of his best years. This was the dead lull during which the moral storms of 1840-1850 were preparing to gather. It was the time when the Puseyite controversy was beginning, when Tracts for the Times, under an oppressive obloquy and miscomprehension, were making a struggle for religious warmth and air. A chilly light of reason applied to morals, that was what the subjects of William IV. desired to contemplate, and poetry itself was called upon to make a definite concession to the gospel of utility. Romance was at its lowest ebb, and even

the ghost of Miltiades rose by night And stood by the bed of the Benthamite.


Among poets who possessed the public ear at that time, the aged Wordsworth stood first, but the prestige of the laureate, Southey, who had been one of the most active and authoritative of reviewers, was, in many circles, paramount. Now Southey-as his most prominent disciple, Sir Henry Taylor, has proudly told us-"took no pleasure in poetic passion." By the time of which we are speaking, however, Southey and even Wordsworth passed into the background of active life, but there had been no reaction against the quietism of their later days. That quietism had taken possession of the taste of the country, and had gradually ousted the only serious rival it had seemed to possess, the violence of Byron. It was at this time, in the full tide of Benthamism, that Henry Taylor attempted a poetical coup d'état which demands close attention from the student of our literary history.

In publishing his enormous drama of Philip van Artevelde, in 1834, Henry Taylor took occasion to issue a preface which is now far more interesting to read than his graceful verse. He thought the time had come to stamp out what he called "the mere luxuries

of poetry." He was greatly encouraged by the general taste of the public, which obviously was finding highlycolored literature inacceptable, and in a preface of singular boldness, not unadroit in its logic, Taylor presumed to dictate terms to the poets. He begged them, for the future, to walk the common earth and breathe the common air. He entreated them to believe that forcible expression, fervid feeling, and beautiful imagery are useless if employed in connection with thoughts that are not "sound." There was to be no health for us unless reason had full supremacy over imagination. Reflection must take the place of mere "feeling," thought the place of imagery. Passion, so this faithful disciple of Southey considered, was to be regarded as a direct danger and disadvantage.

Nor did the preface of 1834 confine itself to the encouragement of what was tame and good; it descended into the dust, and wrestled with lions that were wild and bad. It fought with Byron, as Christian fought with Apollyon, conscious of the awful strength of its supernatural opponent. It fought, less strenuously, and with a touch of contempt, with "the brilliant Mr. Shelley," to whom it could afford to be condescending. It glanced round the arena without being able so much as to observe an antagonist who, to our eyes, fills the picture, and is alone sufficient to condemn all the Philip van Artevelde arguments and theories. This is Keats, of whom, so far as we can discover from this preface, Taylor had, in 1834, never even heard, or else despised so entirely that it did not occur to him to mention his name.

The Preface to Philip van Artevelde enjoyed a great success. Its assumptions were accepted by the reviews as poetic canon law. It was admitted without reserve that the function of poetry was "to infer and to instruct." The poets were warned to occupy them

selves in future mainly with what was rational and plain. Henry Taylor had made a sweeping suggestion that the. more enthusiastic species of verse was apt to encourage attention by fixing it on what is "puerile, pusillanimous, or wicked." There was a great searching of heart in families; the newspapers were immense. A large number of copies of Childe Harold and of Manfred were confiscated, and examples of Pollock's Course of Time (by many persons preferred to Paradise Lost, as of a purer orthodoxy) were substituted for them. Even the young Macaulay, who had suddenly become a power, joined the enemy, and declared that "perhaps no person can be a poet, or can ever enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind." Ah, but, cries in effect the excellent Henry Taylor, we will so coerce and browbeat and depress the poets that they shall not think a thought or write a line that is not "sound," and the Benthamite himself (the stupendous original Jeremy had died, of course, in 1832) shall pluck, unhandily enough, at the lyre now consecrated to utility and decorum.

It was the old balance between "stasy" and "ec-stasy," and Henry Taylor was, to a certain extent, justified by the character of such contemporary works as might be held to belong to the ecstatic species. It did not seem a moment at which great subjects and a great style were prepared to commend themselves. The most prominent indulgers in "the mere luxury of poetry" were Heraud and Reade, whose efforts were calculated to bring instant ridicule upon imaginative writing by their hollow grandiloquence. There were the Byronisms of Croly, the once-famous author of that gorgeous romance, Salathiel, and there was the never-to-be-forgotten Robert Montgomery. All these poetasters merely emphasized and justified Henry Taylor's protest. In genuine poetry of a

highly imaginative cast there appeared, almost wholly unregarded, Pauline and Paracelsus, and in 1838 Miss Barrett produced, in defiance of the taste of the age, her irregular and impassioned Seraphim. None of these publications, however, disturbed in the least degree the supremacy of the school of good sense, or threatened that "equipoise of reason" which the disciples of Southey thought that they had fixed for ever. Poetry was to preserve its logical judg, ment; it was never to "let itself go." The cardinal importance of Mr. Bailey's Festus is that it was the earliest direct counterblast to this scheme of imaginative discipline, and that when it appeared in 1839 the walls built up by Henry Taylor's arrogant preface immediately began to crumble down.


