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 9780520974463

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Essays on Literature

The Norman and Charlotte Strouse Edition of the Writings of

Thomas Carlyle

Essays on Literature

Introduction and Notes by

Fleming McClelland, Brent E. Kinser, and Chris R. Vanden Bossche Text Established by

Chris R. Vanden Bossche

University of California Press

University of California Press Oakland, California © 2020 by The Regents of the University of California Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress. isbn 978-0-520-33984-2 (cloth : alk. paper) isbn 978-0-520-97446-3 (ebook) Manufactured in the United States of America 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1



T HE H E R O A S DI V I N I T Y

v

CONTENTS List of Illustrations

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Chronology of Carlyle’s Life

xi

Preface ix

Introduction xiii Note on the Text

xxix

Illustrations xlv Essays on Literature Miss Baillie’s Metrical Legends. 3 Burns. 29 Voltaire. 75 Biography. 131 Boswell’s Life of Johnson. 145 Corn-Law Rhymes. 199 Diderot. 223 Sir Walter Scott. 277 Heintze’s Translation of Burns. 329 Preface to Emerson’s Essays. 335

Notes 341 Works Cited

Textual Apparatus Emendations of the Copy-Text Discussion of Editorial Decisions Line-End Hyphens in the Copy-Text Line-End Hyphens in the Present Text Alterations in the Manuscripts Historical Collation

621 633 635 671 679 683 685 687

Index 813

ILLUSTRATIONS Following page xlv 1. Carlyle's corrections to “Burns.” 2. Alexander Nasmyth. “Robert Burns” (1787). 3. Alexander Nasmyth. “Robert Burns” (1828). 4. Friedrich August Moritz Retzsch. “Faust Makes over His Soul to Mephistopheles.” 5. Thomas Lawrence. ”James Boswell.”

PREFACE Although Thomas Carlyle was acclaimed throughout the nineteenth century in both England and the United States as the “undoubted head of English letters,” reliable editions of his work, providing both an accurate text based on modern bibliographical principles and full explanatory annotation, have not been readily available. The standard edition, the Centenary, originally published 1896–1899, is unsatisfactory: it is without annotation and textually inaccurate (see On Heroes c–ci). This injustice, both to Carlyle and his readers, the editors of the Strouse Carlyle Edition seek to redress. To establish an accurate text the editors have devised an integrated system for the computer-assisted production of the edition. The application of electronic technology in every stage of the editorial process, from the collation of the texts through the final typesetting, allows a high level of accuracy, while leaving all decisions requiring editorial judgment in the control of scholars. The text is preceded by a discussion of the evidence and editorial principles used to establish it, and a full textual apparatus is appended, including a list of all emendations of the copy-text and a complete collation of authoritative versions, keyed to the present text by page and line number. To facilitate reading, we present Carlyle’s work as clear text, without added editorial or reference symbols. The introduction is intended to elaborate the significance of the work for Carlyle’s era and to suggest its importance for our own, as well as explaining its origin and biographical context. By providing a full critical and explanatory annotation, the editors hope to assist the contemporary reader in negotiating Carlyle’s densely referential prose. A tissue of quotation from varied and disparate sources intertwined with the historic events of Victorian life, Carlyle’s art weaves together multifarious references and allusions, which we have sought, wherever possible, to identify, gloss, and translate. The editors hope that the explanatory annotation, like the critical text, will be a starting point for the work of reading and interpretation, a foundation on which readers of the present and future may build the often-changing structures of cultural analysis. We have resisted the temptation to impose our own readings, offering instead the essential materials for interpretation, hoping thereby to approximate Carlyle’s own ideal book, in which the reader is “excited .  .  . to self-activity.” In planning this selected edition of Carlyle’s works, the editorial committee decided that it would be useful to scholars and students to follow the precedent established in other editions of Victorian prose writers and organize Carlyle’s essays by subject. Unlike books composed and published ix

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as single works, the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays was a constantly changing and expanding collection of essays, poems, and translations, roughly, but not entirely, chronological in arrangement. The arrangement adopted for this edition will enable the scholar to study Carlyle’s essays on literature in one volume. The impetus for this edition came in large part from the resources of the Norman and Charlotte Strouse Collection of Thomas Carlyle, housed in Special Collections, University Library, at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In recognition of their inestimable service to Carlyle studies, the edition is dedicated to Norman and Charlotte Strouse. This work would not have been possible without the assistance of many people and institutions. Their contributions can only imperfectly be acknowledged by a brief mention here. Funding for the present volume was provided by several research grants from the University of Notre Dame. We would like to thank in particular the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts of the College of Arts and Letters, without whose support we would not have been been able to complete this project. We have received the help of many libraries, including the National Art Library of the Victorian and Albert Museum, the National Library of Scotland, Carlyle’s House, the Beinecke Library, Yale University, the British Library, and the London Library. Colleagues on several continents have provided assistance in tracking down Carlylean references and texts. We would like to thank in particular Ian Campbell, whose knowledge of Carlyle is truly encyclopedic. All of those mentioned here have made this volume better than it would have been without their help; none are responsible for any errors that may remain in it. Chris R. Vanden Bossche Brent E. Kinser Fleming McClelland

CHRONOLOGY 1795

Carlyle born on December 4 in Ecclefechan, Scotland.

1817

Writes articles, letters to newspapers, and occasional poems on scientific and philosophic subjects.

1822

Publishes his first literary review, of Joanna Baillie’s Metrical Legends, in the New Edinburgh Review. With his brother John’s help, he translates Legendre’s Elements of Geometry.

1823

Translates Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister (1824) and expands an article on Schiller into The Life of Schiller (1825).

1825

Translates various German authors.

1826

Begins an autobiographical bildungsroman, the unfinished Wotton Reinfred.

1827

German Romance published in four volumes.

1828

Publishes “Burns” in the Edinburgh Review and articles on German literature both there and in the Foreign Review.

1829

Publishes “Voltaire” in the Foreign Review.

1830 Begins Sartor Resartus. 1832

Publishes “Biography” and “Boswell’s Life of Johnson” in Fraser's Magazine and “Corn-Law Rhymes” in the Edinburgh Review.

1833

Sartor Resartus is published serially in Fraser’s Magazine from November 1833 to August 1834. “Diderot” appears in the Foreign Quarterly Review.

1834

In September, Carlyle begins to write The French Revolution.

1836

Sartor Resartus first published in book form, in Boston.

1837

Gives seven public lectures on German literature beginning in May. The French Revolution is published.

1838

Publishes “Sir Walter Scott” in the London and Westminster Review. Course of twelve lectures on European literature. Sartor Resartus is published in book form in London. With Emerson’s help, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays is published, in Boston.

1839

Six lectures on the revolutions of modern Europe. Chartism published. xi

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1840

Delivers six lectures on heroes. Publishes short notice of a translation of Burns by Heinrich Heintze. Considers writing a biography of Cromwell.

1841

On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History published. Arranges publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays and writes a preface for it.

1843

Past and Present published.

1845

Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches published.

1849

Publishes newspaper articles about political and cultural conditions in Britain as well as “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question.”

1850 Publishes Latter-Day Pamphlets. 1851

Life of John Sterling published. Begins to consider Frederick the Great as a subject for a biography.

1856

Completes the writing of the first two volumes of Frederick the Great.

1857–58 Collected Works (the Uniform Edition) published in sixteen volumes. 1858

First two volumes of Frederick the Great published.

1863

Volume 3 of Frederick the Great is published.

1864

Volume 4 of Frederick the Great is published.

1865 Completes Frederick the Great; volumes 5 and 6 are published. 1866

On April 2, Carlyle delivers his “Inaugural Address” in Edinburgh.

1867

In August, he publishes an attack on the Reform Bill of 1867, “Shooting Niagara: And After?”

1869

A second edition of the Collected Works (the Library Edition, thirty volumes) begins publication.

1881

On February 5, Carlyle dies at Cheyne Row. He is buried on February 10 next to his parents in the churchyard at Ecclefechan.

INTRODUCTION Carlyle and the Literary Review Although the works included in this volume were collected as “essays,” they began their lives under the more modest guise of the literary review. The difference might be defined in terms of the role of the writer. Essayists present their own ideas, whereas reviewers recapitulate and critique the ideas of others. This distinction was familiar to Carlyle and his contemporaries. According to Joanne Shattock, “The difference between an essay and a review was never articulated by reviewers and editors, but it is clear from correspondence that most reviewers considered themselves to be writing either one or the other” (110). Nonetheless, as Carlyle’s essays reveal, while many reviewers aimed primarily to convey the basic qualities and ideas of the work under review, they could, and often did, use the occasion of commenting on someone else’s writing as an opportunity for developing their own ideas. The review often metamorphosed into the essay. Literary reviews first appeared in England in the early eighteenth century, with the number of periodicals publishing reviews increasing rapidly after midcentury. The standard for the latter half of the century was set by the Monthly Review, which began publication in 1748. Other reviews (the most widely circulated of which was the Critical Review) soon appeared, but they all followed more or less the same model. They aimed to be comprehensive, reviewing all publications of substance, which meant that they included many short reviews and a smaller number of more in-depth reviews. The Monthly is also credited with introducing evaluation along with the abstracts and summaries typical of the earliest reviews. The aim of these periodicals was to present the current state of knowledge (Roper 20), and thus, while reviews assessed the quality of books, they primarily sought to convey to the reader what the book said. While the Monthly and its imitators survived well into the nineteenth century, they were supplanted as the leading reviews by the Edinburgh Review, which first appeared in 1802, and the Quarterly Review, introduced in 1809. As Derek Roper has pointed out, the goal of reviewing all new publications had by the end of the eighteenth century become unsustainable because of the rapid increase in their number (28). Francis Jeffrey therefore determined from the beginning that the Edinburgh Review would be selective in what it reviewed and thereby freed authors not only to review in depth but also to write something more like

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an essay.1 These reviews continued to cover a wide range of topics—indeed, commentary on literature and literary authors represented a small percentage of all reviews—but they did not confine themselves to conveying the substance and providing evaluation of the works reviewed. Nor did they attempt to be neutral; on the contrary, in keeping with their sponsorship—the Whigs for the Edinburgh and the Tories for the Quarterly—they sought to provide a point of view and to present an argument. Most significantly, they attempted to provide a broad context for understanding the work under review. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s famous essay on Milton is a case in point. While putatively reviewing Milton’s De Doctrina Christiana, Macaulay used its discovery as an occasion, as he put it, “to say something of his moral and intellectual qualities” and so to “commemorate . . . the genius and virtues of John Milton” (306). That said, reviews continued to rely heavily on description, in the service of which they often printed extensive extracts of the work reviewed. For example, Jeffrey’s review of Carlyle’s translation of Wilhelm Meister begins with ten pages of general commentary and then provides a thirty-page summary consisting primarily of extracts, before proceeding to a brief conclusion. Carlyle’s reviews mirror this historical shift. As we might expect, his early reviews adhere to the norms of the day. His first review, of Joanna Baillie’s Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters (1821), is largely descriptive, with extensive summary and quoted extracts. However, it is also, in keeping with the recent trend, evaluative. Carlyle begins with a series of criticisms of what he takes to be the shortcomings of Baillie’s dramas. He also emphasizes biographical and historical contexts, privileges content over form, and showcases his own formidable learning and taste in the increasingly rich allusiveness that he would continue to develop as a hallmark of his style. Nonetheless, the focus remains firmly on Baillie’s text, and Carlyle does not stray into a general discussion of drama. When he became a reviewer of German literature, this pattern continued. If anything, summary and quotation became more prominent, no doubt because he was introducing material unfamiliar to readers for whom his translations of extracts often provided the first exposure of these works to an English-speaking audience. By the end of the 1820s, however, Carlyle was eager to become an author in his own right and sought to emulate reviewers like Macaulay. A key moment was Carlyle’s 1828 pronouncement that he would only “pretend reviewing” John Gibson Lockhart’s Life of Robert Burns and would instead produce his own 1

This paragraph is indebted to Roper chapter 1 and Shattock chapter 1.

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essay on the qualities of Burns’s poetry (Letters 4:383). The review itself bears out his intentions, commencing as it does with Carlyle’s views on the nature of poetry and how Burns, and by comparison Byron, fail or succeed in meeting the standards implied by these pronouncements. The opportunity in 1832 to review a new edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson led Carlyle to speculations on biography so distinctive that James Fraser published them as a separate essay, introductory to Carlyle’s review of Boswell. The contrast between Carlyle’s and Macaulay’s reviews is instructive. For Macaulay, the imperative lesson, as in many of his writings, is to demonstrate the Whig myth of progress in contrast to the backwardness and provinciality of Toryism in all its guises, including that of Johnson, one of its most famous and stalwart defenders. Carlyle, on the other hand, argues that Johnson’s greatness transcends his Toryism, that Johnson is great in spite of his Tory affiliation, however limiting such an affiliation might be. Another sign of Carlyle’s growing independence was that he began proposing his own topics. He had sought a commission from the Edinburgh Review to review Boswell’s Life, and, when this offer was declined (in preference to Macaulay), he obtained one from Fraser’s Magazine. In proposing a review of the relatively obscure “Corn-Law Poet” (Ebenezer Elliott) later that year, he sought an opportunity to make his own intervention in the contemporary debates over passage of the Reform Bill. Similarly, his essay on Diderot can be classed with his “Count Cagliostro” and “The Diamond Necklace” as occasions to sketch out views of the French Revolution that he would expand on in his history of that event, which he began writing a year and a half later. Ultimately, Carlyle’s desire to express his own views brought his career as a literary reviewer to an end. His last two substantial reviews, “Sir Walter Scott” and “Varnhagen Von Ense’s Memoirs,” appeared in 1838. While he wrote a few essays during the lean years before his books began producing income, by the end of the 1830s proceeds from The French Revolution and new editions of Sartor Resartus and the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays improved his financial position considerably, relieving him of the necessity of writing periodical articles. The last two items in this volume, his review of Heintze’s translation of Burns’s poems and his preface to Emerson’s Essays, both brief pieces, were, as discussed below, written as favors to the authors and probably did not result in any income for Carlyle. His infrequent contributions to periodical publications would henceforth deal with subjects associated with the longer historical works or with topics of contemporary social or political import. Now established as a major literary figure, he had realized his ambition of trading his role as reviewer for that of author reviewed.

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Carlyle’s critical principles, to which he adheres consistently throughout his writings on literature, are for the most part in keeping with nineteenth-century aesthetics. In accord with Romantic views of literature, he regards the artist as an inspired visionary who has the capacity to comprehend the deepest aspects of human existence. At the same time, he fears that artists may become too focused on themselves as prophetic seers or on aesthetic objects themselves. Accordingly, he is among those who first set forth the Victorian principle that art should serve a higher moral purpose. For Carlyle the true artist has the capacity to reveal the divine within the natural world. The authors he admires gaze into the infinite, interpret it, and give it voice in human language. As he writes in “Burns”: “Man’s life and nature is, as it was, and as it will ever be. But the poet must have an eye to read these things, and a heart to understand them; or they come and pass away before him in vain. He is a vates, a seer; a gift of vision has been given him. Has life no meanings for him, which another cannot equally decipher; then he is no poet, and Delphi itself will not make him one” (below 39). He thus describes Samuel Johnson as an author who “can . . . hold real communion with the Highest” (181), and he insists that Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn-Law Rhymer, “is an earnest, truth-speaking man; no theorizer, sentimentalizer, but a practical man of work and endeavour” (206). While he contends that Scott has serious limitations as an artist, he praises him for being “a genuine man, which itself is a great matter. No affectation, fantasticality or distortion, dwelt in him; no shadow of cant” (288). By contrast, Diderot’s failure is that his writings manifest “no Seer, but only possibilities of a Seer, transient irradiations of a Seer looking through the organs of a Philosophe” with the consequence that his “habitual world . . . is a half-world, distorted into looking like a whole; it is properly a poor, fractional, insignificant world; partial, inaccurate, perverted from end to end” (261-62, 261). Equally important for Carlyle is that the artist’s insight reveal to us not only the nature of our universe but also how we ought to act in it. He disdains literature that aims merely to entertain and, while he does not espouse overt didacticism, insists that art must be morally serious. Voltaire cannot be called a great man, he argues, because of “his inborn levity of nature, his entire want of Earnestness” (86). Although Scott is genuine and eschews cant, he nonetheless fails to meet this standard of earnestness: “If Literature had no task but that of harmlessly amusing indolent, languid men, here was the very perfection of Literature; that a man, here more emphatically than ever elsewhere, might fling himself back, exclaiming, ‘Be mine to lie on this sofa, and read everlasting Novels of Walter Scott!’” (317). “Literature,” Carlyle concludes, “has other aims than

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that of harmlessly amusing indolent, languid men: or if Literature have them not, then Literature is a very poor affair” (318). By contrast, he writes apropos of Johnson: “Such knowledge of the transcendental, immeasurable character of Duty, we call the basis of all Gospels, the essence of all Religion: he who with his whole soul knows not this, as yet knows nothing, as yet is properly nothing” (180). It is no coincidence that Carlyle here compares the writings of the true seer with the most profound religious teaching. Here he unites Romantic claims for the author as visionary seer with Victorian demands for moral high seriousness in order to cast the poet as heroic shaper of a society and its beliefs. the writing, publishing, and reception of the essays on literature The success and prestige of the Edinburgh Review, and then of the Quarterly, meant that up-and-coming authors wanted to be reviewed and to review there. As Shattock points out, “Almost from its inception the Edinburgh became the Review for which most reviewers wished to write and in which authors wished to be reviewed” (8). Although reviews were published anonymously, they could still bring one fame. The leading reviewers were well known, and readers often knew or guessed their identity (Shattock 15-18). Moreover, these reviewers could earn a decent income. Because the quarterlies published longer, and fewer, reviews than the Monthly and its imitators, they paid better. Jeffrey established the minimum rate of sixteen guineas a sheet, with some authors getting up to twenty-five, and he allotted them two or three sheets, meaning that an author could earn up to seventy-five guineas per review. Not surprisingly, then, the young Carlyle, seeking to establish a career in literature, aimed to write for the Edinburgh Review. Since at least the mid1810s he had been following the Edinburgh and the Quarterly, usually, like his contemporaries, reading them from cover to cover (Letters 1:23-24 and 46-47n11). Like others, he recognized the emergence of Macaulay as a leading reviewer, and in his notebooks we can see him implicitly measuring himself against his rival when he insists that, in spite of his obvious talent, Macaulay has no “divine idea,” the latter being the essential quality of the literary man in the formulation of Johann Gottlieb Fichte that became Carlyle’s own measuring stick (Two Note Books 236; see 276-77). In the winter of 1819-1820, he wrote a review in the hopes of publishing it in the Edinburgh and left it at Jeffrey’s home, but, to his extreme disappointment, never heard back from him.2 2 Reminiscences 316; see Letters 1:216. For a detailed discussion of this episode, see Campbell.

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Unable to obtain a commission from the Edinburgh, Carlyle began his career writing encyclopedia articles, translations, and biography.3 Not long after the failure of his attempt to publish in the Edinburgh, he received an introduction to write for the New Edinburgh Review, which in July 1821 had been converted from a monthly to a quarterly and which, as the notice published at that time indicates, sought to compete with the major quarterlies in breadth and quality. This invitation resulted in his first two reviews, the aforementioned “Miss Baillie’s Metrical Legends,” in October 1821, and “Goethe’s Faust,” in April 1822, but did not immediately lead to further opportunities for reviewing. During the five years that followed, he returned to the translations and kindred literary work that slowly established his reputation as a man of letters and eventually led to the long-sought opportunity to contribute to the Edinburgh Review. One of these, his translation of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, was noticed by Jeffrey in the October 1825 Edinburgh Review. Carlyle was “gratified” by this review no doubt not only because being reviewed there was itself a benefit but also because it meant that his work had at last come to the attention of its powerful editor (Letters 3:400). Carlyle’s real career as a writer of reviews began when, two years later, in 1827, he finally received the opportunity to write for the Edinburgh Review. His work for the Edinburgh bookended the principal period of his career as a literary reviewer, from 1827 to 1832. This work in turn established his credentials as a literary authority and led to commissions from a number of other reviews. His first two essays in the Edinburgh were soon followed by the first of eight reviews in the Foreign Review, which was eventually absorbed into the Foreign Quarterly Review, where three additional reviews appeared. During this period, he also published in the Westminster Review and (after it merged with the London Review) its successor, the London and Westminster Review. In 1830, prospects for publication in the Edinburgh having become uncertain and the Foreign Review having gone broke, he began writing for Fraser’s Magazine, which would be his most financially rewarding venue, publishing nine of his essays as well as a number of miscellaneous poems and fictions, including Sartor Resartus. In what follows, we discuss in more detail the history of the publication of the essays included in this volume. Early in his career, Carlyle’s friend Robert Mitchell put him in contact with 3 These included articles on several literary figures, including Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Lady Montagu. They are not included in this edition precisely because of the limited scope of this genre of writing. They have been reprinted in Essays, vol. 5.

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Baillie John Waugh (Letters 1:147n1; see 153), who was launching the Edinburgh Monthly Review. The initial introduction, in late 1818, came to naught, and it was not until March 1821, when Waugh was relaunching his journal as the New Edinburgh Review, that he offered Carlyle a commission for his review of Joanna Baillie’s Legends: “Waugh (the Review-man) sent me a book the other day, with a wish and an assurance that I ‘would write a very elegant and spirited critique on it’—which I am not so certain of as the magistrate pretends to be, but shall attempt notwithstanding” (Letters 1:342; see also 331-32). Although he was busy with his Life of Schiller (1825), translations, and articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, Carlyle seems to have been eager to undertake the review, perhaps because it gave him greater freedom to express his own views, but perhaps also because he had heard that Waugh paid well. As it turned out, Carlyle was somewhat disappointed when he received only “fifteen pounds, where there should have been five-and-twenty” (Letters 2:80). Given that it was Carlyle’s first attempt at writing a review, it is perhaps not surprising that the editor, Richard Poole, wanted to discuss changes with him. Carlyle conjectured that Poole thought it was too long, and when he received the proofs in late September, the novice reviewer acknowledged that the more experienced editor “has done some good by retrenching and less evil than I expected: he has only made two pieces of sheer nonsense in the whole paper” (Letters 1:385-96). The review appeared in the October number. In 1827, Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall) provided him with an introduction to Francis Jeffrey at the Edinburgh Review, who, as discussed above, had reviewed his translation of Wilhelm Meister two years earlier. Because Carlyle’s translations and biography of Schiller had established him as a leading exponent of contemporary German literature, Jeffrey commissioned him to write a review of Heinrich Doering’s biography of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (Letters 4:185 and n. 9). His next five reviews were also concerned with German literature, and with them, as he later wrote, he felt “launched upon” a career in “Literature” (Reminiscences 318). While his expertise in German literature provided him with many review commissions, he was eager to survey a broader range of literature. In October 1827, he conjectured that his next article for the Edinburgh would be on Tasso (Letters 4:263, 270). This project came to nothing, but in June 1828, Jeffrey commissioned him to write a review of John Gibson Lockhart’s Life of Robert Burns. By this time he had promised two articles for the Foreign Review (“Goethe” and “The Life of Heyne”) and so did not begin “Burns” until August. On August 25, he reported that he was “very busy, and third part done, with a ‘fair full and free’

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Essay on Burns,” which he finished in September (Letters 4:399, 407). Now brimming with self-confidence and no longer the acquiescent novice who reviewed Joanna Baillie six years earlier, he insisted privately that he would only “pretend reviewing” Lockhart’s biography, as he intended to use his essay as a means of delineating his own views on Burns (Letters 4:383). Not surprisingly, then, he found himself for the first time in direct conflict with an editor, commenting, when he received the proofs in early October: Jeffrey had clipt the first portion of it all into shreds (partly by my permission), simple [sic] because it was too long. My first feeling was of indignation, and to demand the whole back again, that it might lie in my drawer and worm-eat, rather than come before the world in that horrid souterkin shape. . . . However, I determined to do nothing for three days; and now by replacing and readjusting many parts of the first sixteen pages . . . I have once more put the thing into a kind of publishable state; and mean to send it back, with a private persuasion that probably I shall not soon write another for that quarter. Nevertheless, I will keep friends with the man; for he really has extraordinary worth, and likes me, at least heartily wishes me well. (Letters 4:413-14) Although Carlyle suggests that Jeffrey made cuts merely to shorten the essay, another reference to the conflict suggests that, like others to follow, he also wanted Carlyle to tone down the “Mysticism” that often baffled his readers (Letters 5:6). That the episode still rankled two years later is apparent from his warning to Macvey Napier, Jeffrey’s successor: “Your Predecessor had some difficulty with me in adjusting the respective prerogatives of Author and Editor: for tho’ not, as I hope, insensible to fair reason, I used sometimes to rebel against what I reckoned mere authority; and this partly perhaps as a matter of literary conscience; being wont to write nothing without studying it if possible to the bottom, and writing always with an almost painful feeling of scrupulosity, that light Editorial hacking and hewing to right and left was in general nowise to my mind” (Letters 5:195-96). Ten years later he was still complaining about the “Editorial blotches” that were “common in Jeffrey’s time in the Edinr Review” (Letters 10:229). Nonetheless, Carlyle managed to maintain cordial relations with Jeffrey, with whom he and his wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle, became fairly close (Letters

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4:424). His move away from the Edinburgh Review was prompted in large part because Jeffrey gave up the editorship in the middle of 1829, and Carlyle felt uncertain how the new editor, Macvey Napier, would receive his work. At first it seemed that Napier was eager to retain Carlyle as one of his reviewers, writing in November of 1830 that he would welcome articles from Carlyle. Carlyle soon thereafter resumed his contributions to the Review, but, as it turned out, he would contribute only three more essays, all published in 1831-1832 (Letters 5:196). In the meantime, Carlyle had developed a good relationship with William Fraser and the Foreign Review. Having already made the valuable introduction to Jeffrey, Proctor also introduced Carlyle to Fraser, and in 1828 Carlyle began contributing essays to the Foreign Review at an even faster pace than for the Edinburgh (Letters 4:290). Most of these were reviews of German literature, but in November 1828 he reported plans to write on the memoirs of Voltaire, which had been published in 1826 (Letters 4:422). He was working on this review by early March and seems to have finished by the end of the month (Letters 5:9, 15-16) for it appeared in the April number. In the spring or summer 1831, he became eager to review John Wilson Croker’s new edition of James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (see Letters 5:245). He proposed reviewing it for the Edinburgh, but Napier had already promised it to the much better established Macaulay (Letters 5:310n1, 311), so Carlyle approached James Fraser, in whose Fraser’s Magazine he had begun publishing in early 1830 (Letters 5:419). At this time, the Foreign Review was failing, and William Fraser (no relation to James) suggested that two essays that had been scheduled for publication there be transferred to Fraser’s Magazine. Because Fraser’s was just getting off the ground, resulting in delays and difficulties, Carlyle approached James Fraser with some diffidence, all the more because he felt that “Fraser’s Magazine gives the most scurvy remuneration of any Periodical extant, and shall have no more stuff of mine at that rate, barring worse fortune than I have yet seen” (Letters 5:215). However, when that December Carlyle inquired about delays in publishing “Schiller,” Fraser conciliated him by commissioning a review of Boswell and promising fifteen guineas a sheet, a sum close to the standard payment at Jeffrey’s Edinburgh Review (Letters 6:72, 79, 92). In early January 1832 Carlyle was still reading the Life (Letters 6:85), but by January 21 he had begun writing an introductory piece that would eventually be published separately as “Biography” (Two Note Books 245-46). He originally hoped to have both parts done by mid-February (Letters 6:96) but did not finish until about March 8 (Letters 6:130; Two Note Books 252). When he wrote on March 5 to settle the terms for the articles, he insisted that Fraser take it as is or allow him to offer it

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to another editor (Letters 6:124, 125, 137-38). In the end, there was some confusion about the rate of pay—Carlyle regarded Fraser’s promise of fifteen guineas a sheet as equivalent to the one pound per page of the Foreign Review—and they had to negotiate the difference (Letters 6:137-38 and n. 1). They finally came to terms on March 17, two days after Carlyle submitted the manuscript (Two Note Books 252, 255). From the beginning he was uncertain whether his review would suit Fraser, whose Magazine he compared to a “dog’s-meat cart” (Letters 6:85; see Two Note Books 255). Perhaps for this reason, Carlyle sought to try a new “more currente calamo [extempore] style of writing” that he thought “more suitable” for “magazines and the like” (Two Note Books 230; see 246). After the review appeared, he somewhat diffidently reported that he had heard from “the Fraser’s Magazine people” that his “Paper on Johnson [was] reckoned by some (unhappily very simple persons) to be ‘singularly excellent,’” and he was clearly pleased with the response of John Stuart Mill, whose “approval,” he reported, “gratified” him “more than a Stoic philosopher should be willing to confess” (Letters 6:169, 174). At the end of that year (December 23, 1831), Carlyle recorded that he had been reading the poems of Ebenezer Elliott, a self-taught iron worker and manufacturer, who became known as the “Corn Law Rhymer” after his most famous volume, Corn Law Rhymes (1831), which had been receiving some attention in the literary reviews (Two Note Books 230).4 He soon began thinking about a review of the Rhymer (Two Note Books 233), and on February 6, 1832, wrote to Napier: I write at present mainly to ask you about some Poetical Pieces, entitled Corn-Law Rhymes, the Village Patriarch, &c; and whether a short notice of them would be acceptable for your next Number. The Author appears to be a middle-aged Mechanic, at least Poor Man, of Sheffield or the neighbourhood; a Radical, yet not without devoutness; passionate, affectionate, thoroughly in earnest. His Rhymes have more of sincerity, and genuine natural fire than anything that has come in my way of late years: both on himself and his writings, and their 4 It is likely that Carlyle encountered Elliott’s writings in the New Monthly Magazine. Soon after he became editor of the Magazine, in November 1831, Edward Bulwer-Lytton indicated his desire to have contributions from Carlyle, and it is possible that he suggested Elliott as a topic. In any case, Carlyle began reading the Magazine soon thereafter (Letters 6:71; see 85) and likely would have seen Bulwer Lytton’s notice on Elliott’s poetry in the January 1831 issue (31:289-95). Carlyle could also have seen the review of Elliott published in the June 11, 1831 issue of the Athenaeum (189:369-71).

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social and moral purport, there were several things to be said. I would also willingly do the unknown man a kindness, or rather a piece of justice; for he is, what so few are, a man and no Clotheshorse.—— If you approve of this little project, perhaps Mr Rees can favour me with a loan of the Volumes; there are three, I think, and very thin ones: at all events, have the goodness to let me hear from you. (Letters 6:116) Napier quickly accepted Carlyle’s proposal, stipulating only that an article on “so obscure a Rhymer” should not be too long (Letters 6:130n5). Carlyle failed to meet the mid-March deadline for the April issue, then Goethe died, on March 22, and his “Death of Goethe” took priority (Letters 6:144, 145-46). As it turned out, he did not finish until “about the 4th of May” and did not manage to submit the manuscript until the end of that month (Two Note Books 267; Letters 6:161, 166). In the message accompanying the proofs, Napier apparently asked for some cuts to fit the article into the current number. While insisting that he could “find no passage in this Article which could be cut out without great loss of blood,” Carlyle did suggest cuts in the extracts of Elliott’s poetry (Letters 6:176). When, in July, the article appeared intact, he exclaimed, “There is Life in Macvey!” (Letters 6:213; see 216). He earned about £25 for the essay.5 Carlyle seems to have been pleased to appear in the guise of a “radical,” writing to Mill: “I am astonished to find on reading the thing over that it is ‘speculative-radical’ to an almost frightful degree; and glances, in a poisonous manner, at Whiggism itself ” (Letters 6:154). Carlyle probably refers not to working-class radicalism but to the philosophic radicalism of James and John Stuart Mill and their mentor Jeremy Bentham. While Carlyle would never fully align himself with the Benthamite radicals and in his later writings would repeatedly attack the principle of laissez-faire that was gospel for them, in his opposition to the Corn Laws—which contravened the principle of free trade—he was de facto joining with them. In addition to joining the radicals in support of repeal, he may also have felt, as a passage in the essay suggests (see 204.32-33 and note), that he was joining the radicals in their disappointment at the government’s failure to pass the Reform Bill, which had twice been rejected by the House of Lords earlier in 1831. A third version was passed in December while he was thinking about writing this review, and it did not receive final approval until On August 17, 1832, he wrote that Napier owed him sixty pounds for “Characteristics” and “Corn-Law Rhymes,” “some of it for nine or ten months” (Letters 6:247). The estimate of the payment is based on the proportion of pages in each article. 5

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May 1832, just as he was completing it. Even so, John Ramsey MacCulloch, who wrote on economic topics and had in 1826 published an essay in the Edinburgh arguing for repeal of the Corn Laws, was mystified as to why Napier had published “Corn-Law Rhymes” and suggested he cease publishing Carlyle’s reviews (Shattock 39-40). It was, in fact, Carlyle’s final contribution to the Edinburgh. In January 1832, around the time that Carlyle was beginning his essay on Elliott, John George Cochrane, for whose Foreign Quarterly Review he was writing an essay on Goethe’s collected works, asked him to “do something on Diderot,” more particularly to review Diderot’s works together with his memoirs, the latter having appeared in Paris the previous year (Letters 6:85-86). In July 1830, Cochrane had invited Carlyle to write for the Foreign Quarterly, which about this time absorbed its rival, the failing Foreign Review, but he did not make use of this invitation until a year later, when he contributed a portion of his abandoned history of German literature (Letters 5:122-23). In March he did some research on Diderot at the British Museum (Two Note Books 253) but seemed in no hurry to begin the essay, for he had first to read—“at the rate of one a-day”—some two dozen volumes of the philosophe’s works (Letters 6: 213; see 195, 206). He began this “tedious” project sometime in August, but by August 31, he had finished only eight volumes—if he was indeed reading one a day he must have begun about August 23—and expected to be working on the project until the end of September (Letters 6:216). The writing, together with the reading, took even longer, for he did not finish the manuscript until mid-October and did not send it to Cochrane until mid-November (Letters 6:240, 247, 258; see 243n2, 271). On January 24, Cochrane wrote to Carlyle asking him to “leave out [his] introductory reflections altogether” as they did not pertain directly to Diderot and so reduce the essay by about seven pages to forty-eight or forty-nine pages. For once Carlyle did not protest, tersely remarking to his brother only that he meant to “comply” (Letters 6:322 and n. 33). These changes likely account for the fact that publication was delayed from the March to the April number. He was paid about fifty pounds, calculated at the rate of £1 per page for the fifty pages (6:137-38). While reviewing had been for several years his primary means of financial support, Carlyle increasingly sought to explore other forms of literary publication. Not only was a reviewer more or less subordinate to the author reviewed, but Carlyle also shared with many of his contemporaries the conviction that periodical reviewing was inferior to, and less serious than, the kinds of writing reviewed. For Carlyle, there was the additional problem that income from re-

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views was unpredictable. A Macaulay could count on appearing in nearly every issue of the Edinburgh, but this was never the case for Carlyle. For a brief period in the late 1820s, Jeffrey regularly employed him for the Edinburgh and William Fraser for the Foreign Review, but they did not provide steady employment. The unreliability of his income from reviewing became clear when Jeffrey resigned his editorship in 1829 and the Foreign Review went broke in 1832. While James Fraser of Fraser’s Magazine stepped in to replace Jeffrey and William Fraser (even taking articles written for the defunct Foreign Review), Carlyle clearly considered it a step down from the Edinburgh, not only because it was less prestigious but, just as important, because it did not pay as well. In mid-1834, about a year after the appearance of “Diderot,” Carlyle became occupied with writing The French Revolution, and his major articles during the next several years were on related historical topics. Still in need of income after the appearance of his history in 1837, he briefly returned to writing for periodicals. In 1834, while preparing to launch the London Review as a vehicle for the philosophic radicals, John Stuart Mill had indicated to Carlyle that he would welcome contributions from him, and Carlyle seems to have been eager to provide them (Letters 7:70-71 and n. 6). He followed with interest the attempts to get the review off the ground, and early in 1835 as the first issue was being prepared, he thought he might have the opportunity to become its editor, especially as Mill’s employment at India House prevented him from officially occupying that post (Letters 8:51). Although Mill admired Carlyle, however, he and the others involved in launching the review were too committed to Benthamite principles to countenance Carlyle as editor, and so this prospect came to naught. Not surprisingly, given its perspective, Carlyle judged the articles in the first issue of Mill’s new periodical “barren . . . as Saha[ra],” and he thereafter insisted on its aridity (Letters 8:104). Yet he remained interested in it not only, as he sometimes suggested, because it offered him the opportunity for much-needed income, but also because it approached contemporary issues with a seriousness missing in many of its competitors. In early 1835, after the first four issues had been published, the London Review merged with the older Westminster Review (in which Carlyle had published “The Nibelungen Lied” [1831]) to form the London and Westminster Review. The establishment of this new venue, together with the fact that his father, James, had died, prompted Mill to make the review more expansive than its predecessor, and he again encouraged Carlyle to contribute, with the result that two of his essays on the French Revolution era appeared there (Letters 8:307; see “Westminster Review,”

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Wellesley Index). In June, the editors asked him to review Hannah More, but other obligations prevented him from doing so (Letters 8:124n1, 150). In September 1837, Mill invited Carlyle to review John Gibson Lockhart’s Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott (Letters 9:311). In early October, Carlyle received six of the seven volumes, which he finished reading by the end of the month (Letters 9:327, 337, 350). Before writing the review, however, Carlyle decided to try to negotiate terms that would give him the steady income he had long desired (a steady income from his books was still a couple of years in the future). In a letter to Mill that anticipates his discussion of “permanence” of employment in Past and Present (4.5.171-76), he wrote: Doubtless I have often told you how the Editorial world found it convenient to deal with me some five or six years ago. Today, work, work in breathless superfluity; tomorrow, whistled down the wind, left to go and die if you like, you know not for what! It is one of the damnablest positions a man can find himself in. After some reflexion, I have resolved not to get into it again. I think I either ought to make some engagement of some permanence, we will say for a year; or not to intermeddle with the Periodical concern farther at all. The thing I want to ask you therefore is, contrasting honestly in your mind my capabilities with the wants of your Enterprise, What is the utmost amount of employment (I mean money-amount, at so much per page, or otherwise reckoned on what principle you liked) your Review could afford me, say from this December 1837 till the same date of 1838? That is the first of all questions. If (which is very likely) you can promise nothing, this Article only, and the rest on peradventure,—then my decision must be also, at least till there come something pressing me for utterance thro’ this vehicle more than another, nothing. . . . If, on the other hand, you answer Something; and your maximum of wages will meet my minimum of necessities, then I will joyfully say Done, and set myself forthwith to perform, to see on what terms performance may be possible, may be useful and pleasant for all of us. (Letters 9:337-38; see 342-43) Mill met with Carlyle and explained that the finances of the Review made it impossible to offer such a long-term contract but that he would be happy

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to accept an article every other issue. Carlyle agreed to write the Scott review and possibly others (including one on Davy Crockett!), but as it turned out, he made only one further contribution (“Varnhagen von Ense’s Memoirs”) (Letters 9:364; see 350 and n. 1). Once he committed himself to the essay on Scott, he set to work almost immediately, finishing it on December 6 (Letters 9:350-51, 357; see 364). He expected to be paid about fifty pounds (£1 per page [Letters 9:354]) but received only forty-five (Letters 10:23n4, 41). He recorded in his journal that “people seem to speak well of ” the article, an especially satisfying result considering the audience of the review (Letters 10:23n4; see 41). From that time forward, Carlyle only produced periodical articles under special circumstances, either in order to help out an editor (in which case he sometimes offered something he already had to hand) or because he had a special desire to write about a topic. Such an occasion arose when, in September 1840, Heinrich Heintze sent Carlyle a copy of his new German translation of Burns’s poetry. While Carlyle did not know Heintze, his admiration for Burns and, presumably, his appreciation of Heintze’s translation, prompted him to write to John Forster, editor of the Examiner, asking whether he knew “any good reader of German that would review it” (Letters 12:261; see 257). We do not have Forster’s reply, but the upshot was that Carlyle himself wrote the brief review, which appeared in the September 27 issue of the Examiner. If Carlyle was willing to help out a German translator he did not even know, he was more than happy to provide an introductory appreciation for the English edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first volume of essays. He had known Emerson since the American had sought him out during his 1833 visit to Great Britain. In the following years, Emerson acted more or less as Carlyle’s literary agent in America. The first edition of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838-1839), in which seven of the ten essays in this volume were first collected in book form, was published in Boston under Emerson’s direction, as was the first book edition of Sartor Resartus, in 1836. When, in 1841, Emerson published his first book, Essays: First Series, Carlyle reciprocated by arranging with his own publisher, James Fraser, for the publication of the first English edition (Letters 13:163). On May 8, Carlyle wrote to Emerson that he had been reading his book “all yesterday” and praising him as the “voice of one crying [in] the desart” (Letters 13:128). He made no mention of seeking to get the book published, but he must have set to work soon thereafter, for on June 21 he was working on his preface, and four days later he wrote to Emerson about the arrangements he had made (Letters 13:159, 163). With this preface, Carlyle had published his last commentary on a literary text. In a writing career that would extend into the 1870s, he would now devote himself to history and social commentary

NOTE ON THE TEXT The texts of Carlyle’s essays in this volume that were incorporated into the various editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (often referred to as the Miscellanies) reflect the form into which Carlyle revised them for their first appearance in successive editions of that collection. Having the editorial process more fully under his control gave Carlyle the opportunity to restore passages excised by intrusive editors, to reintroduce his own preferred spelling and punctuation, and to correct factual errors. Thus while the present edition incorporates corrections, a few minor changes of wording, and some second thoughts introduced in later editions, it retains the freshness of the essays as they first appeared in print. The same holds true for the essays in this volume that were never incorporated into the Miscellanies, in which case our edition reflects the form in which they originally appeared. The texts of the essays in this volume are critical texts. The copy-text is the earliest published version in a serial publication, with the exception of “Heintze’s Translation of Burns,” for which the manuscript serves as copy-text. For the present edition, the copy-texts were collated with all lifetime editions in which Carlyle is known to have participated, and the apparatus at the end of this volume accounts for all variants, including punctuation and typographical errors, in the collated versions of the texts. Thus any historically and textually relevant edition of any essay can be reconstructed from the present volume. In order to maximize readability, this edition presents the text without editorial symbols or indications of variations; the tables of variants and emendations are instead keyed to the page and line of the text. As we have discussed in the Note on the Text for the Historical Essays, collation confirms that each new edition of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays was typeset from a copy of the most recent previous edition. The result is that variations introduced in each new edition were for the most part repeated in succeeding editions. Some of these variations can be attributed to Carlyle, but many must have been made by compositors, intentionally or unintentionally, and others by individuals Carlyle employed to prepare copy for new editions. In addition to making errors in typesetting, compositors may have introduced changes to accommodate a house style or their own views of typesetting. A further complication is that assistants were involved in the preparation of at least three editions of the Miscellanies: the 1838 Boston edition, the 1857 Uniform Edition, and the 1869 Library Edition. These assistants almost certainly regularized punctuation and spelling and made other changes they thought xxix

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appropriate. The imposition of house style is an especially important issue, for Carlyle’s essays appeared in a number of different journals over a time span encompassing more than four decades. The house styles imposed on the essays therefore varied not only from publisher to publisher but from decade to decade. House style was much more important in reviews and newspapers than in books, for it gave unity to an entire publication. It was thus imposed not only by printers in matters of punctuation and orthography but also by editors, who felt empowered to alter material in order to improve texts or make them consistent with the review’s general style and political views. Such editorial intervention led Carlyle to complain that his early essays were marred by “Editorial blotches” such as the “notes of admiration, dashes, ‘we thinks’ &c &c” that were “common in Jeffrey’s time in the Edinr Review” (Letters 10:229). “Burns” appeared in this period and, as we have discussed in the introduction, Carlyle came into conflict with Jeffrey over it (“Corn-Law Rhymes” appeared in the Edinburgh Review after Francis Jeffrey stepped down as editor). Similarly, William Maginn, the editor of Fraser’s Magazine, in which “Biography,” “Boswell’s Life of Johnson,” and “Death of Edward Irving” first appeared, is known to have made changes to material published there (Thrall 185). The historical collation demonstrates that Carlyle carefully prepared copy whenever an essay was to be included in the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays for the first time, which suggests that he was not satisfied with them because of his lack of control over their publication in the reviews. Yet here too the intervention of typesetters can also be assumed, for in the nineteenth century typesetters considered it their responsibility to mend minor matters of punctuation and spelling. Because of this practice, we cannot safely assign to Carlyle changes that involve a shift to more regular rule-bound punctuation unless there is other evidence of his involvement. We have, however, sought to determine Carlyle’s preference by consulting his manuscripts and letters and the results of the various collations, especially noting variations among different compositors, printing houses, and publishers. In establishing the text for this critical edition, we have adopted only those changes that were most likely made or ordered by Carlyle. In most cases, there are no manuscripts or proof sheets that would enable us to distinguish what Carlyle wrote from those aspects of the texts that editors and compositors imposed. As previous analyses of the essays, as well as of On Heroes, Sartor Resartus, and Past and Present, have demonstrated that Carlyle could concern himself with even the most minor details of punctuation, we have accepted

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certain types of changes as Carlyle’s, but whenever there is no clear reason to conclude that a change is his, we have not adopted it. For a further discussion of our emendations, see the Discussion of Editorial Decisions. Carlyle did not prepare copy or read proof for the 1838 Miscellanies, but he did authorize the edition and send a list of corrections to the editors. Therefore, we have adopted some of its changes of wording, all of which correct likely misprints in the first publication. The 1838 Miscellanies also employed a uniform system for quotation marks that accords for the most part with Carlyle’s practice of using double quotation marks for quoted speech and single quotation marks for citations, titles, and so on. This meant that it reversed double to single and single to double quotation marks for essays that appeared in publications that used the opposite system; in the present volume, this applies to “Biography” and “Boswell’s Life of Johnson,” published in Fraser’s Magazine; “Diderot,” published in the Foreign Quarterly Review; and “Memoirs of the Life of Scott,” published in the London and Westminster Review (see headnote to the Historical Collation for our handling of this form of variant). Apart from obvious corrections, we have rejected changes of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling in the 1838 Miscellanies. Carlyle did carefully prepare copy and read proof for the 1840 Miscellanies, and in later editions of the Miscellanies he followed the same pattern in that he carefully prepared copy of the essays that he had published since the previous edition. We have therefore given special consideration to changes that appear in these editions. For the moment, we can let the 1840 edition stand for all cases. From the large number of variants and the evidence that Carlyle carefully revised the 1840 edition, it is highly likely that, in addition to changes of wording, many of the changes of capitalization, spelling, and punctuation are his. Nonetheless, it does not seem likely that he looked at each item of punctuation with an eye to whether it followed his own desires or preferences. For example, he sometimes restored his preferred spellings, but the fact that in some instances he did not do so does not necessarily indicate his acceptance of an alternative spelling; it seems more likely that he either missed the particular instance or acquiesced in the compositor’s preference, especially when restoring his preferred spelling in a particular instance might lead to inconsistent spelling throughout the text. Therefore, when there is no compelling reason to believe that a change is Carlyle’s, we retain the copy-text reading, but if the change conforms to Carlyle’s known preferences or is of a type that is more likely to have been made by the author than by the compositor, we have adopted it when it occurs in an essay appearing in the Miscellanies for the first time. Conversely, modernizing spellings,

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regularizations of punctuation, and most cases of lowercasing are not adopted. Changes in later editions of the essays are much less likely to be authorial. There is little evidence that Carlyle prepared copy or read proof for these editions, except for material that was appearing in them for the first time. Thus, apart from some changes of wording that are convincingly authorial (often in the final paragraphs) and a few corrections, changes in the 1847 edition and after are not adopted for the essays that appeared in the 1838 Miscellanies. While there is some evidence that Carlyle prepared copy for the Library Edition (1869), the changes do not necessarily indicate his direct involvement. Therefore, while we adopt some corrections, mostly of the spelling of foreign words, we do not adopt other changes. For further details concerning the principles underlying the adoption or nonadoption of variant readings, the reader is directed to the Discussion of Editorial Decisions. Because each of the essays has its own history, we will first discuss the textual history of individual essays and then the history of the Miscellanies. “Miss Baillie’s Metrical Legends” “Miss Baillie’s Metrical Legends” first appeared in the New Edinburgh Review 1, no. 2 (October 1821): 393-414, which was printed by Balfour and Clarke. Carlyle completed and submitted the manuscript about April 3 (Letters 1:352) but did not receive proof until October (Letters 1:385). This review was never reprinted in Carlyle’s lifetime. “Burns” “Burns” first appeared in the Edinburgh Review 48, no. 96 (December 1828): 267-312, which was printed by Ballantyne and Company. Carlyle completed the manuscript in late August or the first part of September and received proofs in late September or early October (Letters 4:399, 413). As discussed in the introduction, Carlyle was unhappy with the cuts Francis Jeffrey made to shorten the essay, but by the time he finished correcting the proofs, he was satisfied that he had “readjusted” it (Letters 4:413-14). The essay was printed by late November (Letters 4:424). It was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). In 1854, Chapman and Hall, which had become the publisher of his works, published “Burns” as a pamphlet. The historical collation indicates that it was set from a copy of the 1847 edition of the Miscellanies but was not used as copy-text for later editions. The 1854 edition introduced fifty-five variants, nearly

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all of them minor changes of spelling or punctuation. There are five changes of wording, four of which are likely compositor errors, as they involve the omission of a word or, in one case, two words. Only one change looks as if it could be authorial. “Dr Currie and Mr Walker, the principal of these writers, have both, we think, mistaken one essentially important thing” becomes in 1854 “Dr Currie and Mr Walker, the principal of these writers, have both, as was not so unnatural at that point of time, mistaken one essentially important thing.” This change clearly seeks to take into account the passage of time since the first publication of the essay. Yet Carlyle did not order the change in subsequent editions of the essay, so it is not clear whether he, or someone assisting him, was responsible for this insertion. “Voltaire” “Voltaire” first appeared in the Foreign Review 3, no. 6 (April 1829): 41975, which was printed by William Clowes. Carlyle completed the manuscript sometime in March or April (Letters 5:9; Two Note Books 140). He may not have read proof, for on March 31 he complained that the proofs had not come; of course, they may have arrived later (Letters 5:15-16). This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Biography” “Biography” first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine 5, no. 27 (April 1832): 25360, which was printed by J. Moyes. Carlyle completed the manuscript of what would become both “Biography” and “Boswell’s Life of Johnson” in early March and submitted them on March 15 (Two Note Books 252). We do not know whether he read proof, but it is likely that either he or his brother John did so. A year earlier, his brother read proof for “Schiller,” and Carlyle authorized him to read proof for other essays in Fraser’s (Letters 5:233n2); however, a year later Carlyle himself revised the proof for “Count Cagliostro” (Letters 6:395). This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Boswell’s Life of Johnson” “Boswell’s Life of Johnson” first appeared in Fraser’s Magazine 5, no. 28 (May 1832): 379-413, which was printed by J. Moyes. Carlyle completed the

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manuscript in early March and submitted it March 15 (see “Biography,” above). It is likely that either he or his brother John read proof (see the preceding discussion of “Biography”). This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Corn-Law Rhymes” “Corn-Law Rhymes” first appeared in the Edinburgh Review 55, no. 110 ( July 1832): 338-61, which was printed by Ballantyne and Company. Carlyle completed the manuscript about May 4 (Letters 6:146-47; Two Note Books 267) but did not submit it until May 28 (Letters 6:166-67). When he sent the proofs to Carlyle, Napier requested that, owing to space constraints, he make some cuts. Carlyle returned the corrected proof on June 22, and in the accompanying letter gave instructions about where Napier might make cuts. However, the passages that Carlyle designated appeared in the published review, so Napier must have decided no cuts were necessary (Letters 6:176, 213, 216). Although Carlyle requested separate copies, it is not clear whether he ever received them, as we have not been able to locate any exemplars (Letters 6:208). This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Diderot” “Diderot” first appeared in the Foreign Quarterly Review 11, no. 22 (April 1833): 261-315, which was printed by C. Roworth and Sons. Carlyle finished the manuscript on October 15, 1832, but did not submit it until November 19 (Letters 6:237, 247n7, 258). The editor, John George Cochrane, requested cuts to the seven pages of “introductory reflections,” and Carlyle replied that he was willing to make them (Letters 6:322n33). Carlyle had expected to correct proofs in December, but because of a delay in publication did not do so until early March 1833 (Letters 6:271, 349). He had “separate cop[ies]” printed (Letters 4:405), but no known copies have survived. This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Memoirs of the Life of Scott” “Memoirs of the Life of Scott” first appeared in the London and Westmin-

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ster Review 32, no. 1 ( January 1838): 293-345, which was printed by Charles Reynell. Carlyle completed the manuscript on December 6 (Letters 9:357) and submitted it to John Robertson (the nominal editor) on December 7 (Letters 9:363). Although it is likely that he did so (see Letters 9:375), we have no explicit evidence that he read proof. In an apparent reference to the published article, Carlyle remarked that it had arrived in a “very rude condition” (Letters 10:16); thus, when he sent it to the Boston editors of the Miscellanies he gave directions for some corrections. The historical collation indicates that the American editors or compositors were very liberal in making these “corrections.” For more details, see the discussion of the 1838 Miscellanies below. This article was subsequently incorporated into all lifetime editions of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1869, 1872). “Heintze’s Translation of Burns” “Heintze’s Translation of Burns” first appeared in the Examiner no. 1704 (September 27, 1840): 612-13, which was printed by Charles Reynell. Carlyle completed the manuscript sometime between September 17 and 26. He seems to have read proof about September 23 (Letters 12:265). The manuscript (Victoria and Albert Forster F.48.E.18 item 176 cat. no. 85) survives and serves as copy-text. The compositor has freely added punctuation, in accord with the contemporary practice by which printers did not limit themselves to merely reproducing the manuscript. We have assumed that Carlyle expected the compositor to expand abbreviated words, including “thro,’” and that, like other nineteenth-century authors, in matters of punctuation he treated the compositor more or less as a copy editor. We have therefore adopted most of these changes of punctuation, except in cases that run contrary to Carlyle’s normal practice, especially as Carlyle seems to have read proof. The essay was never republished during Carlyle’s lifetime. “Preface to Emerson’s Essays” Carlyle’s preface debuted in the first English edition of Emerson’s Essays (London: James Fraser, 1841), which was printed by Charles Robson of Robson, Levey, and Franklyn. Although he wrote it in late June, the preface is dated August 11, 1841 (Letters 13:163). The book appeared either in September or October.1 1 It is on the list of new publications in the October number of the Edinburgh Review (74: 259) and the subject of a review in the October Monthly Review (3: 274-79).

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Carlyle read proof for the volume and this presumably included the preface, though it should be noted that he entrusted Robson with correcting a portion of the book (Letters 13:218, 163). The sheets of this edition were taken over first by G. W. Nickisson and then by Chapman and Hall, who published a new edition in 1847. We have not been able to locate a copy of the 1847 printing (none is listed in the OCLC catalog). A reprinting (whether a separate edition or just a new printing we cannot determine) appeared in 1853. The historical collation indicates that Carlyle almost certainly did not participate in the preparation of the 1853 edition, and if, as was the custom, it was set from the 1847 edition, he did not participate in that edition either. There are no changes of wording, and all of the changes of punctuation and capitalization (many uppercase words became lowercase) can be attributed to the publisher or compositor. We have made one emendation, a correction of spelling from tarif to tariff (337.5), a word that Carlyle always spells conventionally. the 1833 volume of carlyle’s essays In 1833 Carlyle assembled a collection of the essays he had published up to that date and had them bound as a gift for Jane Carlyle. The volume, which is in the Beinecke Library, Yale University, contains most but not all of the essays published by November 1833, the date he inscribed along with Jane Carlyle’s name on the flyleaf.2 To create the volume Carlyle used pages taken from copies of the reviews in which the essays originally appeared. The essays in this volume are represented by “Burns,” “Voltaire,” “Biography,” “Boswell’s Life of Johnson,” and “Diderot.” While Carlyle may have intentionally excluded “Miss Baillie’s Metrical Legends,” it may have been the case that he simply did not possess copies of his New Edinburgh contributions. Some of the essays in the 1833 collection have extensive corrections in Carlyle’s hand, but there are only a small number in the essays included in the present volume. There are six changes in “Burns” and three in “Diderot.” There are no changes in “Biography” or “Voltaire.” The one change in “Boswell’s Life of Johnson”—the correction of “openly” to “opened” (154.11) is an anomaly, as the incorrect “openly” does not appear in our exemplar of the first publication. This may be one of the separate copies Carlyle requested, but these were generally set from and identical to the periodical publication. The evidence of these essays suggests that Carlyle may 2 Beinecke C198 C2. Portions of the volume have been digitized and are available through the Beinecke digital collections.

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have consulted this volume when preparing his list of corrections for the 1838 edition and when preparing copy for 1840. Two of the corrections to “Burns” appear in 1838, and neither is of a type that the Boston editors would have made independently (30.9, 68.12). One change (55.9) appears also in 1840, and another was further changed in that edition (39.25). Two changes never appeared in any edition of the Miscellanies; we have adopted one of them in the present edition (51.36; for the other, see 30.21). As all three changes in “Diderot” appear in 1838, it is highly likely they were on the list of corrections Carlyle provided to the editors (245.8 and two at 265.21). Critical and Miscellaneous Essays The works collected in Carlyle’s Critical and Miscellaneous Essays were truly miscellaneous. This may be because there were no standards for republication of reviews as essays. Carlyle was among the first to have his articles collected. Albany Fonblanque’s Examiner articles appeared the same year. Macaulay, more famous at the time as a reviewer, resisted publication until pirated American editions led him to acquiesce in requests for an authorized edition, but not until 1840 (see Shattock 108). The Boston editors compiled the contents based on a list supplied by Carlyle, which in turn probably reflects the contents of the 1833 volume. The contents, arranged, with some exceptions, in order of publication, changed throughout his lifetime, new material was added to each edition, and on some occasions material was shifted to other parts of the collected works. The Centenary Edition, long considered the standard edition of Carlyle’s works, incorporated in the Miscellanies works that were never included during Carlyle’s lifetime and partially broke with the practice of chronological arrangement. Because the arrangement of the essays in the Miscellanies was never authoritatively established, this edition organizes the essays by subject matter but retains the chronological arrangement within each volume. the 1838 edition In late 1837, the year The French Revolution established Carlyle as a major writer, two Americans decided it was time to publish an edition of his essays. Ellis Loring sought permission to prepare a collected edition, and Ralph Waldo Emerson planned a selected edition (Letters 10:5, 9; Emerson and Carlyle 178). Neither man initially knew of the other’s plans, and much confusion ensued in the early months of 1838 as their letters to and from Carlyle kept crossing each in other in the mail. In the end, they agreed on a single course of action.

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They would follow Loring’s plan of publishing a collected edition, but Emerson would take charge of the project (Letters 10:50; Emerson and Carlyle 179, 183). The list of essays and errata that Carlyle had sent to Loring were turned over to two of Emerson’s associates, Charles Stearns Wheeler and Henry Swasy McKean, who prepared the texts for the printer (Metcalf, Torry, and Ballou) and corrected proof (Emerson and Carlyle 186, 191; Emerson 2:124). The first two volumes were published by James Munroe and Company in July 1838, and Emerson informed Carlyle that he stood to make $1,000 from them.3 There was to be an interval before publication of the third and fourth volumes, but Carlyle decided not to furnish corrected copy, in part because he did not have copies of the essays readily available and in part, he wrote, because the newer articles were “of themselves a little more correct” and so there was “nothing but misprints to deal with” (Letters 10:229). Printing began near the end of 1838 but was not completed until summer 1839. More copies were printed this time, but otherwise the history of volumes 3 and 4 is the same as that of the first two volumes.4 With the minor exceptions mentioned above, Carlyle did not participate in the production of these volumes. The editors used copies of the articles obtained from American sources.5 When he received the first two volumes, Carlyle praised Loring, McKean, and Wheeler for producing an “extremely correct” edition; however, he meant only that the essays had everywhere been “silently emended,” and indeed many minor typesetting errors were corrected (Letters 10:229). Yet Carlyle’s judgment of the edition’s correctness was not based on a careful line-by-line reading, for he spotted only one of several new misprints (Letters 11:178; see 227). Unfortunately, because Carlyle’s list of errata has not survived, we cannot know for certain which changes he ordered and which were made by the editors. Collation confirms that they made many changes probably not attributable to the typesetters, and these changes are not all simply corrections of typesetting errors. The seven essays in this volume that were incorporated into the MiscellaEmerson and Carlyle 190, 197. For further details, see Historical Essays lxxxv, n. 12. Emerson and Carlyle 210, 246; Emerson 2:193. Wheeler seems to have done the bulk of the editorial work on these volumes. 1,500 copies were printed this time (Emerson and Carlyle 242), and another 260 were sold under Fraser’s imprint. For Emerson’s accounting, see Emerson 2:401. 5 Emerson obtained copies of the essays that had appeared in the Foreign Review from his acquaintance Convers Francis and some issues of Fraser’s Magazine from the Boston Athenaeum (Emerson and Carlyle 191, 233). In other cases, he probably supplied copies that Carlyle had sent to him for his personal use. 3

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nies all appeared in this edition. In these essays, there are over 800 variants of punctuation and some 250 of spelling. As it seems unlikely that Carlyle’s list of errata included such changes, they can be attributed to the American editors and compositors. We have therefore rejected them except in a few instances in which they make obvious corrections or anticipate 1840 in restoring Carlyle’s preferred spelling. There are just over a hundred minor changes in wording, the vast majority of which are also probably the work of editors and compositors. The results of the collation suggest both that one must proceed with caution in giving authority to the 1838 edition and that the 1840 edition was prepared with unusual care, often restoring the readings of the review essays. the 1840 (second) edition On December 8, 1839, Carlyle wrote that he was “revising the American copy” of the Miscellanies for a new edition to be published by Fraser in London (Letters 11:227; see 236). This comment, together with the evidence of the collations, establishes that the 1840 edition was set from a copy of the 1838 edition. The first two volumes were printed by J. L. Cox and Sons, and the third through fifth by Charles Robson, who had become Carlyle’s preferred printer when his firm set the third volume of The French Revolution (see On Heroes xc–xci). Carlyle’s interventions in 1840 are so extensive as to indicate that even the smallest change might be attributed to him. By the same token, because he had so thoroughly revised them, he seems to have felt that the essays collected in this edition had reached their final form. As he corrected proof in late December 1840, he remarked: “I am in the last volume now, and shall then have very little fash [bother] farther,—nothing but correcting the Proof-sheets where they vary from what I am now settling” (Letters 11:236). He finished correcting proof in February, and the Miscellanies were available by April 22 (Letters 12:46, 117). In the essays in this volume, the 1840 edition introduces about 850 changes of punctuation, 250 changes of capitalization (about half of them uppercasing in “Sir Walter Scott”), and over 150 spelling variants. Except where associated with other changes or when they reflect Carlyle’s clear preferences, we do not adopt these changes. As established in our edition of the Historical Essays, however, there are several classes of changes in the 1840 edition that can be considered authorial and are adopted in this edition (for a full discussion see the Discussion of Editorial Decisions). These include the substitution of commas for parentheses, the dropping of the comma with too, also, perhaps, the uppercasing

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of nouns, and changes in conformity with Carlyle’s spelling preferences. Two classes of changes that occur less frequently—the addition of italics and the use of the comma dash—can also be considered authorial. No variant has been accepted automatically because it falls into one of the aforementioned classes; rather, in each case we have considered whether or not the change was more likely to be the result of Carlyle’s pen or of compositorial intervention. In this edition, many parentheses were removed (sometimes accompanied by changes of wording), a change that is most likely authorial and therefore adopted. There are over 200 changes of wording, nearly half of them in “Burns.” Whereas the changes in other editions are most often merely a single word, here the changes often involved the omission, addition, or substitution of several words, and we thus conclude that they are in almost all cases authorial. In 1842 Chapman and Hall reprinted this edition from the original plates. James Fraser had died in 1841, and Chapman and Hall purchased the plates from Fraser’s estate. Hinman collation has previously confirmed that this edition is simply a reprinting of the 1840 edition. Therefore, we have not included it in the Historical Collation. the 1847 (third edition) Edward Chapman broached the subject of a new edition of the Miscellanies in January 1846, at a time when new editions of nearly all of Carlyle’s works were being prepared (Letters 20:115).6 Later that spring Carlyle included the Miscellanies in a list of books he needed to read over and correct for new editions, and in May he reported that he had been “revising” all his old books (Letters 20:182, 187, 196). Because he had so carefully prepared the Miscellanies for the 1840 edition, however, he was not sure he would do anything to them and initially put off the task of looking them over. At the end of May he told his mother that he had been through all his books “but the Miscellanies,—and this, after some consideration, we decide to leave standing exactly as it is, and trust altogether to the Bookseller Printer [Robson], for it seems quite correct, and he is himself an extremely accurate man” (Letters 20:198). Nevertheless, he did give some attention to the Miscellanies in the course of the next two weeks, for on June 17 he was writing that he had now “got the Miscellanies ready for Printing” (Letters 20:206). At this point, Carlyle felt that the edition was “settled,” and he decided 6 The negotiations continued into the summer, with Chapman finally agreeing to pay £400 for the edition (Letters 20:223).

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he need “not trouble [him]self with proofsheets” (Letters 20:218). Although the copy was ready by the summer of 1846, the new edition of the Miscellanies was not published until autumn 1847, perhaps because Chapman and Hall wished to spread out publication of the series of new editions (Letters 21:205, 22:154). In the essays included in this volume there are nearly 600 changes of punctuation and capitalization and nearly a hundred of spelling. There are some forty changes of wording, all of them minor and, with rare exceptions, not likely authorial. Carlyle’s pattern of revision, together with his casual approach to preparing copy for this edition, suggests that he considered the essays in this volume that were incorporated into the Miscellanies to have reached their final form in the 1840 edition. The patterns of systematic regularization imposed in 1847 are most likely the result of Robson’s attempt to achieve consistency.7 Apart from a small number of corrections, therefore, we do not adopt variants from this edition. As noted in our edition of the Historical Essays, Carlyle at this time gave permission to the publishers Carey and Hart to produce a new US edition of the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (Letters 20:202), but both external evidence and our collations have demonstrated that he had no role in the preparation of this edition. Therefore we do not include it in the Historical Collation. the 1857 uniform edition In 1857 the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays were published as volumes 2 to 5 of the Uniform Edition, the first collected edition of Carlyle’s works; it was printed by Robson, Levey, and Franklyn. Several individuals, including Alexander Gilchrist, Henry Larkin, Joseph Neuberg, and Vernon Lushington, assisted Carlyle in the preparation of this edition. Carlyle asked these helpers, he said, “to correct the Press, to make Indexes, etc., and steadily oversee the thing” (Letters 31:85). Although their main task was the preparation of summaries and indexes, their participation is notable because it means that individuals other than Carlyle and his printers were involved in the preparation of the 7 One such pattern involves the use of a comma to set off a series. The 1847 edition frequently eliminates the serial comma. This kind of change can also be found in the 1840 edition and in editions after 1847 but is especially frequent here. It conforms with Carlyle’s manuscript practice, but given the evidence cited above it seems unlikely that Carlyle made these changes himself, as he had ample opportunity to do so when he corrected the 1840 edition.

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published text. Indeed, it is fairly clear that Lushington and Larkin probably were involved in correcting proof as well as preparing summaries and indexes (see Sartor Resartus cxx–cxxii). The historical collation suggests that Carlyle may have had no hand in the changes made to the essays included in this volume. Overall, there were far fewer changes than in previous editions: there are 200 changes of punctuation, thirty-five of spelling, and only three changes of wording. Nearly half of the changes of punctuation involve the insertion of hyphens (see On Heroes c and Sartor Resartus cxx–cxxi). While as a general rule, therefore, we have not adopted these changes, we have in a few cases adopted changes that impose Carlyle’s preferred spellings (e.g., “forever” rather than “for ever”), especially in cases in which other instances had been changed in previous editions but the particular instance had been missed. the 1869 library edition In 1869 the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays appeared as volumes 6 to 11 of the Library Edition (1869–1871) of Carlyle’s works, which was printed by Robson and sons. As previous editors have noted, John Carlyle reported that his brother “corrected the final proofs himself, making no alterations at all, only rectifying errors wherever he could discover any.”8 Collation of the essays, like that of On Heroes and Sartor Resartus, supports the suggestion that any such revisions were kept to a minimum. There are corrections of foreign-language spellings, as well as some English spellings, which must have been made by Carlyle or by others with his approval. By contrast, the insertion of new paragraph breaks and the shifting of question marks and exclamation points from the inside to the outside of closing quotation marks, which also mirror similar changes in other volumes of the Library Edition, are most likely the result of compositor activity. Furthermore, the dozen changes of wording in the essays that had appeared in previous editions of the Miscellanies are not convincingly authorial; some are simply errors, while others are regularizations or attempts at making a correction where no correction is needed.

8

Unpublished letter in the University of Edinburgh Library (see On Heroes ci).

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the 1872 people’s edition In 1872 the Critical and Miscellaneous Essays appeared as volumes 6 to 12 of the People’s Edition (1871–1874) of Carlyle’s works, which, like the Library Edition, was printed by Robson and sons. John Carlyle’s letter regarding the Library Edition, cited above, comments further, “A ‘People’s Edition’ in the same number of volumes has been begun, but [Carlyle] has no charge of it at all, the printers merely having to follow the Library Edition which is stereotyped.” The People’s Edition was not in fact printed from the stereotyped plates of the Library Edition, as John Carlyle’s statement might seem to imply, but his statement does indicate that Thomas Carlyle had little or no role in the preparation of this edition. Intended as an inexpensive alternative to the Library Edition, rather than as a new edition, it did not require special preparation. As reported in the “Note on the Text” of the Historical Essays, collation of the People’s Edition of the Miscellanies in all cases supports this external evidence. Therefore, we have not included this edition in the Historical Collation.

Plate 1. A page of “Burns” corrected by Carlyle. From the 1833 gift copy (see Note on the Text). General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Plate 2. Alexander Nasmyth. “Robert Burns.” Frostispiece to Poems (Edinburgh: 1787).

Plate 3. Alexander Nasmyth. “Robert Burns.” At the head of chapter one of Lockhart’s Life of Burns (Edinburgh: 1828).

Plate 4. Friedrich August Moritz Retzsch. “Faust Makes over His Soul to Mephistopheles.” Faustus Illustrated in Twenty-Six Outlines (London: 1825).

Plate 5. Thomas Lawrence. ”James Boswell.” Frontispiece to volume 4 of John Wilson Croker’s edition of Boswell’ Life of Samueal Johnson (London: 1831).

Essays on Literature

MISS BAILLIE’S METRICAL LEGENDS.

Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Plays on the Passions,” &c. London, Longman & Co. 1821. Pp. 373. Miss Baillie has long enjoyed a large tribute of public favour; and the powers she possesses are no doubt fully sufficient to vindicate her claims to it. Yet, if we mistake not, this distinction has been earned more by the display of intellectual superiority in general, than of eminent poetical genius; more by the avoidance of great blemishes, than the production of great beauties. Her poetry rarely belongs to the higher departments of the art; she deals little in the exhibition of sublime emotions—whether of an energetic or a tender cast; her store of imagery, her range of feeling, are both circumscribed; and though her studies have been professedly devoted, with an exclusive preference, to the workings of passion and the various aspects of human character, it is only with passions and characters of a common stamp that she appears to be completely successful. Her tragic portraits are certainly, in some cases, strongly sketched; yet in general they are nothing more than sketches, and sketches too by one who has observed rather than felt,—who has seen the effects produced by great conjunctures and surprising emergencies, but who has little power to conceive the actual being of an impassioned spirit subjected to their influence. From this cause it follows, that, in Miss Baillie’s dramas, the characteristic lineaments of her heroes are educed—if educed at all—rather by the management of external situations, than by the direct expression of internal consciousness; rather by the display of actions, than the collision of feelings manifesting themselves naturally in the progress of the dialogue. With great inventive powers, 3

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indeed, something impressive may possibly be accomplished, even in this less poetic method: but invention is not a quality in which Miss Baillie particularly excels; and hence her management of those untoward instruments she employs is not always the most felicitous. These original deficiencies, important enough in themselves, have been enhanced, unfortunately, and rendered prominent, by Miss Baillie’s mode of composition. Her performances have too much the appearance of forethought and plan, to pass for any relatives of nature; we find abundance of criticism and logic in them, but too little of genuine poetic fervour; and the project of producing two plays, a tragedy and a comedy, on each of the passions, not only had something mechanical in it, something very alien to the spontaneous inspiration which poets boast of, but also tended to render her characters too abstract and uncompounded to excite much interest. The beings wrought out on such a system are apt to resemble personifications rather than persons; they must hate, or envy, or love; and an author, in his anxiety to make them do so, with sufficient energy to give effect, is in danger of forgetting that they have any thing to do besides. Much ingenuity, and much vividness of conception may be evinced in this manner, as Godwin and others have exemplified; but it is not thus, we imagine, that deep feeling will be awakened in a reader, or any character brought forward, that shall have much chance to dwell on his memory. In a word, we may think them to be very amiable or very detestable, but we do not feel them to be men. It is true, that Miss Baillie’s plays are not all liable, in the same, or in any eminent degree, to this objection; but in all of them its force may be discovered more or less distinctly, and never without great injury to the result. With such weighty drawbacks, it is sufficiently clear that our author has no title to rank among the first class of poets. But it is equally so, we readily admit, that she possesses gifts enough to raise her far above the lowest; nor should it be forgotten, that, as her pretensions are much less urgent than her merits, so if she has fallen short of the highest excellence, our censure of her failure should be less marked than our commendation of her partial success. But, independently of such claims to indulgence, an attentive reader cannot avoid being struck with the many beauties that are scattered over her writings. She cannot be compared with our older dramatists. Basil and Ethwall are not known to us like Othello and Macbeth; they do not incorporate themselves with our thoughts, and become part of the mind’s household goods; but, though incomplete and unequal as dramatic characters, they bear traces of keen observation and energetic feeling, accompanied at times with a strength of conception—which, if it had extended over the general surface of those poems—comprising the exalted, as it often does



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the common mental condition of the agent, would have amply contradicted our previous criticisms. Nor is the effect of those intrinsic qualities obstructed by a depraved taste or a faulty style. The allusions and metaphors are always pure, often at once expressive and picturesque; while the language in which they are clothed, is formed on the best models, and exhibits those beauties to the greatest advantage. In her less distinguished productions, the same fundamental excellencies, though more sparingly developed, are still discernible. There is a frank and vigorous air about her poetry, which pleases by seeming to perform all that it attempts. She has an acute relish for the simple affections of humanity, and the simple aspects of nature; and occasionally there are thrills of wild sublimity,—which, as they rise without violence from the surrounding emotions, give dignity and relief to their unpretending beauties. Indeed, it is this unpretendingness, this utter want of affectation, which constitutes the redeeming quality of Miss Baillie’s writings. Be the subject high or low, she seems as if she were completely mistress of it; or at least, she avoids all unnatural expedients, and goes quietly along her destined course—indifferent to success, if it cannot be purchased without the sacrifice of truth and moderation. Good and evil are always mixed. It is probably by the undue cultivation of her reasoning faculties, that Miss Baillie has enfeebled the imaginative vigour of her poetry; and by the same process, no less probably, she has also imparted to it this unaffected simplicity, its principal ornament. To the same cause must likewise be ascribed, at least in part, the tone of wholesome, honest feeling, which pervades all her writings, and so agreeably distinguishes them, in an age when poetry is deformed by a spirit of morbid exaggeration, the more baneful, as its tendency is to inspire disrespect or disgust for every thing that is peaceable or happy in the ordinary ways of men. In Miss Baillie’s writings, if we fail to meet with glowing, yet faithful exhibitions of perturbed and sublimated feelings, we also fail to meet with the reckless wailings, the bitter execrations of existing institutions, the cold derision of human nature, and the meretricious charms, not more dazzling than pernicious, which so deeply infect much of our present literature. In the absence of heroes, we are not presented with ruffians, decked out in colours which embellish rather than conceal their villainy; if we have less impetuous sentiment, what we have is all genuine; it does not array itself in oriental gorgeousness, it does not languish in diseased melancholy, or rave in the frenzy of despair,—but moves calmly and steadily along in cheerful comeliness, and the heart is better for it. Miss Baillie, in short, though not a great poet, is in every sense a good one.

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With such impressions of Miss Baillie’s powers, and such dispositions to like, if not to admire, any thing proceeding from her pen, we expected to receive more delight from the present volume than a perusal of it has actually afforded us. At first view, the title “metrical legends of exalted characters” suggests the idea of an undertaking eminently calculated to give room for the introduction of much striking description, and much delightful, as well as highly valuable sentiment. Though poetry is an imaginative art, its productions must be founded on reality in some sense, or they cannot yield us gratification. The ancient critical precept, that every drama should have for its groundwork some historical or credited event, was not without a shew of reason; for although the imagination may be filled, and the heart touched, as modern experience has frequently proved, by events and characters purely fictitious, yet still there is a hankering after truth in all of us; and the idea that what we are contemplating did actually in part take place, and for aught we know, in whole—that the characters before us were in fact real inhabitants of this earth, creatures of flesh and blood like ourselves, adds a wonderful vivacity to our impressions at the time we receive them. The most hardened novel reader is now and then assailed by a chilling qualm, even at the very nodus of his story, on reflecting that all this mighty stir around him is but a fantasy; and though he strives to banish such suggestions, they return upon him when the intoxication is over, and never return without a sensible diminution of his pleasure. No doubt this disadvantage must continue to be quietly submitted to; the real occurrences of the world are too circumscribed and prosaic to give scope to our full energies; and it is a grand privilege possessed by us, that we can at will frame an ideal scene, where all shall be fair and free, where the passions and powers of our nature may be arranged, and set in opposition, and developed as we choose, while things without us offer no obstruction to our creative efforts. But if this shadowy world delights us merely as it seems to afford space for the unrestrained exertion of human will, the effect must depend on our belief, however transient, of its reality; and hence, if cases should occur, in which the restraints alluded to were wanting in a great measure, and might be removed entirely without violating, not the transient, but the permanent belief we have of their reality, the effect of such cases would be more intense, and therefore more poetical. Now “exalted characters” furnish just such cases as we have supposed. They are men in whom the low elements of humanity are feeble or almost extinct; and the poet has no task to perform with regard to them, but to present their mind, and such of their actions as unfold it, full and luminous before us, with all the colouring and accompaniments which his art can lend. From their very nature, characters and events susceptible of this



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treatment must be rare; and the student of history who wishes to enlarge his heart, and extend his compass of thought, as well as to store his memory with facts, may justly regret their being so. A historical personage, depicted in the colours of poetry, is like a bright sun-spot in the grey cold twilight of ordinary narrative. Richard and Wallenstein are no longer the thin shadows they appeared to us, in the mirror of Holinshed and Harte; they are living men, with all their attributes, whom we almost seem to know personally; and the new interest we take in them is extended to the whole groups in which they mingle. No one can read the meagerest chronicle of our old French wars, without finding a warmer glow spread over all the scene, a more intimate presence in it, communicated from the plays of Shakspeare. In Henry’s army we discover well known faces; the king and his valiant captains, even the ancient Pistol and Bardolph, “a soldier firm of heart,” are all dear to our memories. We follow the progress of the host, as it were with our eyes; and hear the armourers give “dreadful note of preparation,” every time the victory of Agincourt is mentioned to us. Nor is the increased animation which this particular species of poetry diffuses over the most striking passages of history, the only, or even the principal advantage we derive from it. Besides ministering to our pleasure, it contributes to our improvement. If history is valuable, chiefly as it offers examples by which human nature is illustrated, and human conduct may be regulated, then it is of the highest importance that such great characters as have influenced the destinies of men, be held up to us in the degree of light that shall most powerfully elicit the generous expansion of soul, which a view of them is fitted to inspire. We cannot feel too strongly the admiration of highly-gifted virtue, or the fear of highly-gifted wickedness; and if poetry profess to occupy a more exalted rank in the scale of our pursuits than that of being merely an elegant amusement,—if it profess to elevate our nature by giving scope to its higher qualities, and communicating new beauty to the ordinary things around us,—we do not see how it can better vindicate such claims, than by adorning the memory of those our illustrious brethren, who have journeyed through life in might and rectitude before us. Every time the poet can seize the impress of such a character, and transmit it warm to our bosoms, he performs not only the most delightful but the most beneficial function of his art. He rescues from obscurity or neglect a token of the dignity of man; and thus presenting another high example, to which we may appeal in the day of trial, he enriches and exalts the moral treasury of our race. With regard to the illustrious wicked, poetical representation is profitable in this way likewise. The spectacle of mental power tends to enlarge the mind

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of him who beholds it; and what is more, the penalties attached to its misemployment, the “compunctious visitings” of conscience, or its still more frightful insensibility, form a lesson of awful import, which it is fit that all of us should study. When the poet converts our admiration of greatness into admiration of the crimes it is employed to effect, he does not use, but abuse his authority over us, and our feelings refuse to obey him. True poetry will have another aim. Filippo and Macbeth are not less instructive than Brutus or Virginius. If this reasoning be correct, the increase of pleasure and profit, derived from this species of poetry, must appear to be great and indubitable. At the same time, however, like every earthly good, it is mixed with some alloy. The poet cannot secure to us those advantages, without invading and apparently violating the province of the historian and biographer. Poetry and history have long been at issue on this matter. There is a kind of debateable ground between them, the limits of which are nothing like ascertained, and where each lays claim to the right of dominion. On one hand, the sticklers for accuracy allege, that, by distorting the events, and exaggerating the characters of former ages, the face of history becomes disfigured in the imaginations of men; and erroneous notions thus silently propagated, must inevitably, though imperceptibly, vitiate the conclusions and inferences to be deduced from the real course of things, which has now been displaced in a great measure from our thoughts, to make room for a series more splendid, invented by the poet for a purpose altogether foreign. On the other hand are set forth the manifold advantages enumerated above, and the narrow compass to which the injury complained of is limited. The poet, it is said, will never violate the truth of history to any important extent, as he is in general sufficiently restrained by considerations affecting his own pursuits alone. He knows well enough that no subject over which the full day light of history has once been shed, and which has thus become familiar in all its details, and settled in the public mind, can by any management be rendered a fit subject for poetry. His efforts will, therefore, be chiefly directed to the more obscure and remote departments of history, concerning which little can be known, or at least is known, to contradict his statements; and in those distant scenes, if he find a few facts applicable to his purpose, why, it is asked, should he not be permitted, nay invited, to seize them? For the great characters there dimly shadowed forth, he becomes a kind of new creator. The faint traces they have left remain uninterpreted and barren in the eyes of the chronicler: to the poet’s eye they are like the fragments of an antediluvian animal, as contemplated by the mind of a Cuvier—dark to others and void of meaning, but discovering to his experienced sagacity, the form and habits of a species long extinct. And



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if, by a similar power, the plastic and far-sighted genius of a poet, can, from those slender hints, detect the structure and essence of the sublime character to whom they relate, why should he not disclose it, and thus offer to us a mass of exalted thoughts and noble feelings, which, but for such a power, we should never have recovered from the darkness that buried them? Let the poet, then, say his admirers, take what liberty he pleases with history. For his own sake, he will avoid falsifying the characters and transactions recorded there, to any fatal degree; because long before it prove hurtful to the moral judgments of his audience, this proceeding will prove still more hurtful to the effect of his poetry, which will in vain solicit favour from minds that are revolted by an open contradiction of what they know to be true. We do not pretend to settle this controversy; but we cannot help observing, that the advocates for history seem to overrate their claim of damages. No one, it is certain, is likely to recur to the pages of a drama or an epic for settling a date or a disputed fact; and for all moral purposes, the poetical selection of circumstances may convey as faithful an idea of the subject treated, as the historical narrative in which every circumstance is minutely detailed. The truth of historical characters is indeed a more grave consideration; but the force and vividness of the delineation are also an important particular, and the omission of some circumstances which enfeeble the general result, rather than change its nature, has so many advantages, and gives such a powerful engine for poetry to impress us with, at once delightfully and beneficially, that considerable latitude ought to be allowed even here. Miss Baillie is aware of those conflicting rights, and is puzzled, like ourselves, how to reconcile them. Admitting that history is too indistinct, and biography too minute and familiar to call forth “that rousing and generous admiration which the more simple and distant view of heroic worth is fitted to inspire;” she conceives that romance in verse or prose, “by throwing over the venerated form of a majestic man, a gauzy veil, on which is delineated the fanciful form of an angel,” is no less injurious than unfaithful to the memory of the mighty dead. She proceeds, “Having this view of the subject in my mind, and a great desire, notwithstanding, to pay some tribute to the memory of a few characters for whom I felt a peculiar admiration and respect, I have ventured upon what may be considered, in some degree, as a new attempt,—to give a short descriptive chronicle of those noble beings, whose existence has honoured human nature and benefited mankind. “In relating a true story, though we do not add any events or material circumstances to it, and abstain from attributing any motives for action which have not been credibly

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reported, or may not be fairly inferred, yet, how often do we spontaneously, almost unwittingly, add description similar to what we know must have belonged to the actors and scenery of our story?”—“In imitation then of this human propensity, from which we derive so much pleasure, though mischievous, when not indulged with charity and moderation, I have written the following metrical legends, describing such scenes as truly belong to my story, with occasionally the feelings, figures, and gestures of those whose actions they relate, and also assigning their motives of action, as they may naturally be supposed to have existed. “The events they record are taken from sources sufficiently authentic; and where any thing has been reasonably questioned, I give some notice of the doubt. I have endeavoured to give them with the brief simplicity of a chronicle, though frequently stopping in my course, where occasion for reflection or remark naturally offered itself, or proceeding more slowly, when objects capable of interesting or pleasing description tempted me to linger. Though my great desire has been to display such portraitures of real worth and noble heroism as might awaken high and generous feelings in a youthful mind; yet I have not, as far as I know, imputed to my heroes motives or sentiments beyond what their noble deeds do fairly warrant. I have made each legend short enough to be read in one moderate sitting, that the impression might be undivided, and that the weariness of a story, not varied or enriched by minuter circumstances, might be, if possible, avoided. It has, in short, been my aim to produce sentimental and descriptive memorials of exalted worth.”

The disadvantages of this plan are too obvious to require much discussion. A versified chronicle, confined within the rigid limits of historical truth, is evidently one of the most unpoetical things in nature. And although the degree of licence which forms the discriminating feature of these metrical legends may admit of introducing much fine description, both of scenery and feeling, yet for the main purpose, that of exhibiting a great character in glowing colours, and impressing us with it strongly, few things could be worse calculated than this new species of poem. With heroic characters, especially, we think it would fail in the very best hands; and with any character, it is plainly impossible that it should ever become the vehicle of high poetry. It leaves no room for invention, little for imagination, except of a low kind, partly allowed even in prose: there can be no unity of action, for no man’s life was ever in whole directed to a single object; hence no unity of interest, no unity of result. These disadvantages are palpable enough. What compensation do we get for them? If the truth of the narrative be all our compensation, it is a very poor one. Granting the narrative to be true in every particular—we ask, of what avail is it? We did not take it up for historical information, but to obtain a sublime view of mental greatness. The



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facts of a hero’s life are worth nothing to us except as they represent the powers of his mind; and so the latter be displayed with the greatest truth and effect, the former may be as they will. Does Miss Baillie think a straggling narrative of a man’s whole life and conversation the best mode of presenting an intense and faithful view of his character? We imagine, on the contrary, it would not be difficult to prove, that, for exhibiting the character in all its truth and completeness, it must frequently be advisable to alter, always more than advisable to concentrate, the events which have displayed it. We say truth, and we meant to use the term in its highest sense. The actions of a man are never more than a feeble and imperfect emblem of what is passing within. To a common mind they discover little of the unseen movements which a sympathising mind infers from their presence; and to any mind they offer but a faint copy of the reality. Besides, they disclose the various mental features only in succession, and the trace left by one event is apt to be erased before that of another is communicated. Hence, to give a true picture of any character, particularly a great character, true, we mean, both in its proportions and vividness, it must often be requisite to forsake the straight-forward track of narrative, to accumulate, either secretly, as historians do in forming their judgment, or avowedly, as poets do in presenting theirs, and combine the several impressions which the story has produced upon us,—uniting them in their proper situation and relative strength to establish the true proportion, and accompanying them with all the influence of poetry to impart the true degree of vividness. Now, a “metrical legend,” if it adhere to the actual series of events as they occurred, and reject all but the slenderest embellishments of fancy, can never effect this. Without immense means, it will effect nothing. To give us even an approximate likeness of a great man, so feeble an implement would need to be wielded by an artist no way inferior to Shakspeare himself. The poet must be able, not merely to understand the character he is delineating, but to enter into it even to the minutest ramifications; not merely to estimate his hero, but to transfuse his own being into him—to see with his hero’s eyes, and feel with his hero’s heart. But Miss Baillie’s talent, we have already said, does not lie here. She does not conceive a deep agitated nature very fully, or embody her conceptions of it very happily; and her success, partial as it is, in this respect, depends more on the display of incidents than of emotions. Her present system, however, prohibits not only the invention of new incidents, but even the new arrangement of such as are prescribed; and she is thus left to overcome the difficulties of her undertaking—great and many in other respects—by a resource, in the management of which she has never shewn much power, by delineating internal feeling without the external movement which bespeaks it. The result

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is such as might have been expected. On a first perusal, her “Metrical Legends” of exalted characters disappoint us extremely. They give us next to no idea at all of the heroes whose characters it is their purpose to celebrate; and we throw down the book in a state of irritated ennui, declaring it to be tedious and prosaic beyond endurance. On a second perusal, it is true, we are again disappointed; we now discover much beautiful and spirited poetry sprinkled over its barren groundwork; but still we cannot avoid feeling, that the main design of the performance has failed, and the great powers, we see misdirected to accomplish it, are calculated to make us judge of it more harshly. The first legend in the volume turns upon the history of William Wallace, a name dear to every lover of freedom, and amply meriting all the celebrity which poetry can give it. The fate of Wallace has been singularly hard, both in life and after it. The deliverers of Switzerland, Tell and Stauffacher, and all the rest, have had their deeds recorded in the annals of their country—gratefully dwelt upon by historians of other countries, and at last depicted on the imperishable canvass of Schiller. But in the very period when the tyranny of Gessler had called forth the spirit that slumbered in the mountain peasants, as stern a spirit was roused, by a far more formidable tyrant, as fierce a contest was waging among our own bleak hills, and the patriot that guided it had an arm as strong, a heart as firm, as the time required. Now mark the difference! Tell died beside his own hearth, amid affectionate grandchildren; a people blessed him, (des Vaterlandes Schütz und Erretter;) and a poet, fitted to appreciate and fathom his manly soul, has embalmed the memory of its worth for ever: while Wallace, as unblemished after greater trials, insulted and betrayed, but never yielding, perished on the scaffold far from his native land, and before the freedom he had bought for it was achieved, leaving his fame to the charge of a vulgar rhymer. Nor since the days of Blind Harry has the case been mended. Wallace, slightly mentioned by historians, though the author of a mighty revolution in his country, has become the prey of novelists and poetasters. They have made him into a sentimental philosopher, a woe-begone lover, a mere “carpet knight.” Nay, Metastasio has not scrupled to trick him out into a “metre ballad-monger:” and Valla (for the very name is lost,) trills forth his patriotism and his gallantry in many a quaver, as an opera-hero ought, but resembling our own rugged, massy, stern, indomitable Wallace wight, just about as much as a Vauxhall tin-cascade resembles the falls of Niagara. We wish all this were remedied. Why does not the author of Waverley bestir himself ? He has done a faithful duty to the Cavaliers and Covenanters: a higher name than any of them is still behind. The Wizard, if he liked, could image back to us the very form and pressure of those far off times,



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the very life and substance of the strong and busy spirits that adorned them. It would be glorious to behold all this in his magic glass, and then to say, “It is all our own—and the magician too is ours.” The task, which we have thus presumed to recommend to the Great Novelist, and which, in spite of all its obstacles, we seriously wish he would undertake, has not in any measure been forestalled by this attempt of Miss Baillie’s. Her Wallace is a lamentable failure. His exploits are related certainly in clear language, and not without gleams of poetic imagery here and there, such as the unhappy nature of the plan allowed; but those exploits have no union among themselves; they are isolated, and point different ways; they do not combine to bring out or to strengthen one great effect, and Wallace remains as much unknown to us as before. We have, in fact, nothing but the ghost of him here. He moves about the country—sets fire to the barns of Ayr—fights at Stirling—offers to fight at Stanmore—refuses at Falkirk—overcomes the Red Reaver—is betrayed, and dies very edifyingly. Now, all this is excellent, but nothing to the point in view: the hero has still no individuality about him; his features are invisible; and, if we try to grasp him, he proves to be an empty shade. We are told, frequently and emphatically, that Wallace is a very strong person, expert at the broad sword, and a great patriot; with many other things which we knew somewhat before, and do not yet know better, or see more clearly: but the stern spirit of the man, with all its fervid movements, the fiery joy of victory, the stubborn resolution of defeat, the grandeur of purpose, the unconquerable will, his whole heroic nature, are wanting. We see none of those living energies that nerved him for his task; none of the great thoughts and great desires, the overshadowings of despondency, the visions of generous hope, that chequered and sublimed his restless existence. It is impossible to conceive how this Wallace could have freed his country, or risen to command its armies: he shews no powers of such a kind, few powers of any kind, except mere physical strength;—his actions are recorded in free and expressive language; but his character is left to our own inferences,—that is to say, just where it was. We regret that Miss Baillie should have attempted the depicting of Wallace; but, above all, that she should have attempted it on such a plan. If delivered from the invincible obstructions thus voluntarily created, though perhaps she could not have given us Wallace in his full majesty, she would at least have given us some visible and pleasing outline of him. Her verses, though unequal, are by no means destitute of beauty. It is only on contrasting what is done with what is aimed at, that they become disagreeable. The poem contains many brilliant similies and fine allusions; it has few faults except deficiencies; and, though these

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are numerous, we frequently discover the free step and blithe face of Miss Baillie’s early muse. If we wished to shew this “legend” to be very tame and feeble in many places, we should have no difficult task. It were easy to produce not a few stanzas of metred prose; we could even point out half a page, in which there is literally nothing but names, and names so unmusical, that prose itself would have paused before admitting them. But though not a difficult, it would be a grating task; and the reader will obtain a more agreeable, and a far juster notion of the general style and merits of the poem, from such an extract as the following. It is the proëmium. “Insensible to high heroic deeds, Is there a spirit clothed in mortal weeds, Who at the patriot’s moving story, Devoted to his country’s good, Devoted to his country’s glory, Shedding for freemen’s rights his generous blood;— List’neth not with breath heaved high, Quiv’ring nerve, and glistening eye, Feeling within a spark of heavenly flame, That with the hero’s worth may humble kindred claim? If such there be, still let him plod On the dull foggy paths of care, Nor raise his eyes from the dank sod To view creation fair: What boots to him the wond’rous works of God? His soul with brutal things hath ta’en its earthly lair. Come, youths, whose eyes are forward cast, And in the future see the past,— The past, as winnow’d in the early mind With husk and prickle left behind! Come; whether under lowland vest, Or, by the mountain tartan prest, Your gen’rous bosoms heave; Pausing a while in thoughtful rest, My legend lay receive. Come, aged sires, who love to tell What fields were fought, what deeds were done;



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What things in olden times befell,— Those good old times, whose term is run! Come ye, whose manly strength with pride Is breasting now the present tide Of worldly strife, and cast aside A hasty glance at what hath been! Come, courtly dames, in silken sheen, And ye, who under thatched roofs abide; Yea, ev’n the barefoot child by cottage fire, Who doth some shreds of northern lore acquire, By the stirr’d embers’ scanty light,— List to my legend lay of Wallace wight.”

This we conceive to be at least an average specimen of the work. If it contains fewer beautiful strokes than some other passages—the battle of Stirling, for example—it contains none of their fallings-off; and it gives no idea of the languor and disappointment resulting from the whole narrative, and inseparable from the principles on which it is conducted. To shew what we might have had on other principles, we need only appeal to the fine sketch which follows—excepting, of course, the two first stanzas. Wallace is hastening to meet the English chiefs assembled in court at Ayr,—according to the plausible but insidious invitation which had been sent to all the neighbouring barons. The bridle of his horse is laid hold of by a friendly hand— “‘Oh! go not to the Barns of Ayr! Kindred and friends are murder’d there. The faithless Southrons, one by one, On them the hangman’s task hath (have) done. Oh, turn thy steed, and fearful ruin shun!’ He, shudd’ring, heard, with visage pale, Which quickly chang’d to wrath’s terrific hue; And then apace came sorrow’s bursting wail; The noble heart could weep that could not quail, ‘My friends, my kinsmen, war-mates bold and true! Met ye a villain’s end! Oh is it so with you!’ The hero turn’d his chafing steed, And to the wild woods bent his speed.

