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a pact with evil, but a struggle against it. I istence - an expedient possible to anThe first step of initiation consists in the other kind of intelligence — he made a banishment of all corrupt thoughts, all series of remarkable efforts to escape on desire after the pleasures of the flesh. the other side by demonstrating it to be These mystic neophytes are like the vir- within the reach of ordinary human agengin-knights of Christian legend watching cies, cultivated to their highest point. their consecrated arms all night amid as- How far he succeeded in this attempt is a saults and temptations of every kind, ere totally different question ; but to ourthey ventured to put on the armour and selves it is impossible to accept “Zanoni” take their place among proved warriors. and a “Strange Story" as mere freaks of
This novel rendering of an old dream genius - the wild outpouring of a morbid is one of the most remarkable develop-fancy. The one book has a distinct relaments of the author's individuality and tion to the other. It is the obverse of independence of thought. Not half-a- | the medal ; and by the very effort and dozen, perhaps, of the many readers who strain of the contrast proves how strong have been thrilled by that most wonder- I a hold this theory had of the author's ful of ghost-stories, " The House and the mind. Brain, afterwards published under the In the curious impersonation of Martitle of “ The Haunted and the Haunters," I grave, Lord Lytton has developed an idea but has felt a certain annoyance and re-l altogether new to modern art. His leadsentment at the latter part of the story- ing thought here is to represent the effect the "attempt to explain,” as people say, of a mere vulgar love of life, as life, upon and to bring down the wildly marvellous a corrupt and selfish, yet powerful intelliwithin the reach of material means and gence. He gives us a glimpse of a fiery, ordinary reason. We confess to having presumptuous spirit, with no moral reshared the feeling; and yet no feeling straint upon its actions, and with an incould be more unreasonable - for the satiable desire for existence and enjoywhole aim and object of the author is this ment, which, after wearing out in wild inso-called explanation. For this he weaves dulgence and passion the single human his net of wonder before our eyes, for life alotted to it, finds suddenly within this summons out of the teeming dark- its grasp, by help of crime, treachery, ness those pale shapes of mystery – and murder, the means of indefinitely those luminous shadows. His object, prolonging, or rather resuming, that life from beginning to end, is to prove - or - means which it seizes remorselessly. to attempt to prove that human nature But the renewed life thus secured, being may possess itself of the secrets of the sought from the lowest motives, and by unseen, and that without guilt, or even the most guilty and cruel means, instead presumption — that the clue to all that of elevating, debases its possessor. It mystic labyrinth of unknown powers and gives him the most brilliant outward apintelligences is in our hands, if we but pearance of youth, and stimulates all his chose to seize and follow it — that this superficial gifts and the meaner and crustrange and awful knowledge may be eller parts of his intellectual nature ; but turned to purposes of the highest benev- it takes his manhood from him, and all olence; and, so far from being necessari- the special characteristics of humanity. ly a “black art,” may be the instrument He becomes a splendid, beautiful, engagof the highest purity and perfection. It ing, and destructive animal, without heart, is this which gives its originality among sympathy, or capacity for affection. In modern works, and in the realm of poetry, short, he is made into the Faun of classic to “ Zanoni." We are not in a position to romance -a creature to whom life, air, inform the reader whether Lord Lytton sunshine, mere existence, is everything; really believed in the possibility of such whose universe is concentrated in itself, an attainment; but, whether he had any and who neither knows nor understands personal faith in it or not, here is his the- nor aspires to anything beyond the wild ory - and that it was a favourite theory and somewhat foolish whirl of physical with him no reader of his works will enjoyment in which its empty days are doubt. Probably we would state it more spent. In one of the most poetical efforts clearly were we to say that his eager, high- of recent fiction, Mr. Hawthorne set forth toned, and impatient mind, impatient of | before us the means by which a native boundary or limit anywhere, had difficulty | Faun of the Italian woods was charmed in allowing anything to be supernatural : and stung by the terrible realities of life and as it was