Puslapio vaizdai

aim of a translator should be to reproduce the ideas, meaning, and language of the original with the utmost possible fidelity and exactness. Differences of structure and idiom between any two languages will always suffice to prevent a literal word-for-word reproduction, and the extent of the deviation authorized by this has to be left to the taste and discretion of the translator; but the fundamental rule of good translation is as we have stated it, and applies with especial force to the work of so supreme a literary artist as Gautier. Tested by this rule, we regret to say that both the translations of "Captain Fracasse" are not only defective, but inexcusably so. Each translator, in her different way, has seemed to think that she could improve Gautier's work, and has subjected it to a process decidedly worse than "that light editorial hacking and hewing to right and left " which Carlyle resented so deeply when it was inflicted upon his own manuscript by Jeffrey. Miss Ripley, indeed, frankly confesses in a prefatory note that certain considerations seemed to furnish "justification for carrying the translator's work further than mere verbal expressions"; and though Mrs. Beam says nothing on the point-thereby implying, we think, that her version has been prepared on the customary plan-she has felt no more hesitation than her rival in introducing “some minor changes" of her own.

There are certain features of "Le Capitaine Fracasse," it may be candidly said, which go far to explain if not to justify certain of the omissions which Miss Ripley has ventured upon. The manners, the morals, and the language of the age of Louis XIII. were much freer than those of our own time, even in France; and Gautier was not the artist to soften this feature in any picture of the time that he might undertake to paint. On the contrary, he has depended upon it largely for that "local color" which is indispensable to the vraisemblance of an historical novel; and, besides the laxity of tone which pervades the whole, has introduced a series of episodes designed especially to illustrate that contempt for conventional restraints which characterizes the period he has attempted to depict. All these episodes, without exception, Miss Ripley has remorselessly cut out, and has thereby mutilated the story irretrievably as a work of art. We say "mutilated," because, aside from the danger of disturbing the light and shade of a picture as the artist has conceived it, these "playhouse manners and morals," as Mr. James calls them, form the indispensable background to the character of the pure and refined Isabelle and the idyllic love between her and Captain Fracasse which constitute the great charm of the book. We are not to be understood as maintaining that such episodes are unobjectionable; but, the time to consider them is when deciding whether the story is one which deserves to be introduced to a new circle of readers. If it be decided that, in spite of its faults, it deserves to be so introduced, then there can be no doubt that, in the case of such an author as Gautier, at least it should be presented as one entire and perfect chrysolite."

Mrs. Beam's delinquencies are of a different character, though their effect upon the story is hardly less injurious. She has not allowed herself to be intimidaced by the features of which we have spoken, and she records the "episodes" that have disappeared entirely from Miss Ripley's text with unshrinking literalness and precision; but of the descriptive portions of Gautier's work she has presented little more than a summary or abstract. Miss Ripley sins in this respect also, but to nothing like the extent that Mrs. Beam has done. She has endeavored to preserve some, at least, of the original outlines, while Mrs. Beam has simply picked out phrases and sentences here and there, and constructed a series of pictures to please herself. This would be a comparatively venial fault in many cases, but Gautier's highest power as an artist is exhibited in the opulence and splendor of his pictorial effects; and in "Le Capitaine Fracasse" the copious detailsminute and leisurely, but never tedious-display in its most striking aspect his fertility of invention. To quote Mr. James again: "His real imaginative power is shown in his masterly evocation of localities, and in the thick-coming fancies that minister to his inexhaustible conception of that pictorial 'setting' of human life which interested him so much more than human life itself.”

In conclusion, we may say that Miss Ripley's version is the more spirited and vivacious-more skillful in its suggestion of Gautier's light and sparkling style; while Mrs. Beam's gives a more trustworthy idea of the character and contents of the story. But it will be necessary to read both in order to get even a tolerably exact notion of the original work, and a real translation yet remains to be made.