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essays on literature But not to keep in hiding there, Or give his sorrow to despair, For the fierce tumult in his breast To speedy, dreadful action press’d. And there within a tangled glade, List’ning the courser’s coming tread, With hearts that shared his ire and grief, A faithful band receiv’d their chief. In Ayr the guilty Southrons held a feast, When that dire day its fearful course had run, And laid them down their weary limbs to rest Where the foul deed was done. But ere beneath the cottage thatch Cocks had crow’d the second watch; When sleepers breathe in heavy plight, Press’d with the visions of the night, And spirits, from unhallow’d ground, Ascend to walk their silent round; When trembles dell or desert heath, The witches’ orgy dance beneath,— To the rous’d warders fearful gaze, The Barns of Ayr were in a blaze. The dense dun smoke was mounting slow And stately, from the flaming wreck below, And mantling far aloft in many a volum’d wreath; Whilst town and woods, and ocean wide did lye, Tinctur’d like glowing furnace-iron, beneath Its awful canopy. Red mazy sparks soon with the dense smoke blended, And far around like fiery sleet descended. From the scorch’d and crackling pile Fierce burst the growing flames the while; Thro’ creviced wall and buttress strong, Sweeping the rafter’d roofs along; Which, as with sudden crash they fell, Their raging fierceness seem’d to quell,



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And for a passing instant spread O’er land and sea a lurid shade; Then with increasing brightness, high In spiral form, shot to the sky With momentary height so grand, That chill’d beholders breathless stand. Thus rose and fell the flaming surgy flood, ’Till fencing round the gulphy light, Black, jagg’d, and bare, a fearful sight! Like ruin grim of former days, Seen ’thwart the broad sun’s setting rays, The guilty fabric stood. And dreadful are the deaths, I ween, Which midst that fearful wreck have been. The pike and sword, and smoke and fire, Have minister’d to vengeful ire. New-wak’d wretches stood aghast To see the fire-flood in their rear, Close to their breast the pointed spear, And in wild horror yell’d their last. But what dark figures now emerge From the dread gulf and cross the light, Appearing on its fearful verge, Each like an armed sprite? Whilst one above the rest doth tower,— A form of stern gigantic power, Whirling from his lofty stand The smold’ring stone or burning brand? Those are the leagued for Scotland’s native right, Whose clashing arms rang Southrons knell, When to their fearful work they fell,— That form is Wallace wight.”

The beauties of this description, at once so chaste and so expressive, are sufficient to remind us that much of what is feeble and faulty in the execution of

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this poem, is to be ascribed to errors in the original design, which no powers, however great, could have entirely surmounted. In the life of Wallace, those original defects are more than usually sensible. In that of Christopher Columbus, the subject of our second “Legend,” they are less so; the scenes to be pourtrayed are more vast and striking: the events to be recorded are more numerous; they follow in quicker succession, have more of a consentaneous character, and bear more upon a single object. In this piece, accordingly, our disappointment has been smaller. It is impossible, indeed, for any one to write a history of Columbus, how imperfectly soever, without intermingling something of poetry with his narrative. The character of Columbus, so richly furnished with intellectual and moral endowments, his fate, and the great things he accomplished, are of themselves poetical. To view him, after long years of anxious waiting, at length embarked with his slender crew,—alone with them upon the wide and wasteful deep, which no keel had ever ploughed, no human eyes had ever seen before; yet bearing fearlessly on, destined to discover a new world, to found new empires, and change the fate of the old,—might strike some sparks of feeling from the very dullest heart. With such advantages inherent in its subject, the “Legend of Columbus” is calculated to afford considerable pleasure. It contains some poetical sentiment and thought, with much poetical description; the story proceeds less tediously*, is less broken into fragments; and the sinkings into prose are less frequent and alarming. Yet the innate perversity of Miss Baillie’s plan—which the weak points of her genius tend to aggravate, are but too apparent here also. Nearly all that is historical is prosaic: we have nothing of Columbus but what is external; no strong impression of the enthusiastic heart and warm imagination, that supported him so long and so bravely. If we wished to get,—we do not say a true * It may seem inconsistent in us to complain of omissions in the narrative. In fact, we wish they had been much more numerous: but we see no reason why, in such a professed account of Columbus’s achievements and sufferings, the last and greatest of his sufferings, the year of bitterness which he spent in Jamaica, after the loss of his ships, (1504,) should not be mentioned at all,—or what is worse, mentioned so as to convey a totally false impression of it. Miss Baillie notices the prediction of the eclipse; but she does not notice the ultimate hostility of the Indians, the mutinies of the Spaniards, and the savage conduct of the governor of St. Domingo, who not only refused to give any assistance of ships or provisions, but accompanied his refusal with inhuman mockery. The fatigue, the famine, and the horrors of this year quite broke the constitution, and broke the heart of Columbus, who died soon after. A letter, expressive of extreme agony, and said to have been written by him here, may be seen in Edwards’ History of the West Indies, vol. i.



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idea, but any idea—of his character, it is not to this “metrical legend” that we should have recourse. Robertson’s prose would answer the purpose infinitely better. And we do not think there can be a more convincing proof of this system being radically bad, than the fact—of which an experiment will satisfy any one—that Columbus’s character, extraordinary in every sense, and full of the elements of poetry as it is, scarcely appears at all in the reader’s imagination, and is never the primary object there. The narrative is not, however, void of beauties: and the life of Columbus, though itself unheeded, or at least unpoetical, is made the platform on which some true poetry is built. The following thought is just, and not ill stated, though the soul of imagination is a new entity. “But hath there lived of mortal mould Whose fortunes with his thoughts could hold An even race? Earth’s greatest son That e’er earned fame, or empire won, Hath but fulfill’d, within a narrow scope, A stinted portion of his ample hope. With heavy sigh and look depress’d, The greatest men will some times hear The story of their acts address’d To the young stranger’s wond’ring ear, And check the half-swoln tear. Is it or modesty, or pride, Which may not open praise abide? No; read his inward thoughts: they tell His deeds of fame he prizes well. But, ah! they in his fancy stand, As relics of a blighted band, Who, lost to man’s approving sight, Have perish’d in the gloom of night, Ere yet the glorious light of day Had glitter’d on their bright array. His mightiest feat had once another, Of high imagination born,— A loftier and a nobler brother, From dear existence torn; And she for those, who are not, steeps Her soul in woe,—like Rachel, weeps.”

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The moving circumstances of Columbus’s first voyages are, of course, attended to. There is beauty in the picture, though not so much as might have been. 5

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“From shore and strait, and gulph and bay, The vessels held their daring way, Left far behind, in distance thrown, All land to Moor or Christian known, Left far behind the misty isle, Whose fitful shroud, withdrawn the while, Shews wood and hill and headland bright, To later seamen’s wond’ring sight; And tide and sea left far behind That e’er bore freight of human kind; Where ship or bark to shifting gales E’er tacked their (her) course or spread their (her) sails. Around them lay a boundless main In which to hold their silent reign; But for the passing current’s flow, And cleft waves brawling round the prow, They might have thought some magic spell Had bound them, weary fate! for ever there to dwell. What did this trackless waste supply To soothe the mind or please the eye? The rising morn thro’ dim mist breaking, The flicker’d east with purple streaking; The mid-day cloud thro’ thin air flying, With deeper blue the blue sea dying; Long ridgy waves their white mains rearing, And in the broad gleam disappearing; The broaden’d blazing sun declining, And western waves like fire-flood shining; The sky’s vast dome to darkness given, And all the glorious host of heaven. Full oft upon the deck, while other’s slept, To mark the bearing of each well-known star That shone aloft, or on th’ horizon far,



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The anxious chief his lonely vigil kept; The mournful wind, the hoarse wave breaking near The breathing groans of sleep, the plunging lead, The steersman’s call, and his own stilly tread, Are all the sounds of night that reach his ear. His darker form stalk’d thro’ the sable gloom With gestures discomposed and features keen, That might not in the face of day be seen, Like some unblessed spirit from the tomb. Night after night, and day succeeding day So pass’d their dull, unvaried time away Till Hope, the seaman’s worship’d queen, had flown From every valiant heart but his alone; Where still, by day, enthron’d she held her state With sunny look and brow elate.”

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A rapid glance is afterwards taken of the new world, to which this voyage led. We need not insist on its merits. Where he, the sea’s unwearied, dauntless rover, Thro’ many a gulph and straight, did first discover That continent, whose mighty reach From th’ utmost frozen north doth stretch Ev’n to the frozen south; a land Of surface fair and structure grand. There, thro’ vast regions rivers pour, Whose mid-way skiff scarce sees the shore; Which, rolling on in lordly pride, Give to the main their ample tide; And dauntless (?) then, with current strong, Impetuous, roaring, bear along, And still their sep’rate honours keep, In bold contention with the mighty deep. There broad-based mountains from the sight Conceal in clouds their vasty height, Whose frozen peaks, a vision rare,

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essays on literature Above the girdling clouds rear’d far in upper air, At times appear, and soothly seem To the far distant, up-cast eye, Like snowy watch-towers of the sky,— Like passing visions of a dream. There forests grand of olden birth, O’ercanopy the darken’d earth, Whose trees, growth of unreckon’d time, Rear o’er whole regions far and wide A chequer’d dome of lofty pride Silent, solemn, and sublime,— A pillar’d lab’rinth, in whose trackless gloom, Unguided feet might stray till close of mortal doom. There grassy plains of verdant green Spread far beyond man’s ken are seen, Whose darker bushy spots that lie Strewed o’er the level vast, descry Admiring strangers, from the brow Of hill or upland steep, and show, Like a calm ocean’s peaceful isles, When morning light thro’ rising vapour smiles.”

From the contemplation of those great scenes, we are transported to a very different class of objects, in the fourth “Legend”—that of Lady Griseld Baillie, by far the most successful in the volume. This matter-of-fact poetry is here in its proper place; its advantages, such as they are, come now to be of service. The exploits of a powerful and violently agitated mind, if they are intended to indicate its nature, must be compressed into a narrow space, and made to tell upon us at once with their united force, seconded by the poet’s interpretation and display of them. It is from the failure in this, owing to the prescribed events being diffused over so large a circle, and alloyed with so large a portion of the meanness of ordinary life, as well as to the want of a capacity to enter fully into the spirit of an exalted and strong character, that Miss Baillie has not succeeded in conveying to us any vivid or even distinct idea of Wallace and Columbus. The case is different with her most amiable kinswoman.



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——“She of gentler nature, softer, dearer, Of daily life the active, kindly cheerer; With generous bosom, age, or childhood shielding, And in the storms of life, tho’ mov’d, unyielding; Strength in her gentleness, hope in her sorrow, Whose darkest hours some ray of brightness borrow From better days to come, whose meek devotion Calms every wayward passion’s wild commotion; In want and suff ’ring, soothing, useful, sprightly, Bearing the press of evil hap so lightly, Till evil’s self seems its strong hold betraying To the sweet witch’ry of such winsome playing; Bold from affection, if by nature fearful, With varying brow, sad, tender, anxious, cheerful,— This is meet partner for the loftiest mind, With crown or helmet grac’d,—yea, this is womankind!”

The simple doings of such a meek, unambitious creature, will speak for themselves; and, if they needed an interpreter, Miss Baillie understands them well. Besides, they speak with that small still voice, which requires to be often repeated before it will be listened to. A being like this is not to be described by combining a few of its bold and brilliant manifestations. Lady Griseld has nothing bold or brilliant in her character, and its excellencies must be unfolded by a minute and patient display of the trying, though retired scenes in which she proved their power. The particulars of her life should be detailed at full length: and the problem is to detail them with that sprightliness and vivacity which shall gain for them a welcome admission, and prevent their littleness from wearying our attention and dissipating our sympathies. It is another circumstance in favour of this Legend, that, no expectations being previously entertained with regard to its heroine, her modest worth comes upon us with all the advantages of surprise. Lady Griseld’s character and very existence are now for the first time presented to our thoughts. Her name does not, like that of Wallace or Columbus, occupy a large extent in our imaginations, and awaken the idea of something magnificent and vast whenever it is pronounced. She is not mentioned in history, nor would she make a figure there. The “dear and helpful child” of Sir Patrick Hume might watch over her father, when tyranny compelled him to hide in the burial-vault of his ancestors; she might accompany her parents when the same tyranny compelled them to

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take shelter with their family in a foreign country; her affectionate, cheerful, unwearied efforts might sweeten their exile; in due time she might be united to her early friend, (the younger Jerviswood,) and as a wife and mother become no less exemplary than she had been as a daughter—and still continued even when a widow: but, though her quiet virtues gave happiness or solace to all connected with her, they are not of a kind which historians love to dwell upon. In every point of view, then, Lady Griseld was the fittest subject for this species of legend. Her actions were full of lowly beauty; they required to be developed minutely, that their beauty might be demonstrated, and to be decorated with all the graceful drapery of fancy, that it might be attractive. And what is more important still, her mind, and the situations in which she was called upon to act, were at once familiar to the every-day thoughts of Miss Baillie, and such as afforded room for employing the most valuable and uncontested faculties of her genius. Lady Griseld, accordingly, is quite a lovely person. She does not, of course, pretend to be an epic heroine, to sway over us by the potency and dazzling attributes of her character and actions: but she is something fully as good, and far more difficult for any but a true poet to pourtray with interest and yet without exaggeration. A calm, unprofessing benefactress, she is busied about humble things, which pass without notice in the world’s turmoil: but her simple life is described so gracefully; she has withal such an elastic, though silent strength of feeling, such a generous forgetfulness of self; there is such a heavenly innocence of soul, pervading and beautifying the earthly duties, to which she bends unweariedly; she appears so saintlike, and yet so warm and cheerful, and “studious of household good;” her character throughout is so emphatically simplex munditiis, that no one can regard her without an affectionate admiration. There is scarcely any thing more amiable in romance; and the thought, that it is all real, occurs most opportunely to confirm and sanction our delight. We dare not venture upon a more detailed account of her life; our coarse attempt would but spoil it; and therefore we more earnestly exhort all our readers to study Lady Griseld for themselves, and spare us that unthankful labour. They will find her as winning as we have said; and described in this “Legend” with a gentle ardour, an unconscious dignity, a sedulous faithfulness, befitting her character, and of kindred to it. All this is, no doubt, far enough from having any connexion with that sublime species of poetry, which gains its end by inflaming our hearts or expanding our imaginations; but it is an exquisite specimen of that humbler species, which seeks to enliven our kindly sympathies, and brighten the scenery of our common existence. The style both of language and of versification is well adapted to the style of thought. Miss Baillie’s language has always



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many good qualities, particularly in the present volume. It is never inflated; it has often a careless elegance, and at times a shrewd expressiveness, to which few living authors have attained. But in the case before us, there is joined with those beauties a certain airy carriage, a witching coquetry, if we may speak so, which it is as impossible to resist as to describe. Our readers will naturally call for a sample of those various and vaunted excellencies—outward as well as substantial; and none that we can select will convey any adequate impression. The following is all we are able to afford: it contains but a few simple flowers out of a most fragrant and healthful garden. Sir Patrick Hume has fled to Holland, (for his share in Monmouth’s invasion,) and is living there with his family—poor, but comforted in the hope of better times. “And well, with ready hand and heart, Each task of toilsome duty taking Did one dear inmate play her part, The last asleep, the earliest waking. Her hands each nightly couch prepared, And frugal meal on which they fared; Unfolding spread the servet white, And deck’d the board with tankard bright. Thro’ fretted hose and garment rent, Her tiny needle deftly went, Till hateful penury, so graced, Was scarcely in their dwelling traced. With rev’rence to the old she clung, With sweet affection to the young. To her was crabbed lesson said, To her the sly petition made. To her was told each petty care; By her was lisp’d the tardy prayer, What time the urchin, half undrest And half asleep, was put to rest. There is a sight all hearts beguiling,— A youthful mother to her infant smiling, Who, (which,) with spread arms and dancing feet, And cooing voice returns its answer sweet. Who does not love to see the grandame mild,

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essays on literature Lesson with yearning looks the list’ning child? But ’tis a thing of saintlier nature, Amidst her friends of pigmy stature, To see the maid in youth’s fair bloom, A guardian sister’s charge assume, And, like a touch of angel’s bliss, Receive from each its grateful kiss.— To see them, when their hour of love is past, Aside their grave demeanour cast. With her in mimic war they wrestle; Beneath her twisted robe they nestle; Upon her glowing cheek they revel, Low bended to their tiny level; While oft, her lovely neck bestriding Crows some arch imp, like huntsman riding. This is a sight the coldest heart may feel,— To make down rugged cheeks the kindly tear to steal. But when the toilsome sun was set, And ev’ning groups together met, (For other strangers shelter’d there Would seek with them to lighten care,) Her feet still in the dance mov’d lightest, Her eye with merry glance beam’d brightest, Her braided locks were coil’d the neatest, Her carol song was trilled the sweetest; And round the fire, in winter cold No archer tale than hers was told.”

We meant to say a few words in favour of the “Elden tree” and “Malcolm’s heir,” two of the ballads which conclude this volume. But it is impossible now; nor is it necessary: we can part in kindness with Miss Baillie here as well as elsewhere; and we wish to part in kindness with one whom we love so much. For though we have censured freely, it has been more in sorrow than in anger; in sorrow to see such efforts wasted on a task which no human powers could fully accomplish. We never distrusted Miss Baillie’s talents, and the present volume has raised them in our esteem. It is only her mode of employing them that we condemn. If she can find any more Lady Griselds, it will be well: but we would



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advise her to be cautious in future of meddling with such persons as Wallace or Columbus,—and above all, of treating them by way of “Metrical Legend.” 5

BURNS.

The Life of Robert Burns. By J. G. Lockhart, LL.B. Edinburgh, 1828. In the modern arrangements of society, it is no uncommon thing that a man of genius must, like Butler, ‘ask for bread and receive a stone;’ for in spite of our grand maxim of supply and demand, it is by no means the highest excellence that men are most forward to recognise. The inventor of a spinning-jenny is pretty sure of his reward in his own day; but the writer of a true poem, like the apostle of a true religion, is nearly as sure of the contrary. We do not know whether it is not an aggravation of the injustice, that there is generally a posthumous retribution. Robert Burns, in the course of Nature, might yet have been living: but his short life was spent in toil and penury; and he died in the prime of his manhood, miserable and neglected; and yet already a brave mausoleum shines over his dust, and more than one splendid monument has been reared in other places to his fame: the street where he languished in poverty is called by his name; the highest personages in our literature have been proud to appear as his commentators and admirers, and here is the sixth narrative of his Life, that has been given to the world! Mr. Lockhart thinks it necessary to apologize for this new attempt on such a subject: but his readers, we believe, will readily acquit him; or, at worst, will censure only the performance of his task, not the choice of it. The character of Burns, indeed, is a theme that cannot easily become either trite or exhausted; and will probably gain rather than lose in its dimensions by the distance to which it is removed by Time. No man, it has been said, is a hero to his valet: and this is probably true; but the fault is at least as likely to be the valet’s as the hero’s: 29

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For it is certain that to the vulgar eye few things are wonderful that are not distant. It is difficult for men to believe that the man, the mere man whom they see, nay perhaps painfully feel, toiling at their side through the poor jostlings of existence, can be made of finer clay than themselves. Suppose that some dining acquaintance of Sir Thomas Lucy’s, and neighbour of John a Combe’s, had snatched an hour or two from the preservation of his game, and written us a Life of Shakspeare! What dissertations should we not have had,—not on Hamlet and The Tempest, but on the wool-trade, and deer-stealing, and the libel and vagrant laws; and how the Poacher became a Player; and how Sir Thomas and Mr. John had Christian bowels, and did not push him to extremities! In like manner we believe, with respect to Burns, that till the companions of his pilgrimage, the Honourable Excise Commissioners, and the Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt, and the Dumfries Aristocracy, and all the Squires and Earls, equally with the Ayr Writers, and the New and Old Light Clergy, whom he had to do with, shall have become invisible in the darkness of the Past, or visible only by light borrowed from his juxtaposition, it will be difficult to measure him by any true standard, or to estimate what he really was and did, in the eighteenth century, for his country and the world. It will be difficult, we say; but still a fair problem for literary historians; and repeated attempts will give us repeated approximations. His former Biographers have done something, no doubt, but by no means a great deal, to assist us. Dr. Currie and Mr. Walker, the principal of these writers, have both, we think, mistaken one essentially important thing: Their own and the world’s true relation to their author, and the style in which it became such men to think and to speak of such a man. Dr. Currie loved the poet truly; more perhaps than he avowed to his readers, or even to himself; yet he everywhere introduces him with a certain patronising, apologetic air; as if the polite public might think it strange and half unwarrantable that he, a man of science, a scholar, and gentleman, should do such honour to a rustic. In all this, however, we readily admit that his fault was not want of love, but weakness of faith; and regret that the first and kindest of all our poet’s biographers, should not have seen farther, or believed more boldly what he saw. Mr. Walker offends more deeply in the same kind: and both err alike in presenting us with a detached catalogue of his several supposed attributes, virtues, and vices, instead of a delineation of the resulting character as a living unity. This, however, is not painting a portrait; but gauging the length and breadth of the several features, and jotting down their dimensions in arithmetical ciphers. Nay, it is not so much as this: for we are yet to learn by what arts or instruments the mind could be so measured and gauged.

burns 31 Mr. Lockhart, we are happy to say, has avoided both these errors. He uniformly treats Burns as the high and remarkable man the public voice has now pronounced him to be: and in delineating him, he has avoided the method of separate generalities, and rather sought for characteristic incidents, habits, actions, sayings; in a word, for aspects which exhibit the whole man, as he looked and lived among his fellows. The book accordingly, with all its deficiencies, gives more insight, we think, into the true character of Burns, than any prior biography: though, being written on the very popular and condensed scheme of an article for Constable’s Miscellany, it has less depth than we could have wished and expected from a writer of such power; and contains rather more, and more multifarious quotations, than belong of right to an original production. Indeed, Mr. Lockhart’s own writing is generally so good, so clear, direct and nervous, that we seldom wish to see it making place for another man’s. However, the spirit of the work is throughout candid, tolerant, and anxiously conciliating; compliments and praises are liberally distributed, on all hands, to great and small; and, as Mr. Morris Birkbeck observes of the society in the backwoods of America, ‘the courtesies of polite life are never lost sight of for a moment.’ But there are better things than these in the volume; and we can safely testify, not only that it is easily and pleasantly read a first time, but may even be without difficulty read again. Nevertheless, we are far from thinking that the problem of Burns’s Biography has yet been adequately solved. We do not allude so much to deficiency of facts or documents,—though of these we are still every day receiving some fresh accession,—as to the limited and imperfect application of them to the great end of Biography. Our notions upon this subject may perhaps appear extravagant; but if an individual is really of consequence enough to have his life and character recorded for public remembrance, we have always been of opinion, that the public ought to be made acquainted with all the inward springs and relations of his character. How did the world and man’s life, from his particular position, represent themselves to his mind? How did co-existing circumstances modify him from without; how did he modify these from within? With what endeavours and what efficacy rule over them; with what resistance and what suffering sink under them? In one word, what and how produced was the effect of society on him; what and how produced was his effect on society? He who should answer these questions, in regard to any individual, would, as we believe, furnish a model of perfection in Biography. Few individuals, indeed, can deserve such a study; and many lives will be written, and, for the gratification of innocent curiosity, ought to be written, and read, and forgotten, which are

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not in this sense biographies. But Burns, if we mistake not, is one of these few individuals; and such a study, at least with such a result, he has not yet obtained. Our own contributions to it, we are aware, can be but scanty and feeble; but we offer them with good-will, and trust they may meet with acceptance from those they are intended for. Burns first came upon the world as a prodigy; and was, in that character, entertained by it, in the usual fashion, with loud, vague, tumultuous wonder, speedily subsiding into censure and neglect; till his early and most mournful death again awakened an enthusiasm for him, which, especially as there was now nothing to be done, and much to be spoken, has prolonged itself even to our own time. It is true, the ‘nine days’ have long since elapsed; and the very continuance of this clamour proves that Burns was no vulgar wonder. Accordingly, even in sober judgments, where, as years passed by, he has come to rest more and more exclusively on his own intrinsic merits, and may now be wellnigh shorn of that casual radiance, he appears not only as a true British poet, but as one of the most considerable British men of the eighteenth century. Let it not be objected that he did little: He did much, if we consider where and how. If the work performed was small, we must remember that he had his very materials to discover; for the metal he worked in lay hid under the desert moor, where no eye but his had guessed its existence; and we may almost say that, with his own hand, he had to construct the tools for fashioning it. For he found himself in deepest obscurity, without help, without instruction, without model; or with models only of the meanest sort. An educated man stands, as it were, in the midst of a boundless arsenal and magazine, filled with all the weapons and engines which man’s skill has been able to devise from the earliest time; and he works accordingly, with a strength borrowed from all past ages. How different is his state who stands on the outside of that storehouse, and feels that its gates must be stormed, or remain forever shut against him! His means are the commonest and rudest; the mere work done is no measure of his strength. A dwarf behind his steam-engine may remove mountains; but no dwarf will hew them down with the pickaxe; and he must be a Titan that hurls them abroad with his arms. It is in this last shape that Burns presents himself. Born in an age the most prosaic Britain had yet seen, and in a condition the most disadvantageous, where his mind, if it accomplished aught, must accomplish it under the pressure of continual bodily toil, nay, of penury and desponding apprehension of the worst evils, and with no furtherance but such knowledge as dwells in a poor man’s hut, and the rhymes of a Ferguson or Ramsay for his standard of beauty, he sinks not

burns 33 under all these impediments: Through the fogs and darkness of that obscure region, his lynx eye discerns the true relations of the world and human life; he grows into intellectual strength, and trains himself to intellectual expertness. Impelled by the expansive movement of his own irrepressible soul, he struggles forward into the general view, and with haughty modesty lays down before us, as the fruit of his labour, a gift, which Time has now pronounced imperishable. Add to all this, that his darksome drudging childhood and youth was by far the kindliest era of his whole life; and that he died in his thirty-seventh year: and then ask if it be strange that his poems are imperfect, and of small extent, or that his genius attained no mastery in its art? Alas, his Sun shone as through a tropical tornado; and the pale Shadow of Death eclipsed it at noon! Shrouded in such baleful vapours, the genius of Burns was never seen in clear azure splendour, enlightening the world: But some beams from it did, by fits, pierce through; and it tinted those clouds with rainbow and orient colours into a glory and stern grandeur, which men silently gazed on, with wonder and tears! We are anxious not to exaggerate; for it is exposition rather than admiration that our readers require of us here; and yet to avoid some tendency to that side, is no easy matter. We love Burns, and we pity him; and love and pity are prone to magnify. Criticism, it is sometimes thought, should be a cold business; we are not so sure of this; but at all events, our concern with Burns is not exclusively that of critics. True and genial as his poetry must appear, it is not chiefly as a poet, but as a man, that he interests and affects us. He was often advised to write a tragedy: time and means were not lent him for this; but through life he enacted a tragedy, and one of the deepest. We question whether the world has since witnessed so utterly sad a scene; whether Napoleon himself, left to brawl with Sir Hudson Lowe, and perish on his rock, ‘amid the melancholy main,’ presented to the reflecting mind such a ‘spectacle of pity and fear,’ as did this intrinsically nobler, gentler, and perhaps greater soul, wasting itself away in a hopeless struggle with base entanglements, which coiled closer and closer round him, till only Death opened him an outlet. Conquerors are a class of men with whom, for most part, the world could well dispense; nor can the hard intellect, the unsympathizing loftiness, and high but selfish enthusiasm of such persons, inspire us in general with any affection; at best, it may excite amazement; and their fall, like that of a pyramid, will be beheld with a certain sadness and awe. But a true Poet, a man in whose heart resides some effluence of Wisdom, some tone of the ‘Eternal Melodies,’ is the most precious gift that can be bestowed on a generation: we see in him a freer, purer developement of whatever is noblest

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in ourselves; his life is a rich lesson to us, and we mourn his death, as that of a benefactor who loved and taught us. Such a gift had Nature in her bounty bestowed on us in Robert Burns; but with queenlike indifference she cast it from her hand, like a thing of no moment; and it was defaced and torn asunder, as an idle bauble, before we recognised it. To the ill-starred Burns was given the power of making man’s life more venerable, but that of wisely guiding his own life was not given. Destiny—for so in our ignorance we must speak—his faults, the faults of others, proved too hard for him; and that spirit, which might have soared, could it but have walked, soon sank to the dust, its glorious faculties trodden under foot in the blossom, and died, we may almost say, without ever having lived. And so kind and warm a soul; so full of inborn riches, of love to all living and lifeless things! How his heart flows out in sympathy over universal Nature; and in her bleakest provinces, discerns a beauty and a meaning! The ‘Daisy’ falls not unheeded under his ploughshare; nor the ruined nest of that ‘wee, cowering, timorous beastie,’ cast forth, after all its provident pains, to ‘thole the sleety dribble, and cranreuch cauld.’ The ‘hoar visage’ of Winter delights him: he dwells with a sad and oft-returning fondness in these scenes of solemn desolation; but the voice of the tempest becomes an anthem to his ears; he loves to walk in the sounding woods, for ‘it raises his thoughts to Him that walketh on the wings of the wind.’ A true Poet-soul, for it needs but to be struck, and the sound it yields will be music! But observe him chiefly as he mingles with his brother men. What warm, all-comprehending fellow-feeling, what trustful, boundless love, what generous exaggeration of the object loved! His rustic friend, his nut-brown maiden, are no longer mean and homely, but a hero and a queen, whom he prizes as the paragons of Earth. The rough scenes of Scottish life, not seen by him in any Arcadian illusion, but in the rude contradiction, in the smoke and soil of a too harsh reality, are still lovely to him: Poverty is indeed his companion, but Love also, and Courage; the simple feelings, the worth, the nobleness, that dwell under the straw roof, are dear and venerable to his heart: and thus over the lowest provinces of man’s existence, he pours the glory of his own soul; and they rise, in shadow and sunshine, softened and brightened into a beauty which other eyes discern not in the highest. He has a just self-consciousness, which too often degenerates into pride; yet it is a noble pride, for defence, not for offence, no cold, suspicious feeling, but a frank and social one. The Peasant Poet bears himself, we might say, like a King in exile: he is cast among the low, and feels himself equal to the highest; yet he claims no rank, that none may be disputed to him. The forward he can repel, the supercilious he can subdue; pretensions of

burns 35 wealth or ancestry are of no avail with him; there is a fire in that dark eye, under which the ‘insolence of condescension’ cannot thrive. In his abasement, in his extreme need, he forgets not for a moment the majesty of Poetry and Manhood. And yet, far as he feels himself above common men, he wanders not apart from them, but mixes warmly in their interests; nay, throws himself into their arms; and, as it were, intreats them to love him. It is moving to see how, in his darkest despondency, this proud being still seeks relief from friendship; unbosoms himself, often to the unworthy; and, amid tears, strains to his glowing heart a heart that knows only the name of friendship. And yet he was ‘quick to learn;’ a man of keen vision, before whom common disguises afforded no concealment. His understanding saw through the hollowness even of accomplished deceivers; but there was a generous credulity in his Heart. And so did our Peasant show himself among us; ‘a soul like an Æolian harp, in whose strings the vulgar wind, as it passed through them, changed itself into articulate melody.’ And this was he for whom the world found no fitter business than quarrelling with smugglers and vintners, computing excise dues upon tallow, and gauging alebarrels! In such toils was that mighty Spirit sorrowfully wasted; and a hundred years may pass on, before another such is given us to waste. All that remains of Burns, the Writings he has left, seem to us, as we hinted above, no more than a poor mutilated fraction of what was in him; brief, broken glimpses of a genius that could never show itself complete; that wanted all things for completeness: culture, leisure, true effort, nay, even length of life. His poems are, with scarcely any exception, mere occasional effusions, poured forth with little premeditation, expressing, by such means as offered, the passion, opinion, or humour of the hour. Never in one instance was it permitted him to grapple with any subject with the full collection of his strength, to fuse and mould it in the concentrated fire of his genius. To try by the strict rules of Art such imperfect fragments, would be at once unprofitable and unfair. Nevertheless, there is something in these poems, marred and defective as they are, which forbids the most fastidious student of poetry to pass them by. Some sort of enduring quality they must have: for, after fifty years of the wildest vicissitudes in poetic taste, they still continue to be read; nay, are read more and more eagerly, more and more extensively; and this not only by literary virtuosos, and that class upon whom transitory causes operate most strongly, but by all classes, down to the most hard, unlettered, and truly natural class, who read little, and especially no poetry, except because they find pleasure in it. The grounds of so singular and wide a popularity, which extends, in a literal sense, from the palace to the hut,

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and over all regions where the English tongue is spoken, are well worth inquiring into. After every just deduction, it seems to imply some rare excellence in these works. What is that excellence? To answer this question will not lead us far. The excellence of Burns is, indeed, among the rarest, whether in poetry or prose; but, at the same time, it is plain and easily recognised: his Sincerity, his indisputable air of Truth. Here are no fabulous woes or joys; no hollow fantastic sentimentalities; no wiredrawn refinings, either in thought or feeling: the passion that is traced before us has glowed in a living heart; the opinion he utters has risen in his own understanding, and been a light to his own steps. He does not write from hearsay, but from sight and experience; it is the scenes that he has lived and laboured amidst, that he describes: those scenes, rude and humble as they are, have kindled beautiful emotions in his soul, noble thoughts, and definite resolves; and he speaks forth what is in him, not from any outward call of vanity or interest, but because his heart is too full to be silent. He speaks it with such melody and modulation as he can; ‘in homely rustic jingle;’ but it is his own, and genuine. This is the grand secret for finding readers and retaining them: let him who would move and convince others, be first moved and convinced himself. Horace’s rule, Si vis me flere, is applicable in a wider sense than the literal one. To every poet, to every writer, we might say: Be true, if you would be believed. Let a man but speak forth with genuine earnestness the thought, the emotion, the actual condition, of his own heart, and other men, so strangely are we all knit together by the tie of sympathy, must and will give heed to him. In culture, in extent of view, we may stand above the speaker, or below him; but in either case, his words, if they are earnest and sincere, will find some response within us; for in spite of all casual varieties in outward rank, or inward, as face answers to face, so does the heart of man to man. This may appear a very simple principle, and one which Burns had little merit in discovering. True, the discovery is easy enough: but the practical appliance is not easy; is indeed the fundamental difficulty which all poets have to strive with, and which scarcely one in the hundred ever fairly surmounts. A head too dull to discriminate the true from the false; a heart too dull to love the one at all risks, and to hate the other in spite of all temptations, are alike fatal to a writer. With either, or, as more commonly happens, with both, of these deficiencies, combine a love of distinction, a wish to be original, which is seldom wanting, and we have Affectation, the bane of literature, as Cant, its elder brother, is of morals. How often does the one and the other front us, in poetry, as in life! Great poets themselves are not always free of this vice; nay, it

burns 37 is precisely on a certain sort and degree of greatness that it is most commonly ingrafted. A strong effort after excellence will sometimes solace itself with a mere shadow of success; he who has much to unfold, will sometimes unfold it imperfectly. Byron, for instance, was no common man: yet if we examine his poetry with this view, we shall find it far enough from faultless. Generally speaking, we should say that it is not true. He refreshes us, not with the divine fountain, but too often with vulgar strong waters, stimulating indeed to the taste, but soon ending in dislike, or even nausea. Are his Harolds and Giaours, we would ask, real men, we mean, poetically consistent and conceivable men? Do not these characters, does not the character of their author, which more or less shines through them all, rather appear a thing put on for the occasion; no natural or possible mode of being, but something intended to look much grander than nature? Surely, all these stormful agonies, this volcanic heroism, superhuman contempt, and moody desperation, with so much scowling, and teeth-gnashing, and other sulphurous humour, is more like the brawling of a player in some paltry tragedy, which is to last three hours, than the bearing of a man in the business of life, which is to last three score and ten years. To our minds, there is a taint of this sort, something which we should call theatrical, false, affected, in every one of these otherwise so powerful pieces. Perhaps Don Juan, especially the latter parts of it, is the only thing approaching to a sincere work, he ever wrote; the only work where he showed himself, in any measure, as he was; and seemed so intent on his subject as, for moments, to forget himself. Yet Byron hated this vice; we believe, heartily detested it: nay, he had declared formal war against it in words. So difficult is it even for the strongest to make this primary attainment, which might seem the simplest of all: to read its own consciousness without mistakes, without errors involuntary or wilful! We recollect no poet of Burns’s susceptibility who comes before us from the first, and abides with us to the last, with such a total want of affectation. He is an honest man, and an honest writer. In his successes and his failures, in his greatness and his littleness, he is ever clear, simple, true, and glitters with no lustre but his own. We reckon this to be a great virtue; to be, in fact, the root of most other virtues, literary as well as moral. Here, however, let us say, it is to the Poetry of Burns that we now allude; to those writings which he had time to meditate, and where no special reason existed to warp his critical feeling, or obstruct his endeavour to fulfil it. Certain of his Letters, and other fractions of prose composition, by no means deserve this praise. Here, doubtless, there is not the same natural truth of style; but on the contrary, something not only stiff, but strained and twisted; a certain high-

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flown inflated tone; the stilting emphasis of which contrasts ill with the firmness and rugged simplicity of even his poorest verses. Thus no man, it would appear, is altogether unaffected. Does not Shakspeare himself sometimes premeditate the sheerest bombast! But even with regard to these Letters of Burns, it is but fair to state that he had two excuses. The first was his comparative deficiency in language. Burns, though for most part he writes with singular force, and even gracefulness, is not master of English prose, as he is of Scottish verse; not master of it, we mean, in proportion to the depth and vehemence of his matter. These Letters strike us as the effort of a man to express something which he has no organ fit for expressing. But a second and weightier excuse is to be found in the peculiarity of Burns’s social rank. His correspondents are often men whose relation to him he has never accurately ascertained; whom therefore he is either forearming himself against, or else unconsciously flattering, by adopting the style he thinks will please them. At all events, we should remember that these faults even in his Letters, are not the rule, but the exception. Whenever he writes, as one would ever wish to do, to trusted friends and on real interests, his style becomes simple, vigorous, expressive, sometimes even beautiful. His Letters to Mrs. Dunlop are uniformly excellent. But we return to his Poetry. In addition to its Sincerity, it has another peculiar merit, which indeed is but a mode, or perhaps a means, of the foregoing: this displays itself in his choice of subjects, or rather in his indifference as to subjects, and the power he has of making all subjects interesting. The ordinary poet, like the ordinary man, is forever seeking in external circumstances the help which can be found only in himself. In what is familiar and near at hand, he discerns no form or comeliness: home is not poetical but prosaic; it is in some past, distant, conventional heroic world, that poetry resides; were he there and not here, were he thus and not so, it would be well with him. Hence our innumerable host of rose-coloured Novels and iron-mailed Epics, with their locality not on the Earth, but somewhere nearer to the Moon. Hence our Virgins of the Sun, and our Knights of the Cross, malicious Saracens in turbans, and copper-coloured Chiefs in wampum, and so many other truculent figures from the heroic times or the heroic climates, who on all hands swarm in our poetry. Peace be with them! But yet as a great moralist proposed preaching to the men of this century, so would we fain preach to the poets ‘a sermon on the duty of staying at home.’ Let them be sure that heroic ages and heroic climates can do little for them. That form of life has attraction for us, less because it is better or nobler than our own, than simply because it is different; and even this attraction must be of the most transient sort. For will not our own age, one day, be an ancient one; and

burns 39 have as quaint a costume as the rest; not contrasted with the rest, therefore, but ranked along with them, in respect of quaintness? Does Homer interest us now, because he wrote of what passed beyond his native Greece, and two centuries before he was born; or because he wrote of what passed in God’s world, and in the heart of man, which is the same after thirty centuries? Let our poets look to this: is their feeling really finer, truer, and their vision deeper than that of other men, they have nothing to fear, even from the humblest subject; is it not so,—they have nothing to hope, but an ephemeral favour, even from the highest. The poet, we imagine, can never have far to seek for a subject: the elements of his art are in him, and around him on every hand; for him the Ideal world is not remote from the Actual, but under it and within it: nay, he is a poet, precisely because he can discern it there. Wherever there is a sky above him, and a world around him, the poet is in his place; for here too is man’s existence, with its infinite longings and small acquirings; its ever-thwarted, ever-renewed endeavours; its unspeakable aspirations, its fears and hopes that wander through Eternity; and all the mystery of brightness and of gloom that it was ever made of, in any age or climate, since man first began to live. Is there not the fifth act of a Tragedy in every death-bed, though it were a peasant’s, and a bed of heath? And are wooings and weddings obsolete, that there can be Comedy no longer? Or are men suddenly grown wise, that Laughter must no longer shake his sides, but be cheated of his Farce? Man’s life and nature is, as it was, and as it will ever be. But the poet must have an eye to read these things, and a heart to understand them; or they come and pass away before him in vain. He is a vates, a seer; a gift of vision has been given him. Has life no meanings for him, which another cannot equally decipher; then he is no poet, and Delphi itself will not make him one. In this respect, Burns, though not perhaps absolutely a great poet, better manifests his capability, better proves the truth of his genius, than if he had, by his own strength, kept the whole Minerva Press going, to the end of his literary course. He shows himself at least a poet of Nature’s own making; and Nature, after all, is still the grand agent in making poets. We often hear of this and the other external condition being requisite for the existence of a poet. Sometimes it is a certain sort of training; he must have studied certain things, studied for instance ‘the elder dramatists,’ and so learned a poetic language; as if poetry lay in the tongue, not in the heart. At other times we are told, he must be bred in a certain rank, and must be on a confidential footing with the higher classes; because, above all things, he must see the world. As to seeing the world, we apprehend this will cause him little difficulty, if he have but eyesight to see it

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with. Without eyesight, indeed, the task might be hard. The blind or the purblind man ‘travels from Dan to Beersheba, and finds it all barren.’ But happily every poet is born in the world; and sees it, with or against his will, every day and every hour he lives. The mysterious workmanship of man’s heart, the true light and the inscrutable darkness of man’s destiny, reveal themselves not only in capital cities, and crowded saloons, but in every hut and hamlet where men have their abode. Nay, do not the elements of all human virtues, and all human vices; the passions at once of a Borgia and of a Luther, lie written, in stronger or fainter lines, in the consciousness of every individual bosom, that has practised honest self-examination? Truly, this same world may be seen in Mossgiel and Tarbolton, if we look well, as clearly as it ever came to light in Crockford’s, or the Tuileries itself. But sometimes still harder requisitions are laid on the poor aspirant to poetry; for it is hinted that he should have been born two centuries ago; inasmuch as poetry, about that date, vanished from the earth, and became no longer attainable by men! Such cobweb speculations have, now and then, overhung the field of literature; but they obstruct not the growth of any plant there: the Shakspeare, or the Burns, unconsciously, and merely as he walks onward, silently brushes them away. Is not every genius an impossibility till he appear? Why do we call him new and original, if we saw where his marble was lying, and what fabric he could rear from it? It is not the material but the workman that is wanting. It is not the dark place that hinders, but the dim eye. A Scottish peasant’s life was the meanest and rudest of all lives, till Burns became a poet in it, and a poet of it; found it a man’s life, and therefore significant to men. A thousand battle-fields remain unsung; but the Wounded Hare has not perished without its memorial; a balm of mercy yet breathes on us from its dumb agonies, because a poet was there. Our Halloween had passed and repassed, in rude awe and laughter, since the era of the Druids; but no Theocritus, till Burns, discerned in it the materials of a Scottish Idyl: neither was the Holy Fair any Council of Trent, or Roman Jubilee; but nevertheless, Superstition, and Hypocrisy, and Fun having been propitious to him, in this man’s hand it became a poem, instinct with satire, and genuine comic life. Let but the true poet be given us, we repeat it, place him where and how you will, and true poetry will not be wanting. Independently of the essential gift of poetic feeling, as we have now attempted to describe it, a certain rugged sterling worth pervades whatever Burns has written: a virtue as of green fields and mountain breezes, dwells in his poetry; it is redolent of natural life, and hardy natural men. There is a decisive strength in him, and yet a sweet native gracefulness: he is tender, he is vehement, yet

burns 41 without constraint or too visible effort; he melts the heart, or inflames it, with a power which seems habitual and familiar to him. We see that in this man there was the gentleness, the trembling pity of a woman, with the deep earnestness, the force and passionate ardour of a hero. Tears lie in him, and consuming fire; as lightning lurks in the drops of the summer cloud. He has a resonance in his bosom for every note of human feeling; the high and the low, the sad, the ludicrous, the joyful, are welcome in their turns to his ‘lightly-moved and allconceiving spirit.’ And observe with what a fierce prompt force he grasps his subject, be it what it may! How he fixes, as it were, the full image of the matter in his eye; full and clear in every lineament; and catches the real type and essence of it, amid a thousand accidents and superficial circumstances, no one of which misleads him! Is it of reason; some truth to be discovered? No sophistry, no vain surface-logic detains him; quick, resolute, unerring, he pierces through into the marrow of the question; and speaks his verdict with an emphasis that cannot be forgotten. Is it of description; some visual object to be represented? No poet of any age or nation is more graphic than Burns: the characteristic features disclose themselves to him at a glance; three lines from his hand, and we have a likeness. And, in that rough dialect, in that rude, often awkward, metre, so clear and definite a likeness! It seems a draughtsman working with a burnt stick; and yet the burin of a Retzsch is not more expressive or exact. Of this last excellence, the plainest and most comprehensive of all, being indeed the root and foundation of every sort of talent, poetical or intellectual, we could produce innumerable instances from the writings of Burns. Take these glimpses of a snow-storm from his Winter Night (the italics are ours): When biting Boreas, fell and doure, Sharp shivers thro’ the leafless bow’r, And Phœbus gies a short-liv’d glowr Far south the lift, Dim-dark’ning thro’ the flaky show’r Or whirling drift: ’Ae night the storm the steeples rock’d, Poor labour sweet in sleep was lock’d, While burns wi’ snawy wreeths upchok’d, Wild-eddying swhirl, Or thro’ the mining outlet bock’d, Down headlong hurl.

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Are there not ‘descriptive touches’ here? The describer saw this thing; the essential feature and true likeness of every circumstance in it; saw, and not with the eye only. ‘Poor labour locked in sweet sleep;’ the dead stillness of man, unconscious, vanquished, yet not unprotected, while such strife of the material elements rages, and seems to reign supreme in loneliness: this is of the heart as well as of the eye!—Look also at his image of a thaw, and prophecied fall of the Auld Brig: When heavy, dark, continued, a’-day rains Wi’ deepening deluges o’erflow the plains; When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil, Or stately Lugar’s mossy fountains boil, Or where the Greenock winds his moorland course Or haunted Garpal* draws his feeble source, Arous’d by blustring winds, and spotting thowes, In mony a torrent down his snaw-broo rowes; While crashing ice, borne on the roaring speat, Sweeps dams and mills and brigs a’ to the gate; And from Glenbuck down to the Rottonkey, Auld Ayr is just one lengthen’d tumbling sea; Then down ye’ll hurl, Deil nor ye never rise! And dash the gumlie jaups up to the pouring skies.

The last line is in itself a Poussin-picture of that Deluge! The welkin has, as it were, bent down with its weight; the ‘gumlie jaups’ and the ‘pouring skies’ are mingled together; it is a world of rain and ruin.—In respect of mere clearness and minute fidelity, the Farmer’s commendation of his Auld Mare, in plough, or in cart, may vie with Homer’s Smithy of the Cyclops, or yoking of Priam’s Chariot. Nor have we forgotten stout Burn-the-wind and his brawny customers, inspired by Scotch Drink: but it is needless to multiply examples. One other trait of a much finer sort we select from multitudes of such among his Songs. It gives, in a single line, to the saddest feeling, the saddest environment and local habitation: The pale Moon is setting beyond the white wave, And Time is setting wi’ me O; * Fabulosus Hydaspes!

burns 43 Farewell false friends, false lover, farewell! I’ll nae mair trouble them nor thee O.

This clearness of sight we have called the foundation of all talent; for in fact, unless we see our object, how shall we know how to place or prize it, in our understanding, our imagination, our affections? Yet it is not in itself perhaps a very high excellence; but capable of being united indifferently with the strongest, or with ordinary powers. Homer surpasses all men in this quality: but strangely enough, at no great distance below him are Richardson and Defoe. It belongs, in truth, to what is called a lively mind; and gives no sure indication of the higher endowments that may exist along with it. In all the three cases we have mentioned, it is combined with great garrulity; their descriptions are detailed, ample, and lovingly exact; Homer’s fire bursts through, from time to time, as if by accident; but Defoe and Richardson have no fire. Burns, again, is not more distinguished by the clearness than by the impetuous force of his conceptions. Of the strength, the piercing emphasis with which he thought, his emphasis of expression may give a humble but the readiest proof. Who ever uttered sharper sayings than his; words more memorable, now by their burning vehemence, now by their cool vigour and laconic pith? A single phrase depicts a whole subject, a whole scene. We hear of ‘a gentleman that derived his patent of nobility direct from Almighty God.’ Our Scottish forefathers in the battle-field struggled forward ‘red-wat-shod:’ in this one word, a full vision of horror and carnage, perhaps too frightfully accurate for Art! In fact, one of the leading features in the mind of Burns is this vigour of his strictly intellectual perceptions. A resolute force is ever visible in his judgments, as in his feelings and volitions. Professor Stewart says of him, with some surprise: ‘All the faculties of Burns’s mind were, as far as I could judge, equally vigorous; and his predilection for poetry was rather the result of his own enthusiastic and impassioned temper, than of a genius exclusively adapted to that species of composition. From his conversation I should have pronounced him to be fitted to excel in whatever walk of ambition he had chosen to exert his abilities.’ But this, if we mistake not, is at all times the very essence of a truly poetical endowment. Poetry, except in such cases as that of Keats, where the whole consists in a weak-eyed maudlin sensibility, and a certain vague random tunefulness of nature, is no separate faculty, no organ which can be superadded to the rest, or disjoined from them; but rather the result of their general harmony and completion. The feelings, the gifts, that exist in the Poet, are those that exist, with more or less developement, in every human soul: the imagination, which shudders at the

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Hell of Dante, is the same faculty, weaker in degree, which called that picture into being. How does the Poet speak to men, with power, but by being still more a man than they? Shakspeare, it has been well observed, in the planning and completing of his tragedies, has shown an Understanding, were it nothing more, which might have governed states, or indited a Novum Organum. What Burns’s force of understanding may have been, we have less means of judging: it had to dwell among the humblest objects; never saw Philosophy, never rose, except by natural effort and for short intervals, into the region of great ideas. Nevertheless sufficient indication, if no proof sufficient, remains for us in his works: we discern the brawny movements of a gigantic though untutored strength, and can understand how, in conversation, his quick sure insight into men and things may, as much as aught else about him, have amazed the best thinkers of his time and country. But, unless we mistake, the intellectual gift of Burns is fine as well as strong. The more delicate relations of things could not well have escaped his eye, for they were intimately present to his heart. The logic of the senate and the forum is indispensable, but not all sufficient; nay, perhaps the highest Truth is that which will the most certainly elude it. For this logic works by words, and ‘the highest,’ it has been said, ‘cannot be expressed in words.’ We are not without tokens of an openness for this higher truth also, of a keen though uncultivated sense for it, having existed in Burns. Mr. Stewart, it will be remembered, ‘wonders,’ in the passage above quoted, that Burns had formed some distinct conception of the ‘doctrine of association.’ We rather think that far subtler things than the doctrine of association had from of old been familiar to him. Here for instance: ‘We know nothing,’ thus writes he, ‘or next to nothing, of the structure of our souls, so we cannot account for those seeming caprices in them, that one should be particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with that, which, on minds of a different cast, makes no extraordinary impression. I have some favourite flowers in spring, among which are the mountain-daisy, the hare-bell, the fox-glove, the wild-brier rose, the budding birch, and the hoary hawthorn, that I view and hang over with particular delight. I never hear the loud solitary whistle of the curlew in a summer noon, or the wild mixing cadence of a troop of grey plover in an autumnal morning, without feeling an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can this be owing. Are we a piece of machinery, which, like the Æolian harp, passive, takes the impression of the passing accident? or do these workings argue something within us above the trodden clod? I own myself partial to such proofs of those awful and important realities: a God

burns 45 that made all things, man’s immaterial and immortal nature, and a world of weal or woe beyond death and the grave.’

Force and fineness of understanding are often spoken of as something different from general force and fineness of nature, as something partly independent of them. The necessities of language so require it; but in truth these qualities are not distinct and independent: except in special cases, and from special causes, they ever go together. A man of strong understanding is generally a man of strong character; neither is delicacy in the one kind often divided from delicacy in the other. No one, at all events, is ignorant that in the Poetry of Burns, keenness of insight keeps pace with keenness of feeling; that his light is not more pervading than his warmth. He is a man of the most impassioned temper; with passions not strong only, but noble, and of the sort in which great virtues and great poems take their rise. It is reverence, it is Love towards all Nature that inspires him, that opens his eyes to its beauty, and makes heart and voice eloquent in its praise. There is a true old saying, that ‘Love furthers knowledge:’ but above all, it is the living essence of that knowledge which makes poets; the first principle of its existence, increase, activity. Of Burns’s fervid affection, his generous allembracing Love, we have spoken already, as of the grand distinction of his nature, seen equally in word and deed, in his Life and in his Writings. It were easy to multiply examples. Not man only, but all that environs man in the material and moral universe is lovely in his sight: ‘the hoary hawthorn,’ the ‘troop of grey plover,’ the ‘solitary curlew,’ all are dear to him; all live in this Earth along with him, and to all he is knit as in mysterious brotherhood. How touching is it, for instance, that amidst the gloom of personal misery, brooding over the wintry desolation without him and within him, he thinks of the ‘ourie cattle’ and ‘silly sheep,’ and their sufferings in the pitiless storm! I thought me on the ourie cattle, Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle O’ wintry war; Or thro’ the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle, Beneath a scaur. Ilk happing bird, wee helpless thing, That in the merry months o’ spring, Delighted me to hear thee sing, What comes o’ thee?

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essays on Literature Where wilt thou cow’r thy chittering wing, And close thy ee?

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The tenant of the mean hut, with its ‘ragged roof and chinky wall,’ has a heart to pity even these! This, is worth several homilies on Mercy; for it is the voice of Mercy herself. Burns, indeed, lives in sympathy; his soul rushes forth into all realms of being; nothing that has existence can be indifferent to him. The very Devil, he cannot hate with right orthodoxy! But fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben; O wad ye tak a thought and men’! Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken— Still hae a stake; I’m wae to think upo’ yon den, Even for your sake!

“He is the father of curses and lies,” said Dr. Slop; “and is cursed and damned already.”—“I am sorry for it,” quoth my uncle Toby!—A Poet without Love, were a physical and metaphysical impossibility. But has it not been said in contradiction to this principle, that, ‘Indignation makes verses’? It has been so said, and is true enough: but the contradiction is apparent, not real. The Indignation which makes verses is, properly speaking, an inverted Love; the love of some right, some worth, some goodness, belonging to ourselves or others, which has been injured, and which this tempestuous feeling issues forth to defend and avenge. No selfish fury of heart, existing there as a primary feeling, and without its opposite, ever produced much Poetry: otherwise, we suppose, the Tiger were the most musical of all our choristers. Johnson said, he loved a good hater; by which he must have meant, not so much one that hated violently, as one that hated wisely; hated baseness from love of nobleness. However, in spite of Johnson’s paradox, tolerable enough for once in speech, but which need not have been so often adopted in print since then, we rather believe that good men deal sparingly in hatred, either wise or unwise: nay that a ‘good’ hater is still a desideratum in this world. The Devil, at least, who passes for the chief and best of that class, is said to be nowise an amiable character. Of the verses which Indignation makes, Burns has also given us specimens: and among the best that were ever given. Who will forget his ‘Dweller in yon Dungeon dark;’ a piece that might have been chaunted by the Furies of Æschylus?

burns 47 The secrets of the infernal Pit are laid bare; a boundless baleful ‘darkness visible;’ and streaks of hell-fire quivering madly in its black haggard bosom! Dweller in yon Dungeon dark, Hangman of Creation, mark! Who in widow’s weeds appears, Laden with unhonoured years, Noosing with care a bursting purse, Baited with many a deadly curse?

Why should we speak of Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled; since all know of it, from the king to the meanest of his subjects? This dithyrambic was composed on horseback; in riding in the middle of tempests, over the wildest Galloway moor, in company with a Mr. Syme, who, observing the poet’s looks, forbore to speak,—judiciously enough—for a man composing Bruce’s Address might be unsafe to trifle with. Doubtless this stern hymn was singing itself, as he formed it, through the soul of Burns: but to the external ear, it should be sung with the throat of the whirlwind. So long as there is warm blood in the heart of Scotchman or man, it will move in fierce thrills under this war-ode, the best, we believe, that was ever written by any pen. Another wild stormful Song, that dwells in our ear and mind with a strange tenacity, is Macpherson’s Farewell. Perhaps there is something in the tradition itself that co-operates. For was not this grim Celt, this shaggy Northland Cacus, that ‘lived a life of sturt and strife, and died by treacherie,’ was not he too one of the Nimrods and Napoleons of the earth, in the arena of his own remote misty glens, for want of a clearer and wider one? Nay, was there not a touch of grace given him? A fibre of love and softness, of poetry itself, must have lived in his savage heart; for he composed that air the night before his execution; on the wings of that poor melody, his better soul would soar away above oblivion, pain, and all the ignominy and despair, which, like an avalanche, was hurling him to the abyss! Here also, as at Thebes, and in Pelops’ line, was material Fate matched against man’s Freewill; matched in bitterest though obscure duel; and the ethereal soul sunk not, even in its blindness, without a cry which has survived it. But who, except Burns, could have given words to such a soul; words that we never listen to without a strange half-barbarous, half-poetic fellow-feeling? Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, Sae dauntingly gaed he;

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essays on Literature He play’d a spring, and danced it round, Below the gallows tree.

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Under a lighter disguise, the same principle of Love, which we have recognised as the great characteristic of Burns, and of all true poets, occasionally manifests itself in the shape of Humour. Everywhere, indeed, in his sunny moods, a full buoyant flood of mirth rolls through the mind of Burns; he rises to the high, and stoops to the low, and is brother and playmate to all Nature. We speak not of his bold and often irresistible faculty of caricature; for this is Drollery rather than Humour: But a much tenderer sportfulness dwells in him; and comes forth here and there, in evanescent and beautiful touches; as in his Address to the Mouse, or the Farmer’s Mare, or in his Elegy on Poor Mailie, which last may be reckoned his happiest effort of this kind. In these pieces, there are traits of a Humour as fine as that of Sterne; yet altogether different, original, peculiar—the Humour of Burns. Of the tenderness, the playful pathos, and many other kindred qualities of Burns’s Poetry, much more might be said; but now, with these poor outlines of a sketch, we must prepare to quit this part of our subject. To speak of his individual Writings, adequately, and with any detail, would lead us far beyond our limits. As already hinted, we can look on but few of these pieces as, in strict critical language, deserving the name of Poems; they are rhymed eloquence, rhymed pathos, rhymed sense; yet seldom essentially melodious, aerial, poetical. Tam o’ Shanter itself, which enjoys so high a favour, does not appear to us, at all decisively, to come under this last category. It is not so much a poem, as a piece of sparkling rhetoric; the heart and body of the story still lies hard and dead. He has not gone back, much less carried us back, into that dark, earnest, wondering age, when the tradition was believed, and when it took its rise; he does not attempt, by any new-modelling of his supernatural ware, to strike anew that deep mysterious chord of human nature, which once responded to such things; and which lives in us too, and will forever live, though silent now, or vibrating with far other notes, and to far different issues. Our German readers will understand us, when we say, that he is not the Tieck but the Musäus of this tale. Externally it is all green and living; yet look closer, it is no firm growth, but only ivy on a rock. The piece does not properly cohere; the strange chasm which yawns in our incredulous imaginations between the Ayr public-house and the gate of Tophet, is nowhere bridged over, nay, the idea of such a bridge is laughed at; and thus the Tragedy of the adventure becomes a mere drunken phantasmagoria, or manycoloured spectrum painted on ale-vapours, and the Farce alone has any reality.

burns 49 We do not say that Burns should have made much more of this tradition; we rather think that, for strictly poetical purposes, not much was to be made of it. Neither are we blind to the deep, varied, genial power displayed in what he has actually accomplished; but we find far more ‘Shakspearean’ qualities, as these of Tam o’ Shanter have been fondly named, in many of his other pieces; nay, we incline to believe, that this latter might have been written, all but quite as well, by a man who, in place of genius, had only possessed talent. Perhaps we may venture to say, that the most strictly poetical of all his ‘poems’ is one, which does not appear in Currie’s Edition; but has been often printed before and since, under the humble title of The Jolly Beggars. The subject truly is among the lowest in Nature; but it only the more shows our Poet’s gift in raising it into the domain of Art. To our minds, this piece seems thoroughly compacted; melted together, refined; and poured forth in one flood of true liquid harmony. It is light, airy, soft of movement; yet sharp and precise in its details; every face is a portrait; that raucle carlin, that wee Apollo, that Son of Mars, are Scottish, yet ideal; the scene is at once a dream, and the very Rag-castle of ‘Poosy Nansie.’ Farther, it seems in a considerable degree complete, a real self-supporting Whole, which is the highest merit in a poem. The blanket of the Night is drawn asunder for a moment; in full, ruddy, flaming light, these rough tatterdemalions are seen in their boisterous revel; for the strong pulse of Life vindicates its right to gladness even here; and when the curtain closes, we prolong the action, without effort; the next day as the last, our Caird and our Balladmonger are singing and soldering; their ‘brats and callets’ are hawking, begging, cheating; and some other night, in new combinations, they will wring from Fate another hour of wassail and good cheer. Apart from the universal sympathy with man which this again bespeaks in Burns, a genuine inspiration and no inconsiderable technical talent are manifested here. There is the fidelity, humour, warm life, and accurate painting and grouping of some Teniers, for whom hostlers and carousing peasants are not without significance. It would be strange, doubtless, to call this the best of Burns’s writings: we mean to say only, that it seems to us the most perfect of its kind, as a piece of poetical composition, strictly so called. In the Beggar’s Opera, in the Beggar’s Bush, as other critics have already remarked, there is nothing which, in real poetic vigour, equals this Cantata; nothing, as we think, which comes within many degrees of it. But by far the most finished, complete, and truly inspired pieces of Burns are, without dispute, to be found among his Songs. It is here that, although through a small aperture, his light shines with least obstruction; in its highest beauty, and pure sunny clearness. The reason may be, that Song is a brief simple

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species of composition; and requires nothing so much for its perfection, as genuine poetic feeling, genuine music of heart. Yet the Song has its rules equally with the Tragedy; rules which in most cases are poorly fulfilled, in many cases are not so much as felt. We might write a long essay on the Songs of Burns; which we reckon by far the best that Britain has yet produced: for indeed since the era of Queen Elizabeth, we know not that, by any other hand, aught truly worth attention has been accomplished in this department. True, we have songs enough ‘by persons of quality’; we have tawdry, hollow, wine-bred, madrigals; many a rhymed speech ‘in the flowing and watery vein of Ossorius the Portugal Bishop,’ rich in sonorous words, and, for moral, dashed perhaps with some tint of a sentimental sensuality; all which many persons cease not from endeavouring to sing; though for most part, we fear, the music is but from the throat outwards, or at best from some region far enough short of the Soul; not in which, but in a certain inane Limbo of the Fancy, or even in some vaporous debateable-land on the outskirts of the Nervous System, most of such madrigals and rhymed speeches seem to have originated. With the Songs of Burns we must not name these things. Independently of the clear, manly, heartfelt sentiment that ever pervades his poetry, his Songs are honest in another point of view: in form, as well as in spirit. They do not affect to be set to music, but they actually and in themselves are music; they have received their life, and fashioned themselves together, in the medium of Harmony, as Venus rose from the bosom of the sea. The story, the feeling, is not detailed, but suggested; not said, or spouted, in rhetorical completeness and coherence; but sung, in fitful gushes, in glowing hints, in fantastic breaks, in warblings not of the voice only, but of the whole mind. We consider this to be the essence of a song; and that no songs since the little careless catches, and, as it were, drops of song, which Shakspeare has here and there sprinkled over his Plays, fulfil this condition in nearly the same degree as most of Burns’s do. Such grace and truth of external movement, too, presupposes in general a corresponding force and truth of sentiment, and inward meaning. The Songs of Burns are not more perfect in the former quality, than in the latter. With what tenderness he sings, yet with what vehemence and entireness! There is a piercing wail in his sorrow, the purest rapture in his joy; he burns with the sternest ire, or laughs with the loudest or slyest mirth; and yet he is sweet and soft, ‘sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet, and soft as their parting tear!’ If we farther take into account the immense variety of his subjects; how, from the loud flowing revel in Willie brew’d a peck o’ Maut, to the still, rapt enthusiasm of sadness for Mary in Heaven; from the glad kind greeting of Auld Langsyne, or the comic archness of Duncan Gray, to the fire-eyed fury of Scots, wha hae wi’

burns 51 Wallace bled, he has found a tone and words for every mood of man’s heart,—it will seem a small praise if we rank him as the first of all our Song-writers; for we know not where to find one worthy of being second to him. It is on his Songs, as we believe, that Burns’s chief influence as an author will ultimately be found to depend: nor, if our Fletcher’s aphorism is true, shall we account this a small influence. ‘Let me make the Songs of a people,’ said he, ‘and you shall make its Laws.’ Surely, if ever any Poet might have equalled himself with Legislators, on this ground, it was Burns. His Songs are already part of the mother-tongue not of Scotland only but of Britain, and of the millions that in all ends of the earth speak a British language. In hut and hall, as the heart unfolds itself in many-coloured joy and woe of existence, the name, the voice of that joy and that woe, is the name and voice which Burns has given them. Strictly speaking, perhaps, no British man has so deeply affected the thoughts and feelings of so many men, as this solitary and altogether private individual, with means, apparently the humblest. In another point of view, moreover, we incline to think that Burns’s influence may have been considerable: we mean, as exerted specially on the Literature of his country, at least on the Literature of Scotland. Among the great changes which British, particularly Scottish literature, has undergone since that period, one of the greatest will be found to consist in its remarkable increase of nationality. Even the English writers most popular in Burns’s time, were little distinguished for their literary patriotism, in this its best sense. A certain attenuated cosmopolitanism had, in good measure, taken place of the old insular home-feeling; literature was, as it were, without any local environment; was not nourished by the affections which spring from a native soil. Our Grays and Glovers seemed to write almost as if in vacuo; the thing written bears no mark of place; it is not written so much for Englishmen, as for men; or rather, which is the inevitable result of this, for certain Generalisations which philosophy termed men. Goldsmith is an exception: not so Johnson; the scene of his Rambler is little more English than that of his Rasselas. But if such was, in some degree, the case with England, it was, in the highest degree, the case with Scotland. In fact, our Scottish literature had at that period, a very singular aspect; unexampled, so far as we know, except perhaps at Geneva, where the same state of matters appears still to continue. For a long period after Scotland became British, we had no literature: at the date when Addison and Steele were writing their Spectators, our good Thomas Boston was writing, with the noblest intent, but alike in defiance of grammar and philosophy, his Fourfold State of Man. Then came the schisms in our National Church, and the fiercer schisms in our Body Politic: Theologic ink,

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and Jacobite blood, with gall enough in both cases, seemed to have blotted out the intellect of the country; however, it was only obscured, not obliterated. Lord Kames made nearly the first attempt at writing English; and ere long, Hume, Robertson, Smith, and a whole host of followers, attracted hither the eyes of all Europe. And yet in this brilliant resuscitation of our ‘fervid genius,’ there was nothing truly Scottish, nothing indigenous; except, perhaps, the natural impetuosity of intellect, which we sometimes claim, and are sometimes upbraided with, as a characteristic of our nation. It is curious to remark that Scotland, so full of writers, had no Scottish culture, nor indeed any English; our culture was almost exclusively French. It was by studying Racine and Voltaire, Batteux and Boileau, that Kames had trained himself to be a critic and philosopher: it was the light of Montesquieu and Mably that guided Robertson in his political speculations; Quesnay’s lamp that kindled the lamp of Adam Smith. Hume was too rich a man to borrow; and perhaps he reacted on the French more than he was acted on by them: but neither had he aught to do with Scotland; Edinburgh, equally with La Flèche, was but the lodging and laboratory, in which he not so much morally lived, as metaphysically investigated. Never, perhaps, was there a class of writers, so clear and well-ordered, yet so totally destitute, to all appearance, of any patriotic affection, nay, of any human affection whatever. The French wits of the period were as unpatriotic: but their general deficiency in moral principle, not to say their avowed sensuality and unbelief in all virtue, strictly so called, render this accountable enough. We hope, there is a patriotism founded on something better than prejudice; that our country may be dear to us, without injury to our philosophy; that in loving and justly prizing all other lands, we may prize justly, and yet love before all others our own stern Motherland, and the venerable Structure of social and moral Life, which Mind has through long ages been building up for us there. Surely there is nourishment for the better part of man’s heart in all this: surely the roots, that have fixed themselves in the very core of man’s being, may be so cultivated as to grow up not into briers, but into roses, in the field of his life! Our Scottish sages have no such propensities: the field of their life shows neither briers nor roses: but only a flat, continuous thrashing floor for Logic, whereon all questions, from the ‘Doctrine of Rent,’ to the ‘Natural History of Religion,’ are thrashed and sifted with the same mechanical impartiality! With Sir Walter Scott at the head of our literature, it cannot be denied that much of this evil is past, or rapidly passing away: our chief literary men, whatever other faults they may have, no longer live among us like a French Colony, or some knot of Propaganda Missionaries; but like natural-born subjects of the soil,

burns 53 partaking and sympathizing in all our attachments, humours, and habits. Our literature no longer grows in water, but in mould, and with the true racy virtues of the soil and climate. How much of this change may be due to Burns, or to any other individual, it might be difficult to estimate. Direct literary imitation of Burns was not to be looked for. But his example, in the fearless adoption of domestic subjects, could not but operate from afar; and certainly in no heart did the love of country ever burn with a warmer glow than in that of Burns: ‘a tide of Scottish prejudice,’ as he modestly calls this deep and generous feeling, ‘had been poured along his veins; and he felt that it would boil there till the floodgates shut in eternal rest.’ It seemed to him, as if he could do so little for his country, and yet would so gladly have done all. One small province stood open for him; that of Scottish Song, and how eagerly he entered on it; how devotedly he laboured there! In his toilsome journeyings, this object never quits him; it is the little happy-valley of his careworn heart. In the gloom of his own affliction, he eagerly searches after some lonely brother of the muse, and rejoices to snatch one other name from the oblivion that was covering it! These were early feelings, and they abode with him to the end. ——a wish, (I mind its power,) A wish, that to my latest hour Will strongly heave my breast;

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That I, for poor auld Scotland’s sake, Some useful plan or book could make, Or sing a sang at least. The rough bur Thistle spreading wide Amang the bearded bear, I turn’d my weeding-clips aside, And spared the symbol dear.

But to leave the mere literary character of Burns, which has already detained us too long. Far more interesting than any of his written works, as it appears to us, are his acted ones: the Life he willed, and was fated to lead among his fellow men. These Poems are but like little rhymed fragments scattered here and there in the grand unrhymed Romance of his earthly existence; and it is only when intercalated in this at their proper places, that they attain their full measure of significance. And this too, alas, was but a fragment! The plan of a mighty edifice had been sketched; some columns, porticoes, firm masses of building, stand completed; the rest more or less clearly indicated; with many a

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far-stretching tendency, which only studious and friendly eyes can now trace towards the purposed termination. For the work is broken off in the middle, almost in the beginning; and rises among us, beautiful and sad, at once unfinished and a ruin! If charitable judgment was necessary in estimating his Poems, and justice required that the aim and the manifest power to fulfil it, must often be accepted for the fulfilment; much more is this the case in regard to his Life, the sum and result of all his endeavours, where his difficulties came upon him not in detail only, but in mass; and so much has been left unaccomplished, nay, was mistaken, and altogether marred. Properly speaking, there is but one era in the life of Burns, and that the earliest. We have not youth and manhood; but only youth: For, to the end, we discern no decisive change in the complexion of his character; in his thirtyseventh year, he is still, as it were, in youth. With all that resoluteness of judgment, that penetrating insight, and singular maturity of intellectual power, exhibited in his writings, he never attains to any clearness regarding himself; to the last, he never ascertains his peculiar aim, even with such distinctness as is common among ordinary men; and therefore never can pursue it with that singleness of will, which insures success and some contentment to such men. To the last, he wavers between two purposes: glorying in his talent, like a true poet, he yet cannot consent to make this his chief and sole glory, and to follow it as the one thing needful, through poverty or riches, through good or evil report. Another far meaner ambition still cleaves to him; he must dream and struggle about a certain ‘Rock of Independence;’ which, natural and even admirable as it might be, was still but a warring with the world, on the comparatively insignificant ground of his being more completely or less completely supplied with money, than others; of his standing at a higher, or at a lower altitude in general estimation, than others. For the world still appears to him, as to the young, in borrowed colours: he expects from it what it cannot give to any man; seeks for contentment, not within himself, in action and wise effort, but from without, in the kindness of circumstances, in love, friendship, honour, pecuniary ease. He would be happy, not actively and in himself, but passively, and from some ideal cornucopia of Enjoyments, not earned by his own labour, but showered on him by the beneficence of Destiny. Thus, like a young man, he cannot gird himself up for any worthy well-calculated goal, but swerves to and fro, between passionate hope, and remorseful disappointment: rushing onwards with a deep tempestuous force, he surmounts or breaks asunder many a barrier; travels, nay, advances far, but advancing only under uncertain guidance, is ever and anon turned from his path: and to the last, cannot reach the only true happiness of

burns 55 a man, that of clear, decided Activity in the sphere, for which, by nature and circumstances, he has been fitted and appointed. We do not say these things in dispraise of Burns: nay, perhaps they but interest us the more in his favour. This blessing is not given soonest to the best; but rather, it is often the greatest minds that are latest in obtaining it; for where most is to be developed, most time may be required to develope it. A complex condition had been assigned him from without, as complex a condition from within: no ‘pre-established harmony’ existed between the clay soil of Mossgiel and the empyrean soul of Robert Burns; it was not wonderful that the adjustment between them should have been long postponed, and his arm long cumbered, and his sight confused, in so vast and discordant an economy, as he had been appointed steward over. Byron was, at his death, but a year younger than Burns; and through life, as it might have appeared, far more simply situated: yet in him too, we can trace no such adjustment, no such moral manhood; but at best, and only a little before his end, the beginning of what seemed such. By much the most striking incident in Burns’s Life is his journey to Edinburgh; but perhaps a still more important one, is his residence at Irvine, so early as in his twenty-third year. Hitherto his life had been poor and toil-worn; but otherwise not ungenial, and with all its distresses, by no means unhappy. In his parentage, deducting outward circumstances, he had every reason to reckon himself fortunate: his father was a man of thoughtful, intense, earnest character, as the best of our peasants are; valuing knowledge, possessing some, and, what is far better and rarer, open-minded for more; a man with a keen insight, and devout heart; reverent towards God, friendly therefore at once, and fearless towards all that God has made; in one word, though but a hard-handed peasant, a complete and fully unfolded Man. Such a father is seldom found in any rank of society; and was worth descending far in society to seek. Unfortunately, he was very poor; had he been even a little richer, almost never so little, the whole might have issued far otherwise. Mighty events turn on a straw; the crossing of a brook decides the conquest of the world. Had this William Burns’s small seven acres of nursery ground anywise prospered, the boy Robert had been sent to school; had struggled forward, as so many weaker men do, to some university; come forth not as a rustic wonder, but as a regular well-trained intellectual workman, and changed the whole course of British Literature—for it lay in him to have done this! But the nursery did not prosper; poverty sank his whole family below the help of even our cheap school system: Burns remained a hard-worked plough-boy, and British literature took its own course. Nevertheless, even in this rugged scene, there is much to nourish him. If he drudges, it is with his

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brother, and for his father and mother, whom he loves, and would fain shield from want. Wisdom is not banished from their poor hearth, nor the balm of natural feeling: the solemn words, Let us worship God, are heard there from a ‘priest-like father;’ if threatenings of unjust men throw mother and children into tears, these are tears not of grief only, but of holiest affection; every heart in that humble group feels itself the closer knit to every other; in their hard warfare they are there together, a ‘little band of brethren.’ Neither are such tears, and the deep beauty that dwells in them, their only portion. Light visits the hearts as it does the eyes of all living: there is a force, too, in this youth, that enables him to trample on misfortune; nay, to bind it under his feet to make him sport. For a bold, warm, buoyant humour of character has been given him; and so the thick-coming shapes of evil are welcomed with a gay, friendly irony, and in their closest pressure, he bates no jot of heart or hope. Vague yearnings of ambition fail not, as he grows up; dreamy fancies hang like cloud-cities around him; the curtain of Existence is slowly rising, in many-coloured splendour and gloom: and the auroral light of first love is gilding his horizon, and the music of song is on his path; and so he walks ——in glory and in joy, Behind his plough, upon the mountain side!

We ourselves know, from the best evidence, that up to this date, Burns was happy; nay, that he was the gayest, brightest, most fantastic, fascinating being to be found in the world; more so even than he ever afterwards appeared. But now, at this early age, he quits the paternal roof; goes forth into looser, louder, more exciting society; and becomes initiated in those dissipations, those vices, which a certain class of philosophers have asserted to be a natural preparative for entering on active life; a kind of mud-bath, in which the youth is, as it were, necessitated to steep, and, we suppose, cleanse himself, before the real toga of Manhood can be laid on him. We shall not dispute much with this class of philosophers; we hope they are mistaken; for Sin and Remorse so easily beset us at all stages of life, and are always such indifferent company, that it seems hard we should, at any stage, be forced and fated not only to meet, but to yield to them, and even serve for a term in their leprous armada. We hope it is not so. Clear we are, at all events, it cannot be the training one receives in this Devil’s-service, but only our determining to desert from it, that fits us for true manly Action. We become men, not after we have been dissipated, and disappointed in the chase of false pleasure; but after we have ascertained in any way,

burns 57 what impassable barriers hem us in through this life; how mad it is to hope for contentment to our infinite soul from the gifts of this extremely finite world; that a man must be sufficient for himself; and that for suffering and enduring there is no remedy but striving and doing. Manhood begins when we have in any way made truce with Necessity; begins even when we have surrendered to Necessity, as the most part only do; but begins joyfully and hopefully only when we have reconciled ourselves to Necessity; and thus, in reality, triumphed over it, and felt that in Necessity, we are free. Surely, such lessons as this last, which, in one shape or other, is the grand lesson for every mortal man, are better learned from the lips of a devout mother, in the looks and actions of a devout father, while the heart is yet soft and pliant, than in collision with the sharp adamant of Fate, attracting us to shipwreck us, when the heart is grown hard, and may be broken, before it will become contrite! Had Burns continued to learn this, as he was already learning it, in his father’s cottage, he would have learned it fully, which he never did—and been saved many a lasting aberration, many a bitter hour and year of remorseful sorrow. It seems to us another circumstance of fatal import in Burns’s history, that at this time too he became involved in the religious quarrels of his district; that he was enlisted and feasted, as the fighting man of the New-Light Priesthood, in their highly unprofitable warfare. At the tables of these free-minded clergy, he learned much more than was needful for him. Such liberal ridicule of fanaticism awakened in his mind scruples about Religion itself; and a whole world of Doubts, which it required quite another set of conjurors than these men to exorcise. We do not say that such an intellect as his could have escaped similar doubts, at some period of his history; or even that he could, at a later period, have come through them altogether victorious and unharmed: but it seems peculiarly unfortunate that this time, above all others, should have been fixed for the encounter. For now, with principles assailed by evil example from without, by ‘passions raging like demons’ from within, he had little need of sceptical misgivings to whisper treason in the heat of the battle, or to cut off his retreat if he were already defeated. He loses his feeling of innocence; his mind is at variance with itself; the old divinity no longer presides there; but wild Desires and wild Repentance alternately oppress him. Ere long, too, he has committed himself before the world; his character for sobriety, dear to a Scottish peasant, as few corrupted worldlings can even conceive, is destroyed in the eyes of men; and his only refuge consists in trying to disbelieve his guiltiness, and is but a refuge of lies. The blackest desperation now gathers over him, broken only by red lightnings of remorse. The whole fabric of his life is blasted asunder; for now

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not only his character, but his personal liberty, is to be lost; men and Fortune are leagued for his hurt; ‘hungry Ruin has him in the wind.’ He sees no escape but the saddest of all: exile from his loved country, to a country in every sense inhospitable and abhorrent to him. While the ‘gloomy night is gathering fast,’ in mental storm and solitude as well as in physical, he sings his wild farewell to Scotland: Farewell, my friends, farewell, my foes! My peace with these, my love with those: The bursting tears my heart declare; Adieu, my native banks of Ayr!

Light breaks suddenly in on him in floods; but still a false transitory light, and no real sunshine. He is invited to Edinburgh; hastens thither with anticipating heart; is welcomed as in a triumph, and with universal blandishment and acclamation; whatever is wisest, whatever is greatest, or loveliest there, gathers round him, to gaze on his face, to show him honour, sympathy, affection. Burns’s appearance among the sages and nobles of Edinburgh, must be regarded as one of the most singular phenomena in modern Literature; almost like the appearance of some Napoleon among the crowned sovereigns of modern Politics. For it is nowise as ‘a mockery king,’ set there by favour, transiently, and for a purpose, that he will let himself be treated; still less is he a mad Rienzi, whose sudden elevation turns his too weak head: but he stands there on his own basis; cool, unastonished, holding his equal rank from Nature herself; putting forth no claim which there is not strength in him, as well as about him, to vindicate. Mr. Lockhart has some forcible observations on this point: ‘It needs no effort of imagination,’ says he, ‘to conceive what the sensations of an isolated set of scholars (almost all either clergymen or professors) must have been in the presence of this big-boned, black-browed, brawny stranger, with his great flashing eyes, who, having forced his way among them from the plough-tail, at a single stride, manifested, in the whole strain of his bearing and conversation, a most thorough conviction that in the society of the most eminent men of his nation, he was exactly where he was entitled to be; hardly deigned to flatter them by exhibiting even an occasional symptom of being flattered by their notice; by turns calmly measured himself against the most cultivated understandings of his time in discussion; overpowered the bon mots of the most celebrated convivialists by broad floods of merriment, impregnated with all the burning life of genius; astounded bosoms habitually enveloped in the thrice-piled folds of social

burns 59 reserve, by compelling them to tremble—nay to tremble visibly—beneath the fearless touch of natural pathos; and all this without indicating the smallest willingness to be ranked among those professional ministers of excitement, who are content to be paid in money and smiles for doing what the spectators and auditors would be ashamed of doing in their own persons, even if they had the power of doing it; and last, and probably worst of all, who was known to be in the habit of enlivening societies which they would have scorned to approach, still more frequently than their own, with eloquence no less magnificent; with wit, in all likelihood still more daring; often enough, as the superiors whom he fronted without alarm might have guessed from the beginning, and had, ere long, no occasion to guess, with wit pointed at themselves.’

The farther we remove from this scene, the more singular will it seem to us: details of the exterior aspect of it are already full of interest. Most readers recollect Mr. Walker’s personal interviews with Burns as among the best passages of his Narrative: a time will come when this reminiscence of Sir Walter Scott’s, slight though it is, will also be precious. ‘As for Burns,’ writes Sir Walter, ‘I may truly say, Virgilium vidi tantum. I was a lad of fifteen in 1786-7, when he came first to Edinburgh, but had sense and feeling enough to be much interested in his poetry, and would have given the world to know him; but I had very little acquaintance with any literary people, and still less with the gentry of the west country, the two sets that he most frequented. Mr. Thomas Grierson was at that time a clerk of my father’s. He knew Burns, and promised to ask him to his lodgings to dinner, but had no opportunity to keep his word; otherwise I might have seen more of this distinguished man. As it was, I saw him one day at the late venerable Professor Fergusson’s, where there were several gentlemen of literary reputation, among whom I remember the celebrated Mr. Dugald Stewart. Of course, we youngsters sat silent, looked and listened. The only thing I remember which was remarkable in Burns’s manner, was the effect produced upon him by a print of Bunbury’s, representing a soldier lying dead on the snow, his dog sitting in misery on one side,—on the other, his widow, with a child in her arms. These lines were written beneath: “Cold on Canadian hills, or Minden’s plain, Perhaps that mother wept her soldier slain; Bent o’er her babe, her eye dissolved in dew, The big drops mingling with the milk he drew, Gave the sad presage of his future years, The child of misery baptized in tears.”

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‘Burns seemed much affected by the print, or rather by the ideas which it suggested to his mind. He actually shed tears. He asked whose the lines were, and it chanced that nobody but myself remembered that they occur in a half-forgotten poem of Langhorne’s, called by the unpromising title of “The Justice of Peace.” I whispered my information to a friend present, he mentioned it to Burns, who rewarded me with a look and a word, which, though of mere civility, I then received and still recollect with very great pleasure. ‘His person was strong and robust; his manners rustic, not clownish; a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity, which received part of its effect perhaps from one’s knowledge of his extraordinary talents. His features are represented in Mr. Nasmyth’s picture; but to me it conveys the idea that they are diminished, as if seen in perspective. I think his countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits. I should have taken the poet, had I not known what he was, for a very sagacious country farmer of the old Scotch school, i. e. none of your modern agriculturists who keep labourers for their drudgery, but the douce gudeman who held his own plough. There was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed) when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time. His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence, without the slightest presumption. Among the men who were the most learned of their time and country, he expressed himself with perfect firmness, but without the least intrusive forwardness; and when he differed in opinion, he did not hesitate to express it firmly, yet at the same time with modesty. I do not remember any part of his conversation distinctly enough to be quoted; nor did I ever see him again, except in the street, where he did not recognise me, as I could not expect he should. He was much caressed in Edinburgh; but (considering what literary emoluments have been since his day) the efforts made for his relief were extremely trifling. ‘I remember on this occasion I mention, I thought Burns’s acquaintance with English poetry was rather limited; and also, that having twenty times the abilities of Allan Ramsay and of Ferguson, he talked of them with too much humility as his models: there was doubtless national predilection in his estimate. ‘This is all I can tell you about Burns. I have only to add, that his dress corresponded with his manner. He was like a farmer dressed in his best to dine with the laird. I do not speak in malam partem, when I say I never saw a man in company with his superiors in station or information, more perfectly free from either the reality or the affectation of embarrassment. I was told, but did not observe it, that his address to females was extremely deferential, and always with a turn either to the pathetic or humorous, which engaged their attention particularly. I have heard the late Duchess of Gordon remark this.—I do not know anything I can add to these recollections of forty years since.’

burns 61 The conduct of Burns under this dazzling blaze of favour; the calm, unaffected, manly manner, in which he not only bore it, but estimated its value, has justly been regarded as the best proof that could be given of his real vigour and integrity of mind. A little natural vanity, some touches of hypocritical modesty, some glimmerings of affectation, at least some fear of being thought affected, we could have pardoned in almost any man; but no such indication is to be traced here. In his unexampled situation the young peasant is not a moment perplexed; so many strange lights do not confuse him, do not lead him astray. Nevertheless, we cannot but perceive that this winter did him great and lasting injury. A somewhat clearer knowledge of men’s affairs, scarcely of their characters, it did afford him; but a sharper feeling of Fortune’s unequal arrangements in their social destiny it also left with him. He had seen the gay and gorgeous arena, in which the powerful are born to play their parts; nay, had himself stood in the midst of it; and he felt, more bitterly than ever, that here he was but a looker on, and had no part or lot in that splendid game. From this time a jealous indignant fear of social degradation takes possession of him; and perverts, so far as aught could pervert, his private contentment, and his feelings towards his richer fellows. It was clear to Burns that he had talent enough to make a fortune, or a hundred fortunes, could he but have rightly willed this; it was clear also that he willed something far different, and therefore could not make one. Unhappy it was that he had not power to choose the one, and reject the other; but must halt forever between two opinions, two objects; making hampered advancement towards either. But so is it with many men: we ‘long for the merchandise, yet would fain keep the price;’ and so stand chaffering with Fate, in vexatious altercation, till the Night come, and our fair is over! The Edinburgh Learned of that period were in general more noted for clearness of head than for warmth of heart: with the exception of the good old Blacklock, whose help was too ineffectual, scarcely one among them seems to have looked at Burns with any true sympathy, or indeed much otherwise than as at a highly curious thing. By the great also, he is treated in the customary fashion; entertained at their tables, and dismissed: certain modica of pudding and praise are, from time to time, gladly exchanged for the fascination of his presence; which exchange once effected, the bargain is finished, and each party goes his several way. At the end of this strange season, Burns gloomily sums up his gains and losses, and meditates on the chaotic future. In money he is somewhat richer: in fame and the show of happiness, infinitely richer; but in the substance of it, as poor as ever. Nay poorer, for his heart is now maddened still more with the fever of worldly Ambition; and through long years the disease

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will rack him with unprofitable sufferings, and weaken his strength for all true and nobler aims. What Burns was next to do or to avoid; how a man so circumstanced was now to guide himself towards his true advantage, might, at this point of time, have been a question for the wisest. It was a question, too, which apparently he was left altogether to answer for himself: of his learned or rich patrons it had not struck any individual to turn a thought on this so trivial matter. Without claiming for Burns the praise of perfect sagacity, we must say, that his Excise and Farm scheme does not seem to us a very unreasonable one; that we should be at a loss, even now, to suggest one decidedly better. Certain of his admirers have felt scandalized at his ever resolving to gauge; and would have had him lie at the pool, till the spirit of Patronage stirred the waters, that so, with one friendly plunge, all his sorrows might be healed. Unwise counsellors! They know not the manner of this spirit; and how, in the lap of most golden dreams, a man might have happiness, were it not that in the interim the he must die of hunger! It reflects credit on the manliness and sound sense of Burns, that he felt so early on what ground he was standing; and preferred self-help, on the humblest scale, to dependence and inaction, though with hope of far more splendid possibilities. But even these possibilities were not rejected in his scheme: he might expect, if it chanced that he had any friend, to rise, in no long period, into something even like opulence and leisure; while again, if it chanced that he had no friend, he could still live in security; and for the rest, he ‘did not intend to borrow honour from any profession.’ We reckon that his plan was honest and well-calculated: all turned on the execution of it. Doubtless it failed; yet not, we believe, from any vice inherent in itself. Nay, after all, it was no failure of external means, but of internal, that overtook Burns. His was no bankruptcy of the purse, but of the soul; to his last day, he owed no man anything. Meanwhile he begins well: with two good and wise actions. His donation to his mother, munificent from a man whose income had lately been seven pounds a-year, was worthy of him, and not more than worthy. Generous also, and worthy of him, was the treatment of the woman whose life’s welfare now depended on his pleasure. A friendly observer might have hoped serene days for him: his mind is on the true road to peace with itself: what clearness he still wants will be given as he proceeds; for the best teacher of duties that still lie dim to us, is the Practice of those we see, and have at hand. Had the ‘patrons of genius,’ who could give him nothing, but taken nothing from him, at least nothing more! The wounds of his heart would have healed, vulgar ambition would have died away. Toil and Frugality would have been welcome, since Virtue dwelt with

burns 63 them, and Poetry would have shone through them as of old; and in her clear ethereal light, which was his own by birthright, he might have looked down on his earthly destiny, and all its obstructions, not with patience only, but with love. But the patrons of genius would not have it so. Picturesque tourists,* all manner of fashionable danglers after literature, and, far worse, all manner of convivial Mecænases, hovered round him in his retreat; and his good as well as his weak qualities secured them influence over him. He was flattered by their notice; and his warm social nature made it impossible for him to shake them off, and hold on his way apart from them. These men, as we believe, were proximately the means of his ruin. Not that they meant him any ill; they only meant themselves a little good; if he suffered harm, let him look to it! But they wasted his precious time and his precious talent; they disturbed his composure, broke down his returning habits of temperance and assiduous contented exertion. Their pampering was baneful to him; their cruelty, which soon followed, was equally baneful. The old grudge against Fortune’s inequality, awoke with new bitterness in their neighbourhood, and Burns had no retreat but to the ‘Rock of Independence,’ which is but an air-castle, after all, that looks well at a distance, but will screen no one from real wind and wet. Flushed with irregular excitement, exasperated alternately by contempt of others, and contempt of himself, Burns was no longer regaining his peace of mind, but fast losing it forever. There was a hollowness at the heart of his life, for his conscience did not now approve what he was doing. Amid the vapours of unwise enjoyment, of bootless remorse, and angry discontent with Fate, his true loadstar, a life of Poetry, with Poverty, nay with Famine if it must be so, was too often altogether hidden from his eyes. And yet he sailed a sea, where, without some such loadstar there was no right steering. * There is one little sketch by certain ‘English gentlemen’ of this class, which, though adopted in Currie’s Narrative, and since then repeated in most others, we have all along felt an invincible disposition to regard as imaginary: ‘On a rock that projected into the stream, they saw a man employed in angling, of a singular appearance. He had a cap made of fox-skin on his head, a loose great-coat fixed round him by a belt, from which depended an enormous Highland broadsword. It was Burns.’ Now, we rather think, it was not Burns. For to say nothing of the fox-skin cap, the loose and quite Hibernian watch-coat with the belt, what are we to make of this ‘enormous Highland broadsword’ depending from him? More especially, as there is no word of parish constables on the outlook to see whether, as Dennis phrases it, he had an eye to his own midriff, or that of the public! Burns, of all men, had the least need, and the least tendency, to seek for distinction, either in his own eyes, or those of others, by such poor mummeries.

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Meteors of French Politics rise before him, but these were not his stars. An accident this, which hastened, but did not originate, his worst distresses. In the mad contentions of that time, he comes in collision with certain official Superiors; is wounded by them; cruelly lacerated, we should say, could a dead mechanical implement, in any case, be called cruel: and shrinks in indignant pain, into deeper self-seclusion, into gloomier moodiness than ever. His life has now lost its unity: it is a life of fragments; led with little aim, beyond the melancholy one of securing its own continuance,—in fits of wild false joy, when such offered, and of black despondency when they passed away. His character before the world begins to suffer: calumny is busy with him; for a miserable man makes more enemies than friends. Some faults he has fallen into, and a thousand misfortunes; but deep criminality is what he stands accused of, and they that are not without sin, cast the first stone at him! For is he not a wellwisher of the French Revolution, a Jacobin, and therefore in that one act guilty of all? These accusations, political and moral, it has since appeared, were false enough: but the world hesitated little to credit them. Nay, his convivial Mecænases themselves were not the last to do it. There is reason to believe that, in his later years, the Dumfries Aristocracy had partly withdrawn themselves from Burns, as from a tainted person, no longer worthy of their acquaintance. That painful class, stationed, in all provincial cities, behind the outmost breastwork of Gentility, there to stand siege and do battle against the intrusions of Grocerdom and Grazierdom, had actually seen dishonour in the society of Burns, and branded him with their veto; had, as we vulgarly say, cut him! We find one passage in this Work of Mr. Lockhart’s, which will not out of our thoughts: ‘A gentleman of that county, whose name I have already more than once had occasion to refer to, has often told me that he was seldom more grieved, than when riding into Dumfries one fine summer evening about this time to attend a county ball, he saw Burns walking alone, on the shady side of the principal street of the town, while the opposite side was gay with successive groups of gentlemen and ladies, all drawn together for the festivities of the night, not one of whom appeared willing to recognise him. The horseman dismounted, and joined Burns, who on his proposing to cross the street said: “Nay, nay, my young friend, that’s all over now;” and quoted, after a pause, some verses of Lady Grizzel Baillie’s pathetic ballad: “His bonnet stood ance fu’ fair on his brow, His auld ane look’d better than mony ane’s new;

burns 65 But now he lets’t wear ony way it will hing, And casts himsell dowie upon the corn-bing. “O were we young, as we ance hae been, We sud hae been galloping down on yon green, And linking it ower the lily-white lea! And werena my heart light I wad die.” It was little in Burns’s character to let his feelings on certain subjects escape in this fashion. He, immediately after reciting these verses, assumed the sprightliness of his most pleasing manner; and taking his young friend home with him, entertained him very agreeably till the hour of the ball arrived.’

