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sentative are the late Mr. Robertson and which depend entirely on the use of a Mr. Byron. Mr. Robertson succeeded “slang" expression. chiefly because he had, in the first place, a We have drawn our conclusions almost really remarkable skill in constructing his exclusively from an examination of modplays, so as to bring out the qualities of ern comedy, because we are here on each actor in the excellent company which ground which enables us to compare our interpreted his conceptions; and, in the dramatists' ideas of action with those of second place, a considerable power of their ancestors. But our general observaminutely imitating the chit-chat which in tions may be extended to the fashionable the average society of the day passes for school of burlesque, which is founded on repartee. But the action of his dramas the mere mockery of poetical motives, and was feeble, and such point as his dialogue will include the semi-burlesque works of possessed would be missed by any but the the very ingenious author of “Pygmalion most intelligent actors. Mr. Byron, in and Galatea” and “The Wicked World,” every way a writer of greater power and whose genuine powers of invention are vitality, is as abrupt in his departure from cramped by the sinister influence of a the course of nature, as Mr. Robertson somewhat ostentatious cynicism.* was minute in his superficial imitation of We turn to the third division of our it. He has been accused of negligence subject. The history of British fiction is in the construction of his plots, which are not difficult to trace. Dating practically certainly — as in the case of his latest from the reign of George II., it supplied, play, “ Conscience Money" - marked by in that comparatively settled stage of sothe most violent improbability. But what ciety, a want which, in earlier times, had wonder if, in the restricted limits to which been satisfied by the different species of the taste of his audience confines bim, the narrative poetry. It branches into two vivacity of the dramatist create a world of distinct streams. One school, deriving its bis own? Shrewd simpletons, noble tick- origin from Cervantes and Le Sage, found et-of-leave men, magnanimous drunkards, its materials in the representation of curall sorts of characters that are hybrid, par- rent manners. The penetration of Fieldadoxical, and incongruous, abound in the ing and the animal spirits of Smollet class of drama of wbich we have taken seized with ready sympathy on the rough Mr. Byron as the representative writer. types of original character which stood They do so, we think, not because the out in vivid contrast with the regular dramatist believes them to be like nature, framework of the society about them. but because they provide a kind of enter. But “society” itself had other longings, tainment acceptable to the public, which, which could not be appeased with this so long as its sense of virtue and of exter- homely fare. It still retained the memonal reality is satisfied, is quite content to ries and traditions of its ancient chivalry, ignore daring violations of truth and prob- and when Horace Walpole designed his ability.
“Castle of Otranto,” his description of his Meantime the most particular attention purpose showed that he very correctly apis given to produce illusion by cheating the preciated the condition of the public senses of the spectators. Real cabs, live taste. horses, and exact imitations of railway
The tale [he says) was an attempt to blend trains, have within recent memory been
the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the exhibited on the stage. The scenery of a modern. In the former all was imagination play contributes largely to the chances of and improbability; in the latter, nature is its success. As for the dialogue, the pol- always intended to be, and sometimes has been, ished and balanced style, which was the copied with success. Invention has not been best legacy of the Caroline dramatists, wanting ; but the great resources of fancy have has been long discarded as being too much been dammed up by a strict adherence to comabove the language of real life. It has been mon life. But if, in the latter species, nature replaced by a jerky, interjectional manner, has cramped imagination, she did but take her in which repartee plays a much smaller part revenge, having been totally excluded from old
The actions, sentiments, conversathan puns, grimaces, and confidential com. ments to the audience. For instance, in tion, of the heroes and heroines of ancient Mr. Byron's last play, one of the characters
* We wish to make a strong exception to this critiremarked of another, to the intense delight cism in favor of “H.M.S. Pinafore,” which, in its of the house, “ Looks as if he had gone in genial humor and gay melody, approaches, in our for total abstinence and come out again;
u opinion, more nearly to the English spirit of the
eighteenth century operetta, than any burlesque that an observation the humor and imagery of has been produced within recent memory.
days, were as unnatural as the machines em- | modern life began to turn rather on the ployed to put them in motion.
