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  • 1899
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in an abundance of action over a wide scene as in Shakspere; in either case equally there is a selection from the whole mass of man’s life of what shall illustrate the causal union in its order and show it in action. The process in the epic or prose narrative is the same. The common method of all is to present the universal law in a particular instance made for the purpose.

In thus clothing itself in concrete form, truth suffers no transformation; it remains what it was, general truth, the very essence of type and plot being, as has been said, to preserve this universality in the particular instance. There is a sense in which this general truth is more real, as Plato thought, than particulars; a sense in which the phenomenal world is less real than the system of nature, for phenomena come and go, but the law remains; a sense in which the order in man’s breast is more real than he is, in whom it is manifest, for the form of ideas, the mould of law, are permanent, but their expression in us transitory. It is this higher realism, as it was anciently called, that the mind strives for in idealism,–this organic form of life, the object of all rational knowledge. Types, under their concrete disguise, are thus only a part of the general notions of the mind found in every branch of knowledge and necessary to thought; plots, similarly, are only a part of the general laws of the ordered world; literature in using them, and specializing them in concrete form by which alone they differ in appearance from like notions and laws elsewhere, merely avails itself of that condensing faculty of the mind which most economizes mental effort and loads conceptions with knowledge. In the type it is not personal, but human character that interests the mind; in plot, it is not personal, but human fate.

While it is true that the object of ideal method is to reach universals, and reembody them in particular instances, this reasoning action is often obscurely felt by the imagination in its creative process. The very fact that its operation is through the concrete complicates the process. The mind of genius working out its will does not usually start with a logical attempt consciously; it does not arrive at truth in the abstract and then reduce it to concrete illustration in any systemic way; it does not select the law and then shape the plot. The poet is rather directly interested in certain characters and events that appeal to him; his sympathies are aroused, and he proceeds to show forth, to interpret, to create; and in proportion as the characters he sets in motion and the circumstances in which they are placed have moulding force, they will develop traits and express themselves in influences that he did not foresee. This is a matter of familiar knowledge to authors, who frequently discover in the trend of the imaginary tale a will of its own, which has its unforeseen way. The drama or story, once set in motion, tends to tell itself, just as life tends to develop in the world. The vitality of the clay it works in, is one of the curious experiences of genius, and occasions that mood of mystery in relation to their creatures frequently observed in great writers. In fact, this mode of working in the concrete, which is characteristic of the creative imagination, gives to its activity an inductive and experimental character, not to be confounded with the demonstrative act of the intellect which states truth after knowing it, and not in the moment of its discovery. In literature this moment of discovery is what makes that flash which is sometimes called intuition, and is one of the great charms of genius.

The concrete nature of ideal art, to touch conveniently here upon a related though minor topic, is also the reason that it expresses more than its creator is aware of. In imaging life he includes more reality than he attends to; but if his representation has been made with truth, others may perceive phases of reality that he neglected. It is the mark of genius, as has hitherto appeared, to grasp life, not fragmentarily, but in the whole. So, in a scientific experiment, intended to illustrate one particular form of energy, a spectator versed in another science may detect some truth belonging in his own field. This richer significance of great works is especially found where the union of the general and the particular is strong; where the fusion is complete, as in Hamlet. In a sense he is more real than living men, and we can analyze his nature, have doubts about his motives, judge differently of his character, and value his temperament more or less as one might with a friend. The more imaginative a character is, in the sense that his personality and experience are given in the whole so that one feels the bottom of reality there, the more significance it has. Thus in the world of art discoveries beyond the intention of the writer may be made as in the actual world; so much of reality does it contain.

Will it be said that, in making primary the universal contents and spiritual significance of type and plot, I have made literature didactic, as if the word should stop my mouth? If it is meant by this that I maintain that literature conveys truth, it may readily be admitted, since only thus can it interest the mind which has its whole life in the pursuit and its whole joy in the possession of truth. But if it be meant that abstract or moral instruction has been made the business of literature, the charge may be met with a disclaimer, as should be evident, first, from the emphasis placed on its concrete dealing with persons and actions. On the contrary, literature fails in art precisely in proportion as it becomes expressly such a teacher. Secondly, the life which literature organizes, the whole of human nature in its relation to the world, is many-sided; and imaginative genius, the creative reason, grasps it in its totality. The moral aspect is but one among many that life wears. If ethics are implicit in the mass of life, so also are beauty and passion, pathos, humour, and terror; and in literature any one of these may be the prominent phase at the moment, for literature gives out not only practical moral wisdom, but all the reality of life. Literature is didactic in the reproachful sense of the word only in proportion as type and plot are distinctly separated from the truth they embody, and ceases to be so in proportion as these are blended and unified. The fable is one of the most ancient forms of such didactic literature; in it a story is told to enforce a lesson, and animals are made the characters, in consequence of which it has the touch of humour inseparable from the spectacle of beasts playing at being men; but the very fact that the moral is of men and the tale is of beasts involves a separation of the truth from its concrete embodiment, and besides the moral is stated by itself. In the Oriental apologue an advance is made. The parables of our Lord, in particular, are admirable examples of its method. The characters are few, the situations common, the action simple, and the moral truth or lesson enforced is so completely clothed in the tale that it needs no explanation; at the same time, the mind is aware of the teacher. In the higher forms of literature, however, the fusion of ethics with life may be complete. Here the poet works so subtly that the mind is not aware of the illumination of this light which comes without the violence of the preacher, until after the fact; and, indeed, the effect is wrought more through the sympathies than the reason. In such a case literature, though it conveys moral with other kinds of truth, is not open to the charge of didacticism, which is valid only when teaching is explicit and abstract. The educative power of literature, however, is not diminished because in its art it dispenses with the didactic method, which by its very definiteness is inelastic and narrow; in fact, the more imaginative a character is, the more fruitful it may be even in moral truth; it may teach, as has been said, what the poet never dreamed his work contained.

If, then, to sum up the argument thus far, the subject-matter of literature is life in the forms of personality and experience, and the particular facts with respect to these are generalized by means of type and plot in concrete form, and so are set forth as phases of an ordered world for the intelligence, to the end that man may know himself in the same way as he knows nature in its living system–if this be so, what standing have those who would restrict literature to the actual in life? who would replace ideal types of manhood by the men of the time, and the ordered drama of the stage by the medley of life? They deny art, which is the instrument of the creative reason, to literature; for as soon as art, which is the process of creating a rational world, begins, the necessity for selection arises, and with it the whole question of values, facts being no longer equal among themselves on the score of actuality, nor in fitness for the work in hand. The trivial, the accidental, the unmeaning, are rejected, and there will be no stopping short of the end; for art, being the handmaid of truth, can employ no other than the method of all reason, wherefore idealism is to it what abstraction is to logic and induction to natural science,–the breath of its rational being. Those who hold to realism in its extreme form, as a representation of the actual only, behave as if one should say to the philosopher–leave this formulation of general notions and be content with sensible objects; or to the scientist–experiment no more, but observe the course of nature as it may chance to arise, and describe it in its succession. They bid us be all eye, no mind; all sense, no thought; all chance, all confusion, no order, no organization, no fabric of the reason. But there are no such realists; though pure realism has its place, as will hereafter be shown, it is usually found mixed with ideal method; and as commonly employed the word designates the preference merely for types and plots of much detail, of narrow application, of little meaning, in opposition to the highly generalized and significant types and plots usually associated with the term idealism. In what way such realism has its place will also appear at a later stage. Here it is necessary to say no more than that in proportion as realism uses the ideal method only at the lowest, it narrows its appeal, weakens its power, and takes from literature her highest distinction by virtue of which she grasps the whole of character and fate in her creation and informs man of the secrets of his human heart, the course of his mortal destiny, and the end of all his spiritual effort and aspiration.

I am aware that I have not proceeded so far without starting objections. To meet that which is most grave, what shall I say when it is alleged that there is no order such as I have assumed in life; or, if there be, that it is insufficiently known, too intangible and complex, too various in different races and ages, to be made the subject of such an exposition as obtains of natural order? Were this assertion true, yet there would be good reason to retain our illusion; for the mind delights in order, and will invent it. The mind is perplexed and disturbed until it finds this order; and in the progressive integration of its experience into an ordered world lies its work. Art gives pleasure to the intellect, because in its structure whatever is superfluous and extrinsic has been eliminated, so that the mind contemplates an artistic work as a unity of relations bound each to each which it fully comprehends. Such works, we say, have form, which is just this interdependence of parts wholly understood which appeals to the intellect, and satisfies it: they would please the mind, though the order they embody were purely imaginary, just as science would delight it, were the order of nature itself illusory. Creative art would thus still have a ground of being under a sceptical philosophy; man would delight to dream his dream. But it is not necessary to take this lower line of argument.

It does not appear to me to be open to question that there is in the soul of man a nature and an order obtaining in it as permanent and universal as in the material world. The soul of man has a common being in all. There could be no science of logic, psychology, or metaphysics on the hypothesis of any uncertainty as to the identity of mind in all, nor any science of ethics on the hypothesis of any variation as to the identity of the will in all, nor any ground of expression even, of communication between man and man, on the hypothesis of any radical difference in the experience and faculties to which all expression appeals for its intelligibility; neither could there be any system of life in social groups, or plan for education, unless such a common basis is accepted. The postulate of a common human nature is analogous to that of the unity of matter in science; it finds its complete expression in the doctrine of the brotherhood of man, for if race be fundamentally distinguished from race as was once thought, it is only as element is distinguished from element in the old chemistry. So, too, the postulate of an order obtaining in the soul, universal and necessary, independent of man’s volition, analogous in all respects to the order of nature, is parallel with that of the constancy of physical law. A rational life expects this order. The first knowledge of it comes to us, as that of natural law, by experience; in the social world–the relations of men to one another–and in the more important region of our own nature we learn the issue of certain courses of action as well as in the external world; in our own lives and in our dealings with others we come to a knowledge of, and a conformity to, the conditions under which we live, the laws operant in our being, as well as those of the physical world. Literature assumes this order; in Aeschylus, Cervantes, or Shakspere, it is this that gives their work interest. Apart from natural science, the whole authority of the past in its entire accumulation of wisdom rests upon the permanence of this order, and its capacity to be known by man; that virtue makes men noble and vice renders them base, is a statement without meaning unless this order is continuous through ages; all principles of action, all schemes of culture, would be uncertain except on this foundation.

So near is this order to us that it was known long before science came to any maturity. We have added, in truth, little to our knowledge of humanity since the Greeks; and if one wonders why ethics came before science, let him own at least that its priority shows that it is near and vital in life as science is not. We can do, it seems, without Kepler’s laws, but not without the Decalogue. The race acquires first what is most needful for life; and man’s heart was always with him, and his fate near. A second reason, it may be noted, for the later development of science is that our senses, as used by science, are more mental now, and the object itself is observable only by the intervention of the mind through the telescope or microscope or a hundred instruments into which, though physical, the mind enters. Our methods, too, as well as our instruments, are things of the mind. It behooves us to remember in an age which science is commonly thought to have materialized, that more and more the mind enters into all results, and fills an ever larger place in life; and this should serve to make materialism seem more and more what it is–a savage conception. But recognizing the great place of mind in modern science, and its growing illumination of our earthly system, I am not disposed to discredit its earliest results in art and morals. I find in this penetration of the order of the world within us our most certain truth; and as our bodies exist only by virtue of sharing in the general order of nature, so, I believe, our souls have being only by sharing in this order of the inward, the spiritual world.