Alas! when we think that Burns now sleeps ‘where bitter indignation can no longer lacerate his heart,’* and that most of those fair dames and frizzled gentlemen already lie at his side, where the breastwork of Gentility is quite thrown down,—who would not sigh over the thin delusions and foolish toys that divide heart from heart, and make man unmerciful to his brother! It was not now to be hoped that the genius of Burns would ever reach maturity, or accomplish aught worthy of itself. His spirit was jarred in its melody; not the soft breath of natural feeling, but the rude hand of Fate, was now sweeping over the strings. And yet what harmony was in him, what music even in his discords! How the wild tones had a charm for the simplest and the wisest; and all men felt and knew that here also was one of the Gifted! ‘If he entered an inn at midnight, after all the inmates were in bed, the news of his arrival circulated from the cellar to the garret; and ere ten minutes had elapsed, the landlord and all his guests were assembled!’ Some brief, pure moments of poetic life were yet appointed him, in the composition of his Songs. We can understand how he grasped at this employment; and how, too, he spurned all other reward for it but what the labour itself brought him. For the soul of Burns, though scathed and marred, was yet living in its full moral strength, though sharply conscious of its errors and abasement: and here, in his destitution and degradation, was one act of seeming nobleness and self-devotedness left even for him to perform. He felt, too, that with all the ‘thoughtless follies’ that had ‘laid him low,’ the world was unjust and cruel to him; and he silently appealed to another and calmer time. Not as a hired soldier, but as a patriot, would he strive for the glory of his country: so he cast from him the poor sixpence a-day, and served zealously as * Ubi sæva indignatio cor ulterius lacerare nequit.—Swift’s Epitaph.

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a volunteer. Let us not grudge him this last luxury of his existence; let him not have appealed to us in vain! The money was not necessary to him; he struggled through without it: long since, these guineas would have been gone, and now the high-mindedness of refusing them, will plead for him in all hearts forever. We are here arrived at the crisis of Burns’s life; for matters had now taken such a shape with him as could not long continue. If improvement was not to be looked for, Nature could only for a limited time maintain this dark and maddening warfare against the world and itself. We are not medically informed whether any continuance of years was, at this period, probable for Burns; whether his death is to be looked on as in some sense an accidental event, or only as the natural consequence of the long series of events that had preceded. The latter seems to be the likelier opinion; and yet it is by no means a certain one. At all events, as we have said, some change could not be very distant. Three gates of deliverance, it seems to us, were open for Burns: clear poetical activity; madness; or death. The first, with longer life, was still possible, though not probable; for physical causes were beginning to be concerned in it: and yet Burns had an iron resolution; could he but have seen and felt, that not only his highest glory, but his first duty, and the true medicine for all his woes, lay here. The second was still less probable; for his mind was ever among the clearest and firmest. So the milder third gate was opened for him: and he passed, not softly, yet speedily, into that still country, where the hail-storms and fire-showers do not reach, and the heaviest-laden wayfarer at length lays down his load! Contemplating this sad end of Burns, and how he sank unaided by any real help, uncheered by any wise sympathy, generous minds have sometimes figured to themselves, with a reproachful sorrow, that much might have been done for him; that by counsel, true affection, and friendly ministrations, he might have been saved to himself and the world. We question whether there is not more tenderness of heart than soundness of judgment in these suggestions. It seems dubious to us whether the richest, wisest, most benevolent individual, could have lent Burns any effectual help. Counsel, which seldom profits any one, he did not need; in his understanding, he knew the right from the wrong, as well perhaps as any man ever did; but the persuasion which would have availed him, lies not so much in the head, as in the heart, where no argument or expostulation could have assisted much to implant it. As to money again, we do not believe that this was his essential want; or well see how any private man could, even presupposing Burns’s consent, have bestowed on him an independent fortune, with much prospect of decisive advantage. It is a mortifying truth,

burns 67 that two men in any rank of society could hardly be found virtuous enough to give money, and to take it, as a necessary gift, without injury to the moral entireness of one or both. But so stands the fact: Friendship, in the old heroic sense of that term, no longer exists; except in the cases of kindred or other legal affinity, it is in reality no longer expected, or recognised as a virtue among men. A close observer of manners has pronounced ‘Patronage,’ that is, pecuniary or other economic furtherance, to be ‘twice cursed;’ cursing him that gives, and him that takes! And thus, in regard to outward matters also, it has become the rule, as in regard to inward, it always was and must be the rule, that no one shall look for effectual help to another; but that each shall rest contented with what help he can afford himself. Such, we say, is the principle of modern Honour; naturally enough growing out of that sentiment of Pride, which we inculcate and encourage as the basis of our whole social morality. Many a poet has been poorer than Burns; but no one was ever prouder: we may question, whether, without great precautions, even a pension from Royalty would not have galled and encumbered, more than actually assisted him. Still less, therefore, are we disposed to join with another class of Burns’s admirers, who accuse the higher ranks among us of having ruined Burns by their selfish neglect of him. We have already stated our doubts whether direct pecuniary help, had it been offered, would have been accepted, or could have proved very effectual. We shall readily admit, however, that much was to be done for Burns; that many a poisoned arrow might have been warded from his bosom; many an entanglement in his path cut asunder by the hand of the powerful; and light and heat shed on him from high places, would have made his humble atmosphere more genial; and the softest heart then breathing might have lived and died with some fewer pangs. Nay, we shall grant farther, and for Burns it is granting much, that with all his pride, he would have thanked, even with exaggerated gratitude, any one who had cordially befriended him: patronage, unless once cursed, needed not to have been twice so. At all events, the poor promotion he desired in his calling might have been granted: it was his own scheme, therefore likelier than any other to be of service. All this it might have been a luxury, nay, it was a duty, for our nobility to have done. No part of all this, however, did any of them do; or apparently attempt, or wish to do: so much is granted against them. But what then is the amount of their blame? Simply that they were men of the world, and walked by the principles of such men; that they treated Burns, as other nobles and other commoners had done other poets; as the English did Shakspeare, as King Charles and his Cavaliers did Butler, as King Philip and his Grandees did Cervantes. Do men gather

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grapes of thorns? or shall we cut down our thorns for yielding only a fence, and haws? How, indeed, could the ‘nobility and gentry of his native land’ hold out any help to this ‘Scottish Bard, proud of his name and country?’ Were the nobility and gentry so much as able rightly to help themselves? Had they not their game to preserve; their borough interests to strengthen; dinners, therefore, of various kinds to eat and give? Were their means more than adequate to all this business, or less than adequate? Less than adequate in general: few of them in reality were richer than Burns; many of them were poorer; for sometimes they had to wring their supplies, as with thumbscrews, from the hard hand; and in their need of guineas, to forget their duty of mercy; which Burns was never reduced to do. Let us pity and forgive them. The game they preserved and shot, the dinners they ate and gave, the borough interests they strengthened, the little Babylons they severally builded by the glory of their might, are all melted, or melting back into the primeval Chaos, as man’s merely selfish endeavours are fated to do: and here was an action, extending, in virtue of its worldly influence, we may say, through all time; in virtue of its moral nature, beyond all time, being immortal as the Spirit of Goodness itself; this action was offered them to do, and light was not given them to do it. Let us pity and forgive them. But, better than pity, let us go and do otherwise. Human suffering did not end with the life of Burns; neither was the solemn mandate, ‘Love one another, bear one another’s burdens,’ given to the rich only, but to all men. True, we shall find no Burns to relieve, to assuage by our aid or our pity; but celestial natures, groaning under the fardels of a weary life, we shall still find; and that wretchedness which Fate has rendered voiceless and tuneless, is not the least wretched, but the most. Still we do not think that the blame of Burns’s failure lies chiefly with the world. The world, it seems to us, treated him with more, rather than with less kindness, than it usually shows to such men. It has ever, we fear, shown but small favour to its Teachers: hunger and nakedness, perils and reviling, the prison, the cross, the poison-chalice, have, in most times and countries, been the market-price it has offered for Wisdom, the welcome with which it has greeted those who have come to enlighten and purify it. Homer and Socrates, and the Christian Apostles, belong to old days; but the world’s Martyrology was not completed with these. Roger Bacon and Galileo languish in priestly dungeons, Tasso pines in the cell of a madhouse, Camoens dies begging on the streets of Lisbon. So neglected, so ‘persecuted they the Prophets,’ not in Judea only, but in all places where men have been. We reckon that every poet of Burns’s order is, or should be, a prophet and teacher to his age; that he has no right to expect great kindness from it, but rather is bound to do it great kindness; that Burns,

burns 69 in particular, experienced fully the usual proportion of the world’s goodness; and that the blame of his failure, as we have said, lies not chiefly with the world. Where then does it lie? We are forced to answer: With himself; it is his inward, not his outward misfortunes, that bring him to the dust. Seldom, indeed, is it otherwise; seldom is a life morally wrecked, but the grand cause lies in some internal mal-arrangement, some want less of good fortune than of good guidance. Nature fashions no creature without implanting in it the strength needful for its action and duration; least of all does she so neglect her masterpiece and darling, the poetic soul. Neither can we believe that it is in the power of any external circumstances utterly to ruin the mind of a man; nay, if proper wisdom be given him, even so much as to affect its essential health and beauty. The sternest sum-total of all worldly misfortunes is Death; nothing more can lie in the cup of human woe: yet many men, in all ages, have triumphed over Death, and led it captive; converting its physical victory into a moral victory for themselves, into a seal and immortal consecration for all that their past life had achieved. What has been done, may be done again: nay, it is but the degree and not the kind of such heroism that differs in different seasons; for without some portion of this spirit, not of boisterous daring, but of silent fearlessness, of Self-denial, in all its forms, no good man, in any scene or time, has ever attained to be good. We have already stated the error of Burns; and mourned over it, rather than blamed it. It was the want of unity in his purposes, of consistency in his aims; the hapless attempt to mingle in friendly union the common spirit of the world with the spirit of poetry, which is of a far different and altogether irreconcilable nature. Burns was nothing wholly; and Burns could be nothing, no man formed as he was can be anything, by halves. The heart, not of a mere hotblooded, popular Verse-monger, or poetical Restaurateur, but of a true Poet and Singer, worthy of the old religious heroic times, had been given him: and he fell in an age, not of heroism and religion, but of scepticism, selfishness, and triviality, when true Nobleness was little understood, and its place supplied by a hollow, dissocial, altogether barren and unfruitful principle of Pride. The influences of that age, his open, kind, susceptible nature, to say nothing of his highly untoward situation, made it more than usually difficult for him to cast aside, or rightly subordinate; the better spirit that was within him ever sternly demanded its rights, its supremacy: he spent his life in endeavouring to reconcile these two; and lost it, as he must lose it, without reconciling them. Burns was born poor; and born also to continue poor, for he would not endeavour to be otherwise: this it had been well, could he have once for all admitted, and considered as finally settled. He was poor, truly; but hundreds

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even of his own class and order of minds have been poorer, yet have suffered nothing deadly from it: nay, his own Father had a far sorer battle with ungrateful destiny than his was; and he did not yield to it, but died courageously warring, and to all moral intents prevailing, against it. True, Burns had little means, had even little time for poetry, his only real pursuit and vocation; but so much the more precious was what little he had. In all these external respects his case was hard; but very far from the hardest. Poverty, incessant drudgery, and much worse evils, it has often been the lot of Poets and wise men to strive with, and their glory to conquer. Locke was banished as a traitor; and wrote his Essay on the Human Understanding, sheltering himself in a Dutch garret. Was Milton rich or at his ease, when he composed Paradise Lost? Not only low, but fallen from a height; not only poor but impoverished; in darkness and with dangers compassed round, he sang his immortal song, and found fit audience, though few. Did not Cervantes finish his work, a maimed soldier, and in prison? Nay, was not the Araucana, which Spain acknowledges as its Epic, written without even the aid of paper; on scraps of leather, as the stout fighter and voyager snatched any moment from that wild warfare? And what then had these men, which Burns wanted? Two things; both which, it seems to us, are indispensable for such men. They had a true, religious principle of morals; and a single not a double aim in their activity. They were not self-seekers and self-worshippers; but seekers and worshippers of something far better than Self. Not personal Enjoyment was their object; but a high heroic idea of Religion, of Patriotism, of heavenly Wisdom in one or the other form, ever hovered before them; in which cause, they neither shrunk from suffering, nor called on the earth to witness it as something wonderful; but patiently endured, counting it blessedness enough so to spend and be spent. Thus the ‘golden-calf of Self-love,’ however curiously carved, was not their Deity; but the Invisible Goodness, which alone is man’s reasonable service. This feeling was as a celestial fountain, whose streams refreshed into gladness and beauty all the provinces of their otherwise too desolate existence. In a word, they willed one thing, to which all other things were subordinated, and made subservient; and therefore they accomplished it. The wedge will rend rocks; but its edge must be sharp and single: if it be double, the wedge is bruised in pieces and will rend nothing. Part of this superiority these men owed to their age; in which heroism and devotedness were still practised, or at least not yet disbelieved in: but much of it likewise, they owed to themselves. With Burns again it was different. His morality, in most of its practical points, is that of a mere worldly man; enjoyment, in a finer or coarser shape, is the only thing he longs and strives for. A noble

burns 71 instinct sometimes raises him above this; but an instinct only, and acting only for moments. He has no Religion; in the shallow age, where his days were cast, Religion was not discriminated from the New and Old Light forms of Religion; and was, with these, becoming obsolete in the minds of men. His heart, indeed, is alive with a trembling adoration, but there is no temple in his understanding. He lives in darkness and in the shadow of doubt. His religion, at best, is an anxious wish—like that of Rabelais, ‘a great Perhaps.’ He loved Poetry warmly, and in his heart—could he but have loved it purely, and with his whole undivided heart, it had been well. For Poetry, as Burns could have followed it, is but another form of Wisdom, of Religion; is itself Wisdom and Religion. But this also was denied him. His poetry is a stray vagrant gleam, which will not be extinguished within him, yet rises not to be the true light of his path, but is often a wildfire that misleads him. It was not necessary for Burns to be rich, to be, or to seem, ‘independent;’ but it was necessary for him to be at one with his own heart; to place what was highest in his nature, highest also in his life; ‘to seek within himself for that consistency and sequence, which external events would forever refuse him.’ He was born a poet; poetry was the celestial element of his being, and should have been the soul of his whole endeavours. Lifted into that serene ether, whither he had wings given him to mount, he would have needed no other elevation: Poverty, neglect, and all evil, save the desecration of himself and his Art, were a small matter to him; the pride and the passions of the world lay far beneath his feet; and he looked down alike on noble and slave, on prince and beggar, and all that wore the stamp of man, with clear recognition, with brotherly affection, with sympathy, with pity. Nay, we question whether for his culture as a Poet, poverty, and much suffering for a season, were not absolutely advantageous. Great men, in looking back over their lives, have testified to that effect. ‘I would not for much,’ says Jean Paul, ‘that I had been born richer.’ And yet Paul’s birth was poor enough; for, in another place, he adds: ‘The prisoner’s allowance is bread and water; and I had often only the latter.’ But the gold that is refined in the hottest furnace comes out the purest; or, as he has himself expressed it, ‘the canary-bird sings sweeter, the longer it has been trained in a darkened cage.’ A man like Burns might have divided his hours between poetry and virtuous industry; industry which all true feeling sanctions, nay prescribes, and which has a beauty, for that cause, beyond the pomp of thrones: but to divide his hours between poetry and rich men’s banquets, was an ill-starred and inauspicious attempt. How could he be at ease at such banquets? What had he to do there, mingling his music with the coarse roar of altogether earthly voices, and

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brightening the thick smoke of intoxication with fire lent him from heaven? Was it his aim to enjoy life? To-morrow he must go drudge as an Exciseman! We wonder not that Burns became moody, indignant, and at times an offender against certain rules of society; but rather that he did not grow utterly frantic, and run amuck against them all. How could a man, so falsely placed, by his own or others’ fault, ever know contentment or peaceable diligence for an hour? What he did, under such perverse guidance, and what he forbore to do, alike fill us with astonishment at the natural strength and worth of his character. Doubtless there was a remedy for this perverseness: but not in others; only in himself; least of all in simple increase of wealth and worldly ‘respectability.’ We hope we have now heard enough about the efficacy of wealth for poetry, and to make poets happy. Nay, have we not seen another instance of it in these very days? Byron, a man of an endowment considerably less ethereal than that of Burns, is born in the rank not of a Scottish ploughman, but of an English peer: the highest worldly honours, the fairest worldly career, are his by inheritance; the richest harvest of fame he soon reaps, in another province, by his own hand. And what does all this avail him? Is he happy, is he good, is he true? Alas, he has a poet’s soul, and strives towards the Infinite and the Eternal; and soon feels that all this is but mounting to the house-top to reach the stars! Like Burns, he is only a proud man; might like him have ‘purchased a pocket-copy of Milton to study the character of Satan;’ for Satan also is Byron’s grand exemplar, the hero of his poetry, and the model apparently of his conduct. As in Burns’s case too, the celestial element will not mingle with the clay of earth; both poet and man of the world he must not be; vulgar Ambition will not live kindly with poetic Adoration; he cannot serve God and Mammon. Byron, like Burns, is not happy; nay, he is the most wretched of all men. His life is falsely arranged: the fire that is in him is not a strong, still, central fire, warming into beauty the products of a world; but it is the mad fire of a volcano; and now—we look sadly into the ashes of a crater, which, erelong, will fill itself with snow! Byron and Burns were sent forth as missionaries to their generation, to teach it a higher Doctrine, a purer Truth: they had a message to deliver, which left them no rest till it was accomplished; in dim throes of pain, this divine behest lay smouldering within them; for they knew not what it meant, and felt it only in mysterious anticipation, and they had to die without articulately uttering it. They are in the camp of the Unconverted. Yet not as high messengers of rigorous though benignant truth, but as soft flattering singers, and in pleasant fellowship will they live there: they are first adulated, then persecuted; they accomplish little for others; they find no peace for themselves, but only death and the peace

burns 73 of the grave. We confess, it is not without a certain mournful awe that we view the fate of these noble souls, so richly gifted, yet ruined to so little purpose with all their gifts. It seems to us there is a stern moral taught in this piece of history—twice told us in our own time! Surely to men of like genius, if there be any such, it carries with it a lesson of deep impressive significance. Surely it would become such a man, furnished for the highest of all enterprises, that of being the Poet of his Age, to consider well what it is that he attempts, and in what spirit he attempts it. For the words of Milton are true in all times, and were never truer than in this: ‘He who would write heroic poems, must make his whole life a heroic poem.’ If he cannot first so make his life, then let him hasten from this arena; for neither its lofty glories, nor its fearful perils, are fit for him. Let him dwindle into a modish balladmonger; let him worship and be-sing the idols of the time, and the time will not fail to reward him—if, indeed, he can endure to live in that capacity! Byron and Burns could not live as idol-priests, but the fire of their own hearts consumed them; and better it was for them that they could not. For it is not in the favour of the great, or of the small, but in a life of truth, and in the inexpugnable citadel of his own soul, that a Byron’s or a Burns’s strength must lie. Let the great stand aloof from him, or know how to reverence him. Beautiful is the union of wealth with favour and furtherance for literature; like the costliest flower-jar enclosing the loveliest amaranth. Yet let not the relation be mistaken. A true poet is not one whom they can hire by money or flattery to be a minister of their pleasures, their writer of occasional verses, their purveyor of table-wit; he cannot be their menial, he cannot even be their partisan. At the peril of both parties, let no such union be attempted! Will a Courser of the Sun work softly in the harness of a Dray-horse? His hoofs are of fire, and his path is through the heavens, bringing light to all lands: will he lumber on mud highways, dragging ale for earthly appetites, from door to door? But we must stop short in these considerations, which would lead us to boundless lengths. We had something to say on the public moral character of Burns; but this also we must forbear. We are far from regarding him as guilty before the world, as guiltier than the average; nay, from doubting that he is less guilty than one of ten thousand. Tried at a tribunal far more rigid than that where the Plebiscita of common civic reputations are pronounced, he has seemed to us even there less worthy of blame than of pity and wonder. But the world is habitually unjust in its judgments of such men; unjust on many grounds, of which this one may be stated as the substance: It decides, like a court of law, by dead statutes; and not positively but negatively, less on what is done right, than on what is, or is not done wrong. Not the few inches of deflection from the

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mathematical orbit, which are so easily measured, but the ratio of these to the whole diameter, constitutes the real aberration. This orbit may be a planet’s, its diameter the breadth of the solar system; or it may be a city hippodrome; nay, the circle of a ginhorse, its diameter a score of feet or paces. But the inches of deflection only are measured; and it is assumed that the diameter of the ginhorse and that of the planet, will yield the same ratio when compared with them! Here lies the root of many a blind cruel condemnation of Burnses, Swifts, Rousseaus, which one never listens to with approval. Granted, the ship comes into harbour with shrouds and tackle damaged; the pilot is blame-worthy; for he has not been all-wise and all-powerful; but to know how blame-worthy, tell us first whether his voyage has been round the Globe, or only to Ramsgate and the Isle of Dogs. With our readers in general, with men of right feeling anywhere, we are not required to plead for Burns. In pitying admiration, he lies enshrined in all our hearts, in a far nobler mausoleum than that one of marble; neither will his Works, even as they are, pass away from the memory of men. While the Shakspeares and Miltons roll on like mighty rivers through the country of Thought, bearing fleets of traffickers and assiduous pearl-fishers on their waves; this little Valclusa Fountain will also arrest our eye: For this also is of Nature’s own and most cunning workmanship, bursts from the depths of the earth with a full gushing current, into the light of day; and often will the traveller turn aside to drink of its clear waters, and muse among its rocks and pines!

VOLTAIRE.

Mémoires sur Voltaire, et sur ses Ouvrages, par Longchamp et Wagnière, ses Secrétaires; suivis de divers Écrits inédits de la Marquise du Châtelet, du Président Hénault, &c. tous relatifs à Voltaire (Memoirs concerning Voltaire and his works, by Longchamp and Wagnière, his Secretaries; with various unpublished pieces by the Marquise du Châtelet, &c., all relating to Voltaire). 2 Tomes. Paris, 1826. Could ambition always chuse its own path, and were will in human undertakings synonymous with faculty, all truly ambitious men would be men of letters. Certainly, if we examine that love of power, which enters so largely into most practical calculations, nay which our Utilitarian friends have recognized as the sole end and origin, both motive and reward, of all earthly enterprises, animating alike the philanthropist, the conqueror, the money-changer and the missionary, we shall find that all other arenas of ambition, compared with this rich and boundless one of Literature, meaning thereby whatever respects the promulgation of Thought, are poor, limited and ineffectual. For dull, unreflective, merely instinctive as the ordinary man may seem, he has nevertheless, as a quite indispensable appendage, a head that in some degree considers and computes; a lamp or rush-light of understanding has been given him, which through whatever dim, besmoked, and strangely diffractive media it may shine, is the ultimate guiding light of his whole path: and, here as well as there, now as at all times in man’s history, Opinion rules the world. Curious it is, moreover, to consider, in this respect, how different appearance is from reality, and under what singular shape and circumstances the truly most 75

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important man of any given period might be found. Could some Asmodeus, by simply waving his arm, open asunder the meaning of the Present, even so far as the Future will disclose it, what a much more marvellous sight should we have, than that mere bodily one through the roofs of Madrid! For we know not what we are, any more than what we shall be. It is a high, solemn, almost awful thought for every individual man, that his earthly influence, which has had a commencement, will never through all ages, were he the very meanest of us, have an end! What is done is done; has already blended itself with the boundless, ever-living, ever-working Universe, and will also work there, for good or for evil, openly or secretly, throughout all time. But the life of every man is as the wellspring of a stream, whose small beginnings are indeed plain to all, but whose ulterior course and destination, as it winds through the expanses of infinite years, only the Omniscient can discern. Will it mingle with neighbouring rivulets, as a tributary; or receive them as their sovereign? Is it to be a nameless brook, and will its tiny waters, among millions of other brooks and rills, increase the current of some world’s-river? Or is it to be itself a Rhene or Danaw, whose goings forth are to the uttermost lands, its flood an everlasting boundary-line on the globe itself, the bulwark and highway of whole kingdoms and continents? We know not: only in either case, we know, its path is to the great ocean; its waters, were they but a handful, are here, and cannot be annihilated or permanently held back. As little can we prognosticate, with any certainty, the future influences from the present aspects of an individual. How many Demagogues, Crœsuses, Conquerors fill their own age with joy or terror, with a tumult that promises to be perennial; and in the next age, die away into insignificance and oblivion! These are the forests of gourds, that overtop the infant cedars and aloe-trees, but, like the Prophet’s gourd, wither on the third day. What was it to the Pharaohs of Egypt, in that old era, if Jethro the Midianitish priest and grazier accepted the Hebrew outlaw as his herdsman? Yet the Pharaohs, with all their chariots of war, are buried deep in the wrecks of time; and that Moses still lives, not among his own tribe only, but in the hearts and daily business of all civilized nations. Or figure Mahomet, in his youthful years, ‘travelling to the horse-fairs of Syria’! Nay, to take an infinitely higher instance, who has ever forgotten those lines of Tacitus; inserted as a small, transitory, altogether trifling circumstance in the history of such a potentate as Nero? To us it is the most earnest, sad, and sternly significant passage that we know to exist in writing: Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et quæsitissimis pœnis affecit, quos per flagitia invisos, vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, qui, Tiberio imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat. Repressaque in præsens

voltaire 77 exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judæam originem ejus mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt, celebranturque. ‘So, for the quieting of this rumour,* Nero judicially charged with the crime, and punished with most studied severities, that class, hated for their general wickedness, whom the vulgar call Christians. The originator of that name was one Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, suffered death by sentence of the Procurator, Pontius Pilate. The baneful superstition, thereby repressed for the time, again broke out, not only over Judea, the native soil of that mischief, but in the City also, where from every side all atrocious and abominable things collect and flourish.’† Tacitus was the wisest, most penetrating man of his generation; and to such depth, and no deeper has he seen into this transaction, the most important that has occurred or can occur in the annals of mankind. Nor is it only to those primitive ages, when religions took their rise, and a man of pure and high mind appeared not merely as a teacher and philosopher, but as a priest and prophet, that our observation applies. The same uncertainty, in estimating present things and men, holds more or less in all times; for in all times, even in those which seem most trivial, and open to research, human society rests on inscrutably deep foundations; which he is of all others the most mistaken, who fancies he has explored to the bottom. Neither is that sequence, which we love to speak of as ‘a chain of causes,’ properly to be figured as a ‘chain,’ or line, but rather as a tissue, or superficies of innumerable lines, extending in breadth as well as in length, and with a complexity, which will foil and utterly bewilder the most assiduous computation. In fact, the wisest of us must, for by far the most part, judge like the simplest; estimate importance by mere magnitude, and expect that what strongly affects our own generation, will strongly affect those that are to follow. In this way it is that Conquerors and political Revolutionists come to figure as so mighty in their influences; whereas truly there is no class of persons, creating such an uproar in the world, who in the long run produce so very slight an impression on its affairs. When Tamerlane had finished building his pyramid of seventy thousand human skulls, and was seen ‘standing at the gate of Damascus, glittering in steel, with his battle-axe on his shoulder,’ till his fierce hosts filed out to new victories and new carnage, the pale onlooker might have fancied that Nature was in her death-throes; for havoc and despair had taken possession of the earth, the sun of manhood seemed setting in seas of blood. Yet, it might be, on that very gala-day of Tamerlane, a little boy was playing ninepins on the streets of Mentz, whose history was more important to * Of his having set fire to Rome. † Tacit. Annal. xv. 44.

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men than that of twenty Tamerlanes. The Tartar Khan, with his shaggy demons of the wilderness, ‘passed away like a whirlwind’ to be forgotten forever; and that German artisan has wrought a benefit, which is yet immeasurably expanding itself, and will continue to expand itself through all countries and through all times. What are the conquests and expeditions of the whole corporation of captains, from Walter the Pennyless to Napoleon Buonaparte, compared with these ‘moveable types’ of Johannes Faust? Truly, it is a mortifying thing for your Conqueror to reflect, how perishable is the metal which he hammers with such violence: how the kind earth will soon shroud up his bloody footprints; and all that he achieved and skilfully piled together will be but like his own ‘canvas city’ of a camp,—this evening loud with life, to-morrow all struck and vanished, ‘a few earth-pits and heaps of straw!’ For here, as always, it continues true, that the deepest force is the stillest; that, as in the Fable, the mild shining of the sun shall silently accomplish what the fierce blustering of the tempest has in vain essayed. Above all, it is ever to be kept in mind, that not by material, but by moral power, are men and their actions governed. How noiseless is thought! No rolling of drums, no tramp of squadrons, or immeasurable tumult of baggagewaggons, attends its movements: in what obscure and sequestered places may the head be meditating, which is one day to be crowned with more than imperial authority; for Kings and Emperors will be among its ministering servants; it will rule not over, but in, all heads, and with these its solitary combinations of ideas, as with magic formulas, bend the world to its will! The time may come, when Napoleon himself will be better known for his laws than for his battles; and the victory of Waterloo prove less momentous than the opening of the first Mechanics’ Institute. We have been led into such rather trite reflections, by these Volumes of Memoirs on Voltaire; a man in whose history the relative importance of intellectual and physical power is again curiously evinced. This also was a private person, by birth nowise an elevated one; yet so far as present knowledge will enable us to judge, it may be said, that to abstract Voltaire and his activity from the eighteenth century, were to produce a greater difference in the existing figure of things, than the want of any other individual, up to this day, could have occasioned. Nay, with the single exception of Luther, there is perhaps, in these modern ages, no other man of a merely intellectual character, whose influence and reputation have become so entirely European as that of Voltaire. Indeed, like the great German Reformer’s, his doctrines too, almost from the first, have affected not only the belief of the thinking world, silently propagating

voltaire 79 themselves from mind to mind; but in a high degree also, the conduct of the active and political world; entering as a distinct element into some of the most fearful civil convulsions which European history has on record. Doubtless, to his own contemporaries, to such of them at least as had any insight into the actual state of men’s minds, Voltaire already appeared as a noteworthy and decidedly historical personage: yet, perhaps, not the wildest of his admirers ventured to assign him such a magnitude as he now figures in, even with his adversaries and detractors. He has grown in apparent importance, as we receded from him, as the nature of his endeavours became more and more visible in their results. For, unlike many great men, but like all great agitators, Voltaire everywhere shows himself emphatically as the man of his century: uniting in his own person whatever spiritual accomplishments were most valued by that age; at the same time, with no depth to discern its ulterior tendencies, still less with any magnanimity to attempt withstanding these, his greatness and his littleness alike fitted him to produce an immediate effect; for he leads whither the multitude was of itself dimly minded to run, and keeps the van not less by skill in commanding, than by cunning in obeying. Besides, now that we look on the matter from some distance, the efforts of a thousand coadjutors and disciples, nay, a series of mighty political vicissitudes, in the production of which these efforts had but a subsidiary share, have all come, naturally in such a case, to appear as if exclusively his work; so that he rises before us as the paragon and epitome of a whole spiritual period, now almost passed away, yet remarkable in itself, and more than ever interesting to us, who seem to stand, as it were, on the confines of a new and better one. Nay, had we forgotten that ours is the ‘Age of the Press,’ when he who runs may not only read but furnish us with reading; and simply counted the books, and scattered leaves, thick as the autumnal in Vallombrosa, that have been written and printed concerning this man, we might almost fancy him the most important person, not of the eighteenth century, but of all the centuries from Noah’s Flood downwards. We have Lives of Voltaire by friend and by foe: Condorcet, Duvernet, Lepan, have each given us a whole; portions, documents, and all manner of authentic or spurious contributions have been supplied by innumerable hands; of which we mention only the labours of his various Secretaries: Collini’s, published some twenty years ago, and now these Two massive Octavos from Longchamp and Wagnière. To say nothing of the Baron de Grimm’s Collections, unparalleled in more than one respect; or of the six-and-thirty volumes of scurrilous eavesdropping, long since printed under the title of Mémoires de Bachaumont; or of the daily and hourly attacks and

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defences that appeared separately in his lifetime, and all the judicial pieces, whether in the style of apotheosis or of excommunication, that have seen the light since then; a mass of fugitive writings, the very diamond edition of which might fill whole libraries. The peculiar talent of the French in all narrative, at least in all anecdotic, departments, rendering most of these works extremely readable, still farther favoured their circulation, both at home and abroad: so that now, in most countries, Voltaire has been read of and talked of, till his name and life have grown familiar like those of a village acquaintance. In England, at least, where for almost a century the study of foreign literature has, we may say, confined itself to that of the French, with a slight intermixture from the elder Italians, Voltaire’s writings, and such writings as treated of him, were little likely to want readers. We suppose, there is no literary era, not even any domestic one, concerning which Englishmen in general have such information, at least have gathered so many anecdotes and opinions, as concerning this of Voltaire. Nor have native additions to the stock been wanting, and these of a due variety in purport and kind: maledictions, expostulations, and dreadful death-scenes painted like Spanish Sanbenitos, by weak well-meaning persons of the hostile class; eulogies, generally of a gayer sort, by open or secret friends: all this has been long and extensively carried on among us. There is even an English Life of Voltaire;* nay, we remember to have seen portions of his writings cited, in terrorem, and with criticisms, in some pamphlet, ‘by a country gentleman,’ either on the Education of the People, or else on the question of Preserving the Game. With the ‘Age of the Press,’ and such manifestations of it on this subject, we are far from quarrelling. We have read great part of these thousand-and-first ‘Memoirs on Voltaire,’ by Longchamp and Wagnière, not without satisfaction; and can cheerfully look forward to still other ‘Memoirs’ following in their train. Nothing can be more in the course of Nature than the wish to satisfy oneself with knowledge of all sorts about any distinguished person, especially of our own era; the true study of his character, his spiritual individuality, and peculiar manner of existence, is full of instruction for all mankind: even that of his looks, sayings, habitudes, and indifferent actions, were not the records of them generally lies, is rather to be commended; nay, are not such lies themselves, when they * ‘By Frank Hall Standish, Esq.’ (London, 1821); a work, which we can recommend only to such as feel themselves in extreme want of information on this subject, and except in their own language, unable to acquire any. It is written very badly, though with sincerity, and not without considerable indications of talent; to all appearance, by a minor; many of whose statements and opinions (for he seems an inquiring, honest-hearted, rather decisive character) must have begun to astonish even himself, several years ago.

voltaire 81 keep within bounds, and the subject of them has been dead for some time, equal to snipe-shooting, or Colburn-Novels, at least little inferior, in the great art of getting done with life, or, as it is technically called, killing time? For our own part, we say,—would that every Johnson in the world had his veridical Boswell, or leash of Boswells! We could then tolerate his Hawkins also, though not veridical. With regard to Voltaire, in particular, it seems to us not only innocent but profitable, that the whole truth regarding him should be well understood. Surely, the biography of such a man, who, to say no more of him, spent his best efforts, and as many still think, successfully, in assaulting the Christian religion, must be a matter of considerable import: what he did, and what he could not do; how he did it, or attempted it, that is, with what degree of strength, clearness, especially with what moral intents, what theories and feelings on man and man’s life, are questions that will bear some discussing. To Voltaire individually, for the last fifty-one years, the discussion has been indifferent enough; and to us it is a discussion not on one remarkable person only, and chiefly for the curious or studious, but involving considerations of highest moment to all men, and inquiries which the utmost compass of our philosophy will be unable to embrace. Here, accordingly, we are about to offer some farther observations on this quæstio vexata; not without hope that the reader may accept them in good part. Doubtless, when we look at the whole bearings of the matter, there seems little prospect of any unanimity respecting it, either now, or within a calculable period: it is probable that many will continue, for a long time, to speak of this ‘universal genius,’ this ‘apostle of Reason,’ and ‘father of sound Philosophy;’ and many again of this ‘monster of impiety,’ this ‘sophist,’ and ‘atheist,’ and ‘ape-demon;’ or, like the late Dr. Clarke of Cambridge, dismiss him more briefly with information that he is ‘a driveller:’ neither is it essential that these two parties should, on the spur of the instant, reconcile themselves herein. Nevertheless, truth is better than error, were it only ‘on Hannibal’s vinegar.’ It may be expected that men’s opinions concerning Voltaire, which is of some moment, and concerning Voltairism, which is of almost boundless moment, will, if they cannot meet, gradually at every new comparison approach towards meeting; and what is still more desirable, towards meeting somewhere nearer the truth than they actually stand. With honest wishes to promote such approximation, there is one condition, which, above all others, in this inquiry, we must beg the reader to impose on himself: the duty of fairness towards Voltaire, of Tolerance towards him, as towards all men. This, truly, is a duty, which we have the happiness to hear daily inculcated; yet which, it has been well said, no mortal is at bottom disposed to practise. Nevertheless, if we really desire to understand the truth on any subject,

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not merely, as is much more common, to confirm our already existing opinions, and gratify this and the other pitiful claim of vanity or malice in respect of it, tolerance may be regarded as the most indispensable of all pre-requisites; the condition, indeed, by which alone any real progress in the question becomes possible. In respect of our fellow-men, and all real insight into their characters, this is especially true. No character, we may affirm, was ever rightly understood, till it had first been regarded with a certain feeling, not of tolerance only, but of sympathy. For here, more than in any other case, it is verified that the heart sees farther than the head. Let us be sure, our enemy is not that hateful being we are too apt to paint him. His vices and basenesses lie combined in far other order before his own mind, than before ours; and under colours which palliate them, nay perhaps exhibit them as virtues. Were he the wretch of our imagining, his life would be a burden to himself; for it is not by bread alone that the basest mortal lives; a certain approval of conscience is equally essential even to physical existence; is the fine all-pervading cement by which that wondrous union, a Self, is held together. Since the man, therefore, is not in Bedlam, and has not shot or hanged himself, let us take comfort, and conclude that he is one of two things: either a vicious dog, in man’s guise, to be muzzled, and mourned over, and greatly marvelled at; or a real man, and, consequently, not without moral worth, which is to be enlightened, and so far approved of. But to judge rightly of his character, we must learn to look at it, not less with his eyes, than with our own; we must learn to pity him, to see him as a fellow-creature, in a word, to love him, or his real spiritual nature will ever be mistaken by us. In interpreting Voltaire, accordingly, it will be needful to bear some things carefully in mind, and to keep many other things as carefully in abeyance. Let us forget that our opinions were ever assailed by him, or ever defended, that we have to thank him, or upbraid him, for pain or for pleasure; let us forget that we are Deists or Millennarians, Bishops, or Radical Reformers, and remember only that we are men. This is a European subject, or there never was one; and must, if we would in the least comprehend it, be looked at neither from the parish belfry, nor any Peterloo platform; but, if possible, from some natural and infinitely higher point of vision. It is a remarkable fact, that throughout the last fifty years of his life, Voltaire was seldom or never named, even by his detractors, without the epithet ‘great’ being appended to him; so that, had the syllables suited such a junction, as they did in the happier case of Charle-Magne, we might almost have expected that, not Voltaire, but Voltaire-ce-grand-homme would be his designation with posterity. However, posterity is much more stinted in its allowances on that score; and a

voltaire 83 multitude of things remain to be adjusted, and questions of very dubious issue to be gone into, before such coronation titles can be conceded with any permanence. The million, even the wiser part of them, are apt to lose their discretion, when ‘tumultuously assembled;’ for a small object, near at hand, may subtend a large angle; and often a Pennenden Heath has been mistaken for a Field of Runnymead; whereby the couplet on that immortal Dalhousie proves to be the emblem of many a man’s real fortune with the public: And thou, Dalhousie, the great God of War, Lieutenant-Colonel to the Earl of Mar; the latter end corresponding poorly with the beginning. To ascertain what was the true significance of Voltaire’s history both as respects himself and the world; what was his specific character and value as a man; what has been the character and value of his influence on society, of his appearance as an active agent in the culture of Europe: all this leads us into much deeper investigations; on the settlement of which, however, the whole business turns. To our own view, we confess, on looking at Voltaire’s life, the chief quality that shows itself is one for which adroitness seems the fitter name. Greatness implies several conditions, the existence of which, in his case, it might be difficult to demonstrate; but of his claim to this other praise there can be no disputing. Whatever be his aims, high or low, just or the contrary, he is, at all times, and to the utmost degree, expert in pursuing them. It is to be observed, moreover, that his aims in general were not of a simple sort, and the attainment of them easy: few literary men have had a course so diversified with vicissitudes as Voltaire’s. His life is not spent in a corner, like that of a studious recluse, but on the open theatre of the world; in an age full of commotion, when society is rending itself asunder, Superstition already armed for deadly battle against Unbelief; in which battle he himself plays a distinguished part. From his earliest years, we find him in perpetual communication with the higher personages of his time, often with the highest: it is in circles of authority, of reputation, at lowest, of fashion and rank, that he lives and works. Ninon de l’Enclos leaves the boy a legacy to buy books; he is still young, when he can say of his supper companions, “We are all Princes or Poets.” In after life, he exhibits himself in company or correspondence with all manner of principalities and powers, from Queen Caroline of England to the Empress Catherine of Russia, from Pope Benedict to Frederick the Great. Meanwhile, shifting from side to side of Europe, hiding in the country, or living sumptuously in capital cities, he quits

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not his pen, with which, as with some enchanter’s rod, more potent than any king’s sceptre, he turns and winds the mighty machine of European Opinion; approves himself, as his schoolmaster had predicted, the Coryphée du Déisme; and, not content with this elevation, strives, and nowise ineffectually, to unite with it a poetical, historical, philosophic and even scientific pre-eminence. Nay we may add, a pecuniary one; for he speculates in the funds, diligently solicits pensions and promotions, trades to America, is long a regular victualling-contractor for armies; and thus, by one means and another, independently of literature which would never yield much money, raises his income from 800 francs a-year to more than centuple that sum.* And now, having, besides all this commercial and economical business, written some thirty quartos, the most popular that were ever written, he returns after long exile to his native city, to be welcomed there almost as a religious idol; and closes a life, prosperous alike in the building of country-seats, and the composition of Henriades and Philosophical Dictionaries, by the most appropriate demise; by drowning, as it were, in an ocean of applause, so that as he lived for fame, he may be said to have died of it. Such various, complete success, granted only to a small portion of men in any age of the world, presupposes, at least, with every allowance for good fortune, an almost unrivalled expertness of management. There must have been a great talent of some kind at work here: a cause proportionate to the effect. It is wonderful, truly, to observe with what perfect skill Voltaire steers his course through so many conflicting circumstances: how he weathers this Cape Horn, darts lightly through that Mahlstrom; always either sinks his enemy, or shuns him; here waters, and careens, and traffics with the rich savages; there lies land-locked till the hurricane is overblown; and so, in spite of all billows, and sea-monsters, and hostile fleets, finishes his long Manilla voyage, with streamers flying, and deck piled with ingots! To say nothing of his literary character, of which this same dexterous address will also be found to be a main feature, let us glance only at the general aspect of his conduct, as manifested both in his writings and actions. By turns, and ever at the right season, he is imperious and obsequious; now shoots abroad, from the mountain tops, Hyperion-like, his keen, innumerable shafts; anon, when danger is advancing, flies to obscure nooks; or, if taken in the fact, swears it was but in sport, and that he is the peaceablest of men. He bends to occasion; can, to a certain extent, blow hot or blow cold; and never attempts force, where cunning will serve his turn. The beagles of the Hierarchy and of the Monarchy, proverbially quick of scent, and sharp of tooth, are out in quest of him; but this is a lion-fox which cannot be captured. By wiles * See Tome ii. p. 328 of these Mémoires.

voltaire 85 and a thousand doublings, he utterly distracts his pursuers; he can burrow in the earth, and all trace of him is gone.* With a strange system of anonymity and publicity, of denial and assertion, of Mystification in all senses, has Voltaire surrounded himself. He can raise no standing armies for his defence, yet he too is a ‘European Power,’ and not undefended; an invisible, impregnable, though hitherto unrecognised bulwark, that of Public Opinion, defends him. With great art, he maintains this stronghold; though ever and anon sallying out from it, far beyond the permitted limits. But he has his coat of darkness, and his shoes of swiftness, like that other Killer of Giants. We find Voltaire a supple courtier, or a sharp satirist; he can talk blasphemy, and build churches, according to the signs of the times. Frederick the Great is not too high for his diplomacy, nor the poor Printer of his Zadig too low;† he manages the Cardinal Fleuri, and the Curé of St. Sulpice; and laughs in his sleeve at all the world. We should pronounce him to be one of the best politicians on record; as we have said, the adroitest of all literary men. At the same time, Voltaire’s worst enemies, it seems to us, will not deny that he had naturally a keen sense for rectitude, indeed for all virtue: the utmost vivacity of temperament characterizes him; his quick susceptibility for every form of beauty is moral as well as intellectual. Nor was his practice without indubitable and highly creditable proofs of this. To the help-needing he was at all times a ready benefactor: many were the hungry adventurers who profited of his bounty, and then bit the hand that had fed them. If we enumerate his generous acts, from the case of the Abbé Desfontaines down to that of the Widow Calas, and the Serfs of Saint Claude, we shall find that few private men have had so wide a circle of charity, and have watched over it so well. Should it be objected that love of reputation entered largely into these proceedings, Voltaire can afford a handsome deduction on that head: should the uncharitable even calculate that love of reputation was the sole motive, we can only remind them that love of such reputation is itself the effect of a social, humane disposition; and wish, as an immense improvement, that all men were animated with it. Voltaire was not without his experience of human baseness; but he still had a fellow feeling * Of one such ‘taking to cover’ we have a curious and rather ridiculous account in this Work, by Longchamp. It was with the Duchess du Maine that he sought shelter, and on a very slight occasion: nevertheless he had to lie perdue, for two months, at the Castle of Sceaux; and, with closed windows, and burning candles in daylight, compose Zadig, Babouc, Memnon, &c. for his amusement. † See in Longchamp (pp. 154-163) how by natural legerdemain, a knave may be caught, and the change rendu à des imprimeurs infidèles.

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for human sufferings; and delighted, were it only as an honest luxury, to relieve them. His attachments seem remarkably constant and lasting: even such sots as Thiriot, whom nothing but habit could have endeared to him, he continues, and after repeated injuries, to treat and regard as friends. To his equals we do not observe him envious, at least not palpably and despicably so; though this, we should add, might be in him, who was from the first so paramountly popular, no such hard attainment. Against Montesquieu, perhaps against him alone, he cannot help entertaining a small secret grudge; yet ever in public he does him the amplest justice: l’Arlequin-Grotius of the fire-side becomes, on all grave occasions, the author of the Esprit des Loix. Neither to his enemies, and even betrayers, is Voltaire implacable or meanly vindictive: the instant of their submission is also the instant of his forgiveness; their hostility itself provokes only casual sallies from him; his heart is too kindly, indeed too light, to cherish any rancour, any continuation of revenge. If he has not the virtue to forgive, he is seldom without the prudence to forget: if, in his life-long contentions, he cannot treat his opponents with any magnanimity, he seldom, or perhaps never once, treats them quite basely; seldom or never with that absolute unfairness, which the law of retaliation might so often have seemed to justify. We would say that, if no heroic, he is at all times a perfectly civilized man; which considering that his war was with exasperated theologians, and a ‘war to the knife’ on their part, may be looked upon as rather a surprising circumstance. He exhibits many minor virtues, a due appreciation of the highest; and fewer faults than, in his situation, might have been expected, and perhaps pardoned. All this is well, and may fit out a highly expert and much esteemed man of business, in the widest sense of that term; but is still far from constituting a ‘great character.’ In fact, there is one deficiency in Voltaire’s original structure, which, it appears to us, must be quite fatal to such claims for him: we mean his inborn levity of nature, his entire want of Earnestness. Voltaire was by birth a Mocker, and light Pococurante; which natural disposition his way of life confirmed into a predominant, indeed all-pervading habit. Far be it from us to say, that solemnity is an essential of greatness; that no great man can have other than a rigid vinegar aspect of countenance, never to be thawed or warmed by billows of mirth! There are things in this world to be laughed at, as well as things to be admired; and his is no complete mind, that cannot give to each sort its due. Nevertheless contempt is a dangerous element to sport in; a deadly one, if we habitually live in it. How, indeed, to take the lowest view of this matter, shall a man accomplish great enterprises,—enduring all toil, resisting temptations, laying aside every weight,—unless he zealously love what he pursues? The faculty of love, of

voltaire 87 admiration is to be regarded as the sign and the measure of high souls: unwisely directed, it leads to many evils; but without it, there cannot be any good. Ridicule, on the other hand, is indeed a faculty much prized by its possessors; yet intrinsically, it is a small faculty; we may say, the smallest of all faculties that other men are at the pains to repay with any esteem. It is directly opposed to Thought, to Knowledge, properly so called; its nourishment and essence is Denial, which hovers only on the surface, while Knowledge dwells far below. Moreover, it is by nature selfish and morally trivial; it cherishes nothing but our Vanity, which may in general be left safely enough to shift for itself. Little ‘discourse of reason,’ in any sense, is implied in Ridicule: a scoffing man is in no lofty mood, for the time; shows more of the imp than of the angel. This too when his scoffing is what we call just, and has some foundation on truth: while again the laughter of fools, that vain sound, said in Scripture to resemble the ‘crackling of thorns under the pot’ (which they cannot heat, but only soil and begrime), must be regarded, in these latter times, as a very serious addition to the sum of human wretchedness; nor perhaps will it always, when the Increase of Crime in the Metropolis comes to be debated, escape the vigilance of Parliament. We have, oftener than once, endeavoured to attach some meaning to that aphorism, vulgarly imputed to Shaftesbury, which, however, we can find nowhere in his works, that ridicule is the test of truth. But of all chimeras, that ever advanced themselves in the shape of philosophical doctrines, this is to us the most formless and purely inconceivable. Did or could the unassisted human faculties ever understand it, much more believe it? Surely, so far as the common mind can discern, laughter seems to depend not less on the laugher than on the laughee; and now, who gave laughers a patent to be always just, and always omniscient? If the philosophers of Nootka Sound were pleased to laugh at the manœuvres of Cook’s seamen, did that render these manœuvres useless; and were the seamen to stand idle, or to take to leather canoes, till the laughter abated? Let a discerning public judge. But, leaving these questions for the present, we may observe at least that all great men have been careful to subordinate this talent or habit of ridicule; nay, in the ages which we consider the greatest, most of the arts that contribute to it have been thought disgraceful for freemen, and confined to the exercise of slaves. With Voltaire, however, there is no such subordination visible: by nature, or by practice, mockery has grown to be the irresistible bias of his disposition; so that for him, in all matters, the first question is not what is true, but what is false; not what is to be loved, and held fast, and earnestly laid to heart, but what is to be contemned and derided, and sportfully cast out of doors. Here truly

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he earns abundant triumph as an image-breaker, but pockets little real wealth. Vanity, with its adjuncts, as we have said, finds rich solacement; but for aught better, there is not much. Reverence, the highest feeling that man’s nature is capable of, the crown of his whole moral manhood, and precious, like fine gold, were it in the rudest forms, he seems not to understand, or have heard of, even by credible tradition. The glory of knowing and believing is all but a stranger to him; only with that of questioning and qualifying is he familiar. Accordingly, he sees but a little way into Nature: the mighty All, in its beauty, and infinite mysterious grandeur, humbling the small Me into nothingness, has never even for moments been revealed to him; only this and that other atom of it, and the differences and discrepancies of these two, has he looked into, and noted down. His theory of the world, his picture of man and man’s life, is little; for a Poet and Philosopher, even pitiful. Examine it, in its highest developements, you find it an altogether vulgar picture; simply a reflex, from more or fewer mirrors, of Self and the poor interests of Self. ‘The Divine Idea, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance,’ was never more invisible to any man. He reads History not with the eye of a devout Seer, or even of a Critic; but through a pair of mere anticatholic spectacles. It is not a mighty drama, enacted on the theatre of Infinitude, with Suns for lamps, and Eternity as a background; whose author is God, and whose purport and thousandfold moral lead us up to the ‘dark with excess of light’ of the Throne of God; but a poor wearisome debating-club dispute, spun through ten centuries, between the Encyclopédie and the Sorbonne. Wisdom or folly, nobleness or baseness, are merely superstitious or unbelieving: God’s Universe is a larger Patrimony of St. Peter, from which it were well and pleasant to hunt out the Pope. In this way, Voltaire’s nature, which was originally vehement rather than deep, came, in its maturity, in spite of all his wonderful gifts, to be positively shallow. We find no heroism of character in him, from first to last; nay, there is not, that we know of, one great thought, in all his six-and-thirty quartos. The high worth implanted in him by Nature, and still often manifested in his conduct, does not shine there like a light, but like a coruscation. The enthusiasm, proper to such a mind, visits him; but it has no abiding virtue in his thoughts, no local habitation and no name. There is in him a rapidity, but at the same time a pettiness; a certain violence, and fitful abruptness, which takes from him all dignity. Of his emportemens, and tragi-comical explosions, a thousand anecdotes are on record; neither is he, in these cases, a terrific volcano, but a mere bundle of rockets. He is nigh shooting poor Dorn, the Frankfort constable; actually fires a pistol, into the lobby, at him; and this, three days after that melancholy

voltaire 89 business of the ‘Œuvre de Poéshie du Roi mon Maître’ had been finally adjusted. A bookseller, who, with the natural instinct of fallen mankind, overcharges him, receives from this Philosopher, by way of payment at sight, a slap on the face. Poor Longchamp, with considerable tact, and a praiseworthy air of second-table respectability, details various scenes of this kind: how Voltaire dashed away his combs, and maltreated his wig, and otherwise fiercely comported himself, the very first morning: how once, having a keenness of appetite, sharpened by walking, and a diet of weak tea, he became uncommonly anxious for supper; and Clairaut and Madame du Châtelet, sunk in algebraic calculations, twice promised to come down, but still kept the dishes cooling, and the Philosopher, at last, desperately battered open their locked door with his foot; exclaiming “Vous êtes donc de concert pour me faire mourir?”—And yet Voltaire had a true kindness of heart; all his domestics and dependants loved him, and continued with him. He has many elements of goodness, but floating loosely; nothing is combined in steadfast union. It is true, he presents in general a surface of smoothness, of cultured regularity; yet, under it, there is not the silent, rock-bound strength of a World; but the wild tumults of a Chaos are ever bursting through. He is a man of power, but not of beneficent authority; we fear, but cannot reverence him; we feel him to be stronger, not higher. Much of this spiritual short-coming and perversion might be due to natural defect; but much of it also is due to the age into which he was cast. It was an age of discord and division; the approach of a grand crisis in human affairs. Already we discern in it all the elements of the French Revolution; and wonder, so easily do we forget how entangled and hidden the meaning of the present generally is to us, that all men did not foresee the comings on of that fearful convulsion. On the one hand, a high all-attempting activity of Intellect; the most peremptory spirit of inquiry abroad on every subject; things human and things divine alike cited without misgivings before the same boastful tribunal of so-called Reason, which means here a merely argumentative Logic; the strong in mind excluded from his regular influence in the state, and deeply conscious of that injury. On the other hand, a privileged few, strong in the subjection of the many, yet in itself weak; a piebald, and for most part altogether decrepit battalion, of Clergy, of purblind Nobility, or rather of Courtiers, for as yet the Nobility is mostly on the other side: these cannot fight with Logic, and the day of Persecution is well nigh done. The whole force of law, indeed, is still in their hands; but the far deeper force, which alone gives efficacy to law, is hourly passing from them. Hope animates one side; fear the other; and the battle will be fierce and desperate. For there is wit without wisdom on the part of the self-styled

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Philosophers; feebleness with exasperation on the part of their opponents; pride enough on all hands, but little magnanimity; perhaps nowhere any pure love of truth, only everywhere the purest, most ardent love of self. In such a state of things, there lay abundant principles of discord: these two influences hung like fast-gathering electric clouds, as yet on opposite sides of the horizon, but with a malignity of aspect, which boded, whenever they might meet, a sky of fire and blackness, thunderbolts to waste the earth, and the sun and stars, though but for a season, to be blotted out from the heavens. For there is no conducting medium to unite softly these hostile elements; there is no true virtue, no true wisdom, on the one side or on the other. Never perhaps was there an epoch, in the history of the world, when universal corruption called so loudly for reform; and they who undertook that task were men intrinsically so worthless. Not by Gracchi, but by Catalines; not by Luthers, but by Aretines, was Europe to be renovated. The task has been a long and bloody one; and is still far from done. In this condition of affairs, what side such a man as Voltaire was to take could not be doubtful. Whether he ought to have taken either side; whether he should not rather have stationed himself in the middle; the partisan of neither, perhaps hated by both; acknowledging and forwarding, and striving to reconcile, what truth was in each; and preaching forth a far deeper truth, which, if his own century had neglected it, had persecuted it, future centuries would have recognised as priceless: all this was another question. Of no man, however gifted, can we require what he has not to give: but Voltaire called himself Philosopher, nay the Philosopher. And such has often, indeed generally, been the fate of great men, and Lovers of Wisdom: their own age and country have treated them as of no account; in the great Corn-Exchange of the world, their pearls have seemed but spoiled barley, and been ignominiously rejected. Weak in adherents, strong only in their faith, in their indestructible consciousness of worth and well-doing, they have silently, or in words, appealed to coming ages, when their own ear would indeed be shut to the voice of love, and of hatred, but the Truth that had dwelt in them would speak with a voice audible to all. Bacon left his works to future generations, when some centuries should have elapsed. ‘Is it much for me,’ said Kepler, in his isolation, and extreme need, ‘that men should accept my discovery? If the Almighty waited six thousand years for one to see what He had made, I may surely wait two hundred, for one to understand what I have seen!’ All this, and more, is implied in love of wisdom, in genuine seeking of truth: the noblest function that can be appointed for a man, but requiring also the noblest man to fulfil it.

voltaire 91 With Voltaire, however, there is no symptom, perhaps there was no conception, of such nobleness; the high call for which, indeed, in the existing state of things, his intellect may have had as little the force to discern, as his heart had the force to obey. He follows a simpler course. Heedless of remoter issues, he adopts the cause of his own party; of that class with whom he lived, and was most anxious to stand well; he enlists in their ranks, not without hopes that he may one day rise to be their general. A resolution perfectly accordant with his prior habits, and temper of mind; and from which his whole subsequent procedure, and moral aspect as a man, naturally enough evolves itself. Not that we would say, Voltaire was a mere prize-fighter; one of ‘Heaven’s Swiss,’ contending for a cause which he only half or not all approved of. Far from it. Doubtless he loved truth, doubtless he partially felt himself to be advocating truth; nay we know not that he has ever yet, in a single instance, been convicted of wilfully perverting his belief; of uttering, in all his controversies, one deliberate falsehood. Nor should this negative praise seem an altogether slight one, for greatly were it to be wished that even the best of his better-intentioned opponents had always deserved the like. Nevertheless his love of truth is not that deep, infinite love, which beseems a Philosopher; which many ages have been fortunate enough to witness; nay of which his own age had still some examples. It is a far inferior love, we should say, to that of poor Jean Jacques, half-sage, half-maniac as he was; it is more a prudent calculation than a passion. Voltaire loves Truth, but chiefly of the triumphant sort: we have no instance of his fighting for a quite discrowned and outcast Truth; it is chiefly when she walks abroad, in distress, it may be, but still with queenlike insignia, and knighthoods and renown are to be earned in her battles, that he defends her, that he charges gallantly against the Cades and Tylers. Nay, at all times, belief itself seems, with him, to be less the product of Meditation than of Argument. His first question with regard to any doctrine, perhaps his final test of its worth and genuineness, is: Can others be convinced of this? Can I truck it, in the market for power? ‘To such questioners,’ it has been said, ‘Truth, who buys not, and sells not, goes on her way, and makes no answer.’ In fact, if we inquire into Voltaire’s ruling motive, we shall find that it was at bottom but a vulgar one: ambition, the desire of ruling, by such means as he had, over other men. He acknowledges no higher divinity than Public Opinion; for whatever he asserts or performs, the number of votes is the measure of strength and value. Yet let us be just to him; let us admit that he, in some degree, estimates his votes, as well as counts them. If love of fame, which, especially for such a man, we can only call another modification of Vanity, is always his ruling passion, he

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has a certain taste in gratifying it. His vanity, which cannot be extinguished, is ever skilfully concealed; even his just claims are never boisterously insisted on; throughout his whole life he shows no single feature of the quack. Nevertheless, even in the height of his glory, he has a strange sensitiveness to the judgement of the world: could he have contrived a Dionysius’ Ear, in the Rue Traversière, we should have found him watching at it, night and day. Let but any little evildisposed Abbé, any Fréron, or Piron, Pauvre Piron, qui ne fut jamais rien, Pas même Académicien, write a libel or epigram on him, what a fluster he is in! We grant he forbore much, in these cases; manfully consumed his own spleen, and sometimes long held his peace: but it was his part to have always done so. Why should such a man ruffle himself with the spite of exceeding small persons? Why not let these poor devils write; why should not they earn a dishonest penny, at his expense, if they had no readier way? But Voltaire cannot part with his ‘voices,’ his ‘most sweet voices:’ for they are his gods; take these, and what has he left? Accordingly, in literature and morals, in all his comings and goings, we find him striving, with a religious care, to sail strictly with the wind. In Art, the Parisian Parterre is his court of last appeal: he consults the Café de Procope, on his wisdom or his folly, as if it were a Delphic Oracle. The following adventure belongs to his fiftyfourth year, when his fame might long have seemed abundantly established. We translate from the Sieur Longchamp’s thin, half-roguish, mildly obsequious, most lackey-like Narrative: ‘Judges could appreciate the merits of Sémiramis, which has continued on the stage, and always been seen there with pleasure. Every one knows how the two principal parts in this piece contributed to the celebrity of two great tragedians, Mademoiselle Dumèsnil, and M. le Kain. The enemies of M. de Voltaire renewed their attempts in the subsequent representations; but it only the better confirmed his triumph. Piron, to console himself for the defeat of his party, had recourse to his usual remedy; pelting the piece with some paltry epigrams, which did it no harm. ‘Nevertheless, M. de Voltaire, who always loved to correct his works, and perfect them, became desirous to learn, more specially and at first hand, what good or ill the public were saying of his Tragedy; and it appeared to him that he could nowhere learn it better than in the Café de Procope, which was also called the Antre (Cavern) de Procope, because it was very dark, even in full day, and ill-lighted in the evenings; and because you often saw

voltaire 93 there a set of lank, sallow poets, who had somewhat the air of apparitions. In this Café, which fronts the Comédie Française, had been held, for more than sixty years, the tribunal of those self-called Aristarchs, who fancied they could pass sentence without appeal, on plays, authors and actors. M. de Voltaire wished to compear there, but in disguise, and altogether incognito. It was on coming out from the playhouse that the judges usually proceeded thither, to open what they called their great sessions. On the second night of Sémiramis, he borrowed a clergyman’s clothes; dressed himself in cassock and long cloak: black stockings, girdle, bands, breviary itself; nothing was forgotten. He clapt on a large peruke, unpowdered, very ill combed, which covered more than the half of his cheeks, and left nothing to be seen but the end of a long nose. The peruke was surmounted by a large three-cornered hat, corners half bruised in. In this equipment, then, the author of Sémiramis proceeded on foot to the Café de Procope, where he squatted himself in a corner, and waiting for the end of the play, called for a bavaroise, a small roll of bread, and the gazette. It was not long till those familiars of the Parterre and tenants of the Café stept in. They instantly began discussing the new Tragedy. Its partisans and its adversaries pleaded their cause, with warmth; each giving his reasons. Impartial persons also spoke their sentiment; and repeated some fine verses of the piece. During all this time, M. de Voltaire, with spectacles on nose, head stooping over the gazette which he pretended to be reading, was listening to the debate; profiting by reasonable observations, suffering much to hear very absurd ones, and not answer them, which irritated him. Thus, during an hour and a half, had he the courage and patience to hear Sémiramis talked of and babbled of, without speaking a word. At last, all these pretended judges of the fame of authors having gone their ways, without converting one another, M. de Voltaire also went off; took a coach in the Rue Mazarine, and returned home about eleven o’clock. Though I knew of his disguise, I confess I was struck and almost frightened to see him accoutred so. I took him for a spectre, or shade of Ninus, that was appearing to me; or at least, for one of those ancient Irish debaters, arrived at the end of their career, after wearing themselves out in school-syllogisms. I helped him to doff all that apparatus, which I carried next morning to its true owner,—a Doctor of the Sorbonne.’

This stroke of art, which cannot in any wise pass for sublime, might have its uses and rational purpose in one case, and only in one: if Sémiramis was meant to be a popular show, that was to live or die by its first impression on the idle multitude; which accordingly we must infer to have been its real, at least its chief destination. In any other case, we cannot but consider this HarounAlraschid visit to the Café de Procope as questionable, and altogether inadequate. If Sémiramis was a Poem, a living Creation, won from the empyrean by the silent power, and long-continued Promethean toil of its author, what could the Café

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de Procope know of it, what could all Paris know of it, ‘on the second night’? Had it been a Milton’s Paradise Lost they might have despised it till after the fiftieth year! True, the object of the Poet is, and must be, to ‘instruct by pleasing,’ yet not by pleasing this man and that man; only by pleasing man, by speaking to the pure nature of man, can any real ‘instruction,’ in this sense, be conveyed. Vain does it seem to search for a judgement of this kind, in the largest Café, in the largest Kingdom, ‘on the second night.’The deep, clear consciousness of one mind comes infinitely nearer it, than the loud outcry of a million that have no such consciousness; whose ‘talk,’ or whose ‘babble,’ but distracts the listener; and to most genuine Poets has, from of old, been in a great measure indifferent. For the multitude of voices is no authority; a thousand voices may not, strictly examined, amount to one vote. Mankind in this world are divided into flocks, and follow their several bell-wethers. Now, it is well known, let the bell-wether rush through any gap, the rest rush after him, were it into bottomless quagmires. Nay, so conscientious are sheep in this particular, as a quaint naturalist and moralist has noted, ‘if you hold a stick before the wether, so that he is forced to vault in his passage, the whole flock will do the like, when the stick is withdrawn; and the thousandth sheep shall be seen vaulting impetuously over air, as the first did over an otherwise impassable barrier!’ A farther peculiarity, which, in consulting Acts of Parliament, and other authentic records, not only as regards ‘Catholic Disabilities,’ but many other matters, you may find curiously verified in the human species also!—On the whole, we must consider this excursion to Procope’s literary Cavern as illustrating Voltaire in rather pleasant style; but nowise much to his honour. Fame seems a far too high, if not the highest object with him; nay, sometimes even popularity is clutched at: we see no heavenly polestar in this voyage of his; but only the guidance of a proverbially uncertain wind. Voltaire reproachfully says of St. Louis, that ‘he ought to have been above his age;’ but, in his own case, we can find few symptoms of such heroic superiority. The same perpetual appeal to his contemporaries, the same intense regard to reputation, as he viewed it, prescribes for him both his enterprises and his manner of conducting them. His aim is to please the more enlightened, at least the politer part of the world; and he offers them simply what they most wish for, be it in theatrical shows for their pastime, or in sceptical doctrines for their edification. For this latter purpose, Ridicule is the weapon he selects, and it suits him well. This was not the age of deep thoughts; no Duc de Richelieu, no Prince Conti, no Frederick the Great would have listened to such: only sportful contempt, and a thin conversational logic will avail. There may be wool-quilts, which the lath-sword of Harlequin will pierce, when the club of Hercules has rebounded

voltaire 95 from them in vain. As little was this an age for high virtues; no heroism, in any form, is required, or even acknowledged; but only, in all forms, a certain bienséance. To this rule also, Voltaire readily conforms; indeed, he finds no small advantage in it. For a lax public morality not only allows him the indulgence of many a little private vice, and brings him in this and the other windfall of menus plaisirs, but opens him the readiest resource in many enterprises of danger. Of all men, Voltaire has the least disposition to increase the Army of Martyrs. No testimony will he seal with his blood; scarcely any will he so much as sign with ink. His obnoxious doctrines, as we have remarked, he publishes under a thousand concealments; with underplots, and wheels within wheels; so that his whole track is in darkness, only his works see the light. No Proteus is so nimble, or assumes so many shapes; if, by rare chance, caught sleeping, he whisks through the smallest hole, and is out of sight, while the noose is getting ready. Let his judges take him to task, he will shuffle and evade; if directly questioned, he will even lie. In regard to this last point, the Marquis de Condorcet has set up a defence for him, which has, at least, the merit of being frank enough. ‘The necessity of lying in order to disavow any work,’ says he, ‘is an extremity equally repugnant to conscience and nobleness of character: but the crime lies with those unjust men, who render such disavowal necessary to the safety of him whom they force to it. If you have made a crime of what is not one; if, by absurd or by arbitrary laws, you have infringed the natural right, which all men have, not only to form an opinion, but to render it public; then you deserve to lose the right which every man has of hearing the truth from the mouth of another; a right, which is the sole basis of that rigorous obligation, not to lie. If it is not permitted to deceive, the reason is, that to deceive any one, is to do him a wrong, or expose yourself to do him one; but a wrong supposes a right; and no one has the right of seeking to secure himself the means of committing an injustice.’*

It is strange, how scientific discoveries do maintain themselves: here, quite in other hands, and in an altogether different dialect, we have the old Catholic doctrine, if it ever was more than a Jesuitic one, ‘that faith need not be kept with heretics.’ Truth, it appears, is too precious an article for our enemies; is fit only for friends, for those who will pay us if we tell it them. It may be observed, however, that, granting Condorcet’s premises, this doctrine also must be granted, as indeed is usual with that sharp-sighted writer. If the doing of right depends on the receiving of it; if our fellow-men, in this world, are not persons, but mere things, that for services bestowed will return services,—steam-engines that will * Vie de Voltaire, p. 32.

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manufacture calico, if we put in coals and water,—then, doubtless, the calico ceasing, our coals and water may also rationally cease; the questioner threatening to injure us for the truth, we may rationally tell him lies. But if, on the other hand, our fellow-man is no steam-engine, but a man; united with us, and with all men, and with the Maker of all men, in sacred, mysterious, indissoluble bonds, in an All-embracing Love, that encircles alike the seraph and the glow-worm; then will our duties to him rest on quite another basis than this very humble one of quid pro quo; and the Marquis de Condorcet’s conclusion will be false; and might, in its practical extensions, be infinitely pernicious. Such principles and habits, too lightly adopted by Voltaire, acted, as it seems to us, with hostile effect on his moral nature, not originally of the noblest sort, but which, under other influences, might have attained to far greater nobleness. As it is, we see in him simply a Man of the World, such as Paris and the eighteenth century produced and approved of: a polite, attractive, most cultivated, but essentially self-interested man; not without highly amiable qualities; indeed, with a general disposition which we could have accepted without disappointment in a mere Man of the World, but must find very defective, sometimes altogether out of place, in a Poet and Philosopher. Above this character of a Parisian ‘honourable man,’ he seldom or never rises; nay, sometimes we find him hovering on the very lowest boundaries of it, or perhaps even fairly below it. We shall nowise accuse him of excessive regard for money, of any wish to shine by the influence of mere wealth: let those commercial speculations, including even the victualling-contracts, pass for laudable prudence, for love of independence, and of the power to do good. But what are we to make of that hunting after pensions, and even after mere titles? There is an assiduity displayed here, which sometimes almost verges towards sneaking. Well might it provoke the scorn of Alfieri; for there is nothing better than the spirit of ‘a French plebeian’ apparent in it. Much, we know, very much should be allowed for difference of national manners, which in general mainly determine the meaning of such things: nevertheless, to our insular feelings, that famous Trajan est-il content? especially when we consider who the Trajan was, will always remain an unfortunate saying. The more so, as Trajan himself turned his back on it, without answer; declining, indeed, through life, to listen to the voice of this charmer, or disturb his own ‘âme paisible,’ for one moment, though with the best philosopher in Nature. Nay, Pompadour herself was applied to; and even some considerable progress made, by that underground passage, had not an envious hand too soon and fatally intervened. D’Alembert says, there are two things that can reach the top of a

voltaire 97 pyramid, the eagle and the reptile. Apparently, Voltaire wished to combine both methods; and he had, with one of them, but indifferent success. The truth is, we are trying Voltaire by too high a standard; comparing him with an ideal, which he himself never strove after, perhaps never seriously aimed at. He is no great Man, but only a great Persifleur; a man for whom life and all that pertains to it, has, at best, but a despicable meaning; who meets its difficulties not with earnest force, but with gay agility; and is found always at the top, less by power in swimming, than by lightness in floating. Take him in his character, forgetting that any other was ever ascribed to him, and we find that he enacted it almost to perfection. Never man better understood the whole secret of Persiflage; meaning, thereby, not only the external faculty of polite contempt, but that art of general inward contempt, by which a man of this sort endeavours to subject the circumstances of his Destiny to his Volition, and be, what is the instinctive effort of all men, though in the midst of material Necessity, morally Free. Voltaire’s latent derision is as light, copious and all-pervading, as the derision which he utters. Nor is this so simple an attainment as we might fancy; a certain kind and degree of Stoicism, or approach to Stoicism, is necessary for the completed Persifleur; as for moral, or even practical completion, in any other way. The most indifferent-minded man is not by nature indifferent to his own pain and pleasure: this is an indifference, which he must by some method study to acquire, or acquire the show of; and which, it is fair to say, Voltaire manifests in a rather respectable degree. Without murmuring, he has reconciled himself to most things: the human lot, in this lower world, seems a strange business, yet, on the whole, with more of the farce in it, than of the tragedy; to him, it is nowise heart-rending, that this Planet of ours should be sent sailing through Space, like a miserable, aimless Ship-of-Fools, and he himself be a fool among the rest, and only a very little wiser than they. He does not, like Bolingbroke, ‘patronise Providence,’ though, such sayings as, Si Dieu n’existait pas il faudrait l’inventer, seem now and then to indicate a tendency of that sort: but, at all events, he never openly levies war against Heaven; well knowing that the time spent in frantic malediction, directed thither, might be spent otherwise with more profit. There is, truly, no Werterism in him, either in its bad or its good sense. If he sees no unspeakable majesty in heaven and earth, neither does he see any unsufferable horror there. His view of the world is a cool, gently scornful, altogether prosaic one: his sublimest Apocalypse of Nature lies in the microscope and telescope; the Earth is a place for producing corn; the Starry Heavens are admirable as a nautical time-keeper. Yet, like a prudent man, he has adjusted himself to his condition, such as it is: he does not chaunt any Miserere

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over human life, calculating that no charitable dole, but only laughter, would be the reward of such an enterprise; does not hang or drown himself, clearly understanding that death of itself will soon save him that trouble. Affliction, it is true, has not for him any precious jewel in its head; on the contrary, it is an unmixed nuisance; yet, happily, not one to be howled over, so much as one to be speedily removed out of sight: if he does not learn from it Humility, and the sublime lesson of Resignation, neither does it teach him hard-heartedness, and sickly discontent; but he bounds lightly over it, leaving both the jewel and the toad at a safe distance behind him. Nor was Voltaire’s history without perplexities enough to keep this principle in exercise; to try whether in life, as in literature, the ridiculum were really better than the acre. We must own, that on no occasion does it altogether fail him; never does he seem perfectly at a nonplus; no adventure is so hideous, that he cannot, in the long run, find some means to laugh at it, and forget it. Take, for instance, that last ill-omened visit of his to Frederick the Great. This was, probably, the most mortifying incident in Voltaire’s whole life: an open experiment, in the sight of all Europe, to ascertain whether French Philosophy had virtue enough in it to found any friendly union, in such circumstances, even between its great master and his most illustrious disciple; and an experiment which answered in the negative, as was natural enough; for Vanity is of a divisive not of a uniting nature, and between the King of Letters and the King of Armies there existed no other tie. They should have kept up an interchange of flattery, from afar; gravitating towards one another like celestial luminaries, if they reckoned themselves such; yet always with a due centrifugal force; for if either shot madly from his sphere, nothing but collision, and concussion, and mutual recoil, could be the consequence. On the whole, we must pity Frederick, environed with that cluster of Philosophers: doubtless he meant rather well; yet the French at Rossbach, with guns in their hands, were but a small matter, compared with these French in Sans-Souci. Maupertuis sits sullen, monosyllabic; gloomy like the bear of his own arctic zone: Voltaire is the mad piper that will make him dance to tunes and amuse the people. In this royal circle, with its parasites and bashaws, what heats and jealousies must there not have been; what secret heartburnings, smooth-faced malice, plottings, counterplottings, and laurel-water pharmacy, in all its branches, before the ring of etiquette fairly burst asunder, and the establishment, so to speak, exploded! Yet over all these distressing matters Voltaire has thrown a soft veil of gaiety: he remembers neither Dr. Akakia nor Dr. Akakia’s patron, with any animosity; but merely as actors in the grand farce of life along with him, a new scene of which has now

voltaire 99 commenced, quite displacing the other from the stage. The arrest at Frankfort, indeed, is a sour morsel; but this too he swallows, with an effort. Frederick, as we are given to understand, had these whims by kind; was, indeed, a wonderful scion from such a stock; for what could equal the avarice, malice, and rabid snappishness of old Frederick William, the father? ‘He had a minister at the Hague, named Luicius,’ says the wit: ‘this Luicius was, of all royal ministers extant, the worst paid. The poor man, with a view to warm himself, had a few trees cut down, in the garden of Honslardik, then belonging to the House of Prussia; immediately thereafter he received despatches from the King, his master, keeping back a year of his salary. Luicius, in despair, cut his throat with the only razor he had (avec le seul rasoir qu’il eût): an old lackey came to his assistance, and unfortunately saved his life. At an after period, I myself saw his Excellency at the Hague, and gave him an alms at the gate of that Palace called La Vieille Cour, which belongs to the King of Prussia, and where this unhappy Ambassador had lived twelve years.’

With the Roi-Philosophe himself, Voltaire in a little while recommences correspondence; and to all appearance, proceeds quietly in his office of ‘buckwasher,’ that is, of verse-corrector to his Majesty, as if nothing whatever had happened. Again, what human pen can describe the troubles this unfortunate Philosopher had with his women? A gadding, feather-brained, capricious, oldcoquettish, embittered and embittering set of wantons from the earliest to the last! Widow Denis, for example, that disobedient Niece, whom he rescued from furnished lodgings and spare diet, into pomp and plenty, how did she pester the last stage of his existence, for twenty-four years long! Blind to the peace and roses of Ferney; ever hankering and fretting after Parisian display; not without flirtation, though advanced in life; losing money at play, and purloining wherewith to make it good; scolding his servants, quarrelling with his secretaries, so that the too-indulgent uncle must turn off his beloved Collini, nay almost be run through the body by him, for her sake! The good Wagnière, who succeeded this fiery Italian in the secretaryship, and loved Voltaire with a most creditable affection, cannot, though a simple, humble, and quite philanthropic man, speak of Madame Denis without visible overflowings of gall. He openly accuses her of hastening her uncle’s death by her importunate stratagems to keep him in Paris, where was her heaven. Indeed, it is clear that, his goods and chattels once made sure of, her chief care was that so fiery a patient might die soon enough; or, at best, according to her own confession, ‘how she was to get him buried.’ We have known superannuated grooms, nay effete saddle-horses,

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regarded with more real sympathy in their home, than was the best of uncles by the worst of nieces. Had not this surprising old man retained the sharpest judgement, and the gayest, easiest temper, his last days, and last years, must have been a continued scene of violence and tribulation. Little better, worse in several respects, though at a time when he could better endure it, was the far-famed Marquise du Châtelet. Many a tempestuous day and wakeful night had he with that scientific and too-fascinating shrew. She speculated in mathematics and metaphysics; but was an adept also in far, very far different acquirements. Setting aside its whole criminality, which, indeed, perhaps went for little there, this literary amour wears but a mixed aspect: short sun-gleams, with long tropical tornadoes; touches of guitar-music, soon followed by Lisbon earthquakes. Marmontel, we remember, speaks of knives being used, at least brandished, and for quite other purposes than carving. Madame la Marquise was no saint, in any sense; but rather a Socrates’ spouse, who would keep patience, and the whole philosophy of gaiety, in constant practice. Like Queen Elizabeth, if she had the talents of a man, she had more than the caprices of a woman. We shall take only one item, and that a small one, in this mountain of misery: her strange habits and methods of locomotion. She is perpetually travelling: a peaceful philosopher is lugged over the world, to Cirey, to Lunéville, to that pied à terre in Paris; resistance avails not; here, as in so many other cases, il faut se ranger. Sometimes, precisely on the eve of such a departure, her domestics, exasperated by hunger and ill usage, will strike work, in a body; and a new set has to be collected at an hour’s warning. Then Madame has been known to keep the postilions cracking and sacre-ing at the gate, from dawn till dewy eve, simply because she was playing cards, and the games went against her. But figure a lean and vivid-tempered philosopher starting from Paris at last; under cloud of night; during hard frost; in a huge lumbering coach, or rather waggon, compared with which indeed the generality of modern waggons were a luxurious conveyance. With four starved, and perhaps spavined hacks, he slowly sets forth, ‘under a mountain of bandboxes:’ at his side sits the wandering virago; in front of him, a serving-maid, with additional bandboxes ‘et divers effets de sa maîtresse.’ At the next stage, the postilions have to be beat up; they come out swearing. Cloaks and fur-pelisses avail little against the January-cold; ‘time and hours’ are, once more, the only hope: but, lo, at the tenth mile, this Tyburn-coach breaks down! One many-voiced discordant wail shrieks through the solitude, making night hideous—but in vain; the axle-tree has given way, the vehicle has overset, and

voltaire 101 marchionesses, chambermaids, bandboxes, and philosophers, are weltering in inextricable Chaos. ‘The carriage was in the stage next Nangis, about half-way to that town, when the hind axle-tree broke, and it tumbled on the road, to M. de Voltaire’s side: Madame du Châtelet, and her maid, fell above him, with all the bundles and bandboxes, for these were not tied to the front, but only piled up on both hands of the maid; and so, observing the laws of equilibrium and gravitation of bodies, they rushed towards the corner where M. de Voltaire lay squeezed together. Under so many burdens, which half suffocated him, he kept shouting bitterly (poussait des cris aigus); but it was impossible to change place; all had to remain as it was, till the two lackeys, one of whom was hurt by the fall, could come up, with the postilions, to disencumber the vehicle: they first drew out all the luggage, next the women, then M. de Voltaire. Nothing could be got out except by the top, that is, by the coach-door, which now opened upwards: one of the lackeys and a postilion clambering aloft, and fixing themselves on the body of the vehicle, drew them up, as from a well; seizing the first limb that came to hand, whether arm or leg: and then passed them down to the two stationed below, who set them finally on the ground.’*

What would Dr. Kitchiner, with his Traveller’s Oracle, have said to all this? For there is snow on the ground; and four peasants must be roused from a village half a league off, before that accursed vehicle can so much as be lifted from its beam-ends! Vain it is for Longchamp, far in advance, sheltered in a hospitable though half-dismantled château, to pluck pigeons and be in haste to roast them: they will never, never be eaten to supper, scarcely to breakfast next morning!—Nor is it now only, but several times, that this unhappy axle-tree plays them foul; nay once, beggared by Madame’s gambling, they have not cash to pay for mending it, and the smith, though they are in keenest flight, almost for their lives, will not trust them. We imagine that these are trying things for any philosopher. Of the thousand other more private and perennial grievances; of certain discoveries and explanations, especially, which it still seems surprising that human philosophy could have tolerated, we make no mention; indeed, with regard to the latter, few earthly considerations could tempt a Reviewer of sensibility to mention them in this place. The Marquise du Châtelet, and her husband, have been much wondered at in England: the calm magnanimity with which M. le Marquis conforms to the custom of the country, to the wishes of his helpmate, and leaves her, he himself * Vol. ii. p. 166.

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meanwhile fighting, or at least drilling, for his King, to range over Space, in quest of loves and lovers; his friendly discretion, in this particular; no less so, his blithe benignant gullibility, the instant a contretems de famille renders his countenance needful,—have had all justice done them among us. His lady too is a wonder; offers no mean study to psychologists: she is a fair experiment to try how far that Delicacy, which we reckon innate in females, is only accidental and the product of fashion; how far a woman, not merely immodest, but without the slightest fig-leaf of common decency remaining, with the whole character, in short, of a male debauchee, may still have any moral worth as a woman? We, ourselves, have wondered a little over both these parties; and over the goal to which so strange a ‘progress of society’ might be tending. But still more wonderful, not without a shade of the sublime, has appeared to us the cheerful thraldom of this maltreated philosopher; and with what exhaustless patience, not being wedded, he endured all these forced-marches, whims, irascibilities, delinquencies, and thousandfold unreasons; braving ‘the battle and the breeze,’ on that wild Bay of Biscay, for such a period. Fifteen long years, and was not mad, or a suicide at the end of them! But the like fate, it would seem, though worthy D’Israeli has omitted to enumerate it in his Calamities of Authors, is not unknown in literature. Pope also had his Mrs. Martha Blount; and, in the midst of that warfare with united Duncedom, his daily tale of Egyptian bricks to bake. Let us pity the lot of genius, in this sublunary sphere! Every one knows the earthly termination of Madame la Marquise; and how by a strange, almost satirical Nemesis, she was taken in her own nets, and her worst sin became her final punishment. To no purpose was the unparalleled credulity of M. le Marquis; to no purpose, the amplest toleration, and even helpful knavery of M. de Voltaire: ‘les assiduités de M. de Saint-Lambert,’ and the unimaginable consultations to which they gave rise at Cirey, were frightfully parodied in the end. The last scene was at Lunéville, in the peaceable court of King Stanislaus. ‘Seeing that the aromatic-vinegar did no good, we tried to recover her from the sudden lethargy by rubbing her feet, and striking in the palms of her hands; but it was of no use: she had ceased to be. The maid was sent off to Madame de Boufflers’ apartment, to inform the company that Madame du Châtelet was worse. Instantly they all rose from the supper-table: M. du Châtelet, M. de Voltaire, and the other guests, rushed into the room. So soon as they understood the truth, there was a deep consternation; to tears, to cries, succeeded a mournful silence. The husband was led away, the other individuals went out successively, expressing the keenest sorrow. M. de Voltaire and M. de Saint-Lambert

voltaire 103 remained the last by the bedside, from which they could not be drawn away. At length, the former, absorbed in deep grief, left the room, and with difficulty reached the main door of the Castle, not knowing whither he went. Arrived there, he fell down at the foot of the outer stairs, and near the box of a sentry, where his head came on the pavement. His lackey, who was following, seeing him fall and struggle on the ground, ran forward and tried to lift him. At this moment, M. de Saint-Lambert, retiring by the same way, also arrived; and observing M. de Voltaire in that situation, hastened to assist the lackey. No sooner was M. de Voltaire on his feet, than, opening his eyes, dimmed with tears, and recognizing M. de Saint-Lambert, he said to him, with sobs and the most pathetic accent: “Ah, my friend, it is you that have killed her!” Then, all on a sudden, as if he were starting from a deep sleep, he exclaimed, in a tone of reproach and despair: “Eh! mon Dieu! Monsieur, de quoi vous avisiez-vous de lui faire un enfant?” They parted thereupon, without adding a single word; and retired to their several apartments, overwhelmed and almost annihilated by the excess of their sorrow.’*

Among all threnetical discourses on record, this last, between men overwhelmed and almost annihilated by the excess of their sorrow, has probably an unexampled character. Some days afterwards, the first paroxysm of ‘reproach and despair’ being somewhat assuaged, the sorrowing widower, not the glad legal one, composed this quatrain: L’univers a perdu la sublime Emilie. Elle aima les plaisirs, les arts, la vérité: Les dieux, en lui donnant leur âme et leur génie, N’avaient gardé pour eux que l’immortalité. After which, reflecting perhaps that with this sublime Emilia, so meritoriously singular in loving pleasure, ‘his happiness had been chiefly on paper,’ he, like the bereaved Universe, consoled himself, and went on his way. Woman, it has been sufficiently demonstrated, was given to man as a benefit, and for mutual support; a precious ornament and staff whereupon to lean in many trying situations: but to Voltaire she proved, so unlucky was he in this matter, little else than a broken reed, which only ran into his hand. We confess that looking over the manifold trials of this poor philosopher with the softer, or as he may have reckoned it, the harder sex,—from that Dutchwoman who published his juvenile letters, to the Niece Denis who as good as killed him with racketing,—we see, in this one province, very great scope for almost all * Vol. ii. p. 250.

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the cardinal virtues. And to these internal convulsions add an incessant series of controversies and persecutions, political, religious, literary, from without; and we have a life quite rent asunder, horrent with asperities and chasms, where even a stout traveller might have faultered. Over all which Chamouni-Needles and Staubbach-Falls, the great Persifleur skims along in this his little poetical air-ship, more softly than if he travelled the smoothest of merely prosaic roads. Leaving out of view the worth or worthlessness of such a temper of mind, we are bound, in all seriousness, to say both that it seems to have been Voltaire’s highest conception of moral excellence, and that he has pursued and realized it with no small success. One great praise therefore he deserves—that of unity with himself; that of having an aim, and steadfastly endeavouring after it, nay, as we have found, of attaining it; for his ideal Voltaire seems, to an unusual degree, manifested, made practically apparent, in the real one. There can be no doubt but this attainment of Persifleur, in the wide sense we here give it, was of all others the most admired and sought after in Voltaire’s age and country; nay in our own age and country, we have still innumerable admirers of it, and unwearied seekers after it, on every hand of us: nevertheless we cannot but believe that its acme is past; that the best sense of our generation has already weighed its significance, and found it wanting. Voltaire himself, it seems to us, were he alive at this day, would find other tasks than that of mockery, especially of mockery in that style: it is not by Derision and Denial, but by far deeper, more earnest, diviner means that aught truly great has been effected for mankind; that the fabric of man’s life has been reared, through long centuries, to its present height. If we admit that this chief of Persifleurs had a steady, conscious aim in life, the still higher praise of having had a right or noble aim cannot be conceded him without many limitations, and may, plausibly enough, be altogether denied. At the same time, let it not be forgotten that amid all these blighting influences, Voltaire maintains a certain indestructible humanity of nature; a soul never deaf to the cry of wretchedness; never utterly blind to the light of truth, beauty, goodness. It is even, in some measure, poetically interesting to observe this fine contradiction in him: the heart acting without directions from the head, or perhaps against its directions; the man virtuous, as it were, in spite of himself. For at all events, it will be granted that as a private man his existence was beneficial, not hurtful, to his fellow men: the Calases, the Sirvens, and so many orphans and outcasts whom he cherished and protected, ought to cover a multitude of sins. It was his own sentiment, and to all appearance, a sincere one: J’ai fait un peu de bien; c’est mon meilleur ouvrage.

voltaire 105 Perhaps there are few men with such principles and such temptations as his were that could have led such a life; few that could have done his work, and come through it with cleaner hands. If we call him the greatest of all Persifleurs, let us add that, morally speaking also, he is the best: if he excels all men in universality, sincerity, polished clearness of Mockery, he perhaps combines with it as much worth of heart as, in any man, that habit can admit of. It is now well nigh time that we should quit this part of our subject: nevertheless, in seeking to form some picture of Voltaire’s practical life, and the character outward as well as inward of his appearance in society, our readers will not grudge us a few glances at the last and most striking scene he enacted there. To our view, that final visit to Paris has a strange half-frivolous, half-fateful aspect; there is, as it were, a sort of dramatic justice in this catastrophe, that he who had all his life hungered and thirsted after public favour, should at length die by excess of it; should find the door of his Heaven-on-earth unexpectedly thrown wide open, and enter there, only to be, as he himself said, ‘smothered under roses.’ Had Paris any suitable theogony or theology, as Rome and Athens had, this might almost be reckoned, as those Ancients accounted of death by lightning, a sacred death, a death from the gods; from their many-headed god, Popularity. In the benignant quietude of Ferney, Voltaire had lived long, and as his friends calculated, might still have lived long; but a series of trifling causes lures him to Paris, and in three months he is no more. At all hours of his history, he might have said with Alexander: “O Athenians, what toil do I undergo to please you;” and the last pleasure his Athenians demand of him, is that he would die for them. Considered with reference to the world at large, this journey is farther remarkable. It is the most splendid triumph of that nature recorded in these ages; the loudest and showiest homage ever paid to what we moderns call Literature; to a man that had merely thought, and published his thoughts. Much false tumult, no doubt, there was in it; yet also a certain deeper significance. It is interesting to see how universal and eternal in man is love of wisdom; how the highest and the lowest, how supercilious princes and rude peasants, and all men must alike show honour to Wisdom, or the appearance of Wisdom; nay, properly speaking, can show honour to nothing else. For it is not in the power of all Xerxes’ hosts to bend one thought of our proud heart: these ‘may destroy the case of Anaxarchus, himself they cannot reach:’ only to spiritual worth can the spirit do reverence; only in a soul deeper and better than ours can we see any heavenly mystery, and in humbling ourselves feel ourselves exalted. That the so ebullient enthusiasm of the French was in this case perfectly well directed, we

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cannot undertake to say: yet we rejoice to see and know that such a principle exists perennially in man’s inmost bosom; that there is no heart so sunk and stupified, none so withered and pampered, but the felt presence of a nobler heart will inspire it and lead it captive. Few royal progresses, few Roman triumphs, have equalled this long triumph of Voltaire. On his journey, at Bourg-en-Bresse, ‘he was recognised,’ says Wagnière, ‘while the horses were changing, and in a few moments the whole town crowded about the carriage; so that he was forced to lock himself for some time in a room of the inn.’ The Maître-de-poste ordered his postilion to yoke better horses, and said to him with a broad oath: “Va bon train, crève mes chevaux, je m’en f—; tu mènes M. de Voltaire.” At Dijon, there were persons of distinction that wished even to dress themselves as waiters, that they might serve him at supper, and see him by this stratagem. ‘At the barrier of Paris,’ continues Wagnière, ‘the officers asked if we had nothing with us contrary to the King’s regulations: “On my word, gentlemen, Ma foi, Messieurs,” replied M. de Voltaire, “I believe there is nothing contraband here except myself.” I alighted from the carriage, that the inspector might more readily examine it. One of the guards said to his comrade: C’est pardieu! M. de Voltaire. He plucked at the coat of the person who was searching, and repeated the same words, looking fixedly at me. I could not help laughing; then all gazing with the greatest astonishment mingled with respect, begged M. de Voltaire to pass on whither he pleased.’* Intelligence soon circulated over Paris; scarcely could the arrival of KienLong, or the Grand Lama of Thibet, have excited greater ferment. Poor Longchamp, demitted, or rather dismissed from Voltaire’s service, eight-and-twenty years before, and now, as a retired map-dealer (having resigned in favour of his son) living quietly ‘dans un petit logement à part,’ a fine smooth, garrulous old man,—heard the news next morning in his remote logement, in the Estrapade; and instantly huddled on his clothes, though he had not been out for two days, to go and see what truth was in it. ‘Several persons of my acquaintance whom I met told me that they had heard the same. I went purposely to the Café Procope, where this news formed the subject of conversation among several politicians or men of letters, who talked of it with warmth. To assure myself still farther, I walked thence towards the Quai des Théatins, where he had alighted the night before, and, as was said, taken up his lodging in a mansion near the * Vol. i. p. 121.

voltaire 107 church. Coming out from the Rue de la Seine, I saw afar off, a great number of people gathered on the Quai, not far from the Pont-Royal. Approaching nearer, I observed that this crowd was collected in front of the Marquis de Villette’s Hôtel, at the corner of the Rue de Beaune. I inquired what the matter was. The people answered me that M. de Voltaire was in that house; and they were waiting to see him when he came out. They were not sure, however, whether he would come out that day; for it was natural to think that an old man of eighty-four might need a day or two of rest. From that moment, I no longer doubted the arrival of M. de Voltaire in Paris.’*

By dint of address, Longchamp, in process of time, contrived to see his old master; had an interview of ten minutes; was for falling at his feet; and wept, with sad presentiments, at parting. Ten such minutes were a great matter; for Voltaire had his levees, and his couchees, more crowded than those of any Emperor; princes and peers thronged his antechamber; and when he went abroad his carriage was as the nucleus of a comet, whose train extended over whole districts of the city. He himself, says Wagnière, expressed dissatisfaction at much of this. Nevertheless, there were some plaudits, which, as he confessed, went to his heart. Condorcet mentions that once a person in the crowd, inquiring who this great man was, a poor woman answered, “C’est le sauveur des Calas.” Of a quite different sort was the tribute paid him by a quack, in the Place Louis Quinze, haranguing a mixed multitude on the art of juggling with cards: “Here, gentlemen,” said he, “is a trick I learned at Ferney, from that great man who makes so much noise among you, that famous M. de Voltaire, the master of us all!” In fact, mere gaping curiosity, and even ridicule was abroad, as well as real enthusiasm. The clergy too were recoiling into ominous groups; already some Jesuitic drums ecclesiastic had beat to arms. Figuring the lean, tottering, lonely old man in the midst of all this, how he looks into it, clear and alert, though no longer strong and calm, we feel drawn towards him by some tie of affection, of kindly sympathy. Longchamp says, he appeared ‘extremely worn, though still in the full possession of all his senses, and with a very firm voice.’ The following little sketch, by a hostile journalist of the day, has fixed itself deeply with us:— ‘M. de Voltaire appeared in full dress, on Tuesday, for the first time since his arrival in Paris. He had on a red coat lined with ermine; a large peruke, in the fashion of Louis XIV., black, unpowdered; and in which his withered visage was so buried that you saw only his two eyes shining like carbuncles. His head was surmounted by a square red cap * Vol. ii. p. 353.

