Puslapio vaizdai

even upon some of the most important topics week—the greater part of our newspaper writing which can engage the human mind. The opin- is still unsigned, and, considering what a hastily ion, for example, of a versatile politician, or trav- got-up miscellany a newspaper necessarily is, it eler, or physicist, on a question of religion or can hardly be otherwise. A column of reviews morals may be of no more value than that of the in a newspaper is sometimes the work of as first man you meet on passing into the streets. many hands as there are books reviewed in it. But it will attract attention in proportion to the But it might certainly have been expected benotoriety of the author, and, though wise men forehand that reviewers who write without sigmay know that it is weak or foolish, they may nature should be both careful and moderate in wait a long while for the chance of saying so attacking writers who sign, and who, presumably, from any pulpit worth preaching in, because the take more time over their work than contributors platforms are preëngaged; and also because, to newspapers can generally do. Yet the newsthe “organs of opinion” being bound to live by paper columns in which quarterly and monthly keeping up a succession of attractive names in periodicals are reviewed are "too often” (we their pages, it will not do to offend the owners of must round the corner with the help of that such names. One other result of the recent sys- commonplace) models of flippancy and dogmatem (not everywhere and always, of course, but tism. generally and most frequently) is a want of fresh- On the whole, it is not from any mechanical ness in periodical literature. This evil our Amer- changes of method that we must expect improveican friends manage to escape; only they are ment in Review literature. Of course, in largemuch bolder than we are, and do not stand in ness, fullness, richness, and versatility the reviewterror of the charge of levity. But, as a rule, writing of to-day is immeasurably superior to writers who are fit for starring purposes lose that of the days when Macaulay and Brougham freshness in a very short time; and then they do fought for precedence in the “ Edinburgh.” But a still further mischief by striking that key-note so is the literature reviewed-one is a big “ rollof second-hand thought which is so prevalent, ing miscellany,” and so is the other. It does not or at least so common, in even our better litera- seem to some of us that, other things being ture.

made equal, the literature of our modern reviews It is amusing enough to recall the superstition (using the word widely) is either superior or inof secrecy which inspired the policy of the first ferior to that of the “Edinburgh," for example. Edinburgh Reviewers. Lord Jeffrey has told us The growth, however, of literature generally in how the conspirators, Brougham, Sydney Smith, force, color, range, and effectiveness, is someHorner, and himself

, used to meet by night in thing astounding. We note this, or rather it the back room of a printing-office, and steal to overwhelms us, in turning over such a book as their work by winding paths and back stairs, like the “Memoirs of Harriet Martineau "; and there assassins. This was folly, though not inexcusa- is more than the insolence of new-fangled tastes bly without rational ground or motive, and one in puttirg such a question as—where would can not resist the belief that the more modern Campbell's “ Pleasures of Hope” be if it were plan will work well some day, if it does not now. published to-morrow? One day when BroughBut the difference in the results is not so great as am had just left (for London) a country-house might have been hoped for. Men of letters do where he had been staying, Rogers, who was a not now openly insult each other for differences fellow guest with him, made some such remark of opinion in politics or theology; but it is not as this: “In that post-chaise went away this any variation of mechanism which has made the morning, Bacon, Newton, Demosthenes, and change, and, though less brutality of phrasing is Solon." It is not recorded that Rogers meant now permitted, it would be difficult to surpass in this as a joke ; but where would Brougham be bitterness or unfairness some of the signed and after a little manipulation by Mr. Jevons or Mr. accredited criticism of our own day. On the Goldwin Smith ? It would be tiresome to dwell whole, it comes to this—you can get no more upon this, and wrong to suggest that the men out of given moral conditions than there is in were smaller because the outlook was less; but them. If public writers are clique-ish (a word this view, if anything, helps us to see the directo disturb Mr. Napier in his grave, and certainly tion in which one of our best hopes for literature an ugly one) and unjust to each other, it is be- must lie-namely, in its ever-increasing volume. cause you can not change the spots of the leop- There will always he hostile camps, and there ard. A man who loves the truth will employ his will always be warriors of low morale

