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Kristian Koppig, lying awake, but motionless and with closed eyes, hears in part and, fancying he understands, rejoices with silent intensity. When the doctor is gone he calls Zalli.
I give you a great deal of trouble, eh, Madame John?
"No, no; you are no trouble at all. Had you the yellow fever- ah! then!" She rolled her eyes to signify the superlative character of the tribulations attending yellow fever.
"I had a lady and gentleman once-a Spanish lady and gentleman, just off the ship; both sick at once with the feverdelirious-could not tell their names. Nobody to help me but sometimes Monsieur John! I never had such a time,-never before, never since, as that time. Four days and nights this head touched not a pillow."
And they died!" said Kristian Koppig. "The third night the gentleman went. Poor Señor! 'Sieur John, he did not know the harm,-gave him some coffee and toast! The fourth night it rained and turned cool, and just before day the poor lady
man, ready to shout with exultation.
Ah! no, Monsieur," said Zalli.
The invalid's heart sank like a stone. "Madame John,"-his voice was all in a tremor,-"tell me the truth. Is 'Tite Poulette your own child?"
"Ah-h-h, ha! ha! what foolishness! Of course, she is my child!" And Madame John gave vent to a true Frenchwoman's laugh.
It was too much for the sick man. In the pitiful weakness of his shattered nerves he turned his face into the pillow and wept like a child. Zalli passed into the next room to hide her emotion.
Maman, dear Maman," said 'Tite Poulette, who had overheard nothing, but only saw the tears.
"Ah! my child, my child, my task-my task is too great-too great for me. Let me go now-another time. Go and watch at his bedside."
and tip-toed to the window-that window. The patient, already a man again, gazed at her till she could feel the gaze. He turned his eyes from her a moment to gather resolution. And now, stout heart, farewell; a word or two of friendly parting-nothing
The slender figure at the window turned and came to the bedside.
"I believe I owe my life to you," he said.
She looked down meekly, the color rising in her cheek.
"I must arrange to be moved across the street to-morrow, on a litter."
"Died!" said Koppig.
Zalli dropped her arms listlessly into her face of agonized suspense, gazed upon the lap, and her eyes ran brimful.
"And left an infant!" said the Dutch
pair, undiscovered. The young man lifted the hand to lay it upon his lips, when, with a mild, firm force, it was drawn away, yet still rested in his own upon the bedside, like some weak thing snared, that could only not get free.
Thou wilt not have my love, "Tite Poulette?"
"Thou wilt not, beautiful?"
Cannot ! was all that she could utter, and upon their clasped hands the tears ran down.
She did not stir or speak.
And I must now thank you, sweet nurse, for your care. Sweet nurse! Sweet nurse!"
She shook her head in protestation.
Heaven bless you, 'Tite Poulette ! Her face sank lower.
"God has made you very beautiful, "Tite Poulette!"
She stirred not. He reached, and gently took her little hand, and as he drew her one step nearer, a tear fell from her long lashes. From the next room Zalli, with a
"Thou wrong'st me, 'Tite Poulette. Thou dost not trust me; thou fearest the kiss may loosen the hands. But I tell thee nay. I have struggled hard, even to this hour, against Love, but I yield me now; I yield; I am his unconditioned prisoner forever. God forbid that I ask aught but that you will be my wife."
Still the maiden moved not, looked not up, only rained down tears.
Shall it not be, 'Tite Poulette?" He
No touch-no sight-no sound-wide continents
Them from each other now. Too late!
For swiftness? Can it over weight
The air? Or doth the sun know accidents?
In parting them, hath found no instruments
Can kill it, or their faith abate
In presence in Love's hourly sacraments.
THE LITERARY AND THE ETHICAL QUALITY OF GEORGE ELIOT'S NOVELS.
GEORGE ELIOT is more than a brilliant novelist. She is a great writer. She is more than simply a great writer She is a prime elemental literary power. In literature such, she is scarcely less in ethics. She is a great ethical teacher-it may be not an original, but at least a highly charged derivative, moral, living force. Perhaps even thus much is still too little to have said. For George Eliot seems already securely to belong to the very small number of those choice literary names which we jealously account our greatest. There have been admirable women in literary history whose chief praise justly was the exquisite womanliness of their genius. Mrs. Browning, when we succeed in forgetting her virile affectations, appears an illustrious example. There have been other admirable historic literary women who were strong distinctively as men are strong. Madame de Staël is, perhaps, an example. There is a third class, distinguishable in conception, composed of women whom we should honor, when we thought of them, in instinctively forgetting to remember their sex at all. Of these women we should not, on the one hand, say, They carried the feminine quality to its height; nor yet, on the other, They transcended the limitations of their sex. We should simply say, Here were rare human souls, nobly endowed individuals of the human race. We should at once exalt them to the glorious severity of comparison at large with whatever personages in literary history, male or female, might appear worthy to be reckoned their peers. In this third class, if there be such a class, belongs George Eliot. If there is no such class, then George Eliot stands alone in literary history, for she certainly is such a woman.
