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An essay by John Ruskin

Fiction, Fair and Foul

Title:     Fiction, Fair and Foul
Author: John Ruskin [More Titles by Ruskin]

On the first mild--or, at least, the first bright--day of March, in this year, I walked through what was once a country lane, between the hostelry of the Half-moon at the bottom of Herne Hill, and the secluded College of Dulwich.

In my young days, Croxsted Lane was a green bye-road traversable for some distance by carts; but rarely so traversed, and, for the most part, little else than a narrow strip of untilled field, separated by blackberry hedges from the better cared-for meadows on each side of it: growing more weeds, therefore, than they, and perhaps in spring a primrose or two--white archangel--daisies plenty, and purple thistles in autumn. A slender rivulet, boasting little of its brightness, for there are no springs at Dulwich, yet fed purely enough by the rain and morning dew, here trickled--there loitered--through the long grass beneath the hedges, and expanded itself, where it might, into moderately clear and deep pools, in which, under their veils of duck-weed, a fresh-water shell or two, sundry curious little skipping shrimps, any quantity of tadpoles in their time, and even sometimes a tittlebat, offered themselves to my boyhood's pleased, and not inaccurate, observation. There, my mother and I used to gather the first buds of the hawthorn; and there, in after years, I used to walk in the summer shadows, as in a place wilder and sweeter than our garden, to think over any passage I wanted to make better than usual in _Modern Painters_.

So, as aforesaid, on the first kindly day of this year, being thoughtful more than usual of those old times, I went to look again at the place.

Often, both in those days, and since, I have put myself hard to it, vainly, to find words wherewith to tell of beautiful things; but beauty has been in the world since the world was made, and human language can make a shift, somehow, to give account of it, whereas the peculiar forces of devastation induced by modern city life have only entered the world lately; and no existing terms of language known to me are enough to describe the forms of filth, and modes of ruin, that varied themselves along the course of Croxsted Lane. The fields on each side of it are now mostly dug up for building, or cut through into gaunt corners and nooks of blind ground by the wild crossings and concurrencies of three railroads. Half a dozen handfuls of new cottages, with Doric doors, are dropped about here and there among the gashed ground: the lane itself, now entirely grassless, is a deep-rutted, heavy-hillocked cart-road, diverging gatelessly into various brick-fields or pieces of waste; and bordered on each side by heaps of--Hades only knows what!--mixed dust of every unclean thing that can crumble in drought, and mildew of every unclean thing that can rot or rust in damp: ashes and rags, beer-bottles and old shoes, battered pans, smashed crockery, shreds of nameless clothes, door-sweepings, floor-sweepings, kitchen garbage, back-garden sewage, old iron, rotten timber jagged with out-torn nails, cigar-ends, pipe-bowls, cinders, bones, and ordure, indescribable; and, variously kneaded into, sticking to, or fluttering foully here and there over all these,--remnants broadcast, of every manner of newspaper, advertisement or big-lettered bill, festering and flaunting out their last publicity in the pits of stinking dust and mortal slime.

The lane ends now where its prettiest windings once began; being cut off by a cross-road leading out of Dulwich to a minor railway station: and on the other side of this road, what was of old the daintiest intricacy of its solitude is changed into a straight, and evenly macadamised carriage drive, between new houses of extreme respectability, with good attached gardens and offices--most of these tenements being larger--all more pretentious, and many, I imagine, held at greatly higher rent than my father's, tenanted for twenty years at Herne Hill. And it became matter of curious meditation to me what must here become of children resembling my poor little dreamy quondam self in temper, and thus brought up at the same distance from London, and in the same or better circumstances of worldly fortune; but with only Croxsted Lane in its present condition for their country walk. The trimly kept road before their doors, such as one used to see in the fashionable suburbs of Cheltenham or Leamington, presents nothing to their study but gravel, and gas-lamp posts; the modern addition of a vermilion letter-pillar contributing indeed to the splendour, but scarcely to the interest of the scene; and a child of any sense or fancy would hastily contrive escape from such a barren desert of politeness, and betake itself to investigation, such as might be feasible, of the natural history of Croxsted Lane.

But, for its sense or fancy, what food, or stimulus, can it find, in that foul causeway of its youthful pilgrimage? What would have happened to myself, so directed, I cannot clearly imagine. Possibly, I might have got interested in the old iron and wood-shavings; and become an engineer or a carpenter: but for the children of to-day, accustomed from the instant they are out of their cradles, to the sight of this infinite nastiness, prevailing as a fixed condition of the universe, over the face of nature, and accompanying all the operations of industrious man, what is to be the scholastic issue? unless, indeed, the thrill of scientific vanity in the primary analysis of some unheard-of process of corruption--or the reward of microscopic research in the sight of worms with more legs, and acari of more curious generation than ever vivified the more simply smelling plasma of antiquity.

One result of such elementary education is, however, already certain; namely, that the pleasure which we may conceive taken by the children of the coming time, in the analysis of physical corruption, guides, into fields more dangerous and desolate, the expatiation of imaginative literature: and that the reactions of moral disease upon itself, and the conditions of languidly monstrous character developed in an atmosphere of low vitality, have become the most valued material of modern fiction, and the most eagerly discussed texts of modern philosophy.

The many concurrent reasons for this mischief may, I believe, be massed under a few general heads.

I. There is first the hot fermentation and unwholesome secrecy of the population crowded into large cities, each mote in the misery lighter, as an individual soul, than a dead leaf, but becoming oppressive and infectious each to his neighbour, in the smoking mass of decay. The resulting modes of mental ruin and distress are continually new; and in a certain sense, worth study in their monstrosity: they have accordingly developed a corresponding science of fiction, concerned mainly with the description of such forms of disease, like the botany of leaf-lichens.

In De Balzac's story of _Father Goriot_, a grocer makes a large fortune, of which he spends on himself as much as may keep him alive; and on his two daughters, all that can promote their pleasures or their pride. He marries them to men of rank, supplies their secret expenses, and provides for his favourite a separate and clandestine establishment with her lover. On his deathbed, he sends for this favourite daughter, who wishes to come, and hesitates for a quarter of an hour between doing so, and going to a ball at which it has been for the last month her chief ambition to be seen. She finally goes to the ball.

This story is, of course, one of which the violent contrasts and spectral catastrophe could only take place, or be conceived, in a large city. A village grocer cannot make a large fortune, cannot marry his daughters to titled squires, and cannot die without having his children brought to him, if in the neighbourhood, by fear of village gossip, if for no better cause.

II. But a much more profound feeling than this mere curiosity of science in morbid phenomena is concerned in the production of the carefullest forms of modern fiction. The disgrace and grief resulting from the mere trampling pressure and electric friction of town life, become to the sufferers peculiarly mysterious in their undeservedness, and frightful in their inevitableness. The power of all surroundings over them for evil; the incapacity of their own minds to refuse the pollution, and of their own wills to oppose the weight, of the staggering mass that chokes and crushes them into perdition, brings every law of healthy existence into question with them, and every alleged method of help and hope into doubt. Indignation, without any calming faith in justice, and self-contempt, without any curative self-reproach, dull the intelligence, and degrade the conscience, into sullen incredulity of all sunshine outside the dunghill, or breeze beyond the wafting of its impurity; and at last a philosophy develops itself, partly satiric, partly consolatory, concerned only with the regenerative vigour of manure, and the necessary obscurities of fimetic Providence; showing how everybody's fault is somebody else's, how infection has no law, digestion no will, and profitable dirt no dishonour.

And thus an elaborate and ingenious scholasticism, in what may be called the Divinity of Decomposition, has established itself in connection with the more recent forms of romance, giving them at once a complacent tone of clerical dignity, and an agreeable dash of heretical impudence; while the inculcated doctrine has the double advantage of needing no laborious scholarship for its foundation, and no painful self-denial for its practice.

III. The monotony of life in the central streets of any great modern city, but especially in those of London, where every emotion intended to be derived by men from the sight of nature, or the sense of art, is forbidden for ever, leaves the craving of the heart for a sincere, yet changeful, interest, to be fed from one source only. Under natural conditions the degree of mental excitement necessary to bodily health is provided by the course of the seasons, and the various skill and fortune of agriculture. In the country every morning of the year brings with it a new aspect of springing or fading nature; a new duty to be fulfilled upon earth, and a new promise or warning in heaven. No day is without its innocent hope, its special prudence, its kindly gift, and its sublime danger; and in every process of wise husbandry, and every effort of contending or remedial courage, the wholesome passions, pride, and bodily power of the labourer are excited and exerted in happiest unison. The companionship of domestic, the care of serviceable, animals, soften and enlarge his life with lowly charities, and discipline him in familiar wisdoms and unboastful fortitudes; while the divine laws of seed-time which cannot be recalled, harvest which cannot be hastened, and winter in which no man can work, compel the impatiences and coveting of his heart into labour too submissive to be anxious, and rest too sweet to be wanton. What thought can enough comprehend the contrast between such life, and that in streets where summer and winter are only alternations of heat and cold; where snow never fell white, nor sunshine clear; where the ground is only a pavement, and the sky no more than the glass roof of an arcade; where the utmost power of a storm is to choke the gutters, and the finest magic of spring, to change mud into dust: where--chief and most fatal difference in state, there is no interest of occupation for any of the inhabitants but the routine of counter or desk within doors, and the effort to pass each other without collision outside; so that from morning to evening the only possible variation of the monotony of the hours, and lightening of the penalty of existence, must be some kind of mischief, limited, unless by more than ordinary godsend of fatality, to the fall of a horse, or the slitting of a pocket.

I said that under these laws of inanition, the craving of the human heart for some kind of excitement could be supplied from _one_ source only. It might have been thought by any other than a sternly tentative philosopher, that the denial of their natural food to human feelings would have provoked a reactionary desire for it; and that the dreariness of the street would have been gilded by dreams of pastoral felicity. Experience has shown the fact to be otherwise; the thoroughly trained Londoner can enjoy no other excitement than that to which he has been accustomed, but asks for _that_ in continually more ardent or more virulent concentration; and the ultimate power of fiction to entertain him is by varying to his fancy the modes, and defining for his dulness the horrors, of Death. In the single novel of _Bleak House_ there are nine deaths (or left for death's, in the drop scene) carefully wrought out or led up to, either by way of pleasing surprise, as the baby's at the brickmaker's, or finished in their threatenings and sufferings, with as much enjoyment as can be contrived in the anticipation, and as much pathology as can be concentrated in the description. Under the following varieties of method:--

One by assassination Mr. Tulkinghorn.
One by starvation, with phthisis Joe.
One by chagrin Richard.
One by spontaneous combustion Mr. Krook.
One by sorrow Lady Dedlock's lover.
One by remorse Lady Dedlock.
One by insanity Miss Flite.
One by paralysis Sir Leicester.

Besides the baby, by fever, and a lively young Frenchwoman left to be hanged.

And all this, observe, not in a tragic, adventurous, or military story, but merely as the further enlivenment of a narrative intended to be amusing; and as a properly representative average of the statistics of civilian mortality in the centre of London.

Observe further, and chiefly. It is not the mere number of deaths (which, if we count the odd troopers in the last scene, is exceeded in _Old Mortality_, and reached, within one or two, both in _Waverley_ and _Guy Mannering_) that marks the peculiar tone of the modern novel. It is the fact that all these deaths, but one, are of inoffensive, or at least in the world's estimate respectable persons; and that they are all grotesquely either violent or miserable, purporting thus to illustrate the modern theology that the appointed destiny of a large average of our population is to die like rats in a drain, either by trap or poison. Not, indeed, that a lawyer in full practice can be usually supposed as faultless in the eye of heaven as a dove or a woodcock; but it is not, in former divinities, thought the will of Providence that he should be dropped by a shot from a client behind his fire-screen, and retrieved in the morning by his housemaid under the chandelier. Neither is Lady Dedlock less reprehensible in her conduct than many women of fashion have been and will be: but it would not therefore have been thought poetically just, in old-fashioned morality, that she should be found by her daughter lying dead, with her face in the mud of a St. Giles's churchyard.

In the work of the great masters death is always either heroic, deserved, or quiet and natural (unless their purpose be totally and deeply tragic, when collateral meaner death is permitted, like that of Polonius or Roderigo). In _Old Mortality_, four of the deaths, Bothwell's, Ensign Grahame's, Macbriar's, and Evandale's, are magnificently heroic; Burley's and Oliphant's long deserved, and swift; the troopers', met in the discharge of their military duty, and the old miser's, as gentle as the passing of a cloud, and almost beautiful in its last words of--now unselfish--care.

'Ailie' (he aye ca'd me Ailie, we were auld acquaintance,)
'Ailie, take ye care and haud the gear weel thegither; for
the name of Morton of Milnwood's gane out like the last
sough of an auld sang.' And sae he fell out o' ae dwam into
another, and ne'er spak a word mair, unless it were
something we cou'dna mak out, about a dipped candle being
gude eneugh to see to dee wi'. He cou'd ne'er bide to see a
moulded ane, and there was ane, by ill luck, on the table.

In _Guy Mannering_, the murder, though unpremeditated, of a single person, (himself not entirely innocent, but at least by heartlessness in a cruel function earning his fate,) is avenged to the uttermost on all the men conscious of the crime; Mr. Bertram's death, like that of his wife, brief in pain, and each told in the space of half-a-dozen lines; and that of the heroine of the tale, self-devoted, heroic in the highest, and happy.

Nor is it ever to be forgotten, in the comparison of Scott's with inferior work, that his own splendid powers were, even in early life, tainted, and in his latter years destroyed, by modern conditions of commercial excitement, then first, but rapidly, developing themselves. There are parts even in his best novels coloured to meet tastes which he despised; and many pages written in his later ones to lengthen his article for the indiscriminate market.

But there was one weakness of which his healthy mind remained incapable to the last. In modern stories prepared for more refined or fastidious audiences than those of Dickens, the funereal excitement is obtained, for the most part, not by the infliction of violent or disgusting death; but in the suspense, the pathos, and the more or less by all felt, and recognised, mortal phenomena of the sick-room. The temptation, to weak writers, of this order of subject is especially great, because the study of it from the living--or dying--model is so easy, and to many has been the most impressive part of their own personal experience; while, if the description be given even with mediocre accuracy, a very large section of readers will admire its truth, and cherish its melancholy: Few authors of second or third rate genius can either record or invent a probable conversation in ordinary life; but few, on the other hand, are so destitute of observant faculty as to be unable to chronicle the broken syllables and languid movements of an invalid. The easily rendered, and too surely recognised, image of familiar suffering is felt at once to be real where all else had been false; and the historian of the gestures of fever and words of delirium can count on the applause of a gratified audience as surely as the dramatist who introduces on the stage of his flagging action a carriage that can be driven or a fountain that will flow. But the masters of strong imagination disdain such work, and those of deep sensibility shrink from it.[154] Only under conditions of personal weakness, presently to be noted, would Scott comply with the cravings of his lower audience in scenes of terror like the death of Front-de-Boeuf. But he never once withdrew the sacred curtain of the sick-chamber, nor permitted the disgrace of wanton tears round the humiliation of strength, or the wreck of beauty.