, but, as pen conscientiously and kindly, whether he writes each camp enlarges, the average pain of those anonymously or otherwise. To this it may be who suffer from injustice or neglect will be lessadded that there is something extremely quaint ened. And this observation is by no means adin one thing that we may see taking place

every dressed to mere questions of reviewing in the

minor sense, but rather to literature in the mass massive to be guided—nay, too numerous and as representing the culture of the time.

too massive for even the most conceited of propaSince the time when Jeffrey ruled the “Ed- gandists or prophets to fancy he could calculate inburgh Review," and even since the death of them. What sort of figure as a publicist or “inMr. Napier, “the advertising element ” and com- spired” political writer would a man like Croker mercial elements in general have played a great cut at this end of the century? It must have and new part, an increasing part, too, in the for- been a dolorous day for such as he when they tunes, and thus in regulating the quality and ten- first felt sure the tides were coming up which dency, of current literature. One result of this were to sweep them and their works into oblivstate of things is an ever-increasing tendency to ion, or at least into limbo, and make successors compromise in the expression of opinion. In to their function impossible in future. We do spite of the spirit of tolerance of which we hear not affirm that the present phase of change is for so much, there was perhaps never a time in which the best; no theory of progress will justify statethe expression of opinion was so much emascu- ments of that kind. In fact, things are quite bad lated in the higher periodical literature, or in enough; but some security against certain evils which so much trickery of accommodated phrase- there must be, in the fact that these are days in ology was going forward. This will last for a which it is difficult to hide a wrong, or an error, long time yet—as long as periodical literature is which has an immediate sinister bearing upon a matter of commercial speculation. It is an ends cherished by any school of opinion. Who evil omen that the greatest amount of freedom on earth would now think of calling the “Times” now displayed is in political and scientific discus- the Thunderer? Just when middle-aged men of sion. It is difficult to see where the remedy is to-day were babies it was thought finely arguto come from in discussions of another kind. mentative, if not conclusive, to call the London Probably we shall have a lesson by the cataclys- University Stinkomalee,” in the interest of mic method before very ng. There is in this Church and King; but the “hard hitting" of volume a letter from Brougham to Napier, in our own time is done in other fashion. Even if which Brougham is very angry about an indirect the Marquis of Salisbury were to edit a paper he disclosure of Romilly's heterodoxy, and he goes would not be able to make much out of Titus off at a tangent to express a doubt whether Ma- Oates. But the allusion to that episode in another caulay was any better than Romilly, but is very sphere of action may remind us of the late Lord anxious that conventional conformity should be Derby, who might almost be called the last of strictly maintained in the “ Review,” even to the the old school of politicians. The mere mention length of concealing from the general reader as of his name seems to flash light upon the gulf we far as possible such facts as that a man so good have traversed since the days when the world was and “ religious" as Romilly could be a disbeliev- divided between a Whig organ and a Tory organ. er in this, that, or the other. We have now got Simultaneously with the incalculable increase beyond that; the accredited policy is in a vague of devotion to science, we have had an increase way to trump the cards of the dangerous people, of devotion to ends held to be practical, and this and then nobody shows his hand fairly and free- has largely governed our literature. The subject ly. Meanwhile, everybody feels uneasy, from a now barely hinted at is well worth extended latent sense of insincerity; and, when once the treatment. It is, however, no more than the excitement is off, the natural perception, that out truth that there has been recently a great dimiof nothing nothing can come, reassumes its sway. nution of speculative enthusiasm of all kinds, The game can not go on in this way for ever, with a largely increased tendency to make things though no one can foresee by what accident the pleasant for all parties. Convenience, in fact, lights will be blown out, the tables thrown over, becomes more and more the governing factor of and the stakes roughly dealt with at last. life; this tells upon our better literature ; and

A great difference, as might be expected, until the wind sets again from the old quartersarises from the incredible widening of what as it certainly will some day—we shall feel the might be called the constituencies of opinion. want of certain elements of freshness, individuPolitical articles of the “inspired” order do not ality, and moral impulse which touch us more count as they did, or were supposed to do, in the closely than we at first recognize in reading the days of “Coningsby" even, much less as they old Edinburgh Reviewers. did a decade or two sooner. The effective currents of thought are far too numerous and far too MATTHEW BROWNE (Contemporary Review).