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in the form of a crown, which seemed only laid on. He had, in his hand, a small nibbed cane; and the public of Paris, not accustomed to see him in this accoutrement, laughed a good deal. This personage, singular in all, wishes doubtless to have nothing in common with ordinary men.’*

This head,—this wondrous microcosm in the grande perruque à la Louis XIV.,—was so soon to be distenanted of all its cunning gifts; these eyes, shining like carbuncles, were so soon to be closed in long night!—We must now give the coronation ceremony, of which the reader may have heard so much: borrowing from this same sceptical hand, which, however, is vouched for by Wagnière; as, indeed, La Harpe’s more heroical narrative of that occurrence is well known, and hardly differs from the following, except in style:— ‘On Monday, M. de Voltaire, resolving to enjoy the triumph which had been so long promised him, mounted his carriage, that azure-coloured vehicle, bespangled with gold stars, which a wag called the chariot of the empyrean; and so repaired to the Académie Française, which that day had a special meeting. Twenty-two members were present. None of the prelates, abbés, or other ecclesiastics, who belong to it, would attend, or take part in these singular deliberations. The sole exceptions were the Abbés de Boismont and Millot; the one a court rake-hell (roué), with nothing but the guise of his profession; the other a varlet (cuistre), having no favour to look for, either from the Court or the Church. ‘The Académie went out to meet M. de Voltaire: he was led to the Director’s seat, which that office-bearer and the meeting invited him to accept. His portrait had been hung up above it. The company, without drawing lots, as is the custom, proceeded to work, and named him, by acclamation, Director for the April quarter. The old man, once set a-going, was about to talk a great deal; but they told him, that they valued his health too much to hear him,—that they would reduce him to silence. M. d’Alembert accordingly occupied the session, by reading his Eloge de Despréaux, which had already been communicated on a public occasion, and where he had inserted various flattering things for the present visiter. ‘M. de Voltaire then signified a wish to visit the Secretary of the Académie, whose apartments are above. With this gentleman he stayed some time; and at last set out for the Comédie Française. The court of the Louvre, vast as it is, was full of people waiting for him. So soon as his notable vehicle came in sight, the cry arose, Le voilà! The Savoyards, the apple-women, all the rabble of the quarter, had assembled there; and the acclamations, Vive Voltaire! resounded as if they would never end. The Marquis de Villette, who had arrived before, came to hand him out of his carriage, where the Procureur Clos was * Vol. ii. p. 466.

voltaire 109 seated beside him: both these gave him their arms, and could scarcely extricate him from the press. On his entering the playhouse, a crowd of more elegance, and seized with true enthusiasm for genius, surrounded him: the ladies, above all, threw themselves in his way, and stopped it, the better to look at him; some were seen squeezing forward to touch his clothes; some plucking hair from his fur. M. le Duc de Chartres,* not caring to advance too near, showed, though at a distance, no less curiosity than others. ‘The saint, or rather the god, of the evening, was to occupy the box belonging to the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber,† opposite that of the Comte d’Artois. Madame Denis and Madame de Villette were already there; and the pit was in convulsions of joy, awaiting the moment when the poet should appear. There was no end till he placed himself on the front seat, beside the ladies. Then rose a cry: La Couronne! and Brizard, the actor, came and put the garland on his head. “Ah, Heaven! will you kill me then? (Ah, Dieu! vous voulez donc me faire mourir!)” cried M. de Voltaire, weeping with joy, and resisting this honour. He took the crown in his hand, and presented it to Belle-et-bonne:‡ she withstood; and the Prince de Beauvau, seizing the laurel, replaced it on the head of our Sophocles, who could refuse no longer. ‘The piece (Irène) was played, and with more applause than usual, though scarcely with enough to correspond to this triumph of its author. Meanwhile the players were in straits as to what they should do; and during their deliberations the tragedy ended; the curtain fell, and the tumult of the people was extreme, till it rose again, disclosing a show like that of the Centénaire. M. de Voltaire’s bust, which had been placed shortly before in the foyer (green-room) of the Comédie Française, had been brought upon the stage, and elevated on a pedestal; the whole body of comedians stood round it in a semicircle, with palms and garlands in their hands: there was a crown already on the bust. The pealing of musical flourishes, of drums, of trumpets, had announced the ceremony; and Madame Vestris held in her hand a paper, which was soon understood to contain verses, lately composed by the Marquis de Saint-Marc. She recited them with an emphasis proportioned to the extravagance of the scene. They ran as follows:— Aux yeux de Paris enchanté, Reçois en ce jour un hommage, Que confirmera d’âge en âge La sévère postérité! Non, tu n’as pas besoin d’atteindre au noir rivage Pour jouir des honneurs de l’immortalité; * Afterwards Egalité. † He himself, as is perhaps too well known, was one. ‡ The Marquise de Villette, a foster-child of his.

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essays on literature Voltaire, reçois la couronne Que l’on vient de te présenter; Il est beau de la mériter, Quand c’est la France qui la donne!*

‘This was encored: the actress recited it again. Next, each of them went forward and laid his garland round the bust. Mademoiselle Fanier, in a fanatical ecstasy, kissed it, and all the others imitated her. ‘This long ceremony, accompanied with infinite vivats, being over, the curtain again dropped; and when it rose for Nanine, one of M. de Voltaire’s comedies, his bust was seen on the right-hand side of the stage, where it remained during the whole play.

‘M. le Comte d’Artois did not choose to show himself too openly; but being informed, according to his orders, so soon as M. de Voltaire appeared in the theatre, he had gone thither incognito; and it is thought that the old man, once when he went out for a moment, had the honour of a short interview with his Royal Highness.

‘Nanine finished, comes a new hurly-burly,—a new trial for the modesty of our philosopher! He had got into his carriage, but the people would not let him go; they threw themselves on the horses, they kissed them: some young poets even cried to unyoke these animals, and draw the modern Apollo home with their own arms; unhappily there were not enthusiasts enough to volunteer this service, and he at last got leave to depart, not without vivats, which he may have heard on the Pont-Royal, and even in his own house. . . . ‘M. de Voltaire, on reaching home, wept anew; and modestly protested that if he had known the people were to play so many follies, he would not have gone.’

On all these wonderful proceedings we shall leave our readers to their own reflections; remarking only, that this happened on the 30th of March (1778), and that on the 30th of May, about the same hour, the object of such extraordinary adulation was in the article of death; the hearse already prepared to receive his remains, for which even a grave had to be stolen. ‘He expired,’ says Wagnière, ‘about a quarter past eleven at night, with the most perfect tranquillity, after having suffered the cruellest pains, in consequence of those fatal drugs, which his own imprudence, and especially that of the persons who should have looked to it, made him swallow. Ten minutes before his last breath, he took the hand of Morand, his valet-de-chambre, who was watching by him, pressed it, and * As Dryden said of Swift, so may we say: Our cousin Saint-Marc has no turn for poetry.

voltaire 111 said, “Adieu, mon cher Morand, je me meurs, Adieu, my dear Morand, I am gone.” These are the last words uttered by M. de Voltaire.’* We have still to consider this man in his specially intellectual capacity, which, as with every man of letters, is to be regarded as the clearest, and, to all practical * On this sickness of Voltaire, and his death-bed deportment, many foolish books have been written; concerning which it is not necessary to say anything. The conduct of the Parisian clergy on that occasion, seems totally unworthy of their cloth; nor was their reward, so far as concerns these individuals, inappropriate: that of finding themselves once more bilked, once more persiflés by that strange old man, in his last decrepitude, who, in his strength, had wrought them and others so many griefs. Surely the parting agonies of a fellow mortal, when the spirit of our brother, rapt in the whirlwinds and thick ghastly vapours of death, clutches blindly for help, and no help is there, are not the scenes where a wise faith would seek to exult, when it can no longer hope to alleviate! For the rest, to touch farther on those their idle tales of dying horrors, remorse, and the like; to write of such, to believe them, or disbelieve them, or in any wise discuss them, were but a continuation of the same ineptitude. He, who, after the imperturbable exit of so many Cartouches and Thurtells, in every age of the world, can continue to regard the manner of a man’s death as a test of his religious orthodoxy, may boast himself impregnable to merely terrestrial logic. Voltaire had enough of suffering, and of mean enough suffering, to encounter, without any addition from theological despair. His last interview with the clergy, who had been sent for by his friends, that the rites of burial might not be denied him, is thus described by Wagnière, as it has been by all other credible reporters of it:— ‘Two days before that mournful death, M. l’Abbé Mignot, his nephew, went to seek the Curé of Saint-Sulpice and the Abbé Guatier, and brought them into his uncle’s sickroom; who, being informed that the Abbé Guatier was there, “Ah, well!” said he, “give him my compliments and my thanks.” The Abbé spoke some words to him, exhorting him to patience. The Curé of Saint-Sulpice then came forward, having announced himself, and asked of M. de Voltaire, elevating his voice, if he acknowledged the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ? The sick man pushed one of his hands against the Curé’s calotte (coif ), shoving him back, and cried, turning abruptly to the other side, “Let me die in peace (Laissez-moi mourir en paix)!” The Curé seemingly considered his person soiled, and his coif dishonoured, by the touch of a philosopher. He made the sick nurse give him a little brushing, and then went out with the Abbé Guatier.’—vol. i. p. 161.

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intents, the most important aspect of him. Voltaire’s intellectual endowment and acquirement, his talent or genius as a literary man, lies opened to us in a series of Writings, unexampled, as we believe, in two respects: their extent, and their diversity. Perhaps there is no writer, not a mere compiler, but writing from his own invention or elaboration, who has left so many volumes behind him; and if to the merely arithmetical, we add a critical estimate, the singularity is still greater; for these volumes are not written without an appearance of due care and preparation; perhaps there is not one altogether feeble and confused treatise, nay, one feeble and confused sentence, to be found in them. As to variety, again, they range nearly over all human subjects; from Theology down to Domestic Economy; from the Familiar Letter to the Political History; from the Pasquinade to the Epic Poem. Some strange gift, or union of gifts, must have been at work here; for the result is, at least, in the highest degree uncommon, and to be wondered at, if not to be admired. If through all this many-coloured versatility, we try to decipher the essential, distinctive features of Voltaire’s intellect, it seems to us that we find there a counterpart to our theory of his moral character; as, indeed, if that theory was accurate, we must do: for the thinking and the moral nature, distinguished by the necessities of speech, have no such distinction in themselves; but, rightly examined, exhibit in every case the strictest sympathy and correspondence, are, indeed, but different phases of the same indissoluble unity—a living mind. In life, Voltaire was found to be without good claim to the title of philosopher; and now, in literature, and for similar reasons, we find in him the same deficiencies. Here too it is not greatness, but the very extreme of expertness, that we recognize; not strength, so much as agility; not depth, but superficial extent. That truly surprising ability seems rather the unparalleled combination of many common talents, than the exercise of any finer or higher one: for here too the want of earnestness, of intense continuance, is fatal to him. He has the eye of a lynx; sees deeper, at the first glance, than any other man; but no second glance is given. Thus Truth, which, to the philosopher, has from of old been said to live in a well, remains for the most part hidden from him; we may say forever hidden, if we take the highest, and only philosophical species of Truth; for this does not reveal itself to any mortal, without quite another sort of meditation than Voltaire ever seems to have bestowed on it. In fact, his deductions are uniformly of a forensic, argumentative, immediately practical nature; often true, we will admit, so far as they go; but not the whole truth; and false, when taken for the whole. In regard to feeling, it is the same with him: he is, in general, humane, mildly affectionate, not without touches of nobleness; but light, fitful,

voltaire 113 discontinuous; ‘a smart freethinker, all things in an hour.’ He is no Poet and Philosopher, but a popular sweet Singer, and Haranguer; in all senses, and in all styles, a Concionator, which, for the most part, will turn out to be an altogether different character. It is true, in this last province he stands unrivalled; for such an audience, the most fit and perfectly persuasive of all preachers: but in many far higher provinces, he is neither perfect nor unrivalled; has been often surpassed; was surpassed even in his own age and nation. For a decisive, thorough-going, in any measure gigantic, force of thought, he is far inferior to Diderot: with all the liveliness, he has not the soft elegance; with more than the wit, he has but a small portion of the wisdom that belonged to Fontenelle: as in real sensibility, so in the delineation of it, in pathos, loftiness, and earnest eloquence, he cannot, making all fair abatements, and there are many, be compared with Rousseau. Doubtless, an astonishing fertility, quickness, address; an openness also, and universal susceptibility of mind, must have belonged to him. As little can we deny that he manifests an assiduous perseverance, a capability of long continued exertion, strange in so volatile a man; and consummate skill in husbanding and wisely directing his exertion. The very knowledge he had amassed, granting, which is but partly true, that it was superficial, remembered knowledge, might have distinguished him as a mere Dutch commentator. From Newton’s Principia to the Shaster and Vedam, nothing has escaped him: he has glanced into all literatures and all sciences; nay studied in them, for he can speak a rational word on all. It is known, for instance, that he understood Newton when no other man in France understood him: indeed, his countrymen may call Voltaire their discoverer of intellectual England,—a discovery, it is true, rather of the Curtis than of the Columbus sort, yet one which in his day still remained to be made. Nay, from all sides he brings new light into his country: now, for the first time, to the upturned wondering eyes of Frenchmen in general, does it become clear that Thought has actually a kind of existence in other kingdoms; that some glimmerings of civilization had dawned here and there on the human species, prior to the Siècle de Louis Quatorze. Of Voltaire’s acquaintance with History, at least with what he called History, be it civil, religious, or literary; of his innumerable, indescribable collection of facts, gathered from all sources—from European Chronicles and State Papers, from eastern Zends and Jewish Talmuds, we need not remind any reader. It has been objected that his information was often borrowed at second-hand; that he had his plodders and pioneers, whom, as living dictionaries, he skilfully consulted in time of need. This also seems to be partly true, but deducts little from our estimate of him: for the skill so to borrow is even rarer than the power to lend. Voltaire’s knowledge is not a mere show-room

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of curiosities, but truly a museum for purposes of teaching: every object is in its place, and there for its uses; nowhere do we find confusion, or vain display; everywhere intention, instructiveness, and the clearest order. Perhaps it is this very power of Order, of rapid, perspicuous Arrangement, that lies at the root of Voltaire’s best gifts; or rather, we should say, it is that keen, accurate intellectual vision, from which, to a mind of any intensity, Order naturally arises. This clear quick vision, and the methodic arrangement which springs from it, are looked upon as peculiarly French qualities; and Voltaire, at all times, manifests them in a more than French degree. Let him but cast his eye over any subject, in a moment he sees, though indeed only to a short depth, yet with instinctive decision, where the main bearings of it for that short depth lie; what is, or appears to be, its logical coherence; how causes connect themselves with effects; how the whole is to be seized, and in lucid sequence represented to his own or to other minds. In this respect, moreover, it is happy for him that, below the short depth alluded to, his view does not properly grow dim, but altogether terminates: thus there is nothing farther to occasion him misgivings; has he not already sounded into that basis of bottomless Darkness on which all things firmly rest? What lies below is delusion, imagination, some form of Superstition or Folly; which he, nothing doubting, altogether casts away. Accordingly, he is the most intelligible of writers; everywhere transparent at a glance. There is no delineation or disquisition of his, that has not its whole purport written on its forehead; all is precise, all is rightly adjusted; that keen spirit of Order shows itself in the whole, and in every line of the whole. If we say that this power of Arrangement, as applied both to the acquisition and to the communication of ideas, is Voltaire’s most serviceable faculty in all his enterprises, we say nothing singular: for take the word in its largest acceptation, and it comprehends the whole office of Understanding, logically so called; is the means whereby man accomplishes whatever, in the way of outward force, has been made possible for him; conquers all practical obstacles, and rises to be the ‘king of this lower world.’ It is the organ of all that Knowledge which can properly be reckoned synonymous with Power; for hereby man strikes, with wise aim, into the infinite agencies of Nature, and multiplies his own small strength to unlimited degrees. It has been said also that man may rise to be the ‘god of this lower world;’ but that is a far loftier height, not attainable by such power-knowledge, but by quite another sort, for which Voltaire in particular shows hardly any aptitude. In truth, readily as we have recognised his spirit of Method, with its many uses, we are far from ascribing to him any perceptible portion of that greatest

voltaire 115 praise in thinking, or in writing the praise of philosophic, still less of poetic Method, which, especially the latter, must be the fruit of deep feeling as well as of clear vision—of genius as well as talent; and is much more likely to be found in the compositions of a Hooker or a Shakspeare than of a Voltaire. The Method discernible in Voltaire, and this on all subjects whatever, is a purely business Method. The order that arises from it is not Beauty, but, at best, Regularity. His objects do not lie round him in pictorial, not always in scientific grouping; but rather in commodious rows, where each may be seen and come at, like goods in a well kept warehouse. We might say there is not the deep natural symmetry of a forest oak, but the simple artificial symmetry of a parlour chandelier. Compare, for example, the plan of the Henriade to that of our so barbarous Hamlet. The plan of the former is a geometrical diagram by Fermat; that of the latter a cartoon by Raphael. The Henriade, as we see it completed, is a polished, square-built Tuileries; Hamlet is a mysterious, star-paved Valhalla, and dwelling of the gods. Nevertheless, Voltaire’s style of Method is, as we have said, a business one; and for his purposes, more available than any other. It carries him swiftly through his work, and carries his reader swiftly through it; there is a prompt intelligence between the two; the whole meaning is communicated clearly, and comprehended without effort. From this also it may follow, that Voltaire will please the young more than he does the old; that the first perusal of him will please better than the second, if indeed any second be thought necessary. But what merit (and it is considerable) the pleasure and profit of this first perusal presupposes, must be honestly allowed him. Herein it seems to us lies the grand quality in all his performances. These Histories of his, for instance, are felt, in spite of their sparkling rapidity, and knowing air of philosophic insight, to be among the shallowest of all histories; mere beadrolls of exterior occurrences, of battles, edifices, enactments, and other quite superficial phenomena; yet being clear beadrolls, well adapted for memory, and recited in a lively tone, we listen with satisfaction, and learn somewhat; learn much, if we began knowing nothing. Nay sometimes the summary, in its skilful though crowded arrangement, and brilliant well-defined outlines, has almost a poetical as well as a didactic merit. Charles the Twelfth may still pass for a model in that often-attempted species of Biography: the clearest details are given in the fewest words; we have sketches of strange men and strange countries, of wars, adventures, negotiations, in a style which, for graphic brevity, rivals that of Sallust. It is a line-engraving, on a reduced scale, of that Swede and his mad life; without colours, yet not without the fore-shortenings and perspective observances,—nay not altogether without the deeper harmonies which belong to a true Picture. In respect of composition,

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whatever may be said of its accuracy or worth otherwise, we cannot but reckon it greatly the best of Voltaire’s Histories. In his other prose works, in his Novels, and innumerable Essays and fugitive pieces, the same clearness of order, the same rapid precision of view, again forms a distinguishing merit. His Zadigs and Baboucs and Candides, which, considered as products of imagination, perhaps rank higher with foreigners than any of his professedly poetical performances, are instinct with this sort of intellectual life: the sharpest glances, though from an oblique point of sight, into at least the surface of human life, into the old familiar world of business, which truly, from his oblique station, looks oblique enough, and yields store of ridiculous combinations. The Wit, manifested chiefly in these and the like performances, but ever flowing, unless purposely restrained, in boundless abundance, from Voltaire’s mind, has been often and duly celebrated. It lay deep-rooted in his nature; the inevitable produce of such an understanding with such a character, and was from the first likely, as it actually proved in the latter period of his life, to become the main dialect in which he spoke, and even thought. Doing all justice to the inexhaustible readiness, the quick force, the polished acuteness, of Voltaire’s Wit, we may remark, at the same time, that it was nowise the highest species of employment for such a mind as his; that indeed it ranks essentially among the lowest species even of Ridicule. It is at all times mere logical pleasantry; a gayety of the head, not of the heart; there is scarcely a twinkling of Humour in the whole of his numberless sallies. Wit of this sort cannot maintain a demure sedateness; a grave yet infinitely kind aspect, warming the inmost soul with true loving mirth; it has not even the force to laugh outright, but can only sniff and titter. It grounds itself, not on fond sportful sympathy, but on contempt, or at best, on indifference. It stands related to Humour as Prose does to Poetry; of which, in this department at least, Voltaire exhibits no symptom. The most determinedly ludicrous composition of his, the Pucelle, which cannot on other grounds be recommended to any reader, has no higher merit than that of an audacious caricature. True, he is not a buffoon; seldom or never violates the rules, we shall not say of propriety, yet of good breeding: to this negative praise he is entitled. But as for any high claim to positive praise, it cannot be made good. We look in vain, through his whole writings, for one lineament of a Quixote or a Shandy; even of a Hudibras or Battle of the Books. Indeed, it has been more than once observed that Humour is not a national gift with the French, in late times; that since Montaigne’s day it seems to have well nigh vanished from among them.

voltaire 117 Considered in his technical capacity of Poet, Voltaire need not, at present, detain us very long. Here too his excellence is chiefly intellectual, and shown in the way of business-like method. Everything is well calculated for a given end; there is the utmost logical fitness of sentiment, of incident, of general contrivance. Nor is he without an enthusiasm that sometimes resembles inspiration; a clear fellow-feeling for the personages of his scene he always has; with a chameleon susceptibility he takes some hue of every object; if he cannot be that object, he at least plausibly enacts it. Thus we have a result everywhere consistent with itself; a contrivance, not without nice adjustments, and brilliant aspects, which pleases with that old pleasure of ‘difficulties overcome,’ and the visible correspondence of means to end. That the deeper portion of our soul sits silent, unmoved under all this; recognising no universal, everlasting Beauty, but only a modish Elegance, less the work of poetical creation than a process of the toilette, need occasion no surprise. It signifies only that Voltaire was a French poet, and wrote as the French people of that day required and approved. We have long known that French poetry aimed at a different result from ours; that its splendour was what we should call a dead, artificial one; not the manifold soft summer glories of Nature, but a cold splendour, as of polished metal. On the whole, in reading Voltaire’s poetry, that adventure of the Café de Procope should ever be held in mind. He was not without an eye to have looked, had he seen others looking, into the deepest nature of poetry; nor has he failed here and there to cast a glance in that direction: but what preferment could such enterprises earn for him in the Café de Procope? What could it profit his all-precious ‘fame’ to pursue them farther? In the end, he seems to have heartily reconciled himself to use and wont, and striven only to do better what he saw all others doing. Yet his private poetical creed, which could not be a catholic one, was, nevertheless, scarcely so bigoted as might have been looked for. That censure of Shakspeare, which elicited a re-censure in England, perhaps rather deserved a ‘recommendatory epistle,’ all things being considered. He calls Shakspeare ‘a genius full of force and fertility, of nature and sublimity,’ though unhappily ‘without the smallest spark of good taste, or the smallest acquaintance with the rules,’ which, in Voltaire’s dialect, is not so false; Shakspeare having really almost no Parisian bon goût whatever, and walking through ‘the rules,’ so often as he sees good, with the most astonishing tranquillity. After a fair enough account of Hamlet, the best of those ‘farces monstrueuses qu’on appelle tragédies,’ where, however, there are ‘scenes so beautiful, passages so grand and so terrible,’ Voltaire thus proceeds to resolve two great problems:

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‘The first, how so many wonders could accumulate in a single head? for it must be confessed that all the divine Shakspeare’s plays are written in this taste: the second, how men’s minds could have been elevated so as to look at these plays with transport; and how they are still followed after, in a century which has produced Addison’s Cato? ‘Our astonishment at the first wonder will cease, when we understand that Shakspeare took all his tragedies from histories or romances; and that in this case he only turned into verse the romance of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet, written in full by Saxo Grammaticus, to whom be the praise. ‘The second part of the problem, that is to say, the pleasure men take in these tragedies, presents a little more difficulty; but here is (en voici) the solution, according to the deep reflections of certain philosophers. ‘The English chairmen, the sailors, hackney-coachmen, shop-porters, butchers, clerks even, are passionately fond of shows: give them cock-fights, bull-baitings, fencingmatches, burials, duels, gibbets, witchcraft, apparitions, they run thither in crowds; nay, there is more than one patrician as curious as the populace. The citizens of London found, in Shakspeare’s tragedies, satisfaction enough for such a turn of mind. The courtiers were obliged to follow the torrent: how can you help admiring what the more sensible part of the town admires? There was nothing better for a hundred and fifty years: the admiration grew with age, and became an idolatry. Some touches of genius, some happy verses full of force and nature, which you remember in spite of yourself, atoned for the remainder, and soon the whole piece succeeded by the help of some beauties of detail.’*

Here truly is a comfortable little theory, which throws light on more than one thing. However, it is couched in mild terms, comparatively speaking. Frederick the Great, for example, thus gives his verdict: ‘To convince yourself of the wretched taste that up to this day prevails in Germany, you have only to visit the public theatres. You will there see, in action, the abominable plays of Shakspeare, translated into our language; and the whole audience fainting with rapture (se pâmer d’aise) in listening to those ridiculous farces, worthy of the savages of Canada. I call them such, because they sin against all the rules of the theatre. One may pardon those mad sallies in Shakspeare, for the birth of the arts is never the point of their maturity. But here, even now, we have a Goetz de Berlichingen, which has just made its appearance on the scene; a detestable imitation of those miserable English pieces; and the pit applauds, and demands with enthusiasm the repetition of these disgusting ineptitudes (de ces dégoûtantes platitudes).† * Œuvres, t. xlvii. p. 300. † De la Littérature Allemande. Berlin, 1780. We quote from the compilation: Goethe in den Zeugnissen der Mitlebenden, s. 124.

voltaire 119 We have not cited these criticisms with a view to impugn them; but simply to ascertain where the critics themselves are standing. This passage of Frederick’s has even a touch of pathos in it; may be regarded as the expiring cry of ‘Goût,’ in that country, who sees himself suddenly beleaguered by strange, appalling, Supernatural Influences, which he mistakes for Lapland witchcraft, or Cagliostro jugglery; which nevertheless swell up round him, irrepressible, higher, ever higher; and so he drowns, grasping his opera-hat, in an ocean of ‘dégoûtantes platitudes.’ On the whole, it would appear that Voltaire’s view of poetry was radically different from ours; that, in fact, of what we should strictly call poetry, he had almost no view whatever. A Tragedy, a Poem, with him is not to be ‘a manifestation of man’s Reason in forms suitable to his Sense;’ but rather a highly complex egg-dance, to be danced before the King, to a given tune, and without breaking a single egg. Nevertheless, let justice be shown to him, and to French poetry at large. This latter is a peculiar growth of our modern ages; has been laboriously cultivated, and is not without its own value. We have to remark also, as a curious fact, that it has been, at one time or other, transplanted into all countries, England, Germany, Spain; but though under the sunbeams of royal protection, it would strike root nowhere. Nay, now it seems falling into the sere and yellow leaf in its own natal soil: the axe has already been seen near its root; and perhaps, in no great lapse of years, this species of poetry may be to the French, what it is to all other nations, a pleasing reminiscence. Yet the elder French loved it with zeal; to them it must have had a true worth: indeed we can understand how, when Life itself consisted so much in Display, these representations of Life may have been the only suitable ones. And now when the nation feels itself called to a more grave and nobler destiny among nations, the want of a new Literature also begins to be felt. As yet, in looking at their too purblind, scrambling controversies of Romanticists and Classicists, we cannot find that our ingenious neighbours have done much more than make a commencement in this enterprise: however a commencement seems to be made; they are in what may be called the eclectic state; trying all things, German, English, Italian, Spanish, with a candour and real love of improvement, which give the best omens of a still higher success. From the peculiar gifts of the French, and their peculiar spiritual position, we may expect, had they once more attained to an original style, many important benefits, and important accessions to the Literature of the World. Meanwhile, in considering and duly estimating what that people has, in past times, accomplished, Voltaire must always be reckoned among their most meritorious Poets. Inferior in what we may call general poetic temperament to Racine; greatly inferior, in some points of it, to Corneille, he has an intellectual

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vivacity, a quickness both of sight and of invention, which belongs to neither of these two. We believe that, among foreign nations, his Tragedies, such works as Zaire and Mahomet, are considerably the most esteemed of this school. However, it is nowise as a Poet, Historian, or Novelist, that Voltaire stands so prominent in Europe; but chiefly as a religious Polemic, as a vehement opponent of the Christian Faith. Viewed in this last character, he may give rise to many grave reflections, only a small portion of which can here be so much as glanced at. We may say, in general, that his style of controversy is of a piece with himself; not a higher, and scarcely a lower style than might have been expected from him. As in a moral point of view, Voltaire nowise wanted a love of truth, yet had withal a still deeper love of his own interest in truth; was, therefore, intrinsically no Philosopher, but a highly-accomplished Trivialist,—so likewise, in an intellectual point of view, he manifests himself ingenious and adroit, rather than noble or comprehensive; fights for truth or victory, not by patient meditation, but by light sarcasm, whereby victory may indeed, for a time, be gained; but little Truth, what can be named Truth, especially in such matters as this, is to be looked for. No one, we suppose, ever arrogated for Voltaire any praise of originality in this discussion: we suppose there is not a single idea, of any moment, relating to the Christian Religion, in all his multifarious writings, that had not been set forth again and again before his enterprises commenced. The labours of a very mixed multitude, from Porphyry down to Shaftesbury, including Hobbeses, Tindals, Tolands, some of them sceptics of a much nobler class, had left little room for merit in this kind: nay, Bayle, his own countryman, had just finished a life spent in preaching scepticism precisely similar, and by methods precisely similar, when Voltaire appeared on the arena. Indeed, scepticism, as we have before observed, was at this period universal among the higher ranks in France, with whom Voltaire chiefly associated. It is only in the merit and demerit of grinding down this grain into food for the people, and inducing so many to eat of it, that Voltaire can claim any singularity. However, we quarrel not with him on this head: there may be cases where the want of originality is even a moral merit. But it is a much more serious ground of offence that he intermeddled in Religion without being himself in any measure Religious; that he entered the Temple and continued there, with a levity, which, in any Temple where men worship, can beseem no brother man; that, in a word, he ardently, and with longcontinued effort, warred against Christianity, without understanding beyond the mere superficies of what Christianity was.

voltaire 121 His polemical procedure in this matter, it appears to us, must now be admitted to have been, on the whole, a shallow one. Through all its manifold forms, and involutions and repetitions, it turns, we believe exclusively, on one point: what Theologians have called the ‘plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures.’ This is the single wall, against which, through long years, and with innumerable battering-rams and catapults and pop-guns, he unweariedly batters. Concede him this, and his ram swings freely, to and fro, through space; there is nothing farther it can even aim at. That the Sacred Books could be aught else than a Bank-of-Faith Bill, for such and such quantities of Enjoyment, payable at sight in the other world, value received; which bill becomes waste paper, the stamp being questioned:—that the Christian Religion could have any deeper foundation than Books, could possibly be written in the purest nature of man, in mysterious, ineffaceable characters, to which Books, and all Revelations, and authentic traditions, were but a subsidiary matter, were but as the light whereby that divine writing was to be read;—nothing of this seems to have, even in the faintest manner, occurred to him. Yet herein, as we believe that the whole world has now begun to discover, lies the real essence of the question; by the negative or affirmative decision of which the Christian Religion, anything that is worth calling by that name, must fall, or endure forever. We believe, also, that the wiser minds of our age have already come to agreement on this question; or rather never were divided regarding it. Christianity, the ‘Worship of Sorrow,’ has been recognized as divine; on far other grounds than ‘Essays on Miracles,’ and by considerations infinitely deeper than would avail in any mere ‘trial by jury.’ He who argues against it, or for it, in this manner, may be regarded as mistaking its nature: the Ithuriel, though to our eyes he wears a body, and the fashion of armour, cannot be wounded with material steel. Our fathers were wiser than we, when they said in deepest earnestness, what we often hear in shallow mockery, that Religion is ‘not of Sense, but of Faith;’ not of Understanding, but of Reason. He who finds himself without the latter, who by all his studying has failed to unfold it in himself, may have studied to great or to small purpose, we say not which; but of the Christian Religion, as of many other things, he has and can have no knowledge. The Christian Doctrine we often hear likened to the Greek Philosophy, and found, on all hands, some measurable way superior to it: but this also seems a mistake. The Christian Doctrine, that doctrine of Humility, in all senses, godlike, and the parent of all godlike virtues, is not superior, or inferior, or equal, to any doctrine of Socrates or Thales; being of a totally different nature; differing from these, as a perfect Ideal Poem does from a correct Computation in Arithmetic.

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He who compares it with such standards may lament that, beyond the mere letter, the purport of this divine Humility has never been disclosed to him; that the loftiest feeling hitherto vouchsafed to mankind is as yet hidden from his eyes. For the rest, the question how Christianity originated is doubtless a high question; resolvable enough, if we view only its surface, which was all that Voltaire saw of it; involved in sacred, silent, unfathomable depths if we investigate its interior meanings; which meanings, indeed, it may be, every new age will develope to itself in a new manner, and with new degrees of light; for the whole truth may be called infinite, and to men’s eye discernible only in parts: but the question itself is nowise the ultimate one in this matter. We understand ourselves to be risking no new assertion, but simply reporting what is already the conviction of the greatest of our age, when we say,—that cheerfully recognising, gratefully appropriating whatever Voltaire has proved, or any other man has proved, or shall prove, the Christian Religion, once here, cannot again pass away; that, in one or the other form, it will endure through all time; that, as in Scripture, so also in the heart of man, is written, ‘the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ Were the memory of this Faith never so obscured, as, indeed, in all times, the coarse passions and perceptions of the world do all but obliterate it in the hearts of most; yet in every pure soul, in every Poet and Wise Man, it finds a new Missionary, a new Martyr, till the great volume of Universal History is finally closed, and man’s destinies are fulfilled in this earth. ‘It is a height to which the human species were fated and enabled to attain; and from which, having once attained it, they can never retrograde.’ These things, which it were far out of our place to attempt adequately elucidating here, must not be left out of sight, in appreciating Voltaire’s polemical worth. We find no trace of these, or of any the like essential considerations having been present with him, in examining the Christian Religion; nor indeed was it consistent with his general habits that they should be so. Totally destitute of religious Reverence, even of common practical seriousness; by nature or habit, undevout both in heart and head; not only without any Belief, in other than a material sense, but without the possibility of acquiring any, he can be no safe or permanently useful guide in this investigation. We may consider him as having opened the way to future inquirers of a truer spirit; but for his own part, as having engaged in an enterprise, the real nature of which was well nigh unknown to him; and engaged in it with the issue to be anticipated in such a case; producing chiefly confusion, dislocation, destruction, on all hands; so that the good he achieved is still, in these times, found mixed with an alarming

voltaire 123 proportion of evil, from which, indeed, men rationally doubt whether much of it will in any time be separable. We should err widely, too, if in estimating what quantity, altogether overlooking what quality, of intellect Voltaire may have manifested on this occasion, we took the result produced as any measure of the force applied. His task was not one of Affirmation, but of Denial; not a task of erecting and rearing up, which is slow and laborious; but of destroying and overturning, which in most cases is rapid and far easier. The force necessary for him was nowise a great and noble one; but a small, in some respects a mean one, to be nimbly and seasonably put in use. The Ephesian Temple, which it had employed many wise heads and strong arms for a life-time to build, could be un-built by one madman, in a single hour. Of such errors, deficiencies, and positive misdeeds, it appears to us, a just criticism must accuse Voltaire: at the same time, we can nowise join in the condemnatory clamour which so many worthy persons, not without the best intentions, to this day keep up against him. His whole character seems to be plain enough, common enough, had not extraneous influences so perverted our views regarding it: nor, morally speaking, is it a worse character, but considerably a better one, than belongs to the mass of men. Voltaire’s aims in opposing the Christian Religion were unhappily of a mixed nature: yet, after all, very nearly such aims as we have often seen directed against it, and often seen directed in its favour: a little love of finding Truth, with a great love of making Proselytes; which last is in itself a natural, universal feeling; and if honest, is, even in the worst cases, a subject for pity, rather than for hatred. As a light, careless, courteous Man of the World, he offers no hateful aspect; on the contrary, a kindly, gay, rather amiable one: hundreds of men, with half his worth of disposition, die daily, and their little world laments them. It is time that he too should be judged of by his intrinsic, not by his accidental qualities; that justice should be done to him also; for injustice can profit no man and no cause. In fact, Voltaire’s chief merits belong to Nature and himself; his chief faults are of his time and country. In that famous era of the Pompadours and Encyclopédies, he forms the main figure; and was such, we have seen, more by resembling the multitude, than by differing from them. It was a strange age that of Louis XV.; in several points, a novel one in the history of mankind. In regard to its luxury and depravity; to the high culture of all merely practical and material faculties, and the entire torpor of all the purely contemplative and spiritual, this era considerably resembles that of the Roman Emperors. There too was external splendour and internal squalor; the highest completeness in all sensual arts, including among these not cookery and its adjuncts alone, but even

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‘effect-painting’ and ‘effect-writing;’ only the art of virtuous living was a lost one. Instead of Love for Poetry, there was ‘Taste’ for it; refinement in manners, with utmost coarseness in morals: in a word, the strange spectacle of a Social System, embracing large, cultivated portions of the human species, and founded only on Atheism. With the Romans, things went what we should call their natural course: Liberty, public spirit quietly declined into a caput-mortuum; Self-love, Materialism, Baseness even to the disbelief in all possibility of Virtue, stalked more and more imperiously abroad; till the body-politic, long since deprived of its vital circulating fluids, had now become a putrid carcase, and fell in pieces to be the prey of ravenous wolves. Then was there, under these Attilas and Alarics, a world’s-spectacle of destruction and despair, compared with which the often-commemorated ‘horrors of the French Revolution,’ and all Napoleon’s wars, were but the gay jousting of a tournament to the sack of stormed cities. Our European community has escaped the like dire consummation; and by causes, which, as may be hoped, will always secure it from such. Nay, were there no other cause, it may be asserted, that in a common-wealth where the Christian Religion exists, where it once has existed, public and private Virtue, the basis of all Strength, never can become extinct; but in every new age, and even from the deepest decline, there is a chance, and in the course of ages, a certainty of renovation. That the Christian Religion, or any Religion, continued to exist; that some martyr heroism still lived in the heart of Europe to rise against mailed Tyranny when it rode triumphant,—was indeed no merit in the age of Louis XV., but a happy accident which it could not altogether get rid of. For that age too is to be regarded as an experiment, on the great scale, to decide the question, not yet, it would appear, settled to universal satisfaction: With what degree of vigour a political system, grounded on pure Self-interest, never so enlightened, but without a God, or any recognition of the godlike in man, can be expected to flourish; or whether, in such circumstances, a political system can be expected to flourish, or even to subsist at all? It is contended by many that our mere love of personal Pleasure, or Happiness as it is called, acting on every individual, with such clearness as he may easily have, will of itself lead him to respect the rights of others, and wisely employ his own; to fulfil, on a mere principle of economy, all the duties of a good patriot; so that, in what respects the State, or the merely social existence of mankind, Belief, beyond the testimony of the senses, and Virtue, beyond the very common Virtue of loving what is pleasant, and hating what is painful, are to be considered as supererogatory qualifications, as ornamental, not essential. Many there are, on the other hand, who pause

voltaire 125 over this doctrine; cannot discover, in such a universe of conflicting atoms, any principle by which the whole shall cohere: for if every man’s selfishness, infinitely expansive, is to be hemmed in only by the infinitely-expansive selfishness of every other man, it seems as if we should have a world of mutually-repulsive bodies with no centripetal force to bind them together; in which case, it is well known, they would, by and by, diffuse themselves over space, and constitute a remarkable Chaos, but no habitable Solar or Stellar System. If the age of Louis XV. was not made an experimentum crucis in regard to this question, one reason may be that such experiments are too expensive. Nature cannot afford, above once or twice in the thousand years, to destroy a whole world, for purposes of science; but must content herself with destroying one or two kingdoms. The age of Louis XV., so far as it went, seems a highly illustrative experiment. We are to remark also that its operation was clogged by a very considerable disturbing force; by a large remnant, namely, of the old faith in Religion, in the invisible, celestial nature of Virtue, which our French Purifiers, by their utmost efforts of lavation, had not been able to wash away. The men did their best, but no man can do more. Their worst enemy, we imagine, will not accuse them of any undue regard to things unseen and spiritual: far from practising this invisible sort of Virtue, they cannot even believe in its possibility. The high exploits and endurances of old ages were no longer virtues, but ‘passions;’ these antique persons had a taste for being heroes, a certain fancy to die for the truth: the more fools they! With our Philosophes, the only virtue of any civilization was what they call ‘Honour,’ the sanctioning deity of which is that wonderful ‘Force of Public Opinion.’ Concerning which virtue of Honour, we must be permitted to say that she reveals herself too clearly, as the daughter and heiress of our old acquaintance Vanity, who indeed has been known enough, ever since the foundation of the world, at least since the date of that ‘Lucifer, son of the Morning;’ but known chiefly in her proper character of strolling actress, or cast-clothes Abigail; and never till that new era had seen her issue set up as Queen and all-sufficient Dictatress of man’s whole soul, prescribing with nicest precision what, in all practical and all moral emergencies, he was to do and to forbear. Again, with regard to this same Force of Public Opinion, it is a force well known to all of us, respected, valued as of indispensable utility, but nowise recognised as a final or divine force. We might ask what divine, what truly great thing had ever been effected by this force? Was it the Force of Public Opinion that drove Columbus to America; John Kepler, not to fare sumptuously among Rodolph’s Astrologers and Fire-eaters, but to perish of want, discovering the true System of the Stars? Still more ineffectual do we find it as a basis of

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public or private Morals. Nay, taken by itself, it may be called a baseless basis; for without some ulterior sanction, common to all minds; without some belief in the necessary, eternal, or which is the same, in the supramundane, divine nature of Virtue, existing in each individual, what could the moral judgment of a thousand or a thousand thousand individuals avail us? Without some celestial guidance, whencesoever derived, or howsoever named, it appears to us the Force of Public Opinion would, by and by, become an extremely unprofitable one. “Enlighten Self-interest!” cries the Philosophe, “Do but sufficiently enlighten it!” We ourselves have seen enlightened Self-interests, ere now; and truly, for most part, their light was only as that of a horn-lantern, sufficient to guide the bearer himself out of various puddles; but to us and the world, of comparatively small advantage. And figure the human species, like an endless host, seeking its way onwards through undiscovered Time, in black darkness, save that each had his horn-lantern, and the vanguard some few of glass! However we will not dwell on controversial niceties. What we had to remark was that this era, called of Philosophy, was in itself but a poor era; that any little morality it had was chiefly borrowed, and from those very ages which it accounted so barbarous. For this ‘Honour,’ this ‘Force of Public Opinion,’ is not asserted, on any side, to have much renovating, but only a sustaining or preventive power; it cannot create new Virtue, but at best may preserve what is already there. Nay, of the age of Louis XV., we may say that its very Power, its material strength, its knowledge, all that it had, was borrowed. It boasted itself to be an age of illumination; and truly illumination there was of its kind: only, except the illuminated windows, almost nothing to be seen thereby. None of those great Doctrines or Institutions that have ‘made man in all points a man;’ none even of those Discoveries that have the most subjected external Nature to his purposes, were made in that age. What Plough, or Printing-press, what Chivalry, or Christianity; nay, what Steam-engine, or Quakerism, or Trial by Jury, did these Encyclopedists invent for mankind? They invented simply nothing; not one of man’s virtues, not one of man’s powers, is due to them; in all these respects, the age of Louis XV. is among the most barren of recorded ages. Indeed, the whole trade of our Philosophes was directly the opposite of invention: it was not to produce, that they stood there; but to criticise, to quarrel with, to rend in pieces, what had been already produced;—a quite inferior trade; sometimes a useful, but on the whole a mean trade; often the fruit, and always the parent, of meanness, in every mind that permanently follows it. Considering the then position of affairs, it is not singular that the age of Louis XV. should have been what it was: an age without nobleness, without

voltaire 127 high virtues, or high manifestations of talent; an age of shallow clearness, of polish, self-conceit, scepticism, and all forms of Persiflage. As little does it seem surprising, or peculiarly blameable, that Voltaire, the leading man of that age, should have partaken largely of all its qualities. True, his giddy activity took serious effect, the light firebrands which he so carelessly scattered abroad, kindled fearful conflagrations: but in these there has been good as well as evil; nor is it just that, even for the latter, he, a limited mortal, should be charged with more than mortal’s responsibility. After all, that parched, blighted period, and the period of earthquakes and tornadoes which followed it, have now well nigh cleared away: they belong to the Past, and for us and those that come after us, are not without their benefits, and calm historical meaning. ‘The thinking heads of all nations,’ says a deep observer, ‘had in secret come to majority; and, in a mistaken feeling of their vocation, rose the more fiercely against antiquated constraint. The Man of Letters is, by instinct, opposed to a Priesthood of old standing: the literary class and the clerical must wage a war of extermination, when they are divided; for both strive after one place. Such division became more and more perceptible, the nearer we approached the period of European manhood, the epoch of triumphant Learning; and Knowledge and Faith came into more decided contradiction. In the prevailing Faith, as was thought, lay the reason of the universal degradation; and by a more and more searching Knowledge men hoped to remove it. On all hands, the Religious feeling suffered, under manifold attacks against its actual manner of existence, against the Forms in which hitherto it had embodied itself. The result of that modern way of thought was named Philosophy; and in this all was included that opposed itself to the ancient way of thought, especially, therefore, all that opposed itself to Religion. The original personal hatred against the Catholic Faith passed, by degrees, into hatred against the Bible; against the Christian Religion, and at last against Religion altogether. Nay more, this hatred of Religion naturally extended itself over all objects of enthusiasm in general; proscribed Fancy and Feeling, Morality and love of Art, the Future and the Antique; placed man, with an effort, foremost in the series of natural productions; and changed the infinite, creative music of the Universe into the monotonous clatter of a boundless Mill, which, turned by the stream of Chance, and swimming thereon, was a Mill of itself, without Architect and Miller, properly, a genuine perpetuum mobile, a real, self-grinding Mill. ‘One enthusiasm was generously left to poor mankind, and rendered indispensable as a touchstone of the highest culture, for all jobbers in the same: Enthusiasm for this magnanimous Philosophy, and above all, for these its priests and mystagogues. France was so happy as to be the birthplace and dwelling of this new Faith, which had thus,

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from patches of pure knowledge, been pasted together. Low as Poetry ranked in this new Church, there were some poets among them, who for effect’s sake made use of the old ornaments and old lights; but, in so doing, ran a risk of kindling the new world-system by ancient fire. More cunning brethren, however, were at hand to help; and always in season poured cold water on the warming audience. The members of this Church were restlessly employed in clearing Nature, the Earth, the Souls of men, the Sciences, from all Poetry; obliterating every vestige of the Holy; disturbing, by sarcasms, the memory of all lofty occurrences, and lofty men; disrobing the world of all its variegated vesture. * * * Pity that Nature continued so wondrous and incomprehensible, so poetical and infinite, all efforts to modernize her notwithstanding! However, if anywhere an old superstition, of a higher world and the like, came to light, instantly, on all hands, was a springing of rattles; that, if possible, the dangerous spark might be extinguished, by appliances of philosophy and wit: yet Tolerance was the watchword of the cultivated; and in France, above all, synonymous with Philosophy. Highly remarkable is this history of modern Unbelief; the key to all the vast phenomena of recent times. Not till last century, till the latter half of it, does the novelty begin; and in a little while, it expands to an immeasurable bulk and variety: a second Reformation, a more comprehensive, and more specific, was unavoidable; and naturally it first visited that land which was the most modernised, and had the longest lain in an asthenic state, from want of freedom. * * * ‘At the present epoch, however, we stand high enough to look back with a friendly smile on those bygone days; and even in those marvellous follies to discern curious crystallisations of historical matter. Thankfully will we stretch out our hands to those Men of Letters and Philosophes: for this delusion too required to be exhausted, and the scientific side of things to have full value given it. More beauteous and many-coloured stands Poesy, like a leafy India, when contrasted with the cold, dead Spitzbergen of that Closet-Logic. That in the middle of the globe, an India, so warm and lordly, might exist, must also a cold motionless sea, dead cliffs, mist instead of the starry sky, and a long night, make both Poles uninhabitable. The deep meaning of the laws of Mechanism lay heavy on those anchorites in the deserts of Understanding: the charm of the first glimpse into it overpowered them: the Old avenged itself on them; to the first feeling of self-consciousness, they sacrificed, with wondrous devotedness, what was holiest and fairest in the world; and were the first that, in practice, again recognized and preached forth the sacredness of Nature, the infinitude of Art, the independence of Knowledge, the worth of the Practical, and the all-presence of the Spirit of History; and so doing, put an end to a Spectre-dynasty more potent, universal, and terrific than perhaps they themselves were aware of.’*

* Novalis Schriften, i., s. 198.

voltaire 129 How far our readers will accompany Novalis in such high-soaring speculation is not for us to say. Meanwhile, that the better part of them have already, in their own dialect, united with him, and with us, in candid tolerance, in clear acknowledgment, towards French Philosophy, towards this Voltaire and the spiritual period which bears his name, we do not hesitate to believe. Intolerance, animosity, can forward no cause; and least of all, beseems the cause of moral and religious truth. A wise man has well reminded us, that ‘in any controversy, the instant we feel angry, we have already ceased striving for Truth, and begun striving for Ourselves.’ Let no man doubt but Voltaire and his disciples, like all men and all things that live and act in God’s world, will one day be found to have ‘worked together for good.’ Nay that, with all his evil, he has already accomplished good, must be admitted in the soberest calculation. How much do we include in this one little word: He gave the death-stab to modern Superstition! That horrid incubus, which dwelt in darkness, shunning the light, is passing away; with all its racks and poison-chalices, and foul sleeping-draughts, is passing away without return. It was a most weighty service. Does not the cry of “No Popery,” and some vague terror or sham-terror of ‘Smithfield fires,’ still act on certain minds in these very days? He who sees even a little way into the signs of the times, sees well that both the Smithfield fires and the Edinburgh thumbscrews (for these too must be held in remembrance) are things which have long, very long, lain behind us; divided from us by a wall of Centuries, transparent indeed, but more impassable than adamant. For, as we said, Superstition is in its death-lair: the last agonies may endure for decades or for centuries; but it carries the iron in its heart, and will not vex the earth any more. That, with Superstition, Religion is also passing away, seems to us a still more ungrounded fear. Religion cannot pass away. The burning of a little straw may hide the stars of the sky; but the stars are there, and will reappear. On the whole, we must repeat the often-repeated saying, that it is unworthy a religious man to view an irreligious one either with alarm or aversion; or with any other feeling than regret, and hope, and brotherly commiseration. If he seek Truth, is he not our brother, and to be pitied? If he do not seek Truth, is he not still our brother, and to be pitied still more? Old Ludovicus Vives has a story of a clown that killed his ass because it had drunk up the moon, and he thought the world could ill spare that luminary. So he killed his ass, ut lunam redderet. The clown was well-intentioned, but unwise. Let us not imitate him: let us not slay a faithful servant, who has carried us far. He has not drunk the moon; but only the reflection of the moon, in his own poor water-pail, where too, it may be, he was drinking with purposes the most harmless.

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BIOGRAPHY.*

Man’s sociality of nature evinces itself, in spite of all that can be said, with abundant evidence by this one fact, were there no other: the unspeakable delight he takes in Biography. It is written, ‘The proper study of mankind is man;’ to which study, let us candidly admit, he, by true or by false methods, applies himself, nothing loath. ‘Man is perennially interesting to man; nay, if we look strictly to it, there is nothing else interesting.’ How inexpressibly comfortable to know our fellow-creature; to see into him, understand his goings forth, decipher the whole heart of his mystery: nay, not only to see into him, but even to see out of him, to view the world altogether as he views it; so that we can theoretically construe him, and could almost practically personate him; and do now thoroughly discern both what manner of man he is, and what manner of thing he has got to work on and live on! A scientific interest and a poetic one alike inspire us in this matter. A scientific: because every mortal has a Problem of Existence set before him, which, were it only, what for the most it is, the Problem of keeping soul and body together, must be to a certain extent original, unlike every other; and yet, at the same time, so like every other; like our own, therefore; instructive, therefore, since we also are indentured to live. A poetic interest still more: for precisely this same struggle of human Freewill against material Necessity, which every man’s Life, by the mere circumstance that the man continues alive, will more or * The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: including a Tour to the Hebrides: By James Boswell, Esq.—A new Edition, with numerous Additions and Notes: By John Wilson Croker, LL.D. F.R.S. 5 vols. London, 1831.

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less victoriously exhibit,—is that which above all else, or rather inclusive of all else, calls the Sympathy of mortal hearts into action; and whether as acted, or as represented and written of, not only is Poetry, but is the sole Poetry possible. Borne onwards by which two all-embracing interests, may the earnest Lover of Biography expand himself on all sides, and indefinitely enrich himself. Looking with the eyes of every new neighbour, he can discern a new world different for each; feeling with the heart of every neighbour, he lives with every neighbour’s life, even as with his own. Of these millions of living men each individual is a mirror to us: a mirror both scientific and poetic; or, if you will, both natural and magical;—from which one would so gladly draw aside the gauze veil; and, peering therein, discern the image of his own natural face, and the supernatural secrets that prophetically lie under the same! Observe, accordingly, to what extent, in the actual course of things, this business of Biography is practised and relished. Define to thyself, judicious Reader, the real significance of these phenomena, named Gossip, Egotism, Personal Narrative (miraculous or not), Scandal, Raillery, Slander, and such like; the sum-total of which (with some fractional addition of a better ingredient, generally too small to be noticeable) constitutes that other grand phenomenon still called ‘Conversation.’ Do they not mean wholly: Biography and Autobiography? Not only in the common Speech of men; but in all Art too, which is or should be the concentrated and conserved essence of what men can speak and shew, Biography is almost the one thing needful. Even in the highest works of Art our interest, as the critics complain, is too apt to be strongly or even mainly of a Biographic sort. In the Art, we can nowise forget the Artist: while looking on the Transfiguration, while studying the Iliad, we ever strive to figure to ourselves what spirit dwelt in Raphael; what a head was that of Homer, wherein, woven of Elysian light and Tartarean gloom, that old world fashioned itself together, of which these written Greek characters are but a feeble though perennial copy. The Painter and the Singer are present to us; we partially and for the time become the very Painter and the very Singer, while we enjoy the Picture and the Song. Perhaps, too, let the critic say what he will, this is the highest enjoyment, the clearest recognition, we can have of these. Art indeed is Art; yet Man also is Man. Had the Transfiguration been painted without human hand; had it grown merely on the canvass, say by atmospheric influences, as lichen-pictures do on rocks,—it were a grand Picture doubtless; yet nothing like so grand as the Picture, which, on opening our eyes, we everywhere in Heaven and in Earth see painted; and everywhere pass over with indifference,—because the Painter was not a Man. Think of this; much lies in it. The

biography 133 Vatican is great; yet poor to Chimborazo or the Peak of Teneriffe: its dome is but a foolish Big-endian or Little-endian chip of an egg-shell compared with that star-fretted Dome where Arcturus and Orion glance forever; which latter, notwithstanding, who looks at, save perhaps some necessitous star-gazer bent to make Almanacs, some thick-quilted watchman to see what weather it will prove? The Biographic interest is wanting: no Michael Angelo was He who built that ‘Temple of Immensity;’ therefore do we, pitiful Littlenesses as we are, turn rather to wonder and to worship in the little toybox of a Temple built by our like. Still more decisively, still more exclusively does the Biographic interest manifest itself, as we descend into lower regions of spiritual communication; through the whole range of what is called Literature. Of History, for example, the most honoured, if not honourable species of composition, is not the whole purport Biographic? ‘History,’ it has been said, ‘is the essence of innumerable Biographies.’ Such, at least, it should be: whether it is, might admit of question. But, in any case, what hope have we in turning over those old interminable Chronicles, with their garrulities and insipidities; or still worse, in patiently examining those modern Narrations, of the Philosophic kind, where ‘Philosophy, teaching by Experience,’ must sit like owl on housetop, seeing nothing, understanding nothing, uttering only, with solemnity enough, her perpetual most wearisome hoo-hoo:—what hope have we, except the for most part fallacious one of gaining some acquaintance with our fellow-creatures, though dead and vanished, yet dear to us; how they got along in those old days, suffering and doing; to what extent, and under what circumstances, they resisted the Devil and triumphed over him, or struck their colours to him, and were trodden under foot by him; how, in short, the perennial Battle went, which men name Life, which we also in these new days, with indifferent fortune, have to fight, and must bequeath to our sons and grandsons to go on fighting,—till the Enemy one day be quite vanquished and abolished, or else the great Night sink and part the combatants; and thus, either by some Millennium or some new Noah’s Deluge, the Volume of Universal History wind itself up! Other hope, in studying such Books, we have none: and that it is a deceitful hope, who that has tried knows not? A feast of widest Biographic insight is spread for us; we enter full of hungry anticipation: alas! like so many other feasts, which Life invites us to, a mere Ossian’s ‘feast of shells,’—the food and liquor being all emptied out and clean gone, and only the vacant dishes and deceitful emblems thereof left! Your modern Historical Restaurateurs are indeed little better than high-priests of Famine; that keep choicest china dinner-sets, only no dinner to serve therein. Yet such is our

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Biographic appetite, we run trying from shop to shop, with ever new hope; and, unless we could eat the wind, with ever new disappointment. Again, consider the whole class of Fictitious Narratives; from the highest category of epic or dramatic Poetry, in Shakspeare and Homer, down to the lowest of froth Prose, in the Fashionable Novel. What are all these but so many mimic Biographies? Attempts, here by an inspired Speaker, there by an uninspired Babbler, to deliver himself, more or less ineffectually, of the grand secret wherewith all hearts labour oppressed: The significance of Man’s Life;—which deliverance, even as traced in the unfurnished head, and printed at the Minerva Press, finds readers. For, observe, though there is a greatest Fool, as a superlative in every kind; and the most Foolish man in the Earth is now indubitably living and breathing, and did this morning or lately eat breakfast, and is even now digesting the same; and looks out on the world, with his dim horn-eyes, and inwardly forms some unspeakable theory thereof: yet where shall the authentically Existing be personally met with! Can one of us, otherwise than by guess, know that we have got sight of him, have orally communed with him? To take even the narrower sphere of this our English Metropolis, can any one confidently say to himself, that he has conversed with the identical, individual, Stupidest man now extant in London? No one. Deep as we dive in the Profound, there is ever a new depth opens: where the ultimate bottom may lie, through what new scenes of being we must pass before reaching it (except that we know it does lie somewhere, and might by human faculty and opportunity be reached), is altogether a mystery to us. Strange, tantalizing pursuit! We have the fullest assurance, not only that there is a Stupidest of London men actually resident, with bed and board of some kind, in London; but that several persons have been or perhaps are now speaking face to face with him: while for us, chase it as we may, such scientific blessedness will too probably be forever denied!—But the thing we meant to enforce was this comfortable fact, that no known Head was so wooden, but there might be other heads to which it were a genius and Friar Bacon’s Oracle. Of no given Book, not even of a Fashionable Novel, can you predicate with certainty that its vacuity is absolute; that there are not other vacuities which shall partially replenish themselves therefrom, and esteem it a plenum. How knowest thou, may the distressed Novelwright exclaim, that I, here where I sit, am the Foolishest of existing mortals; that this my Long-ear of a Fictitious Biography shall not find one and the other, into whose still longer ears it may be the means, under Providence, of instilling somewhat? We answer, None knows, none can certainly know: therefore, write on, worthy Brother, even as thou canst, even as it has been given thee.

biography 135 Here, however, in regard to ‘Fictitious Biographies,’ and much other matter of like sort, which the greener mind in these days inditeth, we may as well insert some singular sentences on the importance and significance of Reality, as they stand written for us in Professor Gottfried Sauerteig’s Æsthetische Springwürzel: a Work, perhaps, as yet new to most English readers. The Professor and Doctor is not a man whom we can praise without reservation; neither shall we say that his Springwürzel (a sort of magical picklocks, as he affectedly names them) are adequate to ‘start’ every bolt that locks up an æsthetic mystery: nevertheless, in his crabbed, one-sided way, he sometimes hits masses of the truth. We endeavour to translate faithfully, and trust the reader will find it worth serious perusal: ‘The significance, even for poetic purposes,’ says Sauerteig, ‘that lies in Reality, is too apt to escape us; is perhaps only now beginning to be discerned. When we named Rousseau’s Confessions an elegiaco-didactic Poem, we meant more than an empty figure of speech; we meant a historical scientific fact. ‘Fiction, while the feigner of it knows that he is feigning, partakes, more than we suspect, of the nature of lying; and has ever an, in some degree, unsatisfactory character. All Mythologies were once Philosophies; were believed: the Epic Poems of old time, so long as they continued epic, and had any complete impressiveness, were Histories, and understood to be narratives of facts. In so far as Homer employed his gods as mere ornamental fringes, and had not himself, or at least did not expect his hearers to have, a belief that they were real agents in those antique doings; so far did he fail to be genuine; so far was he a partially hollow and false singer; and sang to please only a portion of man’s mind, not the whole thereof. ‘Imagination is, after all, but a poor matter when it must part company with Understanding, and even front it hostilely in flat contradiction. Our mind is divided in twain: there is contest; wherein that which is weaker must needs come to the worse. Now of all feelings, states, principles, call it what you will, in man’s mind, is not Belief the clearest, strongest; against which all others contend in vain? Belief is, indeed, the beginning and first condition of all spiritual Force whatsoever: only in so far as Imagination, were it but momentarily, is believed, can there be any use or meaning in it, any enjoyment of it. And what is momentary Belief ? The enjoyment of a moment. Whereas a perennial Belief were enjoyment perennially, and with the whole united soul. ‘It is thus that I judge of the Supernatural in an Epic Poem; and would say, the instant it has ceased to be authentically supernatural, and become what you call “Machinery;” sweep it out of sight (schaff ’es mir vom Halse)! Of a truth, that same “Machinery,” about which the critics make such hubbub, was well named Machinery; for it is in very deed

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mechanical, nowise inspired or poetical. Neither, for us, is there the smallest æsthetic enjoyment in it; save only in this way: that we believe it to have been believed,—by the Singer or his Hearers; into whose case we now laboriously struggle to transport ourselves; and so, with stinted enough result, catch some reflex of the Reality, which for them was wholly real, and visible face to face. Whenever it has come so far that your “Machinery” is avowedly mechanical and unbelieved,—what is it else, if we dare tell ourselves the truth, but a miserable, meaningless Deception, kept up by old use and wont alone? If the gods of an Iliad are to us no longer authentic Shapes of Terror, heart-stirring, heartappalling, but only vague-glittering Shadows,—what must the dead Pagan gods of an Epigoniad be, the dead-living Pagan-Christian gods of a Lusiad, the concrete-abstract, evangelical-metaphysical gods of a Paradise Lost? Superannuated lumber! Cast raiment, at best; in which some poor mime, strutting and swaggering, may or may not set forth new noble Human Feelings (again a Reality), and so secure, or not secure, our pardon of such hoydenish masking,—for which, in any case, he has a pardon to ask. ‘True enough, none but the earliest Epic Poems can claim this distinction of entire credibility, of Reality: after an Iliad, a Shaster, a Koran, and other the like primitive performances, the rest seem, by this rule of mine, to be altogether excluded from the list. Accordingly, what are all the rest, from Virgil’s Æneid downwards, in comparison?— Frosty, artificial, heterogeneous things; more of gumflowers than of roses; at best, of the two mixed incoherently together: to some of which, indeed, it were hard to deny the title of Poems; yet to no one of which can that title belong in any sense even resembling the old high one it, in those old days, conveyed,—when the epithet “divine” or “sacred,” as applied to the uttered Word of man, was not a vain metaphor, a vain sound, but a real name with meaning. Thus, too, the farther we recede from those early days, when Poetry, as true Poetry is always, was still sacred or divine, and inspired (what ours, in great part, only pretends to be),—the more impossible becomes it to produce any, we say not true Poetry, but tolerable semblance of such; the hollower, in particular, grow all manner of Epics; till at length, as in this generation, the very name of Epic sets men a-yawning, the announcement of a new Epic is received as a public calamity. ‘But what if the impossible being once for all quite discarded, the probable be well adhered to: how stands it with fiction then? Why, then, I would say, the evil is much mended, but nowise completely cured. We have then, in place of the wholly dead modern Epic, the partially living modern Novel; to which latter it is much easier to lend that above-mentioned, so essential “momentary credence” than to the former: indeed, infinitely easier; for the former being flatly incredible, no mortal can for a moment credit it, for a moment enjoy it. Thus, here and there, a Tom Jones, a Meister, a Crusoe, will yield no little solacement to the minds of men; though still immeasurably less than a Reality would, were the significance thereof as impressively unfolded, were the genius that could

biography 137 so unfold it once given us by the kind Heavens. Neither say thou that proper Realities are wanting: for Man’s Life, now as of old, is the genuine work of God; wherever there is a Man, a God also is revealed, and all that is Godlike: a whole epitome of the Infinite, with its meanings, lies enfolded in the Life of every Man. Only, alas, that the Seer to discern this same Godlike, and with fit utterance unfold it for us, is wanting, and may long be wanting! ‘Nay, a question arises on us here, wherein the whole German reading-world will eagerly join: Whether man can any longer be so interested by the spoken Word, as he often was in those primeval days, when, rapt away by its inscrutable power, he pronounced it, in such dialect as he had, to be transcendental (to transcend all measure), to be sacred, prophetic, and the inspiration of a god? For myself, I (ich meines Ortes), by faith or by insight, do heartily understand that the answer to such question will be, Yea! For never that I could in searching find out, has Man been, by Time which devours so much, deprivated of any faculty whatsoever that he in any era was possessed of. To my seeming, the babe born yesterday has all the organs of Body, Soul, and Spirit, and in exactly the same combination and entireness, that the oldest Pelasgic Greek, or Mesopotamian Patriarch, or Father Adam himself could boast of. Ten fingers, one heart with venous and arterial blood therein, still belong to man that is born of woman: when did he lose any of his spiritual Endowments either; above all, his highest spiritual Endowment, that of revealing Poetic Beauty, and of adequately receiving the same? Not the material, not the susceptibility is wanting; only the Poet, or long series of Poets, to work on these. True, alas too true, the Poet is still utterly wanting, or all but utterly: nevertheless have we not centuries enough before us to produce him in? Him and much else!—I, for the present, will but predict that chiefly by working more and more on Reality, and evolving more and more wisely its inexhaustible meanings; and, in brief, speaking forth in fit utterance whatsoever our whole soul believes, and ceasing to speak forth what thing soever our whole soul does not believe,—will this high emprise be accomplished, or approximated to.’

These notable, and not unfounded, though partial and deep-seeing rather than wide-seeing observations on the great import of Reality, considered even as a poetic material, we have inserted the more willingly, because a transient feeling to the same purpose may often have suggested itself to many readers; and, on the whole, it is good that every reader and every writer understand, with all intensity of conviction, what quite infinite worth lies in Truth; how all-pervading, omnipotent, in man’s mind, is the thing we name Belief. For the rest, Herr Sauerteig, though one-sided, on this matter of Reality, seems heartily persuaded, and is not perhaps so ignorant as he looks. It cannot be unknown to

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him, for example, what noise is made about ‘Invention;’ what a supreme rank this faculty is reckoned to hold in the poetic endowment. Great truly is Invention; nevertheless, that is but a poor exercise of it with which Belief is not concerned. ‘An Irishman with whisky in his head,’ as poor Byron said, will invent you, in this kind, till there is enough and to spare. Nay perhaps, if we consider well, the highest exercise of Invention has, in very deed, nothing to do with Fiction; but is an invention of new Truth, what we can call a Revelation; which last does undoubtedly transcend all other poetic efforts, nor can Herr Sauerteig be too loud in its praises. But, on the other hand, whether such effort is still possible for man, Herr Sauerteig and the bulk of the world are probably at issue,—and will probably continue so till that same ‘Revelation’ or new ‘Invention of Reality,’ of the sort he desiderates, shall itself make its appearance. Meanwhile, quitting these airy regions, let any one bethink him how impressive the smallest historical fact may become, as contrasted with the grandest fictitious event; what an incalculable force lies for us in this consideration: The Thing which I here hold imaged in my mind did actually occur; was, in very truth, an element in the system of the All, whereof I too form part; had therefore, and has, through all time, an authentic being; is not a dream, but a reality! We ourselves can remember reading, in Lord Clarendon, with feelings perhaps somehow accidentally opened to it,—certainly with a depth of impression strange to us then and now,—that insignificant-looking passage, where Charles, after the battle of Worcester, glides down, with Squire Careless, from the Royal Oak, at nightfall, being hungry: how, ‘making a shift to get over hedges and ditches, after walking at least eight or nine miles, which were the more grievous to the King by the weight of his boots (for he could not put them off, when he cut off his hair, for want of shoes), before morning they came to a poor cottage, the owner whereof being a Roman Catholic was known to Careless.’ How this poor drudge, being knocked up from his snoring, ‘carried them into a little barn full of hay, which was a better lodging than he had for himself;’ and by and by, not without difficulty, brought his Majesty ‘a piece of bread and a great pot of butter-milk,’ saying candidly that ‘he himself lived by his daily labour, and that what he had brought him was the fare he and his wife had:’ on which nourishing diet his Majesty, ‘staying upon the haymow,’ feeds thankfully for two days; and then departs, under new guidance, having first changed clothes, down to the very shirt and ‘old pair of shoes,’ with his landlord; and so, as worthy Bunyan has it, ‘goes on his way, and sees him no more.’* Singular enough if we will think of it! This then was a genuine flesh-and-blood Rustic of the year 1651: he did actually * History of the Rebellion, iii. 625.

biography 139 swallow bread and butter-milk (not having ale and bacon), and do field-labour; with these hob-nailed ‘shoes’ has sprawled through mud-roads in winter, and, jocund or not, driven his team a-field in summer: he made bargains; had chafferings and higglings, now a sore heart, now a glad one; was born; was a son, was a father;—toiled in many ways, being forced to it, till the strength was all worn out of him; and then—lay down ‘to rest his galled back,’ and sleep there till the long-distant morning!—How comes it, that he alone of all the British rustics who tilled and lived along with him, on whom the blessed sun on that same ‘fifth day of September’ was shining, should have chanced to rise on us; that this poor pair of clouted Shoes, out of the million million hides that have been tanned, and cut, and worn, should still subsist, and hang visibly together? We see him but for a moment; for one moment, the blanket of the Night is rent asunder, so that we behold and see, and then closes over him—forever. So too, in some Boswell’s Life of Johnson, how indelible, and magically bright, does many a little Reality dwell in our remembrance! There is no need that the personages on the scene be a King and Clown; that the scene be the Forest of the Royal Oak, ‘on the borders of Staffordshire:’ need only that the scene lie on this old firm Earth of ours, where we also have so surprisingly arrived; that the personages be men, and seen with the eyes of a man. Foolish enough, how some slight, perhaps mean and even ugly incident, if real, and well presented, will fix itself in a susceptive memory, and lie ennobled there; silvered over with the pale cast of thought, with the pathos which belongs only to the Dead. For the Past is all holy to us; the Dead are all holy, even they that were base and wicked while alive. Their baseness and wickedness was not They, was but the heavy and unmanageable Environment that lay round them, with which they fought unprevailing: they (the ethereal God-given Force that dwelt in them, and was their Self) have now shuffled off that heavy Environment, and are free and pure: their life-long Battle, go how it might, is all ended, with many wounds or with fewer; they have been recalled from it, and the once harsh-jarring battlefield has become a silent awe-inspiring Golgotha, and Gottesacker (Field of God)!—Boswell relates this in itself smallest and poorest of occurrences: ‘As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town accosted us in the usual enticing manner. “No, no, my girl,” said Johnson; “it won’t do.” He, however, did not treat her with harshness; and we talked of the wretched life of such women.’ Strange power of Reality! Not even this poorest of occurrences, but now, after seventy years are come and gone, has a meaning for us. Do but consider that it is true; that it did in very deed occur! That unhappy Outcast, with all her sins and woes, her lawless desires, too complex mischances, her

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wailings and her riotings, has departed utterly: alas! her siren finery has got all besmutched; ground, generations since, into dust and smoke; of her degraded body, and whole miserable earthly existence, all is away: she is no longer here, but far from us, in the bosom of Eternity,—whence we too came, whither we too are bound! Johnson said, “No, no, my girl; it won’t do;” and then ‘we talked;’—and herewith the wretched one, seen but for the twinkling of an eye, passes on into the utter Darkness. No high Calista, that ever issued from Story-teller’s brain, will impress us more deeply than this meanest of the mean; and for a good reason: That she issued from the Maker of Men. It is well worth the Artist’s while to examine for himself what it is that gives such pitiful incidents their memorableness; his aim likewise is, above all things, to be memorable. Half the effect, we already perceive, depends on the object; on its being real, on its being really seen. The other half will depend on the observer; and the question now is: How are real objects to be so seen; on what quality of observing, or of style in describing, does this so intense pictorial power depend? Often a slight circumstance contributes curiously to the result: some little, and perhaps to appearance accidental, feature is presented; a light-gleam, which instantaneously excites the mind, and urges it to complete the picture, and evolve the meaning thereof for itself. By critics, such light-gleams and their almost magical influence have frequently been noted: but the power to produce such, to select such features as will produce them, is generally treated as a knack, or trick of the trade, a secret for being ‘graphic;’ whereas these magical feats are, in truth, rather inspirations; and the gift of performing them, which acts unconsciously, without forethought, and as if by nature alone, is properly a genius for description. One grand, invaluable secret there is, however, which includes all the rest, and, what is comfortable, lies clearly in every man’s power: To have an open loving heart, and what follows from the possession of such! Truly has it been said, emphatically in these days ought it to be repeated: A loving Heart is the beginning of all Knowledge. This it is that opens the whole mind, quickens every faculty of the intellect to do its fit work, that of knowing; and therefrom, by sure consequence, of vividly uttering forth. Other secret for being ‘graphic’ is there none, worth having: but this is an all-sufficient one. See, for example, what a small Boswell can do! Hereby, indeed, is the whole man made a living mirror, wherein the wonders of this ever-wonderful Universe are, in their true light (which is ever a magical, miraculous one) represented, and reflected back on us. It has been said, ‘the heart sees farther than the head:’ but, indeed, without the seeing heart, there is no true seeing for the head so much as possible; all is

biography 141 mere oversight, hallucination, and vain superficial phantasmagoria, which can permanently profit no one. Here, too, may we not pause for an instant, and make a practical reflection? Considering the multitude of mortals that handle the Pen in these days, and can mostly spell, and write without glaring violations of grammar, the question naturally arises: How is it, then, that no Work proceeds from them, bearing any stamp of authenticity and permanence; of worth for more than one day? Shiploads of Fashionable Novels, Sentimental Rhymes, Tragedies, Farces, Diaries of Travel, Tales by flood and field, are swallowed monthly into the bottomless Pool: still does the Press toil; innumerable Paper-makers, Compositors, Printers’ Devils, Bookbinders, and Hawkers grown hoarse with loud proclaiming, rest not from their labour; and still, in torrents, rushes on the great array of Publications, unpausing, to their final home; and still Oblivion, like the Grave, cries: Give! Give! How is it that of all these countless multitudes, no one can attain to the smallest mark of excellence, or produce aught that shall endure longer than ‘snow-flake on the river,’ or the foam of penny-beer? We answer: Because they are foam; because there is no Reality in them. These Three Thousand men, women, and children, that make up the army of British Authors, do not, if we will well consider it, see anything whatever; consequently have nothing that they can record and utter, only more or fewer things that they can plausibly pretend to record. The Universe, of Man and Nature, is still quite shut up from them; the ‘open secret’ still utterly a secret; because no sympathy with Man or Nature, no love and free simplicity of heart has yet unfolded the same. Nothing but a pitiful Image of their own pitiful Self, with its vanities, and grudgings, and ravenous hunger of all kinds, hangs forever painted in the retina of these unfortunate persons; so that the starry All, with whatsoever it embraces, does but appear as some expanded magic-lantern shadow of that same Image,—and naturally looks pitiful enough. It is vain for these persons to allege that they are naturally without gift, naturally stupid and sightless, and so can attain to no knowledge of anything; therefore, in writing of anything, must needs write falsehoods of it, there being in it no truth for them. Not so, good Friends. The stupidest of you has a certain faculty; were it but that of articulate speech (say, in the Scottish, the Irish, the Cockney dialect, or even in ‘Governess-English’), and of physically discerning what lies under your nose. The stupidest of you would perhaps grudge to be compared in faculty with James Boswell; yet see what he has produced! You do not use your faculty honestly; your heart is shut up; full of greediness, malice, discontent; so your intellectual sense cannot be open. It is vain also to urge

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that James Boswell had opportunities; saw great men and great things, such as you can never hope to look on. What make ye of Parson White in Selborne? He had not only no great men to look on, but not even men; merely sparrows and cock-chafers: yet has he left us a Biography of these; which, under its title Natural History of Selborne, still remains valuable to us; which has copied a little sentence or two faithfully from the Inspired Volume of Nature, and so is itself not without inspiration. Go ye and do likewise. Sweep away utterly all frothiness and falsehood from your heart; struggle unweariedly to acquire, what is possible for every god-created Man, a free, open, humble soul: speak not at all, in any wise, till you have somewhat to speak; care not for the reward of your speaking, but simply and with undivided mind for the truth of your speaking: then be placed in what section of Space and of Time soever, do but open your eyes, and they shall actually see, and bring you real knowledge, wondrous, worthy of belief; and instead of one Boswell and one White, the world will rejoice in a thousand,—stationed on their thousand several watch-towers, to instruct us, by indubitable documents, of whatsoever in our so stupendous World comes to light and is! O, had the Editor of this Magazine but a magic-rod to turn all that not inconsiderable Intellect, which now deluges us with artificial fictitious soap-lather, and mere Lying, into the faithful study of Reality,—what knowledge of great, everlasting Nature, and of Man’s ways and doings therein, would not every year bring us in! Can we but change one single soap-latherer and mountebank Juggler, into a true Thinker and Doer, who even tries honestly to think and do,—great will be our reward. But, to return; or rather from this point to begin our journey! If now, what with Herr Sauerteig’s Springwürzel, what with so much lucubration of our own, it have become apparent how deep, immeasurable is the ‘worth that lies in Reality,’ and farther, how exclusive the interest which man takes in Histories of Man,—may it not seem lamentable, that so few genuinely-good Biographies have yet been accumulated in Literature; that, in the whole world, one cannot find, going strictly to work, above some dozen, or baker’s dozen, and those chiefly of very ancient date? Lamentable; yet, after what we have just seen, accountable. Another question might be asked: How comes it that in England we have simply one good Biography, this Boswell’s Johnson; and of good, indifferent, or even bad attempts at Biography, fewer than any civilised people? Consider the French and Germans, with their Moreris, Bayles, Jördenses, Jöchers, their innumerable Mémoires, and Schilderungen, and Biographies Universelles; not to speak of Rousseaus, Goethes, Schubarts, Jung-Stillings: and then contrast with

biography 143 these our poor Birches and Kippises and Pecks,—the whole breed of whom, moreover, is now extinct! With this question, as the answer might lead us far, and come out unflattering to patriotic sentiment, we shall not intermeddle; but turn rather, with greater pleasure, to the fact, that one excellent Biography is actually English;—and even now lies, in Five new Volumes, at our hand, soliciting a new consideration from us; such as, age after age (the Perennial shewing ever new phases as our position alters), it may long be profitable to bestow on it;—to which task we here, in this position, in this age, gladly address ourselves. First, however, Let the foolish April-fool-day pass by; and our Reader, during these twenty-nine days of uncertain weather that will follow, keep pondering, according to convenience, the purport of Biography in general: then, with the blessed dew of May-day, and in unlimited convenience of space, shall all that we have written on Johnson, and Boswell’s Johnson, and Croker’s Boswell’s Johnson, be faithfully laid before him.

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BOSWELL’S LIFE OF JOHNSON.*

Æsop’s Fly, sitting on the axle of the chariot, has been much laughed at for exclaiming: What a dust I do raise! Yet which of us, in his way, has not sometimes been guilty of the like? Nay, so foolish are men, they often, standing at ease and as spectators on the highway, will volunteer to exclaim of the Fly (not being tempted to it, as he was) exactly to the same purport: What a dust thou dost raise! Smallest of mortals, when mounted aloft by circumstances, come to seem great; smallest of phenomena connected with them are treated as important, and must be sedulously scanned, and commented upon with loud emphasis. That Mr. Croker should undertake to edit Boswell’s Life of Johnson, was a praiseworthy but no miraculous procedure: neither could the accomplishment of such undertaking be, in an epoch like ours, anywise regarded as an event in Universal History; the right or the wrong accomplishment thereof was, in very truth, one of the most insignificant of things. However, it sat in a great environment, on the axle of a high, fast-rolling, parliamentary chariot; and all the world has exclaimed over it, and the author of it: What a dust thou dost raise! List to the Reviews, and ‘Organs of Public Opinion,’ from the National Omnibus upwards: criticisms, vituperative and laudatory, stream from their thousand throats of brass and of leather; here chaunting Io Pæans; there grating harsh thunder, or vehement shrew-mouse squeaklets; till the general ear is filled, and nigh deafened. Boswell’s Book had a noiseless birth, compared with this Edi* The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: including a Tour to the Hebrides: By James Boswell, Esq.—A new Edition, with numerous Additions and Notes: By John Wilson Croker, LL.D. F.R.S. 5 vols. London, 1831.

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tion of Boswell’s Book. On the other hand, consider with what degree of tumult Paradise Lost and the Iliad were ushered in! To swell such clamour, or prolong it beyond the time, seems nowise our vocation here. At most, perhaps, we are bound to inform simple readers, with all possible brevity, what manner of performance and Edition this is; especially, whether, in our poor judgment, it is worth laying out three pounds sterling upon, yea or not. The whole business belongs distinctly to the lower ranks of the trivial class. Let us admit, then, with great readiness, that as Johnson once said, and the Editor repeats, ‘all works which describe manners, require notes in sixty or seventy years, or less;’ that, accordingly, a new Edition of Boswell was desirable; and that Mr. Croker has given one. For this task he had various qualifications: his own voluntary resolution to do it; his high place in society unlocking all manner of archives to him; not less, perhaps, a certain anecdotico-biographic turn of mind, natural or acquired; we mean, a love for the minuter events of History, and talent for investigating these. Let us admit, too, that he has been very diligent; seems to have made inquiries perseveringly, far and near; as well as drawn freely from his own ample stores; and so tells us, to appearance quite accurately, much that he has not found lying on the highways, but has had to seek and dig for. Numerous persons, chiefly of quality, rise to view in these Notes; when and also where they came into this world, received office or promotion, died, and were buried (only what they did, except digest, remaining often too mysterious),—is faithfully enough set down. Whereby all that their various and doubtless widely-scattered Tombstones could have taught us, is here presented, at once, in a bound Book. Thus is an indubitable conquest, though a small one, gained over our great enemy, the all-destroyer Time; and as such shall have welcome. Nay, let us say that the spirit of Diligence, exhibited in this department, seems to attend the Editor honestly throughout: he keeps everywhere a watchful outlook on his Text; reconciling the distant with the present, or at least indicating and regretting their irreconcilability; elucidating, smoothing down; in all ways, exercising, according to ability, a strict editorial superintendence. Any little Latin or even Greek phrase is rendered into English, in general with perfect accuracy; citations are verified, or else corrected. On all hands, moreover, there is a certain spirit of Decency maintained and insisted on: if not good morals, yet good manners, are rigidly inculcated; if not Religion, and a devout Christian heart, yet Orthodoxy, and a cleanly, Shovel-hatted look,—which, as compared with flat Nothing, is something very considerable. Grant too, as no contempt-



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ible triumph of this latter spirit, that though the Editor is known as a decided Politician and Party-man, he has carefully subdued all temptations to transgress in that way: except by quite involuntary indications, and rather as it were the pervading temper of the whole, you could not discover on which side of the Political Warfare he is enlisted and fights. This, as we said, is a great triumph of the Decency-principle: for this, and for these other graces and performances, let the Editor have all praise. Herewith, however, must the praise unfortunately terminate. Diligence, Fidelity, Decency, are good and indispensable: yet, without Faculty, without Light, they will not do the work. Along with that Tombstone-information, perhaps even without much of it, we could have liked to gain some answer, in one way or other, to this wide question: What and how was English Life in Johnson’s time; wherein has ours grown to differ therefrom? In other words: What things have we to forget, what to fancy and remember, before we, from such distance, can put ourselves in Johnson’s place; and so, in the full sense of the term, understand him, his sayings, and his doings? This was indeed specially the problem which a Commentator and Editor had to solve: a complete solution of it should have lain in him, his whole mind should have been filled and prepared with perfect insight into it; then, whether in the way of express Dissertation, of incidental Exposition and Indication, opportunities enough would have occurred of bringing out the same: what was dark in the figure of the Past had thereby been enlightened; Boswell had, not in shew and word only, but in very fact, been made new again, readable to us who are divided from him, even as he was to those close at hand. Of all which very little has been attempted here; accomplished, we should say, next to nothing, or altogether nothing. Excuse, no doubt, is in readiness for such omission; and, indeed, for innumerable other failings;—as where, for example, the Editor will punctually explain what is already sun-clear; and then anon, not without frankness, declare frequently enough that ‘the Editor does not understand,’ that ‘the Editor cannot guess,’—while, for most part, the Reader cannot help both guessing and seeing. Thus, if Johnson say, in one sentence, that ‘English names should not be used in Latin verses;’ and then, in the next sentence, speak blamingly of ‘Carteret being used as a dactyl,’ will the generality of mortals detect any puzzle there? Or again, where poor Boswell writes: ‘I always remember a remark made to me by a Turkish lady, educated in France: “Ma foi, monsieur, notre bonheur depend de la façon que notre sang circule;”’—though the Turkish lady here speaks English-French, where is the call for a Note like this: ‘Mr. Boswell no doubt fancied these words had some meaning, or he would hardly have quoted them; but what that mean-

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ing is the Editor cannot guess’? The Editor is clearly no witch at a riddle.—For these, and all kindred deficiencies, the excuse, as we said, is at hand; but the fact of their existence is not the less certain and regretable. Indeed, it, from a very early stage of the business, becomes afflictively apparent, how much the Editor, so well furnished with all external appliances and means, is from within unfurnished with means for forming to himself any just notion of Johnson, or of Johnson’s Life; and therefore of speaking on that subject with much hope of edifying. Too lightly is it from the first taken for granted that Hunger, the great basis of our life, is also its apex and ultimate perfection; that as ‘Neediness and Greediness and Vainglory’ are the chief qualities of most men, so no man, not even a Johnson, acts or can think of acting on any other principle. Whatsoever, therefore, cannot be referred to the two former categories (Need and Greed), is without scruple ranged under the latter. It is here properly that our Editor becomes burdensome; and, to the weaker sort, even a nuisance. “What good is it,” will such cry, “when we had still some faint shadow of belief that man was better than a selfish Digesting-machine, what good is it to poke in, at every turn, and explain how this and that which we thought noble in old Samuel, was vulgar, base; that for him too there was no reality but in the Stomach; and except Pudding, and the finer species of pudding which is named Praise, life had no pabulum? Why, for instance, when we know that Johnson loved his good Wife, and says expressly that their marriage was ‘a love-match on both sides,’—should two closed lips open to tell us only this: ‘Is it not possible that the obvious advantage of having a woman of experience to superintend an establishment of this kind (the Edial School) may have contributed to a match so disproportionate in point of age—Ed.?’ Or again when, in the Text, the honest cynic speaks freely of his former poverty, and it is known that he once lived on fourpence halfpenny a-day,—need a Commentator advance, and comment thus: ‘When we find Dr. Johnson tell unpleasant truths to, or of, other men, let us recollect that he does not appear to have spared himself, on occasions in which he might be forgiven for doing so?’ Why, in short,” continues the exasperated Reader, “should Notes of this species stand affronting me, when there might have been no Note at all?”—Gentle Reader, we answer, Be not wroth. What other could an honest Commentator do, than give thee the best he had? Such was the picture and theorem he had fashioned for himself of the world and of man’s doings therein: take it, and draw wise inferences from it. If there did exist a Leader of Public Opinion, and Champion of Orthodoxy in the Church of Jesus of Nazareth, who reckoned that man’s glory consisted in not being poor; and that a Sage, and Prophet of his time, must needs blush because the world



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had paid him at that easy rate of fourpence halfpenny per diem,—was not the fact of such existence worth knowing, worth considering? Of a much milder hue, yet to us practically of an all-defacing, and for the present enterprise quite ruinous character,—is another grand fundamental failing; the last we shall feel ourselves obliged to take the pain of specifying here. It is that our Editor has fatally, and almost surprisingly, mistaken the limits of an Editor’s function; and so, instead of working on the margin with his Pen, to elucidate as best might be, strikes boldly into the body of the page with his Scissors, and there clips at discretion! Four Books Mr. C. had by him, wherefrom to gather light for the fifth, which was Boswell’s. What does he do but now, in the placidest manner,—slit the whole five into slips, and sew these together into a sextum quid, exactly at his own convenience; giving Boswell the credit of the whole! By what art-magic, our readers ask, has he united them? By the simplest of all: by Brackets. Never before was the full virtue of the Bracket made manifest. You begin a sentence under Boswell’s guidance, thinking to be carried happily through it by the same: but no; in the middle, perhaps after your semicolon, and some consequent ‘for,’—starts up one of these Bracketligatures, and stitches you in from half a page, to twenty or thirty pages, of a Hawkins, Tyers, Murphy, Piozzi; so that often one must make the old sad reflection, Where we are we know, whither we are going no man knoweth! It is truly said also, There is much between the cup and the lip; but here the case is still sadder: for not till after consideration can you ascertain, now when the cup is at the lip, what liquor it is you are imbibing; whether Boswell’s French wine which you began with, or some Piozzi’s ginger-beer, or Hawkins’s entire, or perhaps some other great Brewer’s penny-swipes or even alegar, which has been surreptitiously substituted instead thereof. A situation almost original; not to be tried a second time! But, in fine, what ideas Mr. Croker entertains of a literary whole and the thing called Book, and how the very Printer’s Devils did not rise in mutiny against such a conglomeration as this, and refuse to print it,—may remain a problem. But now happily our say is said. All faults, the Moralists tell us, are properly shortcomings; crimes themselves are nothing other than a not doing enough; a fighting, but with defective vigour. How much more a mere insufficiency, and this after good efforts, in handicraft practice! Mr. Croker says: ‘The worst that can happen is that all the present Editor has contributed may, if the reader so pleases, be rejected as surplusage.’ It is our pleasant duty to take with hearty welcome what he has given; and render thanks even for what he meant to give. Next and finally, it is our painful duty to declare, aloud if that be necessary, that

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his gift, as weighed against the hard money which the Booksellers demand for giving it you, is (in our judgment) very greatly the lighter. No portion, accordingly, of our small floating capital has been embarked in the business, or shall ever be; indeed, were we in the market for such a thing, there is simply no Edition of Boswell to which this last would seem preferable. And now enough, and more than enough! We have next a word to say of James Boswell. Boswell has already been much commented upon; but rather in the way of censure and vituperation, than of true recognition. He was a man that brought himself much before the world; confessed that he eagerly coveted fame, or if that were not possible, notoriety; of which latter as he gained far more than seemed his due, the public were incited, not only by their natural love of scandal, but by a special ground of envy, to say whatever ill of him could be said. Out of the fifteen millions that then lived, and had bed and board, in the British Islands, this man has provided us a greater pleasure than any other individual, at whose cost we now enjoy ourselves; perhaps has done us a greater service than can be specially attributed to more than two or three: yet, ungrateful that we are, no written or spoken eulogy of James Boswell anywhere exists; his recompense in solid pudding (so far as copyright went) was not excessive; and as for the empty praise, it has altogether been denied him. Men are unwiser than children; they do not know the hand that feeds them. Boswell was a person whose mean or bad qualities lay open to the general eye; visible, palpable to the dullest. His good qualities, again, belonged not to the Time he lived in; were far from common then, indeed, in such a degree, were almost unexampled; not recognisable therefore by every one; nay apt even (so strange had they grown) to be confounded with the very vices they lay contiguous to, and had sprung out of. That he was a wine-bibber and gross liver; gluttonously fond of whatever would yield him a little solacement, were it only of a stomachic character, is undeniable enough. That he was vain, heedless, a babbler; had much of the sycophant, alternating with the braggadocio, curiously spiced too with an all-pervading dash of the coxcomb; that he gloried much when the Tailor, by a court-suit, had made a new man of him; that he appeared at the Shakspeare Jubilee with a riband, imprinted ‘Corsica Boswell,’ round his hat; and in short, if you will, lived no day of his life without doing and saying more than one pretentious ineptitude: all this unhappily is evident as the sun at noon. The very look of Boswell seems to have signified so much. In that cocked nose, cocked partly in triumph over his weaker fellow-creatures, partly to snuff up the smell of coming pleasure, and scent it from afar; in those bag-



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cheeks, hanging like half-filled wine-skins, still able to contain more; in that coarsely protruded shelf-mouth, that fat dewlapped chin: in all this, who sees not sensuality, pretension, boisterous imbecility enough; much that could not have been ornamental in the temper of a great man’s overfed great man (what the Scotch name flunky), though it had been more natural there. The under part of Boswell’s face is of a low, almost brutish character. Unfortunately, on the other hand, what great and genuine good lay in him was nowise so self-evident. That Boswell was a hunter after spiritual Notabilities, that he loved such, and longed, and even crept and crawled to be near them; that he first (in old Touchwood Auchinleck’s phraseology) “took on with Paoli,” and then being off with “the Corsican landlouper,” took on with a schoolmaster, “ane that keeped a schule, and ca’d it an academy:” that he did all this, and could not help doing it, we account a very singular merit. The man, once for all, had an ‘open sense,’ an open loving heart, which so few have: where Excellence existed, he was compelled to acknowledge it; was drawn towards it, and (let the old sulphur-brand of a Laird say what he liked) could not but walk with it,—if not as superior, if not as equal, then as inferior and lackey, better so than not at all. If we reflect now that this love of Excellence had not only such an evil nature to triumph over; but also what an education and social position withstood it and weighed it down, its innate strength, victorious over all these things, may astonish us. Consider what an inward impulse there must have been, how many mountains of impediment hurled aside, before the Scottish Laird could, as humble servant, embrace the knees (the bosom was not permitted him) of the English Dominie! Your Scottish Laird, says an English naturalist of these days, may be defined as the hungriest and vainest of all bipeds yet known. Boswell too was a Tory; of quite peculiarly feudal, genealogical, pragmatical temper; had been nurtured in an atmosphere of Heraldry, at the feet of a very Gamaliel in that kind; within bare walls, adorned only with pedigrees, amid serving-men in threadbare livery; all things teaching him, from birth upwards, to remember, that a Laird was a Laird. Perhaps there was a special vanity in his very blood: old Auchinleck had, if not the gay, tail-spreading, peacock vanity of his son, no little of the slow-stalking, contentious, hissing vanity of the gander; a still more fatal species. Scottish Advocates will yet tell you how the ancient man, having chanced to be the first sheriff appointed (after the abolition of ‘hereditary jurisdictions’) by royal authority, was wont, in dull-snuffling pompous tone, to preface many a deliverance from the bench, with these words: “I, the first King’s Sheriff in Scotland.”

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And now behold the worthy Bozzy, so prepossessed and held back by nature and by art, fly nevertheless like iron to its magnet, whither his better genius called! You may surround the iron and the magnet with what enclosures and encumbrances you please,—with wood, with rubbish, with brass: it matters not, the two feel each other, they struggle restlessly towards each other, they will be together. The iron may be a Scottish squirelet, full of gulosity and ‘gigmanity;’* the magnet an English plebeian, and moving rag-and-dust mountain, coarse, proud, irascible, imperious: nevertheless, behold how they embrace, and inseparably cleave to one another! It is one of the strangest phenomena of the past century, that at a time when the old reverent feeling of Discipleship (such as brought men from far countries, with rich gifts, and prostrate soul, to the feet of the Prophets) had passed utterly away from men’s practical experience, and was no longer surmised to exist (as it does), perennial, indestructible, in man’s inmost heart,—James Boswell should have been the individual, of all others, predestined to recall it, in such singular guise, to the wondering, and, for a long while, laughing, and unrecognising world. It has been commonly said, The man’s vulgar vanity was all that attached him to Johnson; he delighted to be seen near him, to be thought connected with him. Now let it be at once granted that no consideration springing out of vulgar vanity could well be absent from the mind of James Boswell, in this his intercourse with Johnson, or in any considerable transaction of his life. At the same time ask yourself: Whether such vanity, and nothing else, actuated him therein; whether this was the true essence and moving principle of the phenomenon, or not rather its outward vesture, and the accidental environment (and defacement) in which it came to light? The man was, by nature and habit, vain; a sycophant-coxcomb, be it granted: but had there been nothing more than vanity in him, was Samuel Johnson the man of men to whom he must attach himself ? At the date when Johnson was a poor rusty-coated ‘scholar,’ dwelling in Temple-lane, and indeed throughout their whole intercourse afterwards, were there not chancellors and prime ministers enough; graceful gentlemen, the glass of fashion; honour-giving noblemen; dinner-giving rich men; renowned fire-eaters, swordsmen, gownsmen; Quacks and Realities of all hues,—any one of whom bulked much larger in the world’s eye than Johnson ever did? To any one of whom, by half that submissiveness and assiduity, our Bozzy might have recommended himself; and sat there, the envy of surrounding lickspittles; pock* ‘Q. What do you mean by “respectable?”—A. He always kept a gig.’—(Thurtell’s Trial.)—‘Thus,’ it has been said, ‘does society naturally divide itself into four classes: Noblemen, Gentlemen, Gigmen, and Men.’