ALMOST at the beginning of English literature stands Chaucer, and, of course, the biographer who undertakes to deal with him has a much more difficult task than he whose subject stands in the full light of more recent and better recorded times. Bearing this in mind, it must be admitted, we think, that Professor Ward's little book is a most praiseworthy achievement.* All that is definitely known, or even plausibly conjectured, about Chaucer's life could be adequately stated within the compass of twenty lines, and to make a biography of him in the ordinary sense of the term would of course be impossible; yet those who study his works attentively, and with a proper knowledge of the times and circumstances in which they were produced, can obtain a clear and probably accurate conception of the character and personality which lie behind them.

To enable the reader to approach these works with a proper equipment of the knowledge necessary to interpret them, and to awaken his attention to the personal revelations and implications of the works themselves, is the task which Professor Ward has

* English Men of Letters. Edited by John Morley. Chaucer, by Adolphus William Ward. New York: Harper & Brothers. 12mo, pp. 199.

set before himself, and which he has fulfilled with a gratifying degree of success. Nearly a third of his little volume is devoted to a consideration of Chaucer's times, a clear understanding of which is absolutely essential to a just appreciation of Chaucer's work in literature. Of every man it is true in a general way, but of Chaucer it may be said in a peculiar sense, that he was the creature of his period; and, while he himself furnishes the most valuable and conclusive evidence of what that period was, the evidence must be fully sifted and classified before its significance can be wholly grasped. Speaking of this study of Chaucer in intimate connection with his times, Professor Ward says:

The value of such evidence as the mind of a great poet speaking in his works furnishes for a knowledge of the times to which he belongs is inestimable; for it shows

cal fact and conjecture which the laborious researches of students and scholars have disinterred from the Royal Wardrobe Book, the Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, the Customs Rolls, and such like public records, and from the writings of his contemporaries or immediate successors. In it also he points out the conclusions which may be drawn from the internal evidence of the poet's own works; and as an indispensable preliminary to this considers fully the questions involved in the genuineness or spuriousness of the various works which have been attributed to Chaucer. All the light which his indisputably genuine works can be made to throw upon the life and character of the poet is here studiously collected; and then in another brief chapter the author discusses the "Characteristics of Chaucer and his Poe

try." The criticism in this last-named chapter is to us what has survived, as well as what was doomed to our mind the most helpful and satisfactory to which decay, in the life of the nation with which that mind was Chaucer has been subjected, and it is entirely indein sensitive sympathy. And it therefore seemed not inap- pendent of the customary dicta. Chaucer is usually propriate to approach, in the first instance, from this praised as a narrative poet and as a painter of napoint of view, the subject of this biographical essay- ture, and in neither of these departments, as it seems Chaucer," the poet of the dawn"; for in him there are to us, is he entitled to the highest rank. Professor many things significant of the age of transition in which Ward praises him more discriminatingly for his vihe lived; in him the mixture of Frenchman and Eng-vacity and humor, for his gayety and brightness, and, lishman is still in a sense incomplete, as that of their language is in the diction of his poems. His gayety of heart is hardly English; nor is his willing (though, to be sure, not invariably unquestioning) acceptance of forms into the inner meaning of which he does not greatly vex his soul by entering; nor his airy way of ridiculing what he has no intention of helping to overthrow; nor his light unconcern in the question whether he is, or is not, an immoral writer. Or, at least, in all of these things ences and conflicts unknown to and unforeseen by him may be safely said to have ultimately made characteristic of Englishmen. But he is English in his freedom and

he has no share in qualities and tendencies, which influ

frankness of spirit; in his manliness of mind; in his

preference for the good in things as they are to the good in things as they might be; in his loyalty, his piety, his truthfulness. Of the great movement which was to mold the national character for at least a long series of generations he displays no serious foreknowledge; and of the elements already preparing to affect the course of that movement he shows a very incomplete consciousness.

