The result is that each of her stories is exactly like the last, and that much of her narrative is hopelessly uninteresting.

It does not matter, for instance, whether Frank Churchill "was most deedily occupied about Mrs. Bates's spectacles"; or that when "Mr. Woodhouse had drank his tea he was ready to go home"; or that Mr. Knightley's boys' "glowing faces showed all the benefit of a country run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast mutton and rice pudding they were hastening home for."

Nothing turns on these incidents, and they are not, in themselves, of any importance at all. But (says the devotee) look at the observation of life the marvellous record of detail! There is, it is true, observation of life; although it does not require exceptional powers of observation to have grasped the fact that children often have roast mutton and rice pudding for dinner, and that running makes them hungry. There is, it is true, much detail recorded; but it is unimportant detail. It is not the mere accumulation of detail that marks the artist; it is the selection of detail.

This, then, is the point at which we may, after much pondering, pause and contemplate Miss Austen's work with some sense that we approach it intelligently if perhaps clumsily.

Knitting needles are more interesting to her than bayonets, perhaps because she can understand the management of the knitting needle and watch it in action; but she cannot say the same of the bayonet. To a country walk she will devote all her attention; but more exciting incidents are of less value to her and her story.

Sir Thomas Bertram going in person to look after his West Indian estates, and risking capture by French cruisers, is a plucky and interesting figure; but he is not the Sir Thomas whom

Miss Austen admires. Sir Thomas, "his mind disengaged from the cares which had pressed on him at first" (putting a stop to some private theatricals) and plunging into the petty gossip of his village; or Sir Thomas "the life of the party seated around the fire," and, with "the best right to be the talker," becoming "communicative and chatty in a very unusual degree," is the man stripped of all that makes him interesting. But this is the Sir Thomas of Miss Austen.

All honor to her for not writing about what she did not understand. All honor to her for not trying to describe an imaginary mutiny at sea, an imaginary conspiracy of the colored folk, an imaginary tussle with a fraudulent agent, or an imaginary encounter with a French privateer.

But do not let us be so far led astray by our admiration for Miss Austen's reticence and veracity that we must needs claim that her subjects are all interesting; because they are not. Incidentally, and as a touch of life and manners, it is important to know that in the intensely respectable circle of Mansfield Park cards and dancing were encouraged, whilst private theatricals were forbidden. But the actual process of stopping the private theatricals is not interesting or amusing or important.

It must have been a dull world, after all. It appears to have been impossible for a gentleman to address words of the commonest civility to a lady without the gentlemen exchanging significant glances, whilst the ladies rallied their female friend on the evident partiality of dear Bingle for her society. The girls had the minds of odalisques. In childhood and youth they thought and talked all day long of nothing but men, and in maturer years of the men about whom their juniors were talking and thinking. At all ages they gossiped, gener

ally with spiteful intent. If, however, we once relinquish all idea of being interested, and sedulously guide ourselves with the bookmarker which a thoughtful publisher has provided for each volume of the charming edition now before me, we shall find Miss Austen's novels full of information.

But take this:

The progress of Catherine's unhappiness from the events of the evening was as follows. It appeared first in a general dissatisfaction with everybody about her, while she remained in the rooms, which speedily brought on considerable weariness and a violent desire to go home. This, on arriving in Pulteney Street, took the direction of extraordinary hunger, and when that was appeased, changed into an earnest longing to be in bed. Such was the extreme point of her distress: for when there she immediately fell into a sound sleep, which lasted nine hours, and from which she awoke perfectly revived, in excellent spirits, with fresh hopes and fresh schemes.

This is dreadful stuff; but it was written in 1798, four years after the appearance of the Mysteries, and when sleepless nights were considered appropriate to heroines. Miss Austen was probably thinking of such passages as "all the busy scenes of the past and the anticipated ones of the future came to her anxious mind and conspired with the sense of her new situation to banish sleep"; or "thus passed the night in ineffectual struggles between affection and reason, and she rose in the morning with a mind weakened and irresolute and a frame trembling with illness."

