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A History of English Literature by Robert Huntington Fletcher

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greatly during the period. The middle and upper classes awoke to some
extent to their duty to the poor, and sympathetic benevolent effort, both
organized and informal, increased very largely in amount and intelligence.
Popular education, too, which in 1830 had no connection with the State and
was in every respect very incomplete, was developed and finally made
compulsory as regards the rudiments.

Still more permanently significant, perhaps, was the transformation of the
former conceptions of the nature and meaning of the world and life, through
the discoveries of science. Geology and astronomy now gradually compelled
all thinking people to realize the unthinkable duration of the cosmic
processes and the comparative littleness of our earth in the vast extent of
the universe. Absolutely revolutionary for almost all lines if thought was
the gradual adoption by almost all thinkers of the theory of Evolution,
which, partly formulated by Lamarck early in the century, received definite
statement in 1859 in Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species.' The great
modification in the externals of religious belief thus brought about was
confirmed also by the growth of the science of historical criticism.

This movement of religious change was met in its early stages by the very
interesting reactionary 'Oxford' or 'Tractarian' Movement, which asserted
the supreme authority of the Church and its traditional doctrines. The most
important figure in this movement, who connects it definitely with
literature, was John Henry Newman (1801-90), author of the hymn 'Lead,
Kindly Light,' a man of winning personality and great literary skill. For
fifteen years, as vicar of the Oxford University Church, Newman was a great
spiritual force in the English communion, but the series of 'Tracts for the
Times' to which he largely contributed, ending in 1841 in the famous Tract
90, tell the story of his gradual progress toward Rome. Thereafter as an
avowed Roman Catholic and head of a monastic establishment Newman showed
himself a formidable controversialist, especially in a literary encounter
with the clergyman-novelist Charles Kingsley which led to Newman's famous
'Apologia pro Vita Sua' (Apology for My Life), one of the secondary
literary masterpieces of the century. His services to the Catholic Church
were recognized in 1879 by his appointment as a Cardinal. More than one of
the influences thus hastily surveyed combine in creating the moral, social,
and intellectual strenuousness which is one of the main marks of the
literature of the period. More conspicuously than ever before the majority
of the great writers, not least the poets and novelists, were impelled not
merely by the emotional or dramatic creative impulse but by the sense of a
message for their age which should broaden the vision and elevate the
ideals of the masses of their fellows. The literature of the period,
therefore, lacks the disinterested and joyous spontaneity of, for example,
the Elizabethan period, and its mood is far more complex than that of the
partly socially-minded pseudo-classicists.

While all the new influences were manifesting themselves in Victorian
literature they did not, of course, supersede the great general inherited
tendencies. This literature is in the main romantic. On the social side
this should be evident; the Victorian social humanitarianism is merely the
developed form of the eighteenth century romantic democratic impulse. On
the esthetic side the romantic traits are also present, though not so
aggressively as in the previous period; with romantic vigor the Victorian
literature often combines exquisite classical finish; indeed, it is so
eclectic and composite that all the definite older terms take on new and
less sharply contrasting meanings when applied to it.

So long a period naturally falls into sub-divisions; during its middle part
in particular, progress and triumphant romanticism, not yet largely
attacked by scientific scepticism, had created a prevailing atmosphere of
somewhat passive sentiment and optimism both in society and in literature
which has given to the adjective 'mid-Victorian' a very definite
denotation. The adjective and its period are commonly spoken of with
contempt in our own day by those persons who pride themselves on their
complete sophistication and superiority to all intellectual and emotional
weakness. But during the 'mid-Victorian' years, there was also a
comparative healthiness in the lives of the well-to-do classes and in
literature which had never before been equalled and which may finally prove
no less praiseworthy than the rather self-conscious freedom and unrestraint
of the early twentieth century.

The most important literature of the whole period falls under the three
heads of essays, poetry, and prose fiction, which we may best consider in
that order.

LORD MACAULAY. The first great figure, chronologically, in the period, and
one of the most clearly-defined and striking personalities in English
literature, is Thomas Babington Macaulay, [Footnote: The details of
Macaulay's life are known from the; famous biography of him by his nephew,
Sir George Trevelyan.] who represents in the fullest degree the Victorian
vigor and delight in material progress, but is quite untouched by the
Victorian spiritual striving. The descendant of Scottish ministers and
English Quakers, Macaulay was born in 1800. His father was a tireless and
devoted member of the group of London anti-slavery workers (Claphamites),
and was Secretary of the company which conducted Sierra Leone (the African
state for enfranchised negroes); he had also made a private fortune in
African trade. From his very babyhood the son displayed almost incredible
intellectual precocity and power of memory. His voracious reading began at
the age of three, when he 'for the most part lay on the rug before the
fire, with his book on the floor, and a piece of bread-and-butter in his
hand.' Once, in his fifth year, when a servant had spilled an urn of hot
coffee over his legs, he replied to the distressed inquiries of the lady of
the house, 'Thank you, madam, the agony is abated.' From the first it seems
to have been almost impossible for him to forget anything which had ever
found lodgment in, or even passed through, his mind. His childish
production of both verse and prose was immense. These qualities and
accomplishments, however, did not make him a prig. Both as child and as
man, though he was aggressive and showed the prejudices of his class, he
was essentially natural and unaffected; and as man he was one of the most
cordial and affectionate of companions, lavish of his time with his
friends, and one of the most interesting of conversationalists. As he grew
toward maturity he proved unique in his manner, as well as in his power, of
reading. It is said that he read books faster than other people skimmed
them, and skimmed them as fast as any one else could turn the leaves, this,
however, without superficiality. One of the habits of his middle life was
to walk through London, even the most crowded parts, 'as fast as other
people walked, and reading a book a great deal faster than anybody else
could read.' His remarkable endowments, however, were largely
counterbalanced by his deficiency in the spiritual sense. This appears most
seriously in his writings, but it shows itself also in his personal tastes.
For Nature he cared little; like Dr. Johnson he 'found London the place for
him.' One occasion when he remarked on the playing of 'God save the Queen'
is said to have been the only one when he ever appeared to distinguish one
tune from another. Even on the material side of life he had limitations
very unusual in an English gentleman. Except for walking, which might
almost be called a main occupation with him, he neither practised nor cared
for any form of athletic exercise, 'could neither swim nor row nor drive
nor skate nor shoot,' nor scarcely ride.

From private schools Macaulay proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge,
where he remained through the seven years required for the Master's degree.
In spite of his aversion for mathematics, he finally won a 'lay'
fellowship, which did not involve residence at the University nor any other
obligation, but which almost sufficed for his support during the seven
years of its duration. At this time his father failed in his business, and
during several years Macaulay was largely occupied with the heavy task of
reestablishing it and paying the creditors. In college he had begun to
write in prose and verse for the public literary magazines, and in 1825
appeared his essay on Milton, the first of the nearly forty literary,
historical, and biographical essays which during the next thirty years or
more he contributed to 'The Edinburgh Review.' He also nominally studied
law, and was admitted to the bar in 1826, but he took no interest in the
profession. In 1828 he was made a Commissioner of Bankruptcy and in 1830 he
attained the immediate object of his ambition by receiving from a nobleman
who controlled it a seat in Parliament. Here he at once distinguished
himself as orator and worker. Heart and soul a Liberal, he took a prominent
part in the passage of the first Reform Bill, of 1832, living at the same
time a busy social life in titled society. The Ministry rewarded his
services with a position on the Board of Control, which represented the
government in its relations with the East India Company, and in 1834, in
order to earn the fortune which seemed to him essential to his continuance
in the unremunerative career of public life, he accepted the position of
legal adviser to the Supreme Council of India, which carried with it a seat
in that Council and a salary of L10,000 a year. During the three months
voyage to India he 'devoured' and in many cases copiously annotated a vast
number of books in 'Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and English;
folios, quartos, octavos, and duodecimos.' Under the pressure of actual
necessity he now mastered the law, and the most important parts of the
astonishing mass of work that he performed during his three and a half
years in India consisted in redrafting the penal code and in helping to
organize education.

Soon after his return to England he was elected to Parliament as member for
Edinburgh, and for two years he was in the Cabinet. Somewhat later the
publication of his 'Lays of Ancient Rome' and of his collected essays
brought him immense fame as a writer, and in 1847 his defeat at Edinburgh
for reelection to Parliament gave him time for concentrated labor on the
'History of England' which he had already begun as his crowning work. To it
he thenceforth devoted most of his energies, reading and sifting the whole
mass of available source-material and visiting the scenes of the chief
historical events. The popular success of the five volumes which he
succeeded in preparing and published at intervals was enormous. In 1852 he
was reelected to Parliament at Edinburgh, but ill-health resulting from his
long-continued excessive expenditure of energy warned him that he had not
long to live. He was made a baron in 1857 and died in 1859, deeply mourned
both because of his manly character and because with him perished mostly
unrecorded a knowledge of the facts of English history more minute,
probably, than that of any one else who has ever lived.

Macaulay never married, but, warm-hearted as he was, always lived largely
in his affection for his sisters and for the children of one of them, Lady
Trevelyan. In his public life he displayed as an individual a fearless and
admirable devotion to principle, modified somewhat by the practical
politician's devotion to party. From every point of view, his character was
remarkable, though bounded by his very definite limitations.

Least noteworthy among Macaulay's works are his poems, of which the 'Lays
of Ancient Rome' are chief. Here his purpose is to embody his conception of
the heroic historical ballads which must have been current among the early
Romans as among the medieval English--to recreate these ballads for modern
readers. For this sort of verse Macaulay's temperament was precisely
adapted, and the 'Lays' present the simple characters, scenes, and ideals
of the early Roman republican period with a sympathetic vividness and in
stirring rhythms which give them an unlimited appeal to boys. None the less
the 'Lays' really make nothing else so clear as that in the true sense of
the word Macaulay was not at all a poet. They show absolutely nothing of
the finer feeling which adds so much, for example, to the descriptions in
Scott's somewhat similar romances, and they are separated by all the
breadth of the world from the realm of delicate sensation and imagination
to which Spenser and Keats and all the genuine poets are native-born.

The power of Macaulay's prose works, as no critic has failed to note, rests
on his genius as an orator. For oratory he was rarely endowed. The
composition of a speech was for him a matter of a few hours; with almost
preternatural mental activity he organized and sifted the material,
commonly as he paced up and down his garden or his room; then, the whole
ready, nearly verbatim, in his mind, he would pass to the House of Commons
to hold his colleagues spell-bound during several hours of fervid
eloquence. Gladstone testified that the announcement of Macaulay's
intention to speak was 'like a trumpet call to fill the benches.' The great
qualities, then, of his essays and his 'History' are those which give
success to the best sort of popular oratory--dramatic vividness and
clearness, positiveness, and vigorous, movement and interest. He realizes
characters and situations, on the external side, completely, and conveys
his impression to his readers with scarcely any diminution of force. Of
expository structure he is almost as great a master as Burke, though in his
essays and 'History' the more concrete nature of his material makes him
prevailingly a narrator. He sees and presents his subjects as wholes,
enlivening them with realistic details and pictures, but keeping the
subordinate parts subordinate and disposing of the less important events in
rapid summaries. Of clear and trenchant, though metallic, narrative and
expository style he is a master. His sentences, whether long or short, are
always lucid; he knows the full value of a short sentence suddenly snapped
out after a prolonged period; and no other writer has ever made such'
frequent and striking (though somewhat monotonous) use of deliberate
oratorical balance of clauses and strong antithesis, or more illuminating
use of vivid resumes. The best of his essays, like those on the Earl of
Chatham and on the two men who won India for England, Clive and Warren
Hastings, are models of the comparatively brief comprehensive dissertation
of the form employed by Johnson in his 'Lives of the Poets.'

Macaulay, however, manifests the, defects even of his virtues. His
positiveness, fascinating and effective as it is for an uncritical reader,
carries with it extreme self-confidence and dogmatism, which render him
violently intolerant of any interpretations of characters and events except
those that he has formed, and formed sometimes hastily and with prejudice.
The very clearness and brilliancy of his style are often obtained at the
expense of real truth; for the force of his sweeping statements and his
balanced antitheses often requires much heightening or even distortion of
the facts; in making each event and each character stand out in the
plainest outline he has often stripped it of its background of qualifying
circumstances. These specific limitations, it will be evident, are
outgrowths of his great underlying deficiency--the deficiency in spiritual
feeling and insight. Macaulay is a masterly limner of the external side of
life, but he is scarcely conscious of the interior world in which the finer
spirits live and work out their destinies. Carlyle's description of his
appearance is significant: 'I noticed the homely Norse features that you
find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself, "Well, any
one can see that you are an honest, good sort of fellow, made out of
oatmeal." Macaulay's eminently clear, rapid, and practical mind
comprehended fully and respected whatever could be seen and understood by
the intellect; things of more subtle nature he generally disbelieved in or
dismissed with contempt. In dealing with complex or subtle characters he
cannot reveal the deeper spiritual motives from which their action sprang;
and in his view of history he does not include the underlying and
controlling spiritual forces. Macaulay was the most brilliant of those whom
the Germans have named Philistines, the people for whom life consists of
material things; specifically he was the representative of the great body
of middle-class early-Victorian liberals, enthusiastically convinced that
in the triumphs of the Liberal party, of democracy, and of mechanical
invention, the millennium was being rapidly realized. Macaulay wrote a
fatal indictment of himself when in praising Bacon as the father of modern
science he depreciated Plato, the idealist. Plato's philosophy, said
Macaulay, 'began in words and ended in words,' and he added that 'an acre
in Middlesex is better than a peerage in Utopia.' In his literary and
personal essays, therefore, such as the famous ones on Milton and Bacon,
which belong early in his career, all his immense reading did not suffice
to produce sympathetic and sensitive judgments; there is often more
pretentiousness of style than significance of interpretation. In later life
he himself frankly expressed regret that he had ever written these essays.