IV. No exception to this law of reverence will be found in the scenes in Coeur de Lion's illness introductory to the principal incident in the _Talisman_. An inferior writer would have made the king charge in imagination at the head of his chivalry, or wander in dreams by the brooks of Aquitaine; but Scott allows us to learn no more startling symptoms of the king's malady than that he was restless and impatient, and could not wear his armour. Nor is any bodily weakness, or crisis of danger, permitted to disturb for an instant the royalty of intelligence and heart in which he examines, trusts and obeys the physician whom his attendants fear.

Yet the choice of the main subject in this story and its companion--the trial, to a point of utter torture, of knightly faith, and several passages in the conduct of both, more especially the exaggerated scenes in the House of Baldringham, and hermitage of Engedi, are signs of the gradual decline in force of intellect and soul which those who love Scott best have done him the worst injustice in their endeavours to disguise or deny. The mean anxieties, moral humiliations, and mercilessly demanded brain-toil, which killed him, show their sepulchral grasp for many and many a year before their final victory; and the states of more or less dulled, distorted, and polluted imagination which culminate in _Castle Dangerous_, cast a Stygian hue over _St. Ronan's Well, The Fair Maid of Perth_, and _Anne of Geierstein_, which lowers them, the first altogether, the other two at frequent intervals, into fellowship with the normal disease which festers throughout the whole body of our lower fictitious literature.

Fictitious! I use the ambiguous word deliberately; for it is impossible to distinguish in these tales of the prison-house how far their vice and gloom are thrown into their manufacture only to meet a vile demand, and how far they are an integral condition of thought in the minds of men trained from their youth up in the knowledge of Londinian and Parisian misery. The speciality of the plague is a delight in the exposition of the relations between guilt and decrepitude; and I call the results of it literature 'of the prison-house,' because the thwarted habits of body and mind, which are the punishment of reckless crowding in cities, become, in the issue of that punishment, frightful subjects of exclusive interest to themselves; and the art of fiction in which they finally delight is only the more studied arrangement and illustration, by coloured firelights, of the daily bulletins of their own wretchedness, in the prison calendar, the police news, and the hospital report.

The reader will perhaps be surprised at my separating the greatest work of Dickens, _Oliver Twist_, with honour, from the loathsome mass to which it typically belongs. That book is an earnest and uncaricatured record of states of criminal life, written with didactic purpose, full of the gravest instruction, nor destitute of pathetic studies of noble passion. Even the _Mysteries of Paris_ and Gaboriau's _Crime d'Augival_ are raised, by their definiteness of historical intention and forewarning anxiety, far above the level of their order, and may be accepted as photographic evidence of an otherwise incredible civilisation, corrupted in the infernal fact of it, down to the genesis of such figures as the Vicomte d'Augival, the Stabber,[155] the Skeleton, and the She-wolf. But the effectual head of the whole cretinous school is the renowned novel in which the hunchbacked lover watches the execution of his mistress from the tower of Notre-Dame; and its strength passes gradually away into the anatomical preparations, for the general market, of novels like _Poor Miss Finch_, in which the heroine is blind, the hero epileptic, and the obnoxious brother is found dead with his hands dropped off, in the Arctic regions.[156]

This literature of the Prison-house, understanding by the word not only the cell of Newgate, but also and even more definitely the cell of the Hotel-Dieu, the Hopital des Fous, and the grated corridor with the dripping slabs of the Morgue, having its central root thus in the Ile de Paris--or historically and pre-eminently the 'Cite de Paris'--is, when understood deeply, the precise counter-corruption of the religion of the Sainte Chapelle, just as the worst forms of bodily and mental ruin are the corruption of love. I have therefore called it 'Fiction mecroyante,' with literal accuracy and precision; according to the explanation of the word which the reader may find in any good French dictionary,[157] and round its Arctic pole in the Morgue, he may gather into one Caina of gelid putrescence the entire product of modern infidel imagination, amusing itself with destruction of the body, and busying itself with aberration of the mind.

Aberration, palsy, or plague, observe, as distinguished from normal evil, just as the venom of rabies or cholera differs from that of a wasp or a viper. The life of the insect and serpent deserves, or at least permits, our thoughts; not so, the stages of agony in the fury-driven hound. There is some excuse, indeed, for the pathologic labour of the modern novelist in the fact that he cannot easily, in a city population, find a healthy mind to vivisect: but the greater part of such amateur surgery is the struggle, in an epoch of wild literary competition, to obtain novelty of material. The varieties of aspect and colour in healthy fruit, be it sweet or sour, may be within certain limits described exhaustively. Not so the blotches of its conceivable blight: and while the symmetries of integral human character can only be traced by harmonious and tender skill, like the branches of a living tree, the faults and gaps of one gnawed away by corroding accident can be shuffled into senseless change like the wards of a Chubb lock.

V. It is needless to insist on the vast field for this dice-cast or card-dealt calamity which opens itself in the ignorance, money-interest, and mean passion, of city marriage. Peasants know each other as children--meet, as they grow up in testing labour; and if a stout farmer's son marries a handless girl, it is his own fault. Also in the patrician families of the field, the young people know what they are doing, and marry a neighbouring estate, or a covetable title, with some conception of the responsibilities they undertake. But even among these, their season in the confused metropolis creates licentious and fortuitous temptation before unknown; and in the lower middle orders, an entirely new kingdom of discomfort and disgrace has been preached to them in the doctrines of unbridled pleasure which are merely an apology for their peculiar forms of illbreeding. It is quite curious how often the catastrophe, or the leading interest, of a modern novel, turns upon the want, both in maid and bachelor, of the common self-command which was taught to their grandmothers and grandfathers as the first element of ordinarily decent behaviour. Rashly inquiring the other day the plot of a modern story from a female friend, I elicited, after some hesitation, that it hinged mainly on the young people's 'forgetting themselves in a boat;' and I perceive it to be accepted as nearly an axiom in the code of modern civic chivalry that the strength of amiable sentiment is proved by our incapacity on proper occasions to express, and on improper ones to control it. The pride of a gentleman of the old school used to be in his power of saying what he meant, and being silent when he ought, (not to speak of the higher nobleness which bestowed love where it was honourable, and reverence where it was due); but the automatic amours and involuntary proposals of recent romance acknowledge little further law of morality than the instinct of an insect, or the effervescence of a chemical mixture.

There is a pretty little story of Alfred de Musset's,--_La Mouche_, which, if the reader cares to glance at it, will save me further trouble in explaining the disciplinarian authority of mere old-fashioned politeness, as in some sort protective of higher things. It describes, with much grace and precision, a state of society by no means pre-eminently virtuous, or enthusiastically heroic; in which many people do extremely wrong, and none sublimely right. But as there are heights of which the achievement is unattempted, there are abysses to which fall is barred; neither accident nor temptation will make any of the principal personages swerve from an adopted resolution, or violate an accepted principle of honour; people are expected as a matter of course to speak with propriety on occasion, and to wait with patience when they are bid: those who do wrong, admit it; those who do right don't boast of it; everybody knows his own mind, and everybody has good manners.

Nor must it be forgotten that in the worst days of the self-indulgence which destroyed the aristocracies of Europe, their vices, however licentious, were never, in the fatal modern sense, 'unprincipled.' The vainest believed in virtue; the vilest respected it. 'Chaque chose avait son nom,'[158] and the severest of English moralists recognises the accurate wit, the lofty intellect, and the unfretted benevolence, which redeemed from vitiated surroundings the circle of d'Alembert and Marmontel.[159]

I have said, with too slight praise, that the vainest, in those days, 'believed' in virtue. Beautiful and heroic examples of it were always before them; nor was it without the secret significance attaching to what may seem the least accidents in the work of a master, that Scott gave to both his heroines of the age of revolution in England the name of the queen of the highest order of English chivalry.[160]

It is to say little for the types of youth and maid which alone Scott felt it a joy to imagine, or thought it honourable to portray, that they act and feel in a sphere where they are never for an instant liable to any of the weaknesses which disturb the calm, or shake the resolution, of chastity and courage in a modern novel. Scott lived in a country and time, when, from highest to lowest, but chiefly in that dignified and nobly severe[161] middle class to which he himself belonged, a habit of serene and stainless thought was as natural to the people as their mountain air. Women like Rose Bradwardine and Ailie Dinmont were the grace and guard of almost every household (God be praised that the race of them is not yet extinct, for all that Mall or Boulevard can do), and it has perhaps escaped the notice of even attentive readers that the comparatively uninteresting character of Sir Walter's heroes had always been studied among a class of youths who were simply incapable of doing anything seriously wrong; and could only be embarrassed by the consequences of their levity or imprudence.

But there is another difference in the woof of a Waverley novel from the cobweb of a modern one, which depends on Scott's larger view of human life. Marriage is by no means, in his conception of man and woman, the most important business of their existence;[162] nor love the only reward to be proposed to their virtue or exertion. It is not in his reading of the laws of Providence a necessity that virtue should, either by love or any other external blessing, be rewarded at all;[163] and marriage is in all cases thought of as a constituent of the happiness of life, but not as its only interest, still less its only aim. And upon analysing with some care the motives of his principal stories, we shall often find that the love in them is merely a light by which the sterner features of character are to be irradiated, and that the marriage of the hero is as subordinate to the main bent of the story as Henry the Fifth's courtship of Katherine is to the battle of Agincourt. Nay, the fortunes of the person who is nominally the subject of the tale are often little more than a background on which grander figures are to be drawn, and deeper fates forth-shadowed. The judgments between the faith and chivalry of Scotland at Drumclog and Bothwell bridge owe little of their interest in the mind of a sensible reader to the fact that the captain of the Popinjay is carried a prisoner to one battle, and returns a prisoner from the other: and Scott himself, while he watches the white sail that bears Queen Mary for the last time from her native land, very nearly forgets to finish his novel, or to tell us--and with small sense of any consolation to be had out of that minor circumstance,--that 'Roland and Catherine were united, spite of their differing faiths.'

Neither let it be thought for an instant that the slight, and sometimes scornful, glance with which Scott passes over scenes which a novelist of our own day would have analysed with the airs of a philosopher, and painted with the curiosity of a gossip, indicate any absence in his heart of sympathy with the great and sacred elements of personal happiness. An era like ours, which has with diligence and ostentation swept its heart clear of all the passions once known as loyalty, patriotism, and piety, necessarily magnifies the apparent force of the one remaining sentiment which sighs through the barren chambers, or clings inextricably round the chasms of ruin; nor can it but regard with awe the unconquerable spirit which still tempts or betrays the sagacities of selfishness into error or frenzy which is believed to be love.

That Scott was never himself, in the sense of the phrase as employed by lovers of the Parisian school, 'ivre d'amour,' may be admitted without prejudice to his sensibility,[164] and that he never knew 'l'amor che move 'l sol e l'altre stelle,' was the chief, though unrecognised, calamity of his deeply chequered life. But the reader of honour and feeling will not therefore suppose that the love which Miss Vernon sacrifices, stooping for an instant from her horse, is of less noble stamp, or less enduring faith, than that which troubles and degrades the whole existence of Consuelo; or that the affection of Jeanie Deans for the companion of her childhood, drawn like a field of soft blue heaven beyond the cloudy wrack of her sorrow, is less fully in possession of her soul than the hesitating and self-reproachful impulses under which a modern heroine forgets herself in a boat, or compromises herself in the cool of the evening.

I do not wish to return over the waste ground we have traversed, comparing, point by point, Scott's manner with those of Bermondsey and the Faubourgs; but it may be, perhaps, interesting at this moment to examine, with illustration from those Waverley novels which have so lately _re_tracted the attention of a fair and gentle public, the universal conditions of 'style,' rightly so called, which are in all ages, and above all local currents or wavering tides of temporary manners, pillars of what is for ever strong, and models of what is for ever fair.

But I must first define, and that within strict horizon, the works of Scott, in which his perfect mind may be known, and his chosen ways understood.

His great works of prose fiction, excepting only the first half-volume of _Waverley_, were all written in twelve years, 1814-26 (of his own age forty-three to fifty-five), the actual time employed in their composition being not more than a couple of months out of each year; and during that time only the morning hours and spare minutes during the professional day. 'Though the first volume of _Waverley_ was begun long ago, and actually lost for a time, yet the other two were begun and finished between the 4th of June and the first of July, during all which I attended my duty in court, and proceeded without loss of time or hindrance of business.'[165]

Few of the maxims for the enforcement of which, in _Modern Painters_, long ago, I got the general character of a lover of paradox, are more singular, or more sure, than the statement, apparently so encouraging to the idle, that if a great thing can be done at all, it can be done easily. But it is in that kind of ease with which a tree blossoms after long years of gathered strength, and all Scott's great writings were the recreations of a mind confirmed in dutiful labour, and rich with organic gathering of boundless resource.

Omitting from our count the two minor and ill-finished sketches of the _Black Dwarf_ and _Legend of Montrose_, and, for a reason presently to be noticed, the unhappy _St. Ronan's_, the memorable romances of Scott are eighteen, falling into three distinct groups, containing six each.

The first group is distinguished from the other two by characters of strength and felicity which never more appeared after Scott was struck down by his terrific illness in 1819. It includes _Waverley_, _Guy Mannering_, _The Antiquary_, _Rob Roy_, _Old Mortality_, and _The Heart of Midlothian_.

The composition of these occupied the mornings of his happiest days, between the ages of 43 and 48. On the 8th of April, 1819 (he was 48 on the preceding 15th of August) he began for the first time to dictate--being unable for the exertion of writing--_The Bride of Lammermuir_, 'the affectionate Laidlaw beseeching him to stop dictating, when his audible suffering filled every pause. "Nay, Willie," he answered "only see that the doors are fast. I would fain keep all the cry as well as all the wool to ourselves; but as for giving over work, that can only be when I am in woollen."'[166] From this time forward the brightness of joy and sincerity of inevitable humour, which perfected the imagery of the earlier novels, are wholly absent, except in the two short intervals of health unaccountably restored, in which he wrote _Redgauntlet_ and _Nigel_.

It is strange, but only a part of the general simplicity of Scott's genius, that these revivals of earlier power were unconscious, and that the time of extreme weakness in which he wrote _St. Ronan's Well_, was that in which he first asserted his own restoration.

It is also a deeply interesting characteristic of his noble nature that he never gains anything by sickness; the whole man breathes or faints as one creature; the ache that stiffens a limb chills his heart, and every pang of the stomach paralyses the brain. It is not so with inferior minds, in the workings of which it is often impossible to distinguish native from narcotic fancy, and throbs of conscience from those of indigestion. Whether in exaltation or languor, the colours of mind are always morbid, which gleam on the sea for the 'Ancient Mariner,' and through the casements on 'St. Agnes' Eve;' but Scott is at once blinded and stultified by sickness; never has a fit of the cramp without spoiling a chapter, and is perhaps the only author of vivid imagination who never wrote a foolish word but when he was ill.

It remains only to be noticed on this point that any strong natural excitement, affecting the deeper springs of his heart, would at once restore his intellectual powers in all their fullness, and that, far towards their sunset: but that the strong will on which he prided himself, though it could trample upon pain, silence grief, and compel industry, never could warm his imagination, or clear the judgment in his darker hours.