impossible for him to escape into manhood - a picture of which most from the supernatural by denying its ex- readers have acknowledged the fantastic but genuine power. We do not think that works of mystic meaning — works whicha the same justice has been done to Lord to the minds of many, represent rather a Lytton's equally powerful -- and let us momentary aberration of genius than any allow equally fantastic – conception. Yet serious thought or purpose. To our own Lord Lytton's has so far the advantage mind, however, they represent a very imover the other that there is a profound portant feature of Lord Lytton's peculiar moral involved in the wild story. Many and individual organization. His strong a nameless minstrel, and some of the conviction that no kind of knowledge greatest of poets, have used their powers ought to be forbidden, and that all kinds to show to us the misery of that lofty of knowledge ought to be pursued in a loneliness of soul in which the man pos- | noble and lofty way, not for selfish ends sessed of supernatural power is elevated or individual gratification, whether that above his fellows. In the greatest of all of the body or the spirit, is to our thinkthe fictions which have been woven about ing even more clearly embodied in these this mysterious theme, it has been the works than is the natural tendency of an poet's object to mock the contemptible imaginative and aspiring mind towards the pettiness of that world of coarse magic marvellous and unaccountable. Everyand debased spirits through which Faust body is aware of, and many have smiled storms in scornful greatness of his hu- at, the interest which he is known to have manity. But no one has shown us how taken in the so-called spiritual manifestahumanity itself may be debased by a con- tions which are still so hotly discussed nection altogether lawless and selfish with among us, and about the nature of which the supernatural. The character of Mar- opinions are as much, or more divided grave throughout is wonderfully consist than ever. Most of us, however, by way ent and striking. He is not a man: un- of making up to ourselves for the exagder the guise of manhood, does not the gerated respect which we pay to the reader perceive at once the strange earth-guesses of Science, permit ourselves an ly being — earthly, yet with no real sym- absolute licence of contempt for the pathetic relation to the earth, playful, ca guesses in another direction, even when ressing, and cruel as a young tiger, sense- the latter are much more naturally synless as the merest brute, frivolous, giddy, pathetic to our minds. The truth which and volatile, more peevish than a child, concerns us in our lives is probably as more destructive than any fabulous ogre ? little affected by the one kind of specuWe submit that no critic and few readers lation as by the other. But poetry must have done full justice to the weird con- always have infinitely more to do with ception. Most of the comments upon the vagaries of the Spiritualist, and even the work have been occupied with the im- of the Magician, than with the ghastly probability of the machinery, and above dreams of anatomy; and for our own all with the unsatisfactoriness of the “ex-part we cannot but recognize in Lord planations." The Cauldron in the last Lytton's “Strange Story" at once a fine chapter and the gigantic Foot which pene- and curious poetical conception, and the trates into the magic circle, have quite illustration of an interesting theory. obliterated the real meaning and power Right or wrong, this theory was very dear of the strange tale. Perhaps now, when to his mind : and it is evident that he we who are Lord Lytton's contemporaries considered it capable of conveying a lofty have suddenly become, by the touch of and powerful moral lesson – a lesson that Death which has removed him from which he teaches in other ways, with our midst, that Posterity which is the final many an iteration, and to which, as one judge of all art - justice may be done to of the leading principles of his genius, the highly wrought and everywhere con- we shall recur again. sistent idea of the “Strange Story." The The group of historical novels is one one passion which remains in the Faun- which it is somewhat difficult to discuss Man, the absorbing and devouring eager- except at length — and to discuss them at ness of his search for the means of pre- length would be beyond the possibilities serving life, throws a tragic light upon of our space. They are all conscientious his last appearance; but even in the and careful performances, founded upon tragedy there is nothing which ennobles. a principle much more thorough than that It is a wild, strange mixture of Intellect which is to be found in most historical and Animalism at which we gaze and novels. Lord Lytton informs us more wonder; it is no longer a man.