Macaulay's 'History of England' shows to some degree the same faults as the
essays, but here they are largely corrected by the enormous labor which he
devoted to the work. His avowed purpose was to combine with scientific
accuracy the vivid picturesqueness of fiction, and to 'supersede the last
fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies.' His method was that of an
unprecedented fulness of details which produces a crowded pageant of events
and characters extremely minute but marvelously lifelike. After three
introductory chapters which sketch the history of England down to the death
of Charles II, more than four large volumes are occupied with the following
seventeen years; and yet Macaulay had intended to continue to the death of
George IV, nearly a hundred and thirty years later. For absolute
truthfulness of detail the 'History' cannot always be depended on, but to
the general reader its great literary merits are likely to seem full
compensation for its inaccuracies.

THOMAS CARLYLE. The intense spiritual striving which was so foreign to
Macaulay's practical nature first appears among the Victorians in the
Scotsman Thomas Carlyle, a social and religious prophet, lay-preacher, and
prose-poet, one of the most eccentric but one of the most stimulating of
all English writers. The descendant of a warlike Scottish Border clan and
the son of a stone-mason who is described as 'an awful fighter,' Carlyle
was born in 1795 in the village of Ecclefechan, just across the line from
England, and not far from Burns' county of Ayr. His fierce, intolerant,
melancholy, and inwardly sensitive spirit, together with his poverty,
rendered him miserable throughout his school days, though he secured,
through his father's sympathy, a sound elementary education. He tramped on
foot the ninety miles from Ecclefechan to Edinburgh University, and
remained there for four years; but among the subjects of study he cared
only for mathematics, and he left at the age of seventeen without receiving
a degree. From this time for many years his life was a painful struggle, a
struggle to earn his living, to make a place in the world, and to find
himself in the midst of his spiritual doubts and the physical distress
caused by lifelong dyspepsia and insomnia. For some years and in various
places he taught school and received private pupils, for very meager wages,
latterly in Edinburgh, where he also did literary hack-work. He had planned
at first to be a minister, but the unorthodoxy of his opinions rendered
this impossible; and he also studied law only to abandon it. One of the
most important forces in this period of his slow preparation was his study
of German and his absorption of the idealistic philosophy of Kant,
Schelling, and Fichte, of the broad philosophic influence of Goethe, and
the subtile influence of Richter. A direct result was his later very
fruitful continuation of Coleridge's work in turning the attention of
Englishmen to German thought and literature. In 1821 he passed through a
sudden spiritual crisis, when as he was traversing Leith Walk in Edinburgh
his then despairing view of the Universe as a soulless but hostile
mechanism all at once gave way to a mood of courageous self-assertion. He
afterward looked on this experience as a spiritual new birth, and describes
it under assumed names at the end of the great chapter in 'Sartor Resartus'
on 'The Everlasting No.'

In 1825 his first important work, a 'Life of Schiller,' was published, and
in 1826 he was married to Miss Jane Welsh. She was a brilliant but quiet
woman, of social station higher than his; for some years he had been acting
as counselor in her reading and intellectual development. No marriage in
English Literature has been more discussed, a result, primarily, of the
publication by Carlyle's friend and literary executor, the historian J. A.
Froude, of Carlyle's autobiographical Reminiscences and Letters. After Mrs.
Carlyle's death Carlyle blamed himself bitterly for inconsiderateness
toward her, and it is certain that his erratic and irritable temper, partly
exasperated by long disappointment and by constant physical misery, that
his peasant-bred lack of delicacy, and his absorption in his work, made a
perpetual and vexatious strain on Mrs. Carlyle's forbearance throughout the
forty years of their life together. The evidence, however, does not show
that the marriage was on the whole really unfortunate or indeed that it was
not mainly a happy one.

For six years beginning in 1828 the Carlyles lived on (though they did not
themselves carry on) the lonely farm of Craigenputtock, the property of
Mrs. Carlyle. This was for both of them a period of external hardship, and
they were chiefly dependent on the scanty income from Carlyle's laborious
work on periodical essays (among which was the fine-spirited one on Burns).
Here Carlyle also wrote the first of his chief works, 'Sartor Resartus,'
for which, in 1833-4, he finally secured publication, in 'Fraser's
Magazine,' to the astonishment and indignation of most of the readers. The
title means 'The Tailor Retailored,' and the book purports to be an account
of the life of a certain mysterious German, Professor Teufelsdrockh
(pronounced Toyfelsdreck) and of a book of his on The Philosophy of
Clothes. Of course this is allegorical, and Teufelsdrockh is really
Carlyle, who, sheltering himself under the disguise, and accepting only
editorial responsibility, is enabled to narrate his own spiritual struggles
and to enunciate his deepest convictions, sometimes, when they are likely
to offend his readers, with a pretense of disapproval. The Clothes metaphor
(borrowed from Swift) sets forth the central mystical or spiritual
principle toward which German philosophy had helped Carlyle, the idea,
namely, that all material things, including all the customs and forms of
society, such as government and formalized religion, are merely the
comparatively insignificant garments of the spiritual reality and the
spiritual life on which men should center their attention. Even Time and
Space and the whole material world are only the shadows of the true
Reality, the spiritual Being that cannot perish. Carlyle has learned to
repudiate, and he would have others repudiate, 'The Everlasting No,' the
materialistic attitude of unfaith in God and the spiritual world, and he
proclaims 'The Everlasting Yea,' wherein are affirmed, the significance of
life as a means of developing character and the necessity of accepting life
and its requirements with manly self-reliance and moral energy. 'Seek not
Happiness,' Carlyle cries, 'but Blessedness. Love not pleasure; love God.'

This is the central purport of the book. In the second place and as a
natural corollary Carlyle vigorously denounces, throughout, all shams and
hypocrisies, the results of inert or dishonest adherence to outgrown ideas
or customs. He attacks, for instance, all empty ostentation; war, as both
foolish and wicked; and the existing condition of society with its terrible
contrast between the rich and the poor.

Again, he urges still a third of the doctrines which were to prove most
characteristic of him, that Gospel of Work which had been proclaimed so
forcibly, from different premises, five hundred years before by those other
uncompromising Puritans, the authors of 'Piers Plowman.' In courageous
work, Carlyle declares, work whether physical or mental, lies the way of
salvation not only for pampered idlers but for sincere souls who are
perplexed and wearied with over-much meditation on the mysteries of the
universe, 'Be no, longer a Chaos,' he urges, 'but a World, or even
Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal,
fraction of a Product, produce it, in God's name! 'Tis the utmost thou hast
in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do
it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night
cometh, wherein no man can work.'

It will probably now be evident that the mainspring of the undeniable and
volcanic power of 'Sartor Resartus' (and the same is true of Carlyle's
other chief works) is a tremendous moral conviction and fervor. Carlyle is
eccentric and perverse--more so in 'Sartor Resartus' than elsewhere--but he
is on fire with his message and he is as confident as any Hebrew prophet
that it is the message most necessary for his generation. One may like him
or be repelled by him, but a careful reader cannot remain unmoved by his
personality and his ideas.

One of his most striking eccentricities is the remarkable style which he
deliberately invented for 'Sartor Resartus' and used thenceforth in all his
writings (though not always in so extreme a form). Some of the specific
peculiarities of this style are taken over, with exaggeration, from German
usage; some are Biblical or other archaisms; others spring mainly from
Carlyle's own amazing mind. His purpose in employing, in the denunciation
of shams and insincerities, a form itself so far removed from directness
and simplicity was in part, evidently, to shock people into attention; but
after all, the style expresses appropriately his genuine sense of the
incoherence and irony of life, his belief that truth can be attained only
by agonizing effort, and his contempt for intellectual and spiritual
commonplaceness.

In 1834 Carlyle moved to London, to a house in Cheyne (pronounced Cheeny)
Row, Chelsea, where he lived for his remaining nearly fifty years. Though
he continued henceforth in large part to reiterate the ideas of 'Sartor
Resartus,' he now turned from biography, essays, and literary criticism to
history, and first published 'The French Revolution.' He had almost decided
in despair to abandon literature, and had staked his fortune on this work;
but when the first volume was accidentally destroyed in manuscript he
proceeded with fine courage to rewrite it, and he published the whole book
in 1837. It brought him the recognition which he sought. Like 'Sartor
Resartus' it has much subjective coloring, which here results in
exaggeration of characters and situations, and much fantasy and
grotesqueness of expression; but as a dramatic and pictorial vilification
of a great historic movement it was and remains unique, and on the whole no
history is more brilliantly enlightening and profoundly instructive. Here,
as in most of his later works, Carlyle throws the emphasis on the power of
great personalities. During the next years he took advantage of his success
by giving courses of lectures on literature and history, though he disliked
the task and felt himself unqualified as a speaker. Of these courses the
most important was that on 'Heroes and Hero-Worship,' in which he clearly
stated the doctrine on which thereafter he laid increasing stress, that the
strength of humanity is in its strong men, the natural leaders, equipped to
rule by power of intellect, of spirit, and of executive force. Control by
them is government by the fit, whereas modern democracy is government by
the unfit. Carlyle called democracy 'mobocracy' and considered it a mere
bad piece of social and political machinery, or, in his own phrase, a mere
'Morrison's pill,' foolishly expected to cure all evils at one gulp. Later
on Carlyle came to express this view, like all his others, with much
violence, but it is worthy of serious consideration, not least in twentieth
century America.

Of Carlyle's numerous later works the most important are 'Past and
Present,' in which he contrasts the efficiency of certain strong men of
medieval Europe with the restlessness and uncertainty of contemporary
democracy and humanitarianism and attacks modern political economy; 'Oliver
Cromwell's Letters and Speeches,' which revolutionized the general opinion
of Cromwell, revealing him as a true hero or strong man instead of a
hypocritical fanatic; and 'The History of Frederick the Great,' an enormous
work which occupied Carlyle for fourteen years and involved thorough
personal examination of the scenes of Frederick's life and battles. During
his last fifteen years Carlyle wrote little of importance, and the violence
of his denunciation of modern life grew shrill and hysterical. That society
was sadly wrong he was convinced, but he propounded no definite plan for
its regeneration. He had become, however, a much venerated as well as a
picturesque figure; and he exerted a powerful and constructive influence,
not only directly, but indirectly through the preaching of his doctrines,
in the main or in part, by the younger essayists and the chief Victorian
poets and novelists, and in America by Emerson, with whom he maintained an
almost lifelong friendship and correspondence. Carlyle died in 1881.

Carlyle was a strange combination of greatness and narrowness. Like
Macaulay, he was exasperatingly blind and bigoted in regard to the things
in which he had no personal interest, though the spheres of their
respective enthusiasms and antipathies were altogether different. Carlyle
viewed pleasure and merely esthetic art with the contempt of the Scottish
Covenanting fanatics, refusing even to read poetry like that of Keats; and
his insistence on moral meanings led him to equal intolerance of such
story-tellers as Scott. In his hostility to the materialistic tendencies so
often deduced from modern science he dismissed Darwin's 'Origin of Species'
with the exclamation that it showed up the capricious stupidity of mankind
and that he never could read a page of it or would waste the least thought
upon it. He mocked at the anti-slavery movement in both America and the
English possessions, holding that the negroes were an inferior race
probably better off while producing something under white masters than if
left free in their own ignorance and sloth. Though his obstinacy was a part
of his national temperament, and his physical and mental irritability in
part a result of his ill-health, any candid estimate of his life cannot
altogether overlook them. On the whole, however, there is no greater
ethical, moral, and spiritual force in English Literature than Carlyle, and
so much of his thought has passed into the common possession of all
thinking persons to-day that we are all often his debtors when we are least
conscious of it.

JOHN RUSKIN. Among the other great Victorian writers the most obvious
disciple of Carlyle in his opposition to the materialism of modern life is
John Ruskin. But Ruskin is much more than any man's disciple; and he also
contrasts strongly with Carlyle, first because a large part of his life was
devoted to the study of Art--he is the single great art-critic in English
Literature--and also because he is one of the great preachers of that
nineteenth century humanitarianism at which Carlyle was wont to sneer.

Ruskin's parents were Scotch, but his father, a man of artistic tastes, was
established as a wine-merchant in London and had amassed a fortune before
the boy's birth in 1819. The atmosphere of the household was sternly
Puritan, and Ruskin was brought up under rigid discipline, especially by
his mother, who gave him most of his early education. He read, wrote, and
drew precociously; his knowledge of the Bible, in which his mother's
training was relentlessly thorough, of Scott, Pope, and Homer, dates from
his fifth or sixth year. For many years during his boyhood he accompanied
his parents on long annual driving trips through Great Britain and parts of
Europe, especially the Alps. By these experiences his inborn passion for
the beautiful and the grand in Nature and Art was early developed. During
seven years he was at Oxford, where his mother lived with him and watched
over him; until her death in his fifty-second year she always continued to
treat him like a child, an attitude to which, habit and affection led him
to submit with a matter-of-course docility that his usual wilfulness and
his later fame render at first sight astonishing. At Oxford, as throughout
his life, he showed himself brilliant but not a close or careful student,
and he was at that time theologically too rigid a Puritan to be interested
in the Oxford Movement, then in its most intense stage.

