Obrazy na stronie




largely in the earlier volumes, we A more finished sketch is that dehave not much; and what little voted to the Princess Lieven, a there is, can scarcely be said to be remarkable figure in politics and new. The funeral eulogia which society from the days of the Rehe pronounces over his friends, as gency downwards. As Mr Greville one by one they precede him to was intimately acquainted with the grave, do not lose in candid this lady, and was for some years asperity even as his own turn her constant correspondent, we approaches. Take, for instance, may accept his estimate of her as his summing up of the character being as correct as it is graphic :of his friend Frederic Lamb, Lord Beauvale and Melbourne, in vol.

· She knew a vast deal of the world i. pp. 34-36. Here is his entry she had lived and played a part in it,

and its history during the half-century regarding the death of Croker ::

but she was not a woman of much "While Macaulay is thus ascending reading, and probably at no time had to the House of Peers, his old enemy been very highly or extremely eduand rival Croker has descended to the cated; but her excessive cleverness grave, very noiselessly and almost and her finesse d'esprit supplied the without observation, for he had been want of education, and there was one for some time so withdrawn from the book with which her mind was perworld that he was nearly forgotten. petually nourished by reading it over He had lived to see all his predictions and over again. This was the Letters of ruin and disaster to the country of Madame de Sévigné,' and to the completely falsified. He continued till constant study of those unrivalled the last year or two to exhale his bit- letters she was no doubt considerably terness and spite in the columns of indebted for her own epistolary emithe Quarterly Review,' but at last nence, and for her admirable style of the Editor (who had long been sick writing, not, however, that her style of his contributions) contrived to get and Madame de Sévigné's were at all rid of him. I never lived in any inti- alike. She had not (in her letters at macy with him, and seldom met him least) the variety, the abundance, or in society, but he certainly occupied a

the abandon of the great Frenchhigh place among the second-rate men woman, but she was more terse and of his time ; he had very considerable epigrammatic, and she had the same talents, great industry, with much in- graphic power and faculty of conveyformation and a retentive memory. ing much matter in few words. He spoke in Parliament with consider- Nothing could exceed the charm able force, and in society his long ac- of her conversation, or her grace, ease, quaintance with the world and with and tact in society. She had nice public affairs, and his store of general and accurate judgment, and an exknowledge, made him entertaining, quisite taste in the choice of her assothough he was too overbearing to be ciates and friends; but though taking agreeable. He was particularly dis- an ardent pleasure in agreeableness, liked by Macaulay, who never lost an and peculiarly susceptible of being opportunity of venting his antipathy bored, she was not fastidious, full of by attacks upon him."

politeness and good-breeding, and

possessed the faculty of turning every It may be observed in mitigation one to account, and eliciting someof these remarks, that Croker, had thing either of entertainment or inhe survived him, would certainly formation from the least important of have said worse things of Greville,

er acquaintance. It has been the and said them much better, too;

fashion here, and the habit of the for, so far as rancour was concerned, tise Madame de Lieven as a mischiev

vulgar and ignorant press, to stigmathere was not a pin to choose be

ous intriguer, who was constantly octween the reviewer of the Quar- cupied in schemes and designs hostile terly' and him of the “Edinburgh.' to the interests of our country. I firmly believe such charges to be ut- peace restored, and closed her eyes terly unfounded. She had resided for almost at the moment that the last above twenty years, the happiest of seal was put to it by the Conference her life, in England, and had imbibed of Paris. Her last illness was sudden a deep attachment to the country, and short. Her health had always where she had formed many more been delicate, and she was very nerintimacies and friendships than she vous about herself. An attack of bronpossessed anywhere else; and to the chitis brought on fever, which rapidly last day of her life she continued to consumed her strength, and brought cherish the remembrance of her past her, fully conscious, within sight of connection, to cultivate the society of death. That consummation, which at English people, and to evince without a distance she had always dreaded, disguise her predilection for their she saw arrive with perfect calmness country. She had never lived much and resignation, and all the virtues in Russia; her connection with it had and qualities for which the smallest been completely dissolved, and all she credit was given her seem to have retained of it was a respectful attach- shone forth with unexpected lustre ment to the Imperial family, together on her deathbed.” with certain sympathies and feelings

Mr Greville resigned the Clerkof loyalty for her native country and her sovereign which it would have ship of Council in May 1859; but been unnatural and discreditable to

if the story told by Lord Malmesdisavow. Her well-known correspond- bury in his · Memoirs of an Exence with the Imperial Court was only Minister' is true, he had ceased caused by the natural anxiety of those his attendance for more than a great persons to be kept au courant of year before--since the time, in fact, social and political affairs by such an

when the second Derby Governaccomplished correspondent, but I do not believe she was ever employed by

ment took office; and, says Lord them in any business or any political

Malmesbury, he “ did not conceal design; on the contrary, she was his omitting to do so on purpose. rather distrusted and out of favour When Lord Derby's attention was with them, on account of her being so called to this fact, he said he had denaturalised, and for her ardent af- not observed his absence, as he fection for England and the English. never knew whether it was John Russia was the country of her birth, France the country of her adopted In justice to Lord Derby, it must

