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THE OLD SCEPTIC.
I am weary of disbelieving: why should I wound my love
I will go back to my home, with the clouds and the stars above,
I will go back to the home where of old in my boyish pride
Oh, yes; I have read the books, the books that we write ourselves,
To that childish infinite love and the God above fact and date.
To that ignorant infinite God who colors the meaningless flowers,
To that lawless infinite Poet who matches the law with the crime;
Is the faith of the cotter so simple and narrow as this? Ah, well,
It is hardly so narrow as yours who daub and plaster with dyes
The shining mirrors of heaven, the shadowy mirrors of hell,
And blot out the dark deep vision, if it seem to be framed with lies.
No faith I hurl against you, no fact to freeze your sneers;
Only the doubt you taught me to weld in the fires of youth
The sword of the high God's answer, O Pilate, what is truth?
Your laughter has killed more hearts than ever were pierced with swords,
And more than blood is lost in the weary battle of words;
I will go back to my home and look at the wayside flowers,
And there I shall hear men praying the deep old foolish prayers,
I will go back and believe in the deep old foolish tales,
And pray the sweet old prayers that I learned at my mother's knee, Where the Sabbath tolls its peace thro' the breathless mountain-vales, And the sunset's evening hymn hallows the wistful sea.
THE NOVELS OF MR. HENRY JAMES.*
In every final consideration of a novelist's achievement the most significant question will probably concern itself with the ground he has covered. Romance has stepped into the place of poetry as a criticism of life; the novelist has become the reviewer, and one asks, not unreasonably, in measuring his accomplishment, how much of life can he review. One thus requires for the sum of his books a measure differing from that imposed by any one of them. One asks vitality of the particular performance, but one demands variety from the whole. There may be less of "life" in a romance that deals with empires and dynasties than in some obscure chronicle of a city slum, but a continued preference for the slum as a subject would confess
* 1. "Watch and Ward. " Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1871.
2. "Roderick Hudson" (1875).* 1886. 3. "The American" (1877).* 4. "The Europeans" (1878). 5. "Stories Revived." Second series (1867-78). 6. "Daisy Miller, etc." (1878).* "Confidence" (1879).* 8. "The Madonna of the Future, etc." (1879).* 9. "An International Episode, etc." (1879).* 10. "Washington
Square" (1880).* 11. "The Portrait of a Lady" (1881).* 12. "The Siege of London." 1883. 18. "Stories Revived." First series (1866-84).* 14. "Tales of Three Cities." 1884. 15. "The Bostonians." 1886. 16. "Princess Casam assima. 1886. 17. "The Reverberator." 1888. 18. "The Aspern Papers." 1888. 19. "A London Life.", 1889. 20. "The Tragic Muse." 1890. 21. "The Lesson of the Master." 1891. 22. "The Real Thing." 1892. London: Macmillan & Co.
parvitude in the point of view. For the novelist is an interpreter as well as a reviewer, and the value of his total interpretation will depend not only on his knowledge of one tongue, but on his acquaintance with many. He has to select his subjects for us from every language of the world's emotion, and the adequacy of his selection must depend essentially upon the number he knows. Our interest in romance to-day is much more personal than was such interest in the past. We demand actuality, we demand character; and, behind the artist's craving for beauty and his sense of form, we look for a desire and an ability to render circumstance available to our appreciation; a mission to translate for our cognition the circumstance and sentiments
24. "Terminations." 1895. 25. "Embarrassments." 1896. 26. "The Other House." 1896 27. "The Spoils of Poynton." 1897. 28. "What Maisie Knew." 1898. 29. "The Two Magics." 1898. London: Heinemann.
30 "In the Cage." London: Duckworth & Co. 1898.
31. "The Awkward Age." London: Heinemann. 1899.
32. "The Soft Side." 1900. 33. "The Sacred Fount." 1901. London: Methuen.
34. "The Wings of the Dove." Constable. 1902.
*The asterisk in each case denotes date of original publication.
with which he is impressed. So, though it prove the duller way, we would consider the compass of Mr. Henry James's work before its quality, even though that quality must be considered its most intrinsic feature.