His career as a writer began immediately after he left the University. It
falls naturally into two parts, the first of about twenty years, when he
was concerned almost altogether with Art, chiefly Painting and
Architecture; and the second somewhat longer, when he was intensely
absorbed in the problems of society and strenuously working as a social
reformer. From the outset, however, he was actuated by an ardent didactic
purpose; he wrote of Art in order to awake men's spiritual natures to a
joyful delight in the Beautiful and thus to lead, them to God, its Author.

The particular external direction of Ruskin's work in Art was given, as
usual, more or less by accident. His own practice in water-color drawing
led him as a mere youth to a devoted admiration for the landscape paintings
of the contemporary artist J.M.W. Turner. Turner, a romantic revolutionist
against the eighteenth century theory of the grand style, was then little
appreciated; and when Ruskin left the University he began, with
characteristic enthusiasm, an article on 'Modern Painters,' designed to
demonstrate Turner's superiority to all possible rivals. Even the first
part of this work expanded itself into a volume, published in 1843, when
Ruskin was only twenty-four; and at intervals during the next seventeen
years he issued four additional volumes, the result of prolonged study both
of Nature and of almost all the great paintings in Europe. The completed
book is a discursive treatise, the various volumes necessarily written from
more or less different view-points, on many of the main aspects, general
and technical, of all art, literary as well as pictorial. For Ruskin held,
and brilliantly demonstrated, that the underlying principles of all the
Fine Arts are identical, and 'Modern Painters' contains some of the most
famous and suggestive passages of general literary criticism ever written,
for example those on The Pathetic Fallacy and The Grand Style. Still
further, to Ruskin morality and religion are inseparable from Art, so that
he deals searchingly, if incidentally, with those subjects as well. Among
his fundamental principles are the ideas that a beneficent God has created
the world and its beauty directly for man's use and pleasure; that all true
art and all true life are service of God and should be filled with a spirit
of reverence; that art should reveal truth; and that really great and good
art can spring only from noble natures and a sound national life. The style
of the book is as notable as the substance. It is eloquent with Ruskin's
enthusiastic admiration for Beauty and with his magnificent romantic
rhetoric (largely the result, according to his own testimony, of his
mother's exacting drill in the Bible), which here and elsewhere make him
one of the greatest of all masters of gorgeous description and of fervid
exhortation. The book displays fully, too, another of his chief traits, an
intolerant dogmatism, violently contemptuous of any judgments but his own.
On the religious side, especially, Ruskin's Protestantism is narrow, and
even bigoted, but it softens as the book proceeds (and decidedly more in
his later years). With all its faults, 'Modern Painters' is probably the
greatest book ever written on Art and is an immense storehouse, of noble
material, and suggestion.

In the intervals of this work Ruskin published others less comprehensive,
two of which are of the first importance. 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture'
argues that great art, as the supreme expression of life, is the result of
seven moral and religious principles, Sacrifice, Truth, Power, and the
like. 'The Stones of Venice' is an, impassioned exposition of the beauty of
Venetian Gothic architecture, and here as always Ruskin expresses his
vehement preference for the Gothic art of the Middle Ages as contrasted
with the less original and as it seems to him less sincere style of the
Renaissance.

The publication of the last volume of 'Modern Painters' in 1860 roughly
marks the end of Ruskin's first period. Several influences had by this time
begun to sadden him. More than ten years before, with his usual filial
meekness, he had obeyed his parents in marrying a lady who proved
uncongenial and who after a few years was divorced from him. Meanwhile
acquaintance with Carlyle had combined with experience to convince him of
the comparative ineffectualness of mere art-criticism as a social and
religious force. He had come to feel with increasing indignation that the
modern industrial system, the materialistic political economy founded on
it, and the whole modern organization of society reduce the mass of men to
a state of intellectual, social, and religious squalor and blindness, and
that while they continue in this condition it is of little use to talk to
them about Beauty. He believed that some of the first steps in the
necessary redemptive process must be the education of the poor and a return
to what he conceived (certainly with much exaggeration) to have been the
conditions of medieval labor, when each craftsman was not a mere machine
but an intelligent and original artistic creator; but the underlying
essential was to free industry from the spirit of selfish money-getting and
permeate it with Christian sympathy and respect for man as man. The
ugliness of modern life in its wretched city tenements and its hideous
factories Ruskin would have utterly destroyed, substituting such a
beautiful background (attractive homes and surroundings) as would help to
develop spiritual beauty. With his customary vigor Ruskin proceeded
henceforth to devote himself to the enunciation, and so far as possible the
realization of these beliefs, first by delivering lectures and writing
books. He was met, like all reformers, with a storm of protest, but most of
his ideas gradually became the accepted principles of social theory. Among
his works dealing with these subjects may be named 'Unto This Last,'
'Munera Pulveris' (The Rewards of the Dust--an attack on materialistic
political economy), and 'Fors Clavigera' (Fortune the Key-Bearer), the
latter a series of letters to workingmen extending over many years. To 1865
belongs his most widely-read book, 'Sesame and Lilies,' three lectures on
the spiritual meaning of great literature in contrast to materialism, the
glory of womanhood, and the mysterious significance of life.

From the death of his mother in 1871 Ruskin began to devote his large
inherited fortune to 'St. George's Guild,' a series of industrial and
social experiments in which with lavish generosity he attempted to put his
theories into practical operation. All these experiments, as regards direct
results, ended in failure, though their general influence was great. Among
other movements now everywhere taken for granted 'social settlements' are a
result of his efforts.

All this activity had not caused Ruskin altogether to abandon the teaching
of art to the members of the more well-to-do classes, and beginning in 1870
he held for three or four triennial terms the newly-established
professorship of Art at Oxford and gave to it much hard labor. But this
interest was now clearly secondary in his mind.

Ruskin's temper was always romantically high-strung, excitable, and
irritable. His intense moral fervor, his multifarious activities, and his
disappointments were also constant strains on his nervous force. In 1872,
further, he was rejected in marriage by a young girl for whom he had formed
a deep attachment and who on her death-bed, three years later, refused,
with strange cruelty, to see him. In 1878 his health temporarily failed,
and a few years later he retired to the home, 'Brantwood,' at Coniston in
the Lake Region, which he had bought on the death of his mother. Here his
mind gradually gave way, but intermittently, so that he was still able to
compose 'Praterita' (The Past), a delightful autobiography. He died in
1900.

Ruskin, like Carlyle, was a strange compound of genius, nobility, and
unreasonableness, but as time goes on his dogmatism and violence may well
be more and more forgotten, while his idealism, his penetrating
interpretation of art and life, his fruitful work for a more tolerable
social order, and his magnificent mastery of style and description assure
him a permanent place in the history of English literature and of
civilization.

MATTHEW ARNOLD. Contemporary with Carlyle and Ruskin and fully worthy to
rank with them stands still a third great preacher of social and spiritual
regeneration, Matthew Arnold, whose personality and message, however, were
very different from theirs and who was also one of the chief Victorian
poets. Arnold was born in 1822, the son--and this is decidedly
significant--of the Dr. Thomas Arnold who later became the famous
headmaster of Rugby School and did more than any other man of the century
to elevate the tone of English school life. Matthew Arnold proceeded from
Rugby to Oxford (Balliol College), where he took the prize for original
poetry and distinguished himself as a student. This was the period of the
Oxford Movement, and Arnold was much impressed by Newman's fervor and
charm, but was already too rationalistic in thought to sympathize with his
views. After graduation Arnold taught Greek for a short time at Rugby and
then became private secretary to Lord Lansdoune, who was minister of public
instruction. Four years later, in 1851, Arnold was appointed an inspector
of schools, a position which he held almost to the end of his life and in
which he labored very hard and faithfully, partly at the expense of his
creative work. His life was marked by few striking outward events. His
marriage and home were happy. Up to 1867 his literary production consisted
chiefly of poetry, very carefully composed and very limited in amount, and
for two five-year terms, from 1857 to 1867, he held the Professorship of
Poetry at Oxford. At the expiration of his second term he did not seek for
reappointment, because he did not care to arouse the opposition of
Gladstone--then a power in public affairs--and stir up religious
controversy. His retirement from this position virtually marks the very
distinct change from the first to the second main period of his career. For
with deliberate self-sacrifice he now turned from poetry to prose essays,
because he felt that through the latter medium he could render what seemed
to him a more necessary public service. With characteristic
self-confidence, and obeying his inherited tendency to didacticism, he
appointed himself, in effect, a critic of English national life, beliefs,
and taste, and set out to instruct the public in matters of literature,
social relations, politics and religion. In many essays, published
separately or in periodicals, he persevered in this task until his death in
1888.

As a poet Arnold is generally admitted to rank among the Victorians next
after Tennyson and Browning. The criticism, partly true, that he was not
designed by Nature to be a poet but made himself one by hard work rests on
his intensely, and at the outset coldly, intellectual and moral
temperament. He himself, in modified Puritan spirit, defined poetry as a
criticism of life; his mind was philosophic; and in his own verse, inspired
by Greek poetry, by Goethe and Wordsworth, he realized his definition. In
his work, therefore, delicate melody and sensuous beauty were at first much
less conspicuous than a high moral sense, though after the first the
elements of external beauty greatly developed, often to the finest effect.
In form and spirit his poetry is one of the very best later reflections of
that of Greece, dominated by thought, dignified, and polished with the
utmost care. 'Sohrab and Rustum,' his most ambitious and greatest single
poem, is a very close and admirable imitation of 'The Iliad.' Yet, as the
almost intolerable pathos of 'Sohrab and Rustum' witnesses, Arnold is not
by any means deficient, any more than the Greek poets were, in emotion. He
affords, in fact, a striking example of classical form and spirit united
with the deep, self-conscious, meditative feeling of modern Romanticism.

In substance Arnold's poetry is the expression of his long and tragic
spiritual struggle. To him religion, understood as a reverent devotion to
Divine things, was the most important element in life, and his love of pure
truth was absolute; but he held that modern knowledge had entirely
disproved the whole dogmatic and doctrinal scheme of historic Christianity
and that a new spiritual revelation was necessary. To his Romantic nature,
however, mere knowledge and mere modern science, which their followers were
so confidently exalting, appeared by no means adequate to the purpose;
rather they seemed to him largely futile, because they did not stimulate
the emotions and so minister to the spiritual life. Further, the restless
stirrings of his age, beginning to arouse itself from the social lethargy
of centuries, appeared to him pitifully unintelligent and devoid of
results. He found all modern life, as he says in 'The Scholar-Gypsy,' a
'strange disease,' in which men hurry wildly about in a mad activity which
they mistake for achievement. In Romantic melancholy he looked wistfully
back by contrast to periods when 'life was fresh and young' and could
express itself vigorously and with no torturing introspection. The
exaggerated pessimism in this part of his outcry is explained by his own
statement, that he lived in a transition time, when the old faith was (as
he held) dead, and the new one (partly realized in our own generation) as
yet 'powerless to be born.' Arnold's poetry, therefore, is to be viewed as
largely the expression, monotonous but often poignantly beautiful, of a
temporary mood of questioning protest. But if his conclusion is not
positive, it is at least not weakly despairing. Each man, he insists,
should diligently preserve and guard in intellectual and moral integrity
the fortress of his own soul, into which, when necessary, he can retire in
serene and stoical resignation, determined to endure and to 'see life
steadily and see it whole.' Unless the man himself proves traitor, the
littlenesses of life are powerless to conquer him. In fact, the invincible
courage of the thoroughly disciplined spirit in the midst of doubt and
external discouragement has never been, more nobly expressed than by Arnold
in such poems as 'Palladium' and (from a different point of view) 'The Last
Word.'

There is a striking contrast (largely expressing an actual change of spirit
and point of view) between the manner of Arnold's poetry and that of his
prose. In the latter he entirely abandons the querulous note and assumes
instead a tone of easy assurance, jaunty and delightfully satirical.
Increasing maturity had taught him that merely to sit regarding the past
was useless and that he himself had a definite doctrine, worthy of being
preached with all aggressiveness. We have already said that his essays fall
into four classes, literary, social, religious, and political, though they
cannot always be sharply distinguished. As a literary critic he is uneven,
and, as elsewhere, sometimes superficial, but his fine appreciation and
generally clear vision make him refreshingly stimulating. His point of view
is unusually broad, his chief general purpose being to free English taste
from its insularity, to give it sympathetic acquaintance with the peculiar
excellences of other literatures. Some of his essays, like those on 'The
Function of Criticism at the Present Time,' 'Wordsworth,' and 'Byron,' are
among the best in English, while his 'Essays on Translating Homer' present
the most famous existing interpretation of the spirit and style of the
great Greek epics.

In his social essays, of which the most important form the volume entitled
'Culture and Anarchy,' he continues in his own way the attacks of Carlyle
and Ruskin. Contemporary English life seems to him a moral chaos of
physical misery and of the selfish, unenlightened, violent expression of
untrained wills. He too looks with pitying contempt on the material
achievements of science and the Liberal party as being mere 'machinery,'
means to an end, which men mistakenly worship as though it possessed a real
value in itself. He divides English society into three classes: 1. The
Aristocracy, whom he nick-names 'The Barbarians,' because, like the
Germanic tribes who overthrew the Roman Empire, they vigorously assert
their own privileges and live in the external life rather than in the life
of the spirit. 2. The Middle Class, which includes the bulk of the nation.
For them he borrows from German criticism the name 'Philistines,' enemies
of the chosen people, and he finds their prevailing traits to be
intellectual and spiritual narrowness and a fatal and superficial
satisfaction with mere activity and material prosperity. 3. 'The Populace,'
the 'vast raw and half-developed residuum.' For them Arnold had sincere
theoretical sympathy (though his temperament made it impossible for him to
enter into the same sort of personal sympathy with them as did Ruskin); but
their whole environment and conception of life seemed to him hideous. With
his usual uncomplimentary frankness Arnold summarily described the three
groups as 'a materialized upper class, a vulgarized middle class, and a
brutalized lower class.'

