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A NOVELIST OF THE DAY.
"THE style is the man"; and there is a
sense in which the remark has more truth about it than may generally be suspected. There is no need to dwell here on the deeper idiosyncrasies of character which an analysis of the mode of expression adopted by distinguished or undistinguished authors may reveal. The meaning now attached to the famous phrase is purely personal, and the proposition now laid down is that one may trace, very much more frequently than is perhaps generally supposed, a strong likeness between books and their authors -that the ring of the printed sentence often echoes in the writer's voice; that his or her casual conversation reflects the published periods, whether long or short; that the letter-press is an extension of the presence; and that as the poet, humorist, or historian is on paper, so is he for the most part in society. It is sometimes said that the men who are the wittiest in the study are the dullest at the dinner-table; and one is reminded that Thackeray, unless he found himself in congenial company, was very apt to preserve a moody and melancholy silence. Again, one has been told the ideas and jokes of authors represent the greater part of their literary capital; how, then, can it be expected that they should shower upon a miscellaneous assemblage those jewels of thought and gems of wit which have their market value in Fleet Street and Paternoster Row? Hence the notion exists that the writer of the most laughter-moving of contemporary volumes should be severely reserved in public; and that in all cases there is a great gulf fixed between the life and atmosphere, so far as the personality of the author is concerned, of the printed page and that with which he is identified in the actual world of fact. It may be very much doubted whether this view is adequately supported by experience. I have yet to learn that the accomplished wag who enlivened the public with his "Happy Thoughts" strictly insists upon giving his private friends the benefit of his serious meditations. I should be disposed to say that the brilliancy and knowledge which are to be found in the writings of the most remarkable journalist of the day are adequately reflected in his ordinary talk, and that the felicitous choice of words which characterizes his pen is in the same degree the quality of his lips. I should be surprised to hear that the great philosopher of our time who has applied the doctrine of evolution to the phenomena of human progress was not, when standing on the drawing-room hearthrug, or strolling on a well-shaven lawn, the same
infallible oracle that he is in his sociological writ
ings. I have never yet been told that Dickens lacked, at Gad's Hill or in London, or wherever else he happened to be, the animal spirits which suffuse every page of his writings; or that Charles Lever, across the walnuts and the wine, was not precisely the man in whom one would expect to recognize the creator of Charles O'Malley and Harry Lorrequer. I have never yet found Professor J. S. Blackie less exuberant in his conversation than in his printed prelections on modern Greek, modern education generally, and in his "Lays of the Highlands and Islands." It seems to me that the gifted author of "Piccadilly" talks and acts in private life very much as one would expect the profound believer in the virtues of episcopacy, which he is known to be, to act and talk.
This list of such instances might be materially lengthened from the resources of even a limited experience, but it will be enough to crown it with one crucial illustration. If the identity between the Mr. Anthony Trollope of private life and the Mr. Anthony Trollope who has enriched English literature with novels that will yet rank as nineteenth-century classics is not immediately perceived, it can only be because the observer is destitute of the faculty of perception. "The style is the man"; the popular and successful author is the straightforward, unreserved friend; the courageous, candid, plainspeaking companion. As it is with the dialogue of Mr. Trollope's literary heroes and heroines, so is it with the conversation of Mr. Trollope himself. In each there is the same definiteness and directness; the same Anglo-Saxon simplicity which can only not be called studied, because in all things it is Mr. Trollope's characteristic to be spontaneous. As a writer-I do not of course speak of the elaboration of his plots-Mr. Trollope is precisely what he is as a talker, and what he is, or used to be, as a rider across country. He sees the exact place at which he wants to arrive. He makes for it; and he determines to reach it as directly as possible. There may be obstacles, but he surmounts them. Sometimes, indeed, they prove for the moment serious impediments. Perhaps they actually place him hors de combat, like a post and rails that can not be negotiated, or a ditch of impracticable dimensions. It does not matter. He picks himself up, pulls himself together, and presses on as before. The sympathy which is the invariable accompaniment of a broad and manly imagination, Mr. Trollope has in abundance. But an opinion rapidly crystallizes
with him into a conviction, and a conviction is, in his estimation, a thing for which to live or die. He does not exclude from his consideration all that conflicts with this view, but he has for it only a theoretical toleration. One is almost reminded in his case of the nearly instantaneous luxuriance displayed in the growth of tropical vegetation-a phenomenon, by the by, which was never described better than by Mr. Trollope himself in his book on the "West Indies and the Spanish Main." The impression seems hardly to have been formed when it blossoms forth into an article of faith. The climate may be uncongenial to the development—so much the worse for the climate; the facts may be stubbornly opposed to it; but is man, then, a slave, that he should bow to facts?