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eting now solid emolument, swallowing now well-cooked viands and wines of rich vintage; in each case, also, shone on by some glittering reflex of Renown or Notoriety, so as to be the observed of innumerable observers. To no one of whom, however, though otherwise a most diligent solicitor and purveyor, did he so attach himself: such vulgar courtierships were his paid drudgery, or leisureamusement; the worship of Johnson was his grand, ideal, voluntary business. Does not the frothy-hearted yet enthusiastic man, doffing his Advocate’s-wig, regularly take post, and hurry up to London, for the sake of his Sage chiefly; as to a Feast of Tabernacles, the Sabbath of his whole year? The plate-licker and wine-bibber dives into Bolt Court, to sip muddy coffee with a cynical old man, and a sour-tempered blind old woman (feeling the cups, whether they are full, with her finger); and patiently endures contradictions without end; too happy so he may but be allowed to listen, and live. Nay, it does not appear that vulgar vanity could ever have been much flattered by Boswell’s relation to Johnson. Mr. Croker says, Johnson was, to the last, little regarded by the great world; from which, for a vulgar vanity, all honour, as from its fountain, descends. Bozzy, even among Johnson’s friends and special admirers, seems rather to have been laughed at than envied: his officious, whisking, consequential ways, the daily reproofs and rebuffs he underwent, could gain from the world no golden, but only leaden, opinions. His devout Discipleship seemed nothing more than a mean Spanielship, in the general eye. His mighty ‘constellation,’ or sun, round whom he, as satellite, observantly gyrated, was, for the mass of men, but a huge ill-snuffed tallow-light, and he a weak night-moth, circling foolishly, dangerously about it, not knowing what he wanted. If he enjoyed Highland dinners and toasts, as henchman to a new sort of chieftain, Henry Erskine, in the domestic ‘Outer-House,’ could hand him a shilling “for the sight of his Bear.” Doubtless the man was laughed at, and often heard himself laughed at, for his Johnsonism. To be envied is the grand and sole aim of vulgar vanity; to be filled with good things is that of sensuality: for Johnson perhaps no man living envied poor Bozzy; and of good things (except himself paid for them) there was no vestige in that acquaintanceship. Had nothing other or better than vanity and sensuality been there, Johnson and Boswell had never come together, or had soon and finally separated again. In fact, the so copious terrestrial Dross that welters chaotically, as the outer sphere of this man’s character, does but render for us more remarkable, more touching, the celestial spark of goodness, of light, and Reverence for Wisdom, which dwelt in the interior, and could struggle through such encumbrances, and in some degree illuminate and beautify them. There is much lying yet unde-

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veloped in the love of Boswell for Johnson. A cheering proof, in a time which else utterly wanted and still wants such, that living Wisdom is quite infinitely precious to man, is the symbol of the Godlike to him, which even weak eyes may discern; that Loyalty, Discipleship, all that was ever meant by Hero-worship, lives perennially in the human bosom, and waits, even in these dead days, only for occasions to unfold it, and inspire all men with it, and again make the world alive! James Boswell we can regard as a practical witness, or real martyr, to this high, everlasting truth. A wonderful martyr, if you will; and in a time, which made such martyrdom doubly wonderful: yet the time and its martyr perhaps suited each other. For a decrepit, death-sick Era, when Cant had first decisively opened her poison-breathing lips to proclaim that God-worship and Mammon-worship were one and the same, that Life was a Lie, and the Earth Beelzebub’s, which the Supreme Quack should inherit; and so all things were fallen into the yellow leaf, and fast hastening to noisome corruption: for such an Era, perhaps no better Prophet than a parti-coloured Zany-Prophet, concealing, from himself and others, his prophetic significance in such unexpected vestures,—was deserved, or would have been in place. A precious medicine lay hidden in floods of coarsest, most composite treacle: the world swallowed the treacle, for it suited the world’s palate; and now, after half a century, may the medicine also begin to shew itself ! James Boswell belonged, in his corruptible part, to the lowest classes of mankind; a foolish, inflated creature, swimming in an element of self-conceit: but in his corruptible there dwelt an incorruptible, all the more impressive and indubitable for the strange lodging it had taken. Consider, too, with what force, diligence, and vivacity, he has rendered back, all this which, in Johnson’s neighbourhood, his ‘open sense’ had so eagerly and freely taken in. That loose-flowing, careless-looking Work of his is as a picture painted by one of Nature’s own Artists; the best possible resemblance of a Reality; like the very image thereof in a clear mirror. Which indeed it was: let but the mirror be clear, this is the great point; the picture must and will be genuine. How the babbling Bozzy, inspired only by love, and the recognition and vision which love can lend, epitomises nightly the words of Wisdom, the deeds and aspects of Wisdom, and so, by little and little, unconsciously works together for us a whole Johnsoniad; a more free, perfect, sunlit, and spirit-speaking likeness, than for many centuries had been drawn by man of man! Scarcely since the days of Homer has the feat been equalled: indeed, in many senses, this also is a kind of Heroic Poem. The fit Odyssey of our unheroic age was to be written, not sung; of a Thinker, not of a Fighter; and (for want of a Homer) by the first open soul that might offer,—looked such even through the organs of a Boswell.



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We do the man’s intellectual endowment great wrong, if we measure it by its mere logical outcome; though here too, there is not wanting a light ingenuity, a figurativeness, and fanciful sport, with glimpses of insight far deeper than the common. But Boswell’s grand intellectual talent was, as such ever is, an unconscious one, of far higher reach and significance than Logic; and shewed itself in the whole, not in parts. Here again we have that old saying verified, ‘The heart sees farther than the head.’ Thus does poor Bozzy stand out to us as an ill-assorted, glaring mixture of the highest and the lowest. What, indeed, is man’s life generally but a kind of beast-godhood; the god in us triumphing more and more over the beast; striving more and more to subdue it under his feet? Did not the Ancients, in their wise, perennially significant way, figure Nature itself, their sacred All, or Pan, as a portentous commingling of these two discords; as musical, humane, oracular in its upper part, yet ending below in the cloven hairy feet of a goat? The union of melodious, celestial Freewill and Reason, with foul Irrationality and Lust; in which, nevertheless, dwelt a mysterious unspeakable Fear and half-mad panic Awe; as for mortals there well might! And is not man a microcosm, or epitomised mirror of that same Universe; or, rather, is not that Universe even Himself, the reflex of his own fearful and wonderful being, ‘the waste fantasy of his own dream?’ No wonder that man, that each man, and James Boswell like the others, should resemble it! The peculiarity in his case was the unusual defect of amalgamation and subordination: the highest lay side by side with the lowest; not morally combined with it and spiritually transfiguring it; but tumbling in half-mechanical juxtaposition with it, and from time to time, as the mad alternation chanced, irradiating it, or eclipsed by it. The world, as we said, has been but unjust to him; discerning only the outer terrestrial and often sordid mass; without eye, as it generally is, for his inner divine secret: and thus figuring him nowise as a god Pan, but simply of the bestial species, like the cattle on a thousand hills. Nay, sometimes a strange enough hypothesis has been started of him; as if it were in virtue even of these same bad qualities that he did his good work; as if it were the very fact of his being among the worst men in this world that had enabled him to write one of the best books therein! Falser hypothesis, we may venture to say, never rose in human soul. Bad is by its nature negative, and can do nothing; whatsoever enables us to do anything is by its very nature good. Alas, that there should be teachers in Israel, or even learners, to whom this world-ancient fact is still problematical, or even deniable! Boswell wrote a good Book because he had a heart and an eye to discern Wisdom, and an utterance to render it forth; because of his free

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insight, his lively talent, above all, of his Love and childlike Open-mindedness. His sneaking sycophancies, his greediness and forwardness, whatever was bestial and earthy in him, are so many blemishes in his Book, which still disturb us in its clearness; wholly hindrances, not helps. Towards Johnson, however, his feeling was not Sycophancy, which is the lowest, but Reverence, which is the highest of human feelings. None but a reverent man (which so unspeakably few are) could have found his way from Boswell’s environment to Johnson’s: if such worship for real God-made superiors shewed itself also as worship for apparent Tailor-made superiors, even as hollow, interested mouth-worship for such,—the case, in this composite human nature of ours, was not miraculous, the more was the pity! But for ourselves, let every one of us cling to this last article of Faith, and know it as the beginning of all knowledge worth the name: That neither James Boswell’s good Book, nor any other good thing, in any time or in any place, was, is, or can be performed by any man in virtue of his badness, but always and solely in spite thereof. As for the Book itself, questionless the universal favour entertained for it is well merited. In worth as a Book we have rated it beyond any other product of the eighteenth century: all Johnson’s own Writings, laborious and in their kind genuine above most, stand on a quite inferior level to it; already, indeed, they are becoming obsolete for this generation; and for some future generation, may be valuable chiefly as Prolegomena and expository Scholia to this Johnsoniad of Boswell. Which of us but remembers, as one of the sunny spots in his existence, the day when he opened these airy volumes, fascinating him by a true natural-magic! It was as if the curtains of the Past were drawn aside, and we looked mysteriously into a kindred country, where dwelt our Fathers; inexpressibly dear to us, but which had seemed forever hidden from our eyes. For the dead Night had engulfed it; all was gone, vanished as if it had not been. Nevertheless, wondrously given back to us, there once more it lay; all bright, lucid, blooming; a little island of Creation amid the circumambient Void. There it still lies; like a thing stationary, imperishable, over which changeful Time were now accumulating itself in vain, and could not, any longer, harm it, or hide it. If we examine by what charm it is that men are still held to this Life of Johnson, now when so much else has been forgotten, the main part of the answer will perhaps be found in that speculation ‘on the import of Reality,’ communicated to the world, last Month, in this Magazine. The Johnsoniad of Boswell turns on objects that in very deed existed; it is all true. So far other in melodiousness of tone, it vies with the Odyssey or surpasses it, in this one point: to us these read pages, as those chaunted hexameters were to the first Greek hearers, are in the



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fullest, deepest sense, wholly credible. All the wit and wisdom, lying embalmed in Boswell’s Book, plenteous as these are, could not have saved it. Far more scientific instruction (mere excitement and enlightenment of the thinking power) can be found in twenty other works of that time, which make but a quite secondary impression on us. The other works of that time, however, fall under one of two classes: Either they are professedly Didactic; and, in that way, mere Abstractions, Philosophic Diagrams, incapable of interesting us much otherwise than as Euclid’s Elements may do: Or else, with all their vivacity, and pictorial richness of colour, they are Fictions and not Realities. Deep, truly, as Herr Sauerteig urges, is the force of this consideration: The thing here stated is a fact; these figures, that local habitation, are not shadow but substance. In virtue of such advantages, see how a very Boswell may become Poetical! Critics insist much on the Poet that he should communicate an ‘Infinitude’ to his delineation; that by intensity of conception, by that gift of ‘transcendental Thought,’ which is fitly named genius, and inspiration, he should inform the Finite with a certain Infinitude of significance; or as they sometimes say, ennoble the Actual into Idealness. They are right in their precept; they mean rightly. But in cases like this of the Johnsoniad, such is the dark grandeur of that ‘Time-element,’ wherein man’s soul here below lives imprisoned,—the Poet’s task is, as it were, done to his hand: Time itself, which is the outer veil of Eternity, invests, of its own accord, with an authentic, felt ‘infinitude,’ whatsoever it has once embraced in its mysterious folds. Consider all that lies in that one word, Past! What a pathetic, sacred, in every sense poetic, meaning is implied in it; a meaning growing ever the clearer, the farther we recede in Time,—the more of that same Past we have to look through!—On which ground indeed must Sauerteig have built, and not without plausibility, in that strange thesis of his: ‘that History after all is the true Poetry; that Reality if rightly interpreted is grander than Fiction; nay that even in the right interpretation of Reality and History does genuine Poetry consist.’ Thus for Boswell’s Life of Johnson has Time done, is Time still doing, what no ornament of Art or Artifice could have done for it. Rough Samuel and sleek wheedling James were, and are not. Their Life and whole personal Environment has melted into air. The Mitre Tavern still stands in Fleet Street: but where now is its scot-and-lot paying, beef-and-ale loving, cocked-hatted, potbellied Landlord; its rosy-faced, assiduous Landlady, with all her shining brass-pans, waxed tables, well-filled larder-shelves; her cooks, and bootjacks, and errandboys and watery-mouthed hangers-on? Gone! Gone! The becking waiter who, with wreathed smiles, was wont to spread for Samuel and Bozzy their supper

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of the gods, has long since pocketted his last sixpence; and vanished, sixpences and all, like a ghost at cock-crowing. The Bottles they drank out of are all broken, the Chairs they sat on all rotted and burnt; the very Knives and Forks they ate with have rusted to the heart, and become brown oxide of iron, and mingled with the indiscriminate clay. All, all, has vanished; in very deed and truth, like that baseless fabric of Prospero’s air-vision. Of the Mitre Tavern nothing but the bare walls remain there: of London, of England, of the World, nothing but the bare walls remain; and these also decaying (were they of adamant), only slower. The mysterious River of Existence rushes on: a new Billow thereof has arrived, and lashes wildly as ever round the old embankments; but the former Billow with its loud, mad eddyings, where is it?—Where!—Now this Book of Boswell’s, this is precisely a Revocation of the Edict of Destiny; so that Time shall not utterly, not so soon by several centuries, have dominion over us. A little row of Naphtha-lamps, with its line of Naphtha-light, burns clear and holy through the dead Night of the Past: they who were gone are still here; though hidden they are revealed, though dead they yet speak. There it shines, that little miraculously lamp-lit Pathway; shedding its feebler and feebler twilight into the boundless dark Oblivion, for all that our Johnson touched has become illuminated for us: on which miraculous little Pathway we can still travel, and see wonders. It is not speaking with exaggeration, but with strict measured sobriety, to say that this Book of Boswell’s will give us more real insight into the History of England during those days than twenty other Books, falsely entitled ‘Histories,’ which take to themselves that special aim. What good is it to me though innumerable Smolletts and Belshams keep dinning in my ears that a man named George the Third was born and bred up, and a man named George the Second died; that Walpole, and the Pelhams, and Chatham, and Rockingham, and Shelburne, and North, with their Coalition or their Separation Ministries, all ousted one another; and vehemently scrambled for ‘the thing they called the Rudder of Government, but which was in reality the Spigot of Taxation?’ That debates were held, and infinite jarring and jargoning took place; and road-bills and enclosure-bills, and game-bills and India-bills, and Laws which no man can number, which happily few men needed to trouble their heads with beyond the passing moment, were enacted, and printed by the King’s Stationer? That he who sat in Chancery, and rayed out speculation from the Woolsack, was now a man that squinted, now a man that did not squint? To the hungry and thirsty mind all this avails next to nothing. These men and these things, we indeed know, did swim, by strength or by specific-levity, as apples or as horse-dung, on the top of the current: but is it by painfully noting the courses, eddyings, and bobbings



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hither and thither of such drift-articles, that you will unfold to me the nature of the current itself; of that mighty-rolling, loud-roaring, Life-current, bottomless as the foundations of the Universe, mysterious as its Author? The thing I want to see is not Redbook Lists, and Court Calendars, and Parliamentary Registers, but the Life of Man in England: what men did, thought, suffered, enjoyed; the form, especially the spirit, of their terrestrial existence, its outward environment, its inward principle; how and what it was; whence it proceeded, whither it was tending. Mournful, in truth, is it to behold what the business called ‘History,’ in these so enlightened and illuminated times, still continues to be. Can you gather from it, read till your eyes go out, any dimmest shadow of an answer to that great question: How men lived and had their being; were it but economically, as what wages they got, and what they bought with these? Unhappily you cannot. History will throw no light on any such matter. At the point where living memory fails, it is all darkness; Mr. Senior and Mr. Sadler must still debate this simplest of all elements in the condition of the Past: Whether men were better off, in their mere larders and pantries, or were worse off than now! History, as it stands all bound up in gilt volumes, is but a shade more instructive than the wooden volumes of a Backgammon-board. How my Prime Minister was appointed is of less moment to me than How my House Servant was hired. In these days, ten ordinary Histories of Kings and Courtiers were well exchanged against the tenth part of one good History of Booksellers. For example, I would fain know the History of Scotland: who can tell it me? “Robertson,” cry innumerable voices; “Robertson against the world.” I open Robertson; and find there, through long ages too confused for narrative, and fit only to be presented in the way of epitome and distilled essence, a cunning answer and hypothesis, not to this question: By whom, and by what means, when and how, was this fair broad Scotland, with its Arts and Manufactures, Temples, Schools, Institutions, Poetry, Spirit, National Character, created and made arable, verdant, peculiar, great, here as I can see some fair section of it lying, kind and strong (like some Bacchus-tamed Lion), from the Castle-hill of Edinburgh?—but to this other question: How did the King keep himself alive in those old days; and restrain so many Butcher-Barons and ravenous Henchmen from utterly extirpating one another, so that killing went on in some sort of moderation? In the one little Letter of Æneas Sylvius, from old Scotland, there is more of History than in all this.—At length, however, we come to a luminous age, interesting enough; to the age of the Reformation. All Scotland is awakened to a second higher life: the Spirit of the Highest stirs in

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every bosom, agitates every bosom; Scotland is convulsed, fermenting, struggling to body itself forth anew. To the herdsman, among his cattle in remote woods; to the craftsman, in his rude, heath-thatched workshop, among his rude guild-brethren; to the great and to the little, a new light has arisen: in town and hamlet groups are gathered, with eloquent looks, and governed or ungovernable tongues; the great and the little go forth together to do battle for the Lord against the mighty. We ask, with breathless eagerness: How was it; how went it on? Let us understand it, let us see it, and know it!—In reply, is handed us a really graceful, and most dainty little Scandalous Chronicle (as for some Journal of Fashion) of two persons: Mary Stuart, a Beauty, but over lightheaded; and Henry Darnley, a Booby, who had fine legs. How these first courted, billed and cooed, according to nature; then pouted, fretted, grew utterly enraged, and blew one another up with gunpowder: this, and not the History of Scotland, is what we goodnaturedly read. Nay, by other hands, something like a horseload of other Books have been written to prove that it was the Beauty who blew up the Booby, and that it was not she. Who or what it was, the thing once for all being so effectually done, concerns us little. To know Scotland, at that great epoch, were a valuable increase of knowledge: to know poor Darnley, and see him with burning candle, from centre to skin, were no increase of knowledge at all.—Thus is History written. Hence, indeed, comes it that History, which should be ‘the essence of innumerable Biographies,’ will tell us, question it as we like, less than one genuine Biography may do, pleasantly and of its own accord! The time is approaching when History will be attempted on quite other principles; when the Court, the Senate, and Battle-field, receding more and more into the background, the Temple, the Workshop, and Social Hearth, will advance more and more into the foreground; and History will not content itself with shaping some answer to that question: How were men taxed and kept quiet then? but will seek to answer this other infinitely wider and higher question: How and what were men then? Not our Government only, or the ‘House wherein our life was led,’ but the Life itself we led there, will be inquired into. Of which latter it may be found that Government, in any modern sense of the word, is after all but a secondary condition: in the mere sense of Taxation and Keeping quiet, a small, almost a pitiful one.—Meanwhile let us welcome such Boswells, each in his degree, as bring us any genuine contribution, were it never so inadequate, so inconsiderable. An exception was early taken against this Life of Johnson, and all similar enterprises, which we here recommend; and has been transmitted from critic to critic, and repeated in their several dialects, uninterruptedly, ever since: That



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such jottings down of careless conversation are an infringement of social privacy; a crime against our highest Freedom, the Freedom of man’s intercourse with man. To this accusation, which we have read and heard oftener than enough, might it not be well for once to offer the flattest contradiction, and plea of Not at all guilty? Not that conversation is noted down, but that conversation should not deserve noting down, is the evil. Doubtless, if conversation be falsely recorded, then is it simply a Lie; and worthy of being swept, with all despatch, to the Father of Lies. But if, on the other hand, conversation can be authentically recorded, and any one is ready for the task, let him by all means proceed with it; let conversation be kept in remembrance to the latest date possible. Nay should the consciousness that a man may be among us ‘taking notes’ tend, in any measure, to restrict those floods of idle insincere speech, with which the thought of mankind is well nigh drowned,—were it other than the most indubitable benefit? He who speaks honestly cares not, needs not care, though his words be preserved to remotest time: for him who speaks dishonestly, the fittest of all punishments seems to be this same, which the nature of the case provides. The dishonest speaker, not he only who purposely utters falsehoods, but he who does not purposely, and with sincere heart, utter Truth, and Truth alone; who babbles he knows not what, and has clapped no bridle on his tongue, but lets it run racket, ejecting chatter and futility,—is among the most indisputable malefactors omitted, or inserted, in the Criminal Calendar. To him that will well consider it, idle speaking is precisely the beginning of all Hollowness, Halfness, Infidelity (want of Faithfulness); the genial atmosphere in which rank weeds of every kind attain the mastery over noble fruits in man’s life, and utterly choke them out: one of the most crying maladies of these days, and to be testified against, and in all ways to the uttermost withstood. Wise, of a wisdom far beyond our shallow depth, was that old precept: Watch thy tongue; out of it are the issues of Life! ‘Man is properly an incarnated word:’ the word that he speaks is the man himself. Were eyes put into our head, that we might see; or only that we might fancy, and plausibly pretend, we had seen? Was the tongue suspended there, that it might tell truly what we had seen, and make man the soul’s-brother of man; or only that it might utter vain sounds, jargon, soul-confusing, and so divide man, as by enchanted walls of Darkness, from union with man? Thou who wearest that cunning Heaven-made organ, a Tongue, think well of this. Speak not, I passionately entreat thee, till thy thought have silently matured itself, till thou have other than mad and mad-making noises to emit: hold thy tongue (thou hast it a-holding) till some meaning lie behind, to set it wagging. Consider the significance of Silence: it is boundless, never by meditating to be

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exhausted; unspeakably profitable to thee! Cease that chaotic hubbub, wherein thy own soul runs to waste, to confused suicidal dislocation and stupor: out of Silence comes thy strength. ‘Speech is silvern, Silence is golden; Speech is human, Silence is divine.’ Fool! thinkest thou that because no Boswell is there with ass-skin and blacklead to note thy jargon, it therefore dies and is harmless. Nothing dies, nothing can die. No idlest word thou speakest but is a seed cast into Time, and grows through all Eternity! The Recording Angel, consider it well, is no fable, but the truest of truths: the paper tablets thou canst burn; of the ‘iron leaf ’ there is no burning.—Truly, if we can permit God Almighty to note down our conversation, thinking it good enough for Him,—any poor Boswell need not scruple to work his will of it. Leaving now this our English Odyssey, with its Singer and Scholiast, let us come to the Ulysses; that great Samuel Johnson himself, the far-experienced, ‘much-enduring man,’ whose labours and pilgrimage are here sung. A fulllength image of his Existence has been preserved for us: and he, perhaps of all living Englishmen, was the one who best deserved that honour. For if it is true and now almost proverbial, that ‘the Life of the lowest mortal, if faithfully recorded, would be interesting to the highest;’ how much more when the mortal in question was already distinguished in fortune and natural quality, so that his thinkings and doings were not significant of himself only, but of large masses of mankind! ‘There is not a man whom I meet on the streets,’ says one, ‘but I could like, were it otherwise convenient, to know his Biography:’ nevertheless, could an enlightened curiosity be so far gratified, it must be owned the Biography of most ought to be, in an extreme degree, summary. In this world, there is so wonderfully little self-subsistence among men; next to no originality (though never absolutely none): one Life is too servilely the copy of another; and so in whole thousands of them you find little that is properly new; nothing but the old song sung by a new voice, with better or worse execution, here and there an ornamental quaver, and false notes enough: but the fundamental tune is ever the same; and for the words, these, all that they meant stands written generally on the Churchyard-stone: Natus sum; esuriebam, quærebam; nunc repletus requiesco. Mankind sail their Life-voyage in huge fleets, following some single whale-fishing or herring-fishing Commodore: the logbook of each differs not, in essential purport, from that of any other; nay the most have no legible logbook (reflection, observation not being among their talents); keep no reckoning, only keep in sight of the flagship,—and fish. Read the Commodore’s Papers (know his



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Life); and even your lover of that street Biography will have learned the most of what he sought after. Or, the servile imitancy, and yet also a nobler relationship and mysterious union to one another which lies in such imitancy, of Mankind might be illustrated under the different figure, itself nowise original, of a Flock of Sheep. Sheep go in flocks for three reasons: First, because they are of a gregarious temper, and love to be together: Secondly, because of their cowardice; they are afraid to be left alone: Thirdly, because the common run of them are dull of sight, to a proverb, and can have no choice in roads; sheep can in fact see nothing; in a celestial Luminary, and a scoured pewter Tankard, would discern only that both dazzled them, and were of unspeakable glory. How like their fellow-creatures of the human species! Men too, as was from the first maintained here, are gregarious: then surely faint-hearted enough, trembling to be left by themselves: above all, dull-sighted, down to the verge of utter blindness. Thus are we seen ever running in torrents, and mobs, if we run at all; and after what foolish scoured Tankards, mistaking them for Suns! Foolish Turnip-lanterns likewise, to all appearance supernatural, keep whole nations quaking, their hair on end. Neither know we, except by blind habit, where the good pastures lie: solely when the sweet grass is between our teeth, we know it, and chew it; also when grass is bitter and scant, we know it,—and bleat and but: these last two facts we know of a truth, and in very deed.—Thus do Men and Sheep play their parts on this Nether Earth; wandering restlessly in large masses, they know not whither; for most part, each following his neighbour, and his own nose. Nevertheless, not always: look better, you shall find certain that do, in some small degree, know whither. Sheep have their Bell-wether; some ram of the folds, endued with more valour, with clearer vision than other sheep; he leads them through the wolds, by height and hollow, to the woods and water-courses, for covert or for pleasant provender; courageously marching, and if need be, leaping, and with hoof and horn doing battle, in the van: him they courageously, and with assured heart, follow. Touching it is, as every herdsman will inform you, with what chivalrous devotedness these woolly Hosts adhere to their Wether; and rush after him, through good report and through bad report, were it into safe shelters and green thymy nooks, or into asphaltic lakes and the jaws of devouring lions. Ever also must we recall that fact which we owe Jean Paul’s quick eye: ‘If you hold a stick before the Wether, so that he, by necessity, leaps in passing you, and then withdraw your stick, the Flock will nevertheless all leap as he did; and the thousandth sheep shall be found impetuously vaulting over air, as the first did over an otherwise impassable barrier.’ Reader, wouldst

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thou understand Society, ponder well those ovine proceedings; thou wilt find them all curiously significant. Now if sheep always, how much more must men always, have their Chief, their Guide! Man too is by nature quite thoroughly gregarious: nay, ever he struggles to be something more, to be social; not even when Society has become impossible, does that deep-seated tendency and effort forsake him. Man, as if by miraculous magic, imparts his Thoughts, his Mood of mind to man; an unspeakable communion binds all past, present, and future men into one indissoluble whole, almost into one living Individual. Of which high, mysterious Truth, this disposition to imitate, to lead and be led, this impossibility not to imitate, is the most constant, and one of the simplest manifestations. To imitate! which of us all can measure the significance that lies in that one word? By virtue of which the infant Man, born at Woolsthorpe, grows up not to be a hairy Savage, and chewer of Acorns, but an Isaac Newton, and Discoverer of Solar Systems!— Thus both in a celestial and terrestrial sense, are we a Flock, such as there is no other: nay, looking away from the base and ludicrous to the sublime and sacred side of the matter (since in every matter there are two sides), have not we also a Shepherd, ‘if we will but hear his voice?’ Of those stupid multitudes there is no one but has an immortal Soul within him; a reflex, and living image of God’s whole Universe: strangely, from its dim environment, the light of the Highest looks through him;—for which reason, indeed, it is that we claim a brotherhood with him, and so love to know his History, and come into clearer and clearer union with all that he feels, and says, and does. However, the chief thing to be noted was this: Amid those dull millions, who, as a dull flock, roll hither and thither, whithersoever they are led, and seem all sightless and slavish, accomplishing, attempting little save what the animal instinct in its somewhat higher kind might teach, To keep themselves and their young ones alive,—are scattered here and there superior natures, whose eye is not destitute of free vision, nor their heart of free volition. These latter, therefore, examine and determine, not what others do, but what it is right to do; towards which, and which only, will they, with such force as is given them, resolutely endeavour: for if the Machine, living or inanimate, is merely fed, or desires to be fed, and so works; the Person can will, and so do. These are properly our Men, our Great Men; the guides of the dull host,—which follows them as by an irrevocable decree. They are the chosen of the world: they had this rare faculty not only of ‘supposing’ and ‘inclining to think,’ but of knowing and believing; the nature of their being was, that they lived not by Hearsay but by clear Vision; while others hovered and swam along, in the grand Vanity-fair of the World,



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blinded by the mere Shows of things, these saw into the Things themselves, and could walk as men having an eternal loadstar, and with their feet on sure paths. Thus was there a Reality in their existence; something of a perennial character; in virtue of which indeed it is that the memory of them is perennial. Whoso belongs only to his own age, and reverences only its gilt Popinjays or soot-smeared Mumbojumbos, must needs die with it: though he have been crowned seven times in the Capitol, or seventy and seven times, and Rumour have blown his praises to all the four winds, deafening every ear therewith,—it avails not; there was nothing universal, nothing eternal in him; he must fade away, even as the Popinjay-gildings and Scarecrow-apparel, which he could not see through. The great man does, in good truth, belong to his own age; nay more so than any other man; being properly the synopsis and epitome of such age with its interests and influences: but belongs likewise to all ages, otherwise he is not great. What was transitory in him passes away; and an immortal part remains, the significance of which is in strict speech inexhaustible,—as that of every real object is. Aloft, conspicuous, on his enduring basis, he stands there, serene, unaltering; silently addresses to every new generation a new lesson and monition. Well is his Life worth writing, worth interpreting; and ever, in the new dialect of new times, of re-writing and re-interpreting. Of such chosen men was Samuel Johnson: not ranking among the highest, or even the high, yet distinctly admitted into that sacred band; whose existence was no idle Dream, but a Reality which he transacted awake; nowise a Clotheshorse and Patent Digester, but a genuine Man. By nature he was gifted for the noblest of earthly tasks, that of Priesthood, and Guidance of mankind; by destiny, moreover, he was appointed to this task, and did actually, according to strength, fulfil the same: so that always the question, How; in what spirit; under what shape? remains for us to be asked and answered concerning him. For as the highest Gospel was a Biography, so is the Life of every good man still an indubitable Gospel, and preaches to the eye and heart and whole man, so that Devils even must believe and tremble, these gladdest tidings: “Man is heaven-born; not the thrall of Circumstances, of Necessity, but the victorious subduer thereof: behold how he can become the ‘Announcer of himself and of his Freedom;’ and is ever what the Thinker has named him, ‘the Messias of Nature!’”—Yes, Reader, all this that thou hast so often heard about ‘force of circumstances,’ ‘the creature of the time,’ ‘balancing of motives,’ and who knows what melancholy stuff to the like purport, wherein thou, as in a nightmare Dream, sittest paralysed, and hast no force left,—was in very truth, if Johnson and waking men are to be credited, little other than a hag-ridden vision of death-sleep; some half-fact, more fatal

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at times than a whole falsehood. Shake it off; awake; up and be doing, even as it is given thee! The Contradiction which yawns wide enough in every Life, which it is the meaning and task of Life to reconcile, was in Johnson’s wider than in most. Seldom, for any man, has the contrast between the ethereal heavenward side of things, and the dark sordid earthward, been more glaring: whether we look at Nature’s work with him or Fortune’s, from first to last, heterogeneity, as of sunbeams and miry clay, is on all hands manifest. Whereby indeed, only this was declared, That much Life had been given him; many things to triumph over, a great work to do. Happily also he did it; better than the most. Nature had given him a high, keen-visioned, almost poetic soul; yet withal imprisoned it in an inert, unsightly body: he that could never rest had not limbs that would move with him, but only roll and waddle: the inward eye, allpenetrating, all-embracing, must look through bodily windows that were dim, half-blinded; he so loved men, and ‘never once saw the human face divine!’ Not less did he prize the love of men; he was eminently social; the approbation of his fellows was dear to him, ‘valuable,’ as he owned, ‘if from the meanest of human beings:’ yet the first impression he produced on every man was to be one of aversion, almost of disgust. By Nature it was farther ordered that the imperious Johnson should be born poor: the ruler-soul, strong in its native royalty, generous, uncontrollable, like the lion of the woods, was to be housed, then, in such a dwelling-place: of Disfigurement, Disease, and lastly of a Poverty which itself made him the servant of servants. Thus was the born King likewise a born Slave: the divine spirit of Music must awake imprisoned amid dull-croaking universal Discords; the Ariel finds himself encased in the coarse hulls of a Caliban. So is it more or less, we know (and thou, O Reader, knowest and feelest even now), with all men: yet with the fewest men in any such degree as with Johnson. Fortune, moreover, which had so managed his first appearance in the world, lets not her hand lie idle, or turn the other way, but works unweariedly in the same spirit, while he is journeying through the world. What such a mind, stamped of Nature’s noblest metal, though in so ungainly a die, was specially and best of all fitted for, might still be a question. To none of the world’s few Incorporated Guilds could he have adjusted himself without difficulty, without distortion; in none been a Guild-Brother well at ease. Perhaps, if we look to the strictly practical nature of his faculty, to the strength, decision, method that manifests itself in him, we may say that his calling was rather towards Active than Speculative life; that as Statesman (in the higher, now obsolete sense), Lawgiver, Ruler; in short, as Doer of the Work, he had shone even more than as Speaker of the



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Word. His honesty of heart, his courageous temper, the value he set on things outward and material, might have made him a King among Kings. Had the golden age of those new French Prophets, when it shall be: A chacun selon sa capacité; à chaque capacité selon ses œuvres, but arrived! Indeed even in our brazen and Birmingham-lacker age, he himself regretted that he had not become a Lawyer, and risen to be Chancellor, which he might well have done. However, it was otherwise appointed. To no man does Fortune throw open all the kingdoms of this world, and say: It is thine; choose where thou wilt dwell! To the most she opens hardly the smallest cranny or doghutch, and says, not without asperity: There, that is thine while thou canst keep it; nestle thyself there, and bless Heaven! Alas, men must fit themselves into many things: some forty years ago, for instance, the noblest and ablest Man in all the British lands might be seen not swaying the royal sceptre, or the pontiff ’s censer, on the pinnacle of the World, but gauging ale-tubs in the little burgh of Dumfries! Johnson came a little nearer the mark than Burns: but with him too, ‘Strength was mournfully denied its arena;’ he too had to fight Fortune, at strange odds, all his life long. Johnson’s disposition for royalty (had the Fates so ordered it) is well seen in early boyhood. ‘His favourites,’ says Boswell, ‘used to receive very liberal assistance from him; and such was the submission and deference with which he was treated, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as his humble attendants, and carry him to school. One in the middle stooped, while he sat upon his back, and one on each side supported him; and thus was he borne triumphant.’The purfly, sand-blind lubber and blubber, with his open mouth, and face of bruised honeycomb; yet already dominant, imperial, irresistible! Not in the ‘King’s-chair’ (of human arms) as we see, do his three satellites carry him along: rather on the Tyrant’s-saddle, the back of his fellow-creature, must he ride prosperous!—The child is father of the man. He who had seen fifty years into coming Time, would have felt that little spectacle of mischievous schoolboys to be a great one. For us, who look back on it, and what followed it, now from afar, there arise questions enough: How looked these urchins? What jackets and galligaskins had they; felt headgear, or of dogskin leather? What was old Lichfield doing then; what thinking?—and so on, through the whole series of Corporal Trim’s ‘auxiliary verbs.’ A picture of it all fashions itself together;—only unhappily we have no brush, and no fingers. Boyhood is now past; the ferula of Pedagogue waves harmless, in the distance: Samuel has struggled up to uncouth bulk and youthhood, wrestling with Disease and Poverty, all the way; which two continue still his companions. At College we see little of him; yet thus much, that things went not well. A rugged wild-

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man of the desert, awakened to the feeling of himself; proud as the proudest, poor as the poorest; stoically shut up, silently enduring the incurable: what a world of blackest gloom, with sun-gleams, and pale tearful moon-gleams, and flickerings of a celestial and an infernal splendour, was this that now opened for him! But the weather is wintry; and the toes of the man are looking through his shoes. His muddy features grow of a purple and sea-green colour; a flood of black indignation mantling beneath. A truculent, raw-boned figure! Meat he has probably little; hope he has less: his feet, as we said, have come into brotherhood with the cold mire. ‘Shall I be particular,’ inquires Sir John Hawkins, ‘and relate a circumstance of his distress, that cannot be imputed to him as an effect of his own extravagance or irregularity, and consequently reflects no disgrace on his memory? He had scarce any change of raiment, and, in a short time after Corbet left him, but one pair of shoes, and those so old that his feet were seen through them: a gentleman of his college, the father of an eminent clergyman now living, directed a servitor one morning to place a new pair at the door of Johnson’s chamber; who seeing them upon his first going out, so far forgot himself and the spirit which must have actuated his unknown benefactor, that, with all the indignation of an insulted man, he threw them away.’

How exceedingly surprising!—The Rev. Dr. Hall remarks: ‘As far as we can judge from a cursory view of the weekly account in the buttery books, Johnson appears to have lived as well as other commoners and scholars.’ Alas! such ‘cursory view of the buttery books,’ now from the safe distance of a century, in the safe chair of a College Mastership, is one thing; the continual view of the empty or locked buttery itself was quite a different thing. But hear our Knight, how he farther discourses. ‘Johnson,’ quoth Sir John, ‘could not at this early period of his life divest himself of an idea that poverty was disgraceful; and was very severe in his censures of that economy in both our Universities, which exacted at meals the attendance of poor scholars, under the several denominations of Servitors in the one and Sizers in the other: he thought that the scholar’s, like the Christian life, levelled all distinctions of rank and worldly pre-eminence; but in this he was mistaken: civil polity,’ &c. &c.—Too true! It is man’s lot to err. However, Destiny, in all ways, means to prove the mistaken Samuel, and see what stuff is in him. He must leave these butteries of Oxford, Want like an armed man compelling him; retreat into his father’s mean home; and there abandon himself for a season to inaction, disappointment, shame, and nervous melancholy nigh run mad: he is probably the wretchedest man in wide England.



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In all ways, he too must ‘become perfect through suffering.’—High thoughts have visited him; his College Exercises have been praised beyond the walls of College; Pope himself has seen that Translation, and approved of it: Samuel had whispered to himself: I too am ‘one and somewhat.’ False thoughts; that leave only misery behind! The fever-fire of Ambition is too painfully extinguished (but not cured) in the frost-bath of Poverty. Johnson has knocked at the gate, as one having a right; but there was no opening: the world lies all encircled as with brass; nowhere can he find or force the smallest entrance. An ushership at Market Bosworth, and ‘a disagreement between him and Sir Wolstan Dixie, the patron of the school,’ yields him bread of affliction and water of affliction; but so bitter, that unassisted human nature cannot swallow them. Young Sampson will grind no more in the Philistine mill of Bosworth; quits hold of Sir Wolstan, and the ‘domestic chaplaincy, so far at least as to say grace at table,’ and also to be ‘treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness;’ and so, after ‘some months of such complicated misery,’ feeling doubtless that there are worse things in the world than quick death by Famine, ‘relinquishes a situation, which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even horror.’ Men like Johnson are properly called the Forlorn Hope of the World: judge whether his hope was forlorn or not, by this Letter to a dull oily Printer, who called himself Sylvanus Urban: ‘Sir,—As you appear no less sensible than your readers, of the defect of your poetical article, you will not be displeased if (in order to the improvement of it) I communicate to you the sentiments of a person who will undertake, on reasonable terms, sometimes to fill a column. ‘His opinion is that the public would,’ &c. &c. ‘If such a correspondence will be agreeable to you, be pleased to inform me in two posts, what the conditions are on which you shall expect it. Your late offer (for a Prize Poem) gives me no reason to distrust your generosity. If you engage in any literary projects besides this paper, I have other designs to impart.’

Reader, the generous person, to whom this Letter goes addressed, is ‘Mr. Edmund Cave, at St. John’s Gate, London;’ the addresser of it is Samuel Johnson, in Birmingham, Warwickshire. Nevertheless, Life rallies in the man; reasserts its right to be lived, even to be enjoyed. ‘Better a small bush,’ say the Scotch, ‘than no shelter:’ Johnson learns to be contented with humble human things; and is there not already an actual realised human Existence, all stirring and living on every hand of

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him? Go thou and do likewise! In Birmingham itself, with his own purchased goose-quill, he can earn ‘five guineas;’ nay, finally, the choicest terrestrial good: a Friend, who will be Wife to him! Johnson’s marriage with the good Widow Porter has been treated with ridicule by many mortals, who apparently had no understanding thereof. That the purblind, seamy-faced Wild-man, stalking lonely, woe-stricken, like some Irish Gallowglass with peeled club, whose speech no man knew, whose look all men both laughed at and shuddered at, should find any brave female heart, to acknowledge, at first sight and hearing of him, “This is the most sensible man I ever met with;” and then, with generous courage, to take him to itself, and say, Be thou mine; be thou warmed here, and thawed to life!—in all this, in the kind Widow’s love and pity for him, in Johnson’s love and gratitude, there is actually no matter for ridicule. Their wedded life, as is the common lot, was made up of drizzle and dry weather; but innocence and worth dwelt in it; and when death had ended it, a certain sacredness: Johnson’s deathless affection for his Tetty was always venerable and noble. However, be this as it might, Johnson is now minded to wed; and will live by the trade of Pedagogy, for by this also may life be kept in. Let the world therefore take notice: ‘At Edial near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded, and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by Samuel Johnson.’ Had this Edial enterprise prospered, how different might the issue have been! Johnson had lived a life of unnoticed nobleness, or swoln into some amorphous Dr. Parr, of no avail to us; Bozzy would have dwindled into official insignificance, or risen by some other elevation; old Auchinleck had never been afflicted with “ane that keeped a schule,” or obliged to violate hospitality by a “Cromwell do? God, sir, he gart kings ken that there was a lith in their neck!” But the Edial enterprise did not prosper; Destiny had other work appointed for Samuel Johnson; and young gentlemen got board where they could elsewhere find it. This man was to become a Teacher of grown gentlemen, in the most surprising way; a Man of Letters, and Ruler of the British Nation for some time,—not of their bodies merely, but of their minds, not over them, but in them. The career of Literature could not, in Johnson’s day, any more than now, be said to lie along the shores of a Pactolus: whatever else might be gathered there, gold-dust was nowise the chief produce. The world, from the times of Socrates, St. Paul, and far earlier, has always had its Teachers; and always treated them in a peculiar way. A shrewd Townclerk (not of Ephesus), once, in founding a Burgh-Seminary, when the question came, How the Schoolmasters should be maintained? delivered this brief counsel: “D—n them, keep them poor!” Con-



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siderable wisdom may lie in this aphorism. At all events, we see, the world has acted on it long, and indeed improved on it,—putting many a Schoolmaster of its great Burgh-Seminary to a death, which even cost it something. The world, it is true, had for some time been too busy to go out of its way, and put any Author to death; however, the old sentence pronounced against them was found to be pretty sufficient. The first Writers, being Monks, were sworn to a vow of Poverty; the modern Authors had no need to swear to it. This was the epoch when an Otway could still die of hunger: not to speak of your innumerable Scrogginses, whom ‘the Muse found stretched beneath a rug,’ with ‘rusty grate unconscious of a fire,’ stocking-nightcap, sanded floor, and all the other escutcheons of the craft, time out of mind the heirlooms of Authorship. Scroggins, however, seems to have been but an idler; not at all so diligent as worthy Mr. Boyce, whom we might have seen sitting up in bed, with his wearing-apparel of Blanket about him, and a hole slit in the same, that his hand might be at liberty to work in its vocation. The worst was, that too frequently a blackguard recklessness of temper ensued, incapable of turning to account what good the gods even here had provided: your Boyces acted on some stoico-epicurean principle of carpe diem, as men do in bombarded towns, and seasons of raging pestilence;—and so had lost not only their life, and presence of mind, but their status as persons of respectability. The trade of Author was at about one of its lowest ebbs, when Johnson embarked on it. Accordingly we find no mention of Illuminations in the city of London, when this same Ruler of the British Nation arrived in it: no cannon-salvoes are fired; no flourish of drums and trumpets greets his appearance on the scene. He enters quite quietly, with some copper halfpence in his pocket; creeps into lodgings in Exeter Street, Strand; and has a Coronation Pontiff also, of not less peculiar equipment, whom, with all submissiveness, he must wait upon, in his Vatican of St. John’s Gate. This is the dull oily Printer alluded to above. ‘Cave’s temper,’ says our Knight Hawkins, ‘was phlegmatic: though he assumed as the publisher of the Magazine, the name of Sylvanus Urban, he had few of those qualities that constitute urbanity. Judge of his want of them by this question, which he once put to an author: “Mr.——, I hear you have just published a pamphlet, and am told there is a very good paragraph in it, upon the subject of music: did you write that yourself ?” His discernment was also slow; and as he had already at his command some writers of prose and verse, who, in the language of Booksellers, are called good hands, he was the backwarder in making advances, or courting an intimacy with Johnson. Upon the first approach of a stranger, his practice was to continue sitting; a posture in which he was

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ever to be found, and for a few minutes to continue silent: if at any time he was inclined to begin the discourse, it was generally by putting a leaf of the Magazine, then in the press, into the hand of his visitor, and asking his opinion of it. * * * ‘He was so incompetent a judge of Johnson’s abilities, that meaning at one time to dazzle him with the splendour of some of those luminaries in Literature, who favoured him with their correspondence, he told him that if he would, in the evening, be at a certain alehouse in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, he might have a chance of seeing Mr. Browne and another or two of those illustrious contributors: Johnson accepted the invitation; and being introduced by Cave, dressed in a loose horseman’s coat, and such a great bushy wig as he constantly wore, to the sight of Mr. Browne, whom he found sitting at the upper end of a long table, in a cloud of tobacco-smoke, had his curiosity gratified.’*

In fact, if we look seriously into the condition of Authorship at that period, we shall find that Johnson had undertaken one of the ruggedest of all possible enterprises; that here as elsewhere Fortune had given him unspeakable Contradictions to reconcile. For a man of Johnson’s stamp, the Problem was twofold: First, not only as the humble but indispensable condition of all else, to keep himself, if so might be, alive; but secondly, to keep himself alive by speaking forth the Truth that was in him, and speaking it truly, that is, in the clearest and fittest utterance the Heavens had enabled him to give it, let the Earth say to this what she liked. Of which twofold Problem if it be hard to solve either member separately, how incalculably more so to solve it, when both are conjoined, and work with endless complication into one another! He that finds himself already kept alive can sometimes (unhappily not always) speak a little truth; he that finds himself able and willing, to all lengths, to speak lies, may, by watching how the wind sits, scrape together a livelihood, sometimes of great splendour: he, again, who finds himself provided with neither endowment, has but a ticklish game to play, and shall have praises if he win it. Let us look a little at both faces of the matter; and see what front they then offered our Adventurer, what front he offered them. At the time of Johnson’s appearance on the field, Literature, in many senses, was in a transitional state; chiefly in this sense, as respects the pecuniary subsistence of its cultivators. It was in the very act of passing from the protection of Patrons into that of the Public; no longer to supply its necessities by laudatory Dedications to the Great, but by judicious Bargains with the Booksellers. This happy change has been much sung and celebrated; many a ‘lord of the lion heart and eagle eye’ looking back with scorn enough on the bygone system * Hawkins, 46-50.



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of Dependency: so that now it were perhaps well to consider, for a moment, what good might also be in it, what gratitude we owe it. That a good was in it, admits not of doubt. Whatsoever has existed has had its value: without some truth and worth lying in it, the thing could not have hung together, and been the organ and sustenance, and method of action, for men that reasoned and were alive. Translate a Falsehood which is wholly false into Practice, the result comes out zero; there is no fruit or issue to be derived from it. That in an age, when a Nobleman was still noble, still with his wealth the protector of worthy and humane things, and still venerated as such, a poor Man of Genius, his brother in nobleness, should, with unfeigned reverence, address him and say: “I have found Wisdom here, and would fain proclaim it abroad; wilt thou, of thy abundance, afford me the means?”—in all this there was no baseness; it was wholly an honest proposal, which a free man might make, and a free man listen to. So might a Tasso, with a Gerusalemme in his hand or in his head, speak to a Duke of Ferrara; so might a Shakspeare to his Southampton; and Continental Artists generally to their rich Protectors,—in some countries, down almost to these days. It was only when the reverence became feigned, that baseness entered into the transaction on both sides; and, indeed, flourished there with rapid luxuriance, till that became disgraceful for a Dryden, which a Shakspeare could once practise without offence. Neither, it is very true, was the new way of Bookseller Mecænasship worthless; which opened itself at this juncture, for the most important of all transporttrades, now when the old way had become too miry and impassable. Remark, moreover, how this second sort of Mecænasship, after carrying us through nearly a century of Literary Time, appears now to have well nigh discharged its function also; and to be working pretty rapidly towards some third method, the exact conditions of which are yet nowise visible. Thus all things have their end; and we should part with them all, not in anger but in peace. The Bookseller System, during its peculiar century, the whole of the eighteenth, did carry us handsomely along; and many good Works it has left us, and many good Men it maintained: if it is now expiring by Puffery, as the Patronage System did by Flattery (for Lying is ever the forerunner of Death, nay is itself Death), let us not forget its benefits; how it nursed Literature through boyhood and school-years, as Patronage had wrapped it in soft swaddling-bands;—till now we see it about to put on the toga virilis, could it but find any such! There is tolerable travelling on the beaten road, run how it may; only on the new road, not yet levelled and paved, and on the old road, all broken into ruts and quagmires, is the travelling bad or impracticable. The difficulty lies always

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in the transition from one method to another. In which state it was that Johnson now found Literature; and out of which, let us also say, he manfully carried it. What remarkable mortal first paid copyright in England we have not ascertained; perhaps for almost a century before, some scarce visible or ponderable pittance of wages had occasionally been yielded by the Seller of Books to the Writer of them: the original Covenant, stipulating to produce Paradise Lost on the one hand, and Five Pounds Sterling on the other, still lies (we have been told), in black-on-white, for inspection and purchase by the curious, at a Bookshop in Chancery Lane. Thus had the matter gone on, in a mixed confused way, for some threescore years;—as ever, in such things, the old system overlaps the new, by some generation or two, and only dies quite out when the new has got a complete organisation, and weather-worthy surface of its own. Among the first Authors, the very first of any significance, who lived by the day’s wages of his craft, and composedly faced the world on that basis, was Samuel Johnson. At the time of Johnson’s appearance, there were still two ways, on which an Author might attempt proceeding: there were the Mecænases proper in the West End of London; and the Mecænases virtual of St. John’s Gate and Paternoster Row. To a considerate man it might seem uncertain which method were the preferable: neither had very high attractions; the Patron’s aid was now well nigh necessarily polluted by sycophancy, before it could come to hand; the Bookseller’s was deformed with greedy stupidity, not to say entire woodenheadedness and disgust (so that an Osborne even required to be knocked down, by an Author of spirit), and could barely keep the thread of life together. The one was the wages of suffering and poverty; the other, unless you gave strict heed to it, the wages of sin. In time, Johnson had opportunity of looking into both methods, and ascertaining what they were; but found, at first trial, that the former would in nowise do for him. Listen, once again, to that far-famed Blast of Doom, proclaiming into the ear of Lord Chesterfield, and, through him, of the listening world, that Patronage should be no more! ‘Seven years, my Lord, have now past, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my Work* through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance,† one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. * The English Dictionary. † Were time and printer’s space of no value, it were easy to wash away certain foolish soot-stains dropped here as ‘Notes;’ especially two: the one on this word, and on Boswell’s Note to it; the other on the paragraph which follows. Let ‘Ed.’ look a second



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‘The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks. ‘Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it. I hope, it is no very cynical asperity, not to confess obligations, where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron which Providence has enabled me to do for myself. ‘Having carried on my Work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less: for I have long been awakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation, ‘My Lord, your Lordship’s most humble, most obedient servant, ‘Sam. Johnson.’

And thus must the rebellious ‘Sam. Johnson’ turn him to the Bookselling guild, and the wondrous chaos of ‘Author by trade;’ and, though ushered into it only by that dull oily Printer, ‘with loose horseman’s coat, and such a great bushy wig as he constantly wore,’ and only as subaltern to some commanding-officer ‘Browne, sitting amid tobacco-smoke at the head of a long table in the alehouse at Clerkenwell,’—gird himself together for the warfare; having no alternative! Little less contradictory was that other branch of the twofold Problem now set before Johnson: the speaking forth of Truth. Nay, taken by itself, it had in those days become so complex as to puzzle strongest heads, with nothing else imposed on them for solution; and even to turn high heads of that sort into mere hollow vizards, speaking neither truth nor falsehood, nor anything but what the Prompter and Player (ὑποκριτὴσ) put into them. Alas! for poor Johnson, Contradiction abounded; in spirituals and in temporals, within and without. Born with the strongest unconquerable love of just Insight, he must begin to live and learn in a scene where Prejudice flourishes with rank luxuriance. England was all confused enough, sightless and yet restless, take it where you would; but figure the best intellect in England nursed up to manhood in the idol-cavern of a poor Tradesman’s house, in the cathedral city of Lichfield! What is Truth? said time; he will find that Johnson’s sacred regard for Truth is the only thing to be ‘noted,’ in the former case; also, in the latter, that this of ‘Love’s being a native of the rocks’ actually has ‘a meaning.’

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jesting Pilate; What is Truth? might earnest Johnson much more emphatically say. Truth, no longer, like the Phœnix, in rainbow plumage, poured, from her glittering beak, such tones of sweetest melody as took captive every ear: the Phœnix (waxing old) had well nigh ceased her singing, and empty wearisome Cuckoos, and doleful monotonous Owls, innumerable Jays also, and twittering Sparrows on the housetop, pretended they were repeating her. It was wholly a divided age, that of Johnson; Unity existed nowhere, in its Heaven, or in its Earth. Society, through every fibre, was rent asunder: all things, it was then becoming visible, but could not then be understood, were moving onwards, with an impulse received ages before, yet now first with a decisive rapidity, towards that great chaotic gulf, where, whether in the shape of French Revolutions, Reform Bills, or what shape soever, bloody or bloodless, the descent and engulfment assume, we now see them weltering and boiling. Already Cant, as once before hinted, had begun to play its wonderful part, for the hour was come: two ghastly Apparitions, unreal simulacra both, Hypocrisy and Atheism are already, in silence, parting the world. Opinion and Action, which should live together as wedded pair, ‘one flesh,’ more properly as Soul and Body, have commenced their open quarrel, and are suing for a separate maintenance,—as if they could exist separately. To the earnest mind, in any position, firm footing and a life of Truth was becoming daily more difficult: in Johnson’s position, it was more difficult than in almost any other. If, as for a devout nature was inevitable and indispensable, he looked up to Religion, as to the pole-star of his voyage, already there was no fixed pole-star any longer visible; but two stars, a whole constellation of stars, each proclaiming itself as the true. There was the red portentous comet-star of Infidelity; the dim fixedstar, burning ever dimmer, uncertain now whether not an atmospheric meteor, of Orthodoxy: which of these to choose? The keener intellects of Europe had, almost without exception, ranged themselves under the former: for some half century, it had been the general effort of European Speculation to proclaim that Destruction of Falsehood was the only Truth; daily had Denial waxed stronger and stronger, Belief sunk more and more into decay. From our Bolingbrokes and Tolands, the sceptical fever had passed into France, into Scotland; and already it smouldered, far and wide, secretly eating out the heart of England. Bayle had played his part; Voltaire, on a wider theatre, was playing his,—Johnson’s senior by some fifteen years: Hume and Johnson were children almost of the same year.* To this keener order of intellects did Johnson’s indisputably belong: was he to join them? Was he to oppose them? A complicated question: for, alas! the * Johnson, September, 1709; Hume, April, 1711.



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Church itself is no longer, even to him, wholly of true adamant, but of adamant and baked mud conjoined: the zealously Devout must find his Church tottering; and pause amazed to see, instead of inspired Priest, many a swine-feeding Trulliber ministering at her altar. It is not the least curious of the incoherences which Johnson had to reconcile, that, though by nature contemptuous and incredulous, he was, at that time of day, to find his safety and glory in defending, with his whole might, the traditions of the elders. Not less perplexingly intricate, and on both sides hollow or questionable, was the aspect of Politics. Whigs struggling blindly forward, Tories holding blindly back; each with some forecast of a half truth; neither with any forecast of the whole! Admire here this other Contradiction in the life of Johnson: that, though the most ungovernable, and in practice the most independent of men, he must be a Jacobite, and worshipper of the Divine Right. In Politics also there are Irreconcilables enough for him. As, indeed, how could it be otherwise? For when Religion is torn asunder, and the very heart of man’s existence set against itself, then, in all subordinate departments there must needs be hollowness, incoherence. The English Nation had rebelled against a Tyrant; and, by the hands of religious tyrannicides, exacted stern vengeance of him: Democracy had risen iron-sinewed, and ‘like an infant Hercules, strangled serpents in its cradle.’ But as yet none knew the meaning or extent of the phenomenon: Europe was not ripe for it; not to be ripened for it, but by the culture and various experience of another century and a half. And now, when the King-killers were all swept away, and a milder second picture was painted over the canvass of the first, and betitled ‘Glorious Revolution,’ who doubted but the catastrophe was over, the whole business finished, and Democracy gone to its long sleep? Yet was it like a business finished and not finished; a lingering uneasiness dwelt in all minds: the deep-lying, resistless Tendency, which had still to be obeyed, could no longer be recognised; thus was there halfness, insincerity, uncertainty in men’s ways; instead of heroic Puritans and heroic Cavaliers, came now a dawdling set of argumentative Whigs, and a dawdling set of deaf-eared Tories; each halffoolish, each half-false. The Whigs were false and without basis; inasmuch as their whole object was Resistance, Criticism, Demolition,—they knew not why, or towards what issue. In Whiggism, ever since a Charles and his Jeffries had ceased to meddle with it, and to have any Russel or Sidney to meddle with, there could be no divineness of character; not till, in these latter days, it took the figure of a thorough-going, all-defying Radicalism, was there any solid footing for it to stand on. Of the like uncertain, half-hollow nature had Toryism become, in Johnson’s time; preaching forth indeed an everlasting truth, the

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duty of Loyalty; yet now, ever since the final expulsion of the Stuarts, having no Person but only an Office to be loyal to, no living Soul to worship, but only a dead velvet-cushioned Chair. Its attitude, therefore, was stiff-necked refusal to move; as that of Whiggism was clamorous command to move,—let rhyme and reason, on both hands, say to it what they might. The consequence was: Immeasurable floods of contentious jargon, tending nowhither; false conviction; false resistance to conviction; decay (ultimately to become decease) of whatsoever was once understood by the words, Principle, or Honesty of heart; the louder and louder triumph of Halfness and Plausibility over Wholeness and Truth;—at last, this all-overshadowing efflorescence of Quackery, which we now see, with all its deadening and killing fruits, in all its innumerable branches, down to the lowest. How, between these jarring extremes, wherein the rotten lay so inextricably intermingled with the sound, and as yet no eye could see through the ulterior meaning of the matter, was a faithful and true man to adjust himself ? That Johnson, in spite of all drawbacks, adopted the Conservative side; stationed himself as the unyielding opponent of Innovation, resolute to hold fast the form of sound words, could not but increase, in no small measure, the difficulties he had to strive with. We mean, the moral difficulties; for in economical respects, it might be pretty equally balanced; the Tory servant of the Public had perhaps about the same chance of promotion as the Whig: and all the promotion Johnson aimed at was the privilege to live. But, for what, though unavowed, was no less indispensable, for his peace of conscience, and the clear ascertainment and feeling of his Duty as an inhabitant of God’s world, the case was hereby rendered much more complex. To resist Innovation is easy enough on one condition: that you resist Inquiry. This is, and was, the common expedient of your common Conservatives; but it would not do for Johnson: he was a zealous recommender and practiser of Inquiry; once for all, could not, and would not believe, much less speak and act, a Falsehood; the form of sound words, which he held fast, must have a meaning in it. Here lay the difficulty: to behold a portentous mixture of True and False, and feel that he must dwell and fight there; yet to love and defend only the True. How worship, when you cannot and will not be an idolater; yet cannot help discerning that the Symbol of your Divinity has half become idolatrous? This was the question, which Johnson, the man both of clear eye and devout believing heart, must answer,—at peril of his life. The Whig or Sceptic, on the other hand, had a much simpler part to play. To him only the idolatrous side of things, nowise the divine one, lay visible: not worship, therefore, nay in the strict sense not heart-honesty, only at most lip- and hand-honesty, is required of him. What spiritual force is his, he can conscientiously employ in



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the work of cavilling, of pulling down what is False. For the rest, that there is or can be any Truth, of a higher than sensual nature, has not occurred to him. The utmost, therefore, that he as man has to aim at, is Respectability, the suffrages of his fellow-men. Such suffrages he may weigh as well as count; or count only: according as he is a Burke, or a Wilkes. But beyond these there lies nothing divine for him; these attained, all is attained. Thus is his whole world distinct and rounded in; a clear goal is set before him; a firm path, rougher or smoother; at worst a firm region wherein to seek a path: let him gird up his loins, and travel on without misgivings! For the honest Conservative, again, nothing is distinct, nothing rounded in: Respectability can nowise be his highest Godhead; not one aim, but two conflicting aims to be continually reconciled by him, has he to strive after. A difficult position, as we said; which accordingly the most did, even in those days, but half defend,—by the surrender, namely, of their own too cumbersome honesty, or even understanding; after which the completest defence was worth little. Into this difficult position Johnson, nevertheless, threw himself: found it indeed full of difficulties; yet held it out manfully, as an honest-hearted, open-sighted man, while life was in him. Such was that same ‘twofold Problem’ set before Samuel Johnson. Consider all these moral difficulties; and add to them the fearful aggravation, which lay in that other circumstance, that he needed a continual appeal to the Public, must continually produce a certain impression and conviction on the Public; that if he did not, he ceased to have ‘provision for the day that was passing over him,’ he could not any longer live! How a vulgar character, once launched into this wild element; driven onwards by Fear and Famine; without other aim than to clutch what Provender (of Enjoyment in any kind) he could get, always if possible keeping quite clear of the Gallows and Pillory, that is to say, minding heedfully both ‘person’ and ‘character,’—would have floated hither and thither in it; and contrived to eat some three repasts daily, and wear some three suits yearly, and then to depart, and disappear, having consumed his last ration: all this might be worth knowing, but were in itself a trivial knowledge. How a noble man, resolute for the Truth, to whom Shams and Lies were once for all an abomination,—was to act in it: here lay the mystery. By what methods, by what gifts of eye and hand, does a heroic Samuel Johnson, now when cast forth into that waste Chaos of Authorship, maddest of things, a mingled Phlegethon and Fleet-ditch, with its floating lumber, and sea-krakens, and mud-spectres,—shape himself a voyage; of the transient driftwood, and the enduring iron, build him a seaworthy Lifeboat, and sail therein, undrowned, unpolluted, through the roaring ‘mother of dead dogs,’ onwards to an eternal Landmark, and City that hath foundations?

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This high question is even the one answered in Boswell’s Book; which Book we, therefore not so falsely, have named a Heroic Poem; for in it there lies the whole argument of such. Glory to our brave Samuel! He accomplished this wonderful Problem; and now through long generations, we point to him, and say: Here also was a Man; let the world once more have assurance of a Man! Had there been in Johnson, now when afloat on that confusion worse confounded of grandeur and squalor, no light but an earthly outward one, he too must have made shipwreck. With his diseased body, and vehement voracious heart, how easy for him to become a carpe-diem Philosopher, like the rest, and live and die as miserably as any Boyce of that Brotherhood! But happily there was a higher light for him; shining as a lamp to his path; which, in all paths, would teach him to act and walk not as a fool, but as wise, and in those evil days too ‘redeeming the time.’ Under dimmer or clearer manifestations, a Truth had been revealed to him: I also am a Man; even in this unutterable element of Authorship, I may live as beseems a Man! That Wrong is not only different from Right, but that it is, in strict scientific terms, infinitely different; even as the gaining of the whole world set against the losing of one’s own soul, or (as Johnson had it) a Heaven set against a Hell; that in all situations out of the Pit of Tophet, wherein a living Man has stood or can stand, there is actually a Prize of quite infinite value placed within his reach, namely a Duty for him to do: this highest Gospel, which forms the basis and worth of all other Gospels whatsoever, had been revealed to Samuel Johnson; and the man had believed it, and laid it faithfully to heart. Such knowledge of the transcendental, immeasurable character of Duty, we call the basis of all Gospels, the essence of all Religion: he who with his whole soul knows not this, as yet knows nothing, as yet is properly nothing. This, happily for him, Johnson was one of those that knew: under a certain authentic Symbol, it stood forever present to his eyes: a Symbol, indeed, waxing old as doth a garment; yet which had guided forward, as their Banner and celestial Pillar of Fire, innumerable saints and witnesses, the fathers of our modern world; and for him also had still a sacred significance. It does not appear that, at any time, Johnson was what we call irreligious: but in his sorrows and isolation, when hope died away, and only a long vista of suffering and toil lay before him to the end, then first did Religion shine forth in its meek, everlasting clearness; even as the stars do in black night, which, in the daytime and dusk, were hidden by inferior lights. How a true man, in the midst of errors and uncertainties, shall work out for himself a sure Life-truth; and adjusting the transient to the eternal, amid the fragments of ruined Temples build up, with toil and pain, a little Altar



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for himself, and worship there; how Samuel Johnson, in the era of Voltaire, can purify and fortify his soul, and hold real communion with the Highest, ‘in the Church of St. Clement Danes:’ this too stands all unfolded in his Biography, and is among the most touching and memorable things there; a thing to be looked at with pity, admiration, awe. Johnson’s Religion was as the light of life to him; without it, his heart was all sick, dark, and had no guidance left. He is now enlisted, or impressed, into that unspeakable shoeblack-seraph Army of Authors; but can feel hereby that he fights under a celestial flag, and will quit him like a man. The first grand requisite, an assured heart, he therefore has: what his outward equipments and accoutrements are is the next question; an important, though inferior one. His intellectual stock, intrinsically viewed, is perhaps inconsiderable: the furnishings of an English School and English University; good knowledge of the Latin tongue, a more uncertain one of Greek: this is a rather slender stock of Education wherewith to front the world. But then it is to be remembered that his world was England; that such was the culture England commonly supplied and expected. Besides Johnson has been a voracious reader, though a desultory one, and oftenest in strange scholastic, too obsolete Libraries; he has also rubbed shoulders with the press of Actual Life, for some thirty years now: views or hallucinations of innumerable things are weltering to and fro in him. Above all, be his weapons what they may, he has an arm that can wield them. Nature has given him her choicest gift: an open eye and heart. He will look on the world, wheresoever he can catch a glimpse of it, with eager curiosity: to the last, we find this a striking characteristic of him; for all human interests he has a sense; the meanest handicraftsman could interest him, even in extreme age, by speaking of his craft: the ways of men are all interesting to him; any human thing, that he did not know, he wished to know. Reflection, moreover, Meditation, was what he practised incessantly, with or without his will: for the mind of the man was earnest, deep as well as humane. Thus would the world, such fragments of it as he could survey, form itself, or continually tend to form itself, into a coherent Whole; on any and on all phases of which, his vote and voice must be well worth listening to. As a Speaker of the Word, he will speak real words; no idle jargon, or hollow triviality will issue from him. His aim too is clear, attainable, that of working for his wages: let him do this honestly, and all else will follow of its own accord. With such omens, into such a warfare, did Johnson go forth. A rugged, hungry Kerne, or Gallowglass, as we called him: yet indomitable; in whom lay the true spirit of a Soldier. With giant’s force, he toils, since such is his appointment, were it but at hewing of wood and drawing of water for old sedentary

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bushy-wigged Cave; distinguishes himself by mere quantity, if there is to be no other distinction. He can write all things; frosty Latin verses, if these are the saleable commodity; Book-prefaces, Political Philippics, Review Articles, Parliamentary Debates: all things he does rapidly; still more surprising, all things he does thoroughly and well. How he sits there, in his rough-hewn, amorphous bulk, in that upper-room at St. John’s Gate, and trundles off sheet after sheet of those Senate-of-Lilliput Debates, to the clamorous Printer’s Devils waiting for them, with insatiable throat, down stairs; himself perhaps impransus all the while! Admire also the greatness of Literature; how a grain of mustard-seed cast into its Nile-waters, shall settle in the teeming mould, and be found, one day, as a Tree, in whose branches all the fowls of heaven may lodge. Was it not so with these Lilliput Debates? In that small project and act, began the stupendous Fourth Estate; whose wide world-embracing influences what eye can take in; in whose boughs are there not already fowls of strange feather lodged? Such things, and far stranger, were done in that wondrous old Portal, even in latter times. And then figure Samuel dining ‘behind the screen,’ from a trencher covertly handed in to him, at a preconcerted nod from the ‘great bushy wig;’ Samuel too ragged to shew face, yet ‘made a happy man of ’ by hearing his praise spoken. If to Johnson himself, then much more to us, may that St. John’s Gate be a place we can ‘never pass without veneration.’* Poverty, Distress, and as yet Obscurity, are his companions: so poor is he that his Wife must leave him, and seek shelter among other relations; Johnson’s household has accommodation for one inmate only. To all his ever-varying, ever-recurring troubles, moreover, must be added this continual one of ill health, and its concomitant depressiveness: a galling load, which would have crushed most common mortals into desperation, is his appointed ballast and life-burden; he ‘could not remember the day he had passed free from pain.’ Nevertheless, * All Johnson’s places of resort and abode are venerable, and now indeed to the many as well as to the few; for his name has become great; and, as we must often with a kind of sad admiration recognise, there is, even to the rudest man, no greatness so venerable as intellectual, as spiritual greatness; nay properly there is no other venerable at all. For example, what soul-subduing magic, for the very clown or craftsman of our England, lies in the word ‘Scholar!’ “He is a Scholar:” he is a man wiser than we; of a wisdom to us boundless, infinite: who shall speak his worth! Such things, we say, fill us with a certain pathetic admiration of defaced and obstructed yet glorious man; archangel though in ruins,—or rather, though in rubbish, of encumbrances and mud-incrustations, which also are not to be perpetual.



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Life, as we said before, is always Life: a healthy soul, imprison it as you will, in squalid garrets, shabby coat, bodily sickness, or whatever else, will assert its heaven-granted indefeasible Freedom, its right to conquer difficulties, to do work, even to feel gladness. Johnson does not whine over his existence, but manfully makes the most and best of it. ‘He said, a man might live in a garret at eighteen pence a-week; few people would inquire where he lodged; and if they did, it was easy to say, “Sir, I am to be found at such a place.” By spending threepence in a coffee-house, he might be for some hours every day in very good company; he might dine for sixpence, breakfast on bread and milk for a penny, and do without supper. On clean-shirt-day he went abroad, and paid visits.’Think by whom, and of whom this was uttered, and ask then, Whether there is more pathos in it than in a whole circulating-library of Giaours and Harolds, or less pathos? On another occasion, ‘when Dr. Johnson, one day, read his own Satire, in which the life of a scholar is painted with the various obstructions thrown in his way to fortune and to fame, he burst into a passion of tears: Mr. Thrale’s family and Mr. Scott only were present, who, in a jocose way, clapped him on the back, and said, “What’s all this, my dear sir? Why you and I and Hercules, you Nevertheless, in this mad-whirling all-forgetting London, the haunts of the mighty that were, can seldom without a strange difficulty be discovered. Will any man, for instance, tell us which bricks it was in Lincoln’s Inn Buildings, that Ben Jonson’s hand and trowel laid? No man, it is to be feared,—and also grumbled at. With Samuel Johnson may it prove otherwise! A Gentleman of the British Museum is said to have made drawings of all his residences: the blessing of Old Mortality be upon him! We ourselves, not without labour and risk, lately discovered Gough Square, between Fleet Street and Holborn (adjoining both to Bolt Court and Johnson’s Court); and, on the second day of search, the very House there, wherein the English Dictionary was composed. It is the first or corner house on the right hand, as you enter through the arched way from the North-west. The actual occupant, an elderly, well-washed, decent-looking man, invited us to enter; and courteously undertook to be cicerone; though in his memory lay nothing but the foolishest jumble and hallucination. It is a stout old-fashioned, oak-balustraded house: “I have spent many a pound and penny on it since then,” said the worthy Landlord: “here, you see, this Bedroom was the Doctor’s study; that was the garden” (a plot of delved ground somewhat larger than a bed-quilt) “where he walked for exercise; these three garret Bedrooms” (where his three Copyists sat and wrote) “were the place he kept his—Pupils in!” Tempus edax rerum! Yet ferax also: for our friend now added, with a wistful look, which strove to seem merely historical: “I let it all in Lodgings, to respectable gentlemen; by the quarter, or the month; it’s all one to me.”—“To me also,” whispered the Ghost of Samuel, as we went pensively our ways.

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know, were all troubled with melancholy.” He was a very large man, and made out the triumvirate with Johnson and Hercules comically enough.’ These were sweet tears; the sweet victorious remembrance lay in them of toils indeed frightful, yet never flinched from, and now triumphed over. ‘One day it shall delight you also to remember labour done!’—Neither, though Johnson is obscure and poor, need the highest enjoyment of existence, that of heart freely communing with heart, be denied him. Savage and he wander homeless through the streets; without bed, yet not without friendly converse; such another conversation not, it is like, producible in the proudest drawing-room of London. Nor, under the void Night, upon the hard pavement, are their own woes the only topic: nowise; they “will stand by their country,” the two ‘Back-woods-men’ of the Brick Desart! Of all outward evils Obscurity is perhaps in itself the least. To Johnson, as to a healthy-minded man, the fantastic article, sold or given under the title of Fame, had little or no value but its intrinsic one. He prized it as the means of getting him employment and good wages; scarcely as anything more. His light and guidance came from a loftier source; of which, in honest aversion to all hypocrisy or pretentious talk, he spoke not to men; nay, perhaps, being of a healthy mind, had never spoken to himself. We reckon it a striking fact in Johnson’s history, this carelessness of his to Fame. Most authors speak of their ‘Fame’ as if it were a quite priceless matter; the grand ultimatum, and heavenly Constantine’s-Banner they had to follow, and conquer under.—Thy ‘Fame!’ Unhappy mortal, where will it and thou both be in some fifty years? Shakspeare himself has lasted but two hundred; Homer (partly by accident) three thousand: and does not already an Eternity encircle every Me and every Thee? Cease, then, to sit feverishly hatching on that ‘Fame’ of thine; and flapping, and shrieking with fierce hisses, like brood-goose on her last egg, if man shall or dare approach it! Quarrel not with me, hate me not, my Brother: make what thou canst of thy egg, and welcome: God knows, I will not steal it; I believe it to be addle.—Johnson, for his part, was no man to be killed by a review; concerning which matter, it was said by a benevolent person: If any author can be reviewed to death, let it be, with all convenient despatch, done. Johnson thankfully receives any word spoken in his favour; is nowise disobliged by a lampoon, but will look at it, if pointed out to him, and shew how it might have been done better: the lampoon itself is indeed nothing, a soap-bubble that, next moment, will become a drop of sour suds; but in the meanwhile, if it do anything, it keeps him more in the world’s eye, and the next bargain will be all the richer: “Sir, if they should cease to talk of me, I must starve.” Sound heart and understanding head! these fail no man, not even a Man of Letters!



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Obscurity, however, was, in Johnson’s case, whether a light or heavy evil, likely to be no lasting one. He is animated by the spirit of a true workman, resolute to do his work well; and he does his work well; all his work, that of writing, that of living. A man of this stamp is unhappily not so common in the literary or in any other department of the world, that he can continue always unnoticed. By slow degrees, Johnson emerges; looming, at first, huge and dim in the eye of an observant few; at last disclosed, in his real proportions, to the eye of the whole world, and encircled with a ‘light-nimbus’ of glory, so that whoso is not blind must and shall behold him. By slow degrees, we said; for this also is notable; slow but sure: as his fame waxes not by exaggerated clamour of what he seems to be, but by better and better insight of what he is, so it will last and stand wearing, being genuine. Thus indeed is it always, or nearly always, with true fame. The heavenly Luminary rises amid vapours: star-gazers enough must scan it, with critical telescopes; it makes no blazing, the world can either look at it, or forbear looking at it; not till after a time and times, does its celestial eternal nature become indubitable. Pleasant, on the other hand, is the blazing of a Tarbarrel; the crowd dance merrily round it, with loud huzzaing, universal three-timesthree, and, like Homer’s peasants, ‘bless the useful light:’ but unhappily it so soon ends in darkness, foul choking smoke, and is kicked into the gutters, a nameless imbroglio of charred staves, pitch-cinders, and vomissement du Diable! But indeed, from of old, Johnson has enjoyed all or nearly all that Fame can yield any man: the respect, the obedience of those that are about him and inferior to him; of those whose opinion alone can have any forcible impression on him. A little circle gathers round the Wise man; which gradually enlarges as the report thereof spreads, and more can come to see, and to believe; for Wisdom is precious, and of irresistible attraction to all. ‘An inspired-idiot,’ Goldsmith, hangs strangely about him; though, as Hawkins says, ‘he loved not Johnson, but rather envied him for his parts; and once entreated a friend to desist from praising him, “for in doing so,” said he, “you harrow up my very soul!”’ Yet on the whole, there is no evil in the ‘gooseberry-fool;’ but rather much good; of a finer, if of a weaker, sort than Johnson’s; and all the more genuine that he himself could never become conscious of it,—though unhappily never cease attempting to become so: the Author of the genuine Vicar of Wakefield, nill he, will he, must needs fly towards such a mass of genuine Manhood; and Dr. Minor keep gyrating round Dr. Major, alternately attracted and repelled. Then there is the chivalrous Topham Beauclerk, with his sharp wit, and gallant, courtly ways: there is Bennet Langton, an orthodox gentleman, and worthy; though Johnson once laughed, louder almost than mortal, at his last will and testament; and

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‘could not stop his merriment, but continued it all the way till he got without the Temple-gate; then burst into such a fit of laughter that he appeared to be almost in a convulsion; and, in order to support himself, laid hold of one of the posts at the side of the foot-pavement, and sent forth peals so loud that, in the silence of the night, his voice seemed to resound from Temple-bar to Fleet-ditch!’ Lastly comes his solid-thinking, solid-feeding Thrale, the well-beloved man; with Thralia, a bright papilionaceous creature, whom the elephant loved to play with, and wave to and fro upon his trunk. Not to speak of a reverent Bozzy, for what need is there farther?—Or of the spiritual Luminaries, with tongue or pen, who made that age remarkable; or of Highland Lairds drinking, in fierce usquebaugh, “Your health, Toctor Shonson!”—still less of many such as that poor ‘Mr. F. Lewis,’ older in date, of whose birth, death, and whole terrestrial res gestæ, this only, and strange enough this actually, survives: “Sir, he lived in London, and hung loose upon society!” Stat Parvi nominis umbra.— In his fifty-third year, he is beneficed, by the royal bounty, with a Pension of three hundred pounds. Loud clamour is always more or less insane: but probably the insanest of all loud clamours in the eighteenth century, was this that was raised about Johnson’s Pension. Men seem to be led by the noses; but in reality, it is by the ears,—as some ancient slaves were, who had their ears bored; or as some modern quadrupeds may be, whose ears are long. Very falsely was it said, ‘Names do not change Things;’ Names do change Things; nay for most part they are the only substance, which mankind can discern in Things. The whole sum that Johnson, during the remaining twenty-two years of his life, drew from the public funds of England, would have supported some Supreme Priest for about half as many weeks; it amounts very nearly to the revenue of our poorest Church-Overseer for one twelvemonth. Of secular Administrators of Provinces, and Horse-subduers, and Game-destroyers, we shall not so much as speak: but who were the Primates of England, and the Primates of all England, during Johnson’s days? No man has remembered. Again, is the Primate of all England something, or is he nothing? If something, then what but the man who, in the supreme degree, teaches and spiritually edifies, and leads towards Heaven by guiding wisely through the Earth, the living souls that inhabit England? We touch here upon deep matters; which but remotely concern us, and might lead us into still deeper: clear, in the meanwhile, it is that the true Spiritual Edifier and Soul’s-Father of all England was, and till very lately continued to be, the man named Samuel Johnson,—whom this scot-and-lot-paying world cackled reproachfully to see remunerated like a Supervisor of Excise!



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If Destiny had beaten hard on poor Samuel, and did never cease to visit him too roughly, yet the last section of his Life might be pronounced victorious, and on the whole happy. He was not idle; but now no longer goaded on by want; the light which had shone irradiating the dark haunts of Poverty, now illuminates the circles of Wealth, of a certain culture and elegant intelligence; he who had once been admitted to speak with Edmund Cave and Tobacco Browne, now admits a Reynolds and a Burke to speak with him. Loving friends are there; Listeners, even Answerers: the fruit of his long labours lies round him in fair legible Writings, of Philosophy, Eloquence, Morality, Philology; some excellent, all worthy and genuine Works; for which too, a deep, earnest murmur of thanks reaches him from all ends of his Fatherland. Nay there are works of Goodness, of undying Mercy, which even he has possessed the power to do: ‘What I gave I have; what I spent I had!’ Early friends had long sunk into the grave; yet in his soul they ever lived, fresh and clear, with soft pious breathings towards them, not without a still hope of one day meeting them again in purer union. Such was Johnson’s Life: the victorious Battle of a free, true Man. Finally he died the death of the free and true: a dark cloud of Death, solemn, and not untinged with haloes of immortal Hope ‘took him away,’ and our eyes could no longer behold him; but can still behold the trace and impress of his courageous, honest spirit, deep-legible in the World’s Business, wheresoever he walked and was. To estimate the quantity of Work that Johnson performed, how much poorer the World were had it wanted him, can, as in all such cases, never be accurately done; cannot, till after some longer space, be approximately done. All work is as seed sown; it grows and spreads, and sows itself anew, and so, in endless palingenesia, lives and works. To Johnson’s Writings, good and solid, and still profitable as they are, we have already rated his Life and Conversation as superior. By the one and by the other, who shall compute what effects have been produced, and are still, and into deep Time, producing? So much, however, we can already see: It is now some three quarters of a century that Johnson has been the Prophet of the English; the man by whose light the English people, in public and in private, more than by any other man’s, have guided their existence. Higher light than that immediately practical one; higher virtue than an honest Prudence, he could not then communicate; nor perhaps could they have received: such light, such virtue, however, he did communicate. How to thread this labyrinthic Time, the fallen and falling Ruin of Times; to silence vain Scruples, hold firm to the last the fragments of old Belief, and with earnest eye still discern some glimpses of a true path, and go

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forward thereon, ‘in a world where there is much to be done, and little to be known:’ this is what Samuel Johnson, by act and word, taught his Nation, what his Nation received and learned of him, more than of any other. We can view him as the preserver and transmitter of whatsoever was genuine in the spirit of Toryism; which genuine spirit, it is now becoming manifest, must again embody itself in all new forms of Society, be what they may, that are to exist, and have continuance—elsewhere than on Paper. The last in many things, Johnson was the last genuine Tory; the last of Englishmen who, with strong voice, and wholly-believing heart, preached the Doctrine of Standing still; who, without selfishness or slavishness, reverenced the existing Powers, and could assert the privileges of rank, though himself poor, neglected, and plebeian; who had heartdevoutness with a heart-hatred of cant, was orthodox-religious with his eyes open; and in all things and everywhere spoke out in plain English, from a soul wherein jesuitism could find no harbour, and with the front and tone not of a diplomatist but of a man. This last of the Tories was Johnson: not Burke, as is often said; Burke was essentially a Whig, and only, on reaching the verge of the chasm towards which Whiggism from the first was inevitably leading, recoiled; and, like a man vehement rather than earnest, a resplendent far-sighted Rhetorician rather than a deep sure Thinker, recoiled with no measure, convulsively, and damaging what he drove back with him. In a world which exists by the balance of Antagonisms, the respective merit of the Conservator and the Innovator must ever remain debateable. Great, in the meanwhile, and undoubted, for both sides, is the merit of him who in a day of Change, walks wisely, honestly. Johnson’s aim was in itself an impossible one: this of stemming the eternal Flood of Time; of clutching all things, and anchoring them down, and saying, Move not!—how could it, or should it, ever have success? The strongest man can but retard the current partially and for a short hour. Yet even in such shortest retardation, may not an inestimable value lie? If England has escaped the blood-bath of a French Revolution; and may yet, in virtue of this delay and of the experience it has given, work out her deliverance calmly into a new Era, let Samuel Johnson, beyond all contemporary or succeeding men, have the praise for it. We said above that he was appointed to be Ruler of the British Nation for a season: whoso will look beyond the surface, into the heart of the world’s movements, may find that all Pitt Administrations, and Continental Subsidies, and Waterloo victories, rested on the possibility of making England, yet a little while, Toryish, Loyal to the Old; and this again on the anterior reality, that the Wise had found such Loyalty still practicable,



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and recommendable. England had its Hume, as France had its Voltaires and Diderots; but the Johnson was peculiar to us. If we ask now by what endowment it mainly was that Johnson realised such a Life for himself and others; what quality of character the main phenomena of his Life may be most naturally deduced from, and his other qualities most naturally subordinated to, in our conception of him, perhaps the answer were: The quality of Courage, of Valour; that Johnson was a Brave Man. The Courage that can go forth, once and away, to Chalk-Farm, and have itself shot, and snuffed out, with decency, is nowise wholly what we mean here. Such Courage we indeed esteem an exceeding small matter; capable of coexisting with a life full of falsehood, feebleness, poltroonery, and despicability. Nay oftener it is Cowardice rather that produces the result: for consider, Is the Chalk-Farm Pistoleer inspired with any reasonable Belief and Determination; or is he hounded on by haggard indefinable Fear,—how he will be cut at public places, and ‘plucked geese of the neighbourhood’ will wag their tongues at him a plucked goose? If he go then, and be shot without shrieking, or audible uproar, it is well for him: nevertheless there is nothing amazing in it. Courage to manage all this has not perhaps been denied to any man, or to any woman. Thus, do not recruiting sergeants drum through the streets of manufacturing towns, and collect ragged losels enough; every one of whom, if once dressed in red, and trained a little, will receive fire cheerfully for the small sum of one shilling per diem, and have the soul blown out of him at last, with perfect propriety. The Courage that dares only die, is on the whole no sublime affair; necessary indeed, yet universal; pitiful when it begins to parade itself. On this Globe of ours, there are some thirty-six persons that manifest it, seldom with the smallest failure, during every second of time. Nay look at Newgate: do not the offscourings of Creation, when condemned to the gallows, as if they were not men but vermin, walk thither with decency, and even to the scowls and hootings of the whole Universe give their stern goodnight in silence? What is to be undergone only once, we may undergo; what must be, comes almost of its own accord. Considered as Duellist, what a poor figure does the fiercest Irish Whiskerando make, compared with any English Game-cock, such as you may buy for fifteen pence! The Courage we desire and prize is not the Courage to die decently, but to live manfully. This, when by God’s grace it has been given, lies deep in the soul; like genial heat, fosters all other virtues and gifts; without it they could not live. In spite of our innumerable Waterloos and Peterloos, and such campaigning as there has been, this Courage we allude to, and call the only true one, is perhaps

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rarer in these last ages, than it has been in any other since the Saxon Invasion under Hengist. Altogether extinct it can never be among men; otherwise the species Man were no longer for this world: here and there, in all times, under various guises, men are sent hither not only to demonstrate but exhibit it, and testify, as from heart to heart, that it is still possible, still practicable. Johnson, in the eighteenth century, and as Man of Letters, was one of such; and, in good truth, ‘the bravest of the brave.’ What mortal could have more to war with? Yet, as we saw, he yielded not, faltered not; he fought, and even, such was his blessedness, prevailed. Whoso will understand what it is to have a man’s heart, may find that, since the time of John Milton, no braver heart had beat in any English bosom than Samuel Johnson now bore. Observe too that he never called himself brave, never felt himself to be so; the more completely was so. No Giant Despair, no Golgotha-Death-dance or Sorcerer’s-Sabbath of ‘Literary Life in London,’ appals this pilgrim; he works resolutely for deliverance; in still defiance, steps stoutly along. The thing that is given him to do he can make himself do; what is to be endured he can endure in silence. How the great soul of old Samuel, consuming daily his own bitter unalleviable allotment of misery and toil, shews beside the poor flimsy little soul of young Boswell; one day flaunting in the ring of vanity, tarrying by the wine-cup, and crying, Aha, the wine is red; the next day deploring his downpressed, night-shaded, quite poor estate; and thinking it unkind that the whole movement of the Universe should go on, while his digestive-apparatus had stopped! We reckon Johnson’s ‘talent of silence’ to be among his great and too rare gifts. Where there is nothing farther to be done, there shall nothing farther be said: like his own poor blind Welshwoman, he accomplished somewhat, and also ‘endured fifty years of wretchedness with unshaken fortitude.’ How grim was Life to him; a sick Prison-house and Doubting-castle! ‘His great business,’ he would profess, ‘was to escape from himself.’ Yet towards all this he has taken his position and resolution; can dismiss it all ‘with frigid indifference, having little to hope or to fear.’ Friends are stupid and pusillanimous and parsimonious; ‘wearied of his stay, yet offended at his departure:’ it is the manner of the world. ‘By popular delusion,’ remarks he with a gigantic calmness, ‘illiterate writers will rise into renown:’ it is portion of the History of English Literature: a perennial thing, this same popular delusion; and will—alter the character of the Language. Closely connected with this quality of Valour, partly as springing from it, partly as protected by it, are the more recognisable qualities of Truthfulness in word and thought, and Honesty in action. There is a reciprocity of influence here: for as the realising of Truthfulness and Honesty is the Life-light and great aim



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of Valour, so without Valour they cannot, in anywise, be realised. Now, in spite of all practical shortcomings, no one that sees into the significance of Johnson, will say that his prime object was not Truth. In conversation, doubtless, you may observe him, on occasion, fighting as if for victory;—and must pardon these ebulliences of a careless hour, which were not without temptation and provocation. Remark likewise two things: that such prize-arguings were ever on merely superficial debatable questions; and then that they were argued generally by the fair laws of battle, and logic-fence, by one cunning in that same. If their purpose was excusable, their effect was harmless, perhaps beneficial: that of taming noisy mediocrity, and shewing it another side of a debateable matter; to see both sides of which was, for the first time, to see the Truth of it. In his Writings themselves, are errors enough, crabbed prepossessions enough: yet these also of a quite extraneous and accidental nature; nowhere a wilful shutting of the eyes to the Truth. Nay, is there not everywhere a heartfelt discernment, singular, almost admirable, if we consider through what confused conflicting lights and hallucinations it had to be attained, of the highest everlasting Truth, and beginning of all Truths: this namely, that man is ever, and even in the age of Wilkes and Whitefield, a Revelation of God to man; and lives, moves, and has his being in Truth only; is either true, or, in strict speech, is not at all? Quite spotless, on the other hand, is Johnson’s love of Truth, if we look at it as expressed in Practice, as what we have named Honesty of action. ‘Clear your mind of Cant;’ clear it, throw Cant utterly away: such was his emphatic, repeated precept; and did not he himself faithfully conform to it? The Life of this man has been, as it were, turned inside out, and examined with microscopes by friend and foe; yet was there no Lie found in him. His Doings and Writings are not shows but performances: you may weigh them in the balance, and they will stand weight. Not a line, not a sentence is dishonestly done, is other than it pretends to be. Alas! and he wrote not out of inward inspiration, but to earn his wages: and with that grand perennial tide of ‘popular delusion’ flowing by; in whose waters he nevertheless refused to fish, to whose rich oyster-beds the dive was too muddy for him. Observe, again, with what innate hatred of Cant, he takes for himself, and offers to others, the lowest possible view of his business, which he followed with such nobleness. Motive for writing he had none, as he often said, but money; and yet he wrote so. Into the region of Poetic Art he indeed never rose; there was no ideal without him avowing itself in his work: the nobler was that unavowed ideal which lay within him, and commanded saying, Work out thy Artisanship in the spirit of an Artist! They who talk loudest about the dignity of Art, and fancy that they too are Artistic guild-brethren, and of the

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Celestials,—let them consider well what manner of man this was, who felt himself to be only a hired day-labourer. A labourer that was worthy of his hire; that has laboured not as an eye-servant, but as one found faithful! Neither was Johnson in those days perhaps wholly a unique. Time was when, for money, you might have ware; and needed not, in all departments, in that of the Epic Poem, in that of the Blacking Bottle, to rest content with the mere persuasion that you had ware. It was a happier time. But as yet the seventh Apocalyptic Bladder (of Puffery) had not been rent open,—to whirl and grind, as in a West-Indian Tornado, all earthly trades and things into wreck, and dust, and consummation,—and regeneration. Be it quickly, since it must be!— That Mercy can dwell only with Valour, is an old sentiment or proposition; which, in Johnson, again receives confirmation. Few men on record have had a more merciful, tenderly affectionate nature than old Samuel. He was called the Bear; and did indeed too often look, and roar, like one; being forced to it in his own defence: yet within that shaggy exterior of his, there beat a heart warm as a mother’s, soft as a little child’s. Nay generally, his very roaring was but the anger of affection: the rage of a Bear, if you will; but of a Bear bereaved of her whelps. Touch his Religion, glance at the Church of England, or the Divine Right; and he was upon you! These things were his Symbols of all that was good and precious for men; his very Ark of the Covenant: whoso laid hand on them tore asunder his heart of hearts. Not out of hatred to the opponent, but of love to the thing opposed, did Johnson grow cruel, fiercely contradictory: this is an important distinction; never to be forgotten in our censure of his conversational outrages. But observe also with what humanity, what openness of love, he can attach himself to all things: to a blind old woman, to a Doctor Levett, to a Cat ‘Hodge.’ ‘His thoughts in the latter part of his life were frequently employed on his deceased friends; he often muttered these or suchlike sentences: “Poor man! and then he died.”’ How he patiently converts his poor home into a Lazaretto; endures, for long years, the contradiction of the miserable and unreasonable; with him unconnected, save that they had no other to yield them refuge! Generous old man! Worldly possession he has little; yet of this he gives freely; from his own hard-earned shilling, the halfpence for the poor, that ‘waited his coming out,’ are not withheld: the poor ‘waited the coming out’ of one not quite so poor! A Sterne can write sentimentalities on Dead Asses: Johnson has a rough voice; but he finds the wretched Daughter of Vice fallen down in the streets; carries her home, on his own shoulders, and like a good Samaritan, gives help to the help-needing, worthy or unworthy. Ought not Charity, even in that sense, to cover a multitude of Sins? No Penny-a-week Committee-Lady, no manager



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of Soup-Kitchens, dancer at Charity Balls, was this rugged, stern-visaged man: but where, in all England, could there have been found another soul so full of Pity, a hand so heavenlike bounteous as his? The widow’s mite, we know, was greater than all the other gifts. Perhaps it is this divine feeling of Affection, throughout manifested, that principally attracts us towards Johnson. A true brother of men is he; and filial lover of the Earth; who, with little bright spots of Attachment, ‘where lives and works some loved one,’ has beautified ‘this rough solitary Earth into a peopled garden.’ Lichfield, with its mostly dull and limited inhabitants, is to the last one of the sunny islets for him: Salve magna parens! Or read those Letters on his Mother’s death: what a genuine solemn grief and pity lies recorded there; a looking back into the Past, unspeakably mournful, unspeakably tender. And yet calm, sublime; for he must now act, not look: his venerated Mother has been taken from him; but he must now write a Rasselas to defray her funeral! Again, in this little incident, recorded in his Book of Devotion, are not the tones of sacred Sorrow and Greatness deeper than in many a blank-verse Tragedy;—as, indeed, ‘the fifth act of a Tragedy,’ though unrhymed, does ‘lie in every deathbed, were it a peasant’s, and of straw:’ ‘Sunday, October 18, 1767. Yesterday, at about ten in the morning, I took my leave forever of my dear old friend, Catherine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old. ‘I desired all to withdraw; then told her that we were to part forever; that as Christians, we should part with prayer; and that I would, if she was willing, say a short prayer beside her. She expressed great desire to hear me; and held up her poor hands as she lay in bed, with great fervour, while I prayed kneeling by her. * * * ‘I then kissed her. She told me that to part was the greatest pain she had ever felt, and that she hoped we should meet again in a better place. I expressed, with swelled eyes, and great emotion of tenderness, the same hopes. We kissed and parted; I humbly hope, to meet again, and to part no more.’