Miss Austen will have none of this. Her heroines are ordinary healthy young women who live the most ordinary lives imaginable, and they are perfectly drawn. Even SO Gerard Dou's cats are perfectly painted, even to the very iridescence of their whiskers. They are very bad cats, desti

tute of all the points that mark the good cat; and one cannot help wondering, was it worth while? Miss Austen in the rage of her mental revolt from the ideal of the sentimental agonized heroine has gone far. Her work has been variously described as "the very smallest of small beer," and as "the rather uninteresting doings and very uninteresting sayings of totally uninteresting people"; she has been called "the prose Wordsworth.”

There is much in these comments. Her self-imposed limitations compel her to chronicle small beer, and she chronicles it very industriously; but it remains small beer. As to the other comments which I have ventured to cite, the root of the matter is this: that the masculine element is altogether lacking in Miss Austen's work. It is, from begining to end, feminine in tone. To say that "she wrote like a lady" is intended for very high praise, especially when we consider the scandalous rubbish that people professing and calling themselves ladies have been contented to sign. But it undoubtedly implies a restricted range of vision, which, though highly creditable, defines her artistically.

As one result, her portraits of girls and women are more successful than her portraits of men. Her best portraits of men are the portraits of those whose lives were passed in circumstances completely under her observation-stay-at-homes, invalids, and tame cats. All these are admirable. The robuster types are mostly left in shadowy outline.

Her style suffers from restrictions similar to those which she imposed upon herself in regard to incident. Her stories move in a little circle-a country village, a seaport town, Bath-that is all. Her style-when she ruthlessly condemns herself to be dull-can thus be dulness itself. But also it can be as dainty and charming as any style

in which English is written. These lines, for instance the opening lines of Northanger Abbey:

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence, besides two good livings, and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters.

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There are innumerable passages like this which are a pleasure to read, merely for the grace and skill with which the English is handled. It would be idle to attempt to sketch the plot of any one novel, for there is practically no plot in the ten volumes of her works. Some trifling event, a dance or a dinner party, brings her characters together in situations where they can speak and act; and accordingly they speak and act until they separate. The abiding interest of all this charming trifling is the contrast between then and now; the observation of what went to make correct behavior, correct manners, and correct speech one hundred years ago, in contrast with the speech and manners of to-day.

For example: Mr. Lucas, a tradesman of Meryton, rose to be mayor and became Sir William. The type is familiar; but the way in which Miss Austen speaks of him is remarkable. "For though elated by his rank it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St. James's had made him courteous." Mr. Collins, a subservient person, married Sir William's daughter, and invited Sir

William to stay with him. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the patroness of Mr. Collins's living, an impertinent old lady, invited the entire household to dinner, on which Mr. Collins thus expressed himself:

I confess that I should not have been at all surprised by her ladyship's asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings. I rather expected, from my knowledge of her affability, that it would happen. But who could have foreseen such an attention as this? Who could have imagined that we should receive an invitation to dine there (an invitation, moreover, including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival?

"I am the less surprised at what has happened," replied Sir William, "from that knowledge of what the manners of the great really are, which my situation in life has allowed me to acquire. About the Court, such instances of elegant breeding are not uncommon."

The grovelling contentment of the man Collins, the imbecile gratification of Sir William, the massive impertinence of my lady, and the overpowering dulness of the party: which is the most remarkable?

They go to their dreary party, and this is what happens:

In spite of having been at St. James's Sir William was so completely awed by the grandeur surrounding him, that he had but just courage enough to make a very low bow, and take his seat without saying a word; and his daughter, frightened almost out of her senses, sat on the edge of her chair, not knowing which way to look.

The situation would be completely reversed to-day. It would be Lady Catherine who would be all civility in the hope of getting some sound financial information from Sir William; while Sir William would be slightly

patronizing and chiefly occupied in wondering with how cheap a “tip” he could pay for his dinner. As for the young lady, it is impossible to imagine any successful tradesman's daughter "frightened out of her wits" by a whole drawing-room full of Lady Catherines.

Miss Austen's novels are all equally charming; and each is exactly like its predecessor and successor. The titles have very little relation to the contents. Persuasion might equally well be called Dissuasion, and the whole series could be appropriately named 1, 2, 3, 10, without loss of coherence.

