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contents in case the talk should take that could have said so much on chimney-sweepturn.
ers. But he is often trivial and flimsy, and We regret the change, because the very his impertinence sometimes borders very position of a critique is lowered by it. It closely on the abusive, which is as great a is impossible for a weekly paper to do just- fault in a judge as politeness. But while he ice to any book within the time and its own preserved his general style during the twenlimits, and the weekly papers tacitly confess ty-five years he wrote for the Edinburgh, he this by often continuing a critique from Sat- corrected these little errors from time to urday to Saturday. Again, a premium is time, and in 1827, the same humorous vein thus placed on bad writing. The anonymous, was more carefully and more correctly emwhich had so many advantages when the ployed than in 1802. quarterlies were really reviews, is now only To count up Jeffrey's virtues as a reviewa shield for indifferent performance. Your er would be to string a mere chain of truwell-known man, who has something to say, isms. Few people now deny him the critic's and will not take the trouble to say it in a crown, and those of taste and sense agree proper style, writes it off in a few nights, with Lord Byron, when, in 1816, he called and" gets” it into a three-monthly review. his own vulgar satire on the Scotch Re
But we have said more than enough on viewers, “a miserable record of misplaced the character of reviews. Let us pass to anger and indiscriminate acrimony. " But consider their style.
the excellence of Jeffrey's judgment has “ None but men of fine parts deserve to made too many of us indifferent to the faults be hanged,” said Sir Roger. If the rule had of his style. He is the very antipodes of been put in practice, the Edinburgh could Sydney Smith. The playful humour of the not have survived its second year. Never one was replaced by a somewhat bilions were more genius, talent, courage, reading sarcasm in the other, which scarcely rose to and general good taste brought together the dignity of satire, and was cool and cauthan in its pages in the first thirty years of tious rather than caustic and bold. Indeed, that review's existence. If then, we take a his greatest fault was that same Scotch caufew samples from among its contributors, tiousness, which clipped the wings on which we shall have represented the whole class he had natural strength enough to soar. He sufficiently, without putting ourselves in the is rarely brilliant, and never rises above awkward position of criticising our cotem- common sense, which was his sole guide and poraries.
master. A less fault, though still a grave Sydney Smith has a right to stand first, one, is the length of his sentences, which not only by seniority in the concern, but arises from the very prolixity and reduwbecause he seems to have achieved the trans- dancy which he himself calls the English ition from the old to a newer style of criti- vice. In his essay on Swift, for instance, cism. That total want of the bump of we find a whole octavo page, of thirty-four veneration, which gave the peculiar charac- lines, without a single full stop, and with its ter to his humour, was also the cause of his various portions linked together by a sucsuccess. The reviewer requires no quality cession of “ands." so much as courage. It will not do for the Wilson was too much a poet to be an esbig-wig on the bench to make salaams to sayist, too good-natured and easy-going to the prisoner at the bar, and the politeness make a good critic. Yet though his genius into which Jeffrey was frightened by By- was not suited to the essay, a little mouldronic satire, however delightful and appro- ing might have made his style superior to priate it may be in society, was misplaced the "genuine old brown Edinburgh," of and mistaken in one who assumes a position which Jeffrey's is the best instance. above his fellow-authors, whether rightly or There is not much originality in Wilson ; not is of little import. Still we do not de- he is all fire and flight, and the latter is often fend Smith's style throughout. He had too sudden and startling, and sometimes really nothing but his humour, his clear head, verges on triviality,—at least for the essay. warm heart, and absence of prejudice to But it must be allowed that his flights, in recommend him. His qualities were those spite of these faults, are at least within the of character rather than those of mind, and bounds of common sense, which cannot be we look for the latter in the good reviewer. said of some of Mr. Carlyle's. Wilson He had no depth, and not much discrimina- uniformly, as we once heard him say,