or Thomas who answered the bell.'' abode, but England was the country be said that Mr Greville was only of her predilection. With this cosmopolitan character shedreaded every- being paid in coin. Absurd as thing which might produce hostile Mr Greville's pretensions were to collision between any two of these pose as a political personage, they countries. She was greatly annoyed were yet sufficiently pronounced when the question of the Spanish to justify the reminder that party marriages embittered the relations between France and England, but politics did not lie within the infinitely more so at the Turkish legitimate sphere. If Mr Greville quarrel, and the war which it pro- heard the story, as in all likelihood duced. Those who fulminated against some candid friend would be good her intrigues were, as I believe, pro- enough to inform him of it, we have voked at the efforts she made, so far

an explanation of the rancour with as she had any power or influence, which the Conservative statesman is to bring about the restoration of peace, an unpardonable offence in the eyes

[ocr errors]

assailed throughout these volumes. of all who were bent on the continua.

Mr Robert Buchanan's Look tion of the war. She lived to see round Literature 'I will be allowed

1 A Look round Literature. 1887.

By Robert Buchanan. London: Ward & Downey

to be a tolerably wide one, when heroes—Gilliat, in the Travailleurs we say that it begins with Pro- de la Mer.' Why? we are bound metheus and ends with "the to admit we cannot tell. There is writer who calls herself Quida." a rock in the one case and there is From Æschylus to Victor Hugo" a rock in the other, just as there is the title of the first chapter, was a river in Macedon and one or rather of the first paper; for in Monmouth: but that is all. The it is again a collection of serial names don't even begin with the articles which we have here made same letter. Poor Gilliat, in dumb into a volume, after a precedent relinquishment of that struggle which we have already taken the with fate which he had carried on liberty to remark upon, and which in many (no doubt) fabulous and is equally undesirable, we think, impossible ways, is neither a Titan whether it come from the hands nor a conqueror, but a very woful, of the comparatively little or the humble mortal, most easily vancomparatively great. Which of quished by the contrariety of these categories Mr Buchanan be things. Mr Buchanan discusses a longs to is a question which per- great many other matters, favouring haps will be answered differently us with "A Note on Lucretius," by himself and by the world. But and also a more elaborate study, fortunately there is not much as became the superior importance room for doubt as to the estimate of the subject, on Sydney Dobell; which his contemporaries at least but perhaps his leading effort is will form. He is one of those “A Talk with George Eliot,” who writers who, like the Ancient received him, dressed “in a plainMariner, are recognised at once ly-cut, tight-fitting dress of blue by those whose weird it is to listen cashmere, fastened at the throat to them. The reader who likes with a

brooch.” George this sort of thing, for instance, Lewes was the only other member will recognise it at once :

of the party, and these two notable "The scene is Mount Caucasus, a

persons are treated by their intercraggy desert, silent, inaccessible; the viewer as is usual in such narraclouds come and go silently above. tives. The great novelist was to The Euxine glimmers faintly far Mr Buchanan a metaphysical lecaway. All the eye beholds is solemn, turer, and no more. It is thus terrible, colossal, shadowed with the that he represents the talk in mystery of some awful event. Three which he evidently feels “myself” gigantic shapes rise, leading a fourth to be quite on the same level with in chains."

his hosts. They had been discussThe reader predestined would no ing the decay of the faculties in doubt wish us to go on : the un- old age as an argument against select most probably would-not. immortality. And we will not; but the volume

George Eliot. We are absolutely is very accessible, and what those the creatures of our secretions. So three gigantic shapes are about to true is this, that the slightest disturbdo can be discovered there. It is ance of the cerebral circulation, say very curious and wonderful, how. a temporary congestion, will pervert

the entire stream of moral sentiment. ever, to our own unenlightened faculties, that Mr Buchanan should

Myself. All this is doubtless very

I hold, nevertheless, that the have chosen as his pendant to the soul, the ego, is invulnerable, despite picture of Prometheus that of one all temporary aberrations-clouds obof Victor Hugo's least remarkable scuring the moon's disc, so to speak.



was a

George Eliot. Say rather disinte- very eventful one-of the lives of grations with the very substance of the two feminine historians, the the moon herself. Where the very biographers of the Queens, who substance of the luminary is decaying, what hope is there for the permanence evidently the objects of her tender

are the glory of her family, and of your moonlight?

