a quinquennium. I could scarce await the “ Autocrat” himself so long. The heroic age of literature is past, and even a duodecimo may often prove too heavy (ολοι νύν βροτοί) for the descendants of men to whom the folio was a pastime. But what does Mr. Masson mean by “continuous”? To me it seems rather as if his somewhat rambling history of the seventeenth century were interrupted now and then by an unexpected apparition of Milton, who, like Paul Pry, just pops in and hopes he does not intrude, to tell us what he has been doing in the mean while. The reader, immersed in Scottish politics or the schemes of Archbishop Laud, is a little puzzled at first, but reconciles himself on being reminded that this fair-haired young man is the protagonist of the drama. Pars minima est ipsa puella sui.

If Goethe was right in saying that every man was a citizen of his age as well as of his country, there can be no doubt that in order to understand the motives and conduct of the man we must first make ourselves intimate with the time in which he lived. We have therefore no fault to find with the thoroughness of Mr. Masson's “historical inquiries.” The more thorough the better, so far as they were essential to the satisfactory performance of his task. But it is only such contemporary events, opinions, or persons as were really operative on the charac ter of the man we are studying that are of consequence, and we are to familiarize ourselves with them, not so much for the sake of explaining as of understanding him. The biographer, especially of

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a literary man, need only mark the main currents of tendency, without being officious to trace out to its marshy source every runlet that has cast in its tiny pitcherful with the rest. Much less should he attempt an analysis of the stream and to classify every component by itself, as if each were ever effectual singly and not in combination. Human motives cannot be thus chemically cross-examined, nor do we arrive at any true knowledge of character by such minute subdivision of its ingredients. Nothing is so essential to a biographer as an eye that can distinguish at a glance between real events that are the levers of thought and action, and what Donne calls“ unconcerning things, matters of fact," – between substantial personages, whose contact or even neighborhood is influential, and the supernumeraries that serve first to fill up a stage and afterwards the interstices of a biographical dictionary.

“ Time hath a wallet at his back

Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion." Let the biographer keep his fingers off that sacred and merciful deposit, and not renew for us the bores of a former generation as if we had not enough of our own. But if he cannot forbear that unwise inquisitiveness, we may fairly complain when he insists on taking us along with him in the processes of his investigation, instead of giving us the sifted results in their bearing on the life and character of his subject, whether for help or hindrance. We are blinded with the dust of old papers ransacked by Mr. Masson to find out that they have no relation whatever to his hero. He had been wise if he had kept constantly in view what Milton himself says of those who gathered up personal traditions concerning the Apostles : “ With less fervency was studied what Saint Paul or Saint John had written than was listened to one that could say, • Here he taught, here he stood, this was his stature, and thus he went habited ; and O, happy this house that harbored him, and that cold stone whereon he rested, this village where he wrought such a miracle.' ... Thus while all their thoughts were poured out upon circumstances and the gazing after such men as had sat at table with the Apostles, . . . by this means they lost their time and truanted on the fundamental grounds of saving knowledge, as was seen shortly in their writings." Mr. Masson has so poured out his mind upon circumstances, that his work reminds us of Allston's picture of Elijah in the Wilderness, where a good deal of research at last enables us to guess at the prophet absconded liked a conundrum in the landscape where the very ravens could scarce have found him out, except by divine commission. The figure of Milton becomes but a speck on the enormous canvas crowded with the scenery through which he may by any possibility be conjectured to have passed. I will cite a single example of the desperate straits to which Mr. Masson is reduced in order to hitch Milton on to his own biography. He devotes the first chapter of his Second Book to the meeting of the Long Parliament.

Already,” he tells us, “ in the earlier part of the day, the Commons had gone through the ceremony of hearing the writ for the Parliament read, and the names of the members that had been returned called over by Thomas Wyllys, Esq., the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. His deputy, Agar, Milton's brother-in-law, may have been in attendance on such an occasion. During the preceding month or two, at all events, Agar and his subordinates in the Crown Office had been unusually busy with the issue of the writs and with the other work connected with the opening of Parliament.” (Vol. ii. p. 150.) Mr. Masson's resolute" at all events” is very amusing. Meanwhile

The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.” Augustine Thierry has a great deal to answer for, if to him we owe the modern fashion of writing history picturesquely. At least his method leads to most unhappy results when essayed by men to whom nature has denied a sense of what the picturesque really is. The historical picturesque does not consist in truth of costume and similar accessaries, but in the grouping, attitude, and expression of the figures, caught when they are unconscious that the artist is sketching them. The moment they are posed for a composition, unless by a man of genius, the life has gone out of them. In the hands of an inferior artist, who fancies that imagination is something to be squeezed out of colortubes, the past becomes a phantasmagoria of jackboots, doublets, and flap-hats, the mere proper room of a deserted theatre, as if the light had been scenical and illusory, the world an unreal thing that vanished with the foot-lights. It is the power of catching the actors in great events at unawares that


makes the glimpses given us by contemporaries so vivid and precious. And St. Simon, one of the great masters of the picturesque, lets us into the secret of his art when he tells us how, in that wonderful scene of the death of Monseigneur, he saw du premier coup d'ail vivement porté, tout ce qui leur échappoit et tout ce qui les accableroit.” It is the gift of producing this reality that almost makes us blush, as if we had been caught peeping through a keyhole, and had surprised secrets to which we had no right, - it is this only that can justify the pictorial method of narration. Mr. Carlyle has this power of contemporizing himself with bygone times, he cheats us to

Play with our fancies and believe we see";

but we find the tableaux vivants of the apprentices who " deal in his command without his power, and who compel us to work very hard indeed with our fancies, rather wearisome. The effort of weaker arms to shoot with his mighty bow has filled the air of recent literature with more than enough fruitless twanging

Mr. Masson's style, at best cumbrous, becomes intolerably awkward when he strives to make up for the want of St. Simon's premier coup d'oeil by impertinent details of what we must call the pseudodramatic kind. For example, does Hall profess to have traced Milton from the University to a “ suburb sink" of London ? Mr. Masson fancies he hears Milton saying to himself, “ A suburb sink! has Hall or his son taken the trouble to walk all the

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