« PoprzedniaDalej »
the humours of Father John are insufficient to lighten. The coarser humours of some of the other characters infinitely deepen it, and almost the only purifying element is to be found in the finer qualities of the man, who, in the last page, is hanged for murder. That men's souls should be purged by pity and terror is the justifying motive of all tragedy; but the terror and pity should be drawn from the deeper conflict of higher passions than any that are touched in Mr. Trollope's tale. From beginning to end we are left on the same dull level of wretchedness. A man, the monotonous misery of whose life has offered no scope for the development of the nobility that is in him, strikes a sudden angry blow, and is condemned--most wrongly condemned to die for it. And then the confused suffering, the desolation, the degrees of agony by which he is crushed, are minutely narrated-for our instruction? That the approach of a shameful death should develop the tenderness and unselfish affection of the poor man's nature, as Mr. Trollope shows very finely that it does, is only a partial justification for this most painful book. That such things are, and that the saddest lessons are to be read from them; nay, or that such a character and such a fate as Thady Macdermot's appeal keenly to all human sympathies--these are no sufficient reasons for describing them in a novel. The very reality of the representation, in a book that after all we take up for amusement, makes us feel utterly ashamed, as we read, because that we are playing with human miseries. That Mr. Trollope has no such meaning we know well; and he may tell us that his object is gained, if we rise, as we ought to do, humbled and sad, from the perusal of his novel. But, then, that is not a fair object in writing novels, nor a common one in reading them. We wish to be amused, and not to be disquieted in mind. All the agonies of the Macdermots, it is true, are trifling compared with the tremendous woes which we are not unwilling to contemplate in tragic poetry. But these are the woes that spring from the high passions of great natures. Unmixed pain in a novel of to-day is merely intolerable. Are there not heartaches enough in the world? Our only consolation is to reflect that there is really no case against Thady after all, and that Mr. Trollope is certainly mistaken either about the nature of the evidence, or about the result of the trial.
But homicide is not the crime with which Mr. Trollope deals most successfully. The peculiar kinds of meanness and dishonesty of which men of the world are most apt to be guilty, could not be represented with more delicate skill, or more admirable fidelity, than in such characters as Mr. Crosbie, in the last book, who being engaged to one of the very best of Mr. Trollope's heroines, sells himself to marry an Earl's daughter, or,
as Alaric Tudor in The Three Clerks, who speculates with his ward's money.
If Mr. Trollope has not searched the recesses of the heart, that very deficiency stands him in good stead when he is drawing such characters as these. There is no deep-rooted wickedness in Crosbie or in Tudor. In the height of their offences they fall but little below that middling elevation of character, beyond which Mr. Trollope will not exalt even his heroes. They are weak, and they are tempted, and they succumb. They do very contemptible things, but they are not irredeemably bad; and when they have smarted under such cutting, yet restrained scourgings, as no dispenser of poetical justice knows better than Mr. Trollope how to administer, we are glad to think that they may take their places once more among mankind, and are not driven for ever beyond the pale. They are defeated, but they are not absolutely crushed ; and after their punishment and disgrace, neither their author nor his readers are unwilling to take them into favour. They are like their prototype, Gil Blas. Hateful, when he is the favourite secretary of the Duke of Lerma, we forgive him after his fall, and are almost as well pleased as he is, with the pavilions of Lirias. There is no deficiency of sound morality in all this, any more than of knowledge of the world. Mr. Trollope shows nowhere so much of what Dr. Arnold called “moral thoughtfulness," as in the kind of retribution with which he visits such delinquents as Crosbie and Alaric Tudor.
There is, indeed, no very broad and palpable system of rewards and punishments in his long series of novels, any more than in the world which they are intended to represent. The good apprentice does not always become Lord Mayor; nor is the idle one sent to the gallows. When he does make use of that implement, we have seen it is his hero whom he hangs. And in the Small House of Allington, one of the most charming girls in the world is left unmarried at the end of the book. But although there is no hint of any kind of connexion between good and evil in themselves, and good and evil fortune, bad actions produce their moral consequence as they do in the world. Crosbie's retribution is admirably described, and it is of a kind which it fell peculiarly within Mr. Trollope's province to describe well. He deserts Lily, Dale and marries Lady Alexandrina, only to keep or to gain a position in society; and as soon as he is irretrievably doomed to a distinguished marriage instead of a happy one, his pride and place in the world are
Here is a picture of social degradation :“Crosbie had consented to go to the party in Portman Square, but had not greatly enjoyed himself on that festive occasion. He had VOL. XL.--NO. LXXX.
stood about moodily, speaking hardly a word to any one. His whole aspect of life seemed to have been altered during the last few months. It was here, in such spots as this, that he had been used to find his glory. On such occasions he had shone with peculiar light, making envious the hearts of many who watched the brilliance of his career, as they stood around in dull quiescence. But now no one in these rooms had been more dull, more silent, or less courted than he ; and yet he was established there as the son-in-law of that noble house. Rather slow work, isn't it?' Gazebee had said to him, having, after many efforts, succeeded in reaching his brother-in-law in a corner. In answer to this, Crosbie had only grunted. “As for myself,' continued Gazebee, 'I would a deal sooner be at home with my papers and slippers. It seems to me these sort of gatherings don't suit married men.' Crosbie had again grunted, and had then escaped into another corner."
There is another subject on which we have a single word to
before we bid farewell to Mr. Trollope. His satire is generally lively and good-humoured. It is acrid only when he talks of lawyers. Them, and the system they administer, he honours with relentless enmity.