There is, therefore, no question remaining to be raised respecting George Eliot's intellectual rank. That point is settled already, as well as a like point ever was settled concerning any author during his lifetime. To determine, however, not the quantity, but the quality, not the degree, but the kind, of her power in letters and in morals, is a problem upon which something, perhaps, may still profitably be said. Indeed, an inquiry, carefully and candidly conducted, into the quality of George Eliot's influence as a novelist, ought, it
seems to me, at this time, alike on literary and on ethical grounds, to enlist the serious attention of a wide circle of readers. This inquiry may properly enough be limited to her influence as a novelist, for the reason that although she has done noteworthy work as a poet, it is through her novels chiefly, or through her poems as novels, that she has hitherto wrought upon the taste and the conscience of her age.
The present inquiry will seek to be strictly impersonal-that is to say, there will be no attempt to import an irrelevant interest into this paper, by any allusions, open or covert, to the circumstances of George Eliot's personal history. books that she has written shall be judged, as far as is possible, with no more influence admitted from the character, alleged or actual, of the writer, than if, instead of being a woman's productions, they were the foundling progeny of Dame Nature herself.
Adam Bede" was the first work of the author that attracted wide public attention. This was published in 1858. Inseparably water-lined into its literary texture was a certain element not literary, well calculated to raise among religious readers of the book two quite different opinions of its quality. One can, in fact, easily imagine that its early fortune in this respect may have been, in some degree, like what afterward befell "Ecce Homo," when that stumbling-block to the theologians was first given to the world. There must, on the one hand, we should say, have been religious readers not a few to welcome "Adam Bede" as they had previously welcomed "The Wide, Wide World," as they subsequently welcomed "The Schönberg-Cotta Family." Such readers would see in it gospel enough,— gospel pure, and sweet, and orthodox,-to fit it for a place in the Sunday school library, or for circulation by the evangelical propaganda. On the other hand, a different class of religious readers must as naturally have thought that they discovered a quite predominant literary and artistic interest in the author's conduct of her story, which separated her, in her own individual sympathy, from the exquisitely represented religious spirit of some of her principal characters. These less credulous
readers would accordingly stand a little in doubt of their author. Freely acknowledging that the sanctities of the personal religious experience were always treated by her with the most decorous respect,-unable to deny that at times this respect passed over into even the most seductively seeming-sympathetic homage and awe, they would have their misgiving nevertheless. They would seem to themselves to perceive that this writer, after all, was mainly intent on what, if they could have anticipated her subsequent diction, they might, perhaps,-applying her favorite. word, have called an "egoistic" aim of her own. She meant to make the "holy secrets of the Christian consciousness subserve, if not an irreverent, at least an inferior and a personal purpose. She would weave them into her design, for help to character and dialogue and plot. They should minister to an artistic, more than to any religious motive. Beyond this, her novel seemed to contain an undisclosed, but discoverable, implication, somewhat discomposing to the simply believing mind, that the author, on her own part, regarded the mystery of the life of God in the human soul from another than the obvious evangelical point of view. To her apparently this was but one element among many of an exceedingly complex human psychology, in which any other element whatever was divine and supernatural in quite the same sense as that.
It is curious, in the light of present knowledge, to glance from one to another among the chief periodicals of that day, and note the various conjectures hazarded by the puzzled, but admiring, reviewers as to the true theological position of the then unknown author of "Scenes of Clerical Life" and "Adam Bede." The "Westminster Review" must, of course, have been in her secret, but that quarterly affected to be as ignorant as its compeers, and after rehearsing opinions that assigned her to different theological parties from the Evangelical to the Broad Church, astutely ventured, for itself, to guess that George Eliot, while no doubt sincerely and deeply religious, was, probably, not the adherent of any one of the recognized creeds, being rather, it believed, of that liberal comprehension in faith which embraced whatever was true in them all.
One thing, however, at least was plain to every reader of discernment. We had here a new writer who was master, abso
lute master, of a style of extraordinary beauty and power. Choice English, limpid phrase, charming simplicity, marvelous answerableness to the shifting mood, whether of thought or of feeling, the finished and assured repose of self-conscious art,art self-conscious but not self-complacent, these traits made up a style fitted in a wonderful degree to be the mirror to the world of a large soul, if, as could hardly fail to be the case, the owner of such a style turned out to have a large soul. Just what might be the inner truth of this writer's private relation to religion was, of course, matter of the purest impertinence to her literary claims. To the zealous religionist indeed it made a great difference whether one who evidently had so much power was going to wield her power for religion or against it. But the candid literary critic had only one possible interest in even entertaining a question like this. It might affect somewhat his estimate of her genius, if he could decide whether her aim in dealing with the problems of religious experience was the aim of an advocate, friendly or hostile, or merely the aim of an artist instead. This I say, was the sole alternative that could tempt the literary critic to undertake a solution of the doubt.