Tears trickling down the granite rock: a soft well of Pity springs within! Still more tragical is this other scene: ‘Johnson mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. “Once indeed,” said he, “I was disobedient: I refused to attend my father to Uttoxeter market. Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for this fault.”’—But by what method?—What method

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was now possible? Hear it; the words are again given as his own, though here evidently by a less capable reporter: 5

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‘Madam, I beg your pardon for the abruptness of my departure in the morning, but I was compelled to it by conscience. Fifty years ago, Madam, on this day, I committed a breach of filial piety. My father had been in the habit of attending Uttoxeter market, and opening a stall there for the sale of his Books. Confined by indisposition, he desired me, that day, to go and attend the stall in his place. My pride prevented me; I gave my father a refusal.—And now to-day I have been at Uttoxeter; I went into the market, at the time of business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare, for an hour, on the spot where my father’s stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory.’

Who does not figure to himself this spectacle, amid the ‘rainy weather, and the sneers,’ or wonder, ‘of the bystanders?’ The memory of old Michael Johnson, rising from the far distance; sad-beckoning in the ‘moonlight of memory:’ how he had toiled faithfully hither and thither; patiently among the lowest of the low; been buffetted and beaten down, yet ever risen again, ever tried it anew— And oh! when the wearied old man, as Bookseller, or Hawker, or Tinker, or whatsoever it was that Fate had reduced him to, begged help of thee for one day,—how savage, diabolic, was that mean Vanity, which answered, No! He sleeps now; after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps: but thou, O Merciless, how now wilt thou still the sting of that remembrance?—The picture of Samuel Johnson standing bareheaded in the market there, is one of the grandest and saddest we can paint. Repentance! Repentance! he proclaims, as with passionate sobs: but only to the ear of Heaven, if Heaven will give him audience: the earthly ear, and heart, that should have heard it, are now closed, unresponsive forever. That this so keen-loving, soft-trembling Affectionateness, the inmost essence of his being, must have looked forth, in one form or another, through Johnson’s whole character, practical and intellectual, modifying both, is not to be doubted. Yet through what singular distortions and superstitions, moping melancholies, blind habits, whims about ‘entering with the right foot,’ and ‘touching every post as he walked along;’ and all the other mad chaotic lumber of a brain that, with sun-clear intellect, hovered forever on the verge of insanity,—must that same inmost essence have looked forth; unrecognisable to all but the most observant! Accordingly it was not recognised; Johnson passed not for a fine nature, but for a dull, almost brutal one. Might not, for example, the first-fruit of such a Lovingness, coupled with his quick Insight, have been expected to be a peculiarly courteous demeanour as man among men? In Johnson’s ‘Polite-



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ness,’ which he often, to the wonder of some, asserted to be great, there was indeed somewhat that needed explanation. Nevertheless, if he insisted always on handing lady-visitors to their carriage; though with the certainty of collecting a mob of gazers in Fleet Street,—as might well be, the beau having on, by way of court dress, ‘his rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes for slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose:’—in all this we can see the spirit of true Politeness, only shining through a strange medium. Thus again, in his apartments, at one time, there were unfortunately no chairs. ‘A gentleman who frequently visited him whilst writing his Idlers, constantly found him at his desk, sitting on one with three legs; and on rising from it, he remarked that Johnson never forgot its defect; but would either hold it in his hand, or place it with great composure against some support; taking no notice of its imperfection to his visitor,’—who meanwhile, we suppose, sat upon folios, or in the sartorial fashion. ‘It was remarkable in Johnson,’ continues Miss Reynolds (Renny dear), ‘that no external circumstances ever prompted him to make any apology, or to seem even sensible of their existence. Whether this was the effect of philosophic pride, or of some partial notion of his respecting high breeding, is doubtful.’That it was, for one thing, the effect of genuine Politeness, is nowise doubtful. Not of the Pharisaical Brummellean Politeness, which would suffer crucifixion rather than ask twice for soup: but the noble universal Politeness of a man, that knows the dignity of men, and feels his own; such as may be seen in the patriarchal bearing of an Indian Sachem; such as Johnson himself exhibited, when a sudden chance brought him into dialogue with his King. To us, with our view of the man, it nowise appears ‘strange’ that he should have boasted himself cunning in the laws of Politeness; nor ‘stranger still,’ habitually attentive to practise them. More legibly is this influence of the Loving heart to be traced in his intellectual character. What, indeed, is the beginning of intellect, the first inducement to the exercise thereof, but attraction towards somewhat, affection for it? Thus too, who ever saw, or will see, any true talent, not to speak of genius, the foundation of which is not goodness, love? From Johnson’s strength of Affection, we deduce many of his intellectual peculiarities; especially that threatening array of perversions, known under the name of ‘Johnson’s Prejudices.’ Looking well into the root from which these sprung, we have long ceased to view them with hostility, can pardon and reverently pity them. Consider with what force early-imbibed opinions must have clung to a soul of this Affection. Those evil-famed Prejudices of his, that Jacobitism, Church-of-Englandism, hatred of the Scotch, belief in Witches, and such like, what were they but the ordinary beliefs of well-doing,

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well-meaning provincial Englishmen in that day? First gathered by his Father’s hearth; round the kind ‘country fires’ of native Staffordshire; they grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength: they were hallowed by fondest sacred recollections; to part with them was parting with his heart’s blood. If the man who has no strength of Affection, strength of Belief, have no strength of Prejudice, let him thank Heaven for it, but to himself take small thanks. Melancholy it was, indeed, that the noble Johnson could not work himself loose from these adhesions; that he could only purify them, and wear them with some nobleness. Yet let us understand how they grew out from the very centre of his being: nay, moreover, how they came to cohere in him with what formed the business and worth of his Life, the sum of his whole Spiritual Endeavour. For it is on the same ground that he became throughout an Edifier and Repairer, not, as the others of his make were, a Puller-down; that in an age of universal Scepticism, England was still to produce its Believer. Mark too his candour even here: while a Dr. Adams, with placid surprise, asks, “Have we not evidence enough of the soul’s immortality?” Johnson answers, “I wish for more.” But the truth is, in Prejudice, as in all things, Johnson was the product of England; one of those good yeomen whose limbs were made in England: alas, the last of such Invincibles, their day being now done! His culture is wholly English; that not of a Thinker but of a ‘Scholar:’ his interests are wholly English; he sees and knows nothing but England; he is the John Bull of Spiritual Europe: let him live, love him, as he was and could not but be! Pitiable it is, no doubt, that a Samuel Johnson must confute Hume’s irreligious Philosophy by some ‘story from a Clergyman of the Bishoprick of Durham;’ should see nothing in the great Frederick but ‘Voltaire’s lackey;’ in Voltaire himself but a man acerrimi ingenii, paucarum literarum; in Rousseau but one worthy to be hanged; and in the universal, long-prepared, inevitable Tendency of European Thought but a greensick milkmaid’s crotchet of, for variety’s sake, ‘milking the Bull.’ Our good, dear John! Observe too what it is that he sees in the city of Paris: no feeblest glimpse of those D’Alemberts and Diderots, or of the strange questionable work they did; solely some Benedictine Priests, to talk kitchen-latin with them about Editiones Principes. “Monsheer Nongtongpaw!”—Our dear, foolish John; yet is there a lion’s heart within him!—Pitiable all these things were, we say; yet nowise inexcusable; nay, as basis or as foil to much else that was in Johnson, almost venerable. Ought we not, indeed, to honour England, and English Institutions and Way of Life, that they could still so equip such a man; could furnish him in heart and head to be a Samuel Johnson, and yet to love them, and unyieldingly fight for them? What truth and living vigour must such Institutions once have



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had, when, in the middle of the Eighteenth Century, there was still enough left in them for this! It is worthy of note that, in our little British Isle, the two grand Antagonisms of Europe should have stood embodied, under their very highest concentration, in two men produced simultaneously among ourselves. Samuel Johnson and David Hume, as was observed, were children nearly of the same year: through life they were spectators of the same Life-movement; often inhabitants of the same city. Greater contrast, in all things, between two great men, could not be. Hume, well-born, competently provided for, whole in body and mind, of his own determination forces a way into Literature: Johnson, poor, moonstruck, diseased, forlorn, is forced into it ‘with the bayonet of necessity at his back.’ And what a part did they severally play there! As Johnson became the father of all succeeding Tories; so was Hume the father of all succeeding Whigs, for his own Jacobitism was but an accident, as worthy to be named Prejudice as any of Johnson’s. Again, if Johnson’s culture was exclusively English; Hume’s, in Scotland, became European;—for which reason too we find his influence spread deeply over all quarters of Europe, traceable deeply in all speculation, French, German, as well as domestic; while Johnson’s name, out of England, is hardly anywhere to be met with. In spiritual stature they are almost equal; both great, among the greatest: yet how unlike in likeness! Hume has the widest, methodising, comprehensive eye; Johnson the keenest for perspicacity and minute detail: so had, perhaps chiefly, their education ordered it. Neither of the two rose into Poetry; yet both to some approximation thereof: Hume to something of an Epic clearness and method, as in his delineation of the Commonwealth Wars; Johnson to many a deep Lyric tone of plaintiveness, and impetuous graceful power, scattered over his fugitive compositions. Both, rather to the general surprise, had a certain rugged Humour shining through their earnestness: the indication, indeed, that they were earnest men, and had subdued their wild world into a kind of temporary home, and safe dwelling. Both were, by principle and habit, Stoics: yet Johnson with the greater merit, for he alone had very much to triumph over; farther, he alone ennobled his Stoicism into Devotion. To Johnson Life was as a Prison, to be endured with heroic faith: to Hume it was little more than a foolish Bartholomew-Fair Show-booth, with the foolish crowdings and elbowings of which it was not worth while to quarrel; the whole would break up, and be at liberty, so soon. Both realised the highest task of Manhood, that of living like men; each died not unfitly, in his way: Hume as one, with factitious, half-false gaiety, taking leave of what was itself wholly but a Lie: Johnson as one, with awe-struck, yet resolute and piously expectant heart, taking leave of a Reality,

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to enter a Reality still higher. Johnson had the harder problem of it, from first to last: whether, with some hesitation, we can admit that he was intrinsically the better-gifted,—may remain undecided. These two men now rest; the one in Westminster Abbey here; the other in the Calton Hill Churchyard of Edinburgh. Through Life they did not meet: as contrasts, ‘like in unlike,’ love each other; so might they two have loved, and communed kindly,—had not the terrestrial dross and darkness, that was in them, withstood! One day, their spirits, what Truth was in each, will be found working, living in harmony and free union, even here below. They were the two half-men of their time: whoso should combine the intrepid Candour, and decisive scientific Clearness of Hume, with the Reverence, the Love, and devout Humility of Johnson, were the whole man of a new time. Till such whole man arrive for us, and the distracted time admit of such, might the Heavens but bless poor England with half-men worthy to tie the shoe-latchets of these, resembling these even from afar! Be both attentively regarded, let the true Effort of both prosper;—and for the present, both take our affectionate farewell!

CORN-LAW RHYMES.

1. Corn-Law Rhymes. Third Edition. 8vo. London: 1831. 2. Love; a Poem. By the Author of Corn-Law Rhymes. Third Edition. 8vo. London: 1831. 3. The Village Patriarch; a Poem. By the Author of Corn-Law Rhymes. 12mo. London: 1831. Smelfungus Redivivus, throwing down his critical assaying-balance, some years ago, and taking leave of the Belles-Lettres function, expressed himself in this abrupt way: ‘The end having come, it is fit that we end. Poetry having ceased to be read, or published, or written, how can it continue to be reviewed? With your Lake Schools, and Border-Thief Schools, and Cockney and Satanic Schools, there has been enough to do; and now, all these Schools having burnt or smouldered themselves out, and left nothing but a wide-spread wreck of ashes, dust, and cinders,—or perhaps dying embers, kicked to and fro under the feet of innumerable women and children in the Magazines, and at best blown here and there into transient sputters, with vapour enough, so as to form what you might name a boundless Green-sick, or New-Sentimental, or Sleep-Awake School,—what remains but to adjust ourselves to circumstances? Urge me not,’ continues the able Editor, suddenly changing his figure, ‘with considerations that Poetry, as the inward voice of Life, must be perennial, only dead in one form to become alive in another; that this still abundant deluge of Metre, seeing there must needs be fractions of Poetry floating scattered in it, ought still to be netfished, at all events, surveyed and taken note of: the survey of English Metre, at this epoch, perhaps transcends the human faculties; to hire out the reading of 199

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it, by estimate, at a remunerative rate per page, would, in few Quarters, reduce the cash-box of any extant Review to the verge of insolvency.’ What our distinguished contemporary has said remains said. Far be it from us to censure or counsel any able Editor; to draw aside the Editorial veil, and, officiously prying into his interior mysteries, impugn the laws he walks by! For Editors, as for others, there are times of perplexity, wherein the cunning of the wisest will scantily suffice his own wants, say nothing of his neighbour’s. To us, on our side, meanwhile, it remains clear that Poetry, or were it but Metre, should nowise be altogether neglected. Surely it is the Reviewer’s trade to sit watching, not only the tillage, crop-rotation, marketings, and good or evil husbandry of the Economic Earth, but also the weather-symptoms of the Literary Heaven, on which those former so much depend: if any promising or threatening meteoric phenomenon make its appearance, and he proclaim not tidings thereof, it is at his peril. Farther, be it considered how, in this singular poetic epoch, a small matter constitutes a novelty. If the whole welkin hang overcast in drizzly dinginess, the feeblest light-gleam, or speck of blue, cannot pass unheeded. The Works of this Corn-Law Rhymer we might liken rather to some little fraction of a rainbow: hues of joy and harmony, painted out of troublous tears. No round full bow, indeed; gloriously spanning the Heavens; shone on by the full sun; and, with seven-striped, gold-crimson border (as is in some sort the office of Poetry) dividing Black from Brilliant: not such; alas, still far from it! Yet, in very truth, a little prismatic blush, glowing genuine among the wet clouds; which proceeds, if you will, from a sun cloud-hidden, yet indicates that a sun does shine, and above those vapours, a whole azure vault and celestial firmament stretch serene. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that here we have once more got sight of a Book calling itself Poetry, yet which actually is a kind of Book, and no empty pasteboard Case, and simulacrum or ‘ghost-defunct’ of a Book, such as is too often palmed on the world, and handed over Booksellers’ counters, with a demand of real money for it, as if it too were a reality. The speaker here is of that singular class, who have something to say; whereby, though delivering himself in verse, and in these days, he does not deliver himself wholly in jargon, but articulately, and with a certain degree of meaning, that has been believed, and therefore is again believable. To some the wonder and interest will be heightened by another circumstance: that the speaker in question is not school-learned, or even furnished with pecuniary capital; is, indeed, a quite unmonied, russet-coated speaker; nothing



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or little other than a Sheffield worker in brass and iron, who describes himself as ‘one of the lower, little removed above the lowest class.’ Be of what class he may, the man is provided, as we can perceive, with a rational god-created soul; which too has fashioned itself into some clearness, some self-subsistence, and can actually see and know with its own organs; and in rugged substantial English, nay, with tones of poetic melody, utter forth what it has seen. It used to be said that lions do not paint, that poor men do not write; but the case is altering now. Here is a voice coming from the deep Cyclopean forges, where Labour, in real soot and sweat, beats with his thousand hammers ‘the red son of the furnace;’ doing personal battle with Necessity, and her dark brute Powers, to make them reasonable and serviceable; an intelligible voice from the hitherto Mute and Irrational, to tell us at first hand how it is with him, what in very deed is the theorem of the world and of himself, which he, in those dim depths of his, in that wearied head of his, has put together. To which voice, in several respects significant enough, let good ear be given. Here too be it premised, that nowise under the category of ‘Uneducated Poets,’ or in any fashion of dilettante patronage, can our Sheffield friend be produced. His position is unsuitable for that; so is ours. Genius, which the French lady declared to be of no sex, is much more certainly of no rank; neither when ‘the spark of Nature’s fire’ has been imparted, should Education take high airs in her artificial light,—which is too often but phosphorescence and putrescence. In fact, it now begins to be suspected here and there, that this same aristocratic recognition, which looks down with an obliging smile from its throne, of bound Volumes and gold Ingots, and admits that it is wonderfully well for one of the uneducated classes, may be getting out of place. There are unhappy times in the world’s history, when he that is the least educated will chiefly have to say that he is the least perverted; and with the multitude of false eyeglasses, convex, concave, green, even yellow, has not lost the natural use of his eyes. For a generation that reads Cobbett’s Prose, and Burns’s Poetry, it need be no miracle that here also is a man who can handle both pen and hammer like a man. Nevertheless, this serene-highness attitude and temper is so frequent, perhaps it were good to turn the tables for a moment, and see what look it has under that reverse aspect. How were it if we surmised, that for a man gifted with natural vigour, with a man’s character to be developed in him, more especially if in the way of Literature, as Thinker and Writer, it is actually, in these strange days, no special misfortune to be trained up among the Uneducated classes, and not among the Educated; but rather of two misfortunes the smaller?

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For all men doubtless obstructions abound; spiritual growth must be hampered and stunted, and has to struggle through with difficulty, if it do not wholly stop. We may grant too that, for a mediocre character, the continual training and tutoring, from language-masters, dancing-masters, posture-masters of all sorts, hired and volunteer, which a high rank in any time and country assures, there will be produced a certain superiority, or at worst, air of superiority, over the corresponding mediocre character of low rank: thus we perceive, the vulgar Do-nothing, as contrasted with the vulgar Drudge, is in general a much prettier man; with a wider perhaps clearer outlook into the distance; in innumerable superficial matters, however it may be when we go deeper, he has a manifest advantage. But with the man of uncommon character, again, in whom a germ of irrepressible Force has been implanted, and will unfold itself into some sort of freedom,—altogether the reverse may hold. For such germs too, there is, undoubtedly enough, a proper soil where they will grow best, and an improper one where they will grow worst. True also, where there is a will, there is a way; where a genius has been given, a possibility, a certainty of its growing is also given. Yet often it seems as if the injudicious gardening and manuring were worse than none at all; and killed what the inclemencies of blind chance would have spared. We find accordingly that few Fredericks or Napoleons, indeed none since the Great Alexander, who unfortunately drank himself to death too soon for proving what lay in him, were nursed up with an eye to their vocation; mostly with an eye quite the other way, in the midst of isolation and pain, destitution and contradiction. Nay, in our own times, have we not seen two men of genius, a Byron and a Burns: they both, by mandate of Nature, struggle and must struggle towards clear Manhood, stormfully enough, for the space of sixand-thirty years; yet only the gifted Ploughman can partially prevail therein; the gifted Peer must toil, and strive, and shoot out in wild efforts, yet die at last in Boyhood, with the promise of his Manhood still but announcing itself in the distance. Truly, as was once written, ‘it is only the artichoke that will not grow except in gardens: the acorn is cast carelessly abroad into the wilderness, yet on the wild soil it nourishes itself, and rises to be an oak.’ All woodmen, moreover, will tell you that fat manure is the ruin of your oak; likewise that the thinner and wilder your soil, the tougher, more iron-textured is your timber,—though, unhappily, also the smaller. So too with the spirits of men: they become pure from their errors by suffering for them; he who has battled, were it only with Poverty and hard toil, will be found stronger, more expert, than he who could stay at home from the battle, concealed among the Provision-waggons, or even not unwatchfully ‘abiding by the stuff.’ In which sense, an observer, not without



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experience of our time, has said: Had I a man of clearly developed character (clear, sincere within its limits), of insight, courage, and real applicable force of head and of heart, to search for; and not a man of luxuriously distorted character, with haughtiness for courage, and for insight and applicable force, speculation and plausible show of force,—it were rather among the lower than among the higher classes that I should look for him. A hard saying, indeed, seems this same: that he, whose other wants were all beforehand supplied; to whose capabilities no problem was presented except even this, How to cultivate them to best advantage, should attain less real culture than he whose first grand problem and obligation was nowise spiritual culture, but hard labour for his daily bread! Sad enough must the perversion be, where preparations of such magnitude issue in abortion; and so sumptuous an Art with all its appliances can accomplish nothing, not so much as necessitous Nature would of herself have supplied! Nevertheless, so pregnant is Life with evil as with good; to such height in an age rich, plethorically overgrown with means, can means be accumulated in the wrong place, and immeasurably aggravate wrong tendencies, instead of righting them, this sad and strange result may actually turn out to have been realized. But what, after all, is meant by uneducated, in a time when Books have come into the world; come to be household furniture in every habitation of the civilized world? In the poorest cottage are Books; is one Book, wherein for several thousands of years the spirit of man has found light, and nourishment, and an interpreting response to whatever is Deepest in him; wherein still, to this day, for the eye that will look well, the Mystery of Existence reflects itself, if not resolved, yet revealed, and prophetically emblemed; if not to the satisfying of the outward sense, yet to the opening of the inward sense, which is the far grander result. ‘In Books lie the creative Phœnix-ashes of the whole Past.’ All that men have devised, discovered, done, felt or imagined, lies recorded in Books; wherein whoso has learned the mystery of spelling printed letters, may find it, and appropriate it. Nay, what indeed is all this? As if it were by universities and libraries and lecture-rooms, that man’s Education, what we can call Education, were accomplished; solely, or mainly, by instilling the dead letter and record of other men’s Force, that the living Force of a new man were to be awakened, enkindled, and purified into victorious clearness! Foolish Pedant, that sittest there compassionately descanting on the Learning of Shakspeare! Shakspeare had penetrated into innumerable things; far into Nature with her divine Splendours and infernal Terrors, her Ariel Melodies, and mystic mandragora Moans; far into man’s

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workings with Nature, into man’s Art and Artifice: Shakspeare knew (kenned, which in those days still partially meant can-ned) innumerable things; what men are, and what the world is, and how and what men aim at there, from the Dame Quickly of modern Eastcheap to the Cæsar of ancient Rome, over many countries, over many centuries: of all this he had the clearest understanding and constructive comprehension; all this was his Learning and Insight; what now is thine? Insight into none of those things; perhaps, strictly considered, into no thing whatever; solely into thy own sheepskin diplomas, fat academic honours, into vocables and alphabetic letters, and but a little way into these!—The grand result of schooling is a mind with just vision to discern, with free force to do: the grand schoolmaster is Practice. And now, when kenning and can-ning have become two altogether different words; and this, the first principle of human culture, the foundation-stone of all but false imaginary culture, That men must, before every other thing, be trained to do somewhat, has been, for some generations, laid quietly on the shelf, with such result as we see,—consider what advantage those same uneducated Working classes have over the educated Unworking classes, in one particular: herein, namely, that they must work. To work! What incalculable sources of cultivation lie in that process, in that attempt; how it lays hold of the whole man, not of a small theoretical calculating fraction of him, but of the whole practical, doing and daring and enduring man; thereby to awaken dormant faculties, root out old errors, at every step! He that has done nothing has known nothing. Vain is it to sit scheming and plausibly discoursing: up and be doing! If thy knowledge be real, put it forth from thee: grapple with real Nature; try thy theories there, and see how they hold out. Do one thing, for the first time in thy life do a thing; a new light will rise to thee on the doing of all things whatsoever. Truly, a boundless significance lies in work: whereby the humblest craftsman comes to attain much, which is of indispensable use, but which he who is of no craft, were he never so high, runs the risk of missing. Once turn to Practice, Error and Truth will no longer consort together: the result of Error involves you in the squareroot of a negative quantity; try to extract that, to extract any earthly substance or sustenance from that! The honourable Member can discover that ‘there is a reaction,’ and believe it, and wearisomely reason on it, in spite of all men, while he so pleases, for still his wine and his oil will not fail him: but the sooty Brazier, who discovered that brass was green-cheese, has to act on his discovery; finds therefore that, singular as it may seem, brass cannot be masticated for dinner, green-cheese will not beat into fireproof dishes; that such discovery, therefore, has no legs to stand on, and must even be let fall. Now, take this principle of



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difference through the entire lives of two men, and calculate what it will amount to! Necessity, moreover, which we here see as the mother of Accuracy, is well known as the mother of Invention. He who wants everything, must know many things, do many things, to procure even a few: different enough with him, whose indispensable knowledge is this only, that a finger will pull the bell! So that, for all men who live, we may conclude, this Life of Man is a school, wherein the naturally foolish will continue foolish though you bray him in a mortar, but the naturally wise will gather wisdom under every disadvantage. What, meanwhile, must be the condition of an Era, when the highest advantages there become perverted into drawbacks; when, if you take two men of genius, and put the one between the handles of a plough, and mount the other between the painted coronets of a coach-and-four, and bid them both move along, the former shall arrive a Burns, the latter a Byron: two men of talent, and put the one into a Printer’s chapel, full of lampblack, tyrannous usage, hard toil, and the other into Oxford universities, with lexicons and libraries, and hired expositors and sumptuous endowments, the former shall come out a Dr. Franklin, the latter a Dr. Parr!— However, we are not here to write an Essay on Education, or sing misereres over a ‘world in its dotage:’ but simply to say that our Corn-Law Rhymer, educated or uneducated as Nature and Art have made him, asks not the smallest patronage or compassion for his Rhymes, professes not the smallest contrition for them. Nowise in such attitude does he present himself; not supplicatory, deprecatory, but sturdy, defiant, almost menacing. Wherefore, indeed, should he supplicate or deprecate? It is out of the abundance of the heart that he has spoken; praise or blame cannot make it truer or falser than it already is. By the grace of God this man is sufficient for himself; by his skill in metallurgy, can beat out a toilsome but a manful living, go how it may; has arrived too at that singular audacity of believing what he knows, and acting on it, or writing on it, or thinking on it, without leave asked of any one: there shall he stand, and work, with head and with hand, for himself and the world; blown about by no wind of doctrine; frightened at no Reviewer’s shadow; having, in his time, looked substances enough in the face, and remained unfrightened. What is left, therefore, but to take what he brings, and as he brings it? Let us be thankful, were it only for the day of small things. Something it is that we have lived to welcome once more a sweet Singer wearing the likeness of a Man. In humble guise, it is true, and of stature more or less marred in its developement; yet not without a genial robustness, strength and valour built

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on honesty and love; on the whole, a genuine man, with somewhat of the eye and speech and bearing that beseems a man. To whom all other genuine men, how different soever in subordinate particulars, can gladly hold out the right hand of fellowship. The great excellence of our Rhymer, be it understood then, we take to consist even in this, often hinted at already, that he is genuine. Here is an earnest, truth-speaking man; no theorizer, sentimentalizer, but a practical man of work and endeavour, man of sufferance and endurance. The thing that he speaks is not a hearsay, but a thing which he has himself known, and by experience become assured of. He has used his eyes for seeing; uses his tongue for declaring what he has seen. His voice, therefore, among the many noises of our Planet, will deserve its place better than the most; will be well worth some attention. Whom else should we attend to but such? The man who speaks with some half shadow of a Belief, and supposes, and inclines to think; and considers not with undivided soul, what is true, but only what is plausible, and will find audience and recompense; do we not meet him at every street-turning, on all highways and byways; is he not stale, unprofitable, ineffectual, wholly grown a weariness of the flesh? So rare is his opposite in any rank of Literature, or of Life, so very rare, that even in the lowest he is precious. The authentic insight and experience of any human soul, were it but insight and experience in hewing of wood and drawing of water, is real knowledge, a real possession and acquirement, how small soever: palabra, again, were it a supreme pontiff ’s, is wind merely, and nothing, or less than nothing. To a considerable degree, this man, we say, has worked himself loose from cant, and conjectural halfness, idle pretences and hallucinations, into a condition of Sincerity. Wherein perhaps, as above argued, his hard social environment, and fortune to be ‘a workman born,’ which brought so many other retardations with it, may have forwarded and accelerated him. That a man, Workman or Idleman, encompassed, as in these days, with persons in a state of willing or unwilling Insincerity, and necessitated, as man is, to learn whatever he does traditionally learn by imitating these, should nevertheless shake off Insincerity, and struggle out from that dim pestiferous marsh-atmosphere, into a clearer and purer height,—betokens in him a certain Originality; in which rare gift Force of all kinds is presupposed. To our Rhymer, accordingly, as hinted more than once, vision and determination have not been denied: a rugged, homegrown understanding is in him; whereby, in his own way, he has mastered this and that, and looked into various things, in general honestly and to purpose, sometimes deeply, piercingly, and with a Seer’s eye. Strong thoughts are not wanting, beautiful thoughts; strong and beautiful expressions of thought.



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As traceable for instance in this new illustration of an old argument, the mischief of Commercial Restrictions: These, O ye quacks, these are your remedies: Alms for the Rich, a bread-tax for the Poor! Soul-purchased harvests on the indigent moor!— Thus the winged victor of a hundred fights, The warrior Ship, bows low her banner’d head, When through her planks the seaborn reptile bites Its deadly way;—and sinks in ocean’s bed, Vanquish’d by worms. What then? The worms were fed.— Will not God smite thee black, thou whited wall? Thy life is lawless, and thy law a lie, Or Nature is a dream unnatural: Look on the clouds, the streams, the earth, the sky; Lo all is interchange and harmony! Where is the gorgeous pomp which, yester morn, Curtain’d yon Orb, with amber, fold on fold? Behold it in the blue of Rivelin, borne To feed the all-feeding sea! the molten gold Is flowing pale in Loxley’s waters cold, To kindle into beauty tree and flower, And wake to verdant life hill, vale, and plain. Cloud trades with river, and exchange is power: But should the clouds, the streams, the winds disdain Harmonious intercourse, nor dew nor rain Would forest-crown the mountains: airless day Would blast on Kinderscout the heathy glow; No purply green would meeken into grey O’er Don at eve; no sound of river’s flow Disturb the Sepulchre of all below.

Nature and the doings of men have not passed by this man unheeded, like the endless cloud-rack in dull weather; or lightly heeded, like a theatric phantasmagoria: but earnestly enquired into, like a thing of reality; reverently loved and worshipped, as a thing with divine significance in its reality, glimpses of which divineness he has caught and laid to heart. For his vision, as was said, partakes

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of the genuinely Poetical; he is not a Rhymer and Speaker only, but, in some genuine sense, something of a Poet. Farther we must admit him, what indeed is already herein admitted, to be, if clear-sighted, also brave-hearted. A troublous element is his; a Life of painfulness, toil, insecurity, scarcity, yet he fronts it like a man; yields not to it, tames it into some subjection, some order: its wild fearful dinning and tumult, as of a devouring Chaos, becomes a sort of wild war-music for him; wherein too are passages of beauty, of melodious melting softness, of lightness and briskness, even of joy. The stout heart is also a warm and kind one; Affection dwells with Danger, all the holier and the lovelier for such stern environment. A working man is this; yet, as we said, a man: in his sort, a courageous, much-loving, faithfully enduring and endeavouring man. What such a one, so gifted and so placed, shall say to a Time like ours; how he will fashion himself into peace, or war, or armed neutrality, with the world and his fellow men, and work out his course in joy and grief, in victory and defeat, is a question worth asking; which in these three little Volumes partly receives answer. He has turned, as all thinkers up to a very high and rare order in these days must do, into Politics; is a Reformer, at least a stern Complainer, Radical to the core: his poetic melody takes an elegiaco-tragical character; much of him is converted into Hostility, and grim, hardly-suppressed Indignation, such as Right long denied, Hope long deferred, may awaken in the kindliest heart. Not yet as a rebel against anything does he stand; but as a free man, and the spokesman of free men, not far from rebelling against much; with sorrowful appealing dew, yet also with incipient lightning, in his eyes; whom it were not desirable to provoke into rebellion. He says, in Vulcanic dialect, his feelings have been hammered till they are cold-short; so they will no longer bend; ‘they snap, and fly off,’—in the face of the hammerer. Not unnatural, though lamentable! Nevertheless, under all disguises of the Radical, the Poet is still recognisable; a certain music breathes through all dissonances, as the prophecy and ground-tone of returning harmony; the man, as we said, is of a poetical nature. To his Political Philosophy there is perhaps no great importance attachable. He feels, as all men that live must do, the disorganization, and hard-grinding, unequal pressure of the Social Affairs; but sees into it only a very little farther than far inferior men do. The frightful condition of a Time, when public and private Principle, as the word was once understood, having gone out of sight, and Self-interest being left to plot, and struggle, and scramble, as it could and would, Difficulties had accumulated till they were no longer to be borne, and the Spirit that should have fronted and conquered them seemed to have forsaken



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the world;—when the Rich, as the utmost they could resolve on, had ceased to govern, and the Poor, in their fast-accumulating numbers, and ever-widening complexities, had ceased to be able to do without governing; and now the plan of ‘Competition’ and ‘Laissez-faire’ was, on every side, approaching its consummation; and each bound up in the circle of his own wants and perils, stood grimly distrustful of his neighbour, and the distracted Common-weal was a Common-woe, and to all men it became apparent that the end was drawing nigh:—all this black aspect of Ruin and Decay, visible enough, experimentally known to our Sheffield friend, he calls by the name of ‘Corn-Law,’ and expects to be in good part delivered from, were the accursed Bread-tax repealed. In this system of political Doctrine, even as here so emphatically set forth, there is not much of novelty. Radicals we have many; loud enough on this and other grievances; the removal of which is to be the one thing needful. The deep, wide flood of Bitterness, and Hope becoming hopeless, lies acrid, corrosive in every bosom; and flows fiercely enough through any orifice Accident may open: through Law Reform, Legislative Reform, Poor Laws, want of Poor Laws, Tithes, Game Laws, or, as we see here, Corn Laws. Whereby indeed only this becomes clear, that a deep, wide flood of evil does exist and corrode; from which, in all ways, blindly and seeingly, men seek deliverance, and cannot rest till they find it; least of all till they know what part and proportion of it is to be found. But with us foolish sons of Adam this is ever the way; some evil that lies nearest us, be it a chronic sickness, or but a smoky chimney, is ever the acme and sumtotal of all evil; the black hydra that shuts us out from a Promised Land: and so, in poor Mr. Shandy’s fashion, must we ‘shift from trouble to trouble, and from side to side; button up one cause of vexation, and unbutton another.’ Thus for our keen-hearted singer, and sufferer, has the ‘Bread-tax,’ in itself a considerable but no immeasurable smoke-pillar, swoln out to be a worldembracing Darkness, that darkens and suffocates the whole Earth, and has blotted out the heavenly stars. Into the merit of the Corn Laws, which has often been discussed, in fit season, by competent hands, we do not enter here; least of all in the way of argument, in the way of blame, towards one who, if he read such merit with some emphasis ‘on the scantier trenchers of his children,’ may well be pardoned. That the ‘Bread-tax,’ with various other taxes, may ere long be altered and abrogated, and the Corn Trade become as free as the poorest ‘bread-taxed drudge’ could wish it, or the richest ‘satrap bread-tax-fed’ could fear it, seems no extravagant hypothesis: would that the mad Time could, by such simple hellebore-dose, be healed! Alas, for the diseases of a world lying in wickedness, in heart-sickness and atrophy, quite another alcahest is needed;—a

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long, painful course of medicine and regimen, surgery and physic, not yet specified or indicated in the Royal-College Books! But if there is little novelty in our friend’s Political Philosophy, there is some in his political Feeling and Poetry. The peculiarity of this Radical is, that with all his stormful destructiveness, he combines a decided loyalty and faith. If he despise and trample under foot on the one hand, he exalts and reverences on the other: the ‘landed pauper in his coach-and-four’ rolls all the more glaringly, contrasted with the ‘Rockinghams and Savilles’ of the past, with ‘the Lansdowns and Fitzwilliams,’ many a ‘Wentworth’s lord,’ still ‘a blessing’ to the present. This man, indeed, has in him the root of all reverence,—a principle of Religion. He believes in a Godhead, not with the lips only, but apparently with the heart; who, as has been written, and often felt, ‘reveals Himself in Parents, in all true Teachers, and Rulers,’—as in false Teachers and Rulers quite Another may be revealed! Our Rhymer, it would seem, is no Methodist: far enough from it. He makes ‘the Ranter,’ in his hot-headed way, exclaim over The Hundred Popes of England’s Jesuitry;

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and adds, by way of note, in his own person, some still stronger sayings: How ‘this baneful corporation,’ ‘dismal as its Reign of Terror is, and long-armed its Holy Inquisition, must condescend to learn and teach what is useful, or go where all nuisances go.’ As little perhaps is he a Churchman; the ‘Cadi-Dervish’ seems nowise to his mind. Scarcely, however, if at all, does he show aversion to the Church as Church; or, among his many griefs, touch upon Tithes as one. But, in any case, the black colours of Life, even as here painted, and brooded over, do not hide from him that a God is the Author and Sustainer thereof; that God’s world, if made a House of Imprisonment, can also be a House of Prayer; wherein for the weary and heavy-laden, Pity and Hope are not altogether cut away. It is chiefly in virtue of this inward temper of heart, with the clear disposition and adjustment which for all else results therefrom, that our Radical attains to be Poetical; that the harsh groanings, contentions, upbraidings, of one who unhappily has felt constrained to adopt such mode of utterance, become ennobled into something of music. If a land of bondage, this is still his Father’s land, and the bondage endures not forever. As worshipper and believer, the captive can look with seeing eye: the aspect of the Infinite Universe still fills him with an Infinite feeling; his chains, were it but for moments, fall away; he soars free aloft, and the sunny regions of Poesy and Freedom gleam golden afar on the widened horizon. Gleamings, we say, prophetic dawnings from those far regions, spring up for



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him; nay, beams of actual radiance. In his ruggedness, and dim contractedness (rather of place than of organ), he is not without touches of a feeling and vision, which, even in the stricter sense, is to be named poetical. One deeply poetical idea, above all others, seems to have taken hold of him: the idea of Time. As was natural to a poetic soul, with few objects of Art in its environment, and driven inward, rather than invited outward, for occupation. This deep mystery of ever-flowing Time; bringing forth, and as the Ancients wisely fabled, devouring what it has brought forth; rushing on, on, in us, yet above us, all uncontrollable by us; and under it, dimly visible athwart it, the bottomless Eternal;—this is, indeed, what we may call the primary idea of Poetry; the first that introduces itself into the poetic mind. As here: The bee shall seek to settle on his hand, But from the vacant bench haste to the moor, Mourning the last of England’s high-soul’d Poor, And bid the mountains weep for Enoch Wray. And for themselves,—albeit of things that last Unalter’d most; for they shall pass away Like Enoch, though their iron roots seem fast, Bound to the eternal future as the past: The Patriarch died; and they shall be no more! Yes, and the sailless worlds, which navigate The unutterable Deep that hath no shore, Will lose their starry splendour soon or late, Like tapers, quench’d by Him, whose will is fate! Yes, and the Angel of Eternity, Who numbers worlds and writes their names in light, One day, O Earth, will look in vain for thee, And start and stop in his unerring flight, And with his wings of sorrow and affright, Veil his impassion’d brow and heavenly tears!

And not the first idea only, but the greatest, properly the parent of all others. For if it can rise in the remotest ages, in the rudest states of culture, wherever an ‘inspired thinker’ happens to exist, it connects itself still with all great things; with the highest results of new Philosophy, as of primeval Theology; and for the Poet, in particular, is as the life-element wherein alone his conceptions can take poetic form, and the whole world become miraculous and magical.

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essays on literature We are such stuff As Dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a Sleep!

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Figure that, believe that, O Reader; then say whether the Arabian Tales seem wonderful!—‘Rounded with a sleep (mit Schlaf umgeben)!’ says Jean Paul; ‘these three words created whole volumes in me.’ To turn now on our worthy Rhymer, who has brought us so much, and stingily insist on his errors and shortcomings, were no honest procedure. We had the whole poetical encyclopædia to draw upon, and say commodiously, Such and such an item is not here; of which encyclopædia the highest genius can fill but a portion. With much merit, far from common in his time, he is not without something of the faults of his time. We praised him for originality; yet is there a certain remainder of imitation in him; a tang of the Circulating Libraries, as in Sancho’s wine, with its key and thong, there was a tang of iron and leather. To be reminded of Crabbe, with his truthful severity of style, in such a place, we cannot object; but what if there were a slight bravura dash of the fair tuneful Hemans? Still more, what have we to do with Byron, and his fierce vociferous mouthings, whether ‘passionate,’ or not passionate and only theatrical? King Cambyses’ vein is, after all, but a worthless one; no vein for a wise man. Strength, if that be the thing aimed at, does not manifest itself in spasms, but in stout bearing of burdens. Our Author says, ‘It is too bad to exalt into a hero the coxcomb who would have gone into hysterics if a tailor had laughed at him.’ Walk not in his footsteps, then, we say, whether as hero or as singer; repent a little, for example, over somewhat in that fuliginous, blue-flaming, pitch-and-sulphur ‘Dream of Enoch Wray,’ and write the next otherwise. We mean no imitation in a bad palpable sense; only that there is a tone of such occasionally audible; which ought to be removed;—of which, in any case, we make not much. Imitation is a leaning on something foreign; incompleteness of individual developement, defect of free utterance. From the same source, spring most of our Author’s faults; in particular, his worst, which after all is intrinsically a defect of manner. He has little or no Humour. Without Humour of character he cannot well be; but it has not yet got to utterance. Thus, where he has mean things to deal with, he knows not how to deal with them; oftenest deals with them more or less meanly. In his vituperative prose Notes, he seems embarrassed; and but ill hides his embarrassment, under an air of predetermined sarcasm, of knowing briskness, almost of vulgar pertness. He says, he cannot



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help it; he is poor, hard-worked, and ‘soot is soot.’ True, indeed; yet there is no connexion between Poverty and Discourtesy; which latter originates in Dulness alone. Courtesy is the due of Man to Man; not of suit of clothes to suit of clothes. He who could master so many things, and make even Corn-Laws rhyme, we require of him this farther thing,—a bearing worthy of himself, and of the order he belongs to,—the highest and most ancient of all orders, that of Manhood. A pert snappishness is no manner for a brave man; and then the manner so soon influences the matter; a far worse result. Let him speak wise things, and speak them wisely; which latter may be done in many dialects, grave and gay, only in the snappish dialect seldom or never. The truth is, as might have been expected, there is still much lying in him to be developed; the hope of which developement it were rather sad to abandon. Why, for example, should not his view of the world, his knowledge of what is and has been in the world, indefinitely extend itself ? Were he merely the ‘uneducated Poet,’ we should say, he had read largely; as he is not such, we say, Read still more, much more largely. Books enough there are in England, and of quite another weight and worth than that circulating-library sort; may be procured too, may be read, even by a hard-worked man; for what man (either in God’s service or the Devil’s, as himself chooses it) is not hard-worked? But here again, where there is a will there is a way. True, our friend is no longer in his teens; yet still, as would seem, in the vigour of his years: we hope too that his mind is not finally shut in, but of the improveable and enlargeable sort. If Alfieri (also kept busy enough, with horse-breaking and what not) learned Greek after he was fifty, why is the Corn-Law Rhymer too old to learn? However, be in the future what there may, our Rhymer has already done what was much more difficult, and better than reading printed Books;—looked into the great prophetic-manuscript Book of Existence, and read little passages there. Here, for example, is a sentence tolerably spelled: Where toils the Mill by ancient woods embraced, Hark, how the cold steel screams in hissing fire! Blind Enoch sees the Grinder’s wheel no more, Couch’d beneath rocks and forests, that admire Their beauty in the waters, ere they roar Dash’d in white foam the swift circumference o’er. There draws the Grinder his laborious breath; There coughing at his deadly trade he bends: Born to die young, he fears nor man nor death;

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essays on literature Scorning the future, what he earns he spends; Debauch and riot are his bosom friends. * * * * * Behold his failings! Hath he virtues too? He is no Pauper, blackguard though he be: Full well he knows what minds combined can do, Full well maintains his birthright: he is free, And, frown for frown, outstares monopoly. Yet Abraham and Elliot both in vain Bid science on his cheek prolong the bloom: He will not live! He seems in haste to gain The undisturb’d asylum of the tomb, And, old at two-and-thirty, meets his doom!

Or this, ‘of Jem, the rogue avowed,’ Whose trade is Poaching! Honest Jem works not, Begs not, but thrives by plundering beggars here. Wise as a lord, and quite as good a shot, He, like his betters, lives in hate and fear, And feeds on partridge because bread is dear. Sire of six sons apprenticed to the jail, He prowls in arms, the Tory of the night; With them he shares his battles and his ale, With him they feel the majesty of might, No Despot better knows that Power is Right. Mark his unpaidish sneer, his lordly frown; Hark how he calls the beadle and flunky liars; See how magnificently he breaks down His neighbour’s fence, if so his will requires, And how his struttle emulates the squire’s! * * * * * Jem rises with the Moon; but when she sinks, Homeward with sack-like pockets, and quick heels, Hungry as boroughmongering gowl, he slinks. He reads not, writes not, thinks not; scarcely feels; Steals all he gets; serves Hell with all he steals!



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It is rustic, rude existence; barren moors, with the smoke of Forges rising over the waste expanse. Alas, no Arcadia; but the actual dwelling-place of actual toilgrimed sons of Tubalcain: yet are there blossoms and the wild natural fragrance of gorse and broom; yet has the Craftsman pauses in his toil; the Craftsman too has an inheritance in Earth; and even in Heaven. Light! All is not corrupt, for thou art pure, Unchanged and changeless. Though frail man is vile, Thou look’st on him, serene, sublime, secure, Yet, like thy Father, with a pitying smile. Even on this wintry day, as marble cold, Angels might quit their home to visit thee, And match their plumage with thy mantle roll’d Beneath God’s Throne, o’er billows of a sea Whose isles are Worlds, whose bounds Infinity. Why then is Enoch absent from my side? I miss the rustle of his silver hair; A guide no more, I seem to want a guide, While Enoch journeys to the house of prayer; Ah, ne’er came Sabbath-day but he was there! Lo, how, like him, erect and strong, though grey, Yon village tower time-touch’d to God appeals! And hark! the chimes of morning die away: Hark! to the heart the solemn sweetness steals, Like the heart’s voice, unfelt by none who feels That God is Love, that Man is living Dust; Unfelt by none whom ties of brotherhood Link to his kind; by none who puts his trust In nought of Earth that hath survived the flood, Save those mute charities, by which the good Strengthen poor worms, and serve their Maker best. Hail Sabbath! Day of mercy, peace, and rest! Thou o’er loud cities throw’st a noiseless spell, The hammer there, the wheel, the saw molest Pale Thought no more: o’er Trade’s contentious hell Meek Quiet spreads her wings invisible. And when thou com’st, less silent are the fields,

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essays on literature Through whose sweet paths the toil-freed townsman steals. To him the very air a banquet yields. Envious he watches the poised hawk that wheels His flight on chainless winds. Each cloud reveals A paradise of beauty to his eye. His little Boys are with him, seeking flowers, Or chasing the too-venturous gilded fly. So by the daisy’s side he spends the hours, Renewing friendship with the budding bowers: And while might, beauty, good without alloy, Are mirror’d in his children’s happy eyes,— In His great Temple offering thankful joy To Him, the infinitely Great and Wise, With soul attuned to Nature’s harmonies, Serene and cheerful as a sporting child,— His heart refuses to believe that man Could turn into a hell the blooming wild, The blissful country where his childhood ran A race with infant rivers, ere began—

—‘King-humbling’ Bread-tax, ‘blind Misrule,’ and several other crabbed things! And so our Corn-Law Rhymer plays his part. In this wise, does he indite and act his Drama of Life, which for him is all too Domestic-Tragical. It is said, ‘the good actor soon makes us forget the bad theatre, were it but a barn; while, again, nothing renders so apparent the badness of the bad actor as a theatre of peculiar excellence.’ How much more in a theatre and drama such as these of Life itself ! One other item, however, we must note in that ill-decorated Sheffield theatre: the back-scene and bottom-decoration of it all; which is no other than a Workhouse. Alas, the Workhouse is the bourne whither all these actors and workers are bound; whence none that has once passed it returns! A bodeful sound, like the rustle of approaching world-devouring tornadoes, quivers through their whole existence; and the voice of it is, Pauperism! The thanksgiving they offer up to Heaven is, that they are not yet Paupers; the earnest cry of their prayer is, that ‘God would shield them from the bitterness of Parish Pay.’ Mournful enough, that a white European Man must pray wistfully for what the horse he drives is sure of,—That the strain of his whole faculties may not fail to earn him food and lodging. Mournful that a gallant manly spirit, with an



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eye to discern the world, a heart to reverence it, a hand cunning and willing to labour in it, must be haunted with such a fear. The grim end of it all, Beggary! A soul loathing, what true souls ever loathe, Dependence, help from the unworthy to help; yet sucked into the world-whirlpool,—able to do no other: the highest in man’s heart struggling vainly against the lowest in man’s destiny! In good truth, if many a sickly and sulky Byron, or Byronlet, glooming over the woes of existence, and how unworthy God’s Universe is to have so distinguished a resident, could transport himself into the patched coat and sooty apron of a Sheffield Blacksmith, made with as strange faculties and feelings as he, made by God Almighty all one as he was,—it would throw a light on much for him. Meanwhile, is it not frightful as well as mournful to consider how the widespread evil is spreading wider and wider? Most persons, who have had eyes to look with, may have verified, in their own circle, the statement of this Sheffield Eye-witness, and ‘from their own knowledge and observation fearlessly declare that the little master-manufacturer,’ that the working man generally, ‘is in a much worse condition than he was in twenty-five years ago.’ Unhappily, the fact is too plain; the reason and scientific necessity of it is too plain. In this mad state of things, every new man is a new misfortune; every new market a new complexity; the chapter of chances grows ever more incalculable; the hungry gamesters (whose stake is their life) are ever increasing in numbers; the worldmovement rolls on: by what method shall the weak and help-needing, who has none to help him, withstand it? Alas, how many brave hearts, ground to pieces in that unequal battle, have already sunk; in every sinking heart, a Tragedy, less famous than that of the Sons of Atreus; wherein, however, if no ‘kingly house,’ yet a manly house, went to the dust, and a whole manly lineage was swept away! Must it grow worse and worse ’till the last brave heart is broken in England; and this same ‘brave Peasantry’ has become a kennel of wild-howling ravenous Paupers? God be thanked! There is some feeble shadow of hope that the change may have begun while it was yet time. You may lift the pressure from the free man’s shoulders, and bid him go forth rejoicing; but lift the slave’s burden, he will only wallow the more composedly in his sloth: a nation of degraded men cannot be raised up, except by what we rightly name a miracle. Under which point of view also, these little Volumes, indicating such a character in such a place, are not without significance. One faint symptom perhaps that clearness will return, that there is a possibility of its return. It is as if from that Gehenna of Manufacturing Radicalism, from amid its loud roaring and cursing, whereby nothing became feasible, nothing knowable, except this only, that misery and malady existed there, we heard now some manful tone of reason

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and determination, wherein alone can there be profit, or promise of deliverance. In this Corn-Law Rhymer we seem to trace something of the antique spirit; a spirit which had long become invisible among our working as among other classes; which here, perhaps almost for the first time, reveals itself in an altogether modern political vesture. ‘The Pariahs of the Isle of Woe,’ as he passionately names them, are no longer Pariahs if they have become Men. Here is one man of their tribe; in several respects a true man; who has abjured Hypocrisy and Servility, yet not therewith trodden Religion and Loyalty under foot; not without justness of insight, devoutness, peaceable heroism of resolve; who, in all circumstances, even in these strange ones, will be found quitting himself like a man. One such that has found a voice: who knows how many mute but not inactive brethren he may have in his own and in all other ranks? Seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal! These are the men, wheresoever found, who are to stand forth in England’s evil day, on whom the hope of England rests. For it has been often said, and must often be said again, that all Reform except a moral one will prove unavailing. Political Reform, pressingly enough wanted, can indeed root out the weeds (gross deep-fixed lazy dock-weeds, poisonous obscene hemlocks, ineffectual spurry in abundance); but it leaves the ground empty,—ready either for noble fruits, or for new worse tares! And how else is a Moral Reform to be looked for but in this way, that more and more Good Men are, by a bountiful Providence, sent hither to disseminate Goodness; literally to sow it, as in seeds shaken abroad by the living tree? For such, in all ages and places, is the nature of a Good Man; he is ever a mystic creative centre of Goodness; his influence, if we consider it, is not to be measured; for his works do not die, but being of Eternity, are eternal; and in new transformation, and ever-wider diffusion, endure, living and life-giving. Thou who exclaimest over the horrors and baseness of the Time, and how Diogenes would now need two lanterns in daylight, think of this; over the Time thou hast no power; to redeem a World sunk in dishonesty has not been given thee; solely over one man therein thou hast a quite absolute uncontrollable power; him redeem, him make honest; it will be something, it will be much, and thy life and labour not in vain. We have given no epitomized abstract of these little Books, such as is the Reviewer’s wont: we would gladly persuade many a reader, high and low, who takes interest not in rhyme only, but in reason, and the condition of his fellowman, to purchase and peruse them for himself. It is proof of an innate love of worth, and how willingly the Public, did not thousand-voiced Puffery so confuse it, would have to do with substances, and not with deceptive shadows, that these



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Volumes carry ‘Third Edition’ marked on them,—on all of them but the newest, whose fate with the reading world we yet know not; which, however, seems to deserve not worse but better than either of its forerunners. Nay, it appears to us as if in this humble Chaunt of the Village Patriarch might be traced rudiments of a truly great idea; great though all undeveloped. The Rhapsody of ‘Enoch Wray’ is, in its nature, and unconscious tendency, Epic; a whole world lies shadowed in it. What we might call an inarticulate, half-audible Epic! The main figure is a blind aged man; himself a ruin, and encircled with the ruin of a whole Era. Sad and great does that image of a universal Dissolution hover visible as a poetic background. Good old Enoch! He could do so much, was so wise, so valiant. No Ilion had he destroyed; yet somewhat he had built up: where the Mill stands noisy by its cataract, making corn into bread for men, it was Enoch that reared it, and made the rude rocks send it water; where the mountain Torrent now boils in vain, and is mere passing music to the traveller, it was Enoch’s cunning that spanned it with that strong Arch, grim, time-defying. Where Enoch’s hand or mind has been, Disorder has become Order; Chaos has receded some little handbreadth; had to give up some new handbreadth of his ancient realm. Enoch too has seen his followers fall round him (by stress of hardship, and the arrows of the gods), has performed funeral games for them, and raised sandstone memorials, and carved his Abiit ad Plures thereon, with his own hand. The living chronicle and epitome of a whole century; when he departs, a whole century will become dead, historical. Rudiments of an Epic, we say; and of the true Epic of our Time,—were the genius but arrived that could sing it! Not ‘Arms and the Man;’ ‘Tools and the Man,’ that were now our Epic. What indeed are Tools, from the Hammer and Plummet of Enoch Wray to this Pen we now write with, but Arms, wherewith to do battle against Unreason without or within, and smite in pieces not miserable fellow men, but the Arch Enemy that makes us all miserable; henceforth the only legitimate battle! Which Epic, as we granted, is here altogether imperfectly sung; scarcely a few notes thereof brought freely out; nevertheless with indication, with prediction that it will be sung. Such is the purport and merit of the Village Patriarch; it struggles towards a noble utterance, which however it can nowise find. Old Enoch is from the first, speechless, heard of rather than heard or seen; at best, mute, motionless like a stone-pillar of his own carving. Indeed, to find fit utterance for such meaning as lies struggling here is a problem, to which the highest poetic minds may long be content to accomplish only approximate solutions. Meanwhile, our honest Rhymer, with no guide but the instinct of a clear natural

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talent, has created and adjusted somewhat, not without vitality of union; has avoided somewhat, the road to which lay open enough. His Village Patriarch, for example, though of an elegiac strain, is not wholly lachrymose, not without touches of rugged gaiety;—is like Life itself, with tears and toil, with laughter and rude play, such as metallurgic Yorkshire sees it;—in which sense, that wondrous Courtship of the sharp-tempered, oft-widowed Alice Green may pass, questionable, yet with a certain air of soot-stained genuineness. And so has, not a Picture, indeed, yet a sort of genial Study or Cartoon come together for him; and may endure there, after some flary oil-daubings, which we have seen framed with gilding, and hung up in proud galleries, have become rags and rubbish. To one class of readers especially, such Books as these ought to be interesting;—to the highest, that is to say, the richest class. Among our Aristocracy, there are men, we trust there are many men, who feel that they also are workmen, born to toil, ever in their great Taskmaster’s eye, faithfully with heart and head for those that with heart and hand do, under the same great Taskmaster, toil for them;—who have even this noblest and hardest work set before them—To deliver out of that Egyptian bondage to Wretchedness, and Ignorance, and Sin, the hardhanded millions, of whom this hardhanded, earnest witness, and writer, is here representative. To such men his writing will be as a Document, which they will lovingly interpret: what is dark and exasperated and acrid, in their humble Brother, they for themselves will enlighten and sweeten; taking thankfully what is the real purport of his message, and laying it earnestly to heart. Might an instructive relation, and interchange between High and Low, at length ground itself, and more and more perfect itself,—to the unspeakable profit of all parties; for if all parties are to love and help one another, the first step towards this, is that all thoroughly understand one another. To such rich men an authentic message from the hearts of poor men, from the heart of one poor man, will be welcome. To another class of our Aristocracy, again, who unhappily feel rather that they are not workmen; and profess not so much to bear any burden, as to be themselves, with utmost attainable steadiness, and if possible, gracefulness, borne,—such a phenomenon as this of the Sheffield Corn-Law Rhymer, with a Manchester Detrosier, and much else, pointing the same way, will be quite unwelcome; indeed, to the clearer-sighted, astonishing and alarming. It indicates that they find themselves, as Napoleon was wont to say, ‘in a new position;’—a position wonderful enough; of extreme singularity; to which, in the whole course of History, there is perhaps but one case in some measure parallel. The case alluded to stands recorded in the Book of Numbers: the case of Balaam the son of Beor.



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Truly, if we consider it, there are few passages more notable and pregnant in their way, than this of Balaam. The Midianitish Soothsayer (Truth-speaker, or as we should now say, Counsel-giver and Senator) is journeying forth, as he has from of old quite prosperously done, in the way of his vocation; not so much to ‘curse the people of the Lord,’ as to earn for himself a comfortable penny by such means as are possible and expedient; something, it is hoped, midway between cursing and blessing; which shall not, except in case of necessity, be either a curse or a blessing, or indeed be anything so much as a Nothing that will look like a Something and bring wages in. For the man is not dishonest; far from it: still less is he honest; but above all things, he is, has been, and will be, respectable. Did calumny ever dare to fasten itself on the fair fame of Balaam? In his whole walk and conversation, has he not shown consistency enough; ever doing and speaking the thing that was decent; with proper spirit, maintaining his status: so that friend and opponent must often compliment him, and defy the spiteful world to say, Herein art thou a Knave? And now as he jogs along, in official comfort, with brave official retinue, his heart filled with good things, his head with schemes for the Suppression of Vice, and the Cause of civil and religious Liberty all over the world;—consider what a spasm, and life-clutching, ice-taloned pang, must have shot through the brain and pericardium of Balaam, when his Ass not only on the sudden stood stock-still, defying spur and cudgel, but—began to talk, and that in a reasonable manner! Did not his face, elongating, collapse, and tremor occupy his joints? For the thin crust of Respectability has cracked asunder; and a bottomless preternatural Inane yawns under him instead. Farewell, a long farewell to all my greatness! the spirit-stirring Vote, the earpiercing Hear; the big Speech that makes ambition virtue; soft Palm-greasing first of raptures, and Cheers that emulate sphere-music: Balaam’s occupation’s gone!— As for our stout Corn-Law Rhymer, what can we say by way of valediction but this, “Well done; come again, doing better?” Advices enough there were; but all lie included under one,—To keep his eyes open, and do honestly whatsoever his hand shall find to do. We have praised him for sincerity; let him become more and more sincere; casting out all remnants of Hearsay, Imitation, ephemeral Speculation; resolutely ‘clearing his mind of Cant.’ We advised a wider course of reading: would he forgive us if we now suggested the question, Whether Rhyme is the only dialect he can write in; whether Rhyme is, after all, the natural or fittest dialect for him? In good Prose, which differs inconceivably from bad Prose, what may not be written, what may not be read; from a Waverley Novel, to an Arabic Koran, to an English Bible! Rhyme has plain advantages; which, however,

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are often purchased too dear. If the inward Thought can speak itself, instead of sing itself, let it, especially in these quite unmusical days, do the former! In any case, if the inward Thought do not sing itself, that singing of the outward Phrase is a timber-toned, false matter we could well dispense with. Will our Rhymer consider himself, then; and decide for what is actually best. Rhyme, up to this hour, never seems altogether obedient to him; and disobedient Rhyme,—who would ride on it that had once learned walking! He takes amiss that some friends have admonished him to quit Politics: we will not repeat that admonition. Let him, on this as on all other matters, take solemn counsel with his own Socrates’-Demon; such as dwells in every mortal; such as he is a happy mortal who can hear the voice of, follow the behests of, like an unalterable law. At the same time, we could truly wish to see such a mind as his engaged rather in considering what, in his own sphere, could be done, than what, in his own or other spheres, ought to be destroyed; rather in producing or preserving the True, than in mangling and slashing asunder the False. Let him be at ease: the False is already dead, or lives only with a mock life. The deathsentence of the False was of old, from the first beginning of it, written in Heaven; and is now proclaimed in the Earth, and read aloud at all market-crosses; nor are innumerable volunteer tipstaves and headsmen wanting to execute the same: for which needful service men inferior to him may suffice. Why should the heart of the Corn-Law Rhymer be troubled? Spite of ‘Bread-tax,’ he and his brave children, who will emulate their sire, have yet bread; the Workhouse, as we rejoice to fancy, has receded into the safe distance; and is now quite shut out from his poetic pleasure-ground. Why should he afflict himself with devices of ‘Boroughmongering gowls,’ or the rage of the Heathen imagining a vain thing? This matter, which he calls Corn-Law, will not have completed itself, adjusted itself into clearness, for the space of a century or two: nay after twenty centuries, what will there, or can there be for the son of Adam but Work, Work, two hands quite full of Work! Meanwhile, is not the Corn-Law Rhymer already a king, though a belligerent one; king of his own mind and faculty; and what man in the long run is king of more? Not one in the thousand, even among sceptred kings, is king of so much. Be diligent in business, then; fervent in spirit. Above all things, lay aside anger, uncharitableness, hatred, noisy tumult; avoid them, as worse than Pestilence, worse than ‘Bread-tax’ itself: For it well beseemeth kings, all mortals it beseemeth well, To possess their souls in patience, and await what can betide.

DIDEROT.

1. Mémoires, Correspondance, et Ouvrages inédits de Diderot; publiés d’après les manuscrits confiés, en mourant, par l’auteur à Grimm. 4 tom. 8vo. Paris (Paulin, Libraire-Editeur), 1831. 2. Œuvres de Denis Diderot; précédées de Mémoires historiques et philosophiques sur sa Vie et ses Ouvrages, par J. A. Naigeon. 22 tom. 8vo. Paris (Brière), 1821. The Acts of the Christian Apostles, on which, as we may say, the world has, now for eighteen centuries, had its foundation, are written in so small a compass, that they can be read in one little hour. The Acts of the French Philosophes, the importance of which is already fast exhausting itself, lie recorded in whole acres of typography, and would furnish reading for a lifetime. Nor is the stock, as we see, yet anywise complete, or within computable distance of completion. Here are Four quite new Octavos, recording the labours, voyages, victories, amours and indigestions of the Apostle Denis: it is but a year or two since a new contribution on Voltaire came before us; since Jean Jacques had a new Life written for him; and then of those Feuilles de Grimm, what incalculable masses may yet lie dormant in the Petersburg Library, waiting only to be awakened, and let slip!—Reading for a lifetime? Thomas Parr might begin reading in long-clothes, and stop in his last hundred and fiftieth year without having ended. And then, as to when the process of addition will cease, and the Acts and Epistles of the Parisian Church of Antichrist will have completed themselves; except in so far as the quantity of paper written on, or even manufactured, in those days, being finite and not infinite, the business one day or other must cease, and the Antichristian Canon close for the last time,—we yet know nothing. 223

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Meanwhile, let us nowise be understood as lamenting this stupendous copiousness, but rather as viewing it historically with patience, and indeed with satisfaction. Memoirs, so long as they are true, how stupid soever, can hardly be accumulated in excess. The stupider they are, let them simply be the sooner cast into the oven: if true, they will always instruct more or less, were it only in the way of confirmation and repetition; and, what is of vast moment, they do not mis-instruct. Day after day, looking at the high destinies which yet await Literature, which Literature will ere long address herself with more decisiveness than ever to fulfil, it grows clearer to us that the proper task of Literature lies in the domain of Belief; within which ‘Poetic Fiction,’ as it is charitably named, will have to take a quite new figure, if allowed a settlement there. Whereby were it not reasonable to prophesy that this exceeding great multitude of Novel-writers, and such like, must, in a new generation, gradually do one of two things: either retire into nurseries, and work for children, minors and semi-fatuous persons of both sexes; or else, what were far better, sweep their Novel-fabric into the dust-cart, and betake them, with such faculty as they have, to understand and record what is true,—of which, surely, there is, and will forever be, a whole Infinitude unknown to us, of infinite importance to us! Poetry, it will more and more come to be understood, is nothing but higher Knowledge; and the only genuine Romance (for grown persons) Reality. The Thinker is the Poet, the Seer: let him who sees write down according to his gift of sight; if deep and with inspired vision, then creatively, poetically; if common, and with only uninspired, every-day vision, let him at least be faithful in this, and write Memoirs. On us, still so near at hand, that Eighteenth Century in Paris, presenting itself nowise as portion of the magic web of Universal History, but only as the confused and ravelled mass of threads and thrums, ycleped Memoirs, in process of being woven into such,—imposes a rather complex relation. Of which, however, as of all such, the leading rules may happily be comprised in this very plain one, prescribed by Nature herself: to search in them, so far as they seem worthy, for whatsoever can help us forward on our own path, were it in the shape of intellectual instruction, of moral edification, nay of mere solacement and amusement. The Bourbons, indeed, took a shorter method (the like of which has been often recommended elsewhere): they shut up and hid the graves of the Philosophes, hoping that their lives and writings might likewise thereby go out of sight, and out of mind; and thus the whole business would be, so to speak, suppressed. Foolish Bourbons! These things were not done in a corner, but on high places, before the anxious eyes of all mankind: hidden they can in nowise be: to conquer them, to resist them, our first indispensable

diderot 225 preliminary is to see and comprehend them. To us, indeed, as their immediate successors, the right comprehension of them is of prime necessity; for, sent of God or of the Devil, they have plainly enough gone before us, and left us such and such a world: it is on ground of their tillage, with the stubble of their harvest standing on it, that we now have to plough. Before all things then, let us understand what ground it is; what manner of men and husbandmen these were. For which reason, be all authentic Philosophe-Memoirs welcome, each in its kind! For which reason, let us now, without the smallest reluctance, penetrate into this wondrous Gospel according to Denis Diderot, and expatiate there, to see whether it will yield us aught. In any phenomenon, one of the most important moments is the end. Now this epoch of the Eighteenth or Philosophe-century was properly the End; the End of a Social System, which for above a thousand years had been building itself together, and, after that, had begun, for some centuries (as human things all do), to moulder down. The mouldering down of a Social System is no cheerful business either to form part of, or to look at: however, at length, in the course of it, there comes a time when the mouldering changes into a rushing; active hands drive in their wedges, set to their crowbars; there is a comfortable appearance of work going on. Instead of here and there a stone falling out, here and there a handful of dust, whole masses tumble down, whole clouds and whirlwinds of dust: torches too are applied, and the rotten easily takes fire: so what with flame-whirlwind, what with dust-whirlwind, and the crash of falling towers, the concern grows eminently interesting; and our assiduous craftsmen can encourage one another with Vivats, and cries of Speed the work. Add to this, that of all labourers, no one can see such rapid extensive fruit of his labour as the Destroyer can and does: it will not seem unreasonable that, measuring from effect to cause, he should esteem his labour as the best and greatest; and a Voltaire, for example, be by his guild-brethren and apprentices confidently accounted ‘not only the greatest man of this age, but of all past ages, and perhaps the greatest that Nature could produce.’ Worthy old Nature! She goes on producing whatsoever is needful in each season of her course; and produces, with perfect composure, that Encyclopedist opinion, that she can produce no more. Such a torch-and-crowbar period, of quick rushing down and conflagration, was this of the Siècle de Louis Quinze; when the Social System having all fallen into rottenness, rain-holes and noisome decay, the shivering natives resolved to cheer their dull abode by the questionable step of setting it on fire. Questionable we call their manner of procedure; the thing itself, as all men may now see, was

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inevitable; one way or other, whether by prior burning or milder methods, the old house must needs be new-built. We behold the business of pulling down, or at least of assorting the rubbish, still go resolutely on, all over Europe: here and there some traces of new foundation, of new building up, may now also, to the eye of Hope, disclose themselves. To get acquainted with Denis Diderot and his Life were to see the significant epitome of all this, as it works on the thinking and acting soul of a man, fashions for him a singular element of existence, gives himself therein a peculiar hue and figure. Unhappily, after all that has been written, the matter still is not luminous: to us strangers, much in that foreign economy, and method of working and living, remains obscure; much in the man himself, and his inward nature and structure. But, indeed, it is several years since the present Reviewer gave up the idea of what could be called understanding any Man whatever, even himself. Every Man, within that inconsiderable figure of his, contains a whole Spirit-kingdom and Reflex of the All; and, though to the eye but some six standard feet in size, reaches downwards and upwards, unsurveyable, fading into the regions of Immensity and of Eternity. Life everywhere, as woven on that stupendous ever-marvellous ‘Loom of Time,’ may be said to fashion itself of a woof of light indeed, yet on a warp of mystic darkness: only He that created it can understand it. As to this Diderot, had we once got so far that we could, in the faintest degree, personate him; take upon ourselves his character and his environment of circumstances, and act his Life over again, in that small PrivateTheatre of ours (under our own Hat), with moderate illusiveness and histrionic effect,—that were what, in conformity with common speech, we should name understanding him, and could be abundantly content with. In his manner of appearance before the world, Diderot has been, perhaps to an extreme degree, unfortunate. His literary productions were invariably dashed off in hottest haste, and left generally, on the waste of Accident, with an ostrich-like indifference. He had to live, in France, in the sour days of a Journal de Trevoux; of a suspicious, decaying Sorbonne. He was too poor to set foreign presses, at Kehl or elsewhere, in motion; too headlong and quick of temper to seek help from those that could: thus must he, if his pen was not to lie idle, write much of which there was no publishing. His Papers accordingly are found flying about, like Sibyl’s leaves, in all corners of the world: for many years no tolerable Collection of his Writings was attempted; to this day there is none that in any sense can be called perfect. Two spurious, surreptitious Amsterdam Editions, ‘or rather formless, blundering Agglomerations,’ were all that the world saw during his life. Diderot did not hear of these for several years, and then only, it

diderot 227 is said, ‘with peals of laughter,’ and no other practical step whatever. Of the four that have since been printed (or reprinted, for Naigeon’s, of 1798, is the great original), no one so much as pretends either to be complete, or selected on any system. Brière’s, the latest, of which alone we have much personal knowledge, is a well-printed book, perhaps better worth buying than any of the others; yet without arrangement, without coherence, purport; often lamentably in need of commentary; on the whole, in reference to the wants and specialities of this time, as good as unedited. Brière seems, indeed, to have hired some person, or thing, to play the part of Editor; or rather more things than one, for they sign themselves Editors in the plural number; and from time to time, throughout the work, some asterisk attracts us to the bottom of the leaf, and to some printed matter subscribed ‘Edits.’: but unhappily the journey is for most part in vain; in the course of a volume or two, we learn too well that nothing is to be gained there; that the Note, whatever it professedly treat of, will, in strict logical speech, mean only as much as to say: ‘Reader! thou perceivest that we Editors, to the number of at least two, are alive, and if we had any information would impart it to thee.—Edits.’ For the rest, these ‘Edits.’ are polite people; and, with this uncertainty (as to their being persons or things) clearly before them, continue, to all appearance, in moderately good spirits. One service they, or Brière for them (if, indeed, Brière is not himself they, as we sometimes surmise), have accomplished for us: sought out and printed the long-looked-for, long-lost Life of Diderot by Naigeon. The lovers of biography had for years sorrowed over this concealed Manuscript, with a wistfulness from which hope had nigh fled. A certain Naigeon, the beloved disciple of Diderot, had (if his own word, in his own editorial Preface, was to be credited) written a Life of him; and, alas! whither was it now vanished? Surely all that was dark in Denis the Fatalist had there been illuminated; nay, was there not, probably, a glorious ‘Light-Street’ carried through that whole Literary Eighteenth Century; and Diderot, long belauded as ‘the most encyclopedical head that perhaps ever existed,’ was now to show himself as such, in—the new Practical Encyclopædia, philosophic, economic, speculative, digestive, of Life, in three score and ten Years, or Volumes? Diderot too was known as the vividest, noblest talker of his time: considering all that Boswell, with his slender opportunities, had made of Johnson, what was there we had not a right to expect! By Brière’s endeavour, as we said, the concealed Manuscript of Naigeon now lies, as published Volume, on this desk. Alas! a written life, too like many an acted life, where hope is one thing, fulfilment quite another! Perhaps, indeed, of all biographies ever put together by the hand of man, this of Naigeon’s is the most

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uninteresting. Foolish Naigeon! We wanted to see and know how it stood with the bodily man, the clothed, boarded, bedded, working and warfaring Denis Diderot, in that Paris of his; how he looked and lived, what he did, what he said: had the foolish Biographer so much as told us what colour his stockings were! Of all this, beyond a date or two, not a syllable, not a hint; nothing but a dull, sulky, snuffling, droning, interminable lecture on Atheistic Philosophy; how Diderot came upon Atheism, how he taught it, how true it is, how inexpressibly important. Singular enough, the zeal of the devil’s house hath eaten Naigeon up. A man of coarse, mechanical, perhaps intrinsically rather feeble intellect; and then, with the vehemence of some pulpit-drumming ‘Gowkthrapple,’ or ‘precious Mr. Jabesh Rentowel,’—only that his kirk is of the other complexion! Yet must he too see himself in a wholly backsliding world, where much theism and other scandal still rules; and many times Gowkthrapple Naigeon be tempted to weep by the streams of Babel. Withal, however, he is wooden; thoroughly mechanical, as if Vaucanson himself had made him; and that singularly tempers his fury.—Let the reader, finally, admire the bounteous produce of this Earth, and how one element bears nothing but the other matches it: here have we not the truest odium theologicum, working quite demonologically, in a worshipper of the Everlasting Nothing! So much for Naigeon; what we looked for from him, and what we have got. Must Diderot then be given up to oblivion, or remembered not as Man, but merely as Philosophic-Atheistic Logic-Mill? Did not Diderot live, as well as think? An Amateur reporter in some of the Biographical Dictionaries, declares that he heard him talk one day, in nightgown and slippers, for the space of two hours, concerning earth, sea and air, with a fulgorous impetuosity almost beyond human, rising from height to height, and at length finish the climax by ‘dashing his nightcap against the wall.’ Most readers will admit this to be biography; we, alas, must say, it comprises nearly all about the Man Diderot that hitherto would abide with us. Here, however, comes ‘Paulin, Publishing-Bookseller,’ with a quite new contribution: a long series of Letters, extending over fifteen years; unhappily only love-letters, and from a married sexagenarian; yet still letters from his own hand. Amid these insipid floods of tendresse, sensibilité, and so forth, vapid, like longdecanted small-beer, many a curious biographic trait comes to light; indeed, we can hereby see more of the individual Diderot, and his environment, and method of procedure there, than by all the other books that have yet been published of him. Forgetting or conquering the species of nausea that such a business, on the first announcement of it, may occasion, and in many of the details of it cannot

diderot 229 but confirm, the biographic reader will find this well worth looking into. Nay, is it not something, of itself, to see that Spectacle of the Philosophe in Love, or, at least, zealously endeavouring to fancy himself so? For scientific purposes a considerable tedium, of ‘noble sentiment,’ and even worse things, can be undergone. How the most encyclopedical head that perhaps ever existed, now on the borders of his grand climacteric, and already provided with wife and child, comports himself in that trying circumstance of preternuptial (and, indeed, at such age, and with so many ‘indigestions,’ almost preternatural) devotion to the queens of this earth, may, by the curious in science, who have nerves for it, be here seen. There is besides a lively Memoir of him by Mademoiselle Diderot, though too brief, and not very true-looking. Finally, in one large Volume, his Dream of d’Alembert, greatly regretted and commented upon by Naigeon; which we could have done without. For its bulk, that little Memoir by Mademoiselle is the best of the whole. Unfortunately, indeed, as hinted, Mademoiselle, resolute of all things to be piquante, writes, or rather thinks, in a smart, antithetic manner, nowise the fittest for clearness or credibility: without suspicion of voluntary falsehood, there is no appearance that this is a camera-lucida picture, or a portrait drawn by legitimate rules of art. Such resolution to be piquant is the besetting sin of innumerable persons of both sexes, and wofully mars any use there might otherwise be in their writing or their speaking. It is, or was, the fault specially imputed to the French: in a woman and Frenchwoman, who besides has much to tell us, it must even be borne with. And now, from these diverse scattered materials, let us try how coherent a figure of Denis Diderot, and his earthly Pilgrimage and Performance, we can piece together. In the ancient Town of Langres, in the month of October, 1713, it begins. Fancy Langres, aloft on its hill-top, amid Roman ruins, nigh the sources of the Saone and of the Marne, with its coarse substantial houses, and fifteen thousand inhabitants, mostly engaged in knife-grinding; and one of the quickest, clearest, most volatile and susceptive little figures of that century, just landed in the World there. In this French Sheffield, Diderot’s Father was a Cutler, master of his craft; a much-respected and respect-worthy man; one of those ancient craftsmen (now, alas! nearly departed from the earth, and sought, with little effect, by idyllists, among the ‘Scottish peasantry,’ and elsewhere) who, in the school of practice, have learned not only skill of hand, but the far harder skill of head and of heart; whose whole knowledge and virtue, being by necessity a knowledge and virtue to do somewhat, is true, and has stood trial: humble modern patriarchs, brave, wise, simple; of worth rude, but unperverted, like genuine unwrought silver, native

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from the mine! Diderot loved his father, as he well might, and regrets on several occasions that he was painted in holiday clothes, and not in the workday costume of his trade, ‘with apron and grinder’s-wheel, and spectacles pushed up,’—even as he lived and laboured, and honestly made good for himself the small section of the Universe he pretended to occupy. A man of strictest veracity and integrity was this ancient master; of great insight and patient discretion, so that he was often chosen as umpire and adviser; of great humanity, so that one day crowds of poor were to ‘follow him with tears to his long home.’ An outspoken Langres neighbour gratified the now fatherless Philosopher with this saying—‘Ah, Monsieur Diderot, you are a famous man, but you will never be your father’s equal.’ Truly, of all the wonderful illustrious persons that come to view in the biographic part of these six-and-twenty Volumes, it is a question whether this old Langres Cutler is not the worthiest; to us no other suggests himself whose worth can be admitted, without lamentable pollutions and defacements to be deducted from it. The Mother also was a loving-hearted, just woman: so Diderot might account himself well-born; and it is a credit to the man that he always, were it in the circle of kings and empresses, gratefully did so. The Jesuits were his schoolmasters: at the age of twelve the encyclopedical head was ‘tonsured.’ He was quick in seizing, strong in remembering and arranging; otherwise flighty enough; fond of sport, and from time to time getting into trouble. One grand event, significant of all this, he has himself commemorated: his Daughter records it in these terms. ‘He had chanced to have a quarrel with his comrades: it had been serious enough to bring on him a sentence of exclusion from college on some day of public examination and distribution of prizes. The idea of passing this important time at home, and grieving his parents, was intolerable: he proceeded to the college-gate; the porter refused him admittance; he presses in while some crowd is entering, and sets off running at full speed; the porter gets at him with a sort of pike he carried, and wounds him in the side: the boy will not be driven back; arrives, takes the place that belonged to him: prizes of all sorts, for composition, for memory, for poetry, he obtains them all. No doubt he had deserved them; since even the resolution to punish him could not withstand the sense of justice in his superiors. Several volumes, a number of garlands had fallen to his lot; being too weak to carry them all, he put the garlands round his neck, and, with his arms full of books, returned home. His mother was at the door; and saw him coming through the public square in this equipment, and surrounded by his schoolfellows: one should be a mother to conceive what she must have felt. He was feasted, he was caressed: but next

diderot 231 Sunday, in dressing him for church, a considerable wound was found on him, of which he had not so much as thought of complaining.’ ‘One of the sweetest moments of my life,’ writes Diderot himself, of this same business, with a slight variation, ‘was more than thirty years ago, and I remember it like yesterday, when my Father saw me coming home from the college, with my arms full of prizes that I had carried off, and my shoulders with the garlands they had given me, which, being too big for my brow, had let my head slip through them. Noticing me at a distance, he threw down his work, hastened to the door to meet me, and could not help weeping. It is a fine sight, a true man and rigorous falling to weep!’

Mademoiselle, in her quick-sparkling way, informs us, nevertheless, that the school-victor, getting tired of pedagogic admonitions and inflictions, whereof there were many, said ‘one morning’ to his father, ‘that he meant to give up school!’—“Thou hadst rather be a cutler, then?”—“With all my heart.”—They handed him an apron, and he placed himself beside his father. He spoiled whatever he laid hands on, penknives, whittles, blades of all kinds. It went on for four or five days; at the end of which he rose, proceeded to his room, got his books there, and returned to college,—and having, it would appear, in this simple manner sown his college wild-oats, never stirred from it again. To the Reverend Fathers, it seemed that Denis would make an excellent Jesuit; wherefore they set about coaxing and courting, with intent to crimp him. Here, in some minds, a certain comfortable reflection on the diabolic cunning and assiduity of these Holy Fathers, now happily all dissolved and expelled, will suggest itself. Along with which may another melancholy reflection no less be in place: namely, that these Devil-serving Jesuits should have shown a skill and zeal in their teaching vocation, such as no Heaven-serving body, of what complexion soever, anywhere on our earth now exhibits. To decipher the talent of a young vague Capability, who must one day be a man and a Reality; to take him by the hand, and train him to a spiritual trade, and set him up in it, with tools, shop, and good-will, were doing him in most cases an unspeakable service,—on this one proviso, it is true, that the trade be a just and honest one; in which proviso surely there should lie no hindrance to such service, but rather a help. Nay, could many a poor Dermody, Hazlitt, Heron, Derrick, and such like, have been trained to be a good Jesuit, were it greatly worse than to have lived painfully as a bad Nothing-at-all? But indeed, as was said, the Jesuits are dissolved; and Corporations of all sorts have perished (from corpulence); and now, instead of the seven corporate selfish spirits, we have the four-and-twenty millions of discorporate selfish; and the rule, Man, mind thyself, makes a jumble

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and a scramble, and crushing press (with dead-pressed figures, and dismembered limbs enough); into whose dark chaotic depths (for human Life is ever unfathomable) one shudders to look. Loneliest of all, weakest and worst-bested, in that world-scramble, is the extraordinary figure known in these times as Man of Letters! It appears to be indubitable that this state of matters will alter and improve itself,—in a century or two. But to return: ‘The Jesuits,’ thus sparkles Mademoiselle, ‘employed the temptation, which is always so seductive, of travelling and of liberty; they persuaded the youth to quit his home, and set forth with a Jesuit, to whom he was attached. Denis had a friend, a cousin of his own age; he entrusted his secret to him, wishing that he should accompany them. But the cousin, a tamer and discreeter personage, discovered the whole project to the father; the day of departure, the hour, all was betrayed. My grandfather kept the strictest silence; but before going to sleep he carried off the keys of the street-door; and at midnight, hearing his son descend, he presented himself before him, with the question, “Whither bound, at such an hour?” “To Paris,” replied the young man, “where I am to join the Jesuits.”—“That will not be to-night; but your desires shall be fulfilled: let us in the first place go to sleep.” ‘Next morning his father engaged two places in the public conveyance, and carried him to Paris, to the College d’Harcourt. He settled the terms of his little establishment, and bade his son good-b’ye. But the worthy man loved his child too well to leave him without being quite satisfied about his situation: he had the constancy to stay a fortnight longer, killing the time, and dying of tedium, in an inn, without seeing the sole object he was delaying for. At the end, he proceeded to the College; and my father has often told me that this proof of tenderness would have made him go to the end of the world, if the old man had required it. “Friend,” said he, “I am come to know if your health keeps good; if you are content with your superiors, with your diet, with others and with yourself. If you are not well, if you are not happy, we will go back again to your mother. If you like better to remain here, I have but to speak a word with you, to embrace you and give you my blessing.” The youth assured him that he was perfectly content, that he liked his new abode very much. My grandfather then took leave of him, and went to the Principal, to know if he was satisfied with his pupil.’

On which side also the answer proving favourable, the worthy father returned home. Denis saw little more of him; never again residing under his roof, though for many years, and to the last, a proper intercourse was kept up; not, as appears, without a visit or two on the son’s part, and certainly with the most unwearied, prudent superintendence and assistance on the father’s. Indeed, it was a worthy family, that of the Diderots; and a fair degree of natural affection

diderot 233 must be numbered among the virtues of our Philosophe. Those scenes about rural Langres, and the old homely way of life there, as delineated fictitiously in the Entretien d’un Père avec ses Enfans, and now more fully, as matter of fact, in this just-published Correspondance, are of a most innocent, cheerful, peacefully-secluded character; more pleasing, we might almost say more poetical, than could elsewhere be gathered out of Diderot’s whole Writings. Denis was the eldest of the family, and much looked up to, with all his short-comings: there was a Brother, who became a clergyman; and a truehearted, sharpwitted Sister, who remained unmarried, and at times tried to live in partnership with this latter,—rather unsuccessfully. The Clergyman being a conscientious, even straight-laced man, and Denis such as we know, they had, naturally enough, their own difficulties to keep on brotherly terms; and indeed, at length, abandoned the task as hopeless. The Abbé stood rigorous by his Breviary, from time to time addressing solemn monitions to the lost Philosophe, who also went on his way. He is somewhat snarled at by the Denisian side of the house for this; but surely without ground: it was his virtue rather; at lowest his destiny. The true Priest who could, or should, look peaceably on an Encyclopédie is yet perhaps waited for in the world; and of all false things, is not a false Priest the falsest? Meanwhile Denis, at the College d’Harcourt, learns additional Greek and Mathematics, and quite loses taste for the Jesuit career. Mad pranks enough he played, we doubt not; followed by reprimands. He made several friends, however; got intimate with the Abbé Bernis, Poet at that time; afterwards Cardinal. ‘They used to dine together, for six sous a-piece, at the neighbouring Traiteur’s; and I have often heard him vaunt the gaiety of these repasts.’ ‘His studies being finished,’ continues Mademoiselle, ‘his father wrote to M. Clement de Ris, a Procureur at Paris, and his countryman, to take him as boarder, that he might study Jurisprudence and the Laws. He continued here two years; but the business of actes and inventaires had few charms for him. All the time he could steal from the officedesk was employed in prosecuting Latin and Greek, in which he thought himself still imperfect; Mathematics, which he to the last continued passionately fond of; Italian, English, &c. In the end he gave himself up so completely to his taste for letters, that M. Clement thought it right to inform his father how ill the youth was employing his time. My grandfather then expressly commissioned M. Clement to urge and constrain him to make choice of some profession, and once for all to become Doctor, Procureur, or Advocate. My father begged time to think of it; time was given. At the end of several months these proposals were again laid before him: he answered that the profession of Doctor did not please him, for he could not think of killing any body; that the Procu-

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reur business was too difficult to execute with delicacy; that he would willingly choose the profession of Advocate, were it not that he felt an invincible repugnance to occupy himself all his life with other people’s business. “But,” said M. Clement, “what will you be then?”—“On my word, nothing, nothing whatever (Ma foi, rien, mais rien du tout). I love study; I am very happy, very content, and want nothing else.”’

Here clearly is a youth of spirit, determined to take the world on the broadside, and eat thereof, and be filled. His decided turn, like that of so many others, is for the trade of sovereign prince, in one shape or other; unhappily, however, the capital and outfit to set it up is wanting. Under which circumstances, nothing remains but to instruct M. Clement de Ris that no board-wages will henceforth be paid, and the young sovereign may, at his earliest convenience, be turned out of doors. What Denis, perched aloft in his own hired attic, may have thought of it now, does not appear. The good old Father, in stopping his allowance, had reasonably enough insisted on one of two things: either that he should betake him to some intelligible method of existence, wherein all help should be furnished him; or else return home within the week. Neither of which could Denis think of doing. A similar demand continued to be reiterated for the next ten years, but always with the like none-effect. King Denis, in his furnished attic, with or without money to pay for it, was now living and reigning, like other kings, ‘by the grace of God;’ and could nowise resolve to abdicate. A sanguineous, vehement, volatile mortal; young, and in so wide an earth, it seemed to him next to impossible but he must find gold-mines there. He lived, while victual was to be got, taking no thought for the morrow. He had books, he had merry company, a whole piping and dancing Paris round him; he could teach Mathematics, he could turn himself so many ways; nay, might not he become a Mathematician one day; a glorified Savant, and strike the stars with his sublime head! Meanwhile he is like to be overtaken by one of the sharpest human calamities, ‘cleanness of teeth.’ ‘One Shrove Tuesday morning, he rises, gropes in his pocket; he has not wherewith to dine; will not trouble his friends, who have not invited him. This day, which in childhood he had so often passed in the middle of relations who adored him, becomes sadder by remembrance: he cannot work; he hopes to dissipate his melancholy by a walk; goes to the Invalides, to the Courts, to the Bibliothèque du Roi, to the Jardin des Plantes. You may drive away tedium; but you cannot give hunger the slip. He returns to his quarters; on entering he feels unwell; the landlady gives him a little toast and wine; he goes to bed. “That day,” he has often said to me, “I swore that, if ever I came to have anything,

diderot 235 I would never in my life refuse a poor man help, never condemn my fellow-creature to a day as painful.”’

That Diderot, during all this period, escaped starvation, is plain enough by the result; but how he specially accomplished that, and the other business of living, remains mostly left to conjecture. Mademoiselle, confined at any rate within narrow limits, continues as usual too intent on sparkling; is brillante and pétillante, rather than lucent and illuminating. How inferior, for seeing with, is your brightest train of fireworks to the humblest farthing candle! Who Diderot’s companions, friends, enemies, patrons were, what his way of life was, what the Paris he lived in and from his garret looked down on was, we learn only in hints, dislocated, enigmatic. It is in general to be impressed on us, that young Denis, as a sort of spiritual swashbuckler, who went about conquering Destiny, in light rapier-fence, by way of amusement; or at lowest, in reverses, gracefully insulting her with mock reverences,—lived and acted like no other man; all which being freely admitted, we ask, with small increase of knowledge, How he did act then? He gave lessons in Mathematics, we find; but with the princeliest indifference as to payment: ‘was his scholar lively, and prompt of conception, he sat by him teaching all day; did he chance on a blockhead, he returned not back. They paid him in books, in moveables, in linen, in money, or not at all; it was quite the same.’ Farther, he made Sermons, to order; as the Devil is said to quote Scripture: a Missionary bespoke half-a-dozen of him (of Denis, that is) for the Portuguese Colonies, and paid for them very handsomely at fifty crowns each. Once, a family Tutorship came in his way, with tolerable appointments, but likewise with incessant duties: at the end of three months, he waits upon the house-father with this abrupt communication: “I am come, Monsieur, to request you to seek a new tutor; I cannot remain with you any longer.”—“But, Monsieur Diderot, what is your grievance? Have you too little salary? I will double it. Are you ill-lodged? Choose your apartment. Is your table ill-served? Order your own dinner. All will be cheap to parting with you.”—“Monsieur, look at me: a citron is not so yellow as my face. I am making men of your children; but every day I am becoming a child with them. I feel a hundred times too rich and too well off in your house; yet I must leave it: the object of my wishes is not to live better, but to keep from dying.” Mademoiselle grants that, if sometimes ‘drunk with gaiety,’ he was often enough plunged in bitterness; but then a Newtonian problem, a fine thought, or any small godsend of that sort, would instantly cheer him again. The ‘gold mines’ had not yet come to light. Meanwhile, between him and starvation, we

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can still discern Langres covertly stretching out its hand. Of any Langres man, coming in his way, Denis frankly borrows; and the good old Father refuses not to pay. The Mother is still kinder, at least softer: she sends him direct help, as she can; not by the post, but by a serving-maid, who travelled these sixty leagues on foot; delivered him a small sum from his mother; and, without mentioning it, added all her own savings thereto. This Samaritan journey she performed three times. ‘I saw her some years ago,’ adds Mademoiselle, ‘she spoke of my father with tears; her whole desire was to see him again: sixty years’ service had impaired neither her sense nor her sensibility.’ It is granted also that his company was ‘sometimes good, sometimes indifferent, not to say bad.’ Indeed, putting all things together, we can easily fancy that the last sort was the preponderating. It seems probable that Denis, during these ten years of probation, walked chiefly in the subterranean shades of Rascaldom; now swilling from full Circe-goblets, now snuffing with haggard expectancy the hungry wind; always ‘sorely flamed on from the neighbouring hell.’ In some of his fictitious writings, a most intimate acquaintance with the nether-world of Polissons, Escrocs, Filles de Joie, Maroufles, Maquerelles, and their ways of doing, comes to light: among other things (as may be seen in Jacques le Fataliste, and elsewhere), a singular theoretic expertness in what is technically named ‘raising the wind;’ which miracle, indeed Denis himself is expressly (in this Mémoire) found once performing, and in a style to require legal cognizance, had not the worthy Father ‘sneered at the dupe, and paid.’ The dupe here was a proselytising Abbé, whom the dog glozed with professions of life-weariness and turning monk; which all evaporated, once the money was in his hands. On other occasions, it might turn out otherwise, and the gudgeonfisher hook some shark of prey. Literature, except in the way of Sermons for the Portuguese Colonies, or other the like small private dealings, had not yet opened her hospitable bosom to him. Epistles, precatory and amatory, for such as had more cash than grammar, he may have written; Catalogues also, Indexes, Advertisements, and, in these latter cases, even seen himself in print. But now he ventures forward, with bolder step, towards the interior mysteries, and begins producing Translations from the English. Literature, it is true, was then, as now, the universal free-hospital and Refuge for the Destitute, where all mortals, of what colour and kind soever, had liberty to live, or at least to die: nevertheless, for an enterprising man, its resources at that time were comparatively limited. Newspapers were few; Reporting existed not, still less the inferior branches, with their fixed rate per line: Packwood and Warren, much more Panckoucke and Colburn, as yet slum-

diderot 237 bered (the last century of their slumber) in the womb of Chaos; Fragmentary Panegyric-literature had not yet come into being, therefore could not be paid for. Talent wanted a free staple and workshop, where wages might be certain; and too often, like virtue, was praised and left starving. Lest the reader overrate the munificence of the literary cornucopia in France at this epoch, let us lead him into a small historical scene, that he may see with his own eyes. Diderot is the historian; the date too is many years later, when times, if anything, were mended: ‘I had given a poor devil a manuscript to copy. The time he had promised it at having expired, and my man not appearing, I grow uneasy; set off to hunt him out. I find him in a hole the size of my hand, almost without daylight, not the wretchedest tatter of serge to cover his walls; two straw-bottom chairs, a flock-bed, the coverlet chiselled with worms, without curtains; a trunk in a corner of the chimney, rags of all sorts hooked above it; a little white-iron lamp, with a bottle for pediment to it; on a deal shelf, a dozen of excellent books. I chatted with him three-quarters of an hour. My gentleman was naked as a worm’ (nu comme un ver: it was August); ‘lean, dingy, dry, yet serene, complaining of nothing, eating his junk of bread with appetite, and from time to time caressing his beloved, who reclined on that miserable truckle, taking up two-thirds of the room. If I had not known that happiness resides in the soul, my Epictetus of the Rue Hyacinthe might have taught it me.’