representation of character than of inci. It must be owned, however, that the man. dent. The nicety and quickness of perner in which Walpole and his successor, ception required for such a state of things Mrs. Radcliffe, put their principles into gave new opportunities to female genius, execution did not indicate a very high and were admirably exhibited in the works order of invention. Nothing can be more of Madame D'Arblay, Miss Edgeworth, childish than the machinery of Alfonso's and Miss Austen. All these writers, but helmet in “ The Castle of Otranto.” Mrs. particularly the last, showed extraordinary Radcliffe's use of apparently supernatural power in constructing plots out of the little phenomena was more effective, but she intricacies of everyday life, without any seems to have been haunted by a spirit of sacrifice of dignity or refinement. rationalism which always drove ber to a With Sir Walter Scott and Miss Austen natural explanation of her own mysteries, the art of novel-writing in England reached and she has been not unjustly accused of its meridian. In making this statement, having cheated the imagination, like Gray's we assume that the chief excellence of this Gothic mansion, "with passages that lead art lies in the construction of the story, to nothing."
since it is by this that the highest developThe problem that had puzzled these ment is given to action and character. It authors was solved to perfection by Sir seems, perhaps, venturesome to speak of Walter Scott. Boldly discarding the super- decline in a generation which has produced natural machinery of the old romances, he a Thackeray and a Dickens. But in showed that a practically boundless field | Thackeray the genius of the moralist prewas open to the imagination in the domain dominated over that of the story-teller. of history. In that noble series of tales, He shows us society always from one ascomprising all the most truly characteristic pect; his novels have little action; and of his works, “Waverley,
Guy Man- the reader is ever conscious of the presnering," “The Antiquary, “Rob Roy,” ence of the novelist acting as showman to “Old Mortality,” “The Heart of Midlo- the characters he introduces. Dickens, on thian,” “The Bride of Lammermoor,” the the other hand, was the first to import the reader is carried away into a state of element of romance into descriptions of society completely different from his im- real life. With the instinct of genius, he mediate surroundings. But so ardent was perceived that the only method by which Scott's imagination, so wide his experience, he could produce the effects he required so deep his sympathy, that all the details was exaggeration; and accordingly, withof this ideal life seem as natural as the out hesitation, he pushed all the principles incidents of " Tom Jones or“ Roderick of imaginative action to excess. DraRandom." And even in those stories matic portrait-painting in his hands became where the time of the action is more re- caricature; pathos was converted into mote, such as “ Ivanhoe,” “ Quentin Dur- sentimentalism; romance extended into ward," Kenilworth,” and “ The Talis melodrama. All these extremes were in man,” the writer has so identified himself some extraordinary manner blended by the with the period which he is describing, force of original genius, so that, to apply that the human interest of the narrative the words of Sir Joshua Reynolds, his stoentirely destroys the interval between the ries “preserved that union and harmony past and present. To crown all, the style between all the component parts by which has an air of natural good breeding, which, they appeared to hang well together, as if always avoiding stiffness, yet never de- the whole proceeded from one mind.” But scending to vulgarity, carries along the the very greatness of the achievement was imagination while it satisfies the judgment. mischievous, from the encouragement it
Could we suppose ourselves condemned gave to what was in itself a corrupting to solitary confinement, and our supply of principle of taste; and the style of our books restricted to the works of a single novelists has, since Dickens's time, dewriter, who would not choose for his scended to a sepsibly lower level of breed. companion “the author of • Waverley??" ing.