One could scarcely have a better illustration of this generous and most chivalrous tendency on the part of Mr. Trollope, as it may be witnessed in his writings, than is to be seen in his recently published little work on Thackeray. The view here taken of Thackeray's character is, if I may be pardoned for saying so, the conventional one-that the immortal author of "Vanity Fair" had nothing in the veins of his moral nature but the pure, unadulterated milk of human kindness; that he was superior to petty animosities and literary jealousies; that he had nothing about him which was not great and almost godlike; that it is as preposterously unrighteous to hint at the presence of the cynic in his writings as to suppose that envy, malice, or any other form of uncharitableness has a home in the Elysian Fields. This is hero-worship with a vengeance. It is as unreasonable as the cloying panegyric with which the late James Hannay smeared the memory of his patron, though it has the redeeming merit of being absolutely disinterested. But Mr. Trollope fails to perceive that Thackeray, as he paints him, is an impossible personage, a human creature infinitely too good for human nature's daily food. Of course there is the sham cynic and the real one, and Thackeray's cynicism was not of that very cheap and shallow order which can see nothing but material for laughter in the softer and more sentimental aspects of human nature. What is or what ought to be meant by cynicism is a refusal, based upon experience and observation, to explain all human actions by reference to the same guileless and disinterested motives as are alone recognized in the philosophy of gush. In this sense Thackeray was a consummate cynic; and those have studied his works to small purpose who have not carried away from them more than enough of knowledge to be aware of the fact. Mr. Trollope knows life, and has observed it well. If he were to look upon such a portrait as that which he himself has painted of
Thackeray executed by another hand, and perhaps of a different original, he would probably criticise it as being too angelically perfect; but on such a matter as this what is the use of argument?
In this temper may be seen evidence of the intensity of enthusiasm with which Mr. Trollope's nature is charged. Never certainly was there an enthusiast who had about him so little that is dreamy and so much that is absolutely impracticable. The ordinary enthusiast meditates largely, perpetually cultivates a fine sort of inspired frenzy, and does nothing. He builds castles in the air, and he never thinks of inhabiting them. He piles imaginary towers upon fictitious foundations, and the whole fabric topples over because the lessons of experience have been disregarded by the architect. Now, Mr. Trollope, enthusiast and castle-builder though he is and has always been, is practical as well. He may have his phantasies and chimeras and crotchets and hobbies; yet for all this the world in which he lives is no visionary one, but one in which close attention to facts and details is a paramount necessity. Enthusiasm-it may be impetuosity—is only one of the accidental modes of development assumed by Mr. Trollope's imagination. It has become a species of necessary condition of his thought; and just as great athletes find it desirable frequently to exercise their muscles and sinews by wielding dumb-bells, brandishing Indian clubs, and other feats of strength, so does Mr. Trollope keep his mental elasticity fresh and vigorous by tilting against windmills and by defending paradoxes. This is part of the charm of the man, or at least of the secret of his charm. As with his writings, so with his social converse. In Mr. Trollope's nature extremes may be said to balance extremes. The most enthusiastic of men, he is of all men also the most practical. The qualities which he has consistently displayed in the exercise of his art as novelist are those which, applied to any other department of intellectual industry, would have secured him success, and probably eminence. His energy has been untiring; his productive powers have neither flagged nor paused. Mr. Trollope was not an inexperienced author long before he was an author who found authorship a lucrative concern. He had written two or three novels, chiefly illustrative of Irish life; he had written some extremely able letters on the state of Ireland in the Examiner," then conducted by his friend, the late John Forster: he had done all this, and he had produced one or two unacted plays into the bargain, before he saw his way clear to making an income by his pen. At an age when many men are thinking of relaxing their toils, or are at least anticipating as not far
distant the day when they may be able to meditate retirement, Mr. Anthony Trollope found his career as a prosperous and indefatigable man of letters really at its commencement. Unless I am mistaken, the golden harvest which The Warden" yielded was not ingathered till its author had not merely reached, but passed, Thackeray's age of wisdom, and was the wrong side of the Rubicon of "forty year."
