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for the tragic and satirical parts were not well adjusted, but the picture of a man of fashion—a Charles Surface of the nineteenth century—was attractive, and a second edition of Pelham was called for in a few months. Towards the close of the same year, Bulwer issued another novel, The Disowned, intended by the author to contain ‘scenes of more exciting interest and vivid colouring, thoughts less superficially expressed, passions more energetically called forth, and a more sensible and pervading moral tendency. This was aiming at a high mark, but the labour was too apparent. The scene of the novel was laid in the last century—the days of Chesterfield, George Selwyn, and Horace Walpole; but it had no peculiar character or appropriate illustration, and consequently did not attain to the popularity of Pelham. Devereux, a Novel, 1829, was a more finished performance. ‘The lighter portion, said one of the critics in the Edinburgh Review, “does not dispute the field with the deeper and more sombre, but follows gracefully by its side, relieving and heightening it. We move, indeed, among the great, but it is the great of other timesnames familiar in our mouths—Bolingbroke, Louis, Orleans; amidst manners perhaps as frivolous as those of the day, but which the gentle touch of time has already invested with an antiquarian dignity; the passions of men, the machinery of great motives and universal feelings, occupy the front; the humours, the affections, the petty badges of sects and individuals, retire into the shadows of the background: no under-current of persiflage or epicurean indifference checks the flow of that mournful enthusiasm which refreshes its pictures of life with living waters; its eloquent pages seem consecrated to the memory of love, honour, religion, and undeviating faith. In 1830 Bulwer brought out another work of fiction, Paul Clifford, the hero being a romantic highwayman, familiar with the haunts of low vice and dissipation, but afterwards transformed and elevated by the influence of love. Parts are ably written, but the general effect of the novel was undoubtedly injurious to the public taste and morals. The author seemed to be sinking into a representative of the artificial, unnatural school— an embodiment of Moore's sentimentalist
A fine, sallow, sublime sort of Werter-faced man, With moustaches that gave—what we read of so oft– The dear Corsair-expression, half savage, half soft.
And with this sickly sentimentalism there was a great deal of prolix description. The love of satire, which had mingled largely in all Bulwer's works, took a more definite shape in 1831, in The Siamese Twins, a poem satirical of fashion, of travellers, of politicians, London notoriety, and various other things, discussed or glanced at in sportive or bitter mood, and in verses that flow easily, and occasionally express vigorous and lively thoughts. Among the miscellaneous poems that follow The Siamese Twins, is one entitled Milton, which was subsequently corrected and enlarged, and is unquestionably Bulwer's best poetical production. He tried fiction again—the poetical satire having proved a comparative failure—and produced, 1831, Eugene Aram, a story of middle life, founded on the history of the English murderer of that name. The character of the sordid but ingenious Eugene Aram is idealised by the fancy of the novelist. He is made an enthusiastic student and amiable visionary. The humbling part of his crime was, he says, “its low calculations, its poor defence, its paltry trickery, its mean hypocrisy: these made his chiefest penance.’ Un:cious that detection was close at hand, Aram
is preparing to wed an interesting and noble-minded woman, the generous Madeline; and the scenes connected with this ill-fated passion possess a strong and tragical interest. Throughout the work are scattered some beautiful moral reflections and descriptions, imbued with poetical feeling and expression. What lover of literature, for example, does not sympathise with this passage?
[Admiration of Genius.]
There is a certain charm about great superiority of intellect that winds into deep affections, which a much more constant and even amiability of manners in lesser men, often fails to reach. Genius makes many enemies, but it makes sure friends—friends who forgive much, who endure long, who exact little; they partake of the character of disciples as well as friends. There lingers about the human heart a strong inclination to look upward—to revere: in this inclination lies the source of religion, of loyalty, and also of the worship and immortality which are rendered so cheerfully to the great of old. And, in truth, it is a divine pleasure to admire ! admiration seems in some measure to appropriate to ourselves the qualities it honours in others. We wed—we root ourselves to the natures we so love to contemplate, and their life grows a part of our own. Thus, when a great man, who has engrossed our thoughts, our conjectures, our homage, dies, a gap seems suddenly left in the world—a wheel in the mechanism of our own being appears abruptly stilled; a portion of ourselves, and not our worst portion—for how many pure, high, generous sentiments it contains!—dies with him.
