Obrazy na stronie

graphy, and the amiable, benevo- The philosophers who have follent, gentle nature of the man thus lowed Mill in this field-his contwisted and tortured out of hu- temporaries, yet successors—are manity, and how he took refuge too many and too important to be in woman-worship and learned a dealt with here. Mr Herbert wistful hope in immortality out of Spencer, who is a host in himself, the. intolerable pang of bereave- is fortunately still with us; and ment. His great work on · Logic' so are, a band almost uncountis another of the books which make able, the school of English writers, a distinct epoch and new beginning; many of them most accomplished and we perhaps can scarcely esti- and eloquent, to whom the philomate how much the general public sophy of Comte is more attractive has derived its present conceptions that that of the Gospel. There of individual right and social res- have never perhaps been so many ponsibility from the famous · Essay attractive and charming unbelievers on Liberty,' which has stimulated in the field; yet we do not enterso many minds, and grown into tain the apprehensions expressed the common code so completely by many for the permanence of that thousands recognise its tenets the older faith. as born with their birth, without It is difficult to dissociate the two any consciousness from whence men above considered, Carlyle and they came. His other works on Mill, in their very different developPolitical Economy, the Utilitarian ments, from their productions ; but system, and other cognate subjects, when we turn to Charles Darwin, are all important and interesting. who perhaps is the most influential These were hereditary tenets and of all the scientific writers of our occupations, for he was brought epoch, we associate no personality up under the shadow of Jeremy with his work, and feel no temptaBentham, and was in a great tion to inquire what manner of degree the expositor and prophet man he was. This is one drawback of his father James Mill, another which attaches to wealth, comfort, stern Scotch dogmatist and theorist, and a quiet life, that there is little into whose immovable mould the attraction for human sympathy in gentler, more sensitive, and im- them. But the importance of Darpressionable nature of the son was win in the literary and scientific compressed with very curious history of his time is not to be effects. The strange little book mistaken. His works have been on the Subjection of Woman' read according to a very usual belongs to a very different phase formula not so applicable now as of his character, to the much-re- in former days—like novels. It pressed emotional side, which only would perhaps be a truer form of got vent under the feminine influ- applause to say of a successful novel ence which to him seemed all but that it has been read like Darwin. divine in the latter part of his life. His works have been discussed His books, excepting the highly in every drawing-room as well as popular • Essay on Liberty,' are studied in every scientific retirechiefly for the student; and have ment; but this, we are disposed to had an immense influence upon the believe, as has been the case with teaching of Mental Science; but many other of the scientific works the image of the man as revealed of the period, rather because of in his own story is of the greatest the lucidity and interest of the interest to all.

style and the manner of putting

these wonderful new doctrines- almost all thinkings on these subfrom their character as literature, in jects. To undervalue the weight short—than from interest in their and importance of these works subjects or conviction of their because we are personally unable truth. It is harder than any phil- to be convinced by them, or to conosopher has ever conceived to make sider them otherwise than as largely ordinary men and women consider founded on the conjectures of a in any other light than that of a remarkable imagination, backed up piquant pleasantry, touching upon by equally remarkable powers of the burlesque, the idea that they reasoning would be an unworthy are themselves the offspring of jelly- attempt. Darwin's work has the fish. Notwithstanding this, there peculiarity that it is unpolemical; can be no doubt that the doctrine his conclusions are worked out with of Evolution has had the greatest all the calm of scientific research, effect in science, has exercised a with none of that lively pleasure considerable influence upon the re- in Alinging a challenge to the upligious polemics or apologetics of holders of religious systems, whose the time, and has been very start- theory of the origin of man is that ling to many minds and very stim- he was developed from above and ulating to many others. Whether not from below, which actuates, for the problem of human existence is instance, the writings and utterthus simply solved, and whether ances of Professors Huxley and the scientific reasoner is at liberty to Tyndall, and other philosophers of believe that he may jump the vast their class. It pleased Darwin's gap which exists between the evolu- observant genius to watch the tion of the highest animal and that labours of the earthworms, the wonderfully different creature, the subjects of his latest work, throwspeaking, thinking, inventing, crea- ing up their little inequalities on tive being man, we are not called the earth's surface, and to calcuupon to decide. It may be taken as late how by these unnoticed means an example of humility more strik- the outer husk of the great globe ing than any ever exacted from a itself was sustaining continual momonk in the elder ages, that such difications—better than to shake a man as Darwin is able to con- his demonstrative fist in the face ceive of himself as sufficiently of the world. And in these later accounted for by the processes he observations he had the inestidescribes, and on which he founds mable advantage of being on the his theory of the succession of the spot, which he unfortunately was races, taking the tremendous ath- not during any one of the greater letic exercise of that last great developments by which, according leap as possible and permissible to his theory, the naked savage without danger to life or limb. came out of the loins of La Bête, His works on the Origin of Species,' as M. Cherbuliez has called it, his theories of the survival of the to develop somehow-how? by an fittest, and of those developments evolution quite miraculous and inwhich he considered owing to the comprehensible_into Charles Dardesire of one sex to please the win and other eloquent philosoother (a desire, alas ! singularly in- phers of his kind. operative in adding to the beauty The extraordinary growth of of the human species nowadays), this new branch of literature, and took the scientific world by storm, the change it has made even in the and have since shaped more or less very nomenclature of things, and