The publication of this novel was the first great era in Anthony Trollope's literary life. It placed a career manifestly within his reach; it gave him a name; it opened up to him large opportunities of future and most remunerative toil. The chief historical and general interest of the book arises from the fact that it was the earliest venture made by Mr. Trollope in that department of socio-ecclesiastical fiction which he may be said to have created for his own special delectation and profit. It is natural to ask what were the circumstances which first led Mr. Trollope to seek the materials of his fictions in the doings of ecclesiastical circles, and what were the special opportunities of observing these which he had enjoyed. The son of a barrister, his mother being an authoress of great power and sprightliness, Anthony Trollope was at two public schools -Winchester first and Harrow afterward. He did not go to Oxford; and before he was twenty got an appointment in the Post-Office. He kept up his classics; and he did more than this, he perpetually cultivated his faculties of observation. He was always recording the experiences of his every-day life on the tablets of his memory, always planning something, always devising situations, and mentally inquiring what action on the part of individuals, of a certain variety of temperament, placed in certain circumstances, would follow a particular set of motives. This is the true education of the brain, and indeed of the pen, of the novelist, or of any artist who determines to make mankind his theme. Ever observant, ever vigilant, Mr. Trollope gradually acquired a fund of knowledge, gathered first-hand, and relating to a hundred different phases of existence, which was certain, sooner or later, to fructify. It was natural that accident should for the most part decide the line in which he was to make his début as a successful novelist. Accident did decide it, and an accident of a character which shows the enthusiastic quality of his mind. Rather less than twenty-five years ago there appeared in the "Times" a correspondence raising the issue whether a beneficed clergyman was morally justified in being a systematic absentee from the congregation for whose spiritual welfare he was responsible. The unfortunate ecclesiastic who had placed himself in this position was vehemently attacked. He or his friends advanced on his behalf the
best defense possible; and so, after an empty bout of controversy, the matter ended. But with Mr. Anthony Trollope it had only just begun. Perhaps no man has, in his broad views of life, less of the casuist about him; in minor matters few have the same fondness for the arguing of nicely casuistical questions. Here was a casus conscientiæ after his own heart. It set him thinking. His quick imagination and social experience opened up a vista of characters and situations, and "The Warden" was the result.
But what is to be said of the originals of the characters of The Warden "-Bishop Proudie, Mrs. Proudie, and the rest of them? Probably Mr. Trollope might tell us that, after all, in clerical nature, masculine or feminine, there is a great deal of human nature; that, though the outer garb of humanity may vary much, its inward heart varies astonishingly little; that prelates with aprons, gaiters, shovel-hats, and other clerical trappings, are amenable to the same laws and considerations as any other middle-aged gentlemen clad in black, or in whatever other hue may be affected. Be this as it may, it is quite certain that Mr. Trollope took to writing novels of clerical life with no special knowledge of clerical character; and that he certainly knew not a tithe of what was known by George Eliot of the gossip and scandals of cathedral precincts when he made Barchester Towers and all their chief personages thoroughly familiar to the English public. In the town of Barchester one will in vain search for any evidence of identity with Winchester. Here and there a touch of Salisbury may be detected, but for the most part it is the general idea of a cathedral-town that is depicted, and not any particular city. Knowledge of the world, based upon great and varied experience, increased by study, fortified and enlarged by culture-these are the data out of which Mr. Trollope has manufactured what it is only natural to consider his extraordinary knowledge of, and insight into, clerical life. And is this not, it may be asked, the way in which genius usually works? The facts genius itself can not create; but the facts once given are capable of any number of combinations; and facts, when they are placed in juxtaposition, have a tendency to create new facts.