For the cure of these evils Arnold's proposed remedy was Culture, which he
defined as a knowledge of the best that has been thought and done in the
world and a desire to make the best ideas prevail. Evidently this Culture
is not a mere knowledge of books, unrelated to the rest of life. It has
indeed for its basis a very wide range of knowledge, acquired by
intellectual processes, but this knowledge alone Arnold readily admitted to
be 'machinery.' The real purpose and main part of Culture is the training,
broadening, and refining of the whole spirit, including the emotions as
well as the intellect, into sympathy with all the highest ideals, and
therefore into inward peace and satisfaction. Thus Culture is not
indolently selfish, but is forever exerting itself to 'make the best
ideas'--which Arnold also defined as 'reason and the will, of
God'--'prevail.'

Arnold felt strongly that a main obstacle to Culture was religious
narrowness. He held that the English people had been too much occupied with
the 'Hebraic' ideal of the Old Testament, the interest in morality or right
conduct, and though he agreed that this properly makes three quarters of
life, he insisted that it should be joined with the Hellenic (Greek) ideal
of a perfectly rounded nature. He found the essence of Hellenism expressed
in a phrase which he took from Swift, 'Sweetness and Light,' interpreting
Sweetness to mean the love of Beauty, material and spiritual, and Light,
unbiased intelligence; and he urged that these forces be allowed to have
the freest play. He vigorously attacked the Dissenting denominations,
because he believed them to be a conspicuous embodiment of Philistine lack
of Sweetness and Light, with an unlovely insistence on unimportant external
details and a fatal blindness to the meaning of real beauty and real
spirituality. Though he himself was without a theological creed, he was,
and held that every Englishman should be, a devoted adherent of the English
Church, as a beautiful, dignified, and national expression of essential
religion, and therefore a very important influence for Culture.

Toward democracy Arnold took, not Carlyle's attitude of definite
opposition, but one of questioning scrutiny. He found that one actual
tendency of modern democracy was to 'let people do as they liked,' which,
given the crude violence of the Populace, naturally resulted in lawlessness
and therefore threatened anarchy. Culture, on the other hand, includes the
strict discipline of the will and the sacrifice of one's own impulses for
the good of all, which means respect for Law and devotion to the State.
Existing democracy, therefore, he attacked with unsparing irony, but he did
not condemn its principle. One critic has said that 'his ideal of a State
can best be described as an Educated Democracy, working by Collectivism in
Government, Religion and Social Order.' But in his own writings he scarcely
gives expression to so definite a conception.

Arnold's doctrine, of course, was not perfectly comprehensive nor free from
prejudices; but none could be essentially more useful for his generation or
ours. We may readily grant that it is, in one sense or another, a doctrine
for chosen spirits, but if history makes anything clear it is that chosen
spirits are the necessary instruments of all progress and therefore the
chief hope of society.

The differences between Arnold's teaching and that of his two great
contemporaries are probably now clear. All three are occupied with the
pressing necessity of regenerating society. Carlyle would accomplish this
end by means of great individual characters inspired by confidence in the
spiritual life and dominating their times by moral strength; Ruskin would
accomplish it by humanizing social conditions and spiritualizing and
refining all men's natures through devotion to the principles of moral
Right and esthetic Beauty; Arnold would leaven the crude mass of society,
so far as possible, by permeating it with all the myriad influences of
spiritual, moral, and esthetic culture. All three, of course, like every
enlightened reformer, are aiming at ideal conditions which can be actually
realized only in the distant future.

Arnold's style is one of the most charming features of his work. Clear,
direct, and elegant, it reflects most attractively his own high breeding;
but it is also eminently forceful, and marked by very skilful emphasis and
reiteration. One of his favorite devices is a pretense of great humility,
which is only a shelter from which he shoots forth incessant and pitiless
volleys of ironical raillery, light and innocent in appearance, but
irresistible in aim and penetrating power. He has none of the gorgeousness
of Ruskin or the titanic strength of Carlyle, but he can be finely
eloquent, and he is certainly one of the masters of polished effectiveness.

ALFRED TENNYSON. In poetry, apart from the drama, the Victorian period is
the greatest in English literature. Its most representative, though not its
greatest, poet is Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson, the fourth of a large family
of children, was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1809. That year, as it
happened, is distinguished by the birth of a large number of eminent men,
among them Gladstone, Darwin, and Lincoln. Tennyson's father was a
clergyman, holding his appointments from a member of the landed gentry; his
mother was peculiarly gentle and benevolent. From childhood the poet,
though physically strong, was moody and given to solitary dreaming; from
early childhood also he composed poetry, and when he was seventeen he and
one of his elder brothers brought out a volume of verse, immature, but of
distinct poetic feeling and promise. The next year they entered Trinity
College, Cambridge, where Tennyson, too reserved for public prominence,
nevertheless developed greatly through association with a gifted group of
students. Called home by the fatal illness of his father shortly before his
four year's were completed, he decided, as Milton had done, and as Browning
was even then doing, to devote himself to his art; but, like Milton, he
equipped himself, now and throughout his life, by hard and systematic study
of many of the chief branches of knowledge, including the sciences. His
next twenty years were filled with difficulty and sorrow. Two volumes of
poems which he published in 1830 and 1832 were greeted by the critics with
their usual harshness, which deeply wounded his sensitive spirit and
checked his further publication for ten years; though the second of these
volumes contains some pieces which, in their later, revised, form, are
among his chief lyric triumphs. In 1833 his warm friend Arthur Hallam, a
young man of extraordinary promise, who was engaged, moreover, to one of
Tennyson's sisters, died suddenly without warning. Tennyson's grief, at
first overwhelming, was long a main factor in his life and during many
years found slow artistic expression in 'In Memoriam' and other poems. A
few years later came another deep sorrow. Tennyson formed an engagement of
marriage with Miss Emily Sellwood, but his lack of worldly prospects led
her relatives to cancel it.

Tennyson now spent much of his time in London, on terms of friendship with
many literary men, including Carlyle, who almost made an exception in his
favor from his general fanatical contempt for poetry. In 1842 Tennyson
published two volumes of poems, including the earlier ones revised; he here
won an undoubted popular success and was accepted by the best judges as the
chief living productive English poet. Disaster followed in the shape of an
unfortunate financial venture which for a time reduced his family to
serious straits and drove him with shattered nerves to a sanitarium. Soon,
however, he received from the government as a recognition of his poetic
achievement a permanent annual pension of two hundred pounds, and in 1847
he published the strange but delightful 'Princess.' The year 1850 marked
the decisive turning point of his career. He was enabled to renew his
engagement and be married; the publication of 'In Memoriam' established him
permanently in a position of such popularity as few living poets have ever
enjoyed; and on the death of Wordsworth he was appointed Poet Laureate.

The prosperity of the remaining half of his life was a full recompense for
his earlier struggles, though it is marked by few notable external events.
Always a lover of the sea, he soon took up his residence in the Isle of
Wight. His production of poetry was steady, and its variety great. The
largest of all his single achievements was the famous series of 'Idylls of
the King,' which formed a part of his occupation for many years. In much of
his later work there is a marked change from his earlier elaborate
decorativeness to a style of vigorous strength. At the age of sixty-five,
fearful that he had not yet done enough to insure his fame, he gave a
remarkable demonstration of poetic vitality by striking out into the to him
new field of poetic drama. His important works here are the three tragedies
in which he aimed to complete the series of Shakspere's chronicle-history
plays; but he lacked the power of dramatic action, and the result is rather
three fine poems than successful plays. In 1883, after having twice refused
a baronetcy, he, to the regret of his more democratic friends, accepted a
peerage (barony). Tennyson disliked external show, but he was always
intensely loyal to the institutions of England, he felt that literature was
being honored in his person, and he was willing to secure a position of
honor for his son, who had long rendered him devoted service. He died
quietly in 1892, at the age of eighty-three, and was buried in Westminster
Abbey beside Browning, who had found a resting-place there three years
earlier. His personal character, despite some youthful morbidness, was
unusually delightful, marked by courage, honesty, sympathy, and
straightforward manliness. He had a fine voice and took undisguised
pleasure in reading his poems aloud. The chief traits of his poetry in form
and substance may be suggested in a brief summary.

1. Most characteristic, perhaps, is his exquisite artistry (in which he
learned much from Keats). His appreciation for sensuous beauty, especially
color, is acute; his command of poetic phraseology is unsurpassed; he
suggests shades of, feeling and elusive aspiration with, marvelously
subtile power; his descriptions are magnificently beautiful, often with
much detail; and his melody is often the perfection of sweetness. Add the
truth and tenderness of his emotion, and it results that he is one of the
finest and most moving of lyric poets. Nor is all this beauty vague and
unsubstantial. Not only was he the most careful of English poets, revising
his works with almost unprecedented pains, but his scientific habit of mind
insists on the greatest accuracy; in his allusions to Nature he often
introduces scientific facts in a way thitherto unparalleled, and sometimes
even only doubtfully poetic. The influence of the classic literatures on
his style and expression was great; no poet combines more harmoniously
classic perfection and romantic feeling.

2. The variety of his poetic forms is probably greater than that of any
other English poet. In summary catalogue may be named: lyrics, both
delicate and stirring; ballads; romantic dreams and fancies; descriptive
poems; sentimental reveries, and idyls; long narratives, in which he
displays perfect narrative skill; delightfully realistic
character-sketches, some of them in dialect; dramas; and meditative poems,
long and short, on religious, ethical, and social questions. In almost all
these forms he has produced numerous masterpieces.

3. His chief deficiency is in the dramatic quality. No one can present more
finely than he moods (often carefully set in a harmoniously appropriate
background of external nature) or characters in stationary position; and
there is splendid spirit in his narrative passages of vigorous action.
Nevertheless his genius and the atmosphere of his poems are generally
dreamy, romantic, and aloof from actual life. A brilliant critic [Footnote:
Professor Lewis E. Gates in a notable essay, 'Studies and Appreciations,'
p. 71.] has caustically observed that he 'withdraws from the turmoil of the
real universe into the fortress of his own mind, and beats the enemy in toy
battles with toy soldiers.' He never succeeded in presenting to the
satisfaction of most good critics a vigorous man in vigorous action.

4. The ideas of his poetry are noble and on the whole clear. He was an
independent thinker, though not an innovator, a conservative liberal, and
was so widely popular because he expressed in frank but reverent fashion
the moderately advanced convictions of his time. His social ideals, in
which he is intensely interested, are those of Victorian humanitarianism.
He hopes ardently for a steady amelioration of the condition of the masses,
proceeding toward a time when all men shall have real opportunity for full
development; and freedom is one of his chief watchwords. But with typical
English conservatism he believes that progress must be gradual, and that it
should be controlled by order, loyalty, and reverence. Like a true
Englishman, also, he is sure that the institutions of England are the best
in the world, so that he is a strong supporter of the monarchy and the
hereditary aristocracy. In religion, his inherited belief, rooted in his
deepest fibers, early found itself confronted by the discoveries of modern
science, which at first seemed to him to proclaim that the universe is much
what it seemed to the young Carlyle, a remorseless monster, 'red in tooth
and claw,' scarcely thinkable as the work of a Christian God who cares for
man. Tennyson was too sincere to evade the issue, and after years of inner
struggle he arrived at a positive faith in the central principles of
Christianity, broadly interpreted, though it was avowedly a faith based on
instinct and emotional need rather than on unassailable reasoning. His
somewhat timid disposition, moreover, never allowed him to enunciate his
conclusions with anything like the buoyant aggressiveness of his
contemporary, Robert Browning. How greatly science had influenced his point
of view appears in the conception which is central in his later poetry,
namely that the forces of the universe are governed by unchanging Law,
through which God works. The best final expression of his spirit is the
lyric 'Crossing the Bar,' which every one knows and which at his own
request is printed last in all editions of his works.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING AND ROBERT BROWNING. Robert Browning, Tennyson's
chief poetic contemporary, stands in striking artistic contrast to
Tennyson--a contrast which perhaps serves to enhance the reputation of
both. Browning's life, if not his poetry, must naturally be considered in
connection with that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with whom he was united
in what appears the most ideal marriage of two important writers in the
history of literature.

Elizabeth Barrett, the daughter of a country gentleman of Herefordshire
(the region of the Malvern Hills and of 'Piers Plowman'), was born in 1806.
She was naturally both healthy and intellectually precocious; the writing
of verse and outdoor life divided all her early life, and at seventeen she
published, a volume of immature poems. At fifteen, however, her health was
impaired by an accident which happened as she was saddling her pony, and at
thirty, after a removal of the family to London, it completely failed. From
that time on for ten years she was an invalid, confined often to her bed
and generally to her chamber, sometimes apparently at the point of death.
Nevertheless she kept on with persistent courage and energy at her study
and writing. The appearance of her poems in two volumes in 1844 gave her a
place among the chief living poets and led to her acquaintance with
Browning.

