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readable by us now) full of sentiment, full of youthful exuberance, enthusiasm, magnificence, which are always dear and sublime to youth. When Bulwer gave forth the lofty splendour of those high-flown passions and sorrows, we too were highflown, and revelled in the lofty diction and elevation of sentiment in which there was more than genius — which embodied in its first fervour and reality that Youth which he always looked back upon with such warmth of regretful admiration. And yet no man had less occasion to regret his youth. From the exuberance of that period of poetry, the "years that bring the philosophic mind" matured and developed his rare gifts into something greater and broader than the most enthusiastic admirer of his early genius could have hoped. The author of the "Caxtons," and of the cycle of noble works which followed — first produced, we are proud to remember, in the pages of this Magazine — made proof of something more than genius,— of that large knowledge of things and men which only experience of the world, and the facilities for observing it possessed by a man to whom all circles are open, could have given. Men to whom the thoughts and projects of a statesman are familiar as those of a poet, who are deeply acquainted with the laws that act upon society as well as of those that influence the individual mind, are, by the nature of things, of very rare occurrence among us. But Lord Lytton added to the inspiration of nature almost everything that experience could give him. It was equally easy to him to place upon his canvas the Nestor of society, the wise man of the world, learned and skilful in all emergencies, and the noble vagabond incapable of any wisdom at all but that taught by generosity and love; the statesman, heavily weighed, and full of the responsibilities of Government, and the light-hearted youth of fashion, acknowledging no responsibility; the duke and the cobbler; the bookworm and the rural squire. This wide range gave him an extent of power which we think no other writer of the day has reached. He is the most brilliant of story-tellers, the most com
prehensive of social philosophers. His glance takes in all society, not to find out its defects, not to represent its humours only, with no specialty of class or purpose, but with a large and extended vision, less intense, perhaps, than that of some writers in a more limited circle, but broader and fuller than any. His was not the faculty which preaches or criticises, which takes public grievances or individual hardships as a foundation for fiction, or works in illustration of a principle. Lord Lytton's art was of a broader, older, more primitive description—it was the art which represents. Human creatures acting upon no given standard, working out no foregone conclusion, appear to us in his brilliant pages. He neither selects the odd and the eccentric, like one of his great rivals, nor sets himself forth as an anatomist of human motive, like another; but, while giving its corner to eccentricity and a due importance to the unseen workings of the mind, lays in the lines of his broader landscape, his larger outlines of form, with a humanity which outreaches and transcends the specialties of purpose. It is characteristic of this breadth and humanness of his mind, that there should be so strong a distinction between his earlier and his later works; for in his youth he was young, as other men are young, with all the defects of his age — and in his maturity he was mature, with all the widened views, the deeper conceptions, that belong to advancing life,— more serious, more tolerant, more understanding of all difficulties and heartaches, more humorous in kindly, keen appreciation of mental peculiarities and freaks, more tenderly sorrowful, more softly gay.
No man could possess this varied and sympathetic reputation who had been prudent enough to act upon the famous rule which enjoins an author to keep a work by him so many years before he prints it. Had Bulwer done this, "Pelham" and his earlier works would never have appeared at all; and though probably, in that case, his reputation in the abstract would have been higher, it would have been of a totally different kind. As it was, he was rash enough to pour his early utterances into the world warm and swift as they came from his lips, and he had his recompense accordingly. To many critics he has been the object of unsparing attack; he has represented the sentimental, the high-flown, the shammagnificent, in many a popular diatribe; and some voices usually worth listening to have denied him genius altogether, moved no doubt by the promptings of a more mature taste and graver 'judgment than that which revels in the fine distresses of Godolphin and Maltravers. But with all these drawbacks his reward has been in proportion to the generous rashness with which he gave all that was in him to the world. There was a day in which Godolphin and Maltravers were splendid to us also. We have outgrown that day, and so did their author; but we like him the better for having been young with us, foolish with us. No splendour of maturity could quite replace this sympathetic bond. Goethe's "Meister," saved up till the man was old, and meaning had gone out of it, is a cold and dreary puzzle even to those who love Goethe best; but Bulwer's Meisters, sent forth red-hot out of the glowing youth that produced them, woke other youths to an enthusiasm which men smile at, but do not forget. There is thus a compensation to the hasty, to the bold, to those writers who cannot always, be thinking of their reputation, and who give out what is in them with prodigality, as the fountain flows. They may not win the crown of perennial excellence; but it is something to lay hold of the sympathy of your contemporaries, to be young and to grow old with them, and to feel thus a silent multitude by your side as you go forward in the inevitable race.