What, then, is this order? We do not merely contemplate it: we are immersed in it, it is vital in us, it is that wherein we live and move and have our being, ever more and more in proportion as the soul’s life outvalues the body in our experience. It is necessary to expand our conception of it. Hitherto it has been presented only as an order of truth appealing to the intellect: but the intellect is only one function of the soul, and thinkers are the merest fraction of mankind. We know this order not only as truth, but as righteousness; we know that certain choices end in enlarging and invigorating our faculties, and other choices in their enfeeblement and extinction; and the race adds, acting under the profound motive of self-preservation, that it is a duty to do the one thing and avoid the other, and stores up this doctrine in conscience. We know this order again under the aspect of joy, for joy attends some choices, and sorrow others; and again under the aspect of beauty, for certain choices result in beauty and others in deformity. What I maintain is that this order exists under four aspects, and may be learned in any of them–as an order of truth in the reason, as an order of virtue in the will, as an order of joy in the emotions, as an order of beauty in the senses. It is the same order, the same body of law, operating in each case; it is the vital force of our fourfold life,–it has one unity in the intellect, the will, the emotions, the senses,–is equal to the whole nature of man, and responds to him and sustains him on every side. A lover of beauty in whom conscience is feeble cannot wander if he follow beauty; nor a cold thinker err, though without a moral sense, if he accept truth; nor a just man, nor a seeker after pure joy merely, if they act according to knowledge each in his sphere. The course of action that increases life may be selected because it is reasonable, or joyful, or beautiful, or right; and therefore one may say fearlessly, choose the things that are beautiful, the things that are joyful, the things that are reasonable, the things that are right, and all else shall be added unto you. The binding force in this order is what literature, ideal literature, most brings out and emphasizes in its generalizations, that causal union which has hitherto been spoken of in the region of plot only; but it exists in every aspect of this order, and literature universalizes experience in all these realms, in the provinces of beauty and passion no less than in those of virtue and knowledge, and its method is the same in all.

Is not our knowledge of this fourfold order in its principles, in those relations of its phenomena which constitute its laws, of the highest importance of anything of human concern? In harmony with these laws, and only thus, we ourselves, in whom this order is, become happy, righteous, wise, and beautiful. In ideal literature this knowledge is found, expressed, and handed down age after age–the knowledge of necessary and permanent relations in these great spheres which, taken together, exhaust the capacities of life. Man’s moral sense is strong in proportion as he apprehends necessity in the sequence of will and act; his intellect is strong, his emotions, his sense of beauty, are strong in the same way in proportion as he apprehends necessity in each several field of experience. And conversely, the weakness of the intellect lies in a greater or less failure to realise relations of fact in their logic; and the other faculties, in proportion as they fail to realize such relations in their own region, have a similar incapacity. Insanity, in the broad sense, is involuntary error in a nature incapable of effectual enlightenment, and hence abnormal or diseased; but the state of error, whether more or less, whether voluntary or involuntary, whether curable or incurable, in itself is the same. To take an example from one sphere, in the moral world the criminal through ignorance of or distrust in or revolt from the supreme divine law seeks to maintain himself by his own power solitarily as if he might be a law unto himself; he experiences, without the intervention of any human judge, the condemnation which consigns him to enfeeblement and extinction through the decay and death of his nature, as a moral being, stage by stage; this is God’s justice, visiting sin with death. Similarly, and to most more obviously, in society itself, the criminal against society, because he does not understand, or believe, or prefers not to accept arbitrary social law as the means by which necessarily the general good, including his own, is worked out, seeks to substitute for it his own intelligence, his cunning, in his search for prosperity, as he conceives it, by an adaptation of means to ends on his own account. This is why the imperfection of human law is sometimes a just excuse for social crime in those whom society does not benefit, its slaves and pariahs. But whether in God’s world or in man’s, the mind of the criminal, disengaging itself from reliance on the whole fabric for whatever reason, pulverizes because he fails to realize the necessary relations of the world in which he lives in their normal operation, and has no effectual belief in them as unavoidably operant in his nature or over his fortunes. This was the truth that lay in the Platonic doctrine that all sin is ignorance; but Plato did not take account of any possible depravity in the will. Nor is what has been illustrated above true of the mind and the will only. In the region of emotion and of beauty, there may be similar aberration, if these are not grasped in their vital nature, in organic relation to the whole of life.

These several parts of our being are not independent of one another, but are in the closest alliance. They act conjointly and with one result in the single soul in which they find their unity as various energies of one personal power. It cannot be that contradiction should arise among them in their right operation, nor the error of one continue undetected by the others; that the base should be joyful or the wicked beautiful in reality, is impossible. In the narrow view the lust of the eye and the pride of life may seem beautiful, but in the broad perspective of the inward world they take on ugliness; in the moment they may seem pleasurable, but in the backward reach of memory they take on pain; to assert eternity against the moment, to see life in the whole, to live as if all of life were concentrated in its instant, is the chief labour of the mind, the eye, the heart, the enduring will, all together. To represent a villain as attractive is an error of art, which thus misrepresents the harmony of our nature. Satan, as conceived by Milton, may seem to be a majestic figure, but he was not so to Milton’s imagination. “The Infernal Serpent” is the first name the poet gives him; and though sublime imagery of gloom and terror is employed to depict his diminished brightness and inflamed malice, Milton repeatedly takes pains to degrade him to the eye, as when in Paradise he is surprised at the ear of Eve “squat like a toad”; and when he springs up in his own form there, as the “grisly king,” he mourns most his beauty lost; neither is his resolute courage long admirable. To me, at least, so far from having any heroic quality, he seems always the malign fiend sacrificing innocence to an impotent revenge. In all great creations of art it is necessary that this consistency of beauty, virtue, reason, and joy should he preserved.

It is true that the supremacy of law in this inward world, so constituted, is less realized than in the physical world; but even in the latter the wide conviction of its supremacy is a recent thing, and in some parts of nature it is still lightly felt, especially in those which touch the brain most nearly, while under the stress of exceptional calamity or strong desire or traditional religious beliefs it often breaks down. But if the order of the material universe seems now a more settled thing than the spiritual law of the soul, once the case was reversed; God was known and nature miraculous. It must be remembered, too, in excuse of our feebleness of faith, that we are born bodily into the physical world and are forced to live under its law; but life in the spiritual world is more a matter of choice, at least in respect to its degree; its phenomena are, in part, contingent upon our development and growth, on our living habitually and intelligently in our higher nature, the laws of which as communicated to us by other minds are in part prophecies of experience not yet actual in ourselves. It is the touchstone of experience, after all, that tries all things in both worlds, and experience in the spiritual world may be long delayed; it is power of mind that makes wide generalizations in both; and the conception of spiritual law is the most refined as perhaps it is the most daring of human thoughts.

The expansion of the conception of ideal literature so as to embrace these other aspects, in addition to that of rational knowledge which has thus far been exclusively dwelt upon, requires us to examine its nature in the regions of beauty, joy, and conscience, in which, though generalization remains its intellectual method, it does not make its direct appeal to the mind. It is not enough to show that the creative reason in its intellectual process employs that common method which is the parent of all true knowledge, and by virtue of its high matter, which is the divine order in the soul, holds the primacy among man’s faculties; the story were then left half told, and the better part yet to come. To enlighten the mind is a great function; but in the mass of mankind there are few who are accessible to ideas as such, especially on the unworldly side of life, or interested in them. Idealism does not confine its service to the narrow bounds of intellectuality. It has a second and greater office, which is to charm the soul. So characteristic of it is this power, so eminent and shining, that thence only springs the sweet and almost sacred quality breathing from the word itself. Idealism, indeed, by the garment of sense does not so much clothe wisdom as reveal her beauty; so the Greek sculptor discloses the living form by the plastic folds. Truth made virtue is her work of power, and she imposes upon man no harder task than the mere beholding of that sight–

“Virtue in her shape how lovely,”

which since it first abashed the devil in Paradise makes wrong-doers aware of their deformity, and yet has such subtle and penetrating might, such fascination for all finer spirits, that they have ever believed with their master, Plato, that should truth show her countenance unveiled and dwell on earth, all men would worship and follow her.

The images of Plato–those images in which alone he could adequately body forth his intuitions of eternity–present the twofold attitude of our nature, in mind and heart, toward the ideal with vivid distinctness; and they illustrate the more intimate power of beauty, the more fundamental reach of emotion, and the richness of their mutual life in the soul. Under the aspect of truth he likens our knowledge of the ideal to that which the prisoners of the cave had of the shadows on the wall; under the aspect of beauty he figures our love for it as that of the passionate lover. As truth, again,–taking up in his earliest days what seems the primitive impulse and first thought of man everywhere and at all times,–under the image of the golden chain let down from the throne of the god, he sets forth the heavenly origin of the ideal and its descent on earth by divine inspiration possessing the poet as its passive instrument; and later, bringing in now the cooperation of man in the act, he again presents the ideal as known by reminiscence of the soul’s eternal life before birth, which is only a more defined and rationalized conception of inspiration working normally instead of by the special act and favour of God. As beauty, again, he shows forth the enthusiasm evoked by the ideal in the image of the charioteer of the white and black horses mastering them to the goal of love. In these various ways the first idealist thought out these distinctions of truth and beauty as having a real community, though a divided life in the mind and heart; and, as he developed,–and this is the significant matter,–the poet in him controlling his speech told ever more eloquently of the charm with which beauty draws the soul unto itself, for to the poet beauty is nearer than truth. It is the persuasion with which he sets forth this charm, rather than his speculation, which has fastened upon him the love of later ages. He was the first to discern in truth and beauty equal powers of one divine being, and thus to effect the most important reconciliation ever made in human nature.

So, too, from the other great source of the race’s wisdom, we are told in the Scriptures that though we be fallen men, yet is it left to us to lift our eyes to the beauty of holiness and be healed; for every ray of that outward loveliness which strikes upon the eye penetrates to the heart of man. Then are we moved, indeed, and incited to seek virtue with true desire. Prophet and psalmist are here at one with the poet and the philosopher in spiritual sensitiveness. At the height of Hebrew genius in the personality of Christ, it is the sweet attractive grace, the noble beauty of the present life incarnated in his acts and words, the divine reality on earth and not, as Plato saw it, in a world removed, that has drawn all eyes to the Judean hill. The years lived under the Syrian blue were a rending of the veil of spiritual beauty which has since shone in its purity on men’s gaze. It is this loveliness which needs only to be seen that wins mankind. The emotions are enlisted; and, however we may slight them in practice, the habit of emotion more than the habit of mind enters into and fixes inward character. More men are saved by the heart than by the head; more youths are drawn to excellence by noble feelings than are coldly reasoned into virtue on the ground of gain. Some there are among men so colourless in blood that they embrace the right on the mere calculation of advantage, but they seem to possess only an earthly virtue; some, beholding the order of the world, desire to put themselves in tune with nature and the soul’s law, and these are of a better sort; but most fortunate are they who, though well-nurtured, find virtue not in profit, nor in the necessity of conforming to implacable law, but in mere beauty, in the light of her face as it first comes to them with ripening years in the sweet and noble nature of those they grow to love and honour among the living and the dead. For this is Achilles made brave, that he may stir us to bravery; and surely it were little to see the story of Pelops’ line if the emotions were not awakened, not merely for a few moments of intense action of their own play, but to form the soul. The emotional glow of the creative imagination has been once mentioned in the point that it is often more absorbed in the beauty and passion than in the intellectual significance of its work; here, correspondingly, it is by the heart to which it appeals rather than by the mind it illumines that it takes hold of youth.

