« VorigeDoorgaan »
ration for the organized outbreaks that doing their duty, and it must punish those have been described. The conspirators who are primarily responsible for the flow who inspire the riots must be produced, of placards which are the cause of inisthe officials who fail to hinder them de chief. There is said to be a project to graded, and pledges giren of the existence strike at the heart of the octopus, by inof both will and power to exert more sisting on the opening of Hunan. The efficacious protection over missionaries in idea is good, and might be accomplished, future. The inflammatory literature must perhaps, by the opening of the Tungting be restrained, and Mr. Gardner's sugges- Lake to foreign commerce. But we must tion that, “ failing fear of war, our best be prepared, in that case, to make good means of insuring the safety of our coun- our own entry. If the Government stands trynien in any Consular district is causing so far in awe of the Hunanese soldiers in it to be more disagreeable for the officials the valley of the Yangtze that it dares not to neglect than to perform the duty of employ force for their repression, if it has protecting British subjects," may well be witnessed the expulsion of its own emisborne in inind. The officials' remissness saries from Hunan when the question was need not be always and altogether ascribed only about setting up a telegraph, it would to ill-will. Having attained office after a probably not dare—at least at the present long period of waiting, and baving bor- moment—to insist on the right of forrowed freely to pay the fees incidental to eigners to travel and reside in the provits attainment, they are naturally anxious ince. The appearance of a few foreign to retain it in order to recoup their out- gunboats on that lake, however, which is lay. And their best chance of retaining embayed in the obnoxious province, might it is to keep order in their district. But prove an efficacious means of bringing there
may be considerations more urgent various people to their senses. Whether than even the dissatisfaction of their supe- Peking Statesmen would object, in their riors.
If they run counter to the wishes secret hearts, to our accepting the work of of the literati and the gentry, these will coercion is a question that few would caro certainly find means to subvert them ; and to answer. They might resent the shock the fear of such an event may occasionally to their prestige, yet not be altogether unterrify them into acquiescence in plots willing that the Hunanese should receive a which they really disapprove. All that, practical lesson, the odigm of teaching however, does not concern us. The Im- which they themselves had not to incur. perial Government must manage its own – National Review. people. It must support its officials in
MR. HENRY JAMES.
No more considerable interest has lately way on Mr. James's work as a dramatist, attended the appearance of any play than which, indeed, lies chiefly in the future ; that excited by the production in a Lon- but the admirable and lucid style, the don theatre of Mr. Henry James's dramatic command of witty and epigrammatic dia. version of his own novel, “ The Ameri- Jogue with which bis readers are already
The reason of that interest is not familiar, probably justify the highest hopes far to seek. Whatever the merit and the of those who care greatly for the renassuccess of our English writers of plays in cence of literary excellence in the English general, it will not be disputed, we believe, drama. It can be no secret to any one that English literature, in the strict sense who has studied Mr. James's writings, of the word, is not, as a rule, greatly en- that he has an almost passionate appreciariched by their efforts ; when, therefore, tion of fine plays and fine acting ; a hun. it was known that an eininent man of let- dred passages in his critical work give ters, a novelist of the first distinction, bad evidence of his close and careful study of turned his attention to the stage, the the stage and its requirements, while the event, it was felt, was of an importance to point, always to be largely insisted on in arouse the most legitimate curiosity. It any consideration of his work as a novelis not our purpose to comment here in any ist, that he is a consummate artist, should
have no less significance, it may be supposed, in the dramatic world than in that of fiction, as the term is usually understood.
In speaking of the work of Mr. Henry James, the first, the imperative thing to be said about it is that it is the work of an artist, and of one with a complete and exhaustive knowledge of his art and its resources. While no writer is more vividly modern, Mr. James is, in a sense, an artist as an ancient Greek was an artist; he represses systematically, that is to say, his own personality in view of the work on which he is engaged. By the public, and shall we say ?-by the English public in particular, this supreme quality of workmanship is one of the qualities least esteemed and least appreciated. The generous public hates the Augur's mask; it likes to peep and see the human countenance behind, to shake hands, so to speak, with the wearer, and congratulate him on having a soul like its own. Mr. James never, or by inference only, allows us the smallest peep; his reserve is impenetrable; he invariably treats his characters and his plots with the impartiality of the workman who apprehends that the truth of a thing, and not his own coloring of it, is what, before all, is needed.