Browning was born in a London suburb in 1812 (the same year with Dickens),
of very mixed ancestry, which may partly explain the very diverse traits in
his nature and poetry. His father, a man of artistic and cultured tastes,
held a subordinate though honorable position in the Bank of England. The
son inherited a strong instinct for all the fine arts, and though he
composed verses before he could write, seemed for years more likely to
become a musician than a poet. His formal schooling was irregular, but he
early began to acquire from his father's large and strangely-assorted
library the vast fund of information which astonishes the reader of his
poetry, and he too lived a healthy out-of-door life. His parents being
Dissenters, the universities were not open to him, and when he was
seventeen his father somewhat reluctantly consented to his own unhesitating
choice of poetry as a profession. For seventeen years more he continued in
his father's home, living a normal life among his friends, writing
continuously, and gradually acquiring a reputation among some good critics,
but making very little impression on the public. Some of his best short
poems date from these years, such as 'My Last Duchess' and 'The Bishop
Orders His Tomb'; but his chief effort went into a series of seven or eight
poetic dramas, of which 'Pippa Passes' is best known and least dramatic.
They are noble poetry, but display in marked degree the psychological
subtilety which in part of his poetry demands unusually close attention
from the reader.

In one of the pieces in her volumes of 1844 Elizabeth Barrett mentioned
Browning, among other poets, with generous praise. This led to a
correspondence between the two, and soon to a courtship, in which
Browning's earnestness finally overcame Miss Barrett's scrupulous
hesitation to lay upon him (as she felt) the burden of her invalidism.
Indeed her invalidism at last helped to turn the scales in Browning's
favor, for the physicians had declared that Miss Barrett's life depended on
removal to a warmer climate, but to this her father, a well-intentioned but
strangely selfish man, absolutely refused to consent. The record of the
courtship is given in Mrs. Browning's 'Sonnets from the Portuguese' (a
whimsical title, suggested by Mrs. Browning's childhood nickname, 'The
Little Portuguese'), which is one of the finest of English
sonnet-sequences. The marriage, necessarily clandestine, took place in
1846; Mrs. Browning's father thenceforth treated her as one dead, but the
removal from her morbid surroundings largely restored her health for the
remaining fifteen years of her life. During these fifteen years the two
poets resided chiefly in various cities of Italy, with a nominal home in
Florence, and Mrs. Browning had an inherited income which sufficed for
their support until their poetry became profitable. Their chief works
during this period were Mrs. Browning's 'Aurora Leigh' (1856), a long
'poetic novel' in blank verse dealing with the relative claims of Art and
Social Service and with woman's place in the world; and Browning's most
important single publication, his two volumes of 'Men and Women' (1855),
containing fifty poems, many of them among his very best.

Mrs. Browning was passionately interested in the Italian struggle for
independence against Austrian tyranny, and her sudden death in 1861 seems
to have been hastened by that of the Italian statesman Cavour. Browning, at
first inconsolable, soon returned with his son to London, where he again
made his home, for the rest of his life. Henceforth he published much
poetry, for the most part long pieces of subtile psychological and
spiritual analysis. In 1868-9 he brought out his characteristic
masterpiece, 'The Ring and the Book,' a huge psychological epic, which
proved the tardy turning point in his reputation. People might not
understand the poem, but they could not disregard it, the author became
famous, almost popular, and a Browning cult arose, marked by the spread of
Browning societies in both England and America. Browning enjoyed his
success for twenty years and died quietly in 1889 at the home of his son in
Venice.

Browning earnestly reciprocated his wife's loyal devotion and seemed really
to believe, as he often insisted, that her poetry was of a higher order
than his own. Her achievement, indeed, was generally overestimated, in her
own day and later, but it is now recognized that she is scarcely a really
great artist. Her intense emotion, her fine Christian idealism, and her
very wide reading give her real power; her womanly tenderness is admirable;
and the breadth of her interests and sometimes the clearness of her
judgment are notable; but her secluded life of ill-health rendered her
often sentimental, high-strung, and even hysterical. She has in her the
impulses and material of great poetry, but circumstances and her
temperament combined to deny her the patient self-discipline necessary for
the best results. She writes vehemently to assert the often-neglected
rights of women and children or to denounce negro slavery and all
oppression; and sometimes, as when in 'The Cry of the Children' she
revealed the hideousness of child-labor in the factories, she is genuine
and irresistible; but more frequently she produces highly romantic or
mystical imaginary narrations (often in medieval settings). She not seldom
mistakes enthusiasm or indignation for artistic inspiration, and she is
repeatedly and inexcusably careless in meter and rime. Perhaps her most
satisfactory poems, aside from those above mentioned, are 'The Vision of
Poets' and 'The Rime of the Duchess May.'

In considering the poetry of Robert Browning the inevitable first general
point is the nearly complete contrast with Tennyson. For the melody and
exquisite beauty of phrase and description which make so large a part of
Tennyson's charm, Browning cares very little; his chief merits as an artist
lie mostly where Tennyson is least strong; and he is a much more
independent and original thinker than Tennyson. This will become more
evident in a survey of his main characteristics.

1. Browning is the most thoroughly vigorous and dramatic of all great poets
who employ other forms than the actual drama. Of his hundreds of poems the
great majority set before the reader a glimpse of actual life and human
personalities--an action, a situation, characters, or a character--in the
clearest and most vivid possible way. Sometimes the poem is a ringing
narration of a fine exploit, like 'How They Brought the Good News';
sometimes it is quieter and more reflective. Whatever the style, however,
in the great majority of cases Browning employs the form which without
having actually invented it he developed into an instrument of thitherto
unsuspected power, namely the dramatic monolog in which a character
discusses his situation or life or some central part or incident, of it,
under circumstances which reveal with wonderful completeness its
significance and his own essential character. To portray and interpret life
in this way, to give his readers a sudden vivid understanding of its main
forces and conditions in representative moments, may be called the first
obvious purpose, or perhaps rather instinct, of Browning and his poetry.
The dramatic economy of space which he generally attains in his monologs is
marvelous. In 'My Last Duchess' sixty lines suffice to etch into our
memories with incredible completeness and clearness two striking
characters, an interesting situation, and the whole of a life's tragedy.

2. Despite his power over external details it is in the human characters,
as the really significant and permanent elements of life, that Browning is
chiefly interested; indeed he once declared directly that the only thing
that seemed to him worth while was the study of souls. The number and range
of characters that he has portrayed are unprecedented, and so are the
keenness, intenseness, and subtilety of the analysis. Andrea del Sarto, Fra
Lippo Lippi, Cleon, Karshish, Balaustion, and many scores of others, make
of his poems a great gallery of portraits unsurpassed in interest by those
of any author whatever except Shakspere. It is little qualification of his
achievement to add that all his persons are somewhat colored by his own
personality and point of view, or that in his later poetry he often splits
hairs very ingeniously in his effort to understand and present
sympathetically the motives of all characters, even the worst. These are
merely some of the secondary aspects of his peculiar genius. Browning's
favorite heroes and heroines, it should be added, are men and women much
like himself, of strong will and decisive power of action, able to take the
lead vigorously and unconventionally and to play controlling parts in the
drama of life.

3. The frequent comparative difficulty of Browning's poetry arises in large
part first from the subtilety of his thought and second from the obscurity
of his subject-matter and his fondness for out-of-the-way characters. It is
increased by his disregard of the difference between his own extraordinary
mental power and agility on the one hand and on the other the capacity of
the average person, a disregard which leads him to take much for granted
that most readers are obliged to study out with no small amount of labor.
Moreover Browning was hasty in composition, corrected his work little, if
at all, and was downright careless in such details as sentence structure.
But the difficulty arising from these various eccentricities occurs chiefly
in his longer poems, and often serves mainly as a mental stimulus. Equally
striking, perhaps, is his frequent grotesqueness in choice of subject and
in treatment, which seems to result chiefly from his wish to portray the
world as it actually is, keeping in close touch with genuine everyday
reality; partly also from his instinct to break away from placid and
fiberless conventionality.

4. Browning is decidedly one of those who hold the poet to be a teacher,
and much, indeed most, of his poetry is occupied rather directly with the
questions of religion and the deeper meanings of life. Taken all together,
that is, his poetry constitutes a very extended statement of his philosophy
of life. The foundation of his whole theory is a confident and aggressive
optimism. He believes, partly on the basis of intellectual reasoning, but
mainly on what seems to him the convincing testimony of instinct, that the
universe is controlled by a loving God, who has made life primarily a thing
of happiness for man. Man should accept life with gratitude and enjoy to
the full all its possibilities. Evil exists only to demonstrate the value
of Good and to develop character, which can be produced only by hard and
sincere struggle. Unlike Tennyson, therefore, Browning has full confidence
in present reality--he believes that life on earth is predominantly good.
Nevertheless earthly life is evidently incomplete in itself, and the
central law of existence is Progress, which gives assurance of a future
life where man may develop the spiritual nature which on earth seems to
have its beginning and distinguishes man from the brutes. This future life,
however, is probably not one but many, a long succession of lives, the
earlier ones not so very different, perhaps, from the present one on earth;
and even the worst souls, commencing the next life, perhaps, as a result of
their failure here, at a spiritual stage lower than the present one, must
ultimately pass through all stages of the spiritual process, and come to
stand with all the others near the perfection of God himself. This whole
theory, which, because later thought has largely adopted it from Browning,
seems much less original to-day than when he first propounded it, is stated
and reiterated in his poems with a dynamic idealizing power which, whether
or not one assents to it in details, renders it magnificently stimulating.
It is rather fully expressed as a whole, in two of Browning's best known
and finest poems, 'Rabbi ben Ezra,' and 'Abt Vogler.' Some critics, it
should be added, however, feel that Browning is too often and too
insistently a teacher in his poetry and that his art would have gained if
he had introduced his philosophy much more incidentally.

5. In his social theory Browning differs not only from Tennyson but from
the prevailing thought of his age, differs in that his emphasis is
individualistic. Like all the other Victorians he dwells on the importance
of individual devotion to the service of others, but he believes that the
chief results of such effort must be in the development of the individual's
character, not greatly in the actual betterment of the world. The world,
indeed, as it appears to him, is a place of probation and we cannot expect
ever to make it over very radically; the important thing is that the
individual soul shall use it to help him on his 'lone way' to heaven.
Browning, accordingly, takes almost no interest in the specific social and
political questions of his day, a fact which certainly will not operate
against the permanence of his fame. More detrimental, no doubt, aside from
the actual faults which we have mentioned, will be his rather extravagant
Romanticism--the vehemence of his passion and his insistence on the supreme
value of emotion. With these characteristics classically minded critics
have always been highly impatient, and they will no doubt prevent him from
ultimately taking a place beside Shakspere and the serene Milton; but they
will not seriously interfere, we may be certain, with his recognition as
one of the very great English poets.

ROSSETTI AND THE PRE-RAPHAELITE MOVEMENT. Many of the secondary Victorian
poets must here be passed by, but several of them are too important to be
dismissed without at least brief notice. The middle of the century is
marked by a new Romantic impulse, the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, which begins
with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti was born in London in 1828. His father
was an Italian, a liberal refugee from the outrageous government of Naples,
and his mother was also half Italian. The household, though poor, was a
center for other Italian exiles, but this early and tempestuous political
atmosphere created in the poet, by reaction, a lifelong aversion for
politics. His desultory education was mostly in the lines of painting and
the Italian and English poets. His own practice in poetry began as early as
is usual with poets, and before he was nineteen, by a special inspiration,
he wrote his best and most famous poem, 'The Blessed Damosel.' In the
school of the Royal Academy of Painting, in 1848, he met William Holman
Hunt and John E. Millais, and the three formed the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood, in which Rossetti, whose disposition throughout his life was
extremely self-assertive, or even domineering, took the lead. The purpose
of the Brotherhood was to restore to painting and literature the qualities
which the three enthusiasts found in the fifteenth century Italian
painters, those who just preceded Raphael. Rossetti and his friends did not
decry the noble idealism of Raphael himself, but they felt that in trying
to follow his grand style the art of their own time had become too abstract
and conventional. They wished to renew emphasis on serious emotion,
imagination, individuality, and fidelity to truth; and in doing so they
gave special attention to elaboration of details in a fashion distinctly
reminiscent of medievalism. Their work had much, also, of medieval
mysticism and symbolism. Besides painting pictures they published a very
short-lived periodical, 'The Germ,' containing both literary material and
drawings. Ruskin, now arriving at fame and influence, wrote vigorously in
their favor, and though the Brotherhood did not last long as an
organization, it has exerted a great influence on subsequent painting.

Rossetti's impulses were generous, but his habits were eccentric and
selfish, and his life unfortunate. His engagement with Miss Eleanor Siddal,
a milliner's apprentice (whose face appears in many of his pictures), was
prolonged by his lack of means for nine years; further, he was an agnostic,
while she held a simple religious faith, and she was carrying on a losing
struggle with tuberculosis. Sixteen months after their marriage she died,
and on a morbid impulse of remorse for inconsiderateness in his treatment
of her Rossetti buried his poems, still unpublished, in her coffin. After
some years, however, he was persuaded to disinter and publish them.
Meanwhile he had formed friendships with the slightly younger artists
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and they established a company for
the manufacture of furniture and other articles, to be made beautiful as
well as useful, and thus to aid in spreading the esthetic sense among the
English people. After some years Rossetti and Burne-Jones withdrew from the
enterprise, leaving it to Morris. Rossetti continued all his life to
produce both poetry and paintings. His pictures are among the best and most
gorgeous products of recent romantic art--'Dante's Dream,' 'Beata Beatrix,'
'The Blessed Damosel,' and many others. During his later years he earned a
large income, and he lived in a large house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea (near
Carlyle), where for a while, as long as his irregular habits permitted, the
novelist George Meredith and the poet Swinburne were also inmates. He
gradually grew more morbid, and became a rather pitiful victim of insomnia,
the drug chloral, and spiritualistic delusions about his wife. He died in
1882.