Now, we are by no means of opinion that a novelist should be forbidden to trench upon political, or moral, or theological questions. It would be a poor piece of business, indeed, to represent men, and women, and society, without being allowed to exhibit the action of opinions and institutions on the tone of society and on the character of individuals. But a novelist who chooses to deal professedly and repeatedly with a subject of such magnitude as the system of administering justice in this country, and expresses in many different ways the strongest opinions in favour of that system or against it—a novelist, like any other writer who, by discussing a public question, assumes a public function important in proportion to his opportunity of making himself heard- is bound to investigate the question with honest diligence, and reflect before he speaks. If he do so, he may make what attack he pleases upon people or on institutions, and we shall not be entitled to impeach his honesty of purpose, even when we think him wrong. Mr. Reade, for example, may or may not be unjust in his prosecution of maddoctors, elephants, and governors of jails; but if his charges are not all made out, at least he makes it plain that that is not because he has failed to make these criminals and their ways the subject of serious study. We cannot say the same for Mr. Trollope. He is constantly expressing his conviction that if all barristers are not liars, yet the tendency of their profession is to make them so, and their business to propagate falsehood; and yet he does not seem to us to have taken the trouble to Attack upon Lawyers.
acquaint himself in the slightest degree with the system under which they exercise their profession, with the position in which they stand towards their clients, their opponents, and the court, or the nature of the duty they undertake. No doubt there are points in which the moral position of an advocate is anomalous and difficult. It is not always an easy matter for the most experienced to balance the conflicting claims of his client, of the court, and of his own honour; and a man who has made himself master of the subject might do good service by explaining where those different duties really come into collision, where they only appear to do so, and how the moral difficulties that result from that collision should be met. But before he does so, even in a novel, if he be an honest writer, he will ascertain what the real difficulties are, and how they are met now by the men who give the tone to their profession. He will ascertain the exact degree of license, which the English bar permits to its members, in the advocacy of a cause. And when he has investigated those important points, he will probably discover many things which have not yet dawned on the comprehension of Mr. Trollope. He will discover that it is irregular for counsel in a criminal trial to declare emphatically his own conviction of his client's innocence; that if he do so, knowing well from that client's own statement that he is guilty, his brethren of the bar will hold the same opinion of his falsehood as other English gentlemen ; and that if he tamper with the opposite attorney, in the hope of suppressing a prosecution, he degrades himself beyond redemption in the eyes of his profession as in those of the world. These are the sins of the great Mr. Furnival, in Orley Farm. The last, we suppose, is meant to be an exceptional offence; but it is also meant to be the natural result of a lifetime spent, as Mr. Trollope describes it elsewhere, in turning black into white. It is odd enough that Mr. Trollope, who thinks so badly of the Bar, should speak of the Judges as if they were persons whose truth it is impossible to doubt. There is no influence in the formation of a man's character more potent or general than the practice of his profession; and it is strange that men whose youth and manhood have been passed in the practice of every kind of falsehood, should suddenly, in their age, become the great exemplars of veracity. And yet Mr. Trollope has not overstrained his compliment to the Judges. If you except one or two great thinkers, there is no class of men with whom a regard to truth is a principle of action to anything like the extent to which it is the principle on which English Judges are in the habit of thinking and acting. And, pace Mr. Trollope, the reason is not very far to seek. It is because, for their lives long, they have tasked their minds in the investigation of truth, in questions in which they themselves have had no kind of interest. We do not say that the practice of advocacy can, by no possibility, twist the mind. In some points it is unfavourable to the moral being, in some even to the intellect. But in this respect it does not stand alone. Every profession has its characteristic tendencies to evil. The human mind, no more than the body, can be kept in one attitude without danger of disease. And since truthfulness, in the strict sense, is the rarest of human virtues, it must probably be that which is most easily affected by the peculiar morbid tendencies of all mental occupations alike. Even the profession of novel-writing is not exempt from the infirmities by which other professions are beset. Let Mr. Trollope consider whether a man's perfect truthfulness, in the highest sense of the word, is not placed in danger, when he drags before his own petty bar, individuals or corporate bodies, and condemns them as false, without troubling himself to master the facts of the charge under which he is trying them. He has indeed answered the question already, in talking of the writings of an author whom he chooses to nickname Mr. Popular Sentiment. “The artist who paints for the million must use glaring colours," says Mr. Trollope; and the remark is almost as applicable to the author of Orley Farm, as it is to the earlier and more amusing assailant of the Court of Chancery and the Circumlocution Office.
Let us not be mistaken. We are not answering Mr. Trollope's objections to the morality of advocacy. We only say that he has not entitled himself to an answer. When he tells us how the great Mr. Furnival, who is the leading counsel in a case, not only directs that a particular junior shall be retained, and selects that junior because he is utterly unknown except for certain opinions about the morality of defending the guilty, but approaches that fortunate young barrister, through one of Her Majesty's judges, who is made to offer him the case, and the hand of his daughter in marriage, and to assure him that he may safely hold a brief on this occasion, because he himself (the learned Judge) would have done so, if he had been convinced of his client's innocence" at the beginning;" when all this is explained to us by Mr. Trollope, we cannot help saying that a more accurate knowledge of the etiquette of the profession would at least put him in a position to make his attack upon the morality of the profession with infinitely greater force and effect. The views of the Judge in question, Mr. Justice Stavely, are peculiarly perplexing. We should like to know what that particular point of time may be, which Mr. Trollope and Judge Stavely consider “the beginning.” The Judge tells his scrupulous young friend, that if he should be