We so far share the feeling, while absolutely disclaiming any share in the opinion of the public, on this point, as to find a particular pleasure in those impressions de voyage, those little sketches of travel collected under the various titles-"A Little Tour in France," "Portraits of Places, Foreign Parts"-in which the writer, in the easiest, simplest, most genial manner imaginable, lets us into the secret of his personal impressions, his fine artistic discriminations, his good inns and his bad inns, his chance comrades, his satisfactions and disillusions. It is the charm of individuality that pervades these charming pages, and which, by the happiest instinct, the author has known how to convey without a touch of obtrusive egotism or fatiguing iteration of detail. It needs indeed but a glance over a hundred dreary and futile impressions de voyage, to borrow again that convenient term, to understand the rare and consummate skill that goes to the composition of these little articles in which, without any uneasy selfconsciousness or self-assertion, the writer
takes us into his confidence, shows us what is best worth seeing and the best way to see it, quotes his guide-book with a humorous guilelessness, and makes himself, in short, through his books, the most delightful travelling companion in the world.
In putting forward these little volumes first, however, we are not doing Mr. James's work, and what we may imagine to be his own estimate of it, the injustice to rank them among his foremost productions. The field of literature that he has traversed is wide; both as critic and essayist he has gained particular distinction, no less than by the charming papers just mentioned. But it is as a novelist that he has found a foremost place among modern writers; it is his unique and delightful gift of fiction that, above all, claims consideration in treating of his work.
Every writer of original excellence has one or more distinct lines along which his genius develops itself, and with which he becomes, as it were, identified. Mr. James, as we shall endeavor to show, has that larger outlook on the vast human comedy that distinguishes the great masters of fiction; but his earliest stories have a certain character in common that intimately connects them with what for convenience has been termed, the International novel. Mr. James, in fact, might not unreasonably claim to be the inventor of that particular form of romance; and though it would be manifestly unjust to consider him exclusively or even principally in relation to it, since much of his most masterly as well as his most delicate work does not touch on the International question-that is to say, the interfusing influences of America and Europe-at all; yet there is no doubt that it was his earlier productions, "The American," "The Europeans," "Daisy Miller," "An International Episode," and half a dozen other tales on the same line, that won for him in the first instance much of the wide reputation he enjoys. Mr. James must at some time have studied his countrymen and country women with extraordinary minuteness and detachment of vision. To him might be applied what Sainte Beuve somewhere says of La Biuyère: "En jugeant de si près les hommes et les choses de son pays, il paraît désinté
ressé comme le serait un étranger, et déjà men and women of his tales should have, un homme de l'avenir.” This disinterest- both physically and mentally, an air of ed view has, we believe, brought Mr. solidity and reality only occasionally atJames into some discredit with a certain tained to in the same degree ; he sees section of his compatriots ; the fresh per- them impartially, he depicts them unception and keen insight he has brought erringly, with an extreme delicacy and to the contemplation of his country and distinction ; they are set in clear and open theirs has not always pleased them. They daylight, in a perspective as wide, in an are probably unaware of the debt of grati- atmosphere as free as those of the two tude they owe him. It is niore apparent continents of which he treats. His charto the Englislı mind, wbich, contrasting acters are types and yet individual ; they its knowledge of America now with what belong at once to the universe and to their it was some twenty or thirty years ago, own epoch ; they have, in short, that comperceives how largely, among other bination of the general and the particular causes, Mr. James has contributed to that that is indispensable to the coinplete knowledge ; how clear a light, and how vitality of a creature of the imagination ; favorable a light, has been thrown upon and they stand out in a relief that is the the subject by bis interpretations. This bolder, perhaps, that they are, as a rule, is the more valuable that there can be no provided with little more scenery for their suspicion of the author's impartiality ; surrounding than is requisite to indicate that if, as is the fact, there is in the couise the local coloring of the story. To Mr. of his stories bardly a contest between an James, we gather from his novels as a American and a European in which the whole, life presents itself not pictorially, American does not show the liner of the as a number of pictures, that is, in which two, it is, we are persuaded, because, human action displays itself against the
