-failing power. Since the Waverley novels, the most perfect specimen of English historical fiction has been “Henry Esmond.” The artistic construction of its plot, and the life-like reality of its characters, place it first among Thackeray's works. But its pre-eminence among historical novels is due to the fact that it reproduces so vividly the spirit and atmosphere of a past age. All the thoughts, opinions, and actions of the characters in “Henry Esmond” are such as we should expect from persons living in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Whoever is familiar with the pages of the “Spectator” will notice how faithfully Thackeray adopted the language of Steele and Addison. It is true that he had a far less difficult task before him in describing the age of Queen Anne than fell to the lot of Bulwer Lytton in “The Last Days of Pompeii.” The latter work required far more historical research and a far greater effort of the imagination. But while in Lytton's novel the reader cannot divest himself of a certain sense of unreality, he feels that “Henry Esmond” really carries him back to the period it portrays.

George Eliot's “Romola” must always retain a high place in historical fiction. But its author's great creative power led her to bestow more pains on such of the characters as proceeded from her own imagination, than on those whom history provided ready-made. The reader's memory retains a more vivid impression of Tito than it does of Savonarola. Charles Kingsley's “Hypatia” and “Westward Ho!” are among the most prominent of recent historical novels. The latter aimed at describing the time of Elizabeth, but resembles more closely that of Cromwell. John Gibson Lockhart, in “Valerius,” and Mr. Wilkie Collins in “Antonina,” have studied the life of ancient Rome. James Fenimore Cooper in “The Spy” and “The Pioneers” threw into bold relief the stirring incidents of American colonial and revolutionary times. Nathaniel Hawthorne reproduced the spirit of Puritan New England in “The Scarlet Letter,” of which mention has already been made.

[Footnote 211: Horace Smith, Sir T.D. Lauder, and G.P.R. James are well-known historical novelists who have written under the influence of Scott. W. Harrison Ainsworth has made use of historical material in “The Tower of London,” and similar writings.]

 

VIII.

The novel of purpose may be defined as a work of fiction of which the main object is to teach a lesson or to advocate a principle. Strictly speaking, every good novel has a purpose, or some well-defined aim, if it be only that of affording entertainment. But the novel of purpose distinctly subordinates the amusement of the reader to his improvement or information. With a few exceptions, such as “The Fool of Quality,” this species of fiction is the product of the nineteenth century. It has special difficulties to contend against. To combine a didactic aim with artistic excellence is among the most difficult of literary experiments. If the lesson or principle to be inculcated be given too much prominence, the reader who opens the book for entertainment will shut it very soon in spite of any prospective self-improvement. If narrative interest or artistic beauty be the most striking feature of the work, its serious aim will be unnoticed. The safest plan for the writer of the novel of purpose to pursue, is to openly acknowledge his object, and to place that object before the reader in as attractive a manner as possible. But he cannot expect to attain success unless the principle he advocates be one of general interest and importance. Nor can he expect, when that principle has obtained acceptance, that the work in which it is urged can have any further prominence. He must be content that his object is attained, and that his book, having served its purpose, falls into obscurity.

Some of Miss Edgeworth's tales, and such novels as Miss Brunton's “Self-Control” and “Discipline,” were among the earliest specimens of fiction having the professed object of moral improvement. These books were very popular at a time when a well-justified prejudice against novels prevailed. But since the character of fiction has been raised to its present standard of purity, professedly moral novels have become unnecessary for general reading. The successors of Miss Edgeworth's and Miss Brunton's works now appear in the form of temperance novels and Sunday-school books. A curious form of the novel of purpose is that written in the interest of religious sects or special tenets, of which specimens may be found in the writings of Elizabeth M. Sewell, who advocated High Church doctrines. Harriet Martineau made very successful use of fiction in conveying her ideas on political economy. In “Ginx's Baby,” by Mr. Edward Jenkins, the popularity and interest of a political pamphlet had been greatly increased by the assistance of a narrative form.

The most important specimens of the novel of purpose are those written in the interest of some injured or suffering class. A mere recital of general grievances is not likely to have much effect on the public mind. But a novelist who can interest a considerable body of readers in a few well-chosen characters, who can subject his fictitious personages to the evils which he means to expose, and thus arouse the sympathy and indignation of a large number of people, can make a novel of purpose a very effective weapon of reform. Individuals are much more interesting than bodies of men, and the sufferings of little Oliver Twist or of the inmates of Dotheboys Hall, as related by Dickens, will arouse public attention far more actively than the report of an examining committee. But although a novelist may accomplish great results by such devotion to a philanthrophic object, he can hardly avoid injury to the artistic effect and permanent value of his work. Many passages in Dickens' novels which have had a great influence in the cause of reform, cannot fail, in the future, when the evil exposed is no longer felt, to be a drag on the works which contain them.