But, of the health and strength which, after struggles many and various, made that movement possible and made it victorious, he, more than any of his contemporaries, is the living type and the speaking witness. Thus, like the times to which he belongs, he stands half in and half out of the middle ages, half in and half out of a phase of our national life which we can never hope to understand more than partially and imperfectly. And it is this, taken together with the fact that he is the first English poet to read whom is to enjoy him, and that he garnished not only our language but our literature with blossoms still adorning them in vernal freshness, which makes Chaucer's figure so unique a one in the gallery of our great English writers, and gives to his works an interest so inexhaustible for the historical as well as for the literary student.

The most valuable chapter, of course, is that on "Chaucer's Life and Works," which occupies more than half the volume. In it Professor Ward has gathered and linked together all those bits of biographi

above all, for his dramatic power in the portraiture of character. On this latter point Professor Ward has a passage which we can not forbear quoting:

is the first great observer of it among modern European He is the first great painter of character, because he dwelt upon again, after the illustrations of it which have writers. His power of comic observation need not be been incidentally furnished in these pages. More especially with regard to the manners and ways of women, which often, while seeming so natural to women themselves, appear so odd to male observers, Chaucer's eye

was ever on the alert. But his works likewise contain

passages displaying a penetrating insight into the minds of men, as well as a keen eye for their manners, together with a power of generalizing, which, when kept within mankind, so admirable to us in our great essayists, from due bounds, lies at the root of the wise knowledge of Bacon to Addison, and his modern successors. . . .

It was by virtue of his power of observing and drawpredecessor of two several growths in our literature, in ing character, above all, that Chaucer became the true both of which characterization forms a most important element-it might, perhaps, be truly said, the element which surpasses all others in importance. From this point of view the dramatic poets of the Elizabethan age remain unequaled by any other school or group of dramatists, and the English novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the representatives of any other development of prose-fiction. In the art of construction, in the invention and the arrangement of incident, these others; in the creation of character they are, on the dramatists and novelists may have been left behind by whole, without rivals in their respective branches of literature. To the earlier, at least, of these growths, Chaucer may be said to have pointed the way. His personages-more especially, of course, those who are assembled together in the prologue to the " Canterbury Tales"-are not mere phantasms of the brain, or even mere actual possibilities, but real human beings, and types true to the likeness of whole classes of men and women, or to the mold in which all human nature is

cast. This is, upon the whole, the most wonderful, as it is perhaps the most generally recognized, of Chaucer's gifts. It would not of itself have sufficed to make him a great dramatist, had the drama stood ready for him as a

literary form into which to pour the inspirations of his bethans. But to it were added in him that perception of a strong dramatic situation and that power of finding the right words for it which have determined the success of many plays, and the absence of which materially detracts from the completeness of the effect of others, high as their merit may be in other respects.

genius, as it afterward stood ready for our great Eliza

Provided with Professor Ward's monograph and with Mr. Arthur Gilman's Riverside edition of the poet's works, reviewed in a recent number of the "Journal," the reader will find himself better equipped for an intelligent appreciation and enjoyment of Chaucer's poetry than any previous genera

tion of students has been.

WHOEVER has fallen under the malign influence of "that worst of all skepticisms, a disbelief in human goodness," should read that biography of "Sister Dora" which, it is not surprising to hear, has made so profound an impression upon the English reading public.* It has been finely said by one who knew her well that the life of Sister Dora exemplified "the sublime possibilities of Christianity"; but while her peculiarly vivid and vital faith no doubt sustained her through many an arduous and discouraging experience, yet it must be said that her career, rightly considered, can not fail also to exalt our estimate of that poor human nature which has been so much denounced and decried. For, if Sister Dora was distinctively a product of Christianity, she was certainly a unique and unprecedented product. Hers was no pious asceticism or exaltation of mystic emotion, but a most wholesome and human personality; and her profound belief in the efficacy of good works would have shocked and grieved the typical theologian of the old school.