Meantime the novel of manners received A rapid comparison between the method a new development. As society, under the of the representative novelists of our own influence of settled opinion, grew always time and those of the early part of the cenmore regular and refined, the local hu- tury, will show how materially social ideas mors and customs, of which Fielding and of action have altered in the interval. Miss Smollett had made so much use, gradually Austen in one class shall pair with George disappeared, and the interest of tales of Eliot; in another Sir Walter Scott with
Mr. Charles Reade. We take it that or is supposed to see, things in their true among novels describing social manners, proportions; the place which the actors Emma,”
" in point of construction, stands occupy in the order of the universe; the without a rival. The story relates the manner in which their actions are confortunes of a match-making heroine in a trolled by destiny; the thoughts that are quiet country town. A more restricted passing in the minds of the suffering creat. subject or sphere cannot be imagined, yet ures exhibited to him. Painful, ugly, and so admirably are the involvements of the revolting the exhibition is; but George situation contrived, that the interest of the Eliot tells her readers why they ought to reader never flags. Many and various per- submit to it:sons support the action; all of them present
Could there be a slenderer, more insignifi. types of character with wbich we are familjar; but from the excellent humor, delicacy, sciousness of a girl, busy with her small infer
cant thread in human history than this conand completeness with which they are
ences of the way in which she could make her drawn, they seem better representatives of life pleasant ? What in the midst of that the type than any we have observed our mighty drama are girls and their blind visions ? selves. The dialogue is shrewd, natural, They are the Yea or Nay of that good for and well-bred. The whole of this well-pro- which men are enduring and fighting. In portioned story is comprised within four these delicate vessels is borne onward through hundred pages. Contrast with it one of the ages the treasure of human affections, George Eliot's later novels, “ Daniel De
So it may be; and, could angels tell us ronda,” for instance.
We 6 later
say povels,” for George Eliot's earlier works stories, they might tell them in this fash
ion. But no man knows with certainty have a character of their own, which would render a comparison with Miss any other consciousness than his own'; Austen quite inappropriate. There the work of a powerful and ingenious mind,
and “ Daniel Deronda,” so evidently the former was on her own ground; she was
shows, in our judgment very conclusively, writing about scenes and characters with
what an incalculable mistake in art is made which she had an instinctive sympathy; by those novelists who sacrifice action to and her representations, in “ Adam Bede and “Silas Marner," of the poetry and analysis, and manners to metaphysics. humor of English country life, have in Sir Walter Scott. A few years ago Mr.
Now let us take Mr. Charles Reade and their kind no equal. But in • Middlemarch” and “ Daniel Deronda” she un
Reade produced a novel called “The
Wandering Heir,” which he described as consciously provokes recollections of her
a matter-of-fact romance." Soon after predecessor, which are not altogether to its appearance, he was accused by a critic the advantage of the taste of our own of having plagiarized a portion of his diatimes. “ Daniel Deronda" deals with the
logue from Swift's " Journal of a Modern same average good society as Emma,” a
Lady.” Mr. Reade replied in a letter to society whose principles, sentiments, and once a week, and has thought it worth manners have been fixed by a more or while to preserve a record of the fray in a
a less regular standard derived from the tra kind of pamphlet prefixed to “The Wan. ditions
of many generations. In the place, dering Heir," under the title of " Trade however, of the peaceful external atmos. Malice.” This is extremely entertaining phere which must necessarily pervade an in itself, for Mr. Reade never writes better old society like this, the novel takes us than when he is angry; but it is specially into a world of mystery, philosophy, emo- valuable for our present purpose, as showtion, and crime. The story is rather am
ing the principles on which he composes bitiously divided into eight books, each
bis “romances of fact." containing something like two hundred pages. It has two perfectly distinct plots, “The Wandering Heir” [he writes] owes which scarcely anywhere touch each oth- nothing to any preceding figment, and so there er, and never blend. The amount of ac- is no plagiarism in it.
But it is written upon tion in each of these plots is infinitesimally the method I have never disowned, and never small; the actors in the drama are com- shall; have always proclaimed, and always monplace. How, then, is the tale ex- shall. On that method - viz., the interweaving tended to such enormous length? By the of imaginary circumstances with facts gath20alysis of consciousness. The reader is, printed records –my most approved works,
ered impartially from experience, hearsay, and so to speak, taken up by the author to a "It is Never too Late to Mend,"
» Hard Cash," high mountain of metaphysics, from wbich "The Cloister and the Hearth,” have been be is bidden to look down on the petty written, and that openly. My preface to drama beneath. At this elevation he sees, “Hard Cash" contains these words: “ • · Hard
Cash,' like “The Cloister and the Hearth,' | and subject to the artist's disposal as his taste is a matter-of-fact romance ; that is, a fiction or pleasure may dictate. built on truths, and these truths have been gathered, by long, severe, systematic labor,
And again :from a multitude of volumes, pamphlets, jour
I neither can nor do pretend to the obnals, reports, blue-books, manuscript narratives, letters, and living people whom I have servation of complete accuracy, even in mat
ters of outward costume, much less in the sought out, examined, and cross-examined, to get at the truth on each main topic I have tried more important points of language and manto handle.”
