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From The National Review.
BY ANDREW LANG.
went a little nearer to each other, and more potently among ancient Persians and stood watching
modern English, less potently among an. The scent of the fresh spring air filled cient Greeks and modern Frenchmen. the room. The sunshine was passing over On the whole, in England at least, we do the house. There was the clear note of a not wish or expect novelists to dilate on bird, but noi another sound. The bird experiences from which we instinctively ceased, and all was still — so still that turn away our eyes and avert our thoughts, Florence looked up, with a questioning just as the very Hottentots do; so they look of fear upon her face. Walter bent told Kolbe. Yet even this is, no doubt, a over the bed for a moment, then gently geographical morality; and that is perput his arm round his wife's shoulder. mitted, or encouraged, on one side of the Aunt Anne had journeyed on.
Channel which is forbidden, or at least disliked, on the other,
However, we have to do here with other proposed limitations, or taboos, such as
the assumed rule that religious and moral A CRITICAL TABOO.
discussion and criticism is not fair matter for the art of fiction. Here Mrs. Ward
does seem to establish her case. Moral REPLIES to critics are not usually judi- and religious discussion influences and cious. A critic dispraises a book, as a interests many lives. The novelist, thererule, because he dislikes it, because there fore, has a right to work in these elements is a pre-established want of harmony and of interest. He has also, if he chooses to correspondence between his mind and the exercise it, a right to try to reform soauthor's, because the contact of their in- ciety; there is no law of the land, or of telligences is not agreeable, but clashing literature, against the endeavor. We can and discordant. He then seeks for the only collect the law from the ruling pracreasons of his antipathy, and states them tice, as the laws of epic poetry were colin the form of general law, or taboos; but, lected by the Greek critics out of the at bottom, he is ie the position of the practice of Homer. That practice was poet who did not care for Dr. Fell. Thus, adopted as the canon by Aristotle, though there is no possibility of converting the he hints an opinion that all epics need not critic by a reply. You cannot persuade be quite so very long as the great origi. him that you have humor if you do not nals. If, then, we seek to gather the law, make him smile, nor that you excel in in the case of fiction and of literary art pathos if at your pathos he only grunts generally, out of the classics of fiction, we indignantly. So far, then, replies to re- certainly find that the best and most viewers are destined to be failures; but famous writers allowed themselves, in they may instruct the public, and illustrate some degree, the license pleaded for by the principles of criticism, and of literary Mrs. Ward. But it is emphatically to be art, these evanescent, these _intangible noted that the question is one of degree. principles. Thus, in a recent“ Reply," the The most eminent authors of the past accomplished author of “ David Grieve"
never pretended to make art the only obdefends most successfully the novelist's ject of art; they were always asserting right to use all the materials that make up iheir privilege to be didactic if they life, among them, moral, and theological, choose. Take the example of Molière. and social discussion. It is not possible, He wrote “Tartuffe" as a criticism of in common fairness, to deny her thesis, religious hypocrisy; really to avenge that speculation about religion and morals himself on hypocrites, no doubt; but he does make a great part of some lives, and also persuaded himself that he was and consequently, just as much as love, or war, ought to be didactic. Then, as he says or business, is the legitimate material of in his preface to the play, “these gentle. the novelist. Indeed, one cannot properly men try to insinuate that the theatre has restrict an art which is also, and inevita- no business to meddle with such matters." bly, a “criticism of life" to any set of But this, he remarks, is an arbitrary taboo topics which are elements of life, except of their own, which they never succeed in by generally regarding some themes as proving. He points to the religious origin barred by the universal rules of human of the drama, and insists that the stage modesty. Even on this matter there may is a corrective of human errors. So far, be argument; and we might discuss, at then, Molière set himself about "reform great length, the sources of the sense of ing the world,” though, on the whole, he shame, which everywhere exists, though I was fortunately much more addicted to
amusing it. Still, he claims his right; cussing Religion under well-known limita. and every author has always claimed it, tions? “When I mention religion, I and exerted it as he thought desirable. mean the Christian Religion, and not only Fiction, in our age, holds much the same the Christian Religion, but the Protestant place as the drama held in the reign of Religion, and not only the Protestant Reli. Louis XIV.; it is the most popular and gion, but the Church of England.” And accessible form of literary art, and assur- so Fielding goes on always; he sets apart edly it may be as didactic as it likes, tak. chapters for disquisition in general, and ing the risks upon its own head.