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There is no mistaking enthusiasm of this kind. The highest place is claimed, without any reserve, for Jane Austen. But how about the art of fiction declining from her through Scott and the others?

Surely these eminent men dwelt on different planes. To say that the art of fiction declined. in the way that Mr. Howells describes is not a substantial contribution to the inquiry, "Where are we to place Jane Austen?" It would be as sensible to say that the art of painting as Raphael knew it declined through Michael Angelo aud Holbein and Claude and Benjamin West and J. M. W. Turner and even George Du Maurier.

Nor, again, when we read a passage like the following, can we admit that

"Criticism and Fiction," p. 74.
"Criticism and Fiction," p. 76.

we are much advanced: "How, for instance, could people who had once known the simple verity, the refined perfection of Miss Austen, enjoy anything less refined and less perfect? With her example before them, why should not English novelists have gone on writing simply, honestly, artistically ever after?"

To ask these questions is merely to ask why, having once tasted sole, we should eat any other fish. There are many reasons: the salmon is less refined than the sole, but he is more sumptuous; the whiting is less perfect than the sole, but he is more dainty. And then as to honesty, et cetera. Are all English novelists dishonest, confused, inartistic?

In truth the author of Fiction and Criticism would have us take him for a critic; but he is a worshipper; and for the worshipper the thicker the cloud of incense the greater the merit of the act of devotion. We, who want to see the divinity face to face, would fain wait until the incense has arisen past the altar and the air is clear. And we are not to be deterred by being called "poor islanders," or by being told that we have "false theories and bad manners." Clearly we must give up all idea of being guided by Mr. Howells and decide for ourselves.

It need not be very hard. Miss Austen's work is good, but it is monotonous; it is dainty, but it is essentially feminine. We need not go far to find another artist with precisely these limitations in another art. Of whom can we say with truth that her work is graceful, correct, monotonous, and feminine? Obviously the sister artist to Jane Austen is Angelica Kauffmann.

In England a man who does not burn incense must expect to be called an iconoclast; appreciations are not wel

"Criticism and Fiction," p. 82.

comed. A's Miss Austen is now in the forefront of fashion, "iconoclast" is probably the mildest epithet that will be applied to me. I should not be surprised to find myself acclaimed as the Devil's Advocate. Let us consider, then, what Miss Austen herself recorded of her own limitations. Nothing can be more interesting, for she was the least conceited of mortals and incapable of self-deception. She once received an intimation from an exalted quarter that portraits of learned clergymen would be appreciated. It is what might have been expected. From the way in which the Church is spoken of in her books it is clear that, as an institution, it commanded the respect and affection of the country, and yet the clergymen to whom we are introduced are slight and ordinary creatures. This is not consistent; and it is but natural that Miss Austen's admirers, perceiving how admirably she drew trivial people, should urge her to attempt greater work. She excuses herself in the following terms:

I am quite honored by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as you gave the sketch of in your note. But I assure you I am not. The comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man's conversation must at times be on subjects of science and philosophy, of which I know nothing, or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations

The Nineteenth Century and After.

and 'allusions, which a woman who, like me, knows only her mother tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A classical education or, at any rate, a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any justice to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be with all possible vanity the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.

This diffidence in reply to a very flattering invitation is truly refreshing. Nowadays an author, without receiving any invitation at all, is prepared to "get up" a subject, a city, a language, or an epoch, and to coin his information into shekels of silver (and even of gold) at the shortest notice, and very often does so with sufficient accuracy to deceive the unlearned to his, and their, mutual comfort. Assuredly there is nothing dishonest in the process; on the contrary, it is sound business, and very good business; but then it is business and not art. Miss Austen would have none of it, and her refusal to move out of the path where she trod so confidently and gracefully is not only refreshing in itself, but particularly fortifying to one who has ventured to indicate her place in the world of art and who discovers it to be the place that she had chosen for herself.

Walter Frewen Lord.


Oh, heart of mine! hast thou forgot
The sands in moonlight stretching gray

About the silver bend of bay?

Laughter and love are forgotten not!

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