I believe that this power of the heart over the intellect is common to all great men: but what the special character of emotion was, that alone could lift Scott above the power of death, I am about to ask the reader, in a little while, to observe with joyful care.

The first series of romances then, above named, are all that exhibit the emphasis of his unharmed faculties. The second group, composed in the three years subsequent to illness all but mortal, bear every one of them more or less the seal of it.

They consist of the _Bride of Lammermuir_, _Ivanhoe_, the _Monastery_, the _Abbot_, _Kenilworth_, and the _Pirate_.[167] The marks of broken health on all these are essentially twofold--prevailing melancholy, and fantastic improbability. Three of the tales are agonizingly tragic, the _Abbot_ scarcely less so in its main event, and _Ivanhoe_ deeply wounded through all its bright panoply; while even in that most powerful of the series, the impossible archeries and axestrokes, the incredibly opportune appearances of Locksley, the death of Ulrica, and the resuscitation of Athelstane, are partly boyish, partly feverish. Caleb in the _Bride_, Triptolemus and Halcro in the _Pirate_, are all laborious, and the first incongruous; half a volume of the _Abbot_ is spent in extremely dull detail of Roland's relations with his fellow-servants and his mistress, which have nothing whatever to do with the future story; and the lady of Avenel herself disappears after the first volume, 'like a snaw wreath when it's thaw, Jeanie.' The public has for itself pronounced on the _Monastery_, though as much too harshly as it has foolishly praised the horrors of _Ravenswood_ and the nonsense of _Ivanhoe_; because the modern public finds in the torture and adventure of these, the kind of excitement which it seeks at an opera, while it has no sympathy whatever with the pastoral happiness of Glendearg, or with the lingering simplicities of superstition which give historical likelihood to the legend of the White Lady.

But both this despised tale and its sequel have Scott's heart in them. The first was begun to refresh himself in the intervals of artificial labour on _Ivanhoe_. 'It was a relief,' he said, 'to interlay the scenery most familiar to me[168] with the strange world for which I had to draw so much on imagination.'[169] Through all the closing scenes of the second he is raised to his own true level by his love for the queen. And within the code of Scott's work to which I am about to appeal for illustration of his essential powers, I accept the _Monastery_ and _Abbot_, and reject from it the remaining four of this group.

The last series contains two quite noble ones, _Redgauntlet_ and _Nigel_; two of very high value, _Durward_ and _Woodstock_; the slovenly and diffuse _Peveril_, written for the trade; the sickly _Tales of the Crusaders_, and the entirely broken and diseased _St. Ronan's Well_. This last I throw out of count altogether, and of the rest, accept only the four first named as sound work; so that the list of the novels in which I propose to examine his methods and ideal standards, reduces itself to these following twelve (named in order of production): _Waverley_, _Guy Mannering_, the _Antiquary_, _Rob Roy_, _Old Mortality_, the _Heart of Midlothian_, the _Monastery_, the _Abbot_, the _Fortunes of Nigel_, _Quentin Durward_, and _Woodstock_.[170]

It is, however, too late to enter on my subject in this article, which I may fitly close by pointing out some of the merely verbal characteristics of his style, illustrative in little ways of the questions we have been examining, and chiefly of the one which may be most embarrassing to many readers, the difference, namely, between character and disease.

One quite distinctive charm in the Waverleys is their modified use of the Scottish dialect; but it has not generally been observed, either by their imitators, or the authors of different taste who have written for a later public, that there is a difference between the dialect of a language, and its corruption.

A dialect is formed in any district where there are persons of intelligence enough to use the language itself in all its fineness and force, but under the particular conditions of life, climate, and temper, which introduce words peculiar to the scenery, forms of word and idioms of sentence peculiar to the race, and pronunciations indicative of their character and disposition.

Thus 'burn' (of a streamlet) is a word possible only in a country where there are brightly running waters, 'lassie,' a word possible only where girls are as free as the rivulets, and 'auld,' a form of the southern 'old,' adopted by a race of finer musical ear than the English.

On the contrary, mere deteriorations, or coarse, stridulent, and, in the ordinary sense of the phrase, 'broad' forms of utterance, are not dialects at all, having nothing dialectic in them, and all phrases developed in states of rude employment, and restricted intercourse, are injurious to the tone and narrowing to the power of the language they affect. Mere breadth of accent does not spoil a dialect as long as the speakers are men of varied idea and good intelligence; but the moment the life is contracted by mining, millwork, or any oppressive and monotonous labour, the accents and phrases become debased. It is part of the popular folly of the day to find pleasure in trying to write and spell these abortive, crippled, and more or less brutal forms of human speech.

Abortive, crippled, or brutal, are however not necessarily 'corrupted' dialects. Corrupt language is that gathered by ignorance, invented by vice, misused by insensibility, or minced and mouthed by affectation, especially in the attempt to deal with words of which only half the meaning is understood, or half the sound heard. Mrs. Gamp's 'aperiently so'--and the 'undermined' with primal sense of undermine, of--I forget which gossip, in the _Mill on the Floss_, are master- and mistress-pieces in this latter kind. Mrs. Malaprop's 'allegories on the banks of the Nile' are in a somewhat higher order of mistake: Miss Tabitha Bramble's ignorance is vulgarised by her selfishness, and Winifred Jenkins' by her conceit. The 'wot' of Noah Claypole, and the other degradations of cockneyism (Sam Weller and his father are in nothing more admirable than in the power of heart and sense that can purify even these); the 'trewth' of Mr. Chadband, and 'natur' of Mr. Squeers, are examples of the corruption of words by insensibility: the use of the word 'bloody' in modern low English is a deeper corruption, not altering the form of the word, but defiling the thought in it.

Thus much being understood, I shall proceed to examine thoroughly a fragment of Scott's Lowland Scottish dialect; not choosing it of the most beautiful kind; on the contrary, it shall be a piece reaching as low down as he ever allows Scotch to go--it is perhaps the only unfair patriotism in him, that if ever he wants a word or two of really villainous slang, he gives it in English or Dutch--not Scotch.

I had intended in the close of this paper to analyse and compare the characters of Andrew Fairservice and Richie Moniplies for examples, the former of innate evil, unaffected by external influences, and undiseased, but distinct from natural goodness as a nettle is distinct from balm or lavender; and the latter of innate goodness, contracted and pinched by circumstance, but still undiseased, as an oak-leaf crisped by frost, not by the worm. This, with much else in my mind, I must put off; but the careful study of one sentence of Andrew's will give us a good deal to think of.

I take his account of the rescue of Glasgow Cathedral at the time of the Reformation.

Ah! it's a brave kirk--nane o' yere whigmaleeries and curliewurlies and opensteek hems about it--a' solid, weel-jointed mason-wark, that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gunpowther aff it. It had amaist a douncome lang syne at the Reformation, when they pu'd doun the kirks of St. Andrews and Perth, and thereawa', to cleanse them o' Papery, and idolatry, and image-worship, and surplices, and sic-like rags o' the muckle hure that sitteth on seven hills, as if ane wasna braid eneugh for her auld hinder end. Sae the commons o' Renfrew, and o' the Barony, and the Gorbals, and a' about, they behoved to come into Glasgow ae fair morning, to try their hand on purging the High Kirk o' Popish nicknackets. But the townsmen o' Glasgow, they were feared their auld edifice might slip the girths in gaun through siccan rough physic, sae they rang the common bell, and assembled the train-bands wi' took o' drum. By good luck, the worthy James Rabat was Dean o' Guild that year--(and a gude mason he was himsell, made him the keener to keep up the auld bigging), and the trades assembled, and offered downright battle to the commons, rather than their kirk should coup the crans, as others had done elsewhere. It wasna for luve o' Paperie--na, na!--nane could ever say that o' the trades o' Glasgow--Sae they sune came to an agreement to take a' the idolatrous statues of sants (sorrow be on them!) out o' their neuks--And sae the bits o' stane idols were broken in pieces by Scripture warrant, and flung into the Molendinar burn, and the auld kirk stood as crouse as a cat when the flaes are kaimed aff her, and a'body was alike pleased. And I hae heard wise folk say, that if the same had been done in ilka kirk in Scotland, the Reform wad just hae been as pure as it is e'en now, and we wad hae mair Christian-like kirks; for I hae been sae lang in England, that naething will drived out o' my head, that the dog-kennel at Osbaldistone-Hall is better than mony a house o' God in Scotland.

Now this sentence is in the first place a piece of Scottish history of quite inestimable and concentrated value. Andrew's temperament is the type of a vast class of Scottish--shall we call it '_sow_-thistlian'--mind, which necessarily takes the view of either Pope or saint that the thistle in Lebanon took of the cedar or lilies in Lebanon; and the entire force of the passions which, in the Scottish revolution, foretold and forearmed the French one, is told in this one paragraph; the coarseness of it, observe, being admitted, not for the sake of the laugh, any more than an onion in broth merely for its flavour, but for the meat of it; the inherent constancy of that coarseness being a fact in this order of mind, and an essential part of the history to be told.

Secondly, observe that this speech, in the religious passion of it, such as there may be, is entirely sincere. Andrew is a thief, a liar, a coward, and, in the Fair service from which he takes his name, a hypocrite; but in the form of prejudice, which is all that his mind is capable of in the place of religion, he is entirely sincere. He does not in the least pretend detestation of image worship to please his master, or any one else; he honestly scorns the 'carnal morality[171] as dowd and fusionless as rue-leaves at Yule' of the sermon in the upper cathedral; and when wrapt in critical attention to the 'real savour o' doctrine' in the crypt, so completely forgets the hypocrisy of his fair service as to return his master's attempt to disturb him with hard punches of the elbow.

Thirdly. He is a man of no mean sagacity, quite up to the average standard of Scottish common sense, not a low one; and, though incapable of understanding any manner of lofty thought or passion, is a shrewd measurer of weaknesses, and not without a spark or two of kindly feeling. See first his sketch of his master's character to Mr. Hammorgaw, beginning: 'He's no a'thegither sae void o' sense, neither;' and then the close of the dialogue: 'But the lad's no a bad lad after a', and he needs some carefu' body to look after him.'

Fourthly. He is a good workman; knows his own business well, and can judge of other craft, if sound, or otherwise.

All these four qualities of him must be known before we can understand this single speech. Keeping them in mind, I take it up, word by word.

You observe, in the outset, Scott makes no attempt whatever to indicate accents or modes of pronunciation by changed spelling, unless the word becomes a quite definitely new and scarcely writeable one. The Scottish way of pronouncing 'James,' for instance, is entirely peculiar, and extremely pleasant to the ear. But it is so, just because it does _not_ change the word into Jeems, nor into Jims, nor into Jawms. A modern writer of dialects would think it amusing to use one or other of these ugly spellings. But Scott writes the name in pure English, knowing that a Scots reader will speak it rightly, and an English one be wise in letting it alone. On the other hand he writes 'weel' for 'well,' because that word is complete in its change, and may be very closely expressed by the double _e_. The ambiguous '_u_'s in 'gude' and 'sune' are admitted, because far liker the sound than the double _o_ would be, and that in 'hure,' for grace' sake, to soften the word;--so also 'flaes' for 'fleas.' 'Mony' for 'many' is again positively right in sound, and 'neuk' differs from our 'nook' in sense, and is not the same word at all, as we shall presently see.

Secondly, observe, not a word is corrupted in any indecent haste, slowness, slovenliness, or incapacity of pronunciation. There is no lisping, drawling, slobbering, or snuffling: the speech is as clear as a bell and as keen as an arrow: and its elisions and contractions are either melodious, ('na,' for 'not,'--'pu'd,' for 'pulled,') or as normal as in a Latin verse. The long words are delivered without the slightest bungling; and 'bigging' finished to its last _g_.

I take the important words now in their places.

_Brave._ The old English sense of the word in 'to go brave' retained, expressing Andrew's sincere and respectful admiration. Had he meant to insinuate a hint of the church's being too fine, he would have said 'braw.'

_Kirk._ This is of course just as pure and unprovincial a word as 'Kirche,' or 'eglise.'

_Whigmaleerie._ I cannot get at the root of this word, but it is one showing that the speaker is not bound by classic rules, but will use any syllables that enrich his meaning. 'Nipperty-tipperty' (of his master's 'poetry-nonsense') is another word of the same class. 'Curlieurlie' is of course just as pure as Shakespeare's 'Hurly-burly.' But see first suggestion of the idea to Scott at Blair-Adam (L. vi. 264).

_Opensteek hems._ More description, or better, of the later Gothic cannot be put into four syllables. 'Steek,' melodious for stitch, has a combined sense of closing or fastening. And note that the later Gothic, being precisely what Scott knew best (in Melrose) and liked best, it is, here as elsewhere, quite as much himself[172] as Frank, that he is laughing at, when he laughs _with_ Andrew, whose 'opensteek hems' are only a ruder metaphor for his own 'willow-wreaths changed to stone.'

_Gunpowther._ '-Ther' is a lingering vestige of the French '-dre.'

_Syne._ One of the melodious and mysterious Scottish words which have partly the sound of wind and stream in them, and partly the range of softened idea which is like a distance of blue hills over border land ('far in the distant Cheviot's blue'). Perhaps even the least sympathetic 'Englisher' might recognise this, if he heard 'Old Long Since' vocally substituted for the Scottish words to the air. I do not know the root; but the word's proper meaning is not 'since,' but before or after an interval of some duration, 'as weel sune as syne.' 'But first on Sawnie gies a ca', Syne, bauldly in she enters.'

_Behoved_ (_to come_). A rich word, with peculiar idiom, always used more or less ironically of anything done under a partly mistaken and partly pretended notion of duty.

_Siccan._ Far prettier, and fuller in meaning than 'such.' It contains an added sense of wonder; and means properly 'so great' or 'so unusual.'

_Took_ (_o' drum_). Classical 'tuck' from Italian 'toccata,' the preluding 'touch' or flourish, on any instrument (but see Johnson under word 'tucket,' quoting _Othello_). The deeper Scottish vowels are used here to mark the deeper sound of the bass drum, as in more solemn warning.

_Bigging._ The only word in all the sentence of which the Scottish form is less melodious than the English, 'and what for no,' seeing that Scottish architecture is mostly little beyond Bessie Bell's and Mary Gray's? 'They biggit a bow're by yon burnside, and theekit it ow're wi rashes.' But it is pure Anglo-Saxon in roots; see glossary to Fairbairn's edition of the Douglas _Virgil_, 1710.

_Coup._ Another of the much-embracing words; short for 'upset,' but with a sense of awkwardness as the inherent cause of fall; compare Richie Moniplies (also for sense of 'behoved'): 'Ae auld hirplin deevil of a potter behoved just to step in my way, and offer me a pig (earthern pot--etym. dub.), as he said "just to put my Scotch ointment in;" and I gave him a push, as but natural, and the tottering deevil coupit owre amang his own pigs, and damaged a score of them.' So also Dandie Dinmont in the postchaise: ''Od! I hope they'll no coup us.'

_The Crans._ Idiomatic; root unknown to me, but it means in this use, full, total, and without recovery.