Rossetti's poetry is absolutely unlike that of any other English poet, and
the difference is clearly due in large part to his Italian race and his
painter's instinct. He has, in the didactic sense, absolutely no religious,
moral, or social interests; he is an artist almost purely for art's sake,
writing to give beautiful embodiment to moods, experiences, and striking
moments. If it is true of Tennyson, however, that he stands aloof from
actual life, this is far truer of Rossetti. His world is a vague and
languid region of enchantment, full of whispering winds, indistinct forms
of personified abstractions, and the murmur of hidden streams; its
landscape sometimes bright, sometimes shadowy, but always delicate,
exquisitely arranged for luxurious decorative effect. In his
ballad-romances, to be sure, such as, 'The King's Tragedy,' there is much
dramatic vigor; yet there is still more of medieval weirdness. Rossetti,
like Dante, has much of spiritual mysticism, and his interest centers in
the inner rather than the outer life; but his method, that of a painter and
a southern Italian, is always highly sensuous. His melody is superb and
depends partly on a highly Latinized vocabulary, archaic pronunciations,
and a delicate genius in sound-modulation, the effect being heightened also
by frequent alliteration and masterly use of refrains. 'Sister Helen,'
obviously influenced by the popular ballad 'Edward, Edward,' derives much
of its tremendous tragic power from the refrain, and in the use of this
device is perhaps the most effective poem in the world. Rossetti is
especially facile also with the sonnet. His sonnet sequence, 'The House of
Life,' one of the most notable in English, exalts earthly Love as the
central force in the world and in rather fragmentary fashion traces the
tragic influence of Change in both life and love.

WILLIAM MORRIS. William Morris, a man of remarkable versatility and
tremendous energy, which expressed themselves in poetry and many other
ways, was the son of a prosperous banker, and was born in London in 1834.
At Oxford in 1853-55 he became interested in medieval life and art, was
stimulated by the poetry of Mrs. Browning and Tennyson, became a friend of
Burne-Jones, wrote verse and prose, and was a member of a group called 'The
Brotherhood,' while a little later published for a year a monthly magazine
not unlike 'The Germ.' He apprenticed himself to an architect, but at the
same time also practised several decorative arts, such as woodcarving,
illuminating manuscripts, and designing furniture, stained glass and
embroidery. Together with Burne-Jones, moreover, he became an enthusiastic
pupil of Rossetti in painting. His first volume of verse, 'The Defence of
Guinevere and Other Poems,' put forth in 1858, shows the influence of
Rossetti and Pre-Raphaelitism, but it mainly gives vivid presentation to
the spirit of fourteenth-century French chivalry. In 1861 came the
foundation of the decorative-art firm of Morris and Co. (above, p. 337),
which after some years grew into a large business, continued to be Morris'
main occupation to the end of his life, and has exercised a great
influence, both in England and elsewhere, on the beautifying of the
surroundings of domestic life.

Meanwhile Morris had turned to the writing of long narrative poems, which
he composed with remarkable fluency. The most important is the series of
versions of Greek and Norse myths and legends which appeared in 1868-70 as
'The Earthly Paradise.' Shortly after this he became especially interested
in Icelandic literature and published versions of some of its stories;
notably one of the Siegfried tale, 'Sigurd the Volsung.' In the decade from
1880 to 1890 he devoted most of his energy to work for the Socialist party,
of which he became a leader. His ideals were largely identical with those
of Ruskin; in particular he wished to restore (or create) in the lives of
workingmen conditions which should make of each of them an independent
artist. The practical result of his experience was bitter disappointment,
he was deposed from his leadership, finally abandoned the party, and
returned to art and literature. He now published a succession of prose
romances largely inspired by the Icelandic sagas and composed in a strange
half-archaic style. He also established the 'Kelmscott Press,' which he
made famous for its production of elaborate artistic editions of great
books. He died in 1896.

Morris' shorter poems are strikingly dramatic and picturesque, and his
longer narrations are remarkably facile and often highly pleasing. His
facility, however, is his undoing. He sometimes wrote as much as eight
hundred lines in a day, and he once declared: 'If a chap can't compose an
epic poem while he's weaving tapestry, he had better shut up; he'll never
do any good at all.' In reading his work one always feels that there is the
material of greatness, but perhaps nothing that he wrote is strictly great.
His prose will certainly prove less permanent than his verse.

SWINBURNE. A younger disciple of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement but also a
strongly original artist was Algernon Charles Swinburne. Born in 1837 into
a wealthy family, the son of an admiral, he devoted himself throughout his
life wholly to poetry, and his career was almost altogether devoid of
external incident. After passing through Eton and Oxford he began as author
at twenty-three by publishing two plays imitative of Shakspere. Five years
later he put forth 'Atalanta in Calydon,' a tragedy not only drawn from
Greek heroic legend, but composed in the ancient Greek manner, with long
dialogs and choruses. These two volumes express the two intensely vigorous
forces which were strangely combined in his nature; for while no man has
ever been a more violent romanticist than Swinburne, yet, as one critic has
said, 'All the romantic riot in his blood clamored for Greek severity and
Greek restraint.' During the next fifteen years he was partly occupied with
a huge poetic trilogy in blank verse on Mary Queen of Scots, and from time
to time he wrote other dramas and much prose criticism, the latter largely
in praise of the Elizabethan dramatists and always wildly extravagant in
tone. He produced also some long narrative poems, of which the chief is
'Tristram of Lyonesse.' His chief importance, however, is as a lyric poet,
and his lyric production was large. His earlier poems in this category are
for the most part highly objectionable in substance or sentiment, but he
gradually worked into a better vein. He was a friend of George Meredith,
Burne-Jones, Morris, Rossetti (to whom he loyally devoted himself for
years), and the painter Whistler. He died in 1909.

Swinburne carried his radicalism into all lines. Though an ardently
patriotic Englishman, he was an extreme republican; and many of his poems
are dedicated to the cause of Italian independence or to liberty in
general. The significance of his thought, however, is less than that of any
other English poet who can in any sense be called great; his poetry is
notable chiefly for its artistry, especially for its magnificent melody.
Indeed, it has been cleverly said that he offers us an elaborate service of
gold and silver, but with little on it except salt and pepper. In his case,
however, the mere external beauty and power often seem their own complete
and satisfying justification. His command of different meters is marvelous;
he uses twice as many as Browning, who is perhaps second to him in this
respect, and his most characteristic ones are those of gloriously rapid
anapestic lines with complicated rime-schemes. Others of his distinctive
traits are lavish alliteration, rich sensuousness, grandiose vagueness of
thought and expression, a great sweep of imagination, and a corresponding
love of vastness and desolation. He makes much decorative use of Biblical
imagery and of vague abstract personifications--in general creates an
atmosphere similar to that of Rossetti. Somewhat as in the case of Morris,
his fluency is almost fatal--he sometimes pours out his melodious but vague
emotion in forgetfulness of all proportion and restraint. From the
intellectual and spiritual point of view he is nearly negligible, but as a
musician in words he has no superior, not even Shelley.

OTHER VICTORIA POETS. Among the other Victorian poets, three, at least,
must be mentioned. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), tutor at Oxford and
later examiner in the government education office, expresses the spiritual
doubt and struggle of the period in noble poems similar to those of Matthew
Arnold, whose fine elegy 'Thyrsis' commemorates him. Edward Fitzgerald
(1809-1883), Irish by birth, an eccentric though kind-hearted recluse, and
a friend of Tennyson, is known solely for his masterly paraphrase (1859) of
some of the Quatrains of the skeptical eleventh-century Persian
astronomer-poet Omar Khayyam. The similarity of temper between the medieval
oriental scholar and the questioning phase of the Victorian period is
striking (though the spirit of Fitzgerald's verse is no doubt as much his
own as Omar's), and no poetry is more poignantly beautiful than the best of
this. Christina Rossetti (1830-94), the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
lived in London with her mother in the greatest seclusion, occupied with an
ascetic devotion to the English Church, with her poetry, and with the
composition, secondarily, of prose articles and short stories. Her poetry
is limited almost entirely to the lyrical expression of her spiritual
experiences, much of it is explicitly religious, and all of it is religious
in feeling. It is tinged with the Pre-Raphaelite mystic medievalism; and a
quiet and most affecting sadness is its dominant trait; but the power and
beauty of a certain small part of it perhaps entitle her to be called the
chief of English poetesses.

THE NOVEL. THE EARLIER SECONDARY NOVELISTS. To Scott's position of
unquestioned supremacy among romancers and novelists Charles Dickens
succeeded almost immediately on Scott's death, but certain secondary early
Victorian novelists may be considered before him. In the lives of two of
these, Bulwer-Lytton and Benjamin Disraeli, there are interesting
parallels. Both were prominent in politics, both began writing as young men
before the commencement of the Victorian period, and both ended their
literary work only fifty years later. Edward Bulwer, later created Sir
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and finally raised to the peerage as Lord Lytton
(1803-1873), was almost incredibly fluent and versatile. Much of his life a
member of Parliament and for a while of the government, he was a vigorous
pamphleteer. His sixty or more really literary works are of great variety;
perhaps the best known of them are his second novel, the trifling 'Pelham'
(1828), which inaugurated a class of so-called 'dandy' novels, giving
sympathetic presentation to the more frivolous social life of the 'upper'
class, and the historical romances 'The Last Days of Pompeii' (1834) and
'Harold' (1843). In spite of his real ability, Bulwer was a poser and
sentimentalist, characteristics for which he was vigorously ridiculed by
Thackeray. Benjamin Disraeli, [Footnote: The second syllable is pronounced
like the word 'rail' and has the accent, so that the whole name is
Disraily.] later Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), a much less prolific
writer, was by birth a Jew. His immature earliest novel, 'Vivian Grey'
(1826), deals, somewhat more sensibly, with the same social class as
Bulwer's 'Pelham.' In his novels of this period, as in his dress and
manner, he deliberately attitudinized, a fact which in part reflected a
certain shallowness of character, in part was a device to attract attention
for the sake of his political ambition. After winning his way into
Parliament he wrote in 1844-7 three political novels,' Coningsby,' 'Sybil,'
and 'Tancred,' which set forth his Tory creed of opposition to the
dominance of middle-class Liberalism. For twenty-five years after this he
was absorbed in the leadership of his party, and he at last became Prime
Minister. In later life he so far returned to literature as to write two
additional novels.

Vastly different was the life and work of Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855).
Miss Bronte, a product and embodiment of the strictest religious sense of
duty, somewhat tempered by the liberalizing tendency of the time, was the
daughter of the rector of a small and bleak Yorkshire village, Haworth,
where she was brought up in poverty. The two of her sisters who reached
maturity, Emily and Anne, both still more short-lived than she, also wrote
novels, and Emily produced some lyrics which strikingly express the stern,
defiant will that characterized all the children of the family. Their lives
were pitifully bare, hard, and morbid, scarcely varied or enlivened except
by a year which Charlotte and Emily spent when Charlotte was twenty-six in
a private school in Brussels, followed on Charlotte's part by a return to
the same school for a year as teacher. In 1847 Charlotte's novel 'Jane
Eyre' (pronounced like the word 'air') won a great success. Her three later
novels are less significant. In 1854 she was married to one of her father's
curates, a Mr. Nicholls, a sincere but narrow-minded man. She was happy in
the marriage, but died within a few months, worn out by the unremitting
physical and moral strain of forty years.

The significance of 'Jane Eyre' can be suggested by calling it the last
striking expression of extravagant Romanticism, partly Byronic, but grafted
on the stern Bronte moral sense. One of its two main theses is the
assertion of the supreme authority of religious duty, but it vehemently
insists also on the right of the individual conscience to judge of duty for
itself, in spite of conventional opinion, and, difficult as this may be to
understand to-day, it was denounced at the time as irreligious. The
Romanticism appears further in the volcanic but sometimes melodramatic
power of the love story, where the heroine is a somewhat idealized double
of the authoress and where the imperfect portrayal of the hero reflects the
limitations of Miss Bronte's own experience.

Miss Bronte is the subject of one of the most delightfully sympathetic of
all biographies, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. Mrs. Gaskell
was authoress also of many stories, long and short, of which the best known
is 'Cranford' (1853), a charming portrayal of the quaint life of a secluded
village.

CHARLES DICKENS. [Footnote: The life of Dickens by his friend John Forster
is another of the most famous English biographies.] The most popular of all
English novelists, Charles Dickens, was born in 1812, the son of an
unpractical and improvident government navy clerk whom, with questionable
taste, he later caricatured in 'David Copperfield' as Mr. Micawber. The
future novelist's schooling was slight and irregular, but as a boy he read
much fiction, especially seventeenth and eighteenth century authors, whose
influence is apparent in the picaresque lack of structure of his own works.
From childhood also he showed the passion for the drama and the theater
which resulted from the excitably dramatic quality of his own temperament
and which always continued to be the second moving force of his life. When
he was ten years old his father was imprisoned for debt (like Micawber, in
the Marshalsea prison), and he was put to work in the cellar of a London
shoe-blacking factory. On his proud and sensitive disposition this
humiliation, though it lasted only a few months, inflicted a wound which
never thoroughly healed; years after he was famous he would cross the
street to avoid the smell from an altogether different blacking factory,
with its reminder 'of what he once was.' To this experience, also, may
evidently be traced no small part of the intense sympathy with the
oppressed poor, especially with helpless children, which is so prominent in
his novels. Obliged from the age of fifteen to earn his own living, for the
most part, he was for a while a clerk in a London lawyer's office, where he
observed all sorts and conditions of people with characteristic keenness.
Still more valuable was his five or six years' experience in the very
congenial and very active work of a newspaper reporter, where his special
department was political affairs. This led up naturally to his permanent
work. The successful series of lively 'Sketches by Boz' dealing with people
and scenes about London was preliminary to 'The Pickwick Papers,' which
made the author famous at the age of twenty-four.

