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with Balzac's portraits of misers,-master-pieces too in their way,-will easily show how far deeper reaches the observation of the English writer. The frightful reality of Balzac's misers' love for their gold exercises over us a fascination mixed with disgust, like the pathos of a monkey's agony; there is something so like a human affection in it that we writhe as it were under the fellowship with the lower nature which it implies. In Silas Marner, on the contrary, we never lose the sense of human fellowship with the miser; we feel all through that his love for gold is only the stooping of a human love, not its caricature.
from the choice of his subject, that Mr. Holmes is carried into a world of stage effects, with "striking" scenes and outof-the-way characters; though, to do him justice, he has done his utmost, by artistic treatment, to subdue the melodramatic element in them. Who, indeed, would care for a rattlesnake that didn't bite? Who would care for a quasirattlesnake who should not act out her savagery? In what familiar associations could she be exhibited but with persons having some kind of affinity to herself? Hence the, in himself, melodramatic scamp, Dick Venner, the half-savage old negress, Sophy, as the almost necessary adjuncts to Elsie; hence the otherwise unnatural character of her relations with her father, with Bernard, as required to bring out her own unnaturalness; whilst the fall of Rattlesnake Ledge, though in nowise required by the exigencies of the story, is felt to be quite in keeping with it. In Silas Marner, on the contrary, nothing is more remarkable than the quiet consciousness of artistic power which has led the authoress to eschew anything melodramatic, at least in all that touches her hero; which has enabled her to produce as much effect by the mere shadowing of possibilities, as others might by the most direct representation of actual events. The robbing of Silas -which one forefeels as the necessary result of his miserliness-though the nearest approach to a "scene" in the book, is reduced, by the most subtle tameness of treatment, almost into a mere accident. Again, the possibility of Dunsie's reappearance after he has stolen Silas Marner's money, hangs over nearly the whole book, while all the while he is quietly lying at the bottom of the pool with his ill-gotten cash. During the great ball at the Squire's, it is almost impossible not to expect that Godfrey Cass's drunken wife will turn up somehow to claim and punish him; she is actually shown to us on her way for the purpose, but only to die in the snow, a pauper unidentified. The unjust accusation brought against Marner seems almost
Having thus at once grasped hold of our sympathy, the authoress of "Silas Marner is able pretty nearly to dispense with all adventitious aids. In "Elsie Venner," the writer is obliged to appeal to our imagination under its more sensuous sides. He cannot but make "Elsie Venner" young and beautiful, or she would inspire nothing but sheer repulsion. Who could care for such a serpentoid creature if she were old and ugly? We should turn from her with the same alacrity as from her quasi-kinsman, the crotalus itself. So she must be seventeen-" tall and slen"der, but rounded, with a peculiar un"dulation of movement "-"a splendid "scowling beauty, black-browed, with "a flash of white teeth;" with "black "hair, twisted in heavy braids," and "black, piercing," "diamond" eyes. She must wear 66 a chequered dress of a "curious pattern, and a camel's-hair "scarf, twisted a little fantastically "about her;" she must be for ever "playing listlessly with her gold chain, "coiling and uncoiling it about her "slender wrist, and braiding it with her "long, delicate fingers." Silas Marner, on the contrary, we accept without a murmur as the unprepossessing creature he is from the first nothing more than "a pallid young man, with prominent, "sharp-sighted, brown eyes,"-fifteen years older during the main portion of the story-an old man at the last.
Again, it follows almost necessarily
to call for eventual reparation, but Lantern Court itself disappears instead; and Godfrey Cass's neglect of his lawful daughter is punished in the most rightful but unexpected manner, by her preferring to marry a young blacksmith than to receive recognition from him. And the characters are in like manner generally of the homeliest description; or, if otherwise, they please us just in the inverse ratio of their dramatic effectiveness. Dunsie, the villain of the story, Godfrey the lover, with his opium-eating wife, old Squire Cass, the tyrannical father, are nothing to us in comparison with the inimitable village worthies of the "Rainbow," or Silas himself, or the very unromantic but charmingly-painted Nancy Lammeter, or the most lovable and least intellectual personage of all, Dolly Winthrop. In short, whilst the art of the one writer has been to make us accept the extraordinary, that of the other has been to eschew it. The one has done his best to make the "effective" natural; the other has made the homely, in the truest sense of the word, effective.