Notwithstanding all which, Denis, now in his twenty-ninth year, sees himself necessitated to fall desperately, and over head and ears, in love. It was a virtuous, pure attachment; his first of that sort, probably also his last. Readers who would see the business poetically delineated, and what talent Diderot had for such delineations, may read this Scene in the once-noted Drama of the Père de Famille. It is known that he drew from the life; and with few embellishments, which too, except in the French Theatre, do not beautify. Act I.—Scene VII. Saint-Albin. Father, you shall know all. Alas! how else can I move you?—The first time I ever saw her was at church. She was on her knees at the foot of the altar, beside an aged woman, whom I took for her mother. Ah father! what modesty, what charms! . . . . Her image followed me by day, haunted me by night, left me rest nowhere. I lost my cheerfulness, my health, my peace. I could not live without seeking to find her. . . . . She has changed me; I am no longer what I was. From the first moment, all shameful desires fade away from my soul; respect and admiration succeed them. Without rebuke

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or restraint on her part, perhaps before she had raised her eyes on me, I became timid; more so from day to day; and soon I felt as little free to attempt her virtue as her life. The Father. And who are these women? How do they live? Saint-Albin. Ah! if you knew it, unhappy as they are! Imagine that their toil begins before day, and often they have to continue it through the night. The mother spins on the wheel: hard, coarse cloth is between the soft small fingers of Sophie, and wounds them.* Her eyes, the brightest eyes in this world, are worn at the light of a lamp. She lives in a garret, within four bare walls; a wooden table, a couple of chairs, a truckle-bed, that is their furniture. O Heavens, when ye fashioned such a creature, was this the lot ye destined her! The Father. And how got you access? Speak me truth. Saint-Albin. It is incredible what obstacles I had, what I surmounted. Though now lodged there, under the same roof, I at first did not seek to see them: if we met on the stairs, coming up, going down, I saluted them respectfully. At night, when I came home (for all day I was supposed to be at my work), I would go knock gently at their door; ask them for the little services usual among neighbours,—as water, fire, light. By degrees they grew accustomed to me; rather took to me. I offered to serve them in little things; for instance, they disliked going out at night; I fetched and carried for them.’

The real truth here is, “I ordered a set of shirts from them; said I was a Churchlicenciate just bound for the Seminary of St. Nicolas,—and, above all, had the tongue of the old serpent.” But to skip much, and finish: ‘Yesterday I came as usual: Sophie was alone; she was sitting with her elbows on the table, her head leant on her hand; her work had fallen at her feet. I entered without her hearing me: she sighed. Tears escaped from between her fingers, and ran along her arms. For some time, of late, I had seen her sad. Why was she weeping? What was it that grieved her? Want it could no longer be; her labour and my attentions provided against that. Threatened by the only misfortune terrible to me, I did not hesitate: I threw myself at her knees. What was her surprise; Sophie, said I, you weep; what ails you? Do not hide your trouble from me: speak to me; oh, speak to me! She spoke not. Her tears continued flowing. Her eyes, where calmness no longer dwelt, but tears and anxiety, bent towards me, then turned away, then turned to me again. She said only, Poor Sergi! unhappy Sophie!—I had laid my face on her knees; I was wetting her apron with my tears.’

* The real trade appears to have been a ‘sempstress one in laces and linens;’ the poverty is somewhat exaggerated: otherwise the shadow may be faithful enough.

diderot 239 In a word, there is nothing for it but marriage. Old Diderot, joyous as he was to see his Son once more, started back in indignation and derision from such a proposal; and young Diderot had to return to Paris, and be forbid the beloved house, and fall sick, and come to the point of death, before the fair one’s scruples could be subdued. However, she sent to get news of him; ‘learnt that his room was a perfect dog-kennel, that he lay without nourishment, without attendance, wasted, sad: thereupon she took her resolution; mounted to him, promised to be his wife; and mother and daughter now became his nurses. So soon as he recovered, they went to Saint-Pierre, and were married at midnight (1744).’ It only remains to add, that if the Sophie whom he had wedded fell much short of this Sophie whom he delineates, the fault was less in her qualities than in his own unstable fancy: as in youth she was ‘tall, beautiful, pious, and wise,’ so through a long life she seems to have approved herself a woman of courage, discretion, faithful affection; far too good a wife for such a husband. ‘My father was of too jealous a character to let my mother continue a traffic, which obliged her to receive strangers and treat with them: he begged her therefore to give up that business; she was very loth to consent; poverty did not alarm her on her own account, but her mother was old, unlikely to remain with her long, and the fear of not being able to provide for all her wants was afflicting: nevertheless, persuading herself that this sacrifice was for her husband’s happiness, she made it. A charwoman looked in daily, to sweep their little lodging, and fetch provisions for the day; my mother managed all the rest. Often when my father dined or supped out, she would dine or sup on bread; and took a great pleasure in the thought that, next day, she could double her little ordinary for him. Coffee was too considerable a luxury for a household of this sort: but she could not think of his wanting it, and every day gave him six sous to go and have his cup, at the Café de la Régence, and see the chess-playing there. ‘It was now that he translated the History of Greece in three volumes’ (by the English Stanyan); ‘he sold it for a hundred crowns. This sum brought a sort of supply into the house. * * * ‘My mother had been brought to bed of a daughter: she was now big a second time. In spite of her precautions, solitary life, and the pains she had taken to pass off her husband as her brother, his family, in the seclusion of their province, learnt that he was living with two women. Directly the birth, the morals, the character of my mother became objects of the blackest calumny. He foresaw that discussions by letter would be endless: he found it simpler to put his wife into the stage-coach, and send her to his parents. She had just been delivered of a son; he announced this event to his father, and the departure of my mother. “She set out yesterday,” said he; “she will be with you in three days. You will say

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to her what shall please you, and send her back when you are tired of her.” Singular as this sort of explanation was, they determined, in any case, on sending my father’s sister to receive her. Their first welcome was more than cold: the evening grew less painful to her; but next morning betimes she went in to her father-in-law; treated him as if he had been her own father; her respect and her caresses charmed the good, sensible old man. Coming down stairs, she began working; refused nothing that could please a family whom she was not afraid of, and wished to be loved by. Her conduct was the only excuse she gave for her husband’s choice: her appearance had prepossessed them in her favour; her simplicity, her piety, her talents for household economy secured her their tenderness; they promised her that my father’s disinheritment should be revoked. They kept her three months; and sent her back loaded with whatever they could think would be useful or agreeable to her.’

All this is beautiful, told with a graceful simplicity; the beautiful, real-ideal prose-idyl of a Literary Life: but, alas, in the music of your prose-idyl there lurks ever an accursed dissonance (or the players make one); where men are, there will be mischief. ‘This journey,’ writes Mademoiselle, ‘cost my mother many tears.’ What will the reader say when he finds that Monsieur Diderot has, in the interim, taken up with a certain Madame de Puisieux; and welcomes his brave Wife (worthy to have been a true man’s) with a heart and bosom henceforth estranged from her! Madame Diderot ‘made two journeys to Langres, and both were fatal to her peace.’ This affair of the Puisieux, for whom he despicably enough not only burned, but toiled and made money, kept him busy for some ten years; till at length, finding that she played false, he gave her up; and minor miscellaneous flirtations seem to have succeeded. But, returning from her second journey, the much-enduring House-mother finds him in meridian glory with one Voland, the un-maiden Daughter of a ‘Financier’s Widow;’ to whom we owe this present preternuptial Correspondence; to whom indeed he mainly devoted himself for the rest of his life,—‘parting his time between his study and her;’ to his own Wife and household giving little save the trouble of cooking for him, and of painfully, with repressed or irrepressible discontent, keeping up some appearance of terms with him. Alas! alas! and his Puisieux seems to have been a hollow Mercenary (to whose scandalous soul he reckons obscenest of Books fit nutriment); and the Voland an elderly Spinster, with cœur sensible, cœur honnête, ame tendre et bonne! And then those old dinings on bread; the six sous spared for his cup of coffee! Foolish Diderot, scarcely pardonable Diderot! A hard saying is this, yet a true one: Scoundrelism signifies injustice, and should be left to scoundrels alone. For thy wronged Wife, whom thou hadst

diderot 241 sworn far other things to, ever in her afflictions (here so hostilely scanned and written of ), a true sympathy will awaken; and sorrow that the patient, or even impatient, endurances of such a woman should be matter of speculation and self-gratulation to such another. But looking out of doors now, from an indifferently-guided Household, which must have fallen shamefully in pieces, had not a wife been wiser and stronger than her husband,—we find the Philosophe making distinct way with the Bibliopolic world; and likely, in the end, to pick up a kind of living there. The Stanyan’s History of Greece; the other English-translated, nameless Medical Dictionary, are dropped by all editors as worthless: a like fate might, with little damage, have overtaken the Essai sur le Mérite et la Vertu, rendered or redacted out of Shaftesbury’s Characteristics. In which redaction, with its Notes, of anxious Orthodoxy, and bottomless Falsehood looking through it, we individually have found nothing, save a confirmation of the old twice-repeated experience, That in Shaftesbury’s famed Book there lay, if any meaning, a meaning of such long-windedness, circumvolution and lubricity, that, like an eel, it must forever slip through our fingers, and leave us alone among the gravel. One reason may partly be, that Shaftesbury was not only a Sceptic but an Amateur Sceptic; which sort a darker, more earnest, have long since swallowed and abolished. The meaning of a delicate, perfumed, gentlemanly individual standing there, in that war of Titans (hill meeting hill with all its woods), and putting out hand to it—with a pair of tweezers? However, our Denis has now emerged from the intermediate Hades of Translatorship into the Heaven of perfected Authorship; empties his commonplace book of Pensées Philosophiques (it is said in the space of four days); writes his Metaphysico-Baconian phantasmagories on the Interprétation de la Nature (an endless business to ‘interpret’); and casts the money-produce of both into the lap of his Scarlet-woman Puisieux. Then forthwith, for the same object, in a shameful fortnight, puts together the beastliest of all past, present, or future dull Novels; a difficult feat, unhappily not an impossible one. If any mortal creature, even a Reviewer, be again compelled to glance into that Book, let him bathe himself in running water, put on change of raiment, and be unclean until the even. As yet the Metaphysico-Atheistic Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets, and Lettre sur les Aveugles, which brings glory and a three months’ lodging in the Castle of Vincennes, are at years distance in the back-ground. But already by his gilded tongue, growing repute, and sanguine projecting temper, he has persuaded Booksellers to pay off the Abbé Gua, with his lean Version of Chambers’s Dictionary of Arts, and convert it into an Encyclopédie, with himself and

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D’Alembert for Editors; and is henceforth (from the year of grace 1751) a duly dis-indentured Man of Letters, an indisputable and more and more conspicuous member of that surprising guild. Literature, ever since its appearance in our European world, especially since it emerged out of Cloisters into the open Market-place, and endeavoured to make itself room, and gain a subsistence there, has offered the strangest phases, and consciously or unconsciously done the strangest work. Wonderful Ark of the Deluge, where so much that is precious, nay priceless to mankind, floats carelessly onwards through the Chaos of distracted Times,—if so be it may one day find an Ararat to rest on, and see the waters abate! The History of Literature, especially for the last two centuries, is our proper Church History; the other Church, during that time, having more and more decayed from its old functions and influence, and ceased to have a history. And now, to look only at the outside of the matter, think of the Tassos and older or later Racines, struggling to raise their office from its pristine abasement of court-jester; and teach and elevate the World, in conjunction with that other quite heteroclite task of solacing and glorifying some Pullus Jovis, in plush cloak and other gilt or golden kingtackle, that they in the interim might live thereby! Consider the Shakspeares and Molières, plying a like trade, but on a double material; glad of any royal or noble patronage, but eliciting, as their surer stay, some fractional contribution from the thick-skinned, many-pocketed million. Saumaises, now bully-fighting ‘for a hundred gold Jacobuses,’ now closeted with Queen Christinas, who blow the fire with their own queenly mouth, to make a pedant’s breakfast; anon cast forth (being scouted and confuted), and dying of heartbreak, coupled with henpeck. Then the Laws of Copyright, the Quarrels of Authors, the Calamities of Authors; the Heynes dining on boiled peasecods, the Jean Pauls on water; the Johnsons bedded and boarded on fourpence-halfpenny a-day. Lastly, the unutterable confusion worse confounded of our present Periodical existence; when, among other phenomena, a young Fourth Estate (whom all the three elder may try if they can hold) is seen sprawling and staggering tumultuously through the world; as yet but a huge, raw-boned lean calf; fast growing, however, to be a Pharaoh’s lean-cow,—of whom let the fat-kine beware! All this of the mere exterior, or dwelling-place of Literature, not yet glancing at the internal, at the Doctrines emitted or striven after, will the future Eusebius and Mosheim have to record; and (in some small degree) explain to us what it means. Unfathomable is its meaning: Life, mankind’s Life, ever from its unfathomable fountains, rolls wondrous on, another though the same; in Literature too, the seeing eye will distinguish Apostles of the Gentiles, Proto- and Deutero-martyrs; still less

diderot 243 will the Simon Magus, or Apollonius with the golden thigh be wanting. But all now is on an infinitely wider scale; the elements of it all swim far-scattered, and still only striving towards union;—whereby, indeed, it happens that to the most, under this new figure, they are unrecognisable. French Literature, in Diderot’s time, presents itself in a certain state of culmination, where causes long prepared are rapidly becoming effects; and was doubtless in one of its more notable epochs. Under the Economic aspect, in France, as in England, this was the Age of Booksellers; when, as a Dodsley and Miller could risk capital in an English Dictionary, a Lebreton and Briasson could become purveyors and commissariat officers for a French Encyclopédie. The world forever loves Knowledge, and would part with its last sixpence in payment thereof: this your Dodsleys and Lebretons well saw; moreover they could act on it, for as yet Puffery was not. Alas, offences must come; Puffery from the first was inevitable: woe to them, nevertheless, by whom it did come! Meanwhile, as we said, it slept in Chaos; the Word of man and tradesman was still partially credible to man. Booksellers were therefore a possible, were even a necessary class of mortals, though a strangely anomalous one; had they kept from lying, or lied with any sort of moderation, the anomaly might have lasted still longer. For the present, they managed in Paris as elsewhere: the Timberheaded could perceive that for Thought the world would give money; farther, by mere shopkeeper cunning, that true Thought, as in the end sure to be recognised, and by nature infinitely more durable, was better to deal in than false; farther, by credible tradition of public consent, that such and such had the talent of furnishing true Thought (say rather truer, as the more correct word): on this hint the Timber-headed spake and bargained. Nay, let us say he bargained, and worked, for most part, with industrious assiduity, with patience, suitable prudence; nay, sometimes with touches of generosity and magnanimity, beautifully irradiating the circumambient mass of greed and dulness. For the rest, the two high contracting parties roughed it out as they could; so that if Booksellers, in their back parlour Valhalla, drank wine out of the sculls of Authors (as they were fabled to do), Authors, in the front-apartments, from time to time, gave them a Rowland for their Oliver: a Johnson can knock his Osborne on the head, like any other Bull of Bashan; a Diderot commands his corpulent Panckouke to “leave the room and go to the devil: allez au diable, sortez de chez moi!” Under the internal or Doctrinal aspect, again, French Literature, we can see, knew far better what it was about than English. That fable, indeed, first set afloat by some Trevoux Journalist of the period, and which has floated foolishly enough into every European ear since then, of there being an Association

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specially organized for the destruction of government, religion, society, civility (not to speak of tithes, rents, life and property), all over the world; which hell-serving Association met at the Baron d’Holbach’s, there had its blue-light sederunts, and published Transactions legible to all,—was and remains nothing but a fable. Minute-books, president’s hammer, ballot-box, punch-bowl of such Pandemonium have not been produced to the world. The sect of Philosophes existed at Paris, but as other sects do; held together by loosest, informal, unrecognised ties; within which every one, no doubt, followed his own natural objects, of proselytism, of glory, of getting a livelihood. Meanwhile, whether in constituted association or not, French Philosophy resided in the persons of the French Philosophes; and, as a mighty deep-struggling Force, was at work there. Deep-struggling, irrepressible; the subterranean fire which long heaved unquietly, and shook all things with an ominous motion, was here, we can say, forming itself a decided spiracle;—which, by and by, as French Revolution, became that volcano-crater, world-famous, world-appalling, world-maddening, as yet very far from closed! Fontenelle said, he wished he could live sixty years longer, and see what that universal infidelity, depravity, and dissolution of all ties would turn to. In three-score years, Fontenelle might have seen strange things; but not the end of the phenomenon perhaps in three hundred. Why France became such a volcano-crater, what specialties there were in the French national character, and political, moral, intellectual condition, by virtue whereof French Philosophy there and not elsewhere, then and not sooner or later, evolved itself,—is an inquiry that has been often put, and cheerfully answered; the true answer of which might lead us far. Still deeper than this Whence were the question of Whither;—with which, also, we intermeddle not here. Enough for us to understand that there verily a Scene of Universal History is being enacted, a little living time-picture in the bosom of eternity;—and, with the feeling due in that case, to ask not so much Why it is, as What it is. Leaving priorities and posteriorities aside, and cause-and-effect to adjust itself elsewhere, conceive so many vivid spirits thrown together into the Europe, into the Paris of that day, and see how they demean themselves, what they work out and attain there. As the mystical enjoyment of an object goes infinitely farther than the intellectual, and we can look at a picture with delight and profit after all that we can be taught about it is grown poor and wearisome; so here, and by far stronger reason, these light Letters of Diderot to the Voland, again unveiling and showing Parisian Life, are worth more to us than many a heavy tome laboriously struggling to explain it. True, we have seen the picture, that same Parisian life-picture, ten times already; but we can look at it an eleventh time; nay this, as we said, is

diderot 245 not a canvas-picture, but a life-picture, of whose significance there is no end for us. Grudge not the elderly Spinster her existence, then; say not she has lived in vain. For what of History there is, in this preternuptial Correspondence, should we not endeavour to forgive and forget all else, the sensibilité itself ? The curtain which had fallen for almost a century is again drawn up; the scene is alive and busy. Figures grown historical are here seen face to face, and again live before us. A strange theatre that of French Philosophism; a strange dramatic corps! Such another corps for brilliancy and levity, for gifts and vices, and all manner of sparkling inconsistencies, the world is not like to see again. There is Patriarch Voltaire, of all Frenchmen the most French; he whom the French had, as it were, long waited for, ‘to produce at once, in a single life, all that French genius most prized and most excelled in;’ of him and his wondrous ways, as of one known, we need say little. Instant enough to ‘crush the Abomination, écraser l’Infame,’ he has prosecuted his Jesuit-hunt over many lands and many centuries, in many ways, with an alacrity that has made him dangerous, and endangered him: he now sits at Ferney, withdrawn from the active toils of the chace; cheers on his hunting-dogs mostly from afar: Diderot, a beagle of the first vehemence, he has rather to restrain. That all extant and possible Theology be abolished, will not content the fell Denis, as surely it might have done; the Patriarch must address him a friendly admonition on his Atheism, and make him eat it again. D’Alembert too we may consider as one known; of all the Philosophe fraternity, him who in speech and conduct agrees best with our English notions; an independent, patient, prudent man; of great faculty, especially of great clearness and method; famous in Mathematics; no less so, to the wonder of some, in the intellectual provinces of Literature. A foolish wonder; as if the Thinker could think only on one thing, and not on any thing he had a call towards. D’Alembert’s Mélanges, as the impress of a genuine spirit, in peculiar position and probation, have still instruction for us, both of head and heart. The man lives retired here, in questionable seclusion with his Espinasse; incurs the suspicion of apostacy, because in the Encyclopédie he saw no Evangel and celestial Revelation, but only a huge Folio Dictionary; and would not venture life and limb on it, without a ‘consideration.’ Sad was it to Diderot to see his fellow-voyager make for port, and disregard signals, when the sea-krakens rose round him! They did not quarrel; were always friendly when they met, but latterly met only at the rate of ‘once in the two years.’ D’Alembert died when Diderot was on his deathbed: “My friend,” said the latter to the news-bringer, “a great light is gone out.” Hovering in the distance, with woe-struck, minatory air, stern-beckoning, comes Rousseau. Poor Jean Jacques! Alternately deified, and cast to the dogs; a

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deep-minded, high-minded, even noble, yet wofully misarranged mortal, with all misformations of Nature intensated to the verge of madness by unfavourable Fortune. A lonely man; his life a long soliloquy! The wandering Tiresias of the time;—in whom, however, did lie prophetic meaning, such as none of the others offer. Whereby indeed it might partly be that the world went to such extremes about him; that, long after his departure, we have seen one whole nation worship him, and a Burke, in the name of another, class him with the offscourings of the earth. His true character, with its lofty aspirings and poor performings; and how the spirit of the man worked so wildly, like celestial fire in a thick dark element of chaos, and shot forth ethereal radiance, all-piercing lightning, yet could not illuminate, was quenched and did not conquer: this, with what lies in it, may now be pretty accurately appreciated. Let his history teach all whom it concerns, to ‘harden themselves against the ills which Mother Nature will try them with;’ to seek within their own soul what the world must forever deny them; and say composedly to the Prince of the Power of this lower Earth and Air: Go thou thy way; I go mine! Rousseau and Diderot were early friends: who has forgotten how Jean Jacques walked to the Castle of Vincennes, where Denis (for heretical Metaphysics, and irreverence to the Strumpetocracy) languishes in durance; and devised his first Literary Paradox on the road thither? Their Quarrel, which, as a fashionable hero of the time complains, occupied all Paris, is likewise famous enough. The reader recollects that heroical epistle of Diderot to Grimm on that occasion, and the sentence: ‘Oh, my friend, let us continue virtuous, for the state of those who have ceased to be so makes me shudder.’ But is the reader aware what the fault of him ‘who had ceased to be so’ was? A series of ravelments and squabbling grudges, ‘which,’ says Mademoiselle with much simplicity, ‘the Devil himself could not understand.’ Alas, the Devil well understood it, and Tyrant Grimm too did, who had the ear of Diderot, and poured into it his own unjust, almost abominable spleen. Clean paper need not be soiled with a foul story, where the main actor is only ‘Tyran le Blanc;’ enough to know that the continually virtuous Tyrant found Diderot ‘extremely impressionable;’ so poor Jean Jacques must go his ways (with both the scath and the scorn), and among his many woes bear this also. Diderot is not blameable; pitiable rather; for who would be a pipe, which not Fortune only, but any Sycophant may play tunes on? Of this same Tyrant Grimm, desiring to speak peaceably, we shall say little. The man himself is less remarkable than his fortune. Changed times indeed, since the thread-bare German Bursch quitted Ratisbon, with the sound of catcalls in his ears, the condemned ‘Tragedy, Banise,’ in his pocket; and fled south-

diderot 247 ward, on a thin travelling-tutorship;—since Rousseau met you, Herr Grimm, ‘a young man described as seeking a situation, and whose appearance indicated the pressing necessity he was in of soon finding one!’ Of a truth, you have flourished since then, Herr Grimm: his introductions of you to Diderot, to Holbach, to the black-locked D’Epinay, where not only you are wormed in, but he is wormed out, have turned to somewhat; the Thread-bare has become well-napped, and got ruffles and jewel-rings, and walks abroad in sword and bag-wig, and lackers his brass countenance with rouge, and so (as Tyran le Blanc) recommends himself to the fair; and writes Parisian Philosophe-gossip to the Hyperborean Kings, and his ‘Grimm’s Leaves,’ copied ‘to the number of twenty,’ are bread of life to many; and cringes here, and domineers there; and lives at his ease in the Creation, in an effective tendresse with the D’Epinay, husband or custom of the country not objecting!—Poor Börne, the new German Flying-Sansculotte, feels his mouth water, at Paris, over these flesh-pots of Grimm; reflecting with what heart he too could write ‘Leaves,’ and be fed thereby. Börne, my friend, those days are done! While Northern Courts were a ‘Lunar Versailles,’ it was well to have an Uriel stationed in their Sun there; but of all spots in this Universe (hardly excepting Tophet) Paris now is the one we at court could best dispense with news from: never more, in these centuries, will a Grimm be missioned thither; never a ‘Leaf of Börne’ be blown court-wards by any wind. As for the Grimm, we can see that he was a man made to rise in the world: a fair, even handsome outfit of talent, wholly marketable; skill in music, and the like, encyclopedical readiness in all ephemera; saloon-wit, a trenchant, unhesitating head; above all, a heart ever in the right place,—in the market-place, namely, and marked ‘for sale to the highest bidder.’ Really a methodical, adroit, managing man. By ‘hero-worship,’ and the cunning appliance of alternate sweet and sullen, he has brought Diderot to be his patient milk-cow, whom he can milk an Essay from, a Volume from, when he lists. Victorious Grimm! He even escaped those same ‘horrors of the French Revolution’ (with loss of his ruffles); and was seen at the Court of Gotha, sleek and well to live, within the memory of man. The world has heard of M. le Chevalier de Saint-Lambert; considerable in Literature, in Love and War. He is here again, singing the frostiest Pastorals; happily, however, only in the distance, and the jingle of his wires soon dies away. Of another Chevalier, worthy Jaucourt, be the name mentioned, and little more: he digs unweariedly, mole-wise, in the Encyclopedic field, catching what he can, and shuns the light. Then there is Helvetius, the well-fed Farmer-general, enlivening his sybaritic life with metaphysic paradoxes. His revelations, De l’Homme and De l’Esprit breathe the freest Philosophe-spirit, with Philanthropy

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and Sensibility enough: the greater is our astonishment to find him here so ardent a Preserver of the Game: 5

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‘This Madame de Nocé,’ writes Diderot, treating of the Bourbonne Hot-springs, ‘is a neighbour of Helvetius. She told us, the Philosopher was the unhappiest man in the world on his estates. He is surrounded there by neighbours and peasants who detest him. They break the windows of his mansion, plunder his grounds by night, cut his trees, throw down his walls, tear up his spiked paling. He dare not go to shoot a hare, without a train of people to guard him. You will ask me, how it has come to pass? By a boundless zeal for his game. M. Fagon, his predecessor, used to guard the grounds with two keepers and two guns. Helvetius has twenty-four, and cannot do it. These men have a small premium for every poacher they can catch; and there is no sort of mischief they will not cause to get more and more of these. Besides, they are themselves so many hired poachers. Again, the border of his woods was inhabited by a set of poor people, who had got huts there; he has caused all the huts to be swept away. It is these, and such acts of repeated tyranny, that have raised him enemies of all kinds; and the more insolent, says Madame de Nocé, as they have discovered that the worthy Philosopher is a coward. I would not have his fine estate of Voré as a present, had I to live there in these perpetual alarms. What profits he draws from that mode of management I know not: but he is alone there; he is hated,—he is in fear. Ah! how much wiser was our lady Geoffrin, when speaking of a lawsuit that tormented her, she said to me, “Get done with my lawsuit; they want money? I have it. Give them money. What better use can I make of my money than to buy peace with it?” In Helvetius’s place, I would have said, “They kill me a few hares and rabbits, let them be doing. These poor creatures have no shelter but my forest, let them stay there.” I should have reasoned like M. Fagon, and been adored like him.’

Alas! are not Helvetius’s preserves, at this hour, all broken up, and lying desecrated? Neither can the others, in what latitude and longitude soever, remain eternally impregnable. But if a Rome was once saved by geese, need we wonder that an England is lost by partridges? We are sons of Eve, who bartered Paradise for an apple. But to return to Paris and its Philosophe Church-militant. Here is a Marmontel, an active subaltern thereof, who fights in a small way, through the Mercure; and, in rose-pink romance-pictures, strives to celebrate the ‘moral sublime.’ An Abbé Morellet, busy with the Corn Laws, walks in at intervals, stooping, shrunk together, ‘as if to get nearer himself, pour être plus près de lui-même.’ The rogue Galiani alternates between Naples and Paris; Galiani, by good luck, has ‘forever settled the question of the Corn Laws;’ an idle fellow otherwise; a spiri-

diderot 249 tual Lazzarone; full of frolics, wanton quips, anti-jesuit gesta, and wild Italian humour; the sight of his swart, sharp face is the signal for Laughter,—in which, indeed, the Man himself has unhappily evaporated, leaving no result behind him. Of the Baron d’Holbach thus much may be said, that both at Paris and at Grandval he gives good dinners. His two or three score volumes of Atheistic Philosophism, which he published (at his own expense), may now be forgotten, and even forgiven. A purse open and deep, a heart kindly-disposed, quiet, sociable, or even friendly; these, with excellent wines, gain him a literary elevation, which no thinking faculty he had could have pretended to. An easy, laconic gentleman; of grave politeness; apt to lose temper at play; yet, on the whole, good-humoured, eupeptic and eupractic: there may he live and let live. Nor is heaven’s last gift to man wanting here; the natural sovereignty of women. Your Châtelets, Epinays, Espinasses, Geoffrins, Deffands, will play their part too; there shall, in all senses, be not only Philosophers, but Philosophesses. Strange enough is the figure these women make: good souls, it was a strange world for them. What with metaphysics and flirtation, system of nature, fashion of dress-caps, vanity, curiosity, jealousy, atheism, rheumatism, traités, bouts-rimés, noble-sentiments and rouge-pots,—the vehement female intellect sees itself sailing on a chaos, where a wiser might have wavered, if not foundered. For the rest (as an accurate observer has remarked), they become a sort of Lady-Presidents in that society; attain great influence; and, imparting as well as receiving, communicate to all that is done or said somewhat of their own peculiar tone. In a world so wide and multifarious, this little band of Philosophes, acting and speaking as they did, had a most various reception to expect; votes divided to the uttermost. The mass of mankind, busy enough with their own work, of course heeded them only when forced to do it; these, meanwhile, form the great neutral element, in which the battle has to fight itself; the two hosts, according to their several success, to recruit themselves. Of the Higher Classes, it appears, the small proportion not wholly occupied in eating and dressing, and therefore open to such a question, are in their favour,—strange as to us it may seem; the spectacle of a Church pulled down is, in stagnant times, amusing; nor do the generality, on either side, yet see whither ulteriorly it is tending. The Reading World, which was then more than now the intelligent, inquiring world, reads eagerly (as it will ever do) whatsoever skilful, sprightly, reasonable-looking word is written for it; enjoying, appropriating the same; perhaps without fixed judgment, or deep care of any kind. Careful enough, fixed enough, on the

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other hand, is the Jesuit Brotherhood; in these days sick unto death; but only the bitterer and angrier for that. Dangerous are the death-convulsions of an expiring Sorbonne, ever and anon filling Paris with agitation: it behoves your Philosophe to walk warily, and, in many a critical circumstance, to weep with the one cheek, and smile with the other. Nor is Literature itself wholly Philosophe: apart from the Jesuit regulars, in their Trevoux Journals, Sermons, Episcopal Charges, and other camps or casemates, a considerable Guerrilla, or Reviewer force (consisting, as usual, of smugglers, unemployed destitute persons, deserters who have been refused promotion, and other the like broken characters) has organized itself, and maintains a harassing bush-warfare: of these the chieftain is Fréron, once in tolerable repute with the world, had he not, carrying too high a head, struck his foot on stones, and stumbled. By the continual depreciating of talent grown at length undeniable, he has sunk low enough: Voltaire, in the Ecossaise, can bring him on the stage, and have him killed by laughter, under the name, sufficiently recognisable, of Wasp (in French, Frelon). Another Empecedor, still more hateful, is Palissot, who has written and got acted a Comedy of Les Philosophes, at which the Parisians, spite of its dulness, have also laughed. To laugh at us, the so meritorious us! Heard mankind ever the like? For poor Palissot, had he fallen into Philosophe hands, serious bodily tar-and-feathering might have been apprehended: as it was, they do what the pen, with its gall and copperas, can; invoke Heaven and Earth to witness the treatment of divine Philosophy;—with which view, in particular, friend Diderot seems to have composed his Rameau’s Nephew, wherein Palissot and others of his kidney are (figuratively speaking) mauled and mangled, and left not in dog’s likeness. So divided was the world, Literary, Courtly, Miscellaneous, on this matter: it was a confused anomalous time. Among its more notable anomalies may be reckoned the relations of French Philosophism to Foreign Crowned Heads. In Prussia there is a Philosophe King; in Russia a Philosophe Empress: the whole North swarms with kinglets and queenlets of the like temper. Nay, as we have seen, they entertain their special ambassador in Philosophedom, their lion’s-provider to furnish spiritual Philosophe-provender; and pay him well. The great Frederick, the great Catherine are as nursing-father and nursing-mother to this new Church of Antichrist; in all straits, ready with money, honourable royal asylum, help of every sort,—which, however, except in the money-shape, the wiser of our Philosophes are shy of receiving. Voltaire had tried it in the asylum-shape, and found it unsuitable; D’Alembert and Diderot decline repeating the experiment. What miracles are wrought by the arch-magician Time! Could these Fredericks,

diderot 251 Catherines, Josephs, have looked forward some three-score years; and beheld the Holy Alliance in conference at Laybach! But so goes the world: kings are not seraphic doctors, with gift of prescience, but only men, with common eyesight, participating in the influences of their generation; kings too, like all mortals, have a certain love of knowledge; still more infallibly, a certain desire of applause; a certain delight in mortifying one another. Thus what is persecuted here finds refuge there; and ever, one way or other, the New works itself out full-formed from under the Old; nay the Old, as in this instance, sits sedulously hatching a cockatrice that will one day devour it. No less anomalous, confused and contradictory is the relation of the Philosophes to their own Government. How, indeed, could it be otherwise, their relation to Society being still so undecided; and the Government, which might have endeavoured to adjust and preside over this, being itself in a state of anomaly, death-lethargy, and doting decrepitude? The true conduct and position for a French Sovereign towards French Literature, in that century, might have been, though perhaps of all things the most important, one of the most difficult to discover and accomplish. What chance was there that a thick-blooded Louis Quinze, from his Parc aux Cerfs, should discover it, should have the faintest inkling of it? His ‘peaceable soul’ was quite otherwise employed: Minister after Minister must consult his own several insight, his own whim, above all his own ease; and so the whole business, now when we look on it, comes out one of the most botched, piebald, inconsistent, lamentable and even ludicrous objects in the history of State-craft. Alas, necessity has no law: the statesman, without light, perhaps even without eyes, whom Destiny nevertheless constrains to ‘govern’ his nation, in a time of World-Downfal, what shall he do, but if so may be, collect the taxes, prevent, in some degree, murder and arson; and for the rest, wriggle hither and thither, return upon his steps, clout up old rents and open new,—and, on the whole, eat his victuals, and let the Devil govern it? Of the pass to which Statesmanship had come in respect of Philosophism, let this one fact be evidence instead of a thousand. M. de Malesherbes writes to warn Diderot that next day he will give orders to have all his papers seized.—Impossible! answers Diderot: juste ciel! how shall I sort them, where shall I hide them, within four-and-twenty hours?—Send them to me, answers M. de Malesherbes! Thither accordingly they go, under lock and seal; and the hungry catchpoles find nothing but empty drawers. The Encyclopédie was set forth first ‘with approbation and Privilège du Roi;’ next, it was stopped by Authority; next, the public murmuring, suffered to proceed; then again, positively for the last time, stopped,—and, no whit the

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less, printed, and written, and circulated, under thin disguises, some hundred and fifty printers working at it with open doors, all Paris knowing of it, only Authority winking hard. Choiseul, in his resolute way, had now shut the eyes of Authority, and kept them shut. Finally, to crown the whole matter, a copy of the prohibited Book lies in the King’s private library; and owes favour, and a withdrawal of the prohibition, to the foolishest accident: ‘One of Louis Fifteenth’s domestics told me,’ says Voltaire, ‘that once, the King his master supping, in private circle (en petite compagnie), at Trianon, the conversation turned first on the chace, and from this on gunpowder. Some one said that the best powder was made of sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal, in equal parts. The Duc de la Vallière, with better knowledge, maintained that for good powder there must be one part of sulphur, one of charcoal, with five of saltpetre, well filtered, well evaporated, well crystallized. ‘“It is pleasant,” said the Duc de Nivernois, “that we who daily amuse ourselves with killing partridges in the Park of Versailles, and sometimes with killing men, or getting ourselves killed, on the frontiers, should not know what that same work of killing is done with.” ‘“Alas! we are in the like case with all things in this world,” answered Madame de Pompadour; “I know not what the rouge I put upon my cheeks is made of; you would bring me to a nonplus if you asked how the silk hose I wear are manufactured.” “’Tis a pity,” said the Duc de la Vallière, “that his Majesty confiscated our Dictionnaires Encyclopédiques, which cost us our hundred pistoles; we should soon find the decision of all our questions there.” The King justified the act of confiscation; he had been informed that these twenty-one folio volumes, to be found lying on all ladies’ toilettes, were the most pernicious things in the world for the kingdom of France; he had resolved to look for himself if this were true, before suffering the book to circulate. Towards the end of the repast, he sends three of his valets to bring him a copy; they enter, struggling under seven volumes each. The article powder is turned up; the Duc de la Vallière is found to be right: and soon Madame de Pompadour learns the difference between the old rouge d’Espagne with which the ladies of Madrid coloured their cheeks, and the rouge des dames of Paris. She finds that the Greek and Roman ladies painted with a purple extracted from the murex, and that consequently our scarlet is the purple of the ancients; and that there is more purple in the rouge d’Espagne, and more cochineal in that of France. She learns how stockings are woven; the stocking-frame described there fills her with amazement. “Ah, what a glorious book!” cried she. “Sire, did you confiscate this magazine of all useful things, that you might have it wholly to yourself, then, and be the one learned man in your kingdom?” Each threw himself on the volumes, like the daughters of Lycomedes on the jewels of Ulysses; each found forthwith whatever he was seeking. Some who had

diderot 253 lawsuits were surprised to see the decision of them there. The King reads there all the rights of his crown. “Well, in truth” (mais vraiment), said he, “I know not why they said so much ill of the book.” “Ah, Sire,” said the Duc de Nivernois, “does not your Majesty see,” &c. &c.’

In such a confused world, under such unheard of circumstances, must friend Diderot ply his editorial labours. No sinecure is it! Penetrating into all subjects and sciences; waiting and rummaging in all libraries, laboratories; nay, for many years, fearlessly diving into all manner of workshops, unscrewing stocking looms, and even working thereon (that the department of Arts and Trades might be perfect); then seeking out contributors, and flattering them, quickening their laziness, getting payment for them; quarrelling with Bookseller and Printer; bearing all miscalculations, misfortunes, misdoings of so many fallible men (for there all at last lands) on his single back: surely this was enough, without having farther to do battle with the beagles of Office, perilously withstand them, expensively sop them, toilsomely elude them! Nevertheless, he perseveres, and will not but persevere;—less, perhaps, with the deliberate courage of a Man, who has compared result and outlay, than with the passionate obstinacy of a Woman who, having made up her mind, will shrink at no ladder of ropes, but ride with her lover, though all the four Elements gainsay it. At every new concussion from the Powers, he roars; say rather, shrieks, for there is a female shrillness in it; proclaiming, Murder! Robbery! Rape! invoking men and angels; meanwhile proceeds unweariedly with the printing. It is a hostile building up, not of the Holy Temple at Jerusalem, but of the Unholy one at Paris: thus must Diderot, like Ezra, come to strange extremities; and every workman works with his trowel in one hand, in the other his weapon of war; that so, in spite of all Tiglaths, the work go on, and the topstone of it be brought out with shouting. Shouting! Ah! what faint broken quaver is that in the shout; as of a man that shouted with the throat only, and inwardly was bowed down with dispiritment! It is Diderot’s faint broken quaver; he is sick and heavy of soul. Scandalous enough: the Goth, Lebreton, loving, as he says, his head better even than his profit, has for years gone privily at dead of night, to the finished Encyclopedic proof-sheets, and there, with nefarious pen, scratched out whatever to him seemed dangerous; filling up the gap as he could, or merely letting it fill itself up! Heaven and Earth! Not only are the finer Philosophe sallies mostly cut out,—but hereby has the work become a sunken, hitching, ungainly mass, little better than a monstrosity. Goth! Hun! sacrilegious Attila of the book-trade! Oh, surely for this treason the hottest of Dante’s Purgatory were too temper-

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ate. Infamous art thou, Lebreton, to all ages,—that read the Encyclopédie; and Philosophes not yet in swaddling-clothes shall gnash their teeth over thee, and spit upon thy memory.—Lebreton pockets both the abuse and the cash, and sleeps sound in a whole skin. The able Editor could never be said to get entirely the better of it while he lived. Now, however, it is time that, quitting generalities, we go in this fine autumn weather, to Holbach’s at Grandval, where the hardworked, but unwearied Encyclopedist, with plenty of ink and writing paper, is sure to be. Ever in the Holbach household, his arrival is a holiday; if a quarrel spring up, it is only because he will not come, or too soon goes away. A man of social talent, with such a tongue as Diderot’s, in a mansion where the only want to be guarded against was that of wit, could not be other than welcome. He composes Articles there, and walks, and dines, and plays cards, and talks; languishingly waits letters from his Voland, copiously writes to her. It is in these copious love-despatches that the whole matter is so graphically painted: we have an Asmodeus’ view of the interior life there, and live it over again with him. The Baroness in red silk, tempered with snow-white gauze, is beauty and grace itself; her old Mother is a perfect romp of fifteen, or younger; the house is lively with company: the Baron, as we said, speaks little, but to the purpose; is seen sometimes with his pipe, in dressing gown and red slippers; otherwise the best of landlords. Remarkable figures drop in: generals disabled at Quebec; fashionable gentlemen rusticating in the neighbourhood; Abbés, such as Galiani, Raynal, Morellet; perhaps Grimm and his Epinay; other Philosophes and Philosophesses. Guests too of less dignity, acting rather as butts than as bowmen; for it is the part of every one either to have wit, or to be the cause of having it. Among these latter, omitting many, there is one whom, for country’s sake, we must particularize; an ancient personage, named Hoop (Hope), whom they call Père Hoop; by birth a Scotchman. Hoop seems to be a sort of fixture at Grandval, not bowman, therefore butt; and is shot at for his lodging. A most shrivelled, wind-dried, dyspeptic, chill-shivering individual; Professor of Life-weariness; sits dozing there,—dozes there, however, with one eye open. He submits to be called Mummy, without a shrug; cowers over the fire, at the warmest corner. Yet is there a certain sardonic subacidity in Père Hoop; when he slowly unlocks his leathern jaw, we hear him with a sort of pleasure. Hoop has been in various countries and situations; in that croaking metallic voice of his, can tell a distinct story. Diderot apprehended he would one day hang himself: if so, what Museum now holds his remains? The Parent Hoops, it would seem, still dwelt in the city of Edinburgh; he, the second son, as Bourdeaux Merchant, having helped them

diderot 255 thither, out of some proud Manor-house no longer weather-tight. Can any ancient person of that city give us trace of such a man? It must be inquired into. One only of Father Hoop’s reminiscences we shall report, as the highest instance on record of a national virtue: At the battle of Prestonpans, a kinsman of Hoop’s, a gentleman with gold rings on his fingers, stands fighting and fencing for life with a rough Highlander; the Highlander, by some clever stroke, whisks the jewelled hand clear off, and then—picks it up from the ground, sticks it in his sporran for future leisure, and fights on! The force of Vertue* could no farther go. It cannot be uninteresting to the general reader to learn, that in the last days of October, in the year of grace 1770, Denis Diderot over-ate himself (as he was in the habit of doing), at Grandval; and had an obstinate ‘indigestion of bread.’ He writes to Grimm that it is the worst of all indigestions: to his fair Voland that it lay more than fifteen hours on his stomach, with a weight like to crush the life out of him; would neither remonter nor descendre; nor indeed stir a hairsbreadth for warm water, de quelque côté que je la (the warm water) prisse.

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Clysterium donare, Ensuita purgare! Such things, we grieve to say, are of frequent occurrence: the Holbachian table is all too plenteous; there are cooks too, we know, who boast of their diabolic ability to cause the patient, by successive intensations of their art, to eat with new and ever new appetite, till he explode on the spot. Diderot writes to his fair one, that his clothes will hardly button, that he is thus ‘stuffed,’ and thus; and so indigestion succeeds indigestion. Such Narratives fill the heart of sensibility with amazement; nor to the woes that chequer this imperfect, cacogastric state of existence, is the tear wanting. The society at Grandval cannot be accounted very dull: nevertheless let no man regretfully compare it with any neighbourhood he may have drawn by lot, in the present day; or even with any no-neighbourhood, if that be his affliction. The gaiety at Grandval was of the kind that could not last. Were it not that some Belief is left in Mankind, how could the sport of emitting Unbelief continue? On which ground, indeed, Swift, in his masterly argument ‘Against abolishing the Christian Religion,’ urges, not without pathos, that innumerable men of wit, enjoying a comfortable status by virtue of jokes on the Catechism, would hereby be left without pabulum, the staff of life cut away from their hand. The * Virtus (properly manliness, the chief duty of man) meant, in old Rome, power of fighting; means, in modern Rome, Connoisseurship; in Scotland, Thrift.—Ed.

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Holbachs were blind to this consideration; and joked away, as if it would last forever. So too with regard to Obscene Talk: where were the merit of a riotous Mother-in-law, saying and doing, in public, these never-imagined scandals, had not a cunningly-devised fable of Modesty been set afloat; were there not some remnants of Modesty still extant among the unphilosophic classes? The Samoeids (according to Travellers) have few double meanings; among stall cattle the witty effect of such is lost altogether. Be advised, then, foolish old woman! ‘Burn not thy bed’; the light of it will soon go out, and then?—Apart from the common household topics, which the ‘daily household epochs’ bring with them everywhere, two main elements, we regret to say, come to light in the conversation at Grandval; these, with a spicing of Noble-sentiment, are, unfortunately, Blasphemy and Bawdry. Whereby at this distance, the whole matter grows to look poor, and effete; and we can honestly rejoice that it all has been, and need not be again. But now, hastening back to Paris, friend Diderot finds proof-sheets enough on his desk, and notes, and invitations, and applications from distressed men of letters; nevertheless runs over, in the first place, to seek news from the Voland; will then see what is to be done. He writes much; talks and visits much: besides the Savans, Artists, spiritual Notabilities, domestic or migratory, of the period, he has a liberal allowance of unnotable Associates; especially a whole bevy of young or oldish, mostly rather spiteful Women; in whose gossip he is perfect. We hear the rustling of their silks, the clack of their pretty tongues, tittle-tattle ‘like their pattens when they walk;’ and the sound of it, fresh as yesterday, through this long vista of Time, has become significant, almost prophetic. Life could not hang heavy on Diderot’s hands: he is a vivid, open, all-embracing creature; could have found occupation anywhere; has occupation here forced on him, enough and to spare. ‘He had much to do, and did much of his own,’ says Mademoiselle; ‘yet three-fourths of his life were employed in helping whosoever had need of his purse, of his talents, of his management: his study, for the five and twenty years I knew it, was like a well-frequented shop, where, as one customer went, another came.’ He could not find in his heart to refuse any one. He has reconciled Brothers, sought out Tutorages, settled Lawsuits; solicited Pensions; advised, and refreshed hungry Authors, instructed ignorant ones: he has written advertisements for incipient helpless Grocers; he once wrote the dedication (to a pious Duc d’Orléans) of a lampoon against himself,—and so raised some five and twenty gold louis, for the famishing lampooner. For all these things, let not the light Diderot want his reward with us! Other reward, except from himself, he got none; but often the reverse; as in his little Drama, La Pièce et le Prologue,

diderot 257 may be seen humorously and good-humoredly set forth under his own hand. Indeed, his clients, by a vast majority, were of the scoundrel species; in any case, Denis knew well, that to expect gratitude, is to deserve ingratitude.—‘Rivière well contented’ (hear Mademoiselle) ‘now thanks my father, both for his services and his advices; sits chatting another quarter of an hour, and then takes leave; my father shows him down. As they are on the stairs, Rivière stops, turns round, and asks: “M. Diderot, are you acquainted with Natural History?”—“Why a little, I know an aloe from a sago; a pigeon from a colibri.”—“Do you know the history of the Formicaleo?”—“No”—“It is a little insect of great industry: it digs a hole in the ground like a reversed funnel; covers the top with fine light sand; entices foolish insects to it; takes them, sucks them, then says to them: M. Diderot, I have the honour to wish you good day.” My father stood laughing like to split at this adventure.’ Thus, amid labour and recreation; questionable Literature, unquestionable Loves; eating and digesting, better or worse; in gladness and vexation of spirit, in laughter ending in sighs, does Diderot pass his days. He has been hard toiled, but then well flattered, and is nothing of a hypochondriac. What little service renown can do him, may now be considered as done: he is in the centre of the literature, science, art, of his nation; not numbered among the Academical Forty, yet in his heterodox heart, entitled to be almost proud of the exclusion; successful in Criticism, successful in Philosophism, nay, highest of sublunary glories, successful in the Theatre; vanity may whisper, if she please, that, excepting the unattainable Voltaire alone, he is the first of Frenchmen. High heads are in correspondence with him the low-born; from Catherine the Empress to Philidor the Chess-player, he is in honoured relation with all manner of men; with scientific Buffons, Eulers, D’Alemberts; with artistic Falconnets, Vanloos, Riccobonis, Garricks. He was ambitious of being a Philosophe; and now the whole fast-growing sect of Philosophes look up to him as their head and mystagogue. To Denis Diderot, when he stept out of the Langres Diligence at the College d’Harcourt; or afterwards, when he walked in the subterranean shades of Rascaldom, with uneasy steps over the burning marle, a much smaller destiny would have seemed desirable. Within doors, again, matters stand rather disjointed, as surely they might well do: however, Madame Diderot is always true and assiduous; if one Daughter talk enthusiastically, and at length (though her father has written the Religieuse) die mad in a convent, the other, a quick, intelligent, graceful girl, is waxing into womanhood, and takes after the father’s Philosophism, leaving the mother’s Piety far enough aside. To which elements of mixed good and evil from without, add this so incalculably favourable one

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from within, that of all literary men Diderot is the least a self-listener; none of your puzzling, repenting, forecasting, earnest-bilious temperaments, but sanguineous-lymphatic every fibre of him, living lightly from hand to mouth, in a world mostly painted rose-colour. The Encyclopédie, after nigh thirty years of endeavour, to which only the Siege of Troy may offer some faint parallel, is finished. Scattered Compositions of all sorts, printed or manuscript, making many Volumes, lie also finished; the Philosophe has reaped no golden harvest from them. He is getting old; can live out of debt, but is still poor. Thinking to settle his daughter in marriage, he must resolve to sell his Library; money is not otherwise to be raised. Here, however, the Northern Cleopatra steps imperially forward; purchases his Library for its full value; gives him a handsome pension, as librarian to keep it for her; and pays him moreover fifty years thereof by advance in ready money. This we call imperial (in a world so necessitous as ours), though the whole munificence did not, we find, cost above three thousand pounds; a trifle to the Empress of all the Russias. In fact, it is about the sum your first-rate king eats, as board-wages, in one day; who, however, has seldom sufficient; not to speak of charitable overplus. In admiration of his Empress, the vivid Philosophe is now louder than ever; he even breaks forth into rather husky singing. Who shall blame him? The Northern Cleopatra (whom, in any case, he must regard with other eyes than we) has stretched out a generous, helping hand to him, where otherwise there was no help, but only hindrance and injury: all men will, and should, more or less, obey the proverb, to praise the fair as their own market goes in it. One of the last great scenes in Diderot’s Life, is his personal visit to this Benefactress. There is but one Letter from him with Petersburgh for date, and that of ominous brevity. The Philosophe was of open, unheedful, free-and-easy disposition; Prince and Polisson were singularly alike to him; it was ‘hail fellow well met,’ with every Son of Adam, be his clothes of one stuff or the other. Such a man could be no court-sycophant, was ill calculated to succeed at court. We can imagine that the Neva-colic, and the character of the Neva-water, was not the only thing hurtful to his nerves there. For King Denis, who had dictated such wonderful anti-regalities in the Abbé Raynal’s History;* and himself, in a * “But who dare stand for this?” would Diderot exclaim. “I will, I!” eagerly responded the Abbé. “Do but proceed.” (A la Mémoire de Diderot, by De Meister).—Was the following one of the passages? ‘Happily these perverse instructors’ of Kings ‘are chastised, sooner or later, by the ingratitude and contempt of their pupils. Happily, these pupils too, miserable in the bosom of grandeur, are tormented all their life by a deep ennui, which they cannot banish

diderot 259 moment of sibylism, emitted that surprising announcement, surpassing all yet uttered or utterable in the Tyrtæan way, how Ses mains (the freeman’s) ourderaient les entrailles du prêtre, Au défaut d’un cordon, pour étrangler les rois;

for such a one, the climate of the Neva must have had something oppressive in it. The entrailles du prêtre were, indeed, much at his service here, could he get clutch of them; but only for musical philosophe fiddle-strings; nowise for a cordon! Nevertheless, Cleopatra is an uncommon woman (or rather an uncommon man), and can put up with many things; and, in a gentle, skilful way, make the crooked straight. As her Philosophe presents himself in common apparel, she sends him a splendid court-suit; and as he can now enter in a civilized manner, she sees him often, confers with him largely: by happy accident, Grimm too at length arrives; and the winter passes without accident. Returning home in triumph, he can express himself contented, charmed with his reception; has mineral specimens, and all manner of hyperborean memorials for friends; unheard-of-things to tell; how he crossed the bottomless, half-thawed Dwina, with the water boiling up round his wheels, the ice bending like leather, yet crackling like mere ice,—and shuddered, and got through safe; how he was carried, coach and all, into the ferry-boat at Mittau, on thirty wild men’s backs, who floundered in the mud, and nigh broke his shoulder-blade; how he investigated Holland, and had conversed with Empresses, and High Mightinesses, and principalities and powers, and so seen, and conquered, for his own spiritual behoof, several of the Seven Wonders. But, alas! his health is broken; old age is knocking at the gate, like an importunate creditor, who has warrant for entering. The radiant, lightly-bounding soul is now getting all dim, and stiff, and heavy with sleep: Diderot too must adjust himself, for the hour draws nigh. These last years he passes retired and private, not idle or miserable. Philosophy or Philosophism has nowise lost its charm; whatsoever so much as calls itself Philosopher can interest him. Thus from their palaces. Happily, the religious prejudices, which have been planted in their souls, return on them to affright them. Happily, the mournful silence of their people teaches them, from time to time, the deep hatred that is borne them. Happily, they are too cowardly to despise that hatred. Happily (heureusement), after a life which no mortal, not even the meanest of their subjects, would accept, if he knew all its wretchedness, they find black inquietude, terror and despair, seated on the pillow of their death-bed (les noires inquiétudes, la terreur et le désespoir assis au chevet de leur lit de mort).’—Surely, ‘kings have poor times of it, to be run foul of by the like of thee!’

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poor Seneca, on occasion of some new Version of his Works, having come before the public, and been roughly dealt with, Diderot, with a long, last, concentrated effort, writes his Vie de Sénèque; struggling to make the hollow solid. Which, alas! after all his tinkering, still sounds hollow; and notable Seneca, so wistfully desirous to stand well with Truth, and yet not ill with Nero, is and remains only our perhaps niceliest-proportioned Half-and-half, the plausiblest Plausible on record; no great man, no true man, no man at all; yet how much lovelier than such,—as the mild-spoken, tolerating, charity-sermoning, immaculate Bishop Dogbolt, to some rude, self-helping, sharp-tongued Apostle Paul! Under which view, indeed, Seneca (though surely erroneously, for the origin of the thing was different) has been called, in this generation, ‘the father of all such as wear shovel-hats.’ The Vie de Sénèque, as we said, was Diderot’s last effort. It remains only to be added of him that he too died; a lingering but quiet death, which took place on the 30th of July, 1784. He once quotes from Montaigne the following, as Sceptic’s viaticum: ‘I plunge stupidly, head foremost, into this dumb Deep, which swallows me, and chokes me, in a moment,—full of insipidity and indolence. Death, which is but a quarter of an hour’s suffering, without consequence and without injury, does not require peculiar precepts.’ It was Diderot’s allotment to die with all due ‘stupidity:’ he was leaning on his elbows; had eaten an apricot two minutes before, and answered his wife’s remonstrances with: “Mais quelle diable de mal veux-tu que cela me fasse? (How the deuce can that hurt me?)” She spoke again, and he answered not. His House, which the curious will visit when they go to Paris, was in the Rue Taranne, at the intersection thereof with the Rue Saint-Benoît. The dust that was once his Body went to mingle with the common earth, in the church of Saint-Roch; his Life, the wondrous manifold Force that was in him, that was He,—returned to Eternity, and is there, and continues there! Two things, as we saw, are celebrated of Diderot. First, that he had the most encyclopedical head ever seen in this world: second, that he talked as never man talked;—properly, as never man his admirers had heard, or as no man living in Paris then. That is to say, his was at once the widest, fertilest, and readiest of minds. With regard to the Encyclopedical Head, suppose it to mean that he was of such vivacity as to admit, and look upon with interest, almost all things which the circle of Existence could offer him; in which sense, this exaggerated laudation, of Encyclopedism is not without its fraction of meaning. Of extraordinary open-

diderot 261 ness and compass we must grant the mind of Diderot to be; of a susceptibility, quick activity; even naturally of a depth, and, in its practical realized shape, of a universality, which bring it into kindred with the highest order of minds. On all forms of this wondrous Creation he can look with loving wonder; whatsoever thing stands there, has some brotherhood with him, some beauty and meaning for him. Neither is the faculty to see and interpret wanting; as, indeed, this faculty to see is inseparable from that other faculty to look, from that true wish to look; moreover (under another figure), Intellect is not a tool, but a hand that can handle any tool. Nay, in Diderot we may discern a far deeper universality than that shown, or showable, in Lebreton’s Encyclopédie; namely, a poetical; for, in slight gleams, this too manifests itself. A universality less of the head than of the character; such, we say, is traceable in this man, at lowest the power to have acquired such. Your true Encyclopedical is the Homer, the Shakspeare; every genuine Poet is a living, embodied, real Encyclopædia,—in more or fewer volumes; were his experience, his insight of details, never so limited, the whole world lies imaged as a whole within him; whosoever has not seized the whole cannot yet speak truly (much less can he speak musically, which is harmoniously, concordantly) of any part, but will perpetually need new guidance, rectification. The fit use of such a man is as hodman; not feeling the plan of the edifice, let him carry stones to it; if he build the smallest stone, it is likeliest to be wrong, and cannot continue there. But the truth is, as regards Diderot, this saying of the encyclopedical head comes mainly from his having edited a Bookseller’s Encyclopædia, and can afford us little direction. Looking into the man, and omitting his trade, we find him by nature gifted in a high degree with openness and versatility, yet nowise in the highest degree; alas, in a quite other degree than that. Nay, if it be meant farther that in practice, as a writer and thinker, he has taken in the Appearances of Life and the World, and images them back with such freedom, clearness, fidelity, as we have not many times witnessed elsewhere, as we have not various times seen infinitely surpassed elsewhere,—this same encyclopedical praise must altogether be denied him. Diderot’s habitual world, we must on the contrary say, is a half-world, distorted into looking like a whole; it is properly a poor, fractional, insignificant world; partial, inaccurate, perverted from end to end. Alas, it was the destiny of the man to live as a Polemic; to be born also in the morning tide and first splendour of the Mechanical Era; not to know, with the smallest assurance or continuance, that in the Universe, other than a mechanical meaning could exist; which force of destiny acting on him through his whole course, we have obtained what now stands before us: no Seer, but

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only possibilities of a Seer, transient irradiations of a Seer looking through the organs of a Philosophe. These two considerations, which indeed are properly but one (for a thinker, especially of French birth, in the Mechanical Era, could not be other than a Polemic), must never for a moment be left out of view in judging the works of Diderot. It is a great truth, one side of a great truth, that the Man makes the Circumstances, and spiritually as well as economically, is the artificer of his own fortune. But there is another side of the same truth, that the man’s circumstances are the element he is appointed to live and work in; that he by necessity takes his complexion, vesture, embodyment, from these, and is, in all practical manifestations, modified by them almost without limit; so that in another no less genuine sense, it can be said Circumstances make the Man. Now, if it continually behoves us to insist on the former truth towards ourselves, it equally behoves us to bear in mind the latter when we judge of other men. The most gifted soul, appearing in France in the Eighteenth Century, can as little embody himself in the intellectual vesture of an Athenian Plato, as in the grammatical one; his thoughts can no more be Greek, than his language can. He thinks of the things belonging to the French eighteenth century, and in the dialect he has learned there; in the light, and under the conditions prescribed there. Thus, as the most original, resolute, and self-directing of all the Moderns has written: ‘Let a man be but born ten years sooner, or ten years later, his whole aspect and performance shall be different.’ Grant, doubtless, that a certain perennial Spirit, true for all times and all countries, can and must look through the thinking of certain men, be it in what dialect soever: understand, meanwhile, that strictly this holds only of the highest order of men, and cannot be exacted of inferior orders; among whom, if the most sedulous, loving inspection disclose any, even secondary symptoms of such a Spirit, it ought to seem enough. Let us remember well that the high-gifted, high-striving Diderot was born in the point of Time and of Space, when of all uses he could turn himself to, of all dialects speak in, this of Polemical Philosophism, and no other, seemed the most promising and fittest. Let us remember too that no earnest Man, in any Time, ever spoke what was wholly meaningless; that, in all human convictions, much more in all human practices, there was a true side, a fraction of truth; which fraction is precisely the thing we want to extract from them, if we want anything at all to do with them. Such palliative considerations (which, for the rest, concern not Diderot, now departed, and indifferent to them, but only ourselves, who could wish to see him, and not to mis-see him) are essential, we say, through our whole survey of his Opinions and Proceedings, generally so alien to our own; but most of all

diderot 263 in reference to his head Opinion, properly the source of all the rest, and more shocking, even horrible, to us than all the rest: we mean his Atheism. David Hume, dining once in company where Diderot was, remarked that he did not think there were any Atheists. “Count us,” said a certain Monsieur——: they were eighteen. “Well,” said the Monsieur——, “it is pretty fair if you have fished out fifteen at the first cast; and three others who know not what to think of it.” In fact, the case was common: your Philosophe of the first water had grown to reckon Atheism a necessary accomplishment. Gowkthrapple Naigeon, as we saw, had made himself very perfect therein. Diderot was an Atheist, then; stranger still, a proselytising Atheist, who esteemed the creed worth earnest reiterated preaching, and enforcement with all vigour! The unhappy man had ‘sailed through the Universe of Worlds and found no Maker thereof; had descended to the abysses where Being no longer casts its shadow, and felt only the rain-drops trickle down; and seen only the gleaming rainbow of Creation, which originated from no Sun; and heard only the everlasting storm which no one governs; and looked upwards for the Divine Eye, and beheld only the black, bottomless, glaring Death’s Eye-socket:’ such, with all his wide voyagings, was the philosophic fortune he had realized. Sad enough, horrible enough: yet instead of shrieking over it, or howling and Ernulphus’-cursing over it, let us, as the more profitable method, keep our composure, and inquire a little, What possibly it may mean? The whole phenomenon, as seems to us, will explain itself from the fact above insisted on, that Diderot was a Polemic of decided character, in the Mechanical Age. With great expenditure of words and froth, in arguments as waste, wild-weltering, delirious-dismal as the chaos they would demonstrate; which arguments one now knows not whether to laugh at or to weep at, and almost does both,—have Diderot and his sect perhaps made this apparent to all who examine it: That in the French System of Thought (called also the Scotch, and still familiar enough everywhere, which for want of a better title we have named the Mechanical), there is no room for a Divinity; that to him, for whom intellect, or the power of knowing and believing is still synonymous with logic, or the mere power of arranging and communicating, there is absolutely no proof discoverable of a Divinity; and such a man has nothing for it but either, if he be of half spirit as is the frequent case, to trim despicably all his days between two opinions; or else, if he be of whole spirit, to anchor himself on the rock or quagmire of Atheism,— and farther, should he see fit, proclaim to others that there is good riding there. So much may Diderot have demonstrated: a conclusion at which we nowise turn pale. Was it much to know that Metaphysical Speculation, by nature, whirls

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round in endless Mahlstroms, both ‘creating and swallowing—itself ?’ For so wonderful a self-swallowing product of the Spirit of the Time, could any result to arrive at be fitter than this of the Eternal No? We thank Heaven that the result is finally arrived at; and so now we can look out for something other and farther. But above all things, proof of a God? A probable God! The smallest of Finites struggling to prove to itself, that is to say if we will consider it, to picture out and arrange as diagram, and include within itself, the Highest Infinite; in which, by hypothesis, it lives, and moves, and has its being! This, we conjecture, will one day seem a much more miraculous miracle than that negative result it has arrived at,—or any other result a still absurder chance might have led it to. He who, in some singular Time of the World’s History, were reduced to wander about, in stooping posture, with painfully constructed sulphur-match and farthing rushlight (as Gowkthrapple Naigeon), or smoky tar-link (as Denis Diderot), searching for the Sun, and did not find it: were he wonderful and his failure; or the singular Time, and its having put him on that search? Two small consequences, then, we fancy, may have followed, or be following, from poor Diderot’s Atheism. First, that all speculations of the sort we call Natural Theology, endeavouring to prove the beginning of all Belief by some Belief earlier than the beginning, are barren, ineffectual, impossible; and may, so soon as otherwise it is profitable, be abandoned. Of final causes man, by the nature of the case, can prove nothing; knows them, if he know anything of them, not by glimmering flint-sparks of Logic, but by an infinitely higher light of Intuition; never long, by Heaven’s mercy, wholly eclipsed in the human soul; and (under the name of Faith, as regards this matter) familiar to us now, historically or in conscious possession, for upwards of four thousand years. To all open men it will indeed always be a favourite contemplation, that of watching the ways of Being, how animate adjusts itself to inanimate, rational to irrational; and this, that we name Nature, is not a desolate phantasm of a chaos, but a wondrous existence and reality. If, moreover, in those same ‘marks of design,’ as he has called them, the contemplative man find new evidence of a designing Maker, be it well for him: meanwhile, surely one would think, the still clearer evidence lay nearer home,—in the contemplative man’s own head that seeks after such! In which point of view our extant Natural Theologies, as our innumerable Evidences of the Christian Religion, and such like, may, in reference to the strange season they appear in, have a certain value, and be worth printing and reprinting: only let us understand for whom, and how, they are valuable; and be nowise wroth with the poor Atheist, whom they have not convinced, and could not, and should not convince.

diderot 265 The second consequence seems to be that this whole current hypothesis of the Universe being ‘a Machine,’ and then of an Architect, who constructed it, sitting as it were apart, and guiding it, and seeing it go,—may turn out an inanity and nonentity; not much longer tenable: with which result likewise we shall, in the quietest manner, reconcile ourselves. ‘Think ye,’ says Goethe, ‘that God made the Universe, and then let it run round his finger (am Finger laufen liesse)?’ On the whole, that Metaphysical hurlyburly, of our poor, jarring, self-listening Time, ought at length to compose itself: that seeking for a God there, and not here; everywhere outwardly in physical Nature, and not inwardly in our own Soul, where alone He is to be found by us,—begins to get wearisome. Above all, that ‘faint possible Theism,’ which now forms our common English creed, cannot be too soon swept out of the world. What is the nature of that individual, who with hysterical violence theoretically asserts a God, perhaps a revealed Symbol and Worship of God; and for the rest, in thought, word, and conduct, meet with him where you will, is found living as if his theory were some polite figure of speech, and his theoretical God a mere distant Simulacrum, with whom he, for his part, had nothing farther to do? Fool! The Eternal is no Simulacrum; God is not only There, but Here, or nowhere, in that life-breath of thine, in that act and thought of thine,—and thou wert wise to look to it. If there is no God, as the fool hath said in his heart, then live on with thy decencies, and lip-homages, and inward greed, and falsehood, and all the hollow cunningly-devised halfness that recommends thee to the Mammon of this world: if there is a God, we say, look to it! But in either case, what art thou? The Atheist is false; yet is there, as we see, a fraction of truth in him; he is true compared with thee; thou, unhappy mortal, livest wholly in a lie, art wholly a lie. So that Diderot’s Atheism comes, if not to much, yet to something: we learn this from it, and from what it stands connected with, and may represent for us, That the Mechanical System of Thought is, in its essence, Atheistic; that whosoever will admit no organ of truth but logic, and nothing to exist but what can be argued of, must even content himself with this sad result, as the only solid one he can arrive at; and, so with the best grace he can, ‘of the æther make a gas, of God a force, of the second world a coffin;’ of man an aimless nondescript, ‘little better than a kind of vermin.’ If Diderot, by bringing matters to this parting of the roads, have enabled or helped us to strike into the truer and better road, let him have our thanks for it. As to what remains, be pity our only feeling; was not his creed miserable enough; nay, moreover, did not he bear its miserableness, so to speak, in our stead, so that it need now be no longer borne by any one?

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In this same, for him unavoidable circumstance, of the age he lived in, and the system of thought universal then, will be found the key to Diderot’s whole spiritual character and procedure; the excuse for much in him that to us is false and perverted. Beyond the meagre ‘rush-light of closet-logic,’ Diderot recognized no guidance. That ‘the Highest cannot be spoken of in words,’ was a truth he had not dreamt of. Whatsoever thing he cannot debate of, we might almost say measure and weigh, and carry off with him to be eaten and enjoyed, is simply not there for him. He dwelt all his days in the ‘thin rind of the Conscious;’ the deep fathomless domain of the Unconscious, whereon the other rests, and has its meaning, was not, under any shape, surmised by him. Thus must the Sanctuary of Man’s Soul stand perennially shut against this man; where his hand ceased to grope, the World ended: within such strait conditions had he to live and labour. And naturally to distort and dislocate, more or less, all things he laboured on: for whosoever, in one way or another, recognizes not that ‘Divine Idea of the World, which lies at the bottom of Appearances,’ can rightly interpret no Appearance; and whatsoever spiritual thing he does, must do it partially, do it falsely. Mournful enough, accordingly, is the account which Diderot has given himself of Man’s Existence; on the duties, relations, possessions whereof he had been a sedulous thinker. In every conclusion we have this fact of his Mechanical culture. Coupled too with another fact, honourable to him: that he stuck not at half measures; but resolutely drove on to the result, and held by it. So that we cannot call him a Sceptic; he has merited the more decisive name of Denier. He may be said to have denied that there was any the smallest Sacredness in Man, or in the Universe; and to have both speculated and lived on this singular footing. We behold in him the notable extreme of a man guiding himself with the least spiritual Belief that thinking man perhaps ever had. Religion, in all recognizable shapes and senses, he has done what man can do to clear out of him. He believes that pleasure is pleasant; that a lie is unbelievable; and there his credo terminates; nay there, what perhaps makes his case almost unique, his very fancy seems to fall silent. For a consequent man, all possible spiritual perversions are included under that grossest one of ‘proselytising Atheism;’ the rest, of what kind and degree soever, cannot any longer astonish us. Diderot has them of all kinds and degrees: indeed, we might say, the French Philosophe (take him at his word, for inwardly much that was foreign adhered to him, do what he could) has emitted a Scheme of the World, to which all that Oriental Mullah, Bonze, or Talapoin have done in that kind is poor and feeble. Omitting his whole unparalleled Cosmogonies

diderot 267 and Physiologies; coming to his much milder Tables of the Moral Law, we shall glance here but at one minor external item, the relation between man and man; and at only one branch of this, and with all slightness, the relation of covenants; for example, the most important of these, Marriage. Diderot has convinced himself, and, indeed, as above became plain enough, acts on the conviction, that Marriage, contract it, solemnize it in what way you will, involves a solecism which reduces the amount of it to simple zero. It is a suicidal covenant; annuls itself in the very forming. ‘Thou makest a vow,’ says he, twice or thrice, as if the argument were a clencher, ‘thou makest a vow of eternal constancy under a rock, which is even then crumbling away.’True, O Denis! the rock crumbles away; all things are changing; man changes faster than most of them. That, in the meanwhile, an Unchangeable lies under all this, and looks forth, solemn and benign, through the whole destiny and workings of man, is another truth; which no Mechanical Philosophe, in the dust of his logic-mill, can be expected to grind out for himself. Man changes, and will change: the question then arises, Is it wise in him to tumble forth, in headlong obedience to this love of change; is it so much as possible for him? Among the dualisms of man’s wholly dualistic nature, this we might fancy was an observable one: that along with his unceasing tendency to change, there is a no less ineradicable tendency to persevere. Were man only here to change, let him, far from marrying, cease even to hedge in fields, and plough them; before the autumn season, he may have lost the whim of reaping them. Let him return to the nomadic state, and set his house on wheels; nay there too a certain restraint must curb his love of change, or his cattle will perish by incessant driving, without grazing in the intervals. O Denis, what things thou babblest in thy sleep! How, in this world of perpetual flux, shall man secure himself the smallest foundation, except hereby alone: that he take pre-assurance of his Fate; that in this and the other high act of his life, his Will, with all solemnity, abdicate its right to change; voluntarily become involuntary, and say once for all, Be there then no farther dubitation on it! Nay, the poor unheroic craftsman; that very stocking-weaver, on whose loom thou now as amateur weavest: must not even he do as much,—when he signed his apprentice-indentures? The fool! who had such a relish in himself for all things, for kingship and emperorship; yet made a vow (under penalty of death by hunger) of eternal constancy to stocking-weaving. Yet otherwise, were no thriving craftsmen possible; only botchers, bunglers, transitory nondescripts; unfed, mostly gallows-feeding. But, on the whole, what feeling it was in the ancient devout deep soul, which of Marriage made a Sacrament: this, of all things

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in the world, is what Denis will think of for æons, without discovering. Unless, perhaps, it were to increase the vestry-fees? Indeed, it must be granted, nothing yet seen or dreamt of can surpass the liberality of friend Denis as magister morum; nay, often our poor Philosophe feels called on, in an age of such Spartan rigour, to step forth into the public Stews, and emit his inspiriting Macte virtute! there. Whither let the curious in such matters follow him: we, having work elsewhere, wish him ‘good journey,’—or rather ‘safe return.’ Of Diderot’s indelicacy and indecency there is for us but little to say. Diderot is not what we call indelicate and indecent; he is utterly unclean, scandalous, shameless, sansculottic-samoeidic. To declare with lyric fury that this is wrong; or with historic calmness, that a pig of sensibility would go distracted did you accuse him of it, may, especially in countries where ‘indecent exposure’ is cognizable at police-offices, be considered superfluous. The only question is one in Natural History: Whence comes it? What may a man, not otherwise without elevation of mind, of kindly character, of immense professed philanthropy, and doubtless of extraordinary insight, mean thereby? To us it is but another illustration of the fearless, all-for-logic, thoroughly consistent, Mechanical Thinker. It coheres well enough with Diderot’s theory of man; that there is nothing of sacred either in man or around man; and that chimeras are chimerical. How shall he for whom nothing, that cannot be jargoned of in debating-clubs, exists, have any faintest forecast of the depth, significance, divineness of Silence; of the sacredness of ‘Secrets known to all?’ Nevertheless, Nature is great; and Denis was among her nobler productions. To a soul of his sort something like what we call Conscience could nowise be wanting: the feeling of Moral Relation; of the Infinite character thereof, as the essence and soul of all else that can be felt or known, must needs assert itself in him. Yet how assert itself ? An Infinitude to one in whose whole Synopsis of the Universe, no Infinite stands marked? Wonderful enough is Diderot’s method; and yet not wonderful, for we see it, and have always seen it, daily. Since there is nothing sacred in the Universe, whence this sacredness of what you call Virtue? Whence or how comes it that you, Denis Diderot, must not do a wrong thing; could not, without some qualm, speak, for example, one Lie, to gain Mahomet’s Paradise with all its houris? There is no resource for it, but to get into that interminable ravelment of Reward and Approval, virtue being its own reward; and assert louder and louder,—contrary to the stern experience of all men, from the Divine Man, expiring with agony of bloody sweat on the accursed tree, down to us two, O reader (if we have ever done one Duty)—that Virtue is synonymous with Pleasure. Alas! was Paul, an apostle of the Gentiles,

diderot 269 virtuous; and was virtue its own reward, when his approving conscience told him that he was ‘the chief of sinners,’ and if bounded to this life alone, ‘of all men the most miserable?’ Or has that same so sublime Virtue, at bottom, little to do with Pleasure, if with far other things? Are Eudoxia, and Eusebeia, and Euthanasia, and all the rest of them, of small account to Eubosia and Eupepsia; and the pains of any moderately-paced Career of Vice, Denis himself being judge, as a drop in the bucket to the ‘Career of Indigestions?’That is what Denis never in this world will grant. But what then will he do? One of two things: admit, with Grimm, that there are ‘two justices,’—which may be called by many handsome names, but properly are nothing but the pleasant justice, and the unpleasant; whereof only the former is binding! Herein, however, Nature has been unkind to Denis; he is not a literary court-toad-eater; but a free, genial, even poetic creature. There remains, therefore, nothing but the second expedient; to ‘assert louder and louder;’ in other words, to become a Philosophe-Sentimentalist. Most wearisome, accordingly, is the perpetual clatter kept up here about vertu, honnêteté, grandeur, sensibilité, ames-nobles; how unspeakably good it is to be virtuous, how pleasant, how sublime:—In the Devil and his grandmother’s name, be virtuous; and let us have an end of it! In such sort (we will nevertheless joyfully recognize) does great Nature in spite of all contradictions, declare her royalty, her divineness; and, for the poor Mechanical Philosophe, has prepared, since the substance is hidden from him, a shadow wherewith he can be cheered. In fine, to our ill-starred Mechanical Philosophe-Sentimentalist, with his loud preaching and rather poor performing, shall we not, in various respects, ‘thankfully stretch out the hand?’ In all ways ‘it was necessary that the logical side of things should likewise be made available.’ On the whole, wondrous higher developments of much, of Morality among the rest, are visible in the course of the world’s doings, at this day. A plausible prediction were that the Ascetic System is not to regain its exclusive dominancy. Ever, indeed, must Self-denial, ‘Annihilation of Self,’ be the beginning of all moral action: meanwhile, he that looks well, may discern filaments of a nobler System, wherein this lies included as one harmonious element. Who knows, for example, what new unfoldings and complex adjustments await us, before the true relation of moral Greatness to moral Correctness, and their proportional value, can be established? How, again, is perfect tolerance for the Wrong to co-exist with ever-present conviction that Right stands related to it, as a God does to a Devil,—an Infinite to an opposite Infinite? How, in a word, through what tumultuous vicissitudes, after how many false partial efforts, deepening the confusion, shall it, at length, be

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made manifest, and kept continually manifest, to the hearts of men, that the Good is not properly the highest, but the Beautiful; that the true Beautiful (differing from the false, as Heaven does from Vauxhall) comprehends in it the Good?—In some future century, it may be found that Denis Diderot, acting and professing, in wholeness and with full conviction, what the immense multitude act in halfness and without conviction,—has, though by strange inverse methods, forwarded the result. It was long ago written, the Omnipotent ‘maketh the wrath of the wicked,’ the folly of the foolish ‘to praise Him.’ In any case, Diderot acted it, and not we; Diderot bears it, and not we: peace be with Diderot! The other branch of his renown is excellence as a Talker. Or, in wider view, think his admirers, his philosophy was not more surpassing than his delivery thereof. What his philosophy amounts to we have been examining: but now, that in this other conversational province he was eminent, is easily believed. A frank, ever-hoping, social character; a mind full of knowledge, full of fervour; of great compass, of great depth, ever on the alert: such a man could not have other than a ‘mouth of gold.’ It is still plain, whatsoever thing imaged itself before him, was imaged in the most lucent clearness; was rendered back, with light labour, in corresponding clearness. Whether, at the same time, Diderot’s conversation, relatively so superior, deserved the intrinsic character of supreme, may admit of question. The worth of words spoken depends, after all, on the wisdom that resides in them; and in Diderot’s words there was often too little of this. Vivacity, far-darting brilliancy, keenness of theoretic vision, paradoxical ingenuity, gaiety, even touches of humour; all this must have been here: whosoever had preferred sincerity, earnestness, depth of practical rather than theoretic insight, with not less of impetuosity, of clearness and sureness, with humour, emphasis, or such other melody or rhythm as that utterance demanded,—must have come over to London; and, with forbearant submissiveness, listened to our Johnson. Had we the stronger man, then? Be it rather, as in that Duel of Cœur-de-Lion with the light, nimble, yet also invincible Saladin, that each nation had the strength which most befitted it. Closely connected with this power of conversation, is Diderot’s facility of composition. A talent much celebrated; numerous really surprising proofs whereof are on record: how he wrote long works within the week; sometimes within almost the four-and-twenty hours. Unhappily, enough still remains to make such feats credible. Most of Diderot’s Works bear the clearest traces of extemporaneousness; stans pede in uno! They are much liker printed talk, than the concentrated well-considered utterance, which, from a man of that weight,

diderot 271 we expect to see set in types. It is said, ‘he wrote good pages but could not write a good book.’ Substitute did not for could not; and there is truth in the saying. Clearness, as has been observed, comprehensibility at a glance, is the character of whatever Diderot wrote: a clearness which, in visual objects, rises into the region of the Artistic, and resembles that of Richardson or Defoe. Yet, grant that he makes his meaning clear, what is the nature of that meaning itself ? Alas, for most part, only a hasty, flimsy, superficial meaning, with gleams of a deeper vision peering through. More or less of Disorder reigns in all Works that Diderot wrote; not order, but the plausible appearance of such: the true heart of the matter is not found; ‘he skips deftly along the radii, and skips over the centre, and misses it.’ Thus may Diderot’s admired Universality and admired Facility have both turned to disadvantage for him. We speak not of his reception by the world: this indeed is the ‘age of specialties;’ yet, owing to other causes, Diderot the Encyclopedist had success enough. But, what is of far more importance, his inward growth was marred: the strong tree shot not up in any one noble stem, bearing boughs, and fruit, and shade all round; but spread out horizontally, after a very moderate height, into innumerable branches, not useless, yet of quite secondary use. Diderot could have been an Artist; and he was little better than an Encyclopedic Artisan. No smatterer indeed; a faithful artisan; of really universal equipment, in his sort: he did the work of many men; yet nothing, or little, which many could not have done. Accordingly, his Literary Works, now lying finished some fifty years, have already, to the most surprising degree, shrunk in importance. Perhaps no man so much talked of is so little known; to the great majority he is no longer a Reality, but a Hearsay. Such, indeed, partly is the natural fate of Works Polemical, which almost all Diderot’s are. The Polemic annihilates his opponent; but in so doing annihilates himself too, and both are swept away to make room for something other and farther. Add to this, the slight-textured transitory character of Diderot’s style; and the fact is well enough explained. Meanwhile, let him to whom it applies, consider it; him among whose gifts it was to rise into the Perennial, and who dwelt rather low down in the Ephemeral, and ephemerally fought and scrambled there! Diderot the Great has contracted into Diderot the easily-measurable: so must it be with others of the like. In how many sentences can the net-product of all that tumultuous Atheism, printed over many volumes, be comprised! Nay, the whole Encyclopédie, that world’s wonder of the eighteenth century, the Belus’ Tower of an age of refined Illumination, what has it become! Alas! no stone-tower, that will stand there

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as our strength and defence through all times; but, at best, a wooden Helepolis (City-taker), wherein stationed, the Philosophus Policaster has burnt and battered down many an old ruinous Sorbonne; and which now, when that work is pretty well over, may, in turn, be taken asunder, and used as firewood. The famed Encyclopedical Tree itself has proved an artificial one, and borne no fruit. We mean that, in its nature, it is mechanical only; one of those attempts to parcel out the invisible mystical Soul of Man, with its infinitude of phases and character, into shop-lists of what are called ‘faculties,’ ‘motives,’ and such like; which attempts may indeed be made with all degrees of insight, from that of a Doctor Spurzheim to that of Denis Diderot, or Jeremy Bentham; and prove useful for a day, but for a day only. Nevertheless it were false to regard Diderot as a Mechanist and nothing more; as one working and grinding blindly in the mill of mechanical Logic, joyful with his lot there, and unconscious of any other. Call him one rather who contributed to deliver us therefrom: both by his manful whole spirit as a Mechanist, which drove all things to their ultimatum and crisis; and even by a dim-struggling faculty, which virtually aimed beyond this. Diderot, we said, was gifted by Nature for an Artist: strangely flashing through his mechanical encumbrances, are rays of thought, which belong to the Poet, to the Prophet; which, in other environment, could have revealed the deepest to us. Not to seek far, consider this one little sentence, which he makes the last of the dying Sanderson: ‘Le temps, la matière et l’espace ne sont peut-être qu’un point (Time, Matter and Space are perhaps but a point)!’ So too, in Art, both as a speaker and a doer, he is to be reckoned as one of those who pressed forward irresistibly out of the artificial barren sphere of that time, into a truer genial one. His Dramas, the Fils Naturel, the Père de Famille have indeed ceased to live; yet is the attempt towards great things visible in them; the attempt remains to us, and seeks otherwise, and has found, and is finding, fulfilment. Not less in his Salons ( Judgments of Art-Exhibitions), written hastily for Grimm, and by ill chance, on artists of quite secondary character, do we find the freest recognition of whatever excellence there is; nay, an impetuous endeavour, not critically but even creatively, towards something more excellent. Indeed, what with their unrivalled clearness, painting the picture over again for us, so that we too see it, and can judge it; what with their sunny fervour, inventiveness, real artistic genius, which wants nothing but a hand, they are, with some few exceptions in the German tongue, the only Pictorial Criticisms we know of worth reading. Here too, as by his own practice in the Dramatic branch of art, Diderot stands forth as the main originator, almost the sole one

diderot 273 in his own country, of that many-sided struggle towards what is called Nature, and copying of Nature and faithfulness to Nature; a deep indispensable truth, subversive of the old error; yet under that figure, only a half-truth, for Art too is Art, as surely as Nature is Nature; which struggle, meanwhile, either as half-truth or working itself into a whole truth, may be seen, in countries that have any Art, still forming the tendency of all artistic endeavour. In which sense, Diderot’s Essay on Painting has been judged worth translation by the greatest modern Judge of Art, and greatest modern Artist, in the highest kind of Art; and may be read anew, with argumentative commentary and exposition, in Goethe’s Works. Nay, let us grant, with pleasure, that for Diderot himself the realms of Art were not wholly unvisited; that he too, so heavily imprisoned, stole Promethean fire. Among these multitudinous, most miscellaneous Writings of his, in great part a manufactured farrago of Philosophism no longer saleable, and now looking melancholy enough,—are two that we can almost call Poems; that have something perennially poetic in them: Jacques le Fataliste; in a still higher degree, the Neveu de Rameau. The occasional blueness of both; even that darkest indigo in some parts of the former, shall not altogether affright us. As it were, a loose straggling sunbeam flies here over Man’s Existence in France, now nigh a century behind us: ‘from the height of luxurious elegance to the depths of shamelessness’; all is here. Slack, careless seems the combination of the picture; wriggling, disjointed, like a bundle of flails; yet strangely united in the painter’s inward unconscious feeling. Wearisomely crackling wit gets silent; a grim, taciturn, dare-devil, almost Hogarthian humour, rises in the background. Like this there is nothing that we know of in the whole range of French Literature: La Fontaine is shallow in comparison; the La Bruyère wit-species not to be named. It resembles Don Quixote, rather; of somewhat similar stature; yet of complexion altogether different; through the one looks a sunny Elysium, through the other a sulphurous Erebus: both hold of the Infinite. This Jacques, perhaps, was not quite so hastily put together: yet there too haste is manifest: the Author finishes it off, not by working out the figures and movements, but by dashing his brush against the canvas; a manœuvre which in this case has not succeeded. The Rameau’s Nephew, which is the shorter, is also the better; may pass for decidedly the best of all Diderot’s Compositions. It looks like a Sibylline utterance from a heart all in fusion: no ephemeral thing (for it was written as a Satire on Palissot) was ever more perennially treated. Strangely enough too, it lay some fifty years, in German and Russian Libraries; came out first in the masterly version of Goethe, in 1805; and only (after a deceptive re-translation by a M. Saur, a courageous mystifier otherwise) reached the Paris public in 1821,—when perhaps all, for

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whom, and against whom it was written, were no more!—It is a farce-tragedy; and its fate has corresponded to its purport. One day it must also be translated into English; but will require to be done by head; the common steam-machinery will not properly suffice for it. We here (con la bocca dolce) take leave of Diderot in his intellectual aspect, as Artist and Thinker: a richly endowed, unfavourably situated nature; whose effort, much marred, yet not without fidelity of aim, can triumph, on rare occasions; is perhaps nowhere utterly fruitless. In the moral aspect, as Man, he makes a somewhat similar figure; as indeed, in all men, in him especially, the Opinion and the Practice stand closely united; and as a wise man has remarked, ‘the speculative principles are often but a supplement (or excuse) to the practical manner of life.’ In conduct, Diderot can nowise seem admirable to us; yet neither inexcusable; on the whole, not at all quite worthless. Lavater traced in his physiognomy ‘something timorous;’ which reading his friends admitted to be a correct one. Diderot, in truth, is no hero: the earnest soul, wayfaring and warfaring in the complexities of a World like to overwhelm him, yet wherein he by Heaven’s grace will keep faithfully warfaring, prevailing or not, can derive small solacement from this light, fluctuating, not to say flimsy existence of Diderot: no Gospel in that kind has he left us. The man, in fact, with all his high gifts, had rather a female character. Susceptible, sensitive, living by impulses, which at best he had fashioned into some show of principles; with vehemence enough, with even a female uncontroulableness; with little of manful steadfastness, considerateness, invincibility. Thus, too, we find him living mostly in the society of women, or of men who, like women, flattered him, and made life easy for him; recoiling with horror from an earnest Jean Jacques, who understood not the science of walking in a vain show; but imagined, poor man, that truth was there as a thing to be told, as a thing to be acted. We call Diderot, then, not a coward; yet not in any sense a brave man. Neither towards himself, nor towards others, was he brave. All the virtues, says M. de Meister, which require not ‘a great suite (sequency) of ideas’ were his: all that do require such a suite were not his. In other words, what duties were easy for him he did: happily Nature had rendered several easy. His spiritual aim, moreover, seemed not so much to be enforcement, exposition of Duty, as discovery of a Duty-made-easy. Natural enough that he should strike into that province of sentiment, cœur-noble, and so forth. Alas, to declare that the beauty of virtue is beautiful, costs comparatively little: to win it, and wear it, is quite another enterprize,—wherein the loud braggart, we know, is not the likeliest to succeed. On

diderot 275 the whole, peace be with sentiment, for that also lies behind us!—For the rest, as hinted, what duties were difficult our Diderot left undone. How should he, the cœur sensible, front such a monster as Pain? And now, since misgivings cannot fail in that course, what is to be done but fill up all asperities with floods of Sensibilité, and so voyage more or less smoothly along? Est-il bon? Est-il méchant? is his own account of himself. At all events, he was no voluntary hypocrite; that great praise can be given him. And thus with Mechanical Philosophism, and passion vive; working, flirting; ‘with more of softness than of true affection, sometimes with the malice and rage of a child, but on the whole an inexhaustible fund of goodnatured simplicity,’ has he come down to us, for better or worse: and what can we do but receive him? If now we and our reader, reinterpreting for our present want, that Life and Performance of Diderot, have brought it clearer before us, be the hour spent thereon, were it even more wearisome, no profitless one! Have we not striven to unite our own brief present moment more and more compactly with the Past and with the Future; have we not done what lay at our hand towards reducing that same Memoirism of the Eighteenth Century into History, and ‘weaving’ a thread or two thereof nearer to the condition of a web? But finally, if we rise with this matter, as we should try to do with all matters, into the proper region of Universal History, and look on it with the eye not of this time, or of that time, but of Time at large, perhaps the prediction might stand here, that intrinsically, essentially little lies in it; that one day when the net-result of our European way of life comes to be summed up, this whole as yet so boundless concern of French Philosophism will dwindle into the thinnest of fractions, or vanish into nonentity! Alas, while the rude History and Thoughts of those same ‘Juifs misérables,’ the barbaric War-song of a Deborah and Barak, the rapt prophetic Utterance of an unkempt Isaiah, last now, with deepest significance, say only these three thousand years,—what has the thriceresplendent Encyclopédie shrivelled into, within these three score! This is a fact which, explain it, express it, in what way he will, your Encyclopedist should actually consider. Those were tones caught from the sacred Melody of the All, and have harmony and meaning forever; these of his are but outer discords, and their jangling dies away without result. ‘The special, sole and deepest theme of the World’s and Man’s History,’ says the Thinker of our time, ‘whereto all other themes are subordinated, remains the Conflict of Unbelief and Belief. All epochs wherein belief prevails, under what form it may, are splendid, heartelevating, fruitful for contemporaries and posterity. All epochs, on the contrary,

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wherein Unbelief, under what form soever, maintains its sorry victory, should they even for a moment glitter with a sham splendour, vanish from the eyes of posterity; because no one chooses to burden himself with study of the unfruitful.’ 5

SIR WALTER SCOTT.