What, then, is the nature of this emotional appeal which surpasses so much in intimacy, pleasure, and power the appeal to the intellect? It is the keystone of the inward nature, that which binds all together in the arch of life. Emotion has some ground, some incitement which calls it forth; and it responds with most energy to beauty. In the strictest sense beauty is a unity of relations of coexistence in coloured space and appeals to the eye; it is in space what plot is in time. Like plot, it is deeply engaged in the outward world; it exists in the sensuous order, and it shadows forth the spiritual order in man only in so far as a fair soul makes the body beautiful, as Spenser thought,–the mood, the act, and the habit of heroism, love, and the like nobilities of man, giving grace to form, feature, and attitude. It is primarily an outward thing, as emotion, which is a phase of personality, is an inward thing; what the necessary sequence of events, the chain of causation, is to plot,–its cardinal idea,–that the necessary harmony of parts, the chime of line and colour, is to beauty; thus beauty is as inevitable as fate, as structurally planted in the form and colour of the universe as fate is in its temporal movement. And as plot has its characteristic unity in the impersonal order of God’s will, shown in time’s event, so beauty has its characteristic unity in the same order shown in the visible creation of space. It is true that all phenomena are perceived by the mind, and are conditioned, as is said, by human modes of perception; but within the limits of the relativity of all our knowledge, beauty is initially a sensuous, not a spiritual, thing, and though the structure of the human eye arranges the harmonies of line and colour, it is no more than as the form of human thought arranges cause and effect and other primary relations in things; beauty does not in becoming humanly known cease to be known as a thing external, independent of our will, and imposed on us from without. It is this outward reality, the harmony of sense, that sculpture and painting add in their types to the interpretation they otherwise give of personality, and often in them this physical element is predominant; and in the purely decorative arts it may be exclusive. In landscape, which is in the realm of beauty, personality altogether disappears, unless, indeed, nature be interpreted in the mood of the Psalmist as declaring its Creator; for the reflection which the presence of man may cast upon nature as his shadow is not expressive of any true personality there abiding, but enters into the scene as the face of Narcissus into the brook. The pleasure which the mind takes in beauty is only a part of its general delight in order of any sort; and visible artistic form as abstracted from the world of space is merely a species of organic form and is included in it.

The eye, however, governs so large a part of the sensuous field, the idea of beauty as a unity of space-relations giving pleasure is so simple, and the experience is so usual, that the word has been carried over to the life of the more limited senses in which analogous phenomena arise, differing only in the fact that they exist in another sense. Thus in the dominion of the ear especially, we speak commonly of the beauty of music; but the life of the minor senses, touch, taste, and smell, is composed of too simple elements to allow of such combination as would constitute specific form in ordinary apprehension, though in the blind and deaf the possibility of high and intelligible complexity in these senses is proved. Similarly, the term is carried over to the invisible and inaudible world of the soul within itself, and we speak of the beauty of Sidney’s act, of Romeo’s nature, and, in the abstract, of the beauty of holiness, and, in a still more remote sphere, of the beauty of a demonstration or a hypothesis; by this usage we do not so much describe the thing as convey the charm of the thing. This charm is more intimate and piercing to those of sensuous nature who rejoice in visible loveliness or in heard melodies; but to the spiritually minded it may be as close and penetrating in the presence of what is to them dearer than life and light, and is beheld only by the inner eye. It is this charm, whether flowing from the outward semblance or shining from the unseen light, that wins the heart, stirs emotion, wakes the desire to be one with this order manifest in truth and beauty, in the spirit and the body of things, to go out toward it in love, to identify one’s being with it as the order of life, mortal and immortal; last the will quickens, and its effort to make this order prevail in us and possess us is virtue. The act through all its phases is, as has been said, one act of the soul, which first perceives, then loves, and finally wills. Emotion is the intermediary between the divine order and the human will; it responds to the beauty of the one and directs the choice of the other, and is felt in either function as love controlling life in the new births of the spirit.

The emotion, to return to the world of art, which is felt in the presence of imaginary things is actual in us; but the attempt is made to fix upon it a special character differentiating it from the emotion felt in the presence of reality. One principle of difference is sought in the point that in literature, or in sculpture and painting, emotion entails no action; it has no outlet, and is without practical consequences; the will is paralyzed by the fatuity of trying to influence an unreal series of events, and in the case of the object of beauty in statue or painting by the impossibility of possession. The world of art is thus thought of as one of pure contemplation, a place of escape from the difficulties, the pangs, and the incompleteness that beset all action. It is true that the imagined world creates special conditions for emotion, and that the will does not act in respect to that world; but does this imply any radical difference in the emotion, or does it draw after it the consequence that the will does not act at all? Checked emotion, emotion dying in its own world, is common in life; and so, too, is contemplation as a mode of approach to beauty, as in landscape, or even in human figures where there is no thought of any other possession than the presence of beauty before the eye and soul; escape, too, into a sphere of impersonality, in the love of nature or the spectacle of life, is a common refuge. Art does not give us new faculties, generate unknown habits, or in any way change our nature; it presents to us a new world only, toward which our mental behaviour is the same as in the rest of life. Why, then, should emotion, the most powerful element in life, be regarded as a fruitless thing in that ideal art which has thus far appeared as a life in purer energy and higher intensity of being than life itself?

The distinction between emotion depicted and that felt in response must be kept in mind to avoid confusion, for both sorts are present at the same time. In literature emotion may be set forth as a phase of the character or as a term in the plot; it may be a single moment of high feeling as in a lyric or a prolonged experience as in a drama; it may be shown in the pure type of some one passion as in Romeo, or in the various moods of a rich nature as in Hamlet; but, whether it be predominant or subordinate in any work, it is there treated in the same way and for the same purpose as other materials of life. What happens when literature gives us, for instance, examples of moral experience? It informs the mind of the normal course of certain lines of action, of the inevitable issues of life; it breeds habits of right thinking in respect to these; it is educative, and though we do not act at once upon this knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act. So, when literature presents examples of emotional experience, it informs us of the nature of emotion, its causes, occasions, and results, its value in character, its influence on action, the modes of its expression; it breeds habits of right thinking in respect to these, and is educative; and, just as in the preceding case, though we do not act at once upon this knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act. Concurrently with emotions thus objectively presented there arises in us a similar series of emotions in the beholding; by sympathy we ourselves feel what is before us, the emotions there are also in us in proportion as we identify ourselves with the character; or, in proportion as our own individuality asserts itself by revolt, a contrary series arises of hatred, indignation, or contempt, of pity for the character or of terror in the feeling that what has happened to one may happen to us in our humanity. We are taught in a more intimate and vital way than through ideas alone; the lesson has entered into our bosoms; we have lived the life. Literature is thus far more powerfully educative emotionally than intellectually; and if the poet has worked with wisdom, he has bred in us habits of right feeling in respect to life, he has familiarized our hearts with love and anger, with compassion and fear, with courage, with resolve, has exercised us in them upon their proper occasions and in their noble expression, has opened to us the world of emotion as it ought to be in showing us that world as it is in men with all its possibilities of baseness, ugliness, and destruction. This is the service which literature performs in this field. Imagination shows us a scheme of emotion attending the scheme of events and presents it in its general connection with life, in simple, powerful, and complete expression, on the lines of inevitable law in its sphere. We go out from the sway of this imagined world, more sensitive to life, more accessible to emotion, more likely and more capable, when the occasion arises, to feel rightly, and to carry that feeling out into an act. In all literature the knowledge gained objectively, whether of action or emotion, is a preparation for life; but this intimate experience of emotion in connection with an imagined world is a more vital preparation, and enters more directly, easily, and effectually into men’s bosoms.

Two particular phases of this educative power should be specifically mentioned. The objective presentation of emotion in literature, as has been often observed, corrects the perspective of our own lives, as does also the action which it envelops; and by showing to us emotion in intense energy, which by this intensity corresponds to high type and important plot, and in a compass far greater than is normal in ordinary life, the portrayal leads us better to bear and more justly to estimate the petty trials, the vexations, the insignificant experiences of our career; we see our lives in a truer relation to life in general, and avoid an overcharged feeling in regard to our private fortune. And, secondly, the subjective emotion in ourselves is educative in the point that by this outlet we go out of ourselves in sympathy, lose our egoism, and become one with man in general. This is an escape; but not such as has been previously spoken of, for it is not a retreat. There is no escape for us, except into the lives of others. In nature it is still our own face we see; and before the ideal creations of art we are still aware, for all our contemplation, of the ineffable yearning of the thwarted soul, of the tender melancholy, the sadness in all beauty, which is the measure of our separation therefrom, and is fundamental in the poetic temperament. This is that pain, which Plato speaks of–the pain of the growing of the wings of the spirit as they unfold. But in passing into the lives of other men, in sharing their joys, in taking on ourselves the burden of humanity, we escape from our self-prison, we leave individuality behind, we unite with man in common; so we die to ourselves in order to live in lives not ours. In literature, sympathy and that imagination by which we enter into and comprehend other lives are most trained and developed, made habitual, instinctive, and quick. It begins to appear, I trust, that ideal art is not only one with our nature intellectually, but in all ways; it is the path of the spirit in all things. Moreover, emotion is in itself simple; it does not need generalization, it is the same in all. It is rather a means of universalizing the refinements of the intellect, the substantive idealities of imagination, by enveloping them in an elementary, primitive feeling which they call forth. Poetry, therefore, especially deals, as Wordsworth pointed out, in the primary affections, the elementary passions of mankind; and, whatever be its intellectual contents of nature or human events, calls these emotions forth as the master-spirit of all our seeing. Emotion is more fundamental in us than knowledge; it is more powerful in its working; it underlies more deliberate and conscious life in the mind, and in most of us it rules, as it influences in all. It is natural, therefore, to find that its operation in art is of graver importance than that of the intellectual faculty so far as the broad power of art over men is concerned.

Another special point arises from the fact that some emotions are painful, and the question is raised how in literature painful emotions become a pleasure. Aristotle’s doctrine in respect to certain of these emotions, tragic pity and terror, is well known, though variously interpreted. He regards such emotions as a discharge of energy, an exhaustion and a relief, in consequence of which their disturbing presence is less likely to recur in actual life; it is as if emotional energy accumulated, as vital force is stored up and requires to be loosed in bodily exercise; but this, except in the point that pity and terror, if they do accumulate in their particular forms latently, are specifically such as it is wise to be rid of, does not differentiate emotion from the rest of our powers in all of which there is a similar pleasure in exercising, an exhaustion and a relief, with less liability of immediate recurrence; this belongs to all expenditure of life. It is not credible to me that painful emotion, under the illusions of art, can become pleasurable in the common sense; what pleasure there is arises only in the climax and issue of the action, as in case of the drama when the restoration of the order that is joyful, beautiful, right, and wise occurs; in other words, in the presence of the final poetic justice or reconciliation of the disturbed elements of life. But here we come upon darker and mysterious aspects of our general subject, now to be slightly touched. Tragedy dealing with the discords of life must present painful spectacles; and is saved to art only by its just ending. Comedy, which similarly deals with discords, is endurable only while these remain painless. Both imply a defect in order, and neither would have any place in a perfect world, which would be without pity, fear, or humour, all of which proceed from incongruities in the scheme. Tragedy and comedy belong alike to low civilizations, to wicked, brutal, or ridiculous types of character and disorderly events, to the confusion, ignorance, and ignominies of mankind; the refinement of both is a mark of progress in both art and civilization, and foretells their own extinction, unless indeed the principle of evil be more deeply implanted in the universe than we fondly hope; pathos and humour, which are the milder and the kindlier forms of tragedy and comedy, must also cease, for both are equally near to tears. But before leaving this subject it is interesting to observe how in the Aristotelian scheme of tragedy, where it was little thought of, the appeal is made to man’s whole nature as here outlined–the plot replying to reason, the scene to the sense of beauty, the katharsis to the emotions, and poetic justice to the will, which thus finds its model and exemplar in the supremacy of the moral law in all tragic art.

This, then, being the nature of the ideal world in its whole range commensurate with our being, and these the methods of its intellectual and emotional appeal, it remains to examine the world of art in itself, and especially its genesis out of life. The method by which it is built up has long been recognized to be that of imitation of the actual, as has been assumed hitherto in the statement that all art is concrete. But the concrete which art creates is not a copy of the concrete of life; it is more than this. The mind takes the particulars of the world of sense into itself, generalizes them, and frames therefrom a new particular, which does not exist in nature; it is, in fact, nature made perfect in an imagined instance, and so presented to the mind’s eye, or to the eye of sense. The pleasure which imitation gives has been often and diversely analyzed; it may be that of recognition, or that of new knowledge satisfying our curiosity as if the original were present, or that of delight in the skill of the artist, or that of interest in seeing how his view differs from our own, or that of the illusion created for us; but all these modes of pleasure exist when the imitation is an exact copy of the original, and they do not characterize the artistic imitation in any way to differentiate its peculiar pleasure. It is that element which artistic imitation adds to actuality, the difference between its created concrete and the original out of which that was developed, which gives the special delight of art to the mind. It is the perfection of the type, the intensity of the emotion, the inevitability of the plot,–it is the pure and intelligible form disclosed in the phases and movement of life, disengaged and set apart for the contemplation of the mind,–it is the purging of the sensual eye, enabling it to see through the mind as the mind first saw through it, which renders the world of art the new vision it is, the revelation accomplished by the mind for the senses. If the world of art were only a reduplication of life, it would give only the pleasures that have been mentioned; but its true pleasure is that which it yields from its supersensual element, the reason which has entered into it with ordering power. In the world thus created there will remain the imperfections which are due to the limitation of the artist, in knowledge, skill, and choice.

