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selves. Banville stopped halfway at the them with the most divine forms of which
Banville possesses almost unrivalled skill depth of heaven, green the brilliant clear-
Un marbre sans défaut pour en faire un beau
Pas d'Héraklès vainqueur du monstre de
Ni de riant Bacchos attelant les lions
Pas de Léda jouant dans la troupe des cygnes
Qu'autour du vase par, trop beau pour la
O douleur ! son beau corps fait d'une neige effort, and therefore offer no relief or conpure
solation to those whose temperaments are Rougit, et sous le vent jaloux subit l'injure
differently constituted. De l'orage ; son sein aigu, déjà meurtri Par leur souffle glacé, frissonne à ce grand cri.
Banville, then, is intensely artificial and Le visage divin et fier de Cythérée,
irrepressibly gay He has but little human Dont rien ne peut flétrir la majesté sacrée,
sympathy. But his passion for art is so A toujours sa splendeur d'astre et de fruit vermeil ;
sincere, his æsthetic conscience so sensiMais, dénoués, épars, ses cheveux de soleil tive, his knowledge so complete, his reTombent sur son épaule, et leur masse pro- sources so abundant, that he has produced fonde
works in which form and substance are Comune d'un fleuve d'or en fusion l'inonde.
simultaneously raised into artistic masterLeur vivante lumière en brase la forêt. Mêlés et tourmentés par la bise, on dirait
pieces. Such brilliant triumphs are like Que leur flot pleure, et quand la reine auguste choice bouquets of hothouse exotics, less penche
attractive, perhaps, to many than the counSon front, dans ce bel or brille une tresse try nosegays, which speak of nature beblanche.
cause they come from nature, and suggest Even this illustration gives an inade- by their pure fragrance air and space, clear quate idea of the richness of coloring with brooks, and the songs of birds. Banville's which he adorns the divinities of Greece. sparkling tours de force are not so touchThey dwell in the marble halls of the ing as pieces in which, like Font-Georges, Italian Renaissance, or walk through Flor. his motive is both human feeling and entine gardens, decked with roses and ästhetic emotion. lilies, clothed in purple and gold, gleaming with topaz, emerald, and amethyst. Not
O champs pleins de silence,
Où mon heureuse enfance content with tinting Venus, he presents
Avait des jours encor her in polychrome.
Tout filés d'or ! The distinctive note of Banville's lyric verse is gayety. Even the metrical flow
O ma vieille Font-Georges,
Vers qui les rouges.gorges of his lines suggests happiness by the glid
Et le doux rossignol ing ease of its movements. He sings with
Prenaient leur vol ! inexhaustible delight the rapture of existence to an age that was weary of life. He
Maison blanche où la vigne
Tordait en longue ligne dwells in an enchanted palace of which his
Son feuillage qui boit fancy was the architect, a stranger to the
Les pleurs du toit ! disquietude, discontent, and despair of the century. By nature he was designed for
O claire source froide, the Italian Renaissance ; but his belated
Qu'ombrageait, vieux et roide, birth threw him into the midst of a posi
Un noyer vigoureux
A moitié creux ! tive and melancholy era. He was not the contemporary of his generation, and the
Sources ! fraîches fontaines ! anachronism explains his relative unpopu
Qui, douces à mes peines,
Frémissiez autrefois larity as a poet. A man who can trans
Rien qu'à ma voix ! port his fellows out of their black throughts into a fairyland of the imagination is en
Bassin où les laveuses dowed with a priceless gift and a sacred
Chantaient insoucieuses mission. But the power is only wielded
En battant sur leur banc by those who have themselves felt and
Le linge blanc ! suffered. It is in this respect that Ban
O sorbier centenaire, rille is so inferior to Victor Hugo. Both
Dont trois coups de tonnerre poets are optimists. Hugo knows that the
Avaient laissé tout nu problem of evil exists, and that he is sur
Le front chenu ! rounded by grim realities. And it is the effort which he makes that gives his finest
Tonnelles et coudrettes, fligìts their force, and redeems even his
Verdoyantes retraites noisy rhetoric.
De peupliers mouvants
A tous les vents !