Lord Lytton's books divide themselves naturally into various classes, all exhibiting distinct phases and developments of his mind. He has himself so arranged them, indeed, in the later editions issued under his supervision; and we will consider them according to his classification. There are stories of life and manners; historical romances; tales of magic and mystery; and what for want of a better title we may call romances of crime. The last and greatest group of his mature
works — or perhaps it would be now right to say, the last group but one, since there yet remains, beyond the ground of criticism which we have chosen, another mystic Three, the almost posthumous children of his genius—belongs emphatically to the first class; but yet is so clearly distinct from all his earlier productions, that we reserve it for discussion by itself. Among the novels of society published in his earlier years, "Pelham " is the greatest as well as the first. It was followed by "Godolphin," the "Disowned," the two novels which embody the fortunes of Maltravers, and the exaggerated but admirably-constructed and powerful story of "Night and Morning." All these works profess to afford us a picture of society, and the manner in which certain characters make their way through it. The " Disowned," it is true, belongs to a somewhat earlier age than our own; but as it is not treated with any attempt at archieological correctness, it may fairly be considered among the novels of contemporary life. These, then, compose the first class of their author's productions. We have said that Bulwer's Meisters came forth red-hot and glowing out of the delightful foolishness of his youth; but we confess that there may be many readers who will fail to see any resemblance between the young heroes whom he conducts through so many lively and stormy scenes, and the dreamy being to whose apprenticeship and journeyman experience of life the great German gave so much toil and trouble. A closer glance, however, will show the resemblance to which — in, we think, the preface to " Maltravers " — our author himself refers. His invariable aim is, through many diversities of circumstances, to exhibit to us an apprenticeship— a training in the School of Life, with the results naturally arising from it. Love, it may be said, is the paramount inspiration and interest of each; but yet love itself is but one of the educational processes through which the subject of the story is perfected. And in every case success and reputation are the rewards which the author allots to his creations. The alternative of failure never seems to have occurred to him. As he endows them with every gift to begin with — personal beauty, genius, culture, courage, readiness and determination— so he makes their progress triumphant through a subjugated -world. Success is the very condition of their existence; even the poetical trifler who does nothing, manages by mere doing of nothing to attract to himself the eyes of the world, and acquires a reputation for which there is no cause that we can see except the young author's delightful certainty of success — the tradition of fame and glory which has become inevitable in his mind. We do not say that success is his god, for this would be to give but a weak and ineffectual description of his prevailing sentiment. Success is his atmosphere — he understands nothing else, believes in nothing else. That all those paths by which his young heroes — shadows of his own buoyant and intense self-consciousness — set out over the earth, must lead one way or another to glory, is a simple necessity of nature to him. He is not even influenced by the fact that the reader wills it so, and that — howsoever the true lover of art or the true student of human nature may prefer that fiction should accommodate itself to the more ordinary rules of actual life —the public loves above everything else "a happy ending." No such secondary cause affects the young Buhver. He too, like the public, abominates failure — nay, he is incapable of it; it does not come within the limit of misfortunes possible to his nature. His young men succeed as he does, as they breathe, by sheer necessity of being. In this point he differs from all other modern writers, most of whom, bound by the timidity of less daring natures, or disabled by the sneers of criticism, allow in general that heroes, like other men, must content themselves with a modest level of good fortune, and cannot all hope to reach the very empyrean of success. But Bulwer allows no such limitation. He will have the highest round on the ladder, the brightest crown within reach. His diplomatist must subdue all opposition; his author must fill the world with his renown ; his adventurer must conquer fame and fortune; his very dreamer, as we have said, must attract to himself the universal attention, wonder, curiosity, and admiring envy of the world.