[blocks in formation]

CHE most difficult thing that a man has to those other would be most appropriate and true

do is to think. There are many who can to nature if used on some special occasion. Such never bring themselves really to think at all, but plottings as these, with a fabricator of fiction, are do whatever thinking is done by them in a chance infinite in number as they are infinitesimal in imfashion, with no effort, using the faculty which portance, and are therefore, as I have said, like the Lord has given them because they can not, the sand of the seashore. But not one of them as it were, help themselves. To think is essen- can be done fitly without thinking. My little tial, all will agree. That it is difficult most will effort will miss its wished-for result, unless I be acknowledge who have tried it. If it can be true to nature; and to be true to nature I must compassed so as to become pleasant, brisk, and think what nature would produce. Where shall exciting as well as salutary, much will have been I go to find my thoughts with the greatest ease accomplished. My purpose here is to describe and most perfect freedom ? how this operation, always so difficult, often so Bad noises, bad air, bad smells, bad light, an inrepugnant to us, becomes easier out among the convenient attitude, ugly surroundings, little miswoods, with the birds and the air and the leaves fortunes that have lately been endured, little misand the branches around us, than in the seclu- fortunes that are soon to come, hunger and thirst, sion of any closet.

overeating and overdrinking, want of sleep or too But I have nothing to show for it beyond my much of it, a tight boot, a starched collar, are all own experience, and no performances of thought inimical to thinking. I do not name bodily ailto boast of beyond the construction of combina- ments. The feeling of heroism which is created tions in fiction, countless and unimportant as the by the magnanimity of overcoming great evils sand on the seashore. For in these operations will sometimes make thinking easy. It is not of thinking it is not often the entire plot of a the sorrows but the annoyances of life which imnovel—the plot of a novel as a whole—that exer- pede. Were I told that the bank had broken in cises the mind. That is a huge difficulty; one which my little all was kept for me I could sit so arduous as to have been generally found by down and write my love-story with almost a me altogether beyond my power of accomplish- sublimated vision of love; but to discover that I ment. Efforts are made, no doubt-always out had given half a sovereign instead of sixpence to in the open air, and within the precincts of a a cabman would render a great effort necessary wood if a wood be within reach; but to con- before I could find the fitting words for a lover. struct a plot so as to know, before the story is These little lacerations of the spirit, not the deep begun, how it is to end, has always been to me a wounds, make the difficulty. Of all the nuisances labor of Hercules beyond my reach. I have to named noises are the worst. I know a hero who confess that my incidents are fabricated to fit my can write his leading article for a newspaper in a story as it goes on, and not my story to fit my club smoking-room while all the chaff of all the incidents. I wrote a novel once in which a lady Joneses and all the Smiths is sounding in his forged a will; but I had not myself decided that ears; but he is a hero because he can do it. To she had forged it till the chapter before that in think with a barrel organ within hearing is heroic. which she confesses her guilt. In another a lady For myself I own that a brass-band altogether is made to steal her own diamonds—a grand incapacitates me. No sooner does the first note tour-de-force, as I thought—but the brilliant idea of the opening burst reach my ear than I start only struck me when I was writing the page in up, fling down my pen, and cast my thoughts which the theft is described. I once heard an disregarded into the abyss of some chaos which unknown critic abuse my workmanship because is always there ready to receive them. Ah, how a certain lady had been made to appear too fre- terrible, often how vain, is the work of fishing, quently in my pages. I went home and killed to get them out again! Here, in our quiet her immediately. I say this to show that the square, the beneficent police have done wonders process of thinking to which I am alluding has for our tranquillity-not, however, without crenot generally been applied to any great effort of ating for me personally a separate trouble in construction. It has expended itself on the mi- having to encounter the stern reproaches of the nute ramifications of tale-telling : how this young middle-aged leader of the band when he asks lady should be made to behave herself with that me in mingled German and English accents young gentleman; how this mother or that father whether I do not think that he too as well as I would be affected by the ill conduct or the good —he with all his comrades, and then he points of a son or a daughter; how these words or to the nine stalwart, well-cropped, silent, and

of the poor.