There was strong interest, though a want of simplicity and nature, in Eugene Aram; but Bulwer's next novel, Godolphin, published anonymously, was in all respects an inferior work. About this time, he undertook the management of the New Monthly Magazine—which had attained a high reputation under the editorship of Campbell—and published in that work several essays and criticisms, subsequently collected and issued under the title of The Student. In 1833 appeared his England and the English, a series of observations on society, literature, the aristocracy, travelling, and other characteristics and peculiarities of the English people. Some of these are acute and clever, but many are tinged with prejudice, and a desire to appear original and sarcastic. The Pilgrims of the Rhine—a fanciful and beautifully illustrated work—was Mr Bulwer's next offering, and it was almost immediately afterwards succeeded by one of his best romances, The Last Days of Pompeii. This brilliant and interesting classic story was followed by one still more vigorous and masterly, the tale of Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes, which is the most complete, high-toned, and energetic of all the author's romantic fictions. His tendency to minute and prolonged description is, in these works, relieved by the classic associations connected with his story, and by historical information, while the reader's interest in the characters and incidents is seldom permitted to flag. Bulwer may now be said to have attained the acme of popularity as an imaginative writer, but he was still to appear as a master of the English domestic novel. Ambitious of shining in politics as in literature, our author had obtained a seat in the House of Commons. In 1831 he was returned for the borough of St Ives, and in the following year for the city of Lincoln, which he continued to represent until the year 1842. He was a supporter of extreme reform principles; and in 1835 he conferred a signal favour on his party by a political pamphlet, entitled The Crisis, which had almost unexampled success. Lord Melbourne, in return for this powerful support, offered Bulwer an appointment in his administration. He declined to accept office, but in 1838 the honour of a baronetcy was conferred upon him. He has since greatly modified his political opinions—conscientiously, there is every reason to believe—and in 1852 he was returned as a Conservative member for Hertfordshire, the county in which his property is situated. His few parliamentary speeches have been able and comprehensive. They shew little of the partisan or keen debater, but are marked by a thoughtful earnestness, and by large and liberal views of our national interests and dependencies. In politics he is still the man of letters—not a political adventurer; and in the busiest portions of his public life literature was never neglected. In 1837 appeared Bulwer's novel of Ernest Maltravers. He designed this story to illustrate ‘what, though rare in novels, is common in human life —the affliction of the good, the triumph of the unprincipled. The character of Maltravers is far from pleasing; and Alice Darvil is evidently a copy from Byron's Haidee. Ferrers, the villain of the tale, is also a Byronic creation; and, on the whole, the violent contrasts and gloomy delineations of this novel render it more akin to the spurious offspring of sentimental romance, than to the family of the genuine English novel. A continuation of this work was given in the following year, under the title of Alice, or the Mysteries, with no improvement as to literary power or correct moral philosophy, but still containing some fresh and exquisite descriptions, and delightful portraiture. His next work was Athens, partly historical and partly philosophical. In the same year (1838) we had Leila, or the Siege of Granada, and Calderon the Courtier— light and sketchy productions. Passing over the dramas of Bulwer, we come to Night and Morning, a novel with a clear and simple plot, and some good characters. Gawtrey, a swindler, is well drawn, and the account of his death affords a specimen of the novelist's ‘scenic’ style. Gawtrey is the chief of a gang of coiners in Paris; they are detected, and Gawtrey, with his associate Morton, is pursued to the attic in which they live.
[Death of Gawtrey the Coiner.]