when tion for the beautiful. He was only a good speaking of his own flights, chooses a clear critic when the author was infinitely inferior day for his ascent, when, however high he to him, as in the case of Mrs. Hannah More, may rise, the spectators never lose sight of and a good essayist when the theme was him in mist or fog. commonplace. No one but Sydney Smith Mr. Carlyle has struck out a new style of his own, and therefore deserves great eupeptic and epicedial, which, however corpraise; for though we do not deny that rect in themselves, are not understood by Smith, Jeffrey, and Wilson wrote, as they those who do not know Greek, and somemeant it, originally, the first ever reminds times require to be derived before even us of Addison, the second of Robertson, those who do know it can appreciate them; and the third of Sterne. But Mr. Carlyle or he has formed compounds of English has no prototype. And if he wrote well, it words, which do not harmonize with the was because his genius was good. If he genius of our tongue. The latter practice supplied a great want in essay-writing is so common a fault with the Germanizers, Power, it was because his mind was very even in our newspapers and children's books, powerful. If he was a better biographist and has been so often taken to task, that we than essayist, and a better essayist than need only give two very common instances critic, it was because none of these was his to illustrate our meaning. Vaterland, like real sphere. His mind, like that of Tur. patria, means the land where our fathers ner's, saw too strongly. He exaggerates awelt, not the soil which fathers and fosters truth on the side of truth,—a blemish be- us; and fatherland will not do, because the came a vice, a beauty divine; all yellow aristocratic feeling is not so strong in the shone like gold. Of course, he too has English character as the progressive or the many Ruskins, who will contend that he domestic, while mother country is a much sees truth, and that we, the world, see less more beautiful word in idea, and has the than the truth; but this argument is against advantage of being both Saxon and Norman common sense, and will obtain no more in in its components, uniting noble and trader literature than in art.
by one domestic feeling dear to both. Stand We have given a sample of his exagger- point again is wrong, because the English ation, and thousands more might be supplied language can only form compounds of subfrom his later works. He is one of the rare stantives of two kinds; one in which the instances of a style not improving with first component stands in the place of an practice. In his early essays he was moder- adjective to the second-as in " gentlemanate and temperate ; now he is often wild, rider;" the other in which the first is a and even absurd. His writing is a mass of genitive, governed by the second, as in pichalf-finished ideas, daubed in, which he will ture-frame. not or cannot complete. Hence his obscur- Emerson, the disciple of Carlyle, has far ity. It is a phrensy of metaphor at times, outdone his master in style. His is of all and puzzles and fatigues. But neither in styles the best for essay. Every sentenco his earlier or later works is he free from the is a dictum, suggesting thought, but rarely great blame of coining words in a base metal. requiring penetration; and all his sentences We are not going to enter now on the long are moulded into a continuous whole. The question the rise of new words, and are man did not sit down and write one sencontent to refer our reader to Dean Trench's tence now and another then, and cull them chapter on that very subject in his “Study from his notes as he wanted them. He did of Words." But we confess ourselves not think in sentences, but thought the wholly one in mind with Ben Jonson, when whole subject. His mind is not a kaleido he says, “A man coins not a new word with scope of little shining bits of thought, but a out some peril, and less fruit; for if it hap- fitting encaustic tile. He is bold in the use pen to be received, the praise is.but moder- of words, brilliant in metaphor, and pure in ate; if refused, the scorn is assured.” It is thought. He discards the old fallacy of the a proud thing for a man to say, “I have en- period. But he is no critic, no biographer, dowed my language liberally ; I have given and could never be a historian, nor even a it no less than a hundred new words.” Yes, philosopher. For the former his mind is if the coin was good, and wanted. There too poetical, for the latter his style too dogare, in fact, many requirements for the suc- matical. His faults are affectation in the cess of a coinage. It must first be needed, use of out-of-the-way metaphors, and Ame. without which it will only be pedantic and su- ricanism in that of words. The latter do perfluous. Palingenesy has nothing to re- not always bear the common meaning, but commend it, although Dean Trench himself a strong philosophical one of his own, uses the word. Again, it must exactly sup- which he is sometimes forced to explain. ply the want which it is coined to fill. It For instance, he has the single sentence. must be formed according to the genius of " Nature conspires,”. the language, and above all be of a sweet Men," p. 175,) to which he is obliged to sound, and easily understood. Mr. Carlyle append the following: “Whatever can be has broken these laws in two ways. He thought can be spoken, and still rises for has either introduced such Greek words as utterance, though by rude and stammering organs. If they cannot compass it, it waits nearly limited to Travels. This class of and works, until at last it moulds them to writing requires at once the most and the its perfect will, and is articulated.”