Myself. The analogy is imperfect; devotion. The Miss Stricklandsbut to pursue it, the lunar elements for though the name of Agnes only remain indestructible, and after trans- appeared on the books, it was well formation may cohere again into known that Elizabeth Strickland some splendid identity.

shared the work and the responsiGeorge Eliot

. Moonlight is sunlight bility—belonged to a period in reflected on a material mirror: thought, consciousness, life itself, are conditions which people still looked with dependent upon the physical medium, some wonder on a female writer, and on the brightness of the external and “the fair authoress" development. Cogito, ergo sum should familiar locution. We do not rebe transposed and altered. Sum ma- gret those days ; but they have teries, ergo cogito.

already an old-fashioned favour, Lewes. And yet, after all, there are

and there is a scent as of potpsychic phenomena which seem to evade the material definition.

pourri and fresh lavender in the George Eliot. Not one. And science story of the country ladies, with has established clearly that while func- their pretty dresses and manners, tional disturbance may be evanescent, sweeping into dusty Record offices structural destruction is absolute and and muniment-rooms, pursuing, in irremediable. An organism once de- their round of pleasant visits, a stroyed is incapable of resurrection. collection of old letters, a royal Myself. Then life is merely mech

will, into all manner of private anism after ali?

George Eliot. Undoubtedly. It is repositories—the unknown wealth very pitiful, but absolutely true.” of family closets and chests: then

returning to their own old house These two people are dead, and with all its associations, into the cannot defend themselves against midst of the cheerful family, to the reckless writer whom they work up the carefully gathered admitted into their company. But material into those pleasant volevery authentic record describes umes, with all the attractions of a her as essentially modest in her novel and much of the solidity of personal conversation-neither hec- history, which were the first of toring nor lecturing: and this is their kind, and have given a beginboth. No doubt gentlemen of the ning to so many studies and series literary profession are sometimes since. The picture of the sisters sadly put to it to find material. in their childhood is a very pretty It is better for them, though per- and attractive When they haps not quite so safe, to attack were very young, a stray volume the living than to caricature the of Shakespeare fell accidentally dead.

into their hands, upon which, We turn from this literary bal- Agnes declared that she would derdash with pleasure to the pretty never read any other book in her old-fashioned narrative l in which leisure hours; ” and they both a surviving sister of Miss Agnes learned by heart the fine declamaStrickland tells the story—not a tions of Julius Cæsar, to the great


1 The Life of Agnes Strickland. William Blackwood & Sons. 1887.

By her Sister.

Edinburgh and London :

surprise of their father, whose de- theatricals to an end. The lively sire it was to make them mathema- Agnes, however, did not limit her ticians, but who was wise enough activity to theatricals. She made on hearing his little daughters, in, up her mind to write a poem, all the glow of enthusiasm, pour always so tempting and so easy a forth the speeches of Antony and task to a child of literary tastes. Brutus, to give them free access to The subject was a very remote one, Shakespeare, considering, says the a historical narrative, of which biographer with much good sense "the mighty Baron Bigod, who and truth, that “their infant in- had defied the warlike first Edward nocence would prevent them from to his face, was to be the hero: ". receiving injury" from things they had no chance of understanding.

“She employed her leisure hours for It would be better for the literary cal composition, keeping her literary

some weeks in this premature poetitaste of our children if parents labours a secret even from her sister would be as wise nowadays, and Elizabeth, till the first canto was comlet them go to the fountain-head pleted, when she brought her poem at once, which even Lamb's stories to her father with all the pride of a do something to impair. This young author, her eager looks and study produced the following amus- sparkling eyes seeming to demand his ing scene:

admiration. To the infinite surprise and mortification of the author of

twelve years, her poem, instead of "Agnes, who had never seen a play in her life, resolved, with the aid of pleasing her father, found in him a her four younger sisters, to act some

very severe critic.

He pronounced it scenes from Shakespeare, and selected and advised her to give up verse

to be deficient in originality and merit, the second part of Henry VI. for their début. As they all had good memories, with fine English poetry. He be

making till she was better acquainted she did not find much difficulty in stowed no praise to the luckless poem, drilling her youthful company. Agnes, but gave it a complete cutting up. who, like her warlike ancestors, was a stout Lancastrian, could not induce felt for her beloved parent alone

The affection and veneration Agnes Elizabeth to join her, for she was a

checked her tears. She promised to staunch Yorkist, and they sometimes fell out while discussing these ancient obey him; ... and he rewarded her

docility by putting the works of politics. This new amusement lasted a whole winter, till Agnes, struck with Milton, Gray, and Collins into her the poetical beautyof Clarence's dream, her to consign her immature attempt

hands, the perusal of which inclined resolved, with the assistance of her

to the flames." next sister, to perform the murder scene in Richard III., she herself

The hall at Reydon must have taking the part of the doomed prince; been a charming habitation in those while Sarah was to play the part of a good listener in Brackenbury, and days, when Agnes was a strict

Lancastrian and also to take that of the first name

Elizabeth less villain. The scene came off very staunch Yorkist, and the Wars of well till the entrance of the mur- the Roses were now and then rederers, whose arch blooming juvenile enacted in the schoolroom, innofaces did not accord with their evil cent storm-clouds soon swept away intentions towards the hapless pris- in laughter. The record, however, oner. A mistimed fit of risibility on

does not dwell much upon the their part overcame the gravity of the death-doomed Clarence, and the youth of the sisters, both attractive scene ended not in a tragedy but a and pretty women, who no doubt comedy."

had their own stories, though they

do not come in to this delicate This, alas ! brought the childish record. We lose them as a pair


« PoprzedniaDalej »