sorrowing Teutons around him—whether he and haps but still inherent, clogs the mind. The end they should not be allowed to earn their bread is coming, and the sooner it is reached the better. as well as I. I can not argue the matter with So at any rate thinks the driver. If you have him. I can not make him understand that in been born to a carriage, and carried about listearning my own bread I am a nuisance to no lessly from your childhood upward, then perone. I can only assure him that I am resolute, haps you may use it for free mental exercise; being anxious to avoid the gloom which was cast but you must have been coaching it from your over the declining years of one old philosopher. babyhood to make it thus effective. I do feel, however, that this comparative peace On horseback something may be done. You within the heart of a huge city is purchased at may construct your villain or your buffoon as you the cost of many tears. When, as I walk abroad, are going across country. All the noise of an I see in some small, crowded street the ill-shod assize court or the low rattle of a gambling-table feet of little children spinning round in the per- may thus be arranged. Standing by the covert fect rhythm of a dance, two little tots each hold- side I myself have made a dozen little plots, and ing the other by their ragged duds while an were I to go back to the tales I could describe Italian boy grinds at his big box, each footfall each point at the covert side at which the incitrue to its time, I say to myself that a novelist's dent or the character was molded and brought schemes, or even a philosopher's figures, may be into shape. But this, too, is only good for rough purchased too dearly by the silencing of the music work. Solitude is necessary for the task we have

in hand; and the bobbing up and down of the Whither shall a man take himself to avoid horse's head is antagonistic to solitude. these evils, so that he may do his thinking in I have found that I can best command my peace—in silence, if it may be possible? And thoughts on foot, and can do so with the most yet it is not silence that is altogether necessary. perfect mastery when wandering through a wood. The wood-cutter's axe never stopped a man's To be alone is of course essential. Companionthought, nor the wind through the branches, nor ship requires conversation-for which indeed the the flowing of water, nor the singing of birds, spot is most fit; but conversation is not now the nor the distant tingling of a chapel-bell. Even object in view. I have found it best even to the roaring of the sea and the loud splashing of reject the society of a dog, who, if he be a dog the waves among the rocks do not impede the of manners, will make some attempt at talking. mind. No sounds coming from water have the And, though he should be silent, the sight of him effect of harassing. But yet the seashore has provokes words and caresses and sport. It is its disadvantages. The sun overhead is hot or best to be away from cottages, away from chilthe wind is strong-or the very heaviness of the dren, away as far as may be from other chance sand creates labor and distraction. A high-road wanderers. So much easier is it to speak than is ugly, dusty, and too near akin to the business to think that any slightest temptation suffices to of the world. You may calculate your five per carry away the idler from the harder to the lightcents, and your six per cents. with precision as er work. An old woman with a bundle of sticks you tramp along a high-road. They have a becomes an agreeable companion, or a little girl weight of material interest which rises above picking wild fruit. Even when quite alone, when dust. But if your mind flies beyond this—if it all the surroundings seem to be fitted for thought, attempts to deal with humor, pathos, irony, or the thinker will still find a difficulty in thinking. scorn-you should take it away from the well- It is not that the mind is inactive, but that it constructed walks of life. I have always found will run exactly whither it is not bidden to go. it impossible to utilize railroads for delicate think- With subtile ingenuity it will find for itself little ing. A great philosopher once cautioned me easy tasks instead of settling itself down on that against reading in railway-carriages. “Sit still,” which it is its duty to do at once.

With me, I said he, “and label your thoughts." But he was own, it is so weak as to fly back to things ala man who had staid much at home himself. ready done—which require no more thinking, Other men's thoughts I can digest when I am which are perhaps unworthy of a place even in carried along at the rate of thirty miles an hour; the memory-and to revel in the ease of conbut not my own.

templating that which has been accomplished Any carriage is an indifferent vehicle for rather than to struggle for further performance. thinking, even though the cushions be plump, My eyes, which should become moist with the and the road gracious—not rough nor dusty, troubles of the embryo heroine, shed tears as and the horses going at their ease. There is a they call to mind the early sorrow of Mr. feeling attached to the carriage that it is there for who was married and made happy many years a special purpose—as though to carry one to a ago. Then—when it comes to this—a great effixed destination; and that purpose, hidden per- fort becomes necessary, or that day will for him have no results. It is so easy to lose an hour in in winter, the trees are there, and sometimes even maundering over the past, and to waste the good yet the delightful feeling may be encountered things which have been provided in remember that the track on which you are walking leads to ing instead of creating!