, given the characters and the circumstances, vast scenic background of the world, not the American must of necessity show the dramatically, as a succession of scenes finer of the two. Nothing, indeed, could culminating in a logical catastrophe be more impossible than to treat Mr. (though both these points of view are James as even remotely a partisan ; noth- necessarily included in his scheme of ing could be further removed from his work), but primarily as a series of probmethod, froin the large and even glance lems, moral, social, or psychological, to he turns on one character and another. be worked out and solved. An involved When he convinces us, it is tbrough his situation, a moral dilemma, the giant and presentment of the truth of things, never complex giasp of society in its widest through the expression of his personal sense, upon the individual—these and such bias. Ile himself tells us somewhere that as these are the problems to the tracing it is his constant habit to tip the balance ; out and solution of which he brings an exand, if he had not told us, we might bave treine fineness and subtlety, subtle and fine divined it from his work. It is probably as the workings of the human mind hardly a natural quality that he has cultivated to conscious of its own movement from point a degree that makes it impossible for him to point. It may be said at once, that in in contemplating a subject seriously to exercising his admirable gift of psycholook at it from one point only ; he turns logical insight and imagination, Mr. James it in his hands, so to speak, as one turns frequently presupposes great attention on a globe, considering it from every side, the part of his readers, and an intelligence
, . This habit of mind is, of course, one of of reception hardly less than his own intelli. the finest and most essential that a writer gence of representation. He is one of the can bring to his work; and if it occasion- finest of analysts ; but nevertheless he not ally exhibits the defect of its quality in seldom reaches a point where he ceases to carrying disinterestedness to the verge of analyze and simply suggests with a delicoldness, it has the supreme merit of leav- cacy conveying the flattering assumption ing the reader's judginent free, of never that the reader has keenness and imaginaaffronting him by undue insistence on one tion enough of his own to follow up the point to the hindrance of another. writer's suggestion with as much certainty
It results naturally from the perfection as when, a land being seen at a window, to which Mr. James has brought this par- it may be inferred that a human being ticular method of observation, that the stands behind it. As a fact, we believe
that Mr. James flatters his public too much. The average reader has neither brains nor imagination to follow out a suggestion; he yawns at psychology; he is apt to resent explanation and non-explanation alike. He loves a good downright legend: "This is a wood," "This is a barn-door," which he who runs may read; he loves an obvious plot, an honest mystery, a conclusion that rounds off everything. All that is a point of view already over-discussed perhaps, and for which there will doubtless be always much to be said; we only refer to it now, because while the lovers of Mr. James's stories find a charm beyond that of any other, in his method, at once delicate and powerful, it may probably always forbid his volumes the honor of the railway bookstall, or the seventy thousandth copy of the cheap edition.
In using the word "powerful," it must be understood in the wide sense in which it is applicable to Mr. James's work. There is a usual and perfectly legitimate sense in which it is employed, as expressing a certain movement of passion or energy on the writer's part, through which certain scenes stand out from the remainder of the work, and move the reader in his turn to an emotion that forever remains in his memory. Such scenes as these are rare with Mr. James; it is perhaps an excess of the artistic sense of detachment, that occasionally compels him, when we should expect him to be most emotional, to be most restrained. His power is of another kind altogether; it arises from a profound knowledge of what he is writing about, from what seems sometimes an almost exhaustive knowledge of human nature; his anatomy is perfect; every hidden bone and muscle is in its place. His surface (to change the metaphor) may be level, but it never rings hollow; its foundations are deep as those of the life of which he treats; the result is that impression of sustained power that is met with only in the great masters, that is the distinguishing mark of the great masters. Others may charm us-and claim our eterna! gratitude for the charm-by their imagination, their fancy, their genius even; but somewhere or other there is a gap in the carpentry, and through the chink the light of disillusion shines. With Mr. James, we tread solidly and look at his presentment of life without a misgiving. It is
the first in quality, it is the most essential boon a writer can give us.