It is necessary, for exciting interest
of any kind, that the subject assumed should And he afterwards defines the scientific be, as it were, translated into the manners as truth at which he aims in his historical well as the language of the age we live in. novels in the following terms:
How, then, shall we decide this nice When fiction aspires to deal with the past, art of romance-writing? To us it appears
question as to the true principles of the to raise the dead from their graves, and make them live, and move, and dress, and act, and that “romance” and “matter of fact" are speak, and feel again in a strong domestic story, contradictory terms. A romance is a tale then musť ripe learning and keen invention in which the reader expects a narrative of
action as marvellous and exciting as is Now Sir Walter Scott has, fortunately; certain amount of matter of fact is neces
consistent with reason and probability. A left on record in his “Dedicatory Epistle to “ Ivanhoe” the principles which he sary in such tales, to produce in the mind observed in composing that work, and we tails of actual reality are introduced, and
an illusion of reality. But the more decannot resist extracting these at length, to the nearer the narrative approaches to show how exactly they invert the principles history, the
further it will recede from of Mr. Reade, and how closely they corre
romance. There is not the faintest at. spond with Sir Joshua Reynolds's doctrines on painting Speaking of the large from their graves, in Mr. Reade's sense."
(to raise the dead
tempt in “Ivanhoe liberty
of imagination which the historical We do not suppose that one in a thousand novelist may exercise, he says:
of the readers, who have been transported It follows, therefore, that of the materials in that delightful story to an ideal world, which an author has to use in a romance or ever inquired how far its details correfictitious composition, such as I have ven- sponded with the “ matter of fact” of tured to attempt, he will find that a great history. On the other hand, though Mr. proportion, both of language and manners, is Reade has filled his “ Wandering Heir" as proper to the present time as to those in with " facts gathered impartially from exwhich he has laid his time of action. The freedom of choice which this allows him is perience, hearsay, and printed records,” therefore much greater, and the difficulty of there is no real interweaving” of these his task much more diminished, than at first with the imaginary circumstances” of appears. To take an illustration from a sister the tale. " Matters of fact” about the art, the antiquarian details may be said to period in which the action is laid abound represent the peculiar features of a landscape in the story; but they are all inserted for under delineation of the pencil. His feudal the sake of archæology, they in no way tower must arise in due majesty; the figures illustrate the “romance,” which centres which he introduces must have the costume itself exclusively in the very pretty and and character of their age; the piece must pleasing love episode of the hero and represent the peculiar features of the scene which he has chosen for his subject, with all
heroine. its appropriate elevation of rock, or descent
As Mr. Reade aims at being matter-ofof cataract. His general coloring, too, must fact in romance, so he is equally intent on be copied from nature: the sky must be being romantic in matters of' fact. But clouded or serene according to climate, and here, again, his efforts are marred by the the general tints must be those which prevail unfortunate prepossessions and prejudices in a natural landscape. So far the painter is with which experience fills the minds of bound down by the rules of his art to a pre- his audience. Situations like the Tich. cise imitation of the features of nature; but it borne case, which are metaphorically called is not required that he should descend to copy romantic, as being unusual and surprising, all her more minute features, or represent with absolute exactness the very herbs, towers, no doubt occur in real life; but when their and trees, with which the spot is decorated details come to be examined, the course These, as well as all the more minute points of the incidents and the motives of the of light and shadow, are attributes proper to actors are generally found to be simple scenery in general, natural to each situation, and vulgar enough. This, of course, is