O vignes purpurines, hallucinations natural. They cost him no
Dont, le long des collines,
A SOMEWHAT bitter cry has lately gone mediate sensation" are no more a criterion up from a popular writer that in England, of intellectual appreciation than the popuas distinguished from other countries, Jarity of Tom Thumb or the revelations of
men cannot write as they would (unless a divorce trial. They are simply the offthey are rich and can afford to publish, spring of curiosity, or of a morbid craving like · Orion' Horne, at a farthing a copy), after what is abnormal or naughty. The because the public and its distributing writer from whom I am quoting, indeed, agents dictate to them so absolutely how goes on to ask, “ Do we want obscenity ? and what they are to produce that they Do we want adultery? Do we want Zocan't escape froin it." Consequently laism in its ugliest developments ?”! And letters, as a whole, in Britain have a
" Not at all." Then why his great injustice done them by their inartis
soon after at the British bourtic environments.” Authors in other geoisie ? The said bourgeoisie, we are countries have the advantage of address- told, kick a fellow when he's down ing a cosmopolitan public because they are most effectively. It gave sinister evidence allowed to write what they please ; but of its power the other day when it man“ can anybody pretend that any English aged almost to overthrow the strongest work of imagination of the last thirty man in Ireland for a breach of etiquetteyears has ever produced anything like the if I remember arigbt, he'd broken an egg immediate sepsation produced on Europe at the little end, or he'd got out of a house
Kreutzer Sonata,' by `Thermi- without the aid of a footman." So, then, dor,' by · Les Rois en Exil,' by ` Hedda the seduction of your friend's wife under Gabler ??
What a national dis- your friend's roof, and then a precipitate grace !" Why? Is “ immediate sensa
exit by a fire-escape to avoid the outraged tion” the test of literary excellence? Do husband's chastisement, is but“ a breach the "Kreutzer Sonata” and “ Hedda Gab. of etiquette,” no more blameworthy than ler” owe their popularity to their artistic breaking an egg at the little end !" merits ? They owe it rather to the spice And it is because the British public will of impropriety which is supposed to gar- not pay for the glorification of such exnish them. The “ Kreutzer Sonata” is ploits, or give their confidence to the by no means Tolstoi's chef d'ouvre, but it heroes of them, that it is to be denounced has been far more widely read than any as“ stodgy," and its conduct as “ sinisother of his works ; and any one who finds ter !” evidence of great dramatic talent or literary This complaint against the “inartistic excellence in “ Hedda Gabler” must be environments, " which are supposed to feteasy to plea e. These epidemics of “ im- ter the genius of the British novelist, raises
the question of the relation of novels to * The Wages of Sin. A Novel, by Lucas Malet. London : Swan Sonnenschein & Co.
inorals. Can a novel be simply un1891.
moral,”' to quote the cant phrase now in
vogue ? From a Christian point of view forms in the manuscript of one of his it
may be said that it is hardly possible Dialogues. But so far was Plato from for any work of a rational human being to thinking that “ an artist has no ethical be unmoral ; and not merely from a Chris- sympathies at all,” that he emphatically tian point of view. I believe that all great declared that he was no true artist who muralists, Pagan as well as Christian, worked without a moral purpose ; and a would say so.
Plato and Aristotle cer- moral purpose runs through all his own tainly would. The critic, of course, bas Dialogues. In fact, a novelist cannot help nothing to do with the moral character of showing his moral sympathies in his an author, but he is within his rights in creations ;* and he who can regard his passing judgment on the moral character characters with the same ethical indifferof his work. This is peremptorily denied ence as the painter does the colors on his by those who contend that a novelist need palette is no artist at all : he is a mere not, and ought not to, concern himself artisan, and his characters will bave no with the moral consequences of his work. more life in them than the marionettes of “The artist,” says one of these apologists a conjurer. The greatest critic of ancient of “unmoral” art, “ works with his eye Greece, perhaps of the world—the on the object. Nothing else interests ter of all who know”-says that the true him. . An artist has no ethical sym- end of tragedy is to purify the passions, pathies at all. Virtue and wickedness are and he condemns as bad art any work that to him simply what the colors on his pal- has
iminoral tendency" (ώς ette are to the painter. They are no more, Baaßepàlt; which is but another way of and they are no less. He sees that by saying that morality is the end of the these means a certain effect can be pro- dramatic art. The greatest of English duced, and he produces it. Iago may be art-critics insists on the same truth. inorally horrible, and Imogene stainless highest thing,” says Ruskin, “tbat art purity. Shakespeare had as
much delight can do is to set before you the true image in creating the one as he had in creating of the presence of a noble human being. the other.
It has never done more than this, and it There is bere a strange confusion of ought not to do less."'I And to illustrate thought. The question is not whether " the essential relations of art to moraldramatist or novelist may delight in creat- ity," he quotes a fine passage in which ing a bad character, but whether he en- Plato lays it down that the business of a gages our sympathies on behalf of bad poet, and, indeed, of every artist, is to characters. Shakespeare never does so. create for us the image of a noble If his artistic mind had not been charged morality, so that the young men, livwith “ ethical sympathies” he could never ing in a wholesome atmosphere, may be have created Iago. "Doubtless he delighted profited by everything that, in work fairly in that superb creation ; but he delighted wrought, may touch them through hearin it just because of its extraordinary ing or sight-as if it were a breeze bringethical interest, and he would have con- ing health to them from places strong for sidered his creation a failure if he found life.” § the public applauding the conduct of Iago. Another great authority on the same And what is true of Shakespeare is true of side is Lessing, a critic to whom Goethe, all great artists. Who can read Sophocles Herder, and Macaulay owned their obligawithout being touched by the contagion tions more than to any other writer. of his ethical sympathies !