The extraordinary poem which thus recalled English literature to the ecstatic after a period of bondage to the static, and attracted the astonishment of the public by leading a successful revolt against baldness, against what a critic of the time called "the pride of natural barrenness," was the work of an extremely young man. Philip James Bailey was born in Nottingham on the 22nd of April, 1816. He was the son of a journalist of an excellent provincial type, a sturdy local politician, antiquary, and philanthropist, himself an amateur in verse, "an inveterate rhymer," we are told, and full of enthusiasm for new ideas as they revealed themselves to active-thinking persons in those repressed and stunted "thirties." The father of Philip James Bailey promptly acquiesced, like the father of Robert Browning, in the decision of his son to adopt "the vocation of a poet," and the boy seems to have been educated to that end, as others to become chartered accountants or solicitors. Nominally, indeed, the lat

ter profession was selected for young Bailey, who, nevertheless, as early as 1835, is understood to have begun to plan his great poem. It is further related that in 1836-the young man was in his twentieth year-he began to write Festus, and in 1838 had finished the first draft of it.

So far as it appears, there was nothing but irresistible vocation and a selective use of the most sympathetic models which led Bailey back to what had so long and so completely been neglected in English poetry, the record of the subtler action of the mind. In the midst of a fashion for scrupulous common-sense, and "the equipoise of reason," here was a young man of twenty who, without any sort of impetus from without, and in defiance of current criticism, devoted himself to the employment of clothing philosophic speculation with almost reckless imagery. Henry Taylor had entreated the poets not to attempt to describe anything which cannot "be seen through the mere medium of our eyesight." But from the very outset the new bard was to deal wholly with impassioned spiritual life, exalted into a sphere unoccupied except by rapture and vision. You are to build, practically dictated the Preface of Philip van Artevelde, nothing but comfortable twostoried villas, with all the modern appliances. The architect of Festus comes, raising none but pinnacled archangelic chapels high in the unapparent. This was the note of the amazement with which Festus was received in 1839. It bore a message of good tidings to spiritual souls starving in a utilitarian desert. It lifted a palm-tree, it unsealed a well in the arid flats of common-sense. We cannot, in the light of all that has been written since, appreciate in the least degree what Festus was to its earliest readers, unless we bear this in mind. All the yearnings for the unlimited, all the suppressed

visions of infinity, all that groped in darkness after the excessive, and the impassioned, and the inconceivable, gathered in tumult and joy to welcome this new voice. James Montgomery wrote that, after reading Festus, he felt as though he had been eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

To realize what it was which hungry visionaries found in the new poem, it is necessary to turn back to what it was which was presented to them in 1839. The first edition of Festus is a work of remarkable interest. It is now very rare, and it may safely be said that there is no volume which justifies more completely the passion or mania of the book-collector. For sixty-three years Festus has not lacked readers, and edition after edition has steadily supplied a demand. But the Festus of 1901 is a very different affair from the volume of the same name of 1839. In the first place, it is very unlike it in size, since it contains about 40,000 verses, while the original edition has something less than 10,000. We shall presently have to describe the extraordinary manner in which Mr. Bailey, during sixty years, steadily added to the bulk of his poem. But the point to dwell on here is that the effect made upon his own generation was not made by the huge and very unwieldy book which one now buys as Festus in the shops, but by a poem which was already lengthy, yet perfectly within the bounds of easy reading. It seems essential, if we are to gauge that effect, to turn back to the first edition. This was a large octavo, with no name on the title-page, but with a symbolic back presenting a malignant snake flung downwards through the inane by the rays that dart from a triangle of light, a very proper preparation for the redundant and arcane invocations of the text within the covers.

The attack of the utilitarians had

been chiefly directed against the disciples of Byron, and the new poet evaded the censure of such critics by ignoring in the main the influence of that dæmonic enchanter. It is specious to see the effect of Manfred upon Festus, but in point of fact the resemblance seems to result from a common study of Faust. Nor has the Dr. Faustus of Marlowe although, since the publication of Lamb's Specimens in 1808, that majestic poem had been within every one's reach anything very definite to do with Bailey's design. This was founded, almost too closely, on that of Goethe's Faust. The result of the manipulation of later editions has been more and more to disguise the resemblance of the original draft of Festus to its great German forerunner, and to this, therefore, with the edition of 1839 before us, we must give a moment's attention.