For eighteen years Mr. Trollope lived in Ireland, seeing all that there was to be seen-reading, writing, hunting, dining. Novel succeeded novel, and each was a success. The opportunities of his official life he did not, indeed, entirely refuse to utilize. His innate sense of justice, and of practical expediency, was scandalized by the proposal to institute the system of competitive promotion in the Civil Service; and "The Three Clerks" was the result. But "The Three
Clerks " is almost the only purely departmental fiction, if the phrase be permissible, which Mr. Trollope has ever written. He has given us touches of official life in all his novels, just as he has in most of club life, political life, hunting life, to say nothing of clerical life. But he likes an extended area; he enjoys the sensation of a free and unobstructed atmosphere. Hence it is that his best novels are novels of character rather than of incident. Throughout all of them there runs a central thread of unity, and this unity is to be found in the presence and development of a single character. Even in "Orley Farm," which, regarded as a story, is probably the best of his works, there can not be said to be any episode which is not subordinated to the character of the heroine, and which is not directly designed to illustrate the temptations that befall her. When Mr. Trollope has hit upon such a leading idea as this, he exemplifies and enforces it with whatever suggests itself as suitable in the treasure-house of diversified knowledge and experience which he has assimilated. And it is his peculiar power to be able to run this experience, so to speak, into any mold that the occasion suggests. To say that he can do this is the same thing as to say that he has acquired a consum
mate mastery of his art. That, indeed, is precisely what Mr. Trollope has done. Practice, skill, literary ability, would not have enabled him to do all that he has done. It was necessary that these should be informed and quickened, as in Mr. Trollope's case they have been, by that enthusiasm which is itself a certain mood of genius-an enthusiasm intimately allied, in the case of Anthony Trollope, with the spirit of honor, loyalty, and integrity. Had he been less chivalrous, he might, from a purely worldly point of view, have been even more successful. He has had, and he has never abandoned, his views of the uses and objects of fiction; and he has endeavored consistently to act up to them, writing nothing which shame could ever prompt him to blot, and nothing which has not a practical bearing upon human life. So industriously and so successfully has he done this, that he has won, in a quarter of a century, nearly the most conspicuous place in the first rank of novelists of the day. Of the charm which his novels have to the contemporary reader, this only need be said that they charm him for the same reason that they will be invaluable to the future historian of social England in the nineteenth century.
ABOUT MELANCHOLY AGAIN.
HE interesting and suggestive communication that follows may possibly find more general acceptance than our own view of the subject which it discusses. There is room, however, for wide difference of opinion, and in the comments that we have subjoined to the letter of our correspondent we have rather given expression to some of the ideas it has awakened than attempted to distinctly answer all its points. It is almost needless to say that the writer is a lady, of whose intelligent discernment the epistle bears ample evidence:
To the Editor of Appletons' Journal:
IN current reading-matter I have but just come to the July number of "Appletons' Journal," and to the editorial article on the prevalence of melancholy. The ideas there expressed being of that character which induces thought and inquiry, I should like to ask you a question or two on that subject, if I may do so without too much presuming on your time; for I hardly can think that your full belief is to be read in that discussion, which rather represents, to my mind, more of what is reserved
than of what is offered.
First, I should be glad to know if you, without a
doubt, believe that a very large number of people of the most cultured class, men of thoroughly disciplined and highly serious minds, are having nothing better to do than acting a part? Is affectation really the motive with those who manifest some weariness in seeking the ends of the mysterious coil in which they find life evermore wound? Are they all without sincerity who become finally sad with watching the repeating rounds of existence as it is? If this is all that melancholy is-the mere caprice of a generation, a trick or fashion as we may say-it would naturally soon reach the end, even if reason or ridicule were without effect in restraining it, and thus might be, perhaps, of comparatively minor consequence. But if, instead, it be a more predominating thing of nature, something inevitable in the course of human development, a hard struggle would be indicated by an attempt to overcome it.
It seems to me there are some reasons a priori for thinking the condition real, and not a pretense of poets and sentimentalists. In the world's present consciousness, we must remember, are ages upon ages of sorrow. And what else could we expect but that with the inheritance of treasured knowledge the world's old suffering should transmit itself to the modern soul with new aggravation? Humanity is under the conditions of the child described by Wordsworth as imbued with the spirit of its mother's woe. You no doubt remember, what I do not, whether it was in the poem of "The Traveler"
that the wife's grief on account of the husband's never returning communicated itself to the child, which would sit quietly on the floor "and weep amid its toys."