the interest it has aroused among of these fifty years in the developreaders of all classes, is one of the ment of Fiction. This age has most striking facts in our half- seen at least three novelists of the century. We are disposed to be- highest rank develop and conclude lieve, as we have already said, that their work. Dickens had indeed in a great many cases its effect is begun the publication of Pickone of a purely literary kind, and wick,' which has not yielded in largely dependent upon the re- popularity to any of his books, markable excellence as writers of when her Majesty ascended the the chief expounders of the new throne, and Thackeray was already theories, whole writings are rarely making essays which—it is imposdull, often full of epigram and wit, sible to divine why, since his great and graces of the imagination- rival's fortune had at once been gifts and qualities which are new made by the Sketches by Boz'. to the exponents of abstract sci- did not at once open to him the ence. Never before perhaps has doors of literary triumph. Both philosophy, concerned with such these great writers belong, howfundamental matters, found for ever, by every law to Queen Vicitself so attractive a form, or toria's reign. They were so exactly spoken with a voice so harmoni- contemporary in age, in producous and adapted to charm and tion, and ultimately in fame, that enthral. An age full of mental it is almost impossible not to curiosity, and delighted, as all the place them more or less in compegenerations are, with everything tition with each other; and there that is new, would be stoical in- was in their day a very marked deed if it could shut its ears to division between the partisans of the voice of the charmer when Dickens and those of Thackeray. it charms so wisely. It is less The former had most simple-mindeasy here, as in other regions of ed readers on his side. He had literature, to deal with the work the world of the bourgeoisie-a of living authors than with those word which we cannot attempt to which are rounded into complete- translate–entirely for him. The ness by death; but the names strongly formed impression that which we have already mentioned Thackeray was a cynic, that he of Huxley and Tyndall may stand attributed ignoble motives even to as the greatest representatives of good actions, and laughed, even those contemporary writers who though the laugh might be kind, give unquestionable brilliancy of at humble virtue, and found no style and a fine force of rhetoric, goodness without alloy, sounds often of eloquence, to the sup- strange now when we remember port of the new philosophy of that it is the creator of Colonel Nature.

Newcome, of Mrs Pendennis, and It is with a little relief that we of Esmond, of whom these things escape from the consideration of were said. But it was the general matters which we find too high belief, and one to which perhaps for us, to another more familiar Vanity Fair,' with all its wonderful branch of literature which has had wealth of human character, gave the most wonderful growth and some countenance: and this as development in Queen Victoria's much as anything perhaps made reign. In whatever way we may him somewhat doubted and feared be surpassed by our predecessors, by that gentle public which wept no age that has gone before us is over little Nell, and found pathos likely to challenge the importance in the story of Smike—which was never the public of the critic, yet prosperity, and even his gaiters, was that to which Dickens owed and his collars, and his eyeglass, much of his first appearance. Curi- and his jaunty air. Mrs Gamp is ously enough, as has been remarked almost, if possible, a more perfect elsewhere, it is this sentimental creation, though nothing could side of him_his sugary domestici- make her dear to us like Mr Mities, his Tiny Tims, his gushing cawber. The extraordinary power showmen and acrobats which with which Dickens threw himseems to have impressed our neigh- self into the confused brain of bours in France, and originated a woman of this class, following among them what might almost out the queer sequence of thoughts, be called a Dickens school. But the droll little thread of fanciful in his own world of humorous invention in the person of that delineation that to which the familiar spirit Mrs Harris, her groups of Wellers, Gamps, the im- dæmon, and the author of some imitable figures of Micawber and of her best sayings, with all the Dick Swiveller, of Mark Tapley and peculiar lights that fall upon soPeggotty, and a hundred more be- ciety and general human affairs long-Dickens stands above all from her professional lantern, is competition. These are not illus- greater than if the subject had trations of ordinary humanity, per- been more congenial. Pickwick,' sons whom we might encounter "Nicholas Nickleby,'· Martin Chuzany day, according to the for- zlewit,' David Copperfield,' are mula by which we applaud other works which, in their way, are not studies of life and