Nor is it amiss to observe, that the climax of interest in the one book turns upon death, in the other upon life. It is difficult to imagine the once serpentoid Elsie Venner subsiding into an ordinary wife and mother, still more into a perfectly trusted one; and, accordingly, the primary purpose of the work in bringing her round to fellowship with her true kind, can only be carried out by her heart-break, illness, and death. We only thoroughly feel to her as to a fellow-creature, when we see her at last lying "in "the great room, in a kind of state, with "flowers all about her, her black hair "braided as in life, her brows smooth, as "if they had never known the scowl of "passion, and on her lips the faint smile "with which she had uttered her last
66 6 "Good night." The whole of this portion of the book is full of pathos and beauty; and it is no slight praise to the author, that, with a subject so difficult to treat, he should have found in himself a reserve of so much power and interest for the catastrophe. But in "Silas Marner," we feel at once that half the
beauty and value of the book were gone, if the change of heart in the weaver were exhibited only to us on his death-bed. The book is essentially a page of life, so complete and satisfying, that we do not care to see the overleaf. And the tender grace of the relations between the awkward foster-father and his wayward foster-child, has a homely pathos of its own, relieved by most cunning touches of a delicate grotesque, which is at least equal to that of the death-bed of Elsie Venner.
I do not quarrel with Mr. Holmes for his choice of subject; still, notwithstanding the delicacy of hand with which he has treated it, one cannot but regret that he should have chosen one which cannot be fully canvassed in general society. Nor has he lessened the regret by his choice of scenery. There is something repulsive to the English mind in the picture of the relation between a young and handsome male teacher and a number of nearly full-grown schoolgirls. However skilfully handled, such a picture is always sensuous, must often border almost on the prurient. As a warning to ourselves, indeed, against the encouragement of the practice from which it is taken, the picture may be a wholesome one. If such be the effect of it, with a pure and high-minded "young Brahmin" like Bernard Langdon for central figure, what would be the reality, with a coarser but weaker type of man in his place?
But we cannot forget that this search after and study of the singular and exceptional pervades too much the ablest American fictions of the day. "Elsie Venner," the serpentoid, inevitably recalls the fame of Mr. Hawthorne's
"Transformation,' " and that peculiar vein of thought and feeling, fluctuating between the odd and the morbid, which runs through all his novels and tales. It seems as if the ablest American writers were now unable to look ordinary life steadily in the face, to see its beauty and its nobleness, and to depict it with the loving care of the true artist. How to account for this I know not. It is not for want of acuteness in seeing that
herself to a height which places her, within the sphere of art, not far from that queen of fiction, George Sand herself. The wisest may well pause before forming to themselves any further judgment respecting her. Whilst all may surrender themselves freely for the time to the touching charm of her picture of the unfolding of Silas's blighted nature under the appeals of little Eppie's weakness, and the promptings of Dolly's kindliness, it is difficult, when the charm is shaken off, not to ask oneself some further questions. For instance: in the Dinah of "Adam Bede" she has shown us the working and influence of female religious enthusiasm; in Dolly Winthrop she now shows us the very opposite picture, that of the power of a faith inarticulate, incoherent, wholly unimpassioned. That the two portraitures should have cue from the same hand, should have been worked out with the same tenderness, with the same success, is of itself a marvel of art. But one cannot help asking whether we are really to take both fous of religious faith as equivalent, the fervent strugglings of the young Methodist with sin, and the gentle suasions to conformity of the old church-woman. And, if the writer's purpose be merely that of fine æsthetic studies of religious faith under its varied aspects, and the inculcation of a calm philosophic indifferentism to the objects of that faith, all one can hope is, that her art will prove stronger than her purpose, and by its very fidelity to nature will serve to call forth yearnings which it will not satisfy, for truths beyond, below, and above itself.
ordinary life, nor yet of skill in rendering it; but they do not seem to appreciate it as in itself a sufficient subject of study; they treat it only as a framing or as a background for the abnormal, the improbable, the fantastic. Partly it may be the result of the evil influence of Poe, that most unwholesome compound of sentimentalism and vulgarity, which all Americans, and too many Englishmen, persist in mistaking for genius; partly, perhaps, to the crude botching of the would-be-painters of ordinary life amongst them. Perhaps more than all does it come from this,-that America herself has been now for many years but a stage-effect, of which the secession crisis has shown at last the hollowness; that the lie of slavery, which has stultified from the first her Declaration of Rights, has poisoned all her art as well as all her social life. So long as the "right to wallop one's own niggers" is considered consistent with the constitution of a free country, so long may there well be something diseased in the national mind, which inclines it to the morbid rather than to the wholesome, and which makes its highest fictions studies in human pathology, not broad representations of human life. Having premised thus much as to the at least semi-morbid tinge which colours "Elsie Venner" as a whole, I need not dwell at any further length on its ethics or its theology.
As respects the authoress of "Silas Marner," I think there cannot be a doubt that she has henceforth reached the very acme of artistic power among contemporary English novelists, raising
MR. BUCKLE'S DOCTRINE AS TO THE SCOTCH AND THEIR HISTORY.