"Pelham, which is the best of his early works, is the most striking instance of this characteristic. It is not necessary
that we should reintroduce to the reader the most delightful of coxcombs, the most triumphant of dandies — that fine Jleur of social humbug and falsity, who, notwithstanding his Chesterfieldian training and universal irresistibility, is yet a true friend and a true lover, and altogether worthy of his good fortune. The consummate skill with which so young a writer managed to mingle these most different attributes — to make us perfectly aware of the illimitable powers of management, flattery, and even polite lying, so gaily exercised by his hero, and yet to retain our respect for his real virtue, is one of the greatest triumphs ever won in literature. We do not remember any other leading character in fiction so entirely artificial, yet so true. Pelham's faithlessness, his astounding fibs, his self-adaptation to every sort of man — not to say woman; his perfect toleration of any code of morals, or rather no morals; his clear realization that politics are a craft to live by, and the world in general an oyster to be opened, — which almost in any other hands would disgust and repel the reader, are hear so skilfully interwoven with the real honour of the man, his disinterestedness, his readiness to serve and help, his power of just reflection and courageous action, that all our moralities are silenced on our lips. If any of Sir Walter's virtuous heroes had committed himself by one-tenth part of the adventures through which Pelham moves so lightly, what depths of ignominy and remorse would he have dropped into! Even Mr. Thackeray's careless young man, whom he laughs'at and quizzes through three volumes, could not venture upon half the humbug resorted to by Pelham, without losing the little hold he has upon our regard. But so judicious is the combination, so spirited the embodiment of this typical man of the world, that we accept "him as we would have accepted him had we known him in person, acknowledging all his artificiality, his insincerity, his dauntless determination to make himself agreeable at any cost, without letting these peccadilloes at all affect our admiration of himself and of the real fund of merit in his character. This is almost a contradiction to what we have said above of the youthfulness of Bulwer's earliest works; for such a mingling of good and evil is the last thing which youth recognizes as possible, in most cases. That he had even in his earliest beginning so much of a higher insight as enabled him to realize this profoundest truth of human nature, is perhaps as great a testimony to his power as anything that could be said.
But to return to the consideration with which we started — Pelham is the very impersonation of success. Over the whole book there is diffused a subdued radiance of continual triumph. Be it the scholar's shrewish wife or the grancie dame in a Parisian salon, be it the clever rogue or the philosophical and titled voluptuary, wherever Mr. Pelham tries his inimitable powers he must overcome all obstacles. With a whisper, with a look, with a well-timed compliment, he subdues every one whom he encounters. Nothing comes amiss to him; and the certainty of inevitable triumph is so strong in his mind that he hesitates at no exertion of his skill, whether great or small, whether arduous or easy. This unbounded confidence in himself makes him enter unknown and with few introductions the most brilliant circles in Paris, calmly certain to win all the laurels possible — and leads him secure through the labyrinth of the thieves' den in London. Probably, with the mixture of daring and coolness peculiar to him, he would consider the perils of the last the least alarming of the two. A vulgarminded observer might call Pelham's confidence impudence; but it is not impudence: it is the delightful sense of a good fortune which has never failed him; which he indeed deserves, but which no man ever secures by merely deserving it. His luck is simply unbounded. If at any time it may happen to him to be disconcerted or even discomfited for a moment, out of that very discomfiture will come the means of Success. Success — always Success! He is one of those born to rule the world, and to turn every stream into the channel that suits him; and perhaps this very consciousness is the one that most powerfully influences us in our admiration for him. We go forth with him in the fullest confidence, knowing that however discouraging the circumstances may appear, they will but whet the courage and make more conspicuous the triumph of our hero. How dexterously he manages Lord Guloseton — how he humours Job Jonson !— how he wins over even Mrs. Clutterbuck! He is gaily invincible without effort, without overstrain. He cannot be beaten —his own pride and his author's alike forbid it. Pelham was born but to conquer.
The same thing is true, though in a
less degree, wfth the followers of this first triumphant hero. The disowned son, Clarence Linden, makes for himself a position in the world which his elder and undistinguished brother, heir to all the family honours, might well envy. Maltravers acquires a European fame. Godolphin wins his countess, wealth, honour, every thing that heart can aspire to; and even Philip Morton, after the wild and theatrical heroics of his youth, reaps such a harvest of honours as fall to the lot of few. The author cannot bear to offer to his children any reward less perfect — it is their birthright. The very fact of so many men and women of genius all appearing together about the same period of the world's history — all fluttering the dovecots of social quiet, and winning wondrous honours, above all and everywhere success, is the strangest thing to realize. The critic, if he had the heart, would demand some counterpoise to all this brightness; and here and there such a counterpoise is, indeed, afforded to us in the blighted splendour of Glanville, and the melodramatic misfortunes of Mordaunt. But with these fine personages we have not sympathy enough to accept them as shadows in the picture — they are not half so lifelike, nay, they are dead as mummies beside our inimitable dandy, our knight of universal conquest. This is the great fundamental distinction of the young Bulwer's heroes. They are all successful men. Sometimes they are practical and enjoy their success; sometimes they are sentimental and despise it: but at least they come out invariable winners out of every struggle. It is the condition of their existence that they succeed.