not the case in Mr. Reade's “matter-of-majesty in the Æneid. But what have we fact” romances. In these the most thrill. found, in fact, to be the characteristic featjog events follow each other with marvel- ures of modern English art? Domesticity, lous rapidity. The situations which he as shown in the almost exclusive devotion conceives are heroic, and his heroes are of our painting to genre subjects, in the equal to their situations. But for all this prosaic tone of our drama, and in the narMr. Reade will scarcely be able to per. row range of our fiction. Absence of insuade the public that matters of fact are vention, manifested in the eagerness with really romantic. Neither bis genuine which the professors of the fine arts appeal powers of observation and pathos, nor the rather to the senses of the public than to tremendous imprecations he hurls against its nobler and more imaginative instincts. every one who questions the propriety of Introspection, as seen in the general conhis artistic method, nor the very entertain- tempt for authority, and in the determinajog result which is produced in his novels tion of the artist to attract attention, not by the combination of all these conditions, by his superior treatment of great subjects, can ever carry us into a world where we but by the individuality and even eccenare not conscious of the presence of Mr. tricity of his style. Charles Reade. Romance, as we know it Developed in the extreme forms to from Scott, is an external and ideal region. which we are accustomed, these characterThe writers and readers who would enter istics of our taste are the result, no doubt, that region must, like the great magician, of a master passion, but not of the one first learn to forget themselves.
which Mr. Gladstone describes. They And now to apply the conclusions at are, as we hold, incompatible with the paswhich we have arrived. A dispute has sion for aggrandizement, arising out of the arisen as to the true character of the En- consciousness of empire; but they may be glish people. Mr. Gladstone has imparted readily explained by the passion for indito the world his own conception of that vidual liberty, originating in the consciouscharacter. The assumption on which his ness of self. The spirit of self-conscious. argument proceeds is, that the Tories are ness is naturally allied to liberty ; it is making England false to her mission by inseparable from self-government. Shakeflattering her dominant passion for ex. speare's expression of England proving tended empire. That this really is her true to herself," is a self-conscious one. dominant passion, he does not attempt to But there is a distinction to be observed prove by any evidence beyond his simple between that idea of self which is drawn assertion : “The sentiment of empire may from the large source of country and rebe called innate in every Briton. It is ligion, and that which is derived solely part of our patrimony, born with our birth; from the individual mind. Art of an undying only with our death ; incorporating imaginative, imitative order is the reflecitself in the first elements of our knowl. tion of that narrower sort of self-conedge, and interwoven with all our habits of sciousness which is restricted to immediate mental action upon public affairs.” If personal experience. The artist, perhaps, this be so, it is morally certain that this represents what is at the moment exactly master tendency will display itself in our before his senses, without atteinpting to art, and we have accordingly sought for dispose his materials by the central force traces of its influence in our painting, our of imagination. In that case he becomes drama, and our fiction. The leading imag- a mere copyist of particular nature. Or ipative characteristics of a people, prompt. he may advance a step in imagination, and ed by their genius in the manner supposed seize on a particular idea, which he afterby Mr. Gladstone, are obvious. Coarse wards constantly imitates. He then beand vulgar as the instinct of material ag- comes a mannerist. In either case his art, grandizement may be, it at least requires in so far as it separates itself from the to be nourished on ideas of vehement ac- continuity of practice and the authority of tion and extended imagination. We should tradition, may be said to be the extreme expect in our painters the vigorous move. extension of individual liberty. But in ment of Rubens, or the brutal force of respect of its real range of achievement, Caravaggio; in our dramatists, the splen- it is best described in the words of Reydid extravagance of Marlowe; in our nov- nolds, which we have quoted before : “He elists, the romantic conceptions, though who resolves never to ransack any mind Dot the tasteful execution, of Scott. With but his own will be soon reduced from the idea, too, of empire are inseparably mere barrenness to the poorest imitation; associated ideas of central authority, such he will be obliged to imitate himself, and as those which are expressed with so much to repeat what he has often besore repeat