Hence the “ To act with a purpose," says Lessing, Jandatory dictum of Aristotle, that " is what raises man above the brutes ; to Sophocles drew men as they ought to be, invent with a purpose, to imitate with a Euripides as they actually are. This does not mean that Sophocles never paints bad
*“ It is, of course, true that many of the
strong masters had deep faults of character ; characters, but that he gives us ideals of
but their faults show in their works. It is moral conduct for our guidance and en- true that some could not govern their pascouragement Plato was probably, on the sions ; if so, they died young, or they painted whole, the greatest literary artist the world
ill when old.”-Ruskin, " Lectures on Art," has yet seen. So much value did he set p. 96.
| Aristotle, “Poet,” c. iv. 26. on style that, after his death, a sentence “ Lectures on Art,” p. 96. was found written in seventy different & Ibid., 46, 50.
purpose, is that which distinguishes genius perament." * Schiller may not have had from the petty artists who only invent to à distinct moral aim before his mind as he invent, imitate to imitate. Genius aims wrote “ The Robbers,” but Hazlitt say's at working on our powers of desire and of that drama that it "
gave him a deep abhorrence with objects that deserve these sense of suffering and a strong desire after feelings, and ever strives to show these good which haunted him ever since.” t objects in their true light, in order that no The babitual attitude of the poet's mind false light may lead us to what we should was in a moral direction ; his art, theredesire and abhor.” Accordingly he fore, was contagious for good. damns Marmontel's • Soliman” with stern To claim, then, that novels are not censure, because we see in that play amenable to criticism on moral, but only couple of persons whom we ought to de- on artistic grounds, is an absurdity. But spise, one of whom should fill us with dis- what do we mean when we condemn a gust and the other with anger-a blunted novel as “immoral” ? It is not necessasensualist and a prostitute-painted in the rily immoral because it deals with immoral most seductive and attractive colors.”' * subjects or paints immoral characters. Goethe seems to take an opposite view The morality or immorality of the work when he says that “ a good work of art depends on the bias which it is calculated may and will have moral results ; but to give to our sympathies. If that bias is to require of the artist a moral aim is toward evil, the novel is immoral ; if to spoil his work.''' But there is no toward good, it is moral. The subject real contradiction. Lessing would has little or nothing to do with it.
There not deny that an artist is likely to is hardly any subject with which a great spoil his work by being intent on teaching artist may not deal in such a way as to ina specific moral lesson ; nor would Goethe fluence for good those who contemplate it ; deny that an habitual moral purpose on the and if his own soul is pure his tact may part of the artist is essential to all good be trusted to guide him aright. All deart. He advises the artist to live with pends, therefore, not on the subject, but steady purpose in the Whole, the Good, on the artist's treatment of it. Compare the Beautiful ;” and he made this his own in this respect the art of classic Paganism aim. The fashion of this world,” he in its prime and in its decadence. In the says, passes, and I would fain occupy one we sec, for example, the nude figure myself with that only which constitutes represented with such purity of conception abiding relations”—that is, with the true and such grace and refinement in execuand good, for nought else abides eternally. tion as to excite feelings of admiration and Similarly Milton declares that the poet's reverence. In the other (e.g., the pornomission is “to allay the perturbation of graphic sculpture and mural decorations the mind and set the affections in right found in Pompeii) we see men and women
But this mission need not be pres. -yes, and young children of both sexes ent to the poet's mind as he writes. If —depicted in a way that degrades humanhis own character be set in the right key ity below the level of the brutes. he will of necessity “set the affections in
set the affections in cellence in style or execution can redeem right tune.” His own character will in- from the just stigma of vile art any work evitably permeate his work. “The point of which the conception and treatment are to fix on is that the artist's mind cannot immoral. And what a picture these be inoperative in the processes of art. Pompeiian objects give of the moral abyss The important element of sabjectivity will into which the civilized world of Paganism be definite or vague according to the in- had fallen in the beginning of the Christensity of the artist's character, and ac- tian era, when exbausted bumanity needed cording to the amount of purpose or con- those foul incentives, in its public rooms viction which he felt while working ; it and private chambers, to inflame its dewill be genial or repellent, tender or aus- graded imaginations and jaded lusts ! tere, humane or barbarous, depraving or ennobling, chaste or licentious, sensual or spiritual, according to the bias of his tem
*“Essays Speculative and Suggestive," by
J. A. Symonds, i. 205
+ "Lect. on Lit. of Age of Elizabeth," p. + “Dichtung und Wahrheit," ii. 112. 265.