to be surpassed, and which conRarely have any of us the good tain, with a great deal of mannerfortune to meet with Mr Micawber, ism, much stilted writing, and and Sam Weller is as pure fiction many melodramatic incidents of as Figaro; but the delightful ex- a very inferior character, such aggeration and tenderly absurd whimsical creations, and ever hu- . ideality make a being more real morous, ever entertaining embodithan any portrait. The Cockney ments of character, as any age clerk is not a personage on the might be proud to have produced. face of him who attracts the ima- The latter works, we think, stand ginative spectator; but over Dick on a lower level, but still contain in his dismal office, gravely re- enough to make the fortune of a spectful of his Marchioness, who dozen writers. And though we has not laughed and cried ? Mr do not allow Dickens's pathetic Micawber, in his gentility, his cer- scenes, though he evidently liked tainty of something turning up, them much himself, any particular his shabbiness, his light-hearted- excellence, yet the narrative of ness, and all the illusions which the childhood of David Copperare so real to him, is worth a field, and his boyish miseries, and thousand respectable literary im- the journey to his aunt's house, personations of better men. There is almost as good in its reflection are very few creations of poetry of childish pain and suffering as or fiction whom we should be less could be ; and the humour of his willing to give up. He is always a boyish courtship, and a great part delight, with his wife, who never of the episode of Dora, is delightwill be separated from Mr Micaw- ful. It is, however, upon such ber, whatever her family may do creations as Micawber that the or say, and all their shifts, and supremacy of Dickens's genius their fine convictions of ultimate rests.

Thackeray's humour is far more in his women, perhaps because his pervasive, delicate, and human. imagination did not require so His mind was a much more highly much for the feminine ideal; but cultivated mind, and free from those his work throughout is so perfect, associations and deprivations which his characters so living, with such make Dickens always at his least distinctness of atmosphere about best (to use no stronger words) in them, crowded though every scene the society of ladies and gentlemen. is, that this point of weakness tells Thackeray was perfectly at home the less. It is only the ideal wothere, and required nothing extra- men who are weak. Becky the inordinary, no eccentricity nor ab- imitable, whom amid all her wrongsurdity of circumstance, to open doings we cannot succeed in disup to him all that was humorous liking, the wonderful old Lady and strange in human life. He Kew, Beatrix Esmond in her needed no more than a handful of splendid youth and in her frightthe most ordinary figures, going ful age, are amazing in their force about the most usual occupations, and vivid power. to find comedy and tragedy and These two great humorists, ficall those intricacies of rnotive and tionists, creators, to whom it is feeling which make human crea- scarcely just to give the commoner tures pitiful and laughable, and yet title of novelists, since their art sometimes sublime and great. He was something distinct from the preferred, perhaps, to show them in craft of the raconteur, were perthe former light, to turn them out- haps the most perfect artists of side in, and reveal what they were any who have arisen in this age. thinking at the moment of their The great female writer of the first appearance, and to open out Victorian period is equally rewith the grin of 'a delighted dis- markable, perhaps even more so, coverer those pretences in which as being the only woman who has . they had wrapped themselves yet attained the highest place in

But when he encountered literature. The position of George among the creations of his genius Eliot is unique. Her books have (for it was Thackeray, we think, been the object of a kind of worwho was the first to say that the ship, as she herself was while she men and women in a book had a lived; but that of its very nature will of their own, and developed is evanescent, and they have now themselves, instead of allowing to stand before a more difficult themselves to be manipulated, as tribunal—a tribunal which has not the world believes, by the hand of yet given forth its last word on their maker) one who was of no- the subject. We, however, who bler mettle, what a perfect tender- are of her generation, have little hearted gentleman, what an ideal doubt that the verdict will reman it was who rose under this main unchanged, at least in recynic's touch! Henry Esmond spect to her earlier works. The and Colonel Newcome are men to very first of these, produced without ennoble a generation. He who any previous indication of power professed to write a novel without in the maturity of her years, a hero because the being was im- affected the world at once to enpracticable, produced these two at thusiasm, and she never struck least, to prove how completely and a stronger or a deeper note than with what supreme naturalness in the simple story of Amos, or and truth the thing was to be rather of Milly Barton, the poor done. He has not been so happy curate's mild and lovely wife, the

« PoprzedniaDalej »