During the remaining thirty-three years of his life Dickens produced novels
at the rate of rather more than one in two years. He composed slowly and
carefully but did not revise greatly, and generally published by monthly
installments in periodicals which, latterly, he himself established and
edited. Next after 'The Pickwick Papers' came 'Oliver Twist,' and 'David
Copperfield' ten years later. Of the others, 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' 'Dombey
and Son,' 'Bleak House,' and 'A Tale of Two Cities,' are among the best.
For some years Dickens also published an annual Christmas story, of which
the first two, 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The Chimes,' rank highest.

His exuberant physical energy gave to his life more external variety than
is common with authors. At the age of thirty he made a visit to the United
States and travelled as far as to the then extreme western town of St.
Louis, everywhere received and entertained with the most extravagant
enthusiasm. Even before his return to England, however, he excited a
reaction, by his abundantly justified but untactful condemnation of
American piracy of English books; and this reaction was confirmed by his
subsequent caricature of American life in 'American Notes' and 'Martin
Chuzzlewit.' For a number of years during the middle part of his career
Dickens devoted a vast amount of energy to managing and taking the chief
part in a company of amateur actors, who performed at times in various
cities. Later on he substituted for this several prolonged series of
semi-dramatic public readings from his works, an effort which drew heavily
on his vitality and shortened his life, but which intoxicated him with its
enormous success. One of these series was delivered in America, where, of
course, the former ill-feeling had long before worn away.

Dickens lived during the greater part of his life in London, but in his
later years near Rochester, at Gadshill, the scene of Falstaff's exploit.
He made long sojourns also on the Continent. Much social and outdoor life
was necessary to him; he had a theory that he ought to spend as much time
out of doors as in the house. He married early and had a large family of
children, but pathetically enough for one whose emotions centered so
largely about the home, his own marriage was not well-judged; and after
more than twenty years he and his wife (the Dora Spenlow of 'David
Copperfield') separated, though with mutual respect. He died in 1870 and
was buried in Westminster Abbey in the rather ostentatiously unpretentious
way which, with his deep-seated dislike for aristocratic conventions, he
had carefully prescribed in his will.

Dickens' popularity, in his own day and since, is due chiefly: (1) to his
intense human sympathy; (2) to his unsurpassed emotional and dramatic
power; and (3) to his aggressive humanitarian zeal for the reform of all
evils and abuses, whether they weigh upon the oppressed classes or upon
helpless individuals. Himself sprung from the lower middle class, and
thoroughly acquainted with the life of the poor and apparently of sufferers
in all ranks, he is one of the most moving spokesmen whom they have ever
had. The pathos and tragedy of their experiences--aged and honest toilers
subjected to pitiless task-masters or to the yoke of social injustice;
lonely women uncomplainingly sacrificing their lives for unworthy men;
sad-faced children, the victims of circumstances, of cold-blooded parents,
or of the worst criminals--these things play a large part in almost all of
Dickens' books. In almost all, moreover, there is present, more or less in
the foreground, a definite humanitarian aim, an attack on some
time-consecrated evil--the poor-house system, the cruelties practised in
private schools, or the miscarriage of justice in the Court of Chancery. In
dramatic vividness his great scenes are masterly, for example the storm in
'David Copperfield,' the pursuit and discovery of Lady Dedlock in 'Bleak
House,' and the interview between Mrs. Dombey and James Carker in 'Dombey
and Son.'

Dickens' magnificent emotional power is not balanced, however, by a
corresponding intellectual quality; in his work, as in his temperament and
bearing, emotion is always in danger of running to excess. One of his great
elements of strength is his sense of humor, which has created an almost
unlimited number of delightful scenes and characters; but it very generally
becomes riotous and so ends in sheer farce and caricature, as the names of
many of the characters suggest at the outset. Indeed Dickens has been
rightly designated a grotesque novelist--the greatest of all grotesque
novelists. Similarly his pathos is often exaggerated until it passes into
mawkish sentimentality, so that his humbly-bred heroines, for example, are
made to act and talk with all the poise and certainty which can really
spring only from wide experience and broad education. Dickens' zeal for
reform, also, sometimes outruns his judgment or knowledge and leads him to
assault evils that had actually been abolished long before he wrote.

No other English author has approached Dickens in the number of characters
whom he has created; his twenty novels present literally thousands of
persons, almost all thoroughly human, except for the limitations that we
have already noted. Their range is of course very great, though it never
extends successfully into the 'upper' social classes. For Dickens was
violently prejudiced against the nobility and against all persons of high
social standing, and when he attempted to introduce them created only
pitifully wooden automatons. For the actual English gentleman we must pass
by his Sir Leicester Dedlocks and his Mr. Veneerings to novelists of a very
different viewpoint, such as Thackeray and Meredith.

Dickens' inexhaustible fertility in characters and scenes is a main cause
of the rather extravagant lack of unity which is another conspicuous
feature of his books. He usually made a good preliminary general plan and
proceeded on the whole with firm movement and strong suspense. But he
always introduces many characters and sub-actions not necessary to the main
story, and develops them quite beyond their real artistic importance. Not
without influence here was the necessity of filling a specified number of
serial instalments, each of a definite number of pages, and each requiring
a striking situation at the end. Moreover, Dickens often follows the
eighteenth-century picaresque habit of tracing the histories of his heroes
from birth to marriage. In most respects, however, Dickens' art improved as
he proceeded. The love element, it should be noted, as what we have already
said implies, plays a smaller part than usual among the various aspects of
life which his books present.

Not least striking among Dickens' traits is his power of description. His
observation is very quick and keen, though not fine; his sense for the
characteristic features, whether of scenes in Nature or of human
personality and appearance, is unerring; and he has never had a superior in
picturing and conveying the atmosphere both of interiors and of all kinds
of scenes of human life. London, where most of his novels are wholly or
chiefly located, has in him its chief and most comprehensive portrayer.

Worthy of special praise, lastly, is the moral soundness of all Dickens'
work, praise which is not seriously affected by present-day sneers at his
'middle-class' and 'mid-Victorian' point of view. Dickens' books, however,
like his character, are destitute of the deeper spiritual quality, of
poetic and philosophic idealism. His stories are all admirable
demonstrations of the power and beauty of the nobler practical virtues, of
kindness, courage, humility, and all the other forms of unselfishness; but
for the underlying mysteries of life and the higher meanings of art his
positive and self-formed mind had very little feeling. From first to last
he speaks authentically for the common heart of humanity, but he is not one
of the rarer spirits, like Spenser or George Eliot or Meredith, who
transport us into the realm of the less tangible realities. All his
limitations, indeed, have become more conspicuous as time has passed; and
critical judgment has already definitely excluded him from the select ranks
of the truly greatest authors.

WILLIAM M. THACKERAY. Dickens' chief rival for fame during his later
lifetime and afterward was Thackeray, who presents a strong contrast with
him, both as man and as writer.

Thackeray, the son of an East India Company official, was born at Calcutta
in 1811. His father died while he was a child and he was taken to England
for his education; he was a student in the Charterhouse School and then for
a year at Cambridge. Next, on the Continent, he studied drawing, and though
his unmethodical and somewhat idle habits prevented him from ever really
mastering the technique of the art, his real knack for it enabled him later
on to illustrate his own books in a semi-grotesque but effective fashion.
Desultory study of the law was interrupted when he came of age by the
inheritance of a comfortable fortune, which he managed to lose within a
year or two by gambling, speculations, and an unsuccessful effort at
carrying on a newspaper. Real application to newspaper and magazine writing
secured him after four years a place on 'Eraser's Magazine,' and he was
married. Not long after, his wife became insane, but his warm affection for
his daughters gave him throughout his life genuine domestic happiness.

For ten years Thackeray's production was mainly in the line of satirical
humorous and picaresque fiction, none of it of the first rank. During this
period he chiefly attacked current vices, snobbishness, and sentimentality,
which latter quality, Thackeray's special aversion, he found rampant in
contemporary life and literature, including the novels of Dickens. The
appearance of his masterpiece, 'Vanity Fair' (the allegorical title taken
from a famous incident in 'Pilgrim's Progress'), in 'Fraser's Magazine' in
1847-8 (the year before Dickens' 'David Copperfield') brought him sudden
fame and made him a social lion. Within the next ten years he produced his
other important novels, of which the best are 'Pendennis,' 'Henry Esmond,'
and 'The Newcomes,' and also his charming essays (first delivered as
lectures) on the eighteenth century in England, namely 'English Humorists,'
and 'The Four Georges.' All his novels except 'Henry Esmond' were published
serially, and he generally delayed composing each instalment until the
latest possible moment, working reluctantly except under the stress of
immediate compulsion. He was for three years, at its commencement, editor
of 'The Cornhill Magazine.' He died in 1863 at the age of fifty-two, of
heart failure.

The great contrast between Dickens and Thackeray results chiefly from the
predominance in Thackeray of the critical intellectual quality and of the
somewhat fastidious instinct of the man of society and of the world which
Dickens so conspicuously lacked. As a man Thackeray was at home and at ease
only among people of formal good breeding; he shrank from direct contact
with the common people; in spite of his assaults on the frivolity and vice
of fashionable society, he was fond of it; his spirit was very keenly
analytical; and he would have been chagrined by nothing more than by
seeming to allow his emotion to get the better of his judgment. His novels
seem to many readers cynical, because he scrutinizes almost every character
and every group with impartial vigor, dragging forth every fault and every
weakness into the light. On the title page of 'Vanity Fair' he proclaims
that it is a novel without a hero; and here, as in some of his lesser
works, most of the characters are either altogether bad or worthless and
the others very largely weak or absurd, so that the impression of human
life which the reader apparently ought to carry away is that of a hopeless
chaos of selfishness, hypocrisy, and futility. One word, which has often
been applied to Thackeray, best expresses his attitude--disillusionment.
The last sentences of 'Vanity Fair' are characteristic: 'Oh! Vanitas
Vanitatum! which, of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire?
or, having it, is satisfied?--Come, children, let us shut the box and the
puppets, for our play is played out.'

Yet in reality Thackeray is not a cynic and the permanent impression left
by his books is not pessimistic. Beneath his somewhat ostentatious manner
of the man of the world were hidden a heart and a human sympathy as warm as
ever belonged to any man. However he may ridicule his heroes and his
heroines (and there really are a hero and heroine in 'Vanity Fair'), he
really feels deeply for them, and he is repeatedly unable to refrain from
the expression of his feeling. Nothing is more truly characteristic of him
than the famous incident of his rushing in tears from the room in which he
had been writing of the death of Colonel Newcome with the exclamation, 'I
have killed the Colonel!' In his books as clearly as in those of the most
explicit moralizer the reader finds the lessons that simple courage,
honesty, kindliness, and unselfishness are far better than external show,
and that in spite of all its brilliant interest a career of unprincipled
self-seeking like that of Becky Sharp is morally squalid. Thackeray
steadily refuses to falsify life as he sees it in the interest of any
deliberate theory, but he is too genuine an artist not to be true to the
moral principles which form so large a part of the substratum of all life.

Thackeray avowedly took Fielding as his model, and though his spirit and
manner are decidedly finer than Fielding's, the general resemblance between
them is often close. Fielding's influence shows partly in the humorous tone
which, in one degree or another, Thackeray preserves wherever it is
possible, and in the general refusal to take his art, on the surface, with
entire seriousness. He insists, for instance, on his right to manage his
story, and conduct the reader, as he pleases, without deferring to his
readers' tastes or prejudices. Fielding's influence shows also in the
free-and-easy picaresque structure of his plots; though this results also
in part from his desultory method of composition. Thackeray's great fault
is prolixity; he sometimes wanders on through rather uninspired page after
page where the reader longs for severe compression. But when the story
reaches dramatic moments there is ample compensation; no novelist has more
magnificent power in dramatic scenes, such, for instance, as in the
climactic series in 'Vanity Fair.' This power is based largely on an
absolute knowledge of character: in spite of a delight in somewhat fanciful
exaggeration of the ludicrous, Thackeray when he chooses portrays human
nature with absolute finality.

'Henry Esmond' should be spoken of by itself as a special and unique
achievement. It is a historical novel dealing with the early eighteenth
century, and in preparing for it Thackeray read and assimilated most of the
literature of the period, with the result that he succeeded in reproducing
the 'Augustan' spirit and even its literary style with an approach to
perfection that has never been rivaled. On other grounds as well the book
ranks almost if not quite beside 'Vanity Pair.' Henry Esmond himself is
Thackeray's most thoroughly wise and good character, and Beatrix is as real
and complex a woman as even Becky Sharp.

GEORGE ELIOT. The perspective of time has made it clear that among the
Victorian novelists, as among the poets, three definitely surpass the
others. With Dickens and Thackeray is to be ranked only 'George Eliot'
(Mary Anne Evans).