_Molendinar._ From 'molendinum,' the grinding-place. I do not know if actually the local name,[173] or Scott's invention. Compare Sir Piercie's 'Molinaras.' But at all events used here with bye-sense of degradation of the formerly idle saints to grind at the mill.

_Crouse._ Courageous, softened with a sense of comfort.

_Ilka._ Again a word with azure distance, including the whole sense of 'each' and 'every.' The reader must carefully and reverently distinguish these comprehensive words, which gather two or more perfectly understood meanings into one _chord_ of meaning, and are harmonies more than words, from the above-noted blunders between two half-hit meanings, struck as a bad piano-player strikes the edge of another note. In English we have fewer of these combined thoughts; so that Shakespeare rather plays with the distinct lights of his words, than melts them into one. So again Bishop Douglas spells, and doubtless spoke, the word 'rose,' differently, according to his purpose; if as the chief or governing ruler of flowers, 'rois,' but if only in her own beauty, rose.

_Christian-like._ The sense of the decency and order proper to Christianity is stronger in Scotland than in any other country, and the word 'Christian' more distinctly opposed to 'beast.' Hence the back-handed cut at the English for their over-pious care of dogs.

I am a little surprised myself at the length to which this examination of one small piece of Sir Walter's first-rate work has carried us, but here I must end for this time, trusting, if the Editor of the _Nineteenth Century_ permit me, yet to trespass, perhaps more than once, on his readers' patience; but, at all events, to examine in a following paper the technical characteristics of Scott's own style, both in prose and verse, together with Byron's, as opposed to our fashionably recent dialects and rhythms; the essential virtues of language, in both the masters of the old school, hinging ultimately, little as it might be thought, on certain unalterable views of theirs concerning the code called 'of the Ten Commandments,' wholly at variance with the dogmas of automatic morality which, summed again by the witches' line, 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair,' hover through the fog and filthy air of our prosperous England.


* * * * *

'_He hated greetings in the market-place_, and there were generally loiterers in the streets to persecute him _either about the events of the day_, or about some petty pieces of business.'

These lines, which the reader will find near the beginning of the sixteenth chapter of the first volume of the _Antiquary_, contain two indications of the old man's character, which, receiving the ideal of him as a portrait of Scott himself, are of extreme interest to me. They mean essentially that neither Monkbarns nor Scott had any mind to be called of men, Rabbi, in mere hearing of the mob; and especially that they hated to be drawn back out of their far-away thoughts, or forward out of their long-ago thoughts, by any manner of 'daily' news, whether printed or gabbled. Of which two vital characteristics, deeper in both the men, (for I must always speak of Scott's creations as if they were as real as himself,) than any of their superficial vanities, or passing enthusiasms, I have to speak more at another time. I quote the passage just now, because there was one piece of the daily news of the year 1815 which did extremely interest Scott, and materially direct the labour of the latter part of his life; nor is there any piece of history in this whole nineteenth century quite so pregnant with various instruction as the study of the reasons which influenced Scott and Byron in their opposite views of the glories of the battle of Waterloo.

But I quote it for another reason also. The principal greeting which Mr. Oldbuck on this occasion receives in the market-place, being compared with the speech of Andrew Fairservice, examined in my first paper, will furnish me with the text of what I have mainly to say in the present one.

'"Mr. Oldbuck," said the town-clerk (a more important person, who came in front and ventured to stop the old gentleman), "the provost, understanding you were in town, begs on no account that you'll quit it without seeing him; he wants to speak to ye about bringing the water frae the Fairwell spring through a part o' your lands."

'"What the deuce!--have they nobody's land but mine to cut and carve on?--I won't consent, tell them."

'"And the provost," said the clerk, going on, without noticing the rebuff, "and the council, wad be agreeable that you should hae the auld stanes at Donagild's Chapel, that ye was wussing to hae."

'"Eh?--what?--Oho! that's another story--Well, well, I'll call upon the provost, and we'll talk about it."

'"But ye maun speak your mind on't forthwith, Monkbarns, if ye want the stanes; for Deacon Harlewalls thinks the carved through-stanes might be put with advantage on the front of the new council-house--that is, the twa cross-legged figures that the callants used to ca' Robbin and Bobbin, ane on ilka door-cheek; and the other stane, that they ca'd Ailie Dailie, abune the door. It will be very tastefu', the Deacon says, and just in the style of modern Gothic."

'"Good Lord deliver me from this Gothic generation!" exclaimed the Antiquary,--"a monument of a knight-templar on each side of a Grecian porch, and a Madonna on the top of it!--_O crimini!_--Well, tell the provost I wish to have the stones, and we'll not differ about the water-course.--It's lucky I happened to come this way to-day."

'They parted mutually satisfied; but the wily clerk had most reason to exult in the dexterity he had displayed, since the whole proposal of an exchange between the monuments (which the council had determined to remove as a nuisance, because they encroached three feet upon the public road) and the privilege of conveying the water to the burgh, through the estate of Monkbarns, was an idea which had originated with himself upon the pressure of the moment.'

In this single page of Scott, will the reader please note the kind of prophetic instinct with which the great men of every age mark and forecast its destinies? The water from the Fairwell is the future Thirlmere carried to Manchester; the 'auld stanes'[174] at Donagild's Chapel, removed as a _nuisance_, foretell the necessary view taken by modern cockneyism, Liberalism, and progress, of all things that remind them of the noble dead, of their father's fame, or of their own duty; and the public road becomes their idol, instead of the saint's shrine. Finally, the roguery of the entire transaction--the mean man seeing the weakness of the honourable, and 'besting' him--in modern slang, in the manner and at the pace of modern trade--'on the pressure of the moment.'

But neither are these things what I have at present quoted the passage for.

I quote it, that we may consider how much wonderful and various history is gathered in the fact, recorded for us in this piece of entirely fair fiction, that in the Scottish borough of Fairport, (Montrose, really,) in the year 17-- of Christ, the knowledge given by the pastors and teachers provided for its children by enlightened Scottish Protestantism, of their fathers' history, and the origin of their religion, had resulted in this substance and sum;--that the statues of two crusading knights had become, to their children, Robin and Bobbin; and the statue of the Madonna, Ailie Dailie.

A marvellous piece of history, truly: and far too comprehensive for general comment here. Only one small piece of it I must carry forward the readers' thoughts upon.

The pastors and teachers aforesaid, (represented typically in another part of this errorless book by Mr. Blattergowl) are not, whatever else they may have to answer for, answerable for these names. The names are of the children's own choosing and bestowing, but not of the children's own inventing. 'Robin' is a classically endearing cognomen, recording the _errant_ heroism of old days--the name of the Bruce and of Rob Roy. 'Bobbin' is a poetical and symmetrical fulfilment and adornment of the original phrase. 'Ailie' is the last echo of 'Ave,' changed into the softest Scottish Christian name familiar to the children, itself the beautiful feminine form of royal 'Louis;' the 'Dailie' again symmetrically added for kinder and more musical endearment. The last vestiges, you see, of honour for the heroism and religion of their ancestors, lingering on the lips of babes and sucklings.

But what is the meaning of this necessity the children find themselves under of completing the nomenclature rhythmically and rhymingly? Note first the difference carefully, and the attainment of both qualities by the couplets in question. Rhythm is the syllabic and quantitative measure of the words, in which Robin, both in weight and time, balances Bobbin; and Dailie holds level scale with Ailie. But rhyme is the added correspondence of sound; unknown and undesired, so far as we can learn, by the Greek Orpheus, but absolutely essential to, and, as special virtue, becoming titular of, the Scottish Thomas.

The 'Ryme,'[175] you may at first fancy, is the especially childish part of the work. Not so. It is the especially chivalric and Christian part of it. It characterises the Christian chant or canticle, as a higher thing than a Greek ode, melos, or hymnos, or than a Latin carmen.

Think of it, for this again is wonderful! That these children of Montrose should have an element of music in their souls which Homer had not,--which a melos of David the Prophet and King had not,--which Orpheus and Amphion had not,--which Apollo's unrymed oracles became mute at the sound of.

A strange new equity this,--melodious justice and judgment as it were,--in all words spoken solemnly and ritualistically by Christian human creatures;--Robin and Bobbin--by the Crusader's tomb, up to 'Dies irae, dies illa,' at judgment of the crusading soul.

You have to understand this most deeply of all Christian minstrels, from first to last; that they are more musical, because more joyful, than any others on earth: ethereal minstrels, pilgrims of the sky, true to the kindred points of heaven and home; their joy essentially the sky-lark's, in light, in purity; but, with their human eyes, looking for the glorious appearing of something in the sky, which the bird cannot.

This it is that changes Etruscan murmur into Terza rima--Horatian Latin into Provencal troubadour's melody; not, because less artful, less wise.

Here is a little bit, for instance, of French ryming just before Chaucer's time--near enough to our own French to be intelligible to us yet.

'O quant tres-glorieuse vie,
Quant cil quit out peut et maistrie,
Veult esprouver pour necessaire,
Ne pour quant il ne blasma mie
La vie de Marthe sa mie:
Mais il lui donna exemplaire
D'autrement vivre, et de bien plaire
A Dieu; et plut de bien a faire:
Pour se conclut-il que Marie
Qui estoit a ses piedz sans braire,
Et pensait d'entendre et de taire,
Estleut la plus saine partie.

La meilleur partie esleut-elle
Et la plus saine et la plus belle,
Qui ja ne luy sera ostee
Car par verite se fut celle
Qui fut tousjours fresche et nouvelle,
D'aymer Dieu et d'en estre aymee;
Car jusqu'au cueur fut entamee,
Et si ardamment enflammee.
Que tous-jours ardoit l'estincelle;
Par quoi elle fut visitee
Et de Dieu premier comfortee;
Car charite est trop ysnelle.'

The only law of _metre_, observed in this song, is that each line shall be octosyllabic:

Qui fut | tousjours | fresche et | nouvelle,
D'autre | ment vi | vret de | bien (ben) plaire,
Et pen | soit den | tendret | de taire

But the reader must note that words which were two-syllabled in Latin mostly remain yet so in the French.

La _vi_ | -_e_ de | Marthe | sa mie,

although _mie_, which is pet language, loving abbreviation of _amica_ through _amie_, remains monosyllabic. But _vie_ elides its _e_ before a vowel:

Car Mar- | the me | nait vie | active
Et Ma- | ri-e | contemp | lative;

and custom endures many exceptions. Thus _Marie_ may be three-syllabled as above, or answer to _mie_ as a dissyllable; but _vierge_ is always, I think, dissyllabic, _vier-ge_, with even stronger accent on the -_ge_, for the Latin -_go_.

Then, secondly, of quantity, there is scarcely any fixed law. The metres may be timed as the minstrel chooses--fast or slow--and the iambic current checked in reverted eddy, as the words chance to come.

But, thirdly, there is to be rich ryming and chiming, no matter how simply got, so only that the words jingle and tingle together with due art of interlacing and answering in different parts of the stanza, correspondent to the involutions of tracery and illumination. The whole twelve-line stanza is thus constructed with two rymes only, six of each, thus arranged:


dividing the verse thus into four measures, reversed in ascent and descent, or _descant_ more properly; and doubtless with correspondent phases in the voice-given, and duly accompanying, or following, music; Thomas the Rymer's own precept, that 'tong is chefe in mynstrelsye,' being always kept faithfully in mind.[176]

Here then you have a sufficient example of the pure chant of the Christian ages; which is always at heart joyful, and divides itself into the four great forms, Song of Praise, Song of Prayer, Song of Love, and Song of Battle; praise, however, being the keynote of passion through all the four forms; according to the first law which I have already given in the laws of Fesole; 'all great Art is Praise,' of which the contrary is also true, all foul or miscreant Art is accusation, [Greek: diabole]: 'She gave me of the tree and I did eat' being an entirely museless expression on Adam's part, the briefly essential contrary of Love-song.

With these four perfect forms of Christian chant, of which we may take for pure examples the 'Te Deum,' the 'Te Lucis Ante,' the 'Amor che nella mente,'[177] and the 'Chant de Roland,' are mingled songs of mourning, of Pagan origin (whether Greek or Danish), holding grasp still of the races that have once learned them, in times of suffering and sorrow; and songs of Christian humiliation or grief, regarding chiefly the sufferings of Christ, or the conditions of our own sin: while through the entire system of these musical complaints are interwoven moralities, instructions, and related histories, in illustration of both, passing into Epic and Romantic verse, which gradually, as the forms and learnings of society increase, becomes less joyful, and more didactic, or satiric, until the last echoes of Christian joy and melody vanish in the 'Vanity of human wishes.'

And here I must pause for a minute or two to separate the different branches of our inquiry clearly from one another. For one thing, the reader must please put for the present out of his head all thought of the progress of 'civilisation'--that is to say, broadly, of the substitution of wigs for hair, gas for candles, and steam for legs. This is an entirely distinct matter from the phases of policy and religion. It has nothing to do with the British Constitution, or the French Revolution, or the unification of Italy. There are, indeed, certain subtle relations between the state of mind, for instance, in Venice, which makes her prefer a steamer to a gondola, and that which makes her prefer a gazetteer to a duke; but these relations are not at all to be dealt with until we solemnly understand that whether men shall be Christians and poets, or infidels and dunces, does not depend on the way they cut their hair, tie their breeches, or light their fires. Dr. Johnson might have worn his wig in fulness conforming to his dignity, without therefore coming to the conclusion that human wishes were vain; nor is Queen Antoinette's civilised hair-powder, as opposed to Queen Bertha's savagely loose hair, the cause of Antoinette's laying her head at last in scaffold dust, but Bertha in a pilgrim-haunted tomb.

Again, I have just now used the words 'poet' and 'dunce,' meaning the degree of each quality possible to average human nature. Men are eternally divided into the two classes of poet (believer, maker, and praiser) and dunce (or unbeliever, unmaker, and dispraiser). And in process of ages they have the power of making faithful and formative creatures of themselves, or unfaithful and _de_formative. And this distinction between the creatures who, blessing, are blessed, and evermore _benedicti_, and the creatures who, cursing, are cursed, and evermore _maledicti_, is one going through all humanity; antediluvian in Cain and Abel, diluvian in Ham and Shem. And the question for the public of any given period is not whether they are a constitutional or unconstitutional vulgus, but whether they are a benignant or malignant vulgus. So also, whether it is indeed the gods who have given any gentleman the grace to despise the rabble, depends wholly on whether it is indeed the rabble, or he, who are the malignant persons.

But yet again. This difference between the persons to whom Heaven, according to Orpheus, has granted 'the hour of delight,'[178] and those whom it has condemned to the hour of detestableness, being, as I have just said, of all times and nations,--it is an interior and more delicate difference which we are examining in the gift of _Christian_, as distinguished from unchristian, song. Orpheus, Pindar, and Horace are indeed distinct from the prosaic rabble, as the bird from the snake; but between Orpheus and Palestrina, Horace and Sidney, there is another division, and a new power of music and song given to the humanity which has hope of the Resurrection.