It will be said at once that all these concrete representations necessarily fail to realize the artist’s thought, and are inadequate, inferior in exactness, to scientific and philosophic knowledge; in a measure this is true, and would be important if the method of art were demonstrative, instead of being, as has been said, experimental and inductive. So, too, all thinkers, using the actual world in their processes, are at a disadvantage. The figures of the geometer, the quantities of the chemist, the measurements of the astronomer, are inexact approximations to their equivalent in the mind. Art, as an embodiment in mortal images, is subject to the conditions of mortality. Hence arises its human history, the narrative of its rise, climax, and decline in successive ages. The course of art is known; it has been run many times; it is a simple matter. At first art is archaic, the sensible form being rudely controlled by the artist’s hand; it becomes, in the second stage, classical, the form being adequate to the thought, a transparent expression; last, it is decadent, the form being more than the thought, dwarfing it by usurping attention on its own account. The peculiar temptation of technique is always to elaboration of detail; technique is at first a hope, it becomes a power, it ends in being a caprice; and always as it goes on it loses sight of the general in its rendering, and dwells with a near eye on the specific. Nor is this attention to detail confined to the manner; the hand of the artist draws the mind after it, and it is no longer the great types of manhood, the important fates of life, the primary emotions in their normal course, that are in the foreground of thought, but the individual is more and more, the sensational in plot, the sentimental in feeling. This tendency to detail, which is the hallmark of realism, constitutes decline. It arises partly from the exhaustion of general ideas, from the search for novelty of subject and sensation, from the special phenomena of a decaying society; but, however manifold may be the causes, the fact of decline consists in the lessened scope of the matter and the increased importance of the form, both resulting in luxuriant detail. Ideas as they lose generality gain in intensity, but in the history of art this has not proved a compensation. In Greece the three stages are clearly marked both in matter and manner, in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; in England less clearly in Marlowe, Shakspere, and Webster. How monstrous in the latter did tragedy necessarily become! yet more repulsive in his tenderer companion-spirit, Ford. In Greek sculpture, passing into convulsed and muscular forms or forms of relaxed voluptuousness, in Italian painting, in the romantic poetry of this century with us, the same stages are manifest. Age parallels age. Tennyson in artistic technique is Virgilian, we are aware of the style; but both Virgil and Tennyson remain classic in matter, in universality, and the elemental in man. Browning in substance is Euripidean, being individualistic, psychologic, problematic, with special pleading; classicism had departed from him, and left not even the style behind. The great opposition lies in the subject of interest. Is it to know ourselves in others? Then art which is widely interpretative of the common nature of man results. Is it to know others as different from ourselves? Then art which is specially interpretative of abnormal individuals in extraordinary environments results. This is the opposition between realism and idealism, while both remain in the limits of art, as these terms are commonly used. It belongs to realism to tend to the concrete of narrow application, but with fulness of special trait or detail. It belongs to idealism to tend to the concrete of broad application, but without peculiarity. The trivial on the one hand, the criminal on the other, in the individual, are the extremes of realistic art, while idealism rises to an almost superhuman emphasis on that wisdom and virtue, and the beauty clothing them, which are the goal of a nation’s effort. Race-ideas, or generalizations of a compact and homogeneous people summing up their serious interpretations of life, their moral choices, their aspiration and hope in the lines of effort that seem to them highest, are the necessary matter of idealism; when these are expressed they are the Greek spirit, the Roman genius, great types of humanity on the impersonal, the national scale. As these historic generalizations dissolve in national decay, art breaks up in individual portrayal of less embracing types; the glorification of the Greek man in Achilles yields place to the corruptions of the homunculus; and in general the literature of nationality gives way to the unmeaning and transitory literature of a society interested in its vices, superstitions, and sensations. In each age some genius stands at the centre of its expression, a shining nucleus amid its planetary stars; such was Dante, such Virgil, such Shakspere. Few indeed are the races that present the spectacle of a double-sun in their history, as the Hebrews in Psalm and Gospel, the Greeks in Homer and in Plato. And yet, all this enormous range of life and death, this flowering in centuries of the human spirit in its successive creations, reposes finally on the more or less general nature of the concretes used in its art, on their broad or narrow truth, on their human or individualistic significance. The difference between idealism and realism is not more than a question which to choose. At the further end and last remove, when all art has been resolved into a sensation, an effect, lies impressionism, which, by its nature, is a single phase at a single moment as seen by a single being; but even then, if the mind be normal, if the phase be veritable, if the moment be that of universal beauty which Faust bade be eternal, the artistic work remains ideal; but on the other hand, it is usually the eccentric mind, the abnormal phase, the beauty of morbid sensation that are rendered; and impressionism becomes, as a term, the vanishing-point of realism into the moment of sense.

The world of art, to reach its last limitation, through all this wide range is in each creation passed through the mind of the artist and presented necessarily under all the conditions of his personality. His nature is a term in the process, and the question of imperfection or of error, known as the personal equation, arises. Individual differences of perceptive power in comprehending what is seen, and of narrative skill, or in the plastic and pictorial arts of manual dexterity, import this personal element into all artistic works, the more in proportion to the originality of the maker and the fulness of his self-expression. In rendering from the actual such error is unavoidable, and is practically admitted by all who would rather see for themselves than take the account of a witness, and prefer the original to any copy of it, though they thereby only substitute their own error for that of the artist. This personal error, however, is easily corrected by the consensus of human nature.

The differences in personality go far deeper than this common liability of humanity to mere mistakes in sight and in representation. The isolating force that creates a solitude round every man lies in his private experience, and results from his original faculties and the special conditions of his environment, his acquired habits of attending to some things rather than others open to him, the choices he has made in the past by which his view of the world and his interest in it have been determined. Memory, the mother of the Muses, is supreme here; a man’s memory, which is the treasury of his chosen delights in life, characterizes him, and differentiates his work from that of others, because he must draw on that store for his materials. Thus a man’s character, or, what is more profound, his temperament, acting in conjunction with the memory it has built up for itself, is a controlling force in artistic work, and modifies it in the sense that it presents the universal truth only as it exists in his personality, in his apprehension of it and its meaning.

Genius is this power of personality, and exists in proportion as the man differs from the average in ways that find significant expression. This difference may proceed along two lines. It may be aberration from normal human nature, due to circumstances or to inherent defect or to a thousand causes, but existing always in the form of an inward perversion approaching disease of our nature; such types of genius are pathological and may be neglected. It may, on the other hand, be development of normal human nature in high power, and it then exists in the form of inward energy, showing itself in great sensitiveness to outward things, in mental power of comprehension, in creative force of recombination and expression. Of genius of this last sort the leaders of the human spirit are made. The basis of it is still, human faculty dealing with the universe–the same faculty, the same universe, that are common to mankind; but with an extraordinary power, such that it can reveal to men at large what they of themselves might never have arrived at, can advance knowledge and show forth goals of human hope, can in a word guide the race. The isolation of such a nature is necessarily profound, and intense loneliness has ever been a characteristic of genius. The solvent of all personality, however, lies at last in this fact of a common world and a common faculty for all, resulting in an experience intelligible to all, even if unshared by them. The humanity of genius constitutes its sanity, and is the ground of its usefulness; though it lives in isolation, it does so only as an advanced outpost may; it expects the advent of the race behind and below it, and shows there its signal and sounds there its call. Its escape from personality lies in its identifying itself with the common order in which all souls shall finally be merged and be at one. The limitations of genius are consequently not so much limitations as the abrogation of limits in the ordinary sense; its originality of insight, interpretation, and expression broadens the human horizons and enriches the fields within them; it tells us what we may not have known or felt or guessed, but what we shall at last understand. Thus, as the theory of art is most fixed in the doctrine of order, so here it is most flexible in the doctrine of personality, through which that order is most variously set forth and illustrated. Imitation, so far from becoming a defective or false method because of personality, is really made catholic by it, and gains the variety and breadth that characterizes the artistic world as a whole.

The element of self which thus enters into every artistic work has different degrees of importance. In objective art, it is clear that it enters valuably in proportion as the universe is seized by a mind of right reason, of profound penetration, of truthful imagination; and if the work be presented enveloped in a subjective mood, while it remains objective in contents, as in Virgil the mood pervades the poem so deeply as to be a main part of it, then the mood must be one of those felt or capable of being felt universally,–the profound moods of the meditative spirit in grand works, the common moods of simple joy and sorrow in less serious works. In proportion as society develops, whether in historic states singly or in the progress of mankind, the direct expression of self for its own sake becomes more usual; literature becomes more personal or purely subjective. If the poet’s private story be one of action, it is plain that it has interest only as if it were objectively rendered, from its being illustrative of life in general; so, too, if the felt emotion be given, this will have value from its being treated as typical; and, in so far as the intimate nature of the poet is variously given as a whole in his entire works, it has real importance, has its justification in art, only in so far as he himself is a high normal type of humanity. The truth of the matter is, in fact, only a detail of the general proposition that in art history has no value of its own as such; for the poet is a part of life that is, and his nature and career, like that of any character or event in history, have no artistic value beyond their universal significance. In such self-portraiture there may be sometimes the depicting of a depraved nature, such as Villon; but such a type takes its place with other criminal types of the imagination, and belongs with them in another sphere.

This element of self finds its intense expression in lyrical love-poetry, one of the most enduring forms of literature because of its elementariness and universality; but it is also found in other parts of the emotional field. In seeking concrete material for lyrical use the poet may take some autobiographical incident, but commonly the world of inanimate nature yields the most plastic mould. It is a marvellous victory of the spirit over matter when it takes the stars of heaven and the flowers of earth and makes them utter forth its speech, less as it seems in words of human language than in the pictured hieroglyph and symphonic movement of natural things; for in such poetry it is not the vision of nature, however beautiful, that holds attention; it is the colour, form, and music of things externalizing, visualizing the inward mood, emotion, or passion of the singer. Nature is emptied of her contents to become the pure inhabitancy of one human soul. The poet’s method is that of life itself, which is first awakened by the beauty without to thought and feeling; he expresses the state evoked by that beauty and absorbing it. He identifies himself with the objects before him through his joy in them, and entering there makes nature translucent with his own spirit.

Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind is the eminent example of such magical power. The three vast elements, earth, air, and water, are first brought into a union through their connection with the west wind; and, the wind still being the controlling centre of imagination, the poet, drawing all this limitless and majestic imagery with him, by gradual and spontaneous approaches identifies himself at the climax of feeling with the object of his invocation,–

“Be thou me, impetuous one!”

and thence the poem swiftly falls to its end in a lyric burst of personality, in which, while the body of nature is retained, there is only a spiritual meaning. So Burns in some songs, and Keats in some odes, following the same method, make nature their own syllables, as of some cosmic language. This is the highest reach of the artist’s power of conveying through the concrete image the soul in its pure emotional life; and in such poetry one feels that the whole material world seems lent to man to expand his nature and escape from the solitude in which he is born to that divine union to which he is destined. The evolution of this one moment of passion is lyric form, whose unity lies in personality exclusively, however it may seem to involve the external world which is its imagery,–its body lifted from the dust, woven of light and air, but alive only while the spirit abides there. And here, too, as elsewhere, to whatever height the poet may rise, it must be one to which man can follow, to which, indeed, the poet lifts men. Nor is it only nature which thus suffers spiritualization through the stress of imagination interpreting life in definite and sensible forms of beauty, but the imagery of action also may be similarly taken possession of, though this is rare in merely lyrical expression.