We might refer in this connection, and as being among the most perfect presentments of his art, to two of Mr. James's earlier and less well known stories"Madame de Mauves," and "Washington Square." The first of these is a story of no great length, with hardly any plot; one of those subtle problems of character and situation in which the author takes pleasure, and ended finally by an epigram, as his stories occasionally find themselves ending, after a fashion somewhat disconcerting to the reader. It is, in brief, the story of a young American girl married to a French roué, M. de Mauves, with whom one of her own countrymen falls passionately in love. The point of the story lies. in the fashion in which this passion is treated by the husband, the lover, and Madame de Mauves herself; and one has only in reading it to consider what might be made of this apparently hackneyed theme by a superficial, a commonplace, or a vulgar writer to appreciate the delicate. originality and powerful handling Mr. James has brought to its treatment. The whole story is in low relief, without a salient incident; its strength lies in the sense that the roots of the faintly-blooming flowers of the little drama reach down to the deepest springs of human action; that the underlying strata of life presupposed by the surface are familiar to the writer as the surface itself. The other story, "Washington Square," is much longer, but its motif, given in abstract form, is hardly more novel than that of "Madame de Mauves." The scene is chiefly laid in New York, and it is the history of a young girl, who, accredited with the prospect of inheriting a large fortune at her father's death, is pursued by a needy adventurer, with whom she falls blindly in love. The father, as in duty bound, opposes the marriage; the young girl, after many struggles, consents at last to put her lover to the test; he disappears, and the girl lives and dies an old maid. That is all the plot; but this little history, that for sustained and masterly treatment may be compared to "Eugénie Grandet" (which for the rest it does not in the least resemble), holds the reader's interest from beginning to end. It has not the special charm of Balzac's masterpiece; the heroine, Catherine, a diffi
cult character to draw, and drawn with be named. These delightful stories have, extraordinary skill, is represented as a dull of course, a hundred other claims on our girl of limited intelligence and fixed ideas, admiration : wit, humor, pathos, a charmwho wins our sympathy indeed, but ap- ing gayety, acute observation of life and peals, much less to the imagination than character ; but it is the faultless skill with the immortal Eugénie ; as the house in which they are framed, that above all, perWashington Square yields in romantic sug- haps, places" them
consuinmate gestion to that of the old and faded man- works of art. The short story, properly sion with the broken stair that we have treated as such, deals with a single idea, each of us inhabited in turn. But in his- an isolated situation—a rule from which torical accuracy and broad grasp of the Mr. James never swerves ; but much of foundations of life, there is no work with the singular perfection of his short stories which the American novel can be so fitly lies in the fact that while the idea, the mated as with that of the great French situation is exhibited, developed and master.
worked out to its legitimate conclusion
within the compass of the few pages, more II.
or less, that he allows himself, it is in fact These are only two of various master- no more isolated iban it is possible for any pieces that Mr. James has given to the situation in real life to be ; it stands with world. le bas written about a dozen its just relation to the universe exactly innovels, and a considerable number of short dicated, bound to the common life by the stories; and his treatment of the two million threads that unite coinmon humanforms of narrative is sufficiently distinct ity. This is, of course, only to say that to demand that they should be considered when the author sits down to write a short somewhat apart.
story, he knows his business ; but that It is a commonplace of literature that particular knowledge is so rare among us, the short story, brought to so much per- that some insistence on it in this case may fection by the French, has never flour- be permitted. In longer novels, his ished in England. Half a dozen causes method is of necessity somewhat different. might be assigned for the fact ; but it is Like all the greater novelists, Mr. James probably chiefly due to the inferior sense is interested not merely in the telling of a of art as art, possessed by the English as story, properly so called, in the working compared with the French. The short out of a situation, the conduct of a lovestory is above all a matter of form, of affair, the development of a plot, but with proportion ; and the English sense of the entire moving drama of life, the great form, in respect of literature, is apt to be human comedy, in which situations take conspicuously wanting. There are excep- their place as mere incidents. In “ The tions, of course, and notable ones ; but Portrait of a Lady,” in “ The Bostowe speak of the rule. Mr. James, whose nians," “ The Princess Casamassima,'' particular genius and method of work “ The Tragic Muse,
“ The Tragic Muse," and in a less degree touches that of the French on more sides "The Europeans," "The American," than onc, is nowhere more French than in “ The Reverberator,” we feel less that the this ; he satisfies our sense of form, of curtain has risen on a comedy of manners truth of proportion beyond any other or of plot, than on a vast section of sowiiter in the English language that we ciety, and of society considered with espe. could name.
His shorter stories are of a cial reference to some of its more mod. length varying from a few pages to nine ern developments. In his earlier as in or ten chapters ; but in the best of them, some of his later work, Mr. James, as we of whatever length, and that includes a have seen, selected the wide field of the large proportion, the form is perfect. It opposing and harmonizing influences of would be hard to find a flaw in the con- America and Europe ; in “The Bostostruction of “ Daisy Miller,'' “ The Ma- nians," he tovches the question of Wom. donna of the Future,” “ Four Meetings," en's Rights ; in “ The Princess Casamas“ The Pension Beaurepas," and Ben- sima," we are with the Socialists ; while volio ;'' or, to come down later, in “ The his most recent book, " The Tragic Muse," Siege of London," "The Author of Bil
"“ The Author of Bil sets before us the curions relations that the traflio,” “The Aspern Papers,” “ The latest whirligig has brought round between Solution," and a dozen others that might art, and society in its conventional sense.