George Eliot was born in 1819 in the central county of Warwick from which
Shakspere had sprung two centuries and a half before. Her father, a manager
of estates for various members of the landed gentry, was to a large extent
the original both of her Adam Bede and of Caleb Garth in 'Middlemarch,'
while her own childish life is partly reproduced in the experiences of
Maggie in 'The Mill on the Floss.' Endowed with one of the strongest minds
that any woman has ever possessed, from her very infancy she studied and
read widely. Her nature, however, was not one-sided; all her life she was
passionately fond of music; and from the death of her mother in her
eighteenth year she demonstrated her practical capacity in the management
of her father's household. Circumstances. combined with her unusual ability
to make her entire life one of too high pressure, and her first struggle
was religious. She was brought up a Methodist, and during her girlhood was
fervently evangelical, in the manner of Dinah Morris in 'Adam Bede'; but
moving to Coventry she fell under the influence of some rationalistic
acquaintances who led her to adopt the scientific Positivism of the French
philosopher Comte. Her first literary work, growing out of the same
interest, was the formidable one of translating the 'Life of Jesus' of the
German professor Strauss. Some years of conscientious nursing of her
father, terminated by his death, were followed by one in Geneva, nominally
a year of vacation, but she spent it largely in the study of experimental
physics. On her return to England she became a contributor and soon
assistant editor of the liberal periodical 'The Westminster Review.' This
connection was most important in its personal results; it brought her into
contact with a versatile man of letters, George Henry Lewes, [Footnote:
Pronounced in two syllables.] and in 1854 they were united as man and wife.
Mr. Lewes had been unhappily married years before to a woman who was still
alive, and English law did not permit the divorce which he would have
secured in America. Consequently the new union was not a legal marriage,
and English public opinion was severe in its condemnation. In the actual
result the sympathetic companionship of Mr. Lewes was of the greatest value
to George Eliot and brought her much happiness; yet she evidently felt
keenly the equivocal social position, and it was probably in large part the
cause of the increasing sadness of her later years.

She was already thirty-six when in 1856 she entered on creative authorship
with the three 'Scenes from Clerical Life.' The pseudonym which she adopted
for these and her later stories originated in no more substantial reason
than her fondness for 'Eliot' and the fact that Mr. Lewes' first name was
'George.' 'Adam Bede' in 1859 completely established her reputation, and
her six or seven other books followed as rapidly as increasingly laborious
workmanship permitted. 'Romola.' [Footnote: Accented on the first
syllable.] in 1863, a powerful but perhaps over-substantial historical
novel, was the outcome partly of residence in Florence. Not content with
prose, she attempted poetry also, but she altogether lacked the poet's
delicacy of both imagination and expression. The death of Mr. Lewes in 1878
was a severe blow to her, since she was always greatly dependent on
personal sympathy; and after a year and a half, to the surprise of every
one, she married Mr. John W. Cross, a banker much younger than herself. But
her own death followed within a few months in 1880.

George Eliot's literary work combines in an interesting way the same
distinct and even strangely contrasting elements as her life, and in her
writings their relative proportions alter rather markedly during the course
of her career. One of the most attractive qualities, especially in her
earlier books, is her warm and unaffected human sympathy, which is
temperamental, but greatly enlarged by her own early experience. The
aspiration, pathos and tragedy of life, especially among the lower and
middle classes in the country and the small towns, can scarcely be
interpreted with more feeling, tenderness, or power than in her pages. But
her sympathy does not blind her to the world of comedy; figures like Mrs.
Poyser in 'Adam Bede' are delightful. Even from the beginning, however, the
really controlling forces in George Eliot's work were intellectual and
moral. She started out with the determination to render the facts of life
with minute and conscientious accuracy, an accuracy more complete than that
of Mrs. Gaskell, who was in large degree her model; and as a result her
books, from the beginning, are masterpieces of the best sort of realism.
The characters, life, and backgrounds of many of them are taken from her
own Warwickshire acquaintances and country, and for the others she made the
most painstaking study. More fundamental than her sympathy, indeed, perhaps
even from the outset, is her instinct for scientific analysis. Like a
biologist or a botanist, and with much more deliberate effort than most of
her fellow-craftsmen, she traces and scrutinizes all the acts and motives
of her characters until she reaches and reveals their absolute inmost
truth. This objective scientific method has a tendency to become sternly
judicial, and in extreme cases she even seems to be using her weak or
imperfect characters as deterrent examples. Inevitably, with her
disposition, the scientific tendency grew upon her. Beginning with
'Middlemarch' (1872), which is perhaps her masterpiece, it seems to some
critics decidedly too preponderant, giving to her novels too much the
atmosphere of psychological text-books; and along with it goes much
introduction of the actual facts of nineteenth century science. Her really
primary instinct, however, is the moral one. The supremacy of moral law may
fairly be called the general theme of all her works; to demonstrating it
her scientific method is really in the main auxiliary; and in spite of her
accuracy it makes of her more an idealist than a realist. With unswerving
logic she traces the sequence of act and consequence, showing how
apparently trifling words and deeds reveal the springs of character and how
careless choices and seemingly insignificant self-indulgences may
altogether determine the issues of life. The couplet from Aeschylus which
she prefixed to one of the chapters of 'Felix Holt' might stand at the
outset of all her work:

'Tis law as steadfast as the throne of Zeus--
Our days are heritors of days gone by.

Her conviction, or at least her purpose, is optimistic, to show that by
honest effort the sincere and high-minded man or woman may win happiness in
the face of all difficulties and disappointments; but her own actual
judgment of life was somber, not altogether different from that which
Carlyle repudiated in 'The Everlasting Yea'; so that the final effect of
her books, though stimulating, is subdued rather than cheerful.

In technique her very hard work generally assured mastery. Her novels are
firmly knit and well-proportioned, and have the inevitable movement of life
itself; while her great scenes equal those of Thackeray in dramatic power
and, at their best, in reserve and suggestiveness. Perhaps her chief
technical faults are tendencies to prolixity and too much expository
analysis of characters and motives.

SECONDARY MIDDLE AND LATER VICTORIAN NOVELISTS. Several of the other
novelists of the mid-century and later produced work which in a period of
less prolific and less highly developed art would have secured them high
distinction. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) spent most of his life, by his
own self-renouncing choice, as curate and rector of the little Hampshire
parish of Eversley, though for some years he also held the professorship of
history at Cambridge. An aggressive Protestant, he drifted in his later
years into the controversy with Cardinal Newman which opened the way for
Newman's 'Apologia.' From the outset, Kingsley was an enthusiastic worker
with F. D. Maurice in the Christian Socialist movement which aimed at the
betterment of the conditions of life among the working classes. 'Alton
Locke' and 'Yeast,' published in 1849, were powerful but reasonable and
very influential expressions of his convictions--fervid arguments in the
form of fiction against existing social injustices. His most famous books
are 'Hypatia' (1853), a novel dealing with the Church in its conflict with
Greek philosophy in fifth-century Alexandria, and 'Westward Ho!' (1855)
which presents with sympathetic largeness of manner the adventurous side of
Elizabethan life. His brief 'Andromeda' is one of the best English poems
in the classical dactylic hexameter.

Charles Reade (1814-1884), a man of dramatic disposition somewhat similar
to that of Dickens (though Reade had a University education and was
admitted to the bar), divided his interest and fiery energies between the
drama and the novel. But while his plays were of such doubtful quality that
he generally had to pay for having them acted, his novels were often strong
and successful. Personally he was fervently evangelical, and like Dickens
he was often inspired to write by indignation at social wrongs. His 'Hard
Cash' (1863), which attacks private insane asylums, is powerful; but his
most important work is 'The Cloister and the Hearth' (1861), one of the
most informing and vivid of all historical novels, with the father of
Erasmus for its hero. No novelist can, be more thrilling and picturesque
than Reade, but he lacks restraint and is often highly sensational and
melodramatic.

Altogether different is the method of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) in his
fifty novels. Trollope, long a traveling employe in the post-office
service, was a man of very assertive and somewhat commonplace nature.
Partly a disciple of Thackeray, he went beyond Thackeray's example in the
refusal to take his art altogether seriously as an art; rather, he treated
it as a form of business, sneering at the idea of special inspiration, and
holding himself rigidly to a mechanical schedule of composition--a definite
and unvarying number of pages in a specified number of hours on each of his
working days. The result is not so disastrous as might have been expected;
his novels have no small degree of truth and interest. The most notable are
the half dozen which deal with ecclesiastical life in his imaginary county
of Barsetshire, beginning with 'The Warden' and 'Barchester Towers.' His
'Autobiography' furnishes in some of its chapters one of the noteworthy
existing discussions of the writer's art by a member of the profession.

Richard Blackmore (1825-1900), first a lawyer, later manager of a
market-garden, was the author of numerous novels, but will be remembered
only for 'Lorna Doone' (1869), a charming reproduction of Devonshire
country life assigned to the romantic setting of the time of James II. Its
simple-minded and gigantic hero John Ridd is certainly one of the permanent
figures of English fiction.

Joseph H. Shorthouse (1834-1903), a Birmingham chemical manufacturer, but a
man of very fine nature, is likewise to be mentioned for a single book,
'John Inglesant' (1881). Located in the middle of the seventeenth century,
when the strife of religious and political parties afforded material
especially available for the author's purpose, this is a spiritual romance,
a High Churchman's assertion of the supremacy of the inner over the outer
life. From this point of view it is one of the most significant of English
novels, and though much of it is philosophical and though it is not free
from technical faults, parts of it attain the extreme limit of absorbing
narrative interest.

Walter Pater (1839-1894), an Oxford Fellow, also represents distinctly the
spirit of unworldliness, which in his case led to a personal aloofness from
active life. He was the master of a delicately-finished, somewhat
over-fastidious, style, which he employed in essays on the Renaissance and
other historical and artistic topics and in a spiritual romance, 'Marius
the Epicurean' (1885). No less noteworthy than 'John Inglesant,' and better
constructed, this latter is placed in the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, but its atmosphere is only in part historically authentic.

GEORGE MEREDITH (1828-1910). Except for a lack of the elements which make
for popularity, George Meredith would hold an unquestioned place in the
highest rank of novelists. In time he is partly contemporary with George
Eliot, as he began to publish a little earlier than she. But he long
outlived her and continued to write to the end of his life; and his
recognition was long delayed; so that he may properly be placed in the
group of later Victorian novelists. His long life was devoid of external
incident; he was long a newspaper writer and afterward literary reader for
a publishing house; he spent his later years quietly in Surrey, enjoying
the friendship of Swinburne and other men of letters.

Among novelists he occupies something the same place which Browning, a
person of very different temperament and ideas, holds among poets. He
writes only for intelligent and thoughtful people and aims to interpret the
deeper things of life and character, not disregarding dramatic external
incident, but using it as only one of the means to his main purpose. His
style is brilliant, epigrammatic, and subtile; and he prefers to imply many
things rather than to state them directly. All this makes large, perhaps
sometimes too large, demands on the reader's attention, but there is, of
course, corresponding stimulation. Meredith's general attitude toward life
is the fine one of serene philosophic confidence, the attitude in general
of men like Shakspere and Goethe. He despises sentimentality, admires
chiefly the qualities of quiet strength and good breeding which are
exemplified among the best members of the English aristocracy; and in all
his interpretation is very largely influenced by modern science. His virile
courage and optimism are as pronounced as those of Browning; he wrote a
noteworthy 'Essay on Comedy' and oftentimes insists on emphasizing the
comic rather than the tragic aspect of things, though he can also be
powerful in tragedy; and his enthusiasms for the beauty of the world and
for the romance of youthful love are delightful. He may perhaps best be
approached through 'Evan Harrington' (1861) and 'The Ordeal of Richard
Feverel' (1859). 'The Egoist' (1879) and 'Diana of the Crossways' (1885)
are among his other strongest books. In his earlier years he wrote a
considerable body of verse, which shows much the same qualities as his
prose. Some of it is rugged in form, but other parts magnificently
dramatic, and some few poems, like the unique and superb 'Love in the
Valley,' charmingly beautiful.

THOMAS HARDY. In Thomas Hardy (born 1840) the pessimistic interpretation of
modern science is expressed frankly and fully, with much the same pitiless
consistency that distinguishes contemporary European writers such as Zola.
Mr. Hardy early turned to literature from architecture and he has lived a
secluded life in southern England, the ancient Wessex, which he makes the
scene of all his novels. His knowledge of life is sure and his technique in
all respects masterly. He has preferred to deal chiefly with persons in the
middle and poorer classes of society because, like Wordsworth, though with
very different emphasis, he feels that in their experiences the real facts
of life stand out most truly. His deliberate theory is a sheer
fatalism--that human character and action are the inevitable result of laws
of heredity and environment over which man has no control. 'The Return of
the Native' (1878) and 'Far from the Madding Crowd' (1874) are among his
best novels, though the sensational frankness of 'Tess of the
D'Urbervilles' (1891) has given it greater reputation.

STEVENSON. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), the first of the rather
prominent group of recent Scotch writers of fiction, is as different as
possible from Hardy. Destined for the career of civil engineer and
lighthouse builder in which his father and grandfather were distinguished,
he proved unfitted for it by lack both of inclination and of health, and
the profession of law for which he later prepared himself was no more
congenial. From boyhood he, like Scott, studied human nature with keen
delight in rambles about the country, and unlike Scott he was incessantly
practising writing merely for the perfection of his style. As an author he
won his place rather slowly; and his whole mature life was a wonderfully
courageous and persistent struggle against the sickness which generally
prevented him from working more than two or three hours a day and often
kept him for months in bed unable even to speak. A trip to California in an
emigrant train in 1879-1880 brought him to death's door but accomplished
its purpose, his marriage to an American lady, Mrs. Osbourne, whom he had

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