Sister Dora was not a member of one of the Roman Catholic orders, as might naturally be inferred from her title. The daughter of a clergyman of the Church of England, she was herself a zealous member of that Church; and the title by which she is likely to become so widely known was derived from her temporary connection with the Sisterhood of the Good Samaritans, a secular community of voluntary associates who occupied themselves with nursing and other "works of mercy" in different parts of the United Kingdom. At the age of twenty-nine she left her comfortable home, contrary to her father's wishes, to teach a poor parish school in a remote village; at the age of thirty-two she joined the Sisterhood, and the remainder of her most laborious life was devoted unreservedly to those "works of mercy" which the Sisterhood had marked out for

* Sister Dora. A Biography. By Margaret Lonsdale. With a Portrait. From the sixth English edition. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 16m0, pp. 290.

themselves. She did this not because of any exaltation of pious fervor, for at the time the momentous step was decided upon she was in the toils of religious doubt; nor because of "blighted affections" or disgust with the world, for the pride of life and the pleasures of the senses were always strong within her; nor from the desire for remunerative employment, for her home was secure, and after her father's death she would possess an independent fortune. Endowed with personal beauty which could not have failed to secure her a marked position in any society; with talents which would have commanded success in almost any department of intellectual effort; with the refined tastes and instincts of a carefully nurtured

and mentally cultivated lady; with an exceptionally and with ample opportunities for enjoying them if keen appetite for the delights of life and society; she had chosen; possessed of every possible temptation and inducement to the customary life of selfish pleasure and occupation, she deliberately turned from them all in the heyday of her health and beauty, and devoted herself to that hospital-nursing which, while it involves much noble and skillful work, involves also the performance of menial offices from which the very dregs of society turn with disgust. Why did she do this? Her motive was simply and solely the desire "to do good to others "; and this object she pursued with an energy, an eagerness, an enthusiastic devotion which far surpassed in ardor even that selfish greed which is peculiarly characteristic of the age, and which her whole life rebukes and puts to shame. Money itself," says her biographer, "was valuable to her only that she might spend it on others."

[ocr errors]

It is not our intention to summarize the story which Miss Lonsdale has told so well-with such straightforward frankness and simplicity of style. It would be hopeless to attempt to improve upon the manner of its telling; and no one, we imagine, will think the story too long in its present shape. On the contrary, in these days of voluminous "memoirs," it is difficult to avoid the feeling that less than adequate justice has been done to a most fruitful subject. This, however, is to make the mistake of measuring such work by quantity instead of quality, and a closer consideration will suffice to show that, in the case of Sister Dora, the life and the record of it are singularly harmonious with each other. And we are confident of receiving the heart-felt thanks of all readers who shall follow our recommendation to read the little book for themselves.

THE Contempt for politics and politicians which has found expression in nearly every other department of our literature was sure, sooner or later, to find its way into fiction, and it is rather surprising than otherwise that Democracy "*should be the first essay in a subject which, if not fruitful, was sure to enlist a certain amount of popular sympathy.

* Democracy. An American Novel. Leisure Hour Series. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 16mo, pp. 374.

The scene of this new "American novel" is laid in Washington, and the author has evidently enjoyed exceptional opportunities for getting behind the scenes as well as before the footlights. Its hero is a Senator, compounded of the worst characteristics of several well-known Senators living and dead; and, while intensely disgusted with the entire "dance of Democracy" as exhibited at the seat of government, it is against the Senate that the author appears to feel the bitterest animosity. Here is a characteristic passage: "A certain secret jealousy of the British Minister is always lurking in the breast of every American Senator, if he is truly democratic; for democracy, rightly understood, is the government of the people, by the people, for the benefit of Senators, and there is always a danger that the British Minister may not understand this political principle as he should." This comes early in the story; at a later stage the author is too angry to be epigrammatic, and vents her contempt.in this style: "Every one remarked how much he [Ratcliffe, the hero of the story] was improved since entering the Cabinet. He had dropped his senatorial manner. His clothes were no longer congressional, but those of a respectable man, neat and decent. His shirts no longer protruded in the wrong places, nor were his shirt-collars frayed or soiled. His hair did not stray over his eyes, ears, and coat like that of a Scotch terrier, but had got itself cut. Having overheard Mrs. Lee express on one occasion her opinion of people who did not take a cold bath every morning, he had thought it best to adopt this reform, although he would not have had it generally known, for it savored of caste. He made an effort not to be dictatorial, and to forget that he had been the Prairie Giant, the bully of the Senate. In short, what with Mrs. Lee's influence and what with his emancipation from the Senate-chamber with its code of bad man