Bailey's poem began, not as it does now, but with an abrupt introduction of the reader to Heaven, exactly as in Faust, with a "Prolog im Himmel." In each case, God himself speaks, and in a triplet of verses. There is a "Chor der Engel," called by Bailey "Seraphim" and "Cherubim," and these combine in a great burst of melodious adoration, like "die himmelischen Heerschaaren" in Faust. Lucifer demands the soul of Festus to sport with, exactly as Mephistopheles asks for Faust. When the tempter abruptly appears to his meditating mortal victim, the startled "Who art thou, pray?" of Festus is precisely the "Wie nennst du dich?" of Faust. Later on, Lucifer and Festus ride Ruin and Darkness, the black colts of the Evil One, exactly as Faust and Mephistopheles do their black steeds after the Walpurgisnacht. In the 1839 edition of Festus the lyrical element is very much more prominent than in the later editions, where it has been steadily superseded by blank verse. These odes and choruses in the

original text are plainly modelled upon the lyrics in the German poem, and, what is curious, it seems to be rather the second than the first part of Faust which has attracted the English rhapsodist, whose cantatas closely recall, in their form, those of the "Chor seliger Knaben" and the rest.

It would be interesting to trace the mode in which Goethe influenced the mind of the young Nottingham poet, whose masterpiece was to be the most important contribution to English literature in which rivalry with Faust is predominant. Mr. Bailey, I am informed, never resided in Germany, and had but a scanty knowledge of the German language. The only direct reference to Goethe which I have found in his writings occurs in The Age, where he remarks that

Wolfgang's Faust flames forth the fire divine

In many a solid thought and glowing line

a couplet of not particularly luminous criticism. I suppose that Bailey was not constrained to spell out the original, since by 1836 Goethe was not without interpreters in this country. The acquaintance of Englishmen with Goethe as a force hardly existed earlier than 1827, when Carlyle's two great essays made their mark. In 1831 Abraham Hayward led the army of translators, with a privately printed Faust; and in 1832 a certain sensation was caused in English intellectual circles by the death of Goethe, a reverberating event. Then followed version upon version, comment upon comment; the publication to the outer world of Hayward in 1833, in 1835 the Faust of Dr. Anster, eagerly commended by the Edinburgh Review, these, we may shrewdly conjecture, were the main media of inspiration to the youthful Bailey, although he probably glanced at the original. Moreover there existed a widely-circulated port

folio of designs for Faust by Ritzsch, with some text in English; these drawings were in the hands of the infant Gabriel Rossetti, it appears, by 1836, and may very well have stimulated the imagination of the adolescent author of Festus. There can be, at all events, no awkwardness in comprehending that the latter, without any deep knowledge of the German language, but by a mere happy inevitable instinct, could grasp the essential character of the sublime poem of Goethe, and bend its design to his own ends. The difficulty, I confess, to me is that, as I have said, Festus seems to presuppose familiarity with some scenes, at least, of the second part of Faust, which had not been published anywhere until 1831, and was but slowly and confusedly recognized in England.

In the evolution of a plot the English drama was far less successful than its German exemplar. The great disadvantage of Festus was immediately perceived to be its lack of coherent outline. Elizabeth Barrett remarked that "the fine things were worth looking for, in the design manqué." Horne, one of the earliest and most judicious of admirers, lamented that the framework of the poem was unworthy of its eminent beauties of detail. The plot of Festus is, in fact, too slight to bear the heavy robes of brocade which are hung about its insufficiency. To make such a work durably weighty it should have an actual story, complicated and animated enough to arrest attention. This was perfectly comprehended by Goethe in the first part of Faust. But the narrative element in Festus is thin and vague to excess. The hero is a human soul, of the highest gifts and attainments, doomed to despair and melancholy, and unwillingly enslaved to sin. The mode in which he becomes the plaything of the arch-spirit of evil is impressive, but scarcely intelligible; nor are the relations of the tempter to

his victim ever realized in a vividly dramatic or narrative way. It would be an almost impossible feat to separate the "story" or plot of Festus from its lyrical and rhetorical ornament. One has to face the fact that the poem exists in and for these purple robes, and that it is essentially a series of transcendent visions, each clothed upon by a fresh set of more or less sumptuous and redundant imagery.

The keynote of Festus is a spiritual optimism. The lesson of the poem was easily perceived to be insistence upon the ministry of evil as a purifier. Man was to pass through sin as through a fire, and to come out purged from the dross of humanity. At the opening of the poem the note of hope is struck. In spite of Lucifer, and of all his ingenious activity, Earth and Man are improving. But God (the youthful Bailey was extraordinarily familiar with the mind of the Creator), in a speech of disconcerting petulance, dooms Earth to end: "Earth to death is given," and the pitying angels cover their faces. It is by playing upon the depression of one who inhabits an orb which is about to be annihilated that Lucifer obtains his ascendency over the spirit of Festus; he approaches him in the guise of a giant force, placable and sane, that will give the longed-for happiness. But Festus rejects all the vulgar forms of joy:


It is not bliss I seek; I care not for it. I am above the low delights of life. The life I live is in a dark cold cavern, Where I wander up and down, feeling for something

Which is to be; and must be; what, I know not;

But the incarnation of my destiny
Is nigh ..

The worm of the world hath eaten out my heart.

Lucifer is equal to the opportunity; he promises to renew the heart of Festus

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