least talent. Where the ground is thoroughBut though his genius is stronger, as his ly new, a simple narration,—the fingers power is less, than Carlyle's, he has some guided by the eye alone,-suffices and detimes strained after originality of style, lights. Who could be poorer in style than where he would have done better to trust Mungo Park, or our literary missionaries? his own originality of thought. At times Even though Heber was a poet, there is no he is found talking like Knox or South, at luxury and little brilliancy in his “Journal," others like Addison or Steele, when it would in spite of its great popularity. Again, the have been better had he remained true to work of Messieurs Huc and Gabet is that himself.
of simple, earnest men, but has no artistic We have brought forward these five beauty. On the other hand, where the styles, because, though not one of them is ground is well known, it requires the highest perfect in the essay, each contains one beau- possible talent to make your description ty meet for its perfection. If a genius were readable to the thoughtful man. Even to spring up with the humour of Sydney “ Eöthen,” and “The Crescent and the Smith, the judgment of Jeffrey, the warmth Cross," which are among the best works of of Wilson, the power of Carlyle, and the this class, are fit for little more than the originality of Emerson, he might astonish drawing-room table, and will scarcely find the world with his essays.
a place among the English Classics. But “ Descriptive Literature” would seem to if it is a rare thing for Englishmen of real form a very comprehensive class, but in genius to write travels, or describe national point of style it does not. It lies in the character with truth and brilliancy, it is still very small space which separates the essay rarer for foreigners. Not only are the from the romance, and to one or other of English the greatest travellers, but they these limits is constantly verging. Thus would also seem to be the only people who Haxthausen's “Russia," "The Roving Eng- really understand what travel demands. lishman in Turkey,” Huc and Gabet's “ Tra- Knowing that hundreds of their readers vels in China and Thibet,” are almost collec- must have seen the very places, nay, pertions of essays, illustrated by the author's ex- haps the very faces they describe, English perience, and admitting, from their very travellers wisely pass from the tedium of form, of more dash and descriptive colouring long and serious description, to anecdote than the serious treatise or respectable re- and sketches of character. Ease, impertiview. On the other hand, there is a large nence, humour, a slight colouring of the class of works which follow in the wake of truth, are indispensable qualities to this the “Sentimental Journey," and are simply writer. Though, of course, he must never descriptive fictions.
be vulgar, he has a longer tether than any It is difficult to decide whether biography other, and cannot be tied down to choice should come under this head or remain with language and elegance of style. But what history, to which in substance it is more he wants in this respect he must make up in closely allied. The fact is, that biography brilliancy, good taste, the intense love of differs in style according as the subject is the beautiful, and a real vein of humour. more or less august. A good Life of Field- For this the Frenchman is too systematic, ing or Colley Cibber should read like a the German too phlegmatical, and the AmeChristmas tale; and the tears and laughters, rican mars many good qualities by that bad the ups and downs of their lives, could not taste from which even Emerson, the best be well told in a solemn, respectable, histo- writer of the New World, is scarcely free. rical style. On the other hand, the “Me- If we have left fiction to the last, it is not moirs of Goethe ” are a broad chapter in because it is the least--nay, perhaps it is the history of modern literature; and the even the most important branch of litera** Life of Pitt" is an important page in that ture with regard to style. Not only is it of modern Europe. Still the pure office of the best index of national genius and even the biographer is to separate the man from national taste, but in each land is the his times, and connect the times with the weathercock of fashion. Nothing changes joan. So that he must paint at once the so soon or so utterly as the style of fiction, portrait and the group, and must therefore and no branch of writing depends for success combine the talents of the novelist and the so much on this, Millions still read Hume historian.