_This_ is the root of all life and all rightness in Christian harmony, whether of word or instrument; and so literally, that in precise manner as this hope disappears, the power of song is taken away, and taken away utterly. When the Christian falls back out of the bright hope of the Resurrection, even the Orpheus song is forbidden him. Not to have known the hope is blameless: one may sing, unknowing, as the swan, or Philomela. But to have known and fall away from it, and to declare that the human wishes, which are summed in that one--'Thy kingdom come'--are vain! The Fates ordain there shall be no singing after that denial.

For observe this, and earnestly. The old Orphic song, with its dim hope of yet once more Eurydice,--the Philomela song--granted after the cruel silence,--the Halcyon song--with its fifteen days of peace, were all sad, or joyful only in some vague vision of conquest over death. But the Johnsonian vanity of wishes is on the whole satisfactory to Johnson--accepted with gentlemanly resignation by Pope--triumphantly and with bray of penny trumpets and blowing of steam-whistles, proclaimed for the glorious discovery of the civilised ages, by Mrs. Barbauld, Miss Edgeworth, Adam Smith, and Co. There is no God, but have we not invented gunpowder?--who wants a God, with that in his pocket?[179] There is no Resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but have we not paper and pens, and cannot every blockhead print his opinions, and the Day of Judgment become Republican, with everybody for a judge, and the flat of the universe for the throne? There is no law, but only gravitation and congelation, and we are stuck together in an everlasting hail, and melted together in everlasting mud, and great was the day in which our worships were born. And there is no Gospel, but only, whatever we've got, to get more, and, wherever we are, to go somewhere else. And are not these discoveries, to be sung of, and drummed of, and fiddled of, and generally made melodiously indubitable in the eighteenth century song of praise?

The Fates will not have it so. No word of song is possible, in that century, to mortal lips. Only polished versification, sententious pentameter and hexameter, until, having turned out its toes long enough without dancing, and pattered with its lips long enough without piping, suddenly Astraea returns to the earth, and a Day of Judgment of a sort, and there bursts out a song at last again, a most curtly melodious triplet of Amphisbaenic ryme. '_Ca ira._'

Amphisbaenic, fanged in each ryme with fire, and obeying Ercildoune's precept, 'Tong is chefe of mynstrelsye,' to the syllable.--Don Giovanni's hitherto fondly chanted 'Andiam, andiam,' become suddenly impersonal and prophetic: IT shall go, and you also. A cry--before it is a song, then song and accompaniment together--perfectly done; and the march 'towards the field of Mars. The two hundred and fifty thousand--they to the sound of stringed music--preceded by young girls with tricolor streamers, they have shouldered soldier-wise their shovels and picks, and with one throat are singing _Ca ira_.'[180]

Through all the springtime of 1790, 'from Brittany to Burgundy, on most plains of France, under most city walls, there march and constitutionally wheel to the Ca-iraing mood of fife and drum--our clear glancing phalanxes;--the song of the two hundred and fifty thousand, virgin led, is in the long light of July.' Nevertheless, another song is yet needed, for phalanx, and for maid. For, two springs and summers having gone--amphisbaenic,--on the 28th of August 1792, 'Dumouriez rode from the camp of Maulde, eastwards to _Sedan_.'[181]

And Longwi has fallen basely, and Brunswick and the Prussian king will beleaguer Verdun, and Clairfait and the Austrians press deeper in over the northern marches, Cimmerian Europe behind. And on that same night Dumouriez assembles council of war at his lodgings in Sedan. Prussians here, Austrians there, triumphant both. With broad highway to Paris and little hindrance--_we_ scattered, helpless here and there--what to advise? The generals advise retreating, and retreating till Paris be sacked at the latest day possible. Dumouriez, silent, dismisses _them_,--keeps only, with a sign, Thouvenot. Silent, thus, when needful, yet having voice, it appears, of what musicians call tenor-quality, of a rare kind. Rubini-esque, even, but scarcely producible to fastidious ears at opera. The seizure of the forest of Argonne follows--the cannonade of Valmy. The Prussians do not march on Paris _this_ time, the autumnal hours of fate pass on--_ca ira_--and on the 6th of November, Dumouriez meets the Austrians also. 'Dumouriez wide-winged, they wide-winged--at and around Jemappes, its green heights fringed and maned with red fire. And Dumouriez is swept back on this wing and swept back on that, and is like to be swept back utterly, when he rushes up in person, speaks a prompt word or two, and then, with clear tenor-pipe, uplifts the hymn of the Marseillaise, ten thousand tenor or bass pipes joining, or say some forty thousand in all, for every heart leaps up at the sound; and so, with rhythmic march melody, they rally, they advance, they rush death-defying, and like the fire whirlwind sweep all manner of Austrians from the scene of action.' Thus, through the lips of Dumouriez, sings Tyrtaeus, Rouget de Lisle,[182] 'Aux armes--marchons!' Iambic measure with a witness! in what wide strophe here beginning--in what unthought-of antistrophe returning to that council chamber in Sedan!

While these two great songs were thus being composed, and sung, and danced to in cometary cycle, by the French nation, here in our less giddy island there rose, amidst hours of business in Scotland and of idleness in England, three troubadours of quite different temper. Different also themselves, but not opponent; forming a perfect chord, and adverse all the three of them alike to the French musicians, in this main point--that while the _Ca ira_ and Marseillaise were essentially songs of blame and wrath, the British bards wrote, virtually, always songs of praise, though by no means psalmody in the ancient keys. On the contrary, all the three are alike moved by a singular antipathy to the priests, and are pointed at with fear and indignation by the pietists, of their day;--not without latent cause. For they are all of them, with the most loving service, servants of that world which the Puritan and monk alike despised; and, in the triple chord of their song, could not but appear to the religious persons around them as respectively and specifically the praisers--Scott of the world, Burns of the flesh, and Byron of the devil.

To contend with this carnal orchestra, the religious world, having long ago rejected its Catholic Psalms as antiquated and unscientific, and finding its Puritan melodies sunk into faint jar and twangle from their native trumpet-tone, had nothing to oppose but the innocent, rather than religious, verses of the school recognised as that of the English Lakes; very creditable to them; domestic at once and refined; observing the errors of the world outside of the Lakes with a pitying and tender indignation, and arriving in lacustrine seclusion at many valuable principles of philosophy, as pure as the tarns of their mountains, and of corresponding depth.[183]

I have lately seen, and with extreme pleasure, Mr. Matthew Arnold's arrangement of Wordsworth's poems; and read with sincere interest his high estimate of them. But a great poet's work never needs arrangement by other hands; and though it is very proper that Silver How should clearly understand and brightly praise its fraternal Rydal Mount, we must not forget that, over yonder, are the Andes, all the while.

Wordsworth's rank and scale among poets were determined by himself, in a single exclamation:--

'What was the great Parnassus' self to thee,
Mount Skiddaw?'

Answer his question faithfully, and you have the relation between the great masters of the Muse's teaching, and the pleasant fingerer of his pastoral flute among the reeds of Rydal.

Wordsworth is simply a Westmoreland peasant, with considerably less shrewdness than most border Englishmen or Scotsmen inherit; and no sense of humour: but gifted (in this singularly) with vivid sense of natural beauty, and a pretty turn for reflections, not always acute, but, as far as they reach, medicinal to the fever of the restless and corrupted life around him. Water to parched lips may be better than Samian wine, but do not let us therefore confuse the qualities of wine and water. I much doubt there being many inglorious Miltons in our country churchyards; but I am very sure there are many Wordsworths resting there, who were inferior to the renowned one only in caring less to hear themselves talk.

With an honest and kindly heart, a stimulating egoism, a wholesome contentment in modest circumstances, and such sufficient ease, in that accepted state, as permitted the passing of a good deal of time in wishing that daisies could see the beauty of their own shadows, and other such profitable mental exercises, Wordsworth has left us a series of studies of the graceful and happy shepherd life of our lake country, which to me personally, for one, are entirely sweet and precious; but they are only so as the mirror of an existent reality in many ways more beautiful than its picture.

But the other day I went for an afternoon's rest into the cottage of one of our country people of old statesman class; cottage lying nearly midway between two village churches, but more conveniently for downhill walk towards one than the other. I found, as the good housewife made tea for me, that nevertheless she went up the hill to church. 'Why do not you go to the nearer church?' I asked. 'Don't you like the clergyman?' 'Oh no, sir,' she answered, 'it isn't that; but you know I couldn't leave my mother.' 'Your mother! she is buried at H---- then?' 'Yes, sir; and you know I couldn't go to church anywhere else.'

That feelings such as these existed among the peasants, not of Cumberland only, but of all the tender earth that gives forth her fruit for the living, and receives her dead to peace, might perhaps have been, to our great and endless comfort, discovered before now, if Wordsworth had been content to tell us what he knew of his own villages and people, not as the leader of a new and only correct school of poetry, but simply as a country gentleman of sense and feeling, fond of primroses, kind to the parish children, and reverent of the spade with which Wilkinson had tilled his lands: and I am by no means sure that his influence on the stronger minds of his time was anywise hastened or extended by the spirit of tunefulness under whose guidance he discovered that heaven rhymed to seven, and Foy to boy.

Tuneful nevertheless at heart, and of the heavenly choir, I gladly and frankly acknowledge him; and our English literature enriched with a new and a singular virtue in the aerial purity and healthful rightness of his quiet song;--but _aerial_ only,--not ethereal; and lowly in its privacy of light.

A measured mind, and calm; innocent, unrepentant; helpful to sinless creatures and scatheless, such of the flock as do not stray. Hopeful at least, if not faithful; content with intimations of immortality such as may be in skipping of lambs, and laughter of children,--incurious to see in the hands the print of the Nails.

A gracious and constant mind; as the herbage of its native hills, fragrant and pure;--yet, to the sweep and the shadow, the stress and distress, of the greater souls of men, as the tufted thyme to the laurel wilderness of Tempe,--as the gleaming euphrasy to the dark branches of Dodona.

* * * * *

[I am obliged to defer the main body of this paper to next month,--revises penetrating all too late into my lacustrine seclusion; as chanced also unluckily with the preceding paper, in which the reader will perhaps kindly correct the consequent misprints, p. 29, l. 20, of 'scarcely' to 'securely,' and p. 31, l. 34, 'full,' with comma, to 'fall,' without one; noticing besides that _Redgauntlet_ has been omitted in the italicised list, p. 25, l. 16; and that the reference to note 2 should not be at the word 'imagination,' p. 24, but at the word 'trade,' p. 25, l. 7. My dear old friend, Dr. John Brown, sends me, from Jamieson's _Dictionary_, the following satisfactory end to one of my difficulties:--'Coup the crans.' The language is borrowed from the 'cran,' or trivet on which small pots are placed in cookery, which is sometimes turned with its feet uppermost by an awkward assistant. Thus it signifies to be _completely_ upset.]



'Parching summer hath no warrant
To consume this crystal well;
Rains, that make each brook a torrent,
Neither sully it, nor swell.'

So was it, year by year, among the unthought-of hills. Little Duddon and child Rotha ran clear and glad; and laughed from ledge to pool, and opened from pool to mere, translucent, through endless days of peace.

But eastward, between her orchard plains, Loire locked her embracing dead in silent sands; dark with blood rolled Iser; glacial-pale, Beresina-Lethe, by whose shore the weary hearts forgot their people, and their father's house.

Nor unsullied, Tiber; nor unswoln, Arno and Aufidus; and Euroclydon high on Helle's wave; meantime, let our happy piety glorify the garden rocks with snowdrop circlet, and breathe the spirit of Paradise, where life is wise and innocent.

Maps many have we, now-a-days clear in display of earth constituent, air current, and ocean tide. Shall we ever engrave the map of meaner research, whose shadings shall content themselves in the task of showing the depth, or drought,--the calm, or trouble, of Human Compassion?

For this is indeed all that is noble in the life of Man, and the source of all that is noble in the speech of Man. Had it narrowed itself then, in those days, out of all the world, into this peninsula between Cockermouth and Shap?

Not altogether so; but indeed the _Vocal_ piety seemed conclusively to have retired (or excursed?) into that mossy hermitage, above Little Langdale. The _Un_vocal piety, with the uncomplaining sorrow, of Man, may have had a somewhat wider range, for aught we know: but history disregards those items; and of firmly proclaimed and sweetly canorous religion, there really seemed at that juncture none to be reckoned upon, east of Ingleborough, or north of Criffel. Only under Furness Fells, or by Bolton Priory, it seems we can still write Ecclesiastical Sonnets, stanzas on the force of Prayer, Odes to Duty, and complimentary addresses to the Deity upon His endurance for adoration. Far otherwise, over yonder, by Spezzia Bay, and Ravenna Pineta, and in ravines of Hartz. There, the softest voices speak the wildest words; and Keats discourses of Endymion, Shelley of Demogorgon, Goethe of Lucifer, and Buerger of the Resurrection of Death unto Death--while even Puritan Scotland and Episcopal Anglia produce for us only these three minstrels of doubtful tone, who show but small respect for the 'unco guid,' put but limited faith in gifted Gilfillan, and translate with unflinching frankness the _Morgante Maggiore_.[184]

Dismal the aspect of the spiritual world, or at least the sound of it, might well seem to the eyes and ears of Saints (such as we had) of the period--dismal in angels' eyes also assuredly! Yet is it possible that the dismalness in angelic sight may be otherwise quartered, as it were, from the way of mortal heraldry; and that seen, and heard, of angels,--again I say--hesitatingly--_is_ it possible that the goodness of the Unco Guid, and the gift of Gilfillan, and the word of Mr. Blattergowl, may severally not have been the goodness of God, the gift of God, nor the word of God: but that in the much blotted and broken efforts at goodness, and in the careless gift which they themselves despised,[185] and in the sweet ryme and murmur of their unpurposed words, the Spirit of the Lord had, indeed, wandering, as in chaos days on lightless waters, gone forth in the hearts and from the lips of those other three strange prophets, even though they ate forbidden bread by the altar of the poured-out ashes, and even though the wild beast of the desert found them, and slew.

This, at least, I know, that it had been well for England, though all her other prophets, of the Press, the Parliament, the Doctor's chair, and the Bishop's throne, had fallen silent; so only that she had been able to understand with her heart here and there the simplest line of these, her despised.

I take one at mere chance:

'Who thinks of self, when gazing on the sky?'[186]

Well, I don't know; Mr. Wordsworth certainly did, and observed, with truth, that its clouds took a sober colouring in consequence of his experiences. It is much if, indeed, this sadness be unselfish, and our eyes _have_ kept loving watch o'er Man's Mortality. I have found it difficult to make any one now-a-days believe that such sobriety can be; and that Turner saw deeper crimson than others in the clouds of Goldau. But that any should yet think the clouds brightened by Man's _Im_mortality instead of dulled by his death,--and, gazing on the sky, look for the day when every eye must gaze also--for behold, He cometh with the clouds--this it is no more possible for Christian England to apprehend, however exhorted by her gifted and guid.

'But Byron was not thinking of such things!'--He, the reprobate! how should such as he think of Christ?

Perhaps not wholly as you or I think of Him. Take, at chance, another line or two, to try:

'Carnage (so Wordsworth tells you) is God's daughter;[187]
If _he_ speak truth, she is Christ's sister, and
Just now, behaved as in the Holy Land.'