his whole heart is bent on “reforming the Though the opposite opinion - pamely, world,” and, especially, on reforming the that art exists for art's sake alone - is condition of the poor. The author rarely now so popular with critics, and really has forgets that he is also the just and humane so much, of a kind, to say for itself, it has magistrate. “Be a good man, my dear,” never been accepted by the public, nor by were the last words of Walter Scott; it is artists in literature. They have always, the first and last word of Fielding, though in practice and theory, asserted their hu- he is more than need be lenient to the man privilege of discussion - of preach-adventurousness of youth. Thus, his char. ing, if you please. The greatest novelists acter is not high with those who restrict of the last century, Fielding and Richard- the term “morality" to one point of conson, are deliberate and incorrigible preach. duct. Yet, as he understood morality, he ers. Richardson started on his voluminous is an unceasing moralist, a preacher up career — not as an artist, but - as one who hill and down dale. But then he is a wished, as Mr. Leslie Stephen says, “to preacher with the saving gifts of humor suggest proper sentiments to handsome and knowledge of human nature. Thus, servant-girls." As for Fielding, he de. his preaching does not bore and fatigue, it clares, “ The provision which we have here comes in its place; it holds its due pro
" made is no other than HUMAN NATURE,” portion in that great happy current of his wherein “is such prodigious Variety, that tales. a cook will have sooner gone through all Of all novelists Scott gave himself the several Species of animal and vegeta- most frankly to the task of entertaining. bie Food in the World, than an Author Yet even his novels are unmistakably diwill be able to exhaust so extensive a Sub- dactic. A man cannot but bring his own ject.” He most emphatically does not reasoned theory of human life into his deny himself any side of human nature, work in fiction ; and what is this but teachnor stint himself in social and moral dis-ing? What is this but criticising? Some. cussion. For example, take the discourses times he admits his set purpose. For on charity, in " Tom Jones” (vol. , p. example, he was blamed for making ReIII, ed. 1749). Here Captain Blifil and becca the victim of an unhappy love; and Mr. Allworthy argue about charity, as in- we have all regretted it; we all are on culcated by Christianity, and are in the Rebecca's side, not Rowena's, – we all very thick of matter which some modern know which of them Ivanhoe loved in his reviewers would taboo against the modern heart. But Sir Walter says, in his pref. novelist. Captain Blifil suggests that one ace: “ The author may, in passing, obshould not give alms, for one may be im- serve that he thinks character of a highly posed on by the undeserving. Mr. All virtuous and lofty stamp is degraded rather worthy, on the other side, maintains that than exalted by an attempt to reward virCharity consists in Action, and that “giv- tue with temporal prosperity. Such is ing Alms constituted at least one Branch not the recompense which Providence has of that Virtue.” Mr. Allworthy held that deemed worthy of suffering merit, and it charity was a duty, and asserted for it no is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach merit, except, perhaps, when in a spirit of young persons, the most common readers Christian love “we bestow on another of romance, that rectitude of principle and what we really want ourselves," when we of conduct are either naturally allied with, give “what even our own necessities can or adequately rewarded by, the gratificanot very well spare.” On the other hand, tion of our passions, or the attainment of to give only at the expense of our coffers, our wishes." Here be morals, indeed; to save a family from misery rather than and here, in a regular boy's book like hang up an extraordinary picture in our “ Ivanhoe,” we find Sir Walter practically houses, — "this seems to be only being in accord with modern doctrines about the Christians, nay, indeed, only being human “happy ending" - about the satisfactory Creatures." With hardly an interval, do dénou inent. The ending of “Ivanhoe " we not find the Philosopher Square dis- I was not happy and satisfactory enough
for Thackeray, who converted Rebecca, has their sun gone down behind the westas we know, from the Hebrew error. ern wave, as Miss Squeers observed in a Scott might have killed Rowena, or mar- moment of lyrical effusion. It is not the ried her to Athelstane; he might have thing done, but the manner of the doing converted Rebecca ; or he might have it, that seems to count in this art. made her leap into the Templar's saddle If we turn to the modern French, do we from the stake, flee to some hold with him, not see M. Zola writing his temperance and set forth to find and found a new tale, and generally reforming society, alkingdom in the mysterious East, as the beit with a muck-rake? Does not every Templar gallantly proposed. But Scott novelist inevitably criticise life, and had his moral in his eye; he denied bim- preach his peculiar moral