ners and worse morals, Mr. Ratcliffe was fast becoming a respectable member of society whom a man who had never been in prison or in politics might safely acknowledge as a friend.”

This passage, whose malice is so great as to defeat its own object, will serve to explain if not to justify our estimate of the book. Its cleverness can not be denied is very remarkable, in fact; but more than cleverness will hardly be conceded to it. The satire is pungent, at times poignant, but after all the result is vituperation rather than delineation-it is as if little Miss Mowcher had set herself to portray the "nobility and gentry" with whose superficial foibles she was so volubly familiar. Moreover, in spite of its aristocratic air of cosmopolitan ease and man-of-the-world experience, there is more than a suspicion of callowness about it-of that state of mind which it has become fashionable to characterize as "provincial." The author evidently supposes that the "Court" at Washington is the only Court where dullness, and vapid routine, and vulgar display have been the rule; thus revealing not only a lack of opportunity for personal comparisons, but a lack of acquaintance with historical facts which Saint-Simon, and De Tocqueville, and Taine, and

Madame de Rémusat have rendered familiar to all the world.

Such books may afford amusement of an acrid sort-and "Democracy" is extremely amusing-but it is doubtful if their reformatory value is any greater than that of other methods which are mercilessly ridiculed in it.

PREPARED as an introduction to the new sub

scription edition of Irving's works, Mr. Charles Dudley Warner's essay on Washington Irving has been combined with Mr. Bryant's well-known oration, and with a chapter of reminiscences by the late Mr. G. P. Putnam, and issued in a separate volume for the benefit of those who are already provided with satisfactory editions of Irving.* Regarded as a general introduction to the Irving literature, Mr. Warner's essay appears to better advantage than when regarded as an independent essay or study. It brings together in convenient form the well-known facts of Irving's career; it arranges them in an animated and pleasing narrative; and it comments upon the successive productions of Irving's genius in a manner which will prove helpful to the reader who comes to them unprepared by previous reading; but it contributes nothing fresh to our knowledge of Irving, in the way either of biographical fact or of critical interpretation. A fair summary of its qualities will be given when we say that as biography it is very good indeed; and that as criticism it is robustly sensible and appreciative, but not to our sense delicately discriminating. Mr. Bryant's "Discourse on the Life, Character, and Genius of Washington Irving," delivered before the New York Historical Society in 1860, a few months after Irving's lamented death, is a well-known performance, and ranks among the happiest efforts of its author. It is admirable both as oratory and as criticism, and contains the germs of much that Mr. Warner has worked out with more elaboration. Mr. Putnam's "Recollections of Irving" are somewhat meager and tenuous, but are interesting as far as they go, and add some intimate domestic touches to the portrait of the gentle author. The book, as a whole, is one which readers of Irving's works will be glad to have at hand.

It is in no small degree creditable to exacting labors as a "Washington correspondent," "Gath" and to journalism that, in the midst of his he has found the time and the inclination to produce a series of sketches so imaginative, so romantic, so genial in sentiment, and so picturesque in description as the "Tales of the Chesapeake." Most of these tales, as we gather from the brief prefatory note, have previously appeared in different forms;

*Studies of Irving. By Charles Dudley Warner, William Cullen Bryant, and George Palmer Putnam. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 8vo, pp. 159.

Tales of the Chesapeake. By George Alfred Townsend ("Gath"). With Portrait. New York: American News Company. 16m0, pp. 285.