At both doors now were heard the sounds of voices. ‘Open in the king's name, or expect no mercy!’ ‘Hist!’ said Gawtrey. “One way yet—the window—the rope.' Morton opened the casement—Gawtrey uncoiled the rope. The dawn was breaking; it was light in the streets, but all seemed quiet without. The doors reeled and shook beneath the pressure of the pursuers. Gawtrey flung the rope across the street to the opposite parapet; after two or three efforts, the grappling-hook caught firm hold—the perilous path was made. “Go first, said Morton; ‘I will not leave you now; you will be longer getting across than I shall. I will keep guard till you are over.’ ‘Hark! hark!—are you mad? You keep guard! What is your strength to mine? Twenty men shall not move that door, while my weight is against it. Quick, or you destroy us both ! Besides, you will hold the rope for me, it may not be strong enough for my bulk of itself. Stay!—stay one moment. If you escape, and I fall–Fanny—my father, he will take care of her—you remember—thanks! Forgive me all ! Go ; that’s right !” With a firm pulse, Morton threw himself on that dreadful bridge; it swung and crackled at his weight. Shifting his grasp rapidly—holding his breath—with
set teeth—with closed eyes—he moved on—he gained the parapet-he stood safe on the opposite side. And now, straining his eyes across, he saw through the open casement into the chamber he had just quitted. Gawtrey was still standing against the door to the principal staircase, for that of the two was the weaker and the more assailed. Presently the explosion of a firearm was heard; they had shot through the panel. Gawtrey seemed wounded, for he staggered forward, and uttered a fierce cry; a moment more and he gained the window -he seized the rope—he hung over the tremendous depth ! Morton knelt by the parapet, holding the grappling-hook in its place, with convulsive grasp, and fixing his eyes, bloodshot with fear and suspense, on the huge bulk that clung for life to that slender cord |
“Le voilà/ le voilà!’ cried a voice from the opposite side. Morton raised his gaze from Gawtrey; the casement was darkened by the forms of the pursuers—they had burst into the room—an officer sprung upon the parapet, and Gawtrey, now aware of his danger, opened his eyes, and, as he moved on, glared upon the foe. The policeman deliberately raised his pistol—Gawtrey arrested himself—from a wound in his side the blood trickled slowly and darkly down, drop by drop, upon the stones below; even the officers of law shuddered as they eyed him; his hair bristling—his cheek white— his lips drawn convulsively from his teeth, and his eyes glaring from beneath the frown of agony and menace in which yet spoke the indomitable power and fierceness of the man. His look, so fixed—so intense—so stern, awed the policeman; his hand trembled as he fired, and the ball struck the parapet an inch below the spot where Morton knelt. An indistinct, wild, gurgling sound— half laugh, half yell—of scorn and glee, broke from Gawtrey's lips. He swung himself on—near—near— nearer—a yard from the parapet.
‘You are saved !’ cried Morton; when at that moment a volley burst from the fatal casement—the smoke rolled over both the fugitives—a groan, or rather howl, of rage, and despair, and agony, appalled even the hardiest on whose ear it came. Morton sprung to his feet, and looked below. He saw on the rugged stones, far down, a dark, formless, motionless mass—the strong man of passion and levity—the giant who had played with life and soul, as an infant with the baubles that it prizes and breaks—was what the Caesar and the leper alike are, when all clay is without God's breath—what glory, genius, power, and beauty, would be for ever and for ever, if there were no God!
This novel of Night and Morning, was followed by Day and Night, Lights and Shadows, Glimmer and Gloom, an affected title to a picturesque and interesting story. Zanoni, 1842, is more unconnected in plot and vicious in style than the previous fictions of Bulwer, and possesses no strong or permanent interest. Eva, the Ill-omened Marriage, and other Tales and Poems, 1842, is another attempt of our author to achieve poetical honours, ever present to his imagination, but, like the flowers on the mountain cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand.
We give, however, from the volume a happy definition:
Talent and Genius.
Talent convinces—genius but excites;
Ripens the fruit by slow degrees for toil.
Genius, the sudden Iris of the skies,
The next work of our author was The Last of the Barons, 1843, an historical romance, describing the times of Warwick the king-maker, and containing the most beautiful of Bulwer's female creations, the character of Sybill. Though too much elaborated in some parts, and even dreary as a story, this romance, viewed as a whole, is a powerful and great work. Next year the novelist appeared as a translator. He gave to the world a version of Schiller's poems—executed carefully, as all Bulwer's works are, and occasionally with poetic spirit and felicity. He then ventured on an original poetical work, The New Timon, a poem partly satirical and partly narrative, which he issued anonymously, the first part appearing at Christmas 1845, and three others being subsequently added. Timon is a romance of London, exhibiting on the groundwork of an improbable plot sketches of the leading public men and authors of the metropolis—eulogising some, vituperating others, and dealing about praise and censure with a degree of rashness, levity, and bad taste almost inconceivable in so practised a writer and so accomplished a man as Bulwer Lytton. Among those whom he assailed, both in verse and prose, was Alfred Tennyson, who was designated ‘School Miss Alfred;’ and the poetry of the laureate —so highly original, refined, and suggestive-was classed among
The jingling medley of purloined conceits, Out-babying Wordsworth and out-glittering Keats.