Blasphemy, cry you, good reader? Are you sure you understand it? The first line I gave you was easy Byron--almost shallow Byron--these are of the man in his depth, and you will not fathom them, like a tarn,--nor in a hurry.

'Just now behaved as in the Holy Land.' How _did_ Carnage behave in the Holy Land then? You have all been greatly questioning, of late, whether the sun, which you find to be now going out, ever stood still. Did you in any lagging minute, on those scientific occasions, chance to reflect what he was bid stand still _for_? or if not--will you please look--and what, also, going forth again as a strong man to run his course, he saw, rejoicing?

'Then Joshua passed from Makkedah unto Libnah--and fought against Libnah. And the Lord delivered it and the king thereof into the hand of Israel, and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein.' And from Lachish to Eglon, and from Eglon to Kirjath-Arba, and Sarah's grave in the Amorites' land, 'and Joshua smote all the country of the hills and of the south--and of the vale and of the springs, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed--as the Lord God of Israel commanded.'

Thus 'it is written:' though you perhaps do not so often hear _these_ texts preached from, as certain others about taking away the sins of the world. I wonder how the world would like to part with them! hitherto it has always preferred parting first with its Life--and God has taken it at its word. But Death is not _His_ Begotten Son, for all that; nor is the death of the innocent in battle carnage His 'instrument for working out a pure intent' as Mr. Wordsworth puts it; but Man's instrument for working out an impure one, as Byron would have you to know. Theology perhaps less orthodox, but certainly more reverent;--neither is the Woolwich Infant a Child of God; neither does the iron-clad 'Thunderer' utter thunders of God--which facts, if you had had the grace or sense to learn from Byron, instead of accusing him of blasphemy, it had been better at this day for _you_, and for many a savage soul also, by Euxine shore, and in Zulu and Afghan lands.

It was neither, however, for the theology, nor the use, of these lines that I quoted them; but to note this main point of Byron's own character. He was the first great Englishman who felt the cruelty of war, and, in its cruelty, the shame. Its guilt had been known to George Fox--its folly shown practically by Penn. But the _compassion_ of the pious world had still for the most part been shown only in keeping its stock of Barabbases unhanged if possible: and, till Byron came, neither Kunersdorf, Eylau, nor Waterloo, had taught the pity and the pride of men that

'The drying up a single tear has more
Of honest fame than shedding seas of gore.'[188]

Such pacific verse would not indeed have been acceptable to the Edinburgh volunteers on Portobello sands. But Byron can write a battle song too, when it is _his_ cue to fight. If you look at the introduction to the _Isles of Greece_, namely the 85th and 86th stanzas of the 3rd canto of _Don Juan_,--you will find--what will you _not_ find, if only you understand them! 'He' in the first line, remember, means the typical modern poet.

'Thus usually, when he was asked to sing,
He gave the different nations something national.
'Twas all the same to him--"God save the King"
Or "Ca ira" according to the fashion all;
His muse made increment of anything
From the high lyric down to the low rational:
If Pindar sang horse races, what should hinder
Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?

'In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;
In England a six-canto quarto tale;
In Spain, he'd make a ballad or romance on
The last war--much the same in Portugal;
In Germany, the Pegasus he'd prance on
Would be old Goethe's--(see what says de Stael)
In Italy he'd ape the 'Trecentisti;'
In Greece, he'd sing some sort of hymn like this t' ye.

Note first here, as we did in Scott, the concentrating and foretelling power. The 'God Save the Queen' in England, fallen hollow now, as the 'Ca ira' in France--not a man in France knowing where either France or 'that' (whatever 'that' may be) is going to; nor the Queen of England daring, for her life, to ask the tiniest Englishman to do a single thing he doesn't like;--nor any salvation, either of Queen or Realm, being any more possible to God, unless under the direction of the Royal Society: then, note the estimate of height and depth in poetry, swept in an instant, 'high lyric to low rational.' Pindar to Pope (knowing Pope's height, too, all the while, no man better); then, the poetic power of France--resumed in a word--Beranger; then the cut at Marmion, entirely deserved, as we shall see, yet kindly given, for everything he names in these two stanzas is the best of its kind; then Romance in Spain on--the _last_ war, (_present_ war not being to Spanish poetical taste), then, Goethe the real heart of all Germany, and last, the aping of the Trecentisti which has since consummated itself in Pre-Raphaelitism! that also being the best thing Italy has done through England, whether in Rossetti's 'blessed damozels' or Burne Jones's 'days of creation.' Lastly comes the mock at himself--the modern English Greek--(followed up by the 'degenerate into hands like mine' in the song itself); and then--to amazement, forth he thunders in his Achilles voice. We have had one line of him in his clearness--five of him in his depth--sixteen of him in his play. Hear now but these, out of his whole heart:--

'What,--silent yet? and silent _all_?
Ah no, the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, "Let _one_ living head,
But one, arise--we come--we come:"
--'Tis but the living who are dumb.'

Resurrection, this, you see like Buerger's; but not of death unto death.

'Sound like a distant torrent's fall.' I said the _whole_ heart of Byron was in this passage. First its compassion, then its indignation, and the third element, not yet examined, that love of the beauty of this world in which the three--unholy--children, of its Fiery Furnace were like to each other; but Byron the widest-hearted. Scott and Burns love Scotland more than Nature itself: for Burns the moon must rise over Cumnock Hills,--for Scott, the Rymer's glen divide the Eildons; but, for Byron, Loch-na-Gar _with Ida_, looks o'er Troy, and the soft murmurs of the Dee and the Bruar change into voices of the dead on distant Marathon.

Yet take the parallel from Scott, by a field of homelier rest:--

'And silence aids--though the steep hills
Send to the lake a thousand rills;
In summer tide, so soft they weep,
The sound but lulls the ear asleep;
Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude,
So stilly is the solitude.

Naught living meets the eye or ear,
But well I ween the dead are near;
For though, in feudal strife, a foe
Hath laid our Lady's Chapel low,
Yet still beneath the hallowed soil,
The peasant rests him from his toil,
And, dying, bids his bones be laid
Where erst his simple fathers prayed.'

And last take the same note of sorrow--with Burns's finger on the fall of it:

'Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens,
Ye hazly shaws and briery dens,
Ye burnies, wimplin' down your glens
Wi' toddlin' din,
Or foamin' strang wi' hasty stens
Frae lin to lin.'

As you read, one after another, these fragments of chant by the great masters, does not a sense come upon you of some element in their passion, no less than in their sound, different, specifically, from that of 'Parching summer hath no warrant'? Is it more profane, think you--or more tender--nay, perhaps, in the core of it, more true?

For instance, when we are told that

'Wharfe, as he moved along,
To matins joined a mournful voice,'

is this disposition of the river's mind to pensive psalmody quite logically accounted for by the previous statement (itself by no means rhythmically dulcet,) that

'The boy is in the arms of Wharfe,
And strangled by a merciless force'?

Or, when we are led into the improving reflection,

'How sweet were leisure, could it yield no more
Then 'mid this wave-washed churchyard to recline,
From pastoral graves extracting thoughts divine!'

--is the divinity of the extract assured to us by its being made at leisure, and in a reclining attitude--as compared with the meditations of otherwise active men, in an erect one? Or are we perchance, many of us, still erring somewhat in our notions alike of Divinity and Humanity,--poetical extraction, and moral position?

On the chance of its being so, might I ask hearing for just a few words more of the school of Belial?

Their occasion, it must be confessed, is a quite unjustifiable one. Some very wicked people--mutineers, in fact--have retired, misanthropically, into an unfrequented part of the country, and there find themselves safe, indeed, but extremely thirsty. Whereupon Byron thus gives them to drink:

'A little stream came tumbling from the height
And straggling into ocean as it might.
Its bounding crystal frolicked in the ray
And gushed from cliff to crag with saltless spray,
Close on the wild wide ocean,--yet as pure
And fresh as Innocence; and more secure.
Its silver torrent glittered o'er the deep
As the shy chamois' eye o'erlooks the steep,
While, far below, the vast and sullen swell
Of ocean's Alpine azure rose and fell.'[189]

Now, I beg, with such authority as an old workman may take concerning his trade, having also looked at a waterfall or two in my time, and not unfrequently at a wave, to assure the reader that here _is_ entirely first-rate literary work. Though Lucifer himself had written it, the thing is itself good, and not only so, but unsurpassably good, the closing line being probably the best concerning the sea yet written by the race of the sea-kings.

But Lucifer himself _could_ not have written it; neither any servant of Lucifer. I do not doubt but that most readers were surprised at my saying, in the close of my first paper, that Byron's 'style' depended in any wise on his views respecting the Ten Commandments. That so all-important a thing as 'style' should depend in the least upon so ridiculous a thing as moral sense: or that Allegra's father, watching her drive by in Count G.'s coach and six, had any remnant of so ridiculous a thing to guide,--or check,--his poetical passion, may alike seem more than questionable to the liberal and chaste philosophy of the existing British public. But, first of all, putting the question of who writes, or speaks, aside, do you, good reader, _know_ good 'style' when you get it? Can you say, of half-a-dozen given lines taken anywhere out of a novel, or poem, or play, That is good, essentially, in style, or bad, essentially? and can you say why such half-dozen lines are good, or bad?

I imagine that in most cases, the reply would be given with hesitation, yet if you will give me a little patience, and take some accurate pains, I can show you the main tests of style in the space of a couple of pages.

I take two examples of absolutely perfect, and in manner highest, _i. e._ kingly, and heroic, style: the first example in expression of anger, the second of love.

(1) 'We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us,
His present, and your pains, we thank you for.
When we have match'd our rackets to these balls,
We will in France, by God's grace, play a set,
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.'

(2) 'My gracious Silence, hail!
Would'st thou have laughed, had I come coffin'd home
That weep'st to see me triumph? Ah, my dear,
Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,
And mothers that lack sons.'

Let us note, point by point, the conditions of greatness common to both these passages, so opposite in temper.

A. Absolute command over all passion, however intense; this the first-of-first conditions, (see the King's own sentence just before, 'We are no tyrant, but a Christian King, Unto _whose grace_ our passion is as subject As are our wretches fettered in our prisons'); and with this self-command, the supremely surveying grasp of every thought that is to be uttered, before its utterance; so that each may come in its exact place, time, and connection. The slightest hurry, the misplacing of a word, or the unnecessary accent on a syllable, would destroy the 'style' in an instant.

B. Choice of the fewest and simplest words that can be found in the compass of the language, to express the thing meant: these few words being also arranged in the most straightforward and intelligible way; allowing inversion only when the subject can be made primary without obscurity; thus, 'his present, and your pains, we thank you for' is better than 'we thank you for his present and your pains,' because the Dauphin's gift is by courtesy put before the Ambassador's pains; but 'when to these balls our rackets we have matched' would have spoiled the style in a moment, because--I was going to have said, ball and racket are of equal rank, and therefore only the natural order proper; but also here the natural order is the desired one, the English racket to have precedence of the French ball. In the fourth line the 'in France' comes first, as announcing the most important resolution of action; the 'by God's grace' next, as the only condition rendering resolution possible; the detail of issue follows with the strictest limit in the final word. The King does not say 'danger,' far less 'dishonour,' but 'hazard' only; of _that_ he is, humanly speaking, sure.

C. Perfectly emphatic and clear utterance of the chosen words; slowly in the degree of their importance, with omission however of every word not absolutely required; and natural use of the familiar contractions of final dissyllable. Thus, 'play a set shall strike' is better than 'play a set _that_ shall strike,' and 'match'd' is kingly short--no necessity could have excused 'matched' instead. On the contrary, the three first words, 'We are glad,' would have been spoken by the king more slowly and fully than any other syllables in the whole passage, first pronouncing the kingly 'we' at its proudest, and then the 'are' as a continuous state, and then the 'glad,' as the exact contrary of what the ambassadors expected him to be.[190]

D. Absolute spontaneity in doing all this, easily and necessarily as the heart beats. The king _cannot_ speak otherwise than he does--nor the hero. The words not merely come to them, but are compelled to them. Even lisping numbers 'come,' but mighty numbers are ordained, and inspired.

E. Melody in the words, changeable with their passion fitted to it exactly and the utmost of which the language is capable--the melody in prose being Eolian and variable--in verse, nobler by submitting itself to stricter law. I will enlarge upon this point presently.

F. Utmost spiritual contents in the words; so that each carries not only its instant meaning, but a cloudy companionship of higher or darker meaning according to the passion--nearly always indicated by metaphor: 'play a set'--sometimes by abstraction--(thus in the second passage 'silence' for silent one) sometimes by description instead of direct epithet ('coffined' for dead) but always indicative of there being more in the speaker's mind than he has said, or than he can say, full though his saying be. On the quantity of this attendant fulness depends the majesty of style; that is to say, virtually, on the quantity of contained thought in briefest words, such thought being primarily loving and true: and this the sum of all--that nothing can be well said, but with truth, nor beautifully, but by love.

These are the essential conditions of noble speech in prose and verse alike, but the adoption of the form of verse, and especially rymed verse, means the addition to all these qualities of one more; of music, that is to say, not Eolian merely, but Apolline; a construction or architecture of words fitted and befitting, under external laws of time and harmony.

When Byron says 'rhyme is of the rude,'[191] he means that Burns needs it,--while Henry the Fifth does not, nor Plato, nor Isaiah--yet in this need of it by the simple, it becomes all the more religious: and thus the loveliest pieces of Christian language are all in ryme--the best of Dante, Chaucer, Douglas, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Sidney.

I am not now able to keep abreast with the tide of modern scholarship; (nor, to say the truth, do I make the effort, the first edge of its waves being mostly muddy, and apt to make a shallow sweep of the shore refuse:) so that I have no better book of reference by me than the confused essay on the antiquity of ryme at the end of Turner's _Anglo-Saxons_. I cannot however conceive a more interesting piece of work, if not yet done, than the collection of sifted earliest fragments known of rymed song in European languages. Of Eastern I know nothing; but, this side Hellespont, the substance of the matter is all given in King Canute's impromptu

'Gaily (or is it sweetly?--I forget which, and it's no matter)
sang the monks of Ely,
As Knut the king came sailing by;'

much to be noted by any who make their religion lugubrious, and their Sunday the eclipse of the week. And observe further, that if Milton does not ryme, it is because his faculty of Song was concerning Loss, chiefly; and he has little more than faculty of Croak, concerning Gain; while Dante, though modern readers never go further with him than into the Pit, is stayed only by Casella in the ascent to the Rose of Heaven. So, Gibbon can write in _his_ manner the Fall of Rome; but Virgil, in _his_ manner, the rise of it; and finally Douglas, in _his_ manner, bursts into such rymed passion of praise both of Rome and Virgil, as befits a Christian Bishop, and a good subject of the Holy See.

'Master of Masters--sweet source, and springing well,
Wide where over all ringes thy heavenly bell;

* * * *

Why should I then with dull forehead and vain,
With rude ingene, and barane, emptive brain,
With bad harsh speech, and lewit barbare tongue
Presume to write, where thy sweet bell is rung,
Or counterfeit thy precious wordis dear?
Na, na--not so; but kneel when I them hear.
But farther more--and lower to descend
Forgive me, Virgil, if I thee offend
Pardon thy scolar, suffer him to ryme
Since _thou_ wast but ane mortal man sometime.'