The ideal world, then, to present in full summary these views, is thus built up, through personality in all its richness, by a perfected imitation of life itself, and is set forth in universal unities of relation, causal or formal, to the intellect in its inward, to the sense of beauty in its outward, aspects; and thereby delighting the desire of the mind for lucid and lovely order, it generates joy, and thence is born the will to conform one’s self to this order. If, then, this order be conceived as known in its principles and in operation in living souls, as existing in its completeness on the simplest scale in an entire series of illustrative instances but without multiplicity,–if it be conceived, that is, as the model of a world,–that would be to know it as it exists to the mind of God; that would be to contemplate the world of ideas as Plato conceived it seen by the soul before birth. That is the beatific vision. If it be conceived in its mortal movement as a developing world on earth, that would be to know “the plot of God,” as Poe called the universe. Art endeavours to bring that vision, that plot, however fragmentary, upon earth. It is a world of order clothing itself in beauty, with a charm to the soul, such is our nature,–operative upon the will to live. It is preeminently a vision of beauty. It is true that this beauty which thus wins and moves us seems something added by the mind in its great creations rather than anything actual in life; for it is, in fact, heightened and refined from the best that man has seen in himself, and it partakes more of hope than of memory. Here is that woven robe of illusion which is so hard a matter to those who live in horizons of the eye and hand. Yet as idealism was found on its mental side harmonious with reason in all knowledge, and on its emotional side harmonious with the heart in its outgoings, so this perfecting temperament that belongs to it and most characterizes it, falls in with the natural faith of mankind. Idealism in this sense, too, existed in life before it passed into literature. The youth idealizes the maiden he loves, his hero, and the ends of his life; and in age the old man idealizes his youth. Who does not remember some awakening moment when he first saw virtue and knew her for what she is? Sweet was it then to learn of some Jason of the golden fleece, some Lancelot of the tourney, some dying Sydney of the stricken field. There was a poignancy in this early knowledge that shall never be felt again; but who knows not that such enthusiasm which earliest exercised the young heart in noble feelings is the source of most of good that abides in us as years go on? In such boyish dreaming the soul learns to do and dare, hardens and supples itself, and puts on youthful beauty; for here is its palaestra. Who would blot these from his memory? who choke these fountain-heads, remembering how often along life’s pathway he has thirsted for them? Such moments, too, have something singular in their nature, and almost immortal, that carries them echoing far on into life where they strike upon us in manhood at chosen moments when least expected; some of them are the real time in which we live. It was said of old that great men were creative in their souls, and left their works to be their race; these ideal heroes have immortal souls for their children, age after age. Shall we in our youth, then, in generous emulation idealize the great of old times, and honour them as our fair example of what we most would be? Shall we, in our hearts, idealize those we love,–so natural is it to believe in the perfection of those we love,–and even if the time for forgiveness comes, and we show them the mercy that our own frailty teaches us to exercise, shall we still idealize them, since love continues only in the persuasion of perfection yet to come, and is the tenderer because it comes with struggle? Whether in our acts or our emotions shall we give idealism this range, and deny it to literature which discloses the habits of our daily practice in more perfection and with greater beauty? There we find the purest types to raise and sustain us; to direct our choice, and reenforce us with that emotion, that passion, which most supports the will in its effort. There history itself is taken up, transformed, and made immortal, the whole past of human emotion and action contained and shown forth with convincing power. Nor is it only with the natural habit of mankind that idealism falls in, but with divine command. Were we not bid be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect? And what is that image of the Christ, what is that world-ideal, the height of human thought, but the work of the creative reason,–not of genius, not of the great in mind and fortunate in gifts, but of the race itself, in proud and humble, in saint and sinner, in the happy and the wretched, in all the vast range of the millions of the dead whose thoughts live embodied in that great tradition,–the supreme and perfected pattern of mankind?

Is it nevertheless true that there is falsehood in all this? that men were never such as the heart believes them, nor ideal characters able to breathe mortal air? by indulging our emotions, do we deceive ourselves, and end at last in cynicism or despair? Why, then, should we not boldly affirm that the falsehood is rather in us, in the defects by which we fail of perfection, in our ignorant error and voluntary wrong? that in the ideal, free as it is from the accidental and the transitory, inclusive as it is of the common truth, lies, as Plato thought, the only reality, the truth which outlasts us all? But this may seem a subtle evasion rather than a frank answer. Let us rather say that idealism is one of the necessary modes of man’s faith, brings in the future, and assumes the reality of that which shall be actual; that the reality it owns is that of the rose in the bud, the oak in the acorn, the planet in its fiery mist. I believe that ideal character in its perfection is potentially in every man who is born into the world. We forecast the future in other parts of life; why should we not forecast ourselves? Would he not be thought foolish who should refuse to embark in great enterprises of trade, because he does not already hold the wealth to be gained? The ideal is our infinite riches, more than any individual or moment can hold. To refuse it is as if a man should neglect his estate because he can take but a handful of it in his grasp. It is the law of our being to grow, and it is a necessity that we should have examples and patterns in advance of us, by which we can find our way. There is no falsehood in such anticipation; there is only a faith in truth instead of a possession of it. Will you limit us to one moment of time and place? will you say to the patriot that his country is a geographical term? and when he replies that rather is it the life of her sons, will you point him to human nature as it seems at the period, to corruption, folly, ignorance, strife, and crime, and tell him that is our actual America? Will he not rather say that his America is a great past, a future whose beneficence no man can sum? Is there any falsehood in this ideal country that men have ever held precious? Did Pericles lie in his great oration, and Virgil in his noble poem, and Dante in his fervid Italian lines? And as there are ideals of country, so also of men, of the soldier, the priest, the king, the lover, the citizen, and beside each of us does there not go one who mourns over our fall and pities us, gladdens in our virtue, and shall not leave us till we die; an ideal self, who is our judgment? and if it be yet answered that this in truth is so, and might be borne but for the errors of the idealizing temperament, shall we not reply that the quack does not discredit the art of medicine, nor the demagogue the art of politics, and no more does the fool in all his motley the art of literature.

Must I, however, come back to my answer, and meet those who aver that however stimulating idealism is to the soul, yet it must be remembered that in the world at large there is nothing corresponding to ideal order, to poetic ethics, and that to act these forth as the supremacy of what ought to be is to misrepresent life, to raise expectations in youth never to be realized, to pervert practical standards, and in brief to make a false start that can be fruitful only in error, in subsequent suffering of mind, and with material disadvantage? I must be frank: I own that I can perceive in Nature no moral order, that in her world there is no knowledge of us or of our ideals, and that in general her order often breaks upon man’s life with mere ruin, irrational and pitiful; and I acknowledge, also, the prominence of evil in the social, and its invasion in the individual, life of man. But, again, were we so situated that there should be no external divine order apparent to our minds, were justice an accident and mercy the illusion of wasted prayer, there would still remain in us that order whose workings are known within our own bosom, that law which compels us to be just and merciful in order to lead the life that we recognize to be best, and the whole imperative of our ideal, which, if we fail to ourselves, condemns us, irrespective of what future attends us in the world. Ideal order as the mind knows it, the mind must strive to realize, or stand dishonoured in its own forum. Within us, at least, it exists in hope and somewhat in reality, and following it in our effort, though we come merely to a stoical idea of the just man on whom the heavens fall, we should yet be nobler than the power that made us souls betrayed. But there is no such difference between the world as it is and the world as ideal art presents it.

What, then, is the difference between art and nature? Art is nature regenerate, made perfect, suffering the new birth into what ought to be; an ordered and complete world. But this is the vision of art as the ultimate of good. Idealism has also another world, of which glimpses have already appeared in the course of this argument, though in the background. In the intellectual sphere evil is as subject to general statement as is good, and there is in the strict sense an idealization of evil, a universal statement of it, as in Mephistopheles, or in more partial ways in Iago, Macbeth, Richard III. In the emotional sphere also there is the throb of evil, felt as diabolic energy and presented as the element in which these characters have their being. Even in the sphere of the will, who shall say that man does not knowingly choose evil as his portion? So, too, as the method of idealism in the world of the good tends to erect man above himself, the same generalizing method in the world of the evil tends to degrade human nature below itself; the extremes of the process are the divine and the devilish; both transcend life, but are developed out of it. The difference between these two poles of ideality is that the order of one is an order of life, that of the other an order of death. Between these two is the special province of the human will. What literature, what all art, presents is not the ultimate of good or the ultimate of evil separately; it is, taking into account the whole range, the mixed world becoming what it ought to be in its evolution from what it is, and the laws of that progress. Hence tragedy on the one hand and comedy, or more broadly humour, on the other hand, have their great place in literature; for they are forms of the intermediate world of conflict. I speak of the spiritual world of man’s will. We may conceive of the world optimistically as a place in which all shall issue in good and nothing be lost; or as a place in which, by alliance with or revolt from the forces of life, the will in its voluntary and individual action may save or lose the soul at its choice. We may think of God as conserving all, or as permitting hell, which is death. We do not know. But as shown to us in imagination, idealism, which is the race’s dream of truth, hovers between these two worlds known to us in tendency if not in conclusion,–the world of salvation on the one hand, in proportion as the order of life is made vital in us, the world of damnation on the other hand, in proportion as the order of death prevails in our will; but the main effort of idealism is to show us the war between the two, with an emphasis on the becoming of the reality of beauty, joy, reason, and virtue in us. Not that prosperity follows righteousness, not that poverty attends wickedness, in worldly measure, but that life is the gift of a right will is her message; how we, striving for eternal life, may best meet the chances and the bitter fates of mortal existence, is her brooding care; ideal characters, or those ideal in some trait or phase, in the midst of a hostile environment, are her fixed study. So far is idealism from ignoring the actual state of man that it most affirms its pity and evil by setting them in contrast with what ought to be, by showing virtue militant not only against external enemies but those inward weaknesses of our mortality with its passion and ignorance, which are our most undermining and intimate foes. Here is no false world, but just that world which is our theatre of action, that confused struggle, represented in its intelligible elements in art, that world of evil, implicit in us and the universe, which must be overcome; and this is revealed to us in the ways most profitable for our instruction, who are bound to seek to realize the good through all the strokes of nature and the folly and sin of men. Ideal literature in its broad compass, between its opposed poles of good and evil, is just this: a world of order emerging from disorder, of beauty and wisdom, of virtue and joy, emerging from the chaos of things that are, in selected and typical examples.

It follows from this that what remains in the world of observation in personality or experience, whether good or evil, whether particular or general, not yet coordinated in rational knowledge as a whole, all for which no solution is found, all that cannot be or has not been made intelligible, must be the subject-matter of realism in the exact use of that term. This must be recorded by literature, or admitted into it, as matter-of-fact which is to the mind still a problem. Earthly mystery therefore is the special sphere of realism. The borderland of the unknown or the irreducible is its realm. This old residuum, this new material, is not yet capable of art. Hence, too, realism in this sense characterizes ages of expansion of knowledge such as ours. The new information which is the fruit of our wide travel, of our research into the past, has enlarged the problem of man’s life by showing us both primitive and historical humanity in its changeful phases of progress working out the beast; and this new interest has been reenforced by the attention paid, under influences of democracy and philanthropy, to the lower and baser forms of life in the masses under civilization, which has been a new revelation of persistent savagery in our midst. Here realism illustrates its service as a gatherer of knowledge which may hereafter be reduced to orderliness by idealistic processes, for idealism is the organizer of all knowledge. But apart from this incoming of facts, or of laws not yet harmonized in the whole body of law, for which we may have fair hope that a synthesis will be found, there remains forever that residuum of which I spoke, which has resisted the intelligence of man, age after age, from the first throb of feeling, the first ray of thought; that involuntary evil, that unmerited suffering, that impotent pain,–the human debris of the social process,–which is a challenge to the power of God, and a cry to the heart of man that broods over it in vain, yet cannot choose but hear. In this region the near affinity of realism to pessimism, to atheism, is plain enough; its necessary dealing with the base, the brutal, the unredeemed, the hopeless darkness of the infamies of heredity, criminal education, and successful malignity, eating into the being as well as controlling the fortune of their victims, is manifest; and what answer has ever been found to the interrogation they make? It is not merely that particular facts are here irreconcilable; but laws themselves are discernible, types even not of narrow application, which have not been brought into any relation with what I have named the divine order. Millions of men in thousands of years are included in this holocaust of past time,–eras of savagery, Assyrian civilizations, Christian butcheries, the Czar yet supreme, the Turk yet alive.