[ocr errors]

but for most readers probably, as for ourselves, they will possess the charm of novelty, in addition to that more lasting charm which comes from their fine and distinct literary flavor. Of the twenty-seven pieces which the little book contains, fourteen, including the highly poetic and graceful "Introduction," are in verse-the rest being in prose, which itself not seldom " 'werges on the poetical," as Mr. Wegg would say. Nearly all, both in prose and verse, are suffused with that local color which constitutes a principal charm of such writing, and some possess the genuine legendary flavor. The Eastern Shore of Maryland would soon become classic ground under such treatment; and even Washington takes on a new and more winning aspect when contemplated from the view-point of "Crutch, the Page." To everything that he touches, Mr. Townsend imparts a certain imaginative heightening; and those who are not convinced by his "Introduction" that he is a genuine poet should turn to his closing verses on "Old St. Mary's." The charm of this latter piece is indescribably romantic, caressing, and tender, as witness the following stanza:

A fruity smell is in the schoolhouse lane;

The clover bees are sick with evening heats;
A few old houses from the window-pane
Fling back the flame of sunset, and there beats
The throb of oars from basking oyster fleets,
And clangorous music of the oyster-tongs
Plunged down in deep bivalvulous retreats,

And sound of seine drawn home with negro songs.

... In the preface to his “Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer,"* Mr. Peter H. Burnett, the author, says: "I was born a pioneer, as Nashville at the date of my birth was but a small village, and Tennessee a border-State, but thinly populated. I have been a pioneer most of my life; and whenever, since my arrival in California, I have seen a party of immigrants with their ox-teams and white-sheeted wagons, I have been excited, have felt younger, and was for the moment anxious to make another trip. If the theory of Symmes had been proven by time to be true, and had a fine and accessible country been discovered at the north or south pole before I attained the age of sixty, I should have been strongly tempted to organize a

[blocks in formation]

party of emigrants for that distant region." This passage is a fairly accurate summary both of the author's character and of the reminiscences of his long and adventurous life. Born on the borders when the "border" was still east of the Mississippi, Mr. Burnett led the advancing wave of population first to Missouri, then by ox-cart across the continent to Oregon, where he was one of the earliest settlers, and then to California when the discovery of gold summoned thither all such bold and adventurous spirits; and the author is not mistaken in thinking that the record of his own life throws valuable light upon the history of the Western and Pacific States. The "Recollections" are somewhat rambling and discursive in subject and style, but in general they are highly readable. The author is particularly good at telling a story, and his narrative of the Donner Lake tragedy contains details which we have not seen in any previous version.

... The Napoleon “boom,” to borrow a phrase from the political vocabulary, is not likely to suggest a more interesting revival than that of the "Memoirs of Napoleon, his Court and Family," * by the Duchess d'Abrantes, which have been long out of print and are practically unknown to the present generation of readers. The Duchess enjoyed very exceptional opportunities for such work as she undertook, and though her "Memoirs" seldom rise above the level of chit-chat and gossip, yet they deal with such a throng of illustrious personages, and with such momentous events, that their interest and value are scarcely impaired by the lack of literary skill on the part of the author. It is particularly interesting to compare them on certain points with the recently published “Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat." The Duchess retained to the last those generous illusions regarding Napoleon which were dissipated after a time by Madame de Rémusat's more piercing vision; and she presents the other side-the rose-color aspect-of those traits and occurrences which Madame de Rémusat criticises with such asperity. Read together, the two versions furnish the needful correc tion to each other, and enhance each other's interest: the masculine vigor and conciseness of Madame de Rémusat being admirably complemented by Madame Junot's copious and picturesque embroidery.

* Memoirs of Napoleon, his Court and Family. By the Duchess d'Abrantes (Madame Junot). In Two Vol New York: D. Appleton & Co. 12m0, pp. 588,



[ocr errors]


LH 8170

« AnkstesnisTęsti »