The amplitude of his work, the sheer space of shelf which his novels cover comes as a first surprise to the collector. One has somehow regarded him as the reverse of a prolific writer, and the pleasures conferred by his successive volumes have always seemed too far apart; yet there have been published for the English reader close upon a hundred novels and tales, and others still are beached unprofitably in the stagnant harborage of magazines. Such an output is clearly not that of a man who regards literature as an amusement, and it is very interesting to observe that Mr. James's fecundity has increased with every decade of his working life. He was born on April 15, 1843, and, as his first tale appeared in 1866, he has been transcribing his impressions for thirty-six years. To his work such a description is especially applicable, for he has throughout adopted the part of the social recorder, and only for the briefest season has his attention been diverted from his own time. So close indeed has his attention been that the period of which he writes is most often that in which he is writing, an intimacy in association which gives his work a freshness of color like that of a canvas painted in the open air.
Freshness of color would perhaps be by some critics considered the quality most conspicuously absent from his work, but by freshness we do not mean that false air of reality which is the result of superficial imitation, and may be produced so cheaply. The freshness of Mr. James is an effect of atmosphere, not of outline. One might say that in some of his work he is preoccupied with atmosphere, and oc
casionally resembles the artist who preferred to paint a purple cow to sacrificing the serenity of his twilight to the true color of the animal. Mr. James's pictures have their purple cows; he is concerned pre-eminently with effect, and to that end is always prepared to subordinate his material. Even in his longest stories he maintains marvellously the sense of tone, he keeps down his accessories, and produces a continuity of impression which makes him the admiration and the despair of his fellow-craftsmen. No doubt to those who have no fondness for effect, who desire that every character should be depicted in the blinding light of noontide knowledge, his delicacies, his hesitations, his designed obscurity are an irritation, and his method seems as artificial as they proclaim it. Yet artifice of some sort must always be used in reducing from the life, and impressionism may be but the finest order of realism, the rendering of a feeling instead of a fact.
In his earlier stories, which are mostly short, there are but few hints of the line along which his sympathies were to travel. In his first nine years of work we have record of but ten stories, and of these only "Watch and Ward" runs to the dignity of a separate cover. It is a trite enough theme, not made remarkable by the handling, and suggesting only in certain sketches of character the author of to-day. Of the others "A Passionate Pilgrim" is of the order of tales that owe everything to the telling. It tells, indeed, only how an impoverished American came to see in England the home of his ancestors, saw there also, after a day's acquaintance with its inmates, the ghost of the woman for whose shame and death his particular ancestor was responsible, and died himself as a consequence of the vision before many days. The subject, touching the spiritual evasively, is one for which
Mr. James has shown a more than occasional fondness, and one can imagine how, if treated in his latest manner, the sense of mystery would have been deepened by a different finish, by retention throughout of the tragic numbness with which the story opens. Except the "Pilgrim" there is nothing in this nine years that would be seriously missed from the author's work; nothing, despite retouching, which produces its essential features.
In 1875 appeared "Roderick Hudson," his first long novel, characteristic of the work to follow in the fifteen years which we will call for the sake of definition his middle period, covering the volumes by which he is generally estimated and best known. But "Roderick Hudson" marks a significant extension of the author's interest across the Atlantic, and it is something in favor of our "periods" that whereas America supplies themes for the first, the second is essentially European, while the third scarcely wanders from English soil. Also that handling of the supernatural which figures so prominently in his earlier and later stories finds in the "middle period" no place at all; and the contrast in national temperament, which So frequently affords a subject in that middle period, disappears in the more subtle scrutiny which marks the last. The story of Roderick Hudson is in fact immersed in the shadow of such a contrast: a contrast between Massachusetts and Rome, the New World and the Old, the Puritan aloofness of Mary Garland and the voluptuous Paganism of Christina Light.