And how is it at the other pole of mystery, where life rises into a heavenly vision of eternities of love to come? There is no place for realism here, where observation ceases and our only human outlook is by inference from principles and laws of the ideal world as known to us; yet what problems are we aware of? Must,–to take the special problem of art,–must the sensuous scheme of life persist, since of it warp and woof are woven all our possibilities of communication, all our capabilities of knowledge? it is our language and our memory alike. Must God be still thought of in the image of man, since only in terms of our humanity can we conceive even divine things, whether in forms of mortal pleasure as the Greeks framed their deities, or in shapes of spiritual bliss as Christians fashion saint, angel, and archangel? These are rather philosophical problems. But in art, as at the realistic end of the scale, we admit the portraiture, as a part of life, of the bestial, the cruel, the unforgiven, and feel it debasing, so must we at the idealistic end admit the representation of the celestial after human models, and feel it, even in Milton and in Dante, minimizing. The mysticism of the borderland at its supreme is a hope; at its nadir, it is a fear. We do not know. But within the narrow range of the intelligible and ordered world of art, which has been achieved by the creative reason of civilized man in his brief centuries and along the narrow path from Jerusalem and Athens to the western world, we do know that for the normal man born into its circle of light the order of life is within our reach, the order of death within reach of us. Shut within these limits of the victory of our intellect and the upreaching of our desires and the warfare of our will, we assert in art our faith that the divine order is victorious, that the righteous man is not forsaken, that the soul cannot suffer wrong either from others or from nature or from God,–that the evil principle cannot prevail. It is faith, springing from our experience of the working of that order in us; it transcends knowledge, but it grows with knowledge; and ideal literature asserts this faith against nature and against man in all their deformity, as the centre about which life revolves so far as it has become subject to rational knowledge, to beautiful embodiment, to joyful being, to the will to live.

Can the faith of which idealism is the holder of the keys, the faith as nigh to the intellect as to the heart, to the senses as to the spirit, exceed even this limit, and affirm that if man were perfect in knowledge and saw the universe as we believe God sees it, he would behold it as an artistic whole even now? Would it be that beatific vision, revolving like God’s kaleidoscope, momentarily falling at each new arrangement into the perfect unities of art? and is our world of art, our brief model of such a world in single examples of its scheme, only a way of limiting the field to the compass of human faculties that we may see within our capacities as God sees, and hence have such faith? Is art after all a lower creation than nature, a concession to our frail powers? Has idealism such optimistic reach as that? Or must we see the evil principle encamped here, confusing truth, deforming beauty, depraving joy, deflecting the will, with wages of death for its victims, and the hell of final destruction spreading beneath its sway? so that the world as it now is cannot be thought of as the will of God exercised in Omnipotence, but a human opportunity of union with or separation from the ideal order in conflict with the order of death. I recall Newman’s picture: “To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history, the many races of men, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not toward final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race, so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the world,’–all this is a vision to dizzy and appall; and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely beyond human solution.” In the face of such a world, even when partially made intelligible in ideal art, dare we assert that fatalistic optimism which would have it that the universe is in God’s eyes a perfect world? I can find no warrant for it in ideal art, though thence the ineradicable effort arises in us to win to that world in the conviction that it is not indifferent in the sight of heaven whether we live in the order of life or that of death, in the faith that victory in us is a triumph of that order itself which increases and prevails in us, is a bringing of Christ’s kingdom upon earth. Art rather becomes in our mind a function of the world’s progress, and were its goal achieved would cease; for life would then itself be one with art, one with the divine order. So much of truth there is in Ruskin’s statement that art made perfect denies progress and is its ultimate. But perfection in life, as ideal art presents it, it is a prophecy which enlists us as soldiers militant in its fulfilment. Its optimism is that of the issue, and may be that of the process; but it surely is not that of the state that now is in the world.

It thus appears more and more that art is educative; it is the race’s foreknowledge of what may be, of the objects of effort and the methods of their attainment under mortal conditions. The difficulty of men in respect to it is the lax power they have to see in it the truth, as contradistinguished from the fact, the continuous reality of the things of the mind in opposition to the accidental and partial reality of the things of actuality. They think of it as an imagined, instead of as the real world, the model of that which is in the evolution of that which ought to be. In history the climaxes of art have always outrun human realization; its crests in Greece, Italy, and England are crests of the never-attained; but they still make on in their mass to the yet rising wave, which shall be of mankind universal, if, indeed, in the cosmopolitan civilization which we hope for, the elements of the past, yet surviving from the accomplishment of single famous cities and great empires, shall be blended in a world-ideal, expressing the spiritual uplifting to God of the reconciled and unified nations of the earth.

There remains but one last resort; for it will yet be urged that the impossibility of any scientific knowledge of the spiritual order is proved by the transience of the ideals of the past; one is displaced by another, there is no permanence in them. It is true that the concrete world, which must be employed by art, is one of sense, and necessarily imports into the form of art its own mortality; it is, even in art, a thing that passes away. It is also true that the world of knowledge, which is the subject-matter of art, is in process of being known, and necessarily imports into the contents of art its errors, its hypotheses, its imperfections of every kind; it is a thing that grows more and more, and in growing sheds its outworn shells, its past body. Let us consider the form and the contents separately. The element of mortality in the form is included in the transience of imagery. The poet uses the world as he knows it, and reflects in successive ages of literature the changing phases of civilization. The shepherd, the tiller of the soil, the warrior, the trader yield to him their language of the earth, the battle, and the sea; from the common altar he learns the speech of the gods; the elemental aspects of nature, the pursuits of men, and what is believed of the supernatural are the great storehouses of imagery. The fact that it is at first a living act or habit that the poet deals with, gives to his work that original vivacity, that direct sense of actuality, of contemporaneousness, which characterizes early literatures, as in Homer or the Song of Roland: even the marvellous has in them the reality of being believed. This imagery, however, grows remote with the course of time; it becomes capable of holding an inward meaning without resistance from too high a feeling of actuality; it becomes spiritualized. The process is the same already illustrated in lyric form as an expression of personality; but here man universal enters into the image and possesses it impersonally on the broad human scale. The pastoral life, for example, then yields the forms of art which hold either the simple innocence of happy earthly love, as in Daphnis and Chloe, or the natural grief of elegy made beautiful, as in Bion’s dirge, or the shepherding of Christ in his church on earth, as in many an English poet; the imagery has unclothed itself of actuality and shows a purely spiritual body.

This growing inwardness of art is a main feature of literary history. It is illustrated on the grand scale by the imagery of war. In the beginning war for its own sake, mere fighting, is the subject; then war for a cause, which ennobles it beyond the power of personal prowess and justifies it as an element in national life; next, war for love, which refines it and builds the paradox of the deeds of hate serving the will of courtesy; last, war for the soul’s salvation, which is unseen battle within the breast. Achilles, Aeneas, Lancelot, the Red Cross Knight are the terms in this series; they mark the transformation of the most savage act of man into the symbol of his highest spiritual effort. Nature herself is subject to this inwardness of art; at first merely objective as a condition, and usually a hostile, or at least dangerous, condition of human life, she becomes the witness to omnipotent power in illimitable beauty and majesty, its infinite unknowableness, and its tender care for all creatures, as in the Scriptures; and at last the words of our Lord concentrate, in some simple flower, the profoundest of moral truths,–that the beauty of the soul is the gift of God, out of whose eternal law it blossoms and has therein its ever living roots, its air and light, its inherent grace and sweetness: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Such is the normal development of all imagery; its actuality limits it, and in becoming remote it grows flexible. It is only by virtue of this that man can retain the vast treasures of race-imagination, and continue to use them, such as the worlds of mythology, of chivalry, and romance. The imagery is, in truth, a background, whose foreground is the ideal meaning. Thus even fairyland, and the worlds of heaven and hell, have their place in art. The actuality of the imagery is in fact irrelevant, just as history is in the idealization of human events. Its transience, then, cannot matter, except in so far as it loses intelligibility through changes of time, place, and custom, and becomes a dead language. It follows that that imagery which keeps close to universal phases of nature, to pursuits always necessary in human life, and to ineradicable beliefs in respect to the supernatural, is most permanent as a language; and here art in its most immortal creations returns again to its omnipresent character as a thing of the common lot.

The transience of the contents of art may be of two kinds. There is a passing away of error, as there is in all knowledge, but such a loss need not detain attention. What is really in issue is the passing away of the authority of precept and example fitted to one age but not to another, as in the case of the substitution of the ideal of humility for that of valour, owing to a changed emphasis in the scale of virtues. The contents of art, its general ideals, reproduce the successive periods of our earth-history as a race, by generalizing each in its own age. A parallel exists in the subject-matter of the sciences; astronomy, geology, paleontology are similar statements of past phases of the evolution of the earth, its aspects in successive stages. Or, to take a kindred example, just as the planets in their order set forth now the history of our system from nascent life to complete death as earths, so these ideals exhibit man’s stages from savagery to such culture as has been attained. They have more than a descriptive and historical significance; they retain practical vitality because the unchangeable element in the universe and in man’s nature is in the main their subject-matter. It is not merely that the child repeats in his education, in some measure at least, the history of the race, and hence must still learn the value of bravery and humility in their order; nor that in the mass of men many remain ethically and emotionally in the characteristic stages of past culture; but these various ideals of what is admirable have themselves identical elements, and in those points in which they differ respond to native varieties of human capacity and temperament. The living principles of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and Christian thought and feeling are at work in the world, still formative; it is only by such vitality that their results in art truly survive.

There has been an expansion of the field, and some rearrangement within it; but the evolution of human ideals has been, in our civilization, the growth of one spirit out of its dead selves carrying on into each reincarnation the true life that was in the form it leaves, and which is immortal. The substance in each ideal, its embodiment of what is cardinal in all humanity, remains integral. The alloy of mortality in a work of art lies in so much of it as was limited in truth to time, place, country, race, religion, its specific and contemporary part; so great is this in detail that a strong power of historical imagination, the power to rebuild past conditions, is a main necessity of culture, like the study of a dead language; an interpretative faculty, the power to translate into terms of our knowledge what was stated in terms of different beliefs, must go with this; and also a corrective power, if the work is to be truly useful and enter into our lives with effect. Such an alloy there is in nearly all great works even; much in Homer, something in Virgil, a considerable part of Dante, and an increasing portion in Milton have this mixture of death in them; but if by keeping to the primary, the permanent, the universal, they have escaped the natural body of their age, the substance of the work is still living; they have achieved such immortality as art allows. They have done so, not so much by the personal power of their authors as by their representative character. These ideal works of the highest range, which embody in themselves whole generations of effort and rise as the successive incarnations of human imagination, are products of race and state, of world experience and social personality; they differ, race from race, civilization from civilization, Hebrew or Greek, Pagan or Christian, just as on the individual scale persons differ; and they are solved, as personality in its individual form is solved, in the element of the common reason, the common nature in the world and man, which they contain,–in man,

“Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless”;

in the unity of the truth of his spirit they are freed from mortality, they are mutually intelligible and interchangeable, they survive,– racial and secular states and documents of a spiritual evolution yet going on in all its stages in the human mass, still barbarous, still pagan, still Christian, but an evolution which at its highest point wastes nothing of the past, holds all its truth, its beauty, its vital energy, in a forward reach.