Charles Kingsley described the grievances of mechanics in “Alton Locke,” a work in which the artistic elements are much subordinated to the didactic. A more powerful novel of purpose is Mrs. Gaskell's “Mary Barton,” which enlists the sympathies of the reader very strongly with the trials of the manufacturing classes. Not of more literary excellence, but dealing with a subject of far wider interest than that of “Mary Barton,” was the “Uncle Tom's Cabin” of Mrs. Stowe. This work is a wonderful example of the capacities of fiction for moving the public mind. Before its publication, great numbers of ordinarily humane people had a general, ill defined horror of slavery. It was felt to be a barbarous institution, a blot on American civilization. But to most people it was a distant abuse, with which they seldom or never came in contact, and of which they only heard the evil effects in a general way. But with the publication of “Uncle Tom's Cabin” the whole Northern public were brought face to face with the question of slavery. Here were individuals, made real and interesting by the power of the novelist, subjected to tyranny and suffering from which every generous nature recoiled. Slavery then assumed a new and more personal aspect, and thousands who were indifferent to the rights of the negroes in general felt a sympathy with the fate of Uncle Tom which easily extended to the sufferings of the whole race. But the extraordinary reputation and circulation given to “Uncle Tom's Cabin” by the world-wide interest in its subject, could not be sustained when public interest in that subject declined; and the volume which at one time occupied the attention of the whole civilized world, fell into comparative obscurity when its mission was accomplished.

 

IX.

Works of fiction occupied with purely imaginary or supernatural subjects have been comparatively rare. While Byron, Shelley and his wife were living at the Lake of Geneva, a rainy week kept them indoors, and all three occupied themselves with reading or inventing ghost stories. Mrs. Shelley, who was the daughter of Godwin the novelist, and who inherited his intensity of imagination, reproduced the impressions then made upon her mind in the remarkable but disagreeable romance of “Frankenstein.” The story is related by a young student, who creates a monstrous being from materials gathered in the tomb and the dissecting-room. When the creature is made complete with bones, muscles, and skin, it acquires life and commits atrocious crimes. It murders a friend of the student, strangles his bride, and finally comes to an end in the Northern seas. While some parts of the story are written with considerable power, the general effect is exceedingly unpleasant. Bulwer Lytton's “Zanoni,” a peculiarly fanciful work, unfolds the mysteries of the Rosicrucians. In “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,” the freaks and vagaries of the imagination in sleep are vividly traced. The curious mixture of the actual and the unreal, the merging of wholly different ideas in one conception, so frequent in dreams, are described with extraordinary skill and delicacy. The childlike simplicity of Alice's mind is charmingly maintained, and the exquisite vein of humor which runs through the whole book makes it one of the most delightful as well as one of the most remarkable of fictions.

 

X.

In an article published in The Ninteenth Century, Mr. Anthony Trollope expressed his views on the good and evil influences exerted by works of fiction, and he has repeated very much the same opinions in his interesting book on Thackeray.[212] “However poor your matter may be,” he says, “however near you may come to that 'foolishest of existing mortals,' as Carlyle presumes some unfortunate novelist to be, still, if there be those who read your works, they will undoubtedly be more or less influenced by what they find there. And it is because the novelist amuses that he is thus influential. The sermon too often has no such effect, because it is applied with the declared intention of having it. The palpable and overt dose the child rejects; but that which is cunningly insinuated by the aid of jam or honey is accepted unconsciously, and goes on its curative mission. So it is with the novel. It is taken because of its jam and honey. But, unlike the honest, simple jam and honey of the household cupboard, it is never unmixed with physic. There will be the dose within it, either curative or poisonous. The girl will be taught modesty or immodesty, truth or falsehood; the lad will be taught honor or dishonor, simplicity or affectation. Without the lesson the amusement will not be there. There are novels which certainly teach nothing; but then neither can they amuse any one. I should be said to insist absurdly on the power of my own confraternity if I were to declare that the bulk of the young people in the upper and middle classes receive their moral teaching chiefly from the novels they read. Mothers would no doubt think of their own sweet teaching: fathers of the examples which they set: and schoolmasters of the influence of their instructions. Happy is the country that has such mothers, fathers, schoolmasters! But the novelist creeps in closer than the schoolmaster, closer than the father, closer almost than the mother. He is the chosen guide, the tutor whom the young pupil chooses for herself. She retires with him, suspecting no lesson, safe against rebuke, throwing herself head and heart into the narration as she can hardly do into her task-work; and there she is taught how she shall learn to love; how she shall receive the lover when he comes; how far she should advance to meet the joy; why she should be reticent, and not throw herself at once into this new delight. It is the same with the young man, though he would be more prone even than she to reject the suspicion of such tutorship. But he, too, will there learn either to speak the truth, or to lie; and will receive from his novel lessons either of real manliness, or of that affected apishness and tailor-begotten demeanor which too many professors of the craft give out as their dearest precepts.”