"Adam Bede" itself contained evidence enough to satisfy the justly suspicious but unprejudiced literary mind what was the true state of the facts. To such a mind it was sufficiently clear that the writer of "Adam Bede" had had the penetration to perceive that the phenomena of religious experience in human hearts presented a vein of material for the novelist which no novelist had yet turned to any adequate account. Either as being herself, through the conditions of her own situation in life, exceptionally well qualified to work this vein, or, it might be, as possessing unconsciously a certain Shakespearean capacity of universal knowledge without without universal experience, George Eliot had introduced the religious element into her novel because, apart from its inherent attractions for the moral earnestness that was natural to her, she felt the artist's instinct of its adaptedness to help her produce her effects. It was further clear that she had the genuine artist's conscience to be judicially fair, or else, what served as well, the genuine artist's tact to be effectively faithful in her use of her religious material. Her reproduction of the Christian
religious experience, as far, at least, as respected its forms of outward expression, -and farther, of course, was impossible, wanted nothing of being exquisitely true to the rarest reality. The most mystically minded evangelical Christian might find his finest moods of devotion reflected in the prayers and the discourses and the conversations of Dinah, the lovely Methodist woman preacher, who is the real heroine of "Adam Bede." Nothing, not divinely inspired, in history or in fiction, could well surpass the sweet, the heavenly beauty of Dinah's life. But side by side with this beautiful life, a life wholesomely and not morbidly beautiful, represented as believed by the liver of it to be a life drawn directly from a hidden spring in the heart of Christ, yet so represented in such a way that the writer is not once committed outright as either adhering or not adhering herself to that transcendent belief-side by side with a life like this, nay, in immediate contact with it day after day, without being affected by it, a life how different,-Lisbeth's, an utterly sordid, earth-bound, carnal life, goes on, in the undisturbedly complacent portraiture of the impartial author, who never forgets the artist in the fellow-being to betray the slightest vicarious moral concern that a human soul should thus prove unheedful, and miss to know the day of its heavenly visitation. It is not that this contrast is not true to the occurrences of actual life. It is that no yearning emotion, no Pauline travail of spirit, is elicited from the writer in witnessing the tragedy that she creates. There is, perhaps, manifest a certain tender relenting on her part-a gentle, half-stoical despair that relieves itself with a laugh of Democritus. What it lacks is the mother-anguish of that distinctively Christian sorrow which weeps because it would have saved. In short, with respect to the fortunes of the life beyond life, not Shakespeare himself could be more supremely neutral, not the Epicurean Jove more serenely indifferent, as a creator administering for the beings. of his creation.
common descriptive title of "Scenes of Clerical Life." These pieces seem now, viewed in the retrospect, to bear somewhat the character of studies for her later more serious productions. With greater propriety, perhaps, they might be regarded as short essays in a kind of composition as to which it was more needful to the writer to try the taste of the public than it was to try her own powers. For the first sketch,
The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," exhibits almost as much assured and tranquil sense of mastery, on the part of the author, in mere style of composition and method of development, as is exhibited in "Middlemarch." There is even more repose of style in the earlier than in the later production. Hardly till "Middlemarch "would George Eliot have written, for example, this sentence: "Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?" ["Middlemarch," vol. 1, p. 26, Harper's Ed.] A shrewd question, with pregnant implication-but not quite comfortably expressed. The ambition of high achievement seems to have been a subsequent growth with George Eliot. The trophies of George Eliot who had written, it was, perhaps, each time, that would not let George Eliot that was writing sleep. "Scenes of Clerical Life," are, in fact, so quiet in tone that their quietness comes near being a mannerism. They are intensely realistic pictures of perfectly commonplace life and character. The style of the composition is admirable. It is admirable enough to make these sketches well worth reading for the sake of the style alone. But it is so completely admirable that it scarcely of itself attracts any attention at all. It is only the writer practised enough to know, from experience of his own, how far off from the beginning of effort the end of effort is, in the attainment of such a style, that will bethink himself to notice the exquisite perfection of these pieces as mere composition.
The chief merit, however, of these pieces was not the finish of their style. They possessed the equally unique and perhaps graver merit of being a revelation to most people of the more than dramatic interest of humor and of pathos lying hidden under the common and everyday life that their neighbors are living around them. The traits of shrewd observation and of wise reflection that these "Scenes" exhibited might well, even in that early
Such is the conclusion at which the thoughtful student of "Adam Bede," taking the purely critical literary point of view, might easily arrive. But before "Adam Bede" appeared, its author had furnished to the critic other means for learning her motive and method. She had published in Blackwood's Magazine" a series of sketches afterwards collected under the