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet. Vol. i.—vi. Edinburgh, 1837. American Cooper asserts, in one of his books, that there is ‘an instinctive tendency in men to look at any man who has become distinguished.’ True, surely; as all observation and survey of mankind, from China to Peru, from Nebuchadnezzar to Old Hickory, will testify! Why do men crowd towards the improved-drop at Newgate, eager to catch a sight? The man about to be hanged is in a distinguished situation. Men crowd to such extent, that Greenacre’s is not the only life choked out there. Again, ask of these leathern vehicles, cabriolets, neat-flies, with blue men and women in them, that scour all thoroughfares, Whither so fast? To see dear Mrs. Rigmarole, the distinguished female; great Mr. Rigmarole, the distinguished male! Or, consider that crowning phenomenon, and summary of modern civilization, a soirée of lions. Glittering are the rooms, well-lighted, thronged; bright flows their undulatory flood of blonde gowns and dress-coats, a soft smile dwelling on all faces; for behold there also flow the lions, hovering distinguished: oracles of the age, of one sort or another. Oracles really pleasant to see; whom it is worth while to go and see: look at them, but inquire not of them, depart rather and be thankful. For your lion-soirée admits not of speech; there lies the specialty of it. A meeting together of human creatures; and yet (so high has civilization gone) the primary aim of human meeting, that soul might in some articulate utterance unfold itself to soul, can be dispensed with in it. Utterance there is not; nay, there is a certain grinning play of tongue-fence, and make-believe of utterance, considerably worse than none. For which reason it has been suggested, with an eye to sincerity and silence in such lion-soirées, 277

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Might not each lion be, for example, ticketed, as wine-decanters are? Let him carry, slung round him, in such ornamental manner as seemed good, his silver label with name engraved; you lift his label, and read it, with what farther ocular survey you find useful, and speech is not needed at all. O Fenimore Cooper, it is most true there is ‘an instinctive tendency in men to look at any man that has become distinguished;’ and, moreover, an instinctive desire in men to become distinguished and be looked at! For the rest, we will call it a most valuable tendency this; indispensable to mankind. Without it where were star-and-garter, and significance of rank; where were all ambition, money-getting, respectability of gig or no gig; and, in a word, the main impetus by which society moves, the main force by which it hangs together? A tendency, we say, of manifold results; of manifold origin, not ridiculous only, but sublime;—which some incline to deduce from the mere gregarious purblind nature of man, prompting him to run, ‘as dim-eyed animals do, towards any glittering object, were it but a scoured tankard, and mistake it for a solar luminary,’ or even, ‘sheep-like, to run and crowd because many have already run!’ It is, indeed, curious to consider how men do make the gods that themselves worship. For the most famed man, round whom all the world now rapturously huzzahs and venerates as if his like were not, is the same man whom all the world was wont to jostle into the kennels; not a changed man, but in every fibre of him the same man. Foolish world, what went ye out to see? A tankard scoured bright; and do there not lie, of the self-same pewter, whole barrowfuls of tankards, though by worse fortune all still in the dim state? And yet, at bottom, it is not merely our gregarious sheep-like quality, but something better, and indeed best: what has been called ‘the perpetual fact of hero-worship;’ our inborn sincere love of great men! Not the gilt farthing, for its own sake, do even fools covet; but the gold guinea which they mistake it for. Veneration of great men is perennial in the nature of man; this, in all times, especially in these, is one of the blessedest facts predicable of him. In all times, even in these seemingly so disobedient times, ‘it remains a blessed fact, so cunningly has Nature ordered it, that whatsoever man ought to obey he cannot but obey. Show the dullest clodpole, show the haughtiest featherhead, that a soul higher than himself is actually here; were his knees stiffened into brass, he must down and worship.’ So it has been written; and may be cited and repeated till known to all. Understand it well, this of ‘hero-worship’ was the primary creed, and has intrinsically been the secondary and ternary and will be the ultimate and final creed of mankind; indestructible, changing in shape, but in essence unchangeable; whereon polities, religions, loyalties, and all highest human interests have



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been and can be built, as on a rock that will endure while man endures. Such is hero-worship; so much lies in that our inborn sincere love of great men!—In favour of which unspeakable benefits of the reality, what can we do but cheerfully pardon the multiplex ineptitudes of the semblance,—cheerfully wish even lion-soirées, with labels for their lions or without that improvement, all manner of prosperity? Let hero-worship flourish, say we; and the more and more assiduous chase after gilt farthings while guineas are not yet forthcoming. Herein, at lowest, is proof that guineas exist; that they are believed to exist, and valued. Find great men if you can; if you cannot, still quit not the search; in defect of great men, let there be noted men, in such number, to such degree of intensity as the public appetite can tolerate. Whether Sir Walter Scott was a great man, is still a question with some; but there can be no question with any one that he was a most noted and even notable man. In this generation there was no literary man with such a popularity in any country; there have only been a few with such, taking in all generations and all countries. Nay, it is farther to be admitted that Sir Walter Scott’s popularity was of a select sort rather; not a popularity of the populace. His admirers were at one time almost all the intelligent of civilized countries; and to the last, included and do still include a great portion of that sort. Such fortune he had, and has continued to maintain for a space of some twenty or thirty years. So long the observed of all observers; a great man, or only a considerable man; here surely, if ever, is a singularly circumstanced, is a ‘distinguished’ man! In regard to whom, therefore, the ‘instinctive tendency’ on other men’s part cannot be wanting. Let men look, where the world has already so long looked. And now, while the new, earnestly expected Life ‘by his Son-in-law and literary executor’ again summons the whole world’s attention round him, probably for the last time it will ever be so summoned; and men are in some sort taking leave of a notability, and about to go their way, and commit him to his fortune on the flood of things,—why should not this Periodical Publication likewise publish its thought about him? Readers of miscellaneous aspect, of unknown quantity and quality, are waiting to hear it done. With small inward vocation, but cheerfully obedient to destiny and necessity, the present reviewer will follow a multitude; to do evil or to do no evil, will depend not on the multitude but on himself. One thing he did decidedly wish; at least to wait till the Work were finished: for the Six promised Volumes, as the world knows, have flowed over into a Seventh, which will not for some weeks yet see the light. But the editorial powers, wearied with waiting, have become peremptory; and declare that, finished or not finished, they will

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have their hands washed of it at this opening of the year. Perhaps it is best. The physiognomy of Scott will not be much altered for us by that Seventh Volume; the prior Six have altered it but little;—as, indeed, a man who has written some two hundred volumes of his own, and lived for thirty years amid the universal speech of friends, must have already left some likeness of himself. Be it as the peremptory editorial powers require. First, therefore, a word on the Life itself. Mr. Lockhart’s known powers justify strict requisition in his case. Our verdict in general would be, that he has accomplished the work he schemed for himself in a creditable workmanlike manner. It is true, his notion of what the work was does not seem to have been very elevated. To picture forth the life of Scott according to any rules of art or composition, so that a reader, on adequately examining it, might say to himself, “There is Scott, there is the physiognomy and meaning of Scott’s appearance and transit on this earth; such was he by nature, so did the world act on him, so he on the world, with such result and significance for himself and us:” this was by no manner of means Mr. Lockhart’s plan. A plan which, it is rashly said, should preside over every biography! It might have been fulfilled with all degrees of perfection from that of the Odyssey down to Thomas Ellwood or lower. For there is no heroic poem in the world but is at bottom a biography, the life of a man; also, it may be said, there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed. It is a plan one would prefer, did it otherwise suit; which it does not, in these days. Seven volumes sell so much dearer than one; are so much easier to write than one. The Odyssey, for instance, what were the value of the Odyssey, sold per sheet? One paper of Pickwick; or say, the inconsiderable fraction of one. This, in commercial algebra, were the equation: Odyssey equal to Pickwick divided by an unknown integer. There is a great discovery still to be made in Literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write. Nay, in sober truth, is not this actually the rule in all writing; and, moreover, in all conduct and acting? Not what stands above ground, but what lies unseen under it, as the root and subterrene element it sprang from and emblemed forth, determines the value. Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. Paradoxical does it seem? Wo for the age, wo for the man, quack-ridden, bespeeched, bespouted, blown about like barren Sahara, to whom this world-old truth were altogether strange!—Such we say is the rule, acted on or not, recognised or not; and he who departs from it, what can he do but spread himself into breadth and length, into superficiality and saleability; and, except as filigree, become comparatively useless? One thinks, had but the



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hogshead of thin wash, which sours in a week ready for the kennels, been distilled, been concentrated! Our dear Fenimore Cooper, whom we started with, might, in that way, have given us one Natty Leatherstocking, one melodious synopsis of Man and Nature in the West (for it lay in him to do it), almost as a Saint-Pierre did for the Islands of the East; and the hundred Incoherences, cobbled hastily together by order of Colburn and Company, had slumbered in Chaos, as all incoherences ought if possible to do. Verily this same genius of diffuse-writing, of diffuse-acting, is a Moloch; and souls pass through the fire to him more than enough. Surely, if ever discovery was valuable and needful, it were that above indicated, of paying by the work not visibly done!—Which needful discovery we will give the whole projecting, railwaying, knowledge-diffusing, march-ofintellect and otherwise promotive and locomotive societies in the Old and New World, any required length of centuries to make. Once made, such discovery once made, we too will fling cap into the air, and shout “Io Pæan! the Devil is conquered;”—and, in the meanwhile study to think it nothing miraculous that seven biographical volumes are given where one had been better; and that several other things happen, very much as they from of old were known to do, and are like to continue doing. Mr. Lockhart’s aim, we take it, was not that of producing any such highflown work of art as we hint at; or indeed to do much other than to print, intelligibly bound together by order of time, and by some requisite intercalary exposition, all such letters, documents, and notices about Scott as he found lying suitable, and as it seemed likely the world would undertake to read. His Work, accordingly, is not so much a composition, as what we may call a compilation well done. Neither is this a task of no difficulty; this too is a task that may be performed with extremely various degrees of talent: from the Life and Correspondence of Hannah More, for instance, up to this Life of Scott, there is a wide range indeed! Let us take the Seven Volumes, and be thankful that they are genuine in their kind. Nay, as to that of their being seven and not one, it is right to say that the public so required it. To have done other would have shown little policy in an author. Had Mr. Lockhart laboriously compressed himself, and, instead of well-done compilation, brought out the well-done composition in one volume instead of seven, which not many men in England are better qualified to do, there can be no doubt but his readers for the time had been immeasurably fewer. If the praise of magnanimity be denied him, that of prudence must be conceded, which perhaps he values more. The truth is, the work, done in this manner too, was good to have: Scott’s Biography, if uncomposed, lies printed and indestructible here, in the elementary

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state, and can at any time be composed, if necessary, by whosoever has a call to that. As it is, as it was meant to be, we repeat, the work is vigorously done. Sagacity, decision, candour, diligence, good manners, good sense: these qualities are throughout observable. The dates, calculations, statements, we suppose to be all accurate; much laborious inquiry, some of it impossible for another man, has been gone into, the results of which are imparted with due brevity. Scott’s letters, not interesting generally, yet never absolutely without interest, are copiously given; copiously, but with selection; the answers to them still more select. Narrative, delineation, and at length personal reminiscences, occasionally of much merit, of a certain rough force, sincerity and picturesqueness, duly intervene. The scattered members of Scott’s Life do lie here, and could be disentangled. In a word, this compilation is the work of a manful, clear-seeing, conclusive man, and has been executed with the faculty and combination of faculties the public had a right to expect from the name attached to it. One thing we hear greatly blamed in Mr. Lockhart: that he has been too communicative, indiscreet, and has recorded much that ought to have lain suppressed. Persons are mentioned, and circumstances, not always of an ornamental sort. It would appear there is far less reticence than was looked for! Various persons, name and surname, have ‘received pain:’ nay, the very Hero of the Biography is rendered unheroic; unornamental facts of him, and of those he had to do with, being set forth in plain English: hence ‘personality,’ ‘indiscretion,’ or worse, ‘sanctities of private life,’ &c. &c. How delicate, decent is English Biography, bless its mealy mouth! A Damocles’ sword of Respectability hangs forever over the poor English Life-writer (as it does over poor English Life in general), and reduces him to the verge of paralysis. Thus it has been said, ‘there are no English lives worth reading except those of Players, who by the nature of the case have bidden Respectability good-day.’ The English biographer has long felt that if in writing his Man’s Biography, he wrote down anything that could by possibility offend any man, he had written wrong. The plain consequence was that, properly speaking, no biography whatever could be produced. The poor biographer, having the fear not of God before his eyes, was obliged to retire as it were into vacuum; and write in the most melancholy, straitened manner, with only vacuum for a result. Vain that he wrote, and that we kept reading volume on volume: there was no biography, but some vague ghost of a biography, white, stainless; without feature or substance; vacuum, as we say, and wind and shadow,—which indeed the material of it was. No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence. His life is a battle, in



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so far as it is an entity at all. The very oyster, we suppose, comes in collision with oysters: undoubtedly enough it does come in collision with Necessity and Difficulty; and helps itself through, not as a perfect ideal oyster, but as an imperfect real one. Some kind of remorse must be known to the oyster; certain hatreds, certain pusillanimities. But as for man, his conflict is continual with the spirit of contradiction, that is without and within; with the evil spirit (or call it with the weak, most necessitous, pitiable spirit), that is in others and in himself. His walk, like all walking (say the mechanicians), is a series of falls. To paint man’s life is to represent these things. Let them be represented, fitly, with dignity and measure; but above all, let them be represented. No tragedy of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted by particular desire! No ghost of a Biography, let the Damocles’ sword of Respectability (which after all is but a pasteboard one) threaten as it will! One hopes that the public taste is much mended in this matter; that vacuum-biographies, with a good many other vacuities related to them, are withdrawn or withdrawing into vacuum. Probably it was Mr. Lockhart’s feeling of what the great public would approve that led him, open-eyed, into this offence against the small criticizing public: we joyfully accept the omen. Perhaps then, of all the praises copiously bestowed on his Work, there is none in reality so creditable to him as this same censure, which has also been pretty copious. It is a censure better than a good many praises. He is found guilty of having said this and that, calculated not to be entirely pleasant to this man and that; in other words, calculated to give him and the thing he worked in a living set of features, not leave him vague, in the white beatified ghostcondition. Several men, as we hear, cry out, “See, there is something written not entirely pleasant to me!” Good friend, it is pity; but who can help it? They that will crowd about bonfires may, sometimes very fairly, get their beards singed; it is the price they pay for such illumination: natural twilight is safe and free to all. For our part, we hope all manner of biographies that are written in England will henceforth be written so. If it is fit that they be written otherwise, then it is still fitter that they be not written at all: to produce not things but ghosts of things can never be the duty of man. The biographer has this problem set before him: to delineate a likeness of the earthly pilgrimage of a man. He will compute well what profit is in it, and what disprofit; under which latter head this of offending any of his fellow-creatures will surely not be forgotten. Nay, this may so swell the disprofit side of his account, that many an enterprise of biography, otherwise promising, shall require to be renounced. But once taken up, the rule before all rules is to do it, not to do the ghost of it. In speaking of the man and men he has to deal with, he will of course keep all his charities about

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him; but all his eyes open. Far be it from him to set down aught untrue; nay, not to abstain from, and leave in oblivion, much that is true. But having found a thing or things essential for his subject, and well computed the for and against, he will in very deed set down such thing or things, nothing doubting,—having, we may say, the fear of God before his eyes, and no other fear whatever. Censure the biographer’s prudence; dissent from the computation he made, or agree with it; be all malice of his, be all falsehood, nay, be all offensive avoidable inaccuracy, condemned and consumed; but know that by this plan only, executed as was possible, could the biographer hope to make a biography; and blame him not that he did what it had been the worst fault not to do. As to the accuracy or error of these statements about the Ballantynes and other persons aggrieved, which are questions much mooted at present in some places, we know nothing at all. If they are inaccurate, let them be corrected; if the inaccuracy was avoidable, let the author bear rebuke and punishment for it. We can only say, these things carry no look of inaccuracy on the face of them; neither is anywhere the smallest trace of ill-will or unjust feeling discernible. Decidedly the probabilities are, and till better evidence arise, the fair conclusion is, that this matter stands very much as it ought to do. Let the clatter of censure, therefore, propagate itself as far as it can. For Mr. Lockhart it virtually amounts to this very considerable praise, that, standing full in the face of the public, he has set at nought, and been among the first to do it, a public piece of cant; one of the commonest we have, and closely allied to many others of the fellest sort, as smooth as it looks. The other censure, of Scott being made unheroic, springs from the same stem; and is, perhaps, a still more wonderful flower of it. Your true hero must have no features, but be white, stainless, an impersonal ghost-hero! But connected with this, there is a hypothesis now current, due probably to some man of name, for its own force would not carry it far: That Mr. Lockhart at heart has a dislike to Scott, and has done his best in an underhand treacherous manner to dishero him! Such hypothesis is actually current: he that has ears may hear it now and then. On which astonishing hypothesis, if a word must be said, it can only be an apology for silence,—“That there are things at which one stands struck silent, as at first sight of the Infinite.” For if Mr. Lockhart is fairly chargeable with any radical defect, if on any side his insight entirely fails him, it seems even to be in this, that Scott is altogether lovely to him; that Scott’s greatness spreads out for him on all hands beyond reach of eye; that his very faults become beautiful, his vulgar worldlinesses are solid prudences, proprieties; and of his worth there is no measure. Does not the patient Biographer dwell on his Abbots, Pirates, and



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hasty theatrical scene-paintings; affectionately analyzing them, as if they were Raphael-pictures, time-defying Hamlets, Othellos? The Novel-manufactory, with its 15,000l. a-year, is sacred to him as creation of a genius, which carries the noble victor up to Heaven. Scott is to Lockhart the unparalleled of the time; an object spreading out before him like a sea without shore. Of that astonishing hypothesis, let expressive silence be the only answer. And so in sum, with regard to Lockhart’s Life of Scott, readers that believe in us shall read it with the feeling that a man of talent, decision, and insight wrote it; wrote it in seven volumes, not in one, because the public would pay for it better in that state; but wrote it with courage, with frankness, sincerity; on the whole, in a very readable, recommendable manner, as things go. Whosoever needs it can purchase it, or purchase the loan of it, with assurance more than usual that he has ware for his money. And now enough of the written Life; we will glance a little at the man and his acted life. Into the question whether Scott was a great man or not, we do not propose to enter deeply. It is, as too usual, a question about words. There can be no doubt but many men have been named and printed great who were vastly smaller than he; as little doubt moreover that of the specially good a very large portion, according to any genuine standard of man’s worth, were worthless in comparison to him. He for whom Scott is great may most innocently name him so; may with advantage admire his great qualities, and ought with sincere heart to emulate them. At the same time, it is good that there be a certain degree of precision in our epithets. It is good to understand, for one thing, that no popularity, and open-mouthed wonder of all the world, continued even for a long series of years, can make a man great. Such popularity is a remarkable fortune; indicates a great adaptation of the man to his element of circumstances; but may or may not indicate anything great in the man. To our imagination, as above hinted, there is a certain apotheosis in it; but in the reality no apotheosis at all. Popularity is as a blaze of illumination, or alas, of conflagration kindled round a man; showing what is in him; not putting the smallest item more into him; often abstracting much from him; conflagrating the poor man himself into ashes and caput mortuum! And then, by the nature of it, such popularity is transient; your ‘series of years,’ quite unexpectedly, sometimes almost on a sudden, terminates! For the stupidity of men, especially of men congregated in masses round any object, is extreme. What illuminations and conflagrations have kindled themselves, as if new heavenly suns had risen, which proved only to be tar-barrels, and terrestrial locks of straw! Profane Princesses cried out,

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“One God, one Farinelli?”—and whither now have they and Farinelli danced? In Literature too, there have been seen popularities greater even than Scott’s, and nothing perennial in the interior of them. Lope de Vega, whom all the world swore by, and made a proverb of; who could make an acceptable five-act tragedy in almost as many hours; the greatest of all popularities past or present, and perhaps one of the greatest men that ever ranked among popularities: Lope himself, so radiant, far-shining, has not proved to be a sun or star of the firmament; but is as good as lost and gone out, or plays at best, in the eyes of some few, as a vague aurora-borealis, and brilliant ineffectuality. The great man of Spain sat obscure at the time, all dark and poor, a maimed soldier; writing his Don Quixote in prison. And Lope’s fate withal was sad, his popularity perhaps a curse to him; for in this man there was something ethereal too, a divine particle traceable in few other popular men; and such far shining diffusion of himself, though all the world swore by it, would do nothing for the true life of him even while he lived: he had to creep into a convent, into a monk’s cowl, and learn, with infinite sorrow, that his blessedness had lain elsewhere; that when a man’s life feels itself to be sick and an error, no voting of by-standers can make it well and a truth again. Or coming down to our own times, was not August Kotzebue popular? Kotzebue, not so many years since, saw himself, if rumour and hand-clapping could be credited, the greatest man going; saw visibly his Thoughts, dressed out in plush and pasteboard, permeating and perambulating civilized Europe; the most iron visages weeping with him, in all theatres from Cadiz to Kamtchatka; his own ‘astonishing genius,’ meanwhile producing two tragedies or so per month: he on the whole blazed high enough; he too has gone out into Night and Orcus, and already is not.—We will omit this of popularity altogether, and account it as making simply nothing towards Scott’s greatness or non-greatness, as an accident, not a quality. Shorn of this falsifying nimbus, and reduced to his own natural dimensions, there remains the reality, Walter Scott, and what we can find in him: to be accounted great, or not great, according to the dialects of men. Friends to precision of epithet will probably deny his title to the name ‘great.’ It seems to us there goes other stuff to the making of great men than can be detected here. One knows not what idea worthy of the name of great, what purpose, instinct or tendency that could be called great, Scott ever was inspired with. His life was worldly; his ambitions were worldly. There is nothing spiritual in him; all is economical, material, of the earth earthy. A love of picturesque, of beautiful, vigorous and graceful things; a genuine love, yet not more genuine than has dwelt in hundreds of men named minor poets: this is the highest quality to be



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discerned in him. His power of representing these things too, his poetic power, like his moral power, was a genius in extenso, as we may say, not in intenso. In action, in speculation, broad as he was, he rose nowhere high; productive without measure as to quantity, in quality he for the most part transcended but a little way the region of commonplace. It has been said, ‘no man has written as many volumes with so few sentences that can be quoted.’ Winged words were not his vocation; nothing urged him that way: the great Mystery of Existence was not great to him; did not drive him into rocky solitudes to wrestle with it for an answer, to be answered or to perish. He had nothing of the martyr; into no ‘dark region to slay monsters for us,’ did he, either led or driven, venture down: his conquests were for his own behoof mainly, conquests over common market labour, and reckonable in good metallic coin of the realm. The thing he had faith in, except power, power of what sort soever, and even of the rudest sort, would be difficult to point out. One sees not that he believed in anything: nay, he did not even disbelieve; but quietly acquiesced, and made himself at home in a world of conventionalities: the false, the semi-false, and the true were alike true in this, that they were there, and had power in their hands more or less. It was well to feel so; and yet not well! We find it written, ‘Wo to them that are at ease in Zion;’ but surely it is a double wo to them that are at ease in Babel, in Domdaniel. On the other hand he wrote many volumes, amusing many thousands of men. Shall we call this great? It seems to us there dwells and struggles another sort of spirit in the inward parts of great men! Brother Ringletub, the missionary, inquired of Ram-Dass, a Hindoo mangod, who had set up for godhood lately, What he meant to do, then, with the sins of mankind? To which Ram-Dass at once answered, he had fire enough in his belly to burn up all the sins in the world. Ram-Dass was right so far, and had a spice of sense in him; for surely it is the test of every divine man this same, and without it he is not divine or great,—that he have fire in him to burn up somewhat of the sins of the world, of the miseries and errors of the world: why else is he there? Far be it from us to say that a great man must needs, with benevolence prepense, become a ‘friend of humanity;’ nay, that such professional self-conscious friends of humanity are not the fatallest kind of persons to be met with in our day. All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and naught. And yet a great man without such fire in him, burning dim or developed as a divine behest in his heart of hearts, never resting till it be fulfilled, were a solecism in Nature. A great man is ever, as the Transcendentalists speak, possessed with an idea. Napoleon himself, not the superfinest of great men, and ballasted sufficiently with prudences and egoisms, had nevertheless, as is clear enough,

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an idea to start with: the idea that Democracy was the Cause of Man, the right and infinite Cause. Accordingly he made himself ‘the armed Soldier of Democracy;’ and did vindicate it in a rather great manner. Nay, to the very last, he had a kind of idea, that, namely, of ‘La carrière ouverte aux talens, The tools to him that can handle them;’ really one of the best ideas yet promulgated on that matter, or rather the one true central idea, towards which all the others, if they tend anywhither, must tend. Unhappily it was in the military province only that Napoleon could realize this idea of his, being forced to fight for himself the while: before he got it tried to any extent in the civil province of things, his head by much victory grew light (no head can stand more than its quantity); and he lost head, as they say, and became a selfish ambitionist and quack, and was hurled out, leaving his idea to be realized, in the civil province of things, by others! Thus was Napoleon; thus are all great men: children of the idea; or, in Ram-Dass’s phraseology, furnished with fire to burn up the miseries of men. Conscious or unconscious, latent or unfolded, there is small vestige of any such fire being extant in the inner-man of Scott. Yet, on the other hand, the surliest critic must allow that Scott was a genuine man, which itself is a great matter. No affectation, fantasticality or distortion, dwelt in him; no shadow of cant. Nay withal, was he not a right brave and strong man, according to his kind? What a load of toil, what a measure of felicity, he quietly bore along with him; with what quiet strength he both worked on this earth, and enjoyed in it; invincible to evil fortune and to good! A most composed invincible man; in difficulty and distress, knowing no discouragement, Samsonlike, carrying off on his strong Samson-shoulders the gates that would imprison him; in danger and menace, laughing at the whisper of fear. And then, with such a sunny current of true humour and humanity, a free joyful sympathy with so many things; what of fire he had, all lying so beautifully latent, as radical latent heat, as fruitful internal warmth of life; a most robust, healthy man! The truth is, our best definition of Scott were perhaps even this, that he was, if no great man, then something much pleasanter to be, a robust, thoroughly healthy, and withal, very prosperous and victorious man. An eminently well-conditioned man, healthy in body, healthy in soul; we will call him one of the healthiest of men. Neither is this a small matter: health is a great matter, both to the possessor of it and to others. On the whole, that humorist in the Moral Essay was not so far out, who determined on honouring health only; and so instead of humbling himself to the highborn, to the rich and well-dressed, insisted on doffing hat to the healthy: coronetted carriages with pale faces in them passed by as failures miserable and lamentable; trucks with ruddy-cheeked strength dragging at them



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were greeted as successful and venerable. For does not health mean harmony, the synonym of all that is true, justly-ordered, good; is it not, in some sense, the net-total, as shown by experiment, of whatever worth is in us? The healthy man is a most meritorious product of Nature, so far as he goes. A healthy body is good; but a soul in right health,—it is the thing beyond all others to be prayed for; the blessedest thing this earth receives of Heaven. Without artificial medicament of philosophy, or tight-lacing of creeds (always very questionable), the healthy soul discerns what is good, and adheres to it, and retains it; discerns what is bad, and spontaneously casts it off. An instinct from Nature herself, like that which guides the wild animals of the forest to their food, shows him what he shall do, what he shall abstain from. The false and foreign will not adhere to him; cant and all fantastic, diseased incrustations are impossible—as Walker the Original, in such eminence of health was he for his part, could not, by much abstinence from soap and water, attain to a dirty face! This thing thou canst work with and profit by, this thing is substantial and worthy; that other thing thou canst not work with, it is trivial and inapt: so speaks unerringly the inward monition of the man’s whole nature. No need of logic to prove the most argumentative absurdity absurd; as Goethe says of himself, ‘all this ran down from me like water from a man in wax-cloth dress.’ Blessed is the healthy nature; it is the coherent, sweetly co-operative, not incoherent, self-distractive, self-destructive one! In the harmonious adjustment and play of all the faculties, the just balance of oneself gives a just feeling towards all men and all things. Glad light from within radiates outwards, and enlightens and embellishes. Now all this can be predicated of Walter Scott, and of no British literary man that we remember in these days, to any such extent,—if it be not perhaps of one, the most opposite imaginable to Scott, but his equal in this quality and what holds of it: William Cobbett! Nay, there are other similarities, widely different as they two look; nor be the comparison disparaging to Scott: for Cobbett also, as the pattern John Bull of his century, strong as the rhinoceros, and with singular humanities and genialities shining through his thick skin, is a most brave phenomenon. So bounteous was Nature to us; in the sickliest of recorded ages, when British Literature lay all puking and sprawling in Werterism, Byronism, and other Sentimentalism, tearful or spasmodic (fruit of internal wind), Nature was kind enough to send us two healthy Men, of whom she might still say, not without pride, “These also were made in England; such limbs do I still make there!” It is one of the cheerfullest sights, let the question of its greatness be settled as you will. A healthy nature may or may not be great; but there is no great nature that is not healthy.

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Or, on the whole, might we not say, Scott, in the new vesture of the nineteenth century, was intrinsically very much the old fighting Borderer of prior centuries; the kind of man Nature did of old make in that birthland of his? In the saddle, with the foray-spear, he would have acquitted himself as he did at the desk with his pen. One fancies how, in stout Beardie of Harden’s time, he could have played Beardie’s part; and been the stalwart buff-belted terræ filius he in this late time could only delight to draw. The same stout self-help was in him; the same oak and triple brass round his heart. He too could have fought at Redswire, cracking crowns with the fiercest, if that had been the task; could have harried cattle in Tynedale, repaying injury with compound interest; a right sufficient captain of men. A man without qualms or fantasticalities; a hard-headed, sound-hearted man, of joyous robust temper, looking to the main chance, and fighting direct thitherward: valde stalwartus homo!—How much in that case had slumbered in him, and passed away without sign. But indeed, who knows how much slumbers in many men. Perhaps our greatest poets are the mute Miltons; the vocal are those whom by happy accident we lay hold of, one here, one there, as it chances, and make vocal. It is even a question whether, had not want, discomfort, and distress-warrants been busy at Stratford-on-Avon, Shakspeare himself had not lived killing calves or combing wool! Had the Edial Boarding-school turned out well, we had never heard of Samuel Johnson; Samuel Johnson had been a fat schoolmaster and dogmatic gerundgrinder, and never known that he was more. Nature is rich: those two eggs thou art eating carelessly to breakfast, could they not have been hatched into a pair of fowls, and have covered the whole world with poultry? But it was not harrying of cattle in Tynedale, or cracking of crowns at Redswire, that this stout Border chief was appointed to perform. Far other work. To be the song-singer and pleasant tale-teller to Britain and Europe, in the beginning of the artificial nineteenth century; here, and not there, lay his business. Beardie of Harden would have found it very amazing. How he shapes himself to this new element; how he helps himself along in it, makes it too do for him, lives sound and victorious in it, and leads over the marches such a spoil as all the cattle-droves the Hardens ever took were poor in comparison to: this is the history of the life and achievements of our Sir Walter Scott, Baronet;—whereat we are now to glance for a little! It is a thing remarkable; a thing substantial; of joyful, victorious sort; not unworthy to be glanced at. Withal, however, a glance here and there will suffice. Our limits are narrow; the thing, were it never so victorious, is not of the sublime sort, nor extremely edifying; there is nothing



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in it to censure vehemently, nor love vehemently: there is more to wonder at than admire; and the whole secret is not an abstruse one. Till towards the age of thirty, Scott’s life has nothing in it decisively pointing towards Literature, or indeed towards distinction of any kind; he is wedded, settled, and has gone through all his preliminary steps, without symptom of renown as yet. It is the life of every other Edinburgh youth of his station and time. Fortunate we must name it, in many ways. Parents in easy or wealthy circumstances, yet unincumbered with the cares and perversions of aristocracy: nothing eminent in place, in faculty, or culture, yet nothing deficient; all around is methodic regulation, prudence, prosperity, kind-heartedness; an element of warmth and light, of affection, industry, and burgherly comfort, heightened into elegance; in which the young heart can wholesomely grow. A vigorous health seems to have been given by Nature; yet, as if Nature had said withal, “Let it be a health to express itself by mind, not by body,” a lameness is added in childhood; the brave little boy, instead of romping and bickering, must learn to think; or at lowest, what is a great matter, to sit still. No rackets and trundling-hoops for this young Walter; but ballads, history-books, and a world of legendary stuff, which his mother and those near him are copiously able to furnish. Disease, which is but superficial, and issues in outward lameness, does not cloud the young existence; rather forwards it towards the expansion it is fitted for. The miserable disease had been one of the internal nobler parts, marring the general organization; under which no Walter Scott could have been forwarded, or with all his other endowments could have been producible or possible. ‘Nature gives healthy children much; how much! Wise education is a wise unfolding of this; often it unfolds itself better of its own accord.’ Add one other circumstance: the place where; namely, Presbyterian Scotland. The influences of this are felt incessantly, they stream in at every pore. ‘There is a country accent,’ says La Rochefoucault, ‘not in speech only, but in thought, conduct, character, and manner of existing, which never forsakes a man.’ Scott, we believe, was all his days an Episcopalian Dissenter in Scotland; but that makes little to the matter. Nobody who knows Scotland and Scott can doubt but Presbyterianism too had a vast share in the forming of him. A country where the entire people is, or even once has been, laid hold of, filled to the heart with an infinite religious idea, has ‘made a step from which it cannot retrograde.’Thought, conscience, the sense that man is denizen of a Universe, creature of an Eternity, has penetrated to the remotest cottage, to the simplest heart. Beautiful and awful, the feeling of a Heavenly Behest, of Duty god-commanded, overcanopies all

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life. There is an inspiration in such a people; one may say in a more special sense, ‘the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.’ Honour to all the brave and true; everlasting honour to brave old Knox, one of the truest of the true! That in the moment while he and his cause, amid civil broils, in convulsion and confusion, were still but struggling for life, he sent the schoolmaster forth to all corners, and said, “Let the people be taught:” this is but one, and indeed an inevitable and comparatively inconsiderable item in his great message to men. His message, in its true compass, was, “Let men know that they are men; created by God, responsible to God; who work in any meanest moment of time what will last through eternity.” It is verily a great message. Not ploughing and hammering machines, not patent digesters (never so ornamental) to digest the produce of these; no, in no wise; born slaves neither of their fellow-men, nor of their own appetites; but men! This great message Knox did deliver, with a man’s voice and strength; and found a people to believe him. Of such an achievement, we say, were it to be made once only, the results are immense. Thought, in such a country, may change its form, but cannot go out; the country has attained majority; thought, and a certain spiritual manhood, ready for all work that man can do, endures there. It may take many forms: the form of hard-fisted, money-getting industry, as in the vulgar Scotchman, in the vulgar New Englander; but as compact developed force and alertness of faculty, it is still there; it may utter itself, one day, as the colossal Scepticism of a Hume (beneficent this too, though painful, wrestling, Titan-like, through doubt and inquiry towards new belief ); and again, some better day, it may utter itself as the inspired Melody of a Burns: in a word, it is there, and continues to manifest itself, in the Voice and the Work of a Nation of hardy, endeavouring, considering men, with whatever that may bear in it, or unfold from it. The Scotch national character originates in many circumstances; first of all, in the Saxon stuff there was to work on; but next, and beyond all else except that, in the Presbyterian Gospel of John Knox. It seems a good national character; and, on some sides, not so good. Let Scott thank John Knox, for he owed him much, little as he dreamed of debt in that quarter! No Scotchman of his time was more entirely Scotch than Walter Scott; the good and the not so good, which all Scotchmen inherit, ran through every fibre of him. Scott’s childhood, school-days, college-days, are pleasant to read of, though they differ not from those of others in his place and time. The memory of him may probably enough last till this record of them become far more curious than it now is. “So lived an Edinburgh Writer to the Signet’s son in the end of the eighteenth century,” may some future Scotch novelist say to himself in the



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end of the twenty-first! The following little fragment of infancy is all we can extract. It is from an Autobiography which he had begun, which one cannot but regret he did not finish. Scott’s best qualities never shone out more freely than when he went upon anecdote and reminiscence. Such a master of narrative and of himself could have done personal narrative well. Here, if anywhere, his knowledge was complete, and all his humour and good-humour had free scope: ‘An odd incident is worth recording. It seems my mother had sent a maid to take charge of me, at this farm of Sandy-Knowe, that I might be no inconvenience to the family. But the damsel sent on that important mission had left her heart behind her, in the keeping of some wild fellow, it is likely, who had done and said more to her than he was like to make good. She became extremely desirous to return to Edinburgh; and, as my mother made a point of her remaining where she was, she contracted a sort of hatred at poor me, as the cause of her being detained at Sandy-Knowe. This rose, I suppose, to a sort of delirious affection, for she confessed to old Alison Wilson, the housekeeper, that she had carried me up to the craigs under a strong temptation of the Devil to cut my throat with her scissors, and bury me in the moss. Alison instantly took possession of my person, and took care that her confidant should not be subject to any farther temptation, at least so far as I was concerned. She was dismissed, of course, and I have heard afterwards became a lunatic. ‘It is here, at Sandy-Knowe, in the residence of my paternal grandfather, already mentioned, that I have the first consciousness of existence; and I recollect distinctly that my situation and appearance were a little whimsical. Among the odd remedies recurred to to aid my lameness, some one had recommended that so often as a sheep was killed for the use of the family, I should be stripped, and swathed up in the skin warm as it was flayed from the carcass of the animal. In this Tartar-like habiliment I well remember lying upon the floor of the little parlour in the farm-house, while my grandfather, a venerable old man with white hair, used every excitement to make me try to crawl. I also distinctly remember the late Sir George M’Dougal of Mackerstown, father of the present Sir Henry Hay M’Dougal, joining in the attempt. He was, God knows how, a relation of ours; and I still recollect him in his old-fashioned military habit (he had been Colonel of the Greys), with a small cocked-hat deeply laced, an embroidered scarlet waistcoat, and a light-coloured coat, with milk-white locks tied in a military fashion, kneeling on the ground before me, and dragging his watch along the carpet to induce me to follow it. The benevolent old soldier and the infant wrapped in his sheep-skin, would have afforded an odd group to uninterested spectators. This must have happened about my third year (1774), for Sir George M’Dougal and my grandfather both died shortly after that period.’* * Vol. i. pp. 15-17.

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We will glance next into the ‘Liddesdale raids.’ Scott has grown up to be a brisk-hearted jovial young man and Advocate: in vacation time he makes excursions to the Highlands, to the Border Cheviots and Northumberland; rides free and far, on his stout galloway, through bog and brake, over the dim moory Debateable Land,—over Flodden and other fields and places, where, though he yet knew it not, his work lay. No land, however dim and moory, but either has had or will have its poet, and so become not unknown in song. Liddesdale, which was once as prosaic as most dales, having now attained illustration, let us glance thitherward: Liddesdale too is on this ancient Earth of ours under this eternal Sky; and gives and takes, in the most incalculable manner, with the Universe at large! Scott’s experiences there are rather of the rustic Arcadian sort; the element of whisky not wanting. We should premise that here and there a feature has perhaps been aggravated for effect’s sake: ‘During seven successive years,’ writes Mr. Lockhart (for the Autobiography has long since left us), ‘Scott made a raid, as he called it, into Liddesdale with Mr. Shortreed, sheriff-substitute of Roxburgh, for his guide; exploring every rivulet to its source, and every ruined peel from foundation to battlement. At this time no wheeled carriage had ever been seen in the district;—the first indeed was a gig, driven by Scott himself for a part of his way, when on the last of these seven excursions. There was no inn nor publichouse of any kind in the whole valley; the travellers passed from the shepherd’s hut to the minister’s manse, and again from the cheerful hospitality of the manse to the rough and jolly welcome of the homestead; gathering, wherever they went, songs and tunes, and occasionally more tangible relics of antiquity;—even such a “routh of auld knicknackets” as Burns ascribes to Captain Grose. To these rambles Scott owed much of the materials of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; and not less of that intimate acquaintance with the living manners of these unsophisticated regions, which constitutes the chief charm of one of the most charming of his prose works. But how soon he had any definite object before him in his researches seems very doubtful. “He was makin’ himsell a’ the time,” said Mr. Shortreed; “but he didna ken may be what he was about till years had passed; at first he thought o’ little I daresay but the queerness and the fun.” ‘“In those days,” says the memorandum before me, “advocates were not so plenty, at least about Liddesdale;” and the worthy sheriff-substitute goes on to describe the sort of bustle, not unmixed with alarm, produced at the first farm-house they visited (Willie Elliot’s, of Millburnholm), when the honest man was informed of the quality of one of his guests. When they dismounted, accordingly, he received Mr. Scott with great ceremony, and insisted upon himself leading his horse to the stable. Shortreed accompanied Willie however, and the latter, after taking a deliberate peep at Scott, “out by the edge



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of the door-cheek,” whispered, “weel Robin, deil hae me if I’se be a bit feared for him now; he’s just a chield like oursels, I think.” Half a dozen dogs of all degrees had already gathered round the advocate, and his way of returning their compliments had set Willie Elliot at once at his ease. ‘According to Mr. Shortreed, this good man of Millburnholm was the great original of Dandie Dinmont.’ * * * ‘They dined at Millburnholm; and, after having lingered over Willie Elliot’s punch-bowl until, in Mr. Shortreed’s phrase, they were “half-glowrin,” mounted their steeds again, and proceeded to Dr. Elliot’s at Cleughhead, where (“for,” says my memorandum, “folk were na very nice in those days”) the two travellers slept in one and the same bed,—as indeed seems to have been the case with them throughout most of their excursions in this primitive district. Dr. Elliot, a clergyman, had already a large MS. collection of the ballads Scott was in quest of.’ * * * ‘Next morning they seem to have ridden a long way for the express purpose of visiting one “auld Thomas o’ Tuzzilehope,” another Elliot, I suppose, who was celebrated for his skill on the Border pipe, and in particular for being in possession of the real lilt* of Dick o’ the Cow. Before starting, that is, at six o’clock, the ballad hunters had, “just to lay the stomach, a devilled duck or twae, and some London porter.” Auld Thomas found them, nevertheless, well disposed for “breakfast” on their arrival at Tuzzilehope; and this being over, he delighted them with one of the most hideous and unearthly of all the specimens of “riding-music;” and, moreover, with considerable libations of whisky-punch, manufactured in a certain wooden vessel, resembling a very small milk-pail, which he called “wisdom,” because it “made” only a few spoonfuls of spirits,—though he had the art of replenishing it so adroitly, that it had been celebrated for fifty years as more fatal to sobriety than any bowl in the parish. Having done due honour to “wisdom,” they again mounted, and proceeded over moss and moor to some other equally hospitable master of the pipe. “Ah me,” says Shortreed, “sic an endless fund o’ humour and drollery as he then had wi’ him! Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring and singing. Wherever we stopped, how brawlie he suited himsell to everybody! He aye did as the lave did; never made himsell the great man or took ony airs in the company. I’ve seen him in a’ moods in these jaunts, grave and gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk (this however, even in our wildest rambles, was rare); but, drunk or sober, he was aye the gentleman. He lookit excessively heavy and stupid when he was fou, but he was never out o’ gude humour.”’

These are questionable doings, questionably narrated; but what shall we say of the following, wherein the element of whisky plays an extremely prominent part? We will say that it is questionable, and not exemplary, whisky mounting * Loud tune: German, lallen.

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clearly beyond its level; that indeed charity hopes and conjectures, here may be some aggravating of features for effect’s sake! 5

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‘On reaching, one evening, some Charlieshope or other (I forget the name) among those wildernesses, they found a kindly reception as usual; but, to their agreeable surprise, after some days of hard living, a measured and orderly hospitality as respected liquor. Soon after supper, at which a bottle of elderberry wine alone had been produced, a young student of divinity, who happened to be in the house, was called upon to take the “big ha’ Bible,” in the good old fashion of “Burns’s Saturday Night;” and some progress had been already made in the service, when the good man of the farm, whose “tendency,” as Mr. Mitchell says, “was soporific,” scandalized his wife and the dominie by starting suddenly from his knees, and, rubbing his eyes, with a stentorian exclamation of “By——, here’s the keg at last!” and in tumbled, as he spoke the word, a couple of sturdy herdsmen, whom, on hearing a day before of the advocate’s approaching visit, he had despatched to a certain smuggler’s haunt, at some considerable distance, in quest of a supply of run brandy from the Solway Frith. The pious exercise of the household was hopelessly interrupted. With a thousand apologies for his hitherto shabby entertainment, this jolly Elliot or Armstrong had the welcome keg mounted on the table without a moment’s delay, and gentle and simple, not forgetting the dominie, continued carousing about it until daylight streamed in upon the party. Sir Walter Scott seldom failed, when I saw him in company with his Liddesdale companion, to mimic, with infinite humour, the sudden outburst of his old host on hearing the clatter of horses’ feet, which he knew to indicate the arrival of the keg; the consternation of the dame; and the rueful despair with which the young clergyman closed the book.’*

From which Liddesdale raids, which we here, like the young clergyman, close not without a certain rueful despair, let the reader draw what nourishment he can. They evince satisfactorily, though in a rude manner, that in those days young advocates, and Scott, like the rest of them, were alive and alert,—whisky sometimes preponderating. But let us now fancy that the jovial young Advocate has pleaded his first cause; has served in yeomanry drills; been wedded, been promoted Sheriff, without romance in either case; dabbling a little the while, under guidance of Monk Lewis, in translations from the German, in translation of Goethe’s Götz with the Iron Hand;—and we have arrived at the threshold of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and the opening of a new century. Hitherto, therefore, there has been made out, by Nature and Circumstance working together, nothing unusually remarkable, yet still something very valu* Vol. i. pp. 195-199.



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able: a stout effectual man of thirty, full of broad sagacity and good humour, with faculties in him fit for any burden of business, hospitality, and duty, legal or civic;—with what other faculties in him no one could yet say. As indeed who, after lifelong inspection, can say what is in any man? The uttered part of a man’s life, let us always repeat, bears to the unuttered, unconscious part a small unknown proportion; he himself never knows it, much less do others. Give him room, give him impulse: he reaches down to the Infinite with that so straitly-imprisoned soul of his; and can do miracles if need be! It is one of the comfortablest truths that great men abound, though in the unknown state. Nay, as above hinted, our greatest, being also by nature our quietest, are perhaps those that remain unknown! Philosopher Fichte took comfort in this belief, when from all pulpits and editorial desks, and publications, periodical and stationary, he could hear nothing but the infinite chattering and twittering of commonplace become ambitious; and in the infinite stir of motion nowhither, and of din which should have been silence, all seemed churned into one tempestuous yeasty froth, and the stern Fichte almost desired ‘taxes on knowledge’ to allay it a little;—he comforted himself, we say, by the unshaken belief that Thought did still exist in Germany; that thinking men, each in his own corner, were verily doing their work, though in a silent latent manner.* Walter Scott, as a latent Walter, had never amused all men for a score of years in the course of centuries and eternities, or gained and lost several hundred thousand pounds sterling by Literature; but he might have been a happy, and by no means a useless,—nay, who knows at bottom whether not a still usefuller Walter! However, that was not his fortune. The Genius of a rather singular age,—an age at once destitute of faith and terrified at scepticism, with little knowledge of its whereabout, with many sorrows to bear or front, and on the whole with a life to lead in these new circumstances,—had said to himself: What man shall be the temporary comforter, or were it but the spiritual comfit-maker, of this my poor singular age, to solace its dead tedium and manifold sorrows a little? So had the Genius said, looking over all the world, what man? and found him walking the dusty Outer Parliament-house of Edinburgh, with his advocate-gown on his back; and exclaimed, That is he! The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border proved to be a well, from which flowed one of the broadest rivers. Metrical Romances (which in due time pass into Prose Romances); the old life of men resuscitated for us: it is a mighty word! Not as dead tradition, but as a palpable presence, the past stood before us. There they were, the rugged old fighting men; in their doughty simplicity and strength, * Fichte, Ueber das Wesen des Gelehrten.

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with their heartiness, their healthiness, their stout self-help, in their iron basnets, leather jerkins, jackboots, in their quaintness of manner and costume; there as they looked and lived! It was like a new-discovered continent in Literature; for the new century, a bright El Dorado,—or else some fat beatific land of Cockaigne, and Paradise of Donothings. To the opening nineteenth century, in its languor and paralysis, nothing could have been welcomer. Most unexpected, most refreshing, and exhilarating: behold our new El Dorado; our fat beatific Lubberland, where one can enjoy and do nothing! It was the time for such a new Literature; and this Walter Scott was the man for it. The Lays, the Marmions, the Ladyes and Lords of Lake and Isles, followed in thick succession, with everwidening profit and praise. How many thousands of guineas were paid down for each new Lay; how many thousands of copies (fifty, and more sometimes) were printed off then and subsequently; what complimenting, reviewing, renown and apotheosis there was: all is recorded in these Seven Volumes, which will be valuable in literary statistics. It is a history, brilliant, remarkable; the outlines of which are known to all. The reader shall recal it, or conceive it. No blaze in his fancy is like to mount higher than the reality did. At this middle period of his life, therefore, Scott, enriched with copyrights, with new official incomes and promotions, rich in money, rich in repute, presents himself as a man in the full career of success. ‘Health, wealth, and wit to guide them’ (as his vernacular Proverb says), all these three are his. The field is open for him, and victory there; his own faculty, his own self, unshackled, victoriously unfolds itself,—the highest blessedness that can befall a man. Wide circle of friends, personal loving admirers; warmth of domestic joys, vouchsafed to all that can trueheartedly nestle down among them; light of radiance and renown given only to a few: who would not call Scott happy? But the happiest circumstance of all is, as we said above, that Scott had in himself a right healthy soul, rendering him little dependent on outward circumstances. Things showed themselves to him not in distortion or borrowed light or gloom, but as they were. Endeavour lay in him and endurance, in due measure; and clear vision of what was to be endeavoured after. Were one to preach a Sermon on Health, as really were worth doing, Scott ought to be the text. Theories are demonstrably true in the way of logic; and then in the way of practice, they prove true or else not true: but here is the grand experiment, Do they turn out well? What boots it that a man’s creed is the wisest, that his system of principles is the superfinest, if, when set to work, the life of him does nothing but jar, and fret itself into holes? They are untrue in that, were it in nothing else, these principles of his; openly convicted of untruth;—fit only, shall we say, to be rejected as counterfeits, and flung to



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the dogs? We say not that; but we do say that ill-health, of body or of mind, is defeat, is battle (in a good or in a bad cause) with bad success; that health alone is victory. Let all men, if they can manage it, contrive to be healthy! He who in what cause soever sinks into pain and disease, let him take thought of it; let him know well that it is not good he has arrived at yet, but surely evil,—may, or may not be, on the way towards good. Scott’s healthiness showed itself decisively in all things, and nowhere more decisively than in this: the way in which he took his fame; the estimate he from the first formed of fame. Money will buy money’s worth; but the thing men call fame, what is it? A gaudy emblazonry, not good for much,—except indeed as it too may turn to money. To Scott it was a profitable pleasing superfluity, no necessary of life. Not necessary, now or ever! Seemingly without much effort, but taught by Nature, and the instinct which instructs the sound heart what is good for it and what is not, he felt that he could always do without this same emblazonry of reputation; that he ought to put no trust in it; but be ready at any time to see it pass away from him, and to hold on his way as before. It is incalculable, as we conjecture, what evil he escaped in this manner; what perversions, irritations, mean agonies without a name, he lived wholly apart from, knew nothing of. Happily before fame arrived, he had reached the mature age at which all this was easier for him. What a strange Nemesis lurks in the felicities of men! In thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey, in thy belly it shall be bitter as gall! Some weakly-organized individual, we will say at the age of five-and-twenty, whose main or whole talent rests on some prurient susceptivity, and nothing under it but shallowness and vacuum, is clutched hold of by the general imagination, is whirled aloft to the giddy height; and taught to believe the divine-seeming message that he is a great man: such individual seems the luckiest of men; and, alas, is he not the unluckiest? Swallow not the Circe-draught, O weakly-organized individual; it is fell poison; it will dry up the fountains of thy whole existence, and all will grow withered and parched; thou shalt be wretched under the sun! Is there, for example, a sadder book than that Life of Byron, by Moore? To omit mere prurient susceptivities that rest on vacuum, look at poor Byron, who really had much substance in him. Sitting there in his self-exile, with a proud heart striving to persuade itself that it despises the entire created Universe; and far off, in foggy Babylon, let any pitifullest whipster draw pen on him, your proud Byron writhes in torture,—as if the pitiful whipster were a magician, or his pen a galvanic wire stuck into the Byron’s spinal marrow! Lamentable, despicable,— one had rather be a kitten and cry mew! O, son of Adam, great or little, according as thou art loveable those thou livest with will love thee. Those thou livest not

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with, is it of moment that they have the alphabetic letters of thy name engraved on their memory with some signpost likeness of thee (as like as I to Hercules) appended to them? It is not of moment; in sober truth, not of any moment at all! And yet, behold, there is no soul now whom thou canst love freely,—from one soul only art thou always sure of reverence enough; in presence of no soul is it rightly well with thee! How is thy world become desert; and thou, for the sake of a little babblement of tongues, art poor, bankrupt, insolvent not in purse, but in heart and mind. ‘The Golden Calf of self-love,’ says Jean Paul, ‘has grown into a burning Phalaris’ Bull, to consume its owner and worshipper.’ Ambition, the desire of shining and outshining, was the beginning of Sin in this world. The man of letters who founds upon his fame, does he not thereby alone declare himself a follower of Lucifer (named Satan, the Enemy), and member of the Satanic school?— — It was in this poetic period that Scott formed his connexion with the Ballantynes; and embarked, though under cover, largely in trade. To those who regard him in the heroic light, and will have Vates to signify Prophet as well as Poet, this portion of his biography seems somewhat incongruous. Viewed as it stood in the reality, as he was and as it was, the enterprise, since it proved so unfortunate, may be called lamentable, but cannot be called unnatural. The practical Scott, looking towards practical issues in all things, could not but find hard cash one of the most practical. If, by any means, cash could be honestly produced, were it by writing poems, were it by printing them, why not? Great things might be done ultimately; great difficulties were at once got rid of,—manifold higgling of booksellers, and contradiction of sinners hereby fell away. A printing and bookselling speculation was not so alien for a maker of books. Voltaire, who indeed got no copyrights, made much money by the war-commissariat, in his time; we believe, by the victualling branch of it. Saint George himself, they say, was a dealer in bacon in Cappadocia. A thrifty man will help himself towards his object by such steps as lead to it. Station in society, solid power over the good things of this world, was Scott’s avowed object; towards which the precept of precepts is that of Iago: Put money in thy purse. Here indeed it is to be remarked, that perhaps no literary man of any generation has less value than Scott for the immaterial part of his mission in any sense: not only for the fantasy called fame, with the fantastic miseries attendant thereon; but also for the spiritual purport of his work, whether it tended hitherward or thitherward, or had any tendency whatever; and indeed for all purports and results of his working, except such, we may say, as offered themselves to the eye, and could in one sense or the other be handled, looked at, and



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buttoned into the breeches-pocket. Somewhat too little of a fantast, this Vates of ours! But so it was: in this nineteenth century, our highest literary man, who immeasurably beyond all others commanded the world’s ear, had, as it were, no message whatever to deliver to the world; wished not the world to elevate itself, to amend itself, to do this or to do that, except simply pay him for the books he kept writing. Very remarkable; fittest, perhaps, for an age fallen languid, destitute of faith, and terrified at scepticism? Or, perhaps, for quite another sort of age, an age all in peaceable triumphant motion? Be this as it may, surely since Shakspeare’s time there has been no great speaker so unconscious of an aim in speaking as Walter Scott. Equally unconscious these two utterances; equally the sincere complete product of the minds they came from: and now if they were equally deep? Or, if the one was living fire, and the other was futile phosphorescence and mere resinous firework? It will depend on the relative worth of the minds; for both were equally spontaneous, both equally expressed themselves unincumbered by an ulterior aim. Beyond drawing audiences to the Globe Theatre, Shakspeare contemplated no result in those plays of his. Yet they have had results! Utter with free heart what thy own daemon gives thee: if fire from heaven, it shall be well; if resinous firework, it shall be—as well as it could be, or better than otherwise!—The candid judge will, in general, require that a speaker, in so extremely serious a Universe as this of ours, have something to speak about. In the heart of the speaker there ought to be some kind of gospel-tidings burning till it be uttered; otherwise it were better for him that he altogether held his peace. A gospel somewhat more decisive than this of Scott’s,—except to an age altogether languid, without either scepticism or faith! These things the candid judge will demand of literary men; yet withal will recognize the great worth there is in Scott’s honesty if in nothing more, in his being the thing he was with such entire good faith. Here is a something not a nothing. If no skyborn messenger, heaven looking through his eyes; then neither is it a chimera with its systems, crotchets, cants, fanaticisms, and ‘last infirmity of noble minds,’—full of misery, unrest, and ill-will; but a substantial, peaceable, terrestrial man. Far as the Earth is under the Heaven does Scott stand below the former sort of character; but high as the cheerful flowery Earth is above waste Tartarus does he stand above the latter. Let him live in his own fashion, and do honour to him in that. It were late in the day to write criticisms on those Metrical Romances: at the same time, we may remark, the great popularity they had seems natural enough. In the first place, there was the indisputable impress of worth, of genuine human force, in them. This which lies in some degree, or is thought

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to lie, at the bottom of all popularity, did, to an unusual degree, disclose itself in these rhymed romances of Scott’s. Pictures were actually painted and presented; human emotions conceived and sympathized with. Considering what wretched Della-Cruscan and other vamping-up of old worn-out tatters was the staple article then, it may be granted that Scott’s excellence was superior and supreme. When a Hayley was the main singer, a Scott might well be hailed with warm welcome. Consider whether the Loves of the Plants, and even the Loves of the Triangles, could be worth the loves and hates of men and women! Scott was as preferable to what he displaced, as the substance is to the wearisomely repeated shadow of a substance. But, in the second place, we may say that the kind of worth which Scott manifested was fitted especially for the then temper of men. We have called it an age fallen into spiritual languor, destitute of belief, yet terrified at scepticism; reduced to live a stinted half-life, under strange new circumstances. Now vigorous whole-life, this was what of all things these delineations offered. The reader was carried back to rough strong times, wherein those maladies of ours had not yet arisen. Brawny fighters, all cased in buff and iron, their hearts too sheathed in oak and triple brass, caprioled their huge war-horses, shook their death-doing spears; and went forth in the most determined manner, nothing doubting. The reader sighed, yet not without a reflex solacement: “O, that I too had lived in those times, had never known these logic-cobwebs, this doubt, this sickliness; and been and felt myself alive among men alive!” Add lastly, that, in this new-found poetic world there was no call for effort on the reader’s part; what excellence they had, exhibited itself at a glance. It was for the reader, not an El Dorado only, but a beatific land of Cockaigne and Paradise of Donothings! The reader, what the vast majority of readers so long to do, was allowed to lie down at his ease, and be ministered to. What the Turkish bath-keeper is said to aim at with his frictions, and shampooings, and fomentings, more or less effectually, that the patient in total idleness may have the delights of activity,—was here to a considerable extent realized. The languid imagination fell back into its rest; an artist was there who could supply it with high-painted scenes, with sequences of stirring action, and whisper to it, Be at ease, and let thy tepid element be comfortable to thee. ‘The rude man,’ says a critic, ‘requires only to see something going on. The man of more refinement must be made to feel. The man of complete refinement must be made to reflect.’ We named the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border the fountain from which flowed this great river of Metrical Romances; but according to some they can be traced to a still higher obscurer spring: to Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand; of which, as we have seen, Scott in his earlier days executed



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a translation. Dated a good many years ago, the following words in a criticism on Goethe are found written; which probably are still new to most readers of this Review: ‘The works just mentioned, Götz and Werter, though noble specimens of youthful talent, are still not so much distinguished by their intrinsic merits as by their splendid fortune. It would be difficult to name two books which have exercised a deeper influence on the subsequent literature of Europe than these two performances of a young author; his first fruits, the produce of his twenty-fourth year. Werter appeared to seize the hearts of men in all quarters of the world, and to utter for them the word which they had long been waiting to hear. As usually happens too, this same word once uttered was soon abundantly repeated; spoken in all dialects, and chaunted through all the notes of the gamut, till the sound of it had grown a weariness rather than a pleasure. Sceptical sentimentality, view-hunting, love, friendship, suicide, and desperation, became the staple literary ware: and though the epidemic, after a long course of years, subsided in Germany, it re-appeared with various modifications in other countries; and everywhere abundant traces of its good and its bad effects are still to be discerned. The fortune of Berlichingen with the Iron Hand, though less sudden, was by no means less exalted. In his own country, Götz, though he now stands solitary and childless, became the parent of an innumerable progeny of chivalry plays, feudal delineations, and poetico-antiquarian performances; which, though long ago deceased, made noise enough in their day and generation: and with ourselves his influence has been perhaps still more remarkable. Sir Walter Scott’s first literary enterprise was a translation of Götz von Berlichingen: and if genius could be communicated like instruction, we might call this work of Goethe’s the prime cause of Marmion and the Lady of the Lake, with all that has since followed from the same creative hand. Truly a grain of seed that has lighted in the right soil! For, if not firmer and fairer, it has grown to be taller and broader than any other tree; and all the nations of the earth are still yearly gathering of its fruit.’

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How far Götz von Berlichingen actually affected Scott’s literary destination, and whether without it the rhymed romances, and then the prose romances of the Author of Waverley, would not have followed as they did, must remain a very obscure question; obscure, and not important. Of the fact, however, there is no doubt, that these two tendencies, which may be named Götzism and Werterism, of the former of which Scott was representative with us, have made, and are still in some quarters making, the tour of all Europe. In Germany too there was this affectionate half-regretful looking back into the Past; Germany had its buff-belted watch-tower period in literature, and had even got done with it,

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before Scott began. Then as to Werterism, had not we English our Byron and his genus? No form of Werterism in any other country had half the potency: as our Scott carried Chivalry Literature to the ends of the world, so did our Byron Werterism. France, busy with its Revolution and its Napoleon, had little leisure at the moment for Götzism or Werterism; but it has had them both since, in a shape of its own: witness the whole ‘Literature of Desperation’ in our own days, the beggarliest form of Werterism yet seen, probably its expiring final form: witness also, at the other extremity of the scale, a nobly-gifted Chateaubriand, Götz and Werter, both in one.—Curious: how all Europe is but like a set of parishes of the same country; participant of the self-same influences, ever since the Crusades, and earlier;—and these glorious wars of ours are but like parish-brawls, which begin in mutual ignorance, intoxication and boastful speech; which end in broken windows, damage, waste, and bloody noses; and which one hopes the general good sense is now in the way towards putting down, in some measure! But leaving this to be as it can, what it concerned us here to remark, was that British Werterism, in the shape of those Byron Poems, so potent and poignant, produced on the languid appetite of men a mighty effect. This too was a ‘class of feelings deeply important to modern minds; feelings which arise from passion incapable of being converted into action, which belong to an age as indolent, cultivated, and unbelieving as our own!’ The ‘languid age without either faith or scepticism’ turned towards Byronism with an interest altogether peculiar: here, if no cure for its miserable paralysis and languor, was at least an indignant statement of the misery; an indignant Ernulphus’ curse read over it,—which all men felt to be something. Half-regretful lookings into the Past gave place, in many quarters to Ernulphus’ cursings of the Present. Scott was among the first to perceive that the day of Metrical Chivalry Romances was declining. He had held the sovereignty for some half-score of years, a comparatively long lease of it; and now the time seemed come for dethronement, for abdication; an unpleasant business; which however he held himself ready, as a brave man will, to transact with composure and in silence. After all, Poetry was not his staff of life; Poetry had already yielded him much money; this at least it would not take back from him. Busy always with editing, with compiling, with multiplex official, commercial business, and solid interests, he beheld the coming change with unmoved eye. Resignation he was prepared to exhibit in this matter;—and now behold there proved to be no need of resignation. Let the Metrical Romance become a Prose one; shake off its rhyme-fetters, and try a wider sweep! In the spring of 1814 appeared Waverley; an event memorable in the annals of British Lit-



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erature; in the annals of British Bookselling thrice and four times memorable. Byron sang, but Scott narrated; and when the song had sung itself out through all variations onwards to the Don Juan one, Scott was still found narrating, and carrying the whole world along with him. All bygone popularity of chivalry lays was swallowed up in a far greater. What ‘series’ followed out of Waverley, and how and with what result, is known to all men; was witnessed and watched with a kind of rapt astonishment by all. Hardly any literary reputation ever rose so high in our Island; no reputation at all ever spread so wide. Walter Scott became Sir Walter Scott, Baronet, of Abbotsford; on whom Fortune seemed to pour her whole cornucopia of wealth, honour, and worldly good; the favourite of Princes and of Peasants, and all intermediate men. His ‘Waverley series,’ swift-following one on the other apparently without end, was the universal reading, looked for like an annual harvest, by all ranks in all European countries. A curious circumstance superadded itself, that the author though known was unknown. From the first, most people suspected, and soon after the first, few intelligent persons much doubted, that the Author of Waverley was Walter Scott. Yet a certain mystery was still kept up; rather piquant to the public; doubtless very pleasant to the author, who saw it all; who probably had not to listen, as other hapless individuals often had, to this or the other long-drawn ‘clear proof at last,’ that the author was not Walter Scott, but a certain astonishing Mr. Soand-so;—one of the standing miseries of human life in that time. But for the privileged Author, it was like a king travelling incognito. All men know that he is a high king, chivalrous Gustaf or Kaiser Joseph; but he mingles in their meetings without cumber of etiquette or lonesome ceremony, as Chevalier du Nord, or Count of Lorraine: he has none of the weariness of royalty, and yet all the praise, and the satisfaction of hearing it with his own ears. In a word, the Waverley Novels circulated and reigned triumphant; to the general imagination the ‘Author of Waverley’ was like some living mythological personage, and ranked among the chief wonders of the world. How a man lived and demeaned himself in such unwonted circumstances is worth seeing. We would gladly quote from Scott’s correspondence of this period; but that does not much illustrate the matter. His letters, as above stated, are never without interest, yet also seldom or never very interesting. They are full of cheerfulness, of wit, and ingenuity; but they do not treat of aught intimate; without impeaching their sincerity, what is called sincerity, one may say they do not, in any case whatever, proceed from the innermost parts of the mind. Conventional forms, due consideration of your own and your correspondent’s pretensions and vanities, are at no moment left out of view. The epistolary

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stream runs on, lucid, free, glad-flowing; but always, as it were, parallel to the real substance of the matter, never coincident with it. One feels it hollowish under foot. Letters they are of a most humane man of the world, even exemplary in that kind; but with the man of the world always visible in them;—as indeed it was little in Scott’s way to speak perhaps even with himself in any other fashion. We select rather some glimpses of him from Mr. Lockhart’s record. The first is of dining with Royalty or Prince-Regentship itself; an almost official matter: ‘On hearing from Mr. Croker, then Secretary to the Admiralty, that Scott was to be in town by the middle of March (1815), the Prince said, “Let me know when he comes, and I’ll get up a snug little dinner that will suit him;” and after he had been presented and graciously received at the levee, he was invited to dinner accordingly, through his excellent friend Mr. Adam (now Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court in Scotland), who at that time held a confidential office in the royal household. The Regent had consulted with Mr. Adam also as to the composition of the party. “Let us have,” said he, “just a few friends of his own, and the more Scotch the better;” and both the Commissioner and Mr. Croker assure me that the party was the most interesting and agreeable one in their recollection. It comprised, I believe, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gordon (then Marquis of Huntly), the Marquis of Hertford (then Lord Yarmouth), the Earl of Fife, and Scott’s early friend, Lord Melville. “The Prince and Scott,” says Mr. Croker, “were the two most brilliant story-tellers, in their several ways, that I have ever happened to meet; they were both aware of their forte, and both exerted themselves that evening with delightful effect. On going home, I really could not decide which of them had shone the most (!) The Regent was enchanted with Scott, as Scott with him; and on all his subsequent visits to London, he was a frequent guest at the royal table.” The Lord Chief Commissioner remembers that the Prince was particularly delighted with the poet’s anecdotes of the old Scotch judges and lawyers, which his Royal Highness sometimes capped by ludicrous traits of certain ermined sages of his own acquaintance. Scott told, among others, a story, which he was fond of telling, of his old friend the Lord Justice-Clerk Braxfield; and the commentary of his Royal Highness on hearing it amused Scott, who often mentioned it afterwards. The anecdote is this:—Braxfield, whenever he went on a particular circuit, was in the habit of visiting a gentleman of good fortune in the neighbourhood of one of the assize towns, and staying at least one night, which, being both of them ardent chess-players, they usually concluded with their favourite game. One Spring circuit the battle was not decided at daybreak; so the Justice-Clerk said,—“Weel, Donald, I must e’en come back this gate, and let the game lie ower for the present;” and back he came in October, but not to his old friend’s hospitable house; for that gentleman had in the interim been apprehended on a capital charge (of forgery), and his name stood on the



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Porteous Roll, or list of those who were about to be tried under his former guest’s auspices. The laird was indicted and tried accordingly, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Braxfield forthwith put on his cocked hat (which answers to the black cap in England), and pronounced the sentence of the law in the usual terms: “To be hanged by the neck until you be dead; and may the Lord have mercy upon your unhappy soul!” Having concluded this awful formula in his most sonorous cadence, Braxfield, dismounting his formidable beaver, gave a familiar nod to his unfortunate acquaintance, and said to him in a sort of chuckling whisper, “And now Donald, my man, I think I’ve checkmated you for ance.” The Regent laughed heartily at this specimen of Macqueen’s brutal humour; and “I’faith, Walter,” said he, “this old big-wig seems to have taken things as coolly as my tyrannical self. Don’t you remember Tom Moore’s description of me at breakfast, “‘The table spread with tea and toast, Death-warrants and the Morning Post?’” ‘Towards midnight the Prince called for “a bumper with all the honours to the Author of Waverley;” and looked significantly, as he was charging his own glass, to Scott. Scott seemed somewhat puzzled for a moment; but instantly recovering himself, and filling his glass to the brim, said, “Your Royal Highness looks as if you thought I had some claim to the honours of this toast. I have no such pretensions, but shall take good care that the real Simon Pure hears of the high compliment that has now been paid him.” He then drank off his claret; and joined with a stentorian voice in the cheering, which the Prince himself timed. But before the company could resume their seats his Royal Highness exclaimed, “Another of the same, if you please, to the Author of Marmion,—and now, Walter, my man, I have checkmated you for ance.” The second bumper was followed by cheers still more prolonged: and Scott then rose, and returned thanks in a short address, which struck the Lord Chief Commissioner as “alike grave and graceful.” This story has been circulated in a very perverted shape.’ * * * ‘Before he left town he again dined at Carlton House, when the party was a still smaller one than before, and the merriment if possible still more free. That nothing might be wanting, the Prince sang several capital songs.’*

Or take, at a very great interval in many senses, this glimpse of another dinner, altogether unofficially and much better described. It is James Ballantyne the printer and publisher’s dinner, in Saint John Street, Canongate, Edinburgh, on the birtheve of a Waverley Novel:

* Vol. iii. pp. 340-343.

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‘The feast was, to use one of James’s own favourite epithets, gorgeous; an aldermanic display of turtle and venison, with the suitable accompaniments of iced punch, potent ale, and generous Madeira. When the cloth was drawn, the burly preses arose, with all he could muster of the port of John Kemble, and spouted with a sonorous voice the formula of Macbeth— “Fill full! I drink to the general joy of the whole table!”

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This was followed by “the King, God bless him!” and second came, “Gentlemen, there is another toast which never has been nor shall be omitted in this house of mine: I give you the health of Mr. Walter Scott, with three times three!” All honour having been done to this health, and Scott having briefly thanked the company, with some expressions of warm affection to their host, Mrs. Ballantyne retired;—the bottles passed round twice or thrice in the usual way; and then James rose once more, every vein on his brow distended: his eyes solemnly fixed on vacancy, to propose, not as before in his stentorian key, but “with ’bated breath,” in the sort of whisper by which a stage conspirator thrills the gallery, “Gentlemen, a bumper to the immortal Author of Waverley!”—The uproar of cheering, in which Scott made a fashion of joining, was succeeded by deep silence; and then Ballantyne proceeded, “In his Lord Burleigh look, serene and serious, A something of imposing and mysterious”—

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to lament the obscurity in which his illustrious but too modest correspondent still chose to conceal himself from the plaudits of the world; to thank the company for the manner in which the nominis umbra had been received; and to assure them that the Author of “Waverley” would, when informed of the circumstance, feel highly gratified, “the proudest hour of his life,” &c. &c. The cool, demure fun of Scott’s features during all this mummery was perfect; and Erskine’s attempt at a gay nonchalance was still more ludicrously meritorious. Aldiborontiphoscophornio, however, bursting as he was, knew too well to allow the new Novel to be made the subject of discussion. Its name was announced, and success to it crowned another cup; but after that, no more of Jedediah. To cut the thread, he rolled out unbidden some one of his many theatrical songs, in a style that would have done no dishonour to almost any orchestra, The Maid of Lodi, or perhaps The Bay of Biscay, oh!—or The sweet little cherub that sits up aloft. Other toasts followed, interspersed with ditties from other performers; old George Thomson, the friend of Burns, was ready, for one, with The Moorland Wedding, or Willie brew’d a peck o’ maut;—and so



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it went on, until Scott and Erskine, with any clerical or very staid personage that had chanced to be admitted, saw fit to withdraw. Then the scene was changed. The claret and olives made way for broiled bones and a mighty bowl of punch; and when a few glasses of the hot beverage had restored his powers, James opened ore rotundo on the merits of the forthcoming romance. “One chapter,—one chapter only!” was the cry. After “Nay, by’r lady, nay!” and a few more coy shifts, the proof-sheets were at length produced, and James, with many a prefatory hem, read aloud what he considered as the most striking dialogue they contained. ‘The first I heard so read was the interview between Jeanie Deans, the Duke of Argyle, and Queen Caroline, in Richmond Park; and, notwithstanding some spice of the pompous tricks to which he was addicted, I must say he did the inimitable scene great justice. At all events, the effect it produced was deep and memorable; and no wonder that the exulting typographer’s one bumper more to Jedediah Cleishbotham preceded his parting stave, which was uniformly The Last Words of Marmion, executed certainly with no contemptible rivalry of Braham.’*

Over at Abbotsford, things wear a still more prosperous aspect. Scott is building there, by the pleasant banks of the Tweed; he has bought and is buying land there; fast as the new gold comes in for a new Waverley Novel, or even faster, it changes itself into moory acres, into stone and hewn or planted wood: ‘About the middle of February’ (1820), says Mr. Lockhart, ‘it having been ere that time arranged that I should marry his eldest daughter in the course of the spring, I accompanied him and part of his family on one of those flying visits to Abbotsford, with which he often indulged himself on a Saturday during term. Upon such occasions, Scott appeared at the usual hour in Court; but wearing, instead of the official suit of black, his country morning-dress, green jacket, and so forth, under the clerk’s gown.’—‘At noon, when the Court broke up, Peter Mathieson was sure to be in attendance in the Parliament Close; and, five minutes after, the gown had been tossed off; and Scott, rubbing his hands for glee, was under weigh for Tweedside. As we proceeded,’ &c. ‘Next morning there appeared at breakfast John Ballantyne, who had at this time a shooting or hunting-box a few miles off, in the vale of the Leader, and with him Mr. Constable, his guest; and it being a fine clear day, as soon as Scott had read the church service and one of Jeremy Taylor’s sermons, we all sallied out before noon on a perambulation of his upland territories; Maida (the hound) and the rest of the favourites accompanying our march. At starting we were joined by the constant henchman, Tom Purdie,—and I may save myself the trouble of any attempt to describe his appearance, for his master has given * Vol. iv. p. 166-168.

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us an inimitably true one in introducing a certain personage of his “Redgauntlet:”—“He was perhaps sixty years old; yet his brow was not much furrowed, and his jet-black hair was only grizzled, not whitened, by the advance of age. All his motions spoke strength unabated; and, though rather under-sized, he had very broad shoulders, was square made, thin-flanked, and apparently combined in his frame muscular strength and activity; the last somewhat impaired perhaps by years, but the first remaining in full vigour. A hard and harsh countenance; eyes far sunk under projecting eyebrows, which were grizzled like his hair; a wide mouth, furnished from ear to ear with a range of unimpaired teeth of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth which might have become the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful portrait.” Equip this figure in Scott’s cast-off green jacket, white hat, and drab trousers; and imagine that years of kind treatment, comfort, and the honest consequence of a confidential grieve,* had softened away much of the hardness and harshness originally impressed on the visage by anxious penury, and the sinister habits of a black-fisher;—and the Tom Purdie of 1820 stands before us. ‘We were all delighted to see how completely Scott had recovered his bodily vigour; and none more so than Constable, who, as he puffed and panted after him, up one ravine and down another, often stopped to wipe his forehead, and remarked, that “it was not every author who should lead him such a dance.” But Purdie’s face shone with rapture as he observed how severely the swag-bellied bookseller’s activity was tasked. Scott exclaimed exultingly, though, perhaps, for the tenth time, “This will be a glorious spring for our trees, Tom!”—“You may say that, Sheriff,” quoth Tom,—and then lingering a moment for Constable,—“My certy,” he added, scratching his head, “and I think it will be a grand season for our buiks, too.” But indeed Tom always talked of our buiks as if they had been as regular products of the soil as our aits and our birks. Having threaded first the Hexilcleugh and then the Rhymer’s Glen, we arrived at Huntly Burn, where the hospitality of the kind Weird Sisters, as Scott called the Miss Fergusons, reanimated our exhausted bibliopoles, and gave them courage to extend their walk a little farther down the same famous brook. Here there was a small cottage in a very sequestered situation’ (named Chiefswood), ‘by making some little additions to which Scott thought it might be converted into a suitable summer residence for his daughter and future son-in-law.’ * * ‘As we walked homeward, Scott being a little fatigued, laid his left hand on Tom’s shoulder, and leaned heavily for support, chatting to his Sunday pony, as he called the affectionate fellow, just as freely as with the rest of the party; and Tom put in his word shrewdly and manfully, and grinned and grunted whenever the joke chanced to be within his apprehension. It was easy to see that his heart swelled within him from the moment the Sheriff got his collar in his gripe.’† * Overseer: German, graf. † Vol. iv. p. 349-353.



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That Abbotsford became infested to a great degree with tourists, wonderhunters, and all that fatal species of people, may be supposed. Solitary Ettrick saw itself populous; all paths were beaten with the feet and hoofs of an endless miscellany of pilgrims. As many as ‘sixteen parties’ have arrived at Abbotsford in one day; male and female; peers, Socinian preachers, whatsoever was distinguished, whatsoever had love of distinction in it! Mr. Lockhart thinks there was no literary shrine ever so bepilgrimed, except Ferney in Voltaire’s time, who, however, was not half so accessible. A fatal species! These are what Schiller calls ‘the flesh-flies;’ buzzing swarms of blue-bottles, who never fail where any taint of human glory or other corruptibility is in the wind. So has Nature decreed. Scott’s healthiness, bodily and mental, his massive solidity of character, nowhere showed itself more decisively than in his manner of encountering this part of his fate. That his blue-bottles were blue, and of the usual tone and quality, may be judged. Hear Captain Basil Hall (in a very compressed state): ‘We arrived in good time, and found several other guests at dinner. The public rooms are lighted with oil gas, in a style of extraordinary splendour. The,’ &c.—‘Had I a hundred pens, each of which at the same time should separately write down an anecdote, I could not hope to record one-half of those which our host, to use Spenser’s expression, “welled out alway.”’—‘Entertained us all the way with an endless string of anecdotes;’— ‘came like a stream of poetry from his lips;’—‘path muddy and scarcely passable, yet I do not remember ever to have seen any place so interesting as the skill of this mighty magician had rendered this narrow ravine.’—‘Impossible to touch on any theme but straightway he has an anecdote to fit it.’—‘Thus we strolled along, borne, as it were, on the stream of song and story.’—‘In the evening we had a great feast indeed. Sir Walter asked us if we had ever read Christabel.’—‘Interspersed with these various readings, were some hundreds of stories, some quaint, some pathetical.’—‘At breakfast to-day we had, as usual, some 150 stories: God knows how they came in.’—‘In any man so gifted; so qualified to take the loftiest, proudest line at the head of the literature, the taste, the imagination of the whole world!’—‘For instance, he never sits at any particular place at table, but takes,’ &c. &c.*

Among such worshippers, arriving in ‘sixteen parties a-day,’ an ordinary man might have grown buoyant; have felt the god, begun to nod, and seemed to shake the spheres. A slightly splenetic man, possessed of Scott’s sense, would have swept his premises clear of them: Let no blue-bottle approach here, to disturb a man in his work,—under pain of sugared squash (called quassia) and * Vol. v. p. 375-402.

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king’s-yellow! The good Sir Walter, like a quiet brave man, did neither. He let the matter take its course; enjoyed what was enjoyable in it; endured what could not well be helped; persisted meanwhile in writing his daily portion of romance-copy, in preserving his composure of heart;—in a word, accommodated himself to this loud-buzzing environment, and made it serve him, as he would have done (perhaps with more ease) to a silent, poor, and solitary one. No doubt it affected him too, and in the lamentablest way fevered his internal life,—though he kept it well down; but it affected him less than it would have done almost any other man. For his guests were not all of the blue-bottle sort; far from that. Mr. Lockhart shall furnish us with the brightest aspect a British Ferney ever yielded, or is like to yield: and therewith we will quit Abbotsford and the dominant and culminant period of Scott’s life: ‘It was a clear, bright September morning, with a sharpness in the air that doubled the animating influence of the sunshine; and all was in readiness for a grand coursing match on Newark hill. The only guest who had chalked out other sport for himself was the stanchest of anglers, Mr. Rose; but he too was there on his shelty, armed with his salmon-rod and landing-net, and attended by his Hinves, and Charlie Purdie, a brother of Tom, in those days the most celebrated fisherman of the district. This little group of Waltonians, bound for Lord Somerville’s preserve, remained lounging about, to witness the start of the main cavalcade. Sir Walter, mounted on Sibyl, was marshalling the order of procession with a huge hunting-whip; and among a dozen frolicsome youths and maidens, who seemed disposed to laugh at all discipline, appeared, each on horseback, each as eager as the youngest sportsman in the troop, Sir Humphry Davy, Dr. Wollaston, and the patriarch of Scottish belles-lettres, Henry Mackenzie. The Man of Feeling, however, was persuaded with some difficulty to resign his steed for the present to his faithful negro follower, and to join Lady Scott in the sociable, until we should reach the ground of our battue. Laidlaw, on a long-tailed wiry Highlander yclept Hoddin Grey, which carried him nimbly and stoutly, although his feet almost touched the ground as he sat, was the adjutant. But the most picturesque figure was the illustrious inventor of the safety-lamp. He had come for his favourite sport of angling, and had been practising it successfully with Rose, his travelling companion, for two or three days preceding this; but he had not prepared for coursing fields, or had left Charlie Purdie’s troop for Sir Walter’s on a sudden thought; and his fisherman’s costume, a brown hat with flexible brim, surrounded with line upon line of catgut, and innumerable fly-hooks—jackboots worthy of a Dutch smuggler, and a fustian surtout dabbled with the blood of salmon, made a fine contrast with the smart jackets, white-cord breeches, and well-polished jockey-boots of the less distinguished cavaliers about him. Dr. Wollaston was in black, and with his



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noble serene dignity of countenance might have passed for a sporting archbishop. Mr. Mackenzie, at this time in the seventy-sixth year of his age, with a white hat turned up with green, green spectacles, green jacket, and long brown leathern gaiters buttoned upon his nether anatomy, wore a dog-whistle round his neck, and had, all over, the air of as resolute a devotee as the gay captain of Huntly Burn. Tom Purdie and his subalterns had preceded us by a few hours, with all the greyhounds that could be collected at Abbotsford, Darnick, and Melrose; but the giant Maida had remained as his master’s orderly, and now gambolled about Sibyl Grey, barking for mere joy like a spaniel puppy. ‘The order of march had been all settled, and the sociable was just getting under weigh, when the Lady Anne broke from the line, screaming with laughter, and exclaimed, “Papa, papa, I knew you could never think of going without your pet.” Scott looked round, and I rather think there was a blush as well as a smile upon his face, when he perceived a little black pig frisking about his pony, and evidently a self-elected addition to the party of the day. He tried to look stern, and cracked his whip at the creature, but was in a moment obliged to join in the general cheers. Poor piggy soon found a strap round its neck, and was dragged into the background: Scott watching the retreat, repeated with mock pathos the first verse of an old pastoral song:— “What will I do gin my hoggie die? My joy, my pride, my hoggie! My only beast, I had nae mae, And wow but I was vogie!” —the cheers were redoubled, and the squadron moved on. ‘This pig had taken, nobody could tell how, a most sentimental attachment to Scott, and was constantly urging its pretensions to be admitted a regular member of his tail along with the greyhounds and terriers; but indeed I remember him suffering another summer under the same sort of pertinacity on the part of an affectionate hen. I leave the explanation for philosophers; but such were the facts. I have too much respect for the vulgarly calumniated donkey to name him in the same category of pets with the pig and the hen; but a year or two after this time, my wife used to drive a couple of these animals in a little garden-chair, and whenever her father appeared at the door of our cottage, we were sure to see Hannah More and Lady Morgan (as Anne Scott had wickedly christened them) trotting from their pasture, to lay their noses over the paling, and, as Washington Irving says of the old white-haired hedger with the Parisian snuff-box, “to have a pleasant crack wi’ the laird.”’* * Vol. v. p. 7-10. On this subject let us report an anecdote furnished by a correspondent of our own, whose accuracy we can depend on:—‘I myself was acquainted with a little Blenheim

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‘There’ at Chiefswood ‘my wife and I spent this summer and autumn of 1821,—the first of several seasons which will ever dwell on my memory as the happiest of my life. We were near enough Abbotsford to partake as often as we liked of its brilliant and constantly-varying society; yet could do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit which the daily reception of new comers entailed upon all the famcocker, one of the smallest, beautifullest, and wisest of lap-dogs, or dogs, which, though Sir Walter knew it not, was very singular in its behaviour towards him. Shandy, so hight this remarkable cocker, was extremely shy of strangers: promenading on Princes street, which in fine weather used to be crowded in those days, he seemed to live in perpetual fear of being stolen; if any one but looked at him admiringly, he would draw back with angry timidity, and crouch towards his own lady-mistress. One day a tall, irregular, busylooking man came halting by; the little dog ran towards him, began fawning, frisking, licking at his feet: it was Sir Walter Scott! Had Shandy been the most extensive reader of Reviews, he could not have done better. Every time he saw Sir Walter afterwards, which was some three or four times in the course of visiting Edinburgh, he repeated his demonstrations, ran leaping, frisking, licking the Author of “Waverley’s” feet. The good Sir Walter endured it with good humour; looked down at the little wise face, at the silky shag-coat of snow-white and chesnut-brown; smiled, and avoided hitting him as they went on,—till a new division of streets or some other obstacle put an end to the interview. In fact, he was a strange little fellow this Shandy. He has been known to sit for hours looking out at the summer moon, with the saddest wistfullest expression of countenance; altogether like a Werterean Poet. He would have been a Poet, I dare say, if he could have found a publisher. But his moral tact was the most amazing. Without reason shown, without word spoken or act done, he took his likings and dislikings; unalterable; really almost unerring. His chief aversion, I should say, was to the genus quack, above all to the genus acrid-quack; these, though never so clear-starched, bland-smiling and beneficent, he absolutely would have no trade with. Their very sugar-cake was unavailing. He said with emphasis, as clearly as barking could say it: “Acrid-quack, avaunt!” Would to Heaven many a prime minister and high person in authority had such an invaluable talent! On the whole, there is more in this universe than our philosophy has dreamt of. A dog’s instinct is a voice of Nature too; and farther, it has never babbled itself away in idle jargon and hypothesis, but always adhered to the practical, and grown in silence by continual communion with fact. We do the animals injustice. Their body resembles our body, Buffon says; with its four limbs, with its spinal marrow, main organs in the head, and so forth: but have they not a kind of soul, equally the rude draught and imperfect imitation of ours? It is a strange, an almost solemn and pathetic thing to see an intelligence imprisoned in that dumb rude form; struggling to express itself out of that;—even as we do out of our imprisonment; and succeed very imperfectly!’



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ily except Sir Walter himself. But, in truth, even he was not always proof against the annoyances connected with such a style of open house-keeping. Even his temper sank sometimes under the solemn applauses of learned dulness, the vapid raptures of painted and perriwigged dowagers, the horseleech avidity with which underbred foreigners urged their questions, and the pompous simpers of condescending magnates. When sore beset at home in this way, he would every now and then discover that he had some very particular business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate; and, craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the cabin in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the morning. The clatter of Sibyl Grey’s hoofs, the yelping of Mustard and Spice, and his own joyous shout of reveillée under our windows, were the signal that he had burst his toils, and meant for that day to “take his ease in his inn.” On descending, he was to be found seated with all his dogs and ours about him, under a spreading ash that overshadowed half the bank between the cottage and the brook, pointing the edge of his woodman’s-axe, and listening to Tom Purdie’s lecture touching the plantation that most needed thinning. After breakfast he would take possession of a dressing-room up stairs, and write a chapter of The Pirate; and then, having made up and despatched his packet for Mr. Ballantyne, away to join Purdie wherever the foresters were at work, and sometimes to labour among them as strenuously as John Swanston,—until it was time either to rejoin his own party at Abbotsford, or the quiet circle of the cottage. When his guests were few and friendly, he often made them come over and meet him at Chiefswood in a body towards evening; and surely he never appeared to more amiable advantage than when helping his young people with their little arrangements upon such occasions. He was ready with all sorts of devices to supply the wants of a narrow establishment; he used to delight particularly in sinking the wine in a well under the brae ere he went out, and hauling up the basket just before dinner was announced; this primitive device being, he said, what he had always practised when a young housekeeper, and in his opinion far superior in its results to any application of ice: and in the same spirit, whenever the weather was sufficiently genial, he voted for dining out of doors altogether, which at once got rid of the inconvenience of very small rooms, and made it natural and easy for the gentlemen to help the ladies, so that the paucity of servants went for nothing.’*

Surely all this is very beautiful; like a picture of Boccaccio: the ideal of a country life in our time. Why could it not last? Income was not wanting: Scott’s official permanent income was amply adequate to meet the expense of all that was valuable in it; nay, of all that was not harassing, senseless, and despicable. Scott had some 2,000l. a year without writing books at all. Why should he manufacture and not create, to make more money; and rear mass on mass for * Vol. v. pp. 123, 124.

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a dwelling to himself, till the pile toppled, sank crashing, and buried him in its ruins, when he had a safe pleasant dwelling ready of its own accord? Alas, Scott, with all his health, was infected; sick of the fearfullest malady, that of Ambition! To such length had the King’s baronetcy, the world’s favour, and ‘sixteen parties a day,’ brought it with him. So the inane racket must be kept up, and rise ever higher. So masons labour, ditchers delve; and there is endless, altogether deplorable correspondence about marble-slabs for tables, wainscotting of rooms, curtains and the trimmings of curtains, orange-coloured or fawn-coloured: Walter Scott, one of the gifted of the world, whom his admirers called the most gifted, must kill himself that he may be a country gentleman, the founder of a race of Scotch lairds. It is one of the strangest, most tragical histories ever enacted under this sun. So poor a passion can lead so strong a man into such mad extremes. Surely, were not man a fool always, one might say there was something eminently distracted in this, end as it would, of a Walter Scott writing daily with the ardour of a steam-engine, that he might make 15,000l. a year, and buy upholstery with it. To cover the walls of a stone house in Selkirkshire with nicknacks, ancient armour, and genealogical shields, what can we name it but a being bit with delirium of a kind? That tract after tract of moorland in the shire of Selkirk should be joined together on parchment and by ring-fence, and named after one’s name,—why, it is a shabby small-type edition of your vulgar Napoleons, Alexanders, and conquering heroes, not counted venerable by any teacher of men!— ‘The whole world was not half so wide To Alexander when he cried Because he had but one to subdue, As was a narrow paltry tub to Diogenes; who ne’er was said, For aught that ever I could read, To whine, put finger i’ the eye and sob, Because he had ne’er another tub!’

Not he! And if, ‘looked at from the Moon, which itself is far from Infinitude,’ Napoleon’s dominions were as small as mine, what, by any chance of possibility, could Abbotsford landed-property ever have become? As the Arabs say, there is a black speck, were it no bigger than a bean’s eye, in every soul; which, once set it a-working, will overcloud the whole man into darkness and quasi-madness, and hurry him balefully into Night!



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With respect to the literary character of these Waverley Novels, so extraordinary in their commercial character, there remains, after so much reviewing, good and bad, little that it were profitable at present to say. The great fact about them is, that they were faster written and better paid for than any other books in the world. It must be granted, moreover, that they have a worth far surpassing what is usual in such cases; nay, that if Literature had no task but that of harmlessly amusing indolent, languid men, here was the very perfection of Literature; that a man, here more emphatically than ever elsewhere, might fling himself back, exclaiming, “Be mine to lie on this sofa, and read everlasting Novels of Walter Scott!” The composition, slight as it often is, usually hangs together in some measure, and is a composition. There is a free flow of narrative, of incident and sentiment; an easy master-like coherence throughout, as if it were the free dash of a master’s hand, ‘round as the O of Giotto.’* It is the perfection of extemporaneous writing. Farthermore, surely he were a blind critic who did not recognise here a certain genial sunshiny freshness and picturesqueness; paintings both of scenery and figures, very graceful, brilliant, occasionally full of grace and glowing brightness blended in the softest composure; in fact, a deep sincere love of the beautiful in Nature and Man, and the readiest faculty of expressing this by imagination and by word. No fresher paintings of Nature can be found than Scott’s; hardly anywhere a wider sympathy with man. From Davie Deans up to Richard Cœur-de-Lion; from Meg Merrilies to Die Vernon and Queen Elizabeth! It is the utterance of a man of open soul; of a brave, large, free-seeing man, who has a true brotherhood with all men. In joyous picturesqueness and fellow-feeling, freedom of eye and heart; or to say it in a word, in general healthiness of mind, these Novels prove Scott to have been amongst the foremost writers. Neither in the higher and highest excellence, of drawing character, is he at any time altogether deficient; though at no time can we call him, in the best sense, successful. His Bailie Jarvies, Dinmonts, Dalgettys (for their name is legion) do look and talk like what they give themselves out for; they are, if not created and * ‘Venne a Firenze’ (il cortigiano del Papa), ‘e andato una mattina in bottega di Giotto, che lavorava, gli chiese un poco di disegno per mandarlo a sua Santità. Giotto, che garbatissimo era, prese un foglio, ed in quello con un pennello tinto di rosso, fermato il braccio al fianco per farne compasso, e girato la mano fece un tondo sì pari di sesto e di profilo, che fu a vederlo una maraviglia. Ciò fatto ghignando disse al cortigiano, Eccovi il disegno.’ . . . . ‘Onde il Papa, e molti cortigiani intendenti conobbero perciò, quanto Giotto avanzasse d’eccelenza tutti gli altri pittori del suo tempo. Divolgatasi poi questa cosa, ne nacque il proverbio, che ancora è in uso dirsi a gli uomini di grossa pasta: Tu sei più tondo, che l’ O di Giotto.’—Vasari, Vite (Roma, 1759), i. 46.

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made poetically alive, yet deceptively enacted as a good player might do them. What more is wanted then? For the reader lying on a sofa, nothing more; yet for another sort of reader, much. It were a long chapter to unfold the difference in drawing a character between a Scott and a Shakspeare, a Goethe! Yet it is a difference literally immense; they are of different species; the value of the one is not to be counted in the coin of the other. We might say in a short word, which means a long matter, that your Shakspeare fashions his characters from the heart outwards; your Scott fashions them from the skin inwards, never getting near the heart of them! The one set become living men and women; the other amount to little more than mechanical cases, deceptively painted automatons. Compare Fenella with Goethe’s Mignon, which it was once said, Scott had ‘done Goethe the honour’ to borrow. He has borrowed what he could of Mignon. The small stature, the climbing talent, the trickiness, the mechanical case, as we say, he has borrowed; but the soul of Mignon is left behind. Fenella is an unfavourable specimen for Scott; but it illustrates, in the aggravated state, what is traceable in all the characters he drew. To the same purport indeed we are to say that these famed books are altogether addressed to the every-day mind; that for any other mind, there is next to no nourishment in them. Opinions, emotions, principles, doubts, beliefs, beyond what the intelligent country gentleman can carry along with him, are not to be found. It is orderly, customary, it is prudent, decent; nothing more. One would say, it lay not in Scott to give much more: getting out of the ordinary range, and attempting the heroic, which is but seldom the case, he falls almost at once into the rose-pink sentimental,—descries the Minerva Press from afar, and hastily quits that course; for none better than he knew it to lead nowhither. On the whole, contrasting Waverley, which was carefully written, with most of its followers, which were written extempore, one may regret the extempore method. Something very perfect in its kind might have come from Scott; nor was it a low kind: nay, who knows how high, with studious self-concentration, he might have gone; what wealth Nature had implanted in him, which his circumstances, most unkind while seeming to be kindest, had never impelled him to unfold? But after all, in the loudest blaring and trumpetting of popularity, it is ever to be held in mind, as a truth, remaining true forever, that Literature has other aims than that of harmlessly amusing indolent, languid men: or if Literature have them not, then Literature is a very poor affair; and something else must have them, and must accomplish them, with thanks or without thanks; the thankful or thankless world were not long a world otherwise! Under this head, there is little to be sought or found in the Waverley Novels. Not profitable for



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doctrine, for reproof, for edification, for building up or elevating, in any shape! The sick heart will find no healing here, the darkly struggling heart no guidance: the Heroic that is in all men no divine awakening voice. We say, therefore, that they do not found themselves on deep interests, but on comparatively trivial ones, not on the perennial, perhaps not even on the lasting. In fact, much of the interest of these Novels results from what may be called contrasts of costume. The phraseology, fashion of arms, of dress and life, belonging to one age, is brought suddenly, with singular vividness, before the eyes of another. A great effect this; yet by the very nature of it, an altogether temporary one. Consider, brethren, shall not we too one day be antiques, and grow to have as quaint a costume as the rest? The stuffed Dandy, only give him time, will become one of the wonderfullest mummies. In antiquarian museums, only two centuries hence, the steeple-hat will hang on the next peg to Franks and Company’s patent, antiquaries deciding which is uglier; and the Stulz swallow-tail, one may hope, will seem as incredible as any garment that ever made ridiculous the respectable back of man. Not by slashed breeches, steeple-hats, buff-belts, or antiquated speech, can romance heroes continue to interest us; but simply and solely, in the long run, by being men. Buff-belts and all manner of jerkins and costumes are transitory; man alone is perennial. He that has gone deeper into this than other men, will be remembered longer than they; he that has not, not. Tried under this category, Scott with his clear practical insight, joyous temper, and other sound faculties, is not to be accounted little,—among the ordinary circulating library heroes he might well pass for a demigod. Not little; yet neither is he great; there were greater, more than one or two, in his own age: among the great of all ages, one sees no likelihood of a place for him. What then is the result of these Waverley Romances? Are they to amuse one generation only? One or more! As many generations as they can, but not all generations: ah no, when our swallow-tail has become fantastic as trunk-hose, they will cease to amuse!—Meanwhile, as we can discern, their results have been several-fold. First of all, and certainly not least of all, have they not perhaps had this result: that a considerable portion of mankind has hereby been sated with mere amusement, and set on seeking something better? Amusement in the way of reading can go no farther, can do nothing better, by the power of man; and men ask, Is this what it can do? Scott, we reckon, carried several things to their ultimatum and crisis, so that change became inevitable: a great service, though an indirect one. Secondly, however, we may say, these Historical Novels have taught all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so taught: that the bygone ages

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of the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, state-papers, controversies, and abstractions of men. Not abstractions were they, not diagrams and theorems; but men, in buff or other coats and breeches, with colour in their cheeks, with passions in their stomach, and the idioms, features, and vitalities of very men. It is a little word this; inclusive of great meaning! History will henceforth have to take thought of it. Her faint hearsays of ‘philosophy teaching by experience’ will have to exchange themselves everywhere for direct inspection and embodiment: this, and this only, will be counted experience; and till once experience have got in, philosophy will reconcile herself to wait at the door. It is a great service, fertile in consequences, this that Scott has done; a great truth laid open by him;—correspondent indeed to the substantial nature of the man; to his solidity and veracity even of imagination, which, with all his lively discursiveness, was the characteristic of him. A word here as to the extempore style of writing, which is getting much celebrated in these days. Scott seems to have been a high proficient in it. His rapidity was extreme, and the matter produced was excellent considering that: the circumstances under which some of his Novels, when he could not himself write, were dictated, are justly considered wonderful. It is a valuable faculty this of ready writing; nay farther, for Scott’s purpose it was clearly the only good mode. By much labour he could not have added one guinea to his copyright; nor would the reader on the sofa have lain a whit more at ease. It was in all ways necessary that these works should be produced rapidly; and, round or not, be thrown off like Giotto’s O. But indeed, in all things, writing or other, which a man engages in, there is the indispensablest beauty in knowing how to get done. A man frets himself to no purpose; he has not the sleight of th