That the satirist was unable to appreciate the works of Wordsworth, Keats, or Tennyson is incredible. We must impute this escapade to a desire to say smart and severe things, as Pope and Byron had said before him, and to try his artistic hand in a line of authorship sure to attract attention. The disguise of the New Timon was seen through, and “Miss Alfred’ is believed to have rebuked the audacity of the assailant in a very masculine reply.” But whatever were his affectations or
* We know him, out of Shakspeare's art,
blunders, Bulwer Lytton persevered, and he at last wrought out works worthy of his fame. His next novel, however, was not a happy effort. Lucretia, or the Children of Night, was written to exhibit some of the workings of the arch-ruler of civilisation, money, “which ruins virtues in the spendthrift, no less than engenders vices in the miser. The subject is treated in a melodramatic style, with much morbid sentiment and unnecessary horrors, and the public condemnation of the tale was so emphatic, that Sir Edward deemed it necessary to reply in A Word to the Public. In this pamphlet the novelist sought to vindicate the moral tendency of his tales, and to defend the introduction of crime and terror in works of fiction. His reasoning was just in the abstract, but had no particular reference to the story in question, which was defective as a work of art; and, notwithstanding his defence, Sir Edward, in a subsequent edition, modified some of the incidents and details. As a contrast to Lucretia, he next presented the public with a tale of English domestic life, The Caxtons, a Family Picture, which appeared in monthly parts in Blackwood's Magazine, and in 1849 was collected and issued in the usual three-volume form. Free from all mysticism and terror, and abounding in humour, quaint fancies, and delineation of character, this work was highly successful. The characters were modelled upon the creations of Sterne—the head of the family being a simple, learned, absent recluse, who speculates like Mr Shandy; while his brother the half-pay captain, his son Pisistratus—the historian of the familyhis gentle, affectionate wife, and the eccentric family doctor, are all more or less copies from the elder novelist, retaining much of his genial spirit, whim, and satire, but with none of his grossness. While this work was in progress, delighting the readers of the Magazine, its untiring author issued another historical romance, Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings, a story of love and war, of Gothic and Celtic superstitions and character, presenting much animated description, though somewhat overlaid with archaeological details. The same year (1848), alternating, as before, poetical with prose fiction, and again assuming the anonymous guise, Sir Edward came forward with the first part of a metrical romance, King Arthur, by the Author of the New Timon. The concluding portion was published early in 1849, and with it the name of the author was given. A serio-comic legendary poem, in twelve books, was a bold experiment. Sir Edward had bestowed on the work much thought and labour. It exhibits a great amount of research, of curious mythological and Scandinavian lore, and of ingenious allusions to modern events and characters, mixed up with allegorical and romantic incidents. We have the wandering king sent out by Merlin in quest of chivalrous adventures, guided by his emblematic silver dove (love), and protected by his magic sword (heroic patriotism) and by his silver shield (freedom). He vanquishes, of course, all enemies, and ranges through all regions, having also his ladye-love, AEgle, a fair maid of Etruria.