and Gibbon, and would scarcely know that If biography lies between history and fic- these authors were dead, for aught the style tior, the descriptive literature which fills the of history hath changed. But how many space between fiction and the essay may be hundreds, think you, care now for Pamela, or the Italian, once as popular as Pickwick disposition. Yet both were to a certain or Pelham in later days?
extent classical ; and it was reserved for But if these changes have taken place, Scott to bring to perfection the romantic even during the short period that novels school, which despised the unity of action. have been advanced to a separate position Bulwer and Scott are different branches of in literature, it must be possible to mark the same school, and both, per se, belong to a them, and define certain schools.
past age. As we have already said, Bulwer Now, there would appear to be three im- has felt the pressure of the fashion, and portant classes of novels, which are often yielded to it. In his earlier works he mingled, and sometimes subdivided. They belongs to the romantic, --in his later to the are the classical, the romantic, and the na natural school. But while Bulwer painted tural. By the classical we mean those which portraits, and was content to make his seare written according to the strict rules condary figures a mere set-off to his hero which good taste and experience have laid and heroine, Scott painted historical pic. down for them. The romances of the last tures, in which every figure was a portrait, century were of this class; but in England except perhaps the principal one. In France and Germany they united to this a strong the romantic, in Germany the natural school, tendency to the sentimental, while in France succeeded the classical. But in both the they savoured not a little of the philoso- progress has been slower than in England, phical. In all, however, the popularity of from the fact that in the one the drama, in novels generally was the result of a certain the other the poem, has always found morbid tendency, consequent on the soften- more favour than the romance. Thus in ing of a high civilisation. In reality the ro- France the romantic school toned down into mance was only an inert drama, and as the proverbial,-in Germany to the dosuch the unities were preserved to a consi- mestic. derable extent, and the sentimentalism, The proverbial is the very antipodes of whether of passion or religion, transferred the natural. The point, which is always a from the mouths of the actors to that of the philosophical proverb, is its chief aim; and narrator himself. Hence the best novels of all probability, all nature, and much of inthe last century were antobiographies, and, dividual character, is made subservient to as such, were immoral, seeing that the it.* Dumas (père) who, like Scott, paints phase in which the individual character is historically, and Lamartine, who is essenreally interesting, is in its combat with the tially romantic, are the chief exceptions to devil. No better novels, as far as the in- this class of writers. At the present day, terest is concerned, preserved by unity of the younger Dumas is reviving the classical character and action, can be found than and dramatic style, with almost as much Werther, Manon L'Escant, and Pamela; sentimentalism as Rousseau or Richardson but because the circumstances under which could have wished for; and more immo passion is painted in these are the strongest rality. which can draw passion forth, they became The domestic style of Germany is partly immoral. Yet as works of pure art, Van- accounted for by the genius of the people, Eyck-like pictures of that human heart, on partly by_their imitation of the natural which the least incident leaves its impress School of England, without the humour that when once passion has galvanized it, they are here makes it successful. If Germany has without rival. Even their slumbrous pro- now scarcely a novelist of note, she has a lixity, their minute working up, and the thousand and one story-tellers of no small superabundance of their sentiment, are re merit, who have raised a surfeit of simplicommendations, for with all these the inter- city, Mährchen, and fairy tales. est is rather furthered than decreased. Yet
The present school of English novelists is that they are immoral can scarce be doubt the natural, so called because its boast is to ed, when our fathers tell us of the morbid adhere strictly to probability and truth. Its youths who cut their throats, and the yet representatives are Dickens and Thackeray. more morbid young ladies who lost their Its tendency is to paint pictures of classes, characters after the first appearances of not of individuals.
All the best characters “ Werther” and “ Manon."
of these authors are representatives of wellClosely allied with this school, but only known sets of beings. We have, or might in England, was that of the humorists. if have, seen a Sam Weller, a fat Boy, a the transition from Radcliffe to Bulwer was “ Marchioness," and a Quilp, any day and a natural one, that from Fielding, Sterne, anywhere.