with more or self and his readers. So, in “ The Heartless explicitness aod insistence? Is not of Midlothian,” he makes goodness, in a M. Guy de Maupassant practically saying simple mind, in a body not more than or. always that life is a gloomy Sahara, with dinarily comely, far more attractive than oases of pleasure and of grimy humor ? the beauty and passion of Effie Deans. Does not M. Pierre Loti find life a weari. So he constantly inculcates his own loyal ness, tempered by scenery and the emotheory of life. He makes Frank Osbaldi. tions? Is not M. Bourget's “ Le Disciple" stone swallow down his excessive passion; a long didactic tract on Determinism, if at that last meeting with Di Vernon on that be the right name of modern psychothe moonlit moor he makes him conquer logical fatalism? Then, as Mrs. Ward his extreme emotion and take heart of says, did not Rousseau, in “ La Nouvelle manhood. Again, as Mr. Ruskin has Héloïse," and Goethe, in “ Wilhelm Meisnoted, Scott makes, invariably, the most ter," take all discussion for their province ? searching analysis of the effects of various They did it, - and they overdid it. They degrees and forms of religion, in the char- made their effort, made their mark, their acters of those who hold them; on fanat. impression, and their success. But the ics, on half hypocrites, on men of the “ Nouvelle Héloïse” had become rococo, world, or on saints like Bessie Maclure in as Lady Louisa Stuart found, when Scott “Old Mortality.” To this extent, and was in his prime; and who reads it now this effect, or, again, when he illustrates as a novel? “ Wilhelm " is partly saved the temper begotten of black poverty in by Philina the delightful, and by Migoon; the hags of the “ Bride of Lammermoor,” | but it is sad æsthetic reading, taken as a he is always a teacher, and one who denies whole. himself no element in human nature, This brings us to the gist of the matter. though he prefers the large and ringing a book cast in the outward form of a fields of life and war.
novel may be a successful pamphlet, and It is needless to illustrate the same dis- may reach and influence persons who can tinctive tendency in Thackeray. He is read nothing which does not bear that pre-occupied with the anomalies and ab. outward form. But its permanent value, surdities of society; he is always insisting and all its value as art, must be due to on the excellence of goodness, of a pure something else than preaching, howsoever and kind heart. Mr. Howells says that earnest, eloquent, and learned. It is the he lounges about the stage among his human nature, the humor, the pathos, the characters, talking, with his hands in his action of Richardson, Fielding, Sir Wal. pockets. I, for one, am glad to meet him ter, Thackeray, that keep them alive, on that stage, in these moods, in that howsoever assiduously American literary familiar attitude. M. Taine also has re- sextons and parish clerks may dig their proached Thackeray with his preaching; graves, and toll their knells. They surhis modern versions of “the weary King vive by their power of entertaining, not by Ecclesiast." In places, when he is tired their didactic element, howsoever good, and already old, the manner becomes a howsoever enduring it may be, as "criti. mannerism. But we take him as we find cism of life." Art, and not morality, is him, and are thankful for him. Dickens, the salt of such literature ; if it is to live, of course, wrote plenty of his novels the preaching must not be to the amuse“ with a purpose" — to expose Yorkshire ment as Falstaff's bread to his monstrous schools, or the Court of Chancery, or the deal of sack. Naturally, this is especially Circumlocution Office. Now it' is ill obvious when the preaching is “ topical," done, and a weariness; now it is as admi- and is meant to hit a moment in human rably and humorously done as in the pic-thought and belief. A novel, in brief, is tures of the immortal Squeerses, whose not better, but worse, in the ratio in which coat of arms is never really “tore,” nor it approximates to a tract, or pamphlet,
LIVING AGE. VOL, LXXIX. 4098
meant to prove certain points. Thus, if it est "of the “ Nouvelle Héloïse " has faded deals with a momentary stage of religious into that of an historical document, like discussion, to which the criticism of the “ The Conduct of the Allies." Old Testament is indispensable, it inev- But, to persons who prefer their literary itably becomes a tract, and unfair, like sack and bread in the proportion which, other controversial treatises. Thus, no personally, I do not prefer, I would sug. sooner have Messieurs Kuenen and Wel- gest a charming theme for an Historical hausen reached a given resting-place in Romance of Doubt. This is the Life and Biblical criticism, and afforded what seems Death of Thomas Aikenhead. Thomas foothold for a romance of Doubt, than M. was born when, in scepticism, there were Havet, or some other innovator, comes both peril and romance. He died (on the with a fresh theory, and, I fear, you need gallows) in 1697. A Scotch student of a new novel to do it justice. Romance eighteen, he made a great Biblical discov. toils after Biblical critics in vain.