What profits now to understand
A Timon you! Nay, nay, for shame,
But with all its variety, its ingenuity, and learned lore, King Arthur is found to be tedious. The charm of human interest is wanting, and the vivifying soul of poetry which lightens up the allegories of Spenser and Ariosto is absent from the pages of the modern imitator. The blending of satire and comic scenes with romantic fable, though sanctioned by the example of Ariosto, was also a perilous attempt; and we cannot say that the covert descriptions of Louis-Philippe, Guizot, or the Parisian February revolution, are either very just or very effective. Here is the portrait of the French minister:
With brow deject, the mournful Wandal took
And yet Astutio was a man of worth
Much lore he had in men, and states, and things,
But state-craft, mainly, was his pride and boast; The ‘golden medium’ was his guiding star, Which means ‘move on until you're uppermost, And then things can't be better than they are !’ Brief, in two rules he summed the ends of man— ‘Keep all you have, and try for all you can'
The latest works of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton have fulfilled the promise of healthful moral feeling, and the more complete mastery of his intellectual resources, evidenced in the family picture of the Caxtons. My Novel, or Varieties of English Life, 1853, and What will He Do with It? 1858, are genuine English stories, uniting the characteristics of town and country life, and presenting the contrasts of national character. His country squires and clergymen are perhaps too good, and his manufacturers and borough Radicals too coarse and vulgar. He views society too exclusively from the atmosphere of Almacks and May Fair. He is also more apt to describe his characters than to develop them in action and dialogue; and his digressions, though always ingenious, even when they are pedantic and egotistic, are sometimes misplaced. These are his most prominent defects or drawbacks. But there is so much variety in his portraits, so much to delight the fancy and exercise the understanding, that it is on these English tales, as we conceive, that Sir Edward's fame will ultimately rest. He has exhibited an amazing versatility of intellect and noble perseverance. He has worked himself free of the pruriency and affectations of his early manner, and we have now the matured powers of the artist, with deeper and broader sympathies, and a wiser philosophy of human life.
In 1853 Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton received from the university of Oxford the degree of D.C.L.; in 1856 he was elected rector of the university of Glasgow; and in 1858 he joined the administration of the Earl of Derby as Secretary for Colonial Affairs.
[Imagination on Canvas and in Books.] [From the Preface to The Last of the Barons.]
It is when we compare works of imagination in writing, with works of imagination on the canvas, that we can best form a critical idea of the different schools which exist in each; for common both to the author and the painter are those styles which we call the familiar, the picturesque, and the intellectual. By recurring to this comparison, we can without much difficulty classify works of fiction in their proper order, and estimate the rank they should severally hold. The intellectual will probably never be the most widely popular for the moment. He who prefers to study in this school, must be prepared for much depreciation, for its greatest excellences, even if he achieve them, are not the most obvious to the many. In discussing, for instance, a modern work, we hear it praised, perhaps, for some striking passage, some prominent character; but when do we ever hear any comment on its harmony of construction, on its fitness of design, on its ideal character, on its essentials—in short, as a work of art? What we hear most valued in a picture, we often find the most neglected in a book–namely, the composition; and this, simply, because in England painting is recogmised as an art, and estimated according to definite theories. But in literature, we judge from a taste never formed—from a thousand prejudices and ignorant predilections. We do not yet comprehend that the author is an artist, and that the true rules of art by which he should be tested, are precise and immutable. Hence the singular and fantastic caprices of the popular opinion —its exaggerations of praise or censure—its passion and reaction. These violent fluctuations betray both a public and a criticism utterly unschooled in the elementary principles of literary art, and entitle the humblest author to dispute the censure of the hour, while they ought to render the greatest suspicious of its praise. It is then, in conformity, not with any presumptuous conviction of his own superiority, but with his common experience and common sense, that every author who addresses an English audience in serious earnest, is permitted to feel that his final sentence rests not with the jury before which he is first heard. The literary history of the day consists of a series of judgments set aside. But this uncertainty must more essentially betide every student, however lowly, in the school I have called the intellectual, which must ever be more or less at variance with the popular canons; it is its hard necessity to use and disturb the lazy quietude of vulgar taste, for unless it did so, it could neither elevate nor move. He who resigns the Dutch art for the Italian, must continue through the dark to explore the principles upon which he founds his design—to which he adapts his execution; in hope or in despondence, still faithful to the theory which cares less for the amount of interest created, than for the sources from which the interest is to be drawn—seeking in action the movement of the prouder passions or the subtler springs of conductseeking in repose the colouring of intellectual beauty. The low and the high of art are not very readily comprehended; they depend not upon the worldly degree or the physical condition of the characters delineated; they depend entirely upon the quality of the emotion which the characters are intended to excite; namely, whether of sympathy for something low, or of admiration for something high. There is nothing high in a boor's head, by Teniers—there is nothing low in a boor's head, by Guido. What makes the difference between the two? The absence or presence of the ideal! But every one can judge of the merit of the first, for it is of the familiar school; it requires a connoisseur to see the
merit of the last, for it is of the intellectual. 3 c39
[Power and Genius—Idols of Imagination.] [From The Last of the Barons.]