Such are the views of a close observer of human nature, whose works have had an exceedingly wide and an always excellent influence. While Mr. Trollope has probably exaggerated the educational power of the novel, it cannot be denied that this form of literature takes a considerable part in moulding the opinions and standards of the young. The impressions of life derived from novels are almost as strong as those we receive from what is passing in the world about us. If a work of fiction form a truthful reflection of nature, it must hold up to the reader's view examples of evil as well as examples of good; it must deal with depravity as well as with virtue. And, therefore, all that can be expected from the novelist is that he should endeavor to represent life as it is, with its due apportionment of beauty and of ugliness. And so much is demanded not only by the moralist, but by the critic. Many writers who have described the life of criminals, who have endeavored to make infamous careers attractive, and have pandered to the lower tastes of the reading public, would urge in their own defence: that they have nothing to do with morality; that their object is to produce a work of art; that no question of the good or evil effect of their writing should be allowed to trammel their imagination. But the critic would rightly reply, that truth at least must be respected in a work of art; that the imagination must not be allowed the liberty of misrepresentation; and that the novelist in whose pages vice predominates, or is given an alluring aspect, is no more artistic than the writer of Sunday-school books. In judging the influence exerted by the great body of writers of fiction whose names have been mentioned in this chapter, I shall therefore proceed on the understanding that that novelist who writes almost exclusively of good people is not necessarily the one whose influence has been the best, nor that he who has drawn many weak or evil-doing characters has necessarily taught the worst lessons. The standard by which we must judge an author, as well from an artistic as from a moral point of view, must be founded on the recognition that both good and evil prevail in the world, and that whoever undertakes to give a picture of life must paint both the evil and the good in their true colors.

In commenting on the fiction of the eighteenth century, its prevailing coarseness was reprehended. But this characteristic was objected to on the score of taste, but not at all on that of truth or morality. The novelist of that time would not have faithfully represented the society about him had he not allowed himself that license which universally prevailed. Nor could the coarseness of the eighteenth-century writer be objected to on moral grounds. Morality is concerned with thoughts, not with expression. Whether we speak plainly the ideas in our mind, whether we communicate them by means of some, circumlocution, or whether we keep them wholly to ourselves, is a matter of fashion, not of morality.[213] Our great-grandmothers were not less chaste because they spoke of things regarding which we remain silent in a mixed society: they were simply less squeamish. Mrs. Behn in her day, and Fielding in his, described a licentious scene openly and honestly without a suspicion of evil.

But a great change has come over public taste, and I may even say over public morality, during the present century. Licentious conduct is no longer a venial offence; gross and immodest expressions are no longer allowed in respectable society. The improvement has certainly been great, although not as great as it seems. Out of our higher morality, out of our new and boasted refinement, has sprung a vice more ugly than coarseness, more degrading than sensuality, and that vice is hypocrisy, which shelters all others behind its deceptive mask. Many a parent now winks at the hidden vice of a son, the exposure of which would fill him with shame and indignation. Thousands of young men feel that they can privately lead a life of dissipation, so long as they keep a respectable face to the world. It is not the vice that society punishes, it is the being found out. So when we think of our improved morality and refinement, we must temper our pride with the reflection that we may be simply more hypocritical, and not more virtuous than our ancestors. Still, the fact that licentiousness must now wear a mask of respectability, that social status is now greatly affected by moral worth, shows that a real advance has been made. This advance has left plainly marked traces on the fiction of our time, where, too, we shall find plentiful evidence of that hypocrisy which has become our besetting sin.

As we look back upon the list of the great authors who have written in the present century, it must be with a feeling of gratitude for the benefits they have conferred. They have devoted their lives to the production of literary works, the beauty and excellence of which have incalculably elevated the public taste. They have held up ideals and noble conceptions which insensibly impart a dignity to life, and an encouragement to youthful aspiration. They have described so truthfully and sympathetically the character and aims of different classes and different peoples, that whoever reads their works cannot but feel himself drawn nearer to great divisions of the human race, which he had hitherto regarded with an indifferent or a prejudiced eye. The novels of Scott, of Dickens, of Thackeray, of George Eliot, of Miss Austen, of Miss Ferrier, of very many others, have afforded to hundreds of thousands, young and old, a never failing source of healthful entertainment. Domestic life, as well in the cottage as the castle, has been cheered and enlivened by their presence. Their examples of heroism, of patience, of generosity, have excited the emulation of the young, while their pictures of selfishness and vice have stifled many an evil inclination and have given birth to many a good resolution.