Roderick, weak brilliant unhappy Roderick, passes between them, from a tepid satisfaction in the one, to breathless worship of the other. A speedy transit, for Roderick, though sprung from New England, was born to a wider heritage of the past than was Christina. She was beauty but
he was its priest. The story of the brief outburst and burning of his genius is admirably told. There is a tragic hint even in his first successes. He leaves port like some flimsy galleon under a great cloud of sail. One holds one's breath at its disastrous loveliness. And the catastrophe comes not from without but of his inherent weakness. Christina arrives in time to complete the wreckage, but she is not the cause of it. She is, on the contrary, responsible for the last leap of his genius. It is the inspiration of her beauty that breathes a final glow into the smouldering ashes of his capacity, and forces him by a final effort to burn himself out. After that only the tragic note is sounded, a note to which Christina unwillingly and unwittingly contributes. Poor Roderick's efforts to raise himself for a flight after losing the counterpoise of his inspiration resemble nothing so much as the pitiful comical winged somersaults of a bee whose body has been bitten off, and death comes to him as the least ruinous ending. The book is wonderfully complete for a writer's first sustained effort; wonderfully balanced and free from crudity, abounding in happy bits of portraiture and observation. Mrs. Hudson is the first of many ordinary middle-aged women whom the author has drawn with such curious appreciation and fidelity.
"She was excessively shy, and evidently very humble-minded; it was singular to see a woman to whom the experience of life had conveyed such scanty reassurance." "There was no space in her tiny maternal mind for complications of feeling, and one emotion existed only by turning another over flat and perching on top of it." "These were the reflections of a very shy woman, who, determining once in her life to hold up her head, was actually flying it like a kite."
Mary Garland is treated much less
definitely; hers is indeed almost one of those portraitures by omission for which Mr. James developed later such a liking. But then her life was so largely made up of omissions that she has a right to the method. Yet she is no less charmingly and more completely presented than magnificent Christina, whose likeness is rendered unavoidably lustrous by the radiation of her beauty.
"The American," which followed two years later, is another international novel, but the contrast is social, not artistic, a contrast between the New World with its naked millions and the proud penury of the old nobility of France. Christopher Newman, who had served an apprenticeship to most trades before making his fortune, sets his intentions more than his affections on Claire de Cintré, the daughter of a house that had looked forward to Charlemagne, and regards trade as somewhat more dully incompatible than crime with its traditions. The situation has obvious possibilities; obvious pitfalls too, of insistence and exaggeration. The author avoids these till near the finish, for Mrs. Bread and the melodramatic mystery of the Bellegardes must be considered one into which he has fallen. Newman, with his "look of being committed to nothing in particular, of standing in an attitude of general hospitality to the chances of life, of being very much at one's own disposal," is of a delightful type. He stands smiling, with his back very firmly set against his fortune, ready to admit any man, even a French Marquis, to be his equal, yet fully conscious how much of the pleasure and beauty of life lies outside his compass; shrewd, simple, tender and strong, a figure well worth drawing; and the old hotel in the Rue de l'Université throws it into almost violent relief. But the relief is attenuated by Valentin de Bellegarde, and the pert
little Marquise, both more modern than America itself, and he, frankly, ardently, gallantly alive, without money, morals, or the fear of death, is, as a type of manhood, no whit less attractive than Christopher Newman. Claire de Cintré is another portrait by omission; indeed, perhaps in no other of his characters has the author left so much in by leaving so much out. Nothing is explained, very little enumerated; we see her only as a vague figure in those forbidding halls, yet her memory remains as an exquisite fragrance when the vigor of the book is almost forgotten. And the book abounds in vigorous portraiture; the canvas is wonderfully well filled. Little M. Nioche and his audacious daughter are as perfectly seen and as excellently placed as Urbain de Bellegarde and his forbidding mother; and though the book may be most commonly esteemed for its sketch of the deadly serious pretension of life in the Faubourg St. Germain, its real value lies rather in its grip and coherent inclusion of a wide and moving scene. The unheralded melodrama of its close is a commentary on the criticism that, whatever may happen in Mr. James's novels, nothing comes of it. The truth being that the author occasionally in his earlier work displays almost a relish for violence in his conclusions.
In 1878 "Daisy Miller" and "The Europeans" were published, the one as widely quoted as the other is unknown. It was natural that so simple and dispassionate a study of the American maiden then looming into prominence -a maidenhood as lacking in the finer as in the fuller shades of feelingshould have commanded attention, but the extent to which "The Europeans" has escaped it seems unaccountable. It has all that one imagines a book needs to attract the unintelligent reader, and yet contains nothing that could distract the most fastidious. It is con