'Before honour is humility.' Does not clearer light come for you on that law after reading these nobly pious words? And note you _whose_ humility? How is it that the sound of the bell comes so instinctively into his chiming verse? This gentle singer is the son of--Archibald Bell-the-Cat!

And now perhaps you can read with right sympathy the scene in _Marmion_ between his father and King James.

'His hand the monarch sudden took--
Now, by the Bruce's soul,
Angus, my hasty speech forgive,
For sure as doth his spirit live
As he said of the Douglas old
I well may say of you,--
That never king did subject hold,
In speech more free, in war more bold,
More tender and more true:
And while the king his hand did strain
The old man's tears fell down like rain.'

I believe the most infidel of scholastic readers can scarcely but perceive the relation between the sweetness, simplicity, and melody of expression in these passages, and the gentleness of the passions they express, while men who are not scholastic, and yet are true scholars, will recognise further in them that the simplicity of the educated is lovelier than the simplicity of the rude. Hear next a piece of Spenser's teaching how rudeness itself may become more beautiful even by its mistakes, if the mistakes are made lovingly.

'Ye shepherds' daughters that dwell on the green,
Hye you there apace;
Let none come there but that virgins been
To adorn her grace:
And when you come, whereas she in place,
See that your rudeness do not you disgrace;
Bind your fillets fast,
And gird in your waste,
For more fineness, with a taudry lace.'

'Bring hither the pink and purple cullumbine
With gylliflowers;
Bring coronations, and sops in wine,
Worn of paramours;
Strow me the ground with daffadowndillies
And cowslips, and kingcups, and loved lilies;
The pretty paunce
And the chevisaunce
Shall match with the fair flowre-delice.'[192]

Two short pieces more only of master song, and we have enough to test all by.

(2) 'No more, no more, since thou art dead,
Shall we e'er bring coy brides to bed,
No more, at yearly festivals,
We cowslip balls
Or chains of columbines shall make,
For this or that occasion's sake.
No, no! our maiden pleasures be
Wrapt in thy winding-sheet with thee.'[193]

(3) 'Death is now the phoenix rest,
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest.
Truth may seem, but cannot be;
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she:
Truth and beauty buried be.'[194]

If now, with the echo of these perfect verses in your mind, you turn to Byron, and glance over, or recall to memory, enough of him to give means of exact comparison, you will, or should, recognise these following kinds of mischief in him. First, if any one offends him--as for instance Mr. Southey, or Lord Elgin--'his manners have not that repose that marks the caste,' &c.; _This_ defect in his Lordship's style, being myself scrupulously and even painfully reserved in the use of vituperative language, I need not say how deeply I deplore.[195]

Secondly. In the best and most violet-bedded bits of his work there is yet, as compared with Elizabethan and earlier verse, a strange taint; and indefinable--evening flavour of Covent Garden, as it were;--not to say, escape of gas in the Strand. That is simply what it proclaims itself--London air. If he had lived all his life in Green-head Ghyll, things would of course have been different. But it was his fate to come to town--modern town--like Michael's son; and modern London (and Venice) are answerable for the state of their drains, not Byron.

Thirdly. His melancholy is without any relief whatsoever; his jest sadder than his earnest; while, in Elizabethan work, all lament is full of hope, and all pain of balsam.

Of this evil he has himself told you the cause in a single line, prophetic of all things since and now. 'Where _he_ gazed, a gloom pervaded space.'[196]

So that, for instance, while Mr. Wordsworth, on a visit to town, being an exemplary early riser, could walk, felicitous, on Westminster Bridge, remarking how the city now did like a garment wear the beauty of the morning; Byron, rising somewhat later, contemplated only the garment which the beauty of the morning had by that time received for wear from the city: and again, while Mr. Wordsworth, in irrepressible religious rapture, calls God to witness that the houses seem asleep, Byron, lame demon as he was, flying smoke-drifted, unroofs the houses at a glance, and sees what the mighty cockney heart of them contains in the still lying of it, and will stir up to purpose in the waking business of it,

'The sordor of civilisation, mixed
With all the passions which Man's fall hath fixed.'[197]

Fourthly, with this steadiness of bitter melancholy, there is joined a sense of the material beauty, both of inanimate nature, the lower animals, and human beings, which in the iridescence, colour-depth, and morbid (I use the word deliberately) mystery and softness of it,--with other qualities indescribable by any single words, and only to be analysed by extreme care,--is found, to the full, only in five men that I know of in modern times; namely Rousseau, Shelley, Byron, Turner, and myself,--differing totally and throughout the entire group of us, from the delight in clear-struck beauty of Angelico and the Trecentisti; and separated, much more singularly, from the cheerful joys of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Scott, by its unaccountable affection for 'Rokkes blak' and other forms of terror and power, such as those of the ice-oceans, which to Shakespeare were only Alpine rheum; and the Via Malas and Diabolic Bridges which Dante would have condemned none but lost souls to climb, or cross;--all this love of impending mountains, coiled thunder-clouds, and dangerous sea, being joined in us with a sulky, almost ferine, love of retreat in valleys of Charmettes, gulphs of Spezzia, ravines of Olympus, low lodgings in Chelsea, and close brushwood at Coniston.

And, lastly, also in the whole group of us, glows volcanic instinct of Astraean justice returning not to, but up out of, the earth, which will not at all suffer us to rest any more in Pope's serene 'whatever is, is right;' but holds, on the contrary, profound conviction that about ninety-nine hundredths of whatever at present is, is wrong: conviction making four of us, according to our several manners, leaders of revolution for the poor, and declarers of political doctrine monstrous to the ears of mercenary mankind; and driving the fifth, less sanguine, into mere painted-melody of lament over the fallacy of Hope and the implacableness of Fate.

In Byron the indignation, the sorrow, and the effort are joined to the death: and they are the parts of his nature (as of mine also in its feebler terms), which the selfishly comfortable public have, literally, no conception of whatever; and from which the piously sentimental public, offering up daily the pure emotion of divine tranquillity, shrink with anathema not unembittered by alarm.

Concerning which matters I hope to speak further and with more precise illustration in my next paper; but, seeing that this present one has been hitherto somewhat sombre, and perhaps, to gentle readers, not a little discomposing, I will conclude it with a piece of light biographic study, necessary to my plan, and as conveniently admissible in this place as afterwards;--namely, the account of the manner in which Scott--whom we shall always find, as aforesaid, to be in salient and palpable elements of character, of the World, worldly, as Burns is of the Flesh, fleshly, and Byron of the Deuce, damnable,--spent his Sunday.

As usual, from Lockhart's farrago we cannot find out the first thing we want to know,--whether Scott worked after his week-day custom, on the Sunday morning. But, I gather, not; at all events his household and his cattle rested (L. iii. 108). I imagine he walked out into his woods, or read quietly in his study. Immediately after breakfast, whoever was in the house, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I shall read prayers at eleven, when I expect you all to attend' (vii. 306). Question of college and other externally unanimous prayers settled for us very briefly: 'if you have no faith, have at least manners.' He read the Church of England service, lessons and all, the latter, if interesting, eloquently (_ibid._). After the service, one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons (vi. 188). After the sermon, if the weather was fine, walk with his family, dogs included and guests, to _cold_ picnic (iii. 109), followed by short extempore biblical novelettes; for he had his Bible, the Old Testament especially, by heart, it having been his mother's last gift to him (vi. 174). These lessons to his children in Bible history were always given, whether there was picnic or not. For the rest of the afternoon he took his pleasure in the woods with Tom Purdie, who also always appeared at his master's elbow on Sunday after dinner was over, and drank long life to the laird and his lady and all the good company, in a quaigh of whiskey or a tumbler of wine, according to his fancy (vi. 195). Whatever might happen on the other evenings of the week, Scott always dined at home on Sunday; and with old friends: never, unless inevitably, receiving any person with whom he stood on ceremony (v. 335). He came into the room rubbing his hands like a boy arriving at home for the holidays, his Peppers and Mustards gambolling about him, 'and even the stately Maida grinning and wagging his tail with sympathy.' For the usquebaugh of the less honoured week-days, at the Sunday board he circulated the champagne briskly during dinner, and considered a pint of claret each man's fair share afterwards (v. 339). In the evening, music being to the Scottish worldly mind indecorous, he read aloud some favourite author, for the amusement or edification of his little circle. Shakespeare it might be, or Dryden,--Johnson, or Joanna Baillie,--Crabbe, or Wordsworth. But in those days 'Byron was pouring out his spirit fresh and full, and if a new piece from _his_ hand had appeared, it was _sure to be read by Scott the Sunday evening afterwards_; and that with such delighted emphasis as showed how completely the elder bard had kept up his enthusiasm for poetry at pitch of youth, and all his admiration of genius, free, pure, and unstained by the least drop of literary jealousy' (v. 341).

With such necessary and easily imaginable varieties as chanced in having Dandy Dinmont or Captain Brown for guests at Abbotsford, or Colonel Mannering, Counsellor Pleydell, and Dr. Robertson in Castle Street, such was Scott's habitual Sabbath: a day, we perceive, of eating the fat, (_dinner_, presumably not cold, being a work of necessity and mercy--thou also, even thou, Saint Thomas of Trumbull, hast thine!) and drinking the sweet, abundant in the manner of Mr. Southey's cataract of Lodore,--'Here it comes, sparkling.' A day bestrewn with coronations and sops in wine; deep in libations to good hope and fond memory; a day of rest to beast, and mirth to man, (as also to sympathetic beasts that can be merry,) and concluding itself in an Orphic hour of delight, signifying peace on Tweedside, and goodwill to men, there or far away;--always excepting the French, and Boney.

'Yes, and see what it all came to in the end.'

Not so, dark-virulent Minos-Mucklewrath; the end came of quite other things: of _these_, came such length of days and peace as Scott had in his Fatherland, and such immortality as he has in all lands.

Nathless, firm, though deeply courteous, rebuke, for his sometimes overmuch light-mindedness, was administered to him by the more grave and thoughtful Byron. For the Lord Abbot of Newstead knew his Bible by heart as well as Scott, though it had never been given him by his mother as her dearest possession. Knew it, and, what was more, had thought of it, and sought in it what Scott had never cared to think, nor been fain to seek.

And loving Scott well, and always doing him every possible pleasure in the way he sees to be most agreeable to him--as, for instance, remembering with precision, and writing down the very next morning, every blessed word that the Prince Regent had been pleased to say of him before courtly audience,--he yet conceived that such cheap ryming as his own _Bride of Abydos_, for instance, which he had written from beginning to end in four days, or even the travelling reflections of Harold and Juan on men and women, were scarcely steady enough Sunday afternoon's reading for a patriarch-Merlin like Scott. So he dedicates to him a work of a truly religious tendency, on which for his own part he has done his best,--the drama of _Cain_. Of which dedication the virtual significance to Sir Walter might be translated thus. Dearest and last of Border soothsayers, thou hast indeed told us of Black Dwarfs, and of White Maidens, also of Grey Friars, and Green Fairies; also of sacred hollies by the well, and haunted crooks in the glen. But of the bushes that the black dogs rend in the woods of Phlegethon; and of the crooks in the glen, and the bickerings of the burnie where ghosts meet the mightiest of us; and of the black misanthrope, who is by no means yet a dwarfed one, and concerning whom wiser creatures than Hobbie Elliot may tremblingly ask 'Gude guide us, what's yon?' hast thou yet known, seeing that thou hast yet told, _nothing_.

Scott may perhaps have his answer. We shall in good time hear.



[154] Nell, in the _Old Curiosity Shop_, was simply killed for the market, as a butcher kills a lamb (see Forster's _Life_), and Paul was written under the same conditions of illness which affected Scott--a part of the ominous palsies, grasping alike author and subject, both in _Dombey_ and _Little Dorrit_.

[155] Chourineur' not striking with dagger-point, but ripping with knife-edge. Yet I do him, and La Louve, injustice in classing them with the two others; they are put together only as parts in the same phantasm. Compare with La Louve, the strength of wild virtue in the 'Louvecienne' (Lucienne) of Gaboriau--she, province-born and bred; and opposed to Parisian civilisation in the character of her sempstress friend. 'De ce Paris, ou elle etait nee, elle savait tout--elle connaissait tout. Rien ne l'etonnait, nul ne l'intimidait. Sa science des details materiels de l'existence etait inconcevable. Impossible de la duper!--Eh bien! cette fille si laborieuse et si econome n'avait meme pas la plus vague notion des sentiments qui sont l'honneur de la femme. Je n'avais pas idee d'une si complete absence de sens moral; d'une si inconsciente depravation, d'une impudence si effrontement naive.'--_L'Argent des autres_, vol. i. p. 358.

[156] The reader who cares to seek it may easily find medical evidence of the physical effects of certain states of brain disease in producing especially images of truncated and Hermes-like deformity, complicated with grossness. Horace, in the _Epodes_, scoffs at it, but not without horror. Luca Signorelli and Raphael in their arabesques are deeply struck by it: Durer, defying and playing with it alternately, is almost beaten down again and again in the distorted faces, hewing halberts, and suspended satyrs of his arabesques round the polyglot Lord's Prayer; it takes entire possession of Balzac in the _Contes Drolatiques_; it struck Scott in the earliest days of his childish 'visions' intensified by the axe-stroke murder of his grand aunt; L. i. 142, and see close of this note. It chose for him the subject of the _Heart of Midlothian_, and produced afterwards all the recurrent ideas of executions, tainting _Nigel_, almost spoiling _Quentin Durward_--utterly the _Fair Maid of Perth_: and culminating in _Bizarro_, L. x. 149. It suggested all the deaths by falling, or sinking, as in delirious sleep--Kennedy, Eveline Neville (nearly repeated in Clara Mowbray), Amy Robsart, the Master of Ravenswood in the quicksand, Morris, and Corporal Grace-be-here--compare the dream of Gride, in _Nicholas Nickleby_, and Dickens's own last words, _on the ground_, (so also, in my own inflammation of the brain, two years ago, I dreamed that I fell through the earth and came out on the other side). In its grotesque and distorting power, it produced all the figures of the Lay Goblin, Pacolet, Flibbertigibbet, Cockledemoy, Geoffrey Hudson, Fenella, and Nectabanus; in Dickens it in like manner gives Quilp, Krook, Smike, Smallweed, Miss Mowcher, and the dwarfs and wax-work of Nell's caravan; and runs entirely wild in _Barnaby Rudge_, where, with a _corps de drame_ composed of one idiot, two madmen, a gentleman fool who is also a villain, a shop-boy fool who is also a blackguard, a hangman, a shrivelled virago, and a doll in ribands--carrying this company through riot and fire, till he hangs the hangman, one of the madmen, his mother, and the idiot, runs the gentleman-fool through in a bloody duel, and burns and crushes the shop-boy fool into shapelessness, he cannot yet be content without shooting the spare lover's leg off, and marrying him to the doll in a wooden one; the shapeless shop-boy being finally also married in _two_ wooden ones. It is this mutilation, observe, which is the very sign manual of the plague; joined, in the artistic forms of it, with a love of thorniness--(in their mystic root, the truncation of the limbless serpent and the spines of the dragon's wing. Compare _Modern Painters_, vol. iv., 'Chapter on the Mountain Gloom,' s. 19); and in _all_ forms of it, with petrifaction or loss of power by cold in the blood, whence the last Darwinian process of the witches' charm--'cool it with a baboon's _blood_, _then_ the charm is firm and good.' The two frescoes in the colossal handbills which have lately decorated the streets of London (the baboon with the mirror, and the Maskelyne and Cooke decapitation) are the final English forms of Raphael's arabesque under this influence; and it is well worth while to get the number for the week ending April 3, 1880, of _Young Folks_--'A magazine of instructive and entertaining literature for boys and girls of all ages,' containing 'A Sequel to Desdichado' (the modern development of Ivanhoe), in which a quite monumental example of the kind of art in question will be found as a leading illustration of this characteristic sentence, "See, good Cerberus," said Sir Rupert, "_my hand has been struck off. You must make me a hand of iron, one with springs in it, so that I can make it grasp a dagger._" The text is also, as it professes to be, instructive; being the ultimate degeneration of what I have above called the 'folly' of _Ivanhoe_; for folly begets folly down, and down; and whatever Scott and Turner did wrong has thousands of imitators--their wisdom none will so much as hear, how much less follow!