Few of us could have and Smollett, to Edgeworth and Scott, was
The sentimentalists described * The nouvelles of M. E. de Girardin are a good the human heart,—the humorists the human specimen.
no less so.
known a Maltravers or Zanoni, although married on the same speculation. . . The bosom these exist no less than those. But in moving in society with the jewels displayed upon those the sharacter of the class, in these of it attracted general admiration.”—Little Dorrit, the individual is drawn. In the one the sur. face--in the other the heart.
Again :Hence, when Mr. Dickens wishes to draw a character with which we can feel a real “ Mrs. Merdle's first husband had been a colonel, sympathy,--not the mere fellow-feeling of under whose auspices the bosom had entered into caste,-in short when he has to create a competition with the snows of America,” &c.—
Ibid. hero or heroine, he feels the necessity of abandoning the class-portraiture and im- And the same disagreeable idea is revivagining an individual. For this he is un- ed at the end of the chapter :: fitted, and his heroes and heroines are maud. lin, insipid, uninteresting, and forgotten. “There was no shadow of Mr. Merdle's comClasses change and that rapidly. Half a plaint on the bosom, now displaying precious century hence we may seek à Pombey in stones in rivalry with many similar superb jewel
stands." vain through the city which now swarms with them. Mr. Dickens cannot hope to be We protest against this metonymy. immortal, though he may be longer read Even the innuendo of Sterne is better than than Victor Hugo, whose novels, though this. Of Dickens we have spoken at some the work of a poet, will always find admirers length, because, besides being the most in those who can feel.
popular of living novelists, he is also The class-portrait must of necessity be the representative of the natural and hu superficial. The moment you begin to ana- morous school of to-day. But of Thackeray, lyze you sink into the individual . Again, its satirical partisan, of Bulwer and Disraeli
, individuals are infinite in number and always the best of the romantic school, it would be different; classes are necessarily few. These trite and useless to discourse. Their differcauses give rise to repetition, which both in ences of style are obvious to all. his painting and language is Mr. Dickens' None but Sir A. Alison could have placed great fault. It forces him into mannerism, Mr. G. P. R. James, the hero of a hundred and as he has already arrived at that point volumes, near the names we have mentionwe cannot but think that he has overwritten ed. If he has a large school and many himself.
customers it is because, discarding all naHis popularity, too, has spoiled him. He ture, he has seen how to make romance infound that his little sketches, however slight, tensely interesting to a reader indifferent became household words, and he warms about reality. them up again incessantly. “Little Dorrit” Both Caligula and Heliogabalus made is full of these faults. Of one man he can consuls of their horses; but the latter was say very little more than that "the mous-conscientious enough to raise a black block tache went up under the nose, and the nose of stone to represent himself. The sporting came down over the moustache.” It is true novelists, who are now increasing daily, that we have seen this at every hotel in make horses their heroes, and their heroes every town in France or Italy, but nothing very horse-like; but, preferring Caligula's more. It is no individual that these words to Heliogabalus' example, they have not the describe, and we should never know how frankness to admit their own materialism. he would act in any given circumstances. “Il y a de la femme dans tout ce qu'on
Even this, however, would be excusable aime,” is an old mot of some clever old if limited by good taste.
But mannerism Frenchman. The lady-novelists of to-day has pushed the great author into extrava evidently think the same, but they forgetgance, and extravagance into coarseness. He at the risk of their frowns we must say itis so 'fond of common things and striking that even the sugar-cane palls and nauseates types that he sometimes forgets what better when tasted to excess. Had we another taste requires. A good instance of this is the De Staël, Radcliffe, Edgeworth, or Austin, description of Mrs. Merdle :
we would hold our peace; but though we
admit the benefits which the tenderer mind “ This great and fortunate man had provided of woman confers on our literature, and comthat extensive bosom which required so much
pare it favourably with the brazen tongues room to be unfeeling enough in, with a nest of of the present Amazons of France, we can. crimson and gold some fifteen years before. It was not a bosom to repose upon,
but it was a capital not but deplore the young-ladyism that is bosom to hang jewels upon. Mr. Merdle wanted creeping in to unnerve our Fiction. something to hang jewels upon, and he bought it Two, however, there are who have done for the purpose. Stors and Mortimer might have more good than harm. “ Jane Eyre" and