than once in his prefaces that he does not The reader may perhaps think that we take up a historical period as a help to give disproportionate importance to these / fiction, but deliberately, and of set pur. pose, uses fiction as a means of illustrat- | but he has not the power to transport us ing history, and making its facts more there. vivid and easily realized. He does not It requires some boldness, however, to take the costume of a past century to give make this assertion in face of the fact character and interest to one of those or- that none, we believe, of Lord Lytton's dinary human romances which abound in novels have been more popular than his all periods, but he employs the lantern of historical series. The Last Days of his special art as a means of illuminating Pompeii,” for instance, a sketch all glorithe obscurity of the past, and repeating ous with purple and gold, all glowing with the curious lessons of history, with the sentiment and passion, with music and additional effect which may be given by song, had “the good fortune to be so the livelier portrait-painting and more general a favourite with the public ” that dramatic interest of art. This serious the author felt himself spared the task of aim we may allow that he has carried out making any comment upon it in the prefwith grace and dignity. But perhaps ace to his collected edition. And this because Art declines the secondary place popularity, so far as we are aware, con- perhaps that a warmer inspiration is tinues ; and we do not remember any necessary to transport us bodily into a other attempt to make the manners of different age, and give us a living interest that far-distant period visible to modern in the heroes and heroines whose lan-readers which is at all equal in power to guage and manners are so unlike our own the glowing scenes through which the
- these careful and elaborate studies lay gentle image of the blind Nydia wanders, but little hold upon the reader. The fact and in which Glaucus and his friends that the student of history may be war-feast and revel. The art of the novelist ranted in depending upon them, in re- has here been so highly acknowledged as ceiving them as aids to the heavier vol- to connect itself even with the solemn umes from which he draws his lore, is a ruins of the disinterred city, and has give fact to which we bow with infinite re-en a name to the house, once distinspect, but which does not otherwise affect guished as that of the “ Dramatic Poet," our appreciation of these volumes as but which now, to all its English visitors works of art. No such certainty could at least, is the house of Glaucus. The be predicated of “ Ivanhoe,” which runs same may be said of the fine and careful away with us, and carries us straight into study of Rienzi, which the author had the the lists at Ashby, breathless, without satisfaction of seeing translated into Italtime to ask whether it is correct or not. ian, and diligently studied in the land to Lord Lytton is, no doubt, correct in the which it was naturally most interesting. main, in his reference to the singular He had even the further gratification of faithfulness with which Shakespeare him- believing that his work had been instruself, the first of all poetical models, ad- mental in “restoring the great Tribune hered to the old chronicles from which to his long-forgotten claims on the love he drew so many of his plots; but Lord and reverence of the Italian land" - a Lytton himself is an evidence that our real and high reward such as at all times great poet was not always so faithful, and goes to the heart of the artist. The two that the fierce partisanship which dictated fine pictures drawn from English history his picture of “crook-back Richard ” has of “Harold” and the “ Last of the Barestablished an image in our minds which ons," should be still more popular on no array of facts, and no gentle illumina- English ground. The very names, howtion of fiction, can ever undo. This devia-ever, of all these works show the strictly tion on the part of Shakespeare from his- historical character which their author has torical accuracy makes the counter inspi- chosen for them. The catastrophe of ration of those who follow him in the path each is a public and historical catastroof history all but futile — for the reason, phe. In " Ivanhoe," on the contrary, our we suppose, that Shakespeare's Richard interest is centred in a group of private is so entirely real and living that the ac- persons, with whose fate no doubt the tual Richard, being dead, has no more legendary fortunes of the lion-hearted chance against him than has the dead lion king are involved, but who have no place of the proverb. To this point of inspira- otherwise in the annals of their time. tion our author (we need not say— for The Templar and the Jewess are pure who has ever created like Shakespeare ?)