The nature of the changes which time brings may best be illustrated from the epic, and thus the opposition of the transient and permanent elements in art be, perhaps, more clearly shown. Epic action has been defined as the working out of the Divine will in society; hence it requires a crisis of humanity as its subject, it involves the conflict of a higher with a lower civilization, and it is conducted by means of a double plot, one in heaven, the other on earth. These are the characteristic epic traits. In dealing with ideas of such importance, the poets in successive eras of civilization naturally found much adaptation to new conditions necessary, and met with ever fresh difficulties; the result is a many-sided epic development. The idea of the Divine will, the theory of its operation, and the conception of society itself were all subject to change. Epics at first are historical; but, sharing with the tendency of all art toward inwardness of meaning, they become purely spiritual. The one thing that remains common to all is the notion of a struggle between a higher and a lower, overruled by Providence. They have two subjects of interest, one the cause, the other the hero through whom the cause works; and between these two interests the epic hovers, seldom if ever identifying them and yet preserving their dual reality.

The Iliad has all the traits that have been mentioned, but society is still loose enough in its bonds to give the characters free play; it is, in the main, a hero-epic. The Aeneid, on the contrary, exhibits the enormous development of the social idea; its subject is Roman dominion, which is the will of Zeus, localized in the struggle with Carthage and with Turnus, but felt in the poem pervasively as the general destiny of Rome in its victory over the world; and this interest is so overpowering as to make Aeneas the slave of Jove and almost to extinguish the other characters; it is a state-epic. So long as the Divine will was conceived as finding its operation through deities similar to man, the double plot presented little difficulty; but in the coming of Christian thought, even with its hierarchies of angels and legions of devils, the interpretation became arduous. In the Jerusalem Delivered the social conflict between Crusader and infidel is clear, the historical crisis in the wars of Palestine is rightly chosen, but the machinery of the heavenly plot is weakened by the presence of magic, and is by itself ineffectual in inspiring a true belief. So in the Lusiads, while the conflict and the crisis, as shown in the national energy of colonization in the East, are clear, the machinery of the heavenly plot frankly reverts to mythologic and pagan forms and loses all credibility.

In the Paradise Lost arises the spiritual epic, but still historically conceived; the crisis chosen, which is the fall of man in Adam, is the most important conceivable by man; the powers engaged are the superior beings of heaven and hell in direct antagonism; but here, too, the machinery of the heavenly plot is handled with much strain, and, however strongly supported by the Scriptures, has little convincing power. The truth is that the Divine will was coming to be conceived as implicit in society, being Providence there, and operating in secret but normal ways in the guidance of events, not by special and interfering acts; and also as equally implicit in the individual soul, the influence of the Spirit, and working in the ways of spiritual law. One change, too, of vast importance was announced by the words “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” This transferred the very scene of conflict, the theatre of spiritual warfare, from an external to an internal world, and the social significance of such individual battle lay in its being typical of all men’s lives. The Faerie Queene, the most spiritual poem in all ways in English, is an epic in essence, though its action is developed by a revolution of the phases of the soul in succession to the eye, and not by the progress of one main course of events. The conflict of the higher and the lower under Divine guidance in the implicit sense is there shown; the significance is for mankind, though not for a society in its worldly fortunes; but there is little attempt to externalize the heavenly power in specific action in superhuman forms, though in mortal ways the good knights, and especially Arthur, shadow it forth. The celestial plot is humanized, and the poem becomes a hero-epic in almost an exclusive way; though the knight’s achievement is also an achievement of God’s will, the interest lies in the Divine power conceived as man’s moral victory. In the Idyls of the King there are several traits of the epic. There is the central idea of the conflict between the higher and lower, both on the social and the individual side; the victory of the Round Table would have meant not only pure knights but a regenerate state. Here, however, the externalization of the Divine will in the Holy Grail, and, as in the Christian epic generally, its confusion on the marvellous side with a world of enchantment passing here into the sensuous sphere of Merlin, are felt to be inadequate. The war of “soul with sense” was the subject-matter, as was Spenser’s; the method of revolution of its phases was also Spenser’s; but the two poems differ in the point that Spenser’s knight wins, but Tennyson’s king loses, so far as earth is concerned; nor can it be fairly pleaded that as in Milton Adam loses, yet the final triumph of the cause is known and felt as a divine issue of the action though outside the poem, so Arthur is saved to the ideal by virtue of the faith he announces in the New Order coming on, for it is not so felt. The touch of pessimism invades the poem in many details, but here at its heart; for Arthur alone of all the heroes of epic in his own defeat drags down his cause. He is the hero of a lost cause, whose lance will never be raised again in mortal conflict to bring the kingdom of Christ on earth, nor its victory be declared except as the echo of a hope of some miraculous and merciful retrieval from beyond the barriers of the world to come. But in showing the different conditions of the modern epic, its spirituality, its difficulties of interpreting in sensuous imagery the working of the Divine will, its relaxed hold on the social movement for which it substitutes man’s universal nature, and the mist that settles round it in its latest example, sufficient illustration has been given of the changes of time to which idealism is subject, and also of the essential truth surviving in the works of the past, which in the epics is the vision of how the ends of God have been accomplished in the world and in the soul by the union of divine grace with heroic will,–the interpretation and glorification, of history and of man’s single conflict in himself ago after age, asserting through all their range the supremacy of the ideal order over its foes in the entire race-life of man.

Out of these changes of time, in response to the varying moods of men in respect to the world they inhabit, arise those phases of art which are described as classical and romantic, words of much confusion. It has been attempted to distinguish the latter as having an element of remoteness, of surprise, of curiosity; but to me, at least, classical art has the same remoteness, the same surprise, and answers the same curiosity as romantic art. If I were to endeavour to oppose them I should say that classical art is clear, it is perfectly grasped in form, it satisfies the intellect, it awakes an emotion absorbed by itself, it definitely guides the will; romantic art is touched with mystery, it has richness and intricacy of form not fully comprehended, it suggests more than it satisfies, it stirs an unconfined and wandering emotion, it invigorates an adventurous will; classicism is whole in itself and lives in the central region, the white light, of that star of ideality which is the light of our knowledge; romanticism borders on something else,–the rosy corona round about our star, carrying on its dawning power into those unknown infinities which embosom the spark of life. The two have always existed in conjunction, the romantic element in ancient literature being large. But owing to the disclosure of the world to us in later times, to the deeper sense of its mysteries which are our bounding horizons round about, and especially to the impulse given to emotion by the opening of the doors of immortality by Christianity to thought, revery, and dream, to hope and effort, the romantic element has been more marked in modern art, has in fact characterized it, being fed moreover by the ever increasing inwardness of human life, the greater value and opportunity of personality in a free and high civilization, and by the uncertainty, confusion, and complexity of such masses of human experience as our observation now controls. The romantic temper is inevitable in men whose lives are themselves thought of as, in form, but fragments of the life to come, which shall find their completion an eternal task. It is the natural ally of faith which it alone can render with an infinite outlook; and it is the complement of that mystery which is required to supplement it, and which is an abiding presence in the habit of the sensitive and serious mind. Yet in classical art the definite may still be rendered, the known, the conquered. Idealism has its finished world therein; in romanticism it has rather its prophetic work.

Such, then, as best I can state it in brief and rapid strokes, is the world of art, its methods, its appeals, its significance to mankind. Idealism, so presented, is in a sense a glorification of the commonplace. Its realm lies in the common lot of men; its distinction is to embrace truth for all, and truth in its universal forms of experience and personality, the primary, elementary, equally shared fates, passions, beliefs of the race. Shakspere, our great example, as Coleridge wisely said, “kept in the highway of life.” That is the royal road of genius, the path of immortality, the way ever trodden by the great who lead. I have ventured to speak at times of religious truth. What is the secret of Christ’s undying power? Is it not that he stated universal truth in concrete forms of common experience so that it comes home to all men’s bosoms? Genius is supreme in proportion as it does that, and becomes the interpreter of every man who is born into the world, makes him know his brotherhood with all, and the incorporation of his fate in the scheme of law, and ideal achievement under it, which is the common ground of humanity. Ideal literature is the treasury of such genius in the past; here, as I said in the beginning, the wisdom of the soul is stored; and art, in all its forms, is immortal only in so far as it has done its share in this same labour of illumination, persuasion, and command, forecasting the spirit to be, companioning the spirit that is, sustaining us all in the effort to make ideal order actual in ourselves.

What, then, since I said that it is a question how to live as well as how to express life,–what, then, is the ideal life? It is to make one’s life a poem, as Milton dreamed of the true poet; for as art works through matter and takes on concrete and sensible shape with its mortal conditions, so the soul dips in life, is in material action, and, suffering a similar fate, sinks into limitations and externals of this world and this flesh, through which it must live. In such a life, mortal in all ways, to bring down to earth the vision that floats in the soul’s eyes, the ideal order as it is revealed to the poet’s gaze, incorporating it in deed and being, and to make it prevail, so far as our lives have power, in the world of our life, is the task set for us. To disengage reason from the confusion of things, and behold the eternal forms of the mind; to unveil beauty in the transitory sights of our eyes, and behold the eternal forms of sense; so to act that the will within us shall take on this form of reason and our manifest life wear this form of beauty; and, more closely, to live in the primary affections, the noble passions, the sweet emotions,–

“Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure, Relations dear, and all the charities
Of father, son, and brother,–“

and also in the general sorrows of mankind, thereby, in joy and grief, entering sympathetically into the hearts of common men; to keep in the highway of life, not turning aside to the eccentric, the sensational, the abnormal, the brutal, the base, but seeing them, if they must come within our vision, in their place only by the edges of true life; and, if, being men, we are caught in the tragic coil, to seek the restoration of broken order, learning also in such bitterness better to understand the dark conflict forever waging in the general heart, the terror of the heavy clouds hanging on the slopes of our battle, the pathos that looks down even from blue skies that have kept watch o’er man’s mortality,–so, even through failure, to draw nearer to our race; this, as I conceive it, is to lead the ideal life. It is a message blended of many voices of the poets whom Shelley called, whatever might be their calamity on earth, the most fortunate of men; it rises from all lands, all ages, all religions; it is the battle-cry of that one great idea whose slow and hesitating growth is the unfolding of our long civilization, seeking to realize in democracy the earthly, and in Christianity the heavenly, hope of man,–the idea of the community of the soul, the sameness of it in all men. To lead this life is to be one with man through love, one with the universe through knowledge, one with God through the will; that is its goal, toward that we strive, in that we believe.

And Thou, O Youth, for whom these lines are written, fear not; idealize your friend, for it is better to love and be deceived than not to love at all; idealize your masters, and take Shelley and Sidney to your bosom, so shall they serve you more nobly and you love them more sweetly than if the touch and sight of their mortality had been yours indeed; idealize your country, remembering that Brutus in the dagger-stroke and Cato in his death-darkness knew not the greater Rome, the proclaimer of the unity of our race, the codifier of justice, the establisher of our church, and died not knowing,–but do you believe in the purpose of God, so shall you best serve the times to be; and in your own life, fear not to act as your ideal shall command, in the constant presence of that other self who goes with you, as I have said, so shall you blend with him at the end. Fear not either to believe that the soul is as eternal as the order that obtains in it, wherefore you shall forever pursue that divine beauty which has here so touched and inflamed you,–for this is the faith of man, your race, and those who were fairest in its records. And have recourse always to the fountains of this life in literature, which are the wells of truth. How to live is the one matter; the wisest man in his ripe age is yet to seek in it; but Thou, begin now and seek wisdom in the beauty of virtue and live in its light, rejoicing in it; so in this world shall you live in the foregleam of the world to come.


Democracy is a prophecy, and looks to the future; it is for this reason that it has its great career. Its faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen, whose realization will be the labour of a long age. The life of historic nations has been a pursuit toward a goal under the impulse of ideas often obscurely comprehended,–world-ideas as we call them,–which they have embodied in accomplished facts and in the institutions and beliefs of mankind, lasting through ages; and as each nation has slowly grown aware of the idea which animated it, it has become self-conscious and conscious of greatness. That men are born equal is still a doctrine openly derided; that they are born free is not accepted without much nullifying limitation; that they are born in brotherhood is less readily denied. These three, the revolutionary words, liberty, equality, fraternity, are the substance of democracy, if the matter be well considered, and all else is but consequence.