ery. The Pentateuch was post-exilian ! All these like a sea shall go by, like a fish than with minute critical discrimination,
With the baste of a discoverer, rather shall they pass and be past, They are Dons, and behold they shall die, and he assigned the authorship of the whole the New be upon them at last.
Pentateuch (or perhaps of the Hextateuch)
to Esdras. However, he was decidedly Moreover, in a novel of such discussion, advanced and interesting. He said that no author can be fair. He bowls over the Christianity would not last till 1800. The unresisting Christian as the preacher Edinburgh ministers insisted that he bowls over the unreplying atheist, or he should instantly be hanged ; and hanged never gives the doubter a chance. 1 Thomas Aikenhead was, “ abjuring his might write a novel on the Homeric con- errors,'
" - his errors, poor boy! He was troversy; according to the principles here only a forerunner of M. Havet. set forth, there is no law of the literary Now, is there any genuine literary taboo game against it. I might take a Sepa- against a novel on the Life and Adventures ratist don of Trinity as my hero, and make of Thomas Aikenhead? If Thomas had my fair Girtonian heroine a believer in run away to sea, and gone a-pirating, if Homeric Unity. One of them must he had been concerned in the discovery of convert the other. “Nitzsch, Nützhorn, a treasure, if he had been mixed up in Sir Monro, Mure, ejaculates my believing John Fenwick's conspiracy, every one heroine..“ Bergk, Wolf, Lachmann, Fick, would admit that Thomas was an approLeaf, Jebb," shouts my sceptical hero, priate hero of romance. But theology and adds the weighty authority of Pepp- was to Thomas, as to many souls, what müller. But naturally, as the author, I adventure was to Mr. David Balfour of make that controversialist win who es. Shaws. It was the great central interest pouses my side in this secular dispute. of a brief and singularly misspent exist. The lady would win, of course, and as, ence. Why should this interest be taafter all, I like a happy ending, the pair booed ? The taboo is arbitrary and would be left editing the Cyclic Fragments absurd. To a vast number of honorable
a Bower of Bliss on the Cam. But I persons the date of the Pentateuch is a should have written a tract, I fear, rather thing infinitely more important and abthan a novel. I do not intend to produce sorbing than the discovery of a whole this romance, from a dread that the public island of gold, or the glorious restoration mind is not ripe for the enterprise ; but I of James VII., matters with which Thomas do maintain that there is no literary law might have concerned himself. No critic against such an essay, and I believe that has a right to say that serious people shall it would keenly interest Mr. Gladstone. not have a novel to their liking.
In short, as to barring any field of mor- I see the novel from here. Thomas is tal interest against the novelist, it seems the son of one of the lovely yet scattered to me, as it seemed to Molière, a proceed- Remnant, a Cameronian farmer. He is ing quite arbitrary. Can you make people brought up on the sermons of Mr. Peden, read you? That is the practical question. on the Bible, the Shorter and Longer CateBut they will not read you very long, re. chisms. He does not care for them; he is member, if your discussions are“ topical," a child of nature. He plays truant from if being “ topical ”makes their main inter. church, he conceives a youthful scepticism est. About 1840-50 many novels of Prot- about Jonah, or Balaam's ass; he is fogged estant, Anglican, and Catholic controversy by his father, he is preached at by the flourished vastly. They were “topical," minister, he goes to college ; he makes, in and they have faded, as the "novel inter. I a moment of inspiration, the dazzling dis.