|creations of romance, and their fate is does not attain. He presents us with an brought about by the same agencies which often brilliant, always careful, learned, work in the Greek drama and in the modand able picture of the time he illustrates, ern poem. It is not any vast convulsion
of the country, no historical crisis which many a triumphant proof on both sides, cuts the knot of their distresses. But to show that it must, and that it could Lord Lytton has made a different selec- not be. We recollect even, with the hot tion of materials. He has taken in every confidence of youth, pledging our own case a period of history which is summed discrimination, save the mark! against up and concluded with tragic complete- the possibility that an author so long beness in some great downfall; the last of fore the world, and, according to the the barons, the last of the Saxon kings, judgment of adolescence, worn out althe last of the Tribunes - even the last ready, could be the writer of anything so days of the doomed city. Thus, as he fresh, so full of life, so original, and so himself says, he allows History to choose | pure. The impression made by the the complications of his tragedy, and has “Caxtons” at the moment of its appearevery event mapped out before him inde- ance, was not less than that made by the pendent of his creating will. Upon no real first work of a great author, which secondary group whom he is free to deal appeared — we may be allowed some natwith as he pleases does he direct our atural pride in saying - in these same tention, but boldly fixes upon Harold pages some years after, the “Scenes himself, upon Warwick, upon the noble of Clerical Life." It is a most curious revolutionary of mediæval Rome. This is and indeed unaccountable fact, that the bold — and it is perhaps wise in a histori- painful and unfortunate “Lucretia " was cal point of view -- but we doubt if it is a product of about the same period, and advantageous in point of Art. Fiction, of powers equally matured ; and that bepoetry, does not love to be fettered ; and fore the din of disapproval which waited the stronger the bonds of historical accu- that performance had died away, the racy, the less easy are the movements of author was called upon to receive the the wayward handmaid who loves no laurels of a new and anonymous reputabondage at all. We doubt, therefore, tion. He did not keep the public long whether the highest spontaneity of origi- in suspense : and the fame thus won by nal work can be conjoined with so stern universal acknowledgment became his an adherence to historical truth, or highest and surest claim to immortality. whether anything beyond what Lord Lyt- All that went before has fallen into secton has certainly attained - a careful, ondary importance in comparison with elaborate, conscientious representation, this later group of contemporary novels. sometimes brilliant, always admirable in The splendid heroics and vast successes its way, but seldom inspiring us with any of his youth, the mystic conceptions of absolute sense of reality - could be hoped his weird imagination, and those burrowfor by this mode of treatment. Our his-ings into cause and effect which led him torical knowledge – or rather our vivid to examine crime as well as mystery — perception of the history we know - is have all been thrown into the shade by no doubt quickened and animated, and the larger, mellower, broader pictures of that is a result worth the labour ; but the an art which had purified itself from its general world has not widened round us, native exaggeration, and to which true nor has any new man or woman taken humour and the tenderest pathos had possession of our mind and fancy. The come with time. Bulwer had been first result is good — but it is not the highest among the magicians of a score of prethat might have been obtained.