The father and child seated themselves on the parapet, and saw, below, the gay and numerous vessels that glided over the sparkling river, while the dark walls of Baynard's castle, the adjoining bulwark and battlements of Montfichet, and the tall watch-tower of Warwick's mighty mansion, frowned, in the distance, against the soft blue sky. “There, said Adam quietly, and pointing to the feudal roofs—“there seems to rise power; and yonder (glancing to the river)—yonder seems to flow genius! A century or so hence, the walls shall vanish, but the river shall roll on. Man makes the castle, and founds the power—God forms the river, and creates the genius. And yet, Sybill, there may be streams as broad and stately as yonder Thames, that flow afar in the waste, never seen, never heard by man. What profits the river unmarked? what the genius never to be known?” It was not a common thing with Adam Warner to be thus eloquent. Usually silent and absorbed, it was not his gift to moralise or declaim. His soul must be deeply moved before the profound and buried sentiment within it could escape into words. Sybill pressed her father's hand, and, though her own heart was very heavy, she forced her lips to smile, and her voice to soothe. Adam interrupted her. ‘Child, child, ye women know not what presses darkest and most bitterly on the minds of men. You know not what it is to form out of immaterial things some abstract but glorious object—to worship—to serve it—to sacrifice to it as on an altar, youth, health, hope, life—and suddenly, in old age, to see that the idol was a phantom, a mockery, a shadow laughing us to scorn, because we have sought to clasp it.’ “Oh yes, father, women have known that illusion.’ ‘What! Do they study?' ‘No, father, but they feel !’ “Feel ! I comprehend thee not.’ ‘As man's genius to him, is women's heart to her,' answered Sybill, her dark and deep eyes suffused with tears. “Doth not the heart create—invent? Doth it not dream? Doth it not form its idol out of air? Goeth it not forth into the future, to prophesy to itself? And, sooner or later, in age or youth, doth it not wake itself at last, and see how it hath wasted its all on follies? Yes, father, my heart can answer, when thy genius would complain.'
WILLIAM HARRIS ON A INSW ORTH.
MR. W. HARRIsoN AINsworth (born at Manchester in 1805) has written several novels and romances, partly founded on English history and manners. His Rookwood, 1834, is a very animated narrative, in which the adventures of Turpin the highwayman are graphically related, and some of the vulgar superstitions of the last century coloured with the lights of genius. In the interest and rapidity of his scenes and adventures, Mr Ainsworth evinced a dramatic power and art, but no originality or felicity of humour or character. His second romance, Crichton, 1836, is founded on the marvellous history of the Scottish Cavalier, but is scarcely equal to the first. He has since written Jack Sheppard, a sort of Newgate romance, The Tower of London, Guy Fawkes, Old St Paul's, Windsor Castle, The Lancashire Witches, The Star Chamber, The Flitch of Bacon, and The Spendthrift. There are rich, copious, and brilliant descriptions in some of these works, but their tendency must be reprobated. To portray scenes of low successful villainy, and to pain:#astly and hideous details of human suffering,
so arrogant, egotistic, and clever, that it became the book of the season and the talk of the town. Passages of glowing sentiment and happy description gave evidence of poetic feeling and imagination. In 1828, the young novelist continued his vein of sarcasm in The Voyage of Captain Popanilla, an adaptation of Swift's Gulliver to modern times and circumstances. He then sought out new scenes abroad, travelling over Italy and Greece, residing for a winter in Constantinople, and exploring Syria, Egypt, and Nubia. On his return to England, Mr Disraeli began to mingle in the political contests and excitement caused by the Reform Bill and the advent of the Whigs to power. He was ambitious of a seat in parliament, and made three unsuccessful efforts for this purpose—the two first as an extreme Reformer, and the third in the character of a Conservative. He quarrelled with O'Connell and Joseph Hume, wrote furious letters against all gainsayers, and sent a challenge to O'Connell's son. He then became the Coryphaeus of the party denominated ‘Young England, and professed to look for the