covery that the Pentateuch is not what a how that amateur proved too much for vain people supposes; he talks about his the rustic and untutored valor of Harry? discovery, he is informed on, goes into Then, the tales from the classics were hiding where his Cameronian father had artistically introduced. The didactic elehidden long ago in peril for a different ment, in Mr. Barlowe, was kept in due creed ; is detected by that stern and Ro- subordination, as I do insist it should man parent, is given up to justice and the be, to the romantic interest. A romance lord advocate, is hanged, but first proph- should not be all Barlowe. Some roesies concerning Jean Astruc, M. Renan, mances are. The book had, perhaps has Kuenen, Welhausen, and a golden age in still, a vast and deserved popularity. It which every one shall be quite sure that was a muscular and sinewy romance, and, the Pentateuch is post-exilian. The re. even if it stood alone, would burst asunder viewers in the Edinburgh and the Quar- the superstitious taboo of the Edinburgh terly may condemn this scenario, they and the Quarterly. may taboo it, they may say that romance Were another instance wanted, take has no call to deal with religion ; but Il" Don Quixote," or take “Uncle Tom's. shall still maintain that my subject is Cabin."" Cervantes, according to popular thrilling and legitimate. Perhaps Mr. belief, wanted to "reform the world" by Louis Stevenson might try his hand at it? | laughing Spain's chivalry away. He The early struggles of Thomas with the laughed it away. He reformed his world, Shorter Carritch on Effectual Calling as far as that went. He wrote a novel would receive every justice from Mr. Ste with a purpose. So did Mrs. Henry venson. The more I look at the idea the Beecher Stowe, with what success we all more I like it. It is a double-barrelled remember, or have heard. A young and kind of plot; it would bring down at once flippant critic, like Miss Agnes Repplier, the modern serious inquirer and the mere may mock at "Uncle Tom's Cabin," may lover of “ Kidnapped,” as with a right say that, if it proves anything, it proves and-left. The young would learn to be the excellencies of negro slavery, which early inquirers, and precocious Biblical bred such heroes as she no longer finds in critics. The old would have some fun for Africa's dusky children. But there must their money. I feel inclined to write be some answer to so unexpected a para" Thomas Aikenhead ”myself. And then, dox. Certainly, though a novel with a if it were popular, as it ought to be, the purpose, “ Uncle Tom was a wonderfully critics would loom all round, pronouncing readable novel. a taboo on my Thomas's bright-eyed young The mere possession of a purpose does researches into the literary supercheries not, by itself, make a novel a consummate of Esdras. If they were popular, “Hip- work of art; so far I do not mind going pocleides doesn't care," as that artist I can even conceive such a thing as a dull remarked when unfavorably criticised. and dismal novel with a purpose. But, on
I have succeeded in convincing myself, the other hand, its possession of a purpose and, I hope, the reader (if any), that the does not thrust a novel beyond the pale, Didactic Romance, the Novel with a Pur- does not make it taboo, does not entitle us pose, is in a perfectly legitimate genre. to say, “It's pretty; but is it art?" I feel inclined to embrace Mr. Howells, These are the taboos which critics invent figuratively speaking, and to throw up my when they simply happen not to like a bonnet and shout for a more serious and book, when, as we said, there is a preimproving class of novel. Arguments, ex. established discord between their tastes amples, crowd around me. Think of that and the author's taste. Let us try to be epoch-making fiction,“ Sandford and Mer-more honorable and sportsmanlike in critton”! A foolish contempt for Mr. Bar-icism. Let us record our impressions. lowe prevails in priggish æsthetic circles. "This book bores me.” " This book I have never shared it. Tommy, Harry, amuses me.” Nothing else is genuine. and their instructor charmed my boyhood, charm me still. There is life, “go," and humor in the book, with delightful pictures of society. There is adventure. Do you remember Harry being flogged
From Blackwood's Magazine. because he would not say where the bare
THE JACOBITE LORD AILESBURY. had gone? Harry was quite right in his How little a man may look on the vast dislike of harriers. Do you remember plain and perspective of history, and how the negro and the bull? Do you remem- large he bulks, what a space he fills, in ber the fight with Master Masham, and his own sight' Pepys is hardly more than