| vious years; but now Bulwer was beaten We are not aware how long was the — by Lytton. Wonderful strife and pause between the last production of Lord most singular victory! There is a size and Lytton in what we may call his first pe- greatness and poetical force about the one riod, and the singular outburst of devel- which was not to be seen in the other. oped and mature power of which the world This is the first point of difference that became sensible in the “ Caxtons." We strikes us. It is the world itself that has are old enough to remember the first ap-grown and widened out, and filled into pearance of that wonderful book. The vaster horizons; there are more people questions, the bold replies, the whis- in it, and more varieties of people. There pered suggestions as to its authorship, is more emotion, and that of a nobler and which resembled so pathetically the more generous kind. We cannot say questions and answers lately hazarded that there is more talk, for conversation touching the same author's last produc-had never been wanting in vast quantity ; tion. “Bulwer !” “No, impossible! it but how much the very talk has widened cannot be Bulwer," said the whole world - growing playful, natural, genial, inof readers, debating the question, with stead of pedantic, or high-flown, as it used to be! What a difference! More shaken ; the apprenticeship must be carsky, more earth, more and bigger people. Tried out, through what changed circumNo longer the stock triumphs and stock stances soever the training has to be acdifficulties of old ! but now spontaneous complished. This leading and favourite human complications through which the idea is never abandoned. It is to be disnew personages struggle hardly, not al- covered in everything Lord Lytton wrote. ways having the best of it. Such was But how fine and how curiously the new world which opened to us in the widened out as we have said, from all the “Caxtons,” and which England received traditions of his earlier life, is the first with acclamations, seeing itself as in a group which he sets before us! Instead a glass — yet not itself, something nobler, of the little round of worldlings, the flutbetter, more beautiful. The effect hastering fashionables, the calm and polished lasted, though the one series of books, votaries of self, the pedants and the butlike the other, has long lost its novelty, terflies - comes softly, unfolded out of and has been judged by the calm judg- nature itself and truest art, that cluster ment of time and years. At this present of kindred figures. The scholar Austin, period the productions which come to the the soldier Roland, each with his faults mind of every reader when Lord Lytton's so playfully, so tenderly indicated, held name is mentioned, are not the earlier up to us in full light, irradiated with that works which we have just discussed, but smile of humour, most human of all the more recent - the loftier, broader faculties — that smile which is of the produce of a mellowed intelligence and a very essence of respect and love, though riper heart.
it sometimes bears the guise of ridicule ; But the subtle difference which exists the mother, foolish and simple, yet wise between these books and their predeces- as love and truth can make her, a homesors, is intensified by a resemblance not ly, commonplace woman, yet sacred ; the less striking. It is no longer the young sanguine, selfish uncle, hero of a thouman setting out upon life, and feeling sand schemes, unscrupulous out of mere that the world is his oyster, which by buoyancy, animal spirits, and self-confistrength or skill he has to open. Instead | dence. How clearly the whole party of this there grows upon us in soft radi- stands out before us, arguing, reflecting, ance a family group, with other families discussing, pulling every subject to pieces interlacing, widening out the canvas - that comes into their hands, with a sponyet lo! through the genial and gentle taneous warmth and naturalness of comcrowd, there, too, is the Youth in his per- ment, which is so unlike, yet so like, the ennial apprenticeship, setting out yet | always clever, but often stilted and interonce and once again to persuade fortune minable, conversations of the previous and to win fame. It is Pisistratus, the works! We are never tired of the Caxscholar's anachronism, moving lightly ton talk. It never falls into an exchange under the bonds of human affection, of abstractions — it is always lively, induty, and love, unknown to the independ-dividual, humourous, kind." The author ent heroes of an earlier day; it is the loves all these good people. He is tenpoet Leonard groping through his first der of them, letting us laugh at them with doubting steps into the mystery of life ; a soft, kind, and genial laughter, never it is the proud and poor gentleman Lionel with the ridicule which is of kin to conHaughton - not all-conquering as of old, tempt. How great a difference this yet somehow finding his way to success makes in literature as in life! But true and honour; a being not so great in so-humour, which is the rarest of gifts, is alciety, not so wonderful in talk, but ways kind — cannot exist, indeed, withtruer, broader in his personality, more of out secret admiration, veneration, deep a man. The Maltravers-Meister, making and tender insight. Austin Caxton is as his way through cycles of semi-disreput- | admirable an example of this as can be able adventure and questionable relations produced,-as fine as uncle Toby, of - the Godolphin, gloomy and grand — whom, indeed, there is a distinct refleceven the Pelham, all-accomplished in his tion, both in the scholar and the soldier toppery, bravery, unscrupulous selfish- brothers. Mr. Caxton is not like Mr. ness, and disinterested devotion are Shandy; he has too sweet a nature to be to be found no longer. But still the a bookworm, and is incapable of conauthor cannot abandon his favourite and tempt for anything, except, perhaps, false unfailing theme. The youth must be pretensions or false quantities. How trained and shaped into manhood, should | beautiful, for instance, is his treatment of the very foundations of the earth be his simple wife! how much finer and