BY THE EDITOR.
land, as far as the fifteenth century. The summary, of course, is not nearly so "scientific" as Mr. Buckle's, but it is rather clever of its kind, and it sticks easily to the memory. Henry and his counsellors are discussing his projected expedition into France, and Henry is insisting on the necessity of leaving in England a sufficient defence against the Scots, who are sure to take advantage of his absence :
K. Henry. We do not mean the coursing snatchers only,
But fear the main intendment of the Scot,
Canterbury. She hath been then more feared than harmed, my liege:
For hear her but exampled by herself,-
To fill King Edward's fame with prisoner-kings,
"If that you will France win, Then with Scotland first begin:"
For, once the eagle England being in prey,
Not only is this summary of old Scottish History in relation to England graphic and easily remembered; but it chances also to be true. Scotland in the fifteenth century was of some importance to England; but chiefly by way of impediment to what England. would otherwise have been about, of annoyance left in the rear of England
home, when her face was turned to ental Europe and the rest of the
rine world as the proper field
for her aggressive exploits. England was the eagle, flying far and wide southwards for prey; Scotland the weasel, stealing meanwhile to the forsaken nest of the royal bird, and compelling her again and again prematurely to hurry back. There had been a time, indeed, when England had made the conquest of Scotland her main enterprise. But, having come off badly in that affair, she had acquiesced in the continued existence of her tough little partner in the island as apparently a necessary arrangement, and, though not forgetting her feud with the Scots, had made war with them only an episodical part of her activity, in the intervals and in the interest of her larger business. To Scotland, on the other hand, war with England was much more nearly the total substance of the collective national exertion. Not only did the memory of old wrong rankle; not only was the consciousness of being a Scot identified with the instinct of resistance to England and of repudiation of the English name; but, from the smaller dimensions of the country and from its geographical position, there was no mode of self-assertion for the Scottish nationality possible except through war with England. Stray Scots might distribute themselves over the Continent, scattering the thistle-down among the nations, and betaking themselves even there by preference to any service that was anti-English; but for the little country in the mass at home no career of action beyond itself was possible save that which an Englishman, talking to his sovereign, might be excused for describing as the career of a weasel towards its more lordly neighbour.
If, however, by the necessity of circumstances, one must be a weasel, one may at all events be a respectable and energetic weasel. Now Scotland in the fifteenth century may claim at least this amount of credit. Although her wars with England, since that great one which had secured her independence, had been but weasel-wars in comparison with those which England had waged on the transmarine area, they had kept
Each at his back (a slender store)
the nation electric and astir, and they were agencies in its peculiar education and its development for future ends. Not bad testimony to Scotland in this respect is borne by Froissart. There are passages also in Shakespeare in which he does retrospective justice to the Scotch during the time of their wars with England, and follows them into their native part of the island with that all-kindly glance which disregarded frontiers and found matter for liking everywhere. Naturally, however, it is to a Scottish poet that we should look for such a representation of the Scot at home as would bring out what was best in him and exhibit his weaselship in the most striking light. And so, at this time of day, there is no Englishman but will willingly complete his notion of the Scot of the fifteenth century by blending with the impressions of the foregoing passage from Shakespeare those of the following from Scott. The time is 1513; the scene is the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. The Scottish host is being marshalled there for its last fatal expedition into England, and the Englishman Marmion is looking on.
Nor less did Marmion's skilful view Glance every line and squadron through; And much he marvell'd one small land Could marshal forth such various band.
The poet then goes on to describe the composition of this various army. There were the heavy-mailed chiefs-at-arms, on their great Flemish steeds, with their spears and battle-axes. There were the younger knights and squires, more lightly armed, on their practised chargers, which they made to wheel and curvet. There were the hardy burghers, on foot, without vizors, plumes, or crests, but with burnished corslets and shining gorgets, and armed with long pikes and twohanded swords, or with maces. Then follows the description of the main bulk of the army, in its three divisions of the Lowland Yeomen, the Borderers, and the Highlanders.
On foot the Yeoman, too, but dress'd In his steel-jack, a swarthy vest, With iron quilted well;
His arms were halbert, axe, or spear, A cross-bow there, a hagbut here, A dagger-knife and brand. Sober he seem'd, and sad of cheer, As loth to leave his cottage dear, And march to foreign strand; Or musing who would guide his steer To till the fallow land. Yet deem not in his thoughtful eye Did aught of dastard terror lie; More dreadful far his ire, Than theirs who, scorning danger's name, In eager mood to battle came, Their valour like light straw on flame, A fierce but fading fire. Not so the Borderer :-bred to war, He knew the battle's din afar, And joyed to hear it swell. His peaceful day was slothful ease; Nor harp, nor pipe, his ear could please, Like the loud slogan yell. On active steed, with lance and blade, The light-armed pricker plied his trade: Let nobles fight for fame; Let vassals follow where they lead, Burghers to guard their townships bleed; But war's the Borderer's game. Their gain, their glory, their delight, To sleep the day, maraud the night, O'er mountain, moss, and moor. Joyful to fight they took their way, Scarce caring who might win the day; Their booty was secure.
Next Marmion mark'd the Celtic race,
And hardened to the blast.