some far off, vague destination, in reaching which But a word about the nature of the wood! there may be much of delight because it will be It is not always easy to find a wood, and some- new—something also of peril because it will be times, when you have got it, it is but a muddy, distant. But the wood, if possible, should seem plashy, rough-hewed congregation of ill-grown to be purposeless. It should have no evident trees—a thicket rather than a wood-in which consciousness of being there either for game or even contemplation is difficult and thinking is fagots. The felled trunk on which you sit should out of the question. He who has devoted him- seem to have been selected for some accidental self to wandering in woods will know at the first purpose of house-building, as though a neighbor glance whether the place will suit his purpose. had searched for what was wanting and had A crowded undergrowth of hazel, thorn, birch, found it. No idea should be engendered that it and alder, with merely a track through it, will by was let out at so much an acre to a contractor no means serve the occasion. The trees around, who would cut the trees in order and sell them you should be big and noble. There should be in the next market. The mind should conceive grass at your feet. There should be space for that this wood never had been planted by hands, the felled or fallen princes of the forest. A road- but had come there from the direct beneficence way, with the sign of wheels that have passed of the Creator—as the first woods did comelong since, will be an advantage, so long as the before man had been taught to recreate them branches above head shall meet or seem to meet systematically, and as some still remain to us, so each other. I will not say that the ground should much more lovely in their wildness than when not be level, lest by creating difficulties I shall reduced to rows and quincunxes, and made to seem to show that the fitting spot may be too accommodate themselves to laws of economy difficult to be found ; but, no doubt, it will be and order. an assistance in the work to be done if occa- England, dear England,an dcertainly, with sionally you can look down on the tops of the England, Scotland also—has advanced almost trees as you descend, and again look up to them too far for this. There are still woods, but they as with increasing height they rise high above are so divided, and marked, and known, so apyour head. And it should be a wood—perhaps portioned out among game-keepers, park-rangers, a forest-rather than a skirting of timber. You and other custodians, that there is but little left should feel that, if not lost, you are losable. To of wildness in them. It is too probable that have trees around you is not enough unless you the stray wanderer may be asked his purpose ;

You must have a feeling as of and if so, how will it be with him if he shall Adam in the garden. There must be a con- answer to the custodian that he has come thither firmed assurance in your mind that you have got only for the purpose of thinking ? “But it's here out of the conventional into the natural—which my lord turns out his young pheasants !” “Not will not establish itself unless there be a con- a feather from the wing of one of them shall be sciousness of distance between you and the next the worse for me," answers the thinker. “I plowed field. If possible you should not know dun-na know," says the civil custodian ; " but it's the east from the west, or, if so, only by the set- here my lord turns out his young pheasants." ting of the sun. You should recognize the di- It is then explained that the stile into the field is rection in which you must return simply by the but a few yards off-for our woodland distances fall of water.

are seldom very great-and the thinker knows But where shall the wood be found ? Such that he must go and think elsewhere. Then his woodlands there are still in England, though, work for that day will be over with him. There alas ! they are becoming rarer every year. Profit are woods, however, which may with more or from the timber-merchant or dealer in firewood less of difficulty be utilized. In Cumberland is looked to or else, as is more probable, drives and Westmoreland strangers are so rife that you are cut broad and straight, like spokes of a wheel will hardly be admitted beyond the paths recogradiating to a nave or center, good only for the nized for tourists. You may succeed on the sly, purposes of the slayer of multitudinous pheasants. and, if so, the sense of danger adds something to I will not say that a wood prepared, not as the the intensity of your thought. In Northamptonhome but the slaughter-ground of game, is alto- shire, where John the planter lived, there are gether inefficient for our purpose. I have used miles of woodland—but they consist of avenues such even when the sound of the guns has been rather than of trees. Here you are admitted and near enough to warn me to turn my steps to the may trespass, but still with a feeling that game right or to the left. The scents are pleasant even is the lord of all. In Norfolk, Suffolk, and Es

have many

« AnkstesnisTęsti »