Such writers as these have expressed the best tendencies of the age. And they have been able to do so because they themselves are among the best men and women of their time. But, unfortunately, as the nineteenth century has many evil characteristics, and as depraved and weak-minded persons are often endowed with some literary capacity, a great deal of poisonous matter has unavoidably come to the surface in English fiction. The writers who have prostituted their talents in pandering to the low tastes of their readers, have carefully avoided any such open representation of vice as was permissible in the last century. But they have hidden under an outward respectability of words the most immoral and degrading thoughts. They have recognized the fact that a not inconsiderable number of persons would be be glad to find in a work of fiction the same gross ideas which occupy their own minds. And thus a more dangerous, because a more insidious, species of literature has sprung up. The absence of parental censorship, the general freedom with which works of fiction are allowed to enter almost every household, permit these novels to fall into the hands of the youngest and most susceptible. The young girl or boy whose parents carefully put away the newspaper which contains an account of a divorce trial or a rape, is very possibly reading a novel of which the main interest lies in a detailed description of a seduction. It is not of the so-called “dime novels” or of the stories published in a police gazette to which reference is made, but to books issued by respectable publishers and often written by women. Of these novels, the subject is the unlawful gratification of the passions. Bigamy, seduction, adultery, are the incidents on which the story turns, and an effort is always made by the novelist to give to the sinners as attractive and interesting an aspect as possible, and to hold up any respectable people who may appear in the book to the contempt and derision of the reader. Perhaps we would be wrong in blaming a writer for his or her vulgarity. This is a fault into which some authors fall unconsciously, and is a part of their nature which they cannot shake off. If Rhoda Broughton or “Ouida” were to cease being vulgar in print, they would be obliged to stop writing altogether, a public benefit which we can hardly expect them to confer. But we have a right to severely call an author to task for representing vice in an attractive aspect, for condoning offences against morality, for depicting licentiousness as unattended by retributive consequences. In so doing, a writer is false to art and to nature, as well as to morality.

Critics have done their utmost to discourage and expose this kind of literature. The pages of The Spectator, of The Saturday Review, of The Athenaeum, of The London Examiner, of The Nation, are full of reviews which denounce in unmeasured terms the vulgarity and pruriency of much of the fiction of the present day. But their censure can have little practical effect. So long as a class of corrupt readers exists, so long will evil-minded men and women find a sale for the low conceptions of their depraved minds. Parents alone, by supervising the reading of their children, can prevent the evil effects of immoral novels. Some may think that I have exaggerated the bad characteristics of modern fiction. A few examples of objectionable works will be found at the foot of this page,[214] an acquaintance with which will sustain my remarks.

The reader may possibly object that these are obscure names in literature, and that they represent writers whose works are ephemeral. The names chosen are the most prominent in the class to which they belong. Their obscurity is a redeeming feature of the society which can tolerate their existence. Although writers are able to find a sale for the most disgusting productions; although the critic is continually obliged, in reviewing current literature, to wade through the nastiest mire, it yet remains certain that public taste is not pleased with the vile. A limited circulation will be found for immoral novels among a depraved class, but it is to be said, for the credit of the nineteenth century, that talents prostituted can never bring fame. The conceptions of a Goldsmith, a Scott, a Dickens, a Thackeray, a George Eliot, remain among the dearest possessions of all English-speaking people. But the unhealthy, unnatural, and hideous pictures given to the world by vicious men and women receive the same wages as the sin they portray.

[Footnote 212: In Mr. John Morley's edition of “English Men of Letters,” chapter ix.]

[Footnote 213: See Macaulay on “The Comic Dramatists.”]

[Footnote 214: See “Strathmore,” and others, by “Ouida”; “Not Wisely, But Too Well,” “Red as a Rose Is She,” “Joan,” by Rhoda Broughton; “Cherry Ripe,” by Helen Mathers; “The Lovels of Arden,” by Miss Braddon; “Under which Lord?” by Mrs E.L. Linton; “A Romance of the Nineteenth Century,” by W.H. Mallock; “Children of Nature,” by the Earl of Desart. A long list of very nasty books might easily be added, but these will be sufficient to illustrate the bad tendencies of fiction, and to show how thoroughly female authors have kept pace in immodesty and indecency with their rivals of the less pretentious sex.]

THE END.