It might seem singular that man should ever have found out this creed, as that physical life could invent the brain, since the struggle for existence in primitive and early times was so adverse to it, and rested on a selfish and aggrandizing principle, in states as well as between races. In most parts of the world the first true governments were tyrannies, patriarchal or despotic; and where liberty was indigenous, it was confined to the race-blood. Aristotle speaks of slavery without repugnance save in Greeks, and serfdom was incorporated in the northern tribes as soon as they began to be socially organized. Some have alleged that religious equality was an Oriental idea, and borrowed from the relation of subjects to an Asiatic despot, which paved the way for it; some attribute civil equality to the Roman law; some find the germ of both in Stoical morals. But so great an idea as the equality of man reaches down into the past by a thousand roots. The state of nature of the savage in the woods, which our fathers once thought a pattern, bore some outward resemblance to a freeman’s life; but such a condition is rather one of private independence than of the grounded social right that democracy contemplates. How the ideas involved came into historical existence is a minor matter. Democracy has its great career, for the first time, in our national being, and exhibits here most purely its formative powers, and unfolds destiny on the grand scale. Nothing is more incumbent on us than to study it, to turn it this way and that, to handle it as often and in as many phases as possible with lively curiosity, and not to betray ourselves by an easy assumption that so elementary a thing is comprehended because it seems simple. Fundamental ideas are precisely those with which we should be most familiar.

Democracy is not merely a political experiment; and its governmental theory, though so characteristic of it as not to be dissociated from it, is a result of underlying principles. There is always an ideality of the human spirit in all its works, if one will search them, which is the main thing. The State, as a social aggregate with a joint life which constitutes it a nation, is dynamically an embodiment of human conviction, desire, and tendency, with a common basis of wisdom and energy of action, seeking to realize life in accordance with its ideal, whether traditional or novel, of what life should be; and government is no more than the mode of administration under which it achieves its results both in national life and in the lives of its citizens. All society is a means of escape from personality, and its limitations of power and wisdom, into this larger communal life; the individual, in so far, loses his particularity, and at the same time intensifies and strengthens that portion of his life which is thus made one with the general life of men,–that universal and typical life which they have in common and which moulds them with similar characteristics. It is by this fusion of the individual with the mass, this identification of himself with mankind in a joint activity, this reenforcement of himself by what is himself in others, that a man becomes a social being. The process is the same, whether in clubs, societies of all kinds, sects, political parties, or the all-embracing body of the State. It is by making himself one with human nature in America, its faith, its methods, and the controlling purposes in our life among nations, and not by birth merely, that a man becomes an American.

The life of society, however, includes various affairs, and man deals with them by different means; thus property is a mode of dealing with things. Democracy is a mode of dealing with souls. Men commonly speak as if the soul were something they expect to possess in another world; men are souls, and this is a fundamental conception of democracy. This spiritual element is the substance of democracy, in the large sense; and the special governmental theory which it has developed and organized, and in which its ideas are partially included, is, like other such systems, a mode of administration under which it seeks to realize its ideal of what life ought to be, with most speed and certainty, and on the largest scale. What characterizes that ideal is that it takes the soul into account in a way hitherto unknown; not that other governments have not had regard to the soul, but, in democracy, it is spirituality that gives the law and rules the issue. Hence, a great preparation was needed before democracy could come into effective control of society. Christianity mainly afforded this, in respect to the ideas of equality and fraternity, which were clarified and illustrated in the life of the Church for ages, before they entered practically into politics and the general secular arrangements of state organization; the nations of progress, of which freedom is a condition, developed more definitely the idea of liberty, and made it familiar to the thoughts of men. Democracy belongs to a comparatively late age of the world, and to advanced nations, because such ideas could come into action only after the crude material necessities of human progress–illustrated in the warfare of nations, in military organizations for the extension of a common rule and culture among mankind, and in despotic impositions of order, justice, and the general ideas of civilization–had relaxed, and a free course, by comparison at least, was opened for the higher nature of man in both private and public action. A conception of the soul and its destiny, not previously applicable in society, underlies democracy; this is why it is the most spiritual government known to man, and therefore the highest reach of man’s evolution; it is, in fact, the spiritual element in society expressing itself now in politics with an unsuspected and incalculable force.

Democracy is contained in the triple statement that men are born free, equal, and in brotherhood; and in this formula it is the middle term that is cardinal, and the root of all. Yet it is the doctrine of the equality of man, by virtue of the human nature with which he is clothed entire at birth, that is most attacked, as an obvious absurdity, and provocative more of laughter than of argument. What, then, is this equality which democracy affirms as the true state of all men among themselves? It is our common human nature, that identity of the soul in all men, which was first inculcated by the preaching of Christ’s death for all equally, whence it followed that every human soul was of equal value in the eyes of God, its Creator, and had the same title to the rites of the Christian Church, and the same blessedness of an infinite immortality in the world to come; thence we derived it from the very fountain of our faith, and the first true democracy was that which levelled king and peasant, barbarian and Roman, in the communion of our Lord. Yet nature laughs at us, and ordains such inequalities at birth itself as make our peremptory charter of the value of men’s souls seem a play of fancy. There are men of almost divine intelligence, men of almost devilish instincts, men of more or less clouded mind; and they are such at birth, so deeply has nature stamped into them heredity, circumstance, and the physical conditions of sanity, morality and wholesomeness, in the body which is her work. Such differences do exist, and conditions vary the world over, whence nature, which accumulates inequalities in the struggle for life, “with ravin shrieks against our creed.” But we have not now to learn for the first time that nature, though not the enemy of the human spirit, is indifferent to all the soul has erected in man’s own realm, peculiar to humanity. What has nature contributed to the doctrine of freedom or of fraternity? Man’s life to her is all one, tyrant or slave, friend or foe, wise or foolish, virtuous or vicious, holy or profane, so long as her imperative physical conditions of life, the mortal thing, are conformed to; society itself is not her care, nor civilization, nor anything that belongs to man above the brute. Her word, consequently, need not disturb us; she is not our oracle. It rather belongs to us to win further victory over her, if it may be, by our intelligence, and control her vital, as we are now coming to control her material, powers and their operation.

This equality which democracy affirms–the identity of the soul, the sameness of its capacities of energy, knowledge, and enjoyment–draws after it as a consequence the soul’s right to opportunity for self-development by virtue of which it may possess itself of what shall be its own fulness of life. In the inscrutable mystery of this world, the soul at birth enters on an unequal struggle, made such both by inherent conditions and by external limitations, in individuals, classes, and races; but the determination of democracy is that, so far as may be, it will secure equality of opportunity to every soul born within its dominion, in the expectation that much in human conditions which has hitherto fed and heightened inequality, in both heredity and circumstance, may be lessened if not eradicated; and life after birth is subject to great control. This is the meaning of the first axiom of democracy, that all have a right to the pursuit of happiness, and its early cries–“an open career,” and “the tools to him who can use them.” In this effort society seems almost as recalcitrant as nature; for in human history the accumulation of the selfish advantage of inequality has told with as much effect as ever it did in the original struggle of reptile and beast; and in our present complex and extended civilization a slight gain over the mass entails a telling mortgage of the future to him who makes it and to his heirs, while efficiency is of such high value in such a society that it must needs be favoured to the utmost; on the other hand a complex civilization encourages a vast variety of talent, and finds a special place for that individuation of capacity which goes along with social evolution. The end, too, which democracy seeks is not a sameness of specific results, but rather an equivalence; and its duty is satisfied if the child of its rule finds such development as was possible to him, has a free course, and cannot charge his deficiency to social interference and the restriction of established law.

The great hold that the doctrine of equality has upon the masses is not merely because it furnishes the justification of the whole scheme, which is a logic they may be dimly conscious of, but that it establishes their title to such good in human life as they can obtain, on the broadest scale and in the fullest measure. What other claim, so rational and noble in itself, can they put forth in the face of what they find established in the world they are born into? The results of past civilization are still monopolized by small minorities of mankind, who receive by inheritance, under natural and civil law, the greater individual share of material comfort, of large intelligence, of fortunate careers. It does not matter that the things which belong to life as such, the greater blessings essential to human existence, cannot be monopolized; all that man can take and appropriate they find preoccupied so far as human discovery and energy have been able to reach, understand, and utilize it; and what proposition can they assert as against this sequestering of social results and material and intellectual opportunity, except to say, “we, too, are men,” and with the word to claim a share in such parts of social good as are not irretrievably pledged to men better born, better educated, better supplied with the means of subsistence and the accumulated hoard of the past, which has come into their hands by an award of fortune? It is not a fanciful idea. It is founded in the unity of human nature, which is as certain as any philosophic truth, and has been proclaimed by every master-spirit of our race time out of mind. It is supported by the universal faith, in which we are bred, that we are children of a common Father, and saved by one Redeemer and destined to one immortality, and cannot be balked of the fulness of life which was our gift under divine providence. I emphasize the religious basis, because I believe it is the rock of the foundation in respect to this principle, which cannot be successfully impeached by any one who accepts Christian truth; while in the lower sphere, on worldly grounds alone, it is plain that the immense advantage of the doctrine of equality to the masses of men, justifies the advancement of it as an assumption which they call on the issue in time to approve.

It is in this portion of the field that democracy relies most upon its prophetic power. Within the limits of nature and mortal life the hope of any equal development of the soul seems folly; yet, so far as my judgment extends, in men of the same race and community it appears to me that the sameness in essentials is so great as to leave the differences inessential, so far as power to take hold of life and possess it in thought, will, or feeling is in question. I do not see, if I may continue to speak personally, that in the great affairs of life, in duty, love, self-control, the willingness to serve, the sense of joy, the power to endure, there is any great difference among those of the same community; and this is reasonable, for the permanent relations of life, in families, in social ties, in public service, and in all that the belief in heaven and the attachments to home bring into men’s lives, are the same; and though, in the choicer parts of fortunate lives, aesthetic and intellectual goods may be more important than among the common people, these are less penetrating and go not to the core, which remains life as all know it–a thing of affection, of resolve, of service, of use to those to whom it may be of human use. Is it not reasonable, then, on the ground of what makes up the substance of life within our observation, to accept this principle of equality, fortified as it is by any conception of heaven’s justice to its creatures? and to assume, if the word must be used, the principle primary in democracy, that all men are equally endowed with destiny? and thus to allow its prophetic claim, till disproved, that equal opportunity, linked with the service of the higher to the lower, will justify its hope? At all events, in this lies the possibility of greater achievement than would otherwise be attained within our national limits; and what is found to be true of us may be extended to less developed communities and races in their degree.

The doctrine of the equality of mankind by virtue of their birth as men, with its consequent right to equality of opportunity for self-development as a part of social justice, establishes a common basis of conviction, in respect to man, and a definite end as one main object of the State; and these elements are primary in the democratic scheme. Liberty is the next step, and is the means by which that end is secured. It is so cardinal in democracy as to seem hardly secondary to equality in importance. Every State, every social organization whatever, implies a principle of authority commanding obedience; it may be of the absolute type of military and ecclesiastical use, or limited, as in constitutional monarchies; but some obedience and some authority are necessary in order that the will of the State may be realized. The problem of democracy is to find that principle of authority which is most consistent with the liberty it would establish, and which acts with the greatest furtherance and the least interference in the accomplishment of the chief end in view. It composes authority, therefore, of personal liberty itself, and derives it from the consent of the governed, and not merely from their consent but from their active decree. The social will is impersonal, generic, the will of man, not of men; particular wills enter into it, and make it, so constituted, themselves in a larger and external form. The citizen has parted with no portion of his freedom of will; the will of the State is still his own will, projected in unison with other wills, all jointly making up one sum,–the authority of the nation. This is social self-government,–not the anarchy of individuals each having his own way for himself, but government through a delegated self, if one may use the phrase, organically combined with others in the single power of control belonging to a State. This fusion is accomplished in the secondary stage, for the continuous action of the State, by representation, technically; but, in its primary stage and original validity, by universal suffrage; for the characteristic trait of democracy is that in constituting this authority, which is social as opposed to personal freedom,–personal freedom existing in its social form,–it includes every unit of will, and gives to each equivalence. Democracy thus establishes the will of society in its most universal form, lying between the opposite extremes of particularism in despotism and anarchy;