And by the side of these accomplished heroes, so fertile in resource, so fortunate in friends, so gifted in conversation, what a curious apparition is that of the old man of the world, whom the author loves to introduce, not by way of obvious moral, yet surely with a certain sense of the obverse of the picture, and consciousness that the darker side of worldliness should somehow be brought into evidence! The sketch of Savile in " Godolphin." for instance, is one of singular vividness and force. He is not an old villain like Lord Lilburn in " Night and Morning," but only a perfectly suave, irreproachable Epicurean, occupied about his personal comfort as the younger men are about their progress and reputation, and following that grand aim with a steadfastness, which becomes respectable by dint of mere continuance, and grows into something like a moral quality in its perfect seriousness and good faith. Savile's death, which is accomplished with perfect calm and coolness — the philosopher being determined to retain his comfort to the last moment, and dying quite undisturbed by any invasions of the emotional or spiritual — is a curious conception to have occurred to a young man. It has, we believe, a deeper truth to nature than the more amiable dreams with which the imagination of mankind, always pitiful of the last scene in a tragedy, has surrounded the conventional deathbed. That the approach of death must awaken emotions of a profound and penetrating character is one of the delusions which nothing but experience will banish from the general mind: and it will always seem incredible that a man should be able to die without thinking of God and of the judgment to come. For this reason the picture of the death-bed of the philosophical man of the world, so strictly in accordance with his life, is not only a very original and striking sketch, but manifests the existence in the young writer, even at this early period, of that profound and searching curiosity (to call it by no higher name) into the last issues and mysteries of life and death which afterwards tempted him into the realms of Magic and Mystery, and seems during his whole life to have existed with unusual strength and persistency within him. When we find him at so early a period tracking the steps of his worldly sage down into the last darkness, we can understand better his fanciful investigations into the mystery of the life elixir in later days; ancl the strange and weird impersonation of that thirst for mere existence which could buy life even by the sacrifice of soul, with which he astonished and troubled many readers further on in his career. Already, amid all the glow and exuberance of youth, amid the throng of the young heroes, victorious in love, in war, in diplomacy, and in song, with whom the young author sweeps along triumphant, had this wonder seized him. Not the wonder and curiosity, so common to men, as to what must occur when the last boundary line is passed, and we ourselves have entered upon the new existence beyond death with all its incomprehensible changes. Bulwer's curiosity takes a different form. His mind instinctively selects that type of being which it is most difficult to translate in imagination either into the beatitudes of heaven
or the torments of a conventional hell. That wise, keen, cultivated, unloving intelligence, which up to its last moment of mortal breath is visibly as individual, as potent in its self-concentration, as clearsighted and as dauntless as in its prime, what an amazing mystery is its disappearance beyond our ken and vision! This, we feel, is not such stuff as either angels or devils are made of — and what then? It is curious in the very first rejoicing outburst of romance to catch this first tone of the wonder which seems to have haunted his life and beguiled him into much study, and perhaps some credulity, in his later days.
Bulwer, however, always retained a fondness for the character which no other hand has drawn so well, — that of the accomplished, polished, able, experienced, clear-sighted, and selfish man of the world ; with amiability but without heart; possessing no moral code save that which enjoins upon members of society the necessity of not being found out, and no spiritual consciousness of any kind. He grew more merciful as lie grew older, ripening this same impersonation into warmer and kinder and more human shape, replacing the Savile of his remorseless youth with the Alban Morley of mellower days ; but it always remained one of his favourite characters, and it seems to us unquestionably one of his best. It is our natural standard, the ideal upon which we fall back when we wish to identify the philosopher of society; just as Pelham has been, for more than one generation, consciously or unconsciously, the model of the brilliant young diplomatist, the splendid neophyte of a school of politicians which we fear is dying out among us — a class of men educated not only at school and college, but by constant and much diversified studies in life, and inheriting the worldly wisdom and knowledge of men acquired by dieir fathers, the training of a race.
Something of the moral curiosity which we have attributed to Bulwer in respect to the last mystery of existence, no doubt moved him to the composition of those stories which we have called Romances of Crime. To trace out, through the dismal tragedy of Eugene Aram, how the mind of a scholar could be moved to the meanness of robbery ancl brutality of murder, is a morbid exercise of this great sentiment, and the effect to ourselves is a most disagreeable one, characterized by all the faults and few of the merits of the author's peculiar genius; but yet it is a