Men's spirits would be unlikely to grow lighter where the accumulations of learning deepen. As
".... the individual withers, And the world is more and more
our own mere joy in existence becomes least of what we are bent on. It is not egotism certainly, but the reverse, which leads men to consider how the tale of life's latest era is that of the first; too gloomily, perhaps, some observe the human race as always equally at the mercy of destiny, held and blinded, rising up with new hope each new day to its groping among the shadows. Without such yearning, idiots and animals are more happy in their daily lives-although the more intelligent animals, I believe, are sometimes very sad. I do not remember ever having noticed an apparently very melancholy fly, but horses will sometimes have almost as sorrowful an expression as any human countenance is seen to wear. Is it possibly to be imagined they get some consciousness of death in the world to abstractly trouble them ?— not with very intellectual reasoning, but do you believe there would be nothing but vagary in a supposition of their having sometimes a kind of physico-spiritual sense of destiny which gives them that pathetic look? I wonder if that order of life is not sadder too than when the friezes of the Parthenon were modeled? Yet, I suppose, it would hardly be thought necessary to recall these friends of ours to the ancient state of mind among their species. And I confess to doubts about any such necessity in our own case. What is the real object, after all, of trying to keep the world very gay-appearing, as it were, with false complexion, and attempting the futile trick of being the same as in some former age? According to sociologists, we are to understand that the race is wiser and better than it ever has been; so that an increase of sadness seems not to go with a retrograde of moral and intellectual life. Then longevity increases, it is said, from which we could hardly charge the graver human mood with working ill to the physical order of the world any more than we could reckon it a result of this better material state.
The sad people of the present who are complained of are generally those who are finding the most light for the world in one way or another. They make no pretense of being satisfied that man should live without knowing why, should die unwilling, and that he knows not whether all be for him or he for all, but they have the courage to live their appointed days as nobly as is permitted them to do.
Where the people are gayer, as in Paris, it is largely
Our poets, touching upon the irksomeness of these
days, teach only a lofty abnegation of self to the unseen purpose of creation, and I do not know that scientific men lead higher than they. What, indeed, is the evidence, will you tell me, that the study of science dissi pates gloom from the mind? Taken by itself, it seems to me to tend to coarsen feeling, although, with imagination and religiousness sufficient in the nature, not having that effect. And it is my impression (although I can not profess to have a knowledge of the facts which should warrant the assertion) that what you imagine the healthful mental state of scientific men does not prevent suicide from happening among them as frequently as among classes engaged in other forms of learning; but at the instant I can think of no other than Dr. Petermann as an example. Whatever their lives may show as respects
joy and despondency, the world gets no better teaching
"Whose feet are firm although his heart be tost,
The type of all that is best in the human life we ought not to forget was one in whose countenance the light of laughter was never seen.
Melancholy seems never to have been regarded as the natural accompaniment of evil-mindedness-a fact accounting for its having been so frequently assumed in wicked purposes, as those of Gloster's Edmund:
My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam."
And, unless there is something better than goodness to desire the increase of in the world, I do not see the reason why our capacity for cheerfulness should be cultivated beyond other powers we have-or, rightly limiting the idea to the point assumed, cultivated specially in any degree. The most that St. George Mivart is able to make out in answer to the question, “Is life worth living?" is that of the idea of our having duty to do in our place in the world-which we should find reason enough for continuing in it, I have no doubt; but your instruction comes to less than that as it seems to me, and, as I fancy, could be almost resolved into a charge, "Be happy and you will be good." We must ask no disturbing questions, but go and tend our flowers, and so on. Yet, let me admit at once that, wherever you strike outof-doors, your aim appears to me to be perfect. One thing in the world we have to be thankful for, and that is the beauty of the world. Lest we be touched too little with the grace of reverent worship, we should not miss that loveliness you counsel us to seek; yet I do not see in it the means of preventing melancholy. And it seems to me we have more reason to be sad for anything else than that we are sad.
We must say that our correspondent did not read our article with sufficient care, or she would not have asked us whether we believe that a very large number of persons of the cultured class are acting a part. We affirmed that melancholy has frequently been cultivated as a fashion; that the melancholy of the poets is often no more than a whimsical egotism or selfish bitterness, "but that the sadness that comes over the world now seems to have arisen from mental strain, from excess of meditation and study." Assuredly this sentence from our previous article answers the first question of our correspondent. Undoubtedly there are many, persons who suffer acutely from melancholy, but the people who write about it most, who burst out into pathetic rhymes, who go about mourning the sadness and misery of life, are a set of idle and egotistic dreamers who either cultivate melancholy as a sign of poetic genius, or who are oppressed with ennui from pure idleness, or whose melancholy is nothing more than a reaction from dissipation. We have heard stalwart fellows deploring in lachrymose strains the misery of life in the very presence of confirmed invalids whose cheerfulness shed radiance upon all within their circle. The men who either affect melan