In both of the Masters, it is always to be remembered that the evil and good are alike conditions of literal _vision_: and therefore also, inseparably connected with the state of the health. I believe the first elements of all Scott's errors were in the milk of his consumptive nurse, which all but killed him as an infant, L. i. 19--and was without doubt the cause of the teething fever that ended in his lameness (L. i. 20). Then came (if the reader cares to know what I mean by Fors, let him read the page carefully) the fearful accidents to his only sister, and her death, L. i. 17; then the madness of his nurse, who planned his own murder (21), then the stories continually told him of the executions at Carlisle (24), his aunt's husband having seen them; issuing, he himself scarcely knows how, in the unaccountable terror that came upon him at the sight of statuary, 31--especially Jacob's ladder; then the murder of Mrs. Swinton, and finally the nearly fatal bursting of the blood vessel at Kelso, with the succeeding nervous illness, 65-67--solaced, while he was being 'bled and blistered till he had scarcely a pulse left,' by that history of the Knights of Malta--fondly dwelt on and realised by actual modelling of their fortress, which returned to his mind for the theme of its last effort in passing away.

[157] 'Se dit par denigrement, d'un chretien qui ne croit pas les dogmes de sa religion.'--Fleming, vol. ii. p. 659.

[158] 'A son nom,' properly. The sentence is one of Victor Cherbuliez's, in _Prosper Randoce_, which is full of other valuable ones. See the old nurse's 'ici bas les choses vont de travers, comme un chien qui va a vepres, p. 93; and compare Prosper's treasures, 'la petite Venus, et le petit Christ d'ivoire,' p. 121; also Madame Brehanne's request for the divertissement of 'quelque belle batterie a coups de couteau' with Didier's answer. 'Helas! madame, vous jouez de malheur, ici dans la Drome, l'on se massacre aussi peu que possible,' p. 33.

[159] Edgeworth's _Tales_ (Hunter, 1827), 'Harrington and Ormond,' vol. iii. p. 260.

[160] Alice of Salisbury, Alice Lee, Alice Bridgnorth.

[161] Scott's father was habitually ascetic. 'I have heard his son tell that it was common with him, if any one observed that the soup was good, to taste it again, and say, "Yes--it is too good, bairns," and dash a tumbler of cold water into his plate.'--Lockhart's _Life_ (Black, Edinburgh, 1869), vol. i. p. 312. In other places I refer to this book in the simple form of 'L.'

[162] A young lady sang to me, just before I copied out this page for press, a Miss Somebody's 'great song,' 'Live, and Love, and Die.' Had it been written for nothing better than silkworms, it should at least have added--Spin.

[163] See passage of introduction to _Ivanhoe_, wisely quoted in L. vi. 106.

[164] See below, note, p. 25, on the conclusion of _Woodstock_.

[165] L. iv. 177.

[166] L. vi. 67.

[167] 'One other such novel, and there's an end; but who can last for ever? who ever lasted so long?'--Sydney Smith (of the _Pirate_) to Jeffrey, December 30, 1821. (_Letters_, vol. ii. p. 223.)

[168] L. vi. p. 188. Compare the description of Fairy Dean, vii. 192.

[169] All, alas! were now in a great measure so written. _Ivanhoe_, _The Monastery_, _The Abbot_ and _Kenilworth_ were all published between December 1819 and January 1821, Constable & Co. giving five thousand guineas for the remaining copyright of them, Scott clearing ten thousand before the bargain was completed; and before the _Fortunes of Nigel_ issued from the press Scott had exchanged instruments and received his bookseller's bills for no less than four 'works of fiction,' not one of them otherwise described in the deeds of agreement, to be produced in unbroken succession, _each of them to fill up at least three volumes, but with proper saving clauses as to increase of copy money in case any of them should run to four_; and within two years all this anticipation had been wiped off by _Peveril of the Peak_, _Quentin Durward_, _St. Ronan's Well_, and _Redgauntlet_.

[170] _Woodstock_ was finished 26th March 1826. He knew then of his ruin; and wrote in bitterness, but not in weakness. The closing pages are the most beautiful of the book. But a month afterwards Lady Scott died; and he never wrote glad word more.

[171] Compare Mr. Spurgeon's not unfrequent orations on the same subject.

[172] There are three definite and intentional portraits of himself, in the novels, each giving a separate part of himself: Mr. Oldbuck, Frank Osbaldistone, and Alan Fairford.

[173] Andrew knows Latin, and might have coined the word in his conceit; but, writing to a kind friend in Glasgow, I find the brook was called 'Molyndona' even before the building of the Sub-dean Mill in 1446. See also account of the locality in Mr. George's admirable volume, _Old Glasgow_, pp. 129, 149, &c.; The Protestantism of Glasgow, since throwing that powder of saints into her brook Kidron, has presented it with other pious offerings; and my friend goes on to say that the brook, once famed for the purity of its waters (much used for bleaching), 'has for nearly a hundred years been a crawling stream of loathsomeness. It is now bricked over, and a carriage way made on the top of it; underneath the foul mess still passes through the heart of the city, till it falls into the Clyde close to the harbour.'

[174] The following fragments out of the letters in my own possession, written by Scott to the builder of Abbotsford, as the outer decorations of the house were in process of completion, will show how accurately Scott had pictured himself in Monkbarns.

'Abbotsford: April 21, 1817.

'Dear Sir,--Nothing can be more obliging than your attention to the old stones. You have been as true as the sundial itself.' [The sundial had just been erected.] 'Of the two I would prefer the larger one, as it is to be in front of a parapet quite in the old taste. But in case of accidents it will be safest in your custody till I come to town again on the 12th of May. Your former favours (which were weighty as acceptable) have come safely out here, and will be disposed of with great effect.'

'Abbotsford: July 30.

'I fancy the Tolbooth still keeps its feet, but, as it must soon descend, I hope you will remember me. I have an important use for the niche above the door; and though many a man has got a niche _in_ the Tolbooth by building, I believe I am the first that ever got a niche out of it on such an occasion. For which I have to thank your kindness, and to remain very much your obliged humble servant,


'August 16.

'My dear Sir,--I trouble you with this [_sic_] few lines to thank you for the very accurate drawings and measurements of the Tolbooth door, and for your kind promise to attend to my interest and that of Abbotsford in the matter of the Thistle and Fleur de Lis. Most of our scutcheons are now mounted, and look very well, as the house is something after the model of an old hall (not a castle), where such things are well in character.' [Alas--Sir Walter, Sir Walter!] 'I intend the old lion to predominate over a well which the children have christened the Fountain of the Lions. His present den, however, continues to be the hall at Castle Street.'

'September 5.

'Dear Sir,--I am greatly obliged to you for securing the stone. I am not sure that I will put up the gate quite in the old form, but I would like to secure the means of doing so. The ornamental stones are now put up, and have a very happy effect. If you will have the kindness to let me know when the Tolbooth door comes down, I will send in my carts for the stones; I have an admirable situation for it. I suppose the door itself' [he means, the wooden one] 'will be kept for the new jail; if not, and not otherwise wanted, I would esteem it curious to possess it. Certainly I hope so many sore hearts will not pass through the celebrated door when in my possession as heretofore.'

* * * * *

'September 8.

'I should esteem it very fortunate if I could have the door also, though I suppose it is modern, having been burned down at the time of Porteous-mob.

'I am very much obliged to the gentlemen who thought these remains of the Heart of Midlothian are not ill bestowed on their intended possessor.'

[175] Henceforward, not in affectation, but for the reader's better convenience, I shall continue to spell 'Ryme' without our wrongly added _h_.

[176] L. ii. 278.

[177] 'Che nella mente mia _ragiona_.' Love--you observe, the highest _Reasonableness_, instead of French _ivresse_, or even Shakespearian 'mere folly'; and Beatrice as the Goddess of Wisdom in this third song of the _Convito_, to be compared with the Revolutionary Goddess of Reason; remembering of the whole poem chiefly the line:--

'Costei penso chi che mosso l'universo.'

(See Lyell's _Canzoniere_, p. 104.)

[178] [Greek: horan tes terpsios]--Plato, _Laws_, ii., Steph. 669. 'Hour' having here nearly the power of 'Fate' with added sense of being a daughter of Themis.

[179] 'Gunpowder is one of the greatest inventions of modern times, _and what has given such a superiority to civilised nations over barbarous_'! (_Evenings at Home_--fifth evening.) No man can owe more than I both to Mrs. Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth; and I only wish that in the substance of what they wisely said, they had been more listened to. Nevertheless, the germs of all modern conceit and error respecting manufacture and industry, as rivals to Art and to Genius, are concentrated in '_Evenings at Home_' and '_Harry and Lucy_'--being all the while themselves works of real genius, and prophetic of things that have yet to be learned and fulfilled. See for instance the paper, 'Things by their Right Names,' following the one from which I have just quoted (The Ship), and closing the first volume of the old edition of the _Evenings_.

[180] Carlyle, _French Revolution_ (Chapman, 1869), vol. ii. p. 70; conf. p. 25, and the _Ca ira_ at Arras, vol. iii. p. 276.

[181] _Ibid._ iii. 26.

[182] Carlyle, _French Revolution_, iii. 106, the last sentence altered in a word or two.

[183] I have been greatly disappointed, in taking soundings of our most majestic mountain pools, to find them, in no case, verge on the unfathomable.

[184] 'It must be put by the original, stanza for stanza, and verse for verse; and you will see what was permitted in a Catholic country and a bigoted age to Churchmen, on the score of Religion--and so tell those buffoons who accuse me of attacking the Liturgy.

'I write in the greatest haste, it being the hour of the Corso, and I must go and buffoon with the rest. My daughter Allegra is just gone with the Countess G. in Count G.'s coach and six. Our old Cardinal is dead, and the new one not appointed yet--but the masquing goes on the same.' (Letter to Murray, 355th in Moore, dated Ravenna, Feb. 7, 1828.) 'A dreadfully moral place, for you must not look at anybody's wife, except your neighbour's.'

[185] See quoted _infra_ the mock, by Byron, of himself and all other modern poets, _Juan_, canto iii. stanza 86, and compare canto xiv. stanza 8. In reference of future quotations the first numeral will stand always for canto; the second for stanza; the third, if necessary, for line.

[186] _Island_, ii. 16, where see context.

[187] _Juan_, viii. 5; but, by your Lordship's quotation, Wordsworth says 'instrument'--not 'daughter.' Your Lordship had better have said 'Infant' and taken the Woolwich authorities to witness: only Infant would not have rymed.

[188] _Juan_, viii. 3; compare 14 and 63, with all its lovely context 61--68: then 82, and afterwards slowly and with thorough attention, the Devil's speech, beginning, 'Yes, Sir, you forget' in scene 2 of _The Deformed Transformed_: then Sardanapalus's, act i. scene 2, beginning 'he is gone, and on his finger bears my signet,' and finally, the _Vision of Judgment_, stanzas 3 to 5.

[189] _Island_, iii. 3, and compare, of shore surf, the 'slings its high flakes, shivered into sleet' of stanza 7.

[190] A modern editor--of whom I will not use the expressions which occur to me--finding the 'we' a redundant syllable in the iambic line, prints 'we're.' It is a little thing--but I do not recollect, in the forty years of my literary experience, any piece of editor's retouch quite so base. But I don't read the new editions much; that must be allowed for.

[191] _Island_, ii. 5. I was going to say, 'Look to the context.' but am fain to give it here; for the stanza, learned by heart, ought to be our school-introduction to the literature of the world.

'Such was this ditty of Tradition's days,
Which to the dead a lingering fame conveys
In song, where fame as yet hath left no sign
Beyond the sound whose charm is half divine;
Which leaves no record to the sceptic eye,
But yields young history all to harmony;
A boy Achilles, with the centaur's lyre
In hand, to teach him to surpass his sire.
For one long-cherish'd ballad's simple stave
Rung from the rock, or mingled with the wave,
Or from the bubbling streamlet's grassy side,
Or gathering mountain echoes as they glide,
Hath greater power o'er each true heart and ear,
Than all the columns Conquest's minions rear;
Invites, when hieroglyphics are a theme
For sages' labours or the student's dream;
Attracts, when History's volumes are a toil--
The first, the freshest bud of Feeling's soil.
Such was this rude rhyme--rhyme is of the rude,
But such inspired the Norseman's solitude,
Who came and conquer'd; such, wherever rise
Lands which no foes destroy or civilise,
Exist; and what can our accomplish'd art
Of verse do more than reach the a waken'd heart?'

[192] _Shepherd's Calendar._ 'Coronation,' loyal-pastoral for Carnation; 'sops in wine,' jolly-pastoral for double pink; 'paunce,' thoughtless pastoral for pansy; 'chevisaunce' I don't know, (not in Gerarde); 'flowre-delice'--pronounce dellice--half made up of 'delicate' and 'delicious.'

[193] Herrick, _Dirge for Jephthah's Daughter_.

[194] _Passionate Pilgrim._

[195] In this point, compare the _Curse of Minerva_ with the _Tears of the Muses_.

[196] 'He,'--Lucifer; (_Vision of Judgment_, 24). It is precisely because Byron was _not_ his servant, that he could see the gloom. To the Devil's true servants, their Master's presence brings both cheerfulness and prosperity;--with a delightful sense of their own wisdom and virtue; and of the 'progress' of things in general:--in smooth sea and fair weather,--and with no need either of helm touch, or oar toil: as when once one is well within the edge of Maelstrom.

[197] _Island_, ii. 4; perfectly orthodox theology, you observe; no denial of the fall,--nor substitution of Bacterian birth for it. Nay, nearly Evangelical theology, in contempt for the human heart; but with deeper than Evangelical humility, acknowledging also what is sordid in its civilisation.

[The